- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


photo by Frederique Torres

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Rochefort France, Aug 24 or 25 or 26, 2007 - - I’ve never been a big fan of the theremin. I’m familiar with it from the Beach Boys’ hit “Good Vibrations,” of course, and from several spooky and, okay, bad science fiction and horror flicks, but it never occurred to me that I would be writing an ode to theremin in one of these essays. Although I had some first-hand experience with Robert Moog’s little mini-moog in the late 60’s when I played with Bethlehem Asylum, and though oscillator and sine & sawtooth waves are not words I‘ve never heard, I‘ve never been nor wanted to be on the cutting edge of electronica. Until I heard and saw Fay Lovsky.


Friday morning, the day after the Transbordeur Bridge hootenanny, I arose, bathed, and headed down from my little hotel room over the garden, which I had by now christened Mir, for its resemblance to the cramped quarters on the space station. But beggars can’t be choosers, and I hadn’t come here to spend a lot of time in my room anyway, so I was grateful for somewhere that would keep me out of the clutches of the flics at night.

As usual for me at the Roca Fortis, the petit dejeuner hour was over, and I stumbled, ravenous, out onto the street. First guy I encountered was Tony Truant and his girl, and together we headed for the Main Stage, where the Canteen would be open and we could eat.

photo by Frederique Torres

We hadn’t gone far before we passed the Temple. Karel came out and invited us in to hear a rehearsal of what would be occurring there later that afternoon. So, though I was starving, duty called and I went into the Temple. Why such an obviously Protestant church is called the Temple is anybody’s guess, but, hey, it’s France, they can call church whatever they want.

Inside at stage right was Michel Deneuve and his doomsday machine, the cristal de baschet; at stage left was my bud BJ Cole and his pedal steel, upstage behind BJ was Renaud Pion with his various reed contraptions and center stage was a total and I do mean TOTAL Bee Ay Bee Ee playing a theremin. The angel’s name, I would learn, was Fay Lovsky. Maybe it was because I was famished and having visions of a religious nature, but suddenly I had a deep and abiding love for the instrument.

Okay, it wasn’t all that sudden; what I’m trying to get across here is that Fay plays theremin like nobody’s business…her abilities go far beyond making it go OOOO-EEEE-OOOO.
I came away from the Temple and indeed from Rochefort with the conviction that Fay Lovsky is probably the most talented musician I’ve ever met. I was so taken with her brains and her musicianship that I grew speechless whenever I was around her, and except for a couple of times when we shared the stage, we never spoke. Here are some pictures of Fay, courtesy of my pal Frederique Torres, pretty much of a Babe herself:

I’m gonna shut up about it now, but you should check her out at www.lovsky.com.

We finally got down to the canteen, the Restaurant Longitudes at the Corderie Royale, given over to the sustenance of musicians, techs, journalists, photographers and other unsavory scissors grinders during the festival. I was lucky and showed up just as the day’s first course of oysters was being rolled out by the staff. I had ended up with one last lonely oyster the night before, so today I did a Diamond Jim Brady and had a couple of dozen. It was a very shellfish thing to do, I know.

There is always the opportunity to hawk your CDs at Rochefort, but this year for some reason I had not discovered where the CD girls had set up shop. Karel appeared and I braced him on the subject. He was harried and being every bit the snooty Brit bastard, and he put his arm around my shoulders and said, very quietly, “You know, Panama, those who are first-timers here, well, I can cut them some slack and give them a few pointers and steer them as needed, but those who’ve been (he pronounces it ’bean’) here before should surely know most of the ropes by now and I’m surprised that you have to bother me with questions of this inane sort. But, the CD girls are, just like last year, and just like the year before, set up behind the restaurant and off to the side of the mixing board.” Then he was off to Be Important somewhere.

I like to say that I’m a superficial guy who has a lot of surface, but I gotta admit that my feelings are sometimes easily hurt, and it was in this shell-shocked pitiable condition that I was sitting at my table eating my second dozen oysters when my friend Geraint Watkins showed up and sat down with me.

“Geraint, what the hell’s up with Karel?” I asked. “He just acted rudely to me, as if he doesn’t like me. In fact I think he DOESN’T like me.”

“Well, Panama,” Geraint said, kindly and gently as an old Welsh uncle, “I think you may be right. He probably doesn’t like you. I mean, when you were invited here the first time, he probably thought, ‘you know, I don’t think I like him.’ But he wasn’t sure, you know, so that’s why he invited you back this year, to make sure he doesn’t like you. And now he’s sure.” The sincere and kindly expression on his face was only marred by the merry gleam in his eye, and I cracked up. Later on I got my CDs over to the CD Girls.

Still not having rehearsed with Barry Melton and band, I nonetheless was scheduled to perform one tune with them this evening, along with Johan Asherton and the lovely Marie-Juliette Beer. And when the time came, because Stephane Misri, Barry’s guitar player, is such a Jerry fan, we did “Friend of the Devil”. And we were pretty damned good.

My friend the Devil and I went back to the Roca Fortis and I took my meds and said my prayer and went to bed.


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