August 14, 2012

Ukulele Avventura Italiano

(I usually never write a post this long. I'm not so obnoxious that i think that you care about every detail of my life but i also keep this blog as a sort of diary of my artistic life and in this case it was a very adventurous extended week that i'd like to remember. If you are interested, go get a cup of something first and get yourself cozy.)
Marko and i had an incredible time in Italy. The adventure started in Caldogno at the very lavish Italian Ukulele Festival hosted by THE most generous folks at Aquila Corde, namely Daniela Gaidano and Mimmo Peruffo.
Villa Caldogna, Daniela Gaidano, Interior Villa Caldogna, Mimmo Peruffo, Aquila Corde

The festival was held at the Villa Caldogno, built in the mid 1500's and decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo (1530-1572). Amazing setting. It was a three day festival chock full of musical performances, workshops, open mics, variety shows, vendors, fun people and good food.
Variety Show, James Hill Workshop, The Uke Box on stage, Ukulele Vendors, Burlesque

The Uke Box with Anne Davison & James Hill
Besides the super organization behind the festival, what made this festival extraordinary was the incredible musicians on hand. There was some major talent present. James Hill and Anne Davison were the headliners of the fest. James is one of the most famous players on the ukulele planet at this moment and with good reason. He performed some beautiful sets with Anne on the Cello. He also did some experimental stuff involving chopsticks. You wouldn't believe what he does with a ukulele and chopsticks. Crazy.

Marko joins in with Betty's Boys (Ukulelezaza & Paul Moore)
with special guest, George Hinchliffe (Ukulele Orchestra of GB)
Further, well, there were just too many amazing acts to name here but just to mention a few, Some of our personal favorites were 'Betty's Boys' starring Ukulelezaza & Paul Moore with a special guest appearance by George Hinchliffe of the infamous Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, The Red Wine Serenaders starring the absolute musical knock-out, Miss Veronica Sbergia and The Winin' Boys from Belgium.

The highlight of the performances, in our opinion, came from Liverpool. Two couples came and both the two girls and the two guys performed as duos. The girls, Amanda Brown & Chantelle Cox performed as Ukulele Red & Lil' Mamie Brown. They do these great nasal over the top 20's-like vocals which make your hair stand on end (I mean that in a good way) and their repertoire is old-timey, cheeky, danceable fun. They also perform with The Flamming Mamies. And the guys, Chris & Dave. DANG!, boy can they play. We were standing in the audience with a group of other performers and all of our jaws were dropping. Ab-so-lute-ly Brilliant! Besides being musically awesome, all four of those 'scousers' were fun as hell to hang out with. Instant friends. We love them. Sorry, no website yet for Chris and Dave but here's some video's. Check them out for yourself...

Here's Amanda & Chantelle (with me filling in on Washtub Bass).

And here, Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave

The most fun of the Festival in Caldogno was actually just hanging out with all the musicians and meeting up again with old friends and meeting some very cool new ones. The performers had full run of the Marco Polo hotel. Every morning started with this incredible Jam Session in the lobby and the very friendly proprietor greeting you with a big smile and a friendly "Cappuccino?". This is what it was like...

Every night ended in a beautiful mayhem of laughing, dancing, drinking, story telling, more jamming and a heaping dose of good-humored naughtiness which i think requires it's own blog post. More about that later. Besides the musicians we met hundreds of people at the fest. We had a table of merchandise from The Jumping Flea Market set up on the grounds so over the festival weekend we had so many notable encounters with people it was almost dizzying. (Funnily enough, LOTS of conversations about our Washtub Bass. People are amazed by that thing.) Anyway, it was just a very very special event. A real treat.
Marko and i with Sven Joos, Beppe Traversa, Paul Moore (Ukuleles for Peace), George Hinchliffe (Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain), Ken Middleton (Ohana), Amanda Brown, Chantelle Cox (Flamming Mamies), & Chris (Ukulele Uff)

After Caldogna we had 3 days before the next festival in Matera. Aquila Acorde generously arranged for us to stay in Vicenza for in the mean time and it was heavenly. We strolled the city admiring the architecture and ate lots of ice cream. (You haven't eaten ice cream until you have eaten it in Italy). Each evening ended with a superb and surprisingly affordable meal at Righetti's. We were even able to take a day trip to Venice which is just 30 minutes away from Vicenza. These three days were a really wonderful break for us. We had been working ourselves silly, to the point of it being a bit unhealthy to be honest. But, after the festival and the days of rest in Vicenza, we were on quite a high. Then, we headed down to Matera...

Well, the good part of our trip to Matera was that it is was, without a doubt, the most amazing landscape i've ever seen in my life. Looked like a prehistoric city designed by Escher. No photograph can give you any idea how WOW it is. You really have to see it for yourself. But the festival, well, that was the bad part. The organization, man, i don't even know what to say about them. They were obviously inexperienced but it went beyond that. They were oblivious. I felt like we had entered a zombie film. We did of course enjoy seeing this amazing city and we met up with friends that we knew which was super. The show at the festival had some great moments too. Ukulollo did a really neat show with synchronized video projections and the Sinfonico Honolulu was a lot of fun.
View from our hotel window, Marko performing with Francesco Albertazzi, Our view at night,  Sinfonico Honolulu
But unfortunately the situation we were in  overshadowed everything. I won't go into detail. You wouldn't believe it if i told you. It was a pretty horrible experience. Pretty stressful and caused us quite a bit of financial woe. I hope that these people never attempt a festival again and if they do, i hope that none of my musician friends get mixed up in the fiasco. You've been warned. And that is enough said about that.

Oh wait a second, i forgot something. To add to the fun, after our performance in Matera, I was bit by a dog. I thought my thumb was going to rot off for a couple of days but it didn't and for that i am very thankful.

So getting back to the awesome part... We want to conclude by sending our thanks and love to everyone that made our trip truly unforgettable and especially to Daniela and Mimmo who made it all possible in the first place and all the volunteers, kitchen staff and sound crew. Y'all were awesome all weekend long. It was an absolute thrill to perform at such an amazing event. Grazie e Ciao, Italy!

1 comment:

superheidi said...

Sounds pretty awesome. I'm glad you had a good time!