New Orleans, Louisiana

Had a great time walking around the French Quarter this afternoon. Had an amazing lunch of seafood gumbo, then followed it with coffee and beignets at the historic Café du Monde (established in 1862). After that, we wandered around in the intermittent rain checking out the architecture.

Out front of our hotel near Canal and Decatur Streets.

Post-gumbo photo - right by the river.

Café du Monde's beignets, coffee, and water. The hipstamatic seems particularly suited to this cuisine.

Helios and our breakfast.

A wet street in New Orleans' French Quarter.

The Drive from Little Rock to New Orleans

We had a pretty uneventful drive from Little Rock, but the last bit on the way into New Orleans was extraordinary. The miles long elevated highway over the bayou was really amazing. Checked into our hotel in the French Quarter and walked over to the Dutch Alley Restaurant to do some busking out front. We set up right after a brass band finished their set - we went right into Ian Krouse's "Folias" and I think it might have been our best performance of it yet. It was about 95 degrees with 100% humidity, but I just keep thinking about our teacher Jim Smith and his time living in New Orleans. His spirit definitely lives on in this city.

Stopped for lunch at The Dock in Lake Providence, Louisiana. Great catfish and clam strips!

Albert's catfish plate with biscuit and twice-baked potato.

Getting close...

New Orleans (from Adam's "Symmetries" series.)

It doesn't look like much, but this is where we set up to play outside the Dutch Alley. The acoustics were surprisingly good, and the audience was kept comfortable with the chairs that were put out. The restaurant paid us with a constant stream of their homemade sangria. There was a Columbian cellist in the audience who liked us so much, she went into the restaurant and insisted to her friend, the owner, that we be brought inside to play. We went up to the magnificent 2nd floor bar and played more Bach, some Brian Head, and "Folias" one more time. The people there seemed to be really into it and gave enthusiastic applause after each number - many people came up to buy CDs after and were routinely tipping us at 300% of the cost of the CD. After most of the customers left, we were treated to a mind-blowing feast of tapas, paella, and enough sangria to down an adult ox.

Here's a little video of a local band that was playing.

Jack and Adam went exploring the French Quarter with Troydel, a street dancer that was getting down to that brass band.

Adam hanging out with Troydel. Some street thugs were messing with Adam and Jack, but Troydel came to their defense by spitting on the ground making an impassable line between them and the street dudes. I think it might be some kind of a local magic.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Had a nice lazy day in Little Rock. We found an amazing little boutique sandwich shop that was really quite remarkable. Got to the hall and were really blown away with how excellent it was! Got a great standing ovation after the show, and made some good friends afterward.

The Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Post-concert quartet shot.

Here we are talking with some members of the audience. They seemed particularly interested in Ian Krouse's "Folias".

Here I am talking with our host, Michael Carenbauer, classical and jazz guitar instructor at the University.

Looks like Ian Krouse's "Folias" (variation 2, I think).

Looks like another shot of us playing "Folias"...

Here's one of Adam's classic shots from the series: "Concert Hall Symmetries".

The Drive from Houston to Little Rock

Another long drive, but it was great to see the beautiful country in east Texas and Arkansas. Stopped at Mike's BBQ in Nacogdoches. The menu seemed a little confused and disorganized to me, so I felt compelled to ask the question, "What, exactly, is a po' boy?". After an unforgettably flat stare from the man behind the counter, I got a description that led me to believe it might be something like a sandwich. His strange reactions to us were (in my opinion) due to the fact that Albert was wearing a lavender T-shirt that said, "Voila Viola. Oregon Suzuki Institute", with pictures of two violas over a musical staff sporting an alto clef. Even though they really seemed to think we were form another planet, they still prepared the freshest, most delicious fish sandwich I've ever had! Truly amazing. Albert got the ribs:


Houston, Texas

Tonight we're staying at Jack's girlfriend's father's condo just west of Houston. In the evening we play a concert at Andrea Cannon's "Guitar Arts Studio".

There we are during intermission with some of Andrea's students, and Andrea herself on the left.

Here I am telling my favorite joke for this tour: "A Fugue is a piece of music where the voices enter one at a time, and the audience leaves one at a time."

Post-concert CD signing session.

Jack, Albert, Mike, and Adam listening to somebody... Eight Helios ears trained on a target.

Here we are with our wonderful host, Andrea Cannon. We'll be seeing her at the GFA in about a week!

San Antonio, Texas

Met up with Adam's parents in San Antonio for some lunch down by the river. Walked around a bit to see some sights.

Climbing the steps of Mount Parnassus.

"Entrance to La Villita" a tourist trap that according to Adam's dad, "sells a lot of crap."

Adam's parental units.

We just set up to play our benefit concert for victims of the 2011 tornados.

Warming up and getting used to the spacious acoustic of the Travis Park Methodist Church, a beautiful space that was especially fun for the Bach.

Performing the Bach (F Minor Fugue maybe?).

Final bow after Ian Krouse's "Folias". We sold a bunch of our CDs, 50% of the proceeds were given to the relief effort. Many audience members also donated generously to help the people affected by the storms.

Austin, Texas

"The Story of Kitty Villa (or, The Mysterious Fourth Cat)" (Part II)

Morning finally came (after Adam and Albert got literally no REM sleep). We went to the Austin Juvenile Hall to play a 45 minute concert for the kids there. Concert went great, even though we were all wrecked.

After coming back to the house of Kitty Villa (yes, that could be translated as "Cathouse"), I discovered a sheet of paper on the kitchen counter. This piece of paper was filled with single-spaced instructions relating to care of the cats. I took the paper to the living room and started reading it to the guys. As we got the second paragraph, we discovered a manifest of the cats living at the house complete with names, descriptions, and lifestyle (indoor, outdoor, indoor/outdoor). At this point something strange dawned on us. Firstly, the paper had descriptions for only three cats. We hadn't counted, but we could be sure that there were more cats than that in the house during the night. Secondly, the cats on the list were all basically black-and white cats, no gray ones! Lastly, the description of the kitten (black and white stripes) said that she was an entirely indoor cat, and should not be allowed outside!

Panic stared to settle in. Who was that gray cat? Where was the kitten? Was that a stray that was causing all the chaos the night before?

Over the next few hours we go questing for the various cats in and around the house. No success. We put food out front. We put water out. Finally - milk. Nothing. Not a single cat to be found.

Eventually, I do find the elderly one hiding under the bed in the master bedroom. I bring it out to the living room to the shock of the quartet. Their is a moment of celebration until we realize that we still may have contributed to the death of 66.6% of our host's pet population. At this point, however, we have to move on and check into the hotel that Matt Hinsley got for us for the night, graciously sparing us from another night of cats...

We check into the Holiday Inn Austin, have dinner with Matt Hinsley, and then go downtown to hear some truly phenomenal live music - a trio of guitar, Hammond organ, and drums playing a kind of Stevie Ray Vaughan / Jimi Hendrix fusion that totally blew me away. After the bar closes, we run back to the car in the middle of a torrential Southern storm. We get back to the hotel only to realize that the two remaining cats would be tuck out in the rain, that is, if they weren't dead already. Miraculously, Jack happened to still have the key that we were supposed to return to Matt Hinsley at dinner.

Adam had the brilliant idea to take the key, go back to the house (at 4am by now) and save the drowning cats. I protested out of tiredness at first, but eventually relented. We drove back to the house, went in the front door, but didn't see either of the two cats around. Adam went back to the patio door, opened it, and one soggy cat came running back in! Fantastic, now there only remained the possibility that we killed the "indoor only" kitten, a mere 33.3% of Kitty's pet population.

I went out onto the deck in back to look. I checked in the sunroom. Nothing - but as I walked toward the yard, I heard a faint meowing. I went down around the deck and heard the meowing more clearly. The rain was still coming down, and it was completely dark, but I pulled out my cell phone and used the screen to bring some light to the area underneath the low deck. Apparently attracted to the light, I saw the little kitten's face peek out. Unfortunately, the area was lined with thorny rosebushes and I couldn't get in. The kitten was coming toward the light, but didn't want to come out into the rain. I attempted speaking to it in the small amount of cat-language I know as I pushed (painfully) into the thorns. After about five minutes, we eventually met in the middle and I was able to scoop her up, shield her under my jacket, and bring her back into the house.

She shook out the water and went right to her food dish where she proceeded to chow down at a rate that was frantic, but incredibly cute.

Satisfied that had now killed 0% of Kitty Villa's cats, we turned off the lights, returned the TV to the state it was on when we arrived (playing an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation), locked the door, and left. We got back to the hotel to get enough sleep to move on to San Antonio for our next concert...

The Drive from Albuquerque to Austin

"The Story of Kitty Villa (or, The Mysterious Fourth Cat)" (Part I)

Got an early start from Albuquerque because the drive to Austin is about 12 hours long, and includes a time zone change making it more like 13, or even 14 with stops. Fortunately, I had my iPod loaded up with 50+ hours of CarTalk, so the time flew by.

Albert and I got to Austin first. Adam and Jack were about a half hour behind us. Jack calls Matt Hinsley to bring the key to our guest house. The house belonged to Kitty Villa, who was out of town and generously offered her home as a place to stay for guitarists performing for the Austin Classical Guitar Society. Matt Hinsley opened up the house for Albert and I, and I was happy to feel the cool rush of conditioned air over my arms. We instantly noticed the herd of cats hanging out around the TV in the living room. Almost immediately, one of them made a dash for the front door - it really seemed like it knew what it was doing, so we let it out. A brief tour of the house brought us to the master bedroom and the only rule of staying there: "Leave the door to the master bathroom closed".

Adam and Jack soon arrived. As they were coming in, another house cat wanted in - apparently it had been left outside from the previous guest the night before. This grey cat seemed very happy to finally be back in the house as it seemed to be sick with something (we later saw some cat medication on the coffee table). It proceeded to spend the rest of the evening moaning in a disconcertingly childlike way for the rest of the evening.

The other cats were a bit on the wild side too - they generally ran around like crazy and took any opportunity to swipe or bit our fingers and/or toes. As we eventually settle into bed and turn out the lights, their nocturnal hunting instincts are roused and the pandemonium really begins. The couch's armrest that Albert's head was right next to became a scratching pad for one of the cats. Adam, on the floor in the living room got to experience, claws, fangs, and even close-proximity feline vomiting!

I was in a room that the elderly black-and-white cat haunted, and any time a foot came out from under the blanket, the otherwise docile matron went in for a bite. Throughout all of this there was a veritable chorus of moans, groans, crashes (of pottery?), hisses, throughout the night. I would periodically get up and let a cat out the front door, but somehow, it seemed that the number of cats in the melee never decreased.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

On the way to Albuquerque:

Just played for the New Mexico Guitar Festival. Keller Hall at the University of New Mexico was a beautiful space. We shared the concert with the extraordinary talented) and well-trained students of Mickey Jones.

New Mexico GUitar Fest01
Immediately after our performance at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. I'm holding the 3rd guitar part for Ian Krouse's "Folias".

New Mexico Guitar Fest02
After the show, we completely sold our of our CDs! Most people asked for an autographed copy, which was of course a huge honor for us and a lot of fun. I also had a lot of interest in the brochures I brought for the Interlochen Center for the Arts Summer Guitar Program, and Arts Academy.

El Patio01
We went to a definitive Albuquerque Mexican restaurant, "El Patio". Delicious Agave wine margaritas and unbelievable enchiladas. Had a blast with my cousin Karen and her awesome family! By the end of lunch, the kids had untied al of Helios' shoelaces, and even padlocked my shoes to the table!

El Patio02
Here's a classic iPhone hipstamatic shot of Jack with a beer!

albuquerque with karen
After getting my shoes freed from the padlock, I got to get this photo with my cousin and her family. Albuquerque was hot, but really great - like a giant sauna!

Flagstaff, Arizona (day 3)

The day after our concert we got up early to go see the Grand Canyon - the first time for all four of us! We got an amazing view from the rim, but then found a trail head and descended into the canyon.

From the rim.

Helios on the edge...

Down at the point, a mile and a half from the rim.

Yes, we have too many guitars!

I was pretty amazed - to say the least.

Albert with the Hipstamatic. Now, off to Albuquerque!

Flagstaff, Arizona - Post concert wrap-up.

Just played for a great audience at the Grand Canyon Guitar Society! They were totally into Ian Krouse's 16 minute epic "Folias". Flagstaff has a great hall with a clear, precise acoustic. Sold out of CDs and even got to autograph a few for some enthusiastic fans.

Warming up in the hall.


Looks like "Folias", but with a different seating position?

More Bach!

Flagstaff, Arizona (day 2)

We're having a blast in Flagstaff. Our wonderful hosts Craig Yarbrough and Diane Immethun are showing us around this beautiful city and introduced us to the local fare: Navajo Tacos (at Charlie's). We were regaled last night by tales of beauty, death, and triumph in the Grand Canyon by Craig, a veteran Canyon guru! We're just about to go and play our concert at the Grand Canyon Guitar Society. The program will feature Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, as well as "We Know You Know" by Brian Head and "Folias" by Ian Krouse. Been burning CDs all day and should have about 15 limited edition 10-track preview discs ready to sell!

Michael Kudirka and Albert Diaz practicing some of Ian Krouse's polyrhythms.

Jack Cimo making those nails super-smooth!

Flagstaff, Arizona (day 1)

Great late-night rehearsal in Flagstaff. 1/2 Tempo run-though of Ian Krouse's "Folias". 30 minutes of solid, 4-way simultaneous 16th notes...


Editing with Ben Maas - Long Beach, CA

Spending the day editing our double-album of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" with Fifth Circle Audio engineer, Ben Maas. The recordings sound great, and after a couple hundred edits, we are coming across as a really tight ensemble!

Big rehearsal at the Pasadena Conservatory tomorrow, then we head out on the road on Thursday. Had a blast performing the complete first book of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" at the Brand Library on Sunday, but we're really excited about the program for our tour which includes Preludes and Fugues by Bach (of course) and two southern California works, Brian Head's "We Know You Know" and Ian Krouse's "Folias".

With all the work on the album, and rehearsing, we'll have to find some time to pack enough stuff to live out of our cars for two weeks!