by Richard Lomax
Recuperated from September’s tour of Belgium, Germany and France (as documented in my EU tour diaries pt.1 and pt. 2), this next leg of the tour offers to be a new experience for me being not only with a musical partner, but also my partner in life, Natalie McCool.
Natalie and I play our first Italian show at Espresso Italia, a smaller cafe bar in the heart of Pinerolo. It’s the perfect start. The audience is warm and enthusiastic. They are patient with my smattering of Italian (I’ve been trying to teach myself for just over a year but, alas, without immersion, a lot of it doesn’t stick) and also quite taken with George, my Omnichord and my various other gizmos. Natalie’s beautiful soaring voice stuns them into silence for her set afterwards as well.
The following day I found my first record shop of the tour to indulge my compulsion for buying records (I picked up Kind of Blue by Miles Davis – an album that will forever remind me of Jim’s Moorbrook bar in Preston, which was my home between midnight and 6am for many a misspent night). Rocker Records is a lovely little shop owned by Sicilian music passionista Manuel and his wife Elena. It transpires they were at the gig the previous evening, enjoyed the night so much and are so kind they gift us a pair of extra records by way of thanks (Graceland by Paul Simon and Fear of Music by Talking Heads).
We also visited the gorgeous Chiesa Del Crocio which was the final resting place of Macchiavelli (or so he might want you to think) – another indulgence of mine and Natalie’s love for visiting cemeteries and burial sites (we have by this point in the tour also visited the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan where Verdi is buried and also in Lugano where we spectacularly failed to find Robert Palmer’s headstone despite Natalie intoning “Dove Robert Palmer?” to various confused Swiss cemetery caretakers in a Widnes accent.)
“Diavolo rosso dimentica la strada vieni qui con noi a bere un’aranciata, contro luce tutto il tempo se ne va…” – Paolo Conte, Appunti Di Viaggio (1982)
Diavolo Rosso was the battle name of Italian road cyclist Giovanni Gerbi (1885-1954).
Quoting his stats (courtesy of my research assistant in these Wikipedian times) in 1905, he won the first Tour of Lombardy. He held the world “6 hours” record in 1913 with 208,161 km. In 1932, he took part in the Italian Championships for veterans, which he won. He repeated this performance in 1933. Gerbi died in Asti in 1955 having made his mark on cycling and upon Asti.
The modern Diavolo Rosso is an incredible venue named after Gerbi. A former church in the centre of Asti that has been converted for the devilish purpose of live music. A red light points at the religious figures caught in rapture in the narthex over the huge entryway. Absorption foam hangs in jagged chunks from the crossings in the high ceilings of the main antechamber and at the back of the stage hangs a huge convex, ovoid mirror further refracting and mutating the room’s Gothic charms.
The organisation running Diavolo is a non-profit collection who put a lot of care into this marvellously diabolical musical home. Suffice to say the shows were magical for Natalie and that evening. Gigs can be very much down to their venue, not to say the music cannot transcend its setting but having a suitable setting to begin with gives you a big headstart in trying to achieve that magical atmosphere I’m reaching for. I would play every gig in Diavolo Rosso if it were possible to transport it around the world (Diavolo’s Flying Castle?).
“Red Devil forgets the road, come here with us to drink an orange juice, against the light all the time, here it goes away…”
The weather is biblical now. Maybe our diabolical gigs in despoiled churches have affronted somebody. There is flooding throughout Italy as we head back to Pinerolo to meet eminent DJ, writer and bon viveur Claudio Petronella for a radio session with Cafe Bleu on Radio Beckwith… the full live session and interview with Natalie and myself was filmed and you can watch it here. It features two exclusive unreleased tracks. Objects Of Love by Granfalloon and Devils by Natalie McCool.
Tonight we’re playing at Torino’s Jazz Club. Non sto più nella pelle.