Irving to be precise, a New Yorker currently on the road in New Zealand, just him, a trusty bicycle (a Surly Lone Haul Trucker cycle cross with 27 gears) with a trailer packed with a banjo, bouzouki, shruti box, Jew’s harp, mbira and a toothbrush. Irving’s playing up to 80 performances on the road, covering about 6000km across this magnificent country. He says his music is an “eclectic mix of song, story and illusion, designed to be shared in intimate spaces.” He will be playing in people’s homes all across the South and North islands over four months.
After about three weeks on the road I caught up with Gideon . I asked him first of all how’s he managing to lug all that stuff around:
“I am biking between 20 and 90km a day so far and hauling around about 65 kilos of gear. Aside from everything I need I carry a back-up set of many items in case something should break. People see what I’m doing and they say ‘so how long have you been a cyclist’, I tell them I am not a cyclist. I am just a guy who bought a bike and started pedalling. Maybe by the end of the trip I’ll feel differently. The biking is always very, very challenging for me. And many times I arrive to someone’s home and only have a couple hours before the show starts. It’s a challenge but a wonderful one and I’m loving every minute of it.”
How are you arranging the gigs, homestays?
“Before I got to NZ I arranged about eight gigs through couchsurfer.org. Then I got some press including an interview with Kirsten Johnstone on Music 101 (on Radio New Zealand) and that brought in about 20 invitations. People providing contacts post-show has probably been the biggest booking tool next to the radio interview. I also put out the word to my network back home for any contacts and that has brought in about five shows. It looks like by the end of May, where I will end with a few shows in Christchurch again, I will play between 50-80 shows. Newspaper articles have helped too.”
I tell some stories that kind of bleed into song. I do some things with a looper. I make some odd and dramatic noises at unexpected moments. There is some backwards singing.
How are the shows being received?
“The shows have been received very, very well. People have seemed quiet and engaged and impressively present. Playing shows in people’s homes lends itself to that kind of atmosphere as well. There isn’t a bar, the music isn’t background. You have an hour where people have come to listen to you. For the most part the audiences have been overwhelmingly warm. They seem to be pretty surprised for the most part.
“My show is a bit on the unusual side. I tell some stories that kind of bleed into song. I do some things with a looper. I make some odd and dramatic noises at unexpected moments. There is some backwards singing. I think people are also struck by some odd instruments they have never seen before. Shruti Box, mbira, Jew’s Harps, bouzouki and even the banjo. Shows are always free, but I put my CD’s out for sale and have my helmet out as well for koha. I tell folks they can pay whatever they like for the CD as I am excited to share it with anyone who would like one, but the suggested price is $20. I also say I am grateful for any donations or koha towards my journey/project/tour. Folks have been very generous.”
What’s the most bizarre one(s) so far?
“Hmmmmm….. they haven’t been that weird, mostly just very lovely. One of my favourites so far was in a kitchen in Dunedin. Nine people cozied in between the sink and the stove and we had ourselves a music show. They were a fantastic bunch. The kitchen turns out to be a great space for performance. The room they were going to do it in was ‘destroyed by cats’.
“Audiences have been between six and 100 (100 was at a school for 8-10 year olds, otherwise between six and 45). In Ashburton my hosts had been overseas for nine months and used my show as an excuse to have a sort of welcome home party. Played in an artist’s loft in Timaru and my host, with his music mates, did a blues rock excerpt from Romeo and Juliette.”
Irving’s album My Brother Is Isaac is out now, available from his website:
It’s a great album, but I don’t have space here to give it justice so will review in a future post.
More info on it from this site:
and more on the tour here: