Play it Leo! Kottke that is. Leo Kottke returned to Homer Center for the Arts on Saturday, October 16. This solo acoustic performance, his last Upstate New York show since April 2018 at The Clayton Opera House comes ahead of the three dates scheduled with Mike Gordon of Phish in the Empire State this December. During 2020 the duo released their first record Noon in over fifteen years. So it was fitting for Leo to open the show with “From Pizza Towers to Defeat” at Homer Center for the Arts, a song written by the duo from their 2002 album Clone.
You wouldn’t have seen a tour bus outside the Homer Center for the Arts on Saturday night. Leo Kottke’s solo tour traveling rig is simple, and very reminiscent of Chuck Berry when he showed up at the venue driving himself with two guitars and a steel slide in tow. Leo deals with venue staff directly and settles up on his own with no tour manager. Mike Gordon of Phish told Rolling Stone “Hes like this American treasure living in his own bubble. He’ll travel the country listening to Lone Ranger series from the 1950’s in its entirety in the car.”
Leo’s stories from traveling this great country were weaved in to his ninety minute set on the intimate Homer stage. Outside the venue was a local haunted attraction in its 39th year that gave the performance a vibe of Phish’s interpretation of Disney’s Chilling, Thrilling, Sounds of the Haunted House.
Although Leo didn’t tell the crowd about his most recent studio release with Phish’s bassist, instead he told them about the first drummer he has ever collaborated with in 60 years:
I’m having a ball doing this with David King of the band Bad Plus. It’s a nice cocktail kit, he doesn’t come in with this Keith Moon suicide drowning thing. We go in the studio and start making shit up, the only thing Dave doesn’t like is when I stop. It’s a great attitude to be around, a little dangerous as I will demonstrate now.Leo Kottke
He told the crowd of American modernist composer Charles Ives and his struggles to get his work out. Overtime he hired Burlesque dancers to enhance attention on his Concord Sinata 2. After becoming acknowledged for his work someone told Ives over time, “I can tell its good music but it doesn’t sound very good” to which Ives replied “What,s sound got to do with music?”
Leo’s point on it was that its a privilege to be able to play and if you have a chance to play. You don’t get to pick where you play and if you want people to hear what your doing and can’t find a crowd hire a burlesque orchestra to get some clout. “I mean its a privilege all around that it ever even happens in any faint way for you…but if there are people that want to listen your stuck with a privilege beyond luck, it becomes a thing itself”
The audience chuckled as Kottke told them that he has played prisons, hospitals, schools and claimed they are all the same. For Kottke, The Center for the Arts in Homer counts as a 150 year old church gig. Leo admitted to playing a library opening in the past five years to a fellow musician friend due to his complaining that he has been subject to pizza parlor gigs. Defeat the pizza towers, “Play Anywhere,” Kottke told the crowd.
You also won’t find a setlist after Leo’s performance either. The same fashion in which he entered he chose to exit and play through the encore “So we could all leave at the same time.” He finished the show with the classic piece “Corrina,” walking off the stage with both guitars in hand. New York’s legendary Pete Seeger called Kottke “The Best 12 string player in the world.”
In December when Kottke returns to New York State with jamband giant Mike Gordon, expect the same kind of sharpness at the performance. Even though Leo has seen Phish on New Years Eve at Madison Square Garden, Mike Gordon recalled a tale from the road during their last tour when he put on a Grateful Dead jam to listen to in which Leo replied “OK, that’ll be enough of that.”
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon December 2021 Tour Dates
December 8 – Munhall, PA – Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall
December 9 – Washington, DC – Sixth & I
December 10 – Tarrytown, NY – Tarrytown Music Hall
December 12 – Beverly, MA – The Cabot
December 13 – Lebanon, NH – Lebanon Opera House *
December 15 – Troy, NY – Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
December 16 – Norwalk, CT – Wall Street Theater
December 17 – York, PA – Appell Center for the Performing Arts
December 19 – Plattsburgh, NY – Strand Center for the Arts