We flew from Porto to Milan and sat around at the airport for about an hour while we waited for our van and driver to show up. When he finally arrived he had to immediately take his mandated 45 minute break before we could start out on our two hour journey to Rivoli. So we sat around and waited some more: Italy immediately shrugging her shoulders, cocking her head, as if to say, “slow down, relax, time is measured in centuries not minutes around here.” It’s so good to be back.
Rivoli is a small town in the far North West corner of Italy, in the shadow of the Alps, a few kilometers from Turin. The gig and our accommodations for the past two days are located in a beautiful hundred year old compound that once was this area’s slaughterhouse. True to the period and to the impeccable aesthetic of the average Italian builder, this purely functional compound had a flow, grace and attention to detail that you would be hard pressed to find in North America. The main building, the actual slaughterhouse turned music venue, is a beautifully articulated circular building: it is round for no other reason but for the pleasure of creating a round building, the aesthetic of the art nouveau movement at the turn of the 20th century pushed the builders in that direction and one hundred years later it is still a thing of beauty, a pleasure to look at it, walk around and work in. Our rooms were housed in what was once the ice house, which, we were told, had cellars beneath it which extended five levels below ground (Pete and John spent a lot of energy trying to pry open a hatch in Jared’s room to see if these cellars could be explored, but there seemed to be something on the other side keeping that hatch from prying loose….). Another of the out buildings in the compound was the old livestock barn which has been turned into a restaurant: there aren’t enough stars in the Michelin guidebook to describe how good the food at this place is. Upon our arrival the promoter generously treated us all to a true Italian multi-course meal. The steak, sausage and pork was grilled in the courtyard over wood-coals, the pasta and bread was made on the premises, the desserts were the sort of thing that I will fondly dream of for years and the beer was as fresh as any cask ale that I’ve ever had, unpasteurised, brewed locally, and meant to be drunk within a several mile radius of the brewery, not bottled and carted around the world and drunk from plastic cups. And of course the wine flowed freely, but I was concentrating on the beer. We spent a good three hours sating ourselves…there is a reason that the Romans took so easily to Bacchus…man, I missed this country.
The slaughterhouse was abandoned in the 1970’s and sat empty for a few decades, filling up with pigeon shit, until one man came along with a vision to create a space dedicated to music: the playing of music, the recording of music, an archive for Italian folk music, a place to learn about the countries folk music traditions and a repository for musical instruments from around the world. This vision was supported by the local city council and the result is an educational, cultural and entertainment resource for the community and region. It’s an amazing space with a myriad of rooms, each holding a small treasure trove of musical history. The main performance space has been tweaked and lovingly shaped and it has grown from being a nightmare of hard surfaces and crashing sine waves into a live but tuned room. Jared said that it was one of the nicest sounding rooms that he has ever played in with us, which is saying a lot, considering the many multi-million dollar concert halls that we have played over the years. Needless to say we had a great night of music, the audience was intense and passionate, really and truly listening….man I love this country.