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A Weekend on the Road with B. Hurtado and gemtone

Ambient/experimental performer Brandon Hurtado and fellow dark ambient/sadpop artist gemtone explored the east coast on a weekend tour in early May which took them from Richmond to Charlottesville, up to Brooklyn through Baltimore and Philadelphia then back again.

During the tour, Hurtado shot 35mm photographs and kept a brief tour diary to share the experience. Below are diary entries and photographs relating their shared experience on the road.

Day 1 – Magnolia House (Charlottesville, Va.)

After a few minutes of confused searching, we’ve arrived at Magnolia House: an old bungalow tucked away on the corner of an intersection, obscured almost entirely by trees. The sky is a flat gray, and the air is cold as we load in – Rachel with their keyboards and amp, and I with my guitar and backpack full of tapes and effects. We’re both happy to see that Magnolia has both a PA and a separate room off to the side for us to play in, no furniture rearranging necessary. The front door stays open as the night progresses, and I feel the cool air waft in as I sit in the front room.

We play with Charlottesville locals Shimmer and Winter Weeds, the former playing sleepy bedroom pop songs, the latter specializing in experimental clouds of synthesizers and noise. Aside from the output jack on my guitar giving me problems, both Rachel and I’s sets go smoothly. A very good start to the tour.


Day 2 – The Crown (Baltimore, Md.)

Baltimore greeted us with even more cold, in addition to misty rain and strong gusts of wind. After getting coffee and snacks at Red Emma’s, we headed to The Crown, a converted office building with a Korean restaurant downstairs and no less than 3 spaces for shows between the two floors. We both felt as if we were in a multi-level European nightclub as we carried our gear upstairs, past walls completely covered in graffiti. The space we played in, the red room, was the largest of the three, with a bar opposite the stage. The person doing sound that night had a Youtube playlist of Weather Channel music running throughout our load-in and setup, which calmed some of the pre-show nervousness I had.

Unfortunately the problems I had with my guitar in Charlottesville came back. I was able to switch to my tape players before those too died on me, forcing me to cut my set off early. Not a great feeling. Despite this, the rest of the night went well. Rachel’s set was fantastic, along with our local supporters JPEGMAFIA and the amazing experimental duo Melanin Free. As we carried our gear back downstairs, we weaved through countless clubgoers leaving the 2 other shows happening in the same building that night, the smell of Korean food hanging in the air.


Day 3 – Space 1027 (Philadelphia, PA)

We head north towards Pennsylvania after a somewhat restless night (thanks to an overactive cat at the place we stayed) and a light breakfast of bagels and coffee. Rachel and I had both been there close to a year ago for a performance put on by the Richmond-based art collective Community Room, and driving into the city felt nostalgic. We explore Queen Village, get food and head to Space 1026, a second-floor art gallery nestled in the center of the city with a screenprinting studio behind the main show space. Rachel rides their wheeled amp down the sidewalk as people wait for doors at the Tech N9ne show across the street, the line of people spanning at least 3 blocks.

Philly grind folks Mob Terror and the inimitable Soul Glo provide local support, both bands unleashing amazing walls of noise and furious percussion. Rachel and I have both seen (and shared bills with) Soul Glo numerous times in the past – each time they undoubtedly get a little better. Both of us roll through our sets with ease aside from my tape machines giving me problems again.

Afterwards, we hang around with Soul Glo before attempting (and failing) to find an open restaurant for vegan food close to 1026. After returning to the car and having some leftover curried chickpeas that Rachel made pre-tour, we head to our sleeping spot – Big Momma’s House, a huge industrial warehouse where Pierce and GG from Soul Glo live. Art covered every inch of the walls, and I could hear windchimes in the distance as I fell asleep on one of the space’s many couches.


Day 4 – Silent Barn (Brooklyn, NY)

We head out for Brooklyn the next morning, both of us getting a decent amount of sleep. We make good time, and Rachel deftly navigates us through the chaos of New York traffic, finding us a the perfect parking spot a few blocks away from the venue. We spend the hours leading up to load-in exploring Bushwick, perusing dollar stores and getting lunch at Champ’s Diner.

Compared to Richmond, Brooklyn is complete sensory overload, with no empty spaces to speak of. I thought of the relatively soft volume of life back home as we headed back to the car.

At the venue, we meet up with our friend and gracious sleeping-spot host River, a fellow Richmonder who along with Rachel played in the amazing all-femme improv group Womajich Dialyseiz and currently makes music solo as GHOST PISS. She opens the show with her pop-heavy brand of awesome house music, a ghost mask hanging from one of her drum machines.

Pan, the other local act, reminded me of Inca Ore, running multiple layers of vocals and samples through weird effects. Rachel and I breeze through the final of our sets for the tour, my performance thankfully going down without any sort of problems.

As the night winds down, we pack up our things, and after a literally miraculous parking find by Rachel, head to River’s apartment for our final night away from home – both of us tired but satisfied.

As I laid my head down on the foldout bed, I noticed that the noise from Brooklyn had finally subsided, and I drifted off to sleep.


Brandon Hurtado performs with Disc image as Outer Heaven on June 28th
with Ships In The Night, Gardener and Womajich Dialyseiz.

gemtone performs at Strange Matter on July 27th
with Zen Mother, Shadow Age, Gull and Nu Depth.