Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"...so put another dime in the juke box, baby!"

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts conquer in the name of rock; if you're lost and don't get my references, follow the link and be conquered. Listen for the guitar solo and how it pwns nØØbs! It was another whirlwind music weekend, wherein I:
  1. Did not play the violin in public for the first time in many years. I chickened out because I failed to obtain any kind of backup. I was trying to figure a way for me to back myself up, with keyboard loops, but the PA I was able to practice on wasn't really accessible to me to just take to the show. No back from Mr. Bombs, who had to work...at the venue. I tried to lighten things up by playing some in the kitchen, running around being goofy, and hassling the smoking-room-loiterers. I stayed pretty still to concentrate on playing this new song; it is hard to capture the magic on film (Or digital media? On disk? What do we even call it these days? Thanks to MadMatt for sending me the video, whatever it's called). I think my friends who played in the orchestra can at least partly validate my feelings that in all of that early-aged playing, I learned to depend on the teacher/conductor and fellow students/players for things like rhythm, dynamics, and especially hiding mistakes. The violin needs bass and harmony notes underneath it, and, I want to use it sparingly.
  2. Watched Mr. Bombs and HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS conquer the 1000^2' or so of patio at one of 4th Avenue's hot bars. Now, I don't want to air anyone's business on the internet, so I will try to tell the story without divulging details that aren't known by any observant witnesses that happen to be out there. Mr. Bombs had a bad interaction with the venue, which I can vouch for. I was helping out as roadie for the band, during which the owner and staff actually made it really difficult to load the gear in, getting in the way while carrying nothing but a bad attitude. So Mr. Bombs performed the first set with his back to the audience:
    The bar's patio is arranged in a strange way, with a lot of hard-to-reach seating, no good place to watch the band, and no space at all to dance. Still, the second set started to rock and cook and smoke and quake. The band was really tight, some "muthafuckin ladies" showed up and had songs quite properly dedicated to them, and one of the Lillies even laid siege to a harshly rude cabbie:
  3. Spent some quality time staying in with the old junior high gang. See them up there in that panorama? Throughout the whole evening, we kind of focused in on music as one of the common threads really uniting us. We watched goofy Lonely Island videos, listened to some awesome records, and played many good-spirit though half-executed jams. It was very humbling, enriching, gratifying, comforting, nostalgic,restorative, and encouraging...at once. Feelings: I have many.
  4. Worked out some shows. Well, if Monday is part of the weekend for partied-out rockers, than  I did this 'over the weekend', although it is kind of a continuous process.  I'll post more when I have something to actually post, like maybe specifics for when/where all the shows are and hopefully even some cool posters/fliers/silly DIY promo images.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Hell's Bells ringing, my secret music..."

So if you recall, I've been reading The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice. While I am on the fifth book now, the second and third have a hefty number of pages devoted to Lestat, the vampire rock star. Interestingly, during the latter days of Lestat's mortal life he runs away from home to Marie Antoinette-era Paris with his friend, the soulful but rejected-by-the-masters violinist, Nicky. I wish that I had the books with me, or had a better memory, because there are some great descriptions of Nicky's playing. I remember one passage wherein the violin is described as being able to communicate emotions in a way that no other instrument can, that it is the most haunting. In the books, Lestat uses his vampiric powers of mimicry to play a medley of Nicky's songs for the Vampire Queen, causing her to briefly wake from her endless slumber. Also, it is rock music that awakens Lestat  in a 1980s New Orleans graveyard, and there are great descriptions of the "electronic amplification's ability to sustain notes into eternity".

Well, tonight marks the end of over a decade I've taken off from playing the violin. Once I got a guitar, I started to slack a lot in the school orchestra, and once I was out of high school I set the violin down completely. I even sold my old student violin. Being out here on the road, trying to put together shows and pickup bands, I've been frustrated by the lack of a string player. Then it dawned on me: we were walking through downtown Tucson right by the Chicago Music Store, where I rented a violin for the school Orchestra way back in 3rd grade. I got a nice contact pickup, so we can run the fiddle through an amp. This useful piece of gear will work better for the Genre Zero violinist back in SLC; she currently uses a clip-on mic that produces a lot of feedback. Also, I've acquired a clip-on all-instrument tuner, which I can use when playing the violin to make sure my notes are actually in tune. Finally, I had them rig my rental up with 'fret' markings. I'm only going to whip out the violin for a couple songs tonight. I'm either going to blow minds, or, get mine blown away by an angry audience. Here's hoping for the former!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bored; Need Bombs

Well, I've been busy living the Tucson nightlife; band rehearsals, bar-hops, the Geeks who Drink Quiz. MadMatt has been kind enough to drive me around in his Volkswagon Bus-o-Awesome, Stella. Of course, my main man G Money has been carting me around plenty as well, and we've been practicing the songs at least once a day. Also, I wrote a new song about life on the road and it is inspired by all of my dear friends. It has been so deeply inspirational, humbling, and motivating to see so many of my closest and best people, even though we're now scattered across the country. Also, I have met a lot of really great people through my friends...and now we are all cross-country friends with each other!

Here is one of the old-gang reunion photos:
This already made the rounds on facebook, but, who knows...I might have to delete that again if I get too excited! You can see Matt's bus behind us.

 Also this week, Matt took me around showing me some of the best graffiti art around town. Tucson is pretty spectacular in that there are large swathes or town where you can't go a single block without seeing a psychedelic mural, a graffiti collage,  or some other excellent piece of art:
I really like how the artist used the decaying bricks as teeth! We're trying to put together a video (!!) to show off a bunch of the cool public art in Tucson, so keep your fingers crossed...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kitteh Weekend Bonus Edition

If you love cats like my friends and I do, if you have a soft and pliant sweet spot for our fastidiously furry friends, then you'll want to check out The Kitty Comp from Burger Records. An adorable feral stray was rescued after being run over behind a California cassette-tape label, and the story just reminded me so much of our long-gone family dog Cisco that I had to share it. Cisco was thrown out of the back of an SUV in front of my mother's office in Tucson along with his five or so litter mates. The disowning driver then actually reversed a bit to get pointed out of the parking lot, gunned the gas, and ran over all but two of the puppies. I wasn't there, but my mother relayed the story to me, her having rescued the two survivors. A coworker took one pup and Mom brought home the second, Cisco - who was much-beloved for years in Tucson and now rests faithfully beneath our SLC herb garden. So maybe the Kitty-Comp and my nostalgia is comparing cats and dogs, but the compilation tapes aren't no-account doghouse jams. There is previously unreleased material from Ryan Adams, among many talented others:
I've had the pleasurable good fortune of meeting several interesting cats during my travels. Remember the green-thumbed friends I made in Lincoln? They have an unassuming house-cat that leisurely greeted each guest in turn before settling in at her own spot within the conversation circle. I hadn't quite figured out how to work my camera's flash back on July 4th, and the image was too dark to see, so I messed with the colors of the picture similar to the stylized band pictures on my old MySpace page:
Also in Lincoln was the Game Room store cat, who was friendly enough to crawl up my clothes in search of loves:
Most recently, here in Tucson, are the catty companions of some of my dearest. Meet Gabby; she's a little bit skittish, but will warm up to you eventually. Here she is hanging outside, talking cat-trash with a neighborhood stray on the other side of the fence:
Inside, her younger gal-pal is taking a break from it all:
Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So Much to Do

I arrived in Tucson yesterday and there is so much to get done before the show tomorrow at Sky Bar.
Still too far out and overcomplicated (not to mention unprofitable) to try to bring some the the SLC band members in, but my good friend Noah and I have put together a solid pickup band, to play a one-off. Going to try to mix things and alternate between electric and acoustic guitars, and a little keyboard and synth.

So...I am off to take care of business. In the meantime, savor these words of wisdom I picked up from a friend of the family in Austin, who is Vietnam-era veteran of the "Old Corps":

Monday, July 16, 2012

Texas Express

Well my relaxing time in Austin is over, and I am presently waiting to board the bus that will carry me across Texas, back to the West, and into Tucson. I owe a huge thank-you to all of my extended family in Austin, and an apology to those in the Austin area that I wasn't able to connect with. From picking me up at the airport, introducing me to other musicians, and getting me to my two small shows...well, Austin isn't a very easy place to get around, and I genuinely appreciate the family support.

Thank you to my aunt for for being so nice and helpful. She turned me on to her extensive rubber stamp collection, so that I could class up the Genre Zero demos:

She also put on a private all-ages show in her house; it was somehow very different yet also very similar to the house shows in Lincoln. Basement music: Westlake suburbs style! I was hamming it up good for the children, and I think they enjoyed it:

It was a really good show, actually! I pushed my musical boundaries in a way that I haven't in a while, what with being able to fully indulge in the possibilities present in a rock n' roll band. I learned some hymns to play on the piano, which I think my aunt's church friends appreciated, and those were really fun to sing. Really good melodies, and challenging too; one refrain's lilting and lyrical melody line wound its way through my whole vocal range. The acoustics in the piano room and nearby living room, which the audience overflowed to, were excellent.

I am still trying to throw together a second leg of the tour; hopefully something in Vegas that maybe some of the band can come down to, then it is looking like a stop back through SLC (and potentially a show at Sun & Moon cafe), I'm trying to get some things going in Lincoln so as to stop back through there, relatives in Ada Oklahoma are putting something together, and then maybe my new musical friends in Austin can turn me on to something. For now, it is off to Tucson to put together the Sky Bar show. Rock on!

Friday, July 13, 2012

"In the Suburbs I, I Learned to Drive..."

 Well here I am, in the suburbs of Austin at my aunt's palatial hilltop villa, reconnecting with a lot of my extended family that I haven't seen since I was discharged from the Marine Corps five years ago. While the West Lake / Southwest Parkway area on the outskirts of Austin is hardly the "Weird Austin" of downtown and Sixth Street, it is still pretty cool - the Spike-Jonze directed short film "Scenes from the Suburbs," included with the deluxe edition of Arcade Fire's album "The Suburbs," was filmed here. My first night in town I was lucky enough to meet some local musicians, via my father's brother, and we had a very enjoyable evening sharing our music with each other.

I did get some sad news yesterday. One of the bands in our little West-SLC music clique, "The Wild Ones", is breaking up. Always a drag to see a good band cease. Selfishly, I am disappointed because we never got to do a show together. But in the bigger picture, I just hope that the relationships in question aren't too strained, that there is no bad blood. Who knows, maybe this had to happen to give everyone some fresh perspective...and they'll end up playing together again some day, in a better and more mature incarnation? They say that there is a silver lining to every cloud...

Well...the piano, for my show tomorrow night, is being tuned up right now...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"...Oh, and the blues, I got the blues, that's me..."

Just a quick update for today. I played a set with the Mojo Blues Band in Oklahoma City, and it went pretty well. The band was made up of extremely skilled musical gunslingers, so them not being familiar with the Genre Zero songs was only an issue for the songs that have a lot of sudden stops or starts. Otherwise, it was fairly spectacular. I was warmly received by the audience, despite NOT playing anything resembling "the blues", and one fast friend was kind enough to take some video of the show:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Leaving Lincoln

Wow! The whirlwind fun of Lincoln is finally, sadly, over. It was actually very embarrassing, the way that I didn’t want to leave and how I scrambled around trying to savor even the last minutes of my time there. I am glad that after a week hanging around the Bolzen Compound, I hadn’t fully worn out my welcome. I felt like I was starting to a bit, like the seeds of expectation and resentment had been planted and were starting to grow, and like my gentleman’s courtesy was gradually becoming either just rote niceties or falling away completely in the wake of familiarity. For example: right at the very end, I was trying to say my heartfelt goodbyes, but I was distracted worrying about my luggage and things...I even got called out on it; someone was trying to say their heartfelt goodbye back to me, but I kind of ruined the moment.

I think we all understood and shared the feelings of exhaustion, awkwardness, and bittersweet anticipation that are attendant on the end of the temporary. Still, I cannot say thank you enough to my hosts, so here we go again:
Thank you Brian and Jandi for your epic hospitality!

In my continuing quest to improve myself, or more specifically to improve the effect  I have on the world around me and the people in it, I learned a lot. This past week in Nebraska, meeting new people and experiencing a different rhythm of life, really changed a lot of my outlook. It was such a breath of fresh air, not to say anything bad about SLC, that I am leaving Lincoln with an improved perspective.

Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lincoln Weekend Bonus Edition


 What a whirlwind of a weekend...a whirlwind of music! It started Friday afternoon, when we headed into downtown Lincoln to hear a local band "Good Show Great Show" perform at a busy intersection during the lunch rush. They were a very cool band, with what I suppose you would call a 'psychedelic' flavor throughout their rock/pop/indie/whatever style. I guess it is part of a new program the city is putting on here, partnered with local non-profit "Be Heard Lincoln," to put on live lunch music every Friday.

After the end of the show, I busked again, this time at a substantial downtown bus station. I heard after the fact that the bus station has a mean reputation, but that's where the people were, and I got a pretty good response. It was great practice, and was also good for getting my voice nice and warmed up. I was also very fortunate in that later Friday afternoon, my host's roommate kindly drug out her old keyboard (a late seventies, birth of analogue synthesizers, old-school Korg affair) and had a good-old-fashioned noise-band jam. That put me in a good headspace for the show Friday night - it was dark in the basement (Lincoln house shows are in the basement from what I gather), but here are the shots from the Genre Zero set. My thanks again to Brian for the backup - the tuba sounded really good!

Bolzen Beer Band, of course, played after to close out the night. Almost two kegs of beer were consumed! And finally, Saturday night I roadied for Bolzen. We drove an hour or so away to Diller, Nebraska. Bolzen did the final show of the "Diller Days" festival, an all-day street fair, carnival, and celebration of the small town of Diller. Bolzen had played at the literally-only-bar-in-town before, and so there was a presence from their fans, as well as just the Diller crowd coming in to the bar the end their festival day. In case you didn't know, Bolzen does a very cool alt-polka routine.

Yeah, that's right. Alt-polka. You'd have to be at their show to really get it, but here is a taste:

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Tourist

 A very lovely day in Lincoln yesterday! While I had been downtown Tuesday night, I went back in the daylight and played tourist a little bit. I've explored a lot of the downtown area already, which is surprisingly large, with the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, a kind of bar district, the state capitol, a lot of eclectic shops. It is very vibrant, too - when I was going around Tuesday night, the bar was full, if not somehow over fire code - overall the feel here is small town mixed with downtown, west mixed with east.

I got some decent pictures of some cool older buildings. The first is the YWCA, according to the stone over the door, and the second was really cool and probably ten stories tall:

I also walked down to the Nebraska state capitol building:

It was really cool inside, although I think I went too late in the day, and I got thrown out of the big tower. I made a cool $8 busking downtown yesterday; not to make excuses, but it was a bad time of day. For the time of day, roughly 2-4 PM, I think I did very well. Also, not one, but three or four other musicians ended up stopping by and jamming. Two of them were even young teenagers, and we formed impromptu three person jams for a song or two before someone had to scoot on their way. When I left to re-connect with my friend at his job, a just-back-in-town singer/songwriter type guy and a girl from a local band were still playing!

It's a really cool atmosphere here, but I am just passing through...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lincoln, Nebraska

I survived 21 hours on two buses, arriving in Lincoln Tuesday evening. The roommate of the friend I am staying with was nice enough to take me out to downtown - we got pizza and drinks at "Ya-Ya's" (a local institution here, it seems), then moved to the bar/club "Duffy's, where we chatted and played pool. Eventually, we were picked up by my long-time buddy on his way back from playing a successful show with his group: Bolzen Beer Band.

Yesterday was the 4th, or Independence Day if you will, and we spent it with a group of very cool Lincolners. Guess what - there are lots of garden nerds up here, too:

I was able to meet a lot of cool people, the main group of which lived in two nice, old, turn-of-the-century houses; very reminiscent of SLC! 

Also: everyone in Lincoln goes crazy for fireworks! So today I am off to hang out downtown, do a little busking, and get some more pictures. The show is tomorrow night!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pre-Tour Decompression

I have been very busy these past few weeks, getting everything lined out for the "Greyhound Run-Around" bus tour, and doing a lot of work around the house and in the garden so that I'll have less to worry about while I am out on the road. This past weekend, with the trip looming ever closer and most of my preparations complete, I took off for the weekend on a whim. I hopped a ride with the Remodel Man up to the Uintas, which are a series of mountains and forests rising up from the mountain plains East of the Wasatch Front. It was a good little adventure, and certainly more relaxing and restorative that simply hanging out around the house feeling anxious. Above you can see our first campsite, in a nice meadow atop a ridge.

I also managed to capture some nice images of the sunset, which was a rich and fiery orange, probably due to the great plumes of smoke in the air from the half dozen or so wildfires burning throughout the state. It the fading twilight, after some experimenting and failed attempts, I managed to get the following panorama, with the moon and sunset both in the wide frame:

Our second day camping was filled mostly with driving, as we explored the high desert landscape surrounding Red Creek and its namesake reservoir, which we camped near on the second night. We did a few small bush-whacking, trailblazing hikes, especially around our campsite, situated in a spring-fed grove of cottonwood and other deciduous trees. I got up early yesterday morning to check out the wildflowers, then we both explored the highest part of the lonely copse. Now, I have one final busy day of packing, double checking, last-minute errands, and finally I will get on the bus this evening, bound for Lincoln and the beyond. I'll just have to think of this if I get too stressed out on the road: