Monthly Archives: April 2006

Precious And Fragile Things

28 April 2006

CONVERSION NOTICE: This is one of 250+ blogs that originally appeared on MySpace. I’ve done my best to represent it with as much historical accuracy as possible, but there are limitations. Read about it in the FAQ.

Current Mood:  content

No, not my ego!

Thanks to the profound generosity of BFF (a.k.a. “Sus“), I was able to attend Depeche Mode’s show last night at the Shoreline with some of our closest friends!  Couldn’t you just pee!?

Traffic was a bitch, so unfortunately we all missed She Wants Revenge’s set (they went on at 7pm!).  We caught the last few songs of the Scissor Sisters, whom I did not know really outside of their song “Laura.”  Well it appears they put on a hell of a show, so we’ll all have to catch them the next time they come this way.

Depeche Mode was amazing, and our seats were obscenely close!  DM has become a bit larger than life over the years, so as you can imagine, the stage set and the light show were state-of-the-art.  Martin Gore was dressed up like he was ready for the Thunderdome, complete with some yarn tuft shoulder pads and a knit cap that was… well rooster-esque, really.  Taylor was most envious.  Dave Gahan was out in a vest as usual, singing his heart out and showing he’s still got some stage moves.  He wields that mic stand like a Shaolin Monk.  Gotta learn me some of them moves.

The setlist was almost exactly what I would have picked, and they played all of my favorite classics that I was hoping to hear… plenty off of “Violator” and well as “Thank You” and most of all, a rendition of “I Feel You” that brought the house down.  What a fucking show!

Sus, seriously, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.  As inflated as my ego is, even I recognize that I don’t deserve to know you.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve been meaning to talk about our Popscene show back on April 13th.  We played a set of almost all new Morrissey solo songs, most of which we were debuting that night!  We even kicked it off with a very unexpected “You Have Killed Me!”  I felt like we played well, and we all certainly had a great time.  The crowd of 500 or so was a little young this time (18 and over), and somehow I felt like they just didn’t quite “get” us.  Not that there weren’t several folks singing along in the crowd and on stage with us.  Even so, we’ll continue to stick to mainly Smiths, I think.  Thank you Popscene for having us back, and thank you friends and gang members who came out to support us!  We’d rather play for you guys than anyone!

Last weekend, I went down to Gilroy to watch me dad play an acoustic set.  I haven’t seen him play in quite a while, and it was great!  He writes and performs blues, folk, roots rock, etc.  Sometimes alone and sometimes with a band.  Next time he’s playing up here closer to SF, I’ll be promoting the hell out of it so stay tuned.  Later that same evening, I joined Nick at Slim’s to catch the last half of “Message Of Love’s” set.  They’re a fantastic Pretenders tribute, and I walked in just in time to hear my favorite Pretenders song: “Kid.”  I hope This Charming Band gets a chance to play with them sometime.  The main attraction though was “Stung,” a well-known Police tribute that we’ll be playing with on May 13th.  They’re just a three piece, but they nail the sound of the Police, and it’ll be a blast to play with them next month.  Who’s going?

Have any of you been to “Cha Cha Cha” on Haight or in the Mission?  It’s like Cuban tapas I think, but it was wonderful.  The food was unique and tasty, and the atmosphere was dark and romantic.  “Great date place,” says Orlando.  And yes I went with him there, but not on a date.  That ship has sailed, my friend.

OK, that’s all for now.  I have lots I’ve been meaning to write about, but I think this is enough for this afternoon.  I’ll sprinkle the rest in over the next few entries.  By the way, the best quote of the night last night goes to Taylor:

Taylor:  “Whenever I hear this song, I imagine myself in the video dancing around in my underwear.”
Benjamin:  “Oh, I haven’t seen this video.”
Taylor:  “Me neither.”

SoCal Tour Part III: Meet The New Boss

6 April 2006

CONVERSION NOTICE: This is one of 250+ blogs that originally appeared on MySpace. I’ve done my best to represent it with as much historical accuracy as possible, but there are limitations. Read about it in the FAQ.

Current Mood:  grateful

OK, so I broke my promise, and it took me two days to get back to finishing this.  It’s done now, so, you know… yeah.

By the way, I neglected to mention the lovely gifts I received from Monica and Sus after the Hully Gully show.  Monica got me a Disney cowboy hat with “Benzilla” embroidery, as well as the Morrissey Live In Dallas DVD and an autographed photo of Wanda Jackson!  Such thoughtful gifts!  Thank you so much… I’ve got a few things for you that I forgot to bring south with me.  Next time for sure!  Sus found some choice and rare Smiths books (with Shel’s help) for me.  I swear, I won’t live long enough to repay all of what these friends do for me.  Where to even begin?

Another thing to keep in mind is that my views do not necessarily represent the views of the band as a whole.  I’m known to be the militant one of us, and so I may say some things (especially in this blog) that sound cocky, or worse, like fightin’ words.  Please take them up with me directly as it is not the band’s fault that I’m this way.  To their credit, they’ve repeatedly refused to allow me to have a mic at our shows precisely for the fear of what I might say.  But I’m only saying what everyone who saw us already knows and…

OK, on to our final chapter:

We woke up and took a walk down to the Walk of Fame to see all the sidewalk stars.  There were a ton of tourists out, including the remainder of what must have been a cheerleading competition: dozens of 10 year old girls wearing brothel levels of cheap makeup.  Ugh… where are the parents!?

After shopping for Moz shirts (Peter bought an AC/DC shirt!) and trying to find the new Moz single (no such luck), we decided to do a little last-minute gear shopping too.  Before we knew it, it was time to hit the hotel and get ready for our third and final gig.

Sunday – Club London

Boardners is right off of Sunset strip, and has a beautiful “outdoor” stage area behind it.  It’s under a circus tent sort of thing, so I guess it’s not technically outdoors, but close enough.  The stage is the biggest we’ve played on, elevated and far from the crowd (not Orlandissey’s preference).  It gave us plenty of room for everyone to set up and be seen.  The centerpiece of this courtyard is a fountain-sized pool with a giant candelabra in it, all burning throughout the night.  The indoor area has huge vaulted ceilings and is decorated in as a gothic club should be… fountains and beat-up antique furniture and so on.  It’s all very Anne Rice.

They had a fantastic sound guy with a good ear and a soothing voice.  Between his efforts and the size of the stage, we had the best sound on stage we’ve probably ever had.  I could hear myself and everyone else while playing, and the result was a better show, flat out.  After sound check, we went and got some Italian and put together our setlist.

The only other band for the night was a group called “The Weather Underground” which sounded to me like British Invasion and soul music mixed together.  They brought a bunch of folks on stage for their finale.  The singer was doing a Prince type thing.  Or maybe Otis Redding.  I couldn’t tell for sure.

Then it was time for us to go on, and I can’t remember ever being less nervous for a show.  Coming off of the success of the Hully Gully show, I was excited to play, but totally confident in our abilities.  Consequently, we nailed the show and played great!  The set time was restricted, but we still managed one encore.  The crowd was cross-armed at first, but they were cheering at the beginning and end of every song by the time we really got into the set.  Ozzer got video of the whole show… we were calm and collected.  Totally solid.  Professional even.  Watching footage from the Hotel Utah from just a couple of weeks ago and then comparing it to this new Club London footage — I’ll tell you, it’s like watching two different bands.  It’s as if a couple of years has passed between the two tapes.  We’re all so confident now.  I am most pleased.  (You know, it’s hard to believe this band came together so fast… and out of nowhere too!  We’ve only been together six months or so.)  My only regret is that the latter two of our three shows did not involve the gladiolas that Ozzolini normally whips around and leaves all over the stage (despite Sus bringing some for us!).  I can’t believe we forgot!  We swear this has never happened to us before!  *blush*

After the show, we got great feedback and compliments.  I heard more “you’re the best Smiths tribute band out there, no question.”  I would like to believe this (OK, well I do believe this), but it’s ultimately up to you guys to decide, right?  Come see us, and why don’t you find out for yourself?

I talked to some random people, met the bassist for The Curse (SoCal’s Cure tribute… mutual show forthcoming?), and danced to a long Smiths/Moz medley with a lovely girl (hi Jackie!).  When they closed, we packed up all of our shit one last time and got out of there.  Travelling with my whole rig has taught me that travelling for work is comparatively a joke.  One little suitcase and a briefcase?  Puh-leez.  Try two guitars, a gig bag, a pedal board, and an amp inside a gigantor rolling Gator case.  Plus a little suitcase and a briefcase.  I have a whole new perspective on the matter.

We picked up a round of chocolate shakes on the way back to the hotel and sat on the patio drinking them and reflecting on a hell of a weekend.  Peter and I laughed ourselves silly once again (I highly recommend his Arctic Monkeys impression: “tracky bottoms stuffed in socks”).  Just a few hours of sleep and it was time for the long drive home.  More laughs were had, memories shared, etc.  Six hours and a short nap later, home sweet home.

Thank you to all of our friends from the Bay Area, SoCal, and MySpace who came to see us during the weekend.  We love you all and are very grateful you could be a part of it!  Sus and Shel, thank you most of all for your constant support and major efforts in getting yourselves to L.A. for the weekend!  We owe you big!  Add it to our growing tab…

And now, some reflection.

After Saturday night, I seriously felt like I could do no wrong.  I was hardly nervous for Club London at all.  And I think that really helped the performance.  I wonder if I will ever really be nervous before a show again?  What am I saying, of course I will!  But right now, it just doesn’t feel like it.  I seriously feel like a changed man.  The whole weekend was filled with such feelings of love of bandmates, friends, and fans.  I felt the love, the adoration, the power, the sense of importance and purpose.  I felt indestructible.  Even more than usual.  Can it get any better than this?  Every day, this project gets better.  A year ago, where was I?  And now, so many doors are opening.  So much potential.  Infinitely closer to a life I’ve always dreamed about.  Every morning, I get up and I wonder, “what next?”  I am extremely blessed and fortunate.  This was easily one of the best weekends of my life so far.  I’m not finding the words to express these feelings.  I just felt so alive and so fulfilled.  If only I could bottle up and save these feelings of success and camaraderie forever.  If only I could just play a gig like these every night of my life until I die.  If only I could think of a synonym for “feelings” so that I don’t keep sounding like a total Milquetoast.  For a few days, I felt like the center of the universe (again, even more than usual!).  This magical time is something I’m so proud of, and something I’ll never forget.  I wish everyone I know could have been there to see it.

My head is way too big; I know this.  But my heart is full too.  If you know me, then you know this is all coming from a good place.  Now this next part however…

Los Angeles, we have killed you.  A week ago, no one in SoCal knew who we were.  They know now.  And after all of this, I like to think we’ve left them with just one question:

The Sweet And Tender Hoo?

SoCal Tour Part II: Latino Rockabilly Heaven

4 April 2006

CONVERSION NOTICE: This is one of 250+ blogs that originally appeared on MySpace. I’ve done my best to represent it with as much historical accuracy as possible, but there are limitations. Read about it in the FAQ.

Current Mood:  grateful

Before I continue the story, you all got Morrissey’s new album that came out today, right?  RIGHT???  OK, moving on…

We all got up Saturday morning feeling a little shaken by the previous night’s fiasco (though I was still on an Alain-induced high).  We went through the pros and cons of the Cat Club show and agreed that the problems were largely circumstantial.  In fact, from these conversations we have decided to soon set some requirements for our shows, the biggest part of which will have to do with a limit on the number of other bands on the bill and the time we have to set up.

We had breakfast at Lulu’s.  I had a “Garden Burger salad.”  Very interesting.  Later on, we checked out some used gear shops where I found a rare Boss PN-2 pedal in near-mint condition.  We hit a gi-mongous Guitar Center where I saw a rhinestone-covered 12-string from Daisy Rock and a $4500 custom turquoise Martin that matched my Casinos (swoon).  I did not buy it.  They have a huge used/vintage gear room too with all kinds of famous old amps, guitars, and basses.  If I ever need to find a rare item, this would be a good place to start.

Later on, we met up with Sus and Shel at Morrissey’s old haunt The Cat And The Fiddle.  We exchanged some memories and a few laughs (including Nick’s many Morrissey dance impressions against the backdrop of a Spandau Ballet poster).  Before long, it was time to return to the hotel and get ready for show number two…

Saturday – The Hully Gully

Monica (who came to this show too!) first pointed us at the Hully Gully a few months ago.  She thought we’d be perfect for this place, and she couldn’t have been more right.  As Nick put it, “if you were a Latino rockabilly new wave Smiths fan who died and went to heaven, the Hully Gully is where you’d go on the weekends.”

We were the only band on the bill for the night, so we got to get there before they opened and set up properly.  We got a great sound check and I even got to go out onto the dance floor while we warmed up so I could hear the same mix the crowd was going to hear.  It was perfect.  The only downside was that we had no monitors (so DI stuff like vocals, keyboard, and acoustic guitar would be hard to hear when we played).  But the sound guys were great and very accomodating so we worked it all out.  With the twin Casinos out on stage, just waiting to be played, I could at least try to go relax and eat before the show.

We worked out our setlist over “dinner” (which amounted to 1/4 of a shake at Jack In The Box… ugh).  I need to start packing lunch with all these carnivores.  One of the DJs came in and said everyone was impressed with our sound check.  He said that we’d go on at midnight and could play as long as we want.  That’s right, bitches.

As I said, Monica was there.  Sus and Shel were out there showing love of course.  I was so happy Jessica and Paulo got to make the show as well!  I saw several of our SoCal MySpace friends out in force.  I was totally surprised to see an old work buddy (Adam) in the crowd.  He had moved to SoCal and I didn’t even know it.  To top it off, I met Morrissey-Solo’s David Tseng!  I hope he got to catch some of the show.

By the time our intro music (Nancy Sinatra’s version of “Bang Bang”) was playing, I was out trying to pee in the bushes somewhere… the bathrooms at the club were, well… yeah.  So we rushed to get on stage and start, but again, we were all set up already.  I just needed to pick up my guitar and play.  And I did.

What ensued was what we’ve all agreed was our best show to date.  The place had about 500 screaming people in it, and 100 more were rumored to have been turned away at the door.  Nearly every song went off without a hitch, and the crowd seemed to love them all.  Dancing, calling out requests, and singing along into Orlando’s mic.  After playing our whole planned list (including Everyday Is Like Sunday, Well I Wonder, and Asleep), we just started playing whatever we could think of… I think 18 or so all told!  I got This Charming Man’s intro perfect, though the crowd cheered over it.  Peter (who has consequently earned the nickname “Edward Scissorhands”) broke another string on his acoustic early on but rocked the rest of the set on electric without skipping a beat.  There’s no two ways about it — we killed them.  When we played How Soon Is Now?, the crowd went nuts.  When we played Asleep, they closed their eyes and slow danced with their boyfriends and girlfriends.  None of us (including the crowd) wanted it to end.  This, friends, was a show to remember.

After the show, people were coming up to meet us and share their own love of Moz and the Smiths.  As I’ve said before, Smiths fans are like a big family.  You instantly have common ground when you meet another fan, and this was a family reunion, 500 strong.  So much love in that room.  We all danced to the fantastic classic 80’s the DJs were spinning until the cops came to break it up (whoa, just like a real family reunion!).

I don’t know if I will realistically ever get around to posting pictures of the show here.  I imagine some will eventually make their way onto the band’s site (ThisCharmingBand.net), but for now, it looks like the club took some of its own you can take a gander at:

http://www.drunkrockers.com/club_addiction_1.htm

The boys and I (minus a sleeping Orlandissey) met up with Sus and Shel at one of the two Denny’s within a block of each other on Sunset.  Almost everyone at the table ordered what has become the official post-show This Charming Slam breakfast: “Moons Over My Hammy” sans “hammy.”  By the time we paid our bill, the sun was coming up.  Back at the hotel, Peter and I laughed ourselves to sleep yet again.

OK, tomorrow night, I’ll finish this monster of a blog.  I promise.

To be continued…

SoCal Tour Part I: Once In A Lifetime

4 April 2006

CONVERSION NOTICE: This is one of 250+ blogs that originally appeared on MySpace. I’ve done my best to represent it with as much historical accuracy as possible, but there are limitations. Read about it in the FAQ.

Current Mood:  grateful

Before I even start, so much happened this weekend that I have forced myself to accept two things:

1) I cannot hope to remember it all.
2) I will not be able to give it all justice with mere words.

So, accepting that, I’ll try to give as full an account of my weekend as I can, and if I remember anything else, I’ll add it later.  If you were a part of this weekend, please feel free to share any of your memories as comments.  So here we go:

I ended up having to work a lot later than I had planned on Thursday night.  I got home late, gathered all of my gear, and then packed my clothes for the weekend.  This was in addition to extra stress around having told my boss that day that I was going to start looking for a way to get off the road.  With the excitement and stress swirling around my head, it was more than a little hard to fall asleep.

I woke up and got ready for the long drive to Hollywood.  The boys (all five of them) picked me up in a rented 15-passenger van.  When I got outside to meet them, the van doors were open and I heard “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” blaring from the stereo.  The beautiful string section flowing through those chords we all know and love.  I asked, “are we going to listen to the Smiths the whole way down there?”  And the response was, “dude, this is us.”  Keep in mind that I’m very familiar with the Smiths catalog.  It took 10-15 seconds of listening before I was convinced that what we were hearing was not the studio version right off of The Queen Is Dead.  I’m not kidding.  I can’t wait until the demos we’ve been working on (with Peter’s studio wizardry) have the final touches on them.  You won’t believe your ears.  I didn’t.

On the way down south, we listened to our working demos, some Brian Regan stand up (“Take luck!”), etc.  We talked about band stuff and sifted through guitar catalogs.  Peter strummed his Martin while some of the boys participated in a Cumbaya-style rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and some other folky nonsense.  I have some video of this.  We got to Hollywood and had just enough time to clean up real quick at the (“Hollywood Celebrity”) hotel before heading to the Cat Club (on Sunset) for our first show.

Friday – The Cat Club

The Cat Club (owned by Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats) was a pretty small place with a tiny stage.  It was well-decorated though, with sparkling flames running up the walls.  We dropped off our gear and went next door to rework our setlist over some mediterranean.  We came back in plenty of time to watch Red Lightning’s “secret” set.  They joined the already over-crowded bill for the night to make six bands total.  We were all glad they did though, as we got to watch Alain Whyte rock out up close and personal in this intimate little venue.  (For those of you who don’t already know, Alain Whyte is one of Morrissey’s two main guitarists and cowriters for over a decade now.  His current project is Red Lightning.)  Their show was arranged and announced last minute.  Already we’re talking about a chance to meet Alain and, if we’re lucky, have him listen to a few of our songs.  You can imagine how I was feeling.  We did get a chance to meet him, and he is as nice as can be.  I didn’t want to bug him, but I shook his hand and was thrilled to find he’d heard us on MySpace and was apparently very impressed.  I can imagine he might be pretty critical of Smiths/Moz tributes in general, but he said we’re “doing it right.”  Coming from Alain, I think that pretty much settles it.  😉

Dark clouds formed on the horizon as we started our set.  We were totally rushed with the over-crowded night’s schedule.  Tired from the drive, shaken by the poor stage/sound set up, and nervous in Alain’s presence, we began.  Our opener (Hand In Glove) was done with one guitar capo’d on the wrong fret!  Alain came downstairs just in time to see me totally botch the intro to This Charming Man for the first time since our very first show!  Peter broke a string!  Here’s Alain fuckin’ Whyte watching us and we’re bombing through our worst show ever.  I was mortified… but all was not lost.  Despite these nightmarish events, Orlando tried to gently persuade Alain to join us for a tune, and with the crowd behind him and to my complete awe… he agreed!  Peter (God love him) offered up his Ric to Alain and we rocked our way through Suedehead.

Let me repeat that.

Friday night, I played Suedehead on stage along side Alain Whyte in Hollywood.

If you had told me a year ago what I’d be doing 3/31/06, I’d have laughed in your face.  I don’t even know what else to say about that.  How many people get that opportunity?  THANK YOU, ALAIN!  He told us again that he liked what we are doing and that he’d like to catch us again sometime.  So… yeah.  Holy shit.

Thank you for these great pictures, Becky!

We got positive feedback from other folks as well, despite our rough start.  Already we were hearing things like “there are a lot of Smiths tribute bands that play around here… and you guys, well let’s just say you guys are really really good.”  Now the last thing I need is for stuff like that to go to my (already inflated) head.  We’ve really just started after all, but it is undeniable: I’m extremely lucky to have found a group of such talented musicians who love this material the way I do.  They love it enough to take the time and do it right.  They care about doing these songs justice.  “Good enough” isn’t good enough.  And what we have together is special.  But it’s one thing just to feel that yourself.  It’s another to show the Smiths/Moz fans in L.A. and have them confirm it.  My mission for this whole weekend was to begin to show Southern California how much we care about this music, and remind them how much they care about it too.

Thank you to Monica and Elizabeth who came out for this first show (and who I believe have the only documented evidence that Alain was there).  Thank you Sus, Shel, and Barrie, who were there for part of it as well, but they snuck out to catch the Hellbilly’s big House of Blues gig.  Congrats Barrie!

Hollywood, or at least the part of it I saw, is a beautiful city.  It’s also full of beautiful people.  Beautiful, crazy people.  I watched Orlando get “knighted” by a gorgeous girl who was clearly crazy as a shithouse rat.  She looked and sounded like Marla from Fight Club.  Another young hotness came over to me real close and asked if I knew where the cocaine was at.  When I explained that I didn’t, she explained that I was a fucking c*nt.  Sunset is crawling with clubs and guitar stores as far as the eye can see.  It was like my own personal Disneyland!  I was absolutely awestruck.  And to think Morrissey lived right nearby.  I don’t know that I’d want to live there, but it’s a different (and bigger) world from San Francisco.  No shortage of uber-scenesters, addicts, and actresses here.  And they don’t sleep.  At 2am, Mel’s was packed.  Sus/Shel/Barrie and the band shared fries and malts into the wee hours.

Back at the hotel, we got three rooms for the six of us.  I roomed with Peter which was awesome… night after night of guitar talk and pre-slumber humorous delirium.  After the stress and excitement of a show, I found it pretty relaxing to fall asleep mutually laughing about the night’s events.

So much more to tell… I will have to continue tomorrow night.

To be continued…