Posts Tagged guitars

Enter The Rumble Strippers

7 February 2011

Did you see that Gibson is finally releasing a Marc Bolan Les Paul?  At first I thought, “great, something else I gotta buy.”  But after seeing its $5,000+ price tag… uh… no thanks.  But hell, even for my somewhat unusual tastes in guitarists, this means my top three favorite players all have signature models.  Reverend Horton Heat has had his G6120RHH signature Gretsch for a few years now, and Johnny Marr has a signature Fender Jaguar in the works (which I actually will buy).  Does this mean I’m like… mainstream?

Back to the lecture at hand.  So my rockabilly band finally has a name and is ready to launch.  We are “The Rumble Strippers,” and you can find us here and eventually here.  All girls ‘cept me.  We’ve got a jazzy singer, a bull fiddlist, and a spunky drummer.  I’m playing guitar and writing (in theory).  It’s wide open though.  Maybe someday I’ll sing a little.  As we get rolling, we’re still working out a logo and all the housekeeping type stuff.  We’ve got a couple originals, but until we’ve built that up a bit, it’s mostly covers.  Old Elvis.  I’ve snuck some Link Wray in there.  The goal is definitely not to be a cover band though.  I’m looking forward to a new band experience.  There will be no standing on the shoulders of The Smiths.  No built-in audience.  It’s gonna be starting from the ground floor again and playing tiny places, opening for other bands on ridiculously large bills, etc.  You know, stuff normal bands are supposed to go through.  I was fortunate enough to skip most of that with TCB’s big success, but now I’m ready to give toiling a try.  We’ve got a couple of shows on the books including our quiet debut at Grant & Green in North Beach next Wednesday (2/16).

I’m happy with my new guitar tone.  I’m happy to have the chance to redefine my role in a band.  To make it what I want.  I’m happy to have a chance to stretch myself and be creative and spend more time deveolping a different style of playing.  No set expectations, but no limits either.  It can be as amazing or as crappy as I choose.  It’s all about how much time and effort I want to dedicate to it.  Something new.  And like I said, I’m all too happy to just be a tiny little bar band for now.  Test the waters quietly with no pressure to hit a homerun every time.  And depending how it pans out… maybe go balls out with it later.  We shall see.

“To define is to limit.”

— Oscar Wilde

Your band sucks.

1 February 2011

Wouldn’t that be great on a t-shirt?  I’d wear that to shows all the time. 

It’s been an interesting few weeks, and I am overdue for some quiet time.  TCB played a sold out show at The Blank and then turned around to play to 350+ at Rickshaw.  There were a ton of friends at both, to the point where at Rickshaw it almost seemed like I knew everyone in the room.  Good times.  A new Smiths night also started up in the Haight called “The Queen Is Dead,” and it seems to be taking the place of the former “Louder Than Bombs” club night.  I went to this last one, and it was tremendous.  You’ll be hearing more about it soon.  Viva Haight!

Somewhere in all that mess, I snuck away for a short L.A. vacation to see Wanda Jackson and Jack White play the El Rey.  It’s a tiny place (explaining why tickets were so hard to come by).  Once we staked out a killer spot, we didn’t move around until it was time to leave.  We stood next to a nice couple of locals who took brought their teens to the show.  Total rock and roll parents.  We chatted with them for a bit until the show started.  Wanda sounded great, the band was top notch, and Jack was appropriately featured without taking anything away from Wanda.  The two of them had a fun chemistry on stage that seemed genuine.  And as expected, the high profile show in such a small venue attracted some celebs.  In the crowd, we saw Patricia Heaton and Alan Tudyk, and it sounds like Nick recognized Beck, Josh Homme, Clem Burke, Pamela Des Barres, and James Intveld.  Looks like someone posted a few songs from that show:

Other highlights of the trip included my first visit to Medieval Times, which was a total hoot and highly recommended if you’ve never been.  Basically, it’s a decent prix fixe menu that you eat while jammed together in a small indoor stadium.  You wear a paper crown and root for one of the pretend knights that battle it out in the arena.  Obviously a kids / family vacation type attraction, but whatevs.  At some point, I got in some Claim Jumper too.  A waitress there came by our table to compliment our “look” and as us about rockabilly.  Turns out she was from Chicago and also happened to be black, so I took the opportunity to in turn ask about the fashion I noticed on a lot of young black girls in Chicago (see  #4 here).  She confirmed that it’s generally referred to as the “Motown” look, and it’s quite popular there.  I wish that would catch on around here!

Incidentally, I’m typing this on my new computer, which I spent the better part of this last weekend getting up and running.  See, I’d been hobbling along on the same machine that crashed on me not once, but twice for the last seven or so years.  Just the same, the idea of moving to a new one… learning a new operating system, reinstalling all my old software (if it even still works), moving over all my stuff, getting everything reconfigured and set up just so… well, it’s a headache I was all too happy to postpone.  But rather than wait for a third crash, I figured I’d take the bull by the horns and at least do it on my own terms.  After hours of frustration and exploration, the pain is mostly behind me, and I can rest easy, secure in the knowledge that this screaming fast new PC should last me another several years.  Despite the once-a-decade hassle of reconfiguring and relearning where everything is in a new OS, I gotta admit that Windows 7 has some pretty slick UI features.  (Any idea what to do with my old machine running XP?)  And then I also finished a brand new pedal board for my new rockabilly band.  Which involved drilling actual metal!  And like, wiring stuff.  ‘Cos that’s what men do (I’m told).  We’ve got a couple of gigs in the next month or so, and I promise to share the info on us as soon as we officially “launch.”

So yeah, that was supposed to be my relaxing weekend to recuperate.  I’ll be trying again this weekend.

Oh, and by the way, your scene sucks.

400 Miles Of Bad Road

26 April 2010

Well it was a long drive to and from SoCal this last weekend, but a worthwhile trip all in all.  In lieu of a full narrative, here are 10 fun facts about the trip, in no particular order:

  1. Both shows were great, particularly the Juke Joint in Anaheim.  The 454’s “Secret Agent Man” helped us out on a couple songs.  I felt like we were all pretty solid, and I really felt like I was “on.”  I attribute some of that to a new guitar, which made its debut this weekend.  More on that in a future post, but you can see that it’s featured on the Couch Guitar Strap site, along with me, my strap, and Meg’s photography!  How cool is that?
  2. Nick was kind enough to play tour-guide for me while in Hollywood, and one of our stops was the famous Griffith Observatory, which I’d never seen.  The drive up to the top of the mountain included some close encounters with coyotes, closer than I usually get to them near my house anyway.  The building is amazing, and the view you can imagine.  We posed for obligatory pictures next to the bust of James Dean.  I narrowly resisted the urge to pose with Griffith Park’s dancing bear statue, a decision for which I am sure to receive flack from some of you.
  3. I got to see Jessica and Paulo!  We dined at the hip “Kitchen 24,” and they even made a rare appearance at our show!
  4. I got to see Colin!  We spent some time in Amoeba, and just before parting ways, we saw Brigitte Bardot herself pull up, put her two puppies in a stroller, and step into the store.  She smiled at us!  And I snapped a quick pic of her Jaguar (the plate read “BBARDOT”) as proof.
  5. Hollywood is just drowning in famous hotels, offices, high schools, avenues, and other landmarks.  Big pink Greek houses that could only belong to celebrities.  Thanks again to Nick who pointed them all out.  In San Francisco, we have the occasional small claims to fame.  This or that restaurant appeared in this or that movie.  But what a trip it must be to live in Hollywood and be just surrounded with that stuff daily.
  6. I made it to a Claim Jumper after all.  That’s right, bitches.
  7. The Castro is pretty gay, no question.  But I’d argue it’s got nothing on WeHo.  My favorite sight?  The giant billboard for Pink Moving.  Phone number is 877-OMG-PINK.  I love it!
  8. While we’re at it, Hollywood Blvd. beats the Haight or just about anywhere else in the Bay Area in terms of quantity of stores to shop at.  So much to do and see there, I think Shel and I would never get bored.
  9. Before you go thinking I have some love affair going on with L.A., let’s be clear about the cons, because they are major.  Deal breakers even.  The traffic is horrific.  There are 4 million people there, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.  But the consequence is then terrible air quality.  I was hoarse and coughing the whole time I was down there, and it was so refreshing to breathe in the cool and moist air of home as I crossed the Bay Bridge last night.  Sorry SoCal.
  10. The most unexpected aspect of the trip was that I started to realize that as part of getting over some of my travel anxieties of the past couple of years, I’m starting to actually rediscover the excitement of travelling!  As much as the long drive down I-5 sucks, the freedom of open road, no schedule, and anything goes reminded me a bit of when I first got my license as a teen.  I’m only scratching the surface of it now… barely a formed thought… but more to come as I get my head around it.

Well then, that’s the weekend in a nutshell.  It was not what I expected, but in some ways even better, and a welcome diversion to be sure.  I’m looking forward now to some of the upcoming trips… I think.

“Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life you’d like to.”

Aqüarium

8 March 2010

So, a friend of mine has a Stratocaster-esque guitar that he’s building.  He’s set on this particular body he bought long ago (has to do with the type of wood I think), but it’s routed to have three pickups and he only wants two.  So he’s got this hole routed in the middle of his guitar.  (For those of you who don’t know guitar anatomy and have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s the middle pickup indicated below.  Now I’m quite sure his guitar isn’t pink and probably looks nothing like this.  But if I’m going to show a Strat on my site, it’s gonna be pink, damn it.)

Because of the special type of wood and finish he’s planning, he can’t just fill in the hole and paint over it (which was my first thought).  So he needs to get creative.  Here were my ideas for what to put in that hole, in descending order of normalcy:

  1. Put a gold plate over it.  OK, so that was actually his idea.  Just fashion a shiny gold plate that covers the whole space between the two outer pickups.  Not bad.  Depending on the color scheme, could look cool.
  2. A “fake” pickup.  A facade, really.  Just because you have no use for that middle pickup doesn’t mean it can’t still be there.  Screw it in so it looks normal, but just don’t wire it to anything.  No one has to know it’s dead.  Presto!
  3. Smoke machine.  As much as I hate hate hate the band Kiss, they did have one good idea.  Ace’s smoking guitar.
  4. Lasers.  If there’s smoke, there’s gotta be lasers too, right?  Why not mount some laser pointer type things in there to shoot out into the crowd and blind anyone who looks directly at your guitar?  Alternatively, you could have a tiny flood light in there blasting your fans with your heavenly brilliance.
  5. LED.  You could have a little light board in there that displays messages to the crowd.  You could even set it up wirelessly to accept text messages from your audience, and their messages could scroll on it.
  6. Cubby hole.  Who says you have to put anything permanent in there?  Just leave it as is, and use it for on-the-go storage.  Keep some extra picks in there, maybe a rolled up set list.  Heck, what better place to store your doobage (if you’re into that sort of thing; I am not).  Of course if you’re going to go that route (ha!), you might combine with a version of #2 above and have some sort of fake pickup cover to hide your stash.
  7. Camera.  Check this out… put a live camera in there aimed at the crowd.  Then have the video image projected on the jumbotron!  Then the crowd can see themselves larger than life on the screen behind you while you’re playing, and I can only imagine the kind of interaction that would encourage.
  8. LCD screen.  Hell, this is 2010.  Just mount a whole LCD screen in the space between your pickups.  Then you could have some trippy swirling visuals running on it the whole time… a technicolor vortex hypnotizing the audience as you shred your ass off.
  9. A glass eye.  Ideally, this would be a large and active eye that would move around while you played.  The intended effect would be to not only make the guitar seem alive (and possessed), but also to creep the crowd out completely.  I feel like this is something Gwar would do.
  10. Fish tank.  OK, I know, it’s too small to hold a fish tank.  You’d have to settle for like… some sea monkeys.  And really, that’s not very rock and roll.  A goldfish would be better, but for that I think you’d need a full glass guitar.  Hey, there’s an idea!  Aquarium guitar!

Alrighty folks, that’s all for now.  Clearly, I should have been in a hair metal band.  Just look at that list.

See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

7 March 2010

You may be aware that there was a guitar fatality at a recent TCB show.  I am sad to report that both El Twango and my trusty Gibson 335 took a spill, simultaneously.  (It was a total accident of course, and the guilty party has made amends completely so that we’re square.)  Miraculously,  El Twango suffered only a scuff, which I was able to buff right out.  Such is the reputation of Telecasters being virtually indestructible I guess.  My beloved 335 however… was decapitated.  Words fail.  The grisly images appear below.  View at your own risk.

You can see, this is a pretty severe break.  Most would assume fatal.  I did.  I had already started writing his eulogy, including doing the math and figuring out that his short career was only 49 TCB shows and one Love Vigilantes guest spot.  In fact, he appeared at every single TCB show since I got him… because even the travelling shows where I only brought one, it was always him.  From the moment I got him, he’s been my number one go-to guitar.  This was all meant to be part of that tragic posthumous story, but as it turns out… he’s still on the operating table!  (Insert suspenseful soap opera organ flourish here.)  As bad as it looks, and as much as I’d be helpless trying to fix it myself, it seems there is hope!  You see, I’ve left him in the very capable hands of Gryphon (who does all my guitar work).  If he can be fixed, hope against hope, then they can do it.  He may never look as pretty, and his resale value will be shot, but he might still be functional.  Do you really think he’ll pull through?  I know it’s serious.

Independent of that though, a coupon has lured me into considering picking up a new guitar.  Now, I am a well-documented (though recovering) guitar addict.  These days though, I’m usually selling them rather than buying them.  But I do slip sometimes.  The quote of the week comes from Sus, as I was telling her about my latest guitar plans:

Benjamin: “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!  But as a testament to how good I’ve been about not buying guitars lately, a store I used to shop with sent me a 20% off coupon in an email titled ‘We miss you!'”

Sus: “Did the email start with ‘Dear Whore,’?”

We’re like crystal — we break easy.

15 February 2010

I tell ya, aches and pains just come too easily these days.  My friends tell me “welcome to your 30’s.”  It’s really astounding how little physical exertion can cause me to be sore all over for a day or two.  It’s pretty much a given the day after playing a show, for instance.   Even walking around in a hilly neighborhood.  It used to be that I thought well if I’m sore then at least I’m building some muscle.  But something tells me that’s not what’s going on here.  At least not anymore.

It was a fun weekend!  We spent an afternoon at a John Hughes movie marathon at the Castro Theater.  It was actually really interesting to watch Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club in a theater and listen to the collective cheers and sighs.  Clearly, there was a lot of love in that room.  I think it was also settled once and for all that I’m so much more Jake Ryan than Farmer Ted.  At some point, we found our way into a sex shop where I finally picked up the bear flag sticker I’ve been looking for for years.  Then later in the evening we caught Balls’ Dead Souls show in Menlo Park.  Yes, Menlo Park.  Also made it out to the Tonga Room for the first time ever, and it was incredible!  Reminded me of Don The Beachcomber’s in San Jose, which my dad took me to once when I was little.  (That particular location eventually became a gay bar, then burned down, then was paved over for a freeway on-ramp.)  Anyhoo, the Tonga Room and the Fairmont in general were pretty spectacular.  And of all people, we saw Joe Montana dining and dancing.  Go figure!

If you’re around this week, Seattle’s Love Vigilantes will be at Popscene on Thursday night (2/18).  Aside from the fact that they currently include TCB‘s Nick and Paul in their ranks, there’s a good chance I’ll be making a brief guest appearance as fake Johnny Marr for a song or two!

One of the first shows I ever went to as an adult was when I went and saw The Knack at Slim’s.  They had the number one hit of the year I was born, you know… not to mention one of the biggest hooks of all time.  I remember laughing my ass off when someone tried to hand the lead singer (Doug Fieger) a joint, and he flipped out, threw it back, and went into a tirade about how drugs were for losers.  Not exactly your typical rock star behavior, but I loved it.  R.I.P. Doug!

Speaking of hooks, I’ve had this guitar riff in my head for days.  I wish I wrote it, but I’m almost positive it’s from a song… and for the life of me, I can’t remember which song.  It’s killing me!  For this sort of thing, it’ll usually come to me in a day or two (along with a huge sense of relief), but no luck so far.  I’ve been listening to The Black Angels, Rage Against The Machine, The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, anyone who might be responsible for this crushing riff in my head.  In trying to figure out where it came from, as I said, I’ve found myself listening to The Black Angels again.  They sound like The Doors and Joy Division got together to cover Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks.”  And that’s a recipe for success.

Now You’re A Man!

1 February 2010

First, I bought a pot (08/16/07).  Then I bought dinnerware and gave up paper plates and cups (early 2008?).  I even fixed my old couch once upon a time (03/20/06).  And here we are at the next step of my maturation.  Ladies and gentlemen, I bought power tools.  And used them even!  I had some metal work I needed to do on a guitar (which I’ll discuss in a minute), and I needed a Dremel and a power drill.  Well after three trips to hardware stores to get equipment, drill bits, and screws, I was all set.  I spent two nights in my apartment making sparks like it was Flashdance, and now not only is my guitar good to go, but I think I felt my balls drop too!  Where’s that grunting Tim Allen when you need him?  Because if I’m not mistaken, I think I just became a man!

(P.S.  I so loved looking at those old blogs… reading what was going on with me in those days as well as my friends’ comments.  Le sigh!)

This Friday (2/5), This Charming Band will be playing at one of my favorite venues: San Jose’s Blank Club.  We’ve got a lot of friends in San Jose, and the shows there are a hoot, almost without exception.  Starting with this show, you may have noticed our flyer format has changed.  There are a few benefits to this, not the least of which is that they’re way easier to put together.  It also allows for a more modern and sleeker consistency, as well as a lot more room for including show details.  There are pros and cons.  True, the overall effect may be slightly less “Smithsy” than the old format, but it was getting harder and harder to find workable images and prepare those things.  With this new approach, the full picture can be seen, without having to creatively sneak in all the details in and around it.  Of course, I still love those old flyers, and I’m profoundly proud of some of them.  But we’re trying something new, and here’s the result… what do you think?  (Incidentally, this one’s a tribute to the ailing Dennis Hopper.  We love ya, Frank!)

So I hope to see you all at The Blank this weekend, where I plan to “hang out with my twang out.”  That’s right, those of you who come will bear witness to the re-debut of El Twango, my long-forgotten Fender Telecaster.  See, I got him many years ago, but frankly I was too green to contain him.  Telecasters really cut through the mix and have a very different tonal quality than any of the guitars I regularly use.  I always had a hard time dialing in a good sound, and every little flub was painfully obvious.  So after just one use in the first year of TCB, El Twango was banished to guitar collection purgatory.  Not sold off, but not played regularly either.  And there he remained for years… until I found he was the natural choice for my short-lived spaghetti western project (absolutely nails that Alessandroni-esque tone by the way, though he himself reportedly used a Strat).

So that was all in the back of my mind.  Then recently I decided that maybe it was time to give him another shot in TCB, and to my great pleasure, I found that the Tele actually “fits” me now.  And not only that, but it sounds like the vicar’s knickers on a lot of the old Smiths stuff.  “This Charming Man” was largely recorded with one, believe it or not.  Teles were also used extensively on the “Meat Is Murder” album, and they’re a favorite of Boz Boorer.  So it just makes sense.  I’ll be including El Twango in the roster on Friday, and I expect him to make regular appearances for the foreseeable future.  A new (but old) guitar, how exciting!

… in which Johnny Marr finally gets to meet me.

29 January 2010

Wednesday night, I went to the Cribs show at Bimbo’s 365.  I’d be lying if I said I was there for any reason other than to see Johnny Marr up close.  Of course he was making it look so easy up there.  I was studying the technique, the posture, the banter.  Taking notes, you know.  After their set, we waited first in the main room, until the staff swept us out.  Then in the foyer, until the staff swept us out.  So we found ourselves waiting out front in the cold, where the tour bus still sat.  I ran into Tom, who was waiting for Johnny too.  I wasn’t too nervous, but in a kind of dream state, finding it hard to believe that after years of poring over Johnny Marr’s every word and note, there was an excellent chance I was about to see him face-to-face.  As the minutes dragged, we got anxious and started making our way towards the alley where I knew the backstage door to be.  After about 45 minutes, the band finally came out.  The rest of the Cribs filtered past us (and into the clutches of the girls), while we intercepted Johnny in the alleyway.  I could hardly believe it was happening.

I freely admit to being totally starstruck and blurting out stupid things.  I’m really not the type, but come on, we’re talking about my #1 guitar hero.  You’ll have to grant me a little teenage girl fantasy here.  Tom got in there first, and I was in line right behind him.  There were several more people who eventually came around after us, and to my horror, they started just butting in and taking Johnny to themselves.  Now, I can understand people getting excited and all, but they were being shameless.  I was seeing self-preservation and every-person-for-themselves vividly and hideously played out in front of me.  I couldn’t believe what disregard people had for each other (and for me!).  I was trying to be cool and not make a scene, especially because Johnny was being so patient with everyone.  I didn’t want to start making nasty “me first” comments to the people around, or throwing richly-deserved elbows.  But at the same time, this was Johnny fuckin’ Marr standing in front of me, and I had no idea how long he was going to stick around before hopping on his bus and disappearing.  As I neared my limit and started to get a bit aggressive, I finally got my turn, and I held on until I felt I’d had my fair share of his time.  We Smiths fans are a selfish bunch I guess.  It reminded me of the disappointment I sometimes feel in the cut-throat fans that fill the pit at Moz shows.  How they can sour what should be such a positive experience.  But no more dwelling on the negative here.  The point is: I did get my turn, and I met Johnny Marr!

When I finally got in there, the conversation — severely paraphrased for continuity’s sake and also remembered incompletely and probably incorrectly — I think went something like this (with Johnny in blue)…

I like your shirt.
Thanks!  [unzipping my jacket to reveal the rest of the T. Rex “Electric Warrior” album cover shirt]
I know what it is.
It’s such an honor to meet you.  I just have to tell you that your music was the inspiration for me taking up the guitar seriously, and it’s become a huge focus in my life.  So thank you!
Well, that’s the best thing to hear really.  I’m glad.
Working out and playing your songs has brought me years of pleasure and headaches.  Trying to figure out all those parts.
As long as you’re having fun with it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finally worked out some difficult part and said “that sneaky fucker, look what he’s doing there!”
[laughs] Well, I tried not to make it too tricky.
[laughs] Well, you failed!  Hey, do you mind if we snap a photo?
No, not at all.  [picture is taken, hands shake]
Also, I hate to trouble you, but could I get pick?  A lucky charm?  If it’s a hassle…
Oh sure, let me see.  [digs around and gets a pick out of his pocket]
Thanks so much!  And again, it’s really a pleasure to meet you!

It may not come across in my faux transcription there, but he was so gracious and approachable.  He made time to talk to everyone who was waiting for him, and happily signed autographs, posed for pictures, and spoke freely even asking people about themselves.  He seemed genuinely interested in all of us.  So laid back, and just could not have been nicer.  It was an absolute honor and pleasure to meet him and chat with him.

I listened in to the conversations he had with others.  Someone asked him about the tab books that are out there, and he said he isn’t too familiar with them, but one of the things he’d like to do when he revamps his website is to take some time to show people how he plays certain things… tabs or videos or something.  “But I don’t want to give away all my secrets.”  I screamed “YES PLEASE!”  :D

Of course, now that it’s over, I’m second-guessing myself a bit.  First off, you may notice I didn’t mention This Charming Band.  When I first walked up, I was with Tom.  Tom went first, and Johnny asked him if we were in a band.  Tom said no of course, and I didn’t want to be like “well actually I’m in a tribute band.”  So I just let it drop.  If he’d asked me point blank, I would have fessed up.  But I wasn’t sure if he’d be flattered or repelled.  I’ve read something to the effect that he doesn’t like tribute bands.  Don’t live in the past and all that.  I gather the other three Smiths are more on the flattered end of the spectrum.  Who really knows how he would have reacted?  I didn’t want to risk tainting the experience.  As it was, we talked for a moment about love of the guitar, and that was enough for me.  I might have liked to ask him about a riff or two.  Or twelve.  But it wasn’t really the venue for that kind of discussion.  Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to really pick his brain.

The other thing I kicked myself for is an autograph!  I’m really not an autograph kinda guy usually, and having an autographed album or picture from him wouldn’t do that much for me.  But damn… I should have brought a guitar for him to autograph!!!  And strum!  And bless!  There isn’t a guitar in my collection that I wouldn’t happily have allowed him to sign, and there aren’t many on the planet I can say that about.  Can you imagine having Johnny himself strum your guitar, and mark it?  Damn.  I really should have done that.  But these small regrets aside, it was an amazing night.  Special thanks to Jamie and Lourdes for waiting with me in the cold and taking pics!

Surreal.  Only real.  There isn’t a person alive that I’d want to meet more than him, and here it’s happened.  If touching the hand of Moz was like touching the pope’s vestments, then meeting Johnny was like sitting down with Yoda.

Playing the guitar means everything.  Know what I mean?

— Johnny Marr

… in which I run off to Hollywood to make it as an actor.

3 January 2010

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: chipper accomplished

Well it was a lovely Xmas / New Year’s vacation, kiddies.  So much to tell.

You know, that last week of work before Xmas, I went bowling with some coworkers.  First time I’d picked up a bowling ball in 2+ years, and the very first time it left my hand, I scored a strike.  Ended the game with a strike too, and at one point bowled three in a row. Finished with a 168, far and away the best score of my life. (Do bowling skills just naturally grow with age despite zero practice?)  Anyway, maybe I should have taken that as a sign of good things to come…

Home For The Holidays
After being stuck at home for Xmas last year, while the rest of my family was at Disneyland, it was nice to get to spend it with them this time around.  I got to see my sister’s new place and hang out with her rugrats.  Spent a couple days with my mar and par.  Was somewhat dismayed that the best reaction I got from any of the gifts I gave was from my grandma when she opened her 2-liter of Bombay Sapphire.  As always, it was nice to “unplug” from my usual daily stresses and just mellow out in that alternate universe that is my family life.

Hollywood Swingin’
Staring down a whole week off, I started to think that maybe I should, you know, do something.  I decided on a spontaneous trip down to SoCal the day after Xmas, being the first time I’d taken my current car there, not to mention the furthest I’ve driven in a couple of years now.  A good challenge, and an excellent chance to catch up with the friends that I only ever get to see when TCB plays down there, and briefly at that.  I stayed on Sunset at the same place TCB used to.  Fabi and Megan were kind enough to take me around to a couple of excellent honky tonks, as well as an unbelievably delicious meal at P.F. Chang’s of all places (kung pao with five-spice tofu instead of chicken… good gawd!).  Oh, and they taught me the proper way to pronounce the local baseball team’s name: “Los Doyers.”  I met up with Jessica and her man at The Cat & Fiddle (no Moz sightings), and then Amoeba (saw Forest Whitaker there).  Sadly, I missed Colin altogether.  :(  And there were others too that on short notice I just couldn’t hook up with.  Next time though!

On the way out of town, I hit up Sunset’s Guitar Center and Sam Ash, places that historically have been rushed stops during TCB show trips.  Here I got to take my time and explore.  Saw the array of Gretsches that dwarfs Bay Area guitar stores, as well as a ton of vintage gear… LED Rics, 12-string 335s and Coronados, Vox 2×15 AC30s, and on and on.  Candyland, basically.  Anywho, I was surprised to find the drives there and back were both easier even than I remember.  And I’m so glad to be a comfortable with that again, because I’d like to make little weekend SoCal trips a regular occurrence like they used to be.  Too many friends down there to let so much time go by between visits, you know.

New Year’s Eve In Seattle
I popped out for a quick 24 hours in Seattle to spend New Year’s Eve playing the Showbox (SoDo) in Seattle.  We were staying in a dodgy area near the airport, with strange people milling around outside for no apparent reason… reminded me a bit of the hotel from that first Fresno show a few years back.  But I quickly forgot about all that in dealing with the constant waxing and waning rain all day and night.  Made driving a bit of a hassle, but for once I got tremendous use out of the rental car’s GPS, and I have a new found respect for them.  If I drove my own car in unknown areas more often, I might even pick one up for myself.  Pretty neat.

The show was more fun than I expected, with a highly entertaining bill that included Dead Souls, Love Vigilantes, and Fascination Street.  All the bands’ members seemed to be in good spirits, and we all got along great.  I joined Love Vigilantes as the fake Johnny Marr in a successful rendition of Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” (which I had picked out last minute in my Hollywood hotel room earlier in the week).  Some of us went to eat afterwards and found a former Denny’s.  You ever seen “Coming To America?”  Well this was the McDowell’s of Denny’s.  Nick and Orlie can attest.  It was hilarious.  Instead of “Moons Over My Hammy,” they had “The Rising Sun Sandwich.”  But the menu was identical in terms of content.  The building, the fixtures, everything.  Denny’s, but not.

One note about logistics.  I got it from all sides at the airports this time around.  On my way home, I was almost arrested for wearing a belt buckle that looked like brass knuckles.  They were not in any way functional, but apparently they were enough to earn me a stern talking-to along the lines of “do you know how stupid it was to try to bring this on an airplane?”  I am not a thirty year old man; apparently I am a 15 year old Beavis.  Oh well, just doing their job I guess.  My guitar was swabbed by TSA for bomb residue, and they almost wouldn’t let me bring on my pedalboard until a musician working there vouched for what it was.  And aside from all this, I have never received so many disapproving looks from old folks in the airport, brazenly inspecting the stickers on my pedalboard (none of which are very offensive, save the “I <3 Hunting Accidents” one).  Apparently images of Mozzer and Marc Bolan offend them.  But they looked at me like I was a gutter punk moonstomping through their garden party.  All hilarious to me, because I’m probably a more stand up guy than their own sons and grandsons, but whatevs.  It’s the way of the world.  I’m sure in their day, old folks used to fuss at them when their dresses showed ankle.  Someday, I will be fussing at young’uns for whatever they’re up to.  Hell, I probably already do.

It was an interesting way to ring in the new year.  And a major change from last year.  See last year, I didn’t want to leave the house.  Too anxious.  This year I flew to Seattle in the rain for one day to play a show in front of hundreds of people.  What a difference a year makes, huh?  :)

I don’t usually take a lot of long vacations.  Most of my days off are used to make three-day weekends for TCB trips and such.  I gotta say that this last week off is one of the few vacations I can remember that feels like it was really well spent.  In a single week I made it to see the family for Xmas, drove all the way to SoCal and back, flew to Seattle and back, visited with countless friends, and learned and played a lot of music.  Even made it out to New Wave City and Leisure this weekend.  Oh, and I saw The Road yesterday, too.  (Super creepy and also amazing.  Check it out.  Do it.  Do it.)  But yeah, I’m feeling like I really made the most of this time off.  If only every week could be so action packed.

flyer-100108

OK, so hopefully I’ll get to my “new year” blog next time.  It’s been so busy, I haven’t even had the time to sit down and reflect yet, much less make plans and resolutions for 2010.  But I’d say it was a pretty good trade.  Nice to be spending my life lately actually living it rather than just busy planning it.

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
– W. C. Fields

Makin’ Lights

30 November 2009

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: busy busy

A very merry unbirthday to you all.  Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.  I did!  Got to relax and visit lots of friends in what was probably the least traditional Thanksgiving of my life so far.

Before I forget, Morrissey on Wednesday, bitches!  I’ll see you all there, I’m sure.  He comes by so rarely these days, you know.  Who knows when we’ll get another chance!  In other news, due to an unfortunate ticket mishap, I will most likely miss the Cranberries on Saturday… unless I come across some reasonable prices and soon.  Fiddlesticks!

The Popscene show was fun as usual.  We stuck to the Smiths and we stuck to the hits, mainly to keep it accessible and efficient.  Rest assured though that we’ve been extra busy learning new songs, and we should have plenty of surprises for the next show (Red Devil Lounge on January 8th).  At this moment, we’re just six songs away from knowing all 72 Smiths songs.  Holy shitake, that’s amazing, is it not?  Anyway, yes the show was fun.  Lots of friends showed up.  Not my luckiest night though.  Ten seconds into “How Soon Is Now?” I broke a string… normally I’d stop the song, but that’s not one that you stop once it starts, you know?  Luckily we got through it relatively unscathed.  Then while cleaning up, my main gitter (that black 335) fell over or was knocked over.  After assessing the damage at home, it’s got a new ding on the side, and a tuner was yanked halfway off the headstock.  Tuner’s shot and its screw holes are stripped.  So that’ll be $65 in parts and ??? in labor to get it fixed, damn it.  At least it’s got more character now, right?  That’s what I’m trying to tell myself.  And for the hat trick, I went to load in my car as I left the club only to find my car with a flat tire!  Thank God for AAA and real men.  Could I have changed that flat?  Of course, but why am I paying for AAA?  Let them come out and do in five minutes what it would have taken me a half hour to do… at 3am… in the cold Thanksgiving night… alone in a back alley… after wearing myself out at a show.

The good news there was that Big-O replaced it free, aside from the cost of my time the next afternoon.  While I was out driving that next day, I caught my self weaving in and out of traffic a lot around the city.  I had to wonder, do I really drive that fast?  I don’t generally care if I’m zooming along at top speed, I’m just concerned about makin’ lights.  (I gotta make those lights, son!)  It drives me nuts to miss a light because someone else is not paying attention.  For some reason, the city was full of the clueless this weekend.  And while I’m rambling about city driving, I saw a guy on a Van Ness island asking for spare change/food… and talking on a cell phone!  I mean, was someone making a political statement here?  Was this like performance art?  Or was it real?  Because I think it was real.  I thought it was pretty shameful, but am I just out of touch?  I guess maybe a cell phone really is considered a bare necessity these days?

And now, a dedication to a friend who just moved to Oakland this weekend…

So I finally finished Goddard’s Mozipedia — all 500+ pages of it — and I am happy to report that it was well worth the effort.  It took me August through most of November, but I learned a ton.  I really enjoyed the tidbits on songs that never were.  Some of my other favorite entries were the ones covering Mozzer’s more controversial viewpoints, and in fact my favorites were the entries on vegetarianism and Margaret Thatcher.  If you read only a few entries, I recommend those.  I wish I could reproduce them here for you.  Powerful stuff, I thought.  My only criticism of this massive textbook is that it’s a little heavy on the actors/movies/television influences, all good stuff to know, but not always so interesting to read about (speaking personally).

And finally, a question I’m afraid to ask: is MySpace dying?  I continue to prefer it to all those other sites.  I like the flexibility, and I like the robust music infrastructure.  But I can’t deny that in recent months I’ve noticed a rapid and growing lack of activity among my friends here, while Facebook seems to become more popular.  I don’t see the appeal of having to rebuild everything for yourself over there when it’s already in place here.  What happens when the next big site comes along and FB dies (remember Friendster anyone)?  Then off to a new site?  Rebuild your whole network again?  All these competing social networking sites just seem to dilute the value.  If a site came along that could “talk” to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. so you’d have a one-stop-shop, now that would be valuable.  Then you wouldn’t have to maintain statuses on several sites, etc.  I know, I know, one world currency, communism, etc.  Whatever.  I’m just saying… too many cooks spoil the broth.

“Lord, I confess I am not what I ought to be, but I thank you, Lord, that I’m not what I used to be.”
— Maxie Dunnan

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