Posts Tagged The Rumble Strippers

Benjamin: Doer Of Things!

28 December 2012

With the focus on my recent retreat last time, I neglected to get into general updates and current events.  As you may have noticed, I don’t use this blog as the detailed journal I used to.  The highlights though… my last TCB show happened at the end of September, and that was nice.  My favorite moment was the closure of getting to announce, “in our seven years together, we’ve performed 71 of The Smiths’ 72 songs” to some cheers… and then playing Golden Lights and getting to announce, “make that 72 of 72.”  So that’s a big chapter of my life behind me.  In the meantime, I’m on somewhat of a Smiths detox.

What else?  The Rumble Strippers spent a weekend (give or take) in the studio recording a half dozen songs.  For real this time.  Perhaps an EP in the near future?  And how about us getting a spot playing Viva Las Vegas 2013?  And signing with Tanoa at A-Town?  The hits just keep on coming!  Jared came to town for a few days, and it was so great to catch up with him and think about how life would be different if he lived here.  Oh and it’s December which must mean car trouble.  In the last couple years, it’s been drunk drivers, lightning strikes, and wild turkeys.  This year, it was me getting rear-ended and pushed into another car.  Sandwiched, if you will.  So it’s a rental for me for a while…

Recently I’ve been going out more, and all this going out has led me to explore the “spirit” world again.  Over the years, it’s often occurred to me that bartending seems like fun.  I guess I should probably confirm that with some of the bartenders I know.  I don’t see myself ever actually doing that for a living, but it couldn’t hurt to have those skills.  And maybe even fill in somewhere part-time just for fun?  The classes are more a time commitment than a significant monetary investment.  I’d like to know more about making drinks and what all the gadgets behind the counter are for.  I also have a minor fascination with the art of beer tap handles and of tiki mugs, though I don’t guess that would help me be better at the job.  And am I correct in assuming that serious bartenders generally aspire to have one of their own signature cocktails catch on nationwide?  I don’t know about taste, but in terms of pure cleverness, I’ve already got a couple up my sleeve.  First, the “Edwyn Collins,” which is similar to a Tom Collins, but also includes orange juice (get it?).  More recently, I had the idea for the “Ovaltini,” which would of course be a variation on the martini, but would include either Ovaltine, or maybe malt powder and some other creamy component… Bailey’s, Kahlúa, etc.  Maybe the malt flavor could even come from something malty like Guinness?  I’ll need to get into a bartending class and experiment.

UPDATE (December 2013): During my trip to Cuba, I had another great idea for a drink.  It’d be a shot.  A “Tetanus Shot,” which of course would have to be rust colored.  More research needed.

By the way, I just saw some interesting variations on my main drink: the White Russian.  Did you know there’s such a thing as a “White Mexican” made with horchata?  And a “White Cuban” with rum instead of vodka?  Yum!  Or that there’s actually a name for the White Russian variant I often end up with when bars don’t have cream?  It’s called a “Blind Russian,” and it involves substituting Bailey’s for cream.  Interesting…  I could see nerding out on this kinda stuff, but I’m guessing the local mixologists would just roll their eyes if you started throwing  terms like “White Cuban” around when ordering.

So anyway, as I said, I’ve been trying to get out more lately.  Throwing caution to the wind, and throwing myself to the wolves a bit.  And really just trying not to control every little aspect of my life.  Pushing myself to ignore the voice that always tries to shoot down new ideas, and then take it easier on myself when I fail.  Just cut myself some slack in general and let myself be imperfect and human.  A few very small experiments with this have taught me very quickly that life can drop some amazing things into your lap if you just let yourself be open to possibilities.  Putting myself in unusual or uncomfortable situations (at least for me) has paid off almost without exception each and every time I’ve tried it over the last few months.  Back-to-back days of back-to-back weekends of countless good times, new friends, and uncanny coincidences that would have never happened unless I loosened my grip on the reins a bit.  It’s incredible what’s out there waiting for you — all those possibilities — when you just take your damn hands off the wheel for a second.  It makes me think about all the opportunities I’ve wasted in life so far by being so rigid.

“For us, there is only the trying.  The rest is not our business.”
— T.S. Eliot

Soul Purpose

22 May 2012

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to life lately.  Asking myself if I’m really making the most of my time on earth, or if I’m mindlessly going with the flow because it’s easy or because I assume I have no other choice.  I was reading the April 2012 issue of Guitar Player magazine a while back — bear with me — and the editor (Michael Molenda) offered up a gem, just the latest great quote encouraging us to be present and mindful and take the time to sit down and savor life’s great moments.  As he put it, “‘Live every day as if it were your last’ often gets rewritten as ‘Make sure every day is crammed with meaningless, self-important crap that allows you to feel busier and more valuable than the person next to you.’”  And that pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling about a lot of the things that I spend my time and energy on.  I have this increasing sense that it’s time for some big changes.  Some once-every-ten-years kinda changes.  That could mean a pretty big shake up.  Maui might be one part of it, and just think of all the consequences that might have.

Before I get too deep, how about some more lighthearted updates?  I’ve seen some great shows lately.  Most astonishing was The Darkness at The Fillmore.  That show was jaw-dropping.  The ease with which Justin Hawkins seemed to set the stage on fire with his soaring falsetto, acrobatics, and guitar mastery… I mean it was stunning.  I saw him drop a plectrum, kick it back up sideways hacky sack style, catch it, and start his solo, all while looking not at all surprised it worked.  It is a contender for the best live show I’ve ever seen.  Other highlights include Devo (looking very old but not caring… oh, and also sounding amazing), The Buzzcocks, Pulp (another fantastic show), and a one-time reuniting of our old friends Dead Souls.  After dragging my feet about it, I finally broke down today and got tickets for Morrissey in Stockton this weekend.  Happy birthday, you old diva.  You get my money again.

My own music has been good, too.  The Rumble Strippers have had a few successful shows and seem to be climbing the ladder a bit.  Our name is getting out there.  We’re working on new songs.  We recorded four songs in an actual studio (which was new to me), including one I wrote.  It’s all very promising.  And then TCB has an incredible new singer (Michael) who is possibly the best I’ve ever heard outside of Mozzer himself when it comes to those songs.  He’s got the moves, the voice, and is a terribly nice person to boot.  We’ve got a ton of shows coming up this summer, including trips to Portland, Seattle, and SoCal, and even a date opening for The Polecats.  Not to mention the great shows last weekend at Slim’s and The Catalyst!  Slim’s had some epic moments like walking on to “Imperfect List,” playing the “Subway Train” intro to “Everyday Is Like Sunday” as well as having David’s help on keys.  He also joined us for “Jack The Ripper,” and Nick took on an acoustic guitar for “King Leer” and “Seasick, Yet Still Docked.”  We closed with “Now My Heart Is Full,” which Michael ingeniously medley’ed with “I Won’t Share You” and then bowed and walked off while we continued playing.  It was perfect.  But come to think of it, the last couple months were brutal in terms of shows.  I think at one point I had six or seven straight weekends of shows, alternating between TCB and The Rumble Strippers.  But I guess that’s a Cadillac worry, as they say.

I had a minor surgery which was new for me as well.  No stitches, but dealing with caring for it led me to have my first panic attack in ages.  It happened at the hospital.  Good times.  But at the end of the ordeal, I was left with a better sense of my own resilience and confidence in what I can deal with, and that’s the ultimate antidote for anxiety.  Let’s see, what else?  Had a fun time at the pinball museum in Alameda thanks to Eden’s surprise party for Margaret.  Damn, there was a ton of stuff in past months I never got around to mentioning, including my brief attempts at ice skating and Bikram yoga, as well as ongoing vocal lessons.  Then there were two big trips.  One was Europe (yes, Europe!), but more on that next time.  The other was Viva Las Vegas, which after all these years I finally attended, along with my expert C-Po.  I’d intended to write about it last month, but preparing for Europe kept me swamped.  I’ll do my best to recall it now…

I’d been waiting to go to Viva since around 2004, but the right situation just never presented itself.  C-Po calls it “rockabilly summer camp.”  And specifically for vintage-lovin’ girls, it’s the “Fashion Olympics.”  Both descriptions are totally accurate, it turns out.  We spent most of the time within the Orleans Hotel, as that’s where all the events were anyway.  We perused the many, many booths of clothes, jewelry, pomades (where I picked up some Layrite swag), stickers, etc.  There was a vegan custom shoe maker from the U.K. that I plan to work with in the future.  We gambled and won and then broke even.  (Penny slots, dude.  It’s the only way to go.)  We didn’t stick around for the whole of Elvira’s show, but we caught most of one of Charles Phoenix’s hilariously-narrated slideshows.  We took advantage of several free dance lessons, and though I’ve forgotten many of the steps already, I was a damn decent jiver and bopper for a few days there.  We skipped the car show due to time constraints, and limited our time at the pool party to a quick walk around it just to get the feel.  We took a walk through a fancy mall full of only the highest-end designers’ storefronts.  We saw tons of friends and spent a good amount of time with the drummer from Quarter Mile Combo.  I heard there were something like 8,500 paid attendees this year.  Then there was that damn wristband, pretty and detailed as it was… I did not appreciate having to keep it on 24 hours a day for four days.  The “rockabilly summer camp” vibe was really all about all these scene people under one roof, staying in the same hotel as if it were a giant dorm or a sleepover party.  And of course everything is open 24 hours a day.  Everyone getting all dressed up to be seen each night.  It was fun, I can’t deny.  And as for that “Fashion Olympics” aspect, I don’t doubt it now.  There were countless unique and wonderful outfits.  Obviously I don’t know what I’m looking at, but C-Po  and her friends all know and recognize who’s bringing it and who’s a poseur.  I actually held my own, poseur-wise.  You know, part of me was staying away from VLV just to avoid being anonymous in a sea of people who look just like me, and that’s valid.  But if I’m being honest with myself, I suppose there was also the fear that I would feel like an imposter among people who are rockabillier than thou.  But there was none of that.  If anything, I saw more neophytes than veterans, and I felt totally confident and comfortable in my own skin there.  It probably helps that I’m old now.  In fact, from what I saw, there were lots of badly dressed people, and I looked comparatively great.  It was interesting to see all the different directions the neophytes and the veterans alike have taken a relatively small amount of cultural reference and tried to make it look flattering and authentic.  What I saw ran the gamut from cherry print everything, to just a flower in the hair, to totally immaculate vintage from head to toe.  I saw full-on cat suits, incredible dresses, and even overalls.  For the record, I lost track of how many compliments C-Po got on her outfits, from friends and strangers alike.  It was an embarrassing amount though, so apparently she really brought it.  In terms of this scenester posturing that we’re all guilty of, my favorite moment was in an elevator when a wannabe queen bee — who didn’t know who she was talking to — responded to a casual compliment from C-Po with, “Yeah I don’t know if you know this, but my purse is like super rare.  It’s worth like $1300.”

Over the course of the weekend, the dining was hit or miss.  Right there in the Orleans, there’s a T.G.I. Friday’s, which disappointed us twice.  However, there was a decent Denny’s-esque diner and great Asian place there too.  The in-house food court had a Subway and Baskin Robbins, neither of which I took advantage of, but I got the obligatory veggie burger at the Fuddruckers there.  Their facade was decorated with jukebox record streamers, a cardboard cut-out of James Dean, and a cringe-worthy banner that read, “Fuddruckers loves rock-a-billy’s.  Welcome back!!”  There are so many things wrong with that, I don’t even know where to start.  We ventured away from the Orleans twice, and it resulted in the best and worst meals of the trip.  I’m fairly certain that food poisoning from Garduño’s is what led us to have to stay in sick one night.  But then brunch at the Mon Ami Gabi bistro at the Paris was one of the best meals I’ve had all year!  Warm brie with black pepper, honey, hazelnuts, and croutons?  Crisscut fries with blue cheese dip?  Some kind of amazing salad that I can’t remember now?  Yes, ma’am.  I even did my share of drinking over the weekend, mainly to collect the commemorative mugs, including a boot, a skull, and a bowling pin.  I vaguely remember some delicious Sailor Jerry punch.

Music was the main attraction for me, of course.  I got to see most everything I intended to.  Seeing Duane Eddy and The Ventures in person was definitely something I’m glad to say I did.  The “legends” show featuring older stars on the verge of senility was interesting.  J.D. McPherson was alright.  Saw our friend Irving play in The 454’s.  I forget who else now.  The highlight was The Polecats, who were just full of energy and sounded great.  Awesome to see Boz cutting loose and really playing!  We even got to meet him and Tim Polecat after the show!  Now with all that went on during the weekend, it’s just impossible to see it all.  The bands that — in hindsight — I wish I’d seen include:  Si Cranstoun (who is apparently Jackie Wilson-esque and amazing), Voola & The Jayhawks (which are all but a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins tribute), Jinx Jones (whom Paul has seen locally and has raved about), and Blind Rage & Violence (a Link Wray tribute).  There were tons of other bands too that might have been nice.  C-Po knew many of them, but I did not.  Seeing the massive list of events for VLV meant seeing a lot of rockabilly band names alongside each other.  And that led to some observations, and ultimately to us creating this:

So that was Viva.  I’ll definitely be doing it again next year.  Which I guess brings us back to the bigger “life” stuff…  I didn’t do a “New Year’s” blog this year the way I’ve done in the past, but that’s not because I haven’t been reflecting.  As I mentioned, I’m considering some big changes.  And I mean big.  Virtually no sacred cow is safe.  This public forum isn’t really the place for me to get into it, but I’m pondering things.  They’re not quite formed into specific resolutions, but instead loosely arranged into areas of my life that are due for an overhaul.  A while back at work, it was suggested that each of us take a shot at creating a personal “mission statement” to succinctly sum up what we’re all about.  At first, I thought it was kind of a silly exercise, but I admit that when I sat down and really gave it some thought, the end result was pretty valuable.  This is what I settled on.  My “mission” is:

To search for meaning and understanding, strive for absolute integrity, actively recognize and experience as much joy as possible in every moment of my limited time on earth, and do what I can to protect the right of all living things to do the same.

I wrestled with the precise phrasing of that statement, considering alternatives for nearly every word, and making sure the connotation and message was exactly what I meant to say.  Now that was written sometime back in 2011, and though I didn’t intend it, it really fits well as a kind of framework for me to work with as I do some life overhauling to get more aligned with my real goals.

  • So to search for meaning and understanding makes me think of Spirit Rock, the Buddhist retreat.  I’ve been thinking about doing a week out there for almost a year now, and I just know it would be helpful, but I may have to put it off (depending on my vacation time situation what with Europe burning up two weeks).  Spirituality is something that I had a real awakening with while I dealt with anxiety a few years ago, and I know that there would be a tremendous benefit to pursuing it further.  I really have to make this happen.
  • Then to strive for absolute integrity, that comes naturally to me.  It may not surprise you to hear that “Responsibility” was my #1 strength according to StrengthsFinder.  It isn’t always a good thing though, as I hold myself to an unrealistic standard sometimes.  That’s where the word “strive” comes in.   That’s to remind myself that I should shoot for perfection but remember that I am human too.  Another big thing for me here is to continue to get comfortable with anger — allowing myself to experience it, express it, and let it go, rather than tamp it down like I’ve done for years.  My progress and small victories there have been kind of amazing.  To see how fast you can let something go after you express it.  It’s still so foreign to me as I’m used to holding it in until it hardens into resentment.  There are many great quotes on that subject.  Anyhow, I feel like I’m still making slow progress in this area.
  • And then to actively recognize and experience as much joy as possible in every moment of my limited time on earth, that’s a loaded one.  A lot of key words there.  “Actively” because it takes attention and effort to see (or “recognize”) the value in everything you experience.  You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you view it.  Easier said than done, but that is the ultimate power to have in your own life.  That’s the ultimate goal.  Originally, instead of “recognize,” I was playing with variations of “pursue.”  I’m at least putting some of this into action this year by travelling.  Already VLV and Europe are behind me.  With my remaining vacation time, I still would like to try to pull off Cuba later this year, maybe combined with a Florida manatee stopover.  New Orleans is off the table for a number of reasons, but I’ll see it and the G.I. Joe convention eventually, even if they’re not at the same place in the future.  I’d like to make time to relax and rest and ponder and redistribute my time based on true enjoyment rather than just trying to use it to efficiently complete and endless list of tasks.  I want to feed ducks more.  I want to finally get an Ocean Beach bonfire going with friends, and throw more events like that to expand the circle of friends.  I want to finish my massive house clean and purge of all non-essential material things.  I want to purge non-essential commitments and usages of my free time.  I want to do something for a living that excites my passions and feels real.  I want to live somewhere (Maui?) that helps me “be here now” rather than silently prods me to work on a to do list.  That “be here now,” that idea of mindfulness is the really the key.  Pursuing happiness through vacations and simplifying my schedule, it’s certainly a valuable use of my time, but it’s too limiting as an overall goal.  It’s not enough just to try to improve what happens to you, because you can’t really control everything that happens to you.  Vacations are nice, but no amount of vacations or material things is going to guarantee your happiness.   The happiness comes from your mindset.  It’s easy to be happy on vacation with your friends, but that’s not where you spend the majority of your life.  It’s more important to find how to be happy the rest of the time.
  • And finally, to do what I can to protect the right of all living things to do the same.  For this one, I struggle.  I need to find something meaningful to do here, and if it doesn’t come in the form of a new career in that field, it might at least be some volunteer time.  Ideally though, I would do for a living something that leverages my talents towards a noble cause that matters to me and to the world and makes a real difference, rather than just the accumulation of wealth.

So those are the big plans, somewhat mapped to more actionable items.  It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by day-to-day life and commitments while your big plans… your important plans… your life plans… all stay on the back burner.  In some ways, that’s the biggest obstacle.  Some of these goals have been on my mind for months with no progress or answers yet, but hell if I’m not trying.

The quote of the week is just a question for you to ponder:

“If your life had its own board of directors, who’d be on it?”

Home Taping Is Killing Music

15 March 2011

This week’s all about music.  And a little about pasta.

My Strippers
So as I mentioned before, after more years if frustration than I care to remember, I finally have an original project off the ground.  My new rockabilly band The Rumble Strippers has now played two shows!  The debut was at Grant & Green in North Beach.  I’d never been there, but it was an ideal place for a first show.  A small room, low pressure, but still nice.  The DIY sound situation was refreshing too.  (We’re not in Kansas anymore!)  We got a lot of great feedback, and I immediately felt the difference.  There seem to be different standards (and of course expectations) for an original band versus a tribute band.  I loved the feeling that there were no wrong answers.  TCB is like a math class, where there are right and wrong answers.  Every note of every song is predetermined, and there is a correct way to play it.  Crowds won’t like it if you deviate too much.  But this new band is more like a creative writing class.  Sure there’s a craft to it, but there’s also a lot of leeway in terms of content.  With covers, we can take any artistic license we want, and with originals… well whatever note I play is the right note.  

This last weekend we played our second show at El Rio, this time to a much bigger crowd.  Again it went over well, and my own private victory was that for the first time ever, a song I wrote was performed in public!  It’s called “Let’s Drink Alone Together” and damned if people weren’t dancing to it.  A new experience for me to be sure, and one I’ve spent many years considering.  So all in all, this thing is shaping up to be pretty exciting.  It’s not exactly Madison Square Garden, but it’s fun to be in and play to a different crowd.  They’re more forgiving and encouraging than I’m used to.  But that must partially be ‘cos they don’t know what to expect.  It’s interesting to not be 100% confident my every note is knocking socks off… which is how I usually feel (courtesy of Mr. Marr, of course).

My Smiths
Of course TCB is still doing its thing.  We’ve had a lot of shows lately, but it’s been mostly “all killer, no filler” shows where we more or less have to play the hits.  But it got us into Bimbo’s 365 again and hopefully got us on a few new radars.  It’s all been smooth sailing of course, minus a rare capo flub on “Stop Me” causing us to have to restart the song.  (Whoa, double intro… what does it mean?)  Needless to say I’m looking forward to the upcoming shows where we can play some of the deeper cuts.  This Saturday is the new “Queen Is Dead” Smiths night in the Haight, where we’ll be playing a set.  Then April and May will see some new places and some familiar ones.  Might even get “Golden Lights” in there somewhere.  And then there’s Moz’s birthday to look forward to…

Their Smiths
Last night I went out to Du Nord to see rival tribute “The Smiths Indeed” from the U.K.  I’m sure they’re very nice guys, but let’s just say they’re not much of a threat to what we do.  Their fake Morrissey is far and away the best I’ve ever seen in terms of dress and dance and charisma.  If you want someone who does the whole impersonator thing, you’ll do no better than this guy.  But as for the rest of the band… well, no contest.  I understand they play several dates a week every week and have for years.  It was not evident.  The surprise of the night came when I snuck over to the Castro Safeway to stock up on Ovaltine ($20 worth; my local Safeway has stopped carrying it during their construction!).  In line right in front of me at midnight?  Danny Glover.

Speaking of celebrities, did I ever tell you how much I wish I were Mick Ronson sometimes?

What else is going on?  Eh, all boring stuff.  I ventured into cooking.  Whipped up some whole wheat penne and added pine nuts, crushed garlic, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olive oil, basil, and feta.  Wasn’t as good as it sounds, but it’s a start.  Also, it’s been freezing in SF the past couple months.  I guess they call that “winter,” but it’s seemed especially uncomfortable.  I installed my first set of  flannel sheets since I was a teenager living at home.  What a difference!  If that’s not right bitches, I don’t know what is.

I’m about to embark on a serious undertaking.  Inspired by Shel, I am taking small steps toward digitizing my music collection to FLAC in an effort to 1) save space, 2) save money, 3) go green, and 4) become more efficient.  A lossless digital song file is 99.9% of the value I get out of buying a CD.  Why waste all the plastic which will just take up space and degrade over time anyway?  And hell, the time when CDs have any value at all is rapidly running out.  If I don’t move them soon, they’ll be landfill.  A couple of redundant external hard drives and I could have my whole music collection in a space the size of a paperback novel.  I’m on the fence, but I’m seeing a lot more pros than cons.  The major con is the time and effort to convert it all, but maybe a little at a time over the next year or so?

I realize a lot of what’s in here tonight is Facebook rehash.  What can I say?  Facebook feels fleeting.  Statuses come and go.  Disappear forever.  This feels more permanent.  Even though no one reads it anymore.

And in closing, Sleeve Face is some clever shit.

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.

2010, Come And Gone

27 December 2010

Before I get started, a quick note… when all was said and done, I made out surprisingly well on my 2010 Christmas wish list!  I scored a Dirt Devil, a Mouse Rug, and a calendar… as well as an amazing Marr/Rourke autographed Shoplifters 12″!  One of the best holidays I can remember from a loot perspective.

I know I say it every year around this time, but this seriously must have been the fastest year of my life.  It seems like just yesterday I was down on vacation in L.A. and playing a TCB show in Seattle for New Year’s.  And here I am again, closing in on another New Year holiday.  Last year, I know I had meant to do a “2009 in review” type blog, but guess I didn’t get around to it.  It’s too bad, because there was a killer link to share which of course I never got to: the now-slightly-less-relevant decade (2000-2009) in review from SFGate.  Still a great read down memory lane (when you’re done reading this of course).  Anyhow, I’m not going to do a full “2010 in review” as I have sometimes been known to do in the past.  But I will sum up some of the things I learned over the last year or so, mostly about myself:

  1. I spend too much of my life (time, effort, money) trying to be clever.
  2. I need to give up Clint Eastwood as a de facto male role model.  That quixotic idea of a quiet, mysterious, stranger… it only works in spaghetti westerns and romance novels.  Which is to say that it looks good on paper, but in practice it just makes you seem antisocial.  I need to be more outgoing, because there’s no glory in keeping to yourself all the time.
  3. There are a lot of immature people out there.  Both women and men.  It’s not worth wasting your time, though that isn’t always immediately apparent.  But in the end, they don’t have their shit together, and they can’t be reasoned with.  In that regard, I feel like I know very few actual “adults.”
  4. However, even the people you love are not perfect.  If you expect perfection or even absolute consistency from your closest friends and family, they are bound to disappoint you.  And if you expect or demand absolute consistency from yourself… well it can cause a host of mental issues that I can personally attest to.  So maybe the best you can do is strive to be as consistent as possible, allowing that you are human and can have conflicting emotions… and will not always act consistently… and will not always do exactly the right thing… and will not always be totally impartial and fair or even kind.  Despite your best efforts to be consistent, you will not always succeed, no matter what kind of priority you place on it (see #8 below).  But you can try your best and hope you get the same integrity from the people you let get close to you.  Without exception, people have character flaws and shortcomings.  People get confused and clouded by their emotions.  People have moments of weakness.  People make mistakes.  Even your favorite people.  And yes, even you.  It doesn’t make them evil.  It just makes them human.  (That’s not a free pass for anyone to do anything without consequences.  Which is hard for me to reconcile, because it complicates the process of distinguishing friend from foe.  So how do you judge?  Just by intentions?  I don’t know yet.)
  5. Life is hard.  Every time I think I’ve got a handle on it, something new comes up and turns it all on its head.  And each life problem, health problem, relationship problem that I thought I’d never have to deal with (because I was too smart, too careful, too lucky, etc.) finds a way to impact me after all.  God knows what else is in store for me over the coming decades.
  6. Speaking of the coming decades, here’s something to think about that is so commonly heard that you (like me) probably just ignore it.  But take a moment to really ponder this: how many things have you put off assuming you have time?  Any one of us could die today, tomorrow, next week… and you can bet the last thought in your head is going to be all the things you now regret never doing while you had the chance.  Realistically, it’s hard to throw caution to the wind and lead every day like it’s your last.  But think about what you did yesterday.  Now think about how differently you would have spent yesterday if you knew you would die today.  Surely you can incorporate some of that into how you spend today.  I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to stop being so damn scared to put myself out there creatively, to travel, to try new things, to love without reservation.  What the fuck am I protecting myself from?  I’m very fortunate… I could have been born to the Vietnam era and never made it anywhere near age 30.  I feel I have a responsibility to make use of the time I have here.  A safe life could be a life unlived.  I mean given the choice, do I want to be buried with 1) lots of joys and sorrows or 2) little of either?
  7. I don’t do well with serious illness and mortality.  I always feel this tremendous weight of being expected to have some reaction that I almost never have.  It makes me feel like a sociopath.  Detached from humanity a little bit.  At first, I didn’t wouldn’t even discuss this with my own family because I was afraid even they wouldn’t understand.  It’s not that I don’t feel it.  But when things like that get to be too much, like a circuit breaker, I shut it off completely.  And then I process it slowly over time.  It’s just my way.
  8. If there is any value in the Enneagram system, I am unquestionably a “Type One” (possibly with a “Type Nine” wing).  I hesitate to put all my eggs in that basket, and I know it’s not the be all / end all.  But if I’m being honest, I was sincerely moved by how true most of the Type One stuff rang for me.  Here’s hoping it helps me to understand myself a little more…

2010 was an amazing time to be alive, don’t doubt it for a second.  To explain… I’ll pick a random year of our lives.  Say 1994.  Think about that year.  It’s amazing to have lived it.  You were there for the one and only 1994 there will ever be.  The one history books refer to for this or that event, the one future generations will wonder about, the way you do when I say 1969 or 1776 or 82 B.C.  The year 1994 was every bit as unique and significant.  When I say “1994” what do you think of?  I think of the friends I had then.  The school I was attending.  The house I lived in.  The events, the births, the deaths, the way people dressed, the popular music, and the movies that came out.  The people I lived in the time of.  And think about it: you were there.  The one and only 1994 for all of history.  And you were there for the one and only 2010.  And you’re about to join me in being an equal participant and witness in the first and only 2011.  And that is amazing.

My New Year’s resolution remains — as always — to get an original music project off the ground.  But there’s good news on that front.  The rockabilly band I’ve been woodshedding with finally has a complete lineup, with an inaugural gig as early as February.  Stay tuned for details!  While I don’t have anything I’ve written officially on the docket yet, it’s only a matter of time.  I hope.  The related quote of the week comes from a shocking source.

“You have to dare to suck to be great.”
— Ricky Martin

Just Keeping The Population Down

17 September 2010

Have I mentioned how much I love love love the fog?  San Francisco’s Indian summer fog has arrived, and not a moment too soon.  It’s half the reason I live where I live.

Damn, Gina… I haven’t posted anything on here in over a month!  What can I say?  I go through spells of not having anything interesting to share (assuming I ever do).  It’s not that I haven’t been busy.  If anything, maybe too busy.  I figured I ought to at least check in with you, though.

Been to a bunch of great shows and events the last month or two.  Crowded House at the Warfield, The Blasters, Reverend Horton Heat’s 25th anniversary show at The Fillmore (filmed for a DVD), Wicked with Shel, Conan O’Brien live, disco dancing in stretchy gold bell-bottoms and white platforms, and Phantom Of The Paradise (spawning a minor obsession).  Had a couple of fun TCB shows in San Jose and Sacramento, where we got to debut “The Draize Train” and I got to go all guitar hero.  Got on a go-kart for the first time in over a decade, which was way more fun than I expected.  Got hit with a nasty computer virus (which I’m normally ultra-vigilant about).  There may have been more exciting events of note.  What am I forgetting?

Oh, and I finally finished watching the full Brisco County, Jr. series I remember from my youth.  Such a good show!  Such a tragedy it was only around one season (1993/94).  A quirky, sci-fi western with the incomparable Bruce Campbell, the late Julius Carry (a.k.a. Sho’nuff), and the delicious Kelly Rutherford… all written by the guy who went on to produce “Lost.”  I’m not a big DVD watcher, so this was an accomplishment for me.  Let me know if you want to borrow it.  ;)

Coming up, I’ve got a few weddings to go to, including one this weekend.  Friends which also happen to be exes.  By this time next month, the clear majority of my exes will be married, if the hitched don’t already make up the majority.  It’s too depressing to do the math, but I’m pretty sure.  They’re all breeding too, or will be soon.  Good for them.  I won’t lie… it does make me feel behind the curve a bit.  I am now older than my dad was when I myself, the youngest, was born.  I’m used to feeling, frankly, more mature than most people my age (which could be horsefeathers, but hey, it’s how I feel).  Settling down is the one area where I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out on something essential.  I know there’s no “right” answer or path I have to take in life, but did I somehow fall behind my peers here?  Do they all know something I don’t know?  Or is it vice versa?  Much to ponder.

In lighter news, I’m also going to clean out my storage unit once and for all this weekend.  That means a pile of dusty crap on my living room floor for a few weeks while I sort it all out, but I think I’ve at least got a plan now.  If you have little ones who might be in the market for free toys from the 80’s and early 90’s, be sure to let me know.  It’s almost all gonna be up for giveaway.

Lots of stuff on the horizon.  TCB has a few shows in central CA in October, starting out on the tropical shores of Bakersfield (10/15) and ending in giddy Fresno (10/16).  By then, I should have my new signature guitar picks in use, woo hoo!  Then November will mark TCB’s 5th anniversary!  There’s a good chance we’ll be doing something in SF to celebrate that, so stay tuned.  I think I’ll need to write something about that, you know, looking back on the last five years and all.  And if all that weren’t enough, I’ve started playing with a few different original bands — one on the Smiths side of things, the other a rockabilly band — so we’ll see where those go.

OK, I think we’re sufficiently caught up.  Onward and upward…