Television in San Francisco was just background noise. Comedy Central in the evenings while I was doing something in the other room. Not consciously, but I assume to make the place feel less lonely. Didn’t Palahniuk have something clever about that in Lullaby, about how we’re all scared of silence?
I thought that my lack of attention to television in those years while everyone else was fawning over “Lost” and “Orange Is The New Black” made me a better person. I was a musician. A creative. I didn’t have time for such pedestrian pursuits. But without a drive to keep going, I succumbed, and these days, television is the new band practice.
Oddly, it started in Hawaii. You can only spend so much time at the beach. And without much else to do there, I got turned onto Netflix, Amazon Prime, and later Hulu. And like all of you, I’ve now got lengthy queues in each that I’ll never get through. Shows have gotten better, but not enough that the ol’ boob tube doesn’t still feel like a pathetic recreation. I can’t shake the feeling I should be reading more and creating more. People used to say they had too many books to read or things to do or friends to catch up with. Now it’s they have too much in their queue and aren’t currently accepting any more recommendations.
And now Disney, NBC, CBS, and others are fleeing the big three and trying to start their own thing? Who wants the cost of more separate services and the hassle of maintaining more logins? I predict the upstart services will ultimately still get aggregated under a larger umbrella service for exactly that reason, which essentially amounts to the à la carte cable pricing people have wanted forever. Didn’t they used to say that model leaves less-popular content producers (e.g. educational programming) out in the cold?
I’m now reminded of something else from Lullaby, about how our constant attention to distracting screens withers our imagination. Johnny Marr said something similar on his book tour a couple years ago, about how he’s glad smart phones weren’t around when he was young. All that idle time waiting for a bus left his mind free to try to entertain itself, to create, to come up with the ideas that would become the music of The Smiths. That’s worth considering.
Anyway, on to the other kind of “show.” Live music, that is. I attended a couple of them recently that got me thinking. Giuda has a huge following and must be among the best on the planet at what they do. Jail Weddings is incredible live — as good as any band I’ve seen in a club setting. But here’s the thing… both were killer shows, but they were also relative ghost towns. Maybe I’ve been out of it too long. I’m trying to remember that things happen. Poor promotion, competing shows, bad luck. Could have just been flukes that I caught these shows back-to-back. But it left me uneasy with a harsh reality: being in a band these days ain’t gonna be like it was.
Maybe people have gotten more “virtual” even in just these last few years. I’ve heard my promoter friends complain that no one comes out anymore. They’d rather stay home and watch Netflix in their jammies (a pastime I’ve grown accustomed to myself, if I’m being honest). It’s just harder to get people out of their houses and away from their screens, I guess. I feel it, too.
And then consider that This Charming Band had a built-in tribute/80s/Moz audience. The Rumble Strippers had the built-in rockabilly scene. Not to at all minimize the hustling we did in both cases to get good shows and big crowds, but we had some clear advantages. People had reasons to attend beyond just us. So with all that in mind, not having a leg up like that but instead just forging your own path and doing your own thing? Well, good luck. I’d want my next music project to be more like that and free from the trappings of catty scenes, but that seems like assurance that it’ll be playing empty rooms on weeknights. That might be OK, but it’s not what I’m used to and certainly not something to look forward to. I’m not sure I have the same energy for it anymore, though I suppose my motivations are different now. Back then, I think I was more interested in impressing people. As I mentioned a while back, I feel like these days I have less to say and less interest in who hears it. Maybe that means I should get into the recording side of things rather than hustling to fill venues? More rumination needed.
On a side note, I failed to follow my own recent advice about watching openers, and I missed the chance to see Hammered Satin with Giuda. Next time, for sure! At least I got out of the house and showed up for these bands, though. It was good for them and good for me. But more of a feat than it used to be.
“What did we do before we made facial expressions with punctuation? Oh yeah, we played in the sun.”
I’m not sure what happened, but I think I suddenly like 70s-era Rolling Stones. Early 80s, too.
I never really responded to them in the past, other than the hits. They were just too “loose” sounding. Lots of good hooks, and every song was rooted in a good idea, but the execution was rough. It left me feeling like the songs were half-baked, whereas I gravitated more towards recordings that sounded pristine and ultra-polished. And I guess that summary of them hasn’t changed for me. But for some reason, these last couple months, that same loose sound is speaking to me. Friends have joked this is because I’m getting old, but I don’t think that’s far off the mark. Something about those recordings sound exhausted and almost desperate. That’s not exactly how I feel, but there is something relatable there vis-à-vis aging.
And if that weren’t enough, I took on Bob Dylan’s whole catalog as well. Another artist I’d been hits-only fan of. It wasn’t as revelatory as my Stones kick, but there were lots of gems, and it’s been fascinating to hear the songs I was familiar with in the context of their respective albums. Listening as his sound changed over the years, through his born-again period (what!?), and the on-and-off-boarding of collaborators like Mark Knopfler. Somewhere on the East Coast, my old friend (and Dylan enthusiast) Jen must be feeling vindicated.
So yeah, EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones are actually pretty good. You heard it here first.
In the past, when tackling bands like The Beatles for the first time, I’d keep tabs on which songs stood out as my favorites, what surprises I found, etc. I wish I’d done that for Dylan and the Stones. C’est la vie. (Though I will call out “Sway” as one I’d never heard and has stuck with me for weeks now.)
It’s harder to find new music these days (or perhaps at this age). New bands don’t speak to me as often as they did say ten years ago. I suppose that’s natural. In response to the usual groans and complaints from the older crowd about the Coachella lineup, Aaron Axelsen (who would know) pointed out that if he kept booking the nostalgia acts that we all want to see, 1) no new bands would get a chance to break through and 2) it’d be harder to attract new, young fans. Makes sense of course. The times, they are a-changin’, after all. Popscene isn’t for me anymore, at least not primarily.
In the last several years, there haven’t been many “new” bands that have really rocked my socks. I think my favorite discoveries of the past decade were probably Parenthetical Girls, The National, and The Drums. Speaking of The National, that reminds me… good advice that we should both take: watch opening bands. If you’re like me, you typically try to time it so you show up just in time for the headliner. I’ve been burned by this before, such as when I skipped a little opener called The National at an R.E.M. show back in 2008. Little did I know that five or six years later, they’d become one of my favorite bands. More recently, I’ve caught some openers in SoCal that moved me to buy a lot of their music. Some even eclipse the headliner. Jail Weddings blew me away… sort of Talking Heads meets girl group. (Their new album release party is tomorrow night, and I’ll be there!) Ed Schrader’s Music Beat was another unexpected winner. It would’ve been a shame if I’d missed these bands as I might never have run across them again.
So yeah, try to see opening bands. Just another of a million things older people have told me as I was coming up, which I did not believe, and which turned out to be 100% true.
That’s new bands… as for old bands, I’m in the process of going through and selling and donating even more books and CDs. I can’t remember if I did most of that after I stopped blogging before, but in any event, I’m cutting even deeper this time around. I find myself putting a lot of old Smiths and Morrissey books in the donate pile. These tomes I used to hoard and pore over for This Charming Band. Not that I don’t still love The Smiths and all, but I don’t feel the need to maintain an expertise there anymore. The other night at an Alain Whyte show, I saw some fans (among them a certain old rival tribute singer) flailing around and miming the words to the few Morrissey covers Alain did. I can remember a time when that felt like my community, but years on and from the outside now, that fanaticism struck me as sorta silly. In fairness, I am inordinately gruff as of late. Nonetheless, these changing tastes, I wish I could say it’s a categorical evolution or maturation, but I think it’s just different. Not better or worse. Just different.
“The things you love are as stupid as the things you hate and are easily interchangeable.”
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?”
Well friends… I see that it’s been about two months since my last post. You might be wondering what gives. I could tell you that I’ve been super busy with work and two bands and shows happening and more coming. And all the while, my house is a mess and has needed to be cleaned for weeks. And that’s all true. But you’d think I could have found some time to sit for an hour and write this in a span of two whole months. And yet, I didn’t. Have I lost my zest for blogging? It could very well be. Whatever it was that used to drive me to want to document my current events and be clever… somehow it’s not driving me anymore. I could have filled a dozen blogs with all that’s happened lately. Instead, you’ll get the short, short version. And I will have forgotten some things by now. I feel like I should be sad that this thing might be winding down. Maybe temporarily, maybe forever. But it’s just not sustainable. Should I expect to have time to blog every week the rest of my life? And if I don’t, will my memories fade away because I didn’t record them? And will my progeny someday read this and be disappointed that the blog starts to fall apart here? I don’t know. But I guess I ought to just go with my instincts, and right now my instincts are telling me to hit the high points but not spend too much time on it. Let’s see how that approach works out for us…
So last time, I mentioned that I was about to embark on digitizing my music collection. Well I’m off and running, and it’s going even better than I hoped. Sure, it’s taking a lot of time and will probably take several more months. And sure, this pursuit has put a halt on my MySpace archiving project. But it’s what I’m motivated to do at the moment, so I’m going with it. Apparently the legality/morality of keeping a digital copy and selling the original is up for debate, so with that in mind, of course I’m only selling the things I’m not keeping a digital copy of. And I keep an eye out on Amazon to see what’s out of print and going for a high price, and I’m keeping that stuff for now. But hypothetically if everything else were to go to Amoeba, an estimated 30% of my collection I’ve gone through so far would have hypothetically netted about $750 in store credit! Using what credit I actually have gotten, I’ve picked up (often used) CDs and artists I’d been waiting on. My OCD about CD collecting often kept me from buying collections that were not definitive on their own, but with my new digital approach, I have no problem what collection(s) the songs came from, as for all my purposes, they all live in the same digital bucket. And having it all digital and organized and at my fingertips is bringing me way more in touch with my collection. I’m listening to stuff I forgot I had. This whole thing is a win/win… win/win/win/win…
Despite my busy schedule lately, I have managed to squeeze in some time with friends. Back to the Haight with Shel like the good old days. There’s a Dr. Marten’s store there now that sells all manner of Docs… gold, white, powder blue. If they were something non-leather, I’d be broke from all the shoes I’d have bought there. Even caught some movies (Insidious scared the piss out of me for days!). And I’ve managed to hit a few Smiths nights, a Haight Street Hop, and Booze, Broads, & Hotrods. That’s actually not a bad list. Now mellow out, watch this, and realize the we’re really all just clinging to a speck of dust floating through the cosmos…
I’ve been to a couple of great shows lately. OMD with a bunch of good friends, and then Paul Simon at The Fillmore with mom. The latter was a pretty special show as you might imagine. I got the tix at face value the day they went on sale (thanks to Sus), but they were fetching upwards of $500 each on Craig’s List. It was nice to be able to go to a show with mom. Reminded me of doing that when I was little. I think my first concert ever was Don Henley with her on the “End Of The Innocence” tour. Coming up soon is Bootsy Collins at The Fillmore, and Reverend Horton Heat at The Independent. 2011 has been good for shows so far.
And it hasn’t been bad for TCB lately either. There was a wild night playing that Smiths night at Milk Bar in San Francisco. Though it’s a smaller place and the rain was pouring, we got a nice big crowd of die-hards who helped make the night one of our best in recent memory. Some good greenroom stories, too. Sacramento was fun as usual, and our Petaluma debut was interesting. That night, I heard about how Tenacious D once opened for Super Diamond, and a young Jack Black was all over the band talking about his Neil Diamond obsession. Not long after, Saving Silverman came out, which prominently features a fictional Neil Diamond tribute band. Gee, I wonder where that idea came from… Then this last weekend was a Modesto debut (the highlight of which had to be the DJ starting a song through the PA during one of our songs; not between songs, and not our first or last song… but right in the middle of a song right in the middle of our set). Then it was Fresnope, and though the show was rocking, the next day brought me a double whammy of 1) Claim Jumper being closed permanently and 2) my car getting hit by a U-Haul just before leaving town. But hell, I’m alive, aren’t I? Guess things aren’t that bad.
Speaking of music, a random bitch I’ve had on my mind lately. Anyone know what’s up with the trend of musicians naming themselves with numbers? I don’t know who the first one to do it was, but that was probably clever at the time. But everyone who came after… I mean, how lame is that? After the first guy, it totally loses its cleverness and instead looks like an unoriginal gimmick. John 5, Adam 12, Nick 13. At least come up with a clever one like “Claude 9.” You’re welcome.
The quote of the week comes from Virgil, as we watched Davy Jones on Pirates Of The Caribbean in a Fresno hotel last weekend:
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 ask 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.
Another quick check in, kids. I keep getting behind on writing here, and then you just get a theme-less mass update about a bunch of random stuff. Sorry about that. Could it be that I’m just running out of steam on this thing? Wouldn’t that be something.
There have been a few great shows lately, such as The Drums at The Independent, which also introduced me to Surfer Blood. Then I hit a couple stops on the indie-bands-I-really-liked-in-the-mid-2000’s-but-never-got-around-to-seeing-live tour, including Arcade Fire at The Greek in Berkeley and Interpol at the new Fox Theater in Oakland… both great shows!
Other than that, I continue to sort through my living room full of storage unit clutter. It’s taking longer than expected, but I’ve also found some unexpected treasures. I’ll write about all that when I’m done with it all. Let’s see… I got my first “24 hour bug” which resulted in me being completely bed-ridden for a full day, too weak to eat or drink. Then it was almost completely gone the next day. Very strange. Oh, and I attended one of the more interesting weddings I’ve ever been to. Held at the DNA Lounge, the wedding of Sparkly and Bones was more a theatrical and produced nuptial even than I was expecting. It was not unlike a Hubba Hubba Revue, but with cake. Fun stuff, and huzzah for the happy couple! My attendance (as well as Nick’s and Charlene’s) was immortalized in the upstairs photo-booth run by John Adams:
This Charming Band had a pair of central California shows this last weekend. A road trip with the boys, who were all obsessed with quoting “Gimme Pizza” all weekend. First, it was out to sweltering Bako, and later Zingo’s truck stop for dinner. Again, we stayed in the swanky Padre Hotel, and for whatever reason, this time I got much less of a “Jersey Shore of the West” vibe from it. Then it was off to tropical Fresno, where not only did we get to play our beloved Club Fred, but we also made the traditional pilgrimage to Claim Jumper. Not to mention dinner at the highly-recommended New Stars vegetarian restaurant. I had orange “chicken” for the first time since going vegetarian, and it was delish! Along with several other items we shared. I hear they’re moving to Davis though, so beware! Something else too… during that long drive on Highway 99, I kinda found myself wanting to road trip along there for a few days and stay in a bunch of those creepy roadside motels. Is that weird? My whole thing is just that whenever I’m out in that rural area, I wonder what it would be like to live in one of those farmland hovels on the side of the road or even in one of the nice ranch houses. What is that life like? I think those Bates Motels and spending several days in the middle of nowhere is as close as I’ll ever get. Anyone care to join?
TCB’s five year anniversary show is coming up on 11/12, and I definitely have some thoughts to share on the last five years with this band. It’s coming soon, I promise. Until next time…
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
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…
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.
Well it was a very successful weekend from a TCB perspective. We sold out The Blank Club, and in general had an awesome show. We played a lot of newer songs (for us anyway), and Shel finally got to hear “Asleep.” Also in attendance were several friends I don’t see that often, so there was a good vibe in the room. I was stressing out leading up to this particular show, but it ended up being nothing and the whole thing went off without a hitch. And when all the dust had finally settled, I felt like a million bucks. Sing Blue Silver had a triumphant re-debut which included our own Nick. Most surprising was their singer, who is an uncanny sound-alike to Simon Le Bon. Well done!
My weekend continued with more live shows, including unexpectedly seeing a 10-piece soul band out of Santa Cruz called “The Inciters.” I imagine Colin would have dug it. The crowd there were the expected Northern-Soul-by-numbers types. Funny how that homogeneity really stands out when you look in at other scenes, but it’s harder to spot among “your own.” I suppose an outsider looking in on some rockabilly show would just see me as part of a sea of identical pomps and cuffed jeans. And for the most part, they’d be right.
I even got out on a Monday to see The Dirt Daubers, a bluegrass side project from Col. J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers. I knew about the project and picked up the CD months ago, but I was blown away to see they were coming through town. They put on a very entertaining show, albeit pretty tame by Shack Shakers’ standards. Even they were surprised to see the big crowd on a Monday (and they said as much, indicating they were very happy to be in S.F. which was nice). Only problem was that much of the crowd were young hipsters, dancing inappropriately to the music with a verve that was clearly contrived. You could almost see them thinking “look how ironic I’m being! I’m at a bluegrass show!” I ran into Orlie there, and he pointed out that the lead singer from the Dead Kennedys was standing behind us. We met him briefly, which was cool… though I must confess that it didn’t mean much to me as I’m not what you might call a punk aficionado. I stuck around for a few songs from the headliner (Scott H. Biram), but I wasn’t feelin’ it so much, so I skedaddled.
Before I sign off, what is this fuss about Lost lately? It seems like so many people these days have shows they just have to watch every week. Somehow I never got on that train. The idea of a Tivo is just baffling to me. Really there aren’t any shows I watch regularly save for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and those aren’t the kind of shows that you have to see every episode of. I will admit to one guilty pleasure though. While I don’t watch it religiously, I’ll usually stop for Burn Notice when it’s on. Aside from it being deliciously clever and chock-full of spy trivia, it also stars Bruce Campbell himself. Me gusta!
I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night.
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!