Monday, September 11, 2017

"Hole in the Wall," Roger Waters, CDBaby, and Hurricanes

Just ten weeks ago, I was enjoying Key West with some old friends. Today, it's being battered by Hurricane Irma, as is the rest of Florida. Considering I've got quite a number of friends and family in the state, and I'd like to visit the Conch Republic again sooner rather than later, I'm hoping that FL fares better than some of the islands in the Caribbean did last week.

Rhonda and I saw Roger Waters perform at Newark's Prudential Center last Thursday, and I'm gonna say it was one of the five or so best concerts to which I've been. And I've been to a lot. Pink Floyd's The Wall has always been one of my favorite albums (the favorite for a long time), and of course Roger is responsible for the bulk of it. On this current "Us + Them" tour, he plays a good mix of Floyd's music, though only a handful of his solo tunes, and those only from the new album (Is This the Life We Really Want?, which is also an excellent piece of work). I'd have loved to have heard more from The Wall, but I've got no complaints about the music, the band, the multimedia, or the lasers. :-D (As always, pictures are in my Gallery... of Death!)

Over the next day or so, I started thinking about my own song, "Hole in the Wall." I came up with the idea and wrote a few lyrics for it waaay back in 1991, finished them ten years later (with a bit more experience in the subject matter), and figured out the music in time to record it for 2004's Joy in the New. The song, of course, is my interpretation of something that wasn't on The Wall but should have been. When I was deciding what was going on last year's I'll Live and what wasn't, I knew I wanted to remix "Hole" and include it on the new album.

The thing is, though... I'd never played the song on guitar since first recording it in the summer of 2003. Not at any of the Make Music New York shows I did, not at home in the privacy of my own living room. While it's not an especially complex song, it is layered, and I guess I just never thought to try to summon the tune from just a single guitar. And so I quickly forgot exactly how the song went, and didn't bother trying to find out. Until Saturday.

Now that I have worked the sound out again, perhaps I'll come up with an arrangement that lends itself to one guitar. At any rate, I threw together a 'vlog entry, coincidentally the first new one in exactly five years, yesterday featuring a little bit of me playing the song on my Kona and Danelectro guitars, and a bit from the recording...

And this is where it all comes around again to hurricanes. CDBaby, which I've used to distribute both Joy in the New and I'll Live, announced last week that the net proceeds of all digital sales through the site this week, between Monday the 11th and Friday the 15th, would be donated to helping victims of Hurricane Harvey. Sounds like a good deal to me, so if you're interested in my music at all, this week would be a good time to buy I'll Live from CDBaby here. I've got friends in Texas, too (no exes that I know of, though), and while they got away mostly unscathed, I know Texas and Louisiana suffered a lot from Harvey. Let's hope Jose and Katia, the next two hurricanes lined up, don't pack as much of a wallop as the last two did, and let's also not forget that it's not just Americans, and not just the continental U.S., being affected by these monster storms.

Check out 'vlog #10 below, and again, please consider buying I'll Live:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

All I've Got Is A Photograph

The Gallery... of Death! is growing. There are almost 9,000 pictures posted already, currently spanning from 1998 through... well, this afternoon. If we've spent any time together in the last 19 years, you're probably in the Gallery somewhere. The latest iteration loads rather slowly, and I haven't moved the captions over yet, but at least I don't have to wrestle with Apple or Google for control anymore. The loading speed and the captions will be addressed so

I'm slowly making my way backwards (doing 1997 at the moment), as all my earlier pics are physical prints, not digital files, and scanning and editing them takes time. In the process, I'm finding myself looking at images and remembering events that had been out of mind for a long while. Faces and places I'd not seen in ages are suddenly fresh (well, fresher) in my memories, and I'm trying to bob on the wave of nostalgia, rather than letting it drown me.

There's sometimes a sense of wistfulness, of longing for what's gone, or regret for how things turned out. There is, however, also a sense of joy, to see and think about all the interesting things I've done so far, and all the amazing people I know and have known. Yeah, I need to be reminded every now and again. The pics also serve as a reminder that my story's not over yet, and there will be more people, places, and things in my life... and more photographs.

I post a handful of pics to Facebook and Twitter and Google+ (no, I don't use Instagram), but if you want to see everything, you've got to check out the Gallery. Some of my photos are too dark, or too light, or too blurry. Some have too much of me in 'em. (Yes, there are selfies.) A couple of them actually look incredible. In the end, though, I'm not trying to win photography awards. I'm just trying to document my life. Like in these pictures from my recent trip to Key West with friends:

Wait... is that Zima?!?

Kayaking in the Keys

And this photo of Waxahatchee at Warsaw in Brooklyn last month, featuring Katie Crutchfield and her twin sister Allison:

And this pretty cool one of Nick Cave visiting the audience at the Beacon Theatre back in June:

And literally thousands more in the Gallery, of my parents and my friends and my colleagues (and my colleagues who are friends) and my lovers (and my lovers who were colleagues) and bands I've seen and on and on, separated by year and sorted chronologically. Oh, and if you're wondering about the "...of Death!" thing, well, maybe the "Life... of Death!" issue of the Underground Giraffe will help clarify things. Then again, maybe not.

P.S. - The 'blog post title is a line in both a Ringo Starr song and a Def Leppard song.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Birthday Plans with the Killer?

Want to do something for my birthday in September? Yes, my last 'blog post was all about how I mostly end up going to concerts and events on my own, but that's not generally because I don't like to have company.

I've been thinking about going to a Jerry Lee Lewis concert for several years now, but I've decided against it several times simply because they're a bit on the expensive side. On September 29th, though, the Killer will be at B.B. King's in New York again, and I've determined that I'm going this time. One, because too damned many good musicians are dying (David Bowie and Chuck Berry I never got to see, and Prince and Chris Cornell I wish I could see again), and two, because not only is September 29th my birthday... it's Jerry Lee's, too. 'Course, he's 35 years older...

Yeah, tickets aren't cheap. General admission is $125, and frankly, what I'd like to do is reserve a booth for four or for six at $165 a pop. Yes, those prices are just to get in. I know. I'm going to this show regardless, but if I end up going alone, I'll probably just get a general admission ticket. If three, or five, of my friends are willing to commit to shelling out $165 each to join me, however, then I'll see about getting a reserved booth when the Amex presale starts on Wednesday. Or if you want to go the general admission route and save the forty bucks, that's fine, too, though that is first come, first served.

Not beggin' anyone here.  ;-)  Like I said, I'm going either way. I know the admission's steep, and I know Jerry Lee Lewis' music is not to everyone's taste, so if you want to pass, no big deal. If you want to join me, though, there'll be a whole lotta shakin' going on! And maybe great balls of fire. I hear there's an ointment for that, though. Heh.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Forget It, Brother, You Can Go It Alone!

I go it alone a lot. There are a lot of events and places where I'd rather have accompaniment, but my friends are often uninterested, unwilling, and/or unable to join me when I do ask. Some live too far, some have families, some live too far and have families... As a result, I've just gotten into the habit of going and doing what I want, when I want, instead of trying to convince or coordinate with someone else.

Of course, having a strong introvert streak and the occasional bout of social anxiety both makes it easier to do things on my own and makes it harder to interact with others when there isn't someone there to provide some social lubricant. Last month in D.C., I opted to buy a ticket to the "Can't Stop the Science" event after the March for Science, then almost talked myself out of going. I did make my way out there in the end, and found myself standing alone at a bar table for a few minutes until, as luck would have it, a social scientist happened by and asked if she could share the table. Over the next hour or so, another six people came and went at different times, and I found myself in various conversations with my newfound tablemates.

Last weekend, I went to the Parkside Lounge in NYC to take in a live science fiction comedy show, "Wild Women of Planet Wongo." It's an interactive show, and one of the aforementioned Wild Women (or Wongettes) approached me during a dance number and told me she needed a partner, and she'd teach me the dance. I was taken aback, but the Wongotini I'd consumed earlier probably eased my acquiescence, and I attempted to keep up with her during the alien dancing. After the show was over, I got a picture with Maya, the actress playing the Wongette, and we chatted for a bit; she commended me for coming to the show alone, and we remarked on how we both prefer to do things solo than to skip 'em when we can't find someone with whom to go.

Yes, I got leid, too

A few days later, I was back in Manhattan to see Tania Stavreva perform again. I usually feel a little awkward and out of place at the receptions afterwards when she has them, and this time wasn't much different. I did talk with Jon Ososki, another musician I'd met at Tania's last performance, a bit. After a few minutes of solitary standing, I noticed a woman out of the corner of my eye; she looked like she was preparing to approach me, but surely-

She did. She came up to me and smiled, said hi, asked if this had been the first time I'd seen Tania perform, which led to my explaining how I'd met the pianist through Goli, the Cambridge band I'd found accidentally one night at Caffe Vivaldi. We talked for a while, joined eventually by an indie filmmaker named Bryan (and I then found out that my temporary companion was a script supervisor named Marilyn), before she became ensnared in another conversation and I found myself... well, kinda alone again. Naturally.

I do have friends, of course, and I do see them and get out with them. Over the past month, I've seen the Revolution in concert with Rhonda and Jenn, gone to Lambertville's Shadfest with Barbara, had drinks and watched "Alien: Covenant" with Yesika, and spent a fun day in New York with Dawn. I see my parents every other weekend and celebrated my dad's birthday with them yesterday (it's today). While Greta's Unmentionables will apparently split up, we'll do so amicably, and there's still Not An Exit as an outlet for creative collaboration. And I am very much looking forward to seeing Mel, Joyce, and Sue in a month when we tackle Key West together.

But for all that, when I hear about Chris Cornell's suicide, and I'm reminded that Jeff Buckley died twenty years ago today (I'm listening to Grace right now), and I see myself doing more on my own than I do with others, I can't help but feel pretty damned alone. Sometimes.

Love is not a victory march,
  It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Six Months

Six months ago, on 11-11, I released my double album, I'll Live. While it hasn't been selling like hotcakes (although, really, do hotcakes sell that well?), I've been surprised by some positive, and unsolicited, comments about the music on it, and the "Dangerous Babies" video. Seems some people are even listening to my tunes on Spotify. O brave new world, that has such people in't...

I appreciate the comments, including constructive criticism, and certainly I'd appreciate making some income from more copies being sold, but in the end I put the collection of songs out there because it was something I needed to do. Although I still enjoy Joy in the New, my first album, it was lovely to get a chance to touch some of those songs up a bit, re-record one completely, and then add new material I'd written and recorded since then.

42 tracks is perhaps a mite insane (I think maybe only Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime had more), but my thinking was that this may stand as my definitive album, so I wanted it to contain pretty much everything: the different genres I've attempted, electric and acoustic and electronic, love songs and political songs and silly songs, my highs and lows. While I left off a number of tracks from Joy that I felt were dismissible, and of course the gabberish "Troll Doll" will probably never see an 'official' release (unless I redo it without all the Metallica samples, and where's the fun in that?), what I put out on I'll Live gives me a warm, fuzzy, sometimes distorted feeling.

I'm still not really planning on working on another album anytime soon. I'll admit to feeling an itch to write and record some new political protest songs, but even if I do get around to that, I don't know that I'd do an album's worth. Then again, when I first tried my hand at poetry, and then started matching some of those words to music, I never would've thought I'd end up writing over 60 songs and recording most of those.

Oh, if you wanted to sample, or even purchase, any of my music... you can do it here:

And you ask me how I'm doin'...

Saturday, February 18, 2017


In the four weeks since this regime has been in power, I've marched against the immigrant / refugee / Muslim ban and taken part in yesterday's general strike. (In fact, I'm even mentioned in a Village Voice article about the latter.)

Me in Washington Sq. Park; photo by Daniel Albanese / TheDustyRebel

In my last 'blog post, just hours before the inauguration, I expressed a willingness to give Donald Trump a chance, and a desire to have my concerns proven groundless. Well, we all know how that's turned out. Firstly, he's way too thin-skinned for the position. If the poor little snowflake can't take the same level of abuse that Barack Obama took from him and others without getting defensive and petty, then maybe it's time to retire. And stop the fascist attacks on the press. Maybe his die-hard fans believe that the media is their enemy, but true lovers of liberty know better. Sure, some outlets do show a bias, in one direction or another, and the media does share in the blame for getting this mess elected (as do we, the people) by not taking him seriously enough until it was too late, but it is clearly more important than ever that we have a free press that can hold his (and any) administration accountable for its actions. (If you want to let Trump's people know what you think about what they think about the media, take their survey here.)

In addition, the Petulant has appointed agency heads who seem intent on destroying those agencies (Betsy DeVos - Secretary of "Education"; Scott Pruitt - Administrator of the EPA; Tom Price - Secretary of HHS; Ryan Zinke - Secretary of the Interior... at least we avoided getting the Putz as Secretary of Labor). We get alternative facts lies almost daily from the Ministry of Propaganda's Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller, or Trump himself. Repeating something often and loudly enough does not make it any less false. And you're not going to distract us from Michael Flynn's very real and possibly illegal sanctions discussions with the Russian government before his short-lived appointment, or the Russian attempts to influence the election (which popular vote you still lost). House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz needs to investigate these issues, and Conway's Ivanka Trump commercial, and Donald's North Korea discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Abe out in the open at Mar-a-Lago.

Then there's the travel ban, which has already had a negative impact even on citizens and legal residents of the US. And Democratic Hispanic members of Congress being deliberately excluded from a meeting with the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a meeting one of them (Rep. Luis V. GutiƩrrez (D-IL)) had called for in the first place. And the media blackout at some federal agencies (which happily resulted in some of those employees going rogue). And the blind eye regarding science, which probably has to do with all those non-alternative facts. And the absolutely asinine decision to go ahead with the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, and to attack the unarmed civilians at Standing Rock. And baseless ranting accusations about voter fraud. And re-filling, rather than draining, the swamp. And potential conflicts of interest that Trump says presidents aren't subject to. And let's not forget the sad, pathetic wall.

Let's not lose sight of the big picture, either, or allow ourselves to become sidetracked. I don't want to consider, or believe, that the man approximately half of America voted into the White House is paving the way to a fascist state (through his own design or the Dark Lord Sauron Steve Bannon's or anyone else's)... but consider it I must. If the administration continues to insist on denying facts as produced by science or reported on by the press, and we just stand by and let them without holding them to account, then our constitutional federal republic is at risk of becoming... something else entirely.

I don't know yet if I'm going to attend tomorrow's "Today, I Am A Muslim Too" rally in Times Square, though I support it regardless. I am definitely taking part in the Washington, D.C. March for Science on Earth Day. I'm going to keep raising my voice in protest every time I think this administration does something to hurt what this country and its people stand for. Not everyone can make every (or even any) protest or rally or march, and I understand that... but we owe it to ourselves, and each other, and the nation (and the world!) to speak up, to stand up, to rise up- and to resist.

And hey, it's easy enough to take part in the Ides of Trump postal event.  :-)

Friday, January 20, 2017

We the Resilient

I'm no fan of Trump, to put it mildly, and I originally planned to write an angry protest song for Inauguration Day. However, last weekend I came across the "We the People" public art campaign, and a piece by Ernesto Yerena entitled "We the Resilient" really resonated with me. I ended up writing a song of the same name instead (lyrics here), and I think it's a little more 'people power' and a lot less 'impeach the president.' Give it a listen and let me know if you agree.

Not that I'm in the 'impeach' camp, not yet, at least. As I'm writing this, he's not even in office yet! I don't like his personality, I don't like what I've heard about how he treats and talks about and deals with other people, I don't like the positions he's publicly taken on many matters vital to the nation and the world (though he does flip-flop on some issues, depending on with whom he's last spoken)... but the fact is that he has not done anything as President of the United States yet. Words and thoughts are important, too, but let's wait for him to start taking some actions before we decide whether or not to condemn him.

I'm not expecting much. Everything leading up to this point tells me that his will be a disjointed administration, and while there may be some policy successes, there will almost undoubtedly be some stunning failures. Again, though, what he does beginning today may not be in line with what he's been saying for the past year and a half. I'm willing- no, I'm desperate to be proven wrong about him. Until I am, though, I stand ready to criticize where necessary, and caricature where humorous.