I did not latch on to country music until later in life. One of the first figure heads of that genre to really cut me was George Jones and I am saddened to learn of his passing today. His golden voice was a beam from heaven and his fame made him a public example of the struggle of American humanity. He basically cured and survived his own insanity by getting off blow and exercising Deedoodle Duck, the demon who tried to take his voice away from us in 1979.
His long life is as inspirational as his music and it’s a beautiful day to breathe in the sunny breeze and remember this legend.
So tonight I begin my journey to a slot on Team Shakira.
If I am ever going to get a chance to be mentored by my favorite global performer, I need to start getting my Voice into condition. Yelling at my kids and co-workers might help what the whiskey and cigarettes will add to the night before I try an make her chair turn next season, but I need to be able to cultivate the breath and energy I will need to do that by actually performing.
Tonight at Joclyn’s at 9PM I will be performing an acoustic set and embarking on my journey to the Voice – Team Shakira – Whatever, whenever, NOW!
I don’t talk to people I know any more since I am not on facebook and it seems that is where people conversate these days. I get bits and pieces of info on the rest the internet and heard that my brother Bundy is playing at Dobbs next THU NOV 1st with the Loose Lips. I am totally stoked for my bro and all the members of that band and hope I can make it to the show with Vlams.
I wish that Loose Lips would get on the internet without that face book bullshit so I could watch their progress and find out about them like I did these guys:
It was a goal of Bundy and mine to play Dobb’s way back in 1994 when we were playing with Jack McFadden who was deaf in one ear and the elder at 25 at the time. R3band played the Pontiac once for a great show with some other white reggae bands (Hub city Stompers and Si Senorita) even though we only have a few white reggae songs. The Pontiac was Dobb’s, the place Nirvana played, but somehow I feel like the fact it is Dobb’s again and Bundy is playing there next THU that 1994 goal will finally be reached.
Hope I am there to witness and be a part of it.
This weekend I started out with a hike in an area that was closed to non-permitted hunters before 10AM and after 3PM for a regulated deer hunt. We got there at 10:30AM and were out on that trail until about 1:00PM . We took our chances in the window of safe time and explored an area previously used by the Leni and Lenape Indians as a trade route as well as enduring several waves of small pox. It was a beautiful east coast autumn day with leaves starting to change and just enough variable sun shine to expose the dynamic beauty of the natural transitions currently in progress. Our company at first consisted of my sister-in-law and her current love interest from India along with the dog they are temporarily taking care of. Throughout the time we were there we happened upon a bunch of family members, cool dogs, new kids and a cast of characters, including a real bag-piper, that remain constant in our sub-urban Philly existence.
Between reminders of just how old I am, my son handed me his phone to make sure it didn’t come into contact with the creek water. After we were home from the hike I gave it back to him and his mother and I confronted him on what he could be using it for without our knowledge. The topic of “porn” came up and he denied such interest. My first exposure to the internet re-enforced my natural understanding of things I did not need to see and I have always tried to instill caution for that in my kids. In re-iterating that importance to my son I told him a story about the first time I had seen porn when I was exactly his same age. A fellow Irish friend of mine with 4 older brothers had me over on a weekend and while I was there, a few of them locked the 2 of us into a fort they had constructed behind their house. The floor of this structure was littered with magazines, some of which were Rolling Stone with articles about cocaine and drug use and then there were several Penthouse and others called Oui. My kids will read this so I won’t go into the details of what I saw, but it contained instruments I have always found comfort in while facilitating Rock and Roll. As the scars were being carved against my young brain during this experience, one of the older kids lit some news paper on fire, jammed it into a piece of down spout tubing and stuffed it into a small opening in this fort. The structure filled with toxic smoke and I went 100% toward escaping that vision of hell. I remember knowing I wasn’t going to die because I was going to exploit every place that evil structure could be compromised with both of my heels pounding until the light of something good shone through the smoke and paper filth until my soul was free. With the risk of their porn sanctuary being destroyed by a maniac 12 year old, the older kids released us from our prison and it would be decades until their life altering behavior would be categorized as “bullying” and treated like manslaughter for a new entitled generation.
The description of this experience scared my son enough to hopefully re-enforce the caution I try to express in what you could be exposed to with an internet capable phone on your person while making it evident that despite such a change in times, trouble was a threshold you don’t want to cross until you are ready to handle it. He’s a good kid and his friends are way more wholesome than some of the guys in my mix when I was his age. He avoids the ones that come by and still try to get me out to skate with them, so I guess he has a lot of his mother in him which I believe I should be grateful for.
The next trip I took with just him was out to Guitar Center because I made a point this weekend to try out some loop pedals. Bundy has 2 other bands right now and getting the R3 Band together these days means having a gig and throwing down the material we have been playing for the past several years. It goes beyond that when someone from way back in the day requests an oldie and we take a trip down memory lane. I drove 2 of the guys from one of Bundy’s other bands out to the Note last weekend with Vlams for a gig we all played and the dude commented that he was 11 years old when we were playing another gig we were reflecting on. It was an eye opener and lit a fire to a small opening in my search for inspiration in writing music that I think at this point a loop pedal could help jump start.
They did not have the green Line 6 box that I was looking for but I played around with a BOSS Loop Station that I got the hang of after making noise with on a Les Paul Jr with a P-90 and a Vox tube amp with a 12″ Celestion Greenback in it. My son was helpful while I set up the rig, hoping to teach him good taste in gear and why Dad doesn’t play humbuckers in the bridge position. The Guitar Center staff was really nice despite the cultural limitations of working retail these days. One guy came up to us while I was trying out the pedal and communicated that he appreciated what I was doing and asked if I had heard of “Collections of Colonies of Bees” and “Volcano Choir” and wrote down their names on a piece of paper for me to take with me so I could check them out later. Now that I have checked them out I can see the similarities and wish I could have told him he should check out “Iceburn” and that he might have a chance to check them out with all of the Revelation Records 25 year reunion shows going on lately. They were the only thing I knew about Utah before I moved there and Bundy and I both were bummed when we went to see them in Liberty Park to learn that they dissolved in 1994.
After messing around with the Loop Station, we packed up the gear and priced reeds for my son’s tenor sax which were way too expensive at GC, and left empty handed. We walked out with a couple carrying some boxes that looked like light show gear, and I recognized them. He was a small guy with dreads and she had pink hair and when I said thanks for holding the door for us when we left I had “Hunters” on the tip of my tongue. I had never heard a lick of their music but their images had been indexed in my mind with stuff I have been paying attention to with music these days. I told my son that I thought they were pretty famous rockers but wasn’t sure because I did not think they were from Philly. So when we got home I pulled up “Hunters” on the internet and sure enough, it was them. They are a very attractive band and pictures from their shows are more dominant on the internet than their tunes. I was able to check out a few tracks and they are pretty rocking so I will certainly try to find more.
I called my son over to the computer to see these famous rockers who just held the door for us at GC and as he scrolled down and saw a shot of them both writhing around on the ground with guitars he paused. He did a double take and said, “For a second I thought I was locked in a fort full of porn about to get smoked out.” Way to keep your guard up kid!
Last Monday night Vlams and I went down to Johnny Brenda’s for a night of music headlined by on of my favorite artists Chris Harford with his variable backing super-group the Band of Changes. I have been a big fan of Chris Harford’s music for a long time and saw him for the first time live at John and Peter’s in New Hope many moons ago. I was staying in Lambertville, NJ with my wife at the time and when I told her we were going to see some music she replied, “We are not going to see Ween are we?” I confirmed that we certainly were not and told her everything I knew about Chris and Jon and Peter’s and the my romantic historical knowledge of the Philly area music scene. She pretended to listen and I figured it would be packed so we got there early. When we walked in the only person in the club was Mickey from Ween putting new strings on his guitar, like a professional (“if they are not new they will break”). She snarled as I explained to her that Deaner was in fact in the Band of Changes and that the music was quite different than the Ween catalog. We claimed great real estate at a table in front of the stage and after being there a few minutes Chris came out of the can and said, “What’s up?” I smiled and said, “What’s up!” like greeting an old familiar friend. The opening act that night was American Babies who were awesome and right up her alley. Slowly but surely the club filled up with lots of familiar faces, lots of area musicians, and we had a great night listening to great music in what felt to me like a room full of normal people.
A late night show on a Monday was a stretch for an old geezer like me this week but after mining for excuses to bag it, Vlams convinced me to pick him up and head to the venue at about 9PM. He joked that we were probably so early they weren’t checking tickets yet which was totally on spot. After we spent a few minutes trying to get a beer at an empty bar we were eventually tapped by the door man for tickets which was gratifying since I had actually bought them in advance thinking it might sell out. The band Toy Soldiers was on stage when we got there and they sounded really tight and really good. We rallied upstairs to claim some choice balcony real estate and as I rounded to corner to the steps, Chris stood there in the shadows against the wall. I said, “What’s up!”, and thought how great it was to see him again.
The crowd upstairs was maybe 10 people including the bar tender so we had no problem getting a table with a view. The Oh Pears came on stage next and as open minded and positive I try to be about any and all music, they almost drove us away as the clock rounded 10:30PM. I will admit that a lot of things have passed me by in music. One time I was at Johnny Brenda’s watching a couple play no notes and just letting a bass and guitar feedback a little to create a drone through pedals and amps wondering how they got the gig while scratching my head surprised as people cheered for that as it was going on. The Oh Pears did play actual music but the Morrissey meets Antony and the Johnsons meets Bon Iver cocktail was not finding us well at that hour of a school night. Other old heads who were also staking claim to upstairs real estate wandered off and Vlams and I stayed awake talking about his recently discovering Dinosaur Jr. (one of my favorite bands since the 80′s), the recent Quicksand reunion, and his recent attendance at a Stone Temple Pilots concert. I added to the STP story with a vignette about how the bass player used to date a friend who’s apartment I subletted in Utah. I never changed the message on her answering machine and he left a schmaltzy, verbose (cheesy) message for her while I was living there that my friends and I had several laughs about.
The only other person I recognized in the club was Eric Slick who seemed to curate the bill based on comments from Oh Pears. I was excited to see him play with the Band of Changes and glad to see that “the kid” is packing on the man meat these days that can only mean more power behind the traps. The last time I saw Band of Changes Joe Russo played drums and absolutely blew my mind. Both Slick and Russo remind me of my old buddy Jamison Wilkins who does things as a drummer that are amazing, clean, subtle and super-human and I just appreciate the shit out of drumming like that.
After the Oh Pears left the stage, Slick moved his 2 drum kit onto the stage while Chris, Mickey and Scott Metzger set their stuff up. Once Mickey was plugged in he started noodling around with whatever was on the juke box and Vlams stopped what ever he was saying and acknowledged it. With the Ween hiatus going on right now, you could tell he was ready to play the shit of his guitar and enjoy the zone this army of pros was about to manifest with Chris Harford songs. I prefaced Vlams’ coming with me that this was going to be a guitar shed fest and with those few warm up bars, he knew I wasn’t exaggerating. Dreiwitz came in behind everyone else to the small stage and was given about a minute to get set up before Chris commanded the ensemble to begin a swinging version of ‘Dragonfly’
Chris was playing a pink strat, unlike the acoustic I usually see him playing live, and during the first song the strap he was using broke. He gave the strat a swing out and up under his right arm and with a squeeze he started ripping leads out in the jam. There was some trading of 4′s going on amongst the 3 guitars but Chris dominated the leads free handing his guitar.
After fixing his strap, Chris lead the band into a pop-rock version of ‘Joe Strummer’s Midnight Dream’ that reminded me of Prince’s ‘Never Take the Place of Your Man.’ I had never heard or thought about that song like that and it as much as it would have been a choice version for a power trio, the 5 piece locked it up and played it tight. Around that time Chris broke a string and as he stammered trying to resolve the situation, I felt compelled to run down stairs from the balcony and help him out as a guitar tech. The band carried on playing as he got a string out of his case and had a hard time getting the butt end of the broken string out of the bridge. Before I could perform any heroics, the sound guy or someone by the board came to his rescue with a string winder and some wire cutters. He told the crowd that in 30 years of the band of changes he had never broken a string. Mickey humorously chimed back that he had been in the band for 23 years and that Chris was, “totally unprofessional.”
It’s been about a week since I started this post, excited by this show, so I can’t remember the set song for song. I do remember hearing ‘Raise the Roof’ and 2 tracks from ‘Looking Out for Number 6.’ It was a great rock and roll show and did not fall short of the guitar shed fest I had promised Vlams. Scott Metzger and Mickey had moments of delicious guitarmony as well as elegant layers of soloing that made the sum of all guitars greater than the whole. Chris surprised me with his leads that held their own and blended beautifully with 2 of the best of them. When I asked Vlams if the guitar playing had met his expectations his reply was, “I can’t stop watching the drummer.” Eric Slick is truly a god amongst men and one could easily become lost or entranced trying to perceive everything he was doing back there with 2 drums.
So the struggle to motivate to a late night Monday rock show proved well worth the lack of sleep and Tuesday cob webs. I was surprised to see such a low turn out for such a power house show but really glad I can still take part in the experience of some great area musicians bringing that energy to accessible venues. I felt healthier when it was over and enjoyed being in a room full of normal people for a night. In the day and age of interweb hype, iTunes and people isolated on computers believing they are being social I feel like the live rock and roll experience is like an endangered species. Chris Harford and the Band of Changes have kept it alive for 30 years and it is something that has always been at the core of our band’s existence. Hopefully we can keep it going half as long as they have, even if it is for a few friends, some strangers who want to hear “happy birthday to me” on a mic, a bag lady who wanders into the bar or a crazy man who feels the need to get down when he feels the music. See you at the next show…
Hope plans to see Chris Harford pan out next MON night.
And a belated Happy Birthday to Bundy: