Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Goin' Down the Road Feeling...Good

I'm a Deadhead again.

It all started in Austin last month when my friend Alex dropped the needle on Anthem of the Sun. Alex is probably the last person on earth whom I'd a thunk had a grateful dead album of any kind. But there we were, jamming along to the sounds of the very first jam band.

Then my long lost friend and childhood neighbor Sean and I reconnected on FB and that got me thinking of his several cassette boxes worth of dead bootlegs he had in his messy bedroom in the 80s. It was our very own Golden Age of Unlimited Devotion, man.  He was also the first friend I knew with a tie dye (or 10) that he would actually wear to school. His tie dyes were faded and that impressed me, because I knew he wore the shit out of them. He wasn't no imitation fan, man. He was a real live deadhead, the very first of many Northeast 4th wave deadheads I would meet in the mid 80s. But Sean was the real deal. Couldn't sing a note, but his dancing and all around positive demeanor made up for it. Too bad it didn't rub off on me more often..but he was my real introduction to the Grateful Dead. He taught me about the different eras, the special combos of live songs and lingo like "Estimated/Eyes" and China Cat/Rider...man. Drumz..with a Z, not an "s" and Space. Infrared Roses was a cd of Drumz and Space mash ups before anybody knew what a mash up was.. Steal Your Face was not only a sticker..it was an album. He told me all about the dead Dead keyboardists, man. I took it all in, catalogued it and bought the t-shirts, people. I knew the difference between an east coast and west coast Dead show, I knew where the "Phil Zone" was, and I wasn't telling. This was pre-grunge OK? I wasn't beaten down, chewed up and spit out yet.I wasn't connecting musical dots with my angst yet..I wanted to be like Sean in those years '86-'90. When there was nothing left to do but smile, smile smile...

There have been other dancing bear bullet points leading to my renewed interest in Capt.Trips and co.

I spoke via FB to my friend Andrea recently. I was sharing an apt. with her in Aug. of 1995 when Jerry Died. That's kind of a weird day I've never forgotten. Jerry's death was just as hard to deal with as Kurt's or Layne's or Ronnie's. I must have played China Doll on a loop that day.

I picked up "Dark Star" recently..maybe two months ago..the roundtable format book on Jerry Garcia, but I had put it down while reading the Elliott Smith bio..and there it was on my nightstand underneath the Bukowski and the Swamp Thing graphic novel. Time to switch up the sequence of that pile. Right now I'm up to around '79 in the book. Dark days for the Dark Star.

I have a friend who just went to see the Dark Star Orchestra in LA. She told me it was a great night except for the fact that she was "too old" to handle the Drumz/Space portion. I would probably never be able to stand for that long again in my life without the best Owsley blotter money could buy. I wonder if the new jam band kids still start their own "tours" these days with the Dead or even Phish for that matter. My brother tells me it's some guy called Bassnectar. Sounds juicy.

I had a dream of the parking lot scene from one of the two Rich Stadium Dead shows(Buffalo) I attended in either '87 or '90. I still remember the guy weaving in and out of the rows of converted school buses, hibachis and hacky sack circles repeating "Trips, doses, transparencies, yin/yang" or the redheaded dreadheaded deadhead girl saying "need a miracle, actually need two." I can still smell the kind bud, and the grilled cheese entwined with the dank road funk of 10 thousand dirty Birkenstock feet and sticky pits.  You never forget your first outdoor dead show parking lot. You never forget any of them.

For some odd reason, or maybe completely obvious..Lately..my go- to songs when the weather turns bright enough to roll down a window on the winding road home from work and set free some of my own mucky funk have been Cassidy from Reckoning (1980 Radio City Music Hall Acoustic Set)...Birdsong from..anything...Eyes of the World from Wake of the Flood and Tennessee Jed from Europe '72. This natural choice catches me by surprise because for years it was metal, punk, classic rock....anything with a dial that went to 11 and disarmed my thoughts. I think Bird Song or Weather Report Suite or Looks Like Rain or Here Comes Sunshine or Box of Rain rank right up there with some of the most beautiful, inspirational music I've ever heard. And I know every word. It must mean something....but why did I put them away for so long? Could the reason be a s simple as music being cyclical? Or distinctly tied to specific events or eras or ...attics of my life? I still refuse to believe that its linked to the cliche of getting older and probably have to pinpoint it to all of these connections my brain has been making.

The Dead were always a different kind of escape for me, and besides my beloved Beatles, probably the "happiest" ( melodic,possibly lyrical) music I ever gravitated towards. It was the perfect combination of warm, squeaky Jerry guitar tone, rumbling dual drums, Bobby's commanding voice and Phil's space bass that kept me listening, singing and sometimes moving. The spectacle of watching others do that fluid- like shake your bones out dead dance was enough entertainment for me.Not to mention the characters and the stories from the songs they rode in on provided by Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow. Those years from 89-91 were really crucial, an influential time in my development as a writer? and performer....positivity really did stick during those years before the black chasms of 93-95 and '97-'01 came along and I needed the volume turned way the fuck  up to drown out or amplify my misguided pain. There was no pain involved in my deadhead years..only pleasure.

People who read Circle of Fits would be surprised to know that I've seen the Grateful Dead live more than any other band I can remember...10 times. Not a patchouli drenched superfan by any means, but weirdly more than hugely influential bands in my canon like QOTSA(6) or Soundgarden(7)....or the Stones(5)..wow.

Thanks to Sean, Jen, Lara, Laura, Andrea and my brother Kevin for enlightening me on this journey. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to Dick's Picks Vol. 36. If you get confused, just listen to the music play ....

Please share any and all grateful dead memories with me.......Seano

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Plea to the Ether

 I would very much like to have the freedom to write completely openly and honestly. I rarely feel that I do. I'm trapped in a conundrum of fear based etiquette, banished to a realm of faux sentiment and complete absence of timely reactions, joy based sarcasm, and conversation. I cannot sustain that here without.....
Without judgement from friends, ex wives, ex band mates, hack musicians, ex anythings. I want a free wheeling place where my opinions and my openness to reciprocate the scant comments that land in this little space of mine can thrive , can grow like weeds in a sick swamp of thoughts, rather than a battle of pulling on/up roots that ends up being a constant exercise in my workout with the written word. Exhausted.

Words are my one true companion, yet they fail me more often than not because of my unwillingness to fully embrace them out of fear. Fear of the stress that comes from their backlash. Fear of the stress of my own expectations and progress as a writer The stress makes me tired. When I'm tired, I cannot write. I didn't flex that muscle enough in my youth to make it rote, make it memorable, make it easy. I cannot write when the feeling hits, as I did in my youth furiously scribbling in composition books in basement bars and backs of cars.. pre- internet, formulating the "self" that I know, love and loathe.

Like right at this second as I escaped to my room to sneak in this post in before the like- clockwork interruption of my seven year old in a never ending plea for attention...I knew it would come. There's nobody here but Dad. Nobody to distract him, to hand him off to so I can have 20 minutes to my fucking self to speedily and without proper editing....write this post....to myself. Can't write on the weeks he's with me. I'm walking tired then sleepwalking through notes that cannot connect  in an oft failed post bedtime attempt to fucking write anything of interest.

 It Is Never Going To Happen.

 Onward to non substantial Sunday sunny day fathering . The sun is out and those fucking sirens a block away and the neediness of children have derailed this train.

I'm out.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SXSickW Day 3 Pt. 2: Party at the Pool Hall

The best part of SXSW is anything unexpected. And Saturday night(traditionally the last night of the festival) was loaded with episodes of the unforeseen giddiness that accompanies new discoveries, kinda like that feeling when you climb the big rope in gym class(without the mess).
 So after a long dinner break, Alex mentions a showcase at a pool hall way off the well worn path of the trail of sponsored- this and sanctioned -that. Most likely a sycophant free event. So we roll up in his Saturn to a place called The Grand..which was in tucked the middle of a strip mall and when we arrived the parking lot was full of  clusters of dirty converted church vans and loiterers that looked like extras from a Judas Priest video. I knew we were in the right place. We were apparently there for the Rubberneck Burger City Rock and Roll Party. The Grand is immense throwback of a billiards hall with grimy white walls, low nicotine stained ceilings and at least 20 tables. To the left behind the pinball machines was a badly lit large area where dual stages were set up on the floor in front of the dart boards. They spared no expense. We liquored up and moseyed over to hear the spaced out fuzz rock of Technicolor Teeth. A band that stretches tight slabs of psych/garage and reverb over twitching punkish ponds of delay and noise. Their website describes them as "sunshine punk". Brilliant. And from Wisconsin. Sans cheese. Put it on a Bumper Sticker.

                                                              Technicolor Teeth

Next up was a snarky little gang of ruffians from NYC called  Dirty Fences . Very NYDolls-ish with the lipstick and pigtails to match. Short, double-entendre laden open hand slaps of scuzz rock, a bit derivative, but felt like music you feel like you need a cold shower and a cigarette after listening to. That's good, right? Loved the guitarist's mustache. Kinda looked like a caterpillar under a heatlamp.

                                                                 Dirty Fences

The vibe at the Grand was ground zero for all of my bullet points of rock. Scuzzy, dirty, bluesy, tight with drums that sass you right back. Shut ins with a tetris like maze of pedal boards and no eye contact. I looked around at the cast of characters in all of their their dimestore boots, chain wallets, glitter and sway, acid washed and pompadoured, cave-mannish, barber shop quartet bearded and patched up black denim ways and felt at home. I felt younger than I looked. Alive from the overdriven force of the Ampeg air, puppet string free, loose and randy.   We stuck around for one more round and I'm thankful for that decision because The JP5 from Nashville turned out to be one of the best bands I've seen in years. I say that  a lot, but I think I mean it this time.

 A three guitar driven blues rock band(pop hooks interwoven) with frontman Joseph Plunkett, whom by means of his voice alone, had to be some sort of Johansen/Costello love child. Two prevalent twin leads with just enough pomp and flash to get more than one of your feet and fists moving, held down with a burly backbeat provided by a mini-ginger skins hitter by the name of Rachel Hortman  I loved what they were laying down and so should you. If I had to pick one band to watch from my four days...I couldn't , but JP5 would be in the top 3..if you're into that sort of bizarre list fetish like me.

   We wanted to make the most out of the evening and Alex and Jamie (total family men with broad musical tastes and backgrounds...and wives at home watching the kids whoo haa!) were in no way ready to call it a night at 11pm. So we headed over to the strange and wonderful Sahara Lounge. As the website sort of proclaims..this venue is like a juke joint that was designed by a permanently drunk voodoo priest who spent time doing an Egyptian pub crawl. It's truly one of a kind and if your ever in ATX, it is a must-seek-out locale. We watched a vastly entertaining band called Goldendawn Arkestra..whose sound I can only describe as bedoin funk. Clad in robes, dropping hot horns and throbbing vibes into the mix  with a rhythm section straight outta stax.. not a booty in the place was stagnant in any way.. I might have been dancing in place too, having totally forgotten  how ill I was and proceeded to prophetilize out plans for my anti hip hop manifesto within earshot of Jamie, much to his chagrin.

                                                            Goldendawn Arkestra

. I wish we could have stayed longer...the vibe was such that I was waiting for a boozed up blind bluesman to take the stage next, could have been that whiskey whispering to me.. but instead it was a four piece that craptastically mashed up the best of reggae beats with the worst of Dave Matthews melodies...so we hit the bricks...........next up.....SXSWSunday????

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SXSickW Day 3 Pt.1

Day three: The decision was made(post pill and taco cocktail) to plow through this flu with the finest cheap elixirs Austin had to offer...mainly copious gulps of Lone Star beer staggered between water spiked with Emergen-C. My theory was simple: like many a sad cowboy, lovelorn hobo poet or telemarketer...drink to forget. Forget the oft dreamt up scenarios where an imaginary black cloud follows me in destiny's fashion, like a cotton hoodie on a wet day. An oscar winner once said "Gotta keep on livin', L-I-V-I-N." With that slogan in mind, I was dropped off at my first event of the day..The Converse/Thrasher magazine Death Match at the Scoot Inn, starring a line up of beefy, caterwaulin' metal bands.

 The first was the always thrilling, mostly terrifying Savannah band Black Tusk. When the bass player has a neck tattoo of a revolver pointed at his ear and the guitarist and drummer look like the highlights of their lives might be their most recent dumpster dive, then back the fuck up, son. Grimy, blistering blasts of riffs and rhythm escorted to the wind behind high fireball vocals was what the hungover skater crowd was treated to...it just about blew their wheels off the trucks.

I took a break to chortle down another cold one and go watch the skate punx do their bizness on the ramps Thrasher magazine set up on the site. Sort of a hypnotic bad idea watching a steady line of crash and burns as a buzz meets antibiotic cloud kicks in...I hung around enough to catch a song or two of the mighty Kylesa's set and as the tinnutis set in even through obvious infection, I decided to ramble.

One of my favorite venues in Austin is Beerland. Their no frills, couldn't give two shits about your stupid showcase attitude works. It leads to drawing great bands with the same attitude in to this little hole in the wall for packed chaotic shows, and little space to breath let alone have enough room to bring beer to lips over and over again. I caught the tail end of a set by a band that took me by surprise the crushing shoegaze whirl of Nothing, from..surprise no.2 Philadelphia. Its no doubt that there is a hissing cassette of MBV's Loveless on the back seat floor of frontman Dominic Palermo's car somewhere..this great noise-gaze quartet's sound is akin to the whir of spinning chainsaw that dissolves into mist. They reminded me why I have to dig deeper on the mean streets of home and stop denying that there is a scene, if not several in Philadelphia. I could barely make out a face on the stage and was led around by the glint of the blurry headstocks and blunt force trauma of the drums knocking me back even 8 rows deep in the crowd.

I went around the corner and decided to give it a go in waiting in line to see the Hold Steady at Red 7 and after 25 minutes, realized the pitiful absurdity of my actions...the wait was so slow that a cabal of nerds behind me actually sent one of their buds to order vegan noodles somewhere and they were still comfortably dining when I said fuck this-very much and skedaddled across the street to Empire Control Room. I stumbled across yet another great northeast band, the scrumptious hardcore of Brooklyn's Cerebral Ballzy,  armed with twin leads doing the chords of 80s hardcore proud and fronted by an extremely charismatic sinewy black frontman (with one of the best stage names Ive heard since Stiv Bators),  Honor Titus. If you ever need a band for your hardcore basement wedding reception or DIY bakesale who can cradle a crowd in their hands at four fucking o' clock in the afternoon, contact the management for C. Ballzy. Huge highlight.

With a body in obvious shock, awe and overload yet fighting the fumes of exaustion, I wandered over to the convention center to check out the always extraordinary Flatstock Poster Show which showcased these artists this year. This is one the most incredible arrays of present day concert poster art one could ever see and all for sale. My problem was that I'm such a collector that I was overwhelmed with the possibilities and all of my choices for purchase combined with a bum rush of anxiety canceled each other out and I bailed with nada. I scurried over to the Flatstock stage which was a large room with lounge chairs in front of the stage and was blown right away with this teenage power trio called Residual Kid. They are Austin bred and for sure had to get notes from their moms(or managers) to miss school and do this gig. It was well worth the exposure since badges were heavy and aplenty in the audience. They brought a slightly honed edge to a grunge tinged super tight mix of melodic hard rock/punk. These guys should be on your daughter's bedroom wall's and not those over- gelled assclowns from None Direction. Get with it people.

Coming soon...Part 2 of Day Three..Party at the Pool Hall

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SXSickW Day 2

There are links all over this blog post. Scroll over people, places and bands for more info. Somehow my request for different colored text per link didn't work.

Day 2 started out with a chorizo and egg breakfast taco as it should...every day, everywhere. No juice, no toast, no smoothy, no Mc-whatever..just taco. Unfortunately this AM cuisine is much more prevalent in Texas, than in Pennsylvania. I'd put many hours in tossing and turning in anticipation of this here taco and it did not disappoint. It turned out to be the near highlight of the day. Alex joined me downtown for one of the many showcases I unplanned to attend. Walked into a psych-rock spectacular at Hotel Vegas around noon in perfect time to see Sean Lennon's latest band Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger do a two song soundcheck. As a rock rule( ok, my stupid rule), the sons and daughters of rock legends tend to overflow with suckitude, but these guys were extremely tight and the songs I heard were just below awesome. Four part harmonies and soothing psyche/dream rock was enough for me to want to dig deeper.

I wanted another Lone Star at this point..but a mad rush of clammy thick sickness and some truly bad ass fatigue was creeping in. Alex and I parted ways, as he had his own showcase to attend to. I hung around to watch a bizarre Asian psyche pop band belt out some noise and left, only to wait in line at another day party while being cuckholded by this stealthy illness. I'd been sick for two weeks in varying degrees of mucal output but this was different.It felt like the first half hour of being awake after being chloroformed and taken to the infectious disease waiting room of any two bit clinic. I moseyed in a dream state down to Alex's showcase at the Hi-Hat Public House.

 His excellent band The Early Stages (he swears it has nothing to do with cancer) above, were just about to perform while I was on the phone to my doc in PHILADELPHIA begging him to suggest how to salvage my first fucking vacation in 4 years via drugs, blood transfusion, magic elixirs..whatever. What's Up, Doc? His suggestion was that I go to the hospital and get an xray to rule out pneumonia. Hows that for R and R? Hows that for mapping out a wandering journey of  musical discovery in four jam packed days.

  At least I got to hang around and hear three songs from my good friend's band before I took his car home, had to pull over while my body overheated(not the car), got lost, got found again and stumbled into Alex's home like a central Texas pre- zombie on the cusp of turning. How fun it was to have to tell his extremely wonderful wife Cam that I needed to go get an Xray...while she had a handful of little ones under five with needs of their own to worry about. She should have just dipped a pacifier in bourbon and shoved it in my mouth and sent me to bed...but instead she drove me to urgent care with a car full of barefoot kids and seconds to spare because while spaced out I believe I told her I would get a cab on the way there or back...and never did. Doc did the Xray..lungs were clear(no cancer, no pneumonia, no fluid..just air..fucking air.

 He then tells me absolutely nothing at all valuable to my situation by assuming it was either a cold, allergies or the flu. Three scenarios I already knew thank you/fuck you very much here's 200 dollars enjoy the rest of your vacation.  After 10 hrs of sleep, a mountain of pills, a few medical puffs and snorts and breakfast Taco #2 ( a fine migas taco from  El Chilito)

...it was time for the busiest day of all four..TBC