Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My response to: Finally, A Year-End List That Everyone Can Agree On…And Everyone Will Agree It Eats Shit

My way-too-in-depth response to a post on Hidden Track.

Sure, what I'm about to write lacks sophistication, but so too does the tale told by the lists in question.

The best-selling albums of the year, according to Apple:

1. Maroon 5 - Didn't hear it. Remembered that they opened for RANA at Wetlands once. Maroon 5's bass player cried that night. (NOT writer's embellishment.) Metzger punched him in the face. (Writer's embellishment.)

2. Amy Winehouse - Heard it, like it, like Sharon Jones better. Kinda bummed that a google image search of "coke whore" doesn't bring Amy up until page 3. We're all pulling for you Amy... You can do it!

3. Kanye West - Like him, didn't hear it. Probably won't try to hear it, in silent tribute to Evel Kinevel.

4. Daughtry - Who? I checked out their website and saw they played the Landmark Theater in Syracuse last - sure, a beautiful venue, but still, in Syracuse. As a Salt City native, I refuse to believe they're worth a shit. (Carrier Dome artists (Prince, GD, Stones & Springsteen among them,) are, of course, exempted from that opinion. Also, Central New York, Syracuse & especially Utica, is Phish Country, so they're exempt too, as are every band that I've worked for that played in Syracuse.

5. Colbie Caillat - Who x 2? One wasted trip to an unknown artist's website is enough.

6. Linkin Park - Didn't hear it. They have a DJ right? No offense to the DJ's I love & respect, but I gotta quote Supagroup: "You guys gotta DJ right? That's kinda like being good at the toaster. You know what? You... and your band... you FUCKIN' suck!"

7. Various Artists High School Musical - Didn't hear it. No further comment.

8. Timbaland - Didn't hear it. I really like JT though. Does that mean I'm still down?

9. John Mayer - Like him, didn't hear it. Little known fact [and the perfect tie in to my blog's stated purpose]: John Mayer LOVES Charlie Hunter. Remember when CH started playing Strat? Mayer sent him that Strat, for ser. I keep telling Charlie, "you should co-write some tunes with Mayer" But it hasn't happened yet. Tragic, really. I really think they'd come up with some tight shit. But what do I know?

10. Various Artists Hairspray - Didn't hear it. (No further comment.)

The best-selling songs of the year, according to Apple:

1. Fergie - “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)” - Didn't hear it. But I'm not gonna hate. Everyone's all "butter face" (talk about lack of sophistication!) with Fergie - lighten up! I gotta say, I've hung with those guys and I know a few folks that have worked with them. Sure they got huge, but the egos are mostly in check. They're nice people, and as an employee of bands, that means something to me. Of course, this one time, their guitarist pretended to be another guitarist (also not writer's embellishment) to get laid, but hey...

2. Gwen Stefani - “The Sweet Escape” - Really like her, didn't hear it. Will try to seek it out, and with these lists, that says it all.

3. Plain White T’s - “Hey There Delilah” - Didn't hear it. Also: Who x 3?

4. Avril Lavigne - “Girlfriend” - Didn't hear it. This one time, RANA opened for Avril and since they were RANA, they were setting up their own gear. All the teenage girls up front started chanting "TAKE YOUR SHIRT OFF" to Ryan (I think) and once he did, they all went crazy. To paraphrase Steve Earl "I'll stand on Jimmy Page's coffee table in my boots, and tell him to his face that RANA is as ROCK N ROLL as it gets. And if Angus Young has a coffee table, I'll tell him the same fucking thing."

5. Fergie - “Glamorous” - Didn't hear it. See above.

6. Kanye West - “Stronger” - Didn't hear it. See further above. Viva Evel!!!

7. Maroon 5 - “Makes Me Wonder” - Didn't hear it. Did I ever tell you the story about the time that Metzger kicked their bass player's ass?

8. Akon - “Don’t Matter” - Didn't hear it. Also, who x 4?

9. Timbaland (featuring Keri Hilson & D.O.E.) - “The Way I Are” - Didn't hear it. Still like JT, though.

10. Shop Boyz - “Party Like a Rock Star” - Did the Pet Shop Boys shorten their name? Didn't hear it.

So what have we learned?
1. I'm completely out of touch with the taste of the American music buying public. (Another life goal accomplished.)
2. The music industry has finally eaten itself.
3. The model, as they have sought to preserve it, is dead. (Long live Radiohead.)
4. Maroon 5 is probably rich, but their bass player is a pussy and anyone from RANA can still kick all their asses.

I can live with that.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Sitting in for Neddy....

* Bouncing Souls @ Cha Cha's (Coney Island)
Les Paul @ Iridium Jazz Club
New Pornographers @ Bowery Ballroom
Permanent Me / Bedlight For Blue Eyes @ Knitting Factory

Agent Double E @ Lion's Den
* Allman Brothers Band @ Jones Beach (Wantagh, LI)
Burnt Sugar / Trio S @ Zebulon
Dave Holland Sextet @ Blue Note
General Miggs / The Section Quartet @ Mercury Lounge
Jose Gonzalez @ Spiegeltent
Lucy Gallant @ Bitter End
Mocean Worker @ Nublu
Piebald / The Format / Reuben's Accomplice/Steel Train @ Webster Hall
Riverboat Gamblers / Valient Thorr @ Knitting Factory
* The Comas, Sam Champion @ Luna Lounge (Brooklyn)

Allman Brothers Band @ PNC Bank Arts Center (Holmdel, NJ)
Dappled Cities / Via Audio @ Union Hall
Dave Holland Sextet @ Blue Note
Gabriella Caspi @ Rose Live Music
* Garage A Benevento @ Lion’s Den
Hopewell et al @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Indigo Girls @ Planting Fields Arboretum (Oyster Bay, LI)
Josh Ritter @ The Box
Meta And The Cornerstones @ Lava Gina
Nellie McKay @ Joe's Pub
Pharoah Daughter / Pitom @ Zebulon
Rebirth Brass Band @ Highline Ballroom
* Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars @ BB King’s
The Aquabats @ Club Atlantis, Boardwalk @ Stillwell Ave (Coney Island)

* Codetalkers @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise Aboard the Half Moon
Dave Holland Sextet @ Blue Note
Death Of Fashion / Exitmusic / NYC Smoke @ Southpaw
Herbie Hancock @ Planting Fields Arboretum (Oyster Bay, LI)
Hopewell / Adam Franklin @ Cakeshop
Martin Sexton @ Rockin' the River Cruise
Monogold @ Galapagos Art Space
The Real Live Show @ Nublu
The Aquabats / MC Lars @ BB King Blues Club

Baye Kouyate Et Les Tougaranke @ Zebulon
Beach House / The Papercuts / Tiny Vipers @ Union Hall
Camera Obscura @ South Street Seaport
Dave Holland Sextet @ Blue Note
Kind Monitor / Double Fantasy @ Pete's Candy Store
Lee "Scratch" Perry @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise
Los Straightjackets / Big Sandy @ Southpaw
Meta And The Cornerstones @ Knitting Factory
Michael Wolff @ Knickerbocker
Murphy's Law / Electric Frankenstein @ Luna Lounge
Squirrel Nut Zippers @ Highline Ballroom
* Sound of Urchin @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise Aboard the Half Moon
White Rabbits @ Sound Fix:

Asiko / Sublimator @ Zebulon
Dave Holland Sextet @ Blue Note
DJ Dara / Mousky @ Club Midway
DJ Liondub @ Cafe Noir: 2-6 pm
DJ Rekha @ Governors Island (located in Manhattan Harbor)
Kumabear @ The Tank
Laws Of Gravity / Deep In Vein @ Europa
Michael Wolff @ Knickerbocker
Reggae Carifest / Bounty Killer / Yellow Man / Mavado @ Randall's Island
* Sound of Urchin / Tragedy / Girls Girls Girls @ Cha Cha’s (Coney Island)
The Bicycats / Kelli Rae Powell / Pagoda @ Pete's Candy Store
The Mugs / Condo @ Union Hall
The Octagon / Nice Jenkins / Goodnight Gunfight @ Pianos
The Randy Bandits @ Banjo Jim’s

25 Ta Life / Memories Past / Caught In A Trap @ Club Atlantis (Coney Island)
AC Newman, Feist, Jim James et al @ Beacon Theater (benefit)
Beres Hammond / Luciano / Richie Spice / Morgan Heritage @ The Aviator, Floyd Bennet Field
* Clutch @ The Crazy Donkey (Farmingdale, LI)
Dave Holland Sextet @ Blue Note
FREE Fiery Furnaces @ Socrates Sculpture Park (Queens)
La Strada @ Zebulon
O'Death @ Spiegeltent
Talib Kweli / Mos Def / Dead Prez / DJ Evil Dee @ Nokia Theatre

* Pete’s Picks

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ryan Adams + Neal Casal = Better Ryan Adams

This entry started out as a post on a message board that people actually read. However, as I composed my response, I realized that I wanted to address a topic that I held much closer to my heart than a shoot-from-the-hip response to a message board could convey. That message board's loss becomes your gain dear reader...

I spent some time on the road with Neal Casel years ago when he was playing with Shannon McNally. In short, my experience identifies him as a super individual and top notch musician; a player always at his best when he was most tired FWIW (which is a trait that I, though experience, associate with most incredible musical talents). It makes me very happy to see the role he's playing on stage and on record with Ryan Adams. Seems like Mr. Adams is pulling it all together on Easy Tiger, good for him. Looks like I'm gonna need to buy that one too.

Neal's quote re: playing on the record: "i mean really, after all these fuckin' years, to be on a top 10 record, it's like some insane cosmic joke. whatever, my mom is stoked, she told all the ladies at the bingo hall..." That kinda sums it all up, in the most perfect way possible. When we worked together, Neal always struck me a someone who could walk a seemingly impossible line of balance. Equally the disarming, self-effacing charmer that could utter the aforementioned quote with complete believability, Neal also, as I grew to know him well, became the rock star ideal that any of us in music, whether musician, fan, employee or groupie, come to idealize, maybe even idolize. He was the ring leader of a trio of leaders, equal parts friend, talent, counselor, teacher, student, trouble-maker & mediator. That time becomes even more amazing as I look back, because (bassist) Jeff Hill and (drummer) Dan Fadel also moved smoothly and authoritatively between those roles. As I became more experienced as a tour manager, I came to understand that such a band was an anomaly at best, and, in truth, a miracle. Surrounded by those guys and looking out for their needs evolved into much less of a job and much more of an honor. Each man taught me so much, shaped me more than they may ever know, and left me spoiled in a way that even the best of my subsequent positions struggles to match.

A favorite story from the road: When we toured with Shannon, we travelled with a record player on the bus, listening to the perfect analog captures of some amazing artists: Stevie, The Band, The Stones, ZZ Top, The Meters. Shannon's band, Neal among them, displayed the deepest reverence for real, well-crafted, quality music that I've ever come across. That attitude continues to exist as one I respect and learn from to this day. I, myself, went back far enough with The Band, at least nearly as far back as someone who just started to understand the nuances of 6 years of age around Thanksgiving '76 and The Last Waltz could go. Robbie left in '76, Richard died in '81, but I still saw Rick, Garth & Levon from the front row at SPAC in '93 (a story for another entry). I still ran listening to the great live version of "Get Up, Jake" from Rock of Ages in college.

I knew them well, or so I thought, until I spent time with Neal and Jeff Hill and Dan Fadel. Those records they played, and more importantly, the respect and love that they approached those records with, opened my ears and eyes to something I didn't realize existed. Shannon used to end many of her shows with a dedication to Levon Helm, singing "When I Paint My Masterpiece" in his honor, because at the time, Levon's throat cancer prevented him from singing anything. Those moments, that respect, that willingness to listen and learn and study to this day impress me about Shannon and her band. They took me to see the Last Waltz on the big screen in LA. They shaped my passing knowledge of Tom Waits into my current passion. They schooled me with ZZ Top's Tres Hombres, years before the talented Charlie Hunter ever allowed Billy Gibbons' raunch to creep into his bag of tricks. I learned about Jamerson and Motown's Funk Brothers and the legacy of Papa Funk and the Meters. They gave me Graham Parsons. (Check this low quality video of Neal & Ryan covering Hickory Wind.)

Even as I absorbed this flood of knowledge and appreciation, my own foundations grew stronger. I already loved Garcia's tone, but Neal taught me about the role played by Jerry's Gibson SG in shaping it. I knew of musicians' devotion to vintage instruments, but Jeff Hill handed me the 1st pre CBS Fender bass I ever touched. I learned enough about vintage drums from Dan Fadel to fight production managers over the preposterous statement that "Our backline DWs sound as good as his '67 Ludwigs". Were it not for Dan, I'd never know about the sweet sounds of Rogers kits, or what the hell a "Gretsch Round Badge" was. Finally, and its a fact that's definitely less pertinent to my (very few) readers, but they taught me the difference between thrift store fare, and vintage clothing. That might not strike you as important at all, until you realize that so many of my (and your) favorite bands, from local heros Sam Champion, to regional darlings The Slip and Apollo Sunshine, to national powerhouses such as the White Stripes / Rancantours, Wilco, Bright Eyes & Broken Social Scene draw their wardrobes from this same pool. To me, that fact alone simply illustrates a homage to the brilliance that preceded them. For all of those musicians working in the ream of real music, attempting to survive on their devotion to that art, that subtle difference plays a significant role in the vibe they want to create.

You can call it respect for the past, or maybe more optimistically, hope for the future. My point remains: without the time I spent with Jeff, Dan and Neal, I don't know where I would have found the passion, respect, knowledge, understanding and devotion I now hold for the incredible art, vision, expression and vibe that they helped introduce to me. For that fact alone, and for the friendships that continue to blossom whenever I get lucky enough to again cross paths with those 3, I remain eternally grateful. BTW, if such knowledge, respect and willingness to learn sounds like something that appeals to you, do yourself a favor and check out their band. If we lived in a different time (and its sad, at least musically, that we don't), you might dream about spending a Thanksgiving with them as they presented their own version of the Last Waltz, not as a final bow, but as a celebration of all that this writer, and I know many of you, love.

Its people like this that help me stay gold.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

John Morgan Kimock Rules Face

So I'm finally off the road after 5 weeks with Greyboy Allstars, a tour that was bisected by my 7th straight appearance at Jazz Fest. As such, I've got a second to breath and take a vacation (to Sasquatch and Hawaii!!!) before I jump back into to my next gig, Bonnaroo.

Scott Bernstein's piece over on Hidden Track about second generation rockers reminded me of this great John Morgan Kimock story from Jam Cruise earlier this year.

The Greyboys were my main gig on the boat, but Karl Denson also served as host of a super jam, and unlike most of the funk themed cluster fucks that pass for epic these days, Karl actually put some thought into this performance. Like the true professional he is, he worked on this slot, and I was right there at his side. He wrote charts, and I downloaded & printed lyrics. He made CDs and I tracked down the artists involved to distribute. He called meetings, and I made sure everyone made it on time. By the time we hit the stage post GBA on Saturday, I was convinced this would be no sad rehash of Chameleon and Cissy Strut. The song selection was brilliant, the musicians were prepared, (to the point that some had even taken the CDs to their rooms and shedded the tunes for hrs before the performance) and the line ups solidified. I mean we're looking at Stanton Moore, Raymond Webber & Yonrico Scott on drums, George Porter, Jr., & Tony Hall on Bass, Kraz, Fuzz & Ian Neville on Guitars, Ivan Neville and Robert Walter on Keys, Nick Daniels, Allison Lewis, Ivan, and Karl on Vocals, Mike D on Vibes and Percussion, The Dozen Horns (Kevin, ET & Roger) and the YMBFBBand Horns, etc, etc. It's pretty sick on paper, even if they did rehash Chameleon & Cissy Strut.

But the songs were as good. Obscure Roy Ayers tracks, Sly & The Family Stone classics and on and on. The set gets going and it's epic for real, straight out the gate. I'm helping sub people in and out, KD's got audience members holding up the charts, everything's proceeding according to plan.

And then, my favorite moment unfolds behind the musicians: John Morgan comes up on stage and he wants to play. Raymond, Stanton and 'Rico aren't convinced by the skinny 17 year old. He finally takes the stage left kit for the Roy Ayers song Everybody Loves the Sunshine. Raymond gives John some good natured shit, then finally pointedly asks, "Do you know the tune?" When John responds negatively, Stanton, 'Rico and Raymond kick him off the kit. Raymond and Stanton handle the cover, and Mike D kills the vibes solo adding another level to the set's success.

Kimock, refusing to be denied, continues to perp the sit in. The musicians in question finally relent, and he retakes drum throne stage left. Ring the bell, school's in session. I wish I could remember the tune, maybe Sly's Simple Song, but it doesn't even matter. Bottom line, it's John Morgan & Stanton on drums, immediately locked and laying down the groove. Raymond and 'Rico are standing behind John, flippin' out at his talent. Tony Hall turns around to see who's responsible for the nastiness, sees the kid, blinks and doubles his intensity. Shit's now cooking. I've been watching John play all week, and I knew his ability well. Even I must admit though that my prior knowledge didn't quite prepare me for the ease with which he took command.

And that my friends is the story of how John Morgan Kimock taught the old guard that he too, can rule your face.

The Kid's Gold:

Stay Gold Yourselves.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


I'm not sure exactly what's at work today, but there's something about it. Sometimes its snow in May, sometimes it makes me makeithappen77, sometimes its conversations on the beach overlooking the ocean about home buying and babies, sometimes its sitting on the bus playing Cornell, and tonight it was almost all of the above. Tonight it was hearing that someone somewhere thought Mike Andrews and Trey were the best possible replacements for Garcia. Tonight it was Karl dedicating a spacey, effects laden Check Out Your Mind "On the 30th anniversary...(to) the Grateful Dead, the masters of the freak out."

Sure, Cornell suffers under the microscope of over analyzing. But my friend Dros, Greyboy's FOH engineer, just postulated the perfect rebuttal to the nay sayers. As an engineer, he realizes, as I do, that the magic in music blooms from the fingers of the musicians in question. The haters cite the perfect mix of the 5.8.77 Betty Board as the reason behind it's popularity. But, as live sound engineers, we realize that we can only work with what the band provides. The magic of Barton Hall comes straight from the fingers and hands and talent of the musicians. The reason that so many revere the show is simply because the show should be revered by so many. It's perfection arises from it's perfection.

Really it doesn't matter to me. What I learned before and relearned again today is that May 8th brings magic. Happy 30th Boys.

Way to Stay Gold.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Finally off to NOLA

I'm about to head to New Orleans, recovering nicely from yesterday's transportation debacle. I just had to throw this up before I head, in honor of the show I missed last Sunday.

I'll be in touch.

Stay Gold.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Best Leaf of Fall EVER!!!!

So back in December, during Hampton Comes Unglued's unprecedented Six Shows in One Day run, we ended up opening (or was it closing?) for Chris Harford and the Band of Changes at the World Cafe in Philly. Culled from the BOC set, I give you the best Leaf of Fall ever, featuring a multiple angle video recording of Chris' beautiful song with the extra added bonus of Deaner & Metzger shredding. Epic....

It may sound morbid, but to be honest, I find this song so powerful that it makes me better understand the concept of my own death. Thank you, Chris, Eric, Aaron, Mickey, Scott & Dave. And thanks also to the people that put this together, including Dazzle...

Stay Gold.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Cooking with Soulive

Just was on IM with my old friend Alan Evans from Soulive. He's up in Woodstock mixing an album that he recorded at the country house in VT. Talking with him brought me back about a year to March of '06, when we dragged all their gear up to the very same farm house to record some demos. My role was to help record and to cook meals, two tasks which I excel at.

Those boys just finished work on their next record, and Al IM'ed over some of the tracks, which dare I say absolutely crush. As I commented to him, they sound so much better than the last record, Breakout. While I'd love nothing more than to slap a couple of the tracks up here for you to hear, you're just gonna hafta take my word for it, and check them out for yourself when the album drops.

Meantime, to sate your appetites, I'll put a recipe up on the old blog here. I made a bunch of stuff for us while we were up there in VT, and here's one. Its a simple appetizer that you can throw together last minute, should you be so inclined.

Stuffed Hot Peppers

In the summer, I'll make these on the grill, but during the winter, you can simplify or complicate the recipe. I prefer making them in July and August when the Greenmarket hits it's peak. Check out Ted Belew's stand on the north side of Union Square. His wife grows about 250 varieties of hot peppers in Hunterden County, NJ, and by mid July, his stand practically glows from the colors and the heat. Let's pretend it's July and we'll drop in on Ted. Since he also raises organically fed hogs, you can grab your peppers and some of your filling at the same spot. Then pop over to Coach Farm and pick up some goat cheese. If the artesian cheese people are there, you can check out their products too.

1 strip Maple Smoked Bacon - I like thick cut
1 Sweet Italian Sausage
Assortment of Hot Peppers (I like to use some Anaheims, which are pretty mellow, some jalapenos (because people know them), and then some brown and red Habeneros for real heat. Your best bet is to ask the farmer's opinion on heat and taste - that's the beauty of the Greenmarket.)
2-4 oz of herbed goat cheese (if you can only find plain, herbed is simple enough to make - see below)
2-4 oz of another favorite cheese.

Start by cleaning the peppers. Give them a quick rinse, and blot dry. Slice the tops off and slice them in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. *VERY IMPORTANT* If your using any hot peppers, even Jalapenos, wear gloves, and never touch your face or eyes. Seriously.

Once cleaned, brush them with a bit of olive oil and toss them on the grill over medium low heat. You can also put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at about 350 degrees for 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, cook up the bacon and sausage on the stove top. Once that's done, cut up both into bite sized strips that will fit in side your pepper halves. Take the grilled peppers halves, fill them with a bacon or sausage slice and top with a schmear of the goat cheese or a strip of the harder cheese. I'll usually pop the non goat cheese ones back under the broiler for a bit to melt the cheese. Then you're done.

Herbed goat cheese:

8 oz of goat cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
chopped chives
chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Leave the cheese out until it reaches room temp. Mix the cheese with the other ingredients. Herbed goat cheese. Done.

I love how the cool smoothness of the goat cheese contrasts with the heat of the peppers. The subtlety of the sweet meats works perfectly with the savory as well. Enjoy.

And Stay Gold.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The announcements just keep coming - (Superfly at) Jazzfest!


Superfly During Jazzfest is back for its 11th year in New Orleans!

Superfly Productions is proud to announce its 11th annual "Superfly during JazzFest" concert series. Series events will take place from Saturday, April 28th, through Saturday, May 5th, at several venues throughout New Orleans. Confirmed shows are listed below, with additional shows to be announced soon.

All shows will go on sale at Noon Eastern on Saturday, March 10th through Superfly Ticketing at

Saturday, April 28th
The Radiators
Riverboat Cajun Queen
Doors 7:30PM / Boat leaves 8:15 PM sharp

Friday, May 4th
Greyboy Allstars
Riverboat Cajun Queen
Doors 7:30PM / Boat leaves 8:15 PM sharp

Friday, May 4th
plus The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Contemporary Arts Center
$34.50 Advance / $36 Door
Doors 8PM / Show 9PM

Saturday, May 5th
Gov’t Mule / Dr. John’s Night Tripper
Contemporary Arts Center
$36.50 Advance / $38 Door
Doors 8PM / Show 9PM

Saturday, May 5th
North Mississippi Allstars
Riverboat Cajun Queen
Doors 7:30PM / Boat leave 8:15 PM sharp.

Sitting in at Hidden Track

For a unannounced guest spot. Internet Radio Gets Fucked Again Check it out.

NYC Page

From Page McConnell's (former keyboardist from the popular rock band Phish) myspace page:

Page McConnell will perform a very intimate showcase on Wednesday, April 4th at Gramercy Theatre in New York, NY. Page's band for the evening includes Adam Zimmon, Jared Slomoff, Rob O'Dea, and drummer Gabe Jarrett. Tickets will be available through a real time presale beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, March 7th at noon (Eastern Time) and ending Thursday, March 8th at noon (Eastern Time) here

Tickets go on sale to the general public Friday, March 9 at noon (Eastern Time) and are $30.00 General Admission (16 and over show, with a two ticket limit). They will be available online at or charge by phone at 212.307.7171. If tickets remain, they can be purchased at the Irving Plaza box office beginning March 10th.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Playin' Favorites: Ski Rack Supreme

I need to talk about a person that, in our lives, knows me as fan, capture-er, colleague, employee, awestruck fool, travel agent, archivist, care-taker, driver, writer, host, and special advisor. Better yet, he understood me when I acted short, confused, angry, and distant. Even f I never knew him personally or worked for him, I must still hold him in the light that I do. He's a friend, in the best sense of the word.

Once upon a time, two bands that I loved as a fan and a colleague toured together. Based on attendance, not many people caught that tour, but as both bands' FOH engineer, and as one's tour manager, I saw every date. Critters Buggin' and The Benevento Russo Duo hit the East coast as a package over two years ago, in Oct. '04. The event that causes me to write what I have and will, occurred in Asheville, NC, near the end of that tour, and if no other information survives to illuminate this person of whom I write, I'll make sure that what I captured that night in the Carolina Mountains serves as his eulogy.

If you still need to figure it out: I'm talking about Skerik. I won't bother to grace or burden you with background - you either know or you don't. Lucky enough for me, I KNOW.

That particular evening, at Stella Blue in Asheville, both bands fired on all cylinders, and each of them played perhaps their best show of that tour. As they almost basked in the glory of their performances (I say almost, because no matter how good the show, these musicians do not leave satisfied; they continue to boldly seek more than what they've already achieved), discussion about the evening's encore came to the fore. I refuse to condescend to say we made it happen, but I will say that my crew compatriot Bryan "Bronko" Aiello and I did offer a suggestion for said encore that was seriously considered, and ultimately chosen.

Here in lies the 4 paragraph later sensible segue. You see, Bronko and I both embraced a particular Critters' tune that features Eyvind Kang as the string arranger. And given that both Bronko & I operated at a high level, and made whatever they wanted/needed to happen, happen, the musicians in question trusted us enough to respect that request and play it. I speak about "Panang".

Picture if you will complete vibe, a crew, crowd, room and band caught up in a whirlwind and yet still able to perfectly exist in & capture a moment. The crowd fell silent as they began to comprehend what they witnessed. The entire room hung on every note, as all 6 players created a sonic tidal wave that dared not drown you, but instead warmed, comforted and awed you.

Enough you might say, about both the long winded story and the superlative laden description of this moment. I would completely agree with you if the moment ended there. But as the virtuosity of "Panang" wound down, the 6 musicians refused to abandon the proceedings . A memorizing jam arose from the ashes of "Panang". Apparently, a couple of weeks together on the road provided them with a foundation to support such exploration. As a fan, my attention piqued beyond what my favorite song had minutes ago demanded. Suddenly, and I kid you not when I say, in a moment that weakened my knees enough for me to never forget it, Skerik found John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and the other 5 parts of his pioneering brain on that stage found it closely after.

Since I very much believe Frank Zappa, and his quote "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," I won't even attempt to capture that moment with words. The anticipation and foreshadowing included in this recount provides a firm enough foundation. I feel that detailing my reaction to what occurred says enough. I mix shows, when luck allows, for a living. As an engineer, the performances I've mixed only once caused me to uncontrollably weep as they occurred. As Critters and the Duo found "A Love Supreme", I broke down, as if I carried a thousand burdens and suddenly cast them off, only to find myself bathed in calming light and caressing warmth of my tears.

Needless to say, beyond the hyperbole, this moment lives in my head, heart and soul as the most intensely beautiful musical moment I've been lucky enough to experience. It forever lives vibrantly and beautifully in my head. As such, I can always draw on it to explain my place in this world.

Stay Gold.


Just got back from a little jazz listening hang at Bar 4 here in Brooklyn, where I got to talking with my friend Tommy about the road. I tend to spend a vast majority of my life driving, as a result of my job as a tour manager, and my most recent stint with Jon Cleary found me behind the wheel of yet another Econoline. Its become a point of pride for me, the ability to cover absurdly long distances by myself, and I wear it as a badge of honor of sorts, at least in the sense of being able to name my most ridiculous drives (NOLA to NYC and back 2.5 times, a couple of Denvers to NYC, Dallas to NYC, etc.)

For this tour, I could have skipped the Louisiana shows, shipped gear and just done a little northeast run, but I had some CDs I wanted to listen to, and I wanted to go south and spend some time in NOLA, so I chose to take on the drives. Here's what I learned this time around. In keeping with my personality, I'll start with the bad news....

I'm a cruise control guy, I like to stay at one consistent speed (there's something to be said for consistency, right?) and its that habit that leads me to my first 2 complaints.

1) Numerous drivers across the country aren't into consistency of speed, and therefore, I found myself a victim of the "I'll pass you, slow down, you pass me, repeat" game, especially in Alabama. That game is so much more fun when one drives after a Maple Leaf show, fails at finding a hotel in Mississippi and starts logging their 9th hr behind the wheel with no sleep.

2) However, that game has nothing on what apparently passes for the new Virginia-wide sport of "almost passing", Having someone living in yr blind-spot? Not that much fun. Having someone living in yr blind-spot when yr driving a 15 passenger van, even less fun. Just pass me for fuck's sake.

3) Ok, on to the good news. Having driven out of NOLA 3 times, I'm starting to get used to the fact that there's gonna be an accident very near me somewhere around Slidell. Three trips out on 10 East, 3 near misses, two of them on 2.10. I'm getting good at avoiding trouble. (Knocks wood.)

4) Mississippi as a state has been much maligned, and rightfully so. However, I'm perfectly content to drive north on 59 as the sun rises, so much so that I had to stop and take it all in. Most of 59 is tree lined, and the country morning just smells so fresh. I also had to pee, but that's just between us.

5) People south of Philly suck at snow. I got into northern VA just as the storm did, and while it only dropped 2-3 inches in that part of the country, it wreaked havoc with the driving conditions. I'm lucky that I grew up in the snow belt, where 3-4 feet in a day was a common occurrence. However, when I left my hotel in VA in search of food, and got 500 feet in 38 minutes, literally, I figured driving in bad weather was a skill best showcased at another time.

6) Favorites. I have 'em, and yeah, I play 'em. For the first installment of what I figure will become a regular feature of this here blog, I want to concentrate on my favorite truck stop CD: "Covered by the J. Geils Band". As Acer wrote "Most people under the age of 35 don’t really know how awesome the J. Geils Band was back in the day," and I couldn't agree more. This collection features exactly what you want from good driving music, up-tempo covers played by a killing soul review at the top of their game. Many of the included tracks were recorded live, an extra added bonus for me. Get it for the "House Party" and "Believe In Me", stay for the "Raise Your Hand" and fall in love with a surprising "Truck Driving Man".

Stay Gold.