September 28, 2002 - Harry's Nightspot, Northampton, MA The Final Aloha Steamtrain Concert

A Memo from Lord Russ:

Dear Northampton,

I've been haunting your establishments and entertaining your patrons for seven years and I've never seen such an eclectic mix of lovely, gentle and peaceful people..cynical people....lonely people....sweet and sexy drunks...alcoholics......poser rock stars......and phenomenal musicians. Your diversity is astounding! Scraggly street urchins rubbing shingled shoulders with fake Vietnam vets collecting money for make-believe causes from wax-faced, blue-shirt-tan-pants tourists. Oohoo, Northampton stew!!!

Oh, how I love your music and your camaraderie. I hope all my friends become famous.

Now I must pack up my gear and carry my beautiful young bride over the rainbow threshold of paradise.

Love, Lord Russ

p.s. Please tell The Aloha Steamtrain I love them
p.p.s. Y'all should spend a little more time at the Smith Botanical Garden.

BRIAN: Well, well. We love you too, Lord Russ. Thank you for all the gifts your very being has given us.

And now to sum up, from my perspective, one last time, an Aloha Steamtrain show. As I write this, it's noon on the day after. My right ear is ringing and ineffective, my limbs are tired and my head is swirling with images from last night; I'm trying to distinguish which really happened. Most of my dreams were continuations of last night, and last night was surreal enough to be a dream, so the line is blurred.

Here's one image I dreamt: The entire crowd, completely silent, in a circle, with a single light shining on a single copy of Girl Planet.

OK, with the aid of coffee, and a shower, it's coming back to me. And it's still beautiful. It was a lovely fall day, just about perfect as late September in Northampton can get. I was walking around town with Andrea and noticed lots and lots of posters advertising the last show. Everywhere I looked "Aloha Steamtrain....final......FREE!". Meanwhile, I was just in search of a new pair of sunglasses, since I stepped on, and crushed mine a couple days ago. I couldn't find a decent pair, wouldn't you know?

From there, it was to a Steamtrain practice. I know, we NEVER practice, but I'd coordinated a practice to re-learn some of the real, real oldies; Cynical Mayor's Son, Three Little Babies, When the Booze is Gone, Loaded Gun, Easy, what have you. We shaped them up in to a medley, like a chicken puck, so we wouldn't have to relearn entire songs. It took a lot of prodding from Henning to get Russ to relearn these nuggets, but it worked and it was rewarding.

Russ now is really a different guy than the one who wrote these odes to the raunchy life back in 1996-7. And playing these after 6 years, I could spot just how I've improved as a drummer--always a life-affirming thing. We also touched up on the Beatles "And Your Bird Can Sing".

So that was that, and soon I was back with Andrea, eating Pad Thai at Siam Square. Dee-licious! We went home and I was very tired. I was going to put on the beautiful new BECK album, "Sea Changes", but decided it'd lure me to sleep, so I put on "The Who Sell Out". Guess what? Before I knew it, I was being woken up, "Brian, it's 8:45!". Christ, I fell asleep anyway. Seems to be a new thing for me, falling asleep before gigs.

Before I knew it, I was grabbing the eyeliner and heading out the door. Found a good parking space, and was amazed that at 9pm, there were already people at Harry's, waiting for the show to begin. There were 50 balloons on the dance floor, blown up by Russ and Amanda earlier in the day. Bruce was setting up the sound, and the new BECK album was playing over the PA.

When more people began showing up, and while I was setting up the drums, the music switched to The Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour". Folks kept filing in, and I remarked to bartender Kevin O'Rourke, "tonight should pay for your trip to Europe".

Ning met a poor 19 year old UMass student who took the bus to Noho, only to find that it was a 21+ show.

We wondered when Ken would show up, since he'd been in upstate NY, playing a wedding with the Mammals. But he showed in time, and soon I was applying eyeliner in the bathroom, quickly, while a grumbling, urinating Rolling Stones fan had his back to me. While applying the make up I acknowledged that yes, I know "Far Away Eyes" and yes, it's a great song, but no, the band does not play it. No, really, we don't. I'm sorry. He was drunk and displeased, but was still at the urinal, so I got outta there in a hurry.

The music on the PA was now the Dukes of Stratosphere's 25 o'clock. The start was minutes away. We were preparing and throwing glow sticks (courtesy of Zeke Fiddler) out in to the crowd. It felt like a rave. I was not on any illegal drugs, but looking back, I feel like I was.

Various folks from the Steamtrain history came to wish us luck, and I imagined them, and the whole crowd, to be members of the Simpsons cast, which Henning thought was funny. Joan Holliday, Zip Cody, Josh from Boston (my personal fave), the U Conn Steamheads, Loren Landis, Ken of the flute and beard variety, Rick of Group DeVille and wife (and co-worker of mine) Sarah, Kevin D'Arcy and more.

Russ, Ning and I are all surrealists at heart, who've always felt humor to be next to holiness, so in fact, looking back on the Steamtrain experience, it all seems like 7 seasons of a great series, with impeccable casting and/or animation.

Then followed 3 solid hours of playing the ass out of the drums, with one 15 minute break. It was hot in Harry's. We began with the old Funnilingus/ early, early Steamtrain version of the Zombies' "She's Not There", which segued into "Many a Wonderful Thing". My hair was in my eyes most of the time, so I viewed the night mostly through bangs.

It felt very powerful, like The Who at their late 60's peak. I always felt one of the several strengths of the live Steamtrain was the ability of me and Russ to achieve a Townshend/Moon symbiosis on stage, if that is the word I want to use. One of the other strengths was the Smothers Brothers symbiosis of Russ and Ning. Then of course is Joe and Ken, who always brought forward all the musical possibilities of each song, and who made me feel like I had to play better.

So, we begin. The first set is off to a running start. After a few songs, I begin to be a little distracted by one young lady, who seems intent on doing nothing but throwing balloons at us, drinking Russ' beer and sitting on the stage and putting the sound equipment in peril. We are all slightly distracted, if not annoyed, and so we have Head of Security Seth Tripp perform one last noble act. Soon, she is replacing Russ' beer which she drank (and the crowd booed her when this was noted). And soon after that, she is gone. I don't know what happened.

We are absolutely rocking full throttle, and I look forward to taking a break. Little do I know, there will be no break! The one time I felt emotional was playing "Last Week" which I'll remember as our anthem. That was the one song where I relaxed, looked around the stage and in the crowd and everything converged; past, present, much of my 20's, life changes, dreams, plans, all of it.

Kevin D'Arcy, who played a big part in our history, was there with many beers and shots of tequila for the band, so that had to suffice in place of taking a break. Russ and Joe got a break when we did a 4 song School for the Dead interlude. It was a sort of passing of the torch, as Lord Russ told his subjects to now follow School for the Dead like they've been following the Steamtrain, and to now worship Henning, for he is "the greatest songwriter on the planet". Ning was flattered, I think.

So, Tony and Max came up, and we did 4 School for the Dead songs. They kept the mood happy and energetic and got great responses. School for the Dead is in great shape these days, having just played the Iron Horse, and poised to play there again Nov 1. Still no break for me, as Russ and Joe got right back on stage to start our next set.

But I was being called to the front of the stage by another young lady. As Russ and Joe were tuning up, I got up to see what she wanted. She lunged at me, attempting a full on kiss, but I turned my head, so she just got me on the cheek. The rest of the show she alternated between dancing with Josh from Boston and calling my name between songs and waving and winking.

This set featured the dance mix, with 5 songs in a row playing with no break in the rhythm. I just kept it going, yo. We finally did take a 15 minute break. I escaped to meet and greet, attempt to get some air (unsuccessful), hang with Andrea, get another beer. I spoke to people, some of whom related their favorite memories.

One woman told me how we gave her and her loved ones strength after 9/11 and personal tragedies. This was very touching and reinforced my belief that violence, war,weapons, can only end in misery. Music and art in general are the godsend. It is just as noble, in wartime, to be among the people who entertain and create. And it made me think how, at the start of the Steamtrain era, any comment about politics, war, etc seemed so irrelevant and far away.

Back to the show. We had about 45 minutes left. We came back, and Ning had recruited a cute blonde in a Price is Right t-shirt (she'd been in the audience, up front all night, with my fan ) to film the rest of the show-- and she is a film major at Emerson, so presumably she did a good job.

We did the oldies medley (which I previously told Connolly Ryan was for him) and it was a trip playing those songs live again. "You Showed Me", the Turtles song was fucking epic. Joe assumed his JB3 persona and directed who was going to take a solo when. Ken, Russ, Joe. Ning held it together, and I brought the intensity up, down, up down, waves and climaxes.

The first bits of fatigue were coming, but this was not a time to take the easy way out, to paraphrase "Here We Go". From where I was I could make out so many friends, Philip and Debbie, Matt Audette and Matt Woliver, Thane and Trace, Dave and Kelsey, Amanda (who, tonight, was the only woman Russ sang to), Phil Straub from WRSI, and of course, of course, Donal B. Rooke.

The man who kept us freaks in line, kept us from breaking up and wandering into oblivion after 6 months, the man who taught us the ropes of the music biz, who introduced us to lots of interesting folks, took us to interesting places, who taught us how a start-up business is run. He treated us like friends, and also was a bit of a father figure too. Because of the latter, we often acted like total brats. He did his best, we gave all we could. Thank you, Don, we love you.

So, soon, Bruce came through the monitors: "one more, fellas". Good ol' Bruce.

Of course, the last song has to be "All My Juices". Of course, this has to be the climax of all climaxes. And it was. Loud. Hyper. Did I say it was loud? Full of passion. And loudness. I was drenched in sweat and had brushed my hair, once and for all, away from my eyes so I could see it all. The ending was perfect, Russ knelt in front of my drums bongo-ing on the toms, one of my favorite traditions. The Price is Right girl was on stage most of it, filming. Last note, I'm ringing on the cymbals, eyes closed, when suddenly, "crash, blammo,", the young lady (my fan) from before was lunging over my drums, determined to get that kiss, and in the process, knocking over 2 of my cymbals. We'll see how the video tape shows it. It was a chaotic 5 seconds.

So, that was that. Hilarious, surreal, the last song of the Steamtrain. The most surreal part was the first 2 minutes after the show. The crowd was going insane, calling for more. The five of us were sitting, drained, on the side of the stage, and I was looking up at all these people looking back at us, sweaty, smiling and shouting for more. Russ came up and made an impromptu speech, which ended in a chant of something like "Henning rules" or something. I had a mic in my hand. I don't know why. It was slow motion, it was distorted, it was a dream, it was a movie. But it wasn't. It was the end of a big thing. The end.

HENNING: Now that I have been playing in School for the Dead as a sort of front man, I have realized why playing in The Aloha Steamtrain has been so enjoyable over the years. In my existance as bassist and back-up singer, I always positioned myself off to “stage right” and slightly further back than Lord Russ. From this vantage point I could turn to face my fingers on the fret board and beyond them I could watch Brian, Ken, Joe, and Russ. I could turn to face forward and watch the crowd, and I could turn to the right and stare at a wall.

While performing in The Aloha Steamtrain, I was able to be a part of the show while at the same time watching the show!

I used to go to see the Figments play shows all the time. They have great songs and are an excellent band, but whenever I would start to zone out I could always entertain myself an extra amount by watching Brian play the drums. Not only is he my favorite drummer to listen to, he is also my favorite drummer to watch. You can see the music coursing through him. His groove is full body. Some drummers concentrate like student drivers behind their kits. Some drummers are unbearable to watch because of the horrifying pained expressions on their faces. Some drummers look out at the crowd with super-ego cocky attitudes. Brian often smiles, his body sways back and forth, occasionally he twirls a stick or stands slightly, and he always plays the exact right thing for the song. I could watch him for hours, and I often have done so during our shows. I don’t get to watch him during School for the Dead shows like that and I will miss it.

For slightly less years, Ken has been entertaining me, too. He always has something going on back there. If he’s not playing the keyboard, he’s got a tambourine shaking, or he’s singing harmonies, sometimes he even does little dances. Ken joined the Steamtrain after years and years of us arguing over whether or not to get a keyboardist. Don and Russ were constantly pushing for it, I was always hesitant because we could never think of the right person. It’s so hard to find a keyboardist who can and will play like Ken does. Now that Ken has been playing with us, it’s impossible to think of it any other way. It seems like everything he touches musically becomes better. The amount of stuff that came out of that keyboard during a typical Steamtrain show was remarkable, I don’t know if anybody else noticed but he was constantly slipping little riffs and hooks from other songs into the Steamtrain set. And I got to sit back and watch it all. I don’t get to watch him during School for the Dead shows like that and I will miss it.

Further to my left, just beyond the flailing arms of Lord Russ, stood Joe Boyle. And I mean stood. Joe stood like a tree, thin and tall and immovable. He stood there looking down or occasionally tilting his head up slightly sideways and staring at me with a completely blank face. He stood and he played guitar like nobody else can. It’s unfathomable to recognize the kind of stuff that is going on when Joe plays, his musical brain and fingers are so far beyond where most of us exist. He and Ken both, though they come from different schools they both have discovered levels in music that I will never get to see. It made me proud to play in a band with Joe, to glance in front of me and watch the people gaping at him, to see folks with their eyes closed trying to take it in, to observe the other guitar playing guys out there scratching their beards or shaking their heads and thinking about giving it all up while simultaneously being inspired to practice more. It was only in the last year or so of the Steamtrain, when we no longer had any new material to play, that Joe really started to step forward and let people see what he was really made of. The JB3 created a monster, a beautiful, mind-blowing monster. I will see Joe play occasionally here and there but I will certainly miss watching him perform his craft and I will especially miss feeling like I was somehow a part of it.

There was one other guy on the stage, too, I just can’t seem to recall…oh yeah Lord “Russ”. Let’s face it, the Aloha Steamtrain was really Lord Russ. Granted we all played a huge part in it, we became a really together band, and we learned over the years to be exactly what Lord Russ needed behind him. But, the fact of the matter is, this was Russ’ show. Hell, he could be up on stage with a thousand other great performers and it would be his show. In fact, ever since I’ve known him, it’s been Russ’ show, whether it is him dancing alone in Veronica Jessico’s basement while the rest of us nerds just watched and laughed and shook our heads at how funny he could be, or whether it was him at the Student Council Elections with a ukulele, making all the other candidates look like soulless animatrons. It’s always been Russ’ show, and I’ve almost always played the straight man. This is not to say that Russ is a stage hog, it’s just that attention falls on him like gravity makes bricks fall on the earth. He glows.

So, I could stand back at shows and watch him. Whether he was singing a simple ballad or whether he was hanging upside down from the rafters. Over the years we’ve come to take for granted all the loops that Russ jumps through during a typical Steamtrain show. Not only is he an exceptional guitarist, a great song-writer, and an unforgettable singer, but who else do you know that can go into a completely up-tight restaurant / bar, full of 100% strangers in baseball hats and scrungies, and strip-down while balancing on the back of a bar stool , dancing, and singing like a Las Vegas veteran? Who do you know that can do the things he has been doing 2 or 3 times a weeks every week for the last 6 or 7 years? We never once played a show where Russ was not exhausted afterwards – he always gave everything he had to whoever would watch. Look out Hawaii.

…That’s the stuff that would watch from my perch safely behind the microphone. Most of the time, however, I looked straight ahead at the audience. They were almost always smiling. They were almost always beautiful. We played our share of ill-attended shows over the years, we’ve performed for 3 or 4 people before and we’ve performed to huge crowds at places like the Pines Pavilion, The Calvin Theatre, and The Academy of Music. We’ve played on giant outdoor stages at the Taste of Northampton, Celebrate Holyoke, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke Colleges, Biker Conventions. We’ve played in ultra-hip rock venues like CBGB’s. Arlene Grocery, the Luna Lounge, the Milky Way. We’ve played in intimate acoustic settings like the Montague Book Mill, the Living Room, and Fire and Water. We’ve played in countless bars like the Amherst Brewing Company, Sully’s, Toad, and the Mole’s Eye. We’ve played multiple weddings and private parties from the rolling hills of Vermont to haute Manhatten Hotels to a tiny apartment in Washington DC. We’ve played in festivals like NEMO and NMF. We’ve played at our own local haunts like the Baystate and Harry’s. We’ve played up and down the East Coast and at every one of our shows I stood back and just watched the people in the crowd. I wish there was someway I could preserve the memory of all their faces. Just how many people have I seen watch us play after all these years I wonder? Thousands upon thousands... how weird. …

So, that’s what I did this final night here at Harry’s. I stood and watched the guys in the band and I stood and watched the people in the room. It felt like a movie, of course. More over, it felt like the end of a sitcom where all the characters come back one more time. As the disco ball spun around madly, it flashed tiny specks of light over the crowd. Each burst of light was about the size of a human face and so as I looked out over the room-full of people, man there were a lot of people there, these little flashes of lights illuminated face after face, like some kind of surreal back-flash montage.

I don’t know if it was visible, but I was smiling the whole time.

September 7, Jamie's, Marshfield MA

BRIAN: Had this been our final gig, we could have said, "AST 1997-2002, Monson to Marshfield".

WAIT!! THIS SHOW WASN' TADVERTISED ON ANY WEBSITE OR EMAIL LIST!! We know. We didn't let anyone know about it, because who the hell wants to go to Marshfield? I should have told my Uncle Joel, he lives in Weymouth, but I thought this place was gonna be a loud, mean Rock Club.

It wasn't. It was like a Ground Round. Family restaurant, then after 9, it's a bar for the locals to come and mingle, watch sports, COPS and Fox News paranoia-inducing 9/11 stories. There was a huge banner outside reading "Friday: Nineteen--a Steely Dan Tribute. Saturday: Aloha Steamtrain". Why didn't we get a picture of it?

So, all 5 of us went, and we played all night, 3 sets.

The ride up was groovy, and long. Ken brought some CDs and we listened to Sloan, Beechwood Sparks and Of Montreal. All extremely good.

Ken and Henning just wanted some FOOD and though they ordered 3 times, only Ken in the end got his fries. Henning had to just steal a roll from the salad bar. Oh well, they were paying us well. But can't you see Henning is a thin man?

Supporting actors included Jim, the polite, professional, portly soundman. He was smiling through most of the show, and seemed to be the one person who understood where we were coming from. Also there was Bobby. Bobby had had a few, and was sitting with his friends. All he wanted was a drumstick signed by all 5 of us. We complied (see picture). He said his rock and roll highlight was once partying with the Jason Bonham band 'till 5 am.

Here's how I can break down this show:

Ist set: sober, professional, some older folks dancing, good energy, good humor. Our charming best. (note, there was an old man watching me intently. after this set, I overheard him saying to someone, "see that drummer? she could really play!! wow!"

2nd set: a round of drinks is bought for us. Russ suppliments this with one or two more. This set is less wedding-band like, more bar band like. "You Showed Me" was epic. Joe left the stratosphere, and I took the opportunity to finally teach myself the famously-sampled beat to James Brown's "Funky Drummer". Same beat as "I am stretched across your grave" by Sinaed O' Connor. After 10 years of trying, it finally came to me!!

3rd set: I've stopped drinking, because it's a long ride home but Russ had not. The crowd seems to be losing interest, and we are all getting tired. Russ decides to get their attention. He walks out in the crowd, serenading both men and women (professionals out for a night on the town) shirtless, singing seductive lyrics. The folks seemed to be mildly amused. So the next trick was to climb up on this sort of platform and hang upside down on the ceiling beams, while still singing. impressive and funny as hell. But the manager or someone walked by him and whisled, which could have been taken as approval, but from the look on his face, I think he meant "get the hell down!" because then he went and spoke to the soundman.

Well, we finished, loud, rocking, sloppy, tired, with a "who gives a fuck, who are these people?" and the crowd felt exactly the same. In fact, after our last song, there was not one clap or whistle. People just kept talking, watching TV and drinking.

The way home was nice. Russ was passed out, and Joe and I (before Joe dozed off) had a nice long chat about our post-AST plans.

HENNING: Sorry that I didn't write anything for the last two entries. I am just so busy and my hands hurt. They were however two really wonderful shows so I hope to go back one day and fill in the blanks. Come to think of it, that Mole's Eye show was one of my all time favorites.

This howerver, was not a wonderful show. In fact, I doubt I will remember anything about it in a couple more days. The one thing about this show was, for the first time in the six years that the Steamtrain played, I was actually just waiting for the night to be over. Never before have I experienced that sensation with this band.

By the end of the night we were Funnilingus all over again - except that the people in the "bar" didn't care.

The whole show wasn't bad, it was fun watching Russ dangle from the ceiling and I liked watching the old guy ask the young beautiful girl to dance, especially when she accepted.

August 31,2002 The Mole's Eye, Brattleboro,VT

BRIAN: A Psychological Study As we look forward to the future,we celebrate the past in the present. You see, we in the Steamtrain are not tense-ist.

The Aloha Steamtrain's last go round at what may end up tied for first (with the Baystate) as "best venue". I anticipated perhaps a big party, and it was, albeit one that I drove to and from alone. Oh, lonesome me! Well, the ride there was fun; I had new Ken songs on a CDR to learn for our surprise Harry's show. I also had one of the CDs from that big John Lennon boxset, which I borrowed from Tony. It was a gorgeous dusk.

Upon arriving, there were signs that Ning and Ken had been, but they weren't there. No one was there. In fact, even the staff had changed. Weird. Then, a sign of life as Bruce showed up. All was good.

I set up my drums and ordered a coffee and a dessert of the night: Creme Caramel. Then in quick succession everyone started walking in. Ning, Ken and Lesa; Russ, Joe and Alexis. Good times.

Susie the booking woman had told Ning that folks had been calling all day asking if we were really playing (there was a false alarm 2 weeks before, a cancellation that never made the papers).

Well, there was three solid sets of manic playing. I felt "on", and it was perhaps for the very reason that we've not been playing that many Steamtrain shows, and because I've been spending more time playing and creating drum parts for Lo Fine and School for the Dead, I've increased the subtlety and accuracy of things. Thus, I was approaching these well-worn Steamtrain songs with a fresh approach. Where a lazy flam used to suffice, I'm now going for the quick roll. My discipline is improving, to offset my lack of haircut.

We did all the favorites, and a host of happy faces were pressed up front to dance the night away!! There was a mini four song School for the Dead set which went very well. A girl in plaid pants who was definitely out of her head (E?) provided interpretive dances. I think I saw her talking to Henning afterwards. Or maybe it was the ceiling fan.

Dr. Loren Landis told me where the term "The whole 9 Yards" comes from . It's a WW1 term dealing with the length of ammo belts. They were 9 yards long.

Ulla thanked us for the years, and we thank her back.

I accidentally spilled a beer on Russ' shirt, which was laying right next to my full beer and flailing arms and elbows.

As the show came to a close, I was as drained as could be. Ringing ears, exaustion and driving home alone. A great depression set in, and I was sent back to the Red Barn, North Andover, 1990-91, when I would be in the exact same state, wondering where the money and girls were? Well, the money is there, and so is the girl. I'm just melodramatic. "It's the Great Depression..." the world needs to hear Ken's new song.

On the way home, I didn't feel so all alone. For 100 yards ahead of me was Brian and Elizabeth, and 200 yards ahead of them was Ken, Lesa and Ning. Dr. Landis, I have fear of alienation, which may come from my family leaving K Mart without me when I was 5, and not realizing it until they were 10 miles in to the ride home. True story. I trust no one. Thus it turns on itself and becomes a defense mechanism showing itself as a discomfort in social situations. "well I don't need you either!"

In any case, in the big picture, re entering Northampton, The Shins' beautiful song came on the radio, I was at the same red light as Ning Ken and Lesa, and soon I was home in bed with girl and cat.

Recommendation: The Seuss Museum in Springfield!! Plus, Art and Science all in the same Quadrangle! Only $6!! Free parking!



BRIAN: To begin, I'll quote what my entry for us was in the official program:

"The Aloha Steamtrain as The Guess Who--The Aloha Steamtrain return for their fifth (and final) Transperformance. The Guess Who weren't a particularly pretty or fashionable outfit, so why do the always-head-turning Steamtrain want to tackle such a band? Just listen, babies, and follow the howl of the wolves, the glow of the Northern Lights, the chill of the Arctic wind, the smell of the bacon".

What they edited was my thank you to Bob Cillman for being so supportive, and in hindsight, for braving this storm of enormous budget cuts. The two things I'm involved with most--the arts and libraries, were two of the biggest victims of the cuts. Well, color me a non-corporate fan of the underdogs! Everyone has continued to show big hearts love for what they do. Now pardon me while I do my hourly portfolio check. Anyway, here's a full report, as far as how "these eyes" (ho ho) saw them.

Well, the week was one of cramming. I was in 3 outfits: Patty McGill as Joni Mitchell, The Figments as Leonard Cohen and AST as the Guess Who. No one wants to suck at Transperformance, but we're all such pros that I think I had only 2 short-ish rehearsals with each of the outfits.

I had been interviewed the week before for the Brattleboro Reformer, musing about Canada and Canadian music. The day was picture perfect. I wanted to be there by 3:00, and arranged to pick up Kevin O'Rouke (Lo Fine) who was doing a truly bizarre performance piece at the start of the show: Michael J Fox as Glenn Gould. Basically, they put on a Glenn Gould one minute piece, and Kevin sat in a chair staring at the crowd for that one minute. No one got it. But it was great. Andrea understood the concept, but she couldn't be there to witness it. Freakin' sophisticates!

Back tracking a bit, Kevin and I picked up a 6 pack of Red Stripe lager (Canada, Jamaica, whatever) before heading to Look Park. That feeling of showing your performer's pass, that drive 355 degrees around the perimeter of the park, all the memories were coming back. It was great. Last year I wrote this entry 2 hours after wisdom teeth extraction, and I was very high still. This morning I am only high with the fervor for writing, and extreme hunger because I should be eating breakfast, but I wanna do this first. I also need some coffee.

I had brought a psychedelic shirt, a black shirt, striped pants and black pants. For Joni Mitchell, it was psychedelic shirt, black jeans and big sunglasses, borrowed from Kevin. First just Patty and Ken Maiuri did "All I Want" from the Blue album. Then me and Adam Greenberg came on to help out on "Big Yellow Taxi". I was very proud of my triangle/bongo ensemble, but Ning told me it was inaudible. Then we got Mr. Weeks on tenor sax, Joe Boyle on guitar and Scott Hall on keyboard and did a rousing, totally 70's sounding "Raised On Robbery". It was awesome.

I hung out some more, watched things like Ware River Club as Bryan Adams (gruff voice, meet gruff voice!) and Miranda Brown as Alanis Morrisette (and she had 10 year old girls seeking her autograph afterwards, she was so good).

I changed into my black shirt, only to find lots of cat fur on it. I spent a stressful few minutes getting it all off, nearly skin-burning my hand in the process . By The Figments slot, the crowd had almost doubled. The Figments doing Leonard Cohen still sounds exactly like the Figments. Frank Padellaro was in the crowd chuckling, realizing this.

The Figments covering Gang of Four would still sound like the Figments. But it was great. We did "Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire". "Suzanne" grooved like ''Feel the Fields" and "Bird on a Wire" grooved like "American Trash". It got a good hand. Then Thane introduced "The rest of the Cohens" and the Young At Heart chorus came on to do "Everybody Knows" while we watched in the wings.

The next few hours are a blur. It was that exciting mix of mingling backstage, and going out into the crowd to watch. Mingling highlights included hiking up the hill behind the stage with Thane, Mike Flood and Max. Also, a great conversation with Ray Mason which began with him asking me about Alyssa, my sister. I told him about her new baby Josephine. Then I sung the Yardbirds tune "Goodnight Sweet Josephine". Then Ray said he had that song on 45. Then he told the tale of meeting Jimmy Page in1968 at Riverside, talking guitars with him, then asking Peter Grant if the Yardbirds tour bus could give Ray and his friend a ride home (note: Peter Grant, in the 70's as Led Zeppelin's manager, was known to bloody people who pissed him off). I wanted to hear the rest of the story, but I had to rudely interrupt Ray, because I saw the rest of the Aloha Steamtrain on stage, ready to go.

They turned on the smoke machine, and Ning, Joe, Ken and I took our positions. The crowd had doubled again. It was packed!! We began with the famous riff of "American Woman". Russ rode on stage on his motorcycle, and we began the first song, "No Time". We also did "Undone" and lastly "These Eyes". It all went by very quickly. "These Eyes" was a lot of fun. I was getting all jazz fusion on the chorus. Russ rode off stage on his motorcycle and we were gone!!

There were two final highlights: Philip Price with Spanish for Hitchhiking as Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Philip looked and sounded SPOOKILY like Neil, circa mid-70's. It was un-friggin' real. They did "When You Dance", "Cinnamon Girl"and something else. It was the best thing all day. Gold Medal, boys. Well done!!

And of course, the Drunk Stuntmen as The Band. This was scaled down compared to their mammoth productions of the last few years, but no less effective. Scott Hall singing the "Crazy Chester followed me" verse on "The Weight" was PERFECT.

OK, who knows what will happen next year? I have a feeling I'll find my way into these productions as long as I'm living in the area. It's all so much fun.

AFTERMATH: 1)I realized after it was all over that I came home minus my relatively new, nice black Levi's jeans. I think when I was changing out of them and into the striped jeans, I left the black ones on top of my car, and either someone swiped 'em or I drove off with them on top and they landed somewhere between Look Park and my place. Calls to Look and to the Arts Council were fruitless.

2) Channel 22 news filmed the Steamtrain playing and played it on the local news!! Anyone besides Rick from Group DeVille see it?

3) The Springfield Union News used a large photo of the Figments playing at Transperformance in their piece the next day.

Super cool pictures by Jim Weeks:

August 11, 2002 The Taste of Northampton

BRIAN: Our third to last gig. This was our 5th Taste of Noho, and probably my favorite one, if not second favorite one.

Perhaps the gig diary can fade out like it faded in, with short, concise entries.

Well, many of us had visible sweat stains after this show. We played at 3:20, for over an hour. There were lots and lots of people there, many of whom were friendly. The sound was excellent. The stage manager was coked out, or so it seemed. And after not playing a gig or practicing for several weeks, we did this gig, and it was tons of fun.

Lord Russ proved why none of us will ever probably work with a more effective front man like him again. Ning got the crowd going "Yee!". I beamed with pride. Ken showed up straight from work, and went straight back to work.

All the girlfriends were there, and so were Ning's parents and brother and nephew. Wonderful clan, the Ohlenbusch's. Afterwards, I got ziti and meatballs from Mulino's and California Roll from Teapot. I spent a total of $5. Both were extremely large helpings. An hour or two later I fell asleep from being full.

A few hours after that,Andrea and I were at Philip Price's (Maggies) birthday party in Easthampton. It was a small but lively gathering. There was dancing, there was whiskey, there wer a lot of talented people, and the last thing that happened was a play about Philip's life. Henning assigned everyone roles. I wore a straw hat and was Arlo Guthrie. I did a 5 minute improvised story about Philip. It was long, drawn out and insipid like Alice's Restaurant. I don't remember much of what I said, for I'd had whiskey. Henning had to heckle me to make me stop.


HENNING: Hot hot hot. It was at least a month since we played wasn’t it? It’s amazing how easy it is to slip right back into things.

This was a really good show. Despite the oppressive heat and sun the audience stood in a parking lot for over an hour watching us. The ladies came up from Connecticut, a good chunk of my family was there, including my little nephew Zane who fell asleep while we played.

I didn’t have a single Taste of anything this year at the Taste. I didn’t miss it. Highlights of the show for me: Russ and I standing back while the rest of the band wowed the crowd. The guy standing way up on the balcony on top of an apartment building watching from far far away. Singing “Fernando” a capella for a few seconds


July 6, 2002 Lisa's Birthday Party, Goshen, MA

BRIAN: I remember Lisa, I remember Hans. I remember the guy who showed us around when we first got there. It's just, at the moment, I can't remember his name. I remember Hans telling us at the start that pretty much every guest was in the publishing business in some way, and that later, he'd tell us who they were. That never really happened, but it was great to know that we were playing music for the good guys. It's probably good it wasn't pointed out to me who was who, because I probably had a book proposal for some of them. "Hey, get a load of the drummer who thinks he's JK Rowling meets Lester Bangs!".

Lemme back track. I was having a great summer afternoon, looking at antiques with Andrea, then BOOM I bring my hummus sandwich home and they've put it on a damn raisin bagel. I get over it, then BOOM, I find the transportation plans have been mixed up. Christ, the only thing that will pacify me now would be a house in the woods with a Roman Bath-looking swimming pool in the back yard, lots of figures from the publishing world, 2 sets of Aloha Steamtrain music, folks cheering emphatically after each song, a stage area made of many colored lights, a dinner buffet of salad, ham, carrots and macaroni, and lastly access to lots of Red Stripe beer. And all my wishes came true.

Yeah, there was mosquitoes. BUT THERE WAS OFF! Yes, the temperature dropped suddenly about 10 degrees and it began raining out of nowhere and our equipment got wet, etc, BUT IT STOPPED! I heard about 5 comparisons to Woodstock, one of which was mine.

It was the whole gang. Joe,Ken, Bruce, etc. Russ took a dip in the pool. It was picturesque and beautiful and the people were as nice, if not nicer, as can be. There were months the size of your couch. They scare me. They are out of control. They did not get the grace of god that most other animals got. Whatsamatter with you, MOTH! Why can't you be graceful like your other flying cousins! "That's what makes me beautiful!", replies the moth, narrowly missing a heatlamp, bouncing off a human's neck and landing in a pool to its death.

HENNING: 2. Walking to town through Pulaski Park (something I do at least once a day) with Lesa Bezo Friday evening, I came across a boy and mother who had trapped their basketball in one of the tiny twisty trees. All I had to do to help them was jump up about one foot off the ground and reach the ball. But, when I did, I ended up somehow landing wrong and messing up my left foot. I limped the rest of the way to the Tea Pot and after ordering made my way to the restroom to take a look at my injury. There were no visible markings but strangely, when I left the restroom there was another limping man there waiting. We passed each other in the hall like we were heading down a hospital wing. The pain got worse, we rented Gosford Park and went home and my toes were all swollen up. Sheesh, it’s always something with this guy.

So, Ken was nice enough to drive to our gig and to carry the heavy instruments across the back yard and out to the pool.

What a lovely home. I love playing this kind of thing. This was our first ever show where people were swimming while we played. I wonder what it sounded like underwater.

There was a lot of video taping going on. We were being filmed from all sides. At one point during “You Showed Me” I went out in front of the band and watched Joe and Ken playing through the screen of one of the video cameras. That was pretty cool.

Also, there was a giant blue moth.

June 29, 2002 - A Celebration of Holyoke.

BRIAN: The parking lot behind Nick O'Neil's. In Holyoke. Massachusetts. I'm feeling Massachusetts. Remember that Juliana Hatfield song? Can we celebrate Hatfield? I work in Hatfield. Our friend Dennis just moved to Hatfield. But now, this was not Hatfield, Haverhill, Hinsdale or Hanover. It was, and will always be Holyoke! The Paper City!!

Lovely old architecture in Holyoke. Just a bit of a tarnished image. That's why they're celebrating it. The 4 hours we spent there were the longest I've ever spent in said town. Except, I think I had a co-birthday party there in Holyoke when I turned 26 or something, along with a friend who had the same birthday. But hey man... The night before this show, Lord Russ had done a solo show in Easthampton, at a hip place called Capo's. He said it was a lot of fun.

Tonight's show was part of a Summer Concert Series. We were this week's feature. Our pals the Drunk Stuntmen were last week's performers. This was a 2-5 show (2 sets, 5 guys). Paul Bissex was there. We played from 7-10 PM.

I drove Ken, Ning drove with Lesa, and Joe drove Russ and Alexis. Alexis (Joe's lady friend) has been taking tons of photos at our shows lately. Lest she be sans due credit!! (is that what's written on the back of american dollars?)

We also attracted folks like Pattie, Jason Simon, Ken's parents, and a few more very familiar folks from where I can't remember. That attractive blonde couple? Hanging out with Paul Bissex? Who are they? How do I know them? Paper City Brewing was a co-sponsor of this event. They gave us free beers. But I had to pay for my water. How's that?

During soundcheck, we saw a nuisance of a man (in his 40's, overly animated) get ejected from the premises. He refused to leave. The bouncer hailed a passing police car, which was followed by 3 more police cars. Each of the officers greeted the nuisance like he was their little brother. He taunted and touched each of the police men, and they just smilingly told him to get out of the area. And he did. I wonder what his story is?

Ning got a hot dog which he eyed questioningly but duly ate. We played a long, long time. Folks danced. There was a metal/hippie in a tie dye who took a shine to Henning and Lesa and recited a poem about seeds and stems. Big heart, that man. I wore a Who t-shirt in memory of John Entwistle, who died a couple days ago. Though I've always been a Townshend and Moon man, I'm obviously still very sad. On his web diary, Townshend says they're still going to do their summer tour, mostly out of commitment and love of playing music, though he's not convinced John would have wanted it that way. Big Al from the Equator bar, we send our condolences.

My tribute was singing a verse of Boris the Spider during the dream sequence of "Misty Paradise". I just remembered a line from a song I wrote: "I haven't puked since I saw the Who". It's funny, because it can be taken a few ways. It's true, however. But a boring story. It was 1989 and I had a stomach virus ,which I then blamed on eating a Rice Dream ice cream bar. I blamed my sister for making me eat something healthy. Then I almost had to miss the concert. I wish it had to do with whiskey or something. But I was still many years away from drinking.

Speaking of dying prematurely, Russ decided to tell the crowd on this evening that many of them were overweight and had drinking problems. Oh really? A keen study of demographics? Perhaps only implied was the fact that many of them also have addictions to cigarettes and drugs? Gambling and sex? Either folks didn't hear him, or they are are numb to being told what their problems are.

Well, so what else happened? Songs, songs. There was Astroturf to dance on. Diana Riddle took full advantage. As did the old lady with the little dog. I mostly kept my eye on the street, the passing cars, the pedestrians, the kids on bikes. Lots of cars with that purple neon light underneath. One little girl (like 8 or so) was with her grandpa, who didn't seem to wanna stay, but she was insistent on playing air-drums for 3 full songs. It was cool. A lot of cars slowed to a crawl then resumed. I saw a cop stop and watch Russ doing "Without You" for a while. His face remained expressionless and he moved on. Holyoke cops need to be tough.

Now, there are a very few Aloha Steamtrain shows remaining. Playing these shows over these years have been among the most blissful things I've experienced ever. We will try and finish this final album, with the mixing help of Frank. I wanna hear it, Russ, Ning, Joe, Ken and Don wanna hear it, and I think there are probably umpteen of you out there that want to too. Have a great summer and we'll see you at the Taste of Noho.

HENNING: 3. The first person I spoke to upon arriving at Nick O’Neil's was a hippie-ish guy named Michael who took one look at my Jack O’Lantern shirt and warned me that folks might try and smash me on the sidewalk. I told him, though that had happened often, it wasn’t nearly as awkward as when they tried to put a candle in me and set me out on their front porch. The point is, this whole evening was spotted with these small conversations with Michael.

“Saturday In The Parking Lot it’s almost the Fourth of July”. Strange scene there, with folks in their lawn chairs sitting in the hot sun on the pavement. Just sitting there, occasionally rising to get a hotdog (um….I had one of those….um….) and a drink. Just sitting there for three hours watching the Aloha Steamtrain. What’s up with that?

Entertainment for most people also took the form of the few dancers. Diana and the local crazies. Love that band. A woman danced with her dog to Animal Farm. A couple of nutso guys tried to entice Lesa and Alexis to dance with them. Joe and I were both ready to throw down our guitars and run to their rescue. And during the last song (80 Degrees) a pretty good group of people finally put the Astroturf dance floor to use.

After the show, and after getting some dinner with Ken, I went by Harry’s to check out the Drunk Stuntmen show. I wasn’t really in the mood for it but as soon as I walked in the door that all changed. CLASSIC ROCK screamed at me from the stage. These guys are really remarkable and Alex Johnson was amazing. More amazing then ever. The energy that they played with is just really hard to explain. I have great respect for that band.

June 22, 2002 - Amherst Brewing Company

BRIAN: One day after the Summer Solstice, the Aloha Steamtrain, as a band, bid farewell to one of their favorite places to play, a place that had us back again and again over the course of the last three years; The Amherst Brewing Company.

As opposed to writing this entry a day or three after the fact, I'm actually beginning it (not completing it, however) the same night of the show. Why? Because my damn ears are ringing after the racket we made during the last song! But, you know what? This entry will suffer if tired, buzzed Brian writes anymore. I probably more than burned off the dinner I had tonight (at Siam Square on Pleasant St, Noho. Try it!!) at tonight's show. OK, good night, resume tomorrow.

OK, it's the day after, and it's hot and muggy. Just finished Siam Square leftovers. So, it's a bit funny. A couple of weeks ago, Andrea and I went to the ABC to have a couple margaritas and watch the Drunk Stuntmen. Apparently, something happened and they ended up being banned. I s'pose we could have done something bad too, seeing as this was our last time. But, we're just good, good folk. So we didn't break the rule of drinking pre-show.

But our waitress more than made up for it, by bringing us beer like every 5 songs. Five piece tonight. Joe had a busy day, having played with Reid Foehl at the Taste of Amherst. HEY! Steven Desaulniers is in that band too, so he was at half our show. Then he left to go see SPOUSE at Harry's. Who else was there as a special guest? Amanda. Alexis. Timmy Timmy T. Timmy Timmy TT Timmy TT Timmy Timmy TTT. And so on.

We divided the show up like at the Mole's Eye: Steamtrain, a little School for the Dead interlude, then a last long, crazy AST set. We came out hot to trot, because, well hell, partner, there was a huge-ass crowd there from the get go! And they danced to everything. You'll dance to anything by the Aloha Steamtrain. You'll dance to anything by School for the Dead. You'll dance to any beat that Brian seems to play.

We screwed around a lot, musically and I think Russ got miffed because during I Want You (She's So Heavy) Ning played his bassline double time, and I couldn't resist. I went double time, it threw off Russ and what resulted was 3 measures of chaos, but we recovered. If we were more punk (like the mid 60's Kinks), I would have got a guitar across my skull. But Henning would have been the one who deserved it, so he would have gotten a cymbal stand on one of his sun burned areas. Why, oh why can't we be more violent and angry?

I went for my first massage, and I was encouraged to let out anger. But I'd have to say anger doesn't figure in my life nearly as much as confusion. I'm too confused to be angry, and that really makes me.... more confused.

Lots of great moments (I love "You Showed Me", Band of Gypsies style--go Joe!!) lots of fun, and the loudest and best All My Juices (encore) in a while.

PS--send positive thoughts so that we may open for LOVE if they come to town.

Hey! Three boss things I just remembered about the ABC show, so maybe Ning will be bitchin' enough to put these foxy things down!!

1) a gentleman requested that we do "Winter Wonderland"! He said he loved my performance of it 2 years ago at the Calvin Theater. That was a big night. I didn't have my saxophone, so that was one of the several reasons we couldn't do it.

2) Joe interchanged the riff for "Curious Attraction" with XTC's "Stupidly Happy" throughout the song.

3) we all drank a special ABC concoction called "Graduation Ale" all night.

HENNING: 4. Through the sting and the tightness of a stupid sunburn I managed to enjoy one of the all-time best Aloha Steamtrain shows. That morning I had woken up at the Pilgrim Springs Hotel. Just outside of Provincetown, it’s a nice no-frills, clean, hotel with excellent prices, I recommend it. Breakfast in Provincetown with Ed, Kelley, Alexis, and Lesa led to a short walk on the breakwater. Gradually, the short walk turned into a 3 hour long trudge in the sun and sand.

It was a beautiful hike. I found two sand dollars. Yee!!

On the drive home, the sunburns started kicking in. We stopped at a WallMart and picked up some Aloe Vera stuff. Sweet. We drove three hours in the car feeling salty and singed and got home just in time to change and head over to the ABC. Haggard and exhausted I gingerly pulled some socks over my tender feet and ankles and packed up my stuff.

“How am I going to play a show?!?” I asked the passing countryside on my drive to Amherst, but like all shows, the pain went away as soon as the microphones went up. This was such a great night. The people there were really really there. Dancing and beaming and laughing and singing. We played enthusiastically and with inspiration. “You Showed Me” was a real stand out, like Brian said. The crowd agreed.

Doing the School for the Dead set was wonderful, too. Bruce requested Screen Door which was flattering. It’s a whole different animal singing lead and standing up front than playing bass and standing back watching the band. Time goes by a lot faster, and the lack of eye contact with Brian is still frightening. But it is super cool.

June 8, 2002 - Mole's Eye Cafe, Brattleboro, Vermont

BRIAN: Our favorite home away from home. You cannot help but feel welcome at the Mole's Eye. Weird night. Fun night.

We took two cars; Ning's (Ning and Lesa and gear) and mine (Ken, Russ, Andrea, me and gear). Lovely late spring night, with Route 91 north spreading out vast, hilly and green. Listened to David Bowie's "Low". Speaking of which, I'm thinking about getting his new one when it comes out. Or at least hearing more of it. Speaking of which, is "We Are All Made of Stars" by Moby the best early summer single in years or what? (I was going to say since "Raspberry Beret" but Ning hates when I exaggerate.)

So, we gets there, and, well, Bruce Tull couldn't make it. His ankle's almost all better, but he was attending the wedding of Ware River Club's Bob Hennessey. So we got the boys of Soundstream, who did a fine job, after nearly evacuating the place during set up by blasting it out with feedback. And more feedback. That bullet-through-your-eardrum, he-never-saw-what-hit-him, can't-I-enjoy-my-food-here type of feedback.

Speaking of erring, I realized I didn't have my snare stand. I'm still not sure where it could be. Luckily, oh so luckily, Lesa's co-worker has a 15 year old nephew who's the drummer in Brattleboro's finest, The Thumbless Scums (did I get that right?). He was kind enough to lend his stand. And hey, li'l fella, if you keep on practicing, maybe, just maybe in 15 years YOU will be playing at the Mole's Eye!!

I became rather hyper after eating the dessert of the night; Espresso Cake a la mode. I had a microphone, so I could say all the stupid things that came into my head. THIS was an odd show. Like when the Jeffersons would take up a good chunk of All in the Family. See if you can understand my point; This was the Aloha Steamtrain's penultimate gig at the Mole's Eye. It's no secret now that we will no longer be a band come late summer/early fall. Lord Russ is moving away, doodilly doodilly dipplyee day. Henning's School for the Dead will be playing a lot more. Some of the same people, it is (Ning, Ken, me) and some other folks (Tony and Max). But whatever combo it is, it's playing Ning's songs, and it's School for the Dead.

On this night, Lord Russ felt it was a good idea to introduce our Brattleboro fans to Henning's brand of songwriting. It ain't no Steamtrain, that's for sure, but still, folks were dancing up a storm. We did 7 songs, I think, to break up the Steamtrain sets. Lord Russ guest starred on camera, backing vocals and tambourine. Have you seen Stop Making Sense? The Tom Tom Club do a set between Talking Heads sets. Presumably so David Byrne could change costumes and blow a few lines. There was none of that going on. Jonathan Demme wasn't there either. But there was a good, happy crowd. And we played energetically, loosely and, well, say what you will, I had fun.

It had been the Heifer Cow parade earlier that day (led by a drag queen, if my facts are correct. Heifers are black and white cows that have produced no offspring) and some folks were having a black and white theme party. Ah, Vermont.

Ulla promised that she'd get all her friends to come to our last Mole's Eye show. That will be a special, special event.

HENNING: 5. “Lovely Rita Meter Maid.” I had no real reason for writing that. I was sitting here thinking about what to write about the Mole’s Eye show and that song popped into my head. I don’t know why.

Speaking of not knowing, I just walked passed this office in my building and noticed it was dark inside although there were people in there working. Why is that? Because, it’s a hot day out. They seem to think that keeping the lights off makes it cooler. I could waste my breath telling them another million times that fluorescent lights do not give off heat, but it wouldn’t matter. There are certain things that certain people can not understand. That is one of them. Even if I took one of them and forced their face up against the bulb to show them that it is not hot, it wouldn’t matter. There is no possible way to communicate that to them. It’s a simple, almost obvious concept that they will never ever understand. It puts me on edge.

Speaking of being on edge, that’s exactly where I was at the beginning of this Mole’s Eye show. Trying to set up the lights with crazy horrible feedback screeching at me was enough to send me screaming into the night. Almost.

What a nice show, though. Of course, that’s not a surprise at the Mole’s Eye. It’s always a nice show. Our School for the Dead set was great. People were singing along to songs they had never heard. And they were dancing like mad. Beautiful.

May 26 - The Kain Residence; Eastham, MA (Cape Cod, upper forearm),
The Reception of the Wedding of Chris Johnson and Erin Kain.

BRIAN: Chris Johnson is a friend I've had since my second year at UMass. My first vision of him was at the coffee machine in Butterfield. First I noticed the Velvet Underground t-shirt. Then I noticed the similar hair. To this day, folks confuse us. Strange situations, some unrepeatable, have resulted from people confusing us.

But Chris, originally from San Diego, currently in San Francisco, soon to be in DC, has been a great person to know. Always a very stimulating presence. The old days recall late nights in his room with The Replacements, Elvis Costello, The Minutemen, Rolling Stones and Husker Du playing on the stereo. The recent past has been sporadic visits, me to CA or (mostly) him to MA, and catching up on stuff. He's doing very well being involved in labor union research projects. His new wife, Erin, is very sweet, lovely and great for him. I wish them all the good things for a long time.

We were honored to be asked to play at their reception. Rain was forecasted, but it never happened. We arrived shortly before everyone left to go to the ceremony. The Kains were very helpful in making the setting up of stuff easy as possible.

Bruce Tull is still recovering from his broken ankle, so he was cool enough to let his protegee, Kevin O'Rourke (singer songwriter, LoFine) do the job. Kevin and I took one car. We listened to the Byrds, Monkees, Stones, Elvis Costello, and more, I'm sure. Ning and Russ took another car. Joe and Ken another. The ride was smooth. Set up was smooth.

Then came a wait while people arrived. They arrived, and we mingled a bit, feeling like Distant Cousins (tm). Ken Murphy (great to see him after a long time)! Matt Waugh! How did a guy from San Diego end up with so many friends from Andover, MA?

Dinner was great. Half the sea kingdom was consumed. Everyone had to sing for their supper. Many toasts. The ones about Chris were dead on. And when Chris stood up and spoke, hearing him incorporate the phrase "standardized ritual" into a wedding toast was classic. Very Chris.

It was time to play at about 7:15. We did 60/40 in favor of covers to originals. Between the sets, we were the live soundtrack to fire performers. They twirled, they ate, they breathed, they mocked fire. And (this was only planned 2 hours beforehand) we improvised, musically interpreting what they were doing. Ning did repetitive drone-y stuff on bass, Ken did Phillip Glass keyboard stuff, and I pounded the toms and cymbals, setting the tempos and rhythms, depending on what I thought the movement of the fire was telling me. Those kooky San Franciscans. It was awesome.

They were really nice people, too. Everyone was nice. Erin's folks, Chris' folks, etc etc. They had arranged for us to stay at a guest cottage, but fate and logistics dictated that we go back that night. Less traffic being the most inviting factor. Kevin and I had a long, mellow drive through the night, ending up back in Noho at 3am.

HENNING: 7. Well yes, driving. Russ and I rode together there and back mostly listening to the radio (there's a great oldies station near the cape that plays oldies that most oldies stations don't play. And WROR was the bestest.) and to one side of a tape of some of my very old 4-track songs - some of which featured Russ as well.

We drove. My old days of driving to the cape every weekend came back to me and I knew all the right roads. Zen.

The wedding reception was nice, the toasts were amazing. It was a group of people that I felt I really would enjoy spending time with. We sat scrunched in a crowded corner of a tent eating pasta salads and fish, surrounded by the beauty of Cape Cod's ecology. My chair kept sinking into the sandy soil. We were beneath enormous high tention power lines but I didn't even notice for hours, until Matt Waugh pointed them out.

We played and played and played a long set. Maybe 2 and a half hours? I'm not sure.

Kevin did a good job on the sound.

When Russ and I got back in the car "And Your Bird Can Sing" was on the radio. I picked up a couple of toothpicks, jammed them between my eyelids and we drove back to the mainland000000.

May 4 - Harry's Nightspot, Northampton, MA

BRIAN: The first great spring weekend of the year. The first one that felt like we earned it, the first one where the temperature and color of the leaves and flowers all matched. Here's an answer to a trivia question: TW Walsh and Reed Foehl.

I'd spent the day a bit hung over for the first part. The night before, The Figments had played in Amherst at the Alehouse, and I let the owner talk me into a shot of Jager Meister at the end of the night. It kind of put me over the top. I had not had that stuff since UMass. I never liked it so much.

But after a slow start, Andrea and I packed some unwanted stuff into the car and went on down to Henning's Tag Sale! Yeeee!!! The hour or so we spent there was very nice. Full of sunshine, dogs, friends and babies. We witnessed the meeting of Connolly+Maryellen's boy and Tony+Shelley's girl. And most of my stuff was sold. I made $6+change.

Later, A+I went to her friend Louise's art opening above Thorne's, and later joined all her old Smith pals at the Brewery. I had the Billy Club and a Golden Lager. Then it was home for a nap. When Andrea woke me up, the last thing I wanted to do was play a show. Could she call my understudy? I was just cozy and content and wanted to leave a perfect day alone. Not tarnish it with rock and smoke.

Alas, within 10 minutes I was in rock star clothes, and looking for a parking space outside Harry's. Not an easy thing to do. One's fragile spirit can be completely broken on the walk from the Eastside Grill parking lot to Harry's. 1) the light was on inside the former Baystate, and I could see what was once my second home ripped apart, with a few chairs and parts of the bar recognizable. 2) the obnoxious folks outside Pearl Street and the leering cop-like demeanor of the door guys. 3) "Pour Some Sugar On Me" being blasted from City Cafe, with a few people inside dancing to it, poorly, and a few more patrons yelling at girlfriends outside. Good Grief! What is this world? I feel as antiquated as a Vaudeville performer. Then I went inside Harry's and saw the Howard Fishman Quartet, and everything was alright again. They charmed, they soothed. They reminded me that things are always going to get better.

I also ran into someone bringing in an amplifier who introduced himself as Howard. My girlfriend's father's name is Howard. I really enjoy Howard Stern in low doses. Howard Cunningham owned a hardware store and did a fine job raising his kids every Tuesday night. But this was Howard of the band Red Lady 21, our old friends from Richmond, VA. It'd been a while, so reintroduction was necessary.

The trivia question is, who were Ken and Joe playing with on this evening, making us a 3 -piece? Our first 3-piece Noho gig in a while?

Red Lady 21, particularly Howard, was making friends and selling the band to the Noho crowd. They played very well. I feel they've evolved into the pop-rock category, with interesting, textural, almost prog-rock jams sprinkled in.

Wisher, the other out of town band, cancelled. I don't know why. Karma?

So's then we take the particular stage. Again I had a mic, but I wasn't comfortable until about half way through. Ning said "don't aim it at the monitor". I looked at him like he'd just said "don't eat steering wheels". What am I, completely challenged? At the end of the show, it was pointed out to me that halfway through the set, my monitor was turned down by Tom, the soundman. Why? Oh, I'd adjusted the mic so that it was aiming right at the monitor. I hear Japanese cars are better for your cholesterol, but Mercedes go great with sauerkraut and Heineken.

Our show was fun and more fun. It was full of weird extended dance versions. And GOOD OL' JOSH, BLESS HIS CRRRAAZZZY ASS was leading the dancing. Sometimes shirtless. He apologized to me for not getting everyone to dance for every song. He only got half the people to dance to a quarter of the songs. That's still a lot of dancing. I was not disappointed. But the evening sure did end on a disappointing note for Josh, a huge Pavement fan and one of our top 5 fans. We're sorry.

Bruce Tull can work those crutches fast! Wooh! I wonder if Ning took a photo of the infirmary, Kevin and Bruce? The war vets? Anyway. Don said he forgot how fun it was to watch me play. That was nice. I try to entertain from a distance. But get up close, and I am one of the most dull people around. Stay away.

HENNING: 8. Well yes, Josh. Good stuff. Nice gig diary entry, Brian. Now why don't you tell the folks about your awesome new song. You know the one. Yep, the one with the guys in it. And all that stuff.

This was my second night in a row at Harry's. I had done the sound the night before for Drunk Stuntmen. They are back from their huge tour. They put on a wonderful show. Good on ya.

Schmim schmim. I got nothin'.

There we were the original three piece band. As we were only a few blocks away at the now legendary Baystate Hotel in 1997. Playing songs and what have you, you know the drill.

There we were again, Ken and Joe absent and missed. Their parts still playing in my head even though nobody could hear them.

Here's a picture or two:

April 26 - The Mole's Eye, Brattleboro

BRIAN: The countdown begins.

Ooohh! Have we ever played the Mole's Eye as a trio? Has it ever been this cold on April 26? Have Ning and Russ ever hallucinated on stage while completely sober? Have I ever had a microphone so I could join in the between song banter? Have I ever posed with a large group of elderly people who weren't related to me? Have we ever seen so many police lights half a mile ahead on route 91, making it look like a UFO may have landed? Have I ever had such a delicious and welcome Irish Coffee before a show? Has Bruce ever missed a Mole's Eye show? Has Bruce ever broke his ankle on the stairs at Harry's? Has Soundstream ever failed us when we needed them? Is there a better band to listen to on a wet April day than The Smiths? Is it really so strange? What difference does it make? How soon is now? Ask me. The answer is no, a bunch of times. And then the answer is none. Then I'll let Ning answer the last one.


Yes, yes, yes, yes, maybe, no, no, yes, yes, yes, no, no, plenty, very soon.

April 20 - The Sports Page, Hartford, CT

BRIAN:The FDA, for the longest time, has refused to have anything to do with "alternative" medicine. However, they just recently disclosed the findings of an extensive study. Who knows who funded it, in whose interest these studies are, what's more powerful, the mind or a pill, etc.

But they found that 1) acupuncture doesn't really work. Apparently some folks just had needles stuck in random places and said they felt better. I've never had it, but some of my closest friends have, and say it works. 2) herbs like St. Johns Wort and Kava and Valerian don't really work. Placebos had the same effect. Now, I swore by St. John's Wort for about 2 or 3 winters. I often get winter depression. This year I took none at all and had the best winter in a long long time. So, it's all situational. I'll go with that. And all I know about Valerian is that it makes the back of my throat itch. Possibly, drug companies funded this and are saying, "hello! Valium and Prozac will NEVER FAIL!!"

In other news, HEY!! DID YOU FEEL THE EARTHQUAKE?? This morning, there is a little brother and sister blowing bubbles across the yard, and some of the bubbles are reaching my window. Yesterday morning, at about 6:45 I woke up thinking the neighbors were having another deck put in or something. I looked at the clock, "Christ almighty! Why? Why so early?" Hey wait! There's something weird about this. We're going back and forth. Rocking. I sat up in bed and Andrea thought I was just spazzing out from a bad dream or something. But no! "That felt like an earthquake!" "ZZzzzzzzzzz" "Yeah, maybe it waZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

The Sports Page. Ol' 84 East never looked better. On the way we listened (again) to the new XTC box set "A Coat of Many Cupboards". I wanted Ning to hear an amazing drumming thing on a live track ("Crowded Room". Terry Chambers does the most amazing thing).

Arriving at the"Page", we reckoned we'd been there before. Had we? But, why wouldn't we remember? I don't remember.... YES!!! SEPTEMBER 18, 1999!!!!!! Look at the Gig Diary, 1999! There it is!! You can read why we didn't remember. Besides, I can say now, I was in the midst of the most turbulent year of my short life. There's probably a lot I don't remember.

So, now we're back. We were a trio then, and we were a trio tonight. And we enjoyed watching the best CT band we've ever played with: The Screwdrivers. Great songs, harmonies, etc. Check them out, CT fans. You'll soon need a new band to dig. Let it be them. They're very nice.

I was wearing an English Beat T shirt I'd got from my bro-in-law John. It's from the early 80's, and in fact I've seen photos of both Sting and Andy Partridge wearing the same shirt. Ning forgot his camera, so I can't prove I was wearing it.

I had a couple Heinekens, and wondered what it'd be like to play the 7 piece drum set, with lot of cymbals. Turns out it was a ball. I totally Stuart Copeland-ed several songs. Splash cymbal off beat accents, the whole bit. Ning broke a bass string. That's as rare as an earthquake in New England, or 5 planets lining up in the sky. We had a good time. 45 minute set. Some of the Sully's crowd was there and that was great. Gina the hairdresser and Haji the sound guy. It was like The Equator and Sully's meeting in the middle. The ride home was fun. Lots of singing. And yelling. And laughing. All in all, the night had a resounding HAPPY ENDING. Tee hee.

cIt’s a little bit of a downer to have a show at a place called, “The Sports Page”. The name makes it pretty clear what kind of bar it is. It’s probably a sports bar. When your in a band and you are trying to seem professional and someone asks you where you are playing you don’t want the word “sports” be part of the name, and you usually try to avoid “page” as well. But, the Sports Page in this case was ok, I guess. They had a little stage there and after I turned down the TV that was showing “COPS” the place was starting to resemble a performance area.

Luckily, the band Switchdance was kind enough to bring their PA and run it for the evening. Last time we played at this place (and I can’t believe there actually was a last time) we had one mic stand and no monitors. So, thank you, Switchdance, even though you probably hate us because we took off to get back to Northampton to catch the end of our band mate Ken’s performance with his other band The Maggies leaving you with three less audience members. Also, thank you Al and Bill for having us and treating us very nicely.

I’ve been playing the bass now live for about 5 years and this was the second time I ever broke a string. This was also the second time I ever put a string on a bass. I did ok. Now, I have to remember to bring a new set of spare strings in case it happens again. I blame the earth quake.

So, yes, I enjoyed the Screwdrivers. They had these wonderful poppy songs that I really dug. It’s rare I tell you, for me to really enjoy a band. Occasionally they played some darker, louder, less poppy stuff that lost me, but when they played their hits it was great.

I apologize to everyone for forgetting to bring the camera. It upsets me deeply. Deeply I tells ya.

April 12-13: NEMO Music Industry Conference, Boston, MA. Swissotel in the Financial District; Copperfield's, near Fenway Park.

BRIAN: April 12, 10pm--Gig at Copperfields. Well..let me put my bags down and I'll tell you it all right from the start..... NEMO: Boston's version of CMJ, South By Southwest, etc. In essence, a ton of bands playing at many clubs; and informational panels held during the day, hosted by industry folks.

We were glad to have been selected, and I very much looked forward to the experience. I'm glad we went for what I learned, saw and heard. Ning, Manager Don and I were a team for 2 days. Russ, Joe and Ken came for our showcase on Friday Night, then split before I could say goodbye.

Friday morning we had planned to start bright and early. 7:30 am. Yes, that early. It was Don's idea. Ning convinced me I was throwing the whole operation out of whack when I called to tell him I was running 20 minutes late. I called Don, but no answer, and I assumed he was in the shower or out getting breakfast. Nope. He was still sleeping, we found out after I knocked on his door, then picked up Henning, wondering "has Don called you?". Back to Don's, Ning knocked loudly and persistently. Woke him up, then Ning and I headed for Bruegger's to give Don some time.

A lovely time at Bruegger's. We saw Sean Glennon there, and I told him "In some ways, Bruegger's IS the Pioneer Valley to me." I had that revelation as I flashed back to my first solo venture to visit my sister in Northampton in 1990. My first Bruegger's experience. My first Veracruzana experience too, I believe. The world was becoming bigger. We met Don and took off.

It was a pleasant journey to Boston. A beautiful, warm day. We listened to "The Wichita Train Whistle Sings", Mike Nesmith's over the top project from 1967, but no one particularly dug it--or it was just the wrong time of day to be listening to screaming jazz horns giving way to country guitar licks giving way to samba done by a marching band. So Ning selected The Apples in Stereo.

Boston was looking good, and after an illegal U-turn on Washington street, we were parking in the vast garage of the Swissotel. It was all very exciting. Ning and I were like kids vacationing with Dad. Don had booked a room, which turned out to be on the 16th floor. We used that as headquarters. A lovely room, with a lovely view.

We went back downstairs to the registration desk and got our official badges, and silver bags full of 25 pounds of junk (magazines, brochures, CD samplers, ads). I think I kept about 2 pounds of it. We went back to the room to sort through the stuff and devise a plan. We'd go to some panels, have dinner, go to the gig, meet Joe, Ken and Russell there, then play the gig. Ning and I decided to stick together, and Don (who has a few NEMOs under his belt) was going to schmooze (already, random folks were saying "Hey, Don!") and float between panels.

Ning and I first went to "The State of the Music Industry". The folks on that panel included "The guy that signed Beck to Geffen"(Mark Kates,CEO of Fenway Records) and "The Guy who Wrote 'I Want Candy'", Richard Gottehrer, who actually has done many more important things, like started Sire Records.

Oh, boy.. They talked about how major market radio is becoming more and more narrow minded, how you need to sell more records to make any money, how some bands are labeled "downloaded bands" so they have much less of a chance to get signed (because their potential market are more into downloading than buying music). They also gave helpful advice on how and when to approach a music lawyer to shop your product, for example.

We regrouped, then went to "A&R: Who's Signing What?". More bad news. Ning and I didn't stay the duration of this one. We viewed four slightly frightened looking A&R folks for major labels. They spoke of the downsizing of the major labels, how buyout after buyout is happening and they don't know where they're gonna end up, and how (once again) free music on the internet is screwing them, so they desperately gotta find a way to make money from it! These folks have their hands tightly on their wallets and their thoughts on Mercedes' and yachts.

Lastly, we went to Eddie Kramer's Demo Derby. Eddie Kramer; Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Beatles, Kiss, Traffic......he's produced or engineered them. These giants of innovation, and now he's working for the man, saying "don't bore us, get to the chorus" and "this intro is too long". Well, he's just playing Devil's Advocate, because he knows that 99.6% folks aren't writing the next "Stairway to Heaven" or "Low Spark of Hi-heeled Boys" Actually, it was great to hear most of his opinions. I wish I could talk to him for like 3 hours, frankly. He was very cool.

Analysis: Everyone said things along the line of "times have changed". That's how these folks have survived in this business. They're second guessing the public, and the artists are second guessing them. You have to change to survive. That's only if you want to sell out and do as you're told.

Don went to an all indie panel, which sounded more optimistic and artist-friendly. Ning and I were hungry and bummed out, so we went and looked out the hotel room window, watched "Chicken Run" on the TV and finally went to D'Angelos for dinner, after briefly meeting back with Don. On the street, I ran into Sara Williams, an old friend from college. We posed for a picture.

We were both feeling quite cynical about the industry. How can something so beautiful and fun as music have such...I'm not going to finish that sentiment, because I KNOW the answer, I've always known, I've read a million quotes by a million artists and they all say the same. You just need to let the sleazy folks do their job, and try to keep your love of music and creative instincts intact. You don't have to choose to make a living from it.

We saw a lot of folks have their "moments of genius inspiration" shot down by industry folks: "Get a new drummer" "this would never sell" "radio would never play this" "I'm sure someone out there likes this" "this kind of music is over, and is not coming back". Survival of the fittest. Why doesn't the band "Survivor" go on the show "Survivor"?

So, then we met back up and drove towards Fenway Park for our show at Copperfields. It was great to see the other guys. I watched the rest of the Sox/Yankees game. They won and afterwards, the streets were like the running of the bulls. Some came into Copperfields.

Whack played aggressive music before us. It was getting hotter and hotter in the club. I didn't see any A+R people at the club. The pipes were dripping. I was sweating before note 1. We played 40 minutes. Much more and someone would have passed out.

But we played well, and made some fans from Minnesota. They write for a music magazine and marveled at how backwards and unenlightened the Boston scene is. They said we were the only decent band they'd seen. They were expecting a very hip scene, as seen at South By South West or something. They were nice, and invited us to Minnesota.

The other guys left right after, and Ning thought he lost his bass (he didn't). Don went back to the hotel, Ning and I drove to Martha (yes, that Martha) and Jared's (her husband) place in Brookline. 6 minutes from Fenway, and it's rabbits, birds, crickets. Beautiful houses. They have a sweet deal.

We stayed up 'till 3 drinking white wine from the wine cellar (belongs to the upstairs neighbors), listening to music, and telling stories. We fell asleep to "Cable Guy" on the VCR. The next day, I was up before the others. I heard some snoring. I heard some father/son playing catch outside, I saw lots of sunlight. I felt a slight headache. Soon, everyone was up. We drank coffee, played Disney Tetris, and sang a few of Journey's greatest hits. Love those friggin' songs!! Streetlights, people!!

After finding our intended destination too full, and with a 45 minute wait (it's a very popular Jewish diner that Darren has painted a mural for), we opted for Brueggers. Again. Don was calling, trying to get us back to NEMO, but we were still recovering from the day/night before. We needed more sun, good company and good vibes and optimism. And ice cream. We all enjoyed an ice cream from Lotsa Licks or something (what was it?). Then the call of responsibility got the best of us, and we were back in the Tracer, after a sad goodbye to Martha and Jared.

Our trip was delayed about 40 minutes by Boston Marathon-related detours. Finally we got back, and Ning, Don and I attended another "Demo Derby" which ended with a raffle. This demo derby was with a panel, so it was more democratic. I was sitting right next to Candice Avery, who runs NEMO, and I didn't know. I wish I did. The panel included folks who have worked with Aerosmith, John Lennon and Sunny Day Real Estate. In the end, at the raffle, Ning won a little book and Don won software.

Don was awesome enough to buy us dinner and drinks at the expensive hotel bar. We ran into fellow Northamptonites "Big Ugly Wrench". Then we took off into the dusk.

Upon approaching the Springfield Mass Pike, we heard the attendant (a balding man in his 50's) say to someone on the phone ".....no, no it's on the album 'Face Dances'". note: "Face Dances" is The Who's 1982 album. note: that man was put on this earth to rock. note: I was not.

HENNING: My Adventures at NEMO, a music conference. The Aloha Steamtrain payed our 30 bucks to be considered for a showcase at NEMO, the yearly music industry conference in Boston. This year we were actually selected, which is pretty good considering thousands of bands apply. What does a showcase show mean exactly? Well, in our case it means playing in a crowded sweaty Red Sox-fan-filled club with a sketchy sound system and a stage beneath a series of pipes dripping some kind of cool liquid on my forehead, let's just hope it was condensation water. It doesn't mean that you perform in front of a panel of record executives or that the crowd is filled with talent buyers. We knew that beforehand, but I thought I would just make it clear in case anyone had any higher hopes.

The truth of the matter is we had a really fun show despite the fact that the majority of the crowd was not in the least bit interested in hearing a band. There were a few music fans there who appreciated us and there were a couple of cute girls who worked for a Minneapolis Newspaper that seemed to really like us. But, for the most part it was just another show at an indifferent dive.

However, since we were chosen to play, that meant that the members of the band were given free access to the rest of the NEMO conference. That's why Manager Don, Drummer Brian, and myself, Bassist Henning, were speeding towards Boston early on a warm Friday morning. I was in the back seat trying to convince myself that I would be strong and confident and for just a few days be able to play the part of an alpha-male, easily starting up conversations with strangers and selling myself with pride. Yeah right.

The conference was taking place at the Swissotel in the financial district of Boston. After parking at the 25-dollar-a-day lot we rode the quiet elevator up to the quiet lobby of the fancy hotel. We were informed that the Nemo conference was taking place on the fourth floor by a quiet concierge. We quietly returned to the elevator which smoothly swept us up to floor number four, the doors silently parted and we beheld before us a circus cacophony of torn faded jeans and three piece business suits.

The elevator dumped us out and we were in the muck of it. Cigarette smoke filled the air, long-haired hopefuls pointed at worn out businessmen while dropping their 5x7 postcard show advertisements onto any available surface. Side tables, chairs, the grand piano, even the potted plants were covered in flyer after flyer. We lowered our heads and scrambled through the throngs to try to find the registration table.

Don stepped up and got passes (the laminated hang around your neck kind) while Brian and I cowered from the masses. Then we picked up our "goodie bags", nine pound plastic bags full of band advertisements and year-old industry magazines. A quick browse through the discussion panels listing and we found ourselves seated in a warm room facing a table of five industry professionals.

This meeting was called something along the lines of "Why The Music Industry is a Scam and You Will Never See a Dime Because We Are All a Bunch of Close-Minded Money Grubbing Souless Sad-Sacks, But It's Not Our Fault, It's The Man That's Bringing Us Down." Something like that.

Actually this first panel was pretty interesting. Industry guys were talking about how it all works, or more accurately, how it all doesn't work. My favorite part was after they explained that there is no way in hell for anyone to get their music played on the radio unless they have thousands of dollars to spend on each station, the program manager of WAAF who was moderating the panel, quickly mumbled, "College radio is important, too." He said it almost with a wink as if it were cute that people still thought college radio vital.

Why can't you get heard on for-profit radio? Read this article and find out: Salon Article

So, that panel was ok. We learned some background, the panelists seemed to know what they were talking about for the most part.

The next panel we went to was horrible. It was called something like: "A & R, Who's Signing Who?" but it should have been called, "A & R, We're Not Signing You." There were four panelists and no matter what anybody in the audience asked or no matter what topic they were supposed to be discussing, they reacted with this defensive deer-caught-in-the-headlights attitude and they always said the same thing: It takes one million dollars to release a record, if you don't sell the first time around, we can't help it… you will be dropped.

After hearing that said about 15 times in a row, we decided to sneak out. If I wanted to see terrified, guilty people making lame-ass excuses for their earnings I would have become a district court judge. On the way out I accidentally kicked the woman seated next to me in the knee and knocked her shoe off. She apologized to me - that shows you what kind of berating the audience was taking. It was horrible.

So, now we had been at NEMO for a few hours and I was ready to sell off all my equipment. The whole concept of music, the joy, the expression, it was all being sucked out of me so fast, I could swear a tie was starting to materialize around my neck. It was becoming clear that the only way to make a living in the music industry was to be hired to be on a panel at a conference. They really need to change the name from NEMO music conference to NEMO music BUSINESS conference because nobody was talking about music.

We hoped that would change at the next panel in which successful producers were to listen to demo cds and suggest how they could be improved. Well, this was a much more entertaining experience, though still nobody was talking about music. They were talking about tricks to fool people into liking music enough to spend money on it. "Don't bore us, get to the chorus," was the chant of the day. It wasn't at all about songwriting, or performances, it was about how to change the song to be more like what major record labels want to hear. Well, duh, like anyone needs to tell anyone that.

The more I think about it, the more appalling the whole thing was. I suppose it was instructional for those folks who are just trying to become rock stars with no concern of substance, it may have convinced a few bands to work on their rhythm sections. But, it did nothing for me but make me sad sad sad.

I became sadder still when I sat back and watched the crowds in the hallways and lounge areas. Hundreds of hopeful musicians in black, were bowing down to anyone in a suit and awkwardly trying to think of ways to stand out in the crowd, like wearing a kilt or a silly hat. My god. The piles of flyers for bands and gigs were getting higher and higher like rainbow colored landfills strewn about the room.

I didn't have much time to spend wincing however, as I had to try and cram a D'Angelo's sandwich down my throat and head on over to our "showcase". We were playing at a place called Copperfield's near Fenway Park. I mention its location because just around the same time we were to start playing, the Red Sox would be beating the Yankees and thousands upon thousands of sports enthusiasts would be flooding the streets and the bars. We could hear the cheering from the stadium, the halogen lights lit up the sky like a nuclear explosion. There was an exciting atmosphere of carnival proportions all around, the vendors selling "Yankess Suck" T-Shirts didn't even annoy me.

I already mentioned our show, sweaty and crowded. It was really fun, we always have fun. While on stage I immediately forgot all the nonsense that I sat through earlier on, suddenly I was in it for the music again. We played well. We laughed. People laughed. People danced. After the show I spent another good 45 minutes searching everywhere in the shoulder to shoulder audience for my lost bass, I found out the next morning that one of my band mates had taken it home for me already. Who knew?

While Don went back to his swank room at the Swissotel, Brian and I opted for the company of Jared and Martha who had offered to put us up for the night. Back at their amazing apartment over wine and english muffin pizzas, we spoke of music and what we experienced and things started to become clearer for me.

The next morning upon arising I took out Martha's guitar and started playing songs from her Best of Journey Music Book. Brian sang. Then we all sang, again music was making sense, even really goofy music like Journey's.

A late morning and a traffic conundrum meant Brian and I returned for the second day of panels a little late, late enough to only go to one. It was another demo listening room and though it was slightly better than the other one it was still a nightmare. They did the raffle drawing, we won a couple of fair prizes and it was suddenly all over.

We wound down in the fancy lounge where Don bought us snacks. We were tired and unwashed, we were beaten down by pessimism, but I somehow felt vibrant and ready. Ready to keep making music and playing shows and promoting them, I felt and still feel almost like we were challenged to prove all of the burnt out industry doomsayers wrong. Ready to prove that music is more than just money and that people out there can hear the difference between something honest and something that was manufactured to meet the tastes of the lowest common denominator.

So, the big successful Aerosmith producer has sold out and become cynical. It's pretty clear to see that all the crap he was spewing about marketability is what has destroyed Aerosmith in the first place. Let's face it, they suck now. Their music is written by hit-maker professionals and they sound like….well...they sound watered down and empty…they sound like the musical equivalent of a music conference panel. They sound like they have given up.

But, I refuse to give up. Even if I never make a cent at it, I'd much rather have some good albums to leave behind than a big pile of cash. So, while the four huge conglomerates that control 90% of all recorded music are spending their time trying to figure out what the people want, let's you and me sit around playing guitars, and getting really, really goofy. What do you say?

April 6 - Amherst Brewing Company

BRIAN: This is my first gig diary entry as AN UNCLE!!!! Congratulations Alyssa (my sister) and John (brother in law)! Josephine was born today, April 7, at 4:45pm. Or thereabouts. YAY!!!!! Now, me, Ning and Russ are all Uncles. Call us uncle. Bruce is an Uncle too. Are you?

ABC. Same driving arrangements as Helsinki. I'd bought a new bass drum pedal that day. We decided on 2 long sets instead of 3 sets of questionable length. Russ has new striped pants and sneakers.

A good crowd. I saw two women who work at the Amherst Library. The next day, in the supermarket, two other people recognized me from this show within 3 minutes.

It should not be this cold in April. It was like 20 degrees at 11pm. Many women dancing. A few men dancing. I recognized Samantha Oats, who I went to school with in North Andover. I think our moms are friends. We didn't get to speak, however. I hadn't seen Samantha since 1991, probably.

We got even more weird and experimental How about a 98% instrumental "Before I Come", wordless until the last 2 lines? How about playing "Making Plans for Nigel" during the Misty Paradise break?

After the show, a guy (who I saw in the store today) talked to Russ about Phil Manzeria and Brian Eno solo albums. I was eavesdropping. Tonight, George Carlin is at the Calvin, and town is a-hoppin!

Ning forgot his camera cartridge on this night, so no pictures. Instead, I have a few unrelated short things to discuss.

-entitlement disorder: the Washington Post wrote a thing about this. Many of us are all so used to getting what we want, when we want it, that a disorder has been coined for those who react strongly and violently when they don't get it. Like yelling at and threatening the poor teen at Brighams because they just ran out of Heavenly Hash. Christ. Get something else. There have been outbreaks of violence, particularly among male corporate types, at restaurants where they don't get what they want. It's sad.

-cell phones, hands-free, in public: I was in line at a supermarket, and assumed a woman was talking to me, then seeing that she wasn't looking at me, assumed she was a bit unstable, then, studying the situation, realized that while she was putting her groceries on the conveyer belt, the woman was talking on her hands-free cell phone. I hated seeing it. It really makes a person look like they're having an involved dialogue in public with their imaginary friend.

--Withnaill and I: see this movie. I saw it again and loved it more.

--Robert Wilson: see his great work at the Mass Moca.

--Ning's studio: Ning now has a functioning digital recording studio in his apartment. I recorded one of my own songs, and it sounds great. Yay,Ning!!!!

--Russ' solo Flywheel show: Two weeks ago, Russ dressed in drag, recorded some backing tracks, and sang along with them at a Surrealist Ball or some such thing at Easthampton's Flywheel. Apparently, it was great. An historic solo performance. He did torch songs. He shaved his legs too.

--NE performer: take a look at this month's Northeast Performer. I wrote the Western Mass column.

--Interview: A few weeks ago, I gave a live FM/internet radio interview to WCWP, Long Island. Ning heard it on the internet. I told no one about it because I am shy.

--Of Montreal; Ning and Ken went to see Of Montreal in Cambridge. How was it?

HENNING: Smokey. Who would have thought that a room full of dark plastic rimmed glasses wearing college djs could get so smokey? Not me.

But the show was good. Marshmallow Coast was good, too. We didn't stay to see Wheat. Who, though from what I have heard are not as good and don' t have as many fans, were put on as headliners because, as TT's told Of Montreal, "We know that you will sell out the door but honestly your crowd just doesn' t drink enough." Oh well, we are all whores to the alcohol industry, even the newest most honest and creative bands like Of Montreal. What's a band to do?

So, while The Steamtrain was in essence selling drinks at The Amherst brewing Company, we were also having the time of our lives. This was the most fun ABC show to date. The crowd danced all night long, it was like the Mole's Eye practically. Very nice.

And it was very cold out to, thank god the allure of the downtown booze is strong enough to suck in the tank top wearing droves of Umass students. Although, I must say, this crowd must have had a 40 year age range. Maybe more. We're breaking down the barriers, baby.

Not the barriers in front of Antonio's across the street. Break down those barriers and and it'd be like like knocking down the Hoover Dam, if behind the Hoover Dam was a huge lake full of drunk hormones in baseball hats. Damn.

Sorry, I forgot part of my camera everybody.

April 4 - Club Helsinki; Great Barrington, MA

c Great Barrington is a lovely town, in a very lovely setting. Have you driven through the Berkshires? If I was rich I'd have a farm in the Berkshires with llamas and monkeys.

Great Barrington, like Lenox and Stockbridge, has a nice downtown full of shops. It also has a native contingent that doesn't take kindly to the fancy city types who come and pump money into the local economy, so they shout rude things out of their loud pick ups. Nothing unusual, just an observation. I have grown to love GB. And who could not love Club Helsinki? The grooviest interior design. God, would I kill for a living room like that.

We arrived in 3 cars. Ken and I took one car. We listened to part of the brand new XTC box set, "A Coat of Many Cupboards", full of demos, live tracks, alternate takes, oddities and a few of the standard faves. There's no band like XTC, but we're all trying. Yes, we're all trying to be ingenious musicians who hardly make any money and whose fan base is mostly nerdy males. That's the goal.

Ning and Bezo took another car, and were taking pictures of me and Ken whenever we passed each other on the Pike. Joe and Russ took a 3rd car.

We all got dinner at the Club. Sword Fish and thing thingers on the side. They excited Russ so, so I feel bad that I can't remember their name. They're like corn tater tots.

We sound checked, and then Russ, Ken and I went to a Cumberland Farms down the road for various purposes. The rest went downstairs to relax. Bela Dona opened the show. They played modern rock, and it was heart-warming to see the singer's girlfriend in front of the stage mouthing all the words. How come no one ever does that for me? I mean play airdrums? With their mouth? Girls? It's very attractive, you know... Particularly with mouths full of food and beer. Ning, it's up to you to edit that part out. I think it's funny.

We all went downstairs, and played games. First, I was tired and bummed out, and ignored everyone and read a book about Marilyn Monroe that was down there. We admired the posters of past performers; Graham Parker, Steve Forbert, um, more. Then I got into it, and it was fun.

Ken told us about South By Southwest and International Pop Overthrow, both of which he was at last month. We played a game where you guess the "doo doo" or humming part of a song. Then we all started singing Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime" and I was dancing, when Bella Donna came down, signaling that they were done. The mood was loose and fancy free, and we decided to carry it into the show.

2 sets. An appreciative crowd. The second set saw Russ play no guitar, but just be the prancing singer. There was a wicked cool young couple digging us. I dug them. "You Showed Me" has become epic "Light My Fire" type stuff, with long Joe and Ken guitar/keyboard solos. I love it. It satisfies all my youthful Monterey Pop/Fillmore daydreams.

I am bad, oh so bad, with names, especially of people whose names I want to remember. Like the owners of Helsinki. The woman is lovely and kissed Russ, and the man looks like David Grisman. Then there's the soundman, who is one of my favorite soundmen. Reminds me of a young Ken Kesey. The there's Kimball, of the band Chillbone. Whose name I can't rememb....oh, wait. Kimball made an album with Will Lee and Dennis Chambers on it. Work was done at Abbey Road. Kimball blows glass, plays music and loves women. This is what I learned from him. He bestowed upon Russ a gift.

I let Ken drive home, and we talked about what we were put on this earth to do. And I cannot dispute that I was put on this earth to rock. In a certain kind of way. And make friends with cats. I was put on this rock to earth.

HENNING: Brian's new solo album will be called "I was put on this earth to rock." Everyone will laugh.

My new solo album will be called, "I've never been to Finland but when I go, if everything there is not as cool as the Helsinki Club I'm going to have a fit. (I'll use the word Fjord in ways it's never been used before.)"

It was a nice show out in the heart of darkness. New things were tried. New things were said.

Supposedly there is a recording of it, I would like to hear our Emergency One adlib section. Joe, can you get that? Joe? Do you read these diary entries?

It was in the basement of the Helsinki Club that the name for El Bezo's new band was decided. Thanks to Ken who I think said, "The Fonz" and me who I think suggested spelling it like the animals, the band will be called "The Fawns". Pretty good, huh? History in the making.

It was a quick and hungry ride home and the blasted Mass pike McDonalds was closed. Who ever heard of such a thing. Aren't I as an American entitled to piping hot greased-wrapped poison whenever I desire it? And make it snappy, Barbara, I ain' t got all day.

March 30 2001; FOURTH ANNUAL SAINT PATRIOT'S DAY CELEBRATION. Harry's Nightspot, Northampton

BRIAN: Better than last year's, I must say. 2002's St. Patriot's Day (a celebration of the Patron Saint of Patriots, nothing to do with pigskin or shoulder pads) was very fun and full of surprises. I'll begin with some personal notes.

I was home with a cold for the previous 3 days, avoiding people and exertion, and existing on the Vitamin C, Echinacea, zinc, garlic, ginger brandy, etc. I tried to do as little as possible. Earlier this day I was digging through some of my hundreds of videotapes (remember them?) and saw that on March 30 1990, 12 years ago to the day, myself and Bag of Panties bassist Glenn Severance were playing at the Red Barn in North Andover in The Mean Wyoming. That was one of the most important gigs of my life, in that it exposed me en masse to the local hipsters, thus changing my outlook on life and giving me hope for my generation.

We weren't the main attraction (most were there to see "Hoodlum Kitchen", with future Mighty Bosstone Joe Sirois on drums and future Sourpuss Todd McMurray singing), but we did impress, with our covers of "Lucifer Sam", "Cold Turkey" and "In Between Days". I used to sing back up and some lead while playing the drums. I think we all took "No Doz" before that gig. I may be wrong. I neglected to inform Glenn of this fact, but maybe he wouldn't have cared anyway. I'm the nostalgic one.

The most prominent by-product of my sickness was 3 days of cabin fever. When I set foot in Harry's I suddenly had 3 days worth of energy. Bag of Panties had arrived direct from Boston (a gig the night before) and were soundchecking.

I spotted some Steamheads, and then a real surprise: Martha, former Mole's Eye favorite. Turns out she's the cousin of BOP's singer. Wow! Small freakin' world. She has bangs now. That's what married women do. Well, it is! The biggest, most surreal part of BOP's set was when Martha joined the band on stage to do a TREEFORT(!!) (Noho alt. country rockers) song. In any case, throughout most of the BOP set, I was sitting with Chris and Linda Collingsworth. Chris gave me some fatherly advise about holding on to good things when you have them. I bought them a Chardonnay.

The Shelly Winters Project was next, and if Rick Berlin doesn't know how to spread love and a smile, no one does. I kept trying not to fear that my drums were going to fall apart on Nigel. They didn't. The band rocked (in the happiest possible way), and charmed. The band had been on the cover of the Springfield Union News Weekend Calendar 2 days previously.

Then it was us. We had several surprises in store: The Saint Patriots Day Anthem, a new Lord Russ song (as yet untitled, but very pretty and moody) and a new cover (I'll Cry Instead). The faithful were dancing a whole bunch. I played fast and hard. Broke drumsticks, added new nuances, and seemed to amuse the other guys. The new sound baffle worked wonderfully, and made a huge difference.

The "girlfriends club" (I'll take full credit for that demeaning term, ladies) was seated in the corner on the new plush red bench. Later, most were on the dancefloor. Joe and Alexis make a sexy pair, if I may be so bold. "If I Can Dream" made a return, and god, do I love playing that. Lord Russ was wearing make up courtesy of the talented Sylvie, who did his face in the Haymarket earlier in the evening. Lord Russ also, quite rightfully, dedicated the show to the late, great Dudley Moore. Do yourself a favor and research his work with Peter Cook.

After the show, a man congratulated me on a job well done. Turns out he's one of ROBERT BRADLEY'S BLACKWATER SURPRISE!! They'd been at the Ironhorse earlier in the evening. We spoke a bit about the Midwest (they're from Detroit) and The White Stripes. So, that's that.

St. Patriot's Day come and gone.
Spring is here, and everything changes and grows
Your address, your hairdo, your clothes
Your attitude, the ring on your nose
The direction in which the wind blows
The future career that you chose
Your number of friends and foes
Money, bitches and ho's.


HENNING: What the heck was that?!?! Poetry.

There it is, the old shut-down Baystate Hotel, looming darkly above my parking spot. Just a few months ago I would have been going in there right now, walking into a room thick with smoke and familiar faces. It seems really long ago now, the carpet, the wallpaper, the tiny P.A., the Keno Screen.

Instead, I walk a block and enter Harry’s, thick with smoke and familiar faces, but not as thick with either. Harry’s is really coming together and it’s bringing in some fresh faces. The Shelley Winters Project, on the other hand, was bringing in some real old school faces.

Rick Berlin, the Project’s grinning patriarch, hadn’t played out here in Western Mass in almost 20 years, and the folks who went to see him then were out again.

And Bag of Panties brought in a familiar face from The Steamtrain’s past, the always delightful, Martha. She came up from Boston for the show, and I didn’t know she was there until she hopped up on stage to join the band in their tribute to Tree Fort. Wonderful!

Here’s another familiar face from The Steamtrain’s history, Mr. Eric Marciano and his lovely wife. You may remember Marciano’s directing work in such films as The Misty Paradise Video. (Trivia: The building in which we shot that video no longer exists, do you know why? Answer: Because some terrorists said so, that’s why.)

Who else was in the room? Who else came out to celebrate the enigma we call St. Patriot’s Day? The Steamheads were there, Yay!, cozy in the corner on the red velvet couch. Chris and Linda were there, backs against the tinted window that separates Harry’s from the City Café’s strange dance parties. George was out, a head above everyone else – he was one of the original Rick Berlin / Orchestra Luna fans. El Bezo was there, as were the three A’s (Amanda, Andrea, Alexis), Max, Debbie, Emily, Penny, Jessica…so many people, so many friends, I am sure I am forgetting some of them..it was an excellent evening.

Missing from the night was Ken, who was out on the road with the Maggies. We managed to play a very nice show despite his absence. It was a powerhouse kind of rock and roll show – it always seems to be like that at Harry’s for the Steamtrain. Maybe it’s the size of the stage, who cares.

March 20 - Brownies, New York City

BRIAN: The famous Brownies, in the East Village. In 1998 I played here, and Russ and Henning were there too. But it was not an Aloha Steamtrain show!

How could that be? I'll give you a minute. Time's Up. Henning was playing with Humbert. I was playing with the Figments. Russ came along because he would be lonely otherwise, knowing his friends were all having fun in the city. And he sang his song "Heaven's Take" that he co-wrote with the Figments' Thane.

Now, it's many years later, and we've played half a dozen NYC clubs, but never Brownies before. It was a Wednesday night (not to our advantage) but early (to our advantage). 8:00, in fact. Joe was not with us. Ken and manager Don were.

We went down in a rented minivan. It was a crappy, crappy day. Cold and snowy and sloppy. The ride down took an hour extra because of this fact. But it was rain from southern CT on.

Ken brought his always awesome CD case, and we dug the Turtles (new Rhino anthology), the Beach Boys (the scary "Love You"/Brian's back stuff) and we listened to Tony Westcott's "Beatles 1979-81" CD he created. All solo stuff from those years. They would have been a weird-ass band if they were together then. John's stuff was best. George varied from great to surprisingly bad. Same with Paul. And Ringo was a coked out alcoholic living in Hollywood, so did you really think his stuff would be good?

We also listened to some demos Don had received for Harry's booking. Among the Thumbs Up we gave was Group DeVille's CD. Remember? We played with them last summer at Pulaski Park. We like their CD.

Arriving in rainy, chilly NYC, there followed a comedy of errors and triumphs. Ken and Ning ran around looking for the forgotten adapter for the keyboard (which also had a broken key). Russ bought a shiny grey suit (Beatles '64 or Dylan '97). Don and I had a drink and chatted. Special NYC guests: Ari Vais, Eric Marciano, Wendy Weinman, Merritt Arndt, Sam, Vanessa and friend, and Matt Fanuele. I tried to chat with everyone, between watching the Pasties set and stuff.

Oh. Our set? Rocky start (I broke the Speed King bass drum pedal that I've been borrowing from Ning for the past 2 years. It's a relic, and often admired by other drummers. Now, it's irreparable). But we gained momentum, and it ended up rocking and the audience liked us a lot, even those who didn't come to see us.

Ning was joking around in the basement when the booking person, Lisa came in. Busted. Ken took a long walk after the show.

The way home, we were pretty spastic (or, Russ and I were) then I fell asleep and awoke in Holyoke on 91. My head hurt. There was much snow on the ground. But at least it was before 2 am.

HENNING: Snow. When it snows at this time of the year, I always feel like winter is beginning. I start to smell imaginary wood fires and Christmas dinners, then I snap to and turn into America’s Number One Grump. Winter is too long in Massachusetts. I’m sure that’s what all the folks in the sideways cars strewn along the highway were thinking.

But our minivan was steadfast, gripping the road like an Eagle gripping the branches of a mighty great pine. Steadfast and determined, yo.

Southbound. Snow turns to rain. Grease turns to food. MacDonalds. A Happy Meal ain’t all that happy. Lack of time is the harbinger of fried foolishness. We do dumb things.

New York. The road commands the van. The toll booth attendant slaps us each across the cheek. Welcome back, the two beams of light we were promised had diffused into a night sky filled with rain.

Brownies. A beautiful sounding club. Brownies. A chocolaty treat. Brownies. A grouchy greeting, a ringing cell phone.

My favorite “A” has seemingly been torn off of my good old Korg Poly 800 Cheesemaster. Was it the teeth of the monster that has been growing amidst the jumble of hurriedly tossed equipment in my car? Was the thing actually eating my past?!? I’m afraid to open my car doors. I walk on the far side of the driveway.

Had the creature also eaten the power supply for the fated keyboard? Was it possible to purchase a new one in a rainy NYC in under half an hour? Ken and I intended to find out.

Streets and avenues with numbers and letters, Ken barrels ahead, I feel like I am stumbling through Donald Duck’s nightmare of mathematics in that old billiards/geometry educational film. My Inspector Gadget Extendo-Grasping Arm attaches to the back of Ken’s jacket and I am yanked willy-nilly through the East Village.

The corpse at the first music store shakes his head violently.

The familiar face of Her Vanished Grace hooks me up with a new adapter at an incredible high high high price. Cash is exchanged, Ken and I split ways, he in search of a pay phone that will transport him to his favorite record store, me back to the dessert cake to try out the ailing instrument. Success!

Lord Russ saunters in like a fashion show gangster, he’d snuck off to slip into something more impressive. A gray number, smooth and shiny like a slick of liquid silver.

Friends file in, Jennifer Jason Lee arrives in the shape of a giant falcon, I take form of a bucket of water. We fight crime and survive casually.

Two lovely ladies pull our heart strings with tales of Smacky, the sarcastic four year old.

The Basement. Brian and I find ourselves sheltered from the rock in the Silence of the Lambs basement. Chasing imaginary rats to the amusement of the booking agent, spying from the stairs.

Later, he leaves me alone down there. There are too many dark corners.

The ride home. A bigger-than-life city glows like a screensaver, low clouds tickling the buildings, busted-up vans trying to sideswipe the Aloha Steamtrain tour bus. Don’t they know who we are?!? We are the leading characters Escaping form New York.

Flash Photography in the back of the van. Lord Russ enticing the worst of us.

Arrival. A quiet town coated with snow. Plows rule the night, growling like wolves.

March 15 - Mole's Eye, Brattleboro

BRIAN: The Mole, she is a resilient animal. The Ides of March, she is a dangerous time. Why? Look out for those drunken St. Patrick revelers.

We took two cars for this show; Me and Russ in one, Joe and Ning in another. Ken couldn't make it, because he was playing South By Southwest with New Radiant Storm King.

On the way down, we listened to The Pets; a Canadian band I know nothing about, but whose CD I found used at Turn It Up. It's great, for the most part. Who are they?

I traditionally stay as far away as possible from bars around St. Patrick's day, but 2 days away from it, I wasn't worried. In fact I EMBRACED IT! The Mole's Eye was looking very strange, and I realized it was all the shamrocks and leprechauns hanging from the ceiling. Ning and I ordered the GREEN DESSERT! Pistachio Pudding Cake. And I got an Irish Coffee to up the ante.

Ning brought lots of lights, and it was nice to see them all go on as I was making out the first set. Earlier that day I'd bought a new cymbal stand and some brushes. I was excited about this.

The night got off to a wonderful start--from the get go, folks were up and dancing. Young and old, short and tall, gay and straight. We love them all and give them the good goods.

Our mission tonight was to try and utilize what we'd learned about ourselves during the JB3/4 shows, and involve Lord Russ. It worked great. Russ adds groovy rhythm guitar, trippy feedback and nice solo bits to the mix. And Joe went off during these songs. We gave the extended treatment to about 1/2 the songs, in one form or another.

Special guest stars tonight included Brian and Elizabeth (Brian works at the famous Fly By Night Futon, and after having just made my first purchase there, I'll say it's worth the hype). They were in the midst of a Vermont weekend getaway, and we were honored to be a part of it.

Andrea was there, after telling me she wasn't gonna, so that was great.

Dr. Loren Landis engaged me in conversation which began talking about jazz, and led into wealth vs. happiness/ comfort vs. happiness. It was all over the place, and involved anyone within earshot, and was regularly interrupted by trips to the car to put away equipment.

Last but not least, Steamheads were there, and one got in trouble for removing inappropriate clothing. Or something like that.

And, first we lost Martha to marriage. Now we are losing Natalie to grad school. Thanks for all the dancing, the smiles and the shots of Cuervo, Natalie.

I drove through thick, thick fog with Ning on the way home.

HENNING: I didn’t know Natalie was leaving us. How sad. Perhaps, Brattleboro is not the oasis we take it for. The beautiful ladies keep departing. Maybe, it’s not such a pleasure to live in the oasis, maybe it’s more of a visiting destination.

It’s an oasis for us, I know that. My feeling is that the Mole’s Eye is the tallest most shadiest palm tree in the whole area. We are so grateful that they embrace us.

Lets shower a little praise on the Steamheads who came all the way up from Connecticut. Those ladies are national treasures.

We skirted around some new musical ground tonight, we were loose but groovy. We elongated and altered some song structures, we adlibbed. And the people danced and dance and danced.

I’m hungry. I’m trying to write this gig diary entry but I am distracted by my hunger. What am I going to do? Last night I had a Chicken Parmesan Sub and later, a turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich. This morning I had my usual everything bagel with cream cheese and an Honest Tea. Tonight is wide open. Northampton is chock full of eateries. From where I am sitting right now, through my window I can see six restaurants and that’s without getting out of my chair. I wonder what I will do. What will I do? I have my book, I have my wallet. The choices are endless, yet they don’t seem like they are. I don’t know, forget it.

March 9 - The Larkin, Albany New York

BRIAN: On this evening, I learned an interesting fact from a guy whose name or band's name I can't remember, therefore making me a dunce. But he said his band was compared to XTC, Costello and Crowded House, so I hope I meet him again. In any case, he told me how the Larkin was something special until it closed 10 years ago. But 8 months ago it opened again, and is now the hippest place. And it totally is. Hell, Marshall Damn Crenshaw is playing there soon! So is Amy Fairchild. So, Albany; the capital city that keeps on giving.

When Russ, Ning and I (this was a trio gig) converged in the car on this evening, it seemed like a reunion of sorts. It had been a while, relatively. And we wasted no time in spazzing out. I'd been in NYC the night/morning before, so I was craving sleep. But I couldn't keep still, or my mouth shut. We played games (like, Ning says a word and Russ and I have to sing a line from a song with that word), and we made up fake "Alice's Restaurant"-like stories. When I finally realized how tired I was, we were 10 miles from Albany.

Hector On Stilts were soundchecking, and I was overjoyed to learn I didn't need to bring in my drums. I only today realized that I'd seen Hector On Stilts many times at the Baystate open mic, and I think actually my girlfriend is on their mailing list.

We watched their soundcheck, and Ning and I ordered dinner from Rebecca, the waitress who has it all. I got a crispy chicken sandwich (the best ever of its ilk) and the first of 3 Newcastles and Ning got a

Chicken Caesar Salad.

The folks were filing in-Albany's purveyors of good taste. Hector On Stilts performed as a trio; 2 guitars and drums. They know how much American People Like Rock and Roll. They included some goofy between-song rock cliche banter. They also performed an original Spanish disco song. One of them is 6'10. That's like twice my size. I found a chair halfway through their set, and stayed there, to mingle and to see what Knotworking was all about.

Well, it happened with Jumpcannon last time, and this time is happened with Knotworking. WOW! Who knew such great bands were hiding in Albany! Knotworking are the best alt. country band I've seen. Looking at them, you'd say "they're gonna sound like Weezer" or something. But no. Wonderful vocals, great guitar playing, a fiddle, fantastic lyrics and a Palace cover! Spooky, moody, intelligent. Smart alt. country. Not for fans of the nitty gritty. And really nice guys. Noho's gonna love them if they come here.

During their set, Russ was running around, making high pitched noises to get people to look at him, then he'd take their picture. We finally went on around 1am. The crowd had thinned, but those who stayed seemed to dig it. We had a light show courtesy of the Gods. A violent rain and lightening storm was happening right out the big window behind us. Apparently, once or twice, they (Apollo +co) synced up a bolt with a cymbal hit. Well done.

We actually didn't play too well, if the truth be told. But it was lots of fun. We were a bit rusty. After, we talked with Adrian, the Bill Graham of the Albany/Larkin scene. He pontificated about the bridge that needs to be built between Albany and Northampton--two of the most overlooked jewels in this vital Northeast scene. And he's absolutely right.

Me and Knotworking's drummer talked about drums and drummers. Isn't that strange? Well, he also told be all about Onianta, NY. I also talked with the other Knotworking folks. Then it was off into the rain.

On the way home I told the boys about "Monkeyworld". It's kind of a training camp for monkeys, but this summer they're short handed, so they're recruiting cats. I know because they called on a banana the other morning and asked for my cat. I told them "No" but I still threaten my cat that I'm gonna change my mind if she doesn't stop noisily jumping all around the apartment. Apparently, in Monkeyworld, they've developed fiberoptics that connect all bananas to each other. Try it nect time you're going to eat a banana. Put it up to your ear and make a monkey sound. See what happens.

HENNING: Monkeyworld, caterpillar pants, what is it with you?

I suppose if you are from Colorado or somewheres, you might not consider the Berkshires to really be mountains. But they’re all we’ve got here in Massachusetts and it’s all relative anyway, so, shut up.

Heading through the Berkshires is subtle but the terrain changes are noticeable. The trees are spikier, the stars are shinier, the altitude changes are enough to make my ears pop. But then again, my ears would pop on a freakin’ trampoline. I’m very sensitive.

But, there is something else to the Berkshires. There is still a sense of old-time nature. There are wood burning stoves and tiny houses on farms by brooks that are frozen over. There are deer and eagles. The moonlight is more serious, more in charge. Good night, Sweet Baby James, we’re on the turnpike in Stockbridge.

The Berkshires are an undulating wall of nature between us and Albany. If we were settlers way back when the Berkshires were just being built, this would have been an important journey, a struggle. Did a trio of minstrels travel this way on horseback a couple of hundred years ago? Possibly.

Out of the mountains and into the mystery city called Albany, probably at one point, a little hamlet with an Inn and Pub for travelers. This is the land of Sleepy Hollow. The Dutch settled and every town ends in the word kill. Not kill as in what the headless horseman does but kill as in a small brook.

Before that the Iroquois Indians lived here. You can visit Howe Caves and learn all about them. I never have, but you can. Maybe I will this summer. Maybe we will have an Aloha Steamtrain Field Trip. Would you like to come? Come explore the caves with The Aloha Steamtrain!

I tried to look up Music in the On-Line History of Albany Encyclopedia but they are still constructing the web site. I would imagine that the music scene has always been pretty good there, if the quality of the acts we have come across are any indication.

I like the idea of building a bridge between Northampton and Albany, hopefully, we will see the likes of Jump Cannon and Knotworking in Northampton soon. Hector on Stilts are already familiar with this area, they used to play at my open mic at the Baystate.

Anyway, lovely times at the Larkin. This time I wasn’t sick which was a bonus. We played a crappy show but the folks were still so kind. How forgiving. How kind. Thank you, Larkin.

March 1; Harry's Nightspot, Northampton, MA
THE JB4, Ladies and Jellymen. The JB4!!!!

BRIAN: "Well, I found that when I was using ProTools, when I plugged the JB4 direct into the console, I got a ridiculous sound!" Oh, so the JB4 is a piece of recording equipment? Well, not exactly. As explained last time, it is basically The Steamtrain w/out Lord Russ.

Necessity is the mother of mothers, so the JB3 was born somewhere between here and Burlington 2 weeks ago. Don was at that show, and found a slot at his Harry's club to debut the JB4 (now with Ken on board).

It was low key, and touted as a cocktail party, not a real concert. We all agreed to a) dress nicely and b) NOT REHEARSE!!!!! You know, don't spoil the magic. In retrospect, knowing the way we all like to fuck around with tempos, styles, etc, perhaps one little at least conference would have been nice.

Personally, though I had fun, I wished it could have been a little more strange. You know, Burlington was one great adventure, I wanted to keep the adventure going, not just solidify what we had the first time. But whatever, Bruce Tull kissed me on the cheek afterwards, so it was all worthwhile.

When I arrived there, "Sister Funk" was playing--amazingly funky, they were. It was an AIDS benefit, and separate from our show. Their fans filed out, ours filed in. I got a Dewer's on the rocks and answered a couple "what's this all about?" questions. The Figments CD "All The Gone Days" was playing over the PA. It admittedly felt a bit awkward to see Russ there (insert your own analogy), but he was doing his best to keep it loose, buying us drinks and stuff. This was gonna be weird.

Joe was clearly the boss. He wrote out the set list (never had seen his handwriting before); he did most of the talking on the microphone (some said they'd never heard his speaking voice before). And suddenly, the mystery that has always been Joe Boyle, was unfolding like a May flower, in front of the amazed Harry's crowd.

It was all new to Ken, who seemed to have a great time, and who added some new possibilities to these songs. We did such faves as "Last Week", "Curious Attraction","Damned" (a highlight), "Beggars in LA" (another highlight) and a couple covers like "You Showed Me", which Joe later told me is one of his all time favorite songs. Which reminds me, per Henning's suggestion, I've compiled a list of my 150 favorite songs, except it's about to reach 200. I've been listening to Henning's 150 faves on my DVD player--I think there about 10-15 that are on both of our lists. And some that I'm all like "Huh?" and shit.

So anyway, several guitar fans/fellow musicians were in the crowd to check this shit out; Frank Padellaro, Bob Hennessey, Thane Thomsen to name a few. Joe did not let them down. He had the whole stage to strut, prowl, and show who's the boss. He threw Ken a couple keyboard solos, which was great. I was ready, if a solo was gonna be tossed at me, but it didn't happen. Probably for the best. Henning was on a stool half the time, and he and Ken were both drinking the brightest, pink, big drinks imaginable. Tee hee.

Then it was over, Russ gushed with praise, saying how lucky he is to have such great musicians, and suggested we stretch out a bit more at shows, like the JB4.

The next day, I saw Russ at 7-11 and he'd just bought a new 12-string Danelectro. A new ingredient for this Steamtrain soup. Note: he didn't buy the guitar at 7-11.


HENNING: Parking in Northampton, Massachusetts is not always a pleasure. On a weekend night near Harry’s it is often a torment. The goofy looking sugar daddy who crammed his “classy” gas-guzzler in the loading spot in front of the club is currently number one on my hit-list. I’ll hang the freak from his gold chains if he so much as looks at me wrong.

Ok, load in all the stupid equipment…now, quick to the secrecy of the corner of the pool room with Lord Russ and El Bezo to help me pick out and apply one of the 14 ties that Brian brought for me to choose from. Fine. Now, pass me one of them comical oversized brightly colored Cosmopolitans, and I don’t mean the magazine that is warping the fairer sex, monthly for a low price.

Joe is in charge. He arrived complete with set lists. Next thing you know, the music begins.

To me it’s mostly just funny. In one aspect it’s a joy to see Joe step forward and show folks what he’s made of. In another aspect it’s a joy to hear these reincarnations of Russ’ lovely melodies. In another aspect it’s a joy to try not to smirk too much at the silliness of the whole thing. In another aspect it’s a task to concentrate enough to not mess up without any vocal cues. In another aspect it seems like a long show and then it’s suddenly over.

It was all worth it just to see Bruce beaming. Smiling like a watermelon the whole time, begging for an encore. What a guy, what a lover of music.

JB4. Hee hee hee hee hee.

February 16 - Red Square, Burlington, VT

BRIAN: The JB3 perform selections from their upcoming album, "Punching the Wizard". Weird, weird, weird. That's all I have to say (though I'll say lots more) about this entire day. Sort of the opposite of the Albany day, where everything went wrong until gig time.

This was a beautiful, spring-like day where I took a nice walk, looked up at the blur sky a lot, and felt great. However, circumstances beyond anyone's control prevented Lord Russ from playing this show with us. The van was rented, and we were due to depart on the 3 1/2 hour journey in less than 2 hours. Then we each received this important bit of info, and after scrambling, the result was that Joe, Ning and I would be good soldiers and go up to Burlington anyway and see what happened.

Manager Don was driving the van, and was "pretty sure" how to get there. I'd never been, so we could have been going to Nova Scotia for all I knew. Joe and Ning were in the backseat, making a musical plan for the night.

THE PLAN: One set of instrumental Steamtrain songs, one set of Henning songs. We listened to Henning's School for the Dead CD, and Joe absorbed all he needed to know.

Don told me tales of Burlington and milkmaids, of UVM co-eds and hitchiking, backpacking and mountain climbing, of exotic locales in Central America and in the Pacific Northwest. Aahh..the 1920's truly were roaring!!

Um, yeah. nothing was going right, but we were all happy as clams in the nice van. We listened to Bob Dylan, Wilco and Tom Petty. Ning and mine's CDs, and selections everyone could agree on. The stars were brilliant.

We were late. Burlington was a-hoppin'. Red Square was P-p-p-p-acked!!!! College and post college people, happy, bright, friendly and cute. Walking in, Joe decided he could not deal with the tiny stage, the crowd of people. And it did almost seem impossible to fit us and our equipment in there. But everyone cleared out, Don got us all a whiskey and a beer (except no beer for Ning, who was slated to drive home) and things seemed a bit easier. Now to see what actually would happen. Ladies and gentlemen, cocked and loaded, for your listening pleasure, THE JB3!!

At this point, Joe Boyle seemed 10 feet tall, as he played the melodies, chords and improvised solos for many of your favorite Lord Russ songs, and some of our regular cover tunes. I changed some of the feels around. I could imagine like Stax horns on our slowed-down, soulful "Last Week". Imagine that? Stax is like Otis Redding, yo. "You Showed Me" was especially jammed-on, and we were at the Fillmore, 1967.

What else was crazy, Ning? Joe pulled out every trick, and folks' eyes were glued to him. We took our break looking at each other like total strangers. Huh? That was US?? Like the way you feel the first time you fix a flat tire.

The second set was a mix of Henning songs, which turned out great!, and more instrumentals. For the Ning songs, we had Ning on acoustic, Joe on electric. It actually worked.

For the last few instrumentals, we had folks dancing, and cheering. Russ, you woulda loved it and been flirted with like nobody's business. The four of us each got lots of kisses and phone numbers. Next time. Next time.

From adversity springs creation.
Necessity requires imagination.
From dismay to elation,
From workday to vacation
Three freaks…a transformation.

Outside the van in the thick of night,
A roadside wolf flashes into sight.
On a mountainous climb in a winter squall
We pray the van won’t burn or stall.

Earlier on in a smoky bar
We played our strangest show by far
Why are we nervous? Why do we fuss?
Because we’re all here, but…where’s Lord Russ?

But, the healthy crowd, full of youth and hope,
Filled us three with the fuel to cope.
After a treacherous drive, on a tumultuous eve,
The good old Steamtrain had a trick up its sleeve.

There ain’t a song that Joe can’t fix
He flipped open his guitar case, like a big bag of tricks.
And Brian and I, like ducks in a row,
Did our best to keep up with our new leader, Joe.

So, JB3 is what we were coined
Now it’s JB4, since Ken has joined
On March first, if it’s not too scary
Come and listen, we’ll be playing at Harry’s.

A Couple Of Long Day Trips Tour, '02
February 13 - Luna Lounge, NYC

BRIAN: Back to the comforting arms of the Luna. Winter's freezing clutches had enveloped Gotham on this night. Usually it's nice to take a walk around the lower east side, but after one block, my stomach and face muscles were clenched and I was happy to see Ken and Ning in the window of a pizza shop.

I'll back track a bit. The Pasties, who you remember from the last Harry's show, offered us a spot on this bill. The only thing is, 11pm on a weeknight, in a city full of people with real jobs, you don't exactly pack the place. So, no, the faithful remained, but that was about it.

The ride up was lots of fun. Ning and Ken up front, me and Russ in the back. We talked a lot, and then listened to the Mole's Eye CDs to choose tracks for the live album. Lotsa of great stuff there!

We stopped at the McDonalds, where I got the brand new McChicken Parmesan. I don't recommend it--it sat like a ball of clay in my stomach.

We listened to the Wings Anthology, "Wingspan". Great stuff there. It was a good "entering the City" soundtrack. Ken always delivers, and we always choose the most obvious of his selection. Perhaps the day will come when we wanna hear New Orleans funk.

Some familiar faces popped up at the club; Glenn Severance, Ari Vais, Vanessa. I watched the first band, who I thought were AMAZING. They were called L. Producto. I went from wanting them to play at my wedding to wanting to make an indie movie just so they could do the soundtrack. It was a 3 piece band. The drummer was who I watched for the first 10 minutes. Possibly a trained jazz drummer who'd gone off the rails. Maybe not, but definitely, made me think, well, you know when you think you're smart, and you realize you only use 15% of your brain (or whatever it is). This made me realize I actually have further to go than I thought. I can't quit now. It's my life's work.

The singer in this band played banjo, and washboard. But the washboard had 6 other things attached to it, and he and the drummer syncopated stuff to make it sound damn industrial. I was reeled in. It was like being served a food you never would have bought yourself, because you're happy in your little rut and scared to try anything new. Aren't you? AREN'T YOU??!!!?? WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!!!

The Pasties brought in a lot of fans, and I remembered several of their songs from last time. A tight, powerpoppy unit.

Our set? Well, could be summed up by when Ning and Russ made a joke which was followed by almost no response. "I see you didn't quite get it", said Russ. "No, there's just no one here" replied one of the few spectators. Ah, New Yorkers. Tell it like it is to us touchy, feely, oversensitive western Mass folks.

Ning doesn't remember it, but at one point he was playing like Jack Bruce. I wish I could remember which song, but he was all over the damn fretboard like it was Sunday morning in Istanbul!

One woman talked to me afterwards, and asked if I'd be interested in recording with her. We'll see what happens.

On the way home, let's see. Oh, Russ and I both fell asleep in the backseat. How sweet. We were dreaming of Valentine's Day.

HENNING: Every corner market (and there is one on every corner) has an avalanche of flowers in front of it. It’s about 4 degrees outside and the flowers are all behind a thin plastic sheet. It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, if you delay one more second, these beautiful plants, plucked from their snug soil beds, will be frozen and useless. Hurry, they are dying quicker than normal.

Ken and I are being swept along the New York sidewalks by the cruelest winter wind yet. There are stores and restaurants everywhere but nothing is too inviting and we are just out there to be out there, to feel like we actually experienced a little bit of New York City, rather than just stepping from car to club back to car again.

The guy behind the counter recommended the tortollini slice. I took his advice and enjoyed the thing hugely. But, I was distracted.

Back at the Luna people were drinking and gabbing. What did you expect?

We played our set to a scrappy crowd. As always, ears perked up at the familiarity of the cover songs. The sound-person even responded to Sweet Caroline, adding a nice light show, and then quickly went back to the normal loud rock club zone that folks can so easily fall into. You know the one.

On the drive home I engaged Ken in some conversation in order to have someone else awake with me. As we often do, we spoke of creativity and the quest for time and motivation. He spoke of the Elephant Six Collaborative and his recent venture down south to an Of Montreal show. The supportiveness and artistic work ethic that they exhibited charmed him. We contemplated the possibility of a large house filled with musician friends, an internal network of inspiration. Or the likelyhood of a songwriting collaborative of our friends. We’re looking for a push, something to facilitate the creative process. The days are too short it seems. Could a peer-to-peer group endorse the necessary impetus?

Two hours and 25 minutes to get home from NYC. Gotta be at the day job in 5 hours or so. Can’t wait for the spring time.

February 9 ABC, Amherst, MA

BRIAN: In the midst of a winter that has spared us too much discomfort, here we are in Amherst again. A three-five show. You know what that means? You shouldn't. It'll be included in the Spring/Summer AST Jargon catalog. Three-Five Show: an Aloha Steamtrain show consisting of three sets, with five musicians participating. Three Five show. That means Albany was ________ (answer, a one-three show) Git it?

We were gonna bring back a long lost song tonight, but it didn't happen. Very soon, we'll have lots of new things for you all, so you won't keep complaining about all these summer repeats having stretched way into winter.

Tonight we had a waiter named Ryan who was so helpful, as to be too helpful--which is still great. EXAMPLE: I was half way done with my 3rd pint, when my fourth had already been waiting for me for 20 minutes. I think I left it untouched. You know, gotta play, gotta drive.

Tonight also, Josh (you remember him from last summer) was here, second gig in a row he came up from Boston. He gave me a rare book called "Monkees Go Mod". A totally wacked out book, filled with strange "facts" and photos. I swear Peter is smoking a joint in one of them.

Anyway, tonight was filled with wonderful jams, segues, jokes, a relaxed vibe all around. I actually felt we were just rehearsing much of the night. I forgot people were there most of the time. That's why when Ning introduced me to the crowd, I didn't know what to do. I felt like suddenly there were 50 people in my kitchen looking at me eating breakfast. I think I'm turning into a Steely Dan/XTC type of person.

The end of the night featured 2 giggling girls asking Russ all sorts of questions. When I offered assistance (when our next area gig was), the girls looked at me like I was the Elephant Man. They were nice, though. And Emily, yes you should giggle more at our shows. Before the show (time is not linear today) Ken, Ning , Emily and I discussed which NYC band we could be if the next Transperformance was NYC. I think we settled on ????????????? There was one great one which seemed perfect. I can't remember.

After the show, Bruce and I discussed the success of the new Lo Fine record. We're honored to be part of it. It made a strong debut on the CMJ charts.

The break down of Misty P featured "Lovecats" by the Cure and "Take On Me" by Aha. Ning , Ken and I are gonna have a tribute band where a Robert Smith look alike sings XTC songs like Morrissey. Hey! See you in NYC in a few days, kids! All RIGHT!!!!!!!!! Ning, you were more involved in the crowd than I. I felt like I was watching it on TV. You tell the folks about the frat guy who was not a frat guy, so don't be so quick to judge, there, Alan Arken.

HENNING: Yes, well, hello. It was quite a nice show wasn't it?

I don' t know what you are talking about with the frat boys thing...I did ask if there were any fraternity brothers in the crowd and nobody said yes. I was hoping we could play a party someday. Is that what you mean?

French fries here and there, I did snack.

"Graduation major" we did scream in a spontaneous Motor Head-like song about a girl whom Russ had sang to earlier. What's your major he crooned, like a drunken William Shatner.

Ken and Joe both present, they did shine.

Lights were everywhere.

Hooray for Amherst, I felt engulfed.

PS. The New York act for us is Neil Diamond, we better try and reserve it now.


To Hell With Basics Tour,
February 2, 2002
- Harry's, Northampton

BRIAN: Or the Isn't Bill Murray Awesome/Groundhog's Day Tour or the We Could Have Played at Super Bowl Halftime, but We Stayed and Partied After This Show and Were Too Spent and Missed Our Flight To New Orleans Tour.

Harry's Nightspot? Harry's Speakeasy? Harry's Hole? Will this place get a last name? Whether it does or not, Paco, it's here to stay so get used to it. Harry's has been wildly successful thus far, as The Baystate's replacement. Big stage, fancy lights. This show was everything that Albany wasn't. It was long, loud, 5-piece, Russ wore wacky clothes, and people were dancing. It was the other side. More Vegas than indie.

I arrived there and saw that The Pasties, from NYC were all set up and had soundchecked. I talked to a few of them, and their manager, and they were all very nice. And they have a mini Moog on stage. I watched most of their set from a corner bar stool, enjoying the set, and chatting to a few people.

Like Jason Simon, who is enjoying his new house in Easthampton, with its Fly By Night Futon he just bought. I just saw his gal pal driving in a car with a Henning's School For the Dead sticker on it. I wish I knew what that meant.

Oh, boy, so what? A long, loud set, as I said. Perhaps should have been divided by a 5 minute break. My ears and arms could have used it. I've been using my 4 piece Rogers 1965 kit lately, and am digging it. Russ wore Amanda's jumpsuit which may have been a bit more Elton than Bowie. NOTE: I dig Elton. The crowd exploded on many occasions, and it was nice to hear. My drums stayed together and I felt in command. I think everyone earned their salary tonight.

DANCER OF THE NIGHT AWARD: Dennis Crommett, of Spanish For Hitchiking. He also had a great Super Bowl party the following night. Imagine the Super Bowl in one room, The Smiths blasting in the next room. Imagine Philip Price of the Maggies having the rules of football explained to him by Stephen Kellogg's girlfriend. Imagine dipping a pretzel in dip. Imagine it, Ning. Can you even? Is there a band called Dip? Can You Dip It?

HENNING:I recognized the guy in The Pasties the minute I walked into Harry’s, but it would take me almost 20 minutes to be sure his name was Eric, and even then I had to ask their manager to confirm it. I I went to school with Eric at Umass Lowell – In a whole other life. We reminisced for about 20 seconds. The Pasties were great and we are playing a couple shows with them coming up in NYC. Should be fun.

We were a full five piece tonight which was nice. I was delighted to see my friends Esa and Robyn walk into the bar and I hung out with them for a while and watched them play pool. Esa and I used to play music together all the time. Now they are forming their own band called, “W”. Just hold up three fingers if you don’t feel like pronouncing it.

The show was good, folks danced. We had a lot of new faces in the crowd, perhaps they spilled over from City Café next door. Lord Russ was wearing a new outfit – it seemed to go over well. My little toy tambourine that Ken had been playing finally bit it. And a lovely young lady took 100 pictures with my camera for us. Here are some of them:

The Back to Basics Tour, '02
February 1, 2002; The Larkin, Albany, NY

BRIAN: We last saw Mario Sevayega on New Years Eve, when he magically appeared at the Baystate for our final few numbers. Tonight, we found out why he was there. He'd been at Pearl Street, watching another friend's band, and getting "tons of propositions" from both Pearl St. and Baystate patrons. But now, a month later things were different. We were on Mario's turf. And WE were the ones getting propositioned.

Our second visit to Albany, and, frankly, much better than our first. This was a trio gig. Back to basics. Back to the future. This gig saved the day, personally speaking. A day of the worst imaginable weather, nothing going right, and feeling like everything was going exactly opposite as planned. Mercury retrograde?? By the evening, it was clear, and moods had lifted. Mario had invited us to join the bill, which featured his band, as well as Jump Cannon, who were a pleasant surprise!!

Ning wasn't feeling well tonight. Faithful readers of the Diary will remember that last time we were in Albany he wasn't feeling well. But, instead of being a grumpy sick, like some of us can get, he was a goofy, trippy sick. On the way to Albany, he made up a character named Angelina; a deep-voiced waitress in a diner, whose father is the cook. I was the customer.

We also made up a parody song called "Texan", which is sung to the tune of "Taxman". Speaking of Texans, we also listened a bit to the CD Ken brought me back from Georgia-- a Mike Nesmith bootleg recorded in 1974 in London. They just want him to play music, and he does, but he also talks a bit too much about philosophy (to a drunk and rowdy group of Limeys).

OK, so Albany. The Larkin. Right near the place we played last time (the Lion Heart). But way better. Downstairs is a restaurant. Up the stairs is a medium sized space, with a small bar, a piano, and tables and chairs set up. We were the first people there, and soon the soundman told us all the important stuff. I was the only one to order some food (burger, me).

Soon, the other bands showed up. Paul was the man who was serving us our food and drink. He rides bulls, you know. But I never would have guessed it. I took a shine to him because he reminded me of any number of people from an 80's movie. A John Cusack type. The hair, the demeanor, the look. I dug it. It began a series of 80's longing episodes. If there's one positive thing that can come out of Bush Jr's presidency, perhaps it can be a revival of GOOD 80's stuff. Like the sound of Jump Cannon, for instance. More later.

I wolfed down my burger and DELICIOUS fries between soundcheck and our start (15 minutes) and got a Jamesons on the rocks. While eating, a nice, clean, cloth napkin was brought to me by the guy working the door. For some reason, this really made me happy, and I commented to Ning that nothing is better than being waited on. Ning reminded me that I'm actually one of the most complaining people he's ever been out to eat with.

The place had filled up nicely, and with a great-looking crowd. Young, hip, mix of indie and hippie. Today's hippie knows not who the Kinks are, nor does he know "You Really Got Me". I overheard Lord Russ explaining these things to a young overall-wearing , bearded man who had no idea that such a group existed. This is the Twilight Zone.

In any case. Back to Basics. We played a nice 12 song set to a very attentive, happy crowd. It sounded great, uncomplicated. The sound man was creative with the effects. Mario jumped up and danced around on stage to our music. He is a ball of good vibes. We've been doing The Monkees' "Circle Sky" a lot during the Misty P. breakdown. I was using Eric's drums. He's Mario's drummer. It was a lovely Ludwig 4-piece from 1965. But he had a double kick pedal, which I only used for the very end of the last song.

We signed autographs and mingled afterwards. Folks were very friendly. Jump Cannon was a very pleasant surprise. "I wish more bands sounded like this", I said to Ning. They had a vaguely 80's alternative sound. Tribe was a band from Boston in the late 80's early 90's--kind of like that. That smart, clean, pre-grunge sound. I think grunge only wanted to wipe bad heavy metal off the map; not good alternapop. They had a Smiths/Cure thing, and covered a Blur song. Great stage presence, great personalities, great look. For a few songs they had a guy singing harmonies and playing tamborine--he looked like a Ween, mixed with Arlo Guthrie and Roland Orzebald. I liked him. Go to jumpcannon.com and see all this for yourself. And hey, they know The Mitchells!! Hey, so do we!!

I guess everyone has a love-hate relationship with their formative years, and a fondness for the eras they missed. During this night, I cursed grunge for making everything all dirty and smelly and sloppy. And I wished I coulda been old enough to see The Smiths. Almost, you know.

We watched the first 5 Mario songs before we left. As always, he was tearing it up. Mario has so much energy. Ning was getting loopy and sick, and we had a long drive home. A good drive home. We talked a bit about the future of the band, and where we fit in to this sinking ship known as the music industry. I say we take all our other favorite unsigned bands, and move to a new planet. Where there's only good music. Like the easy listening station we had on much of the way home. We sat through, and thouroughly enjoyed "I Write the Songs" by Barry M. and "The Entertainer"; the Marvin Hamlish version from The Sting. Oh, Marvin.

HENNING: “I write the songs that make the whole world sing.” The music modulates and flourishes stretching up and up into the cold, cold winter sky. I’m nestled in the back-seat like a child, head leaning against the window, gazing up at the startlingly bright moon. The dramatic clouds are lit-up like soundstage paintings for a vampire movie. My nausea and dizziness have given way to a sense of peace and an unprecedented skill in turning the shapes of these clouds into dragons and Victorian ladies, and I sing along, “..that make the young girls cry, I write the songs, I write the songs..” It’s not actually Barry Manilow’s version, I don’t think, but it is still wonderful.

That’s me on the way home from The Larkin and Albany in general. I don’t really fit in the back seat with the guitars and what have you. My legs are bending and folding in ways they shouldn’t, but the moon-lit mountain country-side takes my mind off of it.

Earlier we had stopped at the world’s most horrible Dunkin Donuts in Albany. The floor was covered with muddy cardboard and the creature behind the counter was seemingly comprised entirely of hair gel and horrible, horrible regret. This is Albany, not Traumaville, what’s the story?

Before that we had spent the evening in the lovely Larkin, a nice room, with nice employees, and nice crowd, and nice bands. It was a listening environment, not a sports bar. It was in a word, comfortable. We played as a three-piece and it was nice. Brian ate a burger and I had a huge peppermint tea, my head humming from whatever dehydrating ailment was possessing me. Everywhere I turned there was a glowing and smiling face. People laughed at my jokes.

After us a band called Jump Cannon played. They were great. Maudlin and morose, the spirit of The Smiths sung with the voice of the Cocteau Twins. After them Mario and his band graced the stage and passionately sang our way into the haze.

January 25, 2002 Mole's Eye, Brattleboro, Vermont

BRIAN: What, we can't go on vacation for 3 weeks without:
--Mariah Carrey being dropped from Virgin?
--The singer for Big Country killing himself?
--The Black Crows possibly breaking up?
--Stephen King announcing his retirement
--Superfan Claudine (of Claudine and Brian) getting 6 months pregnant?

Well, I guess life does go on, within us and without us.

Mole's Eye! Four piece, of the Joe, no Ken variety. Ken had JUST gotten back from Florida/Georgia, and wasn't ready to play a show. NING had been vack from his Florida jaunt a few days. And didn't we miss him? Yeeahh, we did. But I was busy setting up my new apartment. Love it!

Mole's Eye!! On a warm (relatively), January night! It's been warm indeed. We agreed to eat beforehand, but I love being served by the crew there, so I ordered a dessert. It was truly a special moment. Amy described the dessert specials for me--I chose a maple walnut pie. And a coffee. "Do you want a special coffee? ". YES! said I. This means it had all sorts of extra treats (booze) in it. And boy, it was 100% delicious!!! Much as this show was 100% fun.

I've waited a few days to write this, and it seems like months. This is what I remember:

--my drums moving around a lot. This only made me play harder.
-- Joe playing 12 string, and doing all sorts of other wonderful-sounding things.
--hearing 50 people going "HEY!" over and over again during the Sweet Caroline breakdown.
--seeing Ulla's passport, taken when she was 13, and thinking it was a cartoonist's impression of Ulla.
--talking with Fernando afterwards. He's the La Bamba guy, and he knows how to get the party started, yo.
Going to McNeil's pub afterwards, for the first time. It was already closed, but they let people mingle for a long time afterwards. Russ went to a party, we all went home.
--On the way home (I drove alone, Ning and Joe went in Ning's car) I heard "Girl Planet" on the radio--WRSI. I got Ning to pull over beside me, at 50mph (we were the only cars on route 91) but he couldn't understand what I was trying to say.

Oh, boy. I've lost the hang of this Gig Diary thing after a few weeks. Perhaps I should pull a Stephen King. King, Ning?

HENNING: Don't retire form writing Brian, you're unique style of suspense/horror would be missed. Here's my take:

Vacation is over. Winter is back. The boys are heading north. Elvis Costello is being featured on Fresh Air, various interviews from the past years. Joe and I listen admiringly as we speed up route 91.

Here’s me getting in the way of Bruce again, setting up all my stupid lights. Red rope lights climb up each microphone stand. A green one wraps itself around Brian’s drums like a boa. People watch amusedly, their eyes sparkling back the color from the glow.

As we play our first set, familiar faces start to appear. Smiling and beautiful, the Brattleboro gang has unselfishly opened their arms to us and welcomed us into their fold. There doesn’t seem to be any cattiness or competition with this crowd. They all exhibit an earnest compassion for each other. Is it a hippy vibe? These aren’t hippies. Where is the cynicism that my home-town is wrapped in? Probably it is just the slant of an outsider’s view, this utopian comraderie, but it sure seems like something special is going on. They love to dance.

We love to play. Sweet Caroline takes on a new dimension as the crowd starts screaming, “hey!” on the down beat. Even without Ken the room is completely full of music.

One lovely lady confides in me during a break that she knows eventually we will play our last song and she will have to start pleading for just one more, and we will not appease her. So, she suggests that we fake her out by saying our penultimate song is our last and then after the shouts from the crowd, we play one more. It’s just a simple encore motif but one that we don’t often employ at the smaller venues. We comply and she smiles knowingly, seemingly satisfied.

After the engagement, we cross over to the last-call-joint and stand around in the familiar scent of hot tubs (it turns out that odor comes from the brewing vats beneath us.) The young lady who helped carry my bass amp out to the car, commands me and another tall boy to crouch down to the standing level of the ladies. It’s confusing down there, I need air, and I once again appreciate my mostly over-looked height advantage.

I'm tall. I'm done. Here 's pictures:

January 4, 2002: Sully's, Hartford CT

BRIAN: The end of a crazy week. Are we insane to play a 3 set show less than a week after our monumental last Baystate show? Nah, it's all the same. It's always all the same. It's work, you gotta work, how you gonna get the work done if you don't work?

I'd had a non stop 4 days leading up to this, having moved (and still unpacking as I write!) on January 1-3. And boy are my arms tired! Stop laughing. They are. And they burn and cause me to cry out.

So, yeah, I was psyched to be playing a 3 set show. But don't worry, the nightclub community says to the nightclub musician, forget your pain, forget your fatigue, your troubles. I have 4 magic tablets of paper which can be transformed into 4 glasses of beer and which will make everything better! And so, voila, everything gets a little bit better.

I'll tell you about the many moods of this show.

The soundtrack being BLASTED over the PA while we were setting up, (and later, eating/playing with a free pizza) was horrific. I'm sorry funk fans, but this was funk without any feeling. It was like crack funk. Like tragically un Sly Stone, un-"Shaft", un-early Prince. Oh, this was cringe-worthy. Like hearing a marching band doing a Miles Davis song. It made us angry. It made me wanna play as unfunky as I could, just to restore some balance. And you know, normally, I do bring the funk. That's why everyone dances when we play. Thankfully, just as we were about to have nervous bouts of killing each other, The English Beat came on, then the Clash, and the Violent Femmes. Aaahhh...sanity.

First set a moderate, but growing crowd. Ken Maiuri could not make this show--possible strep throat. Joe was here. I think we unanimously were just out to have a good time. Surely the folks who were really digging the bad funk could not be into us. I, in a rare episode, accepted my squareness, and wore it like a crown. We were playing happy music in a hostile, angry environment. Think of it; angry is a fashion. Modern rock? Loud and angry! Not singing about love, like Zeppelin, or even Poison. Do these bands need to relearn what makes a man a man? It's the ability to love! No matter who you're loving. Yes, you can love your tattoo and your piercing, and rest assured it's not gonna dump you. You can love your cell phone and your play station and your porn and your bong. But man oh man, when did it become unhip to be happy and loving with another person? And have your heart broken, and recover and try again? And to write and sing about it? Learn from Frank Sinatra! I dunno--I'm generalizing, there are tons and tons of positive people in the world. But there was an ugly vibe that Ning was scared of and I was trying to block out. And that we were the cure for.

We did a lot of improvising again tonight. The Grateful U2 we sounded like. 3 sets. I think Sully recorded the last set. Nelina Steamhead asked Henning and me, "what's it like to be the soundtrack to someone's life?". That was sweet.

By the second and third sets, there was a good crowd and the Steamheads and others were dancing all around. My favorite fans left before Ning could take their picture. It was 3 people and I loved them all. A long haired woman, a computer programmer-looking guy, still in work clothes, and their wacky bald friend in a loud sweater, dancing like a maniac. The Kelvin dudes were there, and had nice things to say. We did "Downtown Boys" by the Drunk Stuntmen again. That's a fun song to play. At least one bearded guy recognized it and was smiling a lot.

By the second set, our vibe had set in, and Sully's was transformed from the Dark Castle to Candyland. Groovy. I was feeling particularly insane, perhaps because I had to sit on an amplifier the whole night, as the Sully's drum stool had been stolen. And hey: whoever told me that the term "Drum Throne" is meant to be derogatory because drummers are the furthest thing from King-material can twok my shinkle.

On the way home I fell asleep. We realized, hey, we have no gigs for 3 weeks!!! Oh my god!! Ning gets to go to Florida. We hope he can succeed in convincing the warmth there to spend a three day vacation in New England--as soon as he gets back, of course. See you all in 3 weeks. Till then, I'm hibernating And playing gigs with other bands, and working and setting up my new place. Have a good time in FLA, Ning!! Perhaps you can convince Disney to make a cartoon out of you. Then we'd be really famous, to have a cartoon bass player.

HENNING: Sheesh, yes, vacation. Nice. Thanks. Will do.

Thank god for the Connecticut friends and fans, I have to say. If it wasn't for them I don't know what would have happened. I may have run home screaming.

And special thanks to the colorful spinny light and the tiny trumpet, my security blankets for the evening. If it wasn't for them I don't know what would have happened. I may have screamed, "Home!" running.

A young lady, excused herself from her friends, Sally and Sally, and came over and talked to Russ and me for a bit. She wanted us to play something peppier. We did our best. Her and her friends had come over because they saw in the Advocate that there was a band playing. They called the club and asked about us and whoever answered said we were cool. So they came over. Sully's is always very nice to us, but I felt like a cactus in the snow this night, needing a wall behind me at all times (like cacti do.) Out-of-place.

It snowed today and last night. I remember winter.

Have a nice vacation everybody.


Jan 1, 2002: Baystate Hotel, Northampton.

THE END of Aloha Steamtrain shows at the Baystate. THE BEGINNING of the year TWO THOUSAND AND WOOOOOOO!!!

BRIAN: Henning wrote a song a few years back called "2002". Recorded it with Humbert. In it, he predicted that the world would end at the start of 2002 (he wasn't far off) and that all our bands' CDs would be already in the discount/reject/cutout bins, after, perhaps having had one big, brief moment of world stardom. I THINK that's what the song is about. In any case, doomsayer Ning, it just ain't that simple.

This was the night of the curly headed drummers. This was the night of Don dressed up like Jack Ruby. This was the night of miracles, of memories, of Jerry the bartender showing up at Ning's place at 5am. I wasn't there, I heard about it. This was my last night of living in the same apartment as Lord Russ, and onto other things.

Onto other things. I arrived at the Baystate at 9pm. Christopher from Model Rocket and Michael from Spouse both needed to use my drum kit. But of course! You couldn't get 2 nicer guys. I was feeling a bit tired so I had a Venom (one of those Red Bull type drinks) and soon Henning was wondering if they were legal. I was bouncing off the walls. And it lasted me most of the night. I blended it with Vodka, which is a thing to do.

Model Rocket began their set. What I saw of it, I thoroughly enjoyed. They should be the band in the next Austin Powers movie. The band. But I went into the other room to get a drink, and was swallowed by the ever swelling masses. Like an Octopus! It took ages to get a drink, then I was given the task of creating and copying the set list, in the dark, using pencil and Keno forms. This process, which was intermingled with socializing with the best and brightest of Northampton and other parts, lasted into the Spouse set. At last I was finished, and watched several Spouse songs.

Hurrrahh!! They had much of their old lineup. No Liz on keyboards ,so they called Ken. Of course. Who doesn't call Ken? In the crowd, I was flattered to hear folks saying "two thousand and fun!!!" which was what I made up for last year. And yes, I'm positive I'm the only one, so shut up, I'm not listening. It was 11:51 and I realized I should stop dancing with Andrea and get us a midnight drink! I also ordered for A's sister, Emily. But suddenly it was 11:58:35 and I was just ordering! And I heard Jose' sweet voice calling me from the next room! Oh my god! No time for nothing, yo! Sacrifices had to be made. What I got: my beer, Andrea's beer. What I didn't get: Emily's fancy cocktail, and a New Year's kiss from Andrea.

I heeded Jose's call, and looked at my watch. I began shouting: NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, (then Jose, on mic) SIX, FIVE (then everyone) FOUR... THREE... TWO.. ONE HAPPY TWO THOUSAND AND WOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! What happened: The Steamtrain, with Jose on vocals and Michael on percussion, played a pretty darned good version of "New Year's Day" by U2, which we figured, somehow, is a kind of appropriate song for the situation. Call us crazy. But it sounded great, and was so much fun to play.

Spouse finished their set, and it was time. Oh, yes. Everything was in order. Where was Joe Boyle tonight? Prior gig commitment It was sad, but hey man, things happen. Dan and Bruce were there recording, so this historic night could be documented. Blah blah, songs songs. Fun fun, dancing, dancing, jokes, PRIZES!!!!!!!! hey!!!!!! Lord Russ worked overtime at the copy place preparing t-shirts and Printed, Bound 2001 Gig Diaries!! Looked awesome!!!!!! We also had random rock t-shirts I'd gotten from my brother in law John. I kept some, gave the rest away. Who'd think you'd walk away from a Steamtrain show with a Pavement or Shonun Knife t shirt? Jose got the Prince one. Naomi got the Go-Go's one.

Then came the excitement. Manager Don came up with a cool little idea. You see, our pals The Drunk Stuntmen were playing a show 100 yards down the street at Harry's. We had a plan. We'd learn one of their songs, they, one of ours. In this case, we learned "Downtown Boys", a perfect little twang pop song and they learned "Many a Wonderful Thing". At about 12:50, they took a break and went to the Baystate. We took a break and went to Harry's. Russ and I sprinted, and the whole time I was loudly singing "Hard Day's Night" and imagined that I lived the kind of life where girls chased me down the street. We ran by a cop, and I'm glad he didn't suspect anything. We got on stage at Harry's and played "Downtown Boys" and "Many a Wonderful Thing" and meanwhile, the Stuntmen were doing the same thing at the Baystate. Groovy, huh? We sprinted back to the Baystate, and the timing was perfect. Then we finished our set. It was exhausting and so facking loud. The whole next day I was wearing invisible ear muffs.

The last song we ever played at the Baystate was "All My Juices". I actually can't ever see playing that song again and it having so much significance. It may just feel like the Who doing "My Generation". Or Dylan doing "Blowing in the Wind". Or Weird Al doing "Eat It". All acting, no feeling. Maybe it's just me. The last minute of "Juices" was accompanied by Jose's MCing, and Mario Seviaega (where did he come from? ) wrestling with Russ/guitar. Lots of love, lots of love in the room. It was Nelina Steamhead's birthday.

Alright! So that's it. That is it!! Who would wanna miss it for the world? The show ended at 2am, and I think it took 45 minutes to pack up and get out. My limbs were jelly, my ears were non-functioning. I drove an inebriated Jose to the party at Ning/El Bezo's. I stayed for a little while. Then I realized I was meant to be sleeping, resting for the big move. You see, I moved to a new home the next day. New year, new day. Nostalgia, and hope for the future. Happy New Year, everyone, and let's hope.

HENNING: When I was young, so much younger than today, I was obsessed with lights. When the family would empty our Canobie Lake Park jar and visit the theme park of my youth, I couldn't wait until the sun went down and the lights came up. When we would go into Harvard Square in late december, I would stare mesmorized at the Christmas lights everywhere through the snowy snow snow. I dug lights and I still do. That's why I showed up for this show earlier than usual. I had lights to set up.

It's this glow from the colored lights that is branded into my head now. The blur of faces and bodies at our New Year Extravanza are colored in reds and blues and greens.

Model Rocket performed on a cloud, the audience floating in space. The lovely ladies stared hollowly into the invisible people, the invisible people were hypnotized, the band somehow was in 16mm film format, I was me, I thought, but then somehow realized that I was you, and you had simply thought I was me.

Spouse brandished bright red New Year lips. And they smirked and smooched their way around the room like a tribe of pin-up bees. (Bees can pin themselves up if need be.) Jose led an overwhelming pop eruption. He made me proud. It was our second New Year with Spouse! A lovely tradition. They are the friendliest wonderful band I have had the pleasure to meet.

The view from the stage was a gas! It was a panorama of glee. An IMAX of friends.

Our first show of the new year and our last show at the Baystate couldn't possibly have been better. No way. You could float on the love in the room like a tourist at The Great Salt Lake, and we did.

Suddenly there is a blast of cold air and I see the flashing form of Ken looking back at me and rounding the corner in front of the tank-top droves outside Pearl Street. He is running in slow motion but extremely fast. We burst into Harry's and Russ is strumming the first chords of "Downtown Boys". I pick up the first bass I see and we kick in. "How the, what in the, where are we?" I think, all the while focusing on Mike Flood's beaming, bouncing face in the crowd. Another audience of friendly familiar faces - are there really that many in the world?

I'm jumping off the stage and we're out the door (but not until after seeing a drunk guy get kicked to the ground by the bouncer) "Happy New Year" I think, as the film of our approach displays itself in reverse before me. We pass the Stuntmen at the entrance to the Baystate - it is not until hours later that it's pointed out to me and I realize that Terry Flood is wearing some kind of bed sheet.

And now we are back on stage at the Baystate (had we ever really left?) The crowd is cheering, "Two Thousand and Wooo!!" The show goes on, I am exhausted. The audience sings all the right parts to Sweet Caroline in a seeming rapture of solidarity, Neil Diamond smiles in his grave (and he's not even dead!) Bruce dances atop his chair behind the soundboard. Two ladies up front are making out. A woman is throwing polaroids on the stage. There are champagne bottles everywhere. Cameras flash. Steamheads glow. The night whips by. Brian is smiling and hucking his broken sticks at me.

When the crowd thins there is a battlefield of debris everywhere, a few casualties sit in stunned silence. The dismantling begins and I am hearing more and more people say they will see me back at my house for the "party". Soon everyone is gone except for me, Bruce, Dan, Chris, Don, Kelly, Jerry, and Libby.

All of them but Dan are at my house later, where I find myself playing Rolling Stones songs with Tom. Neil from the Iron Horse walks in, one of Jaqui's old professors is banging away at various percussion instruments. Ed is dancing in the hall. People are making mysterious trips up stairs and back. El Bezo's whiskey is gone. Shane's wine is empty. The beers jerry brought are gone practically before getting in the door. Danny, the dog, is surprisingly restrained. And soon, the house is silent.

Happy 2002, Bri. Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for the past great year. Hopefully this year will be as great, maybe greater. Wee.