September 28, 2002 - Harry's
Nightspot, Northampton, MA The Final Aloha Steamtrain
A Memo from Lord Russ:
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,
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.
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+
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
By the end of the night we
were Funnilingus all over again - except that the people in the "bar"
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
August 31,2002 The Mole's
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.
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!
August 27, 2002 TRANSPERFORMANCE;
LOOK PARK, FLORENCE, MA
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,
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.
cool pictures by Jim Weeks:
August 11, 2002 The Taste
Our third to last gig. This
was our 5th Taste of Noho, and probably my favorite one, if not second
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.
PS; LORD RUSS IS GETTING MARRIED
NEXT MONTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YYEEEEEE!!!!!!!
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
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
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.
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
June 29, 2002 - A Celebration
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
June 8, 2002 - Mole's Eye
Cafe, Brattleboro, Vermont
Our favorite home away from
home. You cannot help but feel welcome at the Mole's Eye. Weird 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
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,
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.
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.
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
We drove. My old days of driving
to the cape every weekend came back to me and I knew all the right roads.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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,
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
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.
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.
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'
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Why can't you get heard on
for-profit radio? Read this article and find out: Salon
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
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
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
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
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
-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?
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.
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
April 4 - Club Helsinki; Great
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
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
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.
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
March 30 2001; FOURTH ANNUAL
SAINT PATRIOT'S DAY CELEBRATION. Harry's Nightspot, Northampton
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
March 9 - The Larkin, Albany
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.
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
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
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
March 1; Harry's Nightspot,
THE JB4, Ladies and Jellymen. The JB4!!!!
"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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
February 13 - Luna Lounge, NYC
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
To Hell With
February 2, 2002 -
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 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.
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?
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,
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.
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.
had invited us to join the bill, which featured his band, as well as Jump
Cannon, who were a pleasant surprise!!
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
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!!
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.
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.
“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.
25, 2002 Mole's Eye, Brattleboro, Vermont
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.
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!
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.
a few days to write this, and it seems like months. This is what I remember:
moving around a lot. This only made me play harder.
-- Joe playing 12 string, and doing all sorts of other wonderful-sounding
--hearing 50 people going "HEY!" over and over again during the Sweet
--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.
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?
form writing Brian, you're unique style of suspense/horror would be missed.
Here's my take:
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
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,
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:
2002: Sully's, Hartford CT
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Jan 1, 2002:
Baystate Hotel, Northampton.
END of Aloha Steamtrain shows at the Baystate. THE BEGINNING of the year
TWO THOUSAND AND WOOOOOOO!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
view from the stage was a gas! It was a panorama of glee. An IMAX of friends.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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.
2002, Bri. Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for the past great year.
Hopefully this year will be as great, maybe greater. Wee.