Saturday, March 25, 2006

Back from London, and this is my first real weekend in two weeks. I've been awash in technical jargon for about a month now, attempting to prepare to support products with lots of differing feature options, builds, needy customers and the like. I came in with a patchy desktop software background but with an aptitude to learn quickly. I think I'm doing that, but it will take time before I'll be able to help everybody efficiently. That's how it goes. You can either hire someone who's exactly qualified, or overqualified, at that very moment and thus will more likely move on quickly, or hire someone who will grow into the job and stick around a while longer. So...I'm still in Customer/Technical Support, but I'm still learning new things. And the pay's a lot better.

The gents in the Blackbirds are getting antsy to finish mixing and the project, and I can't blame them. I've been a bit slow...but I think the end result will be worth the wait. Chris and I begin mixing as it stands now on April 8th, and should wrap up mid-month. I was floored when they presented me with a couple of Event near field monitors at the end of recording last month for my home studio. Somehow I feel unworthy. But life has intervened on more than one occasion throughout the project. First, there was a tape machine problem. Next, K & I moved to the South Bay. Next came the holidays, and then Chris went on tour. Now I've started a new day job and am getting up to speed. I know an EP shouldn't take this long normally, but on the other hand, better to do it right than rush it out there. And I never said I was an experienced pro.

On a related musical note, K & I are participating in a Walk for Suicide awareness (out of the darkness overnight) in July, and the thought is now that we may put on a benefit show in SF in a (for now) undisclosed location (til things are finalized). I've got a wishlist of acts for the musical portion, and it's likely I'll come out of retirement to play a few of my own tunes and see how they go. This will likely be some time in June. I need to wire up my Epiphone Hummingbird acoustic with the best set of pickups I can find. If I'm to go back up onstage, I don't want anything to be half-assed. I'm enlisting the Blackbirds to be "the Band" to my Dylan. Or something like that. And should the others give the ok, I'll begin the announcement process.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I'm off to London today in a few hours, for a week of training for my new job. I'm excited; haven't been to the UK since 8/31/01, Beulah's final tour over there. How much has changed since we were treated like royalty by the nice people in the small town of Resolven, Wales. For those who don't know the story, when Beulah was beginning to take off, we signed a licensing deal to a small label based in Oxford called Shifty Disco records, who soon brought us over to the UK to play a few clubs, mostly in Oxford, London, Manchester and so on. In 2000, one of our Oxford shows was attended by quite a large group of fans (that word would turn out to be quite an understatement) who had chartered a bus there all the way from tiny Resolven, Wales, a four hour drive. Between songs they were chanting our names like we they were singing songs at a soccer match. Later, when we went for a curry (as the English put it), some of the kids from Resolven spotted us and all poured into the Indian restaurant, and proceeded to start singing the entire Beach Boys' Pet Sounds record a cappella and then a few Beulah songs from "When Your Heartstrings Break" (better than we could, I might add). At one point one guy picked up a recipe book and started reading dramatically from it and it was really quite compelling.

Fast forward a year or so. The beginning blurb in "Coast is Never Clear" paid homage to them, and then Shifty had an idea for the "Coast" record release: Rent out the Miners Welfare hall in Resolven itself, and put on a record release party there. As we crossed into Wales, past Cardiff and started the uphill journey to Resolven, we were all struck by how beautiful the country was. It sort of reminded us of California’s redwood forests, but with 12th Century castles perched atop the hills along the horizon. When we arrived in Resolven, a town of about 2,000 people or so, it was clear that word had gotten around because everyone knew who we were. I was not surprised by this, having been born in a town of similar size in Wisconsin. For better or worse, word gets around fast. Everybody knows everybody.

We were treated very, very well from the moment we arrived. The Mayor and his wife were extremely hospitable. He told us old stories about the mines in the town, wishing they were still open and that he would “go back to work there the next day” if he could. She made us sandwiches, drinks, basically waited on us and seemed somewhat put off when we thanked her as if she wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary!

The night before the gig, we stayed in Neath after a BBC radio session in Cardiff. Things got a little rowdy and I’m surprised we didn’t get kicked out. There was a karaoke bar across the street from the hotel and the guys from Resolven band El Goodo (some of whom were singing a cappella that night back in Oxford) and a bunch of their friends came by to whoop it up. At the end of the night, we were all a little soused and the El Goodo guys started towards the mike to sing Elvis songs like “Suspicious Minds” by getting a running start and sliding across the bar room floor flat on their bellies.

The gig in Resolven was a good one, but I remember the night more for what happened afterwards. First, we went to the pub after hours. UK law stated at the time that pubs close by 11pm. Well, I don’t suppose the Home Secretary would have gotten a tip that the pub in Resolven stayed open on our behalf long past that. We figured we’d be sneaking in to have a quiet pint with a few of our closest confidantes whom we’d written back and forth with since the Oxford show. When we opened the door into the pub, it seemed like everyone in town was packed in there and they cheered like we were the home team coming back to town as League Champions. Buying our own drinks was certainly not an option. Laughing heartily while a number of different people stood up on the bar tables to tell tall tales and pay a tribute to each Beulah member, past and present, certainly was!

We had a full European tour, including a few more UK dates planned for late October, early November, but it was not to be. September 11th was less than two weeks later and, as it turned out, we would not play a show in England or Wales ever again. I’ll always remember the experience at Resolven, Wales on August 31st, 2001 as the final, triumphant personal high point from a now bygone era in the history of the world.

Anyway, I don't think I'll make the trip up to Wales this time. I'll be getting to know London a bit better. But my wife and I do plan on a trip over there in 2007, to Ireland, England and Wales. I will no doubt look up Resolven then. For now, it's cheers.