Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gut Feelings


Even with the Abramoff situation, I don't see the GOP losing that many seats in Congress for the midterms. I have no scientific studies or facts based on the individual elections, this is just a gut feeling I have. I hope I'm wrong about this. Because it's clear to me that the Right wing of the GOP (and isn't that most of the GOP at this point?) operates under the following maxim: "Our time here will short, so let's grab what we can." But the Dems are in worse shape, since they've squandered numerous opportunities to articulate what they stand for as an alternative to these assholes to convince skeptical midwesterners, southerners and others that, as Clinton once summed: "If you want to live like the Republicans, you better vote for the Democrats."

New Years' resolution: Look forward now, not back. 2005 was about looking back. I have 30 pages of notes from my copy editor, who was gracious to take the time to give my book about my musical past an honest and candid read, so there will be some looking back until that's done. But I suppose in pursuing that project, I've already tried to move on. But the subject matter is all about looking back.

In any case, the Bye Bye Blackbirds' project has been a little slow in the finishing, mostly my fault, due to a move from Oakland to Santa Clara, slowness in unpacking, difficulties in scheduling due to the holidays, a last minute trip to pay my respects to an old friend and so on. Two vocal cleanup sessions with a few overdubs, and one session for guest musicians with Chris at 3431 should do it. Mixing will probably commence in February, with Mastering tbd. The band has been patient, which I am grateful for. I've enlisted the help of an old friend and bandmate for some keyboards, but I'll save that announcement for another time, as in, once the session's completed.

I got a gift card for Rasputin's for Christmas, which I snuck out of the office early from to go and purchase the following, all about the indie pop ('cept one):

Sufjan Stevens: Come on! Feel the Illinoise!

Discovered him from Epitonic, during my days at Captaris Medialinq, the job where I had to work from 5am to 2pm, from between the Coast tour in 2002 and the final round of Yoko tours in early 2004 (the office laid everyone off soon after). There were a couple of songs off of the (then hard to find) A Sun Came that I really enjoyed. On this one, I really enjoy the trumpet work and the vocal/string/woodwind arrangements. A more sophisticated Verlaines (of New Zealand fame), then again, of Beulah also. Except that Sufjan really doesn't rock out (not always the point).

Nina Nastasia: Dogs

Same here: discovered on Epitonic (when still current). The Blackened Air is one of my favorite records. This one is a followup and I'm still digesting. I truly believe Steve Albini's at his best when recording acoustic based music and utilizing ambient techniques to that end.

Inara George: All Rise

Saw her open for Crooked Fingers in Seattle during my trip there to track my subtle, "Where's Waldo" trumpet part for Death Cab's "Soul Meets Body." Hung out with other DCFCs (sans Walla, who was probably still at Avast! tinkering after I left) after planning on seeing Crooked Fingers by myself. First entered Jeff Byrd, who was on the road with them as their sound engineer. Jeff helped out Beulah by brokering a sale of a replacement tape machine for the one I had begun using when Miles and I started recording what ended up becoming our first record, and also mixed that record later before moving to Austin, Texas a number of years later. The seller of the machine was a band that owed Jeff's studio a bit of money, and they were desperate to raise it. The name of the band was "Freud Chicken." Then I walked to the back bar at the Crocodile and I noticed Matt, from Archers of Loaf, whom Beulah toured with in its early days, was doing bass for Crooked Fingers on this tour. Chatted with him and then Ben and Nick from DCFC handed me a beer! So much for hanging out alone. Watching Matt reminded me that he was the one who stood out in Archers, leaping all over the place, and pacing back and forth in the slower moments, wound up and ready to fly around the place like a super ball the moment the music took off. First saw Archers at the Black Cat in DC in 1994. Matt had some nice things to say about how Beulah developed after our time with them. Reminisced with Ben during Crooked Fingers' set about this and other shows from the good old days when we were putting things together. At the end of the set, they took what we thought to be the Beulah trademark of bringing fans onstage to dance a step further...they all went down in the crowd for the final encore and played acoustically among them.

The lineup of the Crooked Fingers show was solid. I especially liked Dolorean, and bought "Not Exotic," one of the best acoustic records I've heard in a long, long time. Sounds great, too. If I get my shit together, likely acoustic based, I'd like to record it at Jackpot! if I could afford it. Might just need to try and replicate the best I can. Nuff rambling. Inara George was also impressive, and this record was $5.99. A no-brainer.

M. Ward: Transistor Radio

From Pat Noel and Carlos Forster's circles. I've like what I've heard from Matt Ward for a long time, but have been too lazy to get out and buy something of his. This was also in the used section. I am notoriously stingy when it comes to buying records, often basing my decision on what I can find in the used bin. Not alone in that, certainly.

Explosions in the Sky: How Strange, Innocence

Heard "Greet Death" off of Epitonic, then the "Friday Night Lights" movie came out, and without seeing the credits, I had bet that it was Explosions in the Sky doing the music based on what I remember from hearing "Greet Death," one of my favorite instrumental rock pieces. Nice to be right once in a while. This one's their (admittedly) humble debut. Also on sale.

Iron and Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days

Beulah played a co-headlining show with them in Atlanta back in 2003. I've been wanting to get this one for a long time. Haven't listened just yet (will today). We got stupid drunk at this show because a keg was provided backstage. This is the Keg that Blazer, one of our tour techs, later snuck into the cargo van for his personal use. See, we used to offer anyone $10 a night to sleep in one of the vans to guard our gear. Blazer was found passed out in the front seat the next morning with the dashboard light on and the passenger window wide open, with the keg planted on the ground just outside of the van. I was p'oed at first and told Eli that we should tell Miles. But that would have disqualified me from the running bet that the band had on Blazer, that in such and such a city, Blazer would have a meltdown and threaten to hop on a plane and head for home, though my next "day" to win the bet was two days later in Chapel Hill. The reason? Let's just say that Miles (who was always our tour manager in addition to frontman and principal songwriter and producer) probably would have said something to coax Blazer into such a meltdown. But Eli (given the task of finding jumper cables for the Cargo van) reminded me: "We want him to flip out. We don't want him to get killed!" Blazer ended up winning the pool money as, alas, he never did "flip-out." At least, as defined by our rules of what "flipping out" actually meant. If it were up to me, the events that transpired at our show with Iron and Wine would have qualified him. I forget whose day it was in Atlanta...probably Tim Tunks, our LD. Tunks has always said that everyone in Atlanta is "fucking crazy." Iron and Wine is the antithesis of all this, by the way...quiet, subtle, subdued.

[Update-I am confusing my dates. The keg incident with Blazer was a year later. Flashbacks, I suppose]

Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden (finally!)

I've heard, from John Vanderslice, Carlos Forster and others, for a long time that this, and the follow up, Laughingtock, were records I would probably really enjoy. I only knew them for their hit song in '83. I've already listened to Spirit of Eden four times in about 12 hours' time. A classic. Shit they don't play on the radio (well, hard to format 8+ minute songs even today). But radio's irrelevant anyway.

On my trip to Wisconsin, I met up with an old mentor of mine, Jeff Jagielo. Jeff used to play in a band called Ivory Library, which took my college band in Madison, WI under their wing for a few shows and two free recordings, provided I could make the trek all the way up to tiny Plover, WI. I learned many of the tools I'd later put to use, in my own humble way, for Beulah a few years later. I rediscovered my love for the trumpet and for tinkering with recording equipment, and taking my time to make a good recording, not feeling rushed by recording in a "time is money" place. Jeff handed me some new material of his, which I've yet to give a proper listen, and the old DAT Master for the second of my old recordings, which we called "The Plymouths," from the fall and winter of 1992. I am now threatening to self-release it, but I have to decide if I really want anyone to hear my horribly juvenile "college lit major" lyrics that are just plain unintelligible. The music I still enjoy, and Jeff's a fine engineer. But before I do anything I need to track down the other songwriter, John Dannenbrink. The Plymouths taught me that maybe, just maybe, my role might be better suited to a supporting role than as the front man. Beulah would confirm that for me later. But the Plymouths were short lived. And in one of John's songs that we recorded, he had a lyric that proved to be prescient for what I was about to do...move to California. The line, in context of giving the ghost of Marilyn Monroe directions on how to get to Hollywood, says: "Go South and Take a Right, Look For Lights when you hit the Coast." I last saw John in 1995, visiting me in SF on the way to a Russian Orthodox church in Wasilla, Alaska. He had become a born again Christian and wanted to take the road less traveled.

Guess I'm still looking back. Easier said than done to follow one's resolutions, after all. I've long been past resolving to eat and drink less and exercise more. I suppose I'm an old Epicurean soul. Or maybe an adolescent one. But when I'm old, I'm guessing I'll be the portly geezer with a cane and his foot proudly propped up on a stool, showcasing the gout. I come from a German, Irish and Polish Midwestern Stock, so I'm guessing my liver will hang around a while should I continue the err of my ways.

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