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April | 2005 | PJ Newman

Read the directions carefully!

Read the Label…Carefully!!!

That, being said and done, brings us to the present.
Having survived 6 inexpensive and 1 overpriced beers, a AAA baseball game and dinner with my brother and sister-in-law takes us to the next day…SHOW DAY!
The reason for this mini-road trip was to record my friend Sharon Gillenwater at the Portland Art Museum’s Museum After Hours performance. The day started off innocently enough, coffee, dog walks, replying to about 30 e-mails and sushi (in that order). Retrieved all of my gear from the hotel and headed for the museum.
I have recorded at the museum plenty of times in their Grand Ballroom and Grand it is! About 10,000 square feet of space, 40-foot ceilings… A Grand Echo Chamber. The trick there is to close mic everything and hope that there are enough people there to absorb the sound. Of course, with 800 people talking and drinking, you have to decide what’s noise and not.
The reason I bring this up is because we did not record in the Grand Ballroom this time. The museum is renovating the room, so we are in a 40×100 foot tent.
Did I mention the construction happening just outside the sheer fabric walls? Or that you could tell what type of jet is flying directly over you by the number of fillings jarred loose from your mouth?
I haul my gear in, set up and deal with things. There are 2 stage hands/staff workers at my bidding and a house a/v guy. They are cooler than shit. I thought the sound guy, Alan, might be a little ticked because I brought in all of my own mics and changed everything that he’s already set up. No problem. He’s very helpful and doesn’t mind when we have to do some things over. And over. And over.
The band straggles in. The guitarist has only seen the music once before. The original guitarist had to attend to a family emergency in Peru so the guy they find is a teacher at Portland State University. I’ve worked with the bassist many times and the pianist is a 23 year old who everybody fawns over. Of course, he pissed me off the second he walked in by raising the lid of the piano. It is now a 6′ microphone.
Sharon is nervous as hell. Richard told me he had to stay out of the house for 2 days leading up to the show.
She’s better now, but her voice is shaky and there is fear in her eyes.
Sound check? What sound check? This is live, baby!
The show begins and there’s not much more I can do until it’s over, 2 hours later.
Well, there is more to do. Alan and I are sitting next to each other in the back of the room. Somehow, the conversation turns to the operatic nature and language of the songs to be invocative of Satan. Fair enough. He informs me that the space we are on is over a Hellmouth.
To prove his point, he points to John Entwhistle, the bass player for The Who, who died a year or so ago in the arms of a prostitute and an ounce of blow in a Las Vegas hotel room. Sure enough, it is John and he’s in line for the buffet. Apparently, the chicken is too fresh or not bloody enough for his taste. He moves to the bar and gets a glass of red wine. I point to a woman who used to be a man and Alan points to a man who used to be a man.
Did I mention free beer if you say you are doing sound?
Just 1 beer.
OK, it’s done. We pack up and I go back to the hotel to drop stuff off and go to dinner. It’s a neat little Lebanese joint by the river where Richard is having his book release party May 4. When we show up, there is another couple that was at the show. This couple turns into 5 or 6 more folks, some much louder than others. Somehow, my reputation preceded me and, although everybody there seems to know who I am, they don’t know that I’m me. This takes quite a bit of explaining over quite a bit of hummus.

It’s Thursday now. Back to Seattle. Absolutely nothing to report on the drive back.
Get home, do laundry. Get a haircut.
WARNING: When you go to get your hair cut and the barber/stylist/butcher doesn’t speak English and you don’t speak Vietnamese, make sure you know what #3 means before you sit down. She looked me up in their computer and apparently somebody said that I like my hair mangled.
Silly me.
Anyway, they gave me 50/50 that it’ll ever grow back. When she pulled out the mirror at the end, I violently pushed it away. The way I see it (or don’t), if I can’t see it, it’s not really there.

Lots of beer in the house; good, because we’re back to tracking the Mala Vista record. It’s vocal night. Oliver and Jon show up about 6. Oliver called and said that Jon had a flat tire and they’d be there soon. Flat tire now means they stopped for a few beers on the way over. Later, Jason arrives and we finish all but one vocal track. I’m getting excited to mix this thing. We recorded the basics back in May and haven’t touched them since. Jon and I are strategizing a release schedule. A single here, an EP there. We’ll probably record a live set and use some of those as B-Sides.
Many beers consumed.

It’s Friday now.
Working with Stevie Boy again. You may recall me ranting at him on some of the earlier blogs. He who left me in Tacoma for a week subjected to x-mas music.
This gig is a benefit to help with school programs in the schools. Apparently, it’s more important to wage war all over the world than it is to give kids a chance to see and hear and perform music. The Seattle Symphony has sent a group over, about 30 pieces, along with the conductor, Gerry Schwartz. Most people around here know him as Gerard, but being with the in-crowd as I was, Gerry was just fine.
Did I mention that the 2nd course was Vanessa Williams? Probably not. So, the plan was simple. Start to set for the Vanessa until the Symphony shows up, the sound check to Symphony. When they’re done, resume with Vanessa til her sound check is over. Reset the Symphony. Do the Symphony. Reset Vanessa. Do Vanessa.
If you haven’t seen her up close, she’s kinda scary’ Sycophants tripping over themselves with glasses of orange juice, band members just plain tripping. I remember working with their monitor guy from about 10 years earlier when he was with Driving and Crying. He took everything in stride until we had to totally rewire the monitor rack. Even then, he kept his cool, though I’m sure his blood pressure became dangerously high.
Tear down and go home.
Guess again.
So, there’s another show in the Westin the next night that we’re working. In a more perfect world, we would just put the microphones away and call it a night. But for the fact that we (all sound, lights, video, decorators) have to shift 90 degrees so the band can play to the short end of the room. Who thought this up? Since I’m working the show Saturday as well, I’m released early for good behavior after 16.5 hours.
Saturday’s show is a party for a certain bank who was celebrating the raping of the greater Seattle area. Instead of lowering interest rates, they blow big $ on a party. The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies were the entertainment.
I’ll leave it at that.

Since then, I’ve caught up on sleep, seen a couple of movies (Sin City and Kung Fu Hustle, both great) and chased the dog around. Also brought over about 10 wheelbarrows full of dirt from next door to try to fill in some of Mifune’s holes. He thinks I’m just refilling them so he can dig again.
I guess I am.


I think I missed my stop

Hello Dear Readers,

What a wild few weeks!
News from the Dog Front, Misadventures in Recording and my So-Called Life…

The Dog: Is Mifune (aka Damnit) adjusting well to Ballard life? Well, if your definition of adjusting is DIGGING, then all is well here. I’m thinking of renting him out to a few landscapers I know for the purpose of excavating yards. He is a living breathing shitting roto tiller.
Newest chew toys: Gray leather couch, new sweater, 6 pack of Tecate, anything with shoe laces and anything to do with the recording studio.
Like Jazz, he likes fried tofu, but, unlike Jazz, he’ll eat his vegetables.
Have I mentioned that he can take up an entire queen size bed? His MO is as follows: If I’m already on the bed, he’ll hop up and lay next to me, head facing my feet. He’ll then fart twice (Hey George, here are your Biological Weapons of Mass Distraction!), and as my eyes stop watering, he applies enough pressure to actually move me a foot toward the edge of the bed. At this point, he employs some sort of Doggie Gravitational Brake (DGB) which renders him immovable. I wish my parking brake worked as well.
With the exception of the occasional lunge, he and Kaiju (Cat Like Object) seem to have plotted out their own Roadmap for Peace. Not sure if it’s all of the downers I put in their water,
Summing up: Less frustrating, more lovable. We’ll start obedience school next month.

The Recording Thing: If the dog proves to be less frustrating, then music has replaced it as the Head Scratching Why Am I Doing This Again? Thing. Since late December, when Ernestine Anderson cancelled her live recording dates THE DAY BEFORE, my recording biorhythm has been off of the chart! Everybody’s been sick, including me for once. Had great sessions with John Stowell, Jeff Johnson and John Bishop (my new record label Supreme Commander). Wylie and the Wild West Show & I finally mixed the Tractor shows from last October for live CD and DVD (I still have yodeling stuck in my head) due out this spring. Work threatens to continue on the Malavista project with only 2 cancellations for overdubs.
Happily, I’ve had my own butt kicked by Toddd Dunnigan, the Dog Girls keyboardist from Boise who moved with his family to Seattle last year. Todd and I record every Monday afternoon and the newest project is already halfway completed! Todd plays piano at Chopstix (sp), a dueling piano bar in Lower Queen Anne. Todd has always been my favorite collaborator and has helped me to focus on things in the living world.
The Hand of Dog, my latest project, should be coming out in July on Origin Records, a Seattle-based jazz label with an incredible roster and catalog.
Going to Portland in April to record my friend Sharon Gillenwater, who does this Italian Light Opera thing at the Portland Art Museum’s Wednesday After Hours series. I get to spend a few nights at the Mallory Hotel (my favorite old school hotel where they welcome dogs), eat lots of sushi with Sharon and Richard Donin and blow everything I make at Powell’s bookstore.

Life, We Don’t Need No Stinking Life: I’ve missed it for a while. Jazz’s passing continues to kick my ass, blacken my eyes, sweep my legs out from under me and something else I just forgot because I was distracted by Iron Chef. Oh yeah, it was rabbit punch me in the kidneys (excuse the fighting analogies, Rocky 2 was on TV last night!). Not having a dog growing up (as if I ever did or will) didn’t prepare me for the bond I established with him. I’m sure I’ll get over it’one day. Thanks to everybody for understanding and supporting me.

OK, back to bad TV and leftovers.

A final note’ I’ve become addicted to erika.net, the coolest Internet radio station ever. Lots of old jazz, international stuff, eclectic beyond belief. Check it out if you can.



OK, a little slow on the uptake (or upload, such as it were)
It’s probably been a few weeks, maybe a month since the above written.
Even as we speak, I’m in Portland, drinking a beer and looking at the baseball stadium across the street, where I hope to be in 2 hours’
Dinner with the brother and sister-in-law? At my favorite Vietnamese joint in town? Where I haven’t eaten in at least 10 years?
Baseball game and beer?
Brother and ‘beer?
Does he like baseball? Probably not. Beer? Well, last time I looked, we weren’t Mormon, but he’s always been the strange one in the family!
Nice looking baseball park, though. Really nice.
A couple more beers and it might be the game after all. Sorry Howard and Bonnie. Maybe sorry.

The drive down was uneventful.
Well, back up.
For the last few weeks, all I could think about was this trip. Get out of town. NOW!
My customer service chip has fused again. It’s almost time to answer questions truthfully! Bad idea.
I took the Jeep into the shop bright and ugly this morning for some service. Had breakfast and walked around until it was done. I get a call on my cell from the guy at the shop and he says…’Well, the oil change is done, but”
BUT WHAT, FUCKHEAD? I asked for an oil change and to check to fluids. He’s ready to sign me up for a full brake job, all new hoses and let’s rebuild the front end while we’re at it!
Please know that this is the same mechanic I’ve gone to for years and recommend to everybody. New kid at the front desk probably trying to show his worth to Roger. Always find out what your mechanic drinks (or other vices if you dare) and keep him well supplied.
After stopping off at a friends house to drop off some crap that’s been bouncing around the back of the car for months…. actually, this is good. I stop by Dan’s (after calling to alert him to my imminent visit).
Way the hell out of the way, area code, zip code, time zone, I think there’s something different in the air.
Knock on the door.
No answer.
I have a key anyway.
Try the door.
It’s open.
No Dan.
No Dan anywhere I look, except his bedroom.
Call his name and knock on the bedroom door.
No answer.
Drop stuff off.
Leave note? No, who else would leave his shit in the middle of the kitchen?
Take off. Call him from the road a few minutes later to leave a message.
He answers!
Well, he’s not dead, sort of…maybe
I go back, drink a wretched cup of what he calls coffee and leave again.
The rest of the trip is a non-event, until 5 minutes from the hotel; Mifune decides to get green bubbly sick ALL OVER THE CAR AND ME. Heatstroke, maybe. I notice twigs among the debris on the front seat.
OK, now for checking in.
I love the Mallory Hotel in downtown Portland. I’ve been staying here exclusively since 1993. Great old school, huge lobby, great bar and dining room. Dog friendly. 2 blocks from the baseball park”
Hello, says I. I’m checking in.
Indeed you are, says they. How about a credit card?
How about I paid in advance 2 weeks ago!
How about you didn’t?
How about this…
See the dog.
The dog is a pit bull.
The dog is hungry.
The dog is hungry because it just puked all over my car.
See the human.
He’s starting to feel like the pit bull’s stomach if you don’t find his PAID RESERVATION!
Oh look, they found it!
Take Mifune for a walk. We walk to the baseball park.
I’m talking to this guy outside the park, watching the teams warm up. He’s playing with Mifune. He mentions how strong Mifune is. I say yes, he’s already broken 3 leashes. I look and see the leash #4 has about 3 minutes of life left on it.
Back to the hotel and try to repair the leash.
No go. I’ll buy another one tomorrow.
Grab my computer and go this great little coffee shop (across the street from the baseball park where the game starts in 1 hour 44 minutes now!). It seems that the hotel now wants $7 a day for wireless internet as well as a buck apiece for local calls.
Fuck this, says I. Free wi-fi and beer across the street from the ballpark.
Baseball game sounds awfully good right about now. I can see Howard and Bonnie in 3 months.
More beer? Hmmmmm….
The Beavers are playing Fresno, for what it’s worth. How often does this happen? Well, Pacific Coast League, probably pretty often.
More beer?

OK, all of the pieces have just fallen into place. I’m talking to Evian, the owner of the Dugout, the coffee joint I’m drinking and writing from. I tell him of my quandary.
No quandary no longer, says he. He lays 4 tickets to the baseball game on me. I return all but one. The new plan is to catch an hour and a half of the game and then go meet Howard and Bonnie.
QUICK PLUG: The Dugout
742 SW 18th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
Evian is the owner. Just bought the place. He made my day. If you’re in Portland, YOU WILL COME HERE!
They have coffee, food, beer, right across the street from PGE Park, music on weekends. CHEAP BEER! Could be a little colder, but what the hell. Maybe I’ll ask him to stock Pacifico or Rainier when I’m in town. The way I figure it, it’s probably cheaper in the long run to take the train to Portland and stay in a hotel to see the Portland Beavers play than to try to see the Seattle Mariners in my own city! I wonder if I can bring Mifune on the train’
Baseball game in 1 hour, 15 minutes. Working on beer number 3, no food since breakfast. I saw some mints on the table next to my bed. I’ve been advised that Budweiser’s cost $5.50 across the street. Must check finances. Don’t want to break the bank on cheap beer. It’s only $1.50 at the dugout. At this rate, I believe I might have to verbally abuse the desk staff at the Mallory.

OK, going to finish this beer and go back to the hotel. Drop off the computer, play with the puppy (make sure he hasn’t eaten anything or shit in the room), come back, drink more beer, go the game, meet the family.
I’ll be back.

Damn, what a day so far. Forget what happened trying to leave Seattle and entering Portland, what a day!
With Evian and Kate as new friends, the day has turned around.
The seat at the baseball game was right behind home plate, probably a $12 ticket. $200 in Seattle. 3x $2 Bud’s before the game and didn’t even mind the $6 Bud at the game. Warm, maybe 1/8th filled stadium. g-d, life is good right now. Going to meet Howard and Bonnie in 1/2 hour.

Even later.
5 AM. Sleep for about an hour at a time. Comfortable room. Great bed. History Channel is running JFK/Castro/Kruschev funnies.
OK, this goes up this morning and I’ll let you know how the recording went.