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June | 2005 | PJ Newman

The Voice of god, Lunch and Other Mysteries Explained

Doing what I do is a 2-edged sword. Sometimes, the music (sic) is so bad I want to rip my ears from my head and feed them to Mifune so I cant get them back for a few hours until thoroughly digested. Where I have no real problem with people expressing themselves through music, I just wish they’d wait until they’ve had the chance to listen to it through somebody else’s ears, preferably someone who either isn’t related or interested in getting laid by said ‘artist.’

This being said, I’m happy to announce that the other side of the coin does exist and sometimes lands face up in your palm.

Case in point, I heard the voice of god last night. She sang to me, shook her hips at me and offered me some watermelon after the show. Her name is Juana Molina. She hails from Argentina. Dan, my boss at the Tractor, had been raving about her for months. Unfortunately, due to apparent scheduling conflicts, I was going to miss the show. Fortunately for scheduling conflicts, I was able to work the show.

Juana Molina is considered an Electronica artist. What’s that mean, anyway? She has a bunch of electronic effects and synthesizers onstage.

Big Deal. So do I. Does that make me Electronica or Consumera?

Armed with what looked like a late 60’s Martin 000-16 and 2 synthesizers (a Korg 01-W and a Karma) plus some other gadgets, she weaves a lush swirling tapestry of sonic lushness. Words left me, partly due to 5 beers and 2.5 pain killers (back flared up all day with no relief in sight). Sampling and looping her voice around guitar and keyboards, she sang songs in Spanish and French to me and me alone. Other people were there, but she sang to me alone.

It was a Beatles moment.

I also heard half of a turkey sandwich call to me. It was my leftover lunch and it was as delicious as Juana’s music.

2 nights earlier, I lucked out again by working with D’Gary, an incredible guitarist from Madagascar. I had worked with him a few times before at the Triple Door, but always had to run around and not catch his entire set. This time, stuck behind the console, I was rewarded with another hypnotic evening of magic. D’Gary was joined onstage by Mario, a singer and percussionist. The amount and quality of sound these 2 men generated was astounding.

You must check these 2 artists out.

Alas, no turkey sandwich Monday.

I’ve been doing this so long that I get jaded more often than not. It’s great to be brought back to Earth and remember just why I do this.

The day after the Korean offensive, I got to work with another of my musical heroes, Peter Himmelman. I cannot say enough about the brilliance of Peter, his music, lyrics and unique performances. I’ve been working Peter’s shows since the early 90’s at the Backstage. Solo or with a band, he is one of the most captivating musical forces I’ve been fortunate to witness. One highlight of this show was when some guy walks up to the side of the stage and hands Peter a note. This note turns out to be an autograph. His autograph! The guy turns out to be a Caldwell brother of Marshall Tucker band Fame. Of course, the 2 Caldwell brothers from the band died years ago, but the band still perform with a few of the original members. The story, this night, goes something like this’.

This Caldwell boy, Tim, was supposedly coerced by his parents to cash in on the Marshall Tucker band brand by having Tim, who has never sung before a crowd in his life, join the band. They are supposed to play a gig in Seattle in November or December. It’s May.


Tim is slightly drunk (kind of pregnant?) and decides to give Peter an autograph. Peter drags the poor kid onstage and tries to make him sing a Marshall Tucker song. The kid freezes. So Peter changes it to Ska, then Reggae and finally Klezmer. The kid’s eyes are bugging out of his skull and Peter keeps the heat on for a while before Tim flees from the stage. I do some research and discover that Tim is not nor has ever been in the lineup.


Days later, I’m back in Festival Mode. This time, I’m radio base for the Fremont Fair, the summer kick-off neighborhood party freak fest. Summer Solstice Parade run by amateurs, nude bicycle riders, freaks, battling dog owners and assorted food vendors. There are 4 stages running simultaneously along with buskers, pick pockets, fainting prescription drug abusing drunks and more naked people. It’s the usual cast of production folk, most of them leftover from the Korean debacle. Radio base consists mostly of sitting on my ass being verbally abused by any and everybody with a radio, cell phone or juice can and string. There’s a Kid’s stage boasting an act called planet of the Puppets. Everybody hates clowns and has no use for hippies, except for practicing negligent driving maneuvers. 14 plus hour days, the weather hasn’t made up what it wants to do yet and the food is catch as catch can. I was the grill master for dinner last night and I had someone’s over salted cat with noodles and cabbage for lunch today from a Vietnamese joint. My day consists mostly of saying ‘Go For Base’ and waiting until they quit squawking, repeat what they say and as soon as they realize that their answer was part of the question, hang up.
Only 3 days on this gig and then hopefully going camping next week. A book, a case of beer and a few steaks and I’ll be happy.

OK, I’m tired of tired people yelling at everybody else. 2 hours left today.




Father’s Day
June something.
Nearing the end of Fremont Fair. The last band just quit. The radio is now coming alive with stage managers, trouble monkeys, crazed volunteers and vendors of all levels of vehicular range.
Here’s how it works’.
Festival ends, stages and booths get torn down, garbage is collected, signs removed and pedestrians mowed down. We had over 300 food and crafts vendors, 4 music stages, an art car caravan, a catapult ride and rogue human organ harvesting teams. A broiling hippie cluster fuck with overflowing trashcans and portapotties under the hot summer sun.
All of the vendors are lying through their hummus spackled teeth in an attempt to breach the ground to load their crap out. Never mind that the grounds are still packed with fairgoers. ‘Of course we paid our percentage. Of course the vendor manager cleared us for entry.’ The owner of the production company can’t even drive his car onsite, but your piece of shit Olds Delta 88 spewing gas and oil on the ground is getting a police escort.
It’s sheer chaos and I’m sitting here monitoring the radio listening to it getting chaosier. We have 16 individual channels on the radio, but for some reason we’ve just dropped to 1. It’s like I’m listening to a full blown invasion of my borders, the guards trying to hold back the enemy, but they’re ceaseless in their desire to overrun us.
They all say that they’ve been given permission to enter!

Did I mention that last night, Saturday, we hosted a party in the base compound for the former head of this festival? Or that my day began at 6 am and this party started at 10 pm? 15 pizzas and untold cases of beer and other intoxicants. I left at about 9:30 on my bicycle and didn’t look back. Of course, it took me until 2 am to fall asleep, then back here at 8 am.
It’s now 8:02 pm.
I spent part of the day composing haiku and eating crappy festival food. I think I ate part of somebody’s cat from a Vietnamese place yesterday and there was what tasted like lawn clippings in some tabouli from a Lebanese stand.
It’s 8:15 now. Radio traffic is as bad as vehicular. People are jumping channels, creating their own pirate radio stations. Reception sucks. 2 hours ago, I was nodding off. Now I’m wide-awake and going to wait this thing out.
45 minutes into load out and already 50% of the vendors are gone!
I’m flashing back to all of the festivals I’ve worked in the past and my levels of involvement thereof. Bumbershoot, WOMAD, Bite of Seattle and Taste of Tacoma. Usually, I do 1 thing only. Sound, backline, office manager. If I’m a Production Manager, yeah, I’m all over the place but more often than not have enough people covering their specific areas that everything’s pretty much laid out like a jigsaw puzzle and all I’ve got to do is sand down the wrong bits to make it fit (a solution for every problem!).

Much Later …
It’s all done but the crying. Except
Of course
For the lost dogs and the kidnapping?
And the police and the pizza and
Budweiser in metal bottles?

After about 17 hours on the last day of the fair, it becomes obvious that one of the production vendors is not going to swing by and remove the stages. So, everybody lock and load and move them so traffic and commerce can flow Monday morning.
I had some pizza and a couple of beers (the second one had to be in a glass bottle, the aluminum one freaked me out) and then climbed on my bike and sailed into the sunset …

Post-Fair Script

It’s now Tuesday morning. Raining like Hell. It’s a good thing I didn’t go camping after all. Luckily, there’s plenty to do around the old homestead, like more construction work on the main house and plenty of guitar parts to play on the new tracks. John Bishop, uberlord of Origin Records, sent me the mock-up of my new cd cover, and boy howdy, is it ever spanky! I hope the music sounds as good as the graphics!
Release is slated for August. I’ll let you know if there are any officially sanctioned happenings associated with it.