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July | 2005 | PJ Newman

(Salt) Water and Fire (Dancing)

When last we spoke, Research Assistant Mifune and I were packing up the truck in preparation for the annual family get together on the Oregon Coast. We spent Monday night at a friend’s house in Tacoma, so as to avoid morning rush hour traffic. Research Assistant Mifune thoughtfully deposited all of his fleas (dog park) into Dan’s carpet to give him something to remember us by.

The drive was pretty uneventful. We took the scenic route by following the Oregon coastline from Astoria to points south. Having left pretty early and knowing that the beach house wouldn’t be ready until at least 4 pm, I decided to acclimate Research Assistant Mifune to the beach. We stopped in Seaside and took a stroll down to the water …

Things were ok at first. Research Assistant Mifune had no problems navigating the sand, but when we came to the water, he became suspicious.

‘This is like that stuff I didn’t like when we went camping, isn’t it?’ he asked.

‘Not at all,’ I replied. ‘That was a river, a small one at that. This is an ocean, the largest one, I believe. On top of that, the river was fresh water, snow runoff. This ocean is salty and full of Large Monsters.’

‘Oh,’ he said as if that explained anything, ‘Then I guess it’s OK to follow you in  … ‘

As soon as his paws touched the teeniest tiniest bit of water, he tried to bolt but I held tight.


‘Puppy, it’s water, it doesn’t burn. Remember the stuff you drink all day and the big plastic bowls you chew up all night?’ I assured him.

He eyed me warily. ‘Well, maybe that’s why I chew up the bowls, because it’s liquid fire and I’m trying to dissuade you from giving me daily doses, huh? And don’t call me ‘Puppy’, people are watching. My full and proper name is now Research Assistant Mifune Valentine Damnit Newman.’

I waited for him to finish before I dragged him further into the water. Daylights burning and I have to pee now. As each tiny wave lapped his feet, he would leap vertically and try to run ashore. Then I’d pull him out a little further. Repeat.


By the time we made it back to the car, he was begging for a surfboard and wetsuit. I promised him a pail and bucket and maybe a cheeseburger.

Next, we headed further south and stopped at Manhattan Beach. The beach was beautiful and deserted. I’m thinking, he has to go off leash sooner or later. Sooner is now, later could be disastrous.


The second, I mean the absolute moment, that the connection between the collar and Mifune’s neck was broken, he bolted. Have I ever mentioned just how fast this fucking dog is? It’s like watching a thorobred horse fly around a racetrack. Instead of running down the beach, he ran up a dune and sprinted away in tall grass.

Have you ever tried shouting against the wind with an ocean competing for attention?

Yeah  …

10 minutes later, he came trotting back like nothing happened. I suppose to him, nothing did.


We hit the road again and arrived in Oceanside at about 3:30. I didn’t think the house was ready yet, so we drove to the beach parking lot.

Now, if you’ve never been to Oceanside, let me tell you what little I remember about it. It’s 9 miles west of Tillamook (home of cheese and little else). Oceanside is the epitome of a one street town. There’s a caf’ (lunch and dinner only), a coffee shop, a community center and a post office the size of my bathroom. There used to be a restaurant/bar, but it’s being renovated. There’s a hotel with maybe 10 rooms and some rental cottages.

That’s Oceanside.

We stayed at the same house as last year. A very nice 5 bedroom, 2 bath overlooking the ocean, but you have to walk through town to access the beach. Big beck, hot tub, TV and DVD player in every room.

This year’s cast included my younger brother, his daughter and their 2 year-old pug named Blueberry. My older brother and his wife, her daughter and her 5 year-old twins. The parental units and their 6 year-old golden retriever. The next day, my cousin and aunt from Portland came down for a night. The year before I was pretty much in a vodka tonic haze, which pissed my mother off to no end. This year, I had a beer in hand at all times, not wanting to get dehydrated.

As soon as we settled into the house and had a few beers, we hit the beach in earnest. This beach has 3 large rock formations just offshore, kind of like Cannon Beach. Mifune was interested in dragging them back to the house, but we were going the opposite direction. After about a half mile, I let Mifune off leash again and hoped for the best. Maybe the best was that he’d run away and I’d never see him again and I could get another plastic dog for the front yard. He ran off for about 30 seconds and then came back, ready to play in the waves.


That was the routine for the next 3 days for me. Eat, beach, read, eat, beach, read.
I had to leave Friday to get back to work. Everybody else stayed until the following

Maybe next year …

Back home, after a few Tractor shows, I jumped back into festival mode with the Bite of Seattle, a 3 day celebration of food, crowds and shitty music at the Seattle Center. Since the emphasis is on food and not necessarily on entertainment, the booking tends to be a little … desperate. I mean, the money is shit and who wants to wake up before sundown anyway? This is where I come in.
Day 1 is load in day. There were between 5 and 9 stages (I never got a clear answer on that). I was mixing front of house at the Mural Amphitheatre stage. I didn’t know my crew beforehand. The monitor guy looked like 2 people I know. He’s too short to be one of them and not 1/10th the asshole as the other! The 3rd man was the designated ‘Patch,’ making sure that the microphones were where they were supposed to be. I stress supposed to be.
Anybody can do sound. Well, just about anybody. I figure that if I can do it, being the stupidest and laziest person on the face of the planet, then the gig’s up for grabs. You don’t even have to like music. The idiot who did sound while I was at the Triple Door hated music, judging from the way he mixed and treated the artists.
This is why I drink.
Anyway, we unloaded the truck and began to set up quickly. There was no reason that we shouldn’t have finished by 3 pm at the very latest
Except that during the free-for-all that we call load in, people were cannibalizing gear from stage to stage. If you weren’t given what you needed at first, somebody else had it and could deal with it later. Apparently, that’s what happened to my drive snake and extension cables. I could only get one side of the mains to come on at a time, due partly to the fact that I didn’t have electricity to both sides of the stage at the same time until late in the afternoon. I troubleshot with the best of them for hours. My best guess was that the digital processor/x-over was messed up, even though it worked the previous afternoon. We went back to the shop and I got a cheap replacement and a beer.
By the time we returned to the grounds, we had less than 30 minutes to get EVERYTHING up and running before the union stagehands started into serious overtime.
My friend Mike was on the main stage and swung by to give me a hand. After explaining my troubles and what I’d done, he told me that he had spent the previous day making sure that I wouldn’t have any problems. He set up the system in the parking lot back at the shop and said that he even ran a special return snake for me …
‘What snake? The one running across the lawn?’ I asked.
‘ No no no,’ replies he, ‘This one!’
Mike spent the next 10 minutes discovering that the cannibals had, indeed, struck early and left me Snakeless in Seattle. We ended up running a couple of mic cables 150 feet from the stage to my console and all was well
Until Day 2
This is where we scramble across the grounds trying to recover what was stolen the day before, except that of course it was in use at that particular moment.
Did I mention that my car pretty much blew up on the way to the gig?
Oh yeah, that
Anyway, one of my cooling system hoses decided to shear itself in half between parking lots? I decided not to worry about it for the next 11 hours’
Back to my stage, I finally get a copy of the stage book, with all of the technical information I needed for each of the bands for the next 3 days. I have every cover and tribute band that I’ve ever heard of (and some which I hadn’t known existed). I had a Led Zeppelin tribute band followed by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The next night was Rush and then AC/DC!
So, my stage starts off with 2 covers bands (surprise!), 1 good and one not so good. Shape of things to come. They are followed by a couple of indie-type bands. Nothing to write home about, but not worth loading the 12 gauge for.
Now the fun begins. We have a 4-piece jam band setting up, but no drummer to be seen. All of the bands get 40 minutes starting at the top of the hour with a 20-minute turnaround. Well, we’re about 10 minutes into their set time and they start playing w/o the drummer. At one point, the bass player asks if there are any drummers in the house who want to sit in. Seconds later, a drummer is up and the band continues. It turns out to be their drummer, who says he was caught in traffic, but he had time to stop and get coffee.
He was fired on the spot after the gig.
Following them was a pretty good singer-songwriter from Austin who hired some jazzer buddies of mine to back him up. Another good local band and then the 70’s returned. The Zeppelin band had all of the guys in The Song Remains The Same era costumes. Now, I’m a big Led Zeppelin fan and I found them pretty entertaining, except for the lead singer who looked as much like Robert Plant as I do. They had their own sound guy who did not impress me at all and I would have him back the next night as well’
Lynyrd Skynyrd (sic) closed Day 1. They were ok, but the snare drum took a dump right before they played. We were able to replace it 5 seconds before the band started.
Saturday kicked off with a Caribbean steel drum band that thought they were supposed to show up at noon, not start then.
More folkyhornbandDoobieBrothersSantanajambands. An Afropop/Reggae band missing their keyboard player started late and ended very late. Keyboardist showed up halfway through the set.
I wonder if he got fired, too?

Hazy Flashback Insert.
In 1977, I saw Bruce Springsteen in L.A. Before the show started, there was the usual goings on, stuff flying through the air. This one Frisbee caught my eye. It left the main floor and was headed to the upper levels. Its trajectory put it for a crash intersection with this guy who was talking to someone, not paying any attention to the Frisbee. I’m watching this, waiting for the guy to get bonked on the head. At the last second, without looking away, he snakes his hand out and grabs the Frisbee and keeps on talking as if nothing happened!

I bring this up because, after the next band, which starts with a couple of Cheap Trick covers, shit starts flying. Beach balls the size of Volkswagens knocking little kids over. I was looking down at the console and glanced up to see a Frisbee cross the stage. Out of the corner of my right eye, I see one heading straight for me. Trying to keep my cool and not look at it, I wait until the last second and jab out with my left hand and catch it without looking up. A number of people saw it coming and were probably hoping for me to get my nose broken.
No such luck.
Without breaking stride, I tossed it on top of my effects rack and kept mixing.
Also, during this band’s set, I noticed a man and his children selling bottles of water for a buck walking through the lawn. Normally, I don’t pay attention to pirate merchants, but since this festival’s main sponsor was a water company selling their water for $2, I was expecting security to converge upon them with the swift hand of injustice.
Just something I saw and filed away.
The Rush tribute band had the same bassist as the Zeppelin band yesterday and the same mixer, but he was better tonight.
Right before the AC/DC band went on, we discovered that someone had stolen half of the cymbals from our drum kit onstage.
There is a PARTICULARLY NASTY CIRCLE OF HELL for those who steal musical instruments, even drums!
We were able to replace those, again with only seconds to spare.
Whisk them off and put up the Fire Dancers!
Go home.

Oh, did I remember to mention that first thing Saturday morning I lost about half of the signal/power to my house right stack?
Probably not.
Absolutely no reason and/or explanation for it. I was able to make a quick fix that lasted the end of the weekend (I hope!)
Sunday (Happy Day) starts out with a swing band. Why do these nuts wear all black for an outdoor event under a very hot sky with no cover on the stage? Another Seattle anomaly.
A crappy jam band, a very good white soul group and finally another 60’s party band.
Now I leave so I can go to the Tractor.
One of my all-time favorite artists played that night. Stuart Davis. If you’ve never heard of him, check him out!
The only way to briefly describe him is a cross between Gandhi and Satan with an acoustic guitar!

Tuesday, I helped my friends load up a 40′ cargo container with their worldly goods in preparation for their impending move to Hawaii. I was invited to fly over, live in a tent and spend a year or so helping them build their new home …
Maybe …



Word Up, Yo! And Other Urban Myths!

I said that in earshot of a bartender yesterday and she politely/frostily/eyerollingacidtingevoicedly instructed me never to say that to her again … or maybe just never say it … period.
What’s it mean, anyway? Panzer learned how to say it in Russian and it makes even less sense to them …

Ah, summer in Seattle.
Sunburns, white puffy flesh sizzling to order, the scent of sunscreen wafting across the dance floor.
As is, we forget how to drive in the rain or snow first thing every fall, we forget the powerful intoxicating powers of the sun for those 2 or 3 weeks we see it in the Pacific Northwest.
I tried to experience it myself so as to report back to you, dear readers, and prepare you for the pleasures and dangers of this alluring heavenly body.

At first, I tried my hand at outdoor festivals, but from reading my last missive, you’ll recall how I was forced at gun and stress ballpoint to stay inside a small trailer, out of reach of the heat rays emanating from the skies.

Next, we tried our hand at camping. Last Monday, research assistant Mifune and I boarded the pickup and headed east, always East towards the mountains. We ended up outside of Roslyn, WA. (where they filmed Northern Exposure) in a groovy little campground called Red Hat or Red Mountain or Red Somethingorother. By the time we unloaded our scientific equipment (beer), it was raining and darkish. Got the tent up in respectable time and the fire caught on the first match!
Now comes the part where I put my finger where I shouldn’t have and burnt the living shit out of it! Extremely nice 2nd degree burn on my left index finger. Suffice to say that I won’t be playing guitar for a while.
Tuesday’s experiments were hampered by research assistant Mifune’s bad behavior, as in his saying, ‘Take me off the leash, Dad, and I’ll conduct field research the likes of which you haven’t seen before!’
‘You’ll run off and I’ll never see you again,’ says I.
‘Not true,’ says he, eyeing the highway uphill from the campsite.
Still leashed, we head down to a little beach down from the tent. Apparently, it was Mifune’s first glimpse at open water and was he ever confused! He would bark at rocks that I tossed into the water, but when he quite daintily dipped his paws into the water, he freaked out and almost snapped my arm in half.
Aside from that, the sun spent half the day hiding behind small, insignificant looking clouds. Decided not to burn my finger again.
Wednesday, we awoke to startlingly beautiful blue cloudless skies just in time to pack up and leave.

Back home, a friend from out of town stayed for a few days and that’s all it took. 2 days of the backyard and beverages and I have a healthy tan/burn/full body-peel happening.

Other than that, things have slowed down to a brisk pace. More festivals are coming up, but my phone remains silent. Most likely, word of my demands for Samurai swords has spread throughout the production community and everybody is pitching in to get me A VERY NICE AND VERY EXPENSIVE AND VERY VERY VERY SHARP set and they don’t want to call until an appropriate pair has been procured.
How thoughtful.
But I wouldn’t wait too long, kids. My calendar is filling up.
I’ve got lots to do
Work on the front house continues. We’ve filled up our 3rd 15 yard dumpster. Most of the framing is done, we’ve begun wiring and plumbing can’t be far behind. After we’re done there, we move on to my remodel, which includes a new recording studio addition and quadrupling my bathroom (can you say party shower?).

The release date for the new record is August 23. I’ll add a link for Origin Records and merch stuff.
The Hand of Dog t-shirts are almost gone. The original batch just has the picture of Jazz w/o text. Maybe do 2 runs, one with and one w/o text.

A couple of great shows passed through the Tractor last week. We were visited by the Campbell Brothers, whose Gospel tinged Sacred Steel shook dust from the rafters. Local pedal steeler Dan Tyack sat in and added to the filling jarring experience. Later in the week, Chuck Prophet and Pete Krebs rocked the joint.
And last night …
Last night …
Anyway, last night was Link Wray, a most famous rock guitar pioneer (credited for having invented the power chord).
We paid the 50% deposit weeks ago. Wednesday night, we get a call from the road manager (?) saying that Link won’t go onstage unless he gets paid in cash beforehand. No problem, old school Chuck Berry stuff. The road manager reiterates that he wants to be PAID IN FULL, as in 100% of the dough.
But no, say we. We paid the deposit. The check has been cashed. You seem to have misunderstood the dynamic of the deal … .
No, reply they, we are QUITE AWARE of how things work. Although we cannot explain the internal combustion engine or make sense of most of what Einstein was babbling about, we FULLY COMPREHEND the concept of NO CASH NO SHOW.
So, we wonder, what became of the 50% we already paid.
Well, reply they, the agent and we are parting ways.
‘YEAH AND SO?’ says we.
After speaking with the agent and being reassured that the show will go on (where have I heard that before and why am I searching for my wallet and my scrotum?), we await the day (and have ALL OF THE CASH ON HAND JUST IN CASE … )
Because they lent us a guitar amp, Eddie and the Helldregs was the 1st opening act on the bill. Eddie wants so desperately to be Iggy Pop and the Helldregs wouldn’t know the Stooges if they beat them up in an alley after a gig. This being said, they were pretty cool. Loud but not earwaxmeltingly so, animated but not cartoonish. What I probably missed by not hanging out on the Sunset Strip in the last millennium. Up after Eddie was a rockabilly band that I’ve worked with numerous times over the years.
And then
I’ve been stuck at the console, so I have no idea if Link and the Wraymen are here at all. Making my way backstage, I encounter the drummer of the above-mentioned Wraymen. I point out to him the drum kit that I had partially assembled and told him he could have the stage. He nodded and looked away. I then ran the risk of repeating myself when I pointed to the drums then the stage and back at him. Again, he nodded.
AHA! A psychic connection was made and in his own silent way, he said ‘Do it for me, ass monkey!’
Fine’the sooner the show is up, the sooner the show is over.
Shall I be proven wrong?
Read on, literary spelunkers, read on’
OK, I set up the drum kit and the bass rig, mic the Marshall half stack and retreat to the board.
It can’t be that simple
I fight through the small but vicious crowd and find the drummer.
‘What’s your lineup again?’ I ask.
‘We’re in Bellingham tomorrow night … ‘
It takes only a few minutes to convince him that I really want to know who’s going to be onstage tonight, so he relents.
‘It starts as a quartet, but when Link plays, it’s only 3 people.’
‘Um’ Link isn’t playing guitar?’
He thinks about that for a minute. ‘Well, not at first. See, the bass player plays guitar before Link comes up, the bass player disappears and the singer sits down.’
OK, so what part of Idon’tknowwhatthefuckyou’retalkingabout don’t you understand?
I have to send him into the dressing room for a Drummer-to-English dictionary and/or somebody who can clue me into what’s going on. After 3 round trips, I discover that Link’s trio is actually 6 people and an OompaLoompa. Alexander (he who made the revealing phone call) starts out on guitar then switches to bass when Link comes onstage (as per drummer boy). He has a Nelson haircut and is wearing a black fluffy billowy blouse. Alexander also requires another guitar amp even though he’s using the same amp that Link will use and won’t need it when he switches to bass.
‘But why does he need it?’ I ask Murphy, the Tractor manager.
‘Because I told him we had it.’
‘But he doesn’t even need it,’ I inform him.
‘But he wants it!’ I send Drummer Boy back into the dressing room for what turns out to be 7th time for info. DB (Drummer Boy) says that Alexander probably won’t use it (NO SHIT) but wants it anyway, even though he wants it on the WRONG SIDE OF THE STAGE for his use.
(Remember: The sooner they go on, the sooner I go home.)
DB is kind of tall, thin, goofy mustache and beret. To what end, I’m not sure. Bass player #1 is seemingly nondescript, but that will prove to be a false assumption later.
The band begins.
The play LOUD.
They play with PASSION.
I thought DB mentioned a singer … .
Here he comes
It’s thin Elvis. He’s in all black, black tunic with a leopard skin collar.
He, like his compadres, is competent but COMPLETELY SUCKS SHIT.
After 6 or 7 songs, Alexander primes the crowd for THE MAIN EVENT.


Link hobbles onstage with the help of Alexander and what turns out to be his girlfriend or wife or ?
Link is short, stocky, old. Link has a ponytail halfway down his back. Link has a leather jacket.
LINK IS OLD. It takes a while to put his guitar on him and figure out the amp.
Link begins with Rumble, his signature tune. It goes over great. He does 3 or 4 more, each one becoming more challenging to get in tune.
Oh, did I mention that the wife/girlfriend is now the tambourine player?
Typical wife/girlfriend gig. I’m sure that’s how Linda McCartney got her start.
OK, after 5 tunes Link hits one of his patented Power Chords and drops his guitar on the stage then shuffles off.
Quite the dramatic ending, but why is he ending now?
After about 10 minutes of crowd noises, Link is dragged back onstage, does one more tune, drops his guitar again and then reverts back to his subatomic level.
Show Over.
Or is it?
Total time of various Link Wray music(ians) onstage, oh, about 45 minutes. The contract, which obviously doesn’t mean shit to them anymore (as if it ever did) called for a 75-90 minute show. They must’ve thought that included opening acts as well.
So, I’m thinking that the show’s over and I zero the console. But wait’Alexander is back onstage with his guitar.
Is he going to show some awestruck concertgoer a few of his powerful licks or pose for a beefcake photo?
No, they’re setting up to play again!
I find Dan and Murphy (club owner and manager, respectively). During the show, they were both upstairs performing quality control on a bottle of cognac. Murphy just shook his head and said he didn’t want to talk about it. I find Dan rummaging through a box. I ask him what’s going on because Alexander said he specifically told them to go back on. He looks at me and said something about a light bulb in the men’s bathroom’
OK, I reset the console on the fly and they still only play 3 songs, old fucking surf tunes.
‘This is why I drink!’ I mutter to anyone within earshot.


We leave for the Oregon coast in a few days for the annual family vacation (my favorite oxymoron).