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mj_admin | PJ Newman

Review: KZSU Radio

by Craig Matsumoto, KZSU

Jazzy sax solos over odd synth soundscapes. Newman starts with sampled sounds and synth washes, overlaying a concretely jazzy soloist — often Jessica Lurie, a saxophonist with an adventurous but accessible style (check out her pop/fusion band, Living Daylights). A mix of thoughtfulness and fun jamming.

This doesn’t apply to Track 5 (see below).

1- Slow, pretty sax tones
2- Bright sax wanderings over synthy soundscape. Cool hand drums join in later.
3- Spare guitar over water droplets. Slow and meditative.
4- Like “danger” music from a movie soundtrack. Small synth piece
5- Eh? It’s a ROCK SONG, bluesy, even rollicking, with lyrics and a horn section. With a slow bar-band jam, packed with solos, that stretches the time to 18 minutes! Totally out of left field. I love it.
6- A lonely jam, slow. Like #2 but with two saxes and a darker, more experimental feel.
7- Reprise of #1, ends after 1:35. Then a pause and the “hidden track” at -3:15: An upbeat synth number, recalling the closing credits of “Buckaroo Banzai.”

….. Not that it’s related, but Graham Connah as a CD with a similar pun title: My Dog Has Fleas. It’s a fun jazz romp, similar in attitude to this one (but more “directly” jazz, no soundscape work). Jessica Lurie doesn’t appear on that one but she’s probably acquainted with Connah.

Review: All Music Guide

By Adam Greenberg

On The Hand of Dog, Seattle-based artist PJ Newman puts himself to work creating a series of innovative sets. At times reminiscent of Zappa, and at times simply playing with the sounds of his samples, Newman puts together a nice collection of works. His guitar is the centerpiece of the majority of the pieces, often in interplay with a pair of saxes, courtesy of the highly able Jessica Lurie and Sue Orfield. Ben Smith provides a solid drum backing on the necessary tracks, and fiddle star Martin Hayes and bluegrasser Danny Barnes each provide their talents for a track or two. It’s avant-garde music on the side of jazz, with notes of the Doors, synth rock, and Ornette Coleman thrown in for good measure. Tread with caution as it’s somewhat uncharted territory, but there are rewards to be reaped in this album for the curious listener.

Time Flies …

Long Time, No …

Gadzooks! It’s been over 2 years since we last spoke and you didn’t say anything! Sorry sorry sorry. I got sidetracked and between watching 5 seasons of LOST in a week and a half and facebook, well, we lost each other.

So, where do I begin? When last we spoke, I was Sleepless in Annapolis on tour with Peter Himmelman. That ended up being nothing if not unique (and eerie…as we speak, one of his songs just popped up on my iTunes!)

Aside #1: The “a” key on this computer is sick. I see I’ll have to come back when done and replace many. So, I’m going to try to use as few a’s as possible.

Aside #2: I cannot type a capital “z” Dunno. Just dunno. Marty Mac, my Mac guy, can’t figure it out. Says it’s software? Dunno

OK, so Himmelman…yeah….we’ll have to get back to him later. I just found my 2007 date book, so I’ll write about each incredible adventure as they resurface from my brainpan, like an aquarium air hose as it unkinks and the memories, as air, flow forth.

The studio finally got built and opened in December of 2007 and promptly closed down in December 2009. Apparently, there’s this thing called an “economy” and this “economy” is bad and it’s got it out for me.

And because I toured with Peter and because I was building my studio, I got fired from my job doing sound at the Tr•ct•r T•v•rn. I used to be in charge of sound scheduling and the such, but because I didn’t drink with the boss, I lost Most Favorite Nation Status. It got to the point where I was working maybe 3 or 4 shifts a month, down from 15 or more. So, one day I called the owner and asked for maybe 1 or 2 more shifts a month.
His reaction follows along these lines…”Well, I’m getting divorced and I can’t get this printer to work, so it’s time you don’t work here anymore!”
In hindsight, it makes perfect sense in the same way dancing for algebra does. Needless to say, I haven’t been there since. Probably blacklisted from Ballard Avenue anyway, me not being hip enough and all.

Oh, and by the way, you’ll recall from past entries here when I fell and whiplashed my entire musculoskeletal system at work a few years ago. So, 2.5 years later, I’m minding my own business (hell, I was asleep) and woke up (from said sleep) with an INCREDIBLE PAIN IN MY NECK. Think that maybe I slept badly (I mean slept well, because I know how to sleep, maybe not, but the point being that the act of sleeping was done properly, eyes shut, rhythmic breathing, dreaming of a Cuban woman, but maybe I slept incorrectly as in where my head was, angle-wise and the such). I asked my sister-in-law (whom I think is a massage therapist) to try to work the kink out. This was during the annual family pilgrimage to the Oregon Coast (Jo, do I need to capitalize the “c” in coast?). Everything she did was probably correct but it only made things worse. By midafternoon, I was in so much pain that chasing Vicodin with Vodka ended up being a waste of Vicodin and Vodka. I texted my friend Nicole (emergency room doctor supreme) and she replied “C6-C7.” I’m thinking, what the fuck do 2 different models of Yamaha Grand pianos have to do with this?
Partial Aside #3: We had a Yamaha C7 at the studio. It was built in the early 70’s so it was 7’4” not 7’6” as we know and love them today.
Right, so what she meant was that the C6-C7 disc in my neck blew ruptured herniated bulged and it was pressing on the nerve root that ran down my entire left arm, terminating at the index finger. I mentioned pain, right? OK, like on a scale of 1-10, 10 being hurts like hell and all, I was hitting mid 20’s. Didn’t sleep for 3 days. The drive home took twice as long because I had to stop t every rest stop in Oregon and Washington to try to stop the pain. The plus side of this was that Mifune got plenty of walks.
Longer story short, after x-rays, MRI, CT Scan, EMG (painful waste of 4 hours. When the doctor was done shooting electrical current through me and I asked him what he thought, he says “C6-C7.” Thanks…) a cortisone shot and much acupuncture, it looks like your intrepid reporter is due to go under the knife.
Film at 11.

Xmas looms it’s cheery head next week I’m doing sound in a shopping center for my friend Terry Morgan and then blasting down to the Oregon Coast yet again with Mifune for a few days to try to sandblast holiday music out of my psyche. Working at the Seattle Center New Years Eve. Something to do with fireworks and the rewriting of the constitution.

Don’t be a stranger.


Nutcracker Review

Having sat through Dog knows how many performances of the Nutcracker the past 3 years, it’s no surprise that I never caught the nuances, nay, the heart and essence of this timeless (2 hours plus) ballet and philosophical treatise. Why it is only performed during the holiday season is beyond me. What better way to fill a beautiful spring day, a stifling and balmy summer afternoon, the turning of fall leaves, a Black Sabbath?

I usually begin heavily sedated and self medicated, leaving nothing to chance and everything within arms reach.
Why then, oh dear reader, have I suddenly became self aware, cracked the bottle of consciousness and inhaled a pungent whiff of understanding?


I run the risk of repeating myself when I exclaim for all to hear:


Who could foresee that filthy rodent, that layer of droppings carrier of pestilence and plague could make an ardent love of the dance masterpiece out of me?

No, not the white variety which cause explorers of science and industry to drool in their cloned sheep-filled dreams, nor the white gloved star of the big screen. But gray mice. With tails and whiskers.
And BIG!
Really BIG!
The size of children. Human children at that. That’s what caught my attention and caused me to delve into the magic and mystery of the Nutcracker.

Originally written by Madame Curie because fishmongers didn’t like to wrap their wares in plain paper and then re-written by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Nutcracker conveys the eternal struggle between Vampires and their familiars the Mice. Charles Darwin, who wrote the original lyrics before his banishment to Helena, Montana, noted that while Vampires are more commonly associated with bats, the frequency range of sound emitted by bats is above the normal range of human hearing and gambled that rodents, mice especially, would gain the ability of human speech much sooner than their flying cousins. Although he was correct, he never lived to see his final victory in court when he sued Walt Disney over Mickey Mouse’s speech aboard the USS Missouri at the end of World War 2.
The version of the Nutcracker we typically see is done in Mime, due to the over spicing and subsequent fusing of vocal chords of the original cast during opening night in Canberra, Australia, in 1906 and again in 1973.

The ballet begins with guests filing across the stage. After they have seated themselves, the dancers appear and file across the stage. The curtain lifts and dancing begins. This part was boring, so I turned my attention to the pastrami sandwich I brought from home. Having forgotten to bring chips and a pickle, I return my focus to the stage, where a Vampire is now prancing and scaring the bejeezus out of the children dancers. He is a Vampire because he is wearing a tuxedo and a cape. He is tall and blonde and handsome in a totally non-Slavic way. The Vampire either brings several inanimate objects to life and they dance, or else he mesmerizes the other dancers and audience members into believing that he has. The undead dancer now spies what he hopes to be his soup course, a small blonde girl with curls, ribbons and Type B Negative flowing through her veins. After much swooping, swaying and general goofiness, he hands her what looks to be a doll, which the girl dubiously accepts and tries to leave behind. The Vampire has coated the doll with Super Glue so the little girl, whose name is Clara or Sara or Sierra, cannot drop it. Instead, a small boy emerges from the wings and tries to relieve the girl of it. AHA! The Super Glue adheres to him as well. He manages to pry the doll from the girl (along with the top 2 layers of skin from her palms) and casts the now bloody figurine onto the floor and destroys it by jumping repeatedly on it.
Two things (well, maybe 3…) happen at once. The Vampire grabs the boy and heads Stage Right, all the while ripping the limbs from him. The girls walks over to the destroyed doll and cries from the pain in her hands, not, as the Vampire assumes, from the destruction of the skin-covered toy. I try to get backstage to see if one of the dancers is single, or if not, morally bankrupt. Shot down, I return to my seat and find that the Vampire, thinking Clara mourns for the doll, runs offstage, selects a babe in arms from a stage mother and drains it’s blood, turning it into a Nosferatu. He hands the demon baby to Sara, who is horrified but still dancing. A blow dart hits her mid-thigh and she collapses on a chair, which somehow appears Downstage Right. She curls fetally and foams lightly from her mouth.

At this point, the ballet begins with the arrival of the MICE. Scores of them scurry onstage, shuffling to and fro.
In Darwin’s original notes, the Mice come to the Vampire with a list of demands for better working conditions.
A long scene of arbitration was cut from the libretto when the election of union officials dance called for the firing of live weapons into the audience and proved too expensive. The Vampire calls forth an army of child-sized child soldiers, armed only with their innocence and paper-mache short swords. These can be turned upside down and used as crucifixes against the Vampire if a coffee break cannot be written into the second act. A prolonged battle between the soldiers and MICE ensues, neither side asking for nor giving quarter, although quite a few cigarettes are passed between the armies. MICE Stage Left, Soldiers Stage Right, Vampire Downstage Center, Sierra on the floor, having fallen from the chair.

With the MICE offstage, I quickly lose interest in the remaining scene and the entire second act. I was able to coax the dancer in question into a quick-change booth, only to discover she didn’t accept personal checks or debit cards. A defeated but enriched man, I leave the theatre with a new appreciation of the Dancing Arts and somebody else’s jacket.

The next day, the stage crew called me. They had read my much-heralded review of the Nutcracker and wanted me to see it from their Point Of View…ONSTAGE! By onstage, of course, they meant backstage, where it’s all guts and no glory, half finished crossword puzzles and the finest of the pastry arts.


Arriving fashionably early, I helped myself to the dancers’ deli tray, not wanting them to get grease on their costumes or cramp up onstage from a hastily eaten snack before curtain time. (REMEMBER: DANCING IS LIKE SWIMMING. NO EATING AT LEAST 45 MINUTES BEFORE DANCING. 30 minutes is fine for light stretching and pectoral flexing, but nothing too strenuous.)

The Stage Crew is the unsung hero of the ballet. Without their strength, courage and more than enough bodies for the job at hand, these hard working men, women and undocumented aliens force the show to go on regardless of international exchange rates. I am introduced all around and given carte blanche backstage. “J” (names abbreviated to make it more difficult to find them in the phone directory) is working the “rail,” a preposterous series of ropes, weights and pulleys that make curtains and scenery appear on stage as if by magic. I now know better. He shows me the ropes, as it were. From his vantage point, he commands a view of the stage and the large television showing the Raiders losing to their cheerleaders.
“S,” or Steve as he is called, is the L.D., or Lighting Director. His job is to light up the stage from a booth far enough from the stage that any mistakes can be easily blamed on the architect or Stage Manager, today being a friendly if not incompetent Siamese Twin whose brother is the lead dancer.

Having free rein backstage, I mingle with the cast who are preparing themselves for today’s performance. They adjust their stage makeup and tighten their Kevlar dancing togs. Butterflies are not uncommon before the curtain rises. They battle this by going over their routines in place and by spitting large phlegm balls at understudies. I offer my hip flask to the dancer from yesterday. She accepts it and offers me her tonic for pre-show jitters, a “Tussintini,” equal parts gin, vodka, cough syrup, purified water and chocolate Pop Tarts. Shaken not stirred. A bit chunky, but after 3 pitchers, I don’t seem to mind.
The Vampire lurks about. He makes suggestions to the stage manager about his personal lighting, to the rail operator about how the curtains should part just so for his entrances and exits and to the custodian to see if he has found another cache of wooden stakes in the wings.
As I presumed, most of the dancers are kept in cages backstage. These cages are large, well ventilated affairs with slots in the bars to allow food to be passed in with metal sticks without worrying about getting too close. Many a catering staffer has found him or herself minus a finger trying to feed and water dancers. To my surprise, another cage houses the DANCING MICE. I assumed that they used MICE found in the basement and alley of the theatre and herded them onstage with fire hoses and electric prods, but delighted in knowing the ballet used more “humane” methods. Thinking back, this makes sense, as there are numerous performances of the Nutcracker during the Holiday Season and no way to ensure the proper number needed for each matinee. It is also very green, this recycling of MICE. I am told that the MICE who survive the run of the ballet are served to cast and crew at the Wrap Party, a belt loosening and top-secret soiree after the final performance but before sentencing.
At this point, the “Orchestra” is lead in single file in chains and handcuffs. Those without hands get the day off, but are fined a day’s pay for not showing up. While claims for the score’s authorship in continually in doubt, it is nevertheless played with gusto and air guitar. The “Musicians” look criminally familiar; almost as if the kitchen staff from the Cambodian restaurant behind the theatre was rounded up (at gunpoint) and frog marched into the orchestra pit. My spider sense tingles when I see crates of live chickens, portable gas fires and 3 waiters following the ensemble. The conductor, though recently deceased, makes a splendid entrance in drag and a bronze urn. The musicians take no notice and continue to prep appetizers. The tympanis have become large woks and deep fryers. The double bass starts to smolder until the reeds douse it with soy and fish sauce.
As the audience is wheeled in, a scuffle breaks out between the musicians and the MICE. A P.A. (or Production Assistant) allowed a few musicians to take some of the smaller and more succulent MICE for a walk and they, in turn, went for a wok! The remaining MICE complain that they must still pay full price for food.

The house lights go down. The only sound from the audience is the regular whispers from ventilators and iron lungs. The conductor sits on his podium, not moving until the orchestra tunes up. After 30 minutes, “J” sneaks into the pit and pushes play on the iPod on top of a large walk-in freezer now between the violins and the salad station. The music rumbles to life and then abruptly stops when a trombonist/busboy plugs in a coffee maker and shorts out the pit. Batteries are found and the music comes back to life. Not so the conductor, who remains immobile and most probably still dead.
The dancers coolly await their entrance while standing in troughs of cold water 9 inches deep. Failure to move on cue results in a stagehand tossing an electric extension cord in the trough.
Act 1 begins and the dancers stumble onstage. The first scene has the characters crossing from Downstage Right to Left as if they’re entering the DMV or tipping cows. The iPod skips and goes back and forth between Milli Vanilli and Metallica. The dancers, having never really paid attention to the music anyway, trip over each other somewhat in time. The scrim (somewhat curtainy, somewhat not) raises (rises?) and we’re in what seems to be the food court in a shopping mall.
The Vampire is just about to prance on stage when I whisper loudly, “DUDE! YOUR HAIR!” His eyes widen and he reaches up to his head to investigate. I see a small mirror and hold it up to his face. He hisses and falls backward over 2 orders of Fisherman’s Favorite (#12), Black Squid and Pork Crispies (appetizer #3) and enough rice for a Moonie wedding. He recovers quickly, knocking over only 8 or 9 dancers to get to his spot, constantly feeling his hair between leaps and bounds.
I notice that many of the dancers have switched roles, either because of rotation, injuries or restraining orders. The dancer playing Clara (or Sarah or Larry) has been replaced by a small pale girl with dark hair and several crucifixes and garlic wreaths dangling from her neck. The boy who grabbed the doll from Clara (sic) is the same. I walk up to him and mention that it is rude to grab, that he should ask politely if he might see the doll. He haughtily spins away and is about to utter a curse when I taze him on the neck. He twitches for a moment before I stuff him into the cannon. I grab his hat, clamp it on the head of a passing waiter and shove him onstage. The Vampire swoops down on him, briefly considering the Randomly Fried Yum Yums (appetizer #8), then snaps his neck and tosses the body on the chair Downstage Right. Sierra, whose next routine was a lap dance with a soldier on the very same chair, improvises a pole dance on the tree, not realizing that it is merely a painted canvas drop (and attached to the scene behind it), A loud ripping sound fills the stage, causing every dancer to look down. Bumping, grinding and general hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, the injured iPod settles on Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady” and half of the dancers nervously look back and forth.
At this point, the MICE are uncaged and swarm to the waiter instead of Sarah, who has untangled herself from the backdrop and searching the floor for dollar bills and her right contact lens. She then attempts to wake the soldier who has passed out in the chair. Unable to revive him, she grabs four of the MICE and fashion them into a settee upon which she climbs on and lashes out at the other MICE. They, in turn, ignore the soldiers who have amassed onstage for the battle sequence and make polite catcalls at Sarah, who is considering returning to secretarial school and/or another line of work, parole notwithstanding. Insulted by the MICE’s seemingly newfound pacifism, the soldiers roll the cannon onstage and light the fuse. Shredded boy whizzes from the cannon’s breach and covers anything in a 2 block radius.
I find my dancer who is e-mailing her resume to Norway and we exit Stage Left.

As much as I have fallen in love with the Nutcracker, I feel that some updating must occur in order for this masterpiece to reach a wider market. With that in mind, I am currently adapting the ballet for all audiences and all tastes.
Coming soon: The Nutcracker as performed by Transformers, Debbie Does Nutcracker, Rocky Versus Nutcracker, Rambo Versus Nutcracker, Night of the Living Nutcracker, Slum Dog Nutcracker, Full Contact Nutcracker, Crouching Tiger Hidden Nutcracker, a Roller Derby Nutcracker and my personal favorite, a Samurai version of SEVEN Nutcracker.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

The Snowman Review

The Snowman
Act 1

Firstly, and please don’t think me a racist, but I believe the dancer playing the Snowman to be a zombie.
We crossed paths backstage and his lifeless pallor, dead, blank eyes and breath that reeked of rotting human flesh was a dead giveaway. Plus, he wore a t-shirt that read, “Kiss Me, I’m Dead!”

I’m hoping that the rumor I heard on the way in is true, that there will be a human sacrifice performed during intermission. And I, being a guest of honor and above reproach, get to either pick the sacrificial lamb and/or
actually remove the organ in question. At this point, I’m planning on picking the entire tech crew.

The ballet, The Snowman, was commissioned by the LDS Church and written by Herman Goerring whilst awaiting jury duty in Nuremburg. The music was liberally borrowed from the 3 B’s (Bjorn, Benny and Beck) and played within a variety of pitches and keys by a nimble, if not criminally underage orchestra made up of escapees from a local clean coal mine. The premise of the story is one of eternal struggle, i.e.: Boy Meets (Creates) Snowman, Everybody Dances, Something with Animals, Snowman Dies, Drinks Afterwards at Kevin’s.

Children dancing. I don’t know what it is about kids in tutus having a fake snowball fight that reminds me of throat surgery and the incredibly painful recovery thereafter. A single (we assume) boy, playing in the snow with only his domineering mother as company, builds a snowman in the image of the Master Race, which, in this case, is a cross between the Pillsbury Dough Boy and Ron Jeremy. The boy believes that having a frozen juggernaut as a playmate will elevate his status in god only knows what. The mother, seeing the “Snowman,” drags the boy offstage to wash his colon out with soap. It’s the 3rd performance in a row that I’ve had to watch this play and just witnessing the mother try to walk across stage like a normal biped still astounds me. I heard she failed to get the part of a stationary tree and had the choice of either taking the part of the mother or staying late and licking the dance floor clean.

At this point, the Snowman comes to “life” and does his version of the Snoopy dance. The boy races out to him and drags him offstage so he cannot have any solo time. Stage goes black, as does my mood.

We next open to a charming set of the interior of what is either the boy’s house or an IKEA showroom.
This is where shit gets hazy for me…
A) How did the Snowman lose more weight than Oprah in 45 seconds?
B) If this dancer is supposed to be a cat, why does she have a tail and why isn’t one of her ears dangling by bloody sinews from her skull?
C) Why doesn’t the Snowman blow a fuse when he sticks a finger in an empty tree light socket?
D) What is the boy doing with a life sized wind up ballerina and where can I get one?

The next dancer is what the light guy describes as a jester. Joker? Fool? He doesn’t have any naked photos for clarification. Stage goes thankfully dark.

The next scene has the Snowman pushing the boy on a sled. Every time he pushes the boy away, he dances and jumps as if he’s just taken a bathrobe-clad bowel movement. After a few of these, the “bunnies” and something with a tail and an ass like November join in. The meaning of this is not immediately clear, but my lack of painkillers and bloody marys has me questioning everything I think I see onstage.
A human female sings offstage left. Seven white clad ballerinas with 3 black buttons running down their chests (an obvious homage to Stalin) perform a deliciously slow striptease, so slow in fact that the clothes do not come off until they return to the dressing room.
End Act 1.
Begin uncontrollable spasms.

Act 2.
Dark stage as the overture swells. It sounds familiar…Duh duh dee duh, duh dee dee dee.
It’ll come to me.

Flashbacks. The forest scene. Five trees. Five dancers. As the Snowman and boy appear onstage, the dancers dive behind the trees and search for anything to use as a weapon.
Mini snowman clones slither about upstage, followed by Santa (?). The boy cringes behind the Snowman, as do I. Santa passes out pills to all of the dancers, who pull previously unnoticed flasks from their dance skins. Whatever was in those flasks that washed down whatever Santa gave the dancers now has them dancing for joy with idiotic grins plastered to their faces. The snoclones (now numbering 7, the number of the beast?) perform a Munchkin-like dirge with the high stepping jackboot antics that Mr. Goerring made famous back in the day.

Those damn PENGUIN CHILDREN again. It’s like Mengele is backstage with a scalpel and a sewing kit.
Snowman and white ballerina dancing while not dancing, touching while not touching. The Dance of the Unclean? Once again, the ballerina begs the Snowman for some action, but he only has eyes for the boy, who has been carried away by Santa. The ballerina, frustrated, eyes the mini snowmen with renewed interest.

OK, I finally figured out what these new creatures are…Jackalopes! You know, you see them in truck stop post card racks, but never up close.
I can die a happy man now.

The Ice Princess makes her stage debut. Except that the dancer who played her part yesterday hurt her back, so they stapled 3 of the smaller children together to create a new Princess. It’s almost plausible, until the staples tear and they come apart mid-leap. The original dancer hobbles out with the power cable of her electric blanket trailing her like a rat’s tail. She executes her moves well, only screaming with pain when she lands on the child with exposed staples. One of the dancers appears to have an Uzi, but I can’t tell if it’s loaded. It is and she’s using it to keep the jackalopes in line as they do a tango.
The boy is hiding upstage behind a tree while the Snowman makes a pathetic advance on the white-clad ballerina. Santa and the Ice Princess catcall from downstage right. The 7 snowclones have become 13 since 2 dances before. Santa giving what looks like Kool Aid to 3 dancers while the rest sigh with relief.
Quick…jackalopes disappear, white ballerina gill nets the penguin children and drags them offstage and the snowman grabs the boy.

The baby who has been crying throughout the last 3 performances hears its cue (silence) and leads the orchestra into the last piece, wherein the boy, having tired of dancing and frolicking with supernatural beings, cries out “FUCK THIS” in a high pitched exclamation. This should be noted as the only piece of dialogue in the ballet and was wholly improvised.

(The following is notes from the first of 3 performances that I kept slipping in and out of consciousness)

There’s something disturbing about the relationship between the boy and the snowman. Theoretically, the boy is the snowman’s creator and the snowman displays many lost boy/pee wee herman/uber child-like attributes, but the boy/creator/god seems perfectly happy to let the snowman thing call the shots.
The dancing trees kind of freaked me out for a minute, but then I remembered that I have my knife with me.
The snowman wears whiteface, a mime w/o the beret and striped shirt. He has his hands on the boy’s shoulders and nobody says anything. The boy now runs (on point) across the stage and is feeling up 2 ballerinas. Snowman sees this and crosses upstage, playing skull bongo on the boy as one ballerina leaves and the other is searching the audience for a tattoo.
You’d either like this next part or be revulsed…HUMAN PENGUIN HYBRIDS! Emperors by the looks of things. Yellow feathers either side of the head, pouches stuffed with mackerel and krill.
The snowman is now dancing with the primaballerina except she’s not wearing blue anymore.
That’s beside the point. Point being, that the ballerina offers her “stuff” to the snowman, who rebukes her advances….refuses to cop a feel, accidentally let a hand grope an offered breast and grab an ass strutting like my cat when I pet her that certain way.
After the dance, the ballerina kisses the snowman as the boygod runs across stage and jealously grabs the snowman’s hand.
They cross to stage right.
Santa (?) enters upstage right w/ 3 reindeer or bats or something.
Rough trade, robes, chafing
Snowman hiding boy behind tree as Santa discusses animal husbandry. Reindeer leave small piles onstage as the boy and Santa plan menu.
Snowman doing the Lambada (The Forbidden Dance) with the Ice Princess, the one in blue (forget about what I said earlier).
Anyway, they’re doing their thing as the dancer in white tries to exit stage left before a ménage a trois is written into the second act by the boy. The snowman, being just about the only one onstage wearing pants, seems to be the “male” character, even though he squanders every opportunity to assert his masculinity and take what is rightfully his, after tithing 15% to the boygod.
Not sure about this scene. Santa, reaching into his bag of tricks. Santa as PIMP! The Ice Princess is definitely into the idea of the 3 way, maybe the prima is as well…..SHIT, he’s got 6 dancers onstage humping his leg and whispering teasers from the new Keanu Reeves movie into his ear, but all he wants to do is hold onto the boy.
I am sickened and saddened at once, or was it the truffles I’ve been placing between my cheek and gums since 10:30 this morning.
The boy, tired of the embarrassment caused by his creation, strikes him down with a snowball (how ironic) and a pot of hot chocolate. In a dream sequence, the boy kneels at the corpse of his creation while the ghost of the snowman dances upstage.
The End
Company Bow
Find Booze

The woman who plays the boy’s motherkeepermistressbodyguard stays on
point no matter what she’s doing. Me, with no arch whatsoever, cringe
from 75 feet away.

New light console showed up yesterday as previous one would dump the
show program at will. Will wasn’t amused. So, after getting the new
board programmed, everybody takes turns programming weird shit and
effects into the memory, never quite sure if it will override the ballet’s light program when the light guy isn’t looking.

Ballet parent/little league parents……



Monday morning.
That’s a good start. It means I made it this far, but waking up Mondays isn’t that much of a challenge. It’s finding a reason to get out of bed that usually requires tech support.
This Monday morning I find myself in the food court at Sea-Tac airport, drinking burnt coffee, eating half priced trail mix, waiting another 1.5 hours for the flight to San Francisco and then eventually Baltimore.
It looks like a longer line for the Great American Bagel place than Burger King, but there are at least 3 cashiers at the latter. Every 15 seconds, a number is screamed out and another well-fed American grabs a greasy bag of destiny. Two tables away, 4 twentysomethings are eating, what looks like from here, Quad Whoppers, if such a thing exists. I felt bad about eating egg foo young yesterday with Garey; I could visualize the gravy coursing through my veins instead of blood. Dog only knows what’s entering their bloodstreamsdigestivetractsdnarnaeieioandsometimesy.

Thanks for putting that into perspective.

Random thoughts during layover in San Francisco….
Every time you flush a toilet on a jet, an angel dies.
I just discovered that a tug backs each jet from the concourse in preparation for take off. There is a driver and a guy or gal with 2 small light sabers that guides the tug. After the jet in ready to move of it’s own volition, light saber dude must disengage the tow bar/umbilical from the tug. This entails quite a bit of jumping up and down on what I just assumed was expensive gear and cursing a lot. After the tow bar is released, the driver and light saber dude duke it out under the jet engines. The name “Fuckwit” must be used generously.
While warming up the jet engines, flight crews use the super-heated jet exhaust to heat the coffee and meals served aboard each flight.
Virgin and Atlantic records each went in 50/50 on an airline appropriated named Virgin Atlantic. Being from Seattle, I’m glad SubPop hasn’t gotten into the game.

100% humidity.
Ass numb from 11 hours in the same seat.
Bullet hole in wall next to luggage carousel.
Another 1.5 hours to wait for Peter and Daniel’s flight.
Picked up a voice mail that the new cd, which this tour in built around, was either mis-shipped or not delivered or something. Another box will be overnighted to me at the hotel in Annapolis.
But what of the other box? Where is it? Who’s got it and where do I have to go to get it?
All of the restaurants and bars at the airport are closed. I had 2 turkey dogs for breakfast and 2 cups of hot black water (airline coffee) so far. My choices are to either find a vending machine or eat a painkiller on an empty stomach and drive around in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

I find pretzels but no water.
I wait.
Peter and Daniel show up.
It’s all good.
So far.
Take the shuttle to the car rental hub. Did I mention that by now it’s, oh, 2:00 or so in the morning? It takes about 1/2 hour to get the minivan (!) and the GPS (!) talking to each other and we’re off to Annapolis with Elanor (GPS) guiding me through the dark. After 5 minutes she’s already given me bad directions. Bad omen.
I, being the diligent tour manager, mention to Peter the missing cd’s. Instead of him praising my Johnny on the Spot news briefing, he bitches (justifiably) that it’ll cost more to overnight the product than he can recoup.


Maybe I’ll find something less topical to discuss…the weather?
Peter tries to change Elanor’s accent to an English one, but you can’t do it while driving.

Get to the hotel.
Quaint, old school (1700’s).
Back up a second.

OK, when I made the car reservations, I changed it from the 16th (the day we all flew out) to the 17th because Peter and Daniel’s flight didn’t come in until 1:20 am and I didn’t want to get stuck for an extra day rental.
Make sense?
So maybe I did the same for the hotel…. Booked the rooms for the 17th (in actuality they date we arrived) and notified the sales manager that we’d be in about 2:30 (truth words) and she said we’d be expected.

Speed up to…
We check in. The night auditor says, as far as he’s concerned, it’s still the 16th and they’re full up. Peter pulls me off to the side and says get him a bed…. NOW!
We finally get the night guy to give us a suite (it’s really not what you think or, for that matter, what he thought).
There’s a bedroom upstairs and a bedroom (kind of) downstairs. And baby makes three…
At this point, I’m happy to sit up in the lobby for the next 8 hours so we can do the radio show in DC and I’ll deal with it then. I go back to the lobby (Mister Toad’s Wild Ride) to get Peter’s backpack and ask about maybe another bed somewhere. They bump somebody who didn’t show up and give me an attic room a few blocks away (I think. I’m a bit wobbly by now and just try to keep up with George (maintenance guy?). Four or five flights of stairs later (carrying guitars to restring as well as my 2 small but deceptively heavy bags) we get to this charming room. Gulp down 2 cans of iced tea (bad bad bad idea) and begin to change strings.
No strings.
Hopefully, they’re in the other case.

It’s 5:09 am. I have to be up in 3 hours but I’m still wired and it’s too hot to sleep and I’m too wired.
First day on the job and I’ll probably be fired tomorrow (later today).

Tomorrow: The Nations Capitol


So this is how it all begins

Folklife 2007, Day 1
OK, let’s back up a few days to..

Folklife 2007, Day Minus 2
Stage Managers meeting 6:30 pm. I thought it was the next day.

Folklife 2007, Day Minus 1
Called Chandler, the Production Manager, to ask if I still had a job.
He laughed.
He told me because I missed the meeting that I couldn’t have pepper spray or Samurai Swords. Readers who have followed my earlier exploits know that swords equal power and power is the only thing performers respect. Although, once I mentioned Tazers to the sound guy and emcee, I had their respect.

Folklife 2007, Day 1 (redux)
I’m waiting at the bus stop, trying to do my thing for the environment, when I’m surrounded by a pack of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Witness for the Prosecution #1 offers me a magazine for future perusal. Hustler? National Geographic? Nope, the Watchtower.
So, what are my options?
1) A quick violent outburst
2) A slow protracted violent outburst
3) A delightful combination of both
I politely (sic) declined their generous offer and went back to huffing my rubber cement jar. An uneventful bus ride follows.
Folklife, for those of you blissfully ignorant, is a 3-4 day (depends on how many fingers you can count on) folkmusichippiegatheringdrumcirclemultiethnic … multiculturalfamilyfriendly … drumcirclescreamingbabynutjobencouraged festival that I have somehow managed to avoid for the past 20 years. Oh, I popped my head down here for an instrument auction years ago and provided gear last year, but I make it a point to stay away from large crowds unless I’m well paid and backstage. The money’s ok, but there’s nowhere to hide.
As soon as I hit the Seattle Center grounds, I see friendly faces.

2 questions remain on an endless loop playing in my brainpan:
These questions will pop up at regular intervals.

So, upon seeing Ann O’Dowd, I say to myself, “What’s the worst that could possibly happen?” Ann’s got my back. I’ve got friends here. People know me. They know better than to place me anywhere near a drum circle, clowns and/or mimes, patchouli or a beer garden (if I can’t join in)! I find myself stage-managing without the benefit of any weaponry whatsoever (today, anyway). I’m at the Rainier Room, an indoor stage that had bad bluegrass, Indian (East) Dancing, French cabaret, Celtic, Hip Hop and Balkan music. The Hip Hop excursion included a pair of girls who wore wings and reminded me of the Faeries from Mothra movies. The rest of the evening promises Russian Balalaika, more bluegrass and Hungarian and Andean folk musics. Supposedly, there’s a staff party afterwards if you have a hospitality endorsement on your laminate (which I guess I don’t). Do I crash the party or don’t I?
Film at 11.

Day 1 wrap up
The first band was horrible. Kids playing bluegrass (which is admirable) poorly (which is inexcusable). Well, that’s really not fair. Chances are that you’re gonna suck when you first start playing (law of averages. Actually, John Bishop, jazz drummer extraordinaire, claims he played great the very first time…), but come on, play outside where the amusement park can hopefully mask your sound. 3 standout bands were a mandolin quartet, the Hungarian ensemble and the group from Ecuador closing the evening.
Went home.
Went to bed.

Folklife 2007, Day 2

Have I ever explained Seattle’s weather micro-system? It goes like this…
Sideways rain.
Rain that falls upwards.
That’s pretty much it. There are beautiful sunny days. Here’s where they are:
Beginning in June, it’s a toss up if it’s going to be nice. When I worked the Summer Nights at the Pier concert series, load in and the build began June 1. Maybe it rained, maybe it didn’t.
The 4th of July historically rains. Then it’s really really nice until 10 pm on Labor Day, at which point the heavens open up and precipitate to biblical proportions. After that, it’s ok until October, then repeat.
Thanks, you say, for this bit of meteorological misinformation. But why, you ask, did you waste the minute of my life that I’ll never regain to feed me such tripe.
Because I can. Because you’re reading this. Because yesterday was one of those incredible wonderful days that we wait 10 months for. Because the deluge was waiting for me when I woke up.
Because, for the most part, Folklife is an outdoor festival.

Confession time. It is, in fact 2 months since I started this report. I feel bad because I feel like I’m neglecting you, dear readers. Although it’s my sworn duty to keep you up to date in the day to day activities of your intrepid reporter, I ask myself, “Self, what do these wonderful people give a shit about my miserable life that compels me to do this again and again? I mean, for the most part, I can’t stand myself so why should they? How many could I possibly owe money to? Would they rather be watching Mister Clean commercials? Picking up dog shit?”
That being said, I’ll summarize…

I finished the festival, got paid, went home.
Kept on building the studio.
Worked the Fremont Fair, got paid, went home.
I’m leaving Monday for the East Coast. Going on tour with Peter Himmelman, tour managing, doing FOH, driving, babysitting.

More later.
I promise.


Sunshine & Sharks


OK, how many times have you said that?
How many times have you acted upon that feeling?
Decided not to go alligator wrestling or not to eat that last piece of blowfish sushi or go scuba diving after taking 5 hits of LSD?
I find myself in a large line in a large building with lots of large humorless people. I surrendered my bag, hid my gold and waited to be directed to the “showers.” I made a joke about “Schindler’s List,” which was either way over some heads or already on their minds.
This is definitely weird. The name of the escalator company is “Schindler.”
Where do I check out?

2 days in Waikiki. Didn’t see too much or do too much. Just relaxed (what a novel concept). Maybe it was from being 2500 miles away from any bubbling geysers of stress, but I’ve been virtually pain free since I landed Saturday afternoon. Got to see if I can get a prescription for this!

On a boat.
Sorry, a ship.
On a ship.
Again, a very large ship. The largest ship ever built by/for a US shipper for passengers?
Don’t know, but it’s big and I’m on it. There’s like 3 or 4 thousand people on this thing, most of them just eating non-stop. Maybe it’s owner by Purina or the good folks who brought you Soylent Green. Last stop, Rendering City!
Shoved off from Honolulu last night. Did I mention this was a large ship? It took nearly 30 minutes to spin it around so we wouldn’t set sail back asswards. Got choppy. Bumpy ride for hours. Docked in Hilo a short while ago.
Picture this…an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I’ll be generous, make that a chain of islands. Hell, they can all be independent for that matter.
Where was I going with this? Oh, right. Rain.
Sorry, the rain was distracting me. It’s a wonder I ever get anything done in Seattle.
I heard drumming last night, figured it was hula lessons from insomniacs. Turns out some of the locals boarded the ship and kidnapped a blonde or 2. Now we have to go ashore and rescue her. There were some rumors about giant monkeys and giant skulls and giant shave ice.
Going to throw some of the more vocal children in a volcano to boot.
Lock and load.
Back soon.

Back again.
By granting Hawaii statehood, I’m not sure who got the shit end of the stick. Of course, the term “granting” implies that they wanted it, they being the native Hawaiians, not the greedy rich plantation slave owners. Moot point.
So, here I am, minding my own business, leaving a trail of macadamia nuts on the deck so I can find my cubby hole when, suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, having nothing to do with whatever I might or might not have done or been an accomplice to, I’m dragged off the ship and made to stand in the rain for what seems like an eternity, but probably wasn’t. Soon afterwards, I’m dragged back on with no explanation other than some garbled somethings about extradition and giant sand worms. No sooner than my feet are planted firmly on tera patrick incognito when I’m yet again whisked off of the ship and thrown into another unmarked vehicle with about a dozen captives. Driven pell-mell through wet streets, we’re unceremoniously ejected in front of a building only marked “Hilo Hattie’s,” what I take for the local interrogation hut.
It’s worse, safe readers, much worse.
It’s a store that sells “Essential Hawaiian” crap that’s even more expensive onboard. The key that was slipped into my hand back at the ship does not, in fact, release me from this most heinous prison, only forces me deeper into the dark bowels of its retail hell. The only item that might hold clue to my exit from this purgatory is a hula dancer lamp, which sells for $100. How the hell do I smuggle that back aboard the ship, let alone the flight back to the mainland and de-briefing. Once again, before figuring out how to smuggle the lamp onboard, I find myself shoved in yet another van.
“Self,” says I, “I assuredly am getting tired of this vanplay and would like to opt out at this moment, by my leave!” Meaning that since I found myself temporarily unguarded, I just up and walked out of the van.
Figuring that the last place they would look for me would be another van, I jumped into another. The driver, guessing that I was supposed to be there, gunned the engine and took off in directions unknown. 15 minutes later, I was dropped off towards the outskirts (downtown) of Hilo. By some prearranged arrangement, I was ushered into a shop that sold “Musical Instruments,” obviously a code for something more sinister. After having satisfied the “Shopkeeper” with a series of code words, I was given a parcel in exchange for “Money.” The driver was waiting for me outside of the building and whisked me back to the ship. Later back in my room, I opened the parcel and discovered a “Baritone Ukulele.” Clever! There must be some code involved here, maybe a sequence of chords or notes played on this “Instrument” would reveal the plans for the next DeathStar or the recipe for chicken salad or something.
I’ll let you know what I find out.

I’ve just discovered that my contact here has been moved to a different island and that I won’t be able to see him for several days unless I can convince a squad of trained dolphins or orcas or something to transport me to Oahu in the dead of night.

Was disappointed to find out that they don’t have corrals full of children at the top of Volcanoes with which to feed the mountain gods. Well, let me clarify that; they actually do have corrals full of children, but you have to pay for them. They’re $2 each, or 3 for $5. Had I known, I would’ve grabbed many from the ship and could have sold the extras. Next time.

Very windy. Repeat, very windy. My brain has been blown from my skull. Will have to report back when …..

Drove around. Saw things. Ate things. Made friends with a bartender. Drank things.

On Monday, back on Oahu, I finally got to see my friend and ex-landlord Don McDaniel and his wife Billie.
They moved back to Hilo about 1.5 years ago. They started a chicken ranch (farm?) and sell organic eggs and some produce to unsuspecting locals. Unfortunately, Don had the bad luck to get struck with a stroke about a month ago. He spent 3 weeks at the Kona Community Hospital stabilizing and beginning physical therapy before transferring to Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific in Honolulu. After the stroke, Don lost the use of the right side of his body and both sides of his speech. He communicates telepathically and with a series of clicks and grunts. He’s already regained a good deal of strength and coordination and is playing soccer and on the gymnastic team. I’ll be reporting on Don’s progress later in these pages.

Honolulu’s bus system is called “The Bus” and for good reason: It’s filled with busses! I called them for instructions on how to get from the hospital to the airport. Simple enough. Take a number 4 and transfer to either a 19 or 20. Drop me off at the terminal. What could be easier?
“Sure,” says the driver of the number 13, “I can get you to a number 19…”
Suffice to say, I saw much more of Honolulu and Waikiki than I needed to and made it to the airport with about 10 minutes to spare. One movie that I wouldn’t have spent a dime to see and a few hours later, a quick coffee stop in San Francisco and home again home again.
I’d been up for about 30 hours and thought sleep might be fun, but others felt otherwise. Took me a couple days to get the sleep option downloaded, but all is back to normal (sic).

Back to the dog and cat and studio and underemployment and my secret stash of scotch.


When In …

Aloha Rapa Nui my winged fruit monkeys,

OK, so I have fulfilled either a royal command or my destiny. I walked next door to the Royal Hawaiian (one extremely bad ass hotel) and had a Mai Tai as mandated by Catherine Hardy before I left. Actually, after I told her I was coming to Hawaii, she grabbed the calendar out of my hands and wrote in the names of bars I had to go to and what to order and maybe something about food, but that’s not important. The Mai Tai was spectacular as was the setting. Very old school. My mom told me she had be there in the (19)70’s and wondered if it was still there. Yes, Beatrice, there is a ________.

Did I mention the 5 people (well, maybe 4 people and a dog) having loud squeaky drunk sex in the water not too far from my room at about 5 this morning? I was hoping for a great white shark to swoop down upon them, but I guess that’s Australia.

Ballard shows 59 degrees and frogs falling from the sky. Honolulu is 70 something, might be raining. Was that lightning? Could be the 2nd Mai Tai and the 6 pack of local brew.
Did I mention cultural diversity? Ever? OK, I mean, I’ve been in the music business for 30 years. How much more diverse does it need to be? Did I actually get my Samurai swords and cut a swath through the Koreans at Han Woo Ri? Have I ever unleashed stores of nerve gas on hippies at Folklife? Do photos exist of me plowing down slow moving tourists at Bumbershoot in a stolen Gator?
NO, NO and NO again!
So why should I want to blemish this perfect record and annihilate the throng amassed around the pool?
They might call it “Free Entertainment” as you drown in overpriced fruity iced slushy drinks and salt-petered fries and tuna of questionable parentage, but I still call it a fucking drum circle! Granted, I’m in Waikiki and they are playing “Hawaiian” music to an enthusiastic (drooling drunk and semi-captive) audience, but still, they could’ve asked first. Let me opt-out. Bungee cord me to a dolphin for 3 hours.
Never mind. It’s Sunday. The dolphins have a better union than I do.
Let’s see. Subtract 3 hours, Daylight Savings time, and 2 more beers…maybe another 2 hours of this shit. Maybe the painkillers I found secreted in the pineapple lamp on my writing desk will kick in and I won’t be reduced to a proto-babbling state before dinner.
So I complain….
Actually, I think I’m going to lose this argument/debate/diatribe. At times, I feel like a martyr for you, my beloved readers, taking the whippings and stonings and aural assaults in your place. But, for the most part, I love what I do (although, for the above mentioned most part, I am surrounded by fucking idiots), I do love my job. I love my family (when I get a chance to see them), I love my friends (when they have to endure my boorish company) and I love my life (ANXIETY aside).
So, I’ve got the beginnings of a spectacular tan, my blood sugar is the lowest it’s been in a year, I’m in what was a paradise until 150 years ago and I have the unmitigated gall to bitch.
Please find it in your hearts to forgive me. After his botched impeachment, President Clinton was asked, “In your heart, sir, can you forgive and forget?”
His reply was thus,” I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.”
I admire the man. He got a blowjob and the country was subjugated to one of the most horrendous wastes of time, money, energy and politics we’ve ever had to face. And for what!?
Sorry, I digress.
My point was that maybe, hopefully, I get to experience these adventures, these farcical scenes of backstage at the theatre of the absurd, to spare you having to go through them yourselves. I have learned in my many years of recording and live sound that the best way not to make a big mistake is to actually make it in the first place. You will not do it again. My good friend Richard Donin was once asked by a student teacher for advice. He told her to give him $1. She was perplexed, but gave him the dollar and asked why. Richard answered her original question and then informed her that the only way you really learn a lesson is to pay for it. If you have a scholarship or your parents pay for your college education, you won’t retain as much as the person who has to work 2 jobs to keep him/herself in school. He gave her the dollar back (the first one’s on the house).
Does this make sense? Have I lost you and my mind?
Because those fake fucking Rastas playing for helpless hopeless senseless clueless hatless shoeless tourists just played “Margaritaville” and every bit of goodwill, good vibrations, good tidings, good morning Vietnam, good on ya mate, good golly miss molly….Well, gloves off and prepare to defend yourselves!

Tomorrow, another island and whatever détente I can muster.



Fish Sandwich In Paradise


St. Patrick’s Day 2007.
It’s probably the first one I haven’t worked since the beginning of time. It would be tough to work, though, as I find myself in the boarding area of Sea-Tac, ready to fly the friendly skies to bluer skies. Yes, intrepid readers, we’re on our way to Hawaii for 10 days. I somehow managed to get a free trip to our 49th or 50th State (depending on who you talk to), but it looks like I’ll be paying for it metaphysically.
Already been up for 7 hours (not even Noon), weak coffee, artery clogging breakfast with my friend Dan who volunteered to bring me to the airport. Mister Toad’s Wild Ride (no power steering and Dan had HazMat gas) ensued. Breezed through security even though people say I’m looking like one of the 9/11 masterminds (definitely the first time anybody’s used me and mastermind in the same sentence). TV’s blasting Blair/Cheney/Guinness/St.Paddy’sParades. Is it actually legal to broadcast Fox in a public place? Sorry, it’s Headline News….remind me to either cancel my satellite dish or gouge my eyes out when I get home. I ponder the 7-hour flight ahead. I’ve brought 2 books and enough cash to be ejected from the flight if the drinks cart parks near my seat. Also, MacBeth and a bunch of Beatles DVD’s. Who will be seated next to me? Someone who wants to talk? Somebody who falls asleep immediately and snores for 2424 nautical miles? A screaming child? A nymphomaniac? I seriously doubt it’ll be empty. The robot which spat out my boarding pass asked if I would give up my seat and I haven’t even had a drink yet and I ran out of painkillers Wednesday.
Fuck, what have I gotten myself into? I’ll check back in mid-flight. Need to conserve battery power until I can tap into the plane’s dilithium crystals.
Back. Can talk now. OK, the flight was uneventful yet long. Drink service erratic. Must figure out how to fly 1st Class going home. I hid my complimentary pretzels where only a flight mechanic might find them. Movies included a dancing singing (?) fucking penguin movie. No thanks. Been trying to get through Bill Clinton’s autobiography since before he left office and he’s only now coming clean about Monica. The second movie is the new James Bond flick, which I’ve seen 3 times (the last time being Tuesday). Like “Band of Brothers,” I almost know the dialog by heart, so I eschew the headphones and remember to look at the screen during the juiciest bits. Bond dodges a poisoned Martini and love, Bill dodges impeachment and here we go.
Quick aside….during the flight, I was really really hoping for blue skies above and blue oceans below. Nope, sorry. Cloud ceiling about 15,000 feet. Every now and then there’s a cloud break and I can see some blue below. After a non-window browsing break, I look out the window and see…well, it was like the sky was up and down. The ocean was the same color as the sky and the clouds split the two, but not at the horizon. Pretty trippy. Must attribute to sleep and alcohol deprivation.
Land. Get met by someone expecting me. Suddenly thrust into an unmarked white van with a driver from Hong Kong, a couple from San Francisco who just won’t shut the fuck up about the British couple behind them. Get stuck in traffic for over an hour (a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour) for what should’ve been a 10-minute ride. Why? Well, I guess a cross between the aforementioned Mr. St. Patrick and the hope-to-never-be-mentioned-again-Mr. President.
My first impressions of Paradise are this…. Strip joint Home Depot McDonalds Orange Julius Fishing Boats Exotic Paintball Traffic Traffic Traffic a 3 hour Tour Malls Hotels Starbucks Subway that sells Sushi! Lush Greenery Rainbows Everywhere another mall more traffic Beautiful Women Hippies Reggae Lady Shut the Fuck Up already Burger King. Is this what we do when we invade/occupy/civilize/bring democracy (sic)/grant protectorate/statehood to a country/kingdom/dictatorship that didn’t invite us in the first place? Is this Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Afghanistan and Iraq? Well, I appreciate being protected from the local culture, but…

Hotel. Check in. More people expecting me.
OK, so one of the reasons I’m here is to see my old landlords and dear friends Don & Billie McDaniel, whom I have benevolently spared from these pages as of yet. They moved back to the Big Island a few years ago. It seems Don had the bad joss to suffer a stroke a few 3 weeks ago, probably just to fuck up the trip. Called them. Will see them in a few days.
Need sun, women, alcohol and food, probably in that order.
I don’t know why I should feel like a tourist in Hawaii! I mean, I haven’t seen the sun since September in Mexico. I didn’t feel like a tourista then, just a lush. Here, I can stand back and let the floor show unfold. 3 largish Bloody Marys and the most expensive fish sandwich I’ve ever punched in the snout later, I try to scribe these events down in a violent yet cohesive manner. The ocean laughs at me, as do all of the St. Patrick revelers. Hawaii and St. Patrick. 2 taste treats that don’t necessarily go well together, but it sure beats the fuck out of Ballard.
Tomorrow, in search of the Royal Hawaiian and their fabled MaiTais.


What is it about Me and Smelly Hotel Rooms?

So, what is it about smelly hotel rooms that makes me want to write about them, that so inspires me to lay down dozens of words in their honor? Dunno, but I find myself again poised over the keyboard, spilling my guts (figuratively and probably literally as well), so you, dear readers, don’t have to.
Actually, we’re back to where we began this road journal, or at least an exit or 2 away from it. We find ourselves back in Fife, Washington after working in Tacoma yet again. As you recall, last time it was the dreaded Motel 6 while working the Festival of Trees a few years ago. This year, it’s my very first Wintergrass festival, a multi-day Bluegrass gathering that’s so famous that I’ve managed to miss it for the past 19 years I’ve been in town. It’s held at the Sheraton and a few other venues around downtown Tacoma, a mere 40-some odd miles from home, and only a block away from the last place I worked. What brings us here friends? Well, let’s look backwards, always backwards…
So, I get a phone call from Tim O’Brien, who, as we all know, is a superb songwriter, musician, producer and political assassin. I’m assuming that Tim got my number from Danny Barnes, who, as history reminds us, is about the best banjo player on the planet. Besides that, he’s an amazing guitarist and fiddle player. Danny used to be in Bad Livers, a duo from Austin. He’s also played with Bill Frisell in the Willies and lots of other projects. I even managed to get Danny to play backwards banjo on “The Hand of Dog,” although, at the time, he didn’t realize it. Danny probably got my number from Garey Shelton, who must’ve gotten my number from me.
I digress, of course. Point being that I was very honored to be called by the festival headliner to mix for his group. OK, Danny’s playing with Tim, so I’m most likely the only sound guy that Danny knows by name in Seattle.
Whatever, here I am.
Friday, I show up around 1 or so. Can’t find parking anywhere. On my 3rd lap around Tacoma, I grab a spot across the street from the hotel! Score one for the home team. Get credentials (stupid sparkly wrist band) and find a stage. Well, there’s Vince from Triamp and Al Bagley from Carlson, all working for Dan Mortensen, my boss from the Backstage 17 years ago. Lots of familiar faces and tons of new ones.
For those of you who have never been to a bluegrass festival, there’s a phenomenon that only happens in acoustic environs like these. It’s called jamming. But unlike normal jamming, which has a very civilized set of rules; Bluegrass Festival Jamming (or BFJ) is a moveable feast of sorts. That means hotel corridors at 3 am are fair game. Knowing this, I brought a tazer and mace, but nobody seems to wander the halls at the Econolodge. At least they have something akin to wifi, but it’s more like 2 juice cans and string.
All in all, Day 1 was a success. Festival food (at least the free stuff they so magnanimously shovel our way) is better than most, but weird and must be fought for. Little sandwich wrap thingies, fruit, cookies (a diabetic treat!) and lots of water (it’s raining pretty heavily, so all they have to do is dumpster dive for empties and leave the open bottles outside). I mixed Tim and band twice, once and the main stage and then again in a church 2 blocks away. Midnight Mandolin Madness was that and lasted until after 2 am. Got to the room at 2:30 and wasn’t sure until I had actually opened my door that I even had a room at all. I heard horror stories Saturday morning from the monitor engineer at the church that she was told there were no more rooms, then had to wait 45 minutes to discover that there were many still available. The good news is that crack whores can find work in today’s job market. The bad news is that crack whores can find work in today’s job market. Am I to return to my room tonight to find it stripped bare of my belongings?
Day 2 started with a songwriter’s workshop with Tim, Danny, 2 brothers and somebody’s sister. After that, I pretty much hung out at the main stage unless Tim was playing elsewhere. His set at the church that afternoon was amazing. Danny performed one of his songs and had the audience in the palm of his hand. During their late night set, Tim mentioned that it was Pete Wernick’s birthday. Pete, of course, is one of the best banjo players around and he played with Tim in Hot Rize and Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. It was Pete’s 61st birthday, so Tim got a cell phone from Vince, set it to speakerphone and called Pete’s house in Colorado, where it was already 1 am. After exchanging pleasantries with Pete’s wife, Tim asked to speak with Pete. His wife said that he was on the john.
Mind you, this is going through the PA system with about 1000 people listening. When the audience started laughing, Pete’s wife asked him where he was. He replied he was with a “few friends at Wintergrass!”
When she asked who was there, Tim said just about 1000 people and that he’d get names for her later.
Pete finally came to the phone and then it got even weirder.
Thinking that I had an early evening, I got ready to go back to the hotel when Dan asked me to go to the church and help load out the system there. OK, how could I refuse? Of course, that led to going back to the Sheraton and loading out 2 more systems. I finally made it back to the room at about 3:30, where, with the help of an hour of electroshock therapy, a painkiller, 2 muscle relaxers and bad television, I finally fell asleep.
Saturday’s only casualty was Liz, the stage manager’s laptop. She was grading science papers on a table backstage when either someone bumped into it or the legs just decided to collapse then and there, but a flower vase emptied it’s contents into her computer. Mine was on the table at the same time, but just slid to the brink of existence. Liz walked my computer to me in monitor world and mumbled something about virgin sacrifices and submitting paperwork and witnesses. She was pretty bummed out because the computer was brand new and had all of her schoolwork in it. She’s a science teacher by day, meerkat impersonator by night. Poor Liz. Poor computer.
The muscle relaxers must’ve waited until I woke up to kick in, cuz I was fighting gravity and lucidity for 2 hours. Checked out of the hotel, had very bad breakfast across the street and then back to the show. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but sleep deprivation, a narcotic hangover and Gospel music…. 3 taste treats that don’t go well together.
I like bluegrass music. I’m getting a little tired of the bluegrass jams that happen in every other bar every other night in Seattle, which is why I don’t hang out in bars anymore (among other reasons…)
That being stated for the record, even the mediocre bands this weekend were great and the great bands were electrifying. Mike Marshall gave 2 more incredible performances and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver closed down the festival on a high (lonesome) note. Dan told me I could bail on load out, but I figured what was the worst that could happen. I already destroyed my back and neck last night. What’s a little insult to injury (sic)?
The load out took maybe 1.5 hours.


Good Bad Good Bad

I suppose it’s the balance of good and bad, which balances our lives. I wish someone would put it in writing and give specific formulae so we can cry foul when the scales are tipped in an inappropriate fashion.
Case in point, Friday’s show at NPAC was a clusterfuck that almost put me in traction. The performer was an impersonator of female singers. She does Patsy Cline, Connie Francis and others. She should be playing Elks clubs and high security prisons, but she ended up in Bothell. The old directors of the theatre had a bad habit of booking questionable talent at exorbitant fees. They didn’t bother with petty, mundane things, such as budgets and recordkeeping. Their method of reconciliation was to throw all of the receipts in a pile and calling it good.
This explains our show. I had to arrange for transportation from the airport to hotel to theatre and back again, which I did.
Until the limo company forgot to schedule the first airport pickup Friday morning. I told the musicians to go ahead and take a cab to the hotel and we would repay her. She then told me that if the hotel wasn’t ready, well, her exact words were, “No hotel, No show!”
I almost told her to turn her fat ass around and jump on the next cattle car back to Stockton, but my Superior Customer Service Chip (SCSC) clicked on and I informed her that it was all good, but I would confirm yet again. Then she hung up on me. At this point, my neck and shoulders seized up on me and I couldn’t turn my head more than a few inches and my cell phone mysteriously flew from my hands into a wall, shattering into a bazillion pieces.
Too many cooks spoil the whatever. Too many phone calls spoil my show. Murphy’s law was strictly enforced to the point where even carefully laid plans were thrown out with the baby and the bathwater. Somehow, we managed to pull the show off to everyone’s satisfaction. We predicted an empty house, but a tour group bought 120 tickets for a retirement home for the criminally insane and we did pretty well. Even sold out of Depends!

That was bad.
Saturday was good.

Yesterday, I got to meet the man whose influence made me what I am today (insert snide comment here). Geoff Emerick, the engineer who recorded the Beatles from Revolver through the White Album and then Abbey Road, spoke at the NW Studio Summit brought to you by the Recording Academy (NARAS), the nice folks who inflict the Grammies upon us all. Geoff was accompanied by Howard Massey, a producer and engineer in his own right, who co-wrote with Geoff his experiences with the Beatles (Geoff’s, not Howard’s). It was a wonderful interview with photos, video and music from days of old. This is the guy who invented techniques that we take for granted these days, whose experiments are now stomp boxes and effects racks and plug-ins that we use daily (except for those of us who don’t record with computers and actually have to figure this shit out for ourselves). I had Geoff autograph my copy and got to speak with him for a moment. Garey went with me and we hooked up with Tom Hall (another great engineer) and had a great time.
After sitting through a pointless seminar on studio monitors (which was nothing more than an hour long infomercial for JBL speakers), my neck told me to take it home.

A particularly muddy hour at the dog park ensued, followed by pizza and beer (for me, not Mifune). Caught up on sleep and woke up to incredible neck pain. Going to see an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow and schedule an MRI.

Got the plans back for the studio. Jon Stone did a great job drawing the rooms out. Hope to get the first load of lumber this week and start building. One more week at Triamp and then I fly without a net for a while.

OK, back to the dog park and painkillers.


All Things Being As They Are

Can life just get any weirder or more stressful? I truly hope not, dear readers, for if it does, someone will most definitely get very hurt!

Case in point: I finally got the keys to the new studio but 10 days after signing the lease. Did I mention that I was the only one who signed the document? Not the landlord? Not quite kosher or legal? The biggest reason I was sweating this is because my partner in recording crime, Jon Stone, is getting ready to become a dad any moment, so he’ll be taking himself out of circulation. Jon’s doing the design and overseeing as much of the construction as he can before he has to start changing diapers. On top of that, he’s also building One Reel’s new world headquarters in Pioneer Square.
I got so fed up that I gave landlord dudes a deadline that I either needed the keys or my deposit back. 2:30 pm of deadline day, he calls up and requests a credit check. I’m thinking that maybe this should’ve been done before I signed the lease? When I flip him shit over this, he asks me for an additional $2000 in deposit. Finally, I e-mailed him asking for my money back. 9:00 pm he calls and literally screams at me for being an ingrate for not appreciating all of the work he did for me that day! That day? Where the fuck was he for the past 10 days? He then tells me JUST HOW IMPORTANT the managing partner is, how they had to shove the lease under his nose as he was boarding his private jet to Australia and and and….
I reply that I understand JUST HOW UNIMPORTANT I AM and how understandable that I should be forgotten. A few seconds of dead air later and he says I’ll have keys at 6:00 am!
Noon thirty later, the keys are sitting on my desk in a torn envelope. Now the fun begins.
All seriousness aside, I’m relieved to finally get rolling on this project. As my Klingon cousins are so fond of saying, “It shall be glorious!”

Stress in the work place? Say it ain’t so! But alas, dear readers, stress has been laying eggs in the bottom right drawer of my desk regularly and they have begun to hatch. Ever since I returned to American Music/Triamp Group, money and inventory have been disappearing faster than the ozone layer. We went as far as not allowing cash transactions to try to staunch the hemorrhaging of legal tender. About a month ago, a customer came in to pick up his guitar in or repair. He was told he couldn’t use cash, so he went across the street and bought a money order. Of course, he didn’t fill in the “Pay to the Order Of” part, so the money order and receipt vanished later that day. When I mentioned to cast and crew that we’re waiting for a photocopy of said money order to arrive and culprit shall be terminated and prosecuted, the reactions were classic. A few were outraged, calling for blood and crackers. One wasn’t there, didn’t care. One joked nervously. One asked immediately for a leave of absence.
Film at Eleven.

Last Saturday pretty much saw critical mass. I was asked to do sound for a Mardi Gras party in the heart of Fremont, a risky venture at best. I arrived early afternoon and began to assemble the sound system. Not quite state of the art, but hey, it’s in an old beer brewery, so what could go wrong?
Funny you should ask. Firstly, they were missing a few key components (speaker cables). I made a list of things I needed and called the shop to have gear pulled. The shop was in panic! MC decided to pump about 16 gallons of gasoline into a diesel truck. Luckily he caught his blunder before starting the truck. That caused a mad scramble to get the gear to the Sheraton for load in. Then SR’s girlfriend needed to go to the emergency room.
I went to the shop to grab some cables and the phones were ringing off the hook and the showroom was filling up with customers picking up gear and the few “Oh, by the ways.” I got back to the brewery and finally got everything working. Little did I know that was only temporary. Finished sound checking Capt. Leroy and the Zydeco locals (minus the guitarist and one monitor mix). The production manager (?) told me that he would bring what I needed for the show when he came back from dinner. I guess we both had different ideas about what I needed. I was thinking along the lines of more monitor cables, an amplifier and some spare somethings. He thought I wanted a cheap extension cord. OK, run back to the shop for the 3rd fucking time and grab what I can. Everything starts on time and works perfectly. Soon, I noticed a change in stage volume. Sure enough, the monitors that I struggled to make work died. I tried swapping cables restarting the amp. Nope, sorry, no service after 8pm. I tried telling anybody who would listen (the producer of the event) about my problems. Got blank looks and a pat on the shoulder. Somehow managed to pull the gig off with 1 monitor mix (tough when the 2nd band is a piece with 3 horns and 4 vocals). Then I get a call from MC at his show at the Sheraton…”The wedding is tomorrow!”
Well, of course it is! It’s a Jewish wedding ceremony. Nothing happens on the Sabbath.
The band plays an incredible 2-hour non-stop set and leaves the stage.
I leave, too.
Back at the shop at 8:30 in the morning to load a few trucks.
Robert is throwing a house warming party of sorts today. We finally completed (?) the rebuild of the front house. BBQ, beer and a band? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play at noon on a Sunday, Boom box to the rescue.
I’m taking the week off from work to prep the studio for the build. A final measure or 2, pressure wash and watch my dream studio come true. Well, dream studio…of course, that would be in Bali, but this will be the next best thing.
I’m off to decompress and prepare myself for my next adventure…A Bluegrass Festival.

Hoping this finds you well, exhausted readers.


Butros Butros-Ghali

Why is the name Butros Butros-Ghali Stuck in my Head?

Greetings, equally bewildered readers. I don’t know why the former Secretary General of the UN’s name is lodged in my brain. For most of the day, it was the Beatles song, “Misery.”
To tell the truth, Misery is still playing, but now they’re singing his name in the chorus. I must find a better combination of painkillers and lunch entrees….

Finally, and I mean FUCKING FINALLY, signed the lease for my new studio space today. Seriously like pulling teeth from someone who didn’t have any teeth but still didn’t want them extracted. Here, take the money, give me the keys and I’ll send you a check every month. Even I can see the linear simplicity in that.
It’s probably a good thing that I only consulted my attorney a few times and even better that he didn’t actually read the stupid thing. Anyway, I should have the keys in my grubby paws by the end of the week and then we’ll see how I fare with power tools of unspecified intentions.
Seriously though, I’ve been waiting for this since Thanksgiving and here it is the 2nd week of February. I was ready to pack it in and move to Bermuda if it didn’t happen sooner than later. I suppose that I can still buy the shorts…

What else, dear readers? Well, let’s just see what’s sticking to my psyche like peanut butter (chunky) to the roof of Mifune’s snout…

Did I mention the little fall I took at work a month ago? Well, it’s gone from an inconvenient gash on my right shin to non-stop pain. Don’t mean to whine, but it’s become a source of constant contention. I started physical therapy and massage, but the only thing that seems to alleviate the pain anymore is electro-stimulation. Basically, for those of you who are not plugged into the nearest receptacle, it’s….well…being plugged into the nearest receptacle! There are like 4 sticky bits connected to electrodes attached to my lower back and I’m, for no better term, electrocuting myself. Something about stimulating the muscles to keep them from scabbing over. I don’t know. Painkillers are fun until you need them to actually kill pain. What a bitch!

Last night at the Tractor, Peter Himmelman stopped by for the first installment of this year’s “Next Book” series. For the uninitiated, Next Book gathers Jewish writers to come and read their works and sell and autograph and leave warm fuzzies all around. If you know Peter, well, this just ain’t gonna happen. Peter showed up a bit aggravated by having to be driven around by someone who just wouldn’t shut up.
Do you have kids? Do you work in a semi-stressful environment? Then you know of the static that rattles around your brainpan 24/7. Peter’s idea of vacation is getting away from writing television cues and the constant hubbub of Los Angeles is going on tour. So he drives up and basically needs to ditch his designated driver for a few minutes. When he asked me what the series had been like up ‘til now, I said it was pretty much NPR touchy-feely goodness and sell some books. Peter said that he was going to do more like Lenny Bruce-Spaulding Gray with a guitar. And scrotums. He mentioned scrotums quite often during the evening. His scrotum, to be exact. He also touched upon the deaths of his father and sister, a nearly dead rat and a definitely dead possum. It was great working with him and he had the foresight and good taste to invite our good friend Ben Smith to play some percussion and wrestle on stage.

Speaking of work (scant few paragraphs ago), I only have 15 more shifts to pull at the long-suffering day job. I’m taking a week off for good behavior, during which I plan some bad behavior. Well, as much bad behavior you can realize hoisting 12-foot sheets of drywall. I guess if you were my doctor or physical therapist, it would be a bad move. Well, until Star Trek-like anti gravity sheet rock slabs become available at my local lumberyard….

Well, tonight ends 24 days in a row of work with about 5 double shifts thrown in (tonight being one of them). The band has finished soundcheck, my dinner congeals somewhere in a greasy white box and the painkillers have gone on strike or vacation. Did I mention that concrete was much softer when I was a kid? Fucking gravity anyway.

OK, fellow adventurous word junkies, I’m off. I promise to write more frequently and not bitch so much. More good news next time… Don’t eat 100 Advil in one sitting, though. My doctor told me that your liver will melt and it’s not very pretty. Not quite sure what brought that up, but it’s good advice nonetheless.


Things You Say To People …

Things You Say To People At The Beginning Of A New Year And Other Improbabilities

Hiya and Happy New Year! It’s less than a week old and already things issued from Mifune’s butt are hitting the fan.
Where to start? Well, the rest of last year is now a bit of a blur. American Music (my home away from home) was sold to the Triamp Group in June. Not the best time to buy a backline company unless you thrive on somnambulism, bad festivals and diesel fumes. I was able to weasel my way out of working the Han Woo Ri festival somehow. The Bite of Seattle featured probably THE WORST BAND I’VE BEEN FORCED TO LISTEN TO SOBER! Did the family trip to the Oregon coast in July, went to Puerto Vallarta with Garey and Cheryl in September and flew to Boise to see the parental units over Thanksgiving. A lovely x-mas night with John & Leila (Shearer) Bishop (?), even lovelier French Onion Soup. Fell asleep at a quarter to 2007.

The Following Year

I gave notice at work. A bit too involved to get into right now (you know what they say…There’s 3 sides to every argument: Your side, their side and the Truth!). We’ll have to wait until the self-imposed gag order is lifted. I took the position of Production Manager at the newish Northshore Performing Arts Center (NPAC). My old boss from the Backstage days, Ed Beeson, became Executive Director in November and just couldn’t resist dragging me into the fray. It’s a lovely 600 seat theatre on the campus of Bothell High School. A pretty wide variety of acts ranging from Cowboy Poetry (earlier tonight), odd bits of Broadwayish theatre and everything in between. The Technical Director is fresh from teaching Theatre Arts for 34 years at a local high school, the house staff is high school students and the rest are volunteers. There is a bunch of recording gear that was donated by a local studio, which I’m probably going to sell and re-outfit to my liking.
Oh Joy…

The biggest news is that I’m about to sign the lease on a building for my new recording studio. It’s a wonderful 2400 square foot bunker with a 12 foot ceiling and a barbed wire fence. I talked the landlords into giving me control of an $11,000 fund to build the studio the way I want to at the outset. I’m deciding on a name for the new venture. Could continue to go with the Klingon Science Reading Room, considering Studio Mifune, Cula del Mano (Ass of the Monkey) or simply Jazz (whose anniversary of his passing is coming up quickly).
Do you have any suggestions? The winning entry will win something…

Ummm….That’s it for now. Got to get ready for work (got to love those 7 day work weeks).

Hoping this year finds you all healthy and prosperous.