Can’t wrap my 3D fence around it

I’ve been rehearsing the Crimson Grail with over 200 guitarists and these massive guitar orchestra composers never seem to learn anything from each other. The score is in letter sequences that don’t follow one another. Solution: Provide a score that explains the parts in between your cues. Granted, Chatham does provide a lot of that but it’s not presented in an easily understood manner when a conductor is constantly waving at you. (I’m never going to be accepted into another guitar orchestra again.) Each part of the orchestra has different letters. There are conductors trying to cue people when to play and they’re doing hand gestures. Solution: more cue cards so everybody can be on the same page at certain points. Tonight we were in a church and no one had a mic and could not be heard unless their head was pointed at you. There were some cue cards for parts where everybody is supposed to be playing the same note. More cue cards! It still sounds very cool so show up if you’re interested.

My bass head fell five feet on the cold hard marble. Hm. Gotta go in early and test it again

I watched “Natural Born Killers” last night for the first time since I saw it in the theaters and it was way better than I remember. It’s Oliver Stone’s best satire. Stone’s skill is to amplify history through his films regardless of the absolute historical accuracy. With NBK, he made a film about the “popularity of violence” in the same way. With amplification, people might hear you in Poet’s Corner. Tell a story as truthfully as you can and if the facts are in dispute, your story may be the truest of the lot. Maybe it will stick. If the truth sticks, it looks prettier than when the shit sticks. Get off my lawn you kids — buy some guitars and make rad movies.

Ok, what else. I hope you’ve been reading TPM lately which has been following the McSame response to the Russia/Georgia conflict etc. McSame wants to be Nero and Caligula. He really wants the U.S. to follow in the footsteps of every failed empire in history. He’s running a shit campaign that appeals to the worst in America. The YOT (youth of today) must put the crusty old douchebag in an old folks’ home if they want hope.

Bought a Bass Head

I just bought a 150 watt Crate bass head from Craigslist for a very good price and it sounds a lot better than the Marshall head that I originally bought the Marshall cabinet with. It’s not the creamy tube sound everyone loves but it certainly does the trick and I have a new appreciation for this bottom-heavy 15 inch cabinet. (That old Marshall amp sounded so buzzy I’m rather ashamed I got so angry when a friend lost it at a party after I loaned it to him.) So why did I get this thing since I have a perfectly good 35 watt Peavey combo suitable for um, jazz…. ? I’ll be taking part in Rhys Chatham’s “Crimson Grail for 200 Guitars [and 16 basses]” at Lincoln Center on Friday, August 15th. Mr. Chatham specified that amps be ranked no lower than a rock-respectable 50 watts.

Having performed Glenn Branca’s “Hallucination City (Symphony for 100 Guitars)” at the World Trade Center in June of 2001, I can say that if you were to attend, your eardrums probably won’t be too blasted out. For Branca’s piece we were all assembled together in front of the audience but for this one, Chatham has all 216 instruments surrounding the audience. Hey, it was originally composed for 400 Guitars and performed mostly inside a church in Paris. Branca’s piece is easily more dissonant while Chatham’s piece is closer to choral music and Gregorian chant. I’ll be documenting the rehearsal process a bit which begins a week from today.

Update: I meant to say this earlier but I’m really into logo removal. My dad removed all of the logos from his cars and it made his cars cooler so why can’t I remove the logos from my amplifier retinue? Would they lose their bonafides on craigslist?

Back in Gold

Hudson River sunset, spring
Golden Brown, texture like sun

This blog was down all day as I have one of the “cheap hosts.” That’s all I’ll say about it except that I’m glad it’s back as I was wanting to blog all day– except now that I had to be uppity with the tech support and I’m not going to blog about that, I’ve lost the essay steam.

I saw Teenage Jesus and the Jerks last week and Lydia Lunch blew my mind. I hung out with her and Cesar in New Orleans for a day or two in the early 90s. At that time, Lydia was a retired no wave punk and a poet. Holy hell. She hated New York then and I really don’t think there are words to describe what she feels about New York now.

I went to the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island. It was fun but the buttloads of tourists, the millions of muscle cars and classic cars, the billions of digital camera shot putt clicks, have placed it on a new plane. Development is coming. I want them to tear down the block on Beach Blvd with all the furniture stores and put the shopping mall there. Keep most of the cool Coney.

My nephew is in Ghana and my brother sent some emails that have been coming back. Almost half of one letter was about his iPod and how he could recharge it.

I can feel a more substantial blog with many links and feigned outrage coming soon…

Heat, Speed, Time, Voting

Lake George motel

Lake George motel, night
There has to be an invisible sun

That song reached No. 2 in the UK charts when The Police released Ghost in the Machine. While I’m intrigued by pastoral scenes infused with poetry about what’s going on elsewhere, it could never be a convincing vehicle of persuasion. The Police video was banned in Britain in its day for shoving it down our throats. Today we’ve got Madonna’s “4 Minutes” which is pretty open to interpretation although as one of the commenters put it, “Why not 5 minutes?” Why can’t anyone make a banned video anymore? Oh wait, there are some recent ones…

That’s it… I’m voting Republican for more banned videos.

Playing with Buildings and Armory Shows

Stairs, shadows -- SFMOMA
Stairs, shadows at SFMOMA

One of the must-do fun things to do in NYC this summer is visit the Battery Maritime Building where David Byrne has installed an organ that plays the different pieces of an old building. New York Times has a write up with video today.

This reminded me of an episode: My senior year at UCSB, I took part in an “Armory Show” at the SB Armory. I was taking a free-form art class with painter/pianist Dick Dunlap who is probably the sweetest and most soft-spoken professors I ever had. Anyway, he and some friends had invented/built some instruments out of found and new materials and he invited members of this class to play the instruments at a show at the Santa Barbara Armory which is similar to the building where Byrne has his organ in that it’s mostly a giant old room.

I only remember two instruments. The first was the Stringed Tongue Coffin which was a vertical tongue-shaped box with a taut cable strung from the top to a flat sheet of plywood that was attached to the bottom at an angle. By stepping on the plywood you could control the pitch somewhat and play the string by plucking it or with a giant bow made of plumbing hose and wire. I played this instrument as I seemed best at making it loud. (I’m a bass player after all.) The other instrument was the Piano Harp which was stringed guts of a piano bolted to a flat wooden crate. You could either play the strings with mallets or by strumming it like a harp. This was played by my housemate, Craig Dunham. Damn, I wish there was video or even photos of this event. The video of David Byrne’s piece almost brought me all the way back… I just need to remember those other instruments. (Senior moment.)

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss it but this Saturday night to Sunday morning is the Bang on a Can marathon at the World Financial Center. Highly recommended for anyone with even a remote interest in new music.

Streets of San Francisco

Stanyan St., SF

Succulent, SF

Todd Barker
Todd and his whirly

Here are some shots from San Francisco. It’s a cool town. Todd is one of the few people I know who will oblige me when I say, “Let’s play fake jazz!” He’ll even say stuff like, “Make it faker!” I’ll have some color shots up soon.

I enjoyed this interview with Tom Waits.

How many celebrities would even allow this to happen?

Musical Peeps: Kato, Bowman, and Mollica

Eric Roeser, Urge Overkill
Eric Roeser, Urge Overkill

Nash Kato, Urge Overkill
Nash Kato and um, Brian Quast of Urge Overkill

Taking good pictures of bands is hard! You have to take a million shots especially if you’re not used to your new camera. Then, if you’re taking millions of pictures, you must put on your photo editor cap and get the axe out. These Urge Overkill shots are bad but it’s to illustrate that I’ve been overwhelmed with gigabytes of photos and travel and music. I’m going through the San Francisco photos and I’ll post some when I’m good and ready but this post is about the music I saw in New York the past few weeks.

Opening for UO was Los Angeles band Suffrajett. Great lead singer blah blah. I feel funny saying something significant as I haven’t listened to their music enough although I’ve played a few tracks at the Ding Dong.

It’s a shame Urge Overkill never had the big breakthrough they deserve as they’re a perfect guitar blend of garage, glam, punk, and classic rock. While it’s great they’re back together and recording again, they’re a little past their prime to ever really get there looking as craggy as I do. They played around three new songs along with the classics at the Bowery Ballroom a few weeks ago and they’re good. Fingers crossed for the new rekkid when it’s time. Shame on them for being one of those bands that refuse to play their big hit because they’re sick of it. (Incidentally, Neil Diamond played a show at The Bitter End a couple weeks ago. See, why can’t the Ding Dong Lounge get The Melvins?)

Deborah BowmanOne of my first acquaintances at the Ding Dong Lounge was Deborah Bowman. She’ll get mad at me for saying this but the regulars live for the times she gets on the bar with a hula hoop. She’d been touring on a cruise ship around South America and elsewhere doing her cabaret show of Broadway tunes and she finally put one out there for her New York friends up at the Gatehouse at City College. Deb has an amazing voice, charismatic stage poise, candor and showmanship. She’s poised for stardom.

In my neighborhood, there’s an amazing little institution called the Bloomingdale House of Music which offers low-cost music lessons to Manhattan kids. They’ve been adding great jazz musicians to their faculty and a friend and I caught a recital by Mark Mollica. (pictured: Drummer Ted Poor and bassist Ike Sturm.) Mark’s set was unusual in that he took a handful of rock songs and rearranged them jazz stylee with very impressive results. If you’re familiar with The Bad Plus‘s take on some rock standards, this is nothing new. This is the way to turn kids onto jazz and new music in general. Jazz purists who snub their noses at this practice are full of shite.

Short Sabbatical

Hey kids, I’m in San Francisco for a few days. In college at UCSB, I was a sometime guest in a band called The Whitefronts and I jammed last night with their drummer/guitarist and trombonist–who I don’t think I’ve seen since I last played with him. We slipped right back into the old songs lickety-split. Good times. I’ll have pix and more musings up soon.

The (Latin) South Shall Rise Again

Union Square, 9 pm

Sometimes you think about something and then a few days later, a story appears that corroborates your thoughts. Synchronicity. It’s true that Naomi Klein has also written on The Iraq Effect on Latin America in The Shock Doctrine. Regardless of what you think of socialism, this is the first time since Spanish imperialism that Latin America is able to pursue its own agenda, free of the U.S./Euro/China/NAFTA axis, largely thanks to U.S. entanglement in the Middle East. “East is east and West is West…” I always wondered why Kipling left out the North and South. Bring on the brujeria!

Geopolitical intrigue aside, I also enjoy the odd hilarious flame war leaking into the internets. Dude, go wax your chest again.

Music Is a Fuzzy Cathedral

Riverside Church
Riverside Church – fuzzy mode

I lost my camera a couple days ago but I’ll post some rejects.

Eighth Blackbird performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall last night. Playing a piece written for them called “Double Sextet” — hence written for 12 musicians — 8bb actually play against a recording of themselves playing the other half of the piece. Neat. All the naysayers who don’t like new music should really see a Steve Reich piece performed live. This rehearsal video of Music for 18 Musicians only begins to convey what it’s like.

The other half of the program, also a New York premiere, was a piece by Bang on a Can. Not as satisfying as the Reich piece and difficult to digest in its variety, it’s still a blast seeing serious musicians having some serious fun, even making their choreographed moves look completely unpremeditated. Ouch, using too many big words.

For an interesting flipside, my friend and I snuck into the main hall to hear Asha Bhosle perform for the Indian glitterati and other fans. Believed to have recorded / sung some 12,000 songs, you could say she’s the Sinatra of India although I don’t think ol Blue Eyes, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett combined could touch that number. Anyway, hearing the Bollywood twist on the pop music form after 8bb was like going to hear Olivia Newton-John after a Slayer show. Sugar cookies after jalapeno poppers. I could go on…

Mi Bicicleta, El Futuro

poppin a wheelie
poppin a wheelie

Link to Brooklyn Vegan day… Bring on the spring/summer free shows! Mission of Burma playing NYU Saturday. We got your Gossip on Letterman. I confess: sometimes I wish I lived in Brooklyn, but I live on the Upper West Side.

As the job I’m on winds down, I turn to career thoughts. More website design, more soup-to-nuts design, more plug-ins and widgets, more traffic, more music, more photos, more freelancing. My services are for sale. My photos are for sale: 8 x 10 hi-res prints, anything from my blogs. Hit me up if interested — before I put them all on Photoshelter. More vacation.