Sleep is beckoning, just a bit. We’ve been working hard, playing hard. I think one of our previous tactical errors has been relaxing far too much when we’re “Home”. Hah. Heather comes home. I don’t get to, apparently.
Anywho – we relax too much when we get here. We don’t book shows, we don’t play open mics, we don’t push. We’re not falling into that this time, and we’re working hard, and I think it’s paying off. We played TWO open mics last night – another tonight. I should really keep a bloody tally. We’ll need to go back and figure it out at some point. As best I can tell, we’ve gone to at least 97 different open mics over the past year – and I know I haven’t been THAT good at keeping track of all of them. And we’ve hit many of them two, three, seven times.
Wanderlust has always been one of my favorite words in the English language. It tumbles more than rolls off the tounge and sounds exactly like what it means. There is a musky dust in that word, a gentle eroticism and a sense of non-directed, ambling purpose. It’s not a beautiful word – the German roots of “wander” make it a bit harsh as words go. The perfect word for what it implies: A very strong or irresistible impulse to travel.
In one year we have been to 19 states, in which we have played 72 different open mics and 98 different venues. We have been as far as 1,712 miles away from home and as far as 8,000 feet above sea level. We have seen the shores of Great Lakes Erie and Michigan, the peaks of Rockies and crossed the Mississippi River four times. We have traveled by boat, by train, by car and by foot, but we have yet to take a plane. We’ve been through one Saturn, two car stereos, one break-in, two flat tires, and have just replaced a third.
We’ve been visited by five local fans and one bandmate while performing on the road. Jason Slanga has the honor of being the only one to visit us twice. We’ve received three care packages, including the bubble-wrapped-yet-still-ill-fated pumpkin pie my mother tried to send me for my first family-less Thanksgiving in Colorado. We’ve been tipped with strings, drinks, love, jeans, places to sleep, and I still can’t decide whether my favorite is the $100 check from the guy who finally got laid while listening to our CD, or the crystal-covered rock someone tossed into my guitar case at a PHISH concert in Indiana.
We’ve handed out 2,165 ilyAIMY postcards, and the way rob and I figure it, we have played “Deep in the AM” in front of about 170 different audiences.
We’ve been through two hurricanes, one at the beginning of the year and one at the end, but the wettest we have ever been was camping just outside of Indianapolis when it rained three inches in one morning. Rob disagrees and says it was getting stuck in the storm while boating the Cape Fear River. Though we’ve suffered through numerous mosquito bites, spider bites, and bites of unidentifiable origin, the weirdest thing rob has ever been bitten by is a fiddler crab. The biggest irony we ever encountered was the illegality of smoking at the Tobacco Road bar in Hell’s Kitchen (Incidentally, I ran into their open mic host in Charles Town, WV, two weeks ago and he told me they eventually had to close. Go figure.). The biggest coincidence was either running into the “Spider Drummer” from rob’s old band in Indiana, or the frightening fact that the worst car accident we ever witnessed in our travels happened Oct. 7, 2003, exactly 7 months before our own giant wreck May 7, 2004. 777. Shiver. I’m currently rethinking the choice of 7 as my lucky number.
The smallest place we’ve ever been would probably be Paxton, NE, population about 600, which does not keep it from producing the best steak sandwich I’ve ever had (and I had four of those). The biggest misunderstanding was the time I thought a packaged wet nap on the floor of Shane’s Drexel University dorm was a condom. The scariest-but-exciting thing we’ve ever gotten to do was to tour the bowels of Omaha’s Magic Theatre by flashlight. The best clouds were in Colorado, along with the most amazing sunrise. The biggest array of furry creatures was the dog park in Providence, RI. The most famous person we ever met or stayed with was likely my good old friend from college, Jayson Blair. The most content person we met would either be the art teacher-luthier, Greg Decoteau, in Londonderry, NH, or the minister-minstrel, Kyle Knapp, in Omaha, NE. The only extrapolating I will do there is that maybe you need to have a hyphenated life to be truly content.
I’m fairly proud that the only things we’ve lost have been one ebow (which I thank Tyler for replacing), one quarter inch cable, about 15 pounds, two gas caps and a sweater. The thing I most frequently forget to pack is a towel, but other than that I’ve gotten pretty good, really.
The place I love the most and will live when I run off somewhere to settle down? Don’t even get me started on the list.
At 24,359 miles traveled, we have just completed our second trip around the world, after a fashion. And at this rate, rob says, it will take us 15 years to get to the Moon.
Tinsmith and AOL. Too forces of nature, unseemly in their power to take control of one’s soul. And there, of course, the comparison ends.
Thursday morning I wondered over to Rowan’s “crib” to help him move to his new crib in Hyattsville. It was slow, sweaty work – but all in all, he had most everything already packed. John (formerly of Tinsmith) came over with a truck and homemade trailer, and we proceeded to commence (or possibly vice a versa – and for all those people who think that this is a breech of grammar – I KNOW and it’s a JOKE!).
I’d forgotten how much I Love hanging out with John and Rowan. I feel a lot more alive, somehow, with them than with so many other people. I feel like I’m more alert, I’m more conscious – and I have to be to stay on my feet with their sense of humour.
And with John around, I’d best stay on my feet.
I’ll keep this short, as it would only interest people who KNOW these guys, but Thursday was a very, very good day.
Friday, not so much – until the evening – and then it was again Tinsmith oriented, where I remembered what it was like to flirt with Brooke. All in all, it was good to tease the Tinsmythes again, flirt and frolic. I hadn’t seen Tinsmith in a LONG time (since before John left) and so it was cool to see the old tunes again, and Brooke’s banjo… and Henry Cross’ bass playing was AWESOME.
Rob and I were coming home from an open mic last night. I was thinking about, not the night’s performance, but about how I carry myself in general. I have always wanted to be one of those lithe, elegant creatures who move with absolute grace …. floating through their simple motions …. astounding onlookers with their absolute comfort in their own skin ….. If you know me, you know this is laughable. I hate being clumsy. I feel not quite right in my own skin and have always envied people who have a real sense of their physical forms, how they work, move, react. People who can calculate the fall of their hair or the angle of a collar bone. I’ve had this conversation with people about Mitzi … I love how Mitzi can do that. I’ve often thought she should teach a class or something. It’s down to the simplest thing. I feel awkward packing up my guitar. That’s what i was thinking tonight. As a musician, you would think I am at something of an advantage in that I can perfect certain motions because I have the opportunity to do them all the time.
Winding quarter inch cable, for instance, or adjusting a microphone. Simple things that I do so often that I should be able to craft an elegant pattern of movement memorizable and repeatable over and over again. I could cheat looking graceful, when really it’s just those heavily practiced elements that I’ve got down. Cheating at effortless grace. You would think i would be able to do that, but I still haven’t got it figured out. After what’s coming up on three years as a serious musician, I still commonly walk into mike stands, have an ungainly time with cables, and just generally knock things over and stuff. I think I’ve figured out part of it though, I think my brain is working out my order of operations too fast. I know the handful of motions and tasks I have to do to get from the stage where I’ve just played back to my seat, but I try to do them halfways all at once rather than lining them up and giving them each their own time. I need to stop trying to wind my cable while holding my guitar and not looking where I’m going so I walk into the mike stand …. This is a theory that gives me hope, because the idea that I could just be this clumsy forever without anything that can be done about it is sort of disheartening.
ilyAIMY joins forces with Tinsmith at the College Perk.
I would also like to have wings. Maybe if I had the wings I would be naturally graceful, because a clumsy creature with big beautiful wings just seems like a crime against nature. I’ve always wanted them since I was little, in that foolish way that secretly still thinks maybe one day something crazy will happen and I will have them … just like that. Tyler says if I was a winged creature, I would be a dodo, but I would have a good time with it nonetheless. Sigh.
It’s strange to think that three years ago I was driving home from Glovia, listening intently to the radio, horrified at what I was hearing. I had to pull over to cry a couple of times. I was sure that every day was going to bring something new and terrible.
I’ve been dreaming, which I don’t do much anymore. And I’ve been oversleeping (according to the clock). I think my body is JUST reaching REM as I’m pulling it away, usually, and these last couple nights, my mind has rebelled by sleeping through the morning hours and vomiting forth images of the dead and the Living, of knives and strange chambers.
Heather ALWAYS has bizarre dreams – I WISH I had more exposure to these strange escapes.
Yesterday (since I probably don’t get to use the term “the night before”) I dreamt that I was much younger, and that I slept in a bed with my mother in an attic room that was filled to the walls with our bed. Her mother had died, but she slept with the coffin
in our bed, and I dreaded going to sleep every night, because sure enough, the moment my mother fell asleep, grandma would rise. It was bad, because it was like some slapstick comedic romp (you know the kind – sleeping with you mom and your dead grandmother) – the moment my mother looked away, my grandmother, shrouded in
cobwebs and cocooned in silk, would slowly rise and peer blindly around. My mom would look around, and the mouldering corpse would quickly lie back down and pretend to be inanimate. Weird dream.
We stayed the night at Rowan’s new “crib” last night… and I dreamt that I was Living with him again, and that his basement apartment, far from ending at his bedroom, extended into a couple of other areas. The first was a large shower room,
with multiple huge showers, big spacious, industrial-looking bathrooms, and lots of tile. It vaguely reminded me of the shower room from … not Azkaban… ALCATRAZ in the movie “the Rock”.
From there, there were large portals into classroom sized areas filled with computers,but dusty and disused, some screens cracked, others showing static – wires strewn and falling from the ceiling. At one point during the dream, we had a large, Fight Club-esque meeting where me and this big blonde guy (the kind I used to dream of being) eyed one another warily. Eventually we compared knives in the bathroom… he whipped off his belt to show me his (and I immediately wished that I’d been wearing my Magic Belt), and I handed him mine, sheathed in leather.
My knife was broken in such a way that it unfolded into an evenmore wicked shape than it actually was, and his swivelled in some odd fashion to form a pistol grip, complete with LED flashlight.
We were both suitable impressed.
Last night, before “Predator 2” and unconsciousness, Heather and I went to see my friend Audrey’s band “Sense of Wonder”. Rick and Audrey have been playing with a cello player for the last year, but I haven’t even seen that yet, and now I get to see them replete with piano and upright bass and cello and drums. Rick even whipped out his hollow-body electric to be all rock and roll.
It was an interesting contrast of worlds.
Let me start off by saying, it was VERY cool. I lamented the sound production, but the instrumentation was gorgeous, especially through the slower songs (“Season of Dying”, “Heavenly”, “The Witch and the Peddlar” stick out in my head). Her pianist and bass player specifically added SO much to the music. God, I’m once again struck dumb in the presence of Audrey’s song-writing. I Loved watching things familiar and alien, sort of meshing, but whereas that would normally make me uncomfortable, this
It was a strange mixing of worlds, bringing Heather Lloyd into a nest of people that I hadn’t seen in years, including Audrey’s parents. It was a proud night – Heather was looking especially stunning, and I was wearing my Especially-Cool-
Shirt-That-I-Stole-From-Justin-and-Must-Replicate-Before-Returning Shirt, and we could say “yeah, just finished our first year touring the country, et cetera… day job? what day job?! Ah HA!!” I was really proud to meet people out of my old Life and display where I was in my current one. People ask me what I’m doing and I can say, “Oh, I’ve been on tour for a year now…” So good.
Tonight we went back to Cafe Florian. I haven’t been there in forever, it seems. People were amazed, when last they saw us, Heather and I had been playing together for three weeks, and now it’s been three years. Sharif joined us and we played a really Lovely set, including Heather’s new one “Illinois is Overflowing”. It was gorgeous to be in that room again, even though it’s got kind of a faded glory to me now, with Syl absent, with Mia missing (heh)… but the faces that WERE there were familiar, and it was important to be impressive to these people, who I remember once gave me the impression of wishing I’d go away so they could hear Audrey better – I’ve come home to shine, in a way.
Hrm, sleepy and typing, Rowan looking over my shoulder, watching set up in Arlington, VA at the Galaxy Hut. Very sleepy. Won the festival thingie, perhaps I’ll talk more about that later. I’m mostly typing for the moment so I can put an Arlington, VA location in the TOC, rather than so many MD dates. Makes sense, right?
Today has been a torture of allergens. My eyes are reddened and tired, and my head is full of the cushioning, gurgling feeling of mucus, and my voice is nasal and pathetic. Benadryl, my Lovely saviour, replaces the off-balance feeling I get from having my ears stuffed up with drug-induced drowsiness. It’s a bad day to be my nose. I have a penis joke I was sort of thinking of putting here, but my internal censor is working for the moment.
We’ve done so much over the past weekend, starting with going to see Sense of Wonder. Saturday we got up early and headed over to the Takoma Park Folk Festival.
Takoma Park is such a strange place – fantastic houses with surprising sprays of ivy and heavily leaded glass, and a very Green Party kind of population. A place where I can take an evil glee by turning on Rush Limbaugh, turning up the radio, and driving through with my windows down, just to see the whole place erupt in riotous chaos. However, I would not dare slow for stoplights. The place is open-minded to a fault… about open-mindedness, the ideal place for a folk festival – and at 28 years, one of the longest-running ones there is.
Anywho, a perfect day for it – not too hot, sunny (allergy Hell) and the world came to Takoma Park to see music. We were scheduled as part of a Showcase compatition: Out of all the entrants, we and nine other acts were chosen to compete for a highlighted hour-long spot next in next year’s festival. We were in a line-up including really fantastic acts, including Bill Mulroney and his new “Second Wind Band”, Mark Sylvester (Sense of Wonder’s bass player), Richard Broadbent (a wonderful storytelling songwriter that we keep running across) and Gregory Lygon (he was the ideal artist to follow us – percussive, but relaxed, clean – a strong player, I was pretty transfixed by his first tune). It was some pretty strong competition, and I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much of a response, as I tend to have pretty strong opinions on what a panel of judges will want at a folk festival… I was pretty surprised to win! So surprised that I wasn’t even paying attention when they announced the awards. Heather had to yell for me through the PA… sigh.
I didn’t get to see as many of the other performers as I would’ve liked – after our slot I made sure to catch Tinsmith, but other than that, pretty much lost track of time. I realized that the food in the hospitality room seemed to change pretty regularly, and where once there was pizza and salad and cookies, there was then pasta and bread and brownies, and later still, wraps and baklava and blondies. It was hot outside, and I sort of lost track of time just seeing what they’d bring out next. Plus there was a pick up Irish jam, and that weird Washington Post dog… so there was entertainment enough inside.
Tinsmith was on form, full of tuning and bad jokes – and incredible music, of course. I really like the addition of Avril, and despite the unending sound difficulties, I still got enough out of it to assure myself that she’s still one of the best players on the planet.
Later still, I got a chance to see the unspellable Lisa Moscatiello. I’ve heard her name often enough, and I think I’ve met her a couple of times, but I’ve never seen her play – I would’ve remembered. Dave Chappell, her guitarist, was everything that I Love in an electric guitarist – subtle, with incredible tone, very Mark Knopfler… (flashback of nifflers). I sat transfixed.
So, exhausted from a sunny day of audio and visual input, we made our way out to Arlington, where Firedean had asked us to join him for a couple of songs. I don’t know that I would’ve said yes (knowing that we’d be coming from a festival) except that Austin Stahl’s “Private Eleanor” was going to be opening.
I’ve long admired Austin’s music, and would still argue that the hand-crafted “Deciduous” is one of the finest creations of the audio world – but I’ve long feared the full band, as I know Austin has a sort of pop aesthetic that I don’t get along with. And sure enough, the first couple of songs seemed to confirm my fears…
But then he fell into it – and it was amazing. So much passion, so much etheric energy… I was really impressed by the whole thing. A perfect mix – just a little bit punk… but as always – his vocals were too quiet. Sigh.
We won the Takoma Park Folk Festival, which I have to admit I am still giddy about. The win was really secondary to how good I felt based on the response of the people at the festival. We sold a bunch of CDs, and it seemed that every person walking up to us expressed genuinely their desire that we should win. And I felt like we were really on top of our game. We turned what might have been disaster into a strength. I broke TWO strings simealtaneously on the tail end of the first song, LooseN, but used the strong bass in the guitar to “drum” through to the end of the song. When that finished, one of our competitors, Audrey’s new bass player, Mark, tuned up his Taylor and handed it to me to play. The guitar sounded and felt so beautiful, like playing satin. And Rowan playing percussion behind us drove me a little more. I was a little more active than usual. And we really played so nicely. People were really into it, and that would have been enough for me, really. I think, if we had not won, I was sort of routing for Bill, our lawyer friend we met so long ago at Just Plain Folks. When we met him, he’d just picked up his guitar again after not playing for 20 years. Now he’s playing all the time, has a new CD and a band. I can not imagine how amazing that would have been for him to win. It would have been a win that would really have delighted me. It was quite the compliment that Bill felt pretty much the same way about us: If I’m not going to win, then I really want these guys to win. When they announced us as the winner, I have to admit my mouth did the thing that people who’ve won the grammy and aren’t expecting it do – the sort of “whaaaaat?” mixed with “really?!?!?” What’s also cool is that we won it playing what we wanted to play, which furthers my growing theory about the openmindedness of the folk community. We were different. We were us, but we still can find a home for ourselves under that umbrella that is folk. A strong performance can move people, even if the genre is not a precise fit. At least these are the lessons of NewSong and Takoma Park Folk Festival. I got to admit, even with all the recent success, rob and I are both a little down. The storms are coming, along with the bills, and small things like guitar strings have never seemed so costly. In a last wave of good news, even as collection agencies are hounding us about medical bills from the accident, our lawyer assures us all will be taken care of in 30 days. Then I get to look for a replacement for the Saturn that carried us for 9 months and protected us in the womb during that rough birth into the real world of shattered glass and twisted metal more than four months ago.
Dreams and wheezes. Go see the movie of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” that I dreamed in my head last night. Go see Resident Evil 2, which was NOT in my head – despite the fact that the choice for jarring blaxploitation humour was entirely unneccessary and the choice to hide from a bazooka in a plastic trash bin quite questionable from the point of reality.
Man, I just had the musician’s equivelant of the “going to school naked dream”. Ugh – we were playing in some sort of auditorium – big stage, lights, et cetera… but for some reason, we ended up leaving set up till the last second… (I felt really bad too, because I kept telling Brennan to do it)… And I couldn’t find my nails, and I had masking tape as opposed to electrical tape (but I kept SEEING my electrical tape) and I’d JUST set down my guitar cables….
So it’s time to take the stage, and my mic stand (a straight stand, not a boom stand!) was wiggly, and the lights above my part of the stage weren’t working … and Heather wasn’t playing this one, did I mention that? She was on a DATE! And we couldn’t move the piano, so Sharif had to face the wall behind the stage… and I finally get up on stage, half an hour late and go to plug in my guitar, but my cable’s cut in half!
The audience seems to be ok with it – they just seem to be having a grand old time, but man… I was dying!
So, the dream cuts fast to driving in the countryside with my Dad in his Austin Healey, and he’s explaining to me that it couldn’t have been sabotage, because there’s an “ill wind” that blows when that happens, and I would’ve noticed it blowing.
I’m going to go double check that we have extra mics for tonight. In the meantime, we’re out of low E strings… anyone got spares?
A contest? Also, as a random note… we’re coming up on the end of our run of postcards – and I’m ready to art up some pictures of us, but the only problem is…. well, I want this next run to reflect our current configuration: Rowan, our beautiful percussionist, Sharif, our sensual wiggly-man, Heather, our gorgeous Heather, and me… and I’m our me. We don’t have any photographs of that.
It’s always been tricky, getting photographs of all of us, because I’ve always wanted to do everything myself, but Heather deflated my skull a bit, and made a very good suggestion – turning it over to you guys. We’ve got a bunch of foursome shows coming up over the next couple of weeks, and we’d like to invite everyone to take as many photographs as you’d like… before and after shows, feel free to grab us and pose us… and give those pictures to us. Whichever photograph (or photographs) gets chosen by us will then be arted up by me, and used in our next flurry of promotionals. The lucky/skilled photographer(s) will get a credit line (something like – original photograph by ___________ and arted by ____________ – we can discuss the wording, because that kind of dual work is always weird to explain). The “flurry” will include our next run of postcards, our promo kits, our photographs that we send to newspapers, posters, and maybe even band portraits for the interior of our upcoming CD.
Anywho – the details – 4×6 is preferred, and digital photographs MUST be at least 1200x16oo pixels. Bonne chance – show us beautiful things (that look like us).