January 12th, 2018.

Oh woe is me. Christmas is dead. We took out the tree. The last week or so has been remarkably lack-lustre, plus or minus having a really fun band practice – but other than that – I mean, open mic got canceled after already being on a two week hiatus… Hell, I haven’t even started my car yet in the new year, so I have vague concerns about that. Tomorrow morning I better go and poke it just to make sure it still GOES.

We went to go see “Shape of Water” – which turned out to be an exquisitely beautiful but surprisingly subversive movie. And we spotted a kind of awesome Deadpool 2 advert…
NOT OUR CAT!!!
Well, I guess it’s kind of useless hiding where the neighbour’s cat’s been hiding…
How we’ve been keeping warm on cold nights… well… one way.

We’ve finally got a gig coming up this weekend, but so far 2018 has been a whole lot of NOTHING. I’ve been feeling it, too… just malaise. Part of it is the insane cold – it’s spent a LOT of time below freezing, and even today and tomorrow as we broach the 40s it’s grey and forboding.

So taking the Christmas tree down today and dragging it out to the sad Dead Christmas pile on the corner was kind of the most out-of-the-houseness I’ve been up to recently.

Don’t judge!

Oh wait – I totally went to the post office a couple of days ago, but other than that… yeah, Kristen, Heather or Brennan drove. Gotta poke my car!

January 14th, 2018.

We've been focusing on making sure we highlight Rowan as a frontman more frequently. It seems to be working out well!
We’ve been focusing on making sure we highlight Rowan as a frontman more frequently. It seems to be working out well!

We returned to the Old Bowie Town Grille last night and though onstage I was happy with myself, offstage I was displeased. I was funny and charming and played guitar like a motherfuckin’ FIRE (or does he say riot? I’ve never looked it up) – off stage I was VERY aware of having just screwed up a bunch of lyrics (like my old self) and even lost my place in a couple of songs (once cause I was misdirected, twice cause I lost count and thrice cause I WAS RIGHT but everyone else did something else!) and was bitter and tired and potentially snappish.

ilyAIMY returns to the Old Bowie Town Grille after a three year absence! I was pleasantly surprised to find that we still knew some of the servers!
ilyAIMY returns to the Old Bowie Town Grille after a three year absence! I was pleasantly surprised to find that we still knew some of the servers!

I hope I wasn’t snappish.

We were filming, and there’s a WHOLE additional level of angst when you’re trying to not only make your hands go and your mouth go and breathe appropriately and run sound and think “what’s next?” and not trip over anything and then ADD looking cool and make sure you’re emotive and how’s my hair?!?!

Artem Bank did a great job of getting some solid video of the night - now hopefully our performance will bear up to such close inspection!
Artem Bank did a great job of getting some solid video of the night – now hopefully our performance will bear up to such close inspection!

Yeah, it’s a lot. And for many, many years I’ve generally thought I’m a fun stage performer, but when you’ve got to actually THINK about it? Good lord – it can ALL go to Hell.

No, really… go to HELL!

Sigh.

I think that though it probably wasn’t a great show, we PUT ON a great show – which is a weird distinction, perhaps – but what I mean by that is that I think the audience had a great time, and we did very well financially – and the venue was very happy and wants us back as soon as we’re able – but I don’t know how much of the video’s going to be a great application piece and I was heartily aware of every missed lyric, sloppy chord and missed note.

And of course the sad part about having put a lot of energy into filming it – that means you can’t help but heartily critique. THAT’S going to be interesting.

So – in any case, I’ve got a couple of other things that I kind of want to gripe about, but I shouldn’t because I’m genuinely trying to project less negativity.

So what I REALLY should say is I had a funny interaction at Safeway with a sidling woman who commiserated with me about our collective lack of interest in the Sports Ball and our distress over how it seems to impair the faculties of those around us.

Band practice is a good party (January 7th, 2018 at the rob and Kristen pad…)
Friday… it’s been 20 degrees at most for weeks, and it’s supposed to be 19 tomorrow. But today it’s 60 and so foggy you can’t see the end of the block.
Band practice? Okay - not MY band practice - Chuck the Madd Ox, Dave Benham and Kristen jamming together prepping for their featured artist slot on Monday. It's been a good weekend to be our Living room!
Band practice? Okay – not MY band practice – Chuck the Madd Ox, Dave Benham and Kristen jamming together prepping for their featured artist slot on Monday. It’s been a good weekend to be our Living room!
The weasel done got a weasel wrap from Heather's parents! Christmas CONTINUES!!!
The weasel done got a weasel wrap from Heather’s parents! Christmas CONTINUES!!!

 

January 16th, 2018.

Yesterday was a not-very-funny comedy of errors. I was NOT ready to go back to my open mic mentally, and I think that that translated into the physical. I’d been chatting with a friend and my mind had been going back to all the negatives of running the open mic because – we hadn’t had it for three weeks and apparently my mind was dwelling on the darkness – altercations and moments when I couldn’t be having a good time at my open mic because I was busy being the law… the bullshit side of being a host.

It's been far too long since we've since Mike and Matt Polanchak in the world. Going under the name "The RIchardsons" they are as tight as ever.
It’s been far too long since we’ve seen Mike and Matt Polanchak in the world. Going under the name “The RIchardsons” they are as tight as ever.

And I think I got caught up in that and didn’t go down my little mental checklist. I got to the open mic and was missing : two power cables and my hard drive. Teavolve had the extra power cables, no problem, but after ransacking my gear, I could only turn up my backup hard drive – which is USB 3.0 not USB C. I ransack my gear some more and can NOT turn up the appropriate cable – so I turn to my friends, most of which have no idea what a USB 3.0 cable IS.

I went back to my 50mm lens on my SLR. It took me till around THIS moment with Mark Whitaker before I feel like I was finding my stride with the camera. In addition - Mark is just a marvelous performer.
I went back to my 50mm lens on my SLR. It took me till around THIS moment with Mark Whitaker before I feel like I was finding my stride with the camera. In addition – Mark is just a marvelous performer, as shown by his excellent neck tendons.

Heather’s mom knows what it is, but she doesn’t have one AND she’s in VA. Heather’s fiancé ransacks the kids rooms. None have one. Dave Benham doesn’t know what it is and is already on his way. Teavolve doesn’t have one. I know Paul has one but he’s not coming. JUST as Heather’s beau says “welllll we can stop at the Best Buy” with a sly text that implies “cause I’d really like to go to Best Buy!” one of the open mikers HAPPENS to have a 3.0. Five minutes later, while going through my gear looking for an eighth inch cable, I run across MY 3.0 cable… bah!

Another person who's been FAR too long absent. Mike Bragg - possibly one of my favourite male voices on the local scene.
Another person who’s been FAR too long absent. Mike Bragg – possibly one of my favourite male voices on the local scene.

And of course, during all of this people are filing in. It’s Martin Luther King Day at a Black Owned Business – the place is PACKED. And beyond that, it’s a DAY OFF for lots of people who can’t usually make it, it’s the first week we’re back after being out for three weeks, and my featured artist is AWESOME… so yeah, even as the dinner rush files out, the open mic rush is filing IN and it’s MASSIVE.

Heather hookin' up with the Madd Ox for "Good Heart". Yeah - I can't beatbox with Chuck in the room!
Heather hookin’ up with the Madd Ox for “Good Heart”. Yeah – I can’t beatbox with Chuck in the room!

Now I’m sweating – because I plug in the drive and the TouchMix can’t see it. I try to format it and then remember the QSC can’t format drives bigger than 2gb. This is like… a TB. Bah!

So – “Heather, can you bring your laptop?!” I catch her just in time and then we kick into gear with the open mic and we’re OFF!

It’s an AMAZING night, and in between getting artists set up, me and Kristen are trying to get Heather’s dying laptop to the point where it can recognize this FUCKING DRIVE. Windows 7 conspires with a machine on its last legs AND a Windows update, crash, reboot, and chaos to mean even getting the thing started takes over half an hour. I write what I’m looking for on a napkin and Kristen downloads the software to format the drive… and Windows 7.0 can’t find it. I don’t know where to find the Disk Manager. Device Manager can SEE the drive but Windows Explorer CAN’T see the drive so it can’t be formatted.

Eventually, I have to give up and just enjoy the night  – but regret that I’m not archiving like I like to do.

Especially because it truly is a kick-ass night. All the talent is top-notch, a lot of old friends came out, and the couple of newbies that came must’ve left with a pretty stunning impression if I do say so myself.

Heather and Kristen and I were awesome, I was pretty ON with my host-game DESPITE also dealing with all of the above… they had ALL the toppings for the chicken and waffles and the chicken was perfectly done.

And holy shit, Chuck’s feature set, backed by Dave Benham and Kristen + the talents of a very phenomenal dancer – it was stunning. It was goosebumpily powerful and then hilarious.

I regret not having the hard drive. The recording off the camera does NOT satisfy – and it makes me wonder if it’s worth it working on the footage (though I’m gonna work on some of the footage). I’d set up my SLR to take video for most of the night and was experimenting with an old lens that I hadn’t used in a year or so… even when the SLR wasn’t tied up taking video, it took me about half the night before I was taking decent photos with that lens. I’m just out of practice… I found my game eventually, and I think outside – the audience never knew anything was amiss – but damn, my tech game falters.

Incredible night. No better way to rekindle Teavolve for 2018, and though it wasn’t blatantly stated, kind of the best way to do a Martin Luther King day as well.

If only I’d had the damned hard drive.

January 17th, 2018.

Oh, hey snow! I’d been wondering when you were gonna get here. Now I wonder how long you’ll stay. My car’s in the shop, I’ve got no place to be, the only entity in the house that seems really iffy about your presence is the neighbour’s cat, and I sort of think that some of HIS angst is over the fact that a fresh snowfall provides ample tracking evidence of where he spends his time.

Kristen knows how to pass the time with a stolen cat.
Kristen knows how to pass the time with a stolen cat.

Our house is snug and warm and we’ve got billable hours to occupy our time. Tomorrow the temperature climbs back well-above freezing, so I don’t know how worried I am about shoveling…

The cat romped for about five minutes and just reappeared, scampering into the house and scattering snow on the Living room floor. Kristen’s chasing him with a towel and breakfast goes on.

Tomorrow I’ll be running a session down at Asparagus Media – the first time I’ll be doing that solo. With any luck I’ll have my car back before then, but I’ve got a backup plan. Since Monday night I’ve been kind of obsessed with backup plans.

But in the meantime, I’ll get some work done, periodically let the cat see that there’s still snow, and get ready for a wee winter walk of my own. Can’t let the snow go to waste!

January 22nd, 2018.

My office for January 18th - doing some studio time at Asparagus Media in Takoma Park, MD.
My office for January 18th – doing some studio time at Asparagus Media in Takoma Park, MD. This is completely unrelated to the hate below.
Heather and I at Hershey's in Gaithersburg, MD on Janaury 19th.
Also unrelated to the hate…. Heather and I at Hershey’s in Gaithersburg, MD on January 19th.

I hate it.

I hate how my brain just rehashes, reviews, reshows things.

It’s 2.30 in the morning and my brain keeps sending tendrils of awareness through every inch of my body. I’m overly aware of the fabric on which I’m not sleeping, I’m overly conscious of the noises of the trucks on I-40, the distant police sirens, the muttering of the wind. My stomach, the weight of my skin, the soft tones of the hiss of the air… the feeling of both having a dry mouth AND a belly too full of liquid. Distant helicopter. The itch of my hair against my scalp.

I hate conflict, but I hate being taken advantage of even more, so I’m dropping out of a gig that I’m supposed to play on Wednesday night because yesterday the venue suddenly sent me two contracts of dense legalese – for a no-pay showcase “opportunity” – one that I’d totally asked for… its a Wednesday night, a showcase that plenty of friends seem to have performed at – but perhaps none of them read the contract? Oh who knows.

A rough load in - this is George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA and I've had the opportunity to run sound there for a couple of gigs recently. This is from Sunday the 21st of January - and the load in's not easy. It's up two switchbacks of handicapped ramp, up another ramp where you balance your cart while waiting for someone to buzz you in. Then open the spectacularly heavy bronze door and wait go down one ramp and up another ramp to the FAR elevator (to not interrupt the tour) and then wait for the elevator operator (this has got to be the last one in the nation!?!?) and go up two flights of stairs... down another ramp, through the construction, across the big echoey hall, up another ramp, down two more ramps and then... into the big ass room which
A rough load in – this is George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA and I’ve had the opportunity to run sound there for a couple of gigs recently. This is from Sunday the 21st of January – and the load in’s not easy. It’s up two switchbacks of handicapped ramp, up another ramp where you balance your cart while waiting for someone to buzz you in. Then open the spectacularly heavy bronze door and wait go down one ramp and up another ramp to the FAR elevator (to not interrupt the tour) and then wait for the elevator operator (this has got to be the last one in the nation!?!?) and go up two flights of stairs… down another ramp, through the construction, across the big echoey hall, up another ramp, down two more ramps and then… into the big ass room which…
Is apparently still set up for human sactifice? Meep!
Is apparently still set up for human sactifice? Meep!

Plenty of bullshit clauses that are sort of the typical “you have no-one to blame but yourself if our gear electricutes you or you fall off our stage” corporate liability clause… and then the less typical “we’re going to record you and take video of your performance and though we might give it to you if you ask and you can use that as you please* we can use it for anything and forever and for any ‘entity'” – and the venue is a hotel chain – so the hotel chain can re-edit and do whatever they please with my music? In perpetuity? And use it for any one else they see fit to hand it over to?

Running sound for House of Hamill at George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. Great band, great presence… great sound if I do say so myself.
My friend Chris says “lo, it is good”.

No – I don’t think that’s an appropriate clause to include. They refer to it as “work-for-hire” in the contract, and that’s a pretty specific type of clause. “Work-for-hire” work, well, you’ve got to charge more because you get royalties, and you don’t “work-for-hire” for no pay.

So – yeah. And the gig’s been booked for several months and they send me the contract the Saturday night before the gig? As if this kind of language is completely normal?

And so my brain is whirring away on this, wondering what kind of person I’m coming across as because obviously I’m the ONLY PERSON EVER who’s had a problem with this contract, and I haven’t heard back from the woman who had put the date together even though I’ve now sent three emails – one raising questions about the contracts, the second saying the contracts were unacceptable and the third saying I was stepping out of the showcase… see points one and two.

I’m tired and I’m getting and angry and the latter is keeping me from falling prey to the former. I can feel my pores opening up. Sweating. Because I don’t like conflict but I feel like I’m gearing up for a fight.

Oh – and that *? THAT part of the contract is followed by two seemingly mutually exclusive clauses, the first saying that I can use the videos too as long as the company’s trademark doesn’t appear in the video, the second saying that the company’s trademark better not be removed from the video.

Sigh.

Everyone wants to fuck musicians. But not in the good way.

January 25th, 2018.

Our friend Colleen died yesterday of the flu. Completely out of the blue. I’m stunned. She was 41 and beautiful and stunning – so she had that effect in Life as she does in death. As far as we could tell she was healthy and fit and 48 hours she was posting about having a great husband and celebrating his birthday.

There’s a lot swirling around in my head. She was our regular server at Firestone’s in Frederick – we’ve been there for first Thursdays for… years… I don’t know how long – and it’d gotten to the point that she was serving us coffee before we had even settled in, always smiling and friendly – a little sass and knew how I liked my steak served.

And we didn’t know much about her, but if our experiences with her were any example, she was a source of light for anyone around her. Her husband and daughter (?) were so fortunate – 48 hours ago – I can’t imagine having that light extinguished so very suddenly.

My brain won’t shut up – and I’m trying to imagine… did she cough a bunch and say “no hon, I’ll be okay” – and then… wasn’t? Did she say “oh, I hope I can go see the doctor soon, but by the time they can take me I’ll probably be over it” – did she get to the hospital and things spiralled out of control? Did she die in her sleep and her husband woke up next to her…?

I’m morbidly curious, but horrified – and beyond that wish I could know more because underlying all my sympathy and horror and sadness is that subtext : she was in her 40s and obviously active and apparently healthy – and I’m further into my 40s and sort of active and healthy as far as I can tell. In short – if it could happen to her, who’s to say I’M not waking up tomorrow?

Of course – I think that most days. Life is short and time is fleeting, and I spend too much of it incautiously.

January 29th, 2018.

This is how every home coming ought to be.
This is how every home coming ought to be.

I’m tired tonight. Friday night we had a band practice, Saturday night we had a pretty massive gig. Sunday night I was at a showcase for hours and tonight was my open mic. I think my ears are tired.

In school we’d have “rest periods” where we’d sit and stare at a white wall, just to cleanse the palette of your eyes. In hindsight I realize this is sort of an art pun – but truly, there were just times when your perception was so saturated that you needed to clear it out. You start by seeing after images on the white and then they slowly fade out and you can see just the blankness of it all, and then you start hyper-observing and you start noting the tint of the light and the gradation of the white, the blues in the shadows and the myriad hues on this supposedly blank surface. Eventually you realize you’ve cleared out your buffer and you can see clearly again…but it takes some time.

I feel like I need to do that with my ears. I’ll probably sleep with earplugs in tonight, which isn’t always the best thing… and then THAT makes you hyper-aware of the sounds your body makes, every breath and gurgle and beat.

But yeah, I feel I need some silence. We Live in a noisy world. Even the white noise of the humidifier is painful right now. Too much texture. It’s like manila paper. Just too coarse. And so I shut that off. And now the computer’s fan is present, whirring and humming. I can hear the drives. At least the keyboard doesn’t really bother me. It’s immediate, it’s an answer to my body, but that ingratiatingly grating little tune the machine plays when I plug in a new card – that is just like broken glass along my skin.

Don’t get me wrong. Practice on Friday was wonderful. Good bonding, good playing. The gig on Saturday was marvelous right up until it wasn’t and even THAT was kind of fun – the sound system died and since it wasn’t my gear I wasn’t overwhelmed by the need to fix it or the worry of how to replace it, we could just play acoustic – and then when the sound engineer got the monitors back but not the mains – we could just slapdash flip the monitors around and not WORRY about it. Sunday was Lovely. Met some new songwriters and felt good about myself in their midst knowing I’m doing what I Love to do and even though they’re great I’m a different KIND of great. And the open mic tonight – it was sparse, but the featured artist, Conor Brendan, was stunning and there was a lot of great talent and I had a good time…

A fantastic crowd at New Deal Cafe on Saturday night – huzzah!

But yeah.

Shh.

I’m ready for some quiet.

January 31st, 2018.

Tonight I was booked to not just play, but to run a showcase to boot. Liz (credited with the below photo) had been looking for some new regular event at her venue in Gaithersburg – and we’d talked about a couple of things. Though I’d LOVE to be running a new open mic, and this would actually be a very fun space to do it – they’ve already got a band-oriented open mic running on Thursdays and I’ve learned my lesson about trying to double up events like that…

So we talked showcases.

The whole crew - Rowan on the left, then Nailah Saleem, Jack Bond and me.
The whole crew – Rowan on the left, then Nailah Saleem, Jack Bond and me.

So, I'm not going to say that the REAL reason we've been playing Hershey's is the fried chicken - because they've appreciative of Live music, pay okay and have a stage - but... tonight Kristen wasn't playing, wasn't on the stage, and wasn't getting paid....

So, I’m not going to say that the REAL reason we’ve been playing Hershey’s is the fried chicken – because they’ve appreciative of Live music, pay okay and have a stage – but… tonight Kristen wasn’t playing, wasn’t on the stage, and wasn’t getting paid….

I set something up that fulfilled the criteria that I’d set up for myself : 1) have a fun time 2) could jam with one another 3) could draw to Gaithersburg 4) included at least one female performer 5) included at least one person of colour 6) see #1.

Performing at Hershey's in Gaithersburg, MD (thanks to Kristen for the picture).
Performing at Hershey’s in Gaithersburg, MD (thanks to Kristen for the picture).

Maybe that all sounds a bit PC, but I’m TRYING to pretend like my place in the music world isn’t just all about me, and if I’m able, I’m happy to spread the Love. Nailah is young and could always use a bit more exposure in the world, Rowan’s really trying to get out and perform as a singer/songwriter rather than a support artist, Jack Bond was new to me but was local and enthusiastic (and a marvelously passionate guitarist) and …. well… I had a little budget to entice them…

!!! Selfie with SLR accomplished!

!!! Selfie with SLR accomplished! –>

The night went really well. Criteria : 1) yep! 2) mostly successful… ish… I’m not as good at this as I pretend I am 3) it was okay, but the sudden VICIOUS return to cold weather didn’t help…. still, a decent audience persevered and helped perpetrate 1, 3 and 6 – special thanks to “the Bond Girls”… 4) check, 5) double check and 6) see number 1.

A good night was had. I don’t think I got great video for a couple of stupid reasons (Artem Bank, it’s true… it’s not just gear… I hang my head and cry) and it was maybe a little more chaotic than I’d like (the “Nashville” part of the night should perhaps be a smaller part of the night unless the players are really, really solid and don’t have lots and lots of weird stops in their songs… ROB!!!)

I think they’re going to pick it up as a recurring THING come April, which will be really wonderful on a couple of levels. And then I’ll have to see if I can’t refine 1, 2 and 6 while upgrading 3 and maintaining 4 and 5.