I think I want to try to make sure I photograph our audiences from now on… this way I can keep track who comes to which shows, and reward (or punish) you accordingly.
Anywho – last night I felt just… so close to the room. There were a bunch of really, really good old friends, and then there were a HUGE number of new faces, too – a lot of people that had never seen us before. Heather and I managed to engage our chemistry and everything – and a fantastic time was had by all… which, of course,
meant that I was afraid of having my charisma exhausted for tonight’s show.
Ok, enough – I’m off to bed. In the morning I speak of great things – of ceiling wax and kings and the fantastic creation that is the blossoming Folk Art Cafe… I shall speak of Thai Gour and the Dean of Fire… of Shane the Visitor, and perhaps even Halo.
Though I’ve spent a lot of time dead recently, because of Halo, so maybe I’ll not mention it.
Who here remembers the Year of the Rabbit Coffee Pub in Bowie, Md? A fantastic coffee shop that served gourmet coffees and spectacular soups – they had a pristine sound system, a house piano, and the owner – Francis – was one of the most supportive venue owners in the area.
Well, Francis moved to Denver a couple of months back, and though he looked long and hard for a new owner that would take the same care and continue the Rabbit in the same spirit, we all despaired of his ever actually finding one.
Little did I know – Kathy and Callie from the Folk Art Studio and Gallery next door have decided to expand into the coffee shop business. I stopped in just to say “hey” – and tracked down Kathy buying cookies down the way at the Cakery – and she let me have a sneak peek.
Oh my GOD. Now, no offense to Francis – but this is truly what the Rabbit should have always been. It has been reborn in the guise of … I don’t know, it’s like the yarn shop where Mara (Heather’s mom) works filled with old furniture, hiding the works of the Samantha juice cooler… then take a bunch of art calendars and run them through the Shrike and glue them to every table and every surface. It is beautiful. I mean – I was utterly speachless walking around. It’s beautiful beyond words.
They are doing their grand re-opening on April 1st… and I don’t know what happens after that. I think they’re going to get the hang of things for a bit before inviting music back in (the sound system is still there) – I was really flattered that ilyAIMY has an open invitation.
It looks to be about the most beautiful coffeehouse I’ve ever seen… but I can’t decide… the Susan Seddon Boulet table (too new agey…) or the Waterhouse table (mmmm…. too classical) or… ah yes…. the Edward Gorey table.
The last week has been really encouraging. There has been beautiful weather, and really good audiences, and even good CD sales. There have been llamas and kisses and kindness and art. All in all, a fantastic week. A week that makes me think (hope) that pretty soon, maybe we won’t merely be surviving, but we’ll be REALLY “Living the Dream” – and maybe even getting to be that little extra bit of proactive in the world. Who knows.
Friday night we played one of Joe Isaacs’ “Songs that Matter” showcases. We shared the stage with Might Could and Joe Isaacs himself, and just generally made a nuisance of ourselves by having a fantastic time.
We convinced Amy Law to join us on stage for “In the Water”, and Sharif managed to make it out to make it a true ilyAIMY trio experience. We filled College Perk with all kinds of goodness, and I just felt so awesome about how the night went down.
Recently, I’ve felt that I’ve lost my grip on the audience. There have been a whole lot of contributing factors to that – but it all centres around confidence. And when you lose your confidence, you do poorly, and when you do poorly, you lose your confidence. It’s pretty damned cyclical.
I’m staying with Rowan tonight, perhaps in danger of giving meat to all those rumours. I’m glad I’m here. He’s off with his lady but will come back in time to do some hanging out before it’s time for unconsciousness. Well… officially time… it was time to be unconscious hours ago, but I persevere for the sake of cartoons and silliness.
I really miss Living with Rowan – and one of the biggest reasons was that we discovered the absurdity that is Adult Swim together – and it’s somehow just not the same, watching it with out his huge laughs or his “ohhhoho”s of horror.
In any case, I’m just barely staying awake, no matter how eager.
It’s been a long couple of days. And the kitchen has just been the start of it. I’ve been doing a lot of painting of kitchen ceilings and walls. I’ve been avoiding flooring. I’ve done a lot of hauling of kitchen parts into and out of my Mom’s house. And I feel bad, because I’ve made my escape, but my uncle is still hanging in there.
Yesterday was the infamous College Perk 8.13 Festival. It’s a long story about the name . It doesn’t actually involve my hamster. That was a lie. Let’s just say that 8.13 is a number of great significance, and has been for a long, long time. Vast occult significance it has. I fear though, that Brennan’s useage of it could make the gods angry and he might be struck with lankyness…. oh. Yeah, well, it’s MEANT to be FUNNY.
The 8.13 Festival was a marvel of musical collection. Brennan’s a genius when it comes to dragging cool people together, and it was stupid, stupid, dumb luck that the weather conspired against him so heavily. I just don’t think that any of us were going to win against a 105 degree heat index. The bands actually ended up starting indoors to avoid the heat, and then eventually moved outside when things got a little less oppressive.
I was in a weird mood, mostly from the heat. Just …. artistic… you know, ups and downs for no apparently reason. I fear I was a bit of an asshole here and there. If I could’ve fucked the air conditioner I would’ve, but even if it was putting out, I still wouldn’t have treated it well..
But the show was awesome. We didn’t let the heat stop us, and I feel like we put on a pretty damned good show.
Same thing went for today in Richmond. The heat was INSANE. Hell, at 8pm, driving to Rowan’s, the bank thermometers were STILL reading 98 degrees, and that’s just not RIGHT. I Love watching people preparing for a boring little acoustic set and then getting their asses handed to them by strings and drum.
It’s arrogance, but I’m beginning to think it’s earned. In any case, fatigue is setting in, so I think I’m going to stop babbling, post a picture or two, and take a nap so I’ll be fresh, so fresh for Rowan.
Last night we played one of Rob Thorworth’s singer/songwriter showcases at the Austin Grill in Silver Spring, MD. Rob always pairs us up with really strong performers because he knows that Heather and I will play together on one another’s sets. I actually felt bad for the third guy last night, because I knew that in a singer/songwriter “in the round” sort of set-up, you shouldn’t have to compete for attention with a band – and I know that it’s not really about “competition”, but still, I know what I would’ve felt like in the same situation.
I try not to be competitive in the music field, but I’ve always been a competitive person, and now that it’s a business… well… I try not to be an asshole while BEING competitive.
We actually got out of the Austin Grill in time to go back to the College Perk and catch the end of Brennan’s open mic. Sharif was still there, as were a number of our other friends.
Ever since Tony came through doing his open mic documentary, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a “good” open mic. We’ve been to about 300 around the country over the last two years, and I was thinking about, from what I’ve seen, and with a sort of wholistic approach to what open mics are / should be, would the College Perk probably be included when he completed his project.
The Perk certainly has a place in my heart. I think that it’s one of the most steadily entertaining, high-end open mics. It’s not particularly good for beginners, because frankly, most of the performers are downright intimidating. I worry sometimes that it’s sometimes not even that good for “outsiders”, as there’s definately a crew of musicians that all play on one another’s songs, and as above, it’s HARD for a solo performer to look good sandwiched between two bands. The audience, too – is often comprised of regulars who know what and who they like, and aren’t particularly attentive to anything mediocre. I’m not saying people are rude, but you CAN tell roughly who’s on stage and how popular they are by watching the front porch for smoke breaks.
I’m sort of babbling. A friend asked me last night if I thought of the College Perk as one of the “best” open mics out there. I think of it as one of my favourites. I also think of it as one of the best open mics to go SEE. The level of performer is high enough that it’s a pretty satisfying show in its own right. As for one of the “best”, I guess there are so many different TYPES of open mics out there… there are open mics that are really good for
beginners – the Jahva House was one of those. Uber-supportive. Good players there to help the younger players, it was a really supportive environment. There are open mics that seem specifically to exist for the purpose of networking… nexuses where professionals and travellers rub shoulders and pass business cards to one another. In my experience, these are often the least fun, and the most close-minded about who and what’s acceptable.
The Perk definately falls somewhere in between. Most of the performers there have sort of “grown up” together, or at least musically matured. I pride myself on being one of the veterans on a scene that I think really began back at the Jahva House in Ellicott City, found a new home at the Java Head in College Park, and now has really come into it’s own entity again at the College Perk. Performers like Tim McCaskey (of Might Could) and Dan Zimmerman were different creatures a couple of years ago, tottering on new-found fingers and staggering under the weight of a newly discovered, but untested talent.
Now Might Could is one of the most spectacular collections of guitar talent I’ve ever seen, and Dan Zimmerman writes songs that break my heart. I pick those two out as examples, but there are a lot of others.
Most open mics seem to have a Lifespan measured in months. There are networking open mics that have existed for longer, and often have bloated reputations that lead to vastly disappointed expectations (see New England). Most open mics are started by an up-and-coming artist looking for a regular gig. It’s supported by a couple of other really strong musicians who are looking for ways to break into a scene and strut their stuff. They become regulars and probably the most popular subject of adoration at the open mic… and then they start landing regular gigs, or the host goes on tour, and the excitement dries up and dies down and the open mic dies, having served as a tool.
I think where the College Perk excels, is that it’s supported by people who really, really Love it. They Love the atmosphere, the community is good. It’s like the Cheers of the open mic world, perhaps. We all know one another, there are some who wander far from the fold, but they’re always welcome back. People who walk in off the street are often doomed to be mere extras, but they can fight their way to the forefront if they’re friendly enough, talented enough. That kind of … almost “old boys network” aspect seems to act as a sort of filter. You meet really good players at Perk, and more importantly, really good people there.
I’m babbling at length now.
I spent a lot of time sitting on the porch when we got to Perk last night. Listening to Dan Zimmerman on the stairs, listening to a couple of women singing along with his songs. I picked up his mandolin and played along and realized that somehow, in the mists of my relationships and the Trip and worrying about gasoline and health insurance, I’d fallen somewhat far from the fold. The night had cooled around us and we weren’t bothering I don’t remember anyone and the wafts of cigarette smoke somehow even spoke of something better than lung cancer.
There was a sense of home last night that I haven’t felt for a very, very long time.
Perhaps I’m just getting nostalgic and vulnerable because of where I am right now emotionally, but I felt embraced last night.
Eventually, Heather and I found Sharif sleeping in the corner, and got up on stage with Brennan playing bones and Dan playing his Lego bass. We played sloppy but well, and it just felt really, really good.
Warm haze of music, community, and a little bit of Mitzi’s watered-down Blue Drink.
The last couple of days have been Lovely, but very full. I’ve been falling asleep at around 7am this past week, and then Saturday morning I had to wake up at 7.45am to go to a meeting for the Emergenza festivals. Saturday was also PLOJ so I knew I was going to be up late, late, late… after PLOJ I even went over to a friends’ house and hung out till dawn.
I’m very, very tired.
It’s Heather’s birthday weekend and so we’re also eating. A lot. Of everything. And it was PLOJ. And Joylene likes to make sure people are fed. Oh God.
Friday night, Heather and I played with Dan Layman-Kennedy back at the Cup in Bel Air, MD. We played hard and fast and won over a lot of people. A woman remarked that I reminded her of Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars III. I’m not sure if I’m flattered by that or not (Episode I? Hell yeah!) but at least I’m not the cone-headed one or small and green.
Her response? When I start introducing music with “Play you this song I will” THEN I’ll be in trouble.
After the show I went over to Chris and Joylene’s to expose them to the Chicken. The Robot Chicken. Thank GOD they wore out after about 6 episodes. After that I find that my attention span becomes eroded for the next couple of days. As it was, Chris and I still sat around singing the theme song, voices dropping with fatigue.
The next day, this Emergenza thing, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.
On the one hand, I like the ideas behind it – Indie, I like how organized it is. On the other hand, I really hate all these competitions, and this is a little closer to a Battle of the Bands than any of these competitive folk festivals we’ve done over the course of this year.
I don’t have high hopes of getting anywhere in it, but it could be really really cool – and even if we only get through the first stage, well, it’d be a huge coup to play some of these venues that perhaps we couldn’t get into on our own. Of course, then my own internal competitive side speaks up – the vicious side – that knows that if we DON’T make it through the first round I’ll internally compare us (unfavourably) to the accomplishments of the Dreamscapes Project. I hate it when I do that. I worry that somewhere in my subconscious, my brain is plotting harm to my friends’ bands.
Saturday night was PLOJ XXXIV. Ugh. We ended at around 1 in the morning, which is really, really early to end the PLOJ – there simply wasn’t any enthusiasm left. I’m beginning to think of moving the whole thing some place else, at least during the school year – I miss having the Pot Lucks at a private home, but simply have no friends that have a large enough space.
We just didn’t have the numbers of songwriters this time around to hit that critical mass where the jams shift and form and drop and there’s a lot of real variety. The last couple of PLOJes have been mostly glorified mass sing-alongs, more appropriate to camp fires than to what PLOJ has always been. That aspect is welcome, but when it becomes the focus… and the older writers I think just don’t appreciate the atmosphere of Perk.
I don’t know if that’s really true, but I’ve had a couple of people remark that they don’t plan to come to another PLOJ as long as it’s held there… but I don’t really know where to turn just yet…
New Year’s Eve. Exciting and fun, and perhaps not cathartic but still pretty satisfying. A night of mood swings and battle like any other, maybe, and I came out of it okay, but unsure if it’s a signal that 2006 is any better than its predecessor.
It started off with a trip to the mall and feeling like a rock star. I had a mission, one that has not been satisfied. I finally got my camera back, and I’d sworn to the Gods of Sony that I would get a case to protect it. I went to the mall, strode mightily to where I thought the camera store was, strode mightily to the Information placard, got turned around (mightily) around one of the look-alike department stores, strode around in circles thinking “I can’t go to Suncoast till AFTER I finish my mission!” and then finally arrived at my destination. (Mightily?)
I got a case. There was much deliberation. I wanted something that wouldn’t come off my belt too easily, and would protect the camera without being too big. I eventually went with the one suggested by the guy behind the counter. The thing that hadn’t occurred to me is that I also wanted something that wouldn’t look too much like a “fanny pack” and in this I unthinkingly failed. I should’ve spent some time staring at Sharif’s loaded and stylishly adorned waist before shopping, and chosen something in leather with slimmer lines.
It’ll do for being an American in Mexico , but I think it’s just not Rock Star enough. Unfortunately, I’m rather hit or miss with my own personal style, often giving up once I see there’s nothing leather and adorned in flames. This is a failing.
So, task completed, I stop in at Suncoast to look for / at toys, and the guy behind the counter gives me a look of recognition and then does that thing which I Love… “Aren’t you… aren’t you the guitarist for ilyAIMY ?”
David had seen us the previous week at Java Mamma’s and Loved our music and unfortunately couldn’t make it down for New Year’s Eve, but really wanted to. He wanted to find me a cool toy in his shop (“it’s cool that you shop here!”) but he’d sold the last plush face-hugger earlier today, and that was really all I was interested in.
He said something that made my week. When I told him “thanks, you’ve totally made me feel like a rockstar today” he replied “you ARE a rockstar!”.
Feed my ego.
In any case, from there I dropped in on the knit shop, said goodbye to Mara, and headed South to 2006 and whatever it might hold.
Arriving at the gig 2 hours early isn’t so strange for me, and I had a good time sitting around and sitting with the equally prematurely-timed Tim (of Might Could). We sat around, set up, sat around, pushed some furniture around. A nice, relaxed set-up and sound check. I think that the night’s sound was some of the best the College Perk has ever had (if I do say so myself) – though perhaps also one of the louder nights they’ve ever had… I properly rob bed the acoustics.
The show went well – and almost without a hitch. I talked well (with one exception which wiped out any rockstar cool that was earlier acquired) and Heather talked well and we jammed well and Dan Zimmerman played bass with us for a tune or two. Might Could kicked us off in true Might Could style – i.e. with guitar work that stuns my fingers into show-offyness. Dan Zimmerman ‘s set was just beautiful – with Sharif backing him up on piano, his music is doubly powerful. He writes simply but intensely and he shoved some moodiness into me. When he plays I think too much.
We played with a ferocity that almost made up for our lack of Rowan. We missed him, but we were playing to a room of friends and it was just really, really good. DJ Killian pointed out that the room was mostly owned by us, and that we should ditch the original plan of having us quit at 11.30 or so and letting him play us into the New Year… instead… we played till we broke too many strings to continue and then I got to count us down.
At first I was really nervous being the MC, but I ended up having a really, really good time, and afterwards, when it occurred to me that I’d “dropped the ball” (in a good way) at the Perk, it actually made me feel pretty special. Like. REALLY special!
From there we had a couple of good hours. Hung out, flirted, smacked some people around. There were some good dresses and appreciative glances, shots of something that I never DID identify (sweet and with whipped cream on top though, I was okay with that), great music. A little too much back-slapping from people bigger than me in embraces too manly to be pleasant, and as the night progressed, maybe there were a couple of people drunker than I would’ve liked to see them.
However, Sharif falling asleep somewhere around 1.30am meant that Dan sat in on bass for much of our last set and we got to jam back and forth. I was sloppy but we play off each other really well, and had a fucking awesome time.
Dan’s second set was a lot of fun, and he got Heather and I got our groove on behind him, dancing up a storm.
Someone has a video, apparently.
Sigh – now if only the whole night could’ve been all about that.
First off – my moment of real embarrassment happened after I got close to one of the women I’d been teasing from the stage and realized that it wasn’t actually someone I knew. I went up to apologize because I had been teasing her a little more than I should’ve, and then was mortified when I realized that it really was NOT the person I thought it was. She bought a CD, but really sort of kept her distance for the rest of the night.
Second off, I KNOW I’ll hear about how my stance on alcohol is too strict and that I’m a terrible person, but I saw some people acting like first-class idiots and beyond last night. Nothing college-crazy – no-one lit themselves on fire or tried to navigate Route 1 with their underwear on their head. No fights broke out or anything, but some people were simply not their normal charming selves at all, and no matter how much you say “ohhh, I’m soooo drunk” – it doesn’t make it any cuter, nor make it any more fun for the people taking care of you.
Erf. I guess, last night I really, really saw a huge difference between people drinking and people getting drunk, and it wasn’t an atmosphere that really felt good at Perk. A lot of spilled drinks and puddles of beer. A lot of people muzzily apologizing to me and standing far, far too close.
Afterwards the Perk was a quiet place, with people sleeping in various darkened nooks and crannies. Sharif and Joanne curled together on one couch. I’m obviously not yet USED to having my camera back, because I didn’t take a photograph of the cutest damned couple I know… sigh…
And so I’m at my mom’s house now, having a little panic attack about flying out to San Diego tomorrow. We’ve packed, we’ve shopped for last-minute items (someone out there will someday get lucky enough to get to see my new AC/DC BOXERS!!!). We’ve copied all of our passports and VISA card numbers and drivers licenses and have multiple copies in our luggage and in this place and that. We’ve called to make sure I can carry my guitar on the plane, though I’m a little frustrated with that – one woman said “oh, it’ll be fine! Just make sure that guitar fits these dimensions” (which it did) and another woman said “oh no, you HAVE to check it” which is just about unacceptable. In the latter case, I’ll be glad to have a beater guitar, and I’ll avoid sitting near the baggage door, so I don’t have to watch it getting flung onto the conveyer.
I’m freaking out a bit about not being in control of my destiny for the next couple of weeks. I went to bed quite early, to get a nap before the flight this morning, and woke up disoriented (I thought it was like, 1 in the morning or so, 15 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, but it turned out to be 8.58pm ) with cramping shoulders and spine and tensed legs. I felt heavy and frightened and terrified, and I’m realizing I’m actually getting pretty panicked about even getting on the plane… it’s absurd, I mean, I used to fly from Baltimore to LAX three or four times a year, no problem. Now I’m genuinely freaking out about it.
Sean and I on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t manage to get my New Year’s kiss, much to my lament, not that there weren’t a couple of offers… but… but not Sean… he’s nice and all… but… er… no. He reminds me of my brother!
Talked to my uncle about it a bit. He had no sympathy, but felt it necessary to point out that we’d be flying back on the 13th… which is a Friday. Sigh.
And perhaps that’s why this is a long, long entry. If it’s my last one, I figure it better be good.
My heart’s in a weird place today. Amplified by some of Namoli Brennet’s tunes I’m just feeling really, really sad. That skin tightening sadness that makes me think of the description of raising a shield in Dune. I feel it like a tightness on my face, like a tightness in my chest. It’s stress and it’s loneliness and it’s the edges of depression.
Dan Zimmerman and his WOMAN! Their parents also came to the show and got to sit at a picnic table eyeballing one another.
We finished the album last night. There’s tweaks, and there’s mastering – but we’ve scheduled the last of the time, and it’s finally all within reach, and that’s somehow got me a little down. It’s almost anticlimactic, coming out of the studio last night – I’m also at my mom’s house for a couple of days and this place always makes me uneasy – unsettled, and my mom, with my father’s death’s anniversary coming up fast, is particularly off-kilter.
Might Could performing at the New Deal Cafe’s Crazy Quilt Birthday Party in Greenbelt, MD.
God, have we really been working on this so long? I remember thinking that I wish we could get the album done for my Dad to hear, so we must’ve gone into the studio not long after I found out how sick he was.
I think there’s an additional fear there. After Myxomatosis Failed the old band didn’t take long to go their separate ways. It feels like the last episode of Friends and I’m sort of afraid of what happens next. We’ve put all this work into it – what if it’s not as good as we think it is? What if it doesn’t garner the attention we need? With the way gas prices are we can’t continue to work at this level forever. Projections of $4 a gallon are probably almost as much of an exageration this summer as they were last year, but we’ll get closer and we’ve got to do better…
ilyAIMY playing there too. We were the last act to play and somehow I’d been dragged into running sound. You’d THINK I’d have sussed out all the difficulties by then! God I miss Jeff!
Also, I know I have a billion pictures of Sharif sleeping in weird and cute positions… but… you know, there’s a reason. So damned cute.
Tuesday night I went to the College Perk open mic. I’m trying to see if I can’t be part of some sort of community again – it’s frustrating to be alienated from all your friends, to no longer be part of a scene, to no longer be a regular some place.
Might Could and possibly their last performance at the open mic. I know I have a billion photographs of them that look JUST LIKE THIS… but… I had to take one more before they go their separate ways. Besides… I don’t have any with Tim sticking his pick out of his mouth.
In any case, I want to be a regular at the Perk again, if at all possible. I’d Love to be at WDAV a lot too (now WGAY), but that’s a Friday night and frankly crazy impossible.
So, my mom comes home from Texas to find that someone had cleared out her yard. Sort of. All the ivy (which roots the dirt in the back of the house to avoid having really bad foundation problems) was torn out. All the plants my mom had planted were ripped out. The firewood was gone. The COMPOST pile… all sorts of things. And to add the weirdness, they’re just all piled behind a couple of trees in the backyard. What… the …. fuck….?!?
Well, I was half-way through watching Might Could’s set the other night when I realized that it might be the last time I see them perform. I mean – their farewell show is this Friday (see above about Fridays) and this little open mic performance might be the last time I see them united.
Driving to the Cup on Friday afternoon… when you encounter something like THIS you’ve GOT to take a picture.
At the Cup in Bel Air, MD. Andy James is opening for us performing mostly to Pikachus (pikachi). However, before too long the place really, really filled up and we had one of our best coffeehouse shows EVER.
It was interesting… well… it was a little heart-breaking actually, watching Tim dealing with the end-of-school pains of watching his friends go their separate ways. Some are going home and some are heading on. I guess most of them are getting jobs that take them away some place else.
I never really understood that. You build these friendships for years and years and years and then at the first drop of cash on the table you run off and feel like shit for doing it. Most people are never again in a position to make friends like you did in college. Sacrificing them for your cog in the world seems backwards, but I’ve never really had any success in convincing anyone of that.
You can argue that in the modern age of cell phones, the elimination of long-distance, the presence of email and Livejournal and all that crap, that distance doesn’t really
matter any more… but I don’t think there are many of you who can honestly say that most friends are out-of-sight out-of-mind. Which is fucking sad.
Though I’ll be less afraid of where I fall on the College Perk open mic list, I’m going to miss Might Could terribly.