PLOJ XXXII went down last night. It was awesome. Sort of a Start of Spring Music Thing – there was an incredible energy there that hasn’t been around for a long time. A lot of people showed up that I hadn’t seen in a while, and …. well, also it was the first PLOJ in a long time – fucking fantastic night. Actually started a little earlier than usual, with people showing up and starting up at around 7, and we stayed up and playing later than usual. I went upstairs to bed at around 4am.
ilyAIMY at Puresound Studio in Odenton, MD. I’m not going to put much about that in here as that will be part of the new Studio Journal. Ignore the fact that Rowan is reorganizing Magic cards. He’s not a geek. Any other Magic players out there?
The last few days have been exhausting. Days of dreamless sleep followed by mostly non-sleep filled days. I’m not quite sure what’s been happening, but I’ve been falling to sleep later, and later, and later – dawn is a constant bed-time companion. One of those things where I seem to have the option of lying in bed awake, or getting up and DOING sruff – I feel like I’ve wasted enough of my Life simply lying in bed, waiting for unconsciousness. I’ve always hated the “1/3 of your Life sleeping” statistic. It makes sense – but I think I first read it in 321 Contact and the concept haunted me. So, I hate to sleep… and even worse, I hate wasting time TRYING to fall asleep. I’m sure I’ve gone on about this before – but recently it’s been a real problem.
A couple of years ago a friend made the suggestion of counting backwards by threes – but now I’m so good at that that it doesn’t zone me out at all. So, counting backwards by sevens. It’s a lucky number, but it doesn’t seem to work anymore. I just lie there, toss, turn, and stare at the ceiling. I’m worried about my Dad, worried about the new album, wondering about what stuff I’m forgetting… I know I’m forgetting something….
We were in the studio this weekend, and that sort of neccessary schedule keeping seems particularly contrary to my current sleepless condition. Being up till 7, and knowing you’ve got to be getting up to deal with people again at 11.
In any case – the studio sessions are going great. We’ve practically finished seven songs. I hate having to pause to go back on the road, but there doesn’t seem to be any way around it. At least the weather is cooperating. We’ll leave tomorrow for California, PA in almost California-esque weather. I could bring my speedo if I wanted to.
Yeah, that one’s for everyone – go ahead and visualise my pasty fish-white body crammed into tight right bikini bottoms. Look away lest you go MAD! (or blind).
Monday, before heading over to the studio, my Dad had a surprise visitor. A face out my past – it took a couple of seconds to dredge up a name and a place and a story and a face. I think I might have said “holy shit” when I opened the door.
My 5-6th grade science teacher, Mr. Edwards. Can’t think of him as Stan. Funny how those sorts of things die hard. He’s got to be 10 years older than my Father, butis energetic, wired… he retired from teaching elementary school years ago, and now teached motorcycle safety at Prince George’s Community College. He was wearing bright image and flooded my head with rapid-fire words and memories. I wish I’d more conscious. You know – don’t want to run across your grade-school science teacher, at least not the one you REALLY REALLY Loved – and appear to be a dirty musician. Sigh – I wanted to be pretty.
Heather and Amy grinning at each other during Illinois is Overflowing at College Perk on April Fool’s Day.
Heather and I are tapping and typing to the sound of falling water. There’s a fountain in the corner of Jozarts Studio, and that, along with the cavernous interior and numerous plants, creates the illusion of being in a tiny jungle. Passing cars occassionally spoil the aesthetic, but they’re frequency is fading as night pushes on.
Heh. Strange – for someone who calls Baltimore home. I just jumped at the sound of a siren. I fall back in Love with California, PA very quickly.
It’s been a slow day. Almost idyllic. There has been tragedy, but I don’t own it, and can pretend the real world is on pause for a moment.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day to drive. Bright sunshine, setting in the west while driving almost but not quite into the sun. A little bit of squinting here and there, but mostly merely preening in the sunshine. My hair is being extra glossy.
I think we might stay an extra night, just to enjoy the drive back in sunshine too.
As we neared California, traffic slows onto smaller roads. There’s a moment of real contentment as I’m watching such Rockwellian scenes – a little blonde kid (in my more cynical moments, I’d have called her an Aryan child), maybe 11, grabbing a big sack-like cat and hauling him with both arms across the lawn. Children doing cartwheels. My mood is cemented as Richard Shindell sings of orange canaries. It’s a good day.
The new sound system at Jozarts is exquisite. The people are always Lovely. There was a moment that made things tense in my mind, ruined some of the beauty of it, but again, I can shut it out of my mind and relax into the sound of the fountain…
It’s a shame. I knew it was a mistake as soon as it was out of my mouth. I should’ve simply mentioned we were playing the Underground Cafe tomorrow – not “the Rainbow Festival”. That way I could’ve pretended about people’s attitudes. There’s nothing like hearing “that’s for queers and faggots” floating out of the audience to make me just want to shut down. Or shout. Chalk Pit feelings.
The next morning has me almost feeling stressed, almost worrying about my choice of words. I wonder if I’m too offensive, too obnoxious, and I worry slightly about the things we visibly support. Rainbow Festival’s make us unpopular with the majority of America, and my denouncement of people who think those thoughts make me even less popular sometimes. But what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to be? I’m so tired of businessmen who might fund a cause but publicly speak out against it… politicians who are trying to please everyone… and in my more vulnerable moods I feel like my job; as a musician who’s fighting to not DROWN at the very bottom of the heap, falling between the cracks of genre and belief – I feel like my job combines a lot of the kiss-assery aspects of both of those professions.
And I hate it.
So, I offend some people because we have gay and lesbian friends? Or hate certain (huge) sides of the current administration, or APPROVE of certain (not quite as huge) aspects. Oh well, I suppose. I actually do edit myself heavily in here. My songs, we pick and choose sometimes, what’s appropriate and what’s not. But I don’t see why I’d want to be in a room where I’d have to lie about my beliefs. Downplay, perhaps. Not mention, if neccessary. But nod and smile in the context of conversation? I don’t think so. Sorry, but you’ve invited me into a dialogue. Hell, my music invites people into a dialogue. It’s personal, and it’s me. I can’t let the concern of whether or not I’ll make money off of it overwhelm me.
It’s funny, Ani writes about this sort of thing, but almost from the opposite perspective. She writes songs about how people just Love her because she screams “fuck” (Hell, I write songs about how people just Love her for yelling “fuck”) and she writes about how she knows how she plays up to it, and writes about fans her accuse her of having sold out for either dating a man, or wearing something that’s not offensive enough. Erf. Persevere, persevere… I Love my job but I hate working i
Waking up at Jozarts is a process of slowly being roused by clanking mechanical noises, the passage of trucks. People are quieter but the working day is louder. My paranoia never leaves me, and I get up to look at the car from our overhead vantage point, looking down to make sure everything’s okay. I sometimes fear I’m simply not relaxed enough to do this. Sometimes I worry I’m too relaxed. Hopefully, teetering in the middle means I’ve got it just right.
Trucks are arriving, dropping off loads of liquids to the local pizza shops and cafes. Our friend Brandy is due to meet us in a bit, so pants have been found, Heathers have been roused. But the clanking and whirring from outside sounds like the approach of a small Autobot army… or a towtruck, and again I’m peering at the window in the vague fear that age-old parking regulations are suddenly being enforced, despite everyone’s assurances. I’m a bundle of nerves this morning. Grey light filtering through the ceiling high windows – yesterday had such highs and lows, I’m still waiting to see where this one will go.
And so I was up till 8am. Again. I had to leave for the studio by 10.30am, so that sort of sucked the four foot dick, but this too we survive. I picked up Heather from the Perk, downed a chocolate mocha (which no-one but Mitzi seems to be able to make right) and headed to Puresound, slowly beginning to vibrate.
I don’t know what they put in those things, but the time I was recording my guitar solos, I was playing a mile-a-minute….
Hrm. Rowan’s here. More later.
Hrm… so where was I… oh yeah. Rowan cometh. Which is in the past. But it’s in the future of this post, so we shall not speak of it again, until the time cometh. And for all of you sickos (or perhaps just hopefuls) who want to make Rowan cometh jokes, well – I’ll get you some day and lay out some smackdown.
We worked on a LOT of stuff.
Just about finished Bulldozer. Nailed the percussion on Counting. The second guitar on March of the Rabbit kicks ass if I do say so myself. Nailed the guitar solo for PINE (thanks to that mocha). Mixed Pocketing (it’s got some more percussion work to go) punched some missed lyrics in Strain and in In the Water. All in all a damned busy (and productive) day.
I Love having a percussionist for an engineer. Jeremy just knows just knows his shit SO well… and I Love how he mics Heather’s voice. She’s never sounded so velvet.
After the studio, Heather and I both headed over to Perk to play the open mic.
Had a good time there. Relaxed a bunch, but felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone. Most everyone’s sort of coupled off at the moment, but after a while I found myself someone sweet to go home with: Rowan and I went back to his place afterwards and sat with my collection of downloaded Robot Chicken. We also fixed my Alienware with military issue duct tape. It’s not pretty.
Sleepy. Got a LOT of writing to do for the Journal, the Studio Journal, emails that I haven’t answered… AND I’ve only had 2 hours of sleep…. sigh. The bed calls sooo very, very soon.
Tired and sick? Perhaps sick and tired. Mostly tired. A little sick.
I could feel myself coming down with it Saturday morning. I’d stayed out all night and played (played what you may ask?!!? Uno and Monopoly, of course!) and run amok and really just sort of rambled. And I knew I was going to pay for it. I could feel the drippings, the leavings, the makings of nasal incontinence and heady stuffiness, but I pushed on nonetheless. I was just having too good a time to let a little thing like my nose stop me.
Saturday morning I could feel the scratchiness and so I took some cold medicine and went back to bed.
Upon gaining consciousness Saturday afternoon I went on over to Rowan’s place, dusted him off, shoved him in my car and carted him over to the College Perk to celebrate his first and last 30th birthday.
I feared for his survival, knowing that he would be playing allllll night, and that for the first third he’d be at the whim of Sharif (who gets a mic for IO’s performances) and that for the last third he’d be at the mercy of a man Under the Influence (of whatever possibly expired cold medicines my mom happened to have in the closet that day). All in all, I had a lot of sympathy for him. In a dazed and semi-coherent kind of way.
The show itself was awesome. . We’ve been playing really, really well together and the Perk was packed. It felt really good to have such a happy, happy audience. Though Iwas afraid I was a little off, a lot of people commented that even the banter was on. I was told I was very funny. Makes me feeeel good. I actually felt a little bit patchy – I guess there are moments on stage when I feel there are certain stories to tell. Maybe just because I know they haven’t been told in a long, long time.
I just finished a new song which takes a step back from all this folk bullshit writing I’ve been around for the last couple of years. I took a step back in to my incoherence and my cross-draw from different stories and different parts of myself. Maybe it’s not “right”, but I sure feel comfortable there. It’s a good song, and more helpful than other recent writings. I thought I was writing about one thing, it turned out to be something else…
In any case, Steel was a song like that, moreso than most. I wrote about a woman, a woman who Lived far away from me and who I was to sacrifice an awful lot to be with… and crossed it with a car crash I witnessed while working security in Baltimore. Of course, the tongue-in-cheek version goes something like “yeah, wrote a song about a car crash and compared it to my relationship” (hahahaha) – but in truth, there’s no comparison in Steel – merely temporal context. The things happened at the same time and finish a picture for me.
Steel was written shortly after a car (yes, I know the song says “truck” – that sounded better) lost control on North Avenue behind the Commons. The car had come off of route 83 and was travelling West on North Avenue. It hit the curb and spun on all axes, clipping lamp post and wiping out part of a brick wall. As the car spun it caught a pedestrian with the twisted metal of its bumper, gashing her from the base of her belly toher collar bone. She was pregnant.
The car came down, half-on and half-off the curb, facing back the way it had came. The woman landed on the hood and the lamp post slammed down on top of her. Our school security reached the scene as I was calling the ambulances. One kid came back as I was coordinating communications and he was covered in green oil paint. He kept repeating “I had my hands in her stomach! I had my hands in her fucking stomach!!!” My head flipped, I realized it was red….
He saved her Life. He didn’t save her baby. I can’t imagine anyone else remembers her anymore except the people who were on duty that night and maybe the kids in the car. I remember one pacing back and forth yelling about how he was only going 20mph and the other guy sitting with his head in his hands, shaking his head and waiting on the curb for whatever else was going to happen.
I told that story in mangled form on stage Saturday night. I told it poorly and people were quiet. Then we went on with the song. I think that all of our music should be accompanied with silence, and all of the stories should be followed with laughter… and once or twice during every set, the audience should fall into an uncomfortable silence.
By the nature of my profession and my schooling, the paths I creep are almost exclusively populated by other artists and musicians. It’s been that way for… Christ… 17 years… ever since I first stepped foot in an art school. These creatures are beautiful and individual, firey and fey and passionately, thoroughly alive… and used to being told about it.
I’m not saying we get sick of our compliments – it just means that sometimes we don’t believe them, especially from other artists and musicians. Somewhere along the line, a lot of that became far too political. It’s like a beautiful woman being told that she’s beautiful – can she take the compliment without feeling like there’s just a penis behind it?
I try to give compliments where they’re due. It’s easier with Heather in tow, because of course it’s less threatening (if you’re saying someone’s hot) and more convincing (when you’re telling someone they play great) perhaps because it’s always easier to take a compliment from a gorgeous woman…
In any case, this is about Loving other artists. I remember first encountering it with Will Schaff, though it was sort of a different thing. I felt like my opinion didn’t really matter at first… and then suddenly, when he invited me into I Love You And I Miss You – the original project, it was this huge glow! I remember playing the open mic at the New Deal Cafe, and liking Richard McMullins’ music, but I don’t know that he ever took my admiration seriously, simply because you HAVE to suck up to the guy who books the venue, right? And I WAS dating his daughter… soooo…
Let’s not even discuss trying to compliment Steve Key. Brushed off with a disbelieving glance cause you HAVE to suck up to the host of the Jammin Java open mic, right?
In any case, a friend of mine in Illinois was on the receiving end of a new song recently, and she sent me a glowing email about how she Loved being allowed into this kitchen recording session – she writes “Thank you, rob, for letting me hang in the kitchen with you today and hear you practice the new song….you have no idea, really, do you?”
I do have an idea, and it’s one of the things that I think is a shame about most of my fellow performers. They’ve lost that sense of wonder – and sometimes I’m afraid that I’m losing it too…
I’m one of the few “fanboys” left in my profession, I think. And as such, I think it’s sometimes hard for Brian Gundersdorf, or Steve Key, or Zoe Mulford, or whoever else, to take it seriously that I’m standing there thinking that they’re the best thing since really, really good sliced bread.
I ran across Zoe at the College Perk on my birthday, and she played me a tune off her new CD – something about keeping angels from the storm that was just stunning. A beautiful song, and the giddiness that came from being exposed to this sneak preview is hard to express.
In any case, Susan, I really DO get it. I really DO have some idea, because I sit in awe of my friends and peers, and I still can’t believe that they invite me into their confidences. Sitting in the studio with Audrey and listening to the perfect crystallizations of old, old songs – I’m in Love with the things these people do. And I send things to the people that I think can appreciate this sort of thing on the same level. The glow of a person in the presence of our product – that means more than any tip or good press or slurred bar room compliment. It’s close to the most important thing of all.
California is its usual rollercoaster, and we pack as much in as we can. Sleeping little, some nights we’re out too late, all nights we’re up too late, I Love that town. Wednesday afternoon we played the student union at Cal U and tried to catch the harried eyes of rushing students. As always it’s sort of awe-inspiring to watch Holly at work, capturing passer-bys and telling them where they’re going to be in the future. I’m always amazed at the sheer number of people she knows. If I had that capacity for names and faces and details we could make everyone feel special. as it is know I let too many fall through the cracks.
I’m finally getting to know some of these people a little better. I always feel awkward, knowing that I don’t know them as well as I should. I’ve been a frequent enough face recently. It’s p rob ably time to back off a bit and let some time pass, but it was a lot of fun being on the campus and watching THEIR everyday Life pass around me. It’s like – putting Holly and Crystal and Kimmy, Bill, Alex – whoever else passed by – putting them in their proper context, it fills in some lines in their portraits. It also reminds me how glad I am went to an artschool, and at a time when some of the priorities were very, very different than they are now. I don’t miss college, and I don’t miss the masses, but I miss those tiny communities that we form. and sitting there in a common space on the California University campus, it sort of really weighs on me that that’s a point in my Life that’s passed.
The first thing I noticed upon getting back into California, PA and climbing the stairs to Jozart Studios was that they had an awesome art show up. Centred around the concept of violence against women, a lot of beautiful work surrounded us during our time there.
I couldn’t stop giggling. Otherwise there might’ve been a much more interesting picture immediately after. You know, the one where I faint cause there’s no blood left in my skull? Something like that. For a night that started out so promingly, it ended quite poorly.A couple of drunk girls wandered through the stage, tripped over a mic cable and slammed Heather’s vocal microphone into her face.
On the way back we stopped by one of our favourite local restaraunts and as we’re finishing up our wondrous meal of deep-fried macaroni and cheese, I overhear (just barely over my screaming arteries) the woman behind the counter talking to a friend about
[interesting note – suddenly there’s a gap in saved photos, from here to June the original files are missing… – rob 4/14/18]
placing their menus online and getting a website. I figure I’ll step in and see if I can pick up some work and before our open mic that evening I’ve built a website and charged a fee. Nothing fancy, nothing I’m necessarily even that proud of, but it’s done, I’ve helped and that’s the important part. I’m a little worried because they’ve not followed up, and the whole thing is still sitting on my computer rather than having been posted to their server so far – but that’s the way my Life really ouughtta be, right? Overhearing some problem or another, stepping in, solving it and walking away with cash. All too often nowadays you step in and say “I do websites” and they say “yeah, I do to”. and you realize the room is FULL of web-designers.
Back in Baltimore City, wandering around with a friend – I encountered a building I’d never seen before! 16 pseudo-windows or so, painted over with exciting scenes! Not pictured is the man running away from the monkey…
Andrew Luttrell opened for us at the Pour House in Westminster, MD. It was great to see him again – I’d always credited him as someone who inspired me and partially taught me the basics of guitar. I sort of wish we’d played our version of Little Wing for him, as he’s who initially taught me that song.
Anywho – worked out right on Wednesday.
We went to see V for Vendetta Sunday morning before heading into the studio. I was horrified to see the video games booting up on a Windows platform!
That night we played the Jozart open mic – by coincidence Common Thread showed up that night too – bizarre coincidence – they are ALWAYS there when we are, but we rarely communicate about it. Wednesday was just lucky, I guess. Matt, as always, just ripped through his rapid-fire vocals. He even backed up his Dad doing some mandolin. I think it was the first time I’d seen his father really performing (I’d watched them the night we met them out in West Virginia, but he was somewhat under the influence and the performance was perhaps not as fine as it could’ve been). He was really, really good – talking to him about their family, about how they have banjo players and mandolin players running back on both sides of the family off into the Appalachian Mountains , it all comes together. What could I have been if I’d had some familial background? If I’d picked up guitar before I was 20? Who knows.
As always, for me – the star of the show is Aaron. His percussion is just so fierce, so infused with different stuff. Of all things, he always reminds me of the gogo bands that used to infuse our neighbourhood when I was in high school. They’d always throw these huge parties and all you could hear were tonnes and tonnes of cars rolling up, and that fierce rapid rhythm ricocheting like syncopated machine gun fire.
How he came out of West Virginian Appalachia with gogo in his blood, I’ll never know. Next time we cross paths I’m going to HAVE to ask him to play with us, just so I can get a contact high off his sheer spectacularnessssss.
Very, very tired day in the studio Sunday night. We are exhausted puppies.
That night – well, I’m not entirely sure how I ended up at karaoke again. It was a tiny, tiny thing – I watched a couple of women perform a Spice Girls song (the wiggly leader of the band is who later knocked the drink onto me) and Corey went up and did an Iron Maiden tune. He was everything I expected him to be, and so I strained my throat giving him a heart-felt rob -scream at the end. Running for the hills – well, it never sounded so good. For the next hour or so, Holly fed me chocolate-based drinks from the bar (ok, something was vanilla, and I think something was something else – but they were sweet, they were heavy, and they weren’t citrus. we’re going to call them chocolate) and I slowly slid into my funk until I had to make a run for it. That’s what I described in the last entry, I think. That funk kept with me for a bit, and has left me running to keep up.
What I didn’t mention was Heather’s solution to my mood. She downloaded funny cat videos. I suggest that anyone who’s depressed go to video.google.com and do searches for “funny cat”, “evil cat”, or my favourite – “cat attacking children”. Oh. so good. My face was sore from laughing. So very, very good.
Driving around, Heather has a cute new top and we’re discussing lipstick and then she launched into a grand singing escapade that resulted in this high-spirited tongue motion.
Tinsmith setting up to open for us at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, MD. Brooke’s hair and Rowan’s ass. Is it any wonder I’ve had erotic dreams about BOTH of these people?