August 1st, 2005.

Wow, the last couple of days have been a roller coaster for moods and for optimism and pressure-cooker angst. After Thursday night in Putnam I was pretty much on top of the world, and the next day Jason and Sharif came up from Maryland – so it was only going to get better.

Transcendent Third opening for us at the Centre Coffee Bar in Windsor, CT.
Transcendent Third opening for us at the Centre Coffee Bar in Windsor, CT.
Departing from Hartland, CT - this beast (and his little shoulder brother) stand guard over "Advanced Auto Body" Very advanced indeed.
Departing from Hartland, CT – this beast (and his little shoulder brother) stand guard over “Advanced Auto Body” Very advanced indeed.

Friday afternoon we met them in Windsor, CT and bummed around for a couple of hours before playing our show at the Centre Coffee Bar.

Jason, of course, is an old, old friend, and deserves some real points for being the ilyAIMY fan who has traveled most frequently to come see us out-of-state. Ray probably still wins in the category of longest single trip (out to New Orleans and back!), but Jason definately has mileage on him from the sheer number of times he’spopped out to Pittsburgh, or that college in Pennsylvania so long ago that the name escapes me, or Providence, RI – and now Windsor, CT and Cambridge, MA. We need to come up with some sort of award for him.

In any case – Friday was fucking … awesome … sigh. I use that word far too frequently – but the first show back with either Sharif or Rowan after any sort of absence is always SO intense, so very high. We had an energy that we just don’t get as frequently on our own. A real passion, and the audience really picked up on it and projected it right back.

It was this night that we also first witnessed what is known as the Sharif-effect…Now, I don’t really know what it IS about him. I mean… he’s cute, yeah, and he’s squiggly and kind of giggly… but he’s the keyboard player and the bass player, and as such, really isn’t supposed to… well… get any. (Not that he actually IS!!! This is an Effect and no Action – for clarity’s sake… Sharif’s girlfriend take note! He’s been VERY GOOD!!!)

During our walk with Whitney, we discovered two people who really should never meet.
During our walk with Whitney, we discovered two people who really should never meet.

In any case, let’s just acknowledge that the Centre Coffee Bar, among it’s many great traits of fine food, good art on the walls, fun atmosphere and friendly staff – also hires and is owned by some of the singularly most attractive people in the coffeehouse world – including the hot art chicks that FREQUENT so many coffeehouses… and with THAT said, when the shapely smiling blonde with the plaid skirt leans over to me and whispers in my ear with a grin… she’s SUPPOSED to say “So, are… you and Heather together?” She’s NOT supposed to say “So… what’s your keyboard players name?” Then we just watched the three barristas get gigglier in a semi-circle around Sharif as the night progressed.

We spent the night talking and laughing and smirking out in the Hartland, CT woods and then headed out to Cambridge, MA for a Shattered Monkey Circus show that we’d been invited to play.

A skunk in Cambridge! I know, I know – this blurry photograph is HARDLY conclusive proof, but if I could only get some skunk hair it could be decisively shown that it is… like… a bison.

On the way, we stopped at a McDonalds. The woman behind the counter THERE got so mesmorized by Sharif’s dark and wanton eyes that she forgot to give him his change… then, when Sharif “accidentally” knocked over his drink (I’m not saying he did it on purpose, I’m just saying it was mighty suspicious) the blonde that came out to mop up his vast and roaring sea of carbonation kept knocking over implements and chairs and losing her mop, apparently in infatuation.

A poet of the beat generation perhaps? Dressed in black and emphatic, I was cynical at first, but he was incredibl
A poet of the beat generation perhaps? Dressed in black and emphatic, I was cynical at first, but he was incredibl
The "house band" at the Cantab Lounge for Saturday night's Shattered Monkey Circus, Hyperspace. They were very, very loud - and very, very good.
The “house band” at the Cantab Lounge for Saturday night’s Shattered Monkey Circus, Hyperspace. They were very, very loud – and very, very good.

Let’s not even discuss the fact that he appeared to be making headway with what APPEARED to be the lesbian partner of one of the other performers in Cambridge.

Jason and I just sat back in a pool of jealousy and admiration. It just wasn’t right.

Other than watching Sharif’s pheremones at work, Saturday was a rambling sort of day. Whitney took us around Boston for a little while, doing a good tourguide impression, walking backwards and giving us such fascinating facts like “the Liberty Trail starts around here. It’s red and goes to a lot of dead guy’s houses”, and lunch was a pretty random affair as well, eating knishes and curries and octopuses.

Jason at Whitney at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA.
Jason at Whitney at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA.

At Whitney’s place, we’re actually within walking distance of the Cantab Lounge, so after a quick nap, we meandered down there as well. The Circus was well under way, but though it was apparently running late, we actually ended up going 20 minutes early, and ended up getting a really long set. Suited us just fine. In the basement of the Cantab, we proceeded to make on Hell of an impression. There’s something to be said for planning a 30 minute set full of powerhouse tunes and wishing you could pack

more in, and then the stage manager says something starting with a “t” and you say “What? Two more?” And he says “NO! You’ve got another twenty minutes!”

He liked us.

So we thrashed and rolked and rollicked and generally enjoyed the huge amps we were playing through, trying to overpower whatever band was on the upstairs stage. Strains of blues fingered their way down the stairs, but we fought back with a passion.

Oh yeah – animals? We met a skunk on the way to the bar. Apparently this is normal.

The gig went well, though in a continuing Boston theme, CD sales were pretty sparse. On the way back to Whitney’s place we met a tiny Weiner dog that gave us some small-tongue Love before we continued back to collapse on various mattresses and fold-out contraptions.

Saturday was a good day.

Sunday was a bad day.

It started off confused, trying to orchestrate the departure of two cars with one available parking space. Trying to share directions to Providence, trying to get Sharif’s keyboard down Whitney’s winding staircase, trying to get Heather’s laptop charged (it’s been having suspiciously Alienware-esque issues).

In any case, getting out of the city was Hellish. A ballgame of some sort combined with a missed turn combined with stop and go Bostonian HELL traffic spaghetti and Heather and I were at one another’s throats by the time we made it to the Boston border.

Something to make us cheerful for the sheer coolness of it – or perhaps an omen – a hawk had caught some poor beestie under the trees on the median strip. I’d never seen that before.

he Lovely Ari at the Shattered Monkey Circus at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA. I have high hopes of playing other shows with her.
he Lovely Ari at the Shattered Monkey Circus at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA. I have high hopes of playing other shows with her.

It’s arrow sharp head turned to watch us as we passed, pulling strips of meat off its kill.

Trying to escape Boston, I realized too late that we were passing "Cheers". Sort of falls into the category of my skunk pic, I know.
Trying to escape Boston, I realized too late that we were passing “Cheers”. Sort of falls into the category of my skunk pic, I know.

Sharif, Jason, Heather and I all ate sushi in Providence when we finally found our way there, returning to sanity on Wickendon Street, just before Sharif and Jason had to head back home bearing packages for friends back home. (little ilyAIMYite courier service – not only does Jason get mileage points for coming to see us, but also for doing our bidding… ) Heather and I explore for a bit and then go and check out March of the Penguins, which was quite satisfyingly full of waddling penguin drama.

The gig itself, however, didn’t go so well.

I Love the people we meet through the Monkey Circus shows, but sometimes they seem to collapse a little under their own weight. Rich (the organizer) had his plate full what with the birthday marathon show the previous night and the fact that his ORIGINAL Sunday night venue failed its fire inspection and had had to cancel – reorganizing to a whole other venue, organizing a sound system, notifying everyone – well, it takes a bigger man than I to go through all of that and not just cancel the gig.

Whoa. Yeah, they Live around the corner from Caffe Tazza in Providence, RI.
Whoa. Yeah, they Live around the corner from Caffe Tazza in Providence, RI.

Whitney cheered us up by reenacting her own March of the Penguins.
Whitney cheered us up by reenacting her own March of the Penguins.

Unfortunately, he was rewarded with low attendence and a sound system that fritzed out when it was jostled by people tapping their fingers too close to it. And by “fritzed out” I mean “made a horrendous noise like the crackling thunder of God’s wrath beheld at a range of twenty feet” – or something like that.

It was pretty rough. Add to that our OWN technical problems – in a twenty minute set I snapped four strings – and I was in a foul mood by the time I got off the stage. Luckily Lucky (an old, old friend from MICA) had turned up and was her usual glowing self, which brought me back up a bit, but I still felt like gnawing my own bleeding hands off (gashed my left hand grabbing at my shattered strings, and stabbed my right pinkie trying to continue to play with ANOTHER lost string).

Ugh.

Thank goodness the drive home was so easy.

Today is a Monday, grey and dismal and full of the passage of buses. My phone rattles with assholes trying to sell me shit, apparently at the request of Mastercard. Paying my bills on time (or perhaps the fact that I rarely use the card and they don’t make any money off of my having it) apparently makes me the object of affection of sweepstakes and special offers and general bullshit. I think I may cancel my last credit card sometime soon, because it pisses me off.

Can’t we sue people for stuff like this or something? It’s not the way to start off the morning.

Hrm. Look at that. The sun’s coming out. Playing the Cantab again tonight. Maybe we’ll see another skunk.

September 14th, 2005.

The Beatles, “Let It Be,” just came on the satellite radio here at Perk, the first chord timed with my first keystroke and determining the subject of this entry. Rob brings up some really cool things about music and performance that I think are forgotten sometimes when you become a professional musician, about how music affects you, speaks to you as a listener. And I think when it becomes your means of meager survival, sometimes you even forget what you’re really giving of yourself when you get up there on stage.

Well over a hundred people showed up to help support Dave Pahanish's move to Nashville, TN.
Well over a hundred people showed up to help support Dave Pahanish’s move to Nashville, TN.

My mother hates “Let It Be,” not because she is not a fan of the song, but because for her it is so intimately entwined with the documentary that showed the bitterness building into what would eventually be the crumble of The Beatles. I dated a boy who could not listen to Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting album (one of his favorites) for years because it was the soundtrack to a time in his life when he was getting drunk in mourning over a relationship. He was in said state when the lyric from “Joey” (“and if you’re somewhere drunk and passed out on the floor…”) came on, and it hit a little too close to home. His overwhelming negative reaction to the album was one of the things that made me pick it up secretly in an attempt to know him better, to be let in a little more into the mystery of all that came before me in his life.

Transcendent Third competing in the Takoma Park Folk Festival's New Artist Showcase.
Transcendent Third competing in the Takoma Park Folk Festival’s New Artist Showcase.

The song you could not escape during one of my relationships was John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland,” which I kind of liked only because of that one part at the end of the song where he so earnestly just says, “Damn, baby.” I would always sing it in the car when we were together. My ex would later joke that he was so glad it had been that song out and not one he really liked, because he felt not the slightest guilt or frustration turning it off after we broke up, and sometimes he even smiled while he did it.

What’s fascinating about music is that it is such a multi-level experience. It can connect with us temporally as well as lyrically. Sometimes it’s just that our personal movie soundtrack was set to a certain tune at a certain time in our lives, and whether the contents applied or not, that song is now a part of that experience – A trigger as persuasive as the smell of fresh-cut grass or salt water or an old girlfriend’s special soap. And then again, a song written two decades before we were born can lay us low with a lyric that seems ripped specifically from our lives, or from every life that has ever been. Or without a single lyric, the mellow notes of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue can make you remember dancing in a candlelit room.

We're About 9 at the Takoma Park Folk Festival on 9.11.
We’re About 9 at the Takoma Park Folk Festival on 9.11.
My mom's kitchen has made a leetle progress since I was last here.
My mom’s kitchen has made a leetle progress since I was last here.

And the same songs can mean vastly different things to different people because of where, when and how you hear them. Those people on the late-night love song requests all sending out the same songs to different lovers for different reasons… I think that’s why you gotta give pop music credit sometimes … here is a medium that can apply uniquely and deeply to THAT many people over time. It might be the ONLY artform that can claim that complete, accessible and intimate an effect.

And then there are people who write and perform, who go on to appreciate a song for a million other reasons. We run our hands over the perfect joints of verses like appreciating a magnificent table built by another carpenter. Just because we know how to build doesn’t mean we can’t be constantly made to stand in awe of people who stopped merely building at some point and became “craftsmen” … the likes of which we aspire to be one day. I think that’s where rob and I and our divergent musical tastes definitely come together in appreciation of bands and writers like We’re About 9 and Richard Shindell. And it’s not the ornate writers … no, the real respect goes out to the rare and gifted who find magic in the most mundane … who manage to say something integral to the human experience simply and elegantly, and cut to the heart of that which you see and feel every day and could never quite explain yourself. As Brian Gundersdorf sings in is ode to the Sunday morning IHOP, “I always have the grilled cheese, but I always have the crisis.”

Sarah and Erikka making wild and passionate couch Love at the College Perk open mic in College Park, MD. Yeah, it's pretty much what happens there.
Sarah and Erikka making wild and passionate couch Love at the College Perk open mic in College Park, MD. Yeah, it’s pretty much what happens there.

And then sometimes I like to listen to Britney Spears and I really admire the complex harmony line of an N-Sync song (“Girlfriend”).- THAT’s what’s great about the love of music and letting it affect you in whatever way it wants to. Sometimes it makes you sad, and you love it because you want something to find that part of you. Sometimes you want the perfect song to match your cross-country drive. Sometimes you want to put on some hip hop and dance with a hairbrush in your bedroom.

I forget that people care about how I write, how rob writes. That we are, for some other people, what those other songwriters are for us. Music makes us all equal, and we are all fans of SOMEBODY, no matter what tier we reach. Dylan is in awe of someone, Brian Gundersdorf is in awe of Richard Shindell, I am still in awe of rob, so it would follow that someone out there might be in awe of me. I have very little egotism about my songwriting, and my status as an “artist.” But recently I made of “present” of a detailed song explanation to one of the e-bay sponsors who bought my song. As a second-time sponsor, I felt like I should give her something, and she’d expressed how much the limited information about the song she had fascinated her and prompted her bid.

So without egotism, in case any of you are interested, a little bit about the history of my development as a songwriter. I went through a major growth process in the last few years. As a former journalist, I originally found it impossible to “lie” in my songs. I could only write about things that I had experienced, which is honest, but limiting. I think sometimes it’s crushing when you realize all you’re getting out of a performer is their imagination and creativity, and not being let in at all to their life. I think the more I tour, though, the more I am of the belief that it’s okay for me to give people my creativity and not my life. 🙂

Essentially, what I think you get out of a songwriter is a unique vision. Ideally, you get something interpreted by them as only they could have seen it, whether it was played out in their mind’s eye or right in front of them. And then you apply it to your own life if you want, if it speaks to you. You find your own message. I was faced with the fact that most of the songs I thought were the most amazingly written were not autobiographical. Sometimes in music, when you try to write what you know … you actually find you’re too close to the subject after all.

I consider my work as existing in four phases. The pre-rob years, the post-journalism years where I was exposed to a lot of very influencial songwriting, the bridge years between fact and poetic license, and where I am now. Songs that most of you have never heard fall into the first category: “Memory,” “Falling,” “Time to Go,” “Orion.” These songs were all directly ripped from my life. Every single line had happened to me, even if I was writing in a much more traditionally poetic way. My biggest influence at the time was the Indigo Girls.

Then when I met rob and was introduced to another way acoustic music could be written and performed, I started experimenting with lyric rhythm, off-kilter rhymes, new chords. I still could not make things up, though. “Matador,” “Pine,” “Sever,” and the unreleased “Embers” all fall into this time period. I was learning how to use my voice to sing original material, and finding my own style. My major influences were certainly Rob and Ani DiFranco.

Halloween is almost here, and this Michael Knight costume comes complete with not-leather jacket.
Halloween is almost here, and this Michael Knight costume comes complete with not-leather jacket.

The third phase is where most of the transition really happened. I started listening more to (not to sound too much like a fan girl) Richard Shindell and We’re about 9 much more intently as a songwriter deconstructing great work. I also started listening to the more unique storytelling aspects of folk music, and I started going to slams and writing slam poetry. Things that were drawn from my life – but gently doctored – started to come out. Save Berlin is all true and all the imagery is real, but the events are all speculative (incidentally this song is the most personal of all of mine and the one I feel the most uncomfortable playing, at times. It was a song that just came out, like a lyrical gag reflex or something. It’s what I had to write more than something I wanted to write.).

This led to the bigger step toward complete fiction: In the Water. If I had to pick a single song that marked the defining moment in my life as a songwriter, it would be that one. I set out for the first time to write about something completely outside of myself, from a completely fictional perspective, with completely invented imagery based only loosely on a real story heard through the mouth of a psychic on a talk show. And it was about more than the lyrics. I wrote the verses in a childish, sing-song fashion to mirror the subject matter. I began taking a much more holistic approach to my songwriting. Other songs like “Letters From the Front,” “Parallels” (a permanently in progress song written from the perspective of a parallel line in love with its unattainable counterpart) and ” Illinois is Overflowing” followed.

Nowadays, I take wild license with my songs. I’ve been writing a ton, and mostly they have come from interesting lines or interesting stories that I want to tell. I’ve written a song, in the polish phases, about a car repair shop called “God is in the Gears,” which is completely fictional and based solely off the real-life imagery of how much those crosses on the back of tow trucks look like crucifixes. Did I mention I’m Jewish?

In progress, is a “project” song, which arose from my found object jewelry with the same concept: people waste great lines that they just throw out in regular conversation. I’ve overheard some doosies in coffee shops. So I’m trying to write an entire song where not a single line is mine, forming connections between these otherwise disparate snatches of conversation. It’s not actually as hard as you might think. I already have one verse, complete with three different quotes made by as many different people, and part of a chorus. Human beings want to make connections. Week seek them whether they are there or not, and you find what you look for.

Finished and in performance recently is a song called, “Simile Blue,” written from a series of influences: Will playing us old recordings of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” rob’s father’s death, “Ghost in the Shell 2,” Will taking apart a dead bird, and my admiring of Dave Pahanish and Angie Aparo’s tendencies toward very simple, single-word, single-held-note choruses.

I’m also working on a country song, done except for the chorus, that is heavily influenced by John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, borrows one of the found lines from my other project, and has a heavy dose of my Nashville visit mixed in. It’s about trains, and a fucked-up marriage. I am not married, and I have been one on round-trip train ride in my life.

I think my goals these days are lyrical power AND simplicity (John Darnielle is my teacher at the moment, along with the Kings of Convenience), vocal inflection, enunciation and a true use of some of the abandoned notes of my soprano range, and expanding my chord vocabulary so I can write music that is better than just what I CAN do, and more fitting with what the song DEMANDS. Just like the way those simple piano chords in “Let It Be,” love it or hate it, are almost a gospel song, almost a prayer, almost a funeral dirge. Or maybe they are that way because of the association my mother has for that song, and passed on to me.

Tag, you’re it, rob. How do you think you’re writing style has changed over time? What are your goals there? What are you aspiring to?

September 19th, 2005.

Ugh. Well, I knew it… I can only go without sleep for so long before a cold will step in and knock me down. I have so many fluids forming up inside of me…. everybody better just take a step back and let me watch the Incredible Hulk marathon.

I feel like crap. Runny, sticky crap.


It’s been quite a weekend. Friday night was very, very cool – the golden walls of Java Mamma’s reflected our noise nicely in on ourselves, and though a couple of people complained that we were a little loud, well… we know about that. We’re rock stars, we’re used to the complaint.

Saturday night found us at the New Deal Cafe and dealing with typical New Deal issues. I Love that place to death, but there’s always some issue or another – the sound system is in pieces and there are parts missing. Richard McMullin and Jeff were both there to help us out – slowly a sound system was materialized for us, and Jeff actually got the best sound we’ve ever had at the New Deal.

The New Deal Cafe is expanding. The windows of the expansion are papered over with posters of performers and photographs of musical instruments. I'm a little bit jealous that there are pictures of Rick and Audrey, and We're About 9, and even Chelsea and Beau - but no ilyAIMY. We've been there FOREVER!!!
The New Deal Cafe is expanding. The windows of the expansion are papered over with posters of performers and photographs of musical instruments. I’m a little bit jealous that there are pictures of Rick and Audrey, and We’re About 9, and even Chelsea and Beau – but no ilyAIMY. We’ve been there FOREVER!!!
Even after ten years I haven't learned my lesson about TELLING Richard what to write! Though still, it's always fun to see what he comes up with. This one reads: "ilyAIMY - the band of dangerous gypsies ravages the New Deal Cafe... Rob has captured two young boys from far off Pennsylvania who will be forced to perform odd and melodious tasks before the gathered throngs (please no thongs) Thus we will be exposed tothe opening duo: Transcendent Third". Well, they're from West Virginia, and I didn't force them to do nothin' that the wouldn't have willingly done on their own!
Even after ten years I haven’t learned my lesson about TELLING Richard what to write! Though still, it’s always fun to see what he comes up with. This one reads: “ilyAIMY – the band of dangerous gypsies ravages the New Deal Cafe… Rob has captured two young boys from far off Pennsylvania who will be forced to perform odd and melodious tasks before the gathered throngs (please no thongs) Thus we will be exposed tothe opening duo: Transcendent Third”. Well, they’re from West Virginia, and I didn’t force them to do nothin’ that the wouldn’t have willingly done on their own!

It’s always a sort of homecoming to return to Greenbelt and play the New Deal Cafe. It’s weird to realize that I’ve been playing there off and on for about a decade. First as a bass player for Audrey, and then as a solo performer, and then with different bands, various partners. It means that part of me has this warm fuzzy feeling for the New Deal, but there’s part of me that also maybe – is it a brand of failure that I end up back there time and time again? I guess not since you could chart a graph of the money we’ve made there and it continues to climb. We’ve expanded to other places, but still, it’s not like we even pack the New Deal… there are people standing in the back, but you can’t be sure that that’s not just the line to get food. I wonder what Richard thinks as I continue to return there… there was a time perhaps, when he thought I would go places, but as I return to the cafe year after year, and continue to think of the tips and sales there as a high point…

Man – whoever thought it was a good idea to continue using a talking baby to advertise for Quizno’s is on crack. Talking babies are fucking CREEPY. At this point I apologize… I’m still sick and there’s a substantial amount of Nyquil coursing through my system. It’s disrupting any sort of remaining thought process…

Transcendent Third working their special charm at the New Deal Cafe.
Transcendent Third working their special charm at the New Deal Cafe.
Audience at New deal.
Rowan and Heather and I performing at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, MD.
Rowan and Heather and I performing at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, MD.

But I’m going to get through this…

Still, despite any weird personal hang-ups, the New Deal is always like coming home. Here are people that have supported and Loved me for almost ten years. I remember when it was a place without chairs and I had to invite people to bring their own cushions.

The show went great. I Love performing when I’m that comfortable with people. We were charming and high energy. Transcendent Third really was the perfect opening act for the night – they had the right sort of energy for that night.

My mom, tactless as ever, came over as we were packing up and asked me if it made me sad going home alone. I suppose I could’ve turned that back on her, but that would’ve assured me time in Hell.

My mother’s just coming to terms with Heather and I being broken up and, well… I guess she’s her son’s mother, isn’t she? And doesn’t know when to keep certain comments to herself.

The drive back to Rowan’s was mercilessly short, but filled with the hint of mists and almost autumn and the best music I’ve packed into my disc changer yet. I’m falling back in Love with my Saturn, and rediscovering a passion for driving fast at night, throwing my poor beaten car into turns that would’ve rolled my old Volkswagon, and that I’d be afraid to try with Heather’s modern little toy. Power steering makes me feel soft. I Love my car.

The DC Dance Collective getting their collective groove on at Nolan's in Adam's Morgan, Washington, DC. The guy in the foreground just made me think of Ryan Montbleau in a way that made me wish I was gay. Well... and that he was too, I guess.
The DC Dance Collective getting their collective groove on at Nolan’s in Adam’s Morgan, Washington, DC. The guy in the foreground just made me think of Ryan Montbleau in a way that made me wish I was gay. Well… and that he was too, I guess.
Firedean and the Torpedoes doing another dance special for Fire's video release party.
Firedean and the Torpedoes doing another dance special for Fire’s video release party.

Sunday was a different sort of day. I’ve been fighting a cold since California. It’s been creeping up on me, testing my defences. I think it belonged to Dave Pahanish, so at least it has a good lineage. I knew it was eventually going to catch up with me since I haven’t been sleeping. The last few days have blended into one long mass of hours rather than a convenient separation of night and day. When your Life is divided by gigs rather than by dreams, you know you’re going to eventually run into trouble.

As we set up at Nolan’s in DC, I could feel it creeping over me – at first I mistook it for the misgivings I had about the space, the sound and the gig in general, but eventually I recognized the distinct and different sensation of my throat growing itchy and uncomfortable.

Sharif, Heather and I performing at Nolan's in DC on Sunday night. Rowan had to duck out at the last minute, which was probably for the best - he has a good deal less patience for sound difficulties than the rest of us do, and he might well have walked out after the first couple doses of really hideous feedback. I may have fucked up both my ears AND my amp in one night. On the other hand, the cold-induced ear juices may well have saved me.
Sharif, Heather and I performing at Nolan’s in DC on Sunday night. Rowan had to duck out at the last minute, which was probably for the best – he has a good deal less patience for sound difficulties than the rest of us do, and he might well have walked out after the first couple doses of really hideous feedback. I may have fucked up both my ears AND my amp in one night. On the other hand, the cold-induced ear juices may well have saved me.
Firedean doing a little dance at Nolan's in Washington, DC.
Firedean doing a little dance at Nolan’s in Washington, DC.

In general, Nolan’s was pretty rough. We didn’t have good sound support (ended up playing through our own amps through a lack of sufficiant cables). The lights kept going out because we had to plug everything through one outlet… since we were playing through amps and not going through the PA at all, we didn’t have effective monitor support… it was really a disaster. We played well, but it was hard to coordinate with Firedean during his set – he was nervous and we couldn’t hear one another.

His fans Loved him, but I hated that semblance of non-professionalism that comes with insufficient set-up.

Tonight I’m sitting watching Friends, drinking tea, and floating above my body from the effects of the Nyquil. Heather and I went out and did a little book shopping so that I didn’t have to lie in sickness alone, and I think that my brain isn’t even going to support television and Journal writing for much longer. I’m going to have to retreat to children’s books and blankets.

One of the other good things about leaving late today was that we got our t-shirts in! This was just an experiment, but they turned out pretty nice. We've only got a couple....
One of the other good things about leaving late today was that we got our t-shirts in! This was just an experiment, but they turned out pretty nice. We’ve only got a couple….

April 6th, 2006.

Ok – so logic told me (eventually) that we should’ve stayed back in Maryland and finished the damned CD. We were playing mostly to old fans and repeat customers, so coming up here before the new CD was finished was probably a tactical error. The main reason we’ve been aiming our sights on New England for this week was that I wanted to book some dates with our friends Matthew and Michael from Transcendent Third.

The interior of the Space in Hamden, CT. The open mic was semi-crowded, but the talent was immense. The host said that though things had been pretty good recently, this night was a fluke of amazingness what with a number of touring artists all crossing paths on the same night. Lots of kitsch, old video game signs, Sendak drawings covering the walls and a thrift store upstairs. Very, very cool place.

The twins have been booking short tours based around their school breaks and around the colleges they want to check out, and I just Love crossing paths with them, so when they told me THIER schedule, and we’d SORT of been planning a trip around the same time, I figured we could probably help one another out.

Last night at the Skellig was the first time for us to see them while up North, and we drove to the Skellig in Waltham, MA with a decent amount of optimism. Unfortuantely, when we arrived we discovered that the back room where we were booked to play had a party of about 20 bankers chucked in there throwing a birthday party. Tom (our host) was PISSED and we did some calming of him.

Passing through Connecticut on our way up to Boston, we run into an incredible snow storm and I’ve got to make a phone call to boast. About 3″ for me to play in at an abandoned picnic area. I like running and sliding in it. Tweee!

The excitement of discovering a cage in Whitney’s apartment and wondering what Lives inside!!! It turns out that Whitney caught a mouse in her apartment in February or so (a Valentine’s mouse, actually) and didn’t quite know what to do with it, as it would freeze to death if she just threw it outside. And so now she has a mouse (named Mouse Friend) Living on her refrigerator. Mouse Friend probably thinks he’s got it pretty good.

I hate seeing friends get angry – especially the people we don’t get to see very often. It ruins the moment a little, and lets us perhaps see a side that we don’t want to see. But on the other hand, I’m glad it was US that was there – other people might’ve been brought down too – Heather was right – an audience is better than no audience, even if it’s an audience of disinterested bankers, and the night was a miserable snap in what HAD been a beautiful week, so numbers were really, really low.

One of the twins from Transcendent Third (Michael, I think) asks for water from the bar, and the overwrought bartender just hands him the wand to fill his bottles with. At first Michael’s pretty dumbfounded – he’s all 18 n shit and just had never encountered such a thing before.

In any case, playing with Matthew and Michael’s always great. There’s some sort of optimism to them – something that I don’t like to acknowledge, in a way, because it points to how old I’ve gotten… Not that they write happy songs in any way, but just – the kind of freedom they have about falling in Love and falling out again is beautiful.

Logically, it would’ve been smarter to book a local act to share the night with, and there may have been a certain amount of self-throat-cutting involved in the night, but we had a good time.

After a bit of a rough night at the Skellig, it was kind of nice to wander back and hang out with Whitney. She flushed out the beast that we’d been so curious about. Meet Mouse Friend, the Valentine’s Day Mouse.

Tonight we ended up at an open mic in Jamaica Plain, MA at a place called Java Jo’s. Though we generally meet a lot of people we like when we come to the Boston area, we generally have pretty negative gig experiences. The open mics can be very cut-throat and the business side of the whole city can just be kind of cold. Java Jo’s was a really pleasant surprise, with Mike Delaney’s night simply feeling like the warmest thing we’ve experienced up there. I was glad Whitney got to come out with us that night, because she’s experienced so many BAD nights with us, it was good for us to see a night that was genuinely so much fun.

Departing to play the NewSong Art Space, Heather and I are passed by this junked Austin Healey and I reach to call my Dad before remembering. It’s almost been a year and I still have reflexes like that.

We saw some pretty good talent, and my first blind guitarist (I’ve seen two one-handed ones, but never a blind one!) but had too much mochaccino and sat up all night vibrating and text messaging back and forth with a friend.

6am and I finally find some sleep.

April 8th, 2006.

Friday was just a nightmare. Bad phone calls from home and a grey, grey day only amplify the feeling of trapped stagnation as we creep the twenty miles from Whitney’s place in Cambridge out to our gig. It takes us two and a half hours to cover the distance all the while with me hoping the Indian food we’d eaten earlier in the day doesn’t disagree with my often finicky belly.

We get into Danielson, CT and get to hang out with Mike and his drummer downstairs in their practice space, just jamming and making noise and generally having our energies restored by awesome people.

The gig itself is something of a nightmare, not at all what we’d been led to expect, and the ride to Danielson, CT passes in a silence verging on depression. It’s days like this that make me want to quit. But what would I do if I did? I don’t think I’d have a taste for anything else.

Heather sleeping with Kiwi at Mike and Ari’s in Danielson, CT.

Staying with Mike and Ari for the night is a God-send. I’d forgotten how Lovely they are, how Mike is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and Ari’s just so very sweet. Together they make an amazing couple and make me feel very, very good. Hanging out is Lovely and refreshing, and really very much what my soul needed after such a nightmarish gig.

Tomorrow we’ll be hooking up with the twins again and playing in Putnam, so I’m thinking that this Godawful week is going to turn around and look up.

Ari showing off her mound of whipped cream at Victoria Station in Putnam, CT.

April 10th, 2006.

Staying with Will Schaff is always an incredible experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself .

Heather’s got Matthew and Michael backing her at Victoria Station in Putnam, CT. We’d spent an hour or so practicing in the basement before the show, and the versions of Drown, Matador, Spiral and … oh, there was SOMETHING else!!! – were just some of the coolest we’ve ever played. Not that I’d ever swap out my band! But it was a lot of fun to try something totally different. Spiral with bass, violin and djembe was just awesome.

After getting to Mike and Ari’s, our next gig was in Putnam at the Victoria Station Café. Victoria Station wasn’t originally a staple gig. In Connecticut , that was the Centre Coffee Bar in Windsor , but unfortunately that closed down. Victoria Station however has really filled in the gap – originally we just stopped in because it seemed like a cool place. We made friends with the owner, Dave, and have been returning ever since, with every visit being a little more fun and more lucrative. What’s especially cool is that he credits our attention to the place, both in the Journal and also just generally playing there, as one of the things that’s putting him on the map as a good spot to see music. He’s getting good artists and is slowly building a good audience for those artists.

Transcendent Third playing at the Victoria Station Cafe in Putnam, CT.

Having a good time with my camera and it’s macro lens and the beautiful sunshine in Will’s house.

This visit was no exception, which was really welcome since we were bringing guests. Transcendent Third joined us again, and this time we had some spare time to practice with them. Heather and Michael and Matthew and I all buggered off to the basement for an hour before the show to put some joint songs together. It’s just cool to work with them – and it was cool to be able to actually hang out with them.

I think I can almost even tell them apart.

Maybe.

Which ilyAIMY eye is which? This ain’t hard, people…

Anywho, putting violin and bass into our music added a whole other level to our show, and I was even proud of my banter. I mean. I’m always clever. I’m just a clever guy. But I was particularly on.

Go on. Ask me about the ilyAIMY SWAT team. or the fantasies I have. or the dangers of desiring a cloned rob army. If you’re VERY lucky I’ll send you an mp3. Maybe.

After the gig, we all retired back to Mike and Ari’s to hang out and to sleep. A very full night indeed. Let’s see. there was Mike and Ari, their roommate and her sister, Heather and I, Matthew and Michael, and Ren and whatsisname. You know. that guy? We played some music trivia game and I helped Mike with some Photoshop work and then settled down to sleep. It was only at that point that it occurred to me it might be a little awkward. The twins have some weird skewed fear of my touchy-feeliness and insisted on some 6″ bubble or something. sheesh. and whichever one ended up closer to me on the shoved together air mattresses I think was a little frightened of falling asleep.

Heather working on jewelry in Will’s studio / house. There’s something Lovely about his space that always breeds creativity in her. It’s funny – for some reason I tend to write best at my mom’s house, but Heather draws and creates at Will’s place. He exudes an energetic, beautiful passion that she breathes in.

Fall asleep we did, but not until we’d completed several hours of giggling and silence and snortling and silence and breathing heavy and making weird noises and then some more strained silence. Somewhere around the church bells chiming 4am , Heather started playing the “guess which twin is talking” game which T3 didn’t find very amusing. One of the last things I remember from the night was one of the twins saying “This isn’t really funny” and Heather saying “MATTHEW!!!”

Heather playing guitar out in Will’s garden in Warren, RI. What can I say? I told you so.

Anywho, the next night, after an unmemorable open mic experience at Rick’s Billiards, Heather and I drive to Warren, RI to stay with my friend from college Will Schaff. You remember him. Original founder of the i love you And I Miss You concept back in college? Artist extraordinaire? I Love staying with him. His gruff demeanour melts under the presence of company and he settles in and makes falafel and whiskey for Heather and I drive to Warren, RI to stay with my friend from college Will Schaff. You remember him. Original founder of the i love you And I Miss You concept back in college? Artist extraordinaire? I Love staying with him. His gruff demeanour melts under the presence of company and he settles in and makes falafel and whiskey for

WestSide Arts in Providence, RI has found a new and beautiful home in this World War II era building. I THINK it was WWII. I somehow couldn’t maintain the attention span to get through the plaque. I was distracted!

dinner. Best damned falafel I’ve ever had. and I really liked the whiskey. Though I wish they’d pointed out the fact that I’d poured a bit much.

It turned out it really was.

A lot.

Dear lord. For a little while there I was about a Twin Bubble taller and was having a good deal of trouble with words over 4 syllables. I’m still going to claim that I’ve never been drunk, but that line’s getting pretty damned fuzzy. Less whiskey next time.

Transcendent Third playing at WestSide Arts in Providence, RI. I’m pretty sure of this now… on the LEFT is MICHAEL and on the RIGHT is Matthew… right? Sigh – it was a great show and their voices were dead on. I even recorded the night… and then deleted it by mistake! Damn damn damn damn damn.

Graffiti next to our car in Providence. Focus on the bunny. It’s like it was calling me.

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.