March 10th, 2004.

Another night playing with Ember Swift. It’s amazing how repetition breeds comfort– and tonight it was smiles and familiar faces. A decidedly tragic turn-out, but the Gravity Lounge itself was such a cool room that I hardly had time to take notice. Part book store, part high-end feeding trough, part really nice music venue. It was Lovely.

The show itself was quiet and gentle with high-points of neccessary energy and angst, but all in all, very relaxed, very calm. Ember, of course, was spectacular – I ended up having to go to the bathroom towards the end of her set, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had better bathrooming music. It was just a great time – though I avoided using the hand-dryer for fear that that would be distracting to the 15 audience members. (YES I flushed) My poor pants were just abused.

Anywho, the real magic was afterwards. Ember was much more outgoing than she was at Jammin Java, much more approachable – or maybe I was just less NERVOUS AS HELL – I fear I was suffering from a bit of fan-boy syndrome, shaking and slightly wishing to be worshipful. Traded smiles and a shared appreciation of the waiter, stories of our Love for On-Demand programming… I felt guilty steering the conversation away from politics. I felt REALLY guilty for eating a roast-beef sandwich during her “Politics of Food” song – I felt like her eyes were watching, and I thought I saw her wince with one of my bites.

But we talked of roads and wandering and venue owners and I was so glad to find out that – here was a woman who’s been doing this for eight years (!) and who still Loved it, and who still enjoyed going back to places where she was known and Loved. Places, perhaps, that weren’t “strategic”, but that she just wanted to be. I can see myself doing that, Loving that, for a long, long time. Nothing I’d rather be doing.

Ember Swift. An amazing performer.
Ember Swift. An amazing performer.
Her bass player... and fiddle player, and guitarist (though she just whacks it with a bow, and plays it like a cello), Lyndell Montgomery.
Her bass player… and fiddle player, and guitarist (though she just whacks it with a bow, and plays it like a cello), Lyndell Montgomery.
The beautiful Gravity Lounge down in Charlottesville, VA. A large stage and lots and lots of books. Lots of distracting books. I could've sat there for hours. Sigh.
The beautiful Gravity Lounge down in Charlottesville, VA. A large stage and lots and lots of books. Lots of distracting books. I could’ve sat there for hours. Sigh.
The Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, VA. Unfortunately, the Virginia University was in the midst of Spring Break, giving the Gravity Lounge this horrifically abandoned appearance. A beautiful sound-system replicating our voices and chords for about five pairs of ears. Ten hungry ear-holes... we plugged'em.
The Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, VA. Unfortunately, the Virginia University was in the midst of Spring Break, giving the Gravity Lounge this horrifically abandoned appearance. A beautiful sound-system replicating our voices and chords for about five pairs of ears. Ten hungry ear-holes… we plugged’em.

Oh – and one last note. Upon our departure, we all hugged, and she SMELLED nice!!! Musicians NEVER smell nice! She said we did too, but I fear she may have just been being nice.

Oh – and one OTHER last night – you can’t tell from the website (www.emberswift.com if I’ve not mentioned it) but up close and in person, Lyndell is spectacularly beautiful. It’s just something that should be said.

So, with those thoughts in my head – good smells and good music and beautiful women in memory and in the car, we disappear down the road, wending our way to Washington on the way to Baltimore, with whispers of “happy birthday” to Heather’s Dad. We’re coming home.


Ok, tired of driving – wondering how Ember and Lyndell get along musically. I mean, between Heather and I, we have lots of problems. I mean, I have very sensible musical tastes – between my Led Zeppelin and Cypress Hill and Metallica and Indigo Girls and Mountain Goats and Spice Girls and disco, I’ve got all the variety anyone could ever want, not to mention all the good taste. How Heather can be frustrated by that, I can’t imagine… and why she insists on listening to Ludikris, or however his name is spelled, is waaay beyond me. Sigh.

May 21st, 2004. 3.12am

SO sleepy. And of course, sleep eludes me. My brain is too whirly-full of fur and fuzz and thoughts. Dressing up as Marilyn Monroe, cicadas, a woman from tonight’s show, Nefrit’s rhythms, Keith’s banter… Keith’s hair, plans and schedules and the spectacular complexity of Life.

Nefrit El-Or at Jammin Java.
Nefrit El-Or at Jammin Java.

Life. Don’t talk to me about Life.

Tonight’s gig at Jammin Java was scrumptious. It left Heather and I in a lot of pain, but it was worth it. We got a decent response to our performance (and I saw a couple of faces that I wasn’t expecting, but was really glad to see – Ari: thanks for your table-full of creatures… and Cox? Thanks for your heads.

Brennan was filling my skull with dreams and possibilities, and now my inner gears won’t stop mulling and churning and burning the mindnight oil.

Sara brought us cicadas, and Keith cut his hair. And Nefrit El-Or continues to make my interior rhythms whirl to different dances. I can never sleep after her shows, and I have no place to retreat to and play guitar till the sun comes up. No place to let it out.

My head is full and pounding and I never know how to just
shut
it
down.

Also, I am CONVINCED that when they fixed my laptop, they installed an upgraded, and more difficult, version of Solitaire. I haven’t won a game since I got it back. CURSE the insomnia that has allowed me to discover this treachery!

May 29th, 2004.

Hehe – just something worth mentioning – went to see Aoutar, which I may or may not be spelling correctly, at the College Perk. Decent enough show – they need a bass player desperately, methinks. A very cool, middle-eastern type sound.

ilyAIMY performing at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA
ilyAIMY performing at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA

Anywho – I stepped outside to call my parents, and on the way back in, two guys were standing in the doorway. I nodded to one of them, paused, said “Excuse me” at which point they apologized and stepped out of the way.

Just a favourite picture of Heather.
Just a favourite picture of Heather.
Heather and I performing at the Year of the Rabbit in Bowie, MD.
Heather and I performing at the Year of the Rabbit in Bowie, MD.
Sharif and I performing at the Year of the Rabbit in Bowie, MD.
Sharif and I performing at the Year of the Rabbit in Bowie, MD.

And on my way into the crowded room, I heard something that made me grin:

“Dude, you know who that IS?”
“Uh, no?”
“That’s the lead singer from ilyAIMY!!!”
“Oh shit. Really? I feel so stupid!”

Hee.

In other randomness – my Father has this inventor friend named, unpretentiously, John Smith. I don’t know precisely what he does, but I’ve always gotten the impression that he’s paid to sit around and think… to fiddle and tinker… to create. I’ve mostly known his work to deal with stereoscopic images, and every once in a while my Dad gets a phone call. I haven’t heard it in years, but I’d recognize John’s thin, wispy voice in an instant.

So today’s random phone call could’ve included a dirty joke, or he could be calling my Dad’s attention to some article in some obscure magazine – but today he’s asking if anyone knows what that page is called at the beginning of a book, where there sits nothing but a quote, or perhaps a piece of poetry… not a dedication – but some sort of artistic introductory summing up…

No idea – John goes on to tell my dad about how he’s linked up two computer monitors, showing and running the same application, but with a slight offset to create a stereo (3D) image… and that’s not enough, so he’s hooked up ANOTHER keyboard so someone else can manipulate the same thing. He can now view 3D images, and even DRAW in three dimensions.

The world’s just so damned COOL.

August 24th, 2004.

Heather’s back from NewSong, and has shown me what she learned. A whole lot of it is in the form of confidence.

Patti Witten at Jammin Java
Patti Witten at Jammin Java

Last night we headed out to Jammin Java to play one of the best open mics in the area. Jammin Java’s open mic (though “open” is perhaps not the best term for a stage that requires more than a month ahead for sign-up) has slowly become one of the premier networking spots for travelling artists in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area. Last night we encountered a woman from Chicago (Sandy Andina on her way home from playing Wilmington, NC), and Patti Witten of Ithaca, New York (one of the clearest, most beautiful voices and cleanest guitar styles, not to mention a beautiful guitar). We encountered a guy who’d wandered here from California, but was on his way to Georgia, and Daniel Lee showed up as well. An amazing night.

Sigh - took the Saturn in for maintenance the other day. Overheating, check - taken care of. Weird whistly scary noise when I turn left? Check - it was the brakes... replaced.
Sigh – took the Saturn in for maintenance the other day. Overheating, check – taken care of. Weird whistly scary noise when I turn left? Check – it was the brakes… replaced. ..
Blood coming off my friendly mechanic's hands? Check - you should replace that tire with the metal poking out of it. Replace homicidal tire... check. Sigh. (I was told that the metal makes the tire go, and when it gets out, that's BAD.) Guess health insurance will be going on the credit card this month AFTER all.
Blood coming off my friendly mechanic’s hands? Check – you should replace that tire with the metal poking out of it. Replace homicidal tire… check. Sigh. (I was told that the metal makes the tire go, and when it gets out, that’s BAD.) Guess health insurance will be going on the credit card this month AFTER all.

And an amazing night for US, as well. Heather has returned from NewSong with thoughts and hints and advice, and above all, a new aura of competence and charisma and confidence. She played beautifully, worked the crowd, said funny things, and after we got off the stage, continued to work the crowd, wandering from person to person, selling CDs, flashing the mailing list around. We did very well for ourselves – and left the room in awe.

A very good night.

August 27th, 2004.

Wednesday night, we had the honour of opening for Hamell on Trial. We’d seen him open for Ani Difranco a year or so ago, and later, our friend Firedean managed to open for him up at Philly’s Tin Angel, but my impression of Hamell (Ed, apparently) was always kind of a bitter bald man who DRILLED his guitar with a flatpick.

After the Jammin Java show, I came away with a HUGE appreciation for what this man could do – both on guitar AND just as a performer/entertainer. He was one of the funniest men I’d ever seen on stage, with a smooth, almost stand-up comic delivery. The machine-gun lyrics and drill-like approach to playing guitar were the same, but – it’s like how Heather and I aren’t morose all the time, but our songs tend to be angry or depressing. The stories that go with them have to be equally intense, but in the opposite direction, so that people aren’t busily slitting their wrists out in the audience.

Well, Ed, after and between playing very intense songs, screaming about killing people and shooting himself and in general toppling the world, would then return to running jokes and … I don’t know. Heather and I could learn TONNES from him. So good.

Hamell on Trial at Jammin Java.
Hamell on Trial at Jammin Java.
Heather is a vampire….

October 31st, 2004.

From yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

“WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service has informed the NAACP that it is investigating whether the civil rights organization improperly “intervened in a political campaign” when it posted on its website a speech by Chairman Julian Bond that condemned the Bush administration’s policies…  I think what’s at issue is our right to criticize the president of the United States,’ Bond said Thursday. ‘The IRS is saying that because I criticized the president’s education policies, his economic policies and his war policies that somehow I placed the tax exemption for the NAACP at risk.'”

Whee! I actually feel violently ill. Jammin Java is now emotionally blacklisted in my universe. Home of melodrama and bullshit, I think it’s bad for me to even cross the line into Vienna, VA.

Heather and Crystal of California University's WVCS. During our pre-gig radio interview. We felt sparkly and personality-laden. I was really impressed with the radio station itself, and the professionalism (and later, the belly-dancer costume) of our host, Crystal. She had a very loud friend who, though I think I liked him well enough, gave me the urge to pat him on the head and through him sugar-free candy from a distance.
Heather and Crystal of California University’s WVCS. During our pre-gig radio interview. We felt sparkly and personality-laden. I was really impressed with the radio station itself, and the professionalism (and later, the belly-dancer costume) of our host, Crystal. She had a very loud friend who, though I think I liked him well enough, gave me the urge to pat him on the head and through him sugar-free candy from a distance.
Rob was one of the first people we met in Pittsburgh, and his girlfriend, Brandi, was one of our first friends in California - she's dressed as a butterfly at California's Halloween Party and Costume Contest. (That's what else was going on the night of our gig)
Rob was one of the first people we met in Pittsburgh, and his girlfriend, Brandi, was one of our first friends in California – she’s dressed as a butterfly at California’s Halloween Party and Costume Contest. (That’s what else was going on the night of our gig)
Death sat in the front row for Superman's set. He just sat there and pointed. Every once in a while he'd point from Supes to his scythe and back. I personally would've been greatly distracted. The show at California University was a huge success - the night was filled with fall crispness and a pseudo-full moon, and the people were simply Lovely. Sigh, chalk California, PA up as one of my new favourite places.
Death sat in the front row for Superman’s set. He just sat there and pointed. Every once in a while he’d point from Supes to his scythe and back. I personally would’ve been greatly distracted. The show at California University was a huge success – the night was filled with fall crispness and a pseudo-full moon, and the people were simply Lovely. Sigh, chalk California, PA up as one of my new favourite places.
Death at California University's Halloween party. It was a real scythe, old enough to insure that not ONLY would you be dead, but you'd have to worry about post-mortem tetanus as well.
Death at California University’s Halloween party. It was a real scythe, old enough to insure that not ONLY would you be dead, but you’d have to worry about post-mortem tetanus as well.

February 21st, 2005.

Outside there’s the gentle patter of unidentified precipitation. It’s supposed to snow, but it looks like rain, but it has a solid sound when it strikes the earth. It’s cold outside, but it’s that cloud-covered cold which sort of feels like the first couple of moments getting under the blankets in bed – shockingly frigid but with an enclosed feeling of security and impending warmth. The sound is one of my favourites, and it’s intimately associated with the security of home.

I don’t have much that triggers “home” anymore, but that sound does me good.

Mara got some great shots of us and then the Dreamscapes Project at Jammin Java.
Mara got some great shots of us and then the Dreamscapes Project at Jammin Java.
ilyAIMY at Jammin Java for our CD release.
ilyAIMY at Jammin Java for our CD release.

Last night we played Jammin Java in Vienna, VA – it was nominally a CD release for “Myxomatosis Took Its Toll”, but I haven’t made that big of a deal about it until I’ve got a better feel for how people respond to this rather indie-flavoured release.

Sharif sleeping IN his keyboard case at College Perk.
Sharif sleeping IN his keyboard case at College Perk.
Shane, I don't know if you're still collecting shots of bathrooms, but here's one from the bathroom in Jammin Java's green room.
Shane, I don’t know if you’re still collecting shots of bathrooms, but here’s one from the bathroom in Jammin Java’s green room.

The show itself was good, high-energy – just the sort of thing that we tried to capture with the new CD, but as seems our habit at Jammin Java, frought with technical difficulties. Heather’s guitar had been giving us angst, and just when we get THAT fixed, her cable fritzes out… but it meant that we got to hear her play Keith’s (of the Dreamscapes Project) 12-string Rainsong. The audience (me included… cause I may play along with Heather’s songs, but I Love listening) was pretty enraptured by the 12-string sound. It really added some flavour to Illinois is Overflowing and In the Water. Heather said she was a little panicky, but it didn’t show.

After the gig we sauntered over to the College Perk and just hung out. A good night all around – reminding me of college, in the Gatehouse at 3am with people gathering and playing music till dawn. Dan Zimmerman broke out his made-out-of-Legos mini-bass, Sharif brought in his keyboard, Rowan and Heather and I played guitars – we lead the room through a Mountain Goat medley, and wandered through some Dan songs and some Nine Inch Nails and all sorts of things. Very relaxed, flirting with the idea of Truth or Dare Jenga.

I turned in at around 4.30 after padding around the coffeehouse in stocking feet for a couple of hours. Shane from Philadelphia had come down for the weekend with his friend Jason, and we played pool for a while till I absolutely couldn’t focus on the world anymore.

I Love sleepovers. Shane, Jason, Heather, Rowan (on the floor), Brennan, Tori, Sharif (who slept in his case)… it’s a shame Amy and Alli didn’t stay… I Love the gathering and the leisurely morning grunting. Even waiting for the bathroom has it’s charm when there’s no urgency. Tori made cookies and we all made inane conversation. It was a good weekend.

Monday is ugly and roaring, and I know that it brings work for our friends… I weep for them.

And then watch cartoons!

March 23rd, 2005.

Yeah, even when I’m playing, I’m still working in these bars.  I hate them.  I hate the smell and I hate the noise.  I hate watching the guy with the drink hovering over me – it’s rude to back away because you’re implying he can’t hold his liquor (literally) and it’s all a joke when they finally go ahead and spill beer all over your coat.  I leave stinking of it… not the guy’s fault.  I moved my jacket and as I do it a curvaceous woman wriggles her way up to him and jostles his arm and I get the beer all over my skin.  She’s spilled HIS beer yet offers to buy ME the drink.

Monday night we played a Beatles tribute at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA. Our speed metal version of “Paperback Writer” and our ilyAIMYtized “We Can Work It Out” were responded to really, really well. These two girls (the biggest Beatles fans) asked us to sign their… er… signs.

I don’t understand the etiquette.

Perhaps a lot of people need this lowering of inhibitions.  Perhaps their grins won’t come as easily.  It just makes me feel stupid and slow, dizzy if I have too much, wary of my footing.  Tonight there’s not enough of anything to harm me in that way, though Holly must be getting the bartender to mix every type of chocolate or sweet or cream that she thinks I might like, but the noise and the smell gets to me and I stalk off in the hopes of not seeming too ill-humoured, knowing that if I stay longer my mood will shift and I’ll be caught out angry and depressed.  Never flattering.

Java Mammas in Reisterstown – filled with the good Love.
Playing Lagerheads in Coal Center, PA. Good people, but playing there or seeing music there and having a reason to be there is so different from just being there.

Out into the darkness of western Pennsylvania.  45 minutes south of Pittsburgh and it should be a song.  It’s 22 degrees but my body is heated enough that I’m not going to notice for quite sometime.  Flannel shirt and steaming skin and a mile to walk before I turn in… the tiniest spit of snow is telling me that the world’s alright.  It IS a beautiful night, moist and cold.  Silent enough that you can hear the river as the noise of the bar fades out.

The lights fade and the sounds fade, and the time in the open air means that even the smell might fade – there are such incredible creatures in those places.  They are spirited and smiling and some are come-hither and some are fine just to be admired, but if I’m not willing to play the game then I’m just another passing face, and in this case at least, I’m very, very glad to be leaving.

The travel “home” is usually when I’ll start getting depressed, but the company of the snow keeps my spirits up.  Siwtchblade courage, fingers wrapped tightly.  Baltimore instincts die hard.  My chains are wrapped and silent.  Crossing water the only way I know how – the bridge between Coal Center and California is steel and half-seen, but the water beneath sends shivers up my spine and I cross quickly, shaking.

It’s quiet out, and I’m thinking about how, for such a small town, it’s odd that it’s almost never peaceful at night.  Heh – then it occurs to me that the bars simply haven’t closed yet.  Antje will keep me company tonight, but that’s about all I can expect.

Somewhere along the line, California decided to paint their fire hydrants. I want to meet THIS artist. I think I Love them.

Last Night I Dreamed of the Devil….

I dreamt Satan was in the front row. He was stereotypically Satanic – big and beefy and red. I was playing “Stagger Lee” and kept screwing up the lyrics, nervous about getting to the last verse where Stag goes to Hell and beats up the devil. I started spouting bad poetry trying to keep the rhythm, trying to hedge the lyrics around something a little more acceptable to the devil, but he was obviously growing impatient with my mistakes, tapping his cloven hoof less with the rhythm and more with impatience.

April 4th – gig one – ilyAIMY playing at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, MD. Good to be surrounded by art.
Gig two : hosting a singer/songwriter showcase at Hershey’s. I’ll be honest – the turnout SUCKED – but the talent was stunning. Emma G was new to me and thunderous, Laura Baron is someone I’ve known for a very very long time and I forget just how very, very good she is. Domenic Cicala is someone I’ve brought up to Baltimore a number of times – it was good to come down to his neck of the woods. Once we got over not having many people to play to, we played to one another and in hindsight I realize this kicked off the month’s joyous showcase string that I’ve been really really enjoying all of April.

I doubt that had any effect on my mood on Monday – but my mood on Monday was not a good mood. I woke up tired, dragged as I dragged myself to Teavolve. Dreaded the drive, struggled to park, dealt with my typical difficulties with less than typical grace and, because of my mood, kicked off with “Perfect Day”. I know now to never kick off with Perfect Day. I forgot the bridge. I soloed. Circled back. Picked up the bridge. Got asked to turn the whole thing down. Pushed through the whole night being perhaps a bit manic as I struggled to not fall prey to a bad mood, and more importantly, not take that bad mood out on those around me.

Saturday night I got to record a Live album for the Silver Strings in Takoma Park, MD. Here I’m just getting things set up as Pepper checks how his butt will look to the audience. (I don’t think that’s what he’s ACTUALLY doing….)

People who knew me knew… people who didn’t maybe had a good time. It was hard to tell.

The Silver Strings soundchecking in Takoma Park, MD – Saturday night.

Last night I was Dan Magnolia’s featured artist at the Black Squirrel in Virginia. I wasn’t worried about it until the gig Heather had for the night fell through and she decided to be in the audience instead. I’ve grown to be a fairly confident solo performer, but having Heather in the AUDIENCE rather than by my side was slightly harrowing.

Dan Magnolia sets up for his open mic night where I’m the featured artist – a good night at The Black Squirrel in Vienna, VA.

But I rocked it. Despite rocking it, the vast majority of the room made it through 4/5 of my set but some how didn’t make it till the end. I would’ve been really struck if they hadn’t almost ALL come up and tipped before they headed out – but I had that horrible feeling like I’d said something wrong, or I was too loud, or SOMETHING. I mean LITERALLY all the musicians that had already played left before the end of my set.

Oh. I didn’t know it… but this is totally what I needed (to lie in some dandelions in Sterling, VA)

Still – the players who hadn’t played (with the exception of that one guy… you know the one… the one who asks you to sign him up in advance, barely makes his set, and in the process manages to miss just about everyone else and those he IS there for he talks through?) though – those people all stuck through the entire night and we hung out long after the music was done talking about production and hosting and Star Trek and the Smiths. That was kind of Lovely, close to exactly what I needed. A sense of community in a different community, an end of a night where I didn’t have to break down the gear and could just let people swirl around me, focusing on what they say rather than wrapping my cables.

Heather capturing hearts and minds at Epicure Cafe in Falls Church, VA at Ron Goad’s showcase Wednesday night.

We came back to Heather’s brother’s place and let ourselves in quietly. In darkness we found our beds and climbed into them. I didn’t sleep well but had strange dreams, indigestion, confusion and music in my head.

Today : work, orders, tech support, this, that and also the other. I should’ve order t-shirts and cook books earlier. I’m slow at too many things. But the diner was good. The sunshine was good. The garden was good. I lay in the grass in the sun and smelled the earth and Justin accidently dug through the Cicada Layer and we unearthed one, wriggling and displeased, half-baked and moist. As the garden boiled with earthworm activity, he was the sole source of jointed legs and exoskeleton, displeased to see the sun, he failed to flail himself back underground and eventually we re-interred him with a shovel-full of soil.

Tonight – another gig where rob and Heather of ilyAIMY are rob and Heather not ilyAIMY. We’ll be ilyAIMY tomorrow. But tonight – we’re individual entities. Separate but equal. I’m a little concerned about going AFTER Heather. I’ll just have to ratchet up my game a little… bit…. More….