Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of Slick Men and Stick Men and Slick Women...a/k/a I'm Back!

I can't bring myself to declare this blog officially dead.

So I won't.

ETA: Fantastic interview by Anil Prasad of Innerviews with Tony Levin! Here'a link for the iPaid/Pod verson: Click!


Okay, back to the blog...

It started in 2004 when Julie and Eric were 17 and 18 respectively and our family had just begun the amazing whirlwind that would come with their surprising and successful musical journeys. Obviously they were still living at home, and every day was an adventure.

For Julie and Eric, that still remains true. For me, not so much. Unless you count spending your days for the past year and a half worrying about your about to be fourteen year old dog who suffers from Cushing disease and goes from being really sick to his old self every other day which is enough to make a sane person go mental and let’s be real here, I am not stable to begin with. So you can only imagine…

But that's okay, and it's the natural evolution of things. Yikes, did I really want my 24 and 25 year old to be still living at home? I love them dearly, but um, no. But do I wish I could freeze time and have the dog be young and healthy and be with us until our lives are a wrap?

Hell, yeah.

I know that I was incredibly fortunate to be very close to Julie and Eric while they were growing up and I got to go on tour with them not only during the Rock School years (and in case you’ve been living under a rock or are somehow new to this blog, you can read all about that in my very creative non-fiction book, Daddy Left Me Alone with God) but five years later when they were both in the Adrian Belew Power Trio. Looking back on it, I feel like the luckiest person in the universe. And there was so much to write about!

In fact, two years ago this month, I was on tour with the ABPT and we were about to leave for the west coast part of the tour after spending two weeks on the east coast where we had the rare luxury of two days off in one of my favorite cities in the universe, Quebec, and yep, I ate at Chez Victor both days. Ha ha, we were all across America and Canada and what do I mention? Chez Victor. Know why? They have probably the best French fries I have ever eaten in my life. And as everyone who knows me is aware, French fries are my favorite food in the entire world. (Do I sound like a seven year old idiot? Oh well. Better than a seventy year old idiot .)

I think I miss hanging out with my kids more than anything.

But there’s so much greatness to look forward to.

And there’s been a lot of greatness this year, too, mixed in with the craziness. My God, where do I start?

Though I guess because the majority of you are probably my Facebook friends, most of the stuff I’m going to post here is old news, but I’ll try and make it interesting.

And I guess since there’s so much to tell, I’ll do it in alphabetical order: Eric, Julie, etc.

Eric. Holy cow, his career is on fire. He just wrapped up his first record for Anti with Dr. Dog and the advance buzz on it is through the roof. I was lucky enough to hear some cuts and it’s beyond good…in fact, I think my brain exploded when I heard it. I don’t want to jinx things by saying anything more but this is pretty much life changing stuff. They’re going to be just about anywhere major you can think of in 2012 – if there’s a festival, they’re playing it, and there’s some really cool surprises on the horizon within the next several weeks for both fans all over the world and for some of us local folks and that’s all I’m saying.

By the way, Anti is the record label for Wilco, Bob Mould, Tom Waits. Just sayin…

In the meantime, Eric did an amazing interview for Kick-Snare-Hat, and you can watch the video portion below. Click on the link to read his very insightful commentary on his career, the new record, etc.

Eric Slick/Dr. Dog K/S/H Interview from Kick/Snare/Hat on Vimeo.

Eric is also on the soundtrack of a major motion picture to be released in November and those of you on Facebook already know I blabbed the details about that because I saw someone else did and thought it was okay but apparently it is not okay so those of you who don’t know anything will have a bit more to wait. Sorry. Friend me on Facebook, what can I say?

And if you want to see Eric live, up close and personal, in a totally different mode, he’s going to be DJing at Johnny Brenda’s on October 3. I don’t see it on the website yet but I’ll come in and edit this post when it does appear or I’ll tweet/Facebook or all of the above.

After that, of course, he will probably gig here and there with his other projects but there’s a two week Dr. Dog tour starting November 2 and they’re going to be debuting stuff from the new record so you really don’t want to miss their show in your respective city…here’s the schedule:

Wed November 2, 2011
Cleveland, OH
Beachland Ballroom

Fri November 4, 2011
Bloomington, IN
Bluebird Nightclub

Sat November 5, 2011
St. Louis, MO
The Firebird

Mon November 7, 2011
Tulsa, OK
Cain's Ballroom

Tue November 8, 2011
Fayetteville, AR
George's Majestic Lounge

Wed November 9, 2011
Oxford, MS
Proud Larry's

Thu November 10, 2011
New Orleans, LA

Sat November 12, 2011
Orlando, FL
Orlando Calling

Mon November 14, 2011
Charleston, SC
The Music Farm

Tue November 15, 2011
Athens, GA
40 Watt Club

Wed November 16, 2011
Knoxville, TN
Bijou Theatre

Thu November 17, 2011
Boone, NC
Legends @ Appalachian State

Fri November 18, 2011
Chattanooga, TN
Track 29 @ The Chattanooga Choo Choo

The show in Orlando on November 12 is a pretty big deal. It’s a festival - Orlando Calling and Dr. Dog is playing along with some bands you might know:

It’s at the Citrus Bowl, which holds 70,000 people and it’s going to be full. Too freaking awesome, huh.

Eric also just moved into a very cool house with his fabulous girlfriend and he’s been cooking up a storm and giving his sister a run for her money. He made arugula scrambled eggs with hash browns the other morning and he’s finding he’s really into it. I’m not surprised. Most musicians are also artists and artistic people are usually into food and cooking, too. Anything art connected. And his Dad the guitar player gave him the hash brown recipe.

But yeah, Eric stopped over the other day and we were talking about all this stuff and it really hit me that he’s a mature, grown man, not my baby son anymore, and more importantly, he’s interesting and smart and funny and just a joy to be around. I will take some credit but much of who he is today comes from some pretty amazing life experiences – being on the road and traveling all over the world since age 18, doing a lot of reading, studying and utilizing TM – I dunno, I think it’s probably a million times better than any college is offering kids today and I doubt most 24 year olds are as level headed and wordly.

But I could be just a tad prejudiced.

Oh yeah, d’oh, Eric, Julie, and Tim Motzer did an amazing two hour jam. Here’s a teaser:

1ks e11 preview clip from Dejha Ti on Vimeo.

You can download all 120 minutes of goodness right here.

Also love the band shot…

And Eric and Julie have a project called Springs with Mike Visser which is pretty damn cool…

Springs - Big Black Sky from Jonathan Low on Vimeo.

Okay. That wraps up the Eric portion of the program, though it’s killing me not to be able to blab the big news just on the horizon. Bah! That’s okay. The minute I see Dr. Dog posts it, I’ll be posting it here, too. So there!

And now to Ms. Julie, who, you might have noticed, is on a sweet little tour of her own. Click here for the fun stuff (Thanks to Tony Levin for the cool diary posts)

By the way, I take that back about saying my life is no longer adventurous. Friday night I got kissed and hugged by both Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin. Ahem. Just two guys who have played with everyone from King Crimson to John Lennon to Peter Cabriel to XTC. So, um, no. My life rocks. And yeah, that's a pic of Tony wearing the official tour t-shirt with MY DAUGHTER'S FACE ON IT! I'M SO EXCITED! Okay, okay, I'll calm down. But it's not easy, that's for sure.

So let’s start with some reviews of the first week of the tour I found online:

“The basic set-up for the tour is:

Stickmen: Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, Pat Mastelotto
Adrian Belew Power Trio: Adrian Belew, Julie Slick, Tobias Ralph

Big Combined Crimfest: all of the above doing nothing but Crim repertory.

The Stickmen set was probably the most adventurous and varied set of the night (also the most dissonant and projeKct-like). Both trios did relatively streamlined 40-45 minute sets to leave room for the big pile o' KC at the end. The setlist for Stickmen included Smudge, Soup, Slow Glide, Big Dog, Unrelenting, and the Firebird Suite. I thought Slow Glide was probably the highlight of the evening, covering a lot of sonic ground and featuring a climax where both Tony and Pat were using bows (on their Stick and cymbals respectively) to create a swirling metallic shimmer of harmonics that was sort of in the general Glenn Branca/Sonic Youth end of the spectrum. The Stickmen set also included the most Seizure-like musical moments of the evening, which is always a good thing.

Adrian did a set that included no KC material, as he wanted to save it for later. Thus we got a shortened set that included Matchbox Guitar, Young Lions, Of Bow and Drum, Futurvision, and e, along with a few other short instrumentals. The new drummer is very strong, so although I was always a big fan of Eric Slick I can't say I was unhappy with his replacement. Julie if anything is getting more adventurous on bass, with more unusual effects and freedom in her playing. Ade's finally gotten completely comfortable with the on-the-fly looping, so that whole process seems seamless now. Ade was clearly charged up for the first gig of the tour, and anytime Ade gets happy and excited he really elevates the whole concert.

Following the ABPT, there was a short introductory foray into Crim with just the Crim veterans: Adrian, Pat, and Tony. They did 3OAPP, ET, and Sleepless (the last of which being the first time Tony put down the Stick and pulled out the big orange bass and funk fingers). My expectation (... a prison, I know ...) was pretty much that the full group would do Dinosaur, Thela, Indiscipline, and maybe something like Red and call it a night. I was surprised and delighted (as in sitting there with a big stupid grin on my face) when the very first piece out of the chute from the full lineup was B'BOOM. You know it's going to be a relatively deep and creative set when you begin with B'BOOM. And of course the follow up question, if you open with B'BOOM, does that mean the next song will be...? Yup. THRAK. Complete with goofy improv in the middle. Not one of the better Thraks I've heard, but if they keep doing it on tour I suspect it will get better and more extended as the group gets a feel for it. And on some level doing Thrak feels like an attempt to genuinely engage the spirit of the double trio, rather than just give the fans some nice oldies.

The rest of the setlist included (not gonna try to get the order completely right here) Dinosaur, One Time, Frame by Frame, and Indiscipline. Any time there's a question in the back of your mind about "but who got to be Robert?" the answer is Markus. That was particularly impressive during FxF, but Markus also turned in commendable version of Robert's bits on B'Boom and One Time (obviously not full looped mini-soundscapes for One Time like recent performances). Indiscipline was particularly amazing. Was a bit disappointed with the audients in that a fairly large number clapped during the fakeout on Dinosaur. As the band left the stage, I told the guy next to me "they'll be back -- they still have to play Thela". Sure enough: encore= Thela hun ginjeet.

Token appearance by Robert at one point in the form of a sound clip that I assume Pat is responsible for, where we hear Robert say "Good evening, gentlemen! Gentlemen ... and lady ... perhaps even two!".

On the whole, it was closer to a genuine KC experience that I expected. I'm not sure I ever fully felt the dark fairy make her presence known -- songs like Elephant Talk and Indiscipline were comparable to genuine Crim, but those are also sort of the jokey side of KC. Without something like a Level 5, Larks 2/4 or for that matter TPTB2, there are big regions of KC that aren't getting touched, and the whole thing lacks a certain depth. Probably the closest they got to nailing the haunting side of KC was the end of One Time (it started shaky, but coming out of the middle section it was very strong until the end), and they don't really have any of the big audient flattening instrumentals in the set, though I think it would be very manageable to add Red or Vroom/Marine475 to the set.

Incidentally, for fans of the "hypothetical Robertless lineup" game, definitely start including Markus Reuter in your list of candidates. Tony, Pat, Ade and Markus (with maybe Gavin Harrison) makes a hell of a band that could probably work out most of the Crim repertory with a little practice. Though I still want to hear Kimmo Crimson”

Followed by…

“I wanted to avoid this thread before last night's show, and now in light of what we heard, I say Sebz's post is dead on target. On the drive up I remarked to the mistress that while I enjoyed the hell out of Stick Men mk1, I was excited to hear this lineup since Markus's style & approach are significantly closer to the Fripp/ProjeKct mold. I'm happy to say that both that group and the entire sextet benefited a lot from his sensibility. He never tried to sound like Robert per se, but he did a great job at filling in those various spaces (rough & thrashy, looping and 'scaping, etc) in a way that's true to himself and entirely fitting for the material.

The Stick Men set was largely as described above. I agree that this was the most ProjeKct-like portion, combining the best of that Crimsoid forward-thinking attitude (much like TUNER, KTU or BLUE) with enough bounce and funk to have some of the audience dancing in the aisles (not exaggerating). The set was the same as in that first post plus Fripp's "Breathless," which really lived up to its potential. Powerful stuff. Tony introduced it by saying that the bands were leaving the KC material out of their individual sets, but they considered this track a good way of bending the rule.

Apparently the rule didn't apply as strictly to Ade, since he slipped "Neurotica" early into his set and mentioned during the band intros that since the song's about New York, it seemed fitting to play it with "their New York drummer." I was most impressed with Tobias. He's got power and groove to spare and still made tackling the intricacies of this music seem effortless. And as impressed as I was, I have to say Julie was even more exceptional. Set was similar to the above but with no "Futurevision."

The Ade/Tony/Pat portion was pretty short, only two songs (3PP and E-talk). I was surprised to see Markus come out next, but nobody else. What? Hmmm, what would they need an extra guitar for? Of course. "Red." A too-obvious choice, but this lineup really sold it. The song never quite seemed full enough when played by the Stick Men trio, but this combination of instruments was perfect. The double-trio part began after that song.

I'm glad I didn't read this earlier review, since "B'Boom" was a super surprise to start off with. They had fun stretching with the improv section, starting with a nice quiet dialogue between Markus and Tobias, while Julie and Tony wandered around taking pictures. The drummers nailed the piece itself - maybe not as perfectly as Pat and Gavin did together, but it was enough to flatten the ol' ear hairs pretty handily nonetheless. Then we got "Thrak" (again with a wandering middle improv), "One Time," "Dinosaur," "Frame by Frame" and a really fierce extended "Indiscipline." Here they took the song's usual intro setup (bass vamp with drum improv) and turned it into a wicked (and funny!) solo-trading face-off between Pat and Tobias that ran for what felt like four or five minutes by itself. You could tell that everybody on stage had been having a fun time throughout, but this had the biggest smiles and laughs of the night. Adrian rolled with it by messing with the words a little, e.g. pretending to forget a line until prompted by the audience. Apparently sometimes humo(u)r is permitted after all.

The encore was "Thela" again. I would have loved a couple less-obvious tracks like "Sheltering Sky" or "Vrooom," and I thought at the time "Sleepless" would have made a killer encore jam. But this was effective enough, at least judging by the amount of abuse Ade's guitar got, which I suppose is as good a criterion as anything else.

The idea of KC members playing KC music may have been the biggest advertising gimmick, and it would have been pleasant enough to see in itself, but happily this show is a whole lot more. These are all top-notch musicians in any combination and getting to see these two trios alone is always a treat, so getting to hear them play together and change around and explore in a new context is even better. Ignore that gimmick and those expectations and it's still a hell of a show.”

And finally:

“I was at the Phoenixville show as well, and don't have much to add to SK's or Geno's comments. Excellent, excellent show all around. I was thoroughly impressed with Markus Reuter.”

Here’s a simply gorgeous You Tube of the double trio doing “One Time”…

I was at the show Friday night and it was chill rendering. Tobias Ralph really impressed me on the drums with the ABPT – he had some big shoes to fill in that Eric was with the band from its inception for four years and then he was followed by Marco freaking Minnemann but he is one hell of a drummer and I can’t imagine what it must be like for him to not only be on this tour but to drum with Pat Mastelotto every night…in any event, he deserves to be there and I think people are going to be saying a lot of nice things about him on this tour.

Stick Men. What can I say? They rule. They are like no one else. See them. Buy their records. End of story.

Listening to my daughter trading bass licks with Tony…I know I’ve seen it before in Canada, but trust me, it will NEVER get old. Julie is fucking awesome – she gets better and better. Not to talk about that Tim Motzer download again, but the musicianship that goes on between Julie, Eric, and Tim is mind numbing. Just a beautiful thing to witness.

Back to the tour, I also know they are shaking up the set list every night which is awesome except for the fact that it makes me wish I could be at every show. That being said, I am going to the Wednesday night show at the Iridium with Eric and we’re both spending the night in NYC so we can all hang out afterward (Damn you, Amtrak, and your last train to Philly at 11:05PM. Who picked that arbitrary time? NYC Hotel owners?) …anyway, we’re really looking forward to that.
Here’s the rest of the tour schedule. Again, a must see. Music of this quality just does not come around often.

Sept 27 Boston, MA / Royale
Sept 28 New York, NY / Iridium
Sept 29 New York, NY / Iridium
Sept 30 Fairfield, CT / Stage One
Oct 1 Northhampton, MA / Iron Horse
Oct 2 Montreal, QC / Corona
Oct 4 Toronto, ON / Mod Club
Oct 5 Buffalo, NY / Tralf
Oct 6 Covington, KY / Southgate House
Oct 7 Detroit, MI / Magic Bag
Oct 8 Chicago, IL / Old Town School of Folk
Oct 9 Minneapolis, MN / Cedar Cultural Center
Oct 11 Boulder, CO / Boulder Theater
Oct 12 Salt Lake City, UT / The Depot
Oct 14 Portland, OR / Aladdin
Oct 15 Seattle, WA / Triple Door
Oct 17 Sacramento, CA / Harlows
Oct 18 San Francisco, CA / Regency
Oct 19 Solana Beach, CA / Belly Up
Oct 21 Agoura Hills, CA / Canyon Club
Oct 22 Santa Ana, CA / Galaxy
Oct 23 Phoenix, AZ / The Foundry
Oct 24 Santa Fe, NM/Santa Fe Brewing
Oct 26 St Louis, MO / Old Rockhouse
Oct 27 Indianapolis, IN / Birdys
Oct 28 Nashville, TN / Belcourt
Oct 29 Ashville, NC / MoogFest

I also see that Julie just announced she’s bought a hot plate and she’s picking up her pressure cooker while on this two day hiatus from the tour so she’s planning on cooking for the guys. I also see her first dish is going to be asparagus mushroom risotto. Dear God, they are all going to want to marry her when they taste her food. Kidding, kidding. Adrian already has been the beneficiary of her meals many times and I think Ade and Martha would love for Julie to come live in Nashville permanently.

Anyway, the band is in for a serious treat and I can’t wait for Julie to post the food porn photos.

Julie also has a new record out with drummer Carl Bahner.

You can buy it right here, and yes, I introduced them just like I was the one who was the brains behind Paper Cat.

By the way, this is not Julie’s second solo CD. This is a completely different project. Look for Julie’s next disc in 2012. I believe she’s busy rounding up some special guests ☺ That being said, this record kicks serious ass and it looks damn pretty, too.

Speaking of records, Julie has another new one coming out shortly with another one of her bands, Drgnkng, and click on that link for a free download. Also, have you seen the video for this? Hey, Julie isn’t just another beautiful face in a blue sequin cape – that’s her slapping away at the bass and she rules…as does everyone else in this band. I’m really excited to see how this record does and if this band can get a tour together soon. Their local shows are amazing so if you are anywhere near Philadelphia, check them out.

Hey, this one just popped up from their gig the other night. Cool!

Okay, I think I’ve covered the kiddies for now but I’m hoping to be back here on a more regular basis and even better, with a cool story or two from my night in NY with Eric on Wednesday and maybe permission to blab some of his news.

And now to me. Also known as, you can leave now if you want to. (With a nod to Jimi Hendrix)

Let’s see.

I just finished the first draft of my first new novel in almost two years. It's called Squirrel Jam and the original tag line was "a grieving widow must rescue her children from the clutches of a madman" or something like that but then I gave the grieving widow panic attack disorder and when I started researching that and similar anxieties, I realized it's what I wanted the focus of the book to be, instead of on the madman, which was my original plan. Christ, I even had an outline I was actually sticking to for the first time in my writing career. Anyway, I got hooked reading about cognitive therapy, and didn't realize...okay, I knew it damn well...that I suffered from a lot of the phobias and neuroses about which I was passing on to my character in the book but once I started my research and I actually used some of the "cures" myself. I have to admit, it led to some bittersweet humor in the book. One of the techniques of coping with panic is to make actual coping cards. Like, on one side you write, "I'm afraid I'm going to hurl in public." On the other side you write, "I'm going to take deep breaths and since I'm not a fortune teller, the chances are pretty good that I will be vomit free.”

Needless to say, I am having a ball with what I wrote on my protagonist's cards, too.

By the way, not to be condescending, but for those of you who are not writers, the protagonist is the main character, the narrator, in the book. Her name, in this case, is Allison. In keeping with the Squirrel Jam theme, one of the sections of the book is called “Allison in Chains” and those of you who are music fans will get it.

What I am seriously deliberating now is this: Do I go through the motions of querying a new agent and subjecting myself to all that torture again where even if I get really lucky, my book probably won’t be out until 2013 and by that time, everyone and their mother will have a Kindle, anyway? Or do I say the hell with it, I’m not putting myself through all that waiting and rejection, I am staying indie and putting this out as soon as my incredible editor takes a look at it and gives me the thumbs up. Because really, anyone who thinks publishing isn’t going the way of music is insane and with over 300,000 visitors to my INACTIVE blog, why the hell should I even consider the traditional route? It’s all in the marketing and promotion. Sad but true.

Anyway, you know what? I’m exhausted. So maybe I’ll devote an entire post just to me in a day or two. I just remembered I have a lot to talk about after all. But for now, here’s two things to put on your calendars, har har:

(1) I’ll be at the Collingswood Book Festival this coming Saturday, October 1 hawking Daddy Left Me Alone with God and handing out free chocolate;

(2) I’ll be a panel member at the Push to Publish Conference on Saturday, October 15 at Rosemont College. I’m on the genre panel and um, Steve Almond is the keynote speaker. Yes, I will be needing CPR.

Actually, I’m kidding. I’ve already met Steve, had drinks with him, and had him totally captivated for a couple of hours telling him my Three Days in New York City story. I could tell he was dying to steal it, but I burst his bubble when I told him I’d not already written it, it was about to be published. But a good time was had regardless. At least on my end.

Alright, enough. It’s time to feed the dog (fun, fun, fun, playing hide the pill in the hamburger), feed myself, and stick a straw in a bottle of Jack.