Friday, July 29, 2005

Who you callin' Cracker?


We got the official news the other day that we'll be opening up for Cracker at Cubby Bear in about a month (August 26 to be exact). Needless to say, we're very excited. Cracker's lead singer, David Lowery, is one of the more prolific songwriters of the last two decades or so, fronting Camper Van Beethoven before moving on to the greener (moneywise) pastures of Cracker in the early 90's.

He's incredibly witty and has a way of being simultaneously ironic and sincere, no easy task. Camper is Doc's favorite band and their bass player, Victor Krummenacher, is playing this tour with Cracker. I saw a reformed Camper (with Lowery) play at Metro last year, and all I can say is that these guys are one of the tightest live bands I've ever seen, probably due to the fact that they've all spent the last twenty years on the road.

So this show seems to be a can't lose situation... Cracker with special guest Burn Rome Burn.

I like the sound of that.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Summer Break

It seemed appropriate to my recent mindset that we finally got some rain last night.

The last few weeks have been begging for a summer storm, anything to break the oppressive heat and humidity. Certain days, we seemed to be on track for something big, only to have it pass just to the north or south. Or maybe as the clouds formed our hearts and heads would swell in anticipation of some relief, only to see just enough rain to dampen the scorched grass.

Monday evening, I felt sure it was going to happen... I stood on our back porch and watched the heat lightening intensify, smelled the air fill with water, watched the sky race to the northeast and blacken to near darkness. And then... a few drops. Not even enough to wet the cracked sidewalk in our backyard.

Tuesday was a coda, the kind that breaks a song down to almost nothing before building it back to where it seemed to end and then lifting it to new heights. The storm kicked ass is what I'm trying to say. And it felt like the break in the weather was somehow tied to my week in that for the first time in as long as I can remember I had nothing to do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Finally, a bit of a break in a busy summer.

Nothing to do outside of work that it. We took the week off of practice after playing our final scheduled summer festival on Saturday, the Sheffield Garden Walk. The Garden Walk was very cool. Well, it was actually pretty hot. But not as hot as it was supposed to be, and certainly not as hot as it wound up being on Sunday.

The organizer of the festival, Dan, turned out to be a stealth fan of ours. He saw us at House of Blues, got our EP, and was very vocal in his support. Our manager told us Dan knew the lyrics to all the songs of our EP.

Very cool. Hopefully we'll play the SGW again next year. The staff was incredible to us and we played really well. I had barely gotten my gear offstage when I was accosted by a woman with a menu demanding to know what kind of free food she could bring me.


I was frazzled and ordered a pork sandwich. (Good Jew, I ain't.) Said woman looked at me incredulously and said "That's it?" So I ordered two slices of stuffed pizza.

Good times.

Sunday we went to see Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Monday we stayed home from work and watched movies.

Tuesday we opened up our hermetically sealed window and breathed in the cool air.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Losing Kind

The sad-eyed smiles and open wounds Bled the night until it touched noon And watched as the diamonds turned to coal And waited for love to take its toll The lake was a sea of tears And quietly falling fears That the night was the enemy When in fact it was the day that needed reckoning This might a waste of time Shouting at the sky tonight This might be a waste of time 'Cause we're the losing kind Close your eyes, wipe the slate clean Give yourself somewhere to hang your dreams Faith is our favorite little lie Because we give it water and get back wine This might be a waste of time Shouting at the sky tonight This might be a waste of time 'Cause we're the losing kind


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Giggin' out

Last weekend we played three gigs in the span of 24 hours. Which is as exhausting as it sounds.

Friday night, we made the trek down to the Joliet area to play at a benefit for one of Barret and Doc's high school friends. He's undergoing chemo for a brain tumor, and his family and friends got a golf outing together to raise some money for him. We played outside on the golf club patio. The crowd was pretty big and the response was okay. The sound was a little touch and go... we had no monitors, which is always troublesome for singing. But overall I think we played pretty well. We debuted a version of the David Bowie song Heroes, which went off really well. We do the shorter version of the song, and I just get to kind of scream my head off, which is fun.

Saturday during the day we played the Rock Around the Block festival, which runs for about 3 blocks on Lincoln Ave. Despite it being hot as hell, it went really well. Musically, it was probably one of the best shows we've ever played. I could tell from the first song, that things were really happening. We opened with the oldest tune we play, Hold On Tight, and it just sat perfectly. The sound was amazing, both on stage, and by all accounts (well, Gina's account) in the crowd too.

The guy running sound was the on-call sound manager for the band The Donnas... so he had his shit together. Crowd-wise, it was a little strange. The area right in front of the stage was devoid of people, namely because it was asphault and had to be over 100 degrees in the sun. But when I looked out a little farther, there were people standing in every bit of shade checking us out. We gave away a ton of CDs and the rep from the promotion company that ran the festival seemed to like us.

After grabbing a quick nap in our air conditioning, we piled in the car again and drove up to Libertyville to a bar call Mickey Finn's to play a late night set. The bar had a neat little music room upstairs and treated us very well. Free pizza and beer. Need I say more. The set was underattended, but it was really just gravy after the show we played in the afternoon. I can see why touring bands are so tight.

By the end of the 3rd show, even though I was tired, there were things available to me, both on guitar and vocally, that aren't usually there. Muscle memory I guess. We play the Sheffield Garden Walk this weekend, opening up a day that finishes with 10,000 Maniacs playing the very same stage.

Should be fun. And hot.

Fun and hot. Sounds like a plan to me.


Teeeee Veeeeee

I suck. Just too much going on over the last week. The biggest and most fun thing was the debut of the episode of the TV show While You Were Out that featured our backyard. I wrote about the whole experience here, back in May when the taping happened.

So last Wednesday, we gathered around the TV with about a dozen friends to see how we would be portrayed. After getting over the initial strangeness of seeing ourselves and our wedding pictures on TV, it was a lot of fun.

The way the show was edited was really brilliant. Gina was nothing short of hilarious. My reaction, perfectly captured by a hidden camera, was genuine, and really the whole show came off extremely well.

Seeing yourself on TV is very weird. I thought I looked like a frickin' giant. Gina looked great and really projected well. She's made for a show like WYWO... she could host it, I think, and do a great job. There were good shots of our tenants pitching in, of Gina's Mom and my Dad and Mom, of our friends, and even Hendrix had a line where he barked at the camera.

Very funny.

Much of the episode was centered on the so called "poo area," a sand filled dog run at the back of the yard. A lot of poo talk. They're showing the episode again this Friday, July 22, at 5 pm Eastern/4 pm Central.

So set your TiVo and be prepared to see me speechless, which doesn't happen very often.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005


More and more, I see the benefit in keeping my eyes and ears open.

Song titles, song subjects, songs lyrics, song music, can come from anywhere at anytime.

For example, here's a list of the songs on the BRB album and my recollection of the genesis of each: 

Nothing's Changed: Lyrics cribbed from an old song I scrapped (entitled "The Dark Before the Dawn"), music came from the sky.

Revenant: Title and lyrical subject was "Word of the Day" on TV monitor on elevator in Prudential Building, music is the love child of Annie Lennox and Smashing Pumpkins.

Darkness: Music was attempt to rip off single on recent Jane's Addiction album.

Four Words: Lyrics are based on an apocryphal story I heard from my friend Ben about Ernest Hemingway committing suicide.

Bombs Away: Stole title from a song by a local band I saw live one night at a local club. The band contains several guys with whom I went to high school. Lyrical genesis comes from the liner-notes to the first Magnolia Electric Company album. Music came about by taking a riff from an old Blue New World song, Hold On Tight, and speeding it up.

Fallout Grace: Title tips the hat to Jeff Buckley. Lyrics are half new, half from an old tune that wasn't ready for prime time. Music began as an attempt to replicate the two chord simplicity of the first song on the latest Wilco album.

The Soft Drown: Title and idea stolen from some interview with someone I read somewhere.

Mermaid: Entire chorus sprung from my head like Athena from the head of Zeus while sitting next to a pool reading Seamus Haney's translation of Beowolf in Puerto Rico 4 years ago. Verse lyrics attempt to preserve alliteration of Beowolf. Music is an amalgamation of Paul Simon's Cool River and Nil Lara's Fighting for Your Love. End riff and lyrics spewed forth in one burst of inspiration. Song took nearly 6 months to complete.

Seraphim do Mar: Strangely, title is an adaptation of the name of someone I worked with at Baker & McKenzie and saw on a piece of correspondence. Music is an ode to our friends Stylus.


So these songs are all over the map in terms of where they came from. So why am I writing about this? Today I had one of those bizarre genesis moments when I picked up a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman. Actually, my sister gave me this graphic novel for my birthday last week. The collection of stories is part of the Sandman series and is entitled Fables and Reflections.

I was just scanning the introduction (was I reading in the bathroom you ask? Maybe.), which contained a brief story called "Fear of Falling." The story ends with the line "Sometimes when you fall, you fly." I had just stumbled into a beautiful little delicate chord progression in Dropped D tuning, something akin to the Iron and Wine album I just bought last week, and was looking for something to sing about.

The whole notion of taking a fall and turning it into flight, struck me, and I jotted down the phrase "Why You Need to Fall." Those words happened to fit perfectly with the last five notes of the chorus chords I had written. So I started brainstorming some verse lyrics with little luck. Frustrated, I decided to take a jog to clear my head. Four miles later, I had composed the following verse and chorus, tweaking the title slightly.

WHY YOU HAD TO FALL You struggled for words And when you spoke, nobody heard How the night bloodied your brown eyes And left your pillow a blackened sky It will come clear Why you had to fall

So just picking up this graphic novel my sister happened to buy for me led to the idea for what I think will turn out to be a really special, delicate little song, perhaps for BRB, perhaps just for me to play acoustic. All the music is written, the bridge is conceived of and will contain the phrase "Sometimes you fly," also taken from the book.

All is need is another verse and to iron out and finish the bridge and arrangement.

Better go find someone else to rip off...


Monday, July 11, 2005

Dale Evans

Another week has passed with nary a post.

I suck. Actually, I have a draft post from last Friday which I'll get around to editing at some point. Again, the reason for the lack of words has been a good one: lots of music-related activity.

On Sunday we played Summerfest, the gigantic music festival in Milwaukee. 11 days, 11 stages, something like 8 bands per stage per day. You can do the math.

Or maybe you can't.

Anyway, we were charged to play the festival for many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that only 3 unsigned bands from Chicago made it into the festival's lineup: Burn Rome Burn, our management-mates Buddy Nuisance, and our friends in The Katie Todd Band, with whom we've played a few high profile gigs this year.

Our slot was at 12:30 pm, pretty early in the day, but we weren't going to complain. We were slated to play the U.S. Cellular/Leinenkugal's stage, which is one of the largest stages there, and is conveniently located right near the gates of the festival grounds, so the walk-by crowd is substantial. We arrived bright and early at the grounds, around 10:00 am.

I was already in Milwaukee having conveniently attended a wedding at the Pfister Hotel the night before. The rest of the band pulled up just after Gina and I did. Soon thereafter, we were met in the remote parking lot by two vans: our gear was loaded in one van, we were loaded (not like that... it was before noon!) into the other, and driven right up to the loading dock at the U.S. Cellular Stage.

We were greeted by an incredibly helpful and nice group of techs, a stage manager, and the production staff. Our gear was loaded into the backstage area and we were shown into our air-conditioned dressing room. Possibly the highlight of the load-in, if not the entire day, was the stage manager, a man at least 6' 6" and a solid 235 lbs, picking up Barret's two hardware cases (affectionately nicknamed the "Pigs") at the same time, one in each hand, and walking up the ramp with them. Each weighs at least 90 pounds. 

We all almost fell down. Barret expressed his surprise and gratitude and the stage manager responded by just saying his name: "Dale Evans." Or at least that's what we thought he said.

Anyway, once our gear was in and we were settled into our dressing room, we got to hang out for a bit while the headliner for the day finished setting up. The headliner was none other than Pete Yorn, a guy I've been a fan of for awhile. So we stood around and watched him and his band soundcheck, which was very cool.

These guys have just loads and loads of the most incredible gear... guitars, amps, keyboards... just amazing. They sounded really good. After they were done, we pulled our stuff onstage. The stage was big... 32' X 40' I think. All the sound guys and tech staff were amazing. Very cool, very good at what they do.

They were also a little loopy, Sunday being the 11th and final day of the festival. The 11th Day. Day 11. Day Eleven. Dale Evans.

At that moment, it became clear. Our helpful stage manager hadn't said "Dale Evans." He had attributed his display of strength to the fact that it was "Day Eleven" of moving gear 12 hours a day. Boy did we laugh about that. His name was actually Jim.

Anyway, we got all set up and had a brief instrument check and then got to chill for about half an hour. We started at 12:30 to a smattering of family and friends, but as we played the crowd grew and for most of our hour and half set, they were a good number of people checking us out.

Pete Yorn even came out from his bus and listened for a few songs, seeming to dig the BRB experience. I thought we played really well. We kept our energy up for the entire set and hit our tempos.

The crowd was very receptive and we got rid of all the CDs we brought in a matter of just a few songs. After we finished, just as fast as we had loaded in and unpacked, we packed and loaded out, with the assistance of Jim. And just like that, we were back in the parking lot, putting our gear back in our cars.

We thought about heading back into the festival and checking out some music, but we were all beat and decided to roll back to Chicago, pausing only to eat some lunch at the Brat Stop in Kenosha. All in all, a great experience. The festival management was extremely positive about our set, and it appeared as if they would welcome us back next year with a slot later in the day.

I can only hope that we again get to witness the incredible strength of one Mr. Dale Evans.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Just Because

Looking at my last post, I see it's been a week since I wrote.

The reason for my lapse is pretty simple: I've been busy as hell. A quick recap... Tuesday: Teaching, acoustic rehearsal with Aoife. Wednesday: Work, band rehearsal. Thursday: Cubs game outing, acoustic rehearsal. Friday: Work, acoustic gig at Cubby Bear. Saturday: Teaching, full band show in Joliet.

Sunday: Exhaustion.

Luckily, nothing to do tomorrow but sleep and hopefully eat some good barbecue. As dead tired as I am, it was a good week for music. The Friday night show at Cubby Bear was the first time Aoife and I have performed as a duo and it went really well especially given that we only had a rehearsal on Tuesday and half a rehearsal on Thursday.

Why did Thursday's session count as half a rehearsal you ask? Let's just say that when your "beer-consumed-in-ounces-at-Cubs-game" number hits triple digits before 4:30 in the afternoon, anything you try to do after that is going to be... half assed.

So Friday we got up and just played the tunes and the feedback was really strong. Both sound guys were way into it (always a plus), we got rid of a ton of CDs, and, most importantly, I felt like we listened to each other and played a really good set.

To boot, a good friend of mine from grade school who I hadn't seen in nearly 5 years showed up randomly and I got to hang with him and catch up after the show.

Saturday's show in Joliet was at the Chicago St. Pub opening up for John Condron. Doc plays bass with John and Barret has recently started playing drums with him too. John is a co-owner of Chicago St. and possibly one of the nicest people I've ever met. So nice that you feel like you're being put on.

He and I had a really nice mutual admiration society going and hopefully it'll translate into some cool future projects. Our set went okay. It was really loud on stage and I had a lot of trouble hearing myself. But I felt like we played our asses off and the feedback from the audience was positive.

I've figured out that the difference between having a good and bad show is whether or not I can hear on stage. Hear myself, hear the band... The thing about this week that encourages me the most is that, going back to the studio session last weekend, I've done serious singing 6 out of the last 9 days and my voice seems none the worse for wear.

The last few months I've felt like my voice has been pretty fragile, but I think it may have been the stress of singing in the studio... because especially Friday and Saturday it felt very strong.

So now sleep beckons... sweet sweet sleep.

Happy 4th.