Monday, June 27, 2005

my 48th turn around the sun (in the manner of watt)

yeah, tomorrow marks my 48th turn around the sun
and for the first time, i feel myself slowing down
and can see my mortality as a palpable reality
(next stop: senility and death -- ha)

all that said, i'm trying to maintain
an attitude of gratitude for family and friends
and all the other goodness in my life

i want to spend the rest of my time on earth well
to be the partner my wife deserves and find
appropriate ways of relating to each of my kids
based on who they are and not who i want them to be

and, like the guy in drum line said
to learn to love the sound of the line
more than the sound of my own drum

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Underground Railroad

Before my dtr had to read The Fountainhead in high school, I never met a single human who'd read any Ayn Rand -- or would talk about it, anyway -- but apparently there's a cult of some sort ("Objectivism") that embraces and will wax all rhapsodic at the drop of a hat over her philosophy of capitalism and selfishness. Go fig.

I've never spoken to him about it, but if any muso I know is an Ayn Rand-ite, it's Kurt Rongey. The extremely classically-trained (TCU, Royal College of Music, Keele University) keyboardist-vocalist for prog-rock diehards the Underground Railroad, Rongey once released a concept album about the Soviet Union, That Was Propaganda (now downloadable for pay, along with his earlier solo opus Book In Hand, from Mindawn).

On Underground Railroad's new CD, The Origin of Consciousness, lyrics on three of the tracks were inspired by the ideas of Julian Jaynes, the Princeton University psychologist whose book The Origin of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind posits that human consciousness as we know it is a development of the last coupla millennia, prior to which human volition, planning, and initiative were all directed by the voices of hallucinatory gods. In fact, on the album's lead-off track "Julian Ur," there's actually a fairly lengthy sound sample from a Jaynes lecture, which will give those with an interest in such things an opportunity to hear the great man himself speak, but kinda distracts from the music, which is a pity.

Anyway, it's all proof positive (as if any more were needed) that Kurt Rongey's got a big brain under that raffishly askew fedora he affects, and he knows how to use it. The years since the last time he and guitarist Bill Pohl took the Railroad down the tracks (that'd be for Y2K's debut on shiny silver disc, Through and Through) have seen a partial rehabilitation of prog, the genre that dare not speak its name. Perhaps that's not enough to make Rongey, Pohl and crew the Next Big Thing, but maybe it'll spark the curiosity of newbies who got their coats pulled to the idea that longer songs and more complex structures could be cool from their Mars Volta CDs.

Besides Rongey's conceptual acumen, there's a lot to take in on The Origin of Consciousness: his tumbling hand-over-hand piano, Pohl's interval-leaping gtr inventions that bubble up like underground streams, Matt Hembree's pointillistic basslines (I've actually seen the Drunken Monkey/Bindle/Goodwin vet _reading parts_ on UR gigs), and John Livingston's effortlessly shifting time signatures (which he plays with the apparent detachment of a man waiting for a bus). "Love is a Vagabond King" finds tendon-torturing axeman Pohl in an expansively lyrical mode, while "The Canal at Sunset" is a nice bit of programmatic music that's been a highlight of their lately-infrequent live sets. The album's tour de force is "Creeper," lyrically a sequel to its predecessor's "The Doorman" and musically a showcase for all of the Railroad's strengths.

It's an achievement even Howard Roark could probably appreciate.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

darth vato: growing up in public with their pants down

so steve steward got his favorite hat back, and darth vato finished their new e.p. it's a goodun, too.

time was, i used to look at 4-song e.p.'s by local bands as nothing more than a holding action until they got the money together to record the inevitable full-length. that was before a significant amount of the music i listen to was only available on burned cd-r's. now i see things a little differently. maybe, i'm thinking, the 4-song e.p. is the new vinyl single: the coin of the realm in d.i.y.-land. ya think maybe?

the darth vato boys had a high mark to hit, too: while their initial e.p. aloha chingaso sounded tentative and lacked _something_ -- direction, focus, spark -- their premiere full-length havoc impressed a lot of people, both within and without the 817 area code. and they've done some growing up since then, too. press kerry dean and steve steward and they'll admit to being, well, a little _embarrassed_ by songs like "ain't got no" and "another ska song" -- e.g., by their band's most crowd-pleasing, um, "hits."

a common misconception about the vatos is that they're a reggae band. sure, they have that influence (via sublime), and they've employed the services of pablo and the hemphill 7's justin pate on keys. hell, eric dodson -- the vatos' obsessive-compulsive formalist -- even drummed for pablo when damien stewart stepped out for a minute a few months back.

(since groove became an essential element of rawk back in the '90s, it seems like young whiteguys have used reggae as a way of acquiring the craft of playing -- as opposed to just beating the shit out of their instruments -- in the same way as their predecessors usedta use blues for the same purpose a generation ago. which is why i loved it so much when the beastie boys sampled the blues project's "flute thing" on ill communication. it was an incredibly self-aware move -- '90s noo yawk jewish kids making a bundle off the latest innovations in black music, sampling '60s noo yawk jewish kids who made a somewhat smaller bundle doing the same -- and not as quaint as the red hot chili peppers telling the host of mtv's 120 minutes that "we like to play like we have big dicks." mailer-inspahrd white negro-dom lives!)

but scratch a sublime fan and underneath, you'll find a punk aficionado, american '80s division. so kerry grew up in houston, listening to bands like 30 foot fall, good riddance, and face to face before sublime led him to reggae and u.s. punk originators like the descendents and minor threat. meanwhile, steve grew up in lodi, california, going to locally promoted indie punk shows (a v.f.w. hall, a keg, a band -- what a concept!). the two collided at tcu, and with the addition of eric dodson (ex-24 days, woodeye, circle theory) on traps, they've evolved from a dorm lounge annoyance into a kickin' live act and major draw.

right about here is where you might wanna stop reading if your take on the vatos is that they're a fun party band and that's all.

okay: for me, what's made observing the vatos' progress over the last coupla years _interesting_ is the way their development has reflected kerry dean's growing self-confidence, and how that in turn has affected the personas he's adopted. it's not surprising, really; i mean, what american in their mid-'20s _isn't_ obsessed with identity? all same-same, it's been instructive to watch kerry morph from goofy tcu kid to dickies-bedecked gangsta wannabe (and yes, yes, i _know_ that reggae was the original gangsta rap). just dig the succession of hairstyles he's adopted for different shows: from curls 'n' ballcap to whiteguy cornrows to edward scissorhands mohawk. (meanwhile, steve steward, who plays mike watt to kerry's d. boon, has undergone a similar transformation: from shaved head to molestachio to watt-inspired merchant marine beard and back again.)

and from the evidence on the new e.p., kerry's confidence is at an all-time high. for proof, check out the prominent position his vocals occupy in the mix (and the absence of effects thereon). sonically speaking, this new disc is an unqualified great leap forward for darth vato. the big news here is the gtrs, which sound _huge_, including a cameo by sorta's carter albrecht, who contributes some queens of the stone age-ish harmonized rifferama. j. pate on keys and the riddim boyzzz do their respective jobs as flawlessly as we've come to expect (at least when they're sober).

what's been a little problematic for me has been the disparity between the dancehall riotin' persona k.d.'s inhabited onstage and on disc and the "real" kerry, a quiet, self-effacing guy who teaches high school math. (hunh?) sure, i'm familiar with the old "trust the art, not the artist" copout, too, but some of d.v.'s most effective songs (like "police dub" and "ftw") kinda beg the question, "when is this cat gonna drop the mask and start telling his _own_ stories?" (since it's highly unlikely that he's gonna start trying to actually inhabit the role he's created a la eazy e or the notorious b.i.g. aka r.i.p.).

the jury's still out on that one, although the new e.p.'s rip-roaring lead-off track "war on the westside" (which pits the vatos as working-class yoof against the collected bluehairs, botox and collagen-implant victims of monticello) is a step in the right direction. it's followed by a toon that mixes nautical and bling-bling images, then by an ode to fucking in the van (indeed, there are enough f-bombs on this rec to cause a stir if anybody at kerry's j-o-b is listening) that veers from hardcore blast to supple skank and back.

the good news is that they're moving forward: in no way could anyone accuse them of merely rehashing havoc. and in the process, they've revealed more of their punk roots -- another step toward becoming more fully themselves, whoever that winds up being. in future, the vatos plan to record more of these short-form bulletins, which may encourage kerry to write more and faster. and, as they have a gig booked at red rocks next summer, they have good reasons to stick around for a few more of them, too. we'll be listening.

Friday, June 24, 2005

old biz

it never ceases to amaze me how much email i get via the hotmail account that i've otherwise abandoned to the spammers regarding long-forgotten stuff i wrote that was pubbed on this or that website several years ago. for the benefit of any of _those people_ who find this blog:

1) i no longer have contact information for james williamson, the ex-stooges gtrist. i cleaned out my files somewhere around 2002 and it's gone. sorry. the last time i heard from james, who's now an executive with sony corporation and the father of small kids, was right after 9/11. he sent me some info on talking to kids about the disaster. not very rock'n'roll, but appreciated at the time.

2) i have no idea where rob tyner, the late mc5 singer, is buried. the only place i've ever been in detroit is the airport. try a google search.

3) i don't care that nils lofgren was a showboating asshole when he upstaged roy buchanan on that pbs special. whatthefuck. nils was 16 years old then; i was 13. he impressed me at the time enough to make me wanna start playing gtr, which is why i wrote about it when i was 40+. i'm _not_ giving back the last 35 yrs; of _that_ i can assure you.

4) i'm not writing a book. _this_ is what i do instead of writing a book. writing books takes time, and i need to make a living.

ok. that's it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

russ walton

you gotta wonder about the fweakly's music awards criteria when a band like the theater fire keeps getting nominated in the "avant-garde experimental" category, while russ walton consistently shows up in the "folk-acoustic" stakes. likewise, you gotta wonder what the crowd at the ridglea wineroom made of russ' approach when he opened for darrin kobetich there last week. i mean, sure, russ calls himself a singer-songwriter, but in performance, you're as likely to find him using the whammy bar of a strat to control the clouds of feedback emanating from his amp as you are to hear him strumming idiosyncratic patterns on his acoustic. like alexander "skip" spence's, syd barrett's, or jimi hendrix's, walton's music's really nothing more than good old-fashioned psychedelia, whether electric or unplugged (and that has nothing to do, by the way, with whether or not ol' russ has ever, um, been experienced: psychedelia's in the ear of the behearer, after all). listening to his eighth and tenth cd's (copies of which russ handed out at the wreck room the other night, each one stuffed with photocopy reductions of articles from the fweakly and sample press which someone, it appeared, had painstakingly cut out, folded, and stuffed by hand), my initial reaction was similar to a friend's on recently being introduced to the music of captain beefheart: "part genius, part shitty." but i can't stop listening to the damn things, and their creator has an undeniably unique sound and vision. and at the end of the day, isn't that really what we're all looking for? wanna hear more. will hear more.

supreme court: eminent domain is a-ok

the supreme court ruled today that local governments have the right to seize private property to make way for economic development. this means that your elected officials can invoke eminent domain to throw you out of your home, even if you've owned it for years like some of the people forced to unass to make room for northeast mall's parking lot a few years back did. residents of the "trinity-lancaster corridor" should be forewarned: the next sound you hear may be bulldozers. (anybody remember the 7th street theatre? yeah, i thought so.)

thanks, matt, for yet another disturbing piece of news.

the great tyrant: post-yeti

because i suck, and had family stuff going on, and was attempting to fight off an upper-respiratory ailment that got the better of me a coupla days later, i missed jon teague's solo show at division one last weekend. but dig: jon and his ex-yeti bandmate tommy atkins have a new "uneasy listening" project, the great tyrant, with daron beck (ex-pointy shoe factory and falkon). should be hitting the boards by the end of the summer. we live in hope.

art of the jam 6

steve huber has a coupla new toys.

the fw symphony violinist and mainstay of the wreck room's lee allen-carl pack wednesday night jam went out and bought himself a marshall combo and line 6 pod. now, when he cranks it up, his bow sounds like jeff beck's fingers on strat strings. it's kinda spooky.

"just what i needed," quipped bandleader lee: "another gtr player."

"actually," says lee, "these guys all say i'm the leader, but these guys are all leaders. at any time, somebody can play a riff or a theme or an idea that will change the flow of what everyone else is doing."

every week's different, and no one knows what's going to happen, including lee (although this week, he wanted some of the regular jammers to run through the form of failure's "daylight," so they can play it next week when his wife's in the audience).

this week, the theme was "metal maelstrom."

for awhile, lee had been talking about having an all-metal jam, an idea that came one step closer to fruition when acoustic alchemist darrin kobetich dragged his half-stack and pedalboard out of the house and became a wednesday night regular a few weeks ago. then, the jam's regular drummer, damien stewart (ph7/goodwin), cut his thumb while making some home repairs and had to sit out the week. as luck would have it, darrin's regular percussionist mike padilla (ex-el salvador birthday bash) happened to be in the bar when the news of damien's misfortune hit, and he agreed to fill in behind the trap set. with that, all the pieces were in place.

"we never really played together electric before," said darrin, "except one time at my house, and that kinda sucked 'cos we were both in weird moods."

things started out quietly, with some drumless modal jams (sounding near eastern at some times -- "it's the persian rug jam!" lee said -- and celtic at others) while mike set up the somewhat-distressed house kit. it took padilla a couple of toons to find his groove, but things soon evolved into a dialogue between lee's bass and mike's drums, with steve and darrin conducting their own spirited discussion on top. as the pummeling intensity doubled and trebled, the stage volume rose and the wreck's wizard of sound andre edmonson (whose motto, emblazoned on a strip of tape over the soundboard, is "for those about to rock -- turn down!") put in his earplugs. (later he told me about the fill-in soundman who went home from a metal show at the wreck and woke up the next day with blood on his pillow. "his eardrums burst," dre said.)

there were even screaming chicks in front of the stage. screaming chicks? at a _jam_? what's _that_ all about? (if you haven't been there, you can only imagine.)

enigmatic singer-songwriter russ walton showed up (at damien's invitation) but didn't get a chance to play. hopefully, russ will make it back for next week's installment.

afterward, as the musos and the half-dozen listeners who stuck around to the finish listened to dre's recording of the previous week's jam (a fonky, fiery affair with brian sharpe sitting in on trumpet and fluegelhorn and bassist jeremy hull kicking off what allen called "the speed-metal 'chameleon'"), the bandleader (or, um, _head_ bandleader) paid padilla an ultimate compliment of sorts: "he played that kit like it wasn't a toy."

darrin's playing bluegrass at fred's this saturday night with his brother adam and matt skates (confusatron/ph7) as the electric mountain rotten apple gang ("this ain't no apple dumpling gang," says darrin). lee and the jammers are back at the wreck every wednesday. so should you be.

Friday, June 17, 2005

tommy ware, root420, sunday night midnight

an embarrassment of riches has recently come my way through the largesse of friends (and their cd burners). the truth: while i've probably bought more cd's this year than in the previous five, most of the music i listen to at home these days is burned onto cd-r. i've been making a few mixes, but basically, that's just the form most of the stuff i like best comes in lately. a few examples:

tommy ware is a hell of a nice guy who usedta play gtr for jasper stone a few years ago (after nate fowler, before ron geida). he's got a bunch of songs that he wrote and sang down at first street audio with jordan richardson twiddling the knobs. he plans to release the as-yet-untitled disc himself, then put together a rock'n'roll band. tommy digs the good stuff: pre-electric dylan, the n.y. dolls, and the replacements as well as whiskeytown and wilco, and it all shows up in his toonage. having darrin kobetich along for the ride on dobro doesn't hurt, either. tommy's unpretentious lyrics are often (intentionally) silly but can be evocative, too. my faves: "another wheelie" and "devil suit."

root420 was the band that preceded pablo and the hemphill 7: joe vano on voxxx, marcus lawyer on _gtr_ (playing a left-handed instrument upside down, or so the story goes), shane flores on bass, and damien stewart on drums. at different times, they were augmented by legendary and shadowy fort worth muso ra byn taylor on keys and wreck room jam-meister lee allen on keys, second bass, and trombone. says damien, "we experimented with electric drum kits with delay, space echoes...all kinds of stuff." some of their ideas carried over into ph7's repertoire, but root420 music has the heavy vibe and deep mystery of classic lee perry dub, all driven by flores' earth-shaking pulse.

sunday after midnight is a jam that cadillac fraf usedta host in amarillo, and the recording i've heard is a fascinating and bizarre document. the highly ambient recording sounds like it was made from a location out in the audience, and the crowd functions as another instrument at times. the basic band sounds like acoustic gtr, bass, and drums, with somebody blatting on a harmonica occasionally and some sort of brass instrument (a trombone?) audible at points. the proximate model for their droney sound is the velvets meet the dead, or urban hillbillies on acid ("cleetus -- ah see squirrels!"). intermittently throughout the proceedings, a couple of voices sing or declaim in unison but out of time with the music. toward the end, the bassplayer picks up the tempo a bit and you can almost imagine people doing the patented hands-in-the-air deadhead ecstasy dance. then what sounds like a steel drum (probably a keyboard patch) comes in. more than passing strange, but also hypnotic in its way. we've all been in jams like that -- haven't we?

father's day

father's day this sunday
i gotta call my old man

i bet a guy money today
that my oldest and youngest
who don't live with me
don't fall by the house this weekend
(haven't seen 'em since the wedding)

i used to do the same thing in the service
every time i tested for promotion
so that even if i lost, i won

i remember the worst one i ever spent
at my reserve unit in louisiana
with an extremely bitter divorced guy from detroit
while my ex spent the last $3000 of my severance pay
on a boob job

i called the house that night
and talked to my oldest
who was 10 years old at the time
alone in the house with her sedated mom
until her grandfather figured that wasn't right and came over
to keep her company

lately i've been thinking about that a lot
and all the times i failed them
and how i probably don't deserve to see them
this sunday
i hate holidays

mazinga phazer, day of the double agent, electric mountain rotten apple gang

fans of female-fronted space-rock bands (all two of 'em) will be interested to hear that the reunited mazinga phazer (late-'90s denton faves fronted by jessica nelson) and day of the double agent (a kind of denton-dallas underground supergroup with regina chellew of captain audio/chao fame up front) will be at the wreck room on friday, june 24. whether or not mazinga phazer gtrist, ex-wreck room dj, and all-around great guy eric hermeyer is journeying back from memphis for the occasion is unclear.

the following evening, the electric mountain rotten apple gang (that'd be darrin and adam kobetich and matt skates) will be holding forth with their unique form of alt-bluegrass on the patio at fred's cafe. ya mo be there to scarf a fredburger and get some of what the people at the most recent kerrville folk festival got. maybe you too?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

art of the jam 5

darrin kobetich, steven huber, and brian sharpe. together onstage at the same time. it happened, dude, and you missed it.

one of the few non-snazz aspects of the recent miles davis tribute at the black dog was the notable absence of brian, the trumpet-blowing, straight-smoking, hideaway-bartending raconteur and bon vivant who's long held down friday nights on fred's patio (weather permitting) with vocalist rebecca gillespie and his band -- now dubbed saint frinatra -- that usually includes the estimable frank hailey on keys. brian belonged there if only because no other local trumpeter employs the harmon mute, that essential element of miles' tone, with such skill. although he's saturated with jazz to his bones, he fit in well with the eclectic mob at the wreck, which, in addition to serious shredder-cum-ragagrass avatar darrin and fw symphony violinist steven, included bandleader-ringmaster lee allen (now handling bass duties in scott copeland's sidetracks, who played an hour-long set before the jam but regrettably didn't stick around to participate); jeremy hull of collin herring/jason davis/dallas original jazz orchestra etc. fame on second bass (but not second fiddle); and damien stewart (briefly spelled by jeffrey williams) on drums.

absent carl pack, a lot of weekly wednesday night "standards" (exceptions: "la fiesta" and "manic depression") fell by the wayside in favor of a few surprises: a warmup on the minutemen's "no one" from three way tie for last; a bit of hendrix "who knows" from band of gypsies; a gallop through "chameleon" (mr. hull, he likes those fast tempos). confusatron's john stevens stopped by to add his always-fiery gtr to "pictures of matchstick men" (the '60s hit by status quo, the band that played live aid, then got garrruuunnnk and forgot it -- possibly the real-life model for spinal tap) and, um, "i will survive" (that's right, kids -- the '70s gay disco staple, more recently covered by cake and sung at the wreck by steven huber), and there were episodes of freestylin' by wreck impresario brian forella and mockingbird cartel's frontguy cadillac fraf. also resurrected was steven's 7/4 romp he calls "dry hump burn."

a nice, mellow evening which was immensely enjoyed by all, um, five people in attendance, and thankfully captured on andre edmonson's vcr. shoulda been there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

petra haden and bill frisell

petra is, of course, the singing/fiddling daughter of bluegrass warbling tot-turned-titanic jazz bassist charlie haden. she usedta be in that dog and she's the party responsible for the recently-released acapella version of the who sell out that i love so well. bill was, to hear shannon jackson tell it, plucked from the trio power tools and earmarked for stardom by record company suits. i dunno about that, but i know frisell's recorded a string of idiosyncratic albums for ecm and, uh, nonesuch. as a jazz guitarist, he's more of a rustic pastoralist a la pat metheny (minus the missourian's ornette obsession) than anybody's idea of a fire-breathing chops-monster, and that's fine. this is, after all, primarily a singer's album, and in that line, frisell does his job, which is to provide settings and color and otherwise stay out of haden's way. in places here, he variously sounds to me like leo kottke, pete townshend, and a y'allternative jimi kendrix.

in these days of singer-songwriters whose relationship to their material is approximately 1:1 ("i am my song and my song is me"), it's refreshing to hear a vocalist who actually _interprets_. while a couple of the song choices are kinda questionable (hint: they do a coldplay song; can _you_ guess which one? riiight!), haden mostly inhabits and transforms her material the way a great singer's supposed to. the crystalline purity of her voice is matched only by her keen arranger's ear, and she sings the shit out of whatever's put in front of her, whether it's a foo fighters song ("floaty"), a traditional song from tuva (home of the famous throat-singers), or tom waits' "i don't want to grow up." her dreamily ethereal-yet-unsentimental approach is effective even with potentially cloying toonage like "moon river" (a favorite at my house, where we're unashamedly into old audrey hepburn flicks), the disney chestnut "when you wish upon a star," or stevie wonder's "i believe." i like. i like a lot.

Monday, June 13, 2005

goodwin, ray liberio, ph7, kulcha far i, woodeye

so goodwin's been recording again. daniel gomez says he wants 14 tracks in the can, so he can throw out two. right now they have 10.

on saturday, they were working on "two again" (or is it "too again?" or "to again?" i couldn't make out what tony diaz was singing on the scratch vocal track), a number they played for the first time last thursday. because of the relative newness of the material -- as opposed to the first time around, when they'd been a band for two years, with damien stewart in the drum seat for a year, and they basically just went in and bashed out their live set -- they're spending more time working out arrangements, even for songs they've been playing live for some time.

the front room of matt hembree's sumptuous wedgwood pad (aka "meow mix") has been rearranged to house damien's drums, surrounded by improvised baffles to tighten up the sound, and goodwin's full array of amps (without a single cat perched on top -- unusual for matt's), while matt's computer room has been transformed into the engineering booth. damien plays through the piece a few times, trying to work out a fill to provide a transition out of the bridge. his drums sound great on the control room monitors; the big room gives a nice combination of ambience (the high ceiling) and punch (the baffles).

then gomez lays down some gtr for the song "new," plugging directly into the board through a piece of software that emulates various amp sounds, kinda like a sansamp or line 6 pod. his yamahas have tuning problems, so he breaks out "the pointy gtr" -- his new gibson explorer. "if we were in somebody else's studio," he said, "what we just did would have cost $300. here we have the luxury of time to get it right."

damien has to cut out by 5, to give him time to take a dip in the pool at home before heading up to the wreck room to play with pablo and the hemphill 7 that night.

at the wreck, ray liberio is enjoying free drinks, his compensation for the mural he and his partner calvin (from the asian media crew) just completed on the wall of wreck west (formerly the torch). the me-thinks frontguy is also a talented graphic artist who's done tons of posters for the wreck and the axis, as well as his own band. his pieces have a distinctive look and vibe. kat, who's more knowledgeable of these things than i, thinks he could become the fort's own frank campagna, stanley mouse, or gary grimshaw. i say he already is; people just don't know about it yet. but they're finding out.

the mural he and calvin stenciled on the wall of wreck west has a '70s blaxploitation theme, including isaac hayes (the theme from "shaft"'s creator) staring down the barrel of a .357 magnum that's pointed at the stage ("so the musicians will have to play good," said ray), a foxy brown silhouette, and a '70s musclecar complete with "666" license plate. the haltom city-riverside crew is definitely leaving its mark on foat wuth culcha. in addition to their other endeavors, ray and calvin (an architect by day) are thinking of shooting the pilot for a tv kids' show featuring calvin's laotian-born asian media crew co-conspirator rat as "uncle mee" (his lao name).

for their part, pablo to' it up, as is their wont, flowing seamlessly from the opening set by daniel katsuk's ahummin' acoustical acupuncture (with accompaniment by ph7 on three songs) into a lengthy exposition of all of their many strengths, including some surprises. one was a new instrumental composition by gtrist steffin ratliff that deftly skirted the territory between surf music and ska. another was the extemporaneous version of the old digital underground hit "the humpty dance" by justin pate, who actually came out from behind his keyboards _on his knees_ to do the honors. (dunno, but from where i sit, it seems like playing with confusatron the last few months has hipped the former casa manana stage kid and eleventh-hour bindle frontguy to the possibilities that open up when you learn to stop worrying and embrace your inner goofball.) there were also a nice freestyle spot from spoken word artist jamal (shoulda pulled him onstage, joe) and more dropped mics than at any pablo show in recent memory.

sunday we spent off and on at fredfest, in between taking care of some household things we'd been procrastinating on. missing saturday's festivities meant that we didn't get to see lee allen playing standup bass with custom buck on no notice at all, or the evening's headliners honchie and scott copeland. i haven't seen honchie since i stumbled into their show at sxsw last year. back then, they were still doing the same material they were playing two years before that, but it was still funny shtick. scott just got a call from cross canadian ragweed about covering one of his songs. it'd be nice to see him finally get the recognition, not to mention the money; hopefully then, other big-name artists would discover what we in the fort have known all along, and start mining the motherlode of his songwriting talent. scott also said that lee allen might start playing bass in his band, the sidetrackks, and asked me if lee's any good. hahahahahaha. for his part, lee (who tends bar on fred's patio when he's not instructing at the fw academy of music or conducting the wreck room's wednesday night jam) offered up "rock fingers" in between slinging the burgers 'n' beers when the sound crew (who performed yeoman service all day; nice work, fellas) played black sabbath over the p.a. remember kids: sabbath _is_ the new beatles.

goodwin played a mighty set, decked out in their summer uniforms of black and white long-sleeved t-shirts and shorts. tony had just driven back from a family wedding in san antonio that morning. the previous night's pablo gig (where he was still twirling sticks on the next-to-last number) appeared to have helped damien to work out the troublesome fill from "two/too/to again." matt found a good use for his, um, backstage pass (at _fred's_?!?!? puh-leeze!!!) and showcased keen fashion sense (black soxxx with chucks are the new multicolored shoestrings). for his part, as if to show he's superhuman, gomez threw in a couple of extra splay-legged leaps.

we missed a couple of acts in between goodwin and kulcha far i, which didn't prevent someone's mom from coming up and offering me a fweakly music poll ballot with her son's band selected for "best live band." a classier way of handling ballot box stuffing: head me-think ray said he fell by the moon to discuss an art project with a potential client the last time darth vato played there, when the folks from the weakly were in the house handing out ballots. kerry dean gave him a shout-out from the stage: "if you don't vote for anybody else, vote for the me-thinks." i asked steve steward about it and he replied, "well, _yeah_. they're our favorite local band." nice to see that level of, um, _collegiality_ on the set.

over the past few months, kulcha far i has become a really great band. the last time they played the wreck room, it was nice to see them get the ecstatically groovin' audience response they've always merited, and since then, they've just gotten tighter and more confident.

in the kick-back environment of fred's, kulcha aka chris hakata was able to delve into material from all three of his cd's, including the one that's not released yet. kulcha's music shows influences like burning spear and the abyssinians, but chris is clearly his own guy. one of the older tunes had a particularly african feel, causing me to contemplate the rusty roof and treetops across the street and imagine what it'd be like seeing chris perform back in his native zimbabwe. on that tune, ron geida played something that approximated the sound of one of those afrobeat bands that have four gtrists playing interlocking single-note lines.

ron's one of the few axe-slingers in town musical enough to carry the melodic/harmonic load basically by himself, although john shook's a mighty tuneful bassplayer -- more of a point-to-point guy than, say, pablo's marcus lawyer (aka marcos abogado), who you sometimes _feel_ more than you _hear_ (of course, there's less space to fill in pablo's densely-packed soundscape). since the wreck room gig, they've added a backup singer, and they were joined at points by freestyling jamal. also, jonathan irwin (definitely the fort's most valuable player of late through his contributions to pablo, confusatron, and the wreck room's wednesday jams) added his percussion to kulcha's mix. jonathan -- a preacher's kid from east texas who started playing congas in church, then came to the fort to attend college and made himself a fixture downtown with his djembe before hooking up with confusatron -- has the kind of ear that enables him to always find the right space to fill, rather than fighting against the drummer. he and jeffrey williams on traps formed a mighty battery. an uplifting performance by a very happening band.

watching kulcha play, confusatron gtrist john stevens remarked, "this [the fort] is a really cool place. it just took me 30 years to realize it." i concur wholeheartedly. in fact, i've been saying for years that fort worth today reminds me a lot more of austin when i moved there at the ass-end of the '70s than "america's live music capital(R)" does today. we've got lots of little subcultures -- cowboys, hipis, punks, bikers -- rubbing shoulders and generally getting along ok. and we've got a highly eclectic and diverse set of bands, informed by more than the latest trend o' the month from the coasts, the press, and clear channel.

with that in mind, it seemed altogether fitting and proper that woodeye was at fredfest, making their fourth appearance there, in fact. it's hard to believe that carey wolff and co. have been pounding the boards for, what, eight years now, resolutely doing things _their own way_, but it's true. carey still can't seem to open his mouth without making a dig at his own expense, and his songs are kinda like that, too, hiding their emotional core beneath their boozy bluster. scott davis on his arsenal of axes provides the lion's share of woodeye's sturm und twang, while graham richardson serves as the band's punk soul, even more visually apparent since he's foregone his trademark buffalo springfield muttonchops for a mohawk ("i lost a bet") and kenny smith's the most underrated drummer in the metromess (and one of the few local musos you'll meet who actually _makes a living_ at it). long may they run.

towards the end of the night, fredfest organizer letha wilson announced that the event had raised over $1,000 in cash for the tarrant area food bank, and the bin holding the donated cans of food was overflowing. not a bad coupla nights' work, and a nice way for this community to represent.

Friday, June 10, 2005

joe vano's got a blog

i always dig reading joe's poetry when it appears on the pablo and the hemphill 7 website (particularly "the story," "words from pablo," and various forum posts). now i've got someplace else to go to read his stuff. it's a good day.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

when i dream, i dream of food (doo-dah, doo-dah)

insomnia is (or should be) its own reward, but when i dream, i dream of food.

here's a baker's dozen of my fave food fixes (in no particular order):

1) the fish dinners we used to buy from the fish market in my town on long island when i was a kid. fresh-caught that day and cooked right in the store (my mom usedta go on thursday 'cos that was the day they changed the grease for the mackerel snappers). back in prehistory, you could get two humongous slabs of flounder with fries 'n' slaw for a whopping $1.99. by the time i was in high school, if the guy our age behind the counter thought you were cool, you sometimes got a joint taped to the bottom of your paper plate. when i started working myself, i got partial to soft-shell crab sandwiches (from a different fish market), which it was impossible to eat behind the counter of the store where i worked without wearing. greatness.

2) the fish and chips at this fake english pub the permanent party dudes turned us onto when i was at nellis air force base in vegas. two humongous slabs of icelandic cod with malt vinegar, fries 'n' slaw for about six bucks. plus 145 different kinds of beer, which my boss accused us of sampling all of but we actually didn't.

3) the camarones veracruz (that's shrimp fajitas to you, gringo) at superior bar 'n' grill in shreveport, a place where everyone seemed to know everyone else but us when i used to go there with the guys from my reserve unit. later i learned that it's even good when you're sober.

4) the "all-you-want" (as opposed to "all-you-can-eat" -- like the howard johnson's when i was in college, where we used to get stoned to the gills and go to eat clam strips and fries until finally our server brought us _one_ clam strip and _one_ fry and said, "this is all _you_ can eat") catfish at the cypress inn in benton, louisiana. located on a beautiful lake, this was the only place i ever ate so much food i couldn't _sleep_. when you sat down, there was a pound of cole slaw at the table (i'm a cole slaw fanatic). they'd bring you a new plate of fish while you were still working on the old one. this is the place where one of my students ordered a steak and when asked how he wanted it done, told the server, "break its horns off, wipe its ass, and bring it to the table." you'd have to be crazy not to get the catfish there, however. once i ate so much that it took me 20 minutes to walk to my car. the first place i ever considered taking up competitive eating.

5) just about anybody's bowl of beef pho.

6) just about anybody's plate of pad thai.

7) the cheese pie from just about any pizzeria in the new york metropolitan area. also the ones i ate in northern italy -- basically just a bread with some olive oil, fresh tomato and herbs. (simplicity is good.) also the ones i make out of stuff we grow in our backyard.

8) a fredburger.

9) the tostados con chorizo and tamales at benito's.

10) the calamari appetizer at sardines. also the seafood soup (fruto de mare) that i had there on my wedding night.

11) the shrimp kabobs at j&j's oyster bar.

12) a kincaid's hamburger.

13) the fajita tacos they sell outside the blackdog (previously described in this blog).

14) anything i cook using the world's greatest seasoning, procured in hawaii and introduced to me by my mother. it's real simple: sea salt, black pepper, ginger, and garlic. like heaven.

ok. i'm gonna try to go to sleep now (and dream of food).

art of the jam 4

darrin kobetich is one shreddin'-ass mofo. i'd heard him do his acoustic raga-bluegrass thang with mike padilla on percussion before, but never got to hear him go off on electric until he showed up for the wreck room wednesday night jam thingy last night. not only does my lawn guyland homeboy possess an uncanny facility with all manner of scalar and modal improvisational frameworks and a right hand like a bulldozer (albeit one that can _dance_), he's got a tone like liquid fire, the better to convey his seemingly endless flow of melodic ideas. the best moment in last night's festivities came when he and violinist steven huber made each other's musical acquaintance for the first time while the rest of the musos were busy socializing, buying beers, and waiting for a drummer to show up. by the end of the night, they were talking about pulling steven into the occasional acoustic bluegrass thang darrin has with his brother and busy confusatron/ph7 guy matt skates. (while it might be hard to imagine the escape from new york-lookin' kobetich brothers sittin' and pickin' around a campfire at the kerrville folk festival, it happened, dude, and you missed it.) darrin, acoustic, will be at the black dog on friday, june 17, following his normal wreck room happy hour stand.

a testament to andre edmonson's genius: when i asked him, "uh, dre, you weren't rolling tape at the very beginning, when it was just darrin and steven...were ya?" he smiled and said, "yes, i was."

iraq in year zero

it's a truism that "war is good business," but it's particularly horrifying when the profiteers' bottom line becomes a factor in national security policy. this article had me flashing back to frances fitzgerald's fire in the lake and neil sheehan's a bright shining lie, two chronicles from an earlier era of how that shit can go wrong. thanks, matt, for this disturbing read; i didn't really wanna go to sleep tonight anyway.

your novel sucks

each year, the bulwer-lytton fiction contests challenges entrants to write the worst first line of a novel. now, i simply _adore_ bad writing, but most of the entrants in the aforementioned contest are, well, pert damn long. (my attention span is currently about long enough to allow me to read a cereal box. well, most of it, anyway.) for those of us with challenged attention spans, the lyttle lytton contest provides a viable alternative: entries are limited to just 25 words. brevity is the soul of, well, um, whatever.

thanks again to jeremy hull.

your band sucks

hahahahahaha. it's just the internet's finest compendium of vituperation and spleen, music division. thanks, jeremy hull.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

the homeless guy interviews

when she was still in high school,
my middle dtr that lives with me and her friends
used to publish zines of their poetry and rants.
i'd watch her pasting them up on the floor and ask,
"where'd you learn to do that?"
she'd reply, "mimi learned how to do it
from a girl she met on the internet."
i'd ask, "why don't you just do it online?"
and she'd reply, "we just like the feel of paper."
(how fahrenheit 451, i'd think.)

for awhile, she and her friend jessica
were interviewing homeless guys
downtown around sundance square.
her mother was mortified.
"how can you let her do that?" she'd ask.
but aimee assured me,
"we always talk to them in public places
where we're not alone, and we always stay
at least 10 feet away. besides,
downtown is crawling with all kinds of cops:
city, sundance square, bass.
cops on foot, cops on bikes, cops on horses.
the only thing they're missing
is cops on roller skates."

i remember she told me about one guy in particular
whose story stuck in my head.
his name was rusty (which, coincidentally,
was the name of her favorite stuffed bunny as a child)
and when they met, he told her,
"i'll bet you a smile that i can guess
the state where you were born and raised."
okay, she said.
he said: "you were born in a state of infancy
and raised in a state of confusion."
i think it's possible that he might have been the one
who was later kicked to death
by a teenage boy in ripley arnold
while a crowd sat there and watched
but i really hope that he wasn't.


during the 2004 presidential campaign,
my buddy jay came up with a new term
for the ruling party in this country.
he calls them "repugnicans."
during their convention in new york city,
he was arrested for protesting outside madison square garden
and held for 36 hours on a grease spot between some sawhorses.
after 24 hours, he got to make a phone call.
he lives in lower manhattan.
on 9/11, i tried for hours to call him.
when i finally got through, he said,
"my wife and i just watched the second tower collapse
from the roof of our building.
we're going to donate blood."
i guess he doesn't feel any safer.

my buddy tim says (and i agree)
that it's worse to work for liberals than for conservatives
because they fuck you just as hard as the other guys do
and you don't expect it.
i've also learned, however,
_never_ to be in a band with republicans.

after the 2000 election,
i had a sign on my office door that said,
"don't blame me, i voted for nader."
when the florida bullshit was over,
i just crossed out the "don't."

protected speech

my buddy geoff said:

i was walking past independence hall in philly
on the way home from my shrink's office
when i noticed across the street
(because they couldn't demonstrate directly in front of the hall),
there were a bunch of people protesting against anti-hate crime laws.
that's right: they were demonstrating for their right
to _commit_ hate crimes.

so i walked up to one of 'em
and asked him, "so, who do you wanna kill?
blacks, gays, or jews?"
he looked uncomfortable, and said,
"i don't have to talk to you."
so i went up to another one and asked,
"what about you? who do _you_ wanna kill?
blacks, gays, or jews?"

he gave me the same line, about not having to talk to me.
so i went up to every one of them
and asked them the same question.
after awhile, i started getting pretty steamed
because you know i hate that shit.
one of 'em tells me, "why should i talk to you
when you're hiding behind your sunglasses and ballcap?"
so i _ripped_ them off and got right up in his face:
"_blacks, gays, or jews?_

finally i figured the hell with it
and decided to get the hell out of there.
so i pushed my way through them and continued
on my way down the sidewalk.
there were a bunch of cops standing across the street,
directly in front of the hall.
one of the hate crime guys yells at the cops,
"did you see that, officers?
he _assaulted_ me!" and one of the cops says,
"aaah, shaddup."

jon teague

when heavy prog experimentalists yeti folded the tent back around easter, their drummer jon teague vowed to be back on the boards "within three months." true to his word, he's doing a solo performance of drumming and sequencer stuff he programmed, upstairs at division one in arlington on saturday, june 18th. also on the card: sort of ensemble and 99 names of god.


who's this eric alterman guy anyway, and why does he have a political blog on msnbc? oh, he's a college professor from brooklyn who writes books 'n' shit. anyway, it's a pretty interesting read. his voice reminds me a lot of my buddy geoff's, minus big g's rock'n' roll obsession. and, yes, it's also the only thing i've read/written lately that actually takes me longer to get through than drinking a glass of orange juice.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"the andre of..."

damien stewart and i coined a phrase: "the andre of...," after andre edmonson, the wreck room's wizard of sound, meaning "one who takes _nothing_ and turns it into something functional and wonderful." example: "mike salerno's is the andre of italian restaurants."

goodbye, mrs. robinson

just read that anne bancroft checked out, from uterine cancer. prolly best known for her role as mrs. robinson in the graduate, she also starred as annie sullivan in the miracle worker with patty duke, a better pic imo. such a great face; they don't make 'em like that anymore. and she was married to mel brooks, so you know she had a sensahumour. shit.

mercury rev - the secret migration

lately i've been diggin the new mercury rev cd the secret migration -- which might actually trump their '98 magnum opus deserter's songs on the basis of the riddim section being a little more happening -- and noting the similarity a friend pointed out between the rev's sound and that of, um, the polyphonic spree, the main difference being that it sounds as though tim delaughter took the more obvious aspects of his model's sound and _simplified_ 'em (kinda like jimmy page did with the yardbirds 'n' vanilla fudge when he was creating led zep). not that there's anything wrong with that (remember: an amateur borrows, a professional steals). i'm also struck by the similarity between the aforementioned big-name major label acts and the reliable local standbys and former grand street cryers in the chemistry set and coma rally -- specifically, how the wide-eyed wonderment of both delaughter and m.r. frontguy jonathan donahue's vocalismo recalls steve duncan's, while their melodic sense would be a ringer for tim locke's, if tim were given to robed-and-garlanded frolicking or waxing rhapsodic about the wonders o' nature. comparisons being odious, i'll just finish by saying, "a real nice rekkid."

fz american composer

here's an audio documentary about frank, produced for pri and narrated by beverly d'angelo. you need shockwave to play. listen 'n' learn. thanks, damien!

so long rudy - mea culpa - art of the jam 3

so we went to rudy eastman's memorial service on saturday -- an ultimately uplifting affair, what with the jubilee players, mondo drummers, new arts six, and bob ray sanders (a member of a highly debased profession who showed his class by _not_ writing about what could only be described as "the worst christmas pageant ever" at which he was the guest of honor a few yrs ago -- really, the stuff of which tv sitcom episodes are made), as well as heartfelt tributes from family and friends. the recurring theme was that "the show must go on," and jubilee will continue without its founder and artistic director (also a retired fwisd teacher, i learned). we live in hope.

then we went to a birthday party for a friend, and i wound up getting stupid garrruuunk and being a jackass to my wife and probably a few other people. if you're one of them, my sincere apologies. i have some personal shit to work out, and the way to do that is _not_ getting shithammered and inflicting attitood on the world at large.

anyway, the lee allen-carl pack wreck room jam this wednesday should be stellar (and _heavy_), what with darrin kobetich and jon teague (ex-yeti) slated to show up. last week, kenny smith of woodeye/chatterton fame displayed his _fonky_ side in the company of various confusatron members (onstage) and me-thinks (in the audience). scott davis had an early morning the next day, but said he'd come back and play another time. yet another reason why i look fwd to this event each 'n' every week.

Monday, June 06, 2005

reasons why paul slavens' is the only radio show i listen to

because it plays stuff like this, even when paul's not there and gini mascorro is filling in. i only listened to the show intermittently, in between doing other things, but every time i was in the room where the radio was playing, something came on that caught my attention, whether it was hendrix "angel" segueing into johnny thunders "memory, you can't put your arms around a," or the clash with timon dog playing johnny rotten-as-a-leprechaun or a calexico cover of the minutemen's "corona," or a red kross cover of "purple haze." this is fm radio the way i usedta love it.

little hits

just what the world needed: another music blog. pretty entertaining little read/listen. and -- it's edited by cats!

alex smith

steve steward once sent me a link to a good story by alex smith. i mistakenly thought he was the same asshole that wrote a heartbreaking work of staggering genius (which i keep in my kitchen and use to kill bugs; a more self-indulgent piece of rubbish i haven't read since, oh, bret easton ellis). he's not. sorry, alex.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

who links to me

ok, let's see how Who Links Here works...

separation of church 'n' state: what's that?

so rick perry was in town today signing a coupla bills at calvary academy, a christian school that relocated to the northside after the tornado trashed its original location. one of the bills requires minors to obtain parental permission before having an abortion. the other would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. (the constitution already defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, but y'know...) perry's spokesperson pointed out that the signing is taking place in the school gym rather than the sanctuary, but it seems a pretty fine distinction to draw. yet another reason to elect kinky friedman governor next yer.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


yes, it's now possible to buy sunglasses for your dog. if he's _really_ cool, maybe he'll take to wearing them in the house or at night (a la cory hart). or, you can do a dizzy gillespie and let him wear 'em without any lenses so people will think he's more intelligent than he really is. i'm drawing the line at braces, though. and dreadlock extensions.

tony slug

my pal tony slug (towering dutch punkrock gtr-slinger of nitwitz, bgk, loveslug, hydromatics, spades fame) sez he's now playing w/my fellow texas asian dude mikey offender. quoth slugman, "i'm playing with the idea of a kind of reverse menudo trip -- everybody has to be 40 years old or up." brilliant, tony: 40 _is_ the new 20. (also enjoy slug's roadhog van-talk dictionary.)

Friday, June 03, 2005

randy antin

it's always a pleasure to find multidimensional people in unexpected places. i met randy antin through my dayjob, but i was pleasantly surprised to discover that he's actually a san francisco-based graphic artist who does fascinating things with color and texture. an added plus: he's a sticker freak. and music junkie. his writing is also refreshingly free of the pretentious wonkage that characterizes so many artschool refugees. dig him.

war poets

poets including tammy gomez and james patrick blase will read war poetry at the black dog on monday, june 6 (um, that's d-day) from 8:30 to 10:00pm. there'll be an open mic after the features. no points for memorizing the soliloquy from henry v.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

rudy eastman

bad news for lovers of live theater in the fort: rudy eastman, founder and artistic director of jubilee theater, checked out on monday, aged 60. with rudy at the helm, jubilee was consistently the most vibrant and exciting theater troupe around the 817, best known for their (mostly original) musicals but equally adept at serious drama and uproarious comedy. he leaves a void that can't be filled.

there'll be a celebration of the big life he lived at 11am saturday, june 4, at the round up inn in the amon g. carter jr. exhibits hall at will rogers memorial center. his family suggests donations to the rudy eastman fund, c/o jubilee theater, 506 main st., fort worth tx 76102.

awww crap: flipside canx

looks like the flipside gig at the black dog this friday is a non-starter. paul unger is playing the cliburn with the symphony, and some friend of tad's from out of town is taking the gig.

reasons to become a musician #187

so you can be cool like these people. imagine the shaggs as geriatric hippies.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

how to destroy the earth: way #9

hahahahaha. this is the first reference i've ever found online to the place my dad used to work. but geez, i never knew they had a relativistic heavy ion collider there.