Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Insomnia, Excitement, Fear. . .

Ok, so I'm scheduled to be on the road by about 6 a.m. tomorrow. It's 11:31 and I'm packed, loaded, primed to go. Sleep isn't an option right now. I'm restless and jumpy. I even thought of just hopping in the car and driving off right now. That's still an option, but I thought I might write some of this down to see if that might help ease me into at least napping.

I haven't performed live all that much for the last thirteen years. It had to do with sobering up, becoming a single parent and deciding that my place in the music biz had to change. Working for producers who want quick and dirty studio licks has been lucrative and in its own sweet way rewarding. The list of folks that do what I do is a short one. I work from home most of the time thanks to the internet and the top flight musical software that out there. The fax spits out a chart, I study it, when I have my ideas I call the producer and then I hang up and lay the tracks down. They get squirted over the ether to the studio, if they like it, if they need changes, they call, I change it until they like it at which point their machine calls another machine and my bank account (less cuts to agent and manager dude guy) goes ka-ching. Most days I don't even get out of my jammies except to put on some swim trunks or go golfing.

This set of shows is pretty intimidating for some reason. I usually don't start my show jitters until a few hours before the show. Most of the time before I go onstage I throw up. I've gotten used to it and keep a toothbrush, toothpaste and some club soda handy. Most of the time as soon as I've barfed and brushed, it's all good and I'm ready to go. Except, here it is 18 hours before I even sound check and the butterflies and jitters are already setting in.

I know that once I get out under the lights, my practicing and experience will take over and things will be fine. And yet. . .ah, it's just the old little voice thing at work again.

I guess this might be valuable or slightly interesting to the folks that allow themselves to think that performing is easy and natural because it looks that way when we do it right. Yeah, it's a lot of work. I'm jittery and nervous right now because by this time tomorrow I'm going to be up in front of a shitload of folks who paid shitloads of money for their seats. I need to make that investment of time and treasure worthwhile. I'm also getting paid well by someone I respect (as an artist and as a person) to do a job that he knows I am totally capable of doing (but what if i let him down says that shitty little voice).

I'll clue you non-performing types in on a secret. It's not easy what we do. Most of the time it's pretty damned scary. It's also not easy. I've spent a lot of my life on one stage or another and for every minute of being on stage, I've spent hours and hours alone in a room running scales and practicing what I'm going to do over and over and over and over again. That's why it looks easy. That's also why there are usually only a few of us on stage, and a shitload of people in the audience. I've seen lots of talented folks that weren't willing to put in the work to get where I am. I've also seen talented folks that put in the practice and when the lights hit them and the realization of how many motherfuckers are actually out there, they freeze. I've also left the stage after playing stadiums, gone to a little local dive somewhere and heard somebody playing better than I can.

It's a strange life. I can't think of any other one. If I worked in a cubicle I'd probably have gone all starkweather on some folks by now. I wish I wasn't leaving my son and my daughter behind again. I think they understand. I think they've forgiven me for being gone so much. They know that I can be distant, moody and tempermental. They know that I do the best I can. They know that I love them. I do tell them that all the time. They are at an age right now when they actually enjoy me getting out of their hair for a few days. By the time I get back Renee wil be back at school in Tucson, and my teenage Natty Bumpo will be ready to force himself through his junior year of high school. Egad, that's so scary. When I got custody of that boy he was only 3. He says he doesn't remember much about when his mom and I were both stoned and fighting all the time (when I was home which was seldom). He also doesn't remember when I would be gone for 9 to 10 months of the year.

Now I trip out being gone for less than week. Just hush my mouth and call me a homebody.

Having a blog is better than sleeping pills. If any of this made any sense, please leave a comment. If there was anything that you would like me to expand or explain better, leave a comment and I'll do what I can when I get back

It will be fine. I just need to get there. If I do my job right, nobody in that audience will know what a mess I was about a half an hour ago. . .Peace. Out.

Wednesday Random Ten

This one's coming off early, because I am going to be on the road tomorrow morning. Vegas beckons and I must obey. I am driving rather than flying because of the number of instruments I am taking. Phoenix to Vegas is actually a pretty scenic drive. For shows where flying is called for I always, I repeat, ALWAYS, send my instruments ahead FedEx. I have had too many instances in my career of the airlines damaging, or just screwing up the routing on the tools of my trade. It has gotten to the point where some airlines, like Delta, won't even pretend to accomodate a musician. The Musician's Union has called for a boycott of Delta because of their refusing to gate check instruments. I have, especially with my harps, bought seats for my instruments. When a flight is not all that crowded they often would give me a half price seat. Which, during my drinking days, allowed me to have some fun skirting the two drink limit on flights. It would go like this:

Flight Attendant: Would you care for a cocktail?

Me: I'll have a double Bourbon, neat, and my friend here will have the same.

Flight Attendant: But, but, but

Me: See? This label here? This fine instrument was crafted in 1878, way over 21.
She does love her bourbon.

Most of the time it worked. It also set up a few instances of in flight recitals that lead to post-flight assignations.

But, I'm digress, again. Let's see where was I? Yeah, boycott Delta. If you really, truly need your stuff to get there undamaged. FedEx my friends. I initially chose them because they were the first ones to offer pressurized cargo handling. Again, the harps are the ones that absolutely require that. Especially the one with the brass strings. The tension on the sound board and the neck is vicious. In an unpressurized or other situation where care is not taken with handling, it could literally disintegrate.

So, here's a sampling of the music line up for the drive...

The Obvious Child - - Paul Simon
Two More Bottles of Wine - - Delbert McClinton (featuring on bottleneck guitar - me)
Easy Evil - - John Kay (live bootleg)
She Belongs To Me - - Bob Dylan (live at the Bitter End '66)
Pencil Thin Mustache - - Jimmy Buffett
Raglan Road - - Van Morrison
Everybody Knows - - Leonard Cohen
Sweet Georgia Brown - - Django Reinhardt
And She Was - - Talking Heads
Inzikomo Zibango - - Mzikayfani Buthelezi

Bonus track

Mathilde - - Jacques Brel

Light to zero posting expected until Monday. Full report will be tendered upon my return. Dream of Peace my friends.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Syd Barrett Dies at 60

PZ Meyers says it about as well as it can be said.

Stem Cells and Veto Threats

Yesterday, in Denver, that rat bastard Rove said that the President is ready to exercise his first veto should Congress deliver a bill increasing government funding of stem cell research. I know that I was vowing to take a break from political issue things and concentrate on what I truly know, music, cooking and my kids. This one hits home. This one is personal. This is why.

My mother has Parkinson's Syndrome. She's been diagnosed for the last eleven years. For those years she has been increasingly confined to an ever shrinking prison as her body and nervous system degrade. As with most neurological disorders, once ground is lost it is rarely regained. There is almost never any movement that is not backward.

It started benignly enough. Small instances of poor balance, slower walking. Then we noticed that when she was walking she wasn't swinging her arms. Many of the symptoms she was having were disguised by the other problems she was having. Arthritis in her feet curtailed her walking far more than the Parkinson's at first. Then as the structural problems were addressed and the Parkinson's continued its progression we began to see what was at play.

Since her diagnosis we have seen an active, vital woman be increasingly confined to a lift chair and mechanical bed. There are some anomolies with it that are intruiging. She is still a good driver. Her reflexes and attention focus remain sharp. The problem is getting in and out of the car. That requires movement and control that is very hard for her to put together. Even on a day that she is walking well, she can be stopped cold by a doorway or a change in the surface. As a present a few years ago I bought her a beautiful Persian rug. She had to give it away because she could not negotiate the change in surface. It was the complex pattern of the rug that made her balance perception go all haywire. She can still play the piano, on days that she can negotiate getting herself situated on the bench. There's something about sitting down and then sliding over to be in front of the keyboard that can become nearly impossible.

There have been some medications that provide measures of relief. Unfortunately, they also have a limited run. We are swiftly nearing the upper range of effective treatment times with two of them.

Stem cells, according to the people that go to the lab to study them rather than going to church to be told what god thinks about stuff, hold the best hope for people like my mother. Our president has decided that for reasons absolutely unrelated to any scientific criteria he will oppose funding the research that has the potential to allow the soldiers paralyzed in his illegal and immoral war walk again. The same research that Nancy Reagan and other family members having experienced the heartbreaking loss of a mind to Alzhiemer's have been crying out to have will not be allowed because George W. Bush, a proven liar and hypocrite of the first order, chooses this issue to lecture the rest of us on morality and sacred law.
In the same way that they skewed the intelligence and reports out of the middle east in order to justify their war disaster. They are now rejecting any science that might disagree with their narrow spiritual beliefs.

I have recently sent letters to the members of Congress that used to represent me along with letters to the Representatives and Senators of my new home urging them to force this issue.

According to the nuerologist that treats my mother, stem cells hold not only the potential of stopping the progression of something like Parkinson's, they might even reverse it and effecitively cure it. The current policy of our President is the same position the Pope took when he went after Galileo. This is the same opposition that scientists throughout history have had to fight. It is nothing to do with morality or ethics. For myself, the mere image on TV of George Bush, who lied and mislead us into a war, who has a documented trail of immoral and incompetent business failings, who has routinely used slimy and vicious character attacks in his campaigns, who, when other conservative governors were calling for a moratorium on the death penalty to examine its inequities and problems, merely made it harder for prisoners under a sentence of death in Texas to appeal, stand up and smirk out his claims of decency and moral truth is more than I can stand.

He is killing our children and also, by this stand, attacking our elders. Please join me in this effort. You can access a site that will allow you to notify your Congessional Representatives and Senators through this link. Act For Change

Let your Senator know that this issue is too important to the lives of too many citizens to be decided by a small number of aggresively ignorant fundamentalists. If you believe in a god, pray for my mother and the scientists that are trying to help her. Fuck George W. Bush, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Terry and their ilk. I called them agressively ignorant because it takes a lot of energy to remain this stupid in the face of so many facts.


The Rude Pundit has his own wickedly profane and viciously clear insight to this issue.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hail and Farewell (again)

Now that I'm back after being gone a week I have four whole days to get ready to go again. I took most of Saturday and Sunday off (remembering that on a "day off" I still have to practice a minimum four hours) to do stuff around the house. A storm shredded some limbs off a cottonwood tree while I was gone and that needs to be attended. Some new eucalyptus that were planted recently have to be straightened and restaked. Four nights in Vegas will be fun. I am not much of a gambler. College level math just kind of ruined the casinos for me. I enjoy a decent game of poker and have set aside a modest sum to risk at the hold 'em tables, but I have no illusions about my skill levels. I figure if I can hold my own for a reasonable amount of time that's good enough. Vegas used to be a lot more fun.

Back in the late 70's and 80's when I worked out of Vegas it was still a "mob" town. It was the unspoken fact of life and doing business there. Business was good back then. The casinos that were mobbed up were great places to work. They always kept their end of every deal they had with me, the unions held sway enough that there was a decent cut of the pie for working folks. Back then Vegas was a great place for a working musician. There was always work available. House bands in the showrooms, freelance stuff with guys working the caberet circuit (Vegas/Reno/Tahoe), smaller lounges, even one cool ass strip club had live music. For a guy like me it was tailor made. I never cared what kind of music I was being hired to play. I enjoy at least some of just about every genre. I was brought up on jazz, I have played opera, broadway shows, country, rock, anything for anybody was my motto. I love the smaller venues like the caberet rooms in the casinos. You play two sets a night, four to six nights a week in rotation with other acts. Going to Vegas now that it is all corporate and themed usually just makes me homesick for my old home.

In old Vegas, if you had a problem, you could always get your side heard. "Sit Downs" could be arranged with a neutral party who would then decide the issue. Some of the guys who mediated were old school and would take one side or the other. They were my favorites. I had one of them decide against me on a contract issue and on my way out I was pulled aside by an associate of his and told "don't worry, the boss likes you. he'll cover your loss, just finish the deal." Old World, Old School. The younger guys out of Chicago would sometimes try to deal out a compromise, although that usually had the ultimate result of pleasing nobody. Give me New York Sicillian any day.

I think the thing I miss most about the old Vegas was that you always knew that your place in the system was valued and respected. The old "Mustache Petes" understood that shows bring in players. They also would drop some tickets on somebody on a hot streak to get them away from the tables.

I guess the downside was that when dealing with goodfellas you are always at risk for sudden physical violence. Those lads could go all Pesci on you in the blink of an eye. And for no discernable reason.

Enough about what's coming up!

Over the last week we really solidified as a playing unit. Mainly by playing our asses off all day on the 4th. It's like that when you're a musician, you go to a party and you end up working. With the folks that were there though, along with the work was a whole lot of fun. Because we went up and nailed two sets of what we are going to be doing this summer, after that it became a total musical free for all. Guests were brought up and dragooned into singing or playing, the personell on the stage changed after every tune. It was good clean fun.

My daughter, the gorgeous and dead clever Renee, was there. She was fresh from her public singing debut at our friend Mike's funeral (where, pardon the pun, she killed). She could not be prevailed upon to perform at the party or even the evenings after rehearsal. She did demonstrate her ability to flat handle my ass several times. She's getting ready to go back to Tucson for her last semester of Pre-Med this week. I'm sorry that our time is being cut so short by my work again. Ah well. We have had a great time together this break. There will be many more good times to come I am certain.

My son Matt is due back from his working trip up to Wyoming. He's been going up there to work with a professional hunting guide for three summers now. It's the life he wants to lead and I am happy for him. He'll get home just as I am leaving, but then, tell me a teenager that wouldn't think that's about perfect timing.

I'm trying to take time off from political stuff. The world will go on without me just fine. There are lots of good political writers out there. I recommend reading Shakespeare's Sister for variety and shameless activism. Also The Dark Wraith Forums for interesting content and truly thought provoking comment threads. Lastly don't forget litbrit for equal measures of moral outrage, great kitten stories and all in all a very high quality of writing. I'll try to do some posting from Sin City and will leave you with the words of Gram Parsons Las Vegas

Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Every time I hit your crystal city
You know you gonna make a wreck out of me

Well, the first time I lose I drink whiskey
Second time I lose I drink gin
Third time I lose I drink anything
'Cause I think I'm gonna win

Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me No
Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Every time I hit your crystal city
You know you gonna make a wreck out of me

Well, the Queen of Spades is a friend of mine
The Queen of Hearts is a bitch
Someday when I clean up my mind
I'll find out which is which

Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Every time I hit your crystal city
You know you gonna make a wreck out of me

Instrumental (Electric Guitar)

Well, I spend all night with the dealer
Tryin' to get ahead
Spend all day at the Holyday Inn
Tryin' to get out of bed

Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Ooh, Las Vegas ain't no place for a poor boy like me
Every time I hit your crystal city
You know you gonna make a wreck out of me

Instrumental Ending (Electric Guitar)

Come to think of it, that place is a lot safer all around for us non-drinkers.
Also, at the urging of the gorgeous and wicked smart Renee I promise to do some writing about my sobriety upon my return. She says it's a vital part of my life and story. She's right.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

random flickr blogging

Originally uploaded by DavidQuick.
look dude! jimmy hoffa!