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Entries in mike keneally (8)

Wednesday
Feb272013

The Beginnings of Things +20

This is the second entry in a single story that spans over 10,000 words. Be sure to read The Endings of Things preceeding this entry.

Life would have made a lot more sense to me at the age of 19 if I'd been initiated in the Christ mystery of death and rebirth prior to some real messy times around then and for years later. Having a touchstone would have been handy. Instead, the world seemed pretty malevolent for sustained periods of time, and part of the reason for hanging on to the Melissa relationship was because for a period, that was about the only thing that brought form and meaning from chaos. So the dissolution of that relation in the span of a week hit me hard to begin with. Because Melissa's mom Marie was nice enough to mediate the breakup experience and see that I had a softer landing, I began the very next day at a life without Melissa but with some optimism and newness of vision that things might turn out okay. I'd meet new people and interesting things would happen. In other words, what died could be resurrected into a new form with a bigger meaning to it.

Melissa and I broke up on February 22, a Monday. The next day I was back at school and found myself talking to two girls in my philosophy class at Mesa. That took the edge off some, even knowing that I'd not retreated. I can't recall anything happening after that but the experience was a lift just as it was. Hitting up Subway on the way back home I saw a girl I'd had my eyes on for a while, Abbey. She and another girl or two were easy on the eyes and since I'd been somewhat regular there, I already had a bit of a chatty way with them. I told her what had happened. I don't know if I expected this to go anywhere but I asked if we might be in touch and I left my number. I think she was seeing someone anyway. The damage was done the day before. At this moment, there wasn't much to lose.

The Pig Solution

Matt Zuniga and I had a particularly juvenile evening on the first Friday after the breakup. Usually we were content to go out and play drums in isolated and semi-secure parking garages, increasingly so in the middle of the night. The Friday night just before the ill-fated ASB ball that I was supposed to attend with Melissa, we were out until 3:30 in the morning playing at a new spot that had a janitorial storage locker that we found open. We relished in the raiding of such a place. There were boxes of 4' flourescent tube lighting. We heisted the entire collection. We also opened several cans of paint and poured them out over the street. It was raining pretty mightily that night so by the time we made a return visit some time later, there was hardly a sign of paint. On this first weekend after the breakup there was a bit of boy frustration to get out so we sort of rampaged at the mall, with Matt doing his trademark antisocial grunts, charicatures of old people, some well chosen ventriloquistic obscenities, and worse. We took the bulbs we'd collected the week before and took them to a spot on the edge of the suburban buildout, near a freeway, and cast the tubes majestically down to ... well, it was really kind of pointless since none of them exploded in the way we hoped. But then we were off and running, dropping in on an adult bookstore. Call it a pent up need to be a guy. Or a pig.

The Little Black Book Was Mauve

At home I dug into the contacts book a little harder than I had since the summer before. I probably called everyone to reconnect and maybe sob with (a number of whom were high school people I really had not connected with since that era a couple years before), but the most notable contact in there was one girl friend of mine that I'd known for a couple years since 1990. We used to go to church together when I was still doing that. I don't think I'd seen her in some time, except maybe at Christmas Eve service, if anything. She was just a bit younger than Melissa by a few months but was uncannily mature for her age, and was one of those passionate color-outside-of-the-lines beings who jolts you awake. It was something I needed. I called her and we went out for some fun and talk on Saturday, just less than a week after the breakup. She was ready to go. I never expected I'd marry her one day. Yep, in some odd way, it was kind of a first date for Kelli and me. And yet not. But that one day put her on the map as a trusted friend and confidante. And more than the compassionate ear she offered, the story ahead sets up a whole set of resonsances that radiated out for a long time and really has shaped most of the life I've lived in the 20 years since the Melissa breakup. Curl up with a blanket and a nice drink, once again...

The Shifting Sands of Confidence

I'd seen my grandmother every weekend for all the time I went out with Melissa since I was coming and going to pick up the car. I might have seen her more often if I had other reasons, like practicing piano or doing other errands and chores to earn the use of the car. But all during the Melissa era, the relationship that she and I had was not as close as when I had no girlfriend, and therefore, no secrets to keep about my emerging intimate life with a girl. That kind of talk of course is kind of awkward with people anyway, but since I already knew her to be rather conservative but not totally close minded, I did keep hushed and would limit the talk about Melissa to discussion of the places we went or other developments of a pretty benign nature. But in that breakup week, I did not seek counsel with her. I didn't even tell her. Even a week and more later, I hadn't told her. The mantle of trust in my emotional life was starting to be transferred away from her as I rather foolishly thought I'd go it alone or limit myself to some friends and peers, few of which had the depth of perspective I'd need while maneuvering the minefield of life. At about the same time, calling upon my pastor Jerry happened less and less. The departure of our associate pastor Judy in 1993 also eroded my relationship with the church and folks constellated around it. I became unchurched. The road to any real faith was now beginning because I had outgrown the version of religion that gives the answers and the storybook versions of how things went. (I hasten to add that my church was anything but shallow theologically. But youth materials are geared toward, well... youth, and that is just foundational. Life itself build faith.)

Kelli Parrish was one notable exception. For several years she and her sweet mother Kay were about the only connection to the church congregation that a few years before had been a huge part of my life. There wasn't too much else, but as I found, friendship with Kelli kept me abreast of developments—and disintegrations—within the church. She was my lifeline to the church and even to a bit of spirituality for years to come. She and Kay were always ready friends of mine, and even though time might pass in larger or smaller blocks, the same spirit was always there. But let's not get too far ahead. There's that one Saturday at the end of February 1993, to start with.

Moving Violations

Until I refreshed my memory with my journal from then, I'd forgotten the part about not having been to her new house prior to spending that Saturday night with her. She lived in a place that came to be known as the "Treehouse" —a spot on the edge of the Mission Hills community of San Diego, overlooking the airport. (It's actually just a mile or so from my church now. In fact, for a time, she went there as a pew sitter herself.) Her place was up an insanely steep hill that juts off another road that itself is barely wide enough to park one lane of cars and let two other cars pass. Her street name did not appear to be anything more than a nebulous driveway up a crazy hill. That's what it looked like once I even found the first street after getting turned around in the odd combinations of dead end streets, one way streets, and other navigational oddness that defines that area. Her directions sounded clear enough. But in the downpour, everything got way more difficult. It took me 45 minutes to do what should have taken 20.

Finally I arrived at the Treehouse, a 2.5 story duplex up that nasty hill. It was indeed a sight, the balcony having a nice view of the harbor and airport and a bit of downtown. It was a place I'd get to know in the coming years. Often I'd been made to feel quite welcome there. For this first visit, we made small talk and headed out in the Ford Escort, not really knowing where we'd go. It was odd. She wasn't my date. No, at that point and for years to come, Kelli was kind of like a kid sister to me, and a church sister at that. This wasn't a date, and it would be years before our first movement toward our present relationship was made, and years more before we embraced it and went full on. But she was sometimes loud and outrageous. Colorful. Opinionated. Bold. Free spirited. Interesting. Too much for me. And she had lived a life or two by the time this night happened. Everything she was stood in stark opposition to Melissa.

My journal mentioned going to a number of places but didn't name any. Those details are lost to history, but let's set one thing down right here. Melissa lived in a newer suburb than I did, about ten miles northeast of where I was. Mira Mesa was (and still is) a place that I tolerated. It's technically not all so different than Clairemont where I lived but it feels different, maybe a bit stuffier. Really it might just be that it is just newer and with different particulars of merchants and street names. Oh, and maybe the considerable population of Filipinos that earned it a nickname of Manila Mesa. A point to make is that almost the entire relationship with Melissa was conducted in the suburbs, whether it was at her house or mine, or the parks we frequented, or the malls. Kelli on the other hand was far more urban and bohemian. This one rampaging night on the town was all in San Diego's more seasoned, older, and eclectic neighborhoods, or in downtown, about ten miles south of where I lived. Oh, she'd lived in many places, and she herself was in Clairemont not too long before this. In fact, she used to be on my bike route home from school and I dropped in on her a few times there. But her spirit is far more urban and alive with the stuff of arts and poetry and music arising from underground and repressed populations. Kelli herself was culture shock to me. The things she continues to introduce me to today still has that effect!

But that night we serviced some more immediate needs. The evidence shows we ate ourselves silly on pizza and gyros sandwiches after hitting up a few places. We got downtown while it was storming rain. If I hadn't run enough stop signs and lights just finding her house, I certainly met my quota while we went around looking for things we had vague inclinations to find but seemingly couldn't. She had just finished a first day of driving instruction and here I was showing her all the ways to NOT operate on the road! It was hilarious. With the big news of the period being the Melissa story, I'm sure we covered that in enough detail. Eventually we escaped downtown and its inside-out network of one way streets and all those damned red lights. We stopped for some time at Old Town a few miles away, and parked at the lot at the Presidio. That's the part I remember best, even if now it's more an impression on my heart that this time together was really the time that put Kelli on the map for me as a person I could really open up to and trust, and that was also hungering for a similar connection. With Melissa, I always felt like it took a lot of prying and coaxing to get a substantial exchange that communicated life's deep truths. By comparison, this was cake.

I think that we both had stories about divorced parents that kept us going for a while, and the lives we've led in the shadow of those broken relations. Indeed. Is there any way we would have known that early trusting time, peppered with some of the hilarity we experienced while running red lights would have paved the way for us to be married? Nope. We were just really kicking off a friendship then, sitting in the car on the side of the hill overlooking town, with rain pouring down around midnight on a cold February night.

We hit up Gelato Vero, a coffee shop at India and Washington, essentially across the street from her house (as the crow flies) but some distance away if you actually use the road. It was 12:20 am by the time we got there. That was pretty astounding since the 16 year old I was out with two weeks before had to be home by 10 and I had to be on my way by 11. Gelato Vero makes some kick ass gelato Italian ice cream. If I had any that night, it was probably the first I ever had. Already, Kelli was leading me into new areas of life. We retired to the Treehouse and watched Saturday Night Live. I suppose I went home at 1 am. Or later. What a time.

Serendipty is Her Forte

I don't recall exactly what day this part happened but real shortly after the Monday of Doom on the 22nd I happened into Kelli at Mesa College at the music department. I had taken the Basic Musicianship class because she herself had taken it a semester or two before and that got my interest up. Recall she was 16 at that time, so she was at Mesa not as a full fledged post-high school graduate but instead taking college classes there because it was possible, but also because her alternative high school was just next door. That day at the music department, she was talking to some guy named Josh. She introduced me as a drummer. Josh was a guitarist who could barely contain himself at the prospect of getting a drummer to help he and his other guitar buddy in their progressive hard rock band Forte. (I don't recall any of the material but I think they were into Queensryche or something.) I said I'd be interested especially if he could give me some demo of their stuff first so I could prepare. I might have to cover my early 1993 music activities in another post, but suffice to say that in that first week after Melissa, the stuff of new adventure was already taking form. And Kelli was right there in the middle of it.

But the Forte thing was small potatoes compared to what happened next while under Kelli's influence. Just a flash in the pan. I was just barely kicking tires and running my hand over the vehicle that was going to take me for the ride of my life.

But it Does Mean Beans!

It was just under two weeks after the Weekend of Doom with Melissa and one week after the Moving Violations tour with Kelli when it became time to do something to fill the new weekend-long void. Kelli suggested I go to a coffee shop with her to see a band she and Kay liked. They love acoustic music, folk music, protest music. The part about "coffee shop" threw me. Being so sheltered and suburban as I was, I was barely aware of what she could be talking about if it wasn't one of those kinds of Denny's-like greasy spoon places from the Ike's 50s and LBJ's 60s. You know...the places with glass and rock walls and odd diamond shaped roof panels that look kind of Jetsonlike, a cocky waitress with overdone makeup, and truckers with buttcrack issues? Oh! No, that's not what Kelli was getting at? Since I didn't drink coffee then and only now have adopted enough tolerance for coffee that I drink it about two days a month to kick my ass into gear for early morning work route driving to LA, I was clueless about the fair trade selling, earthy and colorful, free-thought-inducing bohemian dens she had in mind. The only coffee I knew about was gross stuff my old man drank: that freeze dried crystal crap that Folger's sells. I never drank it except to taste it once and that broke me of the habit immediately. Coffee was an adult drink. What did Kelli want with the stuff? Man, I was in for something new. Coffee? Coffee shops? Music in a coffee shop? I guess you'd be more likely to find music there. I doubt I ever saw live music at one of the Jetson types of coffee shops. That's why I was not really on the ball with her pitch. But she had an idea that might improve my life so I went along.

On March 5th I accompanied Kelli and Kay to Beans, ironically located in the shadow of University Town(e) Center, a major mall that us suburban rats would like to be seen at, and indeed, where Melissa and I launched into our relationship in June '92. Beans was just down the hill in a smaller strip mall, tucked into a corner. It's proximity to UCSD would have clinched it a smart and progressive crowd—all of which would have pretty much scared me then. It was high ceilinged, colorfully painted and inviting as those places tend to be. Art was on the walls. Since the entire area surrounding UTC was rather new, Beans too was new, and perhaps newer than the rest of things. Beans was a place I'd just drive past. But it became the stage (literally) for a huge new act in my life. My notes only indicate that I went there a number of times during that month and into April, always on weekend nights. I don't have but a couple notes indicating exactly who played one night or the next. But the band Kelli wanted me to see was Rekless Abandon, a duo with an incredibly imaginitive and sensitive acoustic guitar player named Paul Abbott and an equally incredibly dynamic and emotive singer, Randi Driscoll. Because I was deep into my progressive rock music and was only distracted by Melissa's gravitation to sappy soft rock, Rekless Abandon was foreign to me. First off, where was the band? It's just a dude and a chick strumming and singing! The drummer in me was unimpressed. But all this got me out of the house. There were a couple other musicians I recall seeing there. At first I was more impressed with a fellow named Dominick Giovanellio, a solo guitarist/singer who had some songs that I recall were tinged with some humor and wit. Another night I might have seen—and sat in with on drums—the Ray Iverson Quartet, a traditional jazz combo that I really had no business sitting in with, but they were gracious enough to let me do it twice. There was a blues band that I saw a couple times. Or maybe that was just their name?

He Played with Frank Zappa

But by far there is more at stake by returning to Rekless Abandon. They had a tape that I eventually got, and then another once it came out later in the year. Kelli and Kay had seen Paul and Randi play several times and were on first name basis with them. They even had them play a house party at the Treehouse. I was along at Beans and got to meet Paul somewhat. Enough anyway that after I'd seen the following spectacle at least twice I had to ask Paul what the hell I just saw. The thing is, while I remember certain things and certain impressions, since I was not steeped in the history of Rekless Abandon and did not yet have an inkling of how the San Diego music scene was networked, even now I don't have all the facts about the story I am about to tell. Yet I am certain I have asked people who were there those nights and who made it happen. Here goes.

At the end of their set, Paul and Randi did a boisterous song with a fierce chorus that I'm pretty sure went "Freaks! Freaks! Mother Fuckers!" repeatedly. That was obviously a crowd favorite as it got patrons into singing it too. But the curious thing was that they invited a bespectacled, long black hair flowin', trenchcoat and purple knit cap wearin' (or was it the purple and green pork pie hat?) guy up to the stage to sing that refrain in full vigor. Was it random? Could I get called up if I shouted and waved most enthusiastically? Once I saw it in two performances I knew there was something. He wasn't just another guy in the crowd. At the set break, this trenchcoat dude garnered some adoration and attention, even at a rather isolated coffee shop. Who was he? I had to ask Paul.

"Oh, that's Mike. He's a friend of ours. He's played with Frank Zappa..."

That got my attention. Not even so much because I was a fan. I wasn't a fan, and even now I'd be slow to call myself a fan of Zappa. Back then I had not one Zappa recording, but this sped up the process so that I had one by about June. It turned out that I started tentatively picking up some Zappa from the used CD shops. During the summer I was crafting some drum/vocal ode to Zappa for Rhythmic Catharsis. In early November I went to a Terry Bozzio drum clinic. 1993 was the year of getting into Zappa. It proved to be an oddly fated year for that.

The stuff I was doing with Rhythmic Catharsis was intuitively attempting to appropriate the dirty humor part of what Zappa did but never in a million years could I ever compose anything even as musical as his farts! Later in the year I crossed paths with Mike again at another Rekless Abandon show at another coffee shop, Rumors in Ocean Beach. It seems Mike was there to watch but had somehow become their soundman for the night. I was there with some new bandmates from New Electron Symphony, and Ian, the NES bandleader who surely would enjoy Zappa but did not know Mike, was really bugged at the sound that night. By that time in late November 1993, I'd gathered enough knowledge to wonder about Zappa, his studio, and his methods. At break time, I went outside and listened in on some open conversation and then proceeded to put my foot in my mouth. I hereby met Mike Keneally.

How's that Foot Taste?

Almost verbatim from my journal from December 7, I wrote, picking up on Paul's first mentioning of Mike's claim to fame...

He looked a little young [for having played with FZ who was in his 50s. Mike was 31]. Well, about two weeks ago I saw Rekless Abandon at Rumors, only about a week before I played there with NES. I saw Paul's friend again and talked to him. Sure enough, he played with Zappa in the last touring band in 1988. Since then he has played with (and still does) Frank's sons Dweezil and Ahmet. If that's so he's also been playing in a band [Z] which as seen the likes of Chad Wackerman, Doane Perry, and several others. The best in the biz. And the album he played on is one which also has Sting guesting on it! He told me a little more about Frank's studio and his history with Frank's band, and his solo stuff. I asked if Frank was still active in music. He said no. Frank is very very sick.

Who would have known that Frank died a week later on December 4th?

Strangely, I turned on the news today at 4 pm, something I never do. As I watched, a clip came in just before the commercial: something about the "late Frank Zappa." The LATE Frank Zappa?

Man. I felt so bad for asking such trivial shit of Mike just a week before his hero and mentor died.

I don't think I saw Mike for some time, but I did later hear his name in September 1994 when I went to a digital studio to do finish work on the Slaves By Trade recording that was new then. Joe Statt, the engineer, said Mike Keneally had been there recently with a whole mess of DAT tapes that he composited into his new album, Boil That Dust Speck. That Keneally name kept coming up. Was there a message in it? I found out when I saw my first Mike Keneally show in December of 1994—a year after the foot-in-mouth incident. And that was like losing my virginity all over again. But better!

Now, Where Were We?

Okay, so you saw I started this entry on one topic and then hovered for a while on Kelli talk, and then got to Keneally. Exactly. When I think of how all this stuff unfolded from that breakup with my first girlfriend (who as I said in the previous entry was someone who had her eye on me for some time prior to our dating, and whose parents were friends with mine before I was born...the story goes backwards and forwards), my mind is always blown. But this whole post is also a very diffuse thank you to Kelli who of course is my dear wife now. But even that was years in the future and was dotted with many stops and starts along the way. But the grand point that I have to make is how she's been accomplice to reshaping my life at some interesting times when I've felt, well, dead in my soul, defeated, lost. Kelli has often been responsible for sparking a new me into existence, for a rebirth of my spirit. And that's the honest truth.

The story of Kelli in my life is in some ways parallel (up to a point) with Melissa. But then there was an incredible divergence. Analogous to the prenatal history of Melissa's folks being party buddies with mine is the fact that before Kelli was born, Kay was at the same church as the one my grandmother helped found. Kay was my Sunday School teacher for a while when I was about 5-8 and Kelli and I used to have some play experience together. In both cases I was about three years older and had childhood experiences with Kelli and Melissa, even a few miles apart in town, mostly around Clairemont for a while. Kelli moved to Florida. Melissa to Mira Mesa. Both arrived back on the scene for me within about six months during the summer leading to or within my senior year in high school. To be honest, I didn't imagine a relationship with either until somehow circumstances seemed right according to the great mysteries and machinations of the universe. Back then, while I had made myself comfortable with Melissa because she was present and willing to be in a relationship, but I was really holding out for Shelby for no particularly tangible reason. Interestingly, it took until that imaginary relationship collapsed in 2000 before the way was clear to be open to Kelli. 

And that's about where the similarities end. I'm certain I got the better partner in the end. But try telling that to the tortured 19 year old for whom the world seemed to come to an end until Kelli, still pretty young but already wise beyond her years, was just a friend who was willing to connect at a substantial level that I didn't feel was possible with other people in general but certainly with Melissa. It's kind of odd how one had shallow roots and the other deeper roots. Melissa always (even now, from what I can see when I do a quick web search) seemed to be into stuff I'd never be interested in. Kelli was like an oasis the way she kept the light on for me, a living connection to matters of faith and spirituality, allowing life to be complex and messy because she too knew that was a major pattern. In one way it was good that the whole Melissa chapter was done by the time I was 21 (we had a short fling the following year), and good also that Kelli finally made sense to me in time to turn 30 (28, really). The years in between had a considerable darkness lurking that really set me up to recognize what Kelli meant after so many years of church youth groups, casual friendship, collaborating on a CD, and a bit of pre-dating foolin' around. Ultimately, as the story goes elsewhere on this blog, the summer of 2001, with two tragedies hitting us (9/11 and the murder of one of our church buddies, Daniel, a month before), we found ourselves cashing in our relationship capital and recognizing we needed to be closer if the world around us was going to keep descending into utter madness. And then closer still. It's quite a story. But now you just read one big chunk that hitherto had barely been mentioned.

And of course volumes could be written about how things worked out after I saw Keneally play in December 1994. The effect he had on my creativity was immense. Following leads opened up by interacting with him has taken me down many avenues. There are even a few interesting bits concerning how the Keneally and Kelli worlds have interacted. That is another entry altogether.

Taken together, it's all the story of my life. The greatest story ever told, man...

Thursday
Oct272011

The Show I Waited A Decade To See

In 1995-2000, Mike Keneally's music was not unlike the air I breathed. The hottest period was during late 1996 and then again during much of 1998, but for several years, my Keneally fascination was parallel and maybe even the spark for a creative spell of my own. In some ways, I feel that I patterned my own efforts on some vicarious fanboy imagination of some of the aspects of his life and career. It seems silly to say so, but that's pretty much what I decided was going on with me.

I came into Keneallydom by a few different doors during 1993/94. In some ways, that makes me rather old school Keneally (at least as far as his solo work is concerned). In some ways, I was a bit late. I never saw Drop Control, and he had started and ended his Frank Zappa career years before I arrived at a Boil That Dust Speck CD release party (or an early show following that album) in late 1994. But I go back some way, and over time, our paths have been intertwined at a few points. I've been a drooling fan boy listener. I've provided him studio space. I've worked on one of his tours. I've done other local work for him. I've been a rather savage critic of his product and lifestyle. I've gone into musical hiding for much of a decade now. Long story.

I used to get to most of the San Diego shows he put on, and when that wasn't enough, some LA/Hollywood/Orange County shows too, including most of the shows during the 1999 Baked Potato summer series. About 2002/3, I fell out of love and probably didn't see any shows till mid 2007 when I somehow got into the Birch Theater to see his trio with Doug Lunn and Marco Minnemann. I enjoyed that show and got a chance to talk to Mike and in a subsequent email, to apologize for some bad behavior. He's always been gracious to me. I wish things had never gotten that way. I was in a bad place of sorting out life in a big way, and somehow it seemed okay to trash him in public. It was sort of like a love gone bad for me. 

I check in on things now and then. See the stuff on his site, but never really bought anything. Odd, but you realize that I've paid to see probably no more than four shows in the years I've followed him. Either I've been part of the official crew, or have had a sustained "bro deal" in the aftermath of that work, or was somehow of some assistance, or just downright patient and persistent to get my "miracle" entry. But I can only think of a couple shows where I was a paying audience member. I've bought some albums, but others have been comped for being an assistant (or, like Nonkertompf, a credited recording location), or for swaps with fellow fans who wanted to trade to get some of my DAT recordings from some memorable shows. It may come as no coincidence, but while on tour, Toss called me "Eddie Freeloader" (named after a famous Miles Davis track, "Freddie Freeloader"). At that point, it was for other reasons than my paying or not at a box office or record store, but there it was, even in 1996!

My main beef that set off so many people was that I longed for a time when the MK band would play some of the composed stuff with some integrity: rehearsed and refined. This was coming after watching the band do more jam band sounding stuff that was neat at first but tired me out. I wanted the good stuff. Similar complaint about the album Dancing. I said it would be a kick ass 55 minute album so why did it have to be 80 minutes with what I called filler? Why not just release a steamroller of an album at about an hour? It certainly had that much material that kicked ass. I said he should have a producer with a more objective opinion. That got me in trouble. Sure, MK is good, but seriously...does every album have to be packed to the gills and turned into a double album, and then have another disk featuring alt mixes and stuff?

It has been over four years since I saw the band last. Time flies, I swear. Then this summer I found that he has a five piece band with two dedicated guitar players and MK on guitar and keys. One video was all it took for me to get that shit-eating grin from the old days. The song Kedgeree benefits greatly from a rich arrangement of sounds. When the band came to town during their west coast tour, I was sure to go, even though Todd Larowe was not able to go, and no one else seemed interested. I got to Winston's just in time to say hi to Mike (which he enhanced with a big bear hug), and a couple others, including Merrily, a quite devoted young lady who was around back in the Dancing days, once as a girlfriend of Brandon Arnieri's. (We had met some times around 2001-2002 when Brandon was playing guitar at Hog Heaven. Probably the last time I saw Merrily was at the end of 2002 when Brandon got to be incredibly difficult at one of our rehearsal/jams with Paul Horn. I wrote this post about that disaster of a session and my rather regrettable way of dealing with that fact.) Merrily pulled me out of the crowd and offered that she knew me. At this time, with her short blonde hair, I didn't recognize her till she named herself and then it was no matter recalling she had the long dark hair and had been to my 29th birthday party, a couple shows or parties, and other interactions back in the day.

For the duration of the show, I didn't really see anyone else that I knew, or that I felt close enough to want to talk to, but at the bar, I found that I took a liking to a Karl Strauss Red Trolley ale (even at $6/pint!). It was silky smooth and pleasant. The band went on and with that, the stress of the week before started to melt away. Merrily and I kept swapping comments as we sat at the bar and had our ears pressed back plenty even at that distance. From the start, the band sounded fuller and richer than I have heard except in the case of the 8-piece band or maybe the one-off sextet with Bob Tedde and Mark DeCerbo in 1998. Three guitars is truly an impressive thing for this music because so much of MK's sound is layered and harmonized. It's a no brainer that three guitars is what should be up there at all times.

I delighted in air drumming. Merrily wasn't too bad herself, considering she's more of a guitarist if anything. It isn't quite like being at a Rush show where everyone drums in unison, but with MK's music being so rich in shifting meters and feels, it has its own kind of air drumming identity. Considering some of this material I have not heard in years, or certainly not on stage, it was like I had never left. I found the first beer was done in no time. Time for another, this time a Yellowtail. Some favorite songs played in a way that totally delivered the goods: Cause of Breakfast, Kedgeree, Tranquillado, Skunk, Own, Click. Some others that aren't quite faves but delighted in a big way with their powerful attack: Of Knife and Drum, Top of Stove Melting, Frozen Beef, Life's Too Small. Funny, with as much volume as there was, I didn't mind air drumming and giving it my best at belting out the words too. I recall getting some harmony part right enough that a guy sitting on the table some several feet away, looked back with an approving grin and brighter eyes, as if to say I nailed it. Time for a third beer, this time a return to the Red Trolley. Who knew that Eddie Freeloader would drop $18 on three beers after sinking $20 into admission???

It was a couple hours of pure living again. Not only had I not seen Keneally in a few years, the times when I am at live concerts now has dropped off in a huge way. I barely see anything if it isn't at church or related settings. So this had some visceral power for me. The beer didn't hurt. Finding one friendly face to talk to, not just as a fellow fan, but as someone who also had some knowledge of the conflicted state of things, and was willing to hear how I'd come around to seeing things another way. (We also talked Kevin Gilbert, which was good for the soul too. She sent me a couple KG albums I did not have, and has triggered a huge week of listening to his stuff.)

After the show, I got a chance to say hi to Joe Travers—drummer in the band, but also the main Zappa Vaultmeister, but even more so, the first Keneally bandmember I gave my tape One Twisted Individual to, back when it was new in 1995! (That was rather brazen but well received since it was also a gift upon a gift of racing back home to get my hi hat cymbals so Joe could play the show at the gallery that August 1995 day. Joe has always been a delight to chat with at shows since then.) I talked to Bryan Beller for a bit, and after several years, it was more graceful. We had our differences before, some related to the tour, and some for, well I really don't know why. But I told him that I really enjoyed the show in a way I hadn't in a decade or so. After scoping out the last of the people in the room, I walked Merrily to her car and traded some more stories about things that have gone down since we met up last. Then I walked clear the other direction for a few blocks and sat in my truck for a bit near the pier and the pounding surf at the end of Newport. With all the cops around, there was no sense in risking drawing attention, and beside, the night was one worth reflecting on before going home.

Saturday
May282011

Too Tull an Order for Me

Jethro Tull tix for me and my lady are nearly $98 after Ticketbastard added nearly $18 to the price that I was already teetering about, plus the drive to Escondido/Valley Center, which, with gas prices today actually means a bit more still. Don't get me wrong. I have loved Tull for 22 years (and they are the first band that I truly savored, and I even started playing drums because of them), but I just aint into shedding that much "hard earned" dough for a few hours of kicks. (I'd sort of like to get remixed and remastered albums, if anything.) The current band, according to YouTube vids I've seen over a few years, is a shadow of itself (keys and bass players seeming all the more like hired guns with nothing of the kind of personality of earlier guys), and Ian's voice is pretty bad now, even while his flute and guitar work have advanced.

Even getting an agreement from one of the band to meet and greet was nice but the expense for a band that really ought to play instrumentals now, or in "emerging markets," or should go out proudly on 43 years of laurels and not keep milking it. Kind of sad, really. Musically, they are still quite exciting when playing the bold stuff like Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses, Black Sunday, Farm on the Freeway, but Ian really needs to call it a day with the voice. It is too identifiable an element of their sound, and it has been stressed since 1984. After a couple years' recovery time following his voice crisis that year, I liked his mellow voice on Crest of a Knave and one or two albums to follow, but since they tour all the time, no doubt that just makes it worse. I'd rather buy one good album every three years than see their tours at this price. But they don't really do albums anymore, it seems.

Yet, the three shows I have seen in the 90s have been quite enjoyable. The one to follow was perhaps a favorite concert experience of all...

In 1998, under the guise of working for Mike Keneally that day and borrowing one of the band's access passes, I got to meet the band (Martin Barre told me about Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention getting the axe from that band when he did some silly and not-too-well-thought-out Hitler gesture at a show) and watch both MK's show and the Tull show from side stage at Humphreys. That must be my Tull peak experience. It was that day that Ian Anderson stood just feet in front of me in the wings, watching MK's blistering performance with his 5 piece band, playing the Cowlogy with its insane Zappa-like rhythmic unison ending that followed a curvy and dense vocal line. Ian had a wild grin on his face watching that, and later on got in touch with drummer Jason Harrison Smith and had him come to England to cut demos for Tull's next album (Dot Com) and Ian's solo album, SLOB. Only Jason had a sort of loose tongue that uttered something during the sessions that killed the deal just as he was getting some of the biggest chances in his career thus far. Like Ian needed Jason's creative input!

Friday
Jul312009

Beer Summit

I'm not so sure I wasn't invited to the Beer Summit yesterday. I have to be frank; I would have sided with the professor and his charges of overbearing cop authority. For you see, such an instance was sort of my story about this time 12 years ago in my old apartment complex where apparently some dude was flashing his parts before the unsuspecting tenants. Somehow, at the very same time as there were some cops in the neigborhood, I was mistaken briefly for the guy and was questioned for over half an hour by the curb, totally messing up my plans for the evening. Here is a slightly embellished version of the story as presented by Bryan Beller, Mike Keneally's bass player, who was told it by Toss Panos, Mike Keneally's drummer (both of whom I toured with in 1996). Toss, despite being a supporting character in the drama, was sort of an unreliable witness due to his amazing consumption of Greek ouzo liquor that night. They both had it out for me and my foibles, as both treated me like the pesky little brother on tour. So this story was ripe for exaggeration and some condescension. Read it and you might imagine how I'd feel more like Professor Gates than the officer... Here is the 1997 story on BryanBeller.com, quoted here since it is taken from a really long blog of Bryan's.

And that brings us to the story I know you've all been waiting for... the tale of Toss Panos and Ed Lucas out on the town in San Diego. Boy, is this a good one.

Apparently Toss had plans to visit his family down in San Diego for a weekend in early June. It was the Friday of this particular weekend, and Toss was just about to head out the door when the phone rang. It was our old friend Ed, a San Diego resident. Ed wanted to know when Mr. Panos would next be down San Diego way, and Toss gave him the standard "funny you should ask" response. It's not like Toss and Ed hang out every day (an arrangement that doesn't seem to bother Toss that much—I can't speak for Ed), but Toss was in a rush and basically said "what the fuck" and gave Ed directions to a place that he'd be hanging out with a couple of family members as well as Peter Schlacher, the European tour promoter for Waternoise (Toss' jazz project). Toss figured that Ed wouldn't show. He figured wrong.

By the time Ed showed up, Toss and friends/family had already consumed mass quantities of Ouzo, a particularly devastating brand of Greek liquor. Ed doesn't drink, and so he was apparently happy enough simply to be in the company of some very inebriated Greeks, plus one inebriated German (Peter Schlacher's nationality). Party on, dudes.

Toss, Ed and Peter then split from the family Panos and headed over to the Catamaran to take in a performance by The Steely Damned, a local band that covers the music of you-know-who (and a damned good job they do of it). One hour and many more drinks for Peter and Toss later, it became obvious that Ed was the only one in any condition to drive. And if you remember The Alternate Reality (and Ed's driving habits), then you're well aware that saying "Ed was the safest driver available" is saying something indeed. [This telling flatters Toss, who was driving his own car separate from me.]

After leaving the Catamaran, the next agreed upon destination was a strip club. This brought our drunken heroes to a somewhat seedy part of town [my place in Clairemont, later to be found out as a place where one of the 9/11 terrorists did his flight training while just two miles from Montgomery Field]. Ed suddenly turned right into a dark street and declared, "Hey you guys, I'm gonna go change my shirt." Ed then ran out of the car and up into his (apparent) dwelling, leaving the car parked awkwardly in the middle of the street [my car was in my driveway, a tad sloppy, but not in the street]. Toss, realizing that the car was in a bad spot [his car, out in the middle of the street], was forced to jump into the driver's seat and get the car turned around and parked properly. As Toss performed some kind of illegal maneuver to get the car pointed in the right direction, a cop car came up from behind them, lights flashing and sirens wailing [yes lights but no sirens]. Toss stopped. The cop got out of the car and asked, "What are you guys doing here?" It was a D.U.I. waiting to happen. But wait—it gets better.

Toss tried to explain to the nice officer (without breathing in his general direction) that they were merely waiting for a friend who went upstairs to "go change his shirt". The cop, understandably, was skeptical. He asked what their "friend" looked like. Peter replied, "Well, he's kind of big, with glasses and a military haircut. "Really?" the cop answered curiously. All of a sudden, down came Ed with his fresh shirt on. "What's going on?" he asked. The cop scowled. "Come here," he said to Ed. The next thing Ed knew, he was in handcuffs and in the back of the cop car [not really but I was held near the car across the street from my place, and questioned at length]. Two other cop cars arrived in a matter of minutes. Toss and Peter were held there for more than 30 minutes before the cops finally explained why Ed was being detained.

It seems that in that section of San Diego, there had been reports of a man matching Ed's description who was running around flashing little kids and masturbating in front of them for their viewing pleasure [one woman seemed to have complained of some dude exposing himself, and I think I know who these two were]. Toss and Peter meekly tried to explain that, although Ed was not the brightest bulb in the light store, he certainly wasn't capable of such a heinous act. The cops held them anyway.

Finally, one hour after Ed went to go change his shirt, the cops let Peter and Toss go about their business. When the two of them left, Ed was still in the back of the cop car in handcuffs [not cuffed, but those bastards did get to leave. It spoiled my evening]. Was it possible that Ed could have been The San Diego Stroker? Personally I doubt it, but you never know. None of us have heard from him since.

It's always a family affair in The Life Of Bryan, isn't it? As I said earlier, it's been a bit boring 'round these parts, so I figured I could do worse than tell you that little story.

Friday
Sep022005

The Gracious Cynic

I've already told you what a life I've been leading this last month. But it pales in comparison with everything coming out of Katrina land, which also seems to be bringing peak oil on even faster than welcome. And more revelations of how utterly useless and despicable this administration is, and damn near everyone and everything we've come to rely on is failing us. Even for prophets like me with some disturbing visions, this is scary mainly because it's a lot of crazy scenarios coming true. People who know about my peak oil awareness efforts have been asking me if this is "it." Is this peak oil, they wonder? Yeah, and a whole lot more, it seems. It's just stunning how unrelenting the news has been lately.

Yesterday I met and had dinner with a fellow named Graeme Elliott who is in his mid 70s or so and has been prodding me to do more and more peak oil and post carbon awareness efforts. His encouragement led me to do the EONSNOW site and the movie showings, and anything else I do, like contact some media, or just be a mouthpiece for the various topics that relate. Anyhow, Graeme is a veteran in the progressive causes, with the leading causes being nuke disarmament and freeze in the 80s, and also economic conversion from a military economy to a peace economy. He happened onto peak oil last year, like I did, and we met this April.

We went to an Italian restaurant this time and it occurred to me, and was forceful enough to honor it, that this meal could be among the best I will enjoy before all sorts of uncertainty sweeps across this country and the world as oil and gas go their unpredictable routes as they both deplete and leave us with a huge question mark over our conventional ideas of food production and distribution. One has to wonder how many miles the various items on my plate traveled before they met their fate on my dinner plate. Or how much natural gas and oil went into their production? And the cooking? Is this something that will carry on in this wonderfully consumeristic fashion? Before we got down to eating, I told Graeme, 'I just want to stop and appreciate this meal, while we are still able to eat like kings.' With that, I stopped to marvel at what a task it is to put that food on the plate before me. And I also quivered with a little guilt and fear that I barely know a damn thing about how to put it there if this massive industrial food production apparatus should be crippled and ultimately die. So I gave thanks.

As we sat and ate like kings, neither of us could escape the utter horror that is the fate of the Birthplace of Jazz, now under a few stories of water. For a suburban white boy from the drought-ridden southwest, it's impossible to comprehend a city under water. I've been to New Orleans once in late 1996 when I worked for Mike Keneally's tour. I remember it being a great place laden with REAL funk in every sense of the word. I got there a few weeks after a stop in the other sin city (Las Vegas) and remember N'awlins being vastly more impressive and honest than Vegas which seemed like a big contrived cartoon of a place which had no tradition or soul to it at all but for that of a capitalist. In N'awlins, me and the Keneally/Vai band and crew ran around and shot pool and drank beer till 7:30 in the morning, all in just a couple of places which now I can't remember. I just remember having one of the best times on the tour in N'awlins, with all the fun simply starting AFTER the show ended and was struck. Maybe at midnight or later before we prowled the empty streets in the late autumn. I have some pix of me on Bourbon street and one of Bryan Beller when we traded places (see Bryan Beller's journal of the tour). He and I were eating gumbo at a restaurant when he stopped to leave a phone message for the Keneally fans who were then using the still-new and exciting Keneally presence on the web. My memories of New Orleans are good, and I'm glad I got to see it before it became Atlantis. Like Atlantis, it was a cultured city. I think it was one of only a few American cities that had any genuine culture that set it apart and made it world class. I wonder if the ghosts of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Sidney Bechet are going to be wandering around there now.

I read something very disturbing as I waited for Graeme. In Michael Ruppert's book, Crossing the Rubicon, the author makes a somewhat puzzling comment about the current administration's understanding that a post peak oil era will very likely have to have a severe reduction in population back to what the earth could support without the meddling of fossil fuel derived fertilizers, pesticides, and the production machinery to grow and harvest all that food. He says that humans will have to revert somehow to a population of two billion or less. And, this is where it gets scary when I think about it (I've subscribed to the dieoff idea for a year or more now, so that's not a brutal as this new idea of how this dieoff could be brought on by those who don't concern themselves with life). The book says that the administration knows what is going on, and perhaps this awareness informs their decision to let 3000 die on 9/11, or all these war deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or, now that a new crisis is upon us in the southeastern US, is it worth noting that NOT doing much in the way of rescue efforts is sort of a hands off way of letting the population shrink in a "natural disaster"? Pardon the deep cynicism, but I think Ruppert might be onto something here.

Think about it. Everyone knows the usual ways nature can reset itself when a species overshoots the carrying capacity of its host. There are floods, fires, earthquakes, disease, famine, cannibalism, miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), and other things of those sorts that can bring a population into line with reality. Humans have the unique ability to enhance that list to include war and violence, abortion-on-demand, infanticide, euthanasia, and our project for the last century: destroying the natural world segment by segment by turning everything into a commodity or waste dump in the name of profit and power. The fascists in power operate in a perfectly corporate fashion (after all, fascism is just the merger between government and corporation). That is to say, since a corporation relies on externalizing as many costs of doing business ("leave that work/expense for someone or something else outside our company"), who is to say that a hurricane is not a golden opportunity to let someone or something outside the company do a little work that would be rather expensive or too objectionable to the public if the company (government in this case) were to undertake the project itself? A hurricane is not on the payroll, and its effects can be "spun" to appear to be totally unanticipated. Ditto a tsunami.

It is outside of reason to think that a little God-given death would be handy when you are faced with peak oil and its population crash? Is it not within reason to ask why so many "brown people" (as George Carlin would say) are not prioritized in rescue efforts? It might take a lot of money to kill all those brown people with guns, and that might look bad come next election season, but delaying or not sending a competent relief effort or diverting funds from the levee project? What could be better? These fuckheads can appeal to their base by reducing the size of government and not giving "hand outs" for people who should know better than to weather the storm. I have to wonder now. Is the whole "culture of life" line a 100% Orwellian thing? The republo-fascists are the party of death. Start war. Do their best to ignore or downplay the natural tragedies which interestingly take out a good number of poor brown people. These fuckheads don't mind making folks suffer, do they? I just have to wonder how much of a population reduction they would be able to take credit for. After all, somehow, we got four BILLION people to knock off before things can settle down. What new and clever ways of letting people die, or killing them can these assholes come up with?

It all saddens and shocks me to think that now our government has assumed the role of God in deciding who lives and dies. The thing that bends my mind is that they want to preserve life for a generation who would grow up to have only the table scraps of our glory days, but want to look the other way when it comes to the living. If anything, they should be cooking up every way to allow birth control and abortion so that fewer mouths ever come into existence because the last thing humans need is more mouths to feed. I think there should be varied and wonderfully liberal options about end of life matters. Humans need to depopulate with willful intent. War is not good enough. It is not compassionate. Allowing people to die naturally is desperately needed, but neglecting the needs of survivors of a natural disaster is not compassionate. Allowing people to die willfully is desperately needed, but driving them to commit suicide by destroying their friends, family, economy, and hopes is not compassionate.

No one likes to think that their ostensible protector would be responsible for not just failing but abandoning that role, but in this time of Orwell-as-prophet, I don't rule out a lot of crazy scenarios.

Friday
Nov052004

Backwards Deb/Rambling BS

Without a word of warning
The ceiling falls on the floor
And all of them you've been scorning
Will take your bitter seed no more
Tell a tall one
There's a lie in your eye
When you call for your neighbor to help
He will kiss you good bye

And you're stranded and
Don't have a dime to phone
You ought to be alone
You've landed on something wrong
You ought to be more strong
Stuck in a backwards song...

Will the people who made you
Give up a dollar for you now?
And anybody who tastes you
Take a piece of you somehow?

Tell a tall one
It is in me to try
To live in line with my calling
Not to drown it in faithless lies?

And you're stranded...

Its dark outside
And its dark inside
And my heart it cries
Why don't I
Why don't I
Why don't I go on home?

Tell a tall one...
There's a lie in my eye
But someones dying to love me
Someone who'd die if I couldn't survive

And I'm stranded
And don't have a dime to phone...

This is one of the more durable pieces from Mike Keneally that has never really aged for me despite a big falling out between us. I've heard it since its early days when he was more or less writing it and shaping it on stage in about mid 1999. It came out on Dancing in 2000. There are fundamental differences in this song's lyrics; the early ones are singing about "you" and the released version are turned on the singer's self. Certain variations resonated with me this week. I didn't realize it would be about the Bush elections in 2000 and now. On the night of the Kerry concession speech, I had a visceral hour and a half playing drums and frankly just not giving a damn if I played anything right or not, or if God called me to ask that I stop stealing his thunder. This song is among the Keneally repertoire I dare to even kid myself to attempt on drums. But this time I really didn't give a shit. It just felt good to hit stuff I could legally hit, and frankly vent off the rage that yet another election was stolen by George Bush.

But then again, tonight, I found myself having started a fire that sort of just took its time in really being good company. The roommates were gone. My wife was gone, the dog was here, curled up at my feet as I ate dinner from a cheap plastic container. It was dark outside. It was dark inside.

So who among those who believe in social justice, passive and diplomatic solutions to problems, and the fundamental power of democracy had a good week? Really, no one I know who believes in "progressive" ideals enjoyed this week's upset. The shock mellowed in the two days since, but what a week. I don't think I have ever gasped in unison with the tens of millions of people who felt as I did that day.

So tonight was a moment alone at home, and while I am often at home alone, moments like tonight are somewhat rare now that the place is full of people, and a dog too. I am a believer in this whole peak oil thing, and the possible implications have permeated my thinking rather extensively. I often think that our lives are just too damned complicated, and as an antidote, we just complicate things more. But then I find a little timeless pleasure in sitting alone at the fire with the dog by my side, and imagine myself in a pre- or post-industrial life, doing exactly that, not as a matter of a momentary luxury, but as daily life, survival. I don't put my faith in a lot of the entertainment options available to us, because I believe at some time, they won't be there for us. Little by little, I allow myself glimpses of what life could be like if the modern accoutrements were not here. I thought about watching a movie. A Mighty Wind peeks its head out from the video box, but I say no to that, funny though it is. Or I think about the past few years I have been purging my "friends" list, which more or less has separated me from my entire music world relations, and mostly even music itself, while I find other ways of analyzing and defining life. I find there is so much to do, and even more to think about.

I think there is a problem with trusting the electric lights will always come on. And with this week and its terrible loss for tolerance and community- and ecologically-minded people, I fear for a lot of things. Most people are fearing that we are taking a step back to homophobia and the supression of women's rights and so forth. We may be, and that is certainly a mistake. But my other concern is that Bush, an oil man, is aware of peak oil and its implications, but he still parades on like there is nothing to worry about. Keep the economy going! Buy SUVs! Build more power plants! Do more international trade! Fight more wars! Basically, he is throwing coal into the engine of the train that is going to run off the tracks within my lifetime. That is scary on its own.

But let me put forth something even more dire. Bush is a fundamentalist "Christian" who probably believes in the end times, and that Jesus will come by and save the converted, and all that shit. It is hardly a belief system that would make a man want to conserve and educate people to do the same, even if it meant the economy taking a knee in the balls for the greater good. So the guy believes in the end of the world as a matter of divine mandate, and some say that with the oil crisis looming, and prices that will skyrocket for the remaining (and fading) resources, that will effectively be the beginning of the end for industrialized civilization—close enough to the end of the world for a lot of us. Bush. Strong leadership to deliver us to the end of the world. That is hardly the strong leadership I think we wanted, Mr. Bush.

There are hardly the massive efforts needed to replace the oil based industrial economy—not enough to smoothly cross fade into whatever is next in line, that is. It isn't something that will be an overnight development—neither the crisis nor the solutions that emerge—but it will be a permanent decline in activity, and many things we take for granted will fade from common usage due to breakage and decay (and lack of replacement parts and new manufacturing), and if we don't start building our tools and devices here at home again, we will find ourselves not able to buy the stuff that comes from China because shipping will be prohibitively expensive.

I rather foolishly went to Home Depot today and bought a power saw—a device that one day will probably be useless. I also bought some other tools that I deemed necessary to at least build up a basic tool box so I could stop borrowing stuff from my old man and the neighbors. But the circular saw is sort of sticking in my craw. I have had this belief that maybe its time I learn how to use manual tools to do stuff, and not trust in power tools (of any sort, for any purpose—maybe it's time I take a math class so I lose the calculator too). It's hard to imagine reverting to manual labor where for right now, it's not necesssary. But one day it will be, once again.

I've never thought of connecting a Keneally song to the end of the world, but when it is dark outside, and its dark inside, the mind tends to wander. What would it be like for all of us if the ceiling fell on the floor and all of a sudden we were confronted with the consequences of our lifestyles of consumption like there is no tomorrow? With the Bushies telling a tall one to get elected, and celebrating the good of the individual over the good of society and driving a wedge between citizens, will our neighbor kiss us goodbye? Will we ever regain the community life? Or I guess what concerns me more is, do we have the community life we need to draw on when federal government loses its legitimacy, due to the corruption, cronyism, and lies? My fear is that we will be stranded without a dime to phone. I could be wrong, but a nation as divided as we are now won't be too able to get behind the idea that our day as an industrial superpower is up, and that we need to return to a life that we make together, and stop exploiting each other.

So sitting by the slow burning-but-hot fire, I ponder this and more, wondering if it's in me to try to live in line with my calling, and not to drown it in faithless lies.

Friday
Jun252004

Dogs Hit Record Low Point

Okay, I have pretty much lost my faith in Mike Keneally's musical output. He just put out Dog and that seems to be an appropriate title, sad to say. It has been four years since he put out his last full band album, and three since he did his "solo" project. I don't know what it is; I just didn't hear more than a few minutes of anything that was satisfying on this new CD. And the crazy thing is, I got the thing for FREE. I can't justifiably feel ripped off, but I do feel that it was a lost opportunity. Back when the current band was newly formed as a four piece, MK dubbed it the "rude and fuzzy" quartet. Granted, there is a few passages that sound exceedingly thick, and some that rock, but overall, I just don't hear rude and fuzzy. I hear clean- to overdriven- guitar tones, and Bryan Beller's huge five string bass that would fit into a lot of modern pop records' sonic footprint, but not a lot of over the top stuff that reaches out and strangles me. I thought there would be more clever interaction between guitars, and more snappy arrangements and frankly, ideas. But now I am hearing his certain cliches over and over.

The sound of the recording is the best he has ever had, and the fact that it was recorded, more or less, by the same crew of people, both players and engineers, in just a couple places, makes for a consistent sound from start to finish, unlike the stuff he used to do, which was really an odd whirlwind of players, engineers, studios, and other elements, all digitally edited into a final form. Oh, and those older albums always were a few seconds or minutes short of the CD's capacity of 80 minutes. At least MK has given that up. This CD is relatively short, and at least doesn't have the usual link tracks that help his wildly eclectic stuff segue. I used to love that stuff, but then I realized it was filler so that he could record 80 minute albums, and they later lost their luster. But, for the most part, this is the well-produced, well-recorded album I'd been hoping for, except for the fact that the material just leaves me feeling blah.

I guess it is time to find a new hero. MK has been frustrating-to-disappointing for the the last four years or so. I like a lot of things about him, and am probably really just jealous in a lot of ways, but really, his stuff is playing it safer and safer all the time, when I know damn well he could do some startling stuff. He has a lot of potential, but now he wants to play these little jam-band tunes that echo some Zappa roots of his, and so forth. In some regards, I think it's great that he has streamlined some, but some of this stuff is just boring and stiff compared to things that he did ten years ago.

I have had this theory for about five years that Mike had some serious magic happen on his earlier stuff because he had to play with people who could take him or leave him. To guys like Doug Lunn and Toss Panos, or Frank Briggs or Scott Thunes, he was some clever upstart but not anything that would make them give up their day gigs. So, in effect, Mike had to really do some clever shit to make it worth their while, because I know for a fact he wasn't able to pay them too well, and often made them learn complex stuff on short notice. So really, Mike had to ascend to THEIR levels. But now, he is surrounded by younger guys who think of him as the best gig they ever got, and it's more like the Mike-to-Zappa relationship, where people are lining up to get the gig with Mike, something that I think has led to his seemingly relaxed approach to his music. And, it seems that he is just mellowing with age, and before he is totally fat, balding, and gray, he wants to be able to say he got some chicks to shows. I can say the early-mid 90's were not really good years for chicks at MK shows, but over the last seven years or so, there have been a lot more, and it may be just a coincidence, the music has been a LOT safer, and less balls-out.

Sunday
Jun062004

If I Had A Million Dollars

I could almost afford to live in my hometown. But then, sometimes I wonder why I would want to.

There are enough people I know who maybe are from out of town who are surprised that I am not Mister San Diego, even though I was born here. True, I don't go to the beach (this one really confounds people), and I don't like the Padres or Chargers (usually the losingest teams, but I am so far from caring), and I don't even like being in the sun (my studio tan is just fine, thank you). Really, people somehow are way surprised to find I do not live as they almost expect I would. Sometimes San Diego rubs the wrong way. I mean, the place is politically corrupt. The entire place, once a few miles from downtown, is a huge sprawlfest of freeways, boulevards, suburbs, and a million gas stations, strip malls and so forth. America's Finest City, my ass. Granted, we do have some nice things to behold; I like to go to Coronado (a surprisingly quaint place compared to us, and only across the harbor), and I like to soak up the vibe in parts of La Jolla, Mission Bay, Point Loma, and a few other places. But it's a drag to get around in, despite roads going everywhere. I don't know. The place was a desert, and would like to return to a desert, and will once the water stops flowing. There are way too many tourists. I don't say that from having empirical data; it's more of a conclusion reached when realizing there is a lot of entertainment and attractions that are slanted in favor of tourism.

First off, there is next to no actual music scene. We have a lot of musicians—maybe too many—but there is really not a San Diego sound. The only musicians I know who make enough money to live on are playing conventions, dinners, corporate meetings, and benefits, etc. The musicians a step lower than that first class are the ones that play to these same conventioneers in the Gaslamp, playing the well-worn blues, classic rock, soul, disco/funk, island, latin, and pop stuff that has been the staple of dance and bar bands for 25 years or more. Yay. I know there are towns that have thriving original music scenes. San Diego is not one of them. Minneapolis is cold and dark. They have a scene. San Francisco is small and dense. They have a scene. Chicago is another cold place that has a proud musical scene, or many. SD just has a bunch of musicians. Some are great. Mike Keneally of course is one of the finest musical exports from this town in a long time, but no one knows him, and most of his "fame" is from his time in Los Angeles and other places. I know of a dude named Mike Watson who I believe is a more unique guitarist than Keneally, but he will die penniless. No one happens to be too interested in acoustic fretless guitar playing and his self-created ebow-on-fretless portamento chordal style. Watson really is the most unique but generally accessible local musician I know of. I mean, he is good enough to count somewhere, sometime, but alas, he cleans office buildings and lays bricks for a living. In San Fran or New York, he would be sucked into so many gigs, but here, he can't find a band worth a shit to back him up.

And maybe the tourists don't have much to do with this, but the idiots who move 35 miles out of town do. The freeways are hell. And the idiots in charge are too stupid to know or too beholden to developers to admit that the answer is NOT more freeways and suburbs. Fucking idiots. Really. There is a stretch of the I-15 from Miramar to Carmel Mountain or upper Rancho Bernardo where they are trying to add a lane in each direction, cutting the shoulder lanes really thin, wacking away more land, and generally turning wine into water. You see, a decade ago or more, they did this thing with a two lane road in the median that alternated directions by time of day. That idea has already aged out, and even those two lanes for carpooling are crammed a good part of the time. So now that that idea has expired its usefulness, it's time to employ even more idiocy and short sightedness. The problem is not how much road we have. It is how many cars are on that road. No one wants to reduce the cars, or reduce the need for cars, so every few years, it's time for another several million on some concrete and asphalt. It is a temporary solution to an increasingly permanent problem. I believe cars adhere to a rule of physics generally reserved for gaseous states of elements. Gas will expand to fill the space it is allowed. Same goes for cars. Show me one place that has massive road systems that didn't clog up at the same rate with ever more cars made and sold. The whole issue is self-perpetuating; more roads to more suburbs mandate the need for more cars, which makes idiot/fool politicians decide to make more roads, which are the new frontiers of more development. It might help to realize that railroad track costs less to lay and maintain than the same amount of linear mileage of freeway. But no one cares about that. Traveling on mass transit is below the dignity of a lot of people, and is un-American when we have this mindset that car ownership is a right.