RU – Nectar’s, 05/30/12

Radio Underground played Nectar’s last night and it ranks among the top 10 gigs in my life.  It was a sweat-soaked, fingers-hurt, face-hurts-from-smiling, voice-blown-out-in-spite-of-vocal-warm-up, don’t-give-a-shit-there’s-only-seven-people-in-the-audience, unrelenting bacchanal of sound waves.  Other performers on the bill were cool, the beer in the dressing room cold (and drinkable) and we got fed. Not sure how it felt for the other guys and the recording my prove otherwise but it felt like I could do no wrong. My fingers kept up with my brain and everything in the rig did what it was supposed to without any technical glitches. Beat the hell out of the Tele and it kept on ticking (proof even Squiers have their merrits) though I still need to verify it survived the end of set slam for punctuation (tho’ it always does). The sound guy knew what he was doing and all of the staff were friendly (from the front door to the kitchen). I even got a good parking spot.

This is why I still do this, unnoticed and at a financial loss.

 

 


Memory Lane

Watched The Unheard Music (documentary on the band X) and Mayor of the Sunset Strip (documentary on DJ Rodney Bingenheimer) and started to feel a tad nostalgic for the LA of the ’90s. Then we hit the anniversary of the LA riots and the nostalgia disintegrated. Still it got me thinking of the days in the clubs with Fools and Fodder and sent me digging through the archives for the tracks-in-progress from the unfinished remastering of the Feckless album. But let’s back up for those of you who have no idea what any of this means…

As the 1980s ground to an end (along with my college career) songwriter/singer Judy Contreras and her songwriting partner guitarist Mike Krupa decided to put a band together. Mike drafted drummer Paul Mitchell (from their then-defunct punk band Zero Initiative) and me (on guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo) whom he had collaborated with on some theatrical scoring projects and Fools and Fodder was born. Taking inspiration from the pre-alternative artists of the day both from Los Angeles (Concrete Blonde, Peter Case, Lone Justice) and from farther away (Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Split Enz, etc) we crafted a sound that was equal parts pop, rock, celtic and cowpunk.

Judy named the band, inspired by a quote from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera (“First comes fodder, then comes morality”) and wrote all the lyrics and Mike wrote the bulk of the music and I contributed the occasional hook. We stormed out of the San Gabriel Valley and onto the stages of the legendary Hollywood/LA clubs. I remember sitting in the dressing room the first time we played the Whiskey a Go-Go soaking up the rock history. Or playing a 50 minute set doubletime to fit in to our suddenly reduced 30 minute time slot to a bewildered crowd at the Palamino. Or playing our first show at the Roxy the night before my wedding (which was a pretty good replacement for a bachelor party).

We were once booked to play a club somewhere in Ontario (?) and were told we had the whole night. Upon arriving there were 2 other bands that apparently were told the same thing and the management was saying we could each do a 40 minute set. After a quick band huddle we walked out, walked to the park across the street and did an acoustic show for all the regular fans (as well as some new ones), none of whom set foot inside the club that night.

The Contreras/Krupa writing team cranked out some great songs and we eventually headed into the studio to record what would be out first (and only) album, Feckless. I still feel today that if the band had stuck together and persevered it could have taken off and become something really great. Unfortunately the combination of dissagreement on songwriting credit, solo-artist-itis and a complete lack of maturity sent me from zero to fuck you in record time. I quit, thinking they would persevere as a trio but not really caring. They didn’t. Oh for a time machine.

Back in the present I am digitising my archives including the album, demos and bootlegs. I’ll probably post one or two things here eventually.

 


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SXSW 2012, Part 4

Day 7 (March 15)

The day began in line for the keynote speech for this year’s SXSW Music part of the festival. Lining up early was important as Bruce Springsteen was the speaker. While in line the email went out to those who were selected in the lottery for tickets to Springsteen’s SXSW concert. Kevin got chosen, I did not. The keynote was interesting and entertaining although mostly about the past and I think most of us are interested in the future. You can watch and read the whole thing here.

After that Kevin stepped outside and nearly stumbled over Ben Fee (an old friend of his that he had no idea would be there). A pleasant surprise in an ever shrinking world. Kev then had to head out to get in line for Springsteen while I wandered off for an epic night of music.

First stop: Cedar Street Courtyard where I saw Madi Diaz and band (a pleasant surprise/discovery) and then a solo set by Trixie Whitley. Trixie’s dad (the late Chris Whitley) remains a huge influence on me as does Trixie’s band Black Dub. There were some technical issues with the loaner keyboard that had her a bit flustered but whenever she opened her mouth to sing you forgot about everything else.

Next stop was Lamberts: Caught the Melismatics set (good, rockin’), followed by the Figgs (good, rockin’, quirky), followed by Tommy Stinson (ex-Replacements, ex-Bash and Pop, currently of G’n'R and Soul Asylum as well as solo) along with his band. Awesome set. Wandered back to hotel and caught up with Kevin who gave me the details of the Springsteen show while I tried not to fall asleep in my beer. A long day.

Day 8 (March 16)

Convention center day, wandering from workshops and panels to Flatstock (concert poster display). That evening Kevin headed off to connect with Ben Fee and I headed back to the Cedar Street Courtyard to see Thomas Dolby. Nice to finally see him live as I have always liked his work. The new album is pretty good as well. Then reconnected with Kevin to wander through the sea of people:

Day 9 (March 17)

Pannels in the morning. In the afternoon attended a vocal workshop presented by Ian Astbury (the Cult). Some usefull stuff with a lot of stories (prompted by co-presenter Martin Atkins (ex P.I.L, ex-Pigface). Headed into East Austin to reconnect with Kevin and Laura at the Yellowjacket (kick-ass grilled cheese sandwiches) and then wandered back into downtown Austin to see a band of Laura’s friends. We split up after that and I headed over to the Hilton Garden Inn to catch a set by my friend, violinist Todd Reynolds, who never ceases to amaze. His disc Outerborough is definately worth checking out. He was followed by Hatian “Afro-Electronica” artist Val-Inc, who won over the small crowd with some interesting and adventurous soudscapes. Then I staggered off to bed.

Day 10 (March 18)

Travel. Blech. At least the day started with Tacos at Titos with Kevin and Margaret.

Really looking forward to seeing my family and being home again.

 


SXSW 2012, Part 3

Day 4 (March 13th)

Show Day.  Easy load in.  Painless soundcheck. Found out at the last-minute the show might be streamed online so we alerted whomever we could back home. Good set.  Not a huge crowd but appreciative.

Post-show load out when smoothly.  Ended up wandering through the mass of humanity that downtown Austin has become. Stopped by one of our other favorites, Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza (where there is always Slayer playing loudly while old Kung-fu movies run on a montitor above the beer cooler).

We then reconnected with Laura and headed over to the Flamingo for an evening of nerdcore.

Day 5 (March 14th)

Karl departs and Kevin and I drown our grief with tacos.  Then we return the gear to Ampus and the van to U-Haul. Then it’s back to Austin.  Feels good to have the gig behind us.

Day 6 (March 14)

That evening we schlepped over to St. David’s Sanctuary to catch the set by old friend Anais Mitchell.  Kevin and I actually ran into her as we were wandering around the “backstage” trying to figure out where the seating was.  Obviously she wasn’t expecting to see us so she was rather surprised.  Had a nice chat and then wandered out to find seats in the venue.  Her set was amazing.  I was really impressed by the songwriting and the ensemble. Actually Kevin and I were a bit speechless when the set ended.  Saw here after she did the meet and greet at the merch table and picked up a copy of her latest CD, the excellent Young Man In America (go buy it NOW).  Really glad to see her succeeding in this wacky biz.

 


SXSW 2012, Part 2

Day 3 (March 11):

Spent the morning at the convention center. Used our badges to get into Seth McFarlane talk re: Family Guy and forthcoming movie Ted.  Mark Wahlberg, star of afforementioned film showed up and sat in for a while.

Afternoon trip to San Antonio to rehearse at Ampus, Kevlar’s new rehearsal digs.

New arrangements are called for as this is one of the first post-drummer shows we also haven’t utilized an extensive real-time, full-scale drum looping rig.  Kev and Karl have crafted some interesting beats and we are connecting them to songs and grooves.  Things are scaled down gear-wise for ease of travel so all I have with me is a guitar (yellow Cyclone) a small pedalboard, my Jamman looper and my cello bow. All of this will go to a powered full-range monitor instead of an amp (as I am using the amp sims in my Adrenalinn 3).

 

That evening it was back to Austin.  Crappy weather.

Day 4 (March 12th):

Back to San Antonio to rehearse and prep for show.

 

 


SXSW 2012, Part 1

Day 1 (March 9th):

Woke up in San Antonio, Texas this morning. I was greeted by Ellie (pictured below) who I haven’t seen since before her family moved to Texas. The family being Kevin and Margaret. Yes, one-third of the music division of Ghost Ghost now lives in Texas. The other two-thirds will be assembling here to take part in the annual South By Southwest festival (hereafter know as SXSW).

Happy reunion # 3 is seeing Margaret (#1 was seeing Kevlar last night at the airport). Realizing how much I miss these folks. It’s breakfast time so we begin our quest for tacos (rather easy as Tito’s is just down the street and they make fantastic migas, chorrizo and egg/bean/bacon tacos. Setting the taco bar pretty high on my first meal here).

Next is the schlepp to Austin, hotel check-in and badge acquisition. Karl arrives tomorrow. Sadly Tim and Charlie won’t be along as our visual division. A cause for slight concern as it now falls upon us to be visually interesting on our own.

Day 2 (March 10):

I picked Karl up at the airport with the help of Mr. T (my GPS). Tacos are again a priority as is Shiner Bock. Chupacabra Cantina on 6th will soon become our home away from our home away from home.

More importantly, our hotel room now has a coffee station thanks to Kev’s foresight.

This is just a small example of how Kevin’s logistical co-ordination of our Southwest Tour is making the ship sail smoothly.

Spent some time at the convention center. Karl and I connected with Laura our Dorkbot pal at a hot dog place called Franks.  Oddly, I have no recollection what Karl (our vegetarian) ate but the food was awesome.  Later that evening the band ended up at some gigantic party across the river. Ran into Matt from Makerbot which is always a happy occasion.

Note: Over the next few blog entries I will be recounting the days at SXSW. Due to the sheer volume of events, bands, pannels, workshops and alcohol, I am only going to mention in detail the stuff that realy impressed me. Take it as read that there were a lot of activities (and visits to Chupacabra Cantina where the trinity of shredded pork tacos, Shiner Bock and Cazaderos Blanco would become the main dietary staples for the meat eating portion of Ghost Ghost).

 


Hey Princess

Ghost Ghost is trying out a test of the “Let’s all work on the same song from all of our respective studios in our respective states” approach to recording.  It’s for a new Karl song called “Hey Princess” that was originally commissioned for a video by Makerbot. Everybody is doing their own parts and uploading them to Soundcloud or Gobbler and then Kevin is assembling and mixing.  So far it seems to be working well.  I am loving the song and it’s becoming clear just how good Kevin is at mixing (very). Hopefully it will be out as a single but it probably won’t be until after we get back from South By Southwest.  Oh, I didn’t tell you?  We’re doing SXSW again this year, and this time I will be there with the rest of the band.  I hope Texas will survive.

 


Stone Disc

The vinyl pressing of Too Red For The Room is here and we are really happy with the way it sounds.

Not sure yet where it will be available for sale (and it is a limited edition) but I will let you know when I know.

 

 


Where Did Summer Go?

For that matter, where the hell did Fall go as well?

In the midst of an unplanned hiatus to deal with some family health issues but to recap:

Ghost Ghost did the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and The Delancy (on the LES) as part of the CMJ Festival. Stone Document battled away at mixing and mastering the next record (Too Red For The Room). Radio Underground will probably do the LaVigne Family Christmas Spectacular with Zack at the Monkey House sometime during the holidays.

That about covers it. More soon (hopefully).

 

Oh, here’s a pick of Ghost Ghost onstage at the Knitting Factory:

 


 

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