Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloweenie!

Here we are at work. It's amazing the effect one can obtain by the simple act of pulling your pants up as high as they will go. Within reason, that is...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

There's A Bald Moon Rising!

Not a very flattering angle, but I see that my hair's getting pretty long in the back. What you can't see very well is that I'm looking at a co-worker's dog - Toby.

Toby is in his annual Halloween costume, and this year he had chosen to be a knight in shining armor. Of course another co-worker (also from the South) and myself immediately thought that Toby had chosen to be the Grand Wizard of the KKK. Regardless, Toby wore his costume with pride, and I think he's a good dog!

While not dressed for Halloween, Petrie (a lovely peach colored cockatoo) is a regular at work. Her owner brings her everyday and I have enjoyed her company for years. She's a sweetheart that has a limited vocabulary, but she can manipulate those few words with so much inflection!

"Hello Petrie" is her favorite choice of words.

As I walk towards her, it usually starts very simple:
"hello Petrie"
As I get closer, she amps it up a bit:
"Hello Petrie!"
And once I'm directly in front of her:

That one gets me every time. I take her out of her cage and hold her to my chest. She then lays her head up against me and I proceed to gently scratch her underneath her feathers on her back.

I never thought birds could be this expressive and filled with so much personality. I've seen Petrie absolutely melt the most gangsta hardened rappers the Bay Area has to offer. She's a good bird.

Here she is having a bit of a tweak attack.

While these are indeed very tough times for indie music distribution, I really appreciate that the owners allow these very sweet and entertaining critters to be here. It helps.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Kissed A Boy (holy was David Yow!)

Well....that was different.

Saturday night, Stacey and I went to Annie's Social Club in S.F. to see a dear friend that I met in the Game Theory days in Chicago in the mid 80's. Her name is Ellen and we became great friends as soon as I met her and some of her friends at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois after a show. She has since moved to L.A. and is a successful T.V. producer.

She contacted me a couple of weeks ago with the exciting news that her boyfriend's band - QUI - had a gig in town and it would be great if we could hook up. QUI features singer David Yow (Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid ). I checked out QUI's MySpace site and got a crash course in their music and what to expect - very loud art/punk rock. Not my cup-o-tea, but I really wanted to see Ellen.

David is a couple of years younger than me and he was excited to hang with someone "older" than him for a change! Very cool fellow. He referred to Jello Biafra (who attended the show) as Jello BeaArthur, which cracked me up to no end!

Their show was loud, energetic and there were plenty of things I loved very much about their music. The band is just guitar, drums and David, screaming his way through some very tricky, almost prog-punk music. Sorta like Blue Cheer meets King Crimson with a screaming banshee for a singer.

David has incredible energy, screams a lot and at one point sang a song hangin' upside down with his knees holding on to plumbing pipes that hung from the ceiling. The fans were amazing. The club was packed and I've never seen so many digital devices taking tons of pics! Very punk crowd, but a bit older. Stacey noticed plenty of guys with male pattern baldness crimping the punk hairstyles that many still desperately hang on to.

After the show, we were hanging with Ellen, who was manning the merch booth. David came over, and was a bit...caught up in a pretty hearty beer and adrenalin rush. I bought a t-shirt. He gave me a CD. He also kissed me on the mouth. I submitted. Glad I don't have to kiss many people with whiskers. Been a while since I've done that. He also kissed Stacey on the mouth. I then kissed Ellen on the mouth twice. I guess you could say we had a faux 3-way. (Stacey and Ellen did not kiss).

Just another typical rock & night on Folsom Street.

Just so happens that today, Scott Miller posted his best of 1989. Surprised to see Jesus Lizard on his list.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Little Things In Life

For about 15 years, I've gone to Best Burger in San Rafael (at the Montecito Plaza), at least once a week for lunch during the work week. I am in love and addicted to their delicious Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich. Pretty simple sandwich - grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles on a soft roll with teriyaki sauce slathered on the chicken. No big deal really, but I'm a man that digs routine, and going there to eat, read the newspaper, and chat with the fab owners is all deeply embedded in me.

7 months ago, they had a kitchen fire and were "closed for remodeling". I felt lost. My routine was messed with. I had one less place to go for lunch in the town I've worked in for 25 years. I knew I would miss those sandwiches!

About once a month I would attempt to call to see if they had reopened, but all I got was that butt-ugly sound you get when a fax machine picks up. Occasionally I would drive there to see if I could determine visually, what was going on. No luck - the windows were papered over.

After about 4 months, I started to prepare myself for the possibility that they may never reopen. I was very bummed out, but this week....they reopened!

I was so excited! I blew off lunch with work-friends so I could go to Best Burger by myself. I wanted to be alone, at my usual table, eating the best chicken sandwich in the world, and to have a private moment between me and the owners to express my heartfelt joy that they were back. It was a sweet moment, and for a couple of hours, I was the happiest guy in the world.

Bless you, Best Burger!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Out With The Old..In With The New!

Another chapter of "my life in music"! 1979ish???

After Mom died, things moved very fast for me. The first thing I had to deal with was selling our family’s house. This was the only house I had ever lived in, but big changes were flying at me and I had to deal with it. My sibs offered me the house at a fair price, but I felt I needed to break away. I was caught in a whirlwind and felt compelled to start my new life.

First off, my high school sweetheart and I immediately found a decent house to rent in an OK part of Charlotte. It was “across the train tracks” from my nice neighborhood, pretty redneck, but OK. It was a 3 bedroom house with a fenced in backyard for all of $250 a month. After my sibs and I took what we wanted from our house, we cleared it out and my girlfriend (Wynn) and I moved in together. Mom would not have approved of course, but I felt free and grown up. Change is good! My dog (“Caesar”) and Wynn’s cat (....”Kitty”..) probably weren’t too thrilled with the arrangement, but Wynn and I dug it. It was all so natural.

Of course, selling the family home had some very...unusual moments. We originally tried to sell it ourselves, but not much happened (with the exception of a neighbor coming down and seriously suggesting that we don’t sell to...”blacks” - we responded by telling him that we’re gonna sell to whoever gives us the money!), so we went with a couple of real estate agents. Poor souls.

Since my brother and sister lived out of town, I was left to handle it. The first call from the real estate agent went like this: “Hi Gil. Ummm...I showed the house today and I think you need to do some serious flea-bombing - we walked in and there was a black cloud of fleas that went up to about knee level on my clients and myself.” OK, no problem. The fleas were bombed.

The second call came one morning after a night when I let some friends park their cars in our front yard while we all went and enjoyed Charlotte’s Festival In The Park. The house was vacant, we still owned it, and there was no place to park at all during that yearly event (the same event that I saw all of those great local rock bands back in the day!), so cool! Why not?

When my buddies and I returned to the house, we discovered that all of the cars in the front yard had their tires slashed! WTF? Could it be a sinister message from our racist neighbor? Probably just vandals, but bizarre none the less. About 3 cars were left in the yard overnight - the owners would come back the next day to deal with it. The next morning I got another call from our poor real estate agent; “ you know there’s a bunch of cars in your front yard with their tires slashed? Looks pretty bad..” I think I freaked her out a bit when I replied that yes, I knew about the cars. They would be gone shortly.

The house eventually sold, and I gained possession of Mom’s Buick. Now I had my own home, a decent car, and my girlfriend and her cat were living in sin with me and my dog. Pretty sweet, and Mom would have been very pleased to know that our sinful living wasn’t for too long, due to the fact that my girlfriend and I went and got married! In Rock Hill! By a Justice of the Peace! With our best friends in attendance! And we were drunk!

It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision - we just weren’t religious and thought it would be neat to do it this way. The Justice of the Peace turned out to be a bit cranky and actually threatened to stop the ..”ceremony” if our party didn't start behaving in a ..... more respectful manner. Screw that! I’ve already paid you your $35! Where's my gift bag containing toothpaste and condoms! It was a lot of fun, regardless, and we liked the idea of being married. We also learned that even if you don’t invite family to the wedding, you can send out announcements and still get cool gifts! I’m sure my sibs were disappointed but we did it the way we wanted to, and at that particular time of my life, it just had to be.

Wynn and I also had the greatest jobs in the universe. We now both worked at Charlotte's coolest record stores! Wynn worked at the main store and when they opened a smaller satellite store on the other side of town, I got a job there. The 2 store “chain” was called New World Records and for a while at least, it was heaven and yes, another life-changer!

I don’t remember the exact dates when this happened, but during my time at the record store, I became aware that something was up with rock music. My primary love at the time was still prog and jazz-rock fusion, but it was becoming a real stretch to find decent stuff to listen to. As time went by, Jamie Hoover kept putting a bug in my ear about new wave and punk. I was also noticing that we were selling more and more of this type of music at the store. At first, I was really put off by it all. I thought it sucked. I thought the musicians couldn't play. It was more horrible than disco!

But one night I was at Jamie’s house and he more or less forced me to listen to the first LP’s of Devo, Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads. Holy crap!

It clicked. Boy, did it ever.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Good job, guys! Mission Accomplished! Oh...and by the way, can we get that 700 billion back? Don't think that plan worked out too well.....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bye Bye, Summer

It's that time of year, again - Fall. It is my most melancholy season. I discovered this once I move to California, some 28 years ago. Where I live (S.F. Bay Area), there really isn't a true autumn, and that bums me out. Back in North Carolina, falls were magnificent! The air turns crisp, the leaves blaze with color, the air smells different, and as far as I was concerned, the stifling heat and humidity of summer were on their way out.

In a few areas out here you can sometimes find a few trees that turn color and occasionally the air can get crisp, but that happens mostly in the more wealthy neighborhoods that actually have trees! Still, it's a gyp. Here's a wonderful description of a N.C. fall.

I just bought the Peanuts Holiday Special DVD box set that includes the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Xmas TV specials. Oddly, I find it tough to watch them at times, in particular the Halloween Special because it nails my childhood perception of what fall should really look like. Look out! Here comes a big old blast of melancholy!

Fall also reminds me of my days touring with Game Theory. Usually, we would tour in the fall and we would have the honor of seeing mind-blowing autumns in the rest of the country. Driving from N.Y. to Boston in late September is something I'll never forget. Just beautiful!

But as I get older and those dear (and frankly rose colored at times) memories of my childhood and my young man rock days grow more distant, the wistful melancholy somehow get stronger. I find myself getting overwhelmed by a sense of loss. It's been 8 years since I've played in a band and about 20 years since the excitement of what a new tour could bring. Game Theory's relative success was due primarily to college radio, so we played many college towns. Such young, fresh faces! And the leaves and air were wonderful.

I miss that, but I thank my lucky stars I got to experience it.

Matter of fact, there are times that I still miss the fun and camaraderie of hangin' and playing with a band. Within reason, of course! I still get a musical outlet by writing, playing, and recording my own songs, but it's so insular. While I certainly don't miss the time, energy and any other of the bad things that come with playing in a band, every now and then some event will happen that will quench my desire enough to give me some sort of....contentment.

In 2006, Scott Miller asked me to come to his home studio and do some percussion on a Cat Stevens song (I Think I See The Light) for his Loud Family and Anton Barbeau album "What If It Works?". Me being me, of course I got a bit stressed out and anxious, but I went and it was just plain wonderful. After dinner we went into the recording room and it was just me and Scott and before I knew it, I found that beautiful sense of connection with Scott that I really hadn't felt since the Game Theory days. I can get uncomfortable at times in such a one-on-one situation, but this was magic! All I did was just shake and hit a couple of percussive instruments but we just....connected. That's what it was like! That's what it should always be like!

More recently, my good friends The Bye Bye Blackbirds just released a new album entitled Houses And Homes, that I got to play percussion (and a wee bit-o-synth!) on.
I've done this many times for them, and it fills me with such joy to be involved with them and to contribute what I can. As always, I get a tad anxious before I get there, but once I'm in the studio, that nice and warm feeling of camaraderie and friendship immediately takes over and I have a great time. Aside from Scott, this is the only band that could get me to leave my hermit like existence to actually get out there and make great music with people I love being around. It's a blessing.

I love being around these guys. They're way younger than I am and I find their enthusiasm for all things music exhilarating, be it for the songs, recording, playing, musical gear and even putting trumpet in some of their songs! (Bill Swan - rock trumpet genius).

The album is fantastic. Once you buy it, be sure to listen to it all the way through. Actually, let it play and then immediately hit replay and just marvel at how the end dovetails so nicely with the intro to the first song. Great songwriting (from many of the members), great production (some of the most crisp and gorgeous electric guitar I've ever heard) and a rave-up cover of an Everly Bros. song (It Only Costs A Dime) that I swear sounds like Phil Specter got out of jail and produced. ( he in jail?)
Here's more info you will need to get this album

So maybe fall isn't so bad after all. I'm now looking forward to watching the Great Pumpkin disappointing Linus so damned much. And Charlie Brown - a rock ain't such a bad thing after all.