Sunday, June 28, 2009


perpetually tired and awake, dreading more drum programming.

i hear the calm drone of a florescent hum, water dripping, echoes of accordion and spanish singing from the other side of the station.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Notes from the Underground

So a couple of weeks ago, I went on a short tour of Switzerland, Finland and Germany with the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet (link has streaming clips of the Sextet, click 2nd and 3rd clips.)

The band for this tour consisted of:

Taylor - cornet
me me me - guitar
Matt Bauder - tenor sax, clarinet, flute
Tomas Fujiwara - drums
Mary Halvorson - guitar
Nate McBride - bass

Although he does have a problem with knives, Taylor is nonetheless an old friend of mine and has been kind enough to include me semi-regularly in his music projects. Here's a synopsis of the tour:

Landed in Zurich, had some bar chow with Mary and Tomas, watched a guy dry hump a woman in a wheelchair on the street, and eventually went solo. Ended up at a great bar late night that was under a highway. A wonderfully weird psychedelic blues duo was playing:

I would have stayed longer, but Matt and Tomas came crashing into the bar, grabbing random crotches and saying I had the key to the hotel room. Those two have a tour ritual of drinking 1 bottle of the local cough medicine, 1 bottle of the local chardonnay and then trying to embarrass me. Hasn't worked yet fellas!

The next night we played at Rote Fabrik, an artist collective's venue with multiple performance spaces and a history of lefty political action and arts advocacy:

Met up with Christian Weber at the show, a bassist who Tomas and I had an amazing improv gig with in Chicago last fall at the Umbrella Music Festival.

Next day hopped on a plane to Finland, hit the hotel for 10 minutes, then right to the venue for setup:

That show was probably our best. Everyone was inside the music, the solos were concise and the tunes were executed very well.

That night a few of us went to a club that was inside the hotel. The Fins were quite friendly and eager to talk. I seem to remember having acquired a very large bodyguard at one point, who would not let the "riff raff" talk to me, including our bassist Nate.

Anyways, I ended up eating Pizza late night (yup, the sun's a little kooky over there) with some nice locals.

We went to a friend's apartment (one of whom was a Somalian refugee)

and argued over the merits of a 911 conspiracy and the apparently rigged Obama election. Then I found a snake wrapped around my neck. It's skin was given to me as a souvenir.

I think I slept for about an hour and a half before getting on yet another plane (thank-you Clonazepam and red wine), headed for Cologne, Germany.

I will now describe the German part of the tour using pics courtesy of Tomas and Nate, because I left my phone/camera in Finland.

This is a view from the hotel (shwaeeet)

Found a legit beer hall.

With legit sausage.

"(insert funny caption with penis reference)"

A band disagreement ensued at the end of our 27 beers, because the gregarious host (whose assignment was to keep the spirit jovial and the rounds in motion) charged us for 35 beers. Most in the band chalked it up to local custom/screw the Americans. Tomas and I felt a little American know-how was appropriate and insisted on making a stink. The host ended up shoving Tomas, which really pissed off Mary and she started screaming at the host in French. Taylor grabbed a sausage and gave the host a good ankle thrashing while Nate and I yucked it up over some Spaetzel. We ran out yelling the theme to "Different Strokes" and calmed ourselves down at the local arcade

The next day we rehearsed for our gig, which included some really great charts from other band members.

The gig went well. Personally, I liked Finland better, but this one was totally solid and it was nice to mix up the old repetoire with new compositions.

I really enjoyed this tour. Good tunes, Good peeps, weird shit. That's all I ask.

My Sonic Youth Project, Pt 2

Guitar Center doesn't carry the new SY custom Jazzmasters. Fuuuck. I'm not about to go all over town looking for these things. Guitar geekery project...

However, as a nice coda (and still on topic), here's an article about a recently recovered guitar that has been missing since the massive 1999 SY gear theft:

A Strange Encounter

Thru the uneven but sometimes very funny gay comedy duo Jeffery and Cole Casserole , I discovered a sacchrine but kinda great pop song sung by "Moonlighting" star Cybill Shepard

and former Duke boy Tom Wopat.

Now I know the lyrics in this tune are questionable, particularly "too many lunches in L.A., bumper to bumper all the way" and "all I want is to go back to the home of the blues". However, the emotional tone of song does properly capture a sense of nostalgia and quiet longing. In addition, the vocal harmonies are great and there are some nice chord changes. The baby kinda puts the scene over the top, but whatever, I like it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Sonic Youth Project, Pt 1

I recently stumbled upon this cultural curio:

So apparently, indie rock guitar pioneers Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo have joined the ranks of Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, Brian May, Zack Wylde and others in sponsoring a line of guitars. This is weird for a couple of reasons. First, most of the guitarists who do this sort of thing are either metal technicians (Vai, Wylde) or classic rock vets with a distinct sound (Santana, May). Either way, they are usually players with chops. Thurston and Lee def do not have chops. Which is not a criticism, simply a statement of fact that they have attested to in their own interviews. SY's chops are demonstrated in the manipulation of sound on their instruments.

Secondly, I feel like buying a sponsored-line guitar is kinda like cheating. If you want to sound like someone, do the research, do the modifications yourself and include all gear (amps, pedals, rackmount fx, etc). For a band like Sonic Youth, whose cultural identity has been built on the concept of indie credibility (DIY, vintage equipment, specific and obscure points of musical entry), giving away the secrets of their hours spent tweaking the electronics of their guitars, (which is critical both to the sound of the band and their aesthetic as players) seems like heresy to their own mythos. Or perhaps they are staking claim to a form of guitar geekdom that has traditionally existed outside of the realm of "indie" music. Their sponsored line is a statement of purpose - "what we do on guitar is as valid as what Eddie Van Halen does".

So obviously, they got paid a shit ton of money to do this. But what are the results? Do the guitars themselves bring clarity to these conflicting issues of authenticity?

My "Sonic Youth Project" is to find the guitars at the capital of guitar geekdom (Guitar Center), play them and report back.