Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Dogs

The Dogs was the first band I had that actually practiced on a regular basis. Formed out of the ashes of a heavy metal trio of Dungeons and Dragon types at my high school, the dogs were Loren Wallen on lead guitar, Matt Ashcraft on bass, myself on guitar and a guy named Robert on drums. Matt and I had been jamming in his trailer for a couple months ahead of time, so I had already learned most of the songs on our heavy-metal playlist - Rock and Roll by Led Zepplin, Rip it Out by Ace Frehley/Kiss, Paranoid by Black Sabbath, Sweet Emotion by Areosmith and Living after Midnight by Judas Priest. That was it - I think those were the only songs we played for 4 or 5 months straight. Maybe there was a foray into some original riff at some point but it was overshadowed by playing Paranoid 5 times in a row to get the solo section correct. The only snippet of a recording that I have left somewhere is about 15 sections of us playing paranoid - a brutal, distorted, teen-aged recording on some dysfunctional 4-track. Anyway, Robert was kind of key to the band because he A.) had a drumset and B.) had an actual, sound-proofed, shag-carpeted jam room in his parent's house. It was awesome! Every saturday at 12, our mom's would drop us off for 2 hours while we worked out our rudimentary chops on our big 5 tunes.One day, we even set up outside on a rare, non-rainy day in Crescent City. We got through 3 songs before a police cruiser rolled up. We finished the song were playing - probably Rip it out - and then we stopped. The officer politely intoned, "I came over to tell you guys to stop, but you sounded so good, you might as well play one more and then quit." I was like a scene out of Happy Days or Andy Griffith. We packed up our gear and went back upstairs, to our carpeted practice room, and finished out the day. probably debating the merits of post-Ozzy Sabbath and post-David Lee Roth Van Halen. Dude, I think my mom's here - I gotta go.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

They Don’t have the Magic – WE have the magic


I remember a friend saying that to me in regards to his mid-90’s band breaking up, a band I was in for awhile but not at the time of the un-ceremonious breakup. “The Magic” was a snippet of a drunk conversation between bandmates overheard while on an ill-fated California tour – “They don’t have the magic – WE have the magic!”, referring, I always assumed, to the other younger, lamer, more successful bands they were playing with. I often think with this kind of curmudgeonly attitude myself when confronted with the fact that the band that appears to be 20 years my junior are the ones cleaning up with the popularity, hipness and the majority of the take of the door at any given show while I’m packing up my gear and getting ready to go to work in a few scant hours after a long drive and a short nap. “They don’t have the magic – WE had it tonight! For a few minutes during our set, we had them in the palm of our collective hand and they had to, NEEDED to dig our rock, because WE had the magic, not THEM!” And, thusly, the true rewards of life, not anything you could account for or anything that would pay some bills, but, “the Magic,” the shit we all love, the sublime joy of making some noise in an emotional context that resonates with others. As my friend Vic would say – "Kool story, bro."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday night review: Robyn Hitchcock @ Doug Fir 10/25/12


I was dog-tired and sick last night, but that didn't prevent me from going out to Doug Fir Lounge to view and hear one of my all-time favorite songwriters, Robyn Hitchcock. upon walking in the door at the club, I was overcome by the thick rock sound of Peter Buck's solo band. Pete sings in a rough voice with a limited range, but it worked well with the mid-tempo, even-handed garage style of his band. Somehow towing the line between professional polish and raw rawk vibe, I caught a few tunes in the midst of the crowd and then quaffed a few beverages for good health and wellness, I didn't at first want to see the Young Fresh Fellows, just because I harbor a somewhat of a grudge against Scott McCaughey  (for being omnipresent in the NW.) That bit of mean-spiritedness aside, YFF totaly rocked my night and I immediately got up from the bar when they started. Duh! Guitarist Kurt Bloch is in the band. I forgot about that. And the drummer's singing and peppy stage presence was great. They covered, "Picturebook," by the Kinks and many of their own classics from the 1980s, including "Mojo Working" and several others that I remembered from long ago. Onward through the night, I slipped into the crowd into the mid-front section and prepared for an experience with one of my all-time heros. His first several songs all sparkle out of his acoustic guitar, his voice purely Robyn, its sound wrapping around all of us present. Something that I love about RH is his ability to sing very low at times, richly delivering his sardonic lyrics. Highlights for me were the opener, "Only the stones remain," along with, "The wreck of the Arthur Lee," which blew my mind with its double-entendre chorus, "Be-lieve in Love.." I hadn't heard that one before last night. Ok...I am a geek. He brought up an additional, fuzzy-haired singer to sing harmonies on, "Queen Elvis," and had the dude up for some time. Later, Colin Malloy from Decemberists got up and sang at one point as well. I kind of lost interest when the additional musicians Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Reiflin came up to support him.I know these guys are all heavies, but the consistency of their back-up band offerings are not lighting my inner torch. I have enjoyed the same style of show from Robyn and his same NW crew for several go-rounds now. Its a big friend-fest, but I long for some new direction from RH that will blow my mind, something different, either solo or with some stranger musical amalgamation. Maybe I should have submitted my request on a bar napkin - a nasty note, requesting his submission to this particular fan's needs, but no. I understand the complexities of balancing the delivery of music-by-rote when life's other demands seem to be beating the louder drum. I just like it when my heroes evolve and indulge their whimsy in new ways. Oh well, I am a hypocrite - I like the greatest hits package-shows too. I am real happy that I even went. It's a struggle against habit to go out sometimes, but we all need to be reminded of what the other people in our town look like, what they drink, how they talk, how they smell and also how they comment to their friends about music that you are intimate with. People always talk about 'Portland hipsters', but honestly most everyone looked pretty normal at last night's show. Normal, middle-aged-and-younger crowd, wearing sweaters and glasses. I always feel like a geek inside when I go mentally through my day; turns out I am just one of many geeks. Viva geek homogenization!

Monday, October 15, 2012

October Blues

My oldest brother used to often say to me, "there are three main things you do: input, output and make money." I feel like I've been spending all my time (at least trying to) make money and inputting; outputting, not so much. So here goes: since re-committing myself to my job, I feel like the music side of my life has slid off the map. I guess that's not entirely true, since I am still setting up shows with the Underlings and making it to band practice once in awhile, but I think in my previous life, I sacrificed my work-side rewards by putting music above my work. and I wasn't necessarily happier, but I somehow carved out my own slacker ethos and allowed my music to rule my worktime, not the other way around. That being said, I'm having fun at my job for the first time in years. I'm assigned with organizing the produce coolers at work, which is kind of a big deal. I also am on the team that is working on configuring the company's Warehouse Management system, which is complicated, frustrating and yet also rewarding. It is fun to work on a team of intelligent people who are dedicated to getting the project off the ground, I often wonder if the whole thing is too far above my head, but I think I am hanging in there. I can't wait until the project is done and I can focus on quietly blending in at work, maybe apply some of my creative skillz to the mix of Organic produce and eccentric personalities. GOOD NEWS: I got a new record player and now my record collection is no longer collecting dust. I am on a mission to listen to every piece of vinyl I have, from Roy Orbison to Kraftwerk, Landspeed Record to In a Silent Way. I am a square - I have had the same mediocre Sony turntable for 10 years. I finally pony'd up and bought a vintage refurbished Dual 1249 turntable; kind of a medium-grade audiofile deck from the late 1970's. Belt driven and good enough for me, I am stoked and we've all been hearing a lot more music around the house. Next step: get some blank cassettes and make some mix tapes for friends. Mebbe X Mas? Happy Rocktober,
Ed

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Eugene Party Blitz 2012

Another dense weekend in the life of Ed. Friday after work, we all headed down to Eugene to stay at Kelani's house and allow Tina to go out to a bachelorette party with her friends. Party. PARTY!! I partied from the time I put the kids down at 9pm until 9:49 pm, when I retired my ass, totally blown out from a long week at work. PARTY!! I slept hard until 6am when the kids awoke and started pit-pattering around the house. It was nice to stay at a house that came pre-equipped with lots of cool toys and robots for my children to play with. While they were distracted and dismantling Kelani's robots, I drank 4 cups of coffee, made some breakfast and then went out for a much-needed haircut and procurement of a TDK SA90 tape from House of Records. Did I mention we were staying in Eugene to celebrate Louis' 5th birthday? Well, that was the plan and we went ahead and executed that plan, although the rain dripped down and everyone got wet. Jennifer brought a rain shelter to our ill-outfitted party at Swiss Cheese park. The pizza we brought was soon ate and the kids were stripped to their bathing suits and playing in the sprinkler-like water feature area while we grown-ups chatted underneath the shelter. Finally the candles were blown out, songs were sung and delicious cupcakes consumed. The rain let up and then the pinata was whacked, first by each of the kids 3x and then Tina went feral and beat up the space shuttle pinata until its contents blew mightily into space and were then gathered by the quick and greedy fingers of the children. Phew! What a relief to have one of your kids' birthday party over with for another year. Did I mention the awesome fruit platter I constructed? It was ate by all and I was glad to see the kids eating fruit instead of throwing it. Dang! Back to Portland late last night, now it is Sunday and Tina's niece is here from Phoenix to stay with us for 2 weeks. Recycled some bottles for gas and groceries and now I think I am ready to start my work week. I can't wait until work dies down and I can try to go back to thinking about making some music. I am getting ready to revive this as a new recording centerpiece in the basement studio. I'll post some results soon.
Peace,
__

Monday, May 07, 2012

Blogg Master 2000: Produce Racker


Ok, I am over being in a new town. I am ever-so-slightly settled into my new life in Portland with the family. Work has started to settle down and also to make sense, which I was afraid would never happen - very scary it was to switch jobs mid-stream. I was prepared to go back to square one and start back at the bottom rung of the company ladder, but for some reason I seem destined to land squarely in the mid-level of the job, even if I try to jump downwards and miss. One of the things I am most pleased about has been learning how to use the smaller, stand-up forklifts. These things are cool - more highly maneuverable than the standard sit-down forklifts, they are also quite a bit more squirrel-y, and take a light touch. It was terrifying at first, making a near-fool of myself while learning something new, especially having to do it in plain sight of several younger, more-skilled forklift drivers who are constantly buzzing about, making me look like a mid-aged slowpoke. Oh well! I guess that feeling a fool comes at all stages of life, but the older you get, the less you worry about it. After a few weeks, I've definitely gotten better, but lets just say...I don't push my limits when I'm putting a heavy pallet of citrus in a 25-foot-high warehouse rack. My main focus is to manage the capacity of the warehouse so that there will be room for everyday s incoming products, which would make perfect sense if there actually was any space to manage! Scratch that - the space to manage is small and shrinking, so every bit of space that can be utilized must BE utilized, and I've got to use my imagination. It sounds corny, but this position is the first time I've really been into my job for a long time and I am grateful for the change. In other news...Tina and I had a wonderful weekend of socializing and kid-herding. Friday, our friends Father Don and his gal Cameron came over for a lovely, inspired Tina-cooked dinner consisting of spanikopita and veggies. Delightful! We stayed up late, drinking (and spilling) wine and listening to records and also playing with our household's duel Casio SK1's - the perfect nerd-party-hacker toys. Many electronic topics were discussed before our friends left late by cab. Saturday, again we had dinner with friends, this time the Kaleidoscopic Keoghs and Shanahans - Tina's bandmates from the Homemakers and their respective significant others. Pork was feasted upon, along with several more liters of wine. Brian K and I later head out to see Pellet Gun's LP release




at the Know on Alberta street, where of course we ran into a bunch of ex-Eugene people. There is, like, an entire island of ex-Eugenians here in Portland; no wonder it still feels like home. Pellet Gun rocked it; the crowd was really digging their sparse, dynamic indie rock and the sound was perfect for the small room at the Know. If you haven't checked out Pellet Gun in awhile, now is your chance. If you are interested in buying their cool slab of vinyl, it is available here. Ok lads and ladies, take care and have fun. I will speak to you telepathically thru the interwebs at some other point on the continuum. Spock Hand, Ed

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Still Grinding Forward

Its funny in a way, that when you leave a place that you've been rooted to for a long while, it's like a slow divorce. Or a guillotine chop. Or both. When I first moved to Eugene in the summer of 1992, it was such a fresh, new change for me. I loved the heat that summer. When I had previously lived in Northern California on the coast, I had grown accustomed to the dreary, overcast, 40-degrees-in-the-summer gloom, so Eugene seemed lush, green and hot that summer. I was ready for the change and I drank it in like wine. The winter that followed featured a record amount of snow, deep in the streets, and I was ready for that, too. I drank a lot of good seasons in Eugene and Lane county, but somewhere along the line, while simultaneously making friends and making music and occasionally acting busy, raising my kids and family and working  and all that entails, I became thirsty again, thirsty for the difference, the change, not the same. And now that I'm there, again in a new town, with new surrounds, new weather, new wildlife and a bunch of new people, I get to drink some more of the flavors of life, more of the new. In my mind, Eugene is my reference, and I am glad I still have the formatted imprint of such a weird town. If Eugene hadn't been so weirdly accommodating,  I probably wouldn't have stayed there for nearly 20 years. But I'm glad I did.