Thursday, December 11, 2008

tie me kangaroo down, sport

i wonder if writing a blog entry is conducive to completing a composition. it takes a lot of coffee to get myself motivated to do anything, and it's a shame i have such a hard time doing what i want to do, which is compose music.

at the beginning of 2008 i promised myself that i would complete 50 minutes of music this year.

i fell short. by a lot. it's sad and ironic. i eat, sleep, and bleed music. so why don't i have the proper discipline to organize my ideas logically? the relentless touring could be an excuse, but look at frank zappa. he could write a satisfying and compelling piece for orchestra in his sleep.

the real reason is that i have the attention span of a small puppy. i've been told that it's a dopamine deficiency. one thing that helps is practicing an intense kind of yoga called bikram. when i can find the time to do it, my focus is sharp and my stress disappears. if i could begin every day with that kind of disciplinary activity, then i could probably use more of my brain.

the brain is my favorite muscle. if i could flex it more, i would. on this current tour (australia) i've been having roughly two drinks a night. not good for my brain - but good for sleep. when i am home, i will be a good boy again. i don't like drinking. it makes me ugly and stupid.

so who can help me complete 50 minutes of music by the end of 2008? can anyone crack the proverbial whip and snap me out of my fear and laziness? or is it up to my own freewill? will i stop asking myself questions? will eric begin speaking in the third person?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

beauty knows no pangs

traveling in europe is such a privilege.
right now, i am sitting in a mercedes sprinter van and marveling at the mountainous countryside. the snowcapped peaks stab and jut through the clouds. forget about the autumnal massachusetts foliage - these towering trees are burnt to perfection.
the places we've visited in the past week (switzerland, spain, italy) provide the eyes with drastically different kinds of beauty.

in lugano, the 45 degree angle of the rolling hills turned all of us into r. crumb characters (even if you kept your posture proper) and walking became a chore. however, the payoff was big. the hill not only led you into the bustling town square, but if you walked a bit further you could witness a freshwater lake replete with ducks, swans, schooners - all with the backdrop of the alps.

san sebastian, spain. a place with a sort of old world natural beauty that truly grabs and consumes you, in the sunshine or darkness. the evening: we roamed around the narrow, pungent streets with jack and coke rumbling in our bellies. the daytime: a beach with the purest, grainiest sand my feet have ever walked on. muy bueno.

barcelona, spain. didn't get to see too much of it. we were only there for one day. probably the best show of the tour so far. more importantly, best singing audience of my entire career with mr. belew. it was the first time the audience sang in key when the "complicated" part came in on "three of a perfect pair".

milan. can i skip milan? we weren't really in milan at all. our hotel was in some city i can't remember the name of. we did laundry on our first day there and i made an ass of myself by doing "italian social experiments". these "social experiments" involved taking my shirt off and dancing around a laundromat while an old woman stared in horror. at least julie thought it was funny.
of course, on the day of the show my left hand crapped out during soundcheck. up until that point, i really didn't drink enough water. dehydration leads to muscle and ligament weakness. very dangerous for someone who needs to move their limbs in rapid succession. of course, we had two shows in one night at the prestigious blue note jazz club. first show was okay, second show was fantastic.
when we weren't playing or doing laundry, i spent most of my time in the hotel room reading hans richter's book on the history of dadaism. i also wrote 4 bars of music while experiencing the bizarre drunken focus of drinking 3 glasses of red wine with 2 shots of espresso. i call it the tuscan speedball.

anyway, can anyone recommend free video editing software for mac os x?!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

hungary pangs and watching the debates

the fall european tour has commenced.

our travels began a few days ago in budapest, hungary. the flight itinerary was not any more complicated than usual - nashville to detroit, detroit to schiphol, schiphol to budapest. a thin man greeted us with a huge smile that revealed the most interesting set of teeth i've seen in quite some time. andras halmos, the trusty tour guide. i later found out he was an accomplished drummer who has worked with john zorn and many others. he was instrumental in bringing us there, a process that took an entire year.

after sleeping off a little bit of jet lag, we spent the evening wining, dining, laughing, stumbling, and drinking apricot polinkas that evaporated upon contact with the tongue.

the majority of the next day was spent rehearsing and getting ready for our show at the trafo club. after waiting around for hours, we played. blistering energy. nervous excitement. a positive experience. the obligatory post show autograph session. julie decided to use her permanent marker as a tattoo needle. our arms were covered with ink by the end of the night.

we got a few drinks and i tried to sleep, but the final debates came on BBC World. i had missed most of the previous debates. my knowledge of obama's policies was non-existent until this particular event. perhaps it was so moving because i felt as if he was using the camera as a vessel to talk to us. calming and reassuring, like a real president.

mccain was as hostile and agitated as ever and it was painful to hear his small business healthcare plans. idealistic and downright regressive. can you imagine trying to sleep after that?

on our final day in the marvelous city, andras graciously took us over the blue danube via the freedom bridge, which leads to buda (the western part). i had no idea that budapest was divided into two parts (buda and pest). then again, i'm glad i know that hungary is a country (i.e. this awful video)

an observation: the foundation of european culture must be art. the architecture and city design is aesthetically pleasing. streets and buildings intertwine to create a heavy cobblestone labyrinth. underground tunnels take the place of ordinary sidewalks and in the subterranean world avant-garde violinists violently screech for forints. it's culture shock but i'll take the jolt, because i've never been so dissatisfied with the american mainstream until this moment.

do i associate myself with the european way of life? not always, but i know that the U.S.A. would benefit greatly from their philosophies.

hopefully i can post some videos from our stay...
but for now, off to lugano, switzerland.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

hunger pangs or kenny bloggins

before i begin, i just want to say something:

the band magma is amazing.

the past few days of my life have been spent in mount juliet, tennessee at the fabulous chateau belew. we've been working arduously on new material for a piece of music entitled "e". i can't really divulge any information about track titles or anything else, but i can say that it ranks with the best of adrian's material.
you're going to ask anyway:

what is e?

a complex post post-modern symphony. working on it involves a lot of patience and attention, especially when learning the sinewy transitions and breakneck dynamic shifts. a true challenge for an untamed musician such as myself. when writing my parts i try to adapt the steve gadd philosophy of "being behind every note". in other words, this is a serious composition - think about the sum of the parts instead of just thinking about your own.

when we aren't burning our brains on "e", we're shoveling our faces with mexican food at cinco de mayo or getting toasted at j. alexander's. of course, julie always provides excellent lunches, and yesterday was no exception. we filled our gullets with a warm roasted vegetable salad, which was topped off with a side of homemade pita chips and hummus. scrumptious.

i better get back to work though. adrian's music isn't getting any easier by the minute.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Table of Contents, No Appendix: The Long-Awaited Conclusion

I never finished my appendix story, so I'll sum it up for you in a few paragraphs.

I ran into the emergency room of Albany Medical clutching my stomach. Dave was parking the car while I was trying to figure out how the group of doctors chatting behind the plexiglas were going to assist me. They buzzed me in, and eventually I was in a stiff bed with all kinds of wonderful needles and tubes running through me. Katy and Sarah visited, while Dave watched over me and assured me that I'd get home to Philadelphia the next day. I was administered a healthy dose of morphine, so I couldn't really tell you in detail what happened after that. Apparently, I was sassy with my male doctor. I was later told that when he was checking for my heartbeat I muttered, "My heart beats only for you."

From what I can (barely) remember, I had an MRI and some other tests. When the results were analyzed, they told me that I had a slightly swollen appendix. They said that this was normal, and that I probably just had a bad case of gas. I was told to wait until the following day to go to the hospital in Philadelphia for further examination and evaluation. I ended up getting discharged at 5AM, and Dave drove me all the way home.

The next day my mom came with me to the ER at Jefferson Hospital, just in case some sort of major surgery was in store. I naively expected to get an immediate response on my condition, because I thought a swollen appendix was commonplace and easy to diagnose and treat.

Well, we waited around for 6 or 7 hours. Various doctors came and pressed on different areas of my abdomen, and I winced accordingly. Ultimately they decided that it would be best to remove my appendix, so they did.

I only stayed there for 1 day, which was tolerable. However, the recovery period was a serious annoyance, considering that you can't feel the sensation of urinating for a good 3 days. Getting out of bed and walking was also unbelievably painful. It took about 2 and a half weeks for things to feel normal.

So what did I learn from this whole experience? I'm not so sure. I do know that the appendix doesn't really have a purpose, although there's speculation that it may prevent dysentery.

Go figure.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Table of Contents, No Appendix: Part Four

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, take one-thousand.

A 4PM arrival time, enough time to eat before hustling my way over to the Bowery Ballroom to see the Dirty Projectors.
I took the advice of a Rock School employee and ate at Piece of Chicken. Shocking? The vegetarian boy dining at such a place? It's okay, I just had split pea soup and a bowl of rice. Not only that, but my meal was only two dollars. After devouring it, I asked 4 different people how to get to the Bowery. It was simple as usual. I still give credit to the Manhattan Transit Authority. It's impossible to get lost, unless you're really not paying attention.

The Projectors put on a great show, and I enjoyed the opener Julianna Barwick. It was impressive to see what one person could do with a sampler and one microphone. I still can't get into White Williams, but perhaps it's because I can't hear the originality. It just sounds like a poorly executed Joy Division. Much respect to Sidetrack, who completely caught everyone off guard.
My sleeping arrangements this evening were provided by the amazing Robbie "Seahag" Mangano. The Mangano Estate is located in Brooklyn. Thanks to Robbie and Laura.

In the morning, I worked on updating eBay Record Inventory for about 2 hours. I went back into Midtown and hung out at the music school some more. Talking to the students is fascinating. Those NYC kids are hilarious, and brutally honest.
Dave Dreiwitz called me from Union Square. I was going to sleep at his place in Fort Lee, NJ, but first we were going to go to the annual Relix Christmas Party.

I was a drunken mess for this one, ladies and gentleman. I was taking cell phone pictures left and right.
Here's a secret picture I took of Danny Tamborelli (y'know, Pete and Pete?):

And here's a picture with me and the up and coming film director Bernardo Loyola:

Thanks to the lovely Monica Hampton for that one!

I was a little hungover the next morning. Oh well. We began the epic journey to Burlington, Vermont at noon. Crescent Moon was doing two shows with the Mathematicians (of Glens Falls, NY). Our first show was at Nectar's - one of my all time favorite venues. I have a sacred kinship with Nectar's. I played one of my all time best shows there, on January 13, 2007. It was one of those special Project/Object gigs. Before the show, we practiced "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" at half speed. We were also goofing on "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon for the entirety of that tour and we whupped it out spontaneously for that gig.

Anyway, the Nectar's Crescent Moon/Mathematicians show was great. Mike Gordon of Phish was there, and he gave a nice and succinct greeting.

I woke up the next morning at the world famous Windjammer Hotel and as I was eating an unbuttered and untoasted English Muffin, Slick Rick walked into the breakfast area. Yes, at 10AM, even with the eye patch. He played at Higher Ground while we were playing, and he was staying at our hotel. I was slackjawed. I wanted to say something to him, so bad the urge was almost uncontrollable, but I maintained my composure. You see, people have been calling me Slick Rick for as long as I can remember. A photo of the two of us would've aligned the planets and world peace would've been inevitable.

Sadly, no photo was taken. Maybe we will meet again, in an alternate universe.

After our hotel breakfast, Dave took me to an icy river. He informed me that because the fish couldn't breed upstream during this time of year, they had to invent a fish elevator and deliver the fish by the truckload. He told me he used to go to this spot before gigs to relax. Here's a picture:

We left for Albany, NY sometime in the afternoon and showed up at Red Square two hours before we were supposed to be there. We decided to sit in the car for awhile and listen to an insane Elvin Jones record. We ate at some weird sports bar, and by the time we got back to the club we were able to load in. The opening band was Sugarproof and Mathematicians were going on after us.

Katy and her best friend Sarah showed up, so we chatted for some time. I felt bad, I kept interrupting. I was running around like a maniac. Sooner or later, Crescent Moon came on and we played a good gig...but my stomach was feeling strange. I shrugged it off.

I helped pack up the gear. Much thanks to the drummer of Sugarproof for letting me bash on the nice drumset! I stood in the crowd and watched the Mathematicians, but I couldn't ignore the terrible pain in my right side. I couldn't move. This was the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. I went into the bathroom and I looked in the mirror. My stomach was bloated and pulsating. After an hour of trying to decide whether it was a kidney stone or gastritis, Dave rushed me to the ER.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Table of Contents, No Appendix: Part Three

I slept for quite some time after I arrived at the Budget Inn. I woke up in the late morning. The aforementioned yellow-brown room was only more haunting in the daylight, and I had to convince myself regularly that I wasn't caught in some bizarre 70's sitcom like "Maude". Of course, all of this didn't matter in the end. I was just happy to have some time with my girlfriend. She's wonderful.
We decided that our original European breakfast concept of jam and bagels wasn't good, due to the absurdly chewy nature of the bagels. A second trip to the Price Chopper was needed.

We drove into the bustling little town, which begs the question: What is there to do in Saratoga Springs, NY? Not too much, but that doesn't take away from it's charm. It reminded me of what Philadelphia felt like when I was a kid, or perhaps what Vermont is like now. The mom and pop stores stand tall with history and integrity, so much so that the shiny fast food chains get tucked away in between used bookstores and clothing shops. It was cold there, but not cold enough to feel discomfort. It was that perfect brisk cold that added to the starkness of a place mainly known for it's horse racing and Don McLean.

At the Price Chopper I brainstormed on the breakfast/snack dilemma with Katy and we came to the agreement of purchasing hard sourdough rolls and fresh mozzarella cheese. It was far more European than the jam idea anyway. We were hungry, and we rushed back to the Budget Inn for our feast.

Our neighbors were loud and feuding. My inner Jeffrey Beaumont loves this. I mean, it's not voyeurism or "schadenfreude", but I suppose witnessing chaos in public is exciting - it's a deviation from the norm. On my first date with Katy we saw a crack bust go down near Union Square, and maybe things like that just give you a healthy (or is it unhealthy?) jolt of reality.

We relaxed inside for the majority of the afternoon, with the winds occasionally blowing the door open. To not do much of anything for a day was calming. We all need an empty day sometimes. In the nighttime we got Chinese food and went on another promenade of the main streets. We became sleepy and went to bed watching two horrifying episodes of "Intervention".
I was becoming so queasy that I had to dig my head into the pillow. We didn't have the television on all day, and I remembered why I dislike it so much.

It was an early night, so that called for an early rise. We finished as much of the leftover breakfast as we could, and we left all of our remnants in the refrigerator. We checked out of the hotel. Funny side note: I forgot to mention that the proprietor was convinced that I was foreign. I have a slight lisp and a nasal voice, so I really don't know where she came up with that. If I ever stay there again, I'm going to put on a full made-up accent.

Katy informed me that there was a diner attached to the bus station. I'm happy to take up any diner offer, anywhere in the world. I love diners because they resolve group indecision. Rarely do you find something you don't want to eat at a diner, unless you or your friends are vegan. The food was exceptional, and Katy offered to pay for my meal. How nice!

We left and waited in the parking lot. My bus was going to New York City because I was about to go on a mini-tour with Crescent Moon. About ten minutes before my bus was supposed to leave, I walked up to the stop and a friendly older woman approached us.

"You guys know that the Saratoga Springs bus station has been moved, right?"

"Uhhhhhhhh, no?"

Luckily my bus required a stop at the Albany Greyhound Station so we got on the road and floored it. We made it, and while we were waiting in the terminal I wrote an idiotic song about Schenectady, NY. I got in line and gave my goodbyes to Katy. It was a lonely ride to the city, but I had a lot to look forward to. It was going to be a busy week.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Table of Contents, No Appendix: Part Two

I had a lot of time to kill at South Station.

My lesson was cancelled and I was depressed. It was snowing outside and I began the slow thawing process. South Station's Greyhound section leaves a lot to be desired. There's an imitation Dunkin' Donuts, an imitation Quiznos, and a newsstand/convenience store that has about 3 feet of walking space. I laughed to myself about the tight squeeze and a nice young man overheard my chuckling and said, "Yep, that's capitalism for you."
I bought one of those PowerBar Harvest Energy Bars that taste like cardboard with dark chocolate chips and a Vitamin Water for the road.

I was preparing to go to Albany, NY. My girlfriend Katy lives there and I figured I'd swing by after the Boston trip and hang out there for 2 days. I hopped on the bus and the driver looked a lot like David Sitek from TV On The Radio. A true doppelganger. I wanted to bug him, but being a Greyhound bus driver is probably a terrible job and I didn't want to start his trip with a potentially awkward conversation.
This was easily the darkest bus ride I've ever been on in my life. I thought the 2005 Memorial Day trip to Levon Helm's house in Woodstock, NY was the darkest, but this one takes the cake. I've never seen a sky so black and purple. Then there was unsettling silence on the bus, the snow turning into sleet, the 10 minute McDonald's pit stop when everyone on the bus seemed to leave except for me - it was too creepy.

I think I got to Albany at 1 AM. Katy and Koren were there and they prepared a "Welcome to Upstate New York" paper plane for me. We drove around in the snow/sleet for about 2 hours and we dropped off Koren at her house. We went to the Price Chopper at 3:30 AM and purchased coffee, strawberry jam, and wheat bagels for the room. There were plows circling the parking lot but they weren't getting rid of any snow. I think they were just joyriding.
I needed a place to stay so I got a last minute room at the Budget Inn (also known as the Post Road Lodge) of Malta, NY. I can guarantee that out of all the hotels I've ever been to, this one is the most memorable. The lodge consists of about 6 hotel rooms, all side by side. We pulled up at around 4AM and there were a gaggle of geese honking outside of one of the rooms. I prayed it wasn't our room, and luckily it wasn't. Still, it looked like the goose mafia was ready to make a hit on whoever was sleeping in Room Number 1. The hotel lobby looks like Agent Dale Cooper's office from Twin Peaks. I had a pleasant exchange with the proprietor of the Budget Inn and I got the room key (yes, a key, not one of those wonky key cards).

I opened the door and laughed once again. Our room had not been changed since 1978. Above the bed was a poor painting of what looked like a frowning European Ambassador. We had a complete kitchen with no utensils or plates, a refrigerator, and a functioning old school timer microwave. The heavy winds from the outside kept blowing our door open, regardless of whether or not the door was locked. Our room was yellow and brown colored, and that's how I will remember it.