I Hope

music, true No Comments »

The building I live in is inhabited entirely by very busy professional musicians, and we seem to have a bit of a reputation in our neighborhood.  This evening, while I was loading the accordion and the acoustic guitar into the car for tonight’s show, a woman I’ve never seen before was walking along the sidewalk and noticed what I was doing.

“Are you going to a gig?” she asked.

“Yup,” I replied.

“I hope you’re able to be self-supportive from your contributions to the group.”

I was dumbfounded, taken completely by surprise.  “Thank you for that,” I finally managed to stammer.

What an amazing thing for her to say.


blogging, true No Comments »

Wow, I just realized that it’s been weeks since I’ve written anything.  It’s been a crazy month, full of trips to Seattle, and gigs, and recording, plus a healthy dose of holiday cheer (um. . .yeah) in addition to all the usual Everyday Life stuff, which hasn’t left me feeling very compelled to write lately.  I’m essentially doing you a favor, by sparing you the minutiae of all of that.

Money has been a bit tight, after a flurry of gigs with little or no pay.  That’s frustrating, because while I love all the people I play with, it’s really hard to keep a high level of motivation when you put your heart and soul (and time, and energy, and gas, and expensive musical instruments) into something and you’re compensated with gratitude. . .which is great, don’t get me wrong, but gratitude doesn’t pay the bills.

About three months ago, I managed to scratch both of my eyes within a week of each other.  That was a pretty miserable couple of weeks.  Why am I bringing that up now?  Because a couple of nights ago, I scratched my right eye again.  Driving to rehearsal that evening, in rush hour traffic, through the rain and fog, didn’t do much to improve the situation, either.  Last night’s unpaid gig was really great, and really fun, but also really painful, and I had to reschedule tonight’s dinner plans for Sunday night instead.

I feel like I’m being a CrankyPants lately, instead of my usually indomitable self.  I did have a bunch of excellent dreams last night, however, which were a saving grace after my scratched eye kept me awake for much of the night.  I’ll have to include them here, once I decide how to share them.

I have two funny things to report.  The first is that last night, after the gig, I was loading my instruments to the car in a torrential downpour, which is still dumping on OurFairCity as I’m writing this.  A homeless guy walked up with a small spray bottle and offered to wash my window.  “I’ll do a real good job,” he said.  I was unable to keep from chuckling a little as I gestured to the sheets of rain.  “I’d say it’s getting taken care of already.”

The second thing is someone I overheard when I was at the grocery store this afternoon, buying a new headlight bulb for my car.  (On every other car I’ve had, changing headlight bulbs has been a breeze, but on my Honda, it’s a gigantic pain in the ass. . .but I digress.)  This person was talking into her cell phone, and I can only imagine the other end of the conversation.  I’ll leave you with this:

“Remember that time I karate-kicked you in the face?  On accident?”


music, Washington 1 Comment »

This past weekend I did something for the first time; I attended SteamCon, the steampunk convention in Seattle.  I had only an inkling of an idea what to expect, but I have to tell you that it was amazing.

I found out about it when PolishCellist (her name is unusual and therefore requires a pseudonym for blogging purposes), with whom I play accordion, was asked to perform there.  I’m pretty easily put off by large crowds, but I’m familiar enough with the ideas of steampunk (I have a handful of friends who are super into it), and I’m definitely familiar with the type of circus and cabaret culture with which it shares many similarities and ideologies, so it sounded like it would be, at the very least, an interesting experience.  Plus, we had free all-weekend passes.

I’m interested enough in anime and cabaret and stuff that I knew the convention would be full of more than just teenagers dressed like comic book characters, but I have to admit that the wide range of ages was a surprise to me.  Young and old alike roamed the halls and congregated in the lounges and rooms, and the garden area by the pool.  There were whole families, each clearly interested in different aspects of the culture.  If you’re not familiar at all with steampunk, look it up it stems from the idea that the Victorian Age was the height of creativity, and culture, and technology.  There are a myriad of sub-genres within that simple idea, though.  There are people who simply like to dress in Victorian style, and there are people who are fascinated by the elaborate gadgets that were created before electricity was in common usage.  There are people who are interested in cabaret music, and people who are interested in the popular entertainment of the time, such as burlesque and circus acts.  There are people who build weapons using this antiquated technology, and there are people who build elaborate mechanical body parts for themselves.  There are people who are into early flying machines.  There are people who are inspired by the Gothic and vampire novels of the time.  You can see how there’s plenty of room for interpretation, and all can fit under the umbrella of steampunk, albeit some more naturally than others.

The best thing about a convention like that is the people-watching.  Just about everyone was dressed stunningly.  It was interesting to see the lengths to which people would or wouldn’t go.  One girl wore a beautiful blue ‘peacock’ dress, and one guy simply wore a polo shirt and jeans with his aviator goggles.  One guy doctored up an electric guitar, and a husband-and-wife team (who led one of the panel discussions) arrived with an amazing brass electro-mechanical dog that could actually roll under its own power and lift its head, and probably did various other tricks as well.  Its eyes were lit up in blue.

There was an art room, which did double duty as a silent auction.  There were pictures and sculptures, as well as the requisite gadgetry.  The antique bicycles modified into antique motorcycles were particularly well done, I thought, and as a typewriter enthusiast, I love the fact that people have figured out ways to modify them with USB connections, so they can be used with their more modern counterparts.

I feel sorry for the ‘regular’ people who just happened to be staying in those two hotels at the time this was all going on.  It was hilarious to watch and overhear people on their cell phones trying to describe what they were witnessing.  “It’s some sort of convention,” they would say, “or maybe a fashion show. . .”

All I can say is that it was a total blast, and I’m hooked.  I’m into old music, and antiquated technology, and I do love to dress nice.  My usual attire owes more to the 1970’s than to the 1870’s, but there are enough cool places in town (not to mention garage sales) that it wouldn’t be too hard to find clothes.  It would be nice to go to a different meet-up at a turn-of-the-century hotel or club or something, rather than the ultra-modern hotels.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those hotels; it should be noted that they did a tremendous job of hosting the enormous convention.

I think it would be funny and awesome to buy a cheap cello and doctor it up.  I would never do that to the cello I have, but it would be a great experiment on a different instrument.  Maybe a violin would be better, since it’d be a lot cheaper, not to mention easier to carry around as a prop.  Only problem is, I don’t know how to play violin, and I know I’d get tired of constantly having to refuse people when they’d want me to do something with it.  Cello for the win (I accidentally typed ‘wine’ just now), as The Kids Today would say.

Why don’t I have any pictures in this entry, I can feel you asking, after gushing about how amazing and beautiful everything was?  Because I couldn’t find my camera when I was packing.  After I got home, it turned up in the glove compartment of my car, buried under CD’s, where I had left it the other day.  I wanted to punch myself in the face when I saw that it was in the car with me the entire time, and I didn’t even know it.  Curses!

As a little aside, I have to confess that after dressing quasi-Victorian for the weekend, it was really nice to slip into a comfortable sweater and jeans today.

P.S. – If you should ever find yourself passing through the tiny town of Nisqually, Washington (an hour or so south of Seattle), you owe it to yourself to stop in at Norma’s restaurant, for a great time and an amazing burger.  I don’t eat very many burgers, let alone recommend them, so that ought to be a pretty good impetus.  While we’re on the subject, Violetta and The Hop and Vine here in Portland have excellent burgers as well.   Seek ’em out.

P.P.S. – I hate to end this entry talking about burgers, even really delicious ones, so I thought it would be funny to tack on this completely unnecessary paragraph.  I stand by my decision to do that, even though it doesn’t add anything to the blog.

P.P.P.S. – There is no third post script.  Please move along.

P.P.P.P.S. – There’s also not a fourth one.  Sorry.

P.P.P.P.P.S. – There IS, however, a fifth post script, and this is it.  There will not be a sixth, unless I decide to add one later.  Who knows, maybe I will.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Yup, looks like I did add a sixth one.  Okay, now I’m really done.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Or AM I?

[Edit:  P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Here and here are some great pictures (including some of the dog!), many of which are from the fashion show on Saturday, which required a separate $50 ticket to attend.  Also, PolishCellist is in a couple of those pictures.  HINT:  She is without her cello.]

life and music

blogging, pictures, Portland, recording No Comments »

I wish I could embed this video, but the link will have to do.  It’s a short animated illustration of an excerpt of one of Alan Watts‘ lectures, and it’s absolutely brilliant.


I’m still on a mini-sabbatical from blogging, but there’s lots to tell you about if I felt so inclined.  Mixing for IrishBand, two gigs in Portland and Seattle (okay, here’s a picture from the Seattle show). . .


. . .opening up for the amazing Cirkestra, a fantastic day of music, dinner and the Oregon Symphony with the lovely and talented JapanesePianist, and for the next few days I’m taking a surprise trip to Northern California.  As soon as I get back, it’s into the studio with MellowBand.

But like I said, I’m still on sabbatical, so I’m not gonna elaborate on any of that stuff.  Sorry.

See you when I get home from NorCal.  Hopefully I’ll be in more of a writing mood by then.

veni, vedi, vici

funny, love, music, Portland 1 Comment »

Lately, I’ve made a resolution to be more engaging with people I meet.  It’s safe to say that introverts have a harder time than most other people do, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to reach out more.

Last night’s gig with Susie was a good example.  The event was hosted by someone with an unusual enough name that I’d better create one of those clever pseudonyms to anonymize her; I’ll call her BlondeSinger.  Since I’ve played with lots of songwriters over the years, I’ve played probably five or six shows that she’s been a part of.  I’ve never played with her onstage, but I’ve played plenty of evenings like last night, where she’s been a part of it and so have I.  Also, she once performed on my friend’s radio show, on which I was a regular co-host, including the day of the show she appeared on.

Last night, I was one of the first to arrive.  I set down my accordion and went over to say hello to her.  She clearly didn’t recognize me, so I said, “Hey, [BlondeSinger].   We’ve met before, actually.  I’m friends with [RadioFriend], and you played on his show, and I co-hosted with him.  I’ve been playing with Susie and [short rundown of songwriters] and we’ve played together a handful of times.  Good to see you again.”

“Yeah, you do kinda look familiar,” she said, and asked if RadioFriend was still doing a show, and I told her that yes, he is.  “Cool.”  She looked down at her phone and started texting like mad.  The silence stretched out longer and longer, and it started to become a bit awkward, so I asked, “Who’s performing tonight?”

She grabbed the list of eight or so and explained each one.  There’s GuitaristGirl who’s kinda folky. . .GuitaristGuy who’s kinda like Tom Waits, there’s Susie – she’s really good and has a band (“Uhh, yes, I know,” I said, “I’m IN that band.”)–“  I just felt like an invisible, silent blip on her radar screen, so I decided to be done with that particular conversation.  After I got the scoop on the performers, I got a glass of wine and came back to find Susie and our group of friends instead.

On the way to meet them, I ran into another songwriter who I’ve met a time or two, and once my two friends and I even spent an evening hanging out and chatting with him at Jarra’s Ethiopian restaurant a while back, when we were all there to watch a band play.  I’ll call him Dreadlocks.  I wandered over and said, “Hey, Dreadlocks!  Good to see you.”  He also showed no sign of recognition, so I prompted him with the RadioFriend thing (cause that’s also how I knew him), and the Jarra’s show, and all that.  Still nothing, and I could see that this was headed for another disaster, so I cut it short with, “I’m playing accordion with Susie tonight, and I’m looking forward to hearing you play too!”

Just then, Susie and the rest of our group of friends appeared and saved the day.  We sat together and talked, and watched the first couple of performers, both of whom were really great.  The second performer was the Tom Waits-y guy, and he did a brilliant version of Rainbow Connection, which he followed up with one of my favorite Tom Waits songs, Hoist That Rag.

As a side note, it was brilliant of him to do Rainbow Connection, but for him to do a Tom Waits cover (despite the fact that he did it very well) when he already is so clearly influenced by Tom Waits, just seemed like a No-Duh.  There’s a girl in town who sounds remarkably like k.d. lang, and who even performs a couple of her tunes, which also seems like another No-Duh.  The point of all this is that I’d rather see her do the Tom Waits tune, and him do the k.d. lang tune.  It adds a bit of mystery and depth to a show, instead of leaving the audience thinking, “Gosh, they sure sound like somebody. . .but who?  Oh. . .right.  THAT person,” instead of sounding like themselves.  Just some food for thought.

After he was done, it was our turn to rock the house, and I should mention that we totally did.  Just before we started, however, someone said to me, “Look up there,” and pointed at the ceiling, where an accordion was hanging, completely defiled, gutted and torn to pieces.  You get used to stupid jokes like that; they just give you more incentive for veni, vedi, vici. “It’s okay,” the guy continued.  “The owner of this place is an accordion player.”

“I know, actually,” I said with a smirk (because I’ve played that venue many times before, including one night when the owner was running the sound, and before I had even stepped up to the microphone or played a note, he called out, “Less accordion!” to a round of slightly drunken laughter.  O, the hilarity.) “. . .but it’s still sad.”

We played four songs, and we brought down the house, if I can take the liberty of saying so.  The sound was great, and the two of us performed great.

Afterwards, when Susie and our friends and I were waiting in line at the bar, a SuperCuteGirl came up and introduced herself.  She was very engaging and flirty, and said she loved our set, and thought that the accordion was great.  We each got a drink and sat down to talk for a while, and after about twenty minutes or so, TomWaitsGuy and his friend came over and joined us.  The three of them knew each other, and we talked about the show.  While we were talking, the next performer came up to me and said he was about to go on, and that he really wanted me to hear his set.  He had introduced himself to me earlier, and he’d befriended me via my music page on MySpace, thanks to a couple of my mates from another band.  So I told SCG that I wanted to go listen to the guy, but I’d be back.  “Cheers!” she said, smiling, and we clinked our glasses together.

I watched the guy, who was very good, and talked with our group.  Afterwards, we all went outside to the smoking area, where I quickly discovered that SCG was married to the friend of TomWaitsGuy.  It was a bit disappointing, to say the least (especially since she wasn’t even wearing a ring!), but at least they were both friendly and cool people.  In a funny, only-in-Portland way, we discovered that they had looked at an apartment in the complex in which I used to live.  We had a good time talking about that.

As another side note, there’s a funny story about that apartment, actually, and the girl who used to live there when I first moved into the complex.  Her cat, Hooligan, got in a fight with another neighborhood cat a couple years before, and the victim cat’s owner sued her for the vet bills.  They settled in court, but not just any court. . .The Peoples’ Court.  She totally lost the case, by the way, when the judge asked, simply, “What’s your cat’s name again?”


The audience laughed, and the judge banged the gavel.  “Court finds for the plaintiff.”

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty dang decent night, after kind of a weird and awkward start.  There’s nothing like a gutted accordion and a really great performance to make you forget about the weird stuff.