Small Room, Big Love

Last night I went a house concert. Not just any house concert, but the debut house concert at the home of my friends Jacqui and Dave.

Photo credit: Jameson Killen

They’re music heads, just like me… although they actually have musical talent. We’re talking “graduated from Berklee College of Music” level talent. Chops aside, we’re similar in our passion for live music. Here’s a snippet from the About Us page of the website they set up for their house concert series, which they’ve dubbed Parlor & Patio:

Years ago, we were just two crazy college kids who haphazardly met in a living room while listening to music. You could say that was a life-changing moment.

For us, music has always been more than background ambiance. It’s an experience we crave and cherish. We also believe it connects people in ways that are meaningful and universal. Through Parlor & Patio, we hope to foster some new experiences and connections by bringing friends, community and traveling artists together in a listening room environment.

Amen to that! And Dave & Jacqui aren’t just dabbling in this new venture, they are going full throttle. They’ve already booked a show a month for the next several months!

They kicked things off last night with a solo gig from Rob Fetters, a local legend who should be a national legend. He’s been playing in Cincinnati bands for decades, first with The Raisins, then The Bears and finally the psychodots. All stellar, all woefully underappreciated. As his website bio says:
Rob Fetters has spent decades making records and performing music on the edgy fringe of American power pop. 

Photo source: Robfetters.net

Rob’s a great singer, songwriter and storyteller. And he can pick and/or shred with the best of them on guitar. He also happens to be a wonderful human being.

Two amazing hosts + one phenomenal artist = One-of-a-kind concert. Rob played two sets, 20+ songs, told some hilarious stories (and some sad ones too). And the 40 folks in attendance were there to listen, not to chit-chat or Snapchat.

I can’t wait for the next gig in the Parlor & Patio series. It’s music from the heart that nourishes your soul. And we all need big love now…

Radio is a sound salvation… and podcasting is the new radio.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I worked at 97X, a small-but-mighty radio station in Oxford, Ohio.

My friend Dave worked there as well (that’s how we met and became friends). Now that Dave’s two sons and my four kids are a bit older, we have some spare time on our hands. So we decided to create a podcast about our adventures (and misadventures) at 97X.

I don’t think Marc Maron and the folks at My Favorite Murder or This American Life have to watch their backs, but if you listened to 97X before it went off the air, you’ll probably find the podcast semi-entertaining. Even if you never heard (or even heard of) the station, you might get a kick or three out of the podcast. Or not. But hey, it’s only 18 minutes of your day. You’ve probably got some time off for the holidays, right? It’s the perfect aural accompaniment to taking down the Christmas lights, trying to assemble kids toys and/or scrubbing congealed ham/turkey/goose fat out of the roasting pan.

Three episodes are posted here: https://woxy.podbean.com/

You can subscribe via that same link, so you’ll never have to miss a single scintillating episode. (And you won’t miss the boring ones either.)

You can also listen/download below.

Please don’t feel obligated to listen. Dave and I just have to call it “podcasting” because that sounds fancier (and more productive) than “hanging out in the basement and reminiscing about the good old days.”

Monday morning music

You can be a corporate drone and still find a means of artistic expression (like a blog, maybe?). And you can be a real estate agent and still rock… just like Bill Janovitz, the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. 

Back in the 90s, he and his bandmates Chris Colbourn and Tom Maginnis released several albums on a major label, and toured the world.

But things have changed. 

First came love, then came marriage, then came a baby in a baby carriage… and Bill needed to provide a bit more stability to his family than the rock and roll lifestyle could offer. So he became a real estate agent. 


“Now it’s more about getting up and wearing a decent collared shirt”

You can listen to Bill talk about his day job in this Public Radio International interview.

Source: https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-11-15/making-life-and-living-after-buffalo-tom-s-heyday?amp&__twitter_impression=true

As Bill’s real estate bio states, he and his bandmates “still play and record music to this day.” Indeed they do… and they do it quite well. Here’s a great video for a song from their new album:  

Thank you Bill for so poignantly profiling middle-age malaise in your music… and for setting such a good example for other family-centered folks. 

Richard the Great

Oops, I did it again… I went and saw Richard Thompson live in concert again last night.

I’ve posted about him before. And I’m going to do it again, because he’s so doggone good. Nay, great. Last night it was the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, featuring RT, a bassist and a drummer (and occasionally Richard’s guitar tech on guitar, making it, as Richard said, “a very large ‘trio'”). They absolutely rocked the Southgate House – a former church… saints be praised!

To see a man who is 69 years old (and has been in the business 50 years) absolutely shredding on guitar is life-affirming to a middle-aged dude like me. Although it’s a double-edged sword – a couple of friends of mine who are in local bands (Wussy and Pike 27) were in the audience, and they joked about donating their instruments to needy kids after seeing Richard Thompson because they realized they’ll never be as good. But there’s no shame in that; millions of performers aren’t fit to carry his guitar pick. He’s a quadruple threat, as I mentioned in my previous post (with a few updates):

The show was a typical RT show… which is to say, amazing. I don’t think you’ll find his rare combination of talents in too many folks:

  • virtuoso guitarist – I’d put him up against any teenage phenom. 
  • phenomenal voice – so strong, even at age 69. 
  • fantastic songwriter – great, sometimes twisted lyrics and wonderful melodies. It’s no wonder his tunes have been covered by the likes of R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Bob Mould, Bonnie Raitt, Reckless Kelly, The Neville Brothers, Marshall Crenshaw and Dinosaur Jr. (that’s a festival lineup I’d like to see).
  • entertaining stage presence – that droll British wit is always in evidence.

The Electrio Trio was fantastic (you can catch their entire Shrewsbury Folk Festival performance from a few months ago here). The songs from Richard’s latest album 13 Rivers are a great addition to his oeuvre. Back catalog highlights for me were “Wall of Death” and “Tear Stained Letter.” But late in the show Richard played back to back acoustic numbers that are utterly brilliant: “Beeswing” and “Dimming of the Day.”

 

Most artists would kill for just one song as good as those. But for Richard the Great, they’re just par for the course. I still have goosebumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blossoming when it’s cold and dreary

Let’s talk about blossom.

Wait, wrong Blossom.

I’m talking about this kind of blossom:

“Let us be grateful for the people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

— Marcel Proust

Thanks for reading. I’m grateful for you. And that’s not a bunch of bullsh…er, fertilizer.

Love and loss… and more love

My friend Mike Argadine made me cry yesterday. (And today too, for that matter.) He sent me a link to the video below. It’s a song by the band Frightened Rabbit, as done by fans.

Frightened Rabbit wasn’t a global sensation, but they were big enough to have thousands of avid followers all over the world, and released several albums. They didn’t have any casual fans – if you were into them, you were cuckoo, head-over-heels, abso-tively posi-lutely in love with them. Their songs were burned into your brain, etched into your heart and seared into your soul. There was a lot of darkness in the music— with titles like “The Modern Leper” and “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” — but those songs resonated, they were cathartic, and they helped us make sense of an often-senseless world.

Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer and main songwriter Scott Hutchison took his own life in May, when the demons of depression and anxiety that he battled daily for 36 years overcame his better angels.

We mourn the loss. We miss Scott dearly. But his music will carry on… and carry us with it.

When it’s all gone
Something carries on
And it’s not morbid at all
Just that nature’s had enough of you

When my blood stops
Someone else’s will thaw
When my head rolls off
Someone else’s will turn
And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

 

“Be so good to everyone you love” was one of Scott’s last tweets before he left us. It’s up to us to honor that request, and make tiny changes to Earth.

What’s in a (wrong) name?

 

Did you know “misspelled” is one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language? (People usually leave out the 2nd “s”.) Another commonly misspelled word is my first name. It’s Damian. But folks mess it up all the time. Not just strangers, mind you, but people who have known me for years. Granted, there’s also a name that’s similar, spelled Damien. But it should be easy to keep those separate in your head – I (DamiAn) am an Angel, and DamiEn is pure Evil.

I’m in the mentoring program at my alma mater, Xavier University, and they recently published a promotional video featuring my mentee and me. (I know why they did it… so other alums would say “geez, if that loser can do it, I can too!”) And of course they spelled my name incorrectly. (Warning: this video contains scenes of middle aged mediocrity.)

Poor Maddy. Not only did she get stuck with me as a mentor, but they also misspelled her first name.

It turns out that this misspelling has been going on for half a century. While going through the archives of the Jersey City Journal (I really need to find a new hobby), I found the obituary for my mom… and you guessed it, they messed up my name.

My co-workers… even folks I’ve worked with for more than a decade… often get it wrong.

Well, the joke’s on them now, because we just hired a DamiEn and I’m gonna forward all the emails with my name misspelled to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corny jokes and cornfields

Roy Clark is a-grinnin’ in heaven.

Seems like nearly everyone had a love/hate relationship with Hee Haw, the cornpone version of Laugh-In. As a New Jersey native transplanted to Arkansas in the summer of ’72, I could certainly understand both parts of the equation (i.e. “ha-ha, what rubes!” and “ha-ha, that’s my life!”). It was super-hick instead of super-chic, yet somehow it worked, and lasted a quarter of a century.

Related image

Roy’s instrumental mastery (his “a-pickin'”) was often overshadowed by the part he played on Hee Haw (“a-grinnin'”). But the man had major skills. And because Hee Haw only taped for three-week stretches twice a year, he could still tour. Good work if you can get it. Plus, the show gave a lot of country artists their first national exposure, something Roy was proud of:

With all of its twists and turns, the program gave me an incredible education in the business of show business—the importance of ratings, questionable executive decisions, syndication, money, problematic artistic decisions, demographics, image, coincidence and luck. But first and foremost, I am most proud of how Hee Haw did its part to help pave the way for country music to burst from its regional roots to remarkable worldwide popularity.  (Source: this Huffington Post article written by Roy in 2015)

Tony Orlando, Johnny Cash and Roy Clark – quite a trio.

The show itself, and Roy and Buck, served as both punching bag and punchline for many critics over the years. But as usual, Roy got it… and got the last laugh.

You know, like my dad told me, listening to different types of music and the way that people live, he said, don’t put it down until your heart hears it.

Now, you’ll hear it with your ears, but don’t write off, say I don’t like that. Listen. Listen for a while. There’ll be something in there that will appeal to you. And it – it’s made me, you know, a successful life that I wouldn’t change one note. (Source: Roy Clark’s NPR interview with Scott Simon in 2016 – full audio is below)

 

 

My life is a comic strip

Now that our oldest son is a college freshman, this Pearls Before Swine strip from Sunday perfectly sums up our relationship:

And since we’re already talking about slang, how about some Beach Slang:

 

May all your favorite bands stay together

The first time I saw the band Dawes was in 2006. They were called Simon Dawes back then, touring behind their debut album, and they played a tiny club in a rundown part of the city, opening up for Band of Horses, with about 50 people in the audience.

The next time I saw Dawes (they dropped the Simon due to personnel changes*) was in the summer of 2012. They were supposed to play the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati, but ticket sales were so poor that they moved the gig to the downstairs “ballroom” – which is basically like an oversized version of your high school friend’s basement rec room. The audience tally was roughly 200.

A year later, in June of 2013, I saw Dawes at the Southgate House Revival, which holds 600, and they probably drew 500.

Last night, Dawes played the 2,500-seat Taft Theater… for real this time, they didn’t move the show to the basement ballroom. The gig was part of their “An Evening with Dawes” tour, so there was no opening act, and they played two long (and killer) sets with a brief intermission. It wasn’t sold out, but it was pretty darn close, with nearly 2,000 fans singing along to their songs (which typically sound better in concert than on the albums).

There are artists who truly are an “overnight success,” but more often than not, there are long years of hard work involved, playing tiny clubs, cramming into a Ford Econoline to get to the next sparsely attended gig, sleeping on friend’s couches or at motels that have a number in their name (Motel 6 or Super 8… the choice is yours). Giving it your all, night after night, even when you’re sick or tired. Building up a fan base one show at a time.

I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be
I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever
I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me
And may all your favorite bands stay together

If you put in the work, when your time comes, success will be that much sweeter.

Now it seems like the unravelling
Has started too soon
Now I’m sleeping in hallways
And I’m drinking perfume
And I’m speaking to mirrors
And I’m howling at moons
While the worse and the
Worse that it gets

Oh you can judge the whole world on the sparkle that you think it lacks
Yes, you can stare into the abyss, but it’s staring right back

When my time comes
Oh oh oh oh
When my time comes
Oh oh oh oh

 

*Guitarist/songwriter Blake Mills, who left the band in 2006, is now an acclaimed producer… and he produced Dawes’ 2016 album.