Today I’ll be playing Blues on the Green in Austin, Texas with Shinyribs. It is a free show at Zilker Park. Tameca Jones goes on at 8pm. We go on at 9pm. All those of you in the Austin looking for some fun, look no further.
I’m finally back in Austin after being on tour with Shinyribs in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Tomorrow I will resume my regular posting schedule. It’s hotter than hell here, of which I have had a brief respite from in the last twelve days. Here is one of my favorite bands, Marah, playing their song Long Hot Summer. If you don’t know who they are I highly recommend that you check them out.
It is with equal parts sadness and joy that I announce that my band, No Show Ponies, of which I have been a member of for probably close to 15 years, is going on hiatus while my brother, and partner in the band, attends law school in Pennsylvania. I am sad that my best friend and band mate is moving away, but I am happy that he is pursuing something that he has a passion for. I will be starting a new musical project, but I will talk about that at a later date. For the time being I would like to talk about how much working with my brother has meant to me.
My brother, Ben Brown, is one of the most talented musicians that I have ever come across. I’m talking about a guy that could learn a Beach Boys song with 15 chords in it in five minutes by ear. I’m talking about someone that I have almost never heard sing off key in the 15 years I have worked with him. (And I personally know something about singing off key!) This is someone that has cultivated an original voice AND an original guitar style. These are not easy things to do. He wrote great songs and always made my songs better by adding little twists and turns that were extremely musical. If I got stuck on a bridge or a chorus, I would ask him what to do, and he would always come up with something inventive and catchy.
When we decided to become a three piece Ben moved to electric guitar. He had very little experience on this instrument as he had primarily played acoustic guitar. If necessity is the mother of invention, he soon developed a style that I have not heard anywhere else in Austin. He could jump from the fast picking jangle guitar of someone like Johnny Marr to post punk art noise solos in the drop of a hat. Listen to the way he works the fretboard on our song I Love You All the Same. There is only one guitar going on there, but it seems like two. On my song You’re Never As Good As You Think You Are, he manages to put both extremes of his playing in one song. While most guitar players rely on stock blues and pentatonic licks, he just ignored those and went his own way.
You can hear examples of my brothers guitar playing, songwriting, and singing at www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com. He plays all of the guitars on that record and is the one with the baritone voice.
Throughout the years we got to do some pretty neat things together. We opened for some of our favorite bands in The Gourds and Marah. We opened for Hillary Clinton at one of her political rallies, and one of our songs was chosen by her for a campaign commercial. Jon Dee Graham and members of the Gourds played on one of our records. We got a day dedicated to us by the Austin City Council and Mayor. Numerous nights of fun are too many to mention.
For those of you that don’t know what it is like to sing and play with your brother, it is simply magical. We could work without language. We had the same rhythmic timing and could harmonize with very little effort. Something happens when you play music with family that goes outside the normal realm of reason and explanation.
More than being just a great musician who I have had the honor to work with, Ben is my best friend. It’s not anyone that you could be in a band with for 15 years. Through low times and high times he had my back and I had his.
I have lived with Ben for all but three years of my life and in the same city for all but two. Words can’t express how much I will miss him as my musical partner and as my roommate. I will carry on, but just because that is what one must do in life. We have had many ridiculous adventures along the way. I wish him the absolute best as he moves on to this next chapter in his life. I know at some point we will play together again. This is but a momentary lapse in the proceedings. I am not losing a friend or a brother, but just a band mate for the time being. I know this, yet I still feel that these are titanic days for myself. In closing I want to leave with a few selected lyrics from Morrissey’s song Forgive Someone. Most of you might not understand why I am leaving it with this song, but it will bring a smile to Ben, and that is all that matters to me:
Use a weapon of words
Or a fight with your fists
But can you forgive someone?
Stand your ground and persist
And be the last one to blink
But can you forgive someone?
And if you do I’ll run to you
Betray you with a word
I would slit my own throat first of all
Our truth will die with me
Our truth will die with me
Our truth will die with me
In Austin, Texas
There is a street called Lamar Blvd.
Named after a former Governor
Whose favorite hobbies
Were writing poetry
And exterminating Indians
He didn’t differentiate
Between friendly or hostile
He had them killed all the same
But hey, he had a thing for verse
Why are monsters so often
Comically tragically human?
Hitler loved animals
Saddam Hussein loved Doritos
But despite the hijinks of these beasts
I would be willing to gamble
In Germany or modern Iraq
They won’t be naming streets after them
Austin, Texas 7/23/14
On my days off from music I have been working for a political organization. Today it took me 45 minutes to get home when I don’t live but just on the other side of town. Remember that this is a Saturday and I was not in rush hour traffic. Whenever traffic is that bad I think there must be some kind of accident. Surely poor city planning couldn’t result in such a clusterfuck could it? I thought maybe a motorcycle with a side car must have crossed the divide going at tremendous speed and flew right through the side of a propane truck for traffic to be backed up that bad. At least I hoped so at the time. Because isn’t it much worse to think that we have created a society that is so ridiculously inefficient that merely crossing town becomes either a soul stealing escapade or dread inducing endeavor. We could be reading a book on public transportation like they do in Japan or Europe, but instead we are creeping forward inch by inch while ruining our city’s air quality. But hey, we’re American and cars are an expression of our personal freedom. USA! USA!
I’ll be appearing tomorrow night in Austin at the Saxon Pub with No Show Ponies. Our set begins at 10pm sharp.
Hear our new album at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com
Unfortunately, tonight’s Blues on the Green show with Shinyribs has been rescheduled for 8/13. This show also will take place in Austin, Texas.
It’s a rare cool rainy day in Austin today. It is the kind of day where any outside activity seems best left for tomorrow. When I was in Pennsylvania I realized that I missed days like these. Days that force you hunker down and be introspective. I was looking for a rain poem to post and I stumbled upon this one that is about the rain in New Jersey, the state I was born in. It is by Robert Pinsky.
Now near the end of the middle stretch of road
What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.
That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,
That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.
The source of art and woe aslant in wind
Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.
What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn’t mend
It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.
It spends itself regardless into the ocean.
It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:
Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,
The chilly liquefaction of day to night,
The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:
It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,
Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.
I feel it churning even in fair weather
To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.
In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds
Vapors in the sky that swell to smite the state –
The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads
Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:
Original milk, replenisher of grief,
Descending destroyer, arrowed source of passion,
Silver and black, executioner, font of life.