No Show Ponies to Go On Hiatus

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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
I will

Our truth will die with me
Our truth will die with me
Our truth will die with me

The Hijinks of Beasts

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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
Anytime soon

Austin, Texas 7/23/14

Soul Stealing Traffic

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!

Shinyribs and No Show Ponies Dates

I’ll be appearing tomorrow night in Austin at the Saxon Pub with No Show Ponies.  Our set begins at 10pm sharp.  

http://thesaxonpub.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/July-20142.pdf

http://www.noshowponies.com

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.  

http://www.shinyribs.org

 

 

Jersey Rain

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. 

Jersey Rain

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.

 

Where’s the Pub?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-NdoNhYCoE

The above is a video for Where’s the Pub? by The Hard Pans.  The Hard Pans are an Austin band that partly consist of Jimmy Smith and Claude Bernard of The Gourds.  Mark Creaney, who used to do sound for The Gourds, is also a band member.  I’d like to say something funny or witty, but after seeing the video, words escape me!  Wave your freak flag high, high!  

Benefit and Birthday Party Tonight

I try to limit the amount of posts that I have on here promoting stuff.  Although in this day and age one must promote ones work however they can, I also want this site to have value to readers in and of itself.  Otherwise there is no reason to come here!

However, my band No Show Ponies is playing a very special event tonight in Austin.  We are playing a birthday event at Roadhouse Rags for a friend that has also has been diagnosed with cancer.  The show is free and you can BYOB, but they will be taking donations if you are willing and able.  There will also be potluck food.

This will also be the last show at Roadhouse Rags.  It is another old school Austin venue that is going away.  It is one of the first places I played when I first moved to Austin about 9 years ago.

So if you are in Austin and want to have a celebratory night of fun, we will be out there…

Slouching Towards Heaven

They’re lining up in numbers
They’re driving there in droves
Cars veering off the highway
Some take a lethal dose

Me, I’m slowly fading
With every line on my face
I’m slouching towards heaven
At my own pace

Feels like the dream is over
The fall that comes after the pride
No more keeping up with the Joneses
When you are trying just to survive

I’m gonna drink mint juleps
While the empire fades
I’m slouching towards heaven
At my own pace

Glory O
Glory O
If the decline comes fast
Then salvation comes slow

Down at the Legion Bar
Will you hold me tight?
As the band plays America the Beautiful
We can pretend everything is all right

The Home of the Bloated
Was once The Home of the Brave
We’re slouching towards heaven
At our own pace

Glory O
Glory O
If the decline comes fast
Salvation comes slow

These are the lyrics to a new song No Show Ponies will be playing tonight at Strange Brew in Austin, Texas.  Show starts at 10pm.  Please come out and join us.

Shameless Self Promotion

This weekend I will be appearing at Strange Brew with No Show Ponies in Austin, Texas at 10pm.  Strange Brew was voted the best sounding room in Austin.  This is a really important show for us and we would be greatly appreciative if any of you in the area could make the journey out Friday night.  We will be unveiling several new compositions and giving away a limited number of free downloads of our new album A Manual for Defeat to those of you that make it out.

You can listen to what we do at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com

I will also be appearing tonight with Shinyribs in Bryan, Texas.  We will be at the Grand Stafford Theater.

This weekend Shinyribs will be appearing at Old Settler’s Festival on both Saturday and Sunday.

You can learn more about Shinyribs at http://www.shinyribs.org.

 

Good Times in Jail

A couple years ago on Cinco de Mayo I was arrested and put in jail for a DUI.  However, I was actually innocent, having passed my breathalyzer earlier in the night.  Because an idiotic cop had a “hunch” my family had to spend thousands of dollars and I am still dealing with the repercussions of this night now, about five years later.   I don’t usually tell personal stories on this blog.  However, I feel that this story highlights how corrupt our justice system is.  It made me realize how easy it is to get stuck inside the jaws of the system.  There are much worse scenarios that have played out over the years, one only has to watch Errol Morris’s Thin Blue Line, but this made me realize something else.  I realized that it’s not just the bigger life changing cases that are often wrong.  I can now see a whole justice system that, on a much smaller and more personal level, is ruining people’s lives.   I also had a family that had the resources to fight the system.  I was in jail that night with many people that didn’t have those resources.  They had to wait days and possibly even weeks to get out, even if they had done nothing wrong.  If you miss a couple days of work, innocent or not, you are probably going to lose your job. 

Earlier in the night my band had played in North Austin.  A couple of the people I was with decided to go down south to see if James McMurtry was playing.  I was the designated driver as I had only had two beers with dinner before my bands show, many hours before.  McMurtry was not playing, so we decided to just call it a night.  As we were leaving the Continental Club I was pulled over by two cops.  The cops asked if I had been drinking.  I made the first of many mistakes by telling the cops the truth that I had had two beers much earlier in the night.  I have now learned from my lawyer to always lie to cops.  You don’t get in any more trouble if you do.  The police do not value truth and will actually use it against you if you are honest.  That was my rookie mistake 101. 

The cops decided to give me a field sobriety test.  That night I was wearing cowboy boots, which I rarely do.  Although most of the field sobriety test was passed with ease, I wavered slightly on the test where you have to stand on one leg.  When I mean I wavered, I mean slightly enough that my lawyer laughed while watching the video recording as he could not believe that it was enough for the police to try to take this to the next level.  Again, I am not used to wearing cowboy boots, and it just took me a second to gain my balance.  Also, please keep in mind that this entire time I was speaking coherently and was completely polite to the police officers.  For the trouble that I was about to go through, I wish I had called them douche bags or something, but alas, I did not.  Although I thought I was going to be let go, I was next cuffed and thrown in the back of a police car. 

I was taken to a mobile unit where the job of the police there was to give you a breathalyzer.  I passed the breathalyzer as stated above.  However, the cop that detained me only seemed to get angrier at this.  Cops hate to look like the fools that they so often are.  Instead of letting me go he said that he thought I was on something and decided to take me tot the hospital for a blood test.  I went to the hospital, gave a blood test, as I had nothing to hide, and then was taken back to the mobile unit.  Instead of being taken back to my car, at this point I was booked and thrown in the back of a paddy wagon. 

If you think cops are dicks outside of jail, wait till you meet the ones inside jail!  After spending several hours in a general holding cell, which resembled a cell less than it resembled a bunch of church pews with no deity at the front, I was forced to strip nude in front of an officer and other people being held.  After several other minor steps I was then taken to a solitary cell with no windows.  Instead of being given any information as to what was going on, the cops in jail seemed to relish withholding any information from me.  They would actually get angry at me when I asked any questions about what was going on, when I could expect to get out, etc.  Remember, I was completely innocent.  So much for freedom in America! 

About 16 hours later I was taken to a preliminary hearing with other “inmates” that had been brought in that night.  My brother was with me earlier in the night.  As a side note I should mention that instead of letting my brother move my car five feet into a parking space, the cops towed my car, thus adding several hundred dollars worth of costs to the proceeding.  Anyway, I knew that because my brother was there when this happened, that my family was aware of what was going on and was probably trying to contact a lawyer to get me out.  I remember looking around the room, many of the other people were poor African American males, and I remember thinking they were doomed as many of them probably didn’t have the resources to get a lawyer.  They would simply have to wait for the state to let them out on its own glacial pace.  Working in the moving industry for several years I had already seen how this bogus imprisonment robbed many people of their jobs.  You may think I am stereotyping, but I would bet any amount of money that my assessment of many of the people around me was not incorrect.  Although some of the people were surely guilty of the crimes they had been accused of, they were now caught in a system that was going to fuck them either way.  Also, I believe that unless the crime is violent or harms other in some way, the way that the system disrupts your life punishes people in an unfair way.  You are not only doing whatever time or paying whatever fine is deemed by society to be acceptable; you basically have something on your record that will make getting employed much harder.  And remember, many of these poor souls were probably going to lose whatever job they had when they got taken in, if they could not afford to get out in a timely manner.  My lawyer cost $5,000 dollars.  If not for my family I would have been sitting there for days or weeks too. 

I got out late the next afternoon.  I had spent 20 hours in jail, had been stripped naked and robbed of my dignity, and had been treated like a piece of shit by the cops in jail, and my family was out thousands of dollars.  Oh, and all just because I ran across the wrong dickhead cop on the way home.  I should be able to say this was all a horrible mistake that doesn’t happen very often.  But instead I just want to say, “Welcome to America!”  I simply had the ill fortune of experiencing what so many others go through on a nightly basis.  If you haven’t gone through something like this I say, “Lucky you!” 

This is something I am still dealing with.  I recently applied to an educational company for some side money, and I am having trouble getting hired because the “dismissed” DUI is still on my record.  And it was dismissed.  It was thrown out of court before ever going to trial because it was basically laughable in the eyes of my lawyer and the prosecutor.  Though after several visits to the courthouse for which I had to take off work, it didn’t feel very laughable.  I was told after my case was dismissed that it would take several years, and another couple hundred dollars, to have this completely expunged from my record.  Remember, this is despite it being dismissed outright in the court of law.  It never even went to trial. 

What kind of country do we live in when people can incur costs of thousands of dollars and be denied employment even when they are innocent?  Our justice system is a cruel joke.  It is a large dumb slow moving beast that tramples lives into dust.  I got out relatively easy because my family had the money to help me out.  So many others are not as lucky.  I’d like to say this has taught me to never trust the cops.  But, I felt that way before.  Anyone with any intelligence knows that the police are just organized muscle that often works on behalf of the moneyed interests in this country.  This whole experience just confirmed my suspicions.  I’m not saying that all cops are bad.  They are people just like everyone else, some good and some bad.  However, just like people they should be treated as individuals, and not with any kind of overreaching reverence.  Too often they are tasked with enforcing the laws of a ridiculous absurd system.  With all of the training they get, I wonder if they are taught empathy. 

We see an increasingly militarized police force in this country.  Innocent citizens being gunned down, people’s dogs shot, and young girls being arrested for crossing the street are now part of our daily headlines.  And that is just in Austin!  Those that have money can pay the fines and pay for good lawyers.  If you don’t have a lot of money, and cross the path of the wrong police officer, you are shit out of luck!  When you read of an arrest in the paper, you really need to ask yourself:  What really happened?