Shinyribs Tour and Poetry

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Starting this Wednesday I am going on tour with Shinyribs.  We will be in New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas.

For a list of full tour details here is a link to the Shinyribs website:

http://www.shinyribs.org

Usually when I go on tour, mostly due to lack of service, but also from trying to type things on my phone, and sheer exhaustion, my blogging input decreases.  One thing I am going to try to do on this tour is to post some kind of poem every day based on what I see on the road.  There may be a day or so without service, but if that happens I’ll just post two the next day or whatever.

Lately I’ve been posting poetry, which until recently I have never written before, although I have written plenty of song lyrics.  I don’t even feel comfortable calling it poetry as I have no experience in that field.  I think of it more as prose in verse form.  There is something Zen about it for me.  I enjoy trying to write something that translates some kind of image or idea without all of the explaining that comes with writing prose.  I’m having fun with it.  Hopefully you all will enjoy some of it as well.

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

 

 

People Change

I am headed to Canada on tour to play the Winnipeg Folk Festival with Shinyribs.  I am most excited about the possible prospect of seeing fellow performer Buffy Sainte-Marie,  who is one of my heroes for her music and her political stances.  She was absolutely fearless, despite being a woman and a Native American at a time when it wasn’t easy to be either.  She walked it and talked it all while making completely unique albums.  There aren’t many people that can say they were black balled by President Johnson and appeared on Sesame Street.  

I haven’t been to Canada since my senior class trip almost 17 years ago.  At the time I was mostly concerned with getting drunk where the drinking age was only 18 and possibly landing a girl.  The drinking happened, but the girl didnt.  Now my priority is seeing someone that speaks truth to power while remaining sober enough to take in every moment, if I can get in.  No matter how well we think we know ourselves we can’t even predict ourselves can we?  As Nick Lowe sings:

People change
That’s the long and short of it
Prepare for it or get bit
People change

Dirty Old Right Wing Sods!

Just got to Chicago,  scene of the first gig of the Shinyribs tour.  You can check out dates at http://www.shinyribs.org.  ; In the meantime I thought I would share this article from Salon.

We are a corporate theocracy now: The Christian right seeks cultural and political domination http://www.salon.com/2014/07/03/we_are_a_corporate_theocracy_now_the_christian_right_seeks_cultural_and_political_domination/ via @Salon

Random Thoughts

I have been knocked out the last few days with allergies.  I love nature but sometimes it hates my shit! 

Tomorrow I am heading out on tour with Shinyribs.  You can check the dates at http://www.shinyribs.org. ; I have two pretty brutal travel days coming up as we need to drive from Austin to Chicago.  After that I hope to resume my normal posting schedule. 

I have been laughing my ass off at the show An Idiot Abroad.   Check it out if a comedy travel show seems like something you would enjoy. 

I have also found that, for someone that has certain introvert tendencies,  that I really enjoy canvassing.   Who would have thought?  I hope to share why at some point. 

The right wing still seems batshit insane.  I can only hope that reason will prevail and that they will doom themselves in the long run.  I was in Tyler, Texas the other day right before a gun rally at a bar.   The first guy there was wearing what else but tight cowboy jeans,  a Texas flag t – shirt,  and a camo hat.  I have shot skeet and enjoyed it, I have plenty of friends with guns, I don’t spend much time thinking about guns, but this kind of public display makes me wish every gun in America would be melted down.  If you are someone that likes to hunt and believes in 2nd Ammendment rights, I hope you realize this kind of behavior is counter productive.  To me it is ignorant behavior that reeks of bullying and intimidation.  I am against the militarization of our police and our citizens. 

Sorry for my absence for those of you that come here regularly.  I will return soon. 

In the future when all is well…

Jeff

The Absurdity and Importance of Music

Bruce Springsteen once said something along the lines of music being the most ridiculous thing in the world and the most important.  To me this rings very true.  Nothing is more absurd than grown men arguing about a tambourine part in the studio.  At the same time music has kept me sane.  It is the closest thing I have to an organized religion. 

There are so many things in the music business that are completely absurd and utterly ridiculous.  First of all there are many musicians whose egos have them acting like they are the pharaoh of Egypt.  You are just a guitar player dude!  I recently heard about a musician who fired anyone in his band that was better looking than him. 

One of my favorite drinking albums of all time is Highwayman 2.  This is the band that featured Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.  There is a song on it called American Remains where they sing about being heroes of the homeland.  While drinking one night a friend of mine declared that, “They are acting like American heroes, but they are really just a bunch of old stoners!” 

There is the absurdity of the experiences associated with the music business too.  Many musicians can tell you stories about playing sold out clubs only to be eating a gas station burrito by yourself an hour later.  I remember one time Shinyribs played Threadgill’s.  There were roughly about 300 people in the audience at this particular show.  I wanted to have a late night party at my house to celebrate.  However, by the time I was done loading out the crowd had dispersed.  My late night party consisted of me drunk eating a block of cheese like a candy bar while watching Doctor Who! 

There is also the absurdity of perception.  I can’t tell you how many times a lawyer or a doctor, or someone else that has a beautiful home, a loving wife, and a successful career, has told me they would give anything to do what I do.  I always think, “Do you know what I make a year? Because if you did, I would highly fucking doubt it!”  That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate such sentiments, I actually genuinely do, but I also am able to keep in mind the absurdity between the reality and the perception.  When you come to a show in a place like New York City you see the party, the fun.  You didn’t see me hanging out in the van for six hours because we didn’t want to lose our parking space. 

Then there are just the little moments of ridiculousness that crop up here and there, but remain constants.  I mentioned grown men arguing about the minutia of a tambourine part.  I’ve done it and seen it done.  There are so many times when little things that are of no importance to the real world, that are fought over like the border between East and West during the Cold War.  If you brought a camera into every recording studio, there would definitely times of tedium, but there would also be a comic documentary to be made.  I recently watched a documentary on the making of a Stevie Nicks album and it played like a Christopher Guest movie, but for real. 

But music is also important.  To me it is my job, and my hobby, and my passion.  I listen to music every waking hour that I can.  It has allowed me to connect with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met.  All those people that said that they would give anything to do what I do, I wouldn’t have even met if not for music.  It has allowed me to bond and have fun with love ones and friends.  Certain concerts are among some of the best memories of my life.  It is the fuel that keeps me going when I need it. 

It has also lifted my spirit when I was down.  Often if I am depressed I will go on a walk with my headphones.  Often the comic opera of someone like Morrissey, or the dark humor of Lou Reed can have me smiling in no time.  I remember one particular walk listening to Damien Dempsey’s You’re Not on Your Own Tonight and coming to the realization that in suffering we are not alone.  Everyone suffers at times and it allows us to empathize with one another.  “If you feel real bad then you’re not on your own tonight.” 

Music has also allowed me to see mystery and wonder in the world.  I remember traveling to Vienna with my family when I was at a young impressionable age.  The entire trip I walked around with U2’s Achtung Baby on my headphones.  That soundtrack combined with the images in front of me made the world seem mystical.  Music, at the right time and place, can enhance the human experience and take us out of the daily suffering of our lives.  It can reach the level of the spiritual. 

I think to keep your ego in check it is absolutely key to keep part of your mind aware of the ridiculousness and absurdity that is going on around you.  That really goes for any profession.  But, at least speaking for myself and I imagine others, one must realize the transcendent power that music and art has in life.  Sometimes I wonder if I could bare this world without it. 

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.

 

Drinking Yourself Into a Werewolf

In the show Deadwood the character Slippery Dan says, “Why does I drinks like I do?”  One of the most darkly comic moments on a show full of them is when Slippery Dan is grabbed by an enraged Adams and run through with deer antlers hanging on the wall of the Gem Saloon.  The character Tom Nutall remarks, “Oh, he just 12 pointed Slippery Dan!”

You can watch this clip right here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nzEb03swVo

Last night No Show Ponies played Sam’s Town Point during SXSW.  Afterwards I celebrated with friends and band mates.  I temporarily lost my keys and my wallet.  Today I was still so drunk when Trey, our driver, merch guy, and roadie in Shinyribs, showed up to pick me up, I forgot my bass amp.

I don’t drink much anymore, and this is exactly why!  Someone informed me that it was a full moon last night.  As one grows older one hopefully learns.  I once read that the definition of comedy was the hero going into the inner-most cave and learning nothing.  I also read that when people they meet up with old friends they often resort to behaving exactly like they did when they left off.  If you see your friends from high school, you will most likely resort back to some of the same behaviors that you carried with you in that time period.  I remember Bruce Springsteen saying that was one of the tough things about being in a band.  Whenever he got the E-Street band back together they often would fall into old patterns of behavior.  I think drinking is much the same.  If you haven’t drank for a month or two and are doing it with old friends, you try to party like you used to back in the day.  However, your body is not conditioned and you end up being possibly even more foolish than you used to be.  In short, it does not pay to turn into a werewolf very often, under the light of a booze soaked moon.

Some Thoughts On Writing and Recording

Blogging has been a little slow the last 48 hours.  As well as other things I’ve been focusing on songwriting.  There are songwriters that can write something almost every time they sit down and then there are guys like Leonard Cohen whose process is really slow.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  Once I find inspiration I will complete a series of things rather quickly.  However in between those bursts of inspiration I may lie dormant for a month or two, sometimes even longer. 

I’m always attempting to write, but if I’m not inspired much of what I write is garbage.  I would say that 80% of the things that I write I toss out.  Another 10% roughly falls through the cracks.  Only maybe 10% of the things I have written ever see the stage or the recording studio.  Even after that, except for our last record where I believe in every song, I feel like only a percentage of those things have reached some kind of definitive form.  Basically it is tons and tons of song writing to achieve those moments that I feel are perfect. 

Even if you write something great there are so many ways it can go wrong.  The arrangement can be subpar.  You could have a great arrangement and the performance is lacking.  You could even have a great song with a great performance and the mix just somehow sucks the life out of it.  As in life, so much is out of your control.  You not only need to write great material, but you need to have the right musicians, the right producer, and the right energy at the time of recording.   

The thing that was so beautiful about our new record, A Manual for Defeat, was that the process itself cut out a lot of the bullshit that can go wrong from point A to point B.  I love creating in the studio.  It drives some people nuts, but it’s actually total fun for me.  It’s also a way for things to go horribly wrong.  You might stumble upon something completely new, but when you don’t have a lot of money especially, you can just as easily over-think things and lose the initial passion of a piece.  So many musicians will tell you that they love their demos more than their actual records.  Until we did this new record my favorite No Show Ponies recordings that we ever did were Ben and I fucking about on Garage Band on my brother’s Mac.  The demos the two of us made sounded thin and cheap sounding, but there was a certain magic captured on those things that we never replicated anywhere else. 

With A Manual for Defeat we made the simplest record possible, which with a low budget worked out better than I could have imagined.  We just rehearsed a lot and then cut things basically live to tape with as little overdubbing as we could get away with.  The beauty of analog tape is that you instantly can tell on playback if you got something or not.  I’m not really a tape or digital guy as it really depends on the project and who is helming the technical side of things.   But for me the problem with digital is that you often don’t know what you have got until much later in the process.  If you don’t have a lot of money there is no time to start over if you realize something wasn’t quite where it needs to be.  Also just as a side note, dear God in heaven stay away from digital reverb. 

I’m always afraid of making something middle of the road, although there have definitely been times when my best intentions have gone astray.  I feel like you should either be trying to make Sgt. Pepper or The Misfit’s Static Age.  By that I mean you should either be as ambitious as possible or you should just try to capture something raw and real.  The universe will give you hints as to what route to take if you can get your ego out of the way.  Often limitations, if shepherded down the right alley, will force you to be creative.  It’s when you force things that aren’t meant to be that you get into trouble. 

I’m working on my 7th record right now, as well as having worked on a whole host of other things such as soundtracks, demos, singles, EP’s, etc.  I feel like only in the last two years have I got to a place where I sort of know what I’m doing, where I trust my instincts to be right more often than not.  Although as I’m fond of saying: Time makes monkeys of us all.