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.

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

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

Thoughts From the Road

I have been on the road with Shinyribs the last few days.  I am pretty good at this kind of travel, but it means doing what I need to do to survive.  I have many traits that are classic introvert.  Being around people all the time wears me out.  I am not shy, and I am always up for meeting new and interesting people, but I need that quiet alone time to balance it out.  Reading books and listening to headphones when I get the chance is essential.  I always intend to blog, but I always find my spare time, which there isn’t a whole lot of, is best spent diving into my own world.  It is self indulgence as coping mechanism.  I know people that thrive off being the center of attention.  There is nothing wrong with that, as it is just the way those people are chemically wired.  I would be lying if I said I had no ego and desired no recognition.  It is always nice to hear that one has done a good job.  However, I don’t get the physical high off it that I see others get.  I do appreciate it, very much so, when people come out, support what we do, and even pay attention to my contributions.  Even reaching one person in a crowd seems like a small victory.  There is something magical about even knowing you brought something new to even one soul.  But the thing that keeps me going is the creative process and the interaction with other musicians.  If you see me out at a gig, I am always happy to chat.  I look forward to hearing a new take on something.  However, it is in my nature to wait till others come to me.  What some may view as being shy or indifferent, is really me just trying to surive as best I can in this strange business. 

I hope to be able to get to posting regularly when I return tomorrow.  In the future when all’s well…

Touring Again and Mountain Minstrelsy

Going on tour this weekend with Shinyribs in North Texas.  You can check our schedule at http://www.shinyribs.org.  Will most likely be off the grid till Sunday, though as always, I hope to get some posting in at some point.  

I am really excited to listen to the new Marah record while I am out on the road.  For those that don’t know Marah is one of best bands of the last 20 years.  No matter what style they work in, and they have played things from beautiful folk music to blistering rock, it is always filled with intelligence, wit, and heart.  A true rock n roll spirit informs everything they do, no matter what genre.  There isn’t a band on earth I would recommend more highly.  Personal favorites are Kids in Philly, 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry, and Life is a Problem.  Their lead singer Dave has one of the great modern rock voices.  

Their new album is actually billed as Marah Presents: Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania.  This is a collective of Dave and Christine from Marah with local residents of Millheim, Pa.  Milheim is a one traffic light town in my former home state.  I had the pleasure of meeting Dave and Christine from Marah after the Shinyribs show in that town last year.  

For this new album they found a book of old folk song lyrics and wrote an album around them.  Then they recorded it live to tape with the local residents of that town in an old church.  The story is much more interesting than that, but I’m running out of time before I hit the road.  You should check out Dave’s own words on it at http://www.marah-usa.com.  

I hope to write a full review of the album when I get back.  It’s one of the releases I’ve been most excited about lately.  If you live in North Texas, perhaps I shall see you there…

 

Touring, Touring

I was off the grid for awhile.  I was out on tour with Shinyribs.  It was a short two show run, but touring always feels longer than it is, even if you are having fun.  We drove eight hours to Oklahoma City on Friday.  We opened for the Turnpike Troubadours to around 2,000 people.  On Saturday we again opened for the Turnpike Troubadours in Amarillo, about a four hour drive, that night to about 1,200 people.  Sunday we had a long nine hour journey home. 

I had hoped to blog while I was out, but most of the time was spent in a van, at a venue, or spacing out in a hotel room.  I was slightly under the weather as well.  I listened to a great deal of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix, and read about Japanese culture and the Vietnam War.  I caught as much of the Olympics as I could.  That in a nutshell was my weekend.  Not very interesting to read about if you weren’t there I’m sure, but that is life: Always more interesting when you are taking part in it.  I’m just starting to feel more man than animal and I will resume posting throughout the week, at least until this week’s run.  

More Animal than Man

Well I said that I would update my blog once I got settled on tour.  But then it ended up being anywhere between -5 and 15 degrees the first few days.  Then I ended up reading, drinking, and watching TV shows like Tom and Jerry with my roommate Trey.  Not much in the way of productivity.  I love to be outdoors, but the whole winter sports thing is not really my thing.  Someday hopefully my girlfriend, who can both ski and snowboard, will teach me how to do those things, but right now they would lead to my bones being turned into dust.  I was in Denver for a night and then in Steamboat for the rest of the run.  Last night we drove from Steamboat, Colorado to Austin.  I got in at 6am and am more animal than man today. 

I did read a great deal of two really great books.  One is Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs.  That book is about soccer hooliganism in Great Britain.  The other book is a book about the Kennedy Assassination and it is called Reclaiming Parkland.  It is by the author James DiEugenio.  I listened almost exclusively to the Cockney Rejects. 

So anyway, that is what I was doing and thinking about.  Not terribly interesting to anyone but me.  However, I hope in the next few days to share some of the larger ideas that I gathered.  And no, I don’t mean the ones that came from watching Tom and Jerry while being hung over. 

So tomorrow we start again…

Up the Irons

I thought my first real post upon returning should be about a very important topic.  This is a topic that has stood the test of time.  That topic is Iron Maiden.  While out on tour I became strangely obsessed with them.  When I am out on the road I use my endless hours in the van to explore new worlds.  I read and listen to as much music as I can.  There’s not much else to do.  On this particular tour I found myself exploring the world of Iron Maiden.

As a bass player they are an easy band to love.  Steve Harris does things that require incredible physical endurance.  The whole band is highly musical though.  I’m sure a good portion of people think of heavy metal music and hard rock as music that is largely brawn and little brain.  It might be a stretch to call these guys jazz cats, but they can paint incredibly vivid pictures with their musical brushes.  Have a listen the solo section of the song Where Eagles Dare off of their Piece of Mind album.  It actually sounds like a dog fight between two airplanes in a way that it would be hard to imagine a piece of music doing a better job of.

Another thing that is so great about their records is the complexity of the playing along with the simplicity of the recordings.  Their records, up through their first five especially, have bass and drums in the middle with a guitar in each speaker.  Solos and a few other overdubs come into play, but they are rare.  All those images and sounds being created are being created by a band and not through much studio trickery.  Especially in this day and age it is refreshing to hear.  I think this is one of the reasons their records have stood the test of time.

Once I become interested in something, I tend to want to learn as much about something as I possibly can.  This led me to watch a documentary about the band called Flight 666.  This film is about a tour that the band goes on where they have their own plane called Ed Force One.  What is so unique about this tour is that the band is able to move their entire production on this flight.  Not only that, but the bands lead singer is also the pilot of this plane.  Imagine another rock n roll star that flies a full sized airplane between shows.  Bruce Dickinson is someone that seems to have boundless energy.  He has an enthusiasm and comic timing that almost makes him seem as if he could have been in Monty Python in another life.

What might be most interesting in this film is when the band goes to South America they inspire an almost religious devotion.  Despite singing songs that often deal with elements of fantasy, and featuring a giant creature named Eddie on stage, they have remained true to themselves and who they are over time.  Other than AC\DC there aren’t many bands that have kept such an identifiable sound over so long a time.  By being themselves, they have become something that these kids in these countries can depend on.  In many of these countries there is immense poverty and in places like Columbia even political turmoil.  Iron Maiden has remained passionate about what they do and have remained unique in who they are  In a world where change is a constant and art is usually a popularity contest, they have provided a compass to these working class kids.  Although their songs sometimes deal with eternal themes of war and turmoil, their music isn’t political in the current ripped from the headlines sense.  However, they do have a sound and a vision.  It’s good to see that such simple things as those can still inspire so much.