Molli Watch: I've gotten a couple more emails from Molli in Thailand. She's using those Bangkok internet cafe's while she can before heading up to Pai in the north today. It sounds like she's starting to get into it. Here's an excerpt: I then took a very long walk to Wat Po or the 'temple of the golden reclining buddha.' I made a little donation and this woman ran after me. She gave me a little bronze cup full of miniature baht coins then motioned to a row of a hundred standing bowls. "Drop, drop, drop, " she says. "For good luck." I was alone in the temple, (being the only crazy foreigner out and about at such an ungodly hour) and the acoustics were amazing. Stay tuned!
posted by Greg 3:22 PM
Thursday, November 29, 2001
Check it out: I've recently joined this band called Hawkeye and we have a show this Tuesday, December 4th at the Roxy opening for legendary Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen. To the right you can see a picture of Hawkeye in which I've used digital photo manipulation techniques to simulate my presence in the band. Robert Earl Keen is an excellent songwriter who reportedly sells out arenas in Texas and has had his songs covered by a lot of heavy cats like Joe Ely and Lyle Lovett. He has about 9 records out, with a new one on the Lost Highway label. I've just recently started listening to him, and I am already a big fan. I'm listening to his song Gringo Honeymoon right now! More about Hawkeye? Well, we're a 6 piece rootsy rock deal with lead guitar (me!), acoustic guitar/singer, keyboards, female backing/lead vocals, bass and drums. It's a big sound. Influences would be Gram Parsons, The Band, Tom Petty etc.... Read a review of the band before I joined them here: The tickets are $20, but I have advanced tickets to sell for $15. I know it's a lot, but Robert Earl Keen is really great and is known for his live performances. Showtime is an early 8pm, and we're going on first of three acts. If you'd like to buy a ticket, email me or give me a call. I'll be driving around on Friday and Saturday delivering them.
posted by Greg 10:59 PM
Molli Watch: I've gotten a couple more emails from Molli. She's haunting the cafe's of Bangkok for one more day, and will be leaving for Pai probably on Friday. She say's it's hot there, and that all the locals are friendly and helpful. She's been emailing me from internet cafe's, and I assume getting some writing done. Did I tell you about this great science fiction story she's working on? Remind me to.
posted by Greg 10:06 AM
So last night's soundtrack coming over the pass was Bob Dylan's new album "Love and Theft." This is an incredibly awesome record. Now, you know I love Dylan in all his aspects, but seriously, this record is something special. The last one was OK, but I don't really like that Daniel Lanois reverb style production. This record was produced by Dylan and is totally stripped down, just a great band rocking and a master singing crazy evocative words, letting them spill out in torrents like his life depended on it. And you can tell Dylan's having fun, he's the master craftsman at the top of his game, casting out insights and poetry like bread to the peasents. Sample lyric in the jump-blues song "Summer Days":
“Where do you come from? Where do you go?” Sorry, that is nothing you would need to know. Well, my back’s been to the wall so long, it seems like it's stuck. Why don’t you break my heart one more time just for good luck?
She’s looking into my eyes, and she’s a-holding my hand, She looking into my eyes, she’s holding my hand, She says, "You can’t repeat the past," I say "You can’t? What do you mean you can’t? Of course, you can.”
You can read a great interview with Dylan in Rolling Stone. With Christmas coming up, I suggest that this would be a great gift for people who like Dylan. If they don't like him, well, why are you buying them anything anyway? Plus it's gonna be a lot easier to find than The Groundhogs.
posted by Greg 9:56 AM
From The Groundhogs appreciation day dept: I was listening to The Groundhog's album "Who Will Save the World" while driving home last night at about 12:30, south over the 101 into Hollywood. That's such a cool sight on a clear night, you come over the pass and see the lights of Hollywood stretched out before you and downtown in the distance. The Capitol Records building looms large as you contemplate the endless possibilities of Hollywood. And out of the stereo these words: "It can't take floods, of plastic mud, the choice is yours so choose it." The Groundhogs were an English group who started out as a blues act, playing behind visiting American stars such as John Lee Hooker or Howling Wolf when they toured England. They released a couple blues albums, including the eerily titled "Blues Obituary," before evolving into a sort of heavy progressive-rock blues band in the early 70's. Their album "Split," an examination of singer/guitarist Tony McPhee's schizophrenia, is an undisputed classic. Side one contains the gems "Split - Part One," "Split - Part Two," "Split - Part Three," and "Split - Part Four," while the second side contains the unforgettable "Cherry Red." An interesting story about this record: I knew of the song "Split - Part Two" from a compilation tape that Ted made for me, and it was one of my favorites. I'd search for The Groundhogs whenever I was at a record store, but never found anything. Then on my first visit to San Francisco, this must have been in 1989 or so, I was in a small record store in what I later learned was North Beach and I found an import copy of "Split" on vinyl. It was expensive, but hell, I was on vacation, so I bought it. When I took it up to the counter, the guy said with a thick German accent, "Finally! I've been wondering when someone was going to buy this." He then made a remark about the bad taste his customers had shown by letting this gem sit in the bins for so long. Looking back on it now, perhaps I should have taken this as an omen about SF. "Who Will Save the World" is a sort-of concept album which featured a full Groundhogs comic book with the original gatefold LP. McPhee is an awesome guitarist and singer, and I think he writes good lyrics as well. The Groundhogs are one of those bands that everybody in England knows about but few people in the United States have heard of. They're worth seeking out, especially "Split."
posted by Greg 3:13 PM
Molli Watch Update: I got an email from Molli in Thailand last night. She made it there fine and is recovering from jet lag in Bangkok before heading north to Pi for yoga, cooking, and relaxation. She's promised to learn how to make me deliscious shrimp pad thai, and I can't wait. Stay tuned for more Molli Watch whenever I hear from her.
posted by Greg 11:43 AM
Hey everybody, Matt Welch has a new article in Reason. This is exiting to me because Reason is one of my very favorite magazines, although when I say magazine, I mean website, because I've never seen a printed copy. But I read it regularly. Congradulations Matt!! Shoot, next thing you know he'll be writing for these guys!
posted by Greg 8:59 AM
From the "Have a Happy Thanksgiving (and a Fine Turkey Day) dept: Both Amy and Matt have written about the Thanksgiving song written by Matt and Jeff Solomon in Prague. I missed that Thanksgiving, but the song was one of the first ones they taught me when I arrived, and I got to hear all the stories about it and play it on the bridge. Since then I've played it almost every Thanksgiving, usually over at Charlie and Bonnie's, and I hope I'll get to play it again tonight. Which brings me to....
From The Things I'm Thankful For Dept: I'm thankful for my family and my lovely talented beautiful soon-to-be-in-Thailand-cause-she's-so-brave-and-adventurous wife. I'm thankful for myfriends and the fact that so many of us live in the same area and have such a fun community. There is so much talent here, it makes me proud. We're very lucky to be living together in the great city of Los Angeles. This city is so exiting because almost everybody is talented and ambitious in some way, and ready to support their peers. I'm also thankful to all the artists and musicians who have influenced and guided me. I see Art in general as a huge uncompleted map of life. The artist takes a point and lays out a new route, or zooms in and gets specific about where each turn leads, or tells us how he made it down each road. We use this map to get through life. By studying this map closely I've developed enough confidence to start laying out some routes of my own. But I stand on the shoulders of giants. I'm thankful for the Fender Telecaster, and the Ibanez Tube Screamer.
From the All My Friends Dept: So I've been listening to a lot of Robert Earl Keen lately since I'm gonna be opening for him, and he's got a lot of really great songs. One in particular gives me goose bumps every time I hear it, which is over and over lately. It's called Feeling Good Again. It's sort of a mid tempo with a fast finger-picked descending major/minor chord progression played with a capo on the 7th fret so it's high/lonesome. Here's the lyrics:
Feeling Good Again by Robert Earl Keen
Standing out on Main Street across from Mr. Blues In my faded leather jacket and my weathered Brogan shoes A chill north wind was blowing but the spring was coming on As I wondered to myself just how long I had been gone So I strolled across old Main Street, walked up a flight of stairs Stepped into the hall and saw all my friends were there A neon sign was flashing "Welcome come on in" It feels so good, feeling good again
My favorite band was playing an Otis Redding song When they sang the chorus, everybody sang along Dan and Margarita were swaying side by side I heard they were divorcing, but I guess they let it slide And I wished I had some money, with which to buy a round I wished I'd cashed my paycheck before I came to town But I reached into my pocket found three twenties and a ten Feels so good, feeling good again
There was old man Perkins sitting on his stool Watching Butch and Jimmy John talking loud and playing pool The boys from Silver City were standing by the fire Singing like they though they were the Tabernacle choir And I wanted you to see them all I wished that you were there I looked across the room and saw you standing on the stair And when I caught your eye, I saw you break into a grin It feels so good, felling good again.
And I wanted you to see them all I wished that you were there I looked across the room and saw you standing on the stair And when I caught your eye, I saw you break into a grin It feels so good, felling good again.
You gotta hear the way he sings it, and everything about it. Plus he references Otis Redding, who I've been pretty obsessed with lately. Awesome. It reminds me of this Bob Dylan song that I've been learning and singing myself at home:
Bob Dylan's Dream by Bob Dylan
While riding on a train goin' west, I fell asleep for to take my rest. I dreamed a dream that made me sad, Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.
With half-damp eyes I stared to the room Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon, Where we together weathered many a storm, Laughin' and singin' till the early hours of the morn.
By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung, Our words were told, our songs were sung, Where we longed for nothin' and were quite satisfied Talkin' and a-jokin' about the world outside.
With haunted hearts through the heat and cold, We never thought we could ever get old. We thought we could sit forever in fun But our chances really was a million to one.
As easy it was to tell black from white, It was all that easy to tell wrong from right. And our choices were few and the thought never hit That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split.
How many a year has passed and gone, And many a gamble has been lost and won, And many a road taken by many a friend, And each one I've never seen again.
I wish, I wish, I wish in vain, That we could sit simply in that room again. Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat, I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.
So I'm playing lead guitar and singing backing vocals in this band called Hawkeye, and we're playing a show at the Roxy on Dec. 4th opening for famous Texas singer Robert Earl Keen. The tickets are $20, but I have advanced tickets for only $15. If you want to go, please let me know so I can sell you one of my tickets so that they know, or at least think, you came to see Hawkeye. Mr. Keen has like 9 records out, the latest one on the estimable Lost Highway label. This fact alone is enough to recommend him: On this new record he covers Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, and Terry Allen, and does his own great song "The Road Goes on Forever" which I know from Joe Ely's version. It should be pretty great. Woah, check this out: Our President George W. Bush comments on Robert Earl Keen: “ Bush likes other Texas artists, such as the late rock ‘n’ roller Buddy Holly , or current folk singer Robert Earl Keen” (USA Today Washington) More about Hawkeye? Well, we're a 6 piece rootsy rock deal with lead guitar(me!), acoustic guitar/singer, keyboards, female backing/lead vocals, bass and drums. And 5 of 6 sing, so it's a big sound. Influences would be Gram Parsons, The Band, Tom Petty etc....
Which brings me to the two great bands I saw last night, Minibar and Shurman. Minibar are four lads from England who apparently got signed to Universal and moved to Los Angeles. Their record came out last month, and then they got dropped by the label, which I hear was a good thing because nobody was pushing their album .. industry shake up... blah blah blah. No less than T-Bone Burnett produced it. They are a folk-rock pop band along the lines of Teenage Fanclub or The Mother Hips, with great three part harmonies and catchy songs. The bass player particularly came up with a lot of nice lines. Here's a better site than the official one. Shurman is a local country-rock band with my buddy Rich (from OOM days) on lead guitar. They're great fun and very tight. The drummer has a great style, playing with his elbows up in the air all the time somehow. They have a self-released record out and have been doing well, traveling around the west doing shows and such.
posted by Greg 10:01 AM
KEN . LAYNE . DOT . CON - Here's Ken's short obit for Ken Kesey. He says it well and has a couple good links. I'll just say that the Ken Kesey who's in my mind from numerous readings of "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" was a true American Hero, and his inspiration will be missed.
posted by Greg 8:48 AM
Friday, November 09, 2001
Hey! Check out this great new poem that Molli wrote:
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK
All you have to do is ask and i will sing for you play for you dance, even
Spin me like a top wind me like music box I'll go on and on until you just can't take it anymore
Just say the word I'll flip on like a light switch Clap on and clap off if you just put your hands together
Snap your fingers and the fun will never end Click me like the remote control on the TV set
Turn the knob and the water comes out hot Or cold
Bake me at 350 and I'll turn nice and juicy
Water me and my leaves will turn green, my petals magenta
Push the button and i'll go up and down like an elevator
Punch in your password And I'll search for you all day and night hoping to find you the right answer
Swirl me, mix me whip me up I'll set like gelatin and go down nice and easy
Tune me in and i'll sound off like a siren never quiet never peaceful jibber jabber until you just can't think
Light me up and i'll burn real slow ease your mind lift your soul
Use your key and i'll rev up good get to 60 in a matter of seconds and take you anywhere
All you have to do is ask and i'll zip zip like a firecracker sparkle in the colors of the rainbow
all for you
Thanks Molli for letting me post this in my blog!
posted by Greg 2:40 PM
Prognosis! - I learned from Matt's site that Prognosis, the English language newspaper he co-founded in Prague, would have turned 11 years old yesterday. I still have a few copies of the paper, a couple posters, and a bumper sticker on my filing cabinet. Here's a story sort of related to Prognosis, which you may have heard me tell before but which I've never written down: After college I set off for Europe to do the "Grand Tour" thing, in my case focusing exclusively on museums, and more specifically on the great painting collections. I had vague notions about traveling to Prague when I was done, knowing that I sort of knew a few people there. I knew Welch a bit at UCSB, (Weekend Connection, The Brothers Steve, etc..) and had a letter from him with a phone number in Prague of his "office." Anyway, the trip was fantastic, I got to see the great museums of London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Antwerp, Brugge, Paris (including my favorite one which I won't shut up about, The Gustave Moreau Museum,) Barcelona, Madrid, Florence, Dusseldorf, and Berlin. But after a month travelling alone with no guitar, I was lonely and musically starved. I called Matt's number from Berlin. I think I talked to Jeff Solomon, who encouraged me to come down, and told me I could talk to Matt if I called back at a certain time. I did call back and Matt was very casual, "Yeah dude, get down here! We'll set you up! No problem!" He gave me the address and I told him I'd try to show up the next day. Well, since my Europass didn't work in Czechoslovakia and I didn't know what I was doing, I ended up giving the conductor 10 marks for a ticket that probably cost 2, and I got off the train in the outskirts of Prague and had to navigate the subway to Prague 1 (old town). I made it and eventually found the office, with the help of someone who showed me how to get up there from the street. I walked in and it was no big deal, I guess scruffy ex-gauchos showing up with huge backpacks and no place to stay were pretty commonplace at that time. I saw Matt and Jeff, and Doug Arrellenas who I already knew, and met a whole slew of people. The best part was that Jeff said, yeah, my guitar's in the closet, help yourself, so I got to play for a few minutes and boy did that feel good. So Matt says he's almost done for the day but has to interview some government official, do I want to come? Sure! So he introduces me to the translator and future Mrs. Whalen Denisa and off we go. As part of my cultural indoctrination we stop for a Smaziny Sir (spelling? It's fried cheese served with tartar sauce. Yummy! How much? Oh, like a nickel or a dime or something.) They say stuff like, "see that hardware store, it's been open since the 1700's" and stuff like that. Then we enter this old building with an elevator that never stops, it's just a loop with one side going up and one side going down. You just step in when the box comes by and step off at your floor. We got up there and like any government office it's packed with people. They sit me down and enter an office, so there I am in Prague surrounded by a bunch of Czechs sitting in a government office. So half an hour later they come out and say OK, do you want to see the bridge? Hell yeah! Why don't we stop and get a beer on the way to take with us? A fine idea, I'll buy! A dollar later we're set up with three big good beers and we're walking down the cobblestone streets past incredible architecture and atmosphere. We turn a corner and there it is: Charles Bridge with the Prague Castle in the background! Incredible:
So I'm overwhelmed. We go hang out on the bridge and Matt tells me that this is where they play music for money sometimes, and hey we should play this weekend. OK. We get some Moravian wine. Denisa say, see that apartment building, that's where Vaclav Havel lives. He could live in the Castle but he prefers to keep his old apartment. Cool. "Hey, let's go say hi to him, and we'll try to set up an interview for Prognosis" someone suggests. Ha ha, funny one! No, they're serious, so off we go to the President's pad. I still think it's a big joke on me, but Denisa goes up and rings the bell, then starts talking over the intercom. That was the secret service she tells us. Vaclav is in Moscow and isn't expected back tonight, but Mrs. Havel is supposed to be back tonight. Wow, I thought, I can't believe how close I came to seeing one of the coolest world leaders ever. Little did I know. It's about dinner time, so they suggest that we go to the Havel's favourite pub/fish restaurant, which is right by his place. Sounds great. On the way in who should leave the restaurant but Mrs. Havel and her dog! Denisa walks up and talks to her for a minute, telling us later that she asked her for an interview and got a positive response. Pretty great! We enter the pub and Denisa excuses herself to the bathroom, and somehow we sat at a table with a Czechoslovakian flag. The waitress comes over and shakes her head and points to a different table, and eventually we figure out that we had sat at the President's table, obviously a no-no. On the wall Matt points out the signatures of some people who have dined here with Havel, such as Keith Richards and Paul Simon. So we eat, and since everything is so cheap and I'm so exited, I get us a nice bottle of champagne. It's time to go and I'm pretty drunk and have to go to the bathroom. As I get up I notice a commotion by the door, and a short guy enters with a small entorague. I squeeze past him to get to the bathroom. In the bathroom it hits me: I just squeezed by Vaclav Havel!! That was quite a night, and it turned into a whole crazy summer in Prague for me. I didn't work for Prognosis, aside from a being a guest on Jeff and Nicko's radio show, but I hung out there a lot and distracted people. Plus they let me use their bathroom, which was a big deal in Prague, involving paying for toilet paper by the square and having to do your business with a babooshka sitting by the door, but that's a long story. Now, speaking of long stories, Matt made a couple references in his post with that qualifier, which led me to suggest: Hey, you should write a book about it! It could even be one of those books where a bunch of people write their own versions of the same story. There's a huge pool of writing talent there obviously, and Prague in the early 90's was a very unique place to be historically. Waning communism and waxing capitalism were represented roughly equally, and there was definitely something in the air that suggested that anything was possible. And I got to meet cool people like Ice (yet another long story;-)
posted by Greg 1:39 PM
I visited Watts Towers today. It's an amazing place that every Angeleno should visit. Admission is only $2, and it's an inspiration: Over about thirty years, Sabato ("Sam") Rodia, an artisan living in one of the poorest parts of Los Angeles, built a mosaic fantasia in spires of reinforced cement rising to almost one hundred feet.