This has been a really special week for Jimmy. Last night Dan Lebowitz brought his trusty guitar over to chez Fuzz to add some of his signature tastiness to a couple new tracks I’m working on. He’s been #1 on my list of people I wanted to work with since I finished my last album. I’d been slowly crafting a plan to make that happen, and it was most excellent and satisfying that it actually occurred. I was surprised how even in the fuzzy context his guitar playing is so recognizably Lebo.
Today, pedal steel guitar jedi David Phillips came over for some work on a different track. He’s a truly exceptional musician, and conveniently lives two block away. The ambiance he was able to conjure out his 14 string instrument was truly awe inspiring.
So, in two days, I worked with two professional musicians. Um, can you say solid? I can.
I can also say tightly polished unit, but you know that already if you read my blog. Blog reader! Now, I don’t say that with scorn. I say that with love. I got nothing but love for you, even though you don’t leave comments, lurker.
Also, in other exciting musical developments, I’ve been working with DJ Polaski on a General Fuzz mix that he’s created. Its gonna be stellar. He’s really opened my eyes to the power of continuously flowing sound scapes. Whats not to like about a different type of sonic journey?
Nothing, my blog reading friend. Unless it sucks monkey balls.
So real good times, minus me mailing in Stina’s unopened absentee voting ballot. Doh.
Its fascinating to me how choices I made a decade ago have an impact on my current life. Rob Levitsky, an ex-landlord of mine, was and is a major contributor to the Grateful Dead community. Being handy with both mechanical and electrical construction, he built an elaborate float called “the wheel” for a Mardi Gras parade that occurred during the middle of the Phil and Friends show.
He asked if I wanted to push the float for a free ticket to the show. I declined, what with my weak back and small stature. Then he asked if I would run a video camera on the float. Well, that I could do. Done.
He asked folks to show up in the late afternoon to help decorate the float. I turned up around 5ish, and there was no work for me to do. So instead, I soaked up the scene. The opener, Dumpstaphunk hit at 7ish, so I figured I’d just chill out, talk to folks, and score some sweet seats for folks who would join me later. I was really fired up for the opener.
There were lots of other people mulling around who clearly had been key members in the dead scene for a long time. After spending so much time learning about the Dead since arriving in California, I really appreciated the experience.
And oh look, there was Phil.
They practiced pushing the floats out on the floor.
I ended talking to several NES security people who worked for Bill Graham, helping set up huge destination Dead shows in the late 60’s/early 70’s. It was rad.
Eventually Dumpstaphunk took the stage, and life as I know it got particularly funky. These guys tore it up good. I was ludicrously psyched, and the place was sadly almost empty. Ivan Neville is a sick keyboard player. They rocked two bass players. It hit low and hard, and it was tight. There was even a sweet “Soprano’s” theme song tease in the middle of a tune. I would see these guys ANYTIME they come around.
As Dumpstaphunk finished up their set, my friends arrived, and I was already somewhat spent. Cruising around, I ran into a ton of folks from all walks of life. Hanging out backstage was fun. They had a large wardrobe of costumes so folks could Mardi Gras it up, and when everyone’s in costume festive feelings are amplified. Eventually Phil and Friends took the stage. It was the same incarnation as the last time I saw them.
First set was pretty good. It started out pretty mellow, which was not what Dumpstaphunk left me craving for. I wanted more umph. They slowly started picking up steam while I adjusted my internal dial from Funky to Hippie, and everything started coming up Millhouse.
During set break, I went to join the party backstage. There were TONS of folks, all in costume, celebrating with gusto. Stilt walkers, clowns, dragons, and giant face masks buzzed around while many of us hung out on floats, getting ready to kick this party up about fifteen notches. I hung out with Wavy Gravy and felt as connected as I ever am going to to this scene. His fish on a stick was MIA – instead he was rocking a gopher on a stick. Anticipation and excitement built up, eventually followed by impatience, as in true Dead fashion, everything ran waaay late.
Then they boys returned, rocked a killer Shakedown which made me think about all the ex-Shakedown cohorts who were present inside the venue. Then they launched into Iko Iko, the giant black curtain was dropped, and controlled mayhem commenced. It was REALLY cool to be up on the float. I tried to video capture the energy and excitement that was going down, and by doing so, it deeply infected me.
Stina took some video from the seats:
After the parade finished up, we were backstage, on a float, eye level to the stage. So we danced. They brought out Ivan Neville. We danced some more. Eventually, I made my way back to our seats, and collapsed. I was pretty done at that point. I made it maybe another hour, and then we left. I’ve just peeked at the setlist from last night, and they freaking played for another hour!? Show ended at 2:08am. Daaamn.
I spent 7 hours at the Bill Graham Civic center that day. It was time well spent.
Stiners decided we should try Dine about Town, and randomly picked the Poleng Lounge to break our cherry. This meant we had a ridiculous 5 course meal at very reasonable price. And, man, it was hella tasty. Hella. Who knew Balinese food was so good? Crazy spicy though.
Then we sauntered down to the Rickshaw Stop to see our friends in the New Up rock the hisbah. They are pretty serious about trying to succeed as a band, and its shows. They wisely space out their SF shows, so I tend to see them maybe once a year. It’s fun to watch them tighten up their songs and become a really polished unit.
Yeah, I said really polished unit. Hot.
Its also nice that they are pretty prolific song writers, so its not always seeing the same set. Anyhow, they kicked some ass, and I assume will continue to do so down the road.
We now have Beantown visitors Britt-anya and Mike, who recently became all engaged, in the hizzy. Last night we picked them up from SFO and made an immediate bee-line for In’n’Out.
These are my kind of people.
I’ve seen Moe many, many times, mostly cause Zaq used to work for them and always got me free tickets. I didn’t like em so much at first, but eventually through repetition, I learned to avidly enjoy their song craft and jam rocking skills. So, I tend to see them when they come to town. And even though I flaked on getting tickets and it sold out, craigslist came to the rescue with a shiny face value ticket.
After the customary hour late start time, things got off to a sorta rocking start. The thing with Moe is that they are very hit or miss for me. And on Thursday, they really weren’t holding my attention so much. The crowd didn’t seem to elated either, though thats the report from the back. I’m sure the front crowd was raging. There were some good songs, ridiculous instrumentations, and then long ambling spacey jams that went on for far too long. They debuted a bunch of new tunes, some which sounded mighty nice. They do good with lyrics, those Moe guys. Much more so then most of the jam band flock. The light show was fantastic. It takes a lot to impress me with the lights, but their light crew is top notch.
I made through most of set 2, but bailed before poster, a mortal sin in Pat’s eyes. Good thing I was solo.
An extra special bonus was that Roy McNeill was playing the poster room, much to my surprise. So I had a nice haven to zone out during the pre-show and set break. I like how he’s rebranded himself.
I’m pretty amused how our approach to music is quite opposite – I’m all about virtualizing everything, so all I need is a laptop, a keyboard, and maybe another midi controller or two. Roy is about analog gear, so he always comes heavy.
I had some extra amusing encounters along the evening. I ran into Jason Parmar’s old landlord, a sweet chemist lady with a very cute French accent, and a dude who was all about starting up the Big Afro and Beard society. Our goal is to enlighten others of our extreme amazingnesticity through inspiration.
I know DP is going to Saturday nights LA show. I’ll be interested in his evaluation.
After sampling all of Steve’s fabulous beer and wishing him a happy 40th, Stina and I set off to the independent to catch On the One open up for the New Mastersounds. I’ve enjoyed both bands once before, and was pretty excited to catch em together.
Fortunately, they didn’t disappoint. There was almost an excess of funk. It was too funky for my pants. Both bands played great sets, and there we collectively got down. On the One does more straight up accessible tunes with ample rounds of jaw dropping solo’s, especially from the sax player. The New Mastersounds manage to create a far wider range of grooves, and though there was plenty of rocking from the organ and guitar player, it seemed more tightly composed. They brought out Martin Fierro on the sax, and that raised the energy level like 37 notches.
Together, they threw a killer party.
Good times. Followed by leftover sandwich.
All that sax got me amply prepped for a session with Tony J and his sax mastery the following day. The collaborations are underway.
Last night, I sorta ran the SF electronic music meetup. Erik, the guy who really runs it was out of town, asked me to cover. It was an interesting experience, attempting to gather folk and foster conversation about electronic music production. Most people were just getting started, so I had lots to say on the matter. I attempted to employ Stina’s technique of asking lots of questions, but found myself talking more then not.
This morning, in my level 1 Yoga class, I got my ass handed to me. It was pretty painful, but mentally, I knew it was for the greater good of my body.
I am currently enjoying the contrast of teaching about a subject I’m well versed in versus learning much about a subject I know little about. At least by mentally reviewing last night, I learned a little about running a meeting, and what I should do better. Like talking less. My body is still physically reviewing this morning, and its asking me to eat some pizza.
I can do that.
Roy McNeill, a friend of a friend, is a real friendly guy who does live electronica type stuff. He put together a show for Cafe Du Nord called “Filter Sweep and Brush Strokes“, and invited me to play it. Playing such a great venue on a Saturday night along side some seriously talented electronica acts was a rather appealing notion.
I struggle a lot with live shows. I’ve already ranted plenty about seeing laptop performers. I enjoy playing with a band, but I feel weird about having my laptop be most of my band. I don’t compose music with the intention of performing it live. That said, I’ve now played a fair number of shows, and have gained some confidence and some insight into making a better show. I had a couple fun tricks up my sleeve, and a couple of excellent musicians to help propel the music to far greater heights.
Sound check was my first chance to really check out the other acts, and after seeing everyone go through the motions, I knew it was going to be a sick show. The mini buffet for the performers was super tasty. I can now heartily recommend the food @ Cafe Du Nord.
As the night pushed forward, friends started trickling in, which was a most excellent distraction from my slightly frayed nerves. It was a great excuse for folks to connect after the new year break, and I was both impressed and honored by the gathering that took place. Many long time friends, musical collaborators, peeps from the jam scene, MySpace friends, ex-coworkers, and even a guy from the electronic music meetup made it out. It really meant the world to me. I got pretty excited, and before I knew it, it was time to take the stage.
After clumsily marching through the first tune, I got my bearings, and an old forgotten feeling started sweeping over me. That intense joy I used to get when playing a slamming show with a band. This is the first time thats happened when I was playing MY music. I looked out on the dance floor, and there were a lot of people there, grooving and smiling. A reciprocal smile planted itself on my face, and didn’t leave during the entire set. I really got into it.
I brought out JP Cutler and Adam Blomberg for two tunes. As always, they knocked it out of the park. It was so fun, yet so familiar, having them play with me.
I then brought out Noah Reid from The New Up to shred on my last two tunes. Things got pretty bumpin on the dance floor.
I had the time of my life.
The show was stellar. JDub warmed things up nicely with some great atmosperic ambient soundscapes. Roy McNeill sure knows how to throw down on the guitar and melodica. The beats were uplifting and rocking. He’s such a nice guy to boot. Mochipet was sick, with the triple threat laptop, dj, and live drummer laying down the tastiest grooves. There was some fantastic art up on the walls. I loved Crystal’s work – right up my alley. The DJ’s kept things grooving nicely between sets and after the Mochipet. I talked and caught up with a lot of folks, and met a whole bunch of new ones. All in all, a night I’ll never forget.
Many things could have gone wrong. The INTENSE storm that swept through the Bay Area was mostly abated by Saturday night. During sound check, my computer kept glitching and dropping audio while I was playing a tune. Thankfully a restart fixed this issue, but I didn’t know that until I started playing my set. My body held up, despite several subtle indicators that it might not.
Things I could have done better – well, it would have been good to say: “I’m General Fuzz” and “My music can be downloaded for free of the internet”. I’m not so good with the mic.
200 people came to du Nord that night. I hope they want some more.
Many thanks to Tony B for the sweet pics.
Well, 2007 holds the record for number of concerts I attended in a single year. It was just a tad excessive. I’d be ok if I’ve peaked at this point.
It wasn’t easy picking this years top ten, but it was really fun revisiting all the amazing shows. Without further ado:
10. Manu Chau @ the Bill Grahm Civic Center. That show taught me how much power a musician can wield. I’ve never seen a crowd riled up to that extent before.
9. The Bruce Hornsby jazz Trio @ the Palace of Fine Arts. I’ve always been in awe of Bruce, and his ability to flourish with two jazz greats simply floored me.
8. Joe Ledbetter (with many musicians) covering Into the Airplane Over the Sea @ the Rockit Room. I wouldn’t have truly appreciated this if Lars had not given me the album for my birthday. This rendition was extraordinary, even improving upon the album with extra instrumentation and vocal harmonies. I still get chills thinking about when Joe sang the last song, a solo accoustic number, and the sizable crowd was dead silent until he finished. That is respect for a musician like I’ve never seen before.
7. The SEVA Benifet @ the Regency Ceneter. A killer line up of amazing musicians, and the VIP hookup made this night unforgettable.
6. Smashing Pumpkins @ the Fillmore. The thickest, meatiest sound I’ve ever heard/felt. OMG, it was so good. And they can jam! Who knew?
5. Moonchild @ the GAMH. There is no other vocalist like Mike Patton, and no other composer like John Zorn.
4. Mute Math @ Slims. Having never heard a note from these guys before, my jaw hit the floor. Amazing songs, amazing stage presence, amazing night.
3. Dragon Force @ the Warfield. We left our bodies in the Warfield and blasted into outer space after these guys took the stage. Epic fun.
2. String Cheese Incident @ the Concouse Exhibition Center Technically, a show from last year, but since it was an NYE show, and it was so incredibly awesome, I’m pushing it into ’07. Being backstage experiencing SCI cover “Round the Wheel” all the way through still makes me a little teary. Unbelievable.
1. Los Tortugas @ Yosemite. We had no idea going into this that we were about to be treated to one of the most magical experiences of our lifetime. The music was steller, the location was magestic, the people were friendly, and we had SUCH a good time.
Album of the year: Muth Math (self titled). So what that it came out in ’06. I first heard it in ’07, and I fucking love it.
Electronica album of the year: Suunta by Planet Boelex. My downtempo collection has exploded this year due to eMusic, the Kahvi Collective, and podcasts. I’ve listened to this album more then any other I’ve downloaded this year. I feel like I learned a lot from absorbing this album, which is the highest praise I can give. This is a free release, so there is no excuse not the check it out if you like the downtempo/IDM genre.
I hope y’all had happy and safe NYE!