Tour blog 4 / eating

We've been kicking around the Bay Area for a few days, seeing friends and family, hiking in the Berkeley hills and eating some terrific things.  Highlights:  

-Pizza at the Cheeseboard with feta, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and lemon zest
-Dinner at Ajanta on Solano, especially the naan stuffed with cheese and mint
-Coffee at Cole Coffee on College Ave
-Inspiration Point in Tilden Park
-The Starving Musician on Shattuck...wish I could afford that Ampeg
-More coffee at Cole Coffee
-Bfast at Rick and Anne's...going back today

The show on Friday was fantastic.  The Uptown is a great Oakland venue...the sound is good, the staff know what they're doing, and the beers don't cost a fortune.  I played on a bill with some of my childhood friends...we grew up playing baseball in Oakland and dreaming of playing in the big leagues.  Now we're all musicians.  Their band is called The Real Tom Thunder, and their live show was pretty rocking.  It was a bit like Zep with Sublime with Tower of Power, except not like any of them.  Fun music, good songs, played with all of the enthusiasm of guys trying to stretch an up-the-line grounder into a double and diving head-first into second base. 

I played a short set, just the hits...it felt pretty strong and the audience was full of friends and family so they were cheering at all of the right moments.  It was a bit overwhelming to have so many of them show up...I saw everyone but didn't have a chance to really talk to any of them.

At the end of the night Anna left with her cousin and I stayed to pack up and hang out with my old buddies.  Of course, I put my car keys in Anna's purse and forgot to get them out before she left, so I had to leave my car full of gear in downtown Oakland overnight.  Dumb.  RTT drummer Leon gave me a ride home and we finally had a chance to catch up.  We sat in the car and talked for an hour about gear, signal chains, mix techniques, etc.  Leon was probably the first friend I ever had who shared my interest in music and performing...as fifth graders we used to arrange performances for our class...it was great to reconnect with him and find that we still have a lot in common.

The last couple of days have been spent with family...Anna and I both have a ton in the area and we've been running from place to place to get a little time in with all of them.  We still have more to go.  Today's schedule:

Bfast in Berkeley with friend and former manager Elliot
A visit to the Italian consulate in San Francisco
Early dinner with Anna's grandparents
Late dinner with my uncle in Castro Valley

Somehow in the middle of this I need to wrap up booking the last couple of shows for the midwest tour in April.


Tour blog 3 / Aussie press!

Yesterday felt like vacation. Woke up, lazed around a bit, went for a run, layed in the grass, wrote a blog, looked for gear on craigslist, went downtown for some excellent tacos...I didn't have to be at the University of the Pacific until 7pm, and it was a mere 25 miles away (we drove almost 1ooo miles over the two days prior). For the past two months I have been frantically booking two tours, making records with folks, planning a wedding, etc., etc. I haven't had any real opportunity to decompress. It's funny to think that this tour might actually provide me with a chance to relax.

The show was fine...college shows can be so hit or miss. The student production staff was great, the campus was beautiful, but the show itself was a little bit underwhelming. The students were kinda half listening and more interested in the March Madness ballgame on tv, I guess. Just one of those gigs where it takes a little extra effort to get into the tunes and play with enthusiasm. They invited me back and I'll happily do it, but I might need to bring a box of fireworks or a clown or something.

It's probably for the best. I got some fun news yesterday and if the gig had been any better my head may have swelled up. My friend Jenny Queen released her record this month. She's based in Sydney, Australia and is signed to ABC Records. I co-wrote the majority of the tunes with her and I've been eagerly awaiting the release. Well, it's out and she's getting some press. Jenny tells me that The Australian is 'one of the two big newspapers, like a smart USA Today'...they reviewed the record and interviewed her, and she talked a bit about our writing process. You can go to any newstand in Australia and get a paper, or you can read the article online HERE.

Congrats, Jenny, and thanks for the shout out!

Tonight I play in Oakland at a cool club called the Uptown with some of my oldest friends.


Tour Blog #2 / Industry

Oh man...we jumped right into full tour mode on the first day of shows.

Up at 6:45 am, showered, ate oatmeal and strawberries thanks to Anna, wrote a quick blog entry, and out the door a little after 8. We had to make it to Fresno by 11 to load in for the nooner at Cal State Fresno. Guitar? Check. CD's? Check. Good...we're off. It was a beautiful morning in the central valley. We enjoyed the drive for about 25 miles when I realized that we were headed in the wrong direction. North instead of south. The extra miles, plus a little traffic changed the drive from being a leisurely jaunt through California farmland to a bat-outta-hell mad dash down Highway 99. I made it just in time to hop out of the car, hustle over to the stage, plug in (thanks for the battery, D!) and start no less than three minutes after the scheduled show time. Yep, now this is a tour the way I remember it.

We had a few hours to make our way back up to Modesto...we took some backroads, stopped for burgers and a Blizzard, and got to the Fat Cat Music Hall right on time.

The club was huge...and empty. The audience was really just made up of the other bands and a few folks who came to see them. But the sound was amazing. It was a true pleasure to sing and play in that place, and by the second verse of the opening tune I was really into it.

After the show I talked to one of the other bands for quite a while. The Mainland is a rock band from Yuba City who really have a lot going for them. Their show is put together very well, and they play like guys who have twice their experience.

I got into a conversation with the singer about his goals for the project and he kept mentioning their plan to shop around for a record deal. I couldn't help but offer my opinion in the form of advice...Don't Do It!!!! See, his band already has everything a label might offer at this point. They have gear, a van, a record, a developed sound...for them to sign a record deal at this stage of their career would likely result in the halting of all momentum, and possibly the breakup of the band. This is the typical outcome...totally standard and to be expected.

The conversation called up lots of memories from my own experience with a major label. Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I am glad to have gone through it, and I don't feel like we were treated any worse than any other young band with a contract. Our A & R guys were great and would have helped us if they could, but the band broke up in the end and we never got to see our record on the shelves or hear it on the radio. As an individual, my life was enriched and enhanced by the experience. For the band, though, it was a disaster.

The lesson? Do it yourself. Make your own records. Book your own tours. Make your own goals and decisions. Build a fanbase. Develop a career. If you deserve attention from the big industry, it will come to you. Don't spend all of your time and energy pursuing their attention...get the attention of fans first. They'll be the ones buying the records and coming to the shows.

Speaking of shows, I'm playing a free one at University of the Pacific in Stockton tonight!


Tour blog/Interview!

We arrived in central California last night after a long drive from Oregon. It was just a driving day...no show, so the highlights were:

Excellent lunch at Allison's in Ashland.
Got sleepy in Yreka...Anna took over at the wheel.
Looked for a Dairy Queen in Redding...didn't find it.
Listened to Ryan Adams, Calexico, Iron+Wine...totally suited the rural interstate drive.
Arrived at Aunt Kay's, where Camarie had some spaghetti waiting.

Today I play two shows...Fresno State and the Fat Cat Music Hall in Modesto!


Andrew at Northwest Indie Music took a moment to call and ask about what I'm up to. He posted the interview as a follow-up to his review of Ten Cent Souvenir. The interview is posted HERE


A nice review

I met Andrew Fickes a number of years ago when I was a member of John Shipe's band. Andrew booked shows at Central Washington University in Ellensburg...John and I played there and made friends with Andrew. Years later, he's writing for various local and regional publications and has a blog dedicated to independent musicians and industry stuff. He wrote a review of 'Ten Cent Souvenir' and we did a follow-up phone interview. The review is posted here:

Northwest Indie Music review

The interview will be posted sometime soon.

Thanks Andrew!


Pet Marmoset presents Writer's Block

I was going to write a little note about the benefit show tomorrow. I decided that Ryan Wines' post, on www.petmarmoset.net/blog says it perfectly. Here is the post in its entirety:

This Saturday night at Holocene in downtown Portland, Team Marmoset will be “using our power for good”, as we present, “Writer’s Block” - a benefit show, with all proceeds going to the Oregon Food Bank.

Writer’s Block is a little idea we came up with to accomplish a couple of things in the community. First off, we are all quite aware of the unfortunate and challenging economic situation the world has quickly fallen victim to. This new Writer’s Block series will be a vehicle for raising awareness of our community’s needs and raising both funds and food for one of the better community service organizations in town.

The second objective for this event is to bring together a diverse number of singer-songwriters from the Portland community and feature the core of their talent - songwriting - in a simplified, stripped-down presentation. As you can see, many of the artists participating in this first edition of the Writer’s Block series are songwriters and leads for successful Northwest-based bands. Others are some lesser-known, but equally talented artists, which we’ve chosen to highlight and introduce to an appreciative audience. Ideally, Writer’s Block might weave a new thread in the Portland music community, bringing artists and people together in community, while removing some of the barriers, clubs, and cliques that naturally prevail in an music scene such as Portland.

Writer’s Block is this Saturday night at Holocene in Portland and only costs $5, along with at least two cans of food. All proceeds and food will be donated directly to the Oregon Food Bank. The show will feature an intimate candle light setting, with non-stop music rotating between two stages throughout the evening. All of the performances will be stripped-down, acoustic solo, duo and trio performances and, hopefully, will all combine for a very special evening. Additionally, it will be a great time to meet new people and build some relationships in the PDX music community. There will also be a Motown-themed dance party to follow, with our dear friend, Karizma, working the turn tables. The doors open at 8pm - get there early! More info at www.holocene.org