Sunday, August 31, 2008


Last post was kinda down, so for the hundredth, since I'm home and dry for a moment, we'll lighten up some.

Old Hundredth is also known as the Doxology in the Episcopal Hymnal. It's a song of praise with a lovely melody written in 1551 which has been used for other hymns as well. We used to sing it when the ushers would bring the collection plates up to the altar.

Here's a cool shed called the MD100 that you can build.

Tito Puente named his one hundredth album El #100. Not sure you could come up with a better name.

There's Apollo 100 and Haircut 100. And Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings' "100 Days, 100 Nights" too, not to forget "Somebody's Been Sleeping in My Bed" by 100 Proof (Aged in Soul).

Thanks for reading the blog. Sorry I got so morose on the last entry, but I hope some of this makes up for it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Yesterday was a weird, hard day.

I had done my first gig subbing for Brandon Bush in Sugarland in front of forty thousand Harley owners in Milwaukee without a soundcheck the day before, and I'd neatly butchered a lot of what should have been perfect unfortunately. Everyone was very understanding and comforting about it, but I wanted to sit in my bunk on the bus and weep, I was so distraught about it.

I'd also chosen my first day with a new band to quit smoking cigarettes again. The master of good timing strikes again... I sure hadn't planned on being a smoker again, after having been quit for ten years. But for the past three years, it's been on-again, off-again, with the last four months having been pretty much 'on' nearly to the point of chain-smoking. The last Hootie night was where I tried to smoke as much as I could to sicken myself, and I guess it's worked as this is my third smoke-free day.

Impending unemployment has been riding heavily on my shoulders. Hootie and the Blowfish has decided to hang it up, at least for several years, which means my job will also disappear. I had hoped to play with Darius in his solo country band, but his management had other ideas so that's not going to happen. I'd like to keep playing music, and the sub gig with Sugarland is allowing me to do that at least for a few more dates. After that, I don't know.

What I do know is that it's very difficult to look for jobs when you're watching "Ice Road Truckers" or "Deadliest Catch" or any of those shows that are so prevalent. You feel like a big sissy, unqualified to wrangle either a big fish or a big truck through a desparate situation. You look at the calluses at the ends of your fingertips from guitar playing and you think "how pathetic". No outdoor tan, no ruddy complexion, no bulging muscles and sinew. Just a fishbelly-white middle-aged bent-over guitar player who can type eighty words per minute.

The hardest thing about yesterday was that it dredged up a thousand Katrina memories all at once, while considering the oncoming Hurricane Gustav. It was the third anniversary of the storm that removed the life I knew from me, like it did to thousands of others. I was fortunate, others were not, in that I got a chance to restart my life far away. I had a choice to return to New Orleans but did not do so, not wanting to subject my wife and children to another possible life-endangering situation.

Our friends are scattered to the four winds. My ex-brother-in-law lost his life in the storm, leaving so many of us distraught and incomplete. What was our sweet home is just a grassy lot in St. Bernard Parish, unsold and overgrown. I visited with an old friend in Primm NV the other day who told me he didn't even visit his lot when he went to New Orleans last. "Why should I? What's changed?" he asked, and I had no answer.

My daughter had to evacuate with her mother to Lafayette and now possibly to Atlanta.

It's all so encompassing and broad and depressing. It's paralyzing to watch happen again, and I certainly hope for New Orleans to avoid more cataclysmic damage.

Once again, the television is my window onto what's going on there, much as it was three years ago when I watched Katrina destroying my adopted city on the screen in the front lounge of the bus.

Today is a new day, another day, a day where I can try to right myself and move along (as I try to do most days anyway). Yesterday, however, stopped me in my tracks, and I'm glad it's over despite the presence of another potentially deadly storm.

Monday, August 25, 2008


San Diego, even before Will Ferrell changed the pronunciation and translation in Anchorman, has always been a stop on the tours I've been on with Hootie. Tonight, we are playing the gig we do annually at Humphrey's By the Bay on Shelter Island. It's a great venue, with a harbor full of yachts bobbing beside the stage.
It's a nicely planned, planted amphitheater. We usually have rooms near the front-of-house soundboard location, and they have balconies overlooking the stage. On our night off, we listened to Bill Maher do his BIll Maher thing. It was the first time I'd been to a show at Humphrey's that I wasn't playing.I also love to walk around the area, up to Rosecrans Street. There are ship chandlers, funky restaurants and lots of interesting old California cars. The Toyota LE Minivan, circa 1986, is one of my very favorite vehicles and there is a surfeit of them here.
At the end of the day, we get back on the bus, driving now to Agoura Hills and dreaming in our bunks of the last show of the tour and what comes after.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


We have in our backyard one firefly, so far as I can tell. He lazily wanders around among the foliage, illuminating his heinie periodically, unconcerned with his solitary existence. I try to visit him every night, at least for a few minutes. He doesn't understand my apprehension.

When I was a kid, back in the Sixties, I remember our evening yard being full of fireflies in Old Greenwich. Like most idiot children of the time, I captured them in a mayonnaise jar. We punctured holes in the lid with a flathead screwdriver so the bugs could 'breathe' for whatever time in captivity they had left. It was usually not very long, and we'd have a jar bottom carpeted in dead fireflies in a couple hours. (Some of my evil little friends used to take the insect and smear their luminescent hindquarters on their shirts, and as cool as they thought they were, that kind of wholesale bug torture never appealed to me.)

I also remember sitting on the mayor's porch in Oxford, Mississippi with the various members of the Continental Drifters, watching a firefly convention at some point in the 1990's. No capture, no bug persecution, just sincere admiration on our part; fireflies figured prominently on the cover of our debut album, you will recall.

And now, I have just one single firefly to admire. My overactive sense of guilt makes me wonder how much I contributed to their population shrinkage. Of course, that'd have to be extended to me and every other kid in America who took advantage of their slow-moving flight.

Where did they all go? What happened to them?

I miss that blanket of flashing lights from my childhood every time I see my little nightly visitor. I hope he's not as lonely as he makes me feel.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Springsteen in Charleston

I was lucky enough to get tickets for Smart Wife and myself to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Charleston last night. She'd never seen Bruce play, and we had an opportunity to leave the young'uns with her cousins, so I lobbied hard for two tickets and was able to get them. SW and I don't get a lot of one-on-one time these days, with me being on the road for the last two months. Suffice it to say, she was very excited for this chance to go out for some music with me.

We got to our seats, which were about twenty feet from stage left and set about watching the people around us. Obviously a high concentration of every vintage Springsteen tour shirts on folks in the crowd were evident, along with some interesting homemade ones (a pink tank top on an older woman proclaiming incompletely "Tramps Like Us"--or maybe the thought was complete at that). The average age was probably around forty; lots of greying balding guys and their wives, with a few families with kids thrown in.

Makes sense considering Bruce has been making records since 1973--I was envsioning Mom and Dad telling Junior that he was coming to the show, that it would be a coming-of-age event for him, that his life would change like theirs did when they discovered Bruce Springsteen themselves decades ago. Junior, who'd probably rather have been playing GuitarHero with his friends, sighs, agrees to don the ancient shirt and accompany them grudgingly.

Well, Junior got his ears opened last night. Whether he takes it to heart will depend on his own character development, but it was not from the artist's lack of effort towards that end.

Starting with an amazing version of the Swingin' Medallions' "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" as a tribute to Carolina beach music, Bruce and the band roared through about three hours' worth of songs with nary a dip in the energy level. From "Spirit in the Night" to "Radio Nowhere" we were given ample proof of Springsteen's depth and his massive catalog's staying power. Songs I'd plum forgotten about, like "She's the One", and ones I barely knew, like "Mary's Place", stormed through the Coliseum intermingled with hits like "Badlands" and "Hungry Heart" with most everyone singing along to at least parts of each song.

The E Street Band is what a rock band is supposed to be like, I think. They have played together for so long, that even when it looked like Max Weinberg kept one song going longer than planned, the rest of the musicians rolled with it, they didn't panic and the song didn't fall apart. It's a huge glorious racket coming from the PA when the whole ensemble is playing, which is for most of the set's length. Two keyboards (both bald and bespectacled, how interesting). Four guitars. Lots of singers behind Bruce. Big bass from Gary Tallent, and of course, the enormity of the Weinberg kit in action.

My favorite moment was probably Nils Lofgren's rhapsodic and gymnastic solo on "Because the Night". I've loved Nils since I heard "White Lies" by Grin on a Columbia Records sampler sometime in the early 1970's. From there, I obsessed over his first solo album on A&M and "Beggar's Day" on the first Crazy Horse album. When I saw the E Street Band in New Jersey during the Born in the U.S.A. tour, Nils was still doing flips on his mini-trampoline. Tonight, he looked slim and fit, moving between rhythm parts and harmonic leads, but the mini-tramp was nowhere to be found (there was a pedal steel lurking behind him, but he only played slide on his Stratocaster on "The Rising" best as I could tell). Nils is a treasure, and his playing stands out among his virtuosi bandmates. He helped erase for me whatever memories of damage done to the song in a subsequent cover version (and I don't mean Patti's.)

Charlie Giordano has filled the position left by the death of Danny Federici who died in April. Charlie played with Pat Benatar for many years, and he'd done the Seeger Sessions with Bruce before the E Street Band reconvened. It's got to be the toughest job in the band to try to blend in as well as Danny, who was a charter member, but Charlie's a fine player and his solos were confident and in the right zone. I was rooting for him all night long.

It was cool to watch Bruce and Steve Van Zandt share a microphone, and when it flashed on the big screen above the band, you could see the two old friends, matched like a pair of shoes, still harmonizing perfectly after so many years.

Bruce Springsteen is so comfortable onstage. He and the band look happy to be there. He's down at the front apron of the stage, holding hands, singing into kids' eyes, generally connecting on a very personal level throughout the show. I suspect that there are a lot of performers who'd be wiping themselves down with antibacterial soap between songs if they ever had to touch a member of the great unwashed before them. The closest Bruce came to that was 'baptising' the standees in the orchestra with water in the name of the Garden State during the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout". He's fearless, he's amusing, he's amused, he swings round and round on a very strong, floor mounted microphone stand. He was in your face, and he was a face in the crowd. He has never not seemed like the guy you'd like to hang out with at the bar or a softball game. His zeal is overriding and contagious.

We all felt it, I daresay. SW was completely into it, but as the show went on, I found myself drawn to watching a couple on the floor and another guy near them. The man in the couple was wearing a "Dancing In the Dark"-style black muscle shirt and jeans, pretty de rigueur for the night. He had enough muscles to make the shirt convincing. He was singing every line, pantomiming some of them for his companion's benefit, singing "Born to Run" to her sweetly at the top of his lungs. He danced and danced, throwing his hands in the air to testify along with Bruce, punching out accents. The other guy was wearing a reversed baseball cap, and I'd mistakenly thought he'd been flipping off the back section of standees during one song--he wasn't, he had more fingers up and I'd only had a side view. He, too, was howling along. At one point, he went up to a fan in front of him who'd been holding a poster-sized sign with a song title request on it so hopefully Bruce would see it and grant the wish. But this guy shamed her into lowering the sign for the rest of the evening. At one point, muscle shirt guy and backward baseball cap guy found each other to be two peas in a pod, and they were suddenly dancing around with each other like leprechauns, utterly entranced in the song. I love to see people get so far into the music they're listening to that they lose every ounce of self-consciousness like these folks.

At the end of the night, after Bruce told us "You can't TAKE any more!" we left exhilirated, lifted, charmed, hoarse from shouting, sore from clapping, happy we came but sad we were done. Maybe we couldn't have taken any more, but I doubt I'm the only one there last night who wouldn't have wanted to try.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NY Times blog part three is up

I know, I know. You haven't heard from me lately, and I'm sorry. The future's looming large, and distractions have been keeping me away from DTBMMLF.

Meanwhile, the Times songwriting blog is up so you can go read that for the moment.

I'll be back soon, I promise. Thank you for your patience.