Category: music


Disclaimer: No American in their right mind (aside from Miss Piggy) should ever refer to themselves as “moi.”

Yesterday made two weeks at my new job. So far I pretty much have all the same complaints that I mentioned in my last post. I put in slightly over 50 hours last week, which was pretty exhausting. But at least the paycheck will be nice. My feet have mostly gotten used to the hours, but this was my “long” week (only one day off) and no matter how you slice it that’s rough. My next day off will be Thursday, but I’ll have next Sunday off, so it won’t be quite as bad as last week.

On Tuesday I had an interview at an animal hospital. I think it went really well, fingers crossed. She said the next step would be to set up a “working interview” where I’d meet with some of the higher ranking people and then shadow an assistant for an hour or two and observe everything they’re doing. Evidently in the past they had a pretty high turnover – they’re an emergency animal hospital, and I guess a lot of people didn’t realize they’d be seeing dogs and cats that were hit by cars and had other life-threatening issues. So they decided to start doing these working interviews so people could see exactly what they were in for and weed out those who probably couldn’t handle it. I think I could. Especially if it gets me out of retail. They’re looking for mostly second shift, which is from 4pm to midnight – essentially perfect for my body clock. It would most likely start as part-time and transition into full-time. If that’s the case I can see if my current job would let me cut back to a few days a week so I can do both. If not then I’ll go with part-time and make it work until I either find a second job or transition into full-time hours. She said that someone would contact me in a few days to schedule my working interview, but as of today (Monday) no one had, so I called up there on my lunch break. I spoke with someone who said he would talk to her sometime today and they would call me back either tonight or tomorrow night. Nothing yet, so hopefully tomorrow night I’ll hear from them.

This past Thursday, in addition to being my day off, was my birthday. The big 3-5. Or as I like to refer to it, my “seventh annual 29th birthday.” Nothing too eventful happened. I did some grocery shopping; a card came in the mail from my parents; I watched a movie; I got birthday wishes on Facebook from people I haven’t had actual conversations with in 15+ years. Fun times.  When I returned to work on Friday I bought myself a little present – a purple Silvertone Strat copy that we had for $129. We get a 30% employee discount, and a part of me has missed having a guitar with a whammy bar, so I figured why not. I spent a big chunk of last week tuning all the guitars and seeing how they play, so even though this guitar was pretty cheap I had a good idea what I would be getting myself into. I really like it, even though I doubt I’ll use it that often. But after the past few months, I feel like I deserve a little treat.

In other news, I finally settled upon a concept for my piece(s) for the “Rock Show” at Zapow. I have a collection of oddly shaped frames that I’ve been waiting for just the perfect time to use, and I think this might be it. One large one will be a painting of a Marshall amp head. A small one will be a drawing of a humbucker pickup. And a small frame with three small openings will feature a “pedal board” consisting of three classic effects pedals. Basically, taking my recent technology theme and applying it to the technology used to make rock music. I figure everyone else will be doing portraits of rock stars and cartoons of head bangers and band logos and whatnot. I need something that will fit with my distinctive styles, and I think this works perfectly. Now all I need is time to work on it.

And that’s pretty much where we’re at right now. Time to wrap things up and force myself to sleep so I can be up before the sun tomorrow morning. Oh joy!

 

A few interesting things have happened in the past week or so…

Shortly after writing my last entry, I found out that I was approved for food stamps, and that I’ll be getting way more money than I typically spend on groceries. So I guess I’ll be living large. Except that over a week later, my card still hasn’t come in the mail. I keep putting off grocery shopping, because why spend a bunch of money on food when you have a card full of money on the way? Today I finally had to break down and buy a few things so I could make a meal or two. Hopefully before I run out of leftovers my card will come and I can do a real shopping. Fingers crossed.

I spent most of the day this past Sunday watching the new season of Arrested Development, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as previous seasons, but the plot is so dense and everything is so interconnected. It’s probably going to take several re-watches to catch everything, there are just so many little details and references. I was a bit worn out after a nearly all-day marathon, so I spent most of Monday trying to be productive, going on little walks and trying to get fresh air and exercise.

On Wednesday I had not one, but two job interviews. First up was Alan’s Pawn – they’re looking for a “musical instrument specialist.” I saw an ad on Craigslist but they never mentioned the business. I sent a resume and a cover letter talking about all of my music experience and knowledge. The interview went pretty well – they seemed to like me and gave me every indication that they plan on hiring me. They had me do a criminal background check and a drug test, and said that when the results are in we can go from there. It will be about 42-45 hours a week, with Sunday counting as an overtime day. They asked what my minimum salary expectation would be, and I said I could probably be comfortable with $9 an hour. They told me they would be able to beat that, and after the drug test and background check they would be able to make me an exact offer. After 90 days I would be eligible for commission on any sales, so that plus 5-10 hours of time-and-a-half would mean a pretty sweet paycheck. It’s not exactly my ideal job, but I have enough knowledge of musical instruments to sell them, and for that kind of money I can’t really refuse.

My other interview was at Pet Supermarket. It’s the kind of job that could help me in the long run with becoming a veterinary assistant, because it would give me more experience with and working knowledge of things like pet foods, medicines, and basic pet care. But on the other hand, it’s your basic shitty retail job. Chances are it wouldn’t pay much above minimum, and there probably wouldn’t be any incentive to advance. The final part of the interview was one of those self evaluations, which I never seem to do very well on, so chances are they won’t offer me a job anyway. But at least I know that all of my applying and dropping off resumes hasn’t been in vain.

So basically now I just wait to hear back from Alan’s and hope this is a move that pays off. In the meantime, I signed up to volunteer at the Humane Society. I have my volunteer orientation this Saturday. Also on Saturday is an opening at Zapow. Even though I don’t have any pieces for the show, it would be the first opening that I can attend as a member artist, so I’ll definitely go. I’m also just about finished with my online class – one lesson and the final exam left. I’ve been kinda procrastinating, but I have nothing at all to do tomorrow so I’ll probably finish it up then. And that’s basically what’s going on in the life of me. The End.

 

A Week Of Insanity

It all began last Saturday. Walking home from work, I found an unopened roll of Sweet Tarts on the ground. Believe it or not, that was among the more expected and “normal” things to happen…

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Last night I went to the Grey Eagle to see a personal musical hero of mine, Ken Stringfellow. You might know him as the co-leader of The Posies, my favorite band of all time. Or perhaps you know him as That Guy Who Played Keyboards On Tour With REM. Or maybe you know him from his time with a reunited Big Star. Or with his garage rock  side band The Disciplines. Or from all the albums he’s produced. Or maybe you don’t know him at all. But you should. His solo stuff has leaned heavily on piano-rock and experimental jams, all with super-catchy hooks. Good stuff.

The show was a seated event, so I made sure to get there early. Evidently I didn’t need to do, because there were barely more than twenty people who showed up. I was a little bummed out at that, but oh well. As he would later point out, this was his first time playing Asheville, and you have to build your audience somehow. Better to have a passionate and enthusiastic few than a huge crowd of people who don’t care. But I digress.

The opening act was a guy named Greg Cartwright, who plays in a local band called Reining Sound. It was just him solo on electric guitar. He was a good guitarist, and definitely had talent, but it just wasn’t my thing at all. His voice was a little on the nasal side, and he didn’t have much concept of melody. He said that he was so used to playing with a rock band that he had to shout over, and it showed. His songs didn’t hold my attention at all, but the little bits of lyrics I was able to catch here and there sounded pretty cool. Perhaps his songwriting works better in the context of a rock band, but solo he just didn’t grab me. It didn’t help that he played for almost an hour, didn’t speak much in between songs, and spent most of the night walking back and forth between the microphone and his set list sitting on a stool some ten feet away. Maybe his style works for others, but it didn’t for me, so I was kinda glad when he walked off the stage.

After a brief intermission, Ken Stringfellow took the stage. He spent the evening alternating between guitar and a baby grand piano, which evidently belonged to The Grey Eagle. He remarked how he usually has a digital piano with him, but that you just can’t pass up an opportunity like this. In between songs he talked a lot, about anything and everything. Things got off to a rocky start with a groaner of a joke about all of The Eagles being grey, but he somehow made it work. But anyway, about the music…..

He mostly played selections from his newest album, Danzig In The Moonlight. By my count there were three songs not from that album, including two from 2004’s The Soft Commands and one from 2001’s Touched. He didn’t play any Posies songs, because as he explained, he wanted to show people what he did when he wasn’t playing with others. Most of the newer songs worked naturally on just guitar or piano, which forced the listener to focus even more on his always intelligent lyrics. Some songs, like “Superwise,” sounded radically different from their album forms, but most stayed pretty much the same. For the most part he chose to completely forgo the use of the microphone, and when he played guitar he spent more time standing on the ground in front of the audience than up on the stage. It genuinely felt like he was just hanging out playing for some friends in their living room, rather than being a paid performer at a venue. He took the friendly vibe to its logical conclusion with a plea for someone to put him up for the night. This was, as he put it, a “cultural event,” and part of enriching the cultural landscape of a town is to ensure that culture does not freeze to death in its van.

On Danzig In The Moonlight there is a song, “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something,” that is a slow, countryish duet with Charity Rose Thielen of The Head And The Heart. For this song, he was joined by an audience member, a girl named Vickie who is in a local band called Warm The Bell. I haven’t gotten a chance to check out their stuff, but they have a CD release party coming up in a few months, and based on their descriptions I think I’d probably like them. I’m really only writing this paragraph to remind myself to check them out. If you’re not interested, feel free to ignore it. But I really need to give them a listen, sounds like it might be my kind of thing.

You really couldn’t have asked for a stronger performance. His songs are well written, melodic, and catchy as hell. His passion for music shines through every word and every note. And when he’s not playing, he’s pretty good at soliciting laughter. After about an hour and a half of music and banter, Ken announced that he was finished and would be heading to the merchandise table. He commented about how much he loved Asheville, and that even though the crowd was small, this was a great gig.

He hung out for a good half hour, making it a point to meet everyone and shake their hands. There was no one running his table, so he personally sold everything. I snagged a show poster and got him to sign it. He asked what my name was, then proceeded to give me an Irish sounding suffix, signing it “Chris O’Moon.” Right on the picture of the moon. Well played, Stringfellow, well played. He fielded a lot of questions, cracked a few jokes, asked for coffee-house recommendations, and eventually had to call it a night. I got a strong impression of sincerity from talking to him. This is someone who doesn’t fake anything – when he seems like he’s enjoying himself, that’s because he actually is. His personality shone through no matter what he was doing – he seemed like the kind of guy you’d want as a friend. Oh, and he makes music too. Awesome music. You should check it out.

 

So last night was the big night. Jeff Mangum, live at The Grey Eagle. A few months ago I waited outside of Harvest Records for hours to get tickets to what would become the fastest sellout in Grey Eagle history. And it was totally worth it.

I ended up taking my friend Morgan, a big Neutral Milk Hotel fan. I had asked Katie, but she had already planned a birthday party for the same day and didn’t want to shuffle things around. Her actual birthday was Wednesday, but she was in Atlanta until Friday night. We decided that I would go to the concert and then when it was over I would join up with the birthday party, already in progress. But more on that later…

Morgan finally got a car, and drove over to my place a little before the show. It was snowing and she freaked out, so I drove to the concert. Parking was ridiculous. I wound up parking in front of a warehouse about a quarter of a mile from the Grey Eagle. The place was pretty packed, with people lined up into the parking lot waiting to get in. They had two lines going, based on last name, and it was nearly fifteen minutes before we were inside.

The opening band was a duo called Tall Firs. They both played electric guitars in various tunings through lots of effects. It was pretty mellow and atmospheric, with a sort of dream-pop/slowcore vibe going on. I bought one of their albums, but it’s very different. They have a drummer (or did at the time of this album, which came out in 2008) and the sound is more straight ahead rock. Evidently one of the guys is a guitar tech for Sonic Youth and they’re on Thurston Moore’s label. A lot of the CD reminds me of Sebadoh. I hear a little Pavement in there, and possibly some of Sonic Youth’s less experimental and noisy moments. I’m going to have to check out their other stuff and see how it compares, but I like the CD I bought a lot.

After a brief intermission Jeff Mangum took the stage. He looks a bit different from when we last saw him, with a huge greying beard that makes him look very Asheville. He opened with “Holland, 1945” and it quickly became obvious that the entire night would be one giant sing along. He played a few more songs from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and threw in a few from On Avery Island as well. He didn’t really talk a lot in between songs, except to thank the crowd for being so supportive. On several occasions the usually dark and depressed Morgan suddenly turned into a twelve-year-old cheerleader, screaming her head off and countering every Jeff Mangum thank you with a “no, thank you!”

On several songs during the first half of his performance, Mangum hummed the melodies that were played by a horn section on the album. I like to think of myself as being somewhat observant, so it didn’t escape me that for some reason there were four microphones on stage. Even though I knew it was coming, when the horn section came out for “Oh Comely,” I just about lost it. Everything sounded perfect, perhaps even better than on the album. After thunderous applause from the crowd, he launched into an extended version of “Naomi,” and again the horns came out. He closed with “Two Headed Boy,” but this time the horn section was joined by a guy with a floor tom and another guy with a tambourine. They played the instrumental “The Fool” and then everyone left the stage as the crowd went insane. Jeff returned for an encore of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.” Pretty much everyone there was singing along, and when the horns came out one last time it was the perfect end to an amazing performance.

I wound up buying In The Aeroplane Over The Sea on 180 gram vinyl, and while I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a gatefold, the artwork looks amazing. The record itself has the phonograph/plane/whatever picture on the label and the lyrics and credits are on a sheet inside the sleeve. I stuck my ticket stub and bracelet inside the sleeve as well. I was hoping to get him to sign it, but the guy at the merchandise table said he doesn’t usually come out to sign and meet with people. Oh well, still totally worth it.

After the show we came back to my place. Morgan didn’t stick around, and I attempted to get in touch with Katie. She wasn’t answering her phone, so I assumed either she couldn’t hear it or was already too drunk to perform such a high level action. I remembered that she said their pub crawl was starting at The Yacht Club, so I decided to go down there and see if they were still there. The guy said they had already left and he didn’t know where they were. I decided to try another of her usual haunts, Broadway’s, but they weren’t there either. Finally she returned my text message and said they were at a gay bar. I asked where it was, but she said they were leaving. I told her I’d take a rain check and she should come over tonight so I could give her her birthday present(s). This afternoon I talked to her and she said she was really hung over and hanging out with her family. As of yet she hasn’t gotten home, so I’m thinking we’re not going to hang out tonight. Hopefully I’ll get to see her tomorrow.

I think I’m going to work on some paintings and then attempt to get to sleep at a decent hour. The End.

 

The Best of 2012 – part 5

And here we have it, the fifth and final chapter of The Best of 2012, wherein I count down the top 5 albums that came out last year. Keep in mind that this list is entirely subjective. If you disagree with my choices, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. These were the best albums of the year, and that’s final.

Drumroll please……….

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You know that thing I keep saying about getting to bed at a decent time? Yeah, that never happens. But what does appear to be happening is the Top 10 of 2012

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The Best of 2012 – part 3

In my attempts at finishing these posts and getting to sleep at a decent hour, it seems the third time is in fact the charm. So without further ado, let’s pick up right where we left off…..

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Welcome to another incredibly late night edition of The Best of 2012. Is this what being in a relationship is like? Because I thought there would be a lot more sleeping. Oh well, enough about that. Time for five of my favorite albums from last year…..

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The Best Of 2012 – part 1

It’s insanely late and we’re getting off to a slow start, but I did promise an update, so here goes…

 

We begin The Best Of 2012 with a look back at some of the not-so-good releases, a few albums I didn’t get the chance to hear, and a few that came close, but just didn’t quite connect. Continue reading