The thing about open mic is that it is a good training ground for learning to fail gracefully. Here I pay tribute to Jay Russell, a dearly departed bandmate from yesteryear, by unsuccessfully muddling through The Pledge. However, my inability to complete the song did not surprise me: I had only learned it the day before, and practiced it a handful of times. I learned firsthand that the concept of “turning failure into success” is real. Interestingly, the fellow directly in front of me immediately embraced the chorus, “I pledge allegiance to cigarettes and booze,” as though it were a song he has stumbled down the sidewalk blurting at 2:17 am several times, despite having only heard it this very night.
Also, in a performance situation, having an old standby like Chinese Buffet to cap off the performance in a positive way is an excellent arrow to have in my quiver of performance strategy. Also featured: Spam.
In 2004, I holed up in the basement of a window factory in New Jersey with my friend Jay Russell. Two years later, we had recorded Break It Up (playable below). We never released it, but his untimely death at 48 years old has sparked interest in it among his friends and family. I spent the last 3 weeks re-mixing the songs and set up a Bandcamp account with which to publish it.
I feel honored to have worked with Jay; he put an abundance of trust in me when I had way more ambition than understanding of how the heck to produce and engineer a proper album. He was extremely talented, funny, and a great pleasure to work with; these songs represent Replacements-style classic rock, with blues, punk, and R&B influences and an enormous guitar presence throughout.
Please have a listen and, if you are so compelled, share it and send a few bucks to his family.
Great night, lightly attended by excellent people. We did a second round, so here I am performing 6 songs. For the second set, I indulged myself by singing a vulgar song that–as my pal and would-be manager, Geoff, observed–has the structure of a children’s song. Hopefully children will not sing it.*
* Incidentally, the aforementioned vulgar tune was inspired by a recent visit to Gettysburg, which is documented at:
Saying goodbye to something can be difficult, even if the thing you’re leaving is damaging you. This song was inspired by 7 months’ alcohol free. The instrumentation is particularly sparse, which left room for some detailed production work. It also features a melodica solo. This reedy instrument can impart melancholy better than no other in my own repertoire of musicianship.
Being the enforcer of speech codes can be lonely in my not-yet-fully-imagined futuristic Orwellian musical. In this song, I assume the role of a police officer charged with finding and eradicating non-state-sponsored materials littering the landscape of communication. Enthusiasm in the first half turns to gripes about the daily grind of destroying samizdat. Thanks to my daughter for lending her voice talent by uttering on of her favorite phrases, “Shut up!”