Saturday, October 28, 2006


So, this has been a super-busy month events-wise. First weekend - there was my band playing. Then, Bonnie's mom Annie was in town that weekend - went to Bucci's for Saturday dinner. Shelley and Jodi had their baby shower on Sunday, excellent seeing them and other friends I've met thru Bonnie. Also, both days, Tom Proctor was shooting for his short - a neat twist on typical horror expectations, plus it's great someone's doing a project. (It's got me inspired to get my short going - more on that later).
The next weekend (after making a sidetrip during the week to drop off the demon to Ed's place) was Friday night at the 1-year anniversary of the new deYoung museum, and their special exhibits about the Chicano movement, and one about the quilt-making heritage in the small, isolated Alabama town Gee's Bend. Saturday, went out the Castro Theatre for a special 3D presentation of "Creature from the Black Lagoon", with a live appearance afterwards by the stars Julie Adams and Ben Chapman ( the creature on land). It was really neat and charming to see a couple of octogenarians reminisce about the golden days of H-wood. Had an adventure on public transit to get home, then it was a chill evening. Skipped on Gamelan Sekar Jaya at Zellerbach (I know, it's rare for me to not catch their appearance), and also Dynamite 8, went to see '49 Up', which was interesting to see the aging process and life unfold. It did get long after a while, I admit I dozed, and missed some of the most interesting story - the guy with schizophrenia, and some of the reunions of friends. Sunday was dinner with Rev. Steve, who's in town for a stint.
Now comes the most packed week - monday Jam w/ the Colossal Inertia crew. Wednesday 18th was Matmos at Great American Music Hall - a rare concert tour, it was fantastic, or at least fantastically interesting. Some wacky instrumentation included : roses as drumsticks, balloons, microphones on dry ice, someone getting a haircut, and buttcheeks (don't ask). Lot of improv, too, and a whole other electronic artist (Walter Kitundu, whom I learned from Pete, was briefly in Crown City Rockers), I was surprised at how much piano MC Schmidt played. Thursday no event, but we got our gutters installed, in the morning! Friday 19th I took the day off, helped Proctor on some shoots during the day (at leatherman shop in SF..., and at his home), did some biz in the afternoon, then made my way on public transit to SF again, for the Decemberists show at Warfield (ran into Dave Eberle from work). The show, sorry to say, didn't blow me away - less energy than the one we saw last year at Bimbos. Strange song selection - it consisted mostly of tracks I often skip over when listening to the albums, and new material, which I was familiar with, I got the 'Crane Wife' album the week before, but with their subdued and stripped down arrangements, translate into being quite looooong onstage. The highlight of the evening was an excluded 'Crane Wife' track, "Culling the Fold", whereupon they danced wildly. The closer was a 'bonus' CD track from the new album, "After the Bombs", which I thought was very dry and slow to cap the night, and rather unsubtle in its lyrics. Sunday the 21st DID blow my mind - Crispin Hellion Glover, presenting his movie 'What is it?", a quite surreal and disturbing trek through a man's psyche, made even more 'uncomfortable' (a favorite buzzword for Crispin) by the near-entirety of the cast being Down's syndrome kids adults. A very unique event - he's not distributing it, nor releasing on video, so this is the only opportunity to see it. This is a movie Ron's been pushing me to see since he caught it at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 2003 (where it won, inexplicably for 'Best Narrative' movie). Crispin did a Q&A afterward, which was highly fascinating and ultimately interminable, and did clear up a lot of mystery regarding how much of his mannerisms are an act, or an Andy Kaufman-like trip on being weird. After answering questions for over an hour, he got into a mano-y-mano debate with one dude, and spent 15 minutes talking to him. That was almost midnight on a Sunday, and we had to catch BART, so that closed the eve. Oh, before that on Sunday I put in a few hours assistance on Proctor's movie, shooting at the Berkeley Rose Garden Inn.
The next week had 2 evening jam sessions at work, M & W. Also, spent several evenings this week tied into the baseball broadcasts - the Detroit Tigers were in the World Series! Hard to believe, they've been losing for so long, but so great to see them do well ( they lost in 5 to the St. Louis Cards. Oh well, they went far, and no New York team was in the finals, so harhar!) . Thursday 26th was nice - got invited to (old friend from childhood) Jody's company's Halloween extravaganza, and quite a party it was. At Nimby Art Space in west Oakland, they had several fire installations - including "Dance Dance Imolation", a DDR game where a misstep will get you a blast of fire in the face (behind a firesuit, of course). One of the team behind DDI was my pal Matt Blackwell, from ILM, whom I run into at many a show. It was great catching up with Jody and Micki, who are expecting a son in February! Also, caught up with Kevin Wilson, a neighbor, and a whose brother and sister I was good friends with back in the day. I didn't recognize him until introduced, and I realized I've never really known him as an adult. He's the only one of his family to have uprooted and come to Cali (after years of chasing his bro to do the same), so good on him.

Friday 27th (after winning our PSC league soccer game!) was a production meeting with Gilx and Garth, about a short idea I had thrown out in hopes of stirring up some interest to get it done for the PDI Lo-Tech Cinema, 3-minute film fest. Gilx really jumped on it, starting popping up ideas, and I handed it over for him to direct, which I'm excited about, and so is he! Looking forward to doing this. Saturday was the company screening of 'Flushed Away', the Aardman-coproduction (Pete came along as the guest, good to catch up with him). Neat, funny, charming, and I really like most of the claymation effect, a la Wallace & Gromit. But don't take my word for it, go see it at the theaters! (opens Nov 3)! Also, while I'm shilling, the DVD of 'Over the Hedge' is out this week, so buy buy buy! Back to our regularly scheduled program... we wandered around Mission St for a bit, stopped in at Bonnie's office, chilled in Yerba Buena Gardens for a short time, then took the bus a few blocks & walked some more (following behind a protest march), to the SomArts Center. There, we saw the newest Shadowlight production - "Monkey King at Spider Cave", adapted from a few chapters of "Journey to the West", a Chinese epic folktale. Love that stuff, seen a few that were lo-quality production values, but overall shadow plays are magical and enthralling works (especially accompanied by gamelan, this one wasn't - it was Taiwanese music, but still outstanding.
Wrapping up as I write, listening to the new The Fiery Furnaces album, "Bitter Tea", which I am highly impressed with; also some of 'Metalmorphosis' on KUCI out of UC Irvine (let me re-iterate once again how super-awesome I find it, to be able to stream audio from any number of college/public/non-comm radio stations across the world. Even commercial stations, as I switch over to KSL for OTR.) I am a huge fan of radio and all it represents, especially as a community form of local and regional broadcasting. I have much to say about this, perhaps when I have some time, I'll give it a separate entry. HA! It is now the 'magic hour' - the death of 2006 daylight savings (which apparently has snafu'ed the ability to publish my blog, have to save a draft and publish later), and I get an extra hour of 'Metalmorphosis'. Hail the Lord of Dark Metal! So, tomorrow we are hosting a brunch for Rev. Steve Leyba, as he is leaving the Bay Area once again. Always nice to have guests...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Band Plays on at Carnivale

So, my band - Colossal Inertia - played as part of the 'Carnivale' at work. The whole event was very neat - entertainment, games (balloon pop, coin toss, hoop shoot, life-size Operation), food (corn dogs, kettle corn, funnel cakes). We went on 3:30ish.
The stage setup (primarily through the work and design of Aaron Florez) was great. We were playing on a half-circle concrete slab, about 15 foot radius. We populated it with 3-sided pyramids, cardboard painted black - 12 of 'em at 7' tall, another dozen at 3' tall. Then 4 stage risers, wooden, painted black with an orange swirl painted on the platform, skirted with black, and a 2' skull face in the front, with fog machines routed through the mouth. Then costumes - Aaron as a goth reaper, Linda as a pirate, me with a viking helmet, Jimmy the Rabbit. His rabbit getup was wild - an oversized helmet, wrapped in silver duct tape, with glowing eyes, and LEGO ears that clicked and spun, and also a photosensitive theremin for the nose. So, we were ready to play.
It started with a noisy bass solo. I did some slap stuff and tapping up and down each string on the Stick. In retrospect, not a very effective intro - it just didn't grab the attention. Then into an instrumental with noisy accompaniment. Crazy part of the story - after the song, Aaron jumped off the riser and sustained a foot injury (but kept on, rock hero style, more later). Then a vocal song, another with loose backing. Then a switch - we had a plan to incorporate 'bumper music' between the songs I switched instruments on, a repeated riff for a minute or so, and we played movie sound bites on top of it (played by a 'random song generator' Shockwave project Jimmy did). A little rough - I had to start and stop the generator, and sometimes the song didn't go long enough to cover til I was ready to play.
Anyway - third song - I played banjo, it was a Pirate-type shanty. Played in front of a mic, which was a bit awkward as I couldn't move too much. An aside here - this was the first time I had sung into a mic, playing simultaneously. Though my singing was one of the elements I was most nervous about, I think it came off smoothly, though it was awkward for me to keep track of everything going on - singing, listening to my vocals (again, complicated by lack of monitoring), playing accurately without being able to look at my hands, listening to the rest of the band, bantering with the audience, and keeping the whole thing on track. The audience, such as it was - afterward many people said they heard at least some part of the show and enjoyed it (doubtless enhanced by the visual art of it), but as far as I could tell there were only about 4 people at the front of the stage.
Next was a switch to guitar (had my 12/6 doubleneck), we played a heavy metal instrumental, cadenza'ing & crossing right into a vocal ballad (a la "Court of the Crimson King" into "I Talk to the Wind", or "Why Go" into "Black"). Then a punk song where I improv the lyrics, with a shouty chorus and over-hyphy guitar solo. Then a switch back to Stick, into Cave Bear (which I co-opted from my previous band, Ichabod Crane), and finishing with a 'lullaby' with a harpsichord-like ostinato and lyrics inspired by an e.e. cummings poem. I even throw a loop into a phrase sampler, and do a Theremin solo to close it out (though I must admit I screwed up the timing on this loop, and threw the drums off for the last 2 minutes of the song, ugh). La Fini.
Overall - superfun to play, and the stage setup looked supercool, but very difficult to hear each other (no monitors to speak of), and we were spaced out a bit widely - we missed cues, but kept it together and soldiered through for about 40 minutes. Really loved playing with them - Aaron Florez on guitar, Linda Bork on violin, Jimmy Maidens (there's a rock star name) on V-drums and electronics. I wasn't really nervous about performing (usually don't get any 'stage fright', I let the music speak for itself) but I was a little uncertain as it was my lead vocal debut, and as frontman I need to work on my crowd banter. I even practiced, on the commute with the set as an iPod playlist, stopping between songs to talk. Remembered most of my shtick, but I forgot to thank Carol and Chris who helped build the stage, and I forgot to introduce the band! Which would've been useful information - in the costumes, a few people actually didn't know who the playas were! So, great if inauspicious start, and we're planning on playing more! So watch for notices from me about upcoming gigs, and follow our mySpace! Photos soon too.
Oh, in the aftermath - the fall Aaron took jumping off the riser on the 2nd song was pretty serious - he broke his foot and ankle! It was swollen badly after the show, but he said it wasn't very painful, but on Monday he found out the truth. So, he'll be off it for a while, but good luck to him, and kudos for the rock-n-roll spirit!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Counting down to the band!

First of all - more mundane biz out of the way, watched the 2nd episode of "Heroes", and I must say I'm enjoying and respecting that show, if not in a huge way. Dialogue was better this week (there was much less of it, other than than Indian professor flapping his gums). But more StephenKing-like melodrama, where things play out and you discover everyone's involved in everyone else's life by these convoluted conspiracies and you hear about 2 or 3 times (though in this series - of course, these connections are the heart of the whole story). And it gets a little slow, with showing too much detail of each character's half-assed sleuthing. Almost like Unbreakable-meets a much watered down Watchmen-meets X Files not smoking weed. But tackling an ambitious story in an engaging manner, and I'll keep watching, and revising my own story to improve it.
But back in reallife, had our final big practice before the show, and helped build some set pieces for it. I'm very excited and confident that this'll be good, sounds great playing with these folks and the songs have come together really quickly. And I'm hoping that it'll get the audience to think - our set is a wide range of influences, and some weird stuff, but 'accessible'. I've got some low-level demo tracks up there, but they are super rough, complete with editing mistakes... A half-hour at my Mac, or a few tracks from rehearsal with one mic in the middle of the room. Maybe do some real recordings after the show.