Saturday, February 24, 2018

Crow Crash Radio-Adobe Books, San Francisco CA; 2/23/18

A cold, clear night in the Mission had Crow Crash Radio posted up with Psych Rock stalwarts Dire Wolves at Adobe Books, along with Toronto's Picastro.
In planning for this show, drummer Sheila Bosco and I had decided that, on account of the very limited space of the shop, we'd back line. Sheila graciously offered the use of her bitchin shimmery old Ludwig kit from the 1960's. It's always tuned well, always a joy to play, so, naturally, I was fine with that.
Crow Crash Radio cooked up a 30 minute set, made up of about five pieces. We strung the first three numbers together, the highlight being a really spare, Blues-ey version of Bob Dylan's One More Cup of Coffee. That was fun to play, as are most Dylan songs. Also cool for me was a zippy take on Streets of Bakersfield, our tribute to Buck Owens.
All in all, it felt as though our set had a good pace along with well executed changes in dynamics. A couple of biffs, here and there, but for the most part solid. Guitarist Geoffrey Alexander told us that we "set up a vibe"; I'll take that as a compliment, especially after his fired up six string ass kicking during Dire Wolves set.
A fun night of music and books. Just like the last time I played at Adobe, I found more unread Burroughs. Coolness.

Below: Oyster shell Ludwigs; Crow Crash Radio melding (photo by Sheila Bosco, thanks Sheila!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Crow Crash Radio this Friday in SF!

Crow Crash Radio will play at Adobe Books in San Francisco this Friday!
Fri. 2/23/18
Adobe Books
3130 24th St.
SF CA 94110
Crow Crash Radio
Dire Wolves
7:30 PM
Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Jack Hertz/Mark Pino digital release up at Acousmatique!

From our gig in January! Stoked!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Elevated Mantra-Beyond Baroque, Venice CA; 2/17/18

This trip down to Venice had been set up several months ago. After doing a duo gig with Will Alexander in SF in August, we had quickly set up a plan to perform again in Venice. I'd been chomping at the bit for it, too. I put in quite a bit of practice, playing along to recordings of Will reading his works, in order to keep his rhythms close in mind. I wanted to be prepared in any and all ways, especially after getting confirmation that trumpeter Bobby Bradford would join us.
As I hit Los Angeles, I was wishing that I'd prepared a better map: instead of taking 405 to 10, I inadvertently took 5, thereby having to cut across downtown for a few extra miles. It being Los Angeles, this added at least an hour to my drive time. Thankfully, with the aid of Google Maps and some straight up chaotic driving, I managed to find the small room that I'd rented for a few days, right off of Lincoln Blvd. in Venice.
Having spent an evening and subsequent morning walking around lovely Venice and Santa Monica, hitting the beach/boardwalk area of the former, and just loving the always active vibes of Los Angeles, I manged to get over to Beyond Baroque in the later afternoon for a set up/rehearsal with Will, Bobby, and bassist Lester McFarland. This was a fascinating and tremendous experience in and of itself. Talking ontology with Will Alexander, Bobby telling stories of Charlie Parker, Lester giving me some of his story: just great. It was instructive to watch Bobby's method of rehearsing. He kept things chill, as Will and Lester warmed up. Not a lot of pushing, more listening and getting the sense of how everyone was approaching their sounds. I can't say enough just how valuable this time felt to me.
The music started a bit after 8PM, with a nice-sized group of people filling the lovely little Beyond Baroque theater space. The place is a 50 year old institution with a really storied line of participants. They've kept their poetry workshop going for that entire span of time, a fact that I learned in the introductory portion of the set. Will began by reading excerpts of his wonderful, strong and always thought provoking work; Bobby played little comments with his horn, after which Lester and I joined in. I was able to relax and leave spaces as the words and sounds began to build up their interaction. Will concluded his reading and moved over the piano, the instrument with which he is deeply enamored with. To paraphrase, he just gets really happy when a piano is nearby. Will commenced to leading the group into an extended mantra form, playing modal chords around which Lester added his bass tones. Lester is able to move around in an improvisational manner and yet stay constantly grounded. Bobby took solos with hit trumpet, sometimes using a mute. He played so melodically and free. I definitely focused on keeping the volume level appropriate for acoustic instruments. I wanted to play with as much interaction as I could. As such, brushes and mallets were utilized a lot. It seemed as though I was able to blend with the great sounds that were emerging from all around me.
It seemed as though the quartet were able to develop a cohesive improvisational set. At times it felt to me that the flow was really strong, that all players were focused on developing a whole group dynamic. Will spoke of consciously not planning, of letting things unfold how and why they must. I certainly got lost within the music. Hopefully this does not mean that I projected not being present or responsive. Our set could have lasted ten minutes or two hours: I have no idea. I really did go to another place. Such a good time.
After the music, Bobby took the floor for a talk. He had great, colorful stories of Ornette Coleman in the early 1950's, of his aesthetic philosophy, and of his deep roots in Blues and Gospel. Mr. Bradford also gave great, frank insights into Black vernacular and its connections to Jazz and improvisation. Will also had plenty of memories and stories of Jazz in Los Angeles: I know that I have to find more recordings of Sonny Clark.
Such a wonderful evening! It's my hope that my playing was up the challenge of sharing a stage with Masters such as Bobby, Will, and Lester. These guys have been delivering the aesthetic goods for decades. Many thanks to them and to the incredible staff at Beyond Baroque. This one will be resonating with me for a while. So good, so good.

Below: Will Alexander, Lester McFarland, and Bobby Bradford in rehearsal; Elevated Mantra gear

Above: Will, Bobby, and Andrew Choate in discussion, so many great stories and insights to be had
Below: Will and Mark

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bridge of Crows live videos up!

Many thanks to Bill Russell for filming and uploading.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Playing in Venice this Saturday!

I will be playing drums for a quartet put together by Will Alexander, this Saturday, 2/17/18.
Aural Diamonds In Motion
Beyond Baroque
681 N. Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90291
Really excited and working hard to have my stuff together for this show!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Recent shows roundup

Surplus 1980-Lucky Duck Bicycle Cafe, Oakland CA; 2/9/18
Walking from my car to the Lucky Duck Bicycle Cafe, I noticed that a huge swath of downtown Oakland has been razed. Looks as though it's going through the same changes as SF. I'd guess that in a few years, it'll be highly unrecognizable to the likes of me. You can't stop change, I guess. Lucky Duck is a chill spot, filled with custom type bike gear, zines, and good food. I hope that they make it! As for Surplus 1980's set, it was nice to have H.L. Nelly back on board for the bass duties. We started with Temporarily Present, which felt grooved and groovy. I only had one tiny little flub, otherwise, it rocked. We did good, a passable version of Morale Is High, with its Prog-ey changes, hot, fast versions of Failure Of Commitment and 99 Is Not 100, and, for me, a tad bit sloppy Question After Ended Question. There's something about the latter that keeps making me clam at this one spot. Vexing! That said, it felt like a fine, energetic, and focused set. Many thanks to Chalie, Chiromancer drummer, for providing the back line kit.

Below: Moe! and Mel soundcheck, Moe!'s guitar
Above: lovely, booming drums
Below: Surplus 1980 live at Lucky Duck Bicycle Cafe (videos by Bill Russell, thanks Bill!)

I was happy to be involved in two sets for KZSU's Day of Noise. What a great event. I listened and watched the live stream for much of the day, too. Such a fine roster of really creative people. Just a real pleasure to be involved.

Ear Spray-KZSU, Stanford CA; 2/10/18
Ear Spray was back to a trio for Day of Noise, with Ann continuing her electric cello quest and Carlos and bass guitar and electronics. I kept things simple with a snare drum and two small cymbals, rocked with mallets and screws. Our set seemed to me to have some really good, interactive chatter. All three of us seemed to be listening and improvising in a good way. As is usual with Ear Spray, we hit some freaky moments; those are always the most fun with me when we play. I enjoyed getting loud and demonstrative with my rig, but I guess at that point Ann had a hard time hearing what she was doing. Sorry, Ann! I had fun rocking out though!

Below: Ann O'Rourke with her beloved cello; Carlos sets up his rig
Above: Noise snare drum!
Below: Ear Spay video

Ruminations-KZSU, Stanford CA; 2/10/18
Ten or so hours later, I was back inside of KZSU's basement studio for Ruminations' set. The ever-shifting lineup of Rent and I's group also had Tom Djill, Gabby Fluke-Mogul, and Heikki Koskinen on board. Quite the line up I'd say! We were all-acoustic, which had me deciding to stick mainly with brushes, mallets, and thin sticks. This approach seemed to work, as I was able to hear everyone as they played. Tom kept me honest on that point with some very quiet muted trumpet, which sounded sweet and dramatic. Heikki got great tones from a huge recorder, Rent paired his PVC slide flute with multiple reed power, and Gabby strummed and bowed with gusto. A few times during our mostly meditative set, I felt a bit lost, but we seemed to make some good transitions from space to space. I felt like we got an intimate and thoughtful sound going. We were ruminating!
Such a pleasurable way to end the day!

Below: Rent Romus, Tom Djill, Heikki Koskinen (that's a Power Trio!)
Above: Gabby Fluke-Mogul and me (photo courtesy of KZSU Facebook page)

Bridge of Crows-Studio Grand, Oakland CA; 2/12/18
The end of a busy weekend found me at Studio Grand. Sadly, there was not much art up on the walls as per usual.  Bridge of Crows were joined by cellist Lenny Gonzalez. It's fun talking with Lenny about mutual experiences and impressions of Virginia, a state that we both fled earlier in life. As for our set, we had rehearsed three tunes: Desert Road, Spirit Aligned Truth, and Villa d'Ornette. All of them are Blues-based Harmelodic numbers, and, as such, require me to play some pretty straight grooves. This is fine, as it supports the interaction of the melodic voices of the rest of the group. We seemed to hit some pretty solid rhythms. I felt pretty rockin' on my small kit, anyway! I had a bit of a tough time hearing Kersti's alto sax, but Mika's thick chords, Eli's bass and Lenny's cool pizzicato moves came across. After about forty minutes of trance, we stopped and made way for the amazing Architect/Enchantress. What a great improvising orchestra they are! Huge clouds of sound. What a fun night of music!

Below: Bridge of Crows muggin'

All in all, it was a great, exciting weekend.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Upcoming shows!

Another busy weekend coming up!

Fri., 2/9/18
Surplus 1980
Lucky Duck Bicycle Cafe
302 12th St.
Oakland CA 94607
also on the bill will be Inward Creature and Chiromancer

Sat., 2/10/18
Ear Spray
KZSU Day of Noise
90.1 FM in the SF Bay Area
Ear Spray 10AM
Ruminations 8PM

Mon., 2/12/18
Bridge of Crows
Studio Grand
3234 Grand Ave.
Oakland CA 94610
9:30 PM
also on the bill will be Architect/Enchantress

Friday, February 2, 2018

End of January 2018 Roundup

Along with taking some time to compose my thoughts re: last weekend's musical activity, I also caught that nasty flu virus that's been knocking so many people out of late. Needless to say, I haven't had the energy to do a damn thing. If anyone is paying attention here, that's my excuse.
That said, without further ado......

Cartoon Justice-the Pit at KFJC
Los Altos Hills, CA

After driving around the incredibly ritzy downtown area of Los Altos, the familiar sight of KFJC, in the funky older part of Foothill College came as a relief: its piles vinyl and worn carpeting, although probably not nearly as glamorous, are certainly more comforting to me. Cartoon Justice assembled promptly at 8PM, and by 10PM we were rolling through our set. We'd agreed upon a somewhat brief 45 minute set, which launched from a 22 beat pattern that we've been cooking up. This all started somewhat skittishly, but a decent groove seemed to emerge from it; from there, we headed into our more Free Funk oddness, wherein things got good and crazed and weird, especially from Kersti's woodwinds. Things felt well-spaced and good to me. Cartoon Justice seems to always find our way within these small sketches. After about 35 minutes of trap drumming, I jumped over to waterphone, which Mika then processed along with his guitar sounds. Our set ended on a quiet note. Driving home in the cold air, I listened to DJ Naysayer as he interviewed Mika about the weekend's impending Hardly Strictly Personal Fest in Oakland......

Below: Cartoon Justice set up in the Pit

Hardly Strictly Personal Post Beefheart Music Festival
Temescal Arts Center, Oakland CA
Above: Crow Crash Radio working things out

My HSP 2018 experience started with Crow Crash Radio on Friday night. It was cool to be at Temescal Art Center, a space that I'd never played within before. I can see why people like it: central location, nice floors, and pretty good acoustics. Crow Crash started our set with a typical version of Beefheart's, Plastic Factory. Typical, in that we used the basic riff for the song, after repeating it a while and setting up a groove, as a launch pad into our theremin and guitar driven improvised Country Rock. The set seemed to flow very organically, flowing for a good 30 minutes with cool jamming that seemed to come from active listening and playing together.  The slow Blues melt of Skip Town felt especially satisfactory to me.
The only bummer about this Friday night was the fact that some addict (presumably) smashed the rear quarter window of my car while it was parked up the street. Nothing stolen, but, damn, what an expensive annoyance. In talking with various people on Saturday, it turns out that I'm just part of the club. Ah, well.
Above: broken glass, and it ends with a swift kick to my ass
After scrambling to switch vehicles at home and an attempt to triage what felt to me was simply fatigue, I got back over to Oakland and Temescal Arts Center for Saturday's proceedings of HSP. My musical work began with a crazed set from ebolabuddha. I started off on Utopia Synth and a reading from a favorite Chic Comic Book (the one that disses the Pope). Things got boomey and noisy very fast, with Steve and Lorenzo's guitars blaring away and Weeks making a great racket with his alto. I switched to drums and got some satisfactory Free Jazz moves in, pounding away in what felt like an intricate bit of drum speak. Jade almost got naked. Not quite Hickey yet, but close. Not sure that Hickey ever paired soap with their nakedness, but Jade paired some with his semi-naked stage self. Another kind of rude set from ebolabuddha. We should have a tape out this year if all goes as planned.
Cartoon Justice was joined by CJ Borosque on soprano sax, Aaron Levin on drums, and Jaroba on baritone sax for our set. We played a reprise of the 22 beat phrase from a few days previous, which lead into some very warm large combo feels. The extended horn section really rose up: they played very well together. At times, their lines were just greatly unison in strength. I played a tiny kit: snare, hat, bass drum, cymbal. I stuck to simple beats and support, while Aaron flailed away on his bigger kit. I was happy to let him do the lead drums voice while I was more supportive. This was probably my favorite of the sets that I played at TAC.
Above: ebolabuddha and Cartoon Justice as drawn by artist Russell Ward (courtesy of the artist, thanks, Russell!)

I stuck around for some incredible music from the likes of Ben Goldberg, Karl Evangelista, Joshua Allen, Tom Weeks, Tom Duff, and Aaron Levin before heading over to the Starry Plough for the evening's Surplus 1980 gig.....

Surplus 1980
The Starry Plough
This gig was a pretty emotional one for me, as it was Moe!'s last one as a drummer for Surplus 1980. His tendonitis has gotten really bad in one hand, enough so that he'd rather not use it for drumming as much. We have a plan for the situation, to be revealed later. That said, I was a bit sad that that dynamic will be lost. We had to rely on somewhat older songs, as H.L. Nelly was not able to play the bass for the set. Dependable Steve Lew filled in nicely for her. We started with a cover of John Cage's 4'33, and that was duly enlightening. It's tough to manage almost five minutes of stage silence, but we pretty much did so, aside from a few chirps of feedback from a guitar. After a minute or so, the audience seemed to get what we were doing, and fell in pretty much silent with us. Interesting. We rocked good versions of Failure of Commitment, Question After Ended Question, and even revived a Mark E. Smith tribute song, MES Shoe Contact, which we hadn't performed in two and a half years! Moe! blazed on drums during the latter song. I made a few gaffs, but the energy felt right. A solid set with some stumbles, especially during 99 Is Not 100 for me, but a fine way to end a long day.

Above: old mates Moe! and Steve
Below: Surplus 1980 live (photo courtesy of Thomas Scandura, thanks Tom!)

About the time that I arrived back home in Richmond, I realized that I was coming down with the flu. Ah, well, at least I kept it at bay until after the music ended.