Last August I treated myself to a Canon T3i digital camera before Robin and I left on a 17 day epic road trip to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I have always had a camera of some sort through the years but never anything I would consider more than a point and shoot except for when I was taking photography classes. When I was taking classes (almost 20 years ago) I was shooting black and white film and developing it myself in the darkroom. It was fun and creative but I was unable to really get out and explore with the camera so things were limited in scope.
Treating myself to a modern DSLR camera and a couple of different lenses last year really sparked my creativity again. It didn’t hurt that we spent a bunch of time in Yellowstone National Park where you can see something amazing everyplace you turn but it also got me excited about taking photographs again.
I have spent the last 15+ years in high tech jobs and the last 7-8 really focusing on making it my career. I don’t have any regrets on that but it did come at the expense of not allowing much room for creativity in my daily life. Picking up a camera lens has rekindled that creative fire in me and is helping me to find a better balance between life and my career.
Sometime in the past few months (I’m not really sure when) I have made the switch mentally from thinking that I take a few good pictures to thinking that I am a pretty decent photographer. With that in mind, I decided to get a SmugMug account and create a site featuring my photography. You can find the site at the address:
I will post future pictures at that address and will no longer put them here or my Flickr page. I hope you enjoy the new site and let me know what you think.
I don’t know what it is about this bridge but it keeps me coming back time and time again. This was one of the final shots I took on July 13th as I was walking back to my car and it is one of my favorites. The sun had already come up over the city but this part of the bridge was still in silhouette and it made for a nice stark image.
I had the pleasure to meet John Densmore today and he was very gracious and friendly. His latest book “The Doors: Unhinged” is about the period in the mid 2000′s when his former band mates took off on a money grabbing tour calling themselves The Doors while having Ian Astbury sing and Stewart Copeland play drums. It is a real interesting tale about artistic integrity in the face of greed and pressure. I highly recommend you check it out.
The music of the Doors were a huge influence on me musically and it was a cool thrill to get to meet John today.
This August I successfully finished the most complex IT project of my career that lasted over twelve months. I wont go into the details of the project but if you really want to know, you can read about it on my LinkedIn profile. It was many months of working long hours and multiple weekends to complete it. Two things kept my sane through all the stress and madness: One was the amazing support of my lovely girl Robin the other was a constant stream of music keeping me going. I decided to write about some highlights from the last six months of my listening habits:
I Am Sam Soundrack – Somehow I missed this album when it came out ten years ago. Some really amazing Beatles covers by the likes of Aimee Mann, Eddie Vedder, Paul Westerberg, The Black Crowes & Nick Cave. This was in constant rotation on my iPod for many months.
Purgatory Hill & Seasick Steve - I really got into Cigar Box guitars and various bands that play them after hearing Purgatory Hill come up on a Pandora mix I made called “Swamp Blues”. I knew I recognized Pat MacDonalds voice from Timbuk3 when I first heard him sing and that lead me down the path of Cigar Box music and minimalists blues.
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Crushed Out – Want to Give- A few years back when my nephew Devin was getting married to his wonderful lady Gillian, they asked us if we wouldn’t mind given their wedding musicians a place to crash while they were in town. Little did we know at the time how they would quickly become friends and that they would stay with us each time they pass through the west coast. Frank and Moselle may have had to change their name from Boom Chick due to some legal hassels but that has not diminished their amazing art in any way! I’ve been fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of their new release from them and I’m even more impressed than I was with their debut. Their new album has great musical echoes of familiarity without being derivative in any way. There is some balls out rock and roll, killer surf music riffs, dirty blues and a quiet ending song that gets Moselle’s voice on lead for the first time. I’ve been listening to the early demos and the final mix throughout the year and I can’t wait to see them live next month when they hit Portland again and have the album available for everyone.
Lee Morgan – What a perfect way to test a new set of speakers than to crank up The Sidewinder and let it rip?
Blunderbuss – Jack White – Jack Whites new one lasted for a few weeks in rotation. Some good originals and an interesting cover of “I’m Shakin”
Hate To See You Go – Little Walter – Such an amazing harmonica player and such a voice. Have this one from a vinyl rip with the pops & all, it just adds to the magic.
Sam Cooke, Ike & Tina Turner, Bill Withers – I’m a huge fan of Soul music but somehow I never really paid more than passing attention to Sam Cooke, Ike & Tina Turner or Bill Withers. I’ve changed that over the past few months
The Pearl Sessions – Janis Joplin – Janis in the raw of the recording studio laying down multiple versions of the Pearl tracks and talking between them. A pretty cool insight into the history of this historic album.
LA Woman (Workshop Sessions) – The Doors – Similar to the Janis release, this release of the Doors final album with Jim Morrison contains many alternative takes of the songs. LA Woman and The Changeling are two of my particular favorite different versions. I’m a huge fan of the Doors but I take their multitude of releases with a grain of salt. This is one of the standouts of the bunch.
Tender – Wax Fingers - My friend Inger is a phenomenal photographer and you should really follow her blog. A post she wrote about pig kidneys had me curious about what sort of music such a band would produce. I picked up their current EP and have been playing the hell out of it ever since. Take the good part of the 80′s alternative with the albums of Depeche Mode and the Cure and mix in some Syd Barret era Pink Floyd and you have an inkling of what it’s like. Inger even directed the first video for the single Bauhaus. The EP is less than a cheap breakfast and well worth a listen.
Roadcase 001 through 009 – Wilco - Wilco has been releasing live soundboard recordings of this tour on their website and I’ve been consuming them. Wait, is that number 10 that I see on the site? Gotta have them all…
Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang & Quinn Sullivan - I did manage to catch one concert this summer with my buddy Mark. Johnny Lang was supposed to open the show but he had travel problems. In his place came a 13 year old guitarist named Quinn Sullivan who started playing with Buddy Guy and BB King at the age of 8. I have to admit I was skeptical until he started playing. Pretty amazing talent. Buddy Guy came on after about an hour and played a short set that although good was not anything extraordinary. Johnny lang showed up about 90 minutes into the show and from that point on the show went to a whole new level. For the next hour we witnessed a blues jam between these three musicians as they played whatever they felt like at the time. The most memorable part of the night for me was when they started playing Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and after the first verse, Buddy Guy stepped up to the mic to sing again and instead said “Ah fuck it, I just want to play!” and they did the rest of the song as an instrumental. It was an amazing night of the blues in the open air at the Oregon Zoo.
I’m a sucker for slide guitar players as well as the sound of a steel guitar being played. Combine the two of them and I’m a happy music lover. Lincoln Durham makes me very happy.
I first heard his music on a Pandora Blues / Americana mix I made. His voice and playing immediately caught my ear and made me take notice. I picked up his four track EP and it has been a constant presence on my iPod ever since I bought it. Recently he has released a full length album “The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones” and I’ve been playing the hell out of it.
My favorite track so far is “Love Letters”, the guitar riff is mesmerizing. This version is acoustic compared to the version on the album:
If you enjoy the blues at all, I highly recommend you pick up his album.
He is based out of Austin and I can’t wait for him to tour the Pacific Northwest so I can see him live.
I went to see Emily Wells in January at the Doug Fir with my friend Heather. Unfortunately I’ve seen better shows by her. This was my fourth time seeing her and each time has been a unique experience to watch her create violin loops live on stage. This time she was pretty infatuated with adding a sort of tribal drumming to her songs and not much violin at all. I enjoyed the show but it seemed rather mundane for one of her shows. I like the new songs and have heard her do them live a couple times now but this time the show was just sort of ordinary. I’m all for artists trying new things and she definitely was doing that but I just didn’t personally like it. Her new album comes out on April 10th and I’ll pick it up for sure, I’m just not sure how soon I’m going to see her live again.
Last wednesday night marked my fourth time seeing Wilco live and wow, what a show it was. The show had a large mix off of their latest album “The Whole Love” but they played something off of each of their studio albums as well as some obscure tracks during the evening.
The opening three songs were a bold and wonderful way to start the show. They started with the slow burn opener of “One Sunday Morning” transitioning into “Poor Places” that starts so innocently and then breaks into sonic chaos at the end transitioning right into “Art of Almost”.
“Via Chicago” & “Bull Black Nova” were another great back to back pairing and there was a pretty funny moment right at the start of “Born Alone” where there was an issue with a guitar and the Jeff had to fill in for a couple of minutes. He made some comments about “Portlandia” making fun of the town on TV and almost danced a bossanova.
Things picked back up again with a seven minute version of “Impossible Germany” that was absolutely divine. The solo by Nels Cline on this version was much more controlled that his past performances. Hopefully he was saving himself some neck pain this time around compared to his stunning performance in Mobile Alabama:
His solo this time was much more controlled but still rode the edges of his signature chaotic guitar sounds.
As amazing as the opening three songs were (especially finally getting to see them perform “Poor Places” live), the highlight of the evening for me was hearing their acoustic arrangement of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” half way into the show. I have many recordings of Jeff Tweedy performing this song by himself on an acoustic guitar but I’ve never heard the band do it that way. My most memorable moment from the first time I saw them at the Edgefield in 2007 was the twenty minute version of Via Chicago and Spiders that blended together. It blew me away to hear them both stretched out and merged. Hearing Spiders so stripped down was a whole different kind of thrill in itself.
The second half of the show was a pleasant mix of old and new with songs from their latest as well as their first few albums. I personally didn’t enjoy the middle section of the encore when they played the rather obscure tracks “Just a Kid” and “Kicking Television”. Compared to the rest of the set these choices seemed out of place and a broke the flow for me. This is a minor complaint compared to the rest of the show.
The whole evening ended with the quiet sounds of “The Lonely 1″ and it was a perfect bookend to the show opening. All in all, it was a great solid show from my favorite living band. I just hope it doesn’t take them another two years to come back to town to share their art.
Setlist for Feb 8, 2012 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR
Art Of Almost
Bull Black Nova
Can’t Stand It
War On War
Box Full Of Letters
Dawned On Me
A Shot in the ArmOuttasite (Outta Mind)
Just A Kid
The Lonely 1
2011 was absolutely the most amazing year of live concerts that I have experienced in my life so far. I have been going to shows regularly since 1982, this August will mark 30 years of attending live concerts so when I make that statement, I do not make it very lightly.
I saw a lot of Punk and New Wave shows in the 80′s and some amazing artists like The Police, The Dead Kennedy’s, Black Flag, Oingo Boingo, The Cure & PIL.
In the 90′s my shows were all over the spectrum and I saw a lot of diverse acts like Neil Young, Buddy Guy, The Black Crowes, REM, U2, The Pixies, Social Distortion, X, Peter Murphy & Pearl Jam
I mention this history because in the 29 years I have been going to concerts I have seem some amazing gems through the years as well as some pretty bad ones as well. In all that time, I cannot recall a single year that I experienced so many amazing shows in a row.
My 2011 concert year kicked off by seeing some riveting blues by John Hammond with Robin and our friends Mark & Nikki. He was actually the opening act and we left after he walked off stage. No sense sticking around for what would have been a letdown compared the the amazing show we witnessed for sixty minutes.
A short while later Mark and I saw Robert Plant and the Band of Joy which was a long time wish of mine. I was too young to see Led Zeppelin tour but I still got chills watching Robert Plant on stage.
Bill and I saw Wynton Marsalis play some incredible Jazz to a very welcoming crowd in Portland at the Schnitzer Concert Hall.
A week later, Robin and I saw the first of two absolutely phenomenal shows just one month apart. The first was Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt just singing their songs and telling great stories. The second was Gillian Welch & David Rawlings touring with their first new album in almost a decade. Those two summer shows firmly cracked into my long stable top five best concerts of all time list. I am still stunned at how incredible these two acoustic shows were last summer.
The August sunshine and the zoo combined for two great back to back shows of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Imelda May. Big band swing and kick ass rockabilly at their finest. The end of summer came with a very fun show by CAKE outdoors at the Edgefield.
The fall kicked into place by seeing Boom Chick come through Portland again and Frank and Moselle stayed with Robin and I at our house. Boom Chick have really grown in their art over the last year and I love the new music. They were kind enough to give me an advanced copy to their new songs and I enjoy them even more than Show Pony which I didn’t think was possible. I can’t wait to see them live again soon.
Robin and I finished the year off on December 23rd by seeing Brian Setzer perform some serious kick ass rockabilly and fulfilling a life long goal of ours to see him live. He did not disappoint and I’m glad I pushed through my fever I had to see what was an absolutely perfect book end to such an unique and incredible musical year.
2012 is starting out with Emily Wells next week and Wilco next month so we will see if it can live up to the last 12 months.
I love Rockabilly as I’ve already written about and The Stray Cats were my first real exposure to the genre. Last night, Robin & I got to see an absolutely amazing performance from Brian Setzer fulfilling a long time dream of both of ours. This was no bloated 80′s revival tour, this was two solid hours of kick ass rockabilly and I mean kick ass. As Robin said to me with a huge grin on her face in the middle of the show: “SMOKING!!!”
These guys were on fire coming out of the gate with some killer riffs and booming beats that just kept going. There was only a brief pause or two and a quick acknowledgement of the crowd. You could tell these guys loved playing music and they were having a ball. The action did not stop until about 50 minutes into the show when the bass player and the drummer quietly left the stage and Brian slowly played to a stop. He switched out his guitar with one that he said he bought when he was 17 and playing in the Stray Cats. He slyly said with a big grin “If I’m going to play some Stray Cats songs, I better bring out another Cat” and out came Slim Jim Phantom the drummer from the Stray Cats. They played a set consisting of their hit songs and some rockabilly classics and they sounded perfect.
Throughout the night, musicians (Two Bass Players, Two Drummers, One Piano Player) came on and came off as the songs progressed. It was a Rockabilly rave up and the crowd was loving it. There was a dueling bass players bit towards the end where the two very enthusiastic players were having a slap off. They were joined at the end by Brian playing a stand up bass himself and for a few minutes the crowd was treated to three stand up bass players making music together.
Brian Setzers Rockabilly Riot show was loud, fast and we loved every single minute of it. It was a perfect way to end what has been the most memorable year of live musics that I have ever had.