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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Clapping Lady!

Legend has it that the Clapping Lady roams the South Jersey shore...inspiring musicians and audiences everywhere by being the first one to clap. Legend also has it that she can light a fire in a room just by clapping. Nobody knows when she will arrive or where she will end up. Or who her mysterious companions are.

Well, I'm here to tell you that the legend is true. The Clapping Lady exists, and I have seen her. She has Clapped for me.

So I wrote her a song:

Jah loves you Clapping Lady
Jah smile on your heart
Jah loves you Clapping Lady
as you clap the room apart

We love the Clapping Lady
she keeps it real and sane and fun
we love the Clapping Lady
She make the music come

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Now Is The Time (the time is now) hey hey rock and roll

I am going to blog regularly, dammit! My buddy Ed (Hamell On Trial) blogs all the time and while I don't have nearly the insane stories he has (I mean, I used to do drugs but when I was getting a B.A. in Stimulants he was going for the triple Ph.D in Everything) I still have awesome gig stories.

Like tonight. I showed up for the gig, moved all the gear inside to the usual place, was coming back in when the manager says "Sorry, you're playing outside." OK, no problem, it's pretty nice out, there is only 1 person outside and about 30 people inside, but I am fine with that. The manager is a great guy, and he even helps me move my gear. That is pretty much unheard of in my world.

The crowd at the start of the 1st set appears to be Latina, about 6 ladies, conversing in Spanish and it is unclear to me whether they speak English. What to play, what to play, not warmed up for La Bamba, what to play, wish I knew Chan-Chan from Buena Vista Social Club...I play Jack Johnson, Bob Dylan's "Standing in the Doorway" (such a great song), and some of my other usual warm-up material. An older couple sits down, and the patio starts to fill up. People!

Nobody is clapping though. This is pretty normal for happy hour restaurant gigs. No one wants to be the first one to clap, and people are eating. It is always helpful to bring your own 1st set clapper. Maybe I will start bribing someone! Free CD for the first one to clap. Also falls psychologically into the realm of "people don't like it unless other people say it's good". My experience is that most folks are this way.

One woman (in her 70s) claps after I play "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" (J.Johnson). She has an arm brace on her left arm. She says, "I feel bad no one's clapping for you!" I use the opportunity to guilt the table next to her into clapping ("See what you did? You made this injured lady clap her hands..."). This works ok, though the couple at this adjacent table appear to be smiling at some kind of inside joke through the whole set. I am not sure if they like my music or think I am stupid. I am paranoid (my usual response to no response).

A couple shows up in 2 motorized wheelchairs. The woman parks her wheelchair next to my PA and gets up and walks into the restaurant. Then they come out again and stand in the middle of the patio looking confused for about 5 minutes until the waitress finally takes the dirty plate off the open table next to me. It is all I can do not to scream "Will somebody help these people? For God's sake, he's in a wheelchair!!!" during the 5 minutes. They are now next to me and enjoying the music.

I take a break, adjourn to the car for hot dogs and brief conversation with the wife and little girl. Teryn asks me what happened to Chequers, my Dalmatian from when I was 5 to 7 years old. She is curious because she is playing with my old doll Furga who she has renamed Theresa. Probably because Furga isn't a name, it was the name on the box i.e. the company that made the doll. I was proud of being able to read it so there you go. Yes, I had a doll. I am a sensitive male child of the 70s. Furga especially enjoys her new name. Chequers chewed one of Furga's feet way back when. Chequers also bit 3 of my little friends and had to be put to sleep at age 2 by NY State Law. Dalmatians are not good dogs for kids, despite what Disney says about having as many as you can stuff in a room. Poor old Chequers. Linda and I tell Teryn that Daddy was little a long time ago and doggies don't live as long as people. Nuff said.

When I get back the manager approaches me, as the skies are looking ominous. He leaves it up to me whether or not to head inside right now. The sky is literally half-blue and half-grey. I pick the wrong half and say no, I'll stay out until it clouds over more. About 15 minutes later the sky opens with no warning and both managers and I scramble to get guitar, PA, cables, songbooks, and the rest inside. Big wet puddle. Guitar finish got some rain marks, but besides an odd crackling noise later from my stereo guit-cable, everything is ok. I spend the next hour drying everything off, including me. Thank God I carry a towel! I read my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, thank you very much.

As I am winding my cables and making my damp little way back and forth from the door to the "stage", Birkenstocks squishing on my feet like two little wet sponges, I am reminding myself how grateful I am to do what I do, that I am not working at a desk, and there is nobody whipping me to move faster, do more, etc. I walk back and forth probably about 20 times like Slow-Poke Rodriguez from the old Warner Bros. cartoons. That most likely all my equipment is ok, I will dry, and always go inside when given the opportunity. Not everything in the world is my fault, even though I also had two checks bounce this morning because of my own stupidity in not transferring money over. So, life is good in Wetville.

At 6:30, the gear is re-set up, I am still relatively damp but the gear is toweled off and I have a request to play "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows, which I do somewhat loudly (feeling feisty). Goes over great. My latest offer of "pay what you want" for CDs at the gig is proving to be very successful (with the average CD monies recouped working out to $5/unit), and I sell out during the set (5 CDs). Two college girls are singing along. People are clapping and it's fun. I even have to send people to my website to buy more CDs because I ran out. Good problem to have! Never expected the pay-what-you-want to be so successful. Some pay $3. Some pay $20. It balances out, and as opposed to selling nothing, I am now moving like 5 - 10 of these things a gig. Whoo hoo!

Gig ends, manager apologizes for the rain (totally unnecessary, they are awesome, and she got drenched helping me move stuff in), and I am packing up. The two girls left the CD they bought on the bar - they were WASTED when they left - and I end up reselling it to the guy who is playing after me. His name is Tug. It's his first solo gig - ever? or maybe just in a long time? - we chat and he is complimentary and asks questions about how many gigs do I do, etc. I am the veteran knight, rolling up my sleeves and showing battle wounds ("Here's where the Dragon of Sea Isle tried to bite my leg off, I ate his liver with a side of fava beans, etc"). On the way home, I listen to Sting's "Why Should I Cry For You?" over and over. The production on that song really bites the big one, there is WAY too much going on, all sorts of stupid Peter Gabriel pale imitation noises and endless early 90s synth sounds that were really leftover from the 80s, outdated even at the time - but it is one of his best tunes by far I think. The lyric is so dense and lonely ("Dark angels follow me/over a godless sea/mountains of endless falling/for all my days remaining"). That whole record (Soul Cages) is about his father dying. So TO ME on one level WSICFY is about how he will always be lost without him, he'll never recover, and really Dad has moved on to a better place so I am crying for myself and on the other level is like "You were never there for me, I have never had a real father, and why should I cry for you you bastard milkman (yes Sting's daddy was a milkman)". Joni Mitchell said that Sting was the child she and James Taylor never had. This song especially to me shows that mix.

I am thinking it is time to release a covers record or maybe a series of tracks by a few artists. This one, "Moon Over Bourbon St." and maybe one other would be the Sting one. Love him or hate him (and frankly after Soul Cages with the exception of "Fields of Gold" it is all crap), he has a kickass voice and can write a great tune when he is not looking in the mirror being amazed by being Sting. Maybe Fields of Gold, which is a beautiful, non-pretentious folk song about how grateful Sting feels for his wife and family. I might like the album of lute music, who knows. All the punks who read this (maybe the one LOL) will be rolling their eyes when I talk Sting. But punk can be equally as pretentious and most of them frankly don't have any of the chops. I know, being punk, that they "don't care"...thus the musician/non-musician war rages on and I leap between in the middle like Michael Jackson in the Beat It video ("it doesn't matter who's wrong or right").

But that is another blog for another day. Going to bed before 5 AM - Schwing! Oh and btw I am also co-writing an Internet TV show which is going to be funny, strange, and a must-see...also launching Guitar in 5 Minutes lessons for beginners...

So. How was your day, dear?