In no particular order…
Favorite gigs of mine:
1) The Starry Plough, Berkeley, June 10. A gig which I drove to feeling incredibly uncertain about and unprepared for, and which wound up being one of the most enjoyable performances of my entire life. More of those (or at least the second part), please!
2) House concert in Chatsworth, October 17. A lovely home to play in, great people to play for (including old college acquaintances who hadn’t seen me play in several years, as well as a gentleman from Switerland in town to film part of an Echoplex documentary), and two full sets (a first for a solo gig), including some very successful debuts of covers by the Police and the Stone Roses.
3) The Fishtank, Oakland, June 12. Being an unannounced act sandwiched between the Fishtank Ensemble’s virtuoso balkan-gypsy fusion and Brian Kenney Fresno’s Zappa-meets-Simpsons onslaught should have resulted in a nervous breakdown, but the audience was uncommonly supportive and receptive.
4) Level One, Los Angeles, August 17. Another intimidating musical sandwich (this time between slices of Chris Opperman and Mike Keneally), another serious case of pre-gig jitters, and another unreasonably relaxed and enjoyable performance for me. Bonus points for Keneally performing the most surrealistic set I ever anticipate seeing in an upscale dinner club (or most anywhere else, for that matter.)
Least favorite gigs of mine:
1) Fais Do Do, Los Angeles, June 10. The headliner loaded their gear to the front of the stage (through no fault of their own) as I opened my set by playing my most delicate and sensitive piece. My cable fell out of my guitar in the middle of another song. In my closing piece, I played (and looped) a B major chord in a tune which was all too clearly in the key of B minor. It was my first LA gig in a real venue in over half a year, and seven people showed up to see me, six of them well after I started playing. Not my finest hour.
2) Any of the spring shows at The Equator, a coffee shop in Pasadena. It’s a very cool spot if you’re there to hang out and drink coffee, and the shows were very kindly offered to me by my friends Daren Burns and Koorosh Daryaie, who I shared some bills with. But (through absolutely no fault of theirs) the vibe of the space and the clientelle (none of whom were ever there explicitly to see my play) left me feeling like a cryptic madman howling into the wilderness. “Bonus” points for being the first LA gigs after coming back from a very well-received East Coast jaunt.
Strangest gigs of mine:
1) Makor, New York City, January 28th, opening for David Torn. Minutes went by like milliseconds to me, I felt like I blew it almost from the start, and my life probably flashed before my eyes at some point. But everybody I talked to there claimed to seriously enjoy my performance. I guess that’s better than me loving it and everyone else hating it…
2) Colony Cafe, Woodstock, New York, January 29th. A freezing cold night in a tiny town in upstate New York. A beautiful old building with way too little heating and way too much echo. A half dozen hardy souls showed up to see me anyway, and witnessed a very odd, subdued, sparse, and strangely enjoyable show.
3) Level One, August 24, with Special Opps. I agreed to sit in with Chris Opperman’s rock band, without any prior rehearsal, without having played any music with Chris (either live or in a practice room) for about two years, and playing my Reverend Avenger TL guitar (a very amazing but rather unforgiving instrument) live for the first time ever. I’d agreed on two or three tunes I’d play on prior to the gig, but when I got there Chris kept suggesting more and more tunes, which I kept agreeing to. The next thing I knew, I was on stage for the entire gig, which I spent feeling like I was hanging on to the back of a speeding truck, my feet flying in the air behind me while I clung for dear life. I ended up getting some of the best comments I’ve gotten from any gig in ages, and Opperman plans to release the entire gig as a DVD. Go figure…
Most humbling moments:
1) Setting up and organizing a gig for an act at the last minute when they had no other shows in town, going to the spot a few days before the gig to post flyers, playing an opening set at the gig, and then feeling the blood drain out of my face during their set when they used my on-stage movements as the punch-line of a joke told to the audience in-between their songs. Maybe I need to chill out, or get a better sense of humor… and/or a set of on-stage restraints.
2) Leaving the Looper’s Delight mailing list after nearly seven and a half years of membership, amidst an ugly backlash against my contributions, which were described as amounting to little more than arrogant, long-winded self-promotional tirades of dubious worth. Silver lining: my best, most consistent, and most well-recieved solo Echoplex gigs ever started happening after I left the list.
3) 30 minutes into my set at Makor, during my second attempt at talking to the audience, being loudly reminded that there was, in fact, actually a microphone right in front of me, that I might choose to talk into, so that the audience could, like, hear what the hell I was saying. My first audible remark (that actually drew laughs from the crowd, thank God): “I’m sorry, we don’t have [microphones] in LA…”
Most sobering moments:
1) Any time I visit my father’s grave. It puts a great many things (including almost everything I’ve written about in the previous sections) into some much-needed perspective.
2) Turning 30 years old.
3) Realizing I’d played the same (highly unusual) guitar for nearly half of my entire life, and subsequently learning about different types of guitar designs, materials, and electronics… a mere seven years after earning a degree in guitar performance.
4) The morning of November 3rd.
5) The ongoing realization that music (much like life in general) is like a road that gets perpetually wider and more diverse the further I travel down it. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, and never will know; even as I make “progress,” I grow more and more aware of how little that amounts to.
6) Thinking about how much amazing music by other people I’ve stumbled onto purely by chance or word-of-mouth recommendation, and how much more amazing stuff I’ll never hear for lack of finding out about it.
7) Realizing that a huge amount of Internet life and culture is an echo chamber, filled with countless factions of people banding together to hear their own ideologies bounced back at themselves. People spewing hatred, offering emotional support, or forming romantic connections, with folks they’ve never met in person. And projecting their innermost fears, desires, and thoughts, in a quasi-reality TV manner, to potentially any random stranger on the face of the Earth with a working web browser.
I put this epiphany to use by… um, starting an online journal.
Various things that brought some much-needed joy into my life:
1) Tha Ali G Show on DVD. If there’s a funnier three hours of material available for viewing by human beings, I don’t think my body could withstand taking it in.
2) CDs and gigs (by other folks) that rocked my world: Amy X Neuburg, Residue and live at the Starry Plough; Dominic Frasca, Deviations and live at Trilogy Guitars; Jesca Hoop at Temple Bar (and on CD); Rebekah Jordan live at the Temple Bar; Kevin Sandbloom at the Derby; the Evangenitals, Fascinoma, and Douglas Kearney at Hotel Cafe; David Torn at Makor; Mike Keneally Band at the Baked Potato. I’m too lazy to put links for these folks in, but please Google ’em – worth a listen, every one of ’em.
3) The electric guitar, which I re-discovered and fell (back) in love with like never before.
4) Last and absolutely not least: the family, friends, and listeners who I’m blessed enough to have in my life. Which includes you.
So thanks for listening, thanks for reading, and please stay tuned…