Tuesday, March 29

I am a published author!

Ta-da! Never thought it would happen in the professional domain first, but what the hey.

I co-wrote a chapter in the new edition of Cost Justifying Usability, edited by Randolph Bias and Deborah Mayhew. It's a great chapter, but probably of no interest to you unless you're a usability engineer or interaction designer (or a relative with $60 to burn!) :)

Sunday, March 27

Weekends: I'm for them.

Wrote another song today (or at least the music part - no lyrics yet). It's my favorite so far. It's fun to be playing without loops again. I can riff it up and be expressive in ways that are more noticeable.

Went to the magnificent Blue Koi tonight with some friends, then watched Ron White's stand-up DVD: "They Call Me 'Tater Salad." It was pretty good. Ron seemed like he should be a character in Cerebus, what with the Whiskey and cigarettes and generally ... worldly demeanor.

I have glasses again. Last week my supposedly titanium glasses split in two suddenly! Turns out only the temples were titanium. I'm now wearing a pair of rimless Kawasaki's, which is pretty cool, but I really really liked the way my last pair looked on me. They were impractical, though. The temples went straight back with no hooks, and sometimes they would fly off at inopportune times (such as when looking down at my pedalboard.)

Tomorrow: breakfast at Succotash in celebration of Spring. (Or in celebration of Lima Bean hummus. Whichever.)


Friday, March 25

Busy busy

I am very tired. I've been basically working two jobs. All weekend I was recording demos of the new "songs with words" so I could start recruiting a rhythm section. I completed demos for three songs. Each one took about 5 hours. I was up 'til 4AM twice in a row, which set me up for a rough Monday. And this was the weekend right after the tour! I have been pushing nonstop since January 1.

Monday night I posted ads announcing my search for a drummer and bassist. On Tuesday I started to arrange auditions. Wednesday and tonight (Thursday) I played with folk, getting home at around 11:30PM both nights.

I want to really take my time during this process, which is hard for me. Tentatively, I am setting a goal of having a band gathered by the end of April.

But for now I have to sleep!

Wednesday, March 16

Back in KC

Home again. A little anti-climactic, which I expected. Steph left today for a weekend camping trip, leaving me lots of space to work on music. While writing lyrics this evening, I realized that I already have music and lyrics written for 6 new songs, and there are 3 others with music but no lyrics. All in all, a pretty solid start on the new album.

Most of the 9 songs were written in the past year, but I'm reviving a few "classics." Fans of my first band, Pedestrian Survival Jump, might recognize Callisto, 5/9 and Morning Pales. Those songs were never properly recorded, and they deserve to be.

I'm also trying to figure out the strategy for album 2, which is either:

1. record demos, then recruit a band to record the album and play it out
2. record the real album now (there are lots of musicians available to do this) then find other musicians to play live after the album is out

Steph believes I should go for option 1, as she feels I will be more likely to find committed live musicians that way. However, option 2 is appealing because it doesn't involve any waiting, which I am notoriously bad at, and I can always start playing out by myself.

I'm really not sure what to do, but for now, I still have writing to do. And I'm planning on taking voice lessons, so no time is being wasted, really.

Oh, and if it wasn't clear from my last post, the tour was awesome. I made a movie to commemorate it!


Monday, March 14

Days 9-10: Homes away from home

I'm writing from Daniel and Thi's in Pittsburgh, exactly one week after our last visit here.

We spent Friday in Boston hanging out with Deb. It was truly a wonderful time, and that's an understatement. Friday was our first day with no travel or shows since leaving KC, and it was fabulous to hang out and just watch the snow fall. That night we were honored to share Shabbos dinner with Deb and her friends. The conversation was delightful, as was the singing and the bountiful arrangement of amazing foodstuffs. Both Thursday and Friday were late late nights spent talking about all sorts of things. Magical stuff.

On Saturday we reluctantly piled into the car and drove through thick snow and slick roads to the house show in West Brookfield, MA. We met Skot and the nice folks who play in Calumet-Hecla and spent a few hours moving cars around to facilitate easy parking for showgoers in the absurd weather. Anne from Calumet-Hecla saved the day by re-sorting the show order and allowing me to play third. The set went over well and we met many nice and receptive people. We were able to load up and leave (after much slipping and lot of help) at about midnight. We made it to Connecticut by 2am and crashed at my Mom's place, which was covered with boxes in preparation for her move to Wisconsin next week. My Mom is a minister in the United Church of Christ, and she's recently accepted a position in LaCross.

On Sunday, we got up early, ate breakfast (I was shocked to see that my mom and I ordered exactly the same meal: a broccoli and cheddar omelette with home fries and rye toast) and took off for Pittsburgh. We arrived at around 6, ate a hurried meal at Sushi Too with Daniel and Thi and then headed to Garfield Artworks. I arrived after the official show start time, which is unusually non-professional of me, but I set up quickly and played better than I had since the tour kickoff in KC.

At the show were many friends from Pittsburgh, including Andrew Cuneo, former Whitford bassist. Andrew provided the usual quantity of Andrew-like news, including such factoids as "I earned more money last year playing pro poker than I did at my job" and "I'm now playing in three bands" and "I'm having trouble watching our wall of televisions because some of the remotes control more than one device and some of them conflict." Andrew is a mathematical and musical genius with very particular... ways. I really miss playing music with him. I was very amused that Thi thought he was upset or angry when in fact he was almost bubbly in Andrew terms. :)

It was also a pleasure to share the stage with the Black Spoons, who are acquaintances of KC's own Namelessnumberheadman, and Developer, who are fronted by Corey from Hovland, who Whitford played our first show with. Corey always has and probably always will write great songs, so you should check him out.

So now the shows are done. Tomorrow we eat lunch here at Spice Island, one of our favorite places, then we take off on the long road back to KC by way of Indianapolis.

I set out this year to play one show per month and as far as I can tell I'll finish with 17. I am proud of what I've done on my own, yet my mind is already moving on to what comes next... I will resume my search for a talented rhythm section when I return to KC and god willing, this time next year I'll be on the road again with a full band and a whole new batch of songs.

Stick with me!


Friday, March 11

Day 6-8: Spectrum

We've enjoyed quite a range of experiences over the past few days.

Tuesday morning we woke up at my uncle's in Brooklyn, then drove into the face of a fierce snowstorm on the way to Philly. The temperature dropped from 60 the day before to 19. In Philly we settled at our hotel, then went to the Manhattan Room, which is nothing at all like Manhattan. The show was mostly not worth mentioning due to a variety of factors, with one notable exception - the attendance of COJO, art juggernaut and my best friend from ages long past (like 17+ years past.) Steph and COJO and I spent hours talking in the aforementioned nothing-like-Manhattan Room, while lost in the expansive Philly slums, and finally in a cool all-night diner near the bizarrely immaculate Rittenhouse Square. Many ideas were exchanged and it was great to catch up. We didn't get to sleep until 5am.

On Wednesday we woke late, ate dinner at a fabulous restaurant and hit the road for Ossining, NY to visit my aunt. After having shows on 5 of the prior 6 nights, it was great to take a rest and spend time with family. We played a killer game of "I doubt you" with my young cousins Emma and Gabe (you might know this card game by another, less kid-friendly name) and then went to sleep on the early side, but not before listening to some of Pete's beautiful guitar compositions.

On Thursday we drove north to visit my grandmother in Millbrook, NY, where I also played a (very quiet) concert for the residents of her senior citizen's community. It was refreshing how well-received I was, though I was amazed at the range of questions I was asked ("so were you teething with a guitar?" "you have to tell us what's going on - we have no idea what you are doing up there.") Above all, it was agreed that I needed a short description of my musical style. I settled on "loop music."

After the concert, we hopped in the car and drove north on the lovely Taconic Parkway to I-90, stopping at an amazing Diner that rose from the twilight like Emerald City about 10 miles south of Massachusettes. A diner is not really a diner unless it serves two things - 1) a greek salad (which I never order) and 2) a malted milk shake. Anything less is not a diner. This was a diner, and a clean, sparkly one at that. The waitress was really sweet and over-run and we ate an amazing portabella wrap with sweet potato fries and, of course, a malted vanilla milkshake. (Actually, we ordered vanilla, but were brought chocolate by mistake, then vanilla when the mistake was noted without our saying anything. Like I said - great service!)

Finally, we finished the drive to Boston (Cambridge, really) and are now partying hardy with our dear friend Deb, who is wonderful and refreshingly bombastic. We went for truly crap ethiopian food (Addis Abbaba in KC is still the best ethiopian I've ever had!) and then to a teensy bar called River Gods that was covered in rubber snakes. Now Steph and Deb are chillin' in the kitchen while I blog, and later we will watch Ed Wood movies until we fall asleep. Life couldn't be much better.

Rock on!


Tuesday, March 8

Day 5: NYC

Hello sports fans! Today we spent our breakfast hour walking around Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. We stopped in front of our old apartment and other historic Kates/Toth landmarks. Then we hopped in the car and drove 7 hours to NYC. For lunch we ate pizza at a random place outside Allentown and arrived at CB's Gallery at 6:15, well ahead of schedule. Around 7 my NY/NJ family and friends (my mom, aunt, uncle, Chris, Alley ane Anne) arrived and we went to dinner at an ALL-VEGETARIAN restaurant called Kate's place. ALL-VEGETARIAN restaurants are great for me and Steph, as we are vegetarians, but they are also somewhat torturous because we are accustomed to only being able to eat one or two items on a standard menu, and the full range of options perplexes our feeble brains (atrophied from lack of protein, don't you know.)

After dinner I rocked the gallery. It was great to see everyone and the set went well, though I had to drop a song due to time constraints. Then we went to a combo tea shop and bar, which is a brilliant concept, and I had soy hot chocolate with a Croissant. Now I am chilling in my uncle's house in Brooklyn, and tomorrow morning we will meet our amazing friend (amazing like Ice Man or the Human Torch) Anne once more for breakfast in SOHO. Then it's on to Philly to play at, of all places, the Manhattan Room. No matter where you go there you are!

Oh yes, also - my website is stragically NOT AVAILABLE at the moment due to domain registration issues. My web host (iPower) has been absolute crap in sorting out the problem in a timely fashion. This is obviously bad timing, as all of the attention I'm getting through these shows shoud logically lead to web hits... or routing errors, as the case may be.

Sunday, March 6

Day 2-4: Reader's digest

A tour can be pretty intense, perhaps too much for those with a mild or tempermental constitution, so I have decided not to bombard you with so-called "daily updates." Also, I am rudely ignoring a game of UNO at my dear friends Daniel and Thi's house, so I must hurry and combine several days worth of tour hijinks into one massive, amazing blog entry.

Day 2 - We leave Kansas City for Des Moines two hours late. The trunk is massively overstuffed and I am concerned, as I force a dufflebag in with a crowbar, that I may be damaging the car's rear speakers. Sure enough, 10 minutes into the drive, the stereo dies with a massive burst of static. This isn't good considering that we have about 48 hours of driving ahead of us, but we elect not to cancel the tour. :)

The Des Moines show rocks. Vaudeville Mews is a great venue with a beautiful bar. And no smoking! Sword of Exactly are fantastic as always and I am also impressed by Autumn Project. In general, the welcome is warm and the show goes well despite the fact that I butcher the first song of my set. Sword of Exactly are super awesome and let us crash at their house, and Joe feeds us cookies and very sharp cheddar cheese. We watch aqua teen hunger force. Then we sleep in Weston's room, which is the color of tangerines.

Day 3 - I manage to fix the stereo, which makes us very happy. At Joe's recommendation, we eat breakfast at a super-fine, super-busy diner place called the Waveland Diner. Then we drive to Chicago, where we check in to the super trendy and totally weird "W" hotel, which I have booked using freebie points. It's very swanky and I feel like a total fraud as I stumble out of the car with my shoelaces undone and fail to tip the valet who parks our car for the princely sum of $40/night!

The hideout is hands down the single coolest venue I have ever seen. I will post photos when I get back to KC. Amazing crowd, amazing bands. Early risers are incredibly energetic and spanky. Gabardine is very melodic and lyrically mesmerizing. Ryan, the guy who runs sound and books shows, is extremely nice, as is everyone else. The response to my set is very positive and I really hope to come back soon. After the show we go back to the hotel and sleep for 6 hours, before rising early to leave for Pittsburgh.

Day 4 - After spending a total of 18 hours in Chicago, we are on our way to PA. We eat big yummy overpriced omelettes at the "W" because everything nearby is closed. This will put an end to our hotel experiences until Philadelphia on Tuesday. We drive the 8 hours to Pittsburgh stopping for lunch at a random Chinese place out by the airport in Toledo, Ohio. While there, Steph and I conduct the first of what I hope will be many Point and Counterpoint interviews. We arrive in Pittsburgh at about 8, with three hours to spare before we need to be asleep so we can get up early to drive to New York. We eat dinner at Mad Mex, one of our favorite restaurants from our college days, with the aforementioned awesomes Daniel and Thi. Now we are back at their place and I have to stop typing so I can watch the Simpsons.



Friday, March 4

Day 1: Kansas City, The Brick

The tour got off to a fantastic start tonight. Lots of friends, co-workers and new acquaintances in an unusually-packed (for a Thursday night) Brick. I played well and there was a great vibe in the room. It was fantastic to have so many people I care about there to send me off!

The night was not without hiccups, the most significant of which being a last minute line-up change that had me taking the stage around 1am Friday morning instead of 11pm Thursday night! Thanks again to all of the stalwart folk who stayed despite having to work the following morning. You know who you are.

Today's edition of the Iowa State Daily includes a cool feature about me.

Now to bed! And off to Des Moines on the morrow.

Wednesday, March 2

Tour kickoff!

I begin my northeast/midwest tour tomorrow, Thursday the 3rd at 11pm at the Brick in KC, MO. From there, it's on to Des Moines to play with the amazing Sword of Exactly. Here's the complete tour schedule:

Kansas City, MO
Thursday March 3, 11pm
The Brick
1727 McGee

Des Moines, IA
Friday March 4, 10pm
w/The Autumn Project, Sword of Exactly
Vaudeville Mews
212 4th St

Chicago, IL
Saturday March 5, 9pm
w/Gaberdine, Early Risers
1354 W Wabansia

New York, NY
Monday March 7, 9pm
CB's 313 Gallery
315 Bowery

Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday March 8, 9:30pm
w/Grey Star Morning, Failed Alliance
The Manhattan Room
15 West Girard Ave

Brookfield, MA
Saturday March 12, 6pm
w/Calumet-Hecla, Malibu Heights, The Rain Design, Jon Bobbit Experience
The Bummer House
281 West Main St

Pittsburgh, PA
Sunday March 13, 8pm
w/The Black Spoons
Garfield Artworks
4931 Penn Ave

I will be blogging as often as possible to keep everyone informed of the goings on!

This is the first time I've ever done something like this and I am tremendously excited. I am well-rehearsed, armed with new songs and I can honestly say I sound better than I ever have. These should be great shows! Hope to see you on the road.

All the best,

Jesse (and Steph!)