Monthly Archives: October 2011

Last Call

The last gig was a quiet, cerebral affair.  It was at a bookshop.  Necessity dictated.  But I still felt compelled to sing.   It was half restaurant style, half dancing pony.  Or talking mule.  I’m not a dancer, but when people come to see you play, you expect that they expect to see you sing and tell them stuff.  But the cosiness of the Innerchapter Book Store and the intimacy of the space made me just want to make fluid, beautiful noise.

There was a surpise crowd.  I had been hitting the Seattle open mics  and was surprised to see an interested audience member from the Q Cafe open mic.  This is an open mic run by the Victory Music people.  I only played one song at this open mic that was very well received nonetheless.  And I also had a picture drawn of me, that has become quite the treasure.  I may add it to photos when I get home, which, sadly, will be soon.

This blog is all about me and frankly I am finding it boring.  Like every other musician with a god awful website and vanity blog  I am touting myself, inflating my works, waxing egotistical about this show, that show.  I expect you to expect me to write about how good I am, and I expect you to hate that, in spite of your expectations.

What I’d like to write about is the long ribbons of dirty concrete that the bus hurtles over on its way from West Seattle to the Downtown area.  I’d like to write to you about how the cranes in the harbour preside like giant emaciated dinosaur robots, standing at attention as though they are on parade.  I’d like to write about the inky blackness of the deep Puget Sound, that is surprisingly clear when you’re up close to it, and how the deceptively placid surface of the water hides a maelstrom of chaotic, perfidious currents.  You think you can simply row from one side of the harbour to the other, but if the tides don’t get you, the iron will.  The mess of boats, cranes, sheds, dirty concrete will roll over you in its sleep and crush you like an insect.

I’d like to write to you about the mountains, and the grand old Mount Rainier, who watches over Seattle, as a constant reminder of the fragility of all this big man’s iron and concrete.  As though the Duwamish people had written into its very orogeny the message  –  change will come to you, as it came to us.  It dwarfs every billboard, every building, and makes the planes seem like gnats.  It’s a volcano, don’t you know?

I’d like to write to you about the hustlers at the bus stop.  The village of scam that bustles during the day, calling out for cigarettes.  The toothless guy that walks down from Pike Street to Union along 3rd avenue, chanting “Cigarette cigarette cigarette…” until the game of numbers falls his way and he gets a response.  He calls like a machine.  He dangles his passionless voice into the street like fishing rod into a river, ever watchful for the sign of interest, then he reels in his catch.

I’d like to write to you about the changing of the guard, as the workers and day shifters leave and the sun is exchanged for the stars (although no one would know as it all happens behind the ever-present grey shroud of the Seattle clouds) and the hustlers are exchanged for the rustlers.  Rowdy groups of raucous young people yelling at each other, all gangster and bravado.  How the crazy folk either hide away, or grow more earnest in the placations for cigarettes, for change, for jesus, for succour or catharsis.

But I am not supposed to.  This is a musician’s blog, about a musician.  It must have no insight or reflection nor  stray from the path of pleasantry.  For that may alienate.  Who it may alienate, I do not know.  But like MacDonalds, or Walmart or prime time TV, I must keep these blogs about myself, my work, my sales.  I must present to you the plainest of flavours, the whitest of breads, so the reader will buy all my play-sets and toys.

Buy all my play-sets and toys.

On the billboards and on all the sides of every bus in Seattle are advertisements for everything.  Each of these advertisements is for a different product.  A retirement village.  A mobile phone company.  A theme park.  A food stuff.  But every advertisement has one thing in common.  They have a random face.

“I use X Brand phones, they keep me talking.”  Random face

“Bread.  It’s for eating sandwiches.” Random face.  Two random faces, smiling.  (What the hell is in that bread??)

“Patriot Homes.  Living life to the fullest.  Or what’s left of it.  Now with new Memory Assist!”  Random face, old.

“Keep Cool.”  Random Face.  “Be This.”  Face.  “Keep up”  face “Get down” face.

Who are these people?  What is it about their faces that tells me so little?  What is it that makes me feel so uneasy?   Why are they looking at me like that?  Why is my right to respond to these faces denied?  I want to ask them so many things.  I want punch their noses and break their jaws.

Ah, see?  Now that is the problem.  That kind of attitude will not sell CD’s.   It’s alien.

So it’s back to my blog.  Strictly business.  I have 3 days left in Seattle proper.  I’m going to buy a T Shirt for someone special.  Maybe go to the market.  But as far as gigs are concerned, it’s aaaaaaaallllllllll over.

Thank so much every body!

Check these out:

Inner Chapter Book Store:

http://innerchaptersbooks.wordpress.com/about/

Victory Music

http://www.victorymusic.org/

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Fatal Error

Well god dammit.

 

So today I was supposed to play at the Columbia Farmer’s Market.   But I had an antipodean calendar error file not found.  My calendar dates and days have been very warped since being here due to the fact then when you fly to the USA from Australia you go through an inter-dimensional time fluctuation portal, that results in you landing the day before you actually left.

I was thinking that TOMORROW was the day of the market, and Friday was the final gig in Seattle.

Turns out this is wrong by 24hrs.

So instead of dilligently heading of to the Market to play a few hours, I decided to discover Vashon Island, have lunch there and do some practice, getting ready for the next day’s gig.

There is still a gig tomorrow, just not at the market.  It’s at the Inner Chapter Book Store on Fairview Avenue.  Check the gig list.  And if you have my number, just call me to remind me.

But Vashon Island was fun.  I took the ferry and it rained solidly.  The ferry took about 20 minutes.  I had lunch at the Red Bike Sushi restaurant, that wasn’t serving Sushi, so I had fish and chips instead.  Then I got a coffee and ran through a bunch of finger exercises and some Scott Joplin.

 

Then I came home and friend asked me how the market went.  I looked perplexed, so we synchronised our calendars and I now feel bad.

Really, really bad.

And when I get back, I’ll be arriving much later in Australia than the time it actually takes me to fly there, because I’ll be going in reverse through the Time Portal.  If I went all the way in the other direction instead of turning around and going back the way I came, I would disturb the Earth’s rotation and actually reverse local space time thus saving Margot Kidder from insanity.

 

Stretching Home

The Seasonal Gods are exchanging residences, as per the Persephone Treaty.  Seattle’s skies are grey and heavy, and occasionally leaky.  At some point in their conferencing the Gods take a break, and a little sunlight escapes and runs off with another perfect day.  But in between, Winter strikes its oncoming authority.

I have cheated winter this year, but I’m sure it doesn’t notice this one puny mortal’s irreverence.  In the two weeks I spent in New Orleans a huge Louisiana shaped hole had formed in my heart, and I have only just noticed it now, in the absence of thick, pea soup humidity.

I recall one of my hosts, Rob…

“They say Louisiana is shaped like a boot.  But you look at it again.  It looks more like a toilet.  And that’s what we is.  The toilet of the whole United States.  It all drains out through here, brother!”

And is there a more nobler profession than the shoveller of shit?  You can keep your presidents, your lawyers, your CEO’s and media celebrity.  Without the humble working man to dilligently take it all away, you’d be swimming in it, and all would be equal.  To keep your status, you rely on these king-makers.

But here I am, on the other side of the country.  The air is thin and cold.  Refreshing.

I have been attempting to hit the streets and busk a lot.  But I have noticed a definite lack of smiling compared to when I first arrived.  Maybe it’s seasonal, maybe it’s familiarity, maybe I’m just tired.  There is certainly a lot of competition on the streets.  Maybe Seattle is tired?

SO when I play, I have decided, I will not put out a tip jar or open my case.  I rarely get anything from American streets anyway.  Certainly no abuse, like back home, but also not much money.  So I’m just going to play.  Two days ago I went to Ballard and just played and played for hours.  I made one dollar, but I made a lot of people happy.  A lot of people stopped and listened.  But having my case out made me feel cheap.  Consider the lilly – does it ask for tips?  When birds sing, they may well be trying to get laid, but at least they’re not whores.

So last night, I had my Dubsea gig in White Center.  (The locals call it Not quite white, Not quite centered.  Everything in the USA is race focused.  Black music, white music, this neighbourhood, that group.  Hard to escape from it and just relate to folks.) It was a huge success.

What continually impresses me about Americans is their generosity of heart and their love, enthusiasm and need for music.  Music is a spiritual food.  This is why my country has little time for it.  We have very little spirit, really.  But it is here in abundance.  It’s hard to reconcile the openness and generosity and all-round decency of the American people with the meanness of the American government, and the xenophobic, fear-mongering right wing minority.   It’ll take some time to truly understanding how I’m treated by individuals compared with what is happening to America as collective.  But I don’t deal with the collective directly.  I deal with the individuals, and I’ll take an American audience of individual Americans over an Australian one anytime.

The cafe was packed.  I wasn’t paid for the gig, I only recieved tips.  I was hoping to walk away with maybe $20, or at worst, nothing.  But People generously gave tips.  I ended up with a lot more, and it kind of saved my bacon a bit, as I have been pushing the finances a lot.

Maybe I shouldn’t be telling you about my intimate financial details.  That’s one of those middle class taboos isn’t it?  Like, if you tell your neighbour how much you paid for your house they’ll steal it off you.  But I never understood why it was taboo to discuss money.  Or, for that matter, religion and politics.  It’s as though society has said, look, here’s some really great things, the concept of God(pty ltd), and the science of politics.  Interesting ideas, huh?  Well, shut up about them, don’t ever talk about them.  Talk about the weather.  And obey.  Look, here’s a football.  Get the ball!  Get the ball!  Good boy!!!

Nevertheless, that’s how it went down.  The people dug my stuff, they put their praise in my pockets.

I’m going to spend it on advertising the next gig.

That’s how it goes!

In the meantime, in the week that I have been in Seattle, I’ve been playing some open mic nights and just generally getting about town. Had a great jam at the Paragon Bar.  I bought a pint that took me 3 hours to drink, and nearly left without paying!  the manager had to chase me down the street.  I was ashamed.

Night before last I was at the Gypsy Music Cafe, and some of the stuff there was truly amazing.  Most folks expect very little from open mics.  But the stuff on at this night was worth paying for!  I didn’t though.  Yes, quite the double standard isn’t it?  But nevertheless, there were some awesome acts.

Something that has struck me about America too, particularly Seattle, and is also a great reflection on the qualities of Americans that I can’t stop espousing.  They let dogs in to many venues.  And also on public transport.  Hell, one guy I even saw took a cat on the bus!  Australians, while many are dog lovers, have an extreme and irrational intolerance of these creatures in public spaces.  I guess we feel threatened, like they’re going to take some thing precious away from us. I can recall once, at a Laundromat in Brunswick, I was doing some loads and my very well behaved and people-friendly dog, Boots, was just hanging out with me, lying in the sun.  He is not a big dog, and by no means aggresive.  A woman came in to the Laundromat, took one look at him, stepped back out, and called from the outside – “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE DOGS HERE!” then ran off in fear and disgust.  Boots and I just looked at each other and shrugged.

At the gypsy bar was a wonderful woman called Katherine who had a very socially well adjusted blue heeler that walked around the venue like he was a person.  No one freaked out, and he copped pats off everyone.  If he could speak, I’m sure he’d do so in an Australian accent.

And I’m sure he’d tell me –

Dude!  I moved here.  Melbourne SUCKS.  They treat dogs like shit.