Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good memories

A quick check-in during this busy, bustling holiday season! Mike is stuck in the bayou, so it's a good thing that we didn't book another New Year's show (though it was not really in consideration after last year's fiasco). But let's not harp on that.

Now is the time for looking back fondly and we can reflect on 2008 as a good year that brought us many good memories -- and perhaps most important in the long-term, a trusty manager. We also headlined the Paradise (and played there with the Toadies!), played New York City with Letters to Cleo, and opened for the Allman Brothers and Bob Weir & Ratdog at the Comcast Center, lest not we forget gigs with Superdrag in Philly (we were named one of Philly's top live shows for it) and Dr. Dog in Harvard Square. The band also recorded and put out a live album, "Animal Friends." Mike got married! Personally, I finally recorded my solo record (which I just picked up yesterday -- I am holding a CD release party at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge on January 22). So all in all, it was a great year. I hope you all had good ones, too.

As far as 2009 is concerned, it'll be good: we're starting a new record this week, planning a tour for March (starting that today, though a few dates are set), and just hoping to take that next step. Let's check back in a year on that one.

Anyhow, to wrap it all up, why not go with an interesting little item out of Ryan's Smashing Life. During an interview with Jesse Malin -- conducted before our show with him in November, but posted now -- Malin makes a little mention of the band (we didn't realize he even knew our name). And Ryan adds in a humorous "editor's note." Enjoy!
RYAN: That's great. What kind of stuff do you typically find yourself drawn to?

JESSE: For now, there’s a lot of great stuff I like. I love Wilco and Spoon. Like I said before, The Hold Steady. Just a lot of great stuff that continues to come out. Music’s in a great place. The industry might be all fucked up and scrambled, but I still think people are creating great stuff. I like stuff that’s really expressive and about freedom and individuality, and also characters that are on edge—that aren’t afraid to go down with the boat. Like the character in One Flew Over the Cuckcoo’s Nest. I always loved Tennessee Williams’s novels and his plays, from Streetcar to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Things that are tragic but that have hope. Cassavettes movies—the band that’s opening tonight, Cassavettes are their name—characters that are human and real, and even though there’s so much darkness around, there’s still some light at the end of that tunnel that keeps you going. “All right, well, we’ll stick around for a while on this planet and make the best of it.”

Editor's Note: Boston's Cassavettes are an incredible band.

Incredible? Well, gee golly. Thanks Ryan! Happy New Year to all!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mountain men

So after some light debate over driving conditions, the band decided to drive up to Burke Mountain, Vermont, yesterday for our gig at a ski resort. These ski shows are sweet for a few reasons: 1) Vermont is cool to look at, 2) they pay well, 3) they put you up for the night, and 4) they supposedly give you free skiing, though we have yet to make good on that offer. But we just may get our chance yet: before we played a single note last night they offered to bring us back for back-to-back days with skiing and accommodations. Got to like that, eh?

The drive wasn't terrible yesterday. It was cold, and snowy, but the roads were good. What would be a three-hour drive stretched out to nearly four and a half, but we weren't rushing, either. Upon arrival, they fed us and treated us kind, despite a grueling load-in haul up two flights of stairs. My only problem was that apparently the show was heavily promoted, yet no one really showed. A couple families were there, and were good to us, but it wasn't like what was promised. Either way, what are you going to do? We played a solid two-hour show with very few mistakes, and just had fun throwing out tunes.

At the end of the set (or what later proved to be), I invited one of the audience members to take a guitar solo. He had auditioned at Berklee earlier in the day, and he led the other guys through a 10-minute blues jam. He had skills. But when I went to finish the set, he kept going. And that's how the night ended. Eventually, all the members of the band were watching other people playing our equipment, including the sound guy on lead vocals. Again, what are you going to do? That's just the kind of night it was.
SET LIST (from memory): The Nadir / Research Blvd / Someday Darling / Madeline / The Devil's Arms / Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / St. Anthony / Trouble From the Start / Seek Cover / Six Hours / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Golden Fleece / Ordinary Girls / Debts / I Come From the Water / Cedar / Like Secrets Beneath / Long Blues Jam with dude auditioning for Berklee

Anyhow, the drive back to Boston today was the worst part (actually, the worst part was that I had to work upon getting back). The roads were sludge, people were crashing, we were sliding, and it took over five hours with no real stops. Not exactly the charming winter wonderland that Vermont can be.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The snow must go on

And so must the show. And it did. Unfortunately, it was a bit closer to Creamer's estimate of 40 folks than my high hopes of people trekking through the snow, and we had to drive about 15 mph there and back, but we had a good time nonetheless.

Amazingly, Age Rings commuted all the way up from Hanover to play a solid show, so we slid over and gave them the last slot. The flip side was that I personally wasn't quite ready to get onstage that early, so my performance was sloppy, to say the least. But Tom Jewitt wandered onstage in his underwear during our set (and I THINK he attempted a rap over "Madeline"), and after that, no one seemed to notice any drunkenness from us. The coolest part of the set for me personally was when I was using a beer bottle to hit the stops in "Cedar" and looked over and Scott was doing the same thing with a drumstick. Serendipity?

Anyhow, I can't imagine a group of bands more fun than these guys. Not only are they some of my favorite groups around, but they are just all-around nice guys. Quixote is a young band on the rise that we'd like to spend more time with. Rogue Heroes are a destructive mess of men. And Age Rings is pound-for-pound the best band in Boston, by my count anyway. That's how a holiday party should be, though. A night well-spent with good music and good friends as the snow falls outside and keeps away more of your good friends. OK, we could have done without the keeping away part, but all in all, what more could you ask for?

SET LIST: Voodoo (partial a cappella Godsmack cover) / Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Madeline / Golden Fleece / On the Lam / Seek Cover / Cedar / Shine a Light (feat. a terrible, quiet mouth harp solo by Casey Hackett)

For a video of this show, consult this later blog entry.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Who cares about snow?

It's not snowing now, but I'm afraid to tempt fate by taunting it. In one of those little bizarre twists of bad luck, the year's first major snowstorm happens to be prepared to fall on the night of our last major show of 2008. They are expecting over a foot here in chilly Boston, and we are expecting to rock tonight anyway. Who cares? Creamer fears only 40 people will show up tonight, but I have faith. We'll see who's wrong. Unfortunately, he's an "expert." Whatever that means.

Here's what the Phoenix says about the show in their 8 Days a Week feature (ironically, that's how many days Matt works per week. Coincidence? I think not):

Fresh off playing a Letters to Cleo show at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC, salt-country rockers CASSAVETTES return home to headline one juggernaut of a holiday bash that includes AGE RINGS, ROGUE HEROES, and QUIXOTE, at Church, 69 Kilmarnock St, Boston | 8 pm | $10 | 617.236.7600 or

Either way, we're going to have a great time. We're playing well right now and sounding good and ready for the record. Are you ready? F the snow. Come on out and spread some holiday cheer.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A joy to get

Years ago, when I was just starting at The Globe, I wrote an email to a columnist I admired. He had written a particularly poignant piece and I just wanted to tell him how it resonated with me. Sure, it was a bit strange being so honest about rather personal feelings with a stranger, but at the same time, I felt he would understand. After all, he had connected with me through his writing; perhaps I could connect with him in my praise. Anyhow, I'll never forget the response I got; I thought it was so elegant: "Hey Glenn, that's an extremely thoughtful note, and one that was a joy to get." Obviously, there was a bit more to it than that, but I kind of liked the simplicity of that message. It was neither judgmental for my stepping-out-on-a-limb note, but also appreciative.

Now the roles have reversed, and the band is on the receiving end of a note of praise. This floated into the email from someone who saw in NYC on Thursday:
Was great to meet you guys at the Bowery! I admit I came for LTC but you guys were a great surprise. I bought both the CD's you had there and have been playing them nonstop. I also downloaded "It's Gonna Change" again on iTunes because my fracking CD drive crapped out and I couldn't get it transferred to my iPhone.

I used to be a college radio DJ for a few years and I think I have a pretty good ear. You guys are gonna make it.

I considered stealing the columnist's response, as to convey the proper message that I certainly couldn't, but alas, I spoke it from the heart. What an amazing note to get, though. And yes, it was a joy.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Top awards

I've always said that awards don't mean much to me. If the audience cheers, isn't that enough? Who needs something that basically says a panel of folks like you? Awards are nice, but they are mere decoration and acknowledgements of other successes. Nonetheless, if I had to choose, the one award I really want for the band is something acknowledging our live performance.

Well, this is a start: Bag of Songs, a Pennsylvania-based music blog named Cassavettes one of its "best live shows of 2008." Considering I doubt they were at our show at The Fire (since no one was there), I'm guessing they saw us play with Superdrag (who also makes their Best of list) at Johnny Brenda's in April. And that was a good show. Remember?

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Something to write Cleo about

Playing music is fun. I mean, yes, it's work and it can be disheartening and even angering sometimes. But the point of playing music -- the point of seeing music -- is to have fun. When music stops being fun, it shouldn't be made any longer, plain and simple. That's not a particularly large concern of mine.

We're having a lot of fun. Getting up in front of the crowd last night, I had fun from beginning to end. Whether it was playing in front of 500 people last night in New York City, or even the 10 or so we had the night before in Worcester, it's just exciting to go up there and play. In some ways, I'm so comfortable onstage at this point that it almost is like I'm playing music for the first time, all over again. I no longer think about what I need to talk to the crowd about or anything like that, it just all kind of rolls off my tongue and often doesn't make sense. That kind of excitement is refreshing. As for the music, it doesn't stop being fun playing with your friends of course. We played pretty well the last couple nights, not our best, but far from our worst. A couple mis-steps aren't going to keep me up at night (that is, presuming I ever sleep at night again -- we got in at 5:30 or so this morning).

More than most gigs, I love the opening slot for a band people are legitimately excited to see. I know a lot of bands compete for these gigs, but few actually relish them -- they may get the inaccurate idea that the audience is only interested in listening to the headliner. Winning over a crowd on the road can be the BEST FEELING in music -- it's like beating Starfox64 for Scott or something. That again isn't to say this crowd was bowled over by us, but the general reaction was positive. Some folks near Fritz were anxious for us to finish so that Letters to Cleo would come on. Hey, if I were in that person's position, I'd probably feel the same way! We were just out there, hoping to entertain folks, have a few laughs -- that kind of thing. And you know what? That's fun. And that's the name of the game.

SET LIST: Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Madeline / Golden Fleece / On the Lam / Nothing On You / Cedar / I Come From the Water / Shotgun Wedding / Ordinary Girls / Shine a Light

We actually ran quite a bit under our allotted time last night, so we could throw in a couple extra tracks. Luckily, we had played the Dive Bar in Worcester again the night before and done a similar two-hour set last weekend. So we were on our game.

The Dive Bar was not as full as the last time, and they didn't pass the hat, but I did eat a really good hotdog and we had some fun with the locals, discussing "cut women and how to get 'em." What more could you ask for from Worcester?
SET 1 (by memory here): Nothing on You / Research Blvd / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / Madeline / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Seek Cover / Don't Get Me Wrong / The Devil's Arms / Bad Luck
SET 2: Lights On / The Nadir / I Come From the Water / Someday Darling / Cedar / Shotgun Wedding / Shine a Light

Next weekend, it's Cassavettes' holiday bash with Age Rings, Rogue Heroes, and Quixote at Church. Are you in? Do you need more incentive? OK...IF we get an encore at our holiday party next Friday (if, that is to say, not to be presumptuous and just expect an encore), I declare that we will do a long-standing cover that we have never unveiled. Perhaps we'll even get some on-stage acting. Hopefully the cover doesn't separate us from the crowd too much, if you know what I mean. So, there's something to look forward to.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Entourage barrage

I feel like I haven't had a good sleep in days. Last night, I exercised for the first time in a week -- and got cut off after 15 minutes. These aren't complaints; rather, they are mere side effects of the band's busy life over the past weekend. Not only did I work six days last week, but I went straight from work to a gig Saturday night, and we haven't stopped since. Sunday, we recorded, then Matt and I stopped by the Boston Music Awards. Monday, it was work then fixing the van then schmoozing at the Letters to Cleo reunion gig in Boston (we're playing the one in NYC). Today, it's work, then practice. Tomorrow, it's work, then a gig in Worcester. Thursday, same deal, but the gig is in NYC with Letters. This is good. Busy is good.

The show on Saturday was well-received by 3/4 of the band. Since it was at Scott's place of employment (sort of), he was inclined to declare he'd never do such a show again. Apparently, we were bothering people, according to him, which was quite the opposite of what I saw. To me, it was a chance to hone our chops and make a little cash. Mission accomplished, end of story, in my opinion. Anyhow, we'll see if it happens again. It wasn't announced and it wouldn't be next time, either. It's just something to keep us in playing shape.
SET 1 (off the top of my head): The Nadir / Research Blvd / St. Anthony / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Madeline / Golden Fleece / Seek Cover (debut) / Trouble From the Start / I Come From the Water / Don't Get Me Wrong
SET 2: Lights On / Debts / There's a Reason / Whitewashed / The Devil's Arms / Cedar / Shine a Light

Recording on Sunday went great. Dave is tough, but an insanely nice guy about it all. We really are trying to make the tracks heavy and rocking, with a solid base. That requires some very sturdy beats from Matt, who is baring the brunt of the criticism at this stage. Fear not: we will each have our day of being nitpicked. Besides, all this can do is make us better players, and when we finish the record, hopefully we play the songs better than ever. We wrapped up basics (which may or may not be used) on three songs: "Golden Fleece," "Madeline," and "Lights On." Now, we take a month off and officially hit the studio on January 3, with Todd in tow. Highlights of Sunday at Woolly: I laughed at The Onion so hard that I cried (living up to its name); Mike played a $15,000 guitar; Creamer showed up in his outfit from spin class.

The BMAs were like this: I got shoved by Donnie Wahlberg (or someone in his entourage, according to Matt); we snuck backstage when the security guard unbelievably left his post (like a movie or something); Matt called Jordan Knight "Jordan McKnight" a few times and now denies it; Matt called Rob's wife "hot" unknowingly; Creamer stuck a cheese puff up his nose to impress Matt and then ate it. Also, GGG won two big awards and we're quite proud of them.

Last night was awesome. I'm psyched about playing with Letters to Cleo in NYC. I've never been familiar with their catalog, but they haven't missed a beat, by my measure. They sounded tight as hell, and they rock really hard. We'll be a good fit with them, hopefully. I'm looking forward to it.

And with two ski trips on the horizon and Cassavettes' holiday party on December 19, there's plenty more action to come.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Keep on moving

Things are nuts at the moment. For a couple weeks there, I was updating like never before. And then... bad habits come back to haunt you. I fell out of the blogging habit for a bit. Attribute that to business.

Mike and I got together earlier this week to go over the notes we got from Todd on our songs. Most of it is fairly positive, though Todd isn't inclined to the rock stuff a whole lot, and certainly not the jammy stuff. There might have to be some compromises on both sides of the fence, but that's how these things work, anyway. At practice last night, we trimmed and tightened where we saw fit in a number of songs -- "Lights On," "Madeline," "Nothing On You" (soon to be retitled), "Golden Fleece" -- and most of it works pretty nicely. For the first time in a long time, the practice felt truly productive. As Scott said, it felt like we were actually working toward making a record for the first time. That's good, considering we start in, oh, four weeks or so. Still, there's plenty to be done, but I'm feeling good about it all.

On Sunday, we head to our chosen studio to lay down some scratch tracks -- to feel out the place more than anything. We don't expect to get any keepers, but you never know, we might. The band is at a good place to lay down some songs and the songs noted above, in trimmed fashion, are a good starting place for demos. The others still need some work (though some don't -- "Don't Get Me Wrong," "There's a Reason," and "Someday Darling" are pretty much there apparently. Maybe we can post some of these roughs as we go along and get some feedback on the new material.

In the midst of all, we're playing a number of shows including a private party tomorrow, The Dive Bar in Worcester again on Wednesday, and NYC on Thursday with Letters to Cleo (that show, by the way, is starting to get some blog love, and we're getting a few mentions, like here).

Either way, busy is good. It means progress (most of the time). I'm feeling like the band is getting where it needs to go, which is, by all measurable counts, the next level.

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