Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Take 3

These Toad Tuesdays just keep getting better. The crowd is improving, the band is improving... In fact, believe it or not, there are some aspects of playing at Toad that I flat-out prefer to club shows. It's relaxed, allowing us to get in the groove a bit more. We can play a bit more diverse material at Toad. And more and more, we're learning to rock at an appropriate volume. Rock volume. All good things.

A few co-workers showed up last night, which was cool. It's funny, though, because I had an awful day at work (and in general) yesterday prior to Toad. Then, a babbling maniac on the street told me "You don't know what real pain is." And that was that. Still, cool that my co-workers came.

We did one long set, because we started late (Matt may have left his kick pedal in Falmouth). Whatever, though. It worked out.
SET LIST (from memory): Ordinary Girls / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Madeline / The Nadir / Whitewashed / St. Anthony / There's a Reason / Research Blvd / Debts / Golden Fleece / Valley of Gold / Cedar / A Hard Rain / Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / Trouble From the Start / On the Lam / Seek Cover / Shine a Light

Anyone got photos? I've fallen behind in my photo postings...

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Close calls

Holy smokes: We're one week away from putting the audio portion of this record officially in the can -- that is, barring some unforeseen mishap. Mastering starts today, and we sit down to listen to it next Monday in Fall River. It feels good to get here, even if a little surreal, since it took so long to get to this stage. I've felt mutually unrushed and harried about this process. What I do feel good about is the record itself, which by the way, is called "Shake Down the Sun." I think it's a big step forward for us, and something we will hopefully be proud of for the rest of our lives. It's a true document of the band's progress -- whether we can parlay that into big-time success or not is the big question that follows. I guess we'll see when this thing hits the streets in September.

We're planning a fall tour. I have to get on that. Dang.

We played the Cape on Friday -- a little bar in Falmouth called Grumpie's. I had high hopes, and I wasn't super disappointed even if it was mostly empty. There were some cool locals there, we played pool, and we got an extreme 3-hour set under our belt. I'm pretty sure we played every available song, including some Neil Young covers and serious vault stuff. No set list, though, sorry.

I've been listening to an absurd amount of Neil Young lately, which is par for the course, I suppose. But absurd even by my standards. Hell, I even cracked open "Chrome Dreams II" again, before giving up after "Dirty Old Man." I don't know if this recent Neilgasm was spawned by watching "Don't Be Denied" on PBS -- a particularly unthrilling Neil documentary. The one highlight is an early TV clip of Buffalo Springfield where Neil is bouncing around all young and jovial -- quite out of character. Anyhow, what is evident, and made abundantly clear by the program, is that Neil follows the muse at any cost. I know that you have to respect a man of principle, but the whole thing makes me wonder: How can someone like that be happy? I mean, if I often feel like my work is inadequate for my ambition (which spurs me to always write more, try to improve), how can someone who is always working on their next project ever sit back and enjoy success? Not to say I'm on the same plane, or even a nearby one, as Neil. Just saying.

Another thought about Neil: Listening to the depth of his work, especially live recordings, he seems to rip himself off from time to time (which isn't particularly shocking when you've made that many albums)? You can't deny the similarity between "This Old Guitar" and "Harvest Moon" as far as guitar licks go. Anyhow, all of which makes me wonder if a performer is given as much artistic license as Neil is, can he essentially use the same song structure for multiple songs? People always like alternate versions, but it usually has some major similarity -- same chorus, verse lyrics, etc. Just something a little extra. Well, I often write 2-3 drafts of different songs which vary greatly. For example, a song called "Green & White" on my solo disc actually started as a more Dylan-esque tune called "Old Town." It's not an alternate version, it's a totally different song. But too close to use and get away with. Maybe one day I'll just put out the other version of these songs, at least the ones I like enough, and say to hell with those who characterize it as a lack of creativity. Because actually those drafts are the heart of creativity, I'd say. Every good writer knows that a masterpiece is shaped by great editing. Again, just rambling...

Toad tomorrow...

Might as well post a track list for the new record:
1. Ordinary Girls
2. Lights On
3. Golden Fleece
4. Madeline
5. Seek Cover
6. Someday Darling
7. Cedar
8. Shotgun Wedding
9. Like Secrets Beneath
10. Don't Get Me Wrong
11. There's a Reason
12. Valley of Gold

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Keeping at it

Busy couple of weeks, personally and for the band. We started our Toad Tuesdays residency this month, playing the tiny bar. We also gave the Dive a go on Friday and played our buddies, Quixote's, CD release on Sunday at the Middle East. Let's do a quick take.

Saturday, June 6: Harpoon Summer Session. I went solo (or semi-solo, since old Jeff Katz joined me for a few songs) at this show since Mike was in Texas, though it would have been perfect for the band. People were milling about, getting drunk on the tasty Harpoon beer, and looking to rock. I think I actually played well enough, which was a welcome surprise, but it was missing the excitement of a full rock show. I did get to do a Neil Young song and some old man up front gave me two thumbs up before promptly turning and walking away (presumably to refill his beer). Also, I tried out "On Our Own," which Todd called the best song I did all night. I said, it's on "It's Gonna Change." He refused to believe me. A few days later, practicing with Matt and Scott, we gave it a go and it actually sounded pretty darn cool. So maybe we can re-work the song for Cassavettes, in the same way we reworked "Research Blvd" or "Like Secrets Beneath."
SET LIST (from memory): On Our Own / Golden Fleece / Okono Road / A Thousand Ways / Comes a Time / Ambivalent Farewells / Set Free / Broken Beaten & Blue / The Rain's Not Far Behind / Til the Wheels Fall Off / You Led Me Into Your Love

Tuesday, June 9: First Toad show. We have to scale things back because the bar is so small, but it's good practice for a band not so good at controlling stage volume. Nonetheless, things picked up, and according to multiple people in front of the stage, the sound was QUITE good. That's a plus. On stage, different story. It was murky, and we couldn't tell what was what. But as long as it sounded good OUT THERE...
SET 1: Madeline / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Ordinary Girls / Golden Fleece / Someday Darling / Research Blvd / On the Lam / The Devil's Arms / Whitewashed / Valley of Gold / Cedar
SET 2: A Hard Rain / Lights On / Debts / The Nadir / There's a Reason / St. Anthony / Seek Cover / Trouble From the Start / Shine a Light

Friday, June 12: Dive Bar, Worcester. People continue to drop off in the summer, with the back patio open. We were actually supposed to play the back patio since the weather was good, but an Irish festival next door thwarted our plans. No matter. It was a good time, and people were really positive. Unfortunately, I don't have a set list for you. The only surprise was our first attempt at a cover of "Alex Chilton" (and a surprisingly good version of "Glory Son" -- a song that hasn't been hanging too well lately).

Sunday, June 14: Quixote's CD release, Middle East Upstairs. Now THIS is what we're talking about. We finally got to rock. It's been over a year since we last played the Middle East Upstairs and it felt good after holding it all in to let it all out. We played a LOUD, crazy show that felt, well, right. But it wasn't out of control (though I did mix up the last few songs somehow, and throw our set clincher off). After initially starting to, oh, about 10 people, the place filled up and everyone was dancing and grooving by night's end. Made some new fans -- also had the weirdest buyer interaction ever. These dudes bought a couple shirts and CDs and looked really pissed at me, and when I put out my hand to shake, they snickered and walked off, like a couple of badasses. But why? They just bought our CD! Quixote put on a quick, yet megafun show. Those guys rule. Good night all around, even if I had to work early.

SET (from memory): Ordinary Girls / Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / Golden Fleece / On the Lam / Seek Cover / I Come From the Water / Cedar / Shotgun Wedding / Shine a Light

Tuesday, June 16: Toad, take two. This was far better. We were slightly louder, but it made all the difference. Far more comfortable on stage, and I hope it continues to grow. By the time we finished the set, the place was at capacity, which was cool (and not cool, since Jimmy Hank, Mikey and co. got turned away). Also, some dude who saw us in Brooklyn with Superdrag told him friend that in a year we'll be bigger than Kings of Leon, so they came to the show. That was awesome. Cool guys, fun to hang with. Also, it was the first time I remember feeling like we were really hitting a groove on the ballads, and the set didn't lose any momentum. We could have played this set at the Paradise and people would have been into it, if we got the groove this right. That's not tooting our own horn -- just charting progress.

SET 1: The Nadir / Madeline / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Ordinary Girls / Lights On / Empire Central / Seasons / Six Hours / On the Lam / Golden Fleece / The Devil's Arms / Valley of Gold / Cedar
SET 2: A Hard Rain / Research Blvd / Debts / Don't Get Me Wrong / Trouble From the Start / Whitewashed / St. Anthony / Someday Darling / There's a Reason / Seek Cover / Shine a Light

Anyhow, coming up, we've got Grumpie's on the Cape on Friday (bummer: we need to bring our own PA; nonbummer: it's on the Cape), Toad again the next two Tuesdays in June, and of course the big Fourth of July campout in Vermont. Get your tickets soon. That one's going to be wild. Somewhere in between this mess, I have to move. Ay yi yi, it's looking pretty nutty.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009


First things first, I know it's been awhile and I've missed many an update. But some things are happening, starting with our nomination in the Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll for "Best Roots Band." You can cast your vote for us (against the likes of Girls Guns & Glory, Dennis Brennan, and Session Americana) by clicking here. Vote many times, if you wish.

Last night, we went to the BMP pre-party at the Middle East Downstairs, and I bumped into FNX DJ Dave Virr. I asked him if he has something to do with the nominations, and he nodded vigorously. Standing next to my buddy Emeen (of The Sterns fame, but more recently his own excellent Emeen Z Band), I said, "Then, what's the deal with the snub for my man Emeen?" He said, "he didn't put anything out this year." Neither did we, I thought, unless you count "Animal Friends." And, as Scott said, was that a "roots" album? Not to sound ungrateful, just a tidbit of our conversation.

Anyhow, I know it's been awhile since I wrote (almost a month!) but truth is, not much has happened, at least show-wise, since then. We played The Dive again, and the summer is taking its toll on the crowd SHOCKINGLY, and we played the halftime show of the Boston Derby Dames, a women's roller derby league. I didn't know much about the sport, but it is interesting to watch. Very aggressive. Matt's eyes almost fell out of his skull (to join Creamer's eyes, already on the floor) watching the gals in tiny shorts. Those are my boys. Either way, first set was a bit awkward but some kids danced. Second set, we were definitely in the swing of things and got some older dancers, and some kids, and sold a decent amount of merch. The place was a Shriner's club and had all sorts of bizarre knick-knacks, including a giant camel onstage and a giant beanpot backstage (that Creamer wanted his photo with -- I'll see if he'll send for me to post). It was a pretty surreal experience, actually.

Anyhow, now Mike is in Texas, and the band is getting ready to start a month FULL of shows, including a Tuesday night residency at Toad. We must learn to play quiet. Or reasonably quiet. Just keep our stage volume in check. It's harder than you think, especially to keep the energy up. Anyhow, by the end of this month, we should be old pros. While Mike is in Texas, I'm doing a solo show for the Weekly Dig's Harpoon Summer Session this Saturday. I did an interview with the paper (again, labeled as a "country" band -- what gives? -- even though I explained that we never really were one, and certainly aren't now), that is here (you have to download the PDF since they haven't posted the stories online as links -- we are on pages 24 and 29). Here is my clearing the air of the "country" label, the only big highlight (besides the fact that I appear shirtless on the cover and inside the article -- and a special appearance by Todd Thibaud!):

“Country is a dangerous word,” says Yoder. “If you’re talking new-Nashville country, then that’s a very singular sound. In the popular viewpoint, it’s going to be misinterpreted. Then, if you throw in the alt-country tag, that’s such a wide spectrum of music at this point that it could mean anything.” Yoder and his bandmates in Cassavettes have a different story arc. “As this band progressed, we turned into this much more straight-ahead version of rock music. We love country and all that alt-country stuff, but it’s not really us.” Cassavettes have even been recording their latest record with David Minehan (The Neighborhoods, Paul Westerberg)—a good fit, considering the Minneapolitan energy of their live shows.

Also, I did an interview with a blog in Dallas, so hopefully that gets posted soon. He asked to post "Shotgun Wedding," because (warning: explicit description follows): "That's song's rockin'. It sounds like a buncha bears rape-fighting some lions in a guitar center. Great job." Definitiely the most obscene label I've ever encountered for our music -- and worlds away from "country" or "roots."

That's about all I've got today. Vote for us in the Best Music Poll and tell your friends, if you so desire.

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