2020 Can Go Suck It

2020 Can Go Suck It 

So far, 2020 is a year when I can’t see people I love, when I can’t hear the music live that I want to hear, when the world is falling apart at the seams, and when tyranny has become the rule of the day. 

A year when the resurgence from winter into spring was stymied because we were stuck inside to keep ourselves from dying or from spreading a virus to others who might die. A year when summer has been spent behind window glass glancing outside – not a baseball game to be seen, not a swim club to be enjoyed.

It is a year in which a man tinted Easter-egg-dye-orange tries to define reality through the warped lens of his own imagination. And his imagination wants to take us to a dark, dark world.

It is a year in which pandemic has become a word that is part of our everyday lives. 

It has become a year in which I have memorial services to attend, and I don’t know when those memorial services will take place, or if they even ever will. People who were dearly close to me are gone, and I don’t know when or if we will ever have the opportunity to come together to celebrate their lives.

Here’s my tally-

  • An icon taken by glioblastoma 
  • A mentor taken by Covid
  • A friend taken – again – by glioblastoma 
  • Another friend (and boss), taken by a tragedy I don’t and likely won’t understand 

A year of mortality. 

A year of confronting the temporary nature of everything. 

A year of learning how each moment is a gift, and the next cannot be taken for granted. 

A Farewell to Kings

Today, right now, is August 1, 2020.  That’s five years since Rush played their final concert ever at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Tonight we’re watching Time Stand Still, the documentary from that tour and of its final shows. 

It’s a good thing to do. A worthy thing to do. It brings back good memories of years gone by – of getting together with dear friends and going to see and hear great music together.  

And I hope that it’s also a reminder that we will do so again, and that there are friendships yet to be forged and memories yet to be made. 

Sometime. 

Somewhere. 

-Chris

The Bestest Music Stores….

Wow. Been a little time between posts here, but thank you for sticking with me.

There has been a lot going on both in my day job and with just the stuff of day-to-day life. As a result I have not done as much of this kind of writing as I should like to, but rest assured there’s a lot of music that I’m going to want to share with you.

Both “In a Minor Key” and “Clouds” are in the final stages of mixdown. Terrance has been doing incredible work with these tunes, making them pop in ways that I hadn’t really appreciated they could. I am really, really excited to share them with you, and we will do some kind of a formal release in the coming weeks. I will post details here when we are ready.

I was thinking just yesterday about how the ability to pick up a guitar and play, write, and sing for people has been such an incredible relief during this period. 

I was also thinking back to when I was learning to play, and the things that both sustained me, and also could very easily have caused me to stop. I was thinking of this in the context of what has happened to music stores over the past 20 years, and I began to wonder a little. 

Some dude’s receipt from Manny’s. Explains a lot.

Those of you musicians who know New York of old know that 48th St. between 6th and 7th was where all the guitar stores were. I can think of at least seven, including Sam Ash, Manny’s, Rudy’s, and the aptly named We Buy Guitars.  Now of course I used to go there as a teenager and stare at the guitars all the time (“Hey kid – got a credit card? Gonna buy…. anything?”), but somewhat later I had the fortune (misfortune?) of working at the corner of 6th between 47th and 48th for about six years.

Sam Ash of Old

You might or might not be surprised at the change in a sales associate’s demeanor when you walk in wearing a tie rather than as a 16-year-old long-haired kid. 

And I guess that’s my point because let me give you a contrast:

There’s a fabulous music store called O. DiBella Music on Washington Ave. in Bergenfield, NJ.  It’s the kind of place that my Jewish not-quite-my-grandmother would refer to as haimish. Now over a hundred years old, the store was very much a neighborhood tradition, and they knew their clientele.

My 16-year-old self was their clientele. 

16-year-old me did not have a car, so I would pedal the 6.2 miles from my house down to DiBella to shop for, lust over, and occasionally buy musical equipment. There was never any snotty question out of anybody running the counter, and in fact exactly the opposite. Tons of encouragement, tons of help, tons of questions answered.

One particular summer day, I rode all of those miles on the bicycle down to the store and purchased this little beauty. An early 80s Gibson “The Paul” that has been with me ever since. 

My One.

By the way, I did not buy a case that day. I carried that guitar by its neck while I pedaled the 6.2 miles back home. 

The guitar has been through a lot. It’s been dropped on 89th St. in Manhattan, had its headstock snapped off, and repaired – ironically – at Rudy’s Music Stop on 48th St. – and oh my god it is still my favorite guitar. It feels fabulous; it moves air like you wouldn’t believe. The action is wonderful. And if there is anything that truly defines my tone, it’s that guitar. 

So, is Sam Ash still on 48th St.? Does Manny’s still exist? No. 

Is O. DiBella still going strong in the original location?  Oh hell yes. And I cannot thank them enough for the support and good advice they gave a 16-year-old kid.  

Be safe. Rock on.

-Chris

Recording, and Being

Greetings everyone. It’s the end of another week, and the beginning of yet another. I cannot express to you how happy I am that I’ll be taking vacation time at the end of this week. Also, there are at least two new songs that feel like they want to be written. I plan to work on those as well as the approximately 8,243 other songs that I have in various forms of semi-completeness. Three days of work should allow me to finish them all…

This is… easy?

Terrance sent me the first remixes of “In a Minor Key”a few days ago. The new mixes are just absolutely wonderful. He re-envisioned these songs in ways that I hadn’t quite thought of, yet capture their spirit beautifully! The new punch and clarity of In A Minor Key made me really see how I could give still more to the song by recording the vocals in a much cleaner way. Just spent three hours today doing exactly that, and I am so excited to hear the final product!

One of the things that occurs to me, though, is the difference between the songwriter’s experience and the fan’s experience of a song. A songwriter lives with a song as it evolves from the initial germ to the point of recording and beyond, including varying interpretations in performance. Every performance is different, every night is different. A song is like a child: born full of potential, growing into itself over time, always changing.

However, fans very often have cemented in their minds the one performance that is captured on tape or the recording that they play in their bedrooms, cars, and phones hundreds upon hundreds of times.

For the musician, it is one song, but taking on thousands of lives as it is performed over and over again. For the fan, it is one performance, played thousands of times. 

Anyway, all of this is by way of telling you that there is new music on its way, and quite soon. I can’t wait to share it with you!

-Chris

Burnout

Sometimes life gives you clues in the form of subtle metaphors. Other times it delivers them with blunt force. 

Tuesday was one of those other times. 

My computer monitor had been acting strangely over the previous couple of days – suddenly shutting down, but responding to turn back on, and then turning itself off again 20 minutes later. Tuesday morning, it shut down again, so I turned the monitor off and then on — only this time the monitor didn’t turn on. Instead it released the puff of magic blue smoke that we all understand to be the spirit of the device leaving for electronics Valhalla. 

Burnout affects us all, I suppose. 

Feeling empty

I’ve been running way too hard and way too fast, particularly with work. I’m going to take a few days off from work next week and I’ll use that time to focus a little more on music. Terrance and I spoke earlier today, and he’s well along on the first of the remixes. I’m really looking forward to sharing some of this music with you soon, assuming nothing catches on fire before then.

-Chris

Four in a Week (Live Music, Recording, etc)

If you’re wondering why it’s been a little while since there has been a long blog post, it’s because we have been busy! 

One of the things we’ve been working on is recording music. Demo versions of both “Clouds” and “In a Minor Key” were released to SoundCloud a few weeks ago. If you haven’t already had a chance, please take a listen. I’m very proud of the songwriting on both, but they are very different feels. I would really appreciate it if you sent me your thoughts.

One of the key reasons I’m asking for your thoughts is that I’m about to do something with both songs that I haven’t done before. Terrance Reeves – who is a musician, a producer, and a friend – will be taking possession of the original tracks over the next couple of days with an eye towards mixing them properly, and turning them into final products. My vision is that these two songs (along with five others) will eventually become an EP for my favorite songs from the last year.

The waiting is the hardest part….

Getting this done has already been a little bit of an adventure as apparently I have not been updating my recording software as often as I should. In my initial effort to try to get the tracks ready for Terrance yesterday, I was presented with an update for one piece of software that then crashed the core StudioOne engine. It is at times like these that

1) I am thankful that I back everything up to the cloud, so no original recordings would ever have been lost, and

2) I have enough experience to know panic is not the right option in this case. Instead the right option is to step away, think through how one got to this particular crisis, and back up two or three steps.

Short story – everything is back to normal, and now I have a newer and slightly more capable recording system than I did two days ago, with no damage, and with only minimal out-of-pocket outlay to fix the problem.

There’s also a lot going on for us on the live music scene – which is not quite the same thing as the in-person music scene, although there are glimmers of hope here as well. For example, our dear friend Andrew Geano is starting to play out again in New Hampshire – open air and socially distanced, but still live and in person. Tim Ko has a similar set of situations, and the links here will take you to their pages.

As for me, I have now two regular gigs and a couple of upcoming specials.

First, I will be playing at 2 PM on Father’s Day (Sunday, June 21) at the Music Salon. Linda Marks has invited me to do a set, which I am very happy to do. This set might be a little different from my usual sets because I’ll be playing from a slightly different location – should be fun. 

Next, the two regular gigs: Tuesdays at 8:30pm I play the Apocalyptic Open Mic, and I’ve also just added a Friday afternoon gig (5 – 5:30) at Eagles Nest Revisited. Very grateful to Jay Singing Spirit Cunningham for including me in the latter!

Last, but certainly not least, this coming Monday, June 22 at 7 pm we will be hosting our sixth Virtual Necessity Open Mic session. Do you sing? Write songs? Write poetry? Haven’t had a chance to perform in a while? Please sign up and join us. You will be among friends. 

Thanks, and I really look forward to seeing you all in person soon.

-Chris

Juneteenth

Hi all,

I’ve got quite a bit to share with you, including an update on new recordings and also a few new virtual events. But I’ll do that tomorrow.

Today is Juneteenth.

I’ve been spending the day doing something I do not irregularly – educating myself on just how little I actually know about the American history of people of color or of their lives in our nation today. I am not proud of my ignorance and therefore I choose to correct it.

So, I’m going to share with you some links to things I’ve reading, and I hope you’ll read them too.

Let’s make today a celebration of recommitment to true equality of respect and opportunity in our nation.

Thanks

-Chris

Juneteenth, the Black American Holiday that Everyone Should Celebrate, but Doesn’t

What is Juneteenth

This Juneteenth, I Have a New Plan

This Juneteenth, I Don’t Feel Like Celebrating

Before…. (On the remixing of new music)

2020-05-24 23.04.29I come from a long line of do-it-yourselfers – tinkerers, mechanics, electricians, and even an engineer.  As a result, my first impulse is almost always to try to figure things out on my own. While this does get me into trouble sometimes, my successes so far outnumber my utter failures (utter failures being defined as those that did not subsequently become learning moments leading to much better results).

However, occasionally a little help is in order, and I have reached one of those occasions.  In recent weeks, I’ve shared two of my new songs on Soundcloud: 

Clouds, and In A Minor Key

I love them both very much, and think that both are interesting showcases for my songwriting.  However, I don’t quite feel like they fully capture what I wanted to hear. At this point the songs might well benefit from an objective, expert touch, so I’m going to ask a professional to work their magic with them. I’ll share the results with you as soon as I have them.

cws5In the meantime, there’s plenty of music to enjoy.  I hope you were able to join us last Friday for the Tunnel 18 anniversary event. If you weren’t, here is the recording – it was a great evening, and I’d really love it if you had a listen!

Also, a quick reminder: you can find me every Tuesday night at the Apocalyptic Open Mic.

We desperately need to embrace art, joy, community, and the things that give life meaning right now. For me, music is one of those great bridges. I hope that you, too, can find the things that connect you with your fellow humans and with the universe at large.

Please be good and kind to each other. And I look forward to seeing you all really soon.

-Chris

Playing some music and raising a little money

CWS2Hi everyone. Relatively short post here today. I want to remind y’all that I will be playing some music live this Friday night at 8:30 Boston time on Facebook live. Here is the link to join in. I’d love for you to stop by to listen to some old familiar tunes and maybe a couple of new ones, and I also hope that you will consider clicking here to make a donation to the Glioblastoma Foundation, which does a tremendous amount of good work in caring for glioblastoma patients and working to develop better treatments.  When (not if, I’m certain) the disruption and risk of the current pandemic subside, the doctors and researchers looking to beat diseases such as these will still need our help to do their good work. So please – for the sake of Donald, Neal, Gord, and tens of thousands of others past and present, give what you can. (There are also links on the Tunnel 18 facebook page)glioblastoma-foundation-logo

Thank you, and I promise I will spend our time together on Friday in a spirit of celebration. And I will look forward to seeing all of you in person and singing together very, very soon!

-Chris

On a Tunnel 18 Live Event (& Travel Shock)

First a little bit of news, and then a little bit of observation. First, I have decided to do a live stream event on Friday, May 29 at 8pm Eastern, both as a way to play live in a longer format, and also to do a little bit of a celebration. 

img200Tunnel 18 first played live during the summer of 1989. We missed our chance at a true 30th anniversary reunion, and in fact a true reunion sadly isn’t in the cards anymore. However, I do want to take some time not only to play, but also to remember some of the songs we wrote and played together, as well as showcase some of the things I’ve been working on. May 29 will be a series of originals and covers of the type that we used to play when we performed live … the kind we played by the pool in Donald’s backyard or over at Dione Rice’s house. 

I’m hoping that this will be as meaningful for you as it will be for me. Just the sheer fact that there is live music is something that has provided a level of comfort. 

I don’t know about you, but I am still very much in an unsettled place with the pandemic, and the efforts at social distancing and confinement. Even during the simple act of trying to change the strings on one of my guitars I find myself asking “where is…” and as often as not the item I am looking for is in a suitcase, a guitar bag, or some other form of luggage that has been sitting under a bed for the past 10 weeks. 

So much has changed since the last time I was on the road, and the last time we were all physically around friends. As I look at it now, any chance to be around friends, tell stories, make music, laugh a little – each of these is a precious reminder that we will get through this and we will be together again soon. And I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing you. 

In the meantime, please enjoy a little bit of music. Here’s an incredibly eclectic playlist that you might enjoy. Really hope you can join me on May 29!

-Chris

Of Clouds and Singing

So, I promised you a longer blog post. Here you go.
Thank you for hanging in there while it is taken me some time to get some other items in order. Work, day stuff. However, I’ve also been immersing myself in as much music as possible: writing, performing, even learning.
First, there’s new music.  Remember that demo of “Clouds” I posted a few weeks ago? Well, it has formally been recorded, and I have added it to the SoundCloud site. (More on the new music bit a little bit later on in the blog)
Next, on the learning part. Learning is one of life’s great pleasures and rewards, especially when it means that you get to learn more about something you love and hopefully that you learn how to do more of it and do it better. Such is the case with voice and singing.
2020-05-15 21.49.13I have just started a short course in voice with my friend Danielle, who I met through the open mic circuit here in Metropolitan Boston. Danielle is an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and playright.
(PS – She’s also got a great blog)
She’s giving voice lessons virtually during the COVID-19 lockdown.  To call me a reluctant singer is probably not right (I’m a guitarist, songwriter, etc, so singer comes with the package by default), but neither am I a natural.  So I welcome the chance to learn more about what makes my voice mine, and then how to learn to get it where I want it to go.
Danielle has been a great coach, and a lot of fun to work with.  Our lessons are also a wonderful break from the work week – again, really needed during these strangely interminable weeks.
All of this is also important as I have quite a few new songs on their way to being completed. All of the following have been recorded to some level or another:
  • Clouds
  • On The Other Side
  • In A Minor Key
  • Pulling Nails
  • Train to Bad Places
  • Heavy Lies The Head
All except “Minor” and “Train” were written in whole or in part during the lockdown, so I’m thinking of releasing all of them as something of an EP. live
More on that as the story develops. However, in the meantime, I look forward to playing for you live again sometime soon. For now, please go ahead and join me on Tuesday nights at the Apocalyptic Open Mic. And I also will do a solo Tunnel 18 show very soon – maybe I’ll even pull a few really, really, really old songs out of storage!
-Chris