Archive for the ‘Field Recordings of the Future’ Category

The Last CD Player

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Lamb on old gravestone in Irondequoit Cemetery

CDs are over. We just finished work on or new CD!

We’re doing it with Discmakers. They have templates in all the programs. We used Photoshop for the whole thing and uploaded pdfs. They sent us a proof the next day. They have an online app for loading the audio files, tagging them, writing a proof CD and then uploading to them. That last part didn’t go so smoothly for us. We’d get about half of the songs up and the program would give us an error. After trying all night we used Dropbox in the morning.

Proofing the CD was interesting. We stream our music from our iTunes library. We don’t have a CD player that displays song titles so I went across the street and asked the young couple if either of them had a cd player that displays the titles. Diana took me out to her car where she she had a CD player in the glove compartment, a player she had never used. It worked! The album title, band name and song titles came up as I advanced through the disc.

Since were unable to upload those files we had to write a new proof CD today. The young couple wasn’t home. Peggi went down to the neighbors at the end of the street. THey’re older than us. They gave Peggi the keys to their car but she couldn’t get it started. Something about push buttons. They came down and started it but the CD didn’t work. The neighbors tried some star bought CDs. One was by Enya. Nothing worked. The car was a year or so old and they had never used the CD player. They listen to stuff from their phone.

Peggi headed up the street to some neighbors who had just returned from Florida. Before she got there Rick drove by. He does a daily run to Wegman’s. He popped it in and the titles worked. We approved it and expect shipment in a few weeks.

Cooked Fish, Baked Pie

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Michael Hurley performing at the Bop Shop

“Undoubtedly one of this country’s greatest folk singers, Hurley has little in common with the majority of today’s folk performers. While they seem bent on demonstrating that all people are alike, such a suffocating presumption has no place in this man’s work. Michael Hurley is nothing like his potential audience. What better reason to hear what he has to say?”
– Chuck Cuminale

Chuck wrote music reviews for City newspaper, some of the finest, most succinct reviews I have ever read. Not a surprise, his lyrics for the Colorblind James Experience were pure poetry. He also booked shows for more than the Experience. Just before he died he was planning a dream double bill of Pete LaBonne and Michael Hurley at the old Grange Hall in Webster.

Chuck’s wife, his son, Paul, and former members of the Experience were at the Bop Shop tonight for the show. “Cooked fish, baked pie and Bingo on Wednesday nights.” Chuck would have loved it.


Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Saxes on stage for Ossia concert at Kilbourn Hall in Rochester, New York

Who goes to a concert dressed in white? Hundreds of kids were lined up outside the Armory on East Main as we drove by and ninety-five per cent of them were in white. I guessed it must be some sort of religious crusade but Peggi looked it up as I drove. It turns out it was the Rochester performance of Life in Color, “The World’s Largest Paint Party.” There is a dj, of course, paint is for sale and the kids are the canvas. Any more questions?

We were on our way to Ossia’s last concert of the season, something a few blocks but a whole world away. Each performance features five or six adventurous, modern compositions and there is always a knockout in there. My favorite this time was by Tristan Murail, a piece called “Ethers.” Two maraca players were stationed just off stage to the right and left and they shook throughout the piece. Murial has not merely composed the music but also the ambience within which it is perceived. The lead was played on flutes, the whole family of flutes, and he was accompanied by a string quartet and a trombone who function as the soloist’s distorting mirror. I was transported.

Photo Of The Drummer

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Drummer in The Keelers at Firehouse Saloon

The bass player chair with Margaret Explosion is just one of Ken Frank’s gigs so we feel really lucky to have him. In addition to having a black belt in chess Ken plays bass with Annie Wells and recently finished production on her new cd, “Lonely Hearts Club.” It sounds like a million bucks. Phil Marshall wrote the music for the song below, a track from the new cd. Annie gave us a copy last night. Peggi did the artwork and it was the first we had seen of the finished product.

Annie was out at the Firehouse Saloon to hear another of Ken’s bands, Big Ditch. This band is a real powerhouse and the Firehouse Saloon is the perfect spot to hear them, a real rock and roll setting. Very few chairs in the back, mostly an empty dark room with a stage and great sound system. And the sound woman, who has been there for a year or so, is fantastic. Big Ditch’s main attraction are the twin guitars of Mark Cuminale and Jack Schaefer, flanking stage right and left. Standing between the two is heaven. The Keelers opened the show and sounded like 1978. I loved it and took a photo of the drummer.

Annie Wells - Johnny

Annie Wells – Johnny

Another Perfect Day

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Lake Ontario February 2017

We’ve been chipping away at a new album, cd or whatever you call it these days. Funny how a lot of it can be done via email, Dropbox and Google Drive. Never mind the fact that we never rehearse, we don’t even have to be in the same place at the same time to record. We started without songs and now they are so-called songs. But we don’t plan do ever do them again. The entire premise is very casual. It could fall apart in the blink of an eye.

Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of BigBassBounce

Ancient To The Future

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Corey Wilkes, Kahil El Zabar and Ernest Khabeer Dawkins of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble at Louvin' Cup in Rochester, New York

Kahil El’Zabar has probably been here ten times or so and we have never missed a performance. He plays with his Ritual Trio and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and both those groups have had many different lineups. All of the players have been stellar.

He has been here with violinist Billy Bang and saxophonist David Murray from the World Saxophone Quartet a couple of times. On Sunday night he played with trumpet player Corey Wilkes, the guy who filled Roscoe Mitchell’s shoes in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In fact, Kahil wrote “Great Black Music” for the Ensemble and when he introduced the song he said, “these guys can play the shit out of it. Ernest Khabeer Dawkins played baritone sax and he made it look like a toy.

Kahil has great respect for the music and communication power of his ancestors and he shares that spirit with you like you were a welcome member of the congregation. The next time he is here “I will see you in church.” My grandfather used to say that but I never saw him in church.

Queen of the Blues

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Debbie Kendricks Band with Pete Monacelli

Webster has grown so much since I went to high school out there that I hardly know my way around. Pete Monacelli told us about a gig he had at Salvatore’s, of all places, and said it was on Empire Boulevard. I figured I’d be able to find it with the map on my iPad but there is no Salvatore’s on Empire. It is on Bay Road right across from Danny Flaherty’s place, the former Earthtone’s Coffee. A full bar and dining room surrounded by tvs with sports on, it is the most unlikely place for a swinging, sophisticated blues band.

Vocalist Debbie Kendrick has all the laid back confidence in the world and she backs that up with a voice that commands your attention in the most understated manner. The material is top-shelf gospel-tinged, blues tunes like “John the Revelator.” She has the perfect band with Sean Pfeifer playing rythmic, percussive, acoustic fingerstyle guitar. Bassist, Mike Patric, is as solid as a rock and drummer Pete Monacelli swings like crazy on one drum, a snare, he massages with a pair of the most well seasoned, plastic brushes I have ever seen. This band in amazing.

Second Generation

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Joe Lewis Walker playing live at the Little Theater in Rochester, New York

A blues band doing a Beatles cover (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) with a Led Zeppelin beat fits right in with this upside-down world. Of course Trump defines that world and Alec Baldwin better get a whole lot better if wants to dent that machine. Joe Lewis Walker, performing in Little Theater number one, was a little muscular for my tastes. He hardly put his own stamp on the blues but he would have sounded great if we were in a roadhouse bar. Ironically if they had booked this band in a club no one would have there. As it was we were stuck in the dark, cushy seats starring at an unattractive band.

Joe Lewis had a distinctive, bright, steely guitar sound and his band included Larry Coryell’s son on second guitar. They did a gospel number called “Soldier For Jesus,” Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and Chuck Berry’s “Round n’ Round” with a touch of “Tequila” in there. And strangely, Coryell’s “Let’s Straighten It Out” was the bluesiest song of the night. He told a story of how Jimi Hendrix picked him up as a baby when he was back stage somewhere with his father. He got a song out of that experience, “I Was In The Room With Jimi” and they finished with a “beach hit, “Too Drunk To Drive Drunk.”

Dog Breath

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Cobbs Hill Reservoir in January

We subscribe to a music streaming service but rarely seem to use it. Today we changed that dynamic. I called up some “Systema Solar,” a Columbian party band that we had read something about, then the recently remastered with extras version of Uncle Meat, the 1969 Mothers album that was on the turntable when Dave Mahoney’s stereo was stolen from the little house we lived in that year. I still have the empty album cover. It was intensely memorable because we tripping on LSD and it was no micro-dose. The band was at their peak, I gave up on them after it, and “Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague” sounded as good as it did back then.

To Rod

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Arpad and Peggi mixing Margaret Explosion tracks 2017

Margaret Explosion has a few months off but we’re not just twirling our thumbs, we’ve recorded tracks for a new album and we’re mixing them now with the great Arpad. We spent a couple hours with his one tonight orchestrating the entry of an ambient guitar track, a Farfisa track, the original guitar track and then the bass and drums. The outtro is orchestrated as well but I will spare you the details. The song doesn’t have a name. We improvised all the basic tracks and then assembled files that resembled songs with judicious editing. All this is 180 degrees from usual M O of live to two track mixes. In this one we pulled out the original upright bass and drum tracks and replaced both with a fretless bass, conga drum and shaker track and Peggi’s Farfisa. Bob added two additional guitar tracks and sent those to us via his Dropbox. The song has no name as yet but because we’ve been watching all the old Twilight Zones on Netflix we would like to dedicate it to Rod Serling.

Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of SlowStart

Disprortionate Endings

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson of Secret Keeper at Bob Shop Records in Rochester, New York

Secret Keeper, Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson’s duo is just amazing. Mary studied with and then performed with Anthony Braxton. She shares a mathematical approach to music making with hi but she is so wide open she is one of kind. She takes the guitar into unchartered territory and it is so refreshing. By chance her brand new octet album was voted “cd of the year” in the morning’s NYT. Stephan Crump is my favorite bass player. He’s been at theBop Shop withMary before and with his trio. He’s also played at Kilbourn with Vjay Iyer. With Secret Keeper on Sunday night he bowed his bass more often than plucked. And he started one song, a piece called “Planet,” scratching on the side of his bass while Mary Halverstand banged on the strings with her glass guitar slide. The song morphed into an extra-planetary walk. My favorite piece of the night was the mournful and beautiful “Disprortionate Endings.”

Tom really should do something about the small but nasty “No Public Restroom. Thank You” sign, visible in the enlargement this photo.

Big Night Out

Monday, December 5th, 2016

We’ve had tonight’s Ossia performance on our calendar for months but it just got bumped. Kahil El’Zabar’s Allstar Ritual Trio will performs at the Bop Shop with David Murray, a founder of the World Saxophone Quartet. Kahil has been here many times with both his Trio and his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and we have seen every show. Tonight will be no exception. I took this video six years ago he played the Atrium in Village Gate.


Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Peggi doing Farfisa organ overdubs  with Arpad engineering

CD Baby offered a Black Friday special on album submissions. The 50% off deal was good until midnight last night even if your project wasn’t ready to submit. Ours is not. We had to come up with a name for the cd. We chose “Seventeen,” for the year, certainly not the sequential number of Margaret Explosion albums, and not so much for the age but maybe a little.

We got together six times in small groups, and played. The amazing Pete LaBonne was here for a couple of those days. Twelve things rose to the top. Bob, our guitar player, has yet to contribute parts to many of the songs. He hopes to have time over the Christmas break. In the meantime here is a rough mix (with no Bob guitar yet) of something that ha the working title of “BigBassBounce.”

Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of BigBassBounce

Gravitational Arch

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Vapourspace as seen on poster in PBS "Soundbreaking" show, "Four on the Floor" episode , 45 minutes in.

Jim Jarmusch’s “Gimme Danger” is a pretty tame Stooges movie but it is still a must see if you are a fan. It sounded great in Little 1, the original and largest of their five screens, and the sound system in there is great. Jarmusch uses the Rich Stim playbook for animations constructed to illustrate Iggy’s stories and I like that. Funny to picture of Iggy, a Discount Records employee, playing drums in his parent’s trailer. And then kinda sad to see the band move back in with their parents after those first two brilliant albums.

We watched the “Soundbreaking” series on PBS. About 45 minutes into the “Four on the Floor” episode we spotted Vapourspace listed on a poster for the “See The Light” tour with Moby, Aphex Twin and Orbital. I texted Mark Gage to make sure he had seen it and he hadn’t. You can listen to Mark’s smash dancehall hit on this page.

Fly Into The Sun

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Amy Rigby solo gig at Abilene in Rochester, New York

We packed up our gear as quickly as possible last night and headed across town to Abilene where Amy Rigby was doing a solo set. Game 2 of the World Series wasn’t enough of a conflict for Margaret Explosion, Amy was playing at the same time as Margaret Explosion. Rochester was the first stop on a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of her “Diary of a Mod Housewife” cd with a first-time vinyl release. We were thrilled o find her still on stage, performing a new song, but it was the last song of her encore.

She did a booming business at the march table after the show and posed for photos with fans and then showed us one of the silk-screened towels that she and Eric made for the people who contributed to the campaign to fund her record. It was beautiful and we wanted one but we’ll have to wait until more are printed.

Rick Simpson has a weekly show on WRUR called “Gumbo Variations” and he plans his shows around musician’s birthdays or the anniversaries of their death. It has been three years since Lou Reed’s death and he he asked Peggi and I if we would put together a few sets of his music. We chose “Perfect Day”, “I Love You, Suzanne”, “Walk On The Wild Side”, “Last Great American Whale”, “Pale Blue Eyes” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” from the Velvets period and then “Fly Into The Sun.”

I was a little leery about how the big 80’s drum sound in “I Love You, Suzanne” aged but Peggi lobbied hard for it. We’re listening to his show now.

Very Little Bleeding

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Little wagon with split wood

A pile of cardboard boxes of my paintings separates the double bass from the drums. We have a snake running down our basement stairway and another under the rug in our hallway that ends in our bedroom where Peggi has set her amp up on our wicker laundry basket. We have been in record mode for the last month or so but the red light is only on when Arpad is in the house. Margaret Explosion is making a new record, a multi-track affair, and we’re doing it in our home where we are trying to get separation between the instruments by setting up in various parts of the house. We recorded six sessions of bass, drums and various combinations of sax, guitar or synth. Pete LaBonne was in town for two of those evenings and then he came back to add piano tracks on all but one of the tunes.

This is something different for us. Margaret Explosion recordings have all been live two track stereo mixes with no overdubs, mostly recorded at the Little Theater Café where we have had a weekly gig for fifteen years or so. And the music is all improvised. We don’t have any songs until we play them. This time we toyed with taking melodies from some of those songs as foundations for new recordings but we’ve found, in fact, “you can’t reheat a soufflé.” Paul McCartney said that. So we winged it but in a situation where we can pull an instrument out of the mix or redo the track without leaving trails on all the other tracks. Very little bleeding.

Arpad stops by two nights a week and we lay down overdubs. His pc and mixing console is set up behind me. Peggi is replacing a sax track as I write this entry. Arpad records with “Reaper.” It is available on the Mac as well and I may download a copy. I’ve been importing his tracks to Garage Band so I can do some editing and simple looping. Bob plans to do his guitar overdubs in his home. It would be simpler if everyone used the same software and we could work from files shared in the cloud but we haven’t got there yet.


Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Circle at in Sea Breeze at Durand in Rochester, New York

The Women’s National Soccer team plays Switzerland tonight and three of the WNY Flash have been called up for the occasion. We’ll be at our gig but our hard drive is in record mode. That match is happening in Utah at the same time as the third presidential debate in Las Vegas. We’re recording that too.

Hope you can stop out tonight for Margaret Explosion’s special “Pre-debate Cleansing” performance at the Little Theater Café 7:00-9:00. We promise no politically tinged lyrics. In fact there will be no lyrics at all.

Listen to Fallopian from Margaret Explosion Disappear CD
Margaret Explosion - Fallopian
Margaret Explosion – Fallopian
Margaret Explosion plays Wednesday evenings in October and November at the Little Theatre Café.

Deep Garage

Monday, October 10th, 2016

High Falls and gorge by Genesee Brewery in Rochester, New York

“Press one for popular music, two for classical and three for jazz. If you would rather hear silence while you are on hold, press four.” I called Apple to get to the bottom of my music syncing issues. I’m not sure if I got there but I got some guidance. With the “iCloud Music Library” button switched on on my iPad I could not sync a new playlist (live Margaret Explosion music from last Wednesday) from iTunes on my desktop to the iPad. Apparently you have to switch “iCloud Music Library” off on the iPad and then the iTunes syncing menu on your desktop will then allow you to add new playlists. I don’t think any of my music is in the cloud Apple is trying to sync my device with the desktop music library through the cloud and there is not nearly enough room so I a mess of partial playlists. I pressed “four” by the way.

In the car I generally listen to AM 137, the PBS affiliate, or the Spanish language Poder 97.1 on the FM side. But if I’m chopping vegetables I listen to “Deep Garage” on Vicious Radio.

Margaret Explosion plays Wednesday evenings at the Little Theatre Café.
Margaret Explosion - Tether
Margaret Explosion – Tether

Some Day You’ll Thank Me

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Crazy Firemen band at Octoberfest celebration  at Genesse Brewery in Rochester, New York

We didn’t attend the event. We are outside of the whole singer/songwriter scene. But we did hear Bob Martin’s version of the song when we stopped by his place to drop off a hard drive with new Margaret Explosion songs on it. It makes me nervous, sitting in a chair as someone strums a guitar and sings carefully crafted songs. An informal call for entries goes out to songwriters to write a song with the same title. Last year it was “Don’t Go Drinkin’ on an Empty Heart.” This year songwriters gathered at Benunzio’s and performed their version of, “Someday, You’ll Thank Me.” I cannot think of a good reason to not go drinking on an empty heart but this year’s title is workable.

I never liked it when my mom made me send a thank you card. I appreciated the gift but the thank you part was forced and awkward. And it makes me uncomfortable when someone goes out of their way to thank me for something I did. I didn’t do it to be thanked. Love means never having to say “thank you.” Maybe sub-consciously I would just rather have the upper hand after helping someone but when I am thanked it just doesn’t ring right. I guess it supposed to make me feel better but it doesn’t. For me, it sort of cheapens the act of helping.

I don’t have the lyrics for my version or even a melody but I do have the hook. “Someday you’ll thank me but I wish that you wouldn’t.”


Friday, October 7th, 2016

Traditional Chinese instrument, a "Pipa," being played at the Little Theater Café during Margaret Explosion break.

Our fifteen minute breaks at the Little Theater Café are usually noisy. It seems everyone in the place at once. But not not so night. A Chinese woman, here visiting her boyfriend asked us if she could play her pipa during the break. It is a traditional Chinese instrument but she made it sound really modern as she strummed the strings by opening the fingers of her right hand with incredible rhythmic precision.

The ushers handed us pink foam earplugs along with our program at Kilbourn Hall tonight. The first piece, “On and Off and To and Fro, was as loud as it was challenging. A board member thanked Home Depot for helping them construct a few the instruments. This was the beginning of the 20th season for Ossia, the student run modern music, small ensemble program. Of the five pieces the oldest was written in 2008 and one of them was performed here for the first time, a world premier. This music never swings but it often strange and beautiful. My favorite, “Of Being Is a bird,” featured soprano voice singing John Keats poems and harp.