I never understood how garage bands got away with it. I remember hearing bands practice in a garage in the sixties and they were as loud as hell. They were usually playing in the afternoon, when the grown ups in the house weren’t home. The walls of garages aren’t even insulated. The neighbors wouldn’t stand for it. Basements make much better practice spaces.
Now garage art is something I understand. I was a garage painter in the eighties when I painted this series of “Community Icons.” It was easy for me to pick these archetypes, the foundation of any city, in 1989. It got me thinking about who I would choose today.
“The Role Model,” above is one of 16 from that series. They were big paintings, 54″ wide by “60” high, on the back of billboard paper. You can see the whole series here: “Community Icons.”
In our yoga class on Monday Jeffery was telling us that our feet get bigger as we age. I thought it was because we walked the Camino. He also said our ears get bigger. And that reminded me of the video Peggi shot of the Art Ensemble panel discussion at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. We are still taking the breadth of that experience in.
Peggi assembled the five video clips she shot and we posted it here. After the discussion I was able to tell Roscoe Mitchell how much of an impact “Les Stances a Sophie” had on me in 1970. Fontella Bass’s vocal on the funky “Theme de Yoyo,” was a direct line from the Motown singles we grew up on and the avant-garde. It made me a lifelong Art Ensemble fan and I feel very lucky to have heard their fiftieth anniversary show.
Time goes so fast these days it is starting to scare me. And that’s one reason why I am enjoying this prolonged, cool, wet, dark, rainy Spring. As Jeffery said in yoga class last night, “My Forsythia has been in bloom for a month!”
Peggi and I took a walk down Hoffman and we stopped at the marsh for the longest time. We were watching a doe with her brand new fawn and then a bright yellow bird caught our eye, a Warbler no doubt, and then a whole group of them dive-bombing bugs near the crumbling willow. The Warblers are bright yellow. They make the yellow in the Baltimore Orioles look orange and there were quite a few of them darting about. Our favorites, though, are the descriptively named Red Winged Blackbirds, although that only describes the male. They have a chirp and a distinctive call, something that sounds like one of Peggi’s sax lines. We watched them land on cattails, those still standing from last year. The cattail bends under the weight of the bird but it springs back to an upright position and male performs his mating call.
Pete LaBonne joins Margaret Explosion on the grand piano on Wednesday night. I hope you can stop out. We tend to get into a blues groove when he sits in. Here’s a song from last year when both he and Bob Martin were sitting in with the band.
The lobby at Geva was packed last Sunday. We had tickets to the Son House play and they weren’t letting anyone into the theater. Cleavant Derricks, the lead, had lost his voice. We rescheduled and now that we’ve seen the play we can see how that might have happened. This was a powerful, moving performance. Son House had a raspy voice and Derricks puts all he has into convincing renditions of House’s blues classics.
Who’s that writin’, John the Revelator Tell me who’s that writin’, John the Revelator Who’s that writin’, John the Revelator wrote the book of the seven seals
Son House was a preacher before he was a performer so he had plenty of conflicting right/wrong material to work with. How could the blues, which sounded so good, be the devil’s music? The Seven Seals is a phrase in the Book of Revelation that refers to seven symbolic seals that secure the book that John of Patmos saw in his Revelation of Jesus Christ. John The Revelator, Death Letter Blues, Walking Blues, Preachin’ The Blues, Grinnin’ In Your Face. Son House wrote the book of the blues!
In 1943 Son House gave up music, left the Delta, and settled in Rochester’s Corn Hill neighborhood. He worked on the New York Central Railroad and drank. The production weaves history and and context into the Son House story and it has a terrific four piece band. Billy Thompson, who cowrote the music, is an astonishing blues player. Tad Wadhams is an incredible bass player. The are supported by Daniel Kelly and Rochester’s Fred Vine. I suspect/hope “Revival: The Resurrection of Son House” will hit the road after its run at Geva.
Fred Rogers was also a preacher. He founded a more fruitful ministry than any church by communicating with and advocating for children. I loved “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I wish the whole world could see it.
We went a graduation party yesterday in my parents’ old neighborhood and drove by their house before settling in at the party. This is the time of year I would usually help them hang their canvas awnings, something I called the “Awning Ritual.” The awnings are still up in the garage and their house looks empty of life.
We arrived at the party when the band pulled up. I asked the drummer what kind of music they played and he said, “Americana.” They set up in the backyard and sounded really good. But it is curious to me that in 2019 so many bands play the same batch of old songs, a mixture of the Band, Hank Williams, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Statler Brothers, etc. It’s as if they are trying to enshrine some heritage instead of developing something new. Maybe all this devotion will lead somewhere. I loved all that stuff in the day but comfort food makes me nervous.
During Jeff Spevak’s book release party at the Record Archive, while the Americana band was playing, I wandered around the store. I had read a review of the Art Ensemble’s new record that morning and looked around for the Jazz section. In the “A’s” I found a row of Louis Armstrong cds about a foot and half deep. And then tucked behind that one. the Art Ensemble cd, “We Are On The Edge, A 50th Anniversary Celebration.” I love the record and marvel at their forever forward movement.
Jared told us the lake was 21 inches above normal so we had to walk down there and see for ourselves. We chatted with a wind surfer, who was suiting up, and saw that the waves were pretty big. There is a five mile an hour speed limit in effect for boats so there were hardly any on the water. We walked out the pier, timing our pace so as to miss the crashing of the big waves. I got soaked anyway.
Our friends, Kerry, Claire and Benny, are all going to France for the Women’s World Cup this summer. We saw the US in the semi finals four years ago in Montreal. Paris is too far, especially in the summer when things get so busy here. The team plays South Africa on Sunday in a friendly and they play Mexico at a stadium that is only nine minutes from my brother’s house in New Jersey so we might go down there for that one.
As hard as it is to believe, we saw the two best soccer games in my life in the last week. Barcelona (our favorite team) who beat Liverpool in the first half of their two match semifinal in the European Champions League, met Liverpool again, this time in Liverpool. Barcelona was heavily favored to win and to go on to take the trophy. But Liverpool, playing without their key striker, Salah, came out aggressively, playing so fast, stealing the ball at every opportunity and preventing Barcelona from controlling the flow, as is their wont. It was shocking at first and then thrilling. They played so well we switched allegiances.
The following day, in the second semifinal match between Ajax and Tottenham, Ajax, after winning decisively in the first, dominated the first half and scored twice. We assumed it was all over. We recorded the second half and left to play the Little. We queued up the second half after the gig and the tables were turned completely. Tottenham, the underdogs in anyone’s book, playing away, dominated possession and scored three goals, the last in the final seconds!
Twenty years ago I began work on the mural at Mex Restaurant. Casey Walpert (and his brother) bought the building on Alexander Street, the former Chez Jean Pierre, and currently Linai. Casey was gutting the place and he asked me if I wanted to do a mural there. Peggi helped, of course, and my father painted the Marigolds that the flower lady was selling. She was sitting under the pay phone near the entrance to Mex. Karrie Laughton, who owns Lux on South Avenue, took some photos when the project was finished.
I documented the mural as it progressed. I am glad I took the photo (above) because at some point I chickened out and painted the gang members out. The late Bill Jones stopped by while I was working on it and he shot a short video of me painting Frida Kahlo’s nose. Here’s some more photos.
We’re getting together with Jedi to watch Barcelona meet Liverpool in the second of their Champions League semi-finals. Although Barcelona won the first in their home stadium Liverpool performed a lot better that the final score indicated. But then the great Salah got injured in a Premier League match so Liverpool will have a tough time this afternoon.
We celebrated Matthew’s birthday at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point where the bar was just barely above water. Matthew suggested a Mexican place in Alton, Mi Hacienda Jalisciense. It’s on Old Ridge Road just a mile or so from El Rincón. That’s a serious matchup right there. If it was a horse race. I would put my money on Mi Hacienda Jalisciense. We had some mind blowing ceviche.
We drove out with Jeff and the three of us stopped in Ontario on the way home to take in the Kentucky Derby. We always make a point to watch it, the anniversary of our first date, and this year’s was something else. We stood at the bar in front a tv with the sound off so the excitement level was missing. And the silent elation of victory, the countless video reviews where we saw something different each time and then the long shot reversal all played dramatically.
Chipmunks are driven. I recognize the trait. Whether it’s chasing one another or darting into holes. they run the same pattern over and over all day long. We found a chipmunk in our screened-in porch. I opened the door and let him out. Next thing you know he was back in there again franticly looking for a way out. I showed him the door and we went back to reading the paper. I couldn’t see any hole for him to get in. About ten minutes later the Woodstock chimes that hang on the porch started ringing. There was no wind. He must be getting in through the rafters and dropping down the chimes, an impossible route to do in reverse. I sealed up three possible openings and we haven’t seen the guy.
Chipmunks are cute but they are really a garden pest. They ate all our tiny beet plants before they had a chance. Our neighbor on one side shoots at them with a BB gun and Jared, on the other side of us, wired his garden with electric fencing. The lowest line is only a half inch above the ground, chipmunk height.
We spotted some beautiful birds near the ground on the other side of our bedroom window. They have Mohawk striped heads and a Zebra-like chest. They are a dull yellow overall. We found them in a bird book and were able to identify them as “Ovenbirds,” in the Warbler family. I am not in a hurry for summer, this has been a perfect Spring.
Earl, the Cassorla brother on the right in the poster above fell asleep at the wheel while driving back from Reno. Randi Winterman, who was sitting behind us at Earl’s services yesterday, ask us how long we’ve know Earl. Without thinking much I said forever. Earl was legendary and we knew of him and his brother way before we met them. Friends of ours who went to Irondequoit High with them had incredible stories of their high school pranks. The Rabbi yesterday talked about Earl wearing a key ring, like the janitors, in high school. He told the knowing crowd that Earl could get into any room in the building.
Earl was an all around great guy and everyone who knew him has stories to give witness to that. The Rabbi told us that Earl’s spirit, there is a Hebrew term, would now move to his brother. And I saw Steve’s head nod in agreement. The Cassorlas opened a fireworks store in Nevada where everything is legal. I wrote a bit about about the Cassorlas last year in a post that includes a short movie about their venture. They will remain legendary.
I’m so happy Kathy suggested walking the eastern bank of the Genesee yesterday. It was a perfect day and the perfect time of year to take in views of the river since the tress are just beginning to fill in. We parked the car in Herrema’s on Pattonwood and walked directly to the river. The path has a variety of surfaces and is obviously tended to but not fussed over. No signage and plenty of places to get dangerously close to the steep banks.
We walked up to the Zoo and turned around at the pond in Seneca Park. The river banks here are remarkably free from development There are dreamy views of backyards on Van Voorhis in the Flats and a giant Budda overlooking a pond near Sagamore Drive. Salmon are swimming upstream to lay their eggs and we crossed a small tributary running into the river where fish, two and three feet long, were trapped in tangled cables. I wish someone would address that situation.
We have this Margaret Explosion setlist called “Margo2Weed,” a working list that we add a few songs to each time we have a gig, the ones we thought were the best of the night. And then songs on that list get dumped if they don’t hold up. The ones that we still like after repeated listening get put on the website. I trim up the beginning and end, sometimes take a whole two minute section out of the middle and we call it a song. A few of our cds are songs that were pulled from this list.
Of course they aren’t really songs. There’s no verse/chorus/bridge, chord change pattern. But there is something to hang onto and I thought it would be fun to try to describe what that is.
We improvise but we’re not a jam band. There is no wanking and there are no solos. Not because we have rules but because we have found a way to construct a fabric, a weave that we can lost in. Jack Garner, writing in the D&C said, “The Explosion plays with a single-minded purpose and organic oneness that’s most impressive.” That line really nails it for me. A solo, with the others playing support, only puts all the focus on the solo and wrecks the fabric.
We stumbled on a method that works for us. The drums start with the simplest pulse and before a measure has been played, the bass has rescued the drums, established a key and offered phrasing for the sax or guitar to establish a melody. This is where the real magic happens. Spotting the beauty of the melody and giving it room to grow by playing something that compliments it, strengthens it or does it one better is all that matters, the “single-minded purpose .” The song is so fragile at this point. All energy must be focused on respecting that melody and nourishing it. This only works if the whole group does more listening than playing.
Lead lines carry us through the tune but they aren’t solos. It is an “organic oneness” with rhythms shifting and poking in and out. There are just enough focal points to get lost in. And if all goes well we back out of the song as quickly as we got into it, like we know what we’re doing, and then we start all over again.
I wish our batting average was higher but there are always a few pieces of magic in each performance. This song is from a gig a few weeks back and there are plenty more on the Margaret Explosion site. We’ll try to make it happen Wednesday night at the Little. Hope you can stop out.
Gloria and Pete invited us over for dinner on my birthday. Pete asked me what I liked. Easy for him, Gloria does all the cooking. I had been thinking about Chicken Cacciatore for quite a while and I couldn’t lie so I spoke up. Gloria’s masterpiece includes artichoke hearts, carrots, celery, mushrooms, black olives and chicken that was just falling apart in the sauce. It was the best I’ve ever had.
We got caught up in the One Take Film Festival this weekend, documentaries playing at both the Dryden and the Little. Caught “Dennis & Lois” on Friday afternoon, about a couple who met at a Ramones show at CBGBs and never stopped going to shows together, over 10,000. The Happy Mondays wrote a song about them. The director said he has about six hundred hours of footage of the couple. They can barely walk now but they’re still doing it. They haven’t even seen the film either.
We saw the Aretha Franklin movie on Saturday, the gospel show she recorded in Los Angeles in ’72. She was spellbinding. We came home and watched a Robert Johnson documentary and then some of Beyonce’s drum and bugle Coachella performance. Wow.
“Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable,” at the Dryden today, was the best. Absolutely brilliant. I think it’s running on PBS. You take his street photos in with your whole body. They are physical constructions. Animated with life. And there are hundreds of them in the movie.
A few weeks back a branch broke off a tree above our house and went right through the roofing and tongue and groove boards below it. It landed between the rafters and luckily it didn’t break through the plaster and copper plumbing in the ceiling of our living room. It got me wondering about Newton’s gravity thing. The branch was hanging horizontally above the house and when I found it it was standing up in our roof. The thickest part of the branch apparently fell the quickest.
We walked up to Wegmans to pick up some fish. Our branch gets fresh seafood in on Thursdays and we always find something – scallops, perch, red snapper or tuna. Last week we bought one swordfish steak to split. They call it steak for a reason. It is oily and meaty and tastes great on the grill. I knew there was something funny about swordfishes. I looked it up and found most healthcare organizations recommend that you don’t eat any because it’s full of mercury. And how does mercury get in the ocean? The number one source is airborne particles from coal burning power plants. So glad the Trumpster is bringing back coal, “beautiful coal..” That will be our last piece of swordfish.
Blue is my favorite color so Rick gets the green. By the end of the season we will hardly be able to tell these apart. They should be dry by tomorrow and it may be opening day.
The blue paint was suspiciously thin and we plan on painting our metal chairs so we walked over to Home Depot and bought a pint. I brought the stick that I used to stir up the old blue and they matched the color. It is about a seven mile round trip but we made it fun by stopping for a Flat White at Starbucks and calling Duane in Brooklyn.
The recap of my carpentry career in my last post didn’t mention why I got out. Swinging a 20 ounce hammer all day, lifting walls that were built on the deck, getting the scaffolding up on the metal brackets, carrying full sheets of three quarter inch plywood in the wind and hoisting tresses up to the second floor completely drained me. As satisfying as the job was, there was nothing left at night. So I got a commercial art job. A “pud” job as they would say in Indiana.
At Wednesday’s Debbie Kendrick gig I was chatting with Frank and his friend Jim about some plumbing that Jim was doing on his mother-in-law’s house. Frank said something that indicated he didn’t think I was very handy. I was a bit taken aback but mostly I was thinking how it was that I project that image. I’ve known Frank since high school.
It was the summer before my junior year when I worked for Virgila and Sons. We framed houses, the rough carpentry as opposed to finished carpentry. Plywood had not taken over. The walls, floors and roofs were constructed with three quarter inch, tongue and groove boards. We’d stop for coffee in the morning and have sweet rolls toasted on the grill. On Fridays we’d drink beer at quitting time. They asked me what kind of beer I liked and I said, “Carling,” probably because I like the Mabel, Black Label commercials. They laughed and called it, “nigger piss.”
After I dropped out of college, around the time I met Peggi, I worked for Mitchell Construction in Bloomington. I wanted to do carpentry but they needed someone on the concrete crew. The company wanted to do work for the University but all thirty of their workers were white. They had to hire a black person to get a contract. Wayne had just got out prison for accidentally sandwiching someone between the car he was driving and another. Involuntary manslaughter. Three of us spread stone around and poured and finished concrete sidewalks, garage floors and basements. After the first week one of the carpenters asked me what it was like to work with a nigger.
When we moved back to Rochester I got a job for another, small family run construction crew, Caramana Construction, a father and two sons. We built a hundred or so Domas tract homes in Gates and Spencerport. There were three models with slight variations, a center entrance Colonial, a split-level and the cheapest, a raised ranch.
Mike, one of the sons, took on some the homes himself while his father worked on another home with a few other guys. The three of us, above, would put up a house like this in three days! And then we’d come back and plop in the windows. A photographer for the D&C happened to be there this time and we wound up in the paper. Proof for Frank.
Good Friday sort of sails by these days. I remember sitting on the front porch of our house on Brookfield with my sister and brother as we tried to stay silent between noon and 3 PM, the hours Christ hung on the cross. We were not able to do it.
Our place came with a dog pen on the side of the house, a square, fenced in area that the dog could access from the doggie door, which was cut into the bottom of a door in our garage. The fence keeps the deer out and all sorts of stuff grows in there. We call it our forever wild area.
We bought some new fencing recently. It’s six feet tall and black clad instead of five feet and green so you sort of look right through it. We fanned out from the corners of the house and made the area considerably bigger. The project took a good week. The next owner will have a bigger dog area.
After all that work we drove to Wegmans and really filled the cart because we wouldn’t have to carry it all home this time. We are headed to Joyce’s birthday party tomorrow and Helena and Jedi’s for Easter so we stopped in the fresh flower section and bought two bunches of roses, colors specific to each party.
I went off to the produce department while Peggi watched the flower lady wrap the roses. When I returned with an armful of fruit they were talking about Woodstock, the ‘69 version. The flower lady had been there and Peggi told her that I had too. She told us her sister-in-law used to live with Gene Cornish and she managed the Young Rascals, the Rustix and The Brass Buttons. And her brother was roadie for The Invictas back in the day.
The day after Chuck Cuminale died we opened a forum on the Refrigerator website. Social media did not yet exist so the forum served as a community billboard, a place where people who knew Chuck, or were influenced by him and his music, could share memories and post tributes. The tributes poured in.
I’ve been slowly dismantling the Refrigerator website, moving some of the content to this site and letting the rest die as I pull the plug. I rescued the “Chuck Cuminale Remembered” forum today and put it all on one page, a page that tests the limits of endless scrolling. It is a real testament to the impact Chuck made on peoples’ lives.
Chuck not a late bloomer. He was a beatnik in high school. He was in my sister’s class but he was best friends with my brother. I loved arguing with Chuck. It could be over music or just about anything. He was opinionated and passionate. Riding in a car with him down to NYC, maybe to see Charlie Coco the conversation never stopped. He was curious about everything. Last time I saw him he was raving about Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy.
Listen to “Copernicus,” recorded live at Rising Place, Gary Bennet’s place, long before Chuck formed the Colorblind James Experience. My brother was there and is credited with “Background inspiration.”
I know the quality so the word “stubborn” caught my eye in Chad Oliveiri’s accompaning wall text for Joe Tunis’s “Carbon Records: 25 Years of Cover Art” show at Rochester Contemporary, It reads “Carbon has been stubbornly releasing music from artists on the fringe of the Rochester scene and far beyond for the past 25 years. It’s a record label Joe Tunis started because he was obsessed primarily with packaging.”
Joe’s label, Carbon Records, started releasing records in the summer of 1994. They were mostly bands Joe was involved with but the improv/noise/drone/experimental label has gone international. They are giving Earring Records a run for its money.
We spent about an hour in the Lab Space at RoCo on opening night, studying the artful packages for (mostly) bands we have never heard of. The wall above features the 12 inch format. That’s Nod, “So Much Tonight,” third one in on the bottom row. Each package is as striking as it is unique. I hope you’l have a chance to see this show in the next month.
I did my homework this year by reviewing the list before we left the house. It took some of the fun out Record Store Day but it also gave us more freedom to just hang out, drink coffee and eat cookies. There were only a couple of things that caught my eye and I snagged both the Art Ensemble 45 with the African poet, Alfred Panou, and the John Cage Meets Sun Ra 45 (plus dvd of the complete Coney Island performance). I put that on as soon as we got home.
We left our car in the old Tops parking lot on Winton and walked to Monroe where stopped at Bop Shop and Hi Fi Lounge. We stood in front the sound system in the back room. I asked the guy how much the pair of speakers cost and he said “around $300 but don’t quote me. They sounded fantastic and I was considering so I asked the owner when he came in. He said “about two thousand.”.
I brought my Hauser Wirth bag with me and filled it with vinyl, a few more 45s from the sixties and Silver Apple’s debut 1968 lp on milky blue vinyl. They sound like Nod, Can and Suicide, all bands that came after them.
We took a different route over to Record Archive where a big inflated dinosaur was bouncing around in the parking lot. A local brewery called Single Cut was giving away samples of beer that tasted exactly like grapefruit juice. A young mod-like band was performing in the back room you had to get in a long line in order to look at the Record Store Day product.