I looked down at our land line expecting another scam call but found a familiar name instead, Steve Black . He was in town unexpectedly, after being invited to a symposium at MIT on augmented reality. He met someone from RIT there and road to town with him. He called us from RoCo where he successfully talked the attendant into giving him our phone number. And when we arrived he reminded us that many years ago he got off a bus downtown and called information for our number. The operator said, “Oh, I know Paul Dodd.” It was Betsy Nosco who I went to high school with.
The next day, a gorgeous winter day, Steve got right to work shooting scenes for a video for a Margaret Explosion song, “Tonic Party.” The footage, every bit of it from from near our home, astounded us. We should be way overly familiar with this location but we couldn’t tell exactly where it came from. The eye of a master.
We first met Steve when he was going to RIT. He asked Personal Effects if he could do a video to “Don’t Wake Me,” a song on our first ep. He printed out each frame of his film, hand-colored the frames and reshot the still images for the video. See “Don’t Wake Me.”
Back in 2003 when our “1969” cd came out Steve made a magical video in the back yard of our Hall Street house. See “Assembly Line.”
And his video for “Trophy Bowler”vaulted Pete LaBonne to YouTube sensation status. See “Trophy Bowler.”
We were at the Bop Shop for “With The Cows” performance and I spotted this crude poster on the wall behind the band. I had not seen it since I did it. I was taking a silk screen class with my father at B.O.C.E in Fairport. Loretta Murawski was the teacher. I sort of remember painting the words with a rubber cement like substance, something that rinsed off once the screen was coated with a fixative. You can barely read it. If you weren’t ready for the new wave in ’77 you could could have caught New Math (a later version of the band) at the Lovin’ Cup last Saturday.
Amy Rigby has really hit the big time now. She was interviewed by Terry Gross in connection with her fabulous memoir, Girl to City.”
Our friend Duane, tells us “Parapliers the Willow Dipped,” the first show of Don Van Vliet’s paintings in New York in over a decade, opens January 31st at the Michael Werner Gallery on 77th Street. We may not be there for the opening but we plan to see that show. Years ago (1982) someone told us Gary Lucas was the guy to talk to about purchasing a Beefheart painting so we wrote him a letter. Peggi had a radio show on WRUR at the time and we told him she played his records. We thought the prices he quoted were too high. We were part owners of ten Warhol prints and they weren’t even near a grand a piece. Our reasoning was seriously flawed!
Stan the Man gave me a box of Beefheart stuff from Justin Sherrill, someone who was leaving town or something. These photos were in there, from an opening at Michael Werner in 1995.
I was lucky enough to see the Captain a few times, in Cincinnati in 1970 for the Trout Mask tour, Columbus in ’71 for Lick My Decals Off and here at Red Creek in ’77. I recorded that show on our little Sony mono tape recorder.
Captain Beefheart performing Low Yo Yo at Red Creek in Rochester, New York 1977.
There must be plenty of snow around the corner. Until it flies we will keep walking. Cross country skiing calls on a whole different muscle group and they want their fair share.
We had dinner down the street at our friends’ (and neighbors’) place. Their Jamaican relatives were there and they were talking about how everyone in Jamaica has a nick name, a “yard name.” They were talking like no-one knows your real name. They wanted to know if I had a yard name. Kids called me by my last name for a few years in high school but that doesn’t really count. I told them my name was too short to be abbreviated but that didn’t fly.
I could use a nickname. My one syllable first name is hard to enunciate. When someone on the phone asks “who am I speaking with?” I try to say my name slowly but there is not much there to work with. It makes matters worse. I often just spell it out.
Someone in this morning’s paper described the orange one as a “popinjay.” We looked it up and have added it to our vocabulary.
Ucal Bernard lived in Jamaica where he made money by doing drawings for the tourists. Most of his family lives in Rochester so when Ucal passed away recently they held a celebration of his life at the Baobab Cultural Center on University Avenue. Ucal’s artwork, mostly pencil drawings on big sheets of paper, was hanging on the gallery walls.
Ucal was our neighbor’s youngest brother so the group moved to his house for food and drink after the celebration. Our neighbor showed us a big volume of Ucal’s drawings, dramatic fantasy-like drawings, many with voluptuous women. I found them inspiring.
One of the drawings in the show (above) was done when Ucal was in Rochester. It depicts his brother-in-law’s record store on Chili Avenue in 1996. I had heard about this shop from my neighbor and we had met Courtney, the owner, at his house. I asked Courtney what the address was and found out it was right next door to where the Dodd/Miller Tavern (formerly the Munich Restaurant) was, at the corner of Thurston.
I sent Duane the drawing. Duane went to West High and grew up in the neighborhood. In the late seventies we used to buy imported Jamaican 45s from Andy’s shop on Genesee Street and I remember checking out some other places with Duane but all he remembered the reggae shop by Bullshead or further down West Main near Jefferson. I see a date of 1996 in the bottom corner of this drawing so that is after our time and long after my grandfather’s.
There is not enough snow for us to safely ski down the big hill in the woods across the street so we put our skis in the car and drove down Hoffman to the golf course. The conditions there were somewhat shy of excellent but the sun was out and it was perfect for us.
I love how the ski tracks, going every which way, abstract the game that is intended to be played here in the warmer months. Something so orderly and controlled is entirely free. We followed someone’s tracks that skirted the periphery of the course staying just a few feet from the woods that surrounds the fairways. We skied most of the nine holes on this side of Kings Highway but we did it in an almost random order.
Last night’s Ossia program included this spellbinding piece, Tria ex uno by Georg Friedrich Hass. It was based on Agus Dei from a mass by Josquin in 1502, a piece described as “astounding in its control of harmony under fearsome conditions of polyphonic complexity.” I like that sentence and took it from the program but I really liked what I heard.
Tom Kohn at the Bop Shop asked me to dj a set on Record Store Day. I have the first slot, noon to one, and I discovered how fast an hour will go when I put this set together last night.
Last Poets This Is Madness Ornette Friends and Neighbors Silver Apples Oscillations Suicide Ghost Rider James Brown Funky President Bo Diddley Ooh Baby James Blood Ulmer Are You Glad Tao Be In America Margaret Explosion Juggler Miles Davis Miles Runs The Vodoo Down Peggy Lee Fever David Essex Rock On Beach Boys Do It Again Marvin Gaye Got To Give It Up Donna Summer I Feel Love
Peggi is about halfway through Amy Rigby‘s memoir, “Girl to City,” and she’s loving it. I will get my hands on it next. Amy was in town last night and she alternated between reading and playing songs. The songs, many of them older, were related to the passages she read and the combination compounded the experience.
She started reading a chapter called “Elton Girl,” (her nickname in middle school because she was such a fan) and she got to the part where she wins two tickets to an Elton John concert from her hometown Pittsburgh radio station. She stopped to tell something that wasn’t in the book. Something that had just occurred and that surely will be in the next edition.
While traveling across the country on this book tour she has been listening to the Elton John’s autobiography, “Me,” and Elton has a chapter in there where he talks about calling Stiff Records and offering to play keyboards for a tour they were putting together, the ulterior motive being he had a crush on Wreckless Eric. Amy’s husband! Amy stopped the car and called Eric.
Amy finished with a bang in a string of songs that began with the anthem, “Do You Remember that?” (video below), her Tom Petty karaoke song, “The President Can’t Read,” and the perfect closer. “Hey, I love you. You’re perfect. Don’t ever change.”
We waited for the rain to stop and took the shortcut to the Point Pleasant fire house, our polling place. We cast our ballots and then used the bathroom in the back. They have the coolest little bar in the back of the building, a firemen’s social club. I think they rent it out and each year I contemplate organizing a gig there for Margaret Explosion.
As great as the Little Theater Café is we really need to get out more. We’ll be there each Wednesday in November.
Here’s a song recorded at our last gig in September.
“Wednesday night I found myself at The Little Theater Café wallowing in the ether and digging the images this group routinely paints in my head. As the open-minded melodies really kicked in, the brain candy got more acute and I started hearing words coming out in a sort of celestial-Beat cadence. “Shit, I gotta write this down.” But alas, I had no paper, So I clicked on my phone’s notepad feature and began to write:
Space cowboy Got stars for spurs He’s got his You’ve got yours Rocket to the moon On a Wednesday night It was a tight flight Out of reach And outta sight“
Hope you can come out tonight or some Wednesday this month.
I looked for a picture of all three of us from that time period but couldn’t find one. This one is from almost a year later. The “D” on the wall was the last of three letters. The first was an “L.’ Dave Mahoney and I went down to the Woodstock festival in Joe Barrett’s family car, a Corvair. We bought our tickets, three day passes for eighteen dollars, from a local radio station. We were most excited to see Sly & the Family Stone. We left a day early but I don’t remember bringing any food or anything to sleep on.
By Thursday afternoon the small roads leading to the festival were already jammed with cars. We left ours on the side of the road and joined a long procession of people on foot. At an intersection lines were moving in two directions and each seemed equally sure the festival site was ahead. We picked one and decided to take the acid we brought down with us.
Things got stranger. We stopped at a house where can goods had been arranged along the railing of the front porch. The contents of their cupboards were being offered for sale. We fumbled with our money and bought something but I don’t remember what it was.
We found the festival site where they were soundchecking the system. The sun was blazing and there was screeching feedback and dogs barking. We tried sleeping in a cornfield but I couldn’t sleep. We were exhausted the next day and Dave was worried that this was all going to be a disaster scene. He was mostly afraid that there wouldn’t be enough food. He suggested we leave early but I insisted we hear some of the first night’s acts.
We ran into a friend from high school and he sold us some blue mescaline tabs. We drove home with those and all slept over at Joe’s. We took the mescaline and went down to the Stutson Theater where a matinee of 2001: A Space Odyssey was showing. We started out in the seats but found it more comfortable laying on the floor in front of the first row of seats. The only other patrons were little kids who were all running around, laughing and throwing things.
My brother and Brad Fox stayed the three days. They brought home tents and sleeping bags for everybody, stuff they rounded up when the festival was over. I kinda wish I had got with them.
Last time we heard With The Cows they performed with a trumpet player, Mike Kaupa. The music was free flowing, complex and engaging but the instrumental interludes threatened to outshine Rick Petrie‘s poetry. At the Bop Shop on Friday night Phil and Roy Marshall performed with Chris Zajkowski on keyboards, in place of the trumpet, and the set was focused and supportive. One was not better, both were great but the readings were more rewarding this time.
As Peggi and I sat there, behind rows of of teenage Roy fans, we were remembering what it was like backing Ted Williams‘ readings at Jazzberrys, Roy, about to start school at the Eastman, sound great and looked great with his Pharoah Sanders t-shirt.
Joe Tunis has been doing Day Tours, a series of performances with guests in six or seven locations, for twenty years. We usually catch at least one of his stops and the ones at Durand are easy. This year Joe played a small, distorted keyboard, Nuuj played some homemade horns, someone gathered solar powered noises, a woman played cello and Brian Blatt walked around and around the giant peace sign near the beach. He was wearing a Phish shirt and a small speaker around his neck while he smoked hand rolled cigarettes and read from the paperback version of Rocky II. It was brilliant.
We listened to “On The Beach” yesterday because we read it was the 45th anniversary of that record’s release. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason. There is a newspaper depicted on the cover and the headline reads “Sen. Buckley Calls For Nixon To Resign.” Almost a half century on we have another president leading a “Love It or Leave It” movement.
We bought two 22 ounce cans of Estrella Jalisco at Southtown Beverage and we brought one of them down to the pool today. I noticed that it was brewed by Grupo Modelo, a large Mexican company that was bought by Constellation Brands, the local company that got their start with fortified Wild Irish Rose. The Estrella Jalisco tasted great in the hot sun and we were reminded of a cd we bought in Mexico, by a group from Jalisco called Mariachi Reyes del Aserrado. We called that up and it felt like we were on an exotic vacation or as Louise says “living in the afterlife.”
Bob Dylan reminds us, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, or finding anything. Life is about creating yourself, and creating things.”
Dylan’s Rolling Thunder movie on the big screen at the Little Theatre was a blast. It was like going to a concert without the sameness that sets in. We saw the rambunctious tour when it stopped at the War Memorial in 1975. Scorcese captured that and so much more of the heady era. With masterful editing we hear just enough of the songs before getting another glimpse of the enigma that is Dylan, our generation’s foremost bard.
Joan Baez is strong enough to wrestle Dylan. Patti Smith, influenced by Dylan is shown influencing Dylan. Scarlett O’Hara is the foundation of this band’s gypsy sound. Joni Mitchell’s guitar rings above all the strumming. Allen Ginsberg cuts above all the cynicism with an optimistic mystic’s summary of what we’ve witnessed reminding us of our duty to create. The long movie felt short. We will watch it again on the small screen.
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.
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 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.
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.”
Last year on this date, 4/5, we had a 45 party. Maybe it was the year before. Everybody brought a few records and we whooped it up. I wanted to do it again but we have an art opening to attend so I made plans to talk about the new Real Angel Corpus Christi record. Lindsey Hutton writes the liner notes and I should probably just reprint those but here goes.
The package is stunning, like a giant 45, a European one on the front and and an American one on the flip side. We have two Angel Corpus Christi 7 inches and three of those four sides are included here. The record is chocked full of singles.
The accordion is exactly the right instrument for Angel’s International pop sound. Pull Girl is a smash. The low end quiver on Dream Baby Dream rattles the dishes in our cupboard. The ultimate Suicide song features Alan Vega himself on backups. Angel’s Barbarians cover, a perfect choice for her, sounds like it’s being performed live in a teen club, maybe a converted bowling alley, the way bands sounded in the Panorama Bowl when I was sixteen. Dean and Britta join Angel on an a dreamy, instrumental version of Femme Fatale, maybe my favorite cut. I would die to hear that played on the street in SF the way she used to.
Sadder is Peggi’s favorite! If only Lou Reed had taken the advice Angel offers on Lou Reed’s Hair. MX80’s Bruce Anderson plays guitar on Face in the Crowd and the lp finishes with a brilliant mash-up of Walk on the Wild Side and Henry Mancini’s Elephant Walk.
We weren’t sure what to expect, which is always a good thing. We gathered in an art room at the downtown galley and were told to turn our devices off. They warned us that we could not leave the room for forty five minutes. Bill Frisell was to play a tone and we were told there would be ten minutes of silence after that. Then Bill played his guitar for fifteen (without any boxes) and then there was another ten minutes of silence before Bill struck the final tone. A morning meditation and a perfect start to the day.
We had seen Mary Halvorson on the street but hadn’t heard any of the configurations she was playing in until Columbia Icefield. They were loud and rambunctious. Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir went for emotion, Icelandic style, accompanying herself on piano. What a contrast, walking into Wadada Leo Smith’s solo trumpet performance. Not just a warm tone but a deep, soulful, bluesy tribute to Monk.
Over to the Knoxville Art Museum for Nate Wooley, someone who is supposed to make us question our fundamental understanding of what a trumpet sounds like. His opening piece was so quiet I had a hard time chewing my peanut noodle and pickled cabbage dish without making too much noise. Long, meditative notes that got so long they required circular breathing.
Carla Bley played a very pretty set at the Tennessee Theater with her partner, Steve Sallow and a saxophonist. Amirtha Kidambi‘s Elder Ones at the church sounded like a middle eastern Art Bears or maybe Screaming Gypsy Bandits. Jack DeJohnette with Ravi Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison’s son was surprising. Garrison, on six string electric bass, comes across as the lead instrument in this all star trio. And did ourselves in with Abstract Black in the Old City, a solo sax with effects.