We miss the people who come out to hear the band. We miss the Little Theatre Café, the rotating monthly art shows, the espresso, the Scotch Ale, the lively conversations and the laughter (all captured on the live recordings we make at the Café). But most of all we miss playing with our bandmates, improvising and creating skeletons of songs from thin air. We want to thank you all for supporting the band for so many years. We hope you all stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all on the other side.
We watched the PBS special on Miles Davis las night. I loved it. There was a period there, 1968 to 1975, where each album he released blew my mind. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. “On the Corner” and “Get Up With It” were my favorites but every lp or live double lp from this period is phenomenal in my book. Eventually I grew to love the earlier albums.
The song above, recorded at the Little Theater in 2014, is Margaret Explosion’s tribute to Miles. The video was just recently created by Stephen Black.
Yes. The monitor is blown out. Steve would have gathered more info if he had taken this shot himself. He is shown here working on one of the two videos he created while in town. Check out the hat! It was cold here but perfect weather for shooting Margaret Explosion videos.
Steve’s iPhone footage used in “Disappear”, the video shown below, was all shot within a mile or so of our house. All locations we have walked by countless times. But we hardly recognized them. We kept asking “where was that.?” Steve couldn’t answer because he is not from here. We didn’t even recognize our own headlight.
Steve thinks cinematically. I square things off and go head on. Steve operates in another dimension and goes way beyond the point blank. He moves the camera and animates a scene like a musical passage. Steve explains his approach: “The video is one with the music. I am playing with you, just later, and with the luxury of time to make and remake decisions.”
I put this video up last night and then reconsidered it. It was too easy.
We walked Horseshoe Road in Durand Eastman with the camera on. I stuck the video, with no edits, on a song that we played last year at the Little. The song was slightly longer than the walk so I slowed the video down and they end together. It was far from a steady cam so I stabilized it 100%, a move similar to going overboard with auto tune.
I remember riding in our family car when my dad drove this road. It is still just as magical but it’s been closed to car traffic for over forty years now. There are so many weeds growing up through the pavement that the park workers mow it. And there aren’t many park workers left.
I took the song down and even though it is all one take I put some splices in and added color filters to the various sections. The beginning and end are still as they were. I jacked up the transition time as far as it would let me go. I’m happy with it now.
Peggi and I visited Rochester Contemporary last week so I could take some still photos of the art installation. While I was moving my tripod around the gallery Peggi took some movies with her iPhone. She edited them over the weekend and made this composite video. We added a soundtrack of our band, Margaret Explosion, two live songs that were recorded last week at the Little Theatre Café. The exhibition runs through November 10. I hope you can out and see it. If you can’t, I guess this video is the next best thing.
We’re so proud of our friend and neighbor. Just her second competition and she brings home a medal from the USA Power Lifting Championship in Florida. Go Sierra!
Still haven’t got over to the MAG to see the Bill Viola piece in the Media Art room but we were thrilled to hear the Memorial Art Gallery plans to commission three works by international artists inspired by the City of Rochester, New York. “Reflections on Place” will feature Javier Téllez (Venezuela, b. 1969), Isaac Julien (U.K., b. 1960) and Dara Birnbaum, (U.S., b. 1946). We’ll have to wait til April 2018 for the first of those exhibitions.
Tonight marks Phil Marshall’s fourth performance as a Margaret Explosion member. We are thrilled to have him in the band working his magic. Before he joined he sat in with us on many occasions. Here he is on live track from the Little Theatre Café in 2009.
At the end of every song last night the chanting started up. Maybe it was the three big, white, cardboard cut-out letters hanging over the piano like one of Calder’s mobiles. It was Bob’s last night with the band. He is moving to Chicago and we will miss him.
Peggi and I have played with Bob for a long time. He answered a call for a guitar player back in the early eighties. We had just disbanded Hi-Techs and were forming Personal Effects and he came down to our rehearsal space. It was scary how quickly he picked up on what we were trying to do. Scary like we were left wondering if he was too good for us.
We played together for five years, five albums or so, and then Bob moved to DC. When he returned we were playing in an early version of Margaret Explosion. He sat in with us at the Bug Jar and the next thing you know he was back in the band. We’ve been playing at the Little Theatre for fifteen years now. But nothing lasts forever.
Bob has developed an incredibly rich guitar palette. He will be irreplaceable and that is the mark of a true artist. That’s why the audience last night chanted “Bob, Bob, Bob.” I joined in.
I like puzzles but don’t go out of my way to tackle them. I get addicted and can’t stop. This one sort of fell into our lap. My brother, the best stone mason in the city, poured a new concrete driveway for us. Of course there was a lot more work than the pouring. He was over here every day few a couple of weeks preparing the surface and forms. He even offered his artist eye to give the driveway some seductive curves. The concrete was poured on a Saturday and he returned one more time to seal it. We threw a game of horseshoes when he finished and he beat me one out of three.
There is a slate sidewalk from our old driveway to the threshold of our front door and the new driveway, which gently slopes from the garage to the street, is now two inches higher than our sidewalk. So 200 pound piece by 200 pound piece Peggi and I have been raising the level of the sidewalk. We’ve been working on this for over a week now and we can’t wait to get to work each day. We find ourselves looking out the window at our project at night. The pieces of slate or Pennsylvania Bluestone or whatever you call this stuff are all different sizes and some of the old ones were broken so putting it all pack together with shovels, sand, fill, levels, a grinder and diamond blade circular saw that our neighbor Jared let us borrow, and a 2 by 6 to grade the surface has been a real puzzle. It feels great to be outdoors the whole day and I find manual labor to be immensely satisfying. I wonder why that is.
Listen to “Girls With Balloons” from Margaret Explosion Disappear CD
Margaret Explosion plays Wednesday evenings in October and November at the Little Theatre Café.
I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, to be in a band with Peggi Fournier. Over and over again, she pulls beautiful melodies from the thin air, marvelous stuff that you could hang your hat on. To my ears she is a rare breed.
The song below is from last week. I only brought two drums to the gig as my right foot is out of commission for a month or so. A young couple there, both of them nurses, told us they saw Margaret Explosion on their first date and they came back tonight because they both had off.
Chuck Cuminale, aka Colorblind James, was born the 23rd, the day before Bob Dylan’s birthday, and he was a lifelong fan which is not to say he loved everything Bob did. Far from it. I went to high school with Chuck. He always took music seriously and loved to share his opinion. I haven’t had a good argument with a friend about music since he died.
He wrote the following when he was working for City Newspaper. “The Margaret Explosion is not screaming for your attention. At its weekly Friday night happy hour gig at the Bug Jar, the band sets up in the darkest corner of the club. It makes no announcements or introductions. The musicians don’t take flashy solos, or make grandiose musical statements. What they do, from their dark corner, is provide the crowd with a cool, knowing, improvised soundtrack for its early evening activities. They cast a bohemian glow over the room, and, like magic, people look more interesting, conversations become more engaging, and Rochester seems like a better, hipper place to be.”
Margaret Explosion plays one more Wednesday at the Little Theatre and then we’re off for the summer.
In 1998 I took my one megapixel Kodak DC210 to Friday happy hour at the Bug Jar on Monroe Avenue. I brought along a simple light fixture, the one I used for painting, with a hundred watt bulb and a big piece of white paper that I hung on the wall in the back room. One by one I approached everyone in the place and asked them if they would like to sit for a mug shot. I found twenty four willing participants. I cropped the photos a bit and converted them to black and white and then to a large dot pattern. I printed the images on our LaserWriter, tiling the files out of a Quark XPress document. Each mugshot image consisted of nine 8 1/2×11 inch prints which I spray mounted to some black cardboard. I hung them in the Bug Jar about a month later.
I recently came across the original color photos so I posted them here for the first time. I also found about fifty photos from the opening of the show. Those are in a separate slideshow below.
Margaret Explosion had a weekly happy hour gig at the Bug Jar for about three years and I remember Bill Jones borrowing my camera to shoot a few photos of the band playing at the opening.
I like the production values on this. Ken Colombo was sitting a few tables back from the band holding his phone in the air. I like the sound too and and it’s not an Apple product. This was our second song last Wednesday. The place was just starting to fill up, Jack was in NYC, and the rest of the band was getting down to business.
Not really sure what year this is so we’ll call it 2000. Steve Black was in town from Singapore with his pre-digital movie equipment and Margaret Explosion was a skeleton crew. In case you are not from around here Cobbs Hill is the gravitational center of Rochester, New York.
Karen Black is amazing. Her character, part man part woman, makes a dramatic, late entrance. Sandy Dennis is terrific. Kathy Bates is is sensational but Cher is way fantastic. Come Back to the Five and Dime may have gotten better with age, so many factors being relevant.
That led into another viewing of the “The Long Goodbye” with a nice “Extra” from Altman himself. We might just go around with another Altman fest, something we need to do every few years.
We caught a mini Norman McLaren fest a few nights ago at the Dryden. Early, animated shorts of McClaren wrestling with a chair to Ravi Shankar music and hand drawn film frames set to a beautiful Oscar Peterson soundtrack and his 1968 masterpiece, “Pas de deux.”
Margaret Explosion has a New Year’s Eve gig at the Little, a cause for celebration. I’m bringing our projector. Bob’s bringing a hard drive of movies. We will supply the soundtrack.
When my father downsized I grabbed his old silkscreen frames. We had taken an adult ed class together maybe thirty years ago at Boces in Fairport and we learned the basics. The chemicals were nasty at the time, oil based ink and some wicked solvent to wash the screen with. We did stencil like stuff and split fountain fills but we didn’t do any photo silkscreen.
Peggi bought a Speedball Diazo photo silkscreen kit at Rochester Art Supply with the intention of printing the covers of the new Margaret Explosion cd ourselves. We watched a bunch of YouTube videos and came up with this graphic. We ran a transparency print of it at Staples and converted our basement bathroom into a darkroom. We coated the screen, let it dry and exposed the shit out of it with a 500 watt photo food bulb. We think we overexposed the first try because the letters got clogged and wouldn’t let ink pass.
I bought a 250 watt bulb at Rowe Photo and we gave it another try. We got the little red safe light and the photo flood light all tanged up in the dark and broke our red bulb but we washed the screen out after a ten minute exposure and the screen seems to have taken the image.
Funny thing about the title song. It never made it on the cd. It actually wasn’t even recorded until the the cd tunes had been picked but was always the working title. And now we have the title song but it’s not on the album.
Margaret Explosion gigs can sometimes be strange. The band itself is strange. We have no songs or setlist. We will the moment into the form of a song. We go where the music takes us and we trust that. The tune below, our last song in the second set of last week’s performance at the Little Theater, is dedicated to Sam Lowery who passed away a few days before the gig (I wrote about Sam, aka I.D., a few days back).
There was a pretty good crowd last week, we made the bonus, but when we finished the song there was no applause. Even our clunkers get a polite applause. I like to think the song was moving enough to have silenced the chatter for a moment. A success. A tribute to Sam Lowery.
My guess is that we are all looking for a breakthrough. I was especially desperate last night and it just didn’t come. In fact, as I pushed paint around I only made matters worse. What felt like some sort of compulsion to smooth out rough edges was really the lack of confidence to follow through with the expressive nature of the first stabs, the ones that came from the gut and pack most of the punch. If it sounds like a fight that’s because it feels like one and I know if that struggle was evident in the end I would have a better piece.
Maybe Margaret Explosion will have a breakthrough tonight.
Mid July is a perfect time to kick back, way back, and wallow in the heat and humidity. It is It was so bright at the pool I couldn’t see the screen of my camera but I managed to shoot enough footage to make a no-edit movie for the Margaret Explosion song, Contemplation.
My math scores on the SATs were about twice my verbal scores. I am visually oriented. My favorite book is only 20,000 words long. In fact the title of the book is “20,000 Words.” It’s a dictionary without definitions and an old-time, invaluable resource for those who can’t spell. Me.
I love looking at the phonetically hyphenated words. Kilo-watt, knee-high, knight-hood, la-dy-bug, la-goon. And it is still a perfect resource for naming instrumental songs. I used it last night to come up with “Hard Boiled.” The photo that we used for the cover is one that went off while my camera was in my pocket. Somehow it found this amazing red light.
Each Margaret Explosion show is different but we’ve been closing in on this melody for the last few weeks. You’ll hear it stated here about a minute and a half into this song from last week’s performance. The bass clarinet plays variations on the theme and the guitar beautifully crystallizes it while the double bass carries the tune. The band is on a roll, as usually happens at the end of a string of shows. We hope you can stop out tonight for our last show in the Little Theater Café until Fall.
I thought I would read a bit more about Putin’s new “Blogger’s Law” before I risked speaking my mind but as I typed “Putin” in Google I was prompted to check out “Putin’s girlfriend” and I never got to the law so here goes.
When I was building homes as a “rougher” we built three types of homes, split levels, ranches and center entrance Colonials. Oh and there was this thing called a “raised ranch.” These “Domas Homes” were in a new development off Lyell Road. They were cheap and probably didn’t age well. In case you don’t know what a rougher is, some people call them framers, they build the basic wood structure and get out before the “finished” carpenters move in. When I first started as a rougher I hollered out a measurement to my boss, Salvatore Caramana, something like “62 and an eighth.” And he hollered back, “An eighth? I can’t see a fucking eighth.”
Anyway, we didn’t build any Quonset huts. They look like something they might have in Russia.
A good crowd is a mixed blessing. It becomes harder to hear each other and we don’t do crank so, out of necessity, we’ve developed a way to lower the din. We get really quiet in the middle of a song and the crowd follows along. A tuba player from the Eastman was there and he struck up a conversation about improvisation with the low end of our ensemble. Martin Edic was there celebrating his birthday. Tom Burke was there smiling. Jeff Spevak, the local music critic, was there so we should have been putting on our best musical face but we were getting kinda out, so much so that Jack, the bass clarinetist, suggested we do a waltz to start the second set.
Gap Mangione was there last week and I tried to start something a little more straight forward but we are not very good at that. We wound up doing some crazy stuff. Oscar was there tonight in new chair and he was a delight to play to. I thanked him for coming and like a true gentleman he thanked us for playing.