Bring Out The Jazz

Pete and Shelley kept us up til two last night or maybe we kept them up. I don’t remember. They left Rochester this morning with their new laptop and my old Kodak digital camera. They should be able to generate enough solar power up there to keep these two electronic devices going in the woods.

Peggi and I met the other members of Margaret Explosion at the Little Theater at noon. We were asked to be a prop for a photo in the cafe that will be used in an upcoming brochure. Were played a few improvisations while they set up the shot and then started talking about the upcoming Scorgies Reunion. We tried acoustic versions of Personal Effects songs, “Zeke’s Baby Girl”, “I Had Everything”, “Baby, Baby”, “Bring Out The Jazz” and one where Bob was playing “Porch” and Peggi was playing “Fascinating Game”. Ken didn’t really know the songs but he sounded great. It was the first time we had done these songs in twenty years or so.

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Let The Drummer Take A Ride

Mike Allen, Alan Arras and Sandy Argus in the 1968 RL Thomas yearbook photos
Mike Allen, Alan Arras and Sandy Argus in the 1968 RL Thomas yearbook photos

Margaret Explosion had a gig tonight at the Little Theatre Cafe and Peggi and I were running late, I should say later than usual. We should have been playing by the time we got there but no big deal. Peggi’s sister left LA yesterday, just before the earthquake, to spend some time with her mom so they both showed up for the gig and we started talking. I went up to sit down and play and I realized that I had forgotten my sticks. That’s pretty bad. The band started without me and I went home to pick them up. I took my espresso along for the ride.

Peggi and I had been playing in the basement the night before and I found the sticks in a dark spot. I headed back to the Little and ran into Mike Allen at the door. He was in my class at RL and we chatted for a bit while the band played without a drummer. They sounded pretty good.

The really weird thing is I had the first page of a pdf of scans of our yearbook open on my computer at home and Mike was one of the people on that first page. He was reminding me that his brother was the drummer in the “Root of All Evil”, a band that I used to see all the time at Panorama Bowl. And they played our high school as well but it was always more fun over at Panorama Bowl. They covered the bowling lanes with plywood and about every twenty minutes a fight would break out on the dance floor. Most of the bands of that day covered the Rascals and Smokey, Mitch Ryder and even Barbara Lewis’s “Hello Stranger”.

I volunteered to make the little badges that people wear at the reunion. That’s my favorite part, looking at the old photos. Here’s a photo of Frank Paolo, who was also in my class, in a post he sent out to our class.

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Beautiful Iraq

WXXI Sound Stage Poster with Margaret Explosion
WXXI Sound Stage Poster with Margaret Explosion

We are supposed to be over at WXXI today at 2:00 to get set up and sound check for the taping of Margaret Explosion’s segment of the OnStage Series. We gave WXXI a guest with ninety names on it and they told us we were at the limit. It might have had something to do with the free drinks and appetizers before the show. Los Lobos is playing for free tonight in the park downtown and some of our friends found it hard to tell us that they were opting for Los Lobos. I wish I was one of them.

Pete LaBonne came into town last night and will be joining us tonight on the five foot grand. We had a rehearsal where all went well except for when Pete and I headed off into a lounge section in “Beautiful Iraq”. It will be really interesting to see how we get from one song to the other tonight because we are used to talking amongst ourselves between songs. We’ve been doing this for years, sort of clearing the air before we start the next song. Another thing we’re used to is people talking while we play. We shape our songs around the din. I don’t think anyone will be talking tonight.

As far as I know, we are the only instrumental band on this list. The songs are sort of abstract and the host, Julia Figueras, will try to get concrete answers to her questions between songs. I see an interesting collision coming. I hope it plays well on tv.

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Give The Bass Player Some

Ken Frank on bass
Ken Frank on bass

We had our second Margaret Explosion rehearsal last night in preparation for this upcoming WXXI Sound Stage thing. I am beginning to see way we never rehearse. It gets complicated. Trying to play a song better than it was the first time is next to impossible but if you’re gonna try you need to discuss a few things. We started with a few nice jams and then played our set. Since we generally arrange songs as we play them we found ourselves offering opinions as to what would make these prearranged songs better. It would help if I could play better, I know that. The band works like magic and if you know the trick, its not magic. It’s a delicate thing. I was really happy when rehearsal was over.

Today I kept thinking how lucky I am to play with such amazing musicians. Peggi tosses off creative, original melodies as naturally as she smiles. Bob has a world of sounds and at his fingertips and the musical ability to express any emotion. Ken is the best bass player in the world. Rock solid when he wants to be yet as wild, inventive and musically adventurous as anyone I’ve met.

The Poet ((Chuck Cuminale) from the "Community Icons" series by Paul Dodd. Acrylic house paint on billboard paper, 54" wide by "60" high, 1989
The Poet ((Chuck Cuminale) from the “Community Icons” series by Paul Dodd. Acrylic house paint on billboard paper, 54″ wide by “60” high, 1989. Ken Frank is shown in silhouette.

I guess the first time we met Ken was when our bands played together at Scorgies. He was in 5 Star Buffalo and I was in Personal Effects. They blew us away. Ken wound up in Colorblind James after Bernie Heveron (former Personal Effects bass player) left and I painted Ken behind Chuck when I did my “Local Icons” series in the eighties.

I checked in on a few of my favorite blogs today and found a great interview with Angel Corpus Christi by the Next Big Thing. Lloyd Mintern used a live Margaret Explosion track as a backing track to a video of his photos. Frank Paolo described his cancer diagnosis and Kevin Patrick started a column on Alan Vega that found its way to local dinosaur rock station, WCMF, Roger McCall’s murder and even mentioned a band we were in a long time ago. The links in the right column should take you there.

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You Can Not Reheat A Souffle

We had a Margaret Explosion rehearsal last night, our first in ten years as a band. WXXI called to say they needed a set list with the times of the songs that we plan on doing on our upcoming segment of their “Sound Stage” series. This series of one hour shows featuring local bands is being paid for with money from Elliot Spitzer’s successful payola lawsuit.

I told Todd, the program manager who called, that we don’t have have set times. We improvise. I didn’t have the guts to tell him we really didn’t even have songs. He pushed on. They need a set list next week and a cd of the songs we plan to do.

We decided to open with a jam so the first song will be called “Improvisation” and then we picked six or seven things we do quite often. They’re things that were originally a jam and we stuck a name on them and try to revisit the theme. But we really have never done a version of a song that was as good as it was the first time.

And that reminds me of that old Paul McCartney quote about getting the Beatles back together. “You can not reheat a souffle”.

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Takin’ Care of Blog Biz

Margaret Explosion set up at New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua NY
Margaret Explosion set up at New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua NY

Margaret Explosion pulled off an unusual gig last night at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua. It was a client appreciation night for a wealth management group. Like Peggi said, “It must be tough trying to mange your wealth”. Bob and Ken set their little amps on the bench behind the drums and Peggi sat in a chair to the left. The place was beautiful and the acoustics were great. (If you click on the photo above you can get a little more detail) Before we started our host asked that we play standards. I said, “We’ll play our standards”. We made up most of the night and the crowd seemed to like it. We sold a cd and got quite a few compliments. Tonight we are back on more familiar ground at the Little Theater Cafe.

The only link I’ve had on this blog since I started this thing has been My Non-Tour Diary (my inspiration) but I’ve had a few requests to add others so I’m going about my business in the right hand column.

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Floating At The Bug Jar

Jen with Margaret Explosion t-shirt
Jen with Margaret Explosion t-shirt

I was looking for a gimmick to make the Margaret Explosion email announcement at least sort of interesting. Its a stretch when you play almost every week. Then I realized that we’ve been doing this for ten years so I put up a page making that milestone and I added a few new photos. Pete LaBonne came up with the ME name when he and Shelley were house sitting here in 1998. We started playing Friday night happy hours at the Bug Jar and kept that gig for about three years while the band morphed. The lineup has solidified but we’re still trying to morph.

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Just Say Nothing

I have a sticker on my drum case that came from MX-80 some time in the eighties. It reads “Just Say Nothing” and is their take on the “Just Say No” campaign that was so effective in staunching the thirst for drugs. I was reminded of it at our Margaret Explosion gig last night when Peggi suggested that some of us stop while we are playing, just leave some spaces in the music before plugging up all the holes again. We did so in the next song and we got rounds of applause in the two breaks. It is such a simple technique but incredibly effective.

We made up the music in both sets last night. That is, we didn’t play any songs. Some would call it jamming but if it sounds like a jam we consider it a failure. We try to hang melodies on a rhythm and develop and reinforce them in way that makes them sound like a song or at least a musical interlude. So without arrangements we need all the help we can get and this stopping thing works.

It alerts everyone in the room when the color of the sound changes and most importantly it alerts the other players. The space gives us some breathing room to solidify the parts or prompt a change in direction. It allows the person who is sitting out to think about their contribution before jumping back in. And when the other instruments do come back in it is a release for anyone who is listening. We don’t know what we’re doing and that is the whole idea. If we knew what we were doing, we’d be doing songs all the time. Leaving spaces makes it seem like we know what we are doing.

The funny thing about it all is that we don’t have to play any better during the breaks. We don’t really need to solo or anything. All we need to do is have someone stop. In the old days, in previous bands, we would work breaks into our tightly arranged songs and invariably the loudest cheers of the night were when one or two of the instruments stopped. The fist pumping crowd down front loved that stuff. The bass player and clunky drummer would just keep playing exactly what they were playing under the music and the crowd would start cheering just because someone had stopped.

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Electric Florets

Geri McCormick Electric Florets
Geri McCormick Electric Florets

OK. So it’s raining. No excuse for not taking a walk. If you don’t get out there you won’t see the robins gorging themselves on worms or the one legged turkey doing the turkey hop. And you won’t find any golf balls along the golf course and you’re never gonna find any empty 24 ounce Bud cans along the road. I picked up two today and had them in my hand when I waved to a neighbor who drove by. She’s probably thinking, “So that’s the guy that’s been dumping all those cans down here.”

Geri McCormick asked Margaret Explosion to play at her opening tonight of “Electric Florets” at the Genesee Center for the Arts.

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Dynamic Pages

24 ounce can of Budweiser
24 ounce can of Budweiser

Andrea’s Burma Shave bit seems to be having an effect. We only found one 24 ounce can of Budweiser today.

I spent most of the day yesterday doing php and MySQL experiments with Bill Jones. And then at our Margo gig last night Bob told me I should checking out the open source content management system called Joomla. I’m ready to try some dynamic pages. We had friends over for dinner and we got a really late start for the Margo gig. I loaded the car while Peggi made some soup. We were almost there and Peggi asked me if I put her sax in the car. Whoops.

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Have Fun With Words

We were there.
We were there.

Dwight sent us this shot of fours guys who went out to hear Margaret Explosion last night. The shot looks like it was caught caught on a surveillance camera. The Little closed the Cafe for a private party last night. Sorry about that. We’ll be back next week.

Peggi spent many hours preparing for today’s pre-hearing on our tax reassessment issue. As we headed into the library for encounter we noticed another couple coming out. The woman had a manila envelope and the man had his hands in his pockets. So I put my hand my packets. We signed in at a desk in the basement in front of three tables where people were making their cases. This was a carpeted rec room with colorful signs on the walls. One read, “How Many Ways Can You Tell A Story”. Others read, “Tell It With Stories”, “Have Fun With Words”, Some Words Rhyme” and “Tell It With Puppets”. We started laughing while picturing the idea of Peggi presenting our case with puppetry.

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Day Dream Evening

Margaret Explosion Live
Margaret Explosion Live

Last Wednesday’s Margaret Explosion gig started real slow with only two people in attendance, a couple with broken English accents. They have been here before and they stayed for full ride. We had a pretty good crowd by the end of the night and on the way out the couple said, “See you next time”.

This gig is so casual, it is perfect for Margaret Explosion considering we don’t have any set list, we never practice and we make up most of the night rather than play songs. We have this affliction where our songs never sound as good as they did the first time, when it really wasn’t a song at all.

Truth is most of them are a lot closer to daydreams than songs. This first tune from last week just sort of floated by for that couple.

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Frisell in Buffalo

Snow on deck railing in Rochester NY
Snow on deck railing in Rochester NY

Bob Martin, who plays guitar with Margaret Explosion, arranged for Claudia Engelhart, Bill Frisell’s live sound engineer, to talk about her craft for Bob’s business client, BSW. Frisell was in Buffalo last night so Bob got some free tickets. Ken Frank, Peggi and I met at Bob’s office and got in his VW for the trip to Buffalo. The four of us (that would be all of Margaret Explosion) were going to have dinner when we got there and the trip usually takes about an hour. It was snowing and the expressway was moving pretty slowly. We passed a few cars that had spun off the road and decided to wait until we we got to the New York State Thruway to see if it was in any better shape. It wasn’t so we turned around and came back.

It was still snowing when we woke up and we have another ten inches or so coming today. We’re supposed to play at at the Little tonight. We will have to do some shoveling and skiing first.

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Lucrative Art Market

Margaret Explosion photo by Leo Dodd
Margaret Explosion photo by Leo Dodd

My father emailed me this photo. He took it at the Margaret Explosion gig over Christmas. I didn’t really care for the art on the walls back then. It changes every month and there is already some new stuff up for our gig tonight.

I have a painting show there in January of ’09 and I got an invoice in the mail today for $50 for the privilege. Apparently you have to be a member of the Little Theater Film Society in order to exhibit there – a worthwhile cause. The Crime Faces ought to liven up the place. Here is link to the Rain Dance from our gig at RIT on Saturday. Phil Marshall is on guitar while Bob was in Anaheim.

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For The Love Of God

Edith Small “Skull” After Damien Hirst
Edith Small “Skull” After Damien Hirst

The one on the top is called “Skull” After Damien Hirst’s “For The Love Of God”. Bob Martin, our regular guitarist, was at a trade show in California so Phil Marshall from The Horse Lovers sat in with Margaret Explosion last night. The event, an art opening for the Edith Small retrospective, was really well attended.

We set up on a balcony overlooking the crowd and spotted Wendell Castle wandering around with his round glasses. It was a pretty swanky affair. Edith was a doll and her art is thoroughly enjoyable. We made the whole evening’s songs up on the spot and the crowd seemed to like it. Stephanie Aldersley asked us if we would like to play the upcoming opening at RoCo.

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Low Expectations

After the Margaret Explosion gig last night, our bass player, Ken Frank, told me that he was going to bring his stand up bass again next week now that they have taken the holiday tree down. I guess there wasn’t enough room where we set up with the tree. I told him I never even noticed the tree. We still have ours up but I’ve stopped looking at it.

We got our fireplace insert installed today and I can’t stop looking at that. I thought my camera had gone haywire because when I took a photo and switched to review mode to check it out, it always showed the same photo from a few weeks ago. But I saved all my photos tonight and noticed that the number on the .jpg files had reached its limit of 9,999. It’s hard to believe I’ve taken that many photos. I certainly haven’t saved them all.

Bed & Breakfast near Ithaca

I just saved this one from the bed and breakfast we stayed at on New Years’s Eve. Taughannock Farms Inn is located just up the lake a bit from Ithaca. You can see the lake off to the right and the old yellow house with the widow’s walk is where they serve dinner. The state park and falls are next door with some beautiful hiking trails.

We have had a party on New Years for many years and we always waited to the last minute to invite people. If somebody had something better to do they would not be at our party. The key ingredient to a good party is low expectations.

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Good Looking People

Peggi brought her mom over here on Christmas for some champagne and then we planned to head over to my parents’ house where the whole family gathers for sandwiches and some gift-giving. I have some of my dark crime faces hanging by the door and on the way out of the house I heard my mother-in-law say, “I must tell Paul, I wish someday he would get some good looking people up there.”

Peggi with Lucas’s baby blanket.
Peggi with Lucas’s baby blanket.

Peggi gave our niece the baby blanket that she has been crocheting for Lucas and then took it back so she could finish it at the party. Lucas’ brother, Dylan, was running around in his new Superman pajamas. Peggi finished the blanket.

We built up $500 worth of points in our Visa Rewards program and we ordered a MacBook through Best Buy. It was back ordered so we didn’t get it by Christmas. It is in now with a tracking number but it still seems to sitting at the Best Buy warehouse. We will probably use our old laptop for a jukebox. We tracked Peggi’s LL Bean order at Fed Ex and watched it leave Maine on a truck, get sorted at the Rochester Fed Ex facility and then leave for Memphis only to turn around and fly back to Rochester. It arrived the day before Christmas. I like Fed Ex’s tracking interface better than UPS’. Our nephew is staying with us and we geeked all day. We installed Leopard on a sub 867 G4 and transfered our mail package to that computer. We’re putting our G3 out to pasture.

Margaret Explosion plays tonight and a bunch of my family will be there.

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Endless Supply of Local Crime Faces

Someday I will get off this dime and paint something other that local crime faces. We had our last painting class until after the damn holidays. I finished the one below and I took another one over to the annual members show at Rochester Contemporary. That opening is Friday. The paint was still wet and I didn’t have a chance to photograph that one.

Paul Dodd Crime Face painting 2007
Paul Dodd Crime Face painting 2007

Margaret Explosion plays tonight at the Little Theatre Cafe. I haven’t touched my drums since our last gig.

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The Butterfly Knot

Margaret Explosion played a party after the screening of Brian Strine’s film, The Butterfly Knot. It was a pretty cool gig. It’s always good if the band has a good time. Bob Martin was out of town so Jack Schaefer sat in with us on bass clarinet and guitar. The party house was perfectly funky. It’s been around since the fifties and used to be called, “Valley Echo.” We made a note to rent this place for a party. Matt Pfohl, the film’s co-star sat in on drums and rocked the house.

Ken Frank on bass, Matt Pfohl  (star of Butterfly Knot) on drums and Peggi Fournier on soprano sax.
Ken Frank on bass, Matt Pfohl (star of Butterfly Knot) on drums and Peggi Fournier on soprano sax.

The movie was shot in the Thousand Islands and cuts a deep groove. The soundtrack is in flux while the contracts get ironed out but it is all seventies stuff like Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris doing the Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody.” Blind Faith and Nick Drake were in there for the screening but may have been dropped by now. John Martyn has a track and his wife, Beverley sets the mood for the pot scene. I guess the ending is in flux too because they passed out questionnaires trolling for endings.

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