Nesmith Tribute Show: A Look Back

Back in December, I played a Michael Nesmith tribute show, along with several talented performers. Brian Marchese, who put together the show, has created a little video with photos of the night and sound clips from each song performed. The Mystics slot is third, with our un-rehearsed version of The Crippled Lion. This video is Part 1, and he promises a Part 2 in the future. Enjoy!

Nez70 part 1. A celebration of Michael Nesmith’s 70th birthday. Northampton, MA.

Electric Bulbs on a Birthday Cake

Hey all, I will be playing a wonderful tribute concert to one of my absolute favorite artists, Robyn Hitchcock. My psyche came into contact with this man’s work when I was 14 and I was never the same again, so I’m thrilled to play a song or two on this evening. Also, The Parlor Room is a great new venue in Northampton, and there are several very talented people playing. If you can come, I think you’ll have a good time. More on this later!

See my Shows page for details: http://mysticsanonymous.com/shows/

Paradigm Shift

Here in New England, we’re buried in snow. This has me thinking wistfully of warm, wide-open spaces and Southwestern landscapes. In that spirit, here is a track from Middle Distance, the album Mystics Anonymous released as part of an art installation featuring said landscapes. Paradigm Shift is a noir-ish desert theme, and marks the point in the album, which has been slowly building from minimalist noise, to chord and melody-driven music. The idea was that the music would mirror the rise of civilization, from “Horizon” to “Future Secret Societies.”  So in the middle of the album, we reach the “Paradigm Shift.”  You can stream and download it for free here.  Hope you enjoy!

http://mysticsanonymous.bandcamp.com/track/paradigm-shift

Show Alert: Dennis Crommett

I have been remiss in promoting some excellent shows in the Pioneer Valley lately, but I am correcting that now by ensuring you hear this: singer/songwriter Dennis Crommett is playing The Parlor Room in Northampton, MA this Friday 2/1.

You may know Crommett from his guitar-playing in indie champer-pop band Winterpills, or as the lead singer/guitarist for band Spanish for Hitchhiking (whose lovely “Kissing Music” came up on shuffle for me this morning). Well, in addition to these fine projects, he also releases music under his own name, with an acoustic roots-rock or folk-rock bent, you might say. His 2011 album In the Buffalo Surround continues to be on heavy rotation for me, and I highly recommend it. As I do this show he’s playing in an intimate venue. Check it out.

Details and tickets here:  http://www.parlorroommusic.com/

Camper Van Beethoven Love

Anyone who knows me or has followed my work knows of my love for Camper Van Beethoven. This seminal band and its love of genre-crossing (and resultant uniqueness) is a huge part of my psyche, both as an artist and as a human being, sharing space with others like Jack Kerouac, R.E.M., Mark Twain, David Lynch, Danny Elfman, William S. Burroughs, Terry Gilliam…the list could go on.

Happily, CVB has just put out a new album, La Costa Perdida. Is it too predictable to say I recommend it? Sure. But I do anyway. While I know I would be predisposed to like it no matter what, the album strikes me as more accessible, so I mean it when I say to check it out. And “more accessible” does *not* translate to “boring” or “watered down,” by the way. So much of what makes CVB unique is still here, but maybe just a tad more beautiful and winsome. More along the lines of the band’s Key Lime Pie, rather than, say, II & III.

I of course was streaming the album on the Spin website before its release (you can do that too, right here: CVB’s La Costa Perdida.) Then I went to the band’s show at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA (awesome!). Then I walked over to Newbury Comics and bought the CD. Now I am listening to it quite a bit, and of course revisiting the back catalog, which, if you include all the fan-oriented releases and re-releases the band puts out, is actually quite extensive. In short, I am in full-on CVB Love Mode.

Are you a fan too? If so, you already have this stuff. Are you a lapsed fan? Then get caught up with this great band. Are you not yet acquainted with CVB? Get on it! There’s really no excuse. When I described them as “seminal,” that was no exaggeration. Like R.E.M. and Pixies, there would have been no real alt rock movement without CVB. These are the bands people like Kurt Cobain were listening to or watching on 120 Minutes before their own bands broke big. If your alt rock knowledge and experience only goes as far back as 1991, start reverse engineering so you make it back a few more years to hear The Replacements, Robyn Hitchcock, Meat Puppets, The Feelies, etc. It will be worth your while. You know who else agrees with me? Paul Rudd, that’s who. Even the notoriously cranky Pitchfork has chimed in on CVB’s right to more attention: “Camper Van Beethoven’s college rock reign won the band much acclaim, and their original, impeccable, endlessly inventive run of 1985’s Telephone Free Landslide Victory through its 1989 swan song Key Lime Pie has withstood the test of time. Yet despite all this, CVB remains somewhat unsung and overlooked.” (Review of Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty).

Part of my CVB reverie includes obsessively reading all the reviews and articles that have been published in the last few weeks as the album and tour began revving up. Of all of them, the following article and interview with David Lowery is clearly the best thus far, so why not begin here? Ghost of the Lost Coast.

Think of this post as an invitation to the CVB Love-In. As Delmar says in O Brother, Where Art Thou?: “Come on in, boys, the water’s fine.”

 

This Is Us Tomorrow

Many of you likely know that I am a member of the band Fiesta Brava, and we have spent much of the last two years working on our first full-length album, titled This Is Us Tomorrow. We are finally nearing the finish line, currently in the midst of mastering the album and looking to release it in April 2013. Much of the album was recorded in my Gondwanaland studio and I am quite proud of what we’ve come up with. In the run-up to the release, we’ve begun previewing tracks from the album (in sequence order). Right now, you can hear the first two songs, Heroic Hearts and Modern Headache, on our Soundcloud station:

Fiesta Brava: This Is Us Tomorrow

 

The Crippled Lion

I have been asked to participate in a multi-artist tribute to the great Mike Nesmith of The Monkees (info here: http://mysticsanonymous.com/shows/). This promises to be fun, in an experimental, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kinda way. What we’ll try to accomplish, with no rehearsal and relying on our wits and skills, is a stripped-down version of Nesmith’s The Crippled Lion. I have been calling it “torchy.” Brian Marchese has been calling it “sparse.”

The personnel attempting this will include yours truly on lead vocal and electric guitar, Ken Maiuri on keyboards, Brian Marchese on drums, Jason Bourgeois on bass guitar, and Ryan McGovern Quinn on pedal steel. I think. Honestly, anything can happen.

And that’s exactly what is fun about saying “yes” to events like this. A group of musicians on stage, communicating wordlessly, figuring out how to proceed and just letting something special happen, trusting our instincts and having a good time.

This version of Mystics Anonymous will be going on early, probably second, and the whole shebang starts at 7:00 pm, so try to be there early. Then stick around, because a lot of talented people with some rehearsals behind them will very likely blow your mind with great renditions of great Nesmith songs.

And I’ll be able to just relax and enjoy the other performances, having already performed myself, so feel free to come over and say hi. Just don’t tell me if you think we’ve bombed. Because I’m sensitive. 😉

 

Maudlin You Liar

Mystics Anonymous is playing another show on December 7 at The Basement in Northampton, MA. To prepare, we’re adding a few songs to the set, and one of the interesting things about doing that is that some of these songs have never been played live, and I have no memory of how to play them. So first, I have to sit down and learn my own songs (“What was that chord again? Is it major or minor?”), and then we can arrange and rehearse our version.

Songs take on new meaning depending on their context. Playing acoustic guitar alone in the studio in the middle of the night, a song sounds so intimate and has an almost secret life. Playing them in a room with a band, they are exposed to the light, and there they bloom into something else (the thorns can also become more apparent). Add an audience, and it’s another song altogether.

It’s so great to hear musicians bring themselves to a song. All the little (and big) touches that change the song’s impact are what make it fun to play in a band. Brian’s drumming takes advantage of the space, Matt’s guitar playing chooses moments to raise its hand and exclaim something, and Andy’s bass playing locks it all together in a way that sounds effortless but I know is not.

All of this is what I’m experiencing with the song Maudlin You Liar, a track from the Winsted in the Space Room album. On the album, I play all of the instruments, and as a lo-fi home studio recording, it works. You can listen to it here:

Maudlin You Liar.

Next, come to the show, and hear the live band version. You won’t be disappointed.