“Burn” with Pauli Gray
“Say Anything” with Pauli Gray
“Burn” with Pauli Gray
“Say Anything” with Pauli Gray
April seems to be all about doing the work: tearing down my studio so I can get it water-proofed and remodeled; learning to be flexible with practice time and space when I don’t have a dedicated area; learning new material for upcoming shows. But I’m pretty sure it will all pay off, in some cases as soon as next month.
My biggest news is that I’m playing keys for Debora Iyall’s backing band. I’ve mentioned Debora in a previous post; she was the lead singer of Romeo Void, a seminal post-punk band from the 80′s. The whole situation seems a little too good to be true, so I’ve been very quiet about it, afraid I might jinx it in some way. However, we have a show coming up on Cinco de Mayo at Armandos in Martinez, CA so I guess it’s time to make it official.
And here’s a preview of some of the music you’ll be hearing if you make it out to the show:
A Jimi Hendrix tribute performed by the very talented Stev Ohanis (guitar), Dave Wenger (bass) and John Tucker (drums) will kick off the evening, and I’ll even play a few solo songs before the main event.
In the meantime, I threw together this video in an effort to feel like I can still be creative. I’m always torn about throwing things together. Truth be told, I’m an idea person, but I’ve figured out that it’s the execution that counts. Some people have a natural instinct for knowing when their work is polished; I remain a diamond in the rough and perhaps will always be just that. This video is a perfect example of less than perfect pieces coming together to make . . . less than perfect art from a less than perfect artist.
On a side note, I realized only after I made the video (filmed in Second Life) that my virtual self is hanging out in a virtual studio, perhaps of my subconscious longing to have my real studio back.
I went out to Secret Studios last night to meet up with my friend, Pauli, who hopefully will play a few songs with me at my next show (May 22 at El Rio, in case you’re wondering). I was late and he thought I had already cancelled, so I waited while he made the trek from his place in The Mission to Cesar Chavez. As I stood there in the hall with a pile of equipment at my feet, fumbling with my phone to pass the time, I realized that this was such a familiar situation in such a familiar place, that it felt timeless.
Before I knew it as Secret Studios, I knew the building as McCune Audio/Visual. I worked there for a few years, but not a contiguous few years. I think I may have quit twice before finally leaving for good. Secret Studios was already occupying the back of the building when it was McCune, but when McCune left, Secret Studios took over the rest of the warehouse area (the same area where I spent a lot of time wrapping cables, because the McCune warehouse manager didn’t know what to do with the secretary from upstairs who claimed she wanted to be a tech even though she couldn’t comfortably lift half of the equipment that needed to be hauled around for the job).
I’d been there a couple of times on auditions before I became a regular, traveling down the long halls of rehearsal space doors to meet with Karen, the singer/ guitarist with whom I formed The Little Things. When Karen needed to take a break from music to have a baby, I auditioned for Candy from Strangers, which lead me to the same door I waited by last night. Since then I’ve also rented out the hourly room for various projects.
I’ve watched bands load drum sets and amps into shabby vans in the parking lot, I’ve clumsily dragged my own equipment over the bumpy asphalt and dropped my keyboard on the loading ramp more than once (on one particular instance it was a choice between my keyboard or my mini skirt, and I chose the mini skirt. Either way, I was going to look stupid.) Sometimes it seems the musicians coming and going are ageless, sometimes they look like kids, and then sometimes, when I really look around everyone seems to be my age.
If there’s any secret left to Secret Studios, it certainly isn’t the security gate code, I think you could probably Google it if you had to. Maybe the real secret is that it is timeless. Some bands have practiced there forever; many bands have been born and died there, occasionally all in the same night. It holds the same psychic energy as say a dorm room, or a prison, or any space that is inhabited for a very specific purpose. Musicians come and go, but things don’t change much. The musical styles cycle through.
But the one thing that hangs in my mind each and every time I go to Secret Studios is “Man, this would be a kick ass setting for a zombie flick.” And it really would be. A poor unsuspecting singer on her way to the audition of lifetime doesn’t realize the zombie apocalypse is upon her. Suddenly she finds herself trapped in a maze of punk rock zombies, metal head zombies, goth zombies, swing band zombies – and half of the zombies she encounters aren’t even zombies yet. It practically writes itself!
My youngest wakes up crying for a certain kind of breakfast food I don’t have in the house. For reasons still unknown to me, I agree to run out to the store to appease his craving. I throw on some sweatpants and my winter jacket and head out to the local store that is not as safe as its name implies (you’d better check the dates on the organic yogurt, if you know what I’m saying).
As soon as I start-up my husband’s car, the mp3 player comes to life and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” blasts forth from the stereo, throwing me back in time a good 25 years. And then, like a character from a Philip K. Dick novel, my timeline is scrambled. I am both a middle-aged woman driving down the pleasant, suburban street on which she lives on a crisp Monday morning, and I am also an awkward, discontent teenager, shut up in her room listening to records, dreaming of a future she knows will never materialize.
“It’s okay,” I want to tell my tell my teenage self. “Things turn out nothing like you planned, but it turns out fine. By the way, can I pick up anything for you at the grocery store while I’m out?” My teenage self gives me the silent treatment as usual.
There’s no one else out here except for a teenage boy walking to the bus stop; his dyed black hair provides no contrast to his black hoodie and his black t-shirt.
“And if a ten ton truck crashes into us, to die by your side, well the pleasure the privilege is mine,” croons Morrissey.
For just a moment I fight the urge to pull over to the Emo boy and say, “Hey, want a ride?”
Having spent most of January trying to shake off a nasty eye infection, I have found my way to February feeling and looking mostly normal. These past few weeks have been a string of happy collisions with some extraordinarily talented people. I often feel my universe expands and contracts in a cyclical fashion. For a while I will feel like I am working in a vacuum, completely isolated and then suddenly it all explodes, just like the big bang, and I am propelled into new space. And in that moment I realize that I’m part of something much larger, the amazing and eclectic San Francisco Bay Area music scene.
The lineup of artists playing with me at The Stork Club next Wednesday, February 22, exemplifies the variety of talent you can find in the Bay Area. In addition to my synth pop loops, there will be indie pop music played by the very talented Gabby La La and her new band, Snow Angel. Gabby La La is a multi-instrumentalist who has shared a stage with the likes of Les Claypool. I admire both her music and her fashion sense; she achieves in real life what I can only aspire to in avatar form in Second Life. Her new project, Snow Angel, is wonderfully melodic with dreamy harmonies.
Following Gabby La La will be Silent Motif, an ambient electronica trio lead by Robert Keller. I have seen them perform online and it was mesmerizing. Each band member was decked out in a glowing shirt, giving them an otherworldly presence that was reinforced by music that created alien soundscapes ranging from ethereal to cacophonous to (not quite) dance music and then back again.
Watch Silent Motif’s online performance
Ending the evening is Ziva Hadar, whose soulful pop reminds me a great deal of Nora Jones. Ziva, whose music combines several genres including pop, jazz and blues, has been creating a buzz in the Bay Area music scene for the past year or so. She’s just released an EP, Just Another Night.
Finally, I recently had the honor of sitting in on a rehearsal with Debora Iyall and her band. Best known as the lead singer of Romeo Void, Ms. Iyall has just released an EP, Singing Until Sunrise. Having grown up in the golden age of MTV, I vividly remember watching the videos of “Never Say Never” and “A Girl in Trouble”. Her lyrics and presence always seemed far more powerful and subversive than many of the mainstream female artists who claimed to be just that.
The songs on Singing Until Sunrise and Stay Strong, her full length CD released in 2010, have a much different energy than her work with Romeo Void, but the lyrics are still powerful and rich with imagery. She is playing with Storm Large at The Red Devil Lounge tomorrow evening.