The 2012 Live Oak Music Festival

Well another Live Oak Music Festival has come and gone. We have been going every year for the past 8 years or so, except the year when Diego was 2 and Charlie was 9 months old and I have never regretted that decision for a second.

It is very interesting going every year with the kids because the milestones are quite extraordinary. A couple years ago was the first year that we could bicycle around the festival on two wheelers as a family. And this year was the first year that Diego, at 6, really wanted to take off and bike all by himself, which he did. It was hard to let go.

This year’s lineup had some big names in it and, as usual, there were some good acts and some bad acts. Some big names disappointed and others came through.

Back before the kids were born I soaked up a lot of the music. These days I just catch little snippets, but it is easier to cut away for an entire show sometimes. This year, my must see shows were James McMurtry and David Lindley. David Lindley’s set was a bit flat, but the highlights were the Excedrin song, which was one of the funniest songs I have every heard, and Joe Craven doing the accompaniment. Joe Craven is very tasteful in how he accompanies other musicians. He stays out of the way yet adds a very important element. HIs multi-instrumental ability is something to behold. He is a show in himself as a sideman.

James McMurtry, put plain and simple, kicked ass. He was by far the musical highlight of the weekend for me. His lyrics are so fantastic. I love watching someone who has lyrics that I can only dream of aspiring to. Lots of times I am disappointed by the awful lyrics I am hearing, but McMurtry is a master songwriter. And his band rocked. They were just a 3 piece, but they were so tight and full of sound that they did not need anyone else. An additional guitarist joined them later in the set, but his solos were barely audible and it didn’t really matter.

When I think about putting a band together these days it is in the James McMurtry template. Groovy bass with lock-step drums that hold back in the pocket to let the lyrics come through as audibly as possible, yet which provide a rocking groove to allow simple chord progressions to come alive. And I also have to mention James’ guitar playing, which is really fantastic. He is unheralded as an electric guitarist, but he is damn good. James McMurtry is the shit. If you like fantastic lyrics and good rock-n-roll then he is not to be missed.


A weekend at the beach and a new song!

Melanie and Charlie. Cayucos 3-31-12

My dad and stepmom are on a pilgrimage to Texas to pick up a travel trailer, so we were the beneficiaries of an empty beach house this past weekend. And what a weekend it was. A storm moved in on Saturday and we got a front row seat. Then, on Sunday we awoke to offshore winds, sunny skies, and the biggest waves I have seen in a long time. In short, mother nature put on quite a show for us.

The good thing about going to the beach is that I focus on the essentials: Guitar, book, kite, beer. Nice and simple. So Saturday was a bit of all of those things, along with some basketball watching and some playing in the sand with the kids. I spent some time on Friday night working on a song that I have been messing around with for a couple weeks, but I was getting bored with it after so much tinkering. Then, on Saturday night, I sat down to free write some new ideas and voila, a new song came to me. I wrote in in about 5 minutes. I added a bit to it this morning and it is basically complete. Hallelujah! I have been struggling a lot lately with songwriting in that nothing has come easy and then when you least expect it it just happens and a song spills out of you like projectile vomit. It has been a good reminder. I was in the wilderness for awhile and was not dedicating myself to writing. But then I got back into it and have tried to be more consistent. And writing begets writing and writing songs begets writing more songs. And songs are my lifeblood. I have a new commitment and dedication to my craft.

I have to give a little bit of credit to Todd Snider. It was inspiring to see him this week and he is such a good writer. When I sat down to free write on Saturday he was on my mind and I used a couple of his songs for prompts. So thank you Todd Snider for doing your part. And thank you Cayucos beach house and mother nature for the inspiration you provided, and thank you beer.

My new song is called Thank You Insecurity. I’ll post a demo when I get around to it.

Should I send my son to kindergarten or not?

There is a big debate raging these days about whether or not to send our youngest son Charlie to Kindergarten in the fall. He will be 5 on August 25th, which is apparently young for kindergarten. He is also a very typical boy, in that he is full of restless energy. But he is also a smart kid and he is very social.

As we speak with others on the issue, the overwhelming consensus is to hold him back and send him to kindergarten when he is 6. The strange thing is that I never even thought about it until about two weeks ago. I always assumed we would send him this fall. It was not until his preschool teacher recommended that he stay back that we even considered it.

Apparently, the current trend is to hold kids back, which seemingly gives them an advantage. I suppose that could be the case, but I have a feeling that my son will do fine in kindergarten, so we are leaning towards enrolling him.

The argument for holding him back is that it will not hurt him, whereas enrolling him too soon could make his life more difficult. Time will tell. Feedback is encouraged.

It is photo book season

‘Tis the season to make photo books. Probably my favorite Christmastime activity is sorting through the years photos to make photo books as gifts. I have an iMac, so I use iPhoto and they make it extremely easy. I have not used shutterfly or any of those sites and I cannot imagine them being any better. A 50 page photo book costs about $75. I am a fan of having one huge photo on each page rather than a collage of a few shots. Bigger is better.
I have been making photo books for around 4 years now so the passage of time is becoming evident in the older books, especially in the photos of my children. Now, with a 4 and 5 year old, it is bizarre to pick up the book I made for my wife in Christmas of 2008 and see the kids as 2 years old and 9 months old. In today’s digital world we seem to be getting away from creating physical versions of our photos. They all exist in the virtual ether. So it is nice to create physical artifacts occasionally.
The photo below is of my wife being pushed off of the dock my my son Charlie at our lake in Canada. I always try to get one good photo per year of him shoving her into the water. I like this years result…

Tent Trailer + Big Sur + Great Weather + Awesome Campsite

Add up the four items above and it is tough to go wrong. We got a call in the middle of last week from my stepsister who offered up a campsite at Kirk Creek in Big Sur for the weekend that she was unable to use. We had not used our tent trailer since mid June and I was not very motivated to dust it off ad hit the road until I got the call. And once I did it finally hit me that all that hard work and $$ we had put in to get our camping scene dialed in was finally paying dividends.
It took about 1.5 hours on Friday to get everything squared away for departure, since everything was in disarray. We hit the road at about 4:30 on Friday and by 6:30 we were setting up the tent trailer at one of the most beautiful campsites I have ever seen. Saturday and Sunday ended up being spectacular days, with virtually no wind and clear, warm days.

Click on the photo below to enlarge it and revel in the grandeur. Thank you Big Sur for another awesome weekend. I love you.

Big Sur Baby!!!

I am playing a show over Labor Day

I am playing a show at the new Kreutzberg coffee shop in downtown SLO on Sautrday, September 3rd. It is the site of the former Golden China buffet. Kreutzberg closed shop at their temporary digs in the old Muzios grocery on Monterey Street a couple months ago and in a magical 5 days or so they suddenly sprouted up in the new space. The theme is the same: shabby bohemian. That means an eclectic mix of chairs and coffee tables. Some coffee tables are old speakers. Lamps hang upside down from the ceiling. There are sitting areas aplenty, each one beckoning the patron to try it for its own totally original reasons. Art is plentiful and inspiring. And the coup de grace is that they have added beer and wine. Several moons ago, I played a gig at a dry coffee shop and swore to never put myself or my hard -drinkin’ listeners through such a painful, dreadfully sobering experience ever again. So alas, a cool, funky, groovy coffee shop that serves booze and seems like a great place to play music. I will let you know. 9 to 11 PM on Saturday, September 3rd.

It has been awhile since I played a show, but my recent summer break in Canada got me back in the groove of guitar playing and has left me with a hankering to get back on the performance horse. Actually, with my 40th birthday breathing down my neck, I am trying to finally accomplish all that I have been half-assing for some time now: Get a CD finished, get a halfway decent web presence for my music, write more songs, and play out more.

As an aside, I do declare that today was my oldest child Diego’s first day of kindergarten. Melanie and I decided it would be best if just one of us went since he is not the most chipper of the bunch when it comes to drop offs at new, unfamiliar spaces populated by his peers. We decided that the more cold-hearted of the two of us should take him, so of course the duty fell on Melanie. Still I was not able to entirely butt out, and on my way to work I took a quick detour to the school to clandestinely check on Diego’s first day. When I was about 300 yards from the edge of the school I heard an absolutely dreadful, piercing, sustained, screaming tantrum from a young child that sounded like he or she was being committed to the state mental ward for life. It sure did sound like Diego. So I sat there and waited for Melanie to emerge. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later, with said screaming still piercing the air for miles, Melanie emerged, another brutally earned notch on her parenting belt.

Diego had totally freaked out. All the other kids had obeyed commands and gotten in a nice little row to serenade the parents on their way out. Not so Diego, whose tantrum required at least three full-grown orderlies to suppress. But I did my part. I stopped at the liquor store on the way home from work today, and bought a bottle of Pisco, which is the Absinthe of South America. Pisco Sours, with their ingredients of well, pisco, egg whites, lemon juice, and simple sugar, go down real nice and easy. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum.

I told Melanie that I was kind of proud of Diego. After all, he is now a ward of the state serving a 13 year sentence in the public school system. His manic display in the prison, err, schoolyard this morning was none other than a strategic ploy to show the hardened that no, this was not a newbie to be fucked with.

High Sierra Music Festival

We leave early tomorrow for the High Sierra Music Festival. The car is packed and I am really excited. First of all, this will be the first road trip with the kids since last summer. Six hours tomorrow to Nevada City, and then q couple more the next day to Quincy. Then we will be tent camping at High Sierra for 5 nights. This could be really fun, a total disaster, or a combination of the two. Regardless, the line up is great. Gillian Welch on Thursday, My Morning Jacket on Friday, Delta Spirit on Saturday, Ween and Los Amigos Invisibles on Sunday. And lots of amazing acts in between. I hope the kids like it. I hope we like it. I hope this becomes a tradition. Stay tuned, as I will write a lengthy review upon our return after the 4th of July holiday.