The August edition of the San Diego Troubadour + upcoming Dizzy’s gig

The August edition of the San Diego Troubadour is available on stands right now and features two articles from yours truly: the cover story on local musical maverick and innovator RAFTER ROBERTS — as well an appreciation for the musical legacy of lyrical genius GERRY GOFFIN. The article Gerry Goffin: Beyond the Brill Building is included in my soon-to-be-published book Encyclopedia Walking: Pop Culture & the Alchemy of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Stay tuned for details…

Oh! also, on Thursday, September 18th, at 7:30 PM Jon Kanis is performing with Louise Goffin at Dizzy’s. For more information go to Dizzy’s website HERE.

Hang Out. Wait. Burn Like a Roman Candle. Steel Bridge Songfest TEN—June 8th through 15th, 2014

Hang Out. Wait. Burn Like a Roman Candle.
Steel Bridge Songfest TEN
June 8th through 15th, 2014

It’s hard to believe, but a fortnight has already passed since standing in the sacred circle of the Holiday Music Motel parking lot two Sunday evenings ago, spinning the spirit bottle in another round of creative mischief and holy reminders that is the Steel Bridge Songfest.

Saving an old bridge, creating new ones. After having the great fortune to meet pat mAcdonald in the spring of 2006, I was welcomed as one of 25 pioneers at the inaugural Song Construction Zone at SBSFII for a week in June ’06. After a seven-year hiatus in the collective dialog, I returned to the family circle/circus in time for SBSF9 and recounted that adventure in complete, and I do mean complete, detail for the August 2013 edition of The San Diego Troubadour. The backstory regarding the formation of the Steel Bridge Songfest is laid out, as well as the process that goes on for anyone lucky enough to be invited by pat to participate. If you are not already familiar with that narrative you are invited to check it out HERE.

Before the ephemeral-ness of SBSF10 slips back into the firmament from whence it came, here are another series of snapshots circa June 7-17, 2014 as to what went down from my particular POV. Words are woefully inadequate to express how much love and appreciation I have for all of my mystical peers within this community that is known as Steel Bridge.

I wish everyone a happy Summer Solstice. It feels great to be alive and I eagerly await Dark Songs 6 (October 26-November 2) where many of us will have the chance to reunite once again. Blessings to everyone, and I hope to see you on the road in the fall while I’m out there promoting my latest collection of songs All-American Mongrel Boy (1989-2014) and my premier foray into book publishing with Encyclopedia Walking: Pop Culture & the Alchemy of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Peace & Love…

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Mercury stations retrograde until July 1, 2014.

Ah, the life of a touring musician… Wake up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM to take off from San Diego and arrive safely in Madison, WI-via Minneapolis at 2:55 PM CDT. Picked up at the airport by Dan-O Stoffels & Kayla Driscoll. Go back to their digs and hang for a bit with Ellie Maybe & her fiancé Joe Golemb, who has to leave pronto to play trumpet in a ska band in Chicago that evening. Dan-O and Ellie rehearse in their basement with Kerri Mack for their megadeft gig at 9:30 PM at the Lazy Oaf Lounge. Also on the bill is Alex Bruder and Current Seas, the trio that Dan-O & Ellie rock out balls-to-the-wall in with Brett Newski. Drive over to the facility where Dan-O teaches audio engineering and borrow a couple of PA speakers, two monitors, a snake, a box of cables, and microphones for the gig. Rehearsal includes many renditions of Kerri singing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Afterwards, we pack the gear into the van and truck it over to the venue. Load-in. Order drinks, pub grub, set up equipment, and hang out. Alex plays a solo set, followed by Kerri playing solo, before a full-on megadeft set. Current Seas then comes on and kicks COMPLETE and total ass. Before last June, I did not know a thing about Brett Newski. But the more I hear him sing and play, and become familiar with the syntax of his songs, the more I like the guy. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s an affable smart-ass with a heart of gold-with a smile always on his face and a quick rejoinder to always leave you chuckling.

I initially expressed an interest in playing this gig, but that didn’t work out. It subsequently turned out that after breaking down the PA Dan-O finds out that the promoter wanted the music to go on till 2 AM. It had lasted approximately from 9:30 PM to 12:30 AM. Merc mischief begins and I could have played this gig after all. Oy vey and oh well. Finish breaking down gear, load the van, drive back to Dan-O’s. Crash out on a futon around 2 AM whilst Joe, Ellie, and friend stay up all night in the adjacent room, causing me to wonder: were drugs involved? Friend leaves at daybreak. Hulo (Ellie’s dog) and Bro-jangles (Dan & Kayla’s cat) complete the domestic scene…

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Awake at 10 AM, go through Moka drive-in window at 10:53 AM for… what else? A mocha. Return PA gear from facility. Go back and load up the van with all the gear that will be needed to record at the Holiday Music Motel in Sturgeon Bay. Dan-O takes a Facebook pic of the two of us in front of his van with all his equipment (“Chris Aaron eat your heart out!”). Load up my personal gear in Dan’s red Volt electric-hybrid car and head across town caravan-style to pick up Kim Manning and all of her gear (several bags and a heavy-duty suitcase). We head out of town through a bit of construction around the capital/university district, before hitting the freeway-151 N, 26 N, 41 N, 172 E, 43 N, 57N. Arrive at the Holiday Music Motel at 6 PM sharp. Dinner isn’t until 7 PM so there is time to say some preliminary hellos with the other songwriters and check-in at the front desk with air-traffic controller and organizer par excellence, miss melaniejane. MJ: “Well, since you’re a writer, and you enjoy new experiences, you will be one of the first artists that get to stay in the brand new Tambourine Collaboratory.” The Collabratory, or “Tambourine” for short, is the adjacent building to the Holiday Music Motel and it boasts it’s own performance area and stage. There are also many rooms in the back for recording and administrative functions, a store front for the public to interact with the festival (such as purchasing tickets or merchandise for the festival), and there are also places for the musicians to stay in the upstairs. It’s a very cool solution to the growth and success of the festival over the past decade. It’s very groovy and I’m assigned room #5, sharing space in the “guy’s dorm” with Dan Smrz, Tomcat Joe, Charlie Cheney, Steve Smith, and Tony Menzer. After filling out a form for MJ so she has my publishing information on file, I grab my gear from Dan-O’s Volt and haul it over to my room. As Dan-O checks in, he gets keys to the Danchez Studio/Nudio in Rooms 236 and 237. Grab a spare key to gain access to the Holiday and use the shower in 237, as the Collabratory has none-just beds and toilets. But the lack of a shower turns out to be a non-issue. Dinner is served and pat starts pumping out music from his laptop over the PA on the front lawn. Introductions are made for the first-time attendees and then all 64 of us gather into a circle for our first bottle spin on the brand new mounted Jameson bottle that sits on a lighted, circular wooden platform. The new bottle spinner is a work of art in itself. Here we go…

Day 1 Songwriting Groups:
1) Danielle French, Craig Greenberg, Jeneda Benally
2) Haydee Irizarry, Joey Weisenritter, Brett Newski
3) Berta Benally, Kim Manning, Dan Smrz
4) Charles Boheme, Sarven Manguiat, Liam Hall
5) Ronnie Sanchez, Troy Therrien, Tarl Knight
6) Barrett Tasky, Tomcat Joe, Vincent Gates
7) Sugar Ransom, Kory Murphy, Victoria Vox
8) Vee Sonnets, Michael Bleck, Lantz Lazwell
9) Charlie Cheney, Landon Capelle, Jimm McIver
10) Joanna Becker, Manny Sanchez, David Cline
11) Caleb Navarro, Carley Baer, Chris Aaron
12) Liv Mueller, Tony Menzer, Clayson Benally
13) Walter Salas-Humara, Jon Kanis, Lumberjack Cash
14) Andrea Wittgens, James Hall, Kipp Wilde
15) James Hall, Jules Luvray, John Hvezda
16) Ruby James, Geri X, Gregory Roteik
17) Anna Jo, Lena MacDonald, Stephen Cooper
18) Susan Howe, Louise Goffin, Shiri Nicole
19) Eric McFadden, Meaghan Owens

Walter Salas-Humara, Lumberjack Cash, and myself are the fated collaborators of round one. At 9:15 PM pick up a pint of Guinness from the Citgo on Michigan Street and retire to Walter’s room in 126 and get straight to work. Within a couple of hours we have written “Puente de Acero” (“Bridge Of Steel”). This is a fairly effortless writing session, as easy as writing “Welcome Home” the year before. Walter and Lumberjack Cash are a load of laughs. We track down pat and perform our song for him and he likes it as is, with no changes suggested. I put the song on the studio sign up sheet and there are three groups in front of us. By 1 AM Dan-O is ready for us to record in 236/237. Los Enemigos is a funky, little self-contained trio. My first real song exclusively about the bridge, and I love how it turned out. Mucho fabuloso!

Monday, June 9th, 2014

“Puente de Acero” by Los Enemigos, written by Lumberjack Cash, Jon Kanis & Walter Salas-Humara in room 126, June 8th, 2014 @ 10:00 PM-midnight. Engineered & mixed by Dan-O Stoffels 1:00-3:00 AM on 06.09.14. Personnel: Walter Salas-Humara (drums, lead vocal), Jon Kanis (electric bass, harmony vocal, keyboard), Lumberjack Cash (electric guitar, vocals & Español rap).

Intro

[E] / [D#] / [D]
[G] / [G#] / [A]

Am riff
Puente de acero
Contra la fuente de dinero
Continua el peleo
En la hora del sincero

G riff
El pendejo enemigo
Hasta juego
Por ahora

Am riff
Lovely bridge of steel
With the power of the righteous

Has the money in the corner
And the hammer in the temple

G riff
Goodbye my enemy
So long so far

Chorus
[C] Win the [D] world

[F] Llega el latino
Fuera del camino

[C] Win the [D] world
[F] Ear to the ground

[G] Listening for the sound
[E] Cross [D#] the [D] bridge
[G] Bridge [G#] of [A] steel

Am riff
Puente de acero

Contra la fuente de dinero
Has the money in the corner
And the hammer in the temple

G riff
El pendejo enemigo
So long so far

Chorus
[C] Win the [D] world

[F] Llega el latino
Fuera del camino

[C] Win the [D] world
[F] Ear to the ground

[G] Listening for the sound
[E] Cross [D#] the [D] bridge
[G] Bridge [G#] of [A] steel

Bridge
[F] / [E] / [Am]
[F] / [E] / [Am]
[F] / [E]
[F] / [E]
[F] / [E]

Am riff

Chorus
Chorus

[E] Cross [D#] the [D] bridge
[G] Bridge [G#] of [A] steel

After tracking our first song I head out into the good night and take pause to hang out around the campfire with some of the resident songwriters: Charles & Renee Boheme, Carley Baer, Gregory Roteik, Charlie Cheney, Digger, and Vee Sonnets. Drink Charles’ cherry-flavored Manhattans after a couple of Guinness and end up paying for it in the coming daybreak. See the sunrise around 5:30 AM and go to bed. Wake up uneasy/queasy around 10:30 AM. Sit in the shade sipping coffee with Walter and Charles. A wee-bit hair-of-the-dog Irish whisky surprisingly puts me right side up. Ronnie Sanchez of the massively talented trio GrooveSession comes through once again by allowing me the use of his backup bass-this time it’s a blonde B.C. Rich dubbed “Goldie Hawn,” as opposed to his main squeeze “Marilyn.” A little holistic treatment seals the deal on putting my head back on straight.

Dinner at 6 PM and listening party #1. Dan-O has three songs ready, and Steve Smith/Chris Aaron’s studio has several songs ready, but none of Steve Hamilton’s sessions are mixed, so we don’t get to hear them. “Puente de Acero” sounds great and we all hear the debut of “Whiskey And Blow,” soon to be my favorite song of the week. Newski, Haydee Irizarry, and Joey Weisenritter rule!

Day 2 Songwriting Groups:
1) Gregory Roteik, Vincent Gates, Landon Capelle
2) Tony Menzer, Tarl Knight, Liv Mueller
3) Lumberjack Cash, Jules Luvray, Berta Benally
4) Kim Manning, Louise Goffin, Susan Howe
5) Clayson Benally, Shiri Nicole, David Cline
6) Walter Salas-Humara, Joanna Becker, Eric McFadden
7) Sarven Manguiat, Stephen Cooper, Andrea Wittgens
8) Jimm McIver, Graciana Holland, Craig Greenberg
9) Vee Sonnets, Victoria Vox, Haydee Irizarry
10) Anna Jo, Meaghan Owens, Joey Weisenritter
11) Ronnie Sanchez, Lantz Lazwell, Jon Kanis
12) John Hvezda, Caleb Navarro, Jeneda Benally
13) Hayden Wells, Michael Bleck, Liam Hall
14) Jamey Clark, Kipp Wilde, Ruby James
15) Lena MacDonald, Manny Sanchez, Charlie Cheney
16) Troy Therrien, Steve Smith, Brett Newski
17) James Hall, Kory Murphy, Charles Boheme
18) Geri X, Carley Baer, Barrett Tasky
19) Sugar Ransom, Danielle French, Tomcat Joe

The second bottle spin produces a trio with Ronnie Sanchez and Lantz Laswell. I already have a love affair going with Ronnie, so that’s great, but I have no sense of who Lantz is-but not to worry, as I will overflowing his essence soon enough. We embark upon a comedy of errors regarding where we are going to write. Ronnie and I start writing a Who/Stones type of song in room 127 called “The Sounds of Something New,” but Lantz wants us move us over to the Tambourine so he can use the keyboard there. By the time we get over to the Tambo someone else has commandeered the stage. I suggest grabbing a portable keyboard from underneath the Christmas tree in the lobby and we go back to 127 and start working on a song that will ultimately be called “Automatic.” I found this writing session to be fraught with frustration because I didn’t feel like Lantz was listening to any of Ronnie’s or my suggestions. The only ideas he seemed to like were the ones originating from him. I probably wouldn’t have minded so much if the lyrics that Lantz was coming up didn’t seem so banal. I eventually came to see the song as an opportunity to sing dual lead lines with Lantz. We finished the song around 1:30 AM and performed the song for pat and he suggested losing the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” riff that I was playing on the guitar and straighten out the vibe a bit-make it less Keef-like. So I did. Otherwise pat seemed to like the song and we ended up performing it for him a second time, after he suggested a new bass line for Ronnie to play-which totally transformed the song. The bass part reminds me a lot of INXS’ “Elegantly Wasted,” which I particularly love. The song gets the seal of approval and I post it on the studio log and by now it is 1:45 AM. Lantz says we’re going to go in to the first available studio. I tell ‘em to text me when the studio is open and I go off to my room and lay down for 20 minutes. My reverie of rest is quickly broken when…

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

At 2:20 AM I get a text telling me to meet in Steve Smith’s studio and I prepare a lead sheet/chord chart including the song lyrics to “Automatic”-and then I’m unable to get my computer to network with the printer, so I bring my laptop to the studio so that Lantz can read the lyrics.

Employing the filter of self-acceptance. A short bit of studio drama then ensues before we even start tracking. Lantz goes off on me because I am fooling around on the guitar, absent-mindedly playing my little Stones riff over in the corner in an effort to stay awake. Like a bolt, Lantz says “You’re doing that just to fuck with me aren’t you? pat asked you not to play that [riff], and I asked you not to play it and now you’re just doing it to fuck with me.” Shocked and stunned, my disbelief causes me to respond with “Man, I’m just trying to stay awake, so calm down. Everything isn’t about you.” When it came time to track I played my part exactly as we rehearsed it for hours beforehand, except that somehow, in the final analysis, the key had shifted from A major to A minor. After getting a decent rhythm track in two takes, with Vee, Manny, and Ronnie kicking mucho ass, Lantz overdubbed his vocal. I then tracked my vocal an octave above Lantz, and thought the two parts worked well together. By 5 AM I am southern-fried and went off to crash, leaving Lantz to do his keyboard part with Steve Smith. By 6:30 AM the track is “finished” with a rough mix, but the vocals are way out of balance and my guitar needs to be fixed because of the key change. Much of what we painstakingly rehearsed got changed on the spot in the studio. I wasn’t happy with the erratic approach, but did my best to not get willfully uptight about it and go with the flow. Sometimes it’s frustrating when you care enough about your work for it not to be compromised, and you’re at the mercy of several stewards attempting to steer the ship. I ultimately came to really like how the track turned out, but it would take a bit more effort, and perspective, for that to occur.

“Automatic” by The Shifters, written by Jon Kanis, Lantz Laswell & Ronnie Sanchez in room 127, June 9th, 2014 @ 10:00 PM-1:30 AM. Engineered & mixed by Steve Smith in the Tambourine Collaboratory 3:00-6:30 AM on 06.10.14. Personnel: Jon Kanis (electric guitar, vocal), Lance Laswell (keyboard, vocals), Ronnie Sanchez (electric bass, vocals), Vee Sonnets (lead guitar), Manny Sanchez (drums).

[Am/C/D] It comes so easy / easy for you
[Am/C/D] You drive ‘em so crazy doing what you do
[Am/C/D] So what’s it to ya / what I wear
[Am/C/D] Always see you dancing in your underwear.

[F] We don’t have to talk about it
[G] It just comes so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[F] You know you can’t live without it
[G] Our love is so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me

[Am/C/D] You got me fiending / fiending for you
[Am/C/D] I can’t get enough, girl you know it’s true
[Am/C/D] Anticipating / your next move
[Am/C/D] I’ll be here waiting to feel your groove

[F] We don’t have to talk about it
[G] It just comes so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[F] You know you can’t live without it
[G] Our love is so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me

[D/F/Am] All that I need
[C/D/F/Am] All that I need
[C/D/F/Am] All that I need
[C/D/F/Am] All that I need
[C / C / C – rest]

[F] We don’t have to talk about it
[G] It just comes so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[F] You know you can’t live without it
[G] Our love is so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me

[F] We don’t have to talk about it
[G] It just comes so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[F] You know you can’t live without it
[G] Our love is so automatic
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me
[G/Am-G/Am] Come to me, love me.

double time

[G/A-G/A] Love me
[G/A-G/A] Love me
[G/A-G/A] Love me
[G/A-G/A] Love me

Crash out after the session and catch five hours of sleep. Coffee, bagel, hard-boiled egg, orange juice. Slightly bummed about the session from the night before. Do some venting with Ronnie the morning after, as well as with Kim and do my utmost to cut the experience loose. What do I need to learn from this? Ironically, by the end of the week, I would end up having a great deal of affection for Mr. Laswell, but that took a couple of more days to conjure up and transform in my psyche.

Dinner at 6 PM and listening party #2. There are a ton of new songs this evening and we all gather to listen on the front lawn again. All of Steve Hamilton’s songs are mixed and we finally get caught up with the backlog. As usual, great stuff is pouring out of all four studios. When all the tracks have been presented to the group we get together in a circle and do our third and final bottle spin. This final group puts me together with James Hall and Jimm McIver. Three Js. I drop to my knees and thank Jesus and several of the songwriters (no ego problems here) tell me that I should thank THEM and to spin the frickin’ bottle already. People are anxious to begin apparently. At 9:48 PM James, Jimm and I retire to room 128 and begin writing a jazzy/lounge-type of song about the festival, but Jimm keeps beting called away to finish up his second bottle spin song with Craig Greenberg and Graciana Holland called “Sealed With A Kiss.” pat apparently doesn’t care for the title (it is kind of a cliché) and wants them to change it. Eventually it morphs into “Say It With A Kiss,” and the problem is solved with a much better song resulting. The downside to that victory is that James, Jimm and I never regain our momentum and even though we wind up with two verses, we never end up finishing our song. This is a bit disappointing but perhaps we’ll finish it at Dark Songs?

“What Do I Know?” written (incomplete) by James Hall, Jon Kanis & Jimm McIver, in room 128, June 10th, 2014 @ 10:00 PM-midnight.

I took a walk along the bay
Some people I met along the way
Were singing songs they wrote that day.

The music filled the neighborhood
The songs they sang all sounded good
To my ears-wish I understood…

Why are they laughing at me?
Why are they talking ’bout me?
But what do I know?
What do I know?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Wake at 10 AM after going to bed at a reasonable hour the night before-3 AM, which shows you how absurdly relative things are when in this crowd 3 AM seems like a “reasonable hour” for bedtime. However, I’m feeling rested and go down to the lobby and end up hanging out with the lovely and talented Victoria Vox from Baltimore, Maryland. Jimm McIver is hanging out and when Liv Mueller shows up she does an impromptu commercial for the Shark vacuum cleaner. Victoria shoots her on her iPhone and it is hysterical. Afterwards everyone disperses, but Victoria goes over to the cheesy organ in the corner and starts playing Dm/F/Am/C in cyclical fashion, “round the houses” as it were. Eventually she adds F/Em/C/G and I am plunking along, playing fills on Eric McFadden’s nylon string guitar left on the couch from the night before. It isn’t long before Barrett Tasky has joined the two of us for a jam on these eight chords. Barrett and I feel like a song is emerging, but it takes awhile to convince Victoria. After sitting there for three hours cycling through those chords, Victoria and I come up with some lyrical phrases, Barrett ducks in and out of our jam every 20 minutes and asks how our progress is coming, occasionally jamming with us. Eventually I leave and Barrett and Victoria add a bridge to the song and the end result is the collaboration “Deep Mirror.” I think it is a funky little dance song with an intriguing lyric. And I like it.

Dan-O has to drive back to Madison to teach an engineering class this PM and Barrett ends up taking over his studio in his absence. After lunchtime, I sit in the diner area with Louise Goffin and we start to write a song between 3 and 4 PM called “All Of My Best Friends.” We get two verses and a bridge sketched out and then she has to take off to work on another song. Hopefully we’ll end up finishing it, because I really like what we have so far.

“All Of My Best Friends” written (incomplete) by Louise Goffin & Jon Kanis in the diner, June 11th, 2014 @ 3:00 PM-4:00 PM.

All of my best friends
We don’t have to pretend
They’ve got a helping hand to lend
And on them I always can depend

It sure is mighty fun
Hanging out with everyone
In the kitchen when the day is done
Hey, has anyone seen my son?
He’s out with his best friend
Playing his guitar again…

Dinner at 6 PM and listening party #3. This night we are in the concrete warehouse space of the Tambourine, eating pizza and hanging out because of the drizzly mist coming down. The concrete is cold but the buzz amongst us is fiery. There is another ton of great new songs this evening, including “Day Dreaming,” which is written by Jimm McIver and Louise’s youngest son Hayden Wells, and his vocal on this track is one of my favorite moments of the week-thoroughly endearing and tear-inducing. How does this kid do it? His older brother Elijah is a pretty awesome musical force as well. Wisely, the group elects to not do a fourth bottle spin, as everyone is pretty backed up with writing, recording, and rehearsing for the performances that begin… ah, tomorrow! I can’t believe it is already the fourth day of the fest! Jeezus…

After dinner, I hear James Hall performing a song called “Love Come Rescue Me” and after hearing him sing it in the upstairs hallway with Andrea Wittgens I practically beg them to let me play bass on it. I know that this is going to be a great song and that was before I learned that Eric McFadden and Liv Mueller had co-written it with James and Andrea. The next day I have James show me the chords and I write up a chart and record a demo so I can learn it. Hot damn…

I am walking through the lobby around 10:30 PM and Tomcat Joe says that they are about to go into the studio and that they need a bassist-am I available? Sure! I go grab my guitar and learn “Get On To It” in about 5 minutes. They have a chart ready to go and two run-throughs and I’m ready. We go into Steve Hamilton’s studio and cut it in three takes.

Get On To It” by Shiri and the Get-On-Its, written by Tomcat Joe & Shiri Nicole in room 4 of the Tambourine Collaboratory, June 11th, 2014. Engineered & mixed by Steve Hamilton in Sausage Studio from 11:30 PM-1:15 AM on 06.12.14. Personnel: Shiri Nicole (lead vocal), Tomcat Joe (electric guitar, vocals), Jon Kanis (electric bass, backing vocals), Clayson Benally (drums, backing vocals), Vee Sonnets (lead guitar, backing vocals).

Verse riff
[D / F / G / A] x3 [A]

Chorus riff
[D / C /G / F] x3 [A}

Intro/guitar x2

Verse with a stop

Verse / Chorus / solo (verse) with a stop / Verse / Verse

Chorus with a drum fill / Chorus / repeat Verses (solo)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 “Door County Appreciation Night”

Wake up at 10 AM. Coffee, bagel. Rehearse with Craig Greenberg at the Tambourine Collaboratory with Dan Smrz on drums and myself on bass. Learn “I’m Coming Around,” “Death On The Liberty Line,” and “Bridge On Fire” (which is available on Steel Bridge Songs Vol. 8). We also run down “That Girl Is Wrong For You” and “I Won’t Leave It Alone” but do not end up performing those songs publicly. Two run-throughs and I am called away to record with Barrett, Sarven, Manny, and Victoria on our song “Deep Mirror” in rooms 236 & 237 with Dan-O back at the helm (he arrived back from Madison in the early AM).

“Deep Mirror” by The Lobbyists, written by Jon Kanis, Barrett Tasky & Victoria Vox in the lobby of the Holiday Music Motel and room 236, June 11th, 2014 @ 11:00 AM-3:00 PM. Engineered & mixed by Dan-O Stoffels & Barrett Tasky 1:00-3:00 PM on 06.12.14. Personnel: Carley Baer (vocals), Jon Kanis (electric bass), Sarven Manguiat (acoustic guitar), Manny Sanchez (drums), Barrett Tasky (electric guitars, keyboard), Victoria Vox (ukulele, vocals).

Intro
Here I am once again starting over for the first time…

[F / F / F / G / Am]

[Dm] Lost communica [F] tion
[Am] Somebody [C] cut the wire
[F] What a [Dm] fabrication
[C] I can’t believe I [G] lived that life for so long [Dm / F]

[Dm] Your love had me [F] blinded
[Am] Now I’m reading [C] between the lines
[F] I’m finding [Dm] reasons
[C] That I’ve been [G] wasting my time for so long [Dm]

Chorus
[Dm] Searching in the [F] mirror
[Am] ‘Cuz I’ve been [C] lied to by my own eyes
[F] Fear of going [Dm] deeper
[C] Here I am once again
[G] Starting over for the first time [rest]

[Dm] I wasn’t [F] ready

[Am] To face the fact that my heart [C] could be so wrong

[F] I took ad [Dm] vantage

[C] Of having somewhere I [G] thought I [Dm] belonged

[F] I [C] belonged [G] [G-G]

Chorus
[Dm] Searching in the [F] mirror
[Am] ‘Cuz I’ve been [C] lied to by my own eyes
[F] Fear of going [Dm] deeper
[C] Here I am once again
[G] Starting over for the first time

instrumental break
[Dm / F / Am / C]
[F / Dm / C / G]

Bridge
[F] I can [Am] feel it honey
[Dm] Change is [Am] coming
[F] I can [Am] feel it honey [C-C]

Double Chorus

Chorus
[Dm] Searching in the [F] mirror
[Am] ‘Cuz I’ve been [C] lied to by my own eyes
[F] Fear of going [Dm] deeper
[C] Here I am once again
[G] Starting over for the first time

Outro
[F / Dm / C / G]

After the session for “Deep Mirror,” all of the musicians/songwriters are scheduled to meet in the Tambourine warehouse for our fourth and last session to audition the latest recordings. My favorite song, hands down, on this day is “I Won’t Say It,” written by Susan Howe, Joanna Becker and Charles Boheme, who does an amazing James Brown impersonation, with Susan and Joanna doing a remarkable call-and-response with the hardest working white man in show business. The dreamy breakdown is unbelievably wonderful and the funk groove is relentlessly out-of-sight. Charles allegedly asked Eric McFadden at the recording session if he knew how to play funk music… having a temporary lapse of memory (it was three in the morning) of Eric’s extensive tenure in Parliament-Funkadelic. This song is an absolute crown jewel and I hope it ends up concluding the Volume 10 disc of the Steel Bridge series next year.

As the listening session winds down, people are starting to filter out to their various gigs around town and across the bridges, so I grab a quick shower, and get myself organized for our first round of public performances since the festival began five days ago. Time has come today to go out and play some of these brand new songs live!

6 PM @ Glas Coffeehouse… I catch a ride from the Holiday with Eric Leyendecker and Jay-bro Shaw. The venue is hosted by Jimm McIver & Vincent Gates. I witness some fantastic performances: James Hall & Eric McFadden doing “Call It A Trade.” Louise Goffin “New Year’s Day,” “Some Of Them Will Fool You” and “Deep Dark Night Of The Soul” (with Craig Greenberg on acoustic guitar and myself on electric bass). Craig Greenberg does three songs on the piano, accompanied by myself on electric bass for “I’m Coming Around,” “Bridge On Fire” and “Death On The Liberty Line.” After this performance I catch a ride with Geri X, Louise, and Hayden back across the bridge, dropping off L & H at Stone Harbor. Have a nice chat with Geri X in her rental car and she drops me off at Untitled Used and Rare Books. Hosted by Charles Boheme, this is another Thursday night of unbridled pleasure and killer singer-songwriters: David Cox, Kipp Wilde, JK @ 10:45: “Holiday Motel,” “Welcome Home” (with Jimm McIver on acoustic guitar and vocals), “Dweller On The Threshold,” and “Where Is Joe Strummer When You Need Him?” Have a thoroughly enjoyable time chilling outside with Sarah Marie Gilbert (aka Sugar Ransom), talking about philosophy, “The Philosopher’s Song,” and Neil Innes. Vincent Gates does a great job performing four songs, as does Tomcat Joe, including “Movin’ Backwards.”

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By midnight Susan Howe plays a four-song set, including “Blameless Creatures” and a goddess-like version of her composition “Love Your Enemies.” Liv Mueller performs “Crazy Arms,” “In The Pines,” and two originals that I mistake for unfamiliar covers-they sound so timeless already. John Hvezda performs three numbers. Lena MacDonald performs a couple of songs before Charles (on acoustic & vocals) and I (on electric bass & vocals) join her for “Like A Satellite.” Lumberjack Cash performs a few, including his classic “Woof, Woof.” Charles and Troy perform a three-song set, gearing up for “The Pale Rider” at 3 AM, just as I have to leave because at…

3:03 AM I receive a text message from Steve Smith (“Up for Gtr vox trk?”) in order to re-record my guitar track and tweeze the vocal mix for “Automatic” in the Tambourine Collaboratory. Theve encourages me to channel my inner-Malcolm Young and the vibe suits the track. The song ends up being 3:33 exactly! Shades of Billy Triplett. I drag my ass to bed around 5:30 AM with a new mix and a fresh perspective on this song that has dogged me for the past couple of days. Lots of love and many thanks to Theve for his positive vibes!

Up at 10 AM. Coffee. Then head over to Kimz Café with Barrett and have a wonderful conversation with him re: music, philosophy, and spirituality over chicken fried steak, biscuits, eggs, and apple juice. Eventually Dan-O and Steve Smith join us for a rousing conversation revolving around (surprise, surprise) audio recording. After breakfast, go back to Barrett’s room and overdub my bass track for “Deep Mirror.” The track is sounding great and needs Victoria’s lead vocal, which happens later that afternoon.

The right place at the right time… Last year at SBSF9 there was one track that “got away” from us. John Hvenza, Troy Therrien, and I wrote a Ennio Morricone/Spaghetti Western-like theme and recorded it with Steve Hamilton at the desk, but there wasn’t enough time at the end of the week to mix down the track. It was quite a production. Dark Songs 5 and Love On A Holiday 3 came and went and still no mix down. However, one of the up sides to the Mercury retrograde dynamic is that it HEAVILY supports any task that requires going back and “re-visiting” and/or “revising” something from the past that requires tweaking. Despite one or two sonic anomalies with the acoustic guitar, it was great to finally hear a rough mix of this performance and I’m grateful for the 20 minutes spent bouncing down “The Bridge Of Cruelty” with Mr. Hamilton-finishing up at 3:47 PM. Thanks Steve-O! I owe you a six-pack…

The Bridge Of Cruelty” by The Banditos, written by John Hvezda, Jon Kanis & Troy Therrien in the entrance way into the Holiday Motel, June 12th, 2013 @ 5:03 PM. Engineered by Steve Hamilton 2:30-4:00 PM on 06.15.13. Personnel: John Hvezda (acoustic guitar, lead vocal), Troy Therrien (lead guitar), Jon Kanis (electric bass, vocals), Manny Sanchez (percussion), Wally Ingram (percussion), Haydee Jeanette Irizarry (vocals), Jeneda Benally (trills), Steve Hamilton (sound effects).

First mix of “Deep Mirror” produced by Barrett Tasky at 4:05 PM.

Shower, get cleaned up and organized for the night. At 6:30 PM head over to the Third Avenue Playhouse for Construction Zone Songwriters “In The Round,” hosted by Geri X and Kim Manning, to perform songs written this week at SBSF10. The show begins at 7 PM with a brief intermission, finishing up at 10 PM. In the first half I am delighted to perform “Puente de Acero” and “Love Come Rescue Me.” I am scheduled to be on stage to play “Get On To It” in the second half of the show, but that ends up being cut from the running order at the last minute. All of the performances that I witness are fantastic. I also jump on stage to sing with the chorus for Digger’s song with Tony Brown “She’s Down.” I slip out of the theatre with about five songs to go towards the end because I am ravenous and need some energy and I’m scheduled to play a solo set at Poh’s at 10:15 PM. As I cross Third Street I meet up with Geri X and we both end up at the restaurant 136, where we sit down with Louise & Hayden. I order a cheeseburger and fries and I’m more than ready to put it away by the time it is brought to the table. My intention is to get back to the theatre before they do the final number “I Won’t Say It.” But I get back right as the traditional set closer, “Party On The Bridge,” is being performed. I jump on stage and dance and sing with everybody else until the song, and the presentation, is over.

Pack up my gear backstage (including Hayden’s drumsticks) and move on over to Poh’s where Chris Aaron has just finished performing. The place is PACKED with patrons and Chris is hot, sweet, sticky, and in need of a cocktail. Fortunately, one arrives in his hand immediately. Next up is the very pretty Katie Sculin, who does three of her originals (with her parents cheering her up front at the bar) before I take the stage and perform “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Welcome Home,” and “Where Is Joe Strummer When You Need Him?” Danielle French then takes the stage accompanied by Troy Therrien, who performs three tunes including “This Is Why I Drink.” I walk the two blocks back to the Tambourine Lounge, which is being hosted on its premier night by Andrea Wittgens. pat is running sound, and I get there just as Louise is finishing up “Deep Dark Night Of The Soul.” I then discover I left my guitar cable back at Poh’s. David Cox takes the stage for three songs and I dash back over to Poh’s, wait for Danielle’s second song to finish, grab my cable from the front of the stage, and scoot back to the Tambourine. Thank you Merc retro.

As soon as David Cox is finished I grab Ronnie’s “Goldie Hawn” B.C. Rich bass and join drummer Dan Smrz on stage with Craig Greenberg to perform “I’m Coming Around,” “Bridge On Fire” and “Death On The Liberty Line.” The set goes pretty smooth and the house is packed with an enthusiastic crowd. Drop the bass and guitar in my room after the set.

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

12:06 AM-I picked up Hayden’s drumsticks. I’ll give ‘em to you tomorrow… Have a chat and a smoke with Mr. Greenberg after our Tambourine set, cruising the Nistebox burrito stand en route to Untitled, where Liam Hall, Danielle French, Holly Olm, Anna Jo, and Carley Baer are performing. Head back over to Poh’s and Kim Manning is on stage TEARING IT UP with a crack band, including Eric on guitar, Lantz on bass, and Clayson on drums. They are on fire and prove to be a pretty hard act to follow, but Seth Raddatz manages to do so, singing a trio of profanity-laced songs, with the words f*ck, motherf*cker or simply, f*cker in almost every verse he sings. His long, blond mane hangs in his face and his tunes are dripping with attitude-bad-ass ‘tude dude. John Hvezda (+ drummer) follow him with four killer songs including his a cappella showstopper, “Mama.” Next up is Miss Meaghan Owens, who sings three songs, and is positively captivating this evening. Charmed, I’m sure. At 2:15 AM last call is announced by the bartender and Charles Boheme gets up and performs the last song of the night at Poh’s: his awe-inspiring dirge “The Pale Rider.” Charles: “That’s what they get for putting me on last.”

Poh’s is kicking everyone out and we walk down the block and go to “the book store.” Find Susan Howe at the front counter sipping Kessler’s and I make my way to the back where the infamous Globe resides. Tequila? Why, thank you very much, yes. Craig shows up and eventually Stephen Link goes to the microphone to announce: “that we should get prepared to have our faces melted!” And without further ado comes Honey Get The Gun and the place is rocking like nobody’s business. I’ve not seen bassist Gregory Roteik rock a six-string electric with a Marshall amp before, and it is a blast to see him in action. His front man/vocalist is jumping all over the place and together with the rhythm section they are indeed, melting faces. I eventually make my way back to the Holiday, cruise by the campfire in front for a bit and go crash out at the Collabratory around 5:30 AM.

Wake at 11 AM. Drink water. Hang out in the diner with several songwriters and drink coffee for a while whilst volunteers start filtering in and out. Today is the Take It To The Bridge day concert outside in the parking lot of the Holiday Music Motel. I meet John Lowe (Johnny Lowebow) and he is a cool dude. At 12:31 PM I receive a text from Susan asking me if I’d had lunch yet? I’m starving so I accept the invite and we walk over to 136 and have lunch. The chicken Caesar salad is delicious. We hang out eating and talking until 2:15 PM until Susan leaves to go shopping with Joanna Becker. On the way out we run into Craig Greenberg at the bar so I stop and have a beer with him while he eats his lunch. It is a lovely afternoon and both conversations are engaging and thought provoking.

Fortified with a full belly, Craig and I make our way over to the Holiday where the Hollands are performing on the balcony. Then WIFEE and THE HUZZBAND take the stage. Ruby James is rocking and standing up even though her foot is in a cast. She has been quite a trooper this week even though she’s confined primarily to a wheelchair to get around because of her fractured ankle from a few weeks before the festival. I get to wander around and see my good friend Roberta Chevalier briefly before the god-like Tony Brown takes the stage with GrooveSession and Barrett Tasky. OMG are they fantastic!

The afternoon is also filled with rehearsing for the show this evening at Third Avenue Playhouse when I discover that I am performing “Welcome Home” with Jimm, Coop, Dan-O and Vee and I am also on board for a performance of “Battle Of The Bridges” with Clayson, Vincent, Landon and Anna Jo, who is subbing for the absent Robin Bienemann, who unfortunately can not be in attendance. It is a great show.

First @ 7:30 PM is the Young Songwriters Showcase. Then at 8:30 PM, James Hall takes over as host and we begin our program of “selections from Volume 9 and other hits from the past, present and future featuring the Steel Bridge Construction Crew 2014.”

1) Everybody Feeling Alright (Ruby and the Huzzband)
2) Welcome Home (JK, Jimm McIver, Vee Sonetts, Coop, Dan-O)
3) Monument (Geri X, Gregory Roteik)
4) Cross Me (Victoria Vox, Carley Baer, Ellie Maybe, Sarven Manguiat)
5) Water Below (Kim, Andrea, Liv, Lantz, GrooveSession)
6) Steal Yourself (Chris Aaron, GrooveSession)
7) Battle Of The Bridges (Clayson, Vincent, Landon, Anna Jo, JK)
8) Twirl (Charlie, Susan)
9) Lemon Drop (Liv, Jim)
10) It Still Stands (Geri X, Clayson, Troy, Newski)
11) Tenderman (Digger, Eric, MJ)
12) Taking Me Home (Eric, Joanna, Walter)
13) Songbird (Geri X, pat)
14) Bridge Will Bring You Home (Carley, Meaghan, Chris Aaron, everyone)

Right before Geri X went on stage to sing “Songbird,” I was told by Digger to get ready to perform “Holiday Motel” at the end of this set, but we ending up going overtime and I was cut at the last second. Oh well. I just made sure it was the next song I performed at Kimz Gallery fifteen minutes later…

10:15 PM @ Kimz Gallery, with Buckwheat hosting. Walk over from the TAP room and perform a four-song set: “Holiday Motel” (in which I dedicate it to “Allan MacPhee, wherever he is tonight. And to Digger’s divorce lawyer!”), “Welcome Home” (with Carley Baer, who comes up and sings the background vocal, which is awesome!), “Where Is Joe Strummer When You Need Him?” and “Dweller On The Threshold.” It is great to spy amongst the audience Charles & Renee, Susan, Digger, Carley and a half-dozen other spectators. After finishing my tunes, Carley does a splendid four-song set (“are you bootlegging me?” she asks when I hit play & record on my recorder) that concludes with Kory Murphy coming up for her final song. I drop my guitar and Ronnie’s bass off at the Collabratory and I go to Butch’s with Susan, Charles & Renee. We arrive right before Walter Salas-Humara begins his set, with a noisy quartet onstage. Just before Walter starts Calab Navarro shows up saying that “someone” said that he could play at Butch’s at that exact moment. It was news to Walter but he put him on immediately and had him do a song, and Calab sounded great.

Then Walter began his set and the green, red and white strobes that sprinkle and sparkle throughout Butch’s began to do their thing. I don’t think I could endure this strobe if I was on drugs at that moment. Walter sang his heart out, sounding great on such tunes as “Penelope.” I came up to do an acoustic version of “Puente de Acero” with him singing and the EXACT moment that we began the tune Manny and Sarven walked through the front door with their Cajón and acoustic guitar and joined in with us, perfectly in time, as if this had been perfectly choreographed for a film. The timing was insanely perfect. After “Puente” we also did a group version of “Like A Satellite” and then it was time for GrooveSession to yield the stage for the next act.

Charles, Renee & I walked next door to the Red Room, and again, as if perfectly choreographed, the exact second I entered the bar Lantz Laswell was on stage with bassist Steve Smith and drummer Jamey Clark, with Lantz hitting the very first chord to our new song “Automatic.” I walked right up to the bandstand, pulled my notebook out of my backpack, and Lantz and I started singing. That performance completely washed away any lingering negativity that I had with Mr. Laswell and it was truly incredible. Dan-O was running sound and the mix was perfect and although Steve & Jamey had never played the song before they sounded incredible. I gave Lantz and Jamey a quick hug, shot Steve an exalted look of appreciation and bounded out the door towards Untitled after experiencing another perfect moment.

I caught up with Charles & Renee at Untitled and Stephen Link is telling us that he is going to close the bookstore early. It was barely midnight and he was saying that his ass was dragging from being up so late the past two nights. It’s totally understandable-this week can catch up with you in many wicked ways. John Hvezda is hosting and the vibe seemed fairly subdued. I took my leave and went over to the Door County Fire Company where “Eric McFadden and Friends” were on stage. Actually it was Cracker & Blacker, the Sons of Crack Daniels and they sounded fantastic with a band that includes Zach Vogel on drums and Gregory Roteik on bass. “Two Six Packs and a Bottle of Wine” comes pouring off the stage. Adam Macintosh is roaming around and when James Hall joins Eric they launch into “Call It A Trade.” Positively Smoking is the only appropriate word for what is going down. After another song James starts playing the lick for “Love Come Rescue Me” and I approach Gregory, who tells me that he doesn’t know this song. I tell him that I do and he hands me his bass and we suddenly transform into Megachurch. Zach Vogel on Facebook: “Probably the most epic jam I have ever had the privilege of being a part of! I love all of you…” I couldn’t agree more Mr. Vogel. Thanks to Mary Casey Martin for shooting video of this moment. I’m grateful that it exists for the ages.

So… three magical, unplanned, musical moments: Bing, Bang, Boom! First Walter and GrooveSession, then Lantz, Steve & Jamie. And then Megachurch and Eric, James, Zach, Kipp, Coop and the gals: Victoria, Joanna & Delphine. Pure, unbridled magic, all the space of an hour or so. Improvisational wonderment.

I hung around for a while longer at the Firehouse while Eric finished up his set with a few songs from Delphine’s punk rock project and I was able to chat a bit with Coop and then with Bruce and Jan Reaves. These are the good times…

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

By 2:15 AM the bartender at the Firehouse was saying that unless we were musicians packing up equipment, we needed to get the hell out of his joint. I walked by Untitled, in spite of the fact that Stephen said he was going to close early. Well… I walked into the bookstore to find it teaming with musicians and Stephen walks up to me, hugs me and exclaims “I rallied!” I guess that means we won’t be going to bed anytime soon…

I walk back to the Collabratory, grabbed my acoustic guitar and the bass and headed straight back in time for a jam session with Charles, Troy, Eric, Barrett and myself on “The Pale Rider.” Chalk that up as the four and final miraculous spontaneous jam session for the night. Also hung out in the back room with Vee, playing “Eight Days A Week” and “Alone Again Or.” By the time we are finished it is 5 AM. I stumble back to my room after a thoroughly satisfying evening/morning at 6 AM. At 10:07 AM, I receive a text from James Hall: “Brother. We got Liv, Eric, and I ready for “Love Come Rescue Me.” 10:09 AM: “I’m on my way.”

I tumble down the stairs with bass in hand and walk into Steve Hamilton’s studio. They are still getting set up for our session and I have time to slam two cups of coffee after getting four hours of sleep. Kipp Wilde climbs behind the drum kit and together with Eric and James we cut the basic track in two takes. Eric overdubs a lead guitar track that is pretty cool to witness. James sings the entire song, even though he will only feature in the second verse. Eric sings the entire song, featuring in two verses. Andrea sings the entire song, featuring in the last verse. Then Steve sets up three microphones and eight of us gather round for the background vocals on the chorus-four women and four men: Liv, Andrea, Delphine, Victoria, Eric, James, Tomcat, and myself. We triple track the voices, with a set of handclaps thrown into the third verse for good measure. After some tambourine is added the track it is deemed complete and Steve’s rough mix sounds pretty darn good. I’m so happy to be a part of this song. Spine-tingling goodness. Praise Jesus!

“Love Come Rescue Me” by Megachurch, written by James Hall, Eric McFadden, Liv Mueller & Andrea Wittgens in room 230, June 12th, 2014. Engineered & mixed by Steve Hamilton in Sausage Studio from 10:45 AM-1:00 PM on 06.15.14. Personnel: James Hall (vocals, guitar), Eric McFadden (vocals, electric guitar), Liv Mueller (vocals), Andrea Wittgens (vocals), Jon Kanis (electric bass, vocals), Kip Wilde (drums, organ), Delphine de St. Paer (vocals), Tomcat Joe (vocals), Victoria Vox (vocals).

[C] Intro

God said to Abraham
I gotta know that you’re the one
Are you ready? Are you faithful?
Are you prepared to sacrifice your son?
[F] So he built an [E] altar
And [Dm7] fell down on his knees [G] crying

[C] Love come rescue me

The angel Gabriel came to Mary
Saying little girl do you know who I am
There’s a boy child and he’s a comin’
Gonna be a savior known throughout the land
So [F] Mary carried the [E] baby
To the [Dm7] manger in [G] Bethlehem
She cried

[C] Love come rescue me x 3
[A# / A / C] Instrumental walkdown

The servant came to Simon Peter
Long before the rooster crowed
She said can you claim him as your messiah
He said, this man, I do not know
[F] As shame was [E] washing over
He could [Dm7] see the sun start to [G] rise
He cried

[C] Love come rescue me x 3
[A# / A / C] Instrumental walkdown

I was tired, I was lonely
And I could not find a friend
And the truth was I could go no further
I believe I’d reached the end
And [F] sat down on the [E] church steps
And I [Dm7] hung my head and [G] cried

[C] Love come rescue me x 3
[A# / A / C] Instrumental walkdown

By the time the session is over I need to eat something, so I go over to Poh’s for the “Poh’s lunch special”-a hamburger patty, a bratwurst patty, and some cheese on a bun with fries. For better or worse nutritionally, this tends to be part of the staple diet of being at SBSF. I run into Carley Baer and her delightful mother Terri, Danielle French, Gregory Roteik, and Melissa Gorsuch and share an enjoyable lunch with them. Danielle tells me about her new recording project that sounds super cool: Miss Scarlett and the Madmen. She’s in the process of laying down tracks for a new CD.

But before you know it, it is time to make our way over to Cherry Lanes for the “Take It To The Bridge One More Time!-A Celebration of the Life of Billy Triplett.” This performance was originally scheduled to be in the parking lot of the Holiday Music Motel, but the threat of inclement weather and severe winds chased the event inside. During the afternoon I heard great sets by Chris Aaron & Jim Schwall, Thy Dirty Deuce, Kim Manning, GrooveSession (who have worked up a great arrangement of pat’s song “Looking For Work”), and many others. At 3:25 PM I join drummer Dan Smrz and Craig Greenberg for one last performance of “Bridge On Fire” and “Death On The Liberty Line.” Craig introduces his band, announcing me with the comment: “if ever there was a Steel Bridge utility man…”

Walter, Charles and I want to do “Like A Satellite” for Billy’s tribute, but unfortunately that doesn’t come together. Neither does “Call Me At 3 AM.”

At the bar at Cherry Lanes I sit and talk to Louise for a couple of hours over Stellas and Guinness. Hayden is beating the adults at billiards and feeding quarters into arcade games. I never get tired of talking with Louise-she has become one of my favorite people over the last year. Our first hour is filled with tribulation tales of the hassles relating to her eldest son Elijah getting back to Los Angeles in time for his School of Rock gig that evening. Eventually it all worked out, but it sounded like a tremendous pile of B.S. to plow through-more Merc retro mischief I would say.

During our talk at the bar, Louise shares a Formula For Magical Thinking To Work that she and pat mAcdonald wrote together. I love it.

You have a vision and are willing to modify it according to feedback and testing in the world and apply cautious and unrelenting steady gentle pressure over time… you will shape-shift what is and manifest your vision. Patience and persistence, faith and constructive responsiveness to what is revealed over time are the essentials to steady (not fantasy) manifestation.

Kim Manning comes up with the goofy exercise of photographing various songwriters speaking into a banana. The resulting montage is pretty fun. As things wind down at Cherry Lanes, I go back to the Holiday to take a shower and find out that after we break down the studio in 236 & 237 that I’ll be able to sleep in a king-size bed off of the floor for the night in 237 (thanks mj!). But first we have to pack up all of Dan-O’s gear into his van. To that end Jay-bro, Dan-O and I are on the (anvil) case. After we get loaded up, Dan-O, Sherri Columbus, Susan, and myself head over in Dan’s Volt to Beach Harbor for the after-party celebration of SBSF10. Hang out a bunch with Craig & Susan, Charles & Renee, and Ronnie & Lantz. Love trumps all when it comes to Lantz. In fact, we perform one last rousing version of “Automatic” at the end of the evening in a group configuration that includes Eric McFadden on electric guitar. Once again, it was smokin’. My one regret is that Vee didn’t end up playing with us as he did on the recording.

Speaking of Mr. McFadden, Eric ended up playing drums with Walter, Lumberjack Cash, and myself on a last rendition of “Puento de Acero,” prompting the question “Is there anything that Eric can’t do musically? We also knock off a super-mondo version of “Like A Satellite.”

As the night wears on and the bar begins its closing hour, I decide to take up Barrett’s offer and catch a ride with him and Danielle French back to the Holiday. I really want to stay up all night and party till the sun comes up, but I know that is begging for trouble and I decide to drag my ass off to bed. The next morning when I hear about several of my favorite people talking around the campfire until the wee hours, I am thoroughly bummed, but there is no way I would be functional come Monday morning-on a day where I have to drive three and a half hours back to Madison, and perform on stage at the Badger Bowl per the wonderful avocations of Tony Menzer, an absolute prince of a man (and bassist extraordinaire!).

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Wake at 10 AM and start making the rounds to say goodbye to everyone who is still around and hasn’t left town yet. Talk to Barrett for 20 minutes as he packs his gear and the inevitable melancholy starts to seep in. Take a few pictures, hug whomever is still around or awake, clean out my room, pack my gear, take a quick shower, drink some coffee, even though we should be hitting the road already. Pat burns me a copy of his CD Lockbox Babies Vol. 1 (solo acoustic), and it sounds fantastic on the ride back to Madison, as does Susan Howe’s Lonesome Water and Victoria Vox’s Key. Dan-O, Louise, Hayden, Vee and myself go over to Poh’s for lunch before gassing up at Citgo and cruising down the 57 south.

At 6 PM we arrive at Dan-O’s house, unpack a bit and repack for the Blues Night gig at the Badger Bowl. Tony has enlisted several of us from Steel Bridge to form an ad hoc band, including Tomcat Joe, Jim Schwall, Vee Sonnets, Dan-O and myself. We end up doing a bunch of blues songs. I end up singing a few songs including The Doors “Roadhouse Blues,” my original “Think It Over,” and “Welcome Home.” Tomcat Joe does “Build A Bridge” and “Get On To It” among several numbers. Jim Schwall gets up and sings a few songs and even Vee sings a number on guitar, after mostly staying on keyboards all night. For the second set Lisa and Chris Aaron show up, with their awesome daughter Abi and Lisa’s mother, and they do a great version of “Steel Yourself.” After two full sets Tony slips a bit of money into each of our hands and that takes a bit of the financial and emotional sting out of making our various ways back home. It also didn’t hurt finding four 20-dollar bills lying on the ground. The Lord do work in mysterious ways sometimes…

After our gig at the Badger Bowl we go back to Dan-O’s house and start unwinding for the night. We are both dog-ass tired. But Mother Nature has something else in store and at 11:52 PM my phone goes off with a loud alarm saying EXTREME ALERT Tornado Warning in this area till 12:15 AM CDT. Everyone in the house is starting to make their way down into the basement, except for Alex and Dan-O who stay on the front porch watching the amazing display of thunder and lightning going on. Once we are in the basement, however, one of the windows begins to leak and now the floor is flooding with a small, but steady, stream of water. We move all the electronic equipment off the floor so that it doesn’t get wet and another warning comes over at 12:36 AM until 12:45 AM. By the time it is 1 AM I am too tired to care and I go back upstairs and collapse on the futon. Thankfully, the tornado seems to have passed. What a conclusion to an intense week!

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

I end up sleeping until past 10 AM and finally Dan-O and I go out to Dairyland for breakfast at 11 AM. One last blast of chicken fried steak and then we go over to the university area and walk around a bit, hitting Dan-O’s bank before going over to the terrace at the University of Madison and have a relaxing ice cream cone. We go back to the house, unpack the remaining gear out of the van, take a shower and pack my things and I’m curbside at the Madison airport by 3:10 PM. Boarding occurs and then we are stuck on the tarmac for over 30 minutes because of rain in Detroit. It all works out and when I hit the Detroit airport I walk straight to my plane and it takes off 10 minutes later. Halfway through my flight back to San Diego, as I’m walking to the lavatory I hear my name called and it is my friend Laura Jane Willcock! She had just spent two and half weeks back in her hometown and we ended up on the same plane back to San Diego. What are the odds? I guess about as good as finding money on the ground or being blessed with belonging to an amazing musical community and family such as the Steel Bridge Songfest.

Again, my deepest appreciation to pat mAcdonald, melaniejane, and all of the volunteers and staff that make the Steel Bridge Songfest, Dark Songs and Love On A Holiday possible every June, October and February. To all of my collaborators and friends that I was blessed to spend priceless time with this year, I can’t thank you enough for continuing to help my spirit grow and soar. Also, a very special thank you goes out to my buddy Dan-O Stoffels for hosting my arrival and departure, and for sharing so many good times together.

I love you all. See you in October 2014 for Dark Songs 6.

All the best,
mjk
xo

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Steel Bridge Songfest TEN awaits!

steel-bridge-2014-mashead

April

Hey there friends and neighbors, how’s it going in your neck of the woods? I hope you’re having a fabulous Spring and that the snow has at least melted, churning into a river of gratitude. Lots of cool things are happening around here. My recent adventure to Austin, Texas for The Rock Bards documentary and SXSW is recounted HERE in the April edition of The San Diego Troubadour. I will be performing solo/acoustic again for both days of the annual Adams Avenue Unplugged Festival. On Saturday, April 26th I will be at the Sycamore Den (3391 Adams Avenue) from 8-9 PM and on Sunday, April 27th I will be at Polite Provisions (4696 30th Street at Adams Avenue) from 6-7 PM. Come on out and make a day of it. It’s one of the best parties that San Diego puts on every year and it’s free.

I can’t say enough about the upcoming release Songs From The Mine by Louise Goffin. It should be out on the street before summertime so keep your eyes and ears peeled…it’s fabulous.

In May I have the privilege of conversing with local chanteuse Whitney Shay for the cover feature of the next issue of The San Diego Troubadour and for the next several weeks in April and May I will working on two CDs with Christopher Hoffee, as well as finishing up the remaining chapters for the publication of my first book Encyclopedia Walking: Pop Culture and the Alchemy Of Rock ‘n’ Roll. There is a forthcoming CD anthology to accompany the book, compiling tracks from the past 22 years (many of previously unreleased). And autumn will see the completion of Fundamentalism Is The Only Way, the long-awaited follow up to 2005’s Cabalistic Dispatch.

June will find me at Steel Bridge Songfest 10 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin from June 8th through June 15th and I couldn’t be more excited or happier about it. What a fabulous time will be had. SBSF9 was an absolute, life-changing, blast. Read all about it. There’s nothing else like it on the planet, in multitudinous ways. I love pat & mj, Door County, and everyone involved with Steel Bridge, Dark Songs, Love On A Holiday and the Holiday Music Motel. But you probably already knew that.

In the meantime, 2014 looks to be fun, busy and full of grace. I’ll see you down the road—singing songs and sharing stories—in a town near you. Enjoy yourselves. And count your blessings. Peace. xo

Mystery, Murder, Mayhem & Magic: Ecstatic & Overstimulated @ SXSW 2014

Mystery, Murder, Mayhem & Magic

Ecstatic & Overstimulated @ SXSW 2014

by Jon Kanis [published in the April 2014 edition of The San Diego Troubadour]

Austin, Texas—South By Southwest (SXSW). The world’s largest music industry conference celebrated its 28th year of existence this March and like any ambitious young person seeking to make their way into the wider world it is clearly experiencing a number of growing pains. Astrologically you could call it the Saturn Return of SXSW. And in that precise sense you could also say that it’s time for a huge wake up call within the industry to reevaluate the role that music plays in the world of art, commercialism, information, and entertainment.

What started out in 1987 as a quaint, regional forum, unspoiled by the trick-turning of commerce, has exploded into a colossal giant of a consumer circus, with multi-national corporations co-opting the essence of the event and turning it into a marketing opportunity to expand their demographics, regardless of whether those companies have anything to do with music or the entertainment industry. The original idea behind SXSW was to provide a platform for relatively obscure and unsigned bands to expand their audience and potentially grab that elusive brass ring of a recording contract—a goal that was at one time considered synonymous with “making it” as a musician. And while that romantic notion still exists for some, at the heart of the conference there is a prestige aspect by appearing at SXSW—as this is definitely the place to be seen. However, with the glut of musical acts these days, what kind of absurd fantasy must you entertain to believe that out of 15,000 artists simultaneously on display that somehow your band is going to stand out amongst the field? Ostensibly a music conference, SXSW went through a radical reinvention when it added the emerging technological elements of Film, Media and Interactive—where the brightest minds of the internet network with scores of entrepreneurs and end users in the virtual world of websites and video gaming. So it is clearly not just about the music any longer.

To demonstrate just how much the music industry has changed since the inception of SXSW, the most popular attraction on day one of the music panels (Tuesday, March 11) was the perpetually inventive Neil Young, making a pitch for his latest business enterprise: the Pono digital music player and online store. His endearing presentation was in tandem with a Kickstarter campaign that had a goal of raising $800,000; in less than a week the campaign had already raised over four million dollars.

Young made a compelling presentation, similar I imagine to when he reinvented Lionel, LLC, the model train company in which that he has a 20 percent stake. “Thank you for being here today and for supporting this idea, because rescuing an art form is not something that is really of a high consideration to many of the people in the investment community.”

Young spent an hour describing his journey through the technology that took us from analog recording in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and into the digital realm of the ‘80s to the present day. And he emphasized how MP3s approximate a mere five percent of the data that is contained on the master reel of most analog recordings. For 30 years we have been using extremely antiquated technology and Young’s Pono system is an attempt to make the convenience and clarity of digital be as warm and fulfilling as the analog experience of vinyl. And by the looks of his Kickstarter campaign he has gained the trust of the greatest venture capitalists possible: namely other fellow music lovers, and that is capitalistic democracy in action.

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After spending a week in Austin I am left wondering: is there any such thing as a “pure” artist any longer? In centuries past artists were subsidized by patrons in order to survive. But to eat and pay the rent these days there seems to be a form of artistic prostitution going on within the music industry, and it’s alarming by how accepted that dynamic has become. Los Angeles Times pop music critic Randall Roberts writes “Gag me with a Samsung” (one of the major sponsors at SXSW) when quoting keynote speaker Lady Gaga, who is attempting to perpetuate the delusion that “without sponsorships, without these companies [like Doritos] coming together to ‘help us,’ we won’t have any more artists in Austin. We won’t have any more festivals, because record labels don’t have any money.”

That rationalization of corporate whoredom is the reason why many people might be staying away from SXSW next year and long into the foreseeable future. Greg Dohler, drummer with the Baltimore, Maryland post-punk/noise pop band Small Apartments has been coming to the event for the past five years with his wife Cindy France and they both said they would definitely be taking next year off. “Everything that we love about the festival is just being taken over by all the corporate stuff and it’s just gotten too big,” says Dohler.

“It reached a tipping point for us this year in terms of the crowds and the marketing presence, so we’re not planning to return. It makes me sad because at its best, SXSW is an incredible celebration of new and old in music. This year I was blown away by a young British band called The Wytches, but I was just as thrilled during a panel to watch James Williamson of The Stooges demonstrate how he wrote ‘Search And Destroy.’ There is a magical connecting of the musical dots across generations that I have always appreciated at the festival, but this year there were just too many obstacles to enjoying the music.”

When SXSW first started Austin, Texas was a relatively obscure college town, the state’s capitol that plays host to the University of Texas. With a fluctuating population of close to a million inhabitants, Austin has, over the past 25 years, easily become the musical mecca of the United States, with hundreds of local musicians performing every night of the week in countless bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, theaters, and block parties. The competition is fierce and rising to the top of this particular scene requires not just plenty of talent, but also lots of street hussle and the ability to network and become well connected in a community where nearly everybody is hip, handsome, stylized and bona fide.

If you’re looking for a quiet little place to settle down, Austin isn’t it. And if you’re seeking a moment of peace and quiet then be sure to steer clear of the greater downtown Austin area during SXSW, because you’ve never seen more drunken debauchery in your life. San Diego’s defunct Street Scene festival at its most raucous doesn’t hold a candle to SXSW—as a matter of fact, add New Orleans’ Mardi Gras to your most frantic Street Scene memory and maybe you will have an approximation of what SXSW has grown into.

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So why was I in Austin for SXSW 2014? It all began innocently enough when Raul Sandelin, director of A Box Full Of Rocks: The El Cajon Years Of Lester Bangs asked me if I wanted to go to SXSW to film and conduct interviews for his follow up documentary The Rock Bards. Instead of focusing on a singular figure, this film will instead feature a diverse canon of rock journalists who were active during that classic heyday of gonzo-esque journalism, circa 1966 to 1981—a period that begins with rock’s first intelligent publication, Crawdaddy!, and book ended by the advent of MTV. After committing to the assignment I didn’t quite realize what I had signed on for. When I checked out the official SXSW website I found myself both excited and somewhat trepidatious. But my concerns melted away and I embraced the adventure that lay ahead.

I had grown oblivious to the evolving character of SXSW and didn’t realize how much it had changed since I was last in attendance (March of 1992) when SXSW was only six years old. I arrived in Austin on the Greyhound with only an acoustic guitar and a backpack, hawking my first EP Walk Without Me. I was touring the United States and Europe as a gigging musician for the first time seeking fortune, fame, and experiential wisdom—and it was truly humbling to discover what it takes to make it as a professional musician. Thanks to the mentorship of songwriter and musician Peter Case (whom I joined on a 50-city tour later that year, as road manager and opening act) I gained even more insight. I also spent an evening with the late, great folk musician Bill Morrissey when he played at Marcia Ball’s establishment La Zona Rosa. Bill ended up borrowing my guitar to perform his set when the club did not have one per his contract rider (I still feel the resonance of his superb mojo every time I play). Typifying the frenetic pace of SXSW, Bill had his five-piece band waiting for him in Dallas, where he popped down to Austin on a commercial flight and zoomed over in a limo to play his set. Then it was back to the airport so he could reunite with his band and play his gig in Dallas later that evening. That is the speed that things happen at SXSW. After Bill’s set I trucked over to The Terrace where I witnessed an amazing gig with John Trudell/AKA Graffiti Man, Michele Shocked, and the magnificent Timbuk 3 at the height of their power. The guys in AKA Graffiti Man befriended me and gave me a ride in their van back to my lodgings afterwards. The camaraderie that exists amongst Austin musicians was something I had rarely experienced and I would find out over the next two plus decades that such a night is emblematic of the Austin music community.

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So, it was a whirlwind of a time with plenty of highlights and by the end of the week my feet were absolutely killing me from all the walking and standing. But rock and roll is not a spectator sport—you gotta participate.

My first priority was to capture material for the documentary, and to that end I shot some great material, starting off with a panel lead by San Diego musician Cindy Lee Berryhill honoring the legacy of her late husband Paul Williams and Crawdaddy! magazine, featuring music journalists Ed Ward, David Fricke, Ann Powers, and Paula Mejia. The camera also captured wonderful interviews with former CREEM editors Billy Altman and John Morthland, rock journalist for the Austin Chronicle Tim Stegall, Lincoln Journal Star arts & entertainment writer Kent Wolgamott, and Lester Bangs biographer (Let It Blurt) Jim DeRogatis. Intelligent, insightful and humorous conversations were also captured with Ward and Mejia.

There was a fun panel titled It’s Only Rock & Roll: Fifty Years Of The Rolling Stones that featured John Doe (of X), Ian McLagan (Small Faces, The Faces & Rolling Stones) and the MC5’s Wayne Kramer. Their stories were highly entertaining.

I met dozens of compelling personalities along the way and heard some truly amazing music throughout the week. Musician Jim Basnight (who is producing a Sonny Boy Williamson documentary) was a joy to hang out with as well as Mark Bjerke, a promoter for the We Fest country and western festival that happens every August out of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Plenty of people were at SXSW promoting their latest projects: I ran into photographer Bob Gruen, who was signing copies of his Rock Seen book and I spoke at length with the legendary Robert Gordon who was on hand to promote his latest tome Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. He generously inscribed my copy with: “For Jon—Great films in the Stax Museum!” referring to the five shorts on permanent display that I co-directed in 2004. I can’t wait to read the book and review it for the next issue of Ugly Things magazine (or as Robert wrote on Facebook “Stax for Mike Stax! Perfect.”).

There was an opportunity to reunite with many of my fellow musicians and songwriters from the Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Steel Bridge community who were performing at SXSW this year: Pat MacDonald and Melaniejane from Purgatory Hill; Liv Mueller (who just relocated to Austin from Milwaukee); Ruby James, Stephen Cooper, Vee Sonnets, Gregory Roteik and Zach Vogel of WIFEE and the Huzzband; Dan O. Stoffels, Ellie Maybe and Geri Micheva of the Geri X band; Brett Newski, Walter Salas-Humara, and Alex Mitchard were also on hand playing music and supporting their friends.

Every day and evening had something truly special going on: Tuesday night it was seeing San Diego’s Octagrape at the Lit Lounge Upstairs (bassist Otis Barthoulameu, aka “O” of fluf fame sat next to me on the flight out to Austin and regaled me with one hilarious road story after another). Right before Octagrape was a rocking trio from San Antonio, Texas called The Rich Hands. Between bands I dashed across Sixth Street to the venue Friends for their Sounds From Chile showcase and caught the amazing Nano Stern, a folk singer from Santiago who completely captivated the room. I then drove south on Congress Avenue across the Colorado River to catch the Steel Bridge reunion at the Swollen Circus show at the Continental Club.

Wednesday night Cindy Lee Berryhill’s five-piece Garage Orchestra performed a tight set of great new songs at Esther’s Follies. Thursday night Louise Goffin was at the Paramount Theater (with bassist Tom Freund and percussionist Elsa Chahin) performing a fabulous eight-song set of material from her forthcoming album Songs From The Mine. Friday it was back to the Paramount to see a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience: the official SXSW tribute to the recently departed Lou Reed, who passed away last year on October 27. The backup band included guitarist Lenny Kaye and bassist Tony Shanahan from the Patti Smith Group, guitarist Ivan Julian from The Voidoids, and Blondie/Plimsouls drummer Clem Burke. This three-hour-plus performance deserves a glowing review all on its own. It was magical and mystical, with a lot of love in the room for Mister Reed—a night to remember for sure.

On Saturday I spent much of my time south of the river, catching the Geri X band at Aussies Bar & Grill before going to the Whip In to see Louise Goffin and Tom Freund (on the inside stage) and catching the marvelous Patrice Pike and Steve Poltz on the outside stage. Everyone was dynamic, energetic, and spot on with their performances. I left with a huge smile on my face before navigating the labyrinth of partitioned one-way streets and endless traffic. Just after losing the light during my interview with Kent Wolgamott at the Convention Center, I went over to the club Parish on Sixth Street to catch Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s quintet The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger. They performed a tremendous eight-song set, concluding with an intensely rearranged version of the Syd Barrett classic “Long Gone.” I can’t wait for their new LP to be released this month.

By the time GOASTT had finished playing I was pretty much toast but I still headed over to the Star Bar where Geri X and Brett Newski were playing. After helping them load up their van I grabbed a plate of Blue Ribbon Barbeque and walked the many blocks back to my car. By this time the downtown Saturday night vibe was positively roaring with revelers and I was done with that energy and feeling absolutely fried. That didn’t stop me however from driving south of the river once again to the Continental Club to see local heroes Jon Dee Graham and the Fighting Cocks (his final song “Do Not Forget!” is pure rock ‘n’ roll street poetry). It was then over to the Saxon Pub on Lamar Blvd. to catch JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers (from Paducah, Kentucky) before seeing former Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome at 1 AM to close out the night and the SXSW festival with a loud and rocking set with his super fine quartet. I cut out after saying my goodbyes to several new friends and managed to squeeze in one last round of drinks back at the Aussie with my soul brother Dan O., where we closed the bar, and then it was back to the hotel to collapse and prepare for the two interviews that I had scheduled for the following day.

Of course it wasn’t all fun and games at this year’s SXSW and that was reflected in the 7 AM Thursday morning phone call from The Rock Bards‘ producer Ed Turner to find out if “I was all right.” I had planned on seeing X at the Mohawk the night before and I have Billy Altman to thank for my not being present—as I wanted to be well rested for our interview at 10:30 AM the next morning. I went to bed oblivious to the fact that half past midnight, 21-year-old Rashad Owens had crashed the barricades at Fourth Street and Red River, fatally mowing down two people on a moped and a bicycle, and injuring 21 other pedestrians on the sidewalk. A week later a third fatality was added to the list of casualties. Owens has been charged with capital murder and aggravated assault after the aspiring rapper panicked and drove the wrong way down a one-way street after being stopped by Austin police for not having his headlights on. His blood alcohol content was registered at 0.114. The incident cast a pall over SXSW for the remainder of the week.

Tim Stegall: “I was covering X last night at the Mohawk and standing up in the balcony and I saw the hit and run thing happen on one side of me and X was on the other. And my mind might be playing tricks on me but I swear X was playing “Johnny Hit And Run Paulene” as the car went crashing through the barrier.”

As for how SXSW has changed over the years, journalist John Morthland offers this perspective: “I came here in 1985. SXSW has always grown. Film came along a few years later and Interactive right after that so now there’s this nine-day run. Interactive is bigger than music now in terms of number of registrants. The original South By Southwest was just music but it also took place during spring break because that’s when all the students were out of town so it kept the clubs busy. But as the conference has grown there’s been more and more of these day parties and a few years ago it started getting really big. That’s when you started getting your Fader Ford and the Rachael Ray Picnic. And what’s happened now is people come here for spring break, which is completely the opposite of the way things started. What you have now is all these additional events during the day and at night in clubs that are not SXSW events and all of these are private concerns. You saw Doritos this year—some of the very biggest events are these corporate events that have nothing to do with music but they come because this is where everyone is. And so, as a result, it just keeps attracting more and more people and then more and more non-SXSW events start taking place and it’s been snowballing that way for quite awhile. You notice a real difference in these last three or four years. It’s been very tense and it’s hard to have much fun, truthfully. There’s just always this sense that something’s going to happen. And, of course, this year something really bad did happen.

“So all these extraneous events—that’s not South By Southwest. To hold those events corporations have to go to the city of Austin to get permits and the city is going to have to start looking at its own role in all of this. Whenever something happens most people don’t make that distinction. The city is going to have to look into its own heart, it’s going to have to cop to its role in this kind of chaos and make the same kind of compromises and accommodations that it expects SXSW to make. [Because] it’s grown too much for that to be workable any more.”

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A postscript: travel is so vitalizing but it’s really nice to be back in San Diego and I feel totally inspired by all of the great musicians and journalists that I was able to share time with. It’s time to get back to work and finish up the last remaining chapters of my first anthology, Encyclopedia Walking: Pop Culture & The Alchemy Of Rock And Roll (available in print this June) and continue working on my latest solo album Fundamentalism Is The Only Way (co-produced with the mind-bogglingly gifted Christopher Hoffee). Be sure to stay tuned for further developments with The Rock Bards project and a full-length, 15-song soundtrack is due by summer for the A Box Full Of Rocks documentary. To quote Almost Famous‘ William Miller: “It’s all happening.”

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The official SXSW tribute to Lou Reed, Friday, March 14, 2014

“Sweet Jane” Alejandro Escovedo & Richard Barone
“Cool It Down” The Bizarros
“Romeo Had Juliet” Cheetah Chrome
“Femme Fatale” Cindy Lee Berryhill
“Vicious” BP Fallon with the Strypes
“Oh! Sweet Nuthin” Bobby Bare Jr.
“I’m Waiting For My Man” Garland Jeffreys
“Perfect Day” Louise Goffin
“I Love You Suzanne” Rosie Flores
“Waves Of Fear” The Fauntleroys
“Coney Island Baby” Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3
“Candy Says” Sharon Needles
“Smalltown” Joe Dallesandro
“White Light White Heat” Alejandro Escovedo & Richard Barone
“All Tomorrow’s Parties” Richard Barone with Cindy Lee Berryhill
“Rock And Roll Heart” Chuck Prophet
“Sally Can’t Dance” Jesse Mallin
“Real Good Time Together” The Fleshtones
“Walk On The Wild Side” Suzanne Vega
“Kill Your Sons” Wayne Kramer
“Pale Blue Eyes” Lucinda Williams
“Run, Run, Run” The Black Lips
“Sister Ray” The Baseball Project
“Satellite Of Love” Spandau Ballet
“What Goes On” Sean Lennon
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” Richard Barone
“Street Hassle” Alejandro Escovedo with Louise Goffin
“Rock And Roll” Everyone

Scribe Of The Tribe: The Ballad Of Paul Williams

Scribe Of The Tribe: The Ballad Of Paul Williams
by Jon Kanis [published in the May 2013 edition of The San Diego Troubadour]

“Each man creates himself. Do not be afraid to love. The only sin is self-hatred. It is the act of self-negation. Words contain no awareness. They can only trigger awareness. It does no good to try to impress a man with some thought he can’t relate to. But if you can make him realize the obvious that might change his life.”
[from Das Energi by Paul Williams]

“Don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’
I just might tell you the truth.”
[from “Outlaw Blues” by Bob Dylan]

In the mythic psyche of the vast American landscape known as the Wild West there are few things as celebrated as the archetype of the pioneer: staunch individualists who take risks where others fear to tread. The Hero With a Thousand Faces who often opens up new vistas of perception for the benefit and preparation of others. As revolutionary trailblazers basking in the adventure of the unknown, pioneers possess a vision of how to transform the world into something grander than what has come before. When we celebrate the innovations of the pioneer we simultaneously promote the evolution of the race by allowing our most progressive ideas to prevail. And call it being educated if you like (or simply being aware) but for any sort of evolution to occur a sense of our back story is crucial – because how can we know where we are going if we don’t understand where we’ve been? History is our moral compass (Joseph Campbell tagged it the Power of Myth) and it is through these stories that we know ourselves as a people.

Thankfully, every tribe throughout the ages has a learned wanderer who goes out into the world and reports his findings back to the village and for the past 20 years San Diego played host to one of the twentieth centuries’ most pioneering scribes: Mister Paul Steven Williams (who passed away on March 27, 2013 due to complications sustained from a traumatic head injury in 1995). As the author and editor of over 30 books covering a range of topics, from science fiction fandom to the underground rock and roll counterculture, Williams was also passionate about progressive politics and expressed his spiritual observations through the “practical philosophy” of his cosmic blank verse. He is considered by many to be the father of rock journalism with the creation of Crawdaddy! magazine, the first American publication to write about rock and roll as a serious art form (predating the similar enterprise of Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone by 18 months). As a 17-year-old freshman at Swarthmore College, Williams was an atypical wunderkind who was inspired by the grassroots broadsides being published for the science fiction and folk music communities and he took it upon himself to fire the first shot in declaring the good news that innovations in rock music had reached a new plateau. And he wanted to tell the world about it.

Williams: “The first issue of Crawdaddy! [The Magazine of Rock] was printed on Sunday, January 30, 1966, in a basement in Brooklyn, New York, on the mimeograph belonging to and operated by Ted White. I wrote everything in that first issue myself. The cover featured a quote from a new British group, the Fortunes, talking to a London music paper after returning from their first U.S. tour: ‘There is no musical paper scene out there like there is in England. The trades are strictly for the business side of music and the only things left are the fan magazines that mostly do the ‘what color sock my idol wears’ bit.’

“My vision of the magazine [was to provide a forum] where young people could share with each other the powerful, life-changing experiences that we were having listening to new music in the mid-1960s. Since I didn’t have a way to get my new magazine into the hands of thousands of young music lovers immediately, my short-term focus was to get the attention of the radio station and record company people to whom I planned to mail complimentary copies of the first issue. In truth, I really was interested in whether a record would be a “hit” or not and if that was something I could predict or influence. I had been fascinated by Top 40 artists since I was 10 years old, impatiently bicycling to the record store every week on the day the local radio station’s new Top 40 handout sheet would be available. (Where’s ‘Charlie Brown’ by the Coasters this week?)

“We printed 500 copies of that first issue. The first copies were mailed from New York (five cents apiece for first-class mail then) on Monday before I hitchhiked back to Swarthmore, carrying the rest of the magazines, many of which I soon mailed to music business names from Billboard magazine’s annual directory. The total budget for the first issue, including postage, mimeograph stencils, paper, ink, 15-cent subway fares, peanut butter sandwiches, and the one album I bought and reviewed (Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence) was less than 40 dollars.

“The most noteworthy response to the new magazine came later in the week when Paul Simon called me at the freshman dormitory to say that my review was the first “intelligent” thing that had been written about their music. Perhaps he also gently corrected my false idea that Garfunkel was the guitar player of the duo (I’d figured he had to be, since Simon wrote the songs and sang the leads). I was invited to meet them on my next trip to New York. They introduced me to their manager and brought me along to a concert and a radio interview.”

Beware means be aware.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 19, 1948 it seemed inevitable that Williams would come to the West Coast as he later claimed to have “California in his blood. My dad [Robert] is from Palo Alto. He met my Brooklyn mom [Janet] at Los Alamos, working on the atomic bomb [i.e., the Manhattan Project].” Small wonder that with a nuclear physicist for a father it would be natural for Williams to become passionate about the ideas contained in the literary realm of science fiction. Not to mention the explosive fissions occurring in the world of rock and roll.

Williams: “The reason why I started Crawdaddy! is because it had never been done before. I was 17 and heavily influenced and inspired by the two scenes that I’d hung out in during my teen years: science fiction fandom and the Cambridge, Massachusetts folk music thing. Science fiction fans are readers who get involved in a conversation with each other and soon become more interested in the conversation than in the SF stories that brought them together in the first place. They [we] invented the word fanzine. I used to publish a science fiction fanzine when I was 14 and 15, so I knew that the freedom of the press belongs to anyone who owns a typewriter and can cut a stencil and has access to a mimeograph.

“I read an article by Jim Warren about how to become a magazine publisher. He got across to me the idea that what you needed was to find an audience that had a keen interest in something that was not yet being covered in a professional magazine and go forth and fill the niche.

“So I discovered girls and Dave Van Ronk and Howlin’ Wolf and didn’t publish any fanzines for awhile. I heard Skip James perform at Club 47. Then the Rolling Stones converted me to rock and roll and I was off to my freshman year in college and I started thinking that if there were folk music magazines, why not a rock and roll magazine? I thought I’d call it Crawdaddy! after the club in London where the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds got their start.”

After publishing a few issues of Crawdaddy! Williams dropped out of college, moved to the Philadelphia suburbs, went back to Boston for awhile and eventually landed in Greenwich Village. Williams: “Within a month of arriving in New York, Crawdaddy! was written up in Howard Smith’s “Scene” column in the Village Voice and the next thing I knew I was at a meeting of Interesting People and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) was telling us about the Human Be-In that had just been held in San Francisco and we were there to talk about bringing it out east. Four of us of like mind detached ourselves from the rest of the conversation and went ahead and organized the first New York Be-In for Easter Sunday, 1967 in Central Park. It was really great. We believed in no agenda, no explanation, no entertainment – just let people show up. And they did. It was the first time that I saw really serious energy surfacing.

“There was a sense that something was happening and it just seemed to feed on itself. I saw the Doors at Ondine in New York and Buffalo Springfield at the Whisky before their first album came out and the Airplane and the Dead and Janis at the psychedelic ballrooms in San Francisco. I first smoked dope with a guy from a group called the Lost in Cambridge in September of ’66 but I didn’t get off and didn’t try it again until I was interviewing Brian Wilson in his meditation tent in his living room in Bel Air a couple of days before Christmas that same year.” During that visit to Los Angeles Williams wrote about the tracks that Wilson was currently working on, being one of the first people to hear the songs that he and Van Dyke Parks had created under the working title of Dumb Angel, later to be called SMiLE. When Wilson shelved the entire project the myth around SMiLE grew to immense proportions, in part by Williams’ excitations about the material in the pages of Crawdaddy! No one knew at the time that it would be another four decades before those legendary tracks would be officially released.

By the end of 1968, after three years of publishing Crawdaddy! (where the readership jumped from its initial 500 copies per issue to a staggering 25,000) Williams decided to walk away from the enterprise – and say goodbye to NYC. “I just wanted to go on to the next thing,” he said, “which turned out to be a cabin in the woods in Mendocino.”

After handing the reigns of the magazine off to some friends Williams was still interested in doing freelance assignments. In early 1969 Jann Wenner asked him to interview Timothy Leary for Rolling Stone. One thing led to another and the next thing he knew he was a charter member for a day in the Plastic Ono Band, clapping and singing along on their debut single “Give Peace a Chance.”

Williams: “Tim and I got to know each other a little and after a few months he said he was going to run for governor of California and would I like to be his campaign manager? I held the post for about ten days. We found out that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were planning to do a bed-in for peace in Montreal, so of course we had to go to Montreal.

“We had a fabulous visit. Tim explained his gubernatorial platform (something about a marijuana tax) and said that he and his wife Rosemary were really running together as a couple and that he/they tremendously admired John and Yoko’s revolutionary expression of coupleness and their campaign slogan was “Come Together, Join the Party!” And would John please consider writing a campaign song?

“The next day [June 1, 1969] John and Yoko got us and the Hare Krishnas and Tommy Smothers together in a small hotel room converted into a recording studio [Room 1742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel] and we all sang “Give Peace A Chance.” You can see me swaying and clapping in the video, which was shot more or less over my shoulder. Then it was time to go.”

Participating in the energy flow is the only satisfaction there is in life.
Eventually, a greatest hits anthology of PW’s early Crawdaddy! work was compiled under the cover of Outlaw Blues: A Book of Rock Music in 1969. It was the first in a long line of tomes. If it seemed like Williams had dropped out of conventional social circles by 1970 it was because he had, as reflected in the publication of 1972’s Time Between. “The theme of the book is transition,” writes Williams. “The sense of being caught between the old world and the new. I wrote it in a burst of energy between December 27, 1969 and February 19, 1970. It starts by describing the goings-on around me (mostly sex and LSD, enthusiasm and conflict) in the commune I was then living at in Mendocino, northern California. It continues through a disjointed cross-country rap on [Robert A. Heinlin’s] Stranger in a Strange Land, Charlie Manson, Mick Jagger, breaking free of the old world, love between men, moving to Canada – and settles into a visit and series of adventures in another commune, the Total Loss Farm in Vermont. The book ends with the author’s awareness of and suggested cure for his own schizophrenia [combined with final comments on the messiah myth, another recurring theme].” It’s somehow telling that Williams refers to himself in the third person as comment on his “schizophrenia.” If Time Between chronicles the period of Williams having a breakdown, his next book, Das Energi, would prove to be the breakthrough of his publishing career.

When your space is clear the whole universe functions at its best.
Williams: “When I was living on an island commune in Canada in 1970, I found myself writing this strange book called Das Energi, a few lines a day, feeling very guilty because I should have been working in the garden or otherwise making myself useful. Das Energi was turned down by lots of publishers and finally Elektra Records decided to put it out, their first and only book, in 1973. It turned into a word-of-mouth bestseller and it’s been through 23 printings in the United States and has sold at least as many copies as all my other books together.”

Despite the feel-good/new-age vibes present in Das Energi, Remember Your Essence, and his other works of philosophy, Williams could also be quite confrontational with his prose (he did, after all, participate in the march on the Pentagon in 1967). Hardly a doe-eyed flower child, he retained a righteous indignation throughout his life about the social imbalances inherent in the political status quo. He was frequently insistent that “the People” get off of their complacent, apathetic asses and correct the injustices of the world. In 1995 he railed in print against the “American bankers and stockbrokers [and their political and media puppets] and the sucker game they’re running. I want to talk about it except I honestly feel that no one wants to hear it, which is depressing. Why are we nostalgic for a time when people tried to find out the truth and do something about what was going on, but we resist following the same course now, this decade, this present moment? We’re moral idiots and it’s going to cost us.”

The 1970s found Williams’ book projects moving further away from the world of rock and roll and more in alignment with his spiritual and political interests. Before the seventies were over he wrote five more chronicles of his emerging consciousness: Pushing Upward (1973), Apple Bay or Life on the Planet (1976), Right to Pass and Other True Stories (1977), Coming (1977), and Heart of Gold (written 1978, published 1991). In 1979 he merged his philosophical explorations with his love for music in Dylan – What Happened?, where he pondered the implications of Bob Dylan’s then-recent conversion to born-again Christianity.

A prolific run of titles continued into the ’80s with The Book of Houses (1980) (co-authored with Robert Cole), The International Bill of Human Rights and Common Sense (1982), Waking Up Together (1984), Remember Your Essence (1987), and The Map or Rediscovering Rock and Roll (A Journey) (1988). The Map is perhaps the most significant of these titles because it documented Williams’ return into the world of music after a 15-year lack of interest.

The Map reads like the journal of someone who fell out of love with their first girlfriend and then 15 years after breaking up with her discovered after a long Homeric odyssey that not only were you still in love with her but now brazened by Life (experiences that took him from the ages of 25 to 40) he actually loves her even more. Such was the muse of music for Williams and it was this rekindled affection that inspired him to undertake the deepest project of his career, his three-volume series of Bob Dylan’s recorded output chronicled in Performing Artist.

Performing Artist is in many ways the crowning achievement of Williams career. It is certainly the most sustained meditation that he undertook in all of his writing projects. In Performing Artist Williams becomes the virtual fly on the wall and all he has to base his perceptions upon are the same tapes that any other Dylan collector might possess. But somehow he conveys to the reader startling insights into Dylan’s process, insisting that not only is Bob Dylan rightly considered the William Shakespeare of our time as a writer, but also that his abilities as a performer are of an equal caliber.

If a picture is worth a thousand words then these sound paintings that Williams draws from are a museum’s worth of impressions to build a cathedral in your consciousness, raising your awareness to unforeseen heights. This is what the best writers and artists do through their word and picture symbols. Bob Dylan is a master at it. And Paul Williams is a master at chronicling the process of the master at work.

Volume One of Bob Dylan: Performing Artist covered the years of 1960 through 1973 and was published in 1990. Volume Two, covering the middle years of 1974 through 1986, quickly followed in 1992. In 1993 Williams undertook the impossible task of personally choosing his favorite rock and roll singles of all time and writing a brief essay about each record. The result was the wonderfully eclectic offering Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles, including a forward by his future wife-to-be Cindy Lee Berryhill.

Energy flows through all things; it rests in none of them.

In addition to the spiritual philosophy of Das Energi and all of his work regarding how rock and roll music made his heart sing and spirit soar, there is, of course, the long shadow cast across Williams’ entire career by his first true love: science fiction. As a teenager he was entranced by the work of writer Theodore Sturgeon and would later serve as the authoritative last word on Sturgeon’s work by editing, compiling, and commenting in The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon. As Sturgeon’s literary overseer it was a function that Williams would also undertake for another of science fiction’s most acclaimed writers: Philip K. Dick.

Williams became aware of Dick’s writing in 1967 after being turned on by fellow enthusiast Art Spiegelman. “Phil and I met at a science fiction convention in 1968 and were close friends until his death in 1982, the same year that Blade Runner came out based on his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In 1975 Williams wrote a profile on Dick for Rolling Stone magazine, eventually expanding the manuscript in 1986 to book length for Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick, a fantastic document that shows how the two writers related to each other as friends. It offers up a rich background on Dick’s career and focuses on the multiple theories as to why Dick’s San Rafael, California house was burglarized on November 17, 1971 [take your pick: it was either the extreme right or the extreme left – the local police – rival neighbor gangs or the Black Panthers or…]. The two writers enjoyed an easy dialog with each and the affection between them is palpable. When Dick died on March 2, 1982 Williams became Dick’s literary executor, getting several previously unpublished manuscripts placed with printers and editing and publishing a newsletter for The Phllip K. Dick Society.

The ringing of the mindfulness bell.
If it’s true that writers require large amounts of solitude to perform and perfect their craft then, conversely, there are also the social dictates of business meetings, interviews, and travel that require being out in the world. Williams found a stable foundation for this dichotomy of demands in the three-act scenario of his marriages, where he performed the classic roles of husband, father, provider, and friend. In 1972 he married Sachiko Kanenobu, a Japanese singer-songwriter with whom he raised two sons, Taiyo and Kenta (causing him to relocate for a second time to New York City). In the 1980s he moved to Glen Ellen, California and married artist Donna Nassar (a chiropractor/healer by profession), where Williams served as stepfather to her two children Eric and Isabelle (and also served for ten years as a volunteer fire fighter). Sometime in 1992 he fell in love with singer-songwriter-musician Cindy Lee Berryhill, which led to his relocation to Encinitas in 1993. After the two wed in July of 1997, their union produced a son Alexander Berryhill-Williams in 2001.

His relocation to Southern California coincided with the decision to revive the Crawdaddy! imprint as Williams once again began self-publishing a quarterly newsletter in the winter of 1993, in many ways picking up where he left off in 1968. The newsletter was a success and introduced Williams’ writing to a new generation of music fans who weren’t around for the first incarnation. Everything was flowing in his personal and professional career until Saturday, April 15, 1995 – when everything came to an abrupt halt.

Cindy Lee Berryhill: “It was tax day. Because he was riding his bicycle to the post office to drop off the taxes and he was on his way back and there’s this treacherous hill that you go down and if you want to get up the other one you go down the first one fast. So he was going too fast and he didn’t have a helmet on.

“At that time Garage Orchestra was out [Berryhill’s fourth album from 1994]. I’d been touring for that album and was just starting to put together some songs for the next one and when Paul’s accident happened it kind of exploded whatever I was gonna do. I became a caregiver for like three months. But he did remarkably well and had a miraculous recovery. And because he was such a genius already, losing a few brain cells didn’t seem to alter things too much. In fact, a mere three months or so after his accident he had a book tour to do in Europe and I accompanied him on the book tour and actually played a few songs on his tour: I was his opening act sometimes. It was that kind of thing. He was mostly talking about Bob Dylan.

“My focus was really on him that year and then I recorded the next album Straight Outta Marysville. A song like “Unknown Master Painter,” I wrote that in the couple of weeks of Paul’s return from the hospital and I had this overwhelming feeling at the time of wanting to get in the car and drive east as far and fast as I could and just escape. But I’m not that kind of person, so I’m not going to do that. But I wrote the song and it was a way for me to escape.”

Williams did indeed manage to make a miraculous recovery, as evidenced by the remarkable output of projects that he completed during the last half of the ’90s. In addition to continuing with the responsibilities of writing and publishing Crawdaddy! he also published seven more titles between 1995 and 2004: Fear of Truth (Energi Inscriptions) (1995), Bob Dylan: Watching the River Flow (1996), Neil Young: Love to Burn (1997), Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys – How Deep Is the Ocean (1997), How to Become Fabulously Wealthy at Home in 30 Minutes (1999), The Twentieth Century’s Greatest Hits (2000), and Bob Dylan: Performing Artist Volume Three: Mind Out of Time, 1987-2000 (2004).

However, by 2009 Williams was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the early onset caused by his accident. Berryhill documents the tragic, grueling process of watching her husband drift away in stages on Beloved Stranger, the name of her blog site and the title of her extremely riveting sixth album from 2007. Berryhill eventually created a website (paulwilliams.com) to promote awareness of her husband’s work and to solicit financial assistance for the enormous medical bills.

A retrospective curated by Johan Kugelberg titled Paul Williams: A Science Fiction and Rock and Roll Trufan at the Boo-Horray gallery in New York City was held on March 24th just three days before Williams left his body, giving up the ghost of a compromised vehicle that his tremendous spirit had housed for over six decades.

Berryhill: “Johan proposed the idea three weeks before it happened. He wanted it to happen quickly and for it to be a celebration of Paul and his work. At that point Paul had started hospice, so it was a thoughtful thing to do.

“I was able to share with Paul over the phone how beautiful his show was. There were so many writers that were there and everyone was saying that they couldn’t believe how much that he’d written… and that was only a fraction of his stuff. The other news I had for Paul was that two very impressive libraries were interested in taking his books and papers, thanks to Johan.

“When you read an essay that he wrote about a song he said these things that you were thinking and that you felt about the music but you could never articulate it the way that he could. As a musician you just thought, ‘I gotta write something that good! I gotta write a song as good as that.’ Because he could actually come up with the words to talk about ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and I’d think that if I could say it that’s exactly what I’d say. He was like the perfect listener for us musicians. He really listened. And as somebody who got to live with him if I tried out a new song on him he was very much as he was as a writer. He either really liked it: “That’s powerful!” or he wouldn’t say anything. [laughs] Or he would say, ‘I haven’t listened to it enough to know. I don’t know if I have an opinion about it.’”

Sort of from the If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say school?

“Yeah, definitely. He said to me, ‘Why would I waste my time?’ It needed to be music or a piece of writing that really talks to him.

“But you know, ultimately, what he writes about is transcendence.”

A memorial (Celebration of Life for Paul Williams) was conducted at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad on April 7. A second memorial took place in San Francisco on April 13.

Engaging in a Form of Prayer: Remembering Paul Williams
It has been an incredible whirlwind these past few weeks, meditating on Paul Williams’s life and legacy. I am humbled by the task of writing his story and am left feeling such a range of emotions: giddy one minute, sad the next. But when I pause and take a deep breath what I mostly feel about the guy is triumphant about what he managed to create in his short time on this planet. Another emotion that I could add to my palate is frustration, because shy of a 10,000 page multi-volume compendium there is just no way to portray the full range of his literary gifts.

I believe that Paul thought this trip was largely about communication – in order to create communion. One of the thoughts that he committed to paper, and made an example of his life, was that: “The only way to enjoy the show, to enjoy life, is to be a participant. Perhaps it’s the people who think they’re spectators who spread the idea that all pleasure must be paid for. Don’t pay for anything – life is free.” Not exactly what you would call the thinking of a free-market capitalist…
Part of the beauty of Paul’s words are that they offer a window into a period of personal and collective history as well as a glimpse into the timeless possibilities. His words are an evocation and an invitation of how to see, think, and BE, suggesting that if you’re willing to take action and responsibility for your personal vision that you can change yourself and, by doing so, subsequently change the world. The best art is inspirational and suggests that by being bold and courageous you can do anything. So, (I can hear Paul saying) get cracking, kid!

I also believe in the law of magnetism, which perhaps accounts for how I found myself on June 9, 1986 on Jerry Weddle’s couch in University Heights talking about the great, lost Beach Boys album SMiLE with Paul. I came prepared to our get together by bringing a bootleg copy of SMiLE on cassette (unbeknownst to me he hadn’t heard the material since 1966). In appreciation for the tape he whipped out a copy of Dylan – What Happened? – signed it and handed it to me. I was only 21 but already an appreciator of Paul’s work and felt that his writing regarding the mysterious power and spiritual sway of rock and roll is as substantive and significant as the very sounds that inspired him to write in the first place. You could look Paul in the eye and know that you had a confidante who held a paradigm-shifting secret that he was dying to share with the world. He was endowed with a compassionate fervor that wanted to hip everyone to the awareness that music could expand your consciousness and had the power to heal your soul and affirm the beauty of existence. In his essay on the Rolling Stones single “The Last Time” he makes it clear that music wasn’t just a pastime or background noise, that it was no less than Existence Itself: “We’re talking holy noise here, sacred writ,” adding that a great 45-rpm record could contain “sex and death and humor and an attitude and a great beat and guitar piano vocal orchestral rock and roll music to die for.” Jeez, no wonder I loved the guy…

The day I met Paul I happened to have an extra ticket for the inaugural San Diego date of a 41-city North American tour by Bob Dylan, who was touring at the time with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Paul had an extra ticket for a show in Berkeley a few days later so we swapped. I had never seen Bob Dylan before and when the week was over I experienced four spectacular shows with Paul in San Diego, Berkeley, and Costa Mesa. Over the next decade I would see Dylan another 30 times and the frequent post-concert ritual would find many of us sharing notes about which songs were played and how well the evening came off. Most times I witnessed Paul in what seemed to be a state of ecstasy after seeing Dylan play and over time I came to share his conviction that beyond his obvious genius as a writer that Bob Dylan was also one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music.

Paul was a spiritual brother in every sense of the word. While it was music, music, music that brought us together I also learned a great deal about Zen philosophy, astrology, and the Book of Changes, the I Ching from him. He was the first person I ever saw throw a hexagram when grappling with the uncertainty about how to handle a particular problem. He was an old-school hippie, a wise magician, a science-fiction geek with nerd glasses and he knew how to use words as a divination tool. You heard music differently after Paul’s sensibilities had zig-zagged through your skull; astonishing pictures could emerge from the previously unconnected dots that his prose drew together, turning your mirror maze of a mind into a cultural playground as profound as the discovery of fire or the invention of the wheel.
Once in awhile I would get a postcard from Paul when he was out in the world traveling. One card dated March 13, 1995, sent from Prague reads: “Totally in love with this city – five days not enough! Wallet stolen but I don’t care – Dylan reinventing self by putting down his guitar – he always surprises! Love, Paul”

Thinking about his passion always makes me smile and it was a privilege to witness his process. I have a slew of happy memories from when he was immersed in the writing and research of The Map or Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles. I couldn’t help but being just a little bit pleased by being listed in the acknowledgements for helping him out with the Bob Dylan: Performing Artist series. There were other cool times as well having “postage parties” where we mailed out issues of Crawdaddy! to the subscribers in ’93, ’94, and ’95 – listening to records or cassettes, swapping stories, arguing over the relative merits of this LP or that artist and always while passing around the peace pipe.

We were hanging out together in July of ’88 when we heard the news that Nico had died from a freak bike accident in Ibiza. Paul got extremely upset by the news and slammed his fists into his knees crying out “No! No!” and fired off a few choice expletives to express his anger and sadness. Well, that visceral response was exactly how I felt when I received the news around Paul’s own bicycle accident in April 1995 and after visiting him in the hospital a couple of weeks later with Cindy Lee I was stunned by how quickly things can change on a dime. I am grateful for the generosity of Paul’s spirit and that I was privileged to bear witness to all the beautiful energy that he poured into the world. He is definitely missed and yet his ideas will be perpetually with us and I look forward to meeting up again in the next lifetime. Thanks for making a difference man.

Scribe Of The Tribe: The Ballad Of Paul Williams [May 2013, The San Diego Troubadour]

paul-williams2

Jon Kanis & Harpo, Bluefoot, San Diego, CA [02.27.14]

Jon Kanis & Harpo at the Bluefoot, San Diego, CA [02.27.14]

1) Think It Over
2) What A Wonderful World
3) (The Human) Race (Is A) Riot
4) Follow Up
5) Give
6) The Daily Planet
7) Welcome Home
8) Surrender

1) The Waiting/The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
2) I Love You More Than Words Could Ever Say
3) Jimmy Burke The Newsboy
4) Where Is Joe Strummer When You Need Him?
5) Welcome To The Working Week
6) Below The Fold
7) Quick!
8) Like A Rolling Stone

This was another great gig where I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Harpo, as we’ve been doing for the past three months on Thursdays at the Bluefoot. Tonight I started the program with a half hour set (6:00 to 6:30) before Harpo played a set and then I got back up from 7:00 to 7:30 and Harpo finished off the night till 8 PM. It was a great time and we had an awesome turnout. I am really looking forward to the next gig on March 27th when Rick Wood comes down from Los Angeles and we share the stage together. You won’t want to miss it…

Happy Birthday to Yoko Ono!

Much love to you.

Celebrate Yoko’s birthday by checking out this classic two hour State Controlled Radio episode entitled Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band.

Peace & Love everyone.

yokoonobirthday

Christmas Time Is Here Again!

Hey there folks…here are my latest articles for The San Diego Troubadour magazine for the December edition:

HERE is the link to my feature article CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE AGAIN (SO LET’S PARTY!)

HERE is the link to my review of the latest Mike Keneally CD YOU MUST BE THIS TALL

Happy holidays to you all and I wish you a prosperous New Year in 2014!

All the best!

Jon Kanis & Jamie Shadowlight, John Lennon Flash Mob Tribute, La Jolla/Ocean Beach, CA [10.09.13]

When I met Jamie Shadowlight to interview her for the cover story in the October 2013 edition of The San Diego Troubadour I had no idea who she was. By the end of the afternoon I was completely struck by her warmth and her wicked sense of humor and her fearless ability to perform music in any situation by the seat of her pants. The day we met we came up with a loose strategy to celebrate John Lennon’s 73rd birthday by performing some of his music together. No rehearsal, completely spontaneous. We were going to perform outside of the San Diego Music Awards but RAIN caused that event to be postponed till October 16th. So we decided to go to La Jolla and spontaneously perform at the Pannikin and D.G. Wills bookstore before heading south to Ocean Beach and finish up at Jefferson Jay’s open mic at Winstons. It was a fantastic time and everyone we encountered had big smiles on their faces. Thank you Jamie. You are awesome. Lots of love. xo

1) Imagine [at Pannikin]
2
) Rain [at Pannikin]

3) A Day In The Life [at D.G. Wills]

4) You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away [at D.G. Wills]
5) We Can Work It Out [at D.G. Wills]
6) All I Gotta Do [at D.G. Wills]
7) Working Class Hero [at Winstons]
8) You’re Gonna Lose That Girl [at Winstons]
9) Don’t Let Me Down [at Winstons]

all songs Jon Kanis [guitar/vocal] & Jamie Shadowlight [violin]

john-lennon-magical-mystery-tour