Monday, July 31, 2006

Pondering the great mysteries of life: croissants, forgetfulness, the Jew's Harp, old man spies, and the return of System of a Ho-Down

Every workday morning I wander groggily into the same cafe for my morning coffee and croissant. And yes, I am aware there is free coffee at the office, but are you aware that it tastes like stagnant pond water? I thought not. So, yes, every morning, the same thing. It's compulsive and sort of obsessive but, seriously, eating that croissant is like sucking on a flaky butter lollipop---it's amazing. The only people who don't agree are my arteries and, well, they're not people, so I disregarded their input long ago.

Where was I? Right: Croissants and coffee. See, the two employees there, they know my name and I don't know theirs. It's getting embarrassing. It's probably heinously obvious. "Hello Justin," they say. "How are you this morning?" "Heeeyyyy you," I say. "Just fine. And yourself?" And they say "great" (they're far too chipper at 8:30, I'll tell you that much), take my money, give me my butter in a bag and a cup for my coffee. And then: "Thanks Justin." And then: I walk out feeling like a gigantic ass.

So what do you do at this point? It's far too late in our friendly, employee-customer relationship to ask "what was your name again?" They don't wear nametags, so that's out. What I need is a spy. Some overly friendly old man, perhaps, who could waltz in, buy a cruller and ask them their names, then report back to Birdmonster HQ.* Plus, if I forget their names again---always a possibility---I could send him back under the guise of senility.

The moral of the story: I'm an idiot, albeit, an idiot who just enjoyed a really, really delicious croissant.

Birdmonster news, wholly unrelated to breakfast pastries: Zach's out of town for a week, so our triumphant progress on Tiger Woods and other, less hilariously named ditties is on hold. Although, inevitably, two or three of us will meet up in his absence and reform System of a Ho-Down. Pete's already called the washboard. I'm taking the banjo and those inner-knee-one-man-band-cymbals and Dave, well, I vote for the nose flute. Or the Jew's harp. Or some other ludicrous thing. Then, there's this thing, which you can check out with your ears and eyeballs. It's a video that Rachael at Underrated (see link to the right, although she has not yet provided a substantially delectable muffin recipe, so the wording is in fact misleading) made whilst we were in New York. Sad to say, I have yet to see it, as I was at a bed and breakfast all weekend (which was wondrous) and can't watch things like this at work because a) I sit right in front of the bathroom and fancy, boss-like humans walk by my desk all the time...right before they defecate, and b) I fear looking like a self-absorbed boob staring at myself at work. I save that for home.

Expect further tour dates this week and a detailed examination of our preposterous schedule from mid-August on. And more rambling. But you knew that part already.

*It's almost like an episode of Seinfeld, isn't it? Or Curb Your Enthusiasm (which is, essentially, vulgar Seinfeld).

Friday, July 28, 2006

35 in 40

I've bemoaned my interview skills before. In fact, I bemoaned them here no less than a week ago. But yesterday, sandwiched within our practice, we had a rather pleasant one. At no point did I mention my dreams of wizard acting; Dave refrained from (too many) inappropriate narcotics jokes; Peter only used one verbose aquatic metaphor; and Zach didn't stab anyone. In other words, it went well. Then, in one of those wonderful moments of synergy, we were asked how many shows we're playing on our next tour on the very same day I'd spent the afternoon counting and totaling them on my desk-top abacus.

"35 in 40," I said.

"What?!" demanded a bandmate who had not spent quality time with his Chinese counting machine.

"35 shows in 40 days," I repeated. Then we laughed. We laughed with the maniacal abandon of four guys who hadn't quite realized how loopy and malodorous they'd be by day thirty-two until three seconds earlier. We laughed because there was no other way to deal with that information except by guffawing it to the back of our minds. Days off? Overrated. Sanity? Boring. Tinnitus? Four orders please, sunny side up.

This time around, we're going to make a concerted effort to hit up tourist stops on the way. Either really good ones or famously cheesy ones, or anything anyone recommends (which, feel free to do now, although I will be soliciting your advice constantly from the road). Peter wants to go to the Corn Palace in one of the two Dakotas. I've mandated that we stop at the Thing in Arizona (or is it New Mexico?). The Corn Palace, is, well, aptly named. It's a Palace, surrounded by corn, which sells corn and shirts with corn puns* inside. The Thing is a gas station that sells bogus wrought iron figurines, has one of those Dairy Queens that smell like transmission fluid, and also has a cave where "The Thing" resides. What is The Thing? It's mystery, that's what. NO ONE KNOWS.** And, for a mere 75 cents, you can find out. I don't care if I have to go it alone while the other monsters eat their Blizzards and buy postcards that say "Arizona: It's a DRY heat" but I'm going. Know this. Anyway, any great roadside attractions should be forwarded on before August 15th, and will be both visited and greatly appreciated, so long as they're sort of on our way.

Yes, yes. It's three weeks away. And yes, yes: we haven't even posted all the dates (speaking of which: more next week). But sometimes, it's just fun to marinate in the idea of vacation. And yes, I realize this isn't really a vacation, it's a job, but when you can mistake the latter for the former, everything is going just swimmingly.

*They're probably corny....please don't hit me.

**If you do, please don't tell me. I want to be surprised while Patrick Stewart relaxes, outside, peeing coolant all over the parking lot.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Books and Beards

Sometimes, after I've read a particularly good book, I go on reading strike. And somewhere, LaVar Burton is shaking his head and crying. But it's true. About three weeks ago I finished Dingley Falls by Michael Malone, who also wrote Handling Sin, which, quite frankly is either the best or the second best book I've ever read*, and since then: nothing. I mean, I'll read my Jon Carroll in the morning, my Bill Simmons, my Gasoline Hobo, my Cecil Adams, an article about Hot 97 in the New Yorker wherein a guy who was rapping there might've faked getting shot in the ass because he saw some guy in the Soprano's fake getting shot in the ass. Point is, I have nothing going day to day; been strictly short attention span since Independence Day. If I keep going like this, I'm going to devolve to the point that all I read are those little charts on the bottom left corner of the USA Today front page. Sure, I'll know that sweet corn always has an even number of kernel rows, but the greater mysteries will remain, as always, unsolved.

What's the point? Well, as I've done before, I'm soliciting recommendations. Not just for a book, but for the BEST BOOK EVER. This, admittedly, is a tall order. If I learned anything in Kindergarten, it's that sharing should be reciprocal, and I did, so now it's your turn. Neener neener neener. And so forth.

I'll actually need several, since our next tour is almost six weeks long and, well, much reading gets done in that there Patrick Stewart. I also just realized yesterday that this will be my first proper & complete cross-country roadtrip, one gigantic, swervy circle around our country, playing in something like twenty or twenty five states & driving through at least ten more. And, unlike Division Day, we can get into Canada.** There will be copious chances to purchase bad hats, worse shirts, still worse fast food, see the world's largest wooden prairie dog, and learn the geographic lessons that never stuck in school ("wait, there's a Mississippi River?"), all while spending an eighth of a year straight in one, endless, dank pub. Man. That sounds good. I'm actually toying with the idea of not shaving the entire time, but there are a few hitches in that plan. a) I've never made it past the "itchy" stage (2 weeks or so) and don't have any reason to think I will, b) my mustache grows faster than the beard, so, for quite some time, I might look like Freddy Mercury at 10 o'clock in the evening, with (slightly) better teeth, and c) I might look really, really stupid. On the upside though, I could pull at it and look contemplative. Plus, it plays into my natural laziness. Just thinking out loud here.

*The Brothers K is the only contender. And no, that is not an abbreviation of the Russian novel.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Next time, Allen Iverson comes right before Greg Ostertag. Just make the transition crisp.

If it was the early 16th century and I was hanging out with Michelangelo (the sculptor, not the ninja turtle), I would've been far more intrigued watching him actually sculpt David than seeing the finished product, with that epic, confident look on his face in spite of his tiny, tiny genitals. Watching someone work, seeing the edits, the erasures, the tiny, subtle changes that are made: that's what's interesting. Which is not to say that I wouldn't have wanted to see the end result Biblical underdog after watching three years of chiseling. It just means something more when you see the ten ton chunk of marble in the first place.

Here in Birdmonster land, the song-writing process is really never the same twice. Sometimes, songs are born spontaneously (Ball of Yarn for example) or someone will bring in the chords & melody for an entire ditty that simply needs to be arranged, ordered, and practiced endlessly (All the Holes, perhaps). Other times, they're based a single chord progression or little riff that someone's been noodling with at home and then six months later, viola, it's a song (Cause You Can, por ejemplo). In other words, there's no Steven Tyler-esque overlord.

I mention this because last night we made serious progress on a new song with, ostensibly, three different parts. Now, since none fit the technical definition of "chorus" or "verse" or "outro" or what have you, we had to name them in order to arrange the song. You can't just sit there calling every part "that part" or poorly humming the melody while Dave sits in the corner shredding like Yngwie Malsteen for his own sick amusement. It just doesn't work. So we named the parts. For reasons incomprehensible to all concerned, we named them Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, and Davis Love III, even though Davis Love III is the 1st section of the song, which means you end up saying things like "let's try Davis Love the third first, six times." Asinine? You betcha. But it worked. And now, when our studiomates see the white board listing various professional athletes who play sports for old people, they'll be really confused.

Which got me thinking: I wonder if any one else does this. Like, I wonder if William Faulkner called certain chapters of As I Lay Dying "Crazy Dead Bitch Won't Stay Dead" or if Beethoven's pet name for his Ninth Symphony was "I'm Sorry I Slept with Your Sister." Man, I hope so.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why has our namesake defiled me? I demand answers and get none.

Trudging to work is usually unpleasant. My bus is filled with ballerinas and pedestrians who, apparently believing I am an apparition of some kind, try to walk through my back. They are unsuccessful. Inevitably, someone sneezes near you, and that someone loathes the idea of sanitary public space, and you and the back half of the bus catch the spray. If only someone was going to see Gallagher; I would've hid behind their plastic watermelon smock.

Today was that typically agitating bus ride. But, since it's par for the morning at this point, I was able to tune it out with closed eyes, a death grip on the hand rail, and some AC/DC.* I got off the bus feeling top notch, despite elbows to the ribs, a complete lack of clean, unstinky seating, and an aforementioned mucus incident. Sure, it was Tuesday, but it was a good Tuesday. Market Street was alive, bums were polite, my pants were clean. The sun was shining, the flowers were in bloom, the birds were...

...well, the birds were shitting on me.

I was half-way to the office and suddenly, my hand was wet. And discolored. And disgusting. I looked up and, if pigeons could smile, that pigeon smiled, flapped it's bubonic plagued wings, and flew away, doubtlessly to crap on other unsuspecting bystanders.

What's traumatizing is that I'm in Birdmonster and I got shat on by a bird-monster. In the hierarchy of urban fowl, the pigeon is the most despicable, most diseased, stupidest, and lowest ranking member. In other words, the most monstrous. The crow and seagull are next in line: both a little grungy, but weirdly majestic in their own way, while the sparrow, well, everyone loves sparrows. (And just to clarify, no, we did not get our name from pigeons; Birdmonster is actually Peter's Dad's maiden name**) Now, shit happens, pun intended, but I'm disturbed by the scatological congruity: the fact that, semantically speaking, I crapped on myself (although I'm actually proud I know so many fecal synonyms). If a dove would've been the culprit, then: perfect; an angelic bird dropping droppings on a monstrous one. But this? Perturbing.

We've got practice tonight & I'm using the above event to read into it. Our practice will be the shit. Or it will be shitty. I just don't know anymore. The only thing I'm sure of is that I haven't washed my hands so many times before noon in my entire life, so, if you want to smell the Ivory-est paws you've ever smelled, you should stop on by.

*Somehow, screaming Australian men in school boy uniforms is really soothing at 8 a.m. Why? I'm not sure. We have our scientists hard at work on this.

**Apologies to Peter for plagiarizing his joke. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarism is putting roofies in your drink.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What do Axl Rose and Saddam Hussien have in common? And no, this is not the beginning of an unfunny party joke.

I was on the bus this morning, listening to "Desire" again, enjoying it a little more each time, and reading the San Francisco Chronicle. There are only a couple reasons to buy the Chronicle, and both of them are Jon Carroll. The rest of our hometown rag is comprised of stories lifted off stale AP Wire feeds ("Ohio Vote Disputed"), too many articles on wine from Napa ("Hip Hip, Syrah!"), and about three pages daily are devoted to the thoroughly uninteresting circus that is Barry Bonds ("Bonds Spends Extra Ten Minutes on Toilet; Blames Bad Burrito"). However, today, two little blurbs caught my attention, though neither were written by Chronicle writers, which, well, is par for the course.

I want to ponder the cosmic signifigance of the following two events: Saddam Hussein is hospitalized for starvation while Axl Rose refuses to play in England before getting served a roast lamb.

What we've got is an ex-dictator going on a hunger strike and an ex-successful musician striking because he's hungry. I'm positive there's a deeper truth here, but, three cups of coffee later, I'm incapable of uncovering anything more meaningful than "what a couple of pricks." I require erudite theories; and yes, I'm talking to you.

As for Birdmonster news, I won't be telling you any until I get some Sag Paneer with some garlic Na'an, lightly toasted.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yeah, I like Tangled Up in Blue as much as the next guy, but beyond that...? Ok. Learn me something.

Let's talk about Bob Dylan.

See, about a month back, us four Birdmonsters were in a Carolina restaurant that served umpteen varieties of burnt pig and a few of us admitted our non-adoration of Mr. Robert Zimmerman. In fact, the suggestion that Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, and Paul Simon are and were superior American songwriters was made. Peter was mortified. I didn't press the issue.

Now, I'm one of those people that like, well, I like liking things.* And regardless of how valley girl that sounded, I'd appreciate it if you stuck with me for a second here. You see, I want to like Bob Dylan. He has roughly three hundred thousand albums, writes phenomenal lyrics, and is basically considered a songwriter of messianic proportions by such an enormous portion of humanity that, not really enjoying him all that much, I'm almost certain I'm missing something. Plus, his band was The Band. That counts for something. So, I have asked Peter to teach me what is essentially Bob Dylan 101: give me a wide variety of this jackass & let me decide once and for all. Ambivalence be damned. Full speed ahead.

But I will taking my time; this is not something to be rushed. I spent my bus ride listening to "Desire," which has that Hurricane song and a shitload of fiddling and Emmylou Harris. Fiddling & Emmylou? Big points there. And like I said, I'm reserving judgment on this album until I've soaked it up like a sponge someone forgot to take out of the sink and so now, it smells like wet dog. Wisdom, as we all know, comes from absorbent mildewy things.**

Last night, we had one of those rare and wonderful practices where everyone is in sync (in stark contrast to the practices when we're all N'Sync, which you really don't want to see, hear, or even attempt to fathom the awesomeness of that proposition) and new songs rear their pretty little heads. Plus, I got to mess around with this pedal that makes my bass sound like a synthesizer. If we ever go through a Faint phase, I am fully, fully prepared. We'll get Pete one of those California Love robot voice things, replace Zach with a twenty dollar drum machine, and make Dave wear raver-goggle-sunglasses and red tank tops. High school girls who feign depression, be prepared.

Alright, friends: I'm done for now. Have fun this weekend. Go to shows. Sleep in. Get a tan. If possible, do all three at once.

*Of course, there are those people who like hating things. And yeah, we've all got a little of that in us. You know that gray haired guy who just won American Idol and went straight into whoring Ford during every other commercial break, wagging his finger in your face, generically demanding that you embrace the "pawsabilaaaateeeees"? I loooove hating that guy. I hope his anus prolapses.

**Well documented: Buddha smelled AWFUL.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Today, we learn about headaches, a change of (digital) scenery, and a rather lengthy trek through the greater United States

The problem with that whole "eat, drink, and be merry" thing is the next day. You can't finish your croissant, you need fifteen gallons of water, and merriment so improbable that it's hilarious, except, well, you can't laugh because your brain hurts.

It was all for a good cause, though. Birthdays should be celebrated with a reckless, dish-breaking, diet-be-damned abandon. Then, when people ask her the next day, "hey, do you feel a year older?" the birthday girl can truthfully say "yes." And I think that's important. You've got to earn it.

I've got some totally self-referential news today. Perturbed by the copious amounts of assinine spam comments, I'm turning on the word verification dealy. Comments from real human beings will now require reading wavy letters. It's depressing, really. I'd rather not have to. From here on out, we'll have to do without grammatically horrendous invitations to sketchy online casinos, unreadable music magazines, and ads for herbal dick enlargers. Try not to get too upset. Also, over on the right hand side, below a hand-selected list of the greatest things the internet has to offer, right before the expired ramblings, we've added a poster for our upcoming tour with Division Day (hooray weaponry!) and some images that, if clicked upon, will result in you giving us money.

Speaking of that tour, I'm not sure if I've mentioned this outright, but, come mid-August, we're attempting to take Patrick Stewart from San Francisco, down the coast of California, over through Texas and Florida and points inbetween, up to New York, Canada, other points inbetween, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest, with (you get the idea) points inbetween, returning home, finally, at the end of September. In other words, a long, long tour. We'll have Division Day as company for the first leg, the Sammies for the twelve or fourteen shows, then we'll join up with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin* and Catfish Haven, before reuniting, triumphantly, with DDay in the Northwest again. I wonder if they know we're exploiting them to get back into the castle. I won't tell if you don't.

So, free of long-winded divergences, I'm going back to work now. I'll post the tour dates when they're finalized, which will be in the not so distant future. In the meantime, have a fine Thursday. Bring me some Advil too.

*Best band name ever finalist. Other contenders: Rocket From the Crypt, System of a Ho-Down, AC/DShe, Crudsucker, Supertramp, and, as much as I loathe the band, She Wants Revenge is a great name.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Concerning interviews, magic, bands of merit, and a foreign discussion of the iconography of marshmellows

It turns out I'm bad at interviews. This dawned on me yesterday when, post-practice, we scampered to do an interview for a local podcast and twenty minutes in, there I am, talking about how many own Dream Theatre albums I once owned while Peter shakes his head in righteous dismay. A couple months ago we did another interview where I spent the entire time talking about my plan to become a wizard at the age of sixty-five. I'm also fond of using wild arm motions, which translate oh so well on tape. It's sad, really. I think we're about three away from the other guys locking me in the car with a window cracked like some puppy who can't stop shitting on other people's couches.

And no: the rest of the Birdmonster really doesn't care. They're happy to indulge my idiotic rantings since, well, we're all prone to our own special brand of idiotic ranting. Speaking of which...

Wizards. See, I've got this plan; what happens is this: I'm about fifty years old, Birdmonster is well into that "you probably shouldn't be touring anymore" age-bracket (unless we get all Jimmy Buffett on you, which, I can assure you, we won't), and I've got nothing much to do. So, I stop shaving. And cutting my hair. Now, I do that for about fifteen years---and by "that," I mean, essentially, nothing but hygenic laziness---and by the time my AARP membership arrives, I'll have a chest-length beard and a white mane down to my ass, which I'll then take to Hollywood and try out for every movie with wizards being made for the next twenty years. How much competition could there really be? How many wizened old men will really try out for the next C-level fantasy movie? Can you think of anything wrong with this plan? No. Didn't think so.

(Added bonus: floppy pajama hats. And dunce caps with stars on them. Infintely better than your typical headwear.)

A couple things to mull over today: 1) Gasoline Hobo, whose comments in this space often make my afternoon, speculated and engaged his readers in a discussion of cross-marketed cereal marshmellows. It's worth your time. 2) Dark Side of the Cop, our erstwhile studiomates and all around fine human beings (who once loaned me an amp I couldn't make work properly) are releasing their full-length at the Hotel Utah tomorrow night. I'll be there. You should know that the band and the CD of the same name are losely based on the comedic epic Beverly Hills Cop, and, as the name alludes to, I think you can do a Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz thing while you listen & watch. Know that hallucinagens are not a necessity to do so. 3) It's Hojo's birthday. Happy Birthday Hojo.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A story about a marimba

I've been known to spend money unwisely. I buy books I'll never read, produce I'll never cook, and toy accordions that sound like an emphasemic old man humming into a crumpled newspaper. Now, I could justify any of the above purchases (the cover was intriguing, I thought I liked cauliflower, it sounded good in Toys 'R' Us), but why try? The point is, the book is burried on the shelf, the cauliflower is already molding in the trash, and the toy accordion still sounds terrible, despite my feeble hopes that it went through accordion-puberty while I was away at work.

I mention this because I saw a guy on the street this morning selling a marimba. In fact, it was not just an anonymous gentleman, but the same man I bought my now-broken melodica from. Weirdly enough, he was selling the marimba back then, but $400 seemed a little steep for an instrument I didn't even know the name of before asking. (A slight, didactic tangent: the marimba, the xylophone, the glockenspiel, and the vibraphone are nearly the same thing; the marimba is wooden and lower than the xylophone, the glockenspiel is made of metal as well as the vibraphone, which has resonators underneath it. The xylophone is useful only to perplex kindergarteners who refuse to believe that "xy" could make a "z" sound, which, to their credit, it really should not). This morning though, the marimba was half price. "Half price!" my brain yelled, like a grandma at Tuesday Morning. "It's a steal! Quickly, legs: to the ATM!"

See, this should not have been the first thing that came to mind. Instead, I should have wondered: where will I put a three foot long marimba? Why would I want one? Wouldn't this money be more wisely spent on food, clothing, and shelter? I was halfway down the block before I realized that I was an idiot and, instead of heading to the ATM as I promised that certain elderly gentleman, I scurried to the bus & headed off to work. Score one for team self-restraint.

The thing is, I can't see an instrument without wanting it. (Except the didgeridoo, which should only be played Australian Aboriginals or unwashed twenty-somethings in the middle of failed spiritual awakenings). Do we all have this problem? I mean, replace the word "instrument" with "book" or "scarf" or "video game" or "wooden depiction of a particular rodent" or whatever your hobby is, and I bet the answer's "yes." I don't think it's a bad thing, really, it's just on my mind after my near lapse this morning. Plus, well, I had to write about something and my yesterday consisted of little beyond cooking some gnocchi and screaming at Jeopardy! (Trebeck was drunk; we're sure of this). Until soon.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A joyous recap of Saturday evening, or, it's great to be home

I've got that post-show old-man thing going: stiff neck, achy knees, crotchetty hatred of anonymous pedestrians; it's all there. I'm almost at the point where I should be wearing high-water plaid pants and a bow tie, waiting for a table in Denny's at half past four. Hell, all we need is one more tour before Oldmonster is in full effect and we start writing songs about taffy and osteoporosis and what an insolent prick our caddy is. Personally, I can't wait.

Let's talk about the weekend. Our Saturday evening began with a quick soundcheck, followed by a stroll to Thee Parkside, where there was an SF Indie List shindig going on (meaning many folks drunk at 6, bands out the wazoo, Ted from BAGeL doing some bearded DJing in the corner) and where we ordered the slowest burgers since our cavemen ancestors harnessed fire. While we waited for thee burgers, we utilized Thee Parkside's bowed, rain-damaged ping pong table, upon which Dave dominated us like Roger Federer while making way too many Macho Man Randy Savage "Woo!!!" noises. Four or five hours later, we ate some burned yet bloody burger nuggets, said a few goodbyes and moseyed back to Bottom of the Hill.

Before I talk about the show, I need to thank East Bay rock superhumans Hijack the Disco for a) actually using a melodica in their live show, b) actually letting someone as notoriously clumsy and cruel to equipment as I am borrow it, and c) actually driving it to the club so I wouldn't have to leave the dank and cozy confines at Bottom. An incredibly generous and trusting thing to do, which I repaid by not throwing the mouth piano into a wall, like I did the last one, which, in retrospect, explains why that last one broke. Live and learn, live and learn.

In our typically roundabout way, we've finally reached the part where I talk about the show, which is ostensibly the reason for this entire post. And what can I say? It was fantastic. I'm putting it among my favorite Birdmonster shows ever. The crowd was energetic and large, the openers were great, and Bottom of the Hill was (as usual), accomidating, generous, and loud as all get out. They must have great neighbors there. Either that or they live in sound-proof caves. I could use one of those for my neighbors below me, who pound on the ceiling at 10:01 at night while you laugh gleefully at Gymkata. Either the pleasant neighbor or the cave. I'll take either. Preferably the former.

And honestly, I could go on and on about what a great time I had on Saturday, but, the aforementioned elderly symptoms of soreness are demanding I get away from the computer for a while. To everyone who was there: thanks so much. A memorable and incredibly enjoyable evening. Our hats, once on, now off.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I'm a giant mound of soggy happiness, or, my plan to save the world politics

Ah, the hometown show. Bottom of the Hill. It's going to be oh so cozy, like playing at Cheers, except, you know, enjoyable. I'm sorry, but I never liked that show. Many evenings of depression as a kid, when, expecting a Simpson's rerun, I'd instead get Danny Devito's wife yelling at Woody Harrelson before he improbably became a hippie and survived on canola oil, flaxseed and hackysacks. At least it wasn't Mad About You: it can always be worse.

But yes: I'm very, very excited about tomorrow. My sister will be here and she's finally 21, so we can enjoy (legal) debauchery in the States for the first time. Which is touching, isn't it? Gone are the days of Indian burns, noogies, and wedgies; arrived are the days of gimlets, concerts, and staying out past 10:30 curfews. Plus, all the folks I'm used to seeing in the hometown, in one of my favorite clubs ever, with a real soundcheck, on a summer day, and, well, I could get teary-eyed just talking about it. All is well with the world. Unless you live in Lebanon.

I remain, however, moderately gear-less. No repair shops will pick up their phones, so, in a flight of fancy and delusion, I opened up my own amp yesterday thinking certainly, I, a person who can barely connect RCA cables to the back of a TV, surely I could fix whatever's ailing my poor amplifier. Once the job required expertiece beyond right-tighty, lefty-loosey, I was lost. I did stroke my chin a lot though, which makes me look thoughtful and contemplative, but in the end, screwed the speaker back on, drove to Pete's house, and played the banjo. That's how I solve most of my problems. I think the world would be a better place if everyone did that. Instead of a bloody and miserable trillion dollar war, Bush & Saddam could've just played Dueling Banjos until someone flubbed the rolls at the end. Who would have a problem with that? Really? Plus, that'd mean Earl Scruggs could run for the Democratic ticket in '08 and demolish all opposition. The US would be respected again, press conferences would evolve into ho-downs, and I could maybe get a low level cabinet position. We need to run with this, people. Sign my petition. Write your congressman. Burn your Poli-Sci degree.

I'm optimistic though. Somehow, I'll arrive at the show, with a working bass, a working amp, and a brand new mouth-piano, because, well, I don't know. Religious people faith in some large, bearded man in the sky, while I have faith in serendipity. If that doesn't work out, I'll just go home, read Prisoner of Azkaban, and gesticulate wildly over everything I own.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Of course, if everything's broke, you better leave work early.

There's a philosophy in certain businesses called "Planned Obsolecence." Perhaps you've heard of it. If you haven't, you might be able to surmise what it's all about. If you're not in either of those boats, sit down over here next to me. I'll explain.

Basically, the idea is that you create a product that is actually engineered to break after a finite number of months. Toasters are famously shitty this way. So are American cars. I've also come to the conclusion that iPods have a chip inside them that causes self-destruct, Inspector Gadget-style, about thirty days after the warranty expires, so that smug pricks at the Apple store can put it next to their ear, shrug, call you "bro," and explain that there's nothing they can do. But you can get 10% off your next one. Such generosity at that store; Mother Theresa has met her match, posthumously.

Why do I mention this? It's because, after a week of leisure, procrastination, and practice on acoustic instruments, I suddenly realized that nothing I own works. This goes beyond the holes in my shoes, and my pants, and, come to think of it, this shirt, which, all considered, would make my mother quite sad, being that her son currently resembles a scarecrow in dire need of a haircut. We're talking about instruments. See, my amp broke a few weeks back. Why? Because I was playing it, silly. And every chord too. Because, you know, I was using those and apparently unplugging them too often. And my poor little melodica has a smashed key, so that note you're hearing, that's a F sharp, which is a bad note to hear when you're trying to play a natural C. It sort of sounds like a cat dying. Loudly.

(Cool tangent: That particular interval is called a diminished fifth, which was considered in earlier days to be downright diabolical and is now used primarily by fat, angry metal dudes.* Seriously).

So, today, I go make repairs. Hopefully. As long as people, you know, show up at their stores when they say they will. Plan B, as always, is to put on my leech robe and get leeching. If you have one of the above pieces of equipment & don't want to loan it to me, turn your phone off, throw your computer out the window, ignore the smoke signals I'm sending from this roof on Market Street.

*Apologies to Tony Iommi.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Concerning David Lee Roth; We are indeed concerned

Yes: I realize that everyone knows about YouTube and I realize everyone loves it and, yes, I am among the knowledgeable lovers. In fact, let's just vote for YouTube to take it's rightful spot next to the banjo and the two dollar bill in that select club of the universally adored right now. All in favor? Aye. Any dissent? No? Be quiet, NBC. You don't count.

Now, YouTube, like so much of the internet, is a place where embarrassment gets immortalized. If you make an ass of yourself anywhere near a recording device of any kind, someone's going to see it. If you made enough of an ass of yourself, everyone's going to see it. That's just the reality. No one is safe. Lock you doors. Bar your windows. Wear a Nixon mask at all times.

Of course, if you're famous, you're doubly screwed. Instead of fearing specious tabloid photos and hearsay, you can now rest assured that your blunders, boners, and boo-boos will be saved on YouTube for prosperity and my amusement.

Case in point: David Lee Roth, performing Jump, with short hair, no voice, and a bluegrass band. Wait for the part around 2:10 where he inexplicably does the Indian War Cry thing right before he calls the banjo a mandolin---paging Dr. Kevorkian.*

Now, there are a few things I can promise Birdmonster will never do. I can promise we'll never be in an McDonald's commercial, for example. We will never do the aforementioned Indian War Cry thing. And, although I haven't run this by the guys yet, we won't be wearing leather pants and backwards hats anytime soon either (unless leather underwears counts). I wonder if David Lee Roth ever made a list like that. I wonder if he ever said "I will never cut my hair, sing like the drunk guy at a karoake bar doing Bon Jovi, or employ a bluegrass band to play a song originally played on a $20 Casio." Probably not. Most of us don't have that kind of foresight.

Of course, if you see me on TV eating a Big Mac in a pair off cowhide chaps, all bets are off. So I'm not judging the man. Sometimes you just got to roo-ooo-ooll with the punches. But I am laughing at him. Profusely. Repeatedly. And that, my friends, is what the internet is for.

*To make matters worse, Hagar has his own brand of Tequila. Game. Set. Match, Red Rocker.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Defying the title of this blog, we instead ignore Birdmonster completely, ramble aimlessly, and schedule a practice tonight. Say, 5:30?

You know that moment in the morning, after you've spent an evening enjoying bar life and pub atmosphere and the alcoholic refreshments that innevitably accompany them, when you wake up, hopefully without your shoes on*, open your wallet, and, as if in some mid-century cartoon, an insect flies out? Yeah. That was me this morning. And yes, I did manage to remove my sneakers.

Which, suffice it to say, always bites you in the ass on a Tuesday morning. There's something about a bar on Monday night, a solidarity amongst the folks there. Everyone seems to be agreeing, unconciously, to give their day jobs a giant middle finger. And I like that. Until Tuesday. Which is now. Which is unfortunate.

I'm full of that strange feeling of lucidity that comes after a night like that though. You ever get that? The day after, hungover clarity? You notice buildings & trees on your every day walk you've never noticed before, hear songs you know and love differently, suddenly realize it's summer because there are ballerinas all over your bus (which, although that sounds borderline hallucinatory, is actually true. Every summer, a bunch of teenage ballerinas come to some camp fifteen blocks east of my house. And they all live west of it. So you see them on the bus. They all have this avian sort of look, like they're just riding the bus because they're bored of flying. But I digress). It's unfortunate that such clarity comes in tandem with dry mouth and a swimmy noggin after a night of wrist-aching foosball, aimless yelling, and threats of visiting a particular all night diner which should never be viewed by human eyes let alone eaten at by human mouths. Thankfully, the Lucky Penny was avoided. Somewhere, a can filled with ham and botulism sits, unopened.

One last random detail: My boss saw a bus this morning, but, instead of having the route printed above the windshield like every other bus, this one said:

"Nowhere In Particular"

And for some reason, it makes me really happy.

*An important distinction: if you fall asleep without your shoes on, you've fallen asleep. If your fall asleep with your shoes on, you've passed out. That settles that.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Dreaded Monday Morning Post

I think we can all agree that Italy should have won yesterday. That PK in the first six minutes smelled tremendously of horse-shit, France's coach took out his best shooters before the shootout, and, then, there was that whole wreckless and retarded headbutt to the chest thing. I was watching the game with Vince McMahon and Vince McMahon was taking notes. Anyway: Bravo to Italy. Now, get back to The Boot and get indicted for match-fixing, stat.

I had a rather relaxing weekend without much in the way of Birdmonstery-ness which now makes realize how easy it is to write this thing when we're on tour. I mean, there's quite a disconnect between musical roadtrips and, well, let's be honest, sitting in a cube with a headset on, trying to accelerate the clock with telekenesis, realizing you don't have that particular skill, and becoming sorely depressed. During the former, there are nightly lunatics, strange cultural realizations, tattoos, sight-seeing, late-night perusal of infomercials, Dakota Fanning movies, and dating shows featuring the most pathetic dregs of twenty-something society making asses of themselves for our saddened amusement. During the latter, there calls. And emails. And that list of links to the right. And coffee. And work. Can't forget about work.

So, in lieu of news (besides, of course, the Bottom of the Hill show I'll be plugging endlessly (buy thy tickets here) and is all ages, by the way), I'm going to share a joke:

A girl walks in to the doctor's office. She has grapes in her nose and a banana in her ear. The doctor says, "You aren't eating right."

Maaaaan, that's rich.

Friday, July 07, 2006

My mouth tastes like stamps

Dearest Blog Reader,
Thanks for stopping by. Last night & yesterday were devoid of band happenings, except a feeble attempt to fix my melodica, derailed by a lack of properly sized screwdrivers, so, instead of trying to stretch that out to a tangent-filled diatribe about the merits & history of said mouth-piano, I'm going to write some more letters. Check your mail.

Dearest Emmylou Harris,
I know it's six years old, but Red Dirt Girl is an amazing song. I listen to it every morning. You should stop singing with Connor Oberst and make more Red Dirt Girls. Pretty please.

Dearest Bum at the Corner of Second & Mission,
I really want to help you out. I do. But you can't just stagger over while I'm reading a book and scream "CHANGE!" six times while drooling down your shirt and smelling like a 300 year old foot. See: you've got to refine your approach. Maybe you could learn that one-stringed violin thing that old Chinese guy has on the subway or learn to juggle chainsaws or, at least, stop salivating on yourself. Upgrade to polysyllabic sentences. It's the little things.

Dearest Ken Lay,
So, I hear you're dead. That's too bad. Say Hi to Reagan while you're down there.

Dearest ABC,
Why would you play One Life To Live, two days in a row, instead of the World Cup Semifinals? I mean, I hear that Hugh Hughes might start making out with Victoria Lord Davidson, and although I find that prospect highly enticing (dare I admit, erotic), the World Cup happens once every four years. Have some dignity. Some of us can't afford cable & the Spanish channel is disorientingly wave-y on our rabit ears, so, please, next time, play the last three rounds. And while we're at it: Hugh Hughes?Seriously? Take the keyboards away from orangutangs.

Dearest E-40,
I've been thinking. You know how they have those English language courses for foreign born Americans? I think you should start one. How much better would our city be if second language-ers asked me "What's cookin' pepperonni?" instead of "Hi, how are you?"? A lot better, if you ask me, which you didn't, because I was asking you. You're an entrepreneur. Get cracking.

Dearest This Conceit,
I think you might be getting old. I'll always remember the good times, like that picnic in Alamo Square with the Pimms & Lemonade, but, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to put you to sleep now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Concerning gainful employment, music, and coin flips

Going back to work after being on tour is basically like sleeping in a five star hotel and having a bum piss on your face the next morning. And the bum, he was eating asparagus.

Okay, there's a healthy dose of hyperbole there. Because a) my job isn't that bad. Wait, no, scratch that. The PEOPLE at my job aren't that bad, which is at least half the battle. And b) it's Monsthursday. Monsthursday is a wonderful thing. Not as good as Monsfriday, of course, but you can't really be greedy when you're working a two day week. Hopefully some of you enjoyed the equally elusive MonsWednesday yesterday, a feat improbable by the usual schedule of standardized holidays in the States. Usually, you can only hope for one a year, that being Thanksgiving week, so, why don't I stop complaining and just carry on? Great idea. I hereby promise to not whine about work for the rest of month. Odds of me forgetting that next Wednesday? Two to one.

So, after playing (and subsequently watching) a show nearly every day for the last month, I decided to spend my off day yesterday...watching another one. And sleeping in, of course. It's nice not having to worry about our own set sometimes though, nice being able to get innebriated without worrying whether you can play that tricky part of Alabama, and triply nice to watch Division Day and Two Seconds for free.

As most of you know, us four birdmonsters love Division Day. They're our band best friends. Sometimes we play MASH together and hang out in my treehouse. I beat Kevin at Hopscotch all the time. And, allow me to mention we're beginning our next tour with those fine chaps, come mid-August. Dates & information forthcoming. For now, let's both just enjoy some Beartrap Island and make fun of Rohner's hair.

Now, a little something about Two Seconds. We played with them at BFD, but, in all honesty, I have trouble judging bands at outdoor shows. Too much sunshine, I think. I prefer my music in opium den dankness, and, although the Mezzanine doesn't quite fit that description, I was quite happy to have a chance to see them indoors. Let me tell you: they rock. No, wait. They fuckin' rock. And there's only two of them. And they're sixteen. See, when I was sixteen, I'm pretty sure I was listening to Iron Maiden, sporting a bowl cut, and watching too many X-Files re-runs. I certainly wasn't in a bad ass band. So, my hats off to these ladies. Wonderful show and, like all my favorites, they were actually enjoying themselves onstage. Which is oh so important. That whole tortured, depressed onstage persona: no bueno. You're playing music. People paid to see you do so.* Let's see some canines.

So what now? I'm not sure. We've got just one show this month, at the always glorious Bottom of the Hill, plenty of new songs to work on, and plenty of instruments to repair. And there's the World Cup this weekend. I'm torn between my pseudo-disdain for both the match-fixing Italians, and the French, who dive more than Greg Luganis did all last century. Here. Let me flip a coin. Heads is Italy, tails France.

It's heads.

Go Italy.

See you tomorrow.

*OK, so they didn't last night, but you get my point.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

In which Birdmonster plays New York, bids a sad adeiu to the East Coast, and returns home with no major injuries

No more sweating. There's always that. After more than three weeks of humidity and cruelly toasty stages, roads, and vans, we're back home in San Francisco, shrouded in fog as we've learned to expect during July. My first year here I remember trying to watch Independence Day fireworks and just seeing a glowing fog bank. Green clouds are moderately interesting, but they smack of nuclear holocaust. I avoided the whole shebang this year in favor of wine and hot dogs in a sweatshirt.

And it's all over. The tour, I mean. We finished our first sojourn on the East Coast in New York, two shows back to back (there was talk of a third, but that would've been a logistical nightmare), plenty of good food, soft couches, and horn honking. The first show, at Sin-e (pronounced Shin-A) was a sold out, good-timey one, with two absurdly poppy bands bookending our set (Tally Hall & the Gaskets). And let it be said: New Yorkers rock out. I wasn't sure if they would, even had heard testimony to the contrary, but they hooted and danced and, you know, that makes playing a show all the more fun. Cities with grouchy nod-alongs don't get remembered as pleasantly as places like Baltimore, New York, Salem, and, of course, San Francisco (to name a few). So thanks for that, NYC.

The thing is, what can you say about New York that hasn't been said a hundred thousand times? It's the most sung about, written about, loved, hated, and griped about city in the country. You visit and you see a fraction of a fraction of a percent of what's there, unlike those towns in central Arizona where a gas station is the pinnacle of high culture; not that I have anything against Slim Jims and Abbazabbas, of course. We did our best to do New York things: We saw French transplants yelling in the street over their 1-0 win against Brazil while South Americans in yellow jerseys sulked away, drunk at 5; we drank $8 beers in a la-di-da hotel that tasted identical to the $3 beers we had moments before; we got elbowed on the subway, ate bagels, cursed indiscrimantly at passers by.

And we played another show. This one was at the Knitting Factory, which, if I may be frank, was a worse venue than Sin-E. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which was that there was another show on another level on the building, which boasted roughly 1,000 bands competing for some unknown prize or another, which I'm going to guess was not having to be in another battle of the bands for the rest of their lives. The show itself was damn fun though. Anytime you break a melodica, you've got to be proud; except that you've got to buy a new one, which is borderline depressing. I need that money for food, not mouth pianos.

The next day, we returned our borrowed gear, pillaged, gutted, and docked the Whaleship Essex, and spent our evening in some dinghy Chinatown bar where we knew the bartender and could assured that drinks would cost roughly eight dollars less than they did at that fancypants hotel. And ate Indian food. Popeye and I agree about very little, but we have bonded about Saag Paneer on numerous occassions. Yes, I realize I hallucinated these occassions, but bear with me. He's actually an incredibly nice guy if you don't kidnap his woman or recommend he does a little bicep work.

Now what? Well, we have a homecoming show at Bottom of the Hill on the 15th and we'll be writing new songs, relaxing, and, god forbid, I may be working again. But let's not talk about that, shall we? Just typing it gave me a small but intense seizure.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Goodbye NYC