Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sarasota, FL

I have come to the conclusion that Georgia by far has the greatest rest areas in the country. Not only did it not reek of pee like the one in Alabama, this place had a lounge, nice couches, and free Wifi. Go Georgia.

Anyway, we made it to Sarasota without any major issues and settled right at the Robarts Sports Arena. With an entire week to kill you think I would've sketched out some sort of plan and tried to see lots of cool stuff. Not quite the case. I've been having a good time thus far, but it's been largely improvisatory with regards to what I've gotten into.

I got my hurrr did at a neat little salon on Tuesday and had a cool convo with the dude who cut my hair. He's a bass player/DJ from Chicago and he kind of gave me the low-down on the scene (or complete lack thereof) in Sarasota. Just down the street from the salon was a great little spot called the Sarasota Olive Oil Company. I found out that there having a show there that night. Kind of an 'invite open mic' with a ton of local acoustic acts. I guess it was the first time they were trying something like that out and they had a really good crowd. It seemed like the beginning of a somewhat large scale effort to get a scene going. No one really blew me away save this girl Harper with a gorgeous voice and some Mandolin skills and her dude Toby.

Since I was there by myself among everyone else who knew each other I had to step it up and initiate some conversation. I approached a cool looking girl and dude and started talking with them. Miranda plays with this group Villanova Junction (who gets to open for a Motley Crue tribute band this Saturday haha) and her dude Scott freelances doing 3D modeling and animation work. They were super rad. One of the highlights of the evening was when the Paddy Wagon rolled up and the officer leaned out the window and asked everyone "Did any of you see a man in a hospital gown run by here? He's a mental patient that's running loose. If you see him, don't give him any beer." Awesome. I met a few other performers and called it an early night.

Wednesday I met someone at the Whole Foods Cafe and while we were talking a group of biker kids had assembled around this one bike that was locked up. Eventually, a cop rolled up. After overhearing the conversation for a while it seems that the bike belonged to one of the dudes and had recently been stolen. The sad part is that whoever stole the bike obviously didn't steal it to ride it. He probably sold to someone else who bought it without realizing it was stolen. Now that poor kid is going to come out eventually to find that "his" bike was stolen. It would've been entertaining to stick around and see if they ended up calling the police as well. Oh well. Later, I grabbed sushi and hung out and jammed with one of the guitarists from the Tuesday night show.

Thursday was much more eventful. I spent a good 3 hours checking out the Ringling Estate, Art Museum, and Circus Museum. Ringling was quite the art collector and had tons of museum worthy pieces. Nothing modern or anything but still pretty cool. There were two special exhibits. One Japanese themed and one Egyptian.

Art Museum/Estate Pics


After the art museum, it was off to tour the Ringling Estate and Gardens. Bad-ass. There were tons and tons of these awesome Banyard trees all over the place and this huge flower garden.



The estate itself was rather impressive as well. That was all well and good, but the main thing I was interested in was the Circus Museum...and I wasn't disappointed.

There's not much detail to go into but all the exhibits were totally rad....especially the miniature circus which took up an entire floor and was the most intricately crafted....thing....I have ever seen.

video

It was really fun to be in a museum dedicated to what I do now.

Circus Museum Pics



Later on, I met up with Kathryn's sister Stephanie who lives down here. Every Thursday her and a few of her friends meet at the one dudes house for a percussion/meditative jam session....I guess it could've been considered a drum circle but I hesitate to use that term as it conjures up a mass of rhythm-less hippies and college dorks flailing away on djembes making the "look us mannnn...we're realllly groooooovinn'" face. P-U. These people were the real deal. There were different Udus, a kind of Bata drum with a Tabla head on one end (this was given to me to play), a log drum, lots of Tar Frame Drums, this instrument that was like an accordion, only it was set up and looked like a tiny piano....not sure what it was called, and Stephanie and a couple others sang. It was really really amazing to improvise and create these....pieces...with these people. I got there at 7:30 and before I knew it, it was 10:00. The whole circle was just really tuned in with each other and things swelled, climaxed, and released beautifully together. A couple of us really dug into create these amazing cross rhythms and killer killer groves with hypnotic drones coming from the accordion/piano and the voices. It felt great to actually create something again with musicians. I'm hoping to sit in with them again on our return trip to Sarasota after the string of (RIDICULOUS) shows in West Palm.

After the session was over, I headed back down to the Olive Oil Company to hear Miranda spin. She has a great collection of 60s Psychedelia. Brian (the dude who cut my hair), Scott, and some other people I had met were there as well. It really didn't feel far from getting together with some friends in Pittsburgh....don't get me wrong...NOTHING compares with hanging with friends back home, but it was nice to be in the company of awesome people.

The night ended there around 12:30 and I met up with Scott and Miranda at this place called the Cabana Inn where Thursday night Karaoke was in full swing. The bar was the huge dive and the clientele was like picking up Gooskis and the Brillobox, shaking them like a hipsterpunk snow globe, and dumping the contents into this bar. People dig their karaoke out here ha.

I met a really cool girl who was friends with Scott and Miranda and keep with the trend of my miraculous luck.....she was moving to Boston the next morning....of course, haha. T'was an amazing day regardless. Now I'm at a different coffeeshop downtown trying to figure out what to do with my night. Prospects look rather slim but I'm sure something will pop up.

Woot.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Charlottesville, VA

So there are two well known people that made their home in Charlottesville, VA. One who everyone should know about.....and one that most people probably do know about.



and



I tried not to think too hard about the results if I surveyed 100 people asking them "What famous person do you know who is associated with Charlottesville?" being terrified of what the results may be.

That said, Charlottesville was a pretty cool town.

As previously mentioned, we were not allowed to arrive on the lot until 7am Tuesday since Neil Diamond had played the night before.

This particular lot provided me with the most interesting parking experience to date (well....parking experiences of a non-near disastrous nature anyway).

Robbie's bus was parked against a downward slope in front of and perpendicular to one row of trailers. To back into my spot, I had to pull almost alongside him and attempt to back my trailer (to the left) in between two others with little to no maneuvering room. It's amazing how what appears to be physically impossible can actually be accomplished with minimal maneuvering. I tucked it right in the spot and felt rather pleased with myself. I'm sure it looked like this.

We didn't really venture out until Wednesday when we went to check out the downtown pedestrian mall which housed a respectable number of coffeeshops, cool shops, and good restaurants.

We met two girls outside a Gelato shop who seemed cool. Turned out one of the gals was a photographer and we made plans to hang out. Unfortunately scheduling conflicts arose and it didn't happen. Her portfolio site is still worth checking out though.

The weather was shitty and cold most nights so from Tuesday-Thursday night I watched the super-duper extended extra long LOTR trilogy since I hadn't seen them since the theater. Uber rockstar, I know......

A highlight of the trip was an excursion to Monticello. Really really fascinating and highly recommended to any TJ fans. There was no photography allowed inside the house but I think there's a virtual tour on the website.

PICS

Friday, B and I ventured out to scope out the bar scene. We went into one place and I ordered the usual Manhattan. The bartender kind of looked at me in disbelief, then excitedly grabbed the only (as he explained while serving it) cocktail glass they had in the place...not a good sign. The upstairs was filled with people and the only thing we could conclude from the crowd was that Dave Matthew's demon seed had somehow seeped into the water and created a legion of stereotypical versions of "that Dave Matthews cover band dumb-ass college dude". Only these creatures were bred to perfection....kind of like Douchebag Uruk-kai.....

Quickly realizing we would have nil success at meeting anyone interesting, we retreated to a bar down the street which looked much more promising.

The unfortunate twist was the fact that while the place was very long.....it was only wide enough to accommodate booths on either side, and a extremely narrow walkway leading to the back.....and the place was packed. We managed to squeeze back to the bar but from there we were stuck. After what seemed like an eternity of stuckness, we joined a table of seemingly cool people.

I sat next to a very short....rather plump Asian girl who was sitting next to some dude. B was on the opposite side of the table. General conversation ensued and eventually the "so how old are you guys?" question crept up.

"Well I just turned 29"

....no sooner had the "ine" of "nine" left my lips when the oompa loompa next to me who had asked blurted out:

"EW!!"

Uh.....what? She was 23. And not that I was even remotely interested in her but C'MON!. Seriously?

She then broke into.

"Uh, this is like a college town....most of the people here are like undergrads....you should be settled down by now...not like out at bars and stuff".

Uhhh.....what? While there were soooooo many retorts I could have laid on this....unfortunate looking young lady, I just laughed it off. I think it pissed B off more than it did me.

Unaffected, we ducked out and manage to spy a booth that was opening. Two other gals saw the same opening, and since they had three and it was the two of us, it made perfect sense to share the booth. Finally...potential real conversation.

The two that hung around we're super cool....and pretty hot too. One Asian girl, and one from Turkey. They had just come from spending alllll day in the library and alternated between hanging out and talking...and getting up to dance fervently around the bar. The pulled off what they referred to as "the worst dance move ever" and I was able to catch it on video:

video

Apparently earlier, there was an impromptu Flashmob rave in the library that we had missed out on.

Seriously: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_BgOlpy2ZY Not bad at all.

Unfortunately again, their Saturday night was to be spent studying so no dice on hanging again. Even worse, a party was planned for Sunday with all sorts of cool people, but I'd be well on my way from Charlottesville to Sarasota. Such wonderous luck :).

All in all though, Charlottesville was a good time.

One of the other highlights came after one of the shows. Robbie came in to the dressing and said "Jeremy, there's some old guy wearing a Zildjian jacket back by the sound booth that wants to talk to you. He said 'Neil Peart ain't got NUTTHIN' on that boy!'".

So I went out to the sound board and sure enough this dude wearing said jacket and a big grey mustache was hanging around with his wife and little daughter. I've never been good at taking compliments but was determined to be grateful and not say anything to the effect of: "Yeah but did you here when this part fell apart and when I screwed up THAT part" like I always do.

He was super nice. He said their seats didn't allow them to see me at all and his wife asked:

"So do they just have a drum machine then?"
"I think so, but it's too varied and there's too much 'feel' to be preprogrammed. I'm not sure though"

Wow. That made me feel pretty good. He then said "Man, I've been playing drums here for 30 years and I ain't ever heard nothing like you. People say Neil Peart's good but he ain't never heard you play." Obviously the guy hasn't heard that many drummers but it was still really nice of him to say.

He capped the conversation by kind of starting at me for a second then saying:

"Awwwwww.....giiimmmmeeee a huuggggg!"

::super bear hug::

Wow....again. T'was a new experience for sure.

Regardless, I still wasn't looking forward to the 14 hour drive to Sarasota.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Little Rock, AR

Little wasn't a bad city considering it was in Arkansas. The arena we played at was pretty nice and the architectural landscape drew eerie similarities to Pittsburgh. We played on the North shore....where there were two arena/stadiums, a Science Center, a submarine docked in the water, an nice apartment complex providing commuters close access to downtown, and a series of 6 bridges connecting to downtown. Weird.

There was a Flying Saucer in Little Rock so I got re-live some Memphis memories of great beer and the most amazing pretzels ever served.

Other than that, nothing exciting really happened (see why I haven't been updating?)

From Little rock, we had a nice 900 mile drive to Charlottesville, VA where we weren't allowed on the lot until Tuesday morning thanks to the Neil Diamond concert.

We made from Little Rock to Knoxville, TN on the first night and stayed in Flying J parking lot.

The only campground choices were a KOA 3.5 hours before Charlottesville and one that was 45minutes past Charlotesville. We settled on the former. It ended up being me, Steve, Robbie, and Jason who all ended up at the same campground. I have to admit it was nice to stay somewhere where there was no loud hum of a generator or idling diesel trucks like at a Flying J.

The bad thing was they didn't have water at the campground so we used our fresh water stash and the septic system was busted so there was no dumping....unless we wanted to be subject to a black water geyser. Robbie's buddy who had played both bass and drums on previous tours came and hung out at the campground so that was cool.

Off to Charlottesville, VA.....

Alexandria, LA

Alexandria came and went. I went grocery shopping, hung out at home with a couple new friends, and played the show. The air conditioning in the arena caught fire...or it was one of the dressing rooms or something so that was interesting. It was also all general admission seating which I haven't experienced yet. I was disappointed that no fights broke out over seats

Woot. Little Rock was next.....

Houma & New Orleans

After Bossier city, it was time for a trip deep into the Bayou....Houma, Louisiana. 60 miles South of New Orleans.

Houma was interesting insomuch as a lot of the house we're pseudo shack-like structures up on stilts. The main streets were separated by these tiny bridges that crossed over the swamp.

There really isn't much of a bustling "downtown" as a good majority of the residents make their living much like relatives of previous generations. They are shrimpers, trappers oyster and fishermen. I also found out Houma is where the 'Swamp Thing' series is based....which is pretty rad.



We found one bar that served as home for our time there: Monterey's (I think that's what is was called). Great international beer list and less clubby douchebaggery than many of the other (many as in 3) places in the two blocks that made up downtown.

We hung out there the night before I took off to New Orleans for my birthday.

------------

New Orleans

Despite an overwhelming response from Couchsurfing.com, no potential hosts were going to be in New Orleans the day I was there....that whole 'Thanksgiving' thing I guess. With that option shot down, I booked a bed at the India House Hostel, which I would recommend to anyone passing through NOLA. I briefly spoke with this Indian dude staying there then started the 2 mile walk to the Quarter.

The first place I struck out for upon arrival was Coop's Place, home of the best Jambalaya in existence.

As soon as I walked in, some started calling my name. It was my new Indian friend who had coincidentally ended up there as well.

We shared a table and starting talking. He was on his first visit ever to the states making his way to Florida to see (I think) his brother's family who he had not seen in 20 years if I remember correctly.

New Orleans is a great place to land if it's your fist time in States. We got on the topic of my job I walked away with a great recommendation for both a movie and book to check out. The movie was a great Indian Film called Mera Naam Joker. It's one of those films that a director pours all he has (emotionally, allegorically, and financially) only to have it flop at the box office. The film took 6 years to make and nearly put Raj Kapoor, the director, into bankruptcy. I'm currently trying to find the full version somewhere.

When I explained to him how we traveled and approximately how many people are directly involved with the show, he drew the comparison to 'The Tipping Point' where one idea discussed is how once a population tops 150, you start to see more corruption, crime, and generally breakdown of society. It seems that we are currently traveling with the perfect number to create an ideal society.

My friend was very well versed in the realm of mathematics and finance and I got his seal of approval for my plan with this tour regarding investment and payoff. So that made me feel yet again like I'm doing the right thing.

After wandering around the quarter buying myself a few birthday gifts (Among them a new wallet! No more George Castanza!) I heading downtown to meet Nathan and his friends at a brewery/restaurant. The brewmaster had rolled out something new so it was free sample night. And 'free sample' we did quite well.

After hanging there for a bit, we were off to Frenchman street, which unlike Bourbon Street, has real bars the locals will visit devoid of trashed 19 year olds and green beer that comes in long plastic tubes.

We checked out this sushi bar and had some amazing sake and sashimi. One dude walked by us and heading down the street and after a second I realized it was Stanton Moore, a favorite drummer of mine.

I was able to catch him outside and we chatted for a while. Turns out 15 years earlier he had sat in playing percussion when the the Circus rolled through town (back when they would hire local musicians in each town they visited). It was pretty cool. For the first time I was able to have a peer style discussion with a musician I was really into instead of the typical fanboy (duh...you play real good...duh) talk that I used to find myself in after shows. That again made me feel good about what I'm doing.

After THAT, it was off to the Maple Leaf to see the Rebirth Brass Band again and they rocked it even harder than the first time I saw them. Nathan was crashing with his friend a few blocks away so instead of stumbling to a train car and maybe finding my way back to the hostel, I just crashed on his couch. The next day (complete with a pristine hangover), I decided it would do me good to walk the 3.5 miles back to the hostel. Ha....oops. It was interesting to walk past a lot of buildings that were still trashed from the hurricane. Seeing that stuff up close and in person really hits a lot harder then watching recycled news reels.

I gathered my things and headed back to Houma.

I met an awesome woman who kind of ran things at the building we were playing at and was in charge of the Arts Council in Houma. Hopefully paths will cross again.

Steve and I decided to stay over Sunday night so we could watch the Steeler game. Turned out to be a good decision since we found out we couldn't park at the arena in Alexandria until the next day. A lot of people had to turn around and come back to Houma. Apparently the place was run by some 80 year dude who wouldn't sell tickets online (box office only) and didn't use email (just fax). Very nice.

Onto Alexandria.....the hopefully last time we are in a city for one show only.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Things and Stuff

So I have next week off. I promise to do some major updating here. It's not that I haven't had the time, I just haven't been very motivated to update. This will be remedied soon.