Les Fleurs du mal
Music in 2013, and Looking Forward

A few thoughts on things done this year…….

I began 2013- pretty much out of the gate- playing music with Shilpa. In all honesty, I thought that one of us would lose interest in playing with the other and that it would only last a few gigs before I was dismissed or excused myself. Now I find it nearing the one year anniversary of walking into the practice room for the first time (she didn’t recall meeting me- she blamed my lack of afro). Playing with her has become the center from which I have calibrated my New York musical life. And I am hugely grateful.

She is one of those people that just has IT when she performs her songs. We always hear language like that in regards to artists but I have never felt that I have played with anyone who was that combination of fierce independence, raw emotion, and something interesting and powerful to project/give.

And her bandmate help has been just as encouraging for me as she has. Jon was brought on to play steel guitar about halfway through the year…I think? I recall being told about his addition and, though I truly love the pedal steel, I feared it might be a “novelty” item in the band. Instead, what we got was and has been one of those rare beacons of kindness, talent, and with a work habit that is very un-New York. I am constantly amazed by what he brings to songs as well as his ever-growing vocabulary of incredible music that he has gotten me into.

Russ was brought in when Patrick had conflicting dates with other projects and it was nearly immediate that I took to his style of drumming and humor. (I do recall, at the first practice, worrying about how we’d get along when I had to confess that I thought that Forest Gump was an awful movie- but we worked through it.) His love for Bob Dylan don’t hurt none neither.

I am overjoyed that both of these dudes have made themselves available to play in my own band/project.

Shilpa was generous enough to invite me to see one of the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds performances at the Beacon back on the North American spring tour. The show itself was incredible and I was glad to be able to share that with Sarah. Afterwards, we were invited to the backstage (in the front?) get together where I got to meet a lot of those guys but was immediately drawn to Conway Savage. His humor was pretty much, totally on the page with me. We went back to the hotel and visited for a bit. I had a nice time in a small circle with Shilpa, Ratso, Warren, Sarah, and myself…but I didn’t say much. Somehow, I was invited back the next night to hang. Then I spilled sparkling water on Warren before I could tell him that we had met before. I blamed gravity for the incident, he laughed, I excused myself.

The following night I laughed harder than I had in a very, very long time. That was largely due to Conway, Marty, and Brian. We met at the restaurant where I watched Nick pause conversation every few minutes to check on the 10 y/o at the table, makin sure he didn’t want more food.

I met the Sloan sisters who were every bit as awesome as I perceived them to be. 

I asked Conway what the first show he ever saw was. When it seemed like everybody in attendance had leaned forward in anticipation of his answer, he croaked “I’d never actually seen a show until tonight.”

(An hour later he nudged me and said “Freddy Fender”. Awesome.)

Needless to say, Shilpa’s EP that Nick released is a huge honor for me. Thank you, again, to her for that. The next issue of MOJO will include one of those tracks, picked by Nick and the band: http://www.mojo4music.com/10719/nick-cave-renaissance/

She also taught me that Ohio isn’t so bad. Our gigs in Nelsonville and Athens were both fantastic. Meeting and remeeting musicians……sleeping on Sharon’s hotel floor……….awesome brunch……….the best driving jams…….it was all a joy.

Just over a year ago I put up a Craigslist ad for musicians with some vague references to what I like, what I have done, what I’d like to do. As you’d imagine, I received every variety of pains-in-the-ass in response…and then there was Jacob Schonberg.

Our first meeting was at the Manhattan Inn and, at the end of the conversation, I remember either telling bartender/bass extraordinaire/Okie, Blaze MacKenzie, “I hope the guy can play because he’s awesome.” 

Luckily, he can play. And very well. This crazy year has made it very hard to work on any music of my own but Jacob was always there messaging and asking OR always answering my scattered calls when it was time to try it again with some other folks. His persistence, awesome attitude, and his talent is always, ALWAYS valued and has done a lot to push my solo project along. I am endlessly grateful.

During one of my many calls for capable bassists, the very talented  and perpetually friendly Thomas Brown put me in contact with Nathan, who has blown my fuckin’ mind with his talents. I mean…wow. The process that has emerged is pretty much “it’s awesome when Nathan comes in and makes it awesome.”

Some time early last year, as was often the case then, I needed a beer. Unfortunately, it was in Union Square and the only place that wasn’t an overpriced tourist trap was a somewhat overpriced not-quite tourist trap. I sat down at this particularly “haunted-by-association-location” and looked around at the weirdness that was the bar itself, the personalities there, and the bummer what was my life. 

At the end of the bar were two women talking and, for whatever reason, I was included in the conversation. She spotted my Black Flag tattoo and we began to talk music. Introductions went around and she said her name was Linda and that she was a drummer. She was also huge into Krautrock, punk rock, etc. Talking went further and she mentioned that she was married to Steve from Dream Syndicate. So…wow. She invited me to their next show, gave me her e-mail and that was that.

I was too damned embarrassed to tell her that I was too broke to go to the gig. I don’t like asking to be on the guest list to anything (though, if invited, I don’t hesitate) so I waited to message her.

Months went by and I was looking for a drummer. Among the many I tried and asked about, I messaged Linda and asked if she would know anybody. She volunteered and I couldn’t believe it. The night she came over it was just she, Jason, and myself and it was a really shitty, rainy night. However, looking back, that one jam sorta’ caused everything to focus a bit when it came to these weird songs and this strange sound I was envisioning. Jason returned to England and Linda was much to busy to play with any regularity….but that particular evening kinda’ gave me a shot in the arm to persist.

A little later, we got together for a drink and to catch up. Krautrock came up again and then I mentioned that I had grown up a bass player. She had no idea until then- and then asked me to come out and jam with this project that would be two drummers- the other being Steve Shelley- as well as guitars by her bandmate Jason and…the reason I got excited about guitar in a big way so many years ago…Mr. Nels Cline.

As the next week went by, it became apparent that Nels wouldn’t be able to be there due to his schedule. However, as I got off of the train in Hoboken, I ran right into the whole crowd and was excited to see Steve Wynn had come to play. I don’t recall if he was originally going to be a part of it but I was excited to meet him and he proved to be super, super nice.

Arriving at Sonic Youth’s pad and seeing that gear- some of it I recall from seeing them on videos and such as a young ‘un- it was only then that the full scope of my excitement sorta’ found its receptors. Steve Shelley was, like everybody else, so incredibly nice. As we began to play, he would do something sort of “Sonic Youthy” at times and it would make me grin and giggle like an idiot. That and the fact that I was using Kim’s Thunderbird bass. 

The next time we got together we recorded a few hours of improvised-yet-refined mayhem and it still shocks me to listen to. I like it a lot.

Even as I end that passage, I mostly just think of their kindness toward me. The last time we got together, Steve W. shook my hand and said something so nice and simple: “Glad to see you again! I look forward to playing some more music and just being around you again.”

Jason V. was also kind enough to think of me when Ivan Julian needed a bassist for a gig, another huge honor. It was great to play some aggressive bass like I hadn’t in a very long time. It also goes without to saying that it was a whole hella’ lotta fun to play some Voidoids songs with an an actual Voidoid!

And, as the year ends, I just got done doing music for Miles’ production of The Ugly One. It was another joy, honor, and a test on many levels. 

The play was fantastic and the music was well used, despite me not knowing shit about HOW to do it. Russ, Jacob, Eva, and Sarah made it possible. Really. If I had done it on my own it woulda’ scared Miles but might have made people think he hired Jandek…after a stroke.

Sarah pushed for me to do that. And I thank her for that. I won’t go into her, her family, and the wholesale lifestyle change that has occurred thanks to her-  that would be more pages and more time than I have. But it’s always important for me to mention her because I am endlessly, truly thankful.

Much love to all- and a happy 2014 to everybody.

William Benton (aka Cat Casual) is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist originally from the panhandle of Oklahoma. He has played and toured with bands for nearly half of his life, playing both guitar and bass in various bands and projects. In recent years he has collaborated with the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Ivan Julian (The Foundations, Richard Hell and the Voidoids), and many others as well as sharing the stage with many legendary performers of the past and present.
William first served Louisville, Kentucky, where he carved a unique legacy as an uncompromising songwriter and highly creative, energetic live performer. Bands as diverse as Bodyhammer, Tyrone, and Lucky Pineapple tapped into nearly every musical style, funneling them into an indie-punk-art rock format to the delight of Louisville showgoers and music fans.
William curated the never released Burn to Shine 4, the Louisville installment of the Brendan Canty (Fugazi) released DVD series which featured local bands of a given city performing live in a doomed structure. (Performers included Shipping News, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Parlour, Majik Markers, Lucky Pineapple, Liberation Prophecy, and many others.)
William would go on to enlist in The Phantom Family Halo (Knitting Factory Records) while in Louisville- which would relocate him to Brooklyn, New York- to tour and record bass and lead guitar on two full-lengths and an EP collaboration with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. William left the band in the fall of 2012.
Currently, he is handling bass and guitar duties with Shilpa Ray, recently releasing the EP It’s All Self Fellatio on Nick Cave’s Bad Seed Ltd. imprint. He is also grooming his solo band for live shows in the near future. Most recently, he contributed original music for a production of Marius Von Mayenberg play The Ugly One which was performed at The Bridge Theatre.
When asked about his experimental, solo guitar sets, he explained that he usually approaches the task “cinematically”, citing influences such as Bernard Herrmann, Angelo Badalamenti, Ennio Morricone, and Don Cherry’s soundtracks to the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky- but voiced concern about confining himself to just that concept:
"Contemporary guitarists’ influences always creep in. Nels Cline and Thurston Moore’s Pillow Wand had a profound effect on me and the way I hear improvised guitars; the subtleties juxtaposed with the chaos altered my brain chemistry forever. But I am a huge fan of Fripp/Eno’s No Pussyfooting, Marc Ribot’s incredible bodies of work, James “Blood” Ulmer, John McLaughlin’s work with Tony Williams and Miles Davis as well as his solo album Devotion, Glenn Branca, Michael Karoli, John Frusciante, Rowland S. Howard, Otomo Yoshihide, Link Wray, Zoot Horn Rollo, Grant Green, and on and on. So I can’t accurately forecast where it’ll go. Tis the spirit of improvising, right? I will say that, being that I have been working on the new band, that I might throw in some ‘real’ songs if so inspired- and if it looks like I am hurting people. Again.”
William currently resides in Ridgewood, Queens.
He is also a regular contributor to Insider Louisville, often detailing his life and times as an Okie in New York.

(Photo by Greg Buyalos ‪#‎studio225bk‬)

William Benton (aka Cat Casual) is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist originally from the panhandle of Oklahoma. He has played and toured with bands for nearly half of his life, playing both guitar and bass in various bands and projects. In recent years he has collaborated with the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Ivan Julian (The Foundations, Richard Hell and the Voidoids), and many others as well as sharing the stage with many legendary performers of the past and present.

William first served Louisville, Kentucky, where he carved a unique legacy as an uncompromising songwriter and highly creative, energetic live performer. Bands as diverse as Bodyhammer, Tyrone, and Lucky Pineapple tapped into nearly every musical style, funneling them into an indie-punk-art rock format to the delight of Louisville showgoers and music fans.

William curated the never released Burn to Shine 4, the Louisville installment of the Brendan Canty (Fugazi) released DVD series which featured local bands of a given city performing live in a doomed structure. (Performers included Shipping News, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Parlour, Majik Markers, Lucky Pineapple, Liberation Prophecy, and many others.)

William would go on to enlist in The Phantom Family Halo (Knitting Factory Records) while in Louisville- which would relocate him to Brooklyn, New York- to tour and record bass and lead guitar on two full-lengths and an EP collaboration with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. William left the band in the fall of 2012.

Currently, he is handling bass and guitar duties with Shilpa Ray, recently releasing the EP It’s All Self Fellatio on Nick Cave’s Bad Seed Ltd. imprint. He is also grooming his solo band for live shows in the near future. Most recently, he contributed original music for a production of Marius Von Mayenberg play The Ugly One which was performed at The Bridge Theatre.

When asked about his experimental, solo guitar sets, he explained that he usually approaches the task “cinematically”, citing influences such as Bernard Herrmann, Angelo Badalamenti, Ennio Morricone, and Don Cherry’s soundtracks to the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky- but voiced concern about confining himself to just that concept:

"Contemporary guitarists’ influences always creep in. Nels Cline and Thurston Moore’s Pillow Wand had a profound effect on me and the way I hear improvised guitars; the subtleties juxtaposed with the chaos altered my brain chemistry forever. But I am a huge fan of Fripp/Eno’s No Pussyfooting, Marc Ribot’s incredible bodies of work, James “Blood” Ulmer, John McLaughlin’s work with Tony Williams and Miles Davis as well as his solo album Devotion, Glenn Branca, Michael Karoli, John Frusciante, Rowland S. Howard, Otomo Yoshihide, Link Wray, Zoot Horn Rollo, Grant Green, and on and on. So I can’t accurately forecast where it’ll go. Tis the spirit of improvising, right? I will say that, being that I have been working on the new band, that I might throw in some ‘real’ songs if so inspired- and if it looks like I am hurting people. Again.”

William currently resides in Ridgewood, Queens.

He is also a regular contributor to Insider Louisville, often detailing his life and times as an Okie in New York.

(Photo by Greg Buyalos ‪#‎studio225bk‬)

Some Phantom Family Halo goofyness from tour.

THE WORST! Brooklyn Edition
(Next Monday……)


THE WORST! is an evening of writers telling stories about the worst

jobs, roommates, dates, etc. that they’ve ever had.

8/6/12 at Goodbye Blue Monday (1087 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY)

8pm, $5

Stories by:

Cassie J. Sneider (author of “Fine Fine Music”)

Andy Animal (the heavenly voice of Stalkers, connoisseur of fine candles)

William Benton (guitarist for The Phantom Family Halo,
blogger/contributor for Insider Louisville)

Topher Gross (stylist to the stars, blogger for Original Plumbing)

Jamie Lee (blogger for indecentandimmortal.wordpress.com)

Last night @TheGrandVictory was a blast! Great folks, great staff. Didn’t expect much for being such short notice but it was great. Many thanks to all involved.

Tour Journal: San Antonio, Austin- TOUR END

San Antonio, Texas

It was a weird day, weather-wise, driving to San Antonio. We were staying just outside of a massive, dark mass that was undoubtedly dumping heavy rains on the surrounding areas and we were certain that we would endure at least a bit of it ourselves.

I had been to San Antonio but it had been many, many years ago. Teenage years, I believe and it was not an advertised trip- meaning I just drove off and went there, and came back. It resulted in nothing more than a bit of piece of mind when I needed it.

We went to the venue which was HUGE. This was kind of a bummer since we couldn’t imagine the city of San Antonio coming out in crowds to see such weirdness. We loaded in and began to soundcheck. It was here that the biggest disagreement of the entire tour occurred, resulting in some yelling between our bass player and yours truly. I guess it had to happen, it just happened to happen the night before the final happening. Heh.

Afterwards, we ordered food and I changed strings. Apologies and hugs were exchanged.

The opening band was craaaaazy proficient. They reminded me of some guys who might listen to Dream Theater or something like that- but that could just be my ignorance speaking there. They were extremely polite and professional which always scores points with me.

Our set was fine. There were smoke machines which makes me laugh a lot. Because they’re smoke machines. It’s especially funny when only about 30 people are watching you in a large hall and the hiss of those machines are as loud as anything else between songs. Very Spinal Tap.

We did have a few people who really, really liked our set and talked for a while. I had to sign some things for a couple who were very sweet. Two other guys talked to me and one guy said that he was on LSD. You never know quite what to say to someone who makes that announcement. I think I told him to be careful. (Later, he told one of my bandmates that it was all connected: his mother had taken acid while pregnant with him, Mother’s Day was that weekend, and the name of the band is ‘Acid Mothers Temple’…..so it was meant to be.)

We loaded out in a hurry to get on the road and to Austin (which was only a couple of hours away) to stay with my friend, Sara, at her place. I bullied myself into the driver’s seat since I love night driving in Texas. It was somewhere around then that I technically turned 35 years-old.

As I pulled out of the parking a lot I spotted a Ford Ranger go the other way. The driver was in full clown make-up. Yep: a juggalo.

You never see them in New York.


Austin, Texas

I guess there are few places that I am as happy to wake up in as Austin, Texas. It’s a city every bit deserving of its reputation for being beautiful, cultural, progressive, and a whole lot of fun (which is an almost guaranteed result of the first three charges). It had only been a few months (March) since four of us had been in town for SXSW so it was still a very familiar to us.

Our host, Sara, is one of my oldest and best friends and a wonderful and kind host. She brought her boyfriend, Josh, over to introduce us all and we had a good visit before finding some Mexican food at a somewhat notorious spot. I was coerced into trying an avocado margarita and liked it a lot. (I seldom deviate from beer, bourbon…save the occasional martini or vodka drink).

It was around then that I got a wonderful surprise message: my childhood best friend, Jesse, texted something short and mysterious like “Well, I hope you’re still playing tonight. I just arrived in Austin.”

He wasn’t being negative or complicated. That’s just how he corresponds. We seem to occupy two opposing sides when it comes to the practice of these zeitgeisty, digital toys: I e-mail and text very long, complete messages- as I consider anything else an insult to writer/reader alike- and I don’t hesitate to insert weirdness, humor, or complete bullshit. (Translated: I can’t seem to separate it from letter-writing.) This might lead one to believe that my cellular opposite, Jesse, would be of the contemporary camp of butchered, abbreviated English as the method for conveying what is for dinner, where to meet at the mall, or who has herpes. You would be very far from the truth: he is very short with his messages but they are complete sentences. Abrupt, almost staccato statements that rarely span more than five words. I admire that. He leaves the talking to me, mostly. Neither of us care for talking on the phone but, when connected by phone, the talking is most certainly left to me.

Anyways. Jesse and I met when we were in fifth or sixth grade in Ninnekah, Oklahoma, where we were going to grade school. I eventually went to another school to finish my (lack of) an education but we always kept in touch and still spent a lot of time together. We went to punk rock shows, traveled some, even lived together for a spell. He remains one of the smartest, kindest, and most intelligent human beings I have ever known. (I simply cannot understand why such a person would associate with myself…) He now lives in Dallas and works a perfectly respectable job, having done so for a great many years. He’s quite kind and understanding when it comes to the fact that I didn’t turn out so well.

Our bond is simple and easily explained. We grew up in relatively impoverished, broken homes, raised by single parents. We were surrounded by a lot of fucked up people, whether it be be people “kept” by drugs and alcohol, ignorance, racism, and various other chains of the region. Some people never look any farther but we always did.

Jesse had come down to see the show and likely because this coincided with my birthday. He met up with the rest of us at a record store where, again, I carried around something that the financial stress and guilt forced me to place it back in dramatic fashion. He and I caught up a bit before we all left to find a swimming spot for those of the “outdoorsy” persuasion (I am not counted amongst them. PFH has a solid 2/3 that do seem to- at the drop of a hat- shed their shirts, jump into dodgy bodies of water, and apparently have no quarrel with what insects may or may not find a new home somewhere on their pale, hairy hulks.) The original destination was closed due to recent flooding but out hosts quickly found a replacement. Jesse, myself, and one of my more civilized bandmates walked around as we took photos and people-watched. It was a lovely day and I enjoyed this just fine.

After that and a few stops we all ended up at the venue, The Mohawk, and waited to be let in. Scotty arrived and Acid Mothers Temple arrived shortly thereafter. It was only when this small crowd assembled that it really hit that this was the very last show and, yes, there was a bit of sadness to it. Tabata Mitsuru raced around snapping a quick photo of each Phantom face. (We later saw the result in an assembled, “Brady Bunch”-esque collage that he posted on Facebook.) Each Acid Mother came up to me and wished me a happy birthday. Wonderful, wonderful people, them.

We were playing the inside room which is a tad small but we weren’t entirely upset by this because I think we all knew that the outside stage was much too big. We soundchecked which went much better than the prior evening’s attempt. The mood was jovial: a word I hate but I feeling I don’t revolt against.

We passed the time. It was arranged for Kawabata to join us for our cover of Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe” so an amp came in for him to use. It was terrible! Solid state garbage. I felt bad for him and it sorta’ registered on his face BUT, always being the good sport and awesome human being that he is, there wasn’t anything near a protest. It was set up behind our drummer which I knew would translate to some terrible, terrible pain for him when it had to be cranked to be heard/felt.

Some people bought me a drink here and there due to it being the beginning of my 35th lap around the sun. I kept drinking to a minimum since I still had to play but I appreciated the kindness. The Mohawk’s green room was gorgeous and a very nice place to relax and visit. I decided to wear the purple, car masquerade ball mask I picked up in New Orleans on this evening for obvious reasons (to look absurd).

I don’t remember when the conversation happened that made us decide to talk to each other with quotes from “Shut Up Little Man!” but that decision happened.

Our set went very well. It was a loud little room but it was full and held a very enthusiastic crowd. That damn mask cut into my forehead which resulted into some blood entering my eye at some point so there was some added theater there. When we did speak with the agreed-upon quotes, I can only imagine what the uninitiated thought of this gang of weirdos, yelling “You wanna stick me with that fork???” and “Wheeeeeeere are the police? Wheeeeeeeeeere are the police?” among others, all at once.

Kawabata stood on the stairs, waiting his turn. He was just out of sight and, due to space restrictions, was going to be stay there as he performed. The poor guy was tired and I could see him leaning against the wall, half dozing.

When he did play it sounded every bit as static-y and noisy as expected through that amp. Painful for me so I know it was especially hard on the drummer. Yet, it was cool and it was a huge honor to have him join us on this final night.  We finished strong and it felt good to end the tour on such a high note. It felt even better to get that goddamn mask off of my face.

Acid Mothers Temple came out and were incredible. The crowd was very appreciative, the energy maintained, and it was great. They invited Scotty to play with them and he got to stay a little longer when technical difficulties resulted in an extended jam. There were some great photos taken I have since seen on the web…

The night ended, as they almost always do. The swirl of activity was more drunkening than any amount of alcohol could every enact on the senses. The collective feeling that this 6 weeks was all but over and we, liked it or not, were being kicked out of this nest and back into the civilian world, despite our quiet protests. I talked to Kawabata and Koji about country music at some point and they revealed that they were both big fans, Koji coming around recently and that resulting in a bit of competition between the two when buying records. Of course, I would have LOVED to had talked to them at great length about country but it are things such as these that you learn on the final night. Oh, the luck…

We posed for a group photo. Albums and hugs were exchanged. We said our goodbyes. And it was over.

Thank you so much, Acid Mothers Temple and Clang Quartet. Twas truly a highlight.

Dudes in a dune.

Dudes in a dune.

Some lookout point, somewhere. (I think this was in Arizona as well.)

Some lookout point, somewhere. (I think this was in Arizona as well.)

Assorted Phantoms, swimming in a hot spring in Utah.

Assorted Phantoms, swimming in a hot spring in Utah.

Me on Navajo Bridge, Arizona.

Me on Navajo Bridge, Arizona.

Come by and see me at the Knitting Factory bar tonight! I will playin’ records from 9pm to 1am or so.

Tour Journal: Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC

Philadelphia, PA

New York half-time break over, we headed to Philadelphia. Our keyboard/sax player, David Lackner, spent a number of years in the Philly jazz scene so he was pretty excited to play there as those people would be seeing him do something entirely different than what he is known for there- I guess? (I can’t testify as an expert on David’s reputation in Philadelphia.)

The venue, Johnny Brenda’s, is a gorgeous place that I was very happy to be playing. The stage layout is a bit peculiar as it is a smaller floorspace with very high balconies; it can give the performer a feeling of being in a lion’s den or a mini-coliseum, looking up and seeing all the people line two levels of railing. So you better ‘bring it’, I suppose……..

The soundman was projecting The Rolling Stones “Some Girls” 1978 show from Dallas, which was some good fun. They had two screens there so we were able to project twice the weirdness. They also had a smoke machine. It was to be a real rock’n’roll show after all.

The place filled in nicely and we manipulated ourselves onto the rather tight stage and proceeded to have what was likely the best set of the entire tour. But, of course, the night belonged to David, I thought. He always has a tremendous amount of energy every time he plays but I thought he was especially vibrant that evening. I know that David’s abilities and energy brings a lot to what I like to do with this music, so he helped me to play a better show, too.

And, in a somewhat cheesy (but sincere) moment,  gave him a shout-out on stage, introducing him as “A gift to us all, David Lackner”……

(You may check out some of David’s solo music as well as other artists that he releases music by at his website here: http://www.davidlacknermusic.com/index.htm )

A gentleman I believed to be the owner of Johnny Brenda’s was super nice. I enjoyed visiting with him. The entire complex was fantastic from the green room to the veggie burger I had. I loved Johnny Brenda’s and the good people there.

After the show, it took a long time to park in the rain before we retired to the home of a good friend of David’s.

The following morning we  went out for coffee and walking around. I nearly bought a pair of tacky dress shoes (I take foot fashion very seriously) but simply couldn’t tolerate the annoying-ass salesman who kept talking to me in this semi-confrontational manner like he had learned to sell clothes from watching “Glengary Glen Ross” or something. The shoes were cheap, I loved them- but I simply didn’t want to give that guy my money. Oh well.

An amusing but positive review of the Philadelphia show surfaced here: http://www.jimhaku.com/blog/acid-mothers-templejohnny-brendas/

Baltimore, MD

Our drive to Baltimore was fairly short. Meanwhile our drummer’s health was going downhill. We had all been experiencing a bit of a bug but it hit him the hardest on this day.

I have a love/hate relationship with Baltimore. It’s a rough place but its own brand of weirdness is all its own- something I love about it. My mother introduced me to John Waters movies when I was very young (don’t worry: it was “Hairspray”, 1988) and that likely started my education on the place.

We played the Otto Bar which is at a different location than I (vaguely) remember from the past. We set-up a bit and I went for a walk around the area, looking for a mailbox to send some postcards. Down the street there was a terrible car accident. Weird day. Appropriately Baltimore.

Twas a special night as the opening band, Mopar Mountain Daredevils, featured Cotton Casino, a former member of Acid Mothers Temple. They opened the show and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Cotton’s vocals are awesomely weird! I liked watching their drummer a lot as well.

Our set was so-so. Energy was strange. The balcony to stage right was filled with seated guys which usually doesn’t bother me but, on this particular evening, it filled my mine with flashbacks of overweight seniors on the waterfront in Louisville, in lawn chairs, watching some honky blues band. It didn’t

I Tweeted for someone to get either Mink Stole or John Waters to the show. No dice.

Acid Mothers Temple set was really great but I wasn’t feeling so hot. I was in and out of the green room, occasionally laying down. Cotton came out and joined them toward the end of their set and that was great. She was her usual, animated self, climbing the P.A. stacks and belting it out. I took some photos of that action.

There was a taper at this show (among others) and he has posted the AMT set here: http://archive.org/details/amt2012-05-03.r09

We got a motel room and there was a lot of sleep as the varying degrees of illness had dispatched itself among various members of the group. Myself included.

Washington DC

Sleep, switch from a night of Ny-Quil to a day of Day-Quil. Hit the road.

We parked near the monuments as most of the band wanted to go to the air and space museum. I had been there a few times so I chose to wander off in my own direction. We were near the National Museum of the American Indian, and I really wanted to go but, due to time restraints, I didn’t. I regretted this decision later when I was told that Jim Pepper’s saxophone is there as you enter. Damn.

I walked through the botanical garden which was reinvigorating. I enjoy it all but I especially liked the jungle area. I am not too much of a hippie in this area but I felt especially good when I laid my hands on the bark of a massive tree in there. It just felt good. The dust from its bark had a great scent that was left on my hands.

I walked to the venue from there which was only about two miles (I think?) so I beat the others there by a bit. We were booked to play at The Red Palace, formerly the Red and Black Bar. I had played there once a number of years ago with Lucky Pineapple after that incarnation had opened (a show that, in itself was an odd adventure that deserves its own post one of these days). The place was locked up but someone who worked there let me in as it had gotten pretty warm outside. The place itself was neat, a marriage between the former venue and the bar that was next door, if I recall correctly. It has a sort of Coney Island, freak show motif going on. My kinda’ decor, for sure.

It seemed like a long time before we played on this evening. The venue fed us and some of the guys watched part of a baseball game. The Washington team has a “W” logo that looks exactly like a Walgreens logo. Art my age, observations like that are the only interesting bits I can extract from sports.

The opening band, Buildings, were a super-tight, instrumental math rock/indie rock band that would have owned Louisville or Chicago ten or so years ago. They played a fairly short set but got a good reception from the crowd that watched them. I think they were local?

Scotty came out and gave ‘em some Clang. I thought the crowd was pretty into it! Sadly, I am the personality type that probably enjoys seeing looks of confusion and light horror on their faces more than the other- but good for Scotty.

I really enjoyed our set on this night and had a lot of fun seeing people rock out to some of the more driving rock songs. “White Hot Gun” and “Master of the Universe” went over really well on this night. I had been asked to start playing the solo on “…Gun” at some point during the tour which presented me with the predicament of having to solo on three or so different songs in the key of E. I don’t want to do anything like the same solo every time, especially within the same set, so it becomes a bit of impromptu, creative problem solving. But it’s fun.

AMT was great, of course. The taper was back again (super nice guy, btw). The soundman gave us soundboard recordings of both of our sets. Soundboard recordings can mess with your head (usually really loud vocals and drums) but, a brief listen made me feel OK about it. I don’t get much out of listening to that stuff (albums I am on, live recordings)- I’m not Prince. Unfortunately.

A nice review of this show: http://dcrocklive.blogspot.com/2012/05/acid-mothers-temple-phantom-family-halo.html

Live recording of Acid Mothers Temple from this night: http://archive.org/details/amt2012-05-04.r09

Tour Journal: Hamden (CT), two nights in New York

(Dear reader: I am now back in New York, transcribing various cryptic and scattered notes from tour for these remaining installments of tour journals. Some are more complete than others. Civilian life here has resumed- so I will try to relay all of this, to the best of my abilities, in a readable yet authentic report . Thank you. ‘Proper’ writing will follow very soon.)

Hamden, CT

The venue we played in Hamden, The Space, was positioned oddly in the middle of a parking lot within a sort of industrialized strip mall. Or something. A newly opened and affiliated venue (the appropriately named Outer Space) was located more within the proper complex.

It was a slightly downstairs venue with a great, roadside attraction-esque decor going on. The upstairs was a vintage shop and the green room which was very accommodating. Great staff who were very helpful and friendly.

The opening band, Sun Daggers, were great guys as well. Again, I suffered a bit of ‘gear envy’ at how nice their amps and effects were. Makes my ghetto set-up look…well…’ghetto’.

It was a light turnout which wasn’t a big surprise for a not-entirely-typical tour stop. A polite crowd with a few especially relaxed individuals sitting on the floor for every band. Some of us are bothered by that but I don’t really care, myself. A crowd is often a bit of a social study on my part: I see how they react or how they don’t and think “Huh. So that’s how this is being received.”

I am always more concerned with what is going on onstage which is what can make or break a show for me. I feel the same way if there’s no crowd or if I’m practicing. However, a very energized audience can absolutely push it to another level and make it feel as a sort of collaborative endeavor. Then it enters that sorta’ spiritual high thing. It’s a true joy.

The show ended early enough and we were close enough that we all packed up and headed to New York. The drive was pleasant and fast, thanks to am especially motivated sax player……

Brooklyn, NY

Waking up in New York made it feel like I had already been back for a couple of days. Just being able to make some sort of breakfast and not have to fight for a shower, pack, and bolt………….it felt like an extended vacation by the afternoon.

We slowly trickled in at the Knitting Factory and were happy to see may good folks already. Everyone from label types to my favorite bartender (who altered her schedule just to work our show- thanks Kristen!) were there.

This was to be the first show with another touring act who would go on to finish out the tour with us and Acid Mothers Temple, a one-man noise artist who performs under the name Clang Quartet. Scotty came in with his pile of gear and introduced himself with a nearly unmistakable Carolina accent. I was charmed immediately. I also had no idea what his set consisted of but spotted what appeared to be various pedals, signs, toys, and the likes and knew that we were in for some sort of treat.

As showtime neared we were all happy to see many friends and loved ones. We were a tad giddy, I think, to play after feeling as if we had gotten it down pretty solidly (having played 20 or 21 shows by that time). I visited with various folks backstage until I heard the screech and rumble of the Clang Quartet set begin. Scotty sets up on the floor and only requires one “direct out” of his massive operation of various sensors, microphones, and such, all mounted to a transforming crucifix that tells a bit of a story of his own trials, tribulations, and redemption through Christ. Needless to say, this puts people off a bit. Myself, even as a nonbeliever, loved the reception by many people who weren’t entirely sure if his performance was ironic or just performance of some sort. As with any kind of art, I’ll take sincerity any day over empty sentiments or- a word that keeps on coming up in what I see in the arts- “novelty”. It was also obvious that, at points during his set where Scotty would beat on some drums and cymbals that were on the floor, that he was a SERIOUS drummer.

It was nearly time for our set to begin when (with a bit of prior warning) one of my musical heroes, Genesis P-Orridge, came backstage. Genesis had came with the intentions of meeting Makoto but he was asleep on the couch in the green room. So, as we all paced around, it was difficult to ignore this presence- this person whose music I had listened to quite a bit in my adult life (and listen to Psychic TV nearly every couple of days). As Makoto slept and Genesis waited, my bandmate was introduced and there was a brief exchange. I found myself sort of avoiding an awkward introduction as I figured that Genesis didn’t want to be hassled. But, right as we were about to take the stage, the limited space and nervous energy made it weirder NOT to acknowledge in some sort of way, so I said “Hello…” and we shook hands. Good enough for me.

(As we played, a photo was taken of Genesis and Makoto that I am happy to see spreading on the internet like wildfire:)Makoto Kawabata and Genesis P. Orridge

Our set went pretty well. It was great to see a pretty full and attentive room and made me feel as if a year or so worth of serious work as a New York entity was maybe getting an appropriate New York response.

The set was recorded and it available for download here: http://www.nyctaper.com/?p=9716

I wish I could convey with some unique language what Acid Mothers Temple proceeded to do- nearly every night as well as this particular night- with their music but I feel like I have exhausted my enthusiasm via vocabulary in previous installments! Needless to say, they were great and the audience loved them. It was one of the few nights where some audience members began to “lose it” and mosh…or whatever you want to call it.

New York City, NY

By the second night of our New York stint/halftime break, I was starting to feel downright lazy. I was rested, fed, cleaned…surely didn’t feel like I was still on tour. Half-time break had become a full-blown vacation to my demented senses.

So, it certainly didn’t bother me one bit to congregate with Makoto and a few other Phantom Family types at a local recording studio to record…something…at 10:30am. I was very excited to do this. We picked up Makoto, all crammed into a car, and went in without any clue or plan as to what we would or could do. All I brought was my guitar so I was to be somewhat at the mercy of the gear in the recording studio. I picked a few pedals and a Fender Twin while the others got situated- and, we started rolling. A few hours of varying levels of insanity commenced and, I gotta’ say, some cool shit transpired.

I have so, so much respect for Makoto Kowabata for things like this: he is always ready to rock. And he brings it. So, maybe some day in the near future, there will be some kind of Acid Family Mothers Halo release.

Our Manhattan show at the Mercy Lounge was the late show following the sold out early show with headliner Lower Dens. So we busted asses to get it done and out of their way in time for them to get situated. We were happy to see that the Mercy Lounge had an awesome Ampeg stack that our bassist was more than happy to utilize as we have had a rather small combo on this tour. He had a good, solid sound on stage left that made me feel better than usual for what I do.

Showtime neared. After seeing only bits of Clang Quartet on the previous night, I was anxious to see it digested by this Manhattan crowd. As Scotty commenced to his “presentation”, I found myself watching the reactions as much as watching him. Most of the crowd seemed really interested if not completely enamored by what he was doing.

I missed a planned, pre-set band congregation to build us up. (Sorry, team.) However, I was visiting with one of my favorite people who I don’t see nearly enough, Tim, of Knitting Factory/Partisan Records. If there was ever a guy that can make you happy with just a few words and a hug, it would be that man.

This set was a ton of fun. I guess we were just feeling it, sound and all. The crowd seemed into it…so the energy was circulating, reciprocating, or what-have-you. The lighting from the projector was ‘just so’ where it illuminated the heads of a large percentage of the crowd so that I was able to see them bobbing, moving, and such.

I left the stage with that sort of satisfied high that made me feel as if I had done my job right, to the satisfaction of myself, my bandmates, and to the crowd. I reported to the merch stand where the little lady was kind enough to hang out with me and visit. Relaxation commenced and many kind people stopped by to buy things and say that they enjoyed the show.

Genesis came to this show as well and was visiting with Acid Mothers’ road guy when, I was somehow included in the conversation. We began to talk some and Genesis mentioned that there was to be a retrospective at the Warhol Museum in the next year of his/her work. Orridge explained how Warhol was the beginning of the desire to be an artist in his early life. I began babbling about my own Warhol fascinations- which manifests itself in many areas between art, music, film, and such- but how much I really, REALLY love his early commercial art, especially the cats and shoes. Genesis agreed and confessed a love for the shoes, in particular, and had really wanted to purchase a wildly expensive original Warhol print of glittery shoes. (No one would lend the money though. Price tag was in the multi-millions.) This led to me talking about Oklahoma for some reason. 

So……….yeah. This conversation was awesome and meant a lot to me. I mentioned that I would really like to make a trip to the Warhol to see that show as I love any reason to hit up the museum AND I have a fierce interest in Genesis’ works. And all of this is very true.

Twas a good night. A great one, really.

I

Tour Journal: Montreal, Toronto, and Allston (Boston)

USA/Canadian Border

Our return to Canada began as they usually do: they took a look at a bunch of weird looking guys that need to shave and bathe, packed into a van full of gear- and we were promptly asked to go inside and report to the agents. This much wasn’t a surprise- but, as they poured over our papers, it was noticed that the contracts for our two remaining Canadian dates has the supporting band (us) listed as “TBA”. We couldn’t really say that that was our new band name (there is a band that is actually called TBA, by the way) so thus began a series of phone calls to our manager to contact the booking agency, the venue, and on and on. Of course, you never get any of these people to pick up the phone on the first attempt so- we waited.

As we got comfortable I studied the unusual congregation that had convened at this particular border crossing. It was quite the menagerie of personalities, body types, accents, and nationalities. No harmony to the room at all and everyone appeared at least a tad guilty of something. It was like the Mos Eisley Cantina in “Star Wars”, actually.

An elderly Asian woman was pleading her case at the counter while holding a small dog. Her husband, who was even older than herself, was asleep in the waiting area. She was trying to explain their residence in Texas and occasionally Canada- and then her story changed when she mentioned that she hadn’t been back to Canada for a few years. Between the inconsistencies in her story and her staccato, broken English, the agents began to seize her like a pack of rabid hyenas on angel dust. They began to drill her about what she said, what she IS saying, and on and on. You could tell that that they looooved it. It was probably the most excitement that they had seen in several hours. Her case ended when they said that she was going to have to pay some sort of fine or fee or something of the sort that was a few thousand dollars. She didn’t even blink and said “Sure”.

(We felt sorry for her long enough to smack her dog in the face for walking away from her. After that- fuck her.)

The lobby itself was an unusual, unnatural fade of fucshia; no doubt a calculated color designed to induce nausea and dark thoughts. The mood was weird there. We were in our own dimension of tour hysterics, making fun of everybody and everything; especially ourselves. We watched the next victims- a couple that appeared as if they were in costume as stereotypical yuppies, complete with ‘guy in Polo shirt with ponytail, driving a convertible sports car- get the very, very bad news that all of their wines acquired were to be either confiscated or taxed heavily. The huffs and puffs as ponytail guy pulled out bottle after bottle and put them on the counter in front of the agent told the story better than any bit of details being exchanged. They were not pleased. The rotund, toad of an agent only had snide and authoritarian remarks such as “Well, you just do that” and “Well, you can try” in response to any of their claims or protests. Meanwhile, my bandmate commented that she was likely Googling what kind of fish to buy on the way home to go with said wine….and, judging from the joy on her and other agents’ faces, I don’t think he was far from the truth.

And, of course, they could have done a very brief bit of online searching to find that our shows were legit- but that’s not what they enjoy in those places. It’s a very familiar bit of lowly humanity, those people who become the worst teachers and crooked cops, who have no interest at all in justice, or truth, or even what is usually basic and decent ingredients to benefit the greater good. No, you can clearly see the ugly pride on their twisted faces as they survey the puke pink lobby and see their own personal stamps of misery on unsuspecting faces.

It turned out that we had crossed at the wrong crossing. It might have made a difference as papers had been sent to another crossing but they very well might have said “TBA” as well- and then we would have been at the mercy of the agent there and whether he or she wanted to treat our pair of Canadian dates as the equivalent to the Nazis invading France- so who knows? It was a nuisance but we were on our way in time to still make soundcheck.

We arrived at the venue in Toronto to find the weather had gotten a tad cold. We rushed in and met the staff who were wonderful people. We busted ass to get a soundcheck and calmed down for a pre-show breather. As I sat at the merch table, a couple of guys came up and introduced themselves and said that they had seen our last Toronto show a few years back when we opened for Young Widows and Russian Circles. The guys admitted that they showed up to the show not knowing anything about us and having just dropped acid. They had prepared themselves for a sort of familiar music with the two headliners but hadn’t counted on something like….us. Between our “out there” music and the visuals we employ, they had their LSD-soaked brains blown, in a good way. So, yeah! Repeat customers! They were very cool people and one of them gave me a comic he had done that is fantastic. (I would mention his name and specific work but wouldn’t want to possibly complicate his life with the above tale of psychedelic misadventures.)

It was a good show and a very good sound experience, thanks to a great, involved soundman. He later told me that he was going to be accompanying one of my heroes, Alexander Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten, on some upcoming live dates. Not a bad thing to have on your resume, for sure.

Montreal

The last time we were heading the other way (from Montreal to Toronto) and we stopped in a rural town to eat. We wandered between a gas station and a Subway, debating who would eat what. I, myself, was not completely sure that they spoke English in this particular spot as, you will find, it’s one thing for French-Canadians to speak English (most of them do) but it’s a whole other thing to get them to actually do it for an American. Especially dirty, ugly ones.

So we sat in the van and ate our road food and Subway sandwiches before resuming the drive. About ten or so miles outside of town, a policeman pulled us over. As he approached the van, a guy pulled over behind his cruiser and walked up, looked at us and said “Yeah, that’s them.”

This concerned citizen had called the police because we looked suspicious. So we were interrogated, the van was checked, and passports were poured over, before the not entirely unkind officer said “Thank you for your collaboration.”

So I was driving very carefully.

We were to play the same venue as we did on that tour, Il Motore. I was surprised to see that many of the same people were there: same promoter, soundman, even a somewhat legendary bartender who insisted on being called “Trashy”.

Before the show I was surrounded by a few middle-aged guys who talked to me for a long time. They were great! One was a high school teacher who had started a “vinyl lunch hour” where students were invited to eat lunch in his classroom and bring records. It was a very popular thing. This led to us talking about how important records were to us and, especially, when we were younger. He described buying KISS’s “Alive” and studying the photos for hours as he listened to it, making it that much more of an experience when he saw them live in 1977. Awesome.

He also told me that he and one of the other guys were going to take their 15 year-old daughters to New York in the summer, something he saw as a possible last hurrah of the father/daughter relationship that they both knew and before she became a full-fledged, pissed off, “fuck you, Dad!” teenager. He was a super sweet guy.

It was one of those nights where I was able to please the guitar nerds in the crowd, somehow. I had lots of questions about pedals, my amp, guitar, influences, and such. I feel like such an imposter on guitar and no very comfortable discussing it like I hear others do- but I appreciate it when people hear something they like about what I do.

After the show we retired to a friend of one of my bandmates’ place where a few slept downstairs and a bandmate and myself stayed in a very, charmingly small upstairs space that felt more like a treehouse. I got the bed which made me very happy.

The following morning was GORGEOUS. As previously mentioned, I had been to Montreal before but, as per usual, it was in and out (and snowing). We had breakfast at a great little place where the food was great, the people were beautiful and nice, and the weather was fantastic. I ate a little bit but had to go and walk around and see a bit more. I was really taken by the place and surely want to spend more time there some day.

Allston, ME (Boston)

As we entered back into the states, the border guard exercised a very bit brief of rapid-fire questioning with command presence: “What’s the name of you band? Where did you play? Where are you playing? How many are there?”

He opened the van door and looked at faces, asked for a $12 or so fee for transporting commercial goods over the border (a first- proving, again, that you never know what to expect) and we were on our way. We felt a bit of relief.

After many miles and a whole-hella’-lotta’ trees, we arrived in Boston. As we neared the venue, we got the call from Acid Mothers Temple’s tour driver/manager-type, Justin. They had gotten really, REALLY screwed at the border. They were told that they would need to hire a broker for their merch and would also need to find the phone number and address for the factory in Honduras where Fruit of the Loom made the shirt. Seriously. This was on a Saturday so there was no chance of arranging emergency shipping via the Canada Post- so they were really up the creek. It was obvious that the guard saw these older, Japanese guys and wanted to give them an epic load of shit. And he surely did. Being a touring band from Japan, those guys really depend on t-shirt sales to make the whole trip worth their wild so this was a bit of a crisis. Really, really sad.

So we were running the show a bit late as we were really worried that AMT might not actually make it. I went for a walk and saw people throwing up in the street and it wasn’t even 9pm. Ahh….Boston! I ate clam chowder and was happy for it.

The opening band, Da Burdz, were fantastic! Can’t say we were expecting that at all as the name is…you know…misleading? Lovely folks.

Before we went on the Acid Mothers rushed. They ended up leaving boxes and boxes of merchandise on the steps of a church (!) with a note. I really wish I coulda’ seen the reaction to that when those people opened those boxes. And, of course, when they returned to the border, the guard didn’t even care and practically waved them through. Amazing.

The stage was a tad cramped but the set went really well, I thought. Our bassist FELL on some people in the front row which made for a weird spell as nobody was expecting it- but I guess all was made well. He felt really bad about it though.

A few energized folks talked my ear off after the set. I had a couple of beers before we played but was done for the night- then a Bostonian handed me a beverage of appreciation which turned out to be some 9 point Belgian. It knocked me on my ass. I don’t think I embarrassed myself that badly after that………?

Twas a great honor and pleasure to see a favorite musician of mine, guitarist Andy Willis of The Web, my favorite Louisville band ever. Ever. An added bonus was that we were staying the night with him. Unfortunately, in Montreal I had begun coughing and it was terrible by that evening- so I slept in the van. I was just drunk enough to not care about the discomfort.