JULY 2, 13:24
The Reverberation Station
Outside, mostly cloudy and mild. The windows are open. Good thing, as the fan in my bedroom’s a/c unit took a dump. Again. Just in time for the holiday weekend. Sigh. I think I’ll be able to make due without it. And Maintenance has proven reliable. This is Tuesday’s problem.
Wimbledon is on the TV, although the sound is off. I’ve begun to enjoy watching tennis again. My obsession with playing and watching died a horrible death in ’97 or so after I shredded my shoulder getting ready for a tournament. As far as I was concerned, I had taken that game as far as I could. It was time to move on to something else, which turned out to be golf. My back makes a return to tennis all but impossible. Worse yet, a return to golf might be equally improbable until the issues with my back are handled properly. A saga for another day.
Point is, tennis is on while King Crimson and Miles Davis keep me company. The Crimson urge came from a silly photo Edward sent me of a dinosaur model in his office.
Naturally, I thought of my favorite Crimson song, and we were off and running.
And I simply cannot get enough of this new Miles release.
Meanwhile, I await Keith’s arrival for lunch and a beta read. I’ve already sent the (probable) first half of the manuscript to Judie and Kevin for fact checking and augmentation on the discography, which will be a chore-and-a-half in and of itself. But this is the task I have taken on. And happily so.
Keith has arrived, lunch has been consumed (I’ve finally found the right pizza combo from Pizza Capri, an excellent joint nearby), and the beta reading has begun. In a couple of hours, I’ll make my way to the bus stop to head to the Chicago Theater for the very first time. A larger venue that may push my limits, but Puscifer is playing. I’ve never seen them live. Hell, I didn’t even know they were on the road until a friend tweeted about it a couple of weeks ago. So much for being on top of things. But I’m in and seated. Chances are, there won’t be any photos allowed anyway. Maynard is like that.
Monday I’m scheduled to interview Jordan Rudess, keyboardist for Dream Theater. He’ll be in town for a solo show Friday, which I’ll catch before hopping on the train Saturday morning. I’ll have to listen to Jordan’s sound more tomorrow. Jazz Sunday will have to wait.
The Chicago Theater
Taking a breather before making my way to my seat. The painkiller combo wore off rather quickly. I sense more injections in my future.
This venue is probably a bit larger than I prefer, and I’ll be a bit farther away from the band. But this isn’t one of those “obsessed with the band” adventures. I like Maynard James Keenan and I just want to see where this goes. The best expectations are NO expectations.
The beta read went well. Keith offered up some great suggestions that will have me reorganizing the narrative in a couple of places. I take his comments in stride because I know he’s right. He’s reading my work as a FAN, so I’m interested in making sure it’s a narrative a fan would enjoy reading. This is my most meaningful writing project to date. I have to make sure I do it right.
There’s a STRICT “no photos” rule for the show. I anticipated that, so no big deal. I guess people will have to take my word for it when I discuss what I see.
JULY 4, 11:44
The Sonic Sanctuary
Outside, the clouds and heat gather. I’ve been forced to close the windows and turn on the a/c.
Inside, the clouds are darker. My interview subject is 45 minutes late.
Musicians get a little room for error. There might be a mixup on time. I certainly hope that’s the case. But that gives me time to address other things.
The Puscifer gig was quite good. Always great to hear Maynard in a different context. But can we talk about the venue for a second?
I don’t care for concerts in big rooms, and this was pushing it. But there is NO questioning just how GORGEOUS the Chicago Theater is!
They offer a guided tour. I’m thinking I MUST take advantage.
While I’m very into Tool and A Perfect Circle, I must admit to my relative ignorance about Puscifer. Still, I enjoyed it. More electronic. Great harmony vocals. Quite the elaborate stage show. Very entertaining all around.
I was truly impressed by the “no photos” compliance throughout the room. I looked all around me and saw NO ONE with a phone out! And as it turns out, Maynard was good with photos during the last song. I was in the front row, center of the middle balcony. Not that bad, really.
Maynard and the band looked like the cast from Men in Black for about three-quarters of the show. There was a brief intermission, then he came back in a white suit.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he did that for the fan’s pics. Nah … too far-fetched.
It has been a day.
As expected, signals were crossed, and Jordan Rudess — my interview subject — and I finally connected. He’s a cool guy, which always makes interviews flow smoothly, the way this one did.
My glow basking was short-lived after coming out of my office to the news of the mass shooting just north of me at a 4th of July parade. Dammit!
This is not a political forum, so I will keep my thoughts to myself, other than to say I am utterly sick and tired of this shit. I will not be engaging in any further debate about the subject.
The storms came, which appear to have muted the fireworks over Lake Michigan. Not that I was paying much attention anyway. I got over fireworks displays long, long ago.
I finished my interview, sketched some intro notes, did a little listening for samples, and grilled myself a holiday steak. I just say I’m rather proud of myself for how it turned out.
From there, baseball, which was cleverly disguised as a nap.
Now it’s more listening. I haven’t found the right clips to attach yet. And I’m still angry about today’s events. At least the bad guy is in custody.
JULY 6, 19:00
The Reverberation Station
The clouds loomed rather ominously this morning. Luckily, nothing has come of it, save for a nice drop in temperature. The windows are open again.
And we’re back to Fripp. Listening continues for the final part of my Exposures review. It’s an intense listen, but a fascinating journey.
The last couple of days have been a mixed bag. Physically, it’s been less than ideal. I woke up yesterday in searing pain, as though someone was trying to dry their boots by scraping them on my back and twisting their foot. My “escape the pain” formula failed. Eventually, things became manageable, and the meds started to help.
I was able to work around that and get a few things accomplished. My quest to get my Jordan Rudess interview online quickly combined with my lack of access to my planned source led me to accidentally — but happily — bring my YouTube channel online. Most of the interviews I’ve done are there, though I’ll still write proper introductions for them here.
I think I’ve found a way to comfortably write quick reviews (to say nothing of finding albums to review) earlier in the day before heading into book work. My body keeps finding ways to wake me up earlier, as though I have no choice but to adapt those “old people” hours so many make fun of. Luckily, I have yet to have dinner at 15:00. Maybe 16:00 once or twice, but that’s not normal.
Speaking of old people, I went back to Facebook after my blissful month away. I came back conditionally. Specifically, I refuse to do any scrolling. And I’m sticking to music material. It’s better for my mental health. No regrets.
Speaking of mental health, the St. Louis trip looms. I have all kinds of fun stuff in store, yet I still can’t shake the sense of dread. That place remains a trigger. Well, I’m just gonna have to deal with it.
There’s now more than enough music piled up for review to keep me busy for quite a while, with more coming in. I’ll never catch up to it all. But sometimes it’s quite fun to try. Playing something new as we speak.
I’m still not overly fond of how Spotify exists as a business model, but even I have to admit that it’s a valuable research and development tool. And if I really like the record I’m playing, I’ll buy it. That’s only fair.
JULY 9, 10:57
On the Rails
The day has come. For the first time in 21 months, I head toward St. Louis. It’s interesting that I can’t refer to it as “home,” even if it is where I was raised and I spent my professional career.
I’m not out to insult St. Louis, but I don’t know if I ever really felt like it was home. It’s where I was. I had no intention of remaining there post-military. It just worked out that way. Given the number of trips I took over the years — and the level of disappointment I felt upon my return each time — clearly I was trying to find a way out.
Chicago is a different story. From the day I settled into my home, the sense of wanderlust left me. Not just because of the pandemic, but because I found a place that served my musical needs while giving me a ton of places to explore. Slowly but surely, I’ve been realizing that ambition. I’m sure I’ll venture to other places eventually. But I’m in no hurry.
Which brings us to today. It took more than a little work from a friend to get me to come back. In a nutshell, he called my bluff about my willingness to go to a concert tonight. A call to another good friend secured me tickets to a Cardinals game tomorrow. My last work partner’s son was born three days ago. Friends from the Job want to have breakfast Monday. A high school friend I haven’t seen in 16 or so years wants to have lunch and hang out the same day. Then the train ride home.
I guess the stars aligned. So, I’m on my way. Here’s hoping I can keep that trauma-driven anxiety at bay.
Last night’s Jordan Rudess show was quite enjoyable. City Winery is a wonderful venue.
Jordan spent a little over an hour enthralling us with Classical, pop, improvisational, and (of course) progressive rock tunes almost entirely on piano. There is no doubting the man’s skills. I would love to hear what he could do within the context of a jazz band. Maybe I can ask him about that sometime. My interview with him was quite a pleasant experience. And he’s a very nice person, which always helps.
A plot twist: my ticket benefactor has just texted me to let me know he won’t be coming to the show. He’s sick. While I’m nothing but sympathetic, one of the primary reasons I’m making this trip just flew out the window.
Well … time to adapt.
My back is not in a particularly good mood today. I’ll rest where I can, but my time in the photo pit (a first in a large venue) might not last as long as I want it to. But I’ll jump off that proverbial bridge when I get to it.
Room 113, St. Louis
The prodigal retiree returns.
Off the train, across the platform, down the escalator, and out the door. A short wait for my friend, who pulls up with a smile. The first words out of my mouth:
“What the hell am I doing here?”
Funny, yet accurate.
I’m actually in the suburbs, almost 15 miles from the police station where I spent so much of my time. Twenty-four hours from now, I’ll be much closer. This place makes for a nice transition.
The venue is half a mile away. Old Me would walk it, no problem. Broken Down Back Guy will have to hope not to get soaked for an Uber. We’ll find out in half an hour or so.
Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
Stupid early, as usual. The walk in was only about half as arduous as I’d imagined. Having a photo pass helped toward the end. I can’t believe I haven’t had more of these things.
There’s no photo pit per se. So I’ll just have to do my best not to block too many views. And remain upright.
JULY 11, 17:34
Gateway Station, St. Louis
Time to go home.
The good news is, this was a great trip. Not “I want to move back” great, but highly enjoyable. In a couple of ways, it was a weekend of reunions with guys from the Job. But they’re all “old heads” like me who don’t feel the need to tell war stories outside of how their pensions will pay out. My kind of talk.
There were no triggers. No flashbacks. Nothing to turn me into a mental puddle. I was so busy, I didn’t have much time to think about it. Or take intended selfies. Such is life.
The concert I was dragged back for was, in fact, quite incredible. On the surface, it seemed just a bit ludicrous to have a band with the stature of Living Colour open for a Pink Floyd tribute band. But given the size of the crowd at the amphitheater, the only one being ludicrous was me.
And this is just a segment of them. I knew my friends in El Monstero were talented and had a firm hold on the music, but DAMN!
I’ve seen Living Colour a couple of times (and I’ll see them again in a couple of weeks), and they always bring it. But they seemed to take it to a new level in their attempt to grab the Pink Floyd crowd.
I think they succeeded. I’ll make sure to ask them.
Then El Monstero took the stage. And things got even more exciting. I hate the venue, but it was easy to forget that from the second row.
These guys didn’t just play Floyd songs. They owned them. The band was true to the original songs down to a “T.” But they also put just enough of themselves into the mix to make things not only more exciting for the audience, but no doubt a little more challenging for them. As it should be. It got even more fun when the guys in Living Colour came out to play along. Their version of “Comfortably Numb” was positively epic!
I’ll get more into this later. For now, I’ll just call this the second best show (subjectively) I’ve seen this year, behind Bent Knee. Yeah … it was that good.
Sunday I found myself at Busch Stadium, watching the Cardinals in the best fashion possible.
Albert Pujols hit a homer and the Birds rallied to take a 4-3 win on a bang-bang play at the plate. As good a game as I’ve attended in quite some time.
I’ll always enjoy being able to see my team from the comfort of my Chicago living room. But that will never replace being there. Hearing that crowd roar … there’s nothing like it.
I was a little worried about the quality of my hotel, given the surrounding area. But it turned out to be most acceptable.
It was more than enough for one night. The room in a different locale would’ve made me happy for a week. As is, I got more than my money’s worth.
Spent a little time with my old partner in order to meet his new son. The stay was brief, as they were both clearly exhausted. The baby arrived this past Wednesday. I’m amazed they invited me over. I told them it would be okay not to do so. I’m glad they did, but I’m equally glad they kept the stay short. Everyone needed some rest, myself included. I’d been going pretty much non-stop for two days. Sleep was very easy to obtain.
Today was Reunion Day. First with former co-workers. Then a quick (and unplanned) run by Planet Score Records. When I moved, I told Joe and Tim that when I came back, I would just appear at the store unannounced. And that’s precisely what I did. The look on Joe’s face was priceless. Both reunions were so great, I forgot to take pictures. And that’s perfectly all right.
The final reunion was with a high school friend I haven’t seen in the better part of 16 years. Lunch and a nice chat followed. He’s social media shy, so I’ll keep that photo to myself. Here’s hoping the next reunion doesn’t have as large a gap.
He was kind enough to get me to the train station, and we’re heading home. My back held up, but it was touch-and-go more than once. Physical therapy begins anew tomorrow. Let’s hope we can find something that works.
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.
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