The Love you Take is Equal to The Love You Make

•January 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So there was this moment on the PLF spring/summer tour when everything made sense to me. 

 

We were in Columbus, Ohio scheduled to play at this wonderful outdoor ampitheater (the name escapes me now) and Levon Helm was about 30 minutes into his set when a horrific thunderstorm struck.  It literally came out of nowhere.  It was immediate.  The downpour was intense and the wind blew the rain sideways and everything on the stage began to get drenched.  Within seconds, guitar amps were shorting out and microphone stands were being toppled.  Levon’s band had to leave the stage but  Levon kept playing.  (to be fair, Levon and Larry)  He finished the song and ran to the side stage to dry off.  His set was cut short. 

The image of Levon Helm playing his heart out in the middle of a storm – with the biggest shit-eating grin you’ve ever seen – is something I will NEVER forget.  In retrospect it was almost a metaphor for the music business.   Playing through the struggle, paying dues and all that.  It was a powerful moment, and I am lucky to bear witness first hand.  

 

What happened next was even more remarkable: 

The venue had completely cleared out – thousands of people vacated the ampitheater.  It looked as if the show was over.  PLF would not be performing that night.

 

 All the gear was shot.  The rain had come so fast and so hard that there was no time to cover anything up.  One of my amps was filled with water and Steve’s electronic keyboards were messed up.  Not to mention the house sound system and microphones and monitors. 

 

It took several hours for the crew to dry the equipment enough that we could use it safely. I remember seeing a bunch of stage hands with portable hairdryers working diligently to dry the little nooks and crannies of the sensitive gear.

 We didn’t know if we were going to go on that night.  It looked as if the crowd went home.  I thought for sure they went home. 

 

 Well, we ended up going on several hours later.  And to my surprise, every single person came back and the venue was again filled.  They had all been waiting around the corner or across the street.   I was so amazed.  It literally brought a tear to my eye. It was this moment when I realized how monumentally powerful music can be.

I mean, here’s a band (the grateful dead) who’s body of work is SO important, SO revered that fans are willing to wait for hours in the rain to go to the show!!! And there wasn’t any definitive call on weather or not there would be a show that night!  They waited just for the CHANCE of a show….

…it was as if the storm NEVER happened.

 And therein the magic lies.  The grateful dead songbook is one of the most impressive and powerful catalogs modern history has known.  It’s a staggering body of work that reaches into the lives of so many people and captures the spirit of the human experience so well, and with such honesty, it’s difficult to deny.  Once you are in – it is impossible to escape.

 

 Honestly, I’ve never seen such dedication before in my life.  Most bands are lucky if they have fans that will go to two shows a year. The deadheads are unprecedented in their passion and unmatched in their appreciation and kindness. 

 

Halfway through the first tune, it all clicked:  “The love you take is equal to the love you make”.   Of COURSE we had to go on.  How could I have doubted it?  These fans have been coming to shows for decades.  Probably not the first storm they waited through either!!

I know so many bands that would have said: “fuck it, lets call it.  Crowd’s going home anyways”.  And they would have been right.  Their fans probably would have gone home. But not these fans.  Not deadheads. 

 

Now I realize that it probably never even occurred to Phil that we might not go on.  Even though the rest of the band and crew were wondering if we would.  As long as it was safe – we go on.  Period. 

 

I learned one of the most important lessons of my life that night, and it has brought a beautiful new meaning to my life.  

Happy New Year

•January 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

First of all,  happy new year! (i know, i’m a month late).  I would like to thank everyone who made it out to San Francisco for the ‘family gramble’ extravaganza that took place 12/30 and 12/31.   It was seriously a lot of fun to get to do both bands in one show.  

For those that couldn’t make it, we will be posting downloads of the show soon! (At least the JG set).  

I had my first experience on Jam Cruise.  What can I say….  Insantiy. Chaos.  Beer.  Loud music.  That’s all that really comes to mind…

I’m going to be starting a new record pretty soon, which is why you don’t see a lot of shows.  

We have a couple nights at the Great American Music Hall coming up….with some very special guests.

Obama

•October 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

If I hear the word “maverick” any more, I may vomit. What used to be a perfectly normal word has become a word I can’t stand to hear.  Hell, I don’t even like the Dallas Mavericks anymore.   And that movie, “Maverick” with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster?….used to be a really good movie.  It sucks now.  I’ll never watch it again. 

Thanks a lot, Sarah Palin. 

Seriously though, I don’t see how the McCain/Palin campaign can do anything at this point but minimize damages to their party.  Let’s be honest.  When you’re beat, you’re beat.  Go ahead and give it the good ol’ college try, though.

I find it interesting that both McCain and Obama speak in the general rhetoric of “change” and “reform”, yet only Obama has seemed to develop a more rational and much clearer vision of what that means realistically.  It seems that McCain is hard pressed to find answers to some of the important questions that Obama seems to answer with relative ease and conviction.  

Obama is clearly more studied on economic issues.  McCain allegedly didn’t even read the bailout bill,  (the one that actually passed).  Yet, here’s a guy who was so concerned with the financial crisis that he felt the need to suspend his campaign to go lend a helping hand in Washington.  I don’t the public bought that one, Johnny. Or six pack, or whatever.  Obama has spoken with knowledge and integrity on the subject.  The Obama idea to create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that could help keep our roads and transit systems intact, while create loads of US jobs, is the exact kind of creative thinking our country needs.  

Truth be told, maybe he was a “maverick” at one point.  But not anymore.  It seems like McCain has been increasingly moving farther to the right.  It’s true he worked with Democrats in the past to create a patients bill of rights.  He opposed unlimited offshore drilling when most Republicans were for it.  Recently however, he opposed a bill that aimed to stop the torture of war prisoners.  I think they call it “special interrogation technique” or “advanced asshole questioning”…or something.  I thought he was tortured in Vietnam?   Isn’t that a bit strange? I think maverick is the wrong word….more like wishy-washy or volatile.   

The current attacks on Obama’s character are even more disgusting.  I like playing the six degrees of separation game too, but not when it comes to the most important election of the modern world.   The recent discovery of Sarah Palin’s “associations” with radical Alaskan groups only exacerbates the hypocrisy of the McCain campaign.   Two can play at that game!

 

The recent debate was interesting to watch.  Obama seemed to be much more at home and reasonable than McCain, who seemed a little agitated and over the top.  By the way, did anybody see how quickly Fox News posted their “polls” after the debate?  They said something like 82% thought McCain won the debate.  None of the other networks posted their findings until later. (which were much different) I find it amazing that Fox is still in business. 

Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin while hilarious, seems dangerous to me.  It’s all well and good to joke and have fun, but there is a real possibility (albeit a small one) that Sarah Palin will be the next Vice President (or God forbid, President) of the United States.  The point of the SNL skit was to mock Palin (and with good reason) but in some ways, she gained a small margin of credibility with the skit.  Or at least gained some pop credibility in the over-saturated minds of young america.  

It’s a long shot – and I hope i’m wrong. 

Another long shot, but if McCain wins and replaces just one moderate on the Supreme Court (he has cited John Roberts) then Roe Vs Wade has the potential to be reversed and states will be allowed to impose absolute bans on abortions.  Now, this is only made worse by the fact that he no longer supports rape and incest as factors in the case for an abortion.  Not to mention he believes Viagra should be covered by insurance….but not birth control.   Hmm.  Odd. 

I saw the Sarah Palin book in the airport bookstore this morning.  It’s awfully slim.  She and McCain like to criticize Obama for being “wordy”.  Obama has written two books.  Why is that a bad thing?  If anything, we should want our leaders to posses a mastery of the english language and have the brainpower to put that talent to good use.  

The real point of this lengthy post is this:  Beyond every topic I just mentioned, the election of Barack Obama would represent so many things that are fundamentally important to us.  Being of a mixed ethnic background, he represents America as it really is in the 21st century.   As a metaphor it would be a symbol of a civil rights victory; re-establishing the belief that we are the most righteous country in the world.  That we continue to care about equality and tolerance.  It would energize us on the world stage, and help encourage democracy abroad.   Moreover, Obama is a leader.  There is no one better suited for the extremely difficult task of leading America in the 21st century. 

Tour Update

•October 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So the other night, John Molo and I got a chance to sit in with the Allman Brothers on the tune “Southbound”. To sit in with those guys is intimidating, to say the least.  There I was, trading guitar licks with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes and hanging on for dear life.  It was frightening…and about the most fun I’ve had with my pants on.  I have to say that watching Derek play slide (particularly from that close), is nothing short of a religious experience.  It’s unreal.  The guy is fucking amazing.  

Warren is no slouch.  He’s got the serious triple threat going:  guitar playing, writing songs and singing. Not to mention he’s about the nicest guy on the planet.  A true gentleman.

We just got done playing a show with the Black Crowes.  Chris Robinson came up to sing and play “Sugaree” with us.  He’s got some pipes, boy….  It was a great jam and he positively nailed the tune.  He too, was very kind and very much a gentleman.  

So that’s the update so far.  A couple more Allman Brothers shows and then my band heads out for a few California dates.  After that, PLF is off to New York City for a 14 – show run at the Nokia Theater!!!

Allman Brothers / PLF Fall Tour

•October 1, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hi everyone, 

We just finished our second night with the Allman Brothers on this tour.  Everything is going great.  I got to watch their whole set and I was blown away.  What a powerful band.  It occurs to me (I don’t know why it didn’t before) that this tour is a really great pairing of bands.  There’s an insane amount of energy floating around the backstage areas.  Lots of great people and wonderful musicians.  

I’m very grateful to Phil.  He has introduced me to a whole new way of doing music that I never would have thought of on my own.  There’s so many Grateful Dead songs I love to sing, it’s hard to choose which ones I like the most.  

Anyways, I hope some of you can make it out to some of these shows.  They’re truly a lot of fun.

Grovestand Revisited

•September 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

It seems that some people had misread, or at least misunderstood what I was talking about on my last post.  I figure I’d better clarify.  I’m not scolding Sacramento. Not in the least.  I’m simply stating my opinion and theory about the matter.  I realize that people work during the week and it’s difficult to get away.  It’s not my intention to punish or scold any of the hard working folks out there.  

More importantly, I had a moment of self realization just now.  Being a road musician, it’s hard to stay in touch with what’s going on in the world on a day to day basis.  We just checked into our hotel in Santa Barbara and flipped on the news.  Hurricane Ike.   My God.   

Suddenly, I feel selfish for even giving half a shit about ticket sales.  The Weather Service declares “Certain Death” for some areas that do not evacuate!!!! Have you ever heard something so heavy?  I haven’t.  

Man, just when you think YOU got troubles…turn on the news.  I guess they call it… perspective.  It happens to us as we grow older, I guess. 

I feel so bad for those families.  I can’t imagine what that feels like.  If you pray, pray for them.  If you give money, give it there.  If you send vibes, give energy…send it in that direction.  I will be doing the same.  Lets hope for the best.  

I remember after Katrina, I donated crates of water and canned food to some of the outposts where families were being sheltered.  The shattered lives of some of those people still hang in my consciousness.  The images and stories.  I’m afraid my mind will have to make room for more.

Hometown Grovestand

•September 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I remember hearing a long time ago various people complain about how Cake never play Sacramento.  I heard all kinds of rumors and conjecture.  The comments were usually the same:  “They don’t care about us.”  Or: “Once they got big, they forgot about their hometown crowd.”    

I’ve experienced a little of this in recent years.  Cake is a much more successful band than we are, but nonetheless, the comments toward “Jackie Greene” are relatively similar.  Success, I suppose is all relative anyways.  

I would first like to thank you all who attended our recent Sacramento show.  It was a really great night of music and spirit.  We were lucky enough to have two great acts on the bill: An Angle and Christopher Fairman.  If you haven’t heard or seen these acts yet, you owe it to yourself to go check them out.  

While I considered the show to be a success musically, economically it left lots to be desired.   I was seriously a little disappointed in the turn-out.  And I guess this brings me to my point:   A band cannot play shows when they can’t sell tickets.  It’s very simple.  One the one hand we hear the comments: “They never play here anymore…..I wish they’d come around more often….etc”  But when we finally do, nobody shows up! (That’s over-stating it, but you get the picture)  At some point, no band in the world will continue to take a loss in a market.  Even if it is their hometown.

Now I am by no means scolding anybody.  I just think most people don’t understand this information.  It’s a basic concept that seems to plague every band’s specific hometown.  I call it the Ownership Paradox.  It basically means that at a certain level, a bands hometown is the least likely place you will find that band playing regularly.  This is because, quite often a bands hometown will take the band for granted and say: “oh, ill catch them next time.  they have to come back.  this is their hometown!”   Therein lies the paradox.  Time will pass and the sentiment will change.  (“they’ve forgotten about their hometown!! bastards!”) But make no mistake….the band that took the economic loss on it’s own hometown has NOT forgotten.  In fact, they remember quite vividly….which is precisely why they are not coming back

Of course this is not to say that WE are not coming back.  I’m just illustrating a point.   

As I said, the show was fantastic.  We all felt good, played well and had a good time seeing some familiar faces.  We were stoked to share the stage with some great Sacramento bands.   I hope you guys enjoyed them as much as I did.  

In other news, we have 2 more shows on this tour, then i’m back with Phil Lesh for a Phil Lesh / Allman Brothers Band tour.  Should be…um…crazy!!!