Monday, May 31, 2010

Ketchup Part I - Julie and Eric Slick

Wow, time fries.

I really can't let this much time pass between posts again! The problem with not blogging every day is that then so much stuff happens I don't know where to start so I avoid the blog the same way I do when the house somehow gets really messy, which is still a great mystery to me since Julie and Eric no longer live here. Where does all the clutter come from? Anyway, when this happens, I am so overwhelmed i only stay in the one clean room, usually the place where my desk and computer are. It isn't until the mess spreads there, too, that I finally do housework and I'm so disgusted by all the accumulated junk that I start throwing stuff out I'd normally keep just to achieve some order.

In other words, if I don't write about stuff right after it occurs, I may skip over it altogether - either my brain has forgotten it or it doesn't seem as special as when it first happened. But trust me, some really special stuff has indeed been going on.

However, as I sit here, I am wondering where to begin. There's Eric Slick, who has been traipsing through Europe on tour with Dr. Dog, there's Julie Slick, who has so much good news I am feeling like a terrible blogger AND mother for failing to report in a more timely fashion, and then there's me, who had the time of her life last week at Book Expo America in New York City complete with sleepover party at a suite at the Algonquin Hotel with Sue Henderson and Jessica Keener. I think this last bit deserves a post of its own, so to make my life simpler, let's talk progeny today and start the ketchup process with Julie, whose debut CD is literally flying off the shelves and already receiving rave reviews.

Like right here.

There's also a nice mention right here with lots of cool commentary...but...but...that's not Julie, that's Julie's doppleganger! (Just kidding)

Anyway, if you'd like to win a copy of Ms. Julie's CD, DGM is sponsoring a contest.

Of course you could also pick it up at iTunes or via Julie's store. If you buy it there, make her draw you a picture along with her autograph - she's an amazing artist.

Anyway, even though Eric is playing drums with Dr. Dog right now and they're on tour for most of 2010 and Adrian is touring solo with a very cool project called "Painting with Guitar", the Adrian Belew Power Trio still lives and will not only be playing the Vancouver Music Fest but an extensive tour of Europe. Sadly, Eric is not available but I don't think anyone is going to be disappointed by his very special guest replacement.

You can see the entire tour schedule for Painting With Guitar right here, but the main thing you need to know is that on June 30, 2010 at Mexical Blues in Teaneck, New Jersey and on July 1, 2010 at World Cafe Live, Adrian will have a special opener...none other than Julie Slick, solo, and she'll be performing selections from her debut CD. Click on the venues' respective links to buy tickets...see how easy I make it for you?

By the way, if you were at the Khyber last Friday night, Julie enlisted the other members of Paper Cat, Robbie "Seahag" Mangano and Eric Slick, to perform "Rivalry" from her new CD, and here's the video:

And while I'm at it, here's a Paper Cat clip from the same night - I keep telling them, this is your hit, but I get the usual rolled eyes and "Mom, stop!"

I also have some, dare I say, historic video from Bob Dylan's 69th birthday party last Monday night but it was recorded on my flip camera and no one ever taught me how to upload from that thing so rather than risk losing footage I'll never have again, I'm waiting for Eric to get home tomorrow. Anyway, Julie jammed with the great Charlie Gracie and I absolutely cannot wait to post that!

Right now Eric is in Gorge, Washington, getting ready to perform at the Sasquatch Festival. Dr. Dog is playing in between Passion Pit and the Japandroids. Looks like Eric's old buddies, Ween are the headliners. Oh yeah, and MGMT. In the past week Eric has played in Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Paris, and I forget where else. I do know that two days ago he was in Barcelona, Spain, performing at the Primavera Festival. I like his tweets: "Hung with wilco n yeasayer a bit. " "Just had a drunken wall climbing competition with grizzly bear". Eric/Dr. Dog just had something like thirty hours of travel with connecting flights, etc., yesterday to Seattle and then tomorrow they'll have another six hour flight home, taking into consideration the three hour time difference and I don't know if they are flying non-stop or not...I suspect they'll be home at midnight and the band will all spend Wednesday sound asleep. They better, because on Thursday, they are playing Non Comm at 11:25PM and I believe tickets are still available - the show's at World Cafe Live - but it looks like you have to pay one fee to attend all events. Here's the info.

After Eric/Dr. Dog plays Non-Comm, the next day they head to Hunter, New York for Mountain Jam, which, to be honest, I cannot believe I'm missing. Take a look at who is performing:

Oh man, I really should be figuring out a way to be there. But, you know, I'd have to sleep in a tent and...


I'll watch the DVD.

The following weekend, Eric/Dr. Dog plays Bonnaroo. It's crazy. What a life my kids have.

But what a life I have, too. More on that in my next post.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

So this is cool - a Dr. Dog home movie and Eric Slick on drums

The end of the Dr. Dog tour/travel montage...which is hilarious, because they are only home for a few more days before taking off for Europe on Saturday and then back on tour straight through June again-- assuming that big, bad, volcanic ash cloud from Iceland and the British Airways strike doesn't interfere...and by the way, this version of "What a Strange Day" features Eric Slick on drums.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another Birthday Present for Eric Slick

In the May 27, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Yep. It's pretty thrilling. Happy Birthday, Eric Slick.

Happy Birthday Eric Slick..a front page stellar review of Dr. Dog in concert

Good morning! And Happy Birthday Eric Slick!

Photo by Ramie Egan

So yeah, today is Eric Slick's 23rd birthday, and what a freaking gift he got today - the Philadelphia Inquirer has a stellar review of the Thursday night Dr. Dog sold out show at the Electric Factory on the front page of their Daily Magazine Section today.

"Dr. Dog: Stuck in time, and it's all good

By Dan Weiss
For The Inquirer

'Do you feel like you're stuck in time?" sang Dr. Dog's fedoraed Toby Leaman, a little more than halfway into the band's homecoming night at the Electric Factory on Thursday.

Yeah, a little. First, the Providence, R.I.-based openers, Deer Tick, covered Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" and ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses" - with vocalist John McCauley donning guess-what for the latter. And Dr. Dog, the temporally obsessed main act, is itself prone to songs with titles such as "The Old Days" and "My Old Ways," full of sonic callbacks to the Beatles and the Band, to name but two of their many prominent 1960s influences.

The chief drawback of plundering such obvious source material is the inevitable comparisons to the old stuff, and the old stuff will win. But don't tell that to a sold-out crowd that chose to share the night with two of the least-hip under-30 bands currently working.

Dr. Dog has nothing to be ashamed of, actually. This gig constituted a victory lap for the decade-old band, grassroots champions in Philadelphia and then nationally: Shame, Shame, the band's seventh and best album, cracked the Billboard Top 50 last month. Or as Leaman tried to make sense of it from the stage: "We've been doing this forever. . . . Now we're here . . . and you guys are all there."

At which point they launched into "Where'd All the Time Go," which on record is a shadowy soul number with a positively liberating chorus. Live, however, new drummer and Paul Green School of Rock vet Eric Slick kicked it (and several others) into another dimension - from paisley pastiche to thunderous arena-rock.

Likewise, older numbers like "The Rabbit, the Bat and the Reindeer" pounded where they once creaked; The "oh yeahs" in "Army of Ancients" towered over the room. The newer stuff, such as the opening "Stranger" and the Spoon-like "Unbearable Why," stood out even without the extra juice, with the secret weapon of Zach Miller's keyboard sneaking in hooks to nail down the ambitious harmonies and widescreen arrangements underneath the three vocalists' jumpy interplay. Guitarists Frank McElroy and Scott McMicken traded raps on the swung "Mirror, Mirror" and thrashed their downstrokes in unison to send off "Someday."

If you were casting about for a similar retro-pop live show to match this band's fervor, you wouldn't find one in Elliott Smith's or the Format's heyday. Not even Spoon's. And they keep it up way past your money's worth, at almost two hours - tiring for dabblers, great for acolytes.

And without much help from the website Pitchfork or radio, acolytes are more plentiful than ever. As the greatest song of the night inquired, in a winsome Flaming Lips-style quaver, "Where do all the shadow people go?" We assume they got stuck in time, and that more will be joining them."

The Philadelphia Inquirer also posted twenty amazing photos of the show right here.


If that's not exciting enough, The Philadelphia Weekly also reviewed the show:

May 14th, 2010
LAST NIGHT: Dr. Dog At Electric Factory

Photos by Michael Alan Goldberg (click on the above link to actually see them because they are awesome]

"For a now nationally-prominent band once forged out of Philadelphia’s DIY, indie scene, Thursday night was a homecoming. A painted speech bubble coming from the mouth of Ben Franklin adorning the top of the Electric Factory made the announcement: Dr. Dog.

Providence, RI’s Deer Tick warmed up the sold out crowd with delicately wound melodies, two-guitar interplay and multi-part harmonies. Songs ranged from the thumping electric rock of opener “Easy” to country folk ballads “Baltimore Blues No. 1″ and “Smith Hill.” The five-piece also debuted new material from their forthcoming June LP, The Black Dirt Sessions.

The band’s set reached a fever pitch with a rousing cover of the Chuck Berry classic “Maybelline” and culminated with a riotous rendition of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses.”

Amid an array of strobe lighting, veteran vintage rockers Dr. Dog took to the stage to the roar of the jam-packed warehouse. In an instant, the quintet simultaneously blasted into “Stranger,” the riveting opener from last month’s long-anticipated Anti Records LP, Shame, Shame, and it was off to the races. The hometown heroes tore through a near two hour set packed with old favorites and every fresh song from the stellar new record, including the warm, slowly building first single, “Shadow People.”

Bassist Toby Leaman took up center stage and traded lead vocals with co-founding guitarist Scott McMicken, to his left, who donned Star Trek-like, wraparound shades and a colorful snowcap. To his right, guitarist Frank McElroy chimed in for a third vocal harmony and added guitar oomph.

The three got plenty of vocal support from the sea of headbobbers packed in from wall to wall on every inch of floor space the venue had to offer, who delighted in every opening chord and chorus singalong.

The band’s newly-added drummer, Eric Slick pounded out unstoppable rhythms, seemingly effortlessly, on ferocious numbers like “The Old Days,” “Later” and “The Girl.” His hysterical but unequivocally precise percussion quickly became the center of attention, cuing mesmerizing lighting effects that complimented each song in the set. That set came full circle, with Shame’s meandering title track, the album’s finale.

Dr. Dog returned to the stage for a captivating, six-song encore, which began with McMicken picking up an acoustic guitar for “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” prompting a unified clap and singalong. “We’re all in it together now,” the crowd sang assuredly in front of McMicken. The encore also included the group’s already revered cover of Architecture In Helsinki’s “Heart in Races” and fan favorites “Die, Die, Die” and “My Friend.”

It was pure euphoria for some 25 straight songs, and the thousands on hand to witness it were glad to have the five guys producing it back in town. (Kevin Brosky)"


And then there's this fabulous review in Spinner!

Also check out The Brooklyn Vegan!

So not only does my son wake up to this today, tonight's show at Terminal Five in New York City is the final concert on this month long tour, and guess what, it's sold out...I suspect there is going to be some serious partying in NYC this evening. Terminal Five holds about 3,000 people so the fact that it's sold out and in New York...WOW.

Usually I post the story of Eric's birth every year on this date -- yes, he was close to being born in a bank and even closer to being born in a taxi driven by the world's most nervous driver -- but rather than repeat myself, I will simply put up the link from my entry of three years ago for those interested: The Happy Birthday Eric Post

I hope you all click on that because it's a pretty hilarious story and of course could only happen to me.

Since we won't be able to make the New York trip tonight and most of Eric's friends are in Philadelphia and were at the Electric Factory show Thursday night, I knocked myself out for hours in the kitchen (har har) so that I could provide him with his two favorite cakes - triple chocolate mousse and chocolate peanut butter for a celebration post-show. I actually went out and found paper plates, napkins, etc. with dog paws and pics of dogs on them and I even bought party hats and noisemakers because well, I'm just that kind of Mom (meaning, I'm insane but if I am, too bad, because I am insanely in love with my family and that will never change, even when both kids are forty). Julie was kind enough to film the festivities on her iPhone.

So there's a lot more news on the Slick family front but since today is Eric's day, I will end this post now...but will be back if a review of last night's show in Washington, D.C. pops up or any other relevant Eric information.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Already/Almost Famous: Julie Slick Solo CD and Eric Slick on tour with Dr. Dog!

Hey hey:

Well, now that I've recovered from my fabulous Keith Emerson/Greg Lake experience, there's other huge news to discuss.

Julie Slick's debut solo CD is now available! You can order it via her website, at Burning Shed, Abstract Logix, DGM, and very shortly at iTunes and Amazon.

To celebrate Julie's release, esteemed music journalist Anil Prasad has done an in-depth interview with Ms. Slick. Here's a short tease:

Julie Slick
Harnessing serendipity

by Anil Prasad
Copyright © 2010 Anil Prasad. All rights reserved.

"Composer and bassist Julie Slick is the epitome of drive and determination. At age 24, she possesses masterful bass chops, a unique voice as a writer, and a remarkable career trajectory. She’s best-known as one-third of the Adrian Belew Power Trio, a fiery progressive rock act led by the King Crimson frontman and guitarist which also includes her virtuoso drummer brother Eric Slick. And for six years, she was a key part of the Paul Green School of Rock, the famed performance-based music school where she got to work with an incredible array of rock legends. She’s also well-known for her contributions to alternative rock acts in her local Philadelphia scene including Paper Cat, Cheers Elephant, Sweatheart, and Love Gravy.

Slick’s latest and most impressive endeavor is her new self-titled debut album. It’s an all-instrumental effort that meshes progressive rock, jazz-fusion, funk, electronica, avant-garde, and world music influences. The album features an all-star ensemble comprised of Slick’s friends, including guitarists Robert Fripp and André Cholmondeley; drummers Pat Mastelotto, Marco Minnemann and Eric Slick; and Chapman Stick player Michael Bernier..."

Read the rest of the interview, including quotes from brother, Eric Slick, as well as answers to burning questions like, "How did you convince Robert Fripp to appear on your CD?" right here!

And as always, a huge shout out to Sid Smith for linking Anil's interview over at DGM News today.

By the way, Anil has a book coming out later this year which looks like a must read to me, that is for sure.

Innerviews Book Update
May 12, 2010

"The Innerviews: Music Without Borders book is due to be published in 2010 by Abstract Logix, the world's premier jazz-fusion label responsible for recent releases by John McLaughlin, Jimmy Herring, Gary Willis, and many others.

The book will offer exclusive interviews with artists including Björk, David Sylvian, Tangerine Dream, Bill Laswell, Jonas Hellborg, Ani DiFranco, David Torn, Public Enemy, Jon Anderson, Béla Fleck, Victor Wooten, and Chris Whitley, just to name a few. Stay tuned for more details."

The official CD release party for Julie's new CD will take place Friday, May 21, 2010 at The Khyber and you can buy tickets for that show right here. This show is going to be amazing - it's four of the best new bands out there right now: Cheers Elephant (featuring Julie's boyfriend, Matt Rothstein on bass and Jordan DelRosario on guitar, both of whom make guest appearances on Julie's CD), Paper Cat, which of course is Julie on bass, Eric Slick on drums, and Robbie "Seahag" Mangano on guitar, our good friends from Atlanta, Nerd Parade...and Nerd Parade not only opened for the Adrian Belew Power Trio in Asheville but their bassist, Rich Wilson, is married to the fabulous Miss Kat, who took the amazing photos of Julie featured on both her CD and website. and New Connection, another incredible local band...I believe Julie attended Drexel University with one of its members. And if that isn't awesome enough of a line-up, after all four bands play on May 21, Julie will take the stage with her "special guests" and do a couple songs off hew new CD, which will of course be available for sale at the Khyber that night.

Then we all head over to Julie's place at what, 2:00AM, for more partying...catered by both Julie and her fabulous Dad.

Julie also plans on doing some solo touring with some very special guests and may be opening for someone we all know and love...stay tuned for details on that in the very near future, too.

And now, moving on to Eric Slick, holy cow, you should have seen my face when I opened up yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer and saw this on the front page of the Arts and Entertainment Section!

"Dr. Dog coming home to Electric Factory

By Dan DeLuca
Inquirer Music Critic

On their sixth album, Shame, Shame, the sunny Philadelphia pop-rock band Dr. Dog lets a little darkness in.

"We've always been obsessively devoted to the notion that the band is a purely positive thing," says guitarist Scott McMicken, who co-leads the band with bassist Toby Leaman.

The two have been making music together since they were eighth graders, growing up in West Grove, Chester County, and now Dr. Dog's national tour is bringing them home to the Electric Factory on Thursday.

"What I've come to realize over time," says McMicken, "is that there's nothing negative about a sad song."

Shame, Shame, the band's first album on the respected indie label Anti- - home to Tom Waits, as well as Philadelphians Man Man and Alec Ounsworth - is full of sad songs. Or so you'd think, perusing a lyric sheet to tunes with titles like "Unbearable Why" and "I Only Wear Blue."

"The good old days have passed, and the good times after that / And slowly I've become undone," the raspy-voiced Leaman, 30, sings on the opening "Stranger." "Yesterday's love defines you," the higher-pitched McMicken, 31, laments on "Jackie Wants a Black Eye." "But today that love is gone."

But even when McMicken and Leaman start with downcast raw material, it gets transformed by Dr. Dog's flair for melody and harmony. What might read as negative winds up sounding positive.

"There's so much you can do with a band when you arrange things and choose your instrumentation and dynamics," says McMicken, in his West Philadelphia apartment following a recent, packed radio-concert marathon for WXPN-FM (88.5) at World Cafe Live. After the broadcast, the band, including keyboard player Zach Miller, guitarist Frank McElroy, and new drummer Eric Slick, carried on with an 11-song encore.

"It always seems great to me how you can take a super-simple structure, like with 'Shadow People,' which has the same melody and chord progression over and over again in the verses," McMicken says, "and really make it feel like it begins somewhere and ends somewhere completely different."

McMicken smokes Camels as he sits in his kitchen, where the walls are hung with his own paintings. The sink and stove share space with a turntable and a few hundred LPs (lately he's been spinning a lot of Bob Dylan).

He points to "The Girl," from Dr. Dog's 2007 album We All Belong, as a song whose dreary mood was lifted by the buoyant music.

"When I wrote that, it was a dark broody thing," says the redheaded tunesmith, sporting a trademark Fedora but without the oversize sunglasses he wears onstage. "And then, sonically, in the instrumentation and the arrangement, we started to pull away from that as we started to dress it up.

"In a general philosophical way, that's super-important, because no matter how dark or depressive the subject matter of the song, it's not the be-all and end-all of how you're always going to feel. You need a way out of it."

When it came time to record Shame, Shame, band members felt as though they needed a way out of their normal routine, recording at the Kensington studio they affectionately call Meth Beach.

Working with the tiny indie label Park the Van, beginning with 2005's Easy Beat, Dr. Dog has been on a slow build to renown. Fate (2008) sold nearly 60,000 copies, twice those of its predecessor, We All Belong.

For its Anti- debut, the group decided to work with producer Rob Schnapf, who has worked with Elliot Smith and Beck at his Dreamland studio in upstate New York. "We'd kind of outgrown our own studio, and we just wanted to be a band on this record," says McMicken.

The experiment wasn't entirely successful. The band's DIY sensibility clashed at times with Schnapf's engineer Doug Boehm, and the pressure of "redefining yourselves and your future with a brand new label" was intense, at times, McMicken says. Plus, he says, "it was expensive as hell, and there was a finite amount of time."

Rather than finish Shame, Shame in a month, the band brought the tracks they recorded back to Meth Beach and completed them in Kensington. When they were done, they realized that the album they'd left town to record wound up being their most Philadelphian yet.

"Maybe it was being away so much," says McMicken, sussing out what gives Shame, Shame such a strong sense of place. All the Dr. Dog guys live in West Philly, except for Leaman, the sole married member of the band, who resides in Wilmington, and its sixth touring member, Dmitri Manos, who lives in Tucson, Ariz.

On "Station," when Leaman hits the road, he leaves behind a handful of tokens for his friends to use on the Baltimore Avenue trolley car. "Shadow People," which McMicken wrote with Dan Auerbach, takes a virtual tour of West Philly bohemia, from basement house parties to the Second Mile Center thrift shop.

With his new songs, McMicken has moved from an abstract to a more concrete approach to songwriting.

"The process for me used to be, how far could I reach out for an imaginary something," he says. Now, "the idea of what's in front of me, and where can I go from there, has become much more compelling. What is the obvious truth at exactly this moment? I try to start with that."

And if that wasn't enough, The Philadelphia Weekly has an interview with Scott McMicken right here, and I see it's Part One so if Part Two pops up later today, I'll come in and add it. Here's a great excerpt:

Q: "This was the first big tour with your new drummer, Eric Slick — that aspect of it went well?

A: Incredibly well, yeah. He’s brought, like…with our old drummer that we had, the thing with him not being in the band anymore, it’s not at all because of his ability or lack of being an amazing drummer. It was kind of other things. So I was quite content performance-wise with the band that we were, and then that all changes when Eric shows up. He’s brought a whole ‘nother thing to it, which is pretty much awesome. He’s the best musician in the band at this point, so all of us are absorbing a lot off of him. I feel like he’s making us all better musicians. He’s definitely added a whole new element not only to the way the songs are being played, which is really exciting, but adding a whole new element to how we think about our situations on our instruments and everything. He’s a great person, hilarious and excited, and there’s a whole new kind of energy coming from him. So it’s actually kind of overwhelming sometimes. It all happened so fast, but the results have just been so awesome and helped us with a lot of confidence and everything, so it’s been great."

Yeah, that's way cool and not the first time they've made mention of Eric in that regard. In another recent interview, Scott had a similar response:

"NC: I actually saw you guys at SXSW, and you guys have a new drummer. How's that going? Has he influenced or affected the way you guys present your songs live?

SM: Yeah, his name is Eric Slick. He joined the band in January. He’s absolutely influenced our live show; I can’t overstate that enough. I fell like everything about what our band is doing right now has resulted from the addition of Eric to the band. It was a t such a welcomed time. We were all really feeling the need for that, and he’s come in with so many new ideas and such a different feel with so much enthusiasm. Technically speaking, he’s a far superior musician to any of us, which is awesome because he’s pushing us a lot harder. The first time I ever played with him I thought, “Oh my gosh, this rules. I’m going to have to get so much better!” There’s a foundation here now that’s so unwavering, that there really is no more room for me to hide. And of course, Toby being the bass player has a whole new rhythm section to work off of. We’ve all been so incredibly affected and inspired by playing with Eric. It’s great, it worked immediately, but it’s still so much fun to play with him because it’s still pa pretty new thing. There are changes occurring that you can feel and we’re taking things in slightly new directions. There’s a real freshness about playing these days because we also have this new record out. It’s a perfect time for him to have joined the band, and it really has brought so much positive influence on our shows and just the experience of being in a band."

Nashville Scene also reviewed the show right here and remarked "Oh, and brand-new drummer Eric Slick is absolutely fluid, by the way."

Ha ha, what a surprise.

The Dallas Observer also reviewed a recent show and said:

"...if the giant sound coming from the stage was any indication, it seems the combination of new material and new drummer Eric Slick has pushed the band's live show to ever further heights...."

There are so many great reviews out there I can't possibly post them all, but if you are interested, just hit Google.

Have you bought tickets yet for Dr. Dog tomorrow night at the Electric Factory? Better hurry! Last I heard, it was 80% sold out and that was a few days ago. In the event you haven't taken care of that yet, I'll make it easy for you. Here's the link to buy tickets!

We are celebrating Eric's 23rd birthday that night, though he won't be 23 until Saturday, May 15, where he will be celebrating again at Terminal Five at Dr. Dog's last show on this U.S. run before heading for Europe on May 22. Haven't bought your NYC tickets yet, either? They are also almost sold out, too. I know it's going to be an awesome night involving God knows what the band might be planning so it's a Don't Miss Occasion. Here's the link for tickets to the NY show!

But rest assured the Philly show is going to feature, if I do say so myself, awesomely decadent chocolate birthday cake(s) if you are lucky enough to snag a backstage invite.

If you don't grab tickets for NY or Philly, you're outta luck on the east coast. Both Boston shows this week are completely sold out and Friday night's show in Washington, D.C. is sold out as well.

Dog Power!

Oh, God, speaking of that, I opened up a Twitter account for our dog, Monty, as a joke for Julie and Eric but I woke up yesterday to all these followers. So now I guess I have to manage Monty's Twitter account on a daily basis to keep up with his fans. If you love dogs, or are interested in just how insane I can be, please follow him/me on Twitter, okay? Cool? Cool.

Okay, enough writing about my brilliant progeny. Time to return to working on my novel, which is gathering steam like you would not believe. I've never been more psyched about anything I've written to date.

And last night at yoga, we learned an anti-anxiety/insomnia position. It was ridiculously easy and I literally felt the stress and toxins leave my body within seconds. If anyone wants me to describe the position, just let me know. I'm about to do it now, just for the high.

Yep, life is pretty damn fine right now.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Emerson, Lake, and Slick

Thursday night I had the privilege of seeing Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in concert. Special shout out to Gary's pal Eric Slifkin for getting us probably the world's best seats at the Keswick Theater, and to current Emerson/Lake tech and our great friend Andre Cholmondeley for surprising us with VIP backstage passes.

So wait...I was actually going to meet Keith Emerson and Greg Lake? You are kidding me.

Is that really Greg and me having a chat on the tour bus? Why yes, it is. Ask me how cool that was. And look. He signed my VIP pass. And he was so charming. Every time I went to stand up to leave because I was really worried I was over-extending my visit, he took me by the arm and pushed me back down and said "Sit, sit, don't go." Wow. Just wow. I mean, the guy had just played a long show and he probably wanted to go pass out somewhere but instead he was really into having a conversation.

Let me give you a little history here and why this is such a big deal. Back when I was a little baby hippie, I knew I loved rock music but I wasn't allowed to play it at my house because my father was a jazz musician and he truly believed that the Beatles killed his career. But not only did I love the Beatles, I saved my babysitting money and bought music I thought was cool based on songs I heard on my old transistor radio - the AM station, yet. So yeah, I did buy the Beatles Revolver but my collection also included groovy albums like The Turtles Greatest Hits. I did not have a clue as to what was really going on in the underground FM music world. What's ironic about my Turtles choice is that when I was a few years older I would call myself lame for liking them and I kinda wrote them off. But then as a adult, I realized d'oh, the Turtles were actually Flo and Eddie, who played with one of my musical heroes, Frank Zappa, so even not knowing anything about rock music as a kid, I had instinctive good fucking taste. Anyway, not to plug my book or anything, but if you've read my (very) creative non-fiction memoir, Daddy Left Me Alone with God, while a lot of the stuff in there is completely make believe, the bit about learning about rock and roll from my young, teenage boyfriend, who would later be my husband, is completely true to every last detail. He turned me on to all the great bands, and one of the first albums he brought over was Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I fell in love on listen number one, the same as when I heard King Crimson's Court of the Crimson King for the first time...unlike anything I'd ever heard. In fact, Gary brought those two albums over at the same time along with the Moody Blues Days of Future Passed and Procol Harum's Salty Dog. Can you imagine the sensory overload of being introduced to those four albums simultaneously?

Gary and I loved ELP so much that we would have ELP listening parties when my father wasn't home and we'd even play his stereo (we were forbidden to touch that but our records sounded so much better on his than my plastic record player). We'd start with album one, move to album two, (Tarkus, and so on, all the way up to Brain Salad Surgery.

Ever see what stereos and crappy plastic record players from the sixties look like? Here's what my father got to listen to his stuff on:

Here's what I was stuck with:

Anyway, getting back to Gary and me, one of our very first "dates" as kids was going to the old Philadelphia Spectrum and seeing Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The opener that night was YES. And then the night I went into labor with Julie and I was freaking out because the doctor told me not to go to the hospital until early the next morning based on the timing of contractions even though I swore I was about to give birth at my house any second, Gary kept playing two songs over and over to calm me down - Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Take a Pebble and Mark Knopfler's Theme from Local Hero. Tony Levin plays bass on that. My whole world came full circle Thursday night when Gary and I also talked to Keith Emerson on the tour bus. Because in 2008, Julie and Eric and Adrian played the Creation of Peace Festival in Russia with Keith Emerson and Tony Levin. I'd already met Tony a few years ago and that was surreal enough as a long time fan...meeting Keith had now officially blown my mind altogther.

Here's Julie and Tony in Russia:

And Julie, Andre, and Keith in Russia.

So here's Gary, Keith, and me, hanging out on the Emerson/Lake tour bus Thursday as I naturally babbled the whole story to Keith in about twenty seconds and he just kind of stared at me smiling as the words rushed out but hurrah, he did in fact remember playing with Julie and Eric in Russia and was extremely gracious.

Anyway, I never dreamed I'd get a chance to hear Emerson and Lake play together again. I was so excited and it's funny, I never doubted for a second that the show would be amazing. Yes I know we are all older, have health issues...I knew about Keith's hand surgeries...yet I knew this was going to be a chill rendering concert.

The stage set was made to look like a recording studio and Greg explained that they were recording the show each night and wanted the vibe on stage. But they had a typical ELP touch - a lit torch...and they both entered the stage through velvet cloaks/drapery.

Like I said, our seats were so great I could clearly see the expressions on both Keith and Greg's faces - they were relaxed, happy, and knew Philadelphia has always been a prog friendly city. The first song was In the Beginning.

Seriously. Greg's voice was AMAZING. It was like forty years had not passed by. I couldn't help it, I started to cry. Naturally I did not bring tissues (who expected to cry at a rock concert?) so by the time he started in on song two, the sleeves of my sweatshirt were soaked from wiping my face.

They played I Talk to the Wind from In the Court of the Crimson King. I completely lost it.

But when they followed that up with Take a Pebble, it was really all over for me. Please oh please watch these videos. It's from a live show in Belgium in 1971. What a fantastic treat to find this!

Anyway, I would love to fill this blog post up with You Tubes of every song they played, but then this page would take forever to load, your computers would freeze, and you'd all hate me. But hopefully you'll look them up yourselves because they are amazing. The remaining set list was as follows:

Tarkus (oh my God, please listen to that)...and Greg's voice on Stones of Years...holy cow, he just got more and more powerful as the evening went on. No one has a voice like that. No one.

What was also cool was that they conversed with the audience in between songs and in case any of you are planning on attending future shows, I don't want to be a spoiler. It's bad enough I'm giving you the set list but they said they're still playing with it and adding new things, etc. so I don't feel bad giving it away. Plus, it's on forum boards everywhere, too.

Intermission time, and as a woman, I gotta laugh...I stood in my first bathroom line, ever, at a prog concert.

They took the stage about twenty minutes later, and Keith told a story about the old days...when he used to play while spinning around on his piano up in the air. Take that, Pink.

They followed that with C'est La Vie -- Keith on the accordian and Greg on the acoustic. It was brilliant. Just brilliant.

And then a surprise -- a smoking version of Bitches Crystal. Out of their entire catalogue, that selection surprised me but I was really glad they chose to play it. Definitely a highlight.

Then Keith went into a vocal-less America, followed by Rondo. And I think Prelude to a Hope. (Andre, if you are reading this, come in and help me here...I know I am missing something)

ETA: Okay, as always, Andre came through for me. He did indeed play Prelude to a Hope, then Malambo (from "Estancia Suite") by Alberto Ginastera (he wrote TOCCATA on Brain Salad Surgery). Both of these amazing songs are tracks on the recent Keith Emerson Band featuring Mark Bonilla CD and also available on iTunes. And d'oh, I already own that CD. So should you!

And thus we stood yet again for what was many, many standing ovations. Keith Emerson is a God. I'm sorry, but he is. No one can convince me otherwise.

Then they took some questions from the audience. I actually enjoyed that, and most of the questions were thoughtful and intelligent, except one bonehead asked Greg about what inspired him to write 21st Century Schizoid Man. I put my head in my hands and groaned. Pete Sinfield wrote those lyrics and the song was written collectively by King Crimson.

Greg could have made an idiot of the guy but he chose to handle it classily. He called the lyrics dark and commented how while written in 1969, many of the sentiments expressed in the song have come true and how interesting (and scary) that was.

"Cat's foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia's poison door.
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack barbed wire
Polititians' funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Death seed blind man's greed
Poets' starving children bleed
Nothing he's got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man. "

Someone asked Keith about the difficulties he was having with his right hand and Keith got really choked up when he answered...his eyes filled with tears. Trust me, Gary and I were sitting close enough to see. He remarked that he'd had several unnecessary surgeries which led to permanent damage, and he spoke of the utter despair he was in, seriously believing he'd never play again. Did he have limitations when he played Thursday night? Yes, of course, but it didn't matter, it made the show even more poignantly beautiful.

Did I mention he played the original moog given to him by its creator, Robert Moog. What a thrill it was to see that up close and personal!

Pirates was next - it blew me away. Totally.

They left the stage, we clamored for an encore, they quickly obliged.

Then Greg gave us the very surprising background of Lucky Man and launched into the song and what a shock, I cried through that, too.

Again, I don't want to spoil the show for anyone planning on attending in the future, so I won't tell that tale or the Leonard Bernstein story (hilarious)...all I can say is, check out their remaining tour dates and um, keep your eye on their respective websites for what may be some exciting news about the future...

So to wrap this up, the evening was magical, and I am now the proud owner of the following photograph...Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends...Ladies and Gentlemen, EMERSON, LAKE, AND SLICK!

I'd like to thank Mary Ann Burns, a longtime friend of the band, for taking the photos of Gary, Greg, Keith and me and for being kind enough to email them to me so that I could have them for my blog and for posterity. She rocks!