Monday, September 1, 2014

Three States and No Brakes

The Mad-Dub-Chi Tour
Little Man headed out on a small regional tour this past weekend hitting Madison, Dubuque and Chicago, supporting the new album Original Face. It's pretty fun to hit some cool cities over a long weekend and build up more fans and sell some albums. Brian Herb and Sean Gilchrist and I hopped in Walley the Waldoch van and headed out on the road. Meanwhile Brian is in the back asking me about this window shade that has been broken for a couple days, so he took the time to take it all apart while we were in route and totally fixed it! Brian is a true problem solving engineer. I should leave something broken in the van the next time we head out so he has something to do on the drive.

Our first show was in the Madison, WI area, to a place called True Coffee.
First time there, in fact all the clubs we played this time were firsts for us. True Coffee is indeed a coffee house. They roast, brew and serve their own coffee. I was a little unsure about playing there but they say they book all kinds of music. On the bill were a couple solo acoustic acts and a teen trio. It was all ages so the audience was pretty mixed but there were alot of people at this show, so we were very happy. Super small stage for us but we did our thing and enjoyed the set. The headliner brought up his guitar student, who was only 10 years old, and he sang and played his own song and was AMAZING!! The staff was super nice there.

This show was fairly early so we headed back to the place we were staying which was Sean's sister-in-law. Really fun spending time with her, her husband and 3 young girls. That home environment is a good feeling on the road for sure. They have great place across the street from the big lake so we grabbed some beers and hung out lakeside. So nice.

Buying breakfast groceries.
After a big home made breakfast we headed for Dubuque, Iowa and rolled into the Holiday Inn. Nice place! Only two blocks from the club. We also met up with our friend Bryan who was at the show in Madison and wanted to help with gear and merch. We got some press here too so that was cool to see! For food we got a tip to have a burger at Paul's bar so after load in we walked over. This little place was full with taxidermy! All sorts of animals and it was all in these blue lit glass cases that were showcased up high. It was only 8:30pm and people were already lit here. Got bumped into by a couple people walking by and the whole bar stared at me as I sat alone waiting for the guys to return from a smoke. "Who does that guy look like to you??" one guy said and kept pointing and yelling. Johnny Depp was the first response. Uhm sorta, gotten that before so that wasn't so bad. Zappa almost always. Guys get back here already!

Back at The Lift, the show started off with a guitar and vocal duo and fair amount of folks here too. We played two sets and the crowd ended up dwindling but this one guy stood right up in front the whole night dancing.
At one point he dragged over this huge 3 foot or so log to the front and danced with it. It was just hilarious. He was having a great time and so were we!

Photo by Bryan Ludwikoski At The Lift!

After a noon check out, breakfast was at a diner a block from the hotel towards the river. "Sunshine" or something like that it was called. It was just what we needed. Good, very inexpensive food. Sean got the catfish which was deep fried and served to him whole without the fish head. After he was done, all that was left was the full fish bone skeleton and he said he felt like Heathcliff as he held it up for us to see.

At 1pm we roll on to Chicago. 20East out of Dubuque towards Chicago across Illinois is an absolute beautiful drive in the summer. Lots of big rolling green hills and farmland with cool little towns to pass through. I loved Galena, the home of Ulysses S. Grant. This river town was so civil war era looking. I was telling the guys that and then we passed U.S. Grants house and was like "see!!".

So we're driving along on the highway, and Sean was driving, and I look over and the brake light on the dash was on. "Did you hit the emergency brake by accident Sean?" I asked. "No" he replied. After pressing on the brake pedal we knew we had a problem.  - "We have no breaks!! (pause...we each looked at each other) "AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!" Deepest secrets were confessed at 70 mph. -

Well it didn't quite happen like that but it was a bit scary! We were able to exit and get to a gas station to inspect further. We needed break fluid. Bought that, put it in. But then we checked underneath and when we pressed on the brakes it sprayed out the back axle area. This was a bigger problem. Brian got on the phone right away calling service stations. Most were closed. Two were open and one of them had the part we needed and it was 15 miles away in Rockford.
We had to get there quick because they closed in an hour. We knew we could make it if we were very careful. I took the wheel and could press the brake pedal almost to the floor with hardly any resistance but enough to stop the van given plenty of space. Seat belts on and back on the highway. Never hit the brakes. Coasted onto the exit to the stop light. Three stop signals to go! Slowly and giving plenty of space between us and the car ahead, we made it to the service station. The whole brake line needed to be replaced. Staying after hours they were able to do that for us. Whew!! We were so thankful. Still going to make the show. We left them an album too. Chicago or bust!!!
Walley and me

It is so fun for me to return to Chicago because I lived there for 8 years and started Little Man there. Tonight we play The Green Room which is a part of The Abbey Pub. The Abbey's main stage was a Mexican Wrestling event. Rock and wrestling. Our openers were really good with a ripping Chicago blues sound and the headliner was and excellent Americana rock style musician Benjamin Cartel with his band. Real nice people from Brooklyn. Super songwriting skills. Our show was great too. We rocked it. Also big thanks to our Brian Herb for fixing another situation as there was no sound man here!

It felt real good to play in the city again and a group of friends of all of ours showed up to see us. Real happy to see and hang out with old friends. Afterwards we headed over to The Long Room as I know the owners Clark and Jason. It was so cool to be there again. Love stopping by after a show here. Great to catch up. After that we stayed over at my good friend Dave Cottini's place and stayed up late with more friends.
Little Man at The Green Room Pub
Great photo Deb Sonzo!!

Thanks Beth for this late night or early morning Instagram shot!
In the morning we got up pretty early and headed back up to the Twin Cities. Walley surpassed 140,000 miles on the way home! This trip was just over 1000.

My band mates are the best. They are great musicians. I love touring with them and am thankful for their friendship and that special musician band bond comradery. We could have gotten into a serious accident but made it to all our destinations safely. Thanks to all who came out and supported us on this little run. Until next time!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Making of a Bowie Costume

I've been a part of an annual David Bowie tribute at First Avenue in Minneapolis for many years. Created by 89.3 The Current's DJ Mary Lucia, the show is called Rock For Pussy as it is a benefit for feline rescue. Local artists come together to play and sing their favorite Bowie song on the big stage. I've been a part of the band as a guitarist and I also get to sing some as well. So many people come out for this show and get dressed up in their favorite era Bowie styles and lots of make-up is applied by many of them. Getting glammed up can be a good time. Bowie fans and cat lovers unite for this once a year. It's a really awesome show!

This year I wanted to recreate one of Bowie's tear away costumes as well as a suit. If you've seen his show in London at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973 towards the beginning of  Ziggy Stardust he has two people on either side of him run up and tear away his outer layer costume to reveal a new one underneath. I thought one of his Japanese capes looked really cool. I also liked his suits that were made with just one patterned fabric. In addition I liked some of the styles that his guitarist Mick Ronson wore.

I can hem my own pants (I'm not that tall so most of my pants have to be hemmed) but this was way beyond anything I could do. Plus this was way more than just finding some cool clothes at the thrift store as usual. I wanted to do something I hadn't done or worn before but I'd need help making my idea a reality. I needed to find a designer.

With some sleuthing with a few phone calls, e-mails and postings I was able to be connected with two University of Minnesota fashion design students who were up for the task. Sarah Forsythe contacted me first and she thought she could team up with classmate Lee Tran to make some costumes. We got together and I showed them the video of Bowie's tear away and we spent alot of time looking at pictures of him and glam rock fashion in general. They took my measurements and were enthusiastic about the project. We decided on a couple of ideas. A tear away cape with buttons on the front and back and a two piece suit that could zip half way with a big collar and bell bottomed pants. Now out to the fabric store.

This place we went to was HUGE! It 's called SR Harris. So much to choose from. Luckily Sarah had some ideas for where we could start. We picked out materials and designs we thought would be best. It was a visually appealing experience plus I couldn't help but touch everything I saw, stopping here and there, getting lost and loosing my place with Sarah. After quite a while we decided on a red, white and black big floral print for the cape and a green and shiny gold almost paisley pattern for the suit.

Then we met up again at my place and Lee and Sarah had me try on a basic pattern and measured and pinned me up. It took a couple of fittings to get things just so. We were able to do a test tear away at my place, other than that, my final fitting was at the show.

Test tear!

My first costume for the night was a slim fit silver pair of pants with a matching silver long sleeve shirt along with my cool maroon side zip boots (see my "Vintage SHop Hop" blog post) I had just picked up at a local vintage shop called Up Six. I got my hair poofed out in all directions and some green and silver eye make-up as well as a gold star painted on my chest by a hair styling salon that sets up shop at the show called Moxie.
After the first set I had help changing into the green and gold suit, huge suede platform boots and finally the cape.
I had asked the designers to be the tear away helpers but Sarah couldn't make the show so my wife Brigid helped with Lee. She was so excited! The song I was going to do this for was called "Star" from the Ziggy Stardust album.

I took the stage and played a couple songs on guitar with my cape on and then it was my turn at the mic. As the chomping chords of  "Star" on the piano started the song, the background singers sang "ooooh aahhhh..." and the guitar strummed it's first chords, I raised my arms to full outstretched length (which was the signal for my helpers to run towards me) to show the full cape and Lee and Brigid approached me as fast as they could from opposite sides of the stage. They grabbed the cape and tore it off me before I started to sing the song. It worked!! It was great!!!! So so fun. The audience loved it and the song went on and I had a blast with it. I felt like Bowie, Bolan, Rod Stewart and Jimmy page all at once with that two piece outfit. Rock!!

Here's the video of the tear away!

It was so cool to have an idea, see it through and have it work so well. That felt real good to me. I'm sure it did for the designers too. Sarah and Lee did a great job and it was really fun to work with them both. More photos and videos of all the performers on Facebook.

photo by Charles Robinson

photo by David Tanner

With Reed Wilkerson photo by Amy Wilkerson

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Meditation Basics

I do zen. The sitting meditation is called zazen. Do you meditate? Is it something you've heard about but never took the time to do? You can read all about it but most importantly zen is something you experience directly.

I start my morning sitting on the edge of a cushion called a zafu. Any cushion will do. Crossing my legs to the quarter lotus position is best for me with my knees down and back straight. (I might not be sitting as straight as I should be here in the video but I was trying to be more in the frame) This is a solid grounding position for me. Half lotus would be one foot on one thigh, while the full lotus position would be both feet resting on opposite thighs. See if you can do them. The hands are placed just below the navel one on top of the other with thumbs touching. The mouth is closed and the eyes are almost shut. I consistently sit daily for 15-20 minutes, sometimes longer.

The first way to practice is to count your breath. For every in and out cycle of the breath you count as one and proceed from there. When you find your mind wandering, start over from one. Keep bringing yourself back to the breath. Don't regulate your breathing, just breath naturally from your belly and observe that. Are YOU breathing or is your breath breathing you?

Once you get good at that sort of meditation, do just like you did before but without counting your breaths. Just notice and be fully aware of your breathing as it is. When you find your mind wandering, bring your mind back to the awareness of your breath. Practice this. This is being mindful.

Now how about just sitting? It's as simple as that. Just sit and breath. As a thought comes into your head, acknowledge it and witness that but don't hold on to it or follow it further into daydreaming. Don't judge what comes into your mind. The mind has thoughts and we can take them for what they are but don't cling to them in meditation, let them come and go. After a while, thoughts slow down and the intervals between thoughts will be longer. It's like swirling around a glass of dirty water and when you stop swirling, after a while the muck settles to the bottom and above it the clear water remains.

This is how I do zazen. I recommend choosing one of these methods for each meditation period. There are so many ways to meditate though in general. Some people chant, some do yoga, gaze at a candle or do walking zen. The ego mind is concerned with the past and future. It does not live presently. Have you ever realized how often your mind thinks about the past or future? Practicing in these ways awaken you to the present moment which is always here. This is reality. This is the practice of meditation and mindfulness.

Taking meditation further into your daily activities you become those activities you do whole heartedly. This is zen in action.  Or better still, you realize you are the activity or the expression of the Universe itself and are not separate from it. This is Self-realization. Your ego consciousness gets removed from say "I'm brushing my teeth" to just "brushing." You are not separate from your activities. Zen is direct experience. No words. Experience without concepts and judgements. The more we talk about it the further we get from it.

I am in no way a Zen master but I do practice. A good portion of the music I write deals directly with this sort of experience so look into it if your interested. If you have any questions, I can try to answer them!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Vintage Shop Hop!

I like interesting clothes, the polyester, cool designs and cuts, '60's/70's style. One of the rewards of the Little Man Kickstarter campaign was to go vintage shopping with my wife and I. We really enjoy thrifting and hitting the vintage shops. We go often and find some really unique clothes and other old stuff. In St. Paul, around our neighborhood, there are a good bunch of such shops. For the Kickstarter campaign, Up Six Vintage and Everyday People participated in our "Vintage Shop Hop" for which people who chose this reward from the Kickstarter campaign got to come shopping with my wife and I with a discount on their purchase in addition to the new Little Man album on vinyl.

We started at Up Six and upon arrival our backers got a Little Man button pin

to distinguish who was with us. Megan, the shop owner has been clothing me for many years through her shop. Alot of the clothes you see me wear in photoshoots has been from her. She also has amazing furniture and other cool vintage stuff. Megan has been a big supporter of my music and a good friend over the years.

I found these great maroon boots and a cool pendant necklace.

Afterward we headed over to Everyday People. This shop is newer to the area and I have been getting over there often. Store owner Kitty is super kind and has a great sense of vintage style herself. She has a good balance of vintage mixed with newer thrift clothes. Both shops have awesome storefront displays so you can't miss them.

Rolling Stones t-shirt and a vintage sweater!
It was a fun small group of backers and everybody was able to find something cool. Seeing what other people were into fashion wise was fun to see and it was great to see people out of the dressing room with smiles because of their new finds. It's important too support these locally owned independent shops. They bring a great vibe to the community. They are great people and they are recycling cool unique clothes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"V" is for Vinyl - Little Man Launches Kickstarter Campaign for a Vinyl Pressing

Little Man has got this new album called Original Face and it's already recorded, mixed, mastered and ready to go. We even have CD's coming. The album is just the right length for an LP and it's something we have dreamed about doing but never have because of the high cost. Luckily through the website called Kickstarter we can have that chance. In return for a pledge we can offer you the lowest cost digital download, signed LP's and some really cool premium rewards, like home pizza's made by me delivered to you, a "vintage shop hop" with me to local vintage stores Up Six and Everyday People in St. Paul with a %20 discount, hair treatment at the new HiFi Hair & Records at a discount plus many more.

A vinyl pressing is a very special thing to us and with Kickstarter you can connect with us in a special way.

Please take a moment to visit our campaign through the link below and help us reach our goal of $4000 before Feb 13, 2014:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Little Run: On the Road with Little Man

Little Man got out for a little tour run this past week hitting Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago trying out new songs and promoting Orbital Amusement. Here's what all went down.

DAY 1: A van of drummers and me.
My old Little Man drummer Sean Sauder came along for tour help. It's great to have someone to help with driving, moving gear and to sell merch. Happy to have him along. Then there's my current drummer Sean Gilchrist and my bass player Brian Herb who is also an accomplished drummer. Packed up gear and drove to Milwaukee. It wasn't until a couple hours in that I realized that the van conversation was all drums and that I was surrounded by - drummers. I have to say drummers are usually interesting characters. You probably know some crazy folks. They might be drummers. These guys here in the van are great. I love 'em. Thankful to have them help me out and be a part of this band.

It's a beautiful drive across Wisconsin from the Twin Cities in the summer. We made it through just fine with a stop at the good ol' Subway. Swarmed in the parking lot by an entire high school cheerleading squad. I so wanted them to spell out the band's name. L-I-TT-LE...M-A-N! That would have been fun.

We played a place called Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee. Cool spot. Very Minnesota "nordeast" feel. Carved wood, brass and vintage looking stuff about the place. Very nice staff. We really enjoyed hanging out and having dinner outside over at The Palomino.

The Cactus Club is just next door. First night out was slightly rag-tag for me starting off, but then we rolled right into the set real good. Plus I got try out a guitar pedal from ZVEX I brought along straight from their office called the Machine which gave me some inspiration. Big room, meet some real nice people here. The night ended at The Sleep-In. This hotel was really great. Plus we got the big handicap room to pile into. Whiskey party.

DAY 2: Celebrate with The Mel's and the ghost's.
Headache. Perfect place for lunch was Glorioso's. An amazing Italian deli in Milwaukee. You HAVE to go there.

It poured rain at this time. Hop in the van and on the road to Madison. We got to spend the afternoon at Sean's sister-in-law's place not too far from the club. It was really nice to have a place to chill out, sit on the porch, grill and nap. Beautiful day.
Here's me at the cool little shed out in the back yard.
The club was The Frequency. We had played here before not too long ago. Love this place. Great rock & roll club. Staff is awesome. So I'm sitting at the bar with my feet tucked back on the stool rung and I thought someone's foot bumped into mine. No worries. Then it happened again about 2 minutes later and I look back to see who's kicking my foot and NO ONE WAS THERE!!! Here's when I asked the club manager Darwin about paranormal activity. "Oh yeah," he said, "this place used to be a funeral home." He's seen a couple strange things including a little girl. That could have been who was playing with me. He's also heard voices as clear as day in the basement. Pretty neat stuff.

Our friends from back home, The Melismatics where on the bill to celebrate the release of their new album. It sounds great. All of the people in this band are really very cool folks and it's always great to be on a bill with them. They put on one hell of a show. Fun to get in a slot hockey game with bassist Mark in the haunted greenroom basement. 5-3 me. I love those things. Also Garbage guitarist Duke Erikson was in the club and we got to talk a bit about guitar gear. Very cool.

We played a great show here and it was a fun audience. After bar we shared a bottle of Prosecco on our host's deck till the very wee hours. Salute and bouna notte.

DAY 3: My old residence, Chicago!
After a great home-made breakfast we headed to Chicago, Illinois. Sometimes I miss this city and it feels real good to roll in with the band back to the place I lived for about 8 years. Tonight we play at Reggie's Music Joint for their 6th anniversary bash. Real cool to be a part of that. We played with some great bands including The Ghost Wolves out of Austin.This is a fantastic place with a great vibe. Lot's of people here all night. Got to meet up with some great friends. Some old friends even from way back when I lived here, and most of them saw Little Man right at the very beginning of getting the band started in the late 90's. Real strong show hear and I loved every minute of it.

After the show we checked out The Dictators next door for a few songs. Then we loaded out and headed for my good friend Dave's place. You know Dave? He was one of my drummers with Little Man when I lived in Chicago. He plays with Ike Reilly now. We're musical brothers. Our beer run on the way to Dave's took us four tries at the late hour, but we found some. At Dave's apartment we got to listen to new mixes of ours and Ike's. Great to hang out with him, but yes, now I'm hanging out with four drummers. Old Style (hey we're in Chicago!), PBR beers all around and more whiskey.

DAY 4: Travel
Continued party till 4, up at 8. Drove home to the Twin Cities. Construction was hell. It took us an hour to get to the freeway. We couldn't even make it onto the free way before the guys wanted to stop and rest at the Dunkin' Donuts. Construction still on the freeway and tolls on a very hot mid 90's weather with no A/C made for a longer trip back, but boy what a fun time. Great run. TOURRRR!!!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Experience With The Cult

No I didn't run off to join some sort of cult. I got to go see one of my favorite bands - The Cult!

 Back in high school, I was starting to play guitar and was in a band, TWO bands! One with high school friends, which we played a mix of covers and originals and the other playing out in clubs with a classic rock cover band with guys twice my age (mom and dad came along to shows I think because I was under-age!). Both super fun bands. A real growing experience.

My friend Seth and I both started playing guitar around the same time, good friends. With him especially, we listened to Van Halen, Metallica, AC/DC, Ozzy and The Cult among lots of others. We were into the Love album, Electric and Sonic Temple. I especially liked the hard rock of Electric and often played along to the entire album. It was good education. Billy Duffy's guitar parts were excellent. Couldn't get enough. Plus this was the time of MTV and actual music videos. The Cult had videos out and I loved to watch lead singer Ian Astbury. He looked cool, awesome vocals and a great performer. Salt shake-uh...rrrrratlesnake rrracket...baaaaaaby...whaow! Tambourine. Just a real cool delivery.

My high school band covered The Cult. We played Peace Dog, King Contrary Man, Wild Flower and a couple others I think. Real good rock songs. Seth and I got to see them. I was mesmerized by Astbury.

Fast Forward to 2013. I'm still playing guitar, in a band, influenced in many way's by Duffy and Astbury. The Cult return with a tour playing their Electric album in it's entirety (I missed there Love tour reunion the previous year unfortunately).My buddy Sean and I got tickets. Very exciting.

Did you know the Electric album was recorded at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland studios?

The show was at The Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis. Sold out. We wiggled our way up front and almost center about 3 people back. They kicked in with Wild Flower. YES!!! Really great to be there. Astbury looked cool in his fur lined black leather jacket and "Bono" style black sunglasses. Still mesmerizing. Not as animated though and I could tell he was taking it easy on his voice. More of a Jim Morrison style performance (he did tour with The Doors for a reunion stint taking place of Morrison).

Really neat to see and hear Duffy play his parts. He played out of a small Matchless amp which sounded amazing. The band plowed through Electric and then continued to play on. Probably close to a couple hours. As a shorter person it was tough to find a good spot to stand. I like to be up close and see the band in all of my sight. It was packed up front but I was able to see just fine between people and if I couldn't see, all I had to do was look up as most people had their cell phones out recording video or taking pictures. Someones cell hit me in the head as it fell out of their hands. Then I got moshed and tossed around on one of The Cult's  big hits, She Sells Sanctuary.

The show was a blast for me. I wore my concert t-shirt from when I saw them last in the early '90's on their Sonic Temple tour. Afterwards I ran into my friend Vu and noticed his backstage pass. He gave it to me! So as the crowed cleared I stuck around while the set tore down. I got to talk with the opening act and then hung around hoping to see Ian or Billy. I missed Ian but guitarist Bill Duffy stepped out with his wife. We had some small talk and he was thrilled to see an old concert shirt. His wife took our picture. Real nice people. He gave me one of his guitar pics and headed out to the bus.

I'm so glad I got to see this show. Alot of fun for me to revisit the music and see them again. Totally worth it!