All Writing and Photography © Alex Livingstone/Owner's Closet

Friday, February 26, 2010

Grand Champeen in the studio

The next Grand Champeen album, tentatively titled "Feelgood M.D.," has been in the works for quite sometime now. Just a few words to bridge the gap between it and the last record...

It's hard to believe that "Dial T" came out three years ago. In fact, it's so hard to believe that I think I'm plain wrong about it being three years. Nope. Here we go...the All Music Guide* says March 13, 2007. Damn. Anyway, it's really taken that long for the fervor to die down. In the three years since the "Dial T" CD release party at Emo's we've been knee deep in the hoopla surrounding it release and astounding success. It's only recently we've realized that we've actually been ankle deep in the poopla.

By the time we went to mix the last album, its songs had been decided on and road tested well in advance. So when it comes to our next album's tracks, it was in between the aforementioned decision making process and the release of "Dial T For This" that some of them were written. After a few photos I took at a Trinity University radio gig the week "Dial T" was released, we'll move on to the newer songs...

"Haste to Mobilize" and "Just Want To Get You Alone" were both probably written in 2006. I know that "Get You Alone" was around for awhile because it's on the "Georgia Style" tapes. I know "Haste" was written in the fall of 2006 because I wrote it. I also know that "Because of You" came from summer 2007 because I wrote it at the beach on the nylon string guitar. I've always wanted to record a version where a nylon string guitar is the main guitar in a style like I've heard some Violent Femmes and Dead Milkmen songs. "Fakin' the Sound" and "Get Back To The Quiet" are also of a slightly older vintage, due to their emergence on some home demoing Channing did a ways back. None of that really matters though because if they were all written tomorrow, recorded next week, and released in June 2010, the recorded version would be the same one you're gonna (hopefully) be listening to in June of 2020.

The following "diary entries" are from a few weeks last fall when we finished recording the basic tracks for the next Grand Champeen record. I was on a bit of a write-it-down jag which is why there's any written record of the events, represented here verbatim. Right now, it looks like the album will contain 12 songs and with the basics for three having already been recorded
we knocked out the nine tracks we needed. Our gear was all in one room so that we'd be in a comfortable rehearsal-style situation. This set up was decided on because we've realized that we're a rock band and headphones aren't condusive to the kind of music we play. To satisfy this recording concept, we came up with a one-room setup that resulted in suprisingly little bleed between instruments. If a loud rock band like Grand Champeen can record clean basic tracks with all of their gear in the same room, we proved that people tend to get too uptight about isolation and "pristine' recording. Fuck that anyway. We already made that album.

So, the basics for "Gone With the Wind" and "Because of You" were recorded sometime in 2008, I believe. PGPA was recorded and mixed in April of 2009. The rest of the basics were done in October.

Ned and I got to the studio around 9:45 and we found Crow and Channing setting up amps and mics. Ned's drums were in the large part of the room and our three amps were on the other side. Our objective is to track live like we're at practice, for the natural feel. Headphones blow.
Channing was having some trouble with a microphonic tube so he spent sometime troubleshooting that.

We got some more sounds and recorded a bit to make sure all ps put levels were good. Ned had been sick and was still feeling bad and decided to go home and get rest and start the project in earnest on Tuesday. There was some discussion about drum sounds, too. So Channing, Crow and I stuck around to evaluate the drums sounds we had. There were/are so many combinations of mics to use, we had to whiddle them down to a few to check out what we had. It was decided that the snare and the floor tom needed attention. Ned was quite concerned with the kick so after analysing it we realised we had a good one. It was decided what to do the next day and we said goodnight.

This was a productive day that started with Crow and I going to Guitar Center for direct injection boxes. He wanted to be able to have a solid DI signal for the three guitar in case we wanted to screw with their sounds down the road.

Back at the studio, he and I went on a tone quest so that his guitar rig would be ready to go. We also set up a U87 five feet out from the kick to get more rromy, mid-rangey sound. Also, Crow set up a couple more room mics for options. When we all got back together, it was jam time. We tracked versions of "Get Back To The Quiet," "Haste To Mobilize," "Records and Tapes" and Fakin' The Sound." It was a good night and we all felt comfy in the recording scenario. No phones, guide vox, bullshit. Live, practice space, rock band.

We jumped right in with some "Golden Wheel." Sounded great. I think we tracked a few takes of "Just Want To Get You Alone" and "Fakin the Sound." We spent some time rehearsing "You've Got Your Rivals" which is one of Chan's newest. It hasn't seen as much time on the practice field as most of the other pkayers. We also lit up a few takes of "Root and Branch" but decided to revisit it Thursday. Last of the night was a "She Saw A Rainbow" and it was decided to visit it Thursday as well. All in all, a great night in the studio. One of our most productive, ever.

Epiphany and Setback. I walk in and the MCI won't stay on. Something is wrong with the power supply. Damn! We rehearse the songs and spend a little time on "Rainbow" then call it.


After a few days of inactivity due to the MCI's illness, Hough brought the board back to life and we reconvened after I got off work. We dove straight in to a faster, peppier version of "Back To The Quiet." Good decision on our behalves. We then got keepers of "Root and Branch" and "You've Got Your Rivals." The last to get tackled that night was "She Saw A Rainbow." We got through a whole take but decided to come back to it the next night. At this point we had basics for everything except "She Saw A Rainbow" which is awesome!

We reconvene between 9 and 10 and get right after "Rainbow." After a few tries we got a solid take. It had been decided to use a click and I think it helped tremendously. Since we had ironed out the structure, we were able to float through it by memory. While the click stiffened things up a bit and some of the ebb and flow that we were used to was smoothed over, I think it ultimately strengthened the track. While Chan and Ned weren't sold at the end of the night, I was.

Channing and I returned to the studio to punch anything that needed fixing. I had a couple punched to do, mainly "The Golden Wheel." Chan may have only fixed one song too. The general feel was, "that's fine" or "that's great, leave it."

Hole in the Wall gig.

Channing recorded vocals for "Fakin the Sound" and one other song.

I did scratch vocals for all of my tunes so there would be a reference for any work the guys did/do while I'm in NC.

Tuesday (many months later)
Tracked vocals for "Haste To Mobilize" and "Because of You."

Crow rhythm guitar to "Because Of You" recorded.

*The All Music Guide doesn't have me listed as a member of the fucking band. Nor does it have me credited for writing my songs on "Dial T." Whoever writes that stuff is an idiot. The internet is full of holes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Solo set #2 Club DeVille 2/11/10

The second solo set I did at Club Deville went pretty well. Unfortunately, it was another crappy night of weather. Despite the low turnout, there was a nice group of people at the show. Collin Herring had a great set. His song are interesting and he's a terrific singer and guitar player. My set looked something like:

Leave It All Day
Root and Branch
Nine Years
Impossible To Turn Away
Because Of You
Cashing in The Dish
Paper Rock Scissors
Paid The Way
Drop Me A Line
I Can't Help You
Hard Luck Woman
On Your Own
Haste To Mobilize
The Angels' Share
Pining For Verona

Monday, February 15, 2010

Luling and Lockhart: Quest to Qualify a Quartet of BBQ Queens

On Friday February 12 (coincidentally the 45th anniversary of our parents' first date), my sister Emily and I went on a road trip to Luling and Lockhart to eat BBQ. My intention in recounting our adventure here is not to provide some authoritative ranking but to simply let y'all know what the two of us found that day. Also, I know there are at least two restaurants we did not visit (Chisolm Trail Icehouse & BBQ, Luling BBQ). For that, I apologize and promise I will go next time. The priority was to expose my sister to neighboring BBQ joints that excel in conveying what is possibly Texas' finest tradition.

Population: 5,080

We decided to start our trip by heading down I-35 to San Marcos and taking Highway 20 to Luling. It seemed to be the quickest way to get the adventure started. We had coffee for the car ride and had intentionally eaten nothing before we left the house. On the way out the door I grabbed last year's Texas Monthly's Texas BBQ issue so that Emily could get a better handle on the scope of the subject. Being from North Carolina, she is no stranger to the intensity with which people handle, consume, live, and breathe BBQ. (The irony was not lost on either of us that in that issue of Texas Monthly, Snow's BBQ of Lexington, TX was named #1. She and I have known for most of our lives that the Lexington in North Carolina is the BBQ capital. Now all of a sudden the Lexington in Texas is the best. Come on, Texas Monthly.) During previous visits to Austin, Emily has eaten at the Salt Lick, Opie's in Spicewood, and Cooper's in Llano (our favorite). These trips opened up her world to Texas BBQ stylings yet were only a fraction of the joints worth seeking. Though these previous experiences were quite spaced out and only partially introduced her to the intricacies of Texas-style BBQ, she was a pro by the end of this day.

Despite the large amount of cars and trucks parked in front of the restaurant, the main dining room wasn't packed when we got to Luling City Market (LCM). As the digital clock on the wall struck 12:30, we entered the meat room in the back right corner of the restaurant after only standing in line for a minute. Once the door shut behind us, Emily understood that we were somewhere special. I know that every time I am greeted by the (typically geriatric) person standing patiently behind a counter, scale and cash register, I get pretty excited. This person has a similar role to that of a bartender. They are between you and what you want and you have to deal with them to get what you want. And if you know what you want and how to order it, you'll be in great shape.

With breakfast forwent, we had accrued a mighty hunger that made us dive in with wild abandon once we picked a seat in City Market's secondary room. Fortunately, Emily had the presence of mind to call a halt to the feedback session so that we didn't ruin ourselves for the
rest of the adventure. This being said, Emily was blown away by the ribs. Upon her first bite,

she was OMGing all over the place. She liked that there wasn't a heavy spice rub or any sort of sauce slathered all over the ribs, delivering nothing but the taste of the perfectly smoked pork each time. The sauce was terrific, having a South Carolina mustardy quality that I did not expect. With the excellent brisket, I made my ceremonial half-sandwich with onions and sauce, each bite followed with a jalapeno chaser. I did this being well aware that ingesting bread would just prove to be filler on a day when stomach real estate was more precious than spiky hair and a sculpted goatee is to a Nu Metal bassist. The sausage was loosely packed and coarse, throwing a mouth party upon every bite. Despite all these kind words, somehow it wasn't as magical as it had been last summer when I ate there on the way to the beach. Emily and I were both disappointed by the "sweet tea" which was iced tea flavored with Nutrasweet and lemon juice. In actuality, it was probably just some crappy powdered mix. Anyway, the verdict was that the ribs and sauce were king at Luling City Market.

Lockhart, TX
Population: 11,615

Our second stop on this journey was Smitty's Market (SM) in downtown Lockhart, TX. I had been there many times and was quite thrilled to share the experience with Emily. An even more dramatic experience than standing in the smoker room at LCM, the open pit fire at the rear entrance of Smitty's caught Emily off-guard and immediately let her know we were amidst hallowed greatness. We had forgotten to find an ATM on the way to Smitty's and so as to not totally embarrass ourselves, we stepped back outside and assessed our cash situation. Cool. $29.00. That got us 1/4 lb of brisket, 2 links of sausage, 4 ribs, two jalapenos, sliced onion and sweet tea. Oh! The sweet tea! The best of the trip. A bonus for Emily was that they had the small pellet-style ice cubes. The sausage was incredible. Just perfect. It had a similar coarseness to LCM's sausage, but it was juicier and tasted even better, which I didn't think was possible! The ribs were totally different than those at LCM. There was definitely a sauce on them though only a light coating. Emily thought she tasted beer somewhere in there. Another difference here was that Smitty's ribs had more meat on them. The brisket was great but the pieces I got were cut a little too thick for my taste and I'm not sure if it's the reason, but the meat wasn't as tender as I had wished. At this point, we decided that Smitty's sausage and sweet tea were unbeatable. The last time I went to Smitty's I made this same assessment, which I think is a testament to their craft. Oh yeah. The sauce set out on the tables was basically hot sauce (ie Louisiana Red Dot, Texas Pete) and if one were to apply too much of it, it might ruin the experience.

Upon giving Emily a rundown of the day's itinerary as we barreled down I-35, we decided that Black's BBQ should be last joint we visit. This was borne out of concern that Black's sides and desserts would tempt and distract Emily, ultimately running the risk that these side dishes would gentrify what was left of her precious abdominal real estate and derail our motives. This meant that Kreuz Market (KM) was the third stop on our tour. The giant building at 619 N. Colorado is the tourbus friendly version of Smitty's, except it may be even more stripped down when it comes to what is offered. Regardless of its menu, Kreuz Market houses the newest and most spacious restrooms of the four temples and it was at this point in the trip that they came in most necessary!

The family lore that surrounds SM and KM looms large in Central TX BBQ history but when it comes down to the meat, the two speak for themselves. It was at this point in the day that Emily decided she cared only about pork ribs. While I understood her point of view, I couldn't enter KM and not also try the sausage and brisket. But wait! When we got to the scale, I was informed they were out of brisket.

"What? No moist beef with which to make my half-sandwich?"

Strike one.

"You mean to tell me in all those pits behind you there is no moist brisket. Whatever, man."

Thinking quickly on my feet, I heeded the advice of my friend (Andy Wilson) and chose to try a slice of the prime rib. We took one sausage link, two pork ribs, and one attractive slice of prime rib into the dining room where we got two cups of unsweetened tea (strike two) and groggily chose our seats.

One might think that at this point a person could lose perspective on the whole situation. I mean, four BBQ joints in one day? Really? I totally see that argument. In most cases, such skepticism would be a tenable position. Cue-buzz not withstanding, we ate so little at each restaurant that we had truly not overwhelmed ourselves and were pretty much still on point.

Emily dropped the first judgement by dissing the ribs. She didn't like them because they were covered with an pepper-heavy rub that got in the way of the flavor of the pork. I love pepper and I appreciate the whole spice rub thing, but I'm gonna side with her in that it was too

much. Perhaps if there had been more meat on the ribs then there would have been a better meat-to-rub ratio and it wouldn't have reminded me so strongly of beef jerky. The sausage was much different than LCM or SM in that it was finer and had a distinctly stronger flavor. Despite its finer consistency, the flavor of Kreuz's sausage wasn't as smooth and ended up not topping our lists. The real winner here was the prime rib (pictured, left). It was so moist, so tender and so flavorful that I couldn't stop eating it. The outside was just as tender as the rare-ish inside so I alternated bites between the outside and inside sections, marveling each time at how spectacular it was. Why had I never gotten this before? Andy was right! Even if they hadn't run out, there was no way that Kreuz brisket would have been more satisfying than their prime rib. I'm a changed man. So while it may seem that Kreuz Market was a letdown, the prime rib was stellar enough to take me back next time I go to Lockhart.

For our fourth and final stop, we slowly made the short drive over to Black's. While Emily got out and walked around, I chose to sit in the car for a few minutes and collect my thoughts. The cafeteria/buffet style line was confusing because so many things looked appealing but we knew we had to stay on track and not let our eyes do the ordering. Emily couldn't resist and got creamed corn and green beans, both of which turned out to be too garlicky for our tastes. They had deliciously sweet tea which became one of Black's saving graces because we ended up being none-too psyched about the meats. The pork ribs were kinda tough. The brisket was just fine. The sausage had a great flavor and had a similar coarseness to LCM's but the casing was a little tougher which brought it in at third place. Black's BBQ provided the most traditional BBQ sauce of the four joints, and one of the more enjoyable sauces I've had in Central Texas. When John Anderson's classically crappy "Swingin'" came ringing out over the stereo, the ambiance at Black's reached for the skies. Unfortunately for , the evaluation of the day's events was gonna put Smitty's in first place in the ambiance category. Emily was put off by the croakies-and-oakleys-wearin' white boy behind the counter at Black's, claiming that he kinda tainted the otherwise old school feel of the joint. While I agree with her, the big yellow and black billboards all over town have kind of led me to expect a little more cheesiness from Black's. Having learned a lot about Texas BBQ in just a few hours, Emily noticed this fellow's timidity when in a pinch he was forced to pick up the knife and cut some brisket. It's something like this that can effect a person's experience when going walking these sacred halls of grubdom. All I'm saying is that if they are going to cut the meat right in front of you, they better know what they're doing. They at least need to put on a convincing act. So, Black's had cool souvenir cups which Emily liked. I like the cup too, but I feel it puts Black's in a category with Rudy's or Stubb's where there seems to be some smoke-and-mirrors merchandise action that distracts the customer from what may be middle of the road BBQ. That's just me...

So, what a great day! I got to spend some excellent time with my sister and I ate some amazing food. If anyone says it can't be done, they're either lazy or lying. Going to four legendary BBQ joints in one afternoon not only can be done, it should be done.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Part Five: Nashville

Club Roar. Nashville, TN September 19-24, 2009.


“What’s the coffee sitch?”
“Looking good. Looking Good.”
“Isn’t this great?”
“I wonder if it has a lost and found.”
“Swell wonderment, old chap!”

Our new home. Where we were going to hole up amidst the wasps and get far out. Totally far out. We had all but dug latrines at our battle stations the night before and with the graceful accompaniment of our engineer and master technician Jesse Newport, we began our tone quest in earnest that morning.

We discussed starting with Daily Life. Good. Starting out with the blonde Bassman w/ 2x12 and the Gifson hollowbody with the scar. In my foam fort it sounds good and plunky. With a DI I think it’ll sound good.
Drums, bass, guitars done on Daily Life. Three takes, third one keeper.

Started work on Maid Of The Mist. Got it in two takes.
Timmy tele. Adelaide Watson on 12-string.
Done with Weight Of basics. Two takes. Take two best. Kunkel and Sklar keepers. Ric.
Did Your Mother Teach You That? Take two. Silver Ricky.
What Do You Live For? Quattro Formaggi. Rick Bassman, damn glad to meet you. Double tracked by 6:20. Din Din.

Until It Kills You. The fourth and the final was the keeper. No doubt. Rick Wakeman, bomber pilot.

Just Like Any Problem. RW, BP. Take whatever. 12:00.
Beat The Band. Two takes, second be the keeper. Bombs away.
drum, bass, vox, git fixers.
Dirty Windshield. Two takes, keep the second. Same.
She Takes Her Time. Mary Kay Bomber. Got drum + bass in four takes, last one keeper. 10:11.
Open Letter. Silver Ricky, Master of the Maestro Fuzz. Nobody plays piano in Athens, GA. Scarface and Vitamin jar. Five Takes. Festival Song. Three takes, #3 best. The Stripes. The Perks!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Part 4: Rim of the Chasm

(Note: Unfortunately it has been months since I've worked on this tour spiel. I hope I remember some details. I have some stuff written down from the tour, but not much.)

We got to Galion around 11pm and after dropping Mark and Aaron at the Stepro's, Tim and I checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Bucyrus. Despite the knowledge that looking for an alternative to Boone's Farming under the Bucyrus water tower with the town's three homeless guys at 11:30pm is a lost cause, the Horseshoe Bar provided a different yet equally depressing scene. Instead of music playing, the Blue Collar Comedy Show was blasting from the TV that was being ignored by the bartender and his four patrons. The patrons, 1 woman and 3 men, were engaged in an insult barrage that involved the guys ripping on the gal for being a whore. Awful. She claimed to have known the guys for 18 years told and us that "it's alright." If this in fact were true, that she hasn't escaped their abuse is a sign that maybe she now needs them as much as they need her. Sad. Tim had an Easton, I had a Michelob and a shot of Beam and we left after twenty minutes. Back to wifi and cable TV.

This was the portion of the trip where Tim, Aaron and I would be without cell phone service. For whatever reason, there is no AT&T service in Bucyrus. This was really annoying but in the grand scheme of things was fine, really. We had work to do and the more we removed ourselves from society, the better. We agreed to meet at Baker's Pizza at 2pm Monday to start

in earnest. It was very Let It Be/Twickenham in its cold, cinderblocky feel. That first day we got off to a slow start on account of some band having ripped off most of the club's PA gear when they played there a month before. Once they went out and bought new mics, mic stands, cables and speakers, everything worked great. We worked until 11pm and had gotten a substantial amount done. M & A went back to Galion and Tim and I settled for more cable and internet in the room. After our experience at the Horseshoe the night before, neither of us wanted to "go out."

The next day we drove to Galion to pick up the boys, got back to Baker's around 2pm and immediately started rehearsing. There was some great pre-production being done and we all seemed to feel good about the songs and their arrangements. So over the course of the two

days, we arranged and rehearsed all of the to-be-recorded songs and as a trial run for the new material we included them all in the set at Baker's that Tuesday night. In fact, we played two full sets of music at that Baker's gig. Porcupine and the new material makes 20 songs and then all the other stuff we do made probably 30 band tracks plus some Easton solo. There was a pretty good crowd assembled for a Tuesday night. Some strange man from Easton's

past bugged the shit out of everyone at the show and ended up annoying Tim so badly Tim fled the nuisance before we had even broken down our gear. Thinking Tim had left the venue for good, the freak ended up waiting for us in our hotel parking lot to "hang out" after the show. Absolutely no bueno. Aside from his crazy ass, it was a good night.

I must say that the folks at Baker's were very hospitable, generous and wonderful. They provided an invaluable service to our band, giving us the means to be as productive as we could be during the week leading up to our studio sessions. It was exactly what we needed, except for maybe portying with hookers and cocaine in a swank Chicago penthouse for five days, but whatever. These rehearsals allowed us to go into the studio in Nashville and crank shit out! Breck, Petra and everybody else's generosity will be indelibly stamped on the project. Our music is a transmission from the depths of the Buckeye.

The next day was spent casually working our way out of that Mid-Ohio quagmire. We were hauling ass southbound on some state highway until a detour caused us to have to backtrack and take an alternate route to Columbus. While there was quaintness in each small town we passed through, I was about done with quaint. I wanted to be able to use my expensive phone-puter and I wanted a decent meal. We were to play the Rhumba Room that night and we hoped it would be a doozy.

Easton rocked an interview on the Rhumba's back patio after loading into the club. He played a song whose title I can't remember but it's somewhere on film out there. There was a police car siren going off in the area during the end of the performance that was in tune with the song...pretty neat. Matt Hoover and ALT opened the show with solo performances of their songs. There was a crowd in the joint by the time the FB went on and that certainly inspired us to play a great show. It sounded great on stage and the concergoers were into the jams, especially the new ones. I got a little hammy-time and we crashed at Haley's late in the morning after reviewing the evening's events, etc... Much thanks to Haley, Christian, Bob, Angela, Dave and all the party people who came out to see the band. I told you I can play!

After some Yeah Me Too we hit the road for Louisville. This was a big show for me not only because I have always wanted to go to Louisviulle, but I was playing a show with my guitar hero Peter Buck! I met him backstage and he was really nice, as is everyone in Minus 5. We all discussed the new Beatles remasters and upon hearing Buck's opinion of them, I realized just how old the guy is. He was talking about having purchased some reissue series in the early seventies and comparing them to how the original pressing sounded. As a tremendous Beatles fan, this was beyond even me. There was also discussion of the pros and cons of bands playing yet-to-be-released material at shows and whether or not it is a screw to the audience. This was what we'd be doing with Easton's material that week and I likened it to REM having played their new album at Stubb's during SXSW a couple of years ago. Pete appreciated that.

The Louisville show was a little strange because the show took place in a church

basement/cafeteria and the greenroom was the former rectory. It all went fine I think. No, wait. The opening guy played too long and compromised our set length. Lame. When it was
all over, we tried to find some nightlife. Bardstown Road in Louisville seemed great but we had to wade through one crappy bar choice before we were able to find a good one. Cheap beer and good grub. It was the night Megadeth was on Jimmy Fallon. The metalhead bartender turned off the stereo so we could all listen to their performance, which was good. It was cool to see a metal band on network TV. Easton hustled pool and won a bunch of money off of an ex-bowhead and the frat boy meal ticket she carried around. After the bar, Easton bought us 40s with his pool shark earnings and we drank them in the parking lot of the junior high school where all the dudes from My Morning Jacket met in eighth grade. This left more than enough dough for Easton to put us up for two nights in some swank digs near the airport in Florence, KY. I don't remember the drive back to the hotel from Louisville because I was passed out on the back bench. Apparently, Mark drove us like a badass through a torrential downpour back to our KY palace. Hopefully during my next visit to Louisville I'll have enough time to visit the Will Oldham Birthplace and the quarry where Oldham shot the cover of Spiderland.

The next show was a Friday night in the upstairs lounge room of the Southgate House in Newport, KY. This meant that we had the whole next day to relax at the Hilton. I walked over to Cracker Barrel for a delicious lunch where I wrote some of this here tour spiel. Tim found me there and together we searched drove the streets in search of a coffeeshop and a store where Tim could buy an eyeglass repair kit. After this thoroughly exciting adventure, we went back to palace to chill for the whole afternoon!

During our stop through Columbus, Sam Brown had given us the entire Beatles Mono box set! Thanks, dude! Our suite had an entertainment interface port, so I hooked my computer up to it and we listened to these crisp remasters through the nice speakers on the room's huge flat screen television. We were newly inspired by tracks we had all but forgotten about. Specifically, "Anna" off of Please Please Me. So good. We also spent some time charting out "Nobody Plays Piano In Athens, GA" in preparation for our date in the studio. It is a cool piano based song that Easton says he wrote and recorded on the spot. The demo is good but, oh, what we did to it in the studio! More on that later...

Upon Easton's demand, we ignored the liephone and free-formed it over to Southgate House from the interstate, getting there just fine. Once you stray from the directions, who knows which gasket will blow? Actually, there's a good chance it'll be mine, but I'm working on that. Load-in up a bunch a stairs, soundcheck, dinner across the street near the aquarium, opening set by the Billy Catfish Orchestra (dude with a guitar and a bubble machine). We had a great set and the people that came out were so nice, attentive, and supportive!

We were playing most of the new songs and they all went over really well. I was having a sort of bass drop-out issue which kept my mind half out of the game but I suppose that's how it goes. Back to our KY Palace. The next day was our double header, time-zone changing, move into the studio day. Oh Billy, Billy, Billy. This is a biggie.

Not only did we have to be in Lexington for our performance at an Oktoberfest celebration under a tent at 2 or 3 pm, but we had to get to a radio interview by noon. One of us lost his phone before we even left the hotel so we spent an extra thirty minutes tearing the van apart finding only that we had left Tim's merch at the Southgate House the night before. Sweet. As we bail on the phone and merch and jump on the interstate, the kettle started pressurizing as we began to see steam coming out of a couple Barons's ears. Then it happened. Twenty minutes down the road traffic comes to a standstill. Total standstill with nary an exit in sight. Trapped, late, hungry, tired, having to run off into the woods on the side of the interstate to pee and finding the van locked and your bandmates and the people in the surrounding cars howling with laughter when you come back...

it all came down right there. Sometimes in life and on the road, the moment comes where all of your problems are intensified making it seem like it's all gonna fall apart. Well, I reckon sometimes it does fall apart. Thankfully for the Barons and the rest of the planet, the world didn't end and we made it to Lexington. Yeah, we had to call the radio station and cancel our appearance. Yeah, the world probably did end for the poor soul who was driving that double tractor/trailer that crashed and spread its mangled fusilage all over southbound I-75. Yeah, our bandmate found his phone in his man-purse while we were sitting there idling on the highway. Yeah, we made it to our tented gig in a church parking lot. I tell you what though, Mountain Dew and Bratwurst have never tasted so good together as they did that day. So as to burn up the road towards Nashville, we broke down our gear and loaded the van as Tim finished up the set with some acoustic numbers. Got paid and splitsville.

I drove us to Nashville, listening to the Jicks and enjoying the beautiful state of Kentucky in a lovely afternoon sunshine. Our load-in at the Cannery was early-ish so there was no time to spare and thankfully we didn't run into much traffic. Though at one point when the other guys were asleep, we did come to a dead stop on the Blue Grass Parkway. I was in quiet disbelief that this could happen to us twice in one day but not ten minutes later, we were past the wreckage that had occurred on the other side of the highway. Rubberneck traffic was all.

We made it to Nashville right on time and loaded straight into the club, with some leftover heated tempers from the trying day. Our load-in/soundcheck was compromised by Buddy Miller who was using the stage to rehearse his band full of Nashville session fags. Acting a total stage hog, Miller stopped his crap with enough time before doors to let us set up our gear and realize how uncomfortable the scene was. I used the rented bass rig...some Trace Elliot bullshit that had PGPA written all over it. I felt like a wet cat up there. We soon found out that the monitor engineer was a complete idiot who on what must have been his first day at work, was given control of one of the most powerful sound systems in town. Bad bad bad. If you haven't been to the Cannery, it's a huge building. Really cavernous. And this worried us a little. It only accentuated the fact that we were playing so early that when doors opened, the only thing in the room other than crew members wearing fingerless gloves and Ziljian sweatpants were the restless ghosts of food packing employees from the late 1800's.

Thankfully, by the time we went onstage, a crowd had assembled and the show seemed to go off without a hitch. Maybe there were hitches, I don't remember. I just know that it was not a cut-loose last show of the tour. Before the last band had even finished playing, we were loaded into the studio over in Berryhill where we were going to record one of the best albums I have ever heard. Tim, Fredley (who happened to be in town), and I went by the Basement to see a show but it was packed, the cover was steep, and it had been a long day so Jim headed off to his hotel and Tim and I went back to Club Roar. We found Aaron and Mark absorbing the studio/warehouse vibrations (playing tunes on piano and guitar). For the next day, our first day of tracking, we had planned a twelve hour day. Jump right in. We were ready.

Solo Set at Club DeVille, 1/28/10

Last week I played a solo set of music on the indoor stage at Club Deville. Big thanks to the folks who came out to hear me! Gettin' up there and playing and singing is such a weird deal and I don't quite know how to explain why. I believe it was the fourth time I've gotten on a stage by myself and played my songs for people. From February 18 to March 13 at the Hyde Park Thater, my friend Joey Hood will perform a one-man play entitled The Athiest. I will go see this performance realize that what I do is easy! But I can only assume that as with many things, it gets easier the more you do it. And next week (February 11) at Club Deville, I will be performing another set of (mostly) originals. While last week I opened for Miranda Brown's new duo Basketball, next week I will be opening for a fellow named Collin Herring. We have not played a show together but I think it will be a fun night. I am particularly excited about it because my sister will be in attendance!

Last week's set was good because I played old Grand Champeen songs, yet to be released Grand Champeen songs, songs from my unreleased solo album and a couple of songs that are homeless. Here's the set:

Paper Rock Scissors (incomplete soundcheck aka I screwed it up)
Paid The Way
Drop Me A Line
Repeat the Answers
Cashing in the Dimes
Nine Years
I Am The Walrus
Flash In The Pan
On Your Own
Because of You
Haste To Mobilize
I Can't Help You
Color Me Impressed
Mighta Got Caught
Root and Branch
Pining For Verona

I'm gonna change up the set for next week. Play some different Champeen songs, different covers and another homeless tune. The tracks from the upcoming albums by both Grand Champeen and me will remain on the list. I guess I don't want to deliver the exact same performance. That's boring. Anyways, I have enough songs to where I don't need to.

Since my last post, I have started playing in Beaty Wilson's group Excited States which has been fun. I'm playing bass, Beaty's on guitar and Andy is on drums. I always liked his songs in Fivehead and those that I've heard in his projects since Fivehead was a fully functioning band. We've got about 8 songs floating around the practice space and hope to have more soon. I hope that we'll play a set sometime during SXSW.

I have also started playing with John Voskamp of Peglegasus and Ye Olde Castletons notoriety. He came to me with the idea of playing instrumental tunes as a happy hour group with him on guitar and his cousin Nate on an Ace-Tone keyboard. We got together once and it sounded cool. There's some potential there for sure.

I have also been jamming with George Duron. For that rock, we're playing songs I've written that are more on the aggressive side of rock. I want to mix Polvo, Drive Like Jehu, the Sea and Cake and Sonic Youth and I have 20+ songs that fall into that category. More to come in that department.

Hope to see y'all out next Thursday at Club Deville!

Getting Started

I have no idea where I left off and I didn't bother to look.

I do know that it's 7:40am and all I have to do is write, listen to Leatherbag, and drink the wonderful coffee sitting next to me. I purchased some beans roasted by Independence Coffee Co. and I have been quite pleased with them. I had been buying Ruta Maya beans for awhile and have been satisfied with them too, but I noticed they're kinda expensive and started to look for something else to try. So I went for another local brand and I recommend it. Two others I also want to enjoy at home are Cuvee and Owl Tree, both of which I've tasted and enjoyed outside of my control environment (home).

My most recent coffee-related mind melt was when I had a cup of Intelligentsia coffee at Frank. This coffee isn't roasted in Austin but it is incredibly delicious and I've been thinking about it everyday for a week. While extremely impressed with what I tasted, I think I'm onto what Frank's got going on. The quality of the beans, how they're roasted, which village they come from, whether the poor Columbian dude gets paid well or not for his crop, and other related farm-to-market efforts are factors that I believe are important when it comes to a cup of Joe. However, in the past 17 months of working on my album at Jim Fredley's house, I witnessed and executed one of the most important aspects of the cup of coffee: the brewing.

For a long time, I believed that the French press method created a superior cup of coffee. This is after I realized that regular drip coffee, while convenient and often tasty, had limitations to the beauty it can yield. But after dabbling in the world of French pressing, laziness soon led me back to drip and was soon unsatisfied by what I was drinking. When I again accepted that drip coffee has some major flaws, I started ordering the Americano (and still often do) and this turned my world on its ear. I started appreciating the espresso roast in a way I hadn't ever before (lattes, mocha lattes, etc...) and I started to appreciate a single cup versus a bottomless cup of drip. Because of the many variables of a coffeeshop's drip-delivery system, I have my doubts that any of them can deliver a crisper, hotter, tastier cup of drip than they can a cup of Americano.

Anyway, what I learned at Fredley's was a more labor intensive method of brewing yet one that yields a damn fine cup of joe. And like much of the finer things in life, Rome wasn't built in a day. So I went to Frank and they brew their coffee the same way we had been doing it at Jim's for over a year. And when I tasted that coffee, I knew that I had the answer. So now I have to go find the correct tools so I can make such wonder cups at home. I'm not gonna describe the simple process... you're gonna have to go to Frank and check it out for yourself. And grab some great food while you're there.