More Disjointed Thoughts

September 2019 album progress update 

I've been working hard in the studio, supported by Patrick Himes and a rotating cast of other Dayton musicians.  I've already mentioned that I have a split album coming out on Local Music Day.  I have five songs on that compact disc.  That left 20 songs.

20 is a lot of songs.  From that group, I've decided not to do any tracking at the moment on 3 of them.  I either want to give more consideration to the arrangement (looking at you, "Podiacide") or try to improve the lyrics (this means you, "Let's Go"), or perhaps even do a complete re-write (this could be you, "Rock Show").  Ok.  20 minus 3 is 17.  

This is the group of songs from which I will attempt to put together an album that will take you, the potential listener, on an adventure.  Some of them are finished... mixed and everything.  Some of them have drums and bass tracked, but need the rest of the instruments.  Just three of them are still waiting on me to record a bassline.

I won't pretend to know when I'll have this ready for release... but it certainly won't be this year.  More updates to come.

Restaurant Review - Le Potager de Charlotte, Paris 

I have a vegan sister-in-law.  As a present to her, I made reservations at Le Potager de Charlotte when we went to Paris in the spring.  Note that I am definitely NOT vegan... but this place is fantastic, and even if you are an omnivore, if you happen to be in Paris, I recommend you stop by.

First, it's a family run restaurant.  There are two of them... one is in the 17th arrondisement, and the other is in the 9th.  One of the co-owners greeted us at the door and was also our server.  I like to support small businesses, especially the kind where the folks who own the place put so much work and energy into their restaurant.

Second, the food is outstanding.  Here, have a look at the menu. Note that some things on the menu change, based on what kind of vegetation happens to be fresh and in season. 

I started with the chickpea and rice crêpes.  (A side note to the folks at Le Potager de Charlotte... I'm an anglophone, and personally, I think it sounds strange to call these "pancakes".  Sure, they're thicker than your normal French crêpes, but I feel that your English-speaking customers know what a crêpe is without needing to translate it.  Just my opinion.)  You can see a picture of this starter on their website.  That cashew cream filling... wow.  It tasted fatty and cheesy, and the espelette powder on it added just a small background spiciness.  This was outstanding.  As you can see in the picture, it was served on some mixed salad.  No complaints about this course.  For my second course, I had another entrée, the avocado.  This is where I wish I had taken a picture.  It was basically a riff on a hard-boiled egg... but this is a vegan place, so the avocado was standing in for the solidified egg white.  The substance that made up the "yolk" was a deep yellow color, no doubt due to turmeric... and also a creamy and fatty mouth feel... see, this is the challenge with vegan food to me... how to make up for the taste and texture requirements where animal-based fats traditionally exist in a recipe.  These folks were super successful doing so.

I had small tastes of what my wife and her sister had ordered.  One of them got soup.  It was good, but could have used more salt. I forget what the other one got... suffice it to say that every bite I had was delicious.  Again, let me repeat... I am NOT vegan.

As for dessert... well, the description doesn't do it justice.  The picture doesn't either, but here it is anyway:

 

 

Coconut whipped cream... and the texture was fantastic.  Roasted hazelnuts.  Beautiful flowers (yes, I ate them).  Chocolate powder.  Under all of that stuff was this substance that strongly resembled chocolate mousse... turns out they make that with avocado... they need the fat for the right texture... but you couldn't taste avocado, it tasted like chocolate mousse.  This dessert was delicate and flavorful, and I would eat it again any day.

Wonderful food aside, let me tell a brief story about our arrival experience in order to show just how great the folks were here.  The day we had this reservation was our first day in the country, and I made the reservation at a normal French dinner time (read: very late for your average American) in order to force us all to be awake and active all day so we could sleep well that first night and beat the jet lag.  Well, through no fault of my own, we were running quite late to dinner.  No worries, I called the restaurant and told them that we would be late.  See, the restaurants are small, so if someone misses a reservation, that costs them money... they combat this by charging your credit card if you don't show up.  Well, when I called from the phone of the apartment we had rented, I managed to call the wrong location.  They are a small enough business that they could handle this... the very nice lady who I talked to said she would pass the message along.

Fast forward.  We are late, and we take Métro line 12 to Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.  Now, I've been to Paris many times, and know my way around some parts of town very very well... well enough that on more than one occasion, I have been able to give directions to actual French people.  This part of town is not one of the ones I know.  I had never been to this Métro station, nor had I been to this part of the 9th.  When we exit the Métro... chaos.  It's one of those odd French intersections where multiple roads converge in a less-than-logical fashion.  On top of that, there is construction.  On top of that, the street signage leaves much to be desired.  We get lost.  I am not often lost in Paris, so this was frustrating.  We wander one way, and when that clearly is wrong, we wander another way... and then I decide to wander into a local hotel to ask for directions.  The folks in the hotel are not familiar with this restaurant, and are also not familiar with the street it is on... but I was able to point out to them on one of their hotel tourist maps where I thought it was, and they were able to tell us how to walk in that direction.  Ok, finally headed the right way... and from that point, it's only about 15 minutes to get to the place.  We get there, and we are so late... very much later than we had possibly foreseen.  We're so late that they have locked the front door, as they're not letting any more folks into the restaurant.. However, upon seeing us, they open the door and ask if I am Mike.  I say that I am and explain that we got terribly lost getting there on foot, and profusely apologize in the most respectful French I could summon.  The very kind co-owner gentleman who I mentioned before lets a sigh of relief and immediately shows us to the table that had been reserved for us.  We received a fantastically warm welcome.

To sum up... food outstanding, service outstanding, experience unforgettable, you should go here if ever you are in Paris.

 

Ohio Spotlight - Mondolux 

Loud as a jet engine being fired up, while also dropping incredibly catchy earworms.  That was Mondolux.

I saw them many times... at Canal Street Tavern, at El Diablo (anyone remember that spot), in a tiny room upstairs at Southgate House.  They were my first live experience with punk-adjacent music.  I say "punk-adjacent" because the songs were generally hooky rock and roll with all kinds of pop sensibilities... just played really really loud and usually rather fast.  Also, recently, I was watching a video of The Clash playing live, and recognized many of the musician stances and mannerisms as something I had seen at Mondolux shows... these guys must have loved The Clash.

Alas, this band is no more... and you can't find a great deal of their music online.  Here is one of my favorite of their songs, called "Memphis Lung".  What's not to like here?  This one has a nifty little swagger to it, a fantastic groove, and Eric Purtle's charisma comes across just fine in this recording... but that's nothing compared to what it was like to see them do this live.

Here's a video taken from one of their live shows.

 

 

This song is "TJ Swann", and is on their last album.  A pop song.  Catchy, with the volume cranked.  That was Mondolux.

CD Baby's DIY Musician Conference 

Straight talk, a few days before this conference, I really didn't want to go.  I was tired.  Mentally and emotionally tired.  However, I already made the plans, and had already taken vacation days from my corporate job, so yeah, I went.


This year's DIY Musician Conference sponsored by CD Baby was held in Austin, Texas.  The dates were 16 to 18 August.  This was my third conference, and by far the hottest... because it is crazy hot in Texas in August.  

I won't go on a lengthy description of the delicious brisket I had there, as that's another blog post.  I won't talk about the migas breakfast tacos, either.  I had a very interesting cultural experience watching people sing Russian karaoke, but maybe we'll save that for another blog post as well.  Let's keep this one focused on music stuff.

When I say "music stuff", I mean the work.  Writing music and lyrics is work of course, but that's enjoyable work.  Recording is work, but that's also enjoyable work.  There is a great deal of other business stuff that has to be done when you're an independent artist though... these are the things I was there to learn, and these are the things that make a very long to-do list for me going forward.

A nice benefit of this conference is being surrounded by a bunch of other musicians from all over the world.  Many genres.  Many languages.  Different points in their careers.  Making those personal connections is something that helps me get through the weekend without being wilted by social anxiety (as opposed to just being wilted by the Texas heat).  Now, I met dozens of interesting people over the weekend, and had many interesting conversations... but let me tell you about two specific people whose company I enjoyed.

First, Jessica.  She sat next to me during the first session on Friday morning.  That first day is tough, especially if you're like me and you don't like crowds.  In this case, my neighbor was even more anxious than me possibly, as this was her first conference.  It turns out that Jessica is a pianist from Los Angeles.  I would describe her as very much like a shorter version of Fiona Apple... well, that was until I looked up Fiona Apple's height, and they're probably about the same stature-wise.  At any rate, think piano-based pop music with interesting lyrics, and a beautiful voice.  Jessica performs as Bellorage.  You can listen to her music here. 

We were treated to a Bellorage performance at the post-show music shindig.  It was great. That part at 3:19 of "Terribly Lovely" gave me goosebumps when I saw it live.

 

 

 

Ok, so a second story about a person.  At the conference, they have these tables set up to help all of us anxious musicians to break the ice and start conversations.  There is a line of tables that each has a sign based on a region... Austin, New York, Midwest, South, West, Europe, Canada, etc.  There is another line of tables broken up by music genre... hip hop, country, edm, pop, rock, etc.  So, I head to the rock table.  When I mention that I am from Dayton, Ohio, someone points to this other fella and says "he's from Dayton as well"... the other fella had "Austin" on his badge, so I was skeptical.  Turns out he is from Dayton, but moved to Austin for his music career a couple of year ago.  Since we're from the same area, I figured I'd tell him specifically that I grew up in Xenia.  He says "dude, I'm from Yellow Springs".  Yes, we're both from the same county, and don't meet until a music conference in Austin.

His name is Brandon, and he's in Westerly Station.  What's more, he and his wife happened to be in Ohio last week, where they went on WYSO to talk about their music with Juliet on Wednesday night, then they stopped by Reel Love Recording Company on Thursday to do some tracking with me.  You'll be hearing some sweet mandolin that Brandon played before the end of the fall. 

In summary, an enjoyable conference, despite the work.  I hope to attend again next year.

Ohio Spotlight - Local Music Day is November 9th 

Welcome to a very special edition of the Ohio Spotlight.  November 9th is Local Music Day in Dayton.  This idea comes from Daryl (Derl) Robbins, who you might know from such bands as the widely-praised Motel Beds,  and corporate lackeys Company Man

Why is Local Music Day special?  Here's Derl's explanation from the event's official website:

What it is 

Think of it like record store day but instead of you buying that one Eagles record again, you’ll be buying exclusive releases from local artists made especially for this event. You need this. 

There will also be bands. Stay tuned.

 

That sounds good to me.   I am pleased to be able to participate in this event, alongside several other local artists.

Would you like to know what releases will be exclusively available beginning on November 9th?  Well, click right here for the list.

if you live within an easy drive of Dayton, why not head down to Yellow Cab (on 4th Street downtown) for Local Music Day?  You'll be able to discover some great music, all made by hard-working local musicians.  As you can see on the page describing the releases, some are available on compact disc, some on cassette, and some on vinyl.  Sure, I would love it if you would pick up the split album that contains some of my songs,but even if that doesn't interest you, this will be a nice community event... and surely you will find something to enjoy.  Personally, I am looking forward to getting my hands on that Me & Mountains disc.  I already have the Human Cannonball album on compact disc, but hey, it is being issued on vinyl for the first time, so if you don't have it yet, or happen to collect vinyl, that's something you should definitely buy.

 

Restaurant Review - Kengo, Toledo Ohio 

With the caveat that I've never been to Japan, please be aware that the best sushi I have ever had can be found in Toledo, Ohio... at Kengo

This is a small restaurant in downtown Toledo, run by Kengo Kato.  When I say small, I mean small.  There are only 23 seats here.  Only 5 of those seats are available for reservations (more details on that later).  If you stop by and it is full - and it often is - you write your name and party size on a green chalkboard and you wait in a line off to the side.  While you wait, you can enjoy some excellent cocktails, beer, wine, sake, or other beverage of your choice.  Once you get seated, the fun truly begins.

Kengo told me on one visit that he and the kitchen staff arrive each day at noon.  The restaurant opens at 5:00.  What are they doing with that time?  All kinds of prep... breaking down fish, meat, vegetables... preparing sauces and accompaniments... planning the menu... see, the menu changes daily, based on what ingredients are fresh and based on what Chef Kengo feels like serving.

Let's say you want to be assured of a seat.  In that case, you should make an omakase reservation.  The Internet tells me that "omakase" means "I'll leave it up to you" in Japanese.  If you make this reservation, you get to sit at one of the 5 seats at the sushi bar, right in front of Kengo's work space.  You'll be eating the specific menu that he has planned for you, in a specific order.  I recently had this experience.  Let me show you what my visit was like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first course was described as "cold dashi egg tofu".  It was essentially a custard -and may have been made out of either egg or silken tofu, based on the texture - covered in dashi.  That's a shrimp sitting on top there.  Course two was a salad.  Arugula, radish, and pomegranate arils, tossed in a pretty classic vinaigrette, topped with smoked Muscovy Duck breast.  I asked, they smoke the breast themselves.  That third course is fried soft-shell crab, and it was every bit as fantastic as you think it was.

After these appetizer-type courses, it was time for the yakitori portion of our meal.

 

 

 

 

 

These were assorted delicious things cooked over fire, speared with a stick, then placed on a nice wood board.  Chicken thigh, shiitake mushroom, chicken meatballs, pork belly... togarashi on the side of the board.  These were all delicious.  It seems like it would be easy for a chicken meatball to be dry... but these were not.

After this, sushi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluefin Otoro.  Hamachi.  Salmon.  Skipjack.  Madai, with some pickled daikon and chili on top.  Uni wrapped in some seaweed.  WAGYU.

Kengo seasoned all of these before presenting them to us with the correct amount of their house made soy sauce.  After taking a picture, I picked up each piece with the best tools I own - my fingers - and popped them into my mouth.  

 

One more course.  A roll.  Tuna, pickled daikon, green onion.  Simple, delicious.  This was it:

 

Understandably, this is a very popular restaurant in Toledo.  Every time I have visited, the place has been full.  On my first couple of visits, I ended up waiting in that line I mentioned earlier... from now on, I think I'll go with the omakase option.  You get right up close to Kengo and his sous chefs as they work, and you get to have some nice conversation with them.  Also, every time I have visited, they run out of something... yes, they get enough traffic that they sell out of a few of their menu options during the course of the day.  If you decide to visit, and you opt to not try the omakase, I recommend you get there as close to their 5:00 opening time as possible.

If perchance you wish for a second opinion, here's a newspaper article from the Toledo Blade.

Summary:  Kengo and all of his staff members are warm and friendly.  They work very hard.  They clearly take pride in their craft, using high quality ingredients, and then executing well.  They cheerfully shout a Japanese greeting whenever someone walks into the restaurant, and shout a Japanese farewell when they exit.  I always look forward to my next visit, and strongly recommend Kengo to anyone who even remotely likes sushi.

 

 

 

 

Music as a Time Machine - Part 3 

 

Elbow - Asleep in the Back

I talked about my most recent live experience with Elbow in a previous blog post.  This is the album that got me hooked on them.

A coworker of mine turned me on to this album in 2001.  This was one of the five compact discs I took with me on my spring 2002 trip to France.  The trip was mostly for a friend's wedding, but I managed to move around a bit while I was in Europe... I had a nice trip out to Chamonix for a couple of days, and also dropped by Bruxelles and Bruges.

I spent plenty of time alone with my thoughts and this record playing in my headphones.  On long train trips... on a lift up a mountain... strolling through the forest a short distance from the Arve.  Really, every time I hear these songs, my brief visit to the Alps comes rushing back.  My favorite track on this album was "Newborn"... and today it is probably a tie between "Newborn" and "Scattered Black and Whites".  Guy Garvey's way of painting a picture, evoking an emotion, harnessing a mood with his lyrics... that's a skill I am attempting to develop.

 

 

Songwriting Story - "Every Last Time Is like the First"  

The first time I saw La Joconde was 1999.  (English speakers generally know her by a different name.)  She was small and dark, but out there in the open, and you could get as close to her as you wanted.  Things have changed... she is still small and dark, but is now protected by some thick glass and special lighting and a railing, and you can't get close anymore.

A couple of years later I wrote a song about her.  By this time, I had learned some rudimentary bass skills, and I wrote a lot of songs.  Most of them were garbage, and were discarded as such.  This one, I liked enough to actually type it and print it... and I wrote the chords on the sheet in pen.  The song didn't have a name at the time.  It disappeared.

Many many years later... in fact, I don't even remember when exactly... at least ten years had passed.... anyway, I was doing some cleaning, and I found this folded up piece of paper.  I unfolded it, and behold!  Lyrics.  Chords noted.  I didn't have a song title, and didn't even remember writing it... but I knew who it was about because I had included an inside joke for myself in the lyrics, calling her "mysteriously jocular", a play on words with her name.  There is only one person I would describe that way.

When I finally got around to making an album, I felt like this song had to be on it.  This is really what drove me to come up with a title.  Why is it called "Every Last Time Is like the First"?  Well, like the lyrics say, I have come around again and again, walking through those marble halls... and she's always there with that sly little smile, surrounded by dozens of people taking pictures with their flashes turned  off.  The last time I saw her was in April.  (This was the first time for my wife.)  I stayed at the back of the crowd, I had no reason to attempt to get close... I'll never be able to get as close as I did the first time I saw her.  But every last time I get some small measure of satisfaction from being back in her home, in her city.

 

 

Concert Memories - Chris Cornell in Paris at Elysée Montmartre 

This happened almost twenty years ago.  Mobile phones weren't ubiquitous.  No social media.  Cameras used actual film.  What follows is a verbatim excerpt from the travel journal I was keeping.  (To clarify, the "money problems" I mention are due to me leaving my wallet in a cab exactly one week prior.  I only had $15 US cash in there - which was not useful, as the currency one needed was francs - but I also had my bank card in there, and my plans to withdraw money from the ATM as needed took a big hit.  Also, at this point in the trip I was staying with some friends in Lyon, so had to travel to get to the show.)

 

***

MERCREDI le 27 Octobre 1999

 

11:04h  I'm up and preparing for the trip to Paris.  I am very much looking forward to the concert, I'll be able to forget about my money problems at least for a couple of hours.

19:29h At the concert.  Security temporarily confiscates my camera. It is like the Newport , but smaller, darker, no balcony.  I remember that Europeans don't mosh. I wish I had some cash on me, because this atmosphere is just screaming for a beer.  There is no opening act.  I met a guy on the crew.  Chris will play for ninety minutes.  I met some other Americans... girls from Wisconsin.  They had backstage passes... girls always get backstage passes.  The place is filling up... if it's not sold out, it sure is close.  This concert brought to us by OUI 102.3 FM, rock radio Paris.  They are doing a live TV appearance tomorrow on Canal+, according to the crew.

20:05h  The set list just got taped down.  

20:17h  It's on now....

Sunshower
Can't Change Me
Flutter Girl (key bass)
Mission (key bass)
Preaching...
Seasons (no keys 2 guitar)
When I'm Down
Pillow of Your Bones
Fell On.... (solo, for Kurt)
Moonchild
Sweet Euphoria  (for Paris, no drummer or bass)
Like Suicide
Follow My Way
-------
All Night Thing
Steel Rain

 

JEUDI le 28 Octobre 1999

 

07:29h  It's a six hour ride to Lyon, and I have to change trains in Dijon.  Hope that goes smoothly.  The good thing is that my railpass covers it.  I had expected to get more miles out of my railpass, but I have been rendered rather sedentary.  Last night's concert was great... the only thing that could have improved it would have been meeting Chris.  Chris kept up a good-natured banter with the crowd... in English.  Most of the younger crowd at the concert definitely understands English.  Highlights were the rockin' "Pillow of Your Bones", the crowd sing-along on "Fell On Black Days" and "Like Suicide", and the signature Chris Cornell scream/wail on "Steel Rain".  The crowd was very unfamiliar with the new songs, but they were very enthusiastic.  European concert goers don't heckle like their American counterparts.  And no moshing... everyone is in there all tight, and people kind of dance or headbang a little, but there isn't any real bodily contact.

***

 

So, those are the thoughts of the 21-year-old version of me.  Looking back, what a fantastic set.  Chris mentioned that he happened to be in that very building - Elysée Montmartre - when he got the news that Kurt Cobain had died, so he dedicated "Fell On Black Days" to Kurt.  He also remarked more than once that Paris is a very beautiful city, and dedicated "Sweet Euphoria" to the city and people of Paris.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I had been listening to the Euphoria Mourning album a great deal, so I was quite familiar with all of the new songs.  I would go on to eventually see Chris Cornell solo two more times... but this show topped them.  This is definitely one of the most memorable nights of music in my life.

Also, I miss Chris Cornell about as much as someone can miss a person who they have never met.

When you miss somebody 
You tell yourself a hundred thousand times 
Nobody ever lives forever 
So you give it one more try 
To wave goodbye, wave goodbye

Well said, Chris.  Well said.

Restaurant Review - Arrivaderci, Paris 5ième 

When I was in my early twenties, I stayed with a friend a couple of times in the 15th arrondisement in Paris.  Because I spent so much time in that part of town, I became familiar with an Italian restaurant there, and I would visit them on every return trip.  This was one of my go-to lunch spots in Paris.  I liked it because it was out of the path of the crowds of tourists... a normal neighborhood restaurant, and at no point had I ever seen any other Americans there.  It is, therefore, with just a little bit of sadness that I must admit this restaurant has been replaced.

On my spring trip to Paris, my corporate colleague Guido was kind enough to take the time to meet me for lunch one day near our apartment in the 14th.  (We ate at a Lebanese place, but that's a story for another blog entry.)  Guido lives in Paris, but he is Italian, from the north, near Lake Como.  I showed him a picture of the pizza I had consumed at the aforementioned Italian restaurant in the 15th.  Guido was disappointed in my selection.  He then recommended an alternative.  He said to go to Arrivaderci.  He's Italian.  I'm not.  He would know better.  

I dragged my wife and my in-laws with me to Arrivaderci on Thursday 11th April.  It's in the 5th.  We arrived near the end of lunch time, but managed to get there before the restaurant closed.  Upon entering, I was greeted with a hearty "Buon Giorno!".  I replied in kind, and then said that there were four of us in the best Italian I could manage.  Then, I immediately switched back to French and apologized for not speaking decent Italian.  

We were seated.  We were brought menus.  Dish names in Italian.  Descriptions in French.  Ok.  

I started with the salmon carpaccio.  THIS salmon carpaccio:

 

It was outstanding.  

The folks here take pride in their pizza, and an actual Italian told me that it was good, so I had to try it.  Mine looked like this:

 

Now, I've read about Neapolitan style pizza, mostly due to pizza enthusiast Keith Law.  This was my first experience with the real thing.  I had always wondered what the taste and texture was like when he would describe the center as being "wet"... well, now I know.  Also, LOOK at that char on the crust.  This was the best pizza I have ever had.  Not close.  So yeah, apologies to the folks in the 15th, but I won't be visiting you for pizza anymore.  This is my new favorite Italian restaurant in Paris.

We were there well after closing time, and we saw the staff leave one-by-one.  Some of them might head back to the restaurant for the dinner service, some of them perhaps had other jobs.  I apologized on our behalf for keeping them there well past when they would normally have closed up shop, began cleaning, and taken their afternoon rest.  Upon mentioning that I am a musician, Gaitano and Antonio immediately found my album and started streaming it on the restaurant speakers.  That was a very cool life moment.

I listened to the staff talk to each other... yes, all in Italian.  Antonio told me that the only ingredient they have in the place that is French (local) is the water... which comes out of the tap.  All of their ingredients, they import from Italy.  I totally understand why my colleague Guido comes here.  If he is feeling homesick, this has to be the spot.

There is no shortage of Italian restaurants in Paris.  There are surely hundreds and hundreds of places you can get pizza.  I strongly doubt you'll find a better one than here.  Outstanding food, very friendly staff.  I can't wait to go back.