Monday, August 17, 2009

The Return to Phish

(Concert/Music Review)

Herbie Hancock eased me out of the car and into the past. Okay, not a bad start. I felt like I was 10 years younger, but it didn't take long for old man Morse to creep back in: my friends found it funny and typical that I sported dark jeans and penguin embroidered socks on a blistering summer day. I found it funny as well, until 15 minutes into the parking lot scene I wanted to shoot myself for being a stubborn douchebag. I pressed on and found my safe temperature at 160 degrees. Trey would have wanted it this way.

As I wandered around I reveled in the presence of the old schoolers, drifters, hippies and scumbags. Obviously the economy affects the drug culture as well because the balloons were much smaller than I remember from years past. There certainly were younger people and first timers here, but I would say that a ton in attendance had seen Phish before. I can't quite say why I enjoyed this observation, but it may have something to do with me being a sucker for nostalgia and as much as things change in life, there are some things that will always stay the same, and Phish shows seem to be one of them.

Some things overheard that interested me, or were just repeated over and over and over:

Who's got my mollies?
Got the chocolate.
Who's got my Hartford ticket?
I'll buy that shirt from you for $50. (idiot talking to a kid who had a rare Dead shirt on) Kid's incredibly delayed and confused response: $55.
Where is Shakedown Street?
I only have $6 dollars to buy a ticket with. (He didn't get the ticket)


Sample in a Jar kicked off thousands of tweakers, stoners and partyers twirling, tippy-toeing around each other, and monster-mashing on invisible broken glass. There is something exotic, unbalanced, entertaining and comforting about thousands of white people dancing together. It was awesome.

Young Dan from Connecticut slithered over and introduced himself to me and asked if I've seen Phish, and if so, what years? I responded 1994/1995ish; he suddenly found himself in the presence of a guru, and said longingly, "Man I wish I was around for the 90's. I was like 7 years old. It seemed so different". Hell yes Dan, it was different-lovely, fun, and if I remembered anything I would have spun a few for him but I have Matt Kasten to guide me through the Phish years myself. If I told Dan I used to get the old Phish newsletter (Doniac Schvice) mailed to my house he surely would have forked over every dose, nugget and pill in his possession, and friendly Dan would have danced off into the hazy smoke saturated sunset.

I could have cared less that Dinner and a Movie was a rare tune they play. I'm not in it for bragging rights. Play Harry Hood or die. My friend, My Friend and Possum were super great along with David Bowie and Bathtub Gin, but a lull for me was the contiguous trio of Farmhouse, Sugar Shack and Brian and Robert.

Brendan's new best friend

Sugar Shack is apparently a new tune that from my opinion did not go over so well with the crowd. I commented to Matt that he will be telling me 10 years from now that I was there for Sugar Shack at Darien and it was a special moment and people would be jealous and sweating and twittering at the thought of being present. He says no way, but I say it's inevitable. Sugar Shack will be a cult classic for no fucking reason at all.

On being a grumpy, sober and aging fan.

Mistake #1. I snuck off during Golgi Apparatus to beat the crowd to the bathroom before the end of the first set. I snaked my way through the jagged ebb and flow of the crowd. I was outmatched, swallowed and spit out near the bathroom. Afterwords, I pulled up a piece of pavement where I could stretch out and decided that I would leave the show. I was sunstroked, tired and not looking forward to fighting my way to the car. It was a great first set and I swam in the past long enough. Looking back at this moment, I wish I had been drunk and stoned and not thinking b/c mistakes were clearly made.

Okay, I'll go find my friends and see what happens, I don't want to miss anything anyways, right? The sun was setting, smoke was ripe and the crowd was jittery and I couldn't find anyone. I wandered and texted, but to no avail: darkness fell and the second set started on a nice note, so I stood in between two lazy marionettes while a sniper invaded our space from stage left every other minute or so. He seemed to be doing some cockeyed figure 8. Fucking annoying so I continued to wander looking for friends. Nope.

Mistake #2. At this point I was ready. It was 4th song of 2nd set (Rift) and I like the song, but really? Do I need to stick around and deal with this shit any longer? As I lurched through the crowd again an amazing occurrence happened from person to person: everyone knew the lyrics and were singing: "And silence contagious in moments like these...". Boy, girl, tenor, soprano, burnout, drunk...It was pretty cool to hear the song that way.

Speaking of hearing things: I was probably the only sober moron within 200 miles of Darien Lake. Back in the day you would hear stories about so and so going to a show sober for the 'ultimate' experience. Fuck you and fuck you too. I will say that if in a different setting, say, in an auditorium it would be amazing, but I do not recommend anyone going to a show sober because sadly, the crowd is just too much for our kind. Still fun, but get as fucked up as possible otherwise you start thinking and posturing about life and next thing you know you leave the show early wondering what the fuck is wrong with you. I digress:

Now I'm in the clear and near sprinting to my car. Through rows and rows and rows. Where the fuck is my car?! Silent in the Morning is playing and I really enjoy the end of the tune, but it's nice: I get to listen to it by myself in the misty, lonely and littered parking lot. I would have loved the moment if I wasn't so panic stricken that I couldn't find my car. Sparkle is playing now. Great. This is all for nothing b/c I won't get out any sooner than if I would have stayed in the show. The fatal blow: Run Like an Antelope started.

I had two requests prior to the show: Do not play anything remotely close to Tweezer or I will cut myself on cue, and please, please play Antelope. (I was reminded that I was at the infamous 'Freezer' show at Canandaigua where they basically played it the entire 2nd set and this is probably where my deep seated hatred for the song comes from) At any rate, I still can't find my piece of shit car, Antelope is playing and that fucker over there is still eating his corn-on-the-cob. I am going over my tracks. Antelope is blooming and... there it is! Phew. I slowly leave listening to Antelope wishing I wasn't such a skirt. Wishing I was sleeping. Wishing I was in the show. Wishing I was young...

I am listening to the show as I write this and I heard I missed Fluffhead which is near tragic, but I didn't know they played First Tube as the closer. If I couldn't hear Antelope, well at least give me First Tube or Hood-I SWEAR on Trey's life. I totally suck. It's funny that I hated this band for so long (probably swore them off right after that 'Tweezer' show) and about a year ago I got my jones back and will probably see them again if Trey doesn't melt down beforehand.
Special thanks to Matt for reminding me of our Phish history. I tend to forget what I did yesterday and certainly forgot about the 'Tweezer' show and Doniac Schvice. And to everyone else that was present: Brendan, Jay, Chris, Andre, Jen, Heather, Kelly and Sarah, it was a blast and a few pics should be up soon!

On to another reunion tour: Sunny Day Real Estate,


Sunday, May 17, 2009


(Concert/Music Reviews)

I Know No Pardon had an enormous influence on me when I started writing songs and it is the only reason I went to see Vetiver last night. And as I listen to it now, it is as beautiful as when I first heard it. They made me wait a long time to hear it though, what with 2 openers and starting late. That was expected as evidenced by the inconspicuous, untraceable venue. It was so fucking hip I am reluctant to give away the location for fear that the plaided up-headband wearing-mustached hipster Gestapo will come a callin'.

It was worth it. They were tight and covered a great Townes Van Zandt tune: Standin'. A pattern that has not gone unnoticed: bands that cover Townes + hipsters, minus a card game = my general location.

About to go on a serious Gillian Welch bender,


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Goodbye Fox; Goodbye Crow


Dear mother,

The waters have grown black and deep and something wicked underneath stirs. Things have grown ugly and a storm is gathering at the edge of the world. The fox took heavy to spirits and seems to be falling apart rapidly. I couldn't take it any longer, and you were right, I should have never kept company with the crow. He was caught cheating an angry parliament of great horned owls. Only the crow would try such a move. He found himself in a 5 card stud marathon and couldn't help himself. They chewed off his left wing behind the towering red barn.

Can you imagine? Me underneath a howling moon threading a pine needle with a spider web, wondering where I went wrong? I tried like hell to sew a playing card (jack of diamonds) to the crow's body in place of his wing, but my efforts were no match for the river of blood. I tell you he had a good heart mother, but that wasn't enough for him; it's never enough for them. He died in my arms as the fox stumbled around muttering incomprehensible maxims. I left that muttering sonofabitch to his own devices.

I picked up a new blade at the country store and passed along your words to Jonas Steer. He's sending for you in a week. As for now I'm off to see a spider in the pines. Wish me luck.



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cats and Birds

Praying for birds

Tifft Nature Preserve

Sizing Up Another Year



Dearest mother,

I've been so busy with the end of the semester I haven't had the time to pen you. But school is tapering off like the winter's last snow and now I sit ready to pass the days in a sluggish torpor. I tell you mother, this business of card playing is some sort of devil. It has been a full 365 days and over 1,000 hrs. and like we thought, we are not rich, but we are not broke, and I suppose that is more than most in these curious times. Self destruction has pinned herself to my sleeve every once and a while, but don't you know, I've found ways to whisk her away like cigarette smoke? She comes scratching late in the evening and sometimes I curl up like I've seen a ghost, sweating, turning and tossing, but sometimes we waltz into the purple morning hours, carrying on like old lovers and rattling our old bones. However, we know it will never be, so I open the window and let her disappear into the world.

You might be surprised to hear that I have moved on from strictly playing Hold'em. The beauty of variation! I am getting to a comfortable spot in most games. I've learned and lost and won and studied. At the moment I am playing online in a cash game rotation of 8 of following games, 6 hands of each:

2-7 limit triple draw
Limit Hold'em
Limit Omaha H/L
Limit Stud
Limit Stud H/L
No Limit Hold'Em
Pot Limit Omaha

I do okay. The rotation has rekindled my spirit and thirst for no limit cash games as the past year I have focused primarily on learning the mixed limit games. I've really taken to Limit Stud H/L, mother. I don't play in many tournaments, but my only 1st place finish was in Stud H/L over the past year. Also came in 2nd in one as well. So I have been thinking about the World Series of Poker Stud H/L event. If I can go on a run here I may make a trip to mecca, but that is most likely not to happen because of school.

What do you think: do we have another year in us? I feel pretty good I must say. Taking care of school and getting outside and playing music and writing keeps me somewhat balanced. No worse than before anyways. There is this business about graduation at the end of the summer though, so I'll have to be moving on soon. We will be in touch, but for now give my love to all.

From the other side of the world,


Monday, March 16, 2009

Dust Bowl Gansters

(Concert/Music Reviews)

My crippled bankroll needed a breather this weekend, and although I recently saw them in Rochester, I decided to go to The Felice Brothers show. Taylor Hollingsworth opened up for them and I was pleasantly surprised by his solo performance. Although his young voice conjures the ghost of Daniel Johnston, his writing is spangled with very profound and beautifully absurd lyrics.

Ian Felice strikes me as a modern day vaudevillian tweaker. I say that with artistic love. He rocks, sways and winces like a marionette attached to the dusty wild west. Any band that has more than one mustache rules, and Christmas, the dice throwing bass player is obviously goddamn pimp.

I envy their rowdy and drinking ways on stage, but hope I don't read about a canceled tour due to 'exhaustion'...

With a shifting focus,


Sunday, March 8, 2009

You are not lonely, nor are you alone



We are friends, no?

The rotund Jew with milky blue eyes, hooded by worried brows looked at me and explained his position "I didn't feel good and if I stayed home I would lay around and just eat." I sipped my coffee and contemplated why I was there. The William Burroughs look-alike pursed his lips and said, "My wife died 3 years ago." The pock marked Italian chirped, "This place is like a bar, you see all the regulars here like you would at a bar." I couldn't agree with him more. It is a way to be close to people without letting them in. Once they get in, they rummage around and see how messy, insecure, dreamy, lovely and foggy your life really is.

Excuse me, why am I here? "I am a card player sir, and my car broke down near the edge of town and I am just looking to get some coin to get back on the road. I have a lady the next town over waiting for me. We plan on moving to the country as soon as I get fixed up real proper, sir. Three tens? I have aces over eights, you win again."

Affectionately yours,


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Lonely Librarian


The Kiss of Death

I am approaching the year long mark of my reintroduction to poker. I thought I might have written much more on the subject, but I must say that I have been hesitant to go in-depth with the whole thing. I think it's time to play catch up with the topic. One of the points of this blog was to address some of these issues, but I can't help but feel incredibly self conscious about the experience. People generally have a distrust or preconceived picture of what kind of 'folk' we are. Degenerate, swindler-type-snake-oil-salesmen. I don't define my existence as a poker player, so why the guilt? (Although I did name the blog in accordance with the lifestyle)Might you label me childish and morally unkempt? Well, I have to get over that b/c even though I don't define myself as such, I take it pretty fucking serious nonetheless. Maybe it's my seriousness that I feel foolish about...Do I really think I can make it as a player? At any moment I could stop playing-the money could run out-the game ends. I already feel the game approaching the end as it is. The name of the blog would then be changed to The Failed Librarian or The Recreational Aging Musician or no, I got it: The Surrealist Librarian. I think I like that better, anyways...What does that say about the amount of energy I have shoveled into this locomotive? Could the energy have been better placed, such as relationships, creativity, grad school, etc? Perhaps, but right now I am having toooo much fun alone and lonely in Buffalo. Kenmore, NY to be exact.

With psychological wanderlust,


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

M. Ward Buffalo, NY

What's worse: A roomful of douche bag poker players or a teeming room of hipsters? At any rate, it was my first show in Buffalo and I was looking forward to seeing how Matt was live. He can't be going that bad can he? He's kind of like the darling of the indie-world, right? Why then, did he rip his backing band from the local blues-joint open mic? No chemistry, looked like it was their first show together and the sound was not helping their cause. As for Matt, I really think he has good material but I was worried how his incredibly-over-processed-voice was going to hold up in a live setting. Not so well. There were points in the show when you could hear his 'true' voice and it isn't that bad. Maybe I should quickly explain: on his studio albums he adds a bunch of effects to his voice to sound hip. Not necessary. So during the show it was hard to hear what he was singing/speaking and I actually liked his natural voice that slipped out once and a while. Having said that I really enjoyed Post-War, Chinese Translation and Undertaker. I would have liked to have heard Hi-Fi, but ah, weeell. I enjoyed his vacant but totally in control stare that he donned the entire show as well. He knows what he is doing and that is why I was so thrown off by his band...If I were drunk or stoned I probably would have been more impressed that Oakley Hall joined him on stage, but it just didn't add too much to the overall show.

(Side note: I need to combat a previous entry in the WILCO review where I claimed that I hate music and musicians. I realize that I am a musician and I include my own artistic self-hatred in that statement. I generally love everything about music-sometimes it's just so fucking self-righteous. I get really turned off by it, and in turn stop playing it, stop listening to it, etc. I think I was coming off of a 24 month bender where I was totally immersed in The Alpine Black, so I just stopped practicing and writing. Just burned out on it. When I wrote that entry I was deep in the valley. Luckily for me and unluckily for my neighbors, the embers are glowing once again)

With busy fingers and clanging vocal folds,


Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Quiet Walk

It has been a long time since taking the night deep into the morning. That old-time feeling of courting the sunrise and counting the minutes. Feeling the hunger come creeping in, slow and steady...The 5 am walk outside: cold, refreshing and incredibly still. Peeling off the layers of the night as it ebbs and flows; the black sky massages the moon into a silent bottomless sleep.

Ever yours,


Monday, February 2, 2009

A Quiet Drive

I like driving over the second bridge at night. After a win, or after a loss. Approaching the slow blinking red lights at the top of the bridge makes the world seem afloat-makes the world seem slow and penetrable. The snow curling around the long metal cables disappear like plumes of old dusty smoke. Here I feel small, but here I feel the natural order of things. Knowing the bridge connects a lonely divide, where underneath the heartbeat of a sleeping, frozen lake swooshes in and out, waiting for the thaw.

And my car climbs the quiet small of the night: flooding the bridge with tears of youth, flooding my youth with tears of age.

Balancing on the edge of nothingness,