It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's that I don't have any time to say it all. This past week has been a blur it seems like every night has ended with me looking at the clock on my computer and realizing that it's midnight or later.
Two nights ago, there was a random storm one night and hail started falling from the sky in large amounts. Although TG and I don't own a brand new car, we own a newer car with a sunroof and have no garage so for a frantic minute we found ourselves throwing an old comforter over the top of the car while being pelted by pea to marble-sized hail. It wasn't quite what I had wanted to happen at about midnight in order to induce some sleep, but nonetheless it was exciting given that we hadn't had any rain in a long time and rather needed some.
Another project that I've been dumping time into is the ongoing redesign of my music review section on this site. With some massive amounts of help from a good fellow where I work, we're turning it into a database-driven, PHP, dynamic site that's going to be really really cool when it's all done (and have a lot of added elements that the old site didn't have). Although I knew that I'd written a lot of reviews in the past 6 or so years, it really became even more apparent as I was working and editing them in different ways when going through this redesign. So yeah, that should be going by August.
I've also been fitting in a lot more time for reading lately, and although I haven't finished anything as of late, I'm close to finishing two books and should have them closed out (with a third well on its way) by the end of the long upcoming weekend. Oh yeah, 3-day weekend. Heck yeah.
This past weekend, the band travelled for our first show out of town in well over a year. When we were setting up shows to coincide with the release of some new material, we decided that we'd try to play several shows together in a period of a couple days, not only to maximize our exposure, but because it's easier to keep on playing shows rather than unload all our equipment, then reload it after only a couple days. A couple months back, we lined up three shows over the course of four days (sorta like the Magical Mini Tour Part 2), but an Omaha venue pulled the plug on our show there only 2 days beforehand so we were only left with two.
We played our show at Duffy's in Lincoln last week and it was one of the biggest crowds that I've personally ever seen at the place. It seems like par for the course at this point, but we had some technical difficulties and weren't completely satisfied with our set, but the crowd reaction was still quite good and we got lots of kind comments from people and sold a good portion of our CD EPs. It was a lot of fun and since it was the sixth time that we'd played the venue since our inception, I didn't find myself nervous at all before the show (something that usually happens). Instead, the venue is sort of starting to feel like a second home for me, and even with the aforementioned technical difficulties, the jitters stayed subsided.
Three nights later, we made our way to Des Moines, Iowa for a show at the Vaudeville Mews. I had personally never been to the venue to see a show, but had been told by several members of the band who had that it was a cool place and they were indeed right. Although a smidge on the small side, it was a long, thin bar with a balcony that was very neat in layout and had a nice sound system and monitors that were sharp. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a crowd for our show, and it just didn't seem like the ones that did attend the show were much into what we were doing. The relatives of a friend in the band who lived in Des Moines attended the show (and I thank them for that), and other than their hoots and hollers I simply couldn't get any sort of gauge in terms of how anyone was reacting to the music. As someone who creates music, art, and writing, that in and of itself has to be one of the more frustrating things. There is the actual act of the creation, which is visceral and as a process is fun and worth it, but the second part of all art is the reaction and it just seemed to be missing in large part.
In large part, the show seemed to be summed up by one drunk fellow who came up to me after our set and proclaimed that he'd only heard the last 5 minutes of our show, but that it was awesome. I jokingly told him that he missed stuff that was even better than what he'd heard and told him we had CDs, but upon saying those words he promptly looked at me like I had a large bleeding sore on my head and made a beeline back outside towards the beer garden. At that point, I looked around the venue and saw about thirty (about ten short of the amount that watched our set) people. Upon stepping outside, though, I was greeted with a completely packed beer garden, replete with many drunken revelers (two of which we were accosted by when loading our equipment) and a whole slew of meat market action.
At times in the past, I have ribbed on the Lincoln music scene for what I then felt was a lack of support of music that fell outside the boundaries of what would be considered typical "bar rock," but over the past two years of playing with Marianas, I will admit that I've been proven wrong time and time again. Our band isn't always the most hummable, and sometimes we're probably even a bit challenging, but the crowd that watched us perform at Duffy's last week (which was most likely in large part there to see hot up-and-comers Eagle*Seagull), as well as other crowds in the past couple years have made me really feel appreciated as a musician. Omaha gets a lot of press for its music scene, but I'd have to say that things are pretty vibrant just down the interstate as well. I'm not going to let the Des Moines show scare me away from wanting to get outside the hometown comfort zone, but the feedback and reaction that I got last week in Lincoln is way more than I ever thought I'd be getting when we first started tinkering around making music in the basement just over three years ago.
I've talked about it a couple times during the past couple months, but the Summering EP by Marianas is finally complete. It's kind of weird to think that we recorded the basic tracks for the EP clear back on a rainy night in February and almost four months later now we've finally reached a completion point. To say that we were more picky this time around would probably be a major understatement. Instead of rolling with one-take recordings on a ten-dollar microphone, we buckled down and focused a lot more on tones that we wanted to achieve and of course used a little bit nicer gear (we again ended up recording everything but the drums ourselves).
During the past four months there were breakthrough moments (guitar riffs pulled out of thin air and laid down to scorching effect, subtle orchestra bells accenting fragile breakdowns, etc) and conversely there were times where arguments went down and things were said and later apologized for. Whereas the first album was mostly about creating a bunch of tracks and then at some point realizing we had enough for an album to be created and completed, there was definitely more of a "work" feel this time while recording. Instead of having no clear goal in sight, there was a final product we were all looking to attain, and the process itself wasn't always smooth sailing. That said, I think we all (hopefully) learned things that will hopefully make things go much smoother the next time around.
And yet, the next batch of tracks are looking more and more like they could be completely different. For me, the release of the EP is somewhat bittersweet, because I feel like it's by far the best work that we've done to date (and the first work we've done as a full band), but once again our actual makeup as a band is going to change again very soon. Whereas we gained two members after the release of Onward + Upward, our excellent drummer Tom will be moving out-of-state in August and the group will find itself at a crossroads in terms of how we want to continue. We've already kicked around numerous ideas at this point, and the best one simply seems to be that we go back to our initial way of writing tracks that we used for our first release. Instead of setting a defined goal and trying to stick to it, it might just be a new time of exploration in which we again throw everything at the wall and see what sticks (so to speak).
At any rate, the Summering EP is easily the best set of tracks that we've ever done. There's a little bit of everything on the release, from pretty ambience to full-on maelstroms of sound (we rock out, as well as inwardly on this one). The four tracks run just over twenty-three minutes and even though I've listened to them more than enough times to be sick of hearing it, I'm still finding things in the songs that I enjoy. In true geek fashion, I was thinking about the review I would write for the EP while I was out mowing the lawn this evening, even going so far as pulling out all my favorite moments in my head for highlighting.
This was going to be a simple mention about the EP, but I guess that's what happens when you don't write much of anything for awhile and are feeling a bit reflective. Again, if you're interested in buying a copy, they're available (in three different hand-numbered designs) on our website.
After finishing up a short book a couple weeks back, I picked up How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce on a whim and finished it up in just under two weeks of commute-reading. To be very honest, I didn't know a lot about Bruce before reading this book, and while it gave some basic insight about his life and times, I still feel like I don't know a lot about him. The book was a quick, entertaining autobiography that just sort of ends during what seems like a rather difficult juncture in his life (he died at only age 40). I know there is a massive biography written by someone else about Bruce, but it seems like a little more than I want to tackle. Perhaps I'll just find some recordings of his different comedy sessions and see what those do for me first.
The other day while thrifting with TG, I ran across a book called Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders. I'd read about the (in)famous brothers while reading the absolutely awesome book Mongo, so I grabbed the book and figured it would be well worth the 50 cents I spent on it in order to get some more information on the two fellows and their severe packrat habits and possibly their background.
Instead, I got a book that was just as much about the uncle of author Franz Lidz as the Collyer brothers and not only were their psychological profiles mainly glossed over (and in some cases treated rather condescendingly, I felt), but the book had a rather horrible flow and just wasn't very engrossing at all. Easily one of the worst books I've read this year. It was one of those cases where I started reading the book, then got about 30 pages in and only continued reading because I thought it would get better. Then, when it didn't get better, I felt some sort of weird obligation to finish it anyway simply so I could add it to my list of books read this year. I suppose I have some sort of weird obsessive side myself for not giving up on it and setting it aside. It was rather frustrating, but fortunately it was only 150 or so pages long and took only 3 days of commute-reading to finish it. Sometimes I'm just not too smart...