Results tagged “Rob Hooper” from Guy's Blog

The Last Blog of 2009

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It's Monday after Christmas and I am once again to be found at Austin's Saxon Pub. The wife and babe are still making rounds touching family around Texas, but this leg of our Yule tour I have been left at home as there is no room for boys at my wife's grandmother's house. To explain, in true Texas settler fashion, all the girls sleep in the bed. So here I am.

 

     On stage is Matt the Electrician, Scrappy Jud, Sela and John Green and a bass player who has yet to be named. Bob Schneider, who normally holds court here on Monday is absent, but his band is still on the bill so it's "anything can happen night". Sela comes by with the tip jar and smiles hello as the band drops deep into a reggae favored groove with Scrappy's fingers dancing over all. All four of the players I named I have known for over ten years, first saw Scrappy in 90, my first year in Austin. On January 10 I will have lived here for 20 years. Even with all that time this has been a year of firsts.

 

     The Christmas shows we did with Carolyn Wonderland were the first time she and I worked together that wasn't either her or me sitting in with each others band. But not, Goddess willing, the last, as it was great. Christmas music is something that we all share and we all get sick of it at some point. Luckily, we had our shows early in the season while few but the hardest hearts were armored to the old songs. Between Carolyn and me we found some songs that pushed the boundaries of the usual and the band (a mix of both hers and mine) sounded holy. Check out our version of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) on iTunes. All the money goes to help the families at Ft. Hood.

 

      I hope you got what you wanted for Christmas, and I can say that without secretly hoping you didn't because we did! We got to play at Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble in Woodstock New York! Our trip to NYC turned into walk in the woods where the big bears play.

 

My buddy, Cary Wallum, brought Kris Kristofferson and while we were all on stage singing 'The Weight', he turned to me and complemented one of the songs we sang in our set. I could have wet my pants! Levon (not singing but never playing better) held up Rob Hooper's hand after the last song and I have never seen Rob look younger. The Ramble's music director and guitar player is Larry Campbell and he is my master now. I have seen a lot of guitar in my time but I have never seen anyone better and it was the same, tune after tune, electric, acoustic, fiddle all musical and perfect. Like a week of steak dinners. And all the people were as open and full of music as they should be. Amen.

It's quiet here by the open window, just the familiar sound of wheels and gears on a suspension bridge that can be seen through the trees. Rob stirs first and I woke to hear him rummaging around in the kitchen for coffee. We are staying at a guesthouse/apartment outside of Fredericia, Denmark, a clean, friendly space that has a coke and candy machine that dispenses beer as well as cough drops. If this was Holland perhaps there would be hash joints in it as well, but has several different rooms, two toilets and a nice shower as well as the Internet that I send this out on so it is a fine place for a band to spend the night.

This is the end run of our Euro tour that fell right on the heels of a Midwest tour so we have been gone most of this month and we are starting to show it. All of us miss home and the ones we love and even as the band gets tighter and tighter we seem to be getting tired of the wonder of travel, hotels and convenience stores having an underlying similarity all over the world. Still, I grew up in a family in the travel business and very early on discovered my love of seeing the world. I have joked from stage that one of the best things about being a traveling musician is getting to travel and I think that is true. How else could someone get to see so many sides of the world from behind closed doors? Doors that open in response to the music are often doors that money will not budge, at least not the type of money I've seen. If the music is there, people will be very open with the musicians, and we have been entertained with some capital dinners and witnessed some awesome vistas. Here are some snapshots of our trip in Belgium, Holland and Denmark.


Homeward Bound

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I'm typing with my thumbs in the back seat of the van as we are making our best speed back to Austin and home. Rob Hooper is at the wheel (or rather "The Laser" as he maintains we should call him) with Ian Pierce riding shotgun. From time to time the GPS system will make some comment in her English accent and both Rob and Ian will scream "You're drunk!" at the top of their lungs. Time and experience has taught us not to trust the GPS.

Willy Landin sleeps in the middle bench seat, a dusting of sandwich crumbs on his chest. We are all exhausted, and ready to go home and get laid.
   
A great tour, the East showing herself off, wrapped in her most seductive weather, our friends back in Texas responding to our stories of New England sweater summers with naked hate.

A few highlights... FitzGerald's American Music Fest in Chicago where I got to play with John Mooney, who has been a musical hero of mine for years. The Rabbit Hash General Store playing on the banks of the Ohio on a trailer bed lit with suspended hook lights while barges sailed on by behind us and drinking the local moonshine. Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg where the stage was an art deco subway car, breakfast in NYC at Mud, my favorite place to start a day. Prowling through a tiny poetry bookstore just off the Harvard campus. And always seeing you, America. You are epic, you contain multitudes, you never disappoint.

Old and New

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This last week was one of those weeks that I will hold close and finger in my pocket. The Kerrville Folk-festival is in full swing as I write this, and If you like a good song try to get there before it closes. Try to spend the night, as the real stuff goes down at the campfire scene. I saw The Fireants play together with The Belleville Outfit on a bill with The Limelighters. I had Limelighters records that belonged to my Mom and Dad and The Fireants performed before us at their own high school graduation party. I guess I'm middle aged, and it's nice to see long story arcs and great starts.  I can use it, been a hard time around here with the passing of Steven Bruton, who remains one of Texas's Best.  He was someone who I have long admired and heard his guitar playing before I ever knew his name. He also almost knocked me out with a "breakaway" 2X4 that failed to break away while filming a fight for a TV show.  He was a good man who set a high bar.

     
Last Thursday we scored The General at the Paramount and sold it out, just about the most fun I have ever had. If you missed it, we are already looking at touring the show, I will let you know. I had the dream team, Will and Rob with Oliver Steck, John Doyle and Wammo and it seemed like we could do no wrong. The Paramount was shining like the Grand Dame she is, I am in love.

    
What can we get into next?


Tonight I had the pleasure of being at the Lone Star Music Awards down at Gruene Hall, Texas music Mecca. I was up for an award but the talent spilling out from the different categories was thick and hungry; it was good to be in that crowd.

In the Austin Music Awards that kick off SXSW (South by Southwest if you're not from around here) I didn't win, but placed in ELEVEN categories, and that feels better than a single win. Thanks to everyone who voted no matter who you voted for.

I heard recently that Texas has the most independent music in the country and I don't doubt it. Lots of wide open spaces, border influence and "I can do it myself, thank you very much" makes for the most interesting storied sonic frontier that I have found in this wonderfully diverse world and I am glad to have found a place here to stand.

Both Rob Hooper and Will Landin placed in the Drums and Bass categories in the Austin Music Awards, and we have been hard at work with new songs and arrangements. We are experimenting on unsuspecting audiences already, come on out and let us know what you think!

Austin Rocks!

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What a wild weekend in Austin, Texas. I am so lucky to get to do this for a living, and I hope not a day goes by without me realizing that. On Friday the 13th I played at the Saxon Pub with my deadly band and the cream of the Asylum Street Spankers as the Hot Nut Riveters! Wammo on washboard and harp, Nevada Neuman on National Steel guitar, Charlie King on mandolin, Rob Hooper on drums and Cajon, Willie Landin on Sousaphone and washtub bass, everyone sings their asses off. What a joyful noise. The theme of the night was "The Sacred and the Profane" so we mixed old time gospel with hard blues and just plain old "blue" songs, so we scratched our itch from both above and below.

Thanks to everyone who came to the show (and all the shows this weekend) because, and this is a secret, musicians feed on you. Not just the food we buy with whatever we make at the door or from the tip jar, but rather the spirit that you bring with you when you walk in the room. that is what makes live music so magic. It is something that is made fresh, out of the ingredients in the room, and I find who is sitting in the front row is just as important as who is on the stage. This is another reason that I love Austin; even though the audiences here have seen it all (hundreds of shows a week, hell, more than that every Saturday night) if you give it up so do they.

This Saturday was Lamberts for our "Love and Lust" review featuring one of my favorite incendiary acoustic duos The Finer Things featuring bandleader and fiddler Sick and burlesque terpsichorean and uke jockey Raina aka Lady Bangs. Love songs, sex songs, heart break songs in mixed order were the order of the day and the room was full of lovers or at least people willing to take a running jump at it.

Sunday morning at Maria's Tacos, Hippy Church! South Austin's finest turn out for tacos and Bloody Marys and it's the Hot Nut Riveters again, this timie with an all gospel set list with folks dancing on the tables. My good friend Christina Marrs brought her brand new son to see his first show, what an honor. Later that same night, Willie, Rob and I played Leeann Atherton's South Austin Barn Dance, a back yard party thrown on a Sunday every month close to the full moon. Hollywood can reach for it but will never have the soul of this truly organic throng. Austin Rocks!

Maelstrom

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We are heading North on I-55 on the way to Chicago in a light rain. Ian is our wheel man for the drive, Ry Cooder and Ali Farke Toure talk Timbuktu on the iPod and Willy and Nina sleep in the back. the windshield wipers come in and out of time to the music and I balance my laptop on my thighs and reach out to your computer monitor. Hi, from the American music highway.

Rob Hooper is taking a break from the Trio and we welcome back Nina "The Crusha" Singh to the drum stool. I played with her for a couple of years back just after the turn of the century and she helped write a number of the songs from Love Songs: For and Agains so it is a fine feeling of coming home to play with her again. The summer tour season is coming to a close and I am excited to get to wait under the song tree at home for new stories to sing. I wonder if I will be able to hear anything at all over the din of the elections.

It is important to listen, of course. But it is equally important to keep your own center when being exposed to so many people's attempts to control your responses through the media. Everyone has an agenda, and everyone will be trying to guess what the right thing to say will be to get you to vote the way that they want you to. That's our system; a better one has not been devised that I know of, but if you hear of one, do tell.

So, as we descend into the maelstrom, keep your ears open to all news, but take everything with a grain of salt. Lots of things will be said, some might even be true, but don't trust anyone to do your homework for you. As an American, your system only works as well as you do. I hope we all do our best work this winter.

Of course, a real maelstrom, hurricane Ike is coming ashore at Galveston even as I type this. Le (my wife, a middle school theatre teacher) says they let school out at 1pm in Austin because of the wave of traffic coming into town from the coast. Everyone in the van has been calling home to check up on anyone in the path; it looks like it's gonna be a badone. I wish I was home so I could do something to help,maybe go and round up a few players to go to one of the shelters and sing for the folks who have left so much behind. I hope everyone can reach out to those in need. that is what this country is for, helping our neighbors. Good luck to all of us.

Home Stretch

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     This is the home stretch; we are on I-70 bound to St. Louis, to BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups, one of our favorite venues from last January's tour. It is strange and fun to see the same places we last saw framed in the depths of winter now recast in summer's haze. Although we do stay in some fine hotels we also sometimes end up on floors and couches. Last January we all recall the wind whistling through old houses, thin blankets and ice and snow. Now, it's all sweat stains and no AC. Like always, touring is about extremes.

     The best of the tour is up to debate, here in the van; Chicago American Music Fest at Fitzgerald's, Ottawa Blues Festival on the inside stage at the Canadian War Museum, the second night in NYC at The Rodeo Bar, taping a live show for XM radio in the swamp that is our nation's capital. Ont he other side of the scale is Williamsport, where nobody told the sound man that we were coming (despite our picture in the window), or last night's show in Terre Haute, where we played for about five hard core music lovers and against 50 or so drunk college kids. The music was good, the band kicked ass (as they always do), but the music was just another kind of noise to drink and breed by.

     I think about this a lot. Without the endorsement of mass media, music (or any art) must compete with all other input, which includes all advertising. To the unprepared, uneducated and undefended mind, the tools of advertisers are well tuned to play upon our most vulnerable instincts. Self image, sexual repsonses, and desire are all manipulated to maxim effect with a surgeon's precision. Some of the best minds of our generation work over time to create desire, invoke a response, and get you to spend your money on whatever product paid them to pimp. Over time, in order to survive in this environment, we must develop a filter to protect us from this constant assault. Any art that you come into contact with must also deal with this filter, and I would like to think that the message that we are trying to communicate in our music is more complicated than a deodorant ad or beer commercial. And I don't want to have to tell you that you're stinky or need to get people drunk to get laid.

     When we were monkeys living in the wild (and we were monkeys, still are, and God loves monkeys) in order to survive we depended on our senses to warn us of danger and to help us find food and other monkeys. The finer our senses were the better the chance we would survive. Now, if we are open to our environment and respond to all stimuli we encounter, we quickly spend all available money and end up living under an off ramp. We depend on our ability to discern what is good for us and what's not. But the media gets louder and louder, and we find its reach expanding every day, flashing lights at little monkeys, flat screens over urinals, computerized calls to cell phones, ads everywhere you can look. So, for millions of years we have honed our senses, but no longer! Now our survival depends on our filter, what will we allow ourselves to see?

On the Road

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Already passing through Dallas, we left Austin at 8 and it is now 11:11 AM. I have given up the wheel to Rob Hooper, Beat-master and mighty thread leg of the three legged monster of a Band. On the Road, Kerouac and Nelson sing harmony as we burn some of the first of less than a half of the oil the monkeys get to play with. Rob hooks his iPod up to Skeletor's sound system (that's the name of our road chariot) and through the cassette tape CD adapter it pipes out piano jazz and now The Who's first sounds. Our July tour starts tonight in Memphis.

 

This is a state of the art of DIY rock and roll road show, American music in its natural habitat. Morale is good, still have a few of my Wife's(!) chocolate chip cookies that the band reveres, but the conversation hinges on the $100 cap on the gas pump credit card purchase. Bands who would have made a good living (for a musician) at $2.00 a gallon find the price of go juice comes out of their coffee money. The Band of Heathens (heard 'em yet?) had to replace the engine in Colin's sprinter, which could mean a month of work for nothing but the glory.

 

Is it Glory? Some big shoes to fill here. All of us in the van (including new road manager Lauralea) fell so hard for music we were willing to give up the comfort and security of home to chase the ecstatic rapture that we tasted at some live show in our past, something powerful enough to still have us in its claws. All rock and roll posturing aside, and that is a lof of posturing, let's be clear: Brittany Spears drinks for a reason; the music has got to be good or this is a waste of time. Gather around chillen', we are called by a higher power to act as the Instruments of Love.

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