Saturday, July 3, 2010

Safety, I Get. Something about the official approach hits a nerve

On the radio, they seem to be waiting with bated breath for the first death of the holiday. It is kind of macabre, the way every news report includes talk of how many hours we are into the July 4th weekend, how many predicted fatalities, how many died last year, what police are doing to keep you in line, how many drunks have been arrested, etc. I can't quite put my finger on what bothers me.

It does bother me that so many people think they have to go out and be idiots on the road. It also puzzles me that those appear t go unnoticed by law enforcement, except at road blocks if they get nailed for being drunk. I'd think the most effective road blocks would be right there where people drink. Most of the bars are close together in places where drunks typically drive through store windows and restaurants.

That is another unusual thing I notice about California--people regularly drive through the walls restaurants. I rarely recall this happening in other places I've lived. Maybe it is how things are laid out, but it doesn't seem so different than elsewhere. You have a better chance getting offed in a fast food joint by a speeding zombie than getting struck by lightening or winning the lotto in SoCal.

I can only hope that CA Highway Patrol and the media are disappointed. They sound as if they want fatalities so they can admonish the public and excuse further intrusive tactics. If I had no obligation to play, I think I'd not drive this weekend. Holiday crowds are not a thrill to me. Unless, of course, I'm on stage and the lunatics are there to hear us play. Then I am all for lunatics crowding in.

Did You Know

-that some detergents do not get your whites whiter than white

-that the hair on your legs moves to your nostrils and ears over time

-there is almost no way to dispose of rubbish, cleaning fluids, oil, or anything else in California

-well made corn liquor in the Blue Ridge Mountains is probably the best alcoholic beverage on earth

-bull sharks sometimes can tolerate fresh water and go up river in India and bite off arms

-some people try to make vegetarians of their pet dogs


First July 4 gig In Recent Memory

It is possible that I played somewhere on the 4th during my early band jam days, drinking and etc. days. Hopefully I didn't play naked. I do not remember.

Anyway, I do not remember ever playing a conscious 4th of July event. This year we play. I think I have the Star Spangled Banner down pat. It is still very difficult to pull it off clean on a 10 hole diatonic harp. I'll be using a Lee Oskar in G. And I do not intend to hop up or stylize the tune. I think doing the best I can to produce a reverent, possibly slightly dramatic, clean, clear rendition will convey the most respect and sincerity.

Keeping the words in mind as I play helps. And being conscious of what they mean. For years I paid little attention to the actual story being told, so it was just a bunch of empty words with a bit of imagery due to the bursting bombs and such. As per my previous rant, I think a great many in this country lost sight of, or never grasped, the importance of what was attempted when we broke ties with the Crown. The idea was to forbid the governing body from usurping rights and power from the individual to the greatest possible extent. Limited rights were granted to what has become known as "the public sector".

Excuse me while I barf. The terms "public sector" and "private sector" irk me because they imply something foreign to one who actually believes that rights are granted the government by the people, not the other way around, and that the only true economic sector, from the standpoint of producing wealth has nothing to do with government. The encroachment has been misguided. What happens is that dependence leads to more of the same. And allowing such concentration of power, and the advent of career politicians like the late Klansman democrat from W Virginia, has resulted in an unholy alliance between multinational corporate and economic interests and our government. It is not a case of one party being free of that and the other enmeshed. Both are enmeshed. That is why it is so hard to find reason and truth, as well as fidelity to the Constitution in the governing bodies.

They've sold people on the idea that without their control we're doomed, when the opposite is true. Such a ruse.

OK. So we are playing on the coast in an upscale neighborhood. A church of all places. I like that it is supposed to be a crowd of maybe 300. I also like that the band wanted me to play the anthem solo. That is a nice show of faith. Wasn't my idea.

We'll do at least two solid hours, with some interesting songs in there and a lot of good harmonies, if it goes like practice. Much of this falls heavily on guitar/vocalist K. He is definitely the kind of consistent front man that holds things together, and his vocals are outstanding. The other guitar and I rarely do anything the same way twice. It works out. There are a couple of songs L does that really suit her. I heard the original version of one and she does it better than the lady who put it on the map.

Most of the covers are ones I never heard, which is how I prefer it. Otherwise I get messed up with how the harp player fit in on the original. I find I do my part best without that influence. There are some songs I already knew, like Georgia. My favorite version of that is Willie's. K does it a little differently and does it well. C plays a tasty guitar on it and I do my thing without worrying about how well Mickey Raphael did it with Willie Nelson. He is one of my favorites for how he handles being a side man and back up player. Great solos too.

Anyway, I hope this year's celebration means something to people who believe in freedom, rather than being just a day to get drunk and be stupid, blindly following some media promoted stereotype of behavior. It is too bad that on the 4th and New Year's day people get ripped and act out not even knowing why. Plenty don't and I expect the Presbyterian Church orgy crowd to be somewhat sane. I've never been to a Presbyterian orgy, so this will be a first.

No telling, this may lead to becoming a staple on the holy roller circuit. If they pay, I'll play. This is definitely the best program we've put together since we started this group. You may laugh but I think I've got them talked into covering a song you won't believe; partly as a funny novelty, and partly because with our harmonies and instrumentals it may sound good. Inagodadavida, baby. Actually it means In the garden of Eden. It will not sound like the original, but it is doable. Cracks me up.

Between K, C, and L, there are few limits to what can be undertaken in the vocal realm. I mostly throw in a somewhat fake bass, merely producing a slightly lower range, blending sound, which fattens it up but definitely stays back in the mix. Very similar to how I play harp compliment sometimes--just float it in but don't step on the part that should be on top and the focus. I'm not very good as a vocalist, but I can't say no because I want to remain a part of the group. Being the harp player side man in a group is the easiest job in town.

Everyone has to know and do way more than I do. What I rely on is my instinct for blending and handling little instrumental breaks. Maybe everyone doesn't have that natural instinct, I don't know. I feel guilty for having the easiest job.

One thing for sure, this group has forced me to improve my playing considerably. It is the nature of the material, and the fact that it is acoustic. Thankfully there is a bit of effect on my mic to broaden the tone. Not like holding a mic and playing dirty through an amp, but it will make me far better at that when next I play with a more electric group. Or when I go back to Memphis and sit in with the old band.

It is good that I moved into this neighborhood. What are the odds you rent a place out in the sticks and have such talented neighbors right there on Ballistic Mountain?

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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
Like spring on a summer's day


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