Sunday, May 10, 2015

Last Night's Setlist: 5/9/15, Howler's Coyote Café, Pittsburgh, Pa. (w/Grand Bell)

'Dragon with matches, loose on the town...'

We debuted a gang of new originals last night, and they all seemed to get a decent reception. We also paired up with our pals Grand Bell, and if you haven't seen them, do it.

We also did a couple new covers, a slowed-down bluegrass standard, "The Old Home Place," and the Dead's "Fire on the Mountain," which we did do once before, the very first time I played electric guitar with the band... this time was significantly better. For a fairly straightforward tune, it's tougher than you might think to nail the kind of epic feel it has. But we're gettin' close.

Click here to download/stream the set courtesy of!

Early set:
Winter (Stones)
Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning (D. Van Ronk)
Feelin' Blue (CCR)
The Old Home Place (Trad.) >
China Cat Sunflower (Dead) > 'Rider' Jam >
Friend of the Devil (Dead) >
Viola Lee Blues (Dead)
Blackjack Molly*
Strange Moon*^
Queen Cobra*^

Late set:
Cumberland Blues (Dead)
Quite a Night (in Spain)*
The One That Got Away (T. Waits) >
Stone Soup* >
St. Mary Jail*^ >
Fire on the Mountain
Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad (Trad., Dead arr.) >
Cold Rain and Snow (Trad., Dead arr.)

^First time played

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Friday's (Acoustic) Setlist: 3/20/15, Hambone's, Pittsburgh, Pa.

'Bend down low, let me tell you what I know...'

In spite of some chest congestion, great time dropping an acoustic set with Dave on congas, in the intimate surroundings of Hambone's in Lawrenceville. Not to mention the disgustingly-awesome burger that came with pulled pork (whaaat?), a fried egg, a gigantic onion ring and some delicious barbecue sauce.

Click here to stream/download the set, courtesy of

Early set:
Cumberland Blues (Dead)
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
New Mexican Shuffle*
Gentleman of Leisure (J. Winchester)
Ophelia (The Band)
Slow Train (T. Bruno)
Deep Elem Blues (Cofer Bros.)
Blackjack Molly*#
Let Him Go/Bend Down Low (Marley/Tosh/Livingston)
Lookin' Out My Back Door (CCR)

Late set:
Evil Mind*
I Like It*
Floating Bridge (J. Estes) >
Equinox (Coltrane) > Floating Bridge >
Big River (J. Cash)
Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning (D. Van Ronk) >
Stone Soup* >
Friend of the Devil (Dead) >
Whiskey River (W. Nelson)
Love Please Come Home (B. Monroe)
E: Pig in a Pen (Trad.)

#First time played

Monday, March 9, 2015

Last Night's (Solo) Setlist: The Great Hall, Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, La.

The Great Hall... and probably big enough
for Beowulf and all his rowdy boys... not a stretch.

Last night was easily the biggest venue I've ever played, a massive hall in the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans where the acoustics were so good I was able to fill it with just my Fender Acoustasonic amp. Being in the Big Easy, I put together a set that was heavy on N'awlins tunes, including a few I wrote.

Click here to stream/download the set, courtesy of

One set:

Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya (M. Rebennack)
Dire Wolf (Dead)
Garbage Man (M. McKinley)
Dark as a Dungeon (M. Travis)
New Mexican Shuffle*
Positively 4th Street (Dylan)
Strange Moon*
Alligator (Dead) >
Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight (Oak Ridge Boys)
The One That Got Away (T. Waits)
Jitterbug Boy (T. Waits)
Craney Crow (M. Rebennnack) >
Lou-Easy-Ann (J.J. Cale) >
Junco Partner (J. Waynes)
Shady Grove (Trad.)
Bird Stealing Bread (Iron & Wine)
Smokestack Lightning (C. Burnett)
Long Black Veil (D. Dill/M. Wilkin)
Throwing Stones (Dead)


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Digitizing My Music Collection: A Journey of Discovery and Culling...

Thai funeral music? Yup, I got that...

I'm this close [holds index finger and thumb very close together] to fully digitizing my music collection. Those familiar with my music obsession know that's quite a few tunes, but I'm starting to get a full idea of just how many.

My love of all literally all varieties of music from hip-hop to the Grateful Dead, dub reggae and Vietnamese mood music by Dr. Phong Nguyen — except modern country, which I define as anything from 1980 onward, although there are a few rare exceptions... lookin' at you, Jamey Johnson — has led to stacks and stacks of CD spindles shelved away in my office, many of which I haven't listened to for years. 

For a good stretch, I was collecting music at such a good clip that I would burn a CD, save the best songs from an album on my computer and then get rid of it to make room. Between album purchases from record stores, Amazon and anywhere else, relentless scouring of free live music from, and others, and some great website finds of albums that you can legally download because they're out of print or unavailable anywhere else, I thought getting it completely digitized would be a near-impossible task. It's taken about a year, including countless hours spent peeling home-printed labels off some of the really old CDs and testing multiple computers to find out which one would actually read some of the extremely-cheap Princo CD-Rs I bought back in college from God-only-knows-where.

But it's been extremely rewarding rediscovering old records I'd forgotten about. There have also been some unfortunate coincidences: yesterday I finally ripped my Afroman discography... and then less than 12 hours later he connects with a full-on haymaker on some poor girl dancing onstage at one of his shows. And now I can't listen to "Tall Cans" without feeling like a bad person.

Some of the highlights:

Weirdest Record: Thai funeral music. It's crazy and cacophonous, and hard to listen to more than one track in a row, but it's weirdly beautiful. Kind of like the Thai version of a New Orleans second-line funeral parade.

Most Records By One Artist: Technically, this would be the 212 Grateful Dead shows plus the handful of studio albums, but that's live music, so we'll set it aside. This one goes to the great Miles Davis at 29 records. 

Records I Wish I Had More Of: Allman Brothers' shows. I managed to find 28 good or passable-quality recordings. But the best stuff is the old stuff, and the quality on old Allman  Bros. tapes is not great.... at all. I also kind of wish I had more old Bollywood soundtracks, but the quality-to-dreck ratio there is also not great.

Most Grateful Dead Shows From a Single Year: 1977. Gotta be '77. I'm actually more of a '76 guy, which isn't that common, and neither are good/complete '76 recordings, which is why '77 wins out. Songs in '76 were played at one of two speeds: Ludicrously Fast, and Nodding-Off-On-Heroin Slow, but I think it's a really good blend of the jazzier sound the Dead had in '73/'74, and the full-on psychedelic-locomotive sound of '77. But it's really hard to say enough good things about the spring 1977 shows: Phil Lesh plays the greatest bassline I ever heard on the 5/8/77 "Scarlet Begonias"; the ooey-gooey start to the 6/7/77 "He's Gone," when Jerry leaves his Mutron-III pedal on coming out of "Estimated Prophet"; the re-emergence of "China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider" after a three-year disappearance in the middle of the 12/29/77 "Playing in the Band" jam... the setlists have a lot of similarity, but every show is the shit.

Weirdest Band Name: Turkey Bouillon Mafia. No question. Decent funk band. Check 'em out on

The precise count at this point is 1,192 different artists, 508 gigabytes of music, with a few more GB to go, I suspect (I keep finding 50-disc spindles all over the damn house). Someday I might do the math on the number of songs, but I didn't go to journalism school so I could do more math.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tonight's Setlist: 1/25/15 Weather Permitting (Winter), New Bohemian, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Shakin' the walls at ol' St. Wenceslaus...

St. Wenceslaus, an old Polish church on Pittsburgh's North Side, has been converted into the New Bohemian, an awesome artspace/tattoo studio/host for today's Winter Weather Permitting food/music/beer extravaganza.

We played an acoustic set with Dave on congas for the first time, and it went over well. We cranked up "Friend of the Devil" to the original tempo and cast a nod to ska group and co-headliners The Pressure with an old-school Wailers tune, complete with a little spur'o'the moment "Bend Down Low" tease thrown in because I was listening to it over breakfast this morning!

Click here to download/stream the set, courtesy of

One set:
Gentleman of Leisure (J. Winchester)
New Mexican Shuffle*
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
Friend of the Devil (Dead)
Garden of Eden (New Riders of the Purple Sage) >
Let Him Go (Marley/Tosh/Livingston) >
Bend Down Low tease (Marley) > Let Him Go
Ophelia (The Band)
Back on the Train (Phish)


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Friday's Setlist: 1/16/15, Bloomfest 'Rock Against Racism,' Poppy's, Pgh., Pa.

'Father Joe falls out the bar,
Singin' hope that you know where you are...'

We played our first all-original setlist tonight. Having only 25 minutes makes it easier to do! Due to the rush getting on and offstage — there were eight groups at our venue, with a super-tight schedule that we pretty much stuck to, rare for such a large group of musicians! — I didn't record the set.

Thanks to the folks at Poppy's, Self Cyphadeen, Ferdinand the Bull, Wire Riots and everyone else who contributed great music to a great night all over Bloomfield:

All originals:
Quite a Night (in Spain)
Mother's Meth Head Blues
New Mexican Shuffle
That's It

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tonight's Setlist: 1/10/15, Thunderbird Café, Pgh., Pa (w/Kyle Lawson Band)

'The piano has been drinking,
my necktie is asleep...'

In the immortal words of Ric Flair: "WOOOOOO!"

It was a great night sharing the stage with the Kyle Lawson Band at Thunderbird Café. We debuted a new original as well as a personal favorite, a cover of Tom Waits' gin-soaked ode to shitty bars, "The Piano Has Been Drinking."

Click here to download/stream the set, courtesy of

One set:
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
Quite a Night (in Spain)*
That's It*
Feelin' Alright (S. Winwood)
Half-Steppin' Jam > Feelin' Alright >
Les Brers in A Minor (D. Betts/G. Allman) >
'Spooky Jam' > Les Brers Reprise >
Rain (Lennon/McCartney) >
The Piano Has Been Drinking (T. Waits) >
China Cat Sunflower (Dead) >
Werewolves of London (W. Zevon)
Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning (D. Van Ronk) >
Don't Let Go (J. Stone)

^First time played