Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tonight's Setlist: 8/14/15, Penn Hills Library Amphitheater, Penn Hills, Pa.

'Hit the flo', out the do', head on down to New Mexico...'

It was an uptempo night at the library's outdoor amphitheater. We blazed through about 16 songs in under two hours, with a quick set break.

Click here to download/stream the set courtesy of

Early set:
Blackjack Molly* > Half-Steppin' Jam >
Feelin' Alright (S. Winwood)
St. Mary Jail*
Big River (J. Cash)
Friend of the Devil (Dead)
New Mexican Shuffle*
Dauphine* >
Cumberland Blues (Dead)

Late set:
Strange Moon*
Me and My Uncle (J. Philips)
Floating Bridge (J. Estes) >
Les Brers in A Minor (D. Betts) >
Equinox (Coltrane) >
Les Brers Reprise
Ophelia (The Band)
Meet Me in the Morning (Dylan)
That's It* >
Queen Cobra*


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tonight's Setlist: Charlie Hustle & the Grifters, 6/28/15, Railroad Park, Verona, Pa.

'It's a strange moon, rising on the bayou tonight...'

It's been two straight weeks of rain. Shitty weather. Bad forecasts. It rained four different times yesterday. But the apparent voodoo that Charlie Hustle & the Grifters make with Railroad Park kept the rain blowing away all night for two great sets. We got some more rounds with our new originals, and finally got Dave to do a drum solo! The winds and rains bow to the power of The Hustle—I see your weather-on-the-8's, TV station, AND I JAM MY THUMB IN ITS EYE.

Click here to download/stream the set, courtesy of

Early set: 
Queen Cobra* >
That's It*
Quite a Night*
Gentleman of Leisure (J. Winchester)
Blackjack Molly*
The Piano Has Been Drinking (T. Waits) >
China Cat Sunflower (Dead) >
Feelin' Blue (CCR) >
I Know You Rider (Trad., Dead arr.)
Saturday Night*

Late set:
Strange Moon* >
Fire on the Mountain (Dead)
Ophelia (The Band) >
Half-Steppin' Jam >
Feelin' Alright (S. Winwood)
The One That Got Away (T. Waits) >
Big Bad Blues (Furthur) >
Stone Soup* >
St. Mary Jail* >
Who Do You Love (B. Diddley) >
Drumz > Jam >
Viola Lee Blues (Trad., Dead arr.)


Monday, June 8, 2015

A Look Back at Season 5 of 'Game of Thrones' So Far [S1-5 SPOILERS]

This seems to be a lot of people's general
feeling about the season... I disagree.

Scattered. Slow. Silly. Those are a few of the words I've seen used to describe the fifth season of HBO's "Game of Thrones." 

I have my gripes. The Dorne storyline so far, which has amounted to some titties and a pimpish elbow to Bronn's jaw...  Littlefinger did a wee bit of scheming and then broke the fuck out... Sansa's second wedding night... SHIREEN... but with less than a week before the S5 finale, I want to take a look at this season thus far and take stock of what we've actually seen, which to me is a lot of growth on the part of plenty characters and groups.

In no particular order:

"For the night is dark, and full of terrors. Mostly me. I seem to be the one causing most of the terror around here." — Melisandre

Okay, so I added that last part, but tell me you wouldn't have loved to see Stannis strap that shadow-baby-making, penis-leech-applying pyromaniac cuckolder onto the pyre instead of HIS OWN EVERLOVIN' DAUGHTER. I was neutral on Stannis for a while, and even though Something Terrible has been telegraphed for Shireen since at least last season, I was really hoping for another patented GRRM Switch-Up, and Melisandre suggesting a little flame-broiled daughter would be the last straw for Stannis. A couple seasons back, her Red buddy Thoros of Myr seemed to regard Melisandre as an alright chick, but my personal theory is that she's some kind of succubus, twisting the Red God's ways to her own purpose.

Stannis — Well, he's just kind of the latest Guy We All Want to See Die Horribly, right? I mean, surely no one wants him to sit on the Iron Throne anymore. In many ways, Stannis' hardass-decisive nature — at least according to what the show has presented — makes him exactly the wrong man to sit in that chair. 

Think of the "Great Kings of Westeros" this story has presented us with or told us about: Aerys the Igniter of Men, Women and Children, Robert the Drunken Absentee Ruler, Joffrey the Hateful Shit and Tommen the Puberty-Stricken Sulker. There isn't a true king among them, and I find that very interesting. Frequently we see that there's "power behind the throne," but in all cases here, the king himself does precious little in the way of truly taking the reins of the kingdom, and doesn't seem to have the wherewithal to do so if he wanted.

Stannis has grown into a true monstrosity in his lust to fulfill this perceived destiny of ruling. He went from shushing Melisandre to watching her fire up the Weber a little too quickly for my liking, but as I said, he's the wrong man for the throne, even if he's the rightful heir at this point. 

Arya — Lots of complaints about her Braavosi internship this season in the comment sections. Some people think her entire arc this season will be pointless if she goes after Meryn "Too Old" Trant, but to me, this is just another step on her series-long quest for revenge. 

Imagine if this season's storyline continues to play out in Braavos: Arya becomes a Faceless Man assassin and just goes around Essos poisoning questionably-shady dock merchants? Nah. She's learned important lessons about becoming a killer every season so far: proper fighting technique for smaller swordsmen from Syrio... how da facking world really works from The Hound... how to become a master liar and anonymous assassin from the House of Black and White. I think she's ready to kill Meryn Fucking Trant.

Ramsay Bolton — Ramsay might have a lock on Most Evil Bad Guy on the show. He probably had it by the time he cut Theon's weiner off, and obviously his wedding-night performance sealed the deal. But just when you think he's merely a horrible psychopath rapist woman-hunting murderer, he shows an aptitude for strategy. The Ramsay who delighted in torturing Theon wouldn't have thought to burn Stannis' weapon and food tents; he'd have probably tried to flay an officer and maybe gotten caught. Before Stannis put his family's future to the torch, Ramsay was the Guy We All Want to See Die Horribly, and he may yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if his cunning gets him out of S5 alive.

Sansa — It's hard to really say how Sansa's character has grown this season until we see what she decides to do in the season finale. Aside from finding out that her brothers maybe possibly could perhaps be alive, she's spent the season, regrettably, as a beautiful red flower being ground into the dirt. I hope she gets some measure of happiness and/or justice next week.

Tyrion — Here's another character whose growth is a little trickier to chart. Certainly he's back on the rise as Dany's advisor, but Peter Dinklage's beautifully-rendered look of awe, terror and slight misgiving as he watched his queen ride off on Drogon after roasting the Sons of Harpy alive — presumably the fate of quite a few Westerosi somewhere down the line — has me excited to see the future interaction between he and Dany.

Jorah Mormont — I mean, as soon as they find out he has the greyscale, he's gonna get banished FOR THE THIRD TIME, amirite?

Jaime Lannister — Watching two montages of Jaime and Bronn training was more exciting than the entire Dornish storyline. I got nothing. I hear some shit's about to go down with Cersei next week. Can't imagine the ol' Kingslayer will be happy about whatever it is.

Jon Snow — Jon Snow has grown into a true leader of men this season. His own men (even though they hate him now), the Wildlings (even though he failed to convince the majority of them to come south)... actually, come to think of it, Jon Snow hasn't been much of an inspired leader this season, has he? In all seriousness, I think he's learning how difficult true leadership can be. A man taking The Black and defending the realm is supposed to be a simple, honest mission, but he has to deal with the same piles of shit as the politicians in King's Landing: some people hate you for no good reason, some people hate you for the hard decisions you make... and I'm sure it's going to happen in the finale, but it's tough to imagine Jon Snow coming back from the Hardhome Massacre and not being all, "Thanks for lettin' us in, guys. Hey, by the way: my office. Five minutes. We got some serious shiznit to talk about."

Is it a massacre if everyone who gets killed comes back from the dead? Speaking of which...

The White Walkers — "Hardhome" cemented just what a serious threat the Walkers are. They aren't just out there. They're coming for the world of men, for whatever reason and to whatever end. They attacked Hardhome, a place from which Jon Snuh was able to sail (and hike) back to Castle Black in the span of time between episodes. The Walkers and wights presumably don't have to stop to eat or drop a deuce, so I'd say they're about two or three weeks from reaching The Wall.

What do they want—besides to kill everybody? Then again, if they wanted to kill everybody, why'd they let Jon Snuh and His Merry Band of Wildlings get away? The Walkers have shown how strong they are. Even if, for some stupid reason, they don't go into the water, the Night's King could've just grabbed a wight in each arm and heaved those bitches into Jon's canoe! Plot armor prevents that, but still... what do they want?

Bran — Obviously, Bran is taking the season off, but I just wanna put it out there good and early (and I haven't read the books, so I'm not saying this with any knowledge)... Bran's gonna warg into one of the dragons. Fo' sho'.

Bring it on, "Mother's Mercy"!

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.