As some of you know, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to join the cast and crew of Wits. Wits is a radio show, recorded live at the beautiful Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, MN. It’s in the tradition of Prairie Home Companion, sort of, in that it’s a radio show with music, comedy, and nostalgia, although the nostalgia is maybe less wistful Americana and more geeky-hipsterish.
Anyway — the lineup for the spring season has been announced, and it is ridiculous. RIDICULOUS:
3/15 Paula Poundstone with Robyn Hitchcock
3/29 W. Kamau Bell with Brendan Benson
4/12 Kristen Schaal with Rufus Wainwright
4/19 Tig Notaro with Kathleen Edwards
4/25 Michael Ian Black with A.C. Newman
5/3 Patton Oswalt with Ben Lee
5/10 Rob Delaney with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan
5/31 Colin Hanks with Jason Isbell
6/7 Hannibal Buress with Open Mike Eagle
6/14 David Koechner with Metric
The biggest perk of being in the house band is I get to make music with most of these amazing artists — needless to say I’m pretty excited. You can read more about the show and buy tickets here.
Well, hello 2013. One of the irons I have in the fire for this year is a sort of electronic-ish, drum-heavy, organic mess of things. I’m still working it out, but in my head it sounds awesome. Here’s a sneak peek into the rehearsal room — this is a live headphone feed of drums with buttons and mashy things next to me. Not quite sure what I am doing yet but it’s very fun.
Last year, with some time to kill in a small studio in New Haven, Eric Donnelly and I recorded a quick demo of his new song, “Rewind.” From the moment I heard it I was in love. We recorded the “real” version at the Friendly Forest in Nashville last August; Andy Snyder captured the session on video. It’s a powerful tune and I’m really proud to be on it.
I’m in Nashville for a few days, doing a little hanging and playing and recording and such, and I managed to squeeze in a quick jazz jam with one of my favorite piano players (Lillie Claire Morgan, age 4).
I read this great review of No October the other day…lots of nice things being said about the record and the production, but my favorite part had to be this:
Recorded in a barn (seriously) in Buffalo, Minn., with a ton of wonderful musical friends assisting … The most impressive part of the deal is that Olson is never buried by his friends. They simply help to bring to life this inspired batch of songs.
… No October is roots music at its best, as Olson combines an undercurrent of blues throughout the project and layers country and folk over that in an amalgam that is wire-welded airtight.
That emphasis is mine. When Dave and I were rounding up musicians for the project, the word “empathetic” came up more than once. It seems like kind of a pretentious word, but it truly fits the talents of everyone on this record — that is, almost everything they play makes other people sound good.
As usual, it’s been ages since my last “news-y” type of update, so here’s the scoop from the land of Prince and Honey(dogs).
Sessions: lots of them sprinkled around, including a fun couple of days at the Pearl with Jason Shannon; two days in Duluth with Caitlin Robertson at the beautiful Sacred Heart Music Center, which is a church with a recording studio inside; and a fun, fast day at Brent Sigmeth’s studio in Cannon Falls with Brent’s two awesome dogs and the Minor Planets.
Gigs: after being gone for most of last summer with the Alternate Routes it’s been a nice change of pace to stick close to home. One of the highlights of the last month or so has been being introduced to Wits, which I guess is sort of the younger, hipster version of Prairie Home Companion. I’ve gotten to play a few shows there as a guest drummer, backing Aimee Mann (!) and Ted Leo. The show is a lot of fun to watch and the house band — John Munson, Steve Roehm, Janey Winterbauer, and Joe Savage — is crazy awesome, so hopefully there’ll be a little more of that.
This is probably also a good time to mention my friend Dave Olson…his new album No October was released last month and has been getting great reviews. I can’t say enough good things about the cast and crew on this record, and there were some pretty incredible moments working on it. I had fairly good intentions of writing a lot more about it, but I think it’s just best if you check out his website and listen for yourself.
Adam Yauch, man.
The first album I ever bought was License to Ill, on cassette, at a Wal-Mart in Abbeville, Louisiana. I was in the fourth grade. My mom asked if there were any dirty words on it and I said I didn’t think so. I played it on the living room stereo that night while we ate dinner. My mom said it was ugly music. I was hooked.
I brought a boombox to school the next day and played this record for the next five years.
I always wanted to be MCA. He was the coolest, the most assured. MCA was the one who got me interested in music; he introduced me to the bass guitar and to hip-hop and to New York. I always daydreamed I would move to New York and run into him, buy him a cup of coffee and casually ask him how cool it must have been to recreate Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” for their Gratitude video.
Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys have been with me my entire life. They were hip hop when I was introduced to hip-hop; punk when I was introduced to punk. Losing MCA hurts.
The first gig I played after moving to Minneapolis was with a band called 40 Watt Bulb, which at the time had a somewhat temporary lineup that included Paul Manske on bass guitar. The club (which should remain nameless, but it was the 400 Bar) had tried to stiff the band on both our time slot and our pay, and in both cases it was Paul who somehow talked someone into letting us play and get paid. So his introduction to me was as the man who Made Things Happen, but it was twenty minutes later, onstage with him, that he was reintroduced as Paul the Musician.
Paul had this way of playing a bass that made other musicians sound good. When you gave him the right kind of music, he played with a pocket so deep and a groove so wide it was impossible not to fall right in. More than once, my playing has been complimented and I’ve had to sheepishly admit that it wasn’t me holding things down, but Paul, whose bass lines telegraphed to me the appropriate things to play and I just followed instructions.
I didn’t know Paul as well as others who have lived here longer, but I’ve known him long enough to say he held music and friends in deep reverence — his home was constantly filled with both — he treated each with respect and admiration, and I’m going to miss him.
I found this today while doing some rough mixes on what might be a new Backyard Committee album some day. Whoooooooooo!