Everybody Dreams Under Big Trees

Come out to see 100 Year Picnic's first show of 2009.  We are the opening act for Chicago songwriter Matt Robinson and his band at NV Lounge in Normal IL on Saturday, January 31. Festivities start around 9.  

Last summer I had the opportunity to sing background vocals and play drums on Matt's vibey LP, Everybody Dreams Under Big Trees. The record features a nice mix of country-tinged, folky, blues rock with big themes, lonely highways, blue skies, and haunted dreams. There's plenty here that rev-up, but the chilled-out ballads are my favorites.  

Matt conveys his unique perspectives in plain yet descriptive language with a sincere vocal delivery.  In the Neil Youngish Sing Me Do, "A young couple's love spills out onto the fire escape." The happiest sad song on the album is Sad Song Honey, where Matt laments, "And in this city, I'm never alone. It crawls through my closed window and I just want to be alone."  

My favorite tune on the record is Time Will Only Tell.  You will believe Matt when he delicately sings, "Yes time will only tell, if I will find you well. The moon lit our path, it turned red, and now it's black. I hope we can be, become friends."  It's an understated and beautifully arranged track, with violin, vibraphone, moog, percussion, and acoustic guitar.  If you're like me, and I know I am, this one will sneak up on you.

My friend Tony SanFilippo produced the album at his Oxide Lounge studio where he recorded and co-produced the last several Backyard Tire Fire albums.  Anyway, it was a blast working with Matt and Tony, plus some other music friends, including my lovely wifey who lent her sweet lullaby voice on Into A Dream.  To check out the music, visit Matt's website and CDBaby page.  And come out to the show!

A good friend of mine is a generous and giving soul.  To me he is someone who gives freely from his heart and I'd like to be more like that.  He's also a gifted musician and you would know his brilliant cello arrangements and performances on Looks Are For Free and Come On

He's also a goofball who writes some of the wackiest yet somehow sincere tunes.  Like, he has a new one called Sputnik, which is an earnest dedication to his beloved vacuum cleaner from the 60s.  Then there's the wild and psychedelic round of golf in "Fear In The Heart Of A Sportsman."  And how could we forget that summer beach classic "Conch Shell" about blowing loudly into a conch shell just to annoy your lover?  Well, you get the picture.  You need to hear these songs!  He's planning to put together a website later this year to share these fun little tunes.

But for now, he has given me permission to share one with you here on our website.  The song is called "Mother Lode," and it's by Kurt E Hoffman.  Right click to download it:  Mother Lode  

Here's what Kurt says in the song:

In my life, I have loved, then there's all those things that I was born with
And I was lucky as we all know, to have known the Mother Lode.
And I was lucky to have found, a love that would last and last, 
And I was fortunate to have a family with a future and a past,
Guess I got me here the Mother Lode, Yes I got me here the Mother Lode.

As I look back on this crazy year, this song puts everything in perspective for me.  Despite all the ups and downs, I am so very thankful for the love in my life, my beautiful wife, awesome kids, great parents, friends (and neighbors), and so much music.  

I think it's interesting that he chose the Mother Lode as the metaphor for Love, because the term came from the mining industry and usually it implies hitting the paydirt or finding the main source of gold or silver.  A life of love is indeed a rich life.  

Kurt then goes on to say:

And if we're all just as lucky to have found the Mother Lode, then maybe we can all return the favor.
I believe the Mother Lode is a treasure that we all, can share upon.
So I will put my best foot forward in an effort to lighten up the store, 
And we give this all to the Mother Lode, including all those things that we adore.

Yes, it is not enough to be gracious and grateful for this gift, but we must also give it back.

So here now in 2009, I will put my best foot forward in an effort to lighten up the store.  Kurt, thank you for this gift of a song, and here's to the new year brother.  Cheers!  

Hey kids, we'd like to introduce you to a couple things: Booby Trap Brown and the new Wheelie Pop Records website.

Our eclectic indie pop record label, Wheelie Pop Records, will be putting out a new record by Booby Trap Brown. 

Booby Trap Brown is working on their debut release and we can't wait to introduce you this wild new music that sounds like a dinner party with Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Keith Richards, Curtis Mayfield, Joe Strummer, and Paul McCartney.  Now that's a party.

And here's the new Wheelie Pop website: www.wheeliepop.com.  Visit often!  I hear they may leak some early mixes of Booby Trap Brown....

The rumors are all true.  Yes, Paulie's in Bloomington, Illinois is closing.  Yes, the Spelunkers are going to do a reunion show at Paulie's before they close.  And yes, vonFrickle will be performing a very rare no-mask or costume show.  Eva Hunter is opening the show, starting at 9 pm.  It all happens Friday, September 26.  If you live in central Illinois, this is a show you can't miss.

Francis Dunnery, Tall Blonde Helicopter Last night we (wifey and friends) were lucky to be a part of another fabulous, intimate night of music and storytelling--a house concert featuring the multi-talented Francis Dunnery

Our creative friends Tommy and Breann Neal hosted a similar show a little over a year ago, so we HAD to come back again, because folks, this is one very unique experience. 

Some know Francis through his formative rock star years as the leader of It Bites or maybe you remember him on tour playing guitar with Robert Plant.  But I know Francis best by his mid-90s stellar acoustic-pop solo album, Tall Blonde Helicopter

This is a record Cathy and I have played and played and played--on long vacation drives, on the way to work, on the home stereo, at parties, and even nowadays on the iPod.  And then we hear that Francis is coming once again to Gridley, Illinois (of all places in the world) to do a show featuring Tall Blonde Helicopter, one of our all-time favorite albums???  Sign me up please, and one for my wife too, and Ed, and does Kurt know about it?  How about Steve?  Tony?  Rick?

Before I go any further, I just have to say that you HAVE to try to get him to your neighborhood, and here's how:  Fill out an invitation form

Francis has been doing these shows now for several years, typically for audiences of around 35 people.  He enters the room with only an acoustic guitar, weaving together these wonderful songs, hilarious stories, and provocative lessons about life.  He's an effortless storyteller and comedian, an amazing songwriter, a gifted guitarist, a well-read philosopher and astrologist, a warm and humble soul, and within seconds you are transported to another place. 

One of the great gifts of this particular show was hearing the detailed stories behind all of these songs we know so well.  Getting to hear them from a new perspective added a new depth to the music. 

Only New York Going On took us to an empty New York apartment that Francis moved into after leaving his wife.  The Way Things Are sent us to a Nashville hotel bathroom, peering into a mirror, terrorized at the sight of his newly shaved head, the loss of his long blonde hair--signaling a new, unknown life ahead of him.  Immaculate delivered us to an AA meeting in LA, exchanging mind-expanding books with recovering alcoholics, realizing the freedom of living in the present and the power of bringing about what we think about.  Heavy duty, yes, but isn't life heavy duty a good part of the time? 

And we pretty much laughed through the whole thing because he's so damn funny.  Plus he played our favorite songs, like Too Much Saturn, In My Dreams, and Sunshine. 

In the final stanzas of I Believe I Can Change My World, Francis does a bit of shout-sing mantra: I believe I can change my world!  I believe I can change my world!  I believe I can change my world!  And this is one of the great things I walked away with, and I'm carrying it around with me at this very moment.

Francis is, in fact, changing the world, one house at a time.  Francis, Erica, Tom, Breann, and everyone else that was there, thank you for an incredible evening.

left to right: Tim, Ed, & Matt from Backyard Tire FireLast weekend I had the opportunity to catch a fantastic pre-release show by our Bloomington Illinois friends, Tim Kramp, Ed Anderson, and Matt Anderson from Backyard Tire Fire.  It was an awesomely full day of music for me and the perfect way to cap-off a GREAT summer day.

This hard-working band is at the top of their game, both live and in the studio--with an excellent new record, The Places We Lived, just released last Tuesday on New York's Hyena Records

The sonically adventurous album, produced by Ed Anderson and Tony San Filippo, is full of road-tested performances of well-crafted songs.  You'll find hints of Tom Petty, Wilco, and even Pink Floyd, with songs about time, space, and place--longing for home, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, trudging through the daily grind, and knowing when to sign on the dotted line. 

There are plenty of rowdy guitars, big bottom bass, and rock-steady drums as you would expect on a Tire Fire record, but also fun studio experimentation, honky tonk pianos, swirly synths, sliding pedal steel, rich strings, and muted trumpet. I love the vibey orchestration (literally with vibraphone in spots), such as on the clever and catchy tongue-twister and maybe my favorite song out-the-gate, 'Shoulda Shut It.' 

Other standouts for me so far are the title track (featuring Brian Choban on trumpet), the hooky 'Time With You', the crowd-pleasing 'Welcome To The Factory', the playful 'Legal Crime', and the wonderfully wistful final track 'Home Today'. 

The guys are about to hit the road for a midwestern tour, starting with a kickoff show at the Metro in Chicago on September 5.  Other stops include Iowa City, Madison, Minneapolis, Columbia MO, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and more.  Check out their site for specific tour dates. Our friend Fish is joining the band on tour to help with guitars, keys, and backing vocals, and he's meshing perfect with the band, helping to reproduce all those great studio textures.

Go buy the record, be sure to stop and see BTF on this tour, and tell them we said hi!

Modernsplashcover_2 We now have the final master and cover artwork for the new record, TALES OF A MODERN SPLASH! 

The record will be released on our own independent record label, Wheelie Pop Records.  We are planning a pre-release early February, with the official release a month or so later.  We are very excited about this piece of work and we can't wait for you to hear it! 

We will have a few ways for you to get your copies early, including a way to get a free CD during the pre-release, so stay tuned for more information on this special pre-release promotion. 

As you know, we recorded and mixed the entire record here at home, in my basement studio.  Many of the songs started as improvisations, and we literally built these melodies, words, and further orchestration on top of these original improvisations.  In typical 100YP fashion, we also invited a bunch of our friends to join in the fun.  Well more on all of this later...

The master from Carl Saff turned out absolutely fantastic.  If you are curious about what mastering is, join the club!  It is a bit of a mystery to most of us, but basically it is the final professional step after mixing all of the songs.  Carl does a much better job explaining all about mastering, right here on his website.  Edwin and I traveled up to Chicago to see (and hear) Carl in action.  He's a great engineer and a great guy, and I've learned quite alot in this process.  For you musicians out there, I highly recommend getting your music professionally mastered, and I highly recommend Carl. 

We are also super-duper happy with the artwork from Ruth Buzzy rocker and artist Phil Schuldt.  So, all we have left is the final manufacturing, a fair amount of rehearsing to play more shows in 2008, and the truly fun part...marketing and promotion...  Hey, if you have any ideas, let us know!!!  We will need your help to get the word out about this record.   Meanwhile, more details coming soon about the release, the music, the musicians...

Want to hear some GREAT independent music in Central Illinois? 

This Friday, December 21, at Daddios, we are participating in a huge benefit featuring some of the best original music in the area, including touring artists Backyard Tire Fire, Chicago Farmer, Wiplot, The Dirty Hands Band, and many more.  It's an honor to be on the same bill with all these guys!  Edwin and I will be doing our 100YP dynamic duo routine, complete with loops, piano, guitars, bass, and vocals. 

We go on at 9:35 PM SHARP and play a 30 minute set.  Every group will also be playing a Beatles tune and there will be lots of sitting in with other players and that sort of thing.  Definitely a cool event for a great cause, so I hope to see you there.  Starts at 8:00 PM with some of the BTF boys, then Cody (Chicago Farmer) is soon after so get there early and stay all night.

Big thanks to everyone that came out to our first show as duo.  We had a great time. 

Considering all the new things we were trying, I think it went pretty well.  Some new things this time out: Singing and playing piano for one (remember when I started taking piano lessons back in 2005), improvising over some loops we created on the spot (with a spotty loop pedal that likes to shut off without warning), Edwin playing bass on some songs and guitar on others, generally trying to represent the songs with only 2 people, oh, and me NOT playing a drumset....

But hey, the REAL story for the evening:  Mojo Stew is still cookin'!!!  These guys have not played together for 16 years, except for a couple rehearsals (I heard it was only 2), and they were simply amazing.  Great to see Mojo again, hang with some old friends, and meet some new ones. 

In the mid 80s and early 90s, there was a great original band from Bloomington called Mojo Stew.  They were an awesome R&B pop funk quintet and everyone will be back in town on Saturday, November 24, doing a reunion show at Daddio's in Bloomington. 

It should be quite an event.  As an added plus, the XRAYMEN (former guys from Kool Ray and the Polaroidz) will be opening. 

Also making our first appearance as a 100 Year Picnic duo, playing songs from the new record, Edwin and I will start the show off at 8:00.   Edwin will be playing bass and guitar and I will be making loops, playing piano, playing the acoustic guitar, and hopefully singing.  I've trashed my voice in the last week, but I just know it's gonna be back by the 24th...

Come on out and reconnect with some old friends.