Sunday, November 3, 2019

A letter to Tom Vaught- April 7th 1968- Nov 3rd 2018

Dear Tom,

It has been one year since you made the journey to wherever you went beyond this earth. We should have had so many more years, as you said when brother Mike Vaught left the earth, “this was not the plan”. We evolved together, we could piss each other off, but more often we created some of the greatest moments of our lives.
       In our pre-teens we thought it was hysterical to raise our hands in Mr. Sergenian’s class and tell stories about our friend, “Bob Gina”.  We were of that age where anything close to vagina was simply hysterical to us.
     We would sneak out of HC Crittenden Middle School, through the bus yard, past the duck pond, hit the ground, as if we were behind enemy lines (it was a daring mission) and go have lunch at Pizza Land whilst those other poor schleps at school ate cafeteria food. When we got home we listened to The Doors and talked about music. We watched this new MTV thing, then we would often walk around the lake. You really liked Duran Duran and I recall you singing, Rio at the top of your lungs wearing your black leather jacket with your mohawk and earring as it echoed across Windmill Lake.
 As or our teens began, you got that Led Zeppelin 2 cassette. It was an English release or something. Side 2 started with Thank You and it strangely included, Your Time Is Gonna Come from Zep 1 on it. We listened to that cassette so often that I still incorrectly hear that tape as the official Zeppelin 2 order. Fridays we drove your BMW 2002 or my lousy 75 Mustang to Mt. Kisco to get beer. We thought the guy who worked there looked like Jimmy Page and then you would steal Boone’s Farm from The Shack. You always liked stealing things. When we got back to your house I would try to nap, you wanted to start drinking right away. You would crank Bowie’s, Sound And Vision full volume and shove a drink in my face as you sang the lyrics even louder than the stereo. “John, wake up!” you yelled in a frustrated and slightly annoyed growl. I would try to pretend not to hear you, but I secretly enjoyed the whole song and dance.
We eventually got jobs at the A&P and stole so much beer that we didn’t have to go to the distributor for a while. We used to enjoy kicking over the product displays at the end of the aisle that the other was stacking; ya know the kind where the coffee cans are piled up twenty high or so? We were spiraling out of control. They fortunately fired us just before we were going to put a piece of shit in cellophane and sell it as a piece of liver in the meat section…a disaster narrowly averted. I remember after we got fired, your mom cooked us city chicken and klops while we made her laugh and convince her we weren’t so bad. Ya see they arrested us the same day we got fired. We came back to the A&P parking lot to do evil things. We used Mike Deluca’s station wagon;  if you pin a shopping cart against a brick wall, and then hit the gas, it crushes it like an accordion. We did that to a few and each time, we laughed so hard that our stomach muscles hurt. So when your mom came to pick us up from work at the normal time (she didn’t know we had been fired yet), we were being put into a police car.  I can still hear you, “Ma, we’re not really that bad. We just like to have fun!” The charges were all dropped as well. So, it was all worth it. The only casualties were 3 to 5 shopping carts.
      On more innocent summer days, we would occasionally go over to Tim Halpern’s house and swim in the pool. We were always supposed to help with some chore in exchange for swimming privileges and we never lifted one single finger. One time Tim had laid out some gardening tools and was readying for the labor, he looked around and groaned, “Hey, where is Tom”? That’s when we heard the cannonball. I laughed and jumped in as well.
   In our twenties we got our apartment, The Grand Lounge, with the fellas. You and I named it after wandering around extremely high on that ball of kief at Radio City Music Hall whilst Bob Dylan gave a lackluster performance. There are several lounges with names all around Radio City. We sat at them through the night and held mini-talk shows with confused passers by. But as one exits the venue, it spills you into The Grand Lounge! Our apartment was on Grand Street ya see, but when we saw that name… you woulda thought we had just discovered a cure for, well, what you were gonna freaking die of at 50.
 We soon began following The Grateful Dead. Nitrous, LSD, Marijuana and Blatz Beer were all flowing freely. We really only traveled with the Dead for a few bigger runs in 1988 and 1989, peaking with the acclaimed, Alpine Valley shows.  When you and I got to our first Alpine show, The Dead were playing, Sugaree. It was a beautiful day with lush trees, rolling hills and smiling, dancing people all around. “Let’s grab a beer” one of us said. The Beer Garden was facing an area of tall trees. You and I looked out at them and suddenly you grabbed my arm, “John, Look at that guy”.  I turned and there was this fella looking so awestruck, that his jaw was convulsing. You could tell he was in deep and could not believe how fucking amazing this tree was. You and I laughed while we respectfully enjoyed his convergence with nature.  The next day it was getting to be pre-show party time. We were enjoying Blatz Beer with our friends, getting excited for the evening. You approached me with his devilish grin, “John, we have acid, are you ready?” “I don’t know if I wanna take LSD and come back to this half baked campsite in the dark, Tom”, I replied.  Well, eventually you convinced me and within an hour it began to take effect as we made our way into the concert. You and I were at the top of our powers making everyone on the line crack up “who needs a ticket to the future?” “I have 3 tickets to the past, I’ll trade for one front row future”. Someone put necklaces on us and gave us handmade Jerry shirts to wear.
We came over the hill and the Dead were playing, Tennessee Jed. It sounded so sonically satisfying and the acid was surging through our veins. “Let’s grab a beer”, one of us said. We went into the Beer Garden and the beer tasted soo refreshing. “Look at this, The Dead’s speakers are weaving through the woods and exploding right here by this sunset!” “Hey Tom, check out that tree, look at how all the branches have organically stretched to the sky, reaching for the sun”. You replied, “You can see the years of old that were once grinding in the soil”. We gazed silently for a while, completely engrossed. Suddenly you shouted, “Hey, we’re that guy from yesterday!” Yes! It turned out we were standing in the exact place “nature lover” had been just 24 hours earlier.

Around that time, I moved to Vermont and you mailed me a grilled cheese and tomato from Mexico Joe’s from the neighborhood. Yes, I did eat it.
 A few years later, I moved to Colorado and started, Steak. You joined us in Colorado after your time singing in Ropes of Sand was over. It was the first time in your life I ever saw you “off”. You were struggling. But you found love and by the time you left Colorado, you were whole again.  
  Twenty three years later you moved to Colorado again. You were searching for what was next. During that time we met in South Dakota for the eclipse. You were uncharacteristically candid about your confusion of which way to go in life.  You stole something from the store. You always liked stealing things.  We had some fun. But we both had perhaps grown weary of the song and dance routine we had developed over the years. We still did it for folks. But it felt like a band reunited, playing the hits they no longer identified with. When we parted in South Dakota, it felt strange. I remember staring at your car driving away wanting to cry for some reason. It was the last time we would see each other not being aware of the cancer that was going to kill you. We did get together in Colorado after the bad news had arrived. Our interactions were fresh again, beautiful and strong. We sadly knew we no longer needed to evolve our style for our elder days. But I know, that if you were still here, we would have found that new path and done so gloriously as we did for so many decades.

You made it clear that you preferred to depart from Colorado and found a special beauty and tranquility there.
My, what an exceptional human being you have been. I am so proud to call you my friend. I will do my best to carry on in the way we do. “You know how I like it”.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What A Way To Spend A Night Part 1- 2018- NY, PA, NC, RI, MA

Here is a song from Jack Grace Band's new unreleased album, What A Way To Spend A Night

Song: Bearded Man

It's a heavy guitar number, I maneuvered them whilst the Cambridge, England band handled the rhythm section sounds, you can see them in the US in October (see info below)

. Bearded Man was written about 5 years ago. We were doing long 7 plus hour drives every day in Western Canada, back when Carolyn Mark and I would share shows (she refused to sing on the number for reasons that remain a mystery as of this writing) Anyways, after what seemed like a full childhood and 3/4 of the angry teenage years in one drive, we ran into, THE Bearded Man, by the side of the road. He was such the iconic, stereotypical, hero, outlaw, hobo type man with a beard, that the song came about involuntarily. I continued to work on it for years. It took a long time to break it down for me to find it's current mantra of simplicity. The song is rather popular with our Cambridge England audience.

(there will likely be more shows added)

Oct 4 Sunny’s Brooklyn  NY 9:30
w/ George Rush- upright bass Andy Burns drums
Oct 11 Dogwood Beacon  NY 8pm 
Solo Jack Grace, served up with new songs all about all you and the dreams you keep having.

THEN, our Jack Grace Band, Cambridge, England players come to play in the US of HEY!? Starring: Fabian Bonner on bass and Ian Griffith on drums. Greet the boys and show them how we roll (and rock). They've got a Brexit that needs to be extinguished, we've got a horrific batch of old white men that need to go. Let's all use the power of rock n' roll to heal, fix, avoid, confront and change.

Oct 25 The Rooster’s Wife  Aberdeen NC 7:45
Oct 26 Garryowen Pub  Gettysburg PA 10pm
Oct 27 The Clydesdale  Port Chester NY 9pm
Oct 28 Superfine  Brooklyn. NY Noon to 3pm Brunch!
Oct 29 The Ear Inn  Manhattan, NY : Midnight to 3am

The boys return to England and THEN (it can get confusing here)

I join up with:
The Cambridge MASSACHUSETTS version of Jack Grace Band- Nate Logus Drums, Ken Lafler Bass
Oct 31 Norey’s  Newport RI 8:30
Nov 3 Toad Cambridge MA 10pm

Jack Grace performs solo sets in Sayulita, Mexico 
Nov 5 to 14, sporadically at Sunset Turtle Bar (sunset)

That's right folks, it's that beautiful and that simple. Come by, handmade margaritas with tears of joy for salt. This is not some tropical set of cover songs; original Jack Grace sets, played sitting at the bar, at the beach, by the sea turtle sanctuary.

Dec 4 Bar Chord (solo) Brooklyn. NY 9pm
 Solo Jack Grace, served up with new songs all about all you and the food you don't want to eat but do anyway.

..Steak returns! Jack Grace, Erik Lieblein, Stu Damm, Mike Jay.
 Since 1992 Steak has been serving you music you will hear nowhere else but here. It's well done and extremely rare all at once.

Dec 13 Jack Grace Holiday Extravaganza- Steak and many special guests Hank’s Saloon Brooklyn NY
Hank's is closing their doors at the end of 2018. So this is one of the LAST shows here at good ole 3rd and Atlantic. This location has been a bar for over 100 years.  Brooklyn Vegan article here
They will re-open at the Brooklyn Hill Country location on Adams St. A very different vibe, but it could be real cool.

Well, damn, the year is just about over again.
Dec 27 Sunny’s  Brooklyn NY

Dec 28 Bar Chord Brooklyn NY

Dogs never run into debt.
But some run into lakes, oceans and other bodies of water.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Review: Neil Young and Promise Of The Real's Sept 26 2018


I saw Neil Young and The Promise of the Real last night at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester.  I have been kinda based around here for a bit. I was in fact, about a mile away when I saw posts on facebook of people saying they were at the Neil Young show. How did I miss this? I have been seeing Neil Young in concert since I was 18. I have probably seen him 25 times or so since...missing an intimate Neil theater experience practically on my stoop was just a pain I could not bear.
       I was in front of The Capitol by 8:30, there were people around with their pointer fingers up, the universal hippie signal for, "I need one bro". I did some texts to people I knew as I stood against the side of the theater listening to the start of the show. Someone opened the side door to empty the garbage. I could have most likely made it in right there, "Old school hmm,  that still works for me", yet at 50...if it was to go sour, it could be rather embarrassing, just then a text came through and I was in.
         I intentionally took no pictures or video, I just wanted to be completely present (remember when someone "bootlegging" was considered some kind of a pirate?).
      Ok, I got emotional when they played, Winterlong. It was such a beautiful rendition and this is a song for the deeper Neil fans to get excited about. One of the best things, The Promise Of The Real has done for Neil is they have convinced him to pick more diverse gems from one of the best songwriting catalogs out there. The songs that stuck out-
Motorcycle Mama from the  Comes A Time album, while not one of Neil's most significant songwriting efforts, is an amusing deep cut.(Words) Between The Lines Of Age, was so incredibly executed it made one who has heard this number numerous times before, re-examine how beautiful the intricate and long phrased guitar lines drag you seamlessly through the incredibly organic time changes.
 Tell Me Why, the opening song on, After The Gold Rush, with the full band was souful and played similar to the harmonized vocal version he briefly performed with CSNY, but with electric guitars. He picked up his white Gretsch guitar for,  Cortez The Killer. Neil did his ethereal lead notes that bring us through the intro when it became obvious that his E, B and G strings had gone pretty well out of tune. He paused, let Lukas Nelson cover the guitar work as he turned and very organically tuned his guitar like any mortal guitar player might. He then dug into that Gretsch and channeled that Buffalo Springfield version of himself. It transported the audience to a mystical place if you allowed him to do so; when Neil's vocal entered he was in that realm. He was neither 72 years old or the 20 something that wrote and recorded the number, he was an ageless soul in an ancient realm. Towards the end of the show he played a song from the  American Stars and Bars album, Roll Another Number, another lighter tune that was just the right stony place in the set. Neil has always liked his marijuana and I enjoyed sharing a bit with a few in the surrounding crowd.  Some of the younger fans were surprised to see a stranger extending his stash to someone they had never met, but to others this was just a tradition amongst concert goers steeped in golden rock concert renaissance practice. I hope we have many more years of Neil Young concerts. I find them necessary on so many levels. Long live our royalty of rock,  Neil Young.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leonard Cohen 1934- 2016- Is This What You Wanted?

(John Cassavetes)

     There was a time in my late teens when I used to confuse Leonard Cohen and John Cassavetes . They both intrigued me and somewhat scared me. This was not Gilligan's Island or The Monkees anymore, it required another level of engagement. I sensed a danger I liked. Both were smart and made artistic choices that explored and celebrated life in a thought provoking way. They even have a similar physical look.  The two have a way in that,  if you let their vision of the world into your heart, you could see the beauty of celebration, disaster, love, despair, pain and joy and view it all through an artistic lens of your own.
   I just put on the 1977 album, "Death Of A Ladies Man". The horns, the strings, the seventies, the gluttony of it all, in the form (mostly) of loving a woman. He had comfortably evolved from his acoustic folk sound. The evolution began on the previous release, one of my all time favorite albums, 1974's, 
"New Skin For The Old Ceremony".  It opens with this:
You were the promise at dawn,
I was the morning after.
You were Jesus Christ my Lord,
I was the money lender.
You were the sensitive woman,
I was the very reverend Freud.
You were the manual orgasm,
I was the dirty little boy.
And is this what you wanted
to live in a house that is haunted
by the ghost of you and me?
Is this what you wanted ...
You were Marlon Brando,
I was Steve McQueen.
You were K.Y. Jelly,
I was Vaseline.
You were the father of modern medicine,
I was Mr. Clean.
You where the whore and the beast of Babylon,
I was Rin Tin Tin.
And is this what you wanted ...
And is this what you wanted ...
You got old and wrinkled,
I stayed seventeen.
You lusted after so many,
I lay here with one.
You defied your solitude,
I came through alone.
You said you could never love me,
I undid your gown.
And is this what you wanted ...
And is this what you wanted ...
I mean is this what you wanted ...
That's right, is this what you wanted ...

Is This What You Wanted- Leonard Cohen

     I love this era in his career. "Skin" is the beginning of moving away from the lonely acoustic guitar, but it doesn't make you miss it; when the creative drum part with accompanying horns roll gently in on,"Is this What You Wanted", Cohen shows he can do whatever the hell he wants and still succeed artistically. This just happened to be the Leonard Cohen era I stumbled upon. Fortunately, when it comes to his discography, you don't have to mine for the more inspired work. It is all inspired.
     By 1992, Leonard is using drum machines, synths and what have you. But 1992's, "The Future" holds up on substance and pure intent. He continued to use whatever sounds he wanted. It wasn't about the latest trends, it was just the stone he had walked by, picked up, examined and used in his latest sculpture.
     I found out about the passing of Leonard Cohen from a childhood friend this morning.  He said," On the occasion of the passing of Leonard Cohen, which has made me very sad, I sat up on the deck and drank copiously while working my way through his catalog.  Eventually, I came to "The Future," which always seemed borderline too dark (as I think you and I have discussed), but which now, in the post-Trump world, seems just plain prescient."
     Leonard Cohen passed away on Nov 7th, it was not announced until Nov 10th, after the US election of Donald Trump.  We do not know what lies ahead in a world without Leonard Cohen... along with these recent developments.  I'll do my best to see it all through that artistic lens, find beauty, use it and try to make something more of it.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Mourn For The Ones Killed Before Camera Phones

     Guns in the news everywhere. Innocent black men killed by police officers that are absolutely horrible at their jobs. Police officers killed by angry people with guns achieving the opposite of making their point, that the violence must stop. An eye for an eye just makes for more dead people and more paranoia.
     Let's try to see a bright side in these tragedies. The ongoing unacceptable 'mishaps" are finally being exposed. The black human beings we have seen killed by police are hardly a new trend. This has been going on through the entire history of the United States. The only new development is the video cameras everyone has in their phones (and body cameras etc.) to document these injustices.

     Let us take a minute to consider and mourn all of the innocent black people killed for hundreds of years by law enforcement without the benefit of someone documenting their death on video.
There are also police that are quite capable at their position. Men and women that could never possibly shoot someone over a broken tail light and a wrong assumption. But now, we are witnessing evidence of officers capable of doing just that and the police department's "wall of silence" only exacerbates the situation. Yes, police need to trust other police and have each other's back. But the public would feel better and safer if more police distinguished themselves from the murdering police that put their own work at greater risk.

      Let's just hope that as hard as it is to witness these videos and process this information, we begin to understand that we are finally bringing an ugly truth about America to the surface. There are of course many other down sides to a world of people staring at their phones so often. But hopefully, we can use this opportunity of near perpetual video exposure to make the country we live in a safer place for all colors of police and civilians.  Americans existing with less fear of death by ignorance or misunderstanding would be a solid development for the 21st century.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Naked At The Gym in January


       Ah... January. Going to the gym and starting the year off right. If you haven't been in years like myself, the first return visit can be the hardest. You may not know your way around, which outs you as one of those January "yeah, sure they'll keep coming" kinda people.
      Returning to the Park Slope YMCA men's locker room after many years got me thinking two main things. One, I have never been in the women's locker room and I'm pretty sure whatever bender gets me in there, will not end well. Two, "There is a great difference between getting naked while changing, and parading one's self naked around the locker room".  I thought about this occasionally whilst not going to the gym and even gave it as one of the reason's I didn't go. Now I have returned, and there it is again. I have come to a basic conclusion.  I'd just rather not be naked or stand next to naked men in a locker room.  I categorize this as unfun nudity. You really need to simply do your business, shower, dry and apply your delicates. But, brushing your hair in the mirror naked and walking around shooting the breeze with your undercarriage on display... well, perhaps you could save that for an audience you know will appreciate such a thing. I am all for the good kind of nudity; nudist colonies, streaking, sex, art, parading around your house or enjoying the wilderness naked for weeks. Hey, it's only natural.
       A girlfriend and I once went and tried out a mud bath in Calistoga, Ca. Now I am sure these mud bath experiences vary from place to place... We got naked and slipped into these two mud tubs planted next to each other. They were too hot for me and quite claustrophobic. I was not digging it. Eventually, in what felt like the duration of the dark ages, some lady came in,  time was finally up. I was relieved and yet, it got worse. She had the both of us stand naked against some cement wall and hosed us down.  It had a Holocaust kinda vibe to it. When it was over,  I said, "Wow and we gotta pay for that experience?" "It would have been more enjoyable to have been arrested in Mexico." It was supposed to be therapeutic and all, but it just turned out to be another fine example of unfun nudity.
       Unfun nudity can be walking out of your apartment or hotel room naked and accidentally locking yourself out. Never mind how it happened, a dare, grabbing the paper, checking the weather, a mission from god, point is after it happens, what do you do? Ok, now that is sounding like an amusing challenge, at least from an outsider's point of view.
         For many of us the first encounter with it is in that dream; the dreaded going to school with no clothes on scenario.  I don't think many people have this dream later in life (at least not as often). It seems contained primarily to pre-pubescents. "They" say nudity symbolizes a number of things depending on what's going on in your real life . Freaking out and realizing that you are naked in public, "reflects your vulnerability or feelings of shamefulness. You could be hiding something and are afraid that others can see right through you". But then again, if you are destined to be a nudist. This could simply be the beginning of your calling.
        Of course there is the good old physical examination. My regular doctor is a friend. We have been social outside of the office. He had me disrobe. He put on a glove and it was time for him to put his finger up my (insert vulgar or clinical term here). Yes, he had to make some sort of a joke to ease the situation. I was actually surprised. I thought that would be my department and he would make some, "Now now, I do this all the time" sort of statement. We were both glad when that edition of unfun nudity was over. As for the ladies, I'll assume that going to the gynecologist isn't as fun as getting ice cream and riding the Cyclone on a hot summer day.
         Everyone confronts some form of unfun nudity at some point in life. I am relieved that as of this writing, I have not endured the prison /incarceration brand. The strip search can't be all that life affirming (at the airport or elsewhere) either. I have however experienced a great loss at strip poker (fortunately, it was rather enjoyable).
         I look forward to more skinny dipping, streaking, parading, dancing and getting loose. Nudity can be fun for the whole fam... no, that is just not right.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Metropolitan Museum of David Bowie


I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday, January 11th.  The world awoke to the shocking news of the passing of David Bowie. I kinda lost it, cranked my essential Bowie and beyond, did some writing while occasionally checking the related scrolled news and posts. This loss was as universal as when John Lennon was murdered.
    My Facebook and Twitter feeds are everything Bowie, some beautiful, some cliche, but all heartfelt. I begin to feel inspiration from David Bowie and what he has meant to me through my life. The first thought was, "get off this computer and go do something that is alive and inspiring. So I got on the train and went to the Met.
    I looked around at the people on the subway. "Are they aware that he is gone?", "Does it matter to that guy?" "I'll bet that fourteen year old girl likes Kanye and vaguely knows Bowie as some old guy that dressed funky" "That woman is about my age, wearing black motorcycle boots with lots of silver, she knows, and I'll bet she's thinking about it right now" "Ok, that guy in the Mets hat and Knicks jacket, talking to his friend about The Nets defense, it's not on his radar ".
    I get off the subway and I realize I only have about 45 minutes to enjoy in The Met (yes, all that Bowie processing ate up time ). I give the gal 2 dollars (you can still pay what you wish at The Met) and went straight to the Impressionists.
    I stood in front of Van Gogh's "Wheat Field With Cypresses". I used to go look at these paintings not all that unoften.  Standing here and seeing the depth of the paint, I mean it's thick! It looks three dimensional. I start to feel like I am melting into the painting. "Oh right, I ate that THC lemon drop before I left the apartment, there was that". But, that hardly cheapens the experience. I dive into a few Monet's and Manet's. I am starved for seeing all of these paintings, kinda like when you eat a few peanuts and you realize you haven't eaten all day. 
    I often say to myself, "Go to a museum today". I have a musician schedule, so I can go on times when they are not crowded... This is when it dawns on me, "Shit, I haven't been here in years". I don't want an exact figure. "Did they have to give up? "They let people shamelessly take pictures of paintings?" "I think you could without a flash, but now that every schmo has a camera on their phone, they figure they might as well!!" So, I am absorbing myself in another painting, I also sense a tourist waiting for me to move out of the fucking way so he can snap a picture of his mortal mug in front of this masterpiece. I made a pact with myself right there. I will never take a picture of a painting in a museum. There are so many other works of unbelievable substance you can lose yourself in that don't come complete with a caravan of gadget goblins, but the celebrity paintings; they now have an amateur paparazzi to contend with for the duration of mankind.
     The camera thing aside. I walked out of the museum with a satiated sensation I have not felt in far too long. It's a special feeling I can't get out of a great song, book or movie. The Impressionists always inspire me. They were radicals in their time and their study of light and color stills feels cutting edge. I walked through Central Park in the dark ("people think I'm...craaazy"). I thought more about Bowie and went and met a friend at Joe's Shanghai to close the celebration.
     I wouldn't have gone to the museum today if it wasn't for David Bowie. His inspiration could apply to a few other actions in my life. There is something going on beyond notes in a scale when a musician inspires you to go to a museum.