I’m excited to present two shows in Southern California for Julie Byrne this March. She’s a good pal, amazing songwriter and among the most captivating musicians I’ve seen live. Seeing her perform in candlelight at my friend Dan’s third floor Chicago apartment, fill the cavernous chamber of Human Resources in Los Angeles and finding old postcards she sent to buddies in Buffalo after hearing her first tape on Teen River are all great memories. I’m grateful for the opportunity to book these shows at two of my favorite spaces here. Hopefully you can come see a piece of music/video I’ve rarely shared in LA, and witness a performance from a hard working friend.
It’s pretty clear I will never be finishing the blog from the 2012 U.S. tour, didn’t even make it halfway through the 82 entries attempted. Trying to do an entry for each day is just way too time consuming and difficult when I’ve been on the road several times since and there’s so much to do that’s much more necessary.
So here is a much more reasonable and feasible attempt at doing a tour blog. It’s probably going to lack structure and have huge gaps. And a lot of stuff won’t be covered because most is sort of mundane.
Two full months have passed since the first show of this U.S. tour and it really feels like things haven’t even started yet. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that I’ve only been playing one show every two days on average since leaving up to this point. Strings of shows are divided by frequent or extended breaks. Lulls are hardly vacation though, and are usually packed with errands or contingencies. The pace of travel has been slow and vaguely circular, with repeated visits to various places that find me with increasingly less to do on each return. More intense days have had me waking up early, criss-crossing the length of Chicago to visit museums, window shop, find food, meet strangers, go to the beach, wait for buses, pop in to shows and sleep on trains at 2 AM. Other days I’ve done nothing but read on a farm miles from cellular reception or other humans, battling a cold with a bag of oranges and granola bars. And then there are the days I play a show, which resemble the predictably structured, inflexible routine of normalcy far more than the rest.
In three days, the pace quickens and routine will take hold. I play every night for the next 3 months except for less than a week’s worth of carefully chosen nights off, and the inevitable show that is canceled or doesn’t come together every once in a while. It’s a drastic shift from lazing about on Lake Superior or in woodlands with no responsibility but to eat and sleep at some point.
All minor nuisances aside, they’re far more desirable and tolerable than those that would plague a life of working in an office, in fast food, in retail or behind a phone. They really are nothing in comparison to the amazing people that I’ll meet, reunite with, play for, and see perform.
I’m so happy to be able to do this. That after years of releasing music for my friends and playing across the country, I’m able to subsist mostly by playing shows that scarcely more than 5-15 people come to in places often skipped by my musical contemporaries. That I’m able to truly see the parts of the country that America forgot, to see it all instead of rush over those important facets and corners in a hurry to get between the big cities that cast a shadow over them. It amazes me to no end that someone like me is able to do this with virtually no money, skills or fanbase and I’m super thankful for how it’s all worked out and that it gets better every time. This isn’t just a vacation or joyride though, it’s a way of life and it’s hard to imagine living any other way.
My new split 12” LP with Former Selves is now up on bandcamp for full streaming below, and two test presses are available for anyone who wasn’t able to get one at the west coast tour dates.
I will be on tour for the rest of the year, performing pieces from this record synchronized to new visual projections. There are about 100 shows left, almost all of which are with friends Big Waves of Pretty.
Kevin Greenspon / Former Selves "Betrayed by the Angels" b/w "Apropos of Golden Dreams" 12” vinyl LP 10 songs | July 2013 | Los Angeles, CA / Oakland, CA
For their second split release together, Kevin Greenspon and Paul Skomsvold have written and recorded a pair of miniature albums that seamlessly fold into each other, serving as the definitive work by both artists. Together, the two halves embody the spirit and structure of classical scores and film soundtracks using the vocabulary of ambient, new age, harsh noise and the various other experimental genres the artists have operated within for the past several years.
Featuring artwork by Samuel Partal.
Limited to 500 12” vinyl records with metallic silver labels, packaged in extra thick heavyweight jackets with matte UV finish. Includes digital download card.
I will have a split 12” LP with Former Selves, 7”, 9 new Bridgetown tapes and new visual projections. Absolutely NO town is off-limits, I’m down to come play and hang with anyone, ANYwhere. Small shows or strange situations welcome. We don’t want to play bars and don’t really feel comfortable in ‘legit’ venues. Living rooms, DIY spaces, warehouses, basements, art galleries, anything different is awesome and we can accommodate any circumstance. All you have to do is contact me!
This is going to mostly be East Coast/South/Midwest this time. Hit me up and let’s do this! firstname.lastname@example.org
My “Maroon Bells” video:
Here’s a video I took of Big Waves of Pretty in Michigan last year:
Waking dehydrated, I stumbled downstairs to the kitchen in my underwear to find all the guys sleeping in similar attire, with the most tortured facial expressions. The muggy summer heat. I took a shower and was sweating by the time I exited the bathroom. Loading my gear out to the car was a blast. The hilly ground was soft and wet, hard to keep footing on while carrying 50 pounds of stuff, or to position in the car when it was on a 30 or 40 degree incline and stuff kept spilling, falling, sliding around. Not to mention the stairs down from the house were the last nail in the coffin of the previously existing condition known as full body exhaustion. I finished loading out and took another shower. Sweat on the way to the car as I gave my goodbyes.
Stopped downtown for a little bit, cute and quaint with brick sidewalk and even road. Old. A step back. Gassed up and drove towards Pittsburgh, skirting West Virginia along the way. When I think of the term “middle of nowhere” in the sense of it being amidst thriving nature, but relatively little human inhabitation in spite of how close it is to most of the country’s major urban areas, I think of West Virginia. It really does feel untouched, moreso than most anywhere else, it seems. It’s just deep country. How many X-Files episodes take place here? Enough, that’s for sure. I’d really like to spend some solid time here and see it for real.
The highway crosses a river again and brings me back into Ohio, the state’s slogan is “So much to discover.” I’ve spent around 10 or 11 days here on this tour now, and am ready to leave. It’s been a good time and I honestly don’t know of any other band who has played this state so many times in one trip. Even bands from here told me they saw my calendar and had no idea how I got so many shows in the state. Neither do I, really. It was worth it though, there’s really no sense in skipping a place if you have a chance to try it.
2 hours later, and Pennsylvania Welcomes You.
At the Pennsylvania Welcome Center, there were Christian ladies with a booth set up with free cookies and soda. They were very sugary.
Approaching Pittsburgh from the Southwest on I-376 is very unique, because you see signs saying that the city is mere miles away, but there is virtually no civilization in sight. There are lovely hills dressed in the thickest green trees, ebbing and flowing all across the horizon, and no hint of a mid-sized city anywhere. Then you approach the Fort Pitt Tunnel and it all goes dark for two minutes. When the tunnel opens up, all of a sudden the sun’s radiance explodes and blinds your dilating pupils, the downtown skyline thrusts itself square in front of you, a grand river runs below the bridge, and a volley of highway signs directing traffic to a dozen different exits and offramps shoot up overhead. Trying to pick out which one is yours in the matter of seconds that fly by is overwhelming, and amazing. And then you’re blasting through downtown city streets among the bikers, pedestrians and skyscrapers a moment later. I’d consider this my favorite entrance to a city in the entire country, with Savannah, Georgia at sunset being my second favorite (and in a very different way). There are videos of this on youtube, but they can’t quite capture the feeling of driving in for the first time, not really sure of where you’re going and being overstimulated by it all.
Today’s show was at Garfield Artworks. Richard, who set up the show made it into a late afternoon barbecue sort of thing with like 8 performances, almost all of which had different video artists projecting work for the sets. It was an awesome time. And it was great that there was so much food available and everyone was super friendly. I was having a pretty great time and felt really good about the show. Even managed to read a little bit.
Manny, who owns the space and has been booking shows in Pittsburgh for like twenty years is known to be a bit grouchy or blunt when he’s not happy with something, I’ve heard. That he calls them like he sees them and has no hesitation to unleash what can be vicious words. But I found him really relatable. I like to think I understand why people who have been around forever, or aren’t necessarily the most popular people in town are perceived in certain ways. That it doesn’t really mean anything bad in the long run, it’s just people’s opinions and if you’re making things happen, that’s it. He even confided a few things in me about people we knew, sort of, just kind of talked about things he’s had to go through and put up with. It made sense to me. And after I played, I wandered back to the table for a soda and he straight up told me something that I definitely won’t forget, but can’t remember the exact wording. Something like “That was good. What are you doing, doing this? Playing house shows on these crazy DIY tours to noone, not making any money, releasing your own stuff. You should be signed to like Kranky or something. What are you doing here? Think about it.”
It was pretty powerful, however he phrased it. I remember being kind of frozen by it, thinking about all my friends who have been breaking their backs doing this for forever, fighting for the attention of drunken twenty-somethings caught in a passing phase between teen years and cubicles, that might not mean that much to them, but is all we have, at least for a few of us. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I’ve been getting older, about weeding through the muck, trying to find friends in the only place I’ve ever really known, and how it keeps changing around me. How I’m not here to party and frolic like I’m in a theme park on the verge of going out of business. How my cold, robotic seriousness makes it a little tougher to cope with the reality of living in this sort of subculture than if I just let loose and tried to enjoy the ride until something different dominates my life. If it ever does. Not that I don’t have a good time doing this, but it’s weird to think about the fact that there are alternatives. I’ve seen the party animal reckless musician types and that’ll never be me. And I’ve seen the guys who play clubs that someone who has never been in a band booked them at from across the country. The guys who sit at home and record everyday and never really integrate too much with their peers. All the different stereotypes that exist of underground/independent musicians, or just in general. It’s just something to think about that doesn’t have any clear questions or answers.
After the show, I went to Mike of the Honest Bag blog's house to go sleep. I was kind of wary at first before I met him since I don't align at all with the main theme that prevails throughout his blog, but I knew he'd be a positive and friendly person and wanted to hang out. You really can't judge a book by it's cover. He was among the most sweet people I have ever met, just brimming with soulful energy, so nice and sincere. His mother had been expecting us and laid out a giant feast that we could barely make a dent in.
His mother’s house felt like walking into a Victorian home from centuries ago, like it was on the historic register or something. The furniture and decor might as well have come out of a museum, it was a pinnacle of beauty and splendor. I just felt like I was in a castle or something. Mike and I stayed up and talked about our mutual friends, and our experiences/interactions with music and life, and growing up and everything until past 4 AM and then I slept in the spare bedroom. It was a great day that pushed the boundaries of 24 hours at that point and had to finally end. Can’t wait to go back to Pittsburgh.
Before getting back into posting about the US tour last year, I’d like to excuse the absence of posts over the past several weeks- I went on a West Coast tour with two of my oldest buddies here, released 7 things on Bridgetown, went on a lovely vacation, and came home to a pile of future plans. So much has happened that it is getting difficult to recall the events of that intense journey when other intense journeys have happened since. I’ll try. I really do want to finish this thing out though. It’s almost halfway done.
Maybe for the next couple of posts, please listen to what is one of my favorite albums I’ve heard in so long: “Soft Approach” by iji. I played at Zach’s house while he was out on tour, and he just played at Jack from Big Waves of Pretty’s house in Memphis, the connections never end. Zach is writing some of the most powerful, resonant lyrics out there right now. So many words from this album have guided me these past few weeks. There’s nothing quite like them. “Forever buried treasure, I hope you go for it.”
Okay. So I woke up in Oberlin, in Matthew Gallagher’s bed. He just released his Wax Monsters like, yesterday, so here it is:
I called him up to hang out after waking up and we went to the sauna with Luke. It reached 130 degrees and I lost 8 pounds in sweat. We probably stayed in longer than recommended and quickly proceeded to jump into the icy cold pool. My muscles were so weak, from either the extended stay in the sauna, or from being on tour for a month, or lack of exercise or because they always are, and being in the water made me feel like gelatin. I just bobbed there like a buoy for far too long.
It was so hot outside that I dried instantly, without a towel. Met up with Darrin, who invited me onto his porch and bestowed some amazing sushi. Ran into Bobby Stevens at the Mexican restaurant and he hooked it up with a giant plate of food. People in Oberlin are the best, really. But it was time to leave for Akron for the RCNCAVE.
In downtown Akron, the evening air was like being in a glowing oven, and the orange sky radiated as it dimmed. Sarah was dying for coffee that didn’t seem to exist anywhere downtown. I remember feeling totally sapped of all energy, my mind trudging through the day like an ant on an endless sidewalk. The RCNCAVE is the second story of a large factory building across the river from college bars, and a beautiful view of the buildings and roads presents itself through the windows behind the performers. It was good to be back, and all of the people involved with the space and Rubber City Noise label performed at the show. XXX Super Arcade played a furious drum/modular synth set in the bathroom, then moved to the center of the main area.
The rest is a blur. But Curt played an awesome Black Unicorn set with a great projection setup. Here’s a video of what I think is the very end of the set, or at least of one of his songs:
During the last set, the performer whose first name I can’t recall crooned out the window to the city as if it was one entity and returned to his equipment.
Minutes later two prostitutes came in, thinking this was some kind of cool, secret nightclub due to the lights and beats and voices bellowing out of the window. NOPE. Just a couple of freaky weirdos playing electronic music in a dusty factory building. I’m positive almost this same exact thing happened when I played here a few months prior.
Afterwards, a futon was provided for sleeping on at Curt’s girlfriend’s apartment, which was just being moved into and not furnished yet. A breathtaking bay window cradled the futon at the edge of the apartment. Exhausted and dehydrated, I sweated out another 7 pounds of liquid weight as a heavy duty fan was aimed directly at me for the duration of the brutally hot night.
Casey offered to buy much needed groceries with like food stamps or credits or something to that effect. So I got in the car and followed him to Giant Eagle, which is usually a gas station/truck stop in the middle of nowhere, but sometimes a huge bulk store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Following him was weird because the roads in Cleveland make absolutely no sense to me and feel very inefficient for people who would like to use them to get from one place to another. Maybe for everyone else it’s effective, or these were just the wrong roads but I 100% hate driving in this city because it defies logic.
He hooked it up with a boatload of food that would last a long while, and then the place gives a discount on gas depending on how much you spent in the store, so we got a bonus discount of 30 cents per gallon at a place that was already cheaper than anything else I’d seen on the way there. Some people are just kind people. It’s good to remember that sometimes.
Off to Oberlin again, and rolling in was very strange. I never really experience déjà vu but there was an unreal feeling. Wandered around aimlessly, trying to reconnect with this tiny place I had built up a familiarity with exactly a week before, and everything felt different. The start of school was definitely in swing. After laying in a park and getting covered in ants, I called Matt, who set up the show tonight. He had just come from the pool with a friend and took me to his house, showed me his art, offered his room for a nap and hung out. Then we walked to the studios of the Allen Art Building, where we would be playing together later that night.
Darrin was inside getting ready. He would be doing live projections for the show and had prepared some videos and manually manipulated media. It was a polygonal room with around two dozen sides and a vaulted ceiling.
So I loaded in and we set up three projectors to make use of the unique space available to us. I used mine to open up a sort of small window to the sky on the angled ceiling directly above his two, which created this effect of a widescreen/letterbox theater experience on an increasingly angled curve. Then I napped and wandered.
I played what felt like a weird set because the room was so bass heavy, it felt like an olympic pool sized reverb tank. It was near impossible to hear any mids or highs and it had a strange effect on the songs, or at least my perception of their performance. It’s easy to nitpick at yourself when there are more eyes than you can count aimed at you. One good thing about writing about all these days and recalling my mental state at them whether I discuss my performance or not on the blog is that I’m realizing more and more that none of that matters. Just do it. Then it’s done.
Last week I emailed a kid who I was listening to on soundcloud because his stuff was cool and he told me all these nice things and explained that this very show was the first he saw at Oberlin College, that first week of school. That seeing me play this set I wasn’t confident in made him instantly feel like he made the right choice to go to Oberlin to study music and that he was in the right place. It was so mindblowing to read that. We didn’t even meet at the show and I would never think that anyone would react to my music that way. I don’t think what I do is anything great, or groundbreaking or special. It’s just a part of me, and about a part of me, that hopefully others can find their own connection to. And when by some random stroke of fate I do find out someone did, it is so brutally unexpected every single time. Thanks to everyone who has felt anything, whether they’ve told me or not.
Darrin really put a full effort into presenting visuals for the show and honestly I look back on it as his night. He delivered the goods. Matt’s duo Wax Monsters played afterwards and everyone went nuts and danced in this pitch black dome as seizure inducing flashes of hyperactive colors battered the south wall. It was great to see people so pumped up.
Myself, with Darrin working on video:
Darrin’s setup, utilizing polaroids under a lamp and camera, fed into a computer program triggered by a guitar hero controller:
After the show, we went across the street to hang out on Matt’s porch and enjoy the breeze. It had been very hot lately. Apparently a few houses down there was a giant party. The first party of the school year, and all kinds of mass-texts were going around town about “freshman initiation” and how the new students were “in for it” at this rager, whatever that means. We saw eager groups of unknowing kids fresh out of high school glowing as they walked down the street towards the house in medium sized groups and joked about how insanely hot and packed it must be inside that house. Then a few cop cars blared their sirens and screeched their tires in front of the driveway. A minute later, hundreds of people came pouring out and spilled onto the yards, walking back home with the collective face of utter dejection. It was incredible. Not just for the sheer amount of people that somehow fit inside this house, but also for the scale of the all-encompassing cloud of unhappiness that their first chance to fit in was ruined. It was an amazing thing to watch, a sort of reverse Noah’s Ark.
A few hours later, our circle on the porch whittled down. It’s interesting being the oldest person in a group and realizing that everyone else in it is more educated and knowledgeable than you, but can be explicitly naive, lacking in life experience and common sense at times, even if the age difference is pretty miniscule. Being around totally different people, especially younger ones is a good way to ground yourself and realize more about yourself and humans in general. I thoroughly enjoyed talking and listening to them. Matt left to stay with his girlfriend and I slept on Matt’s bed as the cloud hung over the block outside the window long after the youngsters went home.
A powerful day. It was good to be back in Oberlin.
Took a nice walk in the morning towards the Toledo Museum of Art. It was basically just two or three blocks down the road and was an amazing stroll. I mentioned in the last post that Toledo’s Old West End neighborhood is the largest collection of Victorian homes in the country east of the Mississippi… it’s got a lot of charm. There’s this weird juxtaposition of giant, beautiful houses that look like you’re in another time period, amongst wacky builds and grandiose colors, with the occasional yard and porch withering in disrepair. Amazing.
I highly recommend checking out the Toledo Museum of Art if you’re ever in the area. It is totally free, and parking is $5, though there is free parking across the street in the neighborhood and it’s worth exploring the nearby blocks. The front and back of the building have this strange contrast:
The exhibits and collection were amazing, a really nice surprise. One of my favorites was this work by Kehinde Wiley:
I later found out he has tons of paintings in this style that the Virginia Museum of Fine Art describes as “Hip Hop meets Old Masters.” It’s a really cool appropriation of style and culture. Here is the painting they have at the VMFA, and the work it emulates and breaks down:
There was a special exhibit on glass works called “Color Ignited” that was incredible. One of my favorite things I’ve ever seen in a museum. Toledo is the country’s glass city the same way Detroit is Motor City or Akron is Rubber City, and so on. There was a huge collection and variety of sculptures and objects made of glass, ranging from retro 50s diner displays that idealized a Jetsons style future to abstract ceramic objects in shapes that seemingly can’t physically exist to sets of mirrors and LED lights that created windows into infinite space. The museum has a whole other building just for glass works across the street. I wish there was time to see that because I was blown away and spent a really long time examining everything. It’s really amazing how these works are made by a truly refined skill combined with the ability to harness spontaneity. Pictures weren’t allowed in the exhibit, but here are a few I found online.
The museum wore me out and I can’t remember anything else that was on exhibit but no matter. After a nice walk back to the house, I drove to Cleveland and got into town too early and without any real game plan. The show was at the Happy Dog, which is a fancy bar that has insane hot dogs and often has experimental shows. Their hot dogs are $5 and you pick if you want it regular or vegan, and then mark off up to 50 toppings from a giant checklist. It’s pretty insane and really good if you pick a tasteful combination and don’t go too crazy. Plus it looks rad. The vegan dogs are great and there are also like a dozen or more different sauces you can pick for tater tots/fries. Recommended.
I had no idea that the guy who was opening, Forest Management, was actually someone who saw me play in Sandusky on a previous tour. Kind of funny talking to him before the show and saying thanks for coming out again just to realize that he’s playing now. He played soft drone pieces with cassette and reel tape. Like the last time I played here, not too many people were around, and most who were, were there for drinks or food. So it can feel pretty awkward playing to people on dates that are 50 feet away. I just couldn’t really hear on stage and didn’t feel good about my set at all. It wasn’t that bad but in the moment, the number one thing that makes me feel bad about a show is not being able to hear well, even if it sounds fine on the other side. It’s a tough feeling to shake. Someone filmed a video of my set, here is “Maroon Bells.”
Isle Of Sodor played too, and was awesome. Great sci-fi synth compositions reminiscent of those old (or I guess still going) Hearts of Space recordings, or newer guys like Pulse Emitter.
And just for good measure, here is an incredible video of Portland’s Pulse Emitter tearing his home studio up. Playing with him a few years ago was a dream, and I just saw him RSVP on facebook to one of my Portland shows yesterday. Very pumped to hang again!
Anyways, the show was fun and even the sound guy bought some records, which I think is rad. He was super cool. Sound guys have to put up with a lot of music and a lot of it is bad, or not their thing, so I take something like that as a compliment.
Stayed with my buddy Casey who I met in Akron once before and slept on an air mattress in an empty house across the street from an eerie, abandoned school. There was one of those giant streetlights just sticking up out of his driveway right above the house. It was cool.