Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My city in ruins...

 Signs of the bitter things ahead...

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Yellow Springs, Ohio.  As an old hippie-activist, this town has been an important part of the fabric of my life for many years.  At one time Yellow Springs, and the small college in its midst, Antioch, were one of the major political centers of the anti-war movement of the sixties and early seventies.  I dare say this small Ohio town was no less significant to hippies back in the day than Haight Ashbury in California.  Yellow Springs was a town of great substance, filled with intellectual and creative minds.  It was a place where people joined together in intellectual conversation that led to getting things done.  It was a place of great power, and great activity.  Sadly, that is no longer the reality of Yellow Springs.

Yellow Springs has become a ghost town, where tourists and wannabe hippies come in search of memories that no longer dwell in the quaint storefronts that line the main thoroughfare of this once fine community.  Gone is the communal feeling of Yellow Springs.  It has been replaced by a adversarial and confrontational spirit of "townies" versus the rest of us.  The town has been ruthlessly taken over by economic conservatives who see no value in the hippies coming to visit their establishments than the green dollars in our drugged up hands.  More often than not, shops are operated by fake hipsters who are more prone to quoting Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly than Ram Dass or Abbie Hoffman.  There are Hollywood movie sets more real and containing more substance than Yellow Springs.  The place now breaks my heart far more often than it lifts my spirits.  It is bereft of heart and soul...

 Where the cruel kids hang...

Super-Fly was perhaps the worst experience of my day in Yellow Springs.  The place was staffed with sullen faced kids who seemed more interested in ignoring potential customers than getting up off their butts and welcoming them to their shop and asking if they might help them find something specific to their interests.  After my experience there, I wouldn't spend a dime in their shop if they were having a Going Out Of Business sale.  I would, however, highly recommend Dark Star Books.  They greet customers with kind words, easy smiles and they'll walk you through their shop and help you find whatever you might be looking for. Yeah, I spent money at Dark Star.  They earned it.

Open hearts and open minds welcome here.

Nestled in a building filled with Aveda hair salons and local artists combines, (where it seemed as if even business cards cost fifty dollars and up) I discovered the wonderful little shop by the name of the House of Ravenwood.  Hippies are welcomed here not as tourists to be fleeced, but as kindred spirits to be embraced and welcomed to their community. This is the Yellow Springs I remember. You can walk into this establishment, and if you have have half a mind to speak your mind, they'll let you speak it.  This is where church was in Yellow Springs yesterday.  And for twenty bucks, I walked out of there with a BAG of beads, bangles, essential hippie gear, and a heart uplifted and a spirit renewed by the fellowship I encountered there. It would have been a bargain at double the price.

 Lorele and Ms. Philana.  Very good spirits.

These two wonderful souls will see more of this old hippie in days to come.  As long as the House of Ravenwood is occupied by these wonderful women, I'll return again and again.  Truly, if you plan on visiting Yellow Springs, your visit will not be complete until you stop in and visit this quaint little shop.  I'd sit down for coffee and conversation with these women any day of the week.

Deanna, Kari and Carrie, the random encounter...

 After my wonderful experience in the House of Ravenwood, I walked outside seeking food and beverage to refuel my corporeal needs as thoroughly as my spiritual batteries had just been recharged.  I'd no sooner stepped out upon the sidewalk to begin my search for mass quantities of consumables, when three giggling ladies came walking up the sidewalk towards me.

It turned out that Kari was celebrating her birthday with two of her best friends, Deanna and Carrie.  As soon as they saw me, Kari turned to Carrie and said, "This guy is your soul-mate!" Well, conversation ensued and after some laughs and an exchange of photos, they began contemplating psychic readings for fifty dollars a pop.

"Oh no ladies," I said. "In my jingly green bag I have several devices that I will share with you, for no charge whatsoever, as my gift to you on your birthday."  Long story short, we rolled across the street and into a bar called, The Gulch.  The ladies ordered their beverages of choice and I ordered an ice water, (I don't drink alcohol) and I proceeded to share with them the magic I possess as an old hippie-shaman.  It proved to be an enlightening experience I'm sure they'll talk about for many birthday gatherings to come.  And it didn't cost them a single penny.  Needless to say, hearts were opened, and both tears and laughs were shared in copious quantities.  It was a grand time.

The lesson of this day in Yellow Springs?  The experience I came looking for, only happened when I opened up my heart and gave it freely to the folks around me.  The hippie they were looking to meet, turned out to be me.  In a town filled only with ghosts of the past, they encountered a spirit who greeted them with a simple message, "Hello, and welcome to the planet.  Have a wonderful and safe trip.  Treat those you encounter with a loving heart, and more often than not, they'll reciprocate and a grand time will be had by all."  There was magic in Yellow Springs yesterday, those who were a part of it will tell you in no uncertain terms, "It felt good, and I'm glad I was a part of it."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

NIX Comics, March Madness


So I'm sitting around watching some college hoops, and playing around on facebook, when up pops a post from my buddy at NIX Comics, Ken Eppstein.  He was looking for someone to proofread a new book, and I immediately replied that I'd do it.  He shoots me a PDF of NIX Western Comics #3 right away, and shortly thereafter, I'm reading what turned out to be one of the best stories I've read in awhile, The Coward Earl Vance. 

Written by Ken Eppstein, and brilliantly illustrated by Michael Neno, The Coward Earl Vance is a perfect example of what's best about Indy comics, when they're at their best.  Ken doesn't produce books that simply emulate or imitate the same old tired drivel being pumped out, week after endless week, by the "Big Two".  Whenever I read a NIX Comic, I don't feel like he's trying to prove he's worthy of landing the "big job" with either of the "Big Two" companies.  Ken does his own thing.  His books are never thinly veiled covers of the latest flavor-of-the-day super hero team.  I really like that a lot.

The Coward Earl Vance may be set in the Wild West, but the story is socially relevant to a major issue of our day, without feeling forced, phony or preachy.   I was floored at how good a read this turned out to be.  And no, I'm not going to give away anything about this story.  I'm just going to say this, "This story deserves an award for Best Short Story of the Year."  (So far)

If you're planning to attend either PIX, in Pittsburgh, Pa, next week, or, EXTRA SPACE, in Columbus, Ohio on April the eleventh, this is THE book you want to buy.  I'm telling you, The Coward Earl Bruce is so good, I had two cigarettes afterwards...

Please buy this book!  Trust me, you won't be disappointed...

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Day the Music cried...

Sugar-free they may have been, but the Players were laying down funk as smooth as twelve-year-old scotch.  Local legends, international successes, they filled the stage at Gillys and played music for the reason its supposed to be played, for the joy of playing music. Roller Coaster of love...

Then they were whisked off stage faster than the folks who came to see them could get in the doors.

Then came twenty minutes of awkward silence, followed shortly thereafter by the most bumbling, stumbling troupe of pretentious coffee-house wannabes assembled upon one stage I've ever witnessed in my entire life.  And it was a train wreck.  Miscue followed miscue, highlighted by a genuine, Nancy Kerrigan moment, when a woman I would have expected better of, given her obvious age, stopped mid-song and whined, "I think my monitor is too loud, can I start over?"

Even if they'd been playing around a bonfire in my backyard, we'd have booed them off the stage.

My wingman looked at me and said, "Taco Bell sounds a lot better than this, let's get out of here." And we did...

I love Louie, I love his shows, and have more often than not enjoyed some surprisingly good music at them.  I'll just think of Friday night's portion of Dayton Does Dayton a sour note in what up until then has always been a fairly solid composition. 

On a positive note, High 5 Riot will be playing Gillys on April 25th and I'm sure they'll be bringing some energy.  See you then?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

H!gh 5 Riot CD release party, 10/11/14

High 5 R!ot in the house!

Tonight Jane and I had the great pleasure to attend the CD release party for H!gh 5 Riot.  Everything about the night was perfect.  I loved the venue.  It was my first time visiting The Old Yellow Cab building and it felt like I was in Hamburg, Germany during the early days of the Beatles.  Yes, the venue is small, but it produces an atmosphere of intimacy that is unique in all the Oregon District.  You don't go to watch a show there, you go to participate in the show.  It was the perfect setting for Ashley Stacy.  She loves the people who turn out for the band's shows.  She doesn't just perform for the crowd, she jumps off the stage and gets up and close and personal with them.

Look, I've spent a lot of time in the Oregon District.  Many a weekend I've walked from bar to bar and listened to a lot of live music. I can't begin to count the number of times I've heard the same handful of songs performed from one club to the next.  I'm not faulting any of the bands, they're bar bands and they cater to the patrons who want to hear popular radio songs while consuming mass quantities of alcohol.  More often than not the bands are simply background noise.  High 5 R!ot isn't a bar band.  They're about making good music and partying with the many friends who come to see them perform.

High 5 R!ot and Ashley Stacy have learned an important secret often overlooked by other bands; Music isn't just about being on stage and being admired by people.  Good performers have a way of making a crowd feel like they're right up there on the stage with them and an important part of the show too.  Ashley Stacy is the master of the art of making a crowd feel like they're part of the show. And she doesn't do it with pithy verbal repartee between songs.  No, she does it by getting genuinely involved with the crowd.  She gets down off the stage and gets down with the crowd.  Point a camera at her and she's going to give you the picture that belongs to you and no one else.  It's magical and the crowd loves her for it.

And boy does she have a band: Andy Uzzel on bass, Austin labig on lead guitar, Sean McGrath on drums and Aaron Noble on keyboards.  They blend together perfectly.  Each member brings something to the table without which the overall sound wouldn't work.  They're tight.  There's an undeniable chemistry between the members of the band and they're producing something special. I can't wait to see what musical directions this band takes as they develop their own unique sound and style.  They aren't just performing, they're creating.

Anytime Ashley contacts me and says, "Hey, we're doing a show at _______, can you make it?"  I'm gonna be there.  And so should you.  There's something very special about this group of kids.  They make magic.  They make incredible music together.  And most importantly, they make you feel like they're there to see you.  They're not just creating a fan base, they're creating a family, and a circle of close friends who share the same love of music they share among themselves.

Mark my words folks, this band is gonna make some noise.  And a whole lot of friends too.  Give your ears a treat, pick up a copy of their new CD, Crowd Control, and you'll hear what I'm talking about.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 26, 2014

High 5 R!ot Meet and Greet, September 20th, 2014

Ashley Stacy of High 5 R!ot.

This past Saturday night, I had the delightful pleasure of attending a meet and greet for a new band, High 5 R!ot, at one of the Oregon District's popular local watering holes, The Trolley Stop.  I always go into each of these events with certain expectations: promoters, slick press kits, a lil' swag, food, beverage, and of course, the band. Seeing that all the fore-mentioned ingredients were present from the get-go, and my expectations met so quickly, the evening could have been called a success the moment I walked in the door to the party house.

However, expectations aren't why I attend these events.  I'm looking for something.  Good music...

You see, good music isn't just a part of my life, its a key ingredient of my life.  I don't even put on the first pot of coffee of the day before selecting the first tune of the day.  Music fuels the engine of my soul.  Its the most important meal of the day.  I went to the gig at the party house looking for something that had already caught my eye, the voice of Ashley Stacy.  She makes good music.

The first time I ever heard Ashley perform was during an acoustic set at Rewind 5 (Gilly's, May 2014) with now band mates, Andy Uzzel and Sean McGrath.  Ashley flat out stole the show that night and produced the truly "big moment" of the evening's entertainment. I made a point of searching her out after the set and in no uncertain terms I told her exactly how impressed I was with her vocal abilities. I'm telling you, the girl can flat out sing.

So, Saturday night I went to see the new band at the Trolley Stop.  Louie Wood was in attendance and the more I hang out with him, the more I like him and his uncanny ear for good music.  If I see Louie at an event, I know something good is going to happen.  I met mothers and fathers, siblings and friends of the band.  I was welcomed as warmly as Ive ever been at a function like this one. I met some good folks I can't wait to hang out with at a show in the near future.  I like the crowd that hangs around Ashley Stacy and High 5 R!ot. Yeah, these are folks I want to party with.

Eventually the band performed a three song set.  The first song felt a bit nervous and rushed.  (I expected that.) It was like watching a runaway train, racing faster and faster down the tracks until it crashed into a deafening silence.  It was okay, it just wasn't the moment I was looking for.  The second song saw the band calm down a bit and they produced a solid song.  Still, I was looking for that special something, the big moment.

Then came the third song of the set and the band finally relaxed and just let the music come.  Again, you could have heard a pin drop.  Cameras ceased flashing, voices grew quiet and every single eye was on Ashley Stacy as she dominated the room with her voice and stage presence.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  I'm telling you, the girl can flat out sing her butt off.

High 5 R!ot will be performing Saturday, October 11th, at their CD release party, in the "Old" Yellow Cab building located at 700 E. 4th Street in Dayton, Ohio.  Doors open at 7, tickets are currently available for the great price of $5.00 and will also be available at the door the night of the show for $7.00.  I've got it marked on my calendar and so should you.

I think we're going to see some big things from this band.  I think we're going to see some big things from Ashley Stacy.  I can't wait for the show to begin.  I'm going to be there and I hope you'll be joining me for what I believe will be a magical evening of great music.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rewind 5, May 23, 2014. A celebration of local music and good times.

A celebration of local music.

From the moment I walked into Gilly's I knew this was going to be something different.  I don't know what Louie does to get Fuerst Florists to donate the flowers, but folks, I've walked into funerals that didn't smell as good as Gilly's did Friday night.  The air was as perfumed as the fields filled with Spring flowers surrounding our fair city.  It was magical.  And while I'm on the subject of venue, I want to say what a great place for music Gilly's really is.  They have a great stage, large enough to handle any number of musicians comfortably and I love the theater style seating.  Gilly's isn't just another bar hosting bands.  Its a showcase for musicians.  Musicians aren't just a part of the scene, they are the focus of the scene.  I confess that it had been a while since my last visit, but after Friday night's show, I'll be frequenting them on a much more regular basis.

Acoustic jam to get the evening rolling.

The acoustic jam to get the evening rolling really set the stage for what was to follow.  Each of the performers participated in a kind of Round Robin format where they each had to perform an eighties cover song as well as an original song from their normal playlist.  My favorite moments from this part of the show had to be the guitar styling of Joe Gillis and the brilliant vocals of Ashley Stacy.  Ashley is one of those performers that simply command the attention of a crowd.  She reminded me of Janis Joplin.  I don't mean to say she sounded like Janis, she simply had so many of the vocal qualities that made Janis Joplin so popular during her all too brief career.  Ashley can flat out sing and she has a charisma on stage that makes her a musical force to be reckoned with.  She's working with a new band called High5 Riot and I can't wait to see what they'll be bringing to the Dayton music scene come October.

 Ashley Stacy and yours truly.

One of these days I'm gonna post this picture and say, "Yeah, I told you this girl was gonna be somebody some day."  She absolutely made me a fan with this song.  Taking a classic and making it your own, that takes real talent, and folks, she's just flat out loaded with it.

 Belly dancing?  At a rock show?

Yup, that's what I thought too, but then Belly Dance by Bronnwen put on a beautiful performance that truly caught me unawares.  It dawned upon me after a few moments into their performance that I'd never actually seen a belly dancer perform.   It wasn't like anything I expected and brought me a whole new respect for something I'd read about often enough yet never experienced first hand.  Their performance was beautiful and graceful.  They expanded my horizons and I can't say enough good things about these dancers, they were really amazing.

 Cat Swift, Catherine Ralston, myself and Reyna Spears.

These three girls worked their butts off the entire evening and were a joy to behold every time they took the stage in whatever configuration of musicians they performed with.  Cat Swift is the quintessential drummer.  She bounces around with so much energy she makes Tigger look lethargic.  When you talk to her it's fist-bumps, "Hell yeahs," and rock and roll.  She's the kind of girl you love to party with until you both throw back a shot and then she head butts you and knocks you flat on yer ass.  Catherine Ralston just made me smile the whole night.  She's the wiggly-jiggly girl you think is onstage just for her looks until she starts singing and then you realize she has some serious chops.  Reyna Spears is smoking hot.  She also plays some serious key boards and can sing too.  Check her out here

 Louie Wood, the man is on to something good.

I first met Louie a few years ago on facebook and we quickly became good friends.  He's got a great sense of humor and genuinely cares about so many things and people.  He loves the music scene, he loves musicians and he understands how to make the ordinary extraordinary.  As I stated earlier in the piece, from the moment you stepped into Gilly's and were embraced by the perfume of flowers in the air, you knew something magical was going to happen.  The place didn't smell like a bar, it smelled like a Spring meadow. The eighties numbers required of the bands really produced some great musical moments and forced bands out of their normal comfort zones. The show format had bands playing acoustic sets and then interacting with each other on the stage throughout the evening producing a very unique musical experience you just don't find in Dayton, Ohio often enough these days.  It was a jam.  I loved every single moment of it and I haven't even touched on some of the amazing moments this show produced, like The Tracers doing Rush covers like they'd been playing the songs their entire lives or Crazy Damn Good rocking out George Harrison's Got My Mind Set On you.  Folks, this is a show I won't miss in the years to come.  Louie Wood has something special going on with these shows and they aren't to be missed.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Zombie Marge, putting fun back into comics...

Delightfully irreverent and funny...

Halfway through Tim Fuller's Zombie Marge it suddenly dawned upon me why I've fallen so in love with Indy comic books.  For too long now I've been unhappy with mainstream comics.  I wasn't happy with them because they're just not fun to read anymore.  I'm so tired of intergalactic wars of "epic" proportions being fought by superheros who somehow need to be socially relevant, politically correct and continually tormented by their inner demons.  I'm sick to death of the half White, half Black, half Latino characters struggling with their homosexuality while they battle to save humanity in galaxies far far away while their lovers lie dying on planet Earth of Aids.  Mainstream comics are just too damned preachy, boring and pretentious these days.  No wonder folks aren't buying comic books anymore, it's cheaper to turn on our televisions and watch daytime dramas for free. 

Zombie Marge is none of the above things.  Zombie Marge is refreshingly witty, funny and irreverent.  It takes me back to the days of Hellboy Junior and Ren and Stimpy.  Zombie Marge, and so many of the other books being produced by Tim Fuller, are just plain good-old-fashioned fun.  This is what's being forgotten in the comic book industry today.  Not every comic book has to be an epic tale of Herculean warriors battling the forces of evil to save the universe from the super villain of the month.  There's a market for books like Zombie Marge.  There's a market for a good laugh and Tim Fuller fills it admirably.  Look, for those of us working ten to twelve hours a day, often times six days a week, the last thing we need when we sit down to read a comic book for relaxation is one more source telling us how we should be thinking about the "major" issues of the day.  All we're looking for is a good laugh, a bit of respite from our busy work week, and that's where a book like Zombie Marge comes into play.  Zombie Marge is a break from the realities of daily life, not another reminder of how rough and horrible life is these days.

Hoohah Comics is Tim Fuller's home on the Internet and it's loaded with a treasure trove of books guaranteed to make you smile when you could really use one the most.  You'll find Tim's Little Olden books, Sham Comics, The Blue Beagle, Twelve-Way with Cheese and so much more.  You'll find books you can enjoy with your kids as well as books to amuse your more sophisticated stoner friends.  Yeah, I said it, your stoner friends. We, uh, I mean they, like a good laugh too.  Whether you like ongoing web comics, digital comics or hard copy books, Tim Fuller has you covered.  And best of all?  You'll truly find something for the entire family to enjoy reading.  That's something I just don't find in the big two comic houses these days.  Surf on over and check Tim out, you'll be glad you did.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.