Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"So how many kids are in your family?" "Two. Listen, do you like Donovan?"

Back in the “old days”, during the three hapless years we tried to date girls before leaving on our missions, my buddy Breto and I had some odd ways of evaluating the girls we took out. Obviously they had to be attractive and all, and as time went on spirituality became more and more important. But usually Breto and I held our final judgment on whether the girl was familiar with our kind of music.

“So how did the date, go, man?”

“Pretty good. She didn’t know who Donovan was, but we had a good time.”

For some reason Breto and I thought we were going to find a stunning seventeen-year-old beauty queen from Bountiful, Utah that was talented, spiritual, and carried a track-by-track familiarity with our favorite semi-obscure B-list 1960’s recording artists.

Steve Winwood would have to belong to that category, I suppose, though I’m more inclined to put him on my own personal A-list. “Little Stevie” cut his chops with the Spencer Davis Group in the mid-60’s before moving on to the progressive jazz-rock outfit Traffic and serving a summer-long stint with Supergroup Blind Faith in 1969.

I can hear the collective, “Huh?” coming from my six readers even now…

But even if you don’t know the bands, chances are you’ll know the music. The Spencer Davis Group recorded “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m a Man”, a pair of tracks that are hard to miss if you’ve ever listened to an oldies station or watched a decent share of movies from the 80’s or 90’s. Blind Faith also included a guitarist named Eric Clapton.

If anyone is familiar with the name Steve Winwood, it’s through his solo work in the 1980’s, songs like “Valleri”, “Higher Love”, and “Back in the High Life Again”. This was the era when Winwood was winning Grammy’s and getting top-40 play.
But I always think of Winwood as one of the original Blue-Eyed Soul artists, like Joe Cocker and Mitch Ryder, a British R&B Soul Man that testified through my single favorite rock instrument: the Hammond B3 organ with the rotating Leslie speaker. That’s the guy I went to see last Monday night.

Through a bit of strategy and negotiation, along with some generous sacrifice on the part of my roommate, I managed to bring Breto and my old friend and fellow-Winwood fan Josh Christensen in tow. Breto and Josh had long ago fulfilled their dating quests by marrying and having children, but I managed to free them up for an evening with an old kindred spirit.

We arrived shortly after 6PM at The Depot, a Salt Lake club built in the old Union Pacific railroad station at The Gateway. I saw Leon Russell there about a year ago, and loved the feel of the venue. Perfect place for a guy like Winwood. While waiting in line I asked someone to take a shot of my compatriots and I, then shortly after, another dude in line suggested I get a photo with the local DJ’s who were sponsoring the event.

I obliged, not knowing I was getting a photo with former Z-93 legend Jon Carter of the “Jon and Dan” morning show. Carter was the early morning voice of my high school years when I was cutting my teeth on Led Zeppelin. Now with 103.5, Carter left Z-93 once they changed over to K-BUL Country 93, a move that forever convinced me that I would be a minority amid my Utah neighbors.

Once we made it inside, we were happy to land on the third row near the center of the venue, sticking me a rough 30 feet from Winwood’s trademark B3. I was even happier to learn that I would be allowed to take photos of the concert as long as I didn’t use my flash. This resulted in a 75% “way the h@!! too out of focus” shot rate, but I was still pleased with the results.
It was more than an hour before the show got underway, and so we kept ourselves occupied shooting the bull with each other and the people around us, while periodically finding ourselves glued to the monitors around the venue, which for some reason were showing a “Flipper” re-make starring Elijah Wood and Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan. But finally Jon Carter and his 103.5 sidekick came out to introduce Steve, and the concert got underway.

Whenever I go see a concert from one of my old favorites, there’s a lingering worry that they’re going to favor their new unfamiliar stuff instead of play the old tracks I love. But Steve took care of that one right away, ripping into “I’m a Man” at the B3 with a backup band that featured a guitarist, a percussionist, a mean saxophone player, and a drummer. For the first hour they barreled through a series of songs that had a 50% familiarity rate for me, but featured “Medicated Goo” from Traffic’s “Last Exit” and “Can’t Find My Way Home” from the Blind Faith album.

The B3 sounded incredible, and the supporting musicians were strong without being overbearing. Winwood would periodically shift back and forth between the organ and a guitar, letting the saxophone guy take over on the Hammond. After one number he delivered his traditional greeting to the local fans, expressing his thanks to be playing in such a "rather unusual place". I don't know if he meant the train station or Utah in general.

After a short break in the action, the band returned for the second half of the set, and soon Steve was ripping into some of his solo hits like “Higher Love”. Then he whipped out a Mandolin and delivered a rousing version of “Back in the High Life Again” that almost brought the crowd to its feet.

See, that was the only real problem Monday night…hardly anyone wanted to get up. I don’t know if it’s a Utah thing, or an old people thing, but when you go to a concert that features a veteran performer playing fun, upbeat music, you should GET UP. Josh and Breto and I would try to get up here or there, but when you’re the only ones standing, your polite gene takes over and you sit down, since you’ve been the “person sitting behind the rude people that won’t sit down”, too.

There really should be some sort of policy for this. A few years back, before James Brown died and was serenaded to on stage laying in an open casket during the six months and possible abduction he endured before being buried, I saw the Godfather of Soul at the House of Blues in Las Vegas with my longtime friend Steve Jones. We were up in the balcony, which was tilted at such a bad angle that if you sat down you could only see half the stage. So we stood up.

“Hey you, sit down!”

Two rows behind us were a group of middle-aged women who obviously felt the best way to experience Mr. Dynamite was to do it on their lazy rear ends. Down on the floor I watched with jealousy as two-hundred patrons jumped and danced at his feet, enjoying the full fruits of festival seating.

What made it worse at Winwood, though, was that two seats over from me was a gorgeous brunette, who, like the friend she was with, also liked to stand up. Unfortunately the seat between us was occupied by her Churro Salesman boyfriend/fiancĂ©, who remained seated even when the rest of the crowd jumped up to applaud at the end of each song. (For more on what a “Churro Salesman” is, click HERE.) Mr. Churro obviously had no clue who Steve Winwood was, not to mention what to do with the top three buttons of his white shirt, and once again I was crushed to see yet another beautiful young lady—one with great musical taste, even—wasting her time with the kind of guy that wouldn’t know Steve Winwood from his own boxer shorts.

Luckily I still had a great concert to enjoy. Once Steve got through “Back in the High Life”, he swapped his Mandolin for his Fender Strat and surprised us all with a fierce rendition of “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, one of the great psychedelic rockers of the era. Amazingly, this complex tune was churned out by only three members of the band, while the percussionist and the regular guitarist took a break. Then the rest of the band came back out for an epic version of the Traffic anthem “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” that left the crowd amazed and exhausted. As the momentum built, another surprise came by way of a “Crossroads” cover, which ironically I had seen Eric Clapton do only a few months ago at the MGM Grand.

(Odd footnote on the MGM Grand: the whole time I was there I was compelled to think that I was in the same venue that saw all of those 30-second Tyson fights. But instead I was watching Slowhand do “Wonderful Tonight”. Weird.)

As “Crossroads” got going, my friends and I tossed caution to the wind and rose to boogie. Nuts to anyone behind us. Eventually most of the crowd joined in, and since the Churro Salesman had gone to dispose of some of the excess beer he’d been drinking all night, his girlfriend got to dance next to a guy that had real taste for a little while.

But that was not to last, as Mr. Churro eventually came back, and Mr. Winwood started into his final number. When it became clear that the band was playing what may well be one of my five all-time favorite songs, I handed my camera to Breto and climbed over the two rows in front of us to join Josh and the gathering crowd at the stage, and for the next five minutes we partied like it was 1999.

“So glad we made it…so glad we made it…”

Finally, the Hammond went silent, the band rose and gathered at mid-stage, and bows were taken. Steve and the boys exited stage right and left us with the crowd still roaring our thanks for a lifetime of good music.
After most of the crowd left, Breto and Josh and I still stood at the edge of the stage, almost contemplating whether if we hopped up there ourselves if we could channel some of that same energy. Eventually we left, taking in the warm Summer air along 400 West while “Higher Love” still rang in our ears. Breto married a girl that digs 80’s music, and I don’t know what Josh’s wife likes. Still, Fiona and Melodi have been great for my friends, and I’m sure that my wife will be great for me someday, too, whether she listens to Donovan or not.

Just as long as she doesn’t like Garth Brooks.

Coming Soon...

Looks like it's either feast or famine on this thing...

Last night I spent some more time out at the KJZZ studios in West Valley, taping an intro for another clip I did that will be featured on this Saturday's broadcast of "B All Over" (airing at 10PM on KJZZ, Channel 14...well, actually around 10:45, since my clip will be the last to air). This clip will be a follow-up to the Rocky Anderson interview that ran two weeks ago, based on his recent hallway fracas with Dell Ray Hansen. If you miss the broadcast, don't get Utah cable stations, or just happen to be one of those occasional people that land on my blog while surfing randomly in India, I'll post a compressed version on my own site once the show airs.

But that's not all!

In the last week I've also taken a trip to Jackson, Wyoming and gone to a Steve Winwood concert in Salt Lake, both of which should be covered in upcoming columns. New material! What a concept! My trip to Jackson also gave me additional material towards a piece I've been mulling for some time, a bold attempt to capture my utter loathing of country music in words.

Until then, succas!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Short Films available on

Hey people,

I finally got around to compressing (most of) my short films and posting them on my other Web site. They aren't the best quality, but should be entertaining for anyone looking to kill a few down minutes.

You can access them all via the pulldown menu on this page.

So far I've posted last weekend's KJZZ interview with Rocky Anderson, my Family History video ("Repentus Maximus"), my homage to Chicago ("Sweet Home Chicago"), my homage to Washington DC ("Chocolate City"), and my homage to Island Park ("Private Idaho").

Still working on my homage to Mantua, Utah.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

You all can thank me later...

Be warned...


Be very warned...

In case you missed it...

Here is a compressed version of the sketch that aired on last night's edition of "B All Over" on KJZZ.

Click to view!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"The Horror...The Horror!"

Before turning 25 earlier this month, my sister had been feverishly working on a list of goals to accomplish before hitting the quarter-century mark. Appropriately (and symmetrically) titled “25 things to do before I turn 25”, the list included tasks as varied as flying a kite, learning a song on the piano, and skydiving.

One of these tasks was to visit nearby Antelope Island, so on a recent Thursday night, with nothing else of significance going on (meaning I had things to do, but chose emphatically not to do them), I joined her, her roommate Teresa, and her longtime friend and fellow Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter/Star Wars enthusiast friend Jessica for a quick drive out west.

Seemed like the perfect opportunity for a photo essay. Lucky you!

It was quite exciting to be able to go out to the land that inspired the short film classic, "Attack of the Killer Brine Shrimp", available at disreputable local video outlets everywhere. I found the brine shrimp so inspiring I used them as one of the main characters in a 168-page screenplay that also dealt with the lighter side of Kung Fu. Smashing stuff!

I never knew this, but you access the road to Antelope Island off the same freeway exit you take just past Layton Hills Mall to get to Famous Dave’s. Turn right, and you get BBQ and blues music; turn left, and drive for a really, really long time, and you find yourself on an island hanging out with a bunch of seagulls.

On this day we opted for the seagulls, and after paying the tollbooth lady $9 (you have to pay money to drive on the road—the “causeway”—out to Antelope Island. I’m not sure why this is, but it reminds me how grateful I am that we have not followed the example of our fellow states back east who have chosen to stick annoying toll roads all over the place.), we found ourselves on a straight-shot two lane road headed due west, pretty much out over the Great Salt Lake.

The thrill was so overwhelming I demanded that Katie stop her ’93 Geo Prism immediately so I could document the moment. Here, then, is a photo of a $9 road:

Upon closer examination, we were concerned to discover that our precious road appeared to be heading off into oblivion; there was no tangible end in sight. Perhaps it was a cruel joke by the tollbooth lady, we mused; she just sits there all day pocketing cash and watching unsuspecting drivers roll off to merge with the infinite.

Cautiously, we pressed on, but not before taking some more photographs of the wonders of Mother Nature. Seems the old gal can do some fascinating things when she gets a hold of a little salt. Observe:

When we finally arrived on the island after an arduous five-minute drive, we staggered out of the car and got reaccustomed to standing on solid ground again. I immediately stole off towards the lakeshore, abandoning my three female companions and reminding everyone why after nearly fifteen years of dating experience, I remain single and largely clueless. But I did get some nice photographs. Behold:

In the process we came across a number of examples of indigenous wildlife, and even one brave representative of the so-named antelope community. Though if we’re going by sheer numbers, the island should be re-named “Microscopic Swarming Lake Stink Insect Island” by the end of this year. Or maybe at least “Garbage-Sifting Seagull Island”. The only life form more plentiful than the seagulls were these teeny bugs that would swarm hundreds and thousands at a time whenever you stepped on the rocks near the lakeshore. It occurred to me that under the right circumstances, the bugs could be used quite effectively as the catalyst for a really bad horror movie.

After my contemplative sojourn, I made my way back to Katie’s car, which was now abandoned, but at least left the doors open. In the process of my hike I realized that when Katie and her friends offered to have me join them for a bite at Subway an hour earlier, I should have accepted, seeing as how the grand total of my food intake for the day up to that moment had been three tortilla chips which may or may not have included salsa.

Trudging along the shore, I began to rapidly lose energy and stamina, and so upon returning to the car I scoured the vehicle for food, finding only a bottle of very warm bottled water.


Soon after, as I lay sweating in the passenger seat, Katie and her friends returned, and I learned that while I was away she had accomplished yet another of her list tasks, which was to fly a kite. Once again Katie had demonstrated the proud family tradition of killing multiple birds with the same stone, which is a much better tradition than the one we have of going back into the house three times after starting the car in the driveway because we keep forgetting something we are going to need while we are out.

So on a wave of new enthusiasm, we all got back in the car and made our way further into the depths of the island, finally locating a picturesque spot on a western beach that looked perfect for some sunset images. Before long, the sun delivered, and we picked up the following:

Many of the sunset photos included four figures that were out on the beach near the lakeshore while we were shooting. I tried to get their dark silhouettes in the frame because I thought it would make for a serene artistic vision to include real human beings. But when I looked at the photos on my computer once I got home, I realized that the group was comprised of an engaged couple, a photographer, and a lackey out taking shots for a wedding announcement. Plus the groom had popped his collar.

I was infuriated.

On the way home, while answering the various voice mail messages that had failed to reach me while trying to achieve oneness with nature, we were flying east on the causeway when suddenly the car was overwhelmed with a stench so pervasive and overpowering I was dumbfounded that there wasn't a gymnasium or an oil refinery for miles. I mean, this smell was BAD. I was trying to tell my father something on the phone, but had to stop several times out of sheer horror at the stench. All I can say is that what we think is "lake stink" is nothing. And keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who regularly insists that he has an underdeveloped sense of smell. Whatever we encountered out there was plain demonic, and it's a good thing I wasn't driving at the time, otherwise Mr. Prism would have met Mr. Salt Lake and given birth to Baby Rust.

Now that would be fodder for a horror movie...

And so, thanks to my forward thinking, goal oriented sister, I had managed to bandwagon my way to a quaint photo essay. Something to stick on my blog and pretend to substitute for the real comedy writing I was supposed to be using it for.

Once again I am indebted to my kid sister. Welcome to your quarter-life crisis, punk.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More material on the way...

OK, people...obviously I've been a bit "off the wagon" lately as far as blog posts go. I can only assure you that I've been quite busy, only in efforts that don't always translate well to least right away.

The "B All Over" sketch was a mixed bag, if any of you caught it. They wound up editing it down quite a bit, so it wasn't quite what I was expecting. At the same time, I'm always happy to take a step forward, so that's the way I'm looking at it. It also helps that I've got another sketch airing this Saturday, probably between 10:30 and 11:00pm, judging by where it came in last night's shooting schedule. Let me know if you happen to catch it. It's an "interview" with Rocky Anderson.

More to come...