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"sandman" sandy allen: News

Long Time... - April 7, 2011

Yes, it has been a long time since I sat down to compose an entry here. Where to start?


At the last writing, Sandman had just ended a five (or 6)-year long stint with the Rivergods, due to an overload of personal commitments, with a determination to complete a solo record (or, at least get working on it). Things progressed according to this plan for a month or so. Gigs were sparse, due to holidays and various band members having their own personal commitments. Sman had been "sitting in" with the Daphne Martin/Craig Edwards project for a few months, and continued to show up at gigs (and rehearsals) when he could. Long story, short - he's now a full-fledged member of Raise the Rent (Daphne's band), mostly playing guitar and occasional mandolin, but also filling in on bass when neither of the "regular" bass-players are available, and even learning vocal parts.


Early this year, Sandman stopped in to see a band in which "Wenchman" Brian Straub was playing at the Holiday Bowl in Groton, Ct. The next day, Brian got in touch and urged Sman to book Corina & the Wenchmen there. The ol' Sandman was hesitant, feeling that original music might not "fly" at the venue. Brian was... well... pushy. Sman called. The woman (Tammy) gave him not one, but two Saturday night gigs, sight-unseen (sound-unheard, actually). Sman suggested Hellbent & Heartbreakin' do one, and so it was. Turns out it's a great room. Another woman (Marie) called and asked if Sandman could do an acoustic "happy hour" show there. Being booked for the date she needed someone, Sman booked himself for a later Friday, and promised to ask around and find a couple of acts to fill 6 Fridays. Within a day or so, the whole series was booked. It has been more successful than anyone expected, bringing in people who just come for the music - not just bowlers who wander in for a beer. There are no performances scheduled beyond April, although Marie seems to be considering booking some occasionally, and will likely start up again in the fall/winter, when more folks bowl. The Saturday nights, I believe, go year-round.


The Hoolios continue to draw a happy crowd whenever, wherever, whether in the stripped-down acoustic format, or the full-band thang. Most recently, the band played in Providence, at a wonderful restaurant venue called the Cuban Revolution. Thanks go out to our friend Brian Bishop for solidifying a month-long deal with the club, bringing in a number of acts from down New London way (aside from The Hoolios, Vince Thompson, the Village Jammers, and Raise the Rent). It's a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon (5-9 p.m.).


Our good friend Chris Castle has been around - twice. He came early this year for a week or so, then returned for his annual St. Patrick's Day gig at Hannifin's. The New London stop happened about two-thirds of the way through a 7-week tour. This time, Chris was, again, traveling with the incredibly talented Womack Brothers Family Band. Upon leaving New London, the band headed to Providence for a one-nighter. The plan was to travel on to New Hampshire the following day for another. Sandman got a call as they were packing up for the Providence gig - the opener for the Stone Church in New Hampsire couldn't make the gig. Would Sman be interested? Yessiree. So, the troupe back-tracked from Providence and stayed the night with Sandman and Gay. The following day Sandman joined the troupe, driving with Chris as navigator. There was a very small turnout. Actually Sandman's brother and his wife (who live in N.H. and had been alerted of the last-minute gig), and one other guy were it. The "other guy" bought a CD, and it was great to see some family, so all-in-all, a good night. Also, (we hope) a foot in the door at a real nice venue.

On the ride up, there was much talk of possible future collaboration. When the gig was over, the Womacks and Chris had a pow-wow. Sandman was about to leave, when Chris asked if he might get a ride back south. Seems the tour was ending ahead of schedule, understandably; Haley and Noah's grandmother had passed away that morning, and they had decided they must go home. The topic of the pow-wow had been whether or not to carry on with the few remaining gigs as something less than advertised. All had agreed, no.

So, Chris came back and spent another week or so in New London. He did some recording, wrote a new song or two, and hatched a plan that quickly began to take form; all I can say at this point is that there are some gigs booked in July, down south, and Sandman has a bag packed. More soon...


As previously mentioned, Sandman left the R'gods to spend more time at home. Gay's mother Peg had been getting older and more fragile, and by last fall, needed a lot more attention. Sman was happy to be there to help Gay in any way he could. Peg passed away on Valentine's Day. She's missed. She had a long, full life - she would've been 93 this July. For the first time in years, Gay is able to get out and meet some folks and enjoy a social life, and Sandman can hit the road occasionally. A new day, indeed...

HB&HB;ISLAND ADVENTURE - October 11, 2010

If it's October, it must be Martha's Vineyard...

This was our fourth consecutive year playing at the infamous Ritz, by all accounts the rowdiest place on the island. We always have a blast. Most of the summer folks are gone. It's a great time for a weekend visit, so the ferries are nearly full, and the towns lively with souvenir-shoppers looking for an end-of-season bargain. The weather was gorgeous, breezy and autumnal, crystal-clear and cloudless.

We all arrived late Friday afternoon. Preston got there first, driving the equipment. Tim and Corina made a day of it, stopping first at a music store in Lexington to drool over mandolins. They showed up for the same boat as yours truly, who drove up in order to have my own way to get to Brian Bishop's place for a Sunday afternoon gig with the Hoolios. Our crossing had a rocky start - a few folks who chose to ride outside got soaked early and spent the rest of the trip dripping in the cabin. Todd arrived on the next boat, as did Ken, who'd brought the wife and kids along. The next couple of hours was spent in settling in and getting fed, then we had another couple to wait.

The folks who run the place are great. The Ritz shares a space with a Tai restaurant, which occupies the area where we play. Our start-time is 10 p.m., so we wander down around 9;30 from our apartment above. The switch from restaurant to "stage" takes cooperation and patience, and the managers are extremely helpful and accommodating - they gently encourage any lingering patrons relax and enjoy, and consider moving to a table out of the transition zone. It works, and our setting up is certainly no more distracting or disruptive than the lively din from the bar.

Friday night the small crowd thinned out at around midnight. We were told we were competing with a bass-fishing tournament. We finished out the night to a very small, yet appreciative audience.

Saturday was a day of walking, sight-seeing, lounging, eating... I spent an hour or so sitting on a bench near the ferry dock. I considered a swim. The water was clear and inviting. From my vantage point, I looked down the beach and saw a few people walking - not a soul swimming. The cool breeze convinced me a swim, invigorating as it might be, was way too ambitious a plan. I wrote a short poem, then walked around town. It was about 2:00. I felt a nap coming on.

Preston woke me up at about 4:30. He was heading to our friend Steve's place in West Tisbury for a cookout. I shook myself awake, got some coffee, and off we went. Todd joined us, and on the way we stopped for Ken and his family. Steve's place is tucked away, off the beaten track. There's a large barn-like building, a residence/workshop/studio/warehouse. There are several smaller outbuildings, all a work-in-progress. Right outside of the "barn" is a concrete slab with a corrugated steel roof and open sides. This is obviously the busiest "room" on the property, at least until the weather turns nasty. We were introduced to a bunch of wonderful, hospitable people whose names I can't recall. One guy had the grill fired up and ready. Preston had brought fresh home-made sausage. Soon, somebody brought a platter of venison tenderloin tips (he'd killed the deer that morning). There were some vegetables, but this feast was about the meat. The sun went down. It got chilly. We had some pie while we stood around the grill, or the other small fire. As darkness took over, I noticed the stars. I saw Venus. I searched for most of a minute before I could find another. Another minute, another star. As we left, about a half-hour later, I looked up. One forgets how much artificial light we live with. I hadn't seen so many stars in years.

Back at the Ritz, we had a better night, crowd-wise. The small dance-floor was packed, and the bar stayed busy. We got an actual encore.

Sunday morning, we all managed to get going pretty early. We packed the truck, packed our bags, and headed to the ferry. I managed to get to Bishop's place in time to chill out for a while. We met the folks in the other band "Lil Anne & the Hot Cayenne". During our initial conversation, I mentioned that I play rub-board. Lil Anne invited me to play with them, explaining that their rub-board player couldn't make the trip. They came all the way from Ithaca, N.Y. I had a ball, even playing some mando on a few songs. Then the Hools took over and played a rollicking 2+ hour set. What a blast! We hadn't all played together for at least a month - especially good to have the Squeezer back in action.

Great weekend, long day Sunday. Great to get home. Life is good.

A-FEST 3 - September 21, 2010

Well, summer's wound down again. Last weekend we enjoyed the last hurrah of the season, the 3rd annual Americana Festival at the always-wonderful Hygienic Art Park. Those of you who made it know there were a few great out-of-town acts this year, giving the event a little more of a "big-time" feel. Mostly, for me, this remains a celebration of the wealth of "local" talent, of which I'm proud to be a part.

I had fun in my role as a member of three bands. The Hoolios set started a bit shaky, owing to the absence of the "Squeezer" (Mike Derry) who usually sings about half the material and plays accordian and keyboards. A back injury had him down. We settled in after a song or two, and old pros that we are, let the thing be what it was. Jim Carpenter's songs are so good, they adapt to a variety of interpretations. Hellbent & Heartbreakin' provided a solid, rockin' set, and it only bothered me a little that people couldn't hear me - it all sounded great from where I sat. On Saturday, the Rivergods set went well, showcasing the songwriting range of Ben and Nancy Parent, punctuated by a brief moment of melancholy when Ben announced the ol' Sandman was leaving the group to pursue other endeavors.

It's true. I could go on a Shakespearean roll here, with 'tis pity, 'tis true, etc. The simple fact is, I've spread myself a little thin over the last year or so. Being in a few bands is fine, as long as one can adequately commit to each project. I have found myself unable to give enough to everybody and as a result, have depleted my own resources. I just turned 60. I've been doing this music thing a long time - like, forever. I made a conscious decision to concentrate on my own music, and so I had to let something go. It was not an easy choice, but one I had to make. There are personal factors that played into my decision, regarding domestic responsibilities and the general demands of day-to-day life, but mostly it comes down to the fact that I feel the need to move forward with my own musical vision, before I'm too old and creaky (some joker's probably saying "Too late"). I'm assured that "Once a Rivergod, always a Rivergod...", so I'll be looking forward to the occasional guest appearance with my young old friends...

Americana Fest aside, wonderful and celebratory as it was, the high point of my weekend was seeing and hearing THE WOMACK FAMILY BAND. These folks are proteges of the great singer/songwriter, my friend Chris Castle. They played Friday and Saturday night at Hanafin's Pub, a warm and friendly gathering place where live music is easily lost in the din. I got as close as I could, and was treated to a great show, a whirlwind of talent - they all play multiple instruments, often switching mid-song. The songs are well-crafted (like I said, Chris Castle proteges), the impressive range of instrumentation imaginative and surprisingly well-executed (there are moments of suspense - "Will he get to the trumpet in time?"). They are all good singers. The harmonies are angelic. I could go on. Suffice to say, I hope these folks get heard ALOT. They work hard and deserve to be noticed and appreciated. I'm inspired.

That's the news for now. I'll be doing my FOURTH THURSDAY thing at Sneekers in Groton this week (and every month, until Rhonda gets sick of me, I reckon). It's always fun, always different. I'm pretty sure Jim C. will lend his percussive talents this week, joining Mike P. and yours truly. Love, peace and harmony folks. Keep supporting live music - we can't live without it.

13 SANTAS... - May 26, 2010

That's right. In Iceland, they have 13 Santas. I learned this tidbit yesterday, while preparing for a commercial shoot in Manhattan. I say "preparing" - let me define, refine, and further explain.

Last Tuesday morning, I got an email from my friend Todd (he not only plays fiddle and sings a mean "high lonesome" tenor in the band Hellbent & Heartbreakin' - he's also an actor). He forwarded a "casting call" from an agency looking for a lap-steel guitar player, the client being Icelandic Air. Todd thought of me right away, and suggested I reply to the agency and advise them to look at my website to check out my "look" and credentials. I did. What the hell, it's worth a shot (the pay was considerably more generous than what I'm accustomed to making from music work. Don't get me started...).

My email elicited an immediate response: "Is the full beard your present look?". I heard my father's voice: "Why don't you shave that goddamn beard - you look like a bum". I won't say my heart sank, but I figured I wasn't getting the gig (the ad said "20-50 years old", so I knew I was pushing it anyway, being a tad outside those parameters). I replied, "Yes. The beard is permanent", adding hopefully, "They paid me extra for it when I worked in 'Amistad'". Another quick response: "I'll be in touch later today - may need to see you Thursday for an audition.".

I checked my email periodically - okay, it was every ten minutes or so - over the course of the day. Nothing. Wednesday morning, a little after 9:00 (like 9:03) I sent a message saying, in essence, "I guess you don't need me, but in case you do, I have a gig Thursday, and have to be back up here by 5:00...". Within a few minutes, I was pleasantly surprised by a reply saying " We do need you - can you come today?". I called the number and spoke to my correspondent, confirming an appointment "between 3:00 and 5:00". I took care of my homey obligations and hit the road.

At the audition, there were half a dozen or so guys. I was surprised and curious that half of them were black - the ad had specified "caucasian" (granted, I'm outside the age bracket, but this was really a stretch...). I wondered if perhaps it was a protest, and silently applauded them. Then I thought, "I bet these guys are good". Just as I was forecasting my diminishing odds, one of them took out a saxophone and began quietly - almost silently - noodling. I found myself back in a familiar universe. "God's in His heaven...", I thought, as I turned my attention to my real competition, using the "book-by-its-cover" method: 1) Crewcut with a beautiful instrument ("... must've given up some serious coin for that", I thought), beside him, what looked like a brand new black straw WALMART cowboy hat. He wore sneakers; 2) Potbelly with a rumpled black western shirt, which I guessed he'd slept in more than once (maybe last night), ruing that he'd left his gear in New England, and hoping they had a steel he could use; 3) Porkpie hat with a tiny goatee, confidently sliding what I took for blues licks (couldn't really hear, unplugged as he was); 4) Nervous fella, also "sans gear", listening through the door and quizzing those who emerged from the audition, trying to get an edge. I opted to wait until I was "on deck" to get my steel out. I felt surprisingly relaxed, and, I guess I should say, very white. The country & western bar scene from "48 Hours" with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy played in my head, as I filled out the card with sizes and vital statistics. I was stumped by one. "What color would you say my hair is?", I asked the young receptionist.

"Gray". She said it without a trace of hesitation. I began to protest, grabbing a handful of my prized ringlets.

"I mean this hair - not the beard".

"Gray", she smiled.

"It's finally catching up to my beard", I thought. "My SILVER beard".

About then, Potbelly emerged, complaining that the amp provided was awash with weird effects, which he'd been unable to subdue. We learned that no background music was provided. "You just play somethin'", he offered. Crewcut was next. He donned his stiff hat, took a deep, loud breath, and went in. I got out my ax and started warming up, making sure it was in tune. Crewcut came out, "King Bee" went in. I knew I was next. Crewcut admired my steel. I admired his, and we exchanged some shop-talk. As he packed up, he sighed, "You should get this. You look the part". I'd opted for the full faded denim look, complete with hole-in-elbow, my older, more beat-up straw cowboy hat, and snakeskin boots (I was going to wear my everyday weathered leathers, but had spilled about half a cup of coffee in one during my hasty departure). He headed for the elevator as King Bee bopped out from the "hot seat".

"Sandman?". I'd boldly put my nick-nickname on the sign-in sheet. I gathered myself and headed in.

"Hi, I'm Donna". She smiled and gave me a firm, friendly handshake and directed me to a chair. "Make yourself comfortable. I'm going to take some photos, then we'll do the taping". I looked at the camera. "Great. Can you push your hat back a little and give me a big smile". I did. "Great", she said again. "Far out", I thought. I looked at the amp, plugged in and strummed a little. "Yipes!". I couldn't help it. "That sounds pretty horrible". I began searching for the elusive control to eliminate the phase/flange/reverb/delay/you-name-it that was emanating from the thing, hoping I hadn't been too uppity and insulted her somehow.

"Take your time", said Donna."It's your audition. You should be comfortable". That made me feel better, and I spent a minute finding a decent sound. "Smile, introduce yourself, play something...". There followed a brief discussion of how I should introduce myself, with the usual explanation that Daniel is the name I use on official documents, etc., but, "when I answer the phone, if they ask for Daniel I know it's probably someone I don't want to talk to". She laughed. We settled on Sandman. I played a little, basically "Your Cheatin' Heart", with some artistic license. Donna waited until I stopped, then said, "That's great! But, I'd like to see more of your face".

"You're gonna run into that problem with steel players", I said. "We bow our heads a lot".

She laughed, and grasping the dilemma right by the horns, offered a compromise: "You pull your hat back a little and I'll lower the camera". I played again, a little better this time. "Play some more". I did a little bluesy thing for a minute. "That's great", she said.

"Thank you. Sandman, at your service". I gave a slight tip of the hat. I wondered if I'd come across too hokey. Before I had time to worry about it, she was thanking me profusely, and explaining that they'd know "probably by the weekend...". I returned her thanks, adding that I hadn't been to the city in a few years, but used to live there. "Where did you come from?".

"Rhode Island". She thanked me even more, obviously realizing I had a long, tedious drive ahead of me. All-in-all, I thought it'd gone well, but one can never really tell - people can be polite and very friendly. I walked the block and a half back to the car, took off my boots and began the drive home. It was just before 5:00 p.m. The drive was, for the most part, long and tedious.

I got a call on Friday afternoon: "You're one of the favorites. Can you commit to next Tuesday and Wednesday?". "Absolutely".

"We'll let you know as soon as we've made the decision" (or something like that - I admit, I was giddy). I spent the weekend in anticipation. The few folks with whom I shared my possible good fortune were unanimous in there positivity; "Of course, you'll get it. How could you not...?". Their confidence bolstered my own, and made me love them even more.

The call came Monday morning; "Daniel?". Her voice was friendly.

"Well, yes", I hesitated. "Call me Sandy, please. Or Sandman, if you like". She laughed.

"This is Lisa at (the) casting agency. You've been chosen for the part".

"Far out". It's my default response to surprising or good news. It's all I could say when I came face-to-face with Joni Mitchell in 1972.

Lisa continued, "Your shoot is scheduled for 10:45 tomorrow morning. Can you do that?".

"Yes, ma'am". Once again, I worried briefly about hokiness.

"O.K.", she went on. "I'll email you the script. And let's see... Can you come in for a wardrobe fitting at 4:00 today?".

"... Bit of a problem there. I live in Rhode Island".

"Oh, wait! There's a note here. You're supposed to wear exactly what you wore for the audition".

"Cool". I say that about as often as "far out".

"O.K. So, we'll see you tomorrow. I think that's it. Oh - keep Wednesday open, just in case...".

"O.K. Thank you Lisa".

The email arrived immediately. I admit her reference to "the script" had made me a little anxious. There was a series of 5 or 6 scenes, with an international (New York ethnic-rainbow) cast, including an Indian taxi-driver, a Jamaican (Trinidadian?) steel-drum player, a retired professor playing chess with an adolescent schoolboy, a pretty woman (Icelandic, and very pretty, I learned when I met her), a sax-player ("King Bee"), and me, the "lap guitar" player. In each scene, someone had a line, essentially a greeting to the people of Iceland, with an invitation to visit New York. A second "optional" line included "Merry Christmas". I could handle that. In addition to the line, in my scene was the instruction to play "JOLAS VEINAR EINNE OG ATTA". Was I supposed to be familiar with this tune? I shot off a quick email asking for help, and immediately received a reply with an mp3 attached. I was relieved to hear what I later learned is an old traditional Christmas song, sung to the tune of "Darlin' Clementine". I went on about my day, and just before going to bed, I took out my lap-steel and worked it out.

I rose in the dark, around 5:00, planning to be on the road by 6:00 or so. After a somewhat abbreviated morning routine, I gathered my wardrobe, which consisted of two shirts, two pairs of jeans (one of which I wore), and my "snakes" (they'd suggested I bring a second wardrobe choice, in case the director didn't agree my audition look was perfect). I made sure I had a cord, my slide and finger picks. Once I was sure I had everything, I mounted up and drove off into...

... the morning rush hour. I'd allowed myself about four and a half hours to make the trip (I did it in a little over three last week for the audition). Rush hour is different - predictably unpredictable, to a degree, although delay is inevitable. Most of the trip I was doing less than 30 mph. The rest, I went... well, a lot faster. I was in stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper somewhere near Norwalk when I got a call. It was a little after 9:00.

"Daniel? This is Nadia from the agency. How are you?".

"I'm O.K. - in a little bit of traffic, but I think I'll be on time".

"O.K. I just wanted to call to see how you're doing". I asked if there was any place I could park right near the shoot. She thought that would be difficult. "No problem", I said. "I know a place on 23rd, so I'll park there and take a cab, or walk if I have time".

"Don't sweat it. We'll see you in a while. Just call me at this number if you have a problem".

I arrived at the garage at 10:30, put on my boots, grabbed my stuff and hailed a cab at 9th Ave. I arrived at the designated place at 10:40.


Here, I must confess that I spent a good deal of time yesterday (5/29) completing this story. It was almost as good as the finish I wrote the day before. That one disappeared when I tried to publish it. It was a masterpiece of fluid eloquence, if I do say so myself. To be a bit more humble and honest, there were a few stand-out passages. I went on at some length regarding the scene on the street where I passed a little over two hours waiting for the shoot. I wrote a lot about the abundance of beautiful women, waxed poetic about springtime in NYC. You get the idea. The trouble is, I went on so long, that the damn thing vanished at publication. In decidedly non-tech terms, the computer (server?) got tired (bored?) and when I pushed the "publish "button, I was directed to the sign-in page, where I discovered my little disaster.


I was pissed-off, confused, dismayed, and disgruntled. I did some gardening. I got philosophical. "I'll do it over tomorrow. I'll write it again and it'll be even better". (Actually, some of what you read above was completed that afternoon). Yesterday, I sat down with my morning coffee and resumed. I got wordy. I remembered some of my favorite parts and characters, as I remember them now. I wrote for a couple of hours, and finally satisfied I'd told the story adequately, retaining at least some of the flourish from the original, I hit the publish button, whereupon I was redirected to the sign-in page. Yes, it was gone again. Now I know... something - I'm unsure exactly what. I think I'm supposed to write - if I'm planning to go on and on - in some other format, then do the old copy & paste. I'll try that... next time. That is, the next time I have a long story I deem worth telling. For now, I offer the following synopsis, as quickly as I can:

Greeted by Nadia (assaistant director). Treated like a STAR, by her and everyone else on the crew throughout the experience. Perched on the street near the entrance to the famous Flatiron building for about two hours, ogling women (some would say - I will defend my actions with the phrase "appreciating the eternal, awesome beauty and poetry of God's masterpiece"). Met some real friendly folks. Nadia escorted me to the nearby park at about 1:00 p.m. The shoot took about 40 minutes. I did good, by all accounts - "Very natural and relaxed...", Nadia said. She also said my shades were cool, and directed me to wear them for the camera. That's it. I had some really pithy dialogue in there, too. Oh, yeah - then I drove home, having learned, among other things, that there are 13 versions of Santa in Iceland, and in all likelihood, I resemble at least one... 


Old Days - March 8, 2010

I recently stumbled on a name I recognized from my past. Actually, it's the daughter of someone I remember. I browsed her photo page, and found a picture of her with her father, so I got in touch. We exchanged a few notes. I didn't really remember her - she's a few years younger than I, and in high school, that can be a big gap. Seeing her name, though, had stirred a memory; In the summer after I graduated h.s., her father had opened a coffeehouse in a nearby town (compared to my little backwoods town, it was a small city), and had hired me to play my first real gig. He needed some promo pics, and being a talented amateur photographer, offered to take some. We did a shoot at his house one Saturday afternoon - my first photo shoot.

I'd long ago forgotten the name of the club, but never forgot the shoot, or the gig. I lost track of the pictures during my rambling youth, but thankfully, they were safe at my parents house, and I retrieved them during the final clean-out, leaving them, once again, to languish in their box for some years. I found them about three years ago, stuck together and slightly damaged, but retaining their essence. I made copies. I filed them away. Now, moved by a name I recognized, I dug them out.

I shouldn't be surprised by the impact these pictures have on me, but I am. The memory of the photo shoot is as clear as if it was last week, and the gig... well, that's a story.

It was, as I said, my first real gig as a singer/songwriter. I was something of a celebrity among my classmates, and in the community, having made quite an impression as an actor in school plays (acting got me into a prestigious drama school), as a player in several of the popular bands during my h.s. years, and as a PUBLISHED songwriter (I had a 6-month contract with Elektra records during my sophomore year). So, here I was, a golden boy of sorts, about to go off and get my training to become a famous actor, by most folks' estimation. Certainly, I'd continue to play music, and maybe write a song or two along the way. I was going to be a star. Everybody knew it. Well, almost everybody - my mother wished me well, having been in showbiz herself, although she worried I didn't have the chutzbah, the moxie. She made vague references to "the pitfalls". My father, the M.I.T. graduate/electrical engineer had serious doubts - afterall, he'd saved my mother from the wild life of showbiz, and his hope was that I'd come around, grow up, and find something productive to do with my life.

So, there I was, being chauffeured to the gig by a friend. He drove a VW bus. There were at least eight of us, cruising blissfully, the sunroof AND the sliding door open to the summer night air. I'm sure (although, for reasons soon to be apparent, I don't remember) we had some beer. He had some reefer. Really powerful reefer, I was warned. I was nervous. A toke or two and I felt more relaxed. I'll have another. Really powerful, I was warned again. Just one more. I remember watching the road fly by out the slider. I remember being at the microphone, eyes closed, in the zone. Suddenly, there are no words, just a muffled mumbling. Is that me? Eyes opened. Where am I? Who are these people? They're staring at me, their desperate eyes trying to give me the words I've lost. Oh, yeah - I'm singing. I'm singing something, but I can't remember what.

I guess I got through that song. I think I ended it abruptly, took a sip of coffee, mumbled something of an apology. After that, I may have sung another song, but soon I took a break, during which I went out for a cigarette and told the owner I was "nervous". Afterwards, I played a second set, which, though less passionate, was way more coherent.

The name of the place was the Condemned Coffeehouse. I just found out. Now I can sleep. I always wanted another shot at playing there, was sure I didn't get one because of my bad behavior. I went off to college, dropped out after a year, and began my wandering. My parents were disappointed and pissed off. The next few years were tough on our relationship. Thirty years later, my father still expressed his disappointment - it was kind of nice to hear he'd actually expected me to be a world-renown actor. Over the years, he'd come to appreciate (off and on) my talent and perseverance - I think, mostly, he saw my mother in me, and consoled himself with having two older, more "successful" sons.

Truth be known, I disappointed myself, and carried that burden for years - that failure thing. I perpetuated that stage persona - I did not perform sober (or "straight") for about twenty five years. In lucid moments, my mother's "pitfall" warnings would haunt me, but a drink or two would cure that. I did everything I could to please my parents, and when I failed, I rebelled even more, further distancing myself from their approval - a vicious cycle, if ever there was one. It's not their fault. I'm not blaming them (although I did, in my ignorance, for years). We all have a play. From time to time, I reckon we all let people dictate our part, our feelings. I'm glad I've lived long enough to get a second chance. I survived the push-and-pull of youth, success and failure, family and friends. Now I can do what I love, and I can make a fool of myself without guilt. If I "zone out" and forget the words, I can blame it on age, or being tired ("... missed my nap...").

All this from a picture. Imagine that. Check out the photo page.

love, peace & harmony...

Traveling Zydeco Circus - February 22, 2010

So, we had this gig booked. It was nebulous from the start. We knew the Hoolios would play, and Roadside Attractions (basically, adapted for Zydeco, with some additional players). As the date drew closer, bits of info trickled in, and it became obvious this was going to be one of those "just let it unfold" kind of gigs. It all started coming into focus during the last few days leading up to it, and we all had a pretty good feeling about it. Then, at the eleventh hour, news came that we couldn't do it at Chester's BBQ (the original venue) due to a bureaucratic snag - one of those Big Brother kind of things that brings out the rebellious teenager in all of us. Now, I figured that was that. The gigs off. As I was perusing the media, planning to spend my night off in leisurely rounds as a listener, I was surprised by an adamant "Hold yer horses". Daphne Glover (the "main" attraction in Roadside...), in a move that would make Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland proud, was unfazed and unflappable. Within an hour, she had moved the show. I was impressed. It got me thinking about the power of community. Reaffirmed my faith. It's a simple, little thing; we wanted to play, and some pencil-pusher put a bump in the road. To say the show came off without a hitch would be a fairytale assessment, a little too Andy Hardy/Hollywood-ending for the real world. There were some sound issues - mostly minor, nothing we haven't faced before. And some of the folks who'd planned to come to Chester's chose not to go the extra mile (a few miles, actually) to the Oasis in New London, a club known (renown?) for loud, punkish, in-your-face music (usually so loud, in fact, that they sell earplugs at the door). But... Chester stepped up, bringing his tasty BBQ, and those who made it to the show were treated to a real good time. So, hats off to Daphne, especially, and to Chet (Chester), and to the folks at the "O", and to our good friend Brian Bishop, who has a knack for getting people out to support live music, when they might think they'd rather stay home by the fire. Thanks for restoring my faith and teaching me a lesson. Somehow, I feel like Judge Hardy, having been shown the way by those determined, starry-eyed youngsters...

Inspiration... - February 8, 2010

... comes from out there and within. I've come to look for it. I'm hungry for it. It's a need I have. I expect to be awakened, surprised, delighted, disappointed, and sometimes shook up by life - the life going on in my house, my town, down the road, around the world, and across the universe.

If you've visited my little space here with any regularity, you may recall my previous musings on this particular time of year. In short, it is usually my most creative season. Forced by nature to spend a good deal of time indoors, I become more reflective. If I'm lucky and persistent (self-discipline comes into play now), I dig through unfinished writings (perhaps from last year at this time) and find the words I need to finish those works. During this process, something new invariably arises, and I'm off and running, or off and walking at least. In my quest of late, I have not been disappointed - a little overwhelmed. Let's say challenged.

I got news that a cousin of mine passed away last week. I've learned to take such news in stride. At the same time, I feel a sudden urgency to "get to work". I find myself asking, "What am I REALLY supposed to be doing?". The answer is, almost always, "Write it down". (Whatever IT is). So, I go looking for the essence. I get deep. It gets dark down there. I know there's a light - somewhere in this gloom. Let's see...

My train of thought staggers through main streets and alleys, corporate headquarters and war zones. There are disasters and scandals, scandalous exploitation of disasters, disastrous consequences..

I was recently reminded that I work for the company store. I say reminded, 'cause I think I felt it, knew it in my heart. The reality was explained to me by a guy who knows about such things - an economist who's been studying the behavior of banks and corporations his entire adult life. As I listened, it was as if he was relating an event from my childhood, in which I'd taken part but had forgotten. Now, out of a fog, I remember being there, doing that. And I'm baffled - How'd that happen? I feel some shame and guilt at my own vulnerability and naivete, but mostly I'm pissed off, and mostly at the machine.

And now, this machine, the company store, has made another big score; it gets to buy politicians. Not that this hasn't been going on, like, forever, but now it's law. Did I ask for this? Somewhere in the fine print, did I say "Sure, that's a great idea"? Did I somehow let it slip by during the commercial?

You may wonder where this ramble is headed. I write songs, remember? I'm looking for inspiration, watching for my muse, waiting for love to pierce my heart and move me to poetry. That's all I ask. And this is what I get? Oh, shit... I may, after all these years of avoiding it, have to write a protest song. Well, I'm sure I started a few. I just have to rummage through the old notebooks, matchbooks, and little scraps of paper (the ones that haven't blown in the wind) to see what I started, and see if I can finish it.

Now, there is good news; amid all the rubble, I have been finding little glimmers of hope and - dare I say - love. It is my excellent good fortune to abide among other creative folks, who have not been idle. In the last week, I've been treated to a heavy dose of inspiration from them. They remind me that I don't have to fix it all. I don't have to have all the answers. Maybe I don't even have to write a protest song. Maybe another silly love song. What's wrong with that?

As usual, I remind you to look at the calendar page here on my site. You'll find some diversionary suggestions, and even a good cause! Gee, maybe I'm doing something after all...

2K10 - January 3, 2010

It's been a while. The holidays have been filled with the usual festivities, punctuated by the occasional stress-test. Not a lot of gigs over the past month, but those that were fell on the festive side of the scale. New Years Eve was a quiet affair, with a little jammin' with friends, home before midnight, and in bed watching "The Thin Man" by 12:30. Nearly perfect...

Last night the R'gods played at the Bean & Leaf - first gig of the new year. If the rest of the year goes like this, we have some fun times comin' - loose, experimental, spontaneous, fun times... might even make a few dollars (thought we were taking donations for the hungry. Ben surprised us, announcing we'd use the proceeds from the basket to pay babysitters and put gas in our vehicles - nice surprise!). Don't get me wrong. I love helping those less fortunate, but we all have needs. As always, this annual concert (7th year) had a warm, casual feel. Thanks to friends and fans old and new.

As the days of reveling and reflection wind down, lots of new projects are in the works, news of which will appear in subsequent writings here, soon. All I can say for now is that everyone in my musical orbit is champing at the bit to get busy.

Hope y'all enjoyed your holidays. See you out there...

That's Showbiz... - November 16, 2009

As the holiday season approaches, we who entertain are often faced with hard choices. The happy obligations of family and the (often) similarly happy obligations of work are sometimes at odds. This is always a factor, but the consequences seem more immediate from Thanksgiving to New Years.

Case in point: Last year I had a gig on Christmas Eve - a party for the staff and regular, faithful patrons of a watering hole where one of my bandmates frequently relaxes. I had my family's blessing to do the gig, since I'd be home by 10:00 or so, in plenty of time to do a little tree-trimming and cuddle by the fire - the whole nostalgic thing. The money was good (it usually is, given the requisite generosity of the season - nobody wants to look like a Scrooge). I don't do a lot of shopping anymore, since there are no kids expecting ponies or bicycles, and my list has dwindled the natural way. I try to get cards to my sister and two brothers. I look for small tokens to wrap for the folks I live with, just so they know I care, and we all have something to open on the big day. Anyway, the "extra" money comes in handy. So, I do the gig. I get home and am faced with a classic dysfunctional family Christmas. A cloud hangs over the bare tree. I'm told they were waiting for me to decorate. I'm touched. Problem is; while they waited, two out of three got way too deep in the nog, and the third had to referee the festivities. Hence the cloud. Christmas morning comes - around noon sometime. Grandma stays in bed, nursing her self-inflicted wounds, refusing to have anything to do with any of us. Round two starts right after dinner (an anxiety-ridden affair. Talk about a silent night...). Junior decides to merry things up by joining Granny in a vodka-chugging contest. We convince him to go elsewhere to do his partying. He's gone for two or three days.

So, this year I promised - pledged to try, actually - to be home, flattering myself that it would make a difference. I perused my calendar. Slim pickin's. a gig the day after Thanksgiving, and - what's this? OH, my usual 4th-Thursday gig falls on T'day. Hmmm. I give my "band" the option to skip it. I'll go solo. Won't miss anything home. We'll be done with dinner by 4:00. Then a gig comes up Thanksgiving Eve. Good. Work is good. Then comes the possibility of a gig the day after Christmas. Too bad, that one's taken. Oh,well. I still have my 4th Thursday... Christmas Eve. Sorry, no-go. We're closed. It occurs to me I never asked about Thanksgiving. Closed.

It's nobody's fault. It seems to be my fate to stay home for the holidays. I do not intend to referee. Junior is on the straight and narrow these days, and Grandma has lost most of her bite (and a considerable bit of bark). I hope to enjoy quiet times by the fire with loved ones and dogs. The "extra" money just won't happen this year. That's O.K. Our needs are met, by the Grace... and that, my friends, is showbiz.

Don't Be Afraid... - October 25, 2009

... it's just Halloween. There's a lot of buzz going around - a few parties and a variety of events celebrating this goofy holiday. I wish I could make it to more of them. It sounds like some folks will be in costume (or wish they could be) the whole week.

I have mixed feelings about Halloween. Several memories stand out; I remember clearly being dragged around as a little kid, at least once by my sister, who, with a friend, dressed as a pair of dice. I was probably a pirate, or a cowboy. I'm sure I was embarrassed and would rather have just stayed home. As a young teenager, I recall running around in a huge trench-coat, proportionally huge pockets full of eggs, a can of shaving cream, and cans of beer. There were three of us, close friends and drinking buddies (budding alcoholics) out for fun and adventure. We cleverly eluded the cops, after having pelted a few cars with eggs. I ran right into someone's fish pond during my escape, so spent the next couple of hours squishing around in my sneakers, drunk enough not to mind much. At least one egg had broken in a pocket, and the smell of raw egg permeated the coat and my hands. A few years later I went to visit one of those guys where he went to college. There was a Halloween party at an old farmhouse. Aside from my friend, I didn't know anyone. There was a full moon. Dr. John's "Gris Gris" album played. Some folks had driven from Philly, bringing some REALLY good acid. For obvious reasons, no more details of this event remain in my memory. I do remember being "weirded-out" - it was just too classically psychedelic. I'm sure I spent most of the night staring at the moon. Probably the next year, I was at my parents' house, where I grew up, the scene of my childhood Halloweens. My parents had gone to a party, or may have been away. In any case, I was alone. I turned out all the lights and hid upstairs, quietly drinking myself into a stupor, peeking out the window when I heard approaching gaggles of children, hoping they'd just go away without doing any mischief. I think this was the scariest Halloween I ever spent. It was being a responsible adult that scared me.

Now, it's all just fun again - a good excuse for a party, or to dress like a pirate or a cowboy (not really a costume for me, anymore), or maybe in drag (c'mon guys - you know you've thought about it). This year, two of the bands I'm in will be playing on the big night. Corina & the Wenchmen and The Hoolios will appear at the Knick as part of a show to benefit WCNI. I can't speak for the Wenchpeople, but you can expect some shenanigans from the Hoolios. With a line-up including some of the areas most eccentric performers, I'm sure there will be costumed frivolity in abundance - hopefully, the music won't be scary.

Friday, HB&HB;will do the BCHH at the Bank St. Cafe, then the Hoolios will be at Sneekers. I reckon there'll be some costumed characters out and about, warming up for Saturday.

Finding Friends - October 11, 2009

These days I spend a fair percentage of time on line, updating my calendar, communicating with bandmates, generally taking care of business (or trying to...). I skip most of the frivolous stuff available, and do my best to stay focused. The one thing that distracts me from work is finding old friends.

A few years ago I joined the classmates site, just to see if I could locate anyone I might want to contact. I found a few people and reconnected. It marked a new phase in my life - I became acutely aware of the passage of time. My perception of these folks remained stuck in high school, a lifetime ago - it only took one correspondence to change that. Everybody's got a story. Divorcees, lawyers, millionaires and rocket-scientists...

More recently, myspace and facebook have accelerated the process, and I've been talking to a few people who still feel like friends, some from high school and some from my later, hazy days of early adulthood. It was the '70s, and for many of us, it was more "extended youth", I reckon.

On Friday, I went to the Garde to see Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson. I was unfamiliar with Mr. Thompson, the Rich in "Loud & Rich", but Loudon and I have a connection; Although he went to private school, he lived in a neighboring town to where I grew up, and his brother was a classmate of mine. Andy and I were friends in high school and afterwards, early in my professional life. The thing is...

Whereas Loudon is the paternal head of a substantial musical dynasty - just google him, follow the links, and you'll find a passel of Wainwrights and McGarrigles and Roaches (oh, my) - you won't find Andy. I tried. Maybe he doesn't wanna be found. That's cool. I respect that.

Now, I wanted to see Loudon perform. I hadn't seen him since sometime in the 70's (at Carnegie Hall or Avery Fisher or someplace BIG like that, I'm told - it's that "hazy days" thing. I don't remember). I jammed with him a few times back then, drank with him more than once, hoped he'd remember me. Seeing him perform was, indeed, a treat and something of a flashback. (Richard Thompson's guitar work is awe-inspiring - but let's stay focused). The main reason I went on Friday was the hope I'd have a minute to talk to Loudon, which I did during his "meet & greet". He either recognized me or pretended to, until I asked him "How's Andy? I've been trying to get in touch for years". He knew me then, and said "He's great. I'll see him tomorrow...". So, I passed along my email address. "Please tell him I said 'Hey', and ask him to get in touch". "Sure!". Now I wait to hear from an old friend, having used the old-fashioned face-to-face to get my message through...

GOOD CLEAN FUN... - September 21, 2009

... It happens a few times during the summer, at the Hygienic Art Park. There's Sailfest, a concert or two over the next month or so, then, after the broohaha of Labor Day has passed, and we all must accept that another summer has gone by way too quickly, the Americana Festival.

A few dedicated folks spend weeks organizing the event; Preston Frantz, Ken Atkins, Ben Parent, Jim & Sherry Stidfole, Rich Martin, Rick & Candy - these are the names I know - there are people behind the scenes, volunteers who make the thing happen. It's a wonderful thing.

This past weekend we enjoyed the "2nd Annual...". I just wanted to take the opportunity to say "Thanks" to all those involved. I love being part of this creative community, the hub of which is the Hygienic.

Another one in the books... - September 10, 2009

Well, folks, the ol' Sandman has survived another year... spent the day yesterday doing as little as possible (there's a childish "you can't make me/you're not the boss of me" thing about birthdays). Even the few mundane tasks that required attention took on a leisurely, if not celebratory air, as if it was exactly what the old guy had planned, grocery-shopping and paying bills. Actually, the bill-paying was a bit of a thrill - the last installment of a long-term loan... undeniably exhilarating.

Messages came from all over, in all forms - an actual card in the mail from one brother, a phone call from the other, and one from the sister. We all agree we should get in touch more often, and promise to try ("When did life get so fast and busy?"). There were cyber-messages from friends old and new. thanks to all...

So, it's really just another day, undoubtedly the birthday of millions... Sandman is sure he's the luckiest, most blessed of the bunch - it's all about the company he keeps. Thanks again...

MV again... - September 7, 2009

HB&HB;just spent a marvelous weekend on Martha's Vineyard. This was our third time playing out there, again at the Ritz, by all accounts the funkiest, rowdiest bar on the island. They've made some changes - where we set up, there used to be a pool table and seating that all had to be re-arranged to accommodate the band. Now, there's a Thai restaurant in that space, so the re-arrangement no longer involves a pool table. Now there's a human-size Buddha... the folks were extremely accommodating. On Friday, we set up while a table of eight finished their meal. Not much of a crowd - just a handful of enthusiastic locals. Saturday night was better (crowd-wise). We kept 'em dancin' 'til last call. The days were spent in leisure - we're talkin' serious kickin' back here. The most arduous decisions were where to perch for people-watching, and whether to swim or nap first.

Anyway, we all had fun and look forward to another trip out there, maybe as soon as October ( somebody mentioned February as a possibility ). The key seems to be establishing a following among the locals - the tourists, or summer folks, have their own agenda, apparently especially on holiday weekends. Preston, far more ambitious than the rest of us, made some inroads at other venues on the island, so we'll see what pans out.

On his return, Sandman had just enough time enjoy the incomparable welcome of dogs and family, then a quick change of hats and off to the Tamarack for Hooli-antics.

This Friday, HB&HB;will do the BCHH. Next week brings the 2nd annual Americana Festival at the wonderful Hygienic Art Park - Sandman closes the show Friday 9/18 with Corina & the Wenchmen, preceded by the Village Jammers and Dogbite. The show starts at 7 pm. (for some reason, this one isn't coming up on my CALENDAR - there's a new system in place, and it's being uncooperative...). Check out the Rivergods website, or the Jammers, Loco Dare (Jim Carpenter's) to see a copy of the poster - Ben Parent has done it again. Great job... I'll try to get a copy up HERE.

So, summer's officially over. Back to school, back to work. Back to real life...

Busy Weeks... - August 24, 2009

... behind and ahead. Today Sandman will rest and catch up on routine stuff, like paying bills and going to the dump. Just finished a four-night/day stretch of gigs; Thursday the R'gods played Michael's Dairy (fun. Enthusiastic crowd), then the Hoolios at the Knick (more fun. We would've liked to see more people, but those who were there gave us the love we need to keep on keepin' on). Friday the Hoolios did the BCHH (a very small crowd - okay, not even really a crowd. A large handful of appreciative folks. We gave 'em a real good show, and just for fun, showed 'em what a rehearsal sounds like). Saturday Sandman took his place at the Sinner's Circle at the Bean & Leaf (a thoroughly enjoyable evening - thanks to a great crowd, and to fellow sinners Daphne, John, Hugh, and to Jim Carpenter at the board). Sunday afternoon the Hools played the Tamarack outdoor thing (we have a loyal following there. The support came in handy - we all missed our naps. Good time). I slept like a log - barely made it through "Mad Men".

So, coming up...

Thurs. Sandman (with Mike & Jim) at Sneekers.
Friday. HB&HB;at the BCHH.
Sat. Sandman (with Corina & the Wenchmen) at Sneekers

I'm hoping Corina's back is O.K. (she threw it out somehow last weekend, and after an iffy week had to miss her brother's wedding on Saturday!).

Now, it's trash and errands for the ol' Sandman. And there's that ever-present "to-do" list...

August Sunday - August 9, 2009

I used to get depressed around this time, when I was a kid (and well into my adulthood). School was starting soon - too soon - and there was so much I'd wanted to do this summer...

It still goes like that, except the classroom thing is way behind me (I consider myself still in school, forever. Life is school). I have a long list of things I expected to get done by now, not only this summer, but for, oh, the last five years or so (the "this summer" list might yet be doable. We'll see...).

So, I'm sitting here, having finished the crossword in the Sunday NY Times, as has been my habit as long as I can remember, probably since the paper cost $.50 (it's $6 now). There are worse things to be a junkie for. Last night I made the rounds to listen to some music. I REALLY appreciate the occasional Saturday night off, so I can just hang in the audience and feel the other side of the thing. I caught Sarah Borges and the Reducers at the Hygienic in New London - great show, great venue, great crowd. I love being a part of such a vibrant scene. I stopped at the Knick, here in Westerly, on my way home, to catch some of the folks playing a memorial benefit for friend Chris Hackett, who died on his motorcycle a few weeks ago. I couldn't stay long. My ears were tired. I'm getting old, gratefully (if not gracefully, although it is by the grace...), and for some years now my drugs of choice are caffeine and nicotine, which do little, if anything, to dull the senses. So, it got too loud for the ol' Sandman and he came home, leaving the younger and drunk to absorb the remainder of Saturday night.

While enjoying my first dose of the aforementioned "pleasures" on the back deck this morning, I could hear cars racing across rte. 78 on their way to the beach. The sound was interrupted periodically by the chirp of a bird, very close by the sound of it. It was a few minutes before I discovered the source - a young robin, perched on the handle of a watering can, about 6 feet away, still as a statue. We looked at each other for a minute. I stood and walked about halfway to the bird. It barely moved (maybe cocked its head). I went inside to refresh my coffee, then returned to find the bird hopping around among the potted plants. It took the arrival of my dogs, who took no notice of the bird (only seeing me, the food-giver, the god of breakfast) to compel it to fly across the yard to its nest. It was one of those simple, mundane moments that puts everything in focus. The perfect harmony of the universe in my back yard. Of course, had my dogs been REALLY hungry, and the bird a little slower, there would've been a different ending to the story - perfectly harmonious, in a dirge-like way...

So, the thing about Sundays in August is... well, it wasn't just about the impending return of school - my birthday's in September (was often the first day of school - what a bummer...). As a birthday nears, I always find myself assessing the past year, measuring my accomplishments, struggling to justify this or that choice, rationalizing procrastination... you get the idea. I think of friends gone on. I look forward and see a shorter future. Oh, well, c'est la vie... The BIG difference is, I don't get depressed about it anymore. I'm blessed to have close friends and a close-knit extended community of creative, loving folks. I have a home where they let me make breakfast on Sunday morning, just like my dad used to do. I commune with the birds on my back porch. I haven't had a hangover in almost 17 years. And I'm told I'm experiencing my Saturn Return, right now, these days. It's my second (happens every 28 years, approx.). My previous one brought about HUGE changes. In a nutshell, it signifies a starting-over phase, new beginnings and all that... I feel it. I embrace it. I hope I do everything in my power to take advantage of it.

Summer is certainly winding down. We're all hoping the weather stays "summery" AT LEAST through October (we deserve that much, since it was like March until the end of July). We've managed to get in a few great outdoor concerts, between the raindrops, and there are a few more coming. Keep an eye on the calendar. I look forward to seeing your shining faces out in the world...

HOOLIO TOUR - July 23, 2009

We didn't go far, but the Hoolios did play four nights in a row, in four different venues... the upshot is more gigs in the future, so we're guessing we did good. The newly-renovated "Knick" in Westerly will begin hosting "Hoolio Thursday" the 3rd Thursday every month, probably starting August 20th (a few details to be ironed out). It sounds as if they want to have us there on this regular basis for the rest of the year, which we all hope will benefit both the venue and the band (... the beginning of a beautiful relationship...).
The summer has brought some difficult scheduling challenges, this week being a prime example - tonight (Thurs. 7/23) the Hools will play at the Mystic Seaport, sans Sandman, who will happily fulfill his 4th-Thursday-at-Sneekers obligation (when Jim got the Seaport booking, he pleaded with Sman to release Mike P. for the evening. "No problem", says Sandman. "If I can't get Corina, I'll do it naked".). Well, Corina's on board, as well as Tim O. on mandolin. We're looking forward to a good time, and a different sound.
Tomorrow, Sandman begins his musical workday at the BCHH with the Rivergods (6:30 - 8:30), then commutes to Westerly to join Hellbent & Heartbreakin' (already in progress?) at the KNICK. Sue Menhart will open, solo, so he might get there for the first note...
Saturday brings a gala event at Sneekers - it's the 25th anniversary of this popular, fun, MUSIC-FRIENDLY venue. There will be live music from 3:00 - 11:00 pm (maybe beyond). The line-up includes Village Jammers, Hoolios, the Full Dempsey, Highway Call, Spodie-Odie, and I know I'm forgetting someone, but you get the point - a lot of great area bands who've been playing at Sneekers, in one form or another, since the beginning (Hmmm... old geezers who can't get out of town? More like mature, seasoned veteran players showing there appreciation for a great place to play).
Sunday the Hoolios will be at the Tamarack Lodge in Voluntown (2-6, I think - check the calendar) playing outside. There's a pool, horse shoes, food, drink, merriment. Good time.
The summer's going fast - too fast, as usual. Changes are coming. Go with the flow. Rock on. Laissez le bontemps roulez. See you out there somewhere...

We're Back... - June 15, 2009

... from "the Block", that is. As reported last week, Mikey went out with the Jammers on Tuesday. They got to play on the real stage, inside, due to rain - it must've been pretty nasty weather to move them inside, 'cause Capt. Nick's has installed a retractable awning that covers the outdoor bar area, and as in the past, there's cover for the musicians on the deck. If it's raining sideways, none of that helps.

We Hoolios made the voyage out on Friday, arriving in a cloud, a light drizzle falling occasionally. By 4:00 pm the sun burned through, and we had a pleasant evening, playing a lively set for a welcoming crowd, some of whom remembered us from previous years. We missed the pipes and reeds of "The Squeezer" (the other Mike, who had to stay behind for his grandson's christening - we tried to convince him to bring the family out and dunk the kid in the ocean...). As usual, the night got louder and rowdier as it got later, with some talented acts.

Saturday morning Billy and Ron caught the early boat, then Mike, Jim and Sandman did what comes naturally on the island - sat on the deck of the hotel, having coffee and Bloody Marys, watching the town come alive, awaiting the arrival of the HB&HB;crew. Preston had made a reservation to bring his truck over on the first boat, so Sandman went down to greet him and Lorelei, and learned that early-birds Corina and Tim were also on that boat. We got a tip from a local as to where we could park the truck, near the club, then these latest arrivals joined the old Hools on the deck to await the next boat. Todd and Bret came ashore on that one. Now we all settled in for a short while, until we could check in at Capt. Nick's. Since HB&HB;was the first inside act, we were able to set up on stage right away, thus avoiding a rush later on. Now we just had to get our rooms, and figure out the bed situation (which took a little doing, since Jim and Mike had no room-assignment, having made a more-or-less last-minute decision to play the Sandman set. LUCKILY, Preston had reserved a room for himself and Lorelei, so there WAS a room for the Hooli-Wenchmen). After solving that puzzle, we had all afternoon to kick back. Around 2:30, Sandman called home to make his daily connection with the real world, then closed his eyes for what was going to be about an hour. He awoke at 4:00, not sure exactly where he was. Then it all came back... a quick shower, then to the club. On the way, his cellphone rang - Jim, thinking perhaps he'd overslept. "No,no...", Sman lied. "I'm on my way - almost there".

Just time for a sound-check. Go get some coffee. We hit at 5:00 and played for about 30 appreciative folks. The set felt real good, and by all accounts the old boys sounded great. The weather was fine - a little overcast, but dry, and there was a steady flow of arrivals, looking for the heart of Saturday night.

As the throng grew, three more wonderful acts followed, a few raindrops fell, the awning was deployed and no one missed a beat. HB&HB;was all tuned up and had a quick soundcheck, then (by all accounts) kicked ass, warming up the room and getting the crowd in the mood.

The rest of the night was loud and raucous, just like it's supposed to be. Knowing a blow-by-blow account of the entire evening would not do justice to this often-surreal event (and would likely bore you), I offer the following exchange which took place around 11:00 pm:

Sandman stepped outside to rest the old ears and have a smoke, finding a little elbow-room near the entrance. Just then a gaggle of attractive young women arrived. They were well-dressed and sported cardboard masks and headwear, having obviously come from a gala (or pseudo-gala) of some sort. Three of them huddled a few feet away, doing their best to make subtle gestures, casting furtive glances in the Sman's direction. Two of them gave a gentle shove to the best-dressed, cardboard tiara-wearing one. She approached with a smile. "Do you dance? Do you like peppermint?"
"I sometimes dance". Sandman thought carefully before answering the rest of the riddle. "I wonder", he said. "What does peppermint have to do with it?". ('Maybe she wants to kiss me', he thought hopefully).
"Oh! They're peckermints - these little mints shaped like peckers. None of my men-friends will take one."
"O.K... But what does it have to do with dancing? Are there drugs in it?"
Tiara-girl looked insulted, taking a "Who me?" stance, hands on hips. Sandman looked her up and down and shrugged. She laughed. "Oh. Right. You'd have no way of knowing. I don't do drugs", she insisted. "What are you drinking?".
"You don't wanna know", Sman said, then answered "A virgin madras". He repeated it, before she had a chance to ask him again. "It's orange and cranberry juice".
"You're not drinking?"
"Had my share long ago".
"That sounds good. That's what I'll have when I'm finished drinking. Do you want a peckermint?"
"O.K. I'll try one". As he popped it in his mouth, the other two girls joined tiara-girl. They all talked at once, more or less, offering names "I love your shirt", they all agreed. (Sman had his over-the-top star-studded western shirt on).
"He's eating a peckermint", tiara-girl announced. She put her arm around him and a camera flashed.
"First time I've ever had my picture taken with a pecker in my mouth". Sandman couldn't resist the opportunity to display his wit. Much laughter. The little group had settled into a nice rapport.
"What's your name?", he asked.
"Hayley", tiara-girl replied."This is my friend Tyler". She held up a picture attached to a stick. "She couldn't be here".
"What's the occasion?", Sandman asked, again looking her up and down, gesturing at her tiara.
"Oh! I'm getting married. We've come from a bachelorette party".
"I'm sorry to hear that. I thought we had something going here". He put his arm around her. She smiled and offered some conciliatory remark, basically "Aw...".
"Well. I told them (indicating her friends) I'd ask the first man I saw to dance - and you're it!"
Just then one of her friends arrived with a shot and a virgin madras (Hayley had told her that's what I was drinking and she wanted one). We all toasted, she threw back the shot and took a sip of the madras. "That's goood!"
"Don't eat one of these peckermints while your drinking it. They don't go together", Sandman offered.
"You took one of those?!", one of the women asked, in a way that made Sandman wonder about drugs again."The guys we know would only put the tip in their mouth", she giggled.
"I'm secure in my manhood". More wit from the ol' Sman.
"I like him".
"You're cool".
"I love your shirt". They all gushed together.
"Can I spit it out now?". And he did.
There was another minute or so of small-talk.
"Let me know when you wanna dance", Sandman offered before heading back inside, having apparently depleted his wit.
A while later he saw them all on the dancefloor, gleefully accepting the insults of Sasquatch and the Sickobillys, flailing around with the crowd. Sandman was content to dance in the shadows, acting his age.

Sunday morning was drizzly. Jim left early. The rest of us had breakfast and lounged for a while, then made our way to the boat. Maybe THIS summer, we'll get back over for a visit. If not, we hope to make the pilgrimage again next June...


Back to the Block - June 7, 2009

It's that time again... Sandman & his musical friends once more welcome summer with a pilgrimage to Block Island. This year, Mike P. will head out with the Village Jammers on Tues. 6/9. I reckon he'll come back to the continent for a couple of days, before the Hoolios play on Friday. On Saturday, Sandman has a set - he'll be joined by Mike and Jim, who's bringing his cajon for the occasion. It'll be a gas. Later that evening, Hellbent & Heartbreakin' take the big stage for their debut at the festival. We're all looking forward to a breath of island air and sand in our shoes. Look for a full report in the aftermath...

We lucked out with the weather this weekend. Yesterday HB&HB;played the Ashlawn Farm farmers market in the morning, then the Hools did the gazebo in OMV. Everyone was happy to see the sun, after a dismal week.

Tomorrow night HB&HB;heads back indoors for a private party at Mohegan Sun... we're dressing for the occasion - no "casual Friday" gig, this one. Somebody better have a camera.

Later this month (6/20), Sman will take his show (Corina & the Wenchmen) to Sneekers, with something new - Bill Light is filling in on guitar (Wenchman Bret Farrar has a wedding to attend) AND Brian Straub will join us on pedal & lap steel. It'll be a fun time, for sure. Friday 6/26 Sman will do the BCHH with the usual Corina & the Wenchmen line-up - hopefully Brian will be on board for this one, too.

In other news... the guestbook issue has been resolved, thanks to my friend Michael Packer, who had the same problem, and directed me to the cyber-gifted Michele at hostbaby. There remain other twists and curve-balls - the inevitable vicissitudes of life, but all-in-all, things have settled down, and with the milder weather, everything seems easier.

Hope to see y'all on the road somewhere...

GETTING BUSY... - May 9, 2009

I find myself with a backlog of tasks (this entry being one), I just spent a few minutes deleting entries from the Guestbook on this site - some piggish pharmaceutical types "signed" about 100 times. I shall restrain myself from calling them the names I'd like to. As a result, I've turned off the guestbook, and added to my task-list "get in touch re: guestbook".

In the meantime, people - real people, who actually want to get in touch with me - will have to find another way.

I won't bore y'all with the details of my crazy life over the last month or so (the guestbook intrusion is symptomatic) - suffice to say, there are a couple of messes to be cleaned up. I am resigned to the fact that there are lessons here I'm supposed to learn (maybe should've learned long ago).

All I can do is keep on keepin' on and do my best to maintain some balance, which brings me to music. It always comes back to music, for me.

Tonight, the Rivergods and Hoolios share the stage at Stashes - sure to be an energetic scene. With the full moon in Scorpio, we'll be either reigning it in or letting it pull us along - it's bound to be exciting, however it goes.

As usual, the next three months are already crammed with gigs - some outdoor stuff and private parties, as well as some of the regular venues we've come to know and love. The Calendar page remains as up-to-date as possible, so keep an eye out there for the latest.

I'll get back here soon, but now, there's that pesky to-do list...

SPRING!!! - March 23, 2009

... or so the calendar says. March is a fickle month. We must be patient and appreciate the "teaser" days when the sun is warm and the breeze gentle.

We've all been keeping pretty busy, hellbent hoolios that we are. HB&HB played with Girls, Guns & Glory for the fifth or sixth time. A happy partnership of sorts is growing there - the two bands share a mutual admiration and compliment each other in performance. We're always thrilled to share the stage with them. By all accounts (and there are quite a few) the HB&HB CD is getting a lot of airplay and positive feedback. The band is looking forward to playing at the Block Island Music Festival in June. Sandman will play an acoustic set in the evening with Corina and Tim (this is Sman's fifth or sixth appearance at the BIMF, HB&HB's first).

The Hoolios have been knockin' 'em dead, in both incarnations ( acoustic quartet & full-throttle sextet).

The Rivergods have been on a bit of a hiatus, due mostly to the child-rearing responsibilities of the core members. We're scheduled to play the BCHH April 10th, so perhaps a rehearsal is in order (or not).

As for the Wench-people; we've managed to squeeze in a few practice sessions and have a few gigs booked over the next few months. Most of the Sandman gigs these days are the smaller acoustic variety, where he has the pleasure of performing with old friend Mike P.

That's all for now... just wanted to let y'all know the ol' Sandman is still here, with an urge to stay in touch from time to time. Keep the faith. Be good to each other. Check the calendar...

V-Day - February 14, 2009

Somehow, I overlooked this one in my last scribbling. Here's a day that celebrates love, or machine-gun massacre, depending on your emotional status (certainly there are some among us for whom the day conjures up fantasies of lovers AND guns...). I admit I've had my share of lonely Valentine's Days, and although I can't specifically recall, I bet there was a time or two I fell into the arms of some other lonely, as-desperate-as-I-was friend (or stranger), under the pressure to have someone to call "my Valentine". But those were the "good old days", kids - free love and all... and come to think of it, we didn't need a Hallmark event to evoke that pressure - hell, a rainy Tuesday would do just fine (kind of like a drunk feeling the need to drink on New Years, or St. Patrick's Day). I digress...

Today, I have someone. She has me. I'm a very fortunate man. May you all get lucky today.

Speaking of luck, we've survived the first of two consecutive Friday the 13ths. For the first time in my memory (which doesn't mean much) we have two months in a row with the 1st falling on a Sunday, and the rest of the days falling neatly in place behind it. This phenomenon has encouraged us all to check our bookings a lot more carefully in our constant quest to counter confusion. It almost worked...

Last night I played with the acoustic Hoolios at the Tamarack Lodge. It seemed fitting, given it was Friday the 13th and V-Day eve, since Jim writes mostly twisted, scary love songs. We had a great time. HB&HB had to play the BCHH without the ol' Sandman (AND Todd, who's in India). I'm sure they did just fine. I wish I could be in two places at once.

Gigs galore in the next couple of weeks... check the calendar. Be good to each other...

February... - February 2, 2009

... as far back as I can (or care to) recall, it's held some special meaning. Maybe it has something to do with Valentine's Day, or Washington and Lincoln - celebrations in the deep of winter, custom-made to give kids something to focus on as the walls close in - or it could be that silent "R". Don't we all know somebody who insisted on speaking it? FebRuary... (usually the same one who said he was going to the LIeBERRY). I sit here, saying it over and over, with and without that R (FebYOUary..., FebROOary...). I have no idea which is correct - they both sound like imaginary words at this point. I'll have to find my dictionary.

Thanks for indulging my train-of-thought digression. Whatever you call it, it's here. It's short, and it seems to go on for at least two months... Oh, yeah, there's that pesky extra day every four years... Those calendar geniuses must've been proud ("Boy, is THIS gonna mess with their heads").

Today is Groundhog Day - now, that'll really get the kids' attention. I don't know yet, but I'd bet that ol' Puxatawny Phil (or whatever his name is) is back in his lair, huddled in for more winter. It's just a hunch.

The month is shaping up to be fairly busy for Sandman & friends. There's one groundhog-back-in-the-hole kind of event already - the HB&HB concert (2/7) at the Courthouse Ctr for the Arts has been cancelled, due to a lack of response. Oh well, we'll find another inroad to Rhode Island. Dan Ferguson (WRIU, 90.3 fm, "Boudin Barndance", Thursday eves from 6-9) has both HB&HB and the Hoolios on his play-list). That's cool.

The Rivergods will be in (relatively) heavy rehearsal mode, preparing for next month's live recording. Sandman will be appearing as a Hoolio, as well as in his frontman role (check the calendar). There is talk of recording, and there are a few new songs germinating - and that fits right into what February has, historically, meant, going back about forty years.

Shelter From the Storm - January 20, 2009

Corina & the Wenchmen started the year at the BCHH on 1/9. There was a great crowd and the weather was kind to us - maybe people knew Saturday would be a good night to stay home. We had a great time, in between tuning nightmares. On the aforementioned Saturday, the intrepid band played at Sneekers for a handful of appreciative, hearty souls. Big thanks to those who braved the storm to hang with us. Sandman especially wants to thank Rhonda, who left the decision (to play or not...) entirely up to the band. Her continual support of live, original music is an inspiration. She's a real jewel. Sman will be back at Sneekers this Thursday with good buddy Mike Palazolo on bass and vocals.

The acoustic Hoolios had a warm and wonderful night at the Tamarack on Friday - Beth is another generous music patron. The "Tam" is a great listening room with live music every Friday, Saturday, and most Sunday afternoons (for brunch). It's a little off the beaten path, but well-worth the trip - great food, friendly folks, homey ambience.

Saturday brought the long-anticipated Cd-release concert for HB&HB at the O'Neill. What a blast! Thanks to Ward (from Girls, Guns & Glory) for a marvelous opening set, and to Ken Atkins and Paul Brockett for their unique contributions to the show. And of course, thanks to all y'all, who came to share the love...

The only downer for the weekend was a toothache - Sandman was in what the medical profession refers to as discomfort for the week leading up to these shows. By Saturday night, the pain was constant - aspirin wasn't touching it anymore. As testament to the power of music, the only time it didn't hurt was while he was playing. Thankfully, he was able to get an appointment on Monday, even though it was a holiday. The offending tooth is gone, the nerve having been exposed for who-knows-how-long, its' song turning from a whisper to a primal scream and now, finally silenced. If the ol' Sman didn't seem his usual, affable self, that's why...

Hope to see y'all around. The next couple of months are shaping up to be busy and fun.

New Year... - January 5, 2009

Yes, we've done it again... the ball dropped, the clock ticks on in a new year. The days are getting longer (it'll be noticeable soon).

Sandman finished off '08 quietly, with a crackling fire, dogs at his feet and loved ones yawning close by. On the 1st, he joined Jim & the Mikes at Sneekers for the acoustic Thursday thing. There were actually a few people out! (It was a bit quieter than usual).

Speaking of Sneekers, Sman has earned a spot in the Thursday rotation - he'll be performing on the 4th Thursday each month, with the talented Mike Palazolo on bass and vocals. The new rotation (Jim Carpenter, Village Jammers, JC Hatfield, Sandman) should be easier to keep track of for all involved. In the event of a 5th Thursday, a new/different act will be there.

Sman will be at the BCHH this Friday, and at Sneekers on Sat., with the always-fun support group Corina & the Wenchmen.

On 1/17, Hellbent & Heartbreakin' will perform at the wonderful O'Neill theater barn for their CD-release. We're already talking about recording some more...

... as are the Rivergods. With no gigs scheduled in the immediate future, the R'gods do have plans to begin recording an album, probably in February.

Other than that, there's not a lot of news. I will say that my friend (see last entry) is recuperating, and although she faces a long, arduous road, we're optimistic and confident she'll be her old self in time.

Keep an eye on the calendar, and keep supporting live music...
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