A big storm passed through LA yesterday. It kind of ravaged this desert city. I heard that an inch came down in a couple of hours. The streets became rivers, rushing downhill almost over the edges of sidewalks, and the drains to which all water rushed were big loud vortexes one would not want to slip into. Especially while unloading a guitar amp.

I witnessed all this as I was loading-in for a show at the Universal Bar in L.A. (It’s called the Universal Bar & Grill, but for some reason my pride allows me to play bars, but not bar & grills). The rain made the load-in more exciting than usual.

This venue was on the shore of the LA river in North Hollywood, which is not really as rustic sounding as it could be. At that point the river is a concrete slough and last night it was really raging, with no trees or grasses to slow it down. The rain was relentlessly dumping.

There was something kind of charged to the atmosphere outside and inside of the bar. Red light mixed with black lights and a cozy warmth. The smell of damp jackets and beer. Everybody had braved the elements a bit to make it out, and, as only some bars can do, it felt like THE place to be in case of emergency. So it was good. People were happy, the previous bands put on a great show and brought in a good draw and all was well.

We (as Midnight Door) played with abandon, as has been the case for all three of our shows thus far. Last night I felt even more the need to exorcise, and the feelings behind the songs felt pretty spot-on to me in my life. Being emotive wasn’t particularly difficult. More importantly though, the small crowd was TOTALLY into it , which is something that you can feel viscerally on stage. It is important and amazing when a crowd is wrapped up in every note… you can be exponentially more interesting and interested as a performer.

Then a rainy drive through Hollywood, which, at the risk of sounding like a farmboy, still impresses me greatly. I don’t know what Hollywood is or means, but it has a certain energy and excitement in its present that just being near is undeniable.

My brother came all the way up from Orange County and drove me to the gig and back which was amazingly cool. And my girlfriend as usual was present and super-into the whole thing, including carrying heavy equipment. Some good friends showed up for a meet up at the bar before and after, and my new partner in musical destruction Tripp played drums so excellently as only a pro can.

The night before, Saturday, we played in Echo Park at Pehrspace, which is this cool, funky venue that sits inside of a strip-mall type area. On both sides there are tiny hispanic churches whose buildings would be equally fitting for a laundromat or a travel agency.

Pehrspace is run by incredibly sweet and kind people whose real purpose seems truly to be allowing for art to happen. The opening band was a duo of drums and synth/beat/sounds and they brought a bunch of their super supportive crowd out. It was really great party jam music with thick beats mixed with urban psychadelia, and their drummer played live with a fury and a precision that is very difficult to pull off with electronic stuff.

There weren’t a whole ton of people there, but the ambience was supportive and great and wide open and so we just rocked it out. To tell the truth, circumstance made it such that we didn’t rehearse prior to the performance, but I had a feeling we could pull it off and we did. It was great. I was sweaty and sore after.

So now as is the usual though I just try and filter out what it means. To play great shows for a few people. To not actually have anything booked. It’s a mix of accomplishment and what now? It feels good and bad at once. I want to play more shows and reach more people and just, be able to do that. And that isn’t always easy to do. Ideally some clarity will come about, some natural career-ish evolution will become inevitable, and I will not have been spinning my wheels on a stationary device. Regardless, it was good great fun, and a solid workout to boot!

Washington DC Boys Choir

“Be On Your Way” off Midnight Door was one of the songs that I worked on over and over again in the mixdown. I recorded it while on the road, and there was a lot that I wanted to “fix”, but there was a lot that I wanted to leave exactly as I recorded it that very first magical time.

The song was recorded in Washington DC, while we were staying in an apartment there. It was a moody place and time, and a good one, there were thunderstorms every afternoon.

Also, my guitar had just been stolen out of a campsite in Virginia Beach, which was tragic. I had that guitar for 10 years and really really loved it. So I had made the odd decision to buy a new guitar (using up my reserves for sure) because I couldn’t handle the loss, and because I couldn’t handle traveling without one.

So this song was the very first song I recorded with that guitar. In this version you hear only cello however, it was a quick mix I did, trying to ascertain whether the cello sans beats was “good” enough for the record. I like this mix, but you can hear the beats through the headphones, so it never did make it to the record.

Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

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Listen to the album version here.

PS – The picture there is the boys choir in Washington DC that I recorded and is featured in the ‘bridge’ section of the song “Fireflies” off Midnight Door.

I originally recorded the song ‘Pinon’ off Midnight Door as a long, meandering piece. The idea was simply to open on the I chord, in C Major, and linger on the V, G7 for a good long time.

It worked better for the album for me to split it into three parts, because I really felt that this song in particular felt like the road.

Here is Piñon in its entirety… enjoy!

PS – Thanks to a listener for requesting this.

This version of Porcelain Backdrop (track 8 off of ‘Midnight Door’) is really only slightly different than the version that made it onto the album. I have to admit that the difference is very subtle. You see I had grown slightly weary of… not of the sound… but of *relying* on the dual vocals thing that I blatantly borrowed from Elliott Smith.

When Elliott Smith recorded ‘Either/Or’ and other albums, he often doubled up on his vocals… ie., he recorded the same vocals singing the same words and notes twice. For me what it did is made hushed vocals louder and more present. It also accentuates rather than avoids the very natural inclination that humans have to being not perfectly “in tune”. When the two slightly imperfect vocals cross paths, they create a very human sound, since, when two real human beings sing together, they tend to be slightly “out of tune”, and thus, they sound HUMAN. (I rant because so much music that you hear is not really people’s voices, but computer “fixed” vocals).

When I record cello for other people’s projects, I like to double up, and record two versions of the same melodies to be played at once, so that the sound of my less than computer cellos adds up to a human sounding orchestral type of thing.

So I got addicted to doing the same thing with vocals. Which is what you’ll find on the original version of Porcelain Backrop off the album. But I almost released it with only one vocal, so that you could hear the sort of rawness of the lyrics, against the very deluxe backdrop of sound.

Porcelain Backdrop was named so because… well, it kind of just stuck. I did however, record that song after returning home from my epic road trip. I was trying to write a song, which is something I never do, I usually say: “I’m inspired… NOW is the time to write a song”…. and I wanted to write about how grateful I was for finding
1. answers to some of the more simple problems facing me regarding moroseness (“I think that I can see through… the shortening of the days”),
and
2. a person who really wanted to share with me in the experience of living in the way that Kate did on our road trip. (“you saved my boat from sinking… you made my nights complete”)

Without further ado, Porcelain Backdrop as never heard before with one vocal track instead of dueling:
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Remember: Porcelain Backdrop Live
Also: Listen to the album version