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Category Archives: lindsay

Philly: Seen on the Scene

I didn’t do quite as much crazy seenery this past week, but in making it an eight-day week of scenery I made this post extra-long.

Oh, also? I’m an obsessive-compulsive singer/songwriter/lunatic who had kinda forgotten why he was a journalism major.

I quite explicitly did not do any kind of scene seeing over the weekend, save for a brief interlude at K&L’s housewarming party, where every person from every part of my life all collided in one shiny-drunk lump. Seriously, it could have only been odder if my mother was there. Still, much fun had.

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Every Wednesday: LP Open Mic @ Intermezzo (3141 Walnut)
Hosting an open mic is a nervous endeavor. Sometimes it seems as though no one will show up, yet you find the lineup extending past closing time. On other occasions the room seems full, but you still wind up vamping for an hour by yourself at the end of the night.

Read more…

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Every Monday: Open Jam @ Connie’s Ric Rac (9th just under Washington)
Take note of this momentous occasion – I went to an open mic that I don’t host for two consecutive weeks. In fact, next week I’ll probably be back for a third.

Why? Because Connie’s Ric Rac is like Cheers with a 1000 watt sound system and a pet snake. Everyone wants to know your name, and they all hush up when you play a quiet song.

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I’ve met Matt Teacher once before, and in that venue he was introduced to me as a songwriter, but at present he mostly plays and records with bands in Sine Studios, where he is the owner and engineer along with best friend Mike.

Similar to Gina and I, the two of them connected in the eight grade – with the difference being that they connected as a band right away and knew by high school graduation that they wanted a career in music. They attended college separately and came back together to open Sine Studios. It looks ultra-nifty from their website, and at 22nd and Walnut it’s virtually around the corner from my office .

Matt and I talked about our endless acquisition of recording gear and how in high school I used to sample too low and wind up sounding like The Chipmunks when I tried to burn a CD. Although he was perhaps too humble to mention running Bon Jovi’s protools rig the last time he played Philly, Matt did cop to recording the Sleepwells disc, as well as working with Lickety Split host Dani Mari, and Ric Rac’s house band The Discount Heroes.

When I pressed him as to whether the in-the-family recording roster meant Sine might also be a label, he demurred: “We’re working in that direction.”

Having done some basic flexing of journalistic muscles I thought had permanently atrophied since college, I pushed my luck a bit and asked if I might stop by for a tour sometime. Matt, being awesome, one-upped me and said I should aim to come to one of the studio barbecues over the summer.

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I detest making so facile a comparison as to Stevie Wonder, as Aaron Brown’s delivery leaps across the R&B divide to rock in an instant, as on the stuttering 6/8 tune he delivered mid-set (“fragile”?). It’s as if Adam Levine from Maroon 5 could actually sing as well live as he does on the record, and then decided to cover an obscure Rufus Wainwright take on a Stevie Wonder song. That’s what Aaron sounds like.

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The great thing about Ric Rac is that it’s got a big stage, complete with amps and a kit. Bands just get up and go. In that vein, I loved loved loved Try Angles – a two-piece playing a blues stomp that I am journalistically required to compare to White Stripes. Except, I actually like Try Angles – there’s meat underneath the riffs, aerobic and thick. A new unfinished song fucking leapt across the stage for our necks in a tangle of blues and prog. And, I DON’T EVEN LIKE THIS KIND OF THING.

I briefly quizzed drummer Adam after their set. What was their deal? How did they compel me to like them so much?

Apparently singer Matt C. has done his singer/songwriter thing for an eternity, but Adam added himself just in September to create their special alchemy. Adam professed love for jazz and Zappa, and I honestly believe they both come through in his skin pounding. Also, he was just a nice dude – when I expanded on my recent wedding he said he wanted to do a dance because I have good music and a good life.

Seriously, Ric Rac is Good People.

(Good lord, can you imagine if I start bringing my laptop to every open mic, going all embedded journalist on all the natives? Can you seriously keep up with a 3000+ word weekly column?)

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Tuesday: I took a nap
It was awesome.

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Every Wednesday: LP Open Mic @ Intermezzo (3141 Walnut)
Yes, we’ve circled all the way back to Intermezzo, with Gina hosting this iteration.

This week was more of the unexpected – a full house of Lyndzapalooza artists – Gina and I (both solo!), my new client Joshua Popejoy, Aaron Brown (again!), Brian Flanagan (playing awesome new tunes), and John Glaubitz (who we did not manage to tempt to play).

I’ll spare you the rapturous rapture about these guys – they’re all great. They kept our guests pinned to their chairs for the duration of the evening until AC took over to play to a small-but-appreciative crowd of stragglers. We nailed a particularly impressive “Don’t You Want Me” – I was in super-good vocal shape, which I further flaunted by singing an additional solo set of “Like a Virgin,” “Since U Been Gone,” my new “Message,” and an acappella verse and chorus of “Take on Me.”

We closed down the shop with “Noncommittal” and chat of breaking the fourth wall, and headed back to the car.

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Coming up!
There are seemingly a thousand shows that I want to see tomorrow night, so I’m thinking you should go to some of the ones I can’t make it to.

Melodic hard-rockers Tremor will be at JR’s bar @ 22nd and Passyunk. Personal favorite Up the Chain splits a bill with The Great Unkown @ JD McGillicuddy’s, 2626 County Line Road in Ardmore. Alexandra Day opens for Kate-fav Carsie Blanton at Barrington Coffee House

As for myself and Gina, we will be installed at the esteemed Ric Rac to catch The Discount Heroes monthly showcase, a stellar bill of Blueberry Magee and His Hot Five, Shackamaxon, and Hezekiah Jones. It’s only $10, rather than the kidney or lung you might expect to contribute to gain entrance into such a show.

Next week I’ll be hitting Ric Rac again on Monday for Katie’s February swan-song, as well as maybe Time at 13th and Sansom on Tuesday, but if I find some ambition I could truck up to The Draught Horse on Temple’s campus to hang out with LP Artist Josh Albright at his new open mic.

Alternately, if you’re free on Tuesday you can head down to The Shubin Theatre at 4th and Bainbridge to catch Gina in a debut reading of a play by Mark Wolverton based on his recent biographical novel A Life in Twilight: The Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Then, on Wednesday you should join me at Chris’s Jazz Cafe at Broad & Sansom at 5pm sharp to catch the beautiful and always amazing Alexandra Day play a special happy-hour set, after which you should catch a trolley up to Intermezzo to hit our open mic, as hosted by the girl who put the Lyndz in Lyndzapalooza, Lindsay Wilhelmi.

Finally, a few future plugs: Dante Bucci @ Tin Angel on 3/22. Brian Flanagan playing a set on a bill with our buddies Year Long Day @ Tin Angel on 3/25. The two foremost hang players on earth – one of whom happens to be Dante Bucci, the other being Many Delago – at Milkboy on 4/22.

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In other news…

I’ll end with a bit of good news / bad news.

Bad first: we’re actually not doing a show on 2/28 with Joshua Popejoy. It’s slightly disappointing, but it leads to good news: we can promote our amazing seventh annual spring music festival for three entire months without another gig stealing it’s thunder.

So: This year the festival is on Saturday, May 16, and it is called BYMfest (AKA Back Yard Music Festival, an ironic title seeing as this is the first year it will be held at Snipes Farm, rather than an actual back yard). BYMfest will feature eight solid hours of music. So far the lineup includes Arcati Crisis, Joshua Popejoy, Reed Kendall of Up the Chain, Suzie Brown, and Sisters 3.

Honestly, that’s already a bill I would pay dozens of dollars for, and it’s only HALF FULL. Check the Seen on the Scene action next week for further bill announcements, and a presale link where you can buy tickets for $15.

Seriously, I kid you not, $15. That’s a half hour of music for every dollar. You can’t even steal music for that cheap.

Mark your calendar right now. Seriously. Don’t even read the byline until you’ve marked it.

Marked?

Okay.

Peter is a Philadelphia singer-songwriter, half of the band Arcati Crisis, and Director of Communications for Lyndzapalooza (LP).

My Life Is a Joke

Lindsay and I have an ongoing joke about my life.

Lindsay, being my primary secret squirrel, always finds a little nook of day to tuck a conversation into. Frequently we talk about all of the things that I do – work, blog, play music solo and with Arcati Crisis, Lyndzapalooza, freelance writing – &c, &c.

She, one of the more overachieving and time-conscious people I know, marvels at how I actually advance my goals in each of those areas all of the time.

The joke is that, in order to fit in all of those things, I must not do anything a normal person does. I don’t watch television, sit down for meals, or talk to people on the phone. I don’t sleep. I’m like some sort of T-1000 or Cylon. Or Madonna. I’m purely focused on achievements and achieving them, and nothing else.

That’s a slight misrepresentation. I am not a robot, and only aspire to be Madonna. I still do all of the things that human beings do.

Occasionally. And quickly.

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When I graduated from college and started my career I resolved not to do any theatre or music for an entire year. No art, essentially. I would focus solely on being a good employee and a good boyfriend, because I wasn’t sure I’d be good at either. If I had free time I would sit and play video games until another opportunity to be a good employee or boyfriend presented itself.

After a year I allowed myself to get involved in a theatre project with Gina, and from there my natural inclinations for art and recklessly large personal projects took over.

I made a very elaborate chart. It included every possible thing that I could do in a given day. All of the regular human things, all of my time at work, all of my special goals, and everything else. Washing dishes. Walking from one place to another. Making out with Elise.

I tracked what I did for three months, every minute of every day.

At the end I had a beautiful graph of my life. A rainbow of lines interwove with each other to show me the relationship between work and sleep, guitar-playing and housework, or blogging and masturbation.

The area under some of the lines was the shape of my success; the area under others a dimension of dead space.

My priorities snapped me into focus. Before the chart I would have told you I was already busy enough with life. After I realized that I wasn’t writing songs because I was reading TMZ for 20 minutes a day.

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The chart was almost three years ago.

Today Lindsay initiated the latest iteration of our joke, querying if I planned to sleep at all in the next few months while chipping away at my list of measurable goals for the year.

The chart was about sleep too. I tried to live on just five or six hours a night, and suddenly all the useless things expanded. The chart showed me that I need sleep to stay focused.

It was a disappointment, sure. I work and commute for almost ten hours a day, and if I have to sleep for seven that leaves just another seven hours in which I can live my life.

The punchline to our joke is that every minute counts, awake or asleep. 60 seconds to flip channels is a quick email reminder. Three minutes to set the table is rehearsing a song. A half an hour on the phone is this post.

Which would I rather look back on in December, or when I turn thirty, or when I die?

I always eat with the wrong fork, anyway.

Arcati Crisis Rehearsal Recap

At the moment Arcati Crisis is on a somewhat insane twice-weekly rehearsal schedule – mostly insane because those rehearsal days are Tuesday and Thursday, and we co-host the LP open mic at Intermezzo on the intervening evening, which means we spend about 72 hours each week doing nonstop work, sleep, and AC.

Here’s what transpired in our last installment.

(Oh, but, wait. First maybe you want to know why I’m writing this? Entirely up to you…)

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What to rehearse? / Going electric
When we last left our heroes on Tuesday we had run some old stuff to prep for our next few open mics.

This is essentially what we still don’t understand about band rehearsals, two whole years into this experiment. How often should we realistically need to rehash old tunes? Yes, there is a certain danger that Gina will forget her mini-solo on “Bucket Seat,” or I might get the pattern reversed on “Apocalyptic Love Song.” But, are we seriously going to forget how to play “Fisher Price” or “Under My Skin”?

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In sum: we’re happy to have a reason to play the oft-forgotten “Martyr,” we’re surprised that “Hyperbole” works so well in its reversed state, and we’re generally pleased to hear the possibilities in converting a few of our songs into bigger hunks of rock.

More bettering of “Better”
With our refresher out of the way in fairly short order, we turned our attention to a second evening of “Better.”

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That was it. In two rehearsals – not even two and half hours of work – we completely arranged a new Arcati Crisis tune. By comparison, it took us a month of rehearsals each to arrange the already performable “Hyperbole” and “Moscow, Idaho” satisfactorily in 2007!

Covers that shock and awe
Satisfied with ourselves, we turned our attention to our motley collection of covers.

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I wouldn’t say that we’ve fixed everything, but it’s at least moving in the direction of being a coherent arrangement of the original for an acoustic-pop band. We’re both eager to have it in the repertoire, especially since the shock-grenade impact of “Don’t You Want Me” is wearing thin on our repeat audiences.

Hunting for “Holy Grail”
At this point we were headed into our third hour of rehearsal, and we were both fairly fried. What worthwhile thing could we achieve at this point?

I pestered Gina once again to send me the lyrics to her two new AC contributions, and she teasingly started playing the one I profess to be less interested in, “Holy Grail.”

How can I put this? “Holy Grail” is definitely an Arcati Crisis shock-grenade. It’s Gina, playing what is effectively a punk song comprised of all eighth notes on guitar and four massively destructive, earwormy riffs.

No hammers. No fingerpicking. Relatively few lyrics. It’s not even in a very Gina key. It’s totally shocking. And awesome. Read more… It’s hopelessly stuck in my head, and I cannot wait to finish up so we can stick into the heads of other people as soon as possible.

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That, in a hefty, bloated nutshell, was this week’s Arcati Crisis rehearsal.

Philly: Seen on the Scene

This past month I was out of musical commission for as long as I’ve ever been – longer than when I had my tonsils removed, though perhaps not quite as long as when I broke my collarbone (although I have many grimace-inducing memories of propping my back up against the cinder block walls of Calhoun hall so I could leverage my left hand up high enough to fret chords).

In any event, it was a long time without music – from when I came down with bronchitis on January 9th through when I started playing piano again on February 1st.

Three weeks might not sound like a long time to you, but in time without music it’s an eternity, so I’ve been happy to get back to my musical routine this past week.

Every Wednesday: LP Open Mic @ Intermezzo (3141 Walnut)
Last week was my first week back to our open mic after a three week recess, and also a week of my hosting duties.

It turned out to be an evening of great fun. I opened with a trio of tunes so new that I don’t even have lyric links for them yet, let alone recordings, plus a new Beatles cover I had dreamt up on an old guitar the night before.

The turnout for the night was much lighter than usual, which resulted in the open mic becoming an effective round robin of me, Arcati Crisis, Mike from Shackamaxon, and my most-adored band in all of Philadelphia, Blueberry Magee, plus two appearances by our friend and fellow LP Artist Ashley Brandt. All three of the artists on that list are some of my favorites in Philly, and it was wonderful to share an exclusive bill with them for the night.

This week Dante Bucci and his hang drums are the host, but Gina and I will still make an appearance. If you’re around University City between 8pm and 11pm you should drop by.

Thursday: Arcati Crisis Rehearsal!
Okay, not really much of a scene to be seen on, but from our insanity at the open mic it was clear Gina and I were craving a chance to catch up and work on some new material. We picked our next four AC songs (two of which are from my super-new trio from the prior evening), and got most of the way through a guitar arrangement of one of mine – “Better.”

Our arrangement decisions tend to take forever when we’re inside of them, but in retrospect seem like they occurred in a flash. On “Better” we started out moving Gina into different capo positions to find a good interplay against my open progression in E. She wound up on the fourth fret.

At one point in following my chords she fell one chord behind me, and I stopped her and said, “you’re on to something.” Twenty minutes later we had crafted a fanged hook for the song that sounds perfectly at home despite the fact that it is wickedly out of step for Gina compared to my part.

We were pretty satisfied with ourselves at that point, and just sketched in the idea of the bridge before calling it a night. We still have to break out harmony vocals, which tends to be where the bulk of our arrangement battles lie.

Friday: The Pretenders @ The Electric Factory
I have a short list of bands that I absolutely must see once at some point in my life, mostly because I have been lucky enough to see bands while they are at their peek – before they become a rarer commodity.

For a long time one of those bands has been The Pretenders.

Read more…The Pretenders were spectacular – muscular and mimeographic as they churned out faithful renditions of songs from the full range of their career. Chrissie Hynde not only sounded pitch perfect in comparison to her records, but also cut a svelte figure in her high boots and single-tail tux jacket – dancing an exaggerated sidestep in “Brass In Pocket.” It was plain as day the through line from her to PJ, Shirley, and Karen O.

It was also clear that she is one of the great, under-appreciated rhythm guitarists in classic rock – she’s effectively the backbone of every arrangement, even galloping time changes like “Tattooed Love Boys.”

The band played half of their newest disc, and nearly the entirety of their debut, plus all the notable singles between with the exception of “2000 Miles,” “Middle of the Road,” “Ohio,” and “Stand By You” (also, my manager saw them the prior night and got “Mystery Achievement,” which I had lamented not hearing).

One more band struck from the “once in a lifetime” list (the last prior cross-off was Cyndi Lauper, another stunning concert). I’m actually hard-pressed to think of who’s next at this point. I’m tempted by the Fleetwood Mac hits tour, but I don’t know if I could count it as the real thing without Christie McVie along for the ride.

Every Monday: Open Jam @ Connie’s Ric Rac (9th just under Washington)
Connie’s Ric Rac is my neighborhood open mic, as well as being the room that spawned my recent asphyxiation and the subsequent interstate love song that Gina is currently endeavoring to learn.

As the story goes, the Ric Rac (named thusly as a misnomer for bric-a-brac) used to be an Italian Market discount store owned by the titular Connie, and when the storefront closed down the shop stayed in the family. Later, her son(s?) proposed that they open the doors as a sort of counter-culture community center, complete with art classes, concerts, and open jams.

Thus, Connie’s Ric Rac. I was a little nervous about attending, because it’s a totally new scene to me, but I was encouraged by the fact that February’s guest host is the darling Katie Barbato, and the night was themed with Beatles covers as a tribute to the band’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show 45(!) years prior.

I arrived much too early to a Ric Rac family scene replete with snake-feeding, wine-drinking, and banjo recitals – all with the easy laughter and chain smoking that I recall from a childhood spent in my grandmother’s South Philadelphia kitchen. I was happy to remain a wallflower through the family affair until the night kicked off.

In addition to Katie (playing a sad, Across the Universe style “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and a new original with a killer chord change in the chorus) there was house band Discount Heroes (valiantly slaying “Revolution” and “Don’t Let Me Down” despite their singer’s flu), a freak-R&B act whose name I did not catch doing a remarkable version of “Savoy Truffle,” and Vince & Chuck.

Vince and Chuck were pure magic – performing note-perfect Beatles covers of a great selection of tunes – “Here Comes the Sun,” “If I Fell,” “Baby’s In Black,” and “Please Please Me,” plus another I can’t recall. I essentially pleaded with them to come to the LP Open Mic to share their Beatles tunes, and this was before discovering that Chuck AKA Charles Ramsey is a phenomenal songwriter in his own right.

Since the directive was early-Beatles I debated “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” but settled on long-time favorite “All My Loving,” which I wailed like a fucking banshee. Katie assures me it was awesome. I also played the repeatedly aforementioned “Connie’s Ric Rac Love Song AKA Better,” “In My Life,” and later “Ob-la Di Ob-la Da,” plus a handful of other originals.

Katie will host out the month, and I’m going to make an effort to make it to the next two Monday’s to hang out with her and the Ric Rac family before shifting my attention to either Fergie’s or The Fire in March. She gave me a copy of the brand new full-length by her band The Sleepwells, and her voice is so freaking sexy on it. I might blush the next time I talk to her. Wow.

Every Tuesday: Open Mic @ Studio Luloo (916 White Horse Pike, Oaklyn NJ)
Yes, my friends, I got all the fuck around the scene this week.

Gina and I have had Studio Luloo on our to-do list for a while, and it was elevated by our missing an appearance from Year Long Day last week. We discovered that it is virtually around the corner from Gina’s abode, and tonight finally endeavored to make an appearance.

It was a completely worthwhile endeavor! Luloo is hosted and operated by the entirely charming Sara O’Brien, who shares songs, healing arts, and a tangible joie de vivre in this cozy shopfront slash recording studio with the best monitor mix we’ve ever heard.

No joke. We were first after Sara, so had no idea what to expect, and we started with “Bucket Seat,” which is not amongst the simplest of our songs, and the mix was just perfect. We could hear what we really sounded like, and not some faraway facsimile thereof. We also made a successfully epic run at “Apocalyptic Love Song” (click that link – Gina should win a freaking Grammy for that performance), and an entertaining jaunt through “Pocahontas.”

Playing first can be a curse if you want to get heard by the room at it’s fullest, but when you’re just out to chill it’s a wonderful pressure deflator. We had time to chat with some of the crowd, including super-sweet Dave from Never Trust, and Ryan Williams, who was the feature.

I’ve met Ryan before, but never heard him, and his songs are great. Like, actually great, not just hyperbolic great. He has a new one, “Audio,” that is pure aural dynamite. Scary-good.

I was sad to miss out on talking to a cool kid playing a Guild with a series of partial capos, his name maybe being Jeremy Hines? He had a really tuneful sensibility, and reminded me of Honorary Title – the sort of music I consistently fail at making when I write things like “Standing” or “Love Me Not.”

In other news…
I had designs on hitting the Tuesday open mic @ Time on the way home from Luloo, but Gina smartly deposited me back at my house so I can rest my voice a bit.

Not too much other news, other than I stopped by Cafe Grindstone over the weekend for a fabulous lunch of vegan kielbasa and a soy banana milkshake and spoke with Jerry at the counter a bit about how one gets selected to play there. It’s just about as close to me as Ric Rac, so I’d love to drop by to sing every so often.

Also, Battlestar Galactica. I could say a lot about this week’s episode, but right now I just have one thing on my mind: the return Ellen Motherfrakkin’ Tigh.

Coming up!
Hopefully some fucking sleep!

But, seriously, tomorrow night we’ll be at the LP Open Mic @ Intermezzo. If open micing is not your thing, get thyself to the Tin Angel to see Shackamaxon, awesome Mad Dragon recording artist Andrew Lipke, and a band called StereoFidelic which is likely awesome based on the company they keep.

Also, biggest news for last: Arcati Crisis will be splitting a bill with our friend and musical confidante Joshua Popejoy on February 28th at our much-beloved South Street venue Upstairs @ Zot! This will be a BIG SHOW – big sets from both of us, a big(ger) PA system, a big comfortable room for you to stretch out in, and hopefully A BIG CROWD.

$8, beer specials, awesome acoustic pop music. Mark your calendar. Tickets here.

What now? Oh, right, sleep.

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Peter is a Philadelphia singer-songwriter, half of the band Arcati Crisis, and Director of Communications for Lyndzapalooza (LP).

here goes…

Okay, here’s my last post as a bachelor.

Bride aside, I am surrounded by the five most awesome people in my life, and they are in rare, rare form. Ross bottled my special wedding lambic in blue bottles labeled with me! I’m on my bottles.

I don’t think life could be any better than it is at the moment.

See you on the other side.

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Ten toys, of which I can presently afford to purchase one, roughly in order of how badly I am pining for them.

  • A Digital Audio Workstation from Woot Computers. Price: ~$2200 (My computer is now 5+ years old and, though it works as well as the day I bought it, its age makes me increasingly uneasy. Also, I’d like to record a proper demo CD rather than just four-track exercises.)
  • A 16- or 24-channel mixer, powered or unpowered, with inline or accompanying reverb and compressesion. Price: ~$1000 (I am so fucking sick of using other people’s PAs. Seriously. Never again.)
  • A mid-range vocal condenser mic and an XY pair of directional instrument mics. Price: $850 (For solo recording awesomeness.)
  • A light-weight laptop w/at least two gigs of ram. Price: ~$800 (I would be so much more productive, and so much more willing to go places.)
  • An Android Phone. Price: ~$200 + $360 additional services fees in a year. (I love it, but not really, because I don’t like T-Mobile. Hopefully Sprint comes through with their 1st gen in the nick of time before the wedding.)
  • A 160-Gig iPod. Price: ~$320. (I can’t add any more audio to mine; on the flipside, this endeavor probably requires a larger hard-drive to be of full use.)
  • Something that is a pedometer AND has GPS. Price: $150. (I’ve just wanted this for so long. Possibly the above phone would take care of this?)
  • An auto-feeding CD-Duplicator. Price: ~$800 (Seriously, burning 100 Brown Bag CDs is a major chore. Note that the Woot Computer would two lightscribe drives for duping, which would knock this off the list.)
  • A flat-panel monitor with a 19″ wide viewable area. Price: ~$250. (Work has spoiled me, a bit.)
  • New computer speakers. Price: ~$150. (I’m still using the ones I bought from Lindsay’s Digital Media teacher, and my reference monitors aren’t really appropriate for general listening.)
  • So, if anyone feels like giving me a $7k Amazon.com shopping spree…

    Make You Feel Real Blue

    A few weeks ago Lindsay, Dante Bucci, and Bill McConney were playing a tiny living-room style show in a just-off-South coffee shop called Cafe Grindstone that had an entire vegan menu and a shelf of random used textbooks to peruse.

    As I put back the book that taught me that pigeons are superstitious a flyer on a lower shelf caught my eye with a familiar logo – Alexandra Day.

    I picked up the flyer and scanned it. A Monday night show at Tritone on South Street – not a twenty minute walk from my house – with one of the best songwriters in Philadelphia. Doesn’t take much convincing.

    Then I continued to read. She would be splitting a bill with a band whose name I didn’t recognize, who would play the entirety of Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

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    Improbably, I currently name as Blue my second favorite album of all time. That puts it above albums that I played on repeat for entire days of my youth. Albums that taught me what music was.

    How, then, can that one LP – that I didn’t hear a single song from until college – come to eclipse all else in my collection?

    It’s the color of it. Blue is rooted in a palette of different blues, explicit and implied: midnight sky outside of a plane window on “This Flight Tonight;” the melancholy emotional blues on “All I Want” and “My Old Man;” the twinkling blue tinge of frost on “River;” and the blue tv screen light in “A Case of You.” It is music that makes me see color, every single time I hear it.

    It’s also the sureness of it – the way threads of blueness and yearning to get back to California are woven through the album. The sureness of Joni’s indelible performance, and the perfection of the tracking. In my opinion it is nearly the ultimate in a singer-songwriter album, and if you are assembling an album you ought to spend some serious time listening to Blue to understand how to make its formula your own.

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    I mentioned the upcoming show to as many people as would listen, but I have other promotional duties as well, and I couldn’t seem to hook anyone with the play-through of the Joni album. I wound up tired and alone Monday night, installed in the back corner of the Tritone wrapped in a jacket and scarf, sipping cranberry juice.

    Alexandra came by my table, her usual whirlwind of energy and vinyl pants, but she immediately caught on that I was at an unavoidable ebb.

    “This is a good bar to just sit in,” she advised. “I’ve come here many times just to sit in the corner. And, you’re really going to like the band.”

    The band, I learned, was Ellipsis – a local jazz trio. They assemble the second Monday of each month with as many additional players as necessary to make it through the entirety of an album. In the past two months I had missed a swing through Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” and Neil Young’s “Harvest.” And, Alexandra said the word in the room was that next month’s artist would be Bjork.

    My excitement was paired with skepticism that any band could replicate the magic of Blue, especially a jazz band who I discovered in short order did not have a guitarist: piano, upright bass, drum kit, and hand percussion, plus a young jazz vocalist. Joni Mitchell’s best album without a guitar?, I mused. Is there any point?

    The band set up a projector beside the stage that shone a series of images – the cover of the album, long dusty fields, empty starless nights – across their bodies and onto the wall to their right. Without much preface, they began “All I Really Want,” possibly my favorite Joni song.

    My skepticism continued for a verse – the arrangement on this one was measured mimicry, and the vocalist was treading delicately around Joni’s words. Then we reached my favorite point of the song, exuberant in new love even as it plumbs its unsure depths:

    All I really really want our love to do
    Is to bring out the best in me and in you
    I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you
    I want to renew you again and again
    Applause, applause – life is our cause
    When I think of your kisses
    My mind see-saws
    Do you see – do you see – do you see
    How you hurt me baby
    So I hurt you too
    Then we both get so blue

    I hadn’t noticed, but as the verse continued I leaned farther and farther from my seat, as if I thought the song could just reach out and envelop me. By the time Samantha Rise reached that melancholy pinnacle, “we both get so blue,” my ass was barely in the chair. I was in love and wrapped in the color of her voice.

    The show that followed is one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. A silkier, surer version of “My Old Man” that sent a chill through my body. The quiet menace of the quickly descending fifth in the b-section of the otherwise pretty “Little Green.” A raucous, celebratory turn through “Carey,” stripped down to it’s upright bass and percussion and then built again (here I exchanged a glance of incredulous amazement with Alex and she just laughed and turned back to watch the show). A perfect, absolutely verbatim rendition of “Blue.” A saucy, jazzy version of “California” that transformed directly into a racing, free-form take on “This Flight Tonight” complete with scatting. “River,” bare of it’s jingle bells and with a frostier pulse. A subtle, measured read on the oft-covered “Case of You,” possibly the best lost-love song ever written. And, the sometimes superfluous “Last Time I Saw Richard” transformed into a incandescent elegy for the entire album, although in its narrative it perhaps comes first – her old man gone and married to some chick who skated around on the iced over river.

    At the end I was breathless and teary. I witnessed something unique and transformative, unusual and terrific. I saw all of the colors that Joni painted into the album, and so many more.

    It was a show that should have played to a packed club, or even on the main stage of the Kimmel Center, and I was watching it from the back corner of what is effectively a living room with a bar and a stage along with twenty, maybe thirty fans.

    .

    I’m inexplicably nervous to talk to other musicians, a condition that’s becoming increasingly paradoxical as I play more frequently. I am one, so shouldn’t I understand how to approach one?

    Samantha – delicate and composed on the stage – was twinkling and approachable off it it. I think I heard her boasting to another fan that she could defeat him at any Mario-based game. Eventually I noticed her by herself at the bar and plunged in.

    “That was so good. Blue is one of my favorite records, ever. You really did it justice.”

    “Wow, thank you. It’s one of mine too!”

    And so we just talked, just for a minute or two – the easy chatter of two people who love music. She shook my hand and jotted down her information on the pad I had been sketching out my next Trios on, and parted with a nod and a smile, settling in to enjoy Alexandra’s equally amazing set.

    .

    Three days later and I still can’t get her and Ellipsis out of my head. In that last post I wondered if I still saw colors in the world, but Samantha answered that question neatly. Sometimes you just need someone to show you where to look.

    Hitching: Groom Team Style, pt. 2

    When we last left our intrepid nuptial heroes we were all slinking out of David’s Bridal hoping that they wouldn’t call the cops on me.

    Okay, not really. But, if we had stayed much longer I’m sure my photo would have wound up behind the register along with the people who write bad checks.

    Lindsay, Matador from rear Though our negative experience soured me on the idea of big box bridal stores, Lindsay and I did come away with an idea of what my groom’s-ladies would wear. We decided on a combination of platinum and black, which meant we’d most likely need separates – lest we be left to the haphazard whim of multi-color one-pieces.

    We also needed the ladies on Team Groom to look more groomy than maidsy, so we decided to add a matador jacket to make them more tux-like.

    Thus began The Great Matador-Hunt of 2008. Because, you see, outside of the fairy-tale world of David’s Bridal matador jackets for women are apparently a fictional concept. We searched and searched, and turned up a scant one or two, neither appropriate for our purposes.

    Jenny?In the midst of our jacket-search we settled (ironically) on something we tried at David’s: a strapless, lightly paneled princess top paired with a simple trumpet skirt. After some deliberation we decided that the skirt would be black to better mirror the gentlemen in their tuxes, while the top would be platinum.

    At this point Lindsay, Gina, and Erika commandeered the good ship Groom from my control. They found a collection that carried what we were seeking in multiple styles, and each of them tagged their favorites. We discussed them at length for a week, engaged in several virtual straw polls to determine our favorites, and then Lindsay and Erika did a preliminary shopping trip in Boston.

    Suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, Gina was picking me up early on a Saturday morning in August to bring me to a tiny bridal boutique in Havertown called Lizelle’s.

    IMG_4035(It should be pointed out here that Gina has graciously served as the official Team Groom chauffeur for each outing, which has lead to extra hilarity in each instance, even though she has yet to wear a cap and a mustache as my godmother did for my mother’s wedding this past June.)

    My boutique experience could not have been more different than our previous nightmare.

    First, the entire shop was about as big as David’s reception area, but it contained approximately ten times the attractive dresses – no 90s promwear in sight. Second, Bruna – a pretty, diminutive woman with a European accent – had opened early just for us, and pulled out every iteration of the styles we were interested in. Third, I was allowed close to and, in one instance, inside of the dressing rooms.

    Last, and most important to me, Bruna crossed out “Bride” on her info sheet and wrote in “Groom.” She didn’t even write down Elise’s name.

    By that point a second customer had arrived, alone. I sat down across from her while Bruna fussed over Lindsay with a tailor’s measure.

    Cheery Customer: You’re the groom?

    Me: Yes.

    Cheery: And you came with them to shop?

    Me: Well, we did most of it together online. We just came here for the grand finale.

    Cheery: (Clearly a little awed). That’s awesome. I had to drive by myself all the way from New York to get here!

    A mere twenty minutes after our arrival I was pacing back and forth in the alley next to the store, calling Elise on her cell and at home on multiple cell phones, juggling them to try to find one with reception. Eventually we connected and I had her take one last look at our favorite style on the web.

    Elise’s approval confirmed, I headed back into the store waving my platinum card. “We’re a go! I repeat, we’re a go on dresses!”

    Bruna, not understanding the international signal for “charge me!” asked Lindsay and Gina to present their credit cards.

    Me: No, Bruna, I’m paying.

    Bruna: For vat?

    Me: The dresses.

    Bruna: All of them?

    Me: Of course.

    (As an aside, I find it fascinating that bridesmaids and groomsmen are typically expected to pick up the majority of their expenses. I know not everyone is in the financial situation to pay for their party’s clothing, but at the point that you have a group of people doing so much research, legwork, and chauffeuring for you it seems only fair to comp their costs as much as possible rather than rewarding them with some inane gift like a monogrammed hip flask.

    And, seriously, I have the best, smartest, most-resourceful Groom Team of all time. If wasn’t so busy planning a wedding I’d have them whip up a World Tour or a grassroots political movement for me. I’m lucky they don’t charge an hourly fee. Buying them clothing and accessories is the least I can do.)

    Bruna waved me away as she got started on the transaction, and I sat down again across from the cheery customer, who was paging through a sample book.

    Cheery: Are you really buying their dresses?

    Me: Of course. They’ve done so much for me! It shouldn’t cost them money to be in my wedding.

    Cheery: Wow. You are really unique.

    Greek Chorus, AKA Gina & Lindsay: You have no idea.

    Me: I figure they’ll have to buy their own shoes, and who knows what we’ll do for jewelry…

    Cheery: Oh! I can help you with that. I have my own jewelry business. You should call me; I’d even give you a discount since you’re paying for their dresses!

    Beautiful dresses and good karma, all in one morning.

    Hitching: Groom Team Style, pt. 1

    Not only do I have to finish telling the story of how Elise and I got engaged last year, but aside from mentioning our invites a few weeks ago I haven’t really spoken at all about our planning process.

    A unique element of our wedding that I’ve previously touched upon is the composition of our parties – my side consists of three women and two men, and Elise’s is four women and her brother.

    The mixed-gender makeup has style implications for both sides, since early-on we decided my women would not wear tuxes. That meant twice the bridesmaid dress shopping of a normal wedding, with the added challenge of making sure my ladies looked distinctly groomsly in comparison to Elise’s maids.

    This morning Gina and I headed out for the final leg of our wardrobe journey – a trip to look at tuxedos for me. It has taken us many months to get to this point. Our first wardrobe excursion was in January on the morning after our engagement party, which meant we were all a touch hung over.

    Hangover or no, I don’t think there was any way I could have been adequately prepared to enter into the mouth of hell that is David’s Bridal.

    (For the record, this is not a story about me looking down on people who buy dresses at David’s. It’s about my vast incredulousness at the entire wedding industry and the attitudes that come with it, which – if I keep writing these recaps – you will see play out repeatedly. But, I digress.)

    We entered David’s as a quintet – Elise, her sister, and Amanda, and Lindsay and I. Elise’s trio was checked in and sent to romp in the many rows of chiffon and taffeta while Lindsay and I negotiated with the gatekeeper. It went something like this:

    LindsayGK: Oh, are you in this wedding as well?

    Lindsay: Yes, this is the groom, and I’m in his party.

    Gatekeeper: So, you’re a friend of his that’s in the bridal party?

    L: No.

    GK: Ahh, you’re a friend of the bride’s that she placed in the groom’s party?

    LW: No.

    (Between the hangover and the dumbfoundedness, here Lindsay was starting to look unpredictably dangerous, like a captured squirrel. I decided to intervene.)

    Me: Actually, she’s my co-best-lady.

    GK: I see. (Clearly not seeing at all). Well, we’ll just put her under Elise.

    The gatekeeper took Lindsay’s name so that her romping could begin, and I moved to follow her into the racks.

    GK: Uh, you can wait at the chairs here.

    PM: Hmm?

    GK: We have chairs. For grooms. You don’t have to go in there.

    This was very early in the wedding process, and I did not yet understand the reverse groom-discrimination phenomenon. No wedding-associated vendor is prepared to speak to a groom. All of their forms have the bride listed first. They always want contact information from the bride.

    They definitely do not expect the groom to show up to poke around and ask questions, and they certainly don’t expect him to care about dress-shopping.

    Having made it past the gatekeeper, Lindsay and I joined the other ladies in searching through rows upon rows of dresses. To me most of them looked more like 90s prom dresses than modern wedding gear. Lindsay and Amanda, both wedding veterans, undertook an education campaign to get me quickly up to speed on fabrics, cuts, and styles.

    Laden down with silken loads, the three of us advanced on the dressing area … only to encounter a second gatekeeper.This one looked like a troll doll, and was dressed smartly in a neutral-colored sack that served to minimize her lumpiness. She was exactly the opposite of the sort of style maven you’d want to purchase a wedding dress from.

    The trollish woman waited for all of the women to pass and then physically obstructed my path.

    Wedding Troll: What are you doing? You can’t come back here.

    Me: (Innocently) Hmm?

    WT: (Sassily) What are you, a friend?

    Me: I’m the groom.

    WT: We have some chairs out in front…

    Me: (A little testy) I have heard about the chairs. I am not sitting in the chairs. I need to pick out a dress for the women in my party. I am your customer.

    (She did not seem convinced, so I embellished, slightly.)

    Me: I am paying for all of the dresses

    WT: Ahh, well… (clearly waging an internal battle between wanting to get rid of me and wanting to sell stuff) …you see, I can’t let you come any further. It’s, err, it’s not really up to me, you see. Some of the other women, they might be… they might… well, you know, they could be uncomfortable.

    Me: How so?

    WT: You know. Women. Dressing rooms.

    Me: But, I can’t see into the dressing rooms from here.

    WT: Coming out of the dressing rooms. They, ahh, won’t want you looking. At them. When they come out of the dressing rooms.

    Me: In their dresses?

    WT: Yes, exactly.

    Me: I see. And, I’m too close?

    WT: Mmm hmm.

    Me: (Taking two steps back) What about now?

    WT: Uhh, well, you can still see them, and…

    Me: (Slowly walking backwards and increasing in volume). Now? Now? What about NOW? AM I FAR ENOUGH AWAY NOW?

    At this point Elise had noticed my confrontation and fixed me with a pained look, to the effect of Please do not get us kicked out of the first wedding store I’ve brought you to.

    The BlueI stood on the very spot where Elise interrupted my escalating confrontation, and did not move from it. As our party members came out in a variety of dresses I made a great show of leaning over from my spot for a closer look, careful not to step closer to the dressing rooms.

    This went on for a while, until finally someone came out in a dress that caught our attention. We flagged down the trollish woman and handed her the dress. Did she have it in blue? Elise’s women would be wearing blue.

    She disappeared with the dress for a while as our fashion show continued, and after several minutes came huffing up to Elise and I with the dress clutched in one hand.

    Elise, in the Elusive StyleWedding Troll: Discontinued.

    Elise: Hmm?

    WT: This dress is discontinued. We don’t carry it.

    Me: Actually, you’re carrying it right now. In your cloven hoo… um, in your hand.

    WT: Just this one. That’s the only one we carry.

    Elise: What do you mean, exactly?

    WT: I can’t order this in your color. You’d just have to find another David’s that has them in the right colors and sizes for your party.

    Me: (Muttering) Oh, because that’s probable.

    Elise: So, why was it on the rack?

    WT: (Puzzled) So people can try it on.

    Elise: But, you just have the one bridesmaid dress.

    WT: Yes.

    Elise: And you can’t get any more.

    WT: Exactly.

    Elise: …

    Peter: Goddamnit. YOU FIND ONE NICE THING IN THE WHOLE FUCKING WALMART…

    At this point Elise was snapping her head back and forth looking for swat teams that would emerge to tranquilize me, and I got the message to quickly wrap it up with the wedding troll before I was forcibly ejected from the store.

    And that was the end of my association with David’s Bridal.

    President Obama

    When I was small I used to watch the news every night. At seven I was probably more educated about congress and presidential politics than I am now.

    In the first election I was old enough to chat about – likely Bush Sr. in ’88 – I remember my mother telling me about Ferraro. “In 1984,” she said, “there was a woman on the ticket for the first time ever – Ferraro.” (My mother never uttered her first name that I can recall.) “She would have been Vice President for the Democrats, but they lost to Regan.”

    I don’t remember her sounding too upset; I guess everyone liked Regan at least a little bit. But, I do remember the message that followed, whether it was said out loud, maybe in a voting booth, or just implied during our next re-watch of Free To Be You and Me.

    It’s important that a woman can be considered for our second highest office. You’re going to grow up to be a white man, and in a way you’re lucky because you can aspire to do anything – even be president. At some point in your life you’re going to have the chance to vote for a woman, or for someone who is black or Asian, or for some other kind of person who usually isn’t given the same opportunities you might have. And, if you vote for them you might have to vote against someone who is more like you, but it’s important for you to support them. Not only because you agree with them, but because of what their election could mean for America.

    In a way her message, however she actually conveyed it, changed my whole life. It was the birth of my feminism and the kernel that would become my fierce dedication to civil rights for everyone, no matter how different from me they are. And, it made me become aware that America means something very special and very specific – it means freedom to be and freedom to choose.

    For that reason, even in the moments I have been the most critical of America, her message has always inspired me to fight for my country instead of against my country. That distinction has nothing to do with party lines and colored states on a map – it’s about freedom and choice. It’s about the quality of compassion.

    Yesterday we elected the first black president of the United States of America. Not just black, but multi-racial. Just like America. Just like the family I have created for myself with Elise.

    Tonight I’m already looking forward to America’s future elections. I’m looking forward to presidents who are female, Muslim, gay, Asian, or atheist.

    Yesterday we could have elected the first woman vice president. And, though she lost, she may inspire stories told to another generation of little girls and boys who will grow up to love their country not for what it is, but for what it can be.

    Tonight I spent some time with my two best friends – a woman who has made her way in a white man’s industry despite discrimination against her and everyone else, and another woman who saw four states tell her she doesn’t share the same rights as her peers because of who she is and who she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with.

    Yesterday I cried from when I made that last post until about thirty minutes after the acceptance speech ended. I cried, and it felt good, because I was witnessing the birth of the America my mother promised me I would have a chance to live in. It has arrived blessedly early in my charmed existence.

    Tonight I am weary and drained, but still ready to fight for my country, in my way. To fight to make people understand the rights we have and the process we are due. To fight for our freedom to be and to choose.

    Today my mother sent me an email that shared its subject with this post’s title. It read:

    Peter,

    We just made history!!!!!!!

    xo
    mom

    Arcati Crisis Upstairs@Zot

    Last night Arcati Crisis played our first true headlining set inside of the Philadelphia city limits, in a fantastic space upstairs from Zot Restaurant, sharing the bill with our good friends Lindsay Wilhelmi, Andra Taylor, and Nate Dodge.

    In my increasingly frequent travels in the Philly music scene I often feel like an amateur, and in open-miking I still am. There are Philly artists who have honed the art of open mike to a fine, fine point, and are able to score kudos from a crowd of strangers on every outing.

    I’m not that. But, I am a communications professional, a project manager, a Lyndzapalooza organizer, and a reformed amateur theatre junkie, and I brought all of those experiences to bear on what turned out to be an amazing show. I designed the flyers, I worked with all of the performers come to a consensus on our schedule, I provided a sound system in a pinch, and I refocused lights and worked the crowd throughout the night.

    I don’t mean that to sound like I take credit for our night, because if I had done all of that of that for a four-hour solo Peter show I wouldn’t have garnered nearly the same amount of support or success. Just as there’s something magical about the harmony of Arcati Crisis, there was something special about sharing a real bill with Lindsay after how hard we’ve worked on our music together over the years, and about sharing a stage with our new friends Andra and Nate, who energize and inspire us with every performance.

    Would the flyers have been as cool if I hadn’t been designing on their behalf? Would the schedule have been so intuitive without their brains? Would the PA have been worth carrying up the stairs without Lindsay to strike a balance on the initial mix? Would the lights be worth refocusing without a bill of compelling performers to watch?

    I can’t take credit for combining the four of us – to that we owe our thanks to David Simons of Five Year Plan Entertainment, who gave us all the chance to be heard, and to be heard together. It was a rare bill where I could cross-promote every artist with the confidence that our audiences would seamlessly overlap.

    My dad arrived to the show early and held court at the bar for the duration, and every time I stopped by he was ready with a polite litany of ways we could improve for our next show. We need a bigger board with an off-board equalizer, and maybe a compressor. Sandbags for the bottom of mic stands. Better eye-lines. Performers closer to the audience. Stop by ahead of time to check out the lighting situation.

    If you’ve followed my history with my father at all, you know that it’s rare for us to find an intersection of interests, and it was fascinating to hear him so effortlessly detail all of the credible, tangible ways we could improve for our next show.

    At one point in the conversation I interjected.

    “Dad, we will do everything you just said. But, realize that it used to be that we had no mic stands to even sing into, so I bought those. And then we didn’t have mics that were good for Gina and I, so I bought those. Then Lyndzapalooza needed a PA system, so I bought that. And, Gina and I couldn’t get anyone to pay attention to us without quality recordings, so I bought a digital recording interface and spent the last year mixing and burning demos.”

    My point was well-taken, just as his was by me: success requires steady progress; milestones require constant motion.

    It was a year ago today that Arcati Crisis made our Philadelphia debut at the Tin Angel, playing three newly learned songs in a brief set during a lineup of almost a dozen other performers – mostly strangers. As great as that felt, and as inspiring as the support from friends and family was, I don’t think we could have imagined that a single year later we would be playing for five times that long to twice as many of our dearest supporters on a bill of talented friends.

    I am truly blessed to be a part of a community that continues to support the evolution of our music. I will continue to do everything within my power to make sure it gets heard.

    Loving

    There were kittens in our yard, but now there are not.

    You were going to get a whole post about the joys of kittens and the joys of pet fostering, with a smattering of Bob Barkerisms, but we returned from work to find said kittens and accompanying momma gone from the yard.

    So, no wacky kitten pictures with captions in stilted lolzcatian English.

    Honestly, I’m only mentioning it now so that in five years I can recall when it was we found the kittens in our yard.

    So, for historical reference, the apparent close of the kitten incident happens to coincide with the first day of legal same-sex marriages in California.

    .

    Just as I am a feminist, I am an advocate for civil rights for everyone, and that includes the GBLT community. I honestly don’t understand how anyone can not be an advocate and an activist for both, because each movement is rooted in a simple concept: equality for all.

    As we celebrate the landmark California Supreme Court decision and the many beautiful unions that it will yield, I was also reminded today of another beautiful union – this one fifty years old.

    The union in question was of Mildred and Richard Loving, two Virginia small-town sweethearts who in 1958 found themselves pregnant and decided to wed in neighboring Washington, D.C.

    Back in Virginia, five weeks after their wedding the couple found themselves on the receiving end of an unfriendly visit from the local Sheriff’s department because they were in violation of the state’s Racial Integrity Act.

    Richard Loving was white; his bride Mildred was black.

    The Racial Integrity Act made their marriage – and, for that matter, any marriage between a white person and someone of another race – a felony.

    This post isn’t meant to be a history lesson- you can read other sources detailing the Loving’s arrest, or their subsequent exodus from Virginia under threat of imprisonment, and how – nine years later on June 12, 1967 – the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Racial Integrity Act in their landmark Loving v. Virginia decision.

    .

    I know most people (maybe even you, reading now) see the Lovings’ story in black and white – literally and figuratively. However, laws like the Racial Integrity Act were leveraged against couples of any interracial combination across the country. If it weren’t for the Loving’s and the unanimous SCOTUS decision their case garnered, interracial marriages might never have become as visible and accepted in mainstream American society. (And, similar laws lingered on the books for decades until the last one was repealed in Alabama in 2000.)

    If those same laws were prevalent today it might not be legal for me to marry Elise. And, it certainly would have been illegal for her parents – one white, the other Chinese – to marry and have children.

    Consider that for a moment.

    All of these years I’ve been one blessed white male in the multi-ethnic sea of America. I never experienced any personal discrimination to cause me to believe in feminism or civil rights, but I believe in them because equality should be for everyone, without strings attached.

    Little did I know at age five, or age twelve, or age twenty-two that my blessed life would benefit from the battles waged before me in the most meaningful way possible – because they cleared the way for me to have and hold the love of my life.

    Could you imagine denying us legal recognition of our happiness just for something as trivial as the colors of our skin?

    Your answer, I suspect, is “no.”

    Then, consider that as of today one of my co-best-ladies and one of my dearest friends can only legally marry each other in two states in the country, solely because they are both women.

    Why is it that we can all imagine denying them legal recognition of their happiness just for something as trivial as their gender?

    .

    In my mind, the two are the same – the two couples, the two imagined denials, and the two inevitable, ineffable sets of basic human rights.

    Just as I advocated for those rights before I ever knew they would effect my life so directly, I will continue to advocate for them even after my marriage is legally recognized – because everyone should have the same rights as Elise and I, regardless of race or gender.

    That’s feminism. That’s civil rights. That’s equality.

    .

    As I write this post there is a tiny dent in the dish of cat food we put out in the yard, hoping to lure back momma and her four stray kittens.

    And, at the same time thousands of Californians have had the imagined denials cleared from their path to a legally recognized life of loving.

    A Personal Wedding (Or: The only feminist in the party is the one without breasts.)

    Last week I spent my sole lunch break shopping for dresses.

    This is one of the many peculiarities of our impending ulta-modern, decidedly-feminist nuptials.

    For those keeping score: Elise is the modern one; I’m the feminist.

    .

    At our engagement party I found myself standing in our kitchen next to my father’s wife, chatting about our (then vague) plans about the wedding. She asked me who my best man would be, and I snagged Gina out of the roiling crowd.

    I mean, hello, who else would be my best man but Gina? I’ve known her for half of my life. I’m in a band with her. We’ve only been in one fight, ever, which was neither of our faults. We are adept at psychic communication.

    These are all traits one seeks in a best man. She really is the best man for the job.

    (In this next bit I am maybe engaging in a slight blog-reality edit, but this is how I remember it. Or at least it’s how the story is best told.)

    Dad’s wife laughed. Yes, yes, Gina is my best friend. But, does she have a “counterpart”? Another “good friend” of mine fitting the “best man” moniker?

    Additional “scare quotes” trailed after her sentence, hanging expectantly in the air.

    I replied that I had a great friend that I talk to every single day, who coddled me through my engagement cold feet, helped me design my ring, and even came early to help us set up for the party.

    Her name is Lindsay.

    The laugh this time was more pointed.

    “Don’t you have any male friends?”

    I do have male friends, and I love them dearly, but if anyone took an objective look at my life it would be clear to them that my best friends are all women, and since I’m marrying one of them it stands to reason that the next few on the list ought to be the ones at my side on the big day.

    Thus, Gina and Lindsay are my “co-best ladies.” CBLs, for short. With the addition of Erika, the girls outnumber the boys in my party three to two.

    .

    As we get farther into the wedding planning – and as we attend more weddings – I’m starting to appreciate how weddings can be both completely vicarious and intensely personal.

    Except, a lot of people don’t leave room for the personal. And, I suppose kowtowing to tradition, or family, or current trends can be deeply personal for a lot of people, but for us none of the three really matches our personality.

    Which means I have CBLs. And we’re not having flowers, because we don’t care and they aren’t budgetarily or environmentally responsible. And we’re making our own print collateral – not to save money, but because we both work in communications and we want to have control over the look and feel of our wedding.

    Through the process of discovering these personal touches, I am gaining a new appreciation for weddings. In 2006 we attended a barbecue wedding with pies instead of cake. Last month we went to a wedding where the father/daughter dance was the Action News theme song.

    Those are personal touches, perfect for their respective couples. Anyone who would turn their noses up at them would be insane.

    .

    Maybe most men don’t want to spend their lunch breaks looking at dresses – for them it would be less of a personal touch, and more of a personal hell. I can appreciate that. But to me everything from our CBLs to our DIY invites are the defining facets of our modern, feminist wedding. As the feminist half of that equation, for me it’s not just about axing antiquated “Adam’s rib” readings and sexist, sexual bachelor parties.

    Feminism isn’t just about the female – it’s about equality in words and actions.

    That means that I can and should have an opinion on dresses, and décor, and everything else about my wedding. A wedding marks the joining of our anima and animus, neither of us giving away or sacrificing anything of ourselves in the process. How can that joining be equal if the groom does nothing but say yes and write checks?

    And, besides, my CBLs are going to look stunning.

    Spinning Off (or, Welcome to NaBloPoMo)

    As I first draft this post I am on my lunch break, alternating my typing with wolfing down a salad and chugging a glass of Airborne, because I didn’t have any time to write a post last night after my band’s rehearsal, and after this it’s back to copy editing and drafting project schedules, and then directly off to have dinner with one of my co-best-ladies and her wife, and from there another brief rehearsal before meeting up with my fiancée at our favorite open mic, and then some brief iteration of sleep before more work, followed by an upscale bar crawl I’ve organized for my friends, and then bon voyage to fiancée as she heads to a conference in Florida.

    That sentence says almost everything you need to know about my life, in a nutshell. If it sounds too yuppy or droll for you then you have arrived at the wrong droll, yuppy blog, because those are the sorts of crises that are crushing me lately.

    Thus the title of this, the longest-running blog in Philadelphia.

    .

    Last year my adventures in National Blog Posting Month were bookended by a comic book analogy, which provided a frame for a complete reboot of Crushing Krisis.

    First, I rebooted on a technical level, as I moved over six years of posts from Blogger to WordPress. More significantly, I rebooted from a content perspective, by reintroducing each character and plot strand from my life with no assumptions and no back-story required.

    Also, since I am cultivating a second career as a singer-songwriter, I performed and uploaded nine Trio podcasts of original music ranging in topic from my identity to things left unsaid to my modern pop influences.

    .

    My wonderfully telling introductory run-on sentence shows off an interesting facet of the intervening year – many aspects of my tongue-in-cheek reboot analogy were more apt than I intended, because the majority of my 30-day accelerated reinvention actually stuck.

    And, not just the minutia, like my attention to detail being recast as a inner OCD Godzilla spewing indigestion-causing hellfire whenever I don’t perform a task in the most anal way possible. We’re talking about major life changes… I even blogged every day for another entire month this past September – that certainly never happened before!

    As a result, rather than subject you to yet another reinvention for 2007 (I’m not Madonna, I just cover her songs), for the rest of this month I’ll be blogging about the changes in my life, especially the songs and stories connected to the two best, biggest, and most exciting parts of my new identity – that I am now an actively rehearsing and gigging musician, and that I’ve recently become engaged to my amazing partner of the majority of the seven-year run of this page, Elise.

    I don’t expect you to be familiar with the highly obscure, highly complex history-of-me to follow along with my NaBloPoMo content; after all I’m just one of over 3,000 blogs for you to traipse through over the next 30 days, which is no easy feat. I know … last year I read every single blog, linking to a full 10th of them.

    So, to spare you any extra research on my behalf, and in keeping with the original intent of last year’s reboot, all of my NaBloPoMo content will be presented free of backlinks to anything other than previous NaBloPoMo content from this year and last.

    Tune in tomorrow for the first chapter of my engagement story. And, welcome to National Blog Posting Month at Crushing Krisis.

    The Arrival of Arcati Crisis

    My birthday celebration began officially on Thursday night when I stepped on stage beside Gina as Arcati Crisis, before several dozen of my friends, and in front of a three-piece backing band, and commenced the first moment in my life where I truly felt like a rock star.

    Flash back to a year ago – the beginning of my quarter-life danger/opportunity.

    I knew – had known for months – that I wanted to get out to play more often. It was one of the reasons I had quit my promising run with our semi-pro acappella group after six months of arduous rehearsals. Yet, after two months of constantly playing around the house and a tepid run at World Cafe Live’s Monday open mic, I was stuck playing a single bar once a month.

    I needed something a little more artist-oriented – where I wouldn’t be fiercely battling for attention over and over again with the same damn Madonna cover.

    Out of the blue, I recalled Penni Gould – a woman I knew in passing from years of playing the Shubin Theatre holiday revue. At the 2004 show she mentioned that she was starting up a monthly performance salon for local theatre artists? Was it still around?

    Not only was it still around, but after a brief email exchange I found myself invited to their next soundcheck for an audition. I played one rocker and one ballad, and just like that I was booked for a debut in December.

    Meanwhile, Gina and I just had commenced rehearsing for our annual appearance at the Holiday Revue. This year we were effectively co-headlining with a three-song set, for which we were hardly prepared.

    As a result, we resolved to do something highly unusual for us: rehearse. More than a week before our performance. And, more than once.

    For the first couple of meetings we just played around, trying to figure out what we sounded like after a year-and-a-half apart. By our third rehearsal we realized that two of our biggest past challenges had transformed into major opportunities.

    First, Gina was more consistent and aggressive than ever on her guitar parts, making it easy to scale up to more complex arrangements.

    Even more significant, my acappella experience had taught me how to hold my own against other vocals, and as a result I no longer had to struggle to sing harmony with Gina. Not only could Gina sing more harmony with me, but for the first time I could sing harmony on her songs as well!

    We wound up with more than a trio of songs – we discovered a formula, both for our sound and for motivating ourselves to rehearse. After a nearly flawless performance at the revue I floated my typical annual question to Gina – any chance you want to keep rehearsing in the new year?

    Shockingly – though somehow not surprisingly – she said yes.

    Now travel forward to May. Gina and I had just made our official redebut as Arcati Crisis at the 5th Annual Lyndzapalooza, and a few weeks later I found myself scheduled for another Melange performance.

    Amusingly, over the past six months my tables had been turned: coming off of rehearsing with Gina as Arcati Crisis my own material was flabby and out of shape, especially in light of what looked to be a strong lineup at Melange.

    Past that self-consciousness, Lindsay emailed me about a curious new development – Melange listed a future date at the Tin Angel, one of my favorite venues. Would I be playing there?

    My only answer was a sinking feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t prepared to make a strong showing that night at Melange … certainly not strong enough to merit a coveted spot at the Tin.

    A bit worried (okay: panicked), I sent Gina a pleading email: was there any chance she’d come up to sing harmony with me on one song, so I didn’t feel so nude?

    As the day progressed we continued to exchange emails and the plans became more elaborate, until finally we agreed to just appear as Arcati Crisis. And we did, rocking an unusual combination of her bouncy “Fisher Price” and my elaborately maudlin “Counts the Most.”

    Afterwards, Penni told us she would see if she could squeeze us in to the yet-to-be-announced second Tin Angel gig.

    Now just a month ago, Gina and I are in a third floor apartment across from the Kimmel Center playing with a drummer and a bassist for the first time. Beforehand we absconded into the stairwell, working hushedly on our harmonies and debating on what we should tell the drummer to do.

    The point wound up being moot. Tom, our drummer, was fantastic – picking up on exactly what we wanted without us even having to say so. All of our songs transformed into the better selves we had imagined all along, none more than Gina’s “What’ll I Say” – now less languid folk and more acoustic jam.

    Suddenly our little duo had been expanded to an honest rock band that would be making its debut on September 20th.

    Now we just needed an audience.

    Thursday night, and Gina and I are backstage in one of two dressing rooms at the Tin Angel, having spent the past hour hand-labeling the Live @ Rehearsal, Vol. 1 discs I took the day off from work to mix and produce.

    The walls of our room are covered with sharpie marker signatures from the many bands that had appeared there. Chris Smither loomed just above my head, and Erin McKeown high behind my chair. After much searching I failed to spot Peter Mulvey, but we discovered our acquaintance Mutlu near the ceiling and upside down.

    Enough people had been seated that there was a bit of a hum drifting back to the room, and I delighted that this wasn’t theatre and that it was okay for me to sneek out for a peek.

    The peek snuck the breath right out of me; the vast majority of the audience were our family and friends. Both of our parents, and our partners. Former roommates and theatre compatriots. Co-workers and random friends.

    Most performances are a blur, but I can still hear this one in super slow motion. It makes the mistakes all the more painful than usual, but it also magnifies the successes.

    A flipped pronoun on “Standing” pales against the best bridge vocal I’ve ever done. Skipping a progression on “What’ll I Say” to untangle my quarter inch tiny in the face of belting out my harmony at the close. And, starting “Wait” with a too hard pick hardly mattering when compared to our hilarious ad-libbed inflections and gestures on the final verse, tossing our lines back and forth to each other while the rhythm section carried the song.

    Afterwards Elise and I went out for drinks, and more drinks, and karaoke, all of which I experienced through a film of joy. It might have taken ten years of preparation and a year of work, but I’ve finally transformed from wayward solo songwriter with no confidence to part of an assured and rehearsed duo that’s had a taste of a backing band and is hungry for more.

    An errant Banker’s Club cosmo aside, Thursday night was the best birthday gift ever.