Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day Two Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety Five . . . The Big Day.

Today is a day I've been waiting for for a very long time. A day that's been two years in the making.

Today is my band, Colorway's second album release party at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA.

Now, I knew we were shooting for a May release when I booked the time back about a year ago. I wanted to make a summertime album and I wanted there to be enough time to get it out there so it could be in people's cars and on their iPods and iPhones and everywhere else. There is a lot of work to be done in the planning way above and beyond the actually writing, rehearsing and recording stages. It's sort of a full time job.

But I also knew that I wanted to have our release show at the Iron Horse again. It's a great music hall that holds about 200 people and I've played on its stage in varying configurations many, many times since moving to the Valley in 1991.

I remember the first time I ever went there to an open mic night one summer night in, let's say, 1992. It was such a popular thing to do and there was always more people who wanted to perform than slots for them. So they would have would be performers put names in a hat and a few would get picked out to play. If you wanted to you could ensure a slot for next week by agreeing to put up posters all around town. This was a long time before the internet pervaded people's lives and print media and community bulletin boards was the way to get the news out.

I didn't get picked to perform that night and for the life of me I can't remember if I ever did. But I remember they had a notice in the newspaper ad that said something like, "This is a professional open mic. If you have not practiced or are not prepared we strongly discourage you from attempting to do so on this stage."

But this was the Iron Horse and it was the most prestigious stage in town. It had hosted some of music's biggest names and still does today, more than 40 years after opening its doors.

I was in a band back in the 1990s called Soup. We did the jammy rock thing but with solidly written songs. Sort of jam pop. I'll never forget when I got the call from our bassist who worked at the Iron Horse at the time. He said that the band scheduled that night had cancelled and they were looking for a replacement--somebody that might play for tips. He suggested our group and we all said okay.

It was really more like a "HELL YEAH!!"

That was it. We were in. We had a gig at the Iron Horse . . . in five hours!

We got on the house phone (yes, the one phone for five people) and called everybody we knew. We put up posters and went around and knocked on doors and gave it a mighty community push. We put a good bunch of people in that room and rocked the house mightily.

And that was the beginning of my relationship with that stage.

And that stage hosted my band (who would later change their name to Drunk Stuntmen) countless times over the next ten years or so. We had Halloween shows there and CD release parties and multi-band showcases there.

Suffice to say that it's a place I feel comfortable as I possibly can.

I had been talking to Brendan, the talent buyer, about the possibility of our next album release even before it was done being recorded. We had our first album release there in June of 2013 and for a band nobody had heard before we packed the house pretty well.

He gave me a couple of dates we could do it this year and one of them stood out to me.

Thursday, May 14.

My mother's 74th birthday.

You better believe I jumped at that chance.

Because while my mom may not be around anymore in a physical sense she very much was at many of our performance at the Iron Horse. She lived two hours away (two and a half if she was driving) but whenever she could she would corral my aunt and hop in the Nissan and make the schlep to see her kid on this tiny stage in the grand room.

She was nothing if not supportive.

In fact, on her memorial card that was printed up was a picture of her from one of our performances at the Horse. It was a Halloween show we did and she dressed up like a rustic Polish farmer girl. I'll never forget her and my aunt making me wait in my bedroom in my little apartment while they changed up into their clothes. My aunt was a dressed as a belly dancer if I recall correctly (and she really knew how to dance). When they told me to come back into the living room and I saw them all done up it was just so unbelievable I almost cried.

This is a pic of the card that I keep in my wallet and have done so for going on nine years now. She's sitting in a booth at the Iron Horse and you can just see how happy she is. But she was happy so much of the time. Really and truly happy, even though she was so often concerned with the future of her boy. 

These two very private people had a strange way of exhibiting outrageousness that always surprised me. I only wish I could have come to terms with it years before. I often felt embarrassed or shocked by them as if they were my children instead of my parents.

But we learn as we go and sometimes it just takes time to sort things out. I'm glad I got a chance to tell them both that I loved their shenanigans and wouldn't have changed a thing before I lost them.

So this album that we are celebrating the release of tonight at the Iron Horse, it's called The Black Sky Sequined.

There is a very good reason it's called that.

In one of my mom's gigantic notebooks--the notebooks of her first drafts of letters to all of her friends and family--on the very last page, after the pages of letters she wrote to me and my aunt saying so long for now (definitely not "goodby") was a poem. I haven't been able to attribute it to anybody but her. It's even got a word crossed out which leads me to believe it had to be original.

Anyway, here is what it says, in her handwriting:

"Then it began. Rockets. Stars. Flowers blooming. The black sky sequined. Reds, yellows, blues, greens. Silver and gold. Explosions and the cheers of spectators."

Now I have a hunch at what this poem is about but I am just going to keep that on the inside. I could be way off and I don't want to assume. But you can take from it what you will.

I decided to take the title of the record from this poem (the text is actually included in our debut album liner notes) and, as always, to represent her and remember her in whatever way I can. 

I don't have many regrets in this life. But one that I have had for many, many years is that in the aftermath of her passing I never had a memorial service. 

In 2007 I was in no shape to do it and my aunt wasn't either--both for different reasons of course. And so she passed away and I dove deeper into my substance abuse and things just fell away from me. 

If you've followed this blog then you know what happened next. If you haven't followed this blog just know that I finally got the message in the form of a DUI and got sober and have remained that way since 2008. 

It's been a long road but I'm so very happy to still be walking on it. 

But this is why tonight is so special. 

Because as much as the whole idea of being a musician and being the frontman in a band is an ego trip, and as much as the only child in me enjoys being the center of attention I am proud and happier than I can explain to be sharing my music with a room of friends and fans on what would be her 74th birthday.

When I was putting the set together it really amazed me how many songs had something to do with her. I try not to write with my heart on my sleeve. Some of the references are sly and most people wouldn't really get that it's about her. But I have a part of her in so much of my songwriting, in so much of my playing, in so much of my singing and in so much of my enjoyment of life that it's hard to not feel like she is a part of this band.

It's been a long few months getting this album written, recorded, produced and promoted. I'm kind of a bundle of nerves today just knowing that it's all about to reach it's climax. But this is kind of the same feeling I used to get getting ready for her birthday. It was always so hard to find something she didn't have already or something she may not have known about.

Because she never really longed for much.

She never asked me for anything she could wear, touch, hold or look at.

All she ever asked me for was to be good.

All she ever asked me for was to try to figure out why I was hurting myself.

All she ever asked me for was to try to understand that I am worth taking care of, because she couldn't do it anymore from two (and a half) hours away.

So today, tonight, I play for my mother. I give her this gift of music. I give her this gift of care, of kindness, of joy, of life, love, happiness, contentedness and togetherness.

I wish I could hug her and tell her how much I miss her.

I wish I could send her a card--I do so miss addressing envelopes to her old house.

I wish she could be there tonight when I take the stage.

And I wish she could see me now, 50 pounds lighter and seven years sober.

So this will be my gift and my memorial to my mom, my Judy, my sweet, sweet lady.

Sto lat, Mom.

I promise to take care of your boy because I finally love him as much as you did.

I'll see you at the Iron Horse, like I always used to, and I'll play my heart out for you.

Thanks for reading,


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