Its not often that I see a band that truly blows my mind and inspires me to reach for new heights...at ANY level in the industry. Blue Ember is there. Of course, they are talented players individually, and their songs are quite literally GREAT. But even better than that, they are Classy guys: hardworking, intelligent, multi-faceted, polite, and good to the core. Their new album "To Sandra With Love, Blue Ember" is beautiful. Their live show is flawless. I really dig them, and everyone from here on out should as well. Cheers to Blue Ember!
Thanks to their singer Keawe, I am totally inspired to reach for new heights as a vocalist...starting tonight with Idiot Science at Tiger Bar, and carrying into tomorrow afternoon at Oakshire Brewing in Eugene with The Tummybuckles. That man has pipes of gold, and a stage presence more natural than almost anyone I've ever seen live, ever.
Blue Ember, I've got your back from here on out, and I believe the other 160 folks lucky enough to know about the show at Analog Theater last night feel the same way. There goes My Heroes.
This has been an incredible summer. Not only did I read an inspiring (and discouraging due to its stark realism) book by David Byrne, his "autobiography", I have travelled to the Pac NW coast a couple times with The Tummybuckles, helped put the finishing touches on A Crab's Life album (our first!), taken Idiot Science to new heights with a new EP (in progress) and some killer live shows, reunited with Huge Sally once again, and come into a bit more confidence with my solo act. I've been developing my solo performing technique and songwriting for well over a decade now, and have recently jumped leaps and bounds thanks to the influence of The Tummybuckles, of my good friend Karma, of Oakshire Brewing and their enthusiasm for not only their fine product, but the culture that needs to be nurtured around it, of Russ and BadAustin and the "Pour Me Oakshire" sessions, of Lisa Lepine and her promotion techniques and ideas, of Artichoke Music, and of the unforgettable DoverLaff Effect.
But this is not just a Thanks To blog post. Of course, all these folks had their influence, and without them, I'd still be playing tiny bars for nobody on weeknights. But what I really realized this summer is that I have reached my 10,000 hours. I feel a complete mastery of my sound and technique. That by no means says I am perfect. By EVERY means though, it says that I am no longer a slave to the waves of lack of confidence, the fleeting tiny successes followed by too-long periods of ineptitude, or the self-loathing when the small things don't go my way and I felt I was off-the-path.
In other words, for the first time in a long time, and with a realness adding a depth to the bite, I feel Comfortable with where I am, and where I may or may not end up.
And that is something that I appreciate, as I have a cup of black coffee in my boxers, alone in my apartment at 9:56am on a Thursday. To look forward to today? A recording session with Leo of The Tummybuckles this afternoon at 4p, to make progress towards our 3rd EP; and then a mixing session with A Crab's Life at 7p tonight, our final mixing session before we call it "done" and ship to mastering.
And...here we go again!
Last night, I brought together some of my closest musical comrades. Relationships that spanned back almost 5 years, on and off, on and on, off and off for awhile perhaps but then always coming around again...and always coming back stronger and more dedicated than before. Over the past six months, I have been working up 3 different original songs with 3 different people, and yesterday, Friday night at Artichoke Music on the famous Backgate Stage, was our chance to showcase what we had developed.
I started out with my newest song 'The Relic," as a solo acoustic bit...with my trusty percussionist and very good friend Leo (from The Tummybuckles of course!) sitting in support onstage. Though he did not even play a note, his support up there meant the world to me (and I'm sure it built the drama quite a bit!).
"The Relic" is special to me right now for a couple reasons. I was inspired by Lisa Lepine's challenge to me to delve into my past, and discover for myself *why* I had this constant desire to write songs and push my lyrical message out there (be whatever it may in the moment) with force and precision and dedication. Her idea that it stemmed genetic back two generations, to grandparents whom as children had been relocated by force to America (by their parents) in pursuit of a new life, speaking no english and knowing not a soul, was very outside the box. Their inability to communicate with those around them may have been written and passed down as a rogue strand to me; my developed tongue may have generational origins adapted through a need to survive and form a community. My extended family has always appeared to me to be ALL about Family, almost none of them ever developing a social circle outside the immediate and extended family units. I am one of the first in the two generations of extended family I am familiar with who would be considered a "social person." And I am definitely the most public. Interesting. Perhaps "Relic" is too strong a word, but its the one that stuck lyrically, since it seemed to embody the parallels of past and present individual existence. After this conversation, later into the evening, I found myself waiting for none other than Woody Moran outside an open mic in NE Portland, at the Secret Society Ballroom (next to Wonder Ballroom on NE Russell St), and texting myself these lyrics: "I am a relic, foreign in origin, I travel through the air, with a sense of purpose...I am a rogue, for the traveller displaced, two generations, paced, and sense of haste..." By the time the open mic was over (I played "The Beacon" to about 50 attentive people, which was Rad), I did not have a song yet, but the muse was tapping with purpose at my window.
So that's "The Relic."
Next up, "Pour Me Oakshire." This one featured Dors Ward, who helped me finish the song when I was stuck on it about six months ago. We trade verses and lead vocals, and have a recording through Bad Austin Studios that is nearing completion. Ultimately, this recording will be dedicated to Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, OR.
I am going to run out of space here. They limit my blog character numbers. Everyone not asleep at the keyboard yet, head to Part 2.
Third song of the night was "Country Road." I wrote this song out at Helvetia Studios while I was living there (2011-2012), made a demo with Ryan Ferris, and made a demo at home, one of the first instances where I actually thought of a real piano part, taught myself to play it, and recorded it with great care. Daniel Work was a natural choice to perform this role, and I showed him my idea and we worked it up over several months. Our work and prep was mostly for fun and to develop, but ultimately, it led to this inclusion in The Showcase, and that was a fantastic culmination. The lyrics are about my childhood road, which was only a half-mile long, but to a child walking to a bus stop at 6am in freezing rain, and then back again in the dark in freezing rain, after a 12 hour day at school, sports, and music lessons, it seemed quite lengthy indeed. As an adult tho, I fully appreciated just how NOT LONG this road was, and where as a child I felt so far outside the city and my social life, I realized that Eugene is actually a very small city. And that is a beautiful thing. When I sing this song, I get twinges of emotion thinking about the late Will Downing, and the country highway where he passed his remaining days deep in the heart of south Texas, near McAllen and the Mexican border. Thank You to Daniel for working this song up with me, and most of all for taking the piano line that I had written and OWNING it completely, skipping nothing and making it bigger and better than I ever could have imagined.
Next, we played "Real Love." I wrote this song after seeing Jack White in concert (August 2012 in Portland), on his solo tour, alongside Megan Cronin (Tummybuckles) and my bandmates Joe & Jesse Tomaino from A Crab's Life, and taking some inspiration from his style and presence and voice. The other part of this tune was from hearing the Outkast double-album from 2000 for the first time, on a road trip down to Sacramento, CA with Megan and her sister about a week after the Jack White show. Sitting by the pool and the man-made waterfall, it occurred to me quite clearly that "real Love is a waterfall, there's only one direction to flow, and that's on…" Woody and I worked out a 2-guitar arrangement over the next few months, complete with vocal harmonies.
Closing the night was a newer cover song I'd been working on with The Tummybuckles, and then with this group, "The Promise", originally recorded and arranged by When In Rome.
Finally, the encore, demanded by the audience even though we were 20 minutes over our time (10:20p). Can't say no to a packed house, and when a fan called out Oregon Song! we had to oblige. Woody and Daniel stepped off to an ovation, and Leo and Dors and I tenderly ripped through "Oregon Song." We missed Megan Cronin on the violin, but we made it work somehow!
No place I've ever been loves and supports musical development like Artichoke Music, and I am proud to be involved in such a fine community.
Thank you Richard Columbo and all your crew that you inspire to lead on, even in your absence...
Thanks so much to Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, for their continued support of live music. Megan and I had a Great time performing for you, and by the next time I see you, I will have a copy of the Pour Me Oakshire song ready. Dors Ward, my co-writer for that tune, is planning to come down and perform it with me.
Here's hoping for the best!
Live @ Spinella's. The high ceilings, the great sound, and the restaurant atmosphere make this a real comfortable place. Karma and I had a blast last night telling you all about the time we drove from Florida to San Fransisco, with a 4-year layover in Mexico, a plane ride "with somebody we did not know", and a 22-hour drive in the trunk of a car singing a song over 700 times to each other. That's a lot of La-la's.
I ordered lots of potatoes, and don't regret a single minute of it.
Everyone was really kind, and the audience (you know who you are!) was attentive at all the right spots, and really, we couldn't ask for more. Special thanks to Michael for running sound, Deanna for requesting an encore song from Karma ('Monster' is STILL stuck in my head), Theodore for running the door, and Chef Ron for sheer unabashed enthusiasm for life.
See you all again on May 11th!
Well, here we are in Austin TX. Every time I think that a Huge Sally show will likely be the last one ever, I find myself down the road singing and playing guitar with the great Jake Riggs once again.
Its been a topsy-turvy ride...mistakes were made over the years, opportunities blown, people irrevocably insulted; all the while songwriter showcases were being dominated, fans won, and incredible sights seen on tour. I have seen a few artists, live and loud, over the years maybe one or two times only in total...and these few I am thinking of were impactful enough that I Knew I would never forget those moments. It was always my hope and effort that Huge Sally would have that effect; I strove for it in every public appearance. Based on the feedback we have gotten, we were not too far off from this achievement, which of course is cerebral at best.
Ultimately, the live recordings we have been lucky enough to procure over the years, mostly thanks to the hard work and style of Russ Rochambeau and Bad!Austin Studios, will speak for themselves in the brief underground legacy we will have left.
As I take off back for Portland, OR tomorrow night from San Antonio, my best memories of the whole 6-year HS experience was the driving. The gigs at SXSW over the years, 2007-2013. The small clubs and wineries we performed at on the way to and from. SX was usually the target, and has had its special events, but the spectacle is mostly a spectacle, and the truest juice was drunk in the spaces between.
I hold Jake Riggs in the highest regard, and the same with the future Mrs. Brooke Riggs. We had a heck of a time, a heck of a ride, and the recordings will call your name forever.
They talk about dreams. Following them. Believing the impossible.
Are they talking about "magical powers"?
Deft illusions and killer showmanship steeped in centuries-old tradition?
Or simply an unwavering commitment to what is deepest in your passionate heart, regardless of how silly it seems in the Grande American Scheme of things?
Either way, I saw a 17-year-old boy do an "up close" show, a master of ceremonies geared towards children that showcased some glittery fun-lovin' jokes and puns, and a true world-class master showman who even incorporated skillful swing dancing into his routine.
The place is Magic Castle, situated in the Hollywood of sunny southern California.
This is a private magicians club which rotates performers, pays the magicians to entertain a random smattering of audiences throughout the week, and maintains a vibe that is both mystical, classy and comfortable, and deeply rooted in uncompromising tradition.
It was all started by a nerdy visionary named Milt Larson. His story, and the origins of the building itself, are best told here: www.magiccastle.com/about/index.cfm
Magicians can become members, and ply their trade and build their name here. Citizens can pay for an annual membership fee, which allows you access (with an RSVP) to fancy brunches and dinners and cocktail hours, and exclusive shows that feature invited acts from around the world.
The Saturday brunch served bacon, steamed salmon and spinach, mimosas on the house, fresh-whipped omelets, and tickets to the Main Show, which on this day was at 1:45pm.
There is even valet parking.
Going there for the afternoon with my dear friends Kris and Beth Farm was the best decision I've made all week!
Well, its that special Huge Sally time of year again. I miss my buddy Jake Riggs (as we all do, who don't get the pleasure of his biting company in Austin in weekly doses). But, after a short stop in southern California to take care of some cool business, its Texas-bound, with our good friend Dors Ward (The Baron Ward lives again!).
I'll tell you about it, so you can tell my dramatic story when plans go awry and I probably end up making contact with aliens and traveling the Universe, living forever, or at least assuming near-immortality thanks to relativistic lightspeed space-travel, never to return or see anyone I've ever loved again, you whom will live and die a natural life on Earth, eventually forgetting me only to dig up this blog potentially decades into the future.
Don't think about that for now.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting the Farms in Los Angeles...and by some stroke of luck my great friend Kris Kraus as well, who happens to be down there before his 8-month trip to Cambodia and Laos to backpack, research, find his mind, forget time, and blast the notion of daily schedules and pressure. Boo America!. Yay Asian Travel!
Anyway, Kris and Beth and I will hang out; I will attempt to procure an important piece of hardware for my home studio; and I will visit the famed Magic Castle in the Hollywood Hills. Sushi is on the menu for dinner, I've heard.
On Sunday early morning, Dors and I will travel a bit north, up the coast, to play a songwriter showcase in Paso Robles, CA. This is in one of the hearts of California wine country (its a multi-hearte organism), along the coast, in San Luis Obispo County. Thanks to Aireene for putting The Baron Ward in contact with Steve Keys.
On Monday, I wil head down to Temecula, CA to visit my dear Grandmother on my Mom's side. Hopefully I will get to see some cousins and uncles too. No show this time around, but I will be working to set it up for later down the road.
Tuesday morning, bright and early, we jet to Austin, TX. Straight shot, few breaks, hoping to get there by Wednesday evening.
Then, Huge Sally: Thursday in Austin, Nomad Bar. Friday in Cedar Creek, Autocycle Icehouse. Saturday in Austin, Nettie's Place. Saturday in Cedar Creek, Autocycle Icehouse again! Sunday in San Antonio, House Patty!
Details on the calendar.
Thanks to Russ Rochambeau and Bad!Austin Studios, I will have a few Chris Baron Music promo discs to pass out. I am planning to bring my camera along (if possible to fit) so I can make a few YouTube videos of Huge Sally, Baron Ward's first tour in 3 years, and perhaps even a solo performance or two from another State.
Thanks for following and for all the support and well-wishes. See you soon, unless I'm in space and you can't come, Chris
Well, last night, I went on an adventure.
First, I met up with my friend Woody Moran at Secret Society, a ballroom/lounge in NE Portland, right next door to Wonder Ballroom, and White Eagle. The old open mic setup from White Eagle, which was discontinued, was set up for this place a few months back. Its a cool system with the same host and the same mailing list as before. Everyone draws a number at the beginning to determine the order, everyone gets one song, and no electronics are allowed (well, limited). So its very fair. And, change-over does not take long.
Anyway, I saw some folks there that I recognized, met a few folks I hadn't met before, saw some very sloppy performances, saw some wrenching performances, teared up once, laughed out loud quite a few times. I performed "The Beacon", with acappella verses, and it went well. Woody played his newish song "Jimmy G."
At 9p, I snuck out the back door so I could make it to Ash Street Saloon for their songwriter showcase, arranged this weekend by one Tim Call. I don't think Tim was there that night. At least, I didn't meet him.
But, I did see something interesting...a young man named Evan Bond. Look him up. I haven't yet, BUT I will say this: live and solo, he has a great sense of melody and is a KILLER guitarist. His amp was in pretty poor shape, but it didn't sound bad, it created this weird and cool reverby vibe that put a stamp on Evan's nylon-electric guitar riffs. I am not entirely sure, but I bet he has a punk band that backs him normally.
Perhaps I will be seeing more of him.
I played about 7 songs, each one from a different project, and shouted out to all my bandmates. I did Huge Sally, Searchlights, Idiot Science, A Crab's Life, Baron Ward, and Searchlights in Mexico. A Crab's Life got the most lovin from the crowd (I did "The Chain")...but "Terrible Mind" (Huge Sally) was my favorite one. Looking forward to seeing my friend Jake Riggs in just two weeks!!