Daniel Lanois & Black Dub

January 29, 2011

Seems I rode all day. I was down in Temecula to pick up motorcycle parts rode back up to Loma Linda to drop off the parts, got into traffic, out of it, back to San Dimas, took a quick shower and went out again.

I was heading to the El Rey theatre. An revived theatre on Wilshire in Los Angeles. Tonight : Black Dub, a band formed by and with Daniel Lanois, Trixie Whitley, Brian Blade and Daryl Johnson.

I rode down the 10, it’s dark getting cold but not bad yet. I am flying down through the blackness, amid the red tail lights. It still grabs me, it’s as if I am in a movie. The way things shine, the lines of the concrete roads and overpasses, Then in the distance, shining and defiant, downtown LA. A tall sophisticated lady that I mindfully keep my distance from. I get to an elevated road and it’s even more dramatic. Life like a thread. Exits, turns, curves, I finally see La Brea exit.

I get off, there is a fair bit of traffic. It’s Friday night. It has that historic look around here. An era come and gone of bright neons and glamorous places. I had never been here but knew my way thanks to the Google maps. I see the theatre, big line up, tons of people,

I turn on the first street right after the theatre, I see a tour bus, must be them. I find parking three cars down. The advantage of coming downtown with a bike. I see this spot but I am not sure if I can park or not, I asked a man standing there.

“These lines, does it mean I can park inside or outside? Sorry I’m from Canada, I’m not sure what these mean…”

Oh, you can’t park here but you can park over there.” He points to one car up. I move the bike up there. Thanks! We chat for a while, his name is Ian Galloway. He was actually born in Montreal. Came here and never left. He works on the crew for Daniel Lanois. He walked me to the will call, made sure I got in.

I had a ticket for the show because of a contact. Can’t talk about it, but here I am and I am pretty happy to be here.

I walked in, it’s a beautiful theatre. There are only a few people, I am early. I talked to Ian for a short while then he had to go work. We had to wait for a while, I moved up front, about three rows of standing people from the front. Nice.

The opening act comes on.

One guy with a dobro guitar with a midi set up, a stomper box for him to make a sort of kick drum sound, one microphone and a battered spot light shining on his face as the only lighting.

Rocco Deluca, really, really cool.

There is such magic when you don’t know a performer and they take you immediately on a voyage. The curtain when up and his pale face, lit by that lone spotlight, creased into pain and he delivered a music that just grabbed you in the gut. I was hearing tones that could not come from a guitar and realized that he had a midi setup on the guitar and the sound engineer was adding to the eerie atmosphere with well placed delays. I was smiling in the dark. Yeah. Thank you, this is a gift.

The songs went from quiet and eerie to rocking hard, the bottle neck sliding up and down the guitar’s neck. The words he sings them like pictures thrown up in the air then shot with a revolver.

Curtain down.

We wait.

Curtain up. Here is Lanois. So strange when you read, listen, follow someone from afar, books, internet, magazine articles for years… Then they are in front of you and it is as if you know them personally. Trixie came on and she was magical like kids are magical.

This was their first show and you could catch glances between the young artist and the experienced musicians. She was so powerful yet so fragile. He was so poised, calm solid like a rock and you could catch him watch over her. I saw him throw the words to the next line in a song late in the show. He cares so much. She has the power of a caged tiger yet can get spooked like a deer. But she is really intense, sings her heart out and is totally for real.

The songs followed one another, I’d never heard any of them but I was entranced in this universe. Lanois with his textured delays and dirty yet gentle distortions on his Les Paul. He always had a finger on the Bigsby whammy bar, plying the notes to his will, all this going through two tiny Fender tube amps. He seemed to do so little yet the whole atmosphere was saturated with lushness. The drummer was particularly amazing. Joyful, smiling, with an incredible pocket, the bass player… everyone was brilliant, they all had heart and soul.

We got two encores, one of them the Jean Baptiste song that my drummer in a band I had used to adore and play endlessly in the touring van. It took me there, made me cry. It was awesome.

I walked out starving, it’s nearly midnight and I only had breakfast and a small bowl of rice and veggies around 6 PM. I had a most excellent smokie. Ate it, then I saw the drummer and made a point of telling him how amazing he was. I also saw Ian, the crew member, I gave him my CD and said good bye.

I hopped on Beowulf. The night is now cold. My head is full of music. Up on 10 East. Flying in the night. This bike is cool. It’s starting to be love between us. Wow. I just saw Daniel Lanois, I was on the guest list. The show was awesome and now I am out riding. Pretty good Friday night.

Advertisements

Oh no.

January 26, 2011

Crap.

I was going to write about riding Beowulf down the freeway and how incredibly good that felt. About bending glass and neon lights… I got home, was about to write, then I just checked my emails. Quickly, you know, before doing the writing and the playing I wanted to do. Then I read this.

One of my very best friends has been diagnosed with cancer.

So I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to act.

I don’t know what I can think, hope, feel…

I am dumbed by the news.

People. Do what you love. Love what you do. Love who is next to you. Love life and all it’s ups and downs.

But also, Love yourselves.

D. I love you so much….

So if y’all have a second… Please send a thought out in this universe, a quick little heartfelt thought for healing. It can’t hurt, we all need it.

Thank you.

Boots

January 25, 2011

I got my Milwaukee boots in the summer of 2009. That is also when I had gotten the Suzuki. I have worn these boots non-stop ever since. Sometimes 16-18 hours a day. In September I did not put them on for a whole 24 hours period for the first time since June 6th. They have at least 22 thousand miles of riding alone on them. Then I also walked and walked and walked in them. Down the Vegas Strip, along the Grand Canyon, on the streets of the French Quarter, along the Natchez Trace and more recently for a 6 mile walk with Sam in San Diego.

Today I received their replacement. I had considered getting the old ones re-soled but the leather has stretched so much that they are starting to hurt my feet, so I elected to order another pair of the exact same model since they had served me so well.

I felt a twinge of guilt for letting the old ones go.

“You should bronze them” said Melanie.

Kind of a cool idea… but again in the spirit of not accumulating stuff, that would be a major impediment to light motorcycling travel. Bronze boots…

It is striking how hey are the same but don’t even look remotely similar.

“You look vaguely familiar” said the right foot….

It made me think of people. How we age. How we wear the years, the use and abuse and laughter and smiles, the heartaches and the accomplishments. There has been days when I felt like the old boots and looked it. There are days when I feel like the new boots, shiny, bright, invincible. Thankfully, as people, we can exist beyond our creases, lines and wear, we can outshine our leather from the inside. We have souls.

Souls – Soles… funny how a few letters make such a difference.

the last week…

January 23, 2011

I’m so behind with the blog… all kinds of stuff happened in the last few weeks, I wanted to write about all of it, some of it was so perfect, the only way to really express those is to write about them right away…. but he days flew by.

So I’ll go with the images for some of those moments since the elusive emotions have evaporated, at least the images speak of something.

The NAMM show…

an endless line of taxi cabs line up to the Anaheim convention center

here it is

drummy, shiny things

I thought this display was about selling clothes but no, it was about guitars

rock heroes at the Dunlop booth

One of my favorite rock heroes...

a thing of beauty

metal guitars, poetic ruggedness

the armless guitar man

meet and greet at the Brace Audio booth

at this point my camera’s batteries died… so that is it for NAMM photos.

It’s January, it usually means cold, blustery, fireplace kind of weather. On a walk this is some of what I saw in the park. It feels like summer, some plants look spring like others look as if it was the deep of winter, the sun shines like in June but the days are short like winter. All I know is that I have already shelved the idea of getting heated grips for the bike for now.

spring like

fuzzy things

flittering in the breeze

winter like

Another high point is when Sam stopped by on his way north to hand deliver the lap steel guitar… wow. It was a magical moment. Melanie made it even more special by baking fresh blackberry scones and making French press coffee… the sun lit the room in such a way it was kind of dream like. The guitar is amazing… It was so good to see Sam and Jean again.

Sam explaining to Ozzy the fine points of lap steel tunings

Jean in deep conversation with Melanie

Me and my new baby

Last night I played a show at Taylormade Racing. Steve conspired to get this thing off the ground. A friend, Charlotte, left Wisconsin leaving the snow and the frost behind, had her bike shipped to Northern California and has started on a road trip that will take her to Georgia possibly or where she can find work and the snow is sparse.

I was looking forward to meet Charlotte as she seemed to be a girl with a sense of humor and I just felt some sort of affinity that I wanted to explore. It was interesting to see her and feel the road off of her. I know that feeling.

at Taylor made, the three long distance riders

three feet belonging to the long distance rideresses

guitar love

performing

in action with the Go guitar

with Forrest, Yay.

a spare Ducati

play, play, play

Forrest and I had the luxury to do a fairly decent sound check before we played. The venue was actually a workshop where the carbon fiber motorcycle parts are built. There was a large garage door, cement floor, high ceiling and gigantic tool boxes. We even had a Ducati sitting there with us. We did not have a huge crowd but it was a really good, warm one. I ended up playing the Go Guitar all night cranking it up and even using the lead channel on the Mesa Boogie at times. The little guitar that can.

Last week I watched two movies : It might get loud, a documentary with Jack White, Edge and Jimmy Page, then we watched The song remains the same. A Led Zeppelin movie. Those two movies affected me deeply in a very good way. On some level it is as if these movies said to me that it was OK to do your own thing and as I was playing there I just eased into the music and the result was that the night was fantastic for me.

The music, like the bike, you have to glide through, let the power flow, trust, push, enjoy. Just be.

We took a break and Paul Taylor told me he was very happy with what was taking place. As a performer I always hope that the people I play for are happy. This is good.

We play tomorrow night, Sunday at the Rancho Cucamonga Klatch and I am looking forward to it. Very much so.

The big question I get most often these days is : “when are you getting back on the road?” These questions cause me to reflect. My most honest answer is : I don’t know. Winter, I was going to winter here, but here winter is almost over. My biggest concern is money. To make this trip I sold all I had, I pretty much spent all of that and I don’t have anything to sell. I would like to approach this as a self sustaining thing. Play to earn roof, food and gas, ride, repeat. I’m not sure how to get started and I guess the only way to do this is just to start…

Paul asked me last night : when will you go to Britain? Yeah, that would be great, that is something I definitely want to do. Go to Europe and play. How to start? I guess getting there would be one way.

Oh life. It’s all there for the “experiencing” and the only thing that lies between that and staying put is fear. Oh gotta lose my fear… gotta find my spine.

But as I write this I can feel that I will figure it out. In the mean time, life is so good. I am blown away daily with the love and the beauty surrounding me. Moved deeply by the people, the sunsets, the gentleness of the breeze, the fire of the sun and the poetry of the moon. Owl calling in the night. Feeling the power of a motorcycle engine gliding down the glorious Freeways. The sight of the ocean, the lights of downtown LA shining in the distance. We all forge the metal of our lives, side by side, hoping, loving, laughing and crying, all at once, what a wonder.

Sunset on San Dimas

Friends and rides

January 21, 2011

I rode back and got home around 11 PM. I was completely elated. What a good that that had been and all the learning and the friendship and the awesome moments… Ozzy asked me if Leo was OK and I said, yeah he’s great! And suddenly it came to me that I could not remember seeing my back pack… I realized that I had left my bag with my wallet, papers and… Leo back at Sam’s house.

Oh my. I decided right then to ride back in the morning. Thursday was going to be a big day and now it was going to be bigger with another 270 miles of riding. Some would think I did that on purpose…. I set up the clock, was up early and set out.

The day was glorious. Almost hot. I slid down the highway under the sun, the view around Temecula is really beautiful. Hills and mountains that are all greening right now. It’s hard to conceive that we are in the middle of January. The fact that the days are short and the leaves red and brown gives it away, otherwise it’s as nice as a Vancouver summer day…

I got to Sam’s quickly, got my bag and got to see some more work done on the guitar. Sam had already gotten the fret board, and the bridge on it. It’s really beautiful. I’ve never felt quite that way about any instrument. It’s so perfect, I know every nook and cranny on it, the color is just so gentle, I would say a gently smiling color… golden, almost white and all the accents make the top even more smiley.

I rode back down, got home, ate a quick bite and then hopped back on the bike for a meeting in Van Nuys to Taylormade racing. The reason is that there is a good possibility that I will play there for a get together of women motorcyclists and long distance travelers.

I had checked google map quickly seeing 210 to 405… no problems… but I got to the end of the 210 without having seen the 405. Damn… it was probably 210, 134 to 405… I figured I should go South on the I-5. I did then I stopped and had a look at the GPS. The 405 is actually a little ways down… Keep going.

I finally made it, later than I was supposed to but made it. I met Paul Taylor, who made us tea and chatted for a while. There are some photos around the office of fabulous race motorcycles, there is even a yellow Triumph right there in the office. It’s just gorgeous. We then went to see the possible venue, which is one of the workshops where they build the carbon fiber race motorcycle. We had a full visit, got to see work in progress and meet all the people who were working there. What an amazing thing. Here is the web site http://www.racetaylormade.com/

Out of someone’s mind comes these cool designs that then become motorcycle parts. Exhaust covers, fenders, and a full moto GP concept body… I love seeing the imagination at work.

Between the office and the workshops is another shop occupied by neon artist Michael Flechtner. I got to see some of the work, the workstation, which looks a bit like a mad scientist’s den. There are also guitars and amplifiers there… looks like a fun place. I was invited to come back and blow some glass. I for sure want to do that! You can check him out here http://www.flektro.com

We then went back to the office, agreed on doing the show shook hands and I headed back out. It was already getting dark, I meant to stop at the Passadena design and bead show where Melanie has a table, but the minutes were racing by, it was already almost 5 PM. By the time I got to Passadena it was 5:50 and the show ended at 6 PM. Too late for today… I was getting quite tired. The traffic was just incredibly dense, that meant lane splitting. I did not feel like it but the other option is to pretty much just sit there and go 6 MPH, stop, start… so splitting lanes I did.

I find that a bike becomes what you feel. I was so tired, the bike felt like a wet noodle. The painted lines seemed to pull my tires every which way the cracks in the cement were throwing me around, my arms were sore my neck tired from all the riding which had added up to close to 700 miles in the last 20 hours or so and I have not done that in a while.

I stopped at the Coffee Klatch for a good cup of espresso. Forrest showed up a while later, then Aaron stopped by after his work shift. We had a great time talking, telling stories and just sharing a good moment together. Good friends are the best thing in life…

Then when I got home and was treated to an awesome dinner and conversation and good times. I am so grateful for this gift of friendship. I don’t know that I have ever felt so “home” in my whole life. Wow. That day, from Sam and Jean to Steve to Forrest and Aaron then Melanie and Ozzy… It does not get any better.

Friday I did go to the Passadena Design and Bead Show.

I was amazed by the amount of shimmer and glitter. Beads, crystals, glass, shiny little nothings, beautiful creations, every artist bringing their personality to the jewelry, clothing, artwork. Some displays are so big and glittery that it’s too much to look at. I had not idea that such a parallel universe existed. Some live for the glittery beads.. There was some really great stuff. You will say that I am not partial and I am not but I keep finding that Melanie’s work is just blowing everybody else out of the water. Check her out at http://www.themagpie.com I spent a good 3 hours there, I could not resist and bought a dragon, was really tempted by a ring by Gatto but the $400 price tag was not something I could justify or afford. He has these rings with horses… and the bracelets.. One day… here is the web site http://wearartnow.com/

I rode back and thankfully I was much more rested than the previous day and did not experience any “discomfort” on the road.

Saturday morning, Ozzy offered to look at my bike’s suspension. I have been struggling with the height of the bike. It’s just slightly too big for me. On the road all is fine but when I have to park it and handle it, stop on uneven pavement it feels very distressing as the slightest dip in the pavement means that my feet don’t touch the ground and the bike being so top heavy starts quickly going down…

The rear shock was set up to carry two people, so we softened it up. I went out to try it and I realized that the stiffness had been an issue as it makes the bike feel like it’s “above” the road. the slight relaxation gave me maybe a half inch closer to the ground and that felt tons better.

Ozzy then offered to go for a ride. We went up Mount Baldy. This was the first time I took this beast on a twisty road. I’ll be honest, when I saw the curves and the grade I felt a pang of panic. This bike seems so big…

We did the climb in 3 sections. I gradually started to get a feel for the machine and was absolutely amazed at how pliable and maneuverable the bike was. So I went from clenched teeth to big grin. Up the mountain I had a “grubber” a huge, delicious burger with possibly the best onion rings I ever had.

On the way down we switched bikes and I got to ride Little Blue, Ozzy’s Buell and man, is that bike fun… I love Little Blue!

So, lots of riding lately. I’m getting more and more used to the BMW. It’s a great bike. With the weather warming up here I am starting to dream of nights sleeping under the moon and the stars, endless roads and wind. I know the rest of the continent is under snow and frost, but spring will come soon enough.

Sunday morning, well, last Sunday morning…. I woke up as early as I could. Friday night we had a performance at the San Dimas Klatch which was extremely energizing and I was so keyed up, I stayed up very late, Saturday night we stayed up late again having another marvelous night at home with friends. The chirpy little phone wake up call was not the most wanted sound, but I had purpose. I was on my way out on a trip.

A trip!

Not geographically that far, but experience wise I knew it was going to be something else. I was heading down to San Diego to Sam Radding’s shop. Sam builds guitars. By hand. By soul. He has that gift of making things, building them, knowing them before they exist in the physical realm.

Sam had built my travel guitar back in November. I had found him on the web when I was looking for a suitable instrument both for stage and motorcycling.

When I had picked up the Go Guitar Sam had build for me back in December he had asked me if I was interested in learning how guitars were built and that we could build an acoustic lap steel.

This is where I was heading.

I was excited and nervous all at once. I got up, made coffee, eggs and toast, packed up the bike and headed out. This is also the first official trip on Beowulf the BMW.

I got there swiftly. The BMW eats the miles, eats the road. It has great power when needed, like when you want to get away from a cluster of cars, it will hit 90+ MPH in a flash and leave everyone behind without strain.

I arrived around 1 PM. Sam came out to the curb where I was taking gear off. He said: ” I did not believe you were actually going to show up until you did.”

Sam is an intensely interesting person. Dedicated, passionate, funny, sparkly, curious and determined. His career as a guitar builder started when he was in his teens. He had gone with a friend to a local guitar store looking to buy a guitar. They had located the object of their desire and asked the salesman for a deal as they were just a bit short of money. The salesman did not want to discount the instrument they were coveting so Sam said as he was leaving the store : “I guess I’ll have to build one” to which the salesman replied to in a rage : “ YOU DON’T BUILD GUITARS! YOU BUY THEM IN A STORE!!” That was the spark that started a career.

the shop

We started on the instrument on Monday. I walked in the shop a bit nervous. I do sculpture but it’s all hand tools. Chisels, hammer, file, sand paper… and tons of time. Years even.

Sam on the other hand has refined his craft into an efficient system of dedicated machines, tools, jigs, molds so that one step flows into the other as efficiently as possible.

the pattern for the outline of the lap steel guitar

First we had to get the front and backs of the guitar. Sam had already picked to pieces of spruce for the top and oak for the back. I had to use the band saw, table saw and hack saw and I must admit to feel very inadequate with these loud, powerful, potentially finger eating tools. Sam is hovering like a hawk making sure I don’t leave my finger tips on the blades.

cutting the sides

Sam sanding the back pieces

the mold to bend the sides on

bending the wood

the bent sides are then clamped to cool and dry

gluing the back halves together

some tools of the trade

guitar molds


The day went on with me gradually relaxing in the environment, getting a feel for wood, machines and work flow.

At night, it was guitar fest. Sam has a number of instruments at home and I got to play around with a bunch of them, chat, laugh and get to know the delightful Jean (Sam’s partner)

I went to bed my head full of new concepts, experiences and viewpoints. I shared some of that with Leo who was full of wisdom that night.

Leo talking about the meaning of life

friendship, he said, is the most important thing...

Tuesday morning,
well I have to admit, I am NOT a morning person but I am making giant efforts to be operational before 3 PM… Coffee is the first order. Jean and Sam take me for breakfast at a really nice coffee shop called the Living Room. Eclectic furniture, art on the walls home baked goodies, and… a full fledged espresso machine. A waitress walked by with a plate of bacon eggs and home made bread about 1.5 inches thick. I was sold. I got a triple espresso and the egg breakfast. We chatted for a while. The sun shines, I am sitting with these two shining beings in this cool place and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

gluing the back to the sides

We get back to the shop and back to the guitar. Today Sam has to put the finishing touches on a mandolin that is going to be picked up by its new owner and we have to get the sides and body of the guitar together.

I already feel much more at ease. One of my tasks is to make curfing, the partly sliced pieces of wood you see lining the insides of acoustic guitars. One of the many little tools that make the job a breeze is this hand made contraption that moves the wood at precise intervals to be cut on the band saw. I love the ingenuity and simplicity of this thing… and it gets the job done.

the contraption that pulls the wood to the blade

curfing

Then the curfing has to be glued to the guitar’s sides. I get to handle glue, which I constantly pour too much of out.

At some point Salomon showed up. Salomon was working in the yard next door cutting, trimming and cleaning up the property. He was wondering what we were doing.

Salomon's visit

We conversed and laughed with the help of three languages, Spanish, English and French. He was absolutely blown away by the sight of a finished guitar. I had gotten one of Sam’s beauties from the house to show him. Then he tried to play it and Sam said to me : play something and I did. Salomon’s expression was one of wonder and joy.

Music. And people’s souls’ rise above the dust and the dirt of life.

A bit later, the new owner of the Mandolin showed up. He was excited. Sam wasn’t quite finished so I went back inside the house again and got some guitars to play around with until the Mandolin was done.

the happy owner of the brand new mandolin and Sam

A beautiful instrument indeed.

I continued with the curfing, then it was time to look at the back of the lap steel and put on the braces. C-clamps. Lots of them. Never saw so many. They have life to them, the metal shows wear and time like someone’s face.

gluing the curfing to the sides

Sam at work

The last task of the day was to put together a rosette. I wanted to have a pretty one, not just a circle. We elected to do one with Zebra wood which would become the theme of this lap steel guitar. First we had to use a router and make a circle around what will be the sound hole. Then line the perfectly routed circle with a thin black and white strip of wood on both sides. Cut the stripes, glue them and put them in place with little blocks of wood.

the binding sets inside the rosette's sides

I almost messed up big time on the outside strip, which gave my heart a stop when I realized that the wood was not spread out evenly leaving a gap. Ahhhh!!! I did my best to fix that but I wasn’t sure if that was going to be OK.

To be a total beginner, inexperienced with either wood or power tools or guitar making and boldly go and build a guitar was at times a bit of an overwhelming task. I tend to want to do things “perfectly” and I can really get bent out of shape if I am below par.

Wednesday
got up earlier still : 7:45. That’s early for me. I felt pretty proud. But Sam and Jean had already been up and about for a while, so I still looked the night owl that I am.

It’s time to put the zebra wood into the rosette now that the binding was nice and dry. I had to sand, cut then finely sand the outside edge of the little crescents of zebra wood so they would fit perfectly in the routed track on the guitar top. My previous day error with the binding was fixed without too much trouble. Sam was fine tuning everything making sure everything was as it should be.

piecing up the rosette

As the rosette dried we sanded the now glued sides of the guitar. With the glue dried up, we sanded the top until completely smooth.

Unbelievable… it is really shaping up. It is really going to be an instrument…

after sanding

We then glued the back and it’s braces to the sides… then we started to work on bracing the top. The braces turn out to look like art to me. I love them. We glued the top on and here it is…

the braces clamped and glued in place

sides, back, glued together

the braces

glued and clamped and drying

the bare body of the lap steel guitar

After eating dinner we go back to the shop to undo the clamps and we now have, at the end of this day, the bare body of a guitar.

I wish I could stay. I have to go back. Meetings tomorrow, life calls. I’ve been disconnected from the Internet and the phone since Sunday. It feels good but I know the world will come a knocking soon. I got changed back from sawdusted clothes to riding clothes : long johns, wool shirt, leathers, heated vest, balaclava… it’s a pretty cold night so I bundle up. I start the bike that has been silent since Sunday and let it warm up nicely. Last hugs and good byes I am on my way.

On the Freeway the lines in the cement remind me of the lines I cut in the wood. The way they stretch and intersect at angles… My head is full of this whole adventure. Playing the guitars, Sam’s inquisitive questions, Jean’s amazing smile and spirit, the smells of wood, the glue on my fingers, the perfection of the system that makes wood become music.

It feels good to ride. Beowulf again eats up those miles like a hungry beast. I ride in the night. Take a deep breath. What an amazing three days. I am so glad I took the chance, rode down and plunged.