Archive for the 'Travelogues' Category

Burning Man: An uprising of Love, Culture, Community, and radical self expression

       I have just returned from my fourth Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. For those who have never gone let me preface this writing with a quote from Laurie Anderson:”Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”. Indeed writing about Burning Man is like attempting to capture the ocean in a leaky bucket. That being said I will continue.

       Imagine you are having a dream that is being simultaneously generated by the subconscious minds of Salvador Dali, Jimi Hendrix, Dr. Seuss, Peter Sellers, George Clinton, and 30,000 other beings thoroughly rooted in the realm of spontaneous self creation. In this dream you are in a harsh desert environment complete with raging duststorms, intense heat, and cold nights. You are not alone though. There are thousands of other radical spirits like you, each trying to make this the most outrageously enjoyable dream/party/revolution/ritual ever. Collectively they have created incredible art installations, hundreds of roving party/art mobiles in every conceivable size, shape, and flavor, hundreds of insanely elaborate theme camps, and ridiculously amusing activities to enjoy. You find incredible fashion shows, swimming pools, roller rinks, game shows, spirit tuning rituals, healing body work, and life changing, soulful conversations wherever you go. And the Dancing. Practically every inch of this place is a dance floor erupting with more energy than any any you have ever been on before.
       Dub, hip hop, D&B, trance, house, funk, electro, and techno DJ’s are spinning everywhere from art cars, theme camps, and seemingly invisible locations unfindable within the normal confines of space-time. There are live stages everywhere with spontaneous improv jams. MC’s mix it up with horns and soulful grooves, afrobeats meat psychedelic rock, funk bubbles up into middle eastern dub, soul divas flow over dank house, impromptu jazz jams catch fire, and damn near any style of music imaginable jumps up and affectionatly bites you in the buttocks. The whole place takes on the form of some sort of futuristic city of sound, light, and love. You are in Black Rock city, home of Burning Man, and it is like no place on Earth.
       There are no spectators here, only paricipants. This party is whatever you want to make it. Anywhere your eyes land there are incredible displays of art, sculptures, lights, lazers, costumes, and other bold statements of humankind and taking its creative potential to a level never before imagined. All of these creative outbursts intermingle and feed off of eachothers energy. Nothing here is perceived in the isolated vacuum of everyday consciousness. Everything is part of a sensory overload that occurrs as you are surrounded by radical acts of self expression designed to awaken in all who witness them the realization that it is all of us who create reality. In this dream we are creating a new vision of Life more vibrant, aware, expressive, inclusive, imaginative, beautiful, bold, alive and transformative than any reality ever before created. In this place it is so glaringly obvious just how infinitly powerful, giving, and unlimited the love and creative spirit that exists in all of us truly is.
      Wherever you go you find examples of inspiring generosity. Cash is not the medium of exchange here. Barter, gifts, and random kindness fuels new models of social interaction. You meet a camp of fishermen who have brought in 2000 pounds of freshly caught salmon and tuna that they are grilling in a gourmet marinade and just giving away. A “flavor mobile” drives by and offers you any flavor you can imagine. Strangers invite you to a vegetarian dinner party and you can’t seem to shake the sensation that everyone here is your friend. During this week long dream you are offered such delicacies as sushi, sorbet, thai food, saki, middle eastern food, pasta, and watermelon. All over the city you find bars giving or bartering away drinks. Many of these bars are built into roaming vehicles complete with stages, dance floors, lounges, DJ’s or bands, and ridiculously creative themes.
       In this mysteriously vast desert you see giant sharks, magic carpets, living rooms on wheels, glowing worms, ornate dragon’s, flying saucers, and renegade pirate ships, just to name a few. At night the ceaseless parade of art cars takes on the appearance of a giant aquarium filled with glowing neon colored fish. The phrase free ride takes on new meaning here. Each vehicle and its sound system roams the expansively open stretch of desert called the playa where anything can happen. New friends are made on board, new neighborhoods and clubs discovered, and destinations never before dreamed of are arrived at without an ounce of effort. Everyone here has a ticket to ride.
       You jump on a mad max like flame throwing vehicle and end up at a far away installation called the Temple of Gravity. Here you find a raging hip hop party has broken out that gives new meaning to the phrase “rockin’ out”. You see some of the nastiest bay area hip hop DJ’s throwing down at a dance floor where slabs of granite weighing thousands of pounds are suspended above the dance floor by chains and a thin metal structure. While deceptively safe, it appears to be the ultimate way to dance on the edge. Should the granite fall for any reason the dancers below would be crushed. To add to the insanely fearless vibe there are scads of people dancing atop the granite slabs, making them bounce and swing wildly in an astonishingly death defying gesture of unrepentant funkiness. People from all over the world are here at this party and you truly feel that this place is both everywhere and nowhere all at once.
       On another occasion you jump on a double decker bus that has been converted into roving opium den lounge. After bouncing around the main drags and inner playa you are taken to the outer limits of Black Rock City where you find others who have gathered for a spontaneous dance party at sunrise. Each person you meet here seems to bring back some long lost but sorely needed life wisdom. Pieces of your soul come floating back to you in each experience you have. The walls of everyday society have been triumphantly demolished. There is no class, racial, or religious differences. Just beautiful souls who are surviving the struggles of a harsh environment together in the most creatively positive ways imaginable.
       Love here takes on new dimensions. No longer trapped in the context of one on one romantic encounters(though there is plenty of this going on) Love is freed up to exist in a million different forms, each one helping to release the spirit from the limiting confines of expectation. Love can appear here as a soul bonding conversation, a suprisingly thoughtful gift, affectionate and loving contact from a friend, a spectacular sunrise, unexpected yet necesary help, or an incredibly inspiring work of art.
      This desert has a powerful healing energy that can’t be denied. One cannot be surrounded by so much Love, creativity, beauty, freedom, and sexiness without having there own wounds and issues jump to the surface. Any residual negative energy one is holding onto that prevents them from being fully present in this moment undoubtedly makes itself known, sometimes unexpectedly and painfully so. The beautiful thing though is that the environment here is one where this is expected and people go out of there way to help eachother acknowledge, heal, and release their inner pain. Friends help eachother process deep seated emotional traumas,  the community looks out for its members, and there is always a serious session of dance therapy awaiting anyone who needs it. Others volunteer reiki, massage, and energy work. No one is alone here unless they decide to subscribe to that particular illusion. Not only is one given valuable insight into their own unconsciously imposed limitations, but also the tools to heal it. This is much more than any other social gathering has ever attempted to be in our Western culture. This is an elixir that revitalizes the core creative essence in our being that has atrophied in commodified society. At times Burning Man feels like the final answer to that eternal question:”Why?”.
       Then there is the Burning of the Man itself. While this incredibly intense ritual takes on different meanings to different people, it is an undeniably powerful release of energy. What is the energy that is being released? It is the freeing of the past and all its unfufilled expectations. It is the freeing of our inner pain as it is transformed into new light. It is the obliteration of former limits of perception we unkowingly subscribed to. It is our creative potential becoming aware of and in tune with itself. It is the full restoration of ritual sacredness to Life itself. It is the abolition of an arbitrarily imposed sense of a singular, isolated self and its replacement with an empowered sense of unified community. It is the release of a new self. The birth of a new and unified tribal mindset. It is whatever you decide you want it to be and so much more than you ever could have imagined. Burning Man is the antidote to all the half assed flawed concepts of life and reality that humanity has allowed itself to be suckered into. Burning Man is the single biggest “Fuck You” to that ubiquitous oppressor,”the Man”, ever conceived of.
       Remember that party that you went to where all the walls broke down and all the old rules no longer applied? The music was alive, the crowd was one, and the energy just simply would not stop? Remember just how magical, vibrant, and alive the whole party felt, as if it had taken on a Life of its own? Remember how changed you felt after it, as if things could never be looked at the same way again, as if you had regained some lost ability to see truth and Love more clearly? Burning Man is like a thousand such parties simultaneously blowing up into and out of eachother, creating an entire city of that energy that burns to the ground any belief that we are anything less than the creative Love and Magic of Life itself. Stop sleeping. Come dream with us.

Movement in Detroit

       Love and blessings to all my friends and family. I hope you are all vibin’ and thrivin’. Here is the latest installment of my musical adventure travelogue.
       This wild and intense wake up call to Love we call life works in the most mysterious of ways. After spending time sorting out family affairs in North Carolina I had an unexpected but fortuitous change of travel directions. I had planned to bounce around down South for a while but travel exhaustion, diminishing funds, and the need to help my ailing father relocate to Chicago pulled me back to the Midwest. My brother turned me on to what was formerly called the Detroit Electronic Music Festival which was now called Movement. Since I was headed that way I made it a destination and still cannot believe what I saw happen there.
        Movement is a large and fairly high profile event that draws electronic music fans from all over our Planet to the birthplace of techno. For anyone that does not know, it was in the underground clubs of Detroit where artists like Derrick May revolutionized modern music making and gave birth to techno. In the past this event has been run by a big production company that has over commercialized it and alienated many of the artists/fans in the process. This year the city decided to put it back into the hands of the local music community when Derrick May himself stepped up and fronted $65,000 of his own bucks to help throw it down proper. He brought in his own production crew, formed a second one to help, called amazing artists from all over, and put together the most raging throw down of modern electronic music I have ever seen. I got to meet this brother and he was the coolest cat I have met in a long time. He is so in it for the Love as were all the other great people who pulled this puppy off. It was so obvious. The combination of vibe, energy, acts booked, setting, and concept made for an absolutely amazing event.
       Movement took place in this perfectly weird post modern abstract industrial semi-subterranean riverside joint called Hart Plaza. It had four separate stages equipped with amazing sound systems designed to vibrationally realign the bejesus out of any out of tune molecule in the area. In addition to this there were sub stages and booths overflowing with great DJ’s, underground fashion designers, cutting edge record labels, turntable demos and duels, film makers, production companies, political info, food and who knows what else. Detroit is a deep underground scene and the networking at Movement was intense. Never have I been handed so many fliers for things that actually looked like I shouldn’t miss them. Almost every DJ, booth, or stage had its own unique vision of modern music. Wherever I went some enlightened future reality seemed to be beaming back its consciousness to me through the most futuristic music I have ever heard.
       What New Orleans Jazzfest is to Southern roots music, jazz, and the jam band scene, Movement is to modern urban and electronic music. It was not just a techno thing-One was surrounded by new soul, hip Hop, electro-funk, jazztronica, drum and bass, down tempo, IDM, dub, spoken word, and any style of music you have ever heard played by a good DJ plus ten more you didn’t know existed. This thing felt like a cross between an atomic hip hop house party, a ghetto Rave, a funk uprising, a riverfront music festival, a future fashion show, an out of control block party, a music business networking conference and a cultural revolution. Movement reminded me of the raw street energy you see in Old School Hip Hop films like Wild Style. It had the spirit of an Urban Burning Man. A Bumbershoot with Balls. An Electric Mardi Gras. D-town is funky to the bone and this thang was out to prove it.
       One of the coolest things about Movement was how indredibly inclusive it was. Unlike many music festivals it was totally free. Where as most Music festivals tend to financially exclude the urban poor, Movement was a priced right party. The inner city of Detroit really knows how to get it on and has serious steam to let off. Movement felt like some kind of transdimensional ghetto party pressure release valve. I have never seen such a harmonious, diverse, and highly energized integration of ages, races, incomes, cultural backgrounds, and musical tastes throwing down so damn hard before. Vast quantities of Hip Hoppers, Funkateers, Jazz Freaks, Ravers, Rastas, Hippies, Punks, Goths, and Rockers all mingled at this unified party. I saw cops dancing(a lot). Little 5 year old black kids inventing the break dances of the future egged on by the love and energy of hundreds of people. I saw break dance circles spontaneously forming of virgin breakers who collectively encouraged each other to bust out any freaky move they could. Everybody was throwin’ down and pushin’ each other to take it to the next level of freaky funky freedom.
       From Motown to Funkadelic to Brothers from Another Planet, Detroit has always pushed the Soul envelope. Detroit has a gritty, industrial edge, a hard attitude and an intense energy. The music and people reflect it and at Movement this vibe was so perfectly channeled that I did not see a fight, argument, or hint of violence the entire time I was there. In fact the thought of it seemed ridiculous. I saw so many people who seemed to be being deeply healed by the spirit of Love contained within the music and community at the event. You could see the positivity and communal bond in people’s eyes.
It was amazing to be in an atmosphere where so many people were expressing themselves so freely through dance. I have been to plenty of good Raves over the years and even some amazing things like Burning Man that thrive on the freedom and expression of dance. But Movement had this pronounced and profound African American influence that took electronic music to another level. The techno I heard in Detroit is incredibly African in its spirit, and this is what I feel has been missing in so much of the modern electronic music out there. Much of what I heard at Movement has more in common with Ancient African tribal drumming than with the commercial techno we hear on the radio.
       Movement transcended the concept of “music festival”. There was a point at which All was motion and all were dancing, the young with the old, the black with the white, the gay with the straight, chicos and chicas. The awareness of where I was dissolved and I stepped into a timeless space of pure energy that has opened up to musical communities for thousands of years. Each individual was an energetic expression of the whole, and  what was happening was a singular expression of unified energy. I felt I could have been anywhere-a gypsy camp, an African village, or a Native American pow wow. I knew what I was witnessing was not so much modern electronic music but the ancient power of music to create a true experience of unified community.
       In all my musical experiences and studies of ethnomusicology I have seen repeating patterns of how music empowers and enables a sense of spiritual community amongst those involved in the creation of the music. Creation of the music in this sense means anyone dancing, singing, clapping, listening, or otherwise participating and contributing to the energy of the music. When enough people whole heartedly throw themselves into the music in this way, the music and experience of connected community take on a life of their own.
       Movement revealed to me the intense potential of the Electronic dance culture and enlightened hip hop music to fill the communal void currently missing in our “entertainment”(very different from music in my opinion) obsessed culture. What I heard was simultaneously global and urban, futuristic and primitive. Both the Dance culture and hip hop(at their purest and least commercial) is founded uppon audience participation with the role of the DJ being closer to that of ritual initiator than that of entertainer. The emphasis is less on being entertained than on contributing to the overall experience. Real Music is not spectator entertainment-it is participatory communal expression and creation. Movement though was more than this truth expressed. It was a sonic blue print for what hip hop, soul, funk, jazz, and electronica have in common and how they are collectively fusing into entirely new modes of mind/booty liberation. These forms are really begginning to merge and when they do those afraid to dance had better put on some funky ass rollerskates. Such a sight would be right at home at the Movement festival.
       The stages were consciously created to feature diverse forms of electronic music. My favorite was definitly the High Tech Soul stage which featured new soul, live jazztronica, future funk, and hip hop. Show highlights included keyboardist/vocalist Amp Fiddler from P-funk/Prince doing an absolutely inspired set of future Soul with an 8 piece band. His set seamlessly combined soul vocals, funk grooves, electronic textures, jazz vibes, and incredible group chemistry. Amp is setting a new standard for modern groove music that should not be missed. Another great project Amp played in was the Reese project, a Live jazztronica funk ensemble. This was seriously soulful and funky club music with a live edge and straight up soul sister vocals.
       Pevin Everett was another artist mixing new soul, jazz, latin, and electronic dance music. He had a smoking band and is definitely an artist to watch. His integration of jazzy latin samba and Soul was espescially hip. Also breaking ground was The Detroit Experiment. This was a jazz-funk hybrid that featured Amp, members of the Blackbyrds, Detroit DJ fixture Carl Craig, and the elite of the vibrant Detroit Jazz scene. They tied the freedom and experimentalism of old school Detroit Jazz, funk influenced grooves, and new school electronica overtones into a tight ass funky knot. Smooth. Speaking of smooth Niko Marks Cosmology was a solid act that was a live electronic Soul fusion group. They had a gospel quality with a dance club club aesthetic. They should be heatin’ it up so watch out.
There were a million great DJ’s I saw but the one I liked the most was Reggie Dokes. I don’t know where he gets his shit but the set I saw was pure funk concentrate. Some of it sounded like New Orleans house music with unbelievably bad ass horn lines. Other solid DJ bets were Francois K and Rich Medina. The best thing about the music at Movement was the depth and diversity of it. There was so much upcoming young funky talent with such original and unique concepts that one couldn’t help but get excited about tomorrow’s music. I can honestly say that the Movement festival revealed to me both the coming future and the eternal past of the Living Soul of Music.

Jazz Fest Adventures

       Hello to all my homies and homettes. Here are the latest updates from the Deep South pilgramage I am currently embarked uppon. After Phoenix I drove my butt through this other dimension called Texas where the normal rules of time/space no longer apply. After several lifetimes I finally reached the other side of that sucker. I really did like hangin’ in Austin though. A great city that I had to breeze through quickly cuz Jazz Fest in New Orleans was about to start. Austin had some great food, a great collective sense of weirdness, some really cool black college radio, and was surprisingly  green and lush. I pretty much tore through the rest of the drive to get to N’oleans for the start of Jazz fest.

       One of the wiser things I have heard in my Life is the phrase “Life is like licking the honey off of a thorn”. My amazing week and a half in New Orleans very much embodied these words. Never have I been somewhere more crazy, dangerous, fun, hilarious, Soul suckingly hot/humid, musical, better tasting, better-and worse-smelling, difficult, frustrating, rewarding, loving, confusing, and insanely alive than this giant sauna of FUNK. Every corner I turned I was hit upside the head with an insanely funky sound, a ridiculously good smell, a ludicrous looking/behaving character, incredibly soulful art, or some definite reminder that the poverty and desperation there for so many is extremely intense. Throughout the south I have to say the Blues aint no joke. It is the Soul’s response to a painfuly raw and difficult set of economic and social conditions.
       Southern music in general seems to derive its intensity from the fact that it is one of the few things that people own and can take them away from the crap one must put up with on a daily basis. It took me three days to find a neighborhood that was not in the heart of the Ghetto in New Orleans. There is no such thing as a good place to park there. The first night there It took almost an hour to find a reasonably safe looking place to park the van and crash. First thing next morning was this insanely loud knock, the likes of which could only emanate from someone packing a gun. Sure enough, it was the fuzz. I guess in the few places that don’t look so bad the people are real paranoid and immediately report anything that looks unusual to the cops. I dealt with the local p on several occasions because of this situation. I have to say they were really nice every time, and I was impressed with how cool they were given what an absolutly crazy job they have.  Maybe that helps make them cooler somehow.
       N’Orleans feels more like Europe and Africa than America. No where is there a more pronounced collision of cultures in this country(although NY comes to mind as a close second.) The spirit world seriously is bubbling over there, and it leaps into the music whenever any is played which is pretty much all the time everywhere during jazz fest. Even (and espescially)the Funerals are better jams than what most people are groovin to elswhere. While I was there local legend Earl King died and they had the most amazing second line funeral party for him. For anyone that does not know, a second line is when they have a huge parade through the streets with a seriously funky marching band at the front and back of the parade. It is like a mobile block party that funkitizes the way of the deceased so they may enter the afterlife with a nice fat groove to pave the way. That is how I want to go out!
       What I like most about the South is that you are ambushed by not just one or two roots music traditions you normally don’t get to hear in undiluted form but rather by a whole gang of them. Blues, Soul, Funk, Second line, Gospell, Southern Rock, Soul, Jazz, country, bluegrass, zydeco, cajun, all spank your brain constantly while here. It is all so real and unpretentious. Music is more than entertainment in the South. It is the survival of the Soul. Even the commercial bar oriented music has more Soul than what you will hear in bars outside the South. Even the crickets and frogs are funky. While I was at a bayou swamp state park on the South side of town(a great, safe, and cheap way to stay during Jazzfest) I recorded the craziest orchestra of frogs, insects, and crickets of every conceivable pitch and rhythm imaginable. I swear it is in these sounds that inspired the start of Jazz. It was one of the baddest jam sessions I have ever heard.
       Musical highlights from N.O. included Bernie Worell from p-funk with Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish from Living Coulur, and Leo Nocetelli from the Meters. This was some of the baddest and heaviest funk I have ever witnessed. They even shredded some live drum and bass on a scale I have never seen before. Also kickin it was Garage a tois-This group is so much more enjoyable to me than its members other projects-Galactic, Charlie Hunter, and Critter’s. With Mike D in the mix they have just taken their punk jazz go go funk slam grooves to another level. They had a 4 piece horn section at the end and it was BAD. Speaking of horns Soulive w/ a 7 piece horn section(incl. Fred Wesley), Bill Summers from the headhunters and Ivan Neville was quite a throwdown. Even cooler than that though was seeing all my Seattle homies Reggie Watts, Dale Fanning, Jessica Lurie, and Brad Hauser mix it up with Grant Greene Jr.(bad as Dad), and Bernie Worrell. What a groove that was. Seeing Bernie kiss Reggies enormous fro was definitly a beautiful site to behold. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe also threw down a great late nighter and Maktub put in a respectable set as well. Muchas Gracias to all my musician friends who hooked up the guest list action-Yall made the trip 100 times cooler.All the jams I just mentioned was 1/2 of 1% of the music that was going on there those 10 days. This was just the after hours stuff-I havent even got to the fest yet.
       Jazz fest itself is unlike anything I have been to. It is like what all the other music fests wish they could be. The food is out of control, the people are amazingly cool, and the music-well they book everything imaginable as long as it has soul. Joe Cocker tore that sucker up in a way I had no idea was possible. So did Robert Randolph-a must see if you have not. The dimensions of Faith Choir was bad as was just about everything at the Gospell tent. It was nice randomly bumping into Steve Taylor to, a friend to many on this list. (He is doing good.) I saw so much music that I did not even know who or what it was that Words seem kind of silly trying to convey any of it in. I will say that it is interesting seeing how Jazzfest has some cultural obstacles that it did not used to have and how it deals with them.
       When I first went I felt like pulling all of those musics out of the culture that spawned them(the churches, juke joints, porches, and backyards) and into a festival setting was kind of wrong. The audiences were definitly stiff at some of the shows but then there were other times and shows where the whole place became a church, juke joint, or a backyard. The spirit of what was happening transformed the environment and  those attending and brought them into the spiritual place that the music originates. It was as if the power of the music and culture would not give way to the festival environment and instead took over it. Each stage feads on the energy of others, and every band tries to outdo every other. The environment is like a pressure cooker of serious Soul in Sound. The coolest thing about it is you see how interconnected and related all these different styles of music really are. The differences in them add their depth and complexity but ultimately it is all about Soul and taking people to a higher plane of experience. JazzFest definitly did that for me.
       The people in New Orleans are some of the nicest anywhere. Everyone was really friendly, social, and helpful. I found myself getting into great conversations about everything with everybody I met. People would start going off about their favorite recipes and how cooking is a religion in N.O. and how there are feuds and wars over the best way to make a gravy or sauce. The metaphors are hilarious. An empty bag don’t stand when the wind blow. I was telling this woman how special I thought New Orleans was and she laughed really hard and said” Special!-oh we’re real special down here, really special-little yellow bus special!” referring to the less functional aspects of life in N.O.  They say the South is more segragated than in the North and in some ways that is true. But I have found there are incredibly cool opportunities for people to mix it up down here that do not even exist in the North. Music is a huge part of that, and where music is concerned, the South is vastly more integrated than the North.
       Other fun stuff was busking on Bourbon Street on a Saturday night after J.F. let out. That was crazy-that street takes partying to a whole nother level. There are some great ways to check out the regional scene as well like the Louisianna music factory, an independant music store featuring local stuff. There was also great radio too. People seem to take a lot of pride and work to keep the traditions and history alive. This was also true of my next stop, Memphis.
       I took the beautiful Natchez Trace drive up through Mississippi(did I spell that right?) and cut over to Memphis. I spent much less time in Memphis than N.O. but it revealed its living spirit of soulful music to me on day one. I stumbled into Memphis music, a great music store with a deep, deep selection and an incredibly knowledgeable and helpful resident”bluesologist”, Malcolm. He hooked me up with some great jams, clubs to check out, and historical sights to see. I checked out the Rock and Soul museum which was way cool. Memphis is so key to the history of not only rock but Soul and Blues as well. Think about it. It was Memphis that spawned or produced the first records by Elvis, B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike and Tina, Al Greene, Staples singers, Bar Kays, Johnny Cash, Booker T and the M.G.’s, Albert King, the Memphis horns, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and a whole lot more. It is a lot more subdued than it used to be, but it is still one soulful city with a ton of stuff hidden in the woodwork. I got to see this great country blues artist Richard Johnston playing this double necked cigar boxed jug band instrument called a lobow. He was tearing it up at a joint called the Flying saucer. He did this song called I got the dog with me where he was barking like a deranged hound. He got the whole place barking and howling like dogs. It was very inspiring and I got to say people really give it up for good music down south.
       The next town I went to was Nashville, a very vibrant and diverse music scene. It has tons more going on than country and Blue grass. It is also one of the mellower towns I was in and seemed fairly liveable, though like all of the South it gets way to hot. In May already. Anyway It is worth a visit if you’re in the area. After that I drove through the gorgeous Smoky Mountains to Asheville, NC. It is as if someone took all the coolness of Portland or Seattle and mixed it up with southern vibeage and through it into the mountains of NC. What a beautiful and hip little town. It reminded me a lot of Ashland OR. Definitly a good place to do a show if your band is in this neck of the woods. South Carolina in general has a ton of cool towns with funky flavor, good radio, and a nice amount of natural ambience. I think I like it most of the Southern states so far. That is where I am writing from now. I am currently visiting my dad and doing some R&R following all the craziness. I am not sure what happens next but I have a feeling it will be interesting. Until then,
Boycott McLife,

Hit the Road Jack

       I am currently living the long term dream of making a pilgrimage to the New Orleans Jazz festival. I started in Seattle 3 weeks ago and am now in Phoenix, less than a week away from kickoff. I started by having a great time in Portland, an absolutely  magical city bursting with Life. Thanks to my friend Diana and her cool roomies for puttin’ me up. Tons of great music/art spaces hidden in the woodwork, some great clubs (Medicine hat, Good foot, Conans, Om), and plenty of natural spaces to explore. I climbed a waterfall ovelooking the Columbia Gorge and spent a few days at the Ocean with my ridiculously cool friend Kyrstyn. Ended up at some crazy goth party, took in a great film festival, and was thoroughly entertained by the obsession Portlanders seem to have for Pabst Blue Ribbon. For a second I thought I was back in Wisconsin.

       The best music I saw while there was LTJ Bukem(slamming drum and bass, got in free and to hang with the master afterwards) and Wil Bernard’s band(sick jazz-funk). (Hey Sawka-Bukem said to send those beats you were gonna send). Both turned it out in top form and kept us movin’ non stop. I saw some cool films at the film festival. One was “Haunters”, a hilarious documentary about the eccentric freaks who put on haunted houses. The director was from Portland and at the show and was a super cool cat. (Yo Bryan Theiss, Scarecrow could really use a copy of this). The most powerful film I have probably ever seen though was Civilian Casualties:fragments from the war on terror by Frances Anderson. This film picked up where Bowling for Columbine left off. The director traveled to Afghanistan with 4 people who had lost family members on Sept. 11th. The deeply human experience and bond the Americans shared with the Afghans who had just been bombed by the U.S. was incredibly powerful. For anyone looking for a constructive way to combat the rampant ignorance in the U.S.A I recomend setting up a screening of this film at a nearby theater or campus. I doubt any human being could see this film and not be somehow changed.

       Following Portland I made my way down the cost to the beautiful and hip town of Ashland. A nice place worth stopping through. I then went through Northern Cali which was more lush and alive than I have ever seen it. I hit a blizzard by Shasta(I thought of you Bongo!) but made it right through. I stopped in Sacramento at this great Rastafarian restuarant and then headed for Tahoe. I almost made it there when another snow storm hit. It was bad, low visibility and treacherous mountainous roads and me with no tire chains. I decided to reroute and save Shasta for another day. Flexibility and non attachment have been key to this trip. In the book Hagakuri:way of the Samurai they talk about determination and if you have decided to do something to let nothing stop you from attaining your goal. My goal had been to be in Vegas by that evening anyway so I went the long way back through central Cali and made it by mid evening. The drive was great from the springtime lushness of central Cali to the barren beauty of the Mojave desert.
       Vegas was a trip. If I could sum it up with one symbol it would be that 20 foot bronze statue of Sigfried and Roy, those blond German dudes with the albino tigres. Make mine a SCHMALTED. Any way saw lots of little old ladies, mob guys, buffets(I sure do likes me a good buffet!)alcoholics, and blank eyed tourists. The funnest part was finding this incredible old school funk band from Boston. They were ripping it up in the lounge of this casino with tons of people watching. There was this fat empty dance floor and I was like not gonna let that injustice stand. I started funking out and then these older black ladies got up  and started busting these way back in the day moves I had never seen before. Damn they could dance! Pretty soon we had that whole floor turnin it out. Having helped spread the funk in Vegas I felt it was time to move on. I headed for the National Park system in Utah.
       I made it to Zion which was gorgeous and then crashed out at the end of a warm and beautiful day. By morning there was snow on the ground and the temp was way cold. I made my way to Bryce canyon(also beautiful) only to find out a big snow storm was on the way. Not wanting to get caught in that mess I decided to leave and head south, giving up my plans to hit Arches and Canyonlands. As soon as I went to fire up the van, it would not start. I was very cold, wanting to get out b4 the storm and feeling a little stuck. I meditated and had a vision of the native spirits that watch over that land. For them song is a way to connect people to the Earth. They said they knew this was the intention of my quest and wanted to help. They put horses and fire into my engine to make it run. They gave me a name that means “Dreams like mountain” and renamed the van Spirit chaser. After the meditation my van started right up with renewed vigor.
       The whole time on this trip I have been having the deepest connection with the spiritual power of this amazing land we live on. There are so many sacred places just waiting to teach us the lessons of life. When I studied shamanism I learned it was common for them to communicate with the spirit of animals, mountains, etc. I have learned through experience that this is available to anyone who is sincerely open to it. In fact it is a historical anomaly that we are so far from the natural wisdom of the Earth. It is alive and well though and wants to share itself with us. All we need do is open ourselves to it.
       After leaving Bryce I drove all night long with a gorgeously full moon through mysterious southern Utah and Northern Arizona. I made it to the Grand Canyon as the sun was rising at one end of it and the moon was setting at the other end. Wow. After that I kept goin til I got to  Flagstaff. Flagstaff definitely goes on the list of hip little college towns worth  dropping by if you’re in the area. Even more amazing though was Sedona. For years I had heard about Sedona’s natural beauty, but nothing prepared me for what a special place it really is. The Earth radiates intense life wherever you go there. I heard several people talking openly about “vortexes” that were there. I wanted more info about these “vortexes” and asks a guy at the healthfood store “so what exactly is a vortex?” He pointed behind me and I turned around to see a brightly colored book entitled”what is a vortex?”. It talked about a place where natural energy of the Earth is abundant and that it has definite effects on our state of mind/being. As far as I am concerned that whole place is a big ass vortex. It is just incredible and a great place to lose oneself for a while. I connected with good friends, climbed a mountain, hiked trails, set up my gear in the desert, and played to the mountains there. Yeah! After Sedona I stopped by Jerome, a trippy little mountain artist colony south of Sedona. Probably the most unique place I have passed through yet. Then I drove to sunny and warm Phoenix where I caught up with some old friends from IN. (Thanks Mike and Maria! for puttin’ me up). I am leaving for Austin shortly and then on to Noleans. Til next time,
Live out Loud,