Friday, 29 April 2011

Summer Concerts and $12 Beers

i can't figure out what's going on
i found an old music magazine from 5 years ago
and none of the bands listed in it are still around today
i picked up this weeks local rag
and i hardly know any of the acts playing around
i'm cool with this
the times are changing
in fact they've already changed
and moved on without me
and perhaps my generation

i try to seek out new music
but there's so little time
i still put on dark side of the moon and listen to it
i've seen it performed a thousand times
yet it still corners me and forces a listen

i like traveling with mark stewartson
he always has a trigger finger on the ipod
and knows who's got the what what
most of it drifts by me
but i like that he's on top of it

when there is down time
i return to the music that defined me growing up
all the classic rock
but those three compose my triangle of soul
it's like a grilled cheese sandwich cut diagonally
you can't mess it up
and it always sits pretty in your stomach

this summer's concert line up at the molson amphitheatre is perfunctory

supertramp without roger hodgson interests me
i don't know what happened there
but they need to be peanut butter and jelly
but the songs on both sides of the bread are buttered nicely

looking forward to peter gabriel - i've never seen him live
i heard stories about him being the first crowd surfer
if he still does this
i'm grabbing him and bringing him home
while the band chomps on salsbury steak

frampton is doing all of frampton comes alive
and i imagine the spark that spurned this
stemmed from a comment
where someone brought CAL to his attention
(i have a springsteen story about this - but i've saved it for the book)
shari and i have already staked out our ground
the box awaits along with twelve dollar beers
(never once have i ordered a twelve dollar beer and felt good about it - like 'yay! $12 beers! - this is a sentence i will never utter)

i will say that hair metal ages poorly
not only do the songs not hold up
but gravity has taken it's toll on band members
and no amount of make up or hair spray is going to rectify the sags and flabs
lumping def leppard in with iron maiden
is like confusing frank zappa with the bee gees

i'm worried about seeing kiss
i saw them last in 1976 at varsity stadium here in toronto
the destroyer tour and all their demons were in tact
but now the demystification has weeded in
and we know gene simmons is there doing head counts
as he plods through 'shout it out loud'

i can't think of a good motley crue song
'kickstart my heart' maybe
i keep confusing them with poison
the mascara seamlessly bleeds from one poser to the next

i like steely dan
the aja record goes nice with an armchair
they toured entire albums a couple years back
i'm told they heard about CAL and dug the idea
but live i've always been disappointed
master musicians indeed but i'm hoping for a couple of volts of joy
to hump them into grooving a bit

journey has a couple okay songs
i can't think of an album that defines them
but i could be talked into flicking my bic for 'don't stop believing'
their new singer is supposedly fantastic but it's a new singer
i miss the original guy that looked like a duck

meanwhile CAL is heading into new summer venues
we have 12 new shows to announce this week
4 nice little 3 night mini tours in the north east united states

and our old stomping grounds - the zooz (niagara safari) is back with 4 shows
if you haven't been to a zooz show - make the effort to attend
and bring your family
it's old school and layed back
and out doors
and fun

we're also very excited to be back at the king center in melbourne florida
this is a serious show for us
we do big numbers here
and the crowd are heavy music lovers
it'll be nice to hang with tater again
and all the crew and staff there

i know i'm out of touch
i know there's a lot of good new music
but it seems to disappear so quickly

we could use a good summer
last year was rainy
and winter never ended here in the great white north
even today is chilly with grey skies under
i need an outdoor celebration to rattle loose the summer hippie in me

craig martin
april 29, 2011
chocolate milk and chicken nuggets with jack

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


2 of my closest friends turn 50 this weekend
on the same night
and johnnie b

we're doing a bash at a smelly bar
complete with a big jam and old faces
my rolling stones cover band - the midnite ramblers - are reuniting
this is a big deal to us
the original line up hasn't played together since 1986

over the years there have been so many players coming and going
so many
i've tried to count how many actual musicians gigged under the ramblers banner
i fell asleep each time
sometime in the 80s i ended the band
and decided to embark on original music
that didn't last long
but in my absence a couple of the guys started another band
and called it the midnight ramblers
they got another cat to sing
i went to one of their shows
it wasn't very good
but i kinda liked it

recently i watched 'stand by me' with my boys
they were transfixed
there's a line at the end of it
the last thing richard dreyfuss types
it ricochets around inside of me:
"I never had any friends later on, like the ones I had when I was twelve.
Jesus, does anyone?"

when i was twelve i was a loner
right up until i was in grade 12
i had one friend
and we did the best we could to fit in
but mostly it was lots of time alone
in my room
with records

when i found my orbit
i hit the road in a rock n' roll band
months away from home at times
non stop shows
traveling together in my station wagon
those are my 'stand by me' days
the excitement of waking up in a strange town
and going for breakfast together
i knew at that time that i would be doing it forever
and i am

there was never a regular job for me
i would take disappearing things in between gigs during slow times
but i'd walk off of many a factory floor
once the hint of a gig came my way
there was open road out there
with guitars and drums on the horizon
i swear i found the key to the universe
on the stage of a northern town

something found me again
just when my road work was running out of chords
a new path
it grew into my life like a magical weed
and again i was back on the road

never ever
am i at a gig
and forget to take heed of the moment
take in the stage
and the musicians
the techs and the hall
the comings and goings of everyone involved
it's a hidden beauty
and i work hard to keep it fluid

i wonder if the musicians feel this way too?
i press them on it from time to time
i get varied responses
they think that i'm a tie dyed romantic
your goddamned right i am
the romance of the road is a sweet kiss harbouring within my life
i've done my hours
this is a beautiful life
no dress rehearsals
my atheism aside
i feel blessed

des is turning fifty
and soon i will be too
my totem pole is strong
my children
my love
my family
my series
my friends
our audience
all piled up under the sun and rain and snow

april 21, 2011
jack daniels

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Massey Hall and the Hammer of CAL

the day was a flurry of events
load in at 11
break at 1
soundcheck at 2
dinner at 5
then putter around backstage and discuss things about the album
cues and such
things we already knew but liked talking about anyway
- watch mark for the breaks in 'four sticks'
- don't blow too hard on the recorders
- watch the volume on the third mandolin on 'evermore'
we knew our stuff

when the band walked on stage
i felt relaxed
rich hagen was beside me on the soundboard
i describe his mix as a warm blanket
he worked alongside the massey crew the entire day
tweaking and organizing different aspects of the overall sound
i've left a trail of broken sound techs in my wake
rich is the best
the best
i'll say it again
the best

backstage at massey hall is fun
there's two different wings of dressing rooms and green rooms
you can always find an interesting conversation
or a confirming flash of excitement
fifteen minutes before the show
the band were joking around
i knew they were ready

many of you know this
but nicky had a bad motorcycle accident a month ago
and the scars and bruises are still lingering
i wanted him in the best shape possible
so he stayed with my at my house for the week
coffee and fruit
jokes and laughs
most importantly rest
i served him breakfast in bed a couple times
my son has a pet snake that i showed him one night
we didn't replace the lid on the cage properly
and the snake escaped
this caused a bit of fear
nicky doesn't like snakes
i told him not to worry
the snake will probably crawl up his ass in the night
and then we can wash it off and put it back in the cage
but i think the thought of that rattled him
at the rehearsals he was holding back
i could tell he was saving it all for the show

the rehearsals were amazing
having all the guitar players in the room together was an experience
it was a joy to watch them play alongside each other
respectful of the others sound
i would ask one of them to turn up
or down
or either trim or add a little dirt
they were all graceful
and soared out colour after colour

my favourite part of the evening was at around 7:45
i peeped out
and there was a bunch of people - lots of kids
all pressed up against the stage
looking at all the guitars and gear
we don't use guitar techs
it's nice to see all the instruments displayed
during the show i think it's kind of humbling to see the guys
move their own stools into place
and tune their own guitars
it's like no one but the band is allowed on that stage during the show
there's an undefinable quality to little things like this
something canadian about it
no pomp and circumstance
we're not precious
we can move our own gear

the album was flawless
the vibe in the hall was concrete and cool
when i got on stage to introduce the band
i was amazed at how many people were there
i remember ricky looking for kids in the audience
and throwing them drum sticks
and i remember nicky hugging me
and i whispered 'welcome to massey hall'

we went deep for the second set
i didn't want obvious hits
i wanted to show the depth of zep
and the supreme ability of the musicians
'the rain song' was a show stopper
no where else in the history of led zeppelin
will you hear that song performed with such precision
then we went into our acoustic set
'bron y aur stomp'
no one does this song
it was fun to see people reacting the four other guitar players
on the back riser - getting the hand claps together
who would have thought that 5 guys clapping would be such a joyous event

i can relay little sonnets about each of the songs
but i think the overall feel of the evening eclipsed one songs performance
something special happened that last night
i'm still kissing the memory of it all

it was back to my place for the after party
this is becoming the tradition
food and drink and hugs and backslaps
everyone remembered laughter
it was 5am when we wrapped things up
i lifted the needle off the nazareth's greatest hits album
and i hear music coming from the basement
there were two of ricky's friends down there still spinning vinyl
they had 'some girls' playing
we called them a cab
they left happy
it was that kind of a night

the zep band are the goodwill ambassadors of CAL
they spread love via riffs
they bind people via sirens
they inspire people via memory
today they've all been sending emails to one and other
thanking each other and defining the evening
i'm still up
proud of what we've all accomplished
not just the band
but the music lovers that come to the shows
and celebrate these albums
these incredible works of art
this is an important thing we all take part in

craig martin
april 18, 2011
leftover pasta and beer

Friday, 15 April 2011

A Conversation with Dom Polito

Dom:  How many guitars can I bring to Massey Hall?

Craig: How many guitars do you have?

Dom: I have 40 guitars.

Craig: Okay.

Dom: What, bring all 40 guitars?

Craig: Okay.

Dom: They won't fit in my car.

Craig: Then bring what you need.

Dom: 2 acoustics, 5 electrics and 2 double necks?

Craig: Okay.

Dom: How many amps should I bring?

Craig: How many can you transport?

Dom: There's a hole in my bucket!

april 15, 2011
gurgley from too much coffee

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Album Selection of the Fittest

i get these crazy requests for albums all the time
it's like people have connected with the series
and see us a vehicle for personal bliss
i love it
but certain albums don't make sense for us to delve into
- jethro tull
- lynyrd skynyrd
- madonna
- kansas
- elo
these are albums - that while great - kinda - don't fit into our criteria

so what is our criteria?
and how do i go about choosing?
the answer is crass
the ones that sold the most - the people's albums

critical acclaim is dodgy
zep got continually panned back in the day
you can find bad reviews of sgt. pepper dating back to it's release date
meanwhile albums by rem and lou reed receive the gold star awards
we could do those albums
fine albums
but no one would come

so money
people vote with their dollar
what better test is there?
it's all so subjective - but money leads to the truth
this is distasteful - i realize this
i'm hard pressed to find a better gage

i had this discussion with a theatre director recently
he was mentioning that some well tested shows weren't doing the numbers
i asked how his classic rock shows were doing
through the roof - very strong
meanwhile the broadway stuff was tanking
so what's his mandate?
clearly it's to maintain and cultivate the arts
i'm all for that
but you have to remain flexible on just what the arts is
certainly the touring polish folk singers have a place within our communities
but if kim mitchell is going to sell more tickets - wouldn't that better define the community?

yes and no
the theatre directors have such a difficult job
they want us to come to their theatres and discover new things
not only is that important
but it's noble
it's important for us to embrace all of the arts
all that
it's important to explore new entertainment
i see CAL as a catalyst to get more people to come to the theatre
you come for the zep
but stay for the spamalot

which brings me back to my album criteria
i don't like taking too many left turns with album selection
and i try not to interject too much of my personal taste
if i did that we'd be touring non stop stones dylan and springsteen
but i love the classics
the zeps the floyds the beatles
given that we only do 3 to 4 shows a year in each theatre
it would be too self serving to throw in a clash show
when i know a pepper show would draw ten times the people

but keeps those requests coming
i love the discussion
and i love the choices that people think would fit CAL

right now i'm spinning neil young's freedom album
i love this album
and while i listen to it
i picture it on stage with all the proper instrumentation and execution
and while this show will never take place
i like hiding in this part of my imagination

april 13, 2011
coffee with nicky

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Classic Rock and Kids

time is tight these days
there's a lot going on
the series is taking off in ways i always dreamed about
like most people my age
i find that i like being counted on
and i like getting pulled in different directions
a father
a son
a partner
a friend
a businessman
a musician
an ex husband
a spokesperson
i like everyone of these roles
it keeps me busy
i call it the totem pole
keep the totem pole strong
put yourself last
strive to make everyone happy on top of you
one unhappy link in totem pole can affect a lot of things
and the last thing i want is the totem pole swaying in the breeze
there's high water over there
time to dig in

of course it's all about the kids
that's the true test of being a man
taking care of the spawn
(no matter how evil)
my kids have been raised in backstages and theatres
not entirely
but it was funny at the njpac show when luke turned to me and asked
'what time are doors?'

i have a cool job
but to my boys
it's just dad's job
and they're as into it as i was into my fathers job (insurance and later advertising)
they've grown up with a consistent classic rock soundtrack
i try to expose them to other things
but it's led zeppelin 2 we had playing during dinner the other night

my oldest son - luke - is 12
ac/dc rules supreme with him
and aerosmith (we love guitar hero)
and in the true tradition of pissing your parents off with music
he digs hip hop
we listen to eminem every now and again
i like it at the time but forget it as soon as the song is over

my youngest song - jackson - is 7
and it's all about the energy
the top 40 stuff
lady gaga
and rhianna
it's fun
but i can calm him with 'puff the magic dragon'
and bob dylan's 'working man blues'
and he plays drums along to 'whole lotta love'

we made a funny video
i watch this on the road all the time
it connects me while i'm away

at the schools i see a ton of rock t shirts on the kids
this makes me happy
both for the future of the series
and the future of classic rock
when i was young
it was AM radio
1050 chum here in toronto
i knew every song and chart position
all i did was stalk the radio
waiting for elton john or alice cooper to come on
the kids get what they want
when they want it
the immediacy of it is incredible
and the disposability of it is sobering

i'd love to hear from everyone about their kids and what they're into
what's cool
what's past
and where music is going with them
are we instilling a love for classic rock into them?
or are we burning them out at too young an age?
perhaps 'satisfaction' will be regarded as 'my way'
oldies music
or perhaps they'll pull out your copy of houses of the holy one day
and lock themselves in their room
and wail it over and over again

i hope so

april 7, 2011
toothpaste and orange juice

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I Hate Johnnie B

i hate johnnie b
somebody's gotta tell him it's not 1984 anymore
and somebody's gotta tell him that van halen haven't been any good since that year
and somebody's gotta tell him that no matter how hard he tries - boot straps are not going to be making a comeback
and somebody's gotta tell him that just because you can drive 20 hours straight
doesn't mean that you own the road
and somebody's gotta tell him that it's only 4 strings - i mean what's the big deal?
and somebody's gotta tell him that new country sucks
and somebody''s gotta tell him that

and somebody's gotta tell him that the next that comes into my house and drops off all alarm clocks that we use on the 'dark side' show - that he should make sure the goddamn alarms are turned off so they don't scare the bejesus out of me and wake me up in the middle of the goddamned night!

craig martin
april 6, 2011
coffee and leftover pasta

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I Love Johnnie B

bass players get the least amount of attention
guitar players flash
drums incite
keyboards connect
and singers rivet

but bass players fly close to the stage
leaving the heights of the theatres for the peacocks up front

i've been playing with johnnie B for close to 30 years
when i first started the series - he was one of the first calls
in fact - i remember telling him about the idea before anyone else

i've got a great chapter in the book about B
so i don't want to spoil it
but right now
he just drove our gear from toronto to sydney
by himself
in a van
that's something that only a handful of people can do
and when you do it without complaint
in fact when you do it with joy
that's character

he's a big man
don't ever shake his hand
he'll crush it
i believe that story about dom's fingers and the machine press is a lie
i think B snapped them off with a handshake
(there's a great jim belushi story about this in the book too)

he's one of the best bass players i've ever heard
he doesn't chart his music
there are no notes
he studies that album and it grafts to his fingers
he's always pointing out little flourishes that hide underneath the peacock calls

sometimes i'm overwhelmed by his playing
you see
he was a hair rocker back in the day
the peacock of bass players
girls were wild for him
his peacockedness out shined his playing
CAL changed all that
again - more in the book about that

i just wanted to tell the B that we love him
and we appreciate him
he gets back from the east coast
and immediately flies to the west coast
i'm glad that margaret is not only cool with this
but supportive
because this lifestyle is not for everyone

safe travels B
you are and always have been the righteous brother

april 5
really expensive home made coffee and cheap cookies

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Woodstock Show

how do you do a woodstock show?
there are many different things to consider
there are 2 movie versions
3 album versions
3 cd versions
acts that were in the movie that weren't on the album
acts that were on the album that weren't in the movie
acts that were on stage that weren't in the movie or on the album
and 20 minutes of joan baez

quite a quandary
3 days of chaos into one evening's worth of music
and the acid i dropped wasn't making things any easier

i decided to rewrite history
it started with the brown acid
i mean brown m + ms
the ones van halen threw out
then i got down to it
and began bastardizing one of the most significant events of the 60s

the csny set was pitchy and a bit ragged
the tuning was off and the band felt tentative
i decided to go back to the original album versions of the songs
that was the turning point
from then on - while putting the show together
if i felt myself wincing or turning my head slightly like dogs do with whistles
then i went back to the original version of the song

some songs i kept as live versions
and i kept all the announcements
and yes - we have helicopters - very expensive
they're not without problems
one of the rotors came loose and severed one of marty morin's road stories

far be it for me to diss anyone from the 60s
it was so much peace and love
and there was barely any dissing at all
(a lot of 60s hip hop records sound diss free)
but when it came to joan baez
i had to make the call
and i pulled all of her songs from the show
let's face it
not everything about the 60s was great
the internet was painfully slow
and joan baez kinda shrunk parts of my anatomy whenever she sang

the woodstock show is a trip
it's longer than our regular shows
and trippier
and funner too
we're putting it into ontario in the new season
i hope everyone enjoys the trip so much
that they find their way home safely

craig martin
an april fool
champagne and strawberries