Tuesday, April 16, 2002


I used to be a musician. I guess I still am, but I used to be active, playing either in bands or as a cranky, solo folkie dude, often in tandem with a few friends in a devious marketing concept we called Camp Hoboken. It was all great fun, trying to disrupt the usually sedate folk world in a variety of ways. Above is a picture of us at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Though we were absolute nobodys, we convinced some power that be to let us sing backup behind Dar Williams, who was headlining on a very cold Saturday night. That's me, with the hat, right behind Dar, crooning the mic. I have no clue what song we sang. I didn't know the song then either. Maybe something about Angels. I distinctly remember laying back until everyone started singing the choruses, then stepping up to Oooo.. along a bit.

God bless Dar for not turning around and throwing my ass off the stage.

I've been thinking about stuff like this lately because I've been hearing about my musical past in a number of weird ways and I remember virtually none of it. Chris from PA reminded me of the time he, I and Gregg Cagno decided to drop in on Gene Shay, a legendary folk DJ formerly of Philadelphia's WHYY. I thought we had been asked to appear. Not true. As Chris recalls his recent conversation with Gregg:

anyway, drive home conversation turned toward the large, swinging balls that used to be carried by camp hoboken, beginning with our uninvited arrival at the WHYY studios for an evening with a sleepy, unwashed and confused gene shay.

in the way of men, gg and i recreated that evening's conversations last night, making them much better than they had been originally.

gregg capped it, i think, with his impression of you :

"gene, tune this for me, will you?"

Did I say that? Yeah, probably. I don't remember saying that, but it sounds like me. More oddness came in the form of a videotape from Otis in NJ. I used to play bass with Otis in his combo, Otis Ball and The Chains (imagine NRBQ as a Replacements-style rock band - and we held onstage limbo contests a lot). This tape is like four hours long, most of it is taken up with a gig from the basement of a frat house in Hoboken NJ. We played a lot of cover songs we didn't know and Freedy Johnson joined us for a set or so (we played a lot of covers he didn't know either - Otis was King at this shit).

The weirdest thing about this tape is a segment I didn't see until last week. Natalie and I had just watched the new They Might be Giants documentary and we decided to watch the rest of the Otis tape. On it, I found black and white footage of Otis and I performing a 15 minute melt-down of Lust For Life at Tramps in NYC. I can pick out Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo on feedback guitar and some drummer I kind of knew from Hoboken, but otherwise, I have no memory of that gig whatsoever. And I didn't play at Tramps all that much. I usually remember everything, but that footage is a complete blank spot. It's me on bass, I'm sure. But when or why I have no idea.

And I like it that way. It's nice that life is taking a turn and I'm forgetting things. It makes it so much more fun to rediscover those bits later. This is the joy of growing up, kids. You get to enjoy your youth a second time. I hope this blog thing doesn't ruin that for me.

BTW - if you're in or around Hoboken, NJ at the end of May, I think Otis Ball and The Chains are reuniting. I'll probably be the guy on bass.

No comments: