Thursday, December 29, 2022

My W.E.I.R.D. Daily Goals for the Next Year

I created an acronym to describe my daily goals: W.E.I.R.D.  It stands for Write, Exercise, Instrument, Read and Dinner.

Write: I have a writing thing I occasionally do where, with pen in hand, I start at the top of the page of a paper notebook and don't stop writing until I get to the bottom of the page. Kind of like a free-flowing, non-sensical diary entry. The only thing that's pre-meditated might be the first "sentence" or opening words. After that it's whatever my hand marks onto the page. It only takes about ten minutes to fill up the page with hand-written words, but it checks a creative box. It's something I've been doing off and on for over twenty years. 

Exercise: I've been working out on an almost daily basis for going on three years now. In its current form I do 25 to 30 minutes in the morning six days a week. Cardio on Mon/Wed/Fri (jog/run, slide board, mini-trampoline rebounder, exercise bike or row-n-ride), and more strength-training focused on Tues/Thurs/Sat (Y-Bells, dumbbells, steel mace, kettlebell, Lebert Fitness dip bars, shena board, wooden Karlakattai clubs). This doesn't include any walking I do such as dog-walking or hiking on a nearby trail.

Instrument: Instrument stands for musical instrument. I'm trying to get back into playing a musical instrument daily, whether it be a stringed instrument tuned in 5ths GDAE (mandolin or tenor banjo) or in all 4ths EADGCF like how I tune a guitar. I have an ongoing interest in gathering old melodies from the Caribbean/West Indies region, such as folk tunes from Haiti, the Virgin Islands, Martinique, and so on. That's usually what I would be playing, but I have nothing against scales either. I hope to get a left-handed tiple doliente from Puerto Rico this year. 

Read: Reading 30 to 50 pages a day is easy when you have a good book, like one of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller books, or a classic horror paperback by Ramsey Campbell. It's more difficult when you can't find something good to read but I'm usually pretty good about finding something. Novels over 400 pages tend to be too wordy for me. If I keep them in the 200 to 400 page range then it's pretty easy to finish a book a week.  

Dinner: I've gotten into the habit of cooking dinner most nights of the week. I have certain rules or limitations: I try to keep it vegan and, if possible, keto. It's not as hard as you might think to make plant-forward yet low carb meals. Simply replace your rice, pasta and beans with lower net carb soy beans, edamame pasta and riced cauliflower are good places to start. Most of the things I make tend to be one pot meals loosely based on recipes I have found. Not quite "ital is vital" but it feels healthy. And there's usually enough left over for lunch the next day. Favorite spices: Jamaican curry, garam masala, creole seasoning, and berbere. Most versatile and dependable ingredient: red cabbage.

I rarely accomplish all five of these goals in any given day. If I hit three of the five then I consider it sufficient. Good enough.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Best Albums of 2022

Here are some of my favorite studio albums from the year 2022, forced into contrived categories!

Best for former No Depression magazine readers: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief

Best for dudes that grew up listening to Sonic Youth or Pavement: Versions of Modern Performance by Horsegirl

Best lo-fi/DIY that's not Horsegirl: Music Box by post office winter

Best for the chill-out tent: Come Around by Carla dal Forno

Best up-tempo, feel-good instrumental: Let the Festivities Begin! by Los Bitchos

Best mid-tempo, introspective instrumental: Still, Here by Marisa Anderson

Best studio album by a jamband in the year 2022: Dripfield by Goose

Best folk/blues/traditional: Get on Board by Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder

Best in what you might call "free jazz": Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef by Bennie Maupin and Adam Rudolph

Best in what you might call "soul jazz": Scary Goldings IV by Scary Goldings

Best in what you might call "world music": Ali by Vieux Farka Toure with Khruangbin

A favorite not mentioned so far: Good and Green Again by Jake Xerxes Fussell

Best from 2021 that I didn't hear until 2022: Psalms by Nathan Salsburg

Favorite re-issue/archival release of the year: Door Harp by Michael Houser

Bonus: Best new live band discovery (non-studio album): Eggy

BEST OVERALLDragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief

that just about covers it.


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Goose and Trey with special guest Billy Strings - 11/17/22 Fairfax, VA

I'm feeling the need to write something about the Goose and Trey Anastasio Band concert that I went to last month in Fairfax, VA. It was one of the best nights of music I have ever witnessed, and I've been going to concerts for 30 years now. This was a pretty historic one.

First off, I liked the venue. Sure, on one hand it's just another college basketball arena. But parking was super easy and no additional cost, bars and restaurants are a short walk away, and the general admission policy for this event meant that if you got in early enough you could grab a good spot, which we did. This all contributed to being a in a very receptive, eager mood for Goose's set. 

Goose opened with Arrow and took it big, stretching well over 20 minutes. If there was any question about this band's ability to play arenas that was certainly quelled on this night at least. The song and jam went over well with the eager crowd and this didn't feel like an "opening" band kind of vibe. This was a co-headliner performing and making a bold statement. Arrow was followed by Seeker on the Ridge Parts 1 and 2. I like the slow build of Part 1 and the release when it merges into Part 2. I was focusing on being "in-the-moment" during this part of the set. A new Goose song called Thatch came next, in its 2nd performance ever, having debuted earlier on this TABoose tour.

My ability to stay present fled a bit during Arcadia, as my mind started to dwell on the hunch that Trey would be coming out next to play a couple songs with Goose. Sure enough, that is what happened. Trey sat in for two of Goose's original songs - Hungersite and Tumble. 

As I was watching it go down, I wasn't sure if this much hyped sit-in was living up to its potential. Did the twin guitars of Trey and Rick from Goose contribute to a sparkling jam, or did it devolve into just a guitar duel? Hard to say. It sounds good on re-listen, but I would have preferred it if Rick had backed off and given Trey space to let the music breathe and include the rest of the band in more of a collaborative, rather than supportive, role. Before I knew it the set was done. Now it was time for Trey's band.

The original plan was to maybe leave at some point during Trey's set. I'm a big Phish fan, but (before this night) never really considered myself a fan of the Trey Anastasio Band, having seen TAB only a handful of times since its incarnation over 20 years ago. This night would prove to be different. My friend sent me a text tipping me to the rumor that Billy Strings was in the house. The plan now was to stay 'til the end. 

The rumor was right - Billy did come out to play - but even before Billy came out Trey's set was incredible. Even though I had been in attendance to TAB shows before, I almost feel like this was my first time actually seeing the Trey Anastasio Band. Seeing everything about it in a new light, getting the sophistication and message of the music for perhaps the first time ever. When Billy finally did come out, what had already been a 10 out of 10 went up to eleven! This is where the night turned the corner from being not just a great night of music, but a peak musical experience. Billy added so much in such a humbling, non-ego way.

I feel like I learned something over the course of this set and the encore. Or re-learned something I had forgotten. Here on stage with Trey and his band was Billy Strings and members of Goose. There's no reason to judge or be negative or to compare or criticize. This younger generation of bands (and their fans) is doing a great job of cultivating a community of not just positivity, but positivity plus a level of professionalism and inclusion that transcends the previous norm. It's inspiring and makes me want to be the best listener I can be.