Jonathan Epstein Chimps Diary Leading Up To His Performance with the Wear White and Come When I Call Orchestra
Popped at 6 bells with grandiose plans for the day. First I'd travel to all the major department stores in town to pick up a white suit for the big show. Once I'd accomplished that I'll clean the house and pack for the upcoming vacation. I'd grab a bite to chow and shuffle off to catch the happy hour performance of Banned From the Mall at ToST before finally running off to the Blue Moon to play guitar and spiel for Seattle's premiere experimental pussy rock band, Awnings for Eyelids. Task #1: Acquire white suit. The idea of the white suit had started earlier this spring when psychedelic gospel ensemble Supergroup was to perform at the Beacon Pub. I had grand plans to look something like Flaming Lips' frontman Wayne Coyne by wearing a spiffy white linen suit. Those plans collapsed tragically, and the group performed in white Tyvek coveralls instead - looking like a cross between Pete Townshend and the Michelin Tireman. I wasn't going to let a second fashion disaster go down when I join Quinn W. Shagbark at the Beacon Pub, so I set out to plan ahead and get that spiffy white suit this time around. Each visit to Seattle's finest men's department went something like this. "I'm looking for a white suit." "A white suit?" "Yes, a white suit." "No hablo jacketa blanca." or "What for?" or "..." Dejected after visiting some 5 different stores in town, I turned to the only place any reasonably minded, fashion conscious musician would turn. Within just a few minutes, I became the purchaser of a 100% polyester, brand spankin' new 40 regular/33 waist single breasted white suit, ebay item #3941825485. First mission for the day accomplished at sometime around 5:00 pm, I threw together some chow, and made my way to see everyone's favorite costumed rockers, Banned From the Mall. While the Banned worked through one of the most amazing performance rock sets of all time (consisting of what appeared to ordinary folks of an hour long soundcheck, but us in the know know just how brilliant these guys were playing), a messenger acting on behalf of Quinn W. Shagbark himself hands me 2 plain manilla envelopes - one with my name on it, another for bassist Shawn Oram. I can not reveal the contents, but suffice it to say, I know what my mission is to be. After catching another 10 minutes of BFTM, I motored on up to the Blue Moon to rock the kids and the fogeys senseless, playing a highly fluid set dedicated to NBA brawlers Ron Artest, Ben Wallace, Stephen Jackson, and Jermaine O'Neal. Everyone left the Awnings for Eyelids show with black eyes, torn uniforms, and multigame suspensions. From there, the night ended with a jam session at someone's house which ended in near fisticuffs and plenty of hurt feelings. Finally called it a night sometime around 4 a.m. Maybe tomorrow I'll pack.
Popped at 6 bells to precious Delilah scratching the mattress again. The next 10 hours were spent horizontal on the sofa, enjoying some good old NFL football and some much needed shuteye. Later that evening, I made it out to see my guru Bill Frisell. Bill put on a monstrous show over at the nearby Tractor Tavern. The packet of material for the Quinn W. Shagbark show lay dormant on my kitchen table. Maybe tomorrow I'll pack.
Popped again at 6 bells and headed off to the coal mines. Got home just in time to grab my ticket to tonight's Bill Frisell concert. Another full-on rock show by Seattle's finest. At some point, I decided that I would never be as good as Bill on guitar. I can only take being a rip-off artist so far. I think I'm too far down the path of fakedom to correct anything. That's alright. Only the real musicians can tell how derivative my guitar playing really is. I hope Shagbark can't tell. He'll likely have my head. The brown envelope stays untouched one more day. Tomorrow, I must pack.
Popped at 7 bells. Much to do today. Getting on an airplane to Boston to see the folks on the east coast. Among the many important items I pack, I stuff the mysterious brown packet in my luggage, hoping it doesn't set off any security alarms at the airport.
Popped at 10 bells, east coast time. Every time I fly east, I set all the clocks in the house back to west coast time, in hopes of keeping my internal clock on Seattle time. As I start unpacking, I catch a glimpse of the brown envelope with all I need to know for the big day next week. I make sure the top is still sealed and put it back in my suitcase. Does Shagbark really expect me to look at this thing over my vacation?
Popped at 11 bells, east coast time. A day of thanks spent with my parents and some dear old friends of the family (I was seated next to a woman who was one of my best friends in nursery school!) and some fun strangers. The food wasn't great, but the company was excellent. I decided that it's usually one or the other, but never both, except for maybe one Thanksgiving 20 years ago when I was just a kid. No time to look at the brown packet tonight.
Popped at 10 bells, east coast time. Called up my dear old friend Dug who had a baby this past April and is headed to Denver for a new job in less than a month with his wife and kid. It was nice to catch up with Dug. We met in the second grade and not much has changed, except that he's got a family and a new job. I don't think I thought about that envelope at all today.
Popped at 11 bells, east coast time. Saturday, a day with no plans. Maybe today I'll take a look at that packet. Brother, sister-in-law, and niece come over for a make-your-own pizza party and slideshow. Dad pulled out some ancient 35mm slides - including some of my parents wedding and engagement party from over 40 years ago. There were also some shots of me and my brothers. A nice trip down memory lane, indeed, and my 4 year-old niece got a kick out of seeing Daddy, Uncle Jonny, Gramma, and Papa from way back when. It's awfully late. Maybe I'll work on that packet tomorrow.
Popped at 10 bells, east coast time. Aunt Rusty and Uncle David came over for a nice little brunch along with my brother and his family. Later that night, I took my parents out to the Regattabar in Cambridge to see one of my favorite musicians, Pharoah Sanders. Pharoah layed out quite a bit, letting Kenny Garrett take over the band. I would've liked to have heard much more of Pharoah's more exploratory material, but my parents tended to enjoy the more straight-ahead stuff, at least. Is Shagbark going to wring my neck if I never look at the envelope even once? I hope not, because another day will pass without looking at it.
Popped at 10 bells, east coast time. Visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to check out an exhibit of Art Deco work from the early 20th century. Also got a glimpse of some ancient musical instruments. Most impressive was a slide trombone whose bell ended with the head of a serpent. I figured Shagbark would like to see me return with such a horn to play at the show. The guard never took his eye off me, so I couldn't grab it off the wall. After the museum, I headed over to see my friends from college, Adam and Angie and their 1 year-old Johnathan. Spent a few hours catching up and playing with the boy and then it was off to crash. Quinn W. Shagbark is going to kill me, isn't he?
Popped at 10 bells, east coast time. Time to pack it all up and get back on that plane. Better make sure I've got that envelope still in my luggage. Now that I think about it, as I chimp away on the airplane, I didn't double-check. Then again, I never did actually take it out of the suitcase, so I'm sure it's on its way back with me. I bet of all the players in Shagbark's band this weekend, my packet traveled the furthest. That thing's got over 5000 miles under its sealed lip. Your guess is as good as mine as to when it'll actually get unpacked. Tomorrow I've got one more day off for re-entry, so maybe I'll take it out and take a look. But, I'm also going to have to get my white suit fitted for the weekend. (I've been following it via the UPS tracking number all week, and it got delivered just yesterday. Can't wait to try it on.) What's one more day of not looking at the packet? I've procrastinated far more than this. After all, the performance is still 3 days away. Came home to find my suit sitting at the front door. I threw it on and it looked pretty sharp. I'll need to get the pants hemmed tomorrow, and maybe even have the arms of the jacket shortened about a quarter of an inch.
Popped at 7 bells. Sure feels nice to be back in my own bed. My precious Delilah slept beside me all night. Ran off to the cleaners around the corner to get the pants hemmed. I did the measurements myself, so hopefully I was fairly accurate. They’ll have them ready for Saturday, so they say. I sure hope so. I decided not to bother getting the sleeves of the jacket shortened. I’ll save that for some professional tailoring sometime soon, since the jacket needs some other alterations, too. Today’s the day. This is my last day of vacation before heading back to the coal mines tomorrow. I actually popped in the cd and worked for about 40 minutes in the morning on the first 10 songs or so, stopping at the point where the packet said to stop. I discovered a song that is about the same subject of a song that Awnings for Eyelids plays -- the exclusiveness of the common modern day hippie. Damn them anyway.Later in the day, I started up the cd again and worked on the same lot of songs. I think this is going to be a great night of music. Actually, digging in and playing the songs planted the seed of excitement. I’m struggling a bit on what exactly Shagbark wants me to play on these tunes. Should I just pick out the chords? Do I noodle around the whole time? I have a feeling whichever I choose, that bastard will be unhappy and expect the other. At least I bought a suit.
Popped at 6 bells this morning. Anticipation for the big night was high, but I was focused on what I needed to get done before the big night. Stepped into the shower for a hose off, shaved, and contemplated getting a haircut (but decided not to), and suited up to run a few last errands for the day. Made it over to the Mire to pick up some batteries for my acoustic tuner, a new white dress shirt, and a loaf of bread for lunch. While practicing a bit more, I got a call from the Unpaid Intern that a film crew was en route for a pre-show interview. I still had a few things I needed to accomplish before rehearsal, so I rushed to try on the white suit one last time and get together all my gear for the night. Got everything done with enough time to practice a song or two before the crew came by. Ben Crutcher and I had a 15 minute on camera conversation on topics that ranged from Shagbark to my ganjo playing style to the work of my personal designer, Dino Divinci, the Italian Korean (born in Korea to Italian parents.) We packed up both the film equipment and my musical equipment and made our way over to HGN Seattle Headquarters for the first rehearsal. Slowly but steadily, members of the Orchestra arrived and soon we had a good old fashioned hootenanny going, running through all the Shagbark material we'd be playing that night. It was a really fantastic time, and we thought that maybe we should just spend all night down in the studio playing and singing. But, there was a show to put on, after all. Head Chef David McFeely provided the orchestra with large amounts of sustenance, including some dynamite Kool-Aid. With gear finally packed away and everyone fed, we set the controls for the Beacon Pub. Production Head and Road Manager John Cocci was already there getting things done like only the General can. Pretty soon the stage and room were set up with sound reinforcement and recording devices (like only the General can.) We briefly soundchecked the system and then, with gusto, the historic night commenced with only one problem. Shagbark was nowhere to be found. When he didn't show at rehearsal, no one thought much of it, as Shagbark isn't one for rehearsal. When he wasn't waiting for us at the Beacon Pub like he said he would, we figured this was just typical Shagbark waiting to make a big entrance when the show was to start. But the show started and there was no Shagbark to be found. The Unpaid Intern took over with confidence which immediately boosted the collective confidence of the rest of the Orchestra. Being in the middle of such love and Whiteness was a feeling I will never forget. It was a feeling of safety -- not that we were performing safe music, but the feeling that my brothers and sisters in the Orchestra had my back and I had theirs. It was about trust. Everyone gave it everything they had and more. The collective mind pushed everyone and the music further than anyone thought possible. Everything was perfect. Everything was love. Everything was White. Even when our fearless leader, the Unpaid Intern, broke a string during Mom Left Dad When the Dead Went Dig(ital), the Orchestra played on and on and on. It was at this point that we invited up an audience member to lead us through an acapella version of O Holy Night (in C) while the Unpaid Intern attended to his broken string situation. Eventually, through divine force (communicated through the body of David Tindall) the Orchestra along with our guest singer and the whole of the congregation of the Beacon Pub joined into the most rousing and uplifting version of our favorite spiritual, I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord. Leave it to the power of White to take what was the lowest part of the set and raise the spirits of all to a level unheard of. I shared the stage with 7 other folks dressed gloriously in White, playing and singing our hearts out, and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Fighting Shy rose to the occasion and performed a great set of Drew Dillhunt's music after the Orchestra cleared the stage. They sounded really great. They sounded like a band that had been playing together for years, despite this being their first gig. It was an honor to share the stage. What's more, Drew deserves loads of credit for putting the whole night together. Once Fighting Shy concluded, my band Awnings for Eyelids climbed aboard the stage. After The General moved a few microphones around, we played our first set consisting of a spontaneously composed Jass song. After the first set, we took a short break, and climbed back up. For this gig, we tried as best as we could to make it as much like one of our rehearsals as possible, by relaxing and having a good old time. It worked mightily, I think, as we all played with a lot of intensity and focus while still being loose enough to let whatever happens to happen. We cruised through a mess of material and some more spontaneous composition until we finally landed at the final song of our set, You Never Know. During the open section of the song, I wanted to kill my guitar. Not that it was malfunctioning or misbehaving in any way, but I just wanted to stab and strangle it with my pick and hands. I wanted to knee it in the stomach. We battled for the rest of the song, and I'm not sure who won (though I'm sure the audience lost in either case.)Tonight was a magical night, hopefully the first of many for the Orchestra. Everyone involved, whether actually playing in the Orchestra or not, lent their efforts for the common goal and the results were White, indeed. Brothers and Sisters, you know who you are. You made it perfect and for that I thank you all with the Whitest part of my heart. Remember, when in doubt... F Dorian.