Camp Creek is 4 weeks away.
I couldn’t be more excited when I read Eric’s post. I have a tendency to think of things in milestones, IE – Joe’s Graduation, Fourth of July, Vacation, James’ Birthday, Pool Party, Camp Creek. I tend to just think of whats next on the list. So when Eric posted the countdown like that, I was pumped.
If you don’t know who Max Creek is by now, you don’t read my blog enough. My favorite band on the planet, they’ve been bringing the most awe inspiring sounds and soulful jams for the past 40 years. I don’t think there’s a bad day that can’t be solved by the music of Max Creek.
But Max Creek is more that music, and that’s the reason I’m so psyched Camp is only 4 weeks away. Max Creek is family. Being outside the usual range of the band, I miss a lot of shows. It usually involves a few hours in a car, and a hotel room, and after awhile it adds up. Its more than worth it when we can though, because finally getting to a Creek show is like going home. All the friends are there – Jonathan (happy birthday man!) and Sarah, Ryan & Sheri, Steve & Debbi, Ken, Doreen, Buzz, Paul, Lee, Christine and so many more dancing spirits. There’s Ed – the man who collects the recordings of Phunky Zen, Fred, and all those before them and works tirelessly to bring the music to the masses and Ziola, the self portrait Queen, who’s always ready to tell me another “behind the scenes” Max Creek story. In the center of it all is Ian, who I call “The Mayor Of Max Creek” who seems to know every person in attendance, and wants pictures with them all… especially the pretty girls. Then there’s the band … who I am proud and honored to call friends. I’ve come to see Mark, Scott, John, Vasso and DeGugs as regular guys especially when the tequila bottle is going around. (That Mark is a dangerous guy!) And of course there’s Eric … love him or hate him, there wouldn’t be show if he wasn’t busting his ass to get all the ducks in a row (pun intended) The crowd is always filled with so many friendly faces…
So there really wasn’t a question about money or time when Max Creek hit the big 4-0. We were going and Kim and I were able to make two shows… including a rare hometown gig. But the big night was up in Providence, a town deep in Max Creek lore. The show was epic, as expected, exploding to a close with Vasso dusting of “Sympathy For The Devil” and the boys playing like a band possessed. The whole family danced in celebration because we realized that even though the nuts on stage had been the ones doing the hard work, we were all passing a milestone. It was our party, we were all celebrating.
So four weeks until Camp. For weeks until I’m home again.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with these guys many times, and the images can be enjoyed here … on my site
SpiTune is the only band I know that deserves it’s own word for the way you feel the day after – “SpiTuned”.
Kim and I have often felt SpiTuned the next day – which usually involves a drive home since the band hails from the New Hope PA area. Feeling SpiTuned is a mix of all things: maybe a tad bit too much beer, your ears ringing from some amazing sounds and your sides hurting from all the laughing.
SpiTune almost has a need to create their own vocabulary because they’re the only ones doing what they do. Combine the solid bass lines of Mike Krimm and Dave Haviland’s gifted drumming and you’ll walk away with a hell of a rhythm section. Through this Bill Fowler weaves his explosive guitar licks and blistering solos. There alone you’d have a hell of a band, but what seems to tie these guys together is the acoustic guitar of Fred Moore.
Fred also handles the vocals and the lyrics. Fred writes songs about the common man, in common situations – of sorts. Fred’s writing ability and humor mix to create some pretty memorable lyrics. Not for the young, but perfect for the young at heart, Fred sings to get out his frustrations out about stupid people, those who annoying him, and all the stuff his mother told him he shouldn’t say in public.
Come down to a gig – if the songs don’t have you laughing, the between song banter and the crowd interaction will. Then the laughter seems to stop suddenly as Bill wails on his strings and follows the path Mike and Dave skillfully blaze.
Saturday July 30th – Forumstock 6, Stillwater, NY
Friday August 12th – Jam At The Grove, Ottsville, PA
Saturday Sept 3rd – John and Peter’s, New Hope, PA
Sunday Sept 4th – Private Party
Saturday October 1st – Wang Dang Doodle
I was lucky enough to be hired by these guys for a private shoot. I love the results, their personality bursts out of every image. Dave came up with the “handcuffed to our instruments” idea and I’ll love him forever for it. It worked great.
The whole shoot, and video shoot afterwards can be seen on my site here… but here are my favorites…
is exactly what we need sometimes.
Kim and I have been jonesin’ for some live music lately. We’ve been laying low since Max Creek’s explosive 40th anniversary bash in Rhode Island (which I owe you a blog about, don’t I?) Between the heat, the kids and their busy schedules, and the empty wallets, it been hard to get out.
So there really wasn’t a question when we found out that the necleus of of the Funky Godmothers were hitting the beach with Guy Nevirs on guitar. We jumped in the truck, picked up some friends and headed to Far Rockaway, a place that would almost make you forget you were still in Queens.
You couldn’t ask for a better spot for a summertime gig. Out on the back deck, above the water, an incredible breeze in the air, although I could have done without the bar next door playing the same Johnny Cash greatest hits cd over and over – nothing against the Man in Black. The place was oddly enough a Thai restaurant (that served Itailan Ice, my buddy Jeff pointed out) but the beer was cold so it ok in my book.
The band set up in the corner and began grooving away on some classic tunes. They never got crazy all night, kind laid back, old tunes. A few more nights out and I know they’ll bring out the hard stuff. It was perfect though, for a nice relaxing night with some friends, some beers and a great setting.
It was my first night out with my new gear too… all the stuff I shot was with the D7000 on an unimaginable ISO and the most wicked lens giving me an unreal f2.8 aperture. Came away with some decent shots, enjoy…
I used to have a huge box of legos. Hundreds of them in an old cardboard box. I can’t remember a damn thing I built with them, but I’ll never forget the sound of digging through that box looking for one specific piece. I’d find it, fit it into whatever was taking shape before me, then dig again, that sound filling the air.
Soon my creation was done, and even though it was a now a house, or a car or whatever else I could think of, it was always made up of brick upon brick. The big cardboard box was emptied and I had found a way to fit the bricks together to form a shape.
That was years ago.
Kim and I drove the Rochester NY, a town that seems to be in need of a spit shine, to see the greatest band striking a note these days… Max Creek. The long drive wither went by quickly, or I didn’t even notice because I was so excited to get there. For years I had heard of Creek in “Rock-Chester” and now I was finally going to witness it myself. Better still … I had my camera and when the tough security guard gave me a hard time, I reached out the Creek’s manager and I got my response via a VIP pass around my wrist.
I shot from the pit both nights. A wild, trippy feeling being between the crowd and your favorite band. I worked my ass off. I strived for the best I could possibly do. I let the music take over and the whole experience became like those legos I used to play with. Brick by brick I took it all apart – it was the only way I could tackle it. Maybe all those hours I spent digging in that old cardboard box payed off. I say everything in moments … Mark’s intense concentration made him weave up and down… Scottie and Vasso exchanging looks and giggles…. John Rider hunching over when the notes got lower…. Degugs finding his way around his kit with his eyes closed…. Scottie’s broken string during the first song of the second night and the ghost he seemed to chasing in his pedals all weekend…. The smile on Casey Bloom’s face when he came up to play … the explosion into The Other One and sweet opening chords of Leaves.
Just like those legos I took those moments, and tried to make them into something. Not a house, or a car, but memories. Moments captured forever. Enjoy.
I think everyone must smile on their wedding day.
But Kim’s smile was beyond a frown turned upside down. Her whole body was smiling, from the moment we got there until the moment we left. It could have been the weather, it was the most beautiful day possible for an outdoor wedding. It was late summer in the Berkshires, and area I’ve become convinced that Mother Nature created just to give beauty a place to live. A few fluffy clouds drifted through the deep blue sky and the flowers which Tor and Kim spent months planting just for this day basked in the sunshine.
As the guests drifted in, and mingled through the grounds, I wandered around trying to capture the happiness all around. People laughed, talked about old times, and on the hill children twirled and danced with hula hoops to the music Mark Mercer was playing. Through it all, Kim floated through them in her simple white dress and her radiant smile. Tor shook hands, laughed and thanked everyone for coming, with a smile all his own.
The walked down the hill, hand in hand, connected and together and were joined as man and wife in front of family and friends. Afterward, in the greenhouse, everyone danced well into the night. But everywhere was this happiness and joy that could not be missed. Laughter and love was everywhere… and I tried to capture it.
In the end, it’s fitting it took place on a farm. The seed that was planted that day will grow for all time, and someday Tor and Kim will be on the pouch, in rocking chairs, old and gray. But they’ll still be together, and I know Tor will still have a guitar in his hand and a song on his lips and Kim will still be smiling with her whole being.
Some nights there’s nothing finer than sitting out in the summer breeze with a fine glass of wine, with Bob Dylan singing prophetically in the background. Its a time to think back on life, the meaning of it, and what it’s all about.
And others all I need to fill the empty reaches of my soul is a case of Yuengling and Spitune.
I first found Spitune at Camp Creek 2007 and I’ve been a fan ever since. As indescribable as they are, they’re the ultimate working man’s rock n roll band. The lyrics of Fred Moore are about real life people and situations, that lying jerk in the bar and the indecisive chick we all know and hate. Spitune not only hates them too, but doesn’t stop short of saying how they feel. The band could be taken for only that if not for how strongly talented they all are. The raw power of Bill Fowler’s guitar as he punches out his solos of over the solid and impenetrable bed of rhythm laid down by bassist Mike Krimm and drummer Dave Haviland is outstanding and demands attention. Fred’s acoustic guitar adds flavor to the mix, and like I previously stated, there are the lyrics. The songs wrap up in a great package which gets the crowd moving and just oozes fun. They’re definitely the best band to invite to your next barbecue.
Kim and I jumped into the truck and sped across NJ to be a part of a special event, the Spitune CD Release Party. I was looking forward to seeing them all again, hearing them again, and of course having another gig to shoot. The show did not disappoint, a rocking evening of Spitune, great friends, old and new, and lots of laughter. So now I’m introducing the neighborhood to the band, as the CD rages through my stereo and I’m anxiously waiting to the next gig.
I just got off the phone with a new dad.
Less than 24 hrs ago, Alison came screaming into this world and changed my best friend’s life forever. We spoke for over an hour, about stuff, and all I could think of was the words of John Lennon repeating over and over… Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans…
I know I’ve been absent for awhile, and I know I promised I wouldn’t let that happen, but it did. I knew/know someone who is photographer. In our conversations all would hear was the pressure of this and that, and how the need of the business cut off all other forms of life. I vowed I’d never let that happen. In my life I found it harder and harder to balance and juggle a job, a relationship, my kids, and the pressure to blog and, yes, to even pick up the camera.
So you know what I did? I took a break. I left the camera sitting on the shelf above the computer and when no one was looking, we’d talk. I’d tell it how my day was, about what I had for lunch, about what I did, and it would tell me about it’s day and all it saw …. which was limited because it never left the shelf. Then I’d start to apologize and it would shush me, and tell me it was all gonna be ok, because it would wait patiently for me until I was ready. So no matter what anyone said to me, I knew my camera wasn’t disappointed in me, so it didn’t really matter.
This weekend was gig. Same place as usual, but with a fresh “new” band. The Funky Godmothers, a band that regularly made feet move was back for a historic night. I brought my camera this time, and my new gift, the SB900 which is without a doubt the single most amazing piece of technology I’ve held in my hand. I think there’s a feature to run to fridge and get me a ham and cheese on a roll with lettuce, tomato, mayo and a little salt & pepper, I just haven’t found it yet.
You know those things people say to you and really don’t mean? “If there’s anything I can do for you…” or You sing wonderfully in the shower” or the often used “I’m not mad at you.” Well, I entered the bar thinking my camera might had been lying to me. It told me it was just waiting for me, and I wanted to believe it, but I fully expected to look through it and find nothing. Sure I had a few practice runs, the kids coloring eggs, playing around, and an afternoon walking around playing with the new flash.
I raised the camera up to my eye, focused in, and fell back into a world of music and color. The band was hot, smoking away with some serious rhythms. They had took the time and effort to actually jazz up the joint with lights. They tossed beads into the exuberant crowd and Kim even battered her eyelashes at the drummer and came away with a pair of bunny ears.
It was a phenomenal night of music. One of those beautiful occasions where the music seems to drip from ceilings and the whole bar is lost in the groove.
And I got some good photos. Nothing earth shattering, but hey, maybe I was a little rusty. Next time though …
And I hope next time won’t be as long as the last time was…
As the miles rolled under the tires and we got closer and closer, the grip around my throat got tighter. What was looming ahead of us was as big as the great outdoors and despite the fact I was driving like a low flying rocket, part of me wasn’t looking forward to reaching my destination. I tried to vocize it, and all I could manage to get out was “it sucks he won’t be there”.
Thanksgiving weekend in Stroudsburg PA could only mean one thing – Railroad Earth. The band grew out of this area and every year they come off whatever tour they’re doing, they come home. I’ve been seeing them since 2005 in the Sherman Theater, a beautiful old theater and pretty much the only venue in this isolated place in the northeast.
Every show at the Sherman has been with Bob, and in fact he looked forward to this yearly celebration in his own backyard. He’d start bugging me about it by August.
Last year Bob slipped after 9 years of sobriety and the methadone he shot stopped his heart and dropped him dead on the floor of his house, walking distance from the Sherman. It was the biggest heart I’ve ever known and his end was tragic and stupid.
His death haunted me the whole year. Its been an eventful year, to say the least, and not having Bob there for counsel has been rough. Around the summer I announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to the RRE Thanksgiving shows even if I had to walk there. Now I was going, and with every exit sign I passed I contemplated turning around.
Then Kim mentioned the sky.
Being an afternoon in late fall the sun had begun setting. It found holes in the clouds and it’s rays shot out and filled the sky with really trippy patterns. Soon the clouds on the horizon parted and the half the sky became as bright as day as the rest turned dark as night. As we drove along the clouds in the sky thinned out and long purple streaks filled the sky. I laughed because I knew it was Bob. I pictured him playing with the big dials that controlled the sun and clouds with that big goofy grin he always had when he was up to no good. As we crossed the Delaware river the sun slipped below the horizon.
Yes, Railroad Earth blew the roof off the place. Friday night they burned the place down and then on Saturday they rebuilt it only to burn it down again. Bob would have loved the shows. I had my camera, found a nice spot at the foot of the stage and shot away. Friends surrounded me, and it was so good to see them again. Over dinner before handed we toasted Bob and then danced our asses off, even Kim, who was right in the thick of it for both nights.
I have a lot of “internet friends” who I’ve met over the years, most Bob met as well, but he always had one up on me. Well she was there Saturday night, to my surprise. Haha Bob. She gave me such a great hug too.
I came away feeling, for lack of a better word, healed. The music washed over me, and when they played “Seven Story Mountain” the words really dug into me.
“Its a seven story mountain
Its a long long life ahead
Got to find a light to fill my heart again.”
That’s when I felt Bob slap me across the back of the head again.
Yes he’s gone and I’m gonna miss him until the day we meet again, but that’s not gonna be for awhile. In the meantime he’s gonna be pulling some strings to get me amazing skies and mind blowing shows. Its not about what I’ve lost, but about what I have and about all I have yet to receive.
Like next Thanksgivings RRE shows at The Sherman…
In “She’s Here”, they themselves say “It’s not everyday, that the best come to town, with those very special people hanging around.”
Max Creek, for me, is indeed, the best. A band that’s been playing together since 1971 and has a strong, dedicated following despite the lack of radio airplay, music videos or world tour. They play the emotion filled, exploratory music that I love, with roots in blues, rock and for lack of a better term “jam”. In all they years together they’ve never stepped foot on the stage with a setlist, only a general idea of where they were going.
I found them one afternoon when I received a collection of live Grateful Dead shows in the mail from someone I had traded with. I sent him more then he sent me, and as is traditionally done, he made it up with some “surprise” shows. He threw in Max Creek at the Northern Lights, 4/08/2000. I’ll be honest and admit that the disc sat there for a bit. I finally tossed it in. The show played in the background, and it was the last song, a cover of Dire Strait’s “The Bug” that grabbed my ear. I started back at the beginning and… well….
I traveled to 4 “Camp Creeks” in upstate New York, camping out, indulging in music, fun and life. (and a few other substances from time to time.) It was yearly fix, since I could hardly every make to to other Max Creek gigs. I followed them on-line though, downloading every show that was offered for free trade. I built my collection and tried to survive on that, but it was a poor substitute for the real thing.
There was no Camp Creek this year. Instead, the band would play an all-inclusive weekend at the Eastover Resort in Lenox, Mass. It would be three days of music, in a nice hotel with comfy beds and a shower. It would be paradise, but getting there was the only hurdle.
Kim is so wonderful in so many ways, but when put our names on the waiting list for a room, she outdid herself. When we got the call there was an opening, we were on our way.
Sure, I could cut and past the setlists for the three shows that Max Creek played. I would past the links to Carl’s Setlist page, or share the recordings at the archive, but nothing could come close to the sensation of being in that room those nights. The way the music weaved around all of us filling the corners with light and sound. From the moment they took the stage, the band stopped being 5 separate men and morphed into one being. They moved from song to song wordlessly lost in rhythms and grooves.
And it was good. It was beautiful. It was just what I needed to hear.
Great friends, a great girl, a great location and a band beyond description… a weekend in heaven.
Through it all, I shot. My lens caught every note Max Creek played, the music on the lawn from the Hot Acoustics, through Flipper Dave, right up to my pal Rev Tor.
More than a month has gone by since that weekend, and I can still hear Scott’s guitar when I close my eyes. At quiet times Marks keys or John Ryder’s bass thundering along with the power of Vasso & DeGuglielmo’s drums.
I need another fix… soon.
Today is August 9th.
Fourteen years ago Jerry Garcia died in his sleep, ending the life of the beast known as The Grateful Dead. Fourteen years ago today the endless tour which begin in 1967, and only briefly took a break in 1975, came to a screeching halt.
It’s a day that I, and legions of other Deadheads, will never forget. At his funeral, Robert Hunter gave the eulogy. In it he asked, “now that the singer is gone, where will we go for the sound?”
For fourteen years, I’ve searched, and found, some of the most incredible music my ears could comprehend. With the likes of Railroad Earth, Gov’t Mule, Blue Rodeo, moe, Phish, and more, I have listened, smiled and danced. Of course, I’ve spent many hours lost in the sounds of the New England powerhouses, Max Creek, and Rev Tor. My veins have been itching for another dose of Tor’s magic, so when I saw he was playing only a few hours away, I knew I had to make the trek.
We left NYC and drove through some of the most amazing country New York State has to offer. The road was long and winding, but it didn’t matter. We drove over mountains and farmland until we reached tiny Stephentown, New York.
The Rev Tor Band would be playing a Friday night slot at the “2009 Rock, Rattle, & Drum – American Indian Pow Wow & Spirit on the Mountain Music Festival”. Depth Quartet, made up of Scott Murawski and Greg Vasso of Max Creek would be opening. Knowing the creative spirit of all those involved, I knew there would be a stage full of musicians by the end of the evening, and I was proven correct. Scott sat in with Tor for almost the whole set, Greg played drums on one song, and then shared the drum kit for a drum solo with Tor’s drummer in a way that only pure musicians could even fathom. Kim laughed and stood on a chair to watch it. They wove through originals as well as some great covers, ending the night with a monster “Shakedown Street”, then encoring with Tor’s rocking cover of En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind”… trust me it works.
The next morning, we dragged our asses back to the site, sorry to see that our friends who met us at the fest had left, and hung around to watch some of the Native American ceremonies and dances at the Pow Wow.
As the participants danced, and displayed their beautiful native outfits, I began to notice how connected they were to the beating of the drums. The drums led them, almost as if they were entranced by the sound, and my mind wandered back to the darkness of Madison Square Garden, feeling the same way as I could feel the notes of Jerry’s guitar around me. These dances they performed under the hot sun were timeless, being passed down generation to generation. Through the ages, the elders would pass it along to the young, so in their culture, the singer was never gone, the song was never lost.
Now, I need to go find some more music to be lost in…