Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Uncle Tupelo


May 1, 1994.  Important date in Rock and Roll history?  In the grand scheme of things it’s probably not but it should be.  That’s the last time the three original members of the Belleville, IL band, Uncle Tupelo, played together in public.  The show was at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis and it was after original drummer, Mike Heidorn, had left the band but at the end of the show he got behind the kit for one last hurrah.  I’ve been thinking a lot about Uncle Tupelo lately.  A few months back the artist Karl Haglund contacted me about doing an Uncle Tupelo themed show.  Karl is well known for his guitar paintings and we bounced around some ideas of what the show should consist of.  I was kind of at a loss cause I usually work from photographs I take myself of a band or musician performing but that wasn’t going to be possible.  Karl suggested painting their album covers and that seemed like a good idea, so I started on some, still working on them as you can see from the images above. 
 
Around the same time Karl and I was discussing this, my friend Chris King contacted me out of the blue and said he’d been sneaking over to Belleville, IL to visit his friend Mike Heidorn and I was invited to tag along next time he went.  Needless to say I jumped at the chance to meet and hang out with the drummer who played on three of my favorite albums. 
 
I came to discover Uncle Tupelo in a backwards fashion.  During their heyday I was too young to attend most of their gigs and I didn’t live in the area.  They were simply off my radar.  It wasn’t until I was given a blank cassette by my friend Tony in 1995 did they begin to creep into my consciousness.  The cassette had Wilco’s first album on one side and Son Volt’s first on the other.  At the time I was living in the hills of Southern Illinois in a cheap store front apartment located in the tiny town of Murphysboro, IL.  I had two jobs, one, writing for the Carbondale based newspaper, Nightlife and two, driving fixed and wrecked Airborne Express vans back and forth from Jackson, MO to Memphis, TN.  For Nightlife I’d write about Cape Girardeau, MO musicians like Bob Camp and bands like Drench (recorded by Lou Whitney).  To get to Cape from Murphysboro I’d take Route 3 and it was about a 45 min drive.  On those drives I’d listen to one tape, the Wilco/Son Volt tape, over and over and over again.  The next year I was given a copy of "March 16-20, 1992" by my friend Marty and from that I began to piece together the two voices I’d been hearing on that first cassette.  By then Uncle Tupelo was ancient history and I don’t think it was quite understood how important they would be from a historical point of view.  But I dove in deep and inhaled their first three albums as if they were new signs of life. 
 
When I finally moved to St. Louis I loved hearing all the stories about their early days at Cicero’s and personal insights from people I started to get to know.  I had clearly missed out on something special that had started right here.  Which brings us back to Chris King and his invite to hang out with Mike Heidorn.  Giddy would be an understatement, but I try not to show it.  What has ended up happening are informal hootenannies with everyone sitting around his kitchen table with guitars, drinking Stag (of course) and playing songs.  The highlight so far has been singing the Stones “Far Away Eyes” with Chris along with Mike and Fred Friction on acoustic guitars.  I can die happy now.
 
Now playing – Uncle Tupelo May 1, 1994

Saturday, March 1, 2014

KDHX


10 years ago I called my old friend Mike Cook and asked him if I could borrow his camera. Mike being the great guy that he is said “of course”. He asked what I wanted it for. I told him I wanted to drive around town and photograph buildings that I wanted to do paintings of. He thought that was a great idea and happily lent me his camera. I drove around mainly South City taking photos. First stop was an abandoned building I passed by daily, then I headed over to Cherokee St. to photograph Fort Gondo, then up to Lemp to snap Radio Penny Studios. Also on my list were clubs like Frederick’s Music Lounge and Lemmons as well as restaurants such as Courtesy, The Buttery and Eat Rite. Plus local radio stations like 3WK and KDHX. I remember the day I photographed KDHX, there was ice everywhere and it was cold. I parked my car and got out to snap a quick shot. Standing in the doorway was Bob Reuter, I loved Bob but at that time didn’t want him in the photo, so I wanted until he went back inside and then I took my shot. Do I regret that now. Regardless, from that shot I did this painting and was really happy with how it turned out. Awhile later I was involved with a holiday art show organized by a group known as “The Independent Art Market” which included Eric Woods from Firecracker Press as well as Carmelita Nunez and Daniel Shown from Kung Fu Chicken. They saw the KDHX painting, snatched it up quickly and have owned it ever since. And that was that, the painting was gone almost as soon as I had painted it.

Back then, even before and still now I have a fondness for KDHX. It plays such a vital role in our music community and is central to so much going on locally. Over the years there have been so many shows I’ve enjoyed and loved. Fred Friction’s “Fishing With Dynamite”, Bob Reuter’s “Bob’s Scratchy Records”, Randall Roberts’ “Sovereign Glory”, Rene Saller’s "Suffragette City", Brett Underwood’s “No Show”, plus the shows that are still going on today like, just to name a few, John Wendland “Memphis to Manchester", Jeff Hess' "Afternoon Delight", Tim Rakel’s “Mystery Train”, Steve Pick’s “Sound Salvation”, Cat Pick’s “Emotional Rescue”, Rob Levy’s “Juxtaposition” and my current favorite, Josh Weinstein’s “All Soul No Borders”. “All Soul No Borders” comes on Sunday nights at 10pm and if I’m not reading then I’m painting and that always goes well with whatever Josh plays which relies heavily on jazz and experimental. But check the shows for yourself, I’m sure you’ll find something you can dig.
 
As most people know, KDHX recently moved their South City location on Magnolia over to Midtown in Grand Center on Washington Blvd. It was a bitter sweet move for sure cause that original location had seen the station grow leaps and bounds over the 25 plus years it was located there. But the new location and building is truly magnificent and fitting for such an important St. Louis institution. I’ve worked in Grand Center for the last 16 years and have seen it changed over the years. I can remember eating my lunch in the grass field that use to be next to the Continental building which is now a multi-level parking garage and apparently more parking garages are on the way. Some of these changes have been great, like more restaurants, apartments and radio stations moving to the area but some have not been so great, like more buildings being torn down or threatened to be torn down. I remember fondly when a row a buildings use to sit on the north corner of Lindall and Grand and you’d have to go down a set of stairs to get to Vito’s which sold pizza by the slice for lunch at only a dollar a slice. I loved going down there, it was all brick and always crowded at lunch time, the price was right too. Those buildings are gone now and Vito’s has moved a little bit down the street. But that’s progress I guess. More buildings are in danger of being torn down but others are being built back up, including the building KDHX is now in which had been vacant for many years. The last thing I remember in that building was the music venue The Creepy Crawl.
 
Recently I was invited to take a tour of the new KDHX studios and I happily accepted. The new space is simply amazing with offices, recording studios, DJ booths, storage space all on the upper floors. A cool looking performance venue on the bottom floor along with a nice little café named after the old studio, the Magnolia Café.
 
After this tour I was invited to participate in the decorating of the café. Over the years people at the station had seen the painting I did 10 years ago of the original building. They had initially expressed interest in this painting but I let them know it was no longer in my possession and belonged to Carmelita and Daniel. So they proposed I paint a new one only this time the size would be much larger and they showed me the place it could hang in the café. I was ecstatic, of course I’d paint them a new one, that would be an immense honor. The new painting will be 68x68 inches, the largest canvas I’ve ever completed. My friend and fellow artist, Jeremy Rabus, built the custom canvas and did a fantastic job with it. But it’s too large to fit in my basement studio, so I hung it on the wall of the hallway in my home as you enter the front door and I’ll just work on it from there. Will probably take at least a few months to complete.
 
now playing - KDHX

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Donny Besancenez


If you have any kind of online presence at all, more than likely you use social media. I do know people who have no use for social media and I somewhat admire them, I would prefer to be that way. But I’m not. I have a Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Facebook account. I have stopped short with Instagram, not because I don’t like images, I love images. Just never gotten around to figuring it out and I am a little apprehensive about using a program that modifies images. Perhaps I’m not understanding Instagram, but from what I’d gathered, it takes photos and makes them look old or rustic or whatever. Maybe it doesn’t do that anymore, or you can control that, but as you can see, I don’t care enough about it to even find out.

Out of all of those I am most active on Facebook and its Facebook I have to thank for the piece you see above. It’s of Donny Besancenez and he had posted the original photo on FB. Then he “tagged” me in a comment and said he’d love to have a painting of it. It was very nice thing for someone to say in such a public forum. I’ve known Donny for a number of years but I wouldn’t say we know each other well. He use to be very active in the local music scene, running sound for clubs, engineering recordings and playing in his band Tripstar. He’s been a few bands since and still does play out now, currently in Cold Hearted Strangers. The first time I met him was at a club down on the Landing. He was the soundman and my band at the time and been asked to play a last minute show. We jumped at it. Of course it was last minute cause St. Louis was about to get dumped with a half foot of snow and whatever band was booked couldn’t make it. So at a moment’s notice we were ready. We get to the club and are greeted by Donny. He was great and did a phenomenal job with the sound. We hadn’t played too many shows at that point and used a drum machine, samples, moog, lots of electronic stuff that most clubs at the time had no idea what to do with. But Donny knew exactly how to mic everything up and how the mix should be. We played a great set thanks to him. But, as usual, not one person was there besides the bartender and Donny. Oh well.
 
Since then we’d always see each other at shows or traded with each other whatever music we’ve been doing. Nothing big but a mutual respect for each other. And I greatly appreciate it and very happy to be working on this piece. 
 
While working on this piece word came through that trusty ole Facebook that a friend of ours had died. Christopher Gustave was an artist from Arizona who had lived in St. Louis for a number of years and did a wide variety of art from photographs to graphic design and everything in between. Donny and him were closer as friends than I was but I did greatly enjoy his company, particularly at art openings. You could say we had the same mindset about certain things and could relate to each other effortlessly. Everyone has someone they know who they can go weeks or even months without seeing and then, when you do get to see each other you just fall right into wherever you left off at and pick it right back up. Chris and I were like that. A very talented artist who also could be difficult but I can’t really fault him for that, I can be very difficult myself. He had left St. Louis a few years ago and went to New York City and then relocated again, back to his home town Phoenix, AZ. I don’t have the details of his death, just heard various things from Facebook postings. I’ve yet to muster the courage to ask someone who knows, what exactly happened. What I do know is that he’s gone now and we’ll never see him again. Thankfully he left the world with a ton of artwork and I’m glad I got to hang out with him.
 
 
 now playing - Spiritualized 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ellen the Felon at the Skatium


Back in Nov I stopped by the Skatium in South St. Louis for the Ellen the Felon CD release show, “Bang, Bang, Bang”. The Skatium is a roller rink that also hosts live music shows. It had been about 20 years since I stepped into a skating rink but for those who know me well, I literally grew up in one. From the age of 7 to 18 a majority of my time was spent at the skating rink located in my hometown known as The Jackson Skate Center. When I first started going there it was owned by a distant relative, the great Woodie Seabaugh and it was known as The Roll-O-Fun. Woodie ran a tight ship but everyone had a good time, plenty of candy, soda and music. When I was about 9 years old the rink was bought by a new owner from out of town, the legendary Cliff Wilson. Cliff was primarily an auto body man and had a shop in town as well. His two children, Kristie and Brian quickly became my friends even though they were a few years older than me. Thus started my 10 + year association with the rink which went from becoming the local rink rat to fixing skates, working behind the concession counter, floor guard and eventually DJ (my favorite). By the end of my time at the rink Brian and I had created a skateboard park along with a skate shop that included a 4 foot high 12 foot wide mini half pipe outside. We were even booking local bands to play live while people skated such as The Church of Bowling, Simple Mary, Paperclip Nun, Gikk, Chemical Billy, The Honey Offering, Lungbutter, Brave Little Toaster, Drench and yes, even my own band, The Bearded Clam Wonder.

Which brings us back to the Skatium, I was there not for skating but to see live bands. As soon as I walked in all the familiar sights and sounds filled my senses. For a quick moment, I felt 14 years old again. But that didn’t last long as I got a good sense of the layout. As you walk in to your right is where you pick up your skates. To your left was the rink and further on down was the concession area. It’s a fairly large building and there were already a lot of people there. When I got there the band Kid Scientist was already playing out in the middle of the rink while people skated around them. I found my way to the concession area and was stunned to see them selling beer, then I noticed people skating with PBRs in their hands. Had I gone to heaven? I bought a beer then settled in on the side area to take everything in.
 
I saw many people I kind of recognized but no one I really knew. Then Jason Vargas came up and said “hello”. Hadn’t seen him in a few years, we use to work together but he left to raise a family. He said he was doing well and had two young kids but he was getting back into playing live music. Jason had played (and showed work) at one of the first art shows I helped organized on Cherokee Street back in 04 or 05, when Radio Cherokee was still open. He had skates on and skated off. Then I saw Bowls MacLean and he had his camera. He was snapping away at everyone skating and standing around. He knew most of the people there and was just trying to capture the event. We talked for a bit and I mentioned how low the lighting was. I wanted to snap some photos but I didn’t want to use a flash. He asked to see my camera and I handed it over. he said some technical stuff that went over my head and made some changes with the settings on my camera. Then gave it back to me and said “try that”. I snapped a few shots and they looked beautiful. I thanked him and he said no problem then went back to shooting the scene.
 
Right about that time I ran into Tony Patti. I’ve known Tony for about 14 years or so, not very long considering. Tony has been in and out of the local scene since the mid-late 70s. I first met him when we both hung out at Frederick’s Music Lounge. We quickly caught up with each other and then started contemplating the scene in front of us at the rink. He’s a big fan of Kid Scientist and was excitedly telling me all about them. After they finished, the next band started setting up. The Chill Dawgs fronted by the awesome Bassamp began playing some great Rock And Roll. Guitar, bass, drums plus not one but two saxophone players. They were sounding good and I snapped a few photos, grabbed another beer and continued talking with Tony.
 
Tony is in the midst of writing a novel and I greatly enjoy hearing about his creative process. In many ways it’s a lot like painting, sketching out ideas, spreading color on the canvas, editing images out or creating new ones, filling in more color, shading, etc. He and I can spend hours talking about this stuff and we did that night. After the Chill Dawgs were done, Celia’s band, Firedog, kept things going. Celia played some fantastic bass lines and got a few people without skates on out on the floor to dance. Tony and I continued talking and taking in everything going on.
 
Around 12:30am or so the feature band was about to begin. Ellen the Felon consists of Ellen Cook on keyboard and vocals plus a drummer namedMatthew “The Mattronome” Reyland. As they were about to begin a nice circle of fans grew closer to the middle of the rink waiting for the music to start. And it started with a bang. The Mattronome wailed on his drums, leaving nothing untouched, I understood how he got his name. In constant motion, never resting on a simple high-hat, snare combo rhythm but employing all items within his reach. Then you have Ellen, providing all the beautiful melodies with her keyboard and vocals. It was really stunning to see and hear just her and the drummer filling the whole Skatium with such a full sound. People danced and skated as they performed and I snapped quite a few shots. It was difficult with the low light, I even tried a few with a flash but those looked even worse. I do really like the photo I’m working from for the painting above but had hoped to get a nice shot of both musicians. Perhaps next time. 
 
 
now playing - Ellen Cook 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Art Miami 2013


A few months back, an amazing opportunity presented itself. I was contacted by Alicia LaChance from Hoffman LaChance Contemporary and invited to participate in Art Miami. Alicia had submitted the gallery as a presenter at Aqua Art and was gathering a number of artists together to help represent the gallery. I was thrilled to be invited and jumped at the chance to participate. She asked about smaller, newer works that I could send down to Miami. I was at a loss mainly due to the good year I had. Virtually every painting I had completed this year had sold, except for one. This didn’t leave me with many options for sending down recent works. I decided to include the pieces I had done for the Tower Groove Records subscription series. These were small and fairly recent, completed in Dec of 2012. I thought I might have time to complete two new small pieces and started on them. One of the band Demonlover playing at the Heavy Anchor and another of a special live performance at Laumeier Sculpture Park featuring Arrington de Dionyso, Thollem McDonas, and Eric Hall. I was able to complete the Laumeier Park one in time to be sent down for the show, pictured above.

The thought of being part of a such a huge art fair is mind blowing and I greatly appreciate everything Alicia LaChance and Michael Hoffman have done. This list of artists showing works includes John Phillip Abbott,
 Michael Behle,

, ,,,,,,,
Christopher Burch,
David Carter,
Jon Cournoyer, Michael Hoffman, Kahlil Irving,
Jeffrey Cortland Jones,
Kit Keith,
Ron Laboray,
Alicia LaChance,



Alicia LaChance - New Village
Robert Longyear,


Benjamin Lowder,
Paquet Christopher,
Jeremy Rabus
and
Danielle Spradley



                 


To be part of this group is humbling. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Centro-matic at Off Broadway


Earlier this year I met Karl Haglund through Twitter. Vintage Vinyl had tweeted about an artist showing paintings and prints of guitars at their store and it peaked my interested. I went to the show and introduced myself to Karl and bought a print of Jay Farrar’s guitar. After that meeting, Karl and I have stayed in contact through email and Facebook. He’s just like me. He’s entering middle age, married, has two kids (boy and girl), plays guitar/drums and has a severe addiction to painting. Karl use to live in St. Louis but no he resides in Iowa with his family and sells his paintings and prints of his paintings to a growing list of clients. One day he emailed me saying his favorite band, Centro-matic was playing St. Louis and he was making the trek down to see them and asked if I’d like to join him. Sure, I would be happy to go along. He also mentioned he’d like to do a trade of paintings. He brought down a beautiful painting of J. Mascis’ guitar and traded me a piece I had done on the building of the former location of the American Folk Museum that was located in New York City before it had to move.
 
We hung out in my studio for a bit and he mentioned how he’d love a painting of Centro-matic performing from me. We worked out a deal and I decided to take my camera along to the show to snap some photos for reference. Before we left we had a few beers, then we arrived early at Off Broadway but Paul was working the door and he could see we were harmless so he let us in a little early into the courtyard and we had a few more beers. It was really great to hang out and talk with someone like Karl. He’s pretty much in the same boat as me when it comes to what he’s trying to accomplish and balancing that all out with family life. We talked, we drank and before we knew it, it was dark and the first band was opening. Half-Knots is a local STL band that has connections to the Undertow label and they started the night off with a terrific set featuring Chris Grabau on guitar. A few more beers later and it was time for Centro-matic. I’ve always been a fan of Centro-matic but this was my first time seeing them live and they were phenomenal. It’s always amazing to see musicians who are roughing it on the road play a top notch set even with technical issues (apparently the bass drum pedal stopped working and a replacement had to be found). I snapped a few photos and was finally happy with a shot of all 4 members.
 
After the show Karl talked with various members of the band, he had brought a print for one of them and he already knew Will Johnson (front man for Centro-matic) from collecting Will’s art and vice versa. While Karl was busy with Will, I was at the merch table giving a sob story about only having 7 dollars in cash, but the band was more than willing to cut me a break and sell me a vinyl record. With my new purchased bounty I wandered over to Karl and Will. Karl introduced me as “The artist” to Will and I tried not to show I was in awe of him. I mentioned to him that we had a common acquaintance and Will knew who I was talking about. He asked how he was doing and how I knew him. I told him we were in our first band together. Will asked the name of the band and I looked him square in the eyes and said “From Sikeston, MO, the Bearded Clam Wonder”. He said, “Oh?” and had a semi-confused look on his face. Even though I was telling the truth, I knew I had gone too far and better make a respectable retreat. I told him how fantastic the band sounded and wish him well on his travels.
 
We all piled into Karl’s friend’s car and they drove me back home. That very same night Billy Bragg was playing at the Old Rock House to a sold out crowd. Earlier in the day he had done an in store appearance at Vintage Vinyl and while there he saw Karl’s prints of guitars and loved them. When Karl got home from that STL trip he had an email waiting for him from Billy Bragg asking him to paint his guitar.
 
now playing - Centro-matic

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hoffman LaChance Contemporary


Over the years I’ve been very lucky to have been associated with Hoffman LaChance Contemporary gallery in Maplewood, MO. They pretty much focus exclusively on displaying work from painters and I greatly appreciate being involved in numerous shows over the years. I still remember about 8 years ago watching a small piece about them and the gallery on PBS while feeding my newborn son. At the time I was getting seriously back into painting and I had a little daydream about how cool it would be to show at their gallery. The next year I was included in their group holiday show thanks to William LaChance. Since then I’ve gotten to know both Michael and Alicia and they have always been helpful, encouraging and supportive.

Another group show is coming up at the gallery and the opening is Friday Oct 11. The theme of this show is “Zombies” with 30 + artists both regional and national showing original work. Their openings are always fun and entertaining. Many times I’ve gone thinking I’ll just pop in for an hour to check out the work and end up being the last one to leave or we move the party to a late night bar and even once we got some bowling in at Saratoga which is just a few buildings down from the gallery.
 
I wasn’t sure what to contribute to this show but settled on a simple portrait of Frankenstein who seems to me to be the first or original zombie, though man made. To make it interesting I decided to use oil instead of my usual medium acrylic. I had an old wood panel measuring 12 by 12 inches and spray painted it green. I made a rough outline of the face but didn’t like how it looked so I wiped it out and started over. While I was making a new outline, my daughter wandered into my studio and asked what I was doing. I showed her the picture I was working from but she didn’t think much of it and asked if she could paint. So I set up an easel and got her started next to me. Then I returned to my piece and started filling in the details. Every now and then my daughter would look over and see what I was doing. Or she’d get up and play with markers or listen to music. After about two hours she looked over at the painting and let out a small scream. She was surprised at how it looked from the last time she saw it and it frightened her. She immediately ask that I put the painting away so she can’t see it anymore. I said, “OK” and figured if it scared her that much then it must be done and sat it on the rack to dry.