A User's Guide to Matt's Holiday Brag Letter
If this got past your spam filter, but you aren't interested in this sort of thing, just delete it unread, I won't be unhappy. Heck, I won't even know! If, on the other hand, you like these holiday brag letters, read on.…
I've never done one before, because I haven't felt like I've had anything much to brag about since these things started to get popular…
However, currently I have one nostril above the lapping waves of misery and depression, so I will (to mix metaphors) strike while the iron is somewhat warm.
Since I've become practically autistic in my interactions with the world except in the realm of music, in many ways this will be a musical narrative
So many things happened in 2008 (it's just a few days into the new year, sorry about the procrastination generated delay), good and bad that to try to rank them would be impossible, so I'll just retell the year in strictly chronological order. Now, without further delay, I present
Matt's Holiday Brag Letter
The beginning of the year found us in Brazil. The tail end of the previous year brought us to Santo Antônio do Pinhal, a small mountain town, to celebrate Anne's University of Alberta student Edgar Vieira's marriage to Inae Gadotti.
From there we went to the beach near Ubatuba with about 16 of Ed and Na's closest friends from Brazil and Canada.
From Ubatuba we went to São Paulo where I finally met face-to-face my long distance friends and occasional musical partners in cyberspace Lulina and Leo. We began rehearsals for a show at the Bar B with Lu's band and a couple of other friends – Leo's housemate Anashio and The Fazz. It was then we learned that Ana was Ed's sister-in-law, and she'd been at the wedding too! She said, "The world is a tiny little pea," and that has become my quote of the year.
São Paulo is a city of 18 million people – what are the odds? This was the first (and the best) of some amazing coincidences that happened this year.
We performed as "The Waiters" because we have been waiting so long to do this project, and it was super mega-fun. It was the first time I've performed publicly in years, and the first time I've ever sang more than one of my songs in a show… you can hear recording from our final rehearsal here (The Fazz did the great poster for the show on that page, by the way – she's a brilliant graphic designer and also a playwright. All my friends in Sao Paulo have multiple talents, it's very intimidating) and you can see vids Anne made at the show here or here or here. I went to Brazil with a few cyberfriends and left with a dozen flesh-and-blood ones…
In February we went and spent some time in Washington State. I renewed my songwriting partnership with Dave Hastings after a layoff of something like 30 years, and while I think we have some promising material, we don't have any recordings to share with anybody yet. From there we went to Wenatchee where we spent some time with my dad, who health had clearly declined since the previous year. He accepted whatever blows and insults time delivered to him without complaint and with good humor.
In March, I decided to go to Canadian Music Week in March Toronto in part to see if I could find a place in the music industry here, but largely to see my fellow Waiter Bruno Ramos who was there representing Brazil. It was great seeing him again, and I learned a lot about the state of the Canadian music industry… in a nutshell, things are as messed up as the US, and there are no easy solutions.
Also while in Toronto, I was interviewed on camera by John Mitchell for his documentary "Waiting for Ishtar" a film about fans of the unfairly maligned Beatty-Hoffman classic. I'm the decider of the Yahoo group I Love Ishtar, so my opinions were of a tiny bit of interest to John. I tried to be pithy. There are more of us (Ishtar fans) than you might think, and no, we're not crazy. Well, I might be but the rest of us aren't.
Anne's birthday was on Easter this year, and we got together with her family to celebrate it in Cheaha (pronounced the same as "tia", as in "Bom dia, Como é a sua tia") State Park, the highest point in Alabama. I wrote and recorded some songs with Anne's niece Tara, age 8. She pretty much made it clear this is only gonna happen again "in your [my] dreams." What the heck?!? Hey, I thought they were good! You can hear the results here or see a vid of Tara rocking out here. That girl can shred!
We took a side trip to Athens, Georgia were I met another cyberfriend in person for the first time – Georgeanne Olive. We met on MySpace when we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Andy Griffith's Matlock TV show. She's a really nice, interesting person, and she graciously us all around town, taking us to all the B-52s and REM landmarks, and we had a great lunch at Weaver D's, where the motto (and REM album title) "Automatic for the People" was born. That was some awesome food; you have to go to Sao Paulo or Paris to match it!
In April, Anne and I did go to Paris where I met face-to-face with another longtime friend and musical partner Vincent Knobil, (Spell-check suggests "Kenobi" as the correct spelling for Knobil – I think they are on to something) for the first time. Vincent and I are the mainstays of an ongoing international collaborative called "Remote Possibility."
No musical instruments were tormented during this visit, but we had great conversation and meals with Vincent and his expat American girlfriend Pamela Poole, and of course the sightseeing was unsurpassed. I was disabused of much received "knowledge" about the French. One example: everybody was extremely nice to me, though I only knew and used two words of French ("bonjour" and "merci") the entire time we were there. I spoke in English, never pretended to be Canadian, and not one person gave me a hard time. People were helpful and friendly, and happy to reply in English if the could, and that was often the case.
May was a terrific month. I won a contest on Polskie Radio.(Radio Poland) by identifying which of these Polish directors never won an Oscar: a) Roman Polański, b) Andrzej Wajda, or c) Krzysztof Kieślowski. The question is so easy, the answer should be obvious to anybody just walking down the street. They sent me a coffee mug (useful) a flash drive (very useful) and a cd (boring).
Next Anne and I went to Vancouver BC. One evening while we were out walking the dogs in a park, we ran into Graham, one of Ed's Canadian friends from the wedding and the beach. He was there participating in a kayaking class. I was pretty amazed, but he just said "oh, are you in town?" as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world to meet like this.
But what made the month of May terrific was that I reconciled with my daughter Olivia (known to some of you as "Kelsie" after six long sad years of being incommunicado, and we played a radio show in Portland together. It was a bit of a shambles aesthetically, (you can hear the songs we did, as well as recordings from back in the day here) emotionally it was a wonderfully rewarded experience. The show was a tribute to my dear friend Joe Sibley, who ended his own life last year. It was very traumatic, and it was good to get together with friends of his (Jim McAdams, my daughter, and Brian Castillo and Elizabeth Hummel). It was an experience that brought some healing to a very deep wound.
One unexpected benefit of the trip was that I really got to know Ryan Ray, who I'd done some music with back 10 years ago or so, but I didn't really get to know him much at all then. This time I got to know Ryan well, and I've drawn him into both my Remote Possibility and Blood Paradise circles. This trip also marked a renewal of my musical activities with Blood Paradise after a bit of a layoff. I've been able to get down to Olympia every couple of months to play with them, and it's been mostly harmless fun. To see vids of the first session Ryan sat in on, go here or here or here.
In May we also spent more time with my father, and again his health had declined a great deal. He was no longer mobile without assistance, and it was clear his heart was failing and his body was just giving out.
In July my father died at the age of 95. This came after a long period of declining health. I am very glad that I was able to spend as much time with him as I did over the last 3 years or so. His death represents a release from a terrific burden of physical ailment and mental decline, and a life that surely was lacking in much pleasure since the death of my mother in 2006. Dad was an amazing and wonderful man, and I miss him greatly.
The first weekend of August was the Edmonton Heritage Festival. Anne was only able to go the final day, but I took in all three. The first day I walked in, and in about the first 5 minutes ran into one of the few people I knew in Edmonton, Na, and a couple of her Brazilian friends from Calgary. Not bad, considering there were tens of thousands of people there. I happily spent most of the afternoon with them.
Over that day and the next couple of days, I heard amazing music from an amazing number of different cultures – who would have imagined this city out in the middle of the prairie would be so cosmopolitan?
On the final day of he festival, I was so taken with a band I saw at the Taiwanese pavilion – Silent Rock – that I approached them to play at my birthday party (after years of interruption, I've revived my tradition of throwing a party for myself – it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it).
In early August we went to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. This was our 2nd time, and it was great. I was particularly looking forward to Cat Power, and Broken Social Scene, but I was most impressed with Hawksley Workman His "Piano Blink" is my song of the year, I think…the guy just slays me, he's not just good for a Canadian, he's a world-class talent…
On September 13th we celebrated my 13th annual 40th birthday. I'm sure glad that Anne is so well-liked by her colleagues, because everybody that was there was a co-worker or with a co-worker of hers...even the band I performed with, except the rhythm section, which was Sunny and Nehemiah from Silent Rock helping us out.
It was fun, and Silent Rock was brilliant. At least some them were dubious that our crowd of aging Anglos would appreciate their music which was all in Mandarin, but no worries there, they went over great, at one point Sunny and Hanson, the lead singer, did this unison thing where they sang up and up and up, and everybody just spontaneously applauded in the middle of the song, I knew they were a hit. People came up to me afterwards and asked me "where did you find these guys?" and it was just like with Little Jack Melody who destroyed people with his greatness at my first 40th birthday party. I felt my self-image as a finder of talent was reinforced in a big way.
The next day I went to the ARTery and saw Wendy McNeill, an amazing singer/songwriter from Edmonton - She was so great! It was an incredible weekend.
In October I had the great good fortune to perform at "Raise your Voice for Rights: a world music concert in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" sponsored by the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of Alberta for Amnesty International. I performed with some awesome musicians; Rana al-Kadi, a great vocalist, Niyati Dhokai, a wonderful violinist, and Tendai Muparutsa, an amazing vocalist, percussionist, guitar player, and Nicole LeBihan who beautifully played the mbira.
I posted some of the performances (one of Rana's songs, one of Tandai's, two of mine) here, naming the ad hoc unit "Tiny Little Pea" for obvious reasons.
Anne got tied of my moping around the house and incessant whining about how much I missed the people in Brazil, so 2 days after the AI concert, we returned there. It was a wonderful trip, and musically very satisfying. I played a show with Lulina (see a video of one song of hers we did here), and The Waiters performed at Café Electrico and Parque Buenos Aires (see vids from this show here or here or here). This time the very able and appreciated promoter and manager from January, Mancha, took time out from his excellent band Aspen perform with us, because Bruno was unavailable due to finishing up his Law degree. If you want more details on this trip, I've posted a 3700 word essay about it here. (and two others that he's working with!) to
In November I flew to Seattle where I picked up a rental truck and Ryan, drove to Olympia where Ryan and I loaded up the truck with Joe's belongings, and after a lubricated and extremely shambolic Blood Paradise session, set out the next day for Blackwell, Oklahoma where Joe's family lives. What was that, about 70,000 miles in 3 days? It was grueling, and I sure appreciated Ryan's focus and discipline. It was a -pleasure to meet Joe's mom Shirley, his brother Paul, and his sister-in-law Debbie. They are among the world's nicest people, and it was just so sad to have to meet them under these circumstances.
At the end of the month, we traveled again to Alabama for my brother-in-law's 50th birthday, which also fell on Thanksgiving. This time we stayed hunkered down in Birmingham. While there we met Rick Nance, a friend of Zé (Jose Lima – I think everybody there gets a short nickname) a new Brazilian friend (from the October trip). By this point it didn't come as a huge surprise to learn that Rick's sister works with the mother of Brad Bittinger down in Daphne (near Mobile). Brad's collaborated with me in Remote Possibility and Petrichör, including one song with Lulina.
The mysterious ties that bind my friends in Brazil to unexpected areas in my life continue to be revealed. Anne is skeptical. She points out that Rick and Brad both do experimental music. But I argued that they are completely different kinds of experimental music, and the connection between them has nothing to do with music, it has to do with relatives of theirs working in a school! Anyway, the debate continues.
In December I won a contest on Canadian Broadcasting. I was hoping for another coffee mug, but all I got was the dreaded tote bag. Oh well.
We went to a concert by the Edmonton Chinese Choir, because Silent Rock did a segment. They were really cool, but we really enjoyed the older people music, too. It was interesting to hear the many different styles, some of them western sounding, some quite alien and presumably more traditional. They had a drawing, and amazingly, I didn't win, about the only time in this year of winning things.
Later that day we went to see Tendai and Nicole and friends playing the music of Zimbabwe at the Yoga Hut (that's not really what it's called but it was in a yoga studio, the crowd there was like a meeting of the Evergreen Alumni Association)
The next day we drove to Calgary to see the Heebee-Jeebees we hadn't seen them in years, and it was very enjoyable, they've been at this 15 years, and have a great act, lots of great music and humor.
On Christmas Day Anne and I started an annual holiday tradition of watching Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. After we watched it, we decided to end the tradition.
The year ended on a high note, with Jim Lennon McAdams playing my cover of Happy Christmas (war is over) by John Lennon (I used extensive market research in selecting the song to cover) on the "White Noise Christmas" edition of his radio program "What's This Called." You can listen to it here.
Brian Stevenson reports my recording of "Hit Bush With Shoe" is popular with his listeners on KUSA radio station in Yakima. It doesn't surprise me; this is the first song where I applied my findings in an exciting new area of musical research I've undertaken. To learn more about "The General Theory of Ooga Chakka" (and for links to other songs where I've applied my research findings) click here.
I just wanted to end with a couple of things that I couldn't pin down a date for… I really appreciated my new musical cohort Mark Harms of the Harmsichord Musical Research Complex. It was maybe this year or last year he started working with Vincent and me in Remote Possiblity… he brilliantly produced a couple of RP projects that just slipped out of my control because I was having equipment problems, and the projects got so complicated. Mark is as organized as he is musically talented (a fairly rare combination!
Love me, love my vids