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23 July 2007

My afternoon with Brian Vander Ark

A few weeks ago, I got an email newsletter from Brian Vander Ark. You may know of him as the former lead singer and songwriter for The Verve Pipe, a Michigan band from the 90s that had a Billboard #1 called "The Freshmen" in 1997. Brian has been solo for a couple years now, and has released two studio albums and two live recordings. His email says he's signed up "legendary producer Bill Szymczyk" to produce his third studio album. Mr. Szymczyk produced "Hotel California" for the eagles, among others.

But the bad news - touring the country in the air stream with his pianist, his wife, and his 2 year old child, was more about building a fan base than making money, so he had no money to record the new album.

His solution - an unusual one to say the least - was to spend the months of July and August playing in living rooms and at back yard BBQs - birthday parties and family gatherings of his most dedicated fans. Dedicated in that they'd be willing to fork out some $$ for him to do so.

Yesterday afternoon was my turn. Brian had scheduled 2 shows in this area, so he flew into RDU from Grand Rapids, rented a car and got a hotel room near the airport... then headed out to my mom's house in Fuquay-Varina (about 10 miles south of Raleigh). For me, it was a birthday party - but I really didn't need an excuse. Those of you who know me know that I've been spouting off about The Verve Pipe - and Brian - since 1993. After getting a little mixed up thanks to mapquest, and with some help on the phone from me, he found his way out to the house around 4 o'clock. I gave him the tour, he talked with some family members, enjoyed my dad's huge garden train (his setup is probably around 3000 square feet!). We started the show around 4:30. Brian brought only an overnight bag and his Gibson guitar. He sat in a chair on the patio, and we all sat in lawn chairs nearby, or on the stairs up to the house. Brian played for about an hour, being interrupted between songs by my daughters fascination with his guitar (he let her strum it a few times and was very good natured about it).

After he was done playing - around 5:30, I lit up the grill and started pulling meat out of the cooler. After Brian saw the package of Beddar Cheddar smoked sausages, his eyes got wide and he exclaimed how good they were, so I offered him one, and he naturally accepted. He played another song or two while I was cooking, and then we worked on getting him some directions to his next gig in Chapel Hill, which was at 7 o'clock. Finally got him on his way around 6:15pm, and I guess he made it to Chapel Hill about 5 minutes late.

It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and worth every penny of the $$$ it cost me to have him come down and play.

On his web site, he wrote the following in his journal entry after doing several such shows last weekend:

after this amazing weekend, i have such little desire to go out and bang my head on the wall in places that could care less that i was there. this is a DRUG. this is what it should be about. it's just music, being played on an acoustic guitar. why do we need a stage, and lights and amplification? why do we need that seperation between performer and crowd? i get very little satisfaction out of it. i don't need to be four feet above everyone's head as i play. just give me a living room, and chair, and some fans, and i'm the happiest songwriter, ex-rockstar that ever lived.

You could argue that playing birthday parties is lame. I think, if some musician played private parties only for teenage girls whose rich parents could afford it.. well, that might be lame. But you can't read the above comments and not have anything but great respect for him - and his reasonings for doing these shows.

Only you know what great music is. Don't let recording executives or corporate radio statiosn tell you what's great.

I'll be posting pictures from the party soon - respond to this blog entry if you'd like to see them.  Make sure you click the "subscribe" button when you reply.

Posted by rickroot at 12:19 PM | Link | 2 comments
03 July 2007

Headlines from the year 2029

  • Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in the seventh largest country in the world, Mexifornia , formerly known as California . White minorities still trying to have English recognized as Mexifornia's third language.
  • Spotted Owl plague threatens northwestern United States crops and livestock.
  • Baby conceived naturally. Scientists stumped.
  • Couple petitions court to reinstate heterosexual marriage.
  • Iran still closed off; physicists estimate it will take at least 10 more years before radioactivity decreases to safe levels.
  • France pleads for global help after being taken over by Jamaica . No other country comes forward to help the beleaguered nation!
  • Castro finally dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.
  • George Z. Bush says he will run for President in 2036.
  • Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail delivery to Wednesdays only.
  • 85-year $75.8 billion study: Diet and e xercise is the key to weight loss.
  • Average weight of Americans drops to 250 lbs.
  • Global cooling blamed for citrus crop failure for third consecutive year in Mexifornia and Florexico.
  • Japanese scientists have created a camera with such a fast shutter speed they now can photograph a woman with her mouth shut.
  • Abortion clinics now available in every High School in United States.
  • Senate still blocking drilling in ANWR even though gas is selling for 4532 Pesos per liter and gas stations are only open on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • Massachusetts executes last remaining conservative.
  • Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.
  • Average height of NBA players is now nine feet, seven inches.
  • New federal law requires that all nail clippers, screwdrivers, fly swatters and rolled-up newspapers must be registered by January 2030
  • Congress authorizes direct deposit of formerly illegal political contributions to campaign accounts.
  • IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75 percent.
  • Florexico voters still having trouble with voting machines.
Posted by rickroot at 8:51 AM | Link | 1 comment