Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greetings from Scotland!

Good morning from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, er, I mean from Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve never been to the WWHP, but Tyra has. She’s right that Edinburgh looks like a movie set, especially when you’re wandering around in the wee hours of the morning in search of a slice of pizza (found one). The cobblestone streets and narrow staircases that twist through the Old Town account for the ghost story history, and I was glad to have a friend with me. I don’t believe in ghosts, except when I am in Scotland.

I’ve been here at least five times, and that night time view of the castle jutting out of the volcano top, majestically illuminated with fancy 21st century lighting STILL blows me away. Even last night coming home from the gig in our taxi, I told Tyra, “Look over there.” I knew the castle would impress her, but I didn’t expect it to affect me like that. But every time, I am amazed.

Anyway, the gig was wonderful. It was better than I expected, especially for having flown in that morning from the States. Folks traveled from as far as Wolverhampton (a six-hour drive) to see me play, which was an amazing surprise. The crowd was great, and they sat attentively for much longer than I can sit still, hanging on to every lyric and making me remember why I love playing in the UK.

Nick Keir was an absolute wonder to see live, and I can’t wait to get him to American somehow. His songwriting is perfect, and his voice gives me chills. Hearing him live is even better than his CDs – something I generally don’t like to say, but i really was blown away by his songs.

Lissa-Kathe was the support act (I love how they say “support act” over here. It’s so much more charming than “opener.”), and she was a wonderful surprise. I love hearing other piano players because it is such a challenge to bring classical piano training to a folk-pop world. She played beautifully, even bringing an antique Hohner Accorion to the evening, where I attempted to back her up on a traditional tune on a wee accordion duet.

It was a fun evening, and completely made up for the fact that we didn’t get bumped to Business Class yesterday. Yes, Tyra and I admit that we are both completely spoiled brats when it comes to flying coach on Trans-Atlantic flights. We did, however, get Business Class treatment and free cocktails (not just beer and wine) thanks to a few tricks I had up my sleeve. The flight attendants even snuck the little Business Class goodie bags up to us and greeted us with mimosas, much to the annoyance of the people sitting across the aisle from us. I’m used to hostels and tour vans, but I like a mimosa pre-flight and an eyepatch and earplugs during. I know, I know, I am a princess. I’m okay with that.

Anyway, our dance card is quickly filling up, as Tyra made a thousand friends at last night’s gig. We’ve got a lunch date and an afternoon sight-seeing date and dinner reservations at The Witchery. This place may be haunted, but it sure is fun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

John Prine, First concerts, and Tic Tacs

The first concert I remember attending was when I was about six or seven. It was Arlo Guthrie and John Prine at Memorial Auditorium, and I got a full package of orange Tic Tacs for the occasion. I loved orange Tic Tacs. I loved their little medicine-like packaging, and how they tasted, and mostly ... how they smelled.

I remember listening to Arlo Guthrie, hoping more than anything that he would go ahead and sing "This Land is Your Land," and smelling those little orange tablets. As I took a deep whiff of orangy-sweetness, I noticed the candy was not on my finger anymore. It was somewhere up my nose.

Most of that night was pretty stressful because I knew I had been foolish. I couldn't possibly tell my parents that I had inhaled a Tic Tac, but I knew I didn't want to live my entire life with orange candy up my nose. Eventually, I sneezed, and relief abounded. But that's what I think of when I think of my first concert.

So, who's going to John Prine tonight at the Palace? He's my Grateful Dead. I've seen him more times than I've seen Johnny Berry. Well, that may not be true, but it's probably pretty close. It's my mom's fault, as she played him for me in the womb. For years, I thought "Illegal Smile" was "Illy Ol' Smile," like some sort of deedly-dee Irish song about smiling. I remember laughing at the "Happy Enchilada" girl on that live album for years before I figured out the "Illegal Smile" thing sometime in high school.

For years, most of my friends had never heard of him. Now he's somehow made this foray into the hipster scene, which is totally okay with me. It means I hear him on the radio when I'm in places outside of Kentucky. It means when I sing one of his songs in remote Isles of Scotland, someone in the audience smiles extra.

I got to meet him when he was here in November 2008, thanks to my friend Al, as well as my friend Tim Krekel. They both knew I'd wanted to meet him, and Tim was a friend of John's. Even today, Tim's Facebook profile picture remains a photo that we took that night of Tim, Debbie, John Prine, me, and John's bass player Dave. It was a fun night, and of course I told JP I wanted to play accordion with him someday. He smiled and said he'd heard I played with Elvis, and that it would be fun to play a few next time he's in town. He even named of a few tunes that would work well with the accordion. (My blog from that week recounts the story.) Well, I don't think it's going to happen tonight because JP seems a bit more shy than Elvis, but I'm still really excited about going to the concert.

So thanks, Tim, and thanks, Al, and maybe I'll see some of you folks with good taste in music out at the Palace tonight. I'll bring the Tic Tacs.

Good Show alert!
Friday, October 29, The Rudyard Kipling. 7:30.
If you can't afford the big-ticket shows like the Palace or you prefer intimate venues rather than the YUM! Arena, then mark your calendar this minute for next Friday, when John Prine's guitar player, Jason Wilber, will be playing at the Rud. I hate that that's the first thing everyone says about him because he's a tremendous singer-songwriter on his own, without the John Prine name-dropping. But I admite that's what first piqued my interest in his music, and if you like John Prine, you'll like Jason Wilber. Anyway, the price to see Jason solo is $8 in advance (www.jasonwilber.net/tickets) or $10 at the door. If you go, tell him I sent you. That way maybe he won't think of me as just the crazy-girl-who-emailed-him-asking-to-play-accordion-with-John-Prine. He'll think of me instead as a powerful marketing tool, hee hee. I had every intention of dropping by the Rud that night to play some tunes with Jason and opening act Joel Timothy (whose songwriting i LOVE!), but instead, I'll be in Paris that night. Woe is me!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recording, Packing, Making lists!

Usually it's February that comes and goes before I blink. But somehow we've made it to October 19 before I realized that it's October. I keep thinking it's August, partly probably because of the crazy-warm weather (which I love love love), but mostly because I've been stupid-busy for the past month.

Right now I'm trying to finish up some recording before I leave for a quick Scotland tour. It's not a new record, but I thought I'd record a lo-fi EP with some newer tunes or some live show favorites that I doubtful will ever actually put on a full-length CD. I'm also thinking of doing the opposite of what most artists seem to be doing, which is not releasing this digitally at all ... and only making it available at live shows. I don't know. So much to think about! But the nice thing is having something new in my hands when I fly 4000 miles to a gig.

It's also been fun doing all the recordings myself, and I've never been so thankful for 1) my MacBook Pro and 2) being able to play a bunch of instruments. I like being able to record a piano or accordion solo on a whim at midnight. I like not having to depend on a guitar player for a scratch track. What I don't like is the freedom to re-record and re-record and re-record. Fortunately, I'm extremely impatient, so if it involves more than two takes, I just scrap the song.

So I leave for Scotland on Monday morning, and I've got all kinds of excitement to fit in before then: mix and master EP, burn CDs, put together in fancy sleeves, go see John Prine on Friday, volunteer at FWT's big conference this weekend, go to the wedding of some super-good friends, walk with my mom at the American Cancer Society walk on Sunday (http://tinyurl.com/pkaelin to donate! She's just $80 shy of her goal it looks like...), learn some other people's songs to sit in with them for the Edinburgh show, pack, and calculate how many Baked Potatoes from the Baked Potato Shoppe I can fit into 3.5 days in Edinburgh.

Sorry to use my blog as a To Do ListMaker.... I plan on sharing lots of adventures with you from the road. I'll be back in November ... November!! Can you believe it?

Monday, October 18, 2010

WoodSongs Video

Remember when I played WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour a few weeks ago? And the other amazing guest was Raul Malo?

Well, two things:
1) Raul Malo has a new record out, and you should check it out.
2) The video of the WoodSongs broadcast is up and available to see for free: http://128.163.130.14/woodsongs-592.wmv. I start playing about halfway through, I'm told. I admit that I haven't actually watched it yet. Seeing myself on video is kind of like listening to yourself on the answering machine. I can handle hearing my voice singing, but talking or on video ... do not like. Let me know how it is...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Am I turning into a grown-up?

This morning I woke up and did two uncharacteristic things. First, while getting dressed, I decided I wanted matching socks. You may not know this about me, but I never wear matching socks. They are almost always the same thickness (unless my sprankle is swollen, in which case I wear thin on the right foot and thick on the left), but they are rarely the same color or pattern. I don't purposely try to be contrary. I just don't understand why, if I'm wearing boots, it matters. But this morning, I took 10 minutes and matched up socks in my drawer, making a separate pile for the loners, and even contemplating throwing them away.

The second thing I did was to turn on the television while I was eating breakfast. It probably doesn't seem that odd to you, but I can count on one hand the number of times I've turned on the TV this year. I just don't ever think to do it, mostly because I usually have too much else I'd rather do. This morning, however, I didn't really have anywhere else to sit while eating, other than in the TV room. It's mostly because I got a new couch, and it's so nice that I don't want to eat around it, lest I ruin the one grown-up thing in my house (besides the KitchenAid Mixer, of course).

So, in the words of the Rainbow Hiker, "What does it mean?" What's with me? I watched about 5 minutes of "Regis and Kelly," although I'm pretty sure that dude this morning was NOT Regis. I even laughed out loud, before it occurred to me that I was watching TV.

I think maybe the sock thing was pure procrastination. I have so much to do that I needed to postpone them by doing something ridiculously (and unnecessary, if you ask me) domestic.

At the same time, I think maybe I'm changing a little bit. Suddenly I like having a couch that matches the rug. I like having a bright red stand mixer on the counter. I like not having a thousand roommates. It seems irresponsible to me to spend my savings account on pressing a new record. It seems like ... maybe I'm turning into a grown-up. DISLIKE!!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scotland, Paris, and adventures.

Soooooo .... let's just say that your original 2010 Fall United Kingdom tour plans didn't quite work out. And for various personal and business reasons -- weddings, plane tickets, transportation -- you had to cancel a wonderful festival gig in England. (I still feel awful about doing that, and it's my first time ever canceling a gig... and such a wonderful one at that.) But you keep the one gig in Edinburgh because flights are much cheaper on a Monday, and your fairy godmother of a friend decides she wants to join you on this tour anyway.

Well, obviously, you go to Edinburgh, play an awesome show, hang out for a few days, drink fine Scotch, play music with the locals, climb an extinct volcano, take a ghost tour, and then fly to Paris. Obviously, right?

The next question is, then, what do two hott ladies do in Paris for a week? Give me your tips, your secrets, your hotspots, your advice, and your wisdom, my friends. I've got 3.5 days in Edinburgh and 4.5 days in Paris.

And, you friends in Scotland, please come to the Leith Folk Club on Tuesday, October 26, doors at 7:30. Nick Keir will be playing a set, as will Lissa-Käthe (an UMLAUT!! check it out!!), and, of course, I will be playing a set as well. Should be a full-on show ... complete with accordion, piano, guitar, musical saw, and yodeling.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lessons from DIY and manual labor.

I've learned a LOT about DIY stuff in the past month. For example, I now know what "DIY" stands for, although I have yet to learn how to pronounce it. (I like "DIE.") I think it seems mostly about owning a bunch of tools, and knowing what other tools exist out there in the world.

I wish that music was like that. I wish that every time I had a new session or gig, I could reasonably say, "Hmmmmm... yes.... well, I'm going to need a 42-key pink accordion with a MIDI out for this gig. Better go out and buy one." That seems to be how DIY works. When you need to "route" something (which does not involve using the GPS feature on your iPhone, by the way), you run to the store and buy a router. Apparently, buying a bunch of tools is still cheaper than paying someone else to do it for you. Then you can route all kinds of things. My piano might need some routing.

My new favorite tool is the caulk gun. You might say that I am the Queen of Caulk (but please don't say it out loud). FWT was doubtful when he gave me the menial task of caulking a baseboard last week, but by the time he turned his head, I'd not only caulked the entire bathroom, but was contemplating every tiny crack in the house. It seems a lot like cake decorating to me, but FWT says I shouldn't be piping roses in the doorways. I say, "Boooooooooring."

Anyway, ever since we got home (our emergency project was elsewhere), all I see is places that need caulking. Most of the baseboards could use a fresh bead (check out my lingo!), obviously, but also a few windows and doors. The caulk gun, however, has been hidden from me, and I suppose I should be focusing on all the work I got behind on during this DIY project, anyway.

Other things I learned:

They have Iron-On WOOD!! Seriously. Strips of real wood rolled up like tape that you just stick on the side of shelving and iron it on, then stain or paint or whatever. And it looks all smooth and stuff. I'm not sure if it's easier than sanding or not, but it sure looks nice.

I don't like manual labor. At all. My fingers are how I make a living, and things like blood blisters and crunchy, numbing pain from hours of painting are just not cool.

Audiobooks are the only thing that keeps my attention long enough to get an entire room painted.

A week of hard labor means a week of grabbing meals on-the-go. I'm dining in the rest of the week. (Except for Chuy's.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chuy's in Louisville ... now I don't have to move to Texas.

I've got a habit of planning my trips around how many meals I can fit into a day. A single day in New York involves getting up early enough for a bagel and cream cheese, so I still have room throughout the day for a slice from Two Boots, a doughnut from Doughnut Plant, a falafel from Mamoun's ... and those are just the snacks. Another favorite food destination is Austin, Texas, where my stops always include Kerbey Lane Cafe (for queso and pancakes), Polvos (Mexican martini and tamales), Magnolia (for anything breakfast), and ... Chuy's. Chuy's for general, delicious Tex-Mex food. And especially for jalapeño ranch dressing dip and chips.

And now, I don't need to move to Austin, nor try to drive the 16 hours home before the jalapeño ranch to-go that I froze the night before the road trip defrosts. Louisville has arrived. We have a Chuy's of our own. And I got to go to the special VIP preview soft opening last night. Sometimes it's good to be me.

Mmmmmmm.... I can still taste the jalapeño ranch dip. You have to know to ask for it when you first sit down at Chuy's. In fact, I think that's how the servers can spot the Texans. And I suspect when the Louisville Chuy's opens today at 11:00 for lunch, I suspect there will be a lot of folks asking for a bowl of jalapeño ranch dressing with their deliciously thin and crispy (and free) tortilla chips. All the Six Flaggers I know have been drooling since the news was first announced.

The food was delicious, and there were Texas-size portions. I had the guacamole soft tacos, which were loaded with guac and came with fresh pico de gallo, rice, and vegetarian refried beans that were better than I remembered. I have to give Chuy's kudos for making their refried beans without lard, as that's my main complaint about most of the other Mexican restaurants in this town. FWT had the vegetarian combo, which included an amazing chili relleno and a veggie enchilada. Between chips and dip, and bites of FWT's meal, I could only finish one of my tacos -- and that was soldiering on through stomach distress towards stomach explosion. Of course, being the glutton I was, I had just enough margarita to forget my box of leftovers.

I know we're supposed to eat local and all, but Chuy's has this cool feeling of seeming local. Maybe it's that bizarro Austin-Louisville link. So before you start complaining about Chuy's being a chain, -- which it surely has now become -- consider this. If Lynn's Paradise Cafe suddenly decided to open a restaurant in Austin (and why haven't they, by the way?), wouldn't you be calling all your Austin friends with a penchant for ugly lamps and omelets? I mean, we stole "Keep Austin Weird," so the least we could do is support something of theirs. Besides, I saw a lot of folks working there last night who seemed really happy just to be employed.

My other favorite Mexican restaurant in Louisville seems to always refuse to seat me because they are "closing in half an hour," and even though I love their margaritas, I often find it frustrating to go there. I'll still go for their black beans and nachos, but Chuy's may be my new gotta-have-a-margarita stop. The place is 11,000 square feet inside, plus at 5000sq ft patio to hang out, eat, wait, drink, and be merry.

I'm going back tonight because my parents and I made plans to eat there on opening day, long before I got the special invite. They don't take reservations, but the waiting/bar area is huge and contains a trunk-full of chips -- literally. There's half a car poking out of the wall with its trunk wide open and full of nacho fixin's). Since I'm expecting there will be a crowd of Tex-pats and loads of folks who remember that jalapeño ranch dip from their vacations, I plan on camping out by the nacho car and gorging myself until I'm too full to eat, then once a table opens up, ordering a meal anyway. Let's hope that tonight, I don't forget my box full of leftovers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Floors, Music, Rumours, Love Jones, Scotland.

Remember me? Hi. I'm sorry. Yes, I got your where-have-you-been messages. I'm still here, I promise. I'm also determined to get back on the daily blogging regimen, so as to give you all something to read during your work days.

As for where I've been, well, I've been caught up with boring grownup crap for the past two weeks. I also had a lot of shows in between all that madness, but unfortunately, they were just pauses in my busy days, and not the reason for my stress. I like being stressed out about having too many shows. That's a fabulous problem. But this was emergency home repairs and far too many trips to Lowes and Home Depot and Oscar's and Keith's and Horton's. (Now THERE are some places that need those little key-ring scanner frequent-shopper cards.)

Anyway, it's back to music and fun and excitement and blogging now.

The Love Jones show at NuLuFest was fantabulous. Those boys make me laugh more than anything, and I think I wish I had Love Jones rehearsal every week. It's funnier than The Big Bang Theory (which actually, I don't think is all that funny ... i think it's rather predictable humor, but apparently, all my friends think it's hilarious, so that's my frame of reference...). Those LJ boys are just silly, and then they go and play 11ths and sharp 13ths and that just makes me have a collective crush on all of them.

And the RUMOURS gig that I was so hesitant to play ... well, that turned out amazing. Like magical. I actually listened to that record AFTER the show was over, all week long, while I was caulking and sanding and painting baseboards. Kimmet blew my mind as Stevie Nicks, and I was able to somehow turn into a sensitive singer during the C-Mac parts and sing "Oh Daddy" without laughing. As for Danny and Todd and Ray and Tim, well, they were just perfect. I think we'll do that show again, and this time, I'd better see you in the crowd. Money-back guarantee from me, I think. It is a gooooood time.

What else is up this week? One of my favorite restaurants in the world is opening in Louisville tomorrow. There is the GonzoFest at the Monkey Wrench on Saturday, where I'm playing a 10-minute set just after Mrs. Hunter S. Thompson speaks. Next week, John Prine is at the Palace, a place where magic things happen. And two days later, I fly to Edinburgh.

The blog is back, friends, and I'm ready to write about adventures and more adventures.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Busy busy busy ... and donations.

I'm sorry. I've been ridiculously overwhelmed with both musical duties and boring grown-up crap. Thus, I've been too busy to blog, but not too busy to donate to my mom's American Cancer Socity Breast Cancer Walk Team. Her mastectomy was ten years ago, and she's not the only survivor in our family. If you've got it in you, please help her reach her $1000 Walkathon goal.

Please donate here: http://tinyurl.com/pkaelin

Thanks!

The Return of Elvis Costello [in my life]

I just LOVE a good rock and roll show, especially a band that knows how to integrate a real piano player. That Steve Nieve is magical, and I...