Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Does This Mean Something?

That makes four. Four times this week I've gotten something to drink. Four times I put my drink down. And four times I picked my drink back up to see a bug swimming gleefully in my beverage.

I'm sure there's some symbolism here. Any of you wanna guess what it means?

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Monday, April 21, 2008


I'm not hugely into country music. But lately, I've been listening to a lot of it. Sorta. I'm totally obsessed with the new Kathleen Edwards record, "Asking for Flowers," the new Kim Richey, "Chinese Boxes" and the new Punch Brothers, "Punch." Especially the latter. Now, these are more along the lines of Folk and Bluegrass and Pop, really. Authentic Country music is all about the twang. I found this out first hand. At the CMT Music Awards, AKA National Celebration of Twang.

After arriving in Nashville, we discovered that Miley was sick with the flu and wasn't going to be at the rehearsal. We were worried for her, because she wasn't just singing one song, she was hosting the entire show.

The awards show was being held on the campus of Belmont University, which I attended for one semester back in 1998. That was a long time ago, but it still feels like home to me. My sister graduated from there as well, in the exact same building where we were playing. It was very strange to be back, especially since most of the friends I knew there had since moved away.

I decided to look for my old teachers in my down time. I couldn't really find any. I did, however, find Miss Tanya: the sweetest lunchlady you'll ever meet. I had such fond memories of seeing her smiling face every day. All the students were crazy about her. And she was still there doin' her thing after 20 years. And still the same incredibly kind Miss Tanya.

After waiting around for awhile, the band had a soundcheck, everybody got their levels, and it was back to the hotel.

Then I was free for the day, so I was able to go hang out with my sister Christina, her husband Doug and their friends Terrence and Tracy. We ate cake, told stories and watched a little Aqua Teens (MC P. Pants never gets old!). I see my sister about twice a year, and it's not nearly enough.

The next day, we headed back to campus, and sequestered ourselves in the Belmont Bruins locker room. This was basically the equivalent of our Kids' Choice tent. The only difference being that our tent was clearly marked as our tent, whereas it was a free-for-all claiming these rooms. Leann Rimes band members left their stuff in there, probably in an attempt to claim it. Didn't take.

Throughout the day, we met all manner of country stars: Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift (totally don't understand the appeal!), Snoop Dogg (?!?) and band members in mass quantities. Of course, it was mostly lost on me, as I don't know any of these peoples' music.

One thing we all noticed was that we were terribly underdressed. We had flannel, t-shirts, sneakers, jeans, etc, not to mention our bedheads. Apparently it is traditional among Nashvillians (or Nashvillains?) to get all dolled up in ultrafancy fabrics, supergelled hair and intense makeup. And I'm not even talking about the women. It was like metrosexual central. We were alternately impressed and embarrassed for them.

After another awards-show afternoon-of-waiting (we weren't allowed to leave again), we hopped on stage, where I saw Miley looking all glowy and perfect. Apparently she was feeling a bit better. I'm sure her doctors injected her full of vitamins. I can only imagine the crash she had the day after the awards.

We played our quick little song. And that was it.

We then headed back to the hotel and met at the bar of PF Changs, where the awards were still showing on TV (for some inexplicable reason, we didn't get the CMT network in our hotel rooms -- though we did get HBO. This is kind of strange for Nashville.)

During dinner, Carrie Underwood walked in the restaurant and all the waitstaff started buzzing about it. They practically stopped serving us at that point, as they were busy ogling her from the kitchen. Of course, they didn't care that Miley's band was there. Although one of the waiters thought Stacy was some guy from Survivor.

Fortunately, nobody said anything about me looking like Adam Levine. For once.

Now that I know what real twang sounds like, I realize that just because there's a slide guitar or a banjo involved in a song doesn't make it Country. And I'm grateful. That twang'll kill ya.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Celebrities, Slime and Spiked Butt Belts

The day of the Kids' Choice Awards, we arrived to the UCLA campus and were quickly herded into a tent/makeshift green room. Other than a litte table with meats and cheeses, the room was barren. This is where we'd be spending the next several hours.

But first, rehearsal. They were running the entire show that morning, from beginning to end. When they reached our point in the show, a runner guided us to the stage, and we did our thing. The kid extras seemed a little more excited today.

Then back to the tent, with about five hours till showtime. We were told we were allowed to leave, but only by foot, as the traffic getting back would be terrible. So I hoofed it around Westwood a bit. I hadn't really been in the area for a year or two, so I saw that my favorite CD store had closed and that several frozen yogurt places had opened (how much froyo do college students need?). And when I got bored (within twenty minutes), I headed back to the hometent. Things were much more exciting there:

When the show finally started around 5pm, the band decided to check out the white room. This room was created up in the stands behind the stage, with white furniture, white carpet, and sheer white sheets softly barricading all the celebrities in with their perfectly manicured hors d'oeuvres. We stuck out like a hand full of sore thumbs amongst Will Smith, Nelly, and a bunch of other slick rappers I didn't know of. Jaco and Jamie immediately grabbed a couple of the Neutrogena gift bags, full of manly moisturizing creams. They were far too excited about those. We enjoyed about a half hour of the show until Stacy, pro that he is, decided we should be in the tent at least 30 minutes before it was necessary. So we went back to our homevoid. Sat around for awhile. Made some calls.

Then the blur. Around 6pm, we were walked quickly through the back door and down a narrow hallway to the stage. We hit the stage, Miley barely made it into place in time for the song, and was a little out of breath. Everybody did their thing. We played like our hands were deadly precision instruments, the dancers flipped and flew like there were helium bombs in their shoes, and Miley's star presence inspired the kid extras to legitimately freak out.

And the set did look really good on TV.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Loose Definition of Tomorrow

I know I said part two "coming tomorrow." Well, I've just come home from the American Hi Fi show (Stacy and Jamie rocked it out!) and now I'm packing to leave for Nashville bright and early in the morning, for the CMT Awards. It's late, I'm tired, and I had a blast at the show, seeing all sorts of people I haven't seen in quite a while.

So let's say "coming soon," how about?

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Orange and Green and Yellow and Pink and...

The Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards show was a hurricane of celebrities, bright colors and slime.

We arrived bright and early the morning before, only to sit for nearly three hours while the dancers rehearsed. And of course they rehearsed! There were new dancers and a smaller stage to contend with. But there was definitely a kink in the planning.

Fortunately we were able to keep ourselves busy with the mountains of paperwork that accompany events like this. Generally, I spend more time filling out paperwork than I do on stage.

We were all stunned at how cheap and high school production the set looked. How many neon colors can you cram onto one stage?

The sets for all these TV shows look pretty dumpy in person. But once they light 'em all purty, and film them with high definition cameras, they look like a million bucks. Wonder of wonders.

Once we finally got on stage and played through the song twice with Miley, they brought up some kid extras to sit on the risers in front of us. Fun, right? Except the kids weren't having fun. Here's the Miley Cyrus singing and dancing inches away from them. Nothing.

So Valdez the production manager and another woman (who had a chip on her shoulder or a brick up her nose or something) came over to try and get a little more energy from the kids. Valdez sweetly said, "this is Miley Cyrus! Let's get excited! Scream! Smile!"

Ol' Bricky Nose tried a different tactic. She said, and I quote, "You people are terrible. Just awful." I'd also like to add that she was wearing a bright orange shirt that said "Psychiatric Hotline" and had an 800 number on it. She continued, "The execs said that you were THE kids to use for this. Well, they were wrong. Just atrocious."

I considered jumping in, but was in the midst of a rare moment of restraint.

Big esteem builder for the kids, though. This only led to even more shellshocked silence from them. Way to shut 'em down, Psychiatric Hotline!

Eventually, our choreographer Theresa came over, screaming and flailing like she was on fire. "Miley Cyrus! Yaaaaay! Everybody wave your hands in the air the whole time! Yaaaaay!"

Of course that worked.

[Day Two - the actual ceremony - coming tomorrow.]

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Yeah, Yeah, I Know

Kids' Choice Awards entry coming shortly.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Civic Responsibility, and How It Shamed Me

After postponing jury duty several times (once for Noah's birth, once for the tour, and another time for the tour extension), my time was up. I had to go in.

Back in Boston, I was called into jury duty one day, and during the wait I wrote three songs ("Normal," "Starfish" and "I'm a Moron," which were later featured on my albums) and then all the prospective jurors were sent home. I knew I couldn't hope for such a productive and legally uneventful day this time. But whereas last time, I was ready to be put on a jury and miss school, this time I needed to go home right away, as it was Wednesday and we had our Kids' Choice Awards show on Friday.

Those sadistic government folks demanded I be there at 7:30am. They hate joy. And probably ponies and puppies as well.

After several hours of boredom and guilty feelings that I was far too tired to write a song, my number was called. I had to join a panel. This required a few more hours of boredom in a hallway people cluster:

Around 2pm, this motley bunch of about thirty grumbling panelists was finally escorted into the courtroom. Every single one of us had our fingers crossed under our seats that we wouldn't be called up to the jury. Twelve people who weren't me scuttled to the front.

The case was explained to us. The defendant was accused of domestic violence towards his wife and small child. He was also charged with telling his wife not to call the police, which I didn't realize was even a crime ("Honey, I shrunk the kids. Don't tell the police." -- CRIMINAL!). The details were gruesome and the outlook was bleak for everyone involved. The kind and elderly judge ran us through a questionnaire, which basically asked if we could all be objective and not be swayed by our emotions. The twelve in the box said yes.

I thought, hell no. Dude looked guilty. Supremely guilty. Like wife-and-child-beating guilty. His head was in his hands. And his attorney was a superslimeball, while the prosecuting attorney was a warm sweetheart. This does not help my brittle impartiality.

You don't have to tell me. I realize these are superficial things. I'm aware of that. But guess who makes emotion-based decisions? *hand raises*

For one reason or another, several people in the box were let go: one person used to be a cop, one person barely understood English, another just seemed really stupid.

As each new person was called from our panel to replace the nixed ones, I tensed up and prayed they wouldn't call me. Over and over they didn't.

This continued for hours until there were only five of us left in the panel. My number was called.


I slunk up to the box and sat down. The judge asked me several questions about my background and then inquired if I had any objections that may prevent me from being impartial. I mentioned that I had a problem with the "innocent until proven guitly thing," as I had already made up my mind about who was guilty and I was going to have a very hard time being convinced otherwise. Fearing that I hadn't quite knocked it out of the park, I said that I have a real problem with domestic violence. (Of course, in retrospect, this is totally stupid. Who likes domestic violence? Who says, "I want a greek salad with red wine vinaigrette and a sprinkling of domestic violence?" or "Let's go out for dinner and a movie, and then we can come home and you can beat me?" Umm, no one. That's who. Dummy.)

The judge mercifully let me go. And while everything I said was completely true, as I walked out on my civic duty, I felt dirty.

Maybe one day I'll be called back in, when I don't have to work right away, and I can be a Righteous Crusader for Justice, slaying criminals with my brute lawfulness. Just not right now.

I avoided eye contact all the way out of the building.

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