Writings from the Field

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Welcoming Brad Conant to The Drum Throne

Austin, TX - One Year Ago 

It all became real when my head pressurized and ears popped as the plane gained altitude.  Barring a crash only, we would touch down and the band would be on stage in a matter of hours for the first of three performances in Austin, TX for Red Gorilla Fest during SXSW 2017.   

I felt my nerves rise up as if my whole body was a funny bone.  Did we rehearse enough?  Is the new guy going to bring the heat?  The “new guy” actually being a true veteran of the Boston music scene and heavy hitting drummer, Brad Conant.  Our chemistry in rehearsal seemed to be as fiery and furious as the material demanded and still demands.  When you take it out live for a walk though, you can’t help but wonder. 

Travel-tired and bulge-eyed from the sights and smells on 6th Street released an adrenaline that Jeff, Brad, and myself channeled into our first performance at Aquarium.

My worries evaporated in the first notes as the band pummeled through the grooves and riffs with the energy that has come to define a Fire in the Field show. 

Writing this blog entry I have no interest in retelling a year old story.  The story of today is that of Brad Conant and his abilities as a drummer and musician.  To come into this band and bring thunder is no small feat.  The meat and potatoes of great musicianship aside, his giving personality and positive reinforcement to my own artistic drive is inspiring and has helped expand the music and performance to a place I couldn’t have wished to steer or expect.  We have new tunes created from improvisational jams simply from the sheer number of gigs we’ve played since March 2017.  Since then we’ve been back and forth to NYC, Portland, ME, Burlington, VT, Cape Cod, Worcester, Newmarket, NH, Providence, RI, and of course Boston, Cambridge, & Somerville.  I hope you all will come to one of our upcoming live shows to see Fire in the Field as the combination of Jeff Badolato’s steady and always tuned ear, able to dive wherever the jam goes, Brad’s performance and hollers of excitement, and my own madness over the top of the rhythm section. 

I’d like to officially welcome Brad Conant to the team. I should say - TO THE FIELD. 

Peace & Love, 

Mike

Saturday March 17th, 2018

 

Upcoming Shows: 

April 27th - Tender Trap - NYC with Love Howl and The Liza Colby Sound 

April 28th - Starlite - Southbridge, MA 

May 26th - Lizard Lounge - Cambridge, MA with Old Jack 

June 9th - Tender Trap - NYC

 

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"Endless Poetry"

NYC and What Transpired Part Three - August 18th through Sept 2nd, 2017

Liza of The Liza Colby Sound texted me.  “Dude you’re in NYC? Go check out my homie’s band Revel in Dimes at The Mercury Lounge tonight.”  If you’ve seen Liza’s band and dig rock n’ roll you’d be hard pressed not to take her advice.   

I found myself on a humid night, clouds puffed up and ready to burst outside the smokey entrance of The Mercury Lounge.  The circles started swimming in my head when I saw “Stone Giant” was also on the bill.  A Boston-based band out of Berklee, I knew some of their history.  Most notably their show at Uncle Buck’s in Salisbury, North Carolina where I performed as FITF with Andrew and Tim otherwise known as Troop and Looney backing me up two summers in a row in 2014/2015.  Buck Howard is a dear friend of mine to this day and it was a surprise to see a band with that connection on this bill I randomly was advised to attend. 

Here’s a picture of Stone Giant and I doing the famed “Uncle Buck Salute.”  To perform the salute you must place one hand (usually the left I believe) over one eye and raise your other hand’s middle finger.  It is a way of saying, “I F$%*!&@ love you!” to those you respect.  I haven’t seen it executed in any other fashion but I imagine in the appropriate context it can function the other way. 

Fast forward to Revel in Dimes taking the stage.  They ripped into their own rendition of “Jumper on the Line” by R.L. Burnside and I knew there was no place I’d rather be.  It smoked me through and through.  The groove was all there as they pulsed their way through covers and originals designed to pump you up and go mad.  Eric Simmons on guitar plays it cool and delta.  Premo with his Hendrix - Band of Gypsy’s look plays his bass like an old soul with a harmonica in brace wrapped around his neck, occasionally stepping to the mic for a blues break down.  Mr. Washington on the kit seems to be pre-programmed on lock.  “It’s just there,” as a Brit would say.  “Just. There.”  There’s no putting it on or working it up, the groove opens and hits.  Kia on the mic gave me goosebumps in every song.  She was fearless and danced like a freak, slamming her tambourine on her silver laced thighs, wiggling and skidding her feet possessed, tweaking her delay pedal for a soulful high belt injecting some psychedelia on their blues rock palette.  I was all in.   

It was the build up in their ballad, I’m assuming it was called, “When You Were Mine” (not the Prince tune) that rattled me.  I was all alone at this show mind you.  I had my tourist backpack on and a tall boy of Pabst in my hand hollering between every song. Later on I fanboy-ed my way to meet the crew outside, the clouds had finally burst.  Mist, rain, and cigarette smoke surrounded us all huddling into an inlet on the sidewalk as we rapped about R.L. Burnside and righteous tunes. (Revel in Dimes onstage below)

Jump to the next night and I’m with my friend Carolyn after she says, “I have two tickets to Suzanne Santo, it’s at The Mercury Lounge, wanna go?”  “Umm, yes I do Carolyn, yes I do.”  

Correct, two nights in a row at Mercury.  Do yourselves all a favor and check out Santo’s debut solo album, “Ruby Red.”  Produced by Butch Walker!  If you dig Bonnie Raitt, real alt. country rock n’ roll, whiskey tinged vocal lines and violin you will love this.  The tunes are constructed in cohesion as deep as a Petty album, every piece with purpose.  Her band was always in service to the song.  Talking to Blaine Stark post-show, her guitar player and Los Angeles engineer/producer he said, “I had heard Suzanne’s voice on recording and thought there was an effect on it, then I met her during the first rehearsal and realized her voice is that real and raw, that’s her actual voice.  I couldn’t believe it.” 

During the last song the cords on Santo’s neck stood out and her eyes were glazed in tears.  She looked to her left to the man with the Gibson SG and he seemed to nearly break.  

Afterwards Carolyn and I met a new friend, Big Earl, a stage hand at Terminal 5 who came up and introduced himself.  We talked about the show but then he started showing us pictures of the baby deer he takes care of, Ellie, across the pond in New Jersey. You read that correctly. 

Carolyn and I topped off the night at Union Pizza Works in Bushwick.  Go. Here.  Probably the best pizza I’ve had since living in Rome.  No joke.  It didn’t hurt that the owner and cooks were all off-the-boat Italians.  The owner even delivered us a homemade take on flan after we scoffed the perfect brick oven pie.  “I never make, you try.”  He had a taste as well.  “Yes! I fucking rule,” he exclaimed.  Yes, you do amico.   

“You want a shot?”   

“Sure!  Grazie.” 

One shot of Bullet Rye.  Two minutes later… 

“You want a shot?” Pronounced “Djoo wunt eh sshut?” 

“Uhhh, sure!”  This cycle continues.  We talk about where we’re from and what we do on a daily basis. 

“Oh yeah man, Boston!  I do the uh, how you say? Mar.. Mar. 

“Marathon?” 

“Yes! The marathon, every year.” He says “marathon”  marrrrathon with a solid “r” tongue roll. 

“That’s what I do man.  I run, I cook, I eat, I drink, I depressed, I run, I cook, I eat, I drink, I depressed… you want a shot?” 

I nod, we all laugh.   

My adventure never lets up.  The circles of coincidence and random happenstance fire on all cylinders.   

Rough Trade records - Aug. 25th.  I purchase two vinyls after much deliberation - Son Cubano NYC (Cuban Roots New York Spices 1972-1982) and from the used bin a rare compilation album of lost b-side Stax soul tunes.  I notice a line forming for the club inside the record shop and wish I was there for the show.  The Flamin’ Groovies were about to perform.  Yes, THE Flamin’ Groovies, “the forerunners of punk rock.”   

I hang out outside eavesdropping on the cigarette smoker’s conversations.  A Fire in the Field sticker sits in the palm of my hand and I’m looking for a spot on the brick wall to make our mark when a shorter man with a dirty blonde bowl cut sporting a solid green camo jacket says, “Want to go into the show?” 

I turned to him suspicious and say, “Excuse me?” 

“You want to go to the show?”  And he shows me a ticket in his hand.  “I’ve got some place else I have to be.”   

I thank him profusely, put in my Etymotic ear plugs held by my keychain and rock out to The Flamin’ Groovies.  The show kick ass and afterward I ran into the bartender (not the Italian owner) of Union Pizza Works where Carolyn and I ate two nights previous.  

Come on with me now to Le Poisson Rouge in the village.  Those who know me well are aware of my super fandom of all things David Lynch.  When I saw “Silencio” was performing on Sunday, Aug. 27th I shook my head in slo-mo as I purchased a ticket online.  How could this all be going down in two weeks?  These incredible shows, people, everything.  Everything, everywhere, all the time.  Gary Clark Jr. was telling the truth when he said, “New York City going to my head.”   

Aug. 27th was already such a full day.  I had already played acoustic guitar (“Manic Depression” by Hendrix and “The Stomp” by FITF) on the street for two homeless guys outside the Whole Foods in Times Sq.  I was tired and sun beaten from hanging with my sisters in Central Park and at The Met Museum (Egyptian exhibit was the sheeeeiiiit), and having Sam Moore film the now famous, in FITF circles, acoustic live performance in Bryant Park where I ended up playing for these little kids who came up in the middle of the live feed.  

(Photo by Mallory M.)

But there I was, third in line at Le Poisson Rouge meeting two fine ladies, Michelle and Jane, talking all things Lynch and music.  Turns out they know where I’m from in NH, Jane going up that way every year, seeing festivals in NH, following the beloved jam bands in the area, etc. 

The night led to mind expanding conversation and nerd factoids about David Lynch movies.  The crowd was thin but attentive and excited.  The band in true Lynchian fashion traversed the ether of the black lodge and the blue rose.  It is hard to put down in words. Lynch’s work invokes such a personal meaning for each viewer that every song brought about some abstract revelation.  Maybe this is too heady, probably is.  At the end of the day it came down to badass musicians executing their material. 

I wish I could describe every detail of this night.   I wish I could describe the rest of my time in NYC to you in hard hitting bright and beautiful descriptions.  Another week of adventure took place.  The Wednesday where I unveiled “Bossman” at Hell Phone in Brooklyn thanks to Mike Geffner’s The Inspired Word was yet to happen as I sat watching Silencio perform.   

I want you to see the amazing musicians, comedians, and spoken word performers I saw at The Inspired Word Open Mic.  I want you to taste the hanger steak I had at PJ Clarke’s with Colin (he had the prime rib burger!) and our high school friend Casey.  I want you to go PJ’s - a lone wolf restaurant from the 19th century amongst a forest of skyscrapers, waiters in black pants and white tuxedo shirts and ties. Frank Sinatra used to hang at PJ Clarke's and Buddy Holly proposed to his wife within five minutes of meeting her at this very spot.  I want you to read the New York Post article about the Hasidic husband and wife that practice extreme Judaism by day and run an open marriage, and sexually devious and exploratory Tinder account at night.  I want you to hop the L Train from Brooklyn to Manhattan and feel the pressure of the ocean water all around you, seeping through cracks, nearing a total shutdown and major renovation project as a result of the damage caused by 2012’s hurricane Sandy.  I want you to see and hear the extremist Christians in the heart of Time’s Sq screaming that we need to fear god and beg forgiveness for our hedonistic ways.  I want you to see Doc. Brown’s doppelgänger driving the replica Delorian from Back to the Future.  I want you to see the cockroaches surrounding trash piles outside behemoth buildings.  I want you to see the Scientology headquarters filled with sad young white men sitting at a welcome desk with a library of L. Ron Hubbard science fiction classics on display behind them.  I want you to meet many of the sexually repressed twenty something hipsters living in Williamsburg and Bushwick who escaped extremely conservative upbrinings.  Their overt sexual attitudes and high school like commentary whole heartedly absorb the anonymity and experimentation of the infinite big apple.  Everything.  Everywhere. All the time.   

On my final night in NYC I attended a showing of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s new film, “Endless Poetry.”  Colin and I hit up Syndicated Bar & Kitchen - a movie theater with dinner and booze service set up amphitheater style.  It was appropriate to close the circle on this night, which happened to be the final showing in the city. 

The protagonist of the film is suffering an existential crisis as he tries to navigate adulthood.  He weeps to his higher self, “What am I doing, what is the point? What is the meaning of life!?” 

Jodorowsky himself appears by the side of the main character and holds him close and shouts inside a guttural whisper, “LIFE! THERE IS NO MEANING TO LIFE! YOU MUST GO OUT AND LIVE IT!”

                                     (Photo from "Endless Poetry" by Alejandro Jodorowsky and ABKCO Films Released 2017 All Rights Reserved)

 

Peace n' love,

 

Mike 

Thursday, Sept. 28th, 2017

 

 

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NYC and What Transpired Part Two - August 18th through Sept 2nd, 2017

My first Monday of my NYC trip, August 21st marked the altercation with my ex-boss which led to “Bossman,” the video some of you have seen on our FB Page.  

Here’s a quick summation: Man hires me, a guitarist, to teach guitar.  Promises a full schedule of students the day of the hiring in spring 2016.  The work year is fall to spring going with the school calendar.  I have less than half of what he promised come start time.  I’m aware it’s my first year so I put my head down and work hard toting unshakable company protocol to the letter. I learn a lot and love my students but am struggling to make ends meet.   

Come spring 2017 it’s time to resign the contract for another year.  My concerns are brought up very directly.  “Well Mike, it has been an off year, you’re an amazing teacher, I can’t guarantee anything but if you don’t like your schedule come August we can renegotiate.”  O.K., fine.  I resign the contract.  Over the summer he decides I will be one of his new voice teachers… I’m not a great singer, I know this, I’m decent and making my way to proficient but teach voice?  That’s a realm I have no experience in and he’s advertising me as an experienced voice teacher.   

On that morning of August 21st, two weeks and one day till the start of the new work year I still don’t have a schedule in my hands, I don't know what my projected income for the month of September will be, I don't know when I’m able to schedule band rehearsals in the evenings, or take weeknight opportunities, and gigs.  I’m supposed to be sitting on my hands waiting for god almighty as far as this moron was concerned to serve in the shadow of this “highly efficient” system that in reality only serves him.  He would tell you otherwise, of course.   

The man wouldn’t tell me my full Monday through Friday schedule.  I asked for a specific Tuesday night free for an opportunity that came up and he huffed and puffed.  I couldn’t miss a student the second week into the school year.   

So I asked: “What is my schedule?”  Crickets.  “How many students do I have?” Crickets.   

Me: “It’s hard to schedule band rehearsals, gigs, and other opportunities when I don't know what my schedule is.”  You know what he said to that?  “That’s very snarky, Mike.”  Yep.  So I quit.  “This is my two week notice, I can’t do this anymore.”  Obviously he didn't understand.   

The man is so blindly locked in his system’s world he can’t see the other worlds in larger orbits encompassing his own.  He took it as I’m trying to focus on other areas of my career.  No mother fucker I’m trying to pay my bills on more than your empty promises.  And what was the last thing he said to me over the phone?  “Well that’s a shame, it was looking real good for you this year.”  Choke on it, dog.  Choke on it. 

My ex-boss then proceeded to write me an email saying, “Confirming your resignation in writing Mike.  The way you went about this was very unprofessional, you should have made this decision back in the spring when you resigned the contract.” Apparently he forgot about his whole renegotiation statement.  To top it off he said, “It would be ill-advised for you to send anyone my way for a reference.” 

I burned looking at his words on my Mac laptop.  Caffeine jitters expanded senses. My cell phone dinged in the background as a driver laid into his horn outside.  It was a beautiful day though, sun was high and clouds sparse.  

I envisioned my hand clenched around my ex-boss’s jugular.  His pathetic sad eyes bulging and begging for a breath in shock and incomprehension.  I desired some witty line about how he was the ultimate snark.  The rat-king dangling an empty piñata in front of already poor and struggling musicians.  I had drunk his Kool-aid illusion of this so called prestigious company.  It was hard to realize in the moment that my anger was not helping me and in the end I was more frustrated with myself for betraying the truth behind the facade.   

My fingers cricked and slammed the keys as I wrote him a diatribe breaking a thousand words, detailing every inch of his bullshit I dealt with over the course of my year long employment.  Believe me, there’s a heck of a lot more to this story than the beginning and end.  I’ll spare you though as this rant has gone on too long.  If we ever have a meal or drink together and you want to hear some gory details I have plenty of gems to rival some Forbes-type article, “Top Ten Reasons To Quit Your Job.” 

Luckily I had my best friend Raquel to call.  She calmed me down as I paced the apartment and said she would take a look at my email and even offered to edit it or condense the message.  She knew more than anyone what I had been dealing with over the year.  Then I called my dad, an entrepreneur and badass business man.  He told me not to send the email and if I did to keep it cordial and one or two sentences.  Good people having your back is a blessing.  I could only see red in my fugue state but in the end I didn’t respond to his ridiculous final email.  

My guitar was sitting in a rocking chair behind me in Colin’s apartment already tuned to open G as I was learning some Dave Van Ronk tune before my final phone conversation with my ex-boss.  Side note:  Google “Dave Van Ronk.”  Greenich Village folk/blues singer who showed Dylan the ropes, Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell, etc. when they came to the village.  Van Ronk was a general figurehead of the NYC folk scene from the 1960’s till the day he died.  Part of my trip to NYC became about following his footsteps and reading his book, Mayor of MacDougal Street (started as a memoir but he died in ’02 - finished by Elijah Wald).  The Coen Brothers also made a great movie loosely based on his life, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”  More on Van Ronk later. 

Anyways, I laid my acoustic guitar case on the futon in the living room, opened it and grabbed the guitar off the rocking chair to put away as I was planning to go jam at McCarren Park to let off some steam.  I put the acoustic down but didn’t close the lid.  My left hand reached down to the third fret, the guitar still laying in the case and I started banging out a bluesy foot stomping beat with my right hand, sort of batting at the sound hole, not thinking.  Then I said aloud, “No.”  I brought the guitar out of the case, went back to the table in the corner of the living room and wrote “Bossman.”  

I wonder sometimes what would happen to me and my habit of anger if I didn’t have the river of music to drop heavy stones into.  Later on that Monday I would play the first open mic I covered in the previous blog post, just to keep you in the chronology of things if you’re following close.  I played “Delirious Roses” from my RPM Challenge solo record Funky Blood and “Duke of the Valley” from Fire in the Field’s upcoming War Bonnet.  I wasn’t ready to test out “Bossman” live.  The frustrations were too fresh and I probably wouldn't have made it through. 

So.  We didn't leave the sunny Monday morning in Colin’s apartment living room this go around, apologies on that.  Next one I’ll be talking about some incredible live music and the people that made it. 

Peace, 

Mike

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 

 

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"I grow delirious roses." -Funky Blood

NYC and What Transpired Part One - August 18th through Sept 2nd, 2017

In the early afternoon on Friday August 18th I pulled the trigger and hopped in my Subaru Impreza.  My plan to spend the last weeks of summer in NYC hosted by my childhood friend Colin Herlihy finally was in motion.  I almost didn’t go.  My nerves nearly choked me off. 

Twenty seventeen has been a strange year, extreme highs and lows giving way to a long list of questions for the future.  My current guitar teaching job was a cesspool of exploitation (which I’ll get to later), my band’s album was long overdue, so I felt like I was abandoning everything by taking some time for myself.  I put off the trip to NYC for days, continually texting Colin, “Hey, haven't figured out what's going on…” or some such.   

It was a perfect day when I left.  No clouds, only pure light.  A few orange leaves crusting the ground in Jamaica Plain signified the seasons blending in and out of each other.  The butterflies in my stomach were transfixing.  I was telling myself I was nervous to go to the big city as there's much to navigate but I’ve been there many times and know the grid decently well. 

The butterflies left as I entered Connecticut and Stephen King’s "IT" on audiobook reached the final chapter.  I would finish the terrifying and incredible tale before I arrived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.   

The eight dollar toll over the George Washington was the first time I stopped in hours and my brain clicked over.  Adrenaline came from nowhere in a hot dose.  I got to my Amazon Music app and began to blast “Billy Jack” by Curtis Mayfield.  A down tempo tune with its sparse and ominous bass riff injected me with the need for speed.  I whipped my small car through traffic like I was flying a jet in a rocky canyon.  It was on.  I had arrived. 

Colin lives above a twenty four hour corner grocery with a fruit n' veggie stand that wraps the street corners, “Rachel’s” if my memory serves me well.  Hipster central on Nassau Ave (in a good way), ground zero for vegan pizza that will turn your eyebrows jagged, Xian Foods that serve the best lamb dumplings, Polish bakeries & delicatessens galore (plain donuts to change your life forever), kebab joints, raw fish bar, mini-marts, Army Navy Store, Polish DVD store with B action flicks you’ll never see - and this is contained within a couple blocks. 

People complain about the smell in NYC but where I was all I could smell was the food.  I followed my nose one night when I got a whiff of curry.  It took me a couple minutes to find out where it was coming from because it was a back alley entrance, no where to sit, only a kitchen and delivery bikes outside.  I ordered and waited outside for ten minutes.  The smile on the man’s face seeing someone obviously new to the area come to his place of business was awesome.  And I kept seeing those smiles on people’s faces young and old, all walks.  Polish families mixed in with young college kids trying to survive in the big apple, trustafarian hipsters, blue collar hispanic workers delivering goods to the grocery stores in the middle of the night, the drunks asking everyone for cigarettes, every Uber and cab driver from a different point on the globe - Pakistan, India, Senegal, Tanzania - endless.  It was everything, everywhere, all the time. I ate it up.  The only people who refrained from smiling were the models.  Greenpoint was rife with beautiful women stripped from fashion magazine covers who walked with a general “Not you, sorry,” strut.  Who can blame them though? 

Each morning I woke up on Colin’s futon and made espresso from my cheap percolator on the gas stove and watched people shuck oysters across the street as I wrote a stream of consciousness, worked on lyrics for unfinished songs or played guitar to start my day. The renewed life energy pulsing through me was divine and seemingly out of nowhere.  I could breathe again.  Perspective on my troubles back in Boston grew with each passing moment without any ability to understand or control why it was happening.  Hard to explain.  

Colin and I’s relationship always picks up right where we left off.  He’s in the movie business and all we do is argue about film, laugh about the old days, decide where we need to eat and drink, how we spend too much money on vinyl, etc.  It’s nice to have friends that are ready to take action and go do something in the world. 

In that first weekend we got to Queens, ate at the legendary Spumoni’s (who’s owner was murdered last year rumored to be over a pizza sauce/marketing feud), got sunburned at Rockaway Beach on a perfect August day as 747's flew overhead from JFK, ate a hot dog at Nathan’s on Coney Island, and drank too much beer (to curb said sunburn).  In the next couple days we would walk miles from Brooklyn into Mahattan on Colin's daily bike route and traverse the village, see the replaced mural of Joe Strummer (an abomination), find the building on the cover of Physical Graffiti while stoned on high-test piña coladas (don’t judge, it was a dog day afternoon in the concrete jungle).  There was Momofuku noodle bar with the best dish I’ve ever had - pork belly and pork shoulder in what was essentially a bacon broth, soft boiled egg, the whole nine.  Somehow there was time for cannoli and espresso.  Did I mention we ate? 

On Monday August 21st, fresh with boiling sunburnt skin I toted my acoustic to the Parkside Lounge and played an open mic - Mike Geffner Presents “The Inspired Word.” www.inspiredwordnyc.com 

I didn’t know what to expect.  Poets and musicians in a long dark room gathered.  The warmth ballooned from when I arrived till the end of the night.  Mike is a funny cat.  Stick straight tall frame and always with a camera in hand, he speaks in a dry matter-of-fact sense you may interpret as cold.  Then you realize he’s been running this for near a decade, lived his life as a professional photographer, and spends most of his days working for the arts community.  When I made that realization my own work ethnic felt limp.  

The beautiful Ashiya (@ashiyamusic) stepped to the stage and played her featured songs with an innocence and a voice that carried like a sweet wind.   She had an enormous heart and it filled the room carried by her original compositions.  I spoke with her and her husband after and their stories of living on the road, homeless in Las Vegas were scary and incredible.  It moved me and I pictured my safe nest in southern New Hampshire where I grew up.  The line “You know nothing Jon Snow” came to mind, I admit. 

Somehow I came away from the open mic with Mike Geffner booking me for a featured set the following week.  Looks like I had no choice but to stay.  

To be continued.

 

Mike

Wednesday - September 17, 2017