...being the observations and navigational extracts
from the ongoing expeditions of San Francisco Piano Pop trio
True Margrit

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bloody keys and Bumblebees

you can't see the blood on the black keys, but it's there too

I tend to instinctively shy away from combining the sublimity of music with the spiritual conundrums of contests. I believe competitiveness tends to clamp down some of the healthy elements of being an artist and promote the creepy. I just can't bear to watch American Idol, or The Voice, or other suchlike bilious fare. So. I'm not sure why I found myself  uncharacteristically intrigued with the NPR Tiny Desk Concert competition.  I noticed several friends had posted videos. Then suddenly, due to (imagined) peer pressure I found myself videoing a potential submission, a solo version of our tune, "Comforting the Castaways" (soon to be the title track of our upcoming album). Well, friends, I knocked out a few takes. Then I had an unpleasant but not entirely unfamiliar sensation--the keyboard had become sticky. Glancing down at the keys I saw, ah yes, they had become literally finger-painted with my blood.  I interpreted my piano-inflicted wounding as a negative portent and reverted to my customary impulse regarding contests. I really don't want to be rivals with those of you who are my brothers and sisters in rock. Plus (and probably most importantly) the full band version rocks so hard, I wanna put my best foot forward with Andrew and Gary's feet included!!

Meanwhile.  I must put this bee in your bonnets (I love that expression, but I'm glad it's only a figurative bee, and who wears bonnets?) We have an awesome show coming upon Saturday, April 16th at Hotel Utah In SF, with Sit Kitty Sit, Luminous Newts, and Citizen Five! Oooooh. And it's a benefit for Project Night Night! AND it's Gary AND Kevin's birthday! 

I mentioned above that True Margrit has an upcoming album! I say it again: YES, "Comforting the Castaways" is on the way!!! But it's not done yet. We'll release it in the fall. Since y'all have been waiting so patiently for "Castaways". I can in the meantime offer up a preview track from my soon to be complete first solo album,  "Satellites and Saints" by Goggy. Please check it out! I'll have (at least) downloads avail for y'all by the time of the Hotel Utah show if not chocolate-covered gold-plated vinyl, if that were only invented yet.

You may ask:  Why Goggy? All is explained here (well, sort of).

Nice to see y'all again.

Rock on.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Phoenixesque birdies can rise from ashes, y'all!

Hey there fans, skeptics, random passers-by, lurkers, headbangers, folkies, mods, rockers, the Professor and MaryAnn!

How? What? When?

And why why why so very long long long since the previous post? There are so many answers I could give (and they may or may not be true,  just because the band is called True Margrit, I'm not always perfectly 100% honest, c'mon, don't put those expectations on me, man--that's your trip not mine). So. Here are a few potentially explanatory scenarios:

1) I was abducted by aliens. And the robots who love them.

2) Andrew and Gary were abducted by aliens

3) The cat ate our new album

4) The cat peed on our new album.

5) I'm training for my Everest bid.

Anyway. When I logged into blogger I found this incomplete draft I started last winter:

It's Flu Season. Flu Season. Makes me think of  something nice and tasty ripening on the vine and now its time to harvest it. Mmmmmmm. Yummy. Ick not really.

Yes, it's clear the above artifact was written whilst I had a fever. Friends, I had an EPIC flu. By epic I mean pretty dang epic as if all the heroes from Homer's Odyssey AND the Iliad were jamming with the entire cast of the ABC show, Nashville trading Cannibal Corpse licks played on kalimbas and mandolins whilst Ulysses' irksome sirens sang off-key jingles about deodorant and Achilles conducted a low brass section playing dire and ominous swells straight into my beleaguered ears...and, scene. There are far far bigger longer worser epics (say,  diptheria or The Source by Michener) so, I count myself lucky. I don't wanna wade deeply into actual specifics cuz many of y'all have been there and who wants to go back? And by back I mean either, a) generally back to any swamp of any details on any old general topic or b) back to minutiae of influenza, specifically.  Back??! Who has time? Not me! I conquered and I am the champion, my friends.

Flu: zero.
Margrit: one.

Anywhey. (Hmmm, "anywhey"- that's a kinda good name for a delicious new protein shake)

It's now October and in less than a week we have our first band gig in goodness knows how dang--friggin-damn long. I did a few interim appearances as ("true") Margrit or *Goggy or both. The trio will be appearing at The Starry Plough in an action-packed benefit for Save the Frogs which includes but is not limited to us, Luminous Newts, Basic Beat  and more. Meanwhile. The Starry Plough has the not-at-all dubious honor of being the first venue wherein I played a gig with Gary!! Sir GARY HOBISH to you, pal. Our fab bassist. Hmmm, it may well be 23 years ago. WHAAAAAAAT?? And oh my, how we are going to miss Andrew's drumming something fierce --HOWEVER, since he can't make it, we have  a very special guest: Robert John Tucker!!! WOW! Hope to see y'all there!

*OK. Some folks have asked about Goggy. It's an interstellar music recording project I've been involved with this year and it's best explored on a new soon-to-be-created blog. But  there will be  an album. You said: An album? Why, yes!  Watch the Goggy link for songs (and the upcoming blog) as they get mixed--soon...standby.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Unnatural Habitat

          Friday, Feb 21
 Hello nice people. Where was I? Here, all along. Here. Did you not know?

  Yes, folks, it's 2014, a year in which we chip away at various ongoing projects, made somehow new by the magical electromagnetic pull of the used calendar pages streaking off into darkness behind us, which is the past.

  Andrew's busy computing and interwebbing for the entire Pacific Northwest. Gary's mastering 500 million re-issues of 80s bands. I'm recording all manner of projects from voiceover to The Creak to a Dream Academy Tribute Album to film scores. And, most pertinent to this venue--being the blog of the band True Margrit--we're striving to make headway on our followup to The Juggler's Progress. Progress--and every bit counts, even if it's baby steps. Nano steps. Whole steps. Half steps. Microtones.  These meticulous minute motions are all still progress. By any name and by various means. Onward. Progressively closer go we, and not without a slight wink & tip o' the hat to progressive rock--toward which I harbor more fondness than irony, so shush up, haters.  Progressiveering. Towards out goal of unveiling our finished album for those who care. Presumably you, and your friends who you will be turning on to True Margrit, because that's what people do. Share the lesser-known goodies. Of which we are one.

  I write to you from Gary's studio (A Hammer Mastering) where certain aspects of our production process take place. Primarily editing/ mixing. Overdubbing occurs here, too, but more of that is undertaken at my place (Absolutely True Sound--now in Emeryville). As we speak, we're finalizing the basic-track edit of, "Love on the Moon" and in mere moments it will be ready for me to sing vocals and add..... guitar, organ, guest-star vocalists? And perhaps, since it's a science fiction scenario of romance triumphing despite misadventures set on a totalitarian Moonbase ruled by tyrannical robots, we'll need just a little post-apocalyptic sprinkling of high and lonesome lunar synthesizer. 

  Now we're switching over to "Symphony of Trivia". It's about (among other layers of meanings you can choose all on your own) the stimulation/distraction eternally pulsating on the myriad array of personal devices,  pads, screens,  chips,  or even just conversations, and the way one wonders, doesn't one, whether we'll have in the not-too-distant-future the impulse to swallow a bio-nanotech-capsule for a seamless interface to a total immersion cyber-experience.  And then the evil totalitarian Botguard can manipulate we the masses and violate all manner of civil rights. By, for example, shipping gay people off to the Moonbase to be ice miners. An unnatural habitat.

  So wait, you may ask, does all the foregoing mean there's a storyline threading through your upcoming album? Why yes, there is.  "Comforting the Castaways" is a--concept album? Rock opera? You choose your weapon of deconstruction. You can also simply enjoy the songs as standalones. In any event, I'm currently at work setting down the scenario as a longish short-story. The plan/hope is that it ultimately will be a graphic novella that reader/ listeners can synergistically thrill to.  More on that--when there's more to report.

  Meanwhile, it's now been two years since we moved to the Eastbay and I'm happy to report that my Eastbay pride is flourishing and blossoming.  After two decades absorbing the sights, sounds, smells, the hustlings and bustlings of the Haight & the Mission, Emeryville has demanded some adjustment. For example, it's quieter than SF at night and I sometimes wake up in the wee hours and ask:

  "Hey, what's that...silence?"

And as any insomniac knows, at an hour such as that, a feeling of disorientation can creep in and beg the unanswerable questions, like, what is a the 'natural' habitat of a human? The human-made urban edifices and alleys? Cities with the best restaurants?  The tidy green suburbs? Alpine villages? Alkaline pans (where certain folk enact a seasonal intermittent social-experiment utopia)? The white sand beaches? Anywhere with indoor plumbing?

  But, you know, just like when you move to the Moon,  once you've learned where the best views of Earthrise can we enjoyed, which airlocks have a shorter wait,  where you can find the more spacious micro-gravity bathrooms,  which canteen serves desserts other than freezedried ice cream, well then the unnatural habitat become natural. Perhaps supernatural.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Solo So Low

After a longish break from playing live tunes in front of live humans, I eased back into that joy by playing at Bazaar cafe on June 22nd. I hunkered down on the piano bench & plinked out mostly new tunes on the cafe's old upright.  I had endeavored to get another songwriter to join me, but to no avail.  Undaunted, I bravely purveyed two sets all by my lonesome--well not precisely alone, a select and adorable group was there listening (thanks y'all).

Gary was one of the peeps there and he commented on how hearing the new tunes all grouped together incited a hankering in him to finish our new album & get on the road with the band. Amen, brother.  Meanwhile, Alex and Sarah's favorite tune was  "Solo So Low". Hmmmm, well then, it's gonna be on the album!

Out in the avenues
halfway to the beach
there's a wee cafe on California street
It's unpretentious, cosy in vibe
you can caffienate you can imbibe
you can have a hotdog, curry, or quiche
chill with your tablet drinking meads

It's run by Les, he books the shows
Come do your thing! Anything goes!
Except don't bug his neighbors with a mic or an amp
or play any covers of Supertramp

This is the perfect place to try out new tunes
I did just that--botched "Love of the Moon"
But the beauty is the liveness every time you play
thank you for being, Bazaar Cafe

Friday, June 07, 2013

Spice Traitors

Since sooner than later, when there's too much carbon in the atmosphere (and/or heavy metals or other unannounced lethal compounds) that will endanger human breathing, we're going to have to live in bunkers underground (that, or on the moon) like mushrooms (and eating mushrooms for breakfast lunch & dinner, since that's what grows down there), it's wise to savor the plenty of our fecund planet while we can. That is, enjoy the brilliant food currently filling our famers markets, grocery stores, fridges, our restaurants, our bellies, y'all. Gather ye treats. There could come a day, when we don't know where that next fresh meal is coming from. But right now, if you have the cashflow & the desire, any ingredient can be whisked to your doorstep. When you spread that dark lime marmalade from Fortnum and Mason on your toast, or crumble a strand of Iranian red saffron into your rice, or bite into that Madagascar vanilla bean infused baby turnip from Sonoma, or nibble French white truffle flecked aged goat cheese on your Scottish oatcake, or cut a slice of Iberico ham onto your small plate, know that we are living like the luckiest hungry kings. Centuries of ships sailed the high seas for black pepper. Empires were built on cinnamon. The Dutch East India Company, an operation that procured rare spices for European kitchen and appetites, grew into a mega-corporation more powerful than IBM, legally entitled to wage war, try and convict criminals, and to form colonies. And reaching farther and farther back, squinting through the sandstorms of antiquity, one can glimpse trade routes braving desert, mountain passes, and sea, marking up the maps of the ancients.

Meanwhile, throughout the history of life on this planet, there's always been something delicious  growing in, or close to, your backyard--or near your yurt. If buying/ eating local food has taken on trappings of fadism, delve deeper,  past the luster of the current hipness, and you'll find alarming facts on factory farms and food conglomerate practices. Alas. For we the shoppers/ eaters, communities are sprouting all kinds of fantastic food procuring alternatives options: farmers' markets, CSA boxes, not to mention  restaurants that only source locally.
And. Remember, getting a CSA box is a great way to test your ironchef/ chopped skills; can you cook a meal with a 5 pound watermelon,  spring onions, a quarter cup of walnuts,  three kinds of kale,  a bunch of sage, and a bag of beets? Hells yeah.

Now that I live in the Eastbay, I like, no LOVE, to hunt and gather at Berkeley Bowl. So many vegetables, so little time. New foods I've bought there and prepared and eaten include but are not limited to: parsley root, celery root, cherimoya, buddha's ear... etc. And, oh,  all those boxes of berries and oh the stone fruit this time of year, and the fresh English peas ( grown in California), and green garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, scallions, not to mention fresh pasta in sheets...and  lest we forget, fruit and cheese samples most days, cuz a little snack whilst shopping is nice.

Now, I used to go to Rainbow Grocery in SF. But Rainbow's not exactly local anymore--although I'm thinking I need to make a special trip for their colossal, commodious, world-bazaar-worthy, bulky, bulk spice section --hmm, would that make me a spice traitor to the Eastbay? Maybe I'm  gonna be hitching up the camels (that is my bike) and heading west. I will follow the ancient BART route to the fabled motherland of fancy-food-- also known as The Mission. I do need some cinnamon.

But back to the my invocation and erudition of Berkeley Bowl's wondrousness,  here's a superquick tasty gravlax treat/ appetizer that emerged from ingredients I grabbed there with no particular plan. I readily admit a couple of these items probably won't be available at regular Safeways or Krogers. You can be crafty, you have your options. I haven't made gravlax myself but it sure looks fun and comprised of simple constituents. As far as Krogers-friendly alternatives to a fried quail egg, how about a quail-egg-sized dollop of creamy dilly egg-salad? Slice of hard-boiled egg?  Or a chunk of avocado? I know you will think of something even better,  if you put your stomach to it.

Gravlachs for the People (for two)

Two wee slices of Scottish gravlax  (if you have more peeps coming to eat get more slices, dude). P.S It put me back less than two bucks, so don't whine about fancy schmancy. And of course, if you grab a hunk of nice salmon and make your own, you'll have economy and bragging rights.
Quail eggs  (ok ok--I know, but  also not as fancy or pricey as you'd think--you can get a dozen of these adorable little egglets for $1.19 at Berkeley Bowl--not to go on and on about BB...
Greek Yogurt --a little dab I use 2%--I like me some fat but not too much
olive oil for frying the eggs
Shallot just a sliver--or fresh dill.. or?
Lemon zest sliver

Fry the egglet. Arrange the ingredients to your own visual satisfaction.

Serve/ devour.

FYI--this plate is teeny. The quail egg yolk is about the circumference of a quarter.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Montage du jour

Howdy friends, Romans, countrypeople, Grit-heads, passers-by. Greetings to the innocent, to the hotties, to the coldies, the calculating, the razor-sharp, the sleepy, to the sorrowful, the gleeful, to the mighty, and to the wee. Handshakes, hugs, salutes, toasts, and high-fives to all y'all. I never meant to be neglectful, to leave you hanging. To atone for my sins, I offer a synopsis of sorts--a montage of the past 6 months.

 Satellite view of San Francisco Bay. Zoom toward the ground with increasingly recognizable details of landmarks and streets (think: The Conservatory Of Flowers, Bi-Rite Creamery, the cranes of West Oakland) and finally focus on a garage with a tiled roof. Cut to interior of a project recording studio. Margrit sits at a sticker-covered keyboard, writing in a spiral notebook, stopping occasionally to play a few notes. She hums bits of the song, "Symphony of Trivia". Then she changes the lyrics and leans to grab a different notebook from a pile on the floor stacked in teetering towers.

Cut to aerial view of Highways 5. Morning. A Subaru zooms north. Interior of car. Gary & Margrit listen intently to the same song, but it's now a piano/ voice demo. Cut to map of California/ Oregon/ Washington with an arrow heading to Tacoma. Exterior brick house. Interior of living room. Andrew site at drumkit. Gary & Margrit are playing the same song now with bassline kicking it up several notches. Andrew joins in presently and now it begins to rock. Cut to the band eating a huge Thanksgiving feast, a roomful of guests, time-lapse of full plates quickly diminishing.

Interior of nightclub. The band is playing the song onstage.Cut to map of California/ Oregon with an arrow heading from Portland to San Francisco. Interior of a big fancy recording studio. Andrew has 20 mics in a forest around his kit. Gary is nearby with his Rickenbacker. Margrit is in the isolation booth sitting at a 7-foot grand. They play "Symphony of Trivia". Graphic/ animation. Pages of a calendar curl up and fly away. It stops. May 2013.....

And now you're caught up. Currently we are overdubbing textures-- percussion, Hammond B3, Wurlitzer electric piano, synthesizer--and more. And colors--strings, horns. And of course, lotsa vocals. Then we will mix it and then y'all can check it out! Credits roll.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Anarchy Rules

Weed, CA August 4, 2012, 5:45 pm, Altitude: 3,420 feet With our performing artist wristbands at the ready, we head towards the 4&20 Blackbird Festival gate, then go we striding onto Main Street. It's almost 6pm, and the sun though aslant, is still brutal. There's a band tuning somewhere, a little squeak of feedback quickly squelched. There are booths with woven hippie hats, funny and/ or arty t-shirts, Manic Panic hair dye, beer, beer, beer, meat-on-a-stick, hamburgers, hot dogs, offerings of West African cuisine, Thai cuisine, and even food from planet Vegan. We hit a show at one of the indoor stages, The Cottonmouth Club. It's normally one of the live rooms that are part of Radiostar Studios, owned by superfamous producer, Sylvia Massy (who is also the mastermind behind this fest). Tokyo Raid are midway into a literally and figuratively blazing set. It's intensely sweltering in here, and they are melting through their set like molten steel--especially the magnificent drum maniac, Mike Thompson, who looks as though he just might burst into flame before our eyes. There is a bit of private moshing from an onlooker or three. My mind inevitably flashes a slideshow of the paleolithic hardcore punk era of the 1980s, in Knoxville when I was in college--standing in stinky taverns in the muggy summer nights on the Strip, clashing chords, drummers sweating & grunting under speedy eighth notes, twenty-somethings proudly displaying incipient nihilism & tall mohawks, teens with fake IDs sneaking into the bars to soak in this much-needed noise. I can picture one skinny obviously underage kid pumping his fist at a Marginal Man show, his cutoff jean jacket vest scrawled with the epithet, "ANARCHY RULES". Heh...but is that notion paradoxically oxymoronic--or zen koanlike? To rule is to not rule? No rule is the rule--or simply, anarchy is just alright with me? One may never know. After their set, we drift down the street and savor a singular high altitude summer streetfair synesthesia--the toothsome aromas of roasting meats, cookies, and pot, the goldenhour hues setting Mt Shasta's glaciers (what's left of them--thanks global warming) on visual fire. I feel light-headed. Whoa. Am I woozy from the altitude? Or just the heat? We sample some the food options--not cheap but delish, the West African booth's combo plate, with some spicy veggies and grilled beef, annihilates our hunger. A guy with a massive snake draped on his shoulders strolls past us, attracting notice from all passers-by. Kids reach out and pat the snake on the head. It gazes impassively at them with long-suffering reptilian calm. Bands are soundchecking and lurching through their sets. Applause is smattering, the sun setting. We wander to the end of Main Street where the barricade ends. There's a guy utterly alone in a little mini-park crooning some Sinatra-type repertoire and playing loops on his keyboard-- the guerrilla performer crashing the fest. He has a hand painted sign that declares: "Al Sosa sings". He does indeed have some serious vocal chops. We applaud and head back to the scheduled events and catch Major Powers and the LoFi Symphony--who are as sublime as always. At some point before or after they play, dusk melts into evening. We head back over to the theatre and catch the last song of The Family Crest's unplugged set. The room is lit up by their exuberance. We stay for some of the after-party "VIP Ball" which includes live music, live painting, and a pretty hypnotic fractal light show, but by 1:30 am I'm beat and head back to my room at the HI LO. I hear later that there was a burlesque show, and one of the dancers had a digestive disaster onstage. Hmmm, I guess I retired for the evening at precisely the right moment. August 5, noon We set up, and sprint through our first tune. Oh yes! Even without one single rehearsal since March, we still sound like True Margrit--sweet! It's just so nice to play with Gary & Andrew--even if we do have to brave high altitude pulmonary edema for this gig. Mike Thompson asks us to play "Metaphor", and we launch into it before reflecting that we haven't played it in over a year. We give it our best shot nonetheless. And it is not complete train wreck-- but I switch some chords & riffs up, sing the wrong lyrics in several spots, and require prompting from Sarah. But somehow it fits the contained chaos of the past 24 hours. Take a chance, sing something--anything! There are no mistakes only choices. That strict verse/chorus structure of the song can exist in tension with disorder disarray dissonance. Anarchy rules.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fazioli Friends and Bosom Buddies

As recounted in an earlier blog , I played an "Ironsong" (in the round) format show with Emily Bezar and LikeLove (aka Michelle Alexander) in February. We had such a magical night that we had to reprise the lineup. As it turns out, the amazing musician and piano technician maestro, Mark Skowronek, who was at the February show, tunes pianos at Piedmont Piano Company. He got us hooked up with those folks and we secured a night on their calendar of events for August. The deal is, they provide for their shows one of their grandest grands that happen to be in-house. Currently that is their ten foot FAZIOLI! Oh lord. Emily & I went over to the store a few weeks prior the show to check it out.
Thus, on Friday, August 3rd my anticipation was at fever-pitch to get my hands on the Fazioli and play tunes and to hear Emily & Michelle play theirs. The doors opened, our peeps sat down in the folding chairs, and Norm introduced us. We three performers scuttled out to the forest of pianos and each of uschoosing a different instrument to play a fanfare of multiple trills followed by G dom7 chord. And they're off! I had written down more ballads on my setlist than I played--but it was just so fun to play "Syllable" and piano-stompers of that ilk on that beast. Nonetheless, I debuted the completed version (now with a chorus/title) of the previously untitled lament, "Escape Velocity". Plus, I played "Serious Trash" with its new ridiculously catchy (if I say so myself) chorus riff. I think I'm done changing it--this being the third version and final, dammit, version. Amongst her dreamy dreamy adventure-song offerings, Emily had two brand-new songs to share-- both gorgeous & haunting--and as Michelle pointed out, they're keepers. Michelle played her madly spare spin on The Beatles tune "I will", her indescribably hilarious take on, "Summertime", and a selection of her own post-pop gems. So, so good, y'all. Seriously. We had a little wine & cupcake-fueled reception after the musical proceedings; a companionable mingling, meeting, and chatting ensued. Heather Campbell had arrived at the event with a birthday cake for me (for yes, this was indeed my birthday show!) but she deemed it impolitic, or at least impractical, to undertake its presentation in the somewhat formal surroundings of the Piedmont Piano showroom. She had taken it back to the car. For later. We hastened back to the house for a post-reception after-party and Heather brought out her masterpiece be-decked with live lit sparklers: a chocolate cake in the shape of two boobs with fresh raspberry nipples, in honor of my transition into a brave new decade--and in reference to the now legendary breast-festooned cake that was served ten years ago at Chelsea's birthday party wherein Sarah and I met (in a sidebar of destiny, it's possible that our roommate David Gremard who worked at San Francisco's sexy cake bakery ten years ago when we didn't know him yet, was the actual cake decorator--whoa). As all of Heather's cakes are (and I've had the good fortune to have eaten more than a score of them), it was mind-bendingly rich & scrumptious. As we sat on the patio pleasantly conversing, a raspberry nipple blushed warmly in the tealights, looking as though it were still in a heightened state from playing the Fazioli. I know I was.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fizzleshcwick and other gigs

Hi Gremlins, Pacers, and Dusters. Your disappointingly disappearing docent has returned. So now I can welcome y'all back to the museum of True Margrit. Where, you might ask, was I? While a few days went by on earth, I was transformed and transported into an alternate reality wherein I lived several lifetimes on the dread planet Fizzleshcwick.

Shall I relate?

First off, the sky is yellow there. Not a golden-hour, honeyed warm hue, nor a mustard-esque appetizing ochre...nope. Each day, the overarching dome has a drab uriney tinge from the Yellow Giant sun of their solar system, which casts its malign pessimism upon all proceedings. The unfortunate general populous of the planet toil ceaselessly under this pulsating orb, cracking rocks for the Great Cricket Overlord (and his inner circle) to make building materials for underground insect pleasure palaces. I fomented a workers' rebellion, was incarcerated, escaped, and fomented and fomented again. Decades decanted into the carafe of time. I like to think I did a little to help the good people of Fizzleschwick who now have socialized medicine, government subsidized arts programs, free university educations for all, and they're as happy as clams. Well, in truth, they're happier, as clams are pretty emotion-neutral.

And then it was late March 2012 on Earth in the Bay Area--in which there were two True Margrit gigs. The first was actually a solo gig for me, appearing with Maurice Tani & Corry Dodson at Dolores Park Cafe and we played an "Ironsong" songwriters-in-the-round format. Boy howdy! Those two sure can sing. Check out their tunes right quick, y'all.

The second March gig was with the full band! Andrew came down from Tacoma, we rehearsed in the new studio, learning the new tune, "Love on the Moon", and then we rocked out at Red Devil Lounge. It was Gary's birthday and it was superfun. Also playing were too many bands to enumerate since it was one of those Afton shows (a not-local promoter who books bills with a multiplicity of local bands). One of the other bands was Sit Kitty Sit whom we love. Here's their video of "Purge" that Sarah directed!!! (not to mention, I recorded that track at my studio--Absolutely True Sound . Yes!

I took April off to have an existential crisis. Then in May, I debuted, "Serious Trash" (an ode to the island of plastic debris in the Pacific) for Piano Adventure Night at Monarch in San Francisco. Sit Kitty Sit organized and played--and Major Powers & the Lo Fi Symphony (so AWESOME!!!!), and The John Brothers Piano Company, and Domonique Leone.WHOA! What a night!

Then it was June in which I appeared at Dolores Park Cafe with Kay Ashley & Gary Garrett. We opted to play two rounds of short sets, but within those confines, much music was had by all. Gary crooned in the Don McLean-esque family tree of folkpop. Kay strummed excellent guitar into a sitar-like hypnotic groove and vocalized like a nightingale siren. And I played the alpha version of an untitled new sorrowful song even though the chorus was incomplete. Nobody fomented a rebellion over it. I knew I had lifetimes to complete it. Look what happened in early March.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ironsong: Season 1, Episode 2: Monster Keyboard Women!

February 3, 2012
Well, it's a month later, and as I sit down to write about this show, it all comes back to me how magically delicious an evening it was. I got to share the stage with two such AMAZING artistes: Emily Bezar and LikeLove (aka Michelle Alexander) and the connections, contrasts, and strikingly good mojos between the three of us were pretty interstellar. ( PHOTOS by Tom ERIKSON! )

How to describe and do justice? It may not be possible... but here goes: Emily is a virtuoso pianist and vocalist, and with these mighty powers in play, her songs travel virtuosic distances too. You listen and you're swept off to other planets, dimensions, and times--you're transfixed, filled with awe, and yet soothed sitting by the hearth of a fireplace as the wood crackles cozily in a cottage as the wind whistles outside in the reeds, then the sun sets and the stars ignite above your roof and shed silver light upon the earth, water, and stones. She shames Tori Amos and is not to be missed.

Now, Michelle, she serves up the most newly-minted, post-modern, post-post-art-pop minimalism a vintage Wurlitzer electric piano-player ever dared to pound out. Her perfectly jagged grooves are trimmed of all excess fat and propel her angelic belting and edgy hilarity into your brain. Her songs are touching, demented, wildly funny, and utterly on their own plane of existence--one that was just this instant invented by her. And her cover of "Summertime" is insanely humorous--she had the whole cafe laughing to the point of tears. I won't give it away...just go hear her.

Oh--and me? I played some previously hatched tunes and played some of the newest iterations of newish ones ("Love on the Moon","Solo So Low", "Goldstar") and felt the warmth & love from the very generously engaged crowd (which, as a sidebar, included all four bass players from the entire history of True Margrit thus far: Gary Hobish--the current & longest standing bassist, Robert Geller--the original bassist, Mark Skowronek, and Neal Trembath).

To summarize: it was fantastic. All too soon, it was time to wind up.

However--this particular lineup will reassemble for a show on AUGUST 3rd--which happens to fall very near my very big birthday!! And! It will be held at Piedmont Piano AND we will be playing a 10-foot Fazioli!!! AND!! You will be deprived if you aren't there. Seriously.

Monday, December 26, 2011

IRONSONGs, Lunar Eclipses, Viral Spiral

Debut of IRONSONG!
This comically gloomy artwork was the "promotional" poster for a long-ago gig I shared with the terrifically talented songwriter, Robert Geller. We recently reunited for the very first installment of my new songwriters in the round series: IRONSONG--at the ever welcoming, Dolores Park Cafe.

Also circulating songs with us was Lea Carey Grant who sings like an angelic bird and writes clever, pretty, and often theatrical popsongs. Our songs floated down a meandering stream of consciousness with topics and metaphors like snow, birds, politics, airplanes, and literature catching the currents. At one point, Amy Meyers popped in and we got her "up" on stage ( there's not really a stage at Dolores Park Cafe--but you know what I mean) to play a tune or two. Bonus!

In the wee hours of December 11th I blearily noticed the moon looking a bit odd--"hmm," I thought, "when I went to bed it was full, but now it looks like a half moon? What the?" Soon enough I realized the dealio. It was the total lunar eclipse of December 2011! And gorgeous! My inner cavewoman watched it in awe, thinking: "Me like Mother Moon, but tonight she is strange. We must sacrifice a virgin carrot to appease her wrath". It also crossed my mind that 2012 is coming and some predictions of doom have been associated with that date. Fear fire foes famine. Trans fats. Or not if you follow the official Vulcan, Hobbit, or cicada calendar. It's all in the trappings of perspective. Looky here--from over yonder. Yknow.

Kate, Kat, and Me

A few weeks later I returned to Dolores Park Cafe for a more "regular" show with kate kilbane and the cellar doors, and Kat Downs. Damn. Those party people sure can kick some musical ass!

I awoke a few days ago to a posting on our facebook page listing me as one of the finalists for Keyboard Player of The Year on Sunset Island Music--oooh! That makes a pianoplayer's day. And if that weren't enough, an online talent search we undertook to interest the bigwigs at Spectra Records (wherein we needed to get a minimum of 250 fans to listen to our tunes to get to Spectra's review stage) went healthfully viral, giving us over 2,000 listens (and counting) ooh! Thanks y'all!!!

The year ends the year begins.

The days are so short this time of year, that dinnertime is right after breakfast. Soon enough it will be a new blank page on the calendar. Let's raise a full glass to a sweet sweet 2012.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Thirty Names for 50,000 Words for Snow

Why does the caged poet sing? What and how she sing? Let me count the ways. The words, names, numbers, slip sneakily through the bars off into the night. Each day dawns with the challenge and charge of having & needing to have more to say. Always more...oh you amusing muse.

In honor of this rampant multiplicity, there's a sub-genre in the True Margrit Catalog--the "number songs". What do I mean? I'll show you! For examples: On our 2010 album,"The Juggler's Progress" we had: "500 Years" and "50,000 Names . On our upcoming album we will feature "The Five Hundred Block of A Thousand Oaks" and the mathematical-metaphor-laden,"Obvious Solutions". Mmm, mathy. And so on, unto eternity, with a mobius strip of songs reeling through a massive, metaphorical, and magnificent player piano.

Now listen!

Long ago, in 1999 we released, "Deceptively True" which included, "The Thirty Words for Snow" -- which was a song in my 1997 rock opera/ song cycle, "Tune Into Radio Brain". So, imagine my surprise to hear that one of my very favorite artistes of all time--the one and only, illustrious, fabulous Kate Bush--has a new album about to drop this very month! Guess what it's called? "50 Words for Snow"!!

Whoa. What are the odds? Is it a case of sympathetic magic--like begets like, so simply writing songs with numbers in the title/lyrics multiplies the chances of meeting your song's doppelganger? If the number is higher will there be more doppelgangers? I'd say that is not a very scientific explanation. But it's all I got at the moment.

Or? As it happens My birthday is July 28th and Kate Bush's is July 30th. My song, "Thirty Words for Snow" was actually debuted in San Francisco on July 31st, 1997, the day after Kate Bush's 39th birthday, and her song, "50 Words for Snow" has 14 characters-- and the letters in my first and last name add up to 14. Which clearly explains everything.

I am the daughter of a scientist, after all. Trust me.

Anyway. In tribute to this numerologically propitious synchronicity, and on the magical date of 11/11/11 (All ones! Nothing is bigger than one!) we offer a special free download "single" called: 50,000 WORDS FOR SNOW and it will entail: TWO SONGS FREE (cuz singles were two songs in olden times--side A + side B = single. Nothing is bigger than a single). Thus, you get: "The Thirty Words for Snow" AND "50,000 Names" for free.

The number for the price is zero.

A zero. It's a circle. It has no beginning, middle, or end. It goes on forever, it is eternal, it never stops. But it never starts. It mysteriously contains the entirety of the ever-expanding cosmos. It holds the great nothingness of the void. It will afford you hours of entertainment. And scare the bejesus out of you. And lead you gently home.

There's so much more to say--but I'm trying to keep it to fifty thousand words or less.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Luckey's Streak

October 28th
Just a tee-tonsey sliver of pie for breakfast. Holy Mother of Julia Child! That is rich luscious, pumpkiny, and chocolatey--and admittedly, a little fibrous. All in all, a success. There was a pumpkin..and then we went to work and there were pies. If only the music biz were that easy.

As pie.

We hop into vehicles and go south. We meet my brother and nephew Elan for lunch in Portland. Much conversational fun and many noodles are had by all.

We hop into vehicles and go farther south. It rains. We drive. We get to Luckey's Cigar Store Club in Eugene, OR, and heave gear within the club and go out for some dinner. For yes--we are already hungry again. It's mysterious. Digestion.

(Laspe of Time for Dinner)

Back at the club Jimmy Frank (aka James Betzer) opens the show up. He belts and sings like an angel, working through a super duper set of originals --peppered with some cool covers ("Mrs. Brown You've Got a lovely Daughter", for one). Bird Erichsen ( aka Brad Erichsen) gets up and sings, in fact, like a bird with a totally different type of lovely, bluesy, tunes with fancy guitar licks. He includes a cover of "Trouble" by Cat Stevens--hearkening back to the Cat Stevens-filled year we were roommates in the Haight--aw, Brad! Yay!

We pop up and do our True Margrit best to follow such excellent acts. Though a bit fatigued from a week of gigs, crazy hours, and much bacon fat, we plow mightily through tunes from "Seaworthy", "The Juggler's Progress" and our upcoming album. I make another shaky foray with the ukelele on the wee songlet,"Like You". And the new ballad "You Could Be Anything" shows its wry face, too.

At last, we play the final notes of the tour, get the hell offstage, and head out into the moist Oregon night, tired, yes, but it's a good healthy-humming-tired. I can picture how Halloween costumes all across the west coast are being shed, partiers are yawning, and blankets are being situated to warm the slumbers of all the weary. We flow through tree-lined streets of Eugene and on and on, to the crescent Moon, past Mars, to places where sleep makes songs new.

Milady Robot

A little more about October 26th:
We drive merrily back to Tacoma after the Christo's show (in Salem, Oregon), buzzed from their delicious food, from playing a well-received, fun, and excellent show. To top it all off the staff played Kate Bush after our show (and before, too) and we love her. More about Kate Bush soon...

(photo by Bob Goldstein)

We get back to Tacoma and we all get to sleep pretty promptly. For tomorrow is another gig.

October 27th
We head in two separate cars to Mandolin Cafe as Andrew has an errand to attend to. Guided by Droid's fallible GPS, Gary & I take a route that lands us in sluggish traffic making us a wee bit late--we get to the venue 15 minutes before showtime. Oops! Andrew is almost set up and we whisk about getting our gear and whatnot all together. Somehow, we are actually playing our first song by 6:15 ish...and all is fine. As it happens, this 2nd half of the tour consists of three shows wherein we get to play over an hour. We do enjoy this freedom, and amongst the rock, old and new, I take the time to do my new itsy-bitsy ukelele ditty, "Like You", plus a solo piano tune, "Casseroles and Thunderstorms" (and in this case, on a real baby grand). Nice!

After the set there is much chatting, hugging, and visiting to be done--all manner of dear friends, dear family, and dear colleagues have shown up. My head spins a little at the very heartwarming-ness of it all. AWWWWWWWW, you sweet humans. I loves you ALL.

Though some of us have partaken of the Mandolin Cafe's yummy snacks, we are all still hungry for the imminent snack Andrew is planning to cook when we get back to his house: the fish that dare not speak its name. Yes it's true. He has a massive halibut fillet he is going to bread and fry in bacon fat. Oh mercy.

Gary & I speed off into the night charged with the important task of procuring tartar sauce ingredients. We locate a Safeway, grab the items ( mayo, shallot, fresh dill) and leap back into the car. But where are we? Uh oh, we are lost...but no! We have GPS. Gary turns on the audio option and the directions are issued in that imperious, flat, run-on, computer-generated voice--in this case it is female...ish. When "she" manages to make the phrase: "take-the-ramp-to-the-port-of-Tacoma" mash into one very long word that does not sound like English (it's closer to Elvish spoken by a machine), we dub her: "Milady Robot".

Such diversions notwithstanding, we get home in time for me to whip us some tartar sauce (greek yogurt, mayo, dill, diced shallots, and some homemade dill pickles of Andrew's). The fish is already swimming out of the bacon grease. And into my mouth. Oh my lord. It's good. You'd have to be made of stone to be unmoved by such deliciousness, on such a night. So say we all--even Milady Robot.


For a side dish we are eating some tasty sci-fi broccoli that came from Heather & Andrew's Little Eorthe organic veggie box. There are a growing constellation of pumpkins piling up from several weeks' worth of boxes, and we have been discussing all week how to cook them. I look at the clock and say:

"I bet we can cook a pumpkin pie by midnight". It's 10:45 and Andrew high-fives me in the customary ritual acceptance of a culinary challenge. It's on.

We grab the prettiest pumpkin, cut it up, remove its seeds and get it cooking in a REALLY hot oven ( just shy of broiling). Meanwhile we decide that yesterday's brownies must be reconstituted into the crust. We crumble the brownies onto a baking sheet and they go into the very hot oven as well--in this case to crisp up. Gary heroically goes back to the store to get heavy whipping cream. We melt a stick of butter and stir it into the brownie crumbs, then mash them into the bottom of two pie pans. For good measure we poke chocolate chips into the crust: more chocolate = better. We mix up the piping hot pumpkin flesh (once we speedily extricate it from its skin) and spin it up in the mixer with eggs, maple syrup, butter--and that heavy cream Gary brings. And of course we add the requisite pumpkin pies spices--cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon. We pop the two pies in the oven. It's 11:55.
Whoa. The colossal mess we've made is really something to be proud of.

The pies take an hour to bake, and we are getting very punchy...

They come out looking and smelling spectonkular. We are too tired and it's too rich to partake tonight (right before sleeping)--but tomorrow, well, we won't need Milady Robot to navigate our pie-laden forks to our mouths.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The San Francisco Treat

October 26th
To Salem from Tacoma we zoom. And when we arrive we are delighted by the True Margrit posters plastered all over the front of the venue, Christo's Lounge (+ Pizzeria). On some of the posters we are called the "San Francisco treat". Nice.

We have a good feeling about this gig. And we are right!

Kyle the talented, good-natured, and conscientious sound guy sees to all our audio needs with easygoing aplomb. Lisa and Mike Learn make sure we have drinks, make sure we order food for after the show (the fragrances of baking pizza garlic and love are AMAZING to the nose up in here), and once we play, they listen to every note of every song with delight. Plus the rest of the generous crowd gives back as much love as we put out. Our chests swell up with the pride of taking part in the great tradition of live performance--let it live on. Like it does here at Christo's. Best gig.

The Chicken That Dare Not Speak Its Name

October 24th
Monday's pork-shoulder
That Andrew roasts slowly for long hours
Then gently stews in chili verde--
Tomatillos, peppers, garlic--
This he lovingly spoons over cheese enchiladas (melted cheese liquid gold)
And it is eaten with joy (and two colorfully contrasting salsas:
spicy tart red cabbage & avocado/citrus/pomegranate)
Followed by ice cream, cookies & action movie

October 25th
Tuesday's free-range organic chickens soaks in buttermilk
All day
Until Andrew dredges the pieces in spice & flour
He fries them in bacon fat
We eat and groan
And yearn for bigger stomachs

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Dear readers, here's a recap of what's gone down in October thus far:

Sunday, Oct 9th at YOSHI's San Francisco LOUNGE--ooh
Sonic Zen Records/ Bay Vibes has been running a songwriters unplugged series at Yoshi's for a few years. October is their last month at that venue, so I'm glad I got to play on account of the fancy factor, meeting the nice people involved, and the free sushi.

What was it? Three songwriters trading mini-sets: Lisa-Marie Johnston, Lea Grant, and me in this installment. It's not quite the truly Attention-Deficit-Disorder-friendly format of switching between performers after one song, but mini-sets nonetheless keep the evening rolling along. My voice refused to warm up, but it didn't matter in the end: I plugged away at some brand-new tunes--and dare I say it, it was strangely invigorating being the sloppy, slap-happy, slacker/savant of the evening (and alliterative, too). Lisa-Marie and Lea both sang flawlessly, they have rad tunes, and we had a great supportive attentive group digging it all. There were thrills, chills, and spills of sake. Domo arigato Yoshi's and Bay Vibes.

Saturday, October 15th 2011
Noe Valley Harvest Festival (Church Street & 24th--next to Happy Donuts)

Sunshine!! Yes, sunshine-- though common in California, is notable if you saw us here last year: it was the opposite day last Harvest Fest. Yes, spare a sad emoticon for True Margrit getting deluged by the deluge in 2010. In addition to sunshine, 2011's Noe Vally Harvest fest featured a tall raised stage---ooh.

Kif, the child-prodigy Noe-valley phenom, did a short sparkly set before we played. He' a tough act to follow, and as we took the stage we felt like ancient and gigantic hulks in contrast. However, we soon received love from the horde--for, once we started playing, wildly gyrating 4-year-old fans began kindergarten moshing in front of the stage--most amusing (and distractingly hilarious). We debuted the new song, "Goldstar" incorporated into a medley with "Superhero Drugs" ( among other wholesome treats). During our ballad, "Great Praise, the moshing halted, and at one point I looked down and standing right below me was a wee girl listening intently with eyes narrowed with an intensely pensive mien, as if pondering the existential ramifications of the lyrics. Whoa. We wound up our set with "Comforting the Castaways". Then the dog costume contest took the stage and blew us away...that's show biz.

PS The Noe Valley's Farmer's Market just released a compilation CD (upon which we have a song: "Please Move Your Car"). Proceeds help them keep having an AWESOME famer's market--which is great for everyone.

Thursday October 20th
1st Driving Day for 2011 Autumn Adventure/ The Chicken that Dare Not Speak Its Name Tour
(Bad Road Food (part 1)--Salt Salad and Bloody Chicken

Gary and I managed to leave SF by 8:00 am. And if you aren't impressed you don't know any musicians. That's an early bird in these parts.

We made pretty good time all the way up to Weed, CA where we stopped for Gary to grab some coffee and a scone. We decided to zoom on to Ashland, OR to eat at The Wild Goose--a rare eatery right off the freeway that is not a chain, and is often pretty palatable. We got there in due course and settled down to our lunches. Unfortunately, my smoked salmon cesar was mercilessly salty. It was so wildly overdressed with too many anchovies, smoked fishes, and parmesans combining on too little lettuce (and with the added insult to injury of stale croutons) as to fill me with a rare sodium-fueled indignation. Chalk it up to mis-ordering. I thought, "The next meal will make up for it."

Uh oh. The worst was yet to be visited upon my stomach.

We met up with the infamous Reverend Marc Time (of Sunday Morning Hangover and Eugene Storefront Art Project fame) at the Pioneer Restaurant--which is somewhere between Junction City and Salem--or somewhere. Whatever. Don't go. This truckstop diner has no reason or right to be good--and it isn't! I ordered chicken --the menu said it was "broasted" which I must have misinterpreted, because it was simply fried chicken. The wing tasted pretty good, actually-- although barely deserving of the name fried chicken next to Andrew's diabolically great version of which we fantasize often. After devouring the wing, I took a big bite of the breast--which (though it sounds funny) was sad. Instead of the running of clear juices that signify thoroughly cooked fowl meat, there was blood to be seen. I say: gross. Naturally, there were profuse apologies from the Pioneer staff--and new chicken was whisked to me. Well, it took twenty minutes, but who's counting. Anyway. Marc was amused, because when we ate there another time he witnessed me when I sent back tepid tea (which I believe he thought was diva-ish of me, but bloody chicken is an actual safety issue...Marc). I texted Andrew to warn of my imminent case of salmonella/ botulism but spellcheck changed it to "salmonella/ nihilism". That too.

Friday, October 21st
Tour Kickoff Gig in Olympia at 4th Ave Tavern!
(the redemption of Cambodia via Tacoma)

Before the show we needed to eat something really great to fortify us for the rock and to make up for the previous day's food horrors. Heather & Andrew recommended a Cambodian restaurant near their house called Mitapeap ... ok, I'm not sure how it's pronounced, but luckily this conversation is written so I don't sound so bad... but the point is: if you're in Tacoma you must eat there, it's AMAZING. Great cold spring rolls--so fresh! Evanescent stir-fried catfish, sublime wonton soup. It's no joke.

Replete with deliciousness, off we went to Olympia and 4th Ave Tavern to play our gig. There we heard sets from Lijie and Roxi Copland, and then we burned through a dozen of our tunes, tore down our shit, chatted with peeps, and took off. It was 2:30 am when we got back to Andrew's and we were starving...all over again--crazy! But then, it was 8 hours since dinner, we realized. Heather & I shared the leftover soup from Mitapeap. So good. Lord bless the to-go container and she who takes the time to request it ( Heather). And to all a good night.

Saturday, October 22
Portland's Mississippi Pizza Pub

I must disclose (in the interest of full disclosure) that my very own brother books this venue. But slow down haters, before you cry nepotism on my house, just know that we were booked TWICE on our musical merits alone at this fine establishment before Dan worked there, thus showing we are not recipients of special treatment.

Anyhoo. Andrew sped us down to Portland, pulled up the truck to the venue, and we heaved gear out onto the sidewalk. Dan arrived, chatted with us (but didn't hug because he had a terrible cold), the band in the early spot finished their set & dragged gear out the door, we rustled gear in, set up, and commenced our tunes.
It sounded quite nice. It's a nice venue! During the set I tried to shout-out to both upcoming acts, but I blanked on their names: I called Dream Cannon Dream Weaver and I called Gloom Catcher River Empires ( their old/ alternate name). Dammit! mental weakness aside, we had some extra nice versions--especially of "Comforting the Castaways". The 50 minutes went by in an eyeblink--oops we were supposed to do 45. Well... what's five minutes among bands? We took our gear back out the door and tucked it into the truck for the night. The other bands got up and did their thing, we ate an excellent half pepperoni/ half mushroom pie, we listened, we visited with Dan & my nephew, Elan (aka Might Misc. We visited with Andrew's colleague, songwriter, Eric Stewart, then we headed back to Tacoma. Done and done.

Sunday, October 23
Seattle: EL Corazon

Well, I do not think we have yet found the perfect venue/ bill for True Margrit in Seattle as of yet, but El Corazon was surprisingly fun and had these attributes in its favor: a big loud stage on which to rock with Andrew's full drumkit, a bill with a big loud lineup, it's all ages, and there was an amazingly attentive audience made up of the bands and their fans. And amongst the hard rock acts we got to hear the fantastic Mary Lambert who has an insanely pretty-but-also-raw-versatile voice and strongly realized tunes with layers and ribbons of meaning.

Plus. Something interesting always happens when we play in Seattle--at our first gig in town, we met Heart's drummer, Ben Smith, who was drawn into the bar we were playing when he heard "Opposite Man". Another time, a woman told me she liked the "rigatoni" I played on the piano (not sure--did she mean arpeggio??). And once, we had sausages from a cart at 1:30 am after our gig--that is all kinds of sublime.

On this particular occasion, we were all ever-so famished after the show--dinner had not happened. We drove around in the obligatory rain (rain in Seattle--what?). We found a strip with many restaurants, we chose Pho Cyclo cafe and trooped in. The staff sadly shook their heads at us. And we turned away dejectedly. Perhaps in pity of our tragic demeanor, they changed their collective mind and shepherded us back in.

Oh joy oh soup
Hot curling steam rises
Oh broth so rich
Oh basil so piquant
Beansprout so crunchy
Friend or Pho
After your show
To Cyclo Cafe