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

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