I've set up a new blog at http://ryanmontbleau.wordpress.com and just posted a new one.
Sorry for the move, but very happy for the move, actually. Thank you MySpace, for the good times and the magic...
Hope to see you all over there! I will check the comments on this MySpace page periodically, and if there's enough of a clamor to keep it on here, I can see about pasting the new blogs here. But check the new one out, I think you'll like it. And tell me what you think, here or there, either way.
Thank you all so much for reading!
I have a new desk.
I almost cried on the night that he died.
Not right when I found out, but later on in the night, driving home from the gig, blasting his tunes right off the radio. He was all over the dial. I heard that voice and I thought about the life that he was (and now wasn't) and I got very sad.
What a tragedy. What an American tragedy, the life of Michael Jackson.
I was in second grade when the Michael mania hit in the 80's. Seemingly overnight, everybody came to school with some kind of white, fake-jewel-encrusted, glove on one hand. And the crazy lucky kids had that weird red and black jacket.
And everybody had Thriller.
My brother and I had only a small case of cassette tapes at that time. And being the future mathematician that he was, Bill would only allow us to listen to all of the tapes in their entirety, in order. No repeats until we came back through all 12 tapes. I remember pleading with him not to make us play the Kenny Rogers tape again before we listened to Thriller. I couldn't get enough! No one could. And many people still can't, all over the world.
As a musician, it's crazy to go back to those tracks now and begin to pick apart just why they were so magical. The drum tracks are fat and perfect, the horn lines are laser beams, the arrangements are the perfect pop formula, but the underlying parts are gospel soul that stand on their own.
But that's the music. We all know about Michael Jackson's music.
The tragedy is what happened to the man. How did all of the humanity get sucked out of this?
In a sense, he was too good. Arguably the best overall entertainer the world has ever known. Pushed as a child with his brothers and churning out classics, then dropping a dance-floor epic seemingly out of nowhere years later with Off the Wall. This all paved the way for Thriller, which just took everything way over the top. A combination of crazy talents and timing, however you want to slice it, it ended up bigger than big.
Michael Jackson was not just famous. His fame was ubiquitous. There are many famous people in the world who have trouble walking down the street without getting stopped. But what would it be like to never be able to walk down most streets in the world without causing a near-riot? Can you imagine what people say to you? How they treat you in general if they ever do get close enough? And I don't just mean the millions in the streets. I mean everyone, the business execs, the industry people, your so-called colleagues, hell even your family!
I haven't watched much TV since Micheal's death, but in ten minutes I saw about all I needed to see. It was his father Joe, getting interviewed by CNN on the red carpet of the BET Awards. Here's the clip:
"Have the last few days been really hard for you and your family?"
"Yes, it has, remember we just lost the biggest star in the world."
We lost the biggest star. Not my son. Not Micheal, my youngest son, but a star. Then his own father brings some other guy on to start plugging their new record label. Amazing. And sickening.
When this is your family, who is there for you as a human? You've had to build the big house and buy the seclusion, because your life in the normal world is the farthest thing from normal. You run and hide because you have to. But who's there when you retreat to the corners of the your Neverland monstrosity?
Certainly not Joe. Maybe some expensive toys. Maybe a famous friend here and there. Hell, maybe a chimp. Maybe children. Who the fuck knows?
The bottom line is, you're on top of the world and that is a scary and lonely place to be. Especially if you started towards there as a child with no real childhood. Now you're a freakshow with riches beyond riches to open any door. Except the doors into which money cannot buy you an entrance.
I'm not excusing the man for the life he led or anything he did or didn't do. I'm just saying look at this life as a whole. It's an American tragedy. It's rags to riches and riches to a golden cage. We want you to succeed and when you succeed too much, we no longer see a person there.
Look at what happened to this person:
Fortunately, the music will live on long past any of this. Rest in peace, Michael Jackson. And thank you for the songs.
What's it been, ten years since my last blog? I'm sorry for that. Look, it's not you, it's me. Oh, come on, baby, you know it's not like that!
This blog will finally be moving to a new site soon (I think, I hope), but I had to check in...
Typing this out with my thumbs on a BlackBerry at my uncle Bob's house in Pelham, New Hampshire. The house is nice and my uncle's been really cool. But if I make too much noise when I go brush my teeth, the German Shepherd may wake up and potentially kill me. About a week-and-a-half ago she finally got to me. It was the only time I've touched the dog. She cornered me in the kitchen; I ran. The bite marks are in the middle of my back. It wasn't all that bad, barely broke skin. But still, time to go...
I'm moving into a beautiful old (and dirt-cheap) victorian with most of the rest of the band this week. It's the big experiment. If it doesn't break us up, we'll end up twice the band we are now, I'm sure of it. Nothing but time together to trade ideas, to practice, and to play. I still honestly believe that we're only scratching the surface of what we can do together. This is a good thing. It's on!
Hmmm...what else? More thoughts:
--We did a national tour since my last blog, so there was that.
--I saw Phish at Fenway Park last night. How surreal to see that band at that beautiful baseball stadium. Amazing. And I got to be on the field! Jess took a picture that makes it look like I'm playing second base (while wearing a hoodie and my cap, but still...). Gave me a new appreciation for the players who go out there every day and make it look easy.
--I'm on day seven of the Master Cleanse. So I haven't eaten food in a week and have been living off of a lemonade concoction made with fresh-sqeezed organic lemon juice, grade B maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water. It's interesting, I'll say that. So much about eating food is psychological. My energy level is fine (I've practiced guitar and singing, gone on a long bike ride, driven the van all over the place, and survived a Phish show!). And supposedly my body is being cleansed of toxins at the moment, so that should feel nice one of these days. We'll see. I'm supposed to do it for a minimum of ten days.
--I did a show with Livingston Taylor (brother of James and an amazing performer/dude in his own right!) In Fall River, MA. As soon as I got off stage, he had the name and number of a premier vocal teacher written down on a napkin for me. I started lessons the following week and am very excited! I can sing, but have never been trained. If I practice like I'm supposed to, there is a way to sing that is free from so much of the tension that I currently have. I need this. This is how I will sing at 75!
--Met Bill Kreutzman, drummer of the Grateful Dead, last week. Nice guy! Very down to earth (for a guy that's been to Pluto).
--I'm in love.
--Currently reading Stephen King "On Writing" (thanks to Amber Rubarth) and Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now." I read at a snail's pace, so will probably be reading those during my next blog (due out in 2019).
--Speaking of 2019, has anybody else thought about the fact that the 20's are coming again?!? I wonder if they'll roar.
--I don't watch much late-night television, but thought it was interesting that Conan O'Brien did his first "Tonight Show" tonight. (Was that redundant?)
"The Tonight Show." As in Johnny Carson. As in, there was a time when this show must've positively ruled the airwaves at night. There were only so many channels and there were only so many celebrities and musical acts. And it was a big deal if they were on TV, because everyone was watching.
I thought of this tonight and it made me want to go back to that time. It is an illusory time, made up in my mind, but it is a simpler one. Only so many channels. Only so many choices. What you got was what was in front of you. Money was cash and coin. Information was in books and in people. Cars were made of metal. Phones were hard wired into the wall or the booth, and the phone booth cost a dime so you'd better have a dime in your pocket. Not a debit card.
I'm not bemoaning the world we live in. I'm just fantasizing about a world I never really knew. Conan O'brien is taking over the Tonight Show and that's a cool thing. But it's not what it once was. People are watching, but not like they once were. People are doing a zillion different things in a million different directions. It's a fragmented world, splintered into a billion juicy pieces. Go and get yours, whatever, whenever, wherever and however you choose to have it.
There is tremendous power in this. And the likelihood of tremendous distraction. Where is the space in a world cluttered with choice? I FaceBook, I Twitter, I get it. But think about how much different those acts are than calling your friend collect on a pay phone in 1975. The impulse that drives the two actions are the same. One is clunky and physical, the other is fiber-optic and beaming worldwide in a millisecond. I guess they must've said the same thing about the telephone itself at its inception.
I'm losing myself...
Ah yes! The space. Where is the space in all of this? Every minute of every day, every precious second spent doing, doing.
What I've been reading, and believing, is that we are not what we do. We are not what we think.
My thumbs are tired.
Current mood:productiveI played solo acoustic shows in five cities last week. We recorded them for the upcoming "Stages: Volume II" album. All in all, I think they went really well. I worked really hard on the tunes in the weeks prior and was even able to make my banjo debut! Amber Rubarth was amazing as always in her opening sets and we sang some stuff together too.
Northampton ended up good, but it was sort of a weird night. For some reason, they cleared out all the tables and left the dance floor. This was a solo-acoustic show! Dancing is optional and fine by me, but listening is absolutely essential for a solo show to really connect. The 90% of people who wanted to sit and listen that night were all at tables around the outskirts of the room. And the 30 or 40 who wanted to drink and make noise were all right in front of me. It ended up being fine, the show wasn't ruined or anything like that (although, one guy did get kicked out, who the staff said was "something other than drunk.") But it did make for a funny dichotomy of the different kinds of shows that we play, the different scenes.
I don't blame those people for coming out and drinking any more than I blame the people who sat quietly and listened. (Admittedly, though, I do prefer the latter). If they came out before to a full-band throwdown and got a little tipsy, why would they expect something different? It's funny. I just want everyone to go home happy, and it's more challenging than others some nights. Club Passim in Cambridge closed out the solo run, and that place was pin-drop quiet (with the possible exception of some possible buddies of mine who were possibly really hammered in the back.) Solo run—done. Stages: Volume II—in the can. Bring on the band.
The very next night began the “Band Tour.” It seems almost funny calling them tours now. That would imply a beginning and an end. There’s only so much of that.
16 hours after playing an historic folk room, I was loading into Tammany Hall with the band. This is a battered old club and hippie-haven in Worcester, MA we used to play several years back. It was filled to the gills and rocking! We played about two-and-a-half hours straight and hung out for a while before we packed it up for Maine. Felt way different, but good to be with the guys again. Like riding a bike after power-walking a marathon.
The next night in Unity, ME, was a beautiful little performing arts center “in the middle of nowhere,” to quote the promoter. There were plush gold-velvety seats and wooden beams throughout. At first, the dance party that started in the front sort of threw me off, but then it was just great and I think we managed to entertain everyone. I know we had some fun. Great night! The venue was equipped with lodging and we passed out watching old VHS tapes of the Three Stooges.
Matty (bass) has given up sweets for this tour, which officially started this past week. He wants to cut down on sugar. In Maine we were served some wonderful catering, which included a container of fresh-baked delicious cookies for us to enjoy. He was bummed he couldn’t eat any as we remarked about how good they were and ate the whole bin.
The next night we went back to the Warehouse in Hartford, CT, home of our 2009 New Year’s Ball. Another great night all around, the crowd was amazing and we felt good about the show. Our friend Sara gave us several boxes of homemade cookies to take with us. They didn’t even make it out of the venue, we ate them so fast. God, they were delicious. Sara’s one of the best bakers we know, usually famous for her mini-muffins. Poor Matty.
We crashed in a hotel and drove on to Sellersville, PA, where another beautiful little theater awaited us. It’s a converted old movie theater and sounds and feels great.
Our good friend Zach Deputy opened, and the guys got to jam as his band for the night. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy hearing the guys play and not being on stage. So proud to be a part of what they’re cooking.
Speaking of cooking, the green room was stocked with everything we could ever want: a delicious meal, water, beer, juice, coffee, tea, bourbon, you name it. There was a basket filled with candy bars and Twizzlers. Sorry, Matty. Someone had left us a box with a nice card attached to it too. Inside the box were two large freezer bags filled to the brim with delicious m&m filled cookies. So good. And so nice of these kind folks! Sorry, Matty.
Then, I kid you not, Yahuba’s friend Eric showed up. This guy is a professional baker and brought us a veritable stack of boxes of fresh-baked, no preservative goodies baked just that day. There were some kind of half-moon pies, muffins, cupcakes, a whole lemon meringue pie. Matty’s head almost exploded on the way home. But he’s staying strong.
A woman named Catherine also left a note addressed to me. Inside it, she explained that her uncashed stimulus check from last year was still sitting on her desk. She decided to donate it, partly to us partly and to Zach Deputy. That was how she wanted to “stimulate the economy.” There were two money orders along with the note. Unbelievable. The generosity of people continues to astound me. We’d better make some good tunes!
We leave tomorrow for a month that will take us to the west coast and back. And the rollercoaster continues…
P.S- The first thing I heard when I took the stage at the Tin Angel was a woman in the second row saying, “Ryan, I don’t miss the straight hair.” I was wearing a hat, and I guess it pleased her that she didn’t have to see my hair underneath. It made me think about showing up at the workplace of a stranger and commenting on how you don’t like the way they look. It’s a glorious life I lead, and a strange one. This was not for her sake, but for mine: