Thursday, December 30, 2010

From The Darkness and Fear: Volary Moves "Out Of Shadows"

Volary: Noun. 1) A flight or a flock of birds.  2) the cage you keep them in.

Seldom in life do we pause to think about tomorrow, to think about whether or not we will still be alive to love, eat, breathe and create. We often take for granted our day-to-day existence and seldom do we stop for a moment and think, ‘What if I die tomorrow? What sort of legacy do I want to leave behind?’

Enter Volary, an Australian born singer/songwriter now making her home in San Francisco.  Volary has just recently begun to ask her self those questions.  She has cancer.  As most of us know, cancer sucks in a really big way and will inevitably change your life and perspective of it right before your eyes, regardless of whether or not you want it to.  A deeper sense of your own mortality can make you want to live your life even more.

In Volary’s new album, Out Of Shadows, the lyrics and songs were already written before “cancer” became a common, daily word for Volary. The darkness of the mood of her music and the positive hope that she tries to convey within her songs are present and accountable in this breathtaking first effort from a woman who knows how to survive everything from self- doubt to lost love.

“I was actually diagnosed just before we were due to start in the studio. My producer and I had already been doing preproduction for months, I’d booked the studio dates, we’d lined up the musicians’ schedules, I was super excited to finally be making my debut CD...and then the bottom fell out of my world,” states Volary of her brand new reality. “The songs were all written before my diagnosis, but the title and dedication of the album were definitely reflective of my situation. At the time I didn’t realize how far the shadow of cancer can stretch, and I would say that I’m still struggling to get out of those shadows (for example, I’m still not strong enough to play a full length set), but the hope is that I will be out of those shadows sometime soon.”

The album covers a wide spectrum of emotional ideas within the music. Her power-pop vocals are set against a moody backdrop of layered arrangements, both thick and sparse with instrumentation that guides the listener deeper into the dark lyrics. Viola, horns, clarinet, organs, cello, oboe and sax all add their rich sounds to guitar, bass, drums and voice.

“I didn’t want to make the typical singer/songwriter or rock band album. I definitely wanted to try for a sound that was not your typical vocals-guitar-bass-drums,” says Volary of her decision of adding less typical instruments and arrangements to her album. “I’m a sucker for music that’s really layered and moody. I love listening to albums where you can discover more and more on each listen. Sometimes stuff will be buried so deep in the mix that it’s barely there, but the sum of it all adds up to some aural goodness.”

The opening track of “Die A Little” starts us out on the journey of looking deeper into our own darkness of the soul in words like “Too many years of sadness/ I’m stretched so thin/Standing with my back to the wall trying not to scream/ I wanna cut the demons out/from underneath my skin.”

Tapping into all things intense and tumultuous, Volary’s lyrics speak of a woman taken to extremes of her emotional life. She gives in to self-doubt and lack of confidence in the powerful “That Girl”.  All of us have been there; all of us have at one time of another wanted to be someone aside from ourselves. “Yes, it’s true, I’m insecure/sometimes…. I wanna be That Girl.”

The gorgeous piano arrangement in “One Good Reason” sends the emotion of lost love into my heart within Volary’s soothing vocals as I ask myself ‘How many times have I been in relationship that was not good for me but I refused to let it go?’  “I’m standing up and I’m refusing to play/You are lost to me/Your love has not left me unscarred”

From pop to rock, from tribal drums to simple acoustic guitar and gypsy string, the songs on Out Of Shadows move from light to dark, uplifting to heartbreaking. The songs are never simpleminded and are always intense in fullness of sound, each layer comes forth with more meaning upon each listen.

“I don’t know if I would express songwriting as being my therapy. It’s more like a necessity. Sometimes it really feels like my soul needs to give birth to something and then it’s like an itch I can’t scratch until a song comes out. It’s also very often like banging my head into a brick wall.”

Although her diagnoses of cancer did not make it into her lyrics, it has made a major impact on her life. “As to how {the cancer} has changed my view point on life; well, it’s definitely changed that forever. The spectrum of a possible recurrence is always going to be there, especially since I was diagnosed at a young age and statistically the cancers that occur in younger people are more aggressive than those that occur in older people. I’ve had to face my mortality at an age where other people are in the full bloom of life, and that’s something that leaves its mark forever. One thing that I will be doing when I get to play shows again is to do some benefits. There are two organizations in particular that have been helpful to me along my cancer journey – the Bay Area Young Survivors (BAYS) support group, and the Commonweal Cancer Help Program.”

Along with all despair and intensity in life, there is hope and dreams of something better. Volary takes the good, the bad and the ugly and makes music that can resonate with us all. Whether it is dark or light moods, fear or doubt, creativity can make a difference in setting our paths to the correct direction we are meant to be heading. Faith in that path, whether we understand or not where we are going, is not always open for us to question. But we can know there IS something better...we can start out with ideas in our minds as we think “I’m reaching out but I’m grabbing air/and I freefall through my life” (from “Touched”) and end with the mantra of  “No, I don’t wanna believe/that there’s nothing more than this/Nothing more, nothing more, nothing more than this/So I just gotta believe/that there’s something more than this, something more, something more, something more than this.” (from “Blackbird”).

All Volary photos by Alexander Kieselstein

Moonmama says: HI!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Groupie's Gold: The Backstage Pass

It’s rare that I listen to any music at home, weird huh? I mean, right now with I-Tunes a short click away I am hearing only the tip-tap of the keyboard and the hum of the refrigerator from the kitchen. I do get exposed to new music often with the bands I discover and the CD’s that I listen to through the car stereo. But where it’s at for me, the crème de la crème of my passion, is Live Music.  

Seeing Live Music is one of my favorite highs and as I am one of those “touchy-feely” types of people that live life through their body, I love the thrill of sound as it slams my inner core with some amazing musician hitting all the right notes in all the right places. So what fan, what groupie, what music junky would EVER turn down a free backstage pass to meet an incredible band? Not me!

I was Miracled this Groupie’s Gold, “The Backstage Pass”, by a friend of mine who was hometown friends with the band, moe a phenomenal band whose musical language is JAMMIN’! They are really well known and they play all the big music festivals, fill good-sized venues such as The Fillmore and Warfield and they have many albums under their belts. My understanding is that my friend knew the band “Back in the Hood” when they were just a regular Bar-Band kind of-band. Then they hit the Big Time.  So here I was, ready to party hard and the biggest thrill was that I had stuck to my upper torso my first-ever Back Stage Pass!

I have to admit and I am ashamed to say this, at that point in my life I had never really heard moe’s music before. I know I have heard in passing a song or two on the radio that I liked of theirs. So upon my arrival at SF’s amazingly beautiful concert hall, The Warfield, I didn’t really know much about the band. My accomplice Mizz K and I cruised through the line like VIP, slathered our bodies with our passes and high tailed it to find Love. I was so nervous but was dressed to the nines knowing I was going to meet some Famous Musicians, and well…who knows???

The moment of truth came upon me as we went through the curtain and I got my BACKSTAGE PASS checked by the security dude #1. I proceeded to skip down the stairs where I was honored to have my BACKSTAGE PASS checked by security dude #2. I then sat nervously with my friend in the lounge area for someone from the band to summon us.

Security dude #3 escorted us to the dressing rooms of all the musicians. On the walk down the hallway, my eyes were looking for all the indecent debauchery. My ears were waiting to hear the squeals of other groupies or the crash of a whiskey bottle against the wall. But it was relatively quiet and all I saw were a bunch of regular looking dudes hanging out in jeans and t-shirts, drinking Cokes and eating Skittles. 

Hmmmm….where was all the craziness???

I hung out with the band for about 20 minutes. It was fun but I was still waiting for the “real fun” to begin. I was waiting for the piles of drugs. I was waiting for the cute musician boys to fondle me with there eyes. Instead, my friend and I chitchatted with the band about their kids and families, the new houses they just bought or the rigorous tour schedule. I bonded with one musician boy over the friskiness of our children and how we miss them when we are away from them. A bit different then I thought, yes. They all seemed like Normal Guys, the only difference was their day job; being in a Famous Band.

My friend and I sat down to watch the show from our seats as the Normal Guys I just met, the ones who chit chatted about kids and dog food, picked up their instruments and blew me away. My jaw dropped and I fell in love with them all as they hit me hard with their psychedelic jam music. All through the show, I keep thinking, “I am so glad I met them before I saw them play, or else I would have acted like a moron!”  And indeed, I would have the opportunity to prove that when I saw them after the show.

Backstage lounge again, the show’s over, I am really freaked out now. Phil Lesh showed up to play with them for part of moe's sweltering second set and now he’s not 10 feet from me. I had to pee but that would mean passing Phil Lesh and I didn’t think I could handle that. The band comes out and I watch as they nonchalantly chat-it-up will Phil and I sit in awe, stunned at these Normal Dudes who channeled The Divine through their bodies and instruments. I could not talk to them as easily and I felt like a fool. I ended up leaving my friend to hang late into the evening with her musical friends. I was too snokkered on the evening to take it further than that, but that was enough.

I lost my backstage pass years ago, that Groupie’s Gold is somewhere underground at this point, but I still have all the memories of that amazing experience and that to me is the Real Gold.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Three At Last's "Live At The Freight & Salvage": Playing History's Glorious Notes

Three at Last 01BWaWEB

A long time ago, back in the day, there were simply acoustic instruments. Although complicated in structure, there was a deep simplicity in which they could be played without the use of amps or microphones, plugs or electricity. Some of the genres that came from this simplicity were called Traditional Folk, Americana or Bluegrass.

In the 1960’s, various venues started to crop up around the nation that would hold strong these ideals of simplicity in music. The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, California is one of those venues that have been around since the inception of the War Cries and Peace Protests of the tumultuous late 60’s. Such high-profile acts such as Asleep at The Wheel, David Grisman, Utah Phillips and Country Joe & The Fish have all graced the stage at the Freight & Salvage’s various locations over the last 40 some-odd years, so to be able to play on such a historical stage is nothing to scoff at.

In January of 2010, Marin/Sonoma County folk band Three At Last played a coveted gig at this newly modernized venue. Three At Last, Velvy Appleton, Ginger Parish and Anita Sandwina, all contribute to the beauty and creation of the Three At Last sound. Blending soaring harmonies and musicianship that bespeak of traveling minstrels of days of yore, Three At Last play mostly original folk compositions that they all write, as well as a few traditional American Folk songs that can only make us think of foggy Appalachian towns and musical jams on the back porch with fireflies giving us a light show.

With a combined resume of musical skill, Three At Last is not a “boring folk band”. Each member brings their own vocal and songwriting skills to the band and the instrumentation can include djembe, six-string, bass, mandolin, harmonica & recorder. All of this from only three people.



The band decided to make a live recording of their Freight & Salvage gig in order to showcase the true sound and intimate vibe of their live shows. “Three At Last-Live At The Freight & Salvage” was the gift that they created in order for us listeners to understand the true essence of straightforward, traditional Americana Folk. “We were absolutely THRILLED and flattered to play The Freight in January. That, along with playing the Kate Wolf Festival last year gave us some real folk-cred, a true stamp of approval from the acoustic Mecca’s.” States Velvy Appleton, guitarist, vocalist and lone-male for Three At Last. “And, being there was awesome. I mean, I got goose bumps just doing the sound check! So many of our shows are in small, under-funded venues where we struggle with poor sound equipment, or inattentive sound engineers, or plain old bad acoustics in the room. Playing the Freight is like performing in a cathedral. Its like a religious experience of sound.”


Pulling songs from their studio release like “We Autumn Leaves” & “Waiting” as well as many unrecorded songs, “Three At Last-Live At The Freight & Salvage” is a breath of fresh mountain air in it’s richness and depth of sound. Three At Last weaves together tight harmonies and lyrics about anything from deep nature, relationships and family to social commentary on The Now.  “We made our studio album (self-titled “Three At Last”) having only been together for 3 months. With that album, we wanted to show that we were serious, and that we had songs and musicianship that were real. But, honestly, it was so early in our development that we really hadn't honed in on "what we sound like" yet.” Says Velvy Appleton of their readiness for something live. “The Freight CD is a fantastic representation of what we REALLY sound like, at our very best, in the best setting and really on top of the material. It’s honest, direct and real. We're very proud of it. We're going back into the studio in November to make another studio album. We have a ton of great new material, and we are going to do a real band-style album.”

“Three At Last-Live At The Freight & Salvage” is now part of the deep history that The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse has created in the Berkeley California Music Scene. Velvy Appleton and Three AT Last felt that honor in a big way. “The Freight has an INCREDIBLE legacy of hosting the A-list of acoustic music. It’s kind of like The Fillmore of Folk and we are so psyched to now be part of that legacy.”


Friday, November 19, 2010

A Dollop Of Sunshine with Brindl's SHINE!

Photo by Trevalyan Markle. 
Music is the great song of existence and it conjures forth complex visuals. One could view listening to music as taking a little journey to a psychedelic plane, without the drugs and the subsequent nasty come down. Consider music a good clean high, activating parts of the brain where pretty pictures accommodate the sounds that enter the ears.

I slipped Brindl’s second fabulous CD, Shine, into my stereo, adjusted my earphones to achieve a maximum flow of sound and I pressed play. As the sound flooded my ears and fueled my imagination I found myself transported to a sunny hillside in the middle of the time of year where Spring is transforming into Summer. The sky is blue, the clouds are wispy and I could see rabbits and dragons curling their ears and tails against the meadowy backdrop as the spirit of song gently wafted towards my from the inner recesses of my blissed-out psyche.

Shine is a languid river of beauty trickling past as you sit on this hillside. Shine is a warm breeze flowing over your sun kissed face. Shine is the sun, warm and stunning, bright and vibrant, opening you up to the possibility that someone understands your heart as much as you do and can put into lyrics exactly how you feel when you open your heart to loving yourself, fully and deeply.

Trevalyan Markle,
Brindl’s powerful and heartfelt lyrics are showcased in this disk; the lyrics bring forth her excellent musicianship on the piano and guitar throughout all of Shine. Adding Steve Gardner on Violin (Cullen’s Hounds), guitarist Adam Roach (Jon Keigwin band) and bassist David Solari gives Shine an added depth of jazz and blues undertones that allows Brindl’s smoky-smooth voice to seduce you with a sound that is nothing but pure joy to behold.

“Mercy” open the disk with piano and violin, two instruments that seem innocent enough but when fueled by Brindl’s passionate blues/jazz vocals brings into focus the darker aspects of a relationship. “I am here” and “Rose and a Smile” shed a little joy on the lighter side of relationship.

Simplicity is the key to Brindl’s Shine. But within that simplicity comes a profound understanding of the heart. The simplicity of stark and simple music leaves us open to understand the music how we need to understand it. Brindl leaves the music open for us to determine how it should affect our lives, as all good songwriters can do with their words. Brindl’s voice brings to life the words she wants to convey. Her lilting and uplifting vocals dance and sway and take you on a ride into the clouds, to be stirred and tossed with soft femininity.

Trevalyan Markle,
Recorded locally at A Room With a Vu studio in San Anselmo, California throughout most of 2010, Brindl has taken the words and truths that live in her heart and manifested them into a beautiful album. She bares her soul and tells you her experiences in her life, telling stories of her heart so we can all learn from her mistakes and her personal lessons on love.

The ending track of Shine is “Resolution Year”. A track that I took to mean that with determination and focus on oneself, things can only be amazing. “Resolution year, dissolution of all fear….and I can hear you now…loud and clear….”

Moonmama Tells It Like It Is!

Thanks again to the Fabo-Rama Daniel Rauck for taking my words and making them clean and pretty. OXOXOX

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cover Letter For A Job From A Rock & Roll Writer Chick

Dear Editor, Greetings to you.

I am writing to you today in order to let you know that I want to be a writer, that I am a writer. I guess that means I also wish to have a career in writing. What the heck, I may as well apply for a career in something I think I am very good at. Writing. So here I am.

I must let you know that I flunked out of college and therefore have found my own voice without the aid of institutionalized institutions. I write outside the box, as it were. I write with emotion and feeling, plus I can write about anything and make it sound professional and/or pretty. You name it, food, cars, clouds, garbage cans, and shoes, all of it I can make into words to inspire people to read about it.

My main focus and passion is writing about music and my local music scene in Marin County. In my two years as a Loud Voice for my music community, I have befriended over 200 bands and a couple of hundred musicians and industry people of all ranks. I have attended hundreds of local music gigs and taken probably well over 10,000 photos and posted them online on my 6 main blogs, on my Facebook Profile Page and Facebook “Moonmamasmusicalmusings” Fan Page. I have written dozens of reviews and stories on locals bands or their CD’s as well as their live gigs. Plus I am getting airplay for 12 Bay Area bands on a weekly radio show in Brisbane, Australia all because of two boxes of Organic Pop Tarts. I am kind of a mover and a shaker and I am working this business as a writer and photographer in order to fulfill a dream I have had to be a part of the music for well over 20 years.

Writing for me has been a way to find my voice, quell my inner demons and bring my sanity to the forefront of my being. I love writing more than any other talent I have (and that does include making jam and baking cookies). I wish to make a living on this talent of mine, and I wish to work for you. Hence this long and drawn out story on my self-made writing career.

I am sending you 3 links to recent stories I have written on various music oriented shindigs. The first is a profile story on Jeff Pehrson, a lovely friend and also a backup singer for the band Further. The second link is my personal story on how Organic Pop Tarts have made me somewhat of an International Music Promoter in Australia. The third is a profile story on the Sonoma based band Luvplanet (I also did a review of their new disk Luvolution). I will gladly send you the text in WORD format if you wish, but the links to the stories all have photos embedded into them that I myself have taken to give you an idea of my photography skills as well.




 Thanks for reading me and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely, Carolyn McCoy AKA MOONMAMA!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love Letters in a 4.5 Inch Circle of Plastic: Luvplant's Luvolution

Love.  Love is what makes the world go ‘round.  Love is the subject of many a song, and is quite feasibly the whole reason music even exists.  Love is found in pretty much anything and everything; from romance to politics, beverage choices to musical choices. When I happen upon music that gives me love and opens my heart, I am a very happy woman.

Luvplanet, the Sonoma County, California band with a big heart and even bigger sound reaches out to me with messages of positivity, love and some serious shredding. Their 4th album, Luvolution, makes my heart thump with every song I listen to, making me smile and move my legs to the rhythm like I just can’t sit still.

Nicole Sutton-Left
Mark McGee-Right

When I mention a BIG sound, in regards to Luvplanet, I mean that there is a depth to the music, a thickness to the sound that seems to fill me.  Each of the 12 songs on Luvplanet's new CD are so dense and juicy with layers of texture.  Whether it’s Nicole Suttons soaring and powerful vocals, Mark McGee's vocals and sweltering guitar licks, the solid back beat laid down by Scott McKenzie or Tommy Sisco’s thumping, driving bass, the result is inevitably HUGE.

The stand-out songs on Luvolution tend to be the ones that beckon the listener inside the structures of the songs so that they are encircled in sound and words that give greater understanding of what life is about.  Isn’t that how it should be with music? A song should take us places within our own psyche and help us express who we are and why we are alive.  At least, that’s what I think. And Luvolution, in both music and lyrics, brings me to that place in my mind where positivity thrives and understanding of the human experience is given light through song.

Tommy Sisco-Left
Scott McKenzie-Right

The opening track, “Luvolution” sets the fast and furious pace for the entire album as Mark McGee’s slicing guitar clears the way for Nicole Sutton’s soaring vocals to start to tell the story of Luvpanet, “Without Warning, it comes in and I feel alive again…”

My Favorite songs on the Album include “Forever”, “Live”, and the track “Be Myself” for it’s inspiring lyrics about creating and vowing for self-love, “All I can I do is be myself, it’s gotta be good enough, no more or less than who I am”.  Its words like that that we all need to hear a lot more often.

Luvplanet’s music thrives on the cohesion within the band. Even though most of the songs are written by McGee and Sutton, bassist Tommy Sisco and drummer Scott McKenzie each bring their own style and grace to the songs, so it never feels like Luvolution has the focus on just the primary songwriters, but each member carries their respective weight. On the track “All For You”, one can hear Sisco’s bass warming us up for the mounting pleasure to come within the song. With “Virtual Life”  & “C’mon” the pace is set, giving Scott McKenzie’s technical and fluid drumming a chance to shine.

Luvplanet recorded Luvolution at Audio Voyage Studios in Livermore, California with Mark McGee as producer. “Mark is an amazing producer and we have worked with some great engineers at great studios.” Nicole Sutton, on the preparation and recording of Luvolution says, “We try to go in totally prepared but we usually end up having a few songs that we write or finish writing in the studio. That's always fun because it's fresh and exciting to capture the moment….
The (songs) are usually inspired by a feeling or a moment, it could be anything, and then we just try to listen and stay true to the song and what it wants to say.”

One thing that is truly to love about Luvplanet is that every song on Luvolution will inspire singing out with harmonies, even if you are not even a singer. I sometimes feel that I myself am part of the album as it taps into what I think about the world and how love and positivity can go hand and hand with rocking rock and roll.

Moonmama Says: YES!

Thanks forever to my dear editor Daniel Rauck, who is a hard rocker himself and makes my words so clear and pretty! THANKS DAN!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Out In The Back Of Some Cafe: Jeff Pehrson & The Fall Risk

“Out In The Back Of Some Cafe, we'll hold the night a million miles away and wrap our hearts around one point of view. I might not be an author, but I'll write the book of you.”
Jeff Pehrson

Timeline: Winter to Fall of 1991

Almost 20 years ago I was a struggling groupie in the San Francisco music scene, trying to find my way into the forbidden folds of rock and roll.  In the early 90's, I was trying to find a reason to be an internal part of the music scene that was a bit more satisfying than being arm candy for the musicians I dated.  I started to hang out within the mildly-popular San Francisco folk scene, hitting weekly open mics, house concerts and acoustic jam sessions at the local cafes and bars around my neighborhood, the Inner Sunset near Golden Gate Park. The famed Owl and Monkey Café churned out folkies like it did lattes and bagels.  Within that small, steamy venue I met many an aspiring folk singer/songwriter as I made headway into my now chosen path of music junkie.

Of all the lovely and talented people I met during that time I befriended one Jeff Pehrson, a golden throated songwriter.  Jeff, who sang solo as well as with others, kicked my ears into gear with his amazing tunes.   Jeff and keyboardist Matt Twain together formed Twain & Pehrson and he also achieved low altitude stardom with the band Box Set, which he formed with his long term “musical wife” Jim Brunberg.

Nowadays, Jeff is above and beyond old school folkie as his life travels have allowed him to lend his golden throated voice to this band called Furthur.  Furthur is made up of bunch of old rocker dudes from some little band called The Grateful Dead, namely Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, maybe you have heard of them.  In any case, Jeff has been keeping busy in many ways, all musical, since I met him.  I am here to tell you his story.

Fast forward: 2012

I, Carolyn McCoy, am now an aspiring rock n’ roll writer, having given up Groupie-dom some time ago when I realized I wanted to get into the flowing vibes of the music and not necessarily the tight pants of musicians.  Following one’s dreams with integrity and manifesting those dreams is really what this story is all about.  I sit in the beautiful garden of The Bazaar Café in San Francisco’s foggy Outer Richmond District, reminiscing about the past, present and future with an old friend, Jeff Pehrson, still very much the same golden-throated singer/songwriter he has always been, just a bit more famous.

Jeff Pehrson-Right
The Fall Risk-Left

Despite the notoriety that Jeff has found from his gig with Furthur, his main focus and inspiration is his new band The Fall Risk which he started in 2009 by gathering his musical friends of bands past. With Twain & Pehrson duo partner Matt Twain on keyboards and vocals, Mark Abbot (of Box Set fame) on Drums, monster bassist Dave Moffat (of the Megan Slenkard Band) and with Jeff Ballard on harmonica & percussion The Fall Risk is an almost finished product. The recent additions of Rich Goldstein on lead & slide guitar and multi-instrumentalist Sammy Johnston (also of Box Set), lending his golden touch on accordion, pedal steel and organ makes The Fall Risk a band with one hell of a HUGE sound.  Jeff agrees, “If I could not play with such a great group of musicians, I wouldn't have my own band. The reason I enjoy The Fall Risk so much is because playing with this particular group of guys is incredibly fun. As a songwriter, when you find a group of players whose main interest is simply serving the song as opposed to any individual heroics, you're golden. Mark, Matt, Dave, Jeff, Sammy and Rich have done that for me.”

As for the name of the band, Jeff’s story is priceless, “Mark Abbott's (our drummer) mom had been in the hospital, and thankfully she is fine. Upon her release, she was tagged with a "Fall Risk" bracelet as she had been medicated and was at risk for a fall if she walked. Mark thought it a totally appropriate name for a bunch of 40-somethings trying to play rock-n-roll. I mean, no doubt one of us will eventually fall down due to a bad hamstring!”

Matt Twain-Left
Dave Moffat-Right

The Fall Risk wraps its acoustic-jam-rock sound around Perhson’s fine song crafting. When he was with Box Set, he shared songwriting credit with then musical partner Jim Brunberg.  Both men shared a bond of creating a narrative within their songs and using strong melodies coupled with soaring harmonies to match the words that were the heart of some great stories.  Pehrson, of his long, musical relationship with Brunberg and Box Set says, “Jim and I were huge folk music fans and part of the SF folk scene that re-emerged in the late 80's early 90's. Therefore, lyrics and storytelling were always in the forefront of our minds when writing songs. This has never left me, even as electric music became more of a calling. At the core, my songs are still folk songs with a backbeat. The lyrics carry more weight than the music...the story is the thing.”

In 1997, Capricorn Records signed Box Set to a sweet deal, allowing them much creative control over their music. Sadly, Capricorn went under after a massive buy-out, leaving Box Set other opportunities to go for bigger stakes. Sony Music tried to snatch the band, but loss of creative control over what Jeff wanted for his music made Box Set turn down the possibility of making that big hit.

Rich Goldstein-Left
Mark Abbot-Right

“Box Set held off signing other record deals so we could keep complete ownership of our songs, that was the only move for us. Again, we came from the folk music world where the thought of relinquishing control over our songs was blasphemous. There was no other way to approach it as far as we were concerned. It's a rare thing to have a number 1 hit and not have to compromise many things, so I have no regrets. Obviously, the record industry is reaping the karma they have sewn as the Internet slowly pushes them closer to irrelevancy,” says Jeff.

Box Set ended up creating their own record label, titled “TherOwn Records”, setting them up for full creative control of the band and selling a lot of their music via the Internet. It worked well in their favor and to this day they still make a good profit off of their music, and it gave them touring opportunities to open for big name acts such as Willie Nelson, Lenny Kravitz and Ratdog and creating connections with these big named bands that will later produce more amazing opportunities for Jeff Perhson to make a name for himself.

Just recently, after Jeff’s stint with a 3-night run of The Furthur Festival at Angel’s Camp, California, his voice and knowledge of how things can flow within the endless improvisational nature of Grateful Dead Songs Jeff had secured the job.  By learning all the parts of 85 songs in about a 3-week period, Jeff proved he was ready for something really big.

Sammy Johnston-Left
Jeff Ballard-Right

 “More than anything else, touring with Furthur has changed the way I look at live performance,” states Jeff on how the Further Festival has altered his ideas of his own music.  He adds, “I'm a lot more interested in giving the guys (in The Fall Risk) a great deal of space to solo. Giving them enough room to build a solo as opposed to having a set space that in many ways dictates what has to happen thematically. Being able to share in The Grateful Dead's philosophy on jamming has really opened my eyes to those possibilities. As Bob might say ‘you have to leave some sport in it’."

However, the fame has not gone to his head.  Jeff still has the same old heart of gold. His amiable personality comes out in all his performances, playing off the audience and bringing them all deeper into the embrace of his music. He has not forgotten how it was to be a struggling musician and keeps the music at the forefront of his mission on the planet.  “The music community is literally my family. Many of my oldest friends are folk musicians I met at the old Owl & Monkey Cafe in San Francisco in the mid 80's.  Those guys are my peers and the guys I still look to impress when I write a new song. Musicians group together for the same reasons as plumbers do, shared experience. It's easier to talk to another musician about having writers block, or how lonely it gets being away from friends and family for months at a time...they know what you go through because they've been there. It's a lifetime bond.”

All photos Carolyn McCoy ©2012

MOONMAMA & Jeff Say, "Keep ROCKIN'!"

Big thanks to my beloved editor Daniel Rauck, with whom I worship for the fine tuning of my words and streamlining of my ideas. OXOXO

Friday, October 8, 2010

Operation Pop Tart: CD's To Aussieland

Interesting opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Mine came in the shape of a rectangular box of Organic Toaster Pastries, AKA “hippie pop tarts.” The two boxes of blueberry & chocolate frosted Organic Toaster Pastries are sitting on my desk as we speak, waiting to be shipped to Brisbane, Australia where it will be accompanied by 12 CD’s, plus some stickers, from 12 of my favorite SF Bay Area bands.

The opportunity in question is one that, quite possibly, will be talked about for years to come as “One of those EPIC stories that tell of A Great Journey”. For this is a story of a Great Journey for a small parcel, packed lovingly in bubble wrap with dreams and hopes for those who are sending it. It is to be received by a very Special Lady whose name is Astrid Navel Gazer and she is far, far away on the other end of the world in Brisbane, Australia. She loves music and works her little Rock & Roll heart out for her weekly radio show called Zed Poets Society.

Astrid Navel Gazer has been deeply ingrained as part of the Brisbane, Australia music scene for over 10 years, creating a hugely popular radio show in which she plays pretty much every genre of music but focuses on Hard Rock and Harder Metal with her partner in crime, Doomy Hippy. Zed Poets Society, is aired weekly on one of the oldest FM radio stations in the Southern Hemisphere, 4ZZZfm. Ms. Astrid Navel Gazer and I are long-time music junkies both, and within a few brief conversations, we came up with the idea of utilizing my promise of Hippie Pop Tarts to pimp out some Local Bands from the SF Bay Area that I think are amazing in both musicianship and songwriting. Ms. Navel Gazer and I agreed to a bargain that was hard to pass up, a trade of Air Time For My Favorite Bands in exchange for Hippie Pop Tarts and….voila! ”Operation Pop Tart: CD’s to Aussieland” was born.

I put out the call to my local bands and musical friends to send me their music and as I listen to each participating bands’ CD, I feel so lucky to hear my beloved friends’ creations embedded on a 4.5” circle of plastic. It’s a joy to know that their blood, sweat & tears were put into each and every one of these songs.

For starters, we have two representatives from Novato, California, a town that seems to spit out Hard Rock Bands like they do Ranch Homes. There is the incredible album Amnesia from notable rockers flanelhed. Soaring vocals, intelligent lyrics and hard driving guitars, bass & drums make these music men prime for more recognition.  Then FRK brings forth lyrics that bespeak of The Dark Night Of The Soul, crunchy guitars and fast and furious rhythms on their debut disk Phat Lip.

Next, from Fairfax, California,  One Man Emo Band Airport Sexy (Paul Hoss) does up the uber-quirkiness with his self-produced and self-recorded disc Death Rock For The Immortals, which gives us geeky organ and piano plus guitar & lyrics that would give the movie Napoleon Dynamite a new soundtrack should they ever need a sequel. San Francisco rockers Sweet Psychosis came up with Tranquilsizer when they were trying to pull a rabbit out of a tube amp. Instead, just in time for their SXSW gigs last March, they got an amazing debut disc filled with crazy ass sounds, dark lyrics, and hot n’ heavy riffs.

There are also 3 CD’s from my most beloved bands. Marin’s own Honeydust, who’s rocking Southern Americana-tinged album California Sunshine makes me smile and dance. Based out of Mill Valley, The Beautiful Losers, whose combination of sweetly sung vocals and searing guitar on their new CD Four Corners Of A Tiny Planet soothes my weary heart and eases all the bumps and bruises it encounters.  Finally The Hold Outs, from San Rafael, give you the truth of all things love & rock n’ roll with their self-titled debut album, filled with catchy tunes, sweltering guitar and colorful vocal harmonies.

On the softer side of things, I sent along the fabulous, sexy and soulful San Francisco based singer/songwriter Rossana who’s songs give love a kick in the ass that it sorely needs with her album Truth Be Told. Marin/Sonoma band Three At Last’s self titled disc gives my little Nature Spirit that taste of strong folk harmonies and traditional wood & stringed instruments. Lansdale Station drops into the game with their rocking Country flavored disc Lansdale Station Featuring Judge & Lauren Murphy with acoustic six strings, sweet slide guitar work and both vocal and guitar harmonies that will help you get in touch with your inner trucker or put you right there around the campfire.

Lastly, I have been grooving to a couple of new found gems, Points North, a SF Bay Area band that focuses on guitar driven, melodic rock n’ roll. Their self titled, all instrumental disc is most likely going to make you head bang AND smile with its vibrant, soaring guitar licks and tight tunes. Life Love Misery's self titled CD sends me all over the map of music. I am reminded of New Order in its ethereal floating sound, the edgy vocals and instrumentation of Paul Westerberg, Midnight Oil and Alice in Chains.  They skate across quite a spectrum of musical styles.

The CD’s, along with other schwag, such as stickers, band press kits and magnets lie on my living room floor in a messy pile, waiting patiently to join the Hippie Pop Tarts on a journey across the Pacific to be exposed to a whole new, unsuspecting audience of Aussies.  Perhaps this journey will prove to be fruitful in many unforeseen ways.  Who knows? Perhaps there may be a future tour for some of these bands when “Operation Hippie Pop Tart: CD’s to Aussieland” hits the distant shores of the land down under. Either way, those Aussie audiences are guaranteed to be exposed to some local music flavors that they otherwise would not have ever known, and may very well greatly enjoy.  Rock On Australia!  Rock on Operation Hippie Pop Tart!


As we stand amid the closing of the year, I proudly say that 9 of 12 bands' CD's  I sent to Brisbane, Australia a few months back have had airplay on 4ZZZ.FM. Some of them have had multiple spins on Astrid Navel Gazer & Doomy Hippie's radio show. YES!

Congrats and a BIG THANKS! to all of us Operation Pop Tarters: the bands, Astrid and Doomy and myself, plus Australian customs for allowing 12 cd's and 2 boxes of Organic Toaster Pastries into that fine but faraway land....

MOONMAMA wants to Rock Your World!