Hiatus be damned.

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Yes, I know the phone is ringing. Just let it ring, for crying out loud. Don’t people know we’re on vacation? Jesus Christ on a bike, try to take a week off around this joint! What? Oh … okay. It’s the neighbor’s phone. Stupid neighbors!

Hey, out there. You caught us taking a brief hiatus between the nothings that we have going on. (You can tell I’m on vacation because I say “hey” when I mean “hi” … though that might also make me an NPR correspondent.) Everybody needs a little down time. We tend to have a little more than most people. In fact, you could argue that Big Green is a bit like a downtime reservoir. People come here to waste time; that’s what makes the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill such a regional treasure. (And one man’s trash, well … you know the rest.) That’s understandable – sometimes taking a hiatus can be heavy lifting. That’s how people end up with hiatal hernias. (I’m just going to leave that right there.)

Do not disturbOkay, so … when you’re on vacation, you end up doing a bunch of stuff you don’t ordinarily have time for. For me, that usually involves surfing the web, and in my idle wanderings a stumbled across another Big Green. No, I don’t mean another BAND called Big Green – lord knows, there are at least one or two of those. This is a nutrition advocacy organization that works out of Detroit. Which means they are actually doing something USEFUL with our name, which is more than I can say for us. They’re helping to feed people; we’re wasting time with stuff like this. Case closed.

I haven’t told our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee about the other Big Green because I don’t want him to start doing what he always does, which is stew on something until smoke comes out of his ears. He sees threats everywhere, including the forge room at the mill, which mostly contains broken down machines and iron filings. When he wanders through there at night, he sees silhouetted in the darkness the hunched profiles of creatures he either invented or destroyed during his long, evil career. I can see how that might be unnerving, especially when you misplace your anti-depressant tabs the morning before. (We encourage Mitch to take his Paxil regularly. It’s a kind of self-defense.)

Well, that’s what we did on OUR winter vacation. And you?

Jamming.

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Let’s try that again, once more from the top. What’s that? You want to take it from the bottom? How ’bout we compromise. One more time, boys, from the middle. That’s the ticket.

Whoa, man, I’m totally out of practice with this band rehearsal business. It’s like I need rehearsal rehearsals. You forget, sometimes, how much you need to know in order to know what you need to know. And once you know that you know what you need to know, you know that you’re going to forget it. Why? That may be unknowable. Am I making myself clear? Good.

Okay, so what got us on this band practice kick again? I think it was all that watching and listening to archival tapes over the past few weeks, when I found myself with some time on my hands. There was a brief period when we were playing with the very amazing guitarist Jeremy Shaw that we seemed to record everything we did, from rehearsals to gigs to auditions. Just running through that stuff, I realized that I had forgotten our repertoire, aside from a handful of numbers. At that point (1992-3), we were playing mostly original music, some covers. We didn’t play a lot of gigs; mostly colleges and clubs. We played Middlebury College, opened for Bloodline at SUNY-IT in Utica, NY, and so on.

Start Where?One complete gig I have a rough audio recording of was an outdoor concert we did at Jeremy Shaw’s house a few miles from here. There are about 25 songs, and I’d say maybe a little more than half are originals. We also played numbers from Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Talking Heads, and god knows what else. The gig includes the only live recordings of some of my songs from that period, like “Sunday Drive” and “Greater Good”. We also did Matt’s “Why not call it George?”, “Sensory Man,” and “I Hate Your Face”, as well as some Christmas numbers. There are also some of Jeremy’s songs: “Water Over Stone,” “Shithouse Rat”, and “Requiem”.

What the hell … we must have rehearsed some of these crazy songs, right? I have no memory of that whatsoever, and yet the evidence is fairly clear. If you want to hear some of this shit, stay tuned … this may turn out to be a throwback summer after all.

Steppin’ into Eden.

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That’s not a legitimate use of member funds. Take if from me – that would be considered, I don’t know, embezzlement or something. Don’t do it. Put the money DOWN!

Whoops, sorry. I didn’t know anyone was listening in. Well, this is kind of embarrassing. Actually, I was just giving a small piece of advice to Marvin (my personal robot assistant) with regard to what is acceptable and unacceptable when one is contemplating organizing a major religion. Not that I know all that much about it, but I think I know more than Marvin does, and I think that gives me “tell you something right now” rights and privileges. Especially with a bloody robot. (Don’t tell him I said that – he’ll start sulking again.)

Um, yes, you heard me right. Marvin’s other money making schemes have all been huge disasters. So he’s decided to take the Pat Robertson route and start a back-porch religion operation. Of course, being a deductive thinker (and not terribly inventive for a robot, I must say), his idea was lifted from a favorite (of his) episode of the original Star Trek television series featuring a tribe of space hipsters (or “groovsters”) who hijacked the Enterprise to travel to a planet called “Eden.” Often considered one of the most impossibly lame and pandering segments of a generally ludicrous show, it offers some unintentionally  hilarious musical numbers in a psychedelic rock vein. I give it one thumb up and one thumb…. Whoops… lapsed into television review mode. Cancel! Cancel!

Sheesh – now who’s the robot? (I guess that still would be Marvin.) Marvin was looking for a religious movement that would be, well, sticky enough to draw some fanatical adherents even in this forgotten backwater of Central New York. Kind of a back stoop movement, if you will. Marvin would do the organizing, with a little help from anti-Lincoln, who is himself a pretty effective fanatic. (Thing is, I don’t know if he can get the space-age guitar thing just right.) I am a bit skeptical, but even so… it could kind of work. Here you have a millennial movement whose goals – hijacking a fictitious space vessel and driving it to an equally fictitious planet – can never be realized, only hoped for – worshipped, if you will. Pretty much the stuff successful religions are made of. And hell, Marvin’s got his first converts: Lincoln, Big Zamboola, and the man-sized tuber.

Now if he can just keep his claw out of the till. Always the hard part. (Just wait till he starts broadcasting!)

Event horizon.

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Cold fingers? Rub them together. I know we’re in a trackless void with temperatures approaching absolute zero – just rub a little harder.

Just coming off of a ripping good string of performances on Neptune, mother of all Big Green fans in the outer rings of our solar system. (Good to know we’re still loved by someone… or some THING.) When I say “ripping good”, I mean it certainly seemed that way to us. As some of you may know, however, the atmosphere on Neptune contains many elements not prevalent in our own sweet Earth-bound air, so frankly, after a couple of sets breathing that stuff, I get a little punchy. You could tell me iron is chocolate and I’d believe you. You could tell me Carl Paladino is sane, and I’d buy it. It’s just that crazy. So… we may have played well, but possibly not. Or “splunge”, as Monty Python would put it.

Some of you may remember the distinctly terrestrial phenomenon we encountered on Neptune last time out of people chucking things at us while we play. Now, this is bad enough at home, as many a rock circuit veteran will tell you. Bottles, bricks, ice, you name it. Playing QE2 in Albany? Bring a riot shield! Well, out here it’s similar, except that many of the objects are molten or flaming. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, developed flame resistant suits for us to wear on stage, but they are less than comfortable. Suffice to say, we are good duckers. I’ve also programmed Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to emit a robotian cry every time some projectile is header our way. “INCOMING!” he shouts, and we know just what to do.

Well, that’s as it may be. But once we moved along towards our second venue, things started happening. Ominous things. Our rented space craft – I’m convinced it’s a converted garbage scow (either that or the mansized tuber has started to go off a bit) – must have sprung a leak somewhere on Neptune. It’s cold as freaking hell in here. And as Dante scholars know, hell is really all about cold at its very core. Nippy, to say the least. Where the hell is that draft coming from, Lincoln? Did you leave your portside window open again?

Off to the galley for nice warm cup of grog. Hopefully sFshzenKlyrn will spike it with a bit of Zenite snuff.  I’ll let you know.