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New EP Blindsight 2020 Out now!

Blindsight 2020 Cover

Screen cap of Blindsight 2020 on Apple MusicI’m really excited to announce that my new EP Blindsight 2020 is out right now! It’s a 5-song collection of studio tracks that I recorded over the last few years and it features a lot of songwriting and production that I’m really proud of.

In fact, that’s why I decided to release the EP in the first place. I was really happy with my arrangements on the songs “I’m Just Here for the Swag” and “Somewhere Else,” the pandemic-inspired Beach Boys sendup of “Catching Rays on the Fire Escape” captured 2020 really well, and I really like of “Booze Women, and Movies” and “I’m as Broke as Kansas” both for what they say and how they say it.

It’s my first studio release since A/B came out just over 4 years ago, in November 2016. In 2018 I recorded the live concert album Rob P. Rocks a Jazz Club which had a lot of new songs on it, but since I was focusing on getting them in shape for the live album I didn’t do as much studio recording. My goal for 2021 is to get back in the studio so I wanted to motivate myself to push ahead with new music and not “save” these favorite songs for a later release. Without these gems to fall back on I’m hoping to force myself to innovate!

Or maybe realize the pandemic has killed my artistic drive. We’ll see! [shrugging emoji]

Pando Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update, mostly because there hasn’t been much to update you on. Things have been slow with all live shows in NYC still shut down, no cruise gigs to promote or report back on, and travel still being something we non-essential people really shouldn’t be doing so even if I did want to accept a show in a place where shows were showing. I’m still doing Cover Tuesdays every Tuesday at 8:15 pm NYC time, but hopefully you already knew about that.

The news about effective Covid-19 vaccines has been encouraging but unless something is done to support live music and comedy venues there won’t be many shows for the vaccinated crowds to attend. Two notable comedy venues in NYC have already closed permanently during the pandemic: The Creek & The Cave and the UCB Theater. Without help more may follow. (If you’d like to help independent venues or want to know more about the issue, check out Save Our Stages and the National Independent Venue Association. And here’s an article from September specifically about the frustrations comedy clubs in NY are facing.

These eight-plus months since the shutdowns began has been the longest I’ve gone without doing regular live performances. I’d love to make a prediction about what the future will be but would they be predictions or wishful thinking? I’d like to think that I will get back to performing regularly, hosting a show here in NYC, performing at clubs and theaters throughout the country, doing some shows in other countries like I have in the past, and yes, even getting back on a cruise ship. With Covid numbers spiking before the arrival of any kind of vaccine, all of those wished for things feel at best six to eight months away.

In the meantime there is still music, which is more easily shared in the absence of live venues. Cover Tuesdays have been fun, and I will be releasing a five song studio EP before the end of the year. It will contain some of my favorite songs from the past couple of years, from the early pandemic “Catching Rays on the Fire Escape” to the song “Somewhere Else” featured in the video I did with Victor Varnado. When I get the official release date I’ll make the official announcement, hopefully mid-December!

I hope you’re faring well wherever you are in the world. Stay safe and be excellent to each other!

Cover Tuesday’s Greatest Hits Vol. 3!

Some Faves From Mid-Aug—Mid. Nov.

Cover Tuesday is still going strong! When I started back in March the idea was to have a fun weekly online get-together to help pass the time in quarantine. Well, this heckin’ pandemic has raged all year long so Cover Tuesday has too. Here are some of my fave covers since the last greatest hits post in early August.

And I’m continuing Cover Tuesday at least through the end of 2020 so stop on by my twitch channel on Tuesday nights at 8:15 pm NYC time (5:15 Pacific, 0115 UTC now that we’re back on Standard Time). I’ll have a brand new fun set of stoopit covers for you every week!

Watch It Takes Two by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock

It Takes Two by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock

Dance tunes are a ton of tun to attempt on Cover Tuesdays, this cover of the classic track by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock was no exception. As with other dance tracks on Cover Tuesday, I employed a looper to keep the beat going, this time around adding the “hey”s and shrieks to the beat box. For some reason this song always reminds me of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and cars with neon lights under them.

Yakko’s World by Animaniacs

From The “Nerdy 30” themed Episode 30 on Nov 10, 2020, here’s the Animaniacs Classic “Yakko’s World” in which Yakko sings most of the countries in the world. I even looked up the new verse that was added to include all of the newly independent countries that arose out of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union!

Watch Yakko’s World by Animaniacs
Watch TiK ToK by Key-Dollar Sign-Ha

TiK ToK by Key-Dollar Sign-Ha

Another dance pop track that turned out surprisingly well considering it is here performed by a goofball with an acoustic guitar. It checks all of the Cover Tuesday boxes in that it’s goofy, fun, and is part of my attempt to work in songs from this millennium!

Viva Las Vegas! By Elvis

From Episode 31, “A Little Traveling Music,” a set filled with songs about places to satisfy the wanderlust itch that we can’t scratch during Pando 2020! It’s campy! It’s cheesy! It’s perfect for Cover Tuesday!

Watch Viva Las Vegas!
Watch Istanbul (not Constantinople)

Istanbul (not Constantinople)

Another cover from Ep 31, the travel set, but it could have just as easily been in the Nerdy 30 show the week prior because not only is it a song written in honor of the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, it was covered by They Might Be Giants, a quintessential nerdy band!

Out of the Blue by Debbie Gibson

From the October 13th “Blue” themed show comes the 1987 Debbie Gibson classic “Out of the Blue.” It turned out surprisingly well, and you gotta respect the slick key change for the bridge and guitar solo and then reverting back to the original key for the final choruses! Other blue tunes from that set included Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells, Baby Blue by Badfinger, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Crystal Gale, and many more!

Watch Out of the Blue by Debbie Gibson!

Cover Tuesday’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2!

Cover Tuesday has been going strong every week on Twitch(Tuesday, 8:15 PM Eastern U.S.) and it’s been a ton of fun putting the setlists together and doing as many of your requests as I can! I posted the first selection of favorite covers back on May 13, and below are some faves from the next 11 shows!

The spotify playlist is currently (as of this writing on 6 August, 2020) is up to 224 songs, which means I’m averaging 12 songs a week. The Ridiculous Dozen!

I had to make two substitutions in the playlist: In Week 2 I had to substitute a different Mighty Lemon Drops song because “Inside Out” wasn’t available, and Little Richard’s “Scuba Party” from Catalina Caper, which I performed on June 30, was nowhere to be found so I swapped in “It Ain’t What You Do.”

So here are some recent favorites:

Wannabe by the Spice Girls

In cranking out this girl power anthem I somehow took a few detours through Howard Jones and Young MC, but it worked, trust me!

I Love It by Icona Pop

“I crashed my car into the bridge, I don’t care” seems to sum up Summer 2020 in the U.S. so I have deemed this song my summer anthem!

Ace of Spades by Motörhead, a la Johnny Cash

“Ace of Spades” was a request and in order both oblige and save my voice (singing like Lemmy hurts!) I reimagined this song as a Johnny Cash cover. Though it was born out of necessity it’s now the only way I can hear the song!

Tom Sawyer by Rush

Another song by request! This one came from a college friend via facebook and I did the best I could, even though I’ve always said I thought Rush used “too many notes.”

Trooper by Iron Maiden

Sometimes requests seem more like dares, like when my friend Jonathan requested the lyrically overflowing Hardware Store by Weird Al. Though the “heavy” and the “metal” were missing I think it still turned out OK and I should at least get an A for effort.

I Love Your Smile by Shanice

I love when a request is a song I somehow missed the first time around, and this early 90s R&B earworm was really fun to do. Even though it was stuck in my head for the whole dang week. It’s just too peppy and poppy!

Baba O’Riley by The Who

Tried to pull off an acoustic version of one of the best rock anthems ever and thanks to the Loopback plugin in MainStage I think I ended up with a decent rendition 🙂

Cover Tuesday Rocks All Summer Long (but I’m not playing that Kid Rock song)

Cover Tuesdays will be going strong throughout Pandemic Summer 2020! Every Tuesday at 8:15 pm NYC time (5:15 Pacific, 15 minutes after midnight GMT) I’ll be playing a fun set of stoopit covers live on my twitch channel! You can watch it on any twitch app or in the handy window below! Send in requests and suggestions via my twitter, instagram, or other ways if you know where to find me. Join us, it’s super fun!

Cover Tuesday’s Greatest Hits

It started with a joke about my neighbors hearing me play Monkees songs in my apartment during quarantine and a suggestion (or dare) to put it online. After using that show to troubleshoot my streaming setup I decided to do another show of cover songs the following week. Now, eight weeks later Cover Tuesday is my favorite night of the week!

With some wild suggestions and an enthusiastic crowd in the comments section I’ve done an hour of tunes every Tuesday. Here are some of my faves so far that either turned out well or failed in epic fashion!

And join us every Tuesday night on my twitch channel at 8:15 pm NYC time (5:15 PDT, 0015 GMT) for more fun sets of stoopit covers!

Freak on a Leash by Korn

Suggested by fellow comedy musician Pat Wise, this 90s hard rock song was not something that translated well to an acoustic guitar, but that makes it perfect for Cover Tuesday. I made a valiant attempt.

Eastbound and Down by Jerry Reed

This song was my choice and even though I didn’t have a banjo player I think it worked out well on one guitar. Instead of the extended finger picking jam in the middle of the song I used the time to talk about the song and the “Westbound and Down” version that shows up earlier in the film.

Anything You Want by The Muppets

You can’t combine The Muppets with one of the Flight of the Conchords and expect me NOT to cover it!

Hardware Store by Weird Al

Another challenging request, this one from comedian Jon Hudson. I had to slow it down a few bpm to get all the words out, but it was a fun one to try.

Rock the Bells by LL Cool J

My first attempt at old-school hip hop, from LL Cool J’s classic album Radio!

Bright Future in Sales by Fountains of Wayne

Great song on a great album, and with comedy and music clubs closed at the moment, I may need to hope I have a bright future in sales.

0

Songs from 1960s

0

Songs from 1970s

0

Songs from 1980s

0

Songs from 1990s

Song stats current as of May 19, 2020. Songs from 2000s=13%, songs from 2010s=11%, All other decades 2% or less.

All 50 States Day 50: Wyoming!

Devils Tower, WY

All 50 States Day 50:

Wyoming!

Though I went through the states alphabetically, Wyoming is a pretty good closer, especially since my pictures from the state come entirely from Yellowstone and Devils Tower. I’ve only played two shows in the state, at a community college in Sheridan in the late 90s, and at the University of Wyoming in Laramie in 2007. My visit to Yellowstone was in 2003 when I was in Bozeman for a summer orientation show at Montana State. I flew in a couple of days early and the orientation director and I took a trip to Yellowstone, a weekend that included the first day of summer when it of course snowed.

My first time through the state came in ’95, before a show at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, a town so far west it’s only 12 miles shy of the Wyoming border. On my trusty Rand McNally Road Atlas I could see that Devils Tower, in the northeast corner of Wyoming, was only an hour away and that I had time before my show to make the round trip. This is the trip that included my Most Epic Roll of Film Ever, which featured prominently in my South Dakota post, and the shots from Devil’s Tower practically earn that title on their own. It was a good day to have a roll of black and white film loaded into my Pentax K-1000.

Devils Tower, the mountain where the Close Encounters alien encounter is set, is a fascinating formation that’s the remnant of an ancient volcano core. You can see it from a dozen miles away, rising out of the flat landscape like a monument to the universe. Even before you get on the grounds of the National Monument you understand why it inspired legends in several Native American cultures. When you see it up close the giant granite columns look like pipe organs, or the fossilized remnants of an ancient machine.

On the other side of the state, the Yellowstone trip was also brief, only one night. That’s  definitely not enough time to see a lot of the park, but I got to hit some of the big spots like Old Faithful and the edge of Golden Gate Canyon. I also saw a ton of wildlife like buffalo, elk, foxes, bear and more.

Both Devil’s Tower and Yellowstone are worthy bucket list entries. If you’re ever traveling through western South Dakota and think you want to stop at Mt. Rushmore outside of Rapid City, skip it and drive the extra hours to Devils Tower. It’s far more awe-inspiring than some heads carved into granite. And if you get to Yellowstone, give yourself a few days to see as much as you can.

So that’s a wrap on 50 states in 50 days! New York City is still shut down for at least a few more days, probably longer so I guess I’ll have to find some other project to pass the time. U.S. territories? I think I’ve only hit Puerto Rico and St. Thomas so far. Canadian provinces? I’m only 6 of 10 and none of the territories. Can’t wait to get back out there and add to the list!

  • Devils Tower, close, 1995
  • Selfie in Yellowstone on a snowy first day of summer, 2003
  • Old Faithful, 2003
  • National Park sign near Golden Gate Canyon, 2003
  • Buffalo in Yellowstone, 2003
  • Elk in Yellowstone, 2003
  • Devils Tower from miles away, 1995
US Map with Wyoming highlighted

All 50 States Day 49: Wisconsin!

Polaroid of Cheese Castle Sign

All 50 States Day 49:

Wisconsin!

I grew up really close to Wisconsin, in Waukegan, Illinois. In fact, I just today learned that my childhood neighborhood is less than 10 miles from the state border (thank you google maps “measure distance” function). I always assumed it was farther because any trip to Kenosha, a town just across the border, was about 30 minutes door to door. I hit Kenosha often to visit friends and check out The Music Center, just off of Highway 50, where I got both of my Seagull acoustic guitars.

Growing up lots of people would go to Wisconsin for summer vacations or weekend getaways. People would simply describe the destination as “up north,” which could cover anything from Whitewater to Rhinelander, Door County to Superior.  All of my camping trips during my 3-year tenure as a Boy Scout were in Wisconsin, a few weekends near Kenosha, and a week-long summer trip 4 hours deep into the center of the state.

As people from Illinois enjoyed the natural beauty the state, they engendered the kind of resentment that locals always develop for outsiders who recreate in their midst. FIBs is the common pejorative, an acronym for F***ing Illinois Bastard (it’s very clever), though the more tactful will use the polite term “flatlander.” I believe it’s wrong to stereotype  and give a snide nickname to the entire population of a state but that’s Cheeseheads for ya.

As a professional comedian I did so many laps around America’s Dairyland that I lost count. I’ve done about every 2-year and 4-year campus in the UW system, except for UW in Madison, lousy Badgers!  I’ve hit UW Superior, Eu Claire, River Falls, Green Bay, La Crosse, Platteville, Whitewater, Fox River, Fond du Lac and maybe a dozen others.

I once had a show at Milwaukee School of Engineering, a noon show in the student union building, and only afterward did I learn that the building used to house the production line for Blatz Brewery. The Blatz line was used in the opening montage of Laverne & Shirley, serving as the Shotz brewery where the characters worked. I had no idea I was performing on hallowed ground!

I’ve played a couple of comedy clubs in the state, a few gigs in Milwaukee and a weekend in Appleton; and back in my rock band days we played a few different venues in Milwaukee, including our first ever club gig as a band at the Odd Rock Cafe. That club is long gone but it inspired the name of my current comedy music variety show The Odd Rock Comedy Hour.

With cheap beer, tavern style pizza, and brats everywhere Wisconsin feels a lot like home, though as a born and bred Illinoisan (and die-hard Bears & Cubs fan) they would never accept me. I’ll have to settle for visiting as an outsider and enjoying the more affordable Cubs tickets at Miller Park.

  • Color Polaroid of Marsh Cheese Castle, 2009
  • Dangerous selfie at Lambeau Field, 2007
  • Schlitz & Pizza in Fond du Lac! 2007
  • Carthage College, 2012
  • A Steppingstones gig at the Stork Club in Milwaukee, early 90s
  • Blatz Brewery, Milwaukee, 2007
  • The Bradburys rocking Kenosha with lead singer of Off Broadway sitting in, 2012
  • Selfie at UW Green Bay, 2007
  • With fellow Cubs fans at Miller Park, 2015
WIMap

All 50 States Day 48: West Virginia!

West VA capitol

All 50 States Day 48:

West Virginia!

I landed my first gigs in West Virginia early in my touring career, some of the many shows I did in spring and fall of 1996 after showcasing at the Great Lakes Regional NACA Conference in October of 1995. One of my first shows in the state was at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, and the school and town had an outdoorsy, crunchy, hippie-ish vibe that I dug. The state is a haven for mountain biking, rafting, hiking, camping, and the like, and there were enclaves and colleges that attracted people looking for those things.

Then again, there are drive-thru convenience stores where you literally drive your car through them! They look like car washes, but instead of soapy brushes and water jets there are bags of chips and 12-packs of beer. It is a many-faceted state.

The capital, Charleston, is right on a river with hills all around and there’s a gorgeous capitol building on the banks. I’ve played University of Charleston twice over the years, and on an early trip to the city I caught a minor league baseball game, the Charleston Alley Cats, at the time an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Concord College, in the tiny town of Athens, has had me in for shows on three or four occasions and since the small town is without a hotel I stayed in an on-campus guest room. This particular guest room was in the main office building for the school, a building that included some classrooms, so when I would wake up the next morning, on the later side as is my wont as a musician, I would trudge blearily to my car through an active work and educational site, an embarrassing way to start a day.

One of my least favorite shows ever was at a community college outside of Wheeling, a noontime show that was the first time I refused the check afterward. The show was in a loud student cafeteria and there was no sound system, just one mic plugged into the overhead cafeteria speakers, the same speakers used to announce when lunch orders were ready. I played for about 15-20 minutes, went into my closer and ended the show.

The student activities contact, who before the show said there was no other sound equipment available and asked why mics needed to be plugged in anyway, said that I had to do more time. I declined and she said I had to talk to her boss. The faculty guy whose office I ended up in tried to manage me, looking over the contract, saying that I was contracted to do 50-60 minutes and was there any way I would go back out and do some more time because he sure would hate it if I didn’t get paid. Since he was looking at the contract I pointed to the section that mandated a sound system operated by qualified personnel. While he tried to reformulate a new argument I told him to keep the check and I was heading out.

It was a season when I would sometimes have 8 or 9 shows in a 5-6 day period with shows every night and some noon shows the same day, so I wouldn’t miss the money that much. After a few more bad noon experiences, including shows where schools had me performing in the hallway because “more people would see me that way,” I developed a thicker skin and would plow through my hour of material regardless of the audience indifference or hostility. It became a contest and I wasn’t going to let the rude crowd keep me from getting my check.

But that was only one bad show mixed in with a lot more good ones, including schools that have had me back multiple times and treated me well. So West Virginia, when this pandemic is over, call me! I’ll definitely come back and rock the mountains!

  • State Capitol, Charleston, 1997
  • Drive through convenience store that you LITERALLY DRIVE THROUGH!, 2001
  • Crossing the Ohio River on I-470
WVMap

All 50 States Day 47: Washington!

Seattle Space Needle

All 50 States Day 47:

Washington!

I landed in Seattle in the spring of 1997 for my first big trek through the Pacific Northwest and it was amazing. After showcasing at a NACA conference in the fall of 1996 I landed a bunch of shows, and that 3-week run in the spring of ’97 was a great introduction to the region. Not only did I see Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska, I got to see a good chunk of western Washington, from Longview to Bellingham, with stops in Everett, Olympia, Tacoma, Puyallup, and more.

In the central part of the state, where the Cascade Mountains give way to high desert, I’ve hit shows in Wenatchee, Omak, the Tri-Cities, and even a college in Moses Lake that was on the grounds of a decommissioned Air Force base. As a musician going to a gig on an Air Force base I couldn’t help but think of the movie This is Spinal Tap.

I remember driving in to Moses Lake, a small town with not much around, and despite the desolate location there was a steady stream of jumbo jets approaching, landing gear down, ready to touch down. I couldn’t figure out how such a sparsely populated area could have so much air traffic! Turns out the runways at the old Air Force base are used for touch-and-gos, a training maneuver where pilots land and immediately take off. So all of these jets were coming in for a landing and as soon as they touched down they were like “nope” and got the hell out.

I’ve also hit the eastern part of the state, playing Gonzaga U and Whitworth College in Spokane, and Eastern Washington University in Cheney. I had a fun corporate show in Spokane in 2014, but getting there was a challenge because just two days prior I performed for a Dutch public television show in Amsterdam. The day between shows I flew Amsterdam to London, London to Seattle, then Seattle to Spokane. The London to Seattle flight alone was 10 hours, but with the 8 hour time difference I made it to my hotel in Spokane (the lovely and historic Davenport Hotel, downtown) and was able to sleep for as long as I could before the show.

As for Seattle, I try to get there as often as I can. Whenever I have a stop in Vancouver I tack on a few days to hang out with friends in Seattle, and the last time I made the Vancouver to Seattle trip via bus. It was my first time crossing the border on a bus and was a good square to check off on my travel bingo card.

  • My name in lights! Centralia College, 2003
  • Olympia Beer at an outdoor bar near Seattle, 2018
  • Ready for an adventure in an IH Scout, 2017
  • Space Needle through binocular viewer, 2017
  • Rickshaw Restaurant, Seattle, 2018
  • There is sun in Seattle! 2018
  • B&W Polaroid of Seattle waterfront and ferris wheel, 2014
  • B&W Polaroid of downtown Spokane, 2014
  • Space Needle selfie, 2013
WAMap

All 50 States Day 46: Virginia!

Cargo ship on the water

All 50 States Day 46:

Virginia!

The state’s license plates will have you believe Virginia is for lovers but it’s also for school trips to historical sites, many college and theater gigs, and for driving through to get to other places. Like many non-Virginians, my first time in the state was on a junior high trip to Washington D.C. which included stops at Colonial Williamsburg, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, and a Roy Rogers fast food establishment that called itself a “restaurant.”

I’ve been back to the state for many college gigs, including stops at the well known schools of College of William and Mary, George Mason, and University of Mary Washington. I’ve also played a bunch of smaller colleges and universities, like Radford University, Ferrum College, Bluefield College, not to mention Bluefield State College across the river in West Virginia.

I had a rollercoaster weekend in the state back in the spring of 1998 when I played University of Richmond on a Friday and Bridgewater College the following night. The show at Richmond was in a pub on campus and the event wasn’t well advertised or attended. There were a few people watching the show but there more frat boys watching the NCAA basketball tournament across the room at the bar. They were loud, drunk, and when the saw there was someone onstage trying to do a show to a tiny crowd, they were obnoxious.

I had been doing college shows for a few years by this point and I had done my fair share of noontime shows in the cafeterias of community colleges, so I was no stranger to plowing through 50 minutes of material in loud environments. I played to the group of people that were actually watching me and sent a few barbs to the back of the room while the rowdies yelled and hi-fived each other.

After the show one of the loud ones came up to me to, I don’t know, congratulate me? Tell me no hard feelings, it was all in fun, etc. Usually after shows I’m very polite and deferential but I told him to get lost. He seemed surprised and maybe even a little wounded. I was worried my saltiness might have come off as unprofessional but the student activities  board member backed me up, which was nice.

The terrible experience at Richmond was more than made up for the next night at Bridgewater College, a small school in the Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. It was a dessert themed event in which the cafeteria laid out dozens of cakes and pies while the students gathered for a show. Being a small school in a small town with not much to do, and adding the prospect of a free sugar high, the show was packed. I performed for over an hour and had a great time playing to an enthusiastic crowd.

After the show a student came up to me and asked about the work shirt I was wearing. It was the 90s, I wore work shirts. He held up a big red safety coat with a reflective stripe on it and a logo for Giant Food grocery store on the back, and asked if I liked it. I said it was cool and he offered to give it to me.

I politely declined, not wanting to take the coat off of a college students back, but he said he worked there and had three of them. I offered him and his friends some CDs in exchange and for the next several years I proudly wore a bright red Giant Foods coat in the fall and winter. People from the mid-Atlantic would regularly ask about it and if I worked there, recognizing the logo from their hometown grocery stores.

The moral of the story is Bridgewater College was awesome and restored the faith in humanity I lost the night before at University of Richmond.

I also had a stop in Virginia for a show opening for George Carlin in March, 2008. It was in Porstmouth, near Norfolk, and was the first of a 3-show weekend that took me up to Harrisburg and then Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. So much driving!

  • Biscuitville! Danville, 2010
  • Stuck in the stockade, Colonial Williamsburg, year redacted
  • Freighter in Chesapeake Bay, 2008
  • Rifleman, Colonial Williamsburg, year redacted
  • 1950s looking kitchen in Radford U’s on-campus accommodations, 2004
  • 1950s living room in Radford U’s on-campus accommodations, 2004
  • Blurb from William & Mary paper, 2004
  • The famous Giant Foods red coat! Pictured in NYC in 1998 with Ritch Duncan and Lynn Harris, 1998
VAMap

All 50 States Day 45: Vermont!

All 50 States Day 45:

Vermont!

Another post with no pics <Price Is Right loser horn><frowny face> But I’ve been there, done shows and spent the night so it counts!

I played Lyndon State on two different occasions, oddly on the same date: October 16. Once in 2003 and again in 2008. I also did a show at Castleton State College in 2008.

In the non-college arena I did a very random show for an outdoor social organizations’s ski weekend back in 2000. The show was in Stowe in a theater right in the middle of town during ski season. Not being a skier I didn’t hit the slopes, also had to drive back the next day, either for a show in NYC or a shift at the dayjob I was working at the time. Something very glamorous either way.

VT_RobPRockyRd
VTMap

All 50 States Day 44: Utah!

All 50 States Day 44:

Utah!

I’ve made a couple of trips to Utah so far, the first was in August 2007 for an orientation show at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. In the vast expanse between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, Cedar City is not only home to S.U.U. but also an annual Shakespeare festival, a fact I learned after the show when some theater people from the fest admitted they snuck into the show on campus.

For that first trip I went to Salt Lake City a few days early and did a comedy show at Moe’s Bar and Grill produced by SLC-based comedian Sina Amedson. I also had time to catch a Salt Lake City Bees minor league baseball game and even took the streetcar from downtown to the stadium.

Before heading back to SLC from Cedar City I drove to Zion National Park for a quick hike. I know I didn’t have time to see much of the park but what I did see was amazing.

I returned to Utah in May of 2008 to open a show for George Carlin at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. It was a run of three shows–Salt Lake City, El Paso, and Anaheim—and it would end up being the last weekend I worked with George before he died. Abravanel Hall is a beautiful concert space with amazing sound. It’s the kind of place where you’re on stage and you feel like you don’t even need a sound system to reach the back of the room.

At the time Utah law didn’t technically allow bars so any place that served alcohol had to be a private club. If you wanted to go to a bar you could buy an annual or short term membership for a few bucks so the law didn’t really discourage drinking, but it did make me feel a little extra special because instead of just a patron you were now a member. Maybe that’s what the legislators wanted all along?

UTMap
  • Selfie in Zion National Park, 2007
  • Zion National Park, 2007
  • Hiking trail near SLC, 2007
  • Hiking near SLC, 2007
  • Creek on hiking trail near SLC, 2007
  • Mormon Temple selfie, 2008
  • Flowers in Zion National Park, 2007

All 50 States Day 43: Texas!

All 50 States Day 43:

Texas!

Texas is huge and should count for like 4 states, and I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of it over the years. My mom has lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area since I was in high school and I’ve spent a ton of time with extended family there. Workwise I’ve done a few college tours which took me to the hill country, west Texas stops in Abilene and San Angelo, a week in the Rio Grande Valley, Nacadoches in the east, and up to the panhandle at Texas A&M Western in Canyon, Texas near Amarillo.

Austin, Texas, has been one of my Escape From New York fantasy towns for as long as I can remember. Any time I think about leaving New York for a less intense but still artistically stimulating place Austin is near the top of the list. My first experience with the city was visiting my college roommate just after we graduated and I’ve been hooked since. I’ve played a college gig there (at St. Edwards University not the enormous UT campus) and back in 2014 performed at the Out of Bounds Festival, which was one of my favorite performance fest experiences ever.

One of my shows opening for George Carlin was in El Paso on the western tip of Texas. You don’t appreciate how far Texas extends to the west until you have to get to or from El Paso. In fact, the drive from Phoenix to Dallas, which I made a few times on cross country trips, is 1,000 miles and 620 of those miles are in Texas, from El Paso to Dallas. Needless to say I flew to the Carlin gig because the night before we were in Salt Lake City (and the day after I did my last show with him in Anaheim, CA).

I also flew to El Paso when I had a show in Alpine, Texas, which is down near Big Bend National Park. Alipne is about 3.5 hours from El Paso and that’s still the closest airport. That show in Alpine also allowed me to make a stop in Marfa, a tiny town that’s become a bit of an artist colony over the years. It’s also famous for being the location for the James Dean/Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor film Giant. The Hotel Paisano in downtown Marfa makes a lot of use of the fact that big stars stayed there and they named their pricier rooms after them. I didn’t spring for Rock or James’ suites though, I was probably in the Gaffer Room.

My most recent work-related trip to Texas was debarking a cruise ship in Galveston after a December voyage in the Caribbean. I got up before dawn to debark in time to make a flight, and as I got some air and coffee on the top deck I saw a very bright Venus in the eastern sky. Below it was another planet, I guessed either Jupiter or Saturn, and to confirm I opened my Planets app. The app said that Mercury was just next to Jupiter so I looked closer and sure enough there was a very faint pinpoint of light next to Jupiter. It’s the first time I ever saw Mercury and you can just make it out on the iPhone picture I took.

  • Longhorn steer, 2010
  • Austin Food Truck, 2014
  • Palace Theater, El Paso, 2008
  • Fort Worth Cats mascot, 2006
  • Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury, Galveston, 2018
  • View of mountain through binoculars, near Marfa, 2013
  • Me on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, 2003
  • Mural of Eighter from Decatur, 2018
  • B&W Polaroid of Downtown Marfa, 2014
  • Corpus Christie, 2005
  • Food Truck, Marfa, 2014
  • Eva Longoria, Miss Texas A&M Kingsville 1996, pic from 2005
  • Pre-show in Brownsville, 2002
  • Moonrise over Eagle Mountain Lake, 2018
  • Crowd at Texas A&M Commerce, 2016
TZZXMap

All 50 States Day 42: Tennessee!

Diner sign

All 50 States Day 42:

Tennessee!

As a musician, Nashville is a place you have to play at least once in your life just to say you did. I suppose most musicians have in mind a gig at the Lovebird Cafe or the Grand Ol’ Opry, not at a comedy club, but such is the case when you’re a comedy music person like me. I’ve played the Zanies in Nashville a few times over the years, it’s a wonderful club and I’ve always had a good time performing there.

I haven’t done as many college shows in Tennessee as some other states but I do remember a midnight show at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, I think it was part of their homecoming week. I also stopped for the night in Memphis on my way to some shows in Missouri or Arkansas. I only had time to do one touristy thing so I skipped Graceland and went to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Next time through I hope to hit Sun Studios.

  • Approaching Nash-Vegas, 2010
  • Swett’s Diner, Nashville, 2010
  • Hanging with fellow comedy musician Kier, 2010
  • The Zanies in Nashville!
TNMap

All 50 States Day 41: South Dakota!

All 50 States Day 41:

South Dakota!

My first trip to South Dakota I ended up spending the night riding out a blizzard in my car. It was April 1995 and I was on my way to a show at Black Hills State University which is so far west in South Dakota it’s only 12 miles shy of Wyoming. I left Chicago at noon the day before the show, planning to drive about 12 hours or so, get a hotel for the night somewhere around Rapid City and finish the drive the next day.

West of Sioux Falls it started to snow and it was looking like it could be one of those intense, heavy spring snowstorms that dump a foot of snow in about 5 minutes. As I stopped for gas approaching the middle of the state, where the Missouri River cuts across I-90, the snow started turning to rain so I filled up and pressed on. I climbed out of the valley of the Missouri River and the snow came back with a vengeance. It was piling up on the interstate and I tried to keep my tires in the tracks cut by the big trucks but my then-brand-new Honda Civic was so tiny I could only keep one side’s wheels in the tracks at a time.

I knew I had to pull over, but with so much snow on the ground it was hard to see where the shoulder was. Plus, I didn’t want to be out in the open and getting buried in the snow while the semis were still barreling down the interstate. I needed to press on to the next exit where I could at least pull off the interstate and hopefully park under the overpass. Being the middle of South Dakota, the next exit was about 5 miles away, and it felt like an eternity trudging along at about 25 mph while semis passed on the left kicking up so much snow it looked like I was driving through a car wash.

I was able to get to the exit and I pitched myself under the westbound lanes of I-90 near Reliance, SD. In front of me there was a semi parked under the eastbound lanes, which was reassuring because I figured the driver at least had a CB radio should we need assistance.

I pulled over around midnight and it snowed hard until about 10 am. Luckily with my mostly full tank of gas I was able to run the engine enough to stay warm. I listened to news radio hoping for weather updates but the only stations I got overnight were from Denver and even Oklahoma City. Super helpful. The plows showed up around noon and thanks to the shelter of the overpass no digging out was required. I headed back to Chamberlain to wait and see when the highway would reopen and to call the school and tell them I might not make the gig. We ended up rescheduling for the following September…

Which was another epic trip because it resulted in my most epic roll of film ever!

I’ve already posted one shot from that black and white roll of film that was loaded into my Pentax K-1000, it was of Carhenge in Nebraska, which I visited on after my make up date at Black Hills State. On my return trip to South Dakota my plan was to drive out a couple of days early, maybe stop at the Mitchell Corn Palace (a real thing) and, weather permitting, camp in the badlands for a night.

It was the weekend after Labor Day and the forecast called for sunny and 70s. I hit Mitchell, SD during the Corn Palace Festival when the streets were filled with carnival rides and funnel cake vendors. Then I made it to the Badlands, which was quiet at the beginning of the off season, and I set up my tent near a couple of other groups of young people: a group of 4 college age guys on a cross country trip, and two young women crossing the country to look at grad schools.

That night as the sun set in the west a full moon began to rise in the east and we went to a talk given by a park ranger. The next day we hiked around, and took a drive through an animal preserve to see a prairie dog town and a herd of buffalo up close. We all swapped info and I did get a postcard from the women, but it had no return address. It’s hard to believe in these days of social media that it’s even possible to loose touch with people but it was really easy in those days, especially in your early 20s when you moved and changed phone numbers every year or more.

I’ve done a lot of shows in South Dakota over the years, from Sioux Falls to Rapid City, from Yankton to Vermillion to Brookings to Madison… On days off in the area I would stay in Sioux Falls, which at the time was the Headquarters of Gateway Computers (which would be shipped in cowhide printed boxes) and the town had a hip, tech hub vibe and felt like a mini-Minneapolis. I even spent an off night going to a CBA game (Sioux Falls Sky Force vs. the Grand Rapids Thunder). Thanks to a food drive the team was running the admission price was a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, which I purchased 10 minutes earlier at a small grocery.

If I ever dig up my address books and contracts from those early touring days I’ll be able to officially document all of my stops in the state. Until then, enjoy these shots from my Most Epic Roll of Film Ever!

Shots from The Most Epic Roll of Film Ever!

SDMap
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