Upcoming Gigs (always confirm before attending):

Fri, August 28: Ken Slauf and I play more up-tempo (for us) sets at the Tilted Kilt in Bolingbrook from 9 to 11.

Sat, August 29: A strlipped down version of my newest band, Block 37, will be performing at the Highland Avenue Block Party in Elmhurst Illinois from about 6:15PM to 7:30PM, weather pending (it's looking iffy as of Friday).  Come on over whether you live there or not!

Fri, Sept 11:  I'm back at Dock's in Wauconda playing with Second Time Around, playing outdoors from 7:30 to 11PM.

Sat, Sept 12:  Second Time Around with be playing a private funciont at Lake Barrington.

Sun, Sept 13:  I'll be playing at H.P. Jones in Elmhurst with Second Time Around as part of a fundraiser starting at noon.  This was a blast last year.  Come on out and support a good cause.

Fri, Septmber 18: (NOTE THE TIME AND LOCATION CHANGE) Block 37 is performing from 8:30 to 11:30 at 630 Bar in Woodridge.  Can't wait!

Sat, September 19: I'll be playing with my old high school classmates in our band I ON U for the first time in twenty-eight years.  Should be a great time.  We'll be playing sometime around 1:30PM at Oscar's Bar and Grill, 1712 W. Pierce St.

Sun, September 20: I'm back with Second Time Around playing a private function in the afternoon.  Wish I could invite you!

Sat, September 26: Second Time Around, playing outdoors from 7 to 10:30 at Fall Fest, an outdoor festival sponsored by the Holy Family Church, 2515 W. Palatine Rd., Inverness.  Come on out!

You can also catch me and my colleagues almost every Sunday at 10:30am at Elmhurst Presbyterian Church for contemporary, uplifting music.

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My gig schedule has changed.  Check out the right hand margin.

Please note that none of the audio on my website is currently available due to an unannounced change in my music host's policy (thanks a lot, Divshare).  Stay tuned while I try to rectify this problem.  For my upcoming gigs, check out the right hand margin.

My story, "I, Monster" just won the lastest sixfold.org short story contest, with a cash prize of $1000.  Nice!  I'm hoping to begin recording a CD this fall, and don't forget that you can also catch me most Sundays at 10:30AM at Elmhurst Presbyterian Church, 367 Spring Road in Elmhurst. 


Feline or Foe?

I’m going to make a confession despite the ensuing calls that are sure to come from my daughters, my sister and my vet if they happen to read this blog.  Okay?  Here goes.  I would be happier if my two cats – the orange tabbies Fred and George Weasley Heinz – would suddenly…um…not be alive. 

There.  I said it. 

Now don’t get your undies in a bunch.  I promise not to go all “Apt Pupil” on them and commit felinicide.  (Haven’t read the Stephen King novella?  You should.)   I’m not insane.  But yes, the cats do, from time to time, drive me insane. 

“Oh, come on,” you might say.  “What on Earth could two cute little cuddly cats do to upset you so?”

Well, I’ll make a list of the things my two cats have ruined since they joined the family nine years ago, right after my sister’s dog paid a visit to my home and played with our two hamsters until they were dead, hence clearing the Heinz household slate as far as pets were concerned.   We had an opportunity to replenish our deceased pets with something grander.  A dog?  One would think, but no.  We heard about someone getting rid of two flea-ridden kittens (the adjective unknown to us until we got them home), so we took the bait, and here we are nine years and many ruined household items later.  Allow me to share the items my cats have destroyed either by tearing them apart with their teeth, knocking them over onto the floor, or via urination:

A futon mattress.

A futon cover.

A shower curtain.

Three bean bag chairs.

Dozens of stuffed animals.

Four pillows.

A rug.

Two antique vases that had survived for eight decades, only to last two nights in my home.

Two plants.

Countless cut flowers, to the point where we don’t buy flowers anymore, and if someone gets us some as a present, we store them on TOP OF THE REFRIGERATOR!

Several scarves.

Several gloves.

Several hats.

Several blankets.

Several sweaters.

Several Crocks.

A few pairs of flip-flops.

 

Still think I haven’t earned the right to be mildly disenchanted with my feline friends?

“Oh, but the joy they bring,” you say.

Yes, the vomit I’ve had to clean up on an almost weekly basis.  The litter boxes they’ve failed to hit with their apparently malfunctioning weaponry.  The rug I had to spray from edge to edge while using an ultraviolet light to illuminate virtually one big mass of cat urine.  The $1200 I spent bringing George back from the brink of death after he swallowed a toy.

Joyful indeed. 

We now have to keep our bedroom doors shut at all times because doing otherwise will invite the Weasley twins to tear apart clothing and any other moderately fuzzy artifact lying about in our house.  But here’s the thing:  on hot days when the air conditioner is running we have to keep our doors open, so lo and behold there were days this summer I spent vacuuming up the little plastic beads spilled from the torso’s of stuffed bears, lambs, and other assorted Beanie Babies.  And since our doors were open, the cats felt obliged to wake us up at 6AM for their morning breakfast, be it a work day or otherwise.

(I know what some of you are saying: “Paul, you don’t work anyhow, so who gives a shit?”  I DO work.  I work cleaning up after my two demon cats!)

We must be among the first generations of mankind to put up with this kind of nonsense.  Would an average Joe living in 1850 put up with this crap?  Of course not.  He’d kick the damn thing out of the house and maybe even drown it for good measure.  Hell, I know a person who shall not be named who took his wife’s cat away for the day for a “little trip,” and only one living organism returned.  The wife is much happier now as a widow.  (I’m only kidding, but not entirely.) 

I will not resort murder, though a blurb in TIME Magazine last week certainly put me on edge.  Seems a cat in Oregon named Corduroy has claimed the title as the oldest living cat.  Get this: TWENTY-SIX YEARS!  And that’s NOTHING!  The oldest cat ever on record is Crème Puff, who lived to be over 38 years old!

So Fred and George, I promise to keep feeding you and keep cleaning out your litter boxes.  I promise to play with you and talk to you.  I promise to let you hang on me when I’m watching TV.  I promise to continue to spend a small fortune on your checkups with the vet.

But do you think you could promise to bow out gracefully after, say, another nine years or so?  That seems like a fair deal, don’t you think?

Short Story Wins 1st Prize and Publication

"I saw the pictures on-line.  I've got a monster's cold, blue blood pulsing through my veins."

My short story "I, Monster" is now available to read on-line or to download onto your Kindle or other digital reader, and it's also available in paperback at Amazon as part of the Summer 2015 issue of Sixfold.  Sixfold is an interesting publication whereby writers determine which stories get published and offer comments and constructive criticism for each other.  For my story, which won the latest contest and its thousand dollar prize, I recieved over fifty comments from readers.  If I ever decide to rework the story or expand it into a longer work, I'll have a good idea where to begin.

Please give "I, Monster" a read, and if you like it, go to Amazon and give it a positive review.  You never know where this could lead with a little help.  Thanks in advance.

Here's a quick synopsis of the story:

Seventeen year-old Shelby is the same age her mother was when she was kidnapped, raped and imprisoned by the man who would become Shelby's father.  Believing she has "a monster's cold, blue blood pulsing" through her veins, Shelby now lives her life as an outsider, but when she notices a car stopping alongside a classmate on the way home from school, she has a chance to change the outcome, and maybe herself.

Introducing Block 37

With one gig and dozens of rehearsals under our belts (and five - count 'em - FIVE upcoming gigs scheduled) I figure it's high time to promote my latest band, Block 37, a five-piece act hell-bent on not boring you to death the way so many other bands do.  Seriously, I'm really excited about this venture for several reasons, three of which I'll highlight today.

1)  The band's mission to stay clear of classic rock and over-played hits and instead focus on fun, upbeat power pop gems, many of which you might have forgotten all about.  So yeah, we'll play some great tunes by bands you know like The Clash, The Cars, The Black Keys, White Stripes and the like, but then we'll perform that one tune that needs to be exercised from the recesses of your mind.  Songs like "Save it for Later" by The English Beat, "Here It Goes Again" from OK Go (which I just heard on an episode of Scrubs!), "Ah, Leah" by Donnie Iris, "A Million Miles Away" from the Plimsouls.  And Wilco.  And Elvis Costello.  Any Joe Jackson.  Vampire Weekend.  The Kings.  Fountains of Wayne.  The Knack. And, and, and...can you tell I'm really excited about our set list?

2)  So our current selection of songs is excellent, but what's really cool is we're learning new material all the time, which not only keeps us excited, it also means that our shows will constantly evolve so that you'll never get the same set list twice.  I've been in bands that are very reluctant to learn new material.  Not Block 37.  We are here to explore the vast soundscape of power pop gems from the last four decades.

3)  The musicianship of this band is ridiculous.  How Phil can remember all the lyrics to these tunes is beyond me, and Matt's spot-on guitar solos kills me.  Add to that a thumpin rock-solid rhythm section by Johnny and Doug, and it's a pleasure for me to add some keys to what's already a great sounding arrangement.

WHAT DO WE NEED FROM YOU?  First please go to our Facebook page and like us.  We're at 163 likes but we need more.  You can also check out our ever-changing website for news, videos and photos.

Second, come out to one of our shows!  As of this writing, you have five opportunities to hear Block 37 play:

Fri, July 31: Block 37 will be performing power pop gems for an evening gig at Phyllis's Musical Inn in Chicago, 10 to 1.

Sat, Aug 1: I'm back with Block 37 at Bono's in Lisle from 9:15 to 12:45 or thereabouts.

Sat, August 22: Block 37 is heading to Palos for a rip-roaring night of power pop favorites.  At Trio in Palos, 9 to really, really late.

Sat, August 29: My newest band, Block 37, will be performing at the Highland Avenue Block Party in Elmhurst Illinois.  Details to follow.

Fri, Septmber 18: Block 37 is back at our regular gig at Bono's in Lisle.  9:15 or so to the wee hours.

So come on out and see what all the hub-bub is about, help us grow, and with any luck, one day we'll play during daylight hours! 

Squire's Death and Concert Memories

I was shocked upon hearing the news earlier this week of Yes bassist Chris Squire’s death at age 67.  I didn’t worship or even revere Squire – the last time I saw him perform, my main impression of him was that he could lose about fifty pounds and definitely lose the leather pants – but he was one of those guys back in the early 80s that inspired me and my love for music.  And as I read the details of his passing, it occurred to me that this is only the beginning.  If you’re a music fan of the old bands from the 60s and 70s, the next couple of decades are going to be rough.

I went through a mental list of all the performances I’ve seen since I saw Billy Squire at Summerfest in 1981 with my buddy John, followed by Crosby, Stills and Nash and Rush the following year.  The truth is that except for a few supporting members like Clarence Clemens and Danny Federici of the E Street Band, Howie Epstein of the Heartbreakers and two of the Wilson brothers of Beach Boys fame, the guys I’ve watched perform are still around and still performing, which is something I never fathomed.  When I saw Yes for the first time in 1984 I recall thinking that a whole fifteen years had passed since the band originated and that I was lucky to be seeing them before they call it a day.  Well, now more than double that period of time has passed, and lo and behold, Yes will be performing this August in Chicago.  Crazy.  I mean, who would have thought back in 1982 that in 2015 you could see The Who, Rush, Yes, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and CSN? Insane.

But here we are in 2015, and Squire’s passing has prompted me to try to recall all the concerts I’ve seen over the years.  Unlike some of my prolific concert-seeing buddies, I’ve never been a huge live music guy.  I see a few big concerts a year, maybe a small one every couple of years, and that’s about it.  And with me, I tend to see the same bands over and over (Rush, Rufus Wainwright, Bed Folds).  I’m happy to say that most of these guys are still around (I just remembered seeing Big Country in 1993, and sadly, Stuart Adamson is no longer with us).  It’ll be very sad to see more of these guys go, as more and more of my record collection turns into a sort of memorial to artists of yesterday.

Here’s my list.  Not included are the 12 or 13 times I saw Pat McCurdy, and many of the bands listed were opening acts or part of a larger event (Steve Miller in 1994, for example).

’80 – Off Broadway (from the back!  I didn’t realize kids got discounted tickets for lower grand stand seats).

’81 – Billy Squire

’82 – CSN, Rush

’83 – Beach Boys, Supertramp, Genesis

’84 – Yes, Bruce Springsteen, Spyro Gyra, Rod Stewart, Elton John

’85 – Jean Luc Ponty, The Tubes and Utopia, Til Tuesday and Tom Petty, Patrick Moraz and Bill Bruford, Supertramp

’86 – Leo Kottke, Marillion and Rush, GTR, Julian Lennon, The Moody Blues

’87 – Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Tom Petty

’88 – Sting, Bruce Hornsby

’89 – Elvis Costello, BoDeans, Violent Femmes and Cowboy Junkies and Edie Brickell, Joe Jackson

’90 – Innocence Mission, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, Rush

’91 – Blake Babies (I think this year?), Elvis Costello, Al Stewart, The Guffs, Innocence Mission, Rush

’92 – Genesis, John Mellencamp, Indigo Girls, Randy Newman, Wallflowers and 10,000 Maniacs

’93 – Michelle Shocked, Da Da and Sting, Big Country, The Connells

’94 – Rush, Melissa Etheridge and Steve Miller and Natalie Merchant, The Pretenders

’95 – Van Morrison, They Might Be Giants, Elvis Costello

’96 – Wynton Marsalis, James Taylor

’97 – Bar Scott (I think this year?).  Generally lost in parenthood, Broadway plays and living in Allentown

‘98 – Lost in parenthood, Broadway plays and living in Allentown

‘99 – Bruce Springsteen, but generally lost in parenthood, Broadway plays and living in Allentown

’00 – Joe Jackson, but generally lost in parenthood, Broadway plays and living in Allentown

’01 – Eve 6, Joe Jackson, Paul Simon, Yes, Ben Folds

’02 – Harry Connick, Jr., Rush, Paul McCartney, Yes, Ben Folds

’03 – Joe Jackson, Leo Kottke, Tom Petty, The BoDeans, Steve Earle, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman

’04 – Yes, Rufus Wainwright and Ben Folds, Patti Austin, Harry Connick, Jr., Barenaked Ladies, Marc Cohn

’05 – Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Indigo Girls

’06 – um…what the heck was I doing?

’07 – Rufus Wainwright, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

’08 – Randy Newman, Yes

’09 – Steely Dan

’10 – Company of Thieves, Craig Ferguson, Rufus Wainwright

’11 – Yes, Weird Al Yankovic, Rufus Wainwright, Paul Simon, Sting

’12 – The Hush Sound, James Taylor, Rufus Wainwright, Bruce Springsteen, Rush, Joe Jackson, Ben Folds Five

’13 – Sara Bareilles, Rush, Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, Paul McCartney, A Silent Film

’14 – Roger Hodgson, Devo and Arcade Fire, Jackson Browne, James Taylor

’15 – The Who, Rufus Wainwright, Graham Parker, Rush

Rush's Last Stand

Watching Rush last Friday at the United Center in Chicago for what will likely be the last time, I was torn between the tale of two sets: one predictable and lackluster, and one that left me wishing the band would stick around for another tour or two.  The trio performed a reverse chronological set, but rather than mining deep into their catalog during the first half, they relied heavily on songs that were mainstays of their concerts for years (and they also skipped too many stops along the way).  The second set helped redeem the evening, and if this is truly the band’s last stand, it was an impressive way to end a forty plus year run.

One can forgive Rush for wanting to play three songs from their highly regarded last studio effort, Clockwork Angels, and though “Far Cry,” off of Snakes and Arrows was an uninspired choice since they just performed it two years ago, it’s still a great track.  So far so good.  However, the inclusion of “The Main Monkey Business” off the same album was a complete waste of time – an uninspiring instrumental that pales in comparison to some of the band’s other work.

Then Rush did what they often do, relying on what I refer to as the “first-track syndrome.”  Literally every other track of the first set (and the first of the second set) was taken from the first track of one of their albums, so instead of getting a surprise or two, we instead heard songs that have been performed numerous times in the past:  “One Little Victory,” “Animate,” “Roll the Bones,” “Distant Early Warning” and “Subdivisions.”  How much better would the concert have been if Rush had instead performed “Ceiling Unlimited,” “Between Sun and Moon,” “The Big Wheel,” “Kid Gloves” and “Digital Man”?  On alternating concerts, Rush has been performing “How it Is” from Vapor Trails and “Between the Wheels” from Grace Under Pressure, and both would have been better choices the night I saw them.

On a night that could have showcased each album of the band’s career, the most glaring error of the evening was skipping entirely the albums Test for Echo, Presto and Hold Your Fire.  Ignoring Power Windows made sense since the last tour highlighted five songs from that effort, but leapfrogging over the other three was unfortunate, especially since these are all strong albums that could have offered some interesting selections.

Then the band came out for the second set, and though I would have preferred a few additional surprises, the truth is that it was incredible from start to finish.  I also got lucky and got to see them perform both “Natural Science” and “Jacob’s Ladder,” whereas on other nights they’ve substituted the former for “The Camera Eye” or for nothing at all.  My second set went as follows:

Tom Sawyer

YYZ

The Spirit of Radio

Natural Science

Jacob’s Ladder

Hemispheres, Part 1: Prelude

Cygnus X-1, Part 1 and 3

Closer to the Heart

Xanadu

2112: Overture, The Temples of Syrinx, Presentation, Grand Finale

Lakeside Park

Anthem

What You’re Doing

Working Man

Geddy Lee had to screech his way through much of the latter part of the set, and I would have been just as happy hearing an instrumental medley, but overall he did a pretty solid job with the tunes.  The big surprises were “Jacob’s Ladder,” which hadn’t been performed live since 1980, and “Lakeside Park” and “What You’re Doing,” which hadn’t been played since 1978 and 1977, respectively.  It was also very cool hearing the first part of “Hemispheres” for the first time since the Counterparts tour.

Visually, the concert was appealing in that the band’s crew gradually simplified the stage, so that what started as an intricate steam punk theme slowly evolved into a simple stage with a few amps on chairs and a screen backdrop make to look like a gymnasium, a sort of Benjamin Button for the stage, if not for the performers themselves. 

As always, the band employed a great number of prerecorded tracks triggered via foot pedals, from backing vocals to keyboards and sound effects.  I’ve learned to accept this over the years, though it detracts from the musicianship of the band.  I would have much prefer to see three guys on stage playing everything live.  Nonetheless, the band will largely be known for its solid live performing, and last Friday’s show was no exception.  I bid Rush a fond farewell.