Choir of Angels

What do I miss most about tour? Yes, the comradery and the fans and the music and all that, but mostly spreads like the one pictured below.

Oh, how gleeful I was, packing looney tunes amounts of sickly-sweet bullshit into my rapidly mudslide resembling corpus.

A choir of angels couldn’t produce a hymn praiseworthy enough.

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Pirate Ships

I’ve spent a few days away from the MoaT and technology in general, reintroducing stillness into my life after another summer of high-frequency hearing loss.

I’m in an undisclosed location where the peaches are ripe, the heat’s dry, and the birds are jubilant and melodious. It’s fantastic.

After all these years, I’ve finally kinda got the hang of compartmentalizing - touring’s exciting, the people are legendary, and the food’s free, but you’re not on tour anymore. So, rather than expecting an apple to morph impossibly into an orange, channel the surplus of positive energy into other projects and relationships.

The day-to-day might look different, but it’s still in the service of music and creativity, and the pirate ship will crest the horizon again soon enough.

Clark Kent

For me, the hardest part of touring is the come down, the realization that, holy shit, I’m going to have to buy my own food here soon, generally make my own decisions, and decidedly will not be playing in front of thousands of people every night. Real life, I’ll have assured myself, as an inconvenience befalling others.

The key is defining expectations. The fall for me isn’t a landscape woefully bereft of free cake - it’s a chance to be still, focus on my physical health, and nurture creative worlds outside of this one. It’s an opportunity, gratefully, to fold back into a working musician’s life.

And so, after tomorrow, I’ll trade my Superman cape for Clark Kent glasses, buy a thing that’ll die if I don’t water it, and settle in.

Columbus Circle

I’m standing in Columbus Circle on a perfect NYC day, ie still sweating through my underpants but no one’s yelling, at least not at me.

Whenever I come here, I’m reminded that you can’t cherry pick the good stuff.

You might envy Douchebag McWallstreet’s money, but it’s a package deal with their teeth-grinding vapidity.

You might envy so-and-so’s fame, but you can’t enjoy being comped at Masa without said so-and-so’s crippling-yet-fashionable anxiety.

Everyone has their thing, their baggage, their demons, and, on balance, I’ll take mine.

Landscapes

The music biz is an omni-shifting landscape, and whether it’s Spotify hacking, crowd funding wizardry, or good ol’ fashioned record label tomfoolery, there’s merit to be found everywhere. 

But pull back the microscope far enough, and we’re all in the same magnificent, rickety boat. No one knows what the hell’s going on, and anyone who claims proprietorship over the “way you’re supposed to do things” is a douche. 

And that’s ok. Provided you’re not an asshole, chances are the inelegant flailing you’re so terrified of is the byproduct of authentically creating and expressing the thing in the service of which you’d happily sacrifice your sex life to get right.

Goldfish

I’m writing this during a break in our band/crew Dungeons and Dragons quest. Oh yes, my friends - a bespectacled weirdo, nerdy enough in the first place to write a daily email newsletter, also plays fantasy role playing games with his more subtlety nerdy compatriots. What a shocker, I know. The definition of debauchery.

Self-care looks like a lot of different things. Today, it’s soft pants, a fresh bag of Goldfish, and magnificent, giggling misfits, all of whom would get on the next plane if I asked them to.

Whatever being kind to yourself looks like today, I encourage you to embrace it.

Heart's Still Here

I found myself at a party several years ago. 

In the early Al Stone days, I found myself at a lot of places, every bit the ecstatic puppy with his head hanging out the window, saying yes to every transparently moronic thing and not drinking enough water. 

I’m in conversation with an investment banker. I say conversation, but he’s cornered me at this party, out of his mind on blow, talking at me about, I suppose, life.

“Always wanted to play in a band. But I wanted to be a millionaire by 30, so I chose investment banking. My wife just left me.”

“You don’t say?” I say.

“Hey, do you have any…”

“I have nothing you could possibly want, ever, and it’s been time for me to leave this party for quite some time now. Goodbye.” 

I get formal when I’m upset. 

Later that night, I remember thinking that no matter where this ride takes me, the minute my heart’s gone, I’m out. Because there’s no way I’m ending up like that piece of shit investment banker. 

My musical journey hasn’t been easy. I’ve been broke, exhausted, manipulated, cheated, and disappointed more times than I can count. 

But I still wake up everyday committed to fighting the good fight, treating people fairly, and creating with an authentic voice. 

My heart’s still here. 

Clatter

Tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena, it’s nice being reminded that playing big rooms isn’t a new normal, but rather an enormous privilege. Doing our thing in front of so many bewildered faces will never get old.

After every tour with my Al Stone family, the feeling’s a little bittersweet, but I hope we keep confusing day drinking NPR enthusiasts for a long time yet.

Now, to scribble my name surreptitiously under Def Leppard’s and prolong my rockstar fantasy just a little longer, reality’s inconvenient, persistent hum growing ever louder…

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FOMO

FOMO’s a real thing on the road. There’s always something loud, flashy, preposterous, scantily clad, or bedecked in ice cream to lure one away from what really needs doing, ie going the fuck to sleep.

So, tonight, fine people of Philadelphia, after a succession of poor decisions and at a comical 8:30pm, I’m hitting my bunk, and I don’t plan on emerging for 12 hours.

If Joel Embiid finds himself at a 90’s nostalgia show and I miss him, well, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Skittles

Being gainfully employed as a musician’s an undeserved decadence, and therefore I don’t want this tour to end.

Then again, I’ve been absentmindedly scarfing down Skittles for the past however long, an alarming amount of crumpled packets collecting around me, my sugar-addicted third eye pried open, revealing a shining, inexorable truth - it’s time to go home. Jesus Christ.

What awaits me there? That’s anyone’s guess, but over the years I’ve run the gambit of what ifs and other unanswerable queries. I’m a veteran of unproductive worry, recently retired.

Better to greet the unknown with gentle, quiet discipline, and a resolution to be a tiny bit better than the day before.

Fear Inoculum

Loyal MoaT readers (thank you) know how big of a Tool fan I am, and yesterday the band released their first single in thirteen years, “Fear Inoculum.”

Tool is a weird band of snobby nerds who like what they like and don’t give a fuck about anyone or anything else. And for that, I want to kiss each of them on the mouth.

I mean, a ten and a half minute, meandering prog-metal opus about “allegorical elegies” is #1 trending on YouTube. What’s not to like?

The band has broken, redefined, then broken again just about every rule you can think of, stuck to their guns unapologetically, and made uncool, impenetrable music about who the hell knows what for decades. On paper, they make zero goddamn sense, and yet they’re staggeringly popular.

The lesson is obvious and refreshing - no one in our industry has the faintest idea what’s going on, so form a band with your friends, write music with an authentic voice, and put it out into the world however makes you happy.

Golf with Metatron

I woke up today to hooting and hollering and playful profanity, which means there’s some variation of golf backstage.

Whether it’s putt-putt, chip-putt, or, in today’s case, a platform target in the middle of a pond, nothing brings a touring party closer together than whacking things with sticks while under the influence of edible marijuana products.

I spend a solid half hour sending ball after ball to a watery grave. Somewhere in the mediation of place-thwack-repeat, it occurres to me - had Carlos Santana communicated with Metatron, the arch angel that supposedly told him to collaborate with Rob Thomas, while hacking away, seizure-like, with a fairway wood, right in this very spot? How many other titans of my industry have been not very good at sports on and around this beleaguered golf mat?

The thought brings me a brief comfort, then I dip gently back into existential crisis.

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Recklessly Impractical

We’re playing Tanglewood today, and I’m wandering around the Linde Center for Music and Learning. The grounds are stunning, a perfect environment for erstwhile, pimple-faced atonal music devotees to go ham.

There’s an idiotic attitude amongst “popular” musicians that documenting green room dick art and subsisting on cottage cheese makes you more of a badass than sitting cross-legged in the grass, running scales.

The two paths aren’t mutually exclusive (I’m proof of that) and have quite a bit in common.

Both are surreal bubbles wherein homage is payed to the brilliant artists who came before us. And the whole point is learning stuff - swaths of recklessly impractical stuff - in an environment where barely knowing how to be a person won’t get you arrested. 

Wherever your musical journey takes you, celebrate it. Be present, appreciate you have little to no idea what’s going on, and that no one worth your time does either. 

Stage Left

Behold, stage left!

Meet Train’s monitor engineer, TC, who controls everything the band hears, hence his staring with Bobby Fisher-like intensity at the stage. The paddle looking things are antennae for, ideally (but almost never), crystal-clear in-ear monitor reception. They’re significantly more expensive than they look. 

Seated is Train’s bass tech, Tim, hence his staring with Bobby Fisher-like intensity at Train’s bass player, Hector. You can also see Hector’s bass cabinet, mic’d off stage for greater isolation and a cleaner mix out front. 

Tim also runs Train’s playback rig, powered by the two laptops. 

Running tracks can be a contentious issue, and I get it. Would that we were back in the days when a single bare light bulb and LSD were all that it took to put on a decent show at the Garden. 

Train does run a lot of tracks - doubled background vocals and guitars, miscellaneous percussion and keyboard parts - but they’re filling out the sound rather than steering the ship. Quite a few songs - big hits, for example, like “Meet Virginia” - use zero playback, not even a click, and the band still sounds gigantic. Which isn’t surprising, given they’re monster musicians, something that tends to go under appreciated when your biggest hit features ukulele. 

Lead singer karaoke’s a bummer, and all too common, but not what’s happening here.

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William Joel

Jones Beach! It’s about as beautiful as it gets in this part of the world, and the seagulls are only medium-aggressive.

I’ve also heard “fuck” today more than the entire tour combined, a tell-tale sign we’re in Billy Joel’s homeland.

Jones Beach is “historic,” which, in venue terms, means broken. And sure, the first dozen rows or so often flood during high tide, and load out happens via an underwater tunnel (also often flooded) that makes the set of Saw feel like a bouncy castle, but hey - it’s a damn fine day for a Stromboli, and the air positively wreaks of said William Joel’s fiscal irresponsibility.

All joking aside, this is a bucket list venue for me, and I have a feeling tonight’s going to be special.

To quote the Piano Man himself, “JUST LET ME DO MY FUCKING SHOW!”

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Stage Right

The majority of what makes a show happen lives offstage, and this stage right shot, taken not five minutes ago, features everything you’re hearing from guitar world, as well as the laptop controlling Pat’s teleprompter (relax, uppity musos, literally every singer in any band playing these kinda rooms uses one. Lots of words in a twenty year catalogue).

It’s important noting that I can approach guitar tech Stephen and stage manager Tim (on laptop duty) at any point during the set, and they’ll happily answer any question I might have. But god help me or any other poor bastard who takes a crispy boy from the cooler pictured bottom right.

The two main rules any touring pro will tell you: don’t poop on the bus, and don’t touch, or even look at, anything labeled “crew only.”

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Pet A Dog

My new project, Climb The Sky, has released three singles and three live/acoustic videos so far.

As mentioned in previous posts, it’s a welcome exercise in patience, a quality I’ve lacked historically, and this Train/Goo Goo Dolls tour highlights the benefits of the long game - releasing music consistently, playing shows that make sense, and keeping on doing that, forever.

If you like, follow us on Spotify, or wherever you stream music. I welcome any and all constructive criticism, as well as sycophantic praise.

And if you have a violent dislike towards the tunes, or me in general, I get it, but kindly keep that nonsense to yourself, and maybe go pet a dog.

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Last Outposts

Bangor, Maine is the last outpost of coffeeshops and hipster breweries before a whole lotta nothing, not counting unregulated maple syrup production. 

And wherever there’s a “last outpost” of anything, there’re hippies.

And as much as I clown on hippies in this humble newsletter, it was fantastic seeing dreadlocked acid casualties writhing along side the typical Train/Goo Goo Dolls demographic in relative, if pungent, harmony.

Towards the end of a long tour, seeing folks in childlike love with music can be just enough to scrub away recent memories of acrid beef stroganoff and unwanted advances from middle-aged divorcees, emboldened by wine coolers. 

I, for one, will be out there with them tonight, celebrating the absurdity of my chosen path.  

Woodstock

Tonight’s gig’s in Bethel NY, the original Woodstock location, and the amphitheater staff graciously offered to give us a tour. 

One of my first CDs was a “Live at Woodstock” compilation, where I heard Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Crosby Still and Nash, and so many others for the first time. Even as a kid, I recognized the visceral honesty, and that it was special.

What Woodstock represents resonates loudly, perhaps especially, today: within music and art - despite feeling marginalized and disenfranchised against brazenly corrupt, preposterous cronyism - your truth is safe, and heard. 

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