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Archive for March, 2020

Moving Right Along!

March 31st, 2020 Jorma 38 comments

Our daughter Izze and some friends got together in front of a friend’s house and, standing six to eight feet apart sang her Happy Birthday. That’s what I’m talking about. Now she’s hiking in the woods. Over the weekend I did some hand mowing in the yard.

Took a while to get it started, but it did start!

Took a while to get it started, but it did start!

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

It’s really early in the season, so yard work is still fun.

The forsythia edging the parking lot in full bloom!

The forsythia edging the parking lot in full bloom!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Moments like this are an opportunity to pass on things one should have passed on a long time ago.

My grandfather's chair...

My grandfather's chair...

Foto by jorma Kaukonen

My grandparent never threw anything out and never got new furniture, no matter how uncomfortable the old pieces might be. When they passed away in the early 70’s these chairs went to mom and dad and pretty much lived in the garage. When mom and dad passed away in the late 90’s they came to live in our garage. They have now gone to live with our friend Maureen and hopefully they’ll find a place in her Air B ‘n B. That’s progress.

Sunday was Vanessa’s birthday and she and Izze and I went to town an went for a socially distanced walk by the cherry blossoms by the river and then, it being such a beautiful day I came home and took a drone tour of the empty Fur Peace Ranch environs.

All we're lacking is people...

All we're lacking is people...

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

The trees will green out soon

The trees will green out soon

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

Today our videographer Andy Walla came by as well as my good bud Myron Hart and we set things up in the Fur Peace Station for a live streaming concert that I’m planning to give from the FPR stage this Saturday night. That would be the fourth of April. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on this and to make sure that you have have the correct link. I’m very excited about this. Even though our theater will be empty I’ll be playing from the stage, using the PA etc. etc. I hope you will be there to hear me play and probably blather on.

Myron and I... socially distant but still friends!

Myron and I... socially distant but still friends!

Socially distant selfie by Myron Hart

That’s about if for today.

For us… so far so good…

Hope it’s that way for you too!

PS Here’s the link for Saturday’s show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75XiVQiWvlM

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:

Jorma Weighs In!

March 30th, 2020 Jorma 61 comments

Monday, March 30, 2020

Whatever time it is when you read this, I hope you’re doing OK in this time of crisis… and it is a time of crisis. I have been blogging since before the word ‘blog’ existed as we know it. Fifteen or twenty years ago when I used to design my own site I didn’t have a page for comments and I didn’t care. It was a place for me to spew and frankly, I didn’t care what anyone else thought. My notes From The Captain’s Table (as that page was called back then) were much more personal and interesting for me as a writer. When our dear friend and resident artist, Kevin Morgan, took over my site design he suggested that accepting comments would be a good idea. I was resistant to the idea but he convinced me and in the long run I believe it to have been a good move. I’ll save most of what I consider to be my incisive writing for my next book.

Over the years I have only blocked two commenters and have deleted very few posts. You all have had free run here on my property. When I was a kid in the 40’s we were one of the few Jewish families in the neighborhood we lived in back in Chevy Chase, D.C. There was absolutely no racial diversity. We Jews were the outsiders. We were not observant Jews so we did not enjoy the comfort of that community either. I never knew what was behind the doors of the B’nai B’rith Synagogue around the corner from my house until I went to my first Yom Kippur service there with Vanessa and my son Zach some fifteen or so years ago. All that being said almost every fight I got into in the neighborhood was about being Jewish. I know what Anti Semitism feels like first hand. I have a funny foreign sounding name that was not appreciated by ‘good’ Americans during WW II. I know what xenophobia is and I don’t need anyone to reference it for me by quoting the classics. I am part of a biracial family in a world where this is still not accepted by everyone.

I’m going to try not to slip into the vitriol that our miserable President has made acceptable. President Trump is the worst president I have had the displeasure to share the world with in my lifetime. Has he accomplished anything? I don’t know. I do know he has made mendacity and lack of honor the norm. This is not a moment for ‘what aboutisms.’ I didn’t vote for Hilary either. (There is no one in the electable political spectrum who speaks for me today… which is OK. That’s life.)

We can agree to disagree, and on the subject of disagreement, I have deleted some pro-life posts. I am pro choice. No one gets to tell my wife or daughter what they can or can’t do with their body. The lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick thinks people like me should sacrifice their lives for our grandkids? I’m going to try to make sure there is a life for my grandkids. Good luck with that Dan.

Probably not last, and certainly not least. My position on religion is that it is for people that are afraid of Hell and spirituality is for those who have been there and don’t want to go back. I consider myself a spiritual person. Having graduated from a Catholic University and also having gone to a British school in Pakistan in the 50’s, I have read and studied the Bible, as I have the Old Testament. These are books written by men. Good literature it you like it and disposable if you don’t. Your choice. I don’t use my site to promulgate my personal beliefs and this is not your bandwagon either, whoever ‘you’ might be.

This is a tough conversation to have. I have friends that are pro Trump. (Again, this does not make me a Democrat either. I consider myself a true Independent.) I take issue with most of what they say on a political front. With this in mind we have agreed not to discuss our opinions for the most part. We’re never going to agree so why waste the breath which is so precious in these days of WW C.

As my Grandmother Vera used to say, ‘A word to the wise is sufficient.’ Let’s just see if we can get through this.

Nuff said…

Categories: Set Lists Tags:

A Note From The Stay At Home Diaries

March 25th, 2020 Jorma 63 comments
Ness and I take a break from yard work for a Hot Tuna pizza from Avalanche in Athens

Ness and I take a break from yard work for a Hot Tuna pizza from Avalanche in Athens

Selfie by Vanessa Kaukonen

Every day has been feeling like Sunday. Normally a weekend without a Fur Peace Ranch camp is the only time i would deign to do yard work. Well, with our world on pause down here Tuesday might as well be Sunday so out came the rakes, the leaf blower and the wheelbarrow. Before I go any further, I need to digress with a note on our very own Avalanche Pizza on East State Street in Athens, Ohio. Even before the ‘take out’ only mandate in Ohio, Avalanche Pizza has always been ‘take out’ only. If they had table service, I’d be eating there all the time. Anyway, years ago John Gutekanst the owner of said pizza joint came to us and wondered if we had a good idea for a specialty pizza. Having spent some time in Italy where their pizzas have little to do with pizza as we know it here in the States, Vanessa and I came up with this:

Hot Tuna Pizza From Avalanche:

24hr cold fermented thin crust dough, hand-tossed. Creamy béchamel sauce, aged mozzarella and provolone cheese, tuna, artichoke hearts, fresh mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and asiago cheese. Finished with swirls of spicy ninja sauce. Best pizza joint around and the best and coolest staff. Life is good… today… well at least as far as pizza is concerned.

We all have our own worlds to contend with along with the specific demands than inhabit these worlds. I have been making time every day for at least two hours of solo guitar performance. That’s how I practice. I’m always taking notes and writing stuff down. From yesterday.

‘3/24/20 11:17 AM

I sit in the workshop with my guitar. A moment of communication between me and a dear old friend. In this time of COVID -19 virus isolation it is a moment of untethered solace. I sit near the little stage in the old workshop at the Fur Peace Ranch. Behind me is a picture of myself and Bob Weir and Ken Kesey in ’96 at the Furthur Festival in Eugene, Oregon. I am playing Too Many Years and as I roll into the IV chord through a tiny window above my head over the stage a shaft of sun enters the room and bathes my face in light and in this small moment, there is a smile in my soul!’

Then having invited my soul thusly I return to the house to see how our teenage daughter is faring in moderate confinement. She always puts on a brave face but I can see the weight behind her eyes. I tell her things will probably be all right but that in reality there are no guarantees in life and as she has noted herself on more than one occasion, the only constant is change. I hope that the change will be for the better. Some wag noted on the internet today that in their time of crisis our parents went to war while in our time we are relegated to watching Netflix on the couch. That helps to put it in perspective for me. We are able to keep food on the table, the septic works and Rumke just emptied the FPR dumpster. Life is still decent enough I guess.

I just a note in the comments section about me and my ’stuff.’ I’m just going to ruminate a little here because I’m too lazy to sign into the comments page. Hey, I know to my family I’m just dad, but some folks find aspects of my life interesting… like guitars I might own. Many have heard me talk about this before but i don’t mind doing it again. I’m not a collector and I have no interest in becoming one. Almost a decade ago I looked around my guitar room and saw that in spite of myself I wound up with more guitars than I would ever play and some were quite valuable. I sold everything that I didn’t use and put the money in the kid’s college fund. acoustic and electric… gone, and I don’t miss any of them. It is true that I have a small, but significant number of vintage amps on the stage of the Fur Peace Ranch, but that’s a little different. They all get used either by me, or by visiting musicians that come to play our room. I guess the most interesting guitar in my possession is my 1958 J-50 Gibson. It’s the Embryonic Journey guitar, it’s the Live At New Orleans House guitar. Anytime I played an acoustic guitar on an Airplane or Hot Tuna session, it was that guitar. It’s the guitar on the typewriter tapes with Janis. Yeah, It’s a cool guitar and still a great one! I am now playing a David Flammang J-35 as most of you know. It feels like going back to the old J-50. Anyway, the point is there’s not much to see you won’t see on stage when I’m gigging on the road. Yeah, gigging on the road… I have a vague recollection about that.

Anyway, all of us who can afford to do so have earned the right to gratify our acquisitional whims. I am not judging. As a guitar player and teacher I sometimes feel like reminding my friends to learn to play the guitars they have. Just saying in a non-judgemental way.

That’s it for now… stay healthy out there.

Categories: Set Lists Tags:

Walk In The Woods

March 22nd, 2020 Jorma 26 comments
Wayne National Forest Between Chauncey And Millfield

Wayne National Forest Between Chauncey And Millfield

Map screenshot by Jorma Kaukonen

We are so fortunate for many reasons to live where we do. Our proximity to the Wayne National Forest is one of the many, Out Rt. 13 towards Millfield and Buchtel is the entrance to what is going to be one of the most extensive mountain bike trails this side of the Rockies.

You have to know where to look...

You have to know where to look...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

When you take a look at some of these photos taken in what look like overgrown meadows, what you see is reclaimed strip mines. Up here on Rt. 13 and Rt. 278 there are countless abandoned deep pit mines as well as reclaimed strips. The hills, of course, are ancient… the remnants of some of the oldest mountains in the world. Now they are the Appalachian Foothills.

Our pal Guy, Vanessa and our collective daughters.

Our pal Guy, Vanessa and our collective daughters.

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

You will notice how the teenage girls are doing their best to put as much distance between them and their parents as possible. I’m not a mountain biker… I prefer my Greg LeMond Zurich on our nicely maintained Adena-Hockhocking rails to trails bike path. That said, if I didn’t mind falling off occasionally I think I could navigate this part of the trail. As a hiking trail (It’s not open for bikes yet) it’s awesome!

Come back girls!

Come back girls!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Since it’s still so early in the year the multifloral rose is still nascent and nothing else has greened out yet. We’re way into the woods and the only sound we hear is the running water of Bailey’s Run. The wildlife quieted down when we entered the woods, but now as it gets used to us, the forest springs to life again.

In this time of babbling politicians I'd rather listen to Baileys Run.

In this time of babbling politicians I'd rather listen to Baileys Run.

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

This would be a glorious moment for me at any time but in this moment COVID-19 seems far away. I’ll take the win!

Sure beats waiting in line at the filling station!

Sure beats waiting in line at the filling station!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The world hasn’t stopped or gone away, but in this moment and in this place, it’s on hold!

That's my girl!

That's my girl!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Nice to see Nessa smile like this! She is indeed… my girl.

A culvert from another time

A culvert from another time

Foto by jorma Kaukonen

Stuff lays around for a long time out her in the country. It’s been a while since they made culverts out of ceramics.

This little pod of outdoor lovers had an awesome three and a half mile hike.

Back to where we started

Back to where we started

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Thank goodness Tess’ Dad, Guy, is an experienced woodsman. When we came back to the road, I would have bet the farm on going a different direction… and I would have been wrong. Good thing someone knew what they were doing!

Our mighty Jeep awaits paitently

Our mighty Jeep awaits paitently

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The Jeep was right where we left it… although in a different direction than I would have thought.

What a great interlude!

Categories: Diary, Thoughts, trips and journeys Tags:

The New Normal Is Well… Normal

March 19th, 2020 Jorma 34 comments

Happy first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere!

As Rev. Davis might say, ‘There’s a bright side, somewhere.’ I’m going to start with my bright side. Aside from the fact that my family is still healthy and we have food on the table, I’ve really been enjoying my Flammang J-35’s. There’s a lot of great builders out there right now and indeed, it’s acquirer’s heaven for guitar players. Great thanks to our friend Jason up in Canada for turning me onto David Flammang’s superb J-35 guitars, Tom Feldman up there in Minnesota for the personal introduction to David and David himself for his artistic vision and fine craftsmanship in building truly great guitars.

One Flammang

One Flammang

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Another Flammang

Another Flammang

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Does this mean I’m divesting myself of my beautiful Martins? (And yes, I have four and my daughter has one of the two short scale Jorma M-30’s made) Of course not. Long scale Martins and short scale Gibson style guitars are apples and oranges. For example. It is difficult for me to execute Mann’s Fate on my Martin. For that reason, it has been out of the rotation in performance. It was written on my old 1958 Gibson J-50 and the song’s evolution is predicated on that guitar’s physical properties. My new Flammang is that guitar only in the present and without dings. I see this tune coming back and more.

Now, on the subject of ‘coming back,’ that may or may not be another story altogether. First of all my heroes today are the health care workers who put their lives on the line every time they interface with a patient whether there is confirmed COVID-19 present or not. Bless these brave souls! Not far behind are everyone else who is still able to go to work to keep this country and our world running. If I am still able to go to a filling station and buy gas or fuel this means that somewhere workers have extracted the petroleum, refined it and trucked it to its destination. You get the picture. That’s just an example.

To take the long and somewhat dour view of all this there are many possibilities for the new reality as it evolves, and one of them is that people like me will be superfluous for a while. Yeah, I live in a rural invoronment pretty much in a world that is somewhat easy to control… to some extent. At some point as social gangrene eats away at our extremities survival will make as adhere to some cold equations.

(As I’m writing this, our daughter, Izze, is cooking her breakfast and the first tragedy of the day is that the bakery in Athens is closed.)

The Cold Equations… a short story by Tom Godwin that I read in 1954 in Astounding, a science fiction mag. Astounding would become Analog in time but back then it was Astounding and I bought it every single month. This short story has engaged, and enraged readers for over sixty years but that’s a discussion for another time.

Wikipedia Summary:

‘The story takes place entirely aboard an Emergency Dispatch Ship (EDS) headed for the frontier planet Woden with a load of desperately-needed medical supplies. The pilot, Barton, discovers a stowaway: an eighteen-year-old girl. By law, all EDS stowaways are to be jettisoned because EDS vessels carry no more fuel than is absolutely necessary to land safely at their destination. The girl, Marilyn, merely wants to see her brother Gerry, and was not aware of the law. When boarding the EDS, Marilyn saw the “UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL KEEP OUT!” sign, but thought she would at most have to pay a fine if she were caught. Barton explains that her presence dooms the mission by exceeding the weight limit, and the subsequent crash would kill both of them and doom the colonists awaiting the medical supplies. After contacting her brother for the last moments of her life, Marilyn willingly walks into the airlock and is ejected into space.’

Cool… a little time travel for me here. Anyway, there may be some ‘cold equations’ in our future. Who knows. Looking at the news this morning and listening to the drunken babble from spring breaker twenty somethings on the beach in Clearwater, Florida… it gives one pause for thought. What a time indeed and what a bunch of dumb asses.

OK… moving right along here. Check out a 2015 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with Abigail Breslin called ‘Maggie.’ This is a really cool little post-apocalyptic movie where Arnold has a great dramatic role. In this little movie compassion triumphs.

For us here in the time of World War C… what next. Hard to say.

At some point, those of us not working and ‘sheltering in place’ will no longer be able to afford that. What then? As I’ve been fond of saying with a wry smile on my face, I (and folks like me) am like a court jesters and without a court and a king… we’re out of work. I’m not a farmer or a survivalist so I don’t have a lot of the skills that might become necessary. I’d probably have to be a taker to survive unless the future offers something else. Predictions of the future whether from you, me, the government or anyone else are gratuitous. Reality will tell us what’s real.

With that in mind my post World War C reality is still kicking in while the pre-C world hangs on. I have an interview at 1300 about the Fur Peace Ranch and while I’m waiting for that I think I’ll pick up my David Flammang J-35 with a torrified top and work on a cool little ending I’m adding to Blue Railroad Train.

My thought for today…

So far, so good.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst, and keep smiling.

Creative suggestions:

Waste not, want not

Waste not, want not

From Jack Casady

Olé

Olé

From Zach Kearse

Enjoy!

Categories: Set Lists Tags:

TEOTWAWKI

March 15th, 2020 Jorma 43 comments

Indeed… no matter how you look at it, it is the end of the world as we know it, and hey… perhaps we should have all had a wider world view in the past but like it or not, it’s here now. At my age, I’m a bulls eye for COVID 19. There are more cases that have yet to be diagnosed than we can imagine. That’s just the way it is. Will, we get through it as a global population? Of course we will but right now I don’t think it’s going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick. Well, I’m sure we’ve all been watching the news so you don’t need me to tell you what you already know. For me, kudos to our Governor Mike DeWine… right now Ohio is one of the states leading the way. Most of us are doing our best. Some are still whistling in the grave yard. We’ll see who fares better as things evolve.

Now, life doesn’t grind to a halt just because stuff is happening we don’t like. Living in a sparsely populated area as we do we figured what better time to take a scenic walk while one still can. Time for a trip to Cedar Falls.

Nature... still beautiful!

Nature... still beautiful!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

I’ve lived here for almost thirty years and I’d never been to Cedar Falls before.

Nessa, Izze and a pal at the Falls

Nessa, Izze and a pal at the Falls

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Very few people here on this day… the nature… awesome!

Prehistoric!

Prehistoric!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

To just get away from the relentless news for a moment!

Priceless!

Moments of peace!

Moments of peace!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Toilet paper? Dog food? What next?

More time hiking on the trail!

Ohio rocks

Ohio rocks

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Now this was a couple of days ago and much has happened since then… I’ m these relatively peaceful moments!

Go placidly among the noise and the haste...

Go placidly among the noise and the haste...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The Desiderata just never seems to go out of fashion!

I could have done this all day...

I could have done this all day...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Wait a minute… I did do it all day!

Well, I’m guessing none of this is going to go away quickly no matter how much I would like it to. In the meantime love your neighbor, albeit from a distance if necessary, hold your family close and keep your powder dry!

Categories: Set Lists Tags:

SHTF… And Some Thoughts This Morning

March 13th, 2020 Jorma 39 comments

As an older man in the cross hairs of COVID 19 with a wife more or less in the same zone, a teenage daughter and a son in his twenties I am obviously concerned about this pandemic. First of all, even though I believe that COVID 19 will be everywhere because that’s what pandemics do, I am not surrounded by people and for now, I like it that way. In the course of my life I have had scarlet fever, a mild form of polio, chickenpox twice, mumps twice, dengue fever more than once, amoebic dysentery more than once, malaria more than once, shingles, high blood pressure, infectious hepatitis and the usual aches and pains that being alive for more than twenty four hours visits upon us. Will I survive this one? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I understand that people are entitled to their own opinion and one of mine is, if you are an anti vaxxer you are putting my children at risk and you are no friend of mine. Harsh? not really. To survive in the real world we need facts not superstition. The BS about vaccines and autism has been thoroughly debunked more than once. An un-vaccinated person is a Typhoid Mary to me. Stay away from my kids. By the same token, to apply biblical metaphors to reality is, in my opinion not only absurd but dangerous. This is not the time for a discussion about who has the most powerful imaginary friend. Do I believe in a higher power? Absolutely. Do I think he, she or it has my ultimate best interests at heart? Hardly. There is a higher power, and it’s not me… or you. That’s all I need to know about that.

As far as the lack of COVID 19 testing in this country the fact that in this country there is less money in preventing disease that there is in trying to cure it would seem to provide some insights. Just saying. As far as being able to survive in a world after the SHTF in a world that finds itself WROL I don’t have those kinds of survival skills. I would be a court jester and court jesters don’t exist without a court and a king. Hmmm…. Well, we’re not there yet, and frankly I think we’re going to get through this in spite of the ineptitude in the idiots running this country. In Ohio, all schools are closed for the next three weeks, and it could be longer. I’m not touring right now, but pretty much all tours are being cancelled or at the very least postponed. This is going to effect guys like me profoundly and who knows what the endgame will be?

Lastly, don’t criticize me for using Prepper acronyms. I’m not a prepper. Maybe I should have been.

We’ll see…

Onward

Categories: Diary, Set Lists, Thoughts Tags:

Forging Ahead In The New Normal

March 11th, 2020 Jorma 16 comments

Whatever that ‘New Normal’ might be. The Coronavirus spread is touching all of us. Ohio University is closed until the end of May as is Athens High School where our daughter goes. The kids will be studying online and the dorms at OU will be empty. We’ve been lucky so far and we’re doing what we can to prolong that.

More will be revealed.

That said, I did get an eighty mile motorcycle ride in this week on the one beautiful day we had. I didn’t even stop for pictures, just enjoyed the ride!

Then yesterday I hopped in my truck and drove down river to Gallipolis to Temple Tattoo where I considered my next, and probably my last ink. Time to strike now while my skin is still resilient enough.

Here I am with the gang at Temple Tattoo in Gallipolis.

Here I am with the gang at Temple Tattoo in Gallipolis.

Aside from spending time with friends at the tattoo shop, I filled up my truck with diesel. It was almost 35 cents cheaper that it is in Athens. What’s up with that? Also doing a little light prepping… Water, food, and what? Out of toilet paper!!!! Look out for the poison ivy.

Moving on… be well all of you out there!

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

Big Time In River City And Home

March 6th, 2020 Jorma 8 comments

Life is more than interesting on so many fronts… Thanks to all for the illuminating discussion following the complaint at the Boulder Theater. Sometimes you just can’t please everyone.

Moving along…

We pull into River City in St. Louis

We pull into River City in St. Louis

Foto by Phil Jacobs

We limped into River City with some transmission problems on the good old bus… but we made it. Stephen did some parking lot repairs… and we were good to go. It’s a new age for the shade tree mechanic. Anyway, walking into the registration lobby I was greeted by this:

Elvis?

Elvis?

Obviously this is not our normal type of venue… but hey, a gig’s a gig and the production folks here were absolutely the best!

The boys onstage at River City

The boys onstage at River City

Foto by Gary Sudin

Hot Tuna 15, 2020
The Electric Trio
Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady
And Justin Guip
River City Casino
St. Louis, Missouri
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

First Set:
1. Been So Long
2. Hesitation Blues
3. Ode To Billy Dean
4. Talkin’ Bout You
5. Second Chances
6. Living Just For You
7. I Am The Light Of This World
8. Can’t Get Satisfied
9. Bowlegged Woman

Second Set:
1. Serpent Of Dreams
2. Day To Day Out The Window Blues
3. Roads and Roads &
4. Rock Me Baby
5. Hit Single # 1
6. Watch The North Wind Rise
7. Sea Child
8. Walking Blues
9. Good Shepherd
10. Funky # 7
11. Encore: Water Song

All in all it was a great show for us and the St. Louis audience was awesome! Justin, Angus and jack flew home and Stephen and Myron and I started driving after load out. Spring ain’t here yet, but it’s coming. Here’s a picture Vanessa took in the morning before we rolled in:

Show au naturel!

Show au naturel!

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

It was a great tour across the spectacle that is America, but it’s great to be home and just be Dad again.

Categories: Diary, Hot Tuna, Set Lists, Venues Tags:

Comment World

March 3rd, 2020 Jorma 41 comments

Hey Folks… pulling into the final gig of this little run, and it’s been really swell. The first two nights of the tour were acoustic at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix and the rest of the run was the electric trio and that mostly with the David Bromberg Quintet. I love those guys! It’s been a helluva run. Anyway, the last two nights with David and his pals was at the Boulder Theater, in Boulder. I’ve always loved the Boulder Theater for what I considered to be its generally lovely acoustic properties. I’ve played it solo, I’ve played it with Barry Mitterhoff, I’ve been there as a guest of Nick and Helen Forster’s eTown… I’ve played it with Jack Casady acoustic and electric…well, suffice it to say I’ve been there a lot. It has always treated me well and I’ve always given it my best.

So last night we pulled into St. Louis for our last show today at the River City Casino. I was just heading to the restaurant for dinner when I got a text from Vanessa with this note. Now I’m not including the name of the gentleman who sent this to Ness. This is one man’s opinion and he is welcome to it. I don’t want to set him up to be piled on… I did not sit in his seat… I did not have his experience, this is his and his alone. Here is what this disgruntled soul had to say.

‘Hi Vanessa,

First, let me say I’m a long-time Jorma fan. I’ve been eager to hear Hot Tuna live and I’ve wanted to come to the ranch for a workshop for years. But another day for that.

I finally had the chance to hear Hot Tuna last Friday at the Boulder Theater. Well, I started the show anyway. We left during the third song because the sound was detestable. Way too loud, distorted and poorly balanced. I was clocking 105db (peaks were higher) in the balcony. God only knows how much louder it was closer to the stage. But not just loud. The sound was all thumping bass guitar and bass drum. Jorma’s voice was largely inaudible and sometimes even his guitar was covered. Really unpleasant, distorted and all one dynamic. Bad and unacceptably so.

I love my Hot Tuna albums. I appreciate that Jorma is a craftsman, laboring to select the right guitar, right amp, right mikes for each song. And he sweats the details, frequency balance, dynamics, spatial balance. I just can’t believe that he doesn’t care about the quality of his live sound. If his albums were so poor sounding, I wouldn’t buy another one. I doubt he would be proud of any album that sounded so bad, either.

No, I didn’t complain to management at the Boulder Theater. I have in the past (a Dixie Dregs show that was even louder) and they shrugged, saying “Nobody else has complained”. I can’t explain that. Maybe audiences are just so accustomed to bad sound they don’t know any better. But the lack of complaints is not evidence of good sound. Nor is the lack of complaints evidence that a good sounding concert would not be appreciated by the audience. Boulder Theater is not unique, there’s plenty of bad sound out there. Despite excellent sound systems in this day and age, concert sound has never been worse. The state of the art is awful. I just thought Jorma would insist on better sound. I just thought he would want his artistry to be better conveyed.

A final note on safety. 105db is flat out unsafe for human ears except for very short peaks. A constant level of sound that loud is dangerous to our long-term hearing health. I would think Jorma would have some sense of responsibility about that, too.

$135 down the drain for me. Worse, I can’t imagine risking a repeat of the experience. Too bad, I really like Hot Tuna.’

Jorma here again.

OK… another county heard from.

This individual implied that I don’t care about our live sound. He may have thought our sound sucked, and I guess that is for him to say, but he is way off base when he says that I/we don’t care about our live show. Anyone who has been stuck in the house when we set up to do a show knows how meticulous our sound check is. Our head Tech Guru, Myron spends as much time as it takes to tune the room before a single note gets played. My 1967 50w Marshall Plexi is surrounded by glass as is the Louis Electric TwinMaster. The Firebird or the Les Paul use the Marshall, the Gibson Chet Atkins SST gets the call for the softer finger picking numbers through the Louis. No one in the audience is in the line of fire from those amps. We spend a lot of time making sure the sound is right. We’re an old school band so we don’t depend on subs. Do we use some sub-woofer action? Sure we do, but we don’t depend on it.

Said individual said he left during the third song. Now I will allow that on the third and fourth song that night, I brought out my Fender Jazzmaster which hasn’t seen the light of day for number of years. The songs I used it on were Ode To Billy Dean and Talkin’ Bout You. I had some issues with that guitar that night and I will be the first to admit that I thought it sounded nasty and it did not return to the stage again. Mea culpa. Long life the Firebird! The first two songs were Been So Long and Candy Man. These are by their nature not very loud songs and one of the things I enjoyed about these Boulder shows was that I did not have to rely on the monitors… I could work with the sound I heard back from the house. For me this is an almost perfect on-stage scenario.

To get back to our offended patron. From our vantage point on stage I remember that we had a lot of dynamic range to play with. I had no trouble hearing my own voice coming back from the house, and I’m not a loud singer. Now this offended soul left after three songs and I’m not taking issue with what he heard. When I showed the note to Jack, his immediate response was ‘He has hearing issues.’ I can’t comment on that but I thought it was an interesting observation.

Lastly… again from the dissatisfied customer:

‘A final note on safety. 105db is flat out unsafe for human ears except for very short peaks. A constant level of sound that loud is dangerous to our long-term hearing health. I would think Jorma would have some sense of responsibility about that, too.’

OK, I have some hearing loss due to age and occupational hazards but I’m lucky… it could be much worse. That being said, I’m not out there with a db meter. That’s not my job. My job is to put on a good show, perform to the best of my ability and give the folks not only their money’s worth, but an honest artistic experience! I believe we do that every night. We bring it every night we play! We never phone it in! In my opinion one of the major components of Rock ‘n’ Roll, is volume (on the songs that require volume). I believe that many people today have damaged their hearing more by blasting music with ear pods than by experiencing high volumes at shows. (This is an opinion, and opinions are like assholes, everybody has one) That being said, if I were going to be in the audience for any kind of show and I were concerned about the ambient volume, I would bring ear protection with me. When I ride my motorcycle, I wear a full-face helmet and if I’m going for a long ride, I add under helmet ear protection as well. Just sayin’

OK. I’m truly sorry that the writer of this letter did not get the experience he had hoped for. I really am. Again, I wasn’t sitting in his seat and so my experience was obviously not his. I am saying that our collective experience at the Boulder Theater was, ‘Wow, what great sound tonight!’ I even did Genesis as an encore because I liked the detail of the sound so much.

Nuff said!

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