Monday, June 29, 2009

"Washed under the blacktop, gone beneath my wheels..."

I wanted to throw up some pictures from last Thursday when the family spent a day in Milwaukee at a Brewers-Twins game followed by Summerfest. My brother Cody is in town for a couple of weeks visiting (he moved out to Los Angeles back in January), and as a belated Fathers' Day gift to my dad we took him to the ball game and to see the Conor Oberst show at Summerfest. The game was fun, though I am not the world's biggest baseball fan, and I happen to be a Cubs fan, so my team wasn't playing. An afternoon spent with beer, brats, and baseball is always time well spent.

Seeing Conor Oberst with his new Mystic Valley Band was incredible, and quite possibly the best concert I've ever seen, no joke. I have always loved his songwriting as he is an incredible lyricist, and the new band is just rock and fuckin' roll. I especially enjoyed hearing "Moab" live, which, if you read back to my first post, you will discover is the namesake for this blog. That song became my mantra while on tour around the midwest back in October of 2008, and hearing it live was very special. "Washed under the blacktop, gone beneath my wheels, there's nothing that the road cannot heal."
With my brother Cody and my mom. Our seats were pretty much as high up as you can get, but at least we were on the shade on a very hot day.


Eagerly awaiting Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band.


'n fuckin' roll

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Its time to finish up these Europe posts: Verona

The center of town in Verona. Full of charming restaurants and shops, and later on a classic car show.

Verona's ancient Roman arena in the background. I believe that it is the 3rd largest in Italy, and is among the best preserved.

The Lamberti Tower, which you can see from just about anywhere in Verona. It cost something like 10 euros to climb, which I figured was a rip-off. Since its one of the coolest structures in town, why pay to climb it and look at a skyline missing the best piece?

Inside the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet's house). This is a statue of the literary beauty herself, with a very worn (polished) right breast. Apparently it is good luck to touch it. I did not partake myself, but watched many tourists cop a feel. I found this whole tourist trap very strange. After all, Juliet was not a real person, so who decided that this was her house? Did they just pick a random house with a balcony and put up a gift shop? This was also the day after Valentine's Day, so the place was pretty busy.

Inside the Arena. This was definitely worth the 6 euro entry fee. On a previous trip to Italy I had gone inside Rome's Coliseum and Pompeii's Arena, but this was my favorite of the three to venture inside of. Of course nothing compares to the grandeur of Rome's mighty Coliseum, but Verona's smaller version is preserved far better and you can really explore just about every inch of it. They actually still hold concerts in the structure (note the wooden stage in the center which can rise out of the ground).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One Last Hike in Alaska

I was taking the red eye flight out of Alaska on a Sunday night, so there was time for one last hike just outside of Anchorage that day. Matthew and Olga took me up to Powerline Pass, picture above, and we hiked up a mountain overlooking that pass and the city of Anchorage.

Hiking up the spine of the mountain. This is where it finally got easy, the ascent until this point was one of the more grueling hikes I've ever been on. Apparently they don't believe in switchbacks in Alaska, and prefer to hike straight up a steep mountain.

Down in that valley lies Anchorage. Its simply amazing how easy it is to get outside of the state's largest city and into nature.

The descent was much easier, as it involved sliding down this snow field on my butt. The gray covering over the snow is actually ash from the Redoubt Volcano which has been erupting on and off since the beginning of the year.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Best Girl of '16" v. 2.0

I believe it was February or March of 2008 when I wrote the song "Best Girl of '16", a happy, coming home from the war sort of tune. I had written plenty of World War I tunes before, but this was the first one with a happy ending, I guess you could say. The song found its way onto my last album, An Evening With John Statz, which was recorded live in Chicago in April of '08.

Since then I've written a bunch of new tunes, and am gearing up for a new album. On July 10th my band, John Statz and the Cheap Shots, will record a live album at the Cafe Montmartre in Madison. This will be my first rock'n'roll, full band album, and I'm really excited to capture the guys live, as I'm very fortunate to have some fantastic players in the band.

More on that later. I really wanted to re-write "Best Girl..." for the full band, as the original song is in an open tuning and just wouldn't work well with a rock treatment. This morning I set out to work on the song, and couldn't be happier with what came out of it. It is now a very different song, with different chord changes, and some different lyrics. If you have the last album, I think you'll recognize it. The new version has more of a bittersweet ending with an anti-war message, a bit more my style :). I plan on keeping both versions alive and well, but for now, here are the new lyrics:

Well back in the summer of '16
There was a young woman I was seein'
Well I'd pine for her, and sometimes she'd respond to me.
Oh back before the war, and everything came in between.

Well when I got back was March of double 19's,
Had gone 'cross the ocean protecting the land of the free.
Well France was as much of the world as I wanted to see.
Oh back to Kansas City to find my best girl of '16.
Back to Kansas City to find my best girl of '16.
Back to Kansas City to find my best girl of '16.

On the train through Illinois
Well she is restless on my mind.
Hoping that she is unwed.
And that she took her time.

Well pulled into Union Station, military bands played loud,
nothing there was ventured, and nothing there was found.
Climbing from the rail car, my eyes gleaming 'cross the crowd.
Well I found my best girl waiting, and I kissed her on the mouth.

Well we got us a place in Jackson County,
my God and my country say they love me.
But Uncle Sam well he still owes me money,
so I'm flying home cuz my girl is my country.
I'm flying home cuz my girl is my country.
I'm flying home cuz my girl is my country.

As for the rest of the info on the new album:
It is untitled as of yet, though I have some ideas. The band members are Ben Johnson on the 'lectric geetar, Matt Donoghue on the bass, and Greg Schmitt on the drums. These guys are a blast to play with, can't wait to do this new album with them.

the other songs on the album (this can change yet):
Ghost Towns
How Best to Survive the Flood and Save the Girl
Jackson Hole
Everything to Me
Ugly Like I Should
Night Train to Sarajevo
Somtimes (Quittin' Don't Feel Half Bad) - Ben Johnson tune
and full band versions of older songs "Absentee" and "Silverton Mines"

Friday, July 10th - 9:30pm @ the Cafe Montmartre in Madison, WI
tickets are $8, and the night will also feature: Cameron McGill and What Army & Jeremiah Nelson. Hope you can make it out!