After A Long Dream Of Sleep

We at mini50 records are delighted to announce that next Friday – 30th March – we are releasing a record entitled ‘After a Long Dream of Sleep’ in support of Crisis Counselling in Scotland.  Based in Renfrew, Crisis provides early intervention; specialist therapeutic services and non time limited support to those in need.

The number of clients supported by Crisis since 1996 has reached over 15,000, and they now receive an average of 1500 referrals per year.

2007 – 2008: referrals reached 1468, of those 620 were young people aged 16 and under.

The children and adolescents were affected by domestic violence, street violence, parental addiction, addictive behaviours, self-harming, family breakup, trauma, bereavement, bullying, exclusion, restructured family systems and abuse.

This service is under increasing financial pressure and without support may cease to exist.  We know this because one of our close friends, and an artist on this record, used the service and made us aware of the difficulties securing funding Crisis currently face.  They saved his life and save many more on a daily basis taking direct action to help those most in need.

Please support Crisis by buying this record, or at least if you like the odd track downloading them individually. All proceeds will go to helping sustain an important and valued mental health service.

Full track listing is:

1. Matthew Collings – Hraunberg

2. Mirrorzisland – Anonatoll

3. Spokes – Give it up to the Night (Fieldhead Remix)

4. Cory Allen – Transcender’s Theme

5. Yellow6 – And in the Distance

6. Richard A Ingram – Vort Halicon

7. David Newlyn – Stop Motion

8. Talvihorros –Dead SeaScrolls

9. Chantal Acda (Sleepingdog/True Bypass) – Missing Heartbeat

10. M.Ostermeier – Winsome

11. FiRES Were Shot – Giffords Green

12. Guy Gelem – Recent Waves

13. Christian Eldefors – Daylight

14. Antonymes – Gravity Versus the Pull of Beyond

15. glacis – May this Night never see Morning

16. Caught in the Wake Forever – I Restore Myself When I’m Alone

17. Hiva Oa– Exile

The artwork for the record was done by Jamie Mills.  You can check out his work at www.jamie-mills.com .

The record in its entirety will cost a mere £6 with each individual track costing 75p.  Your support is appreciated.

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The Felice Brothers – 17th March 2012, ABC, Glasgow.

The Felice Brothers are one of those bands that seem to have gathered a large cult following based on their earlier albums, in particular ‘Tonight at the Arizona’ and ‘The Felice Brothers’ then disappointed said following with ‘Yonder is the Clock’ and ‘Celebration, Florida’.   ‘Tonight at the Arizona’ remains my favourite record of theirs but in no way did the latter albums disappoint me in the way they seemed to disappoint many.  Sure, ‘Yonder is the Clock’ is a safe follow up to ‘The Felice Brothers’ but it is not lacking in quality tracks.  And who can really criticise a band for cementing their status and securing their fan base before doing something a little different?  Which is exactly what they did on ‘Celebration, Florida’.  Drum machines, samplers and other contemporary musical aids employed brilliantly, yet many people laid into the record for being ‘disappointing’ or for not sounding like The Felice Brothers.  Sometimes being a musician/artist is a no win situation.  Play it safe and you’re not brave enough/boring.  Do something a bit different and you’re straying too far from what you’re known for.  Not many get away with being brave and sometimes – as highlighted by Radiohead – it is only with time that the more risqué albums start to get the appreciation they actually deserve.

I always find that the best way to address such concerns is in the live arena.  Wilco do it brilliantly.  Those who question later Wilco albums and adore ‘YHF’ and ‘AGIB’ would probably be rendered clueless as to which tracks were from which records if they didn’t know the band and then saw them perform live.  And the same can be said of The Felice Brothers.  At the ABC on St Patrick’s Day, The Felice boys delivered a show that was quite simply the best thing I have been at in a long, long time.  Not just musically, but also as an overall performance, they were superb.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a show and seen a band really truly appreciating doing what they do.  You could see it all over their faces.  When James addressed the audience saying ‘This is the biggest room we’ve ever played.  And it’s full of people’ you could tell that the night genuinely meant so much to them.  When the crowd joined in with ‘Whiskey in my Whiskey’ you could see the band were touched, stunned and delighted by the response.   Their performace was fun, yes, but delivered in a professional way by hugely talented musicians who are clearly thankful to be able to do what they do for a living.

Some amusing highlights of the show included violinist Greg Farley tossing bread to the audience during ‘Take this Bread’, Craig Finn (lead singer of the Hold Steady and support act for the evening) coming out during ‘Frankie’s Gun!’, dancing and then drunkenly delivering a garbled/rapped version of the second verse of the song – much to the amusement of the Felice Brothers.  Finn re-appeared during the encore to clap 2 cans of Red Stripe together over the audience whilst pretending to know the words of the songs.  But whilst these moments added humour to the show it is the music itself that did the talking.  Tracks such as ‘Hey, Hey Revolver’and ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ were re-worked to fit the feel of the band live.  And there was a much bluesier feel to their music live.  They remain full on Americana but they add a massive amount of blues to their live sound aided in no small way by the wonderful drawl of Ian Felice on vocals/guitar.  That voice.  Seriously.   James did a fair turn on lead vocals too though.  ‘Goddam You, Jim’ far more beautiful than on ‘The Felice Brothers’ with accordion prominent and James’ vocal turning the song into something it’s not on the record.   Something more.   The whole show.   Something much, much more than I had expected.  To say I was blown away is an understatement.  And the drum machine and sampler was there and used to full effect in old and new tunes.  Embracing technology and using it to great effect.  They do that without a doubt.

I left the ABC with a massive smile on my face.  Craig Finn was a good support act.  The antics of Greg Farley were something to behold.  The musicianship of Farley and James Felice and the interaction between the two, something special.  The Felice Brothers superb.  Make no doubt about that.  I’d go to see them every night if I could, just to experience that feeling again and again.

The Beating of Wings

Last night we saw The Felice Brothers at ABC in Glasgow.  It was stunning.  I read Simone – the former drummer and one of the brothers is playing the Electric Circus on 11 April so checked out his website.  Found this piece he did for the Guardian.  Sometimes things just get you right in the soul.  So beautifully written.

I would not be just a nuffin’,
My head all full of stuffin’,
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry,
Life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had a brain…
 (Lyric by E.Y Harburg)

When snow lay heavy on the land, and our January winds sang in the trees and beat at the plastic we’d hung in the cold door to keep the oil bill down, when Christmas trees lose their meaning and shed their needles until their needles lie in quiet circles on the floor like wreaths in shadow: That’s when I died.

Stuck with other needles. Morphine and glucose. Twelve years old in a white room. Shapes and movement, the sound of machines, the colored lights. Kingston, New York. 1989.

Apparently when you die they call for a priest. And priests come quick. My mother Patti wouldn’t let him in, kept him at the door with a look, a red palm held out, a string of words: ‘You can’t have him.’

He listened. The beat of his black sneakers fading forever down the hall. No last rites that winter day, no good book. Just a cold line on the computer screen by the bed, flat and then back alive, God’s own crude Atari game.

 

Chance? Fate? Medical science? Chaos? Love? I pick the last. Call me a romantic. A dreamer. Diluted. Trite. I’ve been called worse. It was love that kept me here. Surely it must have been. And stubbornness, to be fair. My family. My Pop and Nan, sister Clare, brother Ian, and many others. Patti most of all. They wouldn’t let me leave. Love. That’s what’s saved me, time and again.

*****

Much later, after I’d learned what had happened, I found myself piecing the story together in my mind’s eye like some vague jigsaw I lost in a flood, trying to make it fit. Even now, twenty years gone, when I go to call that time back to mind, the scenes balk and struggle to the surface like things nearly drowned, until they line up and do their best to play out in sequence, a haze of smudged pictures conjured through cracked memory and hearsay: I’d gone to school, collapsed in the hallway, been wheeled off to the Nurse’s Office, where she took my temperature, found it high, and called my mom to come fetch me.

 

Once home they drew a cool bath and put me in, hoping to cut the fever. I’m told it was there the hallucinations began. I thought my stepdad were trying to drown me. I beat the water. I flailed my arms and screamed.

Frightened now, Patti got in the car and sped the half hour down the mountain to the closest medical center, Benedictine Hospital. With a squeal of brakes, she pulled up in front of the Emergency Room doors, dumped the shifter in park, left the engine running and ‘Ran in carrying you in my arms like you were on fire.’

Inside they told her it might be spinal meningitis, a swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. All the signs were there: crippling pain, fever, hallucination. They called for a spinal tap, but the room where they did the procedure was in use. The neurologist on the scene, Dr. Frontera, bless him, wouldn’t wait for the room to be free. He wanted a closer look at the brain. So he had them wheel my gurney to another floor and send me through the bright sci-fi tunnel of the then newly developed C.A.T scan (high technology for the late 80s) to find that the early diagnosis of spinal meningitis was off the mark. I had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage.

They called it an cerebral aneurism, a weakness in a blood vessel that had ruptured, bled out and filled the space between my skull and brain with fluid and blood. The pressure was causing the brain to swell and the swelling was killing me.

It was in a new room on a new floor in a different wing where I suffered the seizure. They had begun to prep me for emergency brain surgery when it happened. The smell of laundered sheets and sterilization. The omnipotent hum of base technologies.

This is the first time I’ve ever written any of this down. Yesterday I sat with my mom, August sunlight in through the screened-door to fall on her kitchen table, our hands, my notebook, and asked her to tell what she remembers. Here was the part of the story we never talked about. The missing piece. And here I was now on my witch hunt. And of course the witch I sought was me, hidden roots and bloodletting, a chance for healing, and chance for real tears, mine and Patti’s mingled on the tablecloth like watercolors for the child she’d clung to.

My mother tells it like this: The seizure made you arch your spine. You bit your tongue. Your eyes rolled back in your head.

When the seizure was over I held your hand and you looked at me and said: Mom I’m gonna die. I told you: No you’re not going to die. But then you did. Just like that. You knew. Somehow you knew.

The screen flatlined and all the bells started ringing. When the doctors came running I thought they were going to ask me out of the room but instead they told me to climb up on your bed and talk to you, tell you you can’t die. They shocked your chest. They shot you full of adrenaline. And I held your face and told you you couldn’t die.

There was an ice storm that night. The worst in a century. The roads were closed, so they had to send a State Police 4-by-4 to gather the neurosurgeon and nurses and bring them all to Benedictine.

The surgery lasted hours. Afterward, the doctors came and said you were alive. But not to get our hopes too high. If you survived the first 24 hours you’d have a 50/50 chance of living. If you lived you would likely have some degree of brain damage. If you lived there was a good chance you’d be blind.

‘Does he play the piano?’ someone asked.
‘No. Why?’
‘The area of his brain that’s been affected, some of which we’ve removed, is the area associated with music, art, creativity. If he played piano before he may not play again.’

*****

After I made it past the initial 24 hour period, touch and go, the neurosurgeon, Doctor Gabriel Aguilar, bless his soul, told my mother that the physical pain I’d been though was a close second to what it might feel like to burn alive.

The nurses in the ICU took to calling me ‘The Miracle Boy,’ and did not hide the nickname from Patti. I don’t think I had any clue what the word miracle really meant until I watched my own daughter come into the world.

But Pearl was still a universe away. That summer after they brought me back from the dead I got my first guitar. A cheap affair, hardly ever in tune, same as the years that followed. But I spent them nonetheless, all twenty odd, in wholesale pursuit of the great rock & roll delusion.
And still climbing its greasy ladder.

Did Lazarus have a green room? Was there Scotch on his rider? Did The Times review him favorably? Did he sell out the 100 Club? Was he met with fevered applause when he rose for his greatest show?

Or was there stillness on the land? Broad copper-tone hills rolling out as far as the eye could scan, clouds like torn linen the shape of dream-horses in a dying sky, mild bird on the olive branch. Peace on earth. If only for a moment. Only a heartbeat.

When I was a kid I swore I’d be a Marine like my Pop. Rattle-snake dreams. Black sands of Iwo Jima. The Frozen Chosin. The Perfume River. M-16. Get to the chopper! Medic. Medic!!

That’s when Patti took me aside and told me: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’

Maybe so. But can the blog diffuse the homemade nail-bomb? Can a song bring down a drone? This is the new world. Less brave than we might’ve dreamed. I was in Italy. Last show of a month’s tour. Creepy hotel. Broken elevator. I climbed seven flights of stairs to my room, lost my breath, went pale and collapsed on the floor in the hall.

When I came to I touched the key-card to the door, went to the bedside and called Patti. Thirty-three years old.

‘Hello.’
‘Mom?’
‘Hi Honey? Are you okay?’
‘Mom, there’s something wrong with my heart.’

I did the gig that night and flew home the next morning. My dear wife Jessie, eight months pregnant with our child, drove me up to a cardiologist in Albany. I have no health insurance but my cousin Kelly is a nurse up there and pulled in a favor for Patti. They looked at my heart on a big screen and told us that I had developed aortic stenosis, a calcification of the main artery, an anomaly brought on by some childhood trauma, and that there was no medical explanation why I was still alive. I might’ve died on the plane. Might’ve died on stage.

So there I was back in the white room. They prepped me for anesthesia. I kissed Jessie’s belly. They wheeled me away and ran a tube down my throat. Emergency open-heart surgery. Aortic valve replacement.

When I woke in the recovery room I could hear the faint, steady tick, tick of the mechanical valve they sewed inside me. Then I heard the glad, hushed whispers my family in the hallway, just outside the door. I was drugged and thirsty. I asked the nurse for a drink of water and to please tell everybody they could come in from the hall.

‘Mister Felice?’
‘Yeah.’
‘It’s three in the morning. There’s nobody here.’
Tick. Tick. Tick.

*****

A month later our daughter was born at home in a summer thunderstorm. Pearl Simone. A wild-eyed treasure from a better world. Her father has an eight inch scar on the backside of his skull that runs from the crown of his head down to behind his left ear. If my hair is shorn close you can see it a block away. You might even think me a soldier. Made it home by the skin of his teeth. Luck of the Irish.

And if you see me on a summer’s day, down by the river’s edge, no big plans, no shirt, you’ll see the long pink seam that runs down the length of my chest like an angry zipper. Put your ear there and you’ll hear me tick out the time.

I am the tin woodsman, hunting a heart. I’m the scarecrow, please deliver my brain. I’m the crocodile who swallowed the pocket-watch. The bound witch in the hickory flames. The far-too serious kid who’s still trying to keep the oil bill down, a freak thunderstorm threatening always behind my sea-blue eyes, strange and electric, losing hold sometimes, gathering courage again, there, just a little ways up the channel.

I haven’t learned as much as I imagined I would by now. But I do believe we pass in and out of this world like a song on the wind. And that most of what we see and do in this life is grossly out of tune, behind or ahead of the beat to varied degrees.

But there are moments. You’ve known them. A kiss in a parked car. A melody in the dark. A meeting of eyes. A beating of wings. A babe come in a thunderstorm.

She’s got her father’s swagger. And her mother’s goodness. And Patti’s strength of spirit.
Go on, boy, write her a song. Read a story by lamplight. Sleep near and greet the pale sun together. Dance with her in the wet grass, round and round.

When she’s old enough to understand, tell her how her Grammy loved you back to life in the long ago.

Love her like it’s your last morning on earth.
Love her more than yourself.
Love her more than yourself.