Tuesday October 11, 2011
Whirlwind weekend. Thursday night Ball & Chain ball & chained it outta Radford to Richmond. Friday night we fought the weekend traffic down to the Outer Banks. Now, I've been going to the Outer Banks since… well since before I could see over a dashboard, and it use to be that come Sept. 5th—everything closed because no one was around. But these days, forget it. Traffic in October is not much different from traffic at peak season. But anyway. We stopped and had lunch at Awful Arthur's – I know, not very imaginative, but we knew it was a sure bet. With a little more time I would have opted for Kelly's, but we had a wedding rehearsal to get to. On the way down to South Nags Head we stopped to get some cucumbers for the reception at one of the brides' requests, and to say hello to my brother Bill at
OBX Dive Center. Beautiful day. The wedding was to take place at a house on the beach, and what a lovely spot. We arrived, and had to decide. . . play under the deck in the shade? Or on the deck where we'll be in full sun for a while. . . but man. . . what a view to look at while you're singing. . . We opted for the view. I mean come on. We live in the mountains.
Being a "home made wedding", and both brides having full time jobs—there was a lot to do; table set up, moving of furniture, setting up chairs, moving furniture again, and a LOVELY shrimp boil by KT's (one of the brides) dad, Daddy Bill. Jon and I cut out around 9:30 to rest our Ball & Chain selves, but were back 9:30am the next morning to set up. Now—I need to explain; we do not offer wedding set up as part of Ball & Chain services. No, no, no. This was the wedding of two dear family/friends, KT and Elizabeth. KT, well, I can't say enough about KT's devotion to my mother. Anyway—this was all about love. The service was held on the beach in a sacred circle. I sang John Lennon's "Grow Old Along With Me". Because it was a Mad Hatter themed reception, everyone was requested to wear a hat. It was a special day bringing two very special ladies together, plus their daughter Madison, thus, a new family is blessed, and so were we to be a part of it. It was made more special with my sister Lola, brother Bill, brother-in-law Bryan, and nephew Rocky there. And the whole time I was either facing the ocean, or a picture of my Mom with KT. And any opportunity to make music with my Honeys, is a good day.
Wednesday October 5, 2011
Things have slowed down a bit for Jon and Lucinda (aka Ball & Chain). Lucinda has a temporary full time job at Radford University in the Theatre Deptartment, and my work (whatever I can get—carpentry—renovations, etc. . .) is creeping along. So what do you do when work doesn’t occupy all your waking moments? You start work on CD number two for Ball & Chain. As you may or may not know, I’ve been writing for more years then I care to mention. With this back log of material there are plenty of songs to choose from. Again that can be good or bad. Good because of the wealth of material, bad because of the wealth of material. The writer is always the worst critic when it comes to songs. What sounds great today doesn’t have the same spark tomorrow.
For me playing through a new song for the first time is the best it’s ever going to sound. I guess it has to do with the newness of the song. You play it half a dozen times and it loses its sparkle. Then you start to “demo it”(make a rough recording to show fellow musicians what you’d like to hear being played on the song) before going into a studio. For me my studio is in my home like most independent artists and once you start work on the actual recording it is what it is, a recording! Plus, I play all of the instruments on the tracks. Drums are sampled sounds triggered by a midi keyboard. Midi stands for musical instrument direct/digital interface. You don’t actually play a drum set but use a keyboard to trigger sounds from a computer or sound module. By hitting a specific key you get a corresponding sound. Sequencers ( think midi recorders) hold this info then play it back in the song, it’s not the sound but the info. Many software programs used on computers have this function also. For next time I’ll talk about hard disk recorders (what I used to record our first cd), and outboard gear used for recording . . .
Monday July 11, 2011
This past Friday Ball & Chain sllllllowly made their way into Floyd behind a big a%% truck hauling God knows what, not an unusual occurrence on Rt. 8. But the driver finally kindly pulled over, and we eventually pulled up to Oddfella's Cantina [http://www.oddfellascantina.com/cont/node/1] for a great evening. We had some pals from Radford come out; Rick, Christine, David, Anna Neil, Dana, John—and we made some new friends as we always seem to do in Floyd. The place was hopping and it was the debut of our **New** Used** 12 string guitar!!!!! Our new old baby. A Guild beauty from 1987 that we found on our trip last month to New York. There she was hanging among some other newer (unseasoned—lighter weight—paltry in comparison really) 6 strings upstairs in
Sam Ash. She is so heavy and has a sustain to knock you over. We're having a blast incorporating her into the sets. Top moment of the evening came while I was singing the Eagle's "I Can't Tell You Why", Jon and I both looked at each other because we thought there was an echo coming through the monitors, but no, the entire restaurant was singing along, arms in the air. Yes, sirree it was a goose bumpy moment—but not a rare one at Oddfella's. Next time there, try the fried oyster appetizer. Oh YEAH!
Wednesday June 29, 2011
This past Friday Ball & Chain welcomed 1600 bicyclists to the New River Valley as they registered for Bike Virginia at Pulaski High School. It was a trip! Playing under a tree for four hours, we met cyclists from all over the state. Tents were popping up all over the high school property as Jon and I played. The weather stayed fine, with a steady and sometimes forceful breeze blowing—Thank God—while we played under a tree with a quiet baby generator fueling the sound system. I was very proud of our municipalities for working together, Pulaski, Montgomery County, City of Radford made this thing work, and I'm sure the businesses around benefitted. We made some new friends, and I don't know about Jon—but I certainly enjoyed the biker shorts that the males were sporting. What? Does that make me sound shallow? Whatever.
Tuesday June 21, 2011
Summer is here and the time is right for House Parties! This is a phenomenon that began oh, maybe back in the late '90's, when venues for unknown bands and musicians started waning. Could also have been a response to cover/door charges. At any rate, good folks who had a large living room or a big back yard started offering their homes up to home concerts, and charging a "donation" to collect for the band or bands playing. It's a homey thing, with people bringing potluck offerings, brown bagging it, and otherwise letting their hair down for an evening or afternoon of good tunes. Ball & Chain may be looking into this avenue. We've been talking with our friends Jim and Renee Oliphant of the acoustic cover duo
My Rag Top, and they are considering this path as well. What do you think?
Monday June 6, 2011
So, plagiarism when it comes to songwriting. There's been a recent hullaballoo over Lady Antebellum's grammy award single "Need You Now" and it's cordial kinship to Alan Parson's Project "Eye In the Sky". There are even some mash-ups of the 2 songs on YouTube that in hearing you have to listen carefully to know where one song ends and the other begins—but then the editor also manipulated rhythms and keys to make his/her point. It's an old controversy that extends back to a suit against George Harrison for "My Sweet Lord" for supposedly plagiarizing the '63 hit "He's So Fine". This case went on for well over 7 years, and googling the court proceedings shall keep you occupied on a rainy day with nothing else to do. It seems that in both cases part of the question comes down to intent. As song writers, Jon and I are hyper-sensitive to chord progressions that make us think of other songs—however, we purposefully segue some songs BECAUSE the chord progression is the same. For instance, we use to do Van Morriso's "Wild Nights" and segue into "Squeeze Box" by The Who. Hello? Could there be a lawsuit here? (Pete Townsend would beat me instead of the speaker with his guitar) But any boob can tell you these songs are night and day different in tone/feel. You could also spend an entire evening with your church group going from "This Little Light of Mine" with all 550 verses to "Do Lord or Do Lord"…. to "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" never varying from the three chord progression. Point being: there is a finite amount of chord progressions but an infinite amount of melodies. Add to that rhythm, feel, tone, style. . . . you know, it's funny that during the '20's Bessie Smith wasn't going ballistic on Ma Rainey. Ah, but that's when musicians had such little control. As if that's changed. When something goes into litigation, the only folks making the money and coming out winners are the lawyers. It's a sad song.
Wednesday May 25, 2011
Thursday we were at Hotel Floyd for their music series. What a hoot! Imagine the scene…. the hotel was full. People opened their doors to hear us play—some sipping their wine in their rooms WHICH WE COULD SEE INTO, others coming out on the balcony and porch to rock in rockers. Some
townsfolk came out with chairs and coolers to sit in the layered seating section.
John Beegle's Bootleg BBQ —a local fella kept everyone fed. Being the non-carnivore I tasted the cole slaw which was rather tasty. We met folks from all over, and it was a real treat to play to people who were there just to listen. There was a native wild flower group who had some members from West Virginia. they told us about some places we should try to book at, so we may be doing the West VA thing, ya'll! Then we went to grab some pizza at
Dogtown Pizza and listened to the
wonderful and hilarious/melodious
Another Roadside Attraction—a local Floyd band. Please check them out, they are too fun. When was the last time you heard an electric saw played? Hotel Floyd's Thursday night music series 6-9 is a great venue. Please check it out!
Saturday May 21, 2011
Saturday was the NRV Chili Fest! Whooooooooo doggie! Now let's talk. I can't remember how many chili entries there were—but there were a lot. Only one though, was veggie! Praise be to my
Radford Public Library who made an "to die for" pot 'o chili without anyone having to die for it. Toni Cox and Brack Stoval manned the booth, and during our last set we had Brack sit in with us. It was a great day of seeing all kinds of folks come out and listen to Ball & Chain and try out the chili. I believe Tuck Chiropractic won the people's choice—and I'm sorry to say I can't remember who won the judges award. I might have been trying to get a cup of ice for my coffee then.
Mainstreet Radford is trying to integrate West Main St. more into the mix and so we were in the old Central Lumber parking lot and it worked pretty well. Next year, more tents for folks to sit under, more seating, and I'm going to sit more because standing for 5 hours on pavement hurts poor Luci's knees. But we loved playing, and seeing all the folks that came out. Next year it should be even bigger!
Wednesday May 18, 2011
This week Jon and I are gearing up for a couple of gigs; Tomorrow (May 19 6-9pm) we will be playing at
Hotel Floyd for their summer amphitheatre series which is a first for us that we're REALLY excited about! Also we are playing at the 3rd Annual
NRV Chili Fest this Saturday, May 21 from 12-6. So come on out! We've got some new songs we've written as well as some new covers (for us) that we've worked up. Hope to see you there! The past month or so we've been busy with family life—our kids Willa and Dante have been the amazing performers—Willa singing and Dante singing and dancing. I believe there's a violin recital coming up soon too—so the parental part of Ball & Chain has been busy on the 'rent action. I've got a damn good garden coming up as well. Jon has a new guitar that he'll be debuting this week and I continue to learn the mandolin and have managed to work it into a few tunes. We've got a version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" that I do on the mandolin I'm real happy with which went over extremely well the first time we played it at the Palisades last week. We also picked up a 2nd hand flute I'm re-learning. Use to play a bit before my last one was stolen when I lived in NYC. Not sure my pucker is what it used to be, but hey—what the hell, right? Ball & Chain continues to play, grow and evolve. Come out and be a part of it all. Is there a cover you'd like to hear? let us know!
Tuesday March 22, 2011
Well hello daffodils! Hello little feathery creatures waking me up with your spring time song at 6am! Welcome Spring!!!!
So what is it like to try and make music in the midst of teaching 3 classes, running a campus ministry, directing a play and raising 2 teenagers?
The music is the vacation, fer shur. Last Saturday at the Palisades was a relief from the rat race—but you know, that rat race isn't bad—just fast paced. Chef Kevin was rocking the joint with a shrimp/scallop dish, and I don't know what he's doing different with the mash potatoes which I thought couldn't get better—but Saturday they did.
Some sad news: sweet little waitress Sunny Schmig's house burned down. Luckily she, her son Lane, boyfriend and dog made it out ok, but they lost everything. I'm trying to collect clothes for her (shorts/pants size 4-6, shoes size 8, tops sm or med), skin care products and make-up (she's fair skinned), her boyfriend needs jeans and work clothes (contractor) size 32/34, and Lane her little boy needs size 10 shoes, and toys in the way of trucks, cars and art supplies. The dog needs toys too, brushes, leash, nail clippers. If you can help, just send me an email:
Jon has been writing some new songs, so come on out and hear them! He's already laying down some new track for the next CD. I've had a couple play readings the past couple months—so there must be a creative happy cloud hanging over the Happy House. Happy Spring to all!
Sunday February 27, 2011
Last night at The Palisades. The place was packed from the time we were loading in. The bouquet of aromas was intoxicating; seafood, steak, garlic, herbs…. mmmm….. Still trying to find the perfect volume level for this challenging room; long, wide, wood structure in the middle. . .still guessing. Had friends Marlete Servidoni and her family came out as did Carol and Chris Colby, Ann Elliot and Tom Pierce. It's always a boost to see familiar faces in the crowd. Palisades has shaken up their menu a little which adds to the excitement. Last night. . . gee, just thinking about this gives me goose bumps—they had—not sure I can write this—SHE CRAB SOUP, YES THE BEST I'VE EVER HAD AND THAT INCLUDES EVERY RESTAURANT ON THE OUTER BANKS!! Not too rich but rich enough, chunks of crab, just the right amount of sherry, and a little zing from a source I can't put my tongue on. Jummy. We have a couple weeks off from playing since we've got some family things going on. . . my birthday. . . hehehehe, I'm starting into rehearsals for "The Vagina Monologues" (directing and acting) and on 3/8 I'm headed with my boy up to Chicago for a national honors choir he auditioned and got into. We'll be back grinnin' & pickin' 3/19 at the Palisades. Cheers!
Saturday February 26, 2011
I see some green starting to peek out of the ground! Could it be. . . ? Please let there be some spring happnin' around the corner! Last week when we played at
The Cellar it was co-co-cold. . . but what a great night! Place was packed; tables, bar. . . . folks coming in to check out there new brew store poked their heads in to hear us. Got some great feedback, and even the friendly wandering drunk at the bar was extremely respectful and swayed in time! It was a good evening all around. Tonight we're back at the Palisades—always a good time. Now that I have a new iphone (birthday present!) I might catch some videos too.
Tuesday February 5, 2011
The Piro household has been humming with creativity. Some balls were dropped and a few chains clanked. Jon has been writing some new songs, and recording some old ones. I got a first draft completed of a new play, "Rumpus Room", had a reading of that and production of my play "Feeding On Mulberry Leaves" at Washington & Lee Univ. this past weekend. And in the midst of that, we had a great gig at the Palisades on the 5th. This weekend we'll be at the Cellar—hope ya'll come on out!
Tuesday January 25, 2011
We had an AMAHZING weekend of the 15th in Floyd. It was like our own little Floyd Fest. Friday night we were at
Dogtown Pizza and it was a blast! First time there and we can't wait to go back. The owners Jon Roberts and Scott Smith have written the book on how to make a musicians feel the love. As have the residents of Floyd written the book on how to make musicians feel listened to! The pizza is the best I've had in a long time, and that includes 10 years in NYC, which of course sets the standard. The venue has a dedicated soundman, lights, and equipment. Our friend Susan Mead, a res of Floyd came to listen and hung out afterwards so we got to catch up on the ol' times. These people like to hear music, that's what they're there for—besides the phenomenal beer and wine selection. So Jon and I unscrewed the lid, and since no one was telling us, "Hey, folks are still eating, can you turn down?", we let it fly!
Since we were playing at the Floyd Country Store the next day, Jon and I stayed over in the Hotel Floyd. Dig it, people! The only green hotel I have stayed in to date—it was perfect, and the owner/staff couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating. Located smack dab in central Floyd, we could walk everywhere we needed to go.
So yeah! Next day we were the headliner at
Floyd Country Store, and that was a fun experience as well. Have I mentioned the food here, too? This time I had the grilled tuna, and Jon had the BBQ—both excellent choices. Oh yeah! Playing went well. It was an interesting experience to go from balls-to-the-walls sound at Dogtown to a more reigned in, thoughtful, story/journey, intimate playing at the country store. But that's us, one extreme to the other, and all that falls in between. AND THEY ARE NOW CARRYING OUR CDS!!!!!!!!
That night found us crossing a couple mountains to be back at our beloved Palisades [http://www.thepalisadesrestaurant.com/]. First time after the New Year, and all was well. Great crowd who, besides eating, really loved the music! Who knew? Sold a few CDs, and again, had a great meal. Scallops this time, with a cob salad. Jummy. And as usual, my friend Angelina was there. We'll be back at the Palisades on Feb. 5. Hope to see you there!
Tuesday January 11, 2011
Happy New Year to all!
I hope everyone had a great holiday. Ours was filled with a whole lot of love, sweetness, and a large dose of sadness as we said goodbye to my dear Mama, Emma Jane McDermott. She was a great supporter of our music always, and a damn good musician herself. Perfect pitch, she was a warbler, and charmed countless listeners throughout her life with a whistle that encompassed harmonics and rich warm tones. My Dad use to accompany her on his violin before ALS prevented him. They even performed on the radio back in the '40's. This photo was taken around 1987. I was working with songwriter
Matthew Costello in Richmond, and while my folks were visiting, we recorded Mama and myself on a couple of songs. I love this picture because it captures my Dad's utter enchantment.
Jon wrote a new song, "But I'll Be There", inspired by E.J. her life, and her moving on. He sang it at her memorial. I was able to croak out a few harmonies between tears. My long time friend and "brother" Bob Coburn graced us with his mandolin playing, and behind him, unseen, is our good friend John Kahlua on ukulele. The service prior was begun with son Dante playing "You Are My Sunshine" on the violin that had belonged to my father. Friends and family spoke. 5 time Tony award winner, costume designer William Ivey Long, Jr., gave the eulogy. It was a joyful, sometimes humorous, poignant and beautiful "home going" (my cousin Mike's apt phrase) for a beautiful person. So now we turn our spirits to a new year with expectant hearts, and we'll see where the music leads.
Tuesday December 14, 2010
Howdy! Good Lord, is this the Tundra or what? It has been cold as shitaki mushrooms here in the New River Valley for I guess a week now. Temps down to the teens! We had to cancel our show at the Palisades on the 4th because of snow, ice and frigidness. We were out there this past Saturday the 11th, however. There was a smallish but enthusiastic crowd, and as usual the fare was delicious. Sold a couple of CDs and I think made some new fans, so that's all good! This time Jon and I tried one of their gourmet pizzas. We got the one with goat cheese. Shaena has hired a new chef, Kevin, who comes from the Bank in Pearisburg, and he is wonderful. She's got a great team going there, so please come out next time we're playing which will be Jan. 5th. I had a good chat with my new friend I've made there. Her name is Angeline, comes from the pinot noir family. The Piro family will be around for the holidays, if you find yourselves around this way, give a holler!
Monday November 29, 2010
What a weekend! Friday at the Palisades and Saturday at Gillie's. Considering this followed Thanksgiving weekend, I feel pretty good about the whole kashmoogle.
Last time we were at the Palisades we had to work around the 20 some pumpkins in the window. This time we were greeted with very Christmasy balls—and a bigger stage. Which was nice. Not as many folks as the last time we played, but still a good turn out. This time I tried the crabcakes and shrimp. Jon is still smell-blind so he enjoyed the texture.
Gillie's had a good turn out, and what was nice was there were folks who came out just to listen. We really appreciate that. The boy child (Dante by name, 14) came with us and perched at the bar. He benefitted by getting chummy with the waitresses who gave him the ends of the desserts.
Looking forward to being back at the Palisades this Saturday again—the day before Jon's birthday! Wheee!
Monday November 22, 2010
Some people might think it pathetic that you were the band at your own wedding reception—but naw. We wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Sept. 2, 1990 was a great day. The ceremony itself was at St. John's Episcopal Church in Glasgow, VA where I grew up. It was my Dad's 2nd church as a minister. Glasgow is an uber tiny town located below Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County, right where the James and Maury rivers meet. Yes, it is prone to flooding. Our reception was held at my parent's home where I grew up; Walnut Glen, located on Rt. 608 in Glasgow, 2 miles from Natural Bridge. It was a home made wedding—my mother, a quality seamstress made my dress. Although Dad was retired and because of ALS could not use his hands, he still assisted at the wedding. Our mates from our band Ransom all came down from New York and took some part in the wedding. It was the right way to begin our life together, by making music.
Whenever the music has been silent, it's seems that's when the marriage is striking some sour notes. So we keep it going even when we're too tired to pick up an instrument, or when putting words and chords together seems impossible.
I guess you could say the music is the chain that holds us together when the wrecking ball threatens to strike.
Wednesday November 10, 2010
PK's open mic last night! Big cudos
and applause to Michele and Cliff of
Blacksburg Live Music for running such an efficient operation!
So here's how it works for those of us retrieving a dream deferred while you have kids: I had to get the son to his jazz & ballet classes in Salem by 5:30, and they got to 9pm. Sign up for Open Mic at PK's in Blacksburg starts about 7:30. So while I'm on dance duty, Jon goes to PK's to sign up and wait for me to arrive somewhere between 10 and 10:30, after I take the boy home to Radford.
I got to PK's about 10:15. Jon is stool-worn from perching for 2 and a half hours, and is 2/3 of a way through a pitcher. "Please drink the rest!" Now that I'm there to watch the instruments he can retreat to the restroom where he was for I'd say 10 minutes—but he swears I exaggerate.
Not sure when we went on, but we had a great time. Played "Crazy", "Hypnotized", and "Livin' in the Moment". Hope to play at PK's this summer.
Tuesday November 9, 2010
So I can't say enough how outstanding the Palisades Restaurant in Eggleston
was. Friday night we played there and it was fantabulous. The placed was packed which makes for a much better night for us. I'm proud to say Radford was well represented out there in Eggleston! RU professor Dr. Tricia Easterling and her family were there, as well as Dean and Beth Wallace, and Mr. Beebo, my daughter's chemistry professor. Who knew? The staff there is the best--personable and efficient. Bryant, the waiter who we made friends with the last time we were there graciously took my camera when I asked and snapped some shots.
Our most attentive audience member was a little girl of about 3 who had her eyes glued to us from the moment we stepped in and set up. Her folks let their younger daughter go home with the grandparents, but they came back so this little girl could watch and listen.I took this shot while I was still singing. Luckily I had placed the camera within reach on top of a speaker.
I made a new best friend there. Her name is Angeline and she is a pinot noir with depth. I can't drink when I'm singing otherwise I forget lyrics. . .. sad but true.
Jon and I tried out a few new covers tonight: Sheryl Crow's "Detours", and by Badfinger which went over quite well except my friends were leaving at the same time I was using my chord cheat sheet so I couldn't wave good-bye lest I end up with a chord progression from Rage Against the Machine.
Had fun giving away a CD; announced that "we would give a free CD away if"-- and the place got deathly quiet. It was pretty funny - "anyone has a 1975 nickel". Damn if an old timer didn't have one! Pretty cute.