Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bismo Jams

Yup, been another long, dry spell... and only a quick fly-by post here! But for those that missed it, and before I lose track of them myself, I wanted to link in a set of videos.

A couple of weeks ago I finally did something I'd been saying I should do for many months... packed up the harps and hit my local blues jam, a few miles down the road at Stone's Public House. I'd always been a bit hesitant since I've never really played with a live band before... except for our old Blues Brothers performances (where I could basically mimic some of Dan Aykroyd's solos) I've really just been a ling room player. But with some gentle pushing from both Buster and my brother in the blues, Jake, I finally gave it a go, and was aclled up to join a group of players (didn't - and don't - know any of them!) for a 4-song set.

Here they be. (I have one full solo in each song.)

Run Run Rudolph:



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Paul "Baldy Beerbelly" Cooperstein

Remembering Paul Cooperstein... 10/7/2009. Friend and fellow Traveling Beerbelly. 10/7/2009. Shown here (on the left) with his brother Barry at the McAuliffe holiday party, December 2005.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blues Harmonica Blowout

Buster & I went to the harmonica blowout in New Hampshire this past weekend, couldn't have had a better time. The show featured Mark Hummel, Sugar Ray Norcia (from Sugar Ray & The Blue Tones and formerly a front man for Roomful of Blues), Billy Branch (Chicago legend!) and Lee Oskar.

Fantastic show, each player taking a 4-song set before they all got together for a jam session to close it out. I was most excited about seeing Billy Branch, and he didn't disappoint... though they were all terrific in my opinion he stole the show. Buster admitted he agreed with me... indeed, Buster said overall this was the best concert he'd ever seen! (He was the only kid there, as well, and being in the 2nd row it didn't go unnoticed.) Lee Oskar was very interesting, doing some unbelievable technical stuff although the style didn't touch me emotionally as much as the other players.

After the show Buster wanted to shake the guitar player's hand... Rusty Zinn, who was amazing the whole night backing all of the different styles as well as getting quite a few solos where he could really shine. (I was might proud of Buster for picking up on how great his playing was and important he was to the whole show!)

After chatting with Rusty I wanted to say hi to Billy, which I did, but Billy was much more interested in talking to Buster... he'd noticed him bopping around during the show and was delighted to see a kid there. After offering Buster some words of encouragement when Buster mentioned he'd tried piano but didn't really go anywhere with it, Billy gave him one of his (show-used) harps... man, I'm jealous!!

I was also very proud of Buster when Billy said he'd autograph it for him, or if he'd rather we could just clean it and he could PLAY it... Buster decided he'd rather play it. Abso-frakkin'-lutely!

Here's a couple of pictures, but I only had my cellphone with me so they're on the blurry side... somehow I almost never remember to bring a camera to concerts, guess I'm too busy grooving the tunes.

Sugar Ray Norcia:

Billy Branch:

Lee Oskar:


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Monaco Photos

New photos posted (finally!) of the new Monaco. CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Lives! (Spoilers)

Buster & I went and saw the new Star Trek movie last week, so it seems a good time to post my thoughts on it.

When I talk about it I always find myself mentioning a short laundry list of things that I didn't like, but for the most part they didn't hurt my enjoyment of the film much. Buster & I both walked out of the theater loving it, and I was feeling very happy that "my" crew was back, and they'd sold me on it!


It was all about the characters, it wasn't particularly plot-driven. Fortunately I don't mind losing some plot in favor of characters, although I despise losing plot just in the name of more action (as with so many of the later 007 movies for instance). But the cast was excellent almost all the way through (I wasn't a fan of Ben Cross as Sarek, but hey, he's following Mark Lenard!), and for the most part I loved how the main characters came together.

I didn't like the excessive comic relief of both Scotty and Chekov; I think they at least got away with it more (pulled it off better) with Scotty. Chekov's accent was way too much over the top, although the actor himself seemed pretty good in the role.

And what's up with the giant hands?

Otherwise though the cast sold me, and I was especially impressed with young Mr. Kirk. Of all of them I went in the most skeptical of him, as I've always thought of the rest of the cast as characters, but Kirk was the Leading Man... he was Shatner! And yet, I quickly found myself accepting Chris Pine, and by the end I really did feel that he'd captured the essence of the character and I was sold. Many of the earlier scenes with him (like in the bar scene) where my gut reaction was, "Really?", once I took a moment to think about if a young Kirk would act that way... yeah, actually, I can see it, especially with his different upbringing.

The other thing that I really didn't like was the set design... I don't think there was a single interior ship set (Enterprise or Nero's) that I liked. Nero's ship looked like the warehouse from "Buckaroo Banzai" (and not only because of the torture scene). The Enterprise seemed to lack a common production theme... the bridge looked like the Apple store we'd criticized ahead of time, Engineering looked like the brewery it was filmed in and not like the inside of a starship (you'd think I'd be in favor of a space brewery, but Noooooo!). Sickbay and the transporter room also had disparate looks and feels, none of these places felt like they were part of the same ship. I didn't like any of it, but it again didn't really hurt my appreciation of the characters or what there was of the story.

As I said, I thought the story was just good enough to serve the function of the movie... which was simply to reset the Star Trek universe so they can do whatever they want going forward. I actually think this was a great idea, and worked well, as it really does mean no more concerns about canon while at the same time allowing them to re-introduce any elements from "classic" Trek they feel inclined to explore. Well done.

The only thing that I really didn't like in the movie from an overall enjoyment aspect was the entire ice planet sequence, which seemed contrived and lame beginning to end... from how Kirk gets marooned there (I mean, c'mon, really?!!) to how he leaves there and everything in between. The sequence exists to introduce Kirk to Spock (prime) and Scotty, and I'm certain there are many better ways that could have been accomplished without being chased around Hoth by ice monsters. Ugh. But before and after that scene I was fine with it all.

So yup, a lot of individual elements I find myself complaining about but at the end of the day it is indeed nit-picking, in the end the film worked for me emotionally and got me to believe that these characters, whom have always been "MY" crew, were back and ready to sail. Keep on Trekkin'!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Trip Photos Posted

Okay, so I lost my muse... what can I say?  Anyway, in the meantime please do follow my Twitter posts (which can be accessed through the link to the right on this page), and of course my Flickr pages via the PHOTOS link!  I've posted a bunch of pictures from our recent Disney trip... an okay trip but it was for the most part very cold (yes, even by New England standards!) while we were there, and I somehow screwed up my knee while there so spent much of the time limping around World Showcase.  (The knee STILL hurts, suspect I'll be needing to see a doc about that soon.)

We also just got back from a weekend in St. Louis that was surprisingly fun, photos from that trip on the Flickr page as well.  The highlight: the City Museum there, a huge playground that really can't be described!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Disney Revisited!

Just touched down in Orlando, another Disney trip, this time with the family! Listening to Disney music on Disney Magical Express bus, en route to Polynesian. Watch Twitter feed for updates!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boston House of Bules Grand Opening

Boston finally has its own House of Blues again, after the original HoB in Cambridge closed about 5 years ago. This past Saturday night (2/21) they had their Grand Opening VIP Party, and though invitation-only (which is a shame) Jake & I were able to get in by way of a charity auction.

So we made the show, and had a fantastic night! Friday afternoon Buster & I suited up and hopped in the Bluesmobile to pick up Shotgun at Logan airport; he'd flown in his suit, sans shades and tie but then added those finishing touches just after deplaning. The three of us enjoyed a nice dinner at Pizzeria Uno's before heading back to Bismo's Bluesmansion for the night.

Saturday, after dropping Buster off with friends to spend the night, Shotgun & I headed into town to check into the hotel room included in our auction package. We cruised by the House on the way in, and got plenty of appreciation both driving down Lansdowne Street and while cruising through the city in general. After checking into the hotel we went up to our room... and looked at each other. Then at the single king-size bed in the middle of the very nice room. Then at each other again.

About 45 minutes later we'd finally gotten a room with two double beds instead... crisis of brotherly love averted! After dinner on Boylston Street at a nice little Irish pub ("Solas"), we hung in the hotel room listening to music and each having a small glass of bourbon (Blanton's) while waiting for showtime, then headed over.

We'd found out (finally!) Friday morning that the House management had decided NOT to park our Bluesmobile out front... they had tenting up along the front of the club to provide heat for the lines, and didn't think it was practical to try to set up a parking area for us. We'd debated just leaving the Bluesmobile at the hotel then, to avoid extra parking fees and to free up my liver for enjoying the night's VIP open bar, but ultimately we both knew she HAD to go with us. So we drove her back over and after cruising by the line once, circled back to park her in the garage next door.

The line was a little surprising... VIP or no the wait was well over half an hour to get in, as they were checking people in at tables in the foyer, similar to registering for a SciFi convention. But eventually we were in, and after that the night was just fantastic!

The place is indeed very big, three levels. The main floor (all standing room) has a bar lining each side wall, then a step down to the main dance floor. I'd decided that since we DID bring the Bluesmobile and I'd be driving home, I'd stick with beer for the evening, so asked for a Sam Adams... but they weren't supposed to sell bottles that night, only cans (presumably to avoid broken glass on the open dance floor, though why they wouldn't pour out into cups is beyond me), and none of those beer choices appealed to me. So I had bourbon (Woodford Reserve). What can you do, ya gotta have standards!

The gospel choir had just started when we got in, the same group that will be performing when they get the gospel brunches started up there. (We chatted with one of the singers for a few minutes between sets when she came over to get her picture taken with us.) A lot of the folks in there were mingling around, hunting out the free food sample tables. We made our way right up to the front of the stage, of course, and basically settled in for the evening. We thought about looking around more first, and maybe checking out the Foundation Room (that our VIP tickets gave us access to for the night), but ultimately we're there for the MUSIC so we pretty much stayed put. Plenty of people were coming by to chat with us though, and we were also in demand by many, uh, very attractive ladies who wanted their pictures taken with us in numerous fun poses. (I gotta search Facebook and the like to find copies of those for ourselves, they're great ego-boosts!) There was also another woman there dressed as The Penguin, which was very funny... when we first noticed her moving our way through the crowd, we started ducking and dodging the other way and soon she was chasing us through the crowd, armed with her own ruler!

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters was the next act, a very well-respected Boston-based (with some national exposure) blues band, and it was a great set. After that there was about a 25-minute break, which meant more photos and more mingling, all very fun with all great people. Nina, the barmaid working our area, came by frequently to chat and even hung with us during her break. I was resisting a second bourbon... not 'cause I didn't want one, but because I'd found it's difficult to dance - especially Blues Brothers dancing! - with a sloshing cup of bourbon in your hand! (You can see this in the TV video linked to below.) But Jake ordered a second one and when Nina came back she had one for me too... 'cause she knew I really wanted it. She was, naturally, correct! I sipped it for a bit then downed the rest in a hurry once the Sacred Hearts Band took position on stage.

The Blues Brothers show was awesome, of course! Pretty similar to the show I saw last summer, and what others have described seeing in Atlanta, Texas and elsewhere, though with some local flavor and some special guests thrown in. James Montgomery, a local harp hero, sat in for many of the songs, notably a kick-ass version of "Muddy Water" (aka "Boston You're My Home") worked up for the town. Skunk Baxter was also there and played on a few songs, and best of all Paul "The Shiv" Shaffer, Mr. Entertainment himself, came out for the second half, leading the band in "Green Onions" and then playing through the second set!

The real highlight though was Sam Moore, who came out for a few songs and of course took the lead on "Soul Man". He looked and sounded fantastic, and it was especially fun watching Danny staying off to the side and just grinning ear-to-ear watching HIS idol playing his own song! Shotgun & I were also both pleased to note we could easily see from our vantage point that Danny did indeed have "ELWOOD" on his knuckles. (And as for ourselves, when the genuine article, no-imitation Blues Brothers are in the house, Shotgun & I went with, well, "SHOTGUN" and "BISMO" on our own knuckles.)

After the show ended, I'd say around 12:15am (the Brothers started their performance at 11pm), we hung for a few as the place emptied out and thought we'd at least look around a bit more. We went up to the second level (a standing-room mezzanine) and found the Foundation Room was still open! So we decided to check it out after all. It was filled to capacity so they were letting folks in as others came out, but with the concert itself over the wait was only about ten minutes before we could get in. We saw Judy Belushi-Pisano talking to some folks there, though didn't get a chance to meet her (or any of the band, alas).

Once in, we ended up spending about two and a half hours in there! We chatted with a great many people, and we ultimately settled into a smaller corner room on a couple of couches with a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings (hmm, it felt like the cast of "Friends"!). They didn't have any glass bottle restrictions in there so we were finally able to enjoy a couple of Sam Adams as well.

Jake spent about 90 minutes chatting with a young lady who was about to get married and so was enjoying her flirting, and who was also apparently soon to be joining the Army... Jake having just retired from the USMC that gave them plenty to talk about. He found out only after they'd been talking quite a while that this young lady was Judy Belushi's niece!

Meanwhile one of the other 20-something young ladies, very, uh, nicely attired, decided my harp playing was making her homesick for Kentucky so she came over, snuggled in against me for the next hour or so and asked me to teach her how to play! I was, of course, happy to oblige. (It's just suck and blow, ain't it?) We finally closed the place down when they kicked the last of us out around 2:45am, picking up our commemorative show posters on the way out. (I'll get a photo of posted at some point, haven't taken a picture of it yet.)

Now, it being hours after the show ended we had to find someone to unlock the Lansdowne Garage for us since it had already been closed, but fortunately we were able to get ourselves extricated. We pulled back up to the front of the hotel, looked at each other and realized we really didn't want to sleep there... we only had the room because it was part of the auction package, after all. Since I hadn't had much to drink (sure, two bourbons and two beers, but that was over an almost 7-hour period, with close to 3 hours between the bourbons and the beers alone!) and hell, only lived 25 miles away, we walked into the hotel at 3am, grabbed our overnight bags and checked out. After all the trouble to get the double-bedded room, I don't think we as much as SAT on one of the beds! But it felt the right thing to do. By 3:45am we were home, had a nightcap bourbon and hit the rack.

Now the part you're waiting for, here's the link to the rest of my photos from the night:

Boston House of Blues Grand Opening - a set on Flickr

Also I showed up in this live story from WBZ-TV (local CBS affiliate) that aired the other night:

WBZ-TV Video Archive - wbztv.com

I DID take some videos of my own, and hopefully they won't pull the vids on me since technically posting a concert vid like this could be an issue... but I doubt anyone'll be complaining! Here's the YouTube link:

YouTube - BismoBeerbelly's Channel

Okay, now I'm ready for a vacation... only about 36 hours until we're on a plane for Florida!