Sunday, May 13, 2012

Piano Lessons - A Tribute To Mom

When I first started taking piano lessons, I hated it. I was a restless nine year old kid, impatient with the process of learning music. During that first year, my Mom would sit with me each day for fifteen minutes of practice. Knowing I loved an audience, she'd encourage me with praise while I stumbled grimly through scales and arpeggios. Neither stage mother or musician, she just didn't want me to be a quitter. At some point during this process, I discovered I had talent, and from then on, nothing could tear me from the keyboard. And you all know what happened next.

Mom, I am missing you this Mother's Day. I don't think you ever realized that everything amazing in my life happened because you made sure I didn't quit when that would have been the easiest thing to do. I wish you were here to see where this long road has taken me - you would be proud. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

This Is What They Pay Me For

The carefully rehearsed TSA dance routine: shoes off - belt off - laptop out - hands up - TURN! The fuming, snaking line, always a bit diffuse and confusing at its tail, like a frayed length of rope. The overly chipper and grating voice of the flight attendant. The little passive-aggressive game I play with said flight attendant where I leave my electronic devices on and my seatbelt off, even though I know better. The rote repetition of the safety features of this 737 aircraft. From the seats next to me, the loud, terribly self-important and crushingly banal conversation of two L.A. types, redolent of chewing gum, plastic surgery and the overconfidence of the none-too-bright. The not-at-all reassuring shaking of the silver wing outside my widow. The seat, far more uncomfortable than it needs to be. The captain interrupting the edited-for-tv movie on the back of the seat in front of me - letting me know that we’re passing over Toledo, which can be seen just outside our left cabin windows. The sticky remnants of spilled drinks on my seat-back tray – ghosts of unhappy travelers past. The drunk frat guys a few rows ahead of me – why do they always travel in packs? The claustrophobia, the boredome, the barely suppressed rage.

Playing the piano? Singing? Writing songs? I do that shit for free. This is what they pay me for. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Tour Press & Video!

Me: "This week's issue of The New Yorker calls me a keyboard wizard!"
My Wife: "Yes, but around here, you're just a guy in sweat pants."

That, of course, was followed by a request to clean the cat box. Which was fine with me - I miss all this when I'm away! And away I have been. First there was a three week arena and festival tour of Australia with John Fogerty, followed by a week with the Malone band in PA. MA, and NYC.

This coming Monday, I'll be playing WWOZ Piano Night at House Of Blues in New Orleans. It's been a long-time dream of mine to be a part of this Jazz Fest tradition - this year's show will feature sets by Marcia Ball, the seriously freakin' amazing Henry Butler, NOLA legend Joe Krown, and tons more. The following day I will be live on WWOZ around 3:00 Central (right after Little Anthony!) - if you don't live in NOLA, you can tune in online. Damn, if not for the aforementioned wife and cat box, I think I'd never come back from New Orleans!

Starting mid-May, I return to Australia for my own tour. Some shows with the band, and some sharing the bill with awesome Aussie piano player/singer/raconteur Pugsley Buzzard. All the dates are here

Adelaide Now - I get a nice shout-out in this review of the John Fogerty show in Adeliade, Australia.
The New Yorker - It's just a blurb, but they do, as mentioned before, call me a "keyboard wizard." Not bad for a kid from New Jersey!
"Chinese Algebra" live at Sellersville Theatre. With the New York Malone band - new tune from my upcoming CD.
"Why Not Me" live at Sellersville Theatre. Shot in sexy black and white. WIth Rich Zukor, Ritt Henn, & Tommy Williams.
"Certain Distance" live at Sellersville Theatre. With Bob Malone stompin' on the Mississippi Drum Machine! That's a Peterman Stomp Box Pickup in a cigar box, by the way. 

Remember: you're never too old to rock and roll - it just takes longer to recover. See you out there!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Caffe & Zigarren

I wrote this in 2002, during a tour of Belgium and Germany, and never posted or published it. Since I'm too jet-lagged at the moment to write anything new, I instead offer this tale from the archives. Enjoy.

"Your seat cushion" the announcement went, "is also a flotation device. In the event of a water landing…"

"place your head between your legs and kiss your sorry ass goodbye!" I muttered.

This was the third time I was hearing the safety announcement on this flight, and we were yet to leave the ground. Granted, it was the first pass in English, but you don’t really need to understand the words to get the point, all you need to do is watch for the props: the disembodied seatbelt, the yellow cup, the elastic strap.

"If you are traveling with a child, first place the cup firmly over your mouth, and then..."

Grab the kid by the shoulders, shake the crap out of him, and scream: “we’re all gonna die, you little shit!”

This being a flight to Belguim, which is essentially a tri-lingual country, we got the saftey lecture in Flemish, French, and English. As if any of it would help if we went down in the North Atlantic. The folks on the Titanic had it all over us – at least some of them lived.
We had been grounded for the last three hours with a mechanical problem. The maintenance crew had gone for parts. That’s just how they announced it: "The maintenance crew has gone for parts.” That bothered me. “Parts” brought to my mind a discomforting scene in which one of the airport mechanics is standing at the counter at the local Pep Boys:

“Uh….yeah. You got a reverse-catalytic spetzer-valve for a ’93 Boeing 707?”

“Well, no…they’re back-ordered. But you know, you can substitute a valve from a ’88 Fokker 2000! Just file off this tab here and strip the threads. You may want to take along a couple a tubes of hot-glue, just to be safe.”



Tomorrow I would be playing the Beersel Blues Rock Festival, just outside of Brussels, then heading to Germany for a week of shows. I say tomorrow, but it would really be today. When going to Europe, the pattern is always the same. Leave L.A. in the evening, arrive overseas the next morning. Sleeping on the plane is not an option. I’ve tried everything. Large amounts of alcohol. Small amounts of alcohol. Sleeping pills. Sleeping pills with alcohol. I’ve tried reading the sanitized, leaden prose in the in-flight magazines. The booze and pills made me high enough that the lack of sleep no longer bothered me, and the in-flight magazine made me want more booze and pills. Nothing made me sleep.

Now I just stay up all night. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

My motel room was out in the ‘burbs, near the festival grounds. I looked out the van window, fascinated, as always, by how Europe has all the same sort of roadside stuff we do – gas stations, caf├ęs, refineries, office parks…but everything is smaller. And cleaner and tidier. Europe always makes me feel like I’ve been shrunk to HO scale and become the inhabitant of a model train layout.

After a few hours of unsuccessfully attempting to sleep off the jet-lag, the runner came to take me over to festival grounds. There was a crowd of about 3,000 under the mainstage tent. In the middle of the seething mass stood a giant screen projecting what was going on onstage for the people in the back. As I did my set, my eyes kept wandering to the giant TV screen. I would start watching the pixelated me in action, and almost forget to keep playing. One side of my brain yammering: "Hey look - you're on TV!" The other side saying: "It’s live, dumbass – keep playing!"

After the set, the schmoozing and the autograph scrawling, I wandered backstage to find some grub.

I located a couple of steak brochettes and a pile of fries and made my way to one of the backstage picnic tables. Condiment choices were only two: ketchup or mayo. The ketchup came in a container that looked as if it were designed to hold some sort of automotive product – brake fluid, perhaps. The cap was a perfect plastic representation of a lug-nut. My eyes saw imaginary grease stains on the thing. I knew it was purely psychological, but I could not bring myself to eat the ketchup. That left only the Mayo.

They’re big on mayo here in Belgium. Salad with a cup of Hellmann’s where the dressing would normally go. Fries with a large, quivering mass of mayonnaise on the side. And speaking of french fries, I had not even eaten my first one that night when someone approached, unsolicited, and informed me that the Belgians invented French fries, and those French sonzabitches stole the idea. This, I would find out, was a very big deal in this country. It seemed like every person I was introduced to during my stay in Brussels would say: “Hello Bob, very nice to meet you! Did you know that we invented French fries?”

I briefly considered my condiment choices, and decided on plain.

I headed back out to the backstage area just as Candye Kane’s set was reaching critical mass. She had those poor bastards whipped into a frenzy I feared some of them would not survive. She made me damn proud to be an American playing the blues.

Monday, February 27, 2012


There’s nothing wrong with being average. Without average folks the wheels of Western Civilization would surely shudder to a halt. But somewhere along the way, we in America have been sold the notion that talent doesn’t matter; that intelligence doesn’t matter; that greatness doesn’t matter. That these attributes should in fact be regarded with suspicion, if not outright hostility. We have come to believe that we are all entitled to fame, and that to be just like everyone else is to be something quite special. And the army of pundits, writers, reality-show producers, politicians, and country music songwriters who have sold us this dubious bill of goods are, in many cases, talented people themselves. Do they really need the money that badly?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hipster Self Parody

I'm not here to mock the hipster nation - it's been done, no need for me to say that which has already been said. Instead, I'll let the self-parody of one of their representatives speak for itself. Whoever penned this is so far up his own ass I fear he has no idea how funny he really is. From this week's New Yorker rock and pop reviews:

"The guitarist Sam Mickens, known for his work with Xiu Xiu, the Parenthetical Girls, and the Dead Science, recently released his solo debut, a collection of stripped-down experimental indie-folk called "Slay & Slake." Opening for him will be the bleak witch-house group White Ring, which should provide an odd counterpoint for Micken's theatrical, idiosyncratic songs."

Dorothy Parker is most assuredly spinning in her grave.