Issue 12 (October 11, 2019)
So…what have I been up to lately? Well, I ran a 5K, saw the Pixies (!!!), connected with a present-day ambient musician whose NYC indie band in 2005 recorded one of my favorite songs ever. I also have to welcome my friend Katie to Philly! And, of course, there is new music to share.
Read on to find out what’s been going on since mid-August…
WXPN Musicians On Call 5K: Return to Form
I ran the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K on Sunday, October 6, and was quite pleased with the result, finishing in 24:35 (more on that later).
I had not run in a 5K since I did this same race in 2017. I’ve been focusing on triathlons and longer-distance races since then, so most of my training has been either triathlon-focused “brick” sessions (bike+run or swim+bike+run) or slower-paced long runs. I haven’t really gone all out for 3.1 miles in the past two years. And then there were the back and hip injuries that sidelined me and slowed me down during fall 2018 and earlier this year.
But I love supporting WXPN and Musicians On Call, a program that brings music performed by local musicians into hospitals, so I decided to run this year’s 5K after skipping last year to do the inaugural Crest Best 10 Miler in Wildwood Crest, N.J. Besides, the Musicians On Call 5K is the only race I know of that ends with an 80s dance party!
Anyway, the race takes place in Penn Park on the University of Pennsylvania campus and the starting line is right across the street from WXPN and World Cafe Live. The pathways are tight so it can be a bit of a problem at the start if you have a pace in mind and you get stuck behind slower runners. The first leg is a straightaway with a loop at the end, with the path narrowed further by cones down the middle to allow for runners on the way back. However, if you don’t start too far back of the starting line, you have a window to pass in the “left lane” before runners start coming back from around the loop so I took advantage of that.
Because of this, I usually go a lot faster than I plan to at the start of this race. I push myself to make the most of the limited time with the passing lane before settling into a cruising pace by mile 2. There’s a winding, steep pedestrian bridge that gets crossed twice during mile 2 that I took it easy on, so that’s why my time went way up. The 8:02 time on mile 3 was a decent 5K cruising speed for me.
Now, about my finish time of 24:35. For some reason, the timing company used by WXPN lists results by gun time, not chip time (gun time is time from starting gun to your finish, but chip time is the time between crossing the timing mats at the start and at the finish). My chip time was 24:27. And, as you can see in the photo above, my Nike+ time says 24:46.
But here’s the thing about the WXPN 5K. Although it claims to be a USATF-sanctioned course, I am pretty sure the course has never been a full 3.1 miles. The only years I’ve missed this race were the first year of 2015 and 2018, and until this year, my Nike+ app has never recorded 3 miles. I think 2.96 miles is the most I’ve ever recorded. So, even though, I’ve finished the XPN 5K with faster times, I’ve never really considered them PR (personal records). This year, though, having started my Nike+ app a few feet before the starting line and stopping it a few feet after the finish line, I actually registered exactly 3.1 miles.
However, even though the Nike+ app doesn’t appear to count 3.1 miles as a full 5K (technically, 5K converts to 3.10686 miles), I do consider 3.1 miles a full 5K. Even so, my Nike+ app says my fastest 5K ever was 24:50, but that came during a 5-mile run in New Brunswick in June 2017 during which I inexplicably also recorded my fastest mile time ever of 6:54 on mile 3. If I recall, a couple of Rutgers students were on a run and entered the path I was on right after I passed by. I didn’t want to be passed so I REALLY pushed it. Fortunately, they went a different direction by mile 4 so I was able to throttle back.
OK…getting back on track, what I’m trying to say is that my Nike+ time of 24:46 really should be considered my new 5K PR, but it’s muddied a bit.
The important takeaway is that, leading up to this 5K, I was finally back to running my usual 5-mile runs at just under a 9-minute-per-mile pace. That’s basically where I was before I started training for marathons and getting saddled with injuries. I feel like I’m back at my baseline and can now work on getting better at this running thing again.
But now, just next month’s Philadelphia Half Marathon remains on my 2019 race schedule. I have plans for 2020, but haven’t booked anything yet. Stay tuned.
Finding ‘Lost Tricks’
Back in September 2005, my friend Katie (you’ll be hearing more about her in the next item) and I went to see Ben Folds perform at the SoHo Apple Store in New York City. Those trying to get into the show had to wait in a line that wrapped around the building for a few hours. At some point, a person came by and started handing out CDs to the people waiting to get in. The CD was a 5-song EP by a band called Lost Tricks and looked like the image above.
Hours later, I was back at my car in Hoboken. I was looking for music to play for my late-night drive home, but I couldn’t get any of my go-to radio stations up there and because of the number of low-end frequencies in use in the area, I couldn’t find an open station through which I could use my iPod through an FM transmitter (which is how I did that, at the time). Then I remembered I had a CD by a band I had never heard before, so I inserted the disc.
And wouldn’t you know…it was damned good. Actually, it was five songs of absolute piano-pop delight. I listened to that thing the entire way home and it never really left my CD player for the next couple of weeks. The EP’s fourth track, “All Around U,” still remains one of my all-time favorite songs. I mean, come on…how good is this?
Anyway, I soon found out Lost Tricks was the project of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter/actor Trevor Oswalt, who was originally from Portland, Oregon. They had been putting out releases since 2002, I believe. I would sometimes try to find out when they were playing live, but that didn’t seem to happen too often.
Several years later, I tried to find out what happened to Lost Tricks, but only found they released something in 2009 before apparently calling it quits.
Anyway, a few months ago, I was in our kitchen washing dishes after 11 p.m. and listening to WXPN—because our kitchen radio basically has WXPN on 24/7. At that hour, the syndicated Echoes program (which is hosted by Penn/WXPN alum John Diliberto) is on and, on this particular night, I heard an interesting ambient piece by a project called East Forest.
Not too long after that, I was reminded of Lost Tricks and Googled them again. That led to my seeing the name Trevor Oswalt. But when I Googled Trevor Oswalt, guess what kept coming up?
East Forest. Portland, Oregon-based East Forest, to be precise.
The guy moved back to Portland, left his Brooklyn hipster alter-ego behind and started making ambient meditative music combining natural and synthetic sounds. His bio mentions none of his previous music incarnations, but talks about moving to NYC and back.
So it seemed it had to be the same guy, but then I saw this video on the East Forest channel and it is totally him…
What’s kind of amazing is that the final Lost Tricks album was released in 2008 and made available on the band’s website in 2009. It was during this same timeframe, apparently, that Oswalt moved back to Portland and began transforming into East Forest because the first album under that project name, The Education of the Individual Soul, was released in February 2009.
Musically, that means Oswalt went from this (the title track from Lost Tricks’ final release in 2008)…
…to this (“10 Laws” from East Forest’s 2009 debut, The Education of the Individual Soul) in less than a year.
That’s quite a jump, musically, eh?
Anyway, I recently sent an email through the East Forest website that seemed to go to Trevor either directly or indirectly. I just wanted to get confirmation that he was the same guy from Lost Tricks and to let him know that I totally respect who he is and what he is doing now, but that I thought he would like to know that his former musical self connected with me back in 2005.
And he wrote back just hours later! He closed with this:
So that was pretty cool.
Here is a track from East Forest’s latest release, a collaboration with spiritual teacher Ram Dass…
Welcome to Philly, Katie!
My friend and former Rider News colleague (and one time columnist for the rival Jessie Sez newspaper that we will no longer mention), Katie (who you may remember from the start of the story above), starts a new job at the University of Pennsylvania later this month after spending the past several years in Virginia at James Madison University and, more recently, Roanoke College.
Katie is responsible for my seeing Ben Folds for the first time at he long-gone Tradewinds in Sea Bright, N.J., in December 2001. In November 2005, after winning a “meet and greet” contest, Katie invited me to join her to meet Ben Folds before a show at Radio City Music Hall. Now, of course, we already had tickets for that show, but the contest also included much better seats (fifth row from the stage). I don’t remember what happened with the other tickets…not sure if they were sold or we wound up giving them away. But anyway…we get to Radio City Music Hall in the afternoon, expecting to meet Ben Folds and a Sony “street team” rep says there is a change of plans and that the meet and greet with Ben may not happen. Instead we get a quick meet and greet with opening act, The Fray. But this was just before their single “Over My Head (Cable Car)”—released a month earlier—became a huge hit, so we didn’t really know who they were. The street team rep then tells us the Ben Folds meet and greet may still happen after the show.
So the concert ends — kind of abruptly, too, because Ben was informed that if he went one minute past 11 p.m., it would cost him $10,000 — and the street team guy (really, a kid) brings us to Ben Folds’ tour manager/roadie/piano tech Joe De Lorenzo, who we recognized from seeing a ton of Ben Folds shows (and found out later on is a friend of John Pfeiffer, who managed/booked my friend Christian Beach and with whom I’ve performed with as a member of Christian’s band). So, Joe brings us backstage and upstairs to Ben’s dressing room, where a post-show party is going on. And that’s how Katie and I had our picture taken with Ben Folds. A few minutes after this photo was taken, Ben noticed a crowd of fans on the street below and begins throwing cereal and bananas down at them. To this day, I have no idea why there was a box of cereal in Ben Folds’ dressing room.
Another bit of trivia…Katie, her sister and I also auditioned for the first season (of the two that aired) of the VH1 game show, World Series of Pop Culture, in April 2006. In a NYC hotel ballroom filled with dozens of other teams taking a 100-question pop culture quiz, we were one of, I believe, just three teams to pass the test (although the tests were scored for each team, the members took them individually and were not allowed to help each other). Of course, we were in only one of a number of test sessions that day, so there were more than three teams who moved on to the second round of the auditions, which was an improvised on-camera session.
And, yeah, that’s where we came up short. I guess we weren’t camera-friendly enough for the producers. When the show eventually aired, it became apparent that we should have had funny outfits or some kind of gimmick. In the end, there was no way we were going to beat team El Chupacabra. They were unstoppable.
Anyway, welcome to Philly, Katie…the home of all this!Anyway, welcome to Philly, Katie…the home of all this!
It’s the freakin’ Pixies!!!
One of the reasons I love and support WXPN so much is the Free At Noon concert series that takes place nearly every Friday at World Cafe Live. A few weeks ago, I managed to reserve my spot to see the legendary Pixies!!!
They saved most of their classics for their show that night at the Fillmore Philly, but it was still a great set of mostly new songs from their recently-released album, Beneath the Eyrie. That said, the band still delivered the goods, closing with a trio of songs from their early days—”Bone Machine” from their 1988 debut Surfer Rosa followed by “Gouge Away” and “Debaser” from the 1989 classic Doolittle.
Seeing an iconic band for free on a Friday afternoon is well worth the $6 a month that goes to WXPN.
Revisiting an old track
“The Greatest Love” was originally written between 1993 and ’94, and I think it wasn’t until 1995 that I recorded the original demo on my old 4-track cassette recorder. I first brought it into the digital world in 2005, but I came across the GarageBand file in an old external drive and tweaked it a bit to bring it slightly more in line with my current sound. It’s more noticeable in the original version, but this song was greatly influenced by Peter Gabriel’s “Secret World” from his 1992 album, Us.
New Music Discoveries
Here are some recent music releases I would like to share.
Jesse Clegg – “Let It Burn”
Jesse Clegg, son of the late Johnny Clegg who I wrote about last time, has a new single out. Jesse’s style is more traditional pop-rock than his dad’s Zulu-influenced hybrid sound, and “Let It Burn” includes some more dance-pop elements than Jesse’s past work. But it’s still pretty good…and he’s Johnny Clegg’s son so I will champion Jesse’s music as long as he keeps making it.
Raphael Saadiq – “Something Keeps Calling”
“Something Keeps Calling” from Raphael Saadiq‘s new album Jimmy Lee has been getting a lot of airplay on WXPN the past couple of months, but I somehow forgot to include it in the last update email. It’s kind of crazy that Saadiq can make a song—an entire album, actually—about addiction sound so damn groovy. But that’s kind of his thing.
Field Music – “Only In A Man’s World”
Field Music has been one of my favorite bands around since I first heard their song “Disappointed” on WXPN’s Indie Hit Parade one Friday night in 2016. The primary members are brothers Peter and David Brewis. I can only describe their sound as Peter Gabriel, Prince, Talking Heads, King Crimson and Steely Dan all rolled into one, so that ticks a lot of my boxes. Earlier this year, Field Music performed two special concerts inspired by The End of the War document held by the UK’s Imperial War Museum. The document is a visual recording of sound on photographic paper of the minute before and minute after the cessation of hostilities at the end of World War I. The Brewis brothers focused on “the echoes” of the war in the century since its end, exploring stories from the war and the products and technological innovations that came out of it. And now those songs have been compiled into a new Field Music album, Making A New World, due out in January 2020. The first track released from the album, “Only In A Man’s World,” was inspired—of all things—by the advent of Kotex sanitary pads, which Kimberley-Clark developed after noticing nurses at the front lines in World War II were using the company’s Cellucotton surgical dressing product for personal hygiene. So, yeah, Field Music created a catchy pop song about a feminine hygiene product—and it totally works.
elbow – “Dexter & Sinister”
I’m also excited because elbow is back!
I have become a huge elbow fan in the past few years and I really want to see them live at some point. “Dexter & Sinister” is the first track released from elbow’s upcoming, Brexit-inspired album Giants Of All Sizes, due out in November. The title refers to the two sides of a shield bearing a coat of arms. The track features vocals from American singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop.
elbow – “Empires”
“Empires” is the second track released from elbow’s upcoming Giants Of All Sizes, but it is the album’s official lead single. Like I said, the new album reflects the band’s response to Brexit—and to injustices around the world, really. This song, though, is about “the banality of death.”
Michael Kiwanuka – “You Ain’t The Problem”
WXPN has supported Michael Kiwanuka since at least 2012, when they played the heck out of “Tell Me A Tale” from his first full album Home Again. I’ve liked everything I’ve heard from him so far and this latest track, “You Ain’t The Problem,” from his upcoming third album Kiwanuka, is no exception. Everything he does sounds like it’s produced out of the late 1960s/early 1970s…in a great way!
OK, now watch the video above and start singing along…La La La La La La La…La La La La La La!
“Stay High” – Brittany Howard
I nearly forgot to include Brittany Howard‘s “Stay High” from her remarkable debut solo album, Jaime. Interestingly enough, like Raphael Saadiq’s Jimmy Lee, the title derives from a deceased sibling. Howard was 8 when her sister Jaime died at 13 from retinoblastoma. The memory of her sister serves as muse on the album, Howard’s first as a solo artist after spending the past several years fronting the Alabama Shakes and various side projects. Many critics and DJs have proclaimed Jaime as their pick for album of the year, so you might want to check it out.
2019 Scheduled Races
Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019