Just like that, race season is here

So…since Facebook is a trash fire platform run by a trash fire of a human being, I deleted my old account back in June (and Twitter is hanging on by a thread). I do still have a profile there through a secondary account I set up years ago in an aborted attempt to use that one to manage my podcast pages. But it basically exists solely to interact with other pages that handle things like sign-ups and notifications only through Facebook. I don’t plan to return to posting there at all.

Therefore, I have returned to posting here and on my long-dormant Tumblr account for sharing links, musings and other things, like weather updates. So feel free to check that out every now and then to see what I’m up to. 

Upcoming Races

This has been a weird year for me. I don’t usually do too many races during the spring and summer months. But for the past few years, I’ve taken part in Philly’s 10-mile Broad Street Run in May and a 5K held at my alma mater, Rider University, in June.

This year, however, I wasn’t able to run Broad Street because of an all-day, all-hands-on-deck work commitment — even though my job was eliminated through a reorganization about a month later (yeah…more on that later). And the Rider University 5K didn’t happen either.

Even worse, my favorite annual race, the Trenton Half-Marathon — a race I’d done every year since 2014 (after doing the event’s 10K component in 2013) — that was supposed to take place in late October or early November was canceled earlier this year.

Basically, I haven’t taken part in an organized race since last November’s Philadelphia Marathon. Now, I have been training (running, cycling and swimming) for a good chunk of the past nine months, but it just seems odd not having any events to prepare for during that time.

But now, the events I have been training for are suddenly just weeks away. First up, is the Hightstown (N.J.) Triathlon on September 9. I’ve done this sprint triathlon every year since 2014 (it was my first triathlon) because it takes place about 20 minutes away from where we live.

Next is the inaugural Crest Best 10-Miler in Wildwood Crest, N.J., on October 7. This new race is presented by the awesome Wildwood-based DelMo Sports (who oversee a bunch of events in South Jersey, including the Atlantic City Triathlon I did in 2014…and hope to do again next year) and I’m really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, that conflicts with yet another race I usually do, but won’t be able to do this year — WXPN’s Musicians on Call 5K.

Finally, I’m returning to the Philadelphia Marathon for a second year in a row. I finished in 4 hours, 51 minutes, 22 seconds IN 2017. I’m shooting for between 4:30:00 and 4:40:00 this time out.

Cough Wars: The Recycling Strikes Back

Of course, with all these races now within a few turns of the calendar, I seriously messed up by back a couple of weeks ago. Not during training, of course. But by being taken by surprise by a violent coughing attack as I was bending awkwardly to pick up a piece of wayward recycling while taking it out to the curb one morning.

Ugh! I have never been in so much pain in my life (and that includes slamming my shoulder into the back of a Chevy Suburban during a bike ride in 1986). What’s not helping is that I’ve been trying to train through it. In fact, a few hours after it happened, I went out for a triathlon brick training session that included an 11-mile bike ride and a planned 5K-distance run that I had to cut back to a mile because I just couldn’t handle the pain. Shortly after that, I drove out to a local swim school to do a little more than a half-mile in the pool.

The next day I tried to go out for a 5-mile run, but struggled just to get through four.

Even worse is that it has led to an apparently related leg issue that crops up when I’m sitting. It seems when I put pressure on my left lower back/butt, it leads to pain in my thigh.

I’m mostly OK when I’m standing, though. I even managed to get through my first 10-mile run since January a few days ago. The only thing that’s really bothering me on my runs right now is the lingering cough that sneaks up on me.

So, yeah, training has not been ideal for the past two weeks. Hoping things are better by this weekend.

Looking for Work

So, as I alluded to earlier, I’m no longer working at George Street Playhouse. I was let go in early June as part of a reorganization that eliminated my position. They are in the process of streamlining operations ahead of the move into the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center next summer. Honestly, I had been trying to find something closer to home anyway. Despite how it ended, I’ll have mostly great memories of my four seasons there.

Cruisin’ 

The big news is that we’ll be going on a Disney Cruise while school is out in early November. I have never been on a cruise before and not sure what to expect. It will be the first time on a plane (our cruise originates from Port Canaveral) with our boys, as well. That’s kind of making us a bit nervous, especially since Benjamin doesn’t like to be contained for long periods of time. Hopefully, we can work it out so that he’s sleepy for both the departing and return flights. But the vacation is a gift and we are very grateful for it. Our boys will definitely enjoy it.

Music Moments

Although nothing much became of the musical aspirations I had as a teenager, this year does mark the 30th anniversary of what I consider the first real song I ever wrote, “Time Takes Over.” I recently documented the full story behind the song, and added vocals and some other light instrumentation to the original instrumental demo I recorded to cassette back in October 1988, which you can listen to here:

I’ve also dipped my foot back in the songwriter’s pool recently with some creations I consider “sketches” to use in possible future works. The most recent of these was something I did completely in GarageBand on my iPhone and is more or less a complete song, from a structure standpoint. I’ve been listening to The War on Drugs a bit recently and I’ve become rather obsessed with how their songs really don’t do much structurally, but tend to stick to a groove and just build/add or subtract elements to create atmospheric ebb and flow patterns. Here’s an untitled project I recently recorded using this approach. Again, this was more of an experiment in structure, so the patterns and melodies here are essentially placeholders…but I still kind of like it as a starting point.

I haven’t been to many concerts this year. Alison and I saw my favorite current band, Lo Moon, in March. I had seen them in November 2017 on my own and then saw them again at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival in late July, so I’ve already seen them three times. I really love their sound…lead singer/band leader Matt Lowell is very much influenced by the greatly under-appreciated Mark Hollis of Talk Talk. Matt is also a huge fan of The War on Drugs (with a couple of members of that band appearing on Lo Moon’s self-titled debut album) so that’s why I have become a little more interested in TWOD recently.

Also, keep your eyes and ears open for emerging soul/R&B singer-songwriter Devon Gilfillian. He played the Marina Stage on Day 3 of this year’s XPoNential Music Festival, just before Lo Moon were to hit the River Stage. I didn’t plan to watch his set, but I went over to take some photos (which came out terrible). And it wound up taking a lot of effort on my part to tear myself away to get over in time for a good spot for Lo Moon. Devon was far and away my vote for biggest surprise of the entire festival — and he’s also caught the attention of Rolling Stone. Great band, great performer, great set. The Philly-area native who now calls Nashville home has one EP out and is working on his first full-length album in Los Angeles. Here he is performing his latest song, “Troublemaker,” at the XPoNential Music Festival:

In June, I had the awesome and rare opportunity to catch music legend Midge Ure (Ultravox, Rich Kids, Visage, Slik, Thin Lizzy and — nearly — Sex Pistols) perform an intimate acoustic set in the tiny room at Randy Now’s Man Cave in Bordentown, N.J. You might not know the name, but Midge Ure has been Bob Geldof’s right-hand man with all matters associated with Band Aid and Live Aid over the decades. In fact, Midge wrote and produced “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Geldof gave him a snippet of a discarded Boomtown Rats song at the beginning of the writing process, but has said in at least one interview years later that it’s really Midge’s song) — a song with which he’s had a love-hate relationship over the years, but he seems to have come around to embracing it more recently. Here’s the first part of an amazing documentary, narrated by Midge, about the making of that historic record.

I will be seeing Simple Minds at The Basie in Red Bank, N.J., in late September, which is going to be incredibly awesome.

Anyway, here are photos of me with Midge Ure and Lo Moon to close out this update.

A look at New Jersey’s summer music festival scene

2008 XPoNential Music Festival
2008 XPoNential Music Festival

Summer is around the corner and that means it’s almost time to enjoy multi-day music festivals here in the northeastern United States, especially here in New Jersey.

The biggest summer music festival in these parts is All Points West, which returns to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., from Friday, July 31, through Sunday, August 2, 2009. The second-annual APW festival features 65 artists on three stages, including the Beastie Boys, Vampire Weekend, Tool, Neko Case, the Ting Tings, MGMT, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Coldplay. A lot of great acts will be there (although I’m not a fan of Coldplay at all), but APW is very pricey. Three-day tickets for APW cost $199 + applicable fees (for a limited time, so that rate will go higher as the date gets closer) and single-day passes are $89 plus fees (again, for a limited time). However, I did read on the APW web site that tickets can be purchased in installments. Not sure if that was the case last year, but that is a nice option if you really want to go.

For the third consecutive year, I plan on attending WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park on the waterfront in Camden, N.J. This year’s XPN festival takes place Friday, July 24, through Sunday, July 26, and features headlining acts like They Might Be Giants, Aimee Mann, Peter Bjorn & John, Robert Cray, Shemekia Copeland, Guster, and Steve Forbert on the main River Stage. In addition, many local and up-and-coming acts like Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles, Hoots & Hellmouth, John Gorka, and Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby will be showcased on the Marina Stage.

And because WXPN is the home to the weeknight kids program, Kids Corner, there is also a Kids Corner stage away from the main festival area that will include family-friendly acts like Skip Dennenberg and Miss Amy on the Saturday and Sunday of the event.

What’s especially nice about the XPN festival is that, if you buy your tickets before July 11, you get nearly three days of music for just $40. And if you are a member of the station (based at the University of Pennsylvania), the cost is just $30 for the three-day pass…PLUS, you get access to the ever-popular “members only” area where you can get free water, iced tea and lemonade AND meet the artists performing at the festival. After July 11, the three-day ticket prices go up to $40 for XPN members and $60 for the general public. Still a bargain for such a great music festival, but there is no reason not to buy your passes at the early-bird rate.

If you are more into the club-hopping type of festival, Asbury Park, N.J., offers the fourth-annual Wave Gathering Festival from June 19-21. Although the schedule and artists have not yet been announced for this year’s Wave Gathering Festival, last year’s event featured more than 180 artists at 23 venues throughout the city…so that should give you an idea of what to expect. The Wave Gathering Festival has been a big part of Asbury Park’s recent rebirth as both a city and a local music scene, and has featured the likes of Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Arnold, Val Emmich and Nicole Atkins & The Sea.

Three-day passes for the Wave Gathering Festival are also a very affordable $40.00, while single-day passes are $25. You may also purchase admission to individual shows at prices set by the venue (and many of those are typically just $5 or $10).

There are many other music festivals going on in New Jersey during the coming months, but these should be a good starting point before you go looking for others.

“Christian Beach” CD now available on CD Baby

Christian Beachs CD now available on CD Baby
Christian Beach's CD now available on CD Baby

It’s finally here…the self-titled, solo CD from my good friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach!

“Christian Beach” is now available for sale at CDBaby.com, where you can also listen to 30-second samples of each of the album’s 12 tracks.

And here’s a fun fact for you: I designed the CD artwork around a photo by Charlie Pranio, which means I just did layout and selected an appropriate font.

Anyway, if you want to check out Christian Beach live, he has a few shows coming up:

Sat., Feb. 7, 2009
5:00 p.m.
The Strand Theater
Lakewood, NJ
http://www.strandlakewood.com
with band

Sun., March 8, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Rosie’s Cafe Presents at the Atonement Lutheran Church Hall
Asbury Park, NJ
http://www.atonementlutheranchurch.com/ROSIES-CONCERTSr.html
solo

Sat., March 28, 2009
8:45 p.m.
S.S. Cape May Music Conference Showcase
Congress Hall – The Brown Room Lounge
Cape May, NJ
http://www.sscapemay.com
solo

Fri., April 10, 2009
10:00 p.m.
“Christian Beach” CD Release Party @ The Saint
Asbury Park, NJ
http://www.thesaintnj.com
with band

Thurs., April 23, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Triumph Brewing Co.
Princeton, NJ
http://www.triumphbrewing.com
solo

Thurs., May 21, 2009
8:00 p.m.
Triumph Brewing Co.
Princeton, NJ
http://www.triumphbrewing.com
solo

For information about Christian Beach, visit http://www.myspace.com/christianbeach

Christian Beach (with yours truly) to perform at The Strand in Lakewood, NJ, on Feb. 7

My friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach, will be bringing his band to the stage for a four-song set at the historic Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ, on Saturday, February 7, 2009. I will be part of the backing band, playing organ and accordion.

The set will be part of Main Man Records’ CD release party for “A Few Uneven Rhymes: A Tribute to Winter Hours.” The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are just $10!

Just go to http://www.strandlakewood.com to order tickets.

Christian recorded a cover of Winter Hours’ “I Want” for the CD, which is available on the Main Man Records web site and on iTunes. He will be performing that song, as well as three tracks off his soon-to-be-available, self-titled CD.

The headlining act is Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) and the Ryan Brothers, so it is sure to be a great night of music at The Strand.

UPDATE: The show is not being broadcast by WBJB-FM 90.5 The Night. That info was based on an ill-advised assumption (and aren’t all assumptions ill-advised?) on my part based on something I saw on the radio station’s web site. So unless you buy a ticket, you are going to miss this incredible show…and that would be a shame.