5.30.2012

Reggie Watts: from Maktub to the Present

Reggie Watts
Reggie Watts is making another splash in music as well as the Internet and that makes me happy. Front and center on Gizmodo this morning and I even saw a clip on TED just the other day.

When I first heard Reggie he was the front man for the Seattle based nu-soul band Maktub. Heading to work early one morning listening to NPR I was totally caught off-guard by Maktub's sound and Reggie's amazing voice. I was totally blown away. As fate would have it, two days later Maktub's release "Khronos" appears in my mailbox for review and their PR agent card is in my hand. The next morning I've got my suction cup recorder attached to the telephone receiver and I'm interviewing Reggie Watts. Enjoy.

This interview originally appeared on Phreshwater.com May 2003 

Seattle based Maktub [pronounced Mock-Tube] has surged onto the national scene with a resounding thunder clap in late 2002 and their good fortune is continuing to improve in a short length of time. Their brilliant blend of Soul, Funk, and Rock has catapulted their independent release 'Khronos' into the lap of Velour Records and on tour supporting Jazz and Jam maestros Soulive.

On a quick break from their tour and ready to rejoin with Soulive at the 930 club in Washington DC, I was able to speak with Maktub front man Reggie Watts. His powerful baritone voice, spherically perfect afro, and energetic stage presence are leading Maktub into the ranks of the most talked about up and coming live acts on the road today.

Matub - 2003
RW: Reggie Watts
SR: S. Remington

SR: I heard you guys on NPR driving to work and I think that’s how a lot of folks had their first exposure to Maktub. I was wondering how this became a giant leap for your band?

RW: It was one of those things that you don’t know how big it is or how effective it is until it actually happens. But at the time when we had done the interviews….in the local NPR studios in Seattle…they said it was going to air with Fresh Air [an NPR program] but they just didn’t know when and it just kind of sat for a few months and we just kind of forgot about it. We did it off of the first release of our record which was in April [2002] and it didn’t air until November or December. So, we really thought it would never get released and then we got this call and they said it was going to air tomorrow. So it aired and I listened to it and I thought ‘This is really neat’ and then we started checking our record sales on the website and they were going off the scale and they were selling out at Amazon.

SR: I was wondering what you were doing musically before Maktub had formed?

RW: ….I was playing in like 6 billion bands in Seattle [laughs from both]…Rock bands, experimental music…things like that

SR: Where did you grow up and did you have any idea that you would be the front man of a band someday?

RW: I grew up in Great Falls, Montana. I was always into music and I studied piano from age five to sixteen and classical violin for eight years of that time period as well. I was always involved with music and I didn’t necessarily consider myself much of a singer, per se, although I did sing all the time. When I was in high school I formed this band called Autumn Asylum and I played Keyboard/Bass and by default I just started singing for the band…..but I never really considered myself a vocalist. When I came to Seattle I was playing mainly as a Keyboard player and then I started slowly singing in groups and eventually I went on to school to study jazz voice for two and a half years and then I became the vocalist in a 70’s cover group which definitely honed a lot of stage time and being a front person…

SR: On ‘Khronos’ we get to hear a bit of the ‘Regg-A-Phone’. What is it exactly and is it part of your stage show?

RW: Yes it is….. It’s a 1950’s telephone hand set that’s been outfitted with a ¼ inch cable that’s able to fit into an effect unit… and it has this tinny, radio, type of sound. I started to use it like six years ago, a different version of it, that a friend's dad made…he was a telephone repairman for the phone company and they had these telephones with these clips for the wires…in the old days they had the same but the kind that would plug into a switchboard with the phone cable which is the same size as the modern patch cable for musical instruments. He would use it sometimes for his home recordings and he let me borrow it once and I started using it live and it just became an indispensible tool that I used and he eventually had to take it back and he gave me the parts for a new one

SR: I understand that ‘Khronos’ has been released on Velour and that must be very exciting news for you guys.

RW: Oh, yeah…it was great. Usually labels don’t license albums that you’ve already done…they want you to record something new. So, that was a treat. It was totally unexpected…

SR: You guys have been touring with Soulive?

RW: We have been touring with Soulive and have broken off from them and started doing a lot of dates on our own and then we are going to hook back up with them in DC [Washington].

SR: Since both bands have been playing these dates together, have you had an opportunity to jam on stage at all?

RW: Yeah, we do. I usually sing a song with them on their sets… Neal, the Keyboard player, he has a solo record that he’s working on and I’ve recorded vocals on two of his songs and will continue to write lyrics and melodies for more…..

SR: How has touring with Soulive had positive effects on Maktub as a band?

RW: A good positive effect is that it’s introducing us to a different market and their market can involve some of the Jam Band scene which is great….they are music fans, straight up… So it’s been great to be in their presence, perform with them and get their feedback.. .. and plus all their inspiration as musicians…They just rock out on stage

SR: The legal bootleg trading community can definitely use some live Maktub in circulation and I was wondering if you guys allow taping of your shows?

RW: Yeah, we fully support anybody who wants to record our set…There are some tracks out there but more is ALWAYS better….[laughs form both]

SR: How does Thaddeus come off with such fat riffs!?!

RW: I guess it’s just Natural! [laughs from both]

SR: I’ve read a lot of press on Maktub recently, with all the NPR exposure and all, and I keep seeing this main theme that the writers just seem to hammer on over the fact that “Maktub comes from Seattle and doesn’t play ‘Grunge’ music”…..Do you find this a disservice to Seattle’s overall musical talent?

RW: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘disservice’ but it definitely puts a damper on or diverts attention from you when you get dismissed as ‘Oh….It’s just that’. But nothing could be further from the truth……there is so much diverse music going on there…Electronic, Electronic producers, Hip-Hop artist, Hip-Hop labels, Country bands, Folk bands, everything exists there and it’s thriving just fine. People think what they think because that’s all they know until more things start happening. This is one of the things and main points about being in this band is that I’m looking forward to spreading the word on what’s going on in Seattle currently…

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1.01.2012

My Three Words for 2012


This morning I woke up, made the coffee, grabbed the laptop, and hit the slouchy chair and do some thinking about the new year ahead of me. Once I was online and into Google+ for my morning socializing and perusing, I noticed an article that Chris Brogan had shared about setting goals for the year and choosing your three words for the year to serve as light posts along the way.

I immediately saw this as a great exercise and got to work. First, I spent about an hour [off and on. I am a master at multi-slacking] setting my goals for 2012. Then I observed them all and chose my three words according to how they would positively effect my groups of goals. Then I expounded on each word, with a simple paragraph, so I can go back and read every month or when I need to remind myself.

Also, I went an extra step and wrote my three words on a piece of paper and attached it to the front door so I see them everyday when I leave the house. This should keep me on point first thing in the morning.

My Three Words for 2012

Simplify:

This has been a work in progress since last year that will continue into 2012: Evaluating what I really really need to live on, survive with and be comfortable. I have trimmed down from a larger house to a two bedroom apartment and eliminated all junk that I don’t need. I have moved downtown to start a more pedestrian lifestyle, support my local merchants instead of giving it away to large corporations, and to keep my car parked and use less and less fuel. And, the word Simplify will also affect how I deal with my own uber achieving tendencies: taking on too much, working around the clock - even in my sleep sometimes, too many irons in too many fires. Less is more. Its the truth. Without be weighted down I can move about more freely, without stress, and my quality of life itself will go up....

Focus:

This is mainly a work and project related word for me and is harmonious with ‘Simplicity’. If I can become a master of Simplicity I can bring more Focus to the tasks that are on my plate. I am only one day into 2012 and my project list is already full. This list only has 4 entries. Nothing else will be added to this list until all 4 are completed from start to finish. I want to bring focus into my project management and realize that centering my work habits around quality over quantity will keep me less stressed, on point, and the most solid product that our team can offer. Focus is also going to relate to the type of projects my business partner and I will work on. 2011 was the last year that we work ‘for’ people. From 2012 forward all projects are in-house and products/brands that we will create and manage ourselves. This is the best decision I’ve ever been involved with and Focus will take us there....

Balance:

I want to bring balance into all aspects of my life from 2012 and beyond. There’s nothing wrong with having fun and being a little crazy [because I am] but it must be purchased with balance. I want to bring balance into my health by completing P90X and then continuing forward with a modified regimen from there. Everyone needs to balance indoor time with outdoor time and I have slipped a bit in 2011: More mountain biking, more hiking, more camping, more of the things I love the most and things that recharge the mind, body and soul.....

I'd love to hear your three words for 2012 and what they mean to you. Feel free to share them in the comments for all of us to enjoy

Happy New Year everyone!! Let's make it a good one, eh?

Shane


10.23.2011

Halloween Rewind: Catching up with Martin Sexton

Last night a bunch of friends and I got together and went to the Haunted Farm in Hendersonville NC. Definitely one of the best haunted trails, hayrides, or houses I've ever visited. Keeping in the spirit of Halloween, which is only a few days away, I remembered this morning over breakfast interviewing Martin Sexton back in October 2002. Not only did we discuss music, Martin had a nice little ghost story of his own from right in our own back yard here in Western North Carolina: The Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain 


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Martin Sexton
From his hotel room in Kansas, between two phones, I had the great pleasure of speaking with one of the most electrifying performers and songwriters on tour today: Martin Sexton.

S. Remington [SR]: Your lyrics tell such great stories and I was wondering if your writing style was more sporadic or a constant process?

Martin: I’d say my writing is more sporadic…I tend to sit at the kitchen table real late at night, turn on the dicta-phone, and just start playing and stuff comes out. Then, I try to tighten that up later. It’s proven to be good for me. I tend to write more when I feel like it. Some writers write every day from…oh…nine to three and I don’t seem to posses that type of discipline…..I’ve been told it’s like fishing; you can’t catch anything unless your line is in the water. So you can’t catch anything unless your pen is hittin’ the pad or you’re playing your guitar. And I try to do that.

SR: Your vocal style has so much soul and I was curious if you attribute that to your musical influences or mentors and who that might be?

Martin: I attribute it to some of my earlier influences like Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. And I think the soulful style in which I sing comes also largely in part because I tend to mean what I’m singing about; I really mean it. And when I mean something I think it brings on conviction…..I sweat , I shout it. I think that goes hand in hand in soul music when it comes from deep down within somewhere.

SR: I’ve heard you play a lot of swing type tunes like ’13 step Boogie’ and even ‘Beautiful Baby’ and ‘Minnie the Moocher’ and its just so great to hear. I was wondering if jazz is a big part of your musical life too?

Martin: Yeah. Growing up in Syracuse there wasn’t a whole lot of variety on the radio, it tended to be mainly top-40. But the college station used to play only jazz. Not so much old-timey stuff, it was all newer jazz guys like Mel Torme, Harry Connick Jr., Al Jarreau, or Bobby McFerrin. And I used to listen to that quite religiously and I got a lot of bits from that that I use. But any Cab Calloway influence came solely from the Blues Brothers movie. 

SR: How did you first become interested in playing the guitar?

Martin: My older brother had ‘ Frampton Comes Alive’ when I was about nine years old. I went up there as a nine year old and put on the headphones, up in the attic….played it, listened to it, heard that crowd…...and the crowd went wild. He started singing and I thought ‘Wow, this is just Bad-Ass!’ Then I discovered Abbey Road in the basement; I got Frampton in the attic and Abbey Road in the Basement…

SR: What motivated you to create your own record label?

Martin: The independent spirit that lies within me…..the unyielding part of myself…

SR: Are there going to be other acts on Kitchen Table besides yourself?

Martin: Not that I know of. I wouldn’t say ‘No’. I just think that its just a great time in the world, in the music business, to be ‘indie’. I definitely took a tip from others like Ani DiFranco who proved that it can be done….some of the best music has left the major labels and the music is still getting to us.

SR: Would you say that doing the independent thing is freeing you of the pressures of dealing with a major label and the influences that they might impose on you?

Martin: Well, I was lucky in that they never tried to force anything on me, I had a pretty good deal with Atlantic with artistic and creative control….When it comes time for marketing or advertising it has to come out of my own little coffers, which I’m happy to do because it all comes back. It’s like a river, its flowing and it comes back.

SR: I understand that you allow taping of your performances. Why is this important to you as an artist?

Martin: I just figured it was another means of spreading the music. A good friend of mine works with Dave Matthews and he was telling me how much of a benefit it was to him early on in his career. People trading tapes and spreading the music back before the radio push and when he was a bit more ‘indie’ himself. And, not to mention that it was an unstoppable thing to try and go out and police 1000 people who have mini-disc recorders…it’s just impossible.

SR: What song do you get the most requests for when you play live?

Martin: It’s funny but, it’s a lot of songs, a whole bunch of them. There’s not just one that everybody requests. I’m kind of happy that there’s not this one ‘Hit’ that everyone is dying to hear…it’s just a bunch of songs that people really want to hear….Every night it’s different and it really depends on the city. 





Monte Vista Hotel, Black Mountain NC
SR: What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you on the road?

Martin: Boy, that’s…….well…......hmmm…

SR: You were visited by the ghost of Elvis?…

Martin: It WAS ghost-like. In fact, in North Carolina. Oh yeah, This is a good one. Do you know where Black Mountain is?

SR: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

Martin: You know the Monte Vista Hotel?……My favorite hotel; it’s old, family owned and it’s haunted. And I had some experiences there before with my friends when we heard old men talking and there was nobody there….I knew that it was haunted because I felt it myself, I had heard these voices, I talked to the owners and to other people. So, I told my tour manager the next time through about the history of the place and we had rooms right next to one another. The next morning at breakfast, in that wonderful dining hall they have, my tour manager says to me ‘Hey, nice try last night Man.’ And I said ‘What are you talking about?’ and he says ‘Yeah right. Like you don’t know.’ I said, ‘Yeah right, I DON’T know.’ He says to me, ‘Like…that wasn’t you scraping the walls? It sounded like some tool was scraping the walls.’ I said, ‘Dude, that wasn’t me…..’ <> He said he heard someone walking back and forth upstairs with a boot on, like a high-heeled boot, going 1-2-3, turn around and then walk 1-2-3 again the other way like at 4 in the morning. And, there was no one there in that room that night, totally vacant - we checked. Then we looked between both of our rooms and there was this door to a broom closet with tools hanging in it..…it was crazy. I just love that place….there’s just so much vibe, so much energy….

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By: S. Remington article originally appeared on PhreshWater.com 10/02 


10.13.2011

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

Last week I inured my right foot, spraining a ligament and also triggering a gout attack on the joint of my big toe. Crazy but true, painful and nearly debilitating, and I need for this to never happen again. My doctor took a blood sample and it came back that I have an abnormally high level of Uric Acid* in my blood, which is what causes attacks of gout. I also didn't know that for some odd reason it almost always goes after your big toe first. Strange indeed.

When she told me to lay off the Beer and the Coffee to balance things out I almost burst out in an uncontrollable sobbing tantrum right there in her office. You live by the sword and die by the sword, right? To make a long story short, with my swollen foot propped up all week, I've done a lot of reading on A) how to get my uric acid levels lower while B) not giving up the two magical nectar's of the Gods; Coffee and Beer.

Cold Press / Cold Brew Coffee is Lower in Acid

So, here's the deal - if you cold press / cold brew your coffee you can reduce the acidity by 60-70%. The boiling temperature water is what causes the oils within the coffee bean to secrete so strongly and hence the higher acid content. And, cold press coffee will be slightly lower caffeine so you can reduce that intake as well. There are a lot of people who suffer from heartburn because of coffee and it is more than likely due to the heat brewing process rather than the coffee itself.... Cold press coffee might be the answer for them as well.

Cold Press / Cold Brew Coffee Recipe: The DIY Method

You don't need to buy any special equipment or rush online to buy a fancy cold press coffee maker. If you don't have exactly what I am using then improvise with what is on hand.....

DIY Cold Brew / Cold Press Coffee Kit

The first thing to keep in mind is that cold press / cold brew coffee takes 10-12 hours, and from what I have found 12 hours is the magic number. You make it in advance, while you sleep, and when you wake up you are ready to go. Here's the super easy recipe:

  1. 1 Pound of Coffee, coarse to fine ground [I found that 2 Cups of ground coffee is nearly spot on] and place it in a mixing bowl or large bowl
  2. Pour over that 4 Cups of cold water [I used filtered]  stir with a spoon to combine and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Add to this mixture 5 Cups of cold water [total of 9 Cups water altogether] and stir again until the coffee grounds have all been moistened with water
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, foil or I bet a clean cloth would work just fine
  5. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for 12 hours [Have it in the 'fridge at 6PM and its ready at 6AM the next morning]
  6. When the 12 hours has elapsed take out the bowl from the refrigerator and uncover. I strained my cold press brew into a large mason jar with a tight fitting lid using a simple strainer. Some suggested using a paper coffee filter which I'm sure is fine. However, I got the same effect going eco-friendly by filtering once with the strainer, waiting 15 minutes and straining it again slowly leaving all the heavy grounds and residue at the bottom and then putting it back into the mason jar.
This cold press coffee brew will last up to 2 weeks refrigerated. As you will see below you have just made enough concentrated brew to dilute into 2-3 times what you have just produced...

Cold Brew Coffee: Serving it Hot or Iced

Serving it Hot: The equation here is 3 parts Water to 1 part Brew [for lighter] or for my liking 2 parts Water to 1 part Brew [for darker]. The past few mornings I have woken up, poured 1 coffee mug full of brew into a small pot on the stove and added 2 more mugs of water into it and heated it up. Presto, I'm done !! It was perfect for me as a seasoned black coffee drinker. It's all about experimentation; you do what tastes good to You! Add a little more brew next time, reduce the water, add more water to make it lighter. Maybe you take a ton of cream? Add less water because the cream will come shortly after....

Serving it Iced: You shouldn't need a recipe for that. Pour some of the brew over ice cubes in a tall glass. Add some water if you want, or don't, or add some cream and sugar. Experiment until you get what you want! In my case I'll just top it off with almond or coconut milk....

Cold Brew Coffee: Final Thoughts

The first time I tried it I was impressed at how smooth the flavor is and no acidic bite. In fact, I found the flavors to be more complex and rich going through the cold brew process as opposed to hot water. I'm also accomplishing other things here: I did it myself, I didn't purchase any equipment or gadgets, no need to shop for low acid coffee and I'm going a bit more 'Green' by eliminating coffee filters and the use of the coffee maker. Also, I have made coffee several days in advance: When I wake up tomorrow morning and the next day I am ready to go.  I can take a smaller mason jar of the cold press brew to work with me and have some later!!

To be honest, I don't know how lighter roast coffee's will do in this case. I bet just fine. But, I have to tell you that the organic French roast I used in mine was fantastic. And this time around it tasted even better than the hot water method as it lost its bite and gained more complex flavors that were more than likely hidden by the higher acidic content on my tongue....

There are also reports that drinking coffee, as is, reduces your level of Uric Acid in the blood stream. How confusing, right? All I can say is that you should always do what's best for you and always do what makes you happy. This cold brewed coffee is helping with my health and has inadvertently unlocked another level of coffee snobbery inside me. I'd say that it's a Win / Win for me...

Have you tried cold press / cold brew coffee? What are your thoughts? Do you have alternate methods or recipes to share? I'm interested to hear your comments.

Shane

*I want to make note here that Coffee contains No Uric Acid and I am not a Doctor. There is also a ton of conflicting information out there which tells me there is most definitely a link with coffee, acidity, and the increase or decrease in Uric Acid in your blood stream. I think a key factor here is that any beverage high in acid and caffeine will most definitely affect your level of hydration which should slow down the release of uric acid from the blood stream. All in all, I am just playing it safe :)

9.04.2011

Ticket Vault #2: Tom Morello & Billy Bragg

Tell Us The Truth Tour, Asheville NC 11.15.2003

This ticket was a birthday present that my wife Traci had bought for me in September. She and I were super excited about this tour, backed by the AFL-CIO, that was aimed at raising awareness around the USA about corporate globalization and media consolidation and the adverse effects it has on us all.   On this tour were an amazing fist full of music activists: Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Tom Morello [Nightwatchman], Lester Chambers, Mike Mills and more. And what a great place to bring this tour, to Asheville NC, where you can fill the Orange Peel with a line around the block, sold out, and the inside packed to the walls with our amazing community of forward thinking and unafraid to mobilize citizens. A perfect place and venue for this type of show for many reasons.

Over the years I have seen Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. There's no doubt that Tom Morello is one of the most amazing lead guitar players in Rock n' Roll. His creativity, energy, stage presence and work ethic are second to none. Another side of Tom Morello that not many know about is his commitment to social justice around the world which he channels through his non-profit organization Axis of Justice.

the Nightwatchman: Tom Morello
Tonight would be my first time seeing Tom as The Nightwatchman: A man with a mission, his guitar, harmonica, microphone and a voice that is unafraid to step on your toes and point out the elephant in the room. Tom had the crowd in Asheville captivated and fired up through his entire set which motivated many 'Hell Yeah's and fist pumps. I was completely blown away seeing this side of Tom Morello. If you don't think that there is power in music go see Nightwatchman and you will change your mind forever. I remember Tom leaving the stage and the entire crowd going into a frenzy to bring him back out with a raucous display of rebel yells and march style foot stomping powered by Doc Martens and Birkenstock's alike that shook the entire building of the Orange Peel like an earthquake. Based on that performance alone I will join any army that Tom Morello is the General.

Steve Earle put on an amazing show as well. He went off on the state of America, people losing their jobs, and was super pissed about small towns in the USA drying up over corporate greed. One of his last songs, he picked up his mandolin and tore into a red star version of Copperhead Road which shot every hillbilly, dirtneck, rasta, gutter punk and soccer mom into the rafters. At this point in the concert I'm super riled up, I've had a few beers and would have thrown a basket full of Molotov cocktails off of a building at Steve's command.

Billy Bragg: Part One or "I get screwed over by Walnut Creek"


I have to break away from this show and rewind the clock a few years back to when I was still in college. I don't have a ticket for this show. But I should have. And, if it weren't for the smug bitch working the ticket counter at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, there would be a ticket stub flying right here in this post. It would read: Localpalooza Festival featuring Billy Bragg, Firehose and a whole slew of awesome local bands from NC.

This should have been my first time seeing Billy Bragg live. The man is one of my heroes both musically and off the stage and I'd waited for years for him to come anywhere close so I could see him perform. Late one night on UNC-Greensboro's student radio I happened to be the lucky caller and won four tickets to this show in Raleigh. In fact, when I won them I had no idea Billy was even on the bill. But, when I read about it in the paper that week I was completely electrified! The DJ took my name and drivers license number and told me to pick up the tickets, the day of the show, at the will-call counter.

The day of the show we pack into my friends VW bus and head out to Raleigh NC. We arrive at the Walnut Creek Amphitheater, park the bus, and head for the will-call gate. I tell the fellas to hang tight while I go and retrieve the tickets. I stand in line a few minutes and make my way to the window. I tell the woman my name, hand over my drivers license and she hands me one ticket. I explain to her that I had won four tickets to the festival and she tells me that she can't give me four tickets unless all of us have an ID. This is the weirdest shit I have ever heard but I walked over to the fellas and told them to get back in line with me, with their ID's and let's get into the show! So, at this point me and one other of my friends has their ID with them and the other two don't [which I still can't comprehend. I take my wallet everywhere I go].

I go back to will-call with my one smart friend and she refuses to give us the other two tickets. I turn on my nice-guy-right-this-moment-but-I-can-get-super-fucking-nasty-real-quick face and explain to this woman, again, I won four tickets, in MY NAME and I want them, that it should make no difference WHO has the tickets, my two friends forgot their ID's, we drove two hours to get here, and she needs to cough them up. She doesn't budge. I demand for her supervisor to come to the ticket office and minutes later he shows up and he's a more uptight dick head than the ticket bitch was. I grab my two tickets and storm away from the will-call and start yelling "Walnut Creek Sucks !!" over and over. The ticketing supervisor comes out of the office shouting back "No we don't !! We don't Suck, mister!!" and I turn around and yell right back at him about their shitty ticket policy that makes no sense.

I see security guards heading toward us and I keep getting louder. People in the ticket line are starting to give the guy a bunch of crap and telling him to give us the other two tickets, what a dope he is, and whats the big fucking deal? In my last act of defiance I take both tickets and walk toward the paying ticket line and hand them to two hippy chicks and tell them that the festival is on me. The ticket supervisor starts telling me that I can't do that and I tell him I can give MY tickets to whoever the fuck I please. The hippy chicks get into the show and the next thing you know I am getting escorted out of Walnut Creek by security. I apologize to the fellas about all the hassle, we get back into the VW bus and head back to town and the entire way all I can think about is missing my first, and maybe only chance to see Billy Bragg in concert.

Billy Bragg and Me
Billy Bragg: Part Two

Let's fast forward the clock, 10-12 years later, back to my original story, back to the Orange Peel in Asheville NC, to the Tell Us The Truth Tour in November 2003.

Billy Bragg takes the stage and I'm just overjoyed and I may have sustained a scream for several minutes on one breath. I've waited my whole life to see the rowdy Britt' sing about hot brunettes, downing pints of beer, getting tattooed, questioning and thumbing your nose at any and all authority. A friend turned me on to "Talking with the Taxman about Poetry" back in 1986 and I've been a huge fan ever since.

Billy cranked out all the heavy hitting tunes that I'd always dreamed of hearing live one day 'There is Power in a Union', 'God Save the Youth of America' and several Mermaid Avenue tunes that he recorded with Wilco and were written by Woody Guthrie. It was a long time coming for me and I was beside myself the entire set.

After the show is over Traci and I are over at the Axis of Justice table looking at all the left wing pamphlets and fliers when a friend of ours comes over to the table. Apparently she volunteered for the tour's street team, hanging up posters and other marketing, and had back stage passes. She said she had no intention of going back there but we could take her two passes and go!! Awesome !!

Next thing you know Traci and I are in a backstage room eating pizza with Tom Morello. He's such a great guy. Traci is asking him about his musical transition from Rage Against the Machine into the Nightwatchman. Tom tells us these stories about being a metal-head teenager with long hair and wearing spandex pants and we are all laughing our asses off. Next thing you know Billy Bragg walks into the room and gets a slice of pizza and introduces himself. Of course, I'm a little buzzed and can't stop laughing because I've gone from missing my only opportunity to see Billy Bragg a dozen years prior to shaking the man's hand. Tom Morello busts my chops and claims that I love Billy more than I love my wife. Hahaha!! Great times indeed backstage.  Billy and I talked about the show, music, growing up as a young punk in America and he growing up a young punk in England. Truly one of the best experiences at any concert I've gone to. Still to this day I feel blessed to be able to mingle with these guys, Lester Chambers, Mike Mills and the others. I did see Steve Earle back stage but he was walking out the door to get into his tour bus and that was all.....

So there you have it. A special Labor Day edition of the Ticket Vault is in the books. And remember folks this Labor Day, it's now turned into just another three day weekend and maybe a chance to party one extra day for many. But, Labor Day is to celebrate the hard workers in this country and to remember the struggles that Unions went through to bring fair workers rights in the USA.