Photo by Shervin Lainez, Design by Marcus Beschloss
It has been a crazy week at CMJ in NYC. I played at a Buzzfeed showcase with Alex Winston and Haerts, and again at the Cutting Room with Isabel Rose with a 10 piece band. And as fun as all those shows were, I’m excited to play with my boys again at Rockwood Music Hall. We manage to pack a 6-piece band on that tiny stage, and it’s always a blast.
I would love to see you in person and have a pre/post show cocktail, but if you can’t make it, there’s this new app called Spacebar that let’s you stream the live feed from your iPhone or iPad, and you can click an applause button, throw me a few bucks if want, share the show with friends for a couple days afterwards, and help spread the good word.
This is what it will look like on your iPhone.
And here is the link, which will be available around 10PM on 10/28:
The following weekend I’ll be partying in the Big Apple with my mom and grandma (partying=visiting museums). I’ll be playing that Saturday night with Alex Winston at Brooklyn Bowl on 11/2, and my mom runs the NYC Marathon the following morning. And you know what that means: Shots. Shots. Shots. Shots, shots, shots.
We actually went straight to Chik-fila instead of In-N-Out. Don't judge me.
Hello kiddies. Just got back from Los Angeles. I was playing with this jazzy pop lady named Isabel Rose, whose new record was produced by Bob Rock (Michael Bublé, Metallica, & Cher to name a few). A friend from Berklee hooked me up with her, and I recruited the rest of my band to play in her outfit. Speaking of Berklee, it has indeed been a long time since I had to read jazz charts and melody lines for a gig. Probably not since…Berklee. The band in LA was top notch; the bassist Dan Lutz had just been tracking at Stevie Wonder’s studio, and the sax player Bob Reynolds has played with John Mayer since 2006. Needless to say, it was fun to geek out and swap stories with these world class musicians, who also happened to be amazingly humble and friendly.
Just before heading to LA, I played guitar for Alex Winston at a sold out show at Glasslands in Brooklyn. If you haven’t heard her new songs 101 Vultures, go ahead and fall in love with it. Later this month, I’m heading south to do three shows with Sandra Bernhard in North Carolina, followed by a couple CMJ shows with Alex and Isabel, and finally closing out October with a Zac Taylor Show at Rockwood on October 28th.
Alex Winston at Glasslands, 9/21/13, photo by Ben Mayer.
The whole music business thing has been going quite well the last few months. Aside from all my regular gigs, I recently starred in a short film and got to compose some songs for the soundtrack. It’s about a musician who has a pregnant wife, a nosy girlfriend, and a crumbling publishing deal with an A&R company and he’s on verge of blowing it on all three fronts. I’m no Ryan Gosling in this production–but it will make mom proud nonetheless.
I’m still carrying bags for the affluent at a fancy hotel, which affords me new guitar toys, rent, and student loan payments, but my overarching plan of paying all my bills doing just music-related endeavors is almost a reality. And this excites me.
This past Friday was my grandmother Nonnie’s birthday. It’s always been easy to remember, because it’s the day after Independence Day, which is also my favorite movie. Below is a video of the crowd and I singing ‘Happy Birthday’ for her at our show that night. Nonnie, if you’ve gotten this far on one of those wacky computer machines, I commend you! Happy Birthday!
Last month, we lost grandpa B, who was a stellar human being, cracking jokes until the very last day (With regards to his nurse in his last 24 hours, he remarked, “I’ve never seen such a mess of bra straps!”). Born in Flushing, NY in 1927, he grew up playing drums in Manhattan, brushing shoulders with Frank Sinatra and Gene Krupa in the tiniest of clubs, before becoming a Marine, meeting my grandmother, having my mother, and eventually meeting yours truly in 1984. He had polio in 1951, and was easily in the top 1 percentile of polio survivors…ever.
Me and B, High School Graduation.
During my eulogy at the funeral in Savannah a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had inherited many traits from him: my middle name, Pierce; my height and sideburns; and my sense of humor. His classic version of saying ‘grace’ before a meal was: “Thanks for the meat, thanks for the gin, open your kisser and shove it in.” I asked the Methodist priest if that was from the Old Testament or New, and he simply scowled at me shook his head in disapproval. Everyone else loved it. My grandfather would have been in stitches. We closed the show with “Amazing Grace” on acoustic guitar a la Tommy Emmanuel, and then three Marines in full uniform arrived at the end to perform a full flag ceremony, complete with “Taps” on the bugle. I had the funeral director play Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” as people filed out of the room. The old man would have been proud.
My drummer Bruno plays in this hysterical comedy show called ‘Never Sleep Alone‘ starring Dr. Alex Schiller, sex therapist extraordinaire. The show happens every Friday for several weeks at a time, and almost always sells out. Dr. Alex gives all kinds of valuable and ridiculous dating/mating advice, instructs the audience to masquerade around the room to find people of sexual relevance, and throughout the show, calls on a handful of people to come onstage to help illustrate some finer points about the birds and bees.
I was one of these lucky audience members for a recent show, for a segment entitled ‘GDGH: Go Down or Go Home.’ Below is a video my friend Yasmin took with her iPhone of the valuable lesson that transpired onstage (mom: please do NOT watch this):
Yes, that’s a watermelon in this young lady’s lap. Yes, there is a banana in mine. No, we had never met each other before. I have since become friends with Roslyn Hart, the brains behind Dr. Alex Schiller and other zany characters, and she is most definitely a spectacular performer, comedienne, and overall entertainer. I played guitar in her backing band earlier this year, and the show also got a stellar review in the NY Times. Definitely check it out if you have a chance. Bring a date, or a wingman, or just come stag. Trust me, you’ll make friends fast, either at the show or the after party.
My mom’s refrigerator door got some recent additions: I made the NY Times twice this past year! Two of my main gigs, Alex Winston and Sandra Bernhard, both had some noteworthy shows and I managed to sneak in the background of the shots that made it to print. The first one was an Alex Winston show at Santos Party House during a College Music Journal showcase this past October. The discovery of this picture in the newspaper was an epic milestone in this boy’s life. I was bellhopping at the hotel, and it was a busy, frustrating Sunday. Guests were cranky and stingy. So naturally, I gave myself a well-deserved break in a vacated room to indulge in the NYT crossword puzzle. Thumbing through the Arts section, I noticed some interesting content: Hey, an article about CMJ. I played in that. Hey, a picture of Alex Winston! Hey, is that me in the background!? I didn’t make many tips that day, but it was one of the best shifts ever.
Joe's Pub 12/31/12
On New Year’s Eve, the Sandra Bernhard Experience finished off the last of fivedouble-headers at Joe’s Pub, and a favorable review appeared in the Times that same day, written by Stephen Holden:
“Gone are the days when Ms. Bernhard, prowling the stage with a flashlight, had patrons ducking in their seats to avoid being objects of her withering scrutiny. Instead of fear she elicited waves of affectionate laughter. It’s hard to be a bratty teenager when you have one of your own.”
I had work that day too, and might have mentioned to guests who had a copy of the NY Times on their person to check out the back of the front page, which featured a photo of yours truly and Ms. Bernhard kicking out the jams. It was a great way to cap off 2012. Fingers crossed for the Playgirl centerfold sometime in ’13…
Rihanna is a frequent guest at the fancy hotel where yours truly often works as a bellman. Paparazzi run rampant. So to keep her safe, it’s important that we do a good job, and that ‘job’ of course is to photobomb the shit out of her when the camera lights flash and look on the internet later to see if we made the cut. And lo and behold, yours truly won the most recent blue ribbon for pulling the dumbest face imaginable! Upon instagramming (@zactaylor_tv) this photo, I definitely cropped it to make it look like we were…together.
There was one night when we shared our one perfect moment together. I was helping her whole entourage check in around 2AM, lugging dozens upon dozens of suitcases and human-body-sized duffel bags onto the bell cart, into the elevator, and up to everyone’s rooms: backup dancers, band members, bodyguards, personal assistants, homegirls, and whoever else was mooching off of her fame. So I get to the presidential suite, where the queen typically stays. I have her seven giant bags. I knock a few times. “Guest services,” I announce. No response. I repeat this procedure a couple times, and then let myself in with my master key, assuming she has left, or is in another room. So I push the door open, start wheeling in her ginormous bags, and guess who comes out of the bathroom…in her oversized-t-shirt-nightgown….
The look on the starlet’s face was priceless. I was certainly…unexpected. “OK, you need to KNOCK, or what until I come let you IN. I’ll be nice this time,” she said to me authoritatively. ***“Well, Ri-Ri,” I suavely began. “Now that we know each other, and you’ve seen my muscular limbs chivalrously carry your luggage to this very bedroom, what do you say we take a look at what’s inside the intimacy kit in the minibar?” It was at this point she went into the choreography: “I might be baaad, but I’m perfectly gooood at it.” And then. We made sweet, sweet love.
Rewind to ***, what I really said to her was more like “Um, OK, Sorry, I thought I had knocked, sorry, here are your bags, K, Bye!” and then scurried away like a little bitch.
My friend Christina runs an after school/summer program for a handful of Brooklyn kids in her apartment. They sing songs, write and act out plays, build castles out of cardboard, and basically keep things pretty real. A couple times, I got to be the surprise “rock star” guest (they didn’t know any better), and listen to some of their songs and shenanigans. ‘Why don’t you try writing a song with them?’ Christina suggested. Why not? It can’t be much harder than writing with some of the burnouts and prima donnas I’ve played with in my day.
I asked the group if they wanted to write about summertime or going back to school, and those ideas were quickly shot down by the team, in favor of spinning around, making fart sounds, and singing, ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of poop.’ (In the original version of ‘Blackbird’ on The White Album, you may recall the actually lyric is night instead of poop). So clearly, these clients were difficult to work with, but only initially. I did a little more digging through their eager little minds and hearts, and once we found a common bond between us all, the song basically wrote itself. And this bond, this theme, this glorious source of awesomeness, you guessed it: NINJAS.
There’s no better excuse for cleaning your apartment than having 70 strangers over to listen to some live tunes in your living room. Living in an industrial converted loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, it’s safe to say that my building lacks certain, shall we say, amenities. But what we do have is space, and lots of it. So I spent most of this past Monday sweeping, scrubbing, bleaching, and febreezing in anticipation of hosting Sofar (Songs from a Room), an organization that “holds pop-up gigs worldwide for new musicians and dedicated music fans.” So instead of paying $6 for each warm beer in a dodgy club with a stoned soundman and a lackluster sound system, you get to sit Indian style on someone’s living room floor, bring your own sixer of craft brew or bottle/box of wine, and listen to someone’s voice, instrument, and song straight from their voice, wood, and heart. No reverb, no lousy mix, no one talking over the artist, no frills.
A twangy soulstress named Julia Haltigan kicked things off, followed by a Lou Reed inspired duo called the Majorleans, and then a quick intermission for bathroom breaks, ciggies, and refills. Yours truly played next, with my homeboy Bryan Percivall on the upright bass, followed by two ladies with lovely voices: Kendra Morris and Holly Miranda. A White Stripesy duo from LA called Violet Lights closed the night, and overall it was easily one of the more memorable nights of music of the year for me. No cover charge (donations were welcome), no smarmy hipster to check your ID at the door and stamp your hand, and no hurdles in the way of the honesty of song. The Sofar liaisons Damon and Jodie helped me pick up some empty beer bottles at the end of the night, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. And even after the dust from the party had settled, my apartment remained cleaner than usual. By a long shot.
I played at a benefit concert with Alex Winston at Martha’s Vineyard, and the band got to stay in Judy Bloom’s house. There was an original drawing by Shel Siverstein in the room I slept in. One of my favorite bands St. Lucia was on the bill as well. There was free pizza and beer. The event, sponsored by Neon Gold, raised upwards of $30,000 for the YMCA. And as if all of these aspects of the trip weren’t cool enough, I got to meet a personal hero of mine: Kenny. F#$@in. POWERS.
After our set to a packed house, I was moseying around the venue, saying hi to some friends, when one of my buddies pointed towards the upper level of the venue and said, ‘I think that chubby guy with the curly hair is a comedian or something.’ So I took a gander, and lo and behold, it was Danny McBride, aka Kenny Powers from HBO’s Eastbound and Down. My post-show-cool-guy demeanor instantly crumbled into giddy-schoolgirl-superfan mode, as this show is quite possibly my favorite comedy of all time (I have seen each episode dozens of times. Don’t judge me.) At this moment, it’s apparent to me that I have to meet him, or I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
So I creep up to the makeshift VIP section, sidle up next to the man, and notice he’s talking to my buddy Alex, who was cool enough to introduce me to him. I got a quick handshake and nice-to-meet-you, followed by an announcement to his cronies: ‘Hey guys—it’s f&*$in’ hot up here. Let’s go outside.’ Would it be in poor taste to tag along? Maybe. But who am I to spit in the face of fate? Of course I followed.
Danny and his buddies have a seat at a picnic table on the outside patio, and I take the opportunity to introduce myself as the guitarist from the band that just played, in an effort to lessen any sort of swimfan creepiness they might be getting from me. And those guys were cool were positively cool as shit. We found common ground in our affinity for pizza and beer, being from the south, and having just attended the New Orleans Jazz Fest. After we chatted for five or six minutes, I said, ‘Hey man—awesome to meet you, I’m a huge fan.’ His response: ‘Thanks man. Congrats on a great show.’ I was floating about six feet above the ground for the rest of the night.
Welcome to New York, where young folks with big dreams come to work service industry jobs to support their respective addictions. I was working the door the other day at the Gansevoort, where my duties include opening said door for guests, carrying their luggage, hailing cabs, valeting fancy cars that I would have had to work for hundreds of years before considering being able to afford, and discretely texting and looking for a Triple Word Score when my boss isn’t around. So there I was, scuffling in the middle of 29th street loading up an orange-skinned, botoxed lady’s Louis Vuitton bags into the front seat of a town car, when a sleek Jaguar whizzed by me, honked, and slowed down enough just enough for the driver to glare at me and unload the words: ‘Get a college degree.’
Now. In the split second I had for a comeback, I didn’t have the time to explain to the Jagmaster that I indeed am quite educated, with degrees in Journalism, Spanish, and Music, and that I’m merely carrying bags and opening doors as a side job to support my inevitable rise to the top of rock stardom. So I took it on the chin.
I thought it might have put a damper on my day: getting talked down to by some suit in his company car—like I’m some punk kid whose parents didn’t ride him hard enough during SAT season, or that I should be dressed like him, in one of the buildings down Park Avenue, putting away part of my weekly paycheck so that I too could one day afford a Jaguar. Like I was wrong for doing what I was doing.
But in the moment that followed, as I laid the leather bags into the town car and the Jag pulled away, I chuckled to myself with contentment, because the opposite happened. The Jagmaster reminded me of what I was doing here, and the work I was putting in to do it. There’s nothing wrong with working at a hotel or driving rich people around. There’s nothing wrong with working in one of those buildings in Park Avenue. And I would even go so far as to say there’s nothing wrong with being an asshole who drives a Jaguar and yells at young whippersnappers like me. If you know who you are, and what you want to do with your life, any sort of insult from a naysayer will fall flat every time. You almost want to welcome the bullshit that inevitably accompanies the journey to where you want to go. Just so long as you get a few good tips along the way.
Know My NameNYC ASAPGo If You MustThe GetawaySpend the Night with HannahHalf AwakeCold Light of DaySleeping in the CarKnow My NameNYC ASAPGo If You MustThe GetawaySpend the Night with HannahHalf AwakeCold Light of DaySleeping in the Car