Saturday, April 28, 2012

Since it's been so long since I blogged here, quick update: BFOO has a new (our 2nd) album out as of March 6th, 2012.  The new album "Stratospherical" is available in several spots such as Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, and Newbury Comics stores in Boston, so folks can pick their favorite vendor. 

 Reviews and footage:

We have also received airplay on KDHX, WZBC, WMFO, WMBR, WFMU, WFNX, WAAF, WZLX and probably more, for which we are thankful and excited!!!

And I am working on booking us a West Coast tour (from Seattle to San Diego) for late June, so if anyone would like to suggest bands or venues that would be appropriate for our sound, I am all ears!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review of my solo show in NYC on 8.16.10

I played solo at Paul Wallfisch's Small Beast on Monday. Check out this sweet review from Alan Young of Lucid Culture blog in NYC...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Black Fortress of Opium Music Video & Brian Viglione on drums

Hey all,

Here's the official link to our music video for the song "Afyonkarahisar Battle Cry", which will be on the upcoming album:

The video was filmed in the summer of 2009, on Lovell's Island in Boston Harbor and in South Boston at Tom English's Cottage.

Ajda The Turkish Queen
Tony Savarino
Rich Cortese
Joe Turner

Song recorded & produced by Joel Simches
Directed by Noah Blumenson-Cook

Special thanks:
Valerie Schiavone
Amanda Palmer
Buddy Snyder
Maura Quinn
Robert Emmons
© 2009

We had a huge video release party in November at The Magic Room in Boston, and it was glorious!

Brian Viglione (Ex-The Dresden Dolls, currently of The Cliks) will be playing drums on our new album, which we will begin recording in January 2010. We are psyched!

All 4 now.
~The Turkish Queen

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mid-Atlantic Tour with Martin Bisi

atop Glassworks in Louisville, KY, Self-portrait by Ajda Snyder

Day one, Saturday July 18th, 2009:
I hit my Lucky Star coach to NYC. The driver makes record time, after making sure to rush us at the halfway stop, while like 12 of us female passengers wait for the bathroom, he instructs us to use the men's when it becomes free. I hit Manhattan and wait for Martin and Baz to pick me up in the Barbez short bus (no A/C, but plenty breezy on the highway). I decide to walk over to Little Italy, where after snubbing some touristy joint that left me waiting to order an iced cappuccino for $6.50, I walk over to Cha Cha's, also on Mulberry. I see from their sign they have a patio garden, and it's a nice summer day, so I head out back there. No one else in sight, but I don't care. It's a lovely patio, with Roman statues and sculptures - even a Bocca della Verita on the wall. A sign with Marlon Brando as the Godfather posed by a giant pizza, proclaiming "I made a pizza you can't refuse". The waitress brought me a tasty iced cappuccino. The patio really transported me, sitting there early in day alone, with sunlight streaming around but luckily not directly on me. There were also a few posters for Danny DeVito's limoncello...the picture was of the Italian coast, and made me long for Sicily, where I was blessed to vacation last summer.

I leave my bucolic patio, and wait for the guys at Mulberry & Canal, eating a little sandwich I made of salami, basil, mayo, red leaf lettuce, on whole wheat with a pickle quarter. The traffic on Canal is so bad, I just walk to where they are sitting - totally at a standstill. It takes us like an hour to get from there to NJ. We pull off to fill up the diesel tank, and Baz and I search for a restroom. In an area that has about 6 gas stations, none of them have a "working" bathroom. We hunt and hunt until finally Home Depot flashes as a beacon of hope. Thank you Home Depot! We hit heavy traffic on the NJ Turnpike.

En route to Baltimore, we discuss The Boxsprings, Billy Bob Thornton's band that toured with Willie Nelson. Martin questions why big trucks have horns that toot at lower frequencies than economy size cars that have weak horns.

We play a gallery called Hexagon. Supposedly there was an art show featuring some art by kids, but mainly it seems there is a street festival going on around here. Overall it was a great warm-up show. We played so early that we really did a lot of improv. Afterward we walked around and around trying to find a dinner spot. We were starving!! We walked through thousands of people enjoying the Artscape Festival. It was awesome seeing all the freaky stuff - art cars, including one with instruments all over it (even a mandolin, basses, electric and acoustics, drums, sticks, horns) with the license plate MUSICAR. All kinds of little exhibits, a mini-rave in a dark tent with pulsing throbbing techno blaring from it, a People Zoo with drunken fools dancing about, rabbit sculptures, and vignettes galore. Met some dude named Eric Rose who said he used to play in a band called The Paley Brothers in Boston. He caught me practicing inversions on Martin's baritone guitar while Baz was loading out, recognizing the C triad in root position on the second set of strings. We finally find a super hip place that's about 4 levels of exposed brick with a DJ booth and lots of hot alternative type waitresses. The place is a slick fusion-y spot. The DJ plays an extended remix of Will Smith's "Summertime", which I love, except this version has no vocal for me to sing along with. Otherwise it would've been the perfect song as we enjoyed our post-show victory meal here in Baltimore. Martin says chicks love lyrics, and that they should be up front in any mix "for the ladies". I totally concur! We head to a motel, after Martin driving for another couple of hours.

Day two: Today we have off, so after we leave our Super 8 room in Ashland, VA we take off for some sightseeing with our sights set on Jamestown. First we stop off for a bite to eat and some espresso in the adorable town of Ashland Hanover - a quaint, charming, sleepy place on this sunny summer Sunday afternoon. While we gnosh, we notice that Ashland Coffee and Tea has shows, and the live room looks nice - it might be a good spot for Black Fortress, I note. People have lovely accents in this place. We ramble on over to Colonial Williamsburg and check out some shops, a pillory (great pix), and people dressed in period outfits. We find a little beach along the James River and go for a lovely walk along the shore. The water was literally warm enough for a bath, and on the beach we spotted some awesome Confederate flag towels. Late in the day, we stop off at the site of the original Jamestown Settlement, where Martin was enthusiastic to check out historical replicas of ships, the reproduction fort of Jamestown in 1607, and the Powhatan village. He viewed a canoe making demonstration that rocked hard. Formerly, razor sharp giant oyster shells were used to scrape out the wood, but now, due to over-harvesting and all, only significantly smaller shells can be found for such purposes. In the bus, we enjoy lunch consisting of amazing foodie-grade sandwiches and a small bottle of cabernet sauvignon we pour into plastic cups we took from the Super 8. After all the excitement, we head off to Raleigh-Durham to stay with Tom and Sissi of Alice Donut, whom Martin recorded & mixed. They have a lovely house and beautiful children, and take great care of us. We hang out on their back patio all night enjoying some libations (including Austrian apricot schnapps) and amazing food they prepared, consisting of green bean salad, gazpacho, a potato egg tortilla, and chicken tamales. They have toured extensively in the US, Europe, and beyond, and we all gab on and on about music, etc. A lovely evening all around.

Day three: We sleep in a bit, since we have time before picking up John Keith, our drummer for the next 3 shows, who's flying in from NYC. Some members of the party who stayed up partying and catching up much later after I went to bed are a bit hung over today. Goes with the territory, I suppose. I'm unable to access our hosts' wi-fi network, so we all try to use their home computer, which leads to much competition in the morning and some tension. Then in the van on the way to the airport, we discuss how life is harder on women, and everyone, in our mixed company, agrees on that fact. The sky is a bit grey, and I have cramps, speaking of feminine issues. It just lined up that way. Ugh. Part of the last tour, too.

We pick up John and reacquaint ourselves. He informs me that he played a lot with Boston figure Milo Jones. We head off to nearby Chapel Hill, which seems pretty cute and collegiate. We find the club - Local 506 - and drive around to a nearby coffee shop called the Open Eye. I opt for a green tea. We check email and chat. I field various Black Fortress of Opium crises, real and imagined, from faraway, half freaking out, half not coping. We shot a rock video in Boston the weekend before...

Rain pours as we sit in the coffee spot, discussing work and its challenges for creative types. Then we take off for food. John (originally from Jamaica Plain, MA) got a suggestion for some great Southern food at a local joint called Mama Dip's. We give it a shot and were rewarded, indulging in chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, biscuits, cornbread, gravy, and cole slaw. Top that off with some warm pecan pie, and Ajda is happy for a while. We head back to the club, and proceed to wait for someone to show up to let us in, even though we were told if we didn't show up by long before then we could forfeit our precious sound check. But *we* were waiting for *them*! Someone shows up; we load in; we sound check. People are smoking in here. It ain't the North! It's a slow Monday night, but a few peeps come out as the rain stops and the sky clears. On the bill are Knot Feeder (including members of Don Caballero and Tabula Rasa) and The Curtains of Night (a female duo of heavy gtr and drums). Local 506 is a Cool venue with high ceilings and a big stage, plus a bartender/DJ has truly excellent taste in music, plays awesome stuff between bands. I see from a poster that Reeves Gabrels just played here last week, in fact. It'll be awesome to have drums for the next few shows! We do the show and it sounds pretty good on stage (course I could use more of my voice in the monitors, to which Martin later agreed), and people seemed into it. Rob from Knot Feeder was wearing a shirt from one of my fave Boston acts - 27. Martin got some great press in The Independent, which is paper covering the triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. After the show, we drive through the Blue Ridge on towards Louisville, KY. We stop at a Motel 6 at about 4:30AM to sleep for a few hours, and shower.

Day four: We get up at 9AM and begin the shower procession. I go first today, 'cause I take a little longer. Didn't sleep that well last night, though I was able to catch some Z's in the loft bed of the bus while Martin drove. We depart the motel for another 6-hour+ drive. We stop off at Bob Evans for breakfast (best damn biscuits ever) while Martin sneaks some more Z's in the vehicle. Our route takes us up and down mountain passes, and Martin starts getting concerned about the vehicle's oil situation, so we pull off to a BP, but they don't have the right oil for the short bus. Anyway, some of us other band peeps stock up on Rolaids (yesterday's gravy!) and new, limited edition coconut M&M's, which are damn tasty. In line, we overhear some locals discussing abortion and rehab. The snippet of conversation I heard went a little something like this: "My bruther jes got his gurlfriend pregnant, and she was gunna have an abortion, and I said 'If you kill that baby, I'll kill you'. I told him 'you have that baby and when it's ready I'll adopt it 'cuz I'm set up for that sort uh thing.'" The above is absolutely in no way whatsoever exaggerated!

Tonight's show is on a rooftop outside and the weather is supposed to be ideal, plus it's Baz's birthday. Martin comments that the theme song of this tour seems to be "La Bamba" and he explains some of the lyrics to me. We drive many more hours towards Louisville, and about 30 miles outside the venue spot, traffic comes to a complete standstill when a truck cab overturns and kicks a bunch of dirt in the road. It takes about half an hour to clear, and Martin stresses 'cause the hour is getting later and later. Finally we're on our way again. Joe, the drummer in Black Fortress of Opium, told me a little bit about the other bands we're playing with - Sapat, and Parlour - because he saw them at Terrastock last year. This show was hooked up through a friend of Dan Kaufman (of Barbez) named Tyler. We arrive at the building, Glassworks, which is very cool. It reminds me a bit of something you’d see in Fort Point. We load in up on the roof 8 stories up, where one can see for miles in every direction, including the lovely nearby Ohio River. We are situated right downtown, too. Tyler is doing sound for the bands. There are tons of people here, on a Tuesday night. We are handed a key for a loft space provided for us to crash in, and I anxiously check it out. It is huge and furnished with everything. What a crash pad! I just knew the guys would be psyched! I head downstairs to the Jazzyblu Café, which is a bar, for some Happy Hour specials Baz hipped me to. I discover some very friendly locals and some chicken pasta they re-heat for me along with some shredded lettuce that is somewhat salad-like. It’s hilarious, I walk in, mention I’m playing on the roof, and they ask if I’m with Butterface (Baz’s DJ name). How does everyone know this guy?

Sapat plays first; they have many people onstage. They’re pretty cool and experimental. Then we go on, and it feels great. We play at dusk on a rooftop to tons of people. There are little clear blue clamp lights on each monitor, and they look so pretty in the night air, reflecting on my dress and Martin’s sunset-hued shirt. We receive many compliments after the set; some of Martin’s old friends show up. I hop offstage and make a call to a loved one, feeling exhilarated and homesick at exactly the same time. I have some free beer and chocolate chip cookies and head back to the room, as it starts sprinkling. The other band mates remain and socialize, but I wasn’t really in the mood tonight. Getting time to oneself is precious on tour, so I opt for that. Besides, our new loft home was a nice refuge. I started feeling dark and depressed, and was sitting there listening to “Affection” by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers when Baz and John came in. They were hungry and wanted to go on a grub hunt. They were shocked when I said I wasn’t hungry because normally I have an extremely healthy appetite, but I really wasn’t hungry. They discussed the options, which included going to a local strip club for some wings (recommended by one of our female show organizers), going for a drive somewhere, or ordering pizza. At some point Martin returned and wasn’t in any shape to drive, so Baz ordered pizza. I went to bed, relishing sleeping in a cozy home-like type of place, knowing tomorrow would involve a long haul to Pittsburgh. I should mention that Martin got great press in the Leo Weekly.

Day five: I wake up kind of early and reach for my computer and fall right off the leather sofa I was sleeping on, hitting my arm on the table on the way down. Oh cruel world. I go back to sleep for a while after computing some. Then the others awaken and we shower and eat cold pizza. Martin tells us about a phone call he received at 5:30AM that morning from one of the other bands requesting he come out and party, and then enjoy their mom’s flapjacks. He declined, however. We depart the loft in the pouring rain, kind of bummed. Tonight is the last show of the tour. Michael Kaminski will sit in with us again at Garfield Artworks, where we played back in February.

We stop for breakfast at Toast, but it’s nothing that special. We head out, leaving Kentucky and passing through Cincinnati. In the van, John tells of his recent trip to India, and some things he witnessed there, including ‘round the clock cremations of bodies in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi – the oldest inhabited city in the world.

Today’s trip is long and grueling for a couple reasons, I suspect. This bus can’t go very fast, and it is raining. This is drawing out driving lengths noticeably. The rain is relentless. Plus, it’s the last night of the tour, and I think we all feel the return to reality emerging and creeping in. Jobs, money problems, relationships – you know, reality. Oh well, the tour bubble has to burst sometime. I’m happy to be proudly wearing my new shirt from Jamestown, though!

We pull up to Garfield Artworks, and Kaminski is just arriving as well. He and Leanna are friendly familiar faces. Manny, the promoter, is too. I feel like I have family, which is nice ‘cause I haven’t known anyone on this tour ‘til now. Aaron Jentzen is playing, too. He is a writer for the City Paper here, and he gave Black Fortress of Opium some props for our recent Pittsburgh show. Mike and Leanna brought snacks which save our hungry lives after driving for 8 hours plus:
Sandwiches of ham, fresh basil, lettuce from Mike’s garden, and cheese
Smoked almonds
Fresh cherries
Cayenne pepper hummus (Ouch!!!)
Dill bread
Cucumber slices
A magnum of red wine

We catch up briefly as acts emerge on stage. 2 solo acts, including Aaron, play. His stuff is pretty cool and a little dark. A full band plays next and then we’re up. The set went very well; Michael added a lot of nice touches. He was really up on the material. There were some especially nice moments at the end of the set, when Baz, Martin, and Mike were doing improv. After the show, we load out and take off towards NYC. We drive a few hours and then crash at the Psycho-esque Breezewood Motel. Ever seen ‘No Country for Old Men’? Yeah, it was kinda like that. There was no table in the room; the telephone was just sitting on the floor. 70s lamps with fake wood paneling and exposed brick. Not one ounce of class anywhere to be found. There was a dead baby roach on the wall in the bathroom, to which Baz referred as the fifth Beatle. Once we got out of the bus and into the room with fresh oxygen, we were a little hopped up and awake. The fumes from the bus have been getting to us. We finally go to sleep.

Day six: We get up early and prepare for the drive back to NYC. We grab some breakfast to go from a Denny’s Classic Diner, and ramble on. It pours off and on. I’m a little stressed because I still have another 4 hours of travel to go after I hit NYC, and have to be up early the next morning. The drive is passable, but tensions flare once we’re half an hour outside Manhattan after we take a wrong turn. Martin has a session at 6PM, and is stressed, too. I’m anxious to get to the bus. Others have concerns as well. It’s the end of the tour, and we’re all tired and exhausted. We work it out, as we part ways in Manhattan, but it’s under tense circumstances. Luckily, we managed to get the shows done, so mission accomplished on that tip.

A few days later we discuss what happened and we agree to give it another shot, as we have a show the coming week in NYC at The Delancey.

Out of this tour I learned a lot about what happens when people are pushing themselves really hard going from town to town to play music for others. It’s very admirable, and though some would call it crazy, I call it worthwhile. Though there were some really rough moments, I predict more of the highway. It’s a long road to the top, indeed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rock'n'roll weekend!

Friendly peeps everywhere~

Here's a reminder that we're doing 2 back-to-back shows this weekend.
On both bills will be our friend and producer Martin Bisi, with whom Ajda and Tony will sit in during his set.

The scoop:
Friday July 31st
Black Fortress of Opium, Martin Bisi, Busted Brix, Driftwood
at Radio Bean
8 North Winooski Ave
Burlington, VT
7PM show, free

Saturday August 1st

Black Fortress of Opium, Martin Bisi, Erin Lang
at Precinct
70 Union Square
Somerville, MA
9PM, $5

London-based songwriter Erin Lang (collaborator of Roger O'Donnell ex-Cure/Psychedelic Furs) will join us for this show.

Come out and join us for these summery shows~

Black Fortress of Opium

Friday, July 17, 2009

7/18-22 Ajda's last summer tour with Martin Bisi

Hey folks,

Here's the schedule for my last tour of the summer singing backups with Martin Bisi (who produced/recorded Black Fortress of Opium! Check it out and tell any friends in these towns!

Ajda the Turkish Queen

Baltimore - Sat July 18 - The Hexagon
For Artscape Festival
1825 North Charles Street, Baltimore
6:00, FREE, all-ages

Chapel Hill, NC - Mon July 20th - at Local 506
also appearing: The Curtains Of Night, and Knot Feeder (ex-Don Caballero and ex-Tabula Rasa)
$7, 18+, 8:30

Louisville, KY - Tue July 21st - at Glassworks (rooftop)
w/ Parlour, Saqat
6:30pm, $7, all ages

Pittsburgh - Wed July 22nd - Garfield Artworks
8 pm all ages $6
w/ Grasso Electtrica, Aaron Jentzen, Kevin Finn

NYC - Mon July 27th - The Delancey for Small Beast (weekly event curated by Paul Wallfisch/ Botanica)
Cherie Lily, Roman Game
8pm, FREE, 21+

Lantern Festival at Forest Hills

Last night I went with my friends Steve and Sarah to Forest Hills Cemetery for the annual Lantern Festival. We met up with Tony, Robyn, Frank (who organized our outing), Ted, Amy, and Chris.

From the Forest Hills website:
"In this breathtaking ceremony of remembrance, visitors to this lush, Victorian landscape make paper lanterns and set them afloat on the peaceful waters of a small lake. This ritual is based on the traditional Japanese Bon Festival, a time when a door opens to the world of the ancestors, allowing us to send messages to the other side. People enjoy picnics on the grass and a multi-cultural program of music and dance. They decorate their lanterns with calligraphy and notes to those who have died. At sunset, a candle is lit in each lantern, and the glimmering lanterns are set afloat. Drifting and flickering with the wind, the lanterns symbolize the soul’s journey when life ends."

My motivations in going were multifold. It is a pleasant thing to do on a balmy summer night. There is the picnicking part...of course. Food will always reel me in!! Also, tomorrow is the on year anniversary of Scott's death, and time for the official mourning phase to end, though I doubt a day will pass where I don't think of him and my mom. I got a lantern for them, and on it had painted in calligraphy "Eternal Life" for my mother and "Peace" for Scott. I also wrote on it the years they were born and died.

I arrived at the event with just enough light in the sky to find my friends, and set my lantern afloat on the water with probably a thousand+ others. It's quite beautiful to witness them floating around randomly, bumping into each other, drifting peacefully...much the way we humans move.

I think it's kind of funny that I set the lantern out, and then immediately turned to eat. Probably a nervous factor should be taken into account!

But the dead are gone, and while I can remember them, the living are here now, and mortal things should be enjoyed and not taken for granted. So I ate there with my friends as we enjoyed a summer's night.

Our menu:
Pane Rustico
Stone Wheat crackers
Strawberry tarts
Marinated mushrooms
Chianti Salami
Dried strawberries
Fresh strawberries
Sesame covered peanuts
Fresh basil

After things died down a bit, and darkness fell, strange noises began - geese honking, bullfrogs burping. Actually, shortly after I arrived, a huge frog hopped right through our picnic blanket. Very funny!

We were perched right on the edge of the water. And while playing with our flashlights, someone (Ted, I think) noticed a turtle in the water. A curious one, it was. It poked it's head out a few times and looked right at us with it's freaky reptilian eyes. Then I flashed my light over to a small nearby island, and saw two tiny phosphorescent eyes watching us from the brush. It was a frog!

Upon exiting the cemetery, we were amongst the last to leave. 'Twas a promenade of LED light from my camo flashlight matched with the perfect dark stillness. And spooky stones surrounding...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer Tour with Martin Bisi - West Coast 2009

Over the past year, I have been performing a lot and recording with Martin Bisi, who produced and recorded my band Black Fortress of Opium. You might remember my blog/journal from the last tour we did, in the Midwest this past winter. I just returned from a summer tour with him, and here is a recounting of how our recent tour went promoting his new digital EP ‘Son of a Gun’.

Pix here!

Sunday June 14th – NYC:
A warm-up gig before we depart. It’s the last night of the Northside Festival, which is sponsored by the neat L Magazine. The venue is Spike Hill in Billyburg. Prior to the set, I sneak out for Mexican food with Bliss at Veracruz, and we are seated next to a lovely fountain in their courtyard. We split shrimp fajitas. Back at the club, Alina Slimone does her Russian thing (with our bassist Shawn Setaro playing lovely electric geetar for her), King's Crescent (including members of Fiery Furnaces) funk and groove on Meters’ covers. Susu is a cool mixed boy/girl noise trio, ala SY. At one point during their set, I swear I hear them sing “I sold my Megawatt”, but when questioned, they deny that’s the lyric. Our set rocks hard. Martin always has different peeps sitting in, which keeps things exciting and fresh, and tonight is no exception – the guest being a guitarist named Howard, who does some awesome things with a slide, amongst other textures. Alan from Lucid Culture NYC blog is in the house, and introduces himself. A nice, friendly fellow who loved the BFoO record. He later reviews Martin's show favorably online.

Early the next morning I head back to Boston on the Chinatown bus, a 4-hour trip, because my flight (which will include 9 hours of travel time because of connections etc.) to Portland leaves in the afternoon. So I have to haul ass on not much sleep. After many frustrating hours of delay departing the stormy East, I arrive in Portland, OR shortly after midnight on June 16th. Baz (a.k.a. DJ Butterface, Martin’s keyboard player & noisemaker) and I are staying with my old KTRU Houston buddy Erik. Last time I was in Portland, I played a solo show at Dante's, and that was the space in which I first performed Ari, so Portland has meaning and weight to me in a strange way. We stay up late talking about music and Steve Albini/fake Italian. In the morning, we eat brunch at Zell's café (mmm) and grab coffee at Floyd's, a local legend.

Day 1 – June 16th, Portland, OR:
The venue is the Someday Lounge, and it is very nice, and respectable. Huge stage, great lighting, red curtains, a shower with towels for performers, sizeable lounge/green room. The club streams each show online (and archives them), which is awesome. The set goes fairly well. Cum usual, this whole tour there are different people sitting in on our sets, as the main skeleton crew is Martin, Baz, and me. Tonight, we have 2 guests sitting in - Joe Trump (of King Black Acid, Elliott Sharp, amongst others), and a multi-instrumentalist named Soraya (Projekt Records). One of the bands we play with is The Prids, who are fairly popular locally. We are shocked when they donate their portion of the take from the night to us to help defray travel costs. Bands everywhere take note – that is some etiquette!

Day 2 – June 17th, Portland, OR:
We have today off, so we head out intent on sightseeing. We take a Historic Highway out of the city that leads to several dramatic waterfalls, some of which we had to hike a steep ways to reach, including Multnomah Falls. We take in the view at Vista House at Crown Point, originally built as a comfort station for upper class ladies. After a few hours of cruising around, we drive to Mt. Hood. Gorgeous scenery, lovely mountain air. At the base of the mountain, we grab some chow at the Timberline Lodge. The exterior shots from The Shining were filmed here, and there is lots of snow. Martin wanted to jump in it, but didn't. Baz and I had shorts on, and were chilly. A lovely relaxing yet re-energizing day off. In the car we talk about Courtney Love, and scenes of NYC stabbings.

Day 3 – June 18th, Seattle, WA:
We grab breakfast at Zell's for the third straight day before departing for Seattle. I have the avocado/tomato omelet with cilantro-lime sour cream. Zell’s has the most excellent, daintiest little scones, with which they are very generous. Excellent scrambles. Brunch even on each weekday was packed, and we had to wait on a list once. Our host Erik said unemployment is currently at 13% in Portland, so more people are bumming around in general, at bars/coffee shops/brunch spots.

I'm looking forward to seeing and catching up a bit with people I know throughout the tour, such as Scott's friend Matt at our show tonight in Seattle, where I haven’t been since September 10th, 2001.

En route to Seattle, we pass through the city of Chehalis, where Scott passed away last summer. I wanted to find the very spot, but now isn't the time. We're barreling down the highway to the next show. It's eerie I’m all the way out here almost a year later. I have a feeling of not wanting to leave the town behind, to stay, to linger, and wander the trail. It's an instinctual pull reminding me of when my mom passed, also so recently.

Back to tour business. On the road to Seattle, in our borrowed gold mini-van, Martin tells the story of how Laswell introduced Ryuichi Sakamoto to Bootsy Collins. Bootsy misheard the name, and shakes Sakamoto's hand, saying, "Reuniti, like the wine?" The windows are rolled down and the air and sky are perfect. We spot Mt. Rainier here and there.

We pull into Seattle early and grab some delicious Thai food near the venue. Then we head over towards the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project, which we decide to check out. We don't have a lot of time to scope it out, unfortunately, but we take in enough. I really enjoyed the Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, the Nudie suits and the Hatch Show prints. The boys all ended up jamming and having an impromptu rehearsal in one of the demo practice rooms, which I discovered only after wandering around the Sci-Fi museum horrified and freaked out by all the space stuff.

The Funhouse is pretty cool venue, kind of like Charlie's Kitchen meets the Linwood Grille, plus something spooky. Tweaked funhouse clowns painted everywhere, a fairly tough crowd. Patio with hoops, plus a sideshow that started later. The bill is beyond eclectic. Bill Horist is a very talented lad who uses prepared guitar to create instrumental soundscapes that sound like the best, warmest, most analog Sonic Youth-y thing you ever heard. (He also gave us his take at the end of the night.) Next is The Purrs, whose set I miss while socializing with some friends, but sounds grunge-y from a distance. The last act is a trio called The Family Curse. They feature 2 guitar players, hardcore drum loops ala KMFDM, and a chick singer who basically moans, screams, and rolls around on her hands and knees revealing her stockings and underwear. I’d put it somewhere between horrible and riot-grrrl. The crowd gets pretty rowdy and randy. As Baz puts it, people really seem to like to get fucked up in Seattle. Wild!

Day 4 – June 19th, San Francisco, CA:
We fly from Seattle to San Francisco. Once we get to 16th & Mission, we re-convene with Martin, who arrived earlier. We stop at Muddy Waters, a coffee place. I really wasn't going to have one today, but oh well. At least I had a healthy breakfast with green tea, etc. I tweet and post on FB about the show and capsule updates on what I’m up to. We leave with Baz's friend Chip, and hit Pancho Villa's for some Mexican food. I'll be damned, even this kind of average-looking place is AMAZING. I even had a churro! Then we walk over to Dolores Park, sampling some gourmet ice cream along the way. A pretty good view of the expanse of the city. It's sunny, but very windy, and kind of chilly. While Baz and his bud catch up, I catch up on this journal, while listening to Syd Barrett. Outside in a park in SF, it just seems appropriate. I snare some wi-fi sitting outside.

Hemlock Tavern is a very cool venue. My buddy Kevin Corzett (Ketman) told me it was cool, and he was right on. The club really treats us right, paying well, and giving us a strip of so many drink tickets, I’m able to make a mock belt out of them. Kind of a small room, but it’s packed this night with an awesome crowd. Baz and I have many peeps we know show up to support, including about 8 of my friends from Houston and Boston. I get them all in a photo. Our set rocks and we are jazzed. I wear a new dress from some Spanish label out of Barcelona. Sheila from (Girls with Guns/Flaming Fire) sits in on drums. The improv portion (the first 20 min) of our set reaches new incredible heights. Possibly the best yet...the show just kills. The opening act is a trio called The Great Dictator, who features member of Thinkin' Fellers Union Local 282. They’re a good example of West Coast grind indie. Very fun show. Being on the road is feeling great right now. Addictive. Our original plans for crashing completely fall through, so luckily my friend Conor comes to the rescue. He takes care of us, giving us a crash pad with a shower, breakfast, and a ride to the airport for the rental vehicle that we drove to LA.

Our humble trio gets along extremely well while touring, but there was some tension backstage before this show. It got a little weird when we realized we had no definite place to stay at the end of the night, and it felt to me like we were talking, arguing (calmly mind you), and trying to convince each other in circles. Stress (like not knowing where you're going to sleep that night and there is no van involved) and a touch of exhaustion will push you to the brink. But we got through it and the night stood out as such a success.

Day 5 – June 20th, Los Angeles, CA:
On the way driving from SF to LA, we take the 5/Grapevine most of the way. A long drive through mostly flat highway surrounded by mountains/ridges/foothills. We drive past countless green vineyards and almond and fruit trees, all very lush, contrasted by the brown of the arid chaparral. Memorable topics of conversation include bondage parties in NYC, dreaming about food, the next tour, Baz’s eight-track alarm clock with a Foghat tape, and Martin's first car, a 1969 yellow Country Squire station wagon with eight-track deck, favorite tape being "Low" by Bowie. Anton Pukshansky will sit in on bass tonight. He is a Grammy award winning engineer/producer who's worked with Audioslave/Ozomatli/Santana/Helmet/Mick Jagger/Bunny Wailer/Korn, etc. I'm even hoping some relatives will make it out in LA.

LA Weekly has a great big blurb on Martin & the show, including a rather large photo, so he's psyched. The venue is a dive sans monitors, but there are longhorn skulls on the walls. A Thai family runs the place, so there's a little bit of a language barrier. The other bands are mixed. The first 2 bands are kind of noisy, a little punk-y. Some of the musicians look like they’re 15 years old. 3 of my friends come out - JJ, Marisol, and Peter Choyce my old WMBR/WZBC DJ buddy. Martin's pal Roger Trilling, who formerly managed Bill Laswell and some others show, came out, too. A friend of Tod A. from Firewater, Eddie, plays later but I miss it, sadly; Martin tells me it rocked. After our set, which also featured Waleed Rashidi on drums, a bunch of us head over to the White Horse, an amazing bar that has free snacks including popcorn, pretzels, hot dogs, chocolate, cubed cheese replete with toothpicks, and watermelon. J2 & M2 show me the coolest places in LA, time and time again. It was very pleasant socializing after the set, instead of sitting around a dirty club listening to LOUD band after band.

We crash at my friend's pad in mid-city. They have a kitten named Sleater-Kitty. Funnily enough, we passed an exit for Sleater-Kinney Rd driving through Washington State earlier in the week.

Day 6 – June 21st, Los Angeles, CA:
Baz and I hit Canter's for breakfast while Martin returns the rental. I have a few certain places in LA I simply must hit each time I pass through, and Canter's is on the list. I figure Baz would especially dig it being from NYC and all. We wander about Fairfax and Melrose with our heavy luggage (and me with awful cramps) then meet up with Peter Choyce again, who takes us on a lovely drive through the Hollywood Hills and up to Runyan Park, where we hike up to the peak, and snap some shots while enjoying the view. Later we do the Vacation Vinyl in-store. Very cool store with so many discs I'd like to get that I don't even look through the bins. Old friends show up, including people I used to work with, parents of a childhood friend who drove 2 hours from Bakersfield, CA, etc. The set is a little rough getting going (unfamiliar borrowed equipment learning curve), but then we get into it. No drums today, but Anton Pukshansky is on bass again. He helps with gear too, providing us mic stands, an amp for Martin etc. Good taste in gear, too. Ya know, it takes some adjustment to be able to do the show with different instrumentalists, or with out any each time. One must be very flexible. People who want a totally stable, predictable show would be frustrated doing it this way. I can cope and adapt pretty well with the flux. Martin pointed out that sometimes it's better to just do it, instead of waiting around for it to be perfect. Besides friends who show up, random strangers & music shoppers peek in on the set, too. It was a cool crowd of mixed ethnicities and ages. Afterwards, a bunch of us went to Home for a merry dinner where we ate outside - a lovely end to the string of shows. I head back to Santa Monica with a friend to crash. It's quiet there, which is what I'm needing after all the hustle, bustle, and excitement of the past few days. The place is right near the ocean, and the fresh air flows in through the patio door near where I sleep. I'm always very wound up after a show, and even if I feel calm, cannot usually fall easily asleep. This is no exception, yet I do feel refreshed upon waking.

Day 7 – June 22nnd, Los Angeles, CA:
I get up and my hosts show me the way to the ocean, which I was intent on seeing on this trip. But first, I get a delicious fruit croissant and cappuccino from my favorite LA cafe - Urth. Except this is the Santa Monica location, of which I was previously unaware. Tony had piqued my interest in Santa Monica and Venice, since he lived there years ago. He is right, it's very cool. Uniquely shaped buildings and lots of little shops, all near the beach. Some spots trendy, some funky. After a nice walk, I head back to the complex where my friends live to take advantage of the jacuzzi and pool. I came prepared with hat, flip-flops, bathing suit, towel, hat, 3 bottles of sun block for various body parts, a wrap, etc. All got used on my last day out here, and I was so pleased. My hosts prepare a lovely brunch of eggs, spinach, tomato, ham, olives, sautéed onions, with carrot juice on the side, which I enjoy thoroughly before taking off with Baz and Martin. They stayed last night in Pasadena without me - the first time we've been separated the whole tour. We head off to Venice Beach, where we poke around for a few hours, eating empanadas, looking at trinkets, sitting by the beach, talking about life. I joke that when people see pictures form our tour, they might think it was a vacation, or TOURCATION. I'm seeing the difference between winter and summer touring. I'm just happy I survived both! We head over to El Coyote for dinner, where the waitresses wear lovely Mexican folk dresses. This restaurant was the last place Sharon Tate was seen alive. Spooky!

My phone has been acting up recently and today was the last straw. I have been intermittently unable to makes phone calls all day, depending on where I am and what network my T-Mobile Crackberry® selects. Argh!!! You may recall, I had to get a new phone after the last tour, and that was only 3 months ago. Is it the tour phone curse on Ajda?!

Baz drops Martin and me off at LAX, my flight leaving hours later. As soon as I check in, I'm informed it's delayed, which means I'll now be taking the nonstop redeye at 1:35AM, due to rain in Boston. Friends warned me it's been raining there every single day. Not looking forward to that after beach and crystal blue sky, but it is home after all. I'm so tired - from the trip, touring, singing, lugging, schlepping, entertaining, and today in particular, from the sun and ocean air. I'm pretty relaxed. It is a great feeling. We accomplished much, and it looks like we'll be doing this again in one month in the mid-Atlantic. It is addictive. Life on the road is pretty simple in many ways, if you can get used to the discomfort level. The other problems we have in life seem to be on pause while away, and it's a nice respite. I chill out waiting for my flight, drinking some tea and snacking on almonds. My voice has definitely taken a beating from singing in loud clubs so many nights in a row, and this was just backups. It has me wondering how I'd do that with Black Fortress of Opium night after night, which is totally vocally demanding. I'm glad to spend some quiet time alone, and not be performing tonight. My ears are ringing pretty badly, too. Even though I wear earplugs during all other sets, I opt out for ours. Night after night, it takes a perceptible toll.

At least 2 venues this week, we hear AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top if Ya Wanna Rock and Roll", so I am happy paying some more dues and garnering experience, for which there is NO substitute.

This tour has been one of many different keys passing through my hands. Friends volunteered their homes to share with us. I've felt much love. I am thankful for all the kindness and helping hands. Thanks also to Martin and Baz. We make a great team, and help each other. The level of respect we maintain keeps me in awe. Thanks again to all the other musicians who sat in. And to the friends who came through and showed up - you rock. See you soon with Black Fortress of Opium.