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01/02/2023  — 

Trip Down Memory Lane: Black Market Music

The flipping of the calendar is an obvious time for retrospection and brief trips down memory lane. I've tried journaling and writing but I don't really have the discipline or habits to keep that going. The mechanics of picking up a pen or putting hands on keyboard doesn't always work for me (evidence: the lack of action on this blog).

I like to keep track of the happenings in my life through photographs - the time and geo stamps are especially helpful in the storytelling. Lately I've been shooting a little video too. It's been sweet to revisit moments of life, to hear a voice or sound, to see someone's gesture that prompts a small flood of memories.

Every once and a while I stumble across someone else's video on YouTube that brings me right back to a moment, a place, a person. Here's one that happened recently...

The video below is two and a half minutes of someone's rando walkthrough of Black Market Music in West Hollywood probably in the late 90s or early 00s. There's not much to the video - it's poor VHS quality, shaky, no narration, awful sound, blurry, bad color. Totally charming.

We see a random view from the street (72 and sunny in west Hollywood), piles of amplifiers, guitars hanging everywhere, people chit-chatting (even eating lunch), racks of gear, display cases full of pedals and effects. It's a mess. It's full of action. If you know anything about music gear it's just a disgustingly opulent - absolutely ridiculous.

Black Market Music specialized in used gear and was thriving at this point. The music industry was at its absolute apex (file sharing was JUST starting - we hadn't yet heard Lars whining about Napster). Mega bands and labels were making piles of money with their recordings and tours. And if the major label music biz was a gold mine, Black Market Music was a major purveyor of second- hand shovels for all the miners.

I had the chance to walk through the shop right around that point in time when I went to LA with Steve Bell & Seth Freeman for a Little John show. I'm pretty sure it was Steve who led us to the shop. He was a master of material things - he helped me buy my bass amp and taught me about microphones, effects, amplifiers, tubes, drums. He was way over the horizon as far as his awareness and understanding of all kinds of gear.

At that point I didn't really know squat about Marshall amps or Gibson guitars. I probably didn't own a guitar amp. I had a Fender Lead II guitar and a Music Man bass, maybe that Ampeg Amp that Steve helped me buy. But I was solidly in Peavey Solid State-land as far as my understanding of amps went. I remember the smell of the place - musty, kinda sweaty, definitely dusty. I remember seeing piles of gear that had spray-paint logos from Van Halen and hair metal bands - gently used gear from tours or big shows. I remember seeing OLD guitars - like don't touch it old. Things that went for $5k (something like $12k today).

I remember a pile of Magnatone amps - I had just been introduced to Magnatone by Joe Gore who played a slide guitar through his to show me how it sounded - naturally overdriven full and juicy and perfect. They were hard to find, probably not in production at that point (though they've recently come back to life) - unobtanium, a unicorn. And here on the floor at Black Market were like 10 of them.

I remember things that were obviously used by pros - oh there's Alex Van Halen's drum cases, those are Tom Petty's amps, that's one of ELP's keyboard rack system. I'm sure there were even better examples that just went over my head.

It's one of the parts of life that I've come to appreciate lately - there are topics and subjects we can learn about that have infinite complexity. The more we learn, the more we see yet to be learned. The amount you could learn blooms and grows and goes and goes. Steve Bell was great at learning all of the stuff. He inspired me to do the same.

Through Steve and much later some of my YooToobers (Johan Segeborn, Kyle Bull, Pete Thorn, Warren Huart, the Guitologist (before he went nuts), Hermansson to name a few) I've learned just enough to realize how much gold was in that room. Looking through today's eyes, this scene is just bonkers.

Couple of droolworthy call outs worth mentioning: That droopy strat thing at 00:38, the hummingbirds hanging in the background next to the hofner bass at 00:42, the red tolex Marshall PA with two (pa) cabinets at 02:20, the pile of JCM800s at 01:03, the spread of snare drums at 01:09, the mountain of 4-hole plexis or JMPs at 01:48, the heap of old EHX pedals at 02:36, the tonebenders and similar pedals at 02:00. Gibson Jumbos sprinkled throughout. Marshall 8x10s tucked into the scenery... Park, Hiwatt... Stuff you just don't see around many places.

Go watch it:

Couple parting thoughts: who's that guy sitting on the Orange cab? Maybe one of the Eels? Some of my friends have told me of their star-sightings at BMM (maybe I'll post a part 2?). Did they let just any band put their show flyer or 8x10 glossy on that bulletin board by the door. There's another walkthrough from another date that shows more purple tolex and more of the keyboard and combo-amp stock.

02/19/2015  — 

Music is all around us.

This isn't the Autotune craze that happened a little while back. This is Publio Delgado pulling the harmony and melody out of someone's natural speech.

I think I heard Steve Vai play along with spoken word first... and this one from Japan came around recently, but this Jones' thing great.

There's music all around us. Tune in.

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04/05/2009  — 

Menu and Wines from Dinner at Cyrus

Amy and I headed north to Healdsburg for an amazing day topped-off with an amazing dinner at Cyrus, one of the best restaurants in the bay area (possibly the country).

I'm reverse-blogging this so please bear with the memories. I recall the service to be top-notch. I witnessed a table of 6 (maybe 8?) served silently, simultaneously, with such grace and precision. Our service was impeccable: every question about preparation or ingredients was met with expert, but friendly answers. I witnessed negotiations between an obviously French patron and a server over the cheese course. The server knew everything about every cheese: climate, preparation, treatments... the patron (and I) was impressed.

Our tasting menu worked like this:

  1. Canapés
  2. California Select Caviar with Accompaniments.
  3. Amuse Bouche
  4. Thai Marinated Lobster with Avocado, Mango, and Hearts of Palm.
    Wine: Kerner, Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige, Italy 2007
  5. Me: Foie Gras "Torchon" with Tamarind and Dates.
    Wine: Riesling Kabinett, Dr. Crusius "Traiser Rotenfels" Nahe, Germany 2007
    Amy had the Gnocchi with Morels and Snap Peas
  6. Seared Scallop with Chorizo and Clams.
    Wine: Manzanilla Pasada Sherry, Hidalgo "Pastrana" Jerez, Spain.
  7. Duck Breast with Bok Choy and Asparagus, Sesame- Shao Xing Sauce.
    Wine: Pinot Noir, Skewis "Lingenfelder" Russian River Valley 2005.
  8. Amy: Wagyu Beef with Burdock and Shiso, Oxtail Umeshu Consommé.
    Me: Lamb roulade with Mélange of Spring Vegetables.
    Wine: "Pian del Ciampolo", Montevertine, Tuscany, Italy, 2005
  9. Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheeses presented Tableside.
    Wine: Savigny-les-Beaune, Camus-Bruchon "Vielles Vignes", Burgundy, France 2006
  10. Verjus Sorbet, Blood Orange Riesling Soup with Crystalized Picholine Olives.
    Wine: Brachetto D'Acqui, Marenco, Piedmont, Italy 2006
  11. Tiramisu, Cappuccino "Spoon", Caramelized Fennel and Espresso Gelato
    Wine: Bual Madeira, Henriques & Henriques "15 Year Old", Portugal
    Amy: Carmelized Walnut Carrot Cake with Yuzu -- Carrot Sorbet
  12. Mignardises

Hits: Cocktails were really good: the bar uses seasonal ingredients to create new drinks. The Amuse Bouche was a play on all senses of taste. The Scallop was amazing: the scallop/chorizo/manzanilla pairing was so perfect. The Foie Gras "Torchon" was a play on indian flavors: I think they served it with papadam and maybe even a puri -- lots of fun.

Misses: Very little. The espresso in the desert was too bitter. The Blood Orange Riesling Soup was a little lame. Nothing much else to complain about.

If we win the lottery we'll get back there sometime soon. Untill then, the memories will keep us rolling along.

04/24/2008  — 

All-Time Favorite Commercial

I knew we won the cold war when I saw this:

02/04/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: If Yes, Then No

Ok, so technically my 2/3 entry arrived on 2/4. But it's there. I was too beat to drop in the rippin' guitar solo in the 3rd verse so please imagine something good.

Website housekeeping note: I moved everyone's ftp directories from /29/you to /29/players/you. I'll delete the other directories soon. This will help with a page that will do automatic updation as the files come in.

Seth + Peter: I too am really digging listening to everyone's songs. I can't express how psyched I am that youses (an EXTREMELY talented bunch) are kookoo enough to try this with me.

This week will be tough! It'll be our first time balancing this with work. Anytime you sit down to write, try writing two. Have a few ideas in your back pocket for those time crunches. Also, no penalties awarded for digging up something a few years old too.

Speaking of a few years old -- when I told eve about this she was interested in helping. She asked me to transcribe a song she wrote which I'll try to put to music on 2/6:

http://29.netscra p.com/29/players/greacen/lyrics.txt

Finally, Michael Tornatore dropped off a drum kit today, a loaner for the month. I didn't have a chance to use it yet but I'll likely switch from recording exclusively on the laptop to start using my 'studio' (finally) which means some elec-trific-o-rock-i-fication in my (and therefore your) near future.

Good luck this week!

01/25/2008  — 

js-kit comments on greacen.com

01/23/2008  — 

The horror of the Hayward fault