I’m Big in Baltimore, Likely Bigger In Japan

Richie Frieman writes for PensEyeView, a website that features an interview and profile of a different band every two days. These bands can be signed, unsigned, somebodies, nobodies, anybody. Richie was kind enough to feature many of the bands I worked with while I was at Rock Ridge Music. Like anywhere else, you talk to someone enough, and there’s a certain amount of banter that comes along. Soon after PEV covered OTiS, a band I’ve been working with independently, we got into a conversation about me what I was up to. Upon finding out that I used to work for Hillel and had recently accepted a job with Hazon, he offered me the chance to interview with him for his blog Tuned In for the Baltimore Jewish Times.

The full blog entry can be read here. He calls me a “magical multitasker.” Not sure I’d go that far but certainly appreciate the sentiments.

The whole affair caught me a little off guard. For all the interviews I’ve set up, I don’t know that I’ve ever been interviewed to this extent. I have to say it was a pretty cool experience though I don’t think I come off as nearly as exciting as any of the musicians for whom I’ve arranged interviews.

I do have to say I think it’s way cool any time my jewy life and music life interact or overlap. Look at Richie, who writes for these two different publications. I’ll also say that as much fun as it is to be in the background and be thanked by the people you work with, but it’s also nice to be in the limelight now and again and the public appreciation in this article feels great.


Spring Heeled Jack USA in the New Haven Advocate

But it’s 2010, not 1998. Seeing the late 90s ska/rock act Spring Heeled Jack USA on the cover of the New Haven Advocate in high school was not such a big deal; they were from the area and were big. Seeing the video for “Jolene” on MTV2 was a very big deal; were they really that big?

SHJUSA broke up roughly 10 years ago but will be having two reunion shows this weekend at Toad’s Place in New Haven. Against my better judgement, I have tickets to both nights. The Advocate ran a really great article about the band and the shows this weekend. I got warm-fuzzies reading the article when it hits on a few things in particular. The writer and guitarist/singer Mike Pellegrino talk about the Tune Inn at length:

“That place was so sketchy, so cool,” says Pellegrino. “How many shows did we play there? 100? That’s not pushing it right? It was totally sketchy. I miss it. There was a burnt-up building across the street and parents would be like, ‘Where am I dropping my kid off?’”

The Tune Inn, formerly on Center Street in New Haven, was an all-ages club. It didn’t serve alcohol until near the end of its existence. It was a place for teens to go that wasn’t contrived (or chaperoned), to play, mingle and listen to music.

My mom definitely was concerned where she was dropping me off. The very first show I ever drove myself to was there. Pilfers stole my hearing permanently at the Tune Inn. My first high school pop/punk band played some of our first shows there. When high school senioritis kicked  in, I was there at least once a week, it almost didn’t matter who was playing. I remember being extremely frustrated when they were muscled out of New Haven and made it out for the venues last show when Thumper (also mentioned in the article) reunited. I remember just how weird the place felt with half the sound equipment and furniture gone that last night.

The article goes on to talk about how SHJUSA fit into the third wave ska explosion, the subsequent fall, and several reunions. It’s a really nice intro for those aren’t familiar with the band or the context but a nice recap for anyone who was along for any of the ride.

I had all but forgotten that in 2006 I wrote an article on SHJUSA for the short lived Upbeat Ska Zine (picture below) run by some friends of mine during what I felt was a really great ska renaissance taking place in CT at that time.

As I mention in the article, I only saw them once in high school, somewhere between my sophomore and junior years. This was really the start. Tracks from “Songs From Suburbia” became staples of almost every party I went to. Were you ever at Tap Out House at midnight when I cranked “Mass Appeal Madness?” While I was filling in on bass for CT ska band Stealing From Peter, who was known for covering various SHJUSA songs live, we had one show where Mike Pellegrino (singer/guitarist mentioned above) jumped on stage to sing “Jolene” with us. It was pretty surreal. Here’s that video:

Most recently, for a birthday present, one of my good friends got me a signed poster from a benefit auction (a beautiful story in and of itself) that now sits above my bed. I’m pretty proud of it. I still consider them a major influence on my current pop/punk/ska project, Hey Stranger.

Spring Heeled Jack USA on MySpace, Facebook, Wikipedia and Vinyl via Asbestos Records.

We’ve been gone for so long that it doesn’t really matter where we’re going to, there’s no looking back.
I know I should be strong, but my heart isn’t in it and I don’t know my limit, so all I can do is move on.

*** Update 5/11/09 ***

These shows were both amazing! The music was great, the openers were fun, the band had not lost an ounce of the energy they once had and I ran into everyone. I ran into old friends, members of every band I’d ever been in, an old roommate, heroes of mine in the audience, and the list goes on.

In addition to the New Haven Advocate, the New Haven Register ran a great article that was more the human interest angle, reflecting on the loss of a band member and how that affected the band’s decisions. Hat tip to Duff Guide To Ska for linking it and running a really great preview for the shows as well.

Hand Drawn Flier – 5/13/10

(No, I did not draw it. Let’s get that out of the way.) Poster and Flier making, I feel, has become somewhat of a lost art, primarily due to graphic design hacks like myself who just bang out something in photoshop or illustrator. Hey Stranger is fortunate enough to have some very talented friends, one of whom hand drew this great poster. I love the design so much that I’m insisting we use it for this show but reuse the main illustration, minus the show specific information, for a bigger show down the line. I’ve always wanted to do heavy stock screen printed posters for a special occasion.

5/13/10 Flier

Thursday, May 13, 2010, 7-9pm
NYU End of Semester Party
with Hey Stranger and The Northern
Club Groove, 125 MacDougal St, NYC
Open to non-students
Facebook Event

Here’s another great hand drawn poster for the upcoming Spring Heeled Jack USA reunion shows I’m going to created by the very talented Rob Dobi, creator of Your Scene Sucks.


…is the amount of gigs I estimate I’ve played in my life. I’ve played 56 gigs since I moved to NYC in August 2008, which begins to make up for the 2 gigs I played between June 2006 and then. The bulk is roughly as follows (I didn’t really start keeping track until the Tap Out years).

Hey Stranger – 14
The Hard Times – 20
Across The Aisle – 17
Push To Release – about 25
Tap Out – About 104
Lost In The Shuffle – About 7
Stealing From Peter – About 8

And there are a bunch of one-offs in here (such as backing Hannah Fairchild, filling in for The Roland High Life, a TMBG cover band, The Silent  H) and the Hardcore Karaoke Pile-On Extravaganza shows that would be weird to count.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have played all these shows, especially having never gone on a proper tour (save for an 11 date run with Tap Out in 2005). I’m psyched because I feel like there’s so many more to come.

(originally posted on my Tumblr page)

Haitian Orphanage Benefit Link Round-Up

I’m so excited for this event. Many thanks to the following blogs for helping get the word out:

The Round Table Online

7 Duckets Web Blog

Rock NYC Live And Recorded

The Duff Guide To Ska

Musical Occupation

Rebelde Radio

Press Release and Information.

The Kids Helping Kids / Performing Artists 4 Haiti charity event organized to benefit the victims of the Haiti earthquake will take place at the Bowery Poetry Club on Sunday, Jan, 31st, 1-6pm. (more…)

Jake Vs. Supercuts, Episodes 1 and 2

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I don’t have a lot of hair (less every day actually), and I like to keep what hair I have short, and almost military. I get my haircut not too often, and when it happens, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to run clippers up the side of my head.

When I moved to Brooklyn, I needed a haircut in a hurry, and out of sheer laziness, I found a Supercuts. I’ve never been happy with most Supercuts, but they’re easy to find and sometimes the crapshoot that is a visit there ends in your favor. After a few stops there, I became complacent and continued to go there.

Episode 1

This past Sunday, after 2 months of my hair turning into a unruly mop top, I went for a cut. I called a head to reserve a spot, and after arriving about an hour later, found I had lost my spot because they only hold your name for 20 minutes. No big deal, these things happen. I was seated after about 20 minutes and was going to tell the hairdresser what I wanted. “use #2 clippers on the side, leave it a little bit longer on top, and keep it real clean cut.” Same thing I always say and I usually get an approximation of what I’d like.

Well, she basically clips the bottom couple inches of my head with the clippers, and then spends about 30 minutes snipping away at the sides and top of my head. I hate being told how to do my job, so far be it for me to tell other people how to do theirs. After 30 minutes, she checks in to ask what I think, and I honestly say that I would like it a little bit shorter. No problem she says, and continues to snip away. 30 minutes later, she stops to see what I think.

Let’s be honest, I’ve now been in the chair for an hour, waited 20 minutes, and there’s the time it takes me to travel to and from their Brooklyn Heights location (about 20 minutes give or take). I have so many other things to do, I’m getting fidgety, and I just need to leave. My hair is still too long on the sides (I have a huge head to begin with, the more hair, the bigger it looks), and I feel like criticizing the cut would just make me a bigger ass. I’ll give her the benefit of the do; maybe I was too vague in my description of what I’d like and made too many assumptions based on the results I got in all of my last visits. Truth is, I know my temper, and I needed to leave before I said something stupid or caused a scene. What can I say, I was antsy and unhappy. Better to remove myself from the situation. I pay and leave pretty miserable; time is precious, money is tighter, and haircuts are not supposed to be a source of stress in my life.

Episode 2

Midday Monday, I call Supercuts and explain that I was unhappy with my cut and that that evening would be the only time I could stop by. In my humble opinion, I was very polite, apologetic for the inconvenience, and sincere about just wanting to pop in to have my cut fixed. The woman on the phone was very receptive. I confirmed that they would be open until 9 and that the earliest I could get there would be between 7 and 8pm. No problem. I’m hopeful.

I roll up at about 7:30pm and let the person know who I am, that I’ve called, again in the most polite calm way I know how. I’m told that they won’t have enough time to get to me because it’s a busy night. Excuse me? Isn’t this why I called? You can’t take 10 minutes and a pair of clippers? I’d have done this myself if I had a pair. I get some excuse about coming back on Tuesday as it’s a less busy night and the person who originally cut my hair will be there and she can see what she did wrong.

The rest of my week was packed, I wouldn’t be able to make it back. As far as the person who cut it in the first place fixing it goes, I’ll admit I like the idea of learning from one’s mistakes, but there’s just a huge set up for some awkward moments there. Also, I already spent an hour with her, did I really need to lose another hour?

Episode 3?

At this point, my unhappiness with my haircut has turned into a customer service issue. They open up at 10 am tomorrow morning and I’ll be there waiting. I will be polite, I will be courteous, and I will be honest. I face the fact that it will have been a week since the original cut and I will probably just look like some schmuck trying to schnorr a free haircut. If it comes down to it, I will succumb to paying for a second cut, but for what I’m asking for, I shouldn’t have it. I can guarantee this will be my last Supercuts visit and have been recommended a few alternatives in Park Slope so I’m not concerned. It’s just the principle at this point. And the fact that I REALLY hate my haircut right now.

Supercuts is up 2-0. Tomorrow is game day.