Jill "xtingu" Knapp

Traveling musician. Singer. Road warrior in bursts. Dork. Easy to spot. Gauche eyeshadow fan. Unreasonably happy.

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(I wrote this on Sunday, 8/4. It's really long. There's a TL;DR at the end.)


Last night (Saturday, 8/3) was the final night of The Rock Orchestra's BeatleFest 2019.  BeatleFest (or, our event we call BeatleFest) is where our group of anywhere from 7-40 musicians play every single Beatles song (all 215 of them) in the order they were released, over a series of six consecutive nights. I equate it with running a marathon, but instead of running 26.2 miles on the streets of Boston, we're doing it on a tightrope. We do our damndest to recreate these songs note-for-note, as best as we possibly can without the help of studio magic... though we also really try to recreate those studio sounds live as best we can, too. 

Out of 215 songs, I'm only tacet (not doing anything) on about 7 or 8 total.

For the show, I'm the 3rd singer (I sing the unintuitive harmony parts since I'm a choir nerd). I'm also the "if you get stuck vocally, Jill's got you," and this can even be in the middle of a song. Joe might give me a look and I know to cover (or double) a particularly high part, or I might hear a harmony and notice two people singing the same part, or I might see that someone forgot to sing, so I jump to the missing part on the fly. Or we might have given a female guest singer a song that goes too low for her, so I'll double those basement notes to give her support. Backstage I'm also in charge of running/checking harmonies for that night's tricky spots. I absolutely love getting to do this stuff. It keeps me on my toes, and I secretly love feeling helpful or being able to fix stuff in a pinch... it's been a weird thing of mine since I was a really little kid. 

In addition to my vocal duties, I'm also the main percussionist (shakers, tambourines, maracas, casaba, etc) and one of the two 'aux-players' -- which means if there's an instrument we don't have covered either because nobody knows how to play it (see Indian tanpura and swarmindal) or everyone else is too busy to cover it (hello 2nd drums all over Abbey Road, or organ on Savoy Truffle), I figure it out. Up on my platform I have a billion nouns: everything from a drumset, a glockenspiel, soprano recorder, kazoos, Korg Triton keyboard, motorcycle exhaust pipes (for 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer,' 'Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey,' and for the alarm clock in 'A Day in the Life' when played with a different beater), an Ableton Live rig (for the scant sound effects we can't recreate live, (like the animals at the beginning/end of 'Good Morning, Good Morning') in addition to the usual tambourines and shakers and a bazillion other percussion toys.

Matt, however, is the real MVP aux-guy... he covers all of the melodic extra instruments, playing everything from extra piano, bass, guitar, synth, bari, alto, and soprano saxes, secondary percussion, plus backing vocals when we need four voices. He's a monster!  It's a lot of fun going through our music at home and saying stuff like, "Wait, what do you do on 'Savoy Truffle?'" "I used to play the electric organ part, but now I'm gonna play bari sax. Can you cover the organ now?" "Yup! On it!" 

My dear friend from college, Stefan, who specializes in Medieval and Renaissance instruments and runs Phoenix' hella-awesome early music group Bartholomew Faire (of which I am an alum), flew out from Arizona again this year to help us play the Indian-based songs using his assortment of unusual ancient instruments. He played hurdy-gurdy on most of the Indian tunes (Within You Without You), and he also took the recorder solo on Fool on the Hill, and he even played a crumhorn (that melodic buzzy sound) on 'Baby You're a Rich Man.'  It was so wonderful having him stay with us again-- he is the perfect house guest: cheerful, low-maintenance, a late sleeper like us, funny as hell, self-sufficient, up for anything, friendly with all of the other musicians, and good for reminiscing, too. Anyway, I was sad dropping him off at the airport today. 


This is the second year of the event, and you can tell we've refined things a bit. From a personal perspective, I was able to streamline all of my percussion gear thanks to some new racks, stands, and rack-mountable versions of some of my usual percussion instruments, so I wasn't the thing holding us up between songs like I sometimes was in 2018. I also had more room on my platform this year, so I had everything I needed within easy reach, as opposed to last year where I had to (for example) drag out and then put away a floor tom or a snare and hi-hat every time I played them. 

I also added a footer to the last page of every song with the name of the next song and what I play on it... that way as we're playing the last chunk of a song I can quickly eyeball where my next batch of instruments are, and how I'll transition to them from what I'm currently doing. Why put the tambourine down if I need it at the top of the next song?

Performance-wise, Night 4 (aka "the long night") was probably my favorite-- that's the only night where we play 3 albums instead of just two (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Magical Mystery Tour), though the final Night 6 (Abbey Road and Let It Be, as well as the singles and Past Masters from that year, e.g., "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)") was a very very close second.  My own personal roughest night was Night 5 (The Beatles (aka The White Album)), because I whiffed a harmony or two (in my defense, I was sight-reading one of them after I got a nod on stage to cover it), but it was still a hell of a fun night. Good GAWD how I love recreating 'Revolution No. 9' live. It's a riot!


Once again, like last year, I got totally emotional and lost my shit during "A Day in the Life."  Good god, it's an overwhelming magical brain explosion to play it live with a string section, horn section, and with all of these people I just love so much. At one point I took out my in-ear monitors so I could hear the sound with my 'real ears' and holy mother of crap, it's just stupendous. Plus, it's cool as hell seeing the younger folks in the string section fall in love with The Beatles. 


Physically, this year was a bit rougher than last year. I was getting woefully low on iron in May, and the earliest I could get in for an infusion was the morning of Day 2 of BeatleFest. I did BeatleFest last year sans iron and the crash afterwards was fucking awful, so I decided I'd rather get the infusion on a performance day and run the risk of playing percussion with a freshly sporked arm, because holding off was not a healthy option. Besides, the brain fog was getting bad, and I needed to be on my A-game for this thing.  Infused iron takes about 2 days to fully absorb, and I was excited to be feeling better by Night 4 (the big night).  The infusion went smoothly, and as expected, I felt better every 8 hours or so.   (Speaking of my infusion, I just wanted to jot this down so I remember it: I'm very happy to be back at the hospital's Ambulatory Infusion center as I did from 2006-2010 as opposed to getting my treatment at the Cancer Center as I'd been since about 2011. Contrary to what you might expect, the care is just somehow better and cooler at Ambulatory Infusion than at the Cancer Center. Sure, the Cancer Center has the therapy doggos and the VR goggles of peaceful scenes, but it's still somehow impersonal and production-line-ish; and the blare of TVs blasting The View or whatever is so fucking annoying and inescapable. Also, the Cancer Center's specialty is chemo, not iron infusions, and they actually do iron infusions kinda stupidly backwards there. So yeah, I was happy to be back to the infusion center.)

By Wednesday morning my brain fog had significantly lifted, and my skin sans makeup was no longer corpse-guppy-translucent. :-)

Matt and I both agreed that this year, our biggest challenge was being able to see our goddamn music. It's like in the last 365 days our eyesight has hit that tipping point where music on a stand or tablet is too far away for reading glasses but too close for our usual distance glasses. It might be time to talk to our eye doctor for musician glasses for that middle kinda sheet music distance.

Speaking of sheet music, my magical tablet worked out perfectly-- not a single glitch during the show -- and HOLY BALLS was it a total, total game changer. It's amazing not having to turn paper pages and instead just tap a foot pedal. I was in heaven. It saved SO much time and so many headaches! I kept my paper sheet-music binders on stage juuuuust in case my tablet exploded, but I never needed it for a second. Whew!

We went back to the theater around 12:30pm today to load out the rest of our gear and break down the platforms, and that was pretty sad.  As soon as we got home, we unloaded the car and then immediately loaded it up with Stefan's stuff and then I brought him to the airport. I just walked in a moment ago, and the house is eeeeeeerily quiet and calm. Nobody's rushing around, nobody's woodshedding parts last minute or getting music in order, figuring out what to wear, etc etc etc.  It's kinda nice? I think?


I am pretty distracted by how much my hands really hurt, though. They hurt during the shows, but the combination of joy + adrenaline made it ignorable. But walking off the stage they'd be throbbing. Right now they are still distractingly painful; neither turmeric nor Advil even takes the edge off.  A few years ago I bought a faithful replica of a late 60s-era skinless tambourine that sounds amaaaaazing, but also weighs about 98523823 pounds. Playing fast 16ths on that thing song after song after song really did a number on my right hand from having to grip it so tightly to maintain good control. My metacarpals are on fire as are the muscles in the meat of my palm. Holding things, turning doorknobs, and just generally using my fingers hurts pretty damn good.  But also just doing nothing hurts.  Typing sucks too, but I really want to write this all down, so fuck it. 

In May when we played "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" twice in one day, I strained my right bicep and tricep from that goddamn tambourine, and that's when I became a disciple of KT Tape. Starting on Night 4 of BeatleFest I taped my arm and it really did help tremendously (and had the added bonus of reducing under-arm flab wiggle! Yay!). I may try taping my hand later. 

In some screwed up way, having my body hurt after BeatleFest somehow feels good; like I have evidence that I gave it my all. I'm sure a better, healthier measure of success would be an internal feeling of the satisfaction of a job well done, but whatevz.

I've typed way too much. 

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TL;DR: BeatleFest 2019 was awesome. My tablet rocked; taping my arm helped a lot; getting an iron infusion was smart; I fucked up my hands but I somehow like it? I love getting to make music, especially with these people. I can't wait until next year. 

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you are AMAZING. xoxo
Jenn A 8/6
Your joy shines through. Thank you for sharing it with us!
So happy to hear that things went so well! Sorry to have missed Stefan. Sounds like I may get a chance to catch up next year though, since BeatleFest doesn't sound like it's slowing down at all. :)
I am so proud of you. Congratulations on surviving that high-wire act!
Loved to read this write-up!

Can you take naproxen (Aleve)? I've found that it's the best thing for me when I've jacked my back, knee, or elbow and I need to interrupt the cycle of "this is injured, so it's inflamed, so it hurts, so it's inflamed." Two naproxen to make it knock it off, then another one naproxen 12 hours later, then one again every 12 hours until -poof-. On the stomach irritation scale it's more likely to irritate than ibuprofen but less likely than aspirin. Anyway I think it's the bomb diggity, handles swelling better than ibuprofen, and is not always on people's radar.

Did the City of Wilmington do anything to boost the event as a tourist draw, do you know? I think I recall after last year's success that there was noise about maybe they would do that.
Y'all were amazing, we're talking about engineering it so we can see a weeknight next year. And of course there will be a next year... Right?

Regarding distance vision, these days I'm wearing progressives. it's nice to get most of the benefits of bifocals but there's no line. I'm not sure if the range of options it provides would cover the case you're talking about or not.
I LOVE when you expound on your musical expertise. Love love love. Generally speaking I have musical anhedonia, but your technical and functional descriptions light up my nerd soul like a Christmas tree.
You might want to look into an athletic sleeve instead of tape. All the compression goodness, plus flab compaction and it is reusable.

I owe a post about my vacation but I am too fried right now.
This is gonna sound like an epic humblebrag, but it is the annoying truth: I have tried all of the athletic sleeves I could find, and they're all too damn big. It's ri-god-damn-diculous.

(Insert 5th grade joke about going to Dick's and only finding things too large. Hhuhhuhhuhhuhuhh!)

In other gnus, I look forward to your vacay post. Hope it was spiffy.
Try shopping for a boy's athletic sleeve.
 

Tornado Warning!

I wrote this on Twitter this morning (April 15th), and I'm going to be lazy and copy/paste the tweet-storm:

======================================================

1) Holy crap. I haven't been sleeping well for the last few nights... and last night my body said "ENOUGH." Like a Roomba driving itself back to its dock, my body auto-piloted itself to bed at 11:15. (This is unheard of for me... I usually hit the hay around 4:30am.)

2) Normally I wake up 8-9 times over the course of a night/morning, and like an ass I always check my phone when I wake up, which naturally makes it harder to fall back asleep. This did not happen last night... I slept SO HARD. I knew nothing.

3) I'm also a huge weather and safety nerd; my ears are finely-tuned to detect any and all weather-related sounds (distant thunder, wind, rain, etc.), as well as weird noises in/outside the house. I sleep with one ear open, and these sounds always wake me up. Not last night.

4) I just woke up now (8:43am) to a bazillion missed phone alerts from 3-4am (including one of those incredibly loud Emergency Alerts sent via the Powers The Be™) commanding I "take immediate shelter from the [goddamn] TORNADO." I missed 'em all. That scares me on 2 levels.

5) It scares me 'cuz it's always been my job to be in charge of weather safety. I like keeping aware of wx threats, stocking a modest emergency kit, and making the rare "it's time to get in the basement" call. I like this job. I missed this completely; we could have been hurt.

6) It also scares me that my body was SO exhausted that it could not be awoken, even for a substantial threat, and despite a zillion warnings that surely made my phone scream. What does this say about the state of my anemic body, that a zillion alarms didn't even make me flinch?

7) Anyway, I really hope everyone is safe. I haven't yet looked at damage reports yet (hell; haven't even looked out the window yet) and judging by the sheer number of alerts, I imagine there's gotta be some. I'm just hoping people heeded them and erred on the safe side. (Fin)

======================================================

After I wrote all that, I started investigating why my phone's emergency alert didn't wake me. I keep my phone on Silent 99% of the time; however, I remember when President Cheeto sent that Presidential Alert a few months back, that shizzle came through loud and clear. So why didn't this Actual Alert make a sound? I went digging through my phone's settings and even RTFM and still couldn't find the answer, so... I dunno. 
Anyhoo, there was an F2 tornado that touched down at 3:38am in Sussex County[1], so that tornado warning was real. Thankfully nobody died; I believe there was only one injury caused by a tree falling on someone's house... yikes.

And thankfully, my worry above was for naught... I was really concerned that I slept through crazy alarms that should wake the dead and holy-lord-am-I-that-anemic-and-dead-that-even-that-couldn't-wake-me?! But the alarm was silent, so I just slept like a normal person. No crisis!


Early Birthday Weekend

(I wrote this on April 15th)

My birthday is coming up on Wednesday of this week (me and George Takei!). As an early birthday gift, Matt bought us tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. This is the 4th time we've seen him at MSG since he started his residency, and he sounded amazing, as always. I scored us a hotel near Times Square, and we could see the New Years Eve Ball from our hotel window. Thankfully the hotel entrance is away from the crowd, so we could avoid the tourons and belligerent buskers in Elmo and SpiderMan and Statue of Liberty costumes.  We took the train up (admittedly, a decadent gift to ourselves) and arrived around 3-ish, so we enjoyed the 20-block walk to the hotel, grabbed a cup of coffee and a few fronch macarons along the way, and checked right into the hotel.  After freshening up, we went to our favorite restaurant (a Turkish place, creatively named "Turkish Cuisine,") and had an amazing meal as always, and then walked to MSG.  We entered the venue and took the escalator up to the 100 section, and then walked to the door marked "Sections 111-115." The usher looked at our tickets and said "Oh, NICE! Which one of you bought these tickets?" Matt said, "That was me." The usher turned to me and said, "This guy right here? He done good. Enjoy the show." He handed us off to a different usher who walked us down to our seats... closer and closer to the stage... to the front row of Section 115. HOLY CRAP! We were as close as you could possibly get to the stage without being on the floor... which means we could see absolutely everything. In fact, we were so close that I could read the brand of gear on the sound guy's mixing board. It was SO GREAT!  We sat next to some friendly drunk people in their late 50s and after just generally chatting, our Billy Joel tribute band might get a gig out of the deal. (One of the couples was verrrrrrrry wealthy and had flown up from South Carolina just to see this show. The husband is turning 60 and they want to do something extra amazing for him, so we said, "Why not hire a Billy Joel tribute band?"  The wife gave us her phone number. Who knows?)

After the show, we walked back to the hotel in the pouring rain, and stopped for dessert and a nightcap at Cafe Un Deux Trois, which was lovely. 

The next morning we went to this diner we really like (The Times Square Diner- though don't let the name fool you-- it's not particularly touristy), and then we headed over to Central Park to walk around and then go to the zoo. We got to see the sea lions, all of the amazing birds in the Tropic zone, and also Matt's favorites-- the puffins.

We made sure to leave the zoo by 3:45ish so we could catch a cab to Sam Ash, which is a giant music store right by Penn Station. I needed to pick up a few more percussion gadgets for this Genesis show I'm playing in (see "Percussion" below) and wound up spending almost $450.  Whoops... oh well. Happy Birthday to me, I guess!


Another Birthday...

My brother's birthday and mine are two years + one day apart. He's 4/16 and I'm 4/17. He turns 50 in 14 minutes! For his big 5-0, he decided he wanted to go to the most beautiful place he'd ever seen, which is Assisi, Italy. He went there in high school, when our high school used to arrange annual trips to Europe (which they natually discontinued once it came time for me to be old enough to go). Since 1987 he's been saying it's the most beautiful place he's ever been to, and how he'd give anything to go back. So, they gathered up their immediate family and headed over there. My sister-in-law and my youngest niece left 5 days early so they could visit a friend in Israel, and then they met my brother, my nephew, and my oldest niece in Italy. I'm so happy they're able to experience this all together.  It's also kinda neat that Jack (my nephew) is the same age that Jeff (my brother) was when he first saw Assisi.

We'll be having the Knapp Family Easter Passover Birthday Goulash next weekend in NJ. 


Percussion!

The next musical thing I'm involved in is a live performance of Genesis' double album "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" with The Rock Orchestra. We're not dressing like Peter Gabriel or anything, but we are playing the hell out of this music.  The band has been rehearsing for about 2 months now, but every weekend they rehearsed I had to be in NJ for something. But for this show, they can definitely rehearse without me, because I'm just playing percussion and provding some secondary backing vocals. (Joe has this other woman Chris singing primary backing vocals. Whenever there are two backing vocal parts at once, I'll jump in. But the percussion is keeping me plenty busy. It's so much fun!)

I sent these tweets on the train ride home:

1: Just spent almost $450 on more percussion toys at @samashmusic in NYC. There's so much fun percussion on Genesis' #TheLambLiesDownOnBroadway, and I get to play it all, twice in one day, with @RockOrchestraDE on Saturday, May 18th at 3pm and 8pm. Shows at  @TheGrandWilm. Wheee!

2: Bought some monkey skulls (pitched woodblocks), mountable castanets, a snake spine (ratchet), & an ultra-lite tambourine for crazy-fast 32nd notes. Also bought 2 expansion trays for my percussion stand for quick/easy access; sometimes I only have 2 beats to switch instruments.

3: Got yet another shaker: This one is REALLY bright/crisp/loud & really cuts through. Has a great feel/swing/weight. My fave purchase: A Flexatone! Gonna follow @Casarino around in case he sees something eerie, catches a chill, or eats Jello. (Helpful Example!) 


OK, gonna post this now.


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[1]: Sussex County is Delaware's southernmost county-- we only have three, stacked on top of each other since Delaware is a tall, skinny state. We live in New Castle County, the northernmost one.


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my phone didn't make any sound either, and I'd been keeping it by my bed for years in case of something like a tornado warning.

happy birthday.
thank you for sharing the update.
You know where else Matt can see puffins? https://mollybawn.com/boat_tour_newfoundland I think tours start in June. Also they participate in Puffin Patrol, where they help puflings (!) get from where they’ve hatched to the water without getting eaten by gulls. That starts in August. https://cpawsnl.org/puffinpetrelpatrol/ (EDITED to add: I don't know why the second link won't linky, sorry.)
Michele Grant 4/21edited
PUFLINGS! EEEEEEEEE!!!
Puffins are gud. See them a lot in Maine, and on my travels for work (including Newfoundland). They're just so... good!
that sounds like an AMAZING birthday! and holycrap those seats! well done, matt! :) (and i love un deux trois, if jack weren't 100% paleo i would have taken him there the other night since our theater was right next door. nom.)
Jenn A 4/22
I was awake, prepping for a medical procedure. I just thought, "Well, we're screwed." Since I was pretty immobile and everyone else was asleep.

Happy Birthday! Give Pie my best!
Yes! Birthday Pie needs to get its proper adulation!
Happy belated birthday!
Sounds like a fantastic birthday - more so when thinking about the two of you and that scene. Super happy to hear it.
 

The last two years haven't been as travel-intense as prior years, which is great for my laziness and introversion, and crappy for my love of flying and desire to hoard frequent flyer miles. 

Right now we're on a plane to Denver, where I will have to accept that it really is fall and approaching winter; it's been easy to forget that in Delaware.  

We'll be in Denver until Friday, and my days will be packed with teaching a new client, and my nights will be spent recovering.

I first got my travelly job in 2007 and I told myself how exciting it would be to get to see all of these great cities... but the reality is that I know what the airport and the hotel of that city looks like. I can count on one hand the number of times I ventured out after work to explore the city I was in... but most of the time I'm just too exhausted. When I teach, I'm essentially delivering a 7-to-8-hour monologue, and when the day is done I just want to go back to my hotel room, order room service, and be in bed by 8. Not very exciting, I know. 

When I travel to a city where friends of mine live, I don't even bother telling them I'll be there, because I know I won't have enough gas in the ol' tank to hang out. Sad. Lame. All that. 

Tomorrow is the mid-term election day, and Matt and I submitted our absentee ballots a week or two ago, so we're all set there.  I'm kinda curious how the Pennsylvania districts will vote now that they re-drew so many districts because they were gerrymandered for so long. 

I have so much work to do between now and November 17th-- I'm kinda overwhelmed.  I need to learn a ton of music for this tribute to The Who that we're doing on 11/17 (but I have to have the music learned by the 11th so I don't sound like an ass at rehearsal-- I'm singing, percussioning, and playing trumpet); plus I have to read and fully grok a 215-page book for work by 11/14 because I'm headed to DC on the 14th to attend a Train the Trainer class on the 15th and 16th and I'll be taking the exam for it on the 16th, and I MUST pass it. I have to be able to write courseware for it and teach a class based on it by the end of the year, and I can't teach it if I'm not certified in it.  It'll all get done somehow, but right now it just feels impossible. 

OK, gonna make use of this flight time and start working on chipping away at some of this stuff.

In other news, I hate being cold. Denver in November is no place to try to be warm.

Ok bye.

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11/5 '18 3 Comments
Safe travels and good health, love.
Sending warm thoughts to fend off the impending frostbite.
Ray Conrad 11/5 '18
what album(s)/song(s) are you doing for the Who thing?
CM Adams 11/7 '18
 

I've never said or typed "herml-blermbl" before, but it just seems to fit.

I have a buncha half-written drafts here on OPW and I want to finish them and tell y'all what's been happenin' (and also to remind myself later what was happenin'), but I just... don't do it. Herml-blermbl.

So, here's a redux:

-- Beatlefest (July 16-21) was unfathomably satisfying and I really feel like we pulled off a nigh-impossible feat with very high quality... the highest to date. We had top-notch musicians/players who were all incredible readers, which was gonna be the only way we'd ever get to play 215 songs over 6 nights. Reading the charts, listening to each other, and watch Rich or Joe for the ending for the songs that faded out on the actual record. I'm really proud of what we did, and I'm excited it's now officially an annual thing and has caught the attention of all of the Delaware tourism groups and chamber of commerce and politicians and hoteliers and stuff... so they're gonna throw money and marketing behind it next year to make it something that the state celebrates and hotels offer package deals and yadda yadda yadda.  They're also trying to move it to the 1200-seat Grand Opera House, which is pretty amazing. 

-- I jumped back on Facebook because people were "very upset" they couldn't tag me in BeatleFest photos. #firstworldproblems  It is time to disable that shit nowwwww. 

-- We are derg-sitting Riley The Mutt again; she belongs to Nick and Nancy D'Argenio. They actually spell her name "Rylee" but when this derg is here she is MY derg and that's how I spell it, so there. I love having a doggo in the house. She is such a good, good, good, and pretty girl. JD was such a guy-dog, but Rhieleighe is so dainty and girlie, even though she's a mutt and not any kind of fancy foo-foo breed. She's still very much a doggo, though. 

-- I give the WeRateDogs guy sole credit for inventing the little dog-lingo the entire internetz now uses have when talking about dogs. The whole "heckin' good doggo 12/10 would pet" sentence structure amuses and delights me (and I didn't even do it right).

-- I've had a co-worker for the last 6-ish years that I've only ever worked with remotely... I'd never met him before in person. But this week he was teaching in Philly so we invited him down for dinner and for a jam session, because he's about to retire and do music full-time. I'm so happy for him! We had a great time. He said that he's the only democrat/non-Trump guy in his entire neighborhood... ugh, poor guy. I let him drink from our ITMFA mug and he was delighted!

-- Andrew Durkin (my musical collaborator since 1986) flew to the east coast today, and he'll be here for a week. From this-coming Monday to Thursday we're gonna get together and work on Sunnyvale material... Sunnyvale is the band that is me, Matt, Andrew, and Leo. (In the '90s I was in a regionally-successful band called The Evelyn Situation with both Andrew and Leo (and some other folks)... so getting to make music with them plus Matt is a musical dream come true for me.  We're gonna rehearse and record at my folks' place in north Jersey. 

-- My parents' 51st anniversary is this coming week, so we're taking them out to dinner on Sunday night. I asked my brother how many folks from his clan were coming, and he said "Just me and Mindy" (his wife).  I said, "No kids?" He said, "One kid is at camp and the other one has something else going on, and the oldest lives near college now. So yeah, just me and Mindy."  Call me weird, but whether I was 14, 17, or 22 (the ages of their 3 kids), I never had a choice about whether or not I'd attend a grandparent-related event... it was expected I'd go.  It feels weird to me that it's just kinda optional for them.  My folks are gonna be really disappointed, but hey, it's not my call. 

-- Matt and I are going to Burning Man this year... the last time we went was 2011, which was Matt's first time, and we left before the man even burned.  This year we are determined to stay for the man burning (Saturday before Labor Day) as well as the temple burn (Labor Day eve), but I'm not sure if it'll be do-able given his near-daily anxiety attacks.  He is hoping for some mystical, magical, cosmic ass-kicking. Perhaps some, um, molecular encouragement will help... or it'll kill him when his brain separates from his body permanently. We'll see. Or we won't.  But either way, this is the 10th Anniversary of Patty and Mike's Burning Man wedding that I officiated, so they wanna have a Vow Renewal Ceremony with me at the helm again. It won't be nearly as elaborate, but just a little something to commemorate a decade of awesome. 

-- We had our 8th Hot Breakfast Summer Blowout at Bellefonte Cafe on Friday the 27th and it was sold out since the Wednesday before. That was nice to hear. 

-- My music schedule is super-busy between now and the end of November. This is cool.

-- There's a new edition of ITIL (the thing I teach) coming out in Q1 2019, and the ITIL Mothership has chosen me (me!) and my videos to be the one they wanna help be first to market.  This pleases and flatters me greatly. It's nice to be recognized by the creator of the thing I'm a specialist in that yep, they agree I don't suck.  Woot! 


-- Food has been getting stuck in my dumb esophagus for years, which means I only eat a few bites per meal... which means I'm down to 111 pounds which is TOO DAMN SCRAWNY​​​​​​.  So my GP finally prescribed a thing I can take before I eat that will loosen things up and allow me to eat a full meal without having to pause after two bites and sit awkwardly and uncomfortably.  I'm so excited!! Hopefully I'll get some friggin' meat back on my bones. I look like Skeletor. 

-- I sleep on a towel every night and soak through it every night. Very sexy. I wish someone would yank out my girl parts... I DON'T NEED THEM.

--Matt's MiniCooper (Janice) doesn't have too much life left in her, unfortunately. So we need to decide: New Mini? Or Chevy Cruze which we fell in love with unexpectedly on a business trip when I was randomly assigned one by the rental car place?

-- I paid for the NYTimes digital edition as well as for access to the digital versions of their crosswords. I loooove their mini-crosswords (they take me anywhere from 40 seconds to 2-3 mins). But their full-size crosswords start easy on Monday and get harder through the week. I can only do their Monday and Tuesday ones, and then they get too hard for me because I'm dummm. But I love doing them. 

-- I'm sorry I haven't been posting or commenting here much... but I have been reading everything.  I love you all very much. 

-- I'm forgetting stuff but I need to sleep. 

(In fact I just nodded off and dreamt that Nik Everett is Matt's cousin Amy's grandfather and he was giving a speech on a baseballfield about having to give her away at her wedding. But she wasn't there to hear the speech so I was recording it with my phone and then a muslim hardcore/speedmetal band started setting up around him and just started playing playing in full burqas... but they turned out to be guys just trying to push the envelope... but they were really good! My brain is weird.)

Okbye.

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Congratulations on many things and best wishes on the test. I miss you.
Thank you, m'dear! Miss you right back. Lots.
I'd describe this as "too much on my plate".

Speaking of dogs and Burning Man. My dog and I have an appointment on Monday at the vet to get her reassessed for her cancer. I'm really hoping I don't have to send you to the burn with something for the temple.

See my next post about dogs, re: my latest foster dog.

You are not twenty any longer. Time to suck it up and drink some ensure. And follow up with your doctor. Get the medicine. Take the medicine. BE the medicine. Ohm.

For what it's worth, get rid of the baby factory but keep the playpen.

The mini cooper news reminds me that I saw a VW Scirocco on the highway this morning. I beeped the horn and gave the guy a thumbs up. I always wanted one back when.

Get a motor home for the trip to the playa. That way Matt can have a rest spot that he can retreat to. And lock the door. Plus, air conditioning.

Sorry I missed the Beatles Fest and the summer show. Too damn busy with the house.
Ray Conrad 8/3 '18
Oh no... please keep me posted on your dog's appointment. I hope everything is fine and you have many long years of belly rubs ahead of you. And if you want me to bring general good wishes to the temple, say the word! It doesn't have to be all sad. I can even post some gratitude for your roof!

The good news is that we have already rented a foo-foo trailer for Burning Man (I always rent a trailer or RV because I am a princess... but this one is extra-nice) so we will have an extra-comfy refuge for when we need to hermit. Plus we'll have air conditioning if things get extreeeeme (though really, opening the windows and getting a cross-breeze really is lovely and often plenty adequate). And we'll have a fridge and a shower... and best of all, the Home Toilet Advantage. PortaJohns be damned. :-)


Oh-- I didn't realize I stopped typing in the middle of my medical bit above (gonna fix that now)... but I just took this new med today and HOLY LORD I ate a full meal today and it is miraculous. If ClassicJill ever knew there would be a future day I wished I could gain 15 pounds, she would laugh me the hell out of the room.
I’m always amazed that you can be in a state where you have too much on your plate, yet reading your posts makes me feel more pragmatic and positive. You have an ability to embrace the notion that happiness takes work and that makes me feel like doing happy work.
Lindsay Harris-Friel 8/3 '18edited
Here we go - in order. (Sorta.)

*inhales deeply*

-"herml-blermbl" are EXACTLY the right words there.

-Beatlefest - I'm really sorry that I missed it, but I'm overjoyed that it went so well, that you enjoyed it so thoroughly, and (perhaps most especially) to hear about the marketing push you guys will have next year! That sounds super rad. Do kids say rad these days? I doubt it. Maybe it's retro again? I'm old - what I'm saying here is that I'm old.

-"Rylee" - Why is there no doggo pic for this post?! I feel terribly let down by you Miss Knapp. Also, I genuinely burst out laughing when I read "Rhieleighe"

-"heckin" - this lingo absolutely slays me. Watch this video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCY3xsz-6zI )if you haven't seen it already - but really, just the first dog (giant poodle) because they're the 80/20 in just a few seconds of video.

- Durkin's visit - Well shit. Of COURSE it's the week that I'm headed to Maine with my family to see my grandfather. Please give Durkin my unending respect and lerv. Very sorry I'm going to miss the guy.

- "51st anniversary" - Please give them my lerv and congratulations!

- "Burning Man" - I wish like Hell I could make it this year for Patty and Mike's anniversary. I've been thinking about the Burn a lot over the last couple of years, and I kinda have the itch to go again - even if it wasn't for such a good 'excuse', but it's just not in the cards. I may have to send something with you for them if that wouldn't be too much of a PITA? I hope the RV helps soothe Matt's experience. Still renting from the same lady?

- Bellefonte Cafe - Sorry I didn't make it. Went to Slackerbot, and you woulda dug it. You guys get me for the next one. Promise. ;)

- ITIL - This is SO good to hear, even if it's not terribly shocking. You're amazing at what you do. You think things through and prepare. You actually work at that annoying little thing called 'quality'. You f***ing _get it_. I know my opinion doesn't amount to a hill of beans here given my vast influence in the industry which is why I'm so psyched to hear that the people whose opinions DO matter are paying attention. Endlessly and eternally proud of you despite my having no influence on your work whatsoever. ;)

-I wanna new drug, so I can actually swallow - okay, so after my inner Beavis shuts up for a minute... glad to hear this. Pretty sure I speak for the whole clan when I say that we like our Jill healthy. :)

- New Car - I legitimately have no advice here. I drove a Cruze once - in much the same circumstances that you did, but mine was not cleaned properly after a smoker had it and it was just... gross, so no real love there for Yours Truly.

That about covers that for now.
Last time we met I was wondering if you weren't maybe starting to approach scrawny ... though it's not my business I'm glad your doc found something that will help you stay healthy!

An annual BeatleFest with city/state arts funding support sounds AWESOME. I fear that Joe may have taken himself to the cleaners putting it together, so hopefully some real and steady funding will come through for next year.
Thank you for not mentioning my scrawniness in person (though if you had, I would have known it was out of love).

People (mostly acquaintances) either say "OMG YOU'RE SO SKINNY GAAAH EAT A SANDWICH JEEZ" to which I want to reply "I would actually give anything to eat a sandwich," or they say "Wow girl, you look soooooo great and skinny!" to which I want to reply, "Thank you that's lovely, but I have pretty serious health issues because I'm so undernourished. But hey, I'm glad my illness pleases your sense of female aesthetics." :-D

Hopefully neither of these will be a thing soon. Yay!
I haven't seen you for a while (sorry) but I always thought of you as Jill shaped and birdlike.
Well, this is the thing, right? As to any "you look great because you're skinny," fuck that shit and the horse that those commenters ride in on and smash the patriarchy.

As to health, I can say, "Oh, hey, Jill, you're lookin' a little on the slim side lately," and, you know, I'm guessing that YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT. You already know if, say, your pants are a little looser than they used to be and whether your favorite top is starting to look a little baggy. Also, you're an adult, and so I figure you're taking care of it or you're trying to, and I'm not your mom. And also I'm not going to embarrass both of us by bringing it up in public -- there's no comfortable response to "you're skinny" -- or risk maybe throwing you off your performance game by saying something just before you get on stage.

Not saying anything ever will possibly make me look like I don't care, but it's a hard needle to thread, figuring out what to say and when to say it about someone's appearance. I try to hit the MYOB eye of that needle.

In conclusion, I'm really happy you're getting some medical help with it. Here's to sandwiches.
Michele Grant 8/5 '18edited
Yep! You get it entirely.

I know what I look like and how my pants fit, and I know that it's noticeable. And I also I know you love me, and I know you know I love you, and I know you're polite and awesome enough not to say anything about my potentially unhealthy appearance unless I bring it up. This is the way the universe should be. (But again, if you did bring it up randomly, I wouldn't have been offended or mad, because I would know it was coming from a place of love and concern. It would take a HELL of a lot to make me mad at you.

The best kinds of friends are ones where you never have to question the friendship... you just know it's good good good.

Sing it! "Thank you for being a frieeeeend!"
You never cease to amaze me.
SFM 8/5 '18
Hey! It's great to see you here! Welcome!!
My parents do the NYT crosswords all week and solve them "together" (one takes a crack then the other then I think they work together). Good stuff!

Also: AWESOME about all the music. Keep me posted on dates for next year.

Lastly, we're hoping do see the Dead Milkmen at the Ardmore Music Hall on 9/21 if we can (it's sold out, we're on a ticket waiting list) and then have GA tickets for Paul Simon's LAST CONCERT EVER in NY the next night. Just in case you're doing any of those things...
Avocado Tom 8/9 '18
How many tix do you need for the Milkmen show on 9/21? I miiiiight be able to getcha on the list. Lemme see what I can do!
Two would be AMAZEballs.
Avocado Tom 8/15 '18
 

I forget if I mentioned here this ridiculous musical undertaking we decided to attempt: We are putting on Delaware's very first Beatles festival, and this festival means that we are playing every Beatles song ever released (and even two that were recorded and never released) over a course of six consecutive nights... this means we do two albums per night, plus any singles that were released around those albums.  There is one night we're only doing one album, and that's the night we're playing The White Album since it's a double-album... and one other night we're playing three albums because that's just how the math worked. 

The festival started tonight, and we were kinda expecting the lightest crowd tonight since it's a Monday night, and since we just kinda figured this is their less interesting material.  But holy crap, we had 130 people tonight, and the theater only holds about 250... so it felt very full, and the crowd was very enthusiastic. One of tonight's audience members was actually in the audience when The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan!! GAAAH!!  After our show tonight she said she was so happy she came tonight so she could actually hear the songs, unlike the Ed Sullivan show where all she heard was screaming. :-)

We've been rehearsing this material since January-- two rehearsals per week -- one a vocal-only rehearsal, and the other rehearsal was with the whole band. 

The name of the group putting on this BeatleFest is called "The Rock Orchestra," which is an tribute show organization headed up by Joe Trainor and Matt Urban. Joe and MattU (not to be confused with 'my Matt' (aka MattC)) choose what tribute shows they want to perform (basically curating a season's worth of music), and then writes all the arrangements, and hires the right musicians to play it. So there's no set band member list to The Rock Orchestra... but they have an extensive Rolodex from which to draw. :-)

This BeatleFest takes 40 musicians to play all of this music as true to the albums as we can, once you get strings, horns, traditional Indian instrmentalists, harmonica, harp, even sound effects... all in addition to the core band. 

Because we're playing these songs in release order, tonight was the "simplest" material, so we only needed the core band tonight.  But we've been rehearsing in release order, too... so our most recent rehearsals has been the REALLY complicated stuff requiring all 40 players.  We had two final rehearsals this weekend... Saturday was sound-equipment load-in, and Sunday was all 40 of us... and we played all of the hard stuff (we're even doing "Revolution #9" live!)  We intentionally left the stage set up with all the (empty) chairs for the strings and horns, all of my 73,000 percussion instruments were out on display, MattC's guitars and saxes and keys were all set up, even though we don't use them until Wednesday.  We really want the audience to watch and feel this stuff build in complexity as we move through the Beatles' catalogue and timeline. 

So tonight when we got to the theater for Night 1 of BeatleFest to play "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles" and the surrounding singles, only the seven core band members were needed, and we were like "Where is everyone? Oh, wait, it's just us tonight!"  

We've got Joe Trainor singing mostly Paul McCartney's parts and also playing piano and keys; we've got Brendan Sheehan playing guitar and singing mostly John Lennon's parts, Rich Degnars on drums (he's amazing), Josh Dowiak on bass and some vocals, Joey Lopes on lead guitar (he is freakin' awesome), and then Matt and I are the utility players.  (Utility players are people who can sing and play many instruments, so they play whatever is needed.)  I sing backing vocals on almost everything (I sing lead on a few, too) and I play about 22 different percussion instruments (everything from simple handclaps to timpani and anvil and concert chimes to a motorcycle exhaust pipe), keys a few times, and I also handle all the sound effects (think the animal sounds in "Good Morning, Good Morning").  Matt sings whenever we need 4-part harmony (and he also sings lead on a few), and he's playing guitar, bass, sax, keys/piano, and percussion. 

Tonight was an easy night music-wise, and tomorrow night (Tuesday, Night 2) is also just the core band again because we're playing two more " simple" albums: "Beatles for Sale" and "A Hard Day's Night" (plus some singles).

Wednesday night (Night 3) is "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" (plus some singles). Wednesday night is when Matt and are the guest singers, so we sing lead on a few songs. This night is also when more band members arrive... Indian musicians arrive, some horns and strings...

Thursday night (Night 4) s the big night where we do three albums (‘Revolver’, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’) and also the point when all 40 musicians are on stage through the rest of the festival!

Friday night (Night 5 of 6, also Matt's birthday):  Tonight we only play one album, which is "The Beatles," aka The White Album. It's a double album.  We'll also play any singles released during that time. And once we tackle that, we're brought to closing night, which is "Abbey Road" and "Let it Be," plus the singles. And that's it!

During the show, we have fun projections as a backdrop that sorta gives you an idea of what "era" of The Beatles we're in (in Hamburg, the Ed Sullivan stage, their psychedelic stage, the rooftop, etc... and we have another projector with a slideshow that displays the song name, album title, and a counter that counts up the number of songs out of the 215 we've played already.  

I'm really proud and excited to play this music with these people-- it sounds great, and best of all everyone gets along, so it's been a very joyful experience!  It's also been exciting new really exciting to feel how the songwriting got more interesting and complex as The Beatles' progressed, and also to note how they were able to do all the things they wanted to record thanks to advances in recording technology.  

There was more I wanted to type, but I've forgotten because I've fallen asleep a few times while typing this... haha... and it's now 3:55am so I'm gonna post this now. 

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7/17 '18 8 Comments
These shows sound amazing. Do your best Norwegian Wood for me, and Maxwell's Silver Hammer for Mr. Archer. <3
Thanks! Tonight is Norwegian Wood-- that actually features me and Matt (along with Day Tripper and Ticket to Ride.) Maxwell's Silver Hammer is tomorrow night-- I love that song!
I am not normally a tribute show person, but this would absolutely have drawn me in, especially the White Album night. Alas, I'm in Virginia Beach for the week. So I shall console myself with sun, surf, sand and ludicrous amounts of cozy time.
Thomas Boutell 7/17 '18
Both are equally magical. Have a fabulous time, sir!
It is absolutely killing me that I can't be there (or give Robbb the gift of being there). I hope you all break all of your legs!
Michele Grant 7/17 '18
Thanks, babycakes! It's very strange not having you guys here... you are both missed very much!
This sounds like so much GD fun. I can feel the glow from here.
Anne Mollo 7/19 '18
Damn, that sounds fun!!
Kate Haney 7/24 '18
 

If you told me a month ago that I'd genuinely give a shit about Bruce Springsteen, I'd give you 100 reasons why I wouldn't... starting with how in north Jersey we were loyal to Billy Joel, not Bruce.  And his lyrics ("Show a little faith there's magic in the night / You ain't a beauty but hey, you're all right / don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again / Don't run back inside, darlin'  you know just what I'm here for / because this dick won't suck itself / and I'm desperate so I guess an ugly chick will do for now / Ohhhhh THUNDER ROAD!" -- I may be paraphrasing and messing things up a bit.)

But in the spirit of rocking the early '70s and punk male bravado, I put that all aside and fell in love with this music last night.  I got to play a Bruce Springsteen tribute with The Rock Orchestra at LiveNation/The Queen to a sold-out crowd, and I learned a totally new instrument in just a few weeks and I, dare I say, fuckin' rocked it considering.  (Sorry. I don't give myself props often, but I'm pretty proud.)

This band, which had many people I'd never played with before, was a fucking well-oiled machine. It was a level of excellence I haven't experienced in a tribute show before. I mean, playing tribute shows are always fun (and lucrative), but this band is really stacked with TRUE pros... it feels good being a weak link and really having to hustle to keep up... and still feeling like one of the band.  Matt, who I consider 73 times the musician I am, also felt like a second-string player to these guys. But it was so freakin' wonderful watching the cougars in the front row LITERALLY licking their lips at him like drunk sorority girl wannabe porn stars when Matt took a sax solo. I am not shitting you.

The only crappy thing about doing these shows is that we work our asses off to nail this music only to play it twice.  Our first show was last night (1/20), and the second and final show is this coming Saturday at the Milton Theatre in Milton DE, down by DogfishHead and stuff.  It's almost sold out already, so if anyone wants to come and wants a comp ticket, let me know ASAP. 

I sing backing vocals and play percussion which is my usual gig for these things... but I had to find a glockenspiel, write out all my parts, and learn how to play the damn instrument in less than 3 weeks and 2 rehearsals.  Fucking nuts. 

Here's a little clip of the GlockenspielCam of me doing a bit of "Born to Run."  A pro-mallet player I'm not... but I'm proud of what I could do having never played one of these in my life a month ago.  (...and if it sounds like shit, please remember you're listening to my monitor mix through a phone camera. This isn't what the audience heard.  But GAAAAH I LOVE THAT THAT HAMMOND ORGAN SWEET JESUS!)

Goddamn do I love being a musician.

And if I may be totally superficial for a moment (and I am NOT fishing for compliments):  It is startling to me how one moment I look like a ridiculous old lady struggling for relevance and hipness and failing terribly, and other times I... don't? 

I'm not really a fan of the physical aspects of this aging business, I'm not gonna lie.  *sigh*

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1/21 '18 14 Comments
You are so fucking awesome.
Yes. This. Always and forever.
I thought you looked amazing. I wouldn't say that if it wasn't true (I just wouldn't say anything).

Also, IHNJH IJLS GlockenspielCam
Matt Lichtenwalner 1/22 '18edited
The only Glock you’ll ever need. :)
Glockidarity! I played glockenspiel in marching band back in the day.

Age-idarity! I'm getting jowls. 0.o

Sad! I am dead for missing these TRO shows. The FB clips are showing me barest shadow of the skill and talent and energy you and everybody else are putting into the music.
Michele Grant 1/22 '18
I didn't know you played glockenspiel! Did you march with it via the (ahem) strap-on model, or did you get to park at the sideline? I can't imagine marching and glockenspieling, but I saw folks do it in high school. Insaneballs.

Dood, we miss you and Robbbb 'round here.
I parked it on the sidelines because I handled a few other pit percussion things for our tiny, tiny band. But I did have to carry it in parades, and damn, the bruises I'd have on my hips afterward, because the harness was stiff fiberglass IIRC, and built for someone with a bigger frame than myself. Best memory: we were gearing up for some parade, and I got bored, so I started picking out "Axel F" from "Beverly Hills Cop" (www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOc7gL7Le9E) on the glock. A bunch of the better musicians in the band jumped in, including the sousaphone player (who's now a music teacher IRL) for that fun bass line, and we riffed until it was time to get moving.

Miss youuuuu toooooo.
Michele Grant 1/23 '18
That’s so awesome.
Seconded.
We also totally played Axel F!

GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE, etc etc
I've heard marching bands do that before and I SO SUDDENLY WANT TO BE IN A STADIUM HEARING THE BAND DO THAT. G-dangit where is summertime. This cold winter business is OLD LIKE ALL OF US ARE FEELIN.
Karen 1/30 '18
And now I'm remembering that there's a different style that most people use, which sits upright and over to one side. That's not what we had. I carried it straight in front of me like a short-order cook's grill. I think the upright kind is a "bell lyra"; mine was a glock, but we did call it the "bells." Also it was beat to all hell; that gear must have been 25 years old when I was using it.
Michele Grant 1/23 '18
I imagine that 'beat to hell' must be frustrating when you're trying to make music with it, but in the retelling of tales, it just seems awesome. Like a beat up and well loved book.
Yep, the "bell lyre." In parades, our glock players also played "bells" (which was the bell lyre) kinda right out in front of them. Yup yup! I still can't imagine walking while playing... that seems impossible to me.