Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonda

I'm writing this hastily as I am dashing to complete packing for a Gods and Monsters Dutch tour, leaving late afternoon in fact.

But I wanted to tell you before I left that I just had the coolest time in LA playing solo at the MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit which was a tribute to my friend Chris Cornell. The MAP Fund serves musicians in dire need help and support who succumb to the grueling stress of life on the road, and is affiliated with the Grammy organization and NARAS (the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). It was held at the swanky Music Box at the Fonda Theater on Hollywood Blvd, and I must say it was a first class event all the way, and they've always had a bunch of different acts perform there on the night in question--and Chris as the honoree recommended me for the gig (I'm featured on his forthcoming new album "Carry On" which is out June 7th on Interscope)...

Gary at the MAP Fund Benefit to honor Chris Cornell held at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood on May 11th | Click to enlarge

back row (l-r): Alice Cooper, MusiCares' Kristen Madsen, MusiCares' Harold Owen, MC Tommy Davidson, incoming Chairman of MusiCares John Branca, Jill McCluskey, outgoing MusiCares Chairman Les Bider
front row (l-r): MusiCares' Scott Goldman and Wynnie Wynn, Gary, Chris Cornell, Neil Portnow (president of NARAS), From the Heart award honoree Jeff McCluskey, Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan

I first heard about it indirectly when Scott Goldman from the Recording Academy contacted my website to order a copy of my album with Jozef Van Wissem entitled "The Universe of Absence", I emailed him and he was very enthusiastic about the "Absence" album and we began what's proven to be a flourishing friendship--turns out he is a big guitar freak (and an excellent player in his own right) who'd been aware of my work since my "Evangeline" album from the mid-90's...and he wrote me that it looked like the organization at Chris' behest were going to ask me to come out and play at the event...he came to NYC shortly afterwards and caught one of my solo performances at the Gershwin Hotel here where I performed on my 1926 National steel guitar, and was quite enthusiastic about the sound and my playing and thought that would be a very appropriate instrument to perform on at this tribute (it's the axe most featured on "Universe of Absence")...

Gary at the MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit Concert

Images from the MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit Concert program | Click to enlarge

So voila, Caroline and I spent several golden days in the LA sunshine ensconced at the renovated Roosevelt Hotel (fabulous poolside action, ghosts abounding apparently there too--was where Marilyn was glimpsed on the diving board the last day of her life)...and got to spend some good quality time with my Mom and Dad and sister Laurie and brother-in-law Ezra on the first night out at the Mission Inn in Riverside...had lunch at Lucky Devil (great burgers!) with my pal Roy Trakin from Hits, who squired me and Caroline around in the de rigeur LA S.U.V. stylee...and had dinner the following night with my friend Cathal Coughlan, a really nice guy and one of the finest singers and songwriters I know, his brilliant work with his bands 80's and 90's band Microdisney and Fatima Mansions respectively is deplorably unsung in this country for sure, plus he's made several outstanding solo albums...hopefully this situation will change as he's getting the full reissue treatment soon through Sanctuary...

and then on Friday night I was given the actual red carpet treatment in front of the Fonda Theater, gamely running a gauntlet of reporters and broadcasters (including my pal Premiere Radio's Dave Schulps, and also a Latin American broadcast service who were delighted when I namechecked Astor Piazzolla as my favorite musician from that region) and giving soundbites about the great charity event I was going to play at, on into the Fonda theater, where Wynnie Wynn, one of the MAP Fund directors, an incredibly friendly and vivacious person, helped get us comfortably situated there (lounges and tables on the floor, the sold-out balcony was reserved for the fans--including my guy the LA Local 47 Musician's Union live music major domo and ace musician Alfredo Rubalcava)...I shook hands with Neil Portnow, a very nice guy, the former Buddha Records major domo and now the head of NARAS, and sat at comfortable a table with Caroline and some of the Gibson Guitars west coast office crew who were one of the sponsors (I rehearse a lot in their East Coast studios here in the old Hit Factory)...caught excellent sets by Kenny Wayne Shepherd and some of Stevie Ray Vaughan's old Double Trouble band...Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode enchanted with a stellar band including my guy John Frucisante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and ace bassist Martyn LeNoble...Army of Anyone did an incendiary thrash of a set...Tommy Davidson was so funny as compere (great comic timing, and what a gifted mimic!)...and I spent some time down in the dressing room talking to the legendary Alice Cooper, who was there to present the award to Chris--what can I say, they guy looked great, unaged and so charming and witty and friendly, I've always loved Alice since my college days spinning "Be My Lover" and "Sun Arise" on my Yale radio show...and I had a mini-reunion with his personal mgr. Toby Mamis, who used to do PR in NYC and whom I hadn't seen in about 30 years!

And then it was my turn to play--and I must say after the high-decibel onslaught the audience seemed incredibly receptive to my lonesome steel guitar, Wynnie said later you could hear a pin drop out there, they were really really listening...I did a tribute to my friend and collaborator Jeff Buckley by playing the instrumental music I gave him that became our "Song to No One"...and then played a deep dark bottleneck blues...and I must say I got a very warm reception (to say the least) from the sold-out house...

and then Alice presented the award to Chris...and then Chris brought his new band out and they rocked through 5 songs or so which spanned his entire career, including an intense cover of "Billie Jean" which is on Chris' new album, also the theme from "Casino Royale" ("You Know My Name"), ending with a version of Soundgarden's anthem "Black Hole Sun" (I love this song)...the band rocked hard, and Chris was in fine voice, looking so poised and relaxed--he is a true inspiration.

And then it was over... and as we left the theater I got mucho kudos and congrats from lots of fans and industry folks alike for my set, which really warmed my soul--this kind of feedback is what keeps me going through thick and thin and makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Then we went out for a midnight chili-dog at Carney's (we tried Pink's, but it looked like a scene out of "Day of the Locust" in front of the joint)...and back to NYC where I'm now in the midst of frantically packing for Gods and Monsters shows in Utrecht at the Tivoli and at the Milky Way in Amsterdam, which is getting taped for NPS (National Dutch Radio)--our boy Jerry Harrison's flying in from SF for the shows, so Ernie, Billy, Jason and I are really looking forward to busting out tunes for our loyal Dutch fans (and certainly, Holland was the first country to embrace my playing in a major way, going back to the Beefheart days--and I LOVE PLAYING IN HOLLAND!)

Friday I'm down to the Hague for an acoustic workshop and evening show at the Paard...then on Saturday I skip to Paris for 2 sets at one of my favorite jazz club, the Sunset in Les Halles, Jason may sit in with me there as he's footloose for a few days before joining up with his Hungry March Band'ers for some shows, and for sure I will be graced with the presence of the lovely Elli Medeiros, French icon going back to her days fronting the only French punk group that mattered :-), the Stinky Toys, who will sing some of the songs we collaborated on over the years, including "Skin Diving" from my latest "Coming Clean"

Meanwhile there's a new link for the clip of "Swamp T'ing", from our forthcoming new live dvd/cd, check it out here.

more soon...




Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link