This has been the highest concentration of Barn Owl concerts in years, and possibly ever. We played at Hampshire College on February 15; in Boston on the 23rd; in Turners Falls, MA, the 27th; and at the wondrous Time Machine Records in Easthampton, MA, on March 15th.
We've gone on many hiatuses (hiati?), and like Mongo, shooting us only makes us mad (and candygrams make us stronger). So we came into the Hampshire show with the screechy resolve of our namesake, and not a single mouse survived. Chris Cooper and I sharpened our nerd credentials by making jokes about Yes between sets. While my rapproachment with Steely Dan was amply detailed here, the details of my similar change of heart with regards to Yes will have to wait (in a nutshell: when they want to swing, which isn't often enough, they can, but the dopey lyrics mean my listening time with them will be limited). Anyway, the trio of Jack Wright, Andrea Neumann, and Vic Rawlings followed us, and they absolutely killed. There's an area of music that is, with a straight face, often referred to as "lowercase." What they played would possibly fit into that genre, except they played it far too convincingly for it to be reduced to fitting into a genre. They were then followed by Peter Bonos, Phloyd Starpoli, and Neil Young. They were great too, but I think I preferred Bonos' solo set the week before at the Tavern at Hampshire. That was the first time in a very long time that I was that knocked-out by a solo trumpet performance that was so effectively and confidently off-putting.
Between that and the next Barn Owl show I had a dream that I was a judge in a "battle of the bands" and that my impartiality nearly got me killed. Fortunately, it was just a dream; I mean, the idea of encouraging bands in a local scene to "compete" with one another (in the most ill-defined terms) couldn't possibly exist in any kind of reality-based realm, except as satire or farce. Right? Once the relief that it was just a dream set in, Barn Owl shot over to Boston for a show at the same loft I played an ill (literally) solo show about a month earlier. The acoustics were beyond perfect, and I'm not sure what it is about Barn Owl that we seem to be on some kind of streak lately. I think part of it is that our language has been refined to such a degree that we recognize said refinement only to the point that we want to explode it. We went through periods where we decided we would only do certain kinds of songs, or only engage in certain kinds of dynamic shifts, and the overall effect was that we got tired of telling ourselves what we thought we wanted to do. The various (and sometimes lengthy) hiatuseses I think just enriched our language by forcing us to forget what we did, while our other projects (my solo work, playing in Tizzy and Thrillpillow; Chris' work in Fat Worm of Error, with Bill Nace, and with the BSC; Andy's playing with Jake Meginski and Paul Flaherty) helped deepen our vocabularies, and bring everything we learned back to Barn Owl.
Our Turners Falls show was part of this new Phantom Brain Exchange series started by Neil Young (he's the drummer in Fat Worm of Error). Sometimes we welcome the challenge of playing in talky bars, and this was one of the louder, more static sets we'd played in years. And by the end, Andy's bass had been relieved of its strings. A couple of weeks at Time Machine in Easthampton we went the opposite direction, as we were in a tiny room with an attentive audience (and opening for BJ Snowden). You know that little crackly, burbly noise you felt at the back of your skull? Yeah, that was us. Sorry.