Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Perricelli's go to Sicily

Sicily!!! My gosh what an adventure. My wife and I traveled to the Mediterranean to visit the Italian island with my mother, father and sister for 8 days to celebrate my folks 40th wedding anniversary. Some of my family is from Naples on the mainland but most of my lineage is from Cattania, Caltenassetta and San Cataldo, Sicily. We got to visit these towns and literally feet the magic. We saw my mothers maiden name on a nearby shop and enjoyed some pizza from a local bakery which was very similar to to they style of pizza my grandfather, father and I make. It was really fun to see that and have a taste. Buonissimo!

Sicily is totally beautiful and blew my expectations away. We flew to Palermo, met up with our guide Alfie and headed straight out after an 8 hour flight from New York's JFK (got up at 4 am to catch our flight from Minneapolis). Being in the airport I could practically feel Italy and got excited as we were surrounded by Italians and the sound of the language. It seemed like we were at a big family reunion with distant cousins.

Sicily is very mountainous, there are towns in valleys, sides and on the very top of mountains. Lots of palm trees and cactus. Very similar to California and Mexico. Quite hot in the mid 90's this September. All sorts of hazel nut, almond, pistachio, fig, peach, orange and olive trees. Plenty of wine vineyards. We zoomed around the city in a private passenger van, caught the sights in the historical area including beautiful church, a catacomb full of hanging skeletons and had our first taste of Sicilian food at a trattoria on Mondello Beach. Straight away we did it up with a Prosecco, pasta, aracini (a delicious large fried rice ball with meat, sauce, onions and peas), seafood and local wine. Stray Sicilian cats crept by once and awhile and we saw them throughout our visit. This was a great first meal.

From there we traveled east to Castel De Tusa and the medieval town of Tusa up above. Strolled through town as we seemed to be the only tourists around and hung out at a little deli for a panini and a beer. Then it was off to Cefalu near the water for another walk through town and a swim in the Tirreanean Sea.

Our guide Alfie Orlando
Day 3 found us in the port of Messina, from where you can see Italy's mainland, to watch an amazing clock turn noon with a Negroni cocktail, antipasta and an excellent pepper pasta in the town square, then over for a cannoli at a nearby bakery.

We drove up and up and up, winding and zig zaging to the little town of Savoca where some of the movie The Godfather was filmed. They shot the wedding scene here, as well as a scene at Bar Vitelli that we took a little break at. Again, we were the only tourists up here, it was totally peaceful and beautiful and got to hang out with some of the people that were actually in the movie. Another plus to having a guide was that not only do we travel to places not very many people visit but also that he's there to tell us the history, help with the language and have conversations with locals.

Taormina is a beautiful seaside resort town. We enjoyed a cocktail at the famous Wunderbar, had pizza for dinner, people watched and walked through town at night. Toaromina, Messina, Caltanassetta and Cattania were notably hip on fashion. There's clothes shops everywhere and people especially like to get dressed up in the evenings for a stroll. Italians love there shoes and it showed. Mostly high heels and wedges, short skirts and dresses on women. The men donned high collared polo's and thin pants often colored solid red, purple, light blue or white. Also the Sicilian football team's colors are black and pink, so a man in a pink shirt was frequently seen.

We visited Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano and had the most delicious lunch way up there that seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. Stripped bare trees and crumbly volcanic rock surrounded the place where we ate and just next door they were rebuilding from where the lava had totally engulfed the previous structure from a recent eruption. This was the best meal ever. I exclaimed that I was in "gastronomic ecstasy" with a truly wonderful tomato sauce macaroni and a BBQ dish with a delightful red wine.

The typical day was breakfast at the hotel, then a hop in the van for fast windy road traveling to our first destination. A walk about town with a cocktail or espresso at a little bar, back to the van for more travel and another walk through town or a swim in the sea. We saw many Norman castles and strongholds (1100's) and visited very old churches and Greek ruins dating as far back as 585bc. Lunches were around 2 or 3pm and we ate dinner at about 8:30, 9pm usually. These were big events. Dinners finished with lemoncello's, the popular lemon liquor, often on the house.

We were in such awe by the sheer beauty of Sicily and how delicious and fresh the food was. Everywhere we looked was good enough for a postcard. Every little narrow ally with hung clothes, smells of Parmesan cheese, flowerpots and cobbled streets was SO Italian. Most of all it was fun to be together as a family and to actually be in the towns where my relatives lived. I think we'll be back.

The plane trip home was exhausting. We flew from Palermo to Naples (45minutes), then sat in the plane, on the tarmac for 3 and a half hours(!!) before taking of tho New York. This time it took 10 hours and Air Meridiana was not the greatest. Lot's of the amenities on the plane didn't work, like my seat that wouldn't stay in the upright position or the tv screen built into the seat that flickered. The flight attendants and everyone on the plane spoke Italian. We got back to the USA as everone applauded at touchdown. Coming in 5 hours late we missed our connecting flight to Minneapolis so we had to grab a hotel room and catch the first flight back to Minnesota in the late morning. Whew, what trip and well worth it!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fat Rocket!

I finished building an effects box for my guitar. I call it the Fat Rocket. It's the BYOC Large Beaver, a clone of the classic Big Muff. This distortion pedal has been around since the early 70's made by ElectroHarmonix. You'd be familiar with it if you've heard Pink Floyd, Dinosaur Jr and The White Stripes among countless others. It's a very thick and heavy guitar tone with lots of sustain. My first build was the BYOC Fuzz Face clone (see earlier blog post) and loved not only the sound of it but the experience of building it as well. I haven't had a hobby like this since I was a kid building lots of airplane models. It's great to get back into something so detailed. Something my mind can be present with. To be focused on something, to zen with.

Although easy to lots of builders, this one was just a step more complicated than my previous build. I started with preparing and painting the case first. I had never done this before. My other one I covered in fuzzy fabric, this one I spray painted red layers on, over and over again. Then I figured out a design and got some stickers of a fat looking rocket and some gold stars to put on there and hand panted the name I came up with. Very steady hands!! I had the words painted on there so nicely until I tried to make one final touch with one of the letters and a big drop of paint fell from my paint pen onto it. I was so upset!! Why did I have to perfect something that was already good! Ugh. I quickly had to wipe it down and spray paint over it. In my rush I completely sprayed my hand that was holding the case. Even after trying to wash it off, my hand looked like it had been bloodied after a killing for a day or two.

While this stuff dried I started soldering the components to the board and then added the pots and jacks. You can build this to the Ram's Head or Triangle versions of the Big Muff. I went for the Ram's Head. The trickiest part was wiring this thing. It took a little while to get my soldering skills up to speed too. Some of my first soldering attempts were pretty sketchy and I knew that if this thing didn't work, that was probably the problem to be looked at. I worked on the pedal on and of and in bits over a couple of months.

And then I finished it. ooohhh ... will it work?...what will it sound like?...what's going to happen? I got all excited to plug it in and step on it! Plugged it in. Turned on the amp. With it off, I got clean signal going through it. That's good. Then, the moment of truth, I strummed a chord and hit the switch and POW!! We have lift off!! It worked!! What a great feeling. It really sounds good.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Avenue Show with Ike: Recap

This was an electric, magical show that felt like everything was in it's place and proper time. I had seen that the Ike Reilly show was booked in the paper. I texted Ike about it and without hesitation he asked if Little Man was available. I'd make us available! (see previous blog post) Things didn't confirm for a few weeks though and I was stressed about our bass player Brian being out of town. He was going to be in NYC teching with the popular band Bush. Luckily he was able to arrange to fly in that day and depart the next morning - real rock & roll like. In the mean time drummer Sean and I rehearsed with a fill in and spread the word about the show.

There's alot of Ike Reilly fans who recognize me from guitar teching for the band in the past as well as making appearances on stage with them on a song or two when there in town and even filling in on guitar for a whole night once. "Why aren't you up there?!" they'd say and, "Are you playing tonight?" So when I got the opportunity to play with my band and reveal my own tunes to his fans, I get excited and very thankful.

The anticipation was killing me. Took the day off to rest as I'd been fighting a horrible soar throat for two days before. Thankfully the day of the show it disappeared but I could feel that singing full out would be difficult. Sound check was great. The First Avenue staff is just tops. "Welcome home" says Greg the moniter guy to me as we set up. Conrad the stage manager is always happy to see me. Lee was running the sound board and does a really great job.

After soundcheck I met up with Ike and the rest of his band at the fancy D'Amico down the street for dinner. Really cool to hang out out before the show and joke around a bit. Ike tossed a piece of food from about 9 feet across the table, in one shot, to birthday boy drummer, Dave's mouth. The table roared with the bullseye!

Fellow locals BNLX opened the evening with a massive fuzz guitar/light show attack. Real interesting stuff and Ed and Ashley Ackerson pulled it off with the greatest of ease. I've been wanting to play a show with them for months.

It's fun to play on the big stage at First Avenue. The place is a state landmark made famous by Prince's (Minnesota's other little man) Purple Rain movie. I've been fortunate enough to have been familiar with it over the years. My favorite thing is when the lights go down and the screen that's in front of the stage goes up. Sean started with the burly beats of Found Is A Passion and we were on our way. The band was all on the stage floor together instead of having our drums on the riser. It was great to be closer on the big stage. I enjoy feeling the bass and drums.

We played all of the new EP Orbital Amusement along with some songs from Soulful Automatic, Of Mind And Matter and even some newer ones. I had gotten a gong to be on stage right next to my amp.  Musk incense was burning with my Buddha statue. The lights shined down bright and we just kept on cranking the vibe up and up. We played really well together and I felt the huge crowd was turned on and engaged. This is exactly what zen is to me; being in the moment, performing, connecting, singing, guitaring, Chris-ing. Approaching the gong here and there and just having it there added to the anticipation. This show was just full on, giving it everything we had. Finally with a great thunderous ending to one of the last songs I grabbed the mallet, pointed it to the air, and then gave it a mighty swing. BWWAAAANGGG!! Then again and again! I was having such a blast. The crowd was roaring. Just an all around great energetic, happy feeling. A couple more fast paced songs and a final gong hit, then with a bow to the gong and too the audience we were off. Conrad gave me an approved big smile and a pat on the back on the way off. Whew!

Ike took the stage quickly there after. They played their entire Salesmen and Racist album with their original line up and then played a second set of newer tunes with the help of Ike's most recent members of the band. It's fun to watch these guys play. There was a good mix and match of everyone playing which I thought was really cool. Ike had me up to help on guitar and vocals for Put A Little Love In It which was super fun. Shared the mic with Ike and had a blast. They're an amazing rock and roll band. It shows that they have been together and working it for over 10 years. The loyal crowd was with them all the way and it was a joy to watch it all and be a part of such a monumental show.

I think I totally pushed my self to my physical limit though. Luckily I had a window of healthiness to do the show. The days following this my health plummeted with an upper respiratory infection. I often wonder if the stress and anticipation of the show had something to do with it. Possibly. Resting up for the next show!

Pics #1 and 3 by Shane Flannery.
Watch a full video of the song Orbital Amusement by Debbie Donovan HERE.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Little Man and Ike Reilly 2001: Backstory.

2001, young, 100 pounds, pre mustache, naive and stars in my eyes I hopped into the tour buss that was converted from an old-folks home transportation vehicle we called the "Geezer" or the "Geeze" for short. It read Senior Adults On the Move on the sides. These are just a few pictures I took on the road.

I lived in Chicago and my band Little Man had just put out an album called Core of Discovery. My drummer Dave Cottini was getting more busy since his other band got signed to Universal. That band was Ike Reilly.

Since my band was dismembering and the opportunity came up for me to tour with Ike as a guitar tech/roadie, I took it. I was already good friends with Dave and their keyboardist/guitarist Ed Tinley was a college friend who recorded that first Little Man full length "Core" album (and many more following that). I quit my job and hopped on. I jumped whole heartedly into something with no idea as to what would come of it. For a person that is more introverted and uneasy in some social situations, I thought this would help me come out of my shell a bit. Massive adventure.

This band was already a tight knit band of brothers before I got on board. If it wasn't for Dave and Ed, I wouldn't have been able to handle it or felt a part of anything, but these guys took me in and I got to know them all better as time went on. Phil was a wonder to hear play guitar every night, we hung out a bit and he showed me the first ZVEX pedal I ever layed eyes on. Tommy played bass with enormous enthusiasm. Off stage and on the buss he played guitar that blew my mind and he kept us entertained with some great songs along the way, real cool and laid back person. Dave and Ed I spoke of already. These guys loved crossword puzzles on long treks and stuck them finished like trophies on the inside walls of the buss. We all used to shout "TOUR!" when something great happened on the road that was tour worthy, were sloppy drunk or was just having a really good time. Then there's Ike. A lyrical sparkler not much taller than myself who had a contagious laugh and led this whole group of marauders. He drove the buss sometimes and in traffic jams he'd change into his running shorts and take a jog ahead of us until we caught up with him. He wrote alot on the road and usually had his acoustic guitar with him for strumming out ideas. I payed close attention to how he made this all work and what he had to go through to make it happen. These guys really rocked live and put on a great show. I was usually behind some amps making sure everyone got what they needed, tuning and switching guitars.

We also traveled with a sound person Fred, the "bull," Han who was usually pretty quiet but very cool and a tour manager Manny that year. Manny was super difficult for me to travel with. Yelling at me, pushing my buttons, then we'd be pals, then it was back to some sort of power game or something ridiculous. Not very fun when your on tour with some good friends. We worked things out though.

All of them rolled pretty heavily on Coors Light, Vodka and Red Bull and who knows what else. Wine woman and song as it goes. For the most part, while I certainly partaked in such, I was hired to work and usually most of the beer was gone by the time I got done loading out.

The band toured for the album called Salesmen and Racists. We played some big shows and to some very well attended clubs and venues across the country mostly Midwest, south and east during this time. We were on tours with and opened for Blues Traveler, Chris Whitley, John Mayer, Bob Schneider and Keanu Reeves' band (got to meet all these guys. Keanu was great. I introduced myself at sound check "Hi I'm Chris." He shook my hand and in his best surfer voice as you can imagine returned with, "I'm Keanu."). I also got to meet Sandra Bullock, as she was dating Bob Scheider at the time.

New York City was magical. (We were there just before Sept. 11th.) Stopped at a bluegrass jamboree in southern Ohio. Started an impromptu sing along on a front porch of some locals on a hot night in Cincinnati after a show. Strip clubs (it was a bit surreal when we saw girls dancing to one of Ike's songs as we walked in to one one time). Sang songs outside the White House gates. Practiced in hotel rooms. From Boston to Austin Ike and the band gathered devoted fans. We then moved into a real tour bus I called the Black Stallion with a new sound guy and tour manager. The buss and it's driver, Rodney the "Lightnin' Rod," just came off a Puff Daddy tour.

I left my own band, guitar and songwriting to tour and see the country. I tuned guitars and lugged gear with hopes that I'd meet some key music industry people and get to use the experience as a jumping point for new endeavors. I learned a ton about being on the road and had an amazing time with these guys. But it was very difficult for me not to be playing. I got to see alot of different music scenes. The Twin Cities was a favorite to all of us. The band was best in this city and the people were like no other I'd met anywhere. Live music is a passionate thing to do and see to many people here and it shows. I met my wife in St. Paul and she used to take me out to see other bands and sent me off with local favorite albums so I got to know the scene really good and was amazed at the caliber of music that was being produced there at the time.

As things slowed down with the tour I was anxious to get back to my own music. The Twin Cities felt like a second home and I was up for another big change. Late 2002 brought me back to St. Paul and I've been there ever since. Ike pressed on and is continually putting out great music. When they're back in Minneapolis for a show it's good to see these guys and help out on a song or two or whatever they need.

July 29th 2011 my band Little Man opens for the Ike Reilly Assassination at First Avenue's mainroom in Minneapolis. We're celebrating 10 years since the Salesmen and Racists album. Ike will be performing the album in it's entirety! Tickets are available HERE.

Monday, May 30, 2011

EP Release Show - How it all went down (then back up again)

After months of prep and hard work this became one of the best release shows I've done, but it certainly came with it's pitfalls. The Tower Tarot card symbolism had it's presence for sure as things started to fall apart, though ultimately The Sun prevailed.

The day before the Little Man Orbital Amusement EP release show the Red Pens, our middle slot band, had to cancel because of a serious medical emergency. I'd been wanting to play with them for quite some time and it was about to happen and then this unfortunate mishap came along. Luckily this person is ok and doing pretty good now. I had to find a replacement fast though and was super bummed out about it. Couldn't sleep.

Then it was the morning of the show. The very first e-mail I  read was from the other opening band, The Rockford Mules. It was a message saying that they had to cancel because their drummer up and quit the night before! Apparently they did everything they could to have him stick it out for one more show, but still couldn't make it work. I seriously thought this was a joke! There was no way both of my openers could cancel within 24 hours of one of the most important and heavily promoted shows of the year for me. These bands are both quite popular and I had them in all my promos. It was such a great bill! I was so let down and completely worried. Believe me, I got in some extra meditation time that day to stay sane. I kept telling myself that at least my band was still on the bill! I hit the phone and the e-mails right away and was full on stressed about it until 4pm the day of the show. I was able to confirm Is/Is, a great three woman rock act that I've been digging lately and also my long time faves, The Beatifics. It's very strange. This would be the third time The Beatifics have opened for us for a release show. What a weight lifted off of me after that. I had a few hours to chill out a bit before heading to The Turf Club.
From there things just rolled on great. The openers were fantastic and people kept on coming in through the door. It was very well attended. Alot of people, and everyone was attentive to all the music.

Little Man hit them hard with all the songs of the EP while two beautiful girls, Natalie and Nicole (who I called "The Cosmonettes"), hula hooped on the front corners of the stage. They were great! We also had a projector and an oil lamp along with some other cool light effects to help make it more of a special thing. It was really cool. I enjoyed every minute of it and just let loose. It seemed everyone there was very much into it. We also played some key tracks from previous albums as well as some even newer material.

Everything worked out in the end. It was a very good night and a great celebration for my sixth release.

Click here to get the new Little Man Orbital Amusement EP!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Hot Show!

Loring Live is a monthly show at the Loring Theatre in Minneapolis. It's an amazing old movie house that's currently being used for theatre, concerts and all sorts of artistic events. This particular show, that I was lucky to be a part of, was called Tease. It was a mix of musicians, burlesque, aeriel acrobatics and live painting and comedy. They also included an artists bazaar in the lobby. Yet another artistic endeavor that can bring an eclectic community together in this town that was completely impressive. I enjoyed being a part of something like this. The vibe was friendly, sultry and fun. I met some wonderful people. Attendance was really good too and everyone's performance was top notch. On the left is the beautiful Elektra Cuete and performing with me on the right is lovely Jessica Chamberlain. I sang my song Not Quite So High as she danced above me. Perfect, it was so great!! One of the coolest shows I've been a part of for sure. Photos by Ephraim Eusebio. You can see more about the other artists and performers on the Facebook invite.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Local Businesses Sponsor Little Man Release

I was absolutely thrilled when I got the e-mail regarding The Current wanting to present the Little Man EP release show. I'd forgotten that I'd sent a request and had already printed posters. So this came as a surprise and I had to head back to the printers!

The Current is one of Minnesota's public radio stations. They play a huge mix of music without commercials and has become a powerhouse of the Twin Cities. It survives because of listeners like you. I've gotten to know many of the DJ's over the years and their continuous enthusiasm for music is contagious. The greatest thing is that they play local music at least once an hour. It really binds the community in realizing that we have some seriously amazing artists right here in town. Check out the local live stream.

You can actually see my place from The Blue Door's front windows. This little local pub has been around for just a few years or so but has really been making a name for itself. They've earned Best Burger from The City Pages and it's always packed. Owners Pat and Jeremy have done very well here in St. Paul at the intersection of Selby & Fairview. They only spin local music here too. Isn't that fantastic!? The food is very good. My wife and I walk over there on the off hours to score a seat at the window. Excellent beer selection as well.

Speaking of beer, one of the places my wife and I like to go to pick up "adult beverages", is over at Marshall Liquors across from Izzy's on Marshall Ave in St. Paul. This "mom and pop" store (literally) has a huge selection of just about everything and it's a convenient stop to or from MPLS/St.Paul. Richard is our go-to guy over there. He's the young son of a Korean mom and pop who are always happy to see us and greet us with a big smile. Richard has been a kind shop keeper to us for years. We bought all our wine and hard liquor there for our wedding. He always chats us up at the counter and the radio is always on The Current. He knows when Little Man gets airplay and always mentions it.

My locks are kind of long. I'm a bit picky on my hair cuts. When my regular hair cutter moved to Portland I was unsure as to where to go. My wife's friend Amy recommended Kelly McMahon at the Groveland Barbershop over on St. Clair and Cleveland. Happy to have met her, she's beautiful. "Couple inches off - shag it up a bit" is my usual request. She does great work. If you've seen my pictures, you know!

Joe is the shop owner, another fantastic barber who's honed his skills over the many years being there. He's a huge music lover and he even became a guitar student of mine for a while. Always curios on how things are going with the band, he's been a great person to get to know. This is a hip place. I also have to mention his big black dog Austin who immediately greets you at the door wanting all your attention first and foremost.

Click the links and visit the shops. These businesses are home-grown, local, and owned and run by really cool people who add great character to this community. I'm especially thankful for their assistance in helping me promote the release show at The Turf Club (May 27th) as well as a thank you to all the other shops and people who are helping support the event in other ways.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Promotional Pics

Photos and design by Emily Utne. Clothed by Up Six.

I'm so excited about these! Emily produced some amazing shots to use for promoting the new Little Man EP. The coats from Up Six were absolutely perfect.

To see more go to my Facebook gallery.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gil Elvgren Lecture

I had the opportunity to check out a lecture at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul given by Sarahjane Blum-Murphy last night. The event was called History of Hip: Minnesota Naughty? Sarahjane is an expert on American pin-ups and is co-owner of Grapefruit Moon Gallery. She focused on Gil Elvgren, one of the most recognizable pin-up artists and illustrators of his time. The lecture also began with a history of Munsingwear advertising from Susan Marks.

I've liked Elvgren's art for some time. The picture on the left is one of my favorites. Playful, beautiful, brilliant colors and an interesting scene with the wind up alligator. I was happy to learn that he was from St. Paul, Minnesota, so I felt it was a privilege to be able to attend such an event in his home town. Known for his All-American, girl next door, stocking clad, "ooops" expressioned, leggy pin-ups, Elvgren was also hired for Coca-Cola among other companies to draw for their advertising campaigns. His work is most notable in the WWII era and up through the 1960's.

I was hoping there would be some original paintings of his at the lecture and there were!

"Aw-Come On" (1953) and "This Doesn't Seem To Keep The Chap From My Lips" (1948) were the original oil on canvas paintings on display along with a few vintage pin-up calendars.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Photo Shoot - Behind The Scenes

With a new album called Orbital Amusement on the way, I'm working on getting things in motion for it's release. This past weekend was a photo shoot for promotions and possibly for part of the album artwork, which is currently being created by Dan Horan. These pictures were taken by my wife Brigid.

Friday I had an appointment with Megan over at Up Six, one of the vintage stores up the street I frequent to. We had talked about the album art concept we were going for and so she pulled some clothes for me to check out in my size. My favorites were a short waisted black fur coat and a floor length black robe with gold embroidery.

Saturday my wife and I met up with the photographer Emily Utne and headed up to a small studio/office for the shots. Emily shot our Of Mind And Matter cover and I was just so happy about that picture. She's artistically creative in everything she does and gives great direction. We also share similar interests and communicate well with each other about accomplishing the looks of certian shots. Emily's done a lot of cool band press shots as well as a ton of fashion photography.
She brought in a projector so we could shoot some of the pictures with an outer space background and then we did some shots with a white backdrop. After that we hopped over to the Mall Of America and got some tickets to ride the carousel. We had to wait in line and race to the horses we thought would be best for our shots. Emily rode next to me on an ostrich and we shot as the carousel went round and round, we were going up and down and the circus music was playing along with it. Really a good time! I guess I could say it was highly "amusing?" Haha! Oh well...

Just getting some pictures back now. She got some amazing shots!