Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Cambodian Travels  --  Trip Reading included:

 Gun for Hire, Confidential Agent and Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene 
Cambodia's Curse by Joel Brinkley

We spent the beginning of our 2015 on the way to Cambodia.  Embarking on New Year's Eve thanks to a cheap ticket and flying out of Minneapolis via Chicago via Incheon (Seoul, South Korea) to final destination Cambodia and it's capital Phnom Penh.

We in fact, did not experience New Year's at all this year, (which I'm considering giving up anyway, it's way too late at night).  We were flying somewhere over Alaska and then crossed the international dateline at 9pm or so.  So we ended up flying into New Year's Day and totally lost out this year.  Oh well, no New Year's Resolution for me, just some airplane food (which was actually pretty good) and some movies, which weren't as good.

These here little guys are the mini dried fish.  I've tried looking up the name but have been stumped.  Closest I can find is possibly Niboshi which can be translated as anchovies.  But I'm not sure if these are.  Salty, chewy and fishy!  If anyone knows, feel free to comment!

My lack of New Year's celebration was all made better when we sleepily got off our plane in Phnom Penh and were given beers for our tuk-tuk ride home.  A tuk-tuk (or remork) is a covered cart pulled by a moto and pictured here (sometimes also known as a mini-bike or motorcycle).  Overall, pretty maneuverable and convenient, especially for an unknown city with difficult traffic.

Here's little taste of tuk-tuk riding.  You can see us zoom past Angkor Wat's main entrance while our driver honks at everything he can.  Now to be clear, he had the fastest tuk-tuk.  You could read the smugness in his face as he passed every other tuk-tuk, car, or cyclist on the road.  He said he'd been a garment factory worker for a long time, then moved to Phnom Penh and bought himself a tuk-tuk because he didn't like working for anyone but himself.  It showed, he could barely tolerate anyone on the same road (and that included either side of it).  Here is tuk-tuk man, his super fast moto, and Angkor Wat in the distance!

If you do ever travel to Cambodia, you should make it a point to see the Temples of Angkor, chances are that's what you'd be doing anyway, but just in case..  They are located in Siem Reap in the northwestern part of Cambodia and are some of the oldest structures built by man.  They are eye-popping.  Detailed carvings, massive sandstone, and nature's slow encroachment all add up to a sense of how puny you and I are!
I won't bore you with too many details, but let's just say we were happy to have a guide for these temples.  Below are various pictures of our first day of temple exploration. 

Angkor Wat


Inside Angkor Wat

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Banteay Srei

Besides the temples in Cambodia there is alot more to experience.  We saw the darker side of Cambodia's history.  The evil brought by the Khmer Rouge.  Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek were both terrible reminders of evil acts committed by the Khmer Rouge on the Cambodian people and humanity itself.  We spent a day visiting both of these sites. These were both in or near Phnom Penh.

We also spent some lovely beach time on a remote island on the southwestern coast called Koh Rong Sanloem.  It was secluded and quiet.  There was a local fishing community near our bungalows.  We were able to do some snorkeling and beach bumming.  The food was delicious.  Here's the moon shining above the dock.  You see a tiny fishing boat light making it's own light pathway on the water.

Here's a panorama shot from the middle of our dock.  Boats from the mainland would come twice a day to drop off travelers and supplies or take back sunburnt tourists.  We saw a few of those and learned by example.

In our two weeks there we felt very welcomed by locals.  People were almost always friendly and if you knew just a little Khmer, they were always happy to help you piece together the rest.  Probably one of the highlights of my trip was a cooking class day.  We went to the market and gathered ingredients for fish amok and fried spring rolls.  Then we took them back to our classroom, cooked them up, and ate them.  Delicious!  I'll leave you with this final picture of some of the various market goodies in all of their glory.  YUMMM!

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Zealand - Music, Flat Whites, and View after View after View..

It's quite astonishing how blue water can actually be.  You might expect to see water of this color from some deep blue ocean in the tropics, but then again this is the Waikato RIVER.  After traveling for a total of 24 hours between flights, airport waiting, customs, and rental car left side of the road adventures, we pulled into Taupo, NZ.

The next morning we headed out and found the Huka Falls.  With Lake Taupo as its source, the river itself is fed with lovely thermal springs.  Jet lag antidote.

Mt. Doom

Music night in Whanganui!  @ the Savage Club.  We enjoyed our brief stay in Whanganui.  From the Musician's Club to a Riverside Bar gig the music scene was hoppin'!  We saw the Hobnail Band based out of Wellington and the Clazzmatic Boogie Orchestra pictured below!

Clazzmatic Boogie Orchestra  -  umm..11 piece band horn driven funk band!

Opunake Beach - West Coast of North Island

Green Lipped Mussels @ the Mussel Pot in Havelock.  Is that Sauvignon Blanc?  Of course it is!

Abel Tasman - North Coast of the South Island.  Think North Shore of Lake Superior, minus the large smooth lake rocks but add golden sand beaches.  Pictured is Anchorage Bay!

Ferry Crossing from North to South Island

Cardboard Cathedral - Christchurch  Beautiful rebuilt 'temporary' cathedral designed by Shigeru Ban 

The Re-Start Mall in Christchurch - Shipping Container Shopping Center!!

These guys were loud!!  I think they were New Zealand cicada's.  It was Jurassic Park.  Have a listen.  The recording didn't do them justice so I embellished upon it..

This little guy followed me around through the underbrush on a hike.  I thought I was close to a nest because it kept flying very close and was fluffing his tail out.  I later learned that he was just taking advantage of me crashing through brush and stirring up dinner for him.  

West Coast of the South Island - This wasn't us..but in order to get to the west coast, you can take Kiwi Rail from Christchurch..  Apparently it snows up in Arthur's Pass!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Party Time!!

(Sorry this is an old old post, that i had forgotten to post!)

Should be dated from back in 2013!

Happy Folkin' New Year had arrived:

Bands for the evening included the White Iron Band doing their own foot stompin' acoustic set starting at 7pm with KFAI House Party.  They were wild!

The May North officially kicked off Happy Folkin' New Year @ 9pm.  Dobro from Chris O'Brien and fiddle from Stephanie McCorkell blended with George McCorkell's guitar pickin' and vocals.  The May North delivered a smooth set with some tunes from their newest album Interstate Lives.

Beg for Justice had it hoppin' at 10pm with mandolin, guitar, fiddle, bass, and banjo.  Jeremy Peterson kept the pace choppin' on his mandolin.  It was a long drive back to Mankato that evening so they made the most of their set and hopefully got a nice new recording to share with the world.

Then it was Folk 'n' Thieves time....

 but you'll have to listen to the recording to get the details on that.  Those guys are just crazy..

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cuttin' Loose

Video time!  Turns out that these days, all you really need is an iPhone.  And maybe some video editing software like iMovie to make yourself a trailer.  We snuck ourselves into an undisclosed alley (our filming studio) in South Minnie.  Snow flurries were just starting to fall; it was cold.  

Dan got himself into my wedding suit jacket and donned Jake's Mad Men hat (Dan doesn't have clothes of his own).  Then pulled out a cigar and mournfully whistled (just like the devil himself)!

And so we provided a sneak peak of the music from our song Wall Street which had recently gotten a shiny new organ part courtesy of the unflappable Jon Schmig.  We had to track Jon separately at his practice setup with the group Dallas Orbiter, but my Focusrite Saffire was more than capable to record his synth.

He played along with our mix probably three times and was set to go.  I was excited to work with him and he talked me into finding an accordion for him.  We procured a loaner from the Hummingbirds and ran him through a few tunes.  The guys liked the new twist.  He would join us for Happy Folkin' New Year despite practicing with us for less than a month!!

From this point on there wasn't much else to do.  We had practice, not much because of Christmas.  I had been in touch with John Peters for quite some time regarding the live recording of Happy Folkin' New Year.  He was ready to go and I knew he'd do a quality job!

The only thing left to do was watch my Badgers lose on New Year's Day, eat sausage and sauerkraut (New Year's tradition in my house) and fold cds up into quaint little paper bag packages.

Origami 2013!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Hard Part..?

Graphics - check
Songs - check
Happy Folkin' New Year date - check
Leeroy Jenkins!!! - check

Record and do it quick.  We went into the day with five songs prepared.  We'd worked out our harmonies, and made a few changes.  Instrumentation was ready to go.

Diamond Jack was also... ready to go:

The TOUGHEST part of recording live is if you or your band is unprepared for recording.  That can be awkward mostly because it becomes a waste of time for you, your band, and a good sound engineer.

We had a couple of things going our way.

1. We had been playing these songs forever - by that I mean about a year.
2. There wasn't much to lose besides the money for recording.
3. We were all pretty excited to be going in and doing a live recording session.
4. We had a good sound engineer.

I had my fill of individual tracking from my first album and I believe it has a place in recorded music, but the Folk 'n' Thieves were going to be live.  There was (and is currently) no other way for us.  Too long to track individuals, not enough money, and there is a liveliness to recording that's done in the moment.  No time to obsess endlessly over parts.

So we set up microphones with Ryan Worthman of RisingSide!  He kept the session energetic and light.  We spent time joking between botched tracks and good takes.  Ryan laughed at Jake's jokes. Played each track once, twice, three times.  When we we all looked up after a take and nodded, we knew we had what we wanted.  Move to the next take.  (That happened most of the time.)

Starting around 10am and finishing around 1pm completely blew my expectations out of the water.  My fingers were raw, but we left the studio feeling pretty proud and excited.  Kicked back at Anchor Fish 'n' Chips (very near the site of Happy Folkin' New Year) for a beer and some burger.  Talked shop.

The brainstorm session was fruitful, a movie trailer with organ... was born.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cookin' an EP with the Folk 'n' Thieves

Cookin' up the latest EP release from the Folk 'n' Thieves has had its fair share of 'seat of your pants' moments!  Happy Folkin' New Year (as an idea) was on the books since October.  Inspired by a trip to the North Shore for a wedding (aided by whitefish, dandelion wine, cigars, and fresh pressed cider), we dared ourselves to get an EP together before the New Year struck!  No sweat right?

We needed songs (check), a bit of practice (check), a sound engineer, graphics, a venue to release it (check-- 331 Club...yes!!), and a finished product.  Oh...and a band of willing participants.

Start the whole thing out with a band discussion--questions about moving forward.  Could we make the EP happen?  What was the point?  How much $$$?  What bands would share the spoils of Happy Folkin' New Year?  Who would record us?  What's the square root of 8,000,651?  etc.

 --- And the result? ---

Well, one thing's for sure, Folk 'n' Thieves has been a ragtag combination of musicians and songwriters perty much from the beginning.  The structure is loose in terms of who/when performances happen (at least that is the trend).

So naturally, heading into the project, yet sticking to our formula, we lost a member of the band (banjo) and picked up a substitute/potential new member (organ/accordion) later in the project!

At some point, the decision on the EP came down to what many earth shattering decisions in life come down to:            

--------'Why the hell not?!?  (pardon my french) Let's do this!!'--------

     Our graphic man from the get-go, Jeffrey Nelson, had been feeding us great graphics for a time.  We figured we had those in the proverbial grocery bag (read on).

Self-releasing an EP isn't too grand of an idea as long as you can figure out how to get graphics on a cd.  Memorex CD Labels work great. So do nicely folded grocery bags and some sort of graphic/photoshop program.  Me?  I use GIMP.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 9, 2012


September Night

Midnight sounds, distant rumbles
cars pass, spluttering
but an undertone of crickets
and peepers plays on.

A police car, lights
searing, blows through a
stop sign.
The elm doesn't notice.

It feels the press of the pavement
Patches of motor oil oozing down.
Yet it grows on
a shelter for the homeless sparrow

I find little solace
in the sound of
a V6 engine accelerating
from a dead stop.

But a single cricket chirps
within the leaves
of the elm
above my porch.