The new podcast is live. Subscribe here: Subscribe to Don’t Turn Around
The new podcast is live. Subscribe here: Subscribe to Don’t Turn Around
Everyone knows I’ve been busy making music. But what about the writing? The Patreon has landed. The Phil Rossi Patreon page is live. Is new fiction on the horizon? That’s up to all of you. Video bit to come–but the sooner things are moving for us on Patreon, the sooner I can start to deliver again. In the end–it is all of you that inspired me to do this. The fact that you’ve all be out there hopeful I’d get back to it has been enormously motivating. Please take a moment, visit the site, consider donating even a wee bit, and share it with a friend.
I don’t discuss politics. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own political beliefs. This post is not a forum for political debate. Just how I feel. Be good to each other out there today.
We are now two weeks into the open mic night at Finnegan’s in Ashburn. And I have to say–this week’s open mic was pretty fantastic. We had a great turnout and some real talent. Considering the attendance and the level of musicianship on display for what was only our *second* open mic, I’d hazard to say that we’re off to a solid start. The musicians that came out and their friends and fans had a lot of fun connecting with one another. There was a lot of support amongst everyone gathered there. It was a little crazy. One of our performers even got a gig at the venue out of their performance. The staff took great care of everyone, too. And the host—he’s an all right guy, too.
You see. I have been to quite a few open mics in the area over the last 16 years or so. Back when I lived in Arlington, there were a few (IOTA and Dr. Dremos in particular) that will always hold a special place in my heart. Those nights were about community, about artists coming together and talking shop, people trying new things, going out on a limb in a comfortable environment. People got excited and looked forward to a midweek, low pressure night of making music. There was always a range of participants: from folks that were just getting started out to seasoned performers who have graced some of our areas bigger stages. In the intervening years, I haven’t been able to find anything quite like that. In particular, not in Loudoun County. I know there is a ton of talent out here west of the Beltway and it’s my goal to build something just a little bit special.
I think when people hear the term open mic, at least with respect to music, they think that of scene in Animal House where Belushi is forced to smash some poor saps acoustic guitar just to “make it stop.” Not all acoustic artists out there are whining about their one true love, wearing crowns of flower petals, or covering Wagon Wheel. In two weeks we have had an amazing mix of music. Post-punk, Rock and Roll, Americana. Hell, I played some Tom Waits just this past week. It’s about variety and having the courage to get up there and give it a try.
And I’m not the kind of host that will plug in the performer’s guitar and then just sit in the corner. I’m there to engage with participants, too.
I hope in the coming weeks, even more artists roll in to check it out and help me make this into something great. I will start sharing some of the recordings soon!
Open mics are Tuesday nights at Finnegan’s Grill in Ashburn, VA. Sign-up is at 7 pm. Music from 7 to 10 pm. Bring your guitar, hand percussion, keys if that’s your thing. Sorry–no drum kits, amps, etc…
I’m struggling a little bit here. It is hard to believe that the Summer is winding down. I feel like I was just beginning to plan out my gig schedule. Days were getting warmer and longer. I was standing at the edge of a magical season full of burgeoning opportunities. Pool time with the family, outdoor shows, and sunset runs. And then I blinked and now here I am–school is about to start up again soon, the weather will be getting cooler (I’m ready for this), and the days are beginning to grow noticeably shorter. I can sense fall in the air, barely–but it’s there. I feel like I’ve been in a time warp with the clock running accelerated since Memorial Day. The shows have been plentiful and I’m glad to say I played some dates that were truly inspired. They all can’t be good, however. I was met with my fair share of technical difficulties, absurd weather, strange audiences, and the occasional uncomfortable situation. The bad is just a part of it as the good. I kept my head down a fought through the worst of it. I’m a professional and when I show up to perform I know I’ve got a job to do and will always do my best no matter what I’m up against.
…even if I’m midway through my first set and some guy appears at the venue, sets up a speaker and PA outside, and proceeds to play Jack Johnson covers to twenty-somethings for the rest of the night, I will always play hard, giving out 100% for a smaller audience. That’s life.
But let’s face it, it’s the good that get’s you through weird things like the aforementioned sideshow. The good (or rather great) this season included 868 Estates Vineyards: this place was top notch. The staff was fantastic and really made me feel appreciated. I loved that this spot was family friendly, too. It’s a rare treat to be able to do a daytime show and play for my whole family. 868 is a beautiful spot and I highly recommend paying them a visit.
I also had the opportunity to play at the DNV Rootop Lounge, a swanky rooftop bar above (on top of?) the Donovan Hotel in downtown Washington, DC. It was just so cool (Thank you, Ted Garber for help on that one). And yeah, I was really tempted to play a little Where the Streets Have No Name. Their season is closing soon, but I hope to make an appearance there next time around.
Monks BBQ is new to my rotation and I’m really loving playing there. Parallel Wine and Whiskey along with the Ragtime Cafe continue to take good care of me and keep me coming back. I’ll be adding some new spots into the mix this Fall. This Summer, I crossed paths with many interesting characters. I added about 20 new songs to the rotation. I had some great conversations about music and played some new spots that show real promise. I learned a lot, performance-wise, business-wise, and a lot in between. Hard work and sacrifice will always get you to your goals. Sometimes…scratch that…most times, you’ve got to be willing to play the long game.I’m heading into the Fall season with a lot of focus and I’m looking forward to doing some big things and to continue to grow this little business of mine.
I was updating my gig calendar last night and I didn’t really realize (or appreciate) how busy I have been in 2016. Recently, the thought crossed my mind that creatively I haven’t been accomplishing enough. I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that some of my projects are not moving along at an acceptable pace. Outside of the responsibilities that come from being husband, dad, and working professional—responsibilities which I embrace with gratitude and enthusiasm—I felt like I haven’t been approaching my artistic endeavors with an appropriate level of effort.
The simple effort of updating my gigography and upcoming shows this year made me realize my 2016 progress assessment has been dramatically skewed. Example: A big goal for this year was to return to performing as a solo artist, while completely revamping my catalog and my approach to the whole genre. Done. I was just too busy doing it to realize it. What’s more—is that I have been inspired to push the creative envelope even further when it comes to what I’m doing as a solo performer.
Each show on my calendar both in the past and upcoming doesn’t just represent hours of performance time, but also many more hours of gig prep. The end result, I’ve grown as an artist and a performer. Something all artists truly aspire toward. Another accomplishment that I didn’t notice
I started to wonder if maybe I’d been a little hard on myself. I have been guilty of this a few (thousand) times in the past. Let’s face it, most of us have had those internal dialogs consisting of “I’m wasting my time” or “I’m not doing enough” or “I can’t accomplish that.” Gigging aside, in 2016 I wrote more than just a few new songs and I am actively recording six of these tracks with Gravity Lens for inclusion into a full album. I’ve written and recorded several Mass R3lay tracks for inclusion in an upcoming electronica EP.
I even completed several commissioned music composition projects to rave reviews. I also had the great pleasure of fulfilling a major dream of mine—scoring music for film.
But probably my favorite on this list: I started writing a youth science fiction novel for my girls that I’ve been reading to them every night at bed.
But again, while in the midst of it all, it was hard to really see each individual accomplishment.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Since February, I committed to being the healthiest me I’ve ever been. To that end, I started a new and intense workout routine that sees me sweating at least 5 days a week in the early morning before work. The end result. I’ve shed more than 12 pounds since February and my pants no longer fit. I have more energy and I feel better than I did when I was 10 years younger.
I could even go on from here—I haven’t even gotten into our volunteer time with the school—but I’m not going to right now. The point is—I can go on (and on and on). Trust me when I say I that I am not bragging. There is a less here for all of busy souls.
Things get hectic in our daily lives while we are juggling working on life, supporting our families, creative projects, fitness, and everything in between. And when you are in the thick the action it’s hard to see the big picture. So, step back—you just might realize that you are kicking a lot of butt. And when you realize something like that it opens the way to kicking even more butts.
I am extremely fortunate to have a support system there to motivate me in the moments where I feel like giving up on the activities that some might call “the fluff”. We all have those moments. With artistic pursuits or even with fitness it is easy to ask “why am I doing all of this?” It would be much easier to crack a beer, melt into the couch, and play PS4 for 16 hours.” In those questioning moments, my wife is right there with the answer, because she understands even when at times I do it. I do all these things because it is who I am. All of these extracurricular activities make me a whole person and therein resides the value. As a whole person, I can give my full self to my wife, to my children, to my friends, my family, my job, and to my extensive project list. So, don’t give up.
Take a break now and then. Reward yourself. And then get back to it.
This is your life.
It’s January. A Saturday Night. The temperatures are frigid and I’m standing outside the 930 Club, hands curling into little frozen claws, wondering what I’ve done with my gloves and feeling pretty damn lucky at the chance to make music in a building where I’ve seen some of my favorite acts perform.
The 930 club is a DC music institution and not many people can say they have never heard of it. This night, I would be performing in the club’s hip underbelly—the Back Bar, where I have logged in quite a few hours as a patron. The cool, subterranean room is a good fit for the debut of Mass R3lay, my electronic music project.
Hands stuffed into my pockets, I walk past the tour busses and head down the narrow flight of stairs to the Back Bar entrance. I am excited and I am terrified to head into completely uncharted territory. The Mass R3lay project is a first of its kind for me.
Nerves are to be expected. Deep breath. I yank the door open and step into the music and low lights. There are a just few people hanging around when I arrive. I meet up with the rest of the bill at the bar. These guys are as cool and down to earth as they come. They know their gear and are just as excited about blinking lights and chest-rumbling frequencies as I am. I tell them tonight is my “first time” and they are supportive and encouraging.
The room slowly fills with people and soon the music starts. I find it remarkable that each set offers something different. TÖlva—hardware based, improvisational and just plain cool. I wanted to pilfer his electronic noise machines the second I saw them. The sounds TÖlva summons are low, ominous—like the slow approach of thunderstorm, the loops build and fill the air with electricity and infections grooves.
Up next is Paradigm Paradox who creates grooves from scratch on the fly, singing over the electroc-pyschodelia in a dark voice that brought Ian Curtis to mind more than a few times. The hooks are catchy and more than once I found myself nodding along to the music.
Evilartform plays right before me. Man—if I wasn’t feeling like a hack earlier…the man steps up to his gear–the array of lights, buttons, and knobs straight off the mother ship–and gets everyone moving to a sound that is uniquely ethnic, highly accessible, and just plain good. I didn’t know his music and yet still found myself singing along. And like that, I find myself staring out at the crowd over the glowing bank of my own equipment that I barely remember setting up. It was late now (or really early)—which is just fine by me. Sonically, I don’t really know what is going to happen. It might be glorious or a glorious train wreck. Either way, best to keep the pool of test subjects limited.
I reach out a hand, hesitating just slightly before triggering the first two samples of the opener—one sound a nearly pure rumble, the other a reverb drenched guitar hook. I bring my fingertips up to a nearby controller, twisting two knobs in opposite directions. The growl fades away and the hook surges forward. I strike a glowing green button and the bass begins to pulse. I strike another button and the drum groove enters the fray—I step over to a grid controller and play my own drum groove in counter point to the main beat.
I’m off and running. No looking back now.
The set goes by fast. I spare the outside world occasional glances. People are watching, people are moving. I keep going. There are a few moments where I don’t think I can hold all it all together—but someone how I do. I sacrifice some spontaneity for control—but this is my first time and I need to feel it out. I need to know this beast before I truly can ride it.
When the last note hangs in the air, I step back and look up to see no one has run for high ground. There is applause and then the show is over. The end The beginning. Stepping out of the lights, I am greeted with a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm. Future opportunities are discussed. Again, I am floored by the vibe, the interest, and overall openness of this group of musicians.
In just the span of a single show, I learned a tremendous amount—from watching the others and from my own very personal experience. The result—I have a clearer idea of what I want to do with this project and how I want to do it. The path toward evolution is clear. I consider myself lucky.
Tolva: (couldn’t find a link)
I was left gaping when I heard the news about David Bowie today. Like the rest of the world, I never saw it coming. The morning began in an unremarkable sort of way. I was up at the crack of down to work out and following that, I tinkered in the kitchen making some coffee and doing some dishes. Really, I don’t think it gets more mundane than that. I had gone upstairs to rouse the dogs so we could go out for a cold, morning stroll. My wife shared the news with me then and I didn’t believe her—not that she would make up something like this, but because it just didn’t compute. The sadness I experience when I realized what she was telling me came as no surprise and honestly left me reeling. I didn’t know what to do with the information and I’ll admit, I pushed it down so I could move again. I really still haven’t processed it. Bowie’s passing represents such a profound loss for the music community and for me on a personal level. For those who know me well, they know Bowie has played a huge part in my life. He has the greatest sort of inspiration and his music was often a place a solace during hard times. He loved what he did–in good and bad times. His approach at creating was uncompromising. He evolved over the years with sincerity, self-invention coming as naturally to him as stepping up to microphone. There was nothing manufactured about Bowie, not that I could ever perceive. That alone has been an inspiration. When I feel I’m ready to listen to his voice today–I’m nearly there, but not quite yet–I’m sure I feel the familiar sense of comfort, but along along with the sadness. And that’s just fine. The stars look very different today, indeed. Rest in peace, Bowie.
Looking forward to a bright 2016, full of new music, new fiction, and shows. This new web site is just the beginning.