Friday, December 30, 2011

The year

'Sup, Comrades?

Well, it seems like every pundit and person who really shouldn't take themselves seriously (but do anyway) is recapping 2011.

Since I'm the Commander General of the Revolutionary Forces in the war to Overthrow Bad Music, I guess I should really write about the year as well.

Radio Radio

Besides being introduced to the music of this French Canadian rap group (and finally appreciating it), 2011 was the year of the Radio! The Revolution received airplay on stations in Towson, MD, College Park, MD, and Richmond, VA! Rockin'! Thanks, Sean, Whitney, and Zac!
In addition, I got a gig as an occasional DJ at WDCE! The Richmond music scene is pretty darn cool, and I'm looking forward to getting to know more of the people, and having my southern Comrade Sheldon Y. back on the air! My brotha-from-anotha-motha Corey co-hosted a show with me, and that was a blast. Man, the train trip and visits to the snack car was too much fun!

You know how I'm always talking about leading armies? Well, they put me in charge of a platoon of sophomores at this youth leadership conference called HOBY. We were team 16, and Abe Lincoln was the theme. Our motto..."There IS an I in team Lincoln." Besides being inspirational, informative, and a heck of a lotta fun, it showed me that I could function (sort of) on four hours of sleep. To this day, I'll say "looks like it's gonna be a HOBY day!"

Also, in regards to waking up. You know that phrase "fake it till you make it?" Well, if you're a little groggy, there is no better way to regain consciousness then to scream at sleepy teenagers standing around at 7 am in the courtyard. "HEY COMRADE! ARE YOU AWAKE? WELL? ARE YOU? ARE YOU READY TO GO PULL WEEDS AT THE LOCAL PARK? WELL? ARE YOU? ARE YOU? LOOK ALIVE, SOLDIER!" Wakes ya right up, let me tell you. It really is better to give than receive.

Plus, I met some top notch soldiers of the Revolution there, and made lots of fun new friends!

The Revolution Grows
Man, 2011 is really the year that the Revolution got started! It's been totally rockin' to have y'all involved in the fight! Man, the gigs, videos, new music buddies, shows, promotion, laughing, overcoming car trouble, networking, and plotting...It was splendid! I've got some cool revolutionary ideas (no, really, they're revolutionary) for 2012, so stay tuned! And THANK YOU, COMRADES!

Most ironic moment: Hearing Rebecca Black's "Friday" for the first time...ON THE RADIO...when, during my interview, the DJ asks me what music I'm trying to overthrow. When I was unable to give a good response, she played it. It was like bringing a gun to a peace rally. Hilarious, though!

New Tourmobile!

OK, so who really wants to hear that I got a new vehicle? The Red Menace (Camaro) is still on the roster of course, but I added a small SUV to the fleet...I got a black Ford Escape. It was close, comrades...I almost got a minivan. Even my 8 year old students were heckling me about it. Thankfully, I caved to the peer pressure, and got something (slightly) cooler. Next up. Putting a red stripe on it like BA's van in The A Team! AND a CB radio!

Breaker Breaker!

Skype Lessons!

Teaching went electronic this year! If you've got a webcam, now you too can have guitar lessons! And if it snows, you still can have 'em! You know what this means, right? The business can go worldwiiiiiiide!

Fun Gigs
Man, there's nothing like playing live music. Sometimes I get stage fright, though. Wanna know a cool trick? Lie with your feet. Stand there like you own the stage. Again, fake it till you make it, and get a confident pose onstage. Jack Black was absolutely right in School of Rock. Stand in the Rock Stance! Raise your goblet of rock, and bang your head!

I had the honor and privilege to try this out around town this year, and man, it works! Something else I realized while onstage: Audience members are giving me part of their lives by stopping to listen. I really respect that, and I'll do my best never to forget it!

Funniest moment: Singing "3 Little Pigs" and having the next band join in spontaneously with the background vocals. "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!"

Did I mention that I have the best brothers ever? Well, I do, and they built me an app. It's called weComrade, and it's free. Of course. Get it, comrades!

What's next
I took a long walk today, sat in a lonely graveyard, pondered what mattered, visited the river, and wrote in a notebook. I've got some cool ideas. While it may say 0000001 and "General" on my dog tag, I really want this Revolution to be all-inclusive. The gravestones have a peculiar way of screening your ideas to see what matters and what doesn't. So, while the ideas are still in the development phase, keep an ear out. I'll be in touch. If you have any ideas, too, please feel free to share! I'd love to hear 'em!

Boy oh boy, do I love the New Year. I didn't used to make resolutions. To be fair, I was five before I even found out that the years change. "You mean, it's not gonna be 1990 next year?" I remember feeling said for 1990. I've asked a lot of people over the years about their resolutions, and have received some interesting answers. From "Oh, I don't have any bad habits" to my 54 item list, the responses have been varied. I think it's a great time to wipe the slate clean, take stock of one's life, and say "what's next?" I'm off in a few hours to start the plotting and planning with my brothers, only to be continued tomorrow with the rest of my family.

Got any cool ideas for 2012? Care to share?

Comrades, THANK YOU for a truly rockin' 2011. I couldn't have done it without you, and I so appreciate each and every one of you. May 2012 be even rockin'er, and give us a reason to laugh at those Mayans. I'd like to end with a quote that the Annoying Orange might say, and hopefully, we can all say next year:

Hey Mayans! Mayans! Mayans! Hey! Hey Mayans Hey!


Happy New Year!

- Josh


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ideamensch interview


WOW! I'm super duper excited! This cool dude named Mario with a cool website called was cool enough to feature an interview with...ME!!!!!

Oh boy!

Check it out! Five Questions with Josh Urban!


- Josh

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice, and Third night of Hanukkah!

Man, have y'all been holding up OK under the holiday rush? Let me tell you, it's quite an interesting time to release an EP, what with holiday events, sowing anarchy at an elementary school sing-along, and getting some rad dog tags for my guitar army troops! BUT 'tis the season for high-string shopping and driving and running around like a madman. Come to think of it, I guess it really IS Christmas all year for me by that criteria!

Now, the important question for you, comrades, is...Are you ready to ROCK?

Tired of the songs at the mall? Try some of these on for size! It's time for my annual Merry AXEmas listening list!

For those of you who still don't have it, do yourselves a favor, and get Spotify. It's free, and you can listen to so many rockin' tracks, it's not even funny. It's like the ultimate iTunes!

Now, without further ado, here's some of my favorite holiday tracks!

From Merry Axemas - a Guitar Christmas

Steve Vai - Christmas time is here
Joe Satriani - Silent Night/Holy Night jam
Eric Johnson - The First Nowell
Steve Morse - Joy to the World
Jeff Beck - Amazing Grace

From Merry Axemas- More Guitars for Christmas

Neil Schon - O Come, O Come Emanuel
John Sykes - God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

From Gary Hoey's various Christmas CD's:

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Jingle Bell Rock
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
My Favorite Things

From the Trans-Siberian Orchestra:
Siberian Sleigh Ride
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo
Christmas nights in Blue
Boughs of Holly
The March of the Kings/Hark the Herald
Wizards in Winter
Queen of the Winter Night (AWESOME to see live!)

Other favorites:
JIMI HENDRIX playing "Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne"
Run DMC jammin' on "Christmas in Hollis"
Bob Rivers with his dead on "I am Santa Claus" jam!

There are so many more, too! Forget about decking the halls - rock 'em!

Best of luck with your last minute shopping and getting ready! These tunes will surely be a great soundtrack for your mind as you're racing through the store like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle all the Way. Huh, speaking of that, I need to watch that again...It's a yearly tradition!

Rock on!
- Josh

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wooooo! Radio show!


Happy Holidays!

MAN I've been quiet on here! So sorry! I'm running around like a madman, 'cause I gotta leave for Richmond in a few hours. I'll be hosting my first High Voltage Holiday Special on

Listen in from 3-5. Bing Crosby will be overthrown.

In the meantime, I need your help! I'm trying to get my NEW MUSIC VIDEO, shot and edited by my brothers, to 200 views by 3pm EST! Spread it around, and warn the world about SANTA!

We're at 174 views. We can do this!

As the Russians would say...

Not a step back!
- Josh

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Scary Revolution

Happy Halloween, Comrades!

Boy, oh boy, I love this holiday. Well, actually, it's mixed for me. I'm one of the few people walking around that actually had a nice childhood, and let me tell you, Halloween was always something to look forward to.

But then I got too old to go around dressed as a werewolf, or even my coup d' 'etat of Halloween - the whole family dressing up like dad. (I was Working Dad, complete with a dress shirt.) The idea of going as the Jackson Five was even floated a few years, but we figured we'd end up inadvertently offending the neighborhood located in Prince George's county, the most affluent African American in the nation. We'd have shocked neighbors, AND no candy. So, we didn't do that.

So, now, I sit, mope, and try to stay away from candy, as I'll surely try to stifle the tears for a childhood lost with caramel and chocolate.

I wonder what it would be like if the creatures of the night really existed, and imagine the logistical nightmares (daymares?) of the vampire in charge of the Halloween Gala. "Trolls are so uncouth!"

But, I'll snap out of it, because hey, I am dressed pretty cool today. I've got my red and white striped shirt on, and I'm Waldo - the man all you ladies have been looking for!

And, I've got some exciting news!

1- Did I mention Skype lessons? That's right! I'm now officially offering online guitar lessons. Drop me an email or comment on this blog if you'd like to try one for free. Now, the Revolution literally can take over the entire world!

2 - I'll be hosting a radio show this Saturday, November 5th, from 3-5 pm on WDCE 90.1 FM Richmond. Check out to listen in! Drop me an email with a request, check out the Facebook page, and I'll play it for you!

Now, go have a Happy Halloween, and try not to cry in the chocolate.

- Josh

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thanks, Joe!

Hey Comrades!

Wow, it's been a little while! I've been going at a furious pace, but it's paid off...I've got a new car! Well, it's slightly used. The Revolution now has reliable wheels. It's a 2003 Ford Escape, and I LOVE it! Not to worry, though, the blog-inspiring and police-attracting mighty Z-28 is still on the roster, awaiting some TLC and a new fuel pump.

But enough about cars...Today I'd like to thank Joe Walker from Deft Digits for hosting a guest post from me.

Check it out here! It's my story of how I was finally convinced to use a metronome, and how John Petrucci changed my life. Read it, comrade! And thanks, Joe!

Hey, a quick heads up...Looks like I'll be able to get to Richmond now, and hence, host a radio show! If you're not a fan of The Signalman on Facebook, check it out for dates 'n times!

Vive la Revolution!
- Josh

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Simon

Hey hey!

Any of you comrades familiar with Paul Simon? It's his 70th birthday today! I've never met him, but would like to sincerely thank him for all of the music he's brought to this world. I first heard him one bright sunny day. I've probably told the story before, but here it goes again.

See, my dad taught me about classical music. I've had a lifelong appreciation for the art form thanks to my pop.

Now my mom, while always supportive of the classical music, really deserves credit for opening my eyes to the poetry of lyrics. Fitting, as she's a poet herself:
And Paul Simon plays an integral part in this story.

So, back to this bright sunny dad in the 90's. I think I was ten or eleven years old, and mom, with her classic German tendencies, must have said to herself "we must get a CD player now, ja!" The next thing I knew, she walked in the front door with an Aiwa 3-disc stereo system under her arm, and a Simon and Garfunkle greatest hits CD. I think there was only that, and a Beethoven album in the house, so one of the spaces sat empty in the changer. This was before the days of a thousand CD's!

She set up the stereo, and the sounds of Mrs. Robinson soon filled the living room. Those plastic speakers sure seemed magical! I remember sitting around with my brothers, with mom leading the discussion of the symbolism of tracks like The Sounds of Silence. Simon and Garfunkle sure had a way with words, and I was quite impressed. I remember being vaguely inspired to try to learn guitar, but that would happen a few years later when I saw how electric guitars could rock the house. I remember the lyrics most clearly, and sitting around on that bright, sunny day in the living room, talking about what the songs meant.

A few years later, as I've mentioned before, I was listening to the tune Old Friends as a friend of the family lay dying in the hospital. That song defined that experience for me, and one of the lyrics goes "How terribly strange to be 70." It's wild that Paul turns exactly that age today. Check out this cut off the album Bookends:

Notice the album art, too. Here's my photoshop project for the day:

So, thanks mom, for introducing me to lyrics, and thanks, Mr. Simon, for writing them!

Happy Birthday!

- Josh

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Radio W-YOU

Hey Comrades!

When's the last time you've had a cheese sandwich? I'm eating one right now, and man is it good!

I wonder how many people have independently invented such a glorious creation. It must be a very high number, indeed.

Which brings me to the topic of today's conversation.

I'm not sure if I read it somewhere, or just came up with it, but did you ever think that we're all like radios? Let me explain. I'm a huge classical music fan. I've been ever since I was a little kid, when my dad taught me a lot about it. Sometimes I'll be listening to the local station, and send him a text like "Dvorak 9th on now!" I'll get a text back "2nd movement? Is that a flute or English horn?" "Nah, I missed it!"

We both are obviously listening to the same station, and hear what it's broadcasting.

Now, what if each of us had our own "radio station" of sorts, and we were the only receiver in the universe? What if we each had a unique frequency that we could listen to? Some of us are tuned to the jazz station, others the rock show, and man, some days, I feel like I've definitely got a talk show!

Beethoven had one, and it was playing the 9th symphony. Ozzy's broadcasted "Crazy Train."

Here's the funny thing - absolutely no one else can translate the frequency into music. Only the person "tuned in" to their own radio can.

Now here's the scary thing - If nobody else gets that song out there, it dies with the person. For you see, there was nothing inevitable about the Moonlight Sonata, Purple Haze, or Take Five. They never had to be written. A cheese sandwich may be reinvented every day, calculus may be formulated, and the laws of the universe discovered, but it's almost as if they were there to start with, simply waiting to be found. Now, that's not to scoff at Newton, Einstein, or me, Mr. Cheese Sandwich inventor (real man of genius), but an artistic creation is different in the fact that it's not inevitable.

As you see, it's important to listen to your radio.

And it's paramount that you don't let anyone turn it off.

People will try to do this surprisingly often. Why, I'm not sure, but especially with the anonymity of the Internet, they can hide behind avatars and snipe most viciously. With the whole world being wired, it almost seems that people are even starting to confuse the real world for Facebook. As a matter of fact, I caught myself talking as if I was online the other day.

Unsolicited opinions especially seem to jam our signals, but recognize the gravity of a station signing off the air - that music is gone forever. Sometimes we can take things philosophically and in stride. Sometimes we need propaganda. This is just another reason why I'm pleased that the Revolution isn't a democracy! Ha!

This radio example isn't just for musicians. It's for any and every person on the planet. What is your station playing right now?

Turn it up,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Stevie!

Hey Comrades!

Guess what! It's Stevie Ray Vaughan's birthday today! Wow, what a cool guitarist.
Man, of all the musicians, he's probably had the most influence on me.

I've been thinking a lot about changing the world. When I was sixteen, I was sure I could if I got mad enough and worked really hard.

When I was eighteen, I trained other people how they might better the planet.

When I was twenty, I gave up.

At twenty five, as you've been reading, I'm really not quite sure which way is up. The world is melting, and I don't know where we, as a species, stand.

And now it's Stevie's birthday. This day causes me to reflect. While, in the past, I've noticed at how little one person can do, today, I see how much one person can. Fifty seven years after his birth, and twenty one after his death, he's still speaking to people through music.

So I guess what we say matters...

On a humorous note, what we type matters, too. I had a new client the other day. My lesson program offers an introductory free first lesson to new students. Well, this guy shows up with a soda as a thank you. Nobody has ever brought me a thank you first lesson gift before! (Comrades, you can still redeem yourselves, though! Haha!) Then he hands be a bag. Remember, I've never met this guy before. "What's this?" I asked. "Your favorites. I've been doing my research." There, in the bag, was a jar of green olives and a can of artichoke hearts. I think I must have jumped! Crazy stuff! Funny, AND tasty! Thanks, _____ ! I had some yummy pasta last week thanks to you!

Happy Birthday, SRV!

- Josh

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Of executions, Dvorak, and language

Hey Comrades,

Well, it's been quite a week since we've talked last.

With a name and news that requires no introduction, Troy Davis was executed late last night. I don't even know what to say.

Which brings me to the next topic.

I had the privilege of attending a concert of Dvorak's 9th symphony last weekend. If you haven't heard it, check out the first movement here:

I went with my dad and 85 year old grandma, and it was a superb show. The music literally moved me to tears.

It reached inside me and talked to me. The neat thing was - concrete ideas or words weren't expressed, just the feelings.

It seems as if, in the face of tremendous injustice or great pain, this wordless, abstract communication is what's needed to heal. I wonder if it's sort of like our bodies. We don't go to our cells and say "Hey! Start healing!" They operate on their own, and while ideas and concepts certainly make a difference, it's of a different plane.

With Troy, there's much to be done. After all, it appears that our justice system is broken - and I don't just mean about this particular case. Moreover, the need for mechanized killing is indicative of a larger problem with society as a whole. So while there's the tangible issues to be addressed, there's also the sadness of injustice, and loss for both families. Maybe it's time to sit quietly for a minute, and play and listen.

The symphony was held in the National Museum of the American Indian. It's a beautiful building, and actually very quite fitting for the piece of music. Dvorak was inspired by many native American elements.

However, the building is a sad place, too. Looking out the front doors, you stare at the United States Capitol building - the very same institution that created the need for a museum. I find it more of a memorial.

As I listened to conductor Murray Sidlin explain the Indian influences in the piece, I looked around, and wondered what it would be like if the tables were turned, and another culture obliterated us rock musicians. Would they write a symphony, and say "Now listen to the third part in the second movement, where you can clearly hear a tribute to "Back in Black" and an overriding sense of aggression conveyed through fifth chords."

Then, the music started speaking, and I listened as I looked around at the ghosts of the cultures.

It was a lot to take in. This whole week has been a lot to take in. Strike that, the whole world is a lot to take in.

I think I'll go do some listening and see what the music has to say.

- Josh

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Look at those dead bastards"

"Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards" says a crewman aboard a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter that just left almost a dozen bodies littering the street, pierced by 30mm cannon fire.

They happened to be non-combatants.

I was about to go eat a sandwich today when my life changed course a bit.

I was talking to someone about the incident in Iraq, released to the general public about a year ago via Wikileaks. I was wondering if I had all my facts straight, so I went back to look. I saw this video, and read the story.

Warning: It's about as graphic as it gets. But I think it should be seen.

I lost my appetite. I got physically sick to my stomach. Ho-ly smokes. There was a photographer among the killed. He was carrying a telephoto lens. I though immediately of my brother, puttering around town with his camera and calm demeanor , ready to capture something cool...And that telephoto lens he usually uses.

There's all sorts of political implications of this post, this video, and Wikileaks itself. But my stomach doesn't realize that, and it is sick.

The point was made that it was like a real life video game. "Oops, I think I just ran over a body" says a guy driving a fighting vehicle on the ground. What does he think this is, Call of Duty?

I called my mom to ask her something else, and I started talking about this. Barely holding back the tears, I choked out the words "Mom, and my whole goal in life is to be a stupid entertainer. What's the point of that?"

I sat in the woods yesterday as quietly as I could, but my mind was racing with the thoughts of the day, and how people could slam jetliners full of people into towers full of other people. Again, there were my brothers in the picture. I imagined that their company had hit the big time, and they had an office on the 92nd floor of the North Tower...They were so proud of it. I snapped back to reality, and the woods gently moving in the fall breeze. Thank goodness that it was just imagination.

And all I wanted to be was an entertainer. How stupid is that.

So, I'm sort of lost. Those three circles I referenced in a previous post about finding the core of what we do - they sit empty again. I can't see them being filled with songs of peace and cooperation. I can't see them just filled with Comrade shirts and clever logos.

The world is broken, and I don't know how to put it back together. I'm old enough to realize that I can't, and young and strong enough to cut myself in the struggle against the shackles of reality. Somebody wise told me the other day that maybe it's about accepting the darkness as part of the light. I think I'll think on that.

And I think I'll try to figure out what in the world I should be doing as a musician - and a person. The circles are empty. I don't know what should fill them. But I plan to figure it out.

- Josh

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mystery Men

Hey Comrades!

Editor's note: The next few paragraphs, a blog complaining about a movie about a blog, do have a point. Anyone considering this hypocritical will be sent to musical Siberia.

I finally saw The Bourne Identity. WOW! A week later, my mom was watching Julie and Julia. I made the mistake of watching it too, and came down with a severe case of estrogen poisoning. Even mom thought it was a bit much. (For those of you who haven't seen it, it's basically a story of two very average women and a blog. To paraphrase an example of fine ciema, George of the Jungle, "Dude, if I wanted to see that, I would have stayed in a library!')

I so wanted an extra scene in the movie, sort of combining the action of the first one. It would go like so: The insufferably emotional blogger (Julie, not me) walks into a quiet kitchen with a frosted glass window...Looking around warily, she sees nothing wrong, until - a giant LOBSTER with a machine gun crashes through the glass, firing constantly. They have a big fight, where she takes the worst insult she can find, and verbally mortally wounds it and on it. The lobster runs off the balcony into a pot of boiling water.

Too bad that doesn't exist. That would be awesome.

In the meantime, I saw something almost as cool. Mystery Men was the name of the flick, and it was utterly stupid. I loved it. It was such a parody of a superhero movie, it was profound. Ben Stiller plays a wannabe superhero who's power is uncontrollable rage - except he's just pretending. His love interest, a waitress, thinks he's stupid. Man, I so relate to this guy. She finally starts to give him a chance, and asks him his name right before he's off on a dangerous mission. He makes up some silly sounding title, and she's just about to run off, when he says "Roy...It's Roy." She says "Just be Roy."

He goes back to his posse, and as they're riding into battle in an armored personnel carrier, he's just sitting there, with a silly grin on his face, and says "You know, I'm just not an angry guy!" His friends try to insult him to rile him up, to no avail.

In the end, when the bad guy is gonna kill his girl, he finds his inner rage, climbs up the wall with forks thrown by his friend, and saves the day.

I felt like that today. I realized I was groundless, with no belief of where I was going with music. I let it sit, and was terrified of the emptiness of not knowing what I stood for.

Then, later, when I half-threatened to rob the local bank of their way cool pens with magic wands attached, I realized my core and my belief of what motivates me to do what I do musically: Entertainment.

I guess it took a bit of floating in uncertainty to figure out the truly obvious. Now, per my previous blog post and that wonderful TED video (check it out if you haven't seen it!), I can operate from this core.

So, what's your core? Do you have any supposed superpowers that are an affectation, arbitrary, or a mask? It's hard to use your real powers, because if they're rejected, well, that means you are. Ouch.

But...No pain, no gain, comrade!

- Josh
PS. The best part about that movie: They went out to rescue the hero of the story, and accidentally killed him. The general reaction of the cast was "oops!" Refreshing!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why we do what we do

Hey Comrades!

I hope everyone did OK in that CRAZY week of earthquakes and hurricanes! Sounds like a Muse song...

Anyway, on Friday, I had the great good fortune to take a day trip with my folks. We all cram in to my mom's green mustang, formerly owned by my guitar teacher. My brother Zakk usually drives this strange vehicle that takes turns being the soundtrack from an unwritten Charlie the Unicorn episode (that would be me, along with my mom providing the humor, and my brothers as Charlie), to high-caliber think tank. Let me be clear - if the brothers had their druthers (haha, it rhymes!), it would always be a think tank. I'm to blame for the Chaaaaaaaalie skits.

Cruising along Route 66 east through the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Zakk deftly piloted the 'stang around slow trucks and silly minivans while I brought a topic to the table.

"Man, I'm noticing how mean and desperate us little musicians can be lately!" I started. As funny as it sounds, I'm really having trouble with the relentless self-promotion and arrogance on display every day on the social media networks. Sure, sure, I've fashioned myself the leader of a movement and commanding people obey the new laws of the land, and some other people are simply asking for friends to come out to a show. So I realize this sounds a little silly, especially since I'm typing this in a blog!

However, I'm noticing that it seems to be less a conversation, and more a shout-off when it comes to musicians using the networks.

Maybe I'm noticing the dysfunction of the musical community because I've been watching my photographer brother Noah. He's involved with a lot of photo sharing sites, and through his excellent photos and savvy personality, has made friends and connections all over the world. Everybody loves Noah, and he's had ultra-high level connections call him personally from overseas to ask his opinion.

Now, granted, I want to give credit to where it's due. He's a stellar photographer, a super nice guy, and he always has dynamite ideas. Plus, he doesn't say crazy stuff like "Off to behead Justin Bieber's hair now in the name of the Revolution!" So he's got a lot going for him.

BUT - it does seem like the photo community is genuinely interested in what the other members are up to. They learn from each other, grow, improve, and network like crazy.

Meanwhile, head over to YouTube, and you get comments like "America beat Germany in WWII" on Rammstein videos. Friend a musician on Facebook, be bombarded with "Yadda yadda has invited you to a show" (usually in another state.) Twitter's no better: "I'm at Starbucks/drinking beer" (Folk musicians/rockers.)

Where's the conversation? This doesn't stop in the electronic format. Pick up a guitar magazine, and read all about how Eddie Van Halen got a flanger to sound like an airplane in 1979.

The Internet presents us with the unique opportunity to engage and network. Spam has always existed, and while social networking makes it easy for anyone to clutter the airwaves, we're missing a really important aspect: The other half of the conversation!

But this is still just a symptom of the disease. Why are us musicians so mean? Are we really that desperate? I know I am sometimes.

Resistance indicates the presence of a challenge, and the presence of a challenge means we're barking up the right tree. If we love the goal, the challenge might be a welcome visitor. After all, it means we've found the door to the bank vault! OK, so it's locked, but that means there must be something good inside!

So what exactly are we trying to do? And most importantly, why? I watched this TED talk, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I highly recommend watching it.

I'm still trying to figure it out. Sure, I love music. But what am I trying to do with it? Why are we so nasty sometimes? To quote Elf "This place smells like mushrooms, and everyone looks like they want to hurt me."

The light gatherers help each other. We're the bringers of sound...Why don't we? I'm working on a speech for Comrade TV that will outline some of the new principles that I want to operate by, but I still have to figure 'em out. I think being supportive, encouraging, and listening intently will be three of them. More introspection on my part is needed before I can deliver the final draft, though.

Let me know if you have any ideas. And let me know what your inner circle motivation is, too! I'd like to hear!

Vive la Revolution!

- Josh

Friday, August 26, 2011

No radio show!

Alert! Alert!

Comrades! There's a crazy hurricane named Irene churning up the east coast, and it's canceled my train to Richmond! That means no radio show...booooo!

It's a funny name - the only Irene I've known was this little old lady who bought a lotto ticket every day. Maybe it's her ghost coming to wreck vengeance, and saying "beat these odds, punk!"

So, in place of the broadcast, I'll be hosting a video chat on Google + at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, 8/27. My page is Drop me an email or leave a comment if you need an invite to Google + ...the coolest networking site EVER!

I'll be jammin' on some blues in honor of SRV, chatting revolution plans, and chilling. Well, I never chill, but I will be chatting!

Actually, I think a hurricane is a fitting tribute to Stevie. It's even better than a radio show.

"Well they call me Hurricane, and I've come to play you a song..."

- Josh

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SRV's Radio Tribute

Hey Comrades!

This Saturday will mark the 21st anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan's untimely demise after one of his greatest gigs ever.

I always like to do something to honor him, and this year, I've got a unique opportunity. I'll be hosting a radio show!

I was building the playlist the other day, was almost finished, and happened to look at my Fender Guitars calendar. I saw the red letters, and realized that I needed to throw the playlist into the blender!

A number of years ago, a friend gave me a bootleg recording of his entire last show at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. I'm told it was recorded off the soundboard, so while the audio quality is a bit lacking, the tracks are HOT!

I'll be broadcasting the whole thing this Saturday during my show at WDCE 90.1 FM Richmond, so if you're in town, tune in! If you're not, it'll be streaming live at (just click on "listen now.")

It's an incredible concert. You really don't want to miss it. (Ha, look at me, promoting for an SRV show. THAT'S a job I'd be glad to do every day!) I'm blow away every time I hear the CD. He said once that he plays every show like it's his last, and unfortunately, that time, he was right. Wow, what a way to leave the stage of the earth...What a show he played....nay, channeled.

Airtime is from 3-5 pm, Eastern Standard Time. The facebook page for the show is

I'm so looking forward to it. I'll be hopping on Amtrak's Carolinian train #79 for the two hour trek to Richmond, hurricanes and earthquakes permitting. (We're getting pounded over here!)
Songs will be written on this trip...Especially if there's nuns sitting next to me! After the show, I'll be hanging out in Richmond's most "scenic" train station...It's really quite utilitarian, so hopefully the dreariness will provide great artistic inspiration. Watch out - Handy Street II?

See you on the air!

- Josh

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fame is unrelated to Talent - just ask Kim

"What's wrong with you, man?" my mom asks, her eyes flashing. "Where did I go wrong?"

Parental disapproval isn't something that I usually deal with. For the past 25 years, my folks have done an exceptional job of showing me that I counted, mattered, and was something to be proud of.

However, I have brothers. Their favorite pastime is to sort of play emotional billiards, and try to create a bus to throw me under, with mom driving it. Come to think of it, they must have learned it from me. And trust me, it's great fun...When you're not the one in front of the bus, that is!

Zakk really outdid himself this time. He connected the dots, and explained to mom that it was "THAT Kim" I always talk about when a picture of the "Keeping up with the Kardashians" showed up on Netflix. You should have seen him cackling as I got flattened.

I admit it, there must be something not quite right with my taste in women...Fairly wrong, you could say. But from this, we get a great music lesson. Read on!

It's a beautiful day ouside, but my heart is black. Kim is finally married. Now I'm gonna have to wait a whole three years before she's back on the market.


Maybe I can learn to dress myself properly in the meantime. I sorta look like the caddie from "Happy Gilmore." The first one. The kid. Actually, a combination of the two. It must be my haircut and unshaven face, or perhaps it's the checkered shirt and checkered shorts that match even worse than my socks. Yep, I need to up my game if I wanna go fishing, that's fo' sho'.

But wait, who is this questionable character that I speak of, and how does she stay so famous?

THIS brings us to the point of today's blog.

It is definitively proven now: Commercial success and talent have nothing to do with each other. Sure, they can be combined, but they're completely different things.

I can hear you all howling that Justin Bieber has proved this point even after countless other pop stars have, but here's the thing: There are some little girls who genuinely like his music, and are moved by it. So while I don't care for it, it's a matter of taste. While the Revolution may overthrow it, it's still some form of music.

But here's a reality TV star who, as far as I can tell, has absolutely no talent, and who's fame is self perpetuating. I'm not saying it's bad - to the contrary, it's rather amazing how well it works. It's like an engine, almost. Once started, it will run indefinitely. She's like the opposite of one of those brilliant musicians who can't even dress themselves, but will draw a crowd of thousands when propped up onstage...Aerosmith! Ha ha, I'm a fan, quit yelling!

I can't applaud her, because fame for fame's sake is completely pointless, and borders on a disrespectful waste of oxygen in a suffocating world.

From a marketing standpoint, however, it is unbelievable! Did you hear she made 18 million dollars on her wedding? That's the way to have a wedding - heck with spending money!

While the Revolution will overthrow all frivolity and designer brands, perhaps we can take a page out of that exclusive book, and realize this:

Talent does not equal commercial success.

Commercial success is a skill.

Practice that skill. And practice your talent.

For Hendrix's sake, please make the world a better place. Make sure that music counts!

Now, I'm off to practice tying my shoes . I've only got three years till it's game time again.

Geeze, what if she reads this blog?

- Josh
PS. Google spellchecker suggests that "Kardashian" be changed to "Balderdash." Interesting.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Overthrowing a screen near you!

Hey Comrades!

DUDE there's some cool stuff going on Revolution-wise. I'm working on a top secret project, soon to be detailed soon. I'm getting ready for the college courses I'll be teaching. I'm recording that holiday EP, with the first track completed (mostly!) I've got the coolest piece of artwork I've ever photoshopped.

But why should you care? Well, at the moment, you shouldn't. Soon, you will. But for now, blah blah blah!

HERE'S the cool news. The Revolution continues, and it's coming to your living room. Or where ever you keep your computer and webcam. That's right, I'll be setting up shop for some Skype guitar lessons.

The Details
I need your help. I've been teaching guitar professionally for years, but I'm still getting the hang out of the video conferencing. It's a new teaching format, and I need some comrades to develop this program.

If anyone wants to hop on Skype or Google + for a few free lessons while I figure everything out, it would be so much fun!

I'm looking for a good cross-section of skill. Beginners, intermediate players, advanced name it! Basically, we'd set up a time, and we'd have a half hour lesson via videoconferencing. It's totally free, and a one or three time deal. Think of it as beta testing. I WILL be charging for it eventually, but during the initial phase, it's free! I'd love to have your help with the project!

The Chat

Who as Google +? If you don't have it, send me your email, and I'll send you an invite! It's got a group video chat feature called Hangout. I'll be hosting weekly chats on it for all you guitarists and non-guitarists alike! Let's confer on how to take over the world!

Check out the Comrade TV video I just shot for it:

Hope to see you online this Sunday! I'm thinking 1:00 pm or so, but I'll post some details closer to the date! Drop me an email if you'd like to attend!

Vive la Revolution!

- Josh

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Hey Comrades!

August is here. I'm always glad to see it. I say "Hello August! Only a month till you're dead!"
Yeah, I'm not a big fan on the summer.

I'll tell you what I AM a fan of, though! Inspiration!

Of course, there's a story...

I got a call today. "Hey Josh, it's ___" (We'll call him Sam.)

"SAM! Dude, are you like ten feet tall? Your voice is so deep!" Sam is a former guitar student of mine, and he was calling to set up a visit. I hadn't seen him or his cousin, ___ (we'll call him Joe), also a former student, for probably about three years.

We sat around my teaching studio and talked for a good while. These fellas are 17 and 18, and about to set foot out into the big ol' world. It was super fun to toss around ideas about the future. It was neat for me to remember being 18. Seven years, while trivial with almost any metric, do put one in a very different phase of life. I always enjoy seeing old students. It's an honor that they stop by, financially un-obligated with any cancellation notice or anything, just to say hello.

The subject of ideal careers came up. Ever itching to put on my motivational speaking hat, I eagerly told Sam and Joe about my "Ask" theory. This is something I'm sure I've blogged about before, but I'd like to repeat it.

When we first get an inkling of what we really like in life, we excitedly tell the world. To quote "Little Stevie Vai" from his subtly profound track The Audience is Listening, "When I grow up, I'm gonna be a famous rock 'n roll guitar player!"

And just like the song, people laugh at the cute little kid at first. But then when it's apparent that the person is serious about pursuing their dream, they're beaten down. I've had many people tell me "Seriously, how many people make it? You'd better find a fall back."

We quickly learn to conceal the dream, because it hurts to be scoffed at.

There it rests, like the memory of a dear departed friend. Sadly, just like memories, it fades with neglect. One day, on our way to that dusty room where we've locked it away, we realize that, not only have we misplaced the key, but that we don't even remember what exactly it was that we locked up.

"Ah, it must have been to be a music manager!" we think. Now, that is an exciting and dynamic career, so to all you managers, don't think I'm knocking your craft. I'm not.

But, remember we started out wanting to be famous rock 'n roll guitar players? We've become so good at concealing the dream from other people, that we've hidden it from ourselves.

So we drift, and we know we're missing the target. Frustration sets in, and we might think "why can't I be the best at _____? It's not like I'm asking to be a rock star or anything!" Livingston Taylor once wrote "It hurts just as much to fall from a small dream as a big one."

Honesty with ourselves is vital. We need to find our way to that room, unlock the door, and look clearly at the dream. Maybe we've outgrown it, and then we can thank it, and place it respectfully back on the shelf. But maybe it's what we're really after. And, in the silence of that room, we can say to ourselves "This is what I really want to do with my life." Nobody has to hear you, and you never have to tell anyone.

But if you aren't clear about what exactly it is that you want, it's much harder to get. Ask. And ask for what you really want.

Now, sometimes one dream may morph into another. A young man named Johnny played guitar once, and moved with his band to LA. They flopped. Broke up. Done. Someone told him to come read for a movie. He got the part. You might have heard of him. His last name is Depp.

So, you're not always going to get what you ask for. But don't keep that dream locked away in the dust. It misses you.

- Josh

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Comrade TV and the Handy Street story

Hey Comrades!

Episode 6 of Comrade TV is available online!

Some of you have heard the third track of my latest CD (Signalman), called Radio W-HAM. In it, I tell the story of the time I took a train to New York City, and was shushed by a nun. My brothers captured some live video footage at one of my recent gigs of me telling the here it is in person! I think you'll enjoy.

You know, one of the things I love about being a musician is the diversity of hats I wear. I'm starting to get intrigued with story telling, so this is my first step into that world. I'm sure every field is like this to a greater or lesser degree. How does your field allow you to express yourself? Even if it doesn't, there's always lunch breaks. You hear about that construction worker in New York who signs Sinatra on his lunch hour? He's all over the internet now! Way to go!

On other Revolution news, I've been working for a few weeks now on my latest recording, a holiday EP! It's coming along good, and I'll start putting down tracks for an original holiday tune tomorrow! Recording Signalman was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Talk about some work! But I tell you, after a year out of the studio, it feels great to be back at it! I've got some great ideas for artwork bordering on propaganda, and a cool new story.

One more thing: A local musician that I kinda sorta know just got his new single at #13 on the iTunes songwriter chart yesterday! It charted above Harry Chapin on that day! Way to go, Sam Grow!

I hope you enjoy the latest installment of Comrade TV, and keep on overthrowing bad music!

- Josh

Monday, August 1, 2011

Calling in an airstrike on the Lemonade Stand

Hey Comrades!

It's summertime, and the lemonade stands are proliferating. Actually, I've yet to see one, but don't take my theme away, bro!

Social media, the internet, and the continued upheaval in the recording industry have created a unique universe in which the independent musician operates. However, like any new sky, there's a lot of trial and error involved before one can harness the maximum potential of the stars - or, in this case, fans.

A few years ago, when I was doing the band thing, I learned that the group I was in had booked a gig where we were selling tickets. No biggie, except...We were basically expecting our families to show up, and not many other people. "I have to sell my own mom a ten dollar ticket to see me play a few songs?" I wasn't thrilled about that, to say the least.

At the end of the night, after the sound guy had been paid, each band member got just under forty bucks...and I had six people come to see me at ten bucks a ticket.

"It's like a big lemonade stand!" I exclaimed disgustedly. And ever since I said that, I've noticed how many of these stands are out there. Some of them sell Mary Kay, some of them sell Avon (American cosmetic companies based on a pyramid marketing scheme), some sell a low volume of CD's, some charge a cover, but they have one thing in common: They have our friends standing in line.

With the advent of social media, we can really bombard fans incessantly, and demand even more of their time and money.

This is an unpalatable situation to me. I'm a musician because I want to rock the world, not because I want to impose on my friends to buy my CD.

I'm not exactly sure how to blow the lemonade stand to a fiery afterlife with a Justin Bieber soundtrack (sounds like hell to me!), but here's a few thoughts I've had on the subject. And, to be clear I'm not preaching, I'm not claiming to adhere to these rules all the time - think of them as a reading of my to-do list!

1. Never lose sight of the value of people's time and money: If they're listening, if they're paying, I'd better make sure I'm giving them something of value.

2. Monetize traffic, not friends: Successful websites make their money off traffic. They're free to access, and due to the sheer number of eyeballs, they can command a hefty premium from advertisers, not surfers. (The downside of this is more ads, but YOU try running YouTube's servers!) How can we apply this to music? I'm fascinated by sponsors, personally. It seems like sports does this a heck of a lot better than rockers. OK Go is doing some neat things in this field.

3. Quantity vs. Quality: In line with point 2, perhaps we should strive to lower the barriers to our music, and get as many people as possible listening! It's hard enough to get out there, and get a gig booked. It seems counter-intuitive to charge people for every single thing once they get there. A cover charge, drinks, merch, and the new CD can be quite a hefty bill. No wonder turnout can be low when the umpteenth facebook invite comes through to say "Hey, check out my band!" Sure, we've gotta make a buck, and I'm starting to eye the model of no covers, cheap CD's, and normally priced merch as a way to go. People can hear us, and spend as much, or as little, as they like. We get more fans, which is what we're after if we use the traffic model of success. This is something to ponder, and figure out what works best for you. I'd be curious to hear your ideas and experiences.

4. Treat the edge like VIP. Street music, or busking, gives us a term called the edge. So does U2, for that matter. People are reluctant to stop to watch a busker if there's nobody else there. As soon as several folks start watching the show, magically, people feel inclined to stop and watch. It's psychological, giving a cover of anonymity, and practical, so they don't have to pay you if they don't want to. I look back in utter shame when I asked a brother and sister to put a dollar in the jar when they stopped to watch me do a few magic tricks one day when I was busking. They should have waited for an edge! SO, the first two hundred fans of ours are really our edge, our front line soldiers, and our most powerful advertisers: word of mouth folks. I vote we treat 'em like VIP! Yeah, yeah, I've sold stuff to the Revolution's edge, and I feel pretty mixed about this. But I do make sure they get something free, be it an extra CD, a few stickers, etc.

So, this is how I'm calling in an airstrike to the Lemonade Stand. Please radio in if you've got any ideas, too!

Vive la revolution!

- Josh

Friday, July 29, 2011

Of Amy and Oslo

What do you say?

There was the guy who looked like he probably fronted a metal band in a land where the music flourishes. There was the kid who looked like one of my students - he was only 14. There were the girls with the trendy haircuts, and a fellow who looked like he was just having a rough time working downtown.

They're all gone now. Just like that.

There was Amy. Slow suicide is different than a terrible rampage, but carnage nonetheless. What an awful feeling it must have see the ground rushing at the window of the crippled aircraft, and not being able to pull out of the dive.

What do we do with it all? How do we hold it? Is it possible? It certainly won't bring them back...would it prevent future tragedy? What can we do to keep from going insane? I can't imagine being a parent or sibling. I was just involved with a youth leadership camp myself. I wonder how the other camp counselors are holding up. We had a strict "buddy system" in order to make some nobody wandered off. I could see myself unwittingly herding them right into the line of fire, trying desperately to do the right thing, and bewildered by the chaos.

I think all we can do is cry. It's something about that sound. But crying doesn't always have to be with eyes and tears. It can be with guitars or paint, words or clay or pictures.

My brother told me about a Flickr group for the tragedy.

Perhaps you've recorded a piece of music, or written a poem. Pass 'em along, and I'll put them online here. I think that, in our darkest hour, artistic expression is a mighty cry and dazzling light to give us the slightest glimmer of hope.

Feel free to share.

- Josh

Friday, July 22, 2011

Who says it's hot outside?

It's all in your head, man!

The east coast of the states is in a pressure cooker right about now.

ComradeTV brings you a holiday concert as a strategy to cool down.

Stay cool, comrades!

- Josh

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sell it!

Hey Comrades!

You know what I love about my business? I get to be totally me. I'm rewarded for my epic failure in matching clothes, and often strange haircuts. People come by to see the show that is Josh. I started wearing ties one day, and my students really had a problem with it. "Why are you wearing a suit, man? You're turning into a real teacher." "These are just khaki pants, man!"

"No, it's a suit!"

We all have quirks of our personality. I think artists are especially blessed, because in order to be truly successful, we need to be purely unique.

I bet, no matter what our field, we could apply this concept to distinguishing ourselves. Well, maybe distinguished isn't the right word for me to use today. I have orange-ish hair that's all frizzed out, plaid shorts that match, an Annoying Orange shirt with Grapefruit on it saying "Wanna watch me flex?" and forget a five-o-clock shadow - it's more like a nine o clock shadow! I've had too much mountain dew, and let me tell you, my students are getting good lessons today!

Maybe we can cut through the clutter by running with the quirks, instead of trying to forget them. Be it a unique guitar tone, a neat way to use pinched harmonics, a special pair of shoes you like, or a tendency to tell elephant jokes - see how the traits can boost you to new levels!

See if you can bottle up your personality, and sell it, instead of casting it into the ocean for some kid to find on a beach one day, open it up, and say, "wow, what a weirdo!"

Rock on!

- Josh
PS. Are you my friend yet on Google +? Send me an email if you need an invite!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Already it begins!

'Sup, Comrades?

LA has been infiltrated by two new comrades of the Revolution jamming on "Iron Man" at Guitar Center.

North Carolina and South Carolina are on the radar screen of two other comrades about to take a trip to the southland.

The Revolution is spreading! What are you gonna do to overthrow bad music? For starters, check out my new YouTube series called ComradeTV.

And what am I doing? Why, I'm only setting up shop to record a holiday EP! I'll be launching a new promotion drive soon with details and all that stuff. Right now it's studio set up, dusting the cobwebs out of the corner, and having fun finding old notes from the Signalman sessions on the shelves. Next up is working on some cool arrangements for these tunes. I'll be blogging about the process of the sessions, 'cause it's gonna be fun! There might even be some video in there, too.

Anyone have any favorite Christmas/Holiday tunes they'd like to see recorded? I think I've got a track list pretty much set, but I'm always open to suggestions.

I'll tell ya, while recording Signalman was the hardest thing I've ever done, I can't wait to get back and do some engineering, recording, arranging, and artwork! It's gonna rock, and you're gonna love it!

But blah blah blah...Here's the important news: If you haven't gotten a thank you note from me yet, you will. I'm slowly making my way through the list, and you're on it! In fifty years, you can sell it on that era's version of eBay. Until then...Well, I hope you're not wilting too much in this July weather.

For my last feat in this mostly self-centered blog post, I will announce that I'm about to get my hair dyed. However, I will try to make a cool video out of it where I'm the object of the joke, and therefore makes it funny and entertaining instead of just more noise.

I hope I don't get bleach in my eye.

- Josh

Friday, July 8, 2011

Too much history

I guess my brothers are right. I have been reading too much WWII history.

We all went to see Zoo Keeper, which is effectively Mall Cop II. It's awesome. They should really call it Zoo Cop. Or Mall Keeper. Either way, it was an inspiration. Move out of my way, comrades, because I'm the alpha male, here, got it, funny face?

Pulling up to the movie theater, we were caught in a mega rainstorm. I mean, this rainstorm was like something out of well, a movie!

We were going to wait it out, but then mom said "hey, let's just go inside, you wimps." All of a sudden, I felt like we were in an amphibious landing vehicle, about to storm a beach in the pouring rain. Everyone readied themselves for a mad dash to the I said "Hey man, it's like D-Day!" (Note to self: check to see if it was raining on D-Day.) I yelled "go go go go go!" I ran by my brother. He was walking upright like a normal person. I ran in a crouch, keeping low. "Imagine if people were shooting back!" I yelled. Some other drowned rat person in the parking lot probably thought I was crazy. Maybe it was because I was making gun sounds.

Almost immediately, there was a casualty. My faithful, dear iPhone fell out of my pocket, and lay writhing in a pool of blood, calling for it's mother. "STEVE! STEVE!" (as in Jobs.) Actually, it wasn't writing, but it WAS on the parking lot, which was a puddle.

"OH NO! Man down!" I ran back to him. "Speak to me, little buddy! It's gonna be OK!"

I dried him off, and thankfully, he survived. He's still saying "this accessory not optimized for iPhone" at random intervals...But hopefully he'll get better. I excitedly stared off on a history lesson, telling everyone within earshot how the beaches were scattered with the soldier's belongings on D-Day. Nobody was listening. Before I could get offended, the conversation turned to something else...And then I saw the movie poster for Puss in Boots of Shrek fame. I'm so there!

As far as music goes: Play your song like you're the alpha male.


'Cause I said so.

- Josh

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You have got to be kidding me!

Hey Comrades!

See the title of this post? You've gotta imagine it in THIS voice:

It's been a crazy day! I got to skype with a comrade "across the pond", as he would say,
teach in my new office, learn from an expert that men should never wear sandals (mandals), and launch my new YouTube series, ComradeTV.

So, I was plotting the Revolution with Comrade Coben in the UK, commenting on his cool accent, and doing my best redneck impression complete with a trucker hat. "Howdy, neighbor!"

He was telling me that his band, Violent Karma, used a nifty promotion method with great success. You know how Facebook event invites annoy us all? He printed up a bunch of personalized invitations, and mailed them to his fans for a CD release party. Coben got a 50% turnout! FIFTY PERCENT! That's UNBELIEVABLE! When's the last time a cold impersonal facebook invite has worked out that well? I'm so doing it next time I've got a big gig. It's such a great idea, and I'm so glad he shared it!

It tied right in to a theme that I've been thinking of lately. I believe I mentioned how I heard a great speaker who's also a Google employee say that, to really stand out in today's digital world, go analog! Handwrite stuff, send thank-you notes, and take the time to really see things through.

I think we can forget what an honor and privilege it is to have people listen to our music (or look at art, etc.) We can also forget that it's nice that people take the time to talk to us or to make life a little easier.

I left my office building at about 9:30 pm this evening, and there was a carpet crew there with a few hours of work left ahead of them. When they finish, they'll be driving six hours back to North Carolina. These guys, besides being quality craftsmen, are super nice. They worked with me to make sure I could teach without interruption, and they really didn't have to. They chose to, and I so appreciate that. I left them with some mountain dew, as I disapprove of pepsi when it's a mega job. It just doesn't work!

So, this personal connection stuff has been rattling around in my brain lately. I arrived home, and got this on facebook from a local person:

Thank you so much for your ongoing support! Due to the overwhelming number of requests and friends, I will no longer be using my personal Facebook profile. I would love for you to follow me and interact with me on my Official Fan Page! Here you can stay up-to-date with all of my exciting ventures, and I would love to hear back from you as well!

Click the link below and "Like" my page today.

Hey dig, it's a form letter telling me how to receive more form letters!

If I ever thank you for your ongoing support in a form letter, cut 'n paste this blog, print it out, wrap it around a dead fish, and mail it to me. Priority mail, please. With delivery confirmation.

I know that sometimes, logistically, it's impossible to keep up. I'm bad at returning email. I mean, REALLY bad. But I'm gonna get better. This is an example for me.

And, since I really am thankful, I'm going to email every follower of this blog, and every fan on my facebook music page and say "thank you!"

I should probably hand write some of 'em notes. But my writing's terrible, so guys, I'm really doing you a favor!

Technology's great, because we can have friends we never could have had before. But I, for one, am going to be extra careful that I don't lose the personal connection.

THANK YOU for listening!

- Josh

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The gift of sound

I called my grandma yesterday.

I had heard that, after long last, she had just gotten hearing aids. I called her up to say hello and congratulate her.

Boy, was she thrilled!

"Josh, I can hear the wind again! It's so beautiful." She went on to tell me how there's a creaky door in the house, and how neat clocks sound. We were brainstorming about neat things to listen to. "Hey, you've gotta go listen to the echoes at the National Gallery of Art! The voices bouncing off the marble sound neat! And have you heard your cat purring?" "You can hear her across the room?" "Sure can, if she's happy!" "I can't wait to listen!"

I listened, so happy to hear about her listening. I mentioned how I like to listen to all of my favorite songs through any new speakers I get, but how this is really like listening to life.

It got me excited about listening. I was taking a walk this morning, and I heard a bird singing lazily way off in the distance, deep in the summer forest. I marveled at how I could tell he was way far away.

Music is everywhere. As a matter of fact, sometimes I like the normal sounds of life better than music. I walked back from the grocery store yesterday, and the wind blew a mellow tune across the mouth of the open Mountain Dew bottle - probably the only calm that emanated from that green container.

I got out of the car after I hung up the phone with her, and listened to the Katydids in the forest.

I almost called her back to tell her to go outside and listen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Hometown Show

Hey Comrades!

Happy first day of summer! I was outside today, and heard the dogday harvestflies (cicadas) playing music. What a great sound. I remember being a little boy and running around listening to them. It's always a treat to hear the first one of the year!

June has been filled with great gigs so far, AND I've got another one coming up! It's called "The C3 Show - Three comrades, one Revolution - Overthrow Bad Music!" Hope you can make it out this Saturday!

I hope it won't be as logistically crazy as my gig at the Charles County Relay For Life this past Friday. It was so absurd, I need to tell you about it.

One of my comrades, friends, and former student Hunter came out to help. I think I'll explain it in a conversational format.

JU: Ashley! Call me back. I can't find you, and it's about to rain here at the stadium. I don't want to set up outside. Should I set up in the main concourse?

JU: Hello, officer. Can I park my car there? I need to unload some gear.

Officer: Sure. If you find someone with a radio, they can call Ashley.

JU: Ah, yours is the wrong channel.

JU: Hunter! Thanks so much for coming out to help! Man, sorry it's raining.

HS: Where are you setting up?

JU: In the main concourse. I'm gonna go talk to the people at the tables to make friends. Don't wanna blast 'em out.

Guitar student, to friends: Hey! This is my guitar instructor Josh!



JU: HEY! There's some more students! How's it going, fellas? Anyone want to be a roadie today?

Young Students: Yeah! Yeah yeah yeah yeah!

JU: Aw, man, you don't have to carry my shoes for the show!

Student's dad to little boy who has his whole forearm inside my size 13 basketball shoes: Yeah man, get your arm out of there!

Staff member: Why are you setting up here?

JU: I don't want my equipment to get rained on. Ashley said it's fine, and all my neighbors are cool.

Staff member: Oh, OK. (walks away.)

Two minutes later...

JU: Man, it's stopped raining, and it's looking nice. I wonder if I should move....Hunter, should I move?

HS: Uhhhh....

JU: Hey, Anthony, you think I should move?

Anthony: Well......

JU: Hey Hunter, what do you think?

HS: I mean...

JU: We're gonna move.

JU: Officer, sorry my car's been parked there so long! I'll move it ASAP!

Officer: No problem!

JU: Load this puppy up!

JU: (speaking to car.) Oh no.....come on, come on! Don't die on me! Well, the access road IS all downhill.....come onnnnnnn...........

HS: Dude, where's your car?

JU: Behind center field. My girl car died on me!


JU (lugging amps up an impossibly steep ramp high above left field): Excuse me! Excuse me! Behind you! On your left!

HS: How long we got?

JU: About a half hour!

HS (thinking): Where are his brothers?

JU: Can I have that gatorade? Thanks!

HS, impossibly loaded down with gear, most importantly a speaker stand, speaking to 8th grade twerp and his girlfriend walking in the opposite direction: Excuse me. Excuse me! Excuse me!

8th grader: ........

HS: Excuse me!

8th grader's face: Bam!

Speaker stand (thinking): Ten points!

8th grader's girlfriend: You deserved that!

HS: This speaker over here?

JU: Yep! Yep! Here's a cable!

Brothers: Hey man.

JU: Dude, I left my emergency blinkers on in my car. Can you turn 'em off?

Brothers (later): Dude, you left your car in the middle of the road!

JU: Huh...Like Hendrix.

Ashley: OK, you're good to go!

JU: Hello Waldorf! Here's a song I wrote about a laundromat.

JU: (Thinking) WOW! My voice is echoing through the place like those stadium reverb plugins in a recording program!

(Several songs later)


JU: Thank you, Waldorf!

(Hunter moves gear like a camel.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Aye Aye, Captain(s)

Hey Comrades!

Wow, what an eventful past few days! I had the great good fortune to play a snazzy gig in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The local paper was most friendly, and gave me a great write up before my show. Check it out here!

I arrived at the outdoor venue with my good buddy Hunter, and we spent the next two hours setting up the PA (and figuring out it's various mysterious gremlins), checking levels, and setting up shop. I had promoted the gig quite a bit, and the promoter was expecting a lot of people, as well.

Well, maybe it was the threat of rain, because turnout was relatively light. I'm actually glad it was, though, as it was like playing to a living room full of friends. They were really supportive, AND taught me an extraordinarily valuable lesson.

The guy on stage is always the employee. These people had come out on a beautiful Saturday evening, bought food, brought chairs, and were giving me the most valuable thing of all: their time.

Musicians deal in many currencies, and we often make the mistake of assuming that money is the most valuable one. I'd venture to say that it's time that we're really after. It takes time to listen to a song, and it takes time to watch a show. There's plenty of rich people in the world, but I rarely hear about people who say "man, I've just got so much time!" For someone to sit down and watch me for an hour is really quite generous of them. My folks drove for over an hour to watch, help, and support my show. My brothers were there and took some great photos and videos of the show. It happened to be a very special day for my mom and step dad, but there they were, watching and laughing and clapping. People walked in off the street and sat, instead of going to a bar or baseball game. Hunter set up a PA and had to watch the show.

They all gave me their time, and I did my best to reward that. I realized, behind the mic looking out into the park, that I was looking at a crowd of bosses. Granted, I needed to present my artistic vision, and use the stage with authority. At the same time, they were the reason I was there. I was working for them.

A guy came up to me after the show, and as he was buying a CD, he said "Josh, I always like to support artists who really work the audience." I'll never forget that. I guess it was like a boss giving me a Christmas bonus.

I even got to sign some lady's hat. I was getting ready to sing a Johnny Cash song, and said I needed a black hat. She obliged, and wanted me to sign it afterwards. I was honored!

Money can be lost, earned, stolen, cheated, invested, and multiplied. Time can never be. When you spend it, it's a little bit of your life you'll never get back. I'm humbled and grateful to those of you who have spent some listening to me. Thanks, bosses!

"Didn't mean to take up all your sweet time...Give it back to of these days."

- Josh

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rock Star - part II

Hello, everyone!

Wow, wow, wow. Thank you all so much for your most supportive comments about my idea to teach guitar to combat vets (see the last post if you're confused reading this.) There were some great ideas presented. Thank you! I'm sorry I haven't answered each one individually (it's been a little hectic over here), but I want to let everyone know that I'm grateful.

My plan as of now is to visit a local VA facility in the next few weeks and chat with them about stopping by to teach. I will report back what I find, and keep you good people informed.

Once again, thank you very much for your kindness, support, and instant willingness to do good and better the world.


- Josh

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Rock Star

You never know where you'll have the week's most interesting conversation.

I've talked to some interesting people in the past few days, both on friendly and extremely hostile terms. People have refused to shake my hand, while other, more powerful people have said to call them if there's any problems.

However, the most moving exchange came around 10:30 pm with the guy who checks your receipt at Wal Mart. You know, the nondescript person who sits by the door to make sure you don't walk off with the whole store. Here's what happened, paraphrased.

I was zoned out, filled with glee at how such a giant corporation can make a line stand for twenty minutes and get away with it, when I noticed his hat and all the pins on it. Emblazoned across the front stained with sweat and probably more than a few tears were the words "Vietnam Vet."

"Those are a lot of medals" I said, and our conversation began. "Do you mind talking about it?" I asked him. "I like history."

He didn't seem to, and told me about his service. "Oh, I fought at the battle of ____ (Ed's note: I can't place the name. AND it's late, and I may have the numbers and facts slightly off. Like - maybe REALLY off.) We lost two hundred men in a very short period of time. If it weren't for the Korean regiment, a lot more of us would have died. See, they didn't believe in the Geneva convention or rules of engagement. So when the VC put a bunch of kids on the front line, we had to stop shooting. We were already being labeled back home as baby killers, so we had to stop. Then the Koreans came through, and lit everyone up. I probably wouldn't be here if they didn't do that."

I stood there and listened to him talk. I wondered how he was still standing after witnessing the slaughter of kids trying to kill you. What a head trip. I noticed a scar on his face. "Thank you, have a nice evening" he would say to the menagerie of people walking out the door.

"My boss messed up my paperwork, and I got drafted. I was the only certified teacher in Maryland to end up in 'Nam. I was on the front lines. When I came home, everyone treated me like dirt. All the rich people were making money hand over fist over there. We couldn't get decent jobs. They let the communists have the country, and then a just few years later, we're seeing shirts and jackets come to the U.S. with labels "Made in Vietnam"

"Was that hard?"

"Yes. Yes, it was hard. When I retired from administrative work in the school system, I started working here...It kinda keeps me busy. I had been in and out of the hospitals for years, as the stuff kept coming back. So the Vietnamese folks with their nail salon business right across from the front door...well, I couldn't do it. They had to move me over here by the exit. I don't speak it, but I know what it means."

"I'm sorry you got treated so bad. That's not fair."

"Well, there's a few local politicians that stick up for us vets. But not all of those guys do. See, the system is set up for a certain number of people to die. If you come back with an arm or leg blown off, well, they don't mind putting people out in Arlington (Cemetery.)"

I stood there looking at this guy, and when I shook his hand to thank him, I had tears in my eyes.

I'm a leftist. I'm a pacifist. I don't believe in most war, and certainly not the ones we're fighting. I don't think their reasons outweigh the human, economic, or mental cost. I don't think they're winnable, as if any war is. I know there's some soldiers who are heroes, and some that are not. They're people, and people are complicated. But when I stand there, and look at this old man with a scar on his face and his fuses completely blown, saying "Have a nice evening" to make sure an indifferent and apathetic nation hell bent on consuming imported garbage doesn't steal anything, I really have no idea how we sleep at night.

I went to an air show recently, and was amazed at how we've been sold a bill of goods in general, and a lot of overpriced planes in particular. I felt insulted, used, and more than a little scared that the runway seemed to turn into a chess board, and let me assure you, nobody there was a king, queen, rook, knight, or bishop.

I saw someone put a "Support Our Troops" yellow ribbon on their gas tank lid on the car. It was almost as ironic as the WD-40 cans to support the troops in the auto parts store today.

It's my personal belief that the human psyche is not wired to withstand the horrors of war, no matter how tough you may be. I don't know how to fix it, and I don't know if it's even possible.

I wouldn't be so arrogant as to say I have a solution - but I do have something that I'd personally like to do. I got to thinking - if people sign up to work at Wal Mart to keep themselves busy, perhaps...perhaps they'd like to play guitar. I always say it's healing to play all your angst out,And it' a definitely something to lose yourself in.

I'm not quite sure logistically how I'll put it off, but I'd like to set up something where I could help combat vets learn music. I once gave an informal guitar lesson to an Iraqi vet a year older than me who was missing a leg, and thumb and index finger of his left hand. Try playing guitar like that, folks, and see how it works. It's extraordinarily hard.

You know, there's a silver star program. Some people get the bronze star.

How about The Rock Star program? I'm open to ideas. I'd like to do something, at least to keep these folks busy. Please let me know what you think.


- Josh