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John Montagna: Archives

Home, where my thoughts escape me. - September 9, 2011

We landed at JFK at around 8pm last Saturday night.  My ladies were with family in Delaware until Sunday, so I had an entire night home to myself.  This solo time was perfect, just what I needed to adjust and get back in my home groove.  Jump back in too fast, and you'll burn up on re-entry.  

Then the week flew by: Labor Day day off play date first day of school private event band showcase second day of school weekend.  Whaaa..?

Here I am, home for a week, and still floating between my many lives: rock-star-for-hire, father/husband, local working musician, house keeper, citizen of New York City.  I'm rushing to finish the upcoming CD of my music from the top-rated comedy podcast in the nation, contending with as-yet-unfulfilled orders for the recently-released Hay Jude disc, and Google-mapping directions to tomorrow's house party in MT Kisco, NY with Godfrey and the boys (hot & fresh off a summer of touring).  All the while, I'm doing my best to maintain a happy home for my ladies.  And for the record, I will be memorializing the 3,000 souls who left this earth 10 years ago in my own quiet way: living peacefully on Sunday, spending time with my most precious loved ones, and TURNING THE TELEVISION OFF.

I apologize if it has taken me too long to send you your Hay Jude disc, or if too much time has passed between blogs/videos/Beatles reviews/email blasts/etc.  Life keeps happening, and it will not wait for me to edit tour videos or update a website.  Fortunately, I have a small-but-dedicated audience of people who know that Life comes first for me, and I don't take any of you for granted!  

I need an intern.  And a vacation.  

Be well

JM

Goodnight, Irene. - August 27, 2011

I'm home from the tour in a week.  I've done all the worrying that I can do about Irene.  But now I have to stop, for the sake of my mental (and physical) health, and pull it together. 

 

I've never believed in end times, apocalyptic prophecies, or any of that nonsense, and I still don't.  But after 3 weeks on the road and bus-induced sleep deprivation, Mother Nature's bitch-slapping of NYC had me confronting and challenging my own iron-clad belief systems.  And it was terrifying.  (First an earthquake, now a hurricane.  WTF?)  

 

Despite all appearances, I was a nervous wreck for a few days.  I started to wonder if I'd actually be spending the end times on a tour bus going thru Kentucky, Illinois and South Dakota.  Panic and dread were making it hard for me to focus.  Onstage I felt like I was phoning my performances in; backstage I was avoiding people because I had nothing to say and couldn't make eye contact with anyone.  I was nervous, restless, pacing around the venue, constantly moving as if I were trying to get away from myself (which I was).     

 

Mindful living is knowing that we can decide how we react to our experiences.  That's why lukewarm cups of bitter-tasting coffee don't get tossed across the catering room in disgust.  That's why I didn't kick the speakers in when the bass amp crapped out 2 nights ago during soundcheck.  I was keeping it together and behaving rationally, but my anxiety and frustration were still simmering under the surface.  

 

But last night, I put an end to it.  Nervous, edgy, anti-social…that's not me.  That's not who I am.  Tensing every muscle in my body, in an effort to suppress uncontrollable sobbing fits, doesn't help anyone.  My job right now is to be a calm, reassuring voice on the phone to my family, and then get my ass onstage and rock out.  And that's what I did last night, with the help of my awesome band mates and our tough-as-nails crew.  

 

I took a deep breath and made the decision to let go of my fear and panic, and act from a place of strength and calm instead.  I hit the stage and let the music wash over me and rejuvenate me, as I have my entire life.  Last night's show in Aurora, IL rocked harder than ever to the sellout crowd, and we all knew it.  The post-gig vibe on the bus was jubilant, as it can only be after a kick-ass, sold-out show.  We all deserved the credit, but I was relieved because I was back, baby.     

 

Of course I'm concerned for the well-being of my loved ones, and for the well-being of my city.  But my loved ones are doing everything right, and they've got it under control.  My dad is at my place, taking the air conditioners out of the windows.  Jill is strong, smart, and cool under pressure.  Our apartment is in a brick pre-war building, and it's stocked with groceries, flashlights and batteries.  My family is handling their circumstances calmly and efficiently.  I should be doing the same thing.  

 

I'm incredibly fortunate to do this job, and I'm living the dream.  I'm also a fragile human being sometimes, and occasionally anxiety gets the better of me.  I'm not afraid to admit this, but I'm also not afraid of facing it down and defeating it before it stops me in my tracks.  I also can't always do it alone; I'd like to take this moment to thank Steve Murphy, Toni Freeman Greene, Ian Williams, Mark Volman, and Barron Melton for their calming words of reassurance when I needed to hear them the most.    

 

Be strong, New York.  Don't be scared, but don't be stupid either.  This, too, shall pass.  

Be well

JM

38 - April 21, 2010

3 days into the new age, and I still feel the same as I did when I was 14. Is is the music? I think so.

Of course, I always check these things with The Beatles. When Paul McCartney was 38 (in 1980), he was doing the "McCartney II" album...and getting busted in Japan for weed. George Harrison was 38 when "Somewhere In England" was released. John Lennon and Ringo Starr were both my age in 1978; John was laying low with Yoko and Sean, whereas Ringo put out a forgettable TV special ("Ringo"), and an even more forgettable LP ("Bad Boy").

But could any of them say that they're Francesca's Daddy? I don't think so!

I'm still as young as I feel.
Be well
JM

beatles remasters review #7: magical mystery tour - April 5, 2010

In which we Beat-ards discuss the merits of both the film AND the album, and we discover how The Beatles used Twitter!



And that's the Magical Mystery Tour review. Told ya!

Be well
JM

April 2, 2010

Friday morning, sunny and warm in NYC. Last nite was the 9th annual Eric Clapton tribute at BB Kings with the Godfrey Townsend Band (Steve Murphy drums, Manny Focarazzo keys, Godfrey guitar and myself, plus Kenny Forgione and Mark Newman on additional guitars). Rocked.

And we needed it; the four of us haven't played together (or seen each other!) since our final gig with Alan Parsons back in September. We had much catching up to do, both onstage and off. There are some road plans afoot for the summer, but it was very good for us to re-connect with a hometown gig at one of our favorite, most familiar venues.

No rehearsal except for some quick detail run-thrus at soundcheck. A loud, large, hometown crowd. Wham bam, thank you ma'am. An honest day's work.

Got home late, and I'm a little sleep-deprived. No worries; it's a gorgeous day, so I'll be out with Francesca to soak up the spring time and run errands (including buying more coffee...we're fresh out!).

Sunday I'm back at BBs with Hay Jude, serving up some country-fied, southern-fried, hot buttered Beatles. There is no better job in the world than being a musician in NYC. Life is grand.

Be well
JM

March 24, 2010

Checking in from Tucson, Arizona. Getting some much-deserved R&R with the family and friends here in the desert, in the way that only Tucson can give it to you. And it couldn't have come at a better time!

Spent this past weekend sweating about my precious MacBook, the very brain and control center of my entire Musical Empire. (Don't laugh!) Applications had been acting a little wonky for a while, lots of shutting down unexpectedly, slow processing (aka "beach ball of death"), YouTube videos freezing up, etc. The hard drive wouldn't let me install the OS update, telling me that my "source media was damaged." Hmm. Called tech support on the phone, followed all their instructions, and they made it so the MacBook wouldn't even turn on. Thanx Apple!

Two days without my laptop. More time to play bass! Got the Rickenbacker 4001 out of the closet, jammed. Sunday morning I hit the Genius Bar at the Soho Apple Store, and someone named Charles sorted me out. I had to erase my hard drive (thankfully I'd JUST backed everything up a few days earlier), re-install the old OS, and THEN do the update. It all went just fine, thank you.

And a valuable lesson was learned. Back up your s#&t. Often. But also, don't spend so much friggin' time at the computer that you can't survive without it. Sure, the Mac is my Mission Control...but does not the plumber put down his wrench eventually? Does Jack Nicklaus sleep with his golf clubs next to the bed?
Honestly.

Mac is back, but I'm enjoying looking at cacti and mountains too much right now to notice. Making more stuff when I get back to NYC. Stay tuned.
Be well
JM

March 17, 2010

Keeping up to stay current; not much compelling news to report, but visitors to the site should see something up-to-date so they don't feel ignored. Next week we go to Tucson for a much-deserved, long-overdue vacation in the desert; after that, things begin to heat up a bit gig-wise. As always, keep it here to find out all the juicy details.

I should mention that today, March 17, is an auspicious day in my own personal history. Yes, I know it's St. Patrick's Day, when all the world wears green, sees green, and drinks until their faces are green. But it is also the day, in 1986, that I was accepted into the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. Yay! As one who detested my junior high school experience, getting accepted to LaGuardia was my ticket to The New World. I got out of my Brooklyn JHS like I was making a jailbreak, and hopped on the Manhatan-bound 1980's-era NYC subway into a universe of daily musical discovery, the Sheep Meadow at Central Park, the marble steps and fountain of Lincoln Center, and a tight circle of friends that I maintain to this day.

How will I know who I am to be, if I do not remember what I have been? Or something like that.
What up Class of 1990!

Be well
JM

March 12, 2010

The rain comes falling from the sky
to fill the stream that fills the sea
and that's where life began for you and me.

Yep, it's raining in NYC. Beats 3 feet of snow though. Only means that Spring is just around the corner. And there's nothing better on this earth than Springtime in NYC. Am I right, people?

Raised the Goblet of Rock last nite with Godfrey & Murphy at Prohibition in The City. Good times, plenty of Zep/Cream/Police/Who/3-piece -type revelry. And excellent, EXCELLENT Parking Karma.

Private event this weekend, plus plenty of precious family time at home. Life is grand!

Be well
JM

stacking - March 10, 2010

Keeping current. Spring is sneaking into NYC a little early this year. Doing a bit of "stacking" work-wise.

What's stacking? Cedric The Entertainer explains it in the movie "The Kings Of Comedy." Instead of doing one big gig that pays a ton of money, you do several gigs that pay a little money. Tuesday nite you make $80. Wednesday you go across town to a different club, make another $80. Thursday somewhere else, $100. Friday $150. By the end of the week, that's $410.

It's not so much a process, but a point of view: everything's connected, so long as you are engaged in your craft and presenting yourself well. You're not doing "a bunch of little gigs;" you're maybe spreading it out across more nites. But you're still in the game, so shut up and count your blessings. (In that order.)

Tomorrow nite we rock Prohibition on the upper west side with Godfrey and Murphy. Saturday I do a private event. Sunday morning I stack, still in the game. New songs coming out of me as well, more than usual; stay tuned.

Life is grand!
Be well
JM

March 2, 2010

Monday, back from a very quick weekend trip to LA for WesFest 5. Had an awesome time, on every level.

Re-connected with many Berklee peeps, including Professor Danny Mo, the man responsible for making me a fan of the bass. Had the good fortune to perform with Kira Small and Mike Keneally (see video footage below). Made some new friends, including Paula and John Wehmiller, Wes' lovely parents. Good times all around, and we raised nearly $20,000 for the Wes Wehmiller Memorial Scholarship fund for Berklee (our projected goal)!

Managed to squeeze in some family time as well, which included a cut-throat game of Beatles Rock Band. I did well, but it's harder than I thought! Stay tined for video highlights.

Local action for a while, plus some new works in the works; stay tuned!

Be well
JM

"you are safe" vocal rehearsal - March 1, 2010


Myself, Kira Small and Mike Keneally backstage at The Roxy, before WesFest. Thanx to Mike for suggesting that we run the vocals one more time!

Be well
JM

February 27, 2010

Waking up slowly but surely in LA. North Hollywood, to be exact. Tomorrow is WesFest 5, in which we pay tribute to our bass brother Wes Wehmiller and raise money for the Berklee College of Music scholarship fund in his name. Very much looking forward to re-connecting with some Berklee peeps, and playing some great music.

I am not needed at the Big Dress Rehearsal until later tonite, so until then I'm visiting west coast family and soaking up what little LA sunshine is peeking thru the rain here. I should have been here yesterday, but Mother Nature and her snowy accomplices had other plans for anyone planning on leaving NYC. Needless to say I've had smoother trips...but Father Time always seems to erase the memories that are the most irritating, so I choose to blast ELO from the iPod dock, get some pants and shoes on, and seize both some coffee AND the day.

More updates as they happen.
Be well
JM

February 22, 2010

Late Monday nite, should already be in bed (both ladies are), but I'm feeling the need to keep the blog up to date.

Saturday nite was a private event in New Jersey. Great to see the band again and do what it is that we do, but if I never drive the Holland Tunnel-Rt 1/9-280 West route anywhere again it will be too soon. I've played at NJPAC twice, and both times I got lost in that Rt 1/9 nonsense coming home. It is my belief that they change the signs in the middle of the nite and don't tell anyone; it's the only logical explanation for why I, a grown man, a college graduate, a father, can't figure out how to get into or out of the Holland Tunnel without much slamming of the steering wheel and cursing out loud in the car by myself. Never again.

Having another recurring romance with the bass. My main bass, to be exact. Every now and then I find myself swooning over the sexy black cherry finish on my fretted Spector 4-string. I'm in the mood for her yet again. Don't know what brings this on, but if loving a piece of wood is wrong I don't want to be right.

ReBop4DLSBlkChry_11_cropped.jpg

George Harrison tribute at BB King's tomorrow. I get to play slide guitar, yipee!

Be well

JM

HAY JUDE! VIDEOS - February 18, 2010

ONE AFTER 909

LOVE ME DO

COME TOGETHER

Special thanx to Hay Rich for doing the video, and to Hay Margaret for uploading!
Smell the Hay.
Be well
JM

February 16, 2010

HAY JUDE show last nite at BB King's, incredible. Guitar Josh Max and Drums Rich Zukor are my musical brothers, and we will soon take over the world. Nothing like the rockabilly trio format (guitar-bass-drums) to kick people's arses. And we did it old-school, all three of us at the front of the stage. (Don't know if that's "old-school or not, but anyways.) Packed house for a cold, snowy Monday nite. Even hit Lucille's Bar and Grill next door afterwards, and had a sweet jam with guitarist Jon Paris and drummer Steve Holley.

Yes, THAT Steve Holley, the drummer from the final lineup of Wings. Steve played on the "Back To The Egg" LP (an underrated gem), "Goodnight Tonight," and the Concert For Kampuchea. He was also on the Japanese tour that got cancelled when McCartney got busted for weed at the airport. (I made sure not to mention that.) Dude has a solid-as-a-rock pocket that was tons of fun to play with. We rocked thru some early Beatles, and I was out of there, back into the subway home to Brooklyn. Good times.

Private event this weekend, then back to BB's next week for the Here Comes The Sun multi-media George Harrison tribute. The train keeps rolling.

Be well
JM

February 13, 2010

Lazy Saturday afternoon. Ladies are napping. Daddy's blogging and listening to The Beatles. Neighbor down the street is having a VERY lazy afternoon; snow hit NYC in the middle of the week, and dude hasn't shoveled, salted, sanded, NUTHIN'.

Solo bass last nite at Perch Cafe in Brooklyn. 4-string Spector, Tech 21 VT Bass pedal, hot cup of Irish Coffee, good times. Always unchartered turf with solo bass, even though the crowd mainly consists of friends and family who have known me all my life. Looking into new ways to perform for larger groups of strangers, stay tuned.

Relaxation for the rest of the weekend, then we hit BB King's on Monday with Hay Jude. Every day that passes is another day closer to the end of winter, which I'm officially tired of. Keepin' on truckin'.

Be well
JM

"Are We Doing This?" Recording the theme to "WTF With Marc Maron" - February 10, 2010


Lock the gates!
Be well
JM

January 29, 2010

Photo shoot with Hay Jude yesterday (Thursday) in Manhattan (aka The City). Tons of fun.

Met up with guitar Josh Max, drums Rich Zukor and photographer Seth on 23rd and 7th. We then crammed ourselves into a red Camaro that Josh has possession of for a few days. (Josh writes about cars for a living. Yeah, I know.) We pressed our faces up to the driver's side window, then up to the windshield, while Seth clicked away. We stood against the side of the car and Seth clicked away.

Then we headed into the Malibu Diner, commandeered a booth in the back with our instruments, and Seth clicked away to the amusement of diner patrons. Favorite quote from a grey-haired gentleman at a table of six: "Are you guys gonna play, or do we just have to stare at you while you smile for the camera?"

Back out on the street again, Seth stood in place and clicked away as we walked toward him, ran toward him, jumped up in the air, and stood in place. Can't wait to see the results; I have to think that we got something useful!

Afterwards I stopped up at Rich's place to eat my salad bar salad. I also got back the CDs that Rich borrowed from me the last time he was over my place, and I raided his collection as well. That's what Rich and I do: we both have huge media collections (well, mine is huge, Rich's is GARGANTUAN), and we exchange stuff when we meet up. (That's his Beatles Mono Box in my video .)

Today he returned:
-John Lennon - Imagine, AND Walls and Bridges
-Ringo Starr - Photograph: The Best Of Ringo Starr
-Badfinger - Straight Up, AND The Best of Badfinger
-The Hollies Greatest Hits (2-disc set)

And from his collection I made off with:
-Queen - Queen (first album)
-Thin Lizzy - Black Rose
-T. Rex - The Slider
-Chicago - Chicago V
-Pink Floyd - Piper at the Gates of Dawn
-The Ethel Merman Disco Album

Now that's a party mix.

Walking back to the N/R train at 23rd and 5th, I stopped at the Van Leeuwen truck for a latte. A skinny man in his late 40s-early 50s walked past, dressed like one of The Ramones (jeans, leather jacket) but with bleached blonde hair. He was walking fast, and shouting into a cell phone with a heavy Noo Yawk accent:

"First of all, you lie. Second, you don't appreciate it. Third, you lied again. You're ALWAYS LYING ABOUT EVERYTHING!"

Stay tuned for the results of yesterday's Street Art. And don't forget to catch Hay Jude at BB Kings on Monday, February 15th at 8pm.

Duo gig tonite at PJ Harper's in Valley Stream with Godfrey Townsend.

Be well
JM

January 25, 2010

Rainy Monday morning in Brooklyn. Steaming cup of Gorilla Coffee getting me going slowly but surely, ready for indoor playing with Francesca.

This weekend was a powerful one. I threw myself full-on into the music for two consecutive nites. I guess I don't know any other way to do it; I can't just "phone it in." I always give 1000%, even if it makes my body ache. Hey: life is short, so make it count!

Friday was the Power Trio at KJ Farrell's, with Steve Murphy and Godfrey Townsend. It's been a minute since the three of us got together to do our thing; the 3-piece rocks a bit harder anyway, and with some re-connecting for us to do (and a little steam to blow off), we hit stage like a bomb for almost 4 hours. (!) Wait...yeah, we started 10pm, and didn't finish until 2am-ish (with only a 20 minute break). Zeppelin, Cream, Police, U2. Sang and played my arse off, as did Murph & Godfrey. Goblet: RAISED.

Saturday was a solo bass set at Perch Cafe in Brooklyn. Solo bass is always a jump into the unknown, no matter how "comfortable" I get. The previous nite's action didn't wear me out as much as I thought it might, and I discovered some great stuff. Also had an opener, young Alison Francis, who took the bus down from Massachusetts to play at Perch. She doesn't kid around either; she literally spilled blood on her guitar! Go to http://www.myspace.com/allisonfrancis to check her out. Great songs, great voice; check her out now so you can say that you knew about her back when.

Duo gig w/Godfrey this Friday nite; until then it's Daddy and business.

Be well
JM

January 19, 2010

Back in NYC, home since Sunday nite.  Spent yesterday's holiday relaxing with my Ladies, allowing the jet lag to wear off and the NAMM-ness to subside.  Today begins the process of following thru on all the networking done at NAMM. 

I met tons of wonderful new people, but I also reconnected with a few gems from my past.  NAMM is like that; your past and future meet in an alternate reality of amps, guitars, pro audio and celebrities.  You're standing at a display of $10,000 guitars made of rare wood, which is just a few steps away from the concession stand where Stanley Clarke is sitting on a plastic chair eating a $9 turkey wrap.  Then you wander a few more paces, past the crowd lining up to get Peter Frampton's autograph, and listen to someone demonstrating a gold-plated accordion.  Someone reaches a hand out to you..."You play with Alan Parsons, right?  You guys ROCKED at the Grove last year.  Here's my card, let me know if you ever need repair work in Chicago/powered monitors/music stands."  

72 hours later I'm back, pushing Francesca in the stroller down 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, sipping on a hot cup of Gorilla Coffee and breathing fresh air and glad to just be in the game.  

Power trio with Godfrey and Murphy Friday nite, then solo bass at Perch on Saturday.  Life is grand!

Be well

JM

SWLABR Live @ NAMM - January 17, 2010

This was after the "Noise Police" effectively made us stop at the FBT/Cicognani booth (in the sound reinforcement area), so we took our rock n roll to the noisier guitar/amp section and jammed at the Tech 21 booth for a bit.  Thanx to Lloyd Schwartz for bringing us in! 

Such good responses.

Be well

JM

January 15, 2010

Morning of Day 2 of NAMM.  Day 1 is always a little strange; the crowd at NAMM functions like one gigantic organism that needs to wake up and stretch a bit.  Our performance schedule at the FBT/Cicognani booth is fairly flexible, and slightly at the whims of the other booths nearby and the volume that they generate.  ("Noise Police" here work very hard to keep everything below 85db.)

The key is to not hit it too hard right out of the gate.  If on the first day you hustle too aggressively, if you talk too much too loud, if you look at too many booths and soak up too much product info and tech jargon, you will enter a state of "NAMM Fatigue" that causes you to be bleary-eyed and disoriented by 3pm.  Not an optimal state for networking.  So pace yourself.  Make a list of specific companies to visit, reps to see.  (PJ at Spector.  Jason at Rotosound.  Lloyd at Tech 21.  Etc.)  Remember that you're only at the show because of your credentials, so there's no need to sell yourself too strong; you're already in the game, and they know that.  

And for heaven's sake: DON'T give yourself whiplash doing a celebrity-sighting double take.  (Omigodlook, it's QuincyJones/PaulStanley/GrahamNash/BootsyCollins/NatalieCole/CookieMonster!)

Dinner with the company last nite was tremendous; some of the best cioppino I've ever had.  The sun rises down the block from our hotel, which has a Starbuck's on the premises.  It's 70-something degrees here during the day, high 40s at nite (hello, light leather jacket!).  Perfect atmosphere for looking at the past and the future simultaneously, which is what NAMM always seems to be about for me.  

Life is grand.

Be well

JM 

Feeling it - January 13, 2010

Coming to you live (sort of) from the airport in Atlanta, during a 3-hour layover en route to Anaheim and the 2010 NAMM show.  Already feeling the schmooze vibe running thru my veins.  Traveling with Alan Parsons Live Project guitarist Godfrey Townsend. 

Godfrey sasy that we can probably get on some "pro" jam sessions while we're there.  I told him that I would only play ACTUAL songs with ACTUAL players; I will not stand around holding my bass for 2 hours, only to be "called up" to play "Shakey Ground/Use Me/Mustang Sally/Messin' With The Kid" with a drummer who speeds up during his fills.  

Getting news about Haiti a little bit at a time; I will decide on an effective way to help soon.

Stay tuned.

Be well

JM

WTF - January 11, 2010

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Today is a good day.  Comedian Marc Maron has chosen one of my songs, "Are We Doing This?" as the theme music for his podcast, WTF with Marc Maron!  I have been following Maron for years, so this is an especially proud moment.  I will post the song up here ASAP.  

FYI: the WTF podcast is strictly for ADULTS.  And maybe a few stray teenagers who are too hip for their own good.  But lots of profanity, so be careful listening in the office or around any sensitive ears.

Lock the gates!
Be well

JM 

Bohemian Rhapsody: Live @ City Winery 1-7-10 - January 10, 2010

The "WonderGods:" (members of Wondrous Stories AND the Godfrey Townsend Band) John Montagna: bass & vocals Tommy Williams: guitar & vocals Steve Murphy: drums & vocals Kenny Forgione: vocals Mark Bonder: keys & vocals Godfrey Townsend: guitar & vocals Enjoy! Be well JM

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