LA show and the May 2016 Mirth & Mayhem Mini-tour.

It’s May 2nd 2016 and I’m sitting in front of my laptop. The sun is shining outside the window of my apartment and I’m drinking black coffee. I have to admit it’s good to be settled in at home after a whirlwind trip to the city of angels.

The spark that ignited this trip was a concert. Not just any concert, but a very special concert by Mike Peters of The Alarm. I had purchased a ticket to see an anniversary celebration of The Alarms legendary Spirit of 86 UCLA concert to be held on Saturday, April 9th 2016 – nearly 30 years to the day after they played on the Janns steps stage where the concert was broadcast live via sattelite on MTV and around the world. Long time readers of this blog may recall that my first two blog posts recount my experience at The Alarms original UCLA show. That concert, way back in 1986 was the dry kindling that eventually became a blaze of rock ‘n roll glory in the heart of a very young Brian Travis.

The 30th anniversary celebration show (also held at UCLA) was something I absolutely could not miss, so a flight to LA was booked and with the help of BTB drummer (and dear friend) Mark Wickliffe, a BTB gig was also booked the following Tuesday night at a wine bar in Toluca Lake.

Once I had my own gig secured in LA, I contacted Steve Weil (longtime BTB collaborator and bassist for the LA pop punk outfit Margate) to see if he was available to play bass with Mark and I for this gig. Once we had Steve on board I contacted my LA producer, George Landress to see if he would be game for playing some guitar with us at this show, and it turned out that he was interested. It was in this manner that the team that brought you “The Coyote & The Crow” were reunited to play 2 sets of laid back California rock in Toluca Lake in April 2016.

Soon, rehearsals were scheduled. The newly reunited BTB had two 45 minute sets to perform, and some refreshing of the chords and arrangements were in order. We had a lovely rehearsal at Emily’s Basement studio in Hollywood with George Landress and another at Margate Studios with Steve later in the week. I was also able to schedule a good amount of social visits with friends while I was there, and I got to spend time with my niece and nephews, my brother and his wife and my aunt and uncle.

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Pictures of the BTB rehearsing in LA rehearsal studios.

The weather in LA was perfect. The sky was clear and smog-less after a recent rain storm and everything looked shiny and clean. Miraculously, my freeway travel experiences were devoid of any major traffic. On Saturday, I made my way to UCLA for the Alarm concert. The first half of the show was a presentation of the original concert film projected onto a cinema size screen at the James Bridges Theater. After the screening, Mike Peters was interviewed and took questions from the fans. After the interview Mike played a solo acoustic set of Alarm classics as well most of the songs from the Spirit of 86 concert itself.

After the show Mike did his rockstar duty, autographing merchandise and taking pictures with fans. I managed to get my hands on the newly released limited edition vinyl double LP of the Spirit of 86 show! The Alarm’s record label released only 1,000 of these for record store day and I gladly spent the $40 on my copy! I waited in line for Mike to sign it, I told him how much I enjoyed debut The Dead Men Walking CD he did with Slim Jim Phantom, Captain Sensible and Chris Cheney and got yet another picture with my rock n roll hero. It was a fantastic night that infused me with a shot of the same rock n roll cocktail that made me pick up a guitar in the first place.

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Brian Travis & the mighty Mike Peters!

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Alarm super fans w/ Mike Peters at UCLA

A few days later I made my way to Aroma Cafe in Toluca Lake to meet with my friend Niousha for some coffee before my gig at the wine bar. We caught up and then made our way to Vendome Wine & Spirits to set up for the gig. Everyone at the venue was happy to have us and we felt appreciated and respected. Mark, Steve, George and I set up in no time and got off to a great start playing to a handful of fans who arrived early. A few songs into the first set, the venue was starting to fill up with more and more BTB fans and soon, we were performing to a full house! We took a short break and then promptly got back to the rock ‘n roll. The tip jar began to fill up and by the end of the night I had sold out of all the CD’s I brought. A great time was had by all and the tip jar cash and CD sales offset the costs of my trip, ensuring that I could afford to come back and do it all again.

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The BTB rocking Vendome Wine & Spirits.

After the gig, the band and a bunch of friends went out to Timmy Nolans for a few drinks and to decompress from the show. Of course we ended up closing down the joint and I did not get back to where I was staying until 4am! I crashed for a few hours before having to get my dehydrated and slightly hungover self to the airport to catch an 11am flight back to San Francisco.

After a full day of travel (on very little sleep) I made it back to my apartment where I immediately hit the bed and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up the next day feeling under the weather and fighting a sore throat. A day later the sore throat turned into a fever which lasted for 2 days before it finally broke. It took a few more days to feel like myself as I rested, drank tea and tried to recover from the LA adventure.

As I sit here recounting the LA trip, thoughts of what’s ahead of me are pressing on my mind. Tonight I am rehearsing with BTB memebers, Evan Reiley, Matt Gretter and Bob Fruhlinger for 2 upcoming shows we have booked at 19 Broadway in Fairfax CA and Smileys Saloon in Bolinas CA.These back to back shows are taking place on Thursday May 12th (Fairfax) and Friday, May 13th (Bolinas) and have been dubbed The May 2016 Mirth & Mayhem Mini-Tour! We’ll be giving away TWO free BTB CD’s to the hardcore fans who show up at BOTH gigs!

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Upcoming North bay shows!

I’m very much looking forward to the gigs. It always feels great to play and to connect with the audiences that come to see us. We’ll be debuting a few new songs I’ve written as well as the BTB classics and standards. I’ll post a full report after those shows have been performed to those of you who are interested in reading about the shows from the perspective of the performer. Until then, keep the faith and we’ll see you at the North bay shows!

 

2016 gigs, Instrumental music and David Bowie

A few weeks ago the music world lost a Rock ‘n Roll hero. As I sit here listening to the masterpiece that is Blackstar, A lot of feelings wash over me and I find myself biting back the tears. For a lot of people, David Bowie has always been a part of the Rock ‘n Roll mythos, a huge part of so many music fans musical landscape. It’s difficult to imagine a world without his style, his creative flair and his amazing, almost other worldly  contribution to Rock ‘n Roll.

His passing has had an effect on my own creative output, mostly causing me to take a hard look at what I do only to come to the conclusion that things need stepping up. Bowie set the bar so high and by re-assessing my own work, I’ve discovered that I’ve somehow created a ceiling for my own creativity based on a genre and a distinct style of writing that I’ve developed over the years. This is partly by design and partly by environmental expectations of the current state of the music industry.

While living in LA (attending music seminars, conventions, industry talks, etc.) the talking points regarding a career in music often contain the advice, “Don’t make music that is hard to describe. Industry types are not looking for diverse acts that play many different styles of music. Develop a signature style and stick with that. The music industry seeks artists that they can market easily.” If they cannot put you in a musical box, they cannot market you to a demographic, etc. blah blah blah…

Most of the music I grew up admiring were bands that flip flopped musical styles on a regular basis. David Bowie was often described as a musical chameleon and I would often enjoy genres ranging from hard rock, rockabilly, progressive rock, vaudeville, folk and opera just by listing to a Queen CD from start to finish. I of course understand the value of marketing a sound and I have definitely spent a lot of time solidifying my own style, however a part of me always relishes the fact that all my own releases have hints of blues, country, folk and alternative rock and even a waltz or two. One of the biggest lessons I’m getting from Bowies passing is the permission to stop playing it safe. Musical experimentation is key to keeping things fresh. Breaking out of my own self imposed musical box is going to be a goal of mine in 2016 thanks to David Bowie.

The day after his passing, I needed to release some pressure. I found myself in my studio learning one of my fave Bowie songs, the opening track from side A of the Ziggy Stardust album, Five Years. I decided to record an acoustic version as a tribute. I felt like hell that morning still processing the loss and honestly I did not want to do anything except lay in bed feeling terrible about it. What got me to set up my audio/video equipment was the realization that if Bowie was in the position of recording a tribute to one of his musical heros, he would not only set up the equipment to make it happen, but he would also contact a stylist, get into wardrobe and apply his make up in a way that no one has ever seen. Knowing that that’s what Bowie would do, It made it easier for me to put in the effort.

Here is the result of the tribute recording! Enjoy:

 

The effort definitely paid off as I was asked to perform as part of a Bowie Tribute concert in Berkeley on Feb 13th at The Marsh Cabaret Bar. The event is called Life on Mars: An East Bay tribute to art and music of David Bowie. Here is a link to the FB event invite if you would like to attend:

https://www.facebook.com/events/973773532670926/

On the heels of the Bowie tribute show, my group will be supporting Striking Matches at Hotel Utah in San Francisco on Saturday, Feb 20th.  Striking Matches are from Nashville and their debut CD was produced by T Bone Burnett. Musically speaking, if T Bone Burnett is behind this act, it’s gonna be an astounding night. Getting advance tickets for the show is recommended and can be done via http://hotelutah.com If you would like to RSVP for this show, you can also do that here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/893810517380927/

I’ve also been asked to play as a featured songwriter at The Empress Theatre in Vallejo, CA on Wedensday, March 2nd as part of their Wednesday night Ramble. I’ll be performing 8 of my best songs with The North Bay All Stars (featuring Don Bassey, Mike Emerson, Kevin Fraizer, T Moran, and Matthew Silva) backing me up! What a night that’s gonna be. The Empress Theatre is located at 330 Virginia Street in downtown Vallejo for those of you reading this who may want to attend.

The last 2016 gig I can announce is my band’s return to Smileys Saloon in the secluded beach town of Bolinas. We are returning to Smileys on Friday May 13th and absolutely cannot wait to do so! Smileys is such a cute destination spot right on the coast and Smileys is something of an institution. A lot of great up and coming and legendary acts perform there. I believe our friends The Coffis Brothers are going to be there this coming weekend. If you’ve not seen them live, they are certainly worth the trip. I hope y’all come out to see The BTB at Smileys as well. All the info for this string of upcoming gigs can be found at my official website:

http://briantravis.com

That’s about all the news I have at the moment. I’m in the process of booking more shows in the Bay Area and writing new material. I’ll leave you now with a recent composition called “West Of The San Andreas”. It’s an instrumental (my very FIRST composition without lyrics) and I hope you enjoy it!

 

The Bay Area.

It is a testament to how busy I’ve been that I’ve not been able to carve out some time to keep up with his blog.

I’ve a lot of ground to cover, so here it goes…

After my “Kindness of Strangers Tour ended so abruptly (due to a traumatic car accident) I was able to make it back to California and I’ve been living in an artist loft in Vallejo ever since. I’ve been putting together a backing band and so far we’ve played a handful of shows all over the Bay Area including 2 shows in San Francisco (one at the 50 Mason Social House, and more recently at Hotel Utah).

It’s been a push auditioning players and teaching them the songs and booking shows and building relationships with the clubs and promoters in this part of California. Things work a bit different than they did in LA, mostly for the best and I am getting a handle on the indie rock scene up here.

One thing that I’ve been noticing is that most of the shows I’ve played up here have been super well attended. I played to a packed room last night at Hotel Utah…on a SUNDAY night at that! I’m also noticing that people are dancing and clapping along at most of my gigs as opposed to just watching passively. Lastly, I’ve also noticed that I am selling more CD’s than usual AND the venues are paying us for playing the shows. After 10+ years of slogging it out in LA, I have to say this is a breath of welcomed fresh air.

I’ve also been getting back into my visual art now that I have a space set up for doing my art. I’m going to be part of a collective show that is happening at 707 Marin Street, Vallejo CA on Saturday & Sunday, November 7 & 8, 2015, 11am to 5pm. I’m going to also be performing acoustic with my band at this art show.

Here are a few pictures of the work I’ve been doing in my studio. If you are interested in purchasing any of my art, the originals are for sale and you can contact me direct via email: artrock1986@gmail.com and I will give you more information regarding price.

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Out Here In The Dark

In addition to getting back into my vidual art, I’ve been working a part time job in order to make some money to throw at problems. My motorcycle is in need of minor repairs and keeping up with bills and trying to chip away at some credit card debt. I’ve also been in the process of booking gigs all over the bay. Our next confirmed performance is at The Hub which is an art gallery/performance space located in downtown Vallejo. The BTB are headlining and David El and O Happy Daggers are opening. It should be a great show! I’ve designed a poster for the event which I quite like. Check it out:

BrianTravisBandPoster2

If you like the look of my poster design and you’d like to see more of my design work, you can go to my official online portfolio here: https://coyotemusecreations.carbonmade.com/

One last thing, I decided to treat myself for my birthday weekend and took a trip to Harbin Hot springs. I had never ever been there before, but I packed my tent and sleeping bag on the back of my Motorcycle and rode up to Harbin and enjoyed 24 hours of blissful soaking in the hot springs along with the rest of the Harbin residents and visitors who were there that weekend. I was blown away by how many stars I could see from the upper sleeping deck once the sun went down. The super hot pool was INTENSE and I could only stay in it for a few minutes tops. I had a wonderful time and left vowing to return again soon. Sadly, the fires that have been ravaging California decimated Harbin a few weeks ago and nothing is left of the retreat center except ash and charred remains of some of the structures. It’s incredibly sad but not nearly as sad as how many people have lost everything from these fires. Many people are displaced and have lost everything and I’m sure that in the near future I will be playing benefit shows that will raise funds to help all who are displaced from the fire.

Rather than leaving this post on a sad note, I’m going to instead post this footage of my band performing at Saint James Gate in Belmont California on Saturday, August 15th 2015. It was a great gig and you can see the fun we are having in this 15 minute video. Enjoy!

Punk Legends band together for Easy Piracy.

Mike Peters and Captain Sensible of Dead Men Walking. Photo Credit: 2015 Paul Pedersen

Mike Peters and Captain Sensible of Dead Men Walking. Photo Credit: 2015 Paul Pedersen

A ragged crew of rock n roll survivors have joined forces, forming a formidable new band that is currently plundering stages all across the west coast of the USA. This legendary band of brothers made up of Mike Peters, Slim Jim Phantom, Captain Sensible and Chris Cheney (all with impressive rock lineage and a back catalog full of hits) arrive under the cover of darkness and deliver a well executed blend of punk, rock, glam, & rockabilly to the delight of anyone who relishes the sound of guitar riffs, soaring choruses and a thundering rhythm section, before disappearing without a trace leaving only a ringing in your ears and the feeling that you’ve just witnessed something rare and special.

The rock n roll outfit in question is the brainchild of Alarm front man Mike Peters. Roughly a decade ago Mike gathered together like minded members of other bands to form the side project Dead Men Walking. The Dead Men have included many alumni in it’s rotating rouster including Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Pete Wylie (The Mighty Wah!), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Brian Setzer (Stray Cats), Lemmy (Motorhead), Topper Headon (The Clash), Bruce Watson (Big Country) and Mick Jones (The Clash) but it seems the cement has finally dried on the lineup which now features, Mike, Slim Jim, Chris and The Captain as a classic lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drum configuration.

With such a classic instrumentation in place, the band also features vocal talents from all four members. The chemistry between the players is palpable both on their newly recorded release, “Easy Piracy” as well as on stage. All four singers trade lead vocals on the exceptional track list that makes Easy Piracy an instant classic that will easily become your summer 2015 soundtrack. I bought the CD at the band’s live in store appearance at Ameoba records in SF last week, just before catching their full live show at Brick & Mortar Music Hall. I’ve had the CD on repeat ever since and have decided to give Easy Piracy a track by track review to spread the word about this epic new music.

“Rock and Roll Kills” is the first cut and it is an instant classic. It boasts a killer guitar lead executed by the inimitable Chris Cheney and a rockabilly swagger. All 4 singers chime along to the catchy lyrics which include lines like, “TV, Cigarettes, sleeping pills, Rock and roll don’t quite pay my bills, hello Cleveland! Kill or be killed…” This tune has such a classic sounds that it feels like the song has always existed in the ether waiting for a worthy band to pluck it from the collective consciousness. It’s three chord rock at its finest and it’s instantly accessible as a mission statement for the rest of the album.

“Damned Damned Damned” follows up and destroys with it’s raw punk energy and gives you a clear picture of what the band is all about. This song careens through two minutes and 11 seconds of glorious punk rock and has already become a live favorite.

“The Weather Song” The third track on Easy Piracy is possibly my favorite track. A clever message in the lyrics and exceptional drumming from Slim Jim Phantom.This song simply rocks and the cacophony of layered vocals, drums and lead guitar at the end of the tune really turns up the excitement and gives you a glimpse at what this band is capable of.

“Deadman Blues”is Mike Peters delivering a moody, bluesy number with heavy bass and a sturdy drum backbone. Melodically and lyrically it is classic Mike Peters, but the backing band is dare I say, better than The Alarm! I think the overall vibe and quality of the playing on this CD is what is impressing me the most. Dead Men Walking have that X factor that really makes the music on this CD ascend to another level. I think the addition of Chris Cheney’s excellent lead guitar playing has something to do with it, but it’s also the fact that it feels like the members of this band wrote this record for each other. Each talented player letting the collective talents of the band lift them up to bring out their individual best.

“Whatever Turns You On (Will Turn On You)” At this point as a listener you are well into the CD and it would be easy for your ear to get fatigued by a lessor band, but the Dead Men turn it up a notch with “Whatever Turns You On (Will Turn On You)”. Another Mike Peters lead vocal, but this time Mike seems to be channeling a light dusting of Bob Dylan in his delivery. His expert phrasing certainly does the trick and elevates this tune into a really special track. The lyrics are great and this is an exceptional number on an excedingly exceptional recording.

“Song for Eddie” starts with a classic bass intro and when the band kicks in, it’s non-stop fun for another two minutes and 32 seconds. This is a Slim Jim Phantom number and you can feel his rockabilly roots in his vocal performance. It features a great chorus and a solid arrangement cementing the Dead Men Walking sound.

“Easy Piracy” Just when you thought you had this band figured out, along comes the title track, “Easy Piracy”. I think Chris Cheney takes over lead vocal duties on this one which gives the song a different feel…but different in a great way. It begins with a familiar loose guitar shuffle along with a groovy drum beat keeping it all together. The song evokes life on a pirate ship…a pirate ship that happens to be crewed by punks, rocker boys, glam rockers and rockabilly greasers. This song sports my favorite chorus on the CD and the melody will seep in deep causing you to sing this one long after the CD has stopped playing.

“Doctor Henry” Eight tracks in and this CD is still going strong. To be honest there is not a stinker on the CD and there are 15 tracks! “Doctor Henry” has a bit of an early “Kinks” feel to it. It sounds like The Kinks if the Kinks lived on that afore mentioned pirate ship with all those tattooed rockers I mentioned. Captain Sensible sings this one and the song contains some great slide guitar work by Chris Cheney and some vintage staccato folk punk arrangements that reminded me of something that could have felt at home on The Alarm’s Declaration album.

“When The Boats Came In” Chris Cheney takes on the lead vocals again, usurping “The Weather Song” as my favorite track on the CD. Everything about this song speaks to me as a listener. The production, the vocal delivery, the lyrics, THE EPIC GUITAR SOLO and the hooks! The beautiful arrangement and the softer melodic feel of this one really cuts through the rest of the tracks and is a high water mark on an album full of high water marks. For an album to deliver such a diamond nine tracks in to the proceedings is somewhat unprecedented. At this point I am in awe of the craft, talent and execution that The Dead Men posses. It was at this point in my listening experience that Dead Men Walking became my new favorite band. I’m hooked. I’m in. Done.

“The Devils Music” This is a MP tune I think. I have been an Alarm fan for so long now that I can recognize his unique style anywhere. It’s a good album track. It pales a little but only because it follows “When The Boats Came In.” This song seems to serve as a return to the harder edge Dead Men Walking sound and has a lot of great moments.

“The Crossroads” This song kills. Another MP lead vocal and a real rockabilly/blues feel. It harnesses the old rock n roll legend of meeting the devil at the crossroads and is a worthy rock composition to re-visit that classic story. The Dead Men honor their lineage with this one and deliver another classic tune.

“Forgotten Saints” Some day I may start a Dead Men Walking tribute band and I’ll call that band “Forgotten Saints”. This song is another mission statement and revisits those rocker boys, punks and rockabillys who crew the pirate ship invoked by the song “Easy Piracy”. It’s a cool idea for a song to talk about “Rock n rollers, forgotten saints with diamonds, skulls and chains…” It’s a song about an uprising for “tattooed girls and zoot suit boys, punk rockers heads of state…” Its a play on “When The Saints Come Marching In” done in a blues-rock shuffle with an excellent descending guitar/bass walk down hook that is absolutely devilish.

“What If” is another surprise from a band full of surprises. This number is light, fluffy and defies gravity. This tune is full of hooks and it is a really nice departure in sound for this band. It has a bit of a psychedelic furs vibe. This song would have had serious hit potential if it had come out in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It’s quietly one of my favorite songs that completely snuck up on me.

“Out On The Edge” Here we have another MP vocal that features a moody glam rock undercurrent and a really unique song structure. Dare I say Velvet Underground-esque? This song took repeated listenings for me to get 100% on board, but now, a week into listening to Easy Piracy on repeat, I love this late track list gem. Dead Men Walking have a real command of many different styles and they incorporate them all under the umbrella of rock ‘n roll, so the album sounds completely cohesive while not sounding tired.

“Love of My Life” This mostly acoustic track is a definite departure from the rest of the album. It has a bit of a lulliby feel which sounds a little out of place on a rock record. At first it may seem jarring, but again, with repeated listens it starts to make sense while feeling a little unfinished. The song ends a little too abruptly making me feel as if the song idea was never quite fleshed out to completion. Buy hey, if that is my only gripe on a 15 track album, I’d say Dead Men Walking have knocked it out of the park. This record is as good as it gets.

Dead Men Walking have somehow managed to capture lightning in a bottle and they have become the caretakers of a piece of rock n roll history that they were all a part of initially. It’s refreshing to hear such class, competency and sheer fun return to the music. “Easy Piracy” is a return to form for each member of the band while managing to stay fresh and inspired and relevant. The thing that makes a good band great (outside of top shelf material and talent) is chemistry and this band has the  je ne sais quoi that gives their live shows the extra sparkle and shimmer that most bands lack. All members are seasoned rock veterans who have spent more time in tour buses and on stage than you’ve spent binge watching your favorite shows on netflix – and that kind of experience and command of the stage is refreshing and inspiring. Their rock and roll swagger harkens back to a time when rock music was a secret between the bands and the audiences who attended their shows. This band plays the kind of rock that changes your life and makes you want to pick up a guitar and teach yourself 3 chords so that you can someday join the fun. I highly recommend “Easy Piracy” to anyone who loves rock ‘n roll. So climb aboard with the Dead Men….you will not be disappointed.

Download Easy Piracy on amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Piracy-Dead-Men-Walking/dp/B00V0F0TZA

Dead Men Walking official website:

http://www.deadmenwalking.co.uk

On The Road Again…

After taking a long break from live performance since November of 2014, I finally booked a flurry of gigs in LA for a few dates in April 2015. I gave myself plenty of time to recover from my year long Kindness of Strangers Tour and now I was ready to hit the road again and play a handful of shows.

I was booked to play at Vicki Abelson’s renowned celebrity driven literary salon called “Women Who Write” on April 28th and also booked as opener for Just Dave’s Last Chance Country Jam at the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon on April 29th.

Feeling inspired by my appearance at the Songbird Lounge last month in Vallejo, I was excited to get back onstage. I was also excited for the opportunity to perform with my band mates who all live in LA and with whom I’ve not performed onstage with in well over a year. Filled with a combination of anxious excitement I packed my tent, sleeping bag and 2 saddlebags to my Honda Nighthawk and hit the road on April 25th headed to the southland.

I took Hwy 1 down to LA, cutting through San Francisco and Pacifica. It was a breathtaking ride through Big Sur’s majestic coastline. For as lovely as hwy 1 is visually, the physical ride time is pretty brutal. I was feeling mighty fatigued by the time I reached the foothills of Santa Barbara where I cut through a mountain pass to get to Lake Casitas campground. I arrived around 10pm and set up my tent and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up around 6 hours later (4am) after vivid dreams and realized that I was no longer tired. I decided to get up, re-pack my tent and get back on the road. I traversed the rest of the mountain pass on my bike in the blackness of the 4:30 am night sky. I arrived in Santa Barbara around 5am, just in time to get some coffee from It’s a Grind on State Street. I kicked back and nourished myself with a breakfast bagel while checking the weather on my iphone. The forecast predicted a 30% chance of rain, which turned out to be correct as I rode through the drizzle on my way south.  I eventually outran the rain without getting too wet. The weather turned to grey skies with intermittent sunshine. Before long I was in LA heading to my friend Laura’s house in Atwater village. Laura and I had a nice visit over some beer and appetizers while we waited out more of the afternoon rain. Afterwards, I rode to Topanga to drop in on a friends birthday party then made my way back to Newbury Park to stay at another friends place where I managed to get excellent rest on a very comfy couch.

Eventually I made my way to see my brother and his family in Agoura Hills. I got to spent a lot of time with my niece and nephews. The following morning was the day of the Women Who Write salon gig, so I packed up my gear and rode to Montrose where I met up with BTB band mates Mark Wickliffe and Annie Boxell. After some initial confusion regarding amplification of Annies keyboard, we were up and running thanks to an rca cable loaned to us by the host, Vicki Abelson.  The salon was held in Vicki’s apartment in Montrose CA and there was a ton of amazing food and I’d guess that there were over 50 people attending as every seat in the house was taken. Vicki took the podium and updated the audience about her new book and her new publishing deal.  Vicki is an amazing woman and very well connected. She is a bit of a force of nature. She gave my band a very thorough introduction and told the audience all about how she has been listening to my CD, The Coyote & The Crow on repeat for weeks. By the time we took the stage, the audience was laser focused on our performance, listening to every nuance of the songwriting, melodies and acoustic dynamic that makes up a BTB set.

As soon as we started playing, I could feel that we were nailing it. We absolutely killed and the songs were met with enthusiastic applause after the completion of each tune. It was very satisfying. Vicki gave us an extra song and so I decided to take a chance and offer up a brand new song called “Spark”. It turned out to be the best song of the set. Vicki proclaimed “Spark” to be her new favorite BTB song and after the entire salon was over, I was approached by a woman named Peggy who was one of the organizers of the Far West Folk Alliance. The Folk Alliance is a folk music conference that takes place once a year and it is sort of the gateway to being booked for house concerts all over the nation.  Peggy bought a copy of The Coyote & The Crow and encouraged me to submit a video submission to this years Folk Alliance Conference which is to be held in Oakland this coming July. She told me that my music, storytelling and banter with the audience is exactly what they are looking for. The only catch was that the deadline for submission was Thursday, April 30th, only 2 days away. Peggy insisted that I get the video footage from our salon performance and submit footage of 3 songs. I approached Vicki about the footage, asking if I could get the raw video to edit down into 3 songs and she declined at first until Peggy stepped in to explain the situation. Vicki graciously caved under the agreement that I only use the footage for the submission and not as promotion on my website or social media which I agreed to. Moments later she handed me a sandisk with the raw footage that I took to my producers place in Hollywood to edit the footage down to meet all the submission requirements for the Far West Folk Alliance. A few hours of work editing, and filling out the submission paperwork and uploading the video and it was done. Peggy send me a text congratulating me on getting it all accomplished on such short notice. Now the waiting game begins to see if I am selected as one of the featured acts at this years Folk Alliance Conference. I’m definitely going to be doing some visualization techniques to draw this opportunity into reality. The power of positive thinking, the law of attraction. It worked years before when I had the opportunity to open for The Alarm in Wales…I spent weeks meditating on how it would feel to be on stage opening for Mike Peters before I got the confirmation email that I was on the bill. I know it works, and I know I can manifest this opportunity as well.

Here are a few pics from our appearance at Vicki Abelson’s renowned celebrity driven literary salon:

The BTB performing at Women Who Write Literary Salon.

The BTB performing at Women Who Write Literary Salon.

Enjoying the moment with Annie Boxell

Enjoying the moment with Annie Boxell

After the salon gig Annie, Mark and I went to Lucky Baldwins in Pasadena for some appetizers and beers to celebrate. While enjoying jalapeno poppers and garlic fries we plotted our next show which was the following night at The Maui Sugar Mill Saloon in Tarzana as opener for Dave Bernal’s Last Chance Country Jam.

I spent most of the day leading up to our second gig in Pasadena visiting my friend David and Erica who was also visiting from Phoenix AZ.  We spent the afternoon helping David with his shadow puppet theater concepts and more beer and appetizers at The Congregation tap house. I totally lost track of time while hanging out with my friends and had to high tail it to Tarzana on my bike post haste in order to make it on time to the gig. Luckily there was zero traffic at 8:52PM on a Wed and I zipped across the freeways to Tarzana with a few minutes to spare before we took the stage.

Original BTB members Mark Wickliffe, Steve Weil and Annie Boxell were already there getting set up. I joined them onstage for a relaxed, joy filled set of BTB music for a half-packed house of loyal BTB fans including some very old Junior High friends of mine. My good friend Adam Mogil actually invited my very first girlfriend (from those junior high days) to the show. I spied her from the stage and it was a real trip to see her there after so many years. Our producer George Landress was there shooting some video footage of our show and we had everyone in attendance enjoying the vibes of our BTB reunion.

After the gig, my friends and I celebrated (a little too hard) back in Pasadena. Whiskey was involved and our heads did not hit pillows until well past 8am. The next day was a total wash. I think we all started stirring sometime past 2pm in the afternoon when we went out for ramen to combat our hangovers.

David offered to put me up for a few more days while I waited for the weekend to arrive. It was my plan to attend the Southern California Renaissance Faire in Irwindale. When Friday night rolled around, I rode my nighthawk to the faire site. Under the cover of darkness I rolled my bike into a prime parking spot and crept under the front gate which was un-attended by night security. I wandered about until I found some familiar territory to set up my tent. I awoke the following morning and proceeded to have a great weekend at Faire. On Monday I decided to make the trip to Joshua Tree to perform at Pappy & Harriets open mic in Pioneertown.  The bike ride there was smooth and the weather was nice. It was beautiful to ride among the desert skyline as the sun was sinking behind the rock formations. I arrived at the venue just after it started and Ted Quinn signed me up for a slot later in the evening.  All of the artists were great and the house band that backed everyone up was stellar. By the time I took the stage I was backed up by two guitarist (one rythem, one lead) two percussion players, and a full traps player, a harmonica player, a bassist and a sax player. We stormed through three BTB tunes that got the dancers up on the dancefloor. It was an excellent way to end my mini-tour to the southland.

I spent a cold night in Joshua Tree national park trying to keep warm in my tent. The high desert is freaking cold once the sun goes down y’all.  I woke early and packed up my camping gear and tied it all to the back of my nighthawk. The ride back to LA was fraught with strong head winds that limited my speed and progress. I spent most of the ride trying not to get blown off the road. I finally made it back to LA but I was trashed from all the wind. I sorted out a place to stay with my dear friend Amy and her husband Ryan. It was great to get out of the wind and Amy was kind enough to make me dinner and breakfast the following morning. I got back on the road to the bay area around 10am and rode in the cold wind all day and by back and hands were aching from the strength it took to fight the wind. I got to Santa Cruz around 6pm and decided to stop at Kiva for a soak and sauna in their community hot tub facility in an attempt to rejuvenate myself. It worked for the most part and I also managed to get in touch with another friend who offered up a spare room to crash in for the night. After grabbing a bite to eat I rode to Ben Lomond and promptly feel to sleep after a bit of visiting with my host. The next am I woke up to the sound of rain. Feeling like I had little choice, I packed up my belongings and started up the bike. I rode all the way to Davenport in the pouring rain and managed to get drenched. I did not bring rain gear because A. I thought California was experiencing a massive drought and B. I was trying to cut down on dead weight for the ride. Not bringing rain gear on a long motorcycle trip is a mistake I shall not be making a second time. I managed to outrun the downpour and grab a warm cup of coffee and some lunch in Davenport. The rest of the journey home was cloudy with intermittent sunshine which I relished. I arrived in SF on Thursday May 7th just in time attend a free concert by a group called Dead Men Walking.

The Dead Men Walking are a supergroup formed by Captain Sensible of The Damned, Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats, Chris Cheney of The Living End and last but not least Mike Peters of The Alarm! Long time readers of this blog will remember that I first saw The Alarm on April 12th 1986 in Los Angeles long before I ever harbored the desire to pick up a guitar and make my life of rock n roll a reality. Mike Peters is a musical hero of mine and so when I caught wind of this new project performing in SF, I conspired to attend. The Dead Men performed a free teaser set at Amoeba records in SF and I managed to get there early enough to catch it. Also in attendance was the one and only Nigel Twist who was the original drummer of The Alarm once upon a time. I got to chat with Nigel for a bit before the Dead Men took the stage and I also got to spend a little bit of time with Mike Peters. who I’ve not seen in a number of years.

I picked up a copy of the debut Dead Men Walking CD, “Easy Piracy” and got all 4 members to sign it after their set. Later that night I rode to Brick and Mortar Music Hall where Dead Men Walking were playing and dropped $20 at the door to see their show. The venue was a little hole in the wall, but the sound was brilliant and the venue was packed. As I gazed around the room I recognized Alarm fans I’ve met over the years and the vibe in the place was something I’ve not felt in quite a while. You could tell that everyone in the room was going to experience something special. As soon as the band kicked into the opening number, “Rock n Roll Kills” the whole room achieved liftoff. Dancing, singing, happy rock fans experiencing the real deal. It was a great show. There was a mosh pit. I took part in it…it was a powerful show and the chemistry between the players was palpable. It felt like the early days of seeing The Alarm live. It was rejuvenating for my soul. I loved it a little more than I expected to.

Nigel Twist of The Alarm and I.

Nigel Twist of The Alarm and I.

Dead Men Walking rocking Amoeba Records!

Dead Men Walking rocking Amoeba Records!

New CD signed by the band!

New CD signed by the band!

Mike Peters and I after an epic Dead Men Walking show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall in SF.

Mike Peters and I after an epic Dead Men Walking show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall in SF.

I’m back at my place in norcal and recovering from the whole experience. My pocketbook got hit a little hard and my body is in rest mode after such a push. I regret nothing I tell you! NOTHING! Finances will just be a little tight this month as I prep for my next show in SF at 50 Mason Social House on June 12th, but I’ll get by. Lord knows I’ve survived worse financial situations. My next adventure is going to be a trek back to Oregon for some shows in Cottage Grove, Eugene and Portland. I’m looking forward to that, however I have to focus on raising the funds for that trip and booking the actual shows. I promise to be a better blogger and post more between now and then. I’m going to post a full review of the new Dead Men Walking CD as soon as I’ve given it a good listen all the way through, so you can look for that in a few days or a week at most. Until then, thank you for your constant readership and for following my adventures. Please feel free to comment and share this blog if you feel so inclined. I’m very thankful for everyone who keeps up with this blog and I’ve a renewed constitution to keep the blog posts coming.

Touching down, settling in and getting started again.

Wow. It’s been 6 months since my last blog post.

The last you have heard from me was my previous post about my car accident. Let me take this opportunity to fill you in on what has transpired since.

While still recovering from my car accident I took a flight from Missouri to San Francisco to report to my job as part of the deco crew for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair – At this point I’d like to send out a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped me get back to Cali after the crash. There was an overwhelming outpouring of support both financial and emotional from so many. This rock ‘n roll refugee is grateful! – A few days into the job I started feeling overly stiff and sore and was having trouble with some of the physical demands of the job. Another member of the crew hooked me up with a chiropractor appointment in the city. After showing my practitioner the picture of my car after the accident he could not believe that I was in as good of shape as I was. The adjustment I received promptly put me back into my body and I felt suddenly more connected to the world around me. The pain and stiffness I was feeling went away for the most part and I returned to work the next day renewed.

Like last year, I was pulled from my duty as a deco team member to work on hand painted signs for the event.  I spent most of my time leading up to opening weekend painting new signs, changing fonts on ale stand menu boards, and touching up tattered older signs that needed some TLC.

pastaIDKegs

Once fair opened I worked with Skip once again at her stained glass cart, bought new costume pieces (new pants, shirt and vest), drank a lot of ale and hot buttered rum, danced at Fezziwigs for the first time and enjoyed the heck out of the Christmas season!

I also worked on the tear down crew which was pretty brutal. The weather in SF was chilly and I was also catching a cold. I spent most of tear down bundled up, staying hydrated and taking Advil to get through the workdays. Eventually it was all over and I found myself homeless in the Bay Area, couch surfing and trying to figure out my next move.

By this time my darling Camryn had joined me in the Bay Area, sufficiently fed up with life in Taney County.  Together we bounced between my mom’s place in Vallejo and Cam’s parents house in San Ramon. A few friends from Dickens were encouraging us to look for housing in Vallejo and soon we were turned on to an artist loft that had a unit becoming available in February. The unit was part of a turn of the century Masonic temple that had been converted into modern units with all the amenities. I promptly filled out the application, expecting to be denied due to my itinerant rental history and lack of references. As it turns out, the rental office administrator was on our side and walked us through most of the application helping us provide the information that would help get us approved. It was a 3 week process of providing bank statements, previous rental history and references, and I also had to prove that I am a professional artist. In the end we got the place and after a few more weeks of waiting for the unit to be cleaned and fixed up, we moved in the third week of Feb.

After a full year of living on the road and in a run down little yellow house in Kissee Mills Missouri, this apartment was a dream. It has a functional KITCHEN! RUNNING WATER! A DISHWASHER!

TAL TAL2 TAL3

My new base of operations is called Temple Art Lofts. There is an art studio with 24/hr access on the second floor and a music lounge (basically a rehearsal space) on the third floor mezzanine. I’m very happy to be here and it turns out that Downtown Vallejo is cute, quiet and filled with artists. There is also a ferry building just a 10 minute walk from downtown where I can catch a ferry into San Francisco.

After settling in I finished writing my first new song of 2015. It’s a song about a new start called “spark”. Click on the link below to hear it! 🙂

https://soundcloud.com/brian-travis-4/spark-2015-demo

Still without transportation after the accident, I began looking for wheels on craigslist. While seeking affordable cars for sale, eventually I found myself looking at motorcycles. I’ve wanted a bike for eons…something small that I could control. I stumbled upon a used 2000 honda nighthawk with very low mileage. It was in perfect condition and only 250cc’s. I decided to take a look at it in person. After setting up a time to meet to see the bike I began to obsess about it. Once I laid eyes on it and took it for a spin I knew I was going I buy it.

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It’s April now and I’ve been settling in to life in Northern California. I’ve been playing some music with my old buddy Evan Reily and I’m looking for players who want to back me up for shows in SF and the east bay. I’ve booked a show in SF for June 12th just to give myself a deadline to put together a new project. In the meantime I have 2 shows booked in LA on April 28th and April 29th. BTB members Mark Wickliffe, Steve Weil and Annie Boxell are joining me for those dates and I could not be more thrilled to play with them back in the city of angels.

BTB POSTER

I’m discovering that I can live up north and travel down to LA whenever I like. It’s a very nice feeling to not be tethered to Los Angeles. I’m also looking forward to playing more solo shows in Portland and embarking on another solo acoustic tour this summer back to the south.

Now that I am all settled into a new place I’m planning on keeping this blog up to date with monthly posts. It will not be another six months before the next installment. Thanks for waiting.

Even when it’s bad, it’s good to be alive…

I’m writing this blog post from bed. A bed in my dad’s house in Forsyth Missouri to be specific. I was supposed to be in LA by now to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday, but my plans were severely altered by a recently replaced CV joint/boot that pulled my car into the center divider of the Will Rogers Turnpike going 70 mph.

For the record, because I know some of you might be thinking it, I was not texting and driving. I really try not to do that. I admit I do it at stop lights sometimes, but not while in motion. I was distracted however. It was early on in my cross country trip back to California from Missouri and I was keeping busy eating sunflower seeds which made my mouth salty and dry. My bottle of water was no where to be found on the passenger seat and I noticed it had fallen down into the floor of the passenger side and rolled under the seat a little.  Cruise control was set at 70 mph which was the speed limit. I steadied the car and leaned down to fish for the water bottle. Before I knew it I had lost control of the car and it was pulling hard to the left and directly into the center divider.

The next thing I knew the car and I were in the air. I had a brief dance with zero gravity before the gravitational pull of the earth forced the car, now completely flipped, back onto the asphalt highway lanes. The car was sliding upside down across two lanes of highway and headed into a ditch. While sliding upside down I felt calm and serene. Even with the roof that was caving in, and the twisted metal that seemed to be all around me, I never felt compressed or restricted. At this point the windshield started to twist and shatter. I felt shards of broken glass against my face. I closed my eyes and mouth and then felt an intense blast of glass shards raining against my body. I also felt the glass bouncing off my face. eventually the sliding stopped and I could see grass and dirt outside the passenger window. The window was gone and it looked like there was enough room for me to squeeze out of the opening.

I crawled out from under the overturned wreck of what used to be my car. I stood up and dusted myself off. I felt a slight pain in my right knee and saw some dark blood spots forming in the right knee area of my jeans. I noticed my left hand had a very tiny cut on the fleshy part of my palm and there was some blood trickling out of that minor cut. I was in shock and felt very clear and hyper aware of my surroundings. All 4 wheels of the Honda were still spinning. I saw 5 people running over to where I was, just standing next to my car and slowly realizing that my glasses were no longer on my face.  The folks running towards me were other early morning travelers who saw the whole thing. one of them was a retired EMT who checked me out. A nice couple helped me brush away flecks of broken glass from around my eyes and then a highway partol officer arrived and called a tow truck. I could feel the shock and adrenaline having its way with my body, masking any pain or injury I might have sustained. The ambulance showed up next and a very nice EMT took my vital signs. She told me how lucky I was to have survived. She asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital to get checked out. Influenced by the reality of the loss of my car and the expense of the towing that was imminent and whatever expenses that lay ahead as a result, I opted to decline an ambulance ride and an emergency hospital visit. She said that I seemed in pretty good shape considering what I had just been through and had me sign some paper work confirming that I did not accept a ride to the hospital.

From this point on reality was washing over me and all I could think about was what sort of condition all of my belongings were in as I had nearly everything I owned in the back seat and truck and OH MY GOD MY GUITARS ARE IN THE BACK SEAT….!!! I NEED TO HAVE A LOOK AT MY GUITARS! CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME GET MY GUITARS OUT OF THE BACK SEAT!?!?

Two emergency responders got on their hands and knees and pulled out my left handed electric telecaster and my left handed Garrison acoustic.  The tele was in a hard case and in perfect working order. The Garrison was in a soft case and I was expecting the worst when I unzipped the gig bag.  Miraculously the guitar was fine. no chips, cracks or any damage whatsoever. Just severely out of tune. I was re-tuning it when the tow truck arrived.  I had to make room for the wrecker to flip the car back over. While that was going on I continued to inspect the guitars. Once satisfied, I kissed the body of my tele and put her back in the case.

The next thing I knew I was being shepherded to the tow yard where I had to hand over a few hundred for the towing. My loved ones had been notified about my accident and were driving 3.5 hours to Oklahoma to retrieve me. After a long afternoon of waiting, and fielding calls and texts of concern from friends and family, the calvary finally arrived and we all transferred my belongings into my dad’s SUV. It was a long drive back to my dad’s place in Forsyth Missouri (where I am recovering now) and on that drive a wave of deep dark depression hit me as the weight of my situation sank in. No car, very little money and stranded in the middle of smalltown USA. I was on my way to California because my Kindness of Strangers Tour was finally over and I had a seasonal job waiting for me in San Francisco. How the heck was I going to get back to California now? Earlier in the day, while stranded in GH Auto Repair and Wreckers, my producer and dear friend George Landress called me for a bit of a pep talk. He told me that even if I may not know it, a lot of people love me and would want to help me in my time of need. He said that shit happens and that the best way forward is to shake it off and keep moving and to not wallow in the darkness of the misfortune. George believes in me and is a huge supporter of what I do and who I am. I am so thankful for his words and his encouragement. He told me to set up a crowdfunding page in an effort to recover some of the loss. He assured me that my friends, fans and loved ones would show up for me and that the loss would not feel so challenging once I gave myself permission to accept help. So the next am, feeling thankful to be alive I watched as the donations rolled in with each refresh of the “Brian’s Accident Recovery” Go Fund Me page.

Here is a pic of my trusty tour vehicle after the tow truck turned it right side up again:

car

and here is a pic of some glass that I pulled out of my ear this morning:

glass

I’ll post the link to my accident recovery Go Fund Me page in case anyone feels compelled to help me reach the goal that was set for the campaign. We are pretty close now, but everything helps and will greatly assist me getting back in the game. I thank you all in advance. Here is the link:

http://www.gofundme.com/briantravis

My friends and fans and supporters are showing up for me in a big way and I don’t know how to thank you all. I’m overwhelmed with the outpouring of support during this difficult time. I just want to hug you all and never stop. Being an indi artist is so challenging and set backs like this are absolutely the worst…but it is during times like these that I see how much people really believe in what I do when they put hard earned cash down to help me keep going.  So many have re-posted the link on their social media pages and said such nice things to encourage others to help me out. One of my favorites comes from my dear friend Serena who posted: “A lot of you may know my dear friend Brian Travis from the LA music scene, Renaissance Faire, and Dickens. He flipped his car going 70mph on a highway in Oklahoma, while he was trying to drive back to California. Miraculously, he was not injured, but now he’s in a tough spot financially, as his car was totaled. He’s brought joy to many of you through the years, please help if you can.” It’s nice to know that I’ve brought joy to many people over the years through either my music or just being who I am. As a very self critical artist, I often feel blind to the joy I am bringing others and tend to focus on the missed chords or inadequate venue sound or the misgivings of my voice and pitch. I am much too hard on myself and I guess one of the many lessons in this is that the world is hard enough already. Shit happens and more people than you realize love you. Be a little easier on yourself and never give up. Shake it off and keep moving forward. And remember that you are very lucky to be here. Share your gifts, share your talents and share your love.  The world is a crazy and dangerous place, but it’s also a very rewarding and miraculous. From the start my tour was called “The Kindess Of Strangers Tour”. The concept was to survive on the road as long as possible while playing as many shows as possible only accepting what was offered to me through the connections I made through my music. It was a donations based “pay what you like” kind of thing. I got to perform shows in LA, SF, Santa Cruz, Cottage Grove, Eugene and Portland Oregon, Joshua Tree, Grand Junction, Boulder & Denver Colorado, Oklahoma City, Branson and Springfield Missori, and Athens Georgia. I never once went hungry or was left out in the cold. Now, at my darkest moment of the tour, you all show up for me in droves and I can’t thank you all enough.

Back in 2001 I wrote a songs called Temporary (about a dear friends suicide) which was recorded on my very first full length Brian Travis Band CD. The chorus of the lyrics are as follows:

“Do you really understand

you’re just another grain of sand

and everything in life is temporary

Did all that you believe only serve to make you sad?

Did you have to suicide?

Even when its bad, even when it’s bad

its good to be alive.”

– Even when it’s bad it’s good to be alive indeed…