The Groanbox Blog

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Concerts at the Beach House

Here are a few short lo-res video clips from some jams we had at Concerts at the Beach House on July 15, 2007. Special guests Bob Beach on harmonica and Jim Harris on Freedom Boot. Thanks to Sarah Van Keuren for the videos.

The Groanbox Boys @ Concerts at the Beach House (Harp Jam) from Groanbox and Vimeo.

The Groanbox Boys @ Concerts at the Beach House (Mount P) from Groanbox and Vimeo.

The Groanbox Boys @ Concerts at the Beach House (Train) from Groanbox and Vimeo.

The Ring of Infinity is in Grandpa's Hat


After our first set on WVBR's Bound For Glory with Phil Shapiro, I noticed a young woman weaving something over in the corner. She stood out from the rest of the audience, as she was on her own and clearly focused on what she was doing. As I walked closer I noticed that she was weaving a basket of pine needles. I was hesitant to interrupt her work, but finally introduced myself.

Her name was Emily.

I brought the Freedom Boot over to her and explained that occasionally people would give us things to put on it, and suggested that if she felt so inclined she could contribute something after the performance.

We soon went back for our second and third sets. I would catch Emily out of the corner of my eye every so often weaving away while we were playing. When we finished our final set she came up to the stage.

"I weaved you a ring of infinity out of pine needles. They are from the west coast. They fell during an ice storm" I inspected the beautiful gift. About 30 fairly long blond pine needles, woven together, in the rough shape of an infinity symbol. Their scent was a subtle, deep pine.

We attached the ring of infinity to the boot. After a couple days we decided to take it off though, as it was a bit fragile. We put it on the dashboard of the truck, where we would sniff and admire it every so often during the long road trips between gigs.


About a week later I was standing outside the Port Jazz club in Port Jefferson waiting to greet the few people I was expecting. My mother and some of her friends soon began to show up, and then my father's Aunt Ethel appeared. I had not seen her for many years, so it was a bit of a surprise to see her. She said she was living in the area and my father had called to tell her about the show, so she decided to come with her daughter. We spoke for a few minutes, and then the rest of my family arrived.

My Aunt Sandra from Oregon, my brother Chris from Florida...dozens of family and old friends from near and far (both geographically and memory wise) It was a total surprise, bordering on shock. My dad and the rest of the family had kept their plans entirely secret. The night had become a Bergeman family reunion. It was also Cory's birthday, which made it even more of a celebration.

Before we took the whole party up to the club to begin our sets, my Dad gave me an old tan suede cowboy hat.

"This was Pop's hat. I want you to have it."

I tried it on, but it was too small for my head unfortunately, so I put it in the truck.

I didn't want the night to end and a part of me just wanted to step off the train of the tour and spend a few days with everyone. But we had to be in D.C. the next day, so I said my goodbyes and gave lots of hugs.


Grandpa's hat stayed in the truck between me and Cory, and became a kind of "hold all" for the stuff floating around the cab...harmonicas, receipts, cell phones etc.

A week or so after Port Jefferson Cory was inspecting the boot. "Hey-where is the ring of infinity?"

"It's in Pop's hat"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Like Two Quijotes

Red Ooh La La boxer shorts donned for swimming in Sarah and Harry's idyllic pool of soothing water in Philly a strange juxtaposition of toilet humor and spiritual awakening like two competing thorns jutting precariously out of the groanbox id with luminescent purple rays of eery, prescient interconnectedness woven together in a seemingly random fashion with music by John Hartford and visions of steamships along the Mississsippi River hacked into and poisoned by the commercial radio and salacious billboards and cacophonous TV in the bars we play or as Michael would say "it's all part of the plan, it all has a purpose" only for some reason i can't seem to discern the larger significance of the sticky ooze on the floor of the Burren and the frat boys calling for free bird and the pathetic pack mentality and the loud overproduced music smashing down the doors of my inner sanctum and we wonder why this culture is degrading when all around us everywhere we go our senses are constantly on the defensive but the night on Martha's Vineyard seeing Misha and feeding off a terrific energy in the crowd rejuvenates the songs and casts away the demons and the exuberant Isa and her friends danced up a storm and Amandine smiled like an angel and wrote a neat article on us while Bill put Snowy the owl on the Boot he put Snowy on the boot declaring that he was famous Michael asked why and with a dry matter-of-fact tone replied in his deep tenor "because he's on the Boot!" and the Chinalai's home a beauteous treasure of eastern antiques Buddhist statues and scrolls and jewelry paintings and heavenly flowers and palad-khik and persian rugs Bahraini teapots my mother's painting a fish pond and everything feels so comfortable and well-placed a general sense of well-being of Zen that there is joy in all things and life is meant to be lived in the now with respect for yesterday and hope for tomorrow and we left the accordion on the side of the road in DC I thought Michael had left it at the Molly Pitcher rest stop in Jersey when I went to empty my bladder but it was when we stopped to change on Embassy Row near a host of important embassies so as to spruce up our image to look more professional that the accordion all ominous looking in its raggedy black soft case was callously disregarded as we sped off to the Alliance on Wyoming Ave for an evening of French music where of all places we needed the !&%$# squeezebox I sped back there after Michael asked me "where's the accordion?" and promptly turned red as a beet while remaining remarkably composed and saw it there waiting like a forgotten child except for the fact that it was a large black bag sitting right in front of a host of embassies yet surprisingly the bomb squad was not out in full force despite the fact that at least fifteen minutes had ensued and Gene Shay the radio host who interviewed us knew John Hartford and was an incredibly warm, laid back guy, totally unassuming and humble despite his amazing track record why aren't there more folks like him out there Reunited with friends and family being on the road emblazons us with visions of the future while bringing us closer to our past with Michael's surprise family reunion in Port Jefferson parents, cousins, close relatives and friends all emerging from the dusty woodwork of his memory from places as distant as Oregon and a drive through both of our hometowns Medford, NY and Old Greenwich, CT and seeing old family and friends in almost every place we've performed at ties us to the world around us grounding us and preventing us from flying forever off deep into the humid mist of a moonlit summer night I'm staying with John-William Carroll on Beacon Hill in Boston after seeing him in London he's wearing a "ski Iraq" shirt today it was great to see his pops Billy Carroll at Toad and stay in his aunt and uncle's historic home to temporarily recover from the whirlwind and catch up on sleep while dreaming strange dreams about my house in CT forever unchanged in my mind despite the quite different reality I beheld the Chickanis house our neighbors next door was to be razed guess another McMansion is going up We have chosen to embark on these adventures and let our guards down and open ourselves up to who we are and hope that others appreciate it and sometimes it's great and sometimes it ain't and I have to learn to develop a thicker skin but it's hard to play for the vapid numbness of New America where the cloned model is based on security and safety and the world is being bought up and run by private equity firms whose motive is to make everything more "profitable" with everything looking alike everywhere you go drive for a day and see a days inn you know what you're getting it's safe no risk so shit we're different that's what everyone says and it takes some getting used to for a lot of people The Boot sees through irony, disingenuousness, obsequiousness, overconfidence, self-righteous moralizing, masquerades of all kinds It's tough to let down your guard but who are we to talk we are just two kindred spirits ambling through this dangling skein of existence, like two Quijotes nobly and naively braving the elements wielding a voodoo sword and exporting our skewed version of the gospel to four people on eastern Long Island to retirees at the Queen's Library to well-to-do francophiles in a French restaurant and cultural center to a huge crowd of rural new yorkers in a gigantic red barn in the middle of nowhere to random and sundry interlocutors of all kinds thrust into the Groanbox orbit like JP Tremblay in the back of our truck on the way to Sonny's in Red Hook who knows how or why, two more gigs to go with a long drive from Vermont to Maryland ahead of us and there is an uncanny feeling of connectedness of coherence in everything we do or maybe we view this as a tightly knit patchwork of experience so as to cope with the larger disparate weirdness of it all and i pine for the fam and the farm and a glass of lemonade and a swim in the creek with the dogs

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dark morning mist speeding past the darting deer flashbacks of the rings and things and palad khik dangling in a field of flowers by the marshland and barn in the distance the train tracks and silent stop signs seem alive we're on the train we're on the train Mark Twain resting with his Clemens family as the sun comes down one million beams through the trees of soft rolling hills jukeboxes on the wall Groanbox Grub she gives us a ribbon off of one of her socks and gets into her rusted out car taking off into the night super roady super smile missing teeth Annapolis blues beneath the wreath of prosperity ring of infinity Emily weaves bound for glory sun burnt face they are from the pines out west they fell during an ice storm tears in the truck am I laughing crying tattered American flags hang on two of the four walls of our room at the Purple Fiddle lemonade out of a jar the rumbling big rigs speeding on by the lights are dimmed an intimate array of all ages and sizes tapping their feet a cute chubby girl snapping her fingers and we make eye contact burning through another set Mrs Shue poses with Mr Boot I watch her throughout the night the oldest in years the youngest in spirit smiles clapping dancing jalopy jalopy a magical place I hear the future I hear the past lost in the present JP beering endearing we get lost at Sonny's at the gay cabaret we get lost at Sonny's at the gay cabaret not another banjo fiddle foot stomping CD I think as we speed home late at night and then it hits me no need for an axe of comparison John Hartford is a god immortal beautiful humble Mississippi Mississippi when I see him clogging and fiddling singing on youtube the next day I almost weep Carroll Gardens dear Aunt Peg what class her white hair subtly flowing from beneath her sparkling cap tapping her feet friends and family hanging around in a most pleasant way the night ends with Chad giving us the gift of palad khik as the train wizzes by above us I keep hearing the train horns blow wherever I go at night the rain I cue the thunder as I sit with Kristen and recite the Road Not Taken she has become the beautiful woman that was always within her a teacher full of laughter and love in the morning I try on the yellow wreath it fits perfectly on top of my hat I ask she gives and that is that Cory is a laugh a brother like we've known each other since time began we're more or less in the moment oscillating this way and that but seldom straying from the crosshairs of now Phil sits us down for the talk I am slightly nervous which is a rare novelty but due to its nature I am not relaxed enough to enjoy it you said shit on one of your tracks he says Cory and I look at each other dumfounded and go through every lyric on the album in our heads in the space of five seconds the second track he says no yes no definitely no oh you must think distance ship is distance shit the insane characters poking out of our subconscious every time we get in the truck we're laughing and crying conical barnacle warnings about the devil blaring out of the radio but the Chesapeake is still and the farm an oasis we're out on the beach the coldest July 4 glorious the wind carrying the sailboats by behind them the Robert Moses bridge somewhere Fire Island beyond the bay my grandfather smiling through his family they all arrive snapping one hundred photos and listening to the music I see the tears in his eyes when Georgiana comes to pick me up