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Dissatisfied Customer vol. 1

To whom it may concern;

I am writing in regard to an air conditioner produced by your company, the Goldstar M8003R.

Sometime last summer the people across the street gave us this air conditioner, which had previously been sitting in their garage.  We were talking in their driveway and I mentioned the heat, and that we didn’t have an AC.  Then I said I’d probably head out to buy one tonight.  Then Rick, who’s from Georgia, started telling me about the one in his garage and insisting I take it.

So Rick takes me into his garage and unveils this AC for me.  “Works fine, should cool down your whole house.  Only thing is it’s noisy, but if you don’t mind that it’ll do just fine.”

Grateful to be spared the $300 expense, I dismissed his warning.  “We shouldn’t mind the noise.  Thanks!”

And that’s how your Air Conditioner came to be sitting in my window.

And I am writing to you now, one year later, from within the icy sonic oblivion this object has created in my home.  This machine is literally the loudest and most persistent noise I have ever encountered.  It is all encompassing.  It is a womb of rattling plastic racket.

It cancels all thought and conversation within 20 feet of it.

It causes us to listen to our TV at maximum volume, and then–when it suddenly clicks off–to be assaulted by the loudness of the TV and have to scramble to find the remote and lower it, just so we can enjoy 10 minutes of normal environment before the jet thruster in the window roars to life again, swallowing important bits of dialogue and critical plot points.

We have been forced to basically give up on the TV.  Conversation is also useless because the machine has reduced us to agitated gesturing cave people.  After you’ve said “WHAT?” to someone 4 times in a row, whatever they were trying to say becomes “FUCK YOU.”  So now we’re pretty much left to stare at each other blankly inside the blast chamber that is our 12 x 12 living room, knowing that we are trapped inside this box with your H-Bomb for the next 3 months because outside the temperature is 102, due no doubt in part to global warming and the massive amounts of freon your howling nightmarefuck murder engines have pumped into the atmosphere over the past 30 years.  They say if you can’t hear your own pulse you’re deaf.  I’m happy to report that at this moment I can hear neither my own pulse nor the sound of myself screaming inside my own mind.

Imagine for a moment the kind of sleep one gets in a house that contains an air conditioner like this.  I can only assume it’s identical to what prisoners experience while undergoing sleep deprivation torture.  What I’m saying is that your machine is a human rights violation, which you are currently charging $299 for on

The cat is terrified of it.  The dog stands in front of it and barks every time it kicks on.  That is, I assume the dog is barking because I see its mouth opening and closing.

Your machine is the Nothing that strives to swallow all things.  Your machine is a constant reminder that death is waiting for me and everyone I love.  Your machine is absolutely watering secret tumors in my body every single day.  Your machine is a retarded orphan that you sent into the world to die slowly and mutilate all beauty in the meantime.  Don’t bother sending me a coupon, because I believe you are the source of all suffering on earth.  May your children die before you.  May a superior model AC drop out of a window and crush your body on the way to your office tomorrow, and may it fall soundlessly through the air on the way to do it’s work.

Benjamin Dolan
Dissatisfied Customer

Jul 09

The Good Cowboy

As I write this it’s 4 a.m. in Louisiana, and we’ve just checked into a roadside hotel after our show in Houston.  Tomorrow is a drive day, during which we’ve got 16 hours to go, en route to begin the final leg of the L(i)fe on the Road tour in Orlando.   The show’s have been incredible, and it’s been an emotional trip to say the least.

Checking my email before bed, I found this waiting in my inbox:

“Hello B,

This email address was the only one I could find for you, I hope you don’t mind. But I thought this would be something that would touch you…help you realize your affect in the world, if only on what would be considered a small scale.

About six months ago my four year old son and I were driving cross country. It was the middle of the night and I thought he was sleeping, my iPod was on shuffle and your track Still Electric played. When it was over I was surprised to hear a little voice from the back seat asking to hear it again. I obliged….three more times. I asked him what he thought about it, and he replied, “The robot is sad because he is breaking.”

So I decided to play The Failure for him, a very edited version of it. And he was completely enthralled. When we got home I made him his own playlist of your work that had, for the most part, age appropriate language. (I might be a terrible mom) But as a result when it’s dinner time and his turn to pick the music we listen to you, when he cleans his room, when he plays and colors, when he gets ready in the morning for sure you are playing somewhere in our little apartment.  He loves the tracks where you, whom he calls “The Good Cowboy”, and “The Sad Robot” sort of duet and interact.

I wanted to thank you for inspiring Ben the way you have, what you have created has become his first love and inspired countless games and imaginary adeventures for The Good Cowboy and The Sad Robot. I’m not sure what you’re hoping for or expecting out of you career as a poet or hip hop artist but I think you’re a complete success.

I attached a photo of a painting Ben did in class…”

Click to Enlarge:

The years only halfway over and already it’s been an incredibly long haul that’s required a number of difficult personal sacrifices.  I can’t really describe what this message meant to me, and the many like it I’ve received from you all in the course of the year.

Just this morning I was thinking about a similar story a friend told me about her son’s connection with ‘The Failure,’ and trying to wrap my brain around the idea.  I remember being that age and having a wooden spoon for a microphone, with a sequined glove my grandmother made me, pretending to be Michael Jackson.  The idea that the deeply personal things I’ve made could be occupying that place in someone else’s life is totally unexpected and overwhelming…

Anyhow.  Just wanted to take a moment to appreciate all of your appreciation and show you this.

See you soon,

The Good Cowboy

B. Dolan will be joining Sage Francis on the following upcoming Tour Dates:

Orlando, FL – Club at Firestone – 6/18/10
Atlanta, GA – The Loft – 6/19/10
Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle – 6/21/10
Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel – 6/22/10
Baltimore, MD – The Ottobar – 6/23/10
Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero – 6/24/10
New York, NY – Webster Hall – 6/25/10


Sage Francis with B. Dolan:
Sept 15th – Bristol, UK – The Fleece
Sept 16th – London, UK – Scala
Sept 17th – Brighton, UK – The Freebutt
Sept 18th – Manchester, UK – Roadhouse
Sept 19th – Glasgow, UK – Stereo
Sept 21st – Lyon, France – Ground Zero
Sept 22nd – Poitiers, France – Confort Modern
Sept 23rd – Nantes, France – Pole Etudiant (FREE SHOW!!!)
Sept 24th – Marseille, France – Marsatac Festival
Sept 25th – Metz, France – ZIKAMETZ FESTIVAL METZ
Sept 26th – Paris, France – La Machine
Sept 28th – Copenhagen, Scandinavia – Lille Vega
Sept 29th – Lund, Scandinavia – Mejeriet
Sept 30th – Oslo, Scandinavia – Living Room
Oct 1st – Upsalla, Scandinavia – Ordsprak Festival (POETRY SHOW)
Oct 2nd – Stockholm, Scandinavia – Södra Teatern
Oct 5th – Brussells, Belgium – Botanique
Oct 6th – Hamburg, Germany – Uebel & Gefaehrlich
Oct 7th – Berlin, Germany – Cassiopeia
Oct 8th – Amsterdam, NL – Sugarfactory
Oct 9th – St Gallen, Switzerland – Palace
Oct 10th – Lasaunne, Switzerland – Le Romandie

Dates will be posted soon.

Jun 17

Europe pt.2: Dole vs. The Volcano

Hello mutha,

I’m writing this letter home from underneath a cloud of poison ash.  The kids here at camp seem friendly enough though, and the second leg of my European tour has come to an end.  Please send cheeseburgers and milkshakes, as it seems I’ll be living here from now on.

Read on for some highlights from this second leg of the tour.


1. Middelburg, Netherlands

One of the highlights of this tour came early on, at the last show added to the schedule.  Shout out to Tonnie in Middelburg for setting up a surprisingly rowdy performance @ The Underground.  On a Tuesday night, in a small city I’d never played before, we managed to pack an intimate spot and have a truly great time.

Also, apparently there is some bizarre local custom of making what I can only describe as a pterodactyl noise when excited by an emcee.  I’m talking, the place where another crowd might go “BO! BO! BO!” these folks were going “GAHHHH! GAHHHHH!” This went from being mildly disconcerting to a whole lot of fun.  Cheers, Middelburg.  One of the best shows of the tour, hands down.

Maybe this was due to the awesome local news coverage?

2. Prahahaaaa!

After a 19 hour, overnight train journey from Amsterdam, I arrived in Prague.  Surprisingly, Barack Obama was there too.  I don’t think he was on the same train as me though.  I would’ve noticed that.

I had heard a lot about the city, but didn’t expect to be as struck by it as I was.  Maybe it was a heightened sense of awareness brought on by the journey, but I was really overwhelmed by the very visible history in Prague.  Specifically, the Soviet history.

As it happens, I’ve been writing a pretty ambitious song on this tour about Laika, the first animal ever to be launched into–and die in–space.  She was a stray dog, launched on the Sputnik 2 satellite, to test what would happen to a living organism on the trip.

Also fresh in my mind was the fact that I’d grown up in the 80s, and had spent a lot of my childhood thinking of people from this part of the world as intrinsically evil and bent on the destruction of all we held dear.  The significance of being among the remnants of that empire, and meeting and befriending folks who’d grown up on the other side of that conflict, wasn’t lost on me.

The show that night was another high-energy, intimate affair with a group of excited kids who went nuts for the entirety of it, and called me back for multiple encores, to the point where I’d run out of instrumentals and was doing spoken word stuff.  Even before that though, Prague had made it’s impact on me.  I won’t soon forget that trip.

Also, the slightly dodgy hamburger I ate there won’t soon be forgotten either, as it led to tour highlight #3.

The show in Prague happened right next to The Great Strahov Stdium, which is the largest in the world.  It was originally used for synchronized gymnastic displays, and Communist displays of power a la North Korea.  These days it’s covered in graffiti and looks to be falling into disrepair everywhere.  Staggering.

3. St. Gallen, Switzerland

Alright, so this one isn’t so much a highlight as it is one of the most fucked up things ever to happen to me on tour.  I therefore feel it’s newsworthy.  Remember that hamburger in Prague?

I arrived in St. Gallen the night before my show there, after a long day of travel from Prague.  No worries, got some sleep at the hotel.  Woke up with a whole day to kick around in the city and wait for the show.  I met Damian, the promoter for that night, around noontime.  He let me into the backstage area, where I proceeded to argue with people on the internet about nerd rap.   So far so good.

Now it’s time for soundcheck.  I notice that I feel a little dizzy and tired while doing the soundcheck.  I ask the sound engineer:

“Are we in the swiss alps here?”


“Are we in the mountains?”

“A little bit…”

“Cause I feel kind of like… the elevation maybe.”

<laughing> “no no… we’re not that high.”

Ok.  We’re not in the mountains.  Go upstairs, drink some water.  Maybe I just didn’t sleep enough.  Lay down take a nap.

I awake an hour later with sharp pains in my stomach, and the fun begins.  Just as the show is getting underway, I start getting violently ill backstage.  While both openers are on, I am in the backstage bathroom wishing for my death.  I quickly realize that I am in the midst of a fairly serious health situation.

I says to myself.  What would Evel Knievel do?

I managed to get onstage and perform for about 35 minutes, while standing stock still and just rapping the songs how they appear on the record.  Very little extra movement, as I felt there was a good chance I’d start throwing up or faint onstage otherwise.  Not one of my finer sets, I admit.

I finished rapping, explained to the crowd that I was extremely sick and that I was headed to check out one of their local hospitals, walked offstage, into the cab, straight to the St. Gallen ER.

200 Euro, 11 hours, 3 vials of blood, 1 x-ray, 1 ultrasound and 2 ENEMAS LATER, I left the ER, having been diagnosed with food poisoning.  The Swiss sure are thorough.  This caused me to miss my train for the next day’s show, and anyway I hadn’t slept and was asked by the doctors to stay in St. Gallen for the day and return to the hospital if my condition didn’t improve.

I’m hoping to return to Europe in the fall of this year, and when I do, I owe both St. Gallen and Innsbruck the shows they missed out on due to this.  Consider this your apology and raincheck.

4. Polar Bear Digital.

Due to our sharing a booking agent, 3 of the shows on this tour had me opening for the recently reunited Anti-Pop Consortium across France.  Not only are these guys legends in the game, but they were also extremely personable and we hit it off immediately.  Their sets were bonkers (including a surprise appearance by Mike Ladd in Paris!), their audiences were extremely receptive, and I consider all of them friends at this point.  Keep an eye out for more cooperation between us in the future, and check out their new material. Shit is off the chain.


Thanks to all the audiences that came out, Anti-Pop, Cyril at Zoobook, and of course Sage Francis for facilitating this leg of the tour specifically.  I made all my motherfuckin trains on time, except when I was poisoned.  And that’s still sumthn.

Next up, the Rocky Road to Dublin.

4 / 20 / 10 – “Barfly Club” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Wales, UK
4 / 21 / 10 – “The Pavilion” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Cork, Ireland
4 / 22 / 10 – “Rosin Dubh” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Galway, Ireland
4 / 23 / 10 – “Trinity Rooms” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Limerick, Ireland
4 / 24 / 10 – “Whelans” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Dublin, Ireland
4 / 26 / 10 – “Nerve Centre” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Derry, N. Ireland
4 / 27 / 10 – “Mandela Hall” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Belfast, Ireland

Apr 19

First Leg of the “Weight of the World Tour” is Over.

Here we are in Brighton, UK. Where it is raining buckets, everyone is nice, lots of people are gay, and the record shops are lovely. I’m playing the last show of this leg tonight at the Concorde2. Across the street is the English Channel. By now I have lost all sense of orientation in the world, and am for all practical purposes in space.

I’ve been writing a lot. A song or poem about the first dog shot into orbit. The last song that will ever be written about George Bush, and a snappy tune called ‘Murderlicious.’

I’m also reading a lot. Finished ‘UBIK’ by Philip K. Dick, which I don’t recommend, and this biography of David Bowie, which I do.

I’ve been lucky enough to be brought along on this first leg by dan le sac vs. scroobius pip, SFR’s militant UK electro brethren, who’ve just released their sophomore lp “The Logic of Chance” and are touring in support of it. The crowds have been rabid, the shows have been sweaty and ‘rammed,’ as they say, and the highlights have been many. Here are a few:

1. Norwich


All of these shows have been full of excited, smart, rowdy audiences… the perfect combination really.  Able to listen and wile out at the same time.  Norwich was the first venue that stood out, however… due I think mostly to the stage setup.  It was a small room.  Low ceiling.  Audience close enough to the stage to reach out and fuck wit.  They exploded after the first beat dropped, and provided tons of energy with which to perform one of my favorite sets of the tour.  Big up!

2. Liverpool

“To be honest, being American… I only know one thing about Liverpool……..which is that…..the women are very loose.  Huh? Wha? The Beatles are from here?  Well now I know TWO things about Liverpool!”

Every single surface in the club was wet by the time this show was over.  Walls. Ceilings. Handrails backstage.  Wet.


3. Pompey Pyros

Heading to do our Portsmouth gig, I tweeted about my set times and was responded to by a number of folks who told me not to mention that city’s struggling football club.  Apparently, the Portsmouth team had recently suffered a number of epic defeats, and it had just been found out that the entire franchise was in debt and about to go under.


That night onstage, I introduced ‘Economy of Words’ with a dedication to the Portsmouth team who “like me, are broke, and like me, are not very good at Soccer.”  (I knew they’d enjoy my calling it ‘soccer.’)

The crowd responded just as I thought they would, and I got to have a fun bad-guy-wrestler interaction with them.  They started doing their team chant at me, which I mimicked by saying “Wait…wait…I think I’ve learned this song.  Does it go “RAAWWWRRR RARRR RARRRrrrrrRRRRRAAAA RRAAAAAA”

Big laughs.  Good times.  I press play on the beat and start performing the song.  When the chorus hits, I throw a whole bunch of fake American money into the crowd (as I’ve done every night…) and a few of the rowdier fans in the crowd start picking up the fake money and LIGHTING IT ON FIRE.

So now I’m trying to rap the song while communicating with my body language “Woah! What the fuck! Don’t do that!  Put that out!”

Luckily a riot/club fire was narrowly avoided, and what followed was another monster of a set.  Pompey don’t play.  Lesson learned.

4. Koko in London

High water mark, right here.  For starters, the most beautiful venue I’ve ever performed in, full of 1400 screaming British kids.


Secondly, I met Buddy Peace for the first time, 20 minutes before hopping onstage as he DJ’d my set.  Buddy played that night in between sets as well, and it was beyond dope to walk around this beautiful venue and hear Sage Francis, Prolyphic, and Buck 65 tunes bouncing off the walls, being mixed seamlessly and freaked mercilessly.  Even before stepping onstage, Buddy’s mix was repping SFR in a way that me feel proud and excited to be part of this show.

The night before the Koko show we’d played in Manchester and, for the first time in my life, I had managed to leave my Evel Knievel costume behind.  The hand-made costume, made by my grandmother.  The one of a kind, irreplaceable, pivotal to the set, Evel motherfucking Knievel costume.  I was gutted.  I was backstage punching myself repeatedly in the dick.

However, you know.  The show must go on, and what would Evel do?

Apparently, Evel would strip off his clothes to Eye of the Tiger anyway.  Instead of an Evel Knievel costume, he would wear only a white t-shirt on which he’d written the words ‘Evel Knievel.’  Instead of a cape? A red hand towel from backstage.  Instead of pants?  Drawers.  Death would be defied, one way or another.


What Would Evel Do after that? Well, he’d probably shave his beard off live onstage, to make sure he never committed such a lapse again.


As I write this, Sound of Rum is doing their final soundcheck of the tour, having smashed each and every one of these shows as well. The Evel Knievel costume returned to me via the Royal Mail this morning, looking like it’d had some adventures on it’s own since we last met. We’ll be reunited onstage tonight, and then I’ll leave my friends Dan and Pip for the next few weeks as we tour Europe separately. has all tour updates, including new shows that have been added. I’ll be reuniting w/ Dan and Pip from April 20-27th for a string of shows in Ireland as well. Thanks to everyone that’s come out to these UK shows, and of course to the boys, Becca Lewis, Steve & James for having me out.

I’ll be back before long, Britain. Stay soggy and sarcastic.

April 3 – “L’Astrolabe” w/ Antipop Consortium – Orleans, France
April 6 – “The Underground Cafe” – Middelburg, Netherlands
April 8 – “Klub 007” – Praha, CZ
April 10 – “Palace” – St Gallen, SWITZ
April 13 – Domino Festival @ “Ancienne Belgique” – Brussels, Belgium
April 14 – “New Morning” – Paris, France
April 15 – “Colmar” – Grillen, France
April 16 – “Dachstock Reithalle” – Bern, SWITZ
April 17 – “Case à Chocs” – Neuchatel, SWITZ
April 20 – “Barfly Club” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Wales, UK
April 21 – “The Pavilion” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Cork, Ireland
April 22 – “Rosin Dubh” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Galway, Ireland
April 23 – “Trinity Rooms” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Limerick, Ireland
April 24 – “Whelans” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Dublin, Ireland
April 26 – “Nerve Centre” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Derry, N. Ireland
April 27 – “Mandela Hall” w/ Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Belfast, Ireland

beardless dolan

Mar 29

Evel Knievel Defeats Nihilism in Seattle

Yes sir.  It’s heckler jumping time again.

And, oddly enough, we once again found ourselves in Seattle doing it.

This review comes to us courtesy of ‘Desert Penguin’ from the Strange Famous Forum.

Only 2 dates left on the ‘Orchestra of Strange Tour’!  Sleep, B.Dolan and Cecil Otter in Boise, ID tomorrow and Reno, NV on Sunday!


Nectar Lounge, Seattle, 1/06/10

It was your typical Seattle crowd. Laid-back if not standoffish, conceited if not narcissistic. But that did not matter. This was the northwest, after all, and here amongst all the trees grows an abundance of eccentrics. Potential game-changers. There’s one at every show and you just can’t predict how they will affect the experience. Ladies and gentlemen of the Strange Famous Forum, I present to you The Nihilist.

This little lightning rod of a man was our x-factor. Now, I’m not saying the show would have been lost without him, but he certainly changed the entire atmosphere of the club. The first three sets of the night were performed in front of a late-arriving, slightly disinterested crowd. This, however, was not a reflection on the performances of the artists. Dark Time Sunshine, Cecil Otter, and JFK were all equally impressive in their presentations of hip hop, yet ultimately unsuccessful in getting the crowd involved.

I knew there was the potential for this to change during B. Dolan’s set with his penchant for pageantry. However, even after opening his set with a self-described “mindfuck,” and proceeding to make it rain in receipts after a spot on Andrew Dice Clay impression, all while mowing through bangers new and old, the crowd was still just…well…Seattle. About halfway through his 50 minute set, Mr. Dolan commented on his perceived lack of crowd support which was quickly met with “It doesn’t matter,” from one of the more lively crowd members. B. followed with another comment that again was responded to with an “It doesn’t matter,” from the same guy. B. attempted to speak one more time and was cutoff before he could even finish with another “It doesn’t matter.” And thus, The Nihilist was born.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the trajectory of the entire show was forever altered in that instant. What seemed like harmless banter between emcee and audience would lead into a much bigger, more monumental moment. B. went on to continue his set with his newfound perspective, angling through another song or two before breaking out a staggering spoken word rendition of “Still Electric” that was met with mostly too loud conversations about the latest episode of Jersey Shore and how Facebook still doesn’t have a “Don’t Like” button resonating from the bar. It was at this point that I officially became embarrassed to be a part of this crowd.

Sometimes you gotta get knocked down before you get back up. This is where a less savvy performer will usually give up and mail it in, but it’s also where a virtuoso can really make something happen. Here is when the years of watching a crowd control master work his magic pays off. Bernard decided to nix the next song and go directly into his Evel Knievel act. He ripped off his clothes in fury, revealing his stunningly patriotic jumpsuit, complete with a shimmering red cape. He gave a rousing speech, dedicating his stunt to the unfortunate crippled boy suffering from cancer of the AIDS he met at Seattle Children’s Hospital earlier that day.

As I understand it, this is typically where B. makes a death-defying leap over a monitor, but he knew this moment needed to be better than that. It was going to take something breathtaking to captivate this crowd, and B. knew just what he had to do. He had to jump The Nihilist. The crowd went crazy as the young nonconformist climbed on the stage to risk his life for the sake of entertainment. Surely, any slight miscalculation in Bernard’s approach could seriously injure the entertainer, and potentially kill our new favorite bearded freethinker. It was an amazing act of bravery by the slender skeptic, but after all, what did he have to live for? The tension built, the crowd chanted. There was no turning back now. You could see a slight bit of reluctance growing in Bernard’s eyes as a bead of sweat rolled down his temple. He knew what he had to do if Sleep was going to enjoy the raucous crowd he deserved. B. reared back, took three steps and lunged forward. And just like that the moment was over. The crowd was electrified. “The Final Countdown” blared through DJ Zone’s turntables, and everyone present knew that something great had just gone down. Something we would go home and tell our Moms about after the show. A story we will be telling our little sister’s friends for years to come. We were there when B. Dolan jumped The Nihilist.

After bringing the house down with his mind-blowing feat of acrobatics, B. proceeded to rip through two more songs before handing the well-prepped crowd over to Sleep. The audience would stay in tune for the entirety of Sleep’s set as he properly rocked their balls off, but I wonder just how it all would have went down if our scraggly-haired friend had never made his philosophical beliefs known in the middle of B.’s set. I guess we’ll never find out, but y’know what? It doesn’t matter.

The Nihilist praying to nothing before giving up his body to B.

B. informing The Nihilist that he can’t sue if something goes wrong.

Look at that fucking ghost orb/halo over B.’s head. That’s all you need to know about this moment.

Will he make it?

A newfound swagger.

Jan 08

“Elvis is motherfuckin…Mufasa.”

I was recently sent a poem I’ve been looking for since hearing it years ago and wanted to pass it along.

Its author, Jack McCarthy, is one of a handful of performance poets I’d recommend people check out. There’s a lot I could say about Jack, but suffice it to say that he’s the reason I kept coming back to the Providence open mic, and ultimately started writing performance poetry years ago.

Coincidentally, he’s about to tour the Northeast. I will certainly attend at least one of these shows… don’t sleep on one of the true originals.

Click here for his tourdates:

Here’s the poem:

End of the Road

The kids cannot conceive what it was like.

Music hadn’t sorted itself into categories yet.

We didn’t know Carl Perkins didn’t belong with the Cadillacs;

it was just all The New Music, and it was uncontestably ours.

I never heard as much excitement from a radio

as the day a teenage engineer named Arnie Ginsberg

came running into the WORL studio

delivering the new Pat Boone cover

of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.”

O the times; O the way of doing things.

The hottest DJ in Boston was a young guy named Joe Smith,

who called himself Jose, and never mentioned that he’d gone to Yale.

Now he’s head of MGM or RCA or one of them.

He favored rhythm and blues, but he’d play anything—

one night this new record Crazy Arms,

unlike anything any of us had ever heard,

with these weird piano runs,

and this unknown singer with a terrible obsession

for filling up the spaces between phrases and lines—

“Well my yearnin heart keeps sayin

you’re not mine, not mine, not mine, not mine.”

Jose hated it; he said,

“If this makes the top ten tomorrow night, I’ll eat the record.”

Tuesday night it came in eight or nine, and he said,

“I didn’t mean the top ten, I meant the top three,”

and Wednesday it was three and he said,

“I didn’t mean I’d eat the record, nobody can eat a record,

but I’m a man of my word and I’ll eat the next best thing, my hat.”

And we heard eating noise, right on the air!

Sounded a lot like pizza.

The kid that sang Crazy Arms billed himself as

Jerry Lee Lewis and His Pumping Piano.

This was before it was even clear

what the instrument of rock’n’roll would be—

Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Little Richard all played piano;

it would be a few weeks yet before the guitar took charge.

I loved Crazy Arms;

but I liked the other side even better, End of the Road:

“Well the way is dark, the night is cold…”

It’s not even two minutes long. In it you can hear

the opening chords of Whole Lotta Shakin,

that a few months later made Jerry Lee a rock’n’roll hero—

until he married his thirteen-year-old-cousin;

and the night he showed up at Graceland, waving a pistol.

I never thought he wanted to hurt Elvis;

I think he wanted to put a bullet through that goddam guitar.

Even that wasn’t the end of his road;

now Elvis is dead—arguably—

but Jerry Lee is still out there singing great country,

billing himself not as the King, but as the Killer—

and indeed, some of his wives have died curious deaths.

But, ah, the song.

A while back I saw Moms Mabley on TV,

and for her finish that great old black woman said,

“I’m’a do a song I wrote a lotta years ago.”

And a barrelhouse piano kicked in.

And her hips started to rock like she was twenty-three again.

And she sang, “The way is dark, the night is cold,”

and I went looking for my old yellow-label Sun 45.

When I found it, the name on it wasn’t Mabley.

But that doesn’t mean she didn’t write it;

New York and Philly are filled with aging white gangsters still raking in royalties from

songs sold to them by black artists in the fifties for a hundred bucks,


because the way is dark;

and the night is



When I sent Sage this poem, he was reminded of another piece from one of the greats. A guy named Kwesi Davis who I’m not sure is even performing anymore. Everything this guy did onstage was crushing, and he remains a major inspiration even though I haven’t seen or heard his work in years.

Check this out:

“Poached” by Kwesi Davis:
Click here to listen.

And, if you’re still in a listening mood, Jerry Lee Lewis performing “End of the Road”


Sep 30

Interview/Tribute I did with Bruce Springsteen

Little interview/piece I did for their blog. If you don’t know, Twist & Shout is a dope record store in Denver. Check em out if you’re in the mountains.

“You know, this Michael Jackson thing got us to thinking. Why don’t we ever pay tribute to our heroes when they are alive? I mean, why do these great people have to die before we wax poetic about them? Well, here’s your chance. Pick an living artist that you love and answer the following questions about them.” -Twist And Shout


Bruce Springsteen. Say word. I’m takin it there.

How did you get turned on to this artist?

I was turned on to Bruce Springsteen twice in life. First when I was about 10, by my Uncle Jack. That’s not a metaphor for Jack Daniels. I really have an uncle named Jack. And anyhow I didn’t meet Jack Daniels til I was 12.

The second time I found the Boss was almost 20 years later, on tour with Buck 65. He hipped me to the “Nebraska” album, which I’d never really heard, and I fell instantly in love with it. These days it’s never far from my side, and I might even rank it among the greatest albums ever made.

What was the first record you got by this artist?

Uncle Jack gave me a dubbed copy of a concert recording that I’ve never been able to track down since. I used to fast forward through almost all of it, occasionally stopping to listen to the audience lose their minds when “Born in the U.S.A.” happened. Come to think of it this may have been the first real recording of a concert I ever had. I used to lay in bed with headphones and imagine being onstage. All the girls I had crushes on from school were in the crowd. Aye.

Anyhow, I would fast forward through almost all of this tape except for “Born in the U.S.A.” and “The River,” and the latter was the song I really wanted to hear. I used to just rewind that song and play it over and over until I fell asleep. Even at 10 it crushed me. Without having any real adult experiences, I understood what that song was about on some level.

Have you seen the artist live? What was the best show?

I’ve never seen Springsteen live, but I do highly recommend the DVD of his VH1 Storytellers performance. My favorite Springsteen is acoustic, and the Storytellers performance offers some really great insight into Springsteen’s songwriting process. I can say that I’ve learned things from that DVD that I’ve applied directly to the music I’m making now, and that it’s made me a better songwriter for sure.

For real. Check this DVD out.

Have you ever met this artist? What would you tell them if you
were to have dinner with them?

Nah. I met Huey Lewis recently though. Unrelated.

I dunno man. I feel like me and Bruce wouldn’t need to say anything. We’d just sit at the end of the bar and watch the 40 year old woman sway to the jukebox. Every once in awhile we’d look up from our beers at each other and go “Yep.”

What makes this artist different than others?

For me, Springsteen epitomizes a certain kind of American experience better than anyone else. If you’re interested in music about rural blue collar life then I don’t think anyone is fucking with him. At best, he understands and communicates the poetry of that world without ever mucking it up or making it overwrought.

There’s obvious overlap with people like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, but I feel like those two are taking the mundane to somewhere else a lot of the time. Many of the go-to Johnny Cash songs are taking that same experience and turning it into something mythic or archetypal, and a lot of the go-to Dylan songs are dazzling me with language and living very much in the mind, if that makes sense.

Not to take anything away from Cash and Dylan, but I think Springsteen has a very zen way of just leaving it all be, by comparison. I’m generalizing a lot here, but I think that’s the distinction, for me.

“Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog
lyin’ by the highway in a ditch
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled
pokin’ that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open
he’s standin’ out on highway 31
Like if he stood there long enough
that dog’d get up and run”
-Bruce Springsteen, “Reason to Believe”

Why do you think this artist strikes a chord with you? This is a
question about you, not the artist.

Well, as I’ve said, I think Springsteen is the poet of a certain blue collar generation, and my parents and their friends fit squarely into that. Uncle Jack still swears by The Boss and The Stones, and still works in the same warehouse he’s been working in for 20 years with my father.

So, Springsteen is forever tied to nostalgia and sentimental feelings about the place I come from, in that way. It’s music that reminds me of the adults I grew up around, that coincidentally might as well be about the adults I grew up around.

Also, what makes the songs last for me is the lack of romance or re-imagining. Nothing is being smoothed over in these songs. Springsteen gets the simple beauty of that life but he also gets the brutal, soul-emptying sadness. That sadness is something so fundamental I understood it when I was 10 years old, and it’s truer now than it ever was.

“Those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse?”
-Bruce Springsteen, “The River”

Tell em Boss.

Check out:

Bruce Springsteen – “Atlantic City”

Bruce Springsteen – “The River”

Aug 27

How to Handle Drunk Hecklers When You’re Fat and Wearing An Evel Knievel Suit Onstage: A Pictorial

I know a lot of people have been having problems with this, so I thought I’d present this pictorial to help demonstrate a method I’ve found useful.

Step 1. Ask for a Volunteer from the Drunk Heckler Section.

Step 2. Drunk Heckler now thinks he is at a magic show.  He is also now conscious that he is on a stage.  This means he will do whatever you ask him to, if you talk like you have a clear purpose for him.  No one wants to be onstage with no purpose.  Start by having him lay on his stupid heckler face.  Don’t say that though.  Just say “Ok, I need you to lie on your face…”

Step 3. Now that he’s laying on his face instead of yelling like a fucking donkey in the front row, make use of the once-again-undivided attention of the crowd.  Maybe use the spotlight to point out how dumb this guy looks, laying on his face.  What’s he gonna do?  He’s laying on his face.

Step 4. Tell the crowd you’re going to jump over the Drunk Heckler. You are wearing an Evel Knievel suit, after all. You might as well jump (jump). Have him lay on his back, so that in case “you don’t make it” you can step on a Drunk Heckler’s nuts.

At this point, no one will have noticed that your fat body is making your Evel Knievel belt unsnap. They will be too busy hoping to see you step on the asshole guy’s nuts.

Step 5. Prepare to do irreparable damage to another man’s reproductive organs.

Step 6. Jump. Bring 270 pounds of falling boot heel down on somebody’s testicles, while the horrified audience looks on. You’ll never play this city again. He’ll never be the same man again. But you fucking do it. You do it for Michael Jackson. You show that man’s nuts the same amount of mercy they showed Michael. Which is zero.

Step 7. Just drop a beat. Ask the crowd politely to throw their hands in the air. They’ll forget all about the screaming man on the floor. The good thing about having music to perform with is that you can’t hear the hecklers.

Hope this has been helpful.


Jul 09

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