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FERAL: last night looked like this


May. 12th, 2014


I was realizing the other day that i haven’t made a real and actual personal text post here in a while. and i think back to the days of livejournal and how the interface of a site can really change how you interact with it and what sort of content you make. ugh and that last sentence just made me hate myself a little for how techbro it sounded. but in all truth, as I’ve moved in my life further from writing and poetry and literature and more towards music, I miss the introspective 1500 word pieces I would write about the light hitting the leaves while I drank my coffee. self indulgent sure but they were a moment of peace and beauty in what is often a violent and chaotic world.

it’s always fascinating when people start to move away from being acquaintances and into being more true friends. the other night i left too many things over at a friends house when leaving at 2am because I was exhausted. texting him a few days later to ask if yet another thing was there (my necklace) he said that he had found my rings but I was wearing the necklace when I left. and I was so touched. because I’m not used to being seen. not in a long time. and that he had noticed and remembered that I was wearing my necklace, it might seem like such a small thing, but being seen like that made me feel taken care of, appreciated, like I mattered. and it was… it felt like old times in the best way. and i guess that’s part of it. finding new friends that feel like old times so that your ancient souls can reconnect in the now for new adventures to become memories. sometimes time is just a joke being played on all of us I think. more of a figure eight than a circle. giving us the illusion of always being new and moving forward but really just moving and intersecting with its own future and past now and then.

K brought me lilacs at work last week. deep purple and smelling of sunshine and that big yard where you could roll around in the fresh grass, pick wild rhubarb and eat it under the willow tree without a care in the world. sometimes I think my whole life is just trying to get back to those moments. but as time is the trickster, even if I went back to that same house, and that same yard… it would never be the same.

i live in the strangest place of analog and digital in my life these days. dayjob and band job times spent on the computer 8 or more hours a day. tied into my phone gadget. responding in 2 mins or less to fire drills and emergencies that matter for a bottom line but not for the world at large. and then I disconnect and go record music to tape with microphones that are 50 years old on guitars that haven’t changed in a century or more. singing words and learning chords from men that work with their hands and none of us care for a moment that we are anything but real and alive in the moment. it’s fire and life and sweat and music and nothing else matters.

a heat wave is coming. the second in just a few weeks. i’ll need to keep some extra water on hand for the new plants i put in the ground last week. this morning it’s 7am and already in the mid 70s. Oakland doesn’t have the crazy ocean wind that keeps San Francisco cooler on these days. I dream of lunch breaks at the lake and swimming for hours with nary an email in sight. i want to be sunburnt and tired from play and picnics.

on Saturday night after the Vagabondage show I went to the Cloyne Co Op farewell party for alumni. Technically I was a crasher - just like I had been when I hung out there and partied with my friends all of the time. 30 - 50 old punks and rabble rousers hung out with the current students trying to give the place a good send off before all the current kids are evicted to make the place a substance free academic housing sort of thing. I wandered the halls drunkenly and lost just like I did 20 years ago. Looked at the 30ft palm trees my friend had planted when they were tiny baby palms, and hugged so many old timers while meeting new amazing folks young and old and soaked in the feeling of being the right age to remember being in my 20s and to appreciate being older and knowing how to have fun smarter now. i kept having a small court of male students asking me about music and fire. why do my topics always go back to that? it was flattering in a hilarious way. my ego was happy and my boundaries were solid.

the air is already losing it’s morning salt smell of the bay and turning dusty. time for more coffee and a few more moments to dream.

Catching Up with Myself

Today started with rainy highways and New Orleans jazz, driving the vanpool into work all clicked in to WWOZ internet radio and while my fellow riders half slept and zombied out to cell phone updates and email checking I imagined I was driving through a lush and heady humid storm heading down the 10 towards my city. Arriving in Sunnyvale instead wasn't the most pleasant surprise, but the ride getting there felt at least a little magical.

I'm torn up and tired from last nights show up in Glen Ellen. Vagabondage played the Jack London Museum / House of Happy Walls up at Jack London State park. It was a fancy affair with beer provided by Lagunitas, tickets were $20, the Sonoma papers gave us a good amount of press, and we shredded ourselves to lovely moody raucous musical bits for over 90 minutes of passion. Completely acoustic and thus my throat is hamburger today. But oh those moments. One guy was so moved he bought a CD with plans to play it at his fathers wake. Another woman bought one saying it reminded her of all the good and hard parts of being in love.  I was just moved, surrounded by so many old trees, moss, stone, and wood. Transported. And that's the best part of making music.

The day before Rhubarb Whiskey did a couple hours of interview and music on Lilycat's radio show. Oh that Sizzle makes me laugh. It is always interesting too to hear your music in other people's context. How they react, what they see. We shared a few trade secrets of our recording process, and got into a nice healthy argument about the use of strawberries in rhubarb pie. Oh I love my strange little quirks about food. Why do I care so much. and yet... there I am again arguing against the cloying sweet.

When I got home, or actually, on the way home from the radio show, while my eye began its allergic reaction and started swelling shut, I started getting inspired and full of the ideas. Phone recordings of four new songs happened while stuck in traffic and getting home and running to the music cave meant another song was born and constructed and I'm kind of in love with it. The other four, I'm hoping to dive into them tonight.

Oh there are so many more things to say. There always are. Meanwhile - here's a little pic of me that John Flaw took just before our show last night in the park.

Emchy at House of Happy Walls

Saint of Nothing from Rhubarb Whiskey

Saint of Nothing

Once I wrote an anti-love song that broke my heart wide open. This is that song.

Saint of Nothing by Rhubarb Whiskey.

Mendocino from Rhubarb Whiskey

Mendocino from Rhubarb Whiskey

Mendocino is the newest song from Rhubarb Whiskey's album Same Sad End - featuring backing vocals from Carolyn Mark. Artwork by Natalie Robles.

and it's songs on the radio
and it's songs in my head
telling me things are so wrong
that they're better
left unsaid

Jan. 25th, 2013

So the new Rhubarb Whiskey album came out on Weds. I have a lot of things to say about it but mostly just stunned and somewhat overwhelmed (in a good way) at the public reaction to it. It's easy to just get stuck in your own head about something when you've been working on it mostly in a vacuum for a couple of years.

So far we've been likened to Nick Cave, a Bluegrass Dresden Dolls, and this (which I love) "Hellbilly heartrock ferocious folkpunk anarchistic Ameridrunkania"

But I want to share what a fan wrote today on tumblr. It's like he read my unconscious deep in the soul gut desires of what the album would be and then shared it online:

from :
"Okay, I know I have been posting a lot about Rhubarb Whiskey and their new album, “Same Sad End”, but please hear me out:
Click on this link. Just listen to the album.

This is by far one of the best albums I’ve heard in a very long time. Rhubarb Whiskey has always intrigued me for their dirty, bluegrass feel and their tightness in how they play, and this album continues the trend. Emchy’s voice is somehow smokey and smooth at the same time; so full of soul and touching in a way that makes it feel like she’s singing just for you. To her, Sazerac’s vocals are the perfect counterpoint, rough, gritty, and almost Waits-like at times, all of which is punctuated by the skillfully played mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass, and piano that you’d expect from the best of junkyard ensembles.

Come to think of it, there are a number of beautiful Tom Waits like moments on this album, which may be one of the reasons I love it so much. Emchy’s writing dances on the line of bluegrass and folk punk, weaving between energetic reels, sultry and dirty murder ballads, and syncopated visceral talking blues pieces… It’s impossible to get bored listening to this.

I know I’m not doing justice to how awesome this album is. Please, if you like folk, bluegrass, folk punk, Tom Waits, Soda and his Million Piece Band, or anything of the like, do yourself a favor and just listen.

I know you’ll love it. I do."

so if you feel like taking a listen to what has occupied a good bit of my heart and soul for the last couple of years... have a listen

Rhubarb Whiskey - Same Sad EndRhubarb Whiskey - Same Sad End back cover

you win some you lose some

have to get dressed to go back to the mechanic. they needed a part - i needed the car. so it's back for another day of working from wifi cafe. but! in the midst of this stressful car debacle...

last nights Vagabondage show ruled. so much smiling. so much laughter. such a good set. i love the dynamic of our new back up singer.

a friend of mine is mad at me for writing songs that are too good. i'll take it.

got home to find out that the Throw the Goat video is finished! soon we will make it public - whee!

and the Rhubarb Whiskey album got another review! and it was a good one!

that helps with the balancing for real.

2012 the recap

Emchy_by_Britt Piehl

I started the year in an artistic angst that was all about having no personal practice and being unsure what was coming next. The wife and I went home to visit my family and I had some realizations and musings about family, culture, and unconditional love. I got to see my favorite Judi girl and we all went to a new lovely swanky bar in Ferndale and it felt as normal as if we three all lived locally and got together all of the time. She shared some personal info with us that was worrisome, but we promised to not worry too hard.  My Mrs. Fox was very ill but I got to visit her and see her eyes not see me. My heart felt broken and I filled myself with regrets. We got home and had to bring the foster cats back to our house where our vet gave one of them only a couple of days to live and we balanced the reality of being home, with the grief over Mrs Fox's illness, and the work of medicating and caring for the cats. I also spent much of the month being under the weather myself and realizing that my thyroid medications were off. Vagabondage started planning for a March music video shoot and then Mrs. Fox died and I felt like I lost myself.
SHOWS: Era Art Bar (Oakland), Amnesia (SF)

I started the month in mourning and with the wife's help was able to fly back to Michigan for the funeral.  It was good and surreal to see my family again so soon. Judi and I went to that same Ferndale bar again and all of the staff was like - but aren't you the one from California who loves rye?! you're back so soon. The waiter and I traded emails and started a fun correspondence since over regional artisanal recipes. And they gave me the old Prohibition recipe for Rock n Rye. I cried a lot and thought about how all of the people in life affect and form us in different ways. I was alone a lot on the trip and it gave me a lot of time to just think - surrounded by dirty road snow, frozen lakes, and the dead trees of my youth. Lots of thinking. Got back to Oakland and had to immediately work the Super Bowl at my bosses house. Had practice with Sizzle for our annual Music in Schools benefit show, had lots of Vagabondage practice, played another Oakland Underground Foodie dinner. Woke up crying a lot and thought about trying to move to, or at least give myself a month in New Orleans. Said goodbye to Angelique & Davey as they moved across country and generally stayed pretty introspective. Oh and we started going and looking at houses with our real estate agent J/M.
SHOWS: Hubba @ Uptown (Oakland), Three Ring Circus @ Elks Lodge (SF), Canvas Underground (Oakland)

I spent a lot of this month freaking out about having five cats. We got the new ones healthy again and just spent a lot of time after dealing with their health and our allergies. Work got another new CEO and I start to feel like I have control over nothing. I am still grieving pretty actively for Mrs Fox and bursting into tears at times when I normally feel good. After practices, shows, seeing friends. I start being really really sad about Rhubarb Whiskey and OWDU not being local and the albums not moving forward and start to really appreciate not only the music I write with Vagabondage but the bonds I have with the guys and the fun we have together and the work we put in. At the end of the month Vagabondage plays at a winery and I have an unusual reaction to the wine (or something). I end up being incredibly appreciative that my bandmates look after me.
SHOWS: DeRose Winery (Hollister), Eli's Mile High Club (Oakland), Era Art Bar (Oakland)

The month started going to the ER with my mother in law. This sparks a lot of family dialogue and we put our own family planning thoughts on hold.  Layoffs started at my job. The wife's cousin passed away. And that was before we were even two weeks into the month! We put a bid on a house, got it, and let it go. Played a bunch of shows with Vagabondage, wrote and arranged three new songs for myself. Worked on a Vagabondage / Sweet Trade collaboration song. Got into Big Fight #1 of the year with my best friend. Made some plans for a Rhubarb Whiskey mini-tour / final recording sessions for the album. Had the wife's family to our apartment for Easter. Got sick again. ugh. Had one of the best Vagabondage shows maybe ever and turned my heart around and got my memorial tattoo for the Fox's the next day.
SHOWS: Stork Club (Oakland), Amnesia (SF), Hubba @ Uptown (Oakland), Boxcar Studios (SF)

Started the month seeing an old high school friend and having him clue me in on all of these crazy things I had never known. We talked poetry and drank champagne and I got reminded of who I used to me. He told me things about old relationships I'd had that inspired me to write a few new songs. The wife and I kept looking at houses and feeling stressed out. We went to the Rufus Wainwright show at The Fox Theater (swoon.) Had one of the best Sundays ever that started with Cajun breakfast, moved into super gay wine tasting, and ended with Arts Crab Shak.  Got closer to finding the right house. Hung out with another old high school pal / ex-boyfriend and took him out for tasty mexican food. I feel sad and tired a lot but spring brings the smell of fresh cut grass which I love. The 12 hour days for work and the unstable nature there wear me out. Headed up to Mendocino for the weekend to work on the modern German /Weimar Republic opera with Sizzle and M. Played accordion next to the campfire and Sizzle and I played some Rhubarb Whiskey that we hadn't touched in 8 months. Vagabondage songs were sung to the heavens as well and I felt so much gratitude for the music in my life. And on the last day of the month our home loan got approved.
SHOWS: 50 Mason Social House (SF)

More Dr. time with my mother in law and we're just worried. Meanwhile packing packing packing and stressing out about if the whole home ownership thing is really going to happen. Felt hurt slighted by a queer pride thing that I ended up pulling out of. Recorded the Henry Lee song for the Sweet Trade Vagabondage collaboration and fell in love with it. Freaked out about the cats / allergies again.  Got the keys to our new house the day before our 14th anniversary. Vagabondage has seven new songs written and workshopped for the next album, we have three music video shoots planned for the summer. We accidentally burn a bridge with one of my favorite bookers. The whole summer is packed with shows, some even fancy. I get a few shows booked for the fall Rhubarb Whiskey tour after we cancel the summer plan and refigure things.
SHOWS: Starry Plough (Berkeley), Actual Cafe (Oakland), Disco Volante (Oakland)

We find out the house has a million issues and freak out because we're broke. We get them fixed and manage to roll with it. My asthma is worse in a scary kind of way. Vagabondage makes a video for our song Two Stars and then a couple of little live one offs for Hey Amanda Palmer and Sesame Street. Much fun is had. We have an old friend of the wife's stay with us from Seattle and it's awesome. I start moving more forward on my solo music project. I start to see light towards moving forward. The anniversary of my father in laws death comes and goes and in marking it I grieve for him and Mrs Fox in a way that feels like catharsis and love. Oakland starts to look magical to me again and I wonder… what comes next.
SHOWS: Actual Cafe (Oakland), The Crucible (Oakland)

The big Rhubarb Whiskey fall tour falls apart and I have many feelings about it. The second Vagabondage video shoot of summer happens and is awesome. Vagabondage plays the 5 Cent Coffee wedding at a gorgeous tree farm. Work has another new CEO who is settling in and we all hold our breath for no more layoffs and stability. The wife and I both struggle with RSI and pain while trying to unpack the house. Vagabondage releases the Henry Lee song and the Two Stars video, both of which get Sepiachord song of the day and we are excited. More Vagabondage video shooting. At the end of the month I decide that I need to get off my ass musically.
SHOWS: Coyote Counter Collective (Oakland), Tree Farm (Los Gatos)

There is a big push to get 99% of the house unpacked. We make it to about 80%. Vagabondage's fall show schedule gets insane and we sign on to play a bunch of shows with Carolyn Mark in October and hit the road a bit. Rhubarb Whiskey decides to push the release of the album back to winter.  I get angsty about my birthday and start feeling sad a lot. I take a bad fall and start having a lot of constant back pain. I get too busy to blog or journal much.
SHOW: Bazaar Cafe (SF)

I start playing music more and having more Vagabondage practices and things are coming together for tour. My mom came to visit and see the new house, we go on boat tours, get pumpkins, go wine tasting, and generally have a wonderful time. She gets to meet the wife's family and I feel really happy and wish she lived closer. Right after she leaves the Canadians come and for a week my house is full of charming, hilarious, fun, and generous people. After a million shows in the Bay area we hit the road for Southern California and play an amazing show in FrontierTown / Joshua Tree and then a full weekend at the Hollister vineyard. I get to join Carolyn Mark and Hank Pine on stage for their various sets and Vagabondage is joined by the New Best Friends for one of our sets as well. I feel happy and drunk on music for essentially the whole month. The Giants go to the World Series again and the wife and I watch the game and feel snuggly, nostalgic, and happy.
SHOWS: Steamstock (Richmond), 410 Ballroom (Oakland), Actual Cafe (Oakland), Aubergine (Sebastopol), Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace (Pioneertown), Eli's Mile High Club (Oakland), DeRose Winery (Hollister)

One of our older cats goes into Congestive Heart Failure. I get in Big Fight #2 with the best friend and think that this might be it this time. The family comes over for Thanksgiving. A couple of days later we sit with the cat while he passes away. We're both overcome with grief. The best friend and I work it out. I get the tracks for the OWDU album and have a pal mix them for me. Get started on the album artwork and start planning the release. This time my sadness needs productivity.
SHOWS: Boom Boom Room (SF), Pallet Space (Emeryville), 50 Mason Social House (SF), FCC Free Radio (SF), Gaslight Cabaret (Brisbane)

We release the first single from the OWDU album and start the wheels in motion for digital release, album press, CD production. Vagabondage does an incredibly successful free giveaway promotion for Whiskey & Starlight, and then a week later we record and release our xmas song 'Zombie Xmas.' Vagabondage also went down to Gilroy for an official all band members photoshoot - so it's nice to finally have all of us in one pic. Kept playing lots of shows. The holidays without Mrs Fox hit me hard. And I finish up the Rhubarb Whiskey artwork and we have a plan to release in late Jan / early Feb.
SHOWS: 23 Club (Brisbane), DNA Lounge (SF)


I'm not a grown up, I'm a musician

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