Friday, December 7, 2012

Coming up

Dear Friends,

"Now that the leaves are gone
the sky is so much closer,
And when the moon is down
all the stars are clear."


"Bare trees, supplicating, skeletal fingers
            reaching toward the sky
We're swirling into darkness like leaves in the wind
        and any little thing can make me cry."

I love the turning of every season and here we are feeling Fall and looking at Winter. And two weeks until the light turns around! Here's the Happs: Linda Danielson, David Stuart Bull and myself are getting ready to do our annual holiday show, featuring a reading of "A Child's Christmas in Wales." (see details below) Also local appearances by Red Pajamas, Ghillie Dhu and the Dhon'ts, the Low Tide Drifters and Chico's Hydrogen Jukebox, and a rally to celebrate the International Declaration of Human Rights and promote universal health care in Oregon. Read on...

WHO: David Stuart Bull, Linda Danielson, Chico Schwall
WHAT: A CELTIC HOLIDAY, featuring Celtic music and song and a reading of Dylan Thomas' classic memoir "A Child's Christmas in Wales" for eight performances in a unique and intimate setting
WHERE: Cafe Soriah, 382 W 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401  541 342-4410
WHEN:  December 15-23 as follows:
Saturday, December 15 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, December 16 at 3:00 pm
Monday, December 17 at 9:30 pm
Tuesday, December 18 at 9:30 pm
Wednesday, December 19 at 9:30 pm
Thursday, December 20 at 9:30 pm
Saturday, December 22 at 3:00 pm
Sunday, December 23 at 3:00 pm

DETAILS: Admission is $10. Light food and drink available (or come early to an evening show and have dinner!). PLEASE call the Cafe for reservations 541 342-4410. No other advance tickets available, and the shows often sell out.

Actor David Stuart Bull, fiddler Linda Danielson and folksinger Chico Schwall once again re-create their classic Holiday show, a staple in Eugene for over twenty years. Celtic music and song from Ireland, Scotland, England, Galicia and Wales are followed by British-born actor David Stuart Bull's reading of Dylan Thomas' story, first heard over BBC radio in 1942.  The program is presented in-the-round in an intimate setting without lighting or amplification, as though it were your living room.

We'll be sharing a taste of the show live on the radio: KLCC's "Mist Covered Mountain" on Sunday, December 9 at 10:00 a.m.

Sunday December 9 at 1:45 Red Pajamas play contemporary folk rock (with some unusual seasonal themes) at Eugene's Saturday Market Holiday Market.  At 3:15 Ghillie Dhu and the Dhon'ts play whizzbang Keltcore. Come on down and sample the local color.

Monday, December 10 at noon gather with us at Harris Hall, in the Lane County building to celebrate the International Declaration of Human Rights, with a focus on the Health Care for All Oregon movement. Some great energy, cool speakers and we'll raise our voices in a couple of songs.

Thursday, January 10 Chico's Hydrogen Jukebox will hold forth at Territorial Vineyards. Seven p.m. start, no cover, 907 W 3rd Ave. Jazzy fiddle, original songs, folk classics and surprises.

Hope to see you at a show!

Chico Schwall

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chico's Hydrogen Jukebox

Dear Friends,

   Hope summer's light for you and that the only things breaking down are your winter-related -- fix 'em later!

   Got a cool show this Friday, 7/20, a serial debut for a cool trio called Chico's Hydrogen Jukebox. We're at Territorial Vineyards (907 W 3rd Ave)  playing from 7-10 pm. I will play half a dozen instruments (six and 12-string guitars, fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki, and, yes, electric banjo), joined by my excellent partners in crime, George Filgate, drums and percussion and David Andersen, guitars and bass.

   I'm excited about it because I play a lot of different kinds of music in different contexts, but usually not at the same time. This is our attempt to put it all under one roof: swing fiddle, psychobilly labor songs, a little bluegrass, a little Irish and, frankly, some stuff I don't know how to describe. I'll be singing my own songs as well as gems from Woody, Townes and Eddie Cochrane.

  It's an early show, casual and family friendly. I think it's barbecue night, which means that people set up grills out front and cook (you might want to check ahead on that). Territorial's fine wines and  quality local beer are available. There's no door charge. Come on down and make us look cool by your presence.

   By the way, the group's name comes from "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg:
"who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's, 
floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoons in desolate Fugazi's,
listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox..."

- Chico

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Crazy Month ... and Moving Forward

   It's been a rough patch here. I went to two memorial services in a week, and another within a fortnight. It's good to be together with friends, to remember someone's life with joy and dignity, but enough is enough. I'd like to be affirming life while it's still happening, but I can barely keep up with the passings. So hang in there, everyone!

   Then there was the bad news from Wisconsin: Scott Walker survived a grass roots recall effort, thanks to the $30 million, primarily from outside Wisconsin that put him over the top. It's disturbing to me on several fronts. For one thing, it's just bad news. Walker didn't run on a union-busting platform, but taking his orders from conservative planning groups, he used his majority in the state ledge to eliminate public workers' rights to collective bargaining. Surviving the pushback will only make these efforts stronger. And they will spread to other states. Open season on unions, workers, pensions and health care. It's not going to be pretty.

   Even more unsettling is what this says about the election process. Elections ARE bought and sold, in this case by people who don't even live in the affected area. The Koch brothers can't vote in Wisconsin, but they can sway an election there because they have SO MUCH MONEY. How can we call it "free speech" when some of us have so much more of it than others? As the guy said, how much money will it take for us to get served poop and call it chocolate? We're about to find out.

  There's a great deal of solidarity among millionaires. If you go to bat for them they will bail you out when the time comes. I'm hoping the rest of us learn the same, so we can be there for each other, in numbers if not in wealth.

  Summer has a beautiful sense of timelessness, a stillness in the air. But we're only a couple of calendar page flips away from turning leaves. I'll be mostly in Oregon and the midwest this summer and fall. Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday will be July 14, '12. We have Woody events (including a Woody sing-along on 7/15 at Sam Bond's Garage) in our community and I hope you do too. Woody changed the way we write songs, and the way we listen to them. His heritage is huge and continues to unfold (with continued relevance) today.

  I'm involved in planning some community-oriented music events at the Reality Kitchen here in Eugene. Check out their website and watch for new events in August. I'm also involved in some noncommercial guerrilla music projects. Fun and mischief. And Chico's Hydrogen Jukebox will make its formal entry into the fray at Territorial Vineyards in Eugene on July 20. Whoo hoo!

  Time to get outdoors!

P.S. - Here's my latest newsletter just sent to my mailing list: "No More Manouche Noir and Other Happs"

Summer's here (kinda, sorta) and there's a lot going on in town.

For starters, this Friday is the Last Friday Art Walk in the Whiteaker neighborhood. The LOW TIDE DRIFTERS will be holding forth on the lawn in front of the CALC office (across Blair Blvd from the World Cafe) from 6-7:30 pm. Stop by and say hi.

I will NOT be playing with Manouche Noir at Territorial Vineyards that evening, nor at subsequent shows. I am no longer affiliated with that group.

Next Friday (July 6) is the Downtown First Friday Art Walk. David Andersen and I will be playing a plethora of instruments at NEW ZONE GALLERY, starting at 5:30.

Tuesday, July 10 is Reality Kitchen's WOODY GUTHRIE CENTENNIAL BLOCK PARTY in honor of Woody's 100th birthday. Anne Feeney, Mark Ross, Chris Chandler, etc. Wow!

Sunday, July 15 is the WOODY GUTHRIE SING-ALONG at SAM BOND'S GARAGE at 8:30 pm. Songs led by KATE DOWNING, NATHAN MOORE and myself (and anyone else who wants to lead one). Celebrating as Woody woulda.

Wednesday, July 18 at Perugino's (on Willamette): a small group of friends has started to play some Irish music there and we'll be there then. Not an open jam, not a performance... what IS it?

Friday, July 20, 7-10 pm at TERRITORIAL VINEYARDS is the big debut of CHICO'S HYDROGEN JUKEBOX. GEORGE FILGATE on drums, DAVID ANDERSEN on guitar, tenor guitar and bass, and me on SEVEN instruments, playing everything we can think of from Brazilian jazz to bluegrass. My songs and a few from Woody, Townes and Eddie Cochran. It's barbecue night with cooking out front. I'd love to play here regularly, so show up and make us look good with your presence. No cover.



Monday, April 30, 2012

...the force for healing and growth is palpable...

  A couple of weeks ago I burned my hand on the oven. Moving too fast and not paying attention. It got pretty ugly at first but started healing almost immediately. As the days passed it was like watching a movie. The dead parts were swept up and compressed, a protective scab formed and around the edges, new skin began to grow. The new growth took over more and more of the wound and gradually took on the pores and wrinkles that make skin look like skin. It was amazing to watch the body repair itself, at high speed and without any help from me. It was humbling to realize that nature is way smarter and stronger than I am and highly motivated enough to produce new life right before my eyes.

  The scraggly apple tree in my front yard burst into bloom last week, suddenly, like flicking a switch. Spring is here and there's no going back. New growth is all around and the force for healing and growth is palpable. As people, we're part of nature too, hard as we may try to separate ourselves from it. And sometimes I open my eyes and see growth and healing even in the human world. Even in the cynical world we share with newscasters and candidates. A friend was talking about the  anti-war, back-to-the-land, anarchist collective good old days of his youth, asking, "Where's that energy gone?" "It's in Tunisia," I said.

  Sure, we live in a world where NPR thinks that reporting about televised political ads passes for discussion, where fear-driven violence makes the world as dangerous for a young person of color as it was a hundred years ago. But another state just revoked the death penalty, and half a dozen states (including mine) have moratoria on executions. And Vermont has universal health care. Sure we're disappointed that it hasn't happened for the rest of us already. But we expect too much of elected officials. None of the really big movements in America, Women's Suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, the Labor movement, Abolition, were top-down decisions. None of them were created by Congress or a president. People created those movements, and not because anyone told them to, but because our urge for healing is greater than our fear.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Time in Oregon

Played a really interesting space Monday night. I was at the Last Stand Coffee House in Eugene, Oregon, in the historic and off-center Whiteaker Neighborhood. The proprietor roasts coffee in mini batches (like five pounds) rolling the beans in a human powered roaster bin. The whole thing looks incredibly steam-punk, built, with suitable metalwork, on the frame of a hundred year old sewing machine. There's a free-form bar, and a piano, a washtub bass and some rasty guitars in a corner so people can just play.

  This place is on the north end of the diagonal Blair Boulevard. Used to be a bike shop called Revolution Cycles (a name that gets better the more you think about it). It's right next to Eugene's only Eastern Orthodox Tea Room / Reading Room. "The Way of the Pilgrim" and "Franny and Zooey." Just a block or two from the J.E.S.C.O. Club, a Recovery social club. Block or so from the Ninkasi operation. My world is small but infinitely detailed.

  I was there for an art class. These folks, some regulars, some drop-ins, get together once a month and chip in to hire a musician to be a model-in-motion. They're not only drawing/painting/pasteling the musician, but drawing in real time with the music being played. And you won't ever get a more focused audience. At the break it was fun to go around and see what I sound like looks like, if you know what I mean.

  My electricity bill came the other day. It's been cold lately and it was higher than I thought it would be. I'm thinking I should write back and tell them that their plan has been changed (by me) and now there's a deductible and I won't pay the first $2000 I agreed to pay them. If that's such an outrageous suggestion, how come my insurance company can do that?

  It's spring time in Oregon. Hailstones among the daffodils. They say if you don't like the weather, wait a minute, it'll change. But my buddy Sean says the opposite: if you LIKE the weather, DON'T WAIT -- go for a walk, jump on your bike. The time is now.

ETA 3-21-12:
  Well, hailstones among the daffodils has turned to forsythia-in-the-snowbank. The second day of spring dawned to six inches of snow in the usually snow-free Valley.  Power lines down all over and thousands without electricity. (Why don't we bury the power lines like they do in Scandinavia? -- because we're cheap!) Schools are closed, finals cancelled at the University, meeting postponed. Here I am, snowed in with all these musical instruments! Dang.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

...people I meet are still saying Happy New Year...

Here we are, almost a month into 2012 and people I meet are still saying Happy New Year. I'm not surprised, really. I don't usually pay much attention to the calendar change, but this year is different. Twenty-eleven (I will miss saying that name; it's sounds like fun, like something a pre-schooler would make up) was a great year. Five entrenched dictators, with millions at their disposal and armies at their command were toppled by popular movements, movements without leaders or budgets or the cover of somebody's empire, but with awesome legitimacy. Not one power structure replacing another, but power being removed without being seized. Over and over. This is big news for everyone who loves or aspires to democracy, because it flies in the face of cynicism and complacency. It can be done.

And at home, Americans are learning the lessons that the Casbah and Tahrir Square. The Occupy movement started as a fire drill in organizing. And while it remains a drill we saw what grass roots organizing can do. Close down a major port. Get Bank of America to drop its transaction charges. Start a national discussion on economic justice that the media have dodged for years. And in the process, replacing the old hierarchical, ideological "Left,"  with something far more democratic and responsive to the current times.

Vermont has universal health care! Didn't know that? Maybe the folks on the radio are too busy talking about Newt Gingrich's latest bs to let you know about it. Yep, another grass roots movement. Universal health care will happen like every other major movement in American history, like Abolition and Women's Suffrage, state by state and learning from each other. Vermont is the first state through the gate. Not surprising as it was the first state to abolish slavery.

Yeah, it's been a good year. And next year will be even better. After last year's surprises, who knows what we can do? So let's get started making it better. Get a bike light. Register to vote. Visit some outfit that's making a difference in your world and see if you can contribute in some way. Find what works for you.

And have a Happy New Year.