Darren Burrows [Interview]

Darren BurrowsIf you read our last interview with director/producer Michael Fresco, you should already know that I am currently on an emotional vacation to the remote Alaskan town of Cicely, Alaska.  My feet are still planted in southern Spain at the moment, but my heart is in Cicely as I discover for myself just how beautiful the hit comedy Northern Exposure truly was, and always will be.

That being said, I have found my favorite Cicelian to easily be the kind hearted and genuinely sweet Ed Chigliak.  There just isn’t anything in him that is NOT meant to be loved.  The half Native American-half white film buff is the sort of person we all hope to have in our lives, and should be eternally grateful when they do enter our lives.  Each time his smile lights up the screen, it is like the sun breaking through the clouds.  In fact, of all the discredits that Northern Exposure received, the fact that Darren Burrows did not take home at least two Best Supporting Actor Primetime Emmy’s, and maybe a Globe as well,  for his role as Ed is shocking and unjust.  But, those are really just statues in the end, although they have been given out to some very deserving folks at times.  But, I digress.  The real point of everything here is…..we got Darren Burrows!  Yes, I have to say that I could probably just close up shop here at Trainwreck’d Society right now!  I have managed to steal a few words from the man who played my favorite character on my favorite television show of all time.  Mission accomplished.

For those of you who have not had the joy of experiencing NoEx for yourself, well there is obviously something wrong with you but that’s okay, Darren should still be no stranger.  May comparisons have been made between this great man and other legendary actor Johnny Depp.  With their chiseled good looks as a youth that have not faded as they reach maturity, it is easy to see that Johnny was the 80’s man, and Darren was the 90’s man.  Which can be truly seen with all its glory as they co-starred with one another in John Water’s lovely bit of weirdness that was Cry Baby .This was until we started to soften up a bit towards the end of the 90’s, but that is a whole other story.  Mr. Burrows even happened to appear in a great little television movie entitled The Siege of Ruby Ridge, which we should all know as the adaptation of our old friend Jess Walter’s book Every Knee Shall Bow.  He has also had great performances in films like The Hi-Lo Country, Speilberg’s Amistad (which if you are a NoEx fan, you will know that is this a BIG deal), and Nonames.  Most recently he brought on a tour-de-force appearance in one of the finest films of 2014, Love is Strange opposite John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.

I am just too damn excited for words to explain how wonderful it is to have Darren Burrows join the Trainwreck’d Society family.  And it’s not only for his work on Northern Exposure, although I have to admit that is a huge deal for me.  Mr. Burrows is an amazing actor that we are so proud to have associated with this site, even if it’s just for a couple of days.  So finally, good folks….Mr. Darren Burrows!

When was it that you knew you wanted to join the world of acting?

I started taking acting classes after I got out to California…. I was 16 years old. I left Kansas to find my dad. I found him and he was an actor, so I signed up for acting classes thinking that would give us something in common to talk about… I’m not sure I ever did make the decision that I was going to “be” an actor, things just sort of ended up that way.

If you can recall, what was your very first paid acting gig? And how did that go for you?

My first paid acting gig was 976-EVIL. It was Robert Englund’s (of Freddy Kruger fame) directorial debut. He cast me for the role of a hoodlum named Jeff and that got me my SAG card. I think I was 19 years old. I learned so much on that job, beyond emotion and dialog; how to hit my marks, fight scenes, special effects. It was a huge thing Robert did for me.

Darren Burrows2How did you first hear about the casting call for Northern Exposure, and what drew you to the role as Ed?

The first I heard of Northern Exposure was a call from my agents about this summer series that was just supposed to be eight episodes up in Washington. One of my agents at the time had got it into his head that because my dad had played Native Americans I should too. He wanted me to audition for the part of this Indian kid in the show. I pointed out to him that I had white skin and light hair. He tried to convince me to put dark skin toner on my face, dye my hair black and go in for the part but I passed. Two or three weeks later my agent called again and said the part had been changed to half Native and half white. He begged me to just put some black temporary dye in my hair and go in. I finally relented but I told him I was going to play the part a little differently, in a less conventional way.

In your own words and opinion, who was Ed Chigliak? How did you go about tackling this delightful character?

At a certain point during the filming of the first episode I made the conscious decision that I would/should play Ed in such a way that made him all that is good and best within each of us as human beings. That Ed having grown up an orphan and being a genius with 150+ I.Q. had recognized the potential within himself of a clean slate. The opportunity to be whomever he chose and he would choose; a consciousness of innocence and love, over the knowledge of good and evil

You recently released both a book entitled Northern Exposed and a documentary entitled Return To Cicely that has caused quite the buzz. Can you tell us what fans can expect from both the book and the film? And what inspired you to finally do such a project after all these years?

The inspiration for the book and DVD’s was always the Northern Exposure fans. They wanted it. In fact the entire project was funded in advance by NoEx fans via an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. So it was never meant to be a stand alone endeavor. It’s strictly for Northern Exposure fans. As to what fans can expect? This, from returntocicely.com site: “This 228-page book is filled with insights into the filming of all your favorite episodes of Northern Exposure. Memories of the cast and the crew and theories about what did happen to ultimately get the show cancelled. The DVDs (there are 2) take you to the locations for all the key episodes to see what they look like today. The surviving cast members give their thoughts on those days and what made the show great. DVD extras include the building of the Trebuchet and Dr. Fleischman’s house, plus a backstage tour of the studio in the final days of the show’s production.”

Darren Burrows4What sort of emotions were rekindled when you were revisiting the past in such a grandiose manner? Was it an overall good experience?

When Northern Exposure ended after five years I sort of packed it all up in a box put it away and moved on… so revisiting it was it was like taking down that huge dusty box that had been sitting for all those years and unpacking it. It turns out there was more than just a television show in the box. There was a whole period of time in my life. It was more than I imagined it would be and I found all sorts of treasures I’d forgotten about.

Had Northern Exposure been given the proper treatment, what do you think would have happened to Ed and the rest of Cicely had the show been able to keep going?

That’s really the million dollar question isn’t it? …I think that Ed and Cicely would have gone on, continuing to grow and evolve much like the characters have done on Cheers, Friends or any other show that strikes a chord with the viewers and people out there. During its height NoEx was syndicated in forty-two countries around the world so it’s not such a stretch to see that continuity.

Hailing from the Northwest, I am very aware of the Roslyn, the very small town that stands as most of what we saw as Cicely. It is quite isolated, but extremely beautiful. How did you enjoy your time out there when the show was filming? How did the local residents respond to the show being shot in their backyard and main streets?

I loved shooting Northern Exposure there in Roslyn and the Cascade Mountains. As you say it’s very beautiful. It was a lot of work and long hours as well. The show caravanned up for 3-5 days out of an 8 working days an episode schedule to shoot all of our exteriors in the winter weather. Sometimes we’d get snowed in and the work days were always more than 12-15 hours long. Shooting Northern Exposure was certainly a disruption on the daily life there. Some of the residents were for it, some were against.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest film, Love is Strange? What will we be seeing you do in this film that so many are raving about?

Love Is Strange takes place in New York City. It’s a multi-generational story of love and marriage. As such we have John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as Ben and George as an older gay couple of 39 years finally tying the knot. I play Ben’s nephew Elliot and my wife Kate is played by Marisa Tomei and then we have Joey, Elliot and Kate’s son played by Charlie Tahan. Each of these people are at different times and stages in their love and relationships. All is thrown into turmoil when George loses his job and Uncle Ben must temporarily move in with me and my family until he and George can get their situation sorted out.

Darren Burrows3What else does the future hold for you? Any other projects in the works you would like to tell us about?

What the future holds for me I suppose remains to be seen. As of the answering of these questions I’m getting ready to head up to Wisconsin for a little film festival my friend Nick Langholff and I started a couple of years ago called the Driftless Film Festival. Life is certainly an adventure.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Why, this question made me smile :)

Michael Fresco [Interview]

Michael FrescoSo in the past few week, I have been embarking on an incredible journey.  While I may be in one location the physical sense, my mind has moved on to a more enthralling and albeit more entertaining place.  That place is Cicely, Alaska.  For the shameful few who don’t know such a place, Cicely is the fictional town setting for the greatest American television comedy that ever was, the wonderful Northern Exposure.  Recently I have been marathoning the show quite zealously to say the least.  It has been a truly enlightening experience to finally, after so many years of watching various programs, to find what I now considered to be the greatest television comedy of all time.

And with that being said, I felt the need, make that desire, to gain a bit of insight about the inner workings of this lovely show.  And just as I expected, there were some very genius folks behind this brilliant show.  One of the finest examples would definitely be the incredibly talented and widely experience director and producer Michael Fresco.  Fresco was one of the great human beings we should be oh-so-thankful for ever having been birthed, if not for the soul reason of bringing us the great Northern Exposure.  Of course Mr. Fresco had been bringing us quality television prior to NoEx, and has definitely continued to do so to this day.  He started off his on the also brilliant show St. Elsewhere, and has since directed or produced several runs of hit shows such as My Name Is Earl, The O.C., Providence, Better of Ted, Raising Hope, Subergatory, and oh so damn many more.

The man is also a bit of a mystery, which is in some ways enlightening.  From the brief e-mail correspondence I have had, the answers to the following questions, it is easy to peg Michael Fresco as a man who simply enjoys his work and what he does, all the while seeking little notoriety or glamour.  I mean, this is a guy who has worked diligently for over 30 years to create some of the finest television in history….and I can’t find a photo in Google Images to use of this mysterious creature? (The above image being the closets thing I could find.)  And the same could be said for a couple of his brothers, who are also renowned television writers and directors in their own rights.  In fact, Mike and his brother Victor collaborated nicely on Better of Ted and My Names Earl, the latter being finding Victor as a consulting producer on the show’s entire run.  (Note:  Victor Fresco was also the genius behind the short lived Sean Saves the World which, while obviously a bit corny and “just missing something”, was a wonderful show I was deeply saddened to see disappear.  This wonderful show would have killed it in the 90’s.  But I digress, it is Mike’s time right now.  Sorry Mike.)

So, it truly makes me wonder why he would even want speak with the likes of Trainwreck’d Society at all!  But, I am damn honored and excited that he did.  So without further ranting, check out a few words with one of the finest television producers/directors the world has and will ever know!

Better Off Ted S01-S02 720p WEB-DL DD5.1 H.264How did you find yourself involved in the world of television?  Was it always your dream to produce and direct fine television programming?

I stumbled my way into the world of television.  Once I was involved, and without a lot of planning…actually mostly due to a series of lucky breaks…I got my chance to direct.  All that was clear when I graduated from UC Santa Cruz was that I wasn’t qualified for many jobs.  I could work at a gas station, or at a fast food place, or be a gopher for a TV production company. OK, a TV production company seemed like fun. Through a family friend I got a job running errands for Laugh In.  While is was a blast to work there, unless I wanted to be a writer (not a possibility for me) there was no real opportunity to “move up” in that world.

After 9 months or so I left Laugh In and became a gopher for a commercial production company.  Commercials proved to be an excellent, excellent training ground.  Each commercial was a complete production in and of itself, but more importantly, I learned the discipline of telling a story in 30 or 60 seconds. Not a frame to waste. I worked in commercials for several years, gradually working my way up to becoming an Assistant Director.   I made a lateral move to television (more work, less money) when I got the chance to be one of the alternating ADs on St. Elsewhere.  Bruce Paltrow and Mark Tinker had the reputation of being really good to their employees, giving first-time directors a shot, and promoting from within the company. During my second season there as an AD, the director I was supposed to work with dropped out and Bruce and Mark gave me my first episode to direct.  It was a tremendously supportive environment, I got lucky and my episode was well received.  They brought me back the next season into the rotation as one of their regular directors.

Because St. Elsewhere was so well respected in the world of quality television, and because I got asked back for multiple episodes, I was able to get directing jobs on other shows.
I still dream of producing and directing fine television programming.

You have done several long running gigs on shows a director, with credits such as the absolutely brilliant Northern Exposure, Providence, My Name Is Earl, and The O.C. just to name few.  But, I was wondering what it is like to step on to the set of a show to director one single episode for a story that has already been established?  How to you tackle these sorts of jobs?

I watch as many episodes as I can, read all the scripts I can, and try to understand the characters I’ll be working with. Then I’ll watch the episodes again to try to “get” the style, the format, and the idiosyncrasies of the show. Once I’m in touch with the emotionality of the show, I’ll re-read the script, alter my consciousness, and try to imagine images that will enhance the emotional content, further the story, and occasionally be arresting (or at least interesting) to see.

Northern ExposureAnd as for your previously mentioned work on Northern Exposure, which you were also a producer on and happens to be the greatest comedy to ever hit the small screen (in my opinion of course, and of course I am right), I just have to know what it was like working on something so truly original and brilliant?  Where you aware of how fresh and original this show was while you were filming, or did it take some time?

It was a blast to work on Northern Exposure. I moved, with my family, to Seattle.  We all loved living there. The scripts were terrific, sometimes transcendent.  The writers were so smart and  successful in creating a reality that was quite different from the one all the rest of us share.  That reality had its own validity and it was so easy to buy into, it could happen in that place and with those characters. Add to that the wonderful, wry comments those shows made regarding the world we live in and what we all do to get along with each other…hard to beat. And yes, it was clear at the time this was a special show with a unique vision.  A treat to be part of.

As many TWS readers know, we absolutely love the Northwest for so many reasons.  And I am particularly fond of the locations in Washington that the Northern Exposure chose to use as an Alaskan background, towns like Roslyn and North Bend.  So as I always want to ask visitors to the area…what did you think?  How was your experience filming in The Great Northwest?  Is there anything that makes it a unique experience?

Loved and still love the Pacific Northwest.  Many of the crew and many of the guest cast were local hires.  They were all pretty terrific.  At that time it seemed like there was a pretty deep pool of talent in all categories.  This was a great job in a great location. After NoEx was over, and we moved back to LA, we bought a place on Orcas Island…just didn’t want to leave Washington we liked it so much up there. Coming from LA, the land of eternal summer, the weather while not necessarily unique was new to my family and me. There was something about going up over HiWay 90, into the Cascade Mountains, in all sorts of inclement (and beautiful) weather that had unifying effect of the cast and crew…were the roads open? would we make it up there? would we make it back? Lots of talk and comparisons regarding foul weather gear.

In your obviously illustrious career thus far, what would you say you are most proud of?  

I’m most proud of what it feels like to work on my sets.  No yelling, no screamers.  Everyone is treated with courtesy and respect.  We’re ALL in it together with the same goal.  The sets become mutually collaborative and everyone has a contribution to make.  It makes for a great ride.

In the years to come, are there any projects you feel you absolutely MUST create that you have not already?

Nothing I feel I MUST create.  I’m refreshingly free of original ideas.

If you could direct a mini-series or film about any historical event in American history, what would it be?

I don’t have a favorite event or epoch in American History.  Tone and characters rule for me.  While the time period will impact on every aspect of any show, it’s secondary.

My Name Is EarlWhat are you up to these days?  Any projects out there you would like to tell our readers about?

I’ve got several interesting and very exciting projects I’m working on with different  collaborators.  They’re all secret.
What was the last thing that made you smile?

Every time I see my pregnant daughter, I smile.  She was just here this last weekend. She is as cute as can be and is going to have her baby in mid-October.

Robin Grey: More Than Today [Album]

Robin Grey - More Than TodayIt has been just over 6 years since I first decided to enter the world of “music blogging”, which would later turn into simply full-fledged “blogging”.  So much has changed since then.  Our American president is well into his 2nd term, a long way from the days when we were so amped about Change We Can Believe In.  Well, a whole lot has definitely changed since then.  It almost seems that there is very little constancy in this world, which can surely be quite disheartening at times.  But, from the very earliest stage of my “career”, there is one discovery I made that has continued to stick with me, and has been a driving force that reminds me just why I love the world of music, film, art, etc. just so damn much.  That driving force is, and will always be, the absolutely lovely English human being and singer/songwriter Robin Grey.

While I’ve spent most of 2014 caught in living the American in the European world type of life or developing interviews with former television stars, there has been this wonderful little folk album sitting in my iTunes since mid-Winter.  The album is More Than Today from the aforementioned genius Robin Grey.  And as you would expect, I absolutely adore this collection of 10 (mostly) brand new tracks from one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our time.  Two years in a row, Robin Grey nabbed the #1 spot on our Top 37 1/2 Albums of the Year in a most deserving fashion.  And with his latest efforts, he could very well have snagged another year!  His beautifully yet sometimes haunting lyrical greatness plastered ever so gently over melodic acoustic guitar are something that simply can not go without notice and awe.  He has been creating such magic for oh so many years, and with no surprise at all, he has done it again with his latest efforts that is More Than Today.

As he tends to do sometimes, there are a couple of tracks on this beautiful record that his avid fans should already be well aware of at this point (somewhat redux’s of “Till Dawn” and “I Love Leonard Cohen”, the latter being the very reason I fell in love with this mans work so many moons ago).  But, Robin also tends to do, he has given us a gift of even more wonderful new tracks for us to sink our delicate teeth into.  “I’ll Give You My Heart” is a delightful little ode to love, “The Dirk of Mark Duggan” is a delightful tale of potential triumph and standing for what is right, and the title track “More Than Today” is one of the finest and catchiest tracks Robin Grey has ever made (and there are many more!).  I am not kidding.  Robin Grey

While it took me quite a while to finally get the word out, I feel as though it could never be too late to speak about this absolutely brilliant album, one of the finest folk albums to be released since, well, the last time Robin released the finest folk album to date.  I first learned of Robin when was singing about certain obsessions fading away (Ani Difranco, Weezer, REM, etc.), but he could never lose his love for the wonderful Leonard Cohen.  Well, as I look onward from the past, into the hopeful light of the future, I think I can without a doubt say this:  You might ask is anything certain these days, I would probably tell you that,…..I love Robin Grey.

Check out More Than Today and other great works from the wonderful Robin Grey right over HERE.

Kerouac In Florida: Where the Road Ends by Bob Kealing [Book]

Kerouac In Florida by Bob KealingNow we can see Jack Kerouac in a context that evokes memories of Florida’s past: sleeping in a moonlit yard with sweet aroma of orange trees all around, straining to hear the velvet whisper of the wind and his brother Gerard in the piney Orlando night, embarking on a sunrise hitchhiking journey along Orange Blossom Trail, returning with his rucksack full of manuscripts and dreams…No one can say Kerouac only came to Florida to die.

- SHADYLANEPRESS.COM

 

It wasn’t until 2006 that I discovered who the hell this Jack Kerouac character was.  I was 21 years old, naive to a culture that would soon become one of the most fascinating movements in history.  At the behest of a dear friend, I remember picking up a copy of The Dharma Bums and On The Road at a little book store in Rapid City, South Dakota.  I was prepping myself for my first trip to Iraq, and vowed that I would begin reading in the same manner I had years before when I was a lonely high school kid, digesting Tom Wolfe, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald.  And suddenly there were these “beat” characters who I recognized by name, but knew nothing about.  That would soon change.  Before setting off on my own journey, I completed The Dharma Bums.  I was instantly hooked.  Later in an old World War II era barracks in Nowhere, Wisconsin I banged through On The Road.  From then on there really was no stopping me.  Once in the desert, my free time was spent in the mountains of Washington in Desolation Angels, in 1920’s Massachusetts with Visions of Gerard, and so on and so on.  Kerouac’s work grew on me like nothing I had ever experienced before.  Soon, there was Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso, etc.  But, in my one mind, it was always about Jack.  And this was only the beginning.

Jack Kerouac proved to be the model figure for a theory that I have continuously believed to be absolutely true: Some writers were brilliant, but it is their life story that is more fascinating than their work.  This theory works oh so well for so many artists.  Of course, Kerouac’s stories are more or less entirely autobiographical, but it’s not quite the same as it is when reading about him through the hands of those who were around him.  The folks who experienced his eccentricity first hand, and were only more than willing to spill all the juicy details they can about the legendary Mr. Dulouz.  The same can be said for the folks who became so obsessed with this man and his work without even meeting him, that they can literally call themselves scholars of not only Kerouac, but the beat movement that swept the country.  Basically, in the years since first discovering Jack, I have found that it is far more entertaining to read about his benzedrine fueled life than it is to read his benzedrine fueled works.

Kerouac In Florida by Bob Kealing1Bob Kealing may not exactly be one of the aforementioned “Beat Scholars”, but he is indeed a damn fine journalist, and he happen to have the ability to zone in on one aspect of Kerouac’s life that people tend to ignore.  That aspect is more of a place really, and that place is the state of Florida.  Ignorant and ill-advised Kerouac enthusiasts such as myself are under the impression that Florida was simply where Kerouac went to die at the ripe old age of 47.  The only tales I had heard from Florida were meek and saddening.  But one thorough reading of Kealing’s excellent expose Kerouac In Florida: Where the Road Ends will all but squash these thoughts.  Sure it would eventually be the place where his soul descended from his body forever, before having his physical self shipped back to Lowell, Massachusetts, but Florida meant so much more to him.

Kealing writes with such passion for the land in which he also calls home, but not in an overly biased sense.  Through tales of former neighbors, and an obviously great amount of research, Bob manages to document and describe wonderfully every trip, home, and activity Kerouac managed live in or become involved with during his stay all over Northern Cuba.  Right down to his relationship with legendary actor Paul Gleason when he was simply a minor league baseball player who didn’t stand a chance in that line of work.  Apparently Kerouac took him to see Splendor in the Grass one fine day, which lead to Gleason to look up at the actor’s on the screen and say, “Ah, hell I can do that.”  And years later he would be raiding Barry Manilow’s wardrobe and insulting an intolerable Judd Nelson.  This is simply one fascinating tale with the pages of Kerouac In Florida.  There is oh so much more to be discovered, and I certainly hope that you do.

It would be a bit much to throw Kerouac In Florida out there as a “must read” for all Kerouac enthusiasts.  I don’t claim to be a scholar in any way shape or form, but there are books out there that I would consider required reading for anyone looking to indulge themselves into the live of the King of the Beats, which you will soon he down right fucking loathed being called.  Ann Charter’s seminal biography, Kerouac, is a must read.  His former flame Joyce (Glassman) Johnson wrote a very nice book as well as published a plethora of letters of her time with Jack.  And his forgotten daughter, Jan Kerouac, turned out to be almost as talented as her father with her books Trainsong and Baby Driver.  Her story was also brilliantly told, along with others, in Jim Jones’s wonderful book Use My name: Jack Kerouac’s Forgotten Families.  These are just a few of the “must read books” I would recommend to everyone.  That being said, I do recommend Kerouac In Florida to everyone….but, only after you have developed a baseline to truly understand the characters brought up in this wonderful expose.

KerouacKerouac In Florida: Where the Road Ends is without a doubt a book I am very happy to have read.  It is no secret that ole Jack might not have been considered a man worthy of adoration beyond his writing.  But this is subjective in nature to say the least.  The truly great writers out there marched to their own drum, and to put it in modern terms that the younger audiences might understand:  They just didn’t give a fuck.  This is not entirely true, but is at the same time.  Kerouac tended to care too much.  He cared what was happening to his soul, not his liver.  He worried over the welfare of his cats, but maybe not the hidden children he managed to bear.  His relationship with his mother would have baffled Freudian thinkers everywhere.  He was a complex individual who happened to have a great talent in writing, but had a terrible time living.  But, isn’t this comparable to the womanizing of Hemingway, the self-righteousness of Fitzgerald, the tyrannical self-destructive and misogynistic ways of Bukowski, a myriad of classic novels that Stephen King can’t even remember writing, or the fact that old Fyodor only wrote books to support a gambling addiction?  True art rarely comes from a sane mind.  Perhaps this is why the likes of Kerouac will always be honored and respected in so many ways, and Mr. John Grisham will soon be worm food and leave only an expansive trust fund for the little Grishams, but no real worth in the history of American literature.

In conclusion, Kerouac In Florida is a very nice work that details many little known facts about a legendary writer that is both entertaining and enthralling….but, only if you know a thing or two about the man first.  And I guarantee that once you get sucked into the Kerouac world, this is a book that will leave you grinning like an idiot on a bus in the middle of nowhere.  That’s what it did for me, and I hope the same for you..

Thee Hobo Gobbelins [Band]

Thee Hobo GoblinsSomewhere between the talented and the estranged, between Americana folk and traditional masochistic stylings, there is an impromptu Bay Area based burning man ritual happening without the knowledge of the locals, all the while creating something absolutely lovely.  And boy are they having a damn good time!  I clearly could only be talking about the bizarre, yet super-friendly sounding batch of storytellers and weirdos Thee Hobo Goblins (that was “clear” right?  never mind.)

Thee Hobo Gobbelins is a brilliantly weird collection of avant-garde and fascinating individuals who obviously understand what it means to have a good time whilst telling a damn fine traditional story, or just ripping through some badass bluegrass melodrama.  While the group is one that is obviously meant to appeal to the weirdos and lovers out there, really it is all about the storytelling.  On their first full length album since 2009, Oddities and Entities, the listener is invited into the pastel flowered patterned haunted house that is the world in which these beautiful freaks live in day in and day out.  For the 6 or so regular Trainwreck’d Society readers: think of them as a mashup  between The Fenbi International Superstars and Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children Macnuggits.  The latter mentioned group is not only because one half of the famed BJE duo, Dan Abbott, is a the man behind the gee-tar for Thee Hobo Goblins.  It’s more of just a common trend to beautify the estranged in such a fascinating manner.  For everyone else who accidentally stumbled here, think no more, and just listen to some wonderful music and consider yourself welcomed to the weird.

And, I know I say this all the time, but this is a band that is wonderful to hear on wax, but is obviously the sort of band that obviously has a whole knapsack filled with shenanigans and good time remedies that absolutely MUST be seen live before the naked eye and brow.  Their west coast driven, Appalachian stomp sound is one that one work well in absolutely any setting.  In fact, the band’s Facebook page probably says it best of all:

Thee Hobo Gobbelins“We can play anywhere, on a rooftop or a desert, with or without a P.A. We’re all very nice, but will possibly make you uncomfortable. Book us for winery tours, carnivals, protests, eviction parties, game conventions, or any place with a large enough dimensional rift for us to pop through.”

Sometimes these thing just right themselves.  And with that being said, Thee Hobo Gobbelins are planning to pillage and entertain villages all across the southern half of the US of A.  Kicking things off in the southeast in the land of MLK and sugary carbonated laced dreams, and eventually making their way across the land back to their homeland of ghost-risen whips and beatnik book shops.  All throughout the month of October, these silly beast will be there to entertain you.  Check out the dates below:

October 9th – Atlanta, GA @Mojo’s
October 10th – Asheville, NC @ Crow & Quill
October 11th – Chattanooga, TN @ Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Cafe
October 12th – Hattiesburg, MS @ The Tavern
October 13th – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
October 14th – Houston, TX @ Super Happy Fun Land
October 15th – Austin, TX @ Beerland
October 17th – Las Cruces, NM @ TBA
October 18th – Phoeniz, AZ @ The Lost Leaf
October 19th – Anaheim, CA @ The Doll Hut
October 20th – Los Angeles, CA @ TBA
October 21st – Pomona, CA @ VLHS
October 22nd – Santa Margarita, CA @ Porch Cafe
October 24th – Oakland, CA @ Leo’s Audio

You can pick up a copy of Oddities and Entities right over HERE.  Also be sure to stay in touch with the band on their WEBSITE and FACEBOOK page.

….And for a quick example of just exactly how great a viewing of Thee Hobo Gobbelins can truly be, here is a live performance of the classic gospel track “Whiskey & Beer” that I found on the Tubes of Yu.

Brianne Kathleen: How The Rain Goes [Album]

Brianne Kathleen - How the Rain Goes - Coming soon!There are certain artists out there we all consider their word as bond, and whoever they vouch for to be equally worth listening to or should be admired as an equal to said artist.  I know I am not alone in this thought, we are all guilty of this line of thinking.  But, is this such a bad thing?  Absolutely not, especially when it is a brilliant singer/songwriter/all around genius musician like Bradley Wik who is advertently suggesting what we should be listening to right now.  Especially when he suggest an album he played a little guitar on and co-produced entitled How the Rain Goes from the wonderful Portland based singer/songwriter Brianne Kathleen.  He really hit the nail the head with this one, and I am personally grateful he was kind enough to let us know about this brilliant artist.

Brianne Kathleen is an artist with an amazing set of vocal chords that stand out in the city of Roses, a city filled with amazing artists with amazing vocals.  And it is almost uncanny how natural it seems to Brianne to stand out amongst her peers.  She sings oh-so-sweetly, yet matter of factly enough whether she is breaking it down with a country-esque slow but steady swing on a track “Where Does Your Heart Go?”, or tossing in a bit of rockabilly meets hipster driven folk blended greatness on “So Afraid” (Note: I have not had the opportunity, but I feel like this is the track that you MUST see her perform live.  I hope to do so someday).  But, if it where indeed necessary to choose a stand out track from this, one of the finest albums of 2014, it has to be “Paper Bag Dreams”.  Much like her friend Mr. Wik, this is a lady who obviously understands the power of metaphor and the draw of lost dreams and tortured souls.  “Paper Bag Dreams” is one of those tracks you will surely find yourself listening to over and over again, simply to answer an undying question for your own mind’s sake…. Why does this seem so damn personal?

There are many artist out there who are “like” Brianne Kathleen.  So many comparisons can be drawn to this wonderful artist.  But, she is also one of those artists that you really shouldn’t care to scapegoat in such a manner.  We should simply be able to realize that Brianne Kathleen is a wonderful artist who takes very little effort to fall in love with.  With powerful lyrics, a great group of friends, and voice to pine over, How The Rain Goes is an obvious gem of an album, and a brilliant sophomore effort from Brianne.  And with that, brings the hope that we will soon have the chance to hear even more from this brilliant musician.

How the Rain Goes is available now.  Pick up a copy for yourself at her WEBSITE.

(Official music video for “Where Does Your Heart Go?”)

Grace After Midnight by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson & David Ritz [Book]

Grace After MidnightWhile Felicia is a brilliant actor in a truly chilling role, what’s most remarkable about “Snoop” is what she has overcome in her life. Snoop was born a three-pound cross-eyed crack baby in East Baltimore. Those streets are among the toughest in the world, but Snoop was tougher. The runt of the ghetto showed an early aptitude for drug slinging and violence and thrived as a baby gangsta until she landed in Jessup state penitentiary after killing a woman in self-defense. There she rebelled violently against the system, and it was only through the cosmic intervention of her mentor, Uncle Loney, that she turned her life around. A couple of years ago, Snoop was discovered in a nightclub by one of The Wire’s cast members and quickly recruited to be one of television’s most frightening and intriguing villains.

- GOODREADS.COM

 

Unlike the rest of the world, I didn’t manage to come across a certain HBO show that simply changed the world, right under my ignorant nose.  The Wire went off the air over 6 years ago, but I figured it was never to late to see what all the fuss was about.  And as I mentioned in our previous interview with one of the show’s stars, Michael Kostroff, I was absolutely smitten with this delightful piece of television drama that was gritty as hell, and downright fucking nerve-racking to watch at times.  And no character truly exemplified the gritty realness and instability of the streets of Baltimore like the cold-blooded killer Snoop, who was 1/2 responsible for the couple of dozen bodies that laid slain in the abandon buildings of Baltimore using nothing more than cold ass heart and an expensive nail gun.

But, what if you were to learn that there was indeed some truth behind this fascinating character?  What if there the space between reality and fantasy wasn’t nearly as wide as you originally imagined?  It’s easy to understand that any kind of fictional television or film drama is normally based on some sort of truth.  But, what if the truth was fiction than you could ever imagine possible?  Well, if you can’t, you would do yourself a world of good to check out Felicia “Snoop” Pearson’s memoir, Grace After Midnight.

Now Real Snoop is not a cold-blooded killer who leaves bodies to rot simply because that’s “just the way it is.”  In fact, nowadays, she is about as far from something of that nature as possible.  But, Real Snoop and Fake Snoop were once very similar.  It should be evident enough that David Simon and folks behind The Wire wanted this woman with no previous acting credits, a girl straight from the streets in which they were suppose to be portraying, to not only star as a very important figure in the show, but to even keep not only her own name, but her own identity.  Felicia “Snoop” Pearson is about as close to the overall story of Baltimore that The Wire tended to portray to the world.  In fact, I would find it safe to say that Snoop IS the story of Baltimore.  Albeit a sad and disturbing one at times, but the real story.

michael-williams-snoop-sxsw-2013-the-jasmine-brand

Snoop with Michael K. Williams at SXSW 2013

In very natural and stylistic prose, Snoop (with co-author credit going to David Ritz) runs through the series of events as well as some prime examples of what it meant to live and ride in East Baltimore to kick off the book. Her matter-of-factly type prose is somewhat frightening even.  You can watch enough hood movies and episodes of The Wire, but when you hear these stories first hand, and in such a nonchalant fashion, it just might scare the shit out of you.  What is most disturbing is indeed how Snoop can describe events like being 10 years old and shooting a boy in the leg for being a bully with such ease and simplicity that it has that “agh, that was nothing” feel to it.  Or watching another man’s brains getting blown straight out the top of their head, and simply keeping a cold dark stair to the shooter mere feet from you.  If you have never experience such darkness, there is simply no way you could ever understand.  I don’t pretend to, but I am indeed fascinated.

But, with such darkness, there is always a light.  Snoops story of ending up in prison as a teenager is probably world renowned by now.  During an act of self defense, Snoop found herself spending 6 years of her life behind bars.  And it was during her time of incarceration that Snoop truly had to “see the light”, so to speak.  We aren’t talking simply about some sort of God like presence, although if that is what you choose to believe, that might just be it.  All that can be said is that this courageous young woman felt, what she called, “grace after midnight”.  After the death of the man she called Uncle, the man who always had her best intentions at heart and cared for her as family, was gunned down in a drug deal gone bad, Snoop flipped her wig, lost her consciousness and almost lost her own life.  But, something happen.  Some sort of mysterious force came to her in the middle of the night, and she felt a grave change come over her.  A change for the better.

Snoop left incarceration at the age of 20 with a whole new outlook on life.  She was going to work hard and become the best person she knew she could definitely be.  She could be the person that would make Uncle and Mama proud.  And she tried, real fucking hard.  But in a serious turn of events that represents just one example of a serious problem in our country:  we are a nation that tends to say give a big middle finger to the rehabilitated who want nothing more than to change their lives around.  Fat cat asshole employers refuse to higher convicted criminals who have “paid their debt to society” (for whatever the hell that is really worth to these savages) and bust their ass on a car assembly or in a factory moving boxes.  It is the fear of the criminally charged that leads the hopeless ex-con back to the ways that got them thrown in jail in the first place.  And then we complain that our jails are overcrowded.  It is a devilish cycle simple doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, until some assholes open their eyes and decide to be the change that needs to happen.  Stop with this bullshit “trickle down economics” tactics and try some “throw down a bit of respect” to those you employ.  But, I digress……

Snoop soon found her way back on the corner and fighting against the law once again.  But, by a stroke of “luck” or “grace” or whatever it is, she found herself in just the right place at the right time to meet The Wire star Michael K. Williams, who obviously saw something that the show needed, and brought her into the life.  And, as they say, the rest is history.  But, it’s not the ending of the story that matters when you finally finish this powerful memoir.  This is a story of perseverance, struggle, striving, failing, loving, and trying.  Ms. Pearson is a woman who had obstacles thrown at her from the day she was born.  Sometimes these obstacles were brought on by her own accord or by simply ignoring the wonderful people around her who only wanted the best for her.  Other times it was a simple cause and effect structure of living the street life.  And while her Felicia Snoop Pearsonstory has some true specificity to it, her story is by large far from uncommon.  But in the end, Snoop has won the fight against herself, the fight against her environment, and the fight against the demons that haunt us all.  She left her old ways behind after kicking at so much darkness, that it simply had to bleed light.

To sum this book up in a just a few words, Nothing could exemplify Felicia “Snoop” Pearson better than her one last words in this haunting yet beautiful memoir:

“Where does the light come from?  And what do you call it?.  You can call it God.  You call it Jesus.  These names are good names.  But I call it the miracle of love.  I call it Grace After Midnight.”

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