Steve Writes A Blog

The Madison Square Garden Curse 

I can't quite explain it, and I don't think I will ever be able to. Every time I see a concert at Madison Square Garden, I get sick. Every. Time.

Strange as it may seem, I've only seen four shows at MSG: Elton John in 2001,  Billy Joel/Elton John in 2002, Paul McCartney in 2002, and now Billy Joel on Monday. Four shows over 13 years. And even stranger as it may seem, for every show, in every year, I get sick. No exceptions. Now, what does sick mean? Well, it depends. Usually it means sinus pressure and congestion. Maybe also a sore throat, and probably needing to pack my pockets with tissues for the night. It's not exactly the makings of a good time.

The worst I can remember was after Billy Joel/Elton John in 2002. I was 17, and the show got out so late that my friend had to wait in Grand Central for the last train back to Poughkeepsie. And we both felt awful. So there we were, sitting on the steps in the station, waiting for that 1AM train, feeling awful. Did we have to change trains at Croton-Harmon? Oh, you bet. We didn't get to bed until well after 3AM.

Now, this past Monday was similar. Saturday night I could feel that my throat and sinuses were dry, and knew that singing 45 songs over 3 hours wasn't going to do me any favors. And it didn't. So I woke up on Sunday after a very restless night with a lot of congestion and sinus pain, and I thankfully made it through the entire Super Bowl without passing out (but honestly I would've been better off falling asleep!). But the pressure and congestion continued through Monday, through the concert, through yesterday, and into today - day 4. And on top of that, waiting for the S to Grand Central after the show I began to feel nauseous with an upset stomach, and I spent the majority of the train ride home leaning forward with my head against the seat in front of me. Not the best way to commute after midnight.

So why does this happen? Is it a psychosomatic reaction to seeing a show at the world's most famous arena? I don't know, because I went to a couple basketball events there prior to 2001 and didn't get sick then. Is it just a massive, crazy coincidence? Again, I don't know. But if you're reading this, why don't you get tickets to one of Billy's upcoming shows there so we can do an experiment?

If You Watch Football on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem 

The past couple of days, this article has been repeatedly showing up in my Facebook feed and been stuck in my stuffing since I first saw it. It's a post by blogger Matt Walsh decrying the bloated growth of Black Friday to the point where our national day of Thanksgiving could more accurately be called Black Thanksgiving (coincidentally also the name of my unwritten holiday-themed horror movie), and for the most part he's right. We live in a country that has a nasty problem with consumerism and debt, and stores being open for big sales on Thanksgiving is really all the evidence you need that the problem is getting worse. But just because you don't go shopping doesn't mean you're not a part of the same problem you're so enraged by. What do you do on your holiday that causes others not to have one?

Matt writes:
Capitalism is great, but some things are greater. Family is greater. Yes, these folks choose to work at these stores. Yes, they likely knew when they signed up that they'd be sacrificing their Thanksgivings. Yes, at least they have jobs. Yes, sure, and so what? If that's enough in your mind to justify participating in the destruction of a great American tradition -- good for you. But you COULD wait until Friday, couldn't you? And if you did wait until Friday, and if everyone waited until Friday, no store would ever open on Thanksgiving again, right? So you COULD take steps to protect Thanksgiving from the decay of materialism and consumerism, and, while you're at it, give this wonderful holiday back to the customer service representatives who have been forced to abandon it and cater to the stampeding throngs, right?
An interesting point, and in light of it I would like to ask Matt, and everyone else who is outraged over stores being open on Thanksgiving, a few questions. To start: do you watch football on Thanksgiving? Have you ever spent your holiday going to a game? If so, have you ever thought about all the people who have to work to make the game and the broadcast happen? The last game was less than 3 days ago on Monday night - can't you wait until Sunday for another? And if you did wait until Sunday, and if everyone waited til Sunday, no football game would ever be played on Thanksgiving again, right? From parking attendants, to ushers, to security, to food service workers, I'm sure they're all more than happy to give up their Thanksgivings so that you can sit home or in the stadium and enjoy yours more. But it's OK, because football makes the day more bearable and it's tradition, right?

Have you ever been to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or watched it on TV? Have you ever thought of the number of extra cops who have to work because of that 4-hour commercial which, by the way, has become a glowing symbol of the very consumerism you have such a problem with? What about all the workers who have to staff the businesses along the parade route? I went to the parade when I was in 7th grade. We took Metro-North into the city, had lunch at McDonald's in Times Square, and froze our asses off. But it's OK, because it's tradition, right?

One of my biggest pet peeves with holidays in general is that once 8PM rolls around, most everything is done with and there's really nothing to do...but you can always go to the movies. Have you ever gone to the movies on Thanksgiving? Do you think the people who sell you your ticket, sell you your snacks, run the projectors, and then clean the theaters are simply not interested in spending time with family and friends? I don't know, but regardless it's OK, because after all nothing says "giving thanks" like catching one of the 17 Thanksgiving Day showings of The Hunger Games at your local Regal, right?

Lots of people consider it a holiday to not have to cook on Thanksgiving. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant on Thanksgiving? Maybe a Denny's. What about gotten coffee at a diner or a drink at a bar with some friends that you don't see very often? Do you think the wait staff and cooks have an aversion to being in close quarters with loved ones, and therefore are cool with working? Maybe it's a family establishment and so it's all good because they're all in it together. I really don't know.

If you were to call 911, would expect someone to answer and help to be sent your way? Probably. I have a paramedic friend who has worked Thanksgiving for years, and not because he doesn't like turkey.

This Thanksgiving I will probably watch football (though I'm not a huge fan), may watch the parade (though I find it kinda boring), and might hit a diner, grab a drink, or see a movie (though probably not The Hunger Games). I doubt I'll call 911, though who the hell knows? I won't be doing any shopping, but I also won't be under the delusion that nothing I do this holiday will have a negative impact on other people. Companies like Wal*Mart who employ workers at low wages and use shady compensation tactics to prevent them from truly making holiday pay should of course be ashamed of themselves, but the emergence of more "open for business" signs on Thanksgiving is merely an extension of a problem in America that has been building for years and years: those who can afford it will have good holidays, and those who cannot will work.

And just like you're so upset about Thanksgiving Day sales, I guarantee that in 10 years you would be flipping a shit if they decided to end them. Because by that time it would be tradition, right?

The Daily Show Taping 

My viewing habits of The Daily Show vary. Sometimes I watch it a lot, sometimes I'll go weeks and weeks without seeing it. Recently - thanks to the government shutdown and the roll-out of HealthCare.gov - I've been watching a lot. Almost every day. And so since tickets are free and I can, I decided I wanted to go see it live.

If you've ever been to the taping or live broadcast of a show like this, you know that the one thing you do the most of is wait. Tickets are handed out starting at 2:30. By the time I got into the city and made my way to the studio it was 1:15, and there were already 78 people in line ahead of me (I know this because tickets are numbered and I got 79). So, I waited In the sun. Then in the shade. Listening to Paul Simon's Concert in the Park. It truly was a gorgeous day to stand in NYC and do nothing. After killing 2 hours it was back in line, through security, and then to my seat. Of course the studio was smaller than it looked on TV. However, the thing that struck me the most was how the studio looked in person. It's hard to describe how starkly real everything looked after having only seen it on TV for years and years. The map behind the desk. The globe hanging from the ceiling.


And then we waited some more. But while we waited I got to meet my seat neighbor: Joe, a retired contractor from western Canada on trip with some of his friends. They had spent a few days in Boston, seen a couple Patriots games, then made their way to New York. We had a great conversation, and he asked me what I would recommend doing in the city that he hadn't through of. I suggested riding the Staten Island Ferry at night so he could see the skyline and Statue of Liberty all lit up from the water.


After the very funny warm-up comedian, Jon Stewart came out and took questions from the audience...but the first question wasn't a question at all. It was an older woman telling him he should donate money to Wendy Davis, who is running for governor of Texas. It would be like me going to up to Billy Joel and forcing him to take one of my CDs. (I would never, ever do such a thing, right?! Right.) The last question was the best, though. A woman asked him if he thought comedy was inherently cynical, and he gave an inspiring answer about how he actually thought the reverse: comedy is inherently idealistic and and a way to shed light on things that can and should be better. And then he said, "Let's do the show!" Springsteen's "Born To Run" came on the PA, he sat down, the crew hurried around a little, and within seconds we were into the taping with a lot of great energy.

The show itself was very funny and Alan Greenspan was a interesting guest, but it struck me that Jon Stewart wasn't really performing the show for the live audience (though we were there and an integral part of the show). He was actually focusing his attention on the viewer at home. He spoke directly into a camera that was often fairly close to him, and his voice was amplified only just enough for the crowd to hear what he was saying (presumably for technical reasons). As a result, some moments of the show were lost on us because we were cheering or laughing too loud to hear everything he said or did. For example, the beginning when he says, "Welcome to The Daily Show, I'm Jon Stewart," etc. But we couldn't hear him say any of that because we were cheering so wildly.

We were in and out of the studio in 2 hours. And then I had dinner at Empanada Mama. Now I've just gotta go back for Colbert

The "Best of Hudson Valley" Party 

In late August, my cover band In The Pocket found out that we won "Best Local Musician" in Hudson Valley Magazine's annual "Best of Hudson Valley" contest. We had asked our fans and followers to vote for us online, but to be quite honest we didn't think we had a chance of winning when you consider the amount of talent in the area. As a result we were surprised, excited, and somewhat amused at the implication that apparently our 6 abilities have to be combined in order to win an award meant for just one person. Oh well.

Last Thursday was the party at the Poughkeepsie Grand. We were offered the option to play and were happy to be asked, but after a few considerations decided it wasn't going to work out for us on that date. Instead, 3 of us - along with friends and family - went to enjoy ourselves. None of us had ever been to the event before, so we were all looking forward to a good time. And a good time was had.

I can sum up the party in two words: free stuff. If you've never been, it's worth experiencing. You walk in the door and people start putting free stuff in your hands - including free tote bags to carry all the free stuff. Stickers, pens, raffles, pamphlets. Drinks! I mean just the fact that less than 30 minutes into the event we had had beer, wine, bourbon, and rye (all of which was top notch) should be enough to get anyone in the door. But maybe drinks aren't your thing? The food was intense. We had Indian, Mexican, Italian, American. Bar food, gourmet food, light food, heavy food. Cheesecake, cannolis, cookies, chocolate mousse. There was more food in more styles from more places than we could possibly eat, but we sure tried.

And they did have a band playing. Not one that got an award, but a band. How were they? A pretty standard wedding band, really. A few of the members looked fairly unenthusiastic, and some of them looked like subs. We don't do that.

A big thanks to everyone who voted for us, and I guess we'll see if next year we can win again! Maybe in 2014 we can win "Best Local Band," though? Somehow that seems more appropriate.

New York Songwriters Circle: Part II 

In my last blog, I talked about how at my New York Songwriters Circle showcase I was on stage with some serious talent. Well, here are my favorite performances from each of them. Check them out - I bet you'll be impressed. (For whatever reason, blogger.com was only able to find and embed Brian's performance, but not the others. The links will take you to YouTube to watch the rest.)

Brian Dunne


Merrily James - http://youtu.be/qvSFmBbVits

Sara Lewis - http://youtu.be/asrr-WDTQyg

Lynda DeFuria - http://youtu.be/fE1Dp1dEUdI

The New York Songwriters Circle Showcase (AKA The Night I Met Billy Joel) 

Presumably because the universe likes to play games with me, I was not guaranteed to make it to my first New York Songwriters Circle showcase on Monday. A long line of storms and a tornado watch not only had me driving to the train station in a monsoon, but also had me stuck on a train impeded by a downed tree on the tracks. This turned a normally "blissful" 1:40 train ride into a...somewhat impatient and inconvenienced 2:45 train ride. And did I mention I forgot my headphones? As a result I got to the Bitter End a full hour after I had planned, and had missed the 6PM soundcheck. Oh well, I'll roll with it.

If you've never been to the Bitter End, it's not a big place, and if you're there an hour or two before the start of a show it's also pretty empty. So, I walked in, found the director of the Circle, Tina Shafer, introduced myself, glanced past her, and saw the man wearing a jacket and baseball cap having a glass of wine with a woman at a table about 15 feet from me. I knew immediately it was Billy Joel. What the hell was he doing here other than stopping into one of his early venues for a drink? No idea, but there he was. Was he going to be staying for the showcase? No idea, but there he was. I finished my conversation with Tina and then pretty much went about my business waiting for the showcase to start. I walked past him a few times, but I didn't want to interrupt since I know I hate it when I go out for a drink and fans are constantly coming up to me. I mean, we all know how that feels, right? Riiiiiight.

Around 7:20, he and his friend got up and started gathering their stuff together, and a couple of other showcase performers who were sitting near him made their move for introductions and pictures. OK, this was my chance. I grabbed a CD and walked over. As he turned to head toward the door I went up to him and said, "Hey, can I be that guy?" I introduced myself, shook his hand, asked if I could give him a CD because I had done a cover of "New York State of Mind" on it, and told him he had been a big influence on my music. He thanked me, took the CD, and then wished me luck in the showcase. He took a couple more pictures with other performers and looked at the big mural on the back wall while mentioned that it didn't used to be there, and then he was gone. And that was it. My entire encounter with him lasted probably 30 seconds, and I didn't get the chance to apologize for lying to his face the first time we met. But I got the CD in his hand. Why didn't I ask for a picture? Because I felt I had room for one request - either a picture or offering him a CD - and the CD was the more important option. Sure, Tony Basile may not believe any of this happened without a picture, but that's his loss. Do I think anything will come of it? Nah. But that's not really the point, is it?

And then the showcase went really well! Believe me when I say that the talent on the stage was seriously impressive. There were more piano players than Sara Lewis and I both expected, and lots of songs about lost loves and broken relationships (that part wasn't so surprising). I played "Over The Edge," "Shadow," and "A Kind Of Faith," and it was absolutely my best performance at the Bitter End. I played well, the audience was very receptive to all the music, and after "Shadow" Merrily James sat at the piano and said into the mic, "That was awesome." Thanks, Merrily. You were pretty awesome, yourself.

The CyberPR Digital Press Conference 

Last Wednesday I spent the day in Brooklyn at my first CyberPR Digital Press Conference. What is a digital press conference? Well, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's a day to get together with bloggers, internet radio DJs, and other artists at the CyberPR headquarters. I knew it was going to be a good day because I got a parking spot right out front and nailed the parallel parking job.

The majority of the day was spent meeting other people at the conference. I've been involved with CyberPR since the beginning of the year (and with founder Ariel Hyatt for longer than that through her books and social media strategies) but had never actually been to HQ, so it was great to finally shake hands with the people I've been working with. And it was fantastic to meet those I didn't even know had done work on my campaign, like  interns working with the company. I had a particularly great conversation with Brooke, who was so excited to me meet, tell me that she worked on my blog pitching, and and tell me that she loves my song, "Shadow." I definitely appreciate the positive feedback from my music.

Musically, there was a good mix of artists present and performing, ranging from Roswitha, to Kent Gustavson, to Scott Krokoff, to Ken Coulson, to Greater Alexander (who drove all the way from Detroit), and more. I could go on about each of their sets, but suffice to say that my favorite performance was by Mike Krenner.

Along with the networking (and putting my CD into the hand of practically anyone who would take it), I had a few scheduled interviews and a 20-minute showcase. The keyboard I used was a lovely piece of...antiquated equipment, but it absolutely got the job done, and performing was one of the highlights of the day. Funny moment: I opened my set with "Over The Edge," and as I sang the first line Ariel Hyatt's assistant, Bryn (hey, Bryn), turned and looked at me with wide eyes as if to say, "Holy shit, where did that voice come from?" The answer is Poughkeepsie, NY.

All in all, a good day. It's nice to be around and included in such a wonderful group of people.

And the food was great.

The CyberPR Digital Press Conference 

Last Wednesday I spent the day in Brooklyn at my first CyberPR Digital Press Conference. What is a digital press conference? Well, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's a day to get together with bloggers, internet radio DJs, and other artists at the CyberPR headquarters. I knew it was going to be a good day because I got a parking spot right out front and nailed the parallel parking job.

The majority of the day was spent meeting other people at the conference. I've been involved with CyberPR since the beginning of the year (and with founder Ariel Hyatt for longer than that through her books and social media strategies) but had never actually been to HQ, so it was great to finally shake hands with the people I've been working with. And it was fantastic to meet those I didn't even know had done work on my campaign, like  interns working with the company. I had a particularly great conversation with Brooke, who was so excited to me meet, tell me that she worked on my blog pitching, and and tell me that she loves my song, "Shadow." I definitely appreciate the positive feedback from my music.

Musically, there was a good mix of artists present and performing, ranging from Roswitha, to Kent Gustavson, to Scott Krokoff, to Ken Coulson, to Greater Alexander (who drove all the way from Detroit), and more. I could go on about each of their sets, but suffice to say that my favorite performance was by Mike Krenner.

Along with the networking (and putting my CD into the hand of practically anyone who would take it), I had a few scheduled interviews and a 20-minute showcase. The keyboard I used was a lovely piece of...antiquated equipment, but it absolutely got the job done, and performing was one of the highlights of the day. Funny moment: I opened my set with "Over The Edge," and as I sang the first line Ariel Hyatt's assistant, Bryn (hey, Bryn), turned and looked at me with wide eyes as if to say, "Holy shit, where did that voice come from?" The answer is Poughkeepsie, NY.

All in all, a good day. It's nice to be around and included in such a wonderful group of people.

And the food was great.

Deconstructing "New York State of Mind": Part II 

Over the past 2 weeks since the released of the "New York State of Mind" video, I've gotten some questions about it. Let's answer some.

Did you visit places in NYS that didn't make it into the final video?

Yes. There were a number of places that we filmed but just didn't have enough time to include. Especially since I wanted to make sure the video wasn't too heavy on the NYC locations. Because of that, Little Italy and Chinatown didn't make the cut, as well as few Long Island spots. Here's a video I put together of locations that were deleted due to time constraints:


There was also one spot we visited but didn't end up filming, and that was the United Nations. Why? Because they didn't have any flags out when we got there, and without the flags it's not really all exciting. And that's about 8 blocks of walking that I will never get back.

Many shirts, washed shirt, or stinky shirt?

Somewhere in the middle, actually. On the first 3-day leg I had a different black undershirt for each day, and I took the blue button-down off and hung it up between locations. Each of the other days were filmed separately, so I was able to wash my shirts no problem. But I will let you know that I wore the same jeans. These are the sacrifices you have to make.

What was your favorite location?

I really loved being in the Adirondacks because I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up but hadn't been there in years. A friend's grandparents had a house right on Tupper Lake and I would go up with him and his family (his aunt, uncle, and cousins live there now...and yes I drove by to see it!), so it was great to be there again. But my favorite location was Whiteface Mountain. For all the time I spent up there I had never made it to the top before, and if you've never been you have to do. Amazing views and great history.

Niagara Falls is obviously also spectacular.

The video is up over 3,500 views and climbing. Let's keep it going.

Deconstructing "New York State of Mind": Part I 

I've gotten a bunch of questions about my recently released video for "New York State of Mind" - everything from what was your itinerary, to did you visit places that didn't make the video, to how dirty was that shirt by the end of shooting? So, let's break it down. First, the video:


I wanted to include a cover song as a bonus track on Over The Edge from the beginning, and since "New York State of Mind" has become a bit of a standard for me it was obviously the most appropriate song. But I wanted it to be more than that. So early on the idea came to make a video about me traveling around New York State to go with the recording. I distinctly remembering having my first conversation about it with Tony Basile at Gourmet Pizza in New Paltz late one night in August/September 2010 (that's how long I've been planning this out). It was very important to me that we show New York State as more than just "the city," which is what a lot of non-New Yorkers think when you tell them where you're from.

The first 3 days of shooting took place September 25-27, 2012, and they broke down like this: Wappingers Falls to Buffalo, Buffalo to Potsdam, Potsdam to Wappingers Falls. We traveled over 1,400 miles, and our days started at 5 or 6 in the morning and didn't end until 9 or 10 at night. It was 3 days on the road and it was a lot of fun. Some places I had never been to and more places Tony had never been to. Niagara Falls was great (the only part of the video filmed outside of New York), as was going to the top of Whiteface Mountain (which neither of us had done before). And I think I can speak for Tony when I say that the best place we ate along the way was Piggy Pat's BBQ outside Utica, which we were turned on to by my friend Matt Taube.

One Sunday afternoon the next month, we were supposed to do some shooting for the "Shadow" video, but we had to reschedule. So, Tony & I decided to use the time to instead shoot some of the historic areas near us in the Hudson Valley. And it was that day at the FDR Presidential Library where this picture occured:


Bad ass.

The next plan was to shoot Long Island, but we got hit with conflicting schedules, Hurricane Sandy, and winter, so we had to wait. Shooting resumed on June 18, 2013, with a one-day trip through Long Island and back. I very much wanted to get shots of the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse at the tip of the island, and we got there at 5:15PM. It closes at 5:30. We got lucky. The most fun of that day was shooting the test-of-strength scene at Adventureland in East Farmingdale, but damn was it hot.

Six days later, on June 24, we set out to do all 5 boroughs of NYC. This turned out to be somewhat tricky because you could make multiple videos of just New York City, so we had to pick and choose what we shot. And again, my plan was to show that New York State was more than just NYC, so we didn't want to overload the video, anyway. We hit the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, then took the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan. We then went up to 125th St. and started making our way down the island. Its safe to say that we walked well over 60 blocks, and believe me when I tell you it was hot and humid, and I was wearing jeans, two shirts, a fedora, and very inappropriate walking shoes. Plus I was carrying my trumpet for the scene at the Apollo Theatre. It was an adventure.

All in we traveled over 2,500 miles to shoot what we did. Obviously we could've traveled more, but time kept us from getting everywhere we wanted.

That seems like enough for now. More breakdown in my next blog!
RSS
I like things. I do things. I see things. I think things.
I write about those things here.

          

   Join the mailing list and get the songs "Endless Sky"
and "Monday Morning, 2AM" for free!