Lookout Low by Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks dudes

This week’s album of the week is Lookout Low by Twin Peaks. This album is the pinnacle of modern Rolling Stones-style dad rock, circa 2019. It just came out today and I’ve listened to it about three or four times. The A&R man can probably rightfully say he doesn’t hear a single here, but almost every song on the record is solid as hell. The only two songs I don’t really care for are the last two and they might just need some time to grow on me. This album is really good and should be the soundtrack to your weekend.

Of course, you can find all he good bangers from this album on the Smoothspin Hot 100 Spotify playlist that I update weekly with the best new jams.

Eddie Money and Ric Okasek

This week was a horrible week for rock and roll. First, Daniel Johnston died on September 11, then Eddie Money on September 13, and finally Ric Ocasek on September 15. Death really does come in threes.

I can’t say I was ever a huge Eddie Money fan, but the he had an undeniable string of hits from the late-70s through the 80s. At least three of his songs are absolute classics:

“Two Tickets to Paradise” (1978)

“Baby Hold On” (1978)

“Take Me Home Tonight” (1986)

He also has a handful of other instantly recognizable classic rock radio staples, including “Give Me Some Water”, “I Wanna Go Back”, “Walk on Water”, and “Shakin.” Eddie Money died at age 70 of esophageal cancer.

Ric Ocasek holds a special place in my heart for two reasons. One is that my dad told me that the night I was born, he came home from the hospital (this was before they let the dad’s spend the night) and went over to one of his friend’s apartments and listened a new album by a band called the Cars. For better or worse, this was the music of the day when I was born. (Somewhat related to this – Later in life, I can recall the first songs that both of my children heard after they were born. When we took our daughter, Lola, home from the hospital the first MP3 that randomly came on shuffle in the car was “Santa Fe” by Beirut. When my son, Wilce, was born two years later, it was “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk.) The second reason Ric Ocasek holds a special place in my heart is that he produced Weezer’s “Blue Album” which was part of the soundtrack of my early teens. Ric Okasec was 75 and died of natural causes while recovering from surgery.

“My Best Friend’s Girl” (1978)

“Just What I Needed” (1978)

“Good Times Roll” (1978)

Friday the 13th at Ocean Beach

Today was a wild day for nature in San Francisco. For starters, it was Friday the 13th and there was a full harvest moon. It was also one of the hottest days of the year. The weather service issued a heat advisory and temps reached the mid-90s in downtown San Francisco (which only happens on super rare occasions). To top it off, there wasn’t an ounce of fog in sight. All of these signs pointed to the obvious fact that it would be a great day to go to Ocean Beach for the sunset.

Our crew crossing the Great Highway to Ocean Beach in the Sunset District
Wilce climbing the Ocean Beach sand dunes
Atypical sunset crowds at Ocean Beach enjoying the temperate weather
The kids, plugging holes till you see straight through to the mind’s eye
Sam
Molly
For the first time in my life I witnessed a green flash tonight at the end of the sunset. Just before the corona diped below the horizon I could see a diamond shaped flash of green light. It actually glows more than it flashes and only lasts about a second or less. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to pull out my camera until it was almost too late. You can barely see it on the horizon in the photo above, but it’s there! It was spectacular in real life. Wilce and I experienced it together while wading at the shoreline.
Young Wilce at Ocean Beach just after sunset
When we made it home tonight, we set up the telescope in the backyard and gazed at the harvest moon. There’s an iPhone attachment for the telescope and as you can see, I’m still working on mastering that. In person though, the moon looked crisp, clear, and breathtaking.

Automat @ Daily Driver

Automat is a San Francisco pop-up restaurant hosted by Chef Matt Kirk. One of their specialties is making artisan versions of fast-food staples (think spicy chicken sandwiches, crispy tacos, etc).

From the Automat website:

Automat is contemporary California cuisine. We look for the extraordinary within the ordinary. Eclectic and recognizable, we offer modern nostalgia through seasonal ingredients. Chef/Owner, Matt Kirk, is a 14 year restaurant veteran formerly of Lazy Bear, Radius, and Spruce in San Francisco. A Bay Area native, Matt is inspired by local ingredients, the eclectic nature of California cuisine and classic American staples.

Matt happens to be a good friend and we frequent his pop-up events on the regular. Tonight, they set up shop at a hot new spot called Daily Driver in the Dog Patch which specializes in organic wood-fired bagels. I had a few beers, a Daily Driver pretzel, and a crispy chicken sandwich. It was great.

Our crew rolling hard in the Dogpatch
Fried chicken and beer? Hmmm…Ok
The scene inside Daily Driver
It’s a beautiful cafe
This is Matt
Matt’s footwear
Sam and Molly
Young Wilce
Crispy fried chicken sandwich with cabbage and seaweed green goddess
Toast with tomatoes and nasturtiums
Molly, Frank, Shelly, Sam
Semifreddo on strawberry buckwheat shortbread

“Then We’ll Wave (So Long)” by Paul & The Tall Trees

This week’s song of the week is “Then We’ll Wave (So Long)” by Paul & The Tall Trees.

Paul is New York singer/songwriter, Paul Schalda. Prior to swaying with the Tall Trees, he was better known as the guitarist in Charles Bradley’s band. The two things I love about this song are the golden tone of Paul’s voice and the simplicity of the music. Mostly just a sparse drum kit, bass, guitar, and delicate piano. I also get sad and nostalgic when I think about waving and saying so long. It seems so final.

You can listen to “Then We’ll Wave (So Long)” on the Smoothspin Hot 100 Spotify playlist, which I update weekly with the best new music in the game, mang.

Daniel Johnston

I was sad to hear that Daniel Johnston died yesterday. He was a genius songwriter who wrote honest and simple lo-fi pop songs about true love and innocence. Like many, I learned about him from the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. If you haven’t seen it, you must watch it. It’s a fascinating look at the very unique life of a troubled person who only wanted to be an artist.

Here’s the trailer:

I don’t feel the need to eulogize Daniel, but here’s an interesting excerpt about him from a piece the Guardian published today:

In the early 1990s, he suffered a manic psychotic episode during a plane flight, when, believing he was the cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost, he threw the ignition keys for the plane out of its window – he and his father escaped with minor injuries following the subsequent crash. It prompted one of many spells in psychiatric institutions, and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Over the years he also suffered from diabetes, kidney infections and hydrocephalus; last year he was hospitalised following a fall.

His eccentricity was legendary – he refused to sign with Elektra because they also employed Metallica, whom Johnston regarded as satanic; he ran away from home as a teenager on a moped to join a travelling carnival; he was arrested for graffiti-ing the Statue of Liberty with hundreds of Christian fish symbols. But as another admirer, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, said in 2017: “Daniel has managed to create in spite of his mental illness, not because of it. He’s been honest in his portrayal of what he’s been struggling with without overtly drawing attention to it.

And here’s the most classic of Daniel Johnston songs:

Even Curt was a fan.

Ludwig Questlove Breakbeats Drum Set

Wilce’s first time playing the Questlove Breakbeats drum set

I must be insane because I let my five year old convince me that we needed a drum set. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. In reality, I think I wanted a drum kit just as much as he did. I’ve actually been looking for a small “apartment-sized” kit for Smoothspin Studios for a while. Something mainly for recording, but also for the occasional basement jam session. I don’t have a ton of room in the studio and I didn’t want something that was outrageously loud. I even briefly considered building a kit around a 16-inch floor tom that I would used as a kick drum. I ultimately settled on the Questlove Breakbeats Drum Set by Ludwig. It’s perfect for what I need. Here’s how Questlove describes it:

“I wanted to build a device that was apartment-friendly and compact for the street musician; but also something that was quality-sounding. A gritty, raw, ‘break-able’ kit for gigging in clubs that you can fit in a cab. Breakbeats by Questlove does it all.”

The Questlove Breakbeats Drum Kit

I found this set used online at the Guitar Center in Seattle. It was about $350 including tax and shipping, but only included the kick, snare, tom, and floor tom. It didn’t come with the bracket to attach the tom to the top of the kick drum, so I’ll have to get one of those. Jonny was generous enough to loan me an extra hi-hat, cymbal, stands, and kick pedal he had. He even threw in a free lesson for Wilce when we went to his house Sunday to pick up the hardware.

Jonny teaching Wilce how to hold his drum sticks like Charlie Watts

Since the kids will be hammering on these things, I also ordered a set of Evans mute pads which fit on top of each drum and muffle the sound. I’m not sure they live up to the reported 95% volume reduction, but they’re better than nothing.

Evans drum mute pads promise a 95% volume reduction

Here’s a little taste of how the drums sound. It’s worth noting out that I’m an awful drummer and haven’t had a chance to properly tune any of the drums yet. I just tightened up the heads a little bit with a pair of pliers because I don’t even own a drum key yet. I had to order one off of Amazon tonight.

The author testing out the Questlove Breakbeats drum set in the studio

I’m really happy with the quality and sound of the Breakbeats kit. I hope my neighbors like it too.

Faucherie Lake: California Alpine Paradise

Faucherie Lake, California

The Sierra Nevada mountains are littered with hundreds of spectacular alpine lakes. Unfortunately, most of them are inaccessible to the general public because they’re so remote. One of the grandest exceptions is Faucherie Lake in the Tahoe National Forest. I wouldn’t say that Faucherie is easily accessible because you have to drive two hours off-road to reach it. But if you have the right vehicle and a little time on your hands, it can be very rewarding. Our friends, Eric and Anna, somehow scored a rare reservation at the group campsite at Faucherie a few weekends ago and we were lucky enough to join them.

Here’s how Eric described it:

Faucherie Lake is one of California’s most coveted campsites. A high alpine lake surrounded by Tahoe National Forest and a series of waterfalls. It is at the end of a 4 mile single lane dirt service road that has a locked gate at the start. There are 2 lakeside camping loops that each support 25+ people with grills, fire rings, bear proof lockers, toilets and garbage service. We have reserved both loops, so we will have all camping facilities and the entire lake to ourselves.

Our group was large (29 adults and 20 children) and it was an amazing experience. If you ever find yourself at a lake like this, take my advice and get one of those redneck inflatable floating islands and a backcountry pizza oven. You can thank me later.

Here’s a short film I shot about life on Faucherie Lake:

And here are a few photos:

Our crew of nearly 50 friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends’ friends, spent most of the weekend lounging like cold-blooded reptiles on the rocks of Faucherie Lake. We would occasionally rise to swim or crack a cold brew. If we were feeling ambitious, we would skip rocks. A day spent skipping rocks is a pretty good day.
The view of Faucherie Lake from our campsite.
The kids were bouncing around on this redneck island in the lake for about 14 hours on Saturday. Definitely the highlight of Lola’s trip.
Always a good time getting rad out in the wilderness.
This is Hunter.
Recreation is one of the lake’s many uses.
The world’s smallest What Up Mang cover band.
Camp Faucherie. If you count, there are like 50 humans in our crew.
Twilight.
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