Category Archives: Johnny Unicorn

Johnny Unicorn Summer 2011 Tour part three – North Dakota

Minot, ND – The town is built around the Souris River. Little shops and houses line the streets. Some lay at the river’s edge, while others still lay up the shallow hill. A few days into my tour, I got the warning that large sections of the city of Minot had been evacuated due to flooding, and that I might consider contacting someone up there to see if the two shows I had scheduled were still happening. The Pangea House was not flooded, and the show was quickly retooled into a benefit show. The second show, at the Blue Rider, was sadly cancelled. But they were up and running shortly after that, thankfully.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Souris_River_flood

The flood waters had creeped into a large section of the downtown area, halting a number of local businesses, and flooding the water treatment plant, which resulted in some possible contamination of the water supply. I have never had to fear tap water before. I have become so accustomed to the running water being clean. To suddenly have to worry about the water getting in my mouth or eyes is quite a shock. On close examination of the flood water itself, it was not the beautiful river water I have come to expect from a river. It was brown, and a little foamy, and it smelled worse than it looked. I noticed city silt on the city streets. Deposits of dirt and rock and small objects on the dry street where flood water had been. I had missed the worst of the flood. The waters were receding. Now I took notice of the flood lines along the edges of the buildings. A much larger portion of downtown had been flooded than I had thought. Some of these businesses could be permanently shut down as a result of this disaster. Frustrating to say the least. This was on the southside of the river.

The northside of the river suffered the larger portion of the flooding, or at least that’s what it looked like on the map. We (I was traveling with a group of friends) arrived at a ballpark, which now looked like a lake. Behind us were park benches that had been deposited on the street. Across the ballpark-lake we could see hundreds of roofs peaking over the surface of the water. I knew some of the people in those houses. Hopefully they got their most important stuff out. I know they did not have that much warning. They told me that four thousand houses were underwater. 11,000 people were refugees. All but a couple hundred of those people were able to find a place to stay among friends and family.

We saw someone’s porch that had ended up under a bridge, washed up by the fast-moving river.

For Independence Day, I traveled with some other people to a house far out in the countryside. A family of absolutely insane people shot giant fireworks directly at each other, and I spent a majority of the night hiding behind a couch to escape the blasts. Between explosions, I noticed the stars, brighter than I had ever seen them, exploding in their own way, light years distant. I became lost staring into the center of our galaxy, wondering what my place was in this seemingly infinite universe. Then, a horrifying explosion, and I was back behind the couch. The night continued like that until we left at three in the morning.

I left Minot with an incredible respect and fear of nature, and some other kind of feeling for those who arrive in the wake of disaster and make money off of those who were affected by it. Indiscriminate nature, and bloodthirsty predators. It never changes.

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I performed a show in Port Angeles!

Port Angeles: The city lies precariously on the shores of an ancient lake, in the misty eternal twilight of the Olympic Peninsula in the Northwestern United States (of America). The city itself is a contradiction in nearly every way: it is light, yet dark; you can see  Canada, yet you are not in it; the two words that make up its name are maddeningly derived from two different languages; 4th street is a thousand feet above 3rd street. And so on…

I was called upon by folk / psychedelic / rock group Autumn Electric to open up for them at a venue called Bohemian Lounge. It was on 3rd street. The venue existed in an impossible realm along a street which was perpendicular to two streets of the same name, one of which rose vertically into the sky, disappearing at a point somewhere in the ionosphere, the other of which was so dark that neither light nor time could escape it. Finding the venue proved to be the most difficult task imaginable, as its sign and entrance were only visible to people who weren’t expecting or looking for them, and you could only enter the property by forgetting why you came. Finally arriving at the venue required deep patience and accepting disturbing paradoxes of physics, but it especially took help from other people, and I eventually did find it.

The local ambassadors of culture were filing into the dimly lit and vaguely noisy warehouse. The warehouse was immense, a prism bearing faces on either end that were shaped like half-buried eggs; or perhaps like a silver slice of bundt cake. The corrugated iron facade made a bold attempt at shining in the damp night, but ultimately failed, defeated by a thin coating of rust. I greeted the person who led me there, Annie of the Estefets, and followed her into the ominous ovular edifice, fully expecting to be blasted with a thick cloud of illegal smoke, or the monotone chanting of a new Heaven’s Gate cult, or perhaps I would be hauled into the back corner to undergo a brutal interrogation by some government agency about whom I’d never heard…or had but didn’t believe.  In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by a relatively clean environment, relatively positive people of all ages, a bathroom fully stocked with toilet paper and seemingly not misused, and an actual PA system.

The show was a blast, in every sense of the word, or at the very least in one sense of the word. The show began with a stellar performance by the band Robot Pi, only two days away from their the holiday which bears their namesake (Robot Day). They performed comedic new wave electro rock, and did it very well. Every moment was hilarious and danceable. The next performer was I. And I had fun…standing up there in the heat of the burning lights, staring out into an unfamiliar crowd, hearing as the sound of my guitar amplifier reverberated off the metal walls of the building…retreating into the inner playground of the mind, while I let my body to the grueling labor of musical performance…you know. Then Autumn Electric performed, and I imagine had a similar experience to mine, only as a collective of four, each one’s subconscious a ghost of the other. They made use of the enormous space by letting their sounds go and come back and put the audience and themselves into trances. The Estafets closed the night with classic driving new wavy punk rock (or something). The music pulsed into the late hours of the wet night dragging us with it into the endless abyss of….er….something. Okay, that’s all I have.

Thank you Amber for helping put the show together!

Johnny Unicorn at Seattle’s famous Chop Suey!

Seattle, WA

Photo courtesy of Hope Josephine Maranatha Gardner

Das Kapital Hill district of Seattle is famous for its tight pants, trendy facial hair, youthful indifference, music clubs, and alternately disgusting and wonderful smells (in fact, just walking down the street, one gets an idea of what it must be like for dogs when they put their heads out of a car window). There are an innumerable number of flyers posted on the telephone poles, each with a different set of band names attached to it, and every one of those bands is vying, in this neighborhood, for the attention of the super-cool; the ones who can’t be bothered to crack a smile; the ones who would just as soon kick you in the face as look at you. The flyers are so thick on the telephone poles that the poles seem to bulge out at eye level. Every flyer advertises a different show. This is the story of one of those shows.

First, I will paint for you a portrait of what the nightclub is like. The colors: dark grey, deep blood red, crimson, vermillion, firey orange, dark black, sort of a tan off in the corner somewhere…colors of mystery and an not-entirely-comforting warmth, almost directly contradicting the total lack of mystery and the piercing cold of the unheated room. The club is named “Chop Suey” but I couldn’t find a menu anywhere. A giant dragon floats at ceiling level and eyes the patrons hungrily. All of the PA speakers are in cages. The floor is terraced, like a rice paddy. The bartender is a very friendly man who will happily mix any liquids if he is asked nicely. The live audio technician is quick and does not turn up the volume too loud for comfort. The floor is like a garage floor. The bathrooms are unspeakable. The green room has never been touched by a cleaning utensil. It had a kind of charm to it. The sort of charm that you immediately want to wipe away with soap, but remember fondly nonetheless. The very fact that there was a green room at all was enough to make me feel like I was being given the royal treatment. Of course, it was completely filled with equipment.

All the other bands were great people and played very well. No Rey was a relaxing and kind of psychedelic mix of folk and dub. The Brian Marshall Band was very straight-forward rock. I was particularly impressed by the lead guitarist’s smooth playing style, and the surprised but triumphant look he got on his face every time he completed a delicious solo. The Autumn Electric I have probably talked about before. I may once have called them a folk band, but now I hesitate to use that word. They are doing some sort of rock, with a very interesting line-up of instruments. They brought home-made cookies and hats to the show. All the bands did well. But I’m here to talk about me:

I took the stage and looked out into the bright lights, which reduced the audience to a cold, empty blackness. My synthesizer had lost all of its data. So I had to jury-rig a non-electronic set, which was no big deal, but I was worried it would not be as “hard-hitting” a set as I’m accustomed to thinking I delivered. So I sang into the blackness, hoping my voice would find ears, like a dandelion sending its seeds into the wind, or a job applicant sending cover letters and resumes out to every company on craigslist. Time twisted, and everything became hazy. I could hear the dragon in the distance. As I continued on, all moisture in my body began to evaporate, and all I could produce from my mouth were puffs of dust. My only option was to drink and attempt to breathe as properly as possible and put as little strain on my throat as I could for the rest of the performance. The performance went on, and took me with it. And by the end, I was riding high on shoulders of the cheering audience. I won! It was a huge musical triumph. That night, I celebrated the amazing victory in the Griffindor house common room with my mates by watching the worst British romantic comedy/drama I could find.

Stay tuned for my next blog post about another show in Capital Hill with the illustrious Horace Pickett.

Halloween 2010

Seattle, WA

I perform as the Ice Overlord

We had a party at the Tiger House (as I’m calling it for now) and we had bands play. The bands that performed were as follows:

The Autumn Electric
Johnny Unicorn
Horace Pickett

It was Halloween, so many people who attended the party were dressed in costume. Let’s see if I can remember the costumes:

A satyr
Two hobos
A day of the dead person
Quailman
A calculator
Weird Al Yankovic
Westley (from Princess Bride)
A police officer
A jellyfish
The Tooth Fairy
Batman
Perseus and presumably Andromeda
Willy Wonka
Harry Potter
Wonder Woman
Leela
Vivian
A pirate
Peter Pan
A zombie bride
and that’s all I can remember.
I was the Ice Overlord

Here I am promoting my album.

The first band to perform, The Autumn Electric, did a great acoustic set.
The second band, me, did a set and it seemed pretty good.
The third band, Horace Pickett, performed well. Ryan acted like a wild animal.

No fights broke out.

There will be another show soon.

That’s it.