Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bud Redding - 'Control/Career'

Bud Redding has been a fixture on Buffalo/Western New York’s original music scene for longer than I have, as a fan, musician, DJ, booker of bands/general catastrophe avoider at The Continental and supporter/helper of many other musicians, writers, clubs and so on. Redding is also a United States Marine Corps veteran with a strong libertarian (specifically lower-case L, with his lack of trust of politics/politicians) streak.

While he previously recorded with Funk Monsters and Women, among others, only very recently, earlier this year, did he release his first solo CD, “Control/Career,” on Rachael’s Owl Music/Electric Owl Works Records. I am really enjoying this CD, with all performances by Redding. It sounds like great old school synthesizer based alternative music (at times you can hear some Electroman influence, not surprising since Redding created and performed a rock opera on the late, great Mark Freeland), and I write that in the best sense possible. Synths and keyboards sound like synths and keyboards, and not like they are trying oh, so hard to sound like other instruments. Rough edges are left in, when vocals need to be treated and/or distorted they are, and Autotune would be a travesty and is not present here.

The CD starts off with the strong, mid-tempo “Red Hearts and Black Hearts,” with somewhat bouncing synths and a higher-pitched melodic keyboard joined by sampled vocals repeating “Haile Selassie,” all over a steady dance rhythm. “AT-54 The Electron Sampler” is a warning against control and manipulation of access to information and people by technology and the media. Musically, it has a more ominous sound, with thicker keyboards and a more martial rhythm. “Today” features majestic, thick and strident synths as Redding sings of living in the moment, controlling anger that is simmering inside. He notes that he controls it for now, but…

“Astronaut” is very fast-paced, with keyboards and vocal samples (including one of Public Enemy’s Chuck D) joined by a guitar synth melody. Redding wants to be above and beyond the fray, control and surveillance of everyday life and apparent law enforcement/the state. “Wide Asleep” is a less frenetic song, smoother but still urgent lyrically, with Redding guaranteeing that while people crossing him won’t necessarily get their just desserts today, he will pay them back double for their transgressions. On “Don’t You Drink the Water,” Redding uses a reggae/island style beat to illustrate how international conglomerates and monied interests ruin less “developed” areas through pursuit of money and causing/dumping of pollution and wastes. “The Devil’s Bedroom” is another major up-tempo synth dance-oriented song over sounds of bedroom activity and possible warnings of people using sex as power, domination and manipulation. 

While I mentioned that synthesizers and keyboards are allowed to sound like themselves and not like imitations of other instruments, people should realize that this is a well put together and sounding recording, recorded and mixed by Redding and produced and mastered by Charles H. Root III at Electric Owl Works in South Wales. There is also some very cool cover artwork courtesy of Craig Larotonda of Revolution Gallery on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo.

“Control/Career” can be obtained from Redding at his live shows, and is also available on Google Play, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Prime, and either is or will be soon be available at Revolver Records, Frizbees, and Revolution Gallery.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Frustration, or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate Writer's/Creative Block

To say I am frustrated would be accurate but a vast understatement.

It has been almost 7 months since my lifesaving cardiac surgery, and while I have recovered quite well physically, returned to work and gained back almost 15 of the more than 40 pounds I lost, I am still showing the effects of the massive amount of surgery I underwent at the Cleveland Clinic. I was told that I would feel a post-surgical fog of sorts for up to 12 months, considering I was out of things from the anesthesia from my surgery for more than 24 hours.

When you are recovering from major surgery, you expect to be feeling its aftereffects for a while; I had to relearn how to breathe deeply so I could speak in phrases of more than a few seconds without gasping for air and to make sure I could be heard and understood; this took only a few days, but my breathing exercises to strengthen my lung capacity and endurance went on for a couple of months and a was a major part of my at-home recovery. Despite all of my resting and recovery attempts, I passed out my first day back to work in January from dehydration, but returned after only one day out and have been back to work and fine ever since. In fact, work has gone quite well, with my ability to concentrate at least as good, if not better, than before and I have taken on a bit more responsibility. To be honest, I do drink a lot more fluids and I have started taking in a bottle of Coke Zero, the only sugar-free soft drink I really like, but I drink it sparingly, taking full effect of the therapeutic properties of its caffeine.
DJing at WBNY, my apparent creative refuge

So, what is the source and cause of the above-mentioned frustration? I am still feeling fatigue from the post-surgical fog/effects of the surgery, which strike soon after I get home from work during the week. I first walk our dog, Harold, which fortunately doesn’t take too much out of me physically or mentally…or so I thought. When we get home, I have to make dinner, and lately, I am feeling rather tired but still make dinner.

NOW, I hit the major frustration; any creative activity, mainly my writing, is like a mountain to climb or marathon to run, as I am physically and mentally more tired than I was pre-surgery. I used to be kind of bad falling asleep after diner, but I am now notorious for dozing off. It is something that doctors, nurses and therapists at the Cleveland Clinic told me would happen, but I hoped it would not have such a hold on me and for so long. I have specific projects I am working on and want to work on, but I can’t seem to get through the fog, the tiredness and the reawakening of parts of my brain to accomplish them, or certainly not at any pace or quality that satisfies me. I am either getting inspiration and ideas at the more inconvenient times, such as work or when walking the dog, or I am not getting them at all or weakly.

I was fortunate to have been given a talent, an ability to write in manners that communicate with people and present concepts in cogent, convincing and entertaining manners; not everyone has certain creative talents or the ability to convey them, and writing has become inseparable from me and my identity. It was my job as a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 18 years and has been my life as a professional writer for more than 30 years. Not being able to write meaningfully, and not being able to overcome certain obstacles, even if temporary, is a real punch to the gut; even though I have taken to photography to express certain creative feelings and ideas, I feel as if I am wasting my real creative talent. It is incredibly gratifying to be and call myself a writer, and not being able to do so in any way near what I want is almost like telling me I am no longer a writer, regardless of that being true or not.

It isn’t as if I haven’t tried to get through this; I continue to write on social media, and don’t think the quality or quantity has decreased, but instead of being complementary to my writing for publications and blogging, it has virtually become my only outlet. After I got out of the hospital, I began writing about certain memorable parts of my two stays, and ended up writing thousands of words on it. Not one piece, not one word has seen the light of day, because I do not feel any of it is good enough to share; there are some things I really want to write about, including medication affected dreams and hallucinations, but I’ll be damned if I can find any words even close to expressing what I felt and saw. I discussed this and other related concerns with my incredible wife, photographer Valerie Dunne, who has been amazingly supportive and offered my several approaches and resolutions, as have other artists and creative people when I ask for advice or recommendations on this topic.

Being strong headed (to put it mildly) on my writing and related activities, advice is sometimes difficult to filter through my specific creative ability and approach. I am not the type who can or will write simply as catharsis and put it out there; I always have and probably will write something that is up to certain standards before I put it before other people, and communication with others is vital to me. I have tried to write notes or partial ideas and thoughts, but that hasn’t led to anything and it hasn’t shaken me loose from the writer’s block. I appreciate all of the support and ideas people have given me, but I hope they realize, and I’m sure most do, just how individual the creative process can be for people, not just across artistic and creative endeavors and fields, but between people in the same creative areas.

I will struggle with this creative/writer’s block until it goes away or until I stop caring about it, and I can’t ever see the latter occurring. I have suffered periods of writer’s block in the past, none this long or as frustrating, and I hope you’ll bear with me until I send away or temporarily stop, if not slay, this dragon.

Postscript: Thinking after finishing this piece, I did forget one very important and enjoyable creative route that has treated me well over this recovery, that being able to DJ at WBNY 91.3 FM at Buffalo State College. As an alumnus, I did my annual Alumni Weekend show, but what really helped me was being able to be the substitute DJ for two weeks for Robin Connell (an excellent DJ with fantastic musical taste) on her “What You Need” program. I was able to create a sound experience for two, three-hour periods thanks to Robin offering me this opportunity and with Val giving me lots of encouragement and musical suggestions. Since that occurred in May, I hope the creative boost gave me stays around a while and I would appreciate the opportunity to DJ again at WBNY, one way or another.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

'Death or Glory: Came too Close to the Former This Time' Play List & More Ramblings of Gratitude

     While I once again had a lot of fun DJing my annual WBNY 91.3 FM Alumni Weekend shift this year, circumstances were a little bit different during my scheduled midnight-3 AM Saturday night/Sunday morning, April 22, show.

     Since I haven't blogged about it here, this year's edition of "Death Or Glory: Came too Close to the Former This Time," celebrated my survival from a heart attack and aortic aneurysm event October 20 and open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic (the medical and all of the staff there are amazing) November 20, which included a triple coronary bypass, aortic tear repair, aortic valve repair, three stents being placed inside me, including my carotid artery, and, a new thing to me, the implanting of a "frozen elephant trunk," a vinyl mesh vessel inside the aortic artery running basically from my upper chest above my heart to my hip region. I am feeling very good, about 95-97 percent recovered, back to work, walking Harold, grocery shopping and living every grateful moment with my lovely wife Val Dunne.

Your DJ, WBNY studios, 2016.
     Being back on the air at WBNY meant even more than usual to me; the music is always a big part of things and my life, but to be able to handle the physical side of what turned into a more than 4-hour air shift (I actually played music until 4:30 AM) and what it means for my physical and emotional survival is also big. It also has allowed me to be artistic and creative, something I have needed and not been able to do very much since my surgery just over 6 months ago as of this writing.

     I tried, as usual, to play much of the music I love and that has influenced and inspired me, with some changes and some songs reflecting my medical needs, recovery and references to hearts and blood in general. I did forget to take in a few songs (not bringing Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" was a particular disappointing omission), but I feel I had my best show in my "Death or Glory" series, musically and technically, even with a few goofs. I could have gone on until 5 AM or so, but I could feel myself getting tired and didn't want the quality of the show to decline or to drive home while dozing off.

     So, here is my play list from the show:
     Midnight – “Death or Glory,” the Clash; “Love Like Blood,” Killing Joke; “Discovering Japan,” Graham Parker and the Rumor; “Poptones,” Public Image Limited; “Heart Attack and Vine,” Tom Waits; “Broken English,” Marianne Faithfull; “Tell That Girl to Shut Up,” Holly and the Italians; “Hello Birmingham,” Ani DiFranco; ”Girl Power,” Mark Freeland/Electroman.

     1 AM – “Heartbeat,” the Vores; “Good Luck, Money and Gasoline,” the Pine Dogs; “Crash All Night,” Jim Whitford; “Indy 500,” girlpope; “Pumping My Heart,” Patti Smith Group; “Love Comes in Spurts,” Richard Hell and the Voidoids; “Cretin Hop,” the Ramones; “One Way or Another,” Blondie; “You Burn Me Up (I’m a Cigarette),” Robert Fripp; “Do the Strand,” Roxy Music; “It’s No Game (Part 1),” David Bowie; “Trans-Europe Express,” Kraftwerk; “Cross-eyed and Painless,” Talking Heads; “Looking for a Kiss,” New York Dolls.

     2 AM – “Death Valley ’69,” Sonic Youth; “Heart,” Rockpile; “Down in the Park,” Gary Numan; “Damaged Goods,” Gang of Four; “Click, Click, Click,” English Beat; “Sister Europe,” Psychedelic Furs; “While the City Sleeps,” the Ramrods; “I’m the Target,” Paper Faces; “Hail to the Chief,” the Rain; “Drag the Lake,” Oui73; “This Is It,” the Jumpers.

     3 AM – “Nighttime,” Ray Wylie Hubbard; “Marie Marie,” the Blasters; “Ashtray Heart,” Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band; “Sex Bomb,” Flipper; “Tell Me When It’s Over,” Dream Syndicate; “Good Morning Aztlan,” Los Lobos; “Boxcars,” Joe Ely; “A Million Miles Away,” the Plimsouls; “Two Angels,” Peter Case; “Killin’ Time in Texas,” Gurf Morlix; “Hot Blood,” Lucinda Williams; “No Action,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions; “Start!” the Jam; “Holidays in the Sun,” Sex Pistols; “Tattooed Love Boys,” the Pretenders.

     4 AM – “Your Phone’s Off the Hook (But You’re Not),” X; “Pink Turns to Blue,” Husker Du; “Uncontrollable Urge,” Devo; “From the Air,” Laurie Anderson; “The Ascension,” Glenn Branca.

     As always, I want to thank the staff and management of WBNY 91.3 FM for allowing us alumni to come in and have some fun on the air, and while I will make an official announcement very soon, I will be gracing the airwaves again soon, way before next year's Alumni Weekend. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

     I don't care; there are many WAY more important musical topics to discuss. Anyway, Smithereens' singer, songwriter and guitarist Pat Dinizio's death is much more meaningful.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Susan Tanner: 51 Years Is Not Enough

     Susan Tanner’s tragic death from cancer April 24 and the loving response on social media and in several publications demonstrates what an effect her death has precisely because Susan had a greater, loving, professional, intelligent, funny and more positive effect on us with her life.

     Susan was known professionally for working for several major record labels in New York, Boston and elsewhere, before returning to Buffalo to work for Righteous Babe Records and Ani DiFranco for many years. I can attest to Susan’s professionalism, knowledge and respectful treatment of others from my time writing for several publications, and her industry background and regard has already been written about well by Donny Kutzbach in The Public and Dale Anderson and Jeff Miers in the Buffalo News.

Longtime friend/Righteous Babe colleague Mary Begley, left;
Susan Tanner, Marty Boratin and Jon Langford at the
Tanner/Boratin residence for a Skull Orchard show in 2014.
Photo by Barkloud Productions/Val Dunne Photography

     Susan was also well known, and in the long run maybe better or with more reverence, as the hostess with her husband, Marty Boratin, of what is basically Buffalo’s rock and roll bed and breakfast, their home in Eden. The couple hosted many house concerts, parties and other events, and gave accommodations to many touring bands who needed and often could not afford a place to crash. Regardless their day job responsibilities, Marty and Susan also fed and entertained the musicians, seeking nothing more than some good music and friendship in return. There are too many shows to remember, but among the memorable ones I recall are Peter Case, Jon Langford, Oh Susanna, Gurf Morlix and a host of local performers. Susan, an accomplished singer in her own right, even joined Jon Langford (The Mekons, Waco Brothers) reciting poetry during one of house concerts. Susan and Marty’s Independence Day and Christmas parties are also legendary, bringing people back to Buffalo who moved away years ago.

     There may be no one absolute way to fight and live with cancer, but Susan certainly found one that worked for her and those around her. With an intelligent, scientifically trained and educated mind and awareness, she researched and participated in interviews and discussions about and in actual treatment trials for her cancer. She frequently traveled out of town for these treatments and consultations, and was very open about her cancer diagnosis, status, treatment, how she was feeling and what stage she was in at that moment. Having cancer was not going to stop Susan from using her mind, body and spirit to fight this bastard and to live a full life, She openly and repeatedly acknowledged she received primary health care and her cancer diagnosis from the medical staff of Planned Parenthood, a group of dedicated professionals who helped keep Susan alive. Friends and loved ones of hers have made financial donations in her name to Planned Parenthood, a fantastic idea. During a memorial celebration for Susan at Babeville, college friend, record industry and radio colleague Anita West movingly spoke of their friendship, fun together and their shared fights with cancer, probably sharing more than anyone else could from that period. West came into that event blazing, wanting people to know that much more about Susan and her life as well as know about the ups, downs, loves and fears of living as they did and fighting cancer.

Susan Tanner recites poetry with Jon Langford, 2014.
Photo by Barkloud Productions/Val Dunne Photography
     I can write of a bit of familiarity with Susan’s caring and sharing of hopes and fears of chromic and terminal diseases. My lovely wife, photographer Val Dunne, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 24 years ago, and fights it every day; indeed, she is currently in an about 3-week episode/flare up of the disease, and just returned to work. We have been fortunate to be friends with Marty and Susan for longer than we can remember, more than 30 years (hell, my sister Heather had Marty’s late father as a high school teacher). Val has been through many trials, experimental drugs and treatments, even chemotherapy, and like anyone suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses, a toll is often taken. For the last several years, every time we see Susan and Marty, particularly at their home, after a while Susan, Val and several other people living with chronic and/or terminal health issues will start talking about what they are going through, sharing information and empathy, offering advice, solace, support and love. After a moment or so, I will leave these conversations, because while I may be the spouse and partner of someone in this situation, I cannot fully know what it is like to live with such diseases, and I felt like a bit of an intruder; I was never made to feel this by any of the other people, but I realize that there are experiences I cannot fully understand without being the person in the crosshairs. Val and other people I’ve spoken with who were part of these discussions always credit Susan with being incredibly open, positive and supporting, sharing information about everything from how to try to avoid nausea and bad tastes in the mouth connected to chemotherapy and other drugs, which pains reacted to which medications and other treatments, which medical staffs were more understanding and caring, and what the best places to stay and best modes of transportation were for people with health conditions. Oh, and of course, diet was key, along with gardening, as were appreciation of good music in all its forms, good friends, books and conversation. According to Val and others I have talked to with these medical conditions, Susan was never short on warmth, understanding, shoulders to cry on and a song to cheer them up. I noticed that talking with Susan raised Val’s spirits, and indeed mine, during periods when her MS was really causing her trouble. When Val was hospitalized with pneumonia a couple of years ago, besides family and staff, Susan was her only visitor.

     Susan and Marty were/are great people on their own, but made/make an incredible couple together. Their home was warm, open and inviting, there was always good food and good music there, beverages of all kinds and an understanding that love truly conquered all.

     I am finishing writing this piece July 3, one day before their annual Independence Day party, which thankfully will be held this year. It will be hard not to think about and miss Susan, but those people like Susan who live their lives without wasting time, who truly help others live better lives and understand the difficulty and heartbreaking parts, we miss them because they were such good people. And a lot of good continues in this world because Susan made damn sure she lived to make it better. This piece took me longer to write than normal because I wanted to make sure I got it right that I could offer a real side of Susan, and because, honestly, her death has shaken me. Let’s be good to each other; Susan always was to us.

Monday, May 29, 2017

'Death or Glory: Requiem for Friends' Playlist, Thoughts

The theme of my WBNY Alumni Weekend show this year, “Death or Glory,” went through a last-minute change due to some sad, unforeseen circumstances, and became “Death or Glory: Requiem for Friends.”
    This is due to the recent deaths of three friends, all with strong connections to Buffalo’s music community: Tom Connolly, one of the originators of WBNY and continued supporter and air personality for years; Thelma Lee Ballard/Bad Penny, uber-fan and nicer person than many realized, and most recently Susan Tanner, who worked in the music industry for years, both nationally and at Righteous Babe Records here in Buffalo, remained a strong and knowledgeable supporter of music and was a host for bands at the home she shared with her husband, Marty Boratin.

     My original theme for this year’s edition of “Death Or Glory” was originally planned to be “Think! It Ain’t Illegal Yet,” responding to the political atmosphere of stupidity, deception/outright lying and savage right-wing ideology being applied by the current president and his political allies. It was to be a broadcast call to arms on how artists of all walks are part of what could be called the best of the resistance. Even if you are not a lefty, opposing political dishonesty, mean spiritedness, anti-intellectualism and corruption through arts and other acts should appeal to all who believe freedom of expression is a precious and powerful freedom.
Your author/radio host, kvetching. Photo by Val Dunne Photography

     But with the deaths of the three friends mentioned above and so many other musicians and artists, I believed that my overactive, weary mind needed to take a look at how music and its addressing and illustrating of death, loss, the end of relationships and circumstances affected me and no doubt others. There is an amazing amount of great music that addresses these and other related issues, some quite directly and some more implied or indirect, and I was only able to scratch the surface in the three hours of music and talk that I had. But I cut down a bit on the talking and got to a lot of music, and I hope the playlist below shows some sort of understanding of the issue and provides a bit of solace and understanding to people going directly through death of relatives, friends, etc., and its effects.

     I have written articles/appreciation of Tom Connolly and Penny/Thelma Lee upon their deaths, and I am working on an article about Susan Tanner, but her death seems to have floored me more than the others. I will publish such an article soon, but one longer than normal mic I took during my WBNY Alumni weekend show involved Susan. I played “Hello Birmingham” by Ani DiFranco in Susan’s memory. While Susan worked for Ani and Righteous Babe for years, the real reason I played the song for her was because Susan had been a longtime patient of Planned Parenthood, and it was the talented medical staff there that diagnosed Susan’s inflammatory breast cancer and helped her live for so many years after the diagnosis. “Hello Birmingham” was a spare, aching tome to Birmingham, Alabama, which in the late 1990s underwent the bombing of medical clinics that performed OB/GYN services, including abortions. Buffalo had sustained the vile, intimidating, freedom violating abortion protests of the Spring of Life, and then Dr. Barnett Slepian’s murder/assassination in 1998. Susan strongly defended Planned Parenthood not only for the life-lengthening medical care she received from it, but for the thousands, if not millions, of people who received primary and other medical care there, including the small number of abortions performed. She defended and praised their work, and while Susan did this willingly, forcefully and honestly, she and others should not have had to defend Planned Parenthood from unwarranted attacks for so long. As the son of a 20-year breast and lymph node cancer survivor, friend and admirer of Susan and hopeful defender of reproductive and health care rights, I took the liberty to defend them through this song and story about Susan and to attack those vile, ignorant and/or awful people attacking these rights.

     This is my playlist, by the hour, from ”Death or Glory: Requiem for Friends:”

     6-7 PM – “Death or Glory,” the Clash; “Black Cadillac,” Rosanne Cash; “Long Black Veil,” Johnny Cash; “Come into the House of the Lord,” Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives; “Killin’ Time in Texas,” Gurf Morlix; “Gloria,” Patti Smith Group; “Marquee Moon,” Television; “Heaven,” Talking Heads; “Innocent When You Dream,” Tom Waits; “Wall of Death,” Richard and Linda Thompson.

     7-8 PM – “The Suit,” Public Image Limited; “This Is It,” the Jumpers; “While the City Sleeps,” the Ramrods; “Last Regrets,” Mark Norris and the Backpeddlers; “Wintertime,” Scary Chicken; “Hello Birmingham,” Ani DiFranco;” “Broken English,” Marianne Faithful; “From the Air,” Laurie Anderson; “It’s No Game,” David Bowie; “Heroes,” David Bowie.

     8-9 PM – “Showroom Dummies,” Kraftwerk; “Symphony No. 6, 2nd Movement,” Glenn Branca; “The Black Angel’s Death Song (Live),” Velvet Underground; “Little Angel, Little Brother,” Lucinda Williams; “Cold Cold Ground,” Tom Waits; “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” Hank Williams; “Reload,” Tension; “Ghost Bitch,” Sonic Youth; “Love Comes in Spurts,” Richard Hell and the Voidoids; “Walking Out on Love,” the Beat; “Rockaway Beach,” the Ramones; “Turn on the News,” Husker Du; “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” Johnny Thunders.

     I would actually like the opportunity to address and broach these topics again, maybe with a bit more wisdom of another year pondering these issues; sadly, another friend from the Buffalo music community, guitarist Tyler Harrington, died just after the WBNY show. None of us are na├»ve enough to realize this doesn’t happen and won’t continue to happen, and it is a way I can honor my friends.

Monday, August 29, 2016

For Bad Penny, or I'm Really Sick of Obituaries

Bad Penny and Jax/Courtesy Chris Fertita-Miklasz

      In the end, there is no way you can accurately predict when someone who allegedly lives life to the edge or pushes the envelope, etc., will die, and when someone who is so well known and is actually irreplaceable to a certain community dies, no, we didn’t really expect it and no, we are definite not ready for it.

     Thelma Lee Ballard, known to many more people as Bad Penny, was found last weekend in the West Side home where she was house sitting. While she lived hard and turned some people off with her boisterous honesty, she appreciated what life had to offer, grabbed it with two hands and whatever else she could use, and didn’t waste a moment on this realm.

     She was best known for her living in and breathing life into Buffalo’s original music community, love of conspicuous consumption (food, alcohol, dancing, etc.) and for being herself, even when she herself was known by two names. You never had to wonder where you stood with Penny (usually a bit back when you first met her). Strong willed, strong opinions, strong action; people often recall a slug to the chest, arm, shoulder or balls a part of their initiation to Penny, but she was truly a caring person. Caring wasn’t a passive emotion with Penny.

    I remember her basic whirling Dervish/Tasmanian Devil self, as many people first did, through the community of musicians, DJs, promoters, writers, fans and other ne’er-do-wells from clubs such as the Continental, Nietzsche’s, Club Utica, Essex Street Pub, Mohawk Place and a few others. She was at the major shows, tons of the shows we’ve all forgotten and just as many house, yard and street concerts, loudly showing her approval and appreciation to the bands. It is hard to recall a Jack Lords or Steam Donkeys show at which Penny was not present. I was officially introduced to Penny in the early 1990s at a birthday party on Connecticut Street with her apartment mate, the late artist Jack Drummer. My lovely wife Val and I drove by that apartment/studio earlier today, at Connecticut and Plymouth, and it still looks incredibly like we remember it from almost 25 years ago.

      But a couple of memories of what some people might consider a softer Penny, which was really just another part/side of the actual Bad Penny/Thelma Lee Ballad life force. One morning, about 15 years ago, at one of her Allentown apartments, she hosted a crepe breakfast during what might have been one of the days of the Allentown Arts Festival. A large crowd spilled from her apartment to the balcony, the driveway and lawn below, having a great, rather mellow time and eating what were some amazing crepes.  Penny was often happiest when she as busy and able to channel her energy, and she got the biggest kick that day when she was repeatedly told how good the food was. I realize she had help that day, but the brain cells have taken a bit of a beating over the years, even with the lack of intoxicants for years.

     Penny also had a couple of interests that kept her calm, busy and happy, animals/pets and flowers/gardens.  While she was a cat lover and shared space and feelings with them, she also liked dogs, and she was always asking about Harold and our previous dog, the late Walker. She also did gardening as a job and worked on some nearby gardens, including one at the end of our block at Norwood and Bryant. She was obviously enjoying herself, but took the garden quite seriously and concentrated as if she realized that every act to beautify by working with Nature was important and creative, which of course they were. She would ask for my opinion on her work as I walked Harold or Walker by, but you could see she was continually processing the work and results and figuring out her next move,

     Not that everything was peaches and cream; you noted I referred to drinking and other use and abuse, and they did crop up, as even her best friends readily acknowledge. I won’t repeat in depth the story I’ve written about before on how Val, Penny, Mikel Doktor, Marty Boratin and I drove from Buffalo to Austin to attend the South by Southwest 2001 conference. She was a true road warrior and drove her segment without mishap, but after basically being told by one of us that if she didn’t shut up after hours of drunken yelling in our shared room at the Austin Motel the first night, because some people did not want her to accompany them in the state she was in, that they would, well, enforce that sentiment. She took her stuff and stayed with friends after the first night, but she joined us for the drive home and again did her share, as if the first night’s incident had never occurred,

     Interesting but not too surprising, for every story we in the Buffalo music/Penny community could tell, there was at least one that members of the Austin communities could tell, as we found out that conference, as well as stories from when she lived in Los Angeles, which we also heard there.

     It is going to be difficult, nay, surrealistic, to realize and acknowledge that Penny will no longer be at shows and events and picnics when you get there, nor will she come through or under the door after you get there. On the other hand, she will always be there, never missing one of them. I hope you find and enjoy your peace, Penny, if that’s what you’re looking for, but I bet it won’t be quiet.