Rock out with me, Gwendolyn, and The Go Aways this Sunday in Houston!

On Sunday, October 29, my new band The Go Aways will be playing its first real show at 13 Celsius, one of my favorite wine bars in my adoptive city.

We play one set at 5 p.m. Two other Houston-based bands, Londale and Golden Cities, follow.

The Go Aways came together earlier this year when I met the new food editor at the Houston Press, Gwendolyn Knapp, a widely celebrated author of non-fiction, including the memoir After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter. As the weekly rag’s unofficial wine writer, I made a point of greeting our new fearless leader, who moved to Houston to take the position, by taking her out for a glass of wine (go figure!).

Over conversation, she mentioned that she was also a songwriter. That led to a jam session where I discovered that she has a truly unique and utterly compelling songwriting and guitar-playing style. It didn’t take long before we decided to start a band and make a record based on her songbook (in my home studio). The Americana-psychedelic-country tracks are often dark and darkly humorous. And they all rock. We hope to release our debut album by Christmas of this year.

In the meantime, Gwendolyn’s become a great friend to me and to the family and our girls, ages 4 and 5, always look forward to our sessions and her songs.

We also have a couple of Christmas songs that we’re working on. I can’t wait to share them.

In another time in my life, music was a central focus for me. And in certain periods when I was much younger, it was even the way that I made a living. Performing for live audiences and hearing my songs on radio, TV, and in films has always been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I miss it a lot and I’m so glad to be playing and recording with someone whose music I dig so much. And I’m so glad to have found a bandmate in Gwendolyn, who is as simpatica and kind as she is talented.

Please come and check us out this Sunday, Oct. 29 at 13 Celsius, where the wine will be flowing and the tunes jamming.

Hope to see you there! Rock on!

Rock with me this Friday, July 14 in San Diego: my 50th birthday concert in La Jolla

After nearly 50 years on this planet, I’m allowed to take a little vacation, right?

Tomorrow Tracie P and I will be taking our girls to La Jolla, California where I grew up and where I will be performing a set of music with one of my old and beloved bands, The Grapes, on Friday night.

We’ll be playing mostly classic country-Americana songs as we celebrate my 50th birthday. And there are a bunch of great bands playing that night as well, including a lot of guys I grew up with and a lot of friends who are coming down to sit in. It should be quite the show.

Beaumont’s is a pretty rowdy club so come prepared to dance (and drink) your ass off.

The Grapes are Jeremy “the Jar” Parzen, John Yelenosky, and Jon Erickson. T-Bone and other special guests will be sitting in on drums this time around.

The Grapes
Friday, July 14
(my 50th birthday bash)
Doors open at 8 p.m.

Beaumont’s
5662 La Jolla Blvd.
La Jolla CA 92037
Google map

And if you happen to be in San Diego on Saturday, July 15, we’ll be pouring some Nebbiolo from my cellar that night at Jaynes Gastropub. All the spots at the community table are already spoken for but if you stop by, I’ll fill your glass with some groovy Barbaresco (no joke… but be sure to reserve a table).

Tracie P will be there, too, on both Friday and Saturday nights. I’m taking the next few weeks off from the blog to enjoy my time off. See you in late July! Thanks for being here and have a great summer.

My 50th birthday concert in La Jolla and my client Ceci in the news

I was born on Bastille Day, July 14, 1967. To this day, my mother still claims that she heard La Marseillaise on the radio as she was heading to the hospital to deliver me into this world.

Ever since I was a kid and discovered the Beatles, I wanted to be a guitar player and a song writer. And by the time I was in high school, I was already playing and singing in rock bands with my friends.

I was 20 years old when I co-wrote my first song to appear in a major motion picture. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I really made a mark in independent music.

During my decade in New York, two French-language bands I played with and wrote songs for — Les Sans Culottes and Nous Non Plus — were headliners in the downtown indy rock scene. In 2003 we opened for Ringo Starr and Norah Jones at the storied Bottom Line in Manhattan. And in 2006, after licensing a number of songs to television shows and movies, Nous Non Plus had a college radio hit record. We stayed in the top 10 for four weeks.

You could say that I was born to be in a French rock band.

This year for my birthday, I won’t be performing with my old bandmates, now scattered across Europe and the U.S.

But I will be playing a set with some of my best friends in La Jolla, California as I celebrate my 50th birthday.

On Friday, July 14, 2017, we will be rocking out at Beaumont’s in Bird Rock on La Jolla Blvd., one of the rowdiest clubs in San Diego (no joke).

If you happen to be in San Diego that evening, please join me to celebrate my half century on this planet. It’ll be a super fun night. Stay tuned for more details.

In other news…

My newish client, Lambrusco producer Ceci, was in the news last week.

Click here to read an interview with legacy Parma producer Alessandro Ceci (below) in Grape Collective.

I connected with Alessandro and the Ceci family thanks to their consulting winemaker, Nico Danesi, one of my best friends in Italy and arguably the best classic-method producer in the country right now (I’m biased, of course, but there’s no question that Nico’s Arcari + Danesi Franciacorta and SoloUva Franciacorta have set a new benchmark for the appellation).

The Ceci are ramping up their presence in the U.S. with a growing presence in New York City and a new California importer coming online in just a few weeks.

The wines are great and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Taste them and I know you’ll see why they stand apart from the crowded field of Lambrusco today.

All in all, it’s looking to be a pretty good summer. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll come out to celebrate with me and my friends on Friday, July 14 in La Jolla. Tracie P will be there that night as well.

In Austin, Texas the good food, wine, and music just keep flowin’…

Over the last week, I visited Austin twice for work and for fun. Here are some highlights from my trips to the River City, where the good food, wine, and music just keep flowin’…

The meal I had at Lenoir with colleagues was one of the best and most original I’ve had this year. The food was thoughtful and fun yet wholesome, nuanced, and balanced, and the ambiance was magical with its old-time Americana feel.

The wine list was also spot on, with lots of natural selections, and I loved their new outdoor wine bar with its ancient oak trees. Super cool…

We all swooned over the cocktail program at Half Step in the historic Rainey Street district near downtown.

We were there with my friend Bryan Poff, who knows the owners: they hooked us up with a tour of their ice house where they “cook” and cut their own ice. Honestly, I didn’t know about the whole house-cooked ice thing. It’s got to be clear and it’s got to melt slow. Literally cool…

Stiles Switch, right by our old house, is still my go-to for classic bbq.

It’s one of the few places that remains open late (by ‘cue standards) and it serves beer, which is awesome. Smoking cool…

There’s always a lot of great shows happening in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” But whenever I visit with out-of-town friends, I try to make it to a Dale Watson set.

It was all happening at the classic Texas dance hall the Broken Spoke on Saturday (one of the last old-school dance halls left in the state). Groovy cool…

I was really stoked to learn that my friend Matt Berendt (left) will soon be opening the fourth location for his mega-successful wine program at the Grove Wine Bar. I met up and tasted with him and Grove sommelier Graham Douglass (right) at the West 6th location in downtown.

I’ve always thought that Matt should write a textbook on how to run a wine list. And I’ve always been inspired by an adage of his that I often use when I lead tastings and seminars: trust the wine, not the story. So true and so truly cool…

What’s not to love at Vera Cruz All Natural taqueria truck on Cesar Chavez? It takes them like 30 minutes to make a breakfast taco, even when it’s not busy. But it’s so worth it. I’m never one to believe the hype but in this case it’s well deserved. Real-deal cool…

And dulcis in fundo, last but not least, we grabbed some gelato at Dolce Neve on South First before we headed out last week. I hear that the nice folks there will soon be opening a place in Houston. I love their whole schtick and the gelato is purely delicious.

Excuse the pun but… utterly cool…

Hitler humor no longer funny in Trump America

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed — the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress (Charlie Chaplin, 1940).

donald-trump-hitlerMel Brooks’ musical “The Producers” is one of the greatest joys and regrets of my life as a parent.

Tracie P and I are big Broadway musical fans. And so it was only natural that our love of “song and dance” would rub off on our children.

Early on in our lives as parents, we had to eliminate “The Book of Mormon” from our playlists because of the pervasive profanity and the delicate subject matter. After all, my in-laws are devout Methodists.

But with a little real-time manual editing (Yiddish profanity doesn’t count), “The Producers” managed to make the cut. And our girls love it. The number “Springtime for Hitler” is their favorite and it’s their most frequently requested song (trumping even “Let it Go” from “Frozen,” believe it or not, another big hit at our house). They have no idea what it means or why it’s funny. They just love the music and the cadence of the actors (“ever eat with one?”).

We have a rule: “The Producers” can only be sung in the car, at home, or on the phone (Georgia P added that last medium for good measure) because not everyone likes “The Producers” as much as we do.

All things considered, we’ve struck a healthy balance of self-censorship and a sense of what’s appropriate at home and in public. Georgia is always the first to admonish me if she catches me humming “Keep it Gay” at the mall.

But in the light of the numerous anti-Semitic episodes that have taken place in the U.S. since the advent of Trump America (some of them very close to home), the Hitler humor that we used to enjoy together (“You’re looking for a war? Here’s World War II!”) has lost its sheen.

Less than two weeks before Christmas last year, anti-Semitic episodes were reported at the University of Houston. Our niece (Tracie’s side of the family) is in her second year of college at UH and it’s conceivable that our own children will go to school there someday. I never would have thought that anti-Semitism would still be so prevalent in my daughters’ lifetime. But evidently it’s alive and well on college campuses (and it was already on the rise before the election).

Just a few days later, it was reported that Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s nominee for national security advisor, met with Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, a political party that nearly came to power in the country’s parliamentary elections last fall, a party that espouses anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic rhetoric (remember that many Muslims are Semites), a party founded by ex-members of the Nazi party. How’s that for funny?

And just last week, swastikas and “white power” were among the graffiti spray-painted on the walls of a high school in an affluent Houston neighborhood.

My friends in New York City (where I lived for 10 years in my 30s) tell me that they have recently seen “Trump” scrawled next to swastikas on the subway. And it was only a few days after the election that Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn Heights (Brooklyn Heights!) was defaced with swastikas and slogans of “Go Trump.” I “never, ever, ever” saw anything like that in my decade in city where the Statue of Liberty looks out over Ellis Island.

I don’t ascribe or attribute these episodes to Trump. But I do know that before the presidential campaign and election, such episodes were a rare occurrence. Now they are not.

That’s going to be a lot harder to explain to my semi-Semitic children than the humor in “The Producers.”

Hitler humor has a long and grand tradition in the U.S. Disney and Spike Jones were among the pioneers (see video below) as was Charlie Chaplin. Lenny Bruce was another (“How Hitler Got Started” is one of the brilliant sketches of the American comedy canon imho).

Mel Brooks’ musical and 1968 film by the same title are supreme expressions of that legacy. But they just aren’t funny anymore. The chord they strike now rings too close to home.

Please view and listen to Chaplin’s speech below, the finale of “The Great Dictator” (1940). His words couldn’t ring more true.

Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons.

“I Believe in You and Me” NEW ALBUM from PARZEN FAMILY SINGERS

Syncopate the beat, it will make your feet to the music move
In the whole wide world there is no soul it cannot soothe
In the rhythm lives the take and give that make the groove
Music is in everyone a mystery that we have sung for you

Here’s the new album, “I Believe in You & Me,” from Parzen Family Singers. Please download it from BandCamp FOR FREE and import it into your iTunes and play it LOUD. Nothing could mean more to me. THANK YOU! You can also listen via the SoundCloud embed below. And listen to our new single, “I Like Playing a Game (featuring Georgia P),” in the YouTube above.

It’s dedicated to my wife and lover Tracie P:

Before I met you I could hardly tie my shoes
Before you came into my life I could never lose the lonely blues
But knowing that you love me there’s no way that i could lose
You are my wife and lover, you are my muse

It may take a moment for the SoundCloud audio embed to load below.

Click here for Parzen Family Singers “I Believe in You and Me” BandCamp.

THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO OUR MUSIC. IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME.

Happy holidays, everyone!

back-cover-2016

2 NEW Christmas Songs from Parzen Family Singers…

Beware of darkness but fear not the night
There will be sunshine by Christmas light…

christmas-album-cover-2016-betaThere’s a strict rule in the Parzen family home: thou shall not listen to Christmas music (even though you love it so much) until the week of Thanksgiving (and not after January 1).

After all, part of what makes Christmas music so special is that you only get to hear it six weeks of the entire year.

Here are two new Christmas songs from Parzen Family Singers. I hope you enjoy them.

You can download them on Parzen Family Singers Bandcamp.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

G-d bless us all: let America be America again…

american-flagPlease see this op-ed published yesterday by Harry Belafonte in the New York Times.

In it he quotes the great American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967): “Let America Be America Again,” a poem written by Hughes in 1935 (published 1936).

Early in the morning of the 2016 presidential election, after a restless night, I am reminded as well of these lines from the closing poem of Hughes’ collection of poetry Weary Blues (published 1926).

We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.

Yesterday
A night-gone thing,
A sun-down name.

And dawn-today
Broad arch above the road we came.

Hopefully tomorrow America will be America again.

G-d bless America. G-d bless us all.

Photo taken in San Diego, California, August 2016.

Houston to Major Tom: a song for shipwrecked souls (new track by the Parzen Family Singers)

Above: the Parzen Family Singers covers David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (for better audio quality, check out the SoundCloud below).

Every since the Parzen family moved to Houston nearly two and a half years ago, our daughters and I have been obsessed with astronauts (the “real astronauts,” as the girls call them) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which lies about 40 minutes away by car from the house where we live in southwest Houston.

The girls and I go there once or twice a month (Tracie P, not so much).

Somewhere along our journey into space, we came across this video-cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who recorded vocals and an acoustic guitar overdub for the track on the International Space Station.

That YouTube led us to our obsession (especially Georgia P’s) with this vintage David Bowie video version of the original song, shot on analog film.

Major Tom and our beloved “real astronauts” have become central to the Parzen family narrative.

Our daughters — ages 3 and 4.5 — don’t yet tap into the astronauts as metaphors for the unknown and unknowable. I’m not really sure where the appeal lies for them. I am certain however that like dinosaurs, astronauts are an interminable source of fascination for (our) children, perhaps because they innately intuit their significance in the unsignifiable.

For me, Major Tom and the real astronauts (like Ulysses) are allegories for our own shipwrecked souls and the human condition driven by our very real need and desire to face our aloneness (tell my wife, I love her very much, she knows…).

It’s so powerful to sit in the original gallery of the original Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center and hear the docent recount the 1969 moon landing.

“The first time words were heard from the moon,” she said on our most recent visit (with my bromance Giovanni), “they were heard in this room. That’s pretty cool.”

(Our dear friend Elaine also visited the real astronauts with us earlier this year.)

Like Columbus, like Magellan, like Ulysses, the real astronauts travel into the unknown so that we may know it, making the unknowable knowable. They haven’t unlocked the mystery of the universe and our existence. But with each step they take, they chip away at and assuage our aloneness.

And so on this sleepy Friday, the hottest day of summer so far, I offer you the Parzen Family Singers’ cover (SoundCloud follows below and the YouTube lies above).

One giant step for a middle-aged wine blogger… Thanks for listening.

girls in space

NSFW: “Smooth (oh Paolo),” Parzen Family Singers’ new song about Paolo Cantele #bromance

paolo cantele winePaolo Cantele (above) is one of my bestest friends and my bromance (and my client) and I wrote him this song (embedded below).

This was one of those ones that just tumbled out of my brain and body: I hadn’t intended to write him a song but then a beat led to a riff and a riff led to a wah wah pedal and a lyric.

I hope my guitar playing makes up for my crappy singing and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it (here in Houston at Baby P Studios Gulf Coast location).

See you next week and thanks for being here. Lyrics follow the YouTube below.

Smooth (oh Paolo)

He’s got the crib
He’s got the clothes
He’s got the ride
And everyone knows

He’s got the look
He even wrote a book
Doesn’t have the hair
But the girls don’t seem to care

Smooth…
Oh Paolo
Some say he’s a gigolo

He’s got the wine
And he’s got the time
When the ladies are looking so fine

Likes heavy guitars
Likes hanging in bars
He’s even friends with a dude who’s named the Jar

You know he’s moving in the right direction
Gonna get some California sun
You know he’s making all the right connections
He’s America’s newest son
He’s gonna get the rock ‘n’ roll injection
And he’s gonna have himself some fun
He’s a son of a gun

Smooth…
Oh Paolo
Some say he’s a gigolo