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I’m a little behind on blog updates on the projects we’ve been working on. I haven’t had much time to write lately, as creating and producing the aformentioned projects have kicked my ass in a multitude of ways. I also have a beautifully chubby four month old baby named Elijah, who has basically not slept since he entered this world. Yeah, that’s right I played the baby card. There is no chance at a normal life with a screaming colicy baby. I’ve got good money that says the biggest bloggers and writers are single and without kids. Just a hunch. Yes, Andrew Sullivan can amazingly pull off 100 brilliant posts a day with his eyes closed, but he only has to take care of two fat beagles. I digress.
First project for the Fall has been the release of our hip hop comedy track Wine Country. The response has to this song has been overwhelming. We got awesome love from my hometown paper the SF Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and SFist to name drop a few. I had no idea people loved drinking wine and acting like gangstas so much. But it has been a great feeling to hear how much everyone loves the track, and has been a great feeling to represent for Northern Cali.
I’m originally from San Fran, but lived in NYC for a while, and go back and forth often. On a recent trip back to NYC, we were at a bar in Brooklyn, and this rap group onstage were spitting a tune, and would not stop talking about Brooklyn. About two minutes through the tune - they had said “Brooklyn” about 275 times - I snapped. I yelled back “San Francisco!..Represent”..Another friend yelled “Oakland, son!” And so we carried on. Then we started to be dumb and esoteric, shouting back wine country cities and hamlets. “Sonoma, mofo!” “Glenn Ellen for days!”...”Healdsburg. Holla”
And the idea for Wine Country was born. I thought it would be hilarious for a hard core hip hop group to represent for Sonoma and Napa and Northern California.
I met up with my boy and producing partner Taylor Ryan out of Brooklyn to work on a beat. We thought the harder the beat, the funnier the track would be when these dudes were rapping about wine. We settled on a track that had a kind of early 90’s rap vibe, a la early Snoop, and Dre. A track you would want to bump while you cruised around Compton lookin hard. We nailed it.
Then came the flow. A big group of us sat around, listened to the beat and came up with ridiculous rhymes. I’d already written the 1st verse, which we set the beat to, and then I fleshed the song out with the funniest stuff from the session. Lots of great lines didn’t make the cut...perhaps we’ll have to do a Wine Country remix? Then it was back to SF to nail down our hop hop crew.
I wanted people for the track who really represented for the Bay Area and Northern California. I picked myself for the first emcee for purely selfish reasons. Next up was Jairo Vargas of the Bayonics, one of California’s best bands. Jairo is an unbelievable singer and emcee, and you should check out Bayonics when they are in your hood. After Jairo, I called Vallejo’s Moe Green. This guy can spit rhymes like nobody’s business, and we were luckily enough that he was into some comedy for this track. The session was recorded at Gulch Alley studios in SF. In was an incredibly fun session; we laughed the entire time. Rapping about wine. Redonk.
We shot the video for Wine Country in San Fran and in Sonoma. One of the highlights of the video is the hilarious Wine Country hip-hop girls, played by Allison Page and Ally Johnson of Killing My Lobster fame. The brilliantly funny ladies were not available the day we shot in Sonoma, so we shot their part the day before in Golden Gate park.
The main part of the video was shot in Sonoma. I would have loved to shoot all over Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino, but time just didn’t permit. So we filmed all around Sonoma - the square downtown in front of City Hall, Bartholamew Winery, Ravenswood, Buena Vista, and Sebastiani.
Although on surface this is just a silly comedy tune, I hope it captures a little of the magic that is this place we call Northern California.
Enjoy the video and the song! Don’t be the last loser on your block to get the track, download it on Itunes immediately!
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Ahhhhh. Good old episode 4, “We’re Getting the Band Back Together.” The title is a throwback to the old Blues Brothers line “We’re putting the Band back together”. My overall concept for the episode and for the season was that it was time for Neptune to finally try and get into the music scene in New York. Neptune did a fantastic job getting into the ganja business quickly, and also I wanted him to get sick of it quickly, too.
In Episode 4, he gets his band together, starting with meeting his grandpa (Peter Leahey) who is spunky, homeless, and lives in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of Manhattan. It was a beautiful day when we shot this scene, 65 degrees with a slight fall breeze, and I remember enjoying New York at that moment. I then looked down by my foot to see an old petrified decaying rat which I tried to ignore as we shot, but I gotta be honest, I did throw up in my mouth a little. I’m from San Fran originally, so I react to these everyday NY occurrences like an effeminate five-year-old.
If you’re wondering why Neptune refers to Buddha so much, I just thought it was funny to have a stoner always referencing Buddha, throwing the name around as much as we throw around Jesus. By the end of the scene, Neptune’s grandpa gives him a new guitar and assures him that Buddha will send him musicians for a band.
Chad Shapiro and Alan Gilbert return as Ricardo and Steve in this episode. We have some great broadway singing in here. Alan has lived on 51st street right near Broadway and the theatre district in Midtown for the past 30 years, and has been in tons of shows. Many a nights after a gig and many beers, Alan entertained the crowd by singing show tunes into the wee hours of the morning. Steve and Ricardo hook Neptune up with a singer named “Junior” to help start the band.
I make my first appearance in the series as Junior. The idea for this old school Rat Pack styled singer, was that I always thought Sinatra was hilarious because he was such an asshole. Sort of like a grumpy old grandpa you just have to laugh at. I throw in a little over the top mix of Phil Hartman’s impersonation of Sinatra in “the Sinatra group” and you have the motivation for Junior. Also in the band are “Frenchie” played by Ramzi Khoury, who is also a fantastic singer songwriter from the Bay and now in NYC. Frenchie is funny to me because he never understands anyone. I had a really good french friend who - although he lived in the US for 41 years - would always say at least 50 times a day...”what are you saying?..Zees is bullsheet!” On Bass, we have the “Wylie,” a super chill ladies man played by Diallo House. Diallo House is our bass player on the theme song Vineyard Gypsy, and is all over NYC playing regularly. Check his jazz group every Saturday night at 1am until the sun comes up at Smalls Jazz club in the West Village.
We finish up the episode with the band playing the entire theme song entitled “Vineyard Gypsy,” which I wrote when we stayed for a long cold month in January on Martha’s Vineyard.
Enjoy the episode!
Where to begin when talking about Episode 3 “The Kid is Not My Son.” I originally thought of the concept for this episode because I was always astonished with the pot dealers I knew who were always regaling me with stories of the high level people they sold to in New York. Local politicians, celebrities, District Attorneys, Wall Street execs, CEO’s, professors, you name it. So I thought it would be fun if Neptune ended up selling ganja to a high level guy who works for the NSA.
Overall in this episode we see Neptune begin his ascension as the weed dealer du jour of NYC. He starts raking in the cash and the ladies, and things become complicated quickly. I have no idea how I came up with Neptune hooking up with an older black lady, but it makes me laugh just thinking about it, so that’s what I wrote. The image of them lying together on the couch post coitus is one of my favorite parts of the episode.
We shot a ton of this episode in the East Village and Lower East Side of Manhattan. A highlight for me was when we shot the montage of Neptune selling weed on the LES. We tried to cover as many streets as possible, Orchard, Ludlow, Houston, Grand, etc...And of course we had to include a beautiful shot of the omnipresent Lower East side artist's Marco’s work.
Another major component of episode 3 is the music. The Hot Club of San Francisco is all over this episode, and I think really makes the episode cohesive. The Hot Club is such a tight and hard swinging band, their tunes are addicting. We’ve also got a ridiculously smokin song called Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘bout Miss Thing, from Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. The Hot Club and Lavay and her crew are based in the Bay Area but tour frequently around the US. So get your lazy ass off the couch, and check them out when they are in your town.
Reflecting upon this episode I think my favorite anecdote from those days of shooting, was for the intro. In the intro Neptune (Ashley Springer) calls the cop Julie, and realizes he has called a police station. His friend Chris (Trevour Zhou), tries to get him off the phone by hitting Neptune in the cahones. And then visa versa. So we all show up on set for the ball punching scene, and I assume that Ashley and Trevor will just kind of fake hit each other as no one really wants to get their balls punched. But method actor Trevor shows up with two nut protecting hockey cups. And handed one to Ashley, and was like “dude, we gotta make this believable, we really got to get each each other hard in the nuts if it’s gonna be funny.” So they put their cups on to my astonishment, and for the next couple hours, wailed away on each others nut sacks. It was brutally hilarious. And a wonderful intro for episode 3.
The 2012 Tony’s happened last night, in case it wasn’t on your calendar. I’ll bypass the usual groaning about how awards shows suck, and how long they are. Heard it a thousand times. Yes, they suck and yes, ratings for the show were horrible. It is what it is. Get over it.
This year’s Tony’s were not too painful. Hosted By Neil Patrick Harris for the 3rd time, the show overall seemed to somewhat keep up the pace.
The opening number “Hello” sung by the book of Mormon cast was one of the strongest tunes of the night. This is a Trey Parker and Matt Stone song if I’ve ever hear it...Check out an earlier south park holiday song they did back in the day. You hear the same sort of rounds, and melody counterpoints, and opposing and they joining melody lines. Brilliant stuff.
NPH was adorable as usual and kept the show light and fun, even if some of the jokes were pretty cheesy. Musicals can be kind of cheesy , so it makes sense. On a side note, although I do like the ladies, I would indeed probably hook up with NPH after I’ve had a couple cocktails. But I digress.
“What if Life Were More Like Theatre” was an appropriate opener for the show. But I felt like with that song, and also the writing in general things could have been punched up or a bit edgier. It all felt very Disney to me. Although I did enjoy “Seize the Day” performed by the cast of Disney’s Newsies.
Well I am gonna say it for the record, I am not the foremost authority on theatre. So I am just going to list all of the winners from last night with no added commentary or blather:
Winners from the 2012 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards, announced Sunday.
Play: “Clybourne Park.”
Revival of a Play: “Death of a Salesman.”
Revival of a Musical: “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: James Corden, “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
Performance by an Actress in Leading Role in a Play: Nina Arianda, “Venus in Fur.”
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Steve Kazee, “Once.”
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Audra McDonald, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”
Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Christian Borle, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Judith Light, “Other Desert Cities.”
Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Michael McGrath, “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Judy Kaye, “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Book of a Musical: Enda Walsh, “Once”
Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: “Newsies.”
Direction of Play: Mike Nichols, “Death of a Salesman.”
Direction of a Musical: John Tiffany, “Once.”
Choreography: Christopher Gattelli, “Newsies.”
Orchestration: Martin Lowe, “Once.”
Sound Design of a Play: Darron L. West, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
Sound Design of a Musical: Clive Goodwin, “Once.”
Costume Design of a Play: Paloma Young, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, “Follies.”
Scenic Design Play: Donyale Werle, “Peter and the Starcatcher”
Scenic Design of a Musical: Bob Crowley, “Once.”
Lighting Design of a Play: Jeff Croiter, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
Lighting Design of a Musical: Natasha Katz, “Once”
There are several once-in-a-lifetime events culminating this week. We saw Venus eclipse the sun, which was pretty boring. In other , more globally relevant news, we have finally released episode 2 of Sex Drugs and Jazz, entitled “The Dinner Party”.
As you might remember if you were sober at the end of the Pilot episode, Neptune (Ashley Springer) gets arrested by the NYPD for selling ganja on St Marks street in New York. Episode two opens with Neptune trying to figure out how to get customers for his new weed start up business. Our Jazz musician protagonist is obviously not the sharpest business person, but with the help of his best friend Chris Wang (Trevor Zhou), a plan is hatched to throw a fancy dinner party to entice new high end customers to sell pot to.
Getting ready for the dinner party is a shit show, and the party itself is filled with complications from start to finish. At the dinner party we meet Steve and Ricardo, two flamboyant broadway theatre directors; We meet Metta, the intimidating billionaire oil man, and Eliza the horny cougar who is always has her hands on Neptune’s joint.
I really love this episode so very much, and I love dinner parties. They are one of the best social activities we get to do in our short little lives. Good people, good food, good wine, and I’m in heaven. For episode 2 I thought it would be fun to have all these characters who Neptune would be selling weed to, to gather at Neptune’s house to see him in his own environment as a cook and host. Which - surprise surprise - he’s not very good at.
The music from Episode 2 features more kick ass tunes from the brilliant Hot Club of San Francisco - the songs Lover’s Leap, Jonesin’, and Yerba Buena bounce from the HCSF. The great funk tune for the massive bong smoking scene is “Camouflage” by Hokum Factory out of NYC.
Will Neptune pull it off, and get enough people to buy pot to start his business? Watch the effen 2nd episode now and find out you lazy slacker.