Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of The Posies: Guinguettes

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Guingettes

Stringfellow: A subtheme in my participation here as guest editor is “living the good life.” Jon and I have lived abroad for a long time, and although I can say that France is not a paradise through and through—red tape, bad traffic, pretentious wait staff, high taxes, dog crap—they do a few things extremely right. (And I’m not talking about the extreme right party, Front National, that currently holds the mayorship in Jon’s summer home town of Frejus.) The guinguette is a concept that pops up here and there in France in the warm months, roughly from end of May to the end of September, but subject to local variances. It’s an open-air bar, gathering point, dancing place, etc., that should recur in the same spot year after year, but has little permanent structure. It should be near some kind of water, most commonly a river. There should be music and dancing that’s appealing to all ages—especially old folks. Basically, you cool your jets with some cheap wine, cheap food and friends, and then, at some point in September unannounced, it packs up and disappears without a trace. Brilliant.

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 15

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

52Cork

May 2: Dublin To Cork
It’s a few hours drive from Dublin to Cork. I’m fueled for the ride, with a coffee and a scone. A short distance out of Dublin and the grassy terrain gently undulates. Rain comes and goes. The venue, Cypress Avenue, is named after the Van Morrison song from Astral Weeks. Cork is very quiet upon arrival, again on account of the bank holiday. A few restaurants are open, a few bars, but that’s about it aside from the club. I’m sure it’s a nice place to visit when it’s open. The staff at the club welcome me. The room is a good size with a stage that stands about waist level. I’m baffled by a video projection screen however, just to the right of the stage. It’s the kind of thing you see at a big arena show where the band is projected on a screen for those in the nosebleed seats, except it’s next to the stage in a room that holds about 200. “Can we lose this screen?” I ask, to which they gladly comply.

The next line of business has to do with the metal chairs, about 100 of them, lined-up and wired-tied together near the stage. It looks like some power-point presentation is about to commence. I ask, “Can we maybe do away with the chairs?” I’m told this may present a problem. The patrons will want to sit, I’m told, and in the absence of metal chairs will drag all the barstools in from the bar and place them at the edge of the stage. The barkeep assures me, “If you don’t want the chairs, we’ll have to remove anything that looks like a barstool in the building.” A tad extreme I’m thinking. “Can’t you just ask them to leave the stools at the bar?” I suggest. “Well we tried before, but it’s no use.” He jokes “With the new laws in place, we can’t simply beat them anymore.” Always a step towards progress to avoid beatings I figure. Anything that can be sat on is then hauled out back leaving the room free for the crowd, who are in high spirits.

They know the words to the songs, something I aspire to when I go off-roading tonight. It’s a loose but fast moving set. The show clocks in at about an hour and 45 minutes, followed by greetings, signing and photos. At midnight, I’m back in my room. The last show of this tour is a wrap. In the morning, I’ll be driving back to Dublin and then flying to London, where I’ll spend the night. Time to re-pack, a little break in the travel. I’ve got one clean shirt left from the small load of laundry I did back in Vienna. My suitcase is full of Crunchy bars from England. I can’t find them at home. It’s a routine. One of many routines that makes the travel a little more bearable and gives me a sense, however small, that I know where I’m going. I may be travelling by air, by rail, by pod, but if my guitar is within sight and there’s a Crunchy bar in my bag, all the rest will surely fall into place.

54Heathrow

54RoadRescue

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 14

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

51Guinness

May 1: Manchester To Dublin
It’s just a skip across the water from Manchester to Dublin. I have time to devour a few pages of Bowie In Berlin, then we’re there. It’s predictably grey and cold, but the rain is holding off as we speed toward the city in a small, rented Renaud. Dublin has a distinct sepia tonality, punctuated with enameled Georgian doors in red, green, black and white. Something about the natural soft box of the sky makes the colors pop with intensity. Foot traffic is rather light this afternoon.

I spot The Bleeding Horse, a historic tavern where I enjoyed a pint of Guinness on my first solo tour abroad. I’ll have to stop in. There’s an hour to spare, so I order up what turns out to be the best fish and chips I’ve ever experienced. Spike enjoys a dish of smokies, a type of smoked haddock baked with a thin layer of parmesan and potatoes. All of it is washed down with a pint of Guinness far smoother than anything you’ll find elsewhere in the U.S. None of the sour aftertaste, no pain in the belly. I vow that it won’t be the last pint of the night. My show at Whelans is packed. Many have been coming to hear the band and I since the early ’90s.

Onstage, I recount a memorable show at Dublin’s Olympia Theater. Before we even took the stage, the crowd was rowdy and ready for a good time. About two songs into the show, a guy darted onstage and hurled himself into the drum set, sending tom-toms flying in every direction, cymbals crashing to the floor. A punch-up with the crew ensued in the wings as other stage crew rushed to rebuild the drum kit. And this was how the show began! I suppose musicians have been diving into crowds forever. Now the tables were being turned. The crowd was diving into the band. First impressions stick, and I left with a memory of Dublin that I still enjoy re-telling.

Tonight, I’ll play a two-hour-plus set, much of it off the top of my head, taking song requests. There’s rumor of a “Disco Load-out,” meaning I’ll have a short window to scoop up my gear, sign some CDs, take a few photos with fans before the club cranks up horrible dance music. The tactic is to keep the drinkers dancing and the dancers drinking and to send the music fans running for the door. I hate it, but it’s what a lot of clubs do. It drives me out the door and onto a now brimming Camden street. It’s midnight in Dublin, or Guinness Time. Approximately 6 p.m. CST, better known as “Miller Time” in Nashville.

51BleedingHorse

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 13

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

April 30: Bristol To Manchester

430Bristol

430Manchester
Sometimes the gems of rail travel aren’t where you’d expect to find them. Such is the case in Bristol, England. Underneath the stone sprawl of the station, you’ll find Hart’s Bakery. It’s just off the beaten path as you drag your luggage up the hill from the main road. Hart’s boasts some out-of-this-world pastries and coffees. I’ve been tipped off that I need to experience the Saturday Bread. It’s a sticky square of soft bliss. The bakery is a unique space, its ceiling rounded like a Quonset hut, with shiplap walls in a cool minty green. I’ve been here once before and tried the cheese-and-onion pasty, a hand-pie that was perfected in Cornwall, and I never forgot it.

The service is friendly and fast. With a brick of Saturday Bread in my backpack, we have a train to catch. Because of the bankers holiday, the train is oversold. Passengers brace and wedge themselves into the aisle, fights are on the verge of breaking out. The loud pop of a cork alerts me to a group of woman just in front of me. It’s noon, and they are seriously imbibing. One has an iPhone cranking the Bay City Rollers. So much for that nap. Tonight I’m at The Deaf Institute—the club named as such because the building actually housed services for the hearing and speech-impaired at the turn of the century. No more trains from here on out. After today’s cramped journey, I won’t be missing them. In the morning I’ll fly to Ireland.

430Custard

430Harts

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 12

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

429Bristol

April 29: London To Bristol
It’s a sunny morning as we leave Paddington Station for our train to Bristol. The ride through the country is picturesque, with sheep and cows dotting the green pastures. A momentary stop at Bath, England, reminds me there are so many places I still haven’t been. Pulling into Bristol, I’m taken with how impressive the station is, resembling a castle or cathedral. The show tonight is at a club called Louisiana. With its wrought-iron railing and wrap-around balcony it looks like a building on Bourbon street in New Orleans. The room is small and will soon be rammed with bodies tonight.

We’ve got a small window of time to forage for dinner, maybe find a quiet corner in a cafe along the docks. It’s a banking holiday, the sun is out, and many people have descended upon Bristol this weekend. I’m tired. My average tour day is typically 16 hours long—up early to travel and in late after the show. I’ve got another show in Manchester tomorrow, followed by one in Dublin and in Cork before I can begin to pack for home. By the last show, it will have been nine in a row, and I can feel my voice getting rougher each night. Checking in at home, my wife tells me that our daughter is running a fever and she thinks they both have the flu. It’s going to be a long night for her. My phone rings at 3 a.m. She’s on the way to the emergency. Our daughter’s fever has shot up higher. A half hour later, the phone rings again. The emergency room is full. She’s going to go to another hospital. “Keep me posted,” I tell her. I’ll hope to make up a little sleep on the train to Manchester.

429BristolBoundI

429Louisianna

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 11

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

428Theaterland

April 28: Paris To London
It’s an early riser. Departing for London via Paris by train requires going through customs at Gare du Nord. Passport, work permit, embarkation card are in hand as I approach the customs agent. “What’s your line of work?” the agent asks. I tell her I’m a musician. “Do you play jazz?” she pushes. “Nah, more folky,” I tell her. “That’s a pity,” she says. I figure “folky” is a friendly enough term that it will grease my entrance into the country. I’m pulled out of line while they run it all into the system. It’s a routine I’m used to.

Once through customs, I have a phone interview with a radio station in Cork, Ireland. We chat about the new album and the show, which is mere days away. With a few minutes to spare, my train pulls into the station and we’re on our way to London.

Tonight’s show is at The Borderline in Soho, nestled in London’s West End. Sometimes called Theatreland, as the area is home to major productions including the anticipated Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at The Palace Theater. The Borderline is known to feature Americana, roots and country acts. Though I also ask to be kept in the dark about how many people to expect, I’m told that show will be sold out tonight, which I’m happy to hear. This brick-laden corridor of Victorian buildings is what I always thought London would be like. Our first several trips to London found us holed up in a business hotel out by the Edgware Road tube station. Soho, on the other hand, has plenty of character and is conducive to wandering the neighborhood. My hotel room is a small cracker box, literally about four-by-seven, plus a small shower. It’s cheap, though, and I’ll see very little of it on my brief stay.

I stumble into Foyle’s Bookshop before the show, a multi-level book lover’s dream. With a transatlantic flight looming, I’ll want a good read, which I seem to have found in a book called Bowie In Berlin. It covers his life in the period that produced Low and Heroes, Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and Lust For Life: some of my favorite albums. The Borderline show is a memorable one. As predicted, the room is “absolutely rammed,” as my road manager, Spike, is known to say. At midnight, we hoof it out the stage-door into the rain, back to the hotel. A blues singing busker tags beside us, asking what kind of music I play. It’s wet, I’m tired, but we chat as we walk. He’s had a rough day of busking and confesses, “These people think they know the blues … ”

428Snookerland

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 10

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

427ParisGareduNord

April 27: Amsterdam To Paris
Arriving at Amsterdam Central Station, we discover that all international trains are being postponed today in observance of the King’s birthday. It’s the King’s way of giving back: cancelled trains and a holiday whose trappings are comparable to Saint Patrick’s Day in the U.S. Revelers wear bright orange attire, don paper crowns and proceed to drink themselves silly. We’re told at the station to take the local train to Schiphzl, where the airport is. From there we can hop on the international train to Brussels, where we’ll switch to another train going into Paris Gare du Nord.

Once on the train, I begin to nod off. A voice announces over the loudspeaker that we are to be on alert for thieves, to mind our bags and beware of pick-pockets. I’ve been the victim of an attempted pick-pocketing in Montmartre before. The artful dodger did his best to gain close proximity to me, pretending to be enamored of my sneakers, while attempting to nick my wallet. In some ways, it’s almost quaint or old timey, pick-pocketing. Not that I would be amused to fall prey to it, but it’s real Dickensian mischief. It’s kind of like mime, which they have in Paris, too. The two arts are probably in cahoots. Pickpockets try to steal your belongings while a mime robs you of the time spent watching it. But the machine-gun-toting soldiers at the train station are fixated on the kind of criminal who would seek to inflict mass harm. It’s a sad and sobering reflection of what the world has become in the 21st century: brutal, war-like and unpredictable.

We arrive in Paris. I need a place of refuge before I can think about singing. I’ve got time for a quick curry in the largely Indian neighborhood of La Chapelle, where my hotel is located. The shop windows are dressed with festive clothing, mannequins in bright saris. Orange lanterns hang from the balconies. There’s an Indian beauty salon that sells curio-like products such as snake oil. (At least they’re honest.) In the hotel, Spike and I squish into the world’s tiniest elevator, which proceeds to jiggle all the way up to sixth, where it drops a few inches just shy of the floor. It’s nothing fancy, but we are only here for a night.

I’m sharing the bill with a singer named Laura Gibson from Portland. Arriving for soundcheck, a guard asks to check our belongings before we enter the venue. That’s a first. I point to my name on the poster to impress upon him that I’m a performer, but, of course, he has a job to do. The show is going to be an early one, 8:30 p.m. Onstage, I refer to it as a “matinee,” an old French word meaning “way too early for a show.” I’m offstage in an hour and soon to be back in the tiny elevator jiggling toward the sixth floor.

Paris in a day.

427ParisLaChapelle

427SnakeOil

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 9

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

426AmsterdamStation

April 26: Berlin To Amsterdam
Bound for the Netherlands, the train barrels through the wet countryside, beads of rain streak the windows. The world outside is intensely green on the six-hour journey from Berlin to Amsterdam. I played to a packed house of smokers last night. My eyes are still bloodshot and burning, my throat is raw from the roomful of haze. I’m going on five hours of sleep and can’t quite find a relaxing position in my chair to alleviate the knot in my back. I’ve been drifting in and out for the last three hours or so. Although I’ve played Berlin a handful of times, until last night I had never seen the Berlin Wall, just never had a free minute. I place my hand upon it, wishing I had more time.

Fifteen years ago I appeared on a German TV show that was recorded at the studios where Fritz Lang made the film Metropolis. A silver statue of the film’s futuristic icon, Maria, stood overlooking the lot. That was the extent of my sightseeing in Berlin aside from playing about four shows. That memory has stuck with me. Ever since I became fascinated with German Expressionism, Bauhaus theater, Bertolt Brecht and along with that, the music that David Bowie created while in Berlin, I’ve been intrigued by the place. And yet time after time, my visits have always involved rushing to a soundcheck or a radio station—never once having a day to take in what the city has to offer, hardly time enough for a meal. Even on this trip it’s a mad dash from the train into a taxi to record an interview for Radio Deutschland before the show.

At the station, the staff are warm and welcoming. The engineer apologizes that the studio is due to be updated with the latest digital gear but we’ll have to make do with the old analogue desk and microphones today. A quick scan of the vintage Neumann U47s, and I assure our hosts, “We’ll be just fine.” I recorded a live acoustic performance of my song “Smoke And Sparks,” and those old microphones captured every nuance. I could have made a record there. Berlin, from my constantly moving POV, strikes me as being a very different city than any other in Europe. Some of it is ancient and imposing. There are Roman-inspired buildings and statues around every corner and the reminders of WW II, like the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church with its steeple blown off. Throughout the city one encounters small brass placards along the sidewalks that document the names of those whose lives were cut short in the madness of the Holocaust. Ethnic influences co-mingle today: the German, the Turkish. There’s a trendy Korean barbeque outside the youth hostel/hotel where the club has put me up for the night. It feels more like New York than any other city in Europe.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the train station, is a wondrous and sleek biosphere encased in glass and steel. In fact, Berlin has a very modern edge. Adventurous angular lines battle it out with the classical. One of these days I’ll come back and spend a day or two, but it’s onward to Amsterdam. We anticipate a good crowd tonight.

426Berlin

426Bike

426CoinLaundry

426CrookedStreets

426ThePassengers

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 8

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

425CopenhagenStation

April 25: Copenhagen To Berlin
This train is bound for Berlin. The skies are the clearest blue, but there’s still a few patches of snow along the tracks. The Danish countryside reminds me of Tennessee in places. There’s a grove of slender white trees outside the window on one side and a Christmas-tree farm on the other, each little fir with a colored ribbon. White wind turbines spin at the far end of a mustard field, cottages with clay tile roofs—it cries out to be painted. I’ve picked up a set of Faber Castell pens and some Canson paper in Vienna to keep me occupied. I’ve burned through the books I’ve brought along, Kim Gordon’s Girl In A Band and Robert Reich’s Supercapitalism.

Wi-Fi has become a rare commodity over the last nine days. It’s probably a good thing, overcoming my Wi-Fi dependency. But Skype is a lifeline that I can’t do without on the road. After the show, I call home. It’s about dinnertime there. They’re having spaghetti tonight. Last night, my eight-year-old daughter, frustrated by the slow download of a program my wife is helping her with, says “I’m bored!” She’s so accustomed to the uninterrupted flow of digital stimulus that it’s jarring to wait for anything. I lean into the phone and offer her these words of wisdom. “Violet, remember this: Boredom is the mother of creativity.” She repeats it back and then stops to ask, “Who is the father of creativity?” Good question, I’m thinking. “Discipline is the father of creativity,” I suggest. Our train is about to connect with a ferry to shuttle us across sea.

425ByLand

425CopehagenStation2

425RadioDeutschland

425SmokeEyed

425TheWall

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 7

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.

424Copenhagen

April 24: Coping In Copenhagen
More juice, more ginger. I wake up thinking about it. An avocado sandwich. Copenhagen is crystal clear but bone-cracking cold. I walk past the Tivoli, an amusement park and “Pleasure Garden” that I’ve often meant to explore but will again balk at the price of admission. My Danish kroner are better spent on coffee and curry, I figure.

Still thinking about Prince. The more I read about him, the more I long to know. Tonight, I’ll play an encore that features “The Cross” from Prince’s 1987 album Sign O’ The Times. The redemptive gospel tone of the lyrics and the thunderous build of the music was something that I recall drawing on with songs like Grant Lee Buffalo’s “Grace.” Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we take from an artist like Prince. He dispersed so many potent ideas into the air and seeded the soil for generations to come.

424Loven

424Spike

424Vienna

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed