Monday, February 26, 2018

Springsteen on Broadway

onstage at Walter Kerr Theater, November 17, 2017

The Set Up
My guy heads into the autumn (if not winter) of his time onstage and headlines his first Broadway show at the tiny (and I mean, TINY) Walter Kerr Theater. Not a bad seat in the house in this ancient and refurbished theater nestled on 48th Street, just off Times Square. I effectively won 2 lotteries to gain an access code to use the morning tickets went on-sale and I still had to vie with everyone else who made it that far. But, something about me and the Boss…we’re bound to be together!...I scored tickets and lo and behold touched down at La Guardia air port 24 hours before the Friday night performance. We took a room at the distinguished Barclay Intercontinental Hotel (also on 48th and easy walking distance to the venue). At last, The Champ sees the Boss in New York City.

The Show
The performance was not a concert proper but rather a scripted performance (it IS Broadway after all) compiled of spoken word sections, inspired by, if not quoted directly, from Springsteen’s acclaimed biography, released in September 2016 – and 15 songs played randomly on guitar and piano. No accompanying band, no video screens, a stark and rough-hewn backdrop set and basic lighting to augment mostly the songs. The audience was treated to a one-of-a-kind performance quite unlike anything he’s ever done before. The songs seemed chosen to accentuate the various themes Springsteen presented and were elegantly laid bare in stories with intimate insights on his roots – familial, geographical and musical. Fans like me know most of the superficial details of the Boss’s life on the Jersey shore and his meteoric rise to super-stardom that continues unabated to this day, evidenced by his sold-out worldwide River Tour of 2016/17 which filled North American arenas and vast stadiums all over Europe – I saw his most recent show in Seattle on that tour (and was back in Seattle half a year later to meet and greet the Boss at a book launch promotion, where again I was lucky enough to be among the limited few granted access). It was thrilling to see my guy in such an intimate setting and to hear him tell stories full of poignant insight and detail. There was even a point where I may have gotten a little choked up and teary, maybe - I can’t really remember. But sublime versions of My Hometown (on piano), My Father's House, Growin' Up and of course Born to Run made one understand that a good song is timeless and a great performer breathes new life into such songs, every night.

Thanks Boss, you always come through.

Oh yeah, New York!...I’ll do a separate post on it later.

©2018 Champsteen Publishing

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Somewhere In The Dynamo (poem) by Larry Nicholson

I remember the hemispheres of your body
your pale skin and always those mercenary eyes

your delicate form and tiny perfect feet took you
searching, searching by firelight of the heart
to villages everywhere to find dream-readers,
time after time,
after time, looking for meaning to a dream you said you once had...
until finally the last elder on the block
gave you the meaning you preferred -
the one you decided your dream was really about
its called making a decision
its called healing – I’m not sure you understood that

down here, the sound of factories moaning
where I live, the smell of mills and a rendering plant
and a picture of you in my head that will not fade
your memory etched in me
and some days I think, just maybe, my name tattooed on your heart, still
down here, I confront all the maddening truth I can stand

I hear my heart pounding like the rumble of distant thunder
in my mind, there we are, starry-eyed and laughing
caught inside our own comet-like dynamo that is the city
with the fields, rivers and woods inside us and the stars above,  
somehow in vapor-trailed nights between us
you could almost know the true size and shape of the Universe
a heave and wondrous tumble going down -
places tempted, circled - swept across mine with yours
the deepest secrets only our bodies know

now, all this time later, I sometimes see life as a terminal condition...
being apart from you a hard winter
a false clock chimes down where everything's wounded
to disgrace, distract and bother me

but if I'm honest, I remember you clearly
trying to keep some type of darkness at bay, loving like that
and me despising that man in the looking glass for scrounging for that kind of love
since then and maybe always I travel among vacant-eyed believers,
all of us road-weary types, keepers of some brand of faith or another
I make company with ham-fisted ex-cons,
sitting in men's circles with those tough sons-of-bitches
raised in numbers like armies from the orphanages - exiled from tribes everywhere
who'd rather fight like madman woodcutters before the sweat
the sweat to grant them redemption -
a little perspiration, a little 'I am so sorry' and a little 'wah-hey-ya-oh!'
to somehow absolve a lifetime of felonious heart crime and violence
this is what we have become if not what we always were

We are the tempest on a human-scale
cast-offs of lost people who must surely have carried powerful magic
to be able to summon such sound and fury
we rend and cleave and tear to bits our best selves
in full view of those who try to love us -
daring them to take on our misery
like those woodcutters amassing even more tissue
upon the scars we've carried our whole lives
we'd already gone the distance just to get here

And I confront the specter of promises not kept
trying to decide what was real, what the truth is now,
almost certain the whole thing will have changed by tomorrow
all this the aftermath of one seismic love affair

I still strive to keep a-busy being born not a-busy dying
I am at home with road men and the a-little-bit-bewildered
who all trudge the same road to happy destiny

If you listen carefully, I mean really listen and watch, you may see it
my unbroken devotion - my love still falling
washing yours and my earth like soft rain over misty Salish banks,
still believing in good medicine and the power to visit others in dreams
whispered words coming to you at night
some semblance of a truth that makes sense only to us -
that you may come to me on some tender amnesia-filled night
where there is only blushing, the flushed surface of skin
and nothing else between us

©2017 Champsteen Publishing

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twilight Life (song)

words & music by Larry

a black-haired woman walks down to the edge of dark water
a clutch roses in her arms for the all the lost tribes with homes on the sea
ghostly waves beat the shore
like spectral ones come before
taking solace in storms and the things that'll be

a thousand kisses won’t mend the bend in your heart
nothing in this world that you’ve seen helps you come to grips with your fate
play the undertaker’s blues
get confused by the rules
you want no piece of the illusion that they call hate

chorus 1
when you stand high on the piny ridge of that beautiful mountain
and look across the expanse of the beautiful sea
your heart beats so fast
there’s no future no past
there’s no feeling alone in your twilight life…

chorus 2
when you rise up to a silver moon where you wait for no one
you find that place with your love where you reach for the sky
there’s no secrets to keep
living forever deep
all you know is the quiet of your twilight life…

the orphan girl diving down in the urban jungle
a nameless child walks the streets named for sons of the city long since dead
wears a coat full of holes
stepping over lost souls
never understood anything that they’ve said

all the roads lead us home to that same mystic garden
fires burn and the smoke bathes our bodies in ashes and in coal
the wind cuts like a knife
no one come back alive
there’s no need for explaining in this twilight life…

(chorus 1)

©2017 Champsteen Publishing

Monday, July 25, 2016

..."you see a light and then another"...

                                         Stay - The tragically Hip

In late August '96 I had just moved to Penticton BC, from the rez in Alberta and was about to begin art school. I was so excited to be living in the Okanagan and the road ahead seemed to stretch out before me in infinite directions. I had spent the better part of the Summer in Europe and had actually made some money part of which I used to buy one sweet guitar. In my new room I sat nursing beverages while strumming away then turned up the volume on the television to hear Gord Downie telling the interviewer what the best thing was about being the singer for the Tragically Hip. He said that besides getting to spend so much time with his friends the best part was being able to make a living from his imagination. What a wondrous thing. I've never forgotten that sentiment.

In the work-a-day, 9 to 5 world it's easy to take people and things for granted. I admit that with the Hip it was easy to do because they've always been there. Their first record came out in '87, the year I turned 18. All told, they've released 14 albums and I honestly can't recall how many times I've seen them in concert but as I head to Rogers Arena tomorrow night to see them it seems that it just may be for the final time as lead singer Gord Downie has been diagnosed with inoperable and terminal brain cancer. Reviews for the shows previous to this one have been stellar and I head there not for goodbyes or sentimental reasons, The Hip aren't that kind of band. They are vital and robust artists and musicians who have collectively harnessed a creative energy that has sustained them over a career and given us, their admirers, a hell of a lot of good music. I'll go see The Hip for perhaps the last time and strum my air guitar at my side as usual. I'll rock out, I'll be thankful and it will seem important that I am there in the same large room with them doing what we were both meant to do...

...but tonight as I write this I can't stop listening to this song over and over again...

© 2016 Champsteen Publishing

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Game (song)

this recording made when I was 19 or of the first two songs I ever wrote...which means I've been writing and singing bad songs for nigh on 26 years!

Yesterday, in court details released from a plagiarism trial involving Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, it was revealed that the song Stairway To Heaven has so far earned $526 million dollars - that's from ONE SONG!!! you see, as I've been saying for as long as I can remember, all I need is one hit.

...this probably ain't it.

I wrote the song  - I'm singing and playing acoustic, Ben's bass and background vocals, John's on electric guitar and Jason's on drums.

The Game

There's a picture of you in my head
that'll never fade
and your voice plays like a record
over and over again
 when you look into my eyes can you
see what might have been
this game that we keep playin'
we'll never win...

When it hits the fan it seems like
I'm always to blame
when the sun is shining for you 
you don't remember my name
if there's room in your heart for me
I wish you'd let me know
you always say that you're thinkin' of me
but it doesn't show...

I play the game and you pull my chain
either way, baby, it's always the same
you make the rules and I play the fool for you
I play the fool...

© 2016 Champsteen Publishing

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On Becoming A River (poem)

just days ago
I drove through Squamish Mountains
with a Haida boy and a young Cree girl,
the youthful travellers and me
bound for ceremony in Stat-lee-um woods

glancing at the young ones
I was for a moment fearful of what lay before them,
not the ceremony but the hostile world, the merciless world,
of course only people are foolish enough to concern themselves with things yet to be
I am still learning

think like a river, I said out loud to them
the words once given to me by an old Ojibway woman,
when I was younger

think like a river and it may be so, she said
her words lingered in the air and my mind drifted into holy memory
my own place of sacred things
here, I return again and again
to a tranquil spot at a slight curve on the South Thomspon,
amid the lush breast of *Secwepemc Territory
long amber rays of warm and dusky sunlight in the early October evening -
it is the Moon of Falling Leaves

managing to find myself alone
I sit in silence among the sandy banks,
in clear view of the gravel shallows near me where the river is but a trickle
here can be heard the din of insects, all winged and buzzing things
flitting and darting above the abundant deposits of fresh bear scat,
the cackle of distracted crows and their lunatic agenda
a pair of eagles, one disheveled, if not slightly ragged,
the other regal, its feathers smooth and nearly black with age,
clearly a couple, they are feasting undisturbed on carrion the far side of the bend

dispersed everywhere in places farther and closer to me
are the sacrificial smelt and decaying forms of spent salmon
the sentient beings somehow still dignified, still important
as evidenced by the whole host of life teeming at their scattered and bountiful remains
nutrient bodies feeding and caring for all who live here
there is nothing worldly here, just peace and murmuring stillness
serenity lulls me into warm thoughts of drifting away, perhaps forever
with the soothing currents in the middle deeper waters
I breathe in the same particles of air that rushed through throats and filled the lungs
of tribes-people in my Grandmother's, Grandmother's time
air that has passed continuously through life on earth, endlessly, infinitely...

and the calm is shattered by a flash,
I am startled by the sun-splashed, silver-streaked flash
of an immaculate fish lifting itself into the air, into a somersault -
upside down and backwards
as if desperate to cry out: I am here!
its thrash - a glorious display, definitive and remarkable
then a spattering commotion and downward return to life to below the surface
the split-second event a defiant response to forces
that would deter the relentless quest for home
the reserves of stamina steadfast
in the mission, even the pilgrimage,
perhaps it's very reason for being
not predators, currents or the fearsome march of time
will keep them from going home

in that instant I was touched, changed –
became connected to ones vying for that place just a little further on
our kinship rooted in obedience to an epic if not solitary pursuit
we are both orphans of a type
coming into the world seemingly at the expense of our parent's lives
like the young smolt and fry, my folks gave their lives to bring me here
and I have made this entire journey without them
a drama composed for me by unknown hands
I cannot speak for the salmon
but mine has always been a longing to be defined by something other than absence
so I exalt in remembering that ordinary day emptying into twilight,
sitting there thinking wild thoughts before joining the night and stars

since then,
I remain susceptible to such wild thoughts
and to thinking of myself as that river
dark, deep and sometimes shallow
but with its clear origins at the feet of venerable mountains,
like the bloodlines to ancestors,
this may well be where I emerged out of spirit into being...
forever enchanted by you and a moment in time,
actually changed in that moment
now always the memory of that moment
and this, my own momentous cry that I was here

sometimes the reasons for things in life cannot be named
where once I was a boy with the worship solely of buffalo in my blood
now, these many miles and years later I come endowed
with reverence for salmon and for the lifelong voyage home in my wandering soul

it is a blessing to be Indian, more so to be Cree
and though now a man, I may be more like the salmon these days
more a creature at once resilient and fragile,
manipulated and wild,
at times I think it sinful of me to envy this majestic but unassuming creature,
wrong of me to wish to unlock the secrets of the great ocean pasture that only they know
while observing their stark refusal to be anything but what they are
their graceful singularity of purpose
I am contented in believing the songs of these places
do not end at the banks and tree-lines of territories everywhere
but are alive and singing in the hearts of those who love them

I am no elder
but I know that people protect what they love,
I know this much

so for now I remain willingly chained to my life as a freedom fighter in the false-hearted city
witnessing and sometimes helping establish small freedoms,
occasional escapes by those Indians with some place to go
I hurl myself ever upstream through the urban wilderness,
inventing ceremony and ways of manifesting cracks
because like Uncle Leonard said, THAT's how the light gets in
still navigating the roiling waters, where I have been shown by salmon
that even without mom and dad to help them along
even tiny *roe, on their own,
still somehow manage to find fire for life in the cold stone of a river bed

it seems to me now that I may have been called to the edge of that water
a response to my yearning to be kept in the heart of things
if not in the ones that I love
as when salmon quit the sea and the river calls them home
to fertilize the alpine womb

but I am fed, warmed and infused with the spirit and memory of that place
there are many ways to salvation and one of them is a river
so I am thinking like a river
because inside me is a nameless salmon
a salmon leaping - leaping for life - into the eternal and transcendent moment
where all beings merge into one
hearing an ancient song only the heart understands
the sound and vision clutched and held onto by one dazed and love-sick Cree
all dissolving into distance and oblivion

*(Secwepemc: Shuswap)
*roe: unfertilized Salmon eggs

© 2016 Champsteen Publishing

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Humming Bird Dreams Press launches BROKEN MAN

New publishing concern Humming Bird Dreams Press launched Raul Gatica's poetry collection Broken Man (Hombre Roto) at Vancouver Public Liberry, Saturday November 14, 2015. A co-presentation Hummingbird and Spanish-language online magazine, Cencerro, the author and friends gathered to celebrate the new collection. Several speakers were on hand to sing the bi-lingual book's praises and to celebrate. Gatica, a Oaxacan political refugee and now exile, living in Vancouver since 2005, has remained a high profile activist for social justice and various causes. His activism in his native country led to 13 arrests, torture and the need to flee his homeland in fear for his life. Throughout the formal refugee process, Raul has continued to write, organize and speak out against oppression and tyranny.

The poems chronicle every aspect of a doomed relationship. A jagged sense of romance and the fallout of a love betrayed are the primary features of this literary litany of the Hombre Roto (the Broken Man). Raul read selected pieces from the book and after each I read the same poem in English. A lively Q and A followed the reading. If you like your love poems bloodied and your poets bruised and battered, Broken Man will speak to you.


©2015 Champsteen Publishing