Posted by: Mike Lambe | December 24, 2010

Christmastime Is Here

It’s been great fun adding some trombone to the Mystic Canyon repertoire. Please enjoy this holiday classic recorded at our gig last weekend:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Posted by: Mike Lambe | September 17, 2010

A Tale of Two Leagues

Football season is underway and once again I am playing in two highly competetive fantasy football leagues. The same two leagues, in fact, in which I led my teams to the playoffs last year. Although neither is a keeper league, both had most of last year’s owners return for the 2010 season. I probably won’t be posting weekly blog updates – I’m already off to a late start – but I’ll mention my teams periodically over the next few months. For now, here’s how the 2010 season began for me.

NFFL (My 2nd year in this ESPN league)
Team Name: Rose City Rock Show
Draft Position: 7th (out of 14)
QBs: Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb
RBs: Ray Rice, Ryan Grant, Jahvid Best, Tashard Choice, Kareem Huggins, Jason Snelling
WRs: Greg Jennings, Michael Crabtree, Bernard Berrian, Austin Collie, Kevin Walter, Sidney Rice
TE: Brent Celek
D/ST: Cincinnati Bengals
K: Ryan Succop

Though all of the Portland owners had a great time drafting at Bottles, the draft didn’t go exactly how I had hoped. I wanted a top WR and QB early, but just couldn’t pass on Rice falling to me at #7. I’m glad I got Jennings in the third, but in this QB-crazy league, the top 10 QBs were already gone by then. I rolled the dice on Kolb in the 5th, but had I taken Eli instead, I might not have been so eager to grab McNabb as a backup in the 8th. The boldest pick of this draft was Ed’s Round 2 (18th pick) snag of Arian Foster, who went on to make him look like a genius as Player of the Week.

Week 1 was brutal for my team, as you might have guessed. Aside from the two high-profile injuries, Cincy’s D was a disaster and Rice, Celek, and Crabtree were major disappointments. Luckily I was able to get help on the waiver wire, dropping Grant for his backup Brandon Jackson and even scoring Fred Taylor (cutting Snelling loose shouldn’t hurt too much.) Looking forward to better matchups for my guys this week.

Bort Footbal League (My 3rd year in this Yahoo League)
Team Name: PDX Prowlers
Draft Position: 11 of 12
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith
RBs: Shonn Greene, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Reggie Bush
WRs: Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Steve Breaston, DeMaryius Thomas, Kevin Walter, Arrelious Benn
TE: Jason Witten
D/ST: Philadelphia Eagles
K: David Akers

The Bort itself is no longer around, but we were still able to carry on with this league, albeit down to 12 owners from the previous 16. I was pretty pleased with this team after the draft, getting the top QB I wanted. The trade of Housh to Baltimore complicated things a bit since I already have Boldin, so I dropped D. Thomas and picked up his teammate Jabar Gaffney, who bumps T.J. down the depth chart.

The Prowlers dominated week 1 with the top point total in the league and a 40-point margin of victory. Greene’s matchup against Baltimore scared me enough to bench him and start Forte in his place (this league plays 2RBs, 3WRs, with no flex position.) Despite Greene being my #1 pick, I think he sits again this week against New England, with Forte and Charles looking like solid plays.

Posted by: Mike Lambe | July 28, 2010

My Northwest Mini-Tour

This evening I embark on a musical mini-tour of Portland and points North. Three very different gigs in three very different venues over the next three nights. I hope you’ll come out and say “Hey, Mike!”

Wednesday 7/28 9pm – 1am
Mama Maria’s, 5234 SE Powell, Portland
Shirley Sanders jam, featuring Ken Brewer (guitar) Toby Worthington (bass) and my man Jimi Hardin on drums. Looking forward to reuniting the powerhouse percussion assault.

Thursday 7/29 7:30pm-10:00pm
Corner of NE Alberta and 30th, Portland
Mystic Canyon returns to Last Thursday on Alberta. We promise to craft a set of music that will be the perfect complement to sunset, handcrafted jewelry and a slice from Bella Faccia!

Friday 7/30 6pm – 10pm
Old Town Battle Grounds, 316 E Main Street, Battle Ground, Washington
The Harmless Eccentrics return to Ed’s neighborhood with special guest Keith Picone adding to the rhythmic stew. We’ve planned three sets of our increasingly schizophrenic blend of acoustic harmony and groove, including new originals and covers from all over the last 50 years.

The adventures continue next week as the Harmless Eccentrics make their debut at the Local Lounge, 3536 NE MLK in Portland on Wednesday, August 4th.

Posted by: Mike Lambe | March 24, 2010

The Man Cave

One of the features that attracted us to our condo was the semi-finished attic, with a large storage closet and enough space to consider it a third bedroom. In the last two years, the attic has been home to several long-term guests, but now that our dear friend Amy has moved to China, the room is once again free and clear to be put to the use I had originally envisioned for it – welcome to my music studio!

Building my musical cockpit

I began the process last month by moving the bed to the other side of the room, under the sloped ceiling. This opened up much more space in the main part of the attic. I moved my old computer and desk into the corner, and look forward to loading the computer with music production software so I can start recording some stuff. My keyboards fit very nicely against the adjoining wall, and it just made sense to build the percussion section out from there, facing the rest of the room. Here’s a more thorough look at the whole set-up:

It’s still far from finished, but it’s a good start, and something to do when I’m not looking for work. Some tapestries would be nice for aesthetics, but I really ought to put some soundproofing up first. For now, it’s just fun to be surrounded by all my toys and to have a place for my friends to come over and jam without taking over the living room. The drum wall can be pushed out a little further to allow another keyboard player to slide in behind me. There’s room for 2-3 guitarists with small amps, as long as they don’t mind hauling their gear up 2 flights of stairs. When I have more money to throw at the project, I’ll outfit the place with an amp, some mics, and maybe a cheap bass. Most importantly, all of the stuff I’m most likely to need for a gig can be easily accessed and removed.

Can’t wait to try it out! Who’s up for a jam?

Posted by: Mike Lambe | March 8, 2010

It’s All Coming Back to Me Now

Same as it ever was...

The taste of metal, the tingly sensation after the first vibrations on the mouthpiece. The slight soreness above the upper lip, and the tightening of muscles in the corners of my mouth. Deep breaths through the nose, pushed right back out through the embouchure with a buzz that would be considered unacceptably rude were it not for the 9 feet of twisted brass through which it is directed. The mind starts to recall what the muscles still seem to know. C# sounds in tune, not because I remember where to put my hand, but because my hand already knows where it needs to be.

I can still fake my way through the first sight-reading, marking spots in my head that I’ll need to woodshed later. Second rehearsal much smoother, even starting to drop in little bits of personality that make the flute player giggle. Playing them with confidence helps me get away with the parts I’m still faking. Things have gotten better and better with each rehearsal until now, five days from showtime, the reality seems to be sinking in – I’m a trombonist again.

The whole experience of preparing for the Magenta Theater concert this Saturday has me remembering what it is like to juggle so many performing ensembles. In college, it was band, jazz band, choir, then later orchestra, but at least it was only trombone and voice, maybe occasionally drums in my fraternity band. Now, not only am I in four bands, but I’ve also got to be ready to play drums, percussion, voice, trombone, melodica, harmonica, pennywhistle and calimba. Sometimes I feel like I did when I was 12, in an arcade with a roll of quarters. I just can’t decide what to play next!

Most importantly, the theory is coming back. Remembering how it all fits together. Having people ask me questions I don’t expect to be able to answer, but somehow helping them understand what I’m feeling when I play and sing. Reminding the guitarists when they have forgotten their capos. Maybe I’m reminded so much of college because I’m on a college student schedule lately, but 2010 is feeling like a year of inspiration and education and I hope to soak in as much as I can.

Come see my first trombone concert performance in 18 years this Saturday

Posted by: Mike Lambe | January 31, 2010

Random Post and Pix

Donna and Mike at the Northern Lights Saloon, Polebridge, Montana, August 2006

I’m finally getting my computer fixed, so I’ll get back to posting more and better stuff here and at my other blogs for Mystic Canyon and the Harmless Eccentrics. In the meantime, just a few random thoughts I didn’t get around to blogging about, along with some random pix I found on my old computer.

Getting tilted at rehearsal in Camas, April 2007

  • Unfortunately, one reason I’ll have more time to blog is I am out of a job. I am certain I have the skills to get work again in medical billing soon, but I don’t have much passion for the work and would love to be able to take the time to find something I truly enjoy. Anybody hiring bloggers?
  • I thought about doing a “Best of 2009” post, but I really did not pay much attention to what was new in 2009, unless it was on Sirius Jam On. Mantis came out in January and nothing I heard for the rest of the year even came close, but I’m sure my opinion could change if I actually listened to some other stuff. What little I have heard of Muse has me curious, I’ll have to check it out when I have my good computer back.
  • I did see some great movies in 2009 and would say this was my top five, in no particular order: Up in the Air, Watchmen, District 9, Tell No One, and Extract. No, I did not see Avatar, but that’s probably the only movie that could crack this list.

World Premiere of Scary Bloated Banana, Lincroft, NJ, July 2009

  • If you followed my Fantasy Football posts, you probably just assumed I crashed and burned in the playoffs. I actually went to the Championship in my ESPN money league and lost a heartbreaker by one point. Still won myself a bit of prize money, which has already been spent of course. In my Yahoo league, I lost in the semi-finals but won the consolation game for a third place finish in a tough league.
  • As a follow-up to my last post, Mystic Canyon is ready to return to the stage on Saturday, February 20th at the Sellwood Pub. The evening will feature the extended Mystic Canyon family, as the Harmless Eccentrics will open the evening and Mike Smith will follow with his new bluegrass project. I’ll post more on the other blogs as the evening draws nearer.
  • Finally, one last point about 2009 – it was a great year for live music. I saw more of my favorite bands in concert than any single year, including Phish, the Dead and the Allman Brothers, Pearl Jam, The Swell Season and Umphrey’s McGee. My only regret was missing Railroad Earth despite having three chances throughout the year, but I enjoyed discovering some new favorites in the local scene, which I look forward to writing more about in 2010.

Mystic Canyon at the Someday Lounge in Portland, July 2007
Posted by: Mike Lambe | December 28, 2009

Playing the Field

There’s a scene in Mike Judge’s recent movie “Extract” – a good film, but not as instantly memorable as “Office Space” or “Idiocracy” – in which a rocker dude who works in the warehouse is describing the subtle differences between the five metal bands in which he plays. One is speed metal, one is more “grindcore,” etc. Two of the projects are actually the same four guys, with different band names because they play different kinds of death metal. This scene resonated with me, and not just because the over-categorization of metal is always good for a laugh. I can sympathize with warehouse metal dude because I sometimes find myself trying to explain why one band is just not enough.

I’ve been playing with Mike and Scott from Mystic Canyon for 8 years. In that time I have evolved from a guy with congas trying to figure out how I fit in, to a multi-instrumentalist looking for new challenges. I have learned to appreciate simplicity in songcraft and to seek my ideal contribution to each song we play. But the irony of playing in Mystic Canyon is that, as I improve and expand my range as a performer, the band  narrows its scope in order to establish an identity.

When we changed our name from the intentionally vague Verge of Something to Mystic Canyon, we wanted to send a signal that this was a new band, not just with a few new players but with a new acoustic direction.  We wanted a name that conjured images of serenity, wisdom and natural beauty that we hoped to echo in our music. We made it our mission to make music that felt like it could not be played on anything but acoustic instruments.

Over the last five years, we have worked hard to achieve that aesthetic while maintaining the adventurous approach of the jambands that have inspired us. A lot of the time, we nail it just like we want it to sound. Every now and again, though, we fall back on our natural jam tendencies and we become just another rock band that happens to play acoustic instruments. As much as I love what we’ve been able to create, I’ve found it difficult at times to stay within the lines we have drawn for ourselves.  

So, much like Jerry and Elaine concluded they had to have sex to save their friendship, I realized that in order to give my best to Mystic Canyon, I had to stray outside the band to satisfy my other appetites. One such fling was with a barbershop quartet I found on Craigslist. We called ourselves the Four Hoarse Men and we made some beautiful harmonies on a wide variety of a capella tunes. The experience helped me to relearn some vocal discipline I had forgotten since college and gave my voice and my ear a huge boost of confidence that has made an impact on my background and lead vocal work in Mystic Canyon.

Fortunately, our bassist Scott Hewitt had similar feelings about trying something new. He wanted to play some guitar, electric and acoustic, and find another outlet for his songs that didn’t quite fit the Mystic mold. Scott and I share many common musical tastes, so finding a new project together made perfect sense. For the last two years, we’ve been playing with friends in a project we call the Jersey Rhythm Mafia. While it’s always a fun jam and occasionally a party gig comes along, Scott and I sought more of a challenge. So this past summer, we turned once again to Craigslist to find a new kindred spirit.

We hooked up with yet another Jersey refugee by the name of Ed Travalia to form a trio we are calling the Harmless Eccentrics. Like us,  Ed has had years of jamband experience and an appreciation of quirky covers you don’t hear every day. He plays bass, keyboards and guitar, giving us a myriad of instrumentation options, and also brings a great voice and a keen sense of harmony. I appreciate that he can sing high parts, so I get to sing some juicy middle harmonies on a few tunes. 

As this year comes to an end, I find myself jamming with the Eccentrics more often than the Canyon guys, who have also been keeping busy with new projects. Plans are already under way to bring Mystic Canyon back to Portland stages in 2010, but I intend to continue my “transgressions” with the Harmless Eccentrics and Jersey Rhythm Mafia, plus the occasional one-night hookups with the likes of MiMo, Jerry Rig and Samba Soleil. In fact, my first performance of 2010 will be as the fill-in drummer with the Magenta Theater Band. While none of this is getting me any closer to quitting my day job, I believe each experience makes me a better overall musician.

I hope everyone had a terrific holiday and look forward to a fantastic 2010 for all.

Posted by: Mike Lambe | December 9, 2009

Fantasy Football Update

Well, I took a few weeks off from blogging about my Fantasy teams. After impressive starts, my teams were winless through weeks 9-11 and in serious jeopardy of slipping out of the playoff hunt. While my Yahoo team turned things around to clinch a playoff spot in Week 12, my ESPN team kept me on the edge of my seat until week 13’s Monday Night showdown between Baltimore and Green Bay. Here’s how the fantasy regular season finished for the Prowlers and the Volcanoes.

PDX Prowlers 8-3-2, 3rd seed in the playoffs, Bort Football League

Six of the sixteen teams in this Yahoo league make the cut, so to do this well in spite of TWO frustrating ties was a pleasant surprise. Even more surprising perhaps is that I won so many games with such inconsistent production from my RB and WR positions. A Week 10 trade of DeSean Jackson brought me Ryan Grant, who has helped a bit. Luckily, the Prowlers have been carried by Drew Brees, Vernon Davis and the Philly Defense, so even modest production from RBs and WRs has usually been enough to put me over the top. Unfortunately, my first-round playoff matchup is against the 7-5-1 Well Hungarians, who in Week 9 handed me my worst loss of the season. My opponent’s potent core of  Brady, Gore and Andre Johnson face tougher defenses this time around, so a solid effort from my backs and wideouts should keep me in the game.

Vancouver Volcanoes 7-6, 5th seed in the playoffs, NFFL

After a 6-2 start, the Volcanoes dropped from division front-runner to win-and-you’re-in bubble team. I lost four matchups in a row, two of which were heart-breakingly close. This cold streak had me less than optimistic entering my week 13 matchup against the Viking-heavy Portland Pimps. A loss would have tied me with the Pimps and at least one other team at 6-7, with none of the tie-breakers going my way. With Michael Turner out, and many of my matchups looking weak, I knew a desperation play was in order. Not trusting the Colts D vs. Tennessee or the Skins D vs. New Orleans, I played the matchups and snagged Carolina’s D for their game vs. Tampa Bay. This move, combined with Ochocinco’s stellar play kept me slightly ahead through the day games. On Sunday night, Arizona kept the Vikings in check, but Peterson, Rice, Shiancoe and Longwell gave the Pimps a 17-point lead nonetheless.

My only chance for the playoffs was a win, and my only chance for a win was getting 18 points from my tight end, Jermichael Finley. Things were looking up when Finley put up 5 catches for 56 yards and a score in the first half. But as I sat one point behind, Mike Tirico announced that Finley had been taken to the locker room for x-rays on his knee. Fate is indeed a cruel mistress, and for me to get so close, only to lose, seemed unfathomably harsh. But Fate, I guess, also has a cruel sense of humor, as Finley returned in the third quarter to get me the 4-yard catch that I needed to win, and then added a second touchdown catch for good measure.

Thank goodness I had started Carson Palmer on Sunday. He only gave me 5 points, but Joe Flacco’s negative-8 point performance would have shot Finley’s effort in the foot and knocked me out of the playoffs. Instead, I advance to face the 8-5 Wyoming BallBusters in the first round. While I’d love to have Michael Turner back, I need him at full health, not hobbling off on a reinjured ankle like two weeks ago. My flex options (Breaston, Lee Evans, Ahmad Bradshaw and Shonn Greene) have all been shaky the last few weeks, so maybe it is time for another move. I’ll keep up the blog posts for as long as I remain in the playoffs.

Posted by: Mike Lambe | November 10, 2009

Fantasy Football Week 9 Recap

Both of my Week 9 matchups were looking like tough ones. It would take the right combination of lineup decisions and outstanding production to put either of my teams over the top. Things did not work out in my favor this week, but one of the matchups was just close enough to hurt.

High Mountain Widowmakers (4-5) 121,
Vancouver Volcanoes (6-3) 118

Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. My gut was telling me that Carson Palmer had earned back my trust and was safe to start against Baltimore. My head was telling me that Joe Flacco got the better of their previous head-to-head showdown and would be the less risky play. I let my head make the conservative call and watched Flacco fall apart against Cincinnati’s surprisingly dominant defense. Still, I had a slight lead going into Monday night’s game, and if Denver had given Matt Prater a few more scoring opportunities, I could have salvaged the win. But of course, if I had only trusted my gut, it would not have been that close. Next week, I face Jason’s brother Nick, whose Guantanamo Bay Guerillas have sat atop the standings all year, but have lost 2 of their last 3.

Well Hungarians (6-2-1) 96,
PDX Prowlers (6-2-1) 65

My opponent is a savvy trader who added then-injured Frank Gore to his already potent core of Tom Brady and Andre Johnson. Add a tasty matchup for Seattle’s Defense, and it was clear I would need more than a few of my guys to step up with big games. Unfortunately, Drew Brees’ mediocre outing was the highlight of my team’s output this week. Even if I had had the foresight to start James Jones, I still would not have overcome Jonathan Stewart and DeSean Jackson’s combined 3 points. It was a sound beating and there was nothing I could really do to prevent it, which ultimately makes it a little easier to take. Next week, we’ll see which of my  scrap-heap running backs fills in for Steve Slaton against my opponent, the Indy Colts.

Posted by: Mike Lambe | November 3, 2009

Fantasy Football Week 8 Recap

Two weeks in a row with two winning fantasy teams. This weekend’s matchups weren’t particularly thrilling, so it’s hard to write anything too interesting about them. But this whole recapping exercise was really just an excuse to get me writing again, and it’s working. I’ve got a few other blog items I’m working on that I’ll post soon, so let’s get this one over with.

Vancouver Volcanoes (6-2) 135,
Madisonville Maggots (4-4) 83

Every week I stress a bit about who to play in my flex spot, and that decision was made all the more difficult by the emergence of Shonn Greene last week. I went with Breaston over Bradshaw, Fred Jackson and Greene, and it was the right choice, but it really didn’t matter in the long run. Wayne, Turner, Thomas and Flacco combined for enough points to win this matchup for me, as my opponent didn’t get much from Eli Manning, Ronnie Brown or the injured Owen Daniels. Up next, the High Mountain Widowmakers, a team with lots of options. If I were him, I’d have a hard time deciding between Roethlisberger @ Denver or Hasselbeck vs. Detroit.

PDX Prowlers (6-1-1) 76,
TwoManningsOneCup (0-8) 49

Having Drew Brees in the Monday night game was a nice ace to have up my sleeve, but he put up a few stinkers earlier in the season. So I was a little concerned when, at the end of the early games, I trailed an opponent who had failed to replace Kerry Collins, Muhsin Mohammed and Calvin Johnson in his starting lineup. My concern faded as Jonathan Stewart turned in his best performance of the season against the #1 Arizona rush defense. His 20-point performance offset the -1 I got from Steve Slaton, who was benched after an early fumble. While Slaton’s issues didn’t cost me this week, they did cast further doubt on an already suspect backfield. Not a good time to be facing my next opponent, the Well Hungarians, who are building a contender with some very shrewd trades.

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