Mike Lydon remembered through Music (11/16)

I haven’t blogged for a while due to a number of very good reasons (scheduling my next show, editing music videos, etc.), but have decided to blog today as the last week has been an emotional roller coaster due to the unexpected death of my fraternity brother Mike Lydon.  I found out a week ago today that Mike had fallen to his death in a climbing accident when his sister, Trish, called me to about the news.  That was when the odyssey began.

In remembrance of Mike Lydon

In remembrance of Mike Lydon

Mike was one of my college room-mates and partner in crime on many a mischievous endeavor.  He had an adventurous spirit and left Seattle after college to pursue a number of passions involving travel, becoming an officer in the air-force and continuing to pursue his dream of being involved in the space program.   In addition to that, outdoor activities were always an important part of his life.  Along the way he met his wife, Jill and they have two lovely children, Kaylie and Sean.  They lived all over the country and all over the world (in Asia and Europe) and seemed to make friends wherever they went.  I had the good fortune of meeting up with Mike and Sean a few years ago when I was traveling to Munich and the three of us tore up the Alt-Stadt.  This was also the moment in time when “planking” was in vogue, so we planked in various spots around Munich.  This captured Mike’s character and energy.  He was spontaneous, fun and always a bit sarcastic.  Sean and I reflected on this at the memorial on Friday.  

A meme moment:  Planking in Munich

A meme moment:  Planking in Munich

I had the honor of being able to provide the music for Mike’s ceremony which was held on Friday in Park City, where Mike lived.    By coincidence, John Richards, DJ extraordinaire from KEXP, had broadcast his “Mom Show” earlier in the week. In this show he commemorated his  mom who passed away ten years ago. He said many things that helped me put things into perspective.  He talked about how, during  his Mom’s passing,  he curated music for her service.  I believe that the music I played on the piano, which included several songs from the FM Collective album, set an alternative tone to the event that Mike would have appreciated (no churchy music).  I had my standard sad/death song, “I will follow you into the dark” in my repertoire but felt I wanted to do something more tailored to Mike as the featured song.   When John played “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, I knew that this was the perfect song.  This all occurred  last week, when I was traveling to NYC for a media conference and wall to wall meetings, so I faced some logistical challenges.

It had taken me until Thursday to identify the song.  The next challenge was to actually learn how to play the song.  In typical fashion, I tracked down the chords and lyrics on ultimate guitar tab and had the song on repeat on my phone in order to pound it into my brain.  Now I just needed to find a piano.  My pal Mat Hostetler (aka Dark Master) who is an actor suggested I use the one in the lounge area of a theater where he is rehearsing for a play.  I managed to get through the song once before I was advised that this was only for “scheduled” performances.  Later that evening I left NYC and flew to Salt Lake City.  I knew I’d have to find a piano in Salt Lake City before I headed to Park City to learn the song.  I thought perhaps a piano store would let me use one of their pianos if I pleaded my sob story.  I identiied one in downtown SLC on Friday morning.  After an epic "fail” locating the piano store with my  GPS, I walked into a hotel to ask them to help me find it.  And there it was a beautiful grand piano.

A pleasant surprise:  random piano in hotel lobby

A pleasant surprise:  random piano in hotel lobby

I pleaded my case to Alberto who was manning the front desk and he said no problem.

Alberto Saves the Day!

Alberto Saves the Day!

Frankly, I was in disbelief that he enthusiastically accepted me using the piano.  I spent the next hour hacking through the song and making something presentable for the memorial.  I also ran through some of the other songs.  I was pleasantly surprised that the hotel guests really liked all of the music, so I felt I was adequately prepared.  Now that I had learned the music I left SLC and began the thirty minute drive to Park City.  When I arrived it started snowing.  Then I met Tracy the pastor, and made sure everything was set for the memorial in terms of cues, etc.  Apparently Tracy had done an entire service on “Hurt” so she was very happy with my choice.

I began playing as people arrived about fifteen minutes before the service started, playing some of my indie covers:  "I will Follow You into the Dark,” “Waltz #2” and “Karma Police” and my original “The One That Matters."  I was slightly short on time, and had to fill about two minutes, so I did a vamp on the ending of Karma Police which was kind of cool and set a somber tone.  Then the military squad came out and did the folding of the flag and played taps.  It was an amazingly powerful and sad moment.  I was on next with “Hurt”  I did some opening remarks (see below).  However, I went off script by commenting on the taps performance, “when that song is played and it’s for someone you knew, it’s the saddest song in the world.”  That’s exactly how I felt.  

I played “Hurt.”  I played it at lot like I felt.  Started slow and legato and then during the chorus took it up many notches, ultimately to a fever pitch that represented both the anger and chaos for why we were all here in the first place.  After the song, a friend of Jill’s., Cass, stood up, hugged me and asked me to sit by her or the rest of the service.

The service was moving.  Trish spoke on behalf of her sisters and provided a synopsis of Mike’s life which had us laughing and crying.  Mike’s first climbing partner, Ted, gave us a sense of what a talented and special gift Mike had, both for climbing and what a great leader and teacher of climbers Mike had become.  The most moving  and powerful moment was when Francis, Mike’s father gave his speech.  It came from deep inside his very saddened heart. He directed it at the kids, Kaylie and Sean but it was relevant to everyone in the room.  The message was that Mike had special qualities, values and passion that touched everyone he was close to.  This was particularly the case with Jill and the kids who were such a priority for him and for whom it was the most deeply embedded.  This would be how Mike’s spirit continues to live within us.  I thought this was a powerful message and, as an atheist, I believe this is how people live after they die.  

After the service, the group of mourners moved on to the Grub Steak House where the Lydon family had organized an amazing feast and celebration of Mike’s life.  There were at ton of people there and more toasts and moments.    These came from from the many chapters of Mike’s life:  Highschool, College, Airforce, Climbers, neighbors, friends from all of the places that Mike and Jill had lived and of course, more family.  There were a few particularly notable moments.  Kaylie put together a video of Mike’s life and Sean played piano to that video.  He did an amazing job and the video was jarring, as there were recent videos of Mike when he was still with us.  One of Mike’s Air Force buddies made a very important point about Mike. The point was that he sought out to do things that were important and also fun for him.  He encouraged everyone to pursue their passions and don’t settle for living a life that doesn’t satisfy you.  

Tom Schaeffer gave a poignant toast about the friendships we had built  in college as fraternity brothers.  In addition, we acknowledged his sarcasm and his own self absorption about his amazing “blue eyes.” Finally, one of my most palpable and emotionally wrenching conversations was with those in the climbing community.  I spoke with Chris Wood, the climber who was with Mike when he had the accident.  He was still noticeably shaken up and haunted by the accident. He told me that the move Mike had made was a common move that everyone in the climbing community had done hundreds of times.  For some reason, something happened during that moment and Mike fell.   He was with Mike when he died.  He said he thought he was done with climbing.

Before dawn on the next morning,  I drove through a blizzard on a desolate road to return to the airport and fly out of SLC airport. After this weeklong odyssey, I reflected on a few things.  First of all, do the things you love, when you can do them because as Johnny Cash says, “Everyone I know   goes away in the end.” It’s just a question of when.  Secondly, as you do things during your life, remember that your actions will affect your legacy and whether you believe in a god or not, that will be the only true artifact of yourself that will remain after you die.  And lastly, take these moments to savor the things you have.  

Mike touched a massive amount of people in many walks of life.  May the things he did when he was with us remain with us as we move on with our lives.  And our thoughts continue to be with his family and friends.

We will be playing some music to commemorate Mike at the Barboza Show, so if you’re in Seattle and knew Mike please come to the show and help celebrate all of the good things he left us with.

Also, i wanted to share my opening remarks before i played "Hurt."  You can go to the link and read my notes.  Also, here's a link to the Johnny Cash version of the song which might be one of the best videos ever.

Mike Lucero Comment
Tracking and Transmitting in 11 Days - Day 11 (9/5)

Many things happened on this day of CD launch and show.  This post will discuss all events pertaining to us getting the word out on the show and CD.  I will have some other posts regarding the actual shows.

Today was a whirlwind from the beginning.  Ken was coming back from Bellingham on a Bolt Bus and I was picking him up near King Street Station.  I actually had a 9:00 meeting at work (Ken wasn't arriving till 10:30 and my office is about five minutes from the station).  I received texts and emails from Ken (apparently he had wifi on the bus).  He had secured an opportunity to premiere "The One That Matters" on the Three Imaginary Girls Blog.  This was an awesome opportunity but i had to provide them a bunch of info so it could go live on their site at 10:15.  I did this minutes before my 9:00 meeting and then the Girls did their magic.  Thank You!

Meanwhile, Kevin Cole had responded from KEXP and indicated that he'd provide the broadcast premiere of the song.  A little before five o'clock that afternoon (on a beautiful summer day), Kevin played an awesome set featuring the Posies, Holly and FM Collective.  What amazing company the Collective was in.  Thanks Kevin, and thanks for some great shout-outs.

I've actually recorded the premiere thanks to KEXP's streaming archive and posted it to youtube.  I promise this is the most boring video i'll produce (and the audio is marginal) but it's still monumental for the FM Collective archivists.

As we went into the shows that evening, amongst all of the excitement, Ken and I realized that getting a song produced and on air in 11 days was an amazing feat.  We cherished the moment and knew that we should memorialize it, and hence this series of Blogs.  Thanks for indulging us and supporting FM Collective in the process.

We hunkered down at the Jus Bar next to the Columbia City Theater, enjoyed Kale and Quinoa salads as we did our final push on social media.  All of this resulted in some nice media hits before the show.

We hunkered down at the Jus Bar next to the Columbia City Theater, enjoyed Kale and Quinoa salads as we did our final push on social media.  All of this resulted in some nice media hits before the show.

Mike LuceroComment
Tracking and Transmitting in 11 Days - Day 8-10 (9/2-9/4)

Not much to report during this calm before the storm.  Lots of detailed blocking and tackling to get the CD finished and everyone set for the shows on 9/5 (including getting people to attend the shows).  This is where you realize the massive amount of detail involved in getting a show like this pulled together, and a CD out the door, however, none of that is particularly interesting, just tedious.  

There were two items that were the most interesting.  The first were the rehearsals that began on Wednesday at the Kirkland Performance Center.  Rehearsals are always amazingly scary for two reasons.  The first is whether you have your act together and the second is how seriously your fellow artists are taking your gig and have their act together.  I expected Wednesday to be amazingly stressful.  It was only modestly stressful as everyone was in reasonably good shape. Everyone in the Collective was a pro and had done the requisite practicing and it was really all about the group jelling.  Again, everyone was a pro, so the group jelling was happening organically which was what needed to happen for it t work out.  Also, everyone was patient. Organizing 4 different ensembles most of whom had day jobs was not the easiest thing.  We were behind schedule from the beginning as we were sound-checking real-time so we used our entire allocation of 6 hours per day of rehearsals that we had reserved at the KPC.  The first day was solid and we all knew where we had to focus the next day.  The second day was rock solid and i knew we had the ability to deliver two great performances.  Of note was that Ken was not at either of the rehearsals.  He was spending a few days in Bellingham with his mom and would not be arriving until the morning of the shows for a final rehearsal at the Columbia City Theater. By now, I had supreme confidence in both Ken's raw capabilities and also in our ability to collaborate and make smart decisions the day of the show.

That said, Ken and I were actively working to build buzz for the show which was the second interesting thing.  We had agreed before Ken left for Bellingham that we would work hard to get our song on the air. While Ken was in Bellingham we communicated daily (primarily via text) on how we would accomplish this.  We knew that KEXP was our best and most impactful option. Ken had very good relationships with Cheryl Waters, Kevin Cole and John Richards.  We began with  Cheryl as i knew that Colin Richey also had a good relationship with her, so Ken sent her an email.  When the email was sent we immediately received an out-of-office reply (Cheryl was out till September 8th which was too late for our show).  I was driving to a rehearsal with Zach Lombardo on Tuesday and Kevin Cole spent about 5 minutes praising Ken and all of the luminaries involved with the Big Star show for the amazing performances at Bumbershoot.  I pulled over and texted Ken that we should reach out to Kevin which he did the next day.  We wanted to wait to hear back from Kevin before we reached out to John.  Also Kevin had just started including Holly's single "Splitting the Sea" onto his regular rotation.  Ken had the fine suggestion of adding her to our line-up a few weeks prior, so this was going to strengthen both the music at the shows and the line-up.  It was a wise creative choice and would hopefully improve our shot at getting our song on air.   All of this was well and done but by the time I drove home after the second rehearsal, Ken and i exchanged texts and realized that in addition to prepping for the Friday show we'd also have to jam to get some additional exposure for the song as well as the shows.  It seemed we had made little progress in these past few days.

Some of the core  FM Collective members at Rehearsal:  Andrew Rudd, Ira Merrill, Jonathan Warman, Daniel Butman and Peter Benjamin.  Two solid rehearsals prepared us to nail it when it came to show time.

Some of the core  FM Collective members at Rehearsal:  Andrew Rudd, Ira Merrill, Jonathan Warman, Daniel Butman and Peter Benjamin.  Two solid rehearsals prepared us to nail it when it came to show time.


Mike LuceroComment
Tracking and Transmitting in 11 Days - Day 4-7 (8/29-9/1)

The next few days are condensed into a single posting.  We faced two major tasks.  The first was to finish the album and submit it for mastering.  The second was to promote the release show and make sure enough people showed up so we'd actually achieve our goal of raising money for MusiCares.  

Finishing the Album:  I received some great advise from Ken on this subject.  He said to put it into the order you'd naturally put it, and then listen to it relentlessly on shuffle and move things around so they feel natural.  i had already selected an order of the songs, but this guidance caused some important but subtle tweaks.  I couldn't tell you exactly what those tweaks were but i can say that i feel really good about the flow and order of the songs.  In order to make the CD release, i negotiated a date for mastering of 12:00 am on 9/1 with Panic Studios.  I realized during this process why Panic Studios was such a great name for a mastering facility.  I also had an intensive process for creating a physical copy of the CD.  I never intended to create a physical CD but several experts suggested that i do this, and in hind-sight this was a good call.  Kevin Veatch who i met through some business contacts created a beautiful 6 panel CD that presented the value of the music and the cause and beautifully showcased the artists.

Promoting the Show:  This was where Ken came back into the mix.  Ken had a really important show at Bumbershoot.  He played a major role in organizing and performing at the Big Star Third show on Sunday, 9/1.  It was an amazing line-up featuring Jody Stephens, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Mike McCready, Jon Auer, Mike Musburger and other rock luminaries (e.g. Scott McCaughey) who graced the stage..  It was truly the who's who of this genre of rock and Ken played a massive role both on and off stage.  For me, the importance of this (besides being able witness this historical event) was that, ostensibly, there were a lot of Ken Stringfellow fans within the mob of fans.  I had two highly targeted promotional opportunities.  The first at the KEXP music lounge private show and the second at the Big Star Third show itself on the Mural Stage.  My daughter in tow,  I worked the crowds in both places and told them about our music, the cause and the show.  Not sure what my ultimate hit rate was in terms of "getting out the vote," (i.e. getting people to come to the show) but it was a heck of a lot of fun talking to all of the fans and hearing their connection to Ken, Big Star and the Posies.  

At the end of a very long day which started with We Are Scientists and ended with The Head and the Heart with a couple of Big Star shows sandwiched in the middle (and let's not forget the Replacements), I felt my music gas tank was overflowing.   I couldn't help but note the ironic twist of fate that I had seen the Posies for the first time live over twenty years ago in Key Arena at Bumbershoot and Hey Marseilles on the Fisher Green Stage four years ago.  Both of these shows played a pivotal role in where i was musically on that day.

Also i had a great feeling for Ken having pulled off a heroic and epic show with Big Star's Third. And when i got home i uploaded my CD for mastering right on time at 12:00 am on 9/1.

Big Star's Third featuring Ken Stringfellow with friends Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Jon Auer and others.  Amazing show.  Fans in LA should try to check out the upcoming show in that city.  it should be equally amazing with additional guests including Aimee Mann.

Big Star's Third featuring Ken Stringfellow with friends Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Jon Auer and others.  Amazing show.  Fans in LA should try to check out the upcoming show in that city.  it should be equally amazing with additional guests including Aimee Mann.

Mike LuceroComment