Author Archives: The Black Swans

Jerry DeCicca from The Black Swans on Richard Buckner

MP3: Richard Buckner – Escape

Editor’s note: In anticipation of Richard Buckner’s long-awaited Our Blood, out today (8/2) on Merge Records, I asked Buckner fan Jerry DeCicca of The Black Swans (a band that has shared the stage with Buckner) to say a few words about the man:

I’m submitting this text as my end of a barter: I received the new Richard Buckner album, Our Blood, several months before its release in exchange for typing about it for this “website.” Summation, however, isn’t really my bag and, for Buckner, I have no critical eye. Instead, I’ll state why I made this agreement and try not to gush much.

Long ago, in a pre-Internet world, I became a Buckner-head, tracked him cross-country whenever word spread of a show. The road was his home, so opportunity abound! Then, he was something of a folksinger, or maybe he just sounded like one because he played an acoustic guitar. Like Mark Eitzel, Vic Chestnutt, and Mark Linkous, he used language and a guitar in a way that made everyone else sound square and safe and dumb. He channeled Creeley and cummings and William Carlos Williams and Townes Van Zandt and the mountains. Every record released was an event. Collaborators ranged from Butch Hancock and Lloyd Maines to Calexico to Marc Ribot and Dave Schramm to a Canadian (future ex-wife) drummer. Continue reading

The Black Swans Tour Diary: Finale

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9-26 Columbus: Dear Reader, full of cheers and jeers, if you are still there, here is my final notice, my– cough, cough– swan song: We left Buffalo, gased up at a reservation, and, with the windows down and a sky full of blue, listened to Desire and the air blew chilly on my anxiety-bald patch from a head full of worry that resides where I’m going next. That place is called home, and as I arrived safe and almost sound, I feel pretty good about the trip/tour. It wasn’t great every night, but we met lots of good people and saw a part of the country we hardly knew. Months from now, the bills on my table will be forgotten as will the nastiness that everyone endures when they step two feet beyond where they feel most comfortable. The unknown is the best and I would rather play to 30 strangers in a strange town and sleep on floors than to a room of friends down the street from my apartment any day. We sold a lot of CDs, played some of our best sets ever, gathered life lessons. And, it was our first tour where there were– gasp!– fans, and I’ll always remember that.

I feel pretty lucky to have had a place to sing my songs every night, even if, at times, we were at odds with our environment. Our isn’t for everyone, but I’ve never tried to be the Coug and “Dark Plums” is no “Jack and Diane”. There is a place in the world for most people’s music, you just have to go out and find it.

The drive home was quiet. The Black Swans enjoyed a 4:20 farewell, Canaan sketched some cock-n-balls in the back seat, the Taurus stole the guts from a few more butterflys on I-90. I whistled along to Roger Miller.

Sometimes you want something for so long, it is hard to admit you don’t want it anymore after you get a tiny taste. But I could have stayed out there playing shows for a while longer, and so the dream lives on. And maybe that is all it is, a dream, a dream, a dream, that no one else shares. And in our untelevised St. Elsewhere, I am Mark Harmon and Canaan and Noel are a hot, narrow nurse, standing beside me in a snow globe holding hands, as we sing songs of doubt, hard-ons, and faith.

So thanks for watching. Just don’t cuss the fiddle, or Noel might type, “Barf! You rong.”

The Black Swans Tour Diary: Second to Last

9-25 Sex Brain Honeymoon: The Black Swans leave the home of Kodak with a photographic/pornographic memory of the tour to finish in Buffalo on Monday and just when we think there is little left we all decide to consummate our relationship in trad style by visiting Niagra Falls and indulging in the first Black Swans group shower. Niagra is a mighty place and somewhere I’ve been before, but the Maid of the Mist takes us deep into the heart of the beast with one back and that’s some place I love to go. We yelled and giggled and then took the observation walkway into a hurricane of splash that left us, head to toe, all wet.

We show up in Buffalo and end our health kick by going to Hemingway’s for the cheeseburger we all crave. Then, the Mohawk where we play our last show of the tour and heard, I hope, for the last time: “Elf Power is playing down the street tonight.” I like EP, but that’s the 5th time this tour and you’ve gotta blame someone. The show was alright and we played fine. Somebody taped it once again, so if anyone of yous are reading this, send the music my way. The Mohawk is a great bar, and Vox Humana and Tracy Morrow both played really good sets. Marty and Susan took us home and left us to our own devices. Excellent people that made the final night of feeling free- like a spirit, like an animal, like musician- all the better. Now we drive and there will be one more blog to wrap things up. 6 hours from Yes Direction Home is no-no fun.

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The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 12, 13

9-23 Cloud People: The Black Swans post-SD pancake party took the ride into capitol city of Vermont through the sky, vision dipping as we played pilot through the clouds and the Taurus took flight without any help from Port Nowhere. Stood beside giant stone Thomas Chittenden, first gov. of Vermont, and then we hiked to the Tower where we overlooked the whole town. Noel busked and made $12 playing Sabbath to tourists, and we all think this should have been going on all along. Langdon St. Cafe gives us 2 drinks and grilled cheese, but we go the the health food store, Hungry Mountain, and salad bar it again as this is the Black Swans Health Kick tour.

We played a pretty good show, two more to go, but no one was there minus 7 people. Still doing different songs every night, 22 to choose from now, no set list. Drove right off to Scotty and Laura’s, 2 hour trip, to hang and sleep. I had other things to tell, I think, but just realized a Miller Lite bottle broke in my clothes bag that I stashed way way back in Richmond, VA years ago, and everything is soaked and smelly, little bits of glass everywhere. Breakfast is coming; I can smell it. Rochester tonight and maybe Uncle Joey will be there. I’m not excited to go home, but I can feel it nearing and everything that comes with it.
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The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 11 (with Video)

9-22 Trees and soap: One of the things I like best about touring is trying out a different shower every night: cleanliness, water pressure, degrees of soft and hard water, hot-cold. So now I’m on day whatever it is of a new shower and had my best borrowed bath towel of tour at our new friend Steve’s place here in Burlington. The drive in to VT proved that when a highway trades its billboards for trees everything is better. The rest stop had some sort of odd sundial and no bathroom, which gave me my first outdoor pee of tour. Usually this happens on day 1, so better late than never.

The Radio Bean is cool with music from 7-1, and we took the 11:30 shift with the absence of our buddy Lou. We drank free Jamison and ate healthy down the street for $4, a combo the Black Swans would like to repeat as it makes us all feel good. Super small crowd as most locals left after their friends played, but had a good time, made $39 pass the bucket style and sold a few CDs. Steve just made us breakfast and has earned Black Swans Super Fan staus since he emailed us weeks ago with this invite and followed through. We’ll go to the capital city today, but not you C-bus, and I’ll dream of Providence, you know the one. Glad to be out of the big cities that never set me free. But I could use some of that butter lotion I sing about every night because my skin is drying out.

VIDEO: The Black Swans Live on WMPG Radio Portland Maine

The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 10

9-20 Deja voo-doo-doo: So word has gotten back that I’m complaining too much. But in defense here’s my defense, I’m just a man, baby. This is the first tour with a booking agent and it is suppose to go bliss. Many moments are, for instance: The Taurus caravaned to the gig in Northampton from Portsmouth, NH where we woke, Noel with Lou, Canaan with me. QT, they call this at folk corporate. Love fall. Or as you’ll find shortly on Tract Records release, “Autumn, Autumn”. The show at Flywheel looked promising with 4- count ‘em- 4 Black Swans posters on the main drag. But bedtime sent half the audience home before we began since school was on the rise. An all ages venue with no-no alcohol gave me my 2nd dry show in a row and another room of music fans young enough to teach me how to text message. Singing a song to a tequila bottle feels slightly wrong under these circumstances.
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The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 8, 9

9/18 & 9/19- Black Swans Two For One Day: You have been cheated but it is hard to hack into the truth sometimes from the road, so now you get a double shot of my love, and you’re not the first. Ate CT’s best chowder for breakfast, road into Providence and to Julian’s where we played for our supper, sold CDs, and freaked out the few people there. As you might expect, announcing, ‘here’s a song about blue balls’ only goes over half the time. But we were still riding high from the night before and morning we spent poolside at Quiet Life compound. I should also say we all enjoy Lewis and Clarke more every day. He’s a great singer, guitar player, and wonderful person.
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The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 5, 6, 7

(Duffy note: The Black Swans sent me these three entries while I was on the road, away from the internet. Sorry for the delay.)

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9-15 Rainy Night in Georgia: Not Georgia, but that’s what Canaan was singing all day and Noel was grunting along in jest of my love for Tony Joe White as we walked around in the rain, which is what it does every time The Black Swans play in New York. So we went to a bar too early where they were interviewing really hot women for future bartentder positions and now I have the first hangover of the tour. Ouch! The gig at Piano’s was good. People listened but a few missed us who wanted some since we switched set times since Lou was running late. I pulled a fast one at the club and all parties agreed to give us a bar split instead of that other negotiation.

Here’s a puzzle: 4, 67, 42, 20, 45. What are these numbers? No, not the one that drives Hurley crazy on LOST, this is the amount of money that the Black Swans can’t live on. Take X at the door, take Y off the top of that, and give us Z percent of that, and there is shit. This has been the biggest financial loss of a Black Swans tour so far, but what about the music? Pretty good I think, but Dark Plums (see track 4 of Sex Brain) don’t taste good for breakfast and some mornings that is all we got. Thankfully, our best friends in Williamsburg just woke us up with coffee and egg and bacon sandwich. We leave for New Haven now.
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The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 5

Then, I ask myself, how many times have I walked down the street at 1am soaked from the rain? But, oh wait, because I’m skipping ahead… The day began just fine. Woke up super early and spend the first half of the day in the art space’s café, getting to know Lou better, and drinking coffee. But then we leave Richmond and as the drive begins, the transmission in the Taurus begins to slip, and slip, and slip. Now Lou’s rent-a-Taurus is healthy but his private Taurus was sent to the fixer upper from the illness before take-off. Now it seems the Dual Taurus Tour is in jeopardy. In Hanover we find a garage where a guy wore a work shirt with a patch that calls himself “Pedro” and after he changes the transmission fluid because mine was dirty I hand him a credit card worth $120 and hope for the best. He puts some air in my tires and says, “They roll better when they’re round” and so I like him. But what he forgot to do is clean out the transmission fluid pan and magnet which requires the majority of the work. How do I know this? Because 10 miles after we leave Hanover Pedro, the Taurus shakes like a zeppelin in Hades, knocking and breaking up like I’ve never seen it before. Lou is miles ahead since Philadelphia is 4 hours away and we thought it best for him to let the others know we’re coming. So Canaan and Noel and I figure out what is what as we travel back through D.C. and end up in Fairfax where I contemplate ditching the Taurus and renting a car, truck, van, U-haul. Taurus won’t run over 45 mph so all seems hopeless. Then as we’re driving towards Vicki’s since she lives near I pull into a tiny garage where a Korean guy named Abe tells me Honda with 152,000 miles on it is a teenager but a Ford is senile and that “foam is bad, foam is bad” and tries to explain science to me but I’m too dumb to understand. Then he asks Claudio to clean the pan and flush it all out since Pedro didn’t do it right and only made it worse.
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The Black Swans Tour Diary: Blog 4

9-13 Rest in Art: I write to you from the location of my last blog, but a show has happened once again so here is my story: we had trout dinner from a soul-food restaurant down the street, played a show surrounded by metal sculptures made of tin, aluminum, and found metal in an art space in a giant compound of visual arts and studio spaces. The sound once again was excellent and the Black Swans played a pretty good show. We’ve played over 20 different songs over 3 shows now and if they didn’t all sound sort of the same and the audience traveled in our trunk someone might notice. Lewis and Clarke was great again, solo electric and something of part guru, part cult leader, his songs are elastic and he’s nothing like anyone else I’ve heard. The locals were sufficiently freaked out by Sex Brain, and so I’ve done my duty here. The other bands were solid and so was the promoter. We slept on the floor of the empty and finished warehouse, showering in the bathroom around 1 am, so we are clean for the drive to Philadelphia in today’s rain. Noel is sleeping in the parked car right now since we had to wake up with the opening of gallery’s cafe at 7:30. I just had coffee and a bagel. The Taurus seems to be having transmission issues at 152,000 miles (will I become the new little miss sunshine?), so cross your fingers and, if you believe in something, pray to it for me, we’re on day 4 and it feels like I’ve been gone for weeks.