The Blank Tapes: A Tribute
Catch the Blank Tapes’ 15 Year Anniversary show at Amnesia Music Hall in San Francisco on Friday Night, Feb. 3rd
Back in 2005, while living in Tucson and working on my third album, Songs For Messy Lovers, I began a digital correspondence with Matt Adams, via that glorious social portal of the mid-aughts: MySpace. Matt Adams was a couple of years into his DIY recording career, he was calling his thing The Blank Tapes and he was churning out Beatles and Kinks inspired lo-fi gems at a dizzying rate. I tried to keep up. I can’t recall if it was Matt who discovered my music (Campo Bravo) on MySpace and reached out to me or if it was the other way around. I would venture Matt reached out, he was already writing dozens of emails every morning at that point, reaching out to future collaborators and planting the seeds that continue to produce a lot of fruit, flowers, friendships and incredible Rock & Roll music.
We became digital pen pals over the next year, trading booking contacts and home recordings. By the time I embarked on the disastrous 2006 Campo Bravo tour in support of Darla Records’ The Lowlights, I was navigating, rather poorly it should be noted, my first taste of minor success, of recognition by outside sources. On the heels of Songs For Messy Lovers I had been signed, along with J. Tillman (Father John Misty), to KEEP Recordings, and released my fourth album, Goodbye, Oklahoma, that same year. I had secured opening and support slots with Smog, Akron/Family, M. Ward, and Okkervil River and was, from an outside perspective, riding a good wave, but on the inside the wave was breaking, the water was closing in, I felt alone in the fight and by the time I got to San Francisco on the final night of that seven week tour, my entire band had been fired or quit. I was acid fried and solo on the tiny Amnesia stage on that hot August night in 2006 when my old friend Kyle Field (Little Wings) walked through the door with Matt Adams in tow. Kyle and I went back half a decade at that point, but this was the first time I had met Matt in person. We smoked a joint outside after my set and caught up. Matt had recently moved up to SF from Southern California and had already built a little scene around him. Kyle was crashing at the Mollusk Surf shop in the Outer Sunset and working on a new album with his old friend Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips. I had checked into the Hotel Shirley on Polk Street that morning at the weekly rate. I was home.
Matt had invited me to his show the next evening at a Hayes Valley cafe, the bill would include friends of his that he wanted me to meet. I saw FPOD BPOD for the first time that evening, performing as an acoustic duo, or maybe it was a trio. I met Indianna Hale that night. I had a hard time fitting in though. I remember feeling alien. I remember Matt reaching out, talking to me, doing his best to bring me into the circle, to make me feel welcomed. I remember writing ‘Welcome Me’, which would open my next and final Campo Bravo album, a few days later in my hotel room. I had Matt do the cover art for that album, 2007’s Denver Lights & Eagle Rock Dreamer. It was the first time we collaborated. In 2008 I was signed to a recording contract as a solo artist with San Francisco’s PFR. They gave me a budget, a producer, a studio. They gave me money to hire a band of my choosing. The first call I made was to Matt Adams. Since that album, 2009’s Words of the Knife, Matt and I have gone on to work on seven albums together. As a recording artist, there is no relationship that has been more integral to my development than my studio brotherhood with Matt Adams, there is no one I would rather make a record with, no one I trust more when the red button gets pushed.
When I put together the first Family Folk Opry show in 2008, at Yoshi’s in San Francisco, Matt Adams was my first call. Three years later when I rebooted the project as Family Folk Explosion, Matt again was my first call. He always answers the call and he has shown a great willingness to ride at my side through the strangest of rock & roll landscapes, the weirdest of dreams.
When I lost my band (Os Beaches) and my record deal back in 2012, it was Matt who stepped up and offered to produce the new Trans Van Santos material down in Joshua Tree at his own expense. We found our stride as co-producers on 2015’s Moon Mirage and this year Tekeli-Li Records is releasing our mind altering follow up: TVS2. Someone once called us the “Bo and Luke Duke of California hippie rock.” When I think of that as an image I see Matt and I in an old orange Volkswagen camper van, a tie died ‘Steal Your Face’ flag painted on the roof, and we are jumping the Russian River. We are in mid-air and the TV frame freezes. The voice of Waylon Jennings says, “Well, the boys seem to have gotten themselves into one hell of a pickle….” and we cut to commercial. A couple of good old boys making their way the only way they know how.
On Friday, February 3rd, The Blank Tapes celebrate 15 years of music with what promises to be a wonder filled evening of old friends, special guests, magic moments, long guitar solos (possibly longer than usual), glitter, polyester pants, hugs and drugs, and all the dance hits you could hope to find on a Friday night in the City. All this goes down at Amnesia, the storied Mission District rock club where Matt and I met for the first time some twelve years ago. If you are anywhere near San Francisco I recommend that you get down to Amnesia and Listen to the One.