Gravity Surfer

What a journey. For the last 2 years Choke the Fish changed. We combined people from another band Scott was in. At one point we were 7:

Scot Banks - Bass

Steve Woodmansee - Drums, electronics, vocals

Bobby Lonasco - Guitars

Brian Erle(me) - keys, vocals, flute

Joe Montelbano - Hand drums, vocals

Peter Porter - Vocals, banjo, electronics

Tim Poupard - Guitars, electronics

We played a backyard party. It was fall down fun. Wild, not ready for the grammies but serious good time. Played a few more. We had a song list. Creative energy was boiling. Tim dropped out. The six of us left were wild eyed. We had the invite to play at the Takopa Takeover. A Hippy bandfest in the fall of 2018. We were stoked. we started recording, meeting twice a week, feeling good that we were actually making forward progress. Peter was an excellent writer, fun to be around but had been dignosed with lupus. Joe was a solid singer and player but had trouble emotionally sometimes. 

We played the gig and felt victorious. The set went well. We even got paid! We had developed into a thing of value. We would be able to [play similar festivals all around. This was gonna be great. We had just broken down our stuff and were hanging out in front of Peters RV. It was a fancy one, Mercedez if I remember right. But Pete wasn’t feeling well. He had missed practice a couple times last week which was out of character for him. He really enjoyed playing.. He had taken several hits from his inhaler - was having trouble getting his breath. He went inside to take a shower. We all stayed outside basking in afterglow.  

After about 20 minutes Steve decided to go in and check on Pete. He had had a heart attack. He was taking off his shoes. He never even made it to the shower. He was dead.

We rationalize to ourselves that he had just realized a dream, performing his own song in front of a happy audience with a full band behind him.

He was a special ed. teacher. It’s challenging work. Alcohol had become an issue for him.He had availed himself of newly legal weed. I had told him of the new found success I was experiencing by never drinking or smoking on a school night.  Things were changing for me in a good way. Life has a way of dumping on you. Everybody gets some. I had traveled part of his road. But I couldn’t save him. He had the diagnosis for lupus but hadn’t started treatment. I was looking forward to writing with him, jamming with him, enjoying his company. His wife was really nice. They had a little dog that they spoiled shamelessly. I will continue to celebrate his spirit.

A month later we got together to play. 5 now. It felt good but Joe melted down. Understandable. I remember working Excalibur when I had a fight with my wife, or when my dog died, When a treasured friend killed himself, you still have to go on. The jokes are dust in your mouth but it isn’t the audiences fault. They still NEED the cute and funny you supply. I love my audiences and I’m grateful for every one of them.

Bobby has been working cleaning carpets for as long as i’ve known hin. He has developed  repetitive stress problems with his left hand. This brilliant musician can no longer play for more than about 10 minutes at a time. 

"Put your soul into your instrument” - advice given to me by Aldo Parisot - Cellist for the Yale Quartet - my fathers band. Boy that shit rings true if you can only play for a short time. Mean It!

We’ve been playing as a trio. Scott, Steve, and me. We still experience the joy. I reach a mind state maybe ralated to epilepsy. Think Joe Cocker, When I sing. My hands shake. I tap into something greater than myself. A new guitar player has come to p[lay with us sometimes, Brian Weiss. I think he is starting to feel the level of fun this could become. The business model has always been: Follow the fun. I Learned in  the casino: a jugglers product isn’t juggling, it’s entertainment. Music is not the product, Iyt’s the journey the music offers. 

There have been tradgedies in my life sure, but everyone sees horror in some way. The trhead that I hope connects us in the long run is the joy of opening up with other humans of song and groove and joy and healing. we will play and love and share. Not always smart. rarely polished, pieces of ourselveves, And walk away with a feeling of satisfaction, and good will,and a willingness to do good and be good as flawed as that might be.

© Brian Erle 2012