Cameron Tapp: A Mate with a Big Heart

Cameron Tapp - photos by Janie Franz- for the Grateful Web

Last week, Australian singer/songwriter Cameron Tapp made his US solo debut, not in a coffeehouse or intimate club, but as the processional singer at a fan's wedding. He flew almost 10,000 miles to sing his hit song as Jesse Ihry walked down the aisle of a Fargo, ND church.

Jesse had discovered Tapp's song, "The Guide," on iTunes well before she and her fiance had made their commitment to each other. The song had been recorded in 2006 on Loss of Signal, a CD by Tapp and his band mates under the name Borne. That song had also been licensed and featured on the television program Friday Night Lights and on October Road. "The Guide" became a Single of the Week on iTunes and earned the band a slot at SXSW last year, marking the band's first appearance ever in the States.  Last year, Borne won four Music Oz awards in Australia, including Artist of the Year, and Tapp was tapped as Best Singer/Songwriter.

When Jesse and her fiancé became engaged last June, they began the search for sheet music for "The Guide" because the church didn't permit recorded music during the wedding service. "We looked and looked online everywhere and could not find it," Jesse said. Out of desperation, she went to the Borne website, and emailed every contact person she found there, asking for sheet music.

But there was a problem. Tapp didn't have any sheet music. In fact, he didn't know how to write musical notation. Tapp explained that in a personal email to Jesse and made a few suggestions. One was to have a singer with a good ear listen to the song and learn it; another was to do some sort of video over the internet and show how he approached the song, explaining chords, bridges, and vocal treatments. A third was simply to fly him to Fargo. Jesse's reaction was unbelief. "I thought he was joking," she recalled. "Then, we realized he was serious." That's when the wedding couple decided to consolidate their student loans and give up their honeymoon to get Tapp on a plane to Fargo.

"The thing with this song is so surreal," Jesse said. It was more than just having the singer of a famous band coming to her wedding. "It is the meaning behind the song and having the actual singer here. It's something that you'll never forget."

And for Cameron Tapp, it is just as special. "I'm a sucker for a love story," he said in a phone interview last week and repeated during a relaxed lunch in Fargo the day after the wedding. "It's such an honor to be asked to sing....To be asked to play a song that you've written at someone's wedding is such a beautiful thing. It is a wonderful thing for any artist to be asked that because it means that your song has done what it was supposed to do, which was to reach people, to talk to people. That's what music is for. It's not for bank accounts."

As Tapp, his publicist Christian Quilici, Grand Forks ND singer/songwriter Ron Franz, and I lingered over drinks, we were very aware how much this remarkable story had brought strangers together, not just Tapp and the bridal couple, but all of us. "It's a beautiful story and people love to hear beautiful fairy tales," he said.  "The song was born (pardon the pun) out of love.  Jesse's life is about how she's found pure love again...These kinds of stories just don't come along very often."

But even more strangers got into the act. Tourism Tasmania organized a $10,000 honeymoon package for the couple. It will cover airfare and high-end resort accommodations. The costs are being covered partly by the Tasmanian tourism bureau, which is a government entity, and by airlines, car rentals, and other hospitality industries.

Though the wedding is over, Tapp, however, is not flying back home immediately. He is using this trip to strike out with some material as a solo performer. Some of the live radio spots he did in Fargo, especially at a country station, proved to him and to some new fans that his new material was more universal that the pop genre pigeonhole Borne had been put into.

Tapp is comfortable playing acoustic guitar, but it wasn't his first instrument. Surprisingly, it was the harmonica. And, not blues, but straight harp. "My father played a beautiful mouth organ," Tapp said. "We use to go camping a lot as children with my parents. We'd always have a campfire, and we'd sit around it and sing songs. Dad would play the harmonica and tell us stories of his past... I had a beautiful, wholesome childhood." Later, Tapp picked up drums and then guitar when he was about ten.

Tapp's father, Paul Tapp, today is an author of children's fiction and adult non-fiction books. When Cam Tapp was a boy, his father also wrote songs. "I used to sit around and listen to my Dad play his songs on the acoustic guitar."

Songwriting came naturally to young Tapp. That carried through to his work with the pop entity called Borne. But Tapp quickly asserted, "Borne primarily is me," Tapp said. "It's a Moby-type situation. I've always had the inspiration to write songs. I take them to my producer, and we work the songs. Then the boys come in and play the material with me and we compile the tracks. And when the time comes, we'll go out and play the music."

While Tapp was in Fargo, he brought some new tunes with him. "Winter Chill" tells the tender story of when his father and mother were apart when the elder Tapp served in the Vietnam war and how their letters and the moon they both watched every night kept them connected. This was one story he heard a lot around the campfire. It's a tune that fit very nicely aired on a country station live.

Another song, Tapp is showcasing is "Dacridium franklinii." It was a song his father wrote about the Huon pine, the Dacridium franklinii (now called Lagarostrobos franklinii). "The Huon pine tree grows only in my native state, which is Tasmania," Tapp said. "It's the oldest and slowest growing tree in the world." Individual trees have lived for almost 2,000 years and whole forests stands have survived uncut for over 10,000 years. "When my father wrote this song, they were chopping down these trees to make a dam," Tapp recalled. "That song had a huge impact on my life."

Tapp wrote of the song, "Dacrydium Fanklinii is a lullaby, a lullaby that was sung to me at bedtime as a child. As I fell asleep the verses took me to cool and tranquil Gondwanic forests where the Huon pine tree lives. It was in these forests that I spent the better part of my childhood."

He decided to record it on a compilation CD called Forests Forever that was released this year by the Wilderness Society Initiative to raise money and awareness for the continued destruction of old growth forests. That CD included cuts by two other well-known Australians, Xavier Rudd and John Butler.  Though the Huon pine is now protected, its plight is similar to what else is happening in the country. "Quite recently, there has been a massive debate in my home state of Tasmania about a wood chip mill they are trying to build," Tapp explained. "They are trying to log areas that have vast tracts of old growth forests." Not only is this of concern to Tasmanians but it also can impact the rest of the world.  "These big huge tracts of forest store massive banks of carbon," Tapp said. When the trees are cut, this carbon is released. "So it would be a great global warming crime if they don't stop doing this to wood chip these trees for paper."

It is a plaintive song that makes good use of Tapp's vocal range, his passion, and his crisp acoustic guitar playing. "I went down to Tasmania quite recently," Tapp said, "and I went into the bush to one of these areas that they are going to log and I played that song in the wilderness." That helped launch the CD. (You can catch a youtube video of the song).

These stripped down tunes like others he will showcase this week in CA rely on Tapp's unusual finger and plectrum combo style on his Australian Maton guitar. He demonstrated that for Grand Forks singer/songwriter Ron Franz and then let Franz have a go at his favorite guitar.

Tapp's guitar work is clean and rootsy.  But the strength of each of these new songs hangs on the power of Tapp's vocals that sometimes whisper and sometimes erupt from the heart in a mourning cry. Both skills uplift lyrics that speak of relationships between people and between people and their environment.

On the coattails of his generous, unpretentious hands-across-the-waters gesture, Cameron Tapp will put his foot into the waters of the American acoustic music scene when he brings his solo show to the Plush Cafe in Fullerton CA on Tuesday June 17 at 7 pm and to the Hotel Cafe (unplugged) in LA Wednesday June 18 at 8 pm. Check him out. There are depths Cameron Tapp hasn't fathomed yet in his songwriting career. Let's hope he continues to bring his talents to American shores.

Big Easy Blowout in Boulder and Denver

Page plays Boulder & Denver next week- for the Grateful Web

The City of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have given the rest of the world tremendous gifts of music, culture, cuisine, art, and much more.  Relief efforts have continued since Katrina but it hasn't been enough to get the area functioning to full capacity and allow all residents to return to a sense of normalcy and comfort.  To help continue the relief effort, Symbiotic Music Productions and Crescendo Artists announce a Mardi Gras Benefit Celebration with the Big Easy Blowout.  All proceeds from the events will benefit the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and Tipitina's Foundation.  The two consecutive events will take place in Colorado on January 25 in Boulder and January 26 in Denver.  The musical lineup will feature Page McConnell (Phish), Russell Batiste (Funky Meters, PBS), Papa Mali (Rhythm Council), Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (The Wild Magnolias, Golden Eagles) and Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green, JFJO).  The events will have other fundraising aspects, Mardi Gras décor, and activities (including silent auctions, raffles, drink specials, food drive, New Orleans themed artwork and more).  Euforquestra will support on both shows.


January 25 at Boulder Theatre - Boulder, CO - doors at 7:30PM - Tickets @ $25

Featuring: Page McConnell, Russell Batiste, Papa Mali, Reed Mathis and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux

January 26 at Cervantes - Denver, CO - doors at 9:00PM - Tickets @ $25

Featuring: Page McConnell, Russell Batiste, Papa Mali, Reed Mathis and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux    

Foundation mission statements:

New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC):

The mission of NOMC is to sustain Louisiana's musicians in mind, body and spirit by developing access to primary care, preventative health services, as well as social and occupational outreach.

Tipitina's Foundation:

The mission of the Tipitina's Foundation is to restore Louisiana's irreplaceable music community and preserve the state's unique musical cultures. The history of the Tipitina's Foundation originates from the Tipitina's music venue, a revered cultural icon that continues to be instrumental in the development and promotion of New Orleans music around the world. The foundation works to support childhood music education, the professional development of adult musicians, and the increased profile and viability of New Orleans music as a cultural, educational, and economic resource.

Production Mission:

Symbiotic Music Productions (SMP) is dedicated in raising proceeds and awareness for the recipients we work with. Our vision is to restore the idea of a benefit show, to insure the greatest positive impact for the organization. By cutting overhead of an event, we find the highest lucrative angle to yield the greatest results. Over the years, we have seen benefit shows losing their meaning and integrity as a fundraiser. We at SMP are motivated in restoring that value with assisting the charitable projects we work with. We are in it for the change, not personal profit! Putting together amazing events with like-minded organizations, venues, musicians, etc. whom are willing to take cuts, to give back to communities in need.

Big vote coming on clean energy bill. Make your voice heard.

Tell the auto industry to improve mpg- for the Grateful Web

An army of auto industry lobbyists is swarming over Capitol Hill.

Their mission? To strangle a clean energy bill in the cradle - before you and I can enjoy better gas mileage and more renewable energy.

Your senators and representative need to hear from constituents like you right now - BEFORE that bill hits the floor for the decisive vote.

Click here to send them email messages in support of clean energy now:

Even if you've already called Capitol Hill, please be sure to both of your senators and your representative an email message at this critical juncture.

Your messages from back home can do more to counter the auto lobbyists and deliver a clean energy future than any other single weapon we've got. 

It couldn't be easier to do. With one click on the website you can call on all three of your elected officials to support a clean energy bill ensuring that:

* New passenger vehicles get an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

* Utilities will produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

An energy bill with these two centerpiece provisions will cut America's oil dependence, make a down payment on reducing global warming pollution, and usher in a cleaner energy future.

Even if you've already called Capitol Hill, please be sure to send both of your senators and your representative an email message at this critical juncture. Click here:

We've waited two decades for Congress to pass legislation that could start breaking the chains of our enslavement to the automakers and Big Oil. We're unlikely to get a second chance for many years to come.

Please seize this one chance for a clean energy future. Make your voice heard on Capitol Hill today!

Big Meat Music

- for the Grateful Web

What is the essence that is "Big Meat"?  The signature sound that originates from four close friends can only be described as improvisational Rock n' Roll.

In their rural hometown of Pomfret, CT, located in the northeast "Quiet Corner" of the state, we started to learn how to play our instruments together in 1995.  While most kids in Pomfret complained of boredom, we entertained ourselves with music.  By the year 2000, "Big Meat" had successfully taken the "Quiet" out of the "Corner" and replaced it with juicy grooves, high-intensity and climaxing improvisation, and completely original compositions.  They performed constantly in high school, producing their own shows from the lights to the sound.  On summer weekends they set up a shoddy PA system and threw a rug on the grass to play at local parties. They always had fun and established such a strong subconscious level of musical connection that they knew "Big Meat" was something special by the time they graduated high school in 2001.

"Big Meat" was separated during our college years because we attended different schools.  We dealt with our separation as best we could, coming together during the breaks and summer months to play clubs, festivals, bars, and parties throughout New England and Pennsylvania.  When school was in session we played occasional college gigs.

While most bands might break up in the midst of such adversity, our separation only improved our sound.  At our respective colleges, we all formed and lead our own musical side-projects that expanded our musical diversity and pushed our individual skills to the limit.  When playing in "Big Meat," any member can steal the show, but in these various side projects, we were each expected to carry the show on our shoulders.  Each time we reunited, our instinctual musical connection remained, and each member was more musically-capable, more confident, and more eclectic and versatile then ever before.  In college, our minds had matured, and we began to understand our roles in the band.  It became more and more evident that when our forces combined, we were "Big Meat."

It's the band that is the show, not any one individual.  It is the unique outcome of their jolly foursome's collaboration that makes them special.  The music is deep and often complex.  The lyrics are stories ranging from monsters invading the house to anecdotes about dreaming you're a golden retriever, taking you through adventures like getting sprayed by a skunk and running from the dog catcher.  We maintain a steady humor but also delve into the more serious inquiries of the human state, such as our own wish to make music for everybody's enjoyment, including ours.

Big meat has completed three albums of original material.  They are "It's What's for Dinner (copyright 2001)," "Bigger than the Bun (copyright 2002)," and "To Be Perfectly Frank (copyright 2005)." 

Big Meat is playing their last run of shows in Orlando before packing up and moving back to CT.  Their last show in Fla will take place on June 24th at the Rocket Pub in Orlanda, Fla.

I'm a Nice Jewish Girl With a Big Bad Tattoo

JD Salinger- for the Grateful Web

Time to stifle your shrieks and open your minds, dear readers, for you will find that this is a story outside of the parameters of Judaism.  A story not about desecrating The Body, but one of adorning it, rewarding it.  It is about a little needle and a whole lot of Bacitracin.  You've read the title; you know what I'm talking about.I was not raised in a home particularly concerned with religion.  Channukah was just like any other week and cheeseburgers weren't outlawed due to kashrut but for cholesterol content. In fact, it was barely a week ago that I even learned the word kashrut. But branding my body was taboo nonetheless, because, simply put, my mother "said so, that's why."  She said, "it's classless, Jennifer, and gratuitous and dangerous.  Nice Jewish girls just don't do it."  And so I nodded and asked her to pass the pork. But funny things happen to a body in college and mine began doing the things it wanted, because it wanted, and started raising its eyebrow at rules that had previously been left unquestioned.  It was then that I stumbled upon  Seymour:  An Introduction, by J.D. Salinger.  Perhaps you've read it.  If not, perhaps you should.  I won't reprint any parts or pieces due to potential copyright infringement (although if it meant meeting Salinger, off to court in shackles I would happily go!), but you must trust that the work touched me in a way I could hardly articulate.  It made my very limbs tingle and in closing the pages, I missed it like a friend who had moved far away.  And I wanted to carry it with me always. So......When I got to the tattoo parlor, I was doubtless.  My calls had been placed to the AIDS hotline for reassurance and I had a Hershey bar on hand for emergency endorphins.  I had also reread my beloved Seymour before leaving, so the epiphany was sitting fresh on my shoulders as I headed toward the needle.  Hardly a flinch later, I left...calm...with a small red bicycle painted daintily on my body.  I had a symbol of Seymour, literally, at my hip.In the past seven years since I had myself illustrated, I've confessed to mother and added a second tattoo to my shoulder blade Life is Elsewhere, by Milan Kundera....ah, our poor, doomed Jaromil).  I have also had to do a lot of explaining to friends, family, and numerous passersby who have happened to spy me in a tank top.  They wonder why I would hurt myself like that; they remind me that nice Jewish girls shouldn't spoil their skin.  What they don't understand is that by being tattooed, I was simply adopting as part of my body beautiful pictures, images that I hold dear.  It is not desecration, it is decoration, celebration.  It's putting a gold foil crown on the birthday girl's head.  And I don't believe anyone's god could find that wrong.  I know that mine finds it pretty.