Sunday, December 25, 2011

Nationally Syndicated Radio Show Crazy Enough to Put Me on the Air!

Back in late October and early November I went on a two & a half week tour with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic and Chandler Travis Three-O. We played our way down to New Orleans and back.

Stop #2 of the tour was in Charleston, WV, where the four of us in the Chandler Travis Three-O played a taping of the Mountain Stage Radio Show. Our performance from that show is now available online at the NPR website.

The songs we performed were:
You & Me Pushing Up Daisies
Camel Passing Through the Eye of a Needle
Drunk Angry People Shut Up
Grand Route St John

Happy listening!

For more info on the band, check out our website,

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tour Prep - T minus 2 hours (or so)

This is hopefully the first of several semi-regular posts from the road as I travel and sing with the Chandler Travis Three-O and Philharmonic during the "CTP 'n' 3 2011 Southern Matrimonial Tour".

Before any tour or out-of-town performance I have some freakout period. With basic out-of-town gigs, it's a fairly low-key freakout, really just a matter of trying to stick to a routine and not think too much about things. With tours, however, things can get pretty nuts in my head - especially when hitting the road for 2+ weeks. Three weeks ago it seemed like I had all the time in the world to prep for the tour - but then suddenly it was a week ago and my brain started a-whir, there just seemed so much to worry about. Then finally I made a checklist (lists help) and really, it seemed all do-able. From then on, the days flickered from manic to calm.  With the huge help of Belinda from Bubbles in the Think Tank, we managed to launch a new web store for Chandler's merchandise, including high-quality downloads of (soon) all the albums.  We even have new T-shirts that we'll be selling at tour dates (and online after we get back).

And now, I even have time to write this missive.

Because we have gear for the full Philharmonic (the rest of the boys are meeting us in Mobile, AL next Friday), the Three-O is traveling in two vehicles - Chandler's car and Berke's van. Tonight I'm in Berke's van along with John and Berke's plan is to drive straight through to West Virginia. We're lucky to have two drivers, Berke & Chandler, who can drive for hours & hours. So the plan is to get into Charleston, WV early afternoon, check into the hotel, nap & shower, and then go the hour to Huntington, WV for stop one of the tour, at Black Sheep Burrito & Brew.

I sure do like burritos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This Week in Copyright Infringement


A couple of months ago I got a phone call at home that went something like this:
me: hello?
person: Is this Fred Boak?
me: yes it is
person: I'm calling from the Cape Cod Chronicle, and I'd like to interview you for a story about you
me: uh ... um ... why?
person: well, aren't you a member of [looking at notes] the Chandler Travis Philharmonic?
me: oh sure, yeah, I sing with them
person: well, this is a feature about people you might see around town and that's why we'd like to talk to you.
me: oh I see - sure, I guess I'm game!

So ... we set a date, had a very pleasant interview, took some pics (I in my valet gear, complete with "Chandler Travis, King of the World" towel which sadly was cropped from the published pic).  The article was published in the October 13, 2011 edition of the Cape Cod Chronicle. Unfortunately, online access is only available via subscription (not even a pay by the article option), so I can't point you dear readers to a direct link to the article.  However, I scanned and transcribed it, giving this post its title.

Cape Cod Chronicle - October 13, 2011, Page 2
A Spotlight On Lower Cape Personalities And Visionaries

Harwich's Singing 'Valet' Fred Boak Does What He Loves Best
by Elizabeth Van Wye

Harwich resident Fred Boak has found a way to do what he loves. By day he is a computer programmer with more than 25 years in the computer software business. But when his work is done this self-styled "harmonizer-at-large" is also fulfilling a lifelong dream. He sings with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, an Eastham-based band described by the Boston Globe as "Dixieland, pop, avant-jazz, rock.. .and fully over the top."

Boak, who was born in Manhattan and grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was an only child. His father was a Presbyterian minister and Boak grew up loving to sing. He joined the church choir at five and advanced through all the church and high school choruses, taking voice lessons along the way. Boak came by his talent honestly. Both parents sang in vocal groups and it was natural for him to join in as soon as he could "I just loved doing it," he recalled. "I couldn't stop!"

Boak's musical tastes progressed from the Beatles to art rock, including the bands Genesis and Kansas, to Frank Zappa and then all the modern classical blues, doo­wop and more. Meanwhile, in 1980 he was doing well enough in high school to get into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Boak says that while MIT is well known for its math and science, it was also a good place for music.

He sang in the Chorallaries ofMIT, the university's mixed vocal a capella group, and eventually became the director for two years, frequently doing vocal arrange­ments. The group went on a couple of tours, through the Midwest, Chicago and Florida during the January independent activities time frame. "We'd schedule a tour and stay at alumni houses along the way," he recalls.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom at MIT, Boak was studying economics and material science, learning all about plastics and chip design. "I liked the beginning courses," he says, "but it wasn't what I wanted, so I Ieft in 1985." Boak got a job at WordsWorth Books in Harvard Square and worked there for several years before a mend told him about a computer job at its sister company, WordStock, designing computer systems for book stores.

"I started out in tech support and learned programming on the job," Boak says, add. ing, "I've been there 20 plus years." In the '90s, he moved to Harwich, where he telecommutes, continuing to program in­ventory control systems for bookstores.

Telecommuting is not for everyone, he says. "It takes discipline and there are good days and bad. Mostly it's great, with flexible hours."

It's especially good for his music, Boak says. In 1997 he heard singer Chandler Travis perform with the Philharmonic, his nine-piece group, for the first time.

"I started out as a fan," Boak recalls, and Travis soon asked him to start selling the merchandise, the assorted CDs, T­shirts and other band paraphernalia often available at concerts. "When he found out I could sing, I weaseled my way on stage," Boak says with a smile. "I love it," he adds, "I hadn't sung in 10 years and didn't realize how much I missed it. I love playing and singing Travis' songs... he is fantastic. They are some of the best musicians I've ever seen."

Boak performs vocals as needed with both the Philharmonic and the Three-o, a smaller group of Philharmonic musicians, occasionally adding a collapsible vuvuzu­ela, the South African plastic horn, into the mix. Their unique sound, including horns, a keyboard and a mandolin as well as vocals, has been called jazz, pop or omnipop and even alternative Dixie land. "He gives free range to the horns," Boak says of Travis, adding that the music can be danceable but also quiet. John Donohue, writing for the New Yorker, has described the music as "playful original songs that mix mind-­bending wordplay with jazz, shimmering rock, and horn-fueled R&B."

The group is known for its pageantry, es­pecially in their attire, and may perform in costumes as diverse as bathrobes, pajamas or suits. Recognizing the special nature that clothing plays in their performances, Boak assumed the persona of "Chandler Travis' valet" and during shows he dresses in the style of a contemporary Jeeves, with black suit, white shirt, black bowler hat, pink paisley bow tie and matching hand­kerchief, pink sunglasses and flip flops.

The group performs year round at res­taurants and other venues, both on Cape Cod and nationwide, as well as at private parties, with 12 to 15 shows every month in the summer. They also perform gigs to help out non-profits in need, like their annual Christmas show, this year at the Old Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans.

With his flexible work schedule, Boak manages to do what he loves. "When I left school I wanted to do music I loved," he recalls. "I didn't want to lead a band. This is the best of that for me. I get to perform songs I really like, respect and appreciate."

For more information on the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, visit www.chandler­

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Now You

One of my favorite shows of 2010 was a performance by Tin Hat at the Wellfleet Library.

"BLEW. ME. AWAY." was what I wrote about the show. I am sure I am not the only one in the audience who felt that way.

Then, at the Cape Cod Christmas Cavalcade, Tin Hat violinist/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt and her husband Mattias Bossi performed a couple of numbers under the name "Now You". Carla sang and played violin and some crazy norwegian viking boat or something like that, Mattias played percussion and piano, and they both made animal noises. They were charming, funny, weird and wonderful. Again, many of us in the audience were awestruck.

Well I'm happy to be able to help spread the word that Now You will be performing a full show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art on Sunday, February 6, starting at 2:30pm. Tickets are available in advance from the museum and online.

This is bound to be a fantastic show, and it's early enough for you football fans that you should be able to catch both it and the Super Bowl.

You really must go.

Monday, January 3, 2011


It's a new year and everyone and their cousin is making a list. Or two. Or more. Do we really need another from me?

Well, my friend Todd Remley tagged me on his "Top 15" list on Facebook, and my friend Belinda, at Bubbles in the Think Tank has her list and talked to me about mine, so I guess there are two people in this world who care.

Todd went with 15, Belinda tried to stick to 10 but I think she had one extra. I'm going to split it into 10 "new" releases and 5 "archival" releases. And then I'm going to have a couple of "gotta mention this one, too" selections at the end, because really, I just want to have the chance to share and recommend some cool stuff, and I don't care exactly how many there are.

So sue me.

NEW RELEASES (alphabetical)
Beat Caravan - On Parade
Japanese power-pop. Some serious hooks and nice harmonies coming from this band. They even cover Cape Cod's Link Montana!

Elizabeth Cook - Welder
A great mix of humor, pathos, and party songs, all with a great twang. She sure seems to me to be the real deal. This is the kind of country music I love.

John DeVries (Agitpop) - X No
A really wonderful mix of styles, most with some nice, dark lyrics on this release from John DeVries, also a member of the 80's art-punk band Agitpop. I had forgotten this was a 2010 release until near the end of my review process and threw it on just to check it out again and whadaya know, it bumped up into my faves list.

The Figgs - The Man Who Fights Himself
Power-pop in the spirit of the Replacements, hard-edged guitar-based music with serious hooks. They live in different parts of the US now and have other projects, so they don't get together to tour or record all that much. A new release is always a treat. Definitely see them if they come to your area - they might be even better live than on their releases.

Jack Grace Band - Drinking Songs For Lovers
Witty honkytonk drinking and truck driving songs and serious musicianship. 'nuf sed.

Movin' Jelly - Yay Disc
Japanese rock & roll band influenced greatly by the Incredible Casuals, NRBQ, and Cheap Trick. This album shows off more of the Cheap Trick influence than their first album. My fave cuts are "My Birthday", "Movin' Jelly Twist", "Cell Phone Number Please", and "She Cried". Sadly, this is a posthumous release for one member of the band, guitarist Masaaki "Masa" Gunji.
(whatever journalistic integrity I think I might have tells me I should inform you that I am thanked in the credits ... but it really is a fun album)
The CD is available in the US from Cape Cod's SonicTrout on their catalog page:

Edward O'Connell - Our Little Secret
Power-pop from DC-based Edward O'Connell. He wears his influences on his sleeve, but they're great influences (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, for example), and wears them proud and well. A really lovely album, not a bad song in the bunch.

The Parkington Sisters - Till Voices Wake Us
Five sisters from Wellfleet, MA on Cape Cod who play various string instruments (guitar, violin, banjo and cello) and piano and sing really really pretty. Lydia, the youngest of the five, has voice that haunts.

Stan Ridgway - Neon Mirage
What a wonderful surprise. Stan's put out some good stuff over the years, but this one is really something. And great reed contributions by the great Ralph Carney, too.

Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
The poet returns. The guy's led a hard life, and he doesn't sugarcoat it one bit on his first album in many years. I found this album haunting.

ARCHIVAL RELEASES (alphabetical)
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Bruce certainly doesn't need my help in selling this, a 2 CD collection of outtakes from "Darkness on the Edge of Town", but man-o-man do I love it.

Sun Ra - College Tour Vol 1: The Complete Nothing Is ...
This is a 2-CD ESP Disk release of the complete 1966 set from which the "Nothing Is ..." album was taken, plus part of the 2nd set the band performed that night and part of the soundcheck for the show. All-in-all 90 additional minutes of material. A fantastic performance and well-recorded. I love the transitions the band makes from song to song, from a big band swing number into cacophonous roar into a space chant and back into swing. It's a wonderful thing.
Oh, and that's Massachusetts' Governor Deval Patrick's father Pat Patrick playing baritone sax.

Travis & Shook - The Essential Travis, Shook & the Club Wow
First CD release of this early-70's LP release (no one seems to know the exact year as it seems there were a LOT of drugs going 'round in those days). In addition to the songwriting and beautiful harmonies of Chandler Travis and Steve Shook, not to mention Steve's unique guitar picking and voicing, this album features guest appearances by members of NRBQ, and songs written by Terry Adams, Sun Ra, and Keith Spring.

Frank Zappa - Greasy Love Songs
The original 1968 stereo mix of "Cruising with Ruben & the Jets" plus a whole bunch more alternate mixes and unreleased tracks. The title says it all, really.

Frank Zappa - Hammersmith Odeon
Oh, one of my fave Zappa lineups, maybe because it's the first one I saw live (Poughkeepsie, NY in September or October '77, these shows are from the end of the same tour, January & February '78). THREE discs of live material assembled to feel like a full (extra long) show from that era. Some really tasty guitar solos from both Zappa and Adrian Belew and a gorgeous sounding production.

Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet - Facebook/Soundcloud Digital Downloads
Seven live tracks have been made available so far from the formerly notoriously close-to-the-vest Adams - for FREE! Who are you and what have you done with Terry? I'm not arguing, I like the new openness and I sure hope people spread the word just how good this band can be. Reports are that there will be a studio release from the band sometime in 2011. Let's just say I'm pretty excited about that.

The Baseball Project - Broadside Ballads
Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Gutterball), Peter Buck (REM, Minus 5), and Linda Pitmon (Zu Zu's Petals, Steve Wynn) wrote 9 downloadable songs over the course of the 2010 baseball season, commenting on various baseball events that struck their fancy (anticipation of the season, the possibility of a triple crown winner, another 30 game winner, too many players spending time on the disabled list, the phenom Stephen Strasburg, a eulogy to former player Jose Lima, ...)

Tim Carroll - All Kinds of Pain
This is a 2009 release I just found out about at the end of 2010. It would most definitely have been on my favorites list. I've been a fan of Tim Carroll's for many years, since I first heard the singles he wrote and recorded with the Blue Chieftains, a New York City country band that recorded for the Diesel Only label. Oh, and he's married to Elizabeth Cook (see my 2010 faves above).

Clare & the Reasons / Van Dyke Parks - Iron Horse, Northampton, MA
Man, I was in a foul mood that day. Getting sick, feeling general miserable. But I had tickets for the show and we were playing an after-show gig across the street (a Chandler Travis Trio gig that ended up having 7 band members), so I rode up to Northampton with Chandler & Rikki. Clare & the Reasons had already started (adding to my foul mood - I hate missing part of a show), but I swear as soon as I walked into that room I started to feel better, their sound was so calming, the volume at a perfect level where you really had to stay quiet to hear everything (and for the most part, the audience did). By the end of the night, thanks to both the music, Van Dyke Parks' between-song patter, and a few vodka tonics, I was transformed - joyous, I'd call my mood. What a wonderful night. Clare & the Reasons' "Live in Amsterdam", which just missed my fave 10 (partially because I knew I could mention it here), offers a very good representation of what we heard that night.

Incredible Casuals - Valentine's, Albany, NY
OK, I work for the band, I'm a total sycophant. I've seen them practically every Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day for 12 years. And I'm a relative new-comer to the band, compared to some of their fans. Their home turf these days is the Wellfleet Beachcomber and there's always something different about those shows compared to their shows in other venues, particulary off-cape venues, I think (with the exception of the Japan tour in 2006 ... that was CRAZY!) Anyway, the show at Valentines was the closest thing to a mid-summer Beachcomber feel that I've gotten from them at any off-cape gig since, well, probably Japan in 2006. There was this great give & take between the audience and the band, and things rose to a fever pitch by the end of the night. I was really proud of the boys that night, hanging out at my merch table, and I was thrilled to be there.

KK & the Meds / The Catbirds / Treat Her Right - Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA
A CD release party for Kimon Kirk, the Boston debut of the Catbirds (Rikki Bates, Dinty Child, Steve Wood, and Chandler Travis), and reunion of Treat Her Right alumni, all in the friendly confines of the Lizard Lounge. Kimon was wonderful and can really sing a ballad beautifully. The Catbirds played a nice, tight set of their stronger material and the sonic interplay of Steve and Dinty was great. Treat Her Right played a fun set, the memory of Mark Sandman definitely there. Also notable for me as being the last night I saw Billy Ruane.

Parkington Sisters / Tin Hat - Wellfleet Library, Wellfleet, MA
BLEW. MY. MIND. After a very nice opening set by locals the Parkington Sisters (I think their CD release party at the Wellfleet Congregational Church a couple of months earlier was a better show, but there was nothing to sneeze at with this opening set), Tin Hat performed an amazing set of acoustic music that defied classification. Jazz? Classical? Who cares what you call it, it was stunnng. The group features sparse instrumentation (guitar/dobro, piano/accordion, clarinet/contra-alto clarinet, violin, voice) and what seemed to be arranged pieces with room for improvisation, though I suppose it could all be arranged, I forgot to ask them. The group was on the cape to rehearse for a new tour. Apparently, Carla, their violinist/vocalist has moved to the cape with her husband and new born, so hopefully we'll get occasional shows here in future.

Ticks / Greenheads / Earth Jr ('Coma opening night '10) - Wellfleet Beachcomber, Wellfleet, MA
Always a great night, always a favorite of mine. It's the beginning of Summer, a night to reconnect with folks we hardly ever see during the off-season. For the last several years it has featured these three bands. For the last couple of years I've had the chance to sing backup with the Greenheads on a handful of songs. Opening night 2010 is particularly memorable for one thing: The Ticks playing "Crazy Train". Yeah, that kicked off the season just grand.