Reasons To Love Baseball

Somebody asked me recently why I like baseball. Usually, I just answer: “because it’s the best sport ever and if you don’t agree, you are wrong.” But since I’m not doing anything important today, I thought I’d think about it a bit. Most of the reasons I love baseball have been said many times before, but it doesn’t make them any less true.Here we go….swing batter, batter, batter…swing!

1. I’ve played baseball most of my life. For as long as I can remember, i’ve always wanted to play for the Cubs. I still do. Don’t ask me why. I played all through my youth and one year in high school. My neighbor Chris played shortstop and I played second base. He was much bigger and stronger than I was. By my junior year, I realized that I wasn’t getting any bigger and I gave up and played music. It’s a hard thing to realize your own physical limitations when it comes to sports. Especially when you’re a kid. I pretty much stopped caring about baseball until 2001 when I noticed a tiny Japanese guy playing for the Mariners. Ichiro Suzuki hit .350 his first year with Seattle. His arm was a strong as someone twice his size. The guy was smaller than I was. Ichiro re-kindled my love for a sport that I gave up on.

2. I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between baseball and music. Baseball is a game of failure, it’s been said. Music is kind of the same way. I figure, writing a song is a lot like hitting. They say you have to write a bunch of bad songs before you get a good one. Seems to me, it’s like hitting. If you can write 3 good songs for every 10, you’re doing pretty damn good. It sort of works for albums too: If there are 3 hits on a 10 song record…. (hey, we even call them “hits”)…Wow!! If there are 4 hits on a 10 song record…..that’s like a Ted Williams album cycle right there!! (Who was the last recording artist to hit over .400?)

Bob Dylan’s lifetime musical batting average is probably .390. He’s like the Ty Cobb of songwriting. Some say he’s just as much of an asshole too. Go figure.

3. Not unlike music, Baseball has had a history of (although never really fatal) drug use. (And I don’t mean steroids.) Music has Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. Baseball has Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry. Sandy Koufax stopped pitching because he was tired of taking pain killers after every game he threw. They say Joe DiMaggio smoked a pack a day. I used to not believe it until he died from lung cancer. I have this picture of Hank Aaron after a game smoking in the locker room. Legal and illegal substances in baseball goes back a long way. I mean they used to have a “Beer and Whiskey” League for crying out loud. That’s SO rock n’ roll!!! Then there’s the weird deaths of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Roberto Clemente. Vaughn died in a helicopter crash. Clemente died in a plane crash. Both were in their 30’s.

4. Most people who don’t like baseball tell me that it’s boring. Not enough action. There’s plenty of action, it just doesn’t happen all at once. It only seems slow because there’s no clock. There’s no time limit. Much to the chagrin of fans who have to work the next morning, a baseball game can go into the wee hours of the night. It’s the only sport (besides golf…which really IS boring) where time isn’t an issue. There’s no shot clock. There’s no half-time. It takes as long or as short as it needs to complete a game. Often, with remarkable conclusions.

5. It’s the only sport where the defense has the ball. Most other team sports (football, soccer, basketball) will look the same to aliens viewing from outer space. A court or field, and a mass of bodies running from one side to the other. Defending their goal and charging at the other teams goal. Back and forth. Baseball is a sport that would look drastically different from outer space.

It’s also the only sport where the field itself can legitimately affect performance. Got a team with right handed sluggers? They might have trouble in Boston. A football field is always 100 yards. A basketball hoop is always 10’ high. A baseball diamond is always the same dimensions, but the outfield walls can very quite a bit. The shape can be different, too. Baseball fans are attached to fields like no other sports fan. (Can anyone say Ebbets field?) The Green Monster, The Ivy, McCovey Cove….you get the picture.

6. It teaches us how to lose. (It doesn’t teach us how to lose gracefully, however!). You can’t dwell on things. (As the old baseball adage goes). If you hit the game winning home run the day before, you could just as easily hit into the game-ending double play tomorrow. And there always is a tomorrow. The biggest challenge a ball player faces is coming back from a bad “something”. A bad throw, a bad at bat, a bad inning, a bad game, a bad two weeks, etc. Chase Utley came back from his costly postseason throwing error with some giant lumber in the Series. That’s a ballplayer. Baseball is a losing game, it’s been said many times. The teams with the “best” records still lose an awful lot. This year, the Yankees won 103 games. Which means they lost 59. As unbeatable as they seemed, they still lost nearly 36% of the time.

Even more to the point of losing are the teams with amazing season records who don’t make it all the way. Think of the 2001 Seattle Mariners. They won a staggering 116 games. What happened? They lost to the Yankees in the AL Championship series. The Yankees then lose the World Series to the Diamondbacks, who as it turns out had won 92 games that year. The 2001 Yankees won 95. The point is, over a long season…the best teams in baseball still lose 30-40% of the time. Which is a lot. (In case you’re wondering…yes I had to look these stats up. No, i don’t carry them around in my head. I’m not THAT nerdy)

7. Baseball statistics are almost as old as baseball itself. Which means that every player, no matter how good, is always compared to his peers of the past. A 12 year old kid could go watch the Cardinals play and cheerfully declare: “Albert Pujols is the best hitter to ever live!!” His older brother would chime in quickly: “Are you crazy? Mark McGuire is!!!” Dad rolls his eyes and says: “You’re both crazy. Willie McGee used to play here and he’s clearly the greatest.” At which point, Grandpa pipes up and wheezes: “Stan Musial could’ve eaten those guys for breakfast.” Just when Grandpa thinks he has the last word, a big booming voice from the heavens says: “This is God. You are all wrong. You will all be condemned to Hell unless you recognize Rogers Hornsby as the greatest.”

This of course adds to the Myth of Baseball. The “what if’s” are endless. What if Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige and countless other Negro League stars had been allowed into Major League Ball? What if the 1920s Yankees played the 1970s Angels? How would Babe Ruth do against Nolan Ryan? Or for that matter, Barry Bonds Vs Bob Feller. Ty Cobb vs Sandy Koufax. Ted Williams vs Roger Clemens. Who thew harder in their prime, Randy Johnson or Walter Johnson? The combinations of what-ifs are endless and we’ll never really know. But it’s fun to think about.

8. The last thing I like about baseball is that it causes people to ramble on and on. I’ve just wasted an hour of my day writing this and I couldn’t be happier. Oh yes…the best baseball player of all time? Willie Mays, of course. Duh!!

FIVE THOUGHTS (concerning touring, etc)

1. There’s no place like home.  Except a good Chinese restaurant. 2. Many people envy the life of a traveling musician.  Until they become one.

3. My favorite town to play in is the one that had the biggest pre-sale.

4. Sometimes I start laughing on stage for what seems like no reason.  Sometimes right in the middle of singing a serious song.  It’s because I’m having fun.

5. They say to overcome your fear of singing in front of a crowd, you should just picture the front row naked.  BAD idea.  A better idea is to picture the front row in winter parkas with big fur hoods.  That works much better.


I was talking to a friend of mine who mentioned that some of the comments I made in my last blog may have been blown out of proportion.  It didn’t occur to me that some folks might take it a bit too seriously.  I was trying to be funny, but I guess my sense of humor doesn’t come across sometimes.  I was obviously kidding about never doing Sugaree again….anyone who has been to the last few shows knows this.  And my comment about “the cliche police” and “sending you to”…well….those still stand, actually.  Lighten up.  Just jokes! Seriously, I’m not out here trying to offend anyone.  That’s the last thing I want.  I’m a pretty nice guy, when you get down to it.  Honest, I swear.

So……this brings me to my next installment of FIVE THOUGHTS.   I had fun with the last one, so I’m gonna do it again.   These five thoughts are a little more serious.  (But just a little)

FIVE THOUGHTS (concerning music, composition, and art) 1. There is a difference between writing a song and truly expressing yourself.  I try for true expression, but often I end up merely “writing songs.” 2. If you go on a fishing trip expecting to write a song, you’ll probably catch a fish.  If you go expecting to catch fish, you’ll probably write a song. 3. The good ones borrow, the best ones steal.  The very best ones steal and and don’t look back.  Ask Bob Dylan. 4. There is some element of sacrifice hidden deep somewhere in every true artists’ career.  Take a look, you’ll see. 5. The only songs people really argue about are hit songs.



Concerning Sex, Relationships (and all that crap)

1.  Boys; contrary to what you might think,  your brain is actually your biggest sex organ.

2.  One good way to get the attention of someone in the band is to flash them.  A better way is  to write a love letter on a paper airplane and fly in on the stage.

3.  If your girlfriend loves you, she’ll let you eat Kentucky Fried Chicken in the bed.  If she really, really  loves you…she won’t let you eat that crap at all.

4.  Men are infinitely better at talking dirty than women.  But when women talk dirty, it’s infinitely more effective.

5.  I heard that guitar players choose instruments that represent what kind of women they like.  I guess that means  that I like girls with Bigsbys.

Trampled Under Foot

I don’t mind signing autographs after shows. Really, I don’t. I don’t mind taking photos with intoxicated frat-boys. It doesn’t even really bother me to sit there with my arm around an even more intoxicated old woman while her husband fumbles his way around the digital camera. I am absolutely thrilled to smile and take photos with pretty young girls. I am only slightly less thrilled to take photos with their mothers. Even when their lipstick smears across my favorite shirt and they reach back and make a drunken grope for my ass, it doesn’t bother me. (most of the time, they miss anyways) Seriously, I’m happy to do it. Really. I’m thankful to the fans that pay money to come see us play and I do my best to give back the little extras that seem to make a difference in their lives.

There was a time when I was extraordinarily shy and did not like meet and greets, photographs or signing anything. I was embarrassed by the whole ordeal. I would do them, but never by my own account. Usually it was a contractual obligation and I was more or less forced to. I would sign tickets, CDs and tee shirts as quickly as I could and then go into hiding feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve never felt like a “star”, and quite frankly, I still don’t. But I am proud to say, I am no longer freaked out by the whole thing.

Although I must report something that has been on my mind: It seems that in the past year or so, the system has gotten a little out of hand at times. I’ve been offering myself up after shows for chit-chat, autographs and photos at nearly every show that it was possible to do so. I have to admit, sometimes I feel like i’m being taken advantage of though. Sometimes I feel a little trapped, so to speak.

It was just the other night when we played a show to a packed house at a small club. No sooner did I leave the stage and step outside for a much needed smoke break, a multitude of people swarmed over and trapped me against the wall. Everybody talking at once, thrusting out tickets to be signed, touching my hair (I have no idea why) and asking why we didn’t play their favorite song. As I said, I’m happy to do this part of the job. But I got the strange feeling that I was being “used up”, as I didn’t even really have time to get a drink of water before the madness ensued. After an hour or so, the crowd dissolved and I was left standing with my back to the brick wall of this dirty building. I was glad to see so many people very happy and fulfilled, but I was just plain burnt.

I love the Grateful Dead’s music. It’s true. I didn’t always, though. After I began playing and singing with Phil Lesh, I started to appreciate it more. Over time, it grew on me and I began to love it. In many ways, the Dead are more relevant now than perhaps they ever were. Particularly in the business realm. Musically, they were certainly pioneers and deserve every ounce of musical credit given to them. But really, when it comes to music business – they were truly ahead of their time.

Having professed my love for their music, I must say that I’m a tad annoyed at the fact that sometimes all people want to hear is Sugaree. I love that song. Sure, yeah. You got me. But really, I can sing other stuff, too. I like the Beatles as much as the Dead. Probably more. I like the Velvet Underground, Tom Waits and Merle Haggard just as much too. And believe or not, I even like singing some of my own songs. In fact, that’s why I’m here to begin with. I refuse to be reduced to a Grateful Dead cover band, and if that means never singing Sugaree again…so be it. There will be a time in the not-too-distant future, when Dead songs will show up in our set as a rarity. Not a regularity.

Okay, okay. So I’m being over-dramatic. (i’m good at that. ask any of my ex-girlfriends!) But seriously, I just had to mention that because I’m bored and in a hotel room in Nowhere, Michigan and it was on my mind.

So as it stands, I’m still into doing the request via internet experiment. If you’ve not heard, this is how it works: If there’s a show coming up that you know you’ll be attending, and there’s a song that you really want to hear, you cant let me know. Make sure to send your name, and which show you will be at. (It’s amazing how often that part gets left out)

You can either send it via Twitter ( jackie_greene ), which is the preferred way and more likely to get read, or send it via old-fashioned email: The table is open to suggest anything you’d like to hear. There are a few exceptions: “Freebird”, “Stairway to Heaven” and “Mustang Sally” are instantly deleted and the cliche police will show up at your door to arrest you if you suggest these. Grateful Dead songs are all considered. However, if you send in nothing but a set list full of Dead songs, your imagination license will be revoked and you will be directed to

Speaking of the internet….very soon, you will be able to download the “Small Tempest” on itunes, amazon and several other places. For the vinyl nerds (like me) we will be pressing a cool 10” for sale through the web and at shows only.

Until next time – Jackie

Life In The New (Musical) Economy

I just landed in Seattle on what was an extraordinarily uneventful flight. Not that short plane flights need to be eventful, (after all, I don’t want the kind of excitement that could down a jumbo jet) but for some reason I always seem to board each flight with the insane delusion that I’ll meet someone interesting and I will develop a life long friendship, get married, blah blah. Of course it never happens. Yet, I always am eager to board that plane, eyeing my surroundings like a a curious pup. Now mind you, I’ve probably been on hundreds of plane flights. Of all lengths. The experience is always the same. I get on, I read something, listen to music, stare at the pretty flight attendant with the unnaturally white teeth and eventually fall asleep. Like a puppy, you’d think that i’d learn to not get so excited and expect anything more than jet lag and a crooked neck. But I digress…

The first thing I did when I got to my hotel was go on Twitter to post something. Why? I have no idea. I figure that’s what the kids are doing nowadays, so I’d better snap to it. The truth is, I enjoy the idea of Twitter (from what I can understand) as well as most social networking platforms. The bummer about it is that everything seems to become so mediocre. It turns everyone into self-important movie stars. Okay, that’s going a bit far…but you get the point. I mean, who cares if “(insert Twitter name here): has a stomach ache and is so hungover from last night”. Does the world really listen that closely? I, for one, hope not.

I am just as guilty of publishing mediocrity as much as the next person. I tried to only publish information that may be useful to fans who are interested in the music that I make, but I realized that these days people want a lot more. They want intimacy. And in a strange round-about way, social networking platforms like Twitter allow a certain measure of that. It’s quite ironic. Your favorite band could be playing 1,000 miles away, but if you follow them on Twitter, you’re likely to get up to the second set-lists. It’s like you’re there!, no it’s not.

I don’t mean to belittle. The benefits of these systems outweigh any criticism I have. I’m sure of it. Why else would it be so popular? I see a merging of the social network phenomenon and the music industry. Many people have seen this for years. Being that I am generally too wrapped up in playing my stupid guitar, I don’t catch on to things until a bit later. The future is in blogs. (both fortunately and unfortunately). There was a time when I scoffed at blogs. I considered even (what are now) the most highly respected music blogs to be rubbish. They all seemed like some nerdy record collectors evening hobby.

I stand here today to say that I was completely and utterly wrong. After all, it’s the big music blogs and online entertainment sites that are putting Rolling Stone out of business. Not to mention newspapers and other forms of traditional media. (who would have thought we’d have the term “Traditional Media”) Newspapers are closing in staggering numbers. Who reads newspapers anymore? I didn’t see one person on the plane with a newspaper. Isn’t it much easier (not to mention environmentally friendly) to download the Wall Street Journal on your iPhone or Blackberry?

The music industry I believe is suffering a similar fate. Distribution of product is completely becoming re-invented as we speak. That’s the problem. How to get people to pay for something they can just get for free online. It’s a towering problem with hundreds of unanswered questions. Do we fundamentally change the business? Does all recorded music become free and we jack up ticket prices for concerts? Do we refuse to make recordings until things settle down? Of course this is out of the question. Any real artist will make music regardless of weather it makes money or not. Even if no one hears it.

Personally, I don’t give a damn if people download my music and never pay for it. I guess it may hurt my feelings a little. But I don’t pretend that anyone gives a shit about my friggin’ feelings. No, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t earn a dime off of record sales anyways. Never really have. I suppose I would change my tune if my living was earned by record royalties. But as it stands, I am part of that new generation of artists that has to make a living on the road. The older, established artists are in a way beholden to the Giant Machine. (haha. GM) They need the radio, they need the big box stores, et cetera to make it all work out. Unfortunately for them, there’s just not that much pie left to go around. I appreciate it as much as the next small band when someone plays my record on air, but the reality of it is that it doesn’t necessarily mean record sales.

When all of this seems so dire, I take a breath and I realize that I’m not really in it for the money. These days, if you’re in the music business for the money, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I still live in a one-bedroom apartment. I am unmarried and nearing 29 years old. I have a wonderful collection of vinyl records and books of all sizes. I couldn’t be happier. There was a time when being a rock star was something special. A job that everyone knew paid extremely well and had lots of perks. These days, it’s about the same as being an office clerk. With no guarantee of a salary. Everyone is a star. Everyone can make their own CD, take half naked pictures, photoshop them and start a Myspace music page. I remember when you could only get music at a record store. You had to prioritize your purchases. It was exciting to open a record. These days, music is so de-valued precisely because it’s so cheap and easy to obtain. And there’s so much of it that you don’t bat an eye when you hear the name of a new band or artist. You can get it all for free anyways.

In the end, I believe that we may come full circle. The irony of Twitter applies here. So close, yet so far. The best songs and artists will rise to the top of the proverbial heap and the wannabe half-naked myspace divas will give up and go work at Hooters. The reason I believe this is that no matter what happens to the business of music, MUSIC itself is a powerful and provocative force. It is the tall tale that helps explain the truth. Humans have an ear for truth and an appetite for beauty. The bands and artists that are truly in it for the long haul will continue to play live and continue to make records, release singles, release art…. no matter what. The casual listener will download the album for free and listen to twenty seconds of the first song and forget about it. The true artist will not care about this. The fans that are truly interested in music as more than just sonic diversion will purchase the vinyl, put the free download on their ipod to show their friends and figure out how they can get out of work to go see the live show. And this is where the real magic will happen. Because after all, the most intimate form of a song is live and in person. It cannot be denied.

In this world, what we want is intimacy. Connection. The best place for that is amongst the haze of smoke and sweat at a live concert. Unless, of course you are satisfied with: “@jackie_greene” just played Gone Wanderin’” :)

Cheers folks Jackie

Small Tempest EP

While cleaning out the recording studio the other day, I stumbled upon a box of the Small Tempest EP from 2007. We thought they were all gone. I am pleased to say that we will have them for sale at the next 3 shows this weekend! This is the only CD pressing of this EP, so get it while you can!

The Love you Take is Equal to The Love You Make

So there was this moment on the PLF spring/summer tour when everything made sense to me. We were in Columbus, Ohio scheduled to play at this wonderful outdoor amphitheater (the name escapes me now) and Levon Helm was about 30 minutes into his set when a horrific thunderstorm struck.  It literally came out of nowhere.  It was immediate.  The downpour was intense and the wind blew the rain sideways and everything on the stage began to get drenched.  Within seconds, guitar amps were shorting out and microphone stands were being toppled.  Levon’s band had to leave the stage but  Levon kept playing.  (to be fair, Levon and Larry)  He finished the song and ran to the side stage to dry off.  His set was cut short.

The image of Levon Helm playing his heart out in the middle of a storm – with the biggest shit-eating grin you’ve ever seen – is something I will NEVER forget.  In retrospect it was almost a metaphor for the music business.   Playing through the struggle, paying dues and all that.  It was a powerful moment, and I am lucky to bear witness first hand.

What happened next was even more remarkable:

The venue had completely cleared out – thousands of people vacated the ampitheater.  It looked as if the show was over.  PLF would not be performing that night.

All the gear was shot.  The rain had come so fast and so hard that there was no time to cover anything up.  One of my amps was filled with water and Steve’s electronic keyboards were messed up.  Not to mention the house sound system and microphones and monitors.

It took several hours for the crew to dry the equipment enough that we could use it safely. I remember seeing a bunch of stage hands with portable hairdryers working diligently to dry the little nooks and crannies of the sensitive gear.

We didn’t know if we were going to go on that night.  It looked as if the crowd went home.  I thought for sure they went home.

Well, we ended up going on several hours later.  And to my surprise, every single person came back and the venue was again filled.  They had all been waiting around the corner or across the street.   I was so amazed.  It literally brought a tear to my eye. It was this moment when I realized how monumentally powerful music can be.

I mean, here’s a band (the grateful dead) who’s body of work is SO important, SO revered that fans are willing to wait for hours in the rain to go to the show!!! And there wasn’t any definitive call on weather or not there would be a show that night!  They waited just for the CHANCE of a show….

…it was as if the storm NEVER happened.

And therein the magic lies.  The grateful dead songbook is one of the most impressive and powerful catalogs modern history has known.  It’s a staggering body of work that reaches into the lives of so many people and captures the spirit of the human experience so well, and with such honesty, it’s difficult to deny.  Once you are in – it is impossible to escape.

Honestly, I’ve never seen such dedication before in my life.  Most bands are lucky if they have fans that will go to two shows a year. The deadheads are unprecedented in their passion and unmatched in their appreciation and kindness.

Halfway through the first tune, it all clicked:  ”The love you take is equal to the love you make”.   Of COURSE we had to go on.  How could I have doubted it?  These fans have been coming to shows for decades.  Probably not the first storm they waited through either!!

I know so many bands that would have said: “fuck it, lets call it.  Crowd’s going home anyways”.  And they would have been right.  Their fans probably would have gone home. But not these fans.  Not deadheads.

Now I realize that it probably never even occurred to Phil that we might not go on.  Even though the rest of the band and crew were wondering if we would.  As long as it was safe – we go on.  Period.

I learned one of the most important lessons of my life that night, and it has brought a beautiful new meaning to my life.

Happy New Year

First of all,  happy new year! (i know, i’m a month late).  I would like to thank everyone who made it out to San Francisco for the ‘family gramble’ extravaganza that took place 12/30 and 12/31.   It was seriously a lot of fun to get to do both bands in one show.

For those that couldn’t make it, we will be posting downloads of the show soon! (At least the JG set).

I had my first experience on Jam Cruise.  What can I say….  Insanity. Chaos.  Beer.  Loud music.  That’s all that really comes to mind…

I’m going to be starting a new record pretty soon, which is why you don’t see a lot of shows.

We have a couple nights at the Great American Music Hall coming up….with some very special guests.