Mountain Goats Show

For a long time I have been a huge fan of the Mountain Goats, a sometimes one-man band headed up by poet, singer and guitarist John Darnielle. Last Friday I finally had the opportunity to see them when the played at the Fuel Rocket Club at Dartmouth College along with Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers.

Casey, Will, Karen and I all gathered in Hanover, NH, where we drank margaritas, gin & tonics and whisky until the show started at 9:00. A sign outside the venue said it all with the words “Free Everything”, and they meant it. Free admission, free beer, and free water. I guess that since they’re Dartmouth they can offer that. The entire show ROCKED, and Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers even joined the Goats for a number of songs, resulting in a much more “rocking” goats sound than I’ve ever heard from them before.

While his tenor tone is hard on the ears of some non-fans, I think it adds wonderfully to dark, outlaw message in many of his songs. I must not be alone in thinking this, as Darnielle has managed to build an impressive international following, as well as a successful online zine called Last Plane to Jakarta. A number of fan sites also exist, the most notable of which being which offers guitar tabs, MP3’s, set lists and a lot more.

Jim Fisher over at blogs salon has written an article about The Mountain Goats where he talks about one of the shows he attended, and pretty much sums up the spirit of the band when he quotes Darnielle as saying “I play an acoustic guitar, but I am not one of those guys with an acoustic guitar.”

It seems like I have a new favorite Goats song every day, but my current favorite is commandante (comandante.mp3). This rendition was was recorded at the Cat’s Cradle at Chapel Hill on 01.27.1999.

Also, check out the video for the song “This Year”, off the Mountain Goat’s newest album “The Sunset Tree”.

2005 New England Bonsai Show

Last Saturday, New England Bonsai Gardens held their annual Fall members day and bonsai show. For years now I’ve been attending this event, but it was only this year that I finally decided to enter my best tree into the show. I’ve owned the Japanese Maple I entered for six years now, and have taken a number of private tutorials with John Romano and Kenji Miyata to get the tree where it is today.

Going into the show, I had very high hopes for my tree to do well. After all the scores were tallied, however, I received no awards. Reading the score sheet I was extremely interested to find that my tree scored quite low on surface roots, which are known as nebari. I was surprised not only because the nebari on the tree is quite pronounced and prominent, but because I had always felt that the surface roots were one of the strongest points about the specimen.

Talking with the judges, I discovered that, while the nebari is nice where it is present, there are not enough surface roots surrounding the trunk to create an overall pleasing effect. Because the tree has only one truly pronounced surface root, it gives the impression of a “foot” and not the general effect of age and strength found in trees with truly exquisite nebari.

Nebari, being one of the most difficult features of a tree to develop, is a major factor when selecting bonsai for the purposes of show. In many cases, the Japanese, always looking to the future, will select a tree based almost entirely on the quality of its nebari and resolve whatever other aesthetic problems the tree has by pruning and wiring over time.

To resolve my tree’s nebari problems, I will need to do the following:

Year 1: Root cuttings from the tree
Year 2-3: Grow out cuttings
Year 4: Graft cuttings to base of trunk
Year 4-5: Allow graft to take
Year 5: Bury grafts, remove foliage, and get them to sprout roots
Year 6-Futire: Grow out roots and let them grow bark