Outsound New Music Summit: Rubber City and Ralph Carney Memorial Octet

Last Thursday night at the Outsound New Music Summit, musicians and music lovers came together to celebrate the life and legacy of one of our own, Ralph Carney.  He was a fixture of the Bay Area new-music scene who could be spotted performing in many groups and venues, and he also enjoyed success and notoriety in popular music with Tom Waits, the B-52s, and others.  He is also one of the most infamously colorful characters in the scene.  He passed away suddenly at the end of 2017 in an accident, leaving many both shocked and saddened.  This tribute concert featured a performance by Rubber City, of which Ralph was a member, and a memorial ensemble featuring local musicians who performed his compositions.

In the week leading up the concert, we had the chance to speak with David Slusser of Rubber City and Phillip Greenlief, who arranged Carney’s music for the memorial ensemble.  You can hear from them in these videos.

Rubber City opened the evening with a rendition of Beautiful Ohio, sounding much like they did in the video.  It was a fitting opening as Slusser, Carney, and drummer Chris Ackerman were all Ohio expatriates.  They were joined by bassist Richard Saunders and reedist Sheldon Brown.

The second piece, a rather bluesy tune, also evoked their Ohio origins and gave Saunders and Brown a chance to shine in solos.  The next was much darker and more atonal/arhythmic in nature but still had a very playful quality to it.  Another featured Slusser and Brown both playing soprano saxophone at the same time, a rare combination!  For the last piece, they set aside the saxophones for bass clarinet and flute.

David Slusser on flute

Even during moments of seriousness, there was a lot of fun and energy in the music, which was fitting for the artists on stage as well as the one they were paying tribute to.  It was a tremendous performance overall, and one I am not likely to hear repeated soon.

Slusser, Brown, and Saunders returned in the second set for the memorial “octet” that actually had nine members.  They were joined by Phillip Greenlief and Rent Romus on saxophones, Suki O’kane on drums, Myles Boisen on guitar, and Karina Denike and Michael McIntosh from Carney’s “Serious Jass Project.”  The performance was dominated by the horns in what I dubbed the “wall of saxophone.”

Wall of saxophone

The group began on a somber note with Carney’s Lament for Charleston, written shortly after the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.  But even this dark piece had exuberance and could not fully contain the energy of the large group.  From there, they continued on a rollicking trip through Carney’s compositions, including his oddball marches and an old-timey song about driving down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles that was sung by Greenlief with great effect.

In keeping with Ralph Carney’s wide-ranging musical interests, there were a number of vintage jazz-style and mid-century tunes complete with swaying horn-section choreography.  Karina Denike’s singing and vintage presentation added to the overall effect and classic style of the performance.

Many of us were simply caught up in the joy of the music and the celebration.  Upon reflection, one realizes how different this was from the typical Outsound set with its references to swing, bebop, and early rock-and-roll.  But there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – I have long professed that “new” and “experimental” musicians should not feature traditional idioms and structures in their music.  This was an unequivocally great show, and the fact that it was on the Outsound stage was all the better.

Both bands played to a full and very appreciative house.  Throughout the evening, on stage and in the audience, people shared their memories of seeing Ralph play or performing with him, and how much he is missed.   I am confident that he would have loved our musical tribute and celebration, though he probably would have expressed his appreciation in an appropriately dry and confounding way.

Luna’s 13th Gotcha Day (in memoriam)

June 10 was Luna’s Gotcha Day.  For many years, it was one of the most joyous days of the calendar.  Since her passing in 2016, it has been challenging and melancholy. There is rarely a day when I don’t think about my special little girl and soulmate of almost 12 years.

Grief is a nonlinear process. The memories of her life, and of her loss, have mostly been integrated.  I can casually see pictures on a regular basis of her and remain in the moment, but scrolling back through them in a deliberate process this morning brings some tears.  CatSynth HQ is very much Sam Sam’s now, and we respect her territory (and spoil her rotten while doing so).  Yet even she sometimes seems to sense a presence of a former kitty in some of the corners and crevices that defy cleaning.

There is so much I miss about Luna.  Her beauty and elegance, her shy but sweet nature.

And she was fiercely territorial, especially when it came to me.  She did not like to share, but she made me feel very loved.  She could sit patiently while I made weird sounds in the studio.  And despite being a “strictly indoor” cat, she loved going outside on the patio after we moved to San Francisco.

Regular readers know I am not at all religious.  And I don’t have a particular notion of an afterlife.  But I do like to sometimes think about Luna taking her place among those I have lost over the years, mostly human friends and family.  The visualization is of them all standing and waiting patiently, a little black cat in front of the much taller people.  I also take comfort in the Rainbow Bridge, and in the community of cat bloggers who have loved and lost over these many years.

I do not expect that the grief will ever disappear entirely.  And that’s ok.  We continue.

RIP Bento, the Keyboard Cat

This is such heartbreaking news.  Bento, the Keyboard Cat has passed away 😿

His humans made this wonderful tribute to Bento and his legacy, including many classic clips; and a sweet story about how he was a source of inspiration for his human companion, Charlie Schmidt.

Bento was actually the second Keyboard Cat.  The original, Fatso, also lived with Schmidt but passed away in 1987, long before the age of internet memes.  You can read more about the story of Fatso, Bento, and Schmidt at the Keyboard Cat Wikipedia page. Like my cats, Bento was a shelter cat and became a public face for the Shelter Pet Project.  We saw him featured in billboards and bus stops here in San Francisco.

Keyboard Cat has always been a favorite of mine – how could it not, given the combination of interests.  We always had fun with the early “play him/her off” videos, and it became a frequent tag-line of mine to say “You have been played off by the Keyboard Cat”, especially when someone loses a political election.  I wish we had been able to cross paths in person.

We at CatSynth extend our sympathies to Charlie Schmidt and the rest of Bento’s family.  Rest in peace, Keyboard Cat, you have been played off. 💕

Remembering Luna, One Year Later

Luna with her beautiful green eyes.

It’s been a year since Luna passed away. And so today we mark her yahrzeit, or anniversary of death. Over the past year, the grieving process has continued in its complicated and chaotic pattern, sometimes raw and at the surface, sometimes just a fond memory now tinged with melancholy. Perhaps if one plots the grief over the course of a year. it will trend downwards, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of deep loss and sadness.

Farewell to Luna

We began observing the yahrzeit at sundown yesterday. After repeated heatwaves and the worst fires and air quality that I have experienced in California, the skies and air suddenly became chilly, crisp, and damp, signaling the real arrival of autumn. The palpable chill in the air brought memories of Luna’s last week back into focus and set the tone for the evening. We switched on the memorial candle – I only use electrical candles for this purpose. A glass or two of red wine, some comfort food, and David Bowie on the stereo. The songs “Dollar Days” from Blackstar and “Prettiest Star” from Alladin Sane are particularly tied to Luna’s passing, along with the chill.

Sam Sam seemed to sense my state – exacerbated by an unusually stressful workday on top of everything else – and provided a lot of extra comfort last night, breaking her night-time wanderings around HQ to come and lay on my chest and purr. She does this most days, but not as long or as deep. Indeed, her presence has been a great source of love and comfort as I continue to move forward. I will always miss Luna, but my current and future cats need me in the present.

Luna’s 12th Gotcha Day (in memoriam)

Today would have been Luna’s 12th Gotcha Day, 12 years since I first brought her home. And a little over 7 months since she left us.

As with any deep loss, one starts to dwell less upon it over time. Sam Sam’s presence has played a strong role in that. But I did catch myself saying “Luna” to try and get her attention the other day. It doesn’t happen often, but I notice when it does.

I want to celebrate her life and the many years we had together. She was a constant presence, a soulmate, and of course a fine feline model full of grace and elegance. So please indulge me in this series of photos.





But emotions work in strange ways. Sitting down to write this, opening up the editor and typing, has caused my heart to sink and my eyes to water up. I would say this is healthy, given the deepness of our relationship and the magnitude of the loss. There is a very specific sadness associated with grief. It builds slowly and lingers for quite a while, and then can suddenly burst forth, usually in response to another’s emotions or sympathy. I expect that process will play out again today. I am grateful for the many good things that have unfolded in life since she passed, but I still miss her so much.

Tributes for Luna

It’s been five days since Luna left us. I am still having a hard time processing that she is gone. But I have been very touched and humbled by the outpouring of love for her and sympathy for us. There have been a few tribute posts as well, and we share them below.

The Cat Blogosphere has long posted memorials for blogging cats when they pass away. We have shared a few of those over the years on this site. This time we were on the receiving end, with this beautiful graphic and a very sweet post.

Luna forever!

Luna is an icon of the Cat Blogosphere, and will be sorely missed. Fly free, sweet girl.

Our friends Elvira, Kiril, Sneakers, Friday and Nikita at Opinionated Pussycat have dedicated a full post to Luna.

Luna tribute from opinionated pussycat

The beauty and grace of Luna so finely complimented the beauty and grace of the instruments her human blogged about and the music and art her human created and shared (the photo above is from 2010).

Her presence complimented perfectly the contributions CatSynth made, as frequent contributor and host, to 3 of the earliest and best of the pet blogging share fests, all about cats, Carnival of the Cats, Weekend Cat Blogging, and Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos, for many years, beginning in the summer of 2007…CatSynth first hosted CoTC with #189.

Music & art shows, travel, photography, cats, synthesizers, sass and grace.

And finally, our dear friend and supporter at matrixsynth have a post for Luna.

Our Beloved Cat Luna

Certain pets more so than others. JD was one of them, and I know Luna was as well. They let you become who you want to be. They are your confidante in life. Loosing them feels like loosing a part of yourself. Luna will not only be missed by her owner and friend Amanda, but by those of us that have enjoyed her virtual company online through numerous posts on CatSynth, and a few here on MATRIXSYNTH. We will never forget you Luna!

Never forget, indeed! Thank you all for all your kind words and support as we grieve and move forward. 🎶 💕

Weekend Cat Blogging and Art Review: Street Cats in San Francisco

It is relatively rare for me to encounter cats on my frequent walks around the city, especially in the more downtown or industrial sections near home. However, once in while I do see them, and in September I managed to even find a couple that sat still long enough to be photographed.

I espied this cat in on a front stoop in the Mission District, on my way to the Moe!kestra performance at Cellspace:


[click to enlarge.]

Though his face suggests a “don’t mess with me” attitude, he was actually quite friendly. He came up to greet me and even gave a couple of head butts.

On my way from the closing performances of the APAture Festival to Cartography of the Synchronous Telemtrist at the Community Music Center (also in the Mission District), I saw this cat on the sidewalk, and managed to get this particularly good photograph.

On the same walk, I came across a series of art installations in windows on 24th street. There was one installation at 24th and Treat, a tribute to a cat named Fred who had recently past away.

The painting, by artist D’arci Bruno, presides over a series of photographs and notes of remembrance left by Fred’s human and friends and family. I came back the next day to get a better look at the installation, and hopefully learn a little bit more about Fred, or about the project. There has been a lot of recent storefront art in the city, including the Present Tense Biennial and a Art in Storefronts project of the San Francisco Arts Commission. However, this piece was quite touching, perhaps because it was the surprise that I just happened to walk by, and of course because it memorialized a cat.


Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted by LB and breadchick at The Sour Dough.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at Mind of Mog.

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging: In memoriam

It has been a sad week for many of our friends in the Cat Blogosphere. We have decided to go on with hosting Weekend Cat Blogging and dedicate it to those who have gone and to their families.

We start by joining Tesla in lighting a candle in memoriam:

Violets in memory of Violet Noelle “Sprout”.

Our thoughts are with her family at Monty Q. Many are posting tributes this weekend in her honor around the theme of the color “violet.”

We also give our thoughts to the families of Felix, Frieda:

And Max, Neelix and Zeppy.

The Cat Realm remembers those who left us this week.

The Criz Cats Sanctuary offers a serenity prayer for Violet.

It’s “a cat’s life” with Breadchick and LB, with photos of LB’s morning routine. They also have a tribute to Violet.

The Kashim, Othello, Salome and Astrid have turned their site violet as a tribute. The also have posts for Felix and Maxime.

Samantha and Tigger are remembering as well. We hope they stay safe with a tropical storm possibly heading towards Florida.

Mind of Mog presents a pic of Meowza and a tribute to Violet.

We invite anyone who has a tribute this weekend to share it here. You can do so by leaving a comment or contacting us.


Weekend Cat Blogging: What Did You Eat?

Our friends Kashim, Othello and Astrid are dedicating Weekend Cat Blogging to our fellow cat blogger Sherry “Sher” Cermak of What Did You Eat?. She passed away suddenly last Sunday.

Sher was also an accomplished food blogger, and we have made some her recipes before. So in addition to Weekend Cat Blogging, we are also participating a tribute hosted by the “Bread Baking Babes” this weekend and preparing her last recipe.

So let us move to the kitchen and dining area of CatSynth HQ:

And with Luna ready to supervise, let us begin:

Angel Hair Pasta With Red Pepper Pesto

[Adapted from Food and Wine.]

3 medium red bell peppers or bottled roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 small garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Roast the red peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, core and chop the peppers. (We opted for the bottled peppers here at CatSynth.)

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Let cool.

Transfer the peppers and pine nuts to a blender or food processor (If your food processor has been sitting in a box at the bottom of a kitchen cabinet since moving, make sure to clean it first.) Add the garlic and whole basil leaves and blend until coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil and cheese and puree to a chunky pesto. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and cool slightly under running water. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and toss with the pesto. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Top with the chopped basil and pecorino and serve at room temperature.

Now let us raise a glass and toast…


More tributes can be found at Weekend Cat Blogging, hosted at Astrid’s food blog. I’m sure the boys won’t mind too much.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted here at CatSynth tomorrow. Click here to submit your entry.

The Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos will be hosted this week at Pet’s Garden Blog.

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.