Chris Valenti

Chris Valenti – Actor/Writer/Filmmaker/Singer-Songwriter/Comedian

Archive for January, 2008

Park City Visit

I went up to Utah last week during the Sundance Film Festival with a number of friends and artists who all helped me with 800 CDs.  We screened the film at the Park City Film Music Festival and then played four shows, four nights in a row, on Main St.  It was an absolute blast.  Thirteen of us shared a four-person condo without one murder.  We were all very excited about the nightly shows and thoroughly enjoyed the week and each other’s company.

undefined  I arrived Tuesday.  Our condo was located right off Main St, directly in the center of all the action.  It was perfect.  Having been to Sundance three times before, promoting and screening Sensitive Johnson (also at the Park City Film Music Festival – TWICE!), I was well aware that people who attend Sundance love receiving swag.  So, this time I decided to create gift bags of my own.  I went green and bought 500 paper bags with handles.  Then found a bunch of businesses to sponsor the trip – they sent flyers and product samples.  We had magazines, gym memberships, restaurant coupons, herbal lozengers, t-shirt and CD manufacturers, flyers from artists, DJs, and internet sites, as well as ten or so compact discs.  Five hundred of each of these things.  The boxes took up two rooms.  What did I get myself into?  

Wednesday, Jan 23, we screened 800 CDs.   The festival and the audience seemed to like the movie.  We won a Silver medal for excellence as Audience Favorite.

That evening we attended a BMI party where the Aggrolites from LA performed.  Plenty of wine & beer was readily available at the open bar; I almost felt like a legitimate rock star.  We couldn’t imbibe excessively (and ‘Pass Out’) because we picked up an impromptu show across the street at a new restaurant called IRIE.  undefined

It was a good warm up for us.  Rob Anthony, Matthew Cook, Jon Zucker, Amy Rassch, Mark Latham, and I all did a couple songs.  A sweet group of ladies from New York cheered us on.  Vince Lauria from Vegas, whom we met earlier at the Park City Film Music Festival, jumped up for a few tunes when we finished.  Great day.

Thursday morning a bunch of us hit the slopes in the single digit temps.   Braving the mountain were myself, Mark, his wife Maria, Jon, Amy, and my friend Gary Loya.  On a day that much of the west coast experienced terrible rain and snowfall, making driving conditions horrible, the blizzard on the Park City slopes made for wonderful ski conditions.  Sure it was tough to see, especially without proper goggles, but luckily I happened to find a working pair in the Lost and Found.   Hey, on a budget you gotta be resourceful. 

undefinedThat night we played Cisero’s.  The place was packed.  We were sandwiched between two bands that were sponsored by ASCAP.  The first was a progressive Scottish bagpipe duo named DRAM.  Club dancing to marching drums and pipes.  It was interesting.  We went next.  All the players from the night before performed, but we also picked up two more condo members who made it to town earlier in the day – Phil Johnson and Micheal Finnerty.  The two-song sets went great. We passed out programs before we played, so the audience was reading about us as we came on.  Each artist did a great job of engaging the crowd.  We really had fun. Without a doubt, we owned that room.  Afterwards, a band led by Melissa Gilbert’s son jammed on stage.  I liked them, but I didn’t catch their name.  They didn’t do programs.

Friday was a big day.  We had our own Music Cafe at SideCar for six hours, from 3 to 9.  This was not as much of a jam-packed standing room only crowd because people were roaming in and out all the time.  We had anywhere from 15-20 at low points and maybe as many as 80-90 at the busier time.  Nonetheless it was great.  A couple other 800 CDs artists joined in for a few tunes – Bobby Syvarth and  Saul Kaye.

 undefined We also started jamming together a little bit.  Phil joined me on stage for a Battle of the Romantically Dysfunctional Songwriters set.   Matt and Rob performed their respective contributions to the 800 CDs soundtrack together, “Another Piece of Me” and “Is There a Page” – two favorites of mine.  

The gift bag idea worked wonders in ways I didn’t expect.  I figured that people who came to our events would be happy to receive them, but I didn’t realized that we would be virtually mobbed on the street as we were carrying boxes full of these undefinedbags to the venues.  Most of the bags never made it to the screenings or the shows.   But handing them out on the sidewalk to eager treasure hunters allowed us to promote the shows to everyone who wanted a bag.  This really helped pack the clubs we played.

It also got us some media attention.  Crowds attract crowds, so when the reporters on the street saw the ruckus, they immediately came over to see what was happening.  Apparently a documentary about independent musicians coupled with many of those musicians performing shows at the festival is big news.  undefined Phil and Matthew did a live radio interview.  I had two tunes played on KPCW.  Phil and Megan did an interview for the Sundance Channel.  I did Muse TV interview.  I don’t think any of us saw or heard any of them, but people did come down after hearing Phil on the radio.  He’s good on the radio – got the face for it.  

Jon Zucker was our first casualty of the Sundance Flu.  He didn’t make the SideCar show.  He was done for the trip in fact, missing the Saturday night JB Mulligan’s show as well.  Amy came down with it next.  She sounded great at SideCar on Friday – She even played one of my personal Raasch favorites, “Wynona Rider” (I clapped the percussion from the crowd) – but Amy could hardly talk on Saturday.  She was completely Zuckered (as we’ve since named the disease) and had to skip the JB Mulligan’s show. In fact, basically all of our support troops – Gary, T, Eric, Kai, and Marta  – were infected with Zucker’s disease and, one by one, hit the condo early Saturday night.

undefinedBut the show raged on.  JB Mulligan’s was packed to the brim and our remaining performers saved no ounce of party energy.  Latham joined me on stage for a revival of the ‘Emotional Wreckage’ he ignites when he sits in with my band.  He shredded a bunch of his own tunes as well and fired-up the packed house.  

Rob Anthony is also a seasoned party-starter. He not only rocked out to many of his own tunes but really got the crowd going with some cover tunes that had the ladies dancing in front of, and on, the stage.

Finnerty got up and improvised some Irish blues – his beer enhanced brogue was so thick, none of us understood a word.

Soon any of our artists would just grab a guitar, join the jam on stage, and tear up a song.  The momentum was infectious.   Phil did some Georgia Satellites.   Mark did some Stones.  Bobby tore up some Paul Simon.  And Rob laid into some Depeche Mode, Outcast, and Johnny Cash.  It truly was a great party.  We ended the night with a group Booty Call, of course.

undefinedWhat a tremendous trip.  Five nights.  Four shows.  A screening and an award.  Eleven cases of Zuckeritis.  And 500 gift bags given to the masses.   I can’t wait to go again.


Performing with a Folk Legend Saturday night at Genghis Cohen

You know how they say in this town ‘You never know who you’re talking to…’Right after 800 CDs screened at the Temecula Film Festival, this sweet old man came out of the theater and told me how much he like it. He had a bit of a tough guy edge to him, very likable. He wanted me to hear his music and gave me two of his CDs. Sure, no problem, Sir, Thank you. It was the least I could do for a guy who just complimented my flick. But, during the drive back to LA, Byron Walls CD blew me away. It was unexpectedly amazing. I was hooked on every word. I need to know the resolution of every story. His songs were touching, clever, grounded, and witty.I did some research on this Walls fellow. Who was this sweet gray haired man with the biting sense of humor? Turns out I’m not the only person who has appreciated his work. Byron used to open for the Kingston Trio when the Purple Onion was the heart of the SF music scene. He used to open for Rosemary Clooney in Las Vegas. His songs have been recorded by Andy Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, Burl Ives, and Ronnie Milsap, among others. He’s been on Johnny Carson. He performed the Super Bowl Halftime show in 1970! I’m certainly thankful that I happened to stumble upon him.

He accepted my inviation to play a show with me. So, now I am going to attempt to hold my own trading songs on stage with this brilliant songwriter who possesses amazingly rich tunes that span his experiences of the past six decades. I’m about to be exposed, out classed, and humbled. And I can’t wait. This is going to be one of the most exciting nights of my musical career. I hope you can come.

Join me and Byron this Saturday night, Jan 19, at Genghis Cohen – 740 N Fairfax Ave. We play at eight. It’s going to be a extremely fun night to remember.

A month ago Byron invited me over to his friend’s house to watch an old video / TV special of his friend’s life. Lew Spence wrote Sinatra’s “Nice & Easy”, “That Face, That Face, That Beautiful Face”, and a bunch of other musical standards that I could identify immediately. It was an amazing afternoon chatting with this little ninety year old legend. He was welcoming and funny. He told me that when he first started performing music he was told to create an easy stage name for people to remember. So he invented “Lew Spence.” But the very first announcer to introduce him happened to have a thick German accent. “Ladiez and gentlemen, pleeze velcome… Loose Pants.” This man had me cracking up. It made me realize that people have been entertaining the way I attempt to for years. And they may have a lot of success in their day, but may be unknown, or at least uncredited to future generations. The two legends that were in the room with me were great examples of this. If it’s alright with Byron, I’d like to dedicate Saturday’s show to Mr Lew Spence, who passed away earlier this week.