Category Archives: music

another part of what I do for fun

I’ve Played in Some Bands…

Since high school, I’ve played in a number of bands. Like many others, making music has been a continual source of satisfaction and expression for me. I can remember back to one particular day, gathering at Lyle’s place (drummer) with about 6 guitar players and myself making some righteous noise on a warm California afternoon. There’s very little chance that we sounded good, but there was a certain excitement involved, and afterward there was something that I felt had to be recaptured. And I did.

I played in a garage band or two for fun, then through a friend met up with some others, started rehearsing together, played some parties (or an occasional talent show), rinse and repeat, each time trying to ramp it up a little from the previous experience. Fun stuff, learning a little more at each step, gaining a little musical knowledge and experience along the way. 70s guitar rock, leaning toward the loud side, just preceding the hair band metal scene.

Along the way, I got a little mentoring. My sister Shelley was fairly perceptive, she was smart, and I always kind of admired her subtle wisdom and worldliness. I suppose she identified that I had a passion for music, but I think she also identified that I wasn’t taking complete steps to reach my potential. I know who I am, I’m still not taking enough steps to become a great musician, I know where this fits in my life. But Shelley encouraged me to spend some time with a friend of hers, Chris, a keyboard player, and very talented. I’d met him a handful of times already since the time I was maybe 11 or 12, but when I was about 16 or 17, she arranged for me to visit him to talk music and play a little with him. What resulted was subtle, but when I look back I recognize that this encounter was a turning point in my musical development. Playing with Chris helped me realize where I was falling short. I admit that I was guessing a lot of the time when selecting the notes to play on certain songs and situations where I had to interpret a tune or figure out a complicated line that I heard on a record. Immediately after that, even though it took some years, I became interested in improving my overall musicianship – I took some college piano and music theory classes after high school. I wanted to be a better player and gain a deeper understanding of it all.

The whole while, I’m in and out of a handful of bands, making progress, exploring styles, artists – in short, growing. Years have gone by since meeting with Chris, when one day I get a call from him. I recall the conversation: “My brother’s in a band and they need to get rid of their bass player. They could be pretty good, but they’re not getting anywhere with him – you interested?” (Turns out he wasn’t such a bad guy, I met him a couple times, but there was a chemistry mismatch with him and the other 4.). You have my attention, I’ll check it out.

Parallel to all this, my on-and-off brother in law is telling me about a guy he works with, guitar player who reminds him of Peter Frampton (a compliment back in ’77 or so). “You should get together and play with Jack, I think you guys would hit it off.” Lo and behold, Jack plays in the band with Chris’ brother Pat, guitarists Dave and Mike, none of whom I’d met before. I agree to come check it out after they provide a list of songs – all familiar from hearing them on FM radio.

My first bar band (I’m 20 by now). I’ll skip over most of the drama that unfolds, but I joined the band and we had fun playing venues in the east bay for a couple years. You know what happens to bands, they break up, right? Careers and families take precedence, opportunities spring up, friendships taper off. I would see Pat once in a while, he started singing with a band that I previously played with. I’d see Jack now and then, he helped me with some plumbing things and jammed with him a couple times. Mike was the person I stayed close to, we did things together, including music. I worked with him for a while, we played acoustic guitars and I got a chance to sit in with a band he played with. I wasn’t a full time member, but now and then I got to play guitar, bass, harmonica, sing lead, and even play drums.

Fast forward 30+ years. Marriage, kids of my own, home ownership, work. And bands. I’m in touch with Chris a little bit, he connects me with Dave. Dave comes to see my band, on another occasion I go to see his. A year or so goes by and Dave tells me he’s back in touch with Jack. Would I be interested in coming over to play? Why not? Pat’s out of the bay area and has a busy career and life, Mike had moved to Seattle and passed in ’07 from a heart attack while playing hockey. I have some songs, Dave has some songs, all original. We come into a couple of opportunities to play, Dave hosts an annual backyard barbecue. The reunited band consists of Dave, myself and Jack. We’ve played with a few drummers over the last couple years, we found Kevin through a friend.

It’s a modest endeavor, but it brings a high level of satisfaction playing music that you wrote. It takes a lot of work negotiating arrangements, determining who plays what, establishing dynamics. Essentially nurturing a song to life. Back in the day we called ourselves Luther Blue. With the years in between (and a little tongue in cheek humor), we’re Luther Gray.

ML’s 50th

Got to hand it to them, my brother Mark and his wife Suzanne throw a mean party. These photos are mainly from the band’s perspective…

Return to Monaghan’s 2012

Our gig coincided with a partial solar eclipse.  We had a great crown this particular day.


Surf Tahoe

It’s been 30 some years since I saw Sammy Hagar play. If I recall, it was a new years eve show at the Cow Palace, but there’s a good chance my recollection of the date and venue are off by years, miles, or both.

I got an email recently from the manager at the Cabo Wabo Cantina in South Shore Tahoe, one thing led to another, now Trivalve will be heading up there to play 2 dates for the launch of Sammy’s most recent distilled product, Beach Bar Rum.  If you’re in Tahoe on May 4 (Friday) or May 5, come on out to our show, we’re hoping to do a shot or 2 with Sammy himself!

Couldn’t finish this piece without giving props to Ronnie Montrose, R.I.P.  I clearly remember seeing Gamma play at Justin Herman Plaza right around 1980, that much I’m sure of.


we played Whole Lotta Love with Sammy, cousins Cher & Ed showed up, along with Sammy Rose & family

Battle of the Surf Bands

(Listen) Last time I played in something like this was back in ’79 (whew).  Ferenc of Pollo del Mar and DJ Cousin Mary of KFJC lined this one up and all the bands knocked it way out of the (menlo) park.  If you couldn’t be at the British Bankers Club in person or listen to the live broadcast, we have 3 songs from the event posted at Enjoy!

too loud for neighbors, just right for channel 2

newscastThe Grand Avenue Business Association co-sponsored a street event on October 23 to celebrate the repeal of evening parking meter enforcement. One of the businesses celebrating on Merchant Appreciation Night was Piedmont Shell, where Trivalve set up to play at 6pm. Unfortunately, a small but persistent contingent of residents surrounding the intersection of Grand and Wildwood complained that there was a bit too much volume (we can’t help it) and we had to cut the set in half. But we cut through enough to attract the attention of a KTVU mobile unit, see the televised report here!

friday night rock jam

I met Ralph after one of Eric’s jazz club rehearsals, he first invited me over to an informal jam at his house last year, and I’ve been to 2 or 3 since then.  With Nat out of town on a school retreat, I asked Eric if he wanted to come along last night. The fact that his friend Devin would be there helped seal the deal (Devin’s dad Matt plays drums).  I had no idea how much he would enjoy it.

It reminded me of one of my first jams, when I was about 15, at Lyle Wing’s duplex on a warm day after school in 1976.  It’s likely that we sounded like shit, but the sheer thrill of making music was enough to set the hook firmly.

Now Eric wants to know if we can do this every Friday night…

that oaktown surf sound

Trivalve opened a very rockin show at Hotel Utah on April 25, on a bill that included The Attack Plan, Chief Enables, and headlined by Slipstream Sparrows, three very fine local bands. What a phenomenal first gig! Here’s a blow by blow account…

I arrived at Gene’s with an empty vehicle, ready to haul gear up the stairs and into the van.  What I hadn’t counted on was Gene getting a head start on me, the amps and speakers all in the driveway by the front door.  I’d planned on leaving his place by 6, but it turned out that we got the Utah by 6, an hour earlier than we needed.  It turned out to be a good thing, I was able to park right off the side door, we took our time bringing in gear and having a bite from the kitchen. All the while, Leslie is snapping some great photos, we talk about plans for promoting the band over burger, fries and buffalo wings.

Dave from the Sparrows showed up soon, and the guys from the other bands filtered in by around 7:30. Danny was told to bring only his cymbals, sticks and snare, the idea being that all 4 drummers would use the same kit and save a lot of set up/break down time between sets.  Since the three of us are alumni of the BCO, I peeled a sticker and affixed it to one of the posts downstairs.   As we saw some of our people enter the club, we ran through a couple of brief sound checks, it consisted of the first verse of “Lullabye of the Leaves.”  In a fair indication of what was to come, we got a surprisingly warm response from our SOUND CHECK! Cool!

At 8:40 we’re ready to play, our friends are in the area in front of the stage, as well as in the balcony. (Dave and Marie, you guys ROCK!) It’s great to look out, lock onto faces and see that they’re enjoying themselves.  Mary Ann was all smiles (was it the martini?), Kati and Sjimon just to my right, Lisa dead center, Ron, Rain and Mindy off to the side and  a short way back, every time I looked their way I saw them giving us great support.

Our M.O. is to play a lot of songs with as little interruption as possible, we’ve got 4 blocks of about 5 songs that we’ve timed at just about 45 minutes.  Here’s a song – boom.  Here’s another, and another, and a 4th and a 5th.  Money.  I say a few words, here’s the next block.  The beauty of a 3 piece band is that the fewer of you there are, the more responsive and agile you can be.  Part of that is working out a smart set list and sticking to it, not having to rely on a larger number of players to prepare for the next tune.  Even though we’re buzzing through our set, the short (I’m talking 3-5 seconds) breaks in between allow the audience to briefly express their approval with a burst of whoops and whistles.  And I can see that the guys from the other bands are watching and offering their support as well.  Good karma.

I’m loving it.  Our breaks were tight, the drums drove hard, the bass growled and the guitar cut through the club like a sabre.  The fact that we worked hard in rehearsal showed – we’ve made all the songs our own, we now know them and can as easily breath them as play them.  And they’re fun. The set FLEW by, before we knew it, I’m thanking the crowd, acknowledging the club, and telling people to stick around for the fine acts that followed. We broke down our gear, Ron helped me load it into the van, and I enjoyed the next acts.

Chief Enablers are a very entertaining group, their songs have a great sense of humor (“I lost my iPod, it was worse than losing you” – “Somebody stole my parking space, hit ’em with a rock in the face”).  Terbo Ted is a very natural performer, their whole band was very tight.  The Attack Plan followed with a high energy, hard edged set, reminiscent of bands like Iron Maiden.  Great material, well executed.  Finishing the night was Slipstream Sparrows, their repertoire consisting of intelligent compositions laden with guitar effects in a variety of tempos and treatments.

So, there you have it, Trivalve out the gate and running.  We have a few other engagements lined up, next is June 20 for the Laurel Solstice Music Festival, then the  July 4 parade and picnic in Orinda.  Get all the pertinent information at or

trivalve photos from hotel utah

Saturday night’s gig was superb! Check out a small sampling of photos

We opened at about 8:40, and busted through 21 tunes.  The Chief Enablers followed with a lively set, followed by the hard rocking Attack Plan. The show finished up with the very talented Slipstream Sparrows – thanks go out to Dave and Brian for bringing us onto the bill.

The house was definitely rockin’ – HUUUUGE thanks to our loyal fans!

Here’s a link to Leslie’s full set of photos on flickr