Best known for the Off-Broadway musicals, "The Last Session," "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" and "New World Waking," a song cycle for peace and justice.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Concert Aftermath

On Monday, the day after my new concert debut in New York at the Metropolitan Room, I was sitting on the couch trying to take it all in. Decompressing from a very long day.

And, suddenly, out of nowhere, I started crying. Huge, big, heaving, sobbing tears.

Because the concert not only came off as well as I had been dreaming it might, but way, WAY beyond what I could have imagined.



As the emails flooded into my box, I read story after story of people who told me their lives had been changed. Really?

Two friends said the show as so emotional for them, that they held each other's hands all through it. Another said that every face in the room was wet with tears of joy and release, as they cried and cried at the songs and the stories coming from the stage.

What I remember is how, when I looked out at the room during the show, every person was on the edge of their seats, leaning forward trying to catch every word, every note, every nuance.



And how they all turned into a huge Bonus Round Choir, jumping into the choruses and singing along to songs they didn't even know! YES!

And my band! There was traffic coming in from Queens, so Stephen Elkins barely got there in time -- and we weren't even sure what he was gonna do on stage. Luckily, there was a drum set, so they set it up quickly and he improv'd a percussion accompaniment. Bill Goffi got there in time, but we hadn't run through any of the songs. James Lawless, who played bass, came in from Jersey. We had never even met before. He was just a guy who had helped me and cheered me on while I was recording the album.

Evan Cohen and James Eden came into video tape the show. Even they arrived at the last minute and were winging it.

I had spent the two previous days making chord charts, so that my improvised "Bonus Round Band" could fake their way through the set.

I mean, if there is a set of rules on how NOT to do a show, this was it.

In fact, when Bill and Stephen asked me what songs they were to sing background vocals on, I told them I didn't know. Just to jump in and wherever it felt right, keep an eye on me and we'd just wing it. Well, you'd have thought we had been playing and singing together for years.

At one point in the show, I told the story of how I received this shy note back in 1996 from a Dr. Bruce Dorsey introducing himself as the chemist at Merck whose team made the breakthrough drug Crixivan, which saved my life and which was the turning point in the fight against the massive deaths of AIDS in the 80s and 90s.

Then, I said, "And he's here with us today."

The audience gasped and sprang to the feet, a massive standing ovation. Everyone was crying, including his wife and kids.

I mean how often does a chemist get a standing ovation?

But he was responsible for the salvation of so many of us, how could we not?

Dr. Bruce Dorsey, the man who saved a million lives.
And then I started the opening strains to "Lazarus Come Out" and, by that time, as Jimmy would say, the house was up for grabs. "SING ALONG!" and they did. They sang. We all sang!

How often do we get to celebrate real triumphs? Real victories in life?

By the end of the show, my mind was somewhere in god knows where. I'm sure the endorphins and other healing chemicals were racing through my body in numbers no one could count.

For many long years, I've dreamed of this moment: the chance to really take New York on. For four years, since we moved here, I've been writing and studying and lying low, for the most part, sometimes battling opportunistic infections, sometimes barely able to move, but I refused to quit. Refused to give in.

This is the show I wanted to do. This was my personal statement of what has happened to me since The Last Session. Since The Big Voice: God or Merman?

My life isn't defined by AIDS nor is my music trapped in some sub-genre of disease-related music or even musical theater.

It's an expression of everywhere I've been. Everything I've seen. Everyone I've touched. And more, everyone who has touched me.

Reader, if you've been along for this ride, you know I've traveled a tough road. Sometimes flat on my back. Sometimes high on mountaintops. But no matter where I was, I had you coaxing me along. I had you supporting me and caring for me.

You are the reason I continue to not just survive, but to thrive. And everything I do is a consequence of your being there to push me, guide me, goad me and kick me in the ass.

So, yeah. I sat on this couch and I wept like a baby.

Tales from the Bonus Round was a triumph in every sense of the word. I could see it in the faces of the people in the audience. I could feel it in the room.

Afterward, Bernie Furshpan, who owns the club, said it was the single most emotionally fulfilling show that has ever graced his stage. And that's saying a lot, since the greatest artists in the world have played the Metropolitan Room. And he demanded that we do it again.

Not a problem, my friend. Not a problem at all.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We're gonna do it again January 15.

I still have to write a diary entry about the extraordinary experience we had on Sunday with the debut of the Tales from the Bonus Round concert at the Metropolitan Room, but for now, it's sufficient to say that we're booked to do it again on January 15th at 7pm.

I've quickly pulled together a graphic for the page here so we can begin publicity. What I will tell you, reader, is that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. So many little miracles and coincidences happened, my heart is full and I'm still amazed how it all got pulled off. What a show.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Making the Choice to Live.

Lately, I've been contacted by several friends asking my advice for either themselves or for someone they know: How do you convince someone to want to live? Or, more directly, how someone qualify to be in the bonus round?

I don't think they really think I can provide an answer, but because of my experience, I can describe my road.

I said to him it's not a destination. It's a decision you make. One I make. Every single morning. Maybe every single moment. Rebirth is a constant. Not a one time event.

I said to him, "You have decide to live because WE have to." You know, like we're gonna let you off easy??

I have continued my training/exercise regimen. Faithfully, though I think I could push myself harder. I am very sure that if I had a trainer, he would all, "Come on, pussy! One more!" So, no, I'm not going to look like a body builder any time soon.

However, I have been faithful. No matter how much I didn't want to, no matter the voice in my head that said, "You did great yesterday. You can take a day off now." No. Only the weekends to rest and recover.

I have my exercise shorts and shirts there by my bed, so that they are what goes on when I arise.

My hands grab socks. They put shoes on my feet.

Then my mind thinks, "Well, as long as you're dressed, you could just go for a walk. Maybe after walking, let it go into a jog. Get some blood moving."

But it begins with my hands dressing me almost as if they had a mind of their own.

This disconnect reminds me of my experience in Andy Gale's class, where I was -- with a blank mind -- reciting the prison speech from Richard II -- and could observe myself with tears running down my cheek like rivers as I contemplated how alone he is in that scene.

Alone and confused that his notion of what it means to be a King appointed by God to be stuck in a cell. Should not he be able to supernaturally claw his way out? Where were the angels that, if God were with him, should be at his side, protecting that divine throne?

In his despair, he's thinking, "Well, if God doesn't do this, then there must be no God -- and therefore, "I am nothing."

Sounds perfectly logical. If God appointed him, which God did, given the fact that the throne itself is divine, then it must mean that God is his defender and companion, ready to jump in and rescue him. And if God is not, then it means there is no God.

If this, then that.

But how did he get these ideas? He was told them, of course. He had a group around him that convinced him that he had an army of angels waiting because God was on his side. No, he was like Jesus. He even had, they say, shrines that he carried around with himself in the middle between Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary and the Father.

When he realized he was alone, he fell in despair. Well, guess what? We're all alone in our heads. We don't have to fall into despair or into the false belief that God will do the work for us.

I have several friends who are suffering great sickness right now. Some are family, some are longtime friends, and some are new friends I've made as a consequence of the music on Tales from the Bonus Round.

They ask me how I've endured.

And I think the answer is that, somehow, I don't think about it. I just let my hands and feet make the decisions while I go along for the ride. Sounds stupid when I write it down.

But my friend, Ernie, used to say, "Feelings aren't facts."

It doesn't mean they're not REAL. It just means that you can't trust them.

So I try to lift myself away from it, bypass the emotion and look at what my body is doing. 

The kidneys have been stable. The blood sugar stable, especially with all that exercise. 

And now I'm looking forward to The Big Night, October 27th.

The other night, though -- and this is a meds story -- I had gotten confused about my dosages and mistakenly took particularly strong psychotropic antiviral too close together and had a hellish night. I couldn't sleep. And I had an anxiety attack like I've hardly ever experienced. Suddenly, I could feel total compassion for friends of mine for whom anxiety is a true illness, a paralyzing constant in their lives.

I am constantly reminded how vulnerable I am. Or maybe we all are.

I'm rambling now. Almost time to get going this morning.

To qualify for the bonus round, show up. Engage. This is your life: Participate!

But it starts every single morning. No matter how I FEEL. No matter my thoughts.

I put on the shoes. I put on the shirt. I move my body. I make it happen. And all things come from that.

Rehearsing by myself. Reinventing myself.

I sat in the darkness of the Metropolitan Room and played through the songs the other day, all by myself. I just wanted to see if I could do it, the same way I recorded this album. No prompting. No lyric sheets.

The first thing I discovered was I love this piano.

It really fills the room. And it was at the piano that my entire life of Lazarus began.

With this new show and album, I'm reinventing myself by turning my focus from what was solely an AIDS education concert into a motivational concert, which, in a way it always has been. My experience in overcoming the adversity of disease empowers others to realize their own untapped potential.

And now, with my friends joining me, we're going to make some GREAT music together!

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's a Jam Band on Sunday!

I'm so excited! I have a band, for the first time in forever, playing with me on Sunday. Bill Goffi on guitar. James Lawless on bass and Stephen Elkins are all joining me on stage. Also, Alex Thomas is going to do the intro and Evan Cohen will be taping it.

SPECIAL GUEST: JIM BROCHU!

Last chance to get tickets!

STEVE IN CONCERT! Get tickets here!

The Metropolitan Room
34 W. 22nd St.
NY, NY

ONE SHOW ONLY. 4pm.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Limited Edition Signed/Numbered CDs Available.

There are only 100 CDs available. You may purchase yours by sending $20 through Paypal to steveshack@gmail.com. Or, if you don't use Paypal, write an email to that address and we'll work out a different method of payment. Low numbers are still available. (I'll cover the postage and handling unless you're international. In that case, include $10 extra.)


Every Day A New Amen (Official LYRICS video)



From "Tales from the Bonus Round."

The Only Kind of Music (Official LYRICS video)



From "Tales from the Bonus Round."

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Poster Design for PFLAG-Olympia benefit concerts.


#wds2013

Traditions Fair Trade Store
Olympia, Washington
Two shows.
Saturday, January 25th.

Wanna Sing With Me?

Here's how you get into the Bonus Round Choir: Show up.

There. You're in.

Anyone who comes to my October 27th gig at the Metropolitan Room who loves to sing, I'll be concluding the program with Lazarus Come Out and My Rising Up, both of which feature simple call-and-response back-up. 

I have been so preoccupied with the CD, I forgot I have to sell tickets to this thing.


Oh, damn. I need to write up an official looking press release or something.

If you read this blog, please tell yer friends about it.

Selling tickets is hard!




Sunday, October 06, 2013

A Birthday Thank You.

I want to thank the many, many well-wishers, friends and family who posted links to my songs on YouTube. It was the best birthday present of all, to know that people care enough to share your art. I spent many, many hours, days, weeks and years writing those songs because I had to live them before I could write them.

For struggling artists with no label, no producer, no agent, no manager, but lots of friends who care, those shared links mean the world. So, don't just share mine. Go to an artist you love -- someone else struggling to pay the rent and stay alive -- and give them some link-love. You have no idea how it will brighten their day to know someone out there really listens to the heart and soul they invest in their music.

Lastly, just as I did when we started the TLS adventure, I've burned 100 home made discs for sale of Tales from the Bonus Round. I've signed and numbered them as a collector's item. In a way, I had to do this anyhow since I didn't use a service to manufacture any CDs (too expensive and no storage room in our apartment for boxes). "Tales," right now, is only a download or a stream, though Amazon will do one-off manufacturing starting in about 5 weeks or so (they say).

To this day, people come to me with signed and numbered cassettes I gave out at the first presentation of The Last Session at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in early 1996, before the new drug came along that summer.

And thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday. I learned on that "death bed," that in this life nothing matters but the people around you. All else is silliness and vanity. And that's the lesson of the bonus round. Anyone whose life is about "things" is living a lonely existence. Feel pity for them. And embrace your loved ones ever tighter in service to each other, community and adventure. And that's how you live a remarkable life.