Security Breach

Someone injected malware onto Phoenix a few hours ago. I awoke to an email notifying me. The file has been removed but if you have visited the site recently, I urge you to do a virus scan. In almost 6 years of running this site, this has never happened before. And I intend to do my best to make sure it never happens again. My apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.


Jess Speaks Out

Today I was on Facebook and I saw a post by the God page, talking about depression and anxiety. When I read the comments, I was completely appalled by what some were saying. Here is the post . It’s 2014 and some people STILL think that anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are a choice. This pissed me off beyond belief. I have had this article for some time now and I think it’s time for me to speak out.

I suffer from OCD and anxiety, which led to depression. These things led to me more or less living in my own head for several years. I didn’t talk about it because when I did, the typical reaction I got was “I dunno” or “just stop”. When you suffer from any sort of mental issue “just stopping” isn’t an option. Because seriously, who wants to have panic attacks? Who wants to wash their hands repeatedly? Who wants to feel completely alone? Answer: No one.

Phoenix has always been a place where I felt safe. I felt brave. I was able to talk to artists and express myself freely. It was my chance to be the person I wanted to be in everyday life. When I am working on stuff for the site, I feel creative and… free. As my anxiety progressed, approaching artists got more difficult. Once it took me two months to work up the courage to ask an artist for an interview. While formatting the interview, I had a horrific panic attack about how I worded a question. One of my best friends had to talk me through it. I posted the interview and went to bed, mentally and emotionally exhausted. The next morning I awoke physically ill. The stress from the previous night had taken a pretty serious toll on me. That was pretty frustrating.

I was able to keep my anxiety and OCD relatively under control until early 2013. One morning in mid-April, I awoke to a message from the sister of one of my best friends and she informed me that he had passed away a few days prior. My world shattered that day. He was the friend that I went to about everything. The friend I talked to about my anxiety and just about anything else. He was the one who talked me through a lot of my panic attacks and was a constant source of moral support in my life. Losing that sense of support made me feel like I had been hit by a proverbial bus. In the following months, my anxiety got out of control. And when my anxiety gets out of control, my OCD kicks in and works overtime. I’m not a control freak by any means, but when you feel like everything in your life is completely out of your control, your brain hangs on, to the one or two things in life that it knows it can control, for dear life. And with that, my anxiety fed my OCD, my OCD fed my anxiety and it became a vicious cycle. It affected my job, my ability to work on the site and just about everything else in my life. Luckily, a family member worked around me a lot and she saw how bad things were getting for me. We talked, one day before work, and I lost it. I came clean about my anxiety and my OCD and finally admitted that I needed help. It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone anymore.

About a week later, I went to the doctor and talked to them about what was going on. After a long discussion with my doctor and a behavior health guy, we decided that medication was the right choice for me. They started me on a medication and it kicked in pretty quickly. For a couple of weeks, I felt great. My anxiety and OCD decreased and I was actually sleeping. I had to go through some medication adjustments before my doctors and I found something that works for me. I’m sleeping at night, my confidence is returning and I just feel overall happier. If I would have known that I could feel this much better, I would have done it 15 years ago. It’s nice to be able to take a deep breath, say to myself “things are going to get better” and actually believe it. Sure, I still have my days, but they are getting to be fewer and farther between. My life is no longer a long string of imagining the worst possible case scenario.

Why am I coming forward with this now? Well, there are several reasons. I want you guys to know that I never intentionally neglected the site. This site is my heart and soul. I like helping the music community and this site is good for me as well.

Another reason I am coming forward is that I want to break the stigma that comes along with disorders like anxiety and OCD. I want people to know that it’s not something you can shut off like a light switch. If it were that easy, we all would have flipped that switch a long time ago.

Finally, I want to bring awareness. Not many talk about struggles with these issues openly. I was 30 or so before I knew I wasn’t alone. Trying to deal with these things alone is the worst thing you can do. I’m lucky that I have some people to talk to about it now and they have become an amazing support system for me. I am very grateful for that.

So if you find yourself struggling with mental issues, talk to someone about it. Things do get better. Medication may not be right for everyone, but sometimes things like therapy can help. And if you do need medication, don’t be ashamed. You’re not broken. I am not ashamed of my anxiety or OCD at all. It’s not a choice. Some people are born being able to control anxiety and OCD. I wasn’t.

Our staff writer, David Lucas has been a huge reason why the site has stayed alive. He’s kept new content coming, as he can, while I get my shit together. I am eternally grateful for his contributions to the site. He has been a sounding board for my ideas and we had a meeting of the minds, not too long ago, on how to improve the site. We will be implementing those plans in the very near future.

So keep your eyes peeled! Phoenix is rising again!!

Vince Conaway- Renaissance Music Man

Vince Conway

Music may have changed throughout the ages, but it never dies. Vince Conaway keeps the music alive. You may have seen him if you were listening to street musicians in Europe, America or Canada. Maybe you have been to re renaissance festival—you have heard him play. Or, maybe you wondered why you would ever want to go to a festival where people walked around like they are from some by-gone age.   Vince’s music would pull on you like the fabled pied piper drawing you near. 




While Vince’s music can speak for itself, Phoenix Always Rises had a chance to listen to Vince play and discuss his music with him. This video is of Vince playing music by Vincenzo Galilee, the father of Galileo Galilee. 




Phoenix Always Rises: Please tell us a little about who you are and how you came to be a musician.


Vince Conway: I took piano lessons as a kid and sang in my high school choir. It wasn’t until college that I started playing more instruments, teaching myself the mandolin and cittern (a cross between mandolin and guitar), and singing folk music at renaissance festivals. Soon after graduating university, I ran across a hammered dulcimer in a music shop and had so much fun that I bought it. At that point I got truly obsessed, playing six hours a night, and incorporated dulcimer into my other gigs until it eventually took over.


PAR: What drew you to the music of the Renaissance Period?


VC: It’s a lot of fun to play, and fascinating to listen to. Its theory is a cross between medieval music and modern music, which makes it accessible to modern ears while still different enough to capture attention.


PAR: What other music do you play and why?


VC: I got started playing Celtic music, and from there I went into medieval music. The two styles use similar melodic concepts, particularly through modal theory, but medieval music often uses timing in a way that seems foreign.


PAR: For some time, you played as the accompanying music for an acrobatic troupe. What did you find most challenging in arranging the music for their feats and the most rewarding?


VC: The most rewarding part of music is often through collaboration. I get to play for myself all the time but it’s only when my music encounters and outside source, whether it’s an audience, other musicians, or a visual act, that things can really take off. The hardest part is trying to come up with musical expressions guided by people who don’t necessarily have a musical vocabulary, and can’t easily express what they’re looking for. Still, trial and error is brilliant when it falls into place!


PAR: What do you find most challenging with playing at Renaissance Fairs across the country?


VC: The most common complaint on the Renaissance Festival circuit is that we move around too much. Any larger festival runs 4 to 9 weeks, and then it’s off to the next. I, however, prefer traveling more often than that, and I often feel stagnant after two or three weeks in one area. I take a lot of side trips


PAR: You have also been a street performer in the United States. What are some of challenges in being a performer in the US?


VC:  Street performance in the US is difficult because we don’t walk very much; Europeans, South Americans, and even Canadians have less of a car culture. Because of this, our cities aren’t set up very well for pedestrians, with the occasional exception, and the hardest part is finding a place to play.


PAR: What have been some of the most rewarding cities you have played?


VC:  Internationally my favorite city is probably Naples. It’s dirty, intense, mildly dangerous and sometimes scary, but the people are deeply passionate and appreciative audiences. Domestically I’ve had good luck in New Orleans and Seattle, and a recent experiment in Minneapolis has been incredibly encouraging.


PAR: At a private concert you gave, you talked about one of the most rewarding moments in your career playing at Renaissance Fairs. Would you share this story with our readers?


VC:  I’m not sure which story you’re referring to, but I have several. For example, I once told a little girl that the way to play dulcimer is to practice it, and last year her mother told me last she’s just earned a scholarship to a music conservatory motivated by my somewhat sarcastic advice.


PAR: That was the story. Besides touring around the United States, you have also played in Europe as a street performer in Italy and other countries. What do you find challenging in being a performer in Europe?


VC: The biggest challenge in Europe is that rules and regulations vary from city to city, and their enforcement varies from cop to cop.


PAR: What do you find rewarding in performing in Europe?


VC: I love spending time in Europe, and the fact that I can make such trips pay for themselves is an incredible blessing. It’s also very refreshing to play for a different audience, which has different performance expectations: North Americans like my Celtic repertoire best, while Europeans have a greater appreciation for my Renaissance and original pieces.


PAR: What is your favorite piece of music to play and why?


VC: Oh, goodness, that’s a hard one. It changes depending on my mood, and local situations, but by tradition I make new beginnings with Labyrinth and end with February, both among my first original pieces.


PAR: You have produced eight CDs. How do you select and arrange your music?


VC: There have been more than that, but thankfully, the first few predate iTunes. I really feel for contemporary artists whose very first efforts end up splashed across the web to embarrass them the rest of their careers.


I have two criteria for selecting music. The first is simple; I have to enjoy it both as a listener and as a player. The second criterion is that I like there to be a story to tell around the piece, whether it’s about the composer, the title, the source, or something else. A large part of my performance is storytelling, and it works best when I can tie that into the music.


VC: How can people learn more about you and where can they buy your CDs? is a good place to start!


PAR: Where can people expect to find you in the next few months?


VC: I will be performing at the New York Renaissance fair in August and September, the Louisiana Renaissance Festival in November and December, street performing in Europe in October, and played at Pennsic this July. I’m looking forward to an exciting fall!


Suburb in St. Louis Jives and Boogies


Some may call Jazz, Blues, and Ragtime dying arts, but Webster Groves, Missouri is determined to prove the heart and soul of a truly American made musical form pulses with life at the 12th annual Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival on September 15, 2012. Started in 2001, the event doesn’t just draw in people from the surrounding St. Louis Metro area, but is a draw to those throughout the region—from at least as far away as Ohio. The Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival was held on two stages. The Allen stage was dedicated to the Blues and the Gore stage was for Jazz.



Ragtime from the St. Louis Ragtimers warped the audience back to the time of Joplin and Louis Armstrong. The St. Louis Ragtimers played together for 50 years, bringing Dixieland Jazz and Ragtime to life with their own flavor to entice the ear. With Trebor Tichenor on the keyboard, Al Striker as vocals and playing the banjo, Don Franz on the Tuba and Bill Mason on the trumpet, there can be no question why they were once a Gaslight Square famed act and a treasure of the Gateway city. Constantly playing at festival and concerts around the world, they prove the art form’s alive and kicking.



Blues and Jazz continued next on the two stages as a third kind of jazz, a new jazz called PoJazz –a fusion of poetry and spiritual jazz played in the MCCaughey & Burn Fine Arts. Raven Wolf, the one man musical half of PoJazz makes his Jazz by mixing Native American and other genres of jazz.  As Raven Wolf played with the poets Dwight Bitikofer, Jennifer Fandel and Father Gerard, the Allen Stage was the taken over by the Dave Black Quartet with their slow smooth relaxing Jazz and Blues. The Dave Black Quartet, which was made up of five musicians rather than four, fused elements of jazz, funk, blues, rock and the world beat.  Meanwhile, Boss Hall’s band let loose the soul of the event on the Gore stage. Boss Hall’s band is made up of guitarist Tom Hall, vocalist and flutist Margaret Bianchetta, dobro player Bob Breidenbach, bassist Vince Corkery and violinist Kevin Buckley.



After the Dave Black Quartet and Boss Hall band finished their sets, the stages were the homes to Jim Stevens and his band and the legend David Dee and his band. Jim Stevens started the music fire on the Allen Stage with a saxophone blazed with Blues, Soul, and the groove of Funk.  Where Jim Stevens brought the fire of Jazz and Blues, David Dee heaped on the fuel until it was a bonfire on the Gore stage.  Dee sung what is called the St. Louis Women’s anthem of “Gone Fishing.” He continued on to many other songs that had the audience dancing in the aisles. Dee writes and performs songs for “the female—for the woman.”


Jim Stevens and David Dee surrendered their stages to the Webster Groves High School Band and the Webster University Jazz Ensemble, who in turn gave over the stages to the day’s headliners  Rich McDonough & Rough Groves with Anita Rosamond on the Allen stage and Marsha Evans & The Coalition with Roland Johnson on the Gore stage.


Rich McDonough opened for Albert King, Junior Wells and Robert Cray among others. He once shared the stage with the late Johnnie Johnson at the Sheldon Concert Hall. He played at the Grand Emporium in Kansas City and the Blues Route Festival in Holland. Rich’s music brought the soul of Blues to the pinnacle as the band played and he alternated between vocals and harmonica.


Marsha Evans earned the title as “The River City Show Stopper.” She headlined the Big Muddy Blues & Heritage Festival. She also performed with Johnnie Johnson.  She was joined on the Gore Stage by Roland Johnson, who’s named the “Best St. Louis R&B artist” by the Riverfront Times. Her music drew the people to dance in front of the stage and in the aisles, on the sidewalks and on the street. Her voice filled with the love, the passion and the power of someone like Aretha Franklin, whom she recently opened for. Her title is well earned.







When Roland Johnson took over the stage and later she joined him, you could feel the artistic love the two performers shared all the way to the end of the packed two blocks. Their act brought a crescendo to another successful Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival.



Follow David Lucas on Twitter @owlkenpowriter.


Gateway City Rocks to a Hispanic Beat


Music is the soul of any culture. The Latin American soul sung in Kiener Plaza September 7, 8 and 9, 2012. The Hispanic community of the Greater St. Louis metro area celebrated its diversity and richness through food, crafts, and music. People danced in front of the stage, with the Gateway Arch in the background, as musicians played Latin Pop, Salsa, Rock, and much more.

Music reflects the culture from which it came. While the lyrics were in Spanish, it was clear the origins were diverse. The cultures of North, Central, and South America called the people to dance floor. Each culture gave the audience something different. It didn’t matter if you spoke Spanish or not, the emotions of the songs and various types of beats made you dance. Even the vendors and onlookers had to toe tap and dance.



Latino music coming out of the United States echoes with memories of the countries from Latin America. It resonates with triumph and heartache of trying to fit into an alien culture. The struggles of growing up and living in modern America with the crime and discrimination play across the songs. It recalls the dangers of illegal immigration and the blind groping of the legalization process to stay in the new home. The music cries the loneliness of leaving wives and children and all they have known. In all of the music, there is the hope for the future.


The Festival gave St. Louis community a taste of what the Hispanic culture brings to the Midwest. Like all good appetizers, the music at the Hispanic Festival leaves you wanting more.


Follow David Lucas on Twitter @owlkenpowriter.