Saturday, March 12, 2016

7 Days On The Road / "Everyone" / Industry Band / iGlobal Forum / Keith Emerson (1944-2016)


Last Friday I got in my car in Asheville, NC and drove (with an overnight stop) to Matawan, NJ – a town that sort of bridges the landscape from Central New Jersey to the Jersey Shore.  There resides Dr. Thomas Bruno, Chiropractor.  But my visit was not professional.  Tommy is also a wonderfully talented drummer.  Saturday evening Tom and I were joined by Fred Stancampiano, co-owner of Al Richards Chocolates in Bayonne, NJ (Mmmm…good stuff and available through their website!).  But, much as I like Fred’s chocolates, he also, as you may have guessed by now, is a great musician (guitar). 

Tommy, Freddy and I played together in a group called “Everyone.”  Based on the name, you may guess it was a product of the late 1960’s - 1970’s and, you’d be right.  Rounding out the group was the late Dr. Tom Davis, professor of philosophy at State University – New York at New Paltz (bass) and Frank (Puggy) DeRosa, who is well known for his one-man Neil Diamond Tribute shows in NJ.  There is a ton to write about ‘Everyone’ but that’s for another day.

At least 7 years ago I wrote a song called “I Just Wanted To Make You Love Me Again. And, last Saturday, Tommy, Freddy and I got together to record it in Tommy’s world-class basement recording studio.  In just 4-hours we recorded and mixed the song. The session just flowed. We were all really thrilled with the way the 2:35 min tune came out.  But the beautiful thing about the recording session was that we worked together as a band for the first time in quite a while.  It was totally collaborative and the finished product reflects that spirit - versus a songwriter who hired musicians to record his song. It was special!

After staying over at Tommy’s I drove to Hastings-on-Hudson (just north of New York City) where my son Kevin and his had family moved last summer.  While simply visiting the Kevin Felix brood is always great, this time my older son Brian and his family were there as well.  So, on Sunday, my entire immediate family was together: Kevin, Marissa, Ben, Edie, Brian, Marissa, Sean, and Gavin!  Yup, 4 grandchildren!!  We had a great time and paid a visit to Untermeyer Gardens in nearby Yonkers, which, if you’re in the area, is definitely a cool place check out.

Industry Band (searching for a name!)

From Hastings I drove to Boston where, this past Monday night, some of us real estate types got down and played a rocking music set at a party hosted by a group of real estate investment management firms.  The as yet unnamed ‘band’ is made up of Beth Thomas, Harvard Management (vocals), Fred Gortner, Paladin Realty Partners (guitar), Scott Arden, Hodes Weill (drums), Ken Munkacy, GID Development (guitar) and me (keyboards and vocals).  Key in the arrangements was our manager, Ryan Krauch (Mesa West Capital)  - anyone know an industry bass player?

Our set list included Feelin’ Allright, Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Mustang Sally and a few others.  The general rule playing music is that if the audience is having fun (i.e. smiling, singing along and dancing) it’s a good night.  Well, it was a great night!

(L-R: Me, Fred Gortner, Scott Arden, Beth Thomas, Ken Muhkacy)

While in Boston I also had the chance listen in to and engage in real estate conversations such as, “Where the heck are we in the cycle?”  For me, the answer is simple:  we don’t know – at least we don’t know for sure.  But when enough people start talking about whether things are changing, it means they are changing and the question becomes: ‘Now what do we do?’

Some of what’s going on relates to crazy prices being paid for properties. Other factors may include demand for space and changing demographic characteristics (have you been in any conversation lately where the word ‘millennial’ hasn’t been mentioned?)

And, while there is still a lot of money being raised (which is no small task these days), some institutional investors are starting to take a more deliberate approach to writing checks. Some of this is due to the 'Denominator Effect.' Simply stated, a pension fund has allocations to different asset classes.  When one underperforms, say stocks, and real estate performs well that combination throws their asset allocation model out of whack causing the fund to consider sitting on the sidelines for a while until things are more in balance. 

One somewhat reliable historic indicator of where we are in any cycle is the hiring landscape.  For some time, employers have been taking longer and longer to make hiring decisions.  Perhaps, some real estate investment managers are thinking about what happened in the last down cycle when certain growth related jobs – acquisitions, development, etc. were eliminated as things dramatically slowed down.  But, pension funds and other institutional investors and consultants scolded (and sometimes penalized) those firms saying, “When things were going gangbusters you staffed up like crazy, now, when things slow down you’re laying people off. We don’t like that type of behavior.”  So, maybe now, there’s a more conservative approach to staffing.  Just maybe.

There are other indicators as well but the big challenge is that no one really knows exactly what’s happening, just that something is happening. 

Now, looking forward to next week when, amongst other things I’ll be attending the 14th  iGlobalForum Real Estate Private Equity Summit (March 15/16) at The Pierre Hotel in NYC before hitting the road on Thursday to drive back to Asheville.

Keith Emerson

Last night the news surfaced that Keith Emerson has died.  Keith was the Emerson in the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Previously he had been the keyboard player in The Nice.  He was a keyboard master and a wild performer.  I got to see ELP as they became known at the Saratoga (NY) Performing Arts Center and it was an incredible show.  The energy that came off that stage was amazing. 

It was reported by TMZ that that Keith was found in his California flat with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.  It appears to have been suicide.  How sad. He’d reportedly been suffering from depression over a degenerative nerve issue in one hand that had sharply curtailed his ability to play.

All of a sudden, we’re losing too many music heroes of my generation.  It’s sad, very sad indeed.

In closing, I hope things are going well for you and that you’re taking time out to do non-business things and spending time with people that are important in your life: Life can change in the blink of an eye – don’t miss out on opportunities to create memories.

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