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Aug. 9th, 2009

#27 - The Cherry Bluestorms at The Knitting Factory, 8-8-09


The Cherry Bluestorms, left to right; Glen Laughlin, Kellii Scott, Deborah Gee, Sam the Butcher.
 
 Hit The Knitting Factory last night with The Cherry Bluestorms for the Los Angeles edition of the International Pop Overthrow (IPO) festival.  We've had the good fortune of playing IPO dates in Toronto, San Diego, Liverpool and here in LA over the years, festival organizer David Bash has always been good to the band and we have enjoyed the events quite a bit.  

Location, location, location
Ever have one of those places, maybe a restaurant or somebody's house, or a bar or whatever, and you just can't ever remember where the hell it is?  That's The Knitting Factory for me.  I've been there bunches of times, played there a few, and for the life of me I ALWAYS seem to forget that it's on Hollywood Blvd, not Sunset.  Then, even when I figure out I've got the right street, I can't find the bugger.  I think it's partly because it's tucked into this catacomb of shops and stores and restaurants, but mostly because there isn't a good sign out on Hollywood so I don't ever see it when I'm driving by; never get's locked into my brain.  I can't help but think they'd do better if they had a big giant "The World Famous Knitting Factory" sign out on the drag luring in tourists and reminding locals that they exist.  I must be right, cause apparently the joint is closing this October.  

So, as per usual, Kirsten and I struggled a bit to find the place.  At least she remembered it was on Hollywood across from the Roosevelt Hotel.  We still googled the address at the last minute to be sure.  We rolled in, parked in the structure (gotta love $8 parking), picked up our bracelet/ticket at will call, loaded my bass/pedals/chord bag to the backstage area, and I was ready to go.   Unfortunately the show was running about forty minutes late, so there would be some bonus hanging out time.  Actually, I didn't mind it that much.  Seems like I'm not actually seeing/hearing that much club music these days cause I'm usually playing.  We found a spot on the couches in the corner and played Audience for an hour or so. 

This is the only "sign" for The Knitting Factory I could find and it's barely visible from the street, and really more of a tarp/banner hung on a concrete wall.  Not a victory in the world of promotions and advertising, if you ask me.  

Boom Goes the Dynamite
(google that phrase sometime)
Not the best sounding room.  Concrete floors, weird angles, a chalkboard wall, it made for a very garage-y sound.  The PA seemed to be overly directional as well.  I'd stand in one spot and the vocals were at a good level, then move five feet to the left and they would pierce my skull.  Very inconsistent and odd.  Not that pleasant from out in the room to be honest.  

Gear
They always supply a backline for these IPO shows, and tonight they had a nice little Ampeg bass rig for me.   Not the classic SVT style Ampeg, but still a cool amp with a 4x10 cab.  I brought my Precision and my pedal board, as usual.  Toyed with going "au natural" and leaving the pedal board at home, but changed my mind.  I don't do any overt effects stuff with this band so I only drag it out for EQ options, but I seem to get in trouble when I choose the lazy path lately, so it made the trip.  

The house bass rig.  Should have sounded better than it did.  Tough room.  

Tone
Alas, but a cool bass tone is not made with gear alone.  I knew from the second that I plugged in that I'd be wrestling a boomy low end all night.  I was glad to have my pedals, gave me some tools to work with, but to no avail.  Couldn't find the definition that I wanted, ended up just dialing out some of the extreme lows, tubing it up with my Sansamp, and hoping it sounded better out front.  Doubted it though.  I hit the EQ on the amp, my Boss EQ pedal, my Sansamp, and my Radial Tonebone and couldn't get a good response.  Ended up flattening out the amp and Radial and using the Boss and Sansamp as best as I could.  

It was one of those autopilot playing nights.  Trying to move my fingers and arms in ways that should make it sound good, but not hearing the audio evidence to back me up.  Muscle Memory at work.  Played with a pick, fingerstyle was only accentuating the boom factor, at least the pick was adding some attack.  Couldn't really experiment further with my newfound Supermute technique cause it requires me hearing the subtle differences of lifting and pressing with my muting hand.  

Set List
Short list for these festival gigs, we only played five tunes.  

As Above So Below, London Bridge, To Love You is a Crime, Words, Start Again.

Some Moments Worth Mentioning From Each Song
-We tripped briefly coming out of the solo in As Above, I think Deborah was two bars early.  The ensuing verse was supposed to be just drums and vocals but Glen and I were caught off guard (in his defense he was still soloing) and played right through.  I think we made it work, no one probably noticed.

-London Bridge went well.  That was the only one I sang on in this set.  I mostly double Glen's part so he can branch off and do some cool call and answer stuff with Deborah without losing his core notes.   We also do an a cappella breakdown of the chorus that sounds really cool when it works and adds some nice drama to the tune.  We nailed it I must say.  

-To Love You was the one I was most worried about.  Well, not worried, but it was on my mind throughout the day and I put a little prep in.   It's a Glen Laughlin special, string skipping arpeggios with a capo at the third fret.  I NEVER use a capo on the bass, very unusual.  I had a couple of mental street signs for the changes, plus a chart at my feet.  Tried not to use the chart, it was mostly a crutch.  Found myself running an internal monologue so I wouldn't miss certain sections, "this is a short verse, get ready", "here comes that funky little turnaround", "this is the LONG verse, don't change", that kinda structural stuff.  Plus trying to dig in on the sections where the bass arpeggio is carrying the groove and hit some chordal stuff that I added to the original part in the driving turnaround sections.  It actually went very well, which isn't unusual.  It's the "easy" ones I'm NOT thinking about in advance that sneak up on me most of the time.  

Oh yeah, another thing about this song, Glen starts it with a bitchin' effect that warbles in time to establish the tempo during the extended intro section.  Can't remember what the pedal is called darnit, but it sounds great.  Problem is, I noticed a tendency he has to hit the strings on the 'and' of four, slightly anticipating the downbeat.  The pulse continues without a discernible hickup, but Kellii gets into a displaced beat from what Glen is feeling.  This happened once at rehearsal and again at the show.  The funny thing was, Kellii tried to correct to Glen's count just as Glen was correcting to Kellii's and they reversed positions.  Deborah and I aren't in yet, so it was just the two of them doing a little counting dance in the intro.  They got it straight before the song kicked in, so all was well.  

-Words is a Beegees cover, not disco Beegees, but cool psychedelic 60's Beegees.  Kellii nails this slow, marchy beat, Bom, Bom-Bom, kinda pulse.  Deborah does a great job singing this one, her vibrato is a perfect fit for the Gibb sound, and Glen hits some crazy high harmony notes.  I cheated and used a chart on this one, although I think I've got it firmly in my brain now and won't need it next time.  

-Start Again- will be the closing track on the upcoming concept album the band is working on called "Bad Penny Opera", so it's a natural closer for shows as well.  This might be my favorite Bluestorms tune, it's dark and groovy and cool.  I LOVE the melody in the bridge, it gets stuck in my head every once in awhile and I don't want to shake it.  Cool guitar solo at the end as well.  Kellii and I worked on some kick drum/bass patterns at rehearsal that tightened it up a bit, so that felt good.  

The Grade
These nights are hard for me to judge.  I didn't hit any real bad notes, but I couldn't hear myself well enough to feel like I was doing more than going through the motions on my instrument.  Trying to fake it so no one else would notice, and they probably didn't.  But I did.  So what's the mission?  To rise above the tough circumstances and deliver as best as I can?  Pretty close to mission accomplished on that front.  Or is it to figure out a way, any way, to MAKE it sound better, troubleshoot that tone, and wrestle something more elegant and happening out of the mess?  I didn't get that done at all.  So tough.  In the end it's the sounds that count, not the excuses.  I'm gonna say B minus, based on poor tone and even if it wasn't 100% my fault.  

Up Next
I get a little break for a couple weeks.  No gigs till August 21st at Trip in Santa Monica with Saucy.  I had a rough sonic night last time I was there with Flannel High, so I'm looking forward to a stab at redemption.  Kirsten and I are headed up to Oregon to spend some time with my family this week, so I even get a break from rehearsals and recordings and the whole musical enchilada.  Hopefully I'll come back refreshed and ready to dive in again, that's usually how it goes when I can't play for a week or so.  

Hope y'all are well and enjoying your Summer wherever you are.  It still makes me smile to think there are a few folks out there who read these blogs regularly, so thanks again.  

Talk atcha in a couple weeks,
-s


 

Aug. 8th, 2009

#26- Saucy Monky at Universal, 8-6-09

 
Saucy left to right; Cynthia Catania, Annmarie Cullen, Megan Jane, Vlad the Impaler.  

Road trip time again, we headed South for a show in San Diego opening with the always cool Veronica May and The To Do List.  The club was called "Universal" and the night was called "Flawless".  I think I've got that right.  

Take the 5 South
The lovely and talented Annmarie picked me up at my place around 3:30 pm and we hit the road.  She had loaded up her P.A. system and personal gear, and since I'd be using a friend's amp for the show, I just needed to bring the bare essentials.  Plenty of room to spare.  Cynthia was driving separately 'cause she was coming from the other side of town and taking a different route, plus there wasn't room for all three of us and our stuff in a single car.  Megan is a San Diegan, so for a change she was the one who didn't have to drive.  

Traffic was pretty reasonable up until we hit the 805 just outside of SD, then it backed up a bit.  We still made it in time to get everything loaded in and set up on time.  Big props to The To Do List and a couple other pals for helping with that part of the night, helped a ton.  We usually don't have to deal with setting up a PA system, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quick Cynthia and Annmarie were at getting it in place and sounding good.  They both do live sound mixing in their spare time so this was old hat for them.  

Gear
Jeff, the bassist for The To Do List, regular reader of this here blog and all around good dude, was kind enough to let me use his rig for the show.  I can't actually remember what it was called and the name didn't show up in the damn photo.  It was a one of a kind amp called something like "Schectorlane".  Maybe "Schectorilla."  Nope.  "Scheterlight."  That's not it.  Crap.  Anyway, it ended up sounding really great, plenty of punch and headroom and very flexible sonically, in the SVT school of rock sound that I like.  I ran my Precision through my pedalboard and into his amp, kept the amp relatively flat and used my EQ pedal to bump up the lows and put a nose on the high mids, worked great, sounded killer.  Thanks Jeff, you rock!  

The world famous "Schec..."  amp and cab!  Notice the little shelf space created by the wide cab and narrow head.  The red leather pouch is my pick/earplug holder.  I always like a good amp shelf to keep crap on.  Just sayin'.  

Extreme Muting
I've been doing this thing lately, especially with Saucy, where I play with a pick and use a really exaggerated right hand muting technique.  Cuts off the sustain of the notes and adds a really cool punchy impact to the tone.  Also, it allows me to create a sort of false vibrato by increasing and decreasing the amount of mute happening, slightly pushing down and releasing my right hand over the bridge.  It's a pretty cool thing and has lots of promise as a regular trick in my bag of techniques.  I played most of the evening like that, with a couple exceptions where I opened up the right hand for rowdy sections and also when I played a couple ballads with my fingers and lost the pick altogether.  It's possible that I was overdoing it with the muting, but it seemed to be working in the moment, I'll try to keep it in check moving forward.  Sometimes new tricks (and new toys) can be tempting to abuse.  

Set List
Disco Ball, The Acrobat, Superstar, Change Your Mind, 5 South, Alcohol, Flicker, Trapped, All the Things Ya Know, No One's Here Anymore, Solid Ground.  

Lucille's Balls
Annmarie and Cynthia always entertain me with their banter, and this show was one of my faves.  I think they are at their best when it's a bit chaotic and has some edge and that was the story here.  Always unrehearsed and off the cuff, they jibe each other regularly and often talk over one another for brief moments.  It's very charming, I was a fan long before I joined the band and the between song yacking helped pull me in from day one.  There were a couple bits in particular that I cracked up at, one was singing harmony on "The Steve Giles Song" and the other had to do with "Lucille's Balls".  You had to be there.  

Some Other Moments

- Change Your Mind really benefited from the muting technique I described, especially in the verses.   Short, choppy notes high on the neck in a simple one/five/four/one pattern, just staying in the pocket with Megan and laying it down.  I also sang a new part in the bridge of this one that sounds cool.  I love getting the three part thing going on, always fun to sing with these girls, they both have such strong voices, it's a fun ride vocally.  

- Alcohol is the newest song in the set list and is a great addition.  We worked out some new arrangement stuff at rehearsal this week and it went pretty well.  The bass line in the chorus has an interesting motown kinda groove that is fun to play.  I'm still working on the specific note choices but it's getting close.  Verses are fun to lock in with Cynthia, who is doubling the part with me.  Then some crazy slide stuff in the bridge, which seems to be a regular device I use with Saucy (see also Acrobat, Scarz, All The Things), finding different variations on a similar style of sliding around.  

-The bridge on All The Things felt too fast to me, but no one else seemed to agree.  It is probably because we've been doing it too slow for awhile and decided to pick it up just a nudge.  Felt like we went too far to me, but not sure if that's just because my ears are used to hearing it too slow.  It's a fine line.  Everyone else seemed to dig it so it's probably me.  

-Felt like we really nailed Solid Ground.  It's got a pretty heavy swing feel and Megan in particular was right in the pocket, made it easy for me to tag along with her feel and not think about it too much, which I friggin' love.  
Universal was a pretty cool joint.   Initially thought all the mirrors and other reflective-looking floors and ceilings would make for a crazy, boomy sound, but it sounded really good for both bands.  


The Grade
I had a good night, felt like I was in the pocket, kept it tight and minimal from a note choice perspective, which is completely appropriate for this band.  The tone was great (thanks again Jeff!), I could hear everyone really well, both instrumentally and vocally.  The band was groovin' and singin' their asses off.  My only possible down side is the thought that I might have overdone the muting thing, but I'm gonna give myself a pass cause it was fun.  Let's call it an A and move along.  

Cool Gift
Some time last year I did a show with my friend Richard Harris, who is a great songwriter and was doing a showcase night at The Hotel Cafe.  He brought a drummer friend of his in for that show named Simon DasGupta, and he and I hit it off pretty darn well.  Had a great night at the show and we've stayed in touch ever since.  He plays and teaches around the San Diego scene and I was pleasantly surprised that Saucy's drummer Megan was playing guitar in The To Do List with Simon on drums!  Nice, I love this small world stuff.  Anyway, when I arrived at Universal for this show, Simon graciously gave me a pair of drumsticks from last year's 30th anniversary Rush tour!  So cool!  He knows I'm a big Rush freak (as is he), and it was really thoughtful of him, my normally macho self was quite touched.  Thanks Simon if you happen to be reading this :)
R30 sticks baby!  


Speaking of The To Do List...
They were great; really interesting music with lots of cool time changes and feel changes and about-faces.  I love stuff that shifts abruptly and keeps the listener on their toes.  It was cool to hear Megan playing guitar, she was great, adding all these cool coloring parts, very textural and swirling and fun.  Jeff and Simon are a killer rhythm section, handling all the crazy changes and keeping the groove up.  Jeff does lots of rad chordal parts, I particularly dug a tune called "The Ripple Effect" where he was doing all these nutty arpeggiated chordal bits, stretching out his left hand and jumping around the neck.  Veronica's songs are interesting and she sings her ass off too, my kinda band, I'd go see em again for sure.  

Round Trip
I rode back with Cynthia ("Abcynthia"!) cause she likes to have some company on long drives after dark.  We had a good chat and made GREAT time and I was home and unloaded by about 1:30 or so.  Unfortunately, poor Cynthia hit some closed freeways on her drive from my place to hers and apparently it took her over an hour to do just that stretch.  So lame.  Sorry kid.  

Link Luster
Have you noticed that I'm not really adding links anymore?  Hope you don't mind, it was just a bit of extra work that got to be a drag.  Band links, musician links, club links, goofy fun links, interesting stuff sometimes, but I've decided to trim off that fat and streamline the process.  I'll keep linking things here and there if needed, but I'm done with it otherwise.  

Up Next
I'm actually playing TONIGHT with The Cherry Bluestorms.  We're doing the L.A. edition of the IPO festival at The Knitting Factory, 11pm sharp, should be good fun, come say hi if you get a chance.  IPO has been very good to that band, we've played the Toronto, Liverpool, San Diego and Los Angeles events over the years and I've got lots of great memories from all those shows.  


Okay, that's all I got.  Thanks again for making it to the end of this thing, y'all rock!  
Talk soon,
-s

Aug. 4th, 2009

#25- Arrica Rose and the ...'s video shoot



A peek at the monitor while a shot is being set up during Saturday's video shoot.

 Wow, seems like forever since I sat down to write one of these here entries.  My computer has been on the fritz and I just got it back.  Only two real musical events have happened since I last blogged, and since one of those was Saucy Monky's fifth consecutive Wednesday at midnight show at The Kibitz Room, I think I'll mostly leave that one alone and focus on the video shoot I did last weekend with Arrica Rose.  I'll probably drop a photo or two of that Kibitz show at the end, maybe have a couple quick things to say for posterity.  But in the meanwhile, let's talk videos, shall we? 

Toys R Us
So the idea for the video is that Arrica is a music box ballerina that comes to life and the band are a bunch of toys in the room with her.  Simple right?  Mark was a toy sailor, Ryan was a toy bear, I was a toy cowboy, and Arrica was, of course, the ballerina.  Keep in mind as I describe all this that I haven't actually read the treatment or any sort of summary and that I was only present for the day of shooting where we did the interior stuff with all of us.  There was a full day of shooting with just Arrica the next day and I wasn't around for that, so it's possible I won't get the big picture properly pinned down here.  

The loft on arrival, pre-creepification.  I spent most of the night in the chair towards the left that you can barely see playing a toy guitar.  

The Set

Really cool loft in downtown L.A. called Studio 528.  They use this room for videos all the time, that's what it's for, turns out it was perfect for what we needed.  Wood floors, big windows, plenty of space, interesting furniture.  I showed up for my call time at 5pm on Saturday and helped load some of the gear into the building with the crew.  We actually got into a little trouble with the owner of the loft for not using the freight elevator, but that got straightened out.  At the end of the day we loaded everything back downstairs properly, lesson learned.  Anyway, once everyone showed up and the gear was all upstairs, Cory, the director (well, co-director as I understand it; Arrica went to film school and was sharing that hat for this venture), started getting things organized, set up, planned out and dialed in with Arrica.  Lighting rigs going up, furniture rearranged, props pulled out of bags, shots discussed, all that good stuff.  

A bad photo of a postcard of the facility.  If you look close you can see the view from the window of the loft into downtown Los Angeles.  

Makeup
We were extremely fortunate to have Amy as our makeup person.  She does makeup for one of those dancing TV shows, I think it's "So You Think You Can Dance".  She'd recently done some cool toy makeup on her show and was able to use her skillz on us.  Arrica went first, then me, then Ryan, then Mark.  I got some rosy cheeks and some artificial dirt on my face, neck and hands.  Camoflagued some of my wrinkles, a little eye-popping twinkle, and I was ready to roll.  It was pretty cool to watch the transformations happen, they were pretty elaborate makeup jobs, not the usual rock and roll thing I'm used to where you don't really want to notice it.  This was full on, overt, big-part-of-the-show kinda stuff, and Amy did a great job.  We were creeping each other out with our weird looks, had a good time with it.  

Getting into character.  How would a toy cowboy rotate this photo?

Costumes
Then it really starts getting good.  I had Big Al's cowboy boots, a bright red hat, a white shirt with Roses embroidered on the shoulders, a red handkerchief around my neck, toy guns on a makeshift holster, and a plastic mini-guitar.  I was fully done up.    Arrica's Dad Al kept having me draw my guns and say "I got a hankering for some pasta fazooooon!", I think that's a family favorite dish.  I did my best but probably still don't have the name of the pasta right.  I got some laughs, the biggest were from Al himself.  Good stuff. 

"Howdy stranger.  I've got a big hankerin' for some pasta fazooooon..."

Arrica's ballerina costume really came together, tutu and everything.  They apparently aged a lot of her getup by soaking it in tea leaves.  Or something like that.  Darkened it up and brought out the dark, haunted quality nicely.  

Mark's blue sailor costume was very authentic, thirteen buttons (one for each of the original colonies!), little white hat, shiny black shoes, the whole works.  Amy gave him white diamonds around his eyes to really bring out the "toy" part of "toy sailor", plus it gave him just the right amount of Ace Frehley.  

Ryan came close to stealing the show with his bear costume.  Full on, head-to-toe fuzzy bear outfit.  It was pretty spectacular and totally creepy in the right light.  Coupled with the makeup it was really something to see and kept cracking me up all day.  Have a look...

If I were a bear, I know I'd wear Converse All-Stars too...
Props
They had scrounged up a bunch of cool props to help set the scene; a rocking horse, fire engine, glowing globe, cool old lamps, tamborine for Ryan to play, antique banjo thingy for Mark to play, and some other assorted paraphernalia that all really worked.  But the centerpiece of the whole shoot was the music box that Dan Garcia rigged up.  It had an actual, working, spinning platform that Arrica stood on, surrounded by the four sides of the box so you couldn't see the mechanism at work.  All painted very rustic and cool looking, it was pretty spectacular and quite functional.  

Performances
Arrica was a total champion in her ballerina role.  It was most impressive, she's spinning on this platform, going through this strict regimen of ballet poses in time with the music, occasionally looking into the camera, taking direction from Cory, and making it all look smooth and easy.  Had to have been exhausting but she never complained once that I could hear, she was a real workhorse and did a killer job.  

The rest of us had it much easier, sitting in our designated spots, doing our best to have a faraway look in our eyes and make subtle, "toy-like" movements.  I was air-bassing on my toy guitar, Ryan was rocking the tamborine with even, mechanical arm movements.  Mark did his air guitaring on the weird banjo-thing he had.  It all looked really cool to me under the dull glow they were putting on us.  Very spooky and effective.  Whenever I wasn't in a shot I tried to get a look at the monitor and it was very impressive the shots they were getting.  

The Crew
A great team of peeps, they worked hard, got shit done, had a good attitude about it all, totally delivered from where I sat.  Good ideas came from everyone about angles and lights and props and everything.  Arrica's folks brought some snacks and then later got everyone Subway sandwiches that really hit the spot at about 11pm.  Dan was there to keep the music box working when it had problems and also to provide sound for playback.  Room full of talented pleasant folks, my kinda people.  
I didn't get a good shot of the music box, but you can see part of it in the foreground here.  The spinning disc is in the middle, you can barely see a sliver of it if you squint.  

And That Was That
We finished up shooting, put it all away, washed off the makeup, changed out of our getups, loaded up the trucks and got out of there around 2am.  I think it went swimmingly, haven't yet heard how the following day turned out, but I have high hopes that it's gonna be a real good-looking video, very artistic and powerful.  I'll be sure and setup a link to it once it's available for public consumption.  

Next Up
Saucy Monky has a gig this Thursday night in San Diego, I think the night is called Flawless and the bar is called Universal, but I might not have that right.  Then on Saturday I'm playing the Knitting Factory in Hollywood at 11pm with The Cherry Bluestorms.  

Hey, speaking of Saucy Monky, here's a shot from our show last Wednesday at The Kibitz Room.  It was a good night but not a great one musically.  I'll give myself a B.  Our residency there is over, but we're talking about hooking up some Saturday nights there in the coming months, I'll keep ya posted.  

Okay cool, gotta run.  SO FRIGGING GOOD to have my computer back, you wouldn't believe how fast I'm typing right now after a week of doing it all with my thumbs on my little blackberry.  

Talk soon,
-s

Jul. 29th, 2009

#24- Arrica Rose and the ...'s at Zoey's, 7-25-09

Unfortunately, no photos of the whole band, I wasn't my usual crystal clear self with my volunteer from the audience.  You'll have to trust me that from off screen left to offscreen right the ...'s are Dan Garcia, Tarzan, Arrica Rose, and Mark Thomas. 

Took a little road trip up to Ventura this past weekend with The Dots, always a cool crew to hang out with.  Ended up being a fun show and a really good trip on all fronts.  I'm writing this on Wednesday and the gig was last Saturday night, hopefully I can put this little brain of mine to work and remember some details.  My computer crashed hard last week and I'm finally getting around to doing this on Kirsten's laptop.  Hopefully I'll have it all fixed up soon and I can stay more on top of things. 

Travel Plans

So there were some minor logistics to deal with for this trip.  Dan and Arrica had offered to drive me there, but Dan's place is in downtown L.A. and I'm out in Marina Del Rey.  Plus, I was going to a BBQ at a friend's place in Reseda on Sunday.  The plan we came up with ended up working pretty well, here's what we did: I drove out to Reseda on Saturday afternoon and parked my car at the house where the barbecue would be the next day.  Dan and Arrica left downtown heading North and picked me up in the valley.  They drove me to Ventura, then were able to drop me off there on the way back the next day and pow, I was at the party.  Smooth. 

Gear
This was a perfect gig for the super small rig, Hartke combo amp, Precision bass, no pedals at all.  Brought a tiny little handheld tuner and that was it.  We were rolling without drums and playing real quiet music centered around an acoustic guitar in a real small venue.  Ideal for minimal gear so that's what I did. 
All the important tools, clockwise from bottom left; Fender bass, Hartke combo, Korg tuner (on top of amp), power strip, Newcastle, Blackberry Storm, and tamborine

Ventura
If you haven't been yet, Ventura is a lovely little beach town about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles.  Small, quaint, bookstores, antiquing, cozy, all that good stuff.  It was our second show up there and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Zoey's is a funky little restaurant/bar, upstairs, set off the main shopwalk by about fifty feet or so.  They have a cool wall of set lists that bands have put up over the years, I meant to snap a photo but of course forgot.  The people there are really friendly and cool, they threw us plenty of free drinks and gave 100% of the door to the bands, which is unheard of in L.A.  Wish I could remember the Sound Chick's name, she was great, took good care of us and was paying attention the whole time.  I got great reviews from friends out front about the sound, she did a killer job. 
The windows at the top look into the bar where we played.  Zoey's is a cool spot

Tone!

Sounded super cool from my seat!  Loved it!  Quiet music makes it so much easier to dial in a nice, rich, full bass tone.  Felt like I had the right amount of that woody, farty P-bass thing happening, it was really working for me.  Effortless playing evening, I LOVE those nights!  Plus, I resisted the temptation to overplay, kept it small, simple, transparent, let the tone and time do the work instead of the notes.  All fingerstyle by the way, not a pick in sight.  Sweet.  Picks are such a necessary evil to me, it's bitchin' when I don't need them.  My only sonic complaint is that I couldn't hear Arrica's guitar well enough.  She drives most of the songs, especially without drums, and I found myself having to crane my neck a bit to see her right hand moving to find the tempo in sections.  Otherwise, sounded great.  Dan to my right was switching between bandolins and percussion (he rocked a ratchet on one song that was friggin' awesome), that always adds such a cool flavor to the music, very different to what I usually hear.  And Mark was just tearing it up on the other side, he plays all this great textural color stuff, swirling delays, chiming bell tones, really nice guitar tones and playing.  The vocals were kickin' too, Arrica sounded great and I felt like I had my Harmony Guy hat on tight, we got rave reviews for our singing.  Her songs fit nicely in my range and it's fun to be the primary dude on the harmony front, I like to sing when it's working well.  And it was.  Cool. 

Set List

We used the exact running order of Arrica's recent EP Pretend I'm Fur, then followed that up with an older tune and a new one. 

Pillow on the Ground, Tragedy, Memphis, Be, Say Goodbye, Be Still My Heart, I'll Love You Forever (and Other Lies), Uh Huh, The Sunshine Again

Some Specific Memories

1- I think I mentioned that Dan rocked a ratchet on a song.  That song was Tragedy, a cover of the old BeeGees hit.  We start it out with everyone snapping on the offbeats before the music comes in, and Dan does this cool thing where he cranks the ratchet on the downbeat and snaps on the offbeats with us in between.  Makes this interesting pppptttttttt snap, ppptttttt snap cycle happen.  It's a crowd pleaser, the other bands all commented on how rad that was to use a common tool as a percussion instrument. 

2- Say Goodbye tripped me up a little.  I think I was getting too confident, it was all feeling so damn easy and I was in the zone.  Then I clammed a couple bad notes in this song, nothing horrible, I covered quickly, but it got me back to concentration mode again.  Too bad, it's got one of the cooler bass lines we do that Dan played on the record and I always have fun playing. 

3- There is no bass in I'll Love You Forever, but I did rock some tamborine and sing some harmonies.  Normally I just sit out on that song, Arrica switches to nylon string guitar, Mark trades his Tele for Arrica's acoustic and Dan plays some great melodic lines on his bandolin.  But we thought we'd get fancy this time out and I put a tamborine in my lap to hit with my right hand on the fourth beat of every measure during the choruses and the instrumental sections, dropping out for the verses.  Plus we added a harmony for me that isn't on the record but is more in my range than the super high part for the EP.  So I had some new tricks to do for this show.  Had to concentrate on the lyrics in particular, I was literally running them through my head during the verses while I wasn't playing or singing.  Then getting all them words correct and remembering to hit the tambo on the right beat was the challenge.  I got the lyrics and mostly got the tamborine, I think I missed the last hit of the first chorus.   Doh. 

4- The Sunshine Again is a tune I co-wrote with Arrica, always fun to play something I had a hand in creating.  It really felt like we connected with the audience with this one, the energy was happening, it was a really great set ender to me.  I got LOTS of compliments that night and the next day for that tune and was repeatedly encouraged to "do more writing."  I think songwriting is the most rewarding part of being a musician, for me anyway, so it's always the highest high for me to get compliments and encouragement on that front. 

The Grade

It was a great night for the band.  We missed Ryan on the drums of course, but it was still a really fun time.  I played well and sang well and my tone was good and the band was good and the room was fun and the audience was into it.  I did flub a couple notes though.  And I missed that tamborine hit.  I still say it's an A straight up, no minus, it was a good one. 

The After Party!
We hopped into the car and headed to Arrica's folks place in Augora Hills, roughly halfway home.  There were about twelve of us at the party I think, mostly Arrica's family members, and we had a blast.  Drank wine, told stories, laughed, stayed up late, all the stuff I like in a good party.  I may have gotten swept away in the energy and been a touch louder and goofier than usual, but I'm cool with that, it was a blast.  Good times. 

Up Next
I'm headed out to The Kibitz Room for Saucies Last Stand in a few hours.  The midnight slot has been fun, but I'm thinking we'll take a break before we do a month of those again.  Also, I may just skip the blog for tonight's show.  Computer time is short while my Mac is in the shop and I'm pretty worn out on Kibitz Talk.  Might save my blogging energy for the video Arrica is doing this weekend for Tragedy.  I'm playing the Toy Cowboy.  Can't wait :)

Coolio, thanks as always for reading, y'all rock!
-s

Jul. 23rd, 2009

#23- Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, 7-22-09

Episode #4 of "Saucy Rocks the Kibitz" is in the books.  Left to right the band is Roger Rabbit, Annmarie Cullen, Cynthia Catania, Megan Jane.  

 Ah, what a difference a week makes!  Big improvement in the sound at this week's residency gig at The Kibitz Room.  I think we may have found the correct way to position ourselves onstage to make everybody happy, including the audience.  I'm gonna really try to make this a short, mini-blog kinda entry, I'm a bit burned out on writing about The Kibitz Room and we've still got one week to go on our Wednesday Midnight's in July hunkering down at that joint.  

Playing the Shell Game
Let's start with the left to right band lineup I mentioned.  We've been experimenting with all sorts of configurations, taking into consideration that the further left (from the audiences perspective) you are, the worse the vocal monitors are.  Also, trying to keep key components near one another to lock in some tricky grooving sections and the fact that MOST of the audience is near the bar further off to the left.  Oh yeah, and also the fact that the further to the right the drums are, the less overpowering they are to the mix.  We've been juggling spots all through our current stay and for several gigs prior.  

Last night we were, from left to right, "Steve, Annmarie, Cynthia, Megan."  This worked for a number of reasons; having Cynthia and Megan near one another sets up the bands pocket very well.  They work together nicely with proximity and this always seems to set up a good groove for Annmarie and myself to climb aboard.  The drums are all the way to the right, this helps keep the mix less drum heavy by the bar and leaves room for the vocals in particular to be heard.  I'm a bit closer to Cynthia for some visual cues and general locking in, recently we'd been on extreme ends and that was trickier.  

There were only a couple little problems with this setup; with me in the far left spot, I'm more "out front" than I'd like to be.  I found myself trying to get small, bend down, make visual room for the girls to be seen.  Also, I'm now fully separated from Megan, not ideal for a rhythm section.  I had to concentrate, particularly in a few key spots, to stay locked in with her.  But the drums carry nicely in there and I felt like it went well, plus this distance made nice sonic space for my bass to be heard without all the cymbal sounds interfering with my ability to hear myself.  Annmarie mentioned that she was a little mad at her tone and I thought the wurli was just a smidge loud where I was standing, but still I think it worked, best setup we've found yet!  Finally!  

Gear and Tone

I took a chance and brought the Hartke combo again.  Last week was a bit of a sonic disaster for me and I debated bring my "medium" rig instead of this one.  But laziness and convenience won out, plus I knew I had dialed this amp up in this room before and it had sounded great.  I'll call it a challenge, but we know the truth.  Anyway, also brought the precision and the pedalboard.  As I mentioned, it ended up sounding great.  I had plenty of headroom, actually had to turn down a couple times to get the right sweet spot  happening.  It's a tricky balance, just a miniscule twist of a knob from Too Damn Loud and Way Too Quiet at all times.  Found it though!  Great!  ALWAYS so much more fun when the tone is buttery.  This was a good night, Doctor Jeckyl was in the pocket, picking some tasty notes, not overdoing it but enjoying the sound surfing.  After last weeks double whammy of crappy tones at Kibitz on Wednesday and at Trip with Flannel High on Friday, it was a nice break from the hack-and-slash bass butchering of Mr. Hyde.  I even felt like it sounded good enough to lose the pick for most of the set, although I did use one for a couple key sections that need that attack.  

The Set List
We mixed it up a bit this time around, some brand new stuff as well as some oldies but goodies.  We actually got a chance to rehearse this week so we were able to do some reviewing and worked one up from scratch.  Here's the list...

Makeup, Disco Ball, The Acrobat, Superstar, Change Your Mind, Ghosts, Alcohol, Flicker, All the Things.  

Some Moments Worth Mentioning

1- We pulled a couple tunes out of the toy box this week, Makeup and Change Your Mind.  Makeup felt like we put it in the wrong spot in the set to me.  Not an ideal opening, a little too light and fluffy for my taste.  It's a great one to whip out when the crowd is up and partying, but maybe not good to establish the band.  Felt a little misplaced.  Change Your Mind was great though, felt like we grabbed them with that one.  I always seem to have trouble with this little chordal turnaround at the very, very end of the song, so I did a little extra prep and made sure I had that section in my back pocket.  Nailed it.  

2- Brand spanking new tune called Alcohol got trotted out last night.  We sorta F-ed up the structure in a couple spots and bungled the ending, but it still went well.  We hammered out a cool arrangement at rehearsal, I think it's gonna be a winner and a great addition to the set in the future.  I like the bass line, it's a simple, unison pulse with the band in the verses, then an interesting, semi-walking bit for the choruses.  Sliding low-to-high figure in the bridge is fun and works for the song.  I'm digging the new tunes we've got, when we get around to recording again I think we'll have the goods.  

3- Flicker was really groovy to me.  We played it slower than usual and it totally worked, took on this particularly torchy, jazzy vibe.  I was able to really mute the strings and go for my best upright impression, tried to keep it minimal but found a few spots for tasty licks that weren't distracting.  One particular high on the neck moment in the last chorus was worth patting myself on the back over.  

4- All The Things had a funny moment, Cynthia's strap broke just as we're leaving the bridge and about to shift the time from the heavy, slower swing back to the more straight, upbeat, poppy pulse of the rest of the song.  Megan cues this with solo'd quarter notes on the kick drum for a measure, then Cynthia comes in with a "yeah-ee-aa-ahhh" that finishes the cue and moves us back into the rest of the song.  BUT.  Her strap was off and the kick drum pulse just kept going and Annmarie had to help Cynthia get her guitar back on.   So time is passing, the girls are struggling with the strap and the kick drum is bumping along like the Energizer Bunny and it was like a full minute or more of that when it's usually about five seconds.  When it was all put together and she kicked in with the "yeah-ee-aa-ahh" it was great, the crowd loved it and it was a fun moment for everyone.  
The Saucy Merchandise suitcase and mailing list.  Wanna buy a CD?  Please?  

Okay, How About a Grade and We Wrap This One Up
This was an A, no doubt about it.  The band was sounding good, I was playing well with a good tone, felt like my vocals were strong, the room was fun, we had some friends in the house despite the late hour (howdy Brian, Abby, Pam, Erin, Angie and some others I'm forgetting right now).  Bringing the curve back up with an A, go Me.  

Next Up
I'm off to Ventura this weekend to play an acoustic gig with Arrica Rose and the ...'s at Zoey's.  It's a really vibey spot in one of those "houses converted into a restaurant" kinda places.  Ventura is a lovely little beach town about an hour or so North of L.A. and we'll probably stay the night, either at Arrica's folks place nearby or possibly in a hotel.  Always fun to get up there, I'm looking forward to it.  

Okay, that's all I got.  Thanks as always for tagging along, talk to ya soon,
-s

Jul. 20th, 2009

#22- My Own Machine at Sunset Lodge recording studio, 7-19-09




 



The band in front of Sunset Lodge and "The Elliot Smith Wall".  Left to right Brent Hoffort, Abe Vigoda, Forrest Everett.  
 
My favorite power trio went into Sunset Lodge Studios yesterday to lay down basic tracks for a new record.  We've been working on preproduction for the last few weeks, getting the arrangements pinned down, working out parts, all that good stuff.  Some new songs, some old songs, we had ten total tracks to rock out in a twelve hour day.  The goal was primarily to get Forrest's drum tracks because we could always get bass,  guitars and vocals another time.  Still, we also wanted to TRY to get as many other keeper tracks as we could and capture some live energy.   

Arrival
So I pull up to the studio on West Sunset and of course the first thing I see is "The Elliot Smith Wall".  It was used on the album cover of his album Figure 8 (check it out here).  I must confess, in this age of digital downloads I own lots of Elliot Smith records via itunes, but I don't know any of the artwork cause I don't have a physical copy.  So the iconic image wasn't quite as impactfull as it might be on some.  Still, I'm a HUGE fan of his music and when I saw all the graffiti that fans had drawn on the wall and was told that it's a memorial site with candles and flowers and whatnot every year on the day of his death, that was moving.  Here's a wider shot of me in front of the whole wall...
 
Behind me is the front door to the studio, right in the middle of the wall.  Kinda weird to literally walk into an Elliot Smith album cover to make a record.  
 
Okay, once the touristy sightseeing was finished, we drove our cars around back and started loading in gear.  We all brought plenty of equipment, you never know what will come in handy on these marathon recording sessions.  I brought my Precision and Jazz bases, 8x10 SVT cab to mike up (I knew they had a bitchin' SVT head to use with it), my home studio bass rig (rackmounted UA LA610 comp/pre and a Sansamp RBI), pedalboard full of effects, and my red bag full of cables, batteries, tools, strings, etc.  

We met Chris, the owner and our engineer for the day.  Cool dude originally from North Carolina, came out west to skateboard in San Diego, spent time as a chef and is now a studio owner and operator.  He had his joint really well oiled and ready to go, very fast with great ears for our brand of loudness.  I meant to take a photo of the four of us but forgot.   Chris will show up in one or more shots below, but I didn't get the good, head on, "hey, this is Chris" photo I wanted.  And I call myself a blogger.  

Setup Details
So initially we tried setting up Brent and myself in the same room with the drums.  Our amps were isolated in other rooms and we were wearing headphones to monitor.  That lasted all of one song for me.  I needed to hear the bass better if I was going to play well.  I'm sure that doesn't shock you if you've been reading these entries.  That meant moving me into the control room.  Brent thought he'd be okay in the drum room and stuck it out for awhile, but later in the day we moved him to an isolation booth with his amp and that worked much better.  But I'll get to that.  

 
Forrest (standing) and Chris (sitting) getting the drum kit up and running.  This is the view from the doorway to the control room.  The iso booth where Brent ended up is behind Forrest.  


I love cool signal chains.  We got some bitchin', raspy, rock tones out of this sucker.  

 

The Bass Setup!!
Oh yeah, the good stuff :).  We got my SVT cab setup in the isolation booth and ran cables to "mission control" where the actual rig would be.  Chris set up two bass channels, one was the miked SVT and the other was my home studio direct line.  Check out the photo above, it was a pretty gnarly setup.

 

Okay, so let me run through the two bass channels.  Number one went into the Sansamp pedal sitting on top of everything.  The signal was split at that point, one line going to the strobe tuner on the bottom right (with the blue edges), the other going into the Ampeg/SVT amp at the bottom.  We ended up using the "bright 2" input channel on the Ampeg.  Notice the orange tape markings for ideal settings.  Then there was a LOOOONG mike cable to the iso booth and into my SVT 8x10 cab where it was miked up.  Forgot to ask what kind of mike he used and didn't take a photo, I know at least a couple of you that might have been interested in that.  I don't know squat about microphones so it didn't stick in my brain.  

Okay, that was the first channel.  Number two went into my rackmounted Sansamp RBI, the thin unit highest within the silver edged rack with the red glowing light.  Then out of the Sansamp into the high Z input of the larger unit below it with the big knobs, my Universal Audio LA610 for some additional tube grind and slight compression.  Then we sent that line to the board.  

(Yes, the font changes from here on out.  I can't fix it.  Kirsten fixed some other problems for me in the html code, but neither one of us wants to deal with the screwy font switch.  Ghosts I tell ya.  All these computers are haunted.  And begin new font, starting... )

We didn't end up using a "dry" signal, which some folks like to do.  I've NEVER ended up using those, would rather setup a cool blend of two channels, one cleaner than the other but neither completely unaffected.  That's what we did here.  Plugged in my P-bass and dialed in a really nasty, raspy, trashy, cool tone on the miked SVT.  Then coupled that with a cleaner but still gritty tone on the direct line.  We had a crazy good sounding Geddy Lee-ish "distortion with clarity" tone going, I was a huge fan of what we got.  The downside is we'll be stuck with this tone and won't be able to second guess our choices and reprocess a clean signal while mixing.  The upside is, it's SO MUCH MORE INSPIRING to lay down tracks when the tone you're hearing is greasy and has an appropriate vibe.  This band is rowdy and the tone felt really cool to me.  Hopefully it won't drive anyone crazy when we go to mix, but dammit, we were going for something and everyone was really digging it in the moment.  Guess we'll see.  I can always retrack at home if I need to, I can get cool sounds there too, but not that miked up SVT thing.  No isolation booths in our condo :). 

 

 Time To Hit Record!

Once the drums, bass and guitars were up and miked and the tones and monitoring situations were given everyone's seal of approval, it was time to dive in.  Here's the running order as best as I can remember it.  

 

Shape To Shift, NYC, Yeah Yeah Yeah, I Don't Wanna Let You Down, Now I'm Over, Florescent, Sing The Silence, Broken Back, Too Heavy, Blackfin Diamond.

Ten songs in twelve hours, including setup, lunch and dinner.  Tall order, but that's what we'd been prepping for.  I guess I'll go through each track and see what I can recall about the experience.  

1- Shape to Shift- First up is always tricky.  Everyone is getting used to their monitoring situation and getting a feel for the room.  This one is a really straight ahead, walking-paced, boom chuck kinda groove.  Mostly eighths on the bass with a couple cool slides but tried to stay real minimal here.  Used an up and down picking hand stroke rather than the more traditional rock thing where it's all downstrokes.  The notes were coming out more evenly that way.  Tried to really concentrate on steady, even, pulsing eighths, hitting the couple of stops and a few little chromatic passing tones and slides.  I was high on the cool raspy tone when we did this.  We put down three quick takes and decided to move on, agreeing that if we had time we'd come back and revisit at the end of the night.  We might end up getting more warmed up and used to the room and want another crack at this one.  

2- NYC- Another tune with a similar pace.  This was by design, Forrest wanted to start with the slower, less crazy tunes and warm up into the day.  This one does have a few more chord changes and some high octave stuff above the 12th fret for me.  I always seem to scew up the bridge changes too.  So we got a few passes and Forrest was nailing the drums down solid.  Did a quick listen and Brent noticed that my intonation was a touch wonky.  He was right.  Fortunately, he's a great guitar tech and quickly pulled out a phillips screw driver and got it all dialed in.  I felt bad, should have taken care of that myself before we got here.  Bad, lazy Steve.  Anyway, we decided the last drum pass was a keeper so I overdubbed a pass on the bass, got a real good one on the first take all the way through.  A little nerve racking to have everyone standing around watching you record, but I got in the zone and rode that cool tone to a pretty rad pass I must say.  

3- Yeah Yeah Yeah - This one is only one minute long, just a fast and furious verse/chorus/verse/chorus/ending.  Upbeat and manic, has a ton of punkish energy, really fun.  I think we did three passes of this tune and it went really well.  Trashy bass tone was especially appropriate feeling on this one.  I recall needing to get the feel of a couple of the bends and slides over the course of the first two takes, then putting it all together on the third.  

We took a quick lunch break for sandwiches across the street.  Also, at this point Brent was expressing that he was having trouble being out in the drum room.  He wanted to be next to his guitar amp so he could work the feedback with more control, plus, his headphones had to stay low so they wouldn't bleed into the drum mikes.  We decided that after lunch we'd switch things up.  My bass cab came out of the iso booth and was moved into the back room of the lounge.  Brent and his amp were moved into the iso booth.  I stayed in the control room but to accommodate the newly placed cab we'd need to shift the actual crazy preamp setup from the photo above into the control room where I was stationed.  Perfect!  Easier to reach.  

So, to recap;  Forrest is drumming in the drum room.  I'm bassing in the control room with the board and Engineer Chris.  Brent is now guitaring with his amp in the iso booth.  We can all see each other through the glass walls (Yes Kirsten, I know "bassing" and "guitaring" aren't actually words).  

Hey, how bout a photo of the board and some of the outboard gear, just cause I've got one!

 

 What you can't see is the awesome Pabst Blue Ribbon lamps dangling just above the board.  I actually did snap a photo but it was too blurry to bother posting here.  You'll have to trust me, they were magnificent.  


Where was I?  Oh yeah, the song by song rundown.  Okay, so we finished lunch, rearranged the setup, and dove into the next track.

4- I Don't Wanna Let You Down -
This was the first of several in drop-D tuning, so the E string gets tuned down a whole step.  It's a pocket song, a bit on the slow side, lots of eighth notes with some cool unison riffy parts with the guitar in spots.  I won't lie, we struggled a bit on this one.  I had Chris drop the click track out of my monitor and just concentrated on locking in with Forrest.  Felt like we were a touch swimmy in spots.  Also, this has a LONG jam at the end, we just rock in A for a few minutes after the song is essentially finished.  Live, this can go all kinds of crazy directions, we were hoping to capture some of that energy.  We did three takes, the first of which I just locked onto an A and let Brent and Forrest go nuts.  Second two takes I got into some more bits, went for some things, chords, riffs, runs, tried to pick up on what Brent was playing and follow along.  I'm curious to hear this when we go to listen back and review what we got in the coming weeks.  I'm suspicious it was the weakest performance of the days work.  

5- Now I'm Over - Staying in drop-D tuning, this is a really cool, dreamy song that came from WAY back in the archives until a couple weeks ago.  Brent pulled it out and I'd literally forgotten it existed till I heard it again.  I love the song, great lyrics, super cool melody and chords.  Unfortunately the first couple passes I was overplaying a bit, looking for some cool note choices in the choruses especially.  Chris recommended that I keep it simpler and it immediately felt better, he was totally right.  Last pass I left out the frills and concentrated on keeping the pocket alive and well, world of difference.   I think we got it good on that last pass.  

6- Flourescent - Also still in drop-D, this one is an upbeat, punkish, driving fun song.  Always has gotten good reviews when people have heard it in various demo stages over the years, it's a band staple.  We recently slowed it down, closer to the original tempo, it had kinda gone off to the races over time and was losing some impact.  Felt good to get it back where it belongs, still fast, still rocking, but not quite so over the top reckless.  Plus it's easier to play.  I'm not sure how I did on this, I seem to recall struggling a little to do anything particularly interesting.  Might not have been my most inspired performance of the day.  I think the drop D stuff is tougher for me, as some of you know I'm not a big fan of low string tension and what it does to the sound.  

7- Sing The Silence - Another cool, dreamy kinda number, might be my favorite song we do, some of Brent's best work as a writer if you ask me.  Back to standard tuning as well, so I was happy.   I think we settled into some great performances here, very sparse in the begining, adding tasty bits in small pieces throughout the song, crazy bridge section with tons of doom and gloom style energy, then it ends with a revisitation of the beginning with less space and more cool fills and runs.  After a couple passes, Chris started having some ideas for Forrest's part in the crazy bridge section and the two of them went on a long stretch to work out a cool arrangement for the drums in that part.  Added some groovy structure, gave it more of a sense of orchestration and purpose.  It was productive and totally worked, glad he spoke up and took charge.  He had a nice blend of "paying attention and offering opinions" on one side and "not being obtrusive" on the other.  Anyway, the tune turned out great, I have high hopes for that one.  

Dinner break!  Ordered pizza and chicken wings.  Crazy drunks were getting hassled by locals in the alley out back so we shut the door and locked things up.  Then, back to work, we had four hours to get the last three songs.  Hey, how about a couple more photos first...

                      

Some unrotated basses and guitars and me tracking NYC, I believe this was my single pass nailing of that tune, overdubbing with my just-intonated Precision.  



                     

Forrest behind his kit and Brent behind the glass in the isolation booth.  


8- Broken Back -  back down to dreaded drop -D for this one.  Okay, not dreaded, just not my fave.  This song is a total riff tune, something like Rage Against the Machine meets Black Sabbath, but not entirely like that.  But kinda.  In the sense that Brent and I are doubling a bitchin' riff for most of the song.  I really try to lock in with Brent, bend the note exactly how he does, slide up to the tenth fret for the end of the riff right with him, make it sound like one big ballsy instrument is rocking that riff.  It's a heavy track, Chris was digging it and I think we rocked it out pretty damn good.  This one has a big, long jam section in the middle where I just keep plugging the riff Tim Commerford-style while Brent and Forrest go kinda apeshit.  It's different every time, although we typically break it down and get super mellow a few minutes in.  This one can really go off the deep end in rehearsals and sometimes at shows, we were trying to get that sense happening here but without making it fifteen minutes long.  More like six hopefully.  I think we got a killer pass on take two of four, but I'm not sure.  Another one I'm anxious to hear.  

9-  Too Heavy - This is the newest song we did, just started working on it a couple weeks back.  We're up to standard tuning again, and it's in the Chili Peppers vein of cleanish guitar, funky-ish beat and active, pulsing bassline.  This was probably my favorite performance of the session, I think I nailed some cool parts, some hooky walking bits, a couple high sliding things.  Got my groove on too, felt like I was in the pocket and making music.  That raspy tone was just singing for me, it all felt real easy.  Chris had a groovy idea of dropping the bass out in the last verse and having me hit some tasty accents in the holes.  I ad- libbed some cool stabs and a re-entry that ended up being really smokin'.  I'm gonna push for lots of bass in the mix of that one, I think it might be my best "feature" type tune.  

10- Blackfin Diamond- Last but not least was a song I didn't even have to play on, sweet!  I was done for the day.  Forrest was overdubbing a drum track to the pre-existing recording so my bass track was already done.  I sat in the control room while he and Chris got to work on how it was gonna go for a bit, then headed to the store for a six pack of beer.  Reward time for a hard day of fun work.  Forrest ended up bringing a new flavor to the track, more Pink Floyd than tribal, more airy than tom-heavy.  I think it's an improvement and really made the song jump out of the speakers more to me.  

And that was it.  We pulled it off and I think we got some good tracks to work with.  We'll do some comping and compiling of the official keeper drum tracks in a couple weeks when Forrest gets back from Europe.  Then we can see how much of my and Brent's parts we can keep.  But for now, the heavy lifting is done.  I love this part of record making, you never know which of these sessions will turn into something life-changing.  The sky is the limit when it's all being put together, energy and expectations are high and we're all wondering how it will turn out.  

Some quick, obscure code words for funny shit that happened- "Mother!", The fart CD (tears), Kermit sings "Hurt", "Running With the Devil" on acid, "ain't my chair, ain't my problem."  You had to be there, but trust me, we laughed...

Okay, I'm done for now.  I've got Saucy at The Kibitz this Wednesday and Arrica Rose and the ...'s at Zoey's in Ventura on Saturday.  I MIGHT take a break from blogging after Wednesday's show, not that much left in my brain to say about the Kibitz.  Or maybe I'll try to make it super damn crazy short and just touch on a couple things.  We'll see.  

Thanks as always for reading, talk soon!
-s

 


Jul. 18th, 2009

#21- Flannel High at Trip, 7-17-09

 

 
Flannel High is (left to right) Tony Gray, Doug Heffernan, Dan Nelles, Jack Tripper.  The other photo below is more well lit, but I wanted to be wearing my funky hat in the one at the top.  I have that kind of power around these parts.  Total creative control over photo placement.


Rocked up some 90's grunge covers last night with the boys in Flannel High!  Club in Santa Monica called Trip, never been there before, new territory to conquer, or more accurately, new boomy low-end to be confounded by.  

Let's Start at The Top, Shall We?
I arrived to a good, juicy, right-up-front parking spot.  Always a good sign, particularly when loading in the Big Bass Rig.  Met Kirk, who works for the promoter Donavan and was handling the door duties for the evening.  Checked out the room, it was pretty small and appropriately grungy for our set.  One room on a corner in Santa Monica across the street from a Jack in the Box.  Black walls, some tables and chairs, the stage, a bar, some bathrooms, some neon beer signs on the wall and a few flyers by the door, that's about it for decor at Trip.  Fine with me, I was raised on these semi-divey rooms.  

After the first acoustic group wrapped things up, we loaded in our gear.  The stage was reasonably large for a room this small, kinda surprising actually.  I got my SVT 8x10, Ashdown head, pedal board and P-bass all plugged in and ready to roll fairly quickly.  Brought out the big setup cause I thought the room was gonna be larger based on what I'd heard.  

Heat Wave

It was HOT up there under the lights, damn!  I tried to wear my goofy grunge hat, but it lasted all of one song.  We were seriously cooking from the start, I think I must have sweated off ten pounds.  I did my best to replace the lost fluids with Newcastle, maybe not the best way to rehydrate but it was fun.  
 
 
I told you the lighting was better in this shot!  We need to get Dan a "Flannel High" kick drum head.  Or a banner or something like that.  

Rumble In The Jungle
Okay, I'll get right to it here, the sound was pretty rumbly in this place.  Doesn't help that F.H. tunes our guitars down a whole step to facilitate our need to hit some of the crazy high vocal bits.  All those low tones can get lost in the wrong room and apparently Trip is one of those.  I really struggled to dial in a tone and eventually just gave up and went with the flow.  Literally felt like I was pantomiming a couple times, just flailing my right arm up and down and trying to pretend I was playing in time.  Not pretty.  Did my best to correct that awful behavior when it came up, tried to minimize my motions and trust my muscle memory to kick in and at least try to play with some touch.  Same with the vocals, I couldn't hear myself singing much at all.  Doug's guitar and Dan's crash cymbals were both at ear level on my side of the stage so that didn't help matters much.  WHY DIDN'T I PUT IN MY EARPLUGS!!  DAMMIT!!  I'm sure that would have been the best troubleshooting move for the evening.  I think the sound was projecting nicely out into the room, but I was too damn close to all the sound sources for them to ring clearly where I was standing.  I heard it sounded relatively good out front, I just needed to figure out a better way to cut out all those obnoxious frequencies and earplugs are perfect for that.  Crap.  

Ticketmaster Sucks
Right before leaving the house for the gig I decided to take a marker to my white undershirt and write "Ticketmaster Sucks" on it, in tribute to Pearl Jam's classic confrontation with that outfit back in the 90's.  I thought it was funny.  Some people agreed.  Some people gave me a blank stare when I called attention to it.  Throughout the night I occasionally  yelled "Ticketmaster sucks!!!" into the mike.  Good bit or bad?  You be the judge.  I think I ruined a perfectly good shirt over the gag.  I say it was worth it.  If you look real close at the more well-lit of the photos you can kinda see the lettering.  

Set List
Two sets for this one, it was a great chance to work up a lot of our repertoire.  We technically have about eight more songs than these, but we haven't been practicing most of them lately.  

SET ONE-
Everything Zen, Sex Type Thing, Cherub Rock, Alive, I Alone, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Creep, My Hero.  

SET TWO-
Plush, Low, Would, Hey Man Nice Shot, Heart Shaped Box, Sober, Medley, Even Flow.  

Set two has most of the "tuned super low" songs that I discuss in the next section.  From "Hey Man" on it's ixnay on the ingstray entiontay.  That's pig latin Kirsten, you'll have to trust my spelling if I've roped you into proofreading this entry.  

Some Specific Song Memories

-The three songs I did some extra listening to for this gig were I Alone, My Hero, and Heart Shaped Box.  The first two for structure memorization stuff and the last one for the subtleties of specific bass parts.  Krist Noveselic of Nirvana doesn't get enough credit for laying down some interesting note choices and tones on all that classic stuff that band recorded.  Very underrated player, check out the bass next time you hear some Nirvana on the radio.  His choices are unusual and very cool and definitely add some depth to the more obvious contributions of Kurt and Dave.  Lots of bends and weird interval hops for what are basically (brilliant) punk songs.  

-Speaking of Nirvana, I really played badly in Teen Spirit.  Hit my maximum density for flailing and sucking.  That song has a great rhythmic propulsion happening, especially in the choruses, and I got caught up singing the doubled melody and mentally whining about my crappy tone.  Need to dig in and nail that chorus part better in the future.  Slop city.  

-Hey Man Nice Shot is a real bitch to play tuned down this low, the hardest on our list.  This is one of the songs where we all tune down our E strings an additional whole step, so that sucker is a C.  The string tension is so loose that it's tricky to get the syncopated, pulsing sixteenth notes to groove, especially since they all happen on that particular string.  It's hard enough in standard tuning, hitting the accents in the right spots and getting it to feel right.  I really tried to dig in and concentrate and I THINK by pure physicality I was able to muscle it up and make it work, despite the fact that what I was hearing and feeling was not at all how I wanted it.  None of the other songs where we get that E down to a C require that kind of pulse on just that  string, so this one stands out and is a real thorn in my side.  

Walking on Broken Glass
To back up my theory that the low frequencies were rumbling the room, not one but TWO full glasses of beer vibrated off the ledge on the side of the stage and crashed to the floor mid-song.  Broken glass, wet cables, wasted alcohol.  Tragic on all levels.  We cleaned it up pretty good on the break, but still.  Next time I'll position those much better.  

Where the magic happened.  The single most nondescript club front on Earth.  Could have been someone's house, if that someone really liked Coors Light and was willing to hang some neon signs in his window to prove it.  At least they are only 33 steps from one of Jack's Spicy Chicken sandwiches...

What?  Huh?  Say Again?  (Nod and Smile)
I gotta admit, I really prefer the clubs with multiple rooms.  I like to finish our set and then go mingle with our friends in the next room when we're done.  So hard to hear what people are saying when the next band goes on and they are almost always obnoxious and awful.  When I go see my friends play it's the same deal.  I enjoy watching and listening to their set, but I DO NOT typically enjoy having to shout out conversation over the crappy act that follows.  Molly Malone's is great for this, their front room is the perfect post-gig hang.  Trip, unfortunately, was a prime culprit in the Why Bother Even Trying To Talk category.  Nowhere to go either, just a big loud box full of my friends, some booze, and a wall of sound making it oh so difficult to communicate.  "Huh?"

The Grade
Bad tone.  Mostly bad playing.  Probably sang poorly but I couldn't hear myself well enough to tell.  Performed well, got my rock pose happening.  Had fun with the boys.  On the other hand, it's a party band, not a finely-tuned precision machine.  The grunge music we're covering is by nature loose and jammy.  But I can't lie, it wasn't a good night for me musically.  C-, saved from the dreaded D or worse by my cool "Ticketmaster Sucks" shirt.  There really are no rules to this grading thing.  

Up Next
Going into the studio tomorrow for an all day session with My Own Machine.  Hoping to nail the basic tracks for ten songs in a single day.  Twelve hours to get 'er done.  Should be lots of fun and it's doable if we don't dilly dally too much.  I'm going to bed early and heading in as rested as I can be.  

Okay, that's all I got for today, gonna sign off now.  Thanks for tuning in, have a great week!

-s
 


 

Jul. 16th, 2009

#20- Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, 7-15-09

 

Saucy Monky, left to right, Megan Jane, The Earl of Sandwich, Annmarie Cullen, Cynthia Catania.  This order will become relevant further down the page.  

Part three of our exciting five week stint at The Kibitz Room in Hollywood was last night.  Another successful venture I must say.  Despite the midnight start time, I'm having a good time with this weekly residency thing.  Of course I don't have to drive all the way back to San Diego after the show and work early Thursday every week like our poor drummer Megan.  She's a champ.  

This will undoubtably (hopefully) be a record-settingly short entry, as I'm running out of things to say about The Kibitz Room.  Plus I've got a show tomorrow and a recording session Sunday, both of which I'd like to blog myself silly about.  Guess we'll see how this one goes, maybe I'll uncover a topic or two worth some attention.  

Let's Start Things Off With...
The weird stage!  Kibitz has one of those stages where you have to line up left to right, no depth at all.  That makes drummer placement particularly different, since they are typically back behind the rest of the band.  Also, Cynthia with her Wurlitzer, pedalboard and multi-mike setup isn't easy to place comfortably.  We've tried many of the 24 possible lineups and haven't really found the best answer yet (4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24, right?  I don't remember much from my college statistics classes, but I think that's how that works).  Starting long before our residency began, we've rearranged nearly every time we've played here.  Moving left to right, we first tried "Cynthia, Annmarie, Megan, Steve".  The girls had trouble hearing their vocals from that side of the stage, although Megan prefers to have me on her hi hat side so that part of it was good.  We've also done "Steve, Megan, Annmarie, Cynthia", that one kinda freaked out Megan to have us yanking her time around from opposite sides.  Last night was "Megan, Steve, Annmarie, Cynthia", that was okay, but having Megan and Cynthia so far apart wasn't ideal because they play together on some of our trickier sections and it would be nice to have them closer so they can lock in better.   

I'm officially suggesting for next week either "Steve, Annmarie, Megan, Cynthia" or "Steve, Annmarie, Cynthia, Megan".  Annmarie would be towards, but not in, the worst monitoring area for vocals, but we'd get Megan and Cynthia next to each other.  Hmmmm. Still problems.  I'm not on Megan's hi hat side for starters.  This is a bit of a puzzle, I'll keep you posted, I know you're fascinated.  

editors note- after writing this bit I got an email confirming that next week will indeed be "Steve, Annmarie, Cynthia, Megan."  Results to follow after that show.  

Bass Tone Troubles
It won't be unusual for me to bitch about my tone, but it does seem kinda strange that it was crappy in the same room where it's been pretty good before.  Oh Sound Waves, how you thwart me with your unpredictable and irreverent ways.  I couldn't find it last night.  Brought the Hartke, P-bass and pedalboard, as I've been doing.  Just couldn't dial it in.  Felt like I didn't have the headroom I wanted.  So weird, I've had plenty of power the last few times we were there.  Maybe it's cause Megan was to my right and directly in front of a mirror, perhaps the drum sound was reflecting and interfering with my precious low end (my precioussssss)?  I kept bumping up the low end, felt like I wasn't "filling up the room" the way I wanted.  Cynthia asked me to turn up and I agreed that there just wasn't enough happening on the bottom.  But as the EQ changed and I bumped the level, it just got more distorted and didn't really take flight how I wanted it to.  Bah.  Should I bring my Ashdown/SWR 4x10 combo next time?  Feels like overkill for this little room.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I'll try the Hartke one more week and see if I can come up with a sonic solution.  It's been great in previous weeks, maybe the new left to right stage alignment will help.  

Auto Pilot
The good news is, my muscle memory kicked in and I think I played pretty well despite the turd-o-riffic tone.  That's rare for me, usually when the tone is bad I go on a multi-state "clanking and clamming" rampage and the night is ruined.  Not this time, I think the groove was still happening despite what I was hearing.  Progress Giles, progress.

Set List
It was a short one, they overbooked the night so we had to squeeze in less than our usual ten song set.  We managed to play the following before it was time to pack it in;

Acrobat, Everybody Wants Something More, Solid Ground, Ghosts, 5 South, Trapped, No One's Here Anymore.  

So that's seven tunes, we only lost a few.  Still.  Felt very truncated.  Like these sentences.  Cut short.  We were just hitting our stride when the jig was up.  There, that felt better.  

Some Song-By-Song Thoughts
I thought we played pretty well, despite not having the ideal sonic setup.  Acrobat started things off strong, that's always a fun one.  I get to do some fun wah stuff on the bass and Cynthia hits the wurli in the breakdown section.  

-Everybody Wants  has been out of the rotation for awhile, it was refreshing to trot that one out again.  Three part harmonies in the chorus went well too.  

-Solid Ground also has the three part thing happening, and Megan laid down a groovy, rock solid swing beat under Annmarie's lead vocal.  I sometimes get a bit overzealous with the slides and fills and runs in this song, the nasty swing gets me carried away.  I think that was the case again last night, but it was still fun.  

-Ghosts
is a relative newbie that I've talked about before.  I think that tune suffered a bit from Cynthia and Megan being separated on stage, I felt like they didn't quite get on the same page of the pocket and I was caught in the middle a touch.  That will be better if we can position them closer together in the future.  Totally dig the song, it's on the short list of "record me" songs for the band.

 -Another on that list is 5 South, which went well last night.  I love the bouncy vibe in the choruses and the moody, slinky feeling in the verses.  Has a really interesting structure that has been slowly working itself out over the last few months.  

-Trapped is another one we haven't played in ages, this one was recently featured in the Independant Film "And Then Came Lola" so we thought it would be a good time to perform live.  GREAT song, very dark and introspective, Annmarie really pours her heart out on that one.  Unfortunately playing the midnight slot doesn't make for the most sensitive listeners on earth and there was a distracting amount of bar conversation happening during the "guitar and vocals only" sections.  Damn whisky bars.  On the bright side, Cynthia SURPRISED THE CRAP OUT OF ME when she started playing some bitchin' harmonica, I think in the second verse.  I didn't know she could even play the harp and I certainly didn't know she was going to whip it out on this tune.  So funny, I had one of those "do I hear a harmonica?" moments before I looked over and saw her playing it.  I think I actually had a question mark appear over my head.  Loved it, hope we get more chances for that, although I'll probably suggest to the band that we leave the really quiet songs on the sidelines for the remainder of our stay at The Kibitz.  

-Last song was "No One's Here Anymore" from our last EP Between the Bars.  High energy tune, great closer, lots of cool guitar effects and some punchy changes.  This one would also benefit from Megan and Cynthia being nearer one another, but still worked pretty well.  Everyone boned up on the arrangement this week and we played it with more confidence than we have been recently.  

That was interesting.  My first actual tune-by-tune brief comments effort.  Maybe I'll keep that one around, it was kinda fun for me.  
 
 
Thought I'd squeeze in one more photo just for those of you who mostly just look at the pictures :)  If you've ever been to Canter's or the Kibitz Room these photos probably elicit the smell of pastrami sandwiches.  They sell em in the deli next door and they are seriously world class.  

The Grade
Played well, sang well, tone sucked.  Performed pretty well too, I felt comfy on stage despite the limited space to work with.  These are tough ones to judge cause really the SOUND should be the most important thing, what people are actually hearing, no?  But I really did play well, almost no mistakes, time felt solid.  I think I'll give myself credit for actually rising above a crappy tone and playing through the pain.  B+.  Pow.  

Next Up
Flannel High this Friday night at Trip in Santa Monica, never been to that club, looking forward to it.  Two sets (9:30 and 10:30) of 90's grunge tribute shenanigans, should be a hoot.  Then on Sunday, My Own Machine is going into the studio to lay down basic tracks for our upcoming record, I plan on chronicling bits of that long journey that starts up this weekend.  

One final note, yesterday was Kirsten and my ninth wedding anniversary, and I'm beyond-words grateful for so many things about my beautiful wife, but I think it's particularly appropriate to point out here how amazing she has been putting up with all my musical adventures over the years.  Not just putting up with them, actually more like joining in and enhancing the fun on every level.  We celebrated the night before our anniversary this year.  Why, you ask?  Because on the day itself I had a 7pm rehearsal and a midnight gig.  That's how things roll these days in the Giles house, and that's how my girl is, encouraging her 42 year old hubby to keep chasing his dreams and aspirations and enjoying the ride right along with him.  We're a great team and I'm a lucky guy.  Happy anniversary Jelly Bean, best nine years of my life in a landslide!  She also typically does a proofreading pass of these here blogs and cleans up my misspellings, so I think I'd like to add that I sure do loev yuo :)

Okay, I'll leave y'all on that sentimental note.  As always thanks for indulging me and reading these things, I'm having a great time with it so far :)

Talk soon,
-s

Jul. 13th, 2009

#19 - Grubb Street in Oregon, July 9,10,11 2009



Grubb Street - left to right on stage- Steve Holst (guitar) Dom DesRosiers (vocals), Marc Carlson (drums), Sven Nilsson (guitar), and Abraham Lincoln (bass)

 Another week, another whirlwind of travel and gigs up North.  Hot on the heels of last week's trip up to Alberta, Kirsten and I flew up to Oregon for three nights of fun with my old college band Grubb Street.  We've been doing annual reunion shows for the last three years and it looks like the tradition is going to stick.  Everyone had a blast, the shows were fun and we probably played better than we have in years.  Lots of old friends came out of the woodwork and I got a chance to see plenty of family as well.  A great trip for sure.  I'm going to break my usual format again and subdivide this entry by each of the three days.  

Thursday - Rehearsal in Eugene

Figuring out some songs in an empty building in downtown Eugene.  Check out the greenery out the windows, gotta love Oregon!

Kirsten and I landed in Portland in the early afternoon, grabbed our rental car and headed South on the five freeway to Eugene, the city where I grew up.  Lived there from ages 4 till about 24.  I've been back several times, but not for five years or so and only for very, very brief bits.  When we got to town, we did a quick detour through my old neighborhood where I spent my youth.  2495 Snelling Drive is the spot.  I think I can still remember our old phone number, 687-8395?  I think?  Anyone wanna confirm or deny that?  This was in the days before area codes had any meaning to me at all by the way.  Anyway, it was great to see the old stomping grounds.  The tree in our old yard that we planted way back in the day is HUGE now.  They filled over the pot holes we used to use as end zone markers for our street football games.  After a childhood of screeching tires and (mostly) near misses, the city finally put in a stop sign at the corner of Chuckanut and Snelling.  Some day I really want to go back inside that old house and poke around but the timing wasn't right on this day.  Live in one place for that many years and it gets imprinted on your DNA, I'm curious to see how those rooms feel from the perspective of a 42 year old dude.  We drove all around the neighborhood, I was pointing out who lived where when I was a kid.  Turns out a bunch of those peeps would be at one or the other of these shows we were about to play.  

But enough with the nostalgia trip, we had a rehearsal to get to.  Headed into downtown Eugene to an empty building our friend Tim hooked us up with.  Along the way I was really noticing how many of the landmark buildings had changed.  Lots of "that used to be a..." and "right there used to be a...".  Same blueprint for the city but someone switched all the buildings.  Wherefore art thou Mayfair Market...

So, after arriving at the rehearsal site, saying howdy to Marc, Sven, Dom, and the other Steve (Holst), plus our friends Tim, Bob, and Kent, we got everything plugged in and started jamming through our three sets of material.  One night, thirty songs, it was a lot of work to do for sure.  

The Set List
The songs would be the same for both nights, so I'll give you all three sets here.  The idea was first set is a mellower "dinner set" vibe, middle sets picks up the energy and the third has more craziness to whip the crowd into a frenzy.   That was the idea anyway.  We ended up switching things around slightly each night so these aren't exact, but they are close.  

Set One
Bittersweet, One Headlight, Hey Hey What Can I Do, Steal My Kisses, American Girl, I Shot The Sheriff, Rain King, Wonderwall, Yellow

Set Two
Hey Jealousy, The Difference, Seattle, Steady As She Goes, What I Got, The Real World, The Middle, Nearly Lost You, Aiko Aiko, Franklin's Tower

Set Three

Santeria, Melt With You, Mr. Brightside, Two Princes, Beverly Hills, Dancing With Myself, Sedated, Blister in the Sun, Turning Japanese, Train in Vain, I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.

Originals
We had planned on doing an original song in each set but only ended up doing one.  Sven has a really cool song called "Something Like Cyranno" that we opted out of because the arrangement is pretty complicated with lots of changes and we quickly realized at rehearsal that it was gonna need more work than we had time for if we wanted to get it right.  His other song we were gonna do is GREAT, it's called "Doomtown" and has super cool lyrics and a dark-but-energized vibe.  It got moved out of the first set because it was a little on the dark side for the mood, but it never got subbed back in later like we wanted.  I Probably should have pushed harder to make that happen, it's a killer song and I like the idea of playing more originals as a band, one per set seems like a good minimum.  We did end up playing my tune "Seattle" and I was really pleased at how well it went over.  People danced and sang along and I got lots of props throughout the weekend, always nice.  Also, it's a very, very easy song to play, just a few chords and a beat, so it was a piece cake for the band to jam on.    

Dancing With Myself
Who knew three chords could be so tricky?  This Billy Idol hit from the 80's seemed on paper to be a really easy addition to the set this year.  Seriously, three chords, that's it.  But the changing sequences those chords are put together in makes it a tricky one to memorize.  I finally gave up and charted it on the plane ride.  The plan ended up being that I would "conduct" the band and give lots of cues for when we would switch sections and hold notes and whatnot.  My cues didn't get translated perfectly and we ended up sort of feeling our way through the song.  It was pretty reckless and loose, but people seemed to dig it anyway.  Here's the chart I made for those of you interested in such things...
Thats' right, nothing but E, A, and B chords.  As you can see, my style of charting is not all that sophisticated but it works for me once I've got the feel in my head.  Just little reminders about each section.  And no, I can't seem to rotate this photo.  Boo!  Tried twice and gave up.  My computer crashed a couple weeks back and apparently when I got my new hard drive I no longer have iphoto, which I used for this task previously.  I WILL figure out another way to rotate photos, I promise.  

So, we wrapped up rehearsal late, packed all the gear into the U-Haul trailer that Marc had rented, and headed back to Lisa and Kent's place to crash (sister and brother-in-law).  

Friday - The Cooler in Eugene


Crappy photo I know, but if you look close you can see the A-Frame of the exterior of The Cooler.  At least the light sorta makes the letters readable.  To the left is the beer garden/ barbecue area they set up for the reunion.  You can kinda see the fence.  Kinda.  Sorry.  



Spent some quality time with my nephew Derek on Friday morning :) 

Woke up to a great egg breakfast and some hanging out time with my nephew Derek.  He seemed very interested in playing my bass, which I think shows his outstanding taste.  His brother Jacob was at camp, so we got some good one-on-one time.  Played the board game Sorry and rocked some NCAA football on his X-Box.  I did NOT let him win, he needs to learn the hard way that life doesn't give you any handouts and more importantly that Uncle Steve is a bad mofo.  

Followed that up with a great (but brief) driving tour of Eugene with Kent.  Hit a bunch of my old haunts from back in the day, some places I lived, places I worked, checked out the whole scene.  It was a nice bookend to the drive through my old neighborhood I did with Kirsten when we first got to town on Thursday.  
Then it was time to head down to the bar and get everything set up for the show.  Marc brought his P.A. system (with some rented additions) in the U-Haul and we got to work getting the stage put together.  The "stage" was actually a fold down drawbridge-style cover over a couple pool tables that worked very well              
 
Ack!  Rotation problems again!  Drat!  Okay, sorry, if you tilt your head sideways you can see on the top is the Carvin amp and cabs that I used courtesy of drummer Marc and his U-Haul of Endless Musical Equipment (Bigby eat your heart out).  On the right is my minimalist pedal setup I brought, the Sansamp Bassdriver DI and Boss tuner.  Also had my Boss EQ pedal with me but the amp had a great graphic EQ so I didn't need to use it.  

Reunion Time
The reason for our Eugene stop was to celebrate the 20 year reunion for Marist High School.  BUT it was an unofficial event and open to the public, lots of folks of different ages and from different schools showed up.  They had a great barbecue and beer garden set up out front, all you could eat or drink for everyone who bought the $20 bracelet, and also, fortunately, for band members and their wives.  We took advantage on all fronts, it was a great setup.  Kent was the primary organizer for the event and it went really smooth, he did a bang-up job of throwing the party.  

 
We had a great crowd on Friday night, lots of dancing and whooping and hollering.  I took the shot on the bottom from the stage during our first break.

Riding the Feedback Express
Things got off to a rocky start when we started hearing this subtle low-end feedback.  Fortunately, my friend Duke was in the house and he charged in like a champ and helped figure out the problem.  Wasn't a simple fix, couldn't just roll off the lows on the board.  Tried all kinds of things, towels under mike stands, repositioning mikes and monitors, lowering the volume on the sub-woofer, shifting the mains around.  Finally, Duke and our guitarist Sven found low-end gain controls on the monitors  themselves and that seemed to do the trick.  Phew.  We were all most grateful for Duke's help, the band definitely wouldn't have sounded as good without it!  

The night ended up being a great success, got to see lots of old friends, play some fun music with the boys, the crowd was really, really into it, big fun on all fronts.  Great food, beer and a couple rounds of shots from the bar manager Phillip didn't hurt either.  Good times.  Had a late night breakfast at Shari's with Kirsten, Kent and Lisa then called it a night.  

Saturday - The Dublin Pub in Beaverton (Portland)

 
Hmmmm.  Technically the Establishing Shot should have gone up first but I don't feel like reloading both photos.  Deal with it.  At least they don't need to be rotated.

Up Saturday morning, Kent made a run for delicious breakfast burritos, played some more X-Box with the nephews (Jacob wasn't in camp this time so he was in on the party).   Got things packed up into the rental car and headed North towards Portland.  

I Can't Drive 55
Got myself a juicy speeding ticket on route.  Sigh.  I was going 83 in a 65 mph zone.  Got a little greedy trying to make good time.  It was my own fault, but do they really need to charge $242?  I mean really?  Kinda put a damper on my otherwise hungover-but-happy mood.   Did manage to slow way the F down for the remainder of our stay though :)

Aurora

We made a pit stop at my Mom's place in Aurora, just South of Portland.  Lovely, quaint little antiquing town, you'd love it.  Had a nice, brief visit, saw my step-father Gary's amazing new garden in the back yard, got all caught up on goings-on and current events.  Throw in a quick nap and it was a very refreshing stop.  Hi Mom, I know you read these, great to see you guys, sorry we couldn't stay longer!  We also noticed that our rental car had thrown a hubcap on the trip and since we didn't purchase the extra insurance I figured we should expect a big hefty fine upon it's return.  Bam.  Rough weekend for transportation costs I must say.  

Oh Yeah, The Gig!

We headed into Beaverton around 6pm to get things set up.  The band after us had cancelled so we planned on starting a little late, stretching out the breaks, and finishing a little late.  Perfect pace for me.  Especially the breaks, I hate it when they are sticklers for fifteen minute breaks, too short.  Pee, refill beer, sit down for thirty seconds, and it's time to hit it again.  Not this time though.  Loved it.  

Used the same gear but didn't have to set up the P.A. cause they've already got one happening.  The Dublin is our old stomping ground from the 80's, we used to come up all the time when we were in college in Eugene and play, mostly cause they paid really, really well.  Then in the 90's we'd occasionally put together shows even though Sven and I were living in Los Angeles, made for a good excuse to get together and get back home.  But at some point ten years went by and we didn't play at all before a few Summers ago when we set up the first official "Reunion" show.  It's becoming a real tradition that I totally enjoy.  Hope we're still doing this twenty years from now.  

The bad news on Saturday is that it couldn't possibly live up to the crazy fun that was Friday.  We had less  (but still SOME) road-trippers because most of our Eugene peeps went the night before and couldn't make both.  Plus we were competing with a Coldplay concert that scooped away a bunch of friends, AND a Tears For Fears show in town that nabbed a few more.  We ended up with a relatively mellow night, but still had all kinds of fun.  Just not as rowdy. 

Surprise Guests
Had a few surprise attendees, a couple of which I literally hadn't seen in twenty four years.  Wow.  Never thought I'd be old enough to say "Scott Kealoha, dude, I haven't seen you in twenty four years" and mean it.  Crazy.  Also had lots of family in the house, Dad and Jean, Mom and Gary, some new in-laws, and a handful of great friends as well.  Nice thing about a smaller crowd is you get to spend a bit more hang-time with everybody.  

I think we played better, which isn't surprising since it was the third night in a row we'd run through the sets.  Bound to get, if not tight, at least tighter.  Give us a couple weeks to work out some endings and we could be a pretty good band!  

A Quick Paragraph About Bass Crap
Just realized I haven't talked much about my usual bass-centric stuff.  That's fine, these multi-day travel entries lose some of that edge, which is probably better for some of you and less interesting for others.  You know who you are.  Well, if I was to hit it with broad strokes, the weekend was a winner from the bass perspective.  Marc's Carvin rig sounded great, particularly with my Sansamp pedal adding some tube grind to the signal.  I got multiple compliments about the sound out front.  I found myself struggling a bit settling on a proper volume, similar to the Saucy gig last Wednesday.  Too loud?  Too quiet?  Not in the P.A., maybe I should turn up?  Don't wanna drown out Sven's guitar, maybe I should turn down?  Back and forth like that.  But the tone was real good, particularly when I abandoned the fingerstyle thing and went all out with the pick, which happened about halfway through the set Friday night.  I hit most of the songs pretty well, missed a few of the song structure things and didn't sing particularly well.  Couldn't hear my voice on Friday night so I ended up backing off a lot.  Saturday was better, managed to have some vocal moments, particularly on "Seattle" and "Steady as She Goes".   Generally played well, especially Saturday, felt free, in the pocket, riding the wave and the good stuff that makes it worth while.  

So the show was good from a musical perspective and kinda blah from an attendance perspective.  That room can hop if there are enough bodies, and although we did get some peeps up and dancing, it was pretty low on the overall crazy scale.   

Mike!
One highlight I forgot to mention was our pal Mike Flynn got up both nights and sang "Two Princes" by the Spin Doctors.  He sings most of that song and Dom does the bridges, it's a cool moment people dug it.  Mike sounded great and it's always a cool flashback to the OOOOOOLD days when Mike used to sing with the original acoustic version of the band before I was on board.  I remember him doing Don McLean's American Pie once, now that's a lot of lyrics.  Now Mike's daughter is coming down to L.A. this Fall to go to LMU.  That's right, she's in college and hopefully will be joining a group of us transplanted Oregonians for occasional dinners at Paco's Taco's.  She'll probably end up in a bar soon, singing along with "American Pie", she might even know most of the words.  Crazy how time flies.  

Said our goodnights and headed back to Dad and Jean's place in nearby Milwaukie to spend the night.  Woke up to strong coffee and some great catching up with the two of them, read the sports page, packed up our things (and some delicious Jeanie sandwiches for the flight) said our last rounds of goodbyes and headed for PDX.  Turned in the car and wouldya believe it, they didn't notice the missing hub cap.  Amazing.  We didn't point it out and I didn't even feel bad about it.  

Ran into my Uncle Doug in the airport!  Great to have a chat with him in the security line, however brief.  Second trip in a row where I've run into someone I know at the airport.  Maybe Oregon has a little of that "everybody knows everybody" thing that Canada does :).  Flight home, layover in San Fran, cat is waiting for us, got settled, Kirsten made a delicious fish dinner and we caught up on our Tivo (True Blood!  Harper's Island!).  Very relaxing end to a great, super fun weekend.  Thanks to everyone who made it out, so good to see so many of ya!  

Wow, another LOOOONG one.  Might stay the recent course and skip the links.  Whadya want, I posted a bunch of photos, leave me alone.  

Thanks for reading, hope things are great!  I've got Saucy this Wednesday night at The Kibitz Room in Hollywood then Flannel High on Friday night at Trip in Santa Monica.  Come say hi if you're in town!

Talk soon,
-s
 
 

Jul. 8th, 2009

#18- Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, 7-8-09



The Saucy Monky Kibitz Room Residence rolls on!  This was our second of five consecutive Wednesday's in July that we rolled out to Hollywood and rocked the midnight crowd at everyone's favorite Weirdo Bar!  Twas great to have the lovely and talented Megan back in the fold after last weeks drumless trio experience.  Also, I'm guessing this will be a relatively short entry, considering there are going to be plenty of chances to ramble on about these residency gigs, plus I'm literally headed to the airport with Kirsten in an hour or so to fly to Oregon for two shows with my old college band Grubb Street.  

Note- I'm done writing but not quite done packing and our cab will be here in half an hour.  Priorities everyone!  Looks like another "under linked, under proofread" episode of Self Indulgence Time with Steve.  

Some Cool Recent Placements for Saucy!
Hey, in case I haven't mentioned it to y'all, the band got four tunes in the recent Indie Film "And Then Came Lola"!  I haven't seen it yet, but a couple of the girls went to Frisco for the premier and brought back excellent reviews.  Here's a trailer if you'd like to check it out.  I think the L.A. premier is on July 17th here in town if anyone is interested in seeing it for themselves.  Also, Cynthia and Annmarie have had their writing and producing hats on and got some music placed in the soap opera "Guiding Light"!   Sweet.  

Gear
Brought the Precision, Hartke Kickback Combo, and full pedalboard.  Ended up fighting my volume all night.  Too loud.  Turned down.  Too quiet.  Turned back up.  Bumped the low end on the EQ.  Too loud again.  Turned down.  That feels good.  Switch from pick to fingers.  Too boomy.  Adjust EQ.  Too quiet.  Argh.   Plus the pedal board was on the floor, just off the stage and was just a weeeee bit harder to reach with my feet, and looked all the more obvious when I bent down to make an adjustment, especially mid-song.  I really shouldn't do that.  Note to self; don't do that.  

Setlist
Color 7, Solid Ground, All The Things Ya Know, Acrobat, 5 South, Ghosts, Attention, No One's Here Anymore, Flicker.  

The Band
As I mentioned, it was great to have Megan back!  Between last weeks' Saucy show and the trio stuff I did up in Canada with Amy Heffernan, it was truly a pleasure to have some professional time keeping going on.  SOOOO much easier, I must admit.   We were pretty good, particularly considering we hadn't rehearsed or played together with all four of us for a couple weeks.  Pretty good isn't great though, there is definitely room for improvement.  I think this residency thing is gonna be great for the band, really pull us together by the end of July.  Watch out August, here we come!  

Some Specific Moments
1- Two new songs this week, 5 South and Ghosts.  Well, relatively new anyway.  We've played them live before, but only a couple times.  Had a moment in 5 South where the arrangement adjustments we made last time weren't clear and we sorta motored through a break section.  Still worked, but it'll get tighter.  I'm a big fan of both tunes, anxious to get them recorded!   Ghosts is particularly fun to lock in doubling the main riff with Cynthia, always feels great when we're together and we were pretty solid last night.  Wurlitzer break in that song is rad too, check it out next time you're at a show.  

2- Flicker is getting this jazzy treatment lately and we were really grooving it last time we were all together.  Unfortunately, I couldn't quite get my moody jazz hat to fit last night.  Ended up being a bit too tentative.  I think the band carried it through just fine, but I should play that song with a little more conviction.  Next week!  Also, I've got a cool foam mute that I slip under the bridge on occasion to get that motowny, no-sustain bass tone.  Works like a charm on this song, I'm gonna try it on the 15th.  

3- Nothing else comes to mind.  I'm kinda tired.  Let's leave this list at two and move along.  Nothing to see here.  

Dudes with Weird Names
Gotta love the Kibitz.  Last week I met a guy named "Warlock".  This week I was approached by "Marty Vegas".  For real.  Nice enough chaps, but I gotta say I'm curious who I'll be introduced to next time.  Go to the Kibitz Room some time, seriously, you won't regret it.  

The Grade
I was kinda tired.  Played okay, but a little uninspired.  Fought with the volume.  Fought with the EQ.  I think I was a little too happy to have a smokin' drummer around and was kinda lazy with my time, let Megan do most of the work.  No bad notes to speak of, played the songs accurately.  Had a few nice little runs that elicited some compliments after the show.  But I know the truth.  I wasn't really on my game.  If there were some clams or train wrecks It'd be a C.  But...but...I didn't play noticeably bad.  Just didn't feel good about some of the intangible elements.  I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt and saying B-.    NEXT WEEK WILL BE BETTER!  

Some Random Links to Stuff I've Done That You Probably Haven't Seen.
1- The Cherry Bluestorms at Skinny's - A few of you may recall that I played with Glen, Deborah and Kellii at the club Skinny's recently.  And I wrote about the challenges of one particular groovy tune called "Bad Penny Opera".  Anyway, a friend of the band videotaped us that night and put a link up on youtube, so feel free to check it out here and see just how off base (bass?) my internal dialogue may or may not have been on that particular evening.  I was pretty rough on myself but my performance actually sounds reasonable to me upon further review.   We'll be playing at The Knitting Factory on August 8th at 11pm for the IPO festival if you're interested in catching a show in person, you should, fun band, you'd dig it.   

2- Dream Life Misery - The band currently known as Flannel High hasn't always been a 90's cover band, we used to be an original rock act called Dream Life Misery.  So several years back a friend of the band named Cooper Johnson shot a music video for our song "Show Me the Way" at our rehearsal studio downtown.  We never got a copy till the band was essentially defunct, but it's up on Youtube now, you can give it a look/listen here if you're so inclinced.  Very dark and moody I must say!  How bout that Five string!  How bout them sideburns I'm sporting!  By the way, Flannel High has a show next Friday night July 17th at Trip in Santa Monica, come join us for some 90's grungeness.  

Next Up
As I mentioned, we're about to leave for Oregon as I type this!  Grubb Street will rock The Cooler in Eugene on Friday and The Dublin Pub in Portland/Beaverton on Saturday.  Really looking forward to seeing lots of friends and family that I haven't seen in ages, these reunion shows have turned into an annual thing and I hope we keep at it for many years to come.  I even think I can play most of the thirty songs but I've still got some listening to do on the flight! 

Thanks as always for your comments and just for reading along.  I'm still having fun with this!
Hasta,
-s

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