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