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#9-Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, May 13th

Played a late show with Saucy in Hollywood at The Kibitz Room last night.  For some background and intro to the band you can click here.   

In the Midnight Hour
We hit the stage right about midnight for this one, which is pretty late for a middle-of-the-week set.  Especially for our poor drummer Megan, who lives in San Diego and had to get home, sleep for an hour or two, then be at work by 7am.  Ouch.  We even had some friends come out and show us some love, which is fantastic all things considered (here's lookin' at you Amy, Marc, Chris, Brian, Gary, and a handful of other's cool enough to join us).   Throw in the usual zany batch of characters that stumble around that joint and it was a good crowd for sure.  

No house amp at The Kibitz, so I brought the "medium room" rig, which is Ashdown head, SWR 4x10 cab, full pedalboard, and Precision bass (with rotosounds!).  I was actually tempted to trot out my Fender Geddy Lee Jazz bass but opted out at the last minute.  Had a good experience* recording the jazz this week and it reminded me that I do have more than one instrument.  Still left it at home this time, but I might just use it on a gig again soon, it's a cool instrument that plays smooth and has a great, cutting sound when it's happening.  

*(Actually, at least two of you might be interested to know that I used the Geddy to re-track the bass for Amy Heffernan's tune "I Can't Wait".  I mentioned here that the original track we did didn't feel quite right and I was considering taking another crack at it.  Well, producer Doug Heffernan gave me a DVD with the project on it to take home so I could work on a better bass line in my home studio.  Ended up being frustrated with the sound of the P-bass and plugging in the jazz, sounded great, got a cooler, slightly more active line happening.  New part has some good motion, a couple walk-up bits and passing tones, a little more character than before.  I was able to post a Wave file of the new line to the public folder on my .mac account and Doug downloaded it in his studio across town, he and Amy dug the track, and voila, we're all happy!)

Staging and Volume Issues
So the Kibitz has one of those wide stages left to right but very shallow front to back.  We end up in a straight line across, with me on the far left, then Megan and her kit, then Annmarie, then Cynthia on the far right.  Obviously, there normally is a little depth and we're at least slightly out front of the drums, but not at The Kibitz.  That's all good except Cynthia likes to hear plenty of bass whenever possible.  This is one of the many things I love about that girl :).  So after the first song, I got a request from stage right to turn up!  Great!  I turned up!  Then after the third song, the new request was "split the difference".  So I did my best to do that.  Then a bit later I got a third request to come down a hair, and so I did.  The other thing is, there are no instruments in the PA at this club, so my stage volume is all there is to fill up the room.  AND the majority of the audience is off to the right of the stage by the bar.  It's a narrow room, sort of parallel to the narrowness of the stage but extended out further from stage right.  

So it was a good thing for the room that I be a bit on the loud side.  Perhaps not a good thing for the stage however.  I think what I'm trying to say is this; I was generally louder than I'd like on stage, but it was probably a necessary evil.  Megan was bombarded with bass all night and was a trooper throughout.  I kinda liked it, but I'm a bit of a self-centered bass junkie.  

Obligatory Tonal Dissatisfaction
The bottom end was "boomy", that's the word.  I tried dialing out the extreme lows with my Boss Bass EQ pedal, and that helped a bit.  Found a bit of a sweet spot in the low-mids and bumped that up to try to get some clarity.  I could hear a good, gritty, grindy tone going on just underneath this layer of boominess, but it remained slightly out of reach.  Might have had something to do with the level being so hot, just pushing the 4x10 cab a little too much.  The goodness was in there somewhere screaming to get out, but I couldn't quite find it's hiding spot.  Close but no cigar.  

The Band
...was really smokin' I thought!  Energy was great, vocals were kickin', Megan was laying it down, felt like we were on our game.  Technically the girls up front (particularly Annmarie) were having some trouble hearing themselves sing, but I thought they sounded great and I heard nothing but good things from those in attendance afterwards on the vocal front.  

Nothing Like the Last Minute
We had a "day of the show" quick rehearsal (without Cynthia who was working) to run through a couple tunes and arrangements.  The new song "5 south" (Not eye five KJB, it's THE five) got it's proper debut after a last-second shelving the previous week in San Diego.  But we needed that quick rehearsal to finalize the arrangement and it paid off, totally worked, we hit all the changes good.  Also ran through some alternate tunes just in case we needed them - Scarz, Funky Love, Solid Ground, maybe one other I can't recall.  

Set List
We changed it on the fly a bit, so I'll have to recreate from memory.  I think it went something like this...

Seven Days, Disco Ball, The Acrobat, 5 South, No One's Here Anymore, Turbulence, Sand, Attention, All The Things Ya Know, Solid Ground.

Maybe that's not exactly right, but it's close.  Right songs, proper order is sketchy.  

Some Other Memorable Moments

- Turbulence rocked, I love playing that song.  The coda section has a great build and finishes with a wicked bass melody that slowly climbs up the neck and makes these cool slash chords against the guitars.  Former Saucy bassist Carson Cohen played it on the recording and it's crazy cool, he's a great player.  The song itself is one of my all-time faves in the bands catalogue, check it out if you haven't already.

- I was able to sing reasonably well last night, which was nice after having to sit out vocally at our gig last week.  I have a lot of little parts here and there, usually something on most songs.  It was nice when we got to the end of the first song, "Seven Days" and I was able to join in on the "Wasting my time" section.  My monitor was good, voice felt pretty strong, I knew I'd get to chime in for the evening.  

- "Sand" is a lovely, haunting tune and was completely unrehearsed!  This caught Megan off-guard cause we hadn't planned on playing it but she rose to the challenge like a champ.  I over-noodled a bit in the out section on that tune, but I forgive myself.  Sometimes one must noodle to be happy, that's just the way it is.  

Grading the Grading Process
I got an interesting comment from one of you anonymous readers out there after my last post regarding my little self-grading process.  Kirsten has also questioned my accuracy on these in the past.  The question is, "What exactly is your criteria for an A grade Mr. Giles?".  

Well, I've been doing this self-grading thing after shows for years, although I've only talked about it with Mrs. Giles and a couple friends.  Here's what I think, generally speaking; the proof is in the pudding.  It's not about making excuses regarding equipment or other circumstances, it's about How Good Was The Bass Playing, Period.  If I heard an isolated recording of JUST the bass, would I be happy?  Would it be an edit or two away from good enough for a studio recording?  Would it be close?  That's the main thing I'm concerned with when I think about how I've done.  I realize most people can't hear it closely enough to tell, but that's what I'm shooting for, and I know how close or far away from that standard I am as it's happening.  Another option for an A-grade is if the tone was magical and I was playing completely free and untethered, even if close scrutiny of the notes wasn't flawless.  

Now, that being said, I'll give my grade a bump (or drop) if some other aspect of the gig went well (or poorly), like the energy, fun, performance, tone, whatever it might be.  That stuff is obviously really important too, maybe more so in a lot of ways.  But I like to start the process with the actual notes that came out into the world that night.  For example, I played a show with The Cherry Bluestorms on the big stage at The Cavern Club in Liverpool last year.  I played well, the tone was good, I felt...above average.  But not outstanding.  It was a solid B+ evening.  But!  WE WERE PLAYING THE CAVERN CLUB IN FREAKING LIVERPOOL!!  That alone bumps that night to at least an A-.  

How About a List of Some Other Past Shows That Earned the Elusive "A" Grade!
Great idea!  Here's a sampling...

1- DFM at Rafter's in Salt Lake City, I think Winter of 1993.  Despite leaving my favorite leather jacket at the club, never to be seen again, this was a great night.  I overplayed like crazy but it was called for.  Was in a serious Billy Sheehan Wannabe phase.  Played my blue Charvel.  Great night.  

2- Liquid Vision at Universal Bar and Grill, also 1993-ish.  My last show with the band.  Same blue Charvel through my old Hartke 4x10 and Ampeg head.  I remember the tone was amazing, it was so effortless to play.   Did some cool slap stuff, back when I used to do that kinda thing.  It was all buttery and smooth and easy.  

3- Grubb Street at some club in downtown Portland, maybe 1992?  Can't remember what it was called but I can picture it in my head.  Sven made up a song about the promotor on the spot and we followed.  Long jam sections, great crowd, I couldn't help but overplay cause it sounded so great.  

4- Joe Cool at Jeef Cleek's house party, U of O campus, 1989.  Great night.  Roger McConnel singing, I think he was tripping on mushrooms during the show, I remember him writhing around on the floor singing "All Right Now".  Awesome.  Me and guitarist Derek did some cool unison tapping lines we'd worked out.  Hot chicks hanging from the rafters.  Someone stole Derek's Ford Fairlane poster but he eventually got it back.  a legendary night.  I was phenomenal, trust me :)

5- Saucy Monky at Indiefest in San Diego, just a couple months ago.  They had the SVT Classic head and 8x10 cab for the backline and it RULED.  Catalyst for my obsessive need to own that head myself soon.  My precious.  That's the sound I want, right there, and I had a great gig.

6- Halo at The Gig on Melrose, 1997.  I played my friend Cal Curtis' AMAZING vintage jazz bass and it just melted me.  Awesome sounding, particularly this one night.  We had a packed house, wall-to-wall friends, and we were doing this crazy trio thing where I was stepping on bass pedals and playing keyboards with my hands and with a makeshift footpedal that would trigger individual notes.  Weird contraption, but really cool.  Anyway, I remember just killing some hard-to-play parts and loving that feeling, wanted to keep on playing.  Also, C.C. Deville from Poison came up to me after the show and said something hilarious.  You know how I sometimes put my pick on my forehead when I switch to finger style?  Well he says to me "Hey man, you should put that pick under your eye next time, like a teardrop, you could be a sad, sad clown..." .  Loved it. 

Okay, I could go on but no need.  There ARE nights that get the A.  Some from long ago, a handful in the last couple years.  Some cause I played really well and would be happy to hear my playing solo'd.  Some because I was unhindered by the usual tonal issues, a freedom thing.  But they are rarities, that's what I'm chasing most of the time.  That's what makes it fun.  

Man do I wish I had links to photos from some of those shows and/or bands.  Good times, wish I had some mementos darnit.  

So Captain Blowhard, What's the Grade For Last Night?
Played well, not great.  Very few, if any, actual mistakes.  Over noodled a bit.  Boomy tone made it tough to play as accurately as I wanted.  Vibe was good, band was happening.  Hit the changes in the new song.  Oh no, here it comes again.  Straight up B.  Sigh.  

Up Next
Acoustic trio gig with Amy Heffernan (who may or may not soon be officially named "Amy Heffy"?) next Wednesday night at Molly Malone's!  Between now and then I've got a trip to Vegas (Vegas Baby!), a dreaded apointment at the dentist, Decemberists show with KG on her birthday Tuesday and two rehearsals to get ready for the show!  Partay!  

Wow, another one that got away from me in the brevity department.  Can't seem to stop typing sometimes.  Thanks again for indulging me and reading this, and a bonus extra-special thanks to those of you who comment or give me a shout out in one format or another.  It's always cool to know who is tagging along and if you have any thoughts about this nonsense.   Also, if you're reading this from the myspace or facebook links and want to be added to the email list, hit me up at sinjingiles@yahoo.com and I'll put you on the regular distribution, which is now a whopping 20 or so.  Word.  

talk in a week or so,



You could NEVER be a sad, sad clown. xo


Grading the Grading of the Grading Process

Bleh. You're playing in the wrong key if you're using the final, naked bass part as the subject of your self-grade.

Different situations demand different artistic and technical responses; one size does not fit all. Your well-roundedness as a player and a person is better determined by how you handle and adjust to each setting.

For example, a bass line that sounds perfect in the studio for a certain type of song might be WAAAYY too laid back or subtle for a live environment. In the wall of live sound, folks aren't going to be able to pick out nuances like passing tones.

In another example (also on stage), say the tune takes off into the jamosphere. Now, you can be a good little boy and play your part, not be flashy... but then you're not contributing to the mojo and riding the wave. If you go a little OTT, you take a risk and maybe move the song and the other players to a whole new space... but if you listened to it back in the studio, naked and out of context, it might sound embarrassingly egregious.

And there's still that issue of things beyond your control that will challenge you, like imperfect tone from using a house rig. Or playing in an odd-shaped room to a bunch of people holding sheets of aluminum (it could happen!)... you ain't gonna sound right, but did you deliver the performance?

Ever been at a campfire, drinking beers with friends, and someone pulls out a guitar? Yay! Sounds like fun. But not so much if the guitarist grouses and fusses the whole time because he can't keep one string in tune, or because the climate caused shrinkage and made the action wrong, or the strings are old and half-dead, blah blah blah. Just play some music. We're drunk, we want to sing. The situation calls for adjusting on the fly and being perfect for THE MOMENT, not for all moments.

Serve the song, serve the room, serve the band, serve the occasion, serve the player... in that order.

And what, no outfit report for the Saucy Monkey show? Perhaps best not to make that a regular feature, unless it affects the playing, like if you were wearing a loincloth and your junk kept getting shocks from a bad cable connection.

Re: Grading the Grading of the Grading Process

Yes yes yes! So many good points! No time to respond now, must leave town to play a gig at an aluminum siding convention. Okay, not that, but we are literally walking out the door to catch a flight to Vegas.

Will discuss all of this with you upon my return!

Re: Grading the Grading of the Grading Process

Okay, back from Vegas, finally able to respond to some of these great points. I agree with most of what you've said here, which I think points towards my tendency to be too conservative sometimes in live settings and to be rather hard on myself when I get too far outside the lines. That's fair.

I also recognize that the naked bass track is an unrealistic barometer to judge by. However, it's one of those thoughts that can keep me striving for goodness. I don't want to flail away, I want to be in the pocket, I want to make good note choices and not overbend the notes. Just TRYING to imagine hearing the naked track later keeps me focused on those goals and more.

Also worth mentioning, I never, never, never do this much bitching at the gig (like that guy at the campfire you mentioned). That would clearly be a downer and ruin the experience for others who just want to "sing along", I get it. But the point of this blog is for me to wail and moan about the imperfections I'm always noticing. It goes on in my head, why not write it down, eh?

Anyway, I'll try to keep the spirit of what you're saying in mind whilst grading my shenanigans in the future. I still feel like the A's will be rare sightings, despite my best intentions. I've got too many years of knowing what a real "A" feels like to cheapen it. I'll continue to try and serve the song, room, band, occasion and player (excellent order), but won't give myself undue credit for that effort. The proof remains in the pudding.

You completely rock for commenting Mr. (or Mrs.) Anonymous,