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#13- Arrica Rose and The ...'s at The Hotel Cafe, 6-11-09

left to right - Jamie, Mark, Sarah, Marissa, Arrica, Ryan, Dan, Vladimir

Big night last night, the record release for Arrica's new EP "Pretend I'm Fur". It's a great listen, if you haven't checked it out you should do so immediately. Not a "band" record, she put it together with the lovely and talented producer Dan Garcia. However, the band got together last night, with the help of some special guests, and reproduced it top to bottom. Before I get started, if you want some previous thoughts on the group, check this previous entry, and this one too if you want.

It's a Small Stage After All
Well, technically it's not really that small of a stage.  There were a LOT of us up there though, so it felt small.  Arrica (vocals and guitar), Ryan (drums and percussion), Mark (guitar), Jamie (piano and backing vocals), Sarah (backing vocals), Marissa (backing vocals, I can't get a photo of Marissa because her myspace page "does not accept friend requests from band" and is set to private and my page is technically a "band" page because it has to be in order to post music.  Crappy policy I think), Dan (unusual brazillian stringed instruments) and Steve (accordian/bagpipes.  Okay not those.  Bass).  That's eight dots instead of the usual four.  Quite a crowd of fun, talented, cool peeps I must say.  

Sing, sing a song
We worked out all the crazy vocal arrangements from the record, and seriously, we're talking some very elaborate stuff.   Six of us were singing at one time or another, often at the same time, often overlapping and unorthodox call and answer stuff.  All in an effort to accurately recreate the crazy stuff Arrica and Dan arranged for the record.  Great fun.  I ended up doing a lot of my singing with a low harmony to Arrica's lead part.  I've never been great at the "ooooh" and "ahhhh" kinda breathy bits cause I have horrible breathing technique.  Much more reliable singing actual words and finding good spots to catch a breath in between.  So that worked out well.   I had a crappy last rehearsal (vocal-wise) before the gig, so it was a relief to get up on stage and feel like I sang well.  There is a certain amount of backing off the microphone, but still singing full enough to support and be heard that is required with this quiet-ish music that took some doing.  Felt like I did a respectable job to me.  

Pointer of the Week
Quick tip to those of you who have horrible vocal technique like me but somehow still end up doing lots of harmonizing in public places; when singing words or parts with the letter N heavily involved, smile.  This is particularly helpful in the phrase "nah nah nah nah", which we do in the song "The Sunshine Again" over and over again.  I was really struggling with that part until I tried The Smiling Trick, and it worked like a charm.  Forces you to open up your mouth more and for whatever reason it comes out smoother.  I ain't no vocal technician so I can't really explain it, but it works really, really well for me.  Not just the letter N either, try it next time you're struggling to sing something that isn't coming out comfortably.   Plus people will think you are happy, even if you aren't.  I'll bet there are a LOT more cool tricks like that available, I should really ask more questions of my knowledgeable singer friends with loads of training under their belt (yo c2).  

Switcho Chango!

Hey y'all, I played a different bass for this gig!  Whipped out my 5-string Music Man, twas a nice change of pace.  Funny, it occured to me at a rehearsal that a LOT of this batch of tunes is in or around the key of B, and I could make good use of an occasional low B on the 5.  Plus the semi-euro vibe of some of the tunes lent itself to lower notes in general.  I also like the way this bass sounds on quieter music when I don't need that old school rock and roll thing the P-bass is so good for.  The 5 is a little more modern sounding, a little cleaner, and rings nicely on chordal stuff, which I managed to work into these arrangements in spots.  It was a good call, nice to put another one of my fiddles to work.  Hey, here's a photo if you haven't seen it yet...

You might notice that I replaced the usual white pickguard with a black one, which I think gives it a unique look for a Music Man.  Also had the pickups replaced with Seymour Duncan's, they sound cool in a barky way that I prefer to the usual "too zingy" highs of Music Man's.  Also notice this photo is un-rotated and looks like a left handed instrument.  Sigh.  I'm gonna figure out how to orient photos how I want them one of these days...

Hey Y'all, I'm a Company Man Now!
Great news, I recently got my very first string endorsement deal!  I'm officially a Rotosound guy!  Couldn't be happier than I am to be a part of the Rotosound family, so cool!  Been using their amazing strings for going on 25 years now, and every time I'd start using or trying anything else for brief stretches I'd ALWAYS come back to the super-radness that is Rotosound Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel kickass bass strings!   Best strings in the world, bar none, and I'm not even saying that to kiss up.  Thanks to a certain someone who I know is a regular reader of this here blog who helped hook this up, you know who you are and you know I couldn't appreciate it any more than I do.    

Other Gear
The Hotel Cafe has one of my favorite house bass rigs in town, a nice Trace Elliot unit with all the funky green coloring and too many knobs.  I do like it's built in compressor too.  Always wanted to have a Trace Elliot rig of my own but never got around to it.  The single 15" speaker isn't a T.E., not sure what it is actually, but it has a nice barky quality that cuts well in this room.  I can always hear plenty of bass when I'm out in the audience as well.  Anyway, that's one of my favorite things about playing here.  Snapped a quick photo, check out the rig with other assorted stuff piled atop it pre-show...
I know, your neck is tired from the constant sideways craning.  All apologies.  Somewhere there exists an answer to this problem.

Brought my pedalboard along for the ride as well, although I have few opportunities get beyond my EQ's with this band.  I like to stomp on some obnoxious combination of distortion and syth ugliness in rehearsal just cause it's SOOOOO out of place with the mellow acoustic vibe of the ...'s.  I think it was actually funny the first couple times, now it's just annoying.  But I can't seem to stop with that gag.  I have Bass Effect Tourette's Syndrome.  

The Club
I think I'd categorize H.C. as a bit of a hipster joint.  Plenty of tilted hats on smartly dressed indie dudes.  Lots of beautiful people of both genders in expensive second-hand clothes if that makes any sense.  I rarely feel as cool as the clientele when I'm there, but that in itself makes me kinda cool if you catch my drift.  Still, it is a fun place that always has good music if you can stomach the hipster scene, which I can.  There is a lounge out front where you can hang without disturbing the often hush-hush quiet acoustic shows in the main room.  Oh yeah, I took a quick photo of the audience from stage about five minutes before we started;
  Kinda dark, I know, sorry.  But at least it's oriented correctly.  Can you spot the celebrity in the house?  Hint- think Spinal Tap.  

Pillow on the Ground, Tragedy, Memphis, Be, Can't Say Goodbye, Be Still My Heart, I'll Love You Forever (and other lies), The Sunshine Again, Uh Huh, 

If you look closely you'll notice we played the entire Pretend I'm Fur EP top to bottom, and followed it up with "The Sunshine Again" and "Un Huh".  Nice.  I always like it when bands play their records front to back like that.  (Actually, Kirsten and I recently caught The Decemberists at The Palladium and they played their entire new concept record "The Hazzards of Love" and it was frigging GREAT!).  Go get that record if you haven't already, it's fantastic.  Hey, I keep forgetting to mention it to you in person, but I think a certain Blog Reader out there with the initials G.L. would particularly dig that record.  Authentic folk-rock hybrid with great tones, a cool concept story, big vocabulary in the lyrics, right up your alley I'd bet.  

Hey A.C., never heard your Decemberists story you mentioned.  I'll ask next time I see you.  

A Nice Listening Moment For the Kid
I really enjoyed hearing the tune "I'll Love  You Forever (and Other Lies)".  I don't actually play on the song, so it was a nice chance to jump off stage and listen from out front.  Mark switches to acoustic guitar, Ryan grabs a little percussion dealy, and Arrica and Dan play mandolin and bandolin (spamdolin? cramdolin? whambamthankyoumamdolin?).  Jamie sang some lilting, soft harmony as well.  Anyway, it's quite a lovely arrangement, very soft and sweet, totally cool.  

Some Bass Moments From the Set
- Hit a wrong note in the first chorus of "Be", but quickly got back to where I belonged.  I was singing at the time and my fingers just went on autopilot and started playing the verse.  Grrrr.  

- Enjoyed playind Dan's bass part from "Can't Say Goodbye", that's a really musical, cutesy part with some nice walking moments and hesitations that I dig.  His recorded tone is much growlier than the Music Man can duplicate, but it still worked well.  

- Felt like we nailed the "nah nah" section of "The Sunshine Again".  Three part harmony with me and Ryan doubling the low part.  I'd struggled with that in rehearsal as I mentioned earlier, but it felt good on stage.  Sometimes screwing up at rehearsal really activates your brain to a moment and you end up nailing it at the gig.  That's how this felt.  Meanwhile, the bass part was really minimal, just playing with the kick drum, lots of simple root notes, nothing fancy.  Very rewarding to have the patience to keep it simple and have it all work.  Plus I co-wrote this tune with Arrica so I take a little extra pride when it comes off well.  

- Uh Huh was a nice bass song last night.  It's a little louder so I can dig in more.  Hit some cool slides without going overboard.  Nailed the high bass melody in the third verse that had been hit or miss in rehearsal.  The tone got some gravel to it at a higher volume, especially when I was smacking the strings a bit harder.  Good stuff.  

 The Band...
...was literally huge, but it felt like we did a good job.  Lots to pay attention to, but I thought it went well.  I hit that one big clam in the first chorus of "Be", I remember something awful happening very briefly in "Tragedy", I THINK Mark hit a bad chord in the prechorus, but I'm not positive it was him.  Otherwise it was smooth and musical and fun.  The background singers, myself included, did a good job of supporting without overwhelming, hit all the crazy countermelodies and call and answer stuff.  Mark was on fire with his atmospheric, spooky cool guitar stuff.  Ryan was locking it down in a groovy, understated way.  Arrica did what she always does, sang and played beautifully.  Jamie added the cool piano stuff on a couple tunes.  It was good.  I believe there was a board recording made, so I'll have a chance to review and see how accurately my "in the moment" impression matches up with reality.  

The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe
Wore the wrong shirt dammit.  It was my "Owen" shirt, a second hand red thing that has "Eugene, Oregon" embroidered on the back.  Love that shirt, but wow does it clash with my orange bass.  AND, the off-red curtains at Hotel Cafe made me one big wash of wrong.  Throw in that red kinda makes me look blotchy and it was a bad combo.  Hint- don't wear red if you're playing at this venue.  Bad idea.  

The Grade
I played pretty well on the old five string.  It's a minimalist gig, so I was just keeping it simple note-wise.  Threw in some tasty moments, felt like my vibrato was on, dropped some cool shit on the low B string (if I do say so myself), hit all the parts except that one stupid bad note in "Be".  Grrrr.  Tone was pretty good, not spectacular.  It's such a low volume deal that I could really hear the instrument, which I loved, but it was slightly nasaly sounding.  Not awful, just not great.  Seriously, if I could just have that one note back and had worn a different shirt it might have been an A.  Still.  Sang well, played well, good pocket.  I'm going to say A minus.  At least until I hear the recording...

Up Next
No rest for the wicked, Flannel High is hitting it hard tonight at Rusty's Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica pier.  Should be a nutty Friday night party, come on down if you have the chance.  ALSO, super cool band My Own Machine is rocking Molly Malone's this coming Tuesday night and we'd love to see you there!  

Thanks for reading, you're all the coolest blog readers in the world!  If you're reading this from the Myspace or Facebook links and want to be on the regular mailing list, drop me a line at sinjingiles@yahoo.com and I'll hook you up with the direct emails.