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#16- Relentless Itch at Cafe Cordial, 6-24-09


I played an acoustic trio gig last night with the lovely and talented Abby and Ursulla, also known as  Relentless Itch.  This is a new combination of two other supercool bands (each of whom I've gigged with once in the past), Atomic Bitch and Penny Relentless.   Cool chicks, killer songs, great fun!

Fair warning, my computer has crashed and I'm writing this entry on Kirsten's laptop PC instead of my usual desktop Mac.  Not at all comfortable for me yet.  I'm sure there will be even more misspellings, screwed up links, non-centered photo tags, and general disarray than usual.  See, I don't actually know how to spell "disarray" and there isn't an auto-spellcheck happening right now.  I think I'll just leave it.  I don't have time to grab a dictionary and look up every word my Caveman Brain doesn't feel confident about.  Confidant?  Confadent?  No.  Confident.  I feel pretty confident I got that one.  Let's see how the rest of this works out...

Okay, one more thing worth mentioning.  I've just finished writing this entry and as I'm going back through it to add the links, I've realized they are taking FOREVER to load and I don't have the patience.  This may be my first, and hopefully last, link-free blog.  Sorry. 

Now, back to the band and the night...

Acoustic Arrangements
So, my prep for this show revolved around these acoustic recordings the girls had of their tunes.  There were a couple that had full band arrangements with bass lines in them, but for the most part I was going to be interpreting the material on my own.  So I had acoustic guitar parts and the vocal parts on mp3's, but no bass lines to cop.  Freedom is good, right?  Should be fun!  I charted out the chords and thought that would be enough to get me ready to roll, but at our first rehearsal I realized I was having trouble getting into the groove the way I wanted.  For starters, I was using my Music Man 5-string because I thought we were going to be playing a couple of the Penny Relentless tunes that have some low notes that made it the obvious choice of axe.  But turns out we weren't gonna be playing those tunes.  Anyway, I floundered a bit at the living room rehearsal/jam, not horrible, just not what I know I'm capable of.   I went home that day kinda frustrated and definitely determined to rise to the occasion and work up some cool parts for the show.   Sometimes a crappy rehearsal is the best thing that can happen to get me motivated to step up and not embarass myself.

Hi Vivi!
My friend Vivi Rama was originally slated to do this show but I got called in to sub when she found out she got the gig touring this Summer with Jordan Sparks of American Idol fame.  They'll be opening for the Jonas Brothers every night in Enourmo-Dome's across the country, how rad is that?  She's a super bitchin' bassist and a total sweetheart and I'm really happy for her to have landed a high profile, fun-as-hell gig like that, awesome.  Plus it opened the door for me to rock it last night with Abby and Ursulla, a win for me as well!   Big shoes to fill, my pleasure to make the attempt.  Vivi sometimes checks out these blogs, if you happen to be reading this one cheers to you girl, keep on kickin' ass and takin' names out there on the road!

New Ideas in Prep
So, I came up with the idea of actually recording bass parts to these acoustic tracks.   Great way to learn a song is to record it, really forces you to get inside the tune.  I was able to digest Abby's strumming patterns and absorb the grooves from the inside out.  Hearing a part back through studio monitors is a pretty clear  way to tell if something is working or not, them speakers do not lie. 

So I sat down at my home studio, plugged in my P-bass through my UA LA-610 and SansampRBI preamp, and went to work.  Tracked bass parts for the four songs I was struggling with the most, mixed them in with the existing recordings, emailed them to Abby and Ursulla for their approval, and set my mind at ease.  It was actually a pretty fun process, definitely a new way to prep for a gig, for me at least.  

Here's a shot of me in my PJ's, working on those recordings.  You can barely see the chord chart in front of me and my Digital Performer program open on the computer screen.  

Here is the outboard recording rig for my home studio.  On the bottom is the Universal Audio LA-610 (a great tube preamp on the left and compressor on the right), on top is the Sansamp RBI preamp that I use to dial in some extra grit on occasion.  And on the very top is a blank rack space with a microphone cable going up to my Apogee Duet digital interface.  I like toys.  

Cafe Cordial
Great to get out to my old stomping grounds in the valley.  This place was walking distance from my old pad in Sherman Oaks for about six years, we used to drop in for a drink and some super cool music back in the day.  I saw Marco Mendoza absolutely burn that joint down once, he's just a ridiculously amazing bassist.  They often get great Studio Cats in there between tours and sessions, I've seen many a monster L.A. musician there. 

We had a pretty good crowd for a Wednesday night dinner set.  Some friends and familia, plus a good room full of eaters and drinkers, just the right amount of clinking glasses and hushed conversation.  I hadn't played a dinner set in ages, kinda dug it. 

Overdid the acoustic thing and brought my pedal board again.  Doh!  Don't need nothing but a tuner for these quiet shows, maybe the Sansamp if I want some preamp power and additional EQ control.  I REALLY need to resist the urge to bring the monstrosity.  So unnecesary.  Totally makes setup and teardown more difficult than it needs to be.  Also brought he Precision bass and my Hartke Kickback combo amp, which is the perfect unit for these quieter shows, quite glad to have it in the arsenal. 

Set List
Harmony Gold, Broken, The Thing That You Withhold, Wonderful, Another Love Song, Diamond Rings, Run Away, Amber Falls.  We also prepped Daddy's Little Girl but ran out of time.

Oh seriously, I'm really struggling with this PC, arrgh.  Trying to right align things and put other bits in italics and things get mysteriously attached and grabbed and it's not going smoothly at all.  Sigh...

The Band
We played really well together, found a nice groovy acoustic pocket.  Abby's pickup for her guitar wasn't working so she had to use a microphone and I had trouble hearing her at times, but she was still physically close enough on stage for me to hear the instrument sans amplification for the most part.  Ursulla has an amazing rhythmic pocket when she sings and that helped lock us together even in those spots where we couldn't here as well.  Very few bad notes, I thought it was a succesful night for everyone.  If Abby had her pickup working we would have really nailed it, I'm sure she'll have that dialed up soon, she knew it wasn't ideal. 

 Here's a flyer from the night that is too small to actually see or read.  But I've got this new camera and I need to post photos cause it's fun for me...

Some Specific Moments
- "Broken" and "Another Love Song" each have interesting chord progressions with a bluesy feel and some unusual chords that I don't see all that often in my travels.  These are two of the tracks I did the recording prep I mentioned earlier and that really helped.  Worked out some interesting lines with some passing tones and color notes that accented nicely and connected the dots pretty well I thought.   
- "The Thing That You Withhold" has a cool decending, pulsing line that I do in unison with the guitar while hitting the droning root A in between the notes, very fun.  We hit the pocket really well on this one, came down for some tasty acoustic dynamic moments.  Abby and I locked in really well.  I did miss one change in this tune but slid up and covered it like the camoflague artist that I am. 

-"Wonderful" is an Annie Lennox cover and Ursulla just killed it, so good!  Great vocal showcase for her, so tough to pull off Annie and wow, she was fantastic!  I just listened to her sing, barely noticed myself at all which is saying something for a narcissistic bastard like me :)

-We didn't get a chance to play "Daddy's Little Girl", too bad.  It has some fun, risque lyrics that I'll let you discover on your own sometime.  But it also has a chord progression similar to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side", so I was all ready to whip out that classic bass line in the third verse, with those bitchin' chords sliding up and down the neck.  Ursulla was going to sing some of the lyrics to that tune and Abby was ready to rip out some solo action while we vamped along.  I was fired up for it, but it was our last song and we ran out of minutes on the clock.  Next time I guess. 

The Grade

I played really well, I gotta admit.   Felt great, the Hartke was giving me a nice, smooth tone.  Hit some greasy slides and the pocket was happening.  Only one moment where I missed a change in "The Thing..." and I covered that pretty well.  I wish it was always this easy.  Tone is everything, I'm telling ya.  Low volume gigs are SO MUCH EASIER to wring out a good bass tone.  Very little competition for the frequencies I want to hear, no need to carve out territory in the Wall of Sound.  Anyway, I was happy that my unorthodox recording prep payed off, I felt comfortable with the material (ok, yes I was reading charts, but I had the feels nailed in my head and that was the idea).  It was a good night for the kid.  I'm giving myself a rock solid A.  Sweet. 

Up Next
I'm flying with my good friend Doug up to Fort MacMurry Alberta this coming Sunday for a show with my favorite Canadian chick on earth, Amy Heffernan!  We'll be rocking a big outdoor festival and opening for the band Trooper, whom I've never actually heard of., but apparently they are huge up there.  My lack of knowledge of our neighbors to the North's rich musical history notwithstanding, I'm REALLY looking forward to this trip, twill be a blast for sure!  

Did you count the misspellings?  I'll bet I know at least one of you who did :)

Thanks for sticking with me and reading along!  Y'all rock!

"...and the colored girls say,
doo, do doo, doo, doot doo doo doo, do doo, doo, doot doo doo doo..."





The first band I ever saw at the long-defunct Starwood in about 1973! Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive produced them. There was no one else in the audience, which might have been because they were absolutely awful!!


vivi here

yeah Steve! I always read your blog!
thanks for the mention :)
I am glad the gig with Abby and Urs
went well.
Keep rocking, see you soon!