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#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.  

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

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!