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#26- Saucy Monky at Universal, 8-6-09

Saucy left to right; Cynthia Catania, Annmarie Cullen, Megan Jane, Vlad the Impaler.  

Road trip time again, we headed South for a show in San Diego opening with the always cool Veronica May and The To Do List.  The club was called "Universal" and the night was called "Flawless".  I think I've got that right.  

Take the 5 South
The lovely and talented Annmarie picked me up at my place around 3:30 pm and we hit the road.  She had loaded up her P.A. system and personal gear, and since I'd be using a friend's amp for the show, I just needed to bring the bare essentials.  Plenty of room to spare.  Cynthia was driving separately 'cause she was coming from the other side of town and taking a different route, plus there wasn't room for all three of us and our stuff in a single car.  Megan is a San Diegan, so for a change she was the one who didn't have to drive.  

Traffic was pretty reasonable up until we hit the 805 just outside of SD, then it backed up a bit.  We still made it in time to get everything loaded in and set up on time.  Big props to The To Do List and a couple other pals for helping with that part of the night, helped a ton.  We usually don't have to deal with setting up a PA system, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quick Cynthia and Annmarie were at getting it in place and sounding good.  They both do live sound mixing in their spare time so this was old hat for them.  

Jeff, the bassist for The To Do List, regular reader of this here blog and all around good dude, was kind enough to let me use his rig for the show.  I can't actually remember what it was called and the name didn't show up in the damn photo.  It was a one of a kind amp called something like "Schectorlane".  Maybe "Schectorilla."  Nope.  "Scheterlight."  That's not it.  Crap.  Anyway, it ended up sounding really great, plenty of punch and headroom and very flexible sonically, in the SVT school of rock sound that I like.  I ran my Precision through my pedalboard and into his amp, kept the amp relatively flat and used my EQ pedal to bump up the lows and put a nose on the high mids, worked great, sounded killer.  Thanks Jeff, you rock!  

The world famous "Schec..."  amp and cab!  Notice the little shelf space created by the wide cab and narrow head.  The red leather pouch is my pick/earplug holder.  I always like a good amp shelf to keep crap on.  Just sayin'.  

Extreme Muting
I've been doing this thing lately, especially with Saucy, where I play with a pick and use a really exaggerated right hand muting technique.  Cuts off the sustain of the notes and adds a really cool punchy impact to the tone.  Also, it allows me to create a sort of false vibrato by increasing and decreasing the amount of mute happening, slightly pushing down and releasing my right hand over the bridge.  It's a pretty cool thing and has lots of promise as a regular trick in my bag of techniques.  I played most of the evening like that, with a couple exceptions where I opened up the right hand for rowdy sections and also when I played a couple ballads with my fingers and lost the pick altogether.  It's possible that I was overdoing it with the muting, but it seemed to be working in the moment, I'll try to keep it in check moving forward.  Sometimes new tricks (and new toys) can be tempting to abuse.  

Set List
Disco Ball, The Acrobat, Superstar, Change Your Mind, 5 South, Alcohol, Flicker, Trapped, All the Things Ya Know, No One's Here Anymore, Solid Ground.  

Lucille's Balls
Annmarie and Cynthia always entertain me with their banter, and this show was one of my faves.  I think they are at their best when it's a bit chaotic and has some edge and that was the story here.  Always unrehearsed and off the cuff, they jibe each other regularly and often talk over one another for brief moments.  It's very charming, I was a fan long before I joined the band and the between song yacking helped pull me in from day one.  There were a couple bits in particular that I cracked up at, one was singing harmony on "The Steve Giles Song" and the other had to do with "Lucille's Balls".  You had to be there.  

Some Other Moments

- Change Your Mind really benefited from the muting technique I described, especially in the verses.   Short, choppy notes high on the neck in a simple one/five/four/one pattern, just staying in the pocket with Megan and laying it down.  I also sang a new part in the bridge of this one that sounds cool.  I love getting the three part thing going on, always fun to sing with these girls, they both have such strong voices, it's a fun ride vocally.  

- Alcohol is the newest song in the set list and is a great addition.  We worked out some new arrangement stuff at rehearsal this week and it went pretty well.  The bass line in the chorus has an interesting motown kinda groove that is fun to play.  I'm still working on the specific note choices but it's getting close.  Verses are fun to lock in with Cynthia, who is doubling the part with me.  Then some crazy slide stuff in the bridge, which seems to be a regular device I use with Saucy (see also Acrobat, Scarz, All The Things), finding different variations on a similar style of sliding around.  

-The bridge on All The Things felt too fast to me, but no one else seemed to agree.  It is probably because we've been doing it too slow for awhile and decided to pick it up just a nudge.  Felt like we went too far to me, but not sure if that's just because my ears are used to hearing it too slow.  It's a fine line.  Everyone else seemed to dig it so it's probably me.  

-Felt like we really nailed Solid Ground.  It's got a pretty heavy swing feel and Megan in particular was right in the pocket, made it easy for me to tag along with her feel and not think about it too much, which I friggin' love.  
Universal was a pretty cool joint.   Initially thought all the mirrors and other reflective-looking floors and ceilings would make for a crazy, boomy sound, but it sounded really good for both bands.  

The Grade
I had a good night, felt like I was in the pocket, kept it tight and minimal from a note choice perspective, which is completely appropriate for this band.  The tone was great (thanks again Jeff!), I could hear everyone really well, both instrumentally and vocally.  The band was groovin' and singin' their asses off.  My only possible down side is the thought that I might have overdone the muting thing, but I'm gonna give myself a pass cause it was fun.  Let's call it an A and move along.  

Cool Gift
Some time last year I did a show with my friend Richard Harris, who is a great songwriter and was doing a showcase night at The Hotel Cafe.  He brought a drummer friend of his in for that show named Simon DasGupta, and he and I hit it off pretty darn well.  Had a great night at the show and we've stayed in touch ever since.  He plays and teaches around the San Diego scene and I was pleasantly surprised that Saucy's drummer Megan was playing guitar in The To Do List with Simon on drums!  Nice, I love this small world stuff.  Anyway, when I arrived at Universal for this show, Simon graciously gave me a pair of drumsticks from last year's 30th anniversary Rush tour!  So cool!  He knows I'm a big Rush freak (as is he), and it was really thoughtful of him, my normally macho self was quite touched.  Thanks Simon if you happen to be reading this :)
R30 sticks baby!  

Speaking of The To Do List...
They were great; really interesting music with lots of cool time changes and feel changes and about-faces.  I love stuff that shifts abruptly and keeps the listener on their toes.  It was cool to hear Megan playing guitar, she was great, adding all these cool coloring parts, very textural and swirling and fun.  Jeff and Simon are a killer rhythm section, handling all the crazy changes and keeping the groove up.  Jeff does lots of rad chordal parts, I particularly dug a tune called "The Ripple Effect" where he was doing all these nutty arpeggiated chordal bits, stretching out his left hand and jumping around the neck.  Veronica's songs are interesting and she sings her ass off too, my kinda band, I'd go see em again for sure.  

Round Trip
I rode back with Cynthia ("Abcynthia"!) cause she likes to have some company on long drives after dark.  We had a good chat and made GREAT time and I was home and unloaded by about 1:30 or so.  Unfortunately, poor Cynthia hit some closed freeways on her drive from my place to hers and apparently it took her over an hour to do just that stretch.  So lame.  Sorry kid.  

Link Luster
Have you noticed that I'm not really adding links anymore?  Hope you don't mind, it was just a bit of extra work that got to be a drag.  Band links, musician links, club links, goofy fun links, interesting stuff sometimes, but I've decided to trim off that fat and streamline the process.  I'll keep linking things here and there if needed, but I'm done with it otherwise.  

Up Next
I'm actually playing TONIGHT with The Cherry Bluestorms.  We're doing the L.A. edition of the IPO festival at The Knitting Factory, 11pm sharp, should be good fun, come say hi if you get a chance.  IPO has been very good to that band, we've played the Toronto, Liverpool, San Diego and Los Angeles events over the years and I've got lots of great memories from all those shows.  

Okay, that's all I got.  Thanks again for making it to the end of this thing, y'all rock!  
Talk soon,