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#27 - The Cherry Bluestorms at The Knitting Factory, 8-8-09


The Cherry Bluestorms, left to right; Glen Laughlin, Kellii Scott, Deborah Gee, Sam the Butcher.
 
 Hit The Knitting Factory last night with The Cherry Bluestorms for the Los Angeles edition of the International Pop Overthrow (IPO) festival.  We've had the good fortune of playing IPO dates in Toronto, San Diego, Liverpool and here in LA over the years, festival organizer David Bash has always been good to the band and we have enjoyed the events quite a bit.  

Location, location, location
Ever have one of those places, maybe a restaurant or somebody's house, or a bar or whatever, and you just can't ever remember where the hell it is?  That's The Knitting Factory for me.  I've been there bunches of times, played there a few, and for the life of me I ALWAYS seem to forget that it's on Hollywood Blvd, not Sunset.  Then, even when I figure out I've got the right street, I can't find the bugger.  I think it's partly because it's tucked into this catacomb of shops and stores and restaurants, but mostly because there isn't a good sign out on Hollywood so I don't ever see it when I'm driving by; never get's locked into my brain.  I can't help but think they'd do better if they had a big giant "The World Famous Knitting Factory" sign out on the drag luring in tourists and reminding locals that they exist.  I must be right, cause apparently the joint is closing this October.  

So, as per usual, Kirsten and I struggled a bit to find the place.  At least she remembered it was on Hollywood across from the Roosevelt Hotel.  We still googled the address at the last minute to be sure.  We rolled in, parked in the structure (gotta love $8 parking), picked up our bracelet/ticket at will call, loaded my bass/pedals/chord bag to the backstage area, and I was ready to go.   Unfortunately the show was running about forty minutes late, so there would be some bonus hanging out time.  Actually, I didn't mind it that much.  Seems like I'm not actually seeing/hearing that much club music these days cause I'm usually playing.  We found a spot on the couches in the corner and played Audience for an hour or so. 

This is the only "sign" for The Knitting Factory I could find and it's barely visible from the street, and really more of a tarp/banner hung on a concrete wall.  Not a victory in the world of promotions and advertising, if you ask me.  

Boom Goes the Dynamite
(google that phrase sometime)
Not the best sounding room.  Concrete floors, weird angles, a chalkboard wall, it made for a very garage-y sound.  The PA seemed to be overly directional as well.  I'd stand in one spot and the vocals were at a good level, then move five feet to the left and they would pierce my skull.  Very inconsistent and odd.  Not that pleasant from out in the room to be honest.  

Gear
They always supply a backline for these IPO shows, and tonight they had a nice little Ampeg bass rig for me.   Not the classic SVT style Ampeg, but still a cool amp with a 4x10 cab.  I brought my Precision and my pedal board, as usual.  Toyed with going "au natural" and leaving the pedal board at home, but changed my mind.  I don't do any overt effects stuff with this band so I only drag it out for EQ options, but I seem to get in trouble when I choose the lazy path lately, so it made the trip.  

The house bass rig.  Should have sounded better than it did.  Tough room.  

Tone
Alas, but a cool bass tone is not made with gear alone.  I knew from the second that I plugged in that I'd be wrestling a boomy low end all night.  I was glad to have my pedals, gave me some tools to work with, but to no avail.  Couldn't find the definition that I wanted, ended up just dialing out some of the extreme lows, tubing it up with my Sansamp, and hoping it sounded better out front.  Doubted it though.  I hit the EQ on the amp, my Boss EQ pedal, my Sansamp, and my Radial Tonebone and couldn't get a good response.  Ended up flattening out the amp and Radial and using the Boss and Sansamp as best as I could.  

It was one of those autopilot playing nights.  Trying to move my fingers and arms in ways that should make it sound good, but not hearing the audio evidence to back me up.  Muscle Memory at work.  Played with a pick, fingerstyle was only accentuating the boom factor, at least the pick was adding some attack.  Couldn't really experiment further with my newfound Supermute technique cause it requires me hearing the subtle differences of lifting and pressing with my muting hand.  

Set List
Short list for these festival gigs, we only played five tunes.  

As Above So Below, London Bridge, To Love You is a Crime, Words, Start Again.

Some Moments Worth Mentioning From Each Song
-We tripped briefly coming out of the solo in As Above, I think Deborah was two bars early.  The ensuing verse was supposed to be just drums and vocals but Glen and I were caught off guard (in his defense he was still soloing) and played right through.  I think we made it work, no one probably noticed.

-London Bridge went well.  That was the only one I sang on in this set.  I mostly double Glen's part so he can branch off and do some cool call and answer stuff with Deborah without losing his core notes.   We also do an a cappella breakdown of the chorus that sounds really cool when it works and adds some nice drama to the tune.  We nailed it I must say.  

-To Love You was the one I was most worried about.  Well, not worried, but it was on my mind throughout the day and I put a little prep in.   It's a Glen Laughlin special, string skipping arpeggios with a capo at the third fret.  I NEVER use a capo on the bass, very unusual.  I had a couple of mental street signs for the changes, plus a chart at my feet.  Tried not to use the chart, it was mostly a crutch.  Found myself running an internal monologue so I wouldn't miss certain sections, "this is a short verse, get ready", "here comes that funky little turnaround", "this is the LONG verse, don't change", that kinda structural stuff.  Plus trying to dig in on the sections where the bass arpeggio is carrying the groove and hit some chordal stuff that I added to the original part in the driving turnaround sections.  It actually went very well, which isn't unusual.  It's the "easy" ones I'm NOT thinking about in advance that sneak up on me most of the time.  

Oh yeah, another thing about this song, Glen starts it with a bitchin' effect that warbles in time to establish the tempo during the extended intro section.  Can't remember what the pedal is called darnit, but it sounds great.  Problem is, I noticed a tendency he has to hit the strings on the 'and' of four, slightly anticipating the downbeat.  The pulse continues without a discernible hickup, but Kellii gets into a displaced beat from what Glen is feeling.  This happened once at rehearsal and again at the show.  The funny thing was, Kellii tried to correct to Glen's count just as Glen was correcting to Kellii's and they reversed positions.  Deborah and I aren't in yet, so it was just the two of them doing a little counting dance in the intro.  They got it straight before the song kicked in, so all was well.  

-Words is a Beegees cover, not disco Beegees, but cool psychedelic 60's Beegees.  Kellii nails this slow, marchy beat, Bom, Bom-Bom, kinda pulse.  Deborah does a great job singing this one, her vibrato is a perfect fit for the Gibb sound, and Glen hits some crazy high harmony notes.  I cheated and used a chart on this one, although I think I've got it firmly in my brain now and won't need it next time.  

-Start Again- will be the closing track on the upcoming concept album the band is working on called "Bad Penny Opera", so it's a natural closer for shows as well.  This might be my favorite Bluestorms tune, it's dark and groovy and cool.  I LOVE the melody in the bridge, it gets stuck in my head every once in awhile and I don't want to shake it.  Cool guitar solo at the end as well.  Kellii and I worked on some kick drum/bass patterns at rehearsal that tightened it up a bit, so that felt good.  

The Grade
These nights are hard for me to judge.  I didn't hit any real bad notes, but I couldn't hear myself well enough to feel like I was doing more than going through the motions on my instrument.  Trying to fake it so no one else would notice, and they probably didn't.  But I did.  So what's the mission?  To rise above the tough circumstances and deliver as best as I can?  Pretty close to mission accomplished on that front.  Or is it to figure out a way, any way, to MAKE it sound better, troubleshoot that tone, and wrestle something more elegant and happening out of the mess?  I didn't get that done at all.  So tough.  In the end it's the sounds that count, not the excuses.  I'm gonna say B minus, based on poor tone and even if it wasn't 100% my fault.  

Up Next
I get a little break for a couple weeks.  No gigs till August 21st at Trip in Santa Monica with Saucy.  I had a rough sonic night last time I was there with Flannel High, so I'm looking forward to a stab at redemption.  Kirsten and I are headed up to Oregon to spend some time with my family this week, so I even get a break from rehearsals and recordings and the whole musical enchilada.  Hopefully I'll come back refreshed and ready to dive in again, that's usually how it goes when I can't play for a week or so.  

Hope y'all are well and enjoying your Summer wherever you are.  It still makes me smile to think there are a few folks out there who read these blogs regularly, so thanks again.  

Talk atcha in a couple weeks,
-s


 

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