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Jul. 3rd, 2009

#17- Amy Heffernan in Canada AND Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, June 28th-July 1st 2009

 

Just finished a bit of a whirlwind 4-day trip through Northern Alberta playing with Amy then went straight from the airport to a midnight Saucy Monky show back here in L.A. at everyone's favorite dive bar The Kibitz Room.   I'm now gonna attempt to write one big ass blog entry to cover the entire trip.  First two-artist entry, hopefully it will work.   Might break up some of my usual formatting tricks this time, since I'm looking for more of an arc than a detailed bit on a single night.  I guess I should just dive in and see where it takes me, eh?  

Note: I just finished writing this entry, and it's a LOOOOONG one.  Sorry.  I think I'm gonna skip the links again and publish this bee-atch.  Next time I'll get all linked-up, I promise.  Consider reading this entry in chunks if you are short on time...

Day One- Departure and Rehearsal

Rehearsing at Mike's

So Doug (Amy's brother and guitarist) and myself hopped a plane headed North at 7:30 am last Sunday morning.  Being an international flight and all, we wanted to get there early so they ended up picking me up at (gulp) 4:45 in the freaking morning.  Not my usual hours to say the least.  After an uneventful stint at customs and a brief layover in Calgary, we finally arrived in Fort McMurray that afternoon.   It was raining and gloomy, I LOVED it!  Seriously, I have a thing for crappy weather, always lifts my spirits.  Partly as a nostalgia for my childhood in Oregon, partly for my disdain for sunshine as an L.A. pool guy constantly bombarded by UV rays.  It was perfect.  

First stop?  Barbeque and beers of course.  Went to Lee (sister of Doug and Amy) and her husband Trent's place for steaks to get the party rolling.  GREAT meal, although I did manage to bite down on my cracked tooth that's been bugging me and promptly slammed five tylenol to get rid of that "knife in the face" sensation.  Ouch.  Seriously.  OUCH.  My dentist couldn't find anything on the X-rays when I told him I was pretty sure I have a cracked tooth.  I hate dentists.  For real.  If you are reading this and you are a dentist, I hate you.  No offense.  

So after the pain subsided, and it did, we went downstairs and watched several of the kids play some Guitar Hero.  Actually it was the full band version of the video game, can't remember what it's called.  Garage Band?  Nope.  Guitar Band?  Nope.  Hmmm.  Anyway, interesting game.  I like that it keeps kids interested in a lot of the music I grew up with, guitar-based rock and roll.  I don't really like the fact that it fools them into thinking they are actually making music, which they aren't.  Hopefully it will prove to be a springboard for some talented youth into the world of actual music making.  We'll know in ten years or so the effect it had on this generation of young rockers.  

Okay, okay, speaking of music, after a quick stop by Howard and Diane's place (Amy and Doug's folks, where we'd be staying for the trip), we took our gear over to Amy's friend Mike's place to rehearse.  The photo above is us jamming away in his garage.  It was a cool little room, reminded me of the old days when I used to mostly rehearse in garages.  These days it's all mostly rented rehearsal rooms (and a couple guest houses to be fair).   Turned out to be a fine spot to practice, P.A. was workable and the amps he let us borrow were great.  I used a Fender head through a Markbass cab, 1x15.  Got a nice punchy sound for our low rehearsal levels.  Also brought a couple pedals to help on that front, my Sansamp and my Boss Bass EQ, plus the Boss tuner of course.  

Speaking of level, we jammed that night with local drummer dude Jay.  He had an electronic kit set up at Mike's so that helped on the volume front.  Always a little weird to hear the sticks clicking away on those rubber pads with the Roland Synth drum sounds coming from the P.A. speakers in the corner.  So Jay was a nice guy and had done some prepping, but unfortunately, he didn't have all the stops and endings down very well.  I'm sure with some extra rehearsal time it would have worked out fine, but we were doing 12 songs and at the end of this first rehearsal together we weren't very tight.  It was a great chance for me and Doug and Amy to run through the tunes, but it just wasn't together enough for the show.  PLUS, with the three of us living together at the folks place, we'd be able to run through the set over and over again as a trio and really get it happening.  It was gonna be easier and better to do without a drummer.  Poor guy, I liked him, he was cool, but we needed him to show up with the material in his back pocket and it just didn't work out.  

Here's another weird thing about being so far North; THE SUN DOESN'T BOTHER GOING DOWN MUCH.   it's crazy.  We wrapped up rehearsal around 11:30 pm and it was still kinda light out.  Crazy.  We ended up taking a cab to a local bar and meeting some of Amy's friends for a nightcap, then calling it a night around 2am or so.   

Day Two - Open Mike Night

Sorry, our photographer couldn't get the flash working on my camera, but you can trust me, this is Doug, Amy and myself rocking open mike night at The Whisky.  Use your imagination :)

So we wake up to to Diane cooking up a fantastic ham and egg breakfast on the patio, good conversation, and hot coffee.  I tolerated the sunshine poking through the lattice in long diamond-shaped fingers, mostly cause it meant our upcoming outdoor gig would be safe from the potential rain.  

Early afternoon found Doug and I taking a tour of the Oil Sand Museum on the other side of town.  Diane took us to get a sense of what really goes on in this happy little oil town.  It's a pretty fascinating process (or PROH-cess as Canadians say).  Their is all this oil in these sand pits, a totally natural phenomenon.  About a century of experimenting has uncovered a way of removing the oil from the sand in huge quantities and making it a safe and profitable venture.  Very profitable.  This is one rich little Northern town.  Anyway, the museum was cool, bits of history, bits of science.  

After the museum we met Amy at the local golf course lodge for a couple enormous plates of friend finger foods.  It was decadent to say the least.  Washed it down with more Canadian beer.  At this point I'd realized that the locals all drink American beers.  It was weird.  Bud light.  Coors light.  I remember Canadians always ridiculing our "watered down American brews".  Apparently those days have passed.  Oh yeah, apparently there has been a run in Fort Mac lately on BUD LIME!  Seriously!  They can't keep it on the shelves!  Wow!  Maybe the single worst beer in the world is so popular in this town that they have to put up signs that say "Sorry, we're all out of Bud Lime"!  I actually saw one of these signs in a liquor store.  Fantastic.   Anyway, I promised myself to drink only beer on this trip and only the Canadian flavors.  

Back to the folks place for some rehearsing, ran through the set, working out the kinks in the basement.  Adding some bits here, changing some bits there.  LOTS of singing to work on, particular with the absence of drums, we decided to keep the harmonies dialed up to Eagles Alert Level Red to distract from the lack of a designated time keeper.   Tried to focus on a handful of songs to get ready for the open mike night we'd be playing that evening.  

Have I mentioned "Ketchup Chips" yet?  Oh yeah.  Ketchup Chips.  It's so obvious really.  Key ingredient in Potato chips?  That's right, it's potatoes.  What goes good with french fried potatoes?  That's right, ketchup.  Well, up in Canada someone figured out to combine the two.  And it totally works.  Doug and I ate bag after bag after bag of ketchup chips.  So good.  I can taste them right now.  Mmmmmm, ketchup chips...

Okay, so after eating our weight in that particular delicacy and drinking a few more (Canadian of course) beers, we headed down to "The Whisky", a local bar where the open mike night would be going down.   It was about 11pm, still kinda light out, and the place was essentially deserted.  Amy assured us that people would show up around midnight, and sure enough, they did.  

Several performers that night, including a band who's name I've forgotten, who graciously allowed me to use their bass amp.  It was a nice Ampeg rig, 4x10 cab and one of the rack mounted heads.  Sounded great.  We took our turn and played Just Dance, I Do, Being Awesome and Here With Me.  It went pretty well, although we quickly realized that playing sans drummer is a whole challenge unto itself.  You get spoiled sitting in a basement right next to each other where you can really hear everything and lock into the group pocket.  Tougher when the sounds are coming from farther away and you don't have that proximity to grab ahold of.  Anyway, despite all that, we did a good job on the short song list and the recently gathered small crowd seemed to dig it.  

Day Three - Concert By The River

I took this photo about an hour before our set.  Crowd was still gathering, ended up being pretty darn big.  You can see the river in the background and get a sense of the lovely Alberta countryside beyond that.  

Okay, July 1st has arrived, it's officially Canada Day and we've got a 12 song set on an outdoor stage to prepare for.  We put in some time working out the kinks in the afternoon.  Added a song, "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" by K.T. Tunstall, with an intro that was "Beat It" by the recently departed King of Pop.  An interesting transition of Michael's "hoo, ooh...hoo, ooh" into K.T.'s "whoo hoo".  You can hear it if you know the tunes in your head, just try!  

Headed to the sight of the show around 7:30 pm or so, plenty of time to get acclimated.  The headlining act was a band called Trooper, who are apparently huge up North, although I'd never heard of them before.  We were supposed to have our own trailer backstage but it got commandeered by Trooper when the electricity in theirs went out.  This was a "dry" event, no beer gardens or nothing, so losing our trailer put a serious dent in our "Drink Canadian Beer and Eat Ketchup Chips" plan.  And seriously Canada Day?  A DRY EVENT?  Really?  Not "Utah Day", but "Canada Day", right?  We did notice an inordinate amount of coffee cups and Big Gulps in the crowd, you do the math.  

Remember Jay the Drummer?   Well he was playing in the band right before us (with Mike, who's garage we rehearsed in Day One).  There was a brief moment of awkwardness as he left the stage and we got up there, but it was all good.  Felt like he was perhaps a bit irked at being yanked from the gig last minute, but it was the right call.  He sounded great with Mike's band, sounded like he was more familiar with their list of covers than our tunes.  

Okay, so we hit the stage around 9:30 or so.  Crowd has gathered and is pretty big.  Stage is cool, lights are rad, gear is killer.  Super smokin' Ampeg rig, you can see it in the photo above.  New reissue head I've been Jonesing over with the classic 8x10 cab.  Unfortunately, because I know I love this amp, I opt to not hook up my Sansamp or EQ pedals, just the tuner.  Probably a bad call, but I'll get to that.  

The sound was a little more scattered than the open mike night, big ass stage, lots of real estate to cover, hearing Amy and Doug, vocally and guitarally, solely in my monitor.  Not a great mix, particularly of the guitars.  Twas a little tough to lock in, particularly at first.  Vocally, we actually were nailing it from the start, our three part harmonies were really going well, Amy's lead vocals were strong, that aspect of it was a hit.  Really were missing a drummer from where I stood, but we rose up and made it work.  Jay was probably out in the crowd with a big old "I told you so" look on his face :).  

From a bass perspective, the sound was a little fartier than I'd hoped.  I'm talking about that vintage, classic kinda farty that is often perfect for an occasion, just not this one (you'd have dug it C2!).  I needed to get a little more precise for all the syncopated sixteenths I was playing in some sections and generally just to be able to help lock our group time down a little better.  I KNOW my pedals would have helped.  Give the EQ a bit of a nose in the high mids, roll in some of the Sansamp tube sound and I probably could have played a little more accurately.  My bad.  Crap.  

Despite all that, it went really well.  The crowd was digging it, our vocals carried the day and the songs themselves went over pretty great.  I loved being up there with the Woodsy Northern Vibe all around us.  Trees and Rivers and Mosquitos oh my!  Very fun for sure.  Nice long set, we really got to dig in and play a lot of music for a change.  An hour always  seems so much longer than forty five minutes for some reason, that extra fifteen minutes is some kind of worm hole I think.  

We wrapped up the show, checked out Trooper for awhile (they were fun) then headed out for some post-gig bar hopping in the still-not-dark-yet evening.  Met a bunch of friends and family and had a great evening.  Got lots of compliments, apparently it sounded great out front and the show was a big hit.  Cool.  I really enjoyed the town, the people, the food, the bars, the whole scene in Fort Mac.  Always great to spend a few days in one place and start to get a feel for it.   Thanks to anyone from up there that made it such a killer stay, if any of y'all happen to be reading this, you know who you are.  

Day Four - Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room

Back in L.A. to start our month long Wednesday residency at The Kibitz Room.

Okay, up on Wednesday morning, mission accomplished, bags packed, brunch at local spot with the family, quick tour of the new offices the Heffs are putting in at their airport hangar, then we catch a flight back to L.A.  I've got a show that night waiting for me with Saucy Monky at midnight.  Our flight is scheduled to land at 9:30 pm at L.A.X.  It's gonna be tight.  And I'm gonna be tired, been going pretty strong for the past few days.  

Cut to Calgary airport and Doug gets held up at customs.  Some problem with his green card (he's a Canadian married to an American and he has a green card that got stolen while they were in China picking up their lovely adopted daughter Annie).  So he's got a photocopy of his green card, but not the real deal.  Some asshole at Customs decides to take him to a back room and give him the third degree like he's an international assassin or something.  Hold him there for over an hour, then let him go just in time to barely make the flight home.  Dick.  Meanwhile, I don't know what happened, just that he never came out of customs.  His phone is off, no contact allowed.  Just when I'm convinced he ain't gonna make it, he strolls in and fills me in on what happened.  Phew.  I'd been texting his wife warning her that her hubby might not be on board when we get home.  

And to make matters worse, our flight was late.  I've got a gig waiting, and I do NOT need a late flight.  It's gonna be really tight but it's still doable.  We finally get in the air about an hour behind schedule.  I get some much needed sleep on route and we land at L.A.X. around 10-ish.  I get my bags, Kirsten picks me up, we swing by the house to get my stuff and I drive down to Hollywood.  Arrive at The Kibitz Room at 11:45 pm, load in, set up gear and it's Saucy Monky Time!

As fate would have it we're playing another trio set without a drummer.  Megan had a cool TV show gig that night and we were rocking it sans skins.  I had my Hartke and full pedalboard and after a few tunes of tone-fishing was able to dial in something pretty cool.  Had a little push and pull happening with the sound guy, who wanted more low end from my amp, and Cynthia, who was stuck in the bass-trap corner and wanted less.  All three of us had to do some tweaking on the fly to get it dialed up, but from where I stood it ended up sounding great.  Annmarie was playing her recently aquired (from Cynthia) Kay guitar, Cynthia had her Wurly set up along with her guitar, the sounds were good!  

Despite some minor tempo problems, always an issue without a drummer it seems, we were vibey, found a nice pocket, sang well, played well, I was feeling it.  I LOVED having my sound working better than it had that last night in Fort Mac, very freeing, I was the proverbial Pig in Shit.  I'd done some reviewing while I was gone and felt pretty good about the material, hit the changes, felt like my voice was in the zone too.  It was a good show for me.  Had some friends  in the crowd who were ABSOLUTE ROCK STARS for coming out for a midnight show on a Wednesday (Howdy Sean, Dan, Jen, Farlan, Brian, Gary, Erin and a few others, you guys rule!).  Got great reviews from the peeps in the crowd, we sold some CD's to strangers, the club seemed pleased, it was a hit.  

I'll probably have more to say about The Kibitz Room in the coming weeks, Saucy will be playing their every Wednesday this month at midnight.  It's actually a fun slot, despite the hour.  Crazy people, good whisky, and bitchin' pastrami sandwiches, a lethal combo for sure.  

Whew.  So that was unusual.  Four days.  Two bands.  Doubt I'll try to do something this long again soon, my hands are tired from typing.  This is a lot to proof read too, there will probably be some mistakes that slide by the defenses.  But it's done.  I'm back.  Things are back to normal again.  Oh, wait, we (Kirsten is coming with for this one, yay!) leave next week for another road trip, this time to Oregon for two shows with my old college band Grubb Street.   That reminds me, I've got thirty songs to work out this week.  I know how most of em go but no more slacking, time to start drilling it.

Thanks for reading, it's been fun, talk soon!
-Steve

Jun. 20th, 2009

#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. 

Gear
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!
-s


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


 

Jun. 15th, 2009

#15- My Own Machine at Molly Malone's, 6-16-09

 

Tore it up last night with Brent and Forrest in the band My Own Machine.  For more thoughts and an intro to the band you can click here.  

Had a blast with this one, that makes two-for-two with M.O.M. on the fun meter.  We did the Power Trio Thing, with long guitar solos and cool improv sections.  Lots of stretching out and cutting loose, just a total good time.  I could have kept playing all night, felt like the set went waaaay too fast.  Loved it! 

Gear
Ah, the dreaded house rig at Molly's again.  I actually got that old horse to work for me this time, I think the secret is to crank that sucker up and be a little too loud.    Also brought along the trusty P-bass (armed with brand spankin' new Rotosounds of course!) and my pedalboard of tricks.   Had a bit of a shorting out problem at rehearsal the night before so I brought the Jazz as a backup just in case.  Did some earlier-in-the-day trouble shooting (all hyphens in this entry dedicated to E.G.) and couldn't find any problems with my cables or the bass.  There might be a problem with the jack that is just starting to rear it's ugly head, will have to keep an eye on that.  

It was a good pedalboard night, I got to stomp on some crazy combinations and make some gnarly, twisted, ugly, cool sounds.  My favorite combination was using the Bass Muff Pi distortion, with the Bass Microsynth and Boss Chorus, all at the same time.  Used that on the verses of "Broken Back" and it was all bubbly and weird sounding.  Also found a bunch of cool wah pedal moments throughout the set, I may have actually overused that pedal last night, but I'd do it again.  

Setlist
Shape to Shift, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Don't Wanna Let You Down, Infancy, NYC, Florescent, Sing the Silence, Broken Back, Like Lying, You're Used to Hanging On.  

Rush
We've been secretly working on a surprise Rush cover tune that I won't spoil here just in case we play it next time.  It's all full of odd time signatures and crazy transitions.  So cool to play with a couple of fellow Rush worshipers, music geeks unite!  Have you heard any of the bootleg naked tracks they have on Youtube these days?  Check out Geddy Lee's solo bass track, the actual track used on the recording, for YYZ from the Moving Pictures record, it's just ridiculous!!  You can faintly hear the other tracks bleeding through the headphones, but its essentially just that classic bass part all by it's lonesome.  I've listened to that song thousands and thousands of times in my life and it's just SO DAMN COOL to hear the bass track soloed!   You can hear the spots where they punched in, doubled the bass, threw on a chorus effect, all the bits that make it sound like it does.  Fantastic.  Thanks Brent for sending me that link!  

Picking Sides

This band is almost always a pick band for me.  We're loud, we're fast, and I need to be able to cut through the mix.  SOME nights my tone is so good I can pull off most of the set without the pick, but those are rare and I usually enjoy being Plectrum Man with these guys.  That was the case last night, start to finish it was an evening with the pick.  

The Band
Really played great I thought.  Big, bitchin' guitar solos from Brent.  Crazy frenetic drumming from Forrest.  It's so funny cause Forrest's other band is an AC/DC tribute band called Bonfire (check out their new record on itunes if you get a chance, it's bad ass) and the stylistic differences between the two groups couldn't be more extreme opposites.  Laying it down thick and steady with Bonfire, then going completely batshit crazy with us.  Super cool contrast.  Anyway, I also thought Brent sang his ass off, the boys did a killer job.  I think this band is really good and the sky is the limit as far as our potential goes.  

The French Vocal Mask Technique
This is great!   So, some of you may recall that I was recently commenting on smiling whilst singing the letter N seemed to make those words easier to sing.  I never understood why, but I've been doing it for awhile.  Actually discovered that trick while trying to sing on demos of my own material here at home.  Well, loyal reader of this blog J.B. informs me that this technique is a part of "The French Vocal Mask Technique."  How fantastic is that?  Apparently there is a whole school of thought around these sorts of techniques.  I can't find any additional info when I Google that phrase, so it must be a fairly obscure tradition, or at least one that hasn't wiggled it's way into the digital world.  Regardless, I LOVE that I stumbled across a tiny portion of such a cool sounding vocal training method.  And it works by the way, try it sometime.  

Have You Noticed How Often I Use These Words?
Cool, great, killer, rad, bitchin', Awesome, fantastic, Smokin'.  I'm running out of words that mean "good."  I think I'm gonna try to work in stellar somewhere later in this entry, see how that feels.  Feel free to hit me with any suggestions.  

Some Specific Moments

-I flubbed some notes in the first damn song, "Shape to Shift".  Really pissed me off too, cause I know that song, it isn't difficult, I just put my fingers in the wrong place a few times.   Managed to slide them quickly to the right frets, but still.  Grrrrrr.  It was the first song and got me off on the wrong foot.  Fortunately the rest of the set went really, really well for me.  

-"NYC" is a new/old song (new to this incarnation of the band, but we used to play it years ago when we were called "Nothing Comes True").  Anyway, it has this cool groove, almost like a tough walking gate.  Enjoyed playing that one particularly.  It adds a different flavor to the almost punkish energy of the band but still fits under the Appropriateness Umbrella.  

-Loved the jam section on "Broken Back."  We really caught a wave I thought, it was all very effortless and crazy fun.  I just repeat the bass line riff while Forrest tears up this tribal beat and Brent goes bananas on a big solo.  I watched him actually jumping up and down in spots with his playing, not a bouncing in time thing, just a jumping to accent his note choices, it was awesome!  We broke it down towards the end and I did some wah pedal bits and changed the roots in a cool way.  Then Brent comes in for the last verse over that broken down section and it felt fantastic.  Really good shit.  

-"You're Used to Hanging On" is a really fast tune, tough to pull off but we nailed it.  Lots of nutty changes and stops, a time-shifted bridge, high on the neck bass parts and runs.  Always feels like riding a bull, just hold on for dear life and try to keep up with the band.  I thought we killed this one too.   

What About the Obligatory Bass Tone Talk?
Sounded pretty damn good last night!  The secret was volume, volume, volume.  And a new set of Rotos on the Precision of course.  And rolling off the extreme lows with my EQ pedal.  I was getting nice sustain on the upper register stuff, was really hearing the pick-on-string attacks, was able to catch the subtleties of my effect-pedal stomping.  It sounded great all night, I was really happy!  Yes, this is Steve typing this.  
The Grade
It's an A minus.  Oh, if I could only have those three bad notes back from Shape to Shift!  This might have been a straight up A.  I even sang pretty well and I have a lot of harmonizing to do in this three piece arrangement.  Had fun, felt the music in my guts, played well and freely, hit some cool runs, held it down while Brent and Forrest took off for crazy parts, tone was good, "performed" well physically without faking it.  It was a stellar night.  

Up Next

Relentless Itch at Cafe Cordial a week from today (Wednesday).  It's an acoustic trio thing and I technically need to start working on the material.  We've got a rehearsal tomorrow so I'm gonna starting practicing immediately.  Been too busy (three shows in five days with different bands) to cram any more music into my head, but now I'm ready!  Grabbing my ipod in literally seconds, let's do this!

Talk next week, thanks for reading!
-s

Jun. 11th, 2009

#14- Flannel High at Rusty's Surf Ranch, 6-12-09


Day two of the LA gig doubleheader was last Friday night on the Santa Monica Pier.  Put on my best $10 flannel shirt, big black boots, goofy woodsman's hat and rocked some grunge music with the boys in Flannel High.  For previous thoughts on the band, you can go here or here.  

The Power of The Warmup Gig
Our show last weekend at Griffith Park was really great for us, got a chance to go through the tunes outside the rehearsal room and get a good feel for the set.  We did manage to add a song since that show, but otherwise we had a good live run-through.  With a rehearsal in-between we really got to work out the kinks and go into this show at Rusty's feeling confidant.  

Gear
Brought the Big Ass Bass Rig this time, Ashdown head, 8x10 SVT cab, pedalboard, and P-bass.  I'm still jonesing big time for my dream amp, the new reissue SVT.  Have been trying to sell stuff on Craig's List but can't get anyone other than the "I'll send you a certified check for more than you're asking" scam runners to respond.  That even fooled me for a day until Kirsten set me straight.  One of these days it's gonna happen dammit, I WILL own one of these!    
Here's a shot of my Big Room setup, Ashdown head and SVT 8x10 cab.  

Tone 
Funny, I got several kudos about my tone last night from some good, trusted ears, but I wasn't all that pleased with my sound from the stage.  I think I was standing too close to the SVT and it probably sounded  better from out in the room.  Also, we tune down a whole step to DGCF, so the strings are a bit floppy and tough to get to ring out properly.  But it can be done, and I was conscious of trying hit the strings in a way that would keep the flopping to a minimum.  I was at least aware of this, not necessarily accomplishing it.  
As I'll mention in more detail below, I did my share of flailing about with my right hand throughout the set.  

Setlist
Alive, Plush, Cherub Rock, My Hero, Low, Sober, Medley, Creep, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Even Flow.  

Very similar to last week's gig, but we added in the Tool song "Sober".  Felt like a tight list with some nice segues.  I think the medley is really cool too, it's got snippets from Rage Against the Machine, Lenny Kravitz, Days of the New, Weezer, Green Day, Beck, and some other fun stuff that's not all that "grungy" but still very 90's.  Went over really well too, lots of singing along with all the catchy radio hooks, worked like a charm.   We got an encore with some "One More Song" chants from our peeps.  We hadn't played "Even Flow" for a few months but actually pulled it off smoothly.  Better than when we'd been rehearsing it I think.  Weird how that works sometimes, not overthinking it and trusting your memory to get you through a tune you used to know.  

Yacking WithThe Audience
We have an open policy in Flannel High about talking to the audience, so I end up intro-ing songs and chiming in between tunes much more than I usually do in other bands.  I really don't like my nasally voice in an MC role, but I'll make the effort with these guys.  We end up goofing around and being off the cuff, keep it nice and light.  We should probably amp up our Schtick Factor if we want to compete with the best of the tribute bands out there with all the goofy gimmicks and rehearsed speeches and whatnot.  Maybe we'll dive into some of that in the future.  Usually feels too phony for me to stomach though.  In the meanwhile, it's kinda fun to have some Jabber Power, but I'm glad I don't have to do this with other groups.  

Rusty's
It's kinda divey, kinda beachy, Just how I like a fun bar gig to be.  Stage is on the small side but it still works.  Sound is actually pretty reasonable in there considering it's a big box.  Bar is stage right, there is a pool table area in back where you load in the gear.  I like this kinda joint, not at all a typical pretentious LA club, just a down-to-earth beach bar.  Plus it's on the pier, so you just walk out the door and you've got miles of coastline in either direction, ferris wheels, carney games, the whole nine yards.  Total fun.  


The Band
We played pretty damn well from an energy and vibe perspective, not necessarily our best performance from a strictly notes angle.  In fairness, it was a Friday night show with lots of our party friends (including my brother Eric down from Seattle) in the house.  Let's just fess up and say we did some drinking :).  This is the kind of band where it's supposed to be a party, that's the mojo we're putting out to the world and it works well that way.  We didn't resist the cut-loose spirit at all.  And seriously, we really did play the set tightly, hit all our changes and segues, nailed the medley, rocked an unrehearsed Pearl Jam encore.  It was ensemble tightness despite a lack of individual spectacularness, at least on my part.  Dan did lay it down heavy on the drums, he stuck the dismount on the cool snare fill at the end of "Cherub Rock."  I couldn't hear Tony that well from my side of the stage, but it seemed like his solos were happening.  I do remember him nailing these guitar bits in "Creep" that had been sketchy in rehearsal, so that was cool.   Doug sang his ass off and played rock solid, his amp is on my side of the stage and I was able to lock in with him well, all booze considered.  

Slip Slopping Away...
I was a little on the sloppy side at times last night.  Was feeling pretty animated and got into the physical performance of the set, did some hopping and spinning and headbanging and rocking out.  Nothing too crazy, but I wasn't necessarily killing myself to be as precise as possible with my playing.  Right hand was pumping a little too hard on the picked stuff, especially "Teen Spirit" and "Cherub Rock".  The fingerstyle tunes went better, a little less flailing about, more well anchored.  I did nail "Sober" I must say, that song has a bass-heavy chordal groove that is super badass and crazy fun to play.  Got several compliments after the show on that one, and I knew in the moment it was going well.   

Vocally, it was very similar.  I do a lot of gang vocal, unison singing.  Some harmonizing but it's all kinda raucous bar-band stuff, not supposed to be perfecto.  I was a little late to the microphone in a few spots, probably didn't hit all the notes just right either.  Still, I do think it was "right" for the moment.  A fun performance I'd be willing to bet I would have enjoyed if I was in the audience.  

The Grade
Let's see.   Definitely was animated and energetic.  The technical playing was a little sloppy.  But there were some moments were it came together and was really great on both fronts.   Not my best night vocally either.  But, but, but, it still felt great.  All the intangibles were on target even if the actual execution was shaky.The audience seemed to love it  Tough one to grade.  Could be anywhere from a low C (if I wanted to rely on the technical aspects of the evening) all the way up to a solid A (if I wanted to lean on the showmanship aspects of it all).  Oh no, here it comes again, the compromise grade.  Ladies and gentlemen, it's a B.  

Next Up
My Own Machine this coming Tuesday night, 9pm at Molly Malone's!  We got rave reviews from a small but appreciative crowd at our last show, would LOVE to see some more bodies out for this one and keep building up the momentum.  I'm really proud of this band and think y'all some come check it out!  

Thanks as always for reading, love the comments and compliments that come my way, keeps me motivated.  If you're reading this from the Myspace or Facebook links and would like to be added to the regular mailing list, hit me up at sinjingiles@yahoo.com.

Seeya in a few days,
-s

Jun. 9th, 2009

#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.  

Setlist
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.  

Word.
-s

Jun. 7th, 2009

#12- Flannel High at Griffith Park, 6-6-09

 
 
 
I played a last minute gig this past Saturday afternoon with my 90's grunge tribute band Flannel High at a cancer benefit over at Griffith Park.  For previous thoughts on the band you can click here and scroll down to the third part "Wednesday".     

AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH
I am now attempting to recreate this entry.  It was FINISHED (except for the links) and my computer just crashed.  Ouch.  These take about an hour (ish) to write.  I'm trying to stop mentally smashing the computer.  I think I could reach the pool from our balcony with a good heave.  I KNOW I could get the neck of my Jazz bass right through the monitor with a good windup.  Okay, taking deep breaths, slowing my heart rate, relaxing my shoulders.  WHY DIDN'T I HIT SAVE?!?!  Sigh...

(just hit save)

Gear
Literally dragged out my SVT 8x10, Ashdown head, full pedal board, and Precision bass.  As you can see from the photo, it was a SMALL stage we were dealing with.  We set up the amps behind us and considered having all non-drummers stand in front of the stage.  Eventually, being the prima donnas that we are, the thought of setting our pedal boards in the dirt convinced us otherwise.  Also, the P.A. system was, um, not necessarily adequate for a loud rock band.  They had two small speakers powered by a generator.  Three inconsistent-signal-receiving wireless microphones but only one functional mike stand.  I ended up bungee chording my mike to the stand and setting said stand atop the kick drum case to get it up high enough to sing into.  Seriously.  Check out these photos...




Crap.  Can't figure out how to rotate photos.  The one on the left is a good shot of my bungee treatment.  The one on the right SHOULD be rotated, but if you tilt your head you might be able to see how the mike stand is sitting on top of a drum case, anchored down by my chord bag, and generally ridiculous looking.  "Hey MacGruber, are you making a margarita?"


(Just hit save again)

Tone a Friend
Managed to get a useable bass tone, despite the traditional difficulty of doing so for me at outdoor gigs.  The low end was beefy but I didn't quite get the top end punch or clarity I like.  Messed around throughout the show with the Boss Bass EQ pedal but to no avail.  Still, had a good time with the low-end heavy sound.  Forced me to play a little different, less of a "notes" thing, more of a percussive sliding around approach. 

Doing the Two Step
One unfortunate side effect of having my microphone on a drum case was that I had to reposition my right foot to the side of my pedal board when I would lean in to sing my harmony parts.  That spot is also exactly where my cable plugs into the side of the board.  I managed to step on and unplug my instrument three or four times throughout the set.  Quickly re-attached it each time, usually with my foot but once had to bend down and do it manually.  Nothing ruins the momentum like your sound disappearing in the middle of a phrase :).  

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It Was Supposed to Say Spinal Tap and Puppet Show
Okay, in all honesty, this show was kinda rinky dink.  We pulled up to see the "band" before us was a couple of fourteen year old girls singing karaoke.  The P.A. was pretty much crap.  I've opened for a yo yo team before (eggplant serious), so I know what I'm talking about here.  BUT, we had fun anyway.  It was a great cause, the organizers were cool, the sparse crowd was appreciative.  People were walking laps around us in a walk-a-thon sort of activity and we knew we had more ears than eyes.  Plus, it was a good run-through for our upcoming show at Rusty's on the Santa Monica Pier next Friday night.  


The Band
We kinda kicked ass all things considered.   We hit the changes/stops/endings we'd been working on at rehearsal recently.  Dan played great and did a good job of drumming at a reasonable volume for our limited P.A. situation.  Tony ripped some smokin' solos on "Alive" and "Low".  Doug killed it on guitar but his vocals were tough to hear until we switched his mike with the one on the kick drum halfway through, and he sounded better from then on out.  Also, It's funny how people respond to some of these cover tunes.  After so many years of doing original sets I forget how cool it is when you see that look on peoples faces that says "I friggin' LOVE this song".  Helps get an audience on your side when they've heard your material ten thousand times on the radio.  This seems like a good time to segue into...

...The Set List
 I know at least a few of y'all will be at our show on Friday, so in case you don't want to spoil the surprise I'll right align the set list and you can avert your eyes and skip over this part.  
 
Alive (Pearl Jam)
Plush (STP)
Cherub Rock (Smashing Pumpkins)
My Hero (Foo Fighters)
Low (Cracker)
Medley (Various Artists)
Creep (Radiohead)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)

 
We'll probably sneak in at least one or two more on Friday.  Rock songs in the 90's were long, seriously, our tunes average 4 and a half minutes and several are much longer.  

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Costume Party
Part of the fun of playing in a tribute band is dressing the part.  We're still working on all that, but we are slowly but surely dialing in our grunge look.  Doug has his Kurt Cobain striped sweatshirt, Dan and I rocked the flannel, I wore my woodsy lumberjack hat I found the other day at 7-11.  Tony topped us all with his wig and knit cap look.  Actually I've got a close up photo of me in my getup that Doug's sister-in-law snapped with my new digital camera...
 
I promise I'll figure out this rotating thing and come in and fix these some day.  


(Definitely saving now after I uploaded the photo)


The Grade
Hate to say it, but it feels like another B-ish outing.  Played pretty well, only a couple little bad notes.  Sang reasonably considering the poor monitoring situation.  Hit the changes we'd been working on.  Had fun with the bottom-heavy tone, did some greasy sliding about.  But the tone wasn't what I was after.  And I kept unplugging myself.  I played well, but didn't kill it.  Didn't feel sonically free enough to surf about with total confidence.  But it was pretty good.  I'm gonna go with B+.  

Up Next
Since this was a last minute gig, I didn't mention it in the last "Coming Up" section of this here blog.  That means I'll have to pimp the same two shows that are in the near future that I did last time.  I've got Arrica Rose and the ...'s Thursday night at Hotel Cafe, and the aforementioned Flannel High gig at Rusty's on Friday night.  Should be a great week of shows, I have high expectations for turnout and general fun-factor for both of those.  Sweet.  

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Okay, thanks as always for following along.  I think the mailing list is up to about 25 people and I know there are some folks who pop in from one of the links I post online.  I have reasonable confidence that there are 6 or 7 of you who consistently get to the end of these entries.  Maybe more?  No way of knowing for sure.  If you're reading one of those links and want to have this emailed to you directly hit me up at sinjingiles @yahoo.com.  

Talk soon, probably next weekend after those two shows.  Double entry perhaps?  Hmmmm...

-s

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Jun. 2nd, 2009

#11- The Cherry Bluestorms at Skinny's, 6-3-09




 


                                                                              This one's for Little Quita...  


Put on my 60's Mod/Powerpop hat and played a gig last night with The Cherry Bluestorms at Skinny's.  For some previous thoughts on the band check here and here.   

The Skinny
First time at this club, it was kinda cool in a "Bringing the Strip to North Hollywood" sorta way.  L-shaped with the stage at the back, bar and entrance at the front.  Retro vibe, nice lighting, felt newly remodeled.  Good load-in area out back with a locked gate so we could keep our stuff there after the set without worrying about it.  They also supplied us with a free bucket of beers on ice, which is always good.  

Who's The New Guy?
This was our first time out with drummer Kellii Scott.  Yes, that's double L, double I.  He's the primary drummer for writer/producer extraordinaire Linda Perry, so I had a feeling he'd be great and I wasn't disappointed.  It's a good thing too, cause the drumming shoes in this band were big ones to fill.  Ryan, Dan, and Tommy (the last three guys I've worked with in this band) are three of my faves, great players and friends.  Anyway, Kellii did a smokin' job, only missed a couple small things and covered those well.  Great energy, deep pocket, cool fill choices, felt groovy all around to me.  

Bad Penny Overture
Ah, a new gig, a new bass challenge from The Talented Mr. Laughlin.  This one is an instrumental tune from the band's upcoming concept record Bad Penny Opera, and the bass part is quite tricky.  It's a driving riff, uptempo, with some cool string-skipping pick stuff.  Glen is a guitarist, but he tracks his own bass parts on their records, and he does a great job of it.  In this case he used a Fender VI, which is sort of a baritone six stringed guitar.  Sort of.  And he tuned it down a whole step, then capo'd it back up two frets to make the action more part-friendly.  I didn't have this luxury as I was doing the gig on my trusty P-bass.  Managed to come up with a version of the part that served the live performance pretty well, although it wasn't identical to the recorded track, missed a bit of the nuances of the VI.  I found myself needing to mute the strings a bit more rather than let them ring out like they do on the recording, otherwise it got too muddy sounding.  Anyway, the part basically repeats the same upper register pattern whilst moving around the root throughout the song, with a couple of brief builds that hold on single notes.  Very cool song, I'm anxious to hear the finished recorded version.   I did a reasonable job pulling it off live, but I can definitely do it better.  I doubt anyone else noticed, but I know I did.  It's fast and relentless and I didn't quite get it happening the way I know I can.  Serviceable but not a home run at all.  Plus I missed one of the changes towards the end, despite drilling the structure into my head all day.  Bah.  

Brains, Brains, Brains!!
At the end of B.P.O. Deborah joined us onstage and we morphed into "Time of the Season" by The Zombies.  Quick Zombies story, Paul Atkinson was the guitarist for that band WAY back when, and he also was the president of the record label Nu Millenia that signed my band 3 Penny Needle back in the mid 90's.  A great guy, truly a gentlemen, and a key figure in my only real "Getting Courted and Signed By a Record Company" story that I've been a part of.  He offered us a deal after a showcase at The Whisky, took us out for some great meals and lots of drinks, back when we were all so broke that ANYTHING free was spectacular.  Flew us out to Austin to play South By Southwest at the label's big launch party.  He told us all kinds of great stories about being in the Zombies and getting his parents permission to sign their record deal.  They were basically a cover band with no songs of their own when they got signed so they had to write some tunes real quick when they went into the studio.  Paul didn't do any of the writing, but the singer did, and managed to come up with at least two that are absolute classics that still get thousands of spins around the world every day, "Time of the Season", and "She's Not There".  Paul passed away about 5 years ago, and although I didn't really know the guy that well, he was a big part of one of the more interesting chapters of my ongoing musical adventure.  

 The Ocho
Just did the math and according to my calendar I've got gigs with 8 different bands in the next five weeks.  That would be, in order; The Cherry Bluestorms, Arrica Rose, Flannel High, My Own Machine, Relentless Itch, Amy Heffernan, Grubb Street and Saucy Monky.  If I can just get The Obvious Wish to book something It would be a clean sweep of all the projects I have my toes in on any level.  Crazy.  My brain is full of songs.  

Gear
Precision, as I mentioned.  Tried out the Jazz in rehearsals to see if it would accomodate the fast stuff in Overture, but it didn't work as well.  Narrower string spacing wasn't conducive to the quick string-skipping so I went for the roomier (and better sounding) Precision.   Brought the Ashdown head, SWR 4x10 cab, and the full pedalboard.  Despite the relative smallness of the room, I missed my SVT 8x10, I think that would have worked better.  Hey, I got a new digital camera recently and took some gear photos.  Here's a couple for your perusal...



The Current Pedalboard (clockwise from top left) - Boss Bass EQ, Boss Octave, Boss Chorus, Radial Tonebone, Boss Tuner, Sansamp Bass Driver DI, Crybaby Bass Wah, Electro-Harmonix Bass Microsynth, Electro-Harmonix Basss Big Muff Pie.  I badly need to redo the velcro and reroute some of the power cables.  It works fine but it's looking messy and disorganized.  Wired entirely with George L cables by the way, they are fantastic.  




The Main Axe - Fender American Standard Precision "P-Bass".  Bought it new in 2006 I think?  Love this bass.  


I actually got to use a couple cool pedal stomps at this show.  Combined the Microsynth with the Boss Chorus pedal for a swelling, synthy gurgle at the top of Bad Penny Overture.  Used some mild distortion from the Bass Muff Pi to beef up sections in Dasiy Chain, As Above So Below and Sunday Driving South.  Dropped some Boss Octave pedal riffs in Daisy Chain too.  I've made peace with using the pedal board primarily as a way to have EQing options and a good tuner, but it's always nice when I get a chance to use some of the whackier stuff.  Hey, speaking of the songs we played, here's the...

...Set List
Bad Penny Overture, Time of the Season, Daisy Chain, London Bridge, Just a Kiss Away, Sunday Driving South, As Above So Below, Words, Start Again.

The Band
We were pretty good but not great.  Deborah had a couple minor technical issues with her guitar and fortunately friend/tech Alex was there to help straighten it out on the fly.  I already mentioned Kellii did a bang up job but did miss a couple changes.  I also dropped the ball in two spots.  Glen told me after the show that he had two bits he missed.  Pretty good, most folks surely didn't notice most of it, but we're capable of being tighter.  


Volume Epiphany!
At Kelli's request, I turned my volume up halfway through the set and promptly started playing better.  This seems to be a recurring pattern for me lately.  I'm too damn polite with my stage level.  I think a LOT of my tone problems I keep bitching about wouldn't be nearly as bad if I would just  crank it up a notch.  I can hear the nuances better, feel the instrument, get the snap, punch and grit I need to play properly in a rock setting.  This is one of the reasons I started doing this blog, so I would start to see some patterns and hopefully make adjustments based on what I noticed.  Color me louder next week...

Videography
A friend of Glen and Deborah (Dan?  Dave?  I'm pretty sure it's Dan) took some video of the show, hopefully I'll have something to post in a future entry.  He also did this video of a show at El Cid (not the one I blogged about, an earlier one).  Always fun to check those out.  Curious if it will back up my thoughts about Bad Penny Overture, I'm very interested in hearing our performance of that song and comparing it to how it felt from my perspective.  

Photos
My pal Brian Honda was in attendance and took some photos.  He's a star and always shows up at gigs and takes cool pictures, plus hands me a disk of shots from the last time I saw him.  I'll continue posting photos that go with older blog entries cause I like having the visual.  The super crappy shot I have for this entry I took with my new camera between songs while it was sitting on my amp, just reached over and pushed a button.  I'm sure I'll be replacing it with a Brian Special after I see him next.  I need to remember to hand my camera to someone in the audience in the future to get something I can use from out front.  

The Grade
Let's see.  I could probably give myself a different mark for different parts of the set.  B.P.O. was "okay".  Then the next few songs were slightly better.  Then I turned up my volume and I finished strong, dug in, had some nice moments.  Never really got all the way off the ground though.  Tone was pretty bitchin' by the end, I cranked up the "presence" setting on the Sansamp to get some nice top end bite.  Played mostly with a pick but "London Bridge", "Sunday Driving South" and "Start Again" got the fingers treatment and that actually went pretty well cause they were post-volume-adjustment.  I think I'm gonna sink back into the B's again.  Probably a straight up B, barely avoiding the B- thanks to the late-set improvements.  Okay, fine, it's officially a B.  

Up Next
I've got back-to-back shows next Thursday and Friday with Arrica Rose and Flannel High respectively.  Both should be really fun, Arrica's is a record release at The Hotel Cafe and Flannel High will be a crazy party at Rusty's on the Santa Monica Pier.  Good times!

Thanks as always if you made it this far.  If you're reading this from the Myspace or Facebook posts and want to be added to the regular email list, hit me up at sinjingiles@yahoo.com and you'll get the inbox special.  

Talk Soon,
-s

May. 20th, 2009

#10- Amy Heffernan, acoustic trio at Molly Malone's, 5-20-09


Headed down to Molly's for an acoustic set last night with Amy and her brother Doug.  Click here for some previous info and thoughts on her upcoming record "Being Awesome", which is now less than a week away from mastering and we're all very excited about it.  Although Doug is still working on mixes frantically and I still owe him a redo on a bass track that I'm hoping to do this Saturday morning.  

Acoustification
It's always interesting to come up with acoustic arrangements for tunes that were written and recorded with the whole "electrified rock band" thing in mind.  In this trio setup, Amy was playing the meat of the song, the rhythm parts, Doug was doing more of the motifs and color parts and I obviously held down the bottom end.  I do have some extra freedom to get outside the lines a bit and keep things interesting in this format, which is always fun.  Also more of an obligation to help out with the time keeping since there ain't no drummer doing that for us.   Amy and Doug both have good time though, so that part of it was groovy.   We ended up locking in pretty well for the most part   It really makes ya listen to everyone when you don't have a drummer back there slamming out the time for you. 

Takin' it Eeeeea-sy
We also chose to add some harmonies that aren't on the record to blend in that whole 70's-ish, 3-part texture in some spots.  Doug and I took turns singing the main harmony part, depending on who had the more difficult instrumental thing happening, and we added in the third parts whenever we could manage.  Good times to sing with a brother and sister who have a natural synchronicity to their phrasing and voices in general.   I was trying my best to blend, back off the microphone, find the sweet spot in my monitor.  Found the low parts tougher than the high ones to slip in properly, which is typical for me.  Felt like I sang well last night and so did the Heffs, we got our Eagles on nicely from where I sat.  

Nothing Like the Last Minute!
So the show was on a Wednesday night and we had very little time for the three of us to get together and prep.  We did one rehearsal on Monday night to get the arrangements straight and another on the day of the show to get it tight.  Since we had new arrangements and a couple songs we'd never performed before, there was plenty of work to do in between to get the details hammered out.  I put the set list onto an itunes playlist and listened to it over and over again on my ipod.  WISH I'd made recordings of us doing the actual arrangements on Monday night cause I ended up having to listen to the album tracks and superimposing the acoustic versions in my head.  I have a Zoom hand-held recorder that is perfect for exactly these scenarios but I forgot to bring it on Monday.  Grrrr.  

I played well, but did feel slightly underrehearsed up there.  Hit a couple bad notes, felt a little unsure in a few spots but covered pretty smoothly I thought.  It was mostly a singing thing, there is a lot more involved when I'm singing on almost every song.  A few minor bass flubs too, but I used an old trick that I'll share; if you make a mistake, DO IT AGAIN.  Makes it seem like you did it on purpose.  Maybe that's stupid but I've been doing it for twenty years and I pulled that one out of the hat twice last night.  Always makes me feel better, even if no one in the audience is fooled or is actually paying attention to the bass notes.  

Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics
Turns out the biggest challenge was getting the lyrics straight for the chorus of a new tune called "I Can't Wait".  The funny part is I wrote most (but not all) of these particular lyrics but that didn't help the memorization process at all.  It's a feel good, drinking-by-the-campfire-sing-along-style, 3 Chord Charlie kinda tune that was supposed to be easy but strangely has been a bit of a struggle (both for getting parts figured out and also getting the live performance straight).  I've written before about tracking this bass line (here), and it's simple, but needs to be a certain way to get the right sense of motion, especially in the chorus.  It's mostly a country-ish 1-5-4-1 progression and I do these subtle walking bits that really work but make it tough to sing harmony on the wordy chorus and nail the part.  I practiced this in my car for a couple days and wrote the words down so I could keep drilling it.  In fact, here are the chorus lyrics so you can play along at home...

We'll be having a good time, under the sunshine
drinkin' some cold beer, out on the south pier
letting our hair down, crankin' the tunes out
digging our toes into the sand
having some real fun, right by the ocean
makin' some memories, doin' what we please
getting a good buzz, worries behind us
givin' the real world a day off
and I Can't Wait.

I ended up using the written down cheat-sheet for the gig.  Kept screwing them up whilst rehearsing and just finally gave in to The Paper Solution.  Worked like a charm, always does for lyrical issues, that's a fallback I've used many, many times for these types of wordy occasions.  

Gear
It was Molly's, so the dreaded house bass rig was in effect.  Not so bad in this case cause we were rockin' it gently, no need for crazy volume.  Pumped some signal into the monitors which is always the right call at this club.  Brought the P-Bass and full pedalboard too.  I've been bringing the pedals along for everything lately, even if I don't plan on stomping on distortions or wahs or synths or anything nutty like that.  I like to have the EQ options at multiple stages (Sansamp, Boss Bass EQ, Radial Bassbone), plus the tuner is all hooked up, AND if I feel like stepping on something whacky I have the option.  

Toning it in
The P-bass was singing nicely on this gig!  I got in a good ten minutes of fidgeting with EQ settings and rolling in the right amount of grit.  No need to push tons of air for this acoustic setting, so it was pretty easy to dial in what I wanted.  Ended up sounded real good all night, allowed me to play well, get some subtleties happening between the notes, feel connected to the instrument.  Good balance of bark and clarity.  Did some high octave fingerstyle melodies in a couple tunes (Blame Me, The Word), played some fast pick stuff in a couple others (Knowing, Being Awesome), it was a good variety of techniques and a solid playing night for Mr. Fussy-About-His-Tone-Guy.  

Setlist
Without You, Over Again, I Do, I Can't Wait, The Word, Blame Me, Just Dance, Knowing, Being Awesome.  

The Unbearable Awesomeness of Being
"Being Awesome" went over like gangbusters.  Everyone was singing along even though it was the official unveiling of the tune so only a couple people had heard it before.  I got several comments along the lines of "That is a freaking hit song" after the show.  Always a good thing.  I tend to agree, it's a pretty great party-anthem kinda tune.  The hook is "Right now, I'm just a drink away, from being awesome", in kind of a Green Day meets Pink sorty rock-swing marchy vibe.  It was the last song the three of us wrote for the record and it's probably going to be the title track.  

Covers
We rocked the Lady Gaga tune "Just Dance", which is fun as hell to play.  Here's a link to us playing it with the full band at our previous gig at Molly's.  That's the fabulous Ryan Brown on drums!  The acoustic arrangement was different, no crazy bass synth stuff.  Also, we did a brief intro to "I Do" with the lyrics to Kim Carnes song "Betty Davis Eyes" in three part  harmony.  It was spooky and moody and weird and fun.  Thinking about adding that some day as a full song instead of a one minute intro.  

Photoshop

I've been wanting to take more photos for this here blog, so I just ordered a cheap Canon digital camera from Amazon.  Hoping it's really user friendly and I can hand it to strangers at gigs and have them point and click a few useable shots.  Plus it's orange, which is cool (here's looking at you Jeef Cleek wherever you are).  I've managed to get some great shots on occasion from friends, usually Brian Honda or Kirsten, and actually I've gone back and updated some past entries if you want to scroll down and see photos from the events that weren't up the day I posted the blogs.  I'll continue to do that, back-tagging with appropriate photos.  If any of you are ever at a show and take some shots, PLEASE fire them my way at sinjingiles@yahoo.com!  

Also wanted a camera so I can do some cool stuff like photograph some of my gear, pedalboard, setlists, cheatsheets, that kinda stuff, might be interesting additions to these posts.  For me anyway :).   SOMEONE was taking pictures last night and I think Kirsten made contact so hopefully I'll eventually have shots from this show to add to the post.  

Oh Yeah, Can't Forget a Grade
This is a tough one.  There have been several thoughtful comments from y'all (both verbal and digital) that I'm being too hard on myself and that my grading system is all jacked up.  I maintain that the A's need to be elusive and that I know them when they happen, even if I can't describe the requirements very eloquently.  This one was close.  I did hit some bad notes that were tough to hide in this exposed trio environment.  I also did feel just a smidge underrehearsed, particularly with the singing and playing simultaneously thing.  But I played well despite that.  I think I'd be happy to hear an isolated recording of the bass from last night, or even a recording of the three of us.   The tone was good.  I was in tune, the pocket was happening, it was really fun.  Sang well too.  Fine, there it is, I'm going to say A-.  Whew.  That's my first A grade since I started blogging about these shows.  

Some Quick Parting Props For Amy
Amy will be leaving us soon to head back up to Canada and promote her new record.  She'll be gigging and touring and working radio and networking and doing all the things it takes to make it in this business and I'm fired up for her chances of success!  She's a really talented artist who is willing to dive in all the way and I'm 100% rooting for to find the magic formula that makes it all work in a huge way.  Good luck Amy, we'll miss you down here!

Next Up
The Cherry Bluestorms in two weeks at Skinny's in The Valley.  In the meanwhile I've got plenty of rehearsing, recording and even a mastering session happening.  Might dive into some blogification on one of the non-gig events, who knows.  

If you're reading this from the Myspace or Facebook posts and want to be added to the mailing list, let me know at sinjingiles.com and I'll make sure you get the regular, direct, annoying emailed links.  

Thanks for reading, talk soon,
-s




May. 14th, 2009

#9-Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, May 13th



Played a late show with Saucy in Hollywood at The Kibitz Room last night.  For some background and intro to the band you can click here.   

In the Midnight Hour
We hit the stage right about midnight for this one, which is pretty late for a middle-of-the-week set.  Especially for our poor drummer Megan, who lives in San Diego and had to get home, sleep for an hour or two, then be at work by 7am.  Ouch.  We even had some friends come out and show us some love, which is fantastic all things considered (here's lookin' at you Amy, Marc, Chris, Brian, Gary, and a handful of other's cool enough to join us).   Throw in the usual zany batch of characters that stumble around that joint and it was a good crowd for sure.  

Gear
No house amp at The Kibitz, so I brought the "medium room" rig, which is Ashdown head, SWR 4x10 cab, full pedalboard, and Precision bass (with rotosounds!).  I was actually tempted to trot out my Fender Geddy Lee Jazz bass but opted out at the last minute.  Had a good experience* recording the jazz this week and it reminded me that I do have more than one instrument.  Still left it at home this time, but I might just use it on a gig again soon, it's a cool instrument that plays smooth and has a great, cutting sound when it's happening.  

*(Actually, at least two of you might be interested to know that I used the Geddy to re-track the bass for Amy Heffernan's tune "I Can't Wait".  I mentioned here that the original track we did didn't feel quite right and I was considering taking another crack at it.  Well, producer Doug Heffernan gave me a DVD with the project on it to take home so I could work on a better bass line in my home studio.  Ended up being frustrated with the sound of the P-bass and plugging in the jazz, sounded great, got a cooler, slightly more active line happening.  New part has some good motion, a couple walk-up bits and passing tones, a little more character than before.  I was able to post a Wave file of the new line to the public folder on my .mac account and Doug downloaded it in his studio across town, he and Amy dug the track, and voila, we're all happy!)

Staging and Volume Issues
So the Kibitz has one of those wide stages left to right but very shallow front to back.  We end up in a straight line across, with me on the far left, then Megan and her kit, then Annmarie, then Cynthia on the far right.  Obviously, there normally is a little depth and we're at least slightly out front of the drums, but not at The Kibitz.  That's all good except Cynthia likes to hear plenty of bass whenever possible.  This is one of the many things I love about that girl :).  So after the first song, I got a request from stage right to turn up!  Great!  I turned up!  Then after the third song, the new request was "split the difference".  So I did my best to do that.  Then a bit later I got a third request to come down a hair, and so I did.  The other thing is, there are no instruments in the PA at this club, so my stage volume is all there is to fill up the room.  AND the majority of the audience is off to the right of the stage by the bar.  It's a narrow room, sort of parallel to the narrowness of the stage but extended out further from stage right.  

So it was a good thing for the room that I be a bit on the loud side.  Perhaps not a good thing for the stage however.  I think what I'm trying to say is this; I was generally louder than I'd like on stage, but it was probably a necessary evil.  Megan was bombarded with bass all night and was a trooper throughout.  I kinda liked it, but I'm a bit of a self-centered bass junkie.  

Obligatory Tonal Dissatisfaction
The bottom end was "boomy", that's the word.  I tried dialing out the extreme lows with my Boss Bass EQ pedal, and that helped a bit.  Found a bit of a sweet spot in the low-mids and bumped that up to try to get some clarity.  I could hear a good, gritty, grindy tone going on just underneath this layer of boominess, but it remained slightly out of reach.  Might have had something to do with the level being so hot, just pushing the 4x10 cab a little too much.  The goodness was in there somewhere screaming to get out, but I couldn't quite find it's hiding spot.  Close but no cigar.  

The Band
...was really smokin' I thought!  Energy was great, vocals were kickin', Megan was laying it down, felt like we were on our game.  Technically the girls up front (particularly Annmarie) were having some trouble hearing themselves sing, but I thought they sounded great and I heard nothing but good things from those in attendance afterwards on the vocal front.  

Nothing Like the Last Minute
We had a "day of the show" quick rehearsal (without Cynthia who was working) to run through a couple tunes and arrangements.  The new song "5 south" (Not eye five KJB, it's THE five) got it's proper debut after a last-second shelving the previous week in San Diego.  But we needed that quick rehearsal to finalize the arrangement and it paid off, totally worked, we hit all the changes good.  Also ran through some alternate tunes just in case we needed them - Scarz, Funky Love, Solid Ground, maybe one other I can't recall.  

Set List
We changed it on the fly a bit, so I'll have to recreate from memory.  I think it went something like this...

Seven Days, Disco Ball, The Acrobat, 5 South, No One's Here Anymore, Turbulence, Sand, Attention, All The Things Ya Know, Solid Ground.


Maybe that's not exactly right, but it's close.  Right songs, proper order is sketchy.  


Some Other Memorable Moments

- Turbulence rocked, I love playing that song.  The coda section has a great build and finishes with a wicked bass melody that slowly climbs up the neck and makes these cool slash chords against the guitars.  Former Saucy bassist Carson Cohen played it on the recording and it's crazy cool, he's a great player.  The song itself is one of my all-time faves in the bands catalogue, check it out if you haven't already.

- I was able to sing reasonably well last night, which was nice after having to sit out vocally at our gig last week.  I have a lot of little parts here and there, usually something on most songs.  It was nice when we got to the end of the first song, "Seven Days" and I was able to join in on the "Wasting my time" section.  My monitor was good, voice felt pretty strong, I knew I'd get to chime in for the evening.  

- "Sand" is a lovely, haunting tune and was completely unrehearsed!  This caught Megan off-guard cause we hadn't planned on playing it but she rose to the challenge like a champ.  I over-noodled a bit in the out section on that tune, but I forgive myself.  Sometimes one must noodle to be happy, that's just the way it is.  

Grading the Grading Process
I got an interesting comment from one of you anonymous readers out there after my last post regarding my little self-grading process.  Kirsten has also questioned my accuracy on these in the past.  The question is, "What exactly is your criteria for an A grade Mr. Giles?".  

Well, I've been doing this self-grading thing after shows for years, although I've only talked about it with Mrs. Giles and a couple friends.  Here's what I think, generally speaking; the proof is in the pudding.  It's not about making excuses regarding equipment or other circumstances, it's about How Good Was The Bass Playing, Period.  If I heard an isolated recording of JUST the bass, would I be happy?  Would it be an edit or two away from good enough for a studio recording?  Would it be close?  That's the main thing I'm concerned with when I think about how I've done.  I realize most people can't hear it closely enough to tell, but that's what I'm shooting for, and I know how close or far away from that standard I am as it's happening.  Another option for an A-grade is if the tone was magical and I was playing completely free and untethered, even if close scrutiny of the notes wasn't flawless.  

Now, that being said, I'll give my grade a bump (or drop) if some other aspect of the gig went well (or poorly), like the energy, fun, performance, tone, whatever it might be.  That stuff is obviously really important too, maybe more so in a lot of ways.  But I like to start the process with the actual notes that came out into the world that night.  For example, I played a show with The Cherry Bluestorms on the big stage at The Cavern Club in Liverpool last year.  I played well, the tone was good, I felt...above average.  But not outstanding.  It was a solid B+ evening.  But!  WE WERE PLAYING THE CAVERN CLUB IN FREAKING LIVERPOOL!!  That alone bumps that night to at least an A-.  

How About a List of Some Other Past Shows That Earned the Elusive "A" Grade!
Great idea!  Here's a sampling...

1- DFM at Rafter's in Salt Lake City, I think Winter of 1993.  Despite leaving my favorite leather jacket at the club, never to be seen again, this was a great night.  I overplayed like crazy but it was called for.  Was in a serious Billy Sheehan Wannabe phase.  Played my blue Charvel.  Great night.  

2- Liquid Vision at Universal Bar and Grill, also 1993-ish.  My last show with the band.  Same blue Charvel through my old Hartke 4x10 and Ampeg head.  I remember the tone was amazing, it was so effortless to play.   Did some cool slap stuff, back when I used to do that kinda thing.  It was all buttery and smooth and easy.  

3- Grubb Street at some club in downtown Portland, maybe 1992?  Can't remember what it was called but I can picture it in my head.  Sven made up a song about the promotor on the spot and we followed.  Long jam sections, great crowd, I couldn't help but overplay cause it sounded so great.  

4- Joe Cool at Jeef Cleek's house party, U of O campus, 1989.  Great night.  Roger McConnel singing, I think he was tripping on mushrooms during the show, I remember him writhing around on the floor singing "All Right Now".  Awesome.  Me and guitarist Derek did some cool unison tapping lines we'd worked out.  Hot chicks hanging from the rafters.  Someone stole Derek's Ford Fairlane poster but he eventually got it back.  a legendary night.  I was phenomenal, trust me :)

5- Saucy Monky at Indiefest in San Diego, just a couple months ago.  They had the SVT Classic head and 8x10 cab for the backline and it RULED.  Catalyst for my obsessive need to own that head myself soon.  My precious.  That's the sound I want, right there, and I had a great gig.

6- Halo at The Gig on Melrose, 1997.  I played my friend Cal Curtis' AMAZING vintage jazz bass and it just melted me.  Awesome sounding, particularly this one night.  We had a packed house, wall-to-wall friends, and we were doing this crazy trio thing where I was stepping on bass pedals and playing keyboards with my hands and with a makeshift footpedal that would trigger individual notes.  Weird contraption, but really cool.  Anyway, I remember just killing some hard-to-play parts and loving that feeling, wanted to keep on playing.  Also, C.C. Deville from Poison came up to me after the show and said something hilarious.  You know how I sometimes put my pick on my forehead when I switch to finger style?  Well he says to me "Hey man, you should put that pick under your eye next time, like a teardrop, you could be a sad, sad clown..." .  Loved it. 

Okay, I could go on but no need.  There ARE nights that get the A.  Some from long ago, a handful in the last couple years.  Some cause I played really well and would be happy to hear my playing solo'd.  Some because I was unhindered by the usual tonal issues, a freedom thing.  But they are rarities, that's what I'm chasing most of the time.  That's what makes it fun.  

Man do I wish I had links to photos from some of those shows and/or bands.  Good times, wish I had some mementos darnit.  

So Captain Blowhard, What's the Grade For Last Night?
Played well, not great.  Very few, if any, actual mistakes.  Over noodled a bit.  Boomy tone made it tough to play as accurately as I wanted.  Vibe was good, band was happening.  Hit the changes in the new song.  Oh no, here it comes again.  Straight up B.  Sigh.  

Up Next
Acoustic trio gig with Amy Heffernan (who may or may not soon be officially named "Amy Heffy"?) next Wednesday night at Molly Malone's!  Between now and then I've got a trip to Vegas (Vegas Baby!), a dreaded apointment at the dentist, Decemberists show with KG on her birthday Tuesday and two rehearsals to get ready for the show!  Partay!  

Wow, another one that got away from me in the brevity department.  Can't seem to stop typing sometimes.  Thanks again for indulging me and reading this, and a bonus extra-special thanks to those of you who comment or give me a shout out in one format or another.  It's always cool to know who is tagging along and if you have any thoughts about this nonsense.   Also, if you're reading this from the myspace or facebook links and want to be added to the email list, hit me up at sinjingiles@yahoo.com and I'll put you on the regular distribution, which is now a whopping 20 or so.  Word.  

talk in a week or so,
-s


May. 11th, 2009

#8- My Own Machine at Molly Malone's, May 11th.

 

Okay, My Own Machine's debut gig arrived at last, and appropriately, M.O.M.'s coming out party was the day after Mother's Day!  Well, technically we did a few shows about four years ago when we had a different name.  And it was the same three guys.  And we played several of the same songs.  But still, it felt like a debut gig, what with the new name, some new songs, a different vibe and more focus.  

Archival links
Because I'm starting to write about some of my bands and projects multiple times, It's gonna get redundant for me to do the whole "intro to the band" routine every time, with names and links and whatnot.  In the interest of cutting to the chase, I'm gonna be leaving those out where appropriate and replacing them with a relevant link to a previous entry.  So, for example, if you're interested in some background and previous thoughts on M.O.M., you can click here.  

Sick Men
The story of our prep for this show begins with myself and Brent coming down with some crappy sick symptoms during the half-week before we played.  I was more cold, he was more fever, but neither one was particularly conducive to singing and it made us a bit nervous.  Brent is the sexy lead singer (and ridiculously great guitarist) and I sing harmony in pretty much every song.  I am also quite sexy.  We had a rehearsal two days before the gig and we managed to sing pretty well without blowing our voices out.   Two full days of rest, meds, witch doctors, potions, salves, balms and good vibrations was the order of the day.  In the end (in no small part thanks to the shot of Maker's I had with my friend Ursulla before the set), we did the show symptom-free for all practical purposes.  

Gear
So at Molly's they have a house bass rig, it's an Ampeg head and Ampeg 4x10 cab.  I'm not really a fan, despite the fact that I love Ampeg stuff.  Not sure why, but it never quite hits the magic tone button for me there.  I ALWAYS ask for bass in the monitors and that sometimes helps.  Anyway, I brought my P-bass, full pedal board and used the house rig with some bass pumped through the monitors.  Oh yeah, and I changed strings, FINALLY put some Rotosounds on, I'm never going back.  Had them changed for our rehearsal over the weekend and they were fantastic, ringing out, punchy, none of that whacked out intonation stuff that was going on with the DR's.  

Vibe-tastic
I freaking loved this show!  Really had a blast, felt like we were delivering the goods, even though there were plenty of bad notes to go around (it was our first show in years after all).  The energy was great, it felt honest and powerful.  No trace of disingenuous "performing", I was genuinely caught up in the moment and rode the wave.  

A Night at The Improv
One of the best things about M.O.M. is the little tangents we dive into on occasion.  There are several spots in the set where Brent launches into a solo and we just wing it behind him.  It's different every time in rehearsal and sometimes we get WAY out there before we bring it back.  Crazy fun.  Feels dangerous, which I totally dig.  No rules, no spoken guidelines, no preconceived notions, just "where the hell do we feel like going today?"  We hit those spots good last night, took a couple of trips off the beaten path and managed to come home again.  Killer.  So fun to play with these guys in this "power trio" setting, it really pushes my buttons on multiple levels.  Also, it's been really good for my listening skills to do these improv sections.  I get all connected and hyper-attentive to Brent and Forrest, and I'm not always great at that aspect of playing.  I tend to get caught up in my own world of tone and parts and whatnot.  

Fashionista
Okay, this is completely lame, I know that before I type it.  But I'm (at least sort of) committed to honesty here, so I'm gonna confess; my clothes felt groovy.  It matters.  It's so completely f-ing lame, but it matters.  I felt cool in my getup.  Nothing fancy, just jeans, converse, black undershirt, grey sweatshirt with some stupid symbol on the front (I think Kirsten found it at a mall somewhere).  But it felt right and it contributed to me feeling loose and good onstage, not self-conscious.  Sometimes the duds don't feel right and it can contribute to an attack of The Awkwards.  Okay, enough of this pathetic clothing talk, blech.  

(NOTE: I just spent a full minute debating the deletion or inclusion of the previous paragraph.  It just seems so...silly.  But I'm leaving it in, the truth is silly sometimes).  

Hey Steve, Don't You Usually Bitch About Your Tone in These Blogs?

Well, yeah.  And I will again now.  Tone was not good last night, at least not onstage.  I got some compliments from some people I trust, so maybe it sounded better out front.  My level was apparently too low for the first couple tunes, so I cranked up my stage volume (by popular demand).  I think the sound guy heard the rumblings of "more bass" and followed suit, cause apparently I was way more present from that point on.  

Unfortunately, that didn't help what I was hearing.  As I'm sure most of you know by now, I'm just stupidly sensitive to my tone.  That little rig couldn't push out the sound that I wanted to hear, and I didn't have enough juice in the monitor to make up for it.  I was going for a bunch of pedal board stuff, stomping on the Bass Muff Pi for distortion when Brent was soloing, hitting the wah pedal in a few spots, but it was all a bit mushy and I had to trust my instincts and not my ears.  

Setlist

Shape to Shift, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Don't Wanna Let You Down, Florescent, Infancy, Broken Back, Used to Be, Sing the Silence, Like Lying, You're Used to Hanging On, Big Yawn (encore)

Have I mentioned yet that Brent writes ridiculously great songs?  Ever since our days together in 3 Penny Needle I've been a HUGE fan of his writing.  This set was non-stop winners as far as I'm concerned.  

Some Memorable Moments

-When we hit the chorus of "Shape to Shift" and I started singing, I knew my voice would be okay for the show.  I was worried with all the sore throat crap I've been dealing with, but that was a good feeling when I knew it would be okay for the night.  I got several compliments on my vocals last night, which is always cool.  Oh yeah, when Brent played an extra second chorus in this tune and Forrest and I went with him without missing a beat, I knew we were dialed in and listening to each other.   

-Got into a serious jam during "Broken Back", a D-tuned, semi-sludgy riff tune.  Brent and Forrest were both just killing it, crazy soloing, tribal beat, right in the pocket, super fun.  I did some bass wah stuff (100% Abby Approved!), it was a smokin' 3 minutes of tasty goodness.  

-During the solo of "Sing the Silence" we botched the out cue and Brent and I had trouble navigating back to the song.  It was kinda funny, we're up there looking at each other going "Now?  How bout...now?  No, now?  Okay...now!"  Finally got back on track.  That was our only real ensemble screw up and was still pretty fun.  I also ditched the pick for this song and fingered it up pretty successfully.  Otherwise it was An Evening With Steve and His Pick.  

-"You're Used to Hanging On" is a wicked-fast punkish tune and we really nailed it.  It's a tough one to pull off, lots of stops, punches, time shifts, weird structure, and all at breakneck speed.  We slammed it I must say.  

Molly's

...is a cool little room.  Has a front bar that is separate from the music room in back, so you can hang out pre or post set where the volume is tolerable for conversation if you want.  If they had a better sounding house bass rig it would be one of my favorite clubs to play in town.  Our crowd last night was smallish but enthusiastic, not bad for a Monday night, but I think there will be more at the next one.  

The Grade
Another tough night to judge.  Tone wasn't good.  Energy was GREAT.  Fun-level, very, very high.  I felt like I played pretty well, despite the rough tone, which isn't like me to do.  Hit a couple bad notes, but no train wrecks.  B?  Hmmm.  I think I might be disappointed if I heard an isolated recording of my playing (at least in a couple sections), couldn't hear things well enough to kill it.  But still, IT FELT REALLY GOOD!! This band is not about precision, it's about attitude and conviction.  The mission statement isn't "play as perfectly as possibly", it's more like "take chances and play with balls" and I did both of those things darnit.  I'm saying B+.  Yes Kirsten, it's another grade "in the B's".  Some day there will be an A, C, D, or F, I promise.  

Up Next

Saucy Monky on Wednesdy at The Kibitz Room, then Amy Heffernan the following Wednesday back at Molly's.  Lots of rehearsals in between.  Plenty of thoughts about recent recordings, writing, practicing, and more, but it will have to wait.  

If anyone is reading this from the Myspace or Facebook links and wants to be added to the email list, let me know at sinjingiles@yahoo.com and I'll put you on the list.  

Thanks for reading, talk soon,
-s

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