Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Life During Wartime

The blog is back!

What's been going on with me?

1. Immediately following the end of the Yacht Rock tour in California, I had a very bad bicycle accident on a charity group ride in Atlanta. Basically, I hit a speed bump on a steep downhill and cartwheeled to a stop, a dramatic deceleration from 39 mph to 0 mph! Concussion, road rash, ambulance ride to the emergency room--not a good start to quarantine, but also...if there was a perfect time to have an accident and not miss any gigs...

I have almost completely recovered, and with everything shut down, have spent a lot of time reacquainting myself with the bike (as well as my running shoes). Follow me on Strava! For the time being, swimming has been curtailed by virus fears and a bum shoulder. If feels like my wreck allowed kinds of middle aged man ailments to catch up to me!

2. Yacht Rock has put forth a few online collaborations.

It feels like this internet trend has finally (thankfully) finished. I mean, do we really need to see another video of someone playing along with a Charlie Hunter video?

Several of the guys have committed to weekly shows on Facebook Live, and the rest of us have contributed backing tracks for those. Here's one where I am featured.

3. In my own musical world, I've been practicing consistently (though shorter durations), which has been good, though sometimes I question why I'm working on certain things (for that one jazz gig I might have in 2021 where I need to play four Joe Henderson tunes?...uhhh). One major accomplishment for me has been to learn the solo for Africa. I've always played it on EWI (with a few small alterations to the harmony) because I didn't have enough technique to handle it on keyboard. With much time and persistence, I've finally got it. One step closer to being a less crappy keyboardist!

A nerdy musical explanation here: 

a. The variation in the first phrase is because I can only play parallel intervals on the EWI (in this case, a perfect fourth below), so the first notes are D# and A#. They should be D# and B. The way to think of it is that the whole phrase is in fourths, but within the confines of a B major pentatonic scale (which means that it's not fourths because the it's a third when you have D# as the top note BLAH BLAH BLAH shut up).

b. In the second phrase, the two voices (the flutey thing and the marimba thing) should be in thirds. I can't program the EWI to play thirds (since some are major and some are minor), so I played it in octaves. Now that I'm playing it on keyboards, I still can't play it in the thirds because I would need to split the keyboard for the two sounds. If I used one sound to cover the whole thing (which I am doing--another compromise for live performance!), I can't physically overlap my hands and play this, SOOOOOOO...I'm playing them a tenth apart (the third line in the middle system), which, to me, sounds fine.

c. The third phrase follows the same rules as the first phrase (fourths in B major pentatonic).

So, is it better? Am I closer? Maybe.

4. I've been working in my yard a lot, and I've enjoyed trying to get the right plants in the right place. It's mostly been an experiment of seeing which ones can handle the different ratios of sun to shade in our backyard.

While I was at it, I also learned how to clean this sucker.

5. Our family grew with the addition of a puppy named Finn!

PeePoopSleepEat on repeat.

On to the gig!

Yacht Rock played a gig last weekend in Indianapolis! It was set up drive-in style in an enormous parking lot. Tickets were purchased by the car (4 people max), and your ticket got you a spot to park and a spot to tailgate. We were on a nice, big stage, maybe forty yards from the nearest car. 

The people that put this show together were very cool (no problems with staff not wearing masks, no eye rolling, no BS), and it felt really great to play a gig. I honestly didn't get much energy from the crowd, but it didn't matter because I was so tuned into what was happening on stage. The cars honking their horns was super funny, though.

About the only thing that was tricky about this was the travel and accommodations. I opted to ride up in the van with Kip and Zach. Just about everybody else flew (Nick and Pete were already in Indiana). 

We even made the New York Times! The article is here. Zero mention of me playing the Africa solo on keyboard.

And that was it. I would definitely do more of this style of gig until things come back to normal. It was extremely well done. Corona hugs for everybody.

See you in...September? No gigs until then. Please wear your mask.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Another Blog About California

Heads up: here comes A LOT of pictures. This trip had about as much down time as it did work time, so I did my share of exploring. I'll spare you the shot of Indian food, but here's an edited catalog of the rest of it.

California: This trip started Wednesday, March 4, with a flight from Atlanta to LAX. We got there in the late afternoon, and with nothing to do until the following evening, it was run, eat, and sleep. The following day was coffee, run, and eat. Everybody was wandering around Hollywood, enjoying the weather.

Sunset Blvd.

Capitol Records with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, and Tito Puente

Thursday afternoon, it was finally time to gear up for our big show at The Wiltern in LA. Very cool theatre with some groovy art deco green rooms.

Very fun gig! Our originals went over well, our special guests (Elliot Lurie, Matthew Wilder, and Peter Beckett) sang great, the crowd was big, the room sounded good...everything on my checklist!

LA is definitely one of those places (like NYC) where it's not just a gig, not just a "big show", but a real moment where we have to rise to the occasion, and we did, and it was glorious. On a Thursday, no less!

Friday, we planned to head to San Diego at noon, so I got in one more tour of Hollywood before we headed off down the freeway.

Unfortunately, there was plenty of traffic leaving LA, and then we ended up in hellacious San Diego rush hour traffic. All of this cut about an hour off of set up/soundcheck and killed our best chance to eat dinner.

The Obersvatory North Park! Another nice stage, nice room, nice crowd, and this one SOLD OUT! Yeah, San Diego! I like that!

Saturday was our longest travel day, a six hour journey over a mountain and through the desert, with a pitstop at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Duron's (Duron's El Zarape Grill), in Yuma, Arizona.

Our second show at the Van Buren in Phoenix was tremendous. I mean, Steve Gadd didn't show up for this one (you can read about that highlight of my life here), but we packed the place out and gave 'em a great show. This place has got it going on, with or without ol' Steve-o.

Sunday: More time in the desert. Tuscon is less than two hours away, so we left at noon and still got there too early to load in.

I washed some clothes in these mean machines. Warmed up on flute, warmed up on saxophone, talked on the telephone.

This gig had everything working against it--Sunday night, our first time here, fourth gig in four days, day off tomorrow, big show the night before, but it turned out to be fun. The place was kind of grungy, the local crew looked like they'd spent the night before out in the desert, and we were kind of in a silly mood. Still fun once we got things in motion. Maybe a hundred people in the audience.

Sooooo...Monday morning, we got dropped off at the Tucson airport (with plenty of "have we ever flown here and if so what was the gig" discussion), headed to San Francisco for the next few tour dates. The van would catch up to us in a couple of days.

leaving Arizona

hey SoCal
This included a layover in Los Angeles, and we had to change terminals, so we had to get on a bus. Doesn't this look like fun? Aren't they having fun?

After a few hours, a burrito, and a desperate search for a place to charge a phone, we flew to San Francisco. Now get in the elevator.

Hello, San Francisco. It's Monday evening. We play Wednesday evening. I went for a run, and know...Indian food. Anyway, San Fran is very photogenic. Take a look.

Tuesday morning, I hopped aboard to 10:30 AM ferry to Alcatraz. Woah! Every time we've been here for a gig, I've always pined for a chance to take the tour. Today's the day!

the lighthouse

the yard


solitary confinement cells

I went to lunch after this. Before heading out in the afternoon, I took this shot from the roof of our hotel.

And then, with nothing on the schedule for the rest of the day, I went for a run, and this time made it across the Golden Gate Bridge.

mildly terrifying

Made it! Aaaaaaand then I had to turn around and go back across.

After returning to my hotel room for a shower, I walked to a vegan Mexican restaurant called Gracias Madre. It was about a mile and a half away and on the same street as our hotel (Mission Street), buuuuuuut...I still managed to get lost on the way there, by about a half mile.

saw these beauties on the way back to my hotel. think of the banana bread!

Finally, Wednesday! We didn't check out til noon, so I did one last lap around SF before giving up.

the Bay Bridge
Just an hour later, we took this very bridge across to Berkley and then up towards Napa for our show.

We'd played the JaM Cellar Ballroom, site of Pat Monihan's (Train lead singer) birthday party about a year ago. This year was a public show, or first in this area. How would it go, on a Wednesday, with the Corona Virus closing in on us?

Uh, around a hundred people, so I guess that's ok. Good crowd, though! They made it fun.

Thursday morning, we finally got the call that the remaining California shows in Sacramento and San Francisco had been cancelled, and we were heading home.

Back through the vineyards...

Back across the Bay Bridge...(check out the layer of fog in the bay!)

Back to the San Fran airport...

Back to Atlanta.

See y'all when it's safe. In the mean time, buy our album, or buy some merch! Help keep the lights on!