Monday, August 29, 2016

Shade Fest

I had no gig Saturday night, but I played in Greg Lee's band Sunday afternoon at the Grant Park Shade Festival.  With the exception of Eddie and the Cruiser's On the Dark Side, we played all originals.  Good stuff!  I don't even know how long our set was, but it really flew by.  I guess we had a pretty good crowd, tucked into the shade because it's still super hot in Atlanta.  Will it ever end?

Speaking of On the Dark Side, I was annoyed with myself for not quite nailing the end, and then I remembered that we weren't playing Yacht Rock and so it didn't really matter.  Trying to cop all of this stuff note for note has become something of a disease.

Anyway...check out Greg Lee's stuff on his website ( and buy his new EP (

Immediately following Greg Lee were the familiar faces of Indianapolis Jones.  Their music is so good that it made getting sunburned worth it.


Yacht Rock made another pilgrimage to Birmingham, Alabama Friday night, our second attempt to break into another regional live music market.

But first...more tire troubles!  Remember, if you will, that we had a bad back tire on the van a couple of weeks ago on our trip to Nashville?  The other back tire went bad on this trip, so we had to pull over in Hoover, AL and pick up a new tire.  We were extremely fortunate that someone could take care of it immediately.

Our previous adventure in Birmingham was at Saturn, a pretty cool venue with a place to spend the night upstairs (you can read about it here).  This time, we were across the street at Avondale Brewing Company on their outdoor stage.  Pretty cool.  It's like a festival stage in the backyard of the brewery. The staff is excellent and friendly.  A very hip place to play!

Pretty cool gig.  It'd been a while since we'd played a regular ol' Yacht Rock gig, so there was a little rust, but nothing too major.  The crowd was pretty good--we're still building momentum in this market--a few hundred people?  I'm not a good judge of the crowd size.  They seemed to really enjoy the show, but they would get very quiet between songs, which is a little odd.

My own performance was flawed by a gear problem:  the solo on Africa was a disaster, due to a bad MIDI cable (I think!).  Sometimes the signal to switch patches would go through from the pedal to the MIDI to USB convertor and sometimes it would not, and when it would not and I would try again, then it would leapfrog the patch that I wanted.  So Africa...intro sound (kalimbas), then switch to first solo patch, play first phrase, switch to the next patch, play second phrase, switch to the next phrase, play the third phrase.  Instead, I played the intro sound, switched to begin the solo, but the sound didn't change, and that threw me off.  I hit my pedal twice to try and jump to the second phrase sound, but the sound switched to the third phrase sound, so that didn't work.  I tried to back it up to get to the second phrase sound while I was playing, but ended up passing that and ending up on the first phrase sound, so I just gave up.

What the hell just happened?  I thought maybe that I'd stepped on the wrong button on the switching pedal, but there was no time to stop and troubleshoot the damn thing.  The only other song that used EWI in the set was Rosanna, and I thought that there'd be no problem--no switching sounds!  However, the sound changed inexplicably to the sound after my solo patch.  So, once again, I began the solo on the wrong sound, but this time when I tried to revert to the previous sound, it worked, and I made it through the solo.

Post-gig, I tried to switch patches, and sometimes it worked (but sometimes it didn't).  The switching pedal numbers were changing on time when I would step on the button, but the MIDI to USB didn't always see the signal, so I've swapped out the MIDI cable and hopefully that will fix it!  I checked it yesterday and it worked in my kitchen, but I'll be scared to death of it for the next half dozen gigs.

This venue had loaders (yay!), and they use a forklift from the brewery to get gear on and off the stage.  I've never seen this before.   Usually, there's a ramp.

One of the stagehands was amused that I was taking pictures of the forklift, and when I told her that I'd never seen this in any other venue I'd ever played, she explained that it was the easiest way to get gear on and off the stage.  What about a ramp?  She said that they would need a sixteen foot ramp for a stage of this height, and you can only purchase a sixteen foot ramp from Europe.  That didn't seem right, so as we drove away, I did a quick internet search on my phone.  

Loading out with a forklift is more fun, I bet. 

After the gig, we had pizza from Post Office Pies.  Maybe we were really hungry, but the general consensus was that this was some of the best pizza we've ever eaten anywhere.  Wow!

In other news, here are a couple of pictures, courtesy of Mixtape Atlanta, of the 2016 Revival.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2016 Atlanta Revival

The 2016 Yacht Rock Revival in Atlanta is now history.  Another fine evening with the original artists and 4,000 people in attendance!


Ambrosia is extremely consistent from night to night.  This was my first time hearing them out front, and I was extremely impressed with how good they were.

I had a nice chat with David Shaver from Starbuck before the show about what he's been up to since the last time I saw him.

Their posse far outnumbered everyone else's at the show.  I'm pretty sure I could pick out the band members, but they also had crew, spouses, and the crew's spouses.

Robbie Dupree:  We've played with Robbie so many times over the past few years that we are extremely comfortable with each other.  His songs are fun to play--not so complex that you don't know what parts are important, but there's enough musical meat on the bone to keep you interested in playing them more than a handful of times.

Robbie through us a curveball last night when his harmonica failed on Saturday Night (I'm really not sure--I just saw him come back to the riser, toss one harmonica, and pick up another), and I guess he restarted the solo?  I must have missed the cue to restart that section, and I plowed into the next chorus before I realized that I was off.  I blame Robbie.

Stephen Bishop:  First time with The Bish, and what's not to love!  He gave us some good stories, bad jokes, and I think he was genuinely impressed with the band--as he was leaving rehearsal on Friday, I overheard him say, "I haven't heard it sound like that in years" (speaking, I presume, about the last song we played with him, On and On).  Pretty cool.  This was also his first time playing the theme to Animal House with a full band, which is somewhat noteworthy.  I don't think he knew what he was getting into when he agreed to perform with us.  He seemed a little shocked by the whole event.

Matthew Wilder:  It's been really cool during the past year to watch Matthew transform back into a performing musician after a thirty year break.  He's much more comfortable than he was a year ago.  We like him, which means it's only a matter of time before we start making fun of him to his face.

Player:  We've played many, many times with Ronn and Peter from Player.  Their songs are cool, and they are also very entertaining as people (on stage and off).  Definitely the old, married couple in all of this, they intend to be rock stars to the very end (which will be when one eventually strangles the other).  I enjoy the California craziness that they bring.

Juice Newton:  Our first female guest performer!  She definitely hit a home run with her songs last night.  Not much keyboard for The Great Bencuya or myself--he handled handclaps on Queen of Hearts and I played the tambourine part on that and Love's Been a Little Bit Hard on Me.  I nailed the bells and chimes on Angel of the Morning, garnering kudos from Juice at rehearsal.  Maybe I should add that to my one sheet.

Big thanks to our crew for making it such a fantastic success--Kristen, Rebecca, Kip, Zach, Hans, and Matt!

Friday, August 19, 2016


Yacht Rock played a show in Nashville last night as part of our revival summer tour, featuring the same crew of originals we'd brought along to the northeast:  Robbie Dupree, Matthew Wilder, Player (Ronn Moss and Peter Beckett), and Ambrosia.  We've almost always previously played at the Cannery Ballroom or the Mercy Lounge, so this show was a serious upgrade--the Schermerhorn Symphony Center where the Nashville Symphony performs.  What a room!

But first!  We only made it as far as West Paces Ferry in Atlanta before we had to pull over with some kind of tire problem.

The caravan limped to Smyrna, GA for a repair.  It turned out that the steel belt was separating from the rubber.  We wouldn't have made it very far!  The tire guys were able to replace it immediately, though, so it didn't slow us down very much.

On to Nashville.  Beautiful room!

Easy gig!  Dudes to load our gear in and out and a plethora of dressing rooms made it all very easy, and the tire issues didn't slow us down very much.  Everybody played well, and the old guys seemed pretty happy with everything (not much bitching after the gig).

This day also happened to be Mark Cobb's birthday, and his parents came down from Indianapolis with cake.  Happy birthday!  There is no better drummer in Atlanta, and his playing was, as usual, impeccable.

Other to see one of my former clarinet teachers in the section for the Nashville Symphony.

This was on my phone.

Thursday:  Our gear and luggage plus the old guys' luggage makes for a very full trailer.

Random pitstop in Tennessee.

We got back to Atlanta, reshuffled the gear (some of it going home, some of it going to rehearsal, some of it going to storage until Saturday), and set up for the big revival rehearsal on Friday.

New clarinet!  Like I mentioned previously, I've lost all confidence in my Buffet, which I've had since I was a freshman in college.  At the time, I bought it solely based on the fact that it was the standard professional clarinet that everybody owns (at one time or another).  After putting up with its idiosyncrasies for twenty-whatever years, it's time for a change.  Because the Buffet is such an internationally known standard, they can't make any major updates to it--the clarinet community would freak out--so they're stuck replicating flaws and outdated technology.

So...I bought a Yamaha.  The intonation is better and it plays easier right out of the box.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Greg and Glen

And now for something completely different!  I played at Smith's Olde Bar Sunday night with Greg Lee, and also jumped on stage for a couple of songs with Glen Pridgen.  I'd never played live with Glen or his backing band The Breeze Kings, but they seemed pretty cool and the quick rehearsal at soundcheck was easy.  Greg Lee's stuff was likewise fun and relaxed, obviously one of the benefits of playing so many gigs with four guys from Yacht Rock.  My only regret was that I'd failed to bring an amp for my keyboard, and since the monitors were along the front of the stage and I was in the back corner, I was probably a bit too loud in order to hear myself.  I'll get it right next time!

Crappy turnout, by the way.  Smith's Olde Bar didn't help us by mistakenly saying that there would be karaoke in our slot up until a four of five days before the gig.  Anyway, we'll be playing these songs again at the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival August 28 at 1:15 PM.  Come and check us out, and then stay for Indianapolis Jones, happening at 2 PM, 'cause they're awesome.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Still Only in Saigon

I got called to sub once more on the Serenbe Playhouse production of Miss Saigon.  Bonus gig!  Right as I was walking from the parking to the pit, the helicopter flew by on its way to the staging area, and I got pumped about doing this all again.

I really enjoyed playing the show.  A performance can be a real test of what you do in practice--what sticks and what does not!  For instance, every show has a massive amount of flute, and it made me rethink the way I approached tuning with regards to lining up the third octave stuff with the first violin and the trumpet.  I also had to consider embouchure fatigue at the end of the show--stuff that doesn't matter at home!

In other news, I think I'm tired of fighting my clarinet.  I've had the same instrument since college, and I'm ready to investigate a different horn.  Some of the Buffet quirks that I've put up with for twenty years...I'm starting to think it's the horn and not me!  I feel good about saxophone and I feel good about flute, so why shouldn't I feel good about clarinet?

I also heard some stories on the break about guys who couldn't hold it through the first act and peed in bottles (this happened on a couple of other nights--not this one)!  I don't see how you could do that without the people next to you being aware of it.  Then again, I was so glued to the book and the music director that I probably wouldn't have noticed.

Moving on--I'll be at Smith's Olde Bar tonight, playing with Glen Pridgen:

And Greg Lee!

Naps, Eats, Beats

Yacht Rock played the Eats and Beats benefit at Buckhead Theatre Thursday night.  I think this was our fourth consecutive year of playing it.  There are never enough gigs in August, so I always look forward to this one, and it's an easy gig, and it's a Thursday night gig and I'm home by midnight, so...yay!

Like I said, easy load in, one set show, plenty of food.  The wait between soundcheck and our set is a good chance to take a nap (I took two).  Our show was a piece of cake, and I can't even gripe about the Buckhead Theatre too much--being on in ear monitors pretty much negates the vanilla sound and vibe of this room.

The playing was a little loose--it feels like we haven't played a normal gig in a couple of weeks (which it has been).  We're still a six piece band until Pete returns from paternity leave.

What else...someone in the green room coined the term food ghost as a metaphor for a fart.

Next weekend is the Yacht Rock Revival in Atlanta, so there should be lots to stress out about, plus we have an out of town show Wednesday night in Nashville, playing with Ambrosia, Player, Matthew Wilder, and Robbie Dupree.  Plenty to stress out about!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Night in the Box

This week's major activity was playing Miss Saigon, Wednesday through Saturday.  Four more nights in the box.

Complicating things was some sort of cold that I picked up in Chicago.  I thought my throat felt funny because of the air conditioner, but whatever it was stayed with me, gradually strengthening up until Friday, when it finally began to fade.  I hesitate to even say that it was a cold;  maybe a sinus infection or something, because there wasn't a whole lot of snot, just the other symptoms (headache, throat ache, coughing).  A coughing fit while playing a gig on a wind instrument sucks, and the feeling that you're going to have to cough right as you're coming up to a delicate flute part REALLY SUCKS.

Monday, Tuesday:  More chipping away at the book.  With the thoughts of what didn't work Sunday night (generally technical stuff I thought I could do, but couldn't play under pressure), I went through everything, trying to reinforce the trickier parts.

Wednesday:  Knowing that I needed to save face (literally), I warmed up and then played only a little bit of the show, just to start winding it up for the night.

Most of the musicians arrive sometime around 7 PM.  I left Marietta at 5:15 and got there at 6:45, which gave me a little bit of time to eat before getting in the box.  

The field where the show is staged.  

It was really tough for me to not check parts after I'd set up in the pit.  By 7:15, all of my horns were out and ready, and that left about an hour of time before the downbeat of the show.  I wanted to use that time, but I was aware that playing too much might screw me at the end of the night. a little bit, look at my phone, talk to Clara (the oboist next to me), repeat.

This turned out to be a good show for me.  My face held up a lot better (and that flute part at the end where I'd died Sunday night--coincidentally, at the same time that Miss Saigon dies in the show--was better an octave lower, and with a two measure break during the big ensemble unison right before it). Having the Sunday show under my belt, two days of practice, and a good night's sleep all helped immensely.  I didn't feel bad about the way I played this night.

Thursday:  I could feel that my chops were tired--my lips felt puffy, and the center of my lower lip felt kind of numb, so I did no playing at home.  Instead, I spent time watching my music and listening to a cast recording.

I made it to the show in plenty of time, ate, got in the box, set up my instruments, began noodling...and it started pouring outside.  Since the stage is not covered, the show was moved inside--down the street to the small ballroom at the local inn.

The parking lot became a muddy mess.  All of this seemed authentically Vietnam--a sudden rainstorm, heat, humidity, trudging through a muddy field with all my gear, not sure where I was going...

So...indoors.  This was not a giant Atlanta hotel ballroom;  the entire space was the size of a fast food dining room.  We set up all the way upstage against a curtain, with the actors working in the space between us and the rows of chairs--around twelve feet.    It made for a really weird show--there was no staging, no helicopter, no lighting, and most importantly, no microphones on the cast, so we had to play as softly as humanly possible (and it was still too loud).  I took most of the flute and piccolo stuff down an octave so that it wouldn't stick out as much.

Playing quietly for the entire show was exhausting.  Things sounded weird, and I was really uncomfortable because some of my parts felt really exposed.  At the same time, this different set up allowed me to hear differently how my parts lined up with the other instruments.

Friday:  Back to the box!  I think all of the musicians were happy to be back at our more normal volume levels.  This show felt pretty smooth.  I did no playing at home (once again listening/watching my part go by), saving all of my warm up stuff for the pre-show hour.  Another solid performance.  I was relaxed enough about what I was doing that I was finally able to really pay attention to what everybody else was doing.  Every night, the music has made a little more sense to me.

A word about the weirdness of Atlanta traffic:  Friday afternoon took less time and had significantly less traffic than Wednesday or Thursday night.  What's up with that?

Saturday:  My last night on the show, which mentally gave me license to go for it.  Things felt pretty good!  I was a little bummed when the helicopter went overhead, realizing that I wasn't going to hear that anymore, and I was only about a half hour from the finale.  Everybody filed out of the box like every other night, and that was the end of it, dragging my horns back through the soggy field to my truck.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Another trip to the midwest.  No Pete on these gigs due to the impending birth of his son.

Friday:  Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
We flew into Indy pretty early, giving us ample time to go find lunch.  Kip never seems to want to eat what the majority is eating, so the rest of us went to some place called Bakersfield and had really good Mexican food and left him at the pizza place.  We later regrouped at the van, where we found him trying out his new chair.

We still had time before load in, so the van made its way to Broad Ripple and we dispersed again, mostly to the record store.  Nice to see one of my college heroes, Rob Dixon, still making music in Indy.

The rain moved in while we were setting up, flooding the parking lot.

A sold out show.  Nice!

Saturday:  Chicago.

Indianapolis and Chicago are not very far apart, so we killed time with a band field trip to see Jason Bourne.  I hadn't been to the movies since the latest Stars Wars came out last winter.  This theatre served food, which was pretty cool--I've never been to one like this before.

I sat next to Monkeyboy.

On to Chicago.  I will spare you any pictures of the beloved wind farm...because I was asleep and missed all that.  Instead, here's a shot from our gas stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere in northern Indiana.

The high in Chicago was 75.

Our show at Joe's on Weed Street was pretty good--around 500 people in attendance, but their energy was at least as good as the 1,000 people from the night before.  The on stage sound was also twice as good as the night before.

Both this show and the previous evening in Indy had horns added on (same guys for both shows).  I'm not sure exactly why, but when we play with horns, I feel almost no connection to the other Yacht Rock guys, and also almost no connection to the gig that we're doing.  I guess I don't really feel much of a connection to the horn section either.  All we're doing is going over my arranging homework.

Sunday:  Fly home.  I thought for sure that I'd sleep on the plane, but instead watched most of Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, which was ok--pretty predictable.  I didn't make it all the way to the end, but it doesn't matter.

We landed around lunch time.  I had enough time to head home, eat, warm up, and head back south of Atlanta for my first night subbing in the pit for Miss Saigon, playing piccolo, flute, clarinet, and alto saxophone (it's a hybrid of the reed books 1 and 3).  For this performance, the pit is inside a massive steel shipping container.  Let's hope the power doesn't go out this time (you can read about my previous adventure at this playhouse here), though that made for an excellent story.

I've done quite a bit of practicing getting ready for this show, but it doesn't seem like it can ever be enough, mostly because after learning all the notes and rhythms, I still have to get in sync with the conductor and rest of the ensemble, which may be the hardest part (and there's some really difficult shit to play in a few of these songs).  In addition to this night's show, I also have Wednesday through Saturday, so maybe Friday and Saturday, I'll have the flow of it?

I think I did pretty well for the first time--there were even a few moments where I actually thought I was doing a good job, but by the end of the show, my face (and my brain) were exhausted, and I had one big exposed flute part that was rough--I could feel everybody in the box cringe as I tried to hold it together.  If I'd had twenty seconds of rest right before the part, it would have made all the difference in the world.  I might have to do a little editing during the big ensemble part immediately proceeding it.

The pit thing is weird--nobody talks to each other after the show ends.  Everybody packs up really quickly and walks out, and on this night it reinforced my feeling that I'd blown it because of rough eight measure flute solo on the ninety-fourth page of the book.  By the time I'd cleaned out all my horns and put everything away, I was the only one left.  I enjoyed the challenge of trying to play all of this stuff, but the total absence of any camaraderie leaves me once again feeling alone on the gig.

One more thing:  they theatre company hired a real Huey helicopter to fly in and touch down for a minute during the fall of Saigon.  Not only do I not get to see it (because I'm in a giant steel box and I'm glued to the music), but I'm not even sure that I hear it.  Major bummer--I love helicopters.  More unfulfillment!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Oh Atlanta!

Yacht Rock was back in Atlanta for a weekend of gigs.  In between gigs, Pete joked about trying to check in on the Delta app.  It's only half funny--looking at my Delta app as I write this, there are eleven more trips this year.  Damn.  Anyway...Atlanta!

Friday:  Due to all of our crazy calendar this year, this was our first available date to play the Park Tavern (in previous years we've averaged about once a month all summer long).  Pretty good crowd, around 800.

To change things up, we added a horn section for this show (Rob Opitz, trumpet and Sir Richard Serrington, trombone) with pretty good results.  My horn charts for Yacht Rock have only been used a couple of times in the entire existence of the band, so they still have a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out.  Regardless of that, though, it was nice to hang with some other horn players for a change.  I feel out of touch.

It was also nice to check in with Ganesh Giri Jaya, filling in for the vacationing Mark Cobb.  As usual, he did an excellent job, and hipped me to some cool new music by Mark Guiliana.  Check it out!

Saturday:  Venkman's.  Hooray for air conditioning.

No horns on this one (so I was more confident in what I was doing), and Daniel Morrison of the Yacht Rock Schooner played drums with us.  Solid gig.  I didn't screw up as much as the previous night.