Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Restaurant Gig!

I played a random restaurant gig last night with a female blues/pop vocalist and a pianist in a Mexican restaurant in a suburban strip shopping center north of Atlanta. Make sense?

It was cool, though, because:

1. The pianist was Dustin Cottrell--it was great to catch up with him again
2. The gig was all improvisational for me, and I am sorely out of shape in that regard
3. I got to practice clarinet beyond the scales and stuff I do at home
4. It was an easy gig for a Tuesday night--free food and we were paid in cash!

Not So

Yacht Rock was back at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta for the first time since the beginning of the year, bringing our annual show of Michael Jackson's Thriller to the stage.

The newly renovated Variety Playhouse looks great! It is now very reminiscent of the Georgia Theatre in Athens (another beautiful room).

On to the bad stuff...

My playing was very disappointing. For whatever reason, I began second guessing myself at soundcheck, and I never could break free of it. I'd played through all of the new songs every day the week of the show, and by Wednesday night I felt really good. I was kind of cocky about it, like when you know the answer on the test before the question has even been asked.

All of that evaporated at the gig. By the middle of the second set, I was pretty miserable--the accumulation of a bunch of small mistakes ate away at me.

A few videos from the show:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One More Trip

After the big Yacht Rock trip, I finally made it home Wednesday afternoon. Friday, I was gone again, this time headed to Alabama for a weird gig. It might have been some sort of debutante ball, or a gathering of young Trump supporters.

Greg, Mark Dannells, and I were recruited to help fill out the band for a Yacht Rock Schooner gig that none of them could do. In addition to the three of us, we had Ian and Tony from Bumpin' the Mango and Cole from The Shadowboxers. Tom Young was the only actual member of the Schooner on the gig! Ian and I soon started calling this version of the band Spare Parts.

In spite of our situation, the gig was fine. Things were surprisingly cohesive, and the crowd didn't know us well enough to see that we were almost all subs. Plus...they were super drunk. Look no further than they guy in the tuxedo who massaged one of the front line monitors for most of the second set, or the girl whom Greg walked in on while she was peeing on the floor of the storage closet.

The load in/out was pretty tedious (through the kitchen, up the only elevator), but it was certainly worse for the guy who had to leave in an ambulance after drinking too much. Ouch.

After what amounted to a long nap, we headed back to Atlanta early Saturday morning.  First up was a noon gig with the Greg Lee Band on Mark Cobb's front porch.

No Bencuya on this one. I played mostly saxophone, and probably should've thought out my approach to some of the music a little more--tambourine maybe would've been been more appropriate!

Lunch in Virginia Highland.  Tried tofu.  Didn't like it.

Next up, we played two shows at Venkman's, celebrating their one year anniversary. The 7 PM show was "unplugged" (maybe labeling it "acoustic" would be more accurate), and the 10 PM show was closer to a normal Yacht Rock gig. I took a nap in between shows.

I woke up the next day on the couch, still in my clothes.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ten Days

Yacht Rock just finished one of our longest trips as a band--ten days away from home! We started with 219 hours and counted down (estimating our return to be 2 PM on the last day).

Warning:  this blog is mostly going to be pictures! The gigs weren't as interesting as the locations. Here we go!

Monday:  We flew to L.A. It feels like an all day flight, and when you get there, people are eating lunch.

Our first gig was to be a corporate event on Tuesday, but it's too far to fly and then play (especially if the gig is going to go until midnight on the west coast), so we came out a day early and spent the day night in Torrance, CA.

balcony view
We brought a camera crew along to capture some of our day to day lives. The first order of business: a video shoot in Hermosa Beach.

After the sun went down, we returned to the hotel, showered off the sand, and headed out for food and drinks at Hudson House, a hole-in-the-wall bar on the way to the beach.

Tuesday: Before heading out to our gig, I had time to run to Redondo Beach. The coast really looks this beautiful every morning.

Our main reason for being California was to perform at a corporate event in Rancho Palos Verdes at an incredible resort called Terranea. Wow!

The client put us up for the night at the resort--we were spread out in million dollar cottages along the golf course. Here's our digs:

Our early arrival and soundcheck left plenty of time to explore before the gig. Here's more of the surrounding property.

The gig was pretty easy. From what I remember, it was a decent corporate party. The only hiccup occurred earlier in the day when the production company forgot to bring microphones and microphone stands.  Kip yelled at them.

Wednesday:  We only had to make it back to Los Angeles today, so...late check out! I squeezed in another run and some exploring along the cliffs.

After lunch, we made our way to home base for the rest of our L.A. trip--an Air B&B in Bel Air, up on a steep hill overlooking downtown. The lay of the land is insane--you could fall off the back porch of our house and bounce off a neighbor's roof before you hit the ground.

We managed to book a last minute public show at a place called Club Bahia in Echo Park. Yikes! Very different from what we'd experienced the day before.

photo cred: Eden Beckett

The gig was ok--kind of a shitty room. Matthew Wilder and Peter Beckett sat in with us, but there were still only a hundred and something people there to witness it. As you can see from the photo above, we debuted some new custom denim outfits.  After paying the rental fee for the gear, we netted zero dollars.

One more thing--in spite of the venue's claim to having "the best tacos in town" (or something along those lines), the food was really, really, really bad.  Zach, Bencuya, and I went to a convenience store (which was playing Coltrane's Say it Again and Again off the Ballads album!) and then three grocery stores in search of food (chips) and alcohol.

Thursday:  Our house!  It looked like a house from a porn shoot. The nine of us (seven band and two crew) shared this place with our film crew trio of Troy, Megan, and Jordan. Jordan is an olympic level snorer.

Our first order of business was a trip to Matthew Wilder's house in Venice.

It's good to be Matthew Wilder.

some stuff that he's worked on
More video stuff. I had a short term infatuation with the microphone boom girl.


Lunch at a vegetarian place called The Butcher's Daughter.

After we left Matthew, one of our friends from the Yacht Rock YouTube video series took us on a tour of the Warner Brothers lot.

Does The Great Bencuya blog?

the sound stage set of The Fosters

this is not going to end well

Harry Potter flying broom

My Fair Lady

Superman's cape

J.R. Ewing's hat and boots from Dallas

The Music Man

We closed out the night with some video interviews and a joint podcast with the Beyond Yacht Rock guys. I said nothing.

One last shot of L.A. at sunset.

Friday: Enough of that!  We flew all damn day to New York City, landing at JFK in the early evening. The walk from the gate to baggage claim is still entirely too long. The airport now has men's rooms, women's rooms, and a "dog relief" rooms.  Woof.

We landed around 8 PM (picked up by our van and trailer), checked into the hotel in Brooklyn, and by 10:45 PM, I was in the Village.  My plan was to check out Joel Frahm, one of my favorite sax players, performing with Jean-Michel Pilc at Smalls. The first set was sold out, so I bought a ticket for the second set (beginning at midnight) and found something to eat.

it looks like something is finally going to move into the Brecker Brothers' old spot 7th Ave South
This show was intense! I didn't know the piano player (Jean-Michel) or the bassist, but the drummer was Ari Hoenig and the front line was Joel and Melissa Aldana. It's really cool to see in person these people whom I only know through YouTube. They played a boiling version of Freedom Jazz Dance which morphed into Someday My Prince Will Come, and then All Blues.  This is the first time I've ever seen Joel a metal Link mouthpiece.

The ride back to Brooklyn was more complicated than my trip into the city. The A train was maybe(?) running on a different track, so I waited for it on the A platform, switched to the F platform, went back to the A platform, and finally back to the F platform. I have no doubt that I was missing it by moving back and forth, so I eventually jumped on a Brooklyn bound train and switched to the A further down the line.

Saturday:  Yacht Rock had been hired to play a wedding in Brooklyn, but we didn't load until mid afternoon, which left me time for a run around Brooklyn Heights before we split.

Once again, there's not much to say about the gig.  It was a wedding.  We used our own gear (ahhhh!).  Dinner was not provided, so I ate a salad (with frozen lettuce--yuck!) and a big bowl of rice from Whole Foods.

After the gig, we drove to Princeton, New Jersey to spend the night.  Check out the light switch in our hotel room.  Somebody actually thought that this was acceptable.

Sunday:  Back in the van, we drove down to Washington D.C. for the final Yacht Rock Revival show of the year, this time at the historic Howard Theatre.  Lots of history here!  Check out some of the backstage murals.

George Clinton

Duke Ellington

Marvin Gaye

Duke Ellington statue out front

As with the other Revival shows, we backed up Robbie Dupree, Matthew Wilder, Peter Beckett and Ronn Moss of Player.  Ambrosia was the opener.  Nice gig!  I had a good tenor solo on the outro of Africa for a change.

Ambrosia on stage
Monday:  Another fly day!  We sent the old folks home, and then hopped on a flight from D.C. to Nashville (with a layover in Atlanta).  Kip and Zach drove the van and trailer.  Monkeyboy and I joked that when we changed planes in Atlanta we were going to run out the front door and catch cabs to our homes.  So near, so far.

first class was so close that I could reach out and touch it

there goes my suitcase
We were scheduled to spend two nights in Nashville, so once again we opted to get an Air B&B instead of two nights in a hotel.  This one was a beautifully restored farm house off 8th Avenue.

A night off in Nashville afforded us the opportunity to catch up with our friend Heath at APA (who books us on cool gigs all over the country) and Dude from The Shadowboxers (Matt Lipkins).

Tuesday:  Our gig was close by, so I once again had time in the morning for a meandering run through downtown.

The gig of the day was a corporate party at the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Quite a view!  This was another painless gig.  In between sets, things threatened to get weird when a few of the clients requested to come on stage and sing along with the band, but our handler managed to shut that down. We finished at 10 PM, and back at the house by midnight. Good flute solo on Lowdown tonight.

Wednesday:  Strip the beds, take out the garbage, and drive home!

Some videos from our recent gig at the Houston House of Blues: