Thursday, February 20, 2020

Mostly at Sea

I'm late with the blog, so this one will be quick!

Thursday: I played a gig in Columbus, GA with friends (Rob Opitz, Marla Feeney, Wes Funderburk, Tyrone Jackson, Billy Thornton, and John David) at a meeting of Georgia Science Teachers. It was supposed to be a Mardi Gras theme with possibly 1,000 people in attendance, but it ended up being about 100 people drinking and sitting across the room from us. Very little to suggest Mardi Gras.

For our part, Rob had a couple of books of Dixieland arrangements that were really fun to read, so we played these and a few funky/second line jazz tunes for two hours. Not a bad way to spend an evening!

Friday: Yacht Rock flew to south Florida to join up on the Sail Across the Sun cruise, traveling from Miami to the Bahamas. We had three shows over four days. The rest of the time was spent watching the other bands, sleeping, eating, or running on the treadmill.

Night one looked like this on the pool deck.

Not bad, though I've noticed that the pool deck tends to be a bit lackadaisical about gear. For instance, I got a cheap Guitar Center keyboard stand, no table for my computer, and only one sustain pedal (the two theater shows had a better keyboard stand, the percussion table that I requested, and two sustain pedals for the two keyboards). Not sure who's to blame, but it's definitely not as good as it used to be five or six years ago. I wonder if the backline company just doesn't want their decent stuff to sit outside.

Saturday, was a sea day (no port), and we were in the theater. Another good crowd, though I had a pretty terrible performance and wanted to jump overboard. At least the pictures look cool.

Sunday was a day off in Nassau, Bahamas. The band had a photo shoot and then we walked around town a little bit, but there isn't a whole lot to do here. Mostly t shirt shops and duty-free places that sell questionable diamonds and expensive watches.

The best thing about Nassau (once you've seen it), is that everybody else gets off the ship. Stay aboard and enjoy some quiet time without them!

Monday was spent mostly at Norwegian Cruise Line's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. They have food and activities, and it's a nice way to spend a day. We tried stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, sleeping in a lounge chair, and eating all the fruit at the buffet. Interesting that their watermelon source doesn't provide seedless melons like pretty much everywhere in the US.

Our last show of the cruise was really late (11:45 PM-1 AM). Not my favorite time slot. Pack your suitcase before you go to soundcheck!

For the most part, I rebounded from my shitty performance and played pretty well, though it once again took me about twenty minutes to settle into the pace of the evening.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


The tour continues! This past weekend, Yacht Rock was in Florida for a few shows. This is the perfect time of year to be down there, because the heat will return in a matter of a few weeks.

Thursday: We left dreary, rainy Atlanta after being delayed for a couple of hours...

...and landed in sunny Tampa!

This evening's weather outlook was imperfect at best. The line of storms that had crashed through Georgia was still getting dragged out of the Gulf of Mexico. To try and fit it all in, the start time for our show was moved from 9 to 8:30 PM.

Pretty nice gig, though! I think some people stayed away because of the threat of a rain, but it was still decent crowd, and the breeze from the oncoming storm was kind of pleasant. We played alright--it took a while for everybody to relax and settle in, but for the most part, the night moved along quickly.

Immediately after the gig, I looked at my phone. Hmmm, tornado the warning the bad one, or is it a tornado watch that's bad? WARNING! I headed back to the stage and began packing in a hurry, and put the last piece of my gear in the case just as the blowing rain began.

Friday: Off to Ft. Lauderdale (the routing for this trip--Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando--is not ideal). This place reminds of me of a place we used to play in Atlanta called Andrews Upstairs. It holds the right number of people for where we're at in south Florida right now, but it's kind of a trashy-early-2000s--Buckhead thing (probably only makes sense if you're from Atlanta).

One thing I do like about this place--there is an excellent vegan cafe/store around the corner, and I had a wonderful meatless meatball sandwich. Fantastic.

We added in Lionel Richie's Running with the Night tonight--a new one for us. Other than that, it was business as usual. The EWI's batteries died and I had to swap them out over the course of three or four songs, and I sweated that, but yeah, everything else was same as ever.

I had the solo room on this night, and the hotel put me in some kind of crazy suite that was bigger than any apartment I ever lived in. I felt weird going into the other room and turning out the light.

Saturday: Up the Turnpike we go to Orlando, a drive I have made on more than one occasion.

This evening's gig sold out, which, according to the internet, was 2,500 people. Damn! That's really cool. Nice gig. Nice weather, too!

The keyboard stands made it to the gig tonight. I'm cool with them as long as someone else puts them together and takes them apart!

We brought Peaches, our lighting guy, for this show, and had some really good moments, such as this one during Baker Street.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Lady Wants to Be a Star

Here's a transcription I just finished of Michael Brecker's solos on The Lady Wants to Be a Star (Martee Lebous, 1976). When else are you going to hear a diminished whole tone scale in a pop song?

This whole thing is great. It's largely major pentatonic, and it's really slippery, but precise...his time feel really make this an exceptional moment in a forgettable 70s pop song.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Paste and The Color Purple

Tuesday: Yacht Rock played a live session at Paste Magazine in downtown Atlanta. It's more record promo stuff. 

I finally feel like I'm getting a good handle on the originals, and all the stuff I've worked on is gelling into a cohesive part that makes sense in my head now. In short, I am finally getting it right. FINALLY! Jeez!

Anyway, here's the show. Nice mix by Kip.

Friday: Remember how last week I flew home and went straight to a rehearsal for The Color Purple? The dress rehearsal was tonight, and it went pretty well. The vocalists are fantastic! We're giving a concert performance only, so there's no staging, but dang...the actors are killing it.

There were a few things, though. First, the Roswell Performing Arts Center is about 60 degrees on stage, which is a little cold, especially sitting in a chair and not moving for a few hours. It also makes tuning a challenge. Second, the audio crew had a lot of trouble getting the three monitors for the band to work(!), and then getting the correct instruments in each. I don't understand why they didn't have everything checked before the musicians even showed up--and then to ask us to come in early on Saturday to help them solve this technical dilemma? Say what? Third, the layout of the band made seeing the music director a challenge--she was so far off to my side (like between 9 and 10 o'clock) that most everything I could see was peripheral. Since I had never played this show with these people, I was trying to go on every physical cue I could get.

Saturday: We played the show in Roswell. Still cold, but the monitor situation was a little better. My solution was to point the speaker away from myself and listen to the drummer's wedge instead (which was lots of piano), and I turned my chair towards the music director as much as I could without looking like I was sitting sideways on stage. Made it through just fine.

Sunday: Same show, different room! Our second/final performance was at Actor's Express, a small theatre in the King Plow Arts Center (many a wedding have I played at King Plow!). We had an afternoon rehearsal/tech run-through, which ended early because the audio guy had everything dialed in before we got there. Imagine that!

This show was on headphones. The band was in the wing overlooking the stage, set up in a the dark, so no visual cues! The music director did have a talk-back microphone in our ears, though, so we got count-offs and stuff that way.

And that was that! Saw an old friend, made some new friends, got a little better at playing clarinet. It was a fun gig! And I made it home in time to see the second half of the Super Bowl, which was about as much as I can handle these days.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Last Week's Business

Wednesday: We played Fishcenter Live at Adult Swim. I'm not sure who watches this show (which seems to be four stoned guys hanging out, and the only thing on the screen is a live feed of an aquarium), but they now have bands come through and perform.

Here's a representative example:

Thursday: I played the lead tenor chair with the Atlanta Latin Jazz Orchestra at Venkman's. Love this band! Great music and a great group of people.

Check out these excellent photos by Emily Butler Photography.

The big challenge for this particular show was a clarinet feature called Lorenzo's Wings that scared me to death--I'm not the most electrifying clarinetist, to begin with, and adding an improvised solo? Yikes! Rob asked me about it at the beginning of the year, so I spent a lot of time working on it (22 of the 24 days I had available), and...I played really well!

Friday: Back to Yacht Rock--got up and flew to Utah for a gig for AMC at the Sundance Film Festival. It's our third year playing the event, and fortunately, they moved the gig to a ballroom with an actual stage and better acoustics.

The major downside to this gig is the fact that it's a long flight, and then an even longer time of sitting around. The show began at 10 PM local time (midnight for our Atlanta body clocks), which made for a loooooooooong day.

The party was well attended by good looking people who danced all night, which helped. All things considered, we played really well!

However, this gig did have a video screen on the wall behind Mark Cobb (and one directly across the room from us) that played 70s music videos and commercials and stuff. I'm pretty sure I saw the same clip of Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers six times.

Also, CeeLo Green was there! I think he only showed up for the last twenty or thirty minutes. I guess he dug it, though.

And then we drove an hour back to Salt Lake City and slept for four or five hours.

Saturday: Got up and flew back to Atlanta. I had just enough time to go home, drop my luggage, pick up some different gear, eat, and head out to a rehearsal for a show I'm playing this week--a concert performance of the musical The Color Purple. My brain, surprisingly, did not turn to mush. I do love the challenge of playing the book, too. Flute, clarinet, and alto sax on this one.

Sunday: Yacht Rock played the Giving Kitchen's Team Hidi 8 event--it's a benefit to raise money to help injured/uninsured restaurant workers. We've played every one of them. While I fully support the cause, this room is a pretty awful place to put a band. The load in/out is almost as frustrating as the acoustics.

Anyway...once we got into it, everything was fine. I was home by 10:30 PM, and it paid a lot more than my church gig would have.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Here's What's Up

Thursday: Yacht Rock played the Georgia Theatre in Athens. It was a very full house, which, for some reason, surprised me. I guess I was thinking that Thursday wouldn't be a big night, especially with a 9 PM start time. Also--ugh! 9 PM! That put us back in Atlanta around 2 AM. 

Kind of an average gig for us, playing-wise, though.

Friday: We played a private/corporate party at The Roxy. This one had a some things working against it--first, I think the room was too big, so when people left or walked off to the bars, it felt like there was no one there. Also, they had a long program (dinner, awards, band), and I think we'd lost a fair number of people before we even took the stage. The long day also affected us, as we had to get there really early, set up (and after hanging around, never get a soundcheck), and then hang around for three or four hours before it was time to play the show. I did squeeze in a lot of practicing and a run, so I got something out of this night.

We we kind of coasting through this one.

Saturday: We played Venkman's. It's sort of a similar situation--there's a lot of down time between setting up and playing the gig, which kind of drains some of the enthusiasm for playing.

Venkman's was packed, though, which helps!

There was a DJ after our set. That always inspires me to exit as quickly as possible.