Sunday, August 30, 2009

Double Dippin'

Last night I double dipped.

First off was the Platnumb gig. I'm already a bit foggy on the details. We played a wedding at the St. Regis Hotel, a room in which I'd never played before. It was pretty. The whole place looked and smelled like a Restoration Hardware Hotel. Lots of Bentleys, Ferraris, and a Lamborghini out front. As far as the band went, our bassist John bought a new pedal and it sounded awesome! Lots of crazy, funky noises coming from over there. I loved it.
At one point, the stage was flooded with people from the crowd, and some idiot lady came up between me and my music stand, squeezed through, took the neck of my tenor in her left hand and the music stand in her right, and pushed them apart so she could pass through. Not cool. Not cool at all. That was about the spot where I almost lost it.
Once I finished that one, I jumped in the car and raced down to East Atlanta to The Earl or the CD release of Attractive Eighties Women. I walked in, pulled out my horn, and went to work. It's funny (to me) that I began the night playing Chicago Song , trying to play really precisely, and then I ended the night playing random shrieks and squeals on a song I'd never heard before. After I finished with the AEW, I stayed to watch their final couple of songs. Lots of weird stuff went down. The lead singer poured a beer over himself. He took swallows of another beer and spit them straight up so it went everywhere. Some guy in the front had a watermelon, and he threw it on stage (and it broke). The band threw the watermelon pieces into the crowd. It was returned. The lead singer rubbed watermelon all over his face. The whole time, the rest of the band was playing twice as loud as anything else on the planet. It was nuts. Then encore included a bunch more people singing on stage, and that gradually morphed into the fast part of Free Bird. It was totally bizarre. Not my thing, but the place loved it. At one point, everyone was singing "She broke my heart/WALK THE PLANK/ARR ARR ARR!!!!"
I got home around 2:30 this morning.

I've got another gig tonight. Me and a DJ and a percussionist.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Luck Ganesh

Last night we had Ganesh Giri Jaya subbing on drums for Mark Cobb. Ganesh is our good luck charm--he has subbed with us on multiple occasions, and we always do better than usual on the money side. He never fails! Things were pretty smooth. I'm trying to thing of something interesting to say, but nothing really happened. No tragic gear failures, no weird crowd stuff, no nothing. The only distaster I can think of is that in Africa I missed the pedal and messed up the second half of the solo. So that was a bad four measures. That was about it. We did have a near disaster--on the second tune, I slid out into the center of the stage for a solo. At that same moment, Nick pointed in my direction by punching his fist to his right (with the microphone in his hand!). I narrowly avoided getting slugged in the temple! His hand grazed my hat. Woah! That was close.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I practiced alot yesterday. The best day of my life? I wouldn't go that far, but the best day I've had in a long time. I got my clarinet stuff out of the way before my first student showed up. Then I knocked out my flute stuff in the gap between him and the rest of my students. Then I did my sax stuff after supper. In little bits and pieces I played some piano (ok, really I just played Lonely Boy some more, but my hands hit the keys, so it counts).
Practicing for me is all about staying comfortable on the instrument. I want to be able to execute any idea I hear in my head, and I want to make sure that I'm getting a good sound. Practice is a major part of my job, and when I don't get a chance to practice, I'm not doing my job.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lonely Boy

Let's see...

Sunday night I had my usual church gig. I wore a new suit and got lots of comments about it. Nothing more to report there. I got the suit on sale.

After that I ran over to Tucker for a quick recording session for Nathan Beaver's next record. I nice tune--something about was sort of Lyle Lovett-ish to me. Anyway, Mike Barry (trumpet) and I cranked it out. In an hour we'd triple tracked it (including me going back and laying alto in with the tenor), so yeah, it was a super easy session. Have I mentioned that there were charts, and how grateful I am when there are charts at a recording session? It's almost like you had a plan before we got there!

Two people from my Sunday church gig played a wedding Saturday morning and used my iRiver to record their efforts. I partially edited the audio--I gave up at 4 AM. A couple of more hours during the day on Monday and it was done. It took that long because I was messing around with reverbs, EQ, compression, and a little pitch correction. Raw audio out of board can be a little naked and harsh.

Yesterday was Monday, which means that in addition to laundry, it was back to teaching time. With the exception of my first two students, I don't think anyone else had put much time in to his or her lesson preparation. Lots and lots of B.S., lots and lots of excuses, and they were all one right after another. I'm not saying that nobody practiced--I'm saying they didn't practice enough.

Jack spent the afternoon at my parents' house, so when I finished teaching I ran over there and picked him up. By the time we got home, it was around 10 PM, and then it took an hour to get Jack to go to bed. I watched half of Mad Men and gave up for the night.

My latest musical obsession is Lonely Boy by Andrew Gold. It's an old Yacht Rock tune that we haven't touched in months. I probably like it because I can play the piano part, but whatever--it's a great tune! I love you, Andrew Gold, for that song.
I pointed out to a high school student of mine that Andrew Gold also wrote Thank You for Being a Friend, and that it was the theme to Golden Girls, and he had no idea what I was talking about. It's probably a good thing, because that show was really stupid.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yachts are for Rich People

Yacht Rock played some guy's 40th birthday party last night at his neighborhood pool clubhouse. Very impressive. A significant upgrade over my neighborhood, my pool, and my pool's clubhouse! If I had the money to throw myself a birthday party like that, I would not spend the money on stuff like that. That's how rich these people must be.

The band purchased a pair of amplifiers for the main PA, and last night was their first test. Passed with flying colors! We were upstairs in a room with a wood floor, lots of windows, and a high ceiling. Loud would be an understatement. One of those nights when I could feel my hearing getting twenty years when my ears are totally shot, I'll look back on a night like this when I raped my ears and my plugs were in a bag not six feet away. Nice going, Freeman.

Anyway, we were loud. It was fun, and the sound was actually pretty clear. It was a smooth sonic boom. Mark Bencuya (our keyboardist) said he could hear everything I was doing for a change. Usually I guess he hears me waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off in the distance. For some reason (room acoustics or the PA), he was able to pick up on my stuff. I hope that hearing me helps reassure him that I've radically improved in covering the parts. I think he's probably more concerned about the second keyboard situation than anybody else in the band--maybe last night will help to let him know that it's working just fine.

I bet I played as much on the keyboard as I did on saxophone last night. How weird is that? I used the band's Nord Electro running through my rig. It is sweet. You hear people moan and groan about weighted keys on a definitely helps with touch. I guess a little resistance there is a good thing. I dug it. Unless something catastrophic happens in the next three or four months, I'd bet I'll be investing in a Nord, assuming things continue with the current band situation and playing this much keys. The Nord's sounds are really sweet (and accurate for things like a phased Rhodes). I feel like I graduated from trying to cover the parts to being the guy in the second keyboard position.
The other night I bought a slightly bigger mixer for running the sax, EWI, and two keyboards into my powered monitor. I have a little Mackie, but I'm one channel short, so I bought a Yamaha board that had a couple more channels. It's going back to the store today. I think that the preamps are kind of lame compared to the Mackie. I had the gain almost wide open, and the channel faders almost wide open. I grabbed the Yamaha over a similar Mackie because it was $50 cheaper, but I think I'm going to go back and get the Mackie. My head is telling me I'm not going to be satisfied with what I've got here.

I've got my church gig tonight and then a recording session for Will Robertson. Will is awesome! He writes the horn arrangements, then sends you pdfs of the charts and an audio mock-up. The horns are able to walk in there and knock it out because the charts work and we've heard the tune already. I wish everybody could be like Will. That's the way to do it. It works great on both ends--the players get the work done faster, and the arranger gets the right notes without having to hunt for the right harmony notes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I've woken up really early today, and I'm alone in a dimly lit room watching a SportsCenter's like being in a hotel room, except I'm at home.

I was really excited about Thursday's Yacht Rock because I was borrowing a Nord Electro for the tunes where I played organ, piano, or rhodes. Very cool. I usually mix my sax, EWI, and keyboard with a small Mackie mixer, and I thought I'd be able to add the Nord in there too. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to put both keyboards into the stereo channel like I thought I could. Bummer. Therefore, the Nord went to the house and was heard through a nearby (but mostly inaudible) monitor. It was a major disappointment...I only heard a handful of notes that I played. Mostly I just watched my hands. Even worse, when I jumped from the Nord to my Triton, the latter was super loud because it was jacked up in my personal amp.

One funny thing...during the fourth song of the night, some drunk guy in the front row, fell face first onto the stage. Just splat, right on his face. Then he laid there. In a couple of seconds, a bouncer came and picked him up and got him out of there. And the band played on! It was so funny, though, that I completely lost track of where we were in the song.

Yesterday (Friday) we went to the zoo. Jack ran us around there. I think he had a good time!

After that I headed down to Avatar to record the Yacht Rock Christmas song. I don't think I should give out any details, except to say that it sounds really good. I got there and hung around for about three hours before they got to my part. I "read" many many Playboys, Gun magazines, and Guitar magazines. Mostly Playboys.

On the way home I stopped by Sam Ash and bought a slightly bigger mixer (to avoid the Nord problem from Thursday). I bought a two tiered keyboard stand too, but I don't really like it. I'm going to take it back and get one from Guitar Center.

Yacht Rock is playing a party in Sandy Springs/Buckhead tonight. It's indoors, so I don't think we'll suffer like we did last weekend in the heat.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Not much to report on yesterday's activities. I purchased a suit on eBay and it arrived yesterday (and it fits, except that the pants are a little long).

Teaching is coming back around. I did five or six in a row yesterday, which is good news. The store (Music and Arts) keeps telling me that when my Mondays and Tuesdays get full, they'd like me to add an extra day. That sounds good in theory, but since that hasn't happened (all available slots full) once in the past three years, I'm not holding my breath. Plus, I'm not sure about which day would work. They asked about Saturdays, but I've almost always got a gig Saturday night, and now Jack's getting to the age where he has sports stuff happening Saturday mornings. Sundays could work, but I don't think the store has an open room that day. The other day they asked about was Friday, which seems like it could happen. Just like Saturdays, I seriously wonder what kid is interested in killing part of their weekend on a music lesson. I know I would not have wanted to do that.

Last night was a Platnumb rehearsal. The original basis for calling the rehearsal was to prep for recording a new demo. I'm not sure we accomplished that--there was no mention of that, and I doubt it was on anybody's mind. Instead it was a review of a couple of songs and a trudging through of a couple of new ones. It's cool to add some new stuff, but I prefer to add them at soundcheck. I would say that I really only need to run through stuff once to make sure the form of the song is set. Anything beyond that is a waste.
The trend with newer material tends to be in cobbling multiple songs into a medley of sorts. These tend to be songs that don't work on their own, so we prop them up against other songs--just a taste, not a full meal! Sometimes it works, but sometimes it's of absurd--I mean, if the song doesn't work live, let it go! Play the mp3 on the break! We come up with some pretty random segues...will they work in two weeks? We'll see.
My main problem with rehearsal is that Jack is at an age where I would like to be around for stories and the end-of-the-day stuff, and leaving to go wander through a rehearsal is not what I want to do with my time. I already miss this on Thursday nights, Saturday nights, and Sunday nights because of gigs. When it's a gig, I can justify it in my head, but when I have to go hang out while somebody in the band tries to learn a song he couldn't bother listening to beforehand, I really don't want to be there.

On to today!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wasting Time

When I got home from teaching last night, I ate and watched the football game. Good stuff! Too bad I passed out on the couch trying to get to the end of the third quarter! Not only did I miss the last play, and not only did I not get anything else done last night, but I woke up refreshed and ready to go at 2:30 AM! Ugh! I could not get back to sleep. I ended up watching St. Elmo's Fire for about the 188th time. It never gets old. I don't know why. It's a cliche, I know, but this movie takes me back, and the associations I used to make with the different characters still rings true. Ahh...I'm getting sentimental!

Since this a music blog, I will point out that the love theme (on saxophone) is great, and I think I played it on saxophone about a million times when I was in middle school. I would also point out that the weird luggage strap idea on Rob Lowe's saxophone is a total Clarence Clemmons rip-off, and probably not practical--I would think that the horn would hang too low, or go in your mouth at a weird angle. Also, the pretend sax playing is really bad. It also frightens me that he does not own a case. But I digress...

The bad news is that around 4 this morning (still wide awake), I decided to take a Benedryl to knock me out. It worked...but I didn't wake up until noon today, which means I am wasting even MORE time. In fact, I'm wasting time right now writing this. I've got to get it together.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yachting in Young Harris

Actually, we were a bit north of Young Harris at the Brasstown Valley Resort. Almost exactly a two hour drive one way.

Nick (acoustic guitar), Mark Bencuya (piano), and I (flute, clarinet) played the wedding ceremony. Pretty cool that they chose ALL Beatles stuff, so I think we played a dozen songs (including the prelude music). Very cool, except for the fact that we were outside the entire time.

We got there and sort of half set up for the reception in direct sunlight, then ran up the hill, got dressed, and played the ceremony outside (we scooted out of direct sunlight). Then we boogied down the hill and finished setting up, and played a three hour reception outside. Did I mention it was outside and I had on a polyester shirt, a suede blazer, and a wig? Yeah, it was hot.

This is a rant for another time, but it really bugs me when I'm sweating and I go to bar for water, and they fill a glass with ice and then pour water in it. I need water, not ice!

Other than the heat and the pressure of trying to get everything coordinated (without any help from the coordinator), things went pretty well. By that I mean I played pretty well. In the ceremony, my flute kept sliding down my face on a river of sweat, but it was fun playing a bunch of Beatles tunes. We used charts from the Beatles encyclopedia. Strangely, there were lots of mistakes in the charts (missing accidentals, and a repeat sign in the wrong place in All You Need is Love). I really am enjoying playing the keyboard on these gigs. Every gig I get a little more comfortable, and as I am able to relax, it gets to be that much more fun. The sax and EWI stuff I know will be fine, but it's been cool letting my limited keyboard skills blossom. It's such a great opportunity to be able to improve on the job...even if they brought in a second keyboardist from here on out, I feel good about what I've gotten out of it.

Since we're talking about the EWI, I should mention that it has now been two gigs in a row with no problems since I swapped out that USB cable. Is it too early to claim that it's fixed? No. I feel good about it now. I'm going to stop worrying. This will free up the voice in my head to nag me about other things!

A special shout out to the mom in the red bikini at the pool. Wow!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Who's on the Boat

Let me begin with the end of the gig...a big thank you to the two super hot lesbians who were dancing right in front of me through the encore. I enjoyed that.

The encore was Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who). It was very well played, but I wish we had done something where I actually had a part to play. This song choice was a flip of the bird to our audience...we're always seesawing back and forth between giving the people what they came for and trying to annoy everyone in the room. Even though it went over well, this was more of the latter--we will not give you more Yacht Rock! Anyway, it was cool to hear it, but not much fun for me because I swung a tambourine until it ended.

I had a great night playing. It was easily the best Yacht Rock gig I've played in the past five or six dates. That was a relief. If you were betting on what would go wrong with the EWI last night, I'm here to inform you that I think the USB cable might have been the thing. I had no issues with it at all. Thank God. I'd sure like to get past the constant fear that it will crap out on me at a crucial moment.
I played last night with charts (technically, I did double check where the string lick started Love is Alive, but I wasn't staring at a piece of paper). I was down to a handful of things that Brandon used to play, and I needed to play then correctly a few more times to get them in my head. It sure is nice when you can get off the page, particularly on gig like that where it's a show, and we're expected to interact with each other and the crowd. Another way to think of it is that I can't be dancing around and then try and look down to pick up where I am in the chart. It's tough to do. Add sunglasses, and you're in trouble.
Tim Smith (of Sheryl Crow's band) came and hung out last night (Peter Stroud might have been there, too, for a little while, but I didn't see him). When you think about it, it's pretty wild to be that close to an international act--the layers between our band and their band are so few, it's not inconceivable that someone from our circle could be tapped to join Sheryl Crow's band. I'm not saying I expect it; it is worth noting that it's not a big leap between here and there.

Post-gig I heard multiple comments from band members about the show (first set ok, second set was a mess). I'm not sure what to make of that. Was my playing not what I thought it was (not likely--I think at this point I know what I'm capable of doing, and if I feel like it's working, I have faith that it is), or is my part musically irrelevant enough that even if I'm having a good night (or a bad one), it has no effect on the overall show, or would it be explained away that even though I played well, overall we were pretty limp and that's what the comments were referring to? It's tough to say, but does get my wheels turning a bit... am I still just hanging out and playing sax solos (and the rest is just self-amusement)? Sometimes it feels like I'm just along for the ride.

Ahh, but the EWI may be fixed! Stay positive!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hijacking the Hora

The cantor from last night's wedding evidently regards himself as the Jewish Pavoratti...he hijacked our Hora Medley last night. I love the way the guy refused to follow what we intended to do, and then looked at us like we were crazy because we couldn't read his mind. How do you say egomaniac in Yiddish?

I thought I had finally solved all my EWI woes with the changing of a MIDI cable, but yesterday at soundcheck I had the same sort of hiccup/loss of sound that I'd been experiencing at random moments for the past few weeks. I realized that the MIDI signal is getting to the box that converts the MIDI to USB, so my hope is that my USB cable has had enough; I've replaced it, and I hope that does the trick. I guess I'll know Thursday. If I have another hang up, my final step will be to try replacing the MIDI to USB box.

I wonder when I am toothless and arthritic--how many wedding receptions will I have played by then? In other words, how many more do I have to do?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday Night in Athens

Platnumb played a wedding reception in Athens last night. If my memory is correct, I have subbed out six of the last seven Platnumb gigs due to other events that I had booked (lately it's been a lot of Yacht Rock). It was kind of fun. They're all fine friends and it was cool to play with them again.
Since I've spent the summer dealing with a long string of EWI issues, I should fill you in on my latest discovery. Part of the most complicated set up in the world is wireless MIDI, which has worked great for years...never had any kind of signal interruption. Thursday night my EWI had some sort of issue where the MIDI signal ceased to exist. After a reboot and lots of twitching different connections, it came back. Same sort of thing happened Friday night. Last night in Athens, it started happening in soundcheck. This time I happened to bump the MIDI cable connecting the wireless to the EWI, and it came back. Aha! A bad MIDI cable! I swapped it out, and there were no more problems for the night. Let's all hope that all my EWI issues have been resolved!
I'm trying to recall anything else interesting...nothing comes to mind. It was a totally painless gig. The chicken fingers were good.

Tonight's another Platnumb gig. Here's to validated parking!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Andrews Upstairs

We played Andrews Upstairs last night. It was PACKED! We did well.

In general things went better than the night before (when I sucked real bad). The only song that really bit me in the butt was I Just Wanna Stop. The song started before I got to the keyboard, and so I chased the chords for most of it. I think I played alot of A Maj 11. A big mush of tonality! The other thing that was kind of funny (to me): on Love Will Keep Us Together, I had the idea on the way over that I would play the clav part on the keyboard so I wouldn't have to dance between sounds quite so much--the idea being that I could play the EWI stuff one handed and the clav part one handed. First time I tried it, I had the wrong hand on the keyboard, so I couldn't play the right note on the EWI. Second time I tried it, when I played the note on the keyboard, I instictively blew air into the EWI! Ahh! Next time, I'll have it down. It did solve a problem I was having--I just have to get the kinks ironed out.
Oh yeah, one other Rosanna, I play the synth solo, and then as soon as that's over I jump to the organ part, and while I'm playing organ, I have to use my foot pedal to dial back to my horn section patch. Well, I missed the right number on the horns, and so I got no sound for about 8 measures while I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. Oops. It's such a schizophrenic gig for me (play keyboard for 8 measures, play the horn part, pick up the saxophone, go back to the keyboard), that sometimes I lose coordination and get stretched too thin.
I'm off the Athens to play a wedding in a little bit. Time to go!

Friday, August 7, 2009


Last night was a strange one, and not in a particularly good way.

From about Tuesday night on, I've been dealing with a cold, giving me some snot, some body ache, and sinus headaches for a few days. Because of that, I've been laying low, trying to sleep and let my body do it's thing in destroying whatever this is.
My problem with this (other than feeling run down), is that I did not devote the time to practicing for the gig--going over and over my parts so I get them right the first time. Therefore, I had lots of strange little mistakes all night. Nothing major, but I was permanently a couple of seconds behind where I needed to be, so I wasn't able to anticipate things well. I was groggy.
This is also why I will be building my setup in the garage in an hour and playing through everything.

Special thanks to the group of women who showered me with attention, even though I denied their repeated requests to take my shirt off.

At some point in the first set, whatever Nick ate for supper decided to try and kill him, and he causually came over at one point to let Dannells and me know that he might throw up on us. Wonderful. So we had that working against us, too. By the time he left, he looked really rough. Hopefully he was able to let go of whatever was bothering him.

One cool thing that happened: we whipped up a tribute for John Hughes, 80s movie maker--we played "Don't You Forget About Me". It was super cool. Awesome song, and an awesome moment. I hope we get to hit that one again tonight.

The show must go on! We're at Andrews Upstairs tonight, beginning around 10:30 PM. Tonight will be better.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Arms Hurt

My arms are sore from lots of playing/practicing. The same sort of stuff I used to encounter in college from time to time--tender forearms and elbows. That's never a good feeling, and it's especially bad considering the amount of stuff I need to play before the end of the week.

Speaking of pains in my arms, my left arm has hurt right in the spot where you'd have a patch on your shoulder. It's been that way for a few days. My bet is because I was practicing me tennis serve. It feels like somebody drove a nail into the top of my bicep. It didn't get any better with me swimming back and forth the length of the pool today. Something in that over the top motion is not happy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Late Night Yacht Rock

Last night was a late one...

We (Yacht Rock) played some sort of benefit last night--connected some way to the DJ named Bert on V-103...I don't know either.

So, we loaded onto an uncovered stage in the parking lot of the Northern Tool Rental around 5:30 PM. No cover means that if it rains, we're dead; if it's sunny the next three hours or so will fry our gear. There was no way to put a cover over the stage due to some electrical wiring directly overhead.

We ended up dragging it out and didn't leave until around 7:30 or so. Each set up (keyboards, drums, etc) got a tarp over it. We went to Mark Bencuya's to change and eat. We rolled back over to the gig around 9:45 PM.

As we began to do the final prep for our gig, somebody checked the weather and noticed a stripe of rain headed our way. So...we waited in a tent next to the stage (and we started drinking). After about an hour and a half of hanging out, it still hadn't rained, so we got up on stage and started firing up all of our equipment. In the middle of that, we started feeling a couple of drops, so we tarped everything (individual tarps, and then two enormous tarps that covered the entire stage). Just in started raining pretty hard. We stayed in the tent and drank.

Around 1 AM, it was finally deemed safe enough for us to hit it. By that point, we were all fairly drunk. We got up there and knocked it out, though. Not a great gig, but we didn't have any problems. I guess we just didn't have any excitement by that point. We finished at 2:30 AM.

After tearing down our gear, we then had to carpool back to get our vehicles that we'd parked several blocks away. Then come back...load gear...and leave. I left around 3:30-3:40 AM. I guess I got home around 4:15 AM.

I slept on the couch (with Jack wandering around) for the morning. I finally got up around 1 PM today.

At my church gig tonight, one of the altar boys fainted. That was about it.