Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's a Hot One: Athens and Turner Field

Yacht Rock continued our crazy string of gigs with a wedding Sunday night in Athens.  Friend of the band Ben Allen (producer/engineer/studio guy) hired us to play the reception at his parents' home in Athens, GA.  You (if you were a wedding band) couldn't have asked for an easier reception.  We backed the trailer up to the back of the stage;  loaded in;  soundchecked; hung out/drank/eventually ate;  played what we wanted, and ended at 11 PM.  Easy easy easy gig, and some familiar faces that made it feel less like a job and more like a party with our friends.  Yay Ben!

It was mostly the usual Yacht Rock stuff--some 70s, some 80s.  We did throw in a few funkier songs for the dancers.  Dig it:

 Use Me (Athens) by David B Freeman

My alto was really out of tune.  I don't think I like what I played, but the band sounded funky.  And what a great time to play a couple of wrong notes right as I go into the solo.  Hmm.  Not too good there. Everybody else sounds good, though.

 Kiss (Athens) by David B Freeman

On Kiss, I thought I would play tenor so that I didn't play the same solo twice.  Then I thought that when it went to the four chord, I'd instead go up a half step from the one…so for me B9 to C9, instead of B9 to E9.  Not a good call.  Sounded gross.  Now I know.  Take it from me:  don't do that.

Plus, holy crap.  Dannells slaughtered me.  Not a good time to experiment.

We learned You Are So Beautiful (Greg Lee sang the hell out of that) and Sleepwalk (Dannells played the hell out of that).  Very cool.  My contribution was some strings on You Are So Beautiful.  I'd give my self an A- on that--I got most of it.  I didn't play any wrong notes, but I wasn't terribly relaxed.  I omitted a few things.

The band ended up staying at the Hotel Indigo in Athens.  I highly recommend it.  Very nice accommodations.  We were pretty wiped out--I think everybody crashed hard.  Good thing, too, because we were up at 7 AM to head back to Atlanta to play at the Braves game.

Playing at the Braves game doesn't pay any money, but it is one of the coolest opportunities EVER.  We were invited to not only play a concert ON THE FIELD!! after the game, but we also had the chance to sing the National Anthem.  How cool is that?  Very.

We set up on the humungous stage in the tunnel under the centerfield stands.

We went out on the field and practiced the Anthem.

it looks like Bobby Dews is trying to get away from Greg and me

Back in the tunnel we went to finish setting up and soundchecking (and get out of the sunlight).  At some point in setting up my equipment, I suffered a massive heart attack and died.  Remember how my Fantom (top keyboard) was doing that thing where it wanted me to save over and over again?  I was checking things out, and the sounds would sustain uncontrollably.  NOT TODAY!  NO!!! NOT TODAY?!!!!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!  WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!!!!!!!!!! (sounds that would be echoed by Mark Dannells in a few short hours).  Also, my volume pedal was not working.  It wouldn't change the volume.

After I finished dying, it dawned on me that the volume pedal was causing my Fantom to sustain.  I flipped out again.  WHY IS MY KEYBOARD SO SCREWED UP?!  IT WORKED FINE LAST NIGHT!!!!  WHY TODAY?!!!!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA?!!!!!!!!!!!!  I thought the "brain" of keyboard had completely failed.  My Fantom was trashed.

Then…a light bulb.  More like a flat foot in the…anyway, it turned out that I had the volume pedal plugged in where the sustain should be, and the sustain plugged into the volume jack.  Flipped 'em around:  problem solved;  disaster averted;  funeral postponed.

The view from our suite:

We went up to our suite and hung out/ate/hydrated.  Right before 1 PM, we went down and sang the National Anthem.  We went out and took our positions on the field.  Somebody gave us some sort of cue, and we started singing…

Oh say can you see

and I'm thinking "Oh shit!  They forgot to turn on our microphones!"

By the dawn's early light


What so proudly we hailed

and then the PA announcer said something like, "And now, would you please rise as we salute or fallen soldiers with a moment of silence."  Oops.  We weren't supposed to sing yet.  Maybe nobody heard us.

A couple of minutes later, we got the cue, sang the National Anthem with it reverberating around the stadium like a pinball.  Cool.  We sang well.  Once we got back in the tunnel, there was lots of laughing and "What the hell happened?"

Up to the suite.  I hung out with my family.  Jack ate a bunch of chicken fingers, drank a Sprite, ate half a bag of cotton candy, and threw up.  Big day!

In the eighth inning, we went back to the tunnel to check out stuff.  I got my things set and sat down--I'd decided to ride the stage out to the field.  It bounces quite a bit, and I wanted to make sure none of my stuff fell.  We were waiting to go out, and the game went into extra innings.  I practiced saxophone--trying in vain to keep my reeds somewhat hydrated.

tip money from the audio crew
The game ended--Braves lost.  I rode out.  It was super hot (mid nineties).  Got my stuff set.  I put a towel over my laptop to try and keep it from frying/overheating/shutting down.  I put a towel over my sax effects pedal to keep the display from overheating.  I got up to move my saxophone stands to a better spot, and when I sat back down on my stool, it was like sitting on a hot griddle.

The rest of the band came out and we played our set.  We had some technical difficulties.  Dannells had a bad cable that silenced his entire rig for about a song or two (fortunately we had an extra amp on stage).  Bencuya and I could barely see the screens on the keyboards--all the crystals in the LCDs came to the top and blacked out the screens.  Yikes!  It was fun, though, and once we got rolling, I think it sounded pretty good.  Here's the first tune (you can hear Hans dialing stuff in as the song progresses).  That's me on synth and strings, my man Bencuya on piano.  Check out how loud I am in the mix.  You can hear my parts!  Totally awesome.

 What a Fool Believes (Turner Field) by David B Freeman

Some time later on in the set we did Taking it to the Streets.  A diarrhea-of-the-tenor-saxophone kind of solo.  Not my best work.  The camera was on me and I couldn't convince myself to leave any space in my solo, and I just kind of pentatonically spewed BS.  I tried to sell it with body language, but as far as ideas, not really happening.

My parents saw Yacht Rock for the first time ever.  I could see them up in the suite watching us.  I bet my dad thought, "We paid out of state tuition for your degree in woodwind performance, and you picked up a saxophone twice during the entire show!"

Did I mention it was very easily hotter than hell?  Wow.  Super hot.  Not a good day to wear a wig.  Or a plastic shirt.  Or pants.

likes it?

nobody in the stands, but the Vistalites look awesome!

Oops.  Jumbotron camera man got me.
The stage went back in the tunnel.  We packed up, ate, drank, changed, and went home.  A job well done.

My home team (one for the road):


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Wreck of the SS Mike Key

Yacht Rock played an event at Sunset Cove on Lake Lanier yesterday evening.  It was an event sponsored/disorganized by Rock 100.5 and our old buddy Mike Key, who it appears was singlehandedly charged with every part of the event:  running sound, managing the stage, moving gear, MC'ing the event, finding food for the band.  Methinks it was too much.

We showed up to the scene…as far as the eye could see, enormous boats, sand, sun, skin.  I was turned on and repulsed at the same time.  It was, as Nick described, a giant frat party.  Goodie!  Some guy had his ski boat right next to the stage blasting music;  distracting not only because of the competing sound (most of the boats on the water had comparable sound systems) but also for the escort he hired to dance for him all afternoon.

There was a miniature riverboat moored behind the stage, so we hung out on there (in the air conditioning!) while our gear made its way from the top of the hill down to the stage.  Once the opening band finished, we set up, line checked and changed.

The first song was a disaster.  The PA started making a strange howling sound and everybody looked at Mike behind the soundboard (positioned perfectly in the back corner of the stage so that he could never hear what the PA sounded like).  Mike, you hear that?  Uh, no.  The system kept feeding back until it became unbearable and we had to stop in the middle of the first song.  Not good!

While they were trying to sort it out, some dude walked out to the stage and got Pete's attention.  This may not be the exact exchange, but this is how I remember it (also, I was laughing so much it was hard to hear):

Dude:  "Hey guys--y'all sound terrible."

Pete:  "They're working on it."

Dude:  "Everybody said y'all were awesome, but it sounds terrible."

Pete:  "We're aware of it.  They're trying to fix it."

Somehow (luck, I think) the problem with the monitors feeding back was rectified to the point that we were able to continue.  Unfortunately, it probably never got any better out front.  Let's put it this way:  when your sound man calls people on the beach with his cell phone to try and gauge what the people are hearing, things are probably not good!

In spite of all that, I think the gig went OK.  If nothing else, it was a good tune up for the gigs we are playing tonight (wedding in Athens) and tomorrow (concert at Turner Field).  I could hear myself pretty well and I pretty well.  I fumbled through a few measures of Greatest American Hero, but other than that, things were cool.  My solo on Takin' it to the Streets got a good reaction.

We packed up in record time and got the hell out of there.  I kidnapped Mike Key's watermelon.  Ample payment for the time I will spend getting the sand out of my gear.

Getting out of Lake Lanier in the dark was difficult to say the least.  I set some kind of record for the number of U turns.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thursday into Friday

It's felt like one long Yacht Rock gig…

Thursday night, The Yacht Rock Revue and the Yacht Rock Schooner combined Thursday night to bring the smooth 70s sound to the 10 High.  It was Mark Bencuya (YRR), Tom Young (YRS), Daniel Morrison (YRS), Mark Dannells (YRR), me (both!), Greg Lee (YRR), and Kevin Spencer (YRS).  Two bass players, right?  Greg  sang on the front line and Tom played bass.

It could have been a big mess--at the very least, is it a Revue gig or is a Schooner gig?  Sometimes we do different endings to the same song, and so there was a little confusion.  Even just knowing who we were on the microphone was subject to interpretation.  The gig turned out to be really cool, though.  It was a really good change of pace to have Greg up front, and Daniel really played great.  He's come a long way in getting comfortable with the music.

For me, the gig was a little nerve wracking.  I was late due to some downed trees and a pretty good thunderstorm that evening.  I showed up late and had to set up quickly.  Then, my bottom keyboard (the new Nord!) had a buzz in the cable.  I wonder if there's some kind of crap in the jack--when I moved the cable to the right side of the stereo output, everything was fine.  No noise.  I tried putting the cable in my top keyboard, and there was no noise.  Then I put it back in the Nord, and it was fine.  What the hell?  It never does this anywhere but at the 10 High (it's done it twice now, but with different cables and different Nords, which is even weirder).

Once that finally died down, I noticed that my top keyboard (the Fantom) was doing the "save" thing again.  I guess blowing the dust out of it didn't fix it after all.  It's definitely something going on with the four knobs that control attack, resonance, release, and whatever the fourth thing is.  I was thinking that maybe the stems are touching the outer body of the keyboard, because they don't move until the thing starts bouncing around when I play it.  I ended up gently pushing them up, and two of them felt like they popped into place--kind of clicked--and then the "save" thing went away.  Let's hope that solves it once and for all.

We added Rikki Don't Lose That Number for this gig (as far as the Revue is concerned--Schooner already plays it).  I sure hope we keep it.  The only people who don't know it are Nick and Pete, and if Greg can sing and play bass, there's almost nothing for them to do.  I like that song even though my only part is the gurgly marimba part that nobody notices.

The major disaster of the night was 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Dannells said he couldn't remember it.  I couldn't tell who was screwing up.  It was terrible, though.  They should have just dropped out and played the verses with drums only.

We played Lonely Boy.  That was fun--I hadn't seen that one in a while.  I nearly tanked the piano breakdown because I started thinking about it and got the "I'm gonna faint" adrenaline rush.

We loaded out in the rain again.  Boo.

Friday morning, we were up on a couple of hours of sleep to play on the radio.  The Yacht Rock Revue had to be there at 7:15--super early when you go to bed at 3:30!  We played Thunder Island and My Life to promote the show at Lake Lanier that we're playing Saturday.  It should be super weird--we're on a floating stage.  I couldn't hear myself at all in the headphones.  All I could do is watch my hands and hope for the best.

I went home and slept most of the day.  Those radio things really mess up my sleep schedule.

Friday night, I got to play with the Yacht Rock Schooner at 37 Main in Buford.  It was a fun little bar gig, but holy crap! was it loud.  Super loud on stage, and I could see people out in the audience plugging their ears (halfway back in the room, too, so you know on the dance floor it must have been painful).  I was jammed in the corner of the stage--I guess that's what you get when you show up after sound check!  I didn't play particularly well, though I got off a pretty good flute solo.  My sax stuff was not too good, though.

The Schooner guys sounded great--Daniel really sounded good, and Shannon's played some outstanding guitar solos.  He's really taking off right now!  Greg sang on the front line for Ganesh.  Danni was on bass, sporting a new shirt!

One of my favorite parts about playing with the Schooner guys is NOT playing and watching Eric Frampton.  I tried to steal anything I could from his performance, especially when he's playing parts I play.  Anything I can learn from him…hope I can learn something by being in his presence!

We've got a lot more stuff going on in the next couple of days.  Stay tuned for more updates.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love of Leland

The Yacht Rock Revue played a benefit show in Kennesaw last night for Leland Erickson, a three year old with a acute myeloid leukemia.  He's currently in remission, but his family has incurred huge medical bills. Glad we could help!

Here's his website if you would like to make a donation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bug Night at Lake Oconee

Yacht Rock played a private party at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Lake Oconee Monday night.  The Georgia Chamber hired us.  I think it's safe to say they loved us--we were invited to the after-party for free drinks at the bar and received a heroes' welcome when we arrived.

"OSHA approved bermuda grass dance floor"

I've played the Ritz out there a bunch.  For a while, I was there a couple of  times a month, playing in the lobby in a band with Tyrone Jackson, Karin Williams, Moffett Morris, and Ben Taylor.  Great band and a great gig.  It eventually fell apart when the Ritz got funny with the money.  When Yacht Rock was checking in to our rooms, we saw a pretty bad one-man-band in there with tracks.  Things have changed for the worse.

This gig was down by the lake on a stage that listed to starboard about ten degrees.  Not my favorite set up!  No cover when there was sun, and once the sun went down, we were inundated with bugs.  It probably didn't help that the Ritz set up the world's largest bug light right behind Mark Cobb.

Other than the insects, the gig went great.  We played two quick sets.  Bencuya played an awesome solo on Lowdown.  Nick was sick, but we worked around it.

After the gig, we hit the bar, and then our rooms.  Staying at the Ritz is always nice.

"We played right here."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Church Gigs

Sunday means church gigs!

Church gig number one was kind of chaotic, but we came through just fine.  Here's an audio snapshot:

 Sunday gospel by David B Freeman

I'm going to try next week to use the headphones again.  I've just been playing off the drums and piano, but I feel like I'm missing too much (of the bass, for instance, and if there was any way to hear some of the vocals, that'd be swell, too).

Church gig number two was fine once I got my flute face going…not sure what was up.  I couldn't get the angle of the air across the hole right for a couple of songs.  It was weird.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Keyboards

Last night, Yacht Rock played the Police Ball 2011 at the Marriott downtown.  No actual police were involved, except for the cop who brought his motorcycle up the freight elevator with me.

keyboards and cops

This was definitely some sort of high dollar benefit.  Big room, big production.  You know the drill.  Over-rehearsed lukewarm speeches, touchy-feely video segments, local newscaster host.  Blah.  We did some video bombing right before the doors opened.

The gig went well.  It was a good night for us, and for me personally.  The stage was really wide (but normal depth), so we were really spread out.  Thanks to monitors, it was cool.  Actually, I kind of dug it because we were far enough apart that I could hear myself well without having my amp really cranked up, and I could hear everybody else in my wedge and Dannells' wedge.

I finally bought a Nord…I got an Electro 3 73 off eBay this week.  It's really nice.  The most prominent improvement over the Nord 2 that I have been borrowing for a few years now is the piano sound, which is way better.  You can also dial up some reverb on it, too.  The organ isn't louder than the piano section (this was a problem for me on the Nord 2).  Last night was the maiden voyage.  So far, so good!  I was sort of disappointed the setlist didn't call for me to play more on it.

The other keyboard…my Roland Fantom started doing something weird on Thursday morning.  I noticed while I was playing (especially on keyboard splits) that it would ask me to save--like I'd made an alteration and needed to save it before moving to a new sound.  Weird.  I hit save, and then it would ask me to save again.  I played the gig--it was fine.

Friday night at the U2 show, it was cool, and then once we'd get going (and I'd start banging on the keyboard), it would do it again.  The star would come up on the screen, asking me to save.  Surely it must be a vibration thing--it's vibrating and the knobs are moving, maybe?

Two hours before I was supposed to leave on Saturday, I opened the thing up (never a good idea to disassemble your gear right before a gig).  I couldn't get to the knobs from the inside--I wanted to see where they attached to the circuit board to see if they were loose, but I couldn't get to it because of other electronics in the way.  So, I vacuumed it out, put it back together, and used compressed air to blow out the space around the knobs.  I then took the vacuum hose and held it over the knobs.  Finally, I twisted the knobs all the way in each direction and cleaned them again.

I powered the sucker up, and voila!  It was just fine.  No stars, no saving, no problem.  Best of all, it cost me no money.  I played the gig last night, and it was still fine.  Awesome.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that we played I Keep Forgetting last night.  I love playing that song.  We also did Lowdown (finally got my string part right), and All Night Long (I was kind of sloppy).  I sucked real bad on I Wanna Be Your Lover--I cannot remember that string part.

A couple of busy weeks await.  Stay tuned.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Uno Dos Tres Catorce at Andrews

Yacht Rock played our U2 show (Uno Dos Tres Catorce) at Andrews Upstairs/8 Traxx Disco last night.  It was a pretty good show, though the crowd never got swept up enough to make a monumental event.  Our friends the REMakes (REM tribute band) opened for us, and they were terrific, as always.  I played on a couple of songs (Finest Worksong has a brass part and Can't Get There from Here has a sax part).

The story of the night was Mark Cobb's awesome new set of Vistalites:

Very, very, very cool.  Cobb's more of a small drum sizes kind of guy, so it was pretty wild to see him behind a monster kit.  It didn't really change much for me, though.  His "sound" (for me) is his snare drum (whichever one he chooses for the night)--the other drums just compliment the snare in different ways (though I am partial to the blue sparkle kick drum).

Since I didn't have much to do on this gig, I spent a fair amount of time people watching and laughing to myself.  When we started the show, there were only two people close to the stage--two guys planted right in front of Dannells, studying his gear and his technique like the first time you see a naked woman up close.  Later on their eyes moved to the drums.  They never made it to the other side of the stage, which made me laugh:  was Greg's guitar rig not worthy of inspection?

A few songs later women began to approach the stage.  It was then that I became aware of how unattractive pockets are on a skirt.  Some girl stuck both hands in like she was trying to find her keys.  That kind of ruined it for me.

What else…what else…Pete's mom was there, sitting in a booth by herself way in the back.  Something about that looked funny to me.

There were a few captain's hats in the audience.  I wonder how disappointed they were.

Nick was particularly awesome last night.

Hans on sound.  Best night we've had there with the sound system.  Nice to have someone we trust up there.

The Andrews/8 Traxxs guys extended the stage back out by about four feet.  It made a HUGE difference.  Before it was like we were playing on a sidewalk--now it's a stage again.

Fridge full of beer.

I was loaded out very quickly--one keyboard, keyboard stand, amplifier, bag o' crap, saxophone.  When I was putting the last thing in my truck, I watched this guy (right in front of my truck) very slowly tip over and pass out.

As I backed out of my parking spot, the cops had their search light trained on him and were trying to wake him up.  Hope he enjoyed the show as much as I did!