Tuesday, October 25, 2011

King of Pops

Please Pleaserock Me (the Yacht Rock guys playing the Beatles) played a set of music at the King of Pops Field Day.  I guess it was a show of appreciation for KoP fans.  The event was in the backyard of the Masquerade (who knew there was such a thing?).

The venue was kind of cool…easy load in right off the street, big stage, room for lots of people.

Our set was really flat.  It surely didn't help that it was Sunday night right after the sun had gone down, or the massive amount of dead air in between us and the band before (the Mike Geier/Monkey Zuma thing was a bust).  We'd also spent all of our energy the previous two nights.  Fortunately, it was only a forty-five minute set, most of which I spent taking pictures and playing percussion.  No big deal.  I was home and asleep on the couch at the usual time!


Sunday, October 23, 2011


Friday, Yacht Rock traveled to Nashville to play the Mercy Lounge.  This has become somewhat of a regular gig for us.  It's nicely predictable--we know how to get there, where to eat, what the sound will be like.  The sound guys no longer treat us like we're morons--they actually seem happy to see us!

The Mercy Lounge gig sold out.  Yay!  Second time we've done that.  They really pack 'em in there, too, so it feels like a lot of people (even though it's just a couple of hundred).

I sat down to play the first song of the night (Greatest American Hero), and had no sound coming out of my rig.  SHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!  Multiple small heart attacks.  I tried to be systematic in my thinking.  Keyboards have power, speaker has power, rack has power…what the hell?  Then I noticed that my mixer had no power.  Great…no mixer and we'd have to stop and run separate lines and DIs for each keyboard and the EWI, and then send it through the monitor. I checked the connection on the back of the mixer, and it was good.  When I smacked the transformer in my rack, I bumped the plug and the power came back.  It turns out that the plug had worked its way ever so slightly out of the power strip.  I plugged it back in and away we went.

The adrenaline and all that meant that I did not play particularly well for the first few songs.  My head was a little messed up for a while.  I finally settled down and things were fine.

The Mercy is LOUD.  Brutally loud.  I wore ear plugs--I didn't enjoy the gig as much, but my ears were better for it.  There's something about that stage (resonating low end notes, it seems to me), that makes the stage sound really loud.

Before we hit the stage, we went and checked out a studio in Nashville where we might do some recording of our originals.  Really cool old-school equipment:  Chet Atkins' personal mixing console from the 70s, a big 24 track 2 inch tape machine, massive clear Vistalite drum kit, B 3, nice Wurly, a 50s Les Paul that Dannells drooled on.  It could be cool.  The guy (Dave Cobb) talked to us…lots of recording stuff that was over my head.

Saturday, we rolled back into Atlanta early in the afternoon and went to the Variety Playhouse for the big Thriller/Purple Rain show.  This show also sold out.  Holy cow!  We sold out the Variety!

I did pretty well on this stuff.  It really was our first attempt to play Purple Rain (the album) all the way through without stopping.  We made it with a few small hiccups.  My only cuss-out-loud disaster was that I forgot to play a double chorus in Baby I'm a Star.  Other than that, I was pretty solid.

We came back out and played Thriller in storm trooper costumes.  I mean, why not?

Thriller was a little rougher for me.  Maybe it was because I devoted so much time and energy to Purple Rain;  maybe I just couldn't concentrate for that long.  I had some flubs along the way.  The only real thing that I bit the dust on was Lady in My Life.  Bencuya and I realized that we'd left a pretty essential synth part out.  I tried to learn it after soundcheck.  When we got to that song, I played the part I'd learned pretty well (I got most of it), but the pads that I was supposed to play along with it?  No way.  I couldn't get my hands to do it.  Dropped the pad, played the synth line.  Next year, we probably need to restructure that tune between me and Bencuya so that we handle it better.

Since it is Yacht Rock, we had to put a sax solo in there…I walked out front, big adrenaline rush, and I proceed to play massive amounts of bullshit (with delay).  Bad, bad, bad.  Not wrong notes, bad, but I couldn't connect any ideas…it was diarrhea of the horn.

So…that sucked.  The rest of the gig was fine.  Our encore was Man in the Mirror…just me and Nick on the intro.  I wondered a few weeks ago if I would choke the way I did on Sailing a few years back (that was a fine blog entry).  No problems this year.

One cool thing we had this year was a twenty-four person choir.  It ended up that they were right next to me, but I honestly never knew they were there.  The sound was such (and I was so glued to to what was happening instrumentally) that I never gave them a thought.  I bet it sounded good, though.

Bencuya and I were set up in the middle of the stage--the choir outside of me, Mark Cobb outside of him.  I was really looking forward to this set up because we'd be able to hear each other well, and honestly I wanted to prove to him that I could play this stuff!  I think I hung in there really well.

Putting Cobb in the corner (nobody puts Cobb in a corner!) made it hard to hear him clearly, and I couldn't make any eye contact with him at all.  Sometimes when the songs were just loops and a little drums, I really had to hang onto every little thing to make sure I was in time.

Anyway…great gig!  I'm getting the hang of it!

Special thanks to Nick, Pete, Esther, and Kristen for putting this show together--it made it really easy for the rest of us to just show up and play.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Thriller/Purple Rain Preparations

It's been a rough month…lots of gigs and lots of rehearsals, all culminating in this weekend's big Thriller/Purple Rain show at the Variety Playhouse.  This week began with rehearsals Monday morning and Tuesday night.  Since then I have been working on my parts and tweaking sounds to the point of insanity, sleeping in my clothes and trying to work the knot out of my shoulder.  After this, I don't want to hear any synthesizers for a while.

I think we're ready, though!  I'm certainly sick of practicing--let's play the thing!

Thursday night was the 10 High.  It was a really dragging gig.  Maybe it was the setlist, or maybe it was the fact that our minds have been elsewhere, but we weren't particularly into it, and the whole thing kind of wandered around until we finished the last song.  The crowd seemed really ambivalent too, but there were enough people to make it a good night money-wise.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I rolled into my church gig this morning.  After the usual rehearsal, they started passing out music for the concert tonight.  Huh?  The band leader had mentioned a few MONTHS ago playing on some Sunday night show…I guess tonight's the night!  The only problem was that I had a gig already scheduled for that night.  There'd never been a single email with a date, a time…nothing.  I guess that started talking about it last Sunday when I wasn't there and never got around to saying anything to me about it.  Nice.

Anyway…I got a sub to cover it.  Before I left, I took a quick glance through the book and noticed that all the charts were for alto, not tenor.  Good thing I'd looked--they never have me play alto at this gig.  I would have sent a tenor sub.

What a mess!

My gig was a little jazz trio thing--me, Tyrone Jackson, and Kevin Smith.  We were supposed to be down at the Omni at 4:30 for a 5:30 start.  Unfortunately, the Falcons game let out after 4…traffic was insanely bad.  Kevin and I finally got in the room around 5:15.  We still managed to be ready for the opening of the doors, but we were both pretty fried from the stress of the gridlock.

The gig was two hours.  The first set ended up being a handful of Monk tunes and a few other standards.  The second set was originals.  I think we all played really well;  listening to it today, I'm pleased with my performance.

Here's the audio:

Monday morning was a rehearsal for the big show coming up at the end of the week.  Yacht Rock played through all of Purple Rain.  I was pumped, feeling really good about it.  We then played Thriller, and I sucked real bad.  More practice needed!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jazzoo 2011

Yacht Rock played at Jazzoo last night.  We were at the zoo.  I walked around before we started.  It appeared to be jazz free.

Actually, that's not true.  I heard a really bad trio parked right at the front entrance, and I ran into Randy Hunter who had been there playing with Kayla Taylor earlier in the evening, and Grant Green Jr was there.

I don't have any good stories about this gig, so how about this:  I played about twenty gigs with Kayla Taylor a few years ago, and she used to get on me for playing too many notes in my solos.  "I bet you fuck like that, too.  Just like a jackhammer" she once said to me.

Back to Yacht Rock…we played two sets, 9-11 PM.  While we were searching for the jazz in the zoo, we sampled lots and lots of good (free) food.  Yeah!  It sure beat the Boston Market stuff that was in our dressing room.

Our gig was incredibly loud…just insanely loud, and it seemed like it got louder later in the evening.

I played sax on one song in the first set and two in the second.  The other twenty songs were keyboard and EWI.

We started the last song of the night and the cops came to shut us down (noise ordinance).  They shut off the main speakers and left the monitors on for us to finish, and nobody on stage could tell the difference.  It was that loud.  It hurt.

Load out was easy and I was home at midnight.  Can't beat that!


Friday, October 14, 2011

10 High

Yacht Rock played the 10 High last night.  Not much to speak of…we ripped through our usual tunes at brisk tempi.  Mark Cobb was playing drums last night with particular fire (and a strange mullet--see the above picture).  We were playing very well.  Dannells in on a good streak right now.

I don't know why I'd never done it before, but last night I made a keyboard split and added the flugelhorn part in Lovely Day.  I've always played the whole thing on strings…I guess it dawned on me that I could put the horn part down at the bottom of the synth and still have enough room to play the string part.  Anyway, I was very pleased with myself for doing that.

In the first set, I failed to turn off the transmitter on my tenor microphone, and when I tried to take an alto solo, the signals cancelled each other out.  That was stupid.  I know that when the mic isn't working I should stop and fix it (nobody's hearing what I'm doing anyway), but I can never bring myself to do it.  I'm always hoping that somehow it will fix itself.  Dumb mistake.

In the second set, my EWI ran out of batteries, and I had to take all the batteries out of both sax microphone transmitters to get through the gig.  When I then had to play sax, I took the batteries back out and put them on the horn I was playing.  Confusing?  Way too much thinking.  Time to swap out all my batteries so I don't have to do this for a while.

On the second to last tune, we paused to work out a problem with the percussion.

When the gig ended I was happy to get away from them.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lake Oconee

Yacht Rock played some kind of corporate party at Lake Oconee last night.  Easy, easy gig.  We played two sets between 7 and 10 PM, and then the noise ordinance prohibited anything further.  Yay!  The best part is that we spent the night at the Ritz.  Can't go wrong there!

We played this gig last year (you can read about it here).  This time we set up where we ended up last year (covered), which was good because just like last year, there were passing showers.  It seemed like most of the people were off to our right at the bar and maybe couldn't hear us, but there were a fair number of people sitting at tables watching us.

Dannells played great stuff, and very different from his usual ideas.

The place where Greg's bass cabinet was really liked A=440, and his side of the stage rang the whole night like there was some kind of feedback.  On our side, it sounded like the bass wasn't even on.  Weird acoustics.

We rolled back into town this morning, ate a really good breakfast at some cat place down the street from the office,

and went straight into rehearsals for next week's Thriller/Purple Rain show.  I think it went pretty well--my stuff worked.  Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I was up til 5 AM working on my keyboard parts, and I think the practice helped more than I thought it would.  Now I have this weekend to really get comfortable with it--the show's right around the corner!

10 High tonight if you want to come out…


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Was Thinkin' That

I played a trio gig for Arby's last night.  Imagine a hotel ballroom that smelled like fast food, occupied by five hundred people trying to talk over each other, and me.

The gig was pretty good;  it was my usual guys:  Tyrone Jackson and Kevin Smith.  It didn't seem like we really clicked until about three hours into the gig.  Not that we weren't trying, but around the last four songs it felt like we'd all gotten comfortable (finally!)--the groove got better, and the pacing of the solos was a bit more relaxed.

Here's the audio.  If you listen to the first tune (Wheeler) and the last tune (Monk's Dream), and then listen to something in the middle (Beth Ann), you can maybe get an idea of how loud the crowd was.  It was like jazz with a sledgehammer.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wilmington, NC

After my Friday night meltdown, I had just a few hours to sober up and head to the airport.  I picked Nick up at 5:30 AM (ouch) and met up with everybody for a flight to North Carolina for a gig.

Most of the day was pretty foggy.  Fortunately, we got there pretty early, checked into our rooms, and crashed.  By the time we left for the venue, I felt pretty good!  We each had a room to ourselves.  Check mine out.

Yacht Rock played a wedding reception in an old church that had been converted into an event facility.  It was a really pretty room.  Sound-wise, maybe not so great, but it was cool looking.

I had my gear, so I was happy.  I finally played I'd Really Love to See You Tonight without any mistakes.

Bencuya deals with crappy gear
The only blemish on the evening was that Nick got food poisoning and missed about half the gig.  Even after he'd puked his guts out a couple of times, he was still too beaten up to do anything more than wait for the gig to end.

Before the third set, we all went outside and watched the fireworks.

Nice gig!  We flew back to Atlanta the next day.  I slept the whole way.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to Play When You're Drunk

Hell if I know.  This last Park Tavern gig was a fairly miserable experience.  Why?

1.  All of my gear is in North Carolina for a wedding tomorrow night, so I had to borrow gear to cover this gig.  I found about borrowing gear a week ago.  It did not go well.  The stuff I borrowed was not really compatible with this gig.  I could go into the details of it, but why bother.

2.  I was drunk.

So yeah, I played like shit.  I drank a lot of beer before we got on stage.  My gear sounded bad coming through my speaker.  It was uninspiring to say the least.  I didn't enjoy it.  I watched my watch click down til 11 PM.  It certainly didn't help to hear what I perceived to be a sarcastic comment from a friend of the band.  I know I didn't have anything to offer tonight, but I sure as fucking hell don't need to hear about it from anybody outside of the band.  I'm not even sure if I need to hear it from anyone inside the band.  I know when I'm not playing well, and when it sounds like shit.  I sit closer to the fucking speaker than you do, and I know way better than you do what my parts are supposed to sound like.

Sorry if it sucked for you.  It fucking sucked for me, too.


Friday, October 7, 2011

More Two-fers

Wow!  Another night with two gigs (and both were indoors!)!

My first gig was a little trio gig at the Marriott downtown.  This one came up at the last minute--it became an "official" gig (I received a contract) about twenty-four hours before the gig.  Because of this, I wasn't able to get Tyrone or Kevin on the gig.  Tyrone was playing a gig with Joe Gransden and Kevin was in the room next to me playing with Brent Runnells.  This gave me the opportunity to check out some different guys--I hired Nick Rosen on piano and Nadav Spiegelman on bass.  Good stuff!  All three of us played well.  We did a set of tunes by other people before we tackled some of my songs.

Here are mp3s from the gig:

My second gig was the regular Yacht Rock gig at the 10 High.  This one was fun!  Ganesh played great--he had a lot of energy that really made the gig feel easy.

The second set was a little silly.  There might have been alcohol involved.  Happy birthday to Mark Bencuya!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Both sides of 5 AM

Man, what a crazy weekend!

Friday:  huge show in Athens at the Georgia Theatre.  Going into it, I wondered how were going to make out at the Theatre.  Our previous best gig in Athens was at the 40 Watt, where I think there were something like 400 people in attendance.  The Georgia Theatre is roughly equivalent to the Variety Playhouse here in Athens, and I thought if we had 400 people at the Variety, it would look really thin.

No problem:  we sold out the Georgia Theatre.  What an awesome venue!  Check it out:

green room 

The only problem was that I didn't play very well.  I guess the sound was kind of bugging me--I couldn't get comfortable.  It certainly didn't help that the guitar was over my right shoulder, but the bigger issue to me was that the stage sound was loud and washy, but I couldn't pinpoint what the particular sounds were--just a big wave is something that I had to play against.  Sometimes my amp was too loud;  sometimes it was too quiet.  I couldn't find a balance against everything else on stage.  On top of all that, I just had a bunch of brain farts--like I'd play the same part on every chorus of a song, but the third time through the chorus, I couldn't remember thing I'd played on the previous to choruses.  Why?

The entire gig was recorded to a 24 track Pro Tools rig (greeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaat), so I'll hear myself screw up with great frequency at some point down the road.

Mark Bencuya took an AWESOME solo on I Want to be Your Lover, and Mark Dannells ripped a really great solo on Easy Lover.

The crowd was awesome.  We played two encores.

We drove back after the show.  By the time I'd gotten home and emptied my equipment from my truck, packed for Saturday, and gotten into bed it was 5 AM.

Saturday afternoon:  I played a gig with a group in Stockbridge.  Going into it, I was pretty excited because it was a jazz gig with a different group of guys playing cool tunes--stuff like Snakes (Marcus Miller) and Hang Up Your Hang Ups (Herbie Hancock).  Monday night we slogged through a three hour rehearsal--only the drummer and myself were really prepared to play.  The guitarist was two and a half hours late to the rehearsal, and then didn't know the stuff at all.  Not impressive!

The gig was for a festival in Stockbridge--one of those portable stages in a park.  We were playing from 12:40-1:20 PM.  Most of the band got there around noon.

A word about the sound man:  INCOMPETENT.

When we were setting up, I showed the sound man my wired clip on mic (a Shure Beta 98 H/C, if you're wondering).  It plugs into an XLR cable.  It needs phantom power.  I told the sound man "I brought my mic.  It needs phantom power."  He said, "OK."

From his front of house mixing position, he had me play so he could set the level.  The gain kept coming up ("I'm not getting it" he said).  So then he opened up the monitor in front of me all the way ("Are you getting it?" he said).  Then he said, "Oh yeah!  The phantom power!" and he hit the phantom power button.  It sounded like a nuclear explosion and two trains colliding all at once.  Like, 180 decibels of ice picks into my ears, and it lasted a solid four or five seconds.  Wow.  That was really dumb.

The sound on stage was really bad (even after that, amazingly enough).  Everything coming out of the monitors sounded like a cell phone video of a rock concert.  Loud, brittle, distorted--you get the idea.

Aside from that…um.  Remember how I was saying that our set was from 12:40-1:20?  The guitarist finally showed up at 1:10 PM, walking to the stage like he was going into a convenience store.  So guess what we did from 12:40-1:10?  We stood on stage and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Thankfully there was no crowd, which limited the embarrassment.

waiting for the guitarist
Once the guitarist plugged in, we were off.  First tune (Hang Up Your Hang Ups) starts with the guitar riff.  Did he know it?  Did he know that he did not know it?  Did he care?  I would say NO to all three questions.  That was pretty lame.  We went on with it;  the rest of the band was fine.  The leader had laid out a plan of who was soloing on which tune;  that went out the window pretty quickly.

The rest of the gig followed in much the same fashion.  I probably wouldn't have been annoyed if we hadn't spent all that time at rehearsal working out the forms of the tunes.  It was kind of a free-for-all jam situation.

The following bands were stacked up next to stage because we went so late (the guitarist for the next band arrived before the guitarist for our band--ouch!).  Some guy jumped up and began playing an acoustic set before I'd even gotten my horns off the stage.

I had enough time to drive back to home, grab my gear, eat lunch, and head out the door to my next gig.

Saturday night:  I played with the Yacht Rock Schooner (along with Mark Bencuya and Greg Lee).  We played the Vinings Jubilee--basically in the center of a shopping center/restaurant complex, there's a spot where the set up bands to play for weekend entertainment.

It was cold.  The wind was bad all day, but once the sun went down, it was even worse.  My hands hurt and my horns were ice cold.  Thankfully, I was wearing a suit.  One of the guys just had a short sleeve shirt on.

The sound man complained to me that my electronics were noisy.  Kind of confusing, since the same signal was going through my amp, and I wasn't hearing any of that.  He seemed pretty insistent that it wasn't HIS equipment with the problem.

The gig went well, though.  We were loved.  The 10:30 curfew was welcomed!

Sunday morning:  one day later, I got UP at 5 AM, this time to play the Brookhaven half-marathon with the Yacht Rock Revue.  Same cold, same wind.  It was tough.

We sang the National Anthem.  I think I messed up my part a little.

The announcer called us "the Yacht Club Revue."  Twice.  Even though it was on his script as "the Yacht Rock Revue."  Here's to stupidity!

The gig went well.  The sound on stage was really good.  My hands hurt and my horns were ice cold.  The synth buildup in Lido?  Couldn't do it.  My hands couldn't play that fast.

I went home and went straight to bed (around noon).  I got up at 2 PM, ate, and left for my next gig.

Sunday night:  Yacht Rock played a wedding reception at The Garden at Great Oaks in Roswell.  Pretty nice place, though not really set up well for loading in equipment and food  (and guests).  How about paving the driveway?

Right off the bat we confronted by the manager of the facility, an evil old woman named Joi.  She was not interested in helping us in any way--it seemed like we were in for a long night of hell with her.

Here's a review somebody found on Yelp (posted two weeks ago!):

Having worked in the Hospitality Industry for 15 years I tend to look the other way and keep my mouth shut. However, in this instance I cannot do so. Party Planners, Brides, Grooms, Guests BEWARE! While on the surface the Gardens At Great Oaks appears to be a beautiful place to host your event there is an evil and dark presence at this facility that will undoubtedly bring a dark cloud to your day. The presence goes by the name of Joi and she is the "manager" of the event facility. In my 15 years in the industry I have never encountered an individual with so much hate and ill will towards people in general. It was if just the thought of individuals having a good time was enough to throw this woman off the deep end. Aside from the fact that she looks like she has been sewn together with missing parts and her wardrobe is akin to an afghan throw she really is just a miserable human being. I witnessed this woman yell at guests, slap a young woman, and throw a case of wine at someone who worked for her. Her ability to "manage" an event does not exist. Every request that we had from when and where things were to be served, to when the bar would open was not met. On top of that, at the end of the evening the "facility" was to provide a limo for our guests back to the hotel and when the limo had not arrived for some 45 minutes Joi explained that we could "just take a cab". Really just take a cab? You are going to say that to a bride and groom? Top that with the fact that Joi would not allow us to keep the food in the fridge overnight, in fact her response to that was you can pick it up on Wednesday afternoon. Mind you this was a Saturday? Do not take any recommendations from this woman with respect to her caterer or any other recommendations for that matter. At the end of the evening we were to have a bunch of left over food which had all been pilfered by Joi, the caterer and the helpers. When we arrived in the kitchen to retrieve our food (since we did not want to leave it there till Wednesday) we were told that it was for the "crew". The nightmare that this woman brings to this place is enough for anyone to stay clear. I have received a warmer welcome at the DMV then this woman could provide. Shame on you Joi! Shame on you for what you did and what you do to people. You make celebrations "Joi-less"!


Something changed between us and Joi, though.  She went from the wicked witch to our best buddy.  We'll know what triggered it, but all of the sudden she was there to hook us up with anything we needed.

The wedding reception was outdoors for us.  Very cold, though not as windy.  Usual stuff for me:  hands hurt, horns cold.  I played ok.

I got home just before midnight.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.