Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The 80s live!

I played saxophone on an song that sounded like a Wham rhythm track today.  Much fun was had, and the hang was great, too.  I'll take one of these any day of the week.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Highlands Wedding

Unfortunately, I ended up with no Saturday night gig.

Sunday, I was up for my AM church gig.  There were no big surprises this week;  we did play some crazy seventeen page song with a million chords and three or four modulations.  Sightread that!

So long to our buddy Matt Sheren, who has been running sound for us ever since I began playing here. He's off to bigger and better things.  I hope the next guy is as funny and talented as Matt!

When the gig ended, I had enough time to race home, change clothes, and run out the door again to meet up with the Yacht Rock guys for an out of town gig.  Under our more catch-all wedding band moniker "Constantly Awesome," we played a wedding reception in Highlands, NC.

It was a really nice gig in a beautiful room.  We left the doors immediately behind the stage open and enjoyed the really pleasant weather up in the mountains.  Everything sounded good (using our very basic PA).

The first set focused on Beatles stuff.  On the break, we changed over into more Yacht Rock stuff.  Other than the first dance (All You Need is Love) and Hava Nagila (which was SUPER GROOVY AS HELL!! thanks to Mark Cobb), everything else was really familiar.

We came back to Atlanta Monday morning.  The new van's maiden voyage was a success.

Here's a nice sounding clip from last Friday's Park Tavern show.

We'll be in California this coming weekend--the House of Blues in Anaheim on Friday and the House of Blues on Sunset Strip in Hollywood Saturday.  Come see us if you're out there!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Park Tavern

Yacht Rock was back at the Park Tavern last night for our monthly show there.  Not much to report…a good sized audience, though not overly crowded.

We added a couple of new tunes:  Band on the Run (which technically we added last week, but I just started playing the keyboard part this weekend) and Running on Empty (which technically has nothing for me to play).  The former is much more interesting for me to play now that I have a greater role in the music.  To the latter, I added some organ to kind of fill it out--the live recordings I looked at had one keyboardist but two guitars.  We have one guitar and two keyboardists (well, one and a half, let's say) so I'm providing an anonymous layer of harmony and volume.

The gig began with Band on the Run, and the rest was kind of downhill.  I'd practiced that song a bunch, so I was confident and played well.  Everything else (other than Running on Empty, which I'd also played a lot during the week) was pretty sloppy.  My solos on Biggest Part of Me, Takin' it to the Streets, and Lowdown were bland.

Anyway…the Park Tavern PA only has six vocal microphones?  Maybe five?  Ganesh got a 57 and I ended up with a massive wireless microphone.  When I tried to adjust the boom stand, the microphone clip broke--the threads came out of the plastic.  Great…I turned off the mic, set it out of the way and got on with the gig.  One of the sound guys came by later and got it back together with a wad of electrical tape.  That held until the end of the gig.  I felt lucky that the thing didn't come apart and fall in my lap.  Falling on the keyboards would probably have broken some keys.

Ganesh on drums:  sweet red Vistalites

I wonder if we're getting pickier about the way things sound for us?  Even with good sound guys, we still had some feedback problems, and generally a really loud, muddy sound on stage.  Is it the shape of the tent, the placement of the PA stacks, the relatively short distance to the opposite wall, or are we just not getting things the way they need to be at soundcheck?  I'm not sure.  I know that I went back and forth with my volume all night (too loud, not loud enough), and was pulling my ear plugs in and out from song to song trying to hear the stage sound.  Every time I see audience videos, the sound out front is fine, though, so I'm not sure what the solution is.  They did upgrade the monitors (which I think has made a significant improvement).  I wonder what it would sound like if the stage was in a different part of the tent?

Oh well…still, it's great to play for a crowd that was really into it, and I sure do appreciate the gig.  We have yet to wear out our welcome in Atlanta!  The next Park Tavern show will be September 27.

Once again (I think it's happened after every one of these shows this summer), I encountered rain on the way home.  I had to stop under an overpass and reconfigure my gear to keep the electronics from getting wet.  Boooooooo.  Any Yacht Rock fans sell Bakflip bed covers?

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Long Sunday

Sunday was a long day, with a Yacht Rock gig sandwiched by two church gigs.

AM church gig:  not too bad.  When we'd gone over one of the two big songs for the day, the main vocalist hadn't been in the room, so I played the melody as a place keeper.  During the actual service, it dawned on me (right around the time nobody was singing and the bandleader whipped his head around to see why I wasn't playing) that there would also be no vocalist!  Yikes.  So, I was in.  No problem.  Four bars into the verse, I tried to turn the page, but six or seven pages turned instead.  Uh oh.  I tried again, but no luck.  I ended up playing the entire thing from memory, which definitely got the adrenaline going.

I checked with the rest of the band afterwards, and nobody knew it was going to be an instrumental, which means I didn't miss anything at rehearsal.  Sometimes I don't pay attention...

After my gig, I had around forty minutes to get home, change, and load my truck up with Yacht Rock gear.  We played a benefit for Live Thrive, which is an organization dedicated to cleaning up and preserving the local community through recycling.  What other band better represents recycling?

We played two sets for a friendly, good looking crowd, opening with Band on the Run (sounds like that one's going to be a keeper!).  It was a very relaxed show.

We finished around 5:30.  I was packed and out the door just after 6, headed up to my PM church gig.  There was a guy riding a horse bare back on Howell Mill at I-75.  Wait…what the hell?

 My family met me at the church, where we swapped cars.  My gear went home, and I stayed to play.

The evening church gig was decent.  I felt better after the nap I took during the homily.

Upcoming Yacht Rock gigs for August:

August 23, Park Tavern (Atlanta, GA)
August 30, House of Blues (Anaheim, CA)
August 31, House of Blues (Hollywood, CA)

It's sad to hear the Cedar Walton is dead.  I've been on a big late-70s Bob Berg kick, right around the time the two were playing together.  Here's one of my favorites, from Berg's New Birth (1979), with Cedar Walton on rhodes.

Beatles at Smith's Olde Bar

Please Pleaserock Me (Yacht Rock plays the Beatles) had a two night stand at Smith's Olde Bar.  Great gigs!  Also considering how much gear we have on stage for this show, it was nice to leave it all set up overnight (I did not leave my horns there, however).  The Friday crowd was decent;  Saturday's crowd was pretty full.


Canadian Tuxedo night (head to toe denim).

When I'm 64 went well, and I appreciated the reaction from the crowd, especially the guy who yelled "Goddamnit Dave!"  In spite of barely playing any clarinet these days, my sound and pitch felt good.

Lady Madonna is, I think, the only Beatles song with a sax solo (played by London's own Ronnie Scott).  It's funny to me that the main groove is the Fats Domino boogie, and the sax solo is phrased in half time swing.

Everything else was fine.  My solo on Jealous Guy held promise, but I couldn't deliver.  My solo on Will it Go Round in Circles (written and performed by the fifth Beatle, Billy Preston) was also pretty bland.  Two songs with piccolo--Penny Lane and Live and Let Die!  My picc felt great.

We ended just before midnight, and I was home before 12:30 AM.  Love that!


Mark Cobb's birthday!

I think I have the songs we added in on the fly correct;  there may be something I forgot.  Anyway, another enjoyable night of music with friends.  We took another shot at Lady Madonna--a better solo, I believe, tonight.  We played Happy Birthday for Cobb, and then he did an excellent job singing and playing It Don't Come Easy.  Following that, we had our first public attempt at Band on the Run, which sounded great.  The horns only play in the transition between the second and third sections, but I did my best to help on the vocals, too.  The second set had plenty of horn stuff for us (the handclaps in Eight Days a Week on down).  My solo on Whatever Gets You Through the Night was pretty good.

Mostly, it felt like I was hanging out while my friends played a gig, taking annoying pictures and stuff.  Still fun, though, and once again I slipped out the back door and got home long before the rest of them had begun packing up.  Ahh, to be just a horn player again!

Don't forget to come see us Friday, August 23 at Park Tavern!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Georgia Theatre!

Yacht Rock was at the Georgia Theatre in Athens Thursday night.  The seven regular guys haven't played together since July 27 in Hilton Head.  Reunited!  I could definitely feel the vibe of the seven of us back together again.  Coupled with the Theatre and a good crowd, we were in for a good night!

Wednesday afternoon, I developed (out of the blue) severe vertigo, so bad that I could barely get home.  I still had it Thursday morning, which made loading my gear down a flight of stairs and into my truck pretty treacherous, but Advil helped me get through it.  I made it to Athens and got loaded in and set up without issue.

Our soundcheck was more of a rehearsal for our Beatles show at Smith's, so I didn't do much more than nearly freeze to death under the Theatre's air conditioner.  When we finished, I took a walk around Athens to try and possibly locate a drug store with a clinic, but no luck.  I did almost fall down, though, in the middle of the sidewalk on College Ave.  Time for more Advil!

The show went really well.  I was careful about doing anything that might upset my inner ear--no major backbends during solos, no sudden movements.  I felt fine!  We had a great time playing together, and I actually played really well, with some different solo ideas than normal.  I think my preoccupation with not falling down kept me from overblowing and having saxophone diarrhea.

We got loaded out and made it home without any issues.  I wish whatever is wrong with me would leave me alone.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Ouch.  On three hours of sleep, I wandered into my morning church gig.  Fortunately, it was pretty easy--all tenor (with a little bit of clarinet at the end), and the tunes had enough space for me to play a little bit.  My excitement of the morning happened in the introduction of the biggest song we did--the recording (I am told) began with a big trumpet fanfare.  The best I could do was to play it all up at the top of my altissimo range, beginning on a high C.  As we came up to this song in the service, my mind went blank, and I had no idea how to finger that note;  then I thought I remembered it, but there was no way to check if I was hearing the correct pitch.  It all worked out.

Having a late gig like the previous night with an early gig like this morning really messes me up.  I came home from my AM church gig and went back to bed for four or five hours.

My evening church gig was pretty good.  I think I've finally found a good spot on my soprano neck for intonation--things are coming together.  We also got another singer back from the summer break, which helped significantly with the vocal blend.

Upcoming gigs:

August 15, Georgia Theatre (Athens, GA)
August 16-17, Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA)--Please Pleaserock Me show
August 18, Monday Night Brewing Company (Atlanta, GA)
August 23, Park Tavern (Atlanta, GA)
August 30, House of Blues (Anaheim, CA)
August 31, House of Blues (Hollywood, CA)
September 26, Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA)--Sazerac show
September 27, Park Tavern (Atlanta, GA)
October 10, State Theatre (Falls Church, VA)
October 11, Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
October 12, Rams Head On Stage (Annapolis, MD)
October 19, Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA)
October 31, Georgia Theater (Athens, GA)
November 1, Music Farm (Charleston, SC)
November 17, House of Blues (San Diego, CA)
December 14, Variety Playhouse (Atlanta, GA)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

After Party

Yacht Rock played an after party last night--not the party itself, but the AFTER party.  Wait…isn't the after party usually the drunkest of the drunk standing around the hotel bar?  Ugh.  On the plus side, this 10:15 PM-1:40 AM shindig didn't have four or five hours of down time between soundcheck and the gig.

Before we even got set up, there was an adventure:  I followed Monkey (presumably to go park after dumping our gear at the hotel loading dock), and we somehow ended up going into the underground parking for the office building next door.  There was a garage door at street level and a gate at the bottom of the ramp.  Security would not let us through the gate (no parking there), but the garage door was shut, and we had quite a time (after we made Austin Powers-esque ten point turns in this small space) trying to convey to an unseen security guard where exactly we were stuck.  "Please open the garage door at street level!"  was our version of "R2!  Shut down all the garbage compactors on the detention level!"  Finally the guard opened the garage door and I got out, but it closed before Monkey could get out.  R2!

Another small stage--it'll be good to head to the Georgia Theatre this week and not be crammed in a corner.

The gig was unremarkable.  I'd guess there were about a hundred people in the room.  One thing that was cool (due to Greg subbing for Nick on the front line, Rob Henson subbing for Greg, and Ganesh subbing for Cobb) was that we played a few different tunes--Moonlight Feels Right, My Love is Alive (soundcheck only, but still fun), LowdownKodachrome, and  Hot Child in the City.

During our second break, the security guard for the building came around and started locking up--he said that they were shutting down the bar and killing the party at 1 AM.  Uhh, ok…Pete met up with someone from the client, and they agreed that we would cut the break short and play another half hour (ending around 1:15 AM).  Cool.

As we were changing back into street clothes (ten or fifteen minutes after the end of the gig), one of the other people from the party came in and wanted to know when we were going back on.  Say what?  Some kind of communication problem--he expected the party to go on until 1:40.  After another huddle between Pete and the clients, we agreed to come back out and play one more song.

I ended up in bed at 3:30 AM.  Up at 7 to begin Sunday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Yacht Rock had a private gig last night at the Egyptian Ballroom (Fox Theatre)--some kind of big entertainment industry party.  We played two long sets.

The load in is notoriously difficult, mainly because there is one freight elevator to service the ballroom (for production, catering, and the band), and it is not quite the size of a twin bed, so there's always a bottleneck of stuff going in at the beginning of the day, or stuff coming out at the end of the night.  To alleviate this, much of our gear was back lined.  I brought everything just in case…I guess if I'd checked in ahead of time, I could have planned a little better.  I ended up going half and half--I used their keyboards, keyboard stands, pedals, throne, and monitor, and supplied my rack so I could still have my EWI rig, and my sax wireless.  Along with that, I needed sax stands, tambourine…a little bit of stuff out of one of my boxes.

After getting the gear all sussed out, we endured a pretty difficult soundcheck.  Two big problems we encountered:

1.  The sound guys made guesses about what we would want in our mixes, so we had to go through every mix, clear everything, and start over.

2.  The monitors were being mixed from front of house, and the front of house guy was up in the balcony, so communication was difficult.

It's safe to say that each of us ended up with monitor mixes that were "good enough to get through the gig."  Mine wasn't great, but it was so difficult to fine tune things, I just let it go.

Following soundcheck, we had several hours of downtime, so I took the chance and ran my extra gear (2 keyboards, amp, and keyboard stand) home so I wouldn't have to deal with it at the end of the night. What else was there to do for four hours?

I made it back in plenty of time.  It turned out that the Dan Baraszu Trio was playing in the lobby.  Nice!  The band was Dan, David Ellington on organ, and Chris Burroughs on drums, all old friends of mine.  Awesome group.  We hung out for their soundcheck.

They had sound problems of their own--the guy who manned their PA laid out two monitors (the band laughed at that--for what?  two amplified interments and a drummer on a stage the size of a parking space!).  Once their set began, I went out front to listen, and the guy had the kick and snare louder than anything else in the band (if you know Chris, you know how powerful he is to begin with).  No organ in the mix!  I sent Chris a text encouraging him to unplug the microphones aimed at his kit.  They were plenty loud enough--there was no reason to have a PA in that space.  It would've sounded much better with just the natural stage sound.

Our sets turned out fine.  Mike Bielenberg filled in for Bencuya.  He was reading charts all night.

I brought two EWIs to the gig and checked to make sure everything was working correctly a couple of times.  Of course, I had no problems at all.  It was back to normal, but I still don't trust it yet.

The crowd was very cool.  It didn't take them long to really get into it, and they requested an encore at the end, which is always appreciated.  Hopefully we will get some really sweet gigs out of this!

I loaded out in one trip, and was home forty-five minutes after the last note.  Possibly a personal record.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cajoning It In

Busy day!

1.  My AM church gig--we had all of July off.  That worked out just fine for me because I was out of town almost every Sunday morning.  August, I'm back.  Time to make the money!

This gig was pretty low key.  I played four horns (tenor, flute, soprano, clarinet).  No choir, no extra players--easy stuff.

2.  My PM church gig was also easy.  I forgot my headphones, but I think the mix that I had was pretty good.  I mostly played soprano on this one, as I continue to get more comfortable on my new horn.  It feels like I've finally found the right spot on the neck for my mouthpiece to play in tune.

3.  I left straight from my PM gig and went straight to Ventanas for a House Live gig.  We haven't played this venue in a long time--good to be back!  It's a beautiful view.

This one was an hour and a half (with a five minute break for speeches).  Unlike some previous gigs, this one was a lot of fun.  I felt engaged in what we were playing the whole time.  Good, creative stuff between the four of us--Guy Strauss and Nico Gutierrez on percussion, Huda Hudia DJ'ing, and myself.  The balance between the live instruments and the DJ stuff was perfect.  Ordinarily, I'd say two cajons is a red flag, but these guys were both very good.

Even better was the fact that we were quiet enough that I didn't use a microphone, even for the flute stuff, so at the end of the night, I put my horns away and I was gone!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

No EWI in Toto

Yacht Rock played a gig way up at Barnsley Gardens last night, a one hour show on a bill with the Ken and Drew from Sister Hazel, Stephen Kellogg, Emerson Hart from Tonic, Jay Brown, and Shawn Mullins.  Twas an easy gig in front of a nice crowd.

We loaded in at 2 PM, onto an uncovered stage that worried me--I'm not fond of leaving all of my gear in direct sunlight for several hours.  Fortunately (I guess), the threat of rain became real enough that the whole stage was tarped.  It turned out that it did NOT rain (yay!), so all gear was fine.  

The humidity did some weird things to my EWI, though--it appears that my train wreck at Chastain was maybe not a transposition button issue after all, but an issue with the heat/humidity.  I think it's possible that whatever senses that my fingers are touching maybe needed an adjustment (there's a small screw-like knob on the back that can regulate this).  

 Hey Nineteen was early in the set and everything worked fine with the ol' EWI.  Later in the evening, Africa was once again a strange problem of one or two notes not transmitting correctly--the B I was fingering was sounding as a Bb, and one other note (an F or E) was also wrong.  All the other notes were correct.  Hmmm.  So, Africa had some troubles, but only where those couple of notes occurred.  Weird because I played the B and the other note in Hey Nineteen and they were correct.  My next thought was that maybe my Africa patches had become corrupted somehow, but we played Rosanna (with the solo beginning on B) a few songs later, and it was once again not working correctly.  The shame of it!

I got home, set up my EWI rig, and everything worked perfectly.  What the hell?  Anyway, I readjusted the aforementioned screw-like knob.  Hopefully that settles it.  I guess we won't know until I screw up Africa tomorrow night at the Fox.  At least we'll be indoors (upstairs in the Egyptian ballroom)--then I'll be able to rule out the weather.  It does appear that my EWI has some sort of prejudice against Toto songs.  Maybe it's some Bobby Kimball voodoo.

In other news, Dustin (of Schooner and AM church gig fame) filled in for Mark Bencuya, who is on vacation.  He did a really good job.  Speaking of which, there was a guy who, at a glance, looked like Bencuya.  We were totally confused.  What was he doing here?