Flying High

I took a night off from Yacht Rock Saturday night to play at the Shaky Knees Festival, performing in a local horn section with Rob Opitz (trumpet) and Richard Sherrington (trombone) backing Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.  Interesting gig!

For whatever reason, I was curious as to how different things would be from the gigs that I do.  Lots of familiarity--the same kinds of gear, microphones, amps, power strips, and cables across the stage.  I'm not sure why I thought there would be anything different--no bluetooth guitars or anything.  Just like all of my gigs, it's just regular gear on a stage that we play.

What was different was the crew--a handful of techs for the musicians who set up and tuned all the gear, plus sound guys (out front and monitors), tour manager, and probably a personal assistant in there.  All British guys, and each had a different British accent.  We had Richard (our Brit) translate.

The most difficult part of this evening's adventure was parking.  Like many other events around Atlanta, the police are never on the same page with the festival.  The tour manager emailed me a map, so I thought we were in good shape.  Ha!  Not so fast.

I carpooled down there with Rob, and on the map it looked like there was parking on Pine Street right next to our stage.  Perfect!  We drove to Parkway Drive and Pine, but there were barricades.  We pulled in to ask a cop on the next available road, and he had no idea how we could get to the parking;  in fact, he had no idea that parking was available.  He maybe thought we could ask the police at Pine Street, so Rob went around the block and I went to investigate on foot.

At Pine, the police said no way, and beyond the barricades there were gates--this definitely wasn't the place.  One officer suggested we go around to North Ave to "where there are cones and barricades--that's where the tour buses went in."  Rob texted that he was coming around to get me.  A black Honda turned in front of me and pulled over to the curb and opened the door to get in, only to scare the living hell out of some random guy who was NOT picking me up, but somebody else!  Oops.

So...back in Rob's car.  We went around to North Ave to the cones and barricades.  I jumped out to ask the cop, and of course he had no idea what we were talking about.  He suggested we go to Pine Street because we we definitely weren't entering at his street.  In lieu of that, he thought there might be an entrance further down North Ave.

We found a side street where the production people were, so we pulled in there.  This must be the place!  The runner at the street even let us in, so we were on the right track.  The second guy we encountered said no, though, and got a girl to come from the production office.   She said no, you cannot park here, but you should go around to Pine Street and they'll let you in.  Rob and I vetoed that.  She then produced a sheet with directions.  Magic!  Using a diagonal street (Felton Drive), we were able to bypass the Pine Street cops and reach parking.  Hooray!  We parked directly behind the stage.

After a quick rehearsal, we had a few minutes to kill.  We met Noel Gallagher (who was actually very polite to us, in spite of his reputation).  We set up our station at stage right, laughing that they'd set out three of those $15 wire music stands for us!  We used our iPads for charts instead.  The monitor guy passed out in ear monitors and packs for us, telling us that we'd begin with the previous horn section's mixes.  Mine was crazy loud saxophone, audible horns, and some drums.  I asked the guy to give me a blend of everybody with the sax just a little louder, but it never happened, so I played with only one ear in.  The stage sound was pretty good, anyway.  With no soundcheck, that worked just fine.

The gig was a piece of cake.  I'd spent a good bit of time practicing the charts, and I think the horn section was pretty flawless.  We only played on five songs, so the rest of the time we were offstage.  The charts were easy, though I had a couple that took a little bit of interpretation.  Both were handwritten charts that had been scanned and put on an iPad, and then somebody had taken a screen shot and sent that!  One of those had notes written in, and a full chordal voicing for each note.  I checked the trombone part, and he had the same sounding pitch as the trumpet.  So...I play the fifth?  They're power chords with me in the middle?

It turned out to be the same chart that the trumpet had, but all the videos I'd watched had bari sax.  Eventually I figured out that those notes were the bari notes (if you transpose the trumpet chart--Bb on trumpet is concert Ab, which F on bari sax).  Therefore, we are not playing power chords, we're in octaves.  Get it?

I was surprised that all of the charts weren't immaculate, considering that there would be almost no chance to try anything before going on stage. big deal.  Working with the charts and comparing the studio recording and YouTube clips from earlier in the year, I was able to figure it all out.  We only played on five songs;  the rest of the time, we had prime seats to watch the show!

Seventy-five minutes after we first walked on stage, it was over.  As Noel passed us leaving the stage, he stopped to shake each of our hands and thank us for playing.  Pretty cool.

Eight minutes after that, Rob and I were driving away.  Nice.


This one opens with a obnoxious tenor solo:

This one has a couple of bari solos:

An Oasis song with lots of horns:

To top it all off, I got a mention from the Atlanta Journal Constitution!  You can see the entire thing here:

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