Friday, August 28, 2015


Yacht Rock had a nice, random Wednesday night gig in Austin, Texas yesterday, performing at a summer concert series.  

After flying in and dropping our bags at the hotel, we caught a ride to Curra's Grill for some dynamite Mexican food, described by Greg as "gastric nirvana."

A bottle of juice and a bottle of jews?

I had shrimp and pineapple enchiladas.  Outstanding.

Load in was pretty miserably hot--too much of direct sunlight.  By the end of soundcheck, my horns were hot to the touch and my laptop was almost too hot to pick up.  That's not good!  I took pretty much all of the gear that I flew with (2 saxes, EWI, flute, piccolo, computer) into the green room.  The local crew taped my keyboards with a thermal blanket--the aluminum foil looking ones.

As usual on these fly dates, we rented keyboards, stands, pedals, and cables.  Our old sound guy Hans would be pleased with this cable wrapping job.  Greg Lee would not.

Dream big.

After the sun set, the evening turned out to be quite nice!  Not a big crowd, but they were very entertained.

Go time...

This was a pretty good gig.  Personally, I played much better on the saxophones (though my alto reed bit the dust--it pinched shut a couple of times during Baker Street).  The mix was a little bit different from what we've been hearing, but it wasn't a big deal.  We ended up with two or three hundred people in the crowd.

We flew home the following morning.  On to the next thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Revival

The 2015 Yacht Rock Revival was a massive success, starring Walter Egan (Magnet and Steel), Elliot Lurie (Brandy), Ron Moss and Peter Beckett of Player (Baby Come Back), Jeff Carlisi of .38 Special (Hold On Loosely), Matthew Wilder (Break My Stride), Steve Augeri of Journey (Don't Stop Believin'), plus special guests Peter Stroud (Sheryl Crow's band), and Brian Ray (Paul McCartney's band!!!!).  Damn...

We sold out (3,500) before we'd even finished setting up for soundcheck.  I think everybody had a great time (ourselves included), with only a minimum of complaints about the Park Tavern's bar stations.

Ready to roll...

For the most part I fared well, except for a few diarrhea saxophone solos.  The end of Taking it to the Streets didn't go well, with me misreading the band and missing the last note.  I had a solo in Matthew Wilder's Kid's American that went ok (nothing special).  My other big sax moment was in Robbie Dupree's I'm No Stranger, which has a nice long solo in the middle.  I played one ugly wrong note and then somehow managed to completely loose the time and bullshitted my way out of the rest of the solo.  Dammit!  It didn't go like that in rehearsal.  I still suck.

On the other hand, I got the Africa solo correct (I missed my EWI pedal on the previous gig and screwed the first phrase of that up), and I nailed the lick in My Old School that I've been ruining as of late.

The keyboard parts were correct (a few minor flubs), and my vocal parts were fine.  Most importantly, I didn't have any failures to pitch my keyboard up or down (for key changes)--usually my Achilles heel on a gig like this.

excellent photo by Jim Ramsdell

Everybody else on stage with Jeff Carlisi.

We had a our awesome crew of Kip and Zach on sound, plus Hans teching at the stage.  Here he is gathering up guitar crap while Matthew Wilder prepares to take a selfie.

We finished with a group sing along on Hey Jude.

Congratulations to everybody at Pleaserock for putting on such an awesome show!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Funk Box

In spite of the fact that the Michael Brecker/Brecker Brothers envelope filter sound is loved by horn players the world over, there is very little information about what settings (and what envelope filter) will get you there.  Believe me--I've scoured the internet.  It's not out there.

The most well known guy using the effect currently is Jeff Coffin, he of the Dave Matthews Band.  He uses an older Q-Tron, and there's a picture of his pedal on his website so you can snag his settings.  However, he seems to prefer it set so that the filter doesn't open all the way, which isn't really like the Brecker Brothers sound.  I bought a newer Q-Tron and set mine up like his, but it wasn't until I messed around with it for an hour or so did I finally find was I was looking for.  Here are my settings, in case you want a better starting place.

MODE=HP (high pass) 
PEAK=3 o'clock
GAIN=8 o'clock

It sounds like this:


Sunday was a big day--three church services plus a wedding reception.  It made for a long day, made longer by the fact that I'd spent the night on the bathroom floor, destroyed by Saturday night margaritas (happy birthday Mark Cobb).  Ouch.

The services were the same kind of thing I generally do on my church gigs, playing soprano sax in a generally improvisational setting.  Pretty easy.  The first two services had pretty big ensembles, but the third was just piano, one vocal, and me.  With a little more room to play, that one was definitely the most fun.  I got lots of compliments from all three;  success all the way around.  It looks like I'll be doing this gig (three services at the same church) once a month.  Nice.  I only have to wake up early every few weeks.

After a quick trip home to exchange gear, I was off to a Yacht Rock wedding reception for some friends of the band.  Not my best gig, let's just say.  I was certainly tired and mentally fried (and my corner of the stage was so dark I couldn't read the set list, the couple of charts I had, or see my EWI pedal on the floor), but I my playing was pretty shitty.  I had trouble everywhere in the set list;  I never could get in any kind of groove.  It was frustrating as hell.  I could itemize my mistakes, but I want to forget everything about this one as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Eatin' Beats

Yacht Rock had a repeat gig Thursday night--Eats and Beats, a benefit at the Buckhead  Theatre that we've played two or three times now.  A few chef bands (surprisingly good!) and then us.

I hit rain on the way down I-75 and had to stop at an underpass to get my gear from the bed of my truck into the cab (big fun).  It was still pouring when I got to the theatre.  With no sign of it letting up, I hustled all of my gear onto the dock as I got soaked.  Most of the other guys did the same.  It made me wish forever more for one of those cool bed covers that would keep my stuff dry and safe.  Someday, if we play enough gigs...Anyway, all my gear stayed dry, so no big deal.

We've had some really limp Buckhead Theatre gigs, but this one was surprisingly entertaining.  Maybe it was getting back on in ears?  I'm not sure.  We laughed through this one.  Easy gig.

My only mess (other than sound checking Arthur's Theme, which was a "what chord do we start on?" kind of brain fart), was a lick in My Old School.  It cracked a few gigs ago, and then I began second guessing myself the next time we played it, then I played "variations" on it, and now I can't remember it all.  AGGGHHHH!!!!!!

A pretty painless load out, four bananas snagged from the green room, and $10 for parking.  Decent for a Thursday night.

Next Saturday is a big day.  Get your tickets now!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Yacht Rock played in Decatur, IL at the Decatur Celebration last Sunday, opening for Kool and the Gang.  Since it was a one-off show, we flew there and used backlined gear.  I guess it's equidistant from most major airports, so we ended up flying from Atlanta to St. Louis, and then two shuttle vans drove us to Decatur.

photo cred:  Peter Olson

The ride from St. Louis...more corn than you would believe, and the straightest stretches of interstate I've ever been on.

We soundchecked in the early afternoon.  A few interesting characters lined up early for good seats.  It's forever disappointing to see that the residents of small town America are not the quiet, simple people that they are in the movies.  The girl (an adult) in green pictured below alternated between a pacifier and cigarettes during our time on stage.

Agh!  I ended up with my gear in the sun.  Boo.  Passing clouds made it bearable.  By the time we began our set, things were pretty comfortable, though, with temperatures in the mid 80s.

The backlined keyboards for this one included a Nord Electro 3 (which Bencuya took) and a Nord Stage (which I got).  Even though there's a lot of extra crap on the Stage, I really like it!  Maybe for my next upgrade.  Then again, it weighs twice as much and costs $3,000.  Hmmm.

No in ears on this gig.  I could hear everybody fine, but I really missed them--probably as much at soundcheck as I did at the performance.  What a drag to go back to going through every instrument and everybody saying whether or not they want it in their monitor!  The in ears system (and the saved monitor file loaded into the monitor desk) has eliminated all of that.

By the time we began our show, we'd picked up a little bit more of crowd.  Maybe a couple of hundred people were watching?  It was decently full back to the front of house position.  Their reactions were on the subdued side, though.  For us on stage, it's a little unnerving when we're not a home run.  I guess that's what the way it goes when you're the opener.

Here's a video from our gig:

Following our set, we ate dinner and walked around the festival.  I never got close enough to see an actual pizza on a stick, but I was intrigued.

Kool and the Gang was pretty cool to see.  The seemed to be twenty people on stage.

The next day, we traveled in reverse--85 mph shuttle vans driven to St. Louis and the a flight home.  My trick of pre boarding the plane was unsuccessful, and then I noticed the gate attendants discussing the fact that I had too many bags (two gig bags and a backpack), so I handed a saxophone off to Mark Cobb until we entered the jetway, at which point he handed it back.  So annoying...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Red Red Wine

The Yacht Rock Revue headed up to Nashville and Indiana last weekend for a couple of dates at a couple of wineries.  I'm not sure if this was a conscious pairing or coincidence.

Friday:  We left for Tennessee a little earlier than usual because of an earlier start time at City Winery ( a new venue for us).  The air conditioner in the van has problems (the vents shut down at higher RPMs), an issue that we had neglected in between this trip and the previous one.  Oops.  The mountains and the heavy trailer on the back made for a warm trip.

The City Winery in Nashville is a nice room, though it's not really set up for louder bands--more of a singer/songwriter situation.  A huge glass wall across the back (so you can see the wine casks) made it acoustically unfriendly.  Still, it's a cool place--easier than dragging all of our stuff up a flight of stairs, and the staff was cool.

Never is it a good feeling when your keyboard powers up and does this--a great big error message.

I was pretty worried until I figured out that it was only one sound that wouldn't load properly--everything else was still there.  I didn't need that sound for these two shows anyway.

Walter Egan came through and sat in with us on Magnet and Steel, Hot Summer Nights, and Go Your Own Way.  One of our better times with him--having in ear monitors helped us (not being overpowered by his stage volume) and him (not competing with our stage volume as much).  We'll see him in a couple of weeks at the Yacht Rock Revival in Atlanta (August  22).

Other than that...nice gig!  The tables (closest to the stage) sold out and the standing room tickets (in the back half of the room) were very full.  People began creeping between the tables as the night went on.  I wonder if they were table people who decided to stand, or standing people who decided to move forward.  Things I think about during the show...

Post show, there was entertainment in the lobby of our hotel.  I'll let your imagination write the appropriate lyrics to the song they're singing.

Saturday:  more heat in the van on our way to central Indiana for a gig at Mallow Run Winery (somewhere south of Indianapolis).  The Winery was a summer concert series in which we were invited to participate.

We were outdoors, but fortunately the stage was covered and we brought fans.  Actually, by the time we started the show, the weather was pretty comfortable.  We had a good crowd splayed across the hillside looking down on us.

My equipment worked just fine (no shock to see the Nord's error message today), but Mark Cobb's in ear monitors on one side (already?), and he spent the first four or five songs trying to sort it out and as he was playing the gig.  Zach (our monitor guy) helped iron it out.  The official diagnosis was a failure at the driver in one ear (not a cable issue).  Cobb had an extra pair of headphones, so he made it through the gig just fine.

As the gig went on, people came closer and closer to the stage (some of them armed with beach balls) until they were climbing the steps by the time we finished.  Good thing we had Zach on security to shoo them away.  Other than that, it was a really nice crowd--a nice mix of fans and family.

After load out, I was driving the van away from the stage and ran over a stump hidden in tall grass.  The stump struck the exhaust.  Now the van sounds like '69 Camaro.  Damn.  We also nearly ran out of gas.  Also the air conditioner still doesn't work.  Our van is tired of this shit.

Post show, Zach lurking in a hotel room currently under renovation.  Scary.

Sunday:  we (sans Nick, who stayed with his parents, and san Pete, who stayed with his family) drove home from basically Columbus, Indiana in what's left of the van.  I tried to sleep my way through it (pretty successfully).

Next few of Yacht Rock shows:

Sunday, August 9:  Decatur Celebration (Decatur, IL)
Thursday, August 13:  Eats and Beats (Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta)
Saturday, August 22:  Yacht Rock Revival (Park Tavern/Piedmont Park, Atlanta)
Wednesday, August 26:  Long Center (Austin, TX)
Friday, August 28:  Turner Field--50th Anniversary of the Beatles in Atlanta (Atlanta)