Monday, March 28, 2016

Center Stage

Rob Opitz laid a really wild gig on me, playing at Center Stage in a horn section backing Iranian pop star Reza Sadeghi.

So...this dude is huge in Iran!  For us, the gig felt kind of like an out of control salsa gig:  charts flying by, extremely long break between sets, and NO ENGLISH for three hours (except for the keyboardist turning around to make sure we were about to play the right chart).  You have no idea how weird that feeling is.

We received the music the night before, so I had enough time to sort of prepare, but the three of us (Rob Opitz on trumpet and Wes Funderburk on trombone) were much closer to sight-reading than mastery.  Thank God that both Rob and Wes can read anything--they nailed almost of all of it.  Anything we missed was probably covered by the horns on the track (we were playing along with a sequencer), and the keyboard played a lot of keyboard parts with us.  The keyboard player even played a sax part and TOOK A SAX SOLO using the sax sound on his keyboard.  Nooooooooo!

The keyboardist and Reza were both from Iran, but the rest of the group (except for us) was based in Los Angeles.  Each dude was a really good, chopsy player.  The drummer told us that they wouldn't even go back to their hotel rooms after the show;  go get a drink somewhere and then head to the airport for a 6 AM flight back to L.A;  he figured to have just enough time to run home, grab his drums, and head out to play a wedding.  I assume the two Iranians were headed home as well.

It was great to step outside of the Yacht Rock thing and play a gig like a normal horn player, and of course it was great to hang out with Wes and Rob, and the performance was pretty incredible!

Here's one that we didn't play on:

Sunday:  Easter means church gigs!  I did two in the morning and one in the evening, with a giant nap in between.

Dark Side of the Moon, Abbey Road

Time for the annual Yacht Rock Revue Dark Side of the Moon show at the Variety Playhouse, this year paired with the Beatles Abbey Road.  This show is fun and we always have a great crowd (just under a thousand people in the audience).

Everything went well!  We've played it enough times that there's not usually any playing problems.  The DVD that plays Gone with the Wind was a little shaky (we have a click track lined up with it), but the backup disc was good.  Stoner myth complete!  (

Abbey Road also came off without a hitch.  As with all the Beatles show, we utilized a horn section (this show was Rob Opitz, trumpet, and Tom Gibson, trombone).  Solid playing throughout.  My only gripe would be that I took two more terrible sax solos--one on Oh Darling! and the other on She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.  I can't seem to deliver anything, in spite of practicing ideas in B major all week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

For Kendra

Venkman's hosted a benefit for our friend Kendra, who's fighting cancer.  She's been a fan of the Atlanta music scene for the last fifteen years, so several of her favorite bands reunited to play for her and raise money.  The roster included Second Shift, Josh Rifkind, a really loud dude from The Whigs, Trances Arc, Telegram, and Y-O-U.  Yacht Rock closed out the night with a couple of songs.  It was a bittersweet hang.

photo by Bevin Patrick


Still reeling from jet lag, five of us (Greg, the three Marks, and me) played a benefit for Oakhurst Elementary Saturday night.  Easy gig--we played for less than an hour, the whole thing was very relaxed, and they raised a ton of money.

I played mostly keyboard, which made it a lot of fun for me.  The sax was not in the PA, and once we got cranked up, it was hopelessly inaudible.  

One of these a month would be really sweet.


The Yacht Rock Revue (plus horns and background vocalists) spent last week in Las Vegas, backing up about a dozen contest winners in a corporate extravaganza for a large hardware store chain.  Our third year performing at this even was different than previous trips--instead of only playing with the "stars," we also played walk-ons and music beds while the executives made speeches and congratulated winners.  It was an incredible, high end production, and no expense was spared.

Saturday:  following my shitty performance at the Dave and Dave Duo gig at Venkman's, I boogied home for around 40 minutes before returning to town to meet the band and head to the airport.  We flew out in the evening and landed around 10 PM in Las Vegas.

A few of us stopped in the sushi restaurant before we left, and the service was so slow that those guys had to chug their drinks and hustle to the gate.

The southwest at night is mostly dark nothingness dotted with the occasional well lit town.  Pretty cool.  It makes you realize how sparsely populated that part of the country is.

Then, you reach Vegas.

Somebody pointed out that the Las Vegas airport baggage claim is immense, two huge rooms of conveyor belts, slot machines, and video boards berating you with ads for shows.  I've never seen more than two baggage carousels in action there at any given time.

Greg Lee brought a luggage cart for his pedal board.  Smart move!  We had to walk pretty far, it'd been a long day, and he's getting older all the time.

Sunday:  first day of rehearsal in Vegas.  We'd done four days of rehearsal in Atlanta before we got here.  The first half of this day was spent building monitor mixes.  In what would prove to be a major difficulty down the line, each song was saved as its own mix, giving us around twenty-five "scenes."  The advantage to this is that you could change what you're hearing from song to song (for instance, if you need a bunch of extra guitar for one song).  The disadvantage is that if you want to make a change to the overall balance in your ears, you have to fix it twenty-five times.

I wonder why we didn't use in ear monitors at the rehearsals in Atlanta and set all of this stuff before we came out west.  We probably could've even used a Yacht Rock show file and augmented it with the extra horns and vocals.  It would have been a pretty good place to start.

The whole situation with our monitors made me appreciate Kip and Zach even more, because their approach is so well thought out and they know how their gear works.  The gear and the set up in Vegas seemed to constantly confound our engineer, even though he presumably requested this specific mixing desk and had a plan for how to use it.

Rob and I were sure it was Monday.  Rich didn't care.

the year's horn section: Rob Opitz (trumpet), Richard Sherrington (trombone), and me
 I hope that no one I know made this sign.  Also, doesn't autocorrect prevent atrocities like this from happening?

Two panoramas of my hotel--easily one of the best hotel rooms I've ever had.

I went for a run in between rehearsal and dinner.  The famous Las Vegas sign was in the median about a mile south of our hotel (Mandalay Bay).  There's a parking lot (also in the median), and buses pull up around the clock so people can jump out and have their photos taken.  I always thought it was just a sign on the side of the road out in the desert.

Monday:  Our call time wasn't until lunch,  affording me a little time to run up the strip.

I like the "TIPS" sign tucked in the bib.  Chucky was disappointed that all I had was my room key.

More of the same stuff at rehearsal as yesterday.  Rich had already memorized the charts, so his iPad was for tuning.  Free wifi meant he could also watch the "football" (soccer) game.

Monday night was our first rehearsal in the arena.  It's super cool to play in a room like this.

Unfortunately, we had big problems with the monitors.  After an our an a half of this (somebody pointed out that the local crew was union and they were racking up the overtime), we were released without playing a single song.

The horns took a field trip to another casino to see a very slick show band called Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns.  Nifty arrangements!

Tuesday:  back to the rehearsal studio.  This year we also had a group of professional dancers (several if not all of whom are doing Cirq du Soleil shows in Vegas) added in for a few songs.  They were incredible!  Since they were all in one place for our rehearsal, they spent a little bit of time running through a light show for a separate performance.

Each dancer had two light wands, and each wand received information from a computer synced to music, so as they swung them, the patterns changed.  At first it was fire, then it was a pattern, then they were solid colors, and finally words.  How cool is that!

The rest of rehearsal was spent fixing and tweaking and fixing and tweaking monitor mixes again and again and again.  All kinds of problems with the mixes.

Also, the occasional break.

I went for another run after rehearsal.  At the north end of the strip, there's a similar sign to its more famous counterpart.

There's a roller coaster on top of this (Stratosphere).  No thank you.

The north end also has more wedding chapels and rough looking motels--the kind that advertise jacuzzis and free ESPN.

Elvis was here.

Other stuff on the strip:

This guy's whole act was to try to climb out of the planter along the sidewalk, then slide back into the bushes.  Over and over, working for tips.

Wednesday:  rehearsal in the arena again!  

Here's Rich trying to take a picture of us looking at ourselves on the giant video board behind us.

Probably fixing monitor mixes again.

(photo cred Keisha Jackson)
 Regardless of the mix, it's still an amazing experience.

Thursday:  Show day!  Everybody delivered--it couldn't have gone any better.  The in ear mixes weren't great, but they were stable, so we could play fine.  I only had to rip them out once.

Post gig, I went for a run.  With all this money I just made on this gig (and approximately twenty hours to kill in Vegas)...

I had chicken teriyaki for dinner, and then $9.57 worth of frozen yogurt for dessert.  I also wasted $5 pretending to gamble.

The wrap party was pretty low key.

We played pool and drank beer and shouted over the DJ.

Friday:  I went for a walk, trying to kill time until the our noon check out.  Vegas had fantastic weather the entire time we were out here.

Early in the flight.

Later in the flight.

Delta showed the newest Star Wars movie, unfortunately not on seat back displays.  This was good enough to pass the time, though.

Back in Atlanta, standing around at the airport at 10 PM on a Friday night.  Wooooo.