Showing posts from May, 2016


Yacht Rock played two shows at Venkman's Saturday night.  The first show was "unplugged," the room was emptied and filled with new humans, and then the second show commenced.  

First show:  the unplugged set was in the style of the MTV Unplugged series from the 90s, i.e. acoustic guitar heavy, drums and synthesizers light.  Difficult, I would say because so much of the keyboard stuff has synths and electric pianos.  We took our own approach, so I avoided using my top keyboard and the EWI.  Bencuya used his Wurlitzer electric piano instead of his usual stuff.  Mark Cobb was mostly down front on bongos and hand percussion.  
It was definitely something different!  With our overall volume being softer and the crowd being seated, the vibe was much more intimate.  It was pretty cool.  The only one that really concerned me was the solo on Africa, which I always play on EWI.  For this show, I played it on flute, which because of the way I play it, felt like it was down a whole …


Yacht Rock played an awards ceremony for a golf tournament at Callaway Gardens on Wednesday.  Nothing too exciting about this one, just a long drive (100 miles each way).  It feels like the first hot gig we've had this year, so time to add my clip on fan back into my gear.

I noticed upon setting up my stuff that one of the knobs on my sax effects pedal (a Line 6 M9) was severely bent.  Thank you Southwest Airlines for throwing my stuff around.  I was able to bend it back, though it's now a little loose.  It still works, though.

The Jet Set

More fly dates with Yacht Rock:  three gigs, five airplanes.  We were fortunately able to bring along Kip and Zach to assist in the show.  Ganesh Giri Jaya (Greg's brother) subbed for Nick on Thursday and Friday, and then for Mark Cobb on Saturday.
Thursday:  Atlanta to Jacksonville, FL at a fairly reasonable hour (12:30 PM)!
My "fly date" gear: alto/EWI in one gig bag, tenor in the other (that keeps them approximately the same size), and a backpack with my laptop and all the MIDI boxes and cables for my EWI rig.  I check a Pelican (heavy duty rolling plastic box) with sax stands, sax effects pedal, wireless microphones and receiver, keyboard pedals, and any keyboard cables that I might need.  My second checked bag is a suitcase of clothes.  
One of the other guys carries one sax onto the plane so that we adhere to the airlines' "one carry-on and one personal bag" policy.

So...Jacksonville.  We've played this gig the past couple of years, but this year …


Yacht Rock played a corporate gig in Newport, RI, Monday night.  Tough trip!  We had an early flight  up and a two flights with a layover on the way back.  
Lots of cool musical things have happened here because of the Newport Jazz Festival.  This gig would not be one of them!

Monday:  Up at 5:30 to meet Nick and Bencuya at 6:40 so we can be at the airport at 7 so we can fly at 9.  Bencuya (my sax mule) and I boarded the plane and found our seats waaaaaaaaaaaay in the back.  Mine was right next to the engine.  Didn't the plane that cartwheeled in Iowa City throw a turbine blade, severing the hydraulic lines?  I had the thought that this one could throw a turbine blade and get me...and then I fell asleep.  My paranoia was conquered by extreme fatigue.

I woke up as we were making our way into Providence.  Sort of like Boston, you fly in from the ocean, and the winds from the bay made for a really bouncy decent.  Not much fun--it definitely felt like a controlled crash.

After an airpo…


Image idea launched in the Yacht Rock van of learning and playing a set of New Orleans inspired music, including Little Feat, The Meters, The Band, and Doctor John.  We have gone as far as actually recording an album's worth of music (still unreleased!), and around once a year, we actually do a gig.  2016's occasion was a show at Venkman's, opening for Moontower.

This has been one of my favorite projects--I did the horn arrangements for the recorded stuff, and also wrote arrangements for the live performances.  This year's section included Rob Opitz (trumpet) and Gary Paulo (bari sax), with me on tenor sax and clarinet.  The rest of the band:  Greg Lee (bass/vocals), Mark Dannells (guitar), Benji Shanks (guitar), Mark Bencuya (keyboard/vocals), Ganesh Giri Jaya (percussion/vocals), and Mark Cobb (drums).

The lack of space on stage left the horn section sprinkled in among the other instruments--it was the best we could do, sort of wrapped around the side of the d…

GLee and Hop

Friday night was a double bill at Venkman's--Greg Lee and the John Driskell Hopkins.  I was part of Greg's set, which was about half second keyboards and half saxophones.  His band was Ben Holst on bass, the three Marks (Cobb, Bencuya, and Dannells), and me.

I enjoyed the challenge of playing some different music.  Even though I'd played with Greg at Eddie's Attic, I'd never covered the keyboard parts, so I spent a pretty good chunk of time during the week trying to get it in my head.   For the most part, I think everything went well.  Somehow we all managed to cram ourselves onto the stage at Venkman's (with two large bands on the same night, it would have been a little easier if we could've been on the expanded stage).  I ended up between a guitar cabinet and the drums, with just enough space to stand up and re-angle my vocal microphone for sax solos.

If you don't have your copy of the Greg Lee EP, you should get it here:…

Charlotte's Washout

Yacht Rock headed north to Charlotte, NC Saturday morning for a show at the Oysterfest.  We arrived and loaded in just as the rain began.  It stopped long enough for us to drag gear to the outdoor stage, set up, and soundcheck.  

Unfortunately, the showers returned off and on up til and during the beginning of our first set.

 It seemed like the weather was going to hold off, and by the end of the first set, we had a pretty decent crowd.  The forecast that I looked at said that the rain chance of rain was only about 50% until 9 PM.  Great...rainy load out.

Unfortunately, we didn't make it that far.  On the break, the rain picked back up, and at one point it got pretty heavy.  I hopped back on stage to check on everything (translation: I was tired of talking to people).  Bad news.  The rain had come through the corner where Zach and Kip had set their mixer.  Their electronics were wet and thus they'd been forced to shut everything down, ending the gig.  In the process of collect…

Purple Rain

The annual Yacht Rock presentation of Prince's Purple Rain is one of my favorite shows that we do.  The music is fun and weird and we do a good job with it.  This year's show exploded with the news that Prince had died; approximately half of the 1,000 tickets sold following his passing.  The Park Tavern (who hosts the show) then released an additional 2,000 tickets, all of which eventually sold out.  That's a lot of people packed under one tent!

Overall, I think we played a great gig.  We did have a technical issue with the click track and out off (used on a couple of the Purple Rain songs) being audible in the PA, but no one outside of the band seemed to recognize it, so maybe it wasn't as big a deal as we thought at the time.  My feeling is that with the 3,000 people talking and singing a cheering (and drinking), no one paid any attention to it, and once the song began, the click probably blended into everything else that was coming through the speakers.

That was t…