Monday, July 25, 2016

Oh Atlanta!

Yacht Rock was back in Atlanta for a weekend of gigs.  In between gigs, Pete joked about trying to check in on the Delta app.  It's only half funny--looking at my Delta app as I write this, there are eleven more trips this year.  Damn.  Anyway...Atlanta!

Friday:  Due to all of our crazy calendar this year, this was our first available date to play the Park Tavern (in previous years we've averaged about once a month all summer long).  Pretty good crowd, around 800.

To change things up, we added a horn section for this show (Rob Opitz, trumpet and Sir Richard Serrington, trombone) with pretty good results.  My horn charts for Yacht Rock have only been used a couple of times in the entire existence of the band, so they still have a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out.  Regardless of that, though, it was nice to hang with some other horn players for a change.  I feel out of touch.

It was also nice to check in with Ganesh Giri Jaya, filling in for the vacationing Mark Cobb.  As usual, he did an excellent job, and hipped me to some cool new music by Mark Guiliana.  Check it out!

Saturday:  Venkman's.  Hooray for air conditioning.

No horns on this one (so I was more confident in what I was doing), and Daniel Morrison of the Yacht Rock Schooner played drums with us.  Solid gig.  I didn't screw up as much as the previous night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


We were tested with these gigs!  A local Atlanta gig, then a cross country flight with a late night gig, a flight back across the country, and then a gig with a bunch of music that we don't see very often.  It hurts my brain.

Wednesday:  Corporate event at The Tabernacle in Atlanta.

Hat of The Great Bencuya
The Tabernacle is a really amazing place to perform, and I must say that I like everything about it, from the loaders who dragged our gear in to the size of the stage to the sound of the room to the backstage accommodations.  The audience was pretty fired up for a Wednesday night, which was super cool, and my in ear mix sounded like the frickin' radio (I mean that in a good way)--very clear, and everything was perfectly balanced.  Plus, I was on a riser, so I didn't feel like I was hiding behind the guitar amp.  We finished early, and I was home by maybe 10:30.  Everything about this gig was fantastic, including side-boob girl, who danced in front of Pete and Monkey for most of the second set.  Hats off to you.

Friday:  Corporate event in Tucson, Arizona.

Fly dates are not my favorite, by virtue of the fact that I have a ton of gear to carry.  Even after checking a bag and a Pelican box of gear, I still am loaded down like a paratrooper at the gate--two saxophones in gig bags plus a backpack.  Every trip stressful until I can get my horns and bag stowed.

We flew a few hours, arriving in the desert around lunch time.  The resort where we stayed had a nice restaurant, so we ate there and then caught a quick nap before set up/soundcheck time.

So...Mardi Gras themed party in Arizona with a late 70s/early 80s band out of Atlanta?  OK!

This gig was not as great as the Tabernacle gig, but it wasn't anything too difficult.  I was given a Nord Stage for my bottom keyboard, and I always enjoy trying to figure out how to make it do what I want.  Too bad they're so damn expensive--I'd love to have one!  Because it's a weighted action keyboard, playing piano and rhodes is really much more comfortable than the springy action of a Nord Electro.  Then again, somebody else had to carry this monster in and out of here (Electro=18 lbs;  Stage=36 lbs)!

The only thing that was really tough (to me) about this gig was the hours.  Due to the time zone, we played from midnight to 3 AM east coast time.  Ouch.  Around 2:15 AM, I really started dragging.

The desert and the resort were beautiful.  Too bad it was 107 degrees that afternoon!  I would have liked to have gone for a walk, but the heat and my fatigue from traveling were too much.  If we'd only had one more day to acclimate to the time change, I would've made an attempt to get out and see more.

The hill right outside my room.

You can make a plastic cup out of corn.  I dig that.

Friday:  Travel day.

My breakfast of champions:  medium coffee and three bananas.

We took an early afternoon flight out, so following lunch at the airport, it was off to Huntsville, AL via Atlanta.

The skies were clear, which made for some pretty great pictures.

We landed in Atlanta in the early evening.

Live saxophone in the Atlanta airport!  I didn't recognize this guy, playing some smooth jazz over tracks.

The flight from Atlanta to Huntsville was humorously short.  Lots of jokes--will they even both pulling up the landing gear?  I think take off to touch down was thirty minutes.

Saturday:  80s Concert in Huntsville, Alabama.

We played at the space center last year (you can read about it here).  They wanted to kick it up a notch, so we brought the big dudes.

A passing thunderstorm looked pretty mean, so we tarped our gear.  It didn't amount to much.  I'm sure that if I hadn't brought a tarp, we would have washed away.  Hiding from the rain ate up a chunk of time, so I guess it was a good thing that only Jeff Carlisi and Bill Champlin came to soundcheck (in all fairness, we've played enough shows with Robbie that there was no need to check his stuff).

This is how Zach tunes a guitar.

One more special guest not on the show poster:  Larry B Scott, who was in the movie Space Camp (filmed right here in Huntsville!), but who is probably more famous for his role as Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds.  It sounds like he does the rap from Revenge of the Nerds every time he's on a stage with a microphone, so we quickly worked up the music that accompanies him.  I was given Poindexter's violin part.

Unfortunately, Larry didn't seem to care that we'd figured it all out, and he launched into the rap without heeding our arrangement.  We played the parts, but some of it ran over his lyrics.  It's unfortunate--capturing it on film would have been a social media bonanza.

Here's the spot from the movie:


I don't have anything to do on two of Jeff Carlisi's .38 Special songs, so I took some pictures.

With the exception of Robbie, we don't play with any of these guests regularly, so learning and remembering all of their stuff felt like a near endless progression of first dances--I know how this one goes, but I am by no means comfortable.  Add to it a handful of charts that I was reading, and trying to remember when (and how much) to transpose my keyboards, and I was a little fried by the time we finished.  The whole night felt a bit sloppy and tentative for me.

My only really epic failure came at the beginning of the second set.  I'd preset my stuff for Danger Zone, but we did the Revenge of the Nerds rap right before it.  I'm always very paranoid about missing the beginning of PYT, and as Larry finished up his spot on stage, I suddenly overlooked Danger Zone and frantically reset all my stuff for PYT.  Then realizing that I'd skipped a song, I had to frantically set all my stuff back to Danger Zone.  Got it?  I was stupid.  I missed some of the beginning and then butchered some of the middle, and then I had to stop playing altogether (which I'm not supposed to do) because I forgot to pick up my horn for the sax solo at the end.  Not my best moment.

For what it's worth, I was solid on PYT.

The shows this weekend are in Atlanta--Friday at Park Tavern and Saturday at Venkman's.  Both are Yacht Rock.  Neither involve a trip to the airport.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What's in the Bag?

Yacht Rock took the old folks out for a spin in the northeast last weekend--along with us for this trip were Robbie Dupree, Matthew Wilder, Ronn Moss and Peter Beckett of Player, and Ambrosia.  We did four nights in the northeast beginning in New York and ending in Massachusetts, Thursday through Sunday.  All part of our summer tour.

A running joke for this trip involved the bag of Ambrosia's organist Chris North, who pulled a computer bag with him wherever he went--even on stage.  It never left his side.  The rest of us (outside of Ambrosia) fixated on what it might contain.  Chris wouldn't say (not that any of us would dare to ask him).  We hatched a complicated plan to swap it with an identical bag while he was mid-solo, but we need to zero in on what brand and model he is using.  What's in the bag?

Thursday:  We flew to La Guardia for our show at Irving Plaza.  Our gear left Atlanta Tuesday afternoon so that the van and trailer could pick us up at the airport.

The Great Bencuya

how NOT to lock your bike
We were early to load in, which afforded us ample time to go eat (a burrito place nearby that turned out to be a Chipotle in disguise) and hang out in Union Square Park.  Unfortunately (?), we picked a spot where all the crazies and drug addicts congregate.   Quite a show before the show.

Security was tight at the venue (there was a shooting at a concert there in May), so all gear and people were searched and sent through a metal detector.

Set up and soundcheck was the usual thing.  We checked with Player, Robbie, and Matthew.  When we finished, Ambrosia set up around our gear and checked their sound.  I popped over to the Whole Foods to pick up some fruit and salad for the night and ran into a friend from college.  How random is that!

photo cred:  Matthew Wilder's Facebook page

Our show went pretty well, considering all the gear on stage and everybody's nerves on the first night.  For the encore, we attempted to have all the guests sing Purple Rain.  Some guests were better prepared to sing their verses than others!  Anyway, check it out--Nick saves the day.

nice gig poster

Friday:  New Jersey!  We spent the night in Short Hills, NJ.  Almost another "home town" gig for me--I lived for three years in Chatham Township, a mere four miles from our hotel (which my dad's former employer, Prudential, built), and eight miles from the venue.  We even had time to walk across the street to the mall where my family used to shop.

This evening's show was in Morristown, NJ at the Mayo Center, an absolutely beautiful room.  So much space, such clean electrical power, so many dressing rooms...much different from the night before.

Sonny Rollins was here.  Dig it.

There were a couple of creepy stalkers hanging out at the loading dock when we arrived at the venue.  They appeared to be fans (of the real guys, not us), and when they found out that the old guys were still at the hotel, they made a beeline there and camped out in the lobby.  The stories about these aggressive autograph seekers was pretty wild ("You have to sign it in blue sharpie, not black!").  It turns out that they weren't fans so much as memorabilia dealers, collecting signatures and then selling on the stuff online.  Interesting!

We sound checked some different tunes with each of our guests (Robbie's Saturday Night, Matthew's Lightning Rod, and Player's Silver Lining), though we didn't include them in the show.  The encore became Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop, with the guests only singing on the choruses.  Much better.  You can watch a video of it here:

On this show, Ambrosia played their six song set in the middle of the show, basically filling in the intermission with music.  It was very cool to watch them from side stage.  Three of the four original members are still with the band, and they've still got it.

Our sets were equally good (and well received).  This was my favorite show of the four.

A little bit of Break My Stride:
A little bit of How Long:

Kip said afterwards that this was one of his favorite rooms in which to mix.  Considering all the places he's worked around the globe, that's saying something!

There was an extended meet and greet after the show, with more autographs required of the guests and also of us.  Some dude showed up with homemade glossy pictures of Yacht Rock and the old guys.  Nobody (no female bodies) asked me to sign their boobs, though, which is always a bummer.  I drank a beer.  This is the news.

Saturday:  Long Island.  We'd tried to play this outdoor event last year, but the threat of rain moved us indoors to the high school auditorium.  This year, the threat of rain moved us indoors to the high school auditorium.

ART!  I didn't do this, but I know who did.

green (class) room

This gig...Matthew and Robbie were the only guests on this show, so we were able to include more of their songs in each one's segment.  For Matthew, we debuted his new song Lightning Rod, with me on Bencuya's organ part (which was exciting/terrifying because I'd never given any thought to the chords) and Bencuya on clavinet.  It made the song groovier.  For Robbie, we played Saturday Night again (better than the previous night), and his version of I Only Have Eyes for You.  The crowd ate it up.

For multiple reasons, this was my least favorite show of the run.  Reasons!

1.  The room was very dark (though you can't tell from my photo below, which is when they kicked on the lights during the encore) and very quiet, and it felt more like a sound stage than a show.  I think the audience liked our show, but they were sooooo subdued that there was at least sixty seconds of dead silence in between every song.

2.  I fiddled with my monitor mix a bit at each of the previous two shows, and by this night I'd kind of given up, having had Zach turns different things up and down...I had the balance totally out of whack, and I used this gig to listen to it and decide what adjustments needed to be made tomorrow.  In the mean time, though, I didn't like my mix.

3.  The lighting company took up a ton of room on stage with their stuff, and it felt like we were unnecessarily jammed up towards the front of the stage.

4.  The load in sucked.  Up the front stairs of the school, down the aisle of the auditorium, and then up the steps onto the stage.  At the end of the night, reverse this process.  Oh yeah--it's going to be raining pretty hard when you're carrying gear down the steps outside.  Good luck.

5.  I needed to poop.

Everybody up for the encore!

Sunday:  Salisbury, Massachusetts.

We spent the night in Connecticut, and then headed north of Boston Sunday morning.

The previous evening, we'd taken possession of Mark Bencuya's latest possession.  It's a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer, circa early 80s.

Spend thirteen minutes of your life checking out what 1982 sounded like.

Here I am sleeping behind the Juno.  If I ever become a competent keyboardist, this could be my album cover.

photo cred:  The Great Bencuya!
Lunch in Worcester, Mass, or Woostah if you're from Massachusetts!  I was greatly disappointed not to hear anybody with an over-the-top Massachusetts accent.

not my beer

In my continuing lean towards vegetarianism, I ordered a veggie fajita salad, which didn't taste like much.  Going veggie at a Mexican restaurant never works.  I made it through about half of this.  It made it through all of me in about twenty-four hours.

For the record, I did not eat the radishes.

Parking lot dog.

So...onward to Salisbury, Mass!  The venue was right on the ocean, which was cool, except that the waves crashed against the green room windows at high tide.  Low tide for load out:  stinky.

We had another autograph seeker waiting at this venue, and once again he was seeking signatures and photographs of the old folks.  He followed us in and stayed for all of soundcheck, and it appeared that he video recorded the entire thing, which was...a little weird.  The guy was front and center, so I presume that he was given permission to record things like Matthew's new song, which hadn't even been released to the public.

By the way, it's now out.  Here's what it sounds like:

Ronn making a rather off color speech while Peter tunes up

This was a pretty good show.  We followed the same "Ambrosia sandwich" format that we'd used in New Jersey.  The crowd was a mix of quieter small town New England types and "we're gonna get wasted and yell a lot" Boston types.  Definitely an improvement in enthusiasm over New Jersey.

I gave Zach my in ear adjustments, and my monitor mix sounded like a frickin' radio station--it was perfect.  Maybe a radio station where my parts a little bit louder than they should be.

After the show, we loaded Ambrosia's rented equipment into our trailer so that Kip and Zach could deliver it on their way through New York.  Their gear plus our gear made things very tight, so we put our suitcases in the old folks' van.

Here we are sitting in the lobby of our hotel at 1 AM.  The old people stopped for food and didn't get it to go.  Kip is not taking it well.

Monday:  We went to bed around 2 AM?  Got up at 6:45 AM to head to the airport.

Here's the wing.  Immediately after this, I fell asleep and basically snoozed until we touched down in Atlanta.

The day doesn't end there, though.  I went home, ate, and drove almost two hours to make a 6 PM rehearsal for the Serenbe Playhouse (in Palmetto, GA, about an hour south of Atlanta) production of Miss Saigon.  The rehearsal lasted five and a half hours (with two ten minute breaks in there).  All sight-reading.  My brain melted.

This week!  Some corporate stuff in and out of town, and then the big show in Huntsville on Saturday.