Monday, November 28, 2016


Saturday night, the Greg Lee Band opened for John Driskell Hopkins at The Vista Room. Better sax solos than the bullshit I played with Sazerac. I guess I made up for it with some questionable keyboard playing on this one.

My apologies that this isn't more exciting, but there are a couple of Yacht Rock shows that demand my attention:

1. Yacht Rock plays the Beatles this Friday night at Venkman's. We're using Justin Powell on trumpet for this, and so I'm busy sending him pdfs of everything he'll need.

2. The Yacht Rock Holiday Special is a week from Friday, and the powers that be want a horn section, so I'm massaging old arrangements to make sure they work and writing new ones for a couple of songs we're adding to our repertoire. Big fun.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Maaaaaan...I really needed this one to be awesome, and it was. Sazerac is a New Orleans inspired band made up mostly of Yacht Rock guys with a four piece horn section of Rob Opitz (trumpet, flugel), Richard Sherrington, (trombone), Gary Paulo (bari sax), and me. Damn! Super fun--this was a killer gig. My horn arrangements sounded great, if I do say so myself! Can't wait to do it again.

A couple of videos, courtesy of Jim Ramsdell!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Turkey Eve

We played two shows Wednesday night--an "unplugged" show and then a regular show, both of which featured a small mini-set of songs by Robbie Dupree. All in all, pretty good! By the end of the second show, the crowd had partied too hard, and we loaded out through a couple of puddles of vomit in the parking lot.

Set 1:

Set 2:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Where Are We?

Another weekend on the road with Yacht Rock, with stops in North Carolina and Washington DC.

Thursday: Our original schedule had us in Greensboro, NC for a show Thursday night, but as of Wednesday, no tickets had been sold, so the venue requested (and we gladly accepted) that we cancel the show. Greensboro hates us; it has always been this way.

Therefore, our trip to Washington DC became a regular old van ride up I-95, with lots of questionable food choices. This gas station hot dog was topped off with an evening meal at Hooters, which does not have vegetarian meal choices (as you might imagine).

Friday: We continued up the east coast. This day's lunch stop was at Saucy's BBQ in Petersburg, VA. Once again, not a healthy vegetarian meal to be found.

Getting into Washington took much longer than we had planned--the traffic was particularly devastating on a Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving. We were over and hour late, and the load in/set up/soundcheck was a sprint, particularly for Kip and Zach.

The show was great, though, once everybody was able to relax. We had a sold out crowd, good vibes, and good sounds. In lieu of an encore we played an extra thirty minutes for extra money--I think this particular show was tied into an event somewhere else in the building.

Saturday: I forgot to shut the curtains.

This day was unusual in that it was a travel day back to Atlanta, which meant that it felt like Sunday. We flew home from DC, went home for a couple of hours and then headed to Druid Hills for a benefit for Pete's (and Greg's) children's preschool.

This was not an official Yacht Rock show--more like forty-five minutes of playing some stuff without our gear (which was on the way home in the van and trailer).

The big stars of the show were Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls (who also has a kid enrolled here) and Pete's wife Alyssa, who did an excellent job singing with Emily and us.

The room was acoustically difficult! Eric Toledo crashed through a version of Proud Mary with us, and I don't think we or he could hear where were in the song.

Sunday: I didn't get to play the penny whistle solo on Closer to Fine Saturday night, but I did incorporate into a couple of solos on my church gig. Multiple keys = multiple bonus points.

This week...

Wednesday:  Yacht Rock Turkey Eve show at Venkman's in Atlanta--an "unplugged" show and a regular show, both with special guest Robbie Dupree.

Friday:  Sazerac at The Vista Room in Decatur, GA. Horns and New Orleans flavored vibes.

Saturday: Greg Lee Band at The Vista Room, opening for John Driskell Hopkins.

One more thing...two long time Atlanta friends, Phil Smith and Jon Chalden, have a drummer's podcast, and a couple of weeks ago, Phil interviewed one of my college buddies, Ryan Brown, who now plays with Dweezil Zappa. Check it out! Great stuff to hear from Ryan about his career so far.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Quickie in the Midwest

Last weekend, Yacht Rock played a couple of gigs in the midwest. Go!

Friday: We flew to Indianapolis to meet the gear. Being seated directly in front of the engines seemed like it would be horrible, but I was so tired that it didn't matter.

 So, Indiana in mid November...

Our gig for the evening was a banquet/benefit for the hospital in Columbus, Indiana (hometown of Pete and Nick).

The dinner was hospital food! Or maybe it was hotel food, so they brought us hospital food instead, but either way, it was pretty gross (and not vegetarian friendly), so I posted for a small salad and six bananas.

The evening was pretty easy--our two sets were shortened to one ninety minute set, and I don't think it even went a full hour and a half. Unfortunately, this one never gathered any energy on the dance floor or the stage. Pretty low wattage.

Saturday: We slept late and headed for Chicago at noon. The drive is four or five hours, and it feels like it takes all damn day. It certainly doesn't help when you get to Chicago at 4:30 and it's DUSK! and by 5 PM it's DARK. I spent much of the afternoon in a Benadryl induced fog, so it didn't matter that much. Hence, no pictures of the Northern Indiana wind farms.

This venue is fantastic--easy load in, big stage, and two dressing rooms.

These two photos may or may not be me. There was lots of time to kill after soundcheck.

This gig was the opposite of the night before. Great energy from the crowd (which was over 600 people--excellent considering that the venue was over by O'Hare and not in the middle of the city), and the band was ON FIRE from the first note. Awesome night on stage.

We also broadcast the first set live on our Facebook page. It looks to still be up, so you can check it out (outstanding audio provided by our man Zach Wetzel of Athens Sound):

By the time we'd loaded out and headed to our hotel across the street (hell yeah), it was around 2 AM, and we were scheduled for a 8:25 AM shuttle to the airport. Ouch! Another nap on an airplane.

A few more good shows are coming up--Yacht Rock is at The Hamilton in Washington DC Friday, November 18, and at Venkman's in Atlanta November 23 with special guest Robbie Dupree.

After Thanksgiving, Sazerac returns to the stage with a set at The Vista Room November 25 (I'm particularly excited to hear my horn arrangements played by Rob Opitz, Richard Sherrington, Gary Paulo, and myself!). The Greg Lee Band is at The Vista Room November 26, opening for John Driskell Hopkins.

Assuming we all live through that, Yacht Rock plays the Beatles at Venkman's December 2, and some of us will play a set of the Rolling Stones after that?! More horn arrangements by yours truly! Come hear it!

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Back at it--Yacht Rock had a Friday night gig in Atlanta. This show was some sort of private event. Over by midnight, home before 1 AM. Ganesh on drums.


It's been an extremely slow year for the jazz part of my life--before this trio gig, my previous jazz gig had been a Dave and Dave brunch duo in March. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I accepted this gig, not only out of fear of what I might not be able to do, but also concern about what I might be putting Dave and Kevin through for a few hours!

Never fear! The gig turned out to be a wonderful experience--the playing was comfortable, and the hang was great. I miss nights like this.

Listen up!

Here's video of the first tune of the night:


Amazing fly date! Yacht Rock had a gig in Maui last weekend, and as usual, we had a great time, played only a little bit, slept a lot, flew a lot, and I took a bunch of pictures. Ready, set, go!

Friday: We boarded the plane from Atlanta to L.A. Friday afternoon, which actually wasn't too bad--I much prefer early afternoon to early morning. 

not too happy

Kip was squeezed into his seat. That's a 6'8" dude in a regular size seat.

Our layover in Los Angeles was supposed to be around two hours, but our next airplane was late, so we stood at the gate for an extra hour.

The Great Bencuya, poised to board another flight (and finished being my sax mule)
We got on the plane, settled in, buckled up...and sat there. In a rush to turn the airplane around, the baggage handlers had begun packing the cargo hold without scanning the bag tags, so all the suitcases had to be taken out, scanned, and repacked.

Our flight landed approximately two hours late. Ouch! 10:30 PM in Hawaii is 4:30 AM according to our body clocks.

To make matters worse, they hotel shuttle was looking for this strange David Bencuya person.

Zach, modeling his color coordinated lei in the hotel lobby

We got to our rooms around midnight. Almost time to get up again!

Saturday: 2 AM lobby call for our official band excursion to the top of the top of Haleakala Crater to see the sunrise. Also included in the package was a bike ride down the side of the (dormant) volcano. The ride up in the van took two hours. I slept through the whole thing.

The edge of the crater is almost 10,000 feet above sea level, so we are standing in the clouds; thus the rain gear. It doesn't help perk you up in the middle of the night, but it did stop some of the wind. 32 degrees up at the top!

Behold the sunrise.

Our guide claimed that this plant only grows at the top of this volcano. It looks like a Dr. Seuss flower.

On to the bikes! We gather back in the van and made our way approximately halfway back down, where we met up with the bike trailer. Mountain bikes on a downhill road...hmm...the wrong tool for the job! Anyway, it was pretty much twenty miles of coasting with a little bit of pedaling.

We were in and out of the rain the whole way down.

The best part of the morning--breakfast! It felt like 4:30 in the afternoon, but it was mid morning in Hawaii. Time for the Toast of France! Side note: beautiful waitresses.

We all went back to our hotel rooms and crashed. I woke up several hours later, and it was only 3:30 in the afternoon. Here's my room. Best hotel room ever?

my balcony

the view from my room

I was awake enough at the end of the day to go down and jump in the ocean.

Much like other tropical hotels, the lobby is open! At dusk, these trees would be screaming with birds coming in for the night.

Sunday: Work day! Our musical commitment for this trip consisted of an evening concert, and a talk show style performance (playing musical beds under awards announcements, playing as people came to the stage) for a corporate meeting. This day began with a line check for the latter.

Remarkably, when I powered up the Roland Fantom that had been backlined, it still had my sounds from our performance in Hawaii the summer of 2015!

All set. The Nord for this show was a little 61 key Electro 4 with weighted keys, so it felt a little strange. Someone had also programmed the sustain pedal to work backwards (it would only sustain when you took your foot off the pedal), which took me a few minutes to correct.

Cell phones are marvelous technology.

Our evening performance was a painless ninety minutes while the guests were eating dinner. At the conclusion, they were ushered off to another show. Same top keyboard, but a different bottom keyboard. This setup had a bad instrument cable that I swapped out.

Monday: Rehearsal for the corporate thing. Today's gear issue was an unhappy expression pedal. I replaced it with a giant Yamaha expression pedal that did not work, so I went without one.

Rehearsal finished pretty early in the afternoon, so after lunch, I killed off the afternoon with a run.

The hair dryer! I moved this off the sink when I first got into my room, but the person who cleaned my room put it back, mocking me.

Zach, Bencuya, and I went into town for Thai food, which was amazing after a couple of days of lame hotel food.

Tuesday: Gig number 2! We had a 6:30 AM lobby call (which at this point really did feel like 6:30 AM) for the corporate talk show/awards show gig.

I powered on the Fantom keyboard and got this error message!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Immediately, I had the backline guy (who probably hated me by this point) go to work on it while I set up my saxophones and EWI. He pulled the card out, put it back in, and got the same message. This happened a couple of times. Since that wasn't working, I pulled the DIMM card out of the back of the keyboard and turned it on.

MAGIC! Everything loaded correctly. I don't know what the DIMM card does, but its absence did not affect my performance. What a relief.

Replacement DIMM memory is $12.99 on Amazon.

This gig was as easy as anything we've done this year--little 20 to 30 seconds snippets of songs for the most part. The most difficult thing was remembering that the count offs were short ("3-4" instead of "1-2-3-4") and that most of the time we were just repeating one section over and over.

We finished around 10 AM, leaving us with the rest of the day to kill before our flight. I went for another run.

A dip in the pool.

We finally had to check out of our rooms at 2 PM, but our ride to the airport wasn't until 5:45 PM. The resort allowed us to leave luggage at the lobby.

Here's something cool...the entertainment for the night was STING! Unfortunately, we were flying home during his concert, but they allowed us to attend sound check. Wow!

That's Sting (with the backpack) and Dominic Miller (guitarist)
Pete and I had lunch at the Thai place again. I'm a sucker for white rice.

And we're off. It was a long, cold flight from Maui to Los Angeles, landing at 5 AM local time. We had a two hour layover. I ate a massive burrito at 5:30 AM, thinking to myself that this would be my last chance to eat until I was all the way home.

In all the gear issues, I failed to mention that I broke the drag handle on my fly-date box before we even set foot inside the Atlanta airport. It's not too heavy (30 pounds), but carrying it around Hawaii left a nice bruise across my left thigh. Calling SKB ASAP!