Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mojo Dojo

Last Wednesday night, I got the call to play with Scott Glazer's Mojo Dojo at Blind Willie's. What a band! Mace Hibbard on tenor, Micah Caldwell on guitar, Brandon Bush on keyboard, Justin Chesarek on drums, and Scott on bass. The gig was fun--who wouldn't love standing in the middle of all those guys! I did the best I could to keep up...it was a nice hang, regardless!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Train Cruising 2017

Our now annual gig, the Sail Across the Sun Cruise hosted by Train, took us from Tampa, Florida, to Costa Maya, Mexico and back last week. Cruises are easier for me when I lay low, sleep a lot, and focus on playing each of our three shows as best I can. I'm also less prone to jump overboard.

the view from my balcony
Wednesday: Unfortunately, I'd caught a cold, and this day was the worst of it. Coupling how I felt with the embarrassment of being late for the meet up left me in a pretty crappy mood. I was glad that we weren't performing on the first night of the cruise, so I took a couple of naps around the lifeboat drill and dinner, and then went to bed early.

Before we'd even left Atlanta: I was kicked out of the TSA Precheck line because "they use new scanners" and that my saxophones would not fit through. The TSA lady sent me to normal security (wait through another line, take my shoes off, take my jacket off, take my laptop out) only to find...the same scanners. My saxophones fit fine. Mark Dannells took a guitar through TSA Pecheck and they checked it by hand. Thanks a lot.

Thursday: Our first show was scheduled for Thursday at noon on the pool deck. The morning yoga class finished at 11 AM, giving us an hour to completely set up and soundcheck. It turned out to be a pretty stressful experience; the usually reliable stage crew was not very useful (unless sitting around backstage chain smoking is somehow useful), the backlined gear was in pretty rough shape, and we had a few emergencies to troubleshoot (Monkey had a bad cable, and I had a bad channel in the mixer I was issued and a volume pedal that didn't work). Once we began playing, things improved somewhat, though I ended up with a really weird in ear mix--probably a combination of the outdoor acoustics and borrowed gear.

Thursday night, Train had a show (also on the pool deck) with guests from the other bands on the ship. I was chosen to play Careless Whisper and Born to Run. I was fine at the rehearsal, but the gig was a different matter. For one thing, I chose to use a regular cane reed instead of a synthetic, and when we hit the humidity, it had all the spring and stamina of damp notebook paper. Instead of in ear monitors, we used a wedge, and mine happened to have a lot of guitar in it! I used my wireless microphone, though, and at the time, it seemed like I was having an issue with it dropping out (I tried through both songs to find the sweet spot by moving in a hula hoop sized circle behind the wedge, to no avail).  Maybe it wasn't--nobody mentioned it to me, but it felt that way. I haven't seen any video of my performance on the internet, so let's agree that it was magnificent, and I won't bitch anymore about my reed.

photo cred: Alyssa Olson
From there, I met up with the rest of the band--teppanyaki in progress. More rice, please.

Enough disappointment for one day! Back to bed!

Friday: When I awoke, we had reached our only foreign port of the trip: Costa Maya, Mexico. Costa Maya appears to be a port built exclusively for the cruise industry--a nook of touristy shops (tequila, diamonds, and t shirts) cut out of the Mexican jungle south of the Yucatan Peninsula. There's really nothing else there. I did a lap so that I could say I got off the boat in Mexico, but there was nothing interesting for me.

One benefit of this stop: enough people got off the boat that the internet was dramatically faster and I was able to call home.

Saturday night's show was in the theatre. Better crew, better conditions, better show (except for one sustain pedal, which would stop working if you held anything for more than four seconds). This gig was epic! I had a great time, and played really well--in fact, everybody killed it. We were on fire this night.

I was so pleased, I even did a victory lap around the boat.

Saturday: Our only non-musical obligation was an 11 AM meet-and-greet. Two hours of being silly, signing autographs, and posing for pictures.

That afternoon, we had a photo shoot on the front deck of the boat.

photo cred: Zach Wetzel

photo cred: Zach Wetzel
Immediately following, I sat for an interview for a documentary that is being shot about us.

Saturday night, we were supposed to be back on the pool deck for a 10 PM show, but weather forced us back into the theatre. This one felt like an encore from Friday night's big show. Pretty close to the energy we had the night before. One volume pedal did not work, which was right on my average.

photo cred: Michelle Anderson
photo cred: Zach Wetzel
Sunday: The end! After we finished our show, I quickly packed up my suitcase, tagged it, and set it outside my door for pickup by the luggage guys. The magic of this is that it will be waiting on the dock beside the line for customs, and I won't have to drag it off the ship myself. With two saxophone gig bags, a backpack, and a pelican full of gear, I welcome the opportunity for someone else to deal with my suitcase.

Unfortunately, my suitcase was not there when I arrived. I checked the other groups of luggage, but it was gone. The cruise ship people assured me that it would turn up and they would send it to me.

While on the shuttle to the airport, I got a phone call from a guy who said that an overly aggressive porter had accidentally grabbed my suitcase as well as his and thrown both of them in a cab to the Tampa airport. He had time, so we agreed to meet at the Delta counter.

At the airport, I encountered the documentary guys...and my suitcase! What luck! They were as surprised as I was.

We're back in Atlanta for a few days before heading off to Texas. See you there!

Thursday, February 23, House of Blues in Houston
Friday, February 24, Aztec in San Antonio
Saturday, February 25, ACL Live in Austin
Sunday, February 26, House of Blue in Dallas

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Moontower's Roses

Greg Lee and I worked on a new original song with the local Atlanta band Moontower (G Lee producing and me writing a horn arrangement). The horn section is Rob Opitz, trumpet, Richard Sherrington, trombone, and me on tenor and bari sax.

Here's how it turned out:

If you scroll down a few posts, you can follow along on my chart!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Nashvegas, The Noog, and The V

On the road again! Yacht Rock returned after a long hiatus to Tennessee: Friday night in Nashville, and Saturday in Chattanooga. Capping off the weekend, we played an "unplugged" show at Venkman's in Atlanta.

Friday: The Nashville show was in the Cannery Ballroom, where we have played on numerous occasions in the past. Still a boomy, doglegged shaped room, though they did bring the stage slightly forward (no more columns in the middle of the stage), and they upgraded the lights (no more old-school heat lamp PAR cans).

It's tough to get a read on the Nashville crowd. Their enthusiasm would ebb and flow quite a lot from song to song. Kip also mentioned a couple of times that they talk throughout the entire show, making it difficult to hear the band clearly. I can't hear too much of the audience because of the in ears, but they seemed to enjoy seeing us again. 

850 people plus guests.

photo cred: Zach Wetzel

photo cred: Zach Wetzel

Saturday: After plenty of sleep and a leisurely lunch burrito, we rolled into Chattanooga with plenty of time to stage a nineties album cover photo session, yielding this:

After soundcheck, we went in all directions looking for food, but the cool little restaurants right around the venue were all packed! Half of us ate, half of us did not. We've got to plan for carry out next time. Greg and I broke from our routine of hitting up the Cajun place (Blue Orleans) and landed at the Thai place around the corner.

On with the show. Chattanooga! 1,500 people showed up, which feels like a record for one of our regular (non revival) shows. Maybe it's not...it's up there, though.

Great show! The crowd was fantastic, the stage was roomy, and the room sounded great--much better than the night before.  Epic gig.

photo cred: Christian Stewart Photography

photo cred: Christian Stewart Photography

Chattanooga is fortunately close enough that we drove directly back to Atlanta after the show, arriving around 2:30 AM.

Sunday: Our "unplugged" shows at Venkman's are still very popular with the sit down crowd.  They're also a nice challenge for us as we reimagine some of our most common repertoire with acoustic guitars and different keyboards. Check it out:

Greg Lee and Sazerac

Thursday night was a double treat--the Greg Lee Band opened for Sazerac at Venkman's. Almost all of the same guys in each band (Ben Holst played bass on Greg's stuff). Greg's show went really well, and since we had the horn section (Rob Opitz, trumpet; Wes Funderburk, trombone; and Gary Paulo, bari sax) on call for Sazerac, we added them to the last four tunes of his set.

The second set was equally fun, with about fourteen more tunes, all with the horn section. Hearing what I'd written for the four of us was quite a treat! We've got quite a book of tunes now, and hopefully we can do gigs regularly enough that everybody can be comfortable remembering everything.

Only two bad things: 1. My tenor reed died early in the gig, and I had to kind of baby it through to the end; 2. Thirteen people in attendance for the night! Ouch!

Anyway...we had fun regardless of the crowd. Our next Sazerac show is February 28, 6-7 PM at The Vista Room.

Monday, February 6, 2017


photo cred: Greg Lee, the producer

No gigs this weekend, but I did have a cool recording session for my friends in Moontower, adding horns to one of their newest originals. It turned out great! I wrote a nifty horn arrangement, and Rob Opitz (trumpet) and Richard Sherrington (trombone) knocked it out pretty quickly. Yay! More projects like this, please!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Thursday Night Corporate

Yacht Rock played a Thursday night corporate gig for a big legal research firm. Mark Bencuya is on vacation, so we had Dustin Cotrell sub for him on keyboards (excellent work by him). Home by 10:35 PM. Piece of cake.

I had a couple of pictures from the gig, but I got a new phone today and wiped my other one clean before bringing them onto my computer. Deal with it.


I know, I know...waaaaaaaaaaay late on the blog. I haven't felt like it.

Friday: The annual Dark Side of the Moon show at the Variety Playhouse, and once again, we paired it with Abbey Road. We've played this stuff enough that it's no big deal to get it back up to performance level, so the rehearsals leading up to this were fairly painless. Also, we used Keisha Jackson and her daughter Courtney as extra vocalists on Dark Side, so my responsibility on half the gig just vanished! For the night, I was just one of the horn players.

We opened the show with Abbey Road. I thought it was a good performance and the crowd really responded well to our arrangements of some of the songs; hearing Zach's mix a week later was kind of stunning! My solos were much better than I recalled, our stellar horn section of Rob Opitz, trumpet, Richard Sherrington, trombone, and the occasional Greg Lee, alto sax, sounded really strong and in tune, and of course the rest of the band was slammin'.

The second set, Dark Side of the Moon, was especially strange--I don't know what to do with myself when everybody else is on stage playing, and I'm hanging out in the green room. The two sax solos (Money and Us and Them) come around halfway through the record, and then I was finished for the night.

 I had enough time left in Dark Side after changing clothes to take a walk around the Variety.

We/they encored with The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again, which also didn't involve me, so I watched from the audience. Epic.

Saturday: Birmingham, Alabama has become a new market for us, thankfully. Our show at the Workplay Theatre sold out a couple of days before we arrived, camera crew in tow (filming for a short documentary about us). I'm not sure how I feel about getting kicked out of the van so that the crew could film/interview along the way to the gig.

Good show, though! The room was packed, the energy was great, and we delivered.

Sunday: We headed straight back to Atlanta for a gig, loading in for the Team Hidi benefit just after lunch. Fortunately, the stage was ready, and we were able to set up, check, and leave fairly quickly.

The gig was as easy as a Sunday evening gig for a friendly crowd can be, and we slept in our own beds that night.