Wednesday, August 29, 2018


The day after the big gig at Chastain, Yacht Rock was in Asheville, North Carolina to play a condensed version of the revival at a place called Salvage Station. It's hard to get excited about the next gig, and this one was a strange mix of a park and a junkyard (hence the name), and the vibe was kind of confusing, and then Asheville is always a strange mix of upper class and jam band noodle dancers. I don't know, man.

Not too bad of a gig, though. The stage sounded decent, and though the crowd was on the smaller side, they were really into it. We brought Elliot, Albert, and Peter along, and the people were suitably impressed. Plus, the show was 7-9, which is about all that I was in the mood for.

Also, the pre-gig food was outstanding! I had some kind of vegan bowl that really hit the spot.

About an hour into the show, I started to notice that my keyboards were getting a little slippery, and then I noticed the drops of something on the keyboard screen and my setlist. Great. The haze machine (to make the lights show up better) was set right behind me, and was spitting fog juice all over my gear, and there really wasn't anything to do about it until the gig was over. I used a towel to wipe off some of it, but there will still be a clean up when I get home. Not happy about this.

my keyboard screen

my computer screen

the offending machine

Revival of the Fittest

The biggest Yacht Rock gig of the year is the Yacht Rock Revival in Atlanta. This year's show took place at Chastain Amphitheater, and we were fortunate to sell it out (6,500 people)! It was an incredible evening. In addition to the band and the guests, we had Ganesh Giri Jaya on percussion, Keisha and Kourtney Jackson on background vocals, and a horn section of Rob Opitz (trumpet), Bryan Lopes (tenor sax), and Richard Sherrington (trombone).

The first block of ten songs had been grouped together at the top of the past six setlists, so we were very familiar with the pace of the opening of the show. At the revival, this definitely felt like the spot where I was able to relax, as most of my major playing was finished at the conclusion of Taking it to the Streets.

Rosanna was all adrenaline--would tonight be a night when the EWI went berserk? two-thirds of the horns were basically sight-reading the charts--would they read it correctly (did I write something stupid?)? would the horns get out of the song in the right place? All good. Everything was fine.

You Make My Dreams--fine.

Heart to Heart--everything was good, up until the middle of the solo, when I missed a couple of the high Bs. The rest was accurate, though. Still riding the adrenaline.

My Old School--played bari sax on this. I tried to read a chart off an iPad and not look like I was reading a chart. Successful.


Baker Street--the spotlight is on me. Early in the song, my brain was swamped with the thought of family, friends, and neighbors who were seeing us for maybe the first, second, or third time. It was an emotional moment, and then I had to try and remember where I was in the sax part, and then I had to try not to fall over backwards. Earlier in the week, I realized that the delayed string synth part in the verse changes right before the prechorus. I forgot it in the first verse. I spent the second verse trying to sing the interval that it changes to in my head. I ended up guessing. Got it right.

Love a Rainy Night--glad to be through the Baker Street moment. I coast on this one, singing on the chorus and swinging a tambourine.

Late in the Evening--big horn part. Did we play enough of it at soundcheck to make it solid? Ehhh...

Don't Stop--easy. I sing along in this (I'm not assigned a vocal part on this one), and I wouldn't want to hear what I was yodeling. We were having a good time by this point.

Taking It to the Streets--lots of internal/ego pressure here, trying to impress the aforementioned family, friends, neighbors, but also the horn section with a billion notes and endless slick ideas on that outro solo. Things were going pretty well, and then at some point, I felt like my embouchure kind of cramped up. I mean, it didn't, but in the middle I just needed to take the horn out of my face and swallow and take a good breath, but there was no time for that, and then my solo kind of went to shit. If I could've kept going at the same pace that I'd started, I would've been satisfied with it.

Time to relax!

Elliot's stuff--easy. If I usually play the horn parts on Brandy, but there's a horn section, do I still play them? If I don't, will I feel so uncoordinated that I won't be able to keep the organ part together? The answer is yes. Just turn the synth with the horn part down.

Albert's stuff--easy. Not much to do. Obviously, Albert gets the cowbell part on Don't Fear the Reaper, so I took the oft overlooked guiro part (beat 2 of every measure--it's great). I think I missed one because I was concentrating on my background vocal.

Peter's stuff--got it. He likes to do the James Bond lick at the end of The Night Owls, and we simplified it by having only Monkeyboy do it (trying to time it between me, Bencuya, and Monkeyboy was really difficult). Everything else was cool.

Carlisi's stuff--I was backstage, sitting on a couch, looking at my phone. Nothing for me to do. The stars next his name mean that we play it a half step down (he tunes his guitars down a half step).

Denny Laine's stuff--highly anticipated. I played Listen to What the Man Said on soprano, and I was told to eat the mic a bit because it's a bit softer. I jammed the mic right up to the bell of the horn, and it was painfully loud at the show.

My plan was to play the opening stuff (up to the first verse), and the solo just like it is on the record, and then play my own stuff in between. Fine. Got to the solo, got excited, tripped a little bit. Could've been better.

Silly Love Songs and Let Me Roll It were fine, though it felt like the latter was going to fall apart at some points. 

I messed up the end of Jet in rehearsal, so I was really worried that I would repeat my mistake. Got the end right, but I played a wrong note in the middle of the song. Faaaaaaaaaak.


I missed one of the piccolo rips in Live and Let Die.

I play organ on Oh, Atlanta!, except there's no organ on the record, so...can I play any wrong notes? Or, is everything I'm playing a wrong note because it doesn't exist? Cool song. G would've been a lot easier than F#, Mr. Carlisi.

Lady--no sweat. 

Rich Girl--started in A with Elliot, then moved up to F with Nick. Here it is in C, courtesy of 1976.

Africa--got it.

Hold the Line. Carlisi was able to handle my guitar part in the album key, so I had a little synth part in the verse and we finished up the night before the curfew.

If you weren't fortunate enough to make the gig, we broadcast the whole thing on Facebook. You can watch it here:

Some cool pics:

photo by Zach Wetzel

photo by Emily Butler

photo by Emily Butler

photo by Emily Butler

photo by Emily Butler

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Back in the Midwest, Part 2

Soooo...more successful midwestern gigs!

The absolute best part of this weekend was hearing the crowd respond every night when we played Hey Nineteen. The second verse begins, "Hey Nineteen, that's Aretha Franklin / She don't remember the Queen of Soul", and every time Greg sang that, the audience would go berserk. It was a wonderful moment.

Thursday: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bogart's is a pretty important room in this part of the country. When I was in college, friends were always making the trip over to see bands play here, so the significance of being on stage at Bogart's cannot be understated.


Pre gig food. I'm not happy with the styrofoam and the plastic fork, though.
This gig was pretty good--our first time in Cincy brought 499 people out on a Thursday night. I had a good solo on Taking it to the Streets, but I was off for most of the rest of the show. It felt like my hands wouldn't work together on anything.

Friday: Indianapolis, Indiana.

We're probably not playing the Vogue again--as much as we collectively like the vibe of the room, the dressing room is HORRIBLE, and at this point we can draw more people than they can hold. Also, the dressing room...what the hell?  It's a joke.

Anyway...this was a semi-private/ticketed event. It sold out, though they lowered the cap from 1,100 to 600. We played it like it was a corporate gig, chugging along in no particular hurry, watching the ladies watch us. Lots of good looking people in front of us on this evening. Easy.

Saturday: Chicago, Illinois.

I remember playing the House of Blues here when it felt massive. Now, it's kind of an average room.

Tonight's attendance was 1,053, easily our biggest Chicago crowd ever, which felt awesome. Even with other options in town (Pearl Jam was playing Wrigley Field), we still brought over a thousand people, and gave them a great show!

Sunday: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

We didn't have far to go today, so I was able to squeeze in a run to Northwestern University. Our hotel was in Skokie, due east of Evanston.

Lake Michigan

On to Milwaukee!

right across from the Bucks' new stadium
Turner Hall is a very old ballroom, partially restored (only enough to keep from caving in?). It looks pretty cool, though, kind of like an old roller coaster. One thing we hadn't ever encountered--the stage is angled towards the front, so downstage is essentially downhill.

The entire place is run by a pack of hipsters and one old guy. They do a good job!

A little pre-gig stroll through downtown.

The Bronze Fonz!

exterior of Turner Hall

pre gig dinner--burrito bar!

This gig...after Chicago, I was kind of ready to go home. Three nights in a row was fine for me, but this place was such a pleasant surprise, that I ended up having a really good time. The venue was cool, the audience as great (259 on a Sunday in a town where we've never played), the burritos were satisfying, the green room was fifteen times as big as the Vogue's...this was a good weekend of playing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Back in the Midwest

More dates in the midwest.

Friday: We played a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser in Dublin, Ohio (home of Wendy's!). The gig was fine, pretty corporate feeling (complete with an overbearing handler). When we finished soundcheck, it was pouring outside, so we didn't get a chance to eat dinner, so we ate lots of bananas, trail mix, and chips and salsa.

I guess I didn't sleep too well the night before--I felt pretty wiped out the whole day, and couldn't summon much enthusiasm for the gig. Fortunately, it was one set, a couple of encores (actually, we played a couple of songs for an encore, and then had to go back and play one more as a second encore), and we were done.

These lights were a little too close, a little too focused, and a little too hot.

Saturday: From Columbus, we headed west to Indianapolis. The view on I-70 was clouds, corn, and soybeans.

We blew a trailer tire near Knightstown, Indiana.


posing for pics

Monkeyboy's suitcase tried to run away

the cops showed up to make sure everything was cool

We played (for the third time) Mallow Run Winery just outside of Indianapolis. The stage doesn't sound that great, but it's an easy summer gig and our Indiana fans adore us, so no big deal.

This sucker sold out--two thousand people! It was a good crowd and a good gig, and we tried not to be too blasé after our massive audiences at Conner Prairie a couple of weeks previously. The show turned out to be one of our longest as of late, clocking in at just over two and a half hours.

We flew home Sunday morning, but we'll be right back out there with shows in Cincinnati (Thursday), Indianapolis (Friday), Chicago (Saturday), and Milwaukee (Sunday).