Monday, April 22, 2019

Week Four

Off again! This week's run was Wednesday-Saturday, starting off in Michigan.

Wednesday: Grand Rapids! Not where I thought we'd first dip our toes into the gigging...waters..of Michigan? I thought that was going to work, but maybe not. Anyway--you'd think we'd begin our midwestern expansion in Detroit, or maybe Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids it is. Second largest city in Michigan. Home to several breweries.

Awww! The Great Bencuya in his home state
Step one: lunch! And wouldn't you know it, there's an Indian place right up the street. I hit the buffet for some chana masala. 

The evening's gig was at 20 Monroe Live, a newish concert venue in town (capacity 2,600!). Big room, but really nice and clean and well run. They had some sort of private event between our early soundcheck and the gig.

After a nap (thought the pollen was bugging me, but I guess I caught a cold), I didn't really feel ready to eat dinner, so I went for a short run.

I think we were all very pleased by this Wednesday nighter! Maybe 500 people showed up, but it didn't look super empty, and they were mostly enthusiastic. And generally, the place was just really cool--nice green rooms, nice stage, PA sounded good. All that stuff. Any easy start to the week.

Somehow, I ended up quoting Santa Claus is Coming to Town in my flute solo on Lowdown. It just kind of happened--not on purpose! I played the first phrase of it without realizing what it was, and when my brain caught up, I had to play the next bit to complete it.

Thursday: We headed out in the late morning across the empty fields of rural Michigan, northern Indiana, and Ohio, bound for Cincinnati.

we're in good company
Bogart's was slammed. Not quite a sellout, but it was still packed, and the show was really good. Also good: Indian food over by the University of Cincy campus (though they use a disappointing amount of plastic and styrofoam).

Immediately following the show, I packed up my gear as quickly as possible and jumped into this van with Nick and Pete for a late night ride to Indianapolis. We were scheduled to perform as a trio on the morning news.

It was a rough ride. The weather, the roads, and the driver were fighting the entire time.

Friday: My cold was in full bloom this morning. It probably would've helped to sleep late, but we zoomed over to the TV studio for the broadcast. Strangers in a strange land.

They'd asked us to play for the weather portion and then to play again after the interview, but right before the weather, I was taken by the producer and told to basically walk into the shot and play. Uhhhhhhhh...ok! It was pretty exciting to have to play on the spur of the moment, but I think it came out ok.

After a short interview, we played Summer Breeze. I swear I'm not trying to drown out the vocals!

Then I went back to my hotel room and crashed for a couple of hours. I had a very difficult and realistic dream that I'd played Careless Whisper wrong on TV and repeated it over and over and over. Once I had peeled myself off the bed, I went out for lunch at Yat's, my favorite cajun place in Indy, then a short run on the treadmill, and then off to work!

The gig du jour was in the Egyptian Room at the Old National Centre. We've played this place before, and though the room itself doesn't have a lot of vibe, the building is pretty neat.

Lotta people here. Indy is always a really great place to play--it's just a great city in every way.

We had a horn section for this one, and they dealt with my horn charts pretty well. Someday I'll even get all the mistakes out of them!

In other news, I had a really good solo on the end of Biggest Part of Me. Everything that could go right, did. Made me want to high five myself.

Saturday: Chicago! Also, last day of the run! We're almost home! 

Things started off with a photo session. We started off with some shots on a bridge (maybe Dearborn Street?), and then worked on some stuff at the marina basically directly under the Wilco Buildings (and the House of Blues). The HoB let us take some pictures up in the "Foundation Room" as well.

Chicago, lookin' mighty fine

 Another good show and...a sellout! This was a nice ending to four pretty intense weeks.

I crawled back into Atlanta with enough time to eat and head to my church gig. I made the mistake of not warming up before I got there, and it took the entire rehearsal and soundcheck before my embouchure finally started to come together. I did find some nifty stuff to play a pseudo-Latin flavored song, which hopefully made up for some of the rough stuff I played earlier in the mass.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

More Donuts

Here we are, playing the gigs, making the donuts.

Thursday: Our flight to Washington DC occurred at a much more reasonable hour (noon!), and therefore I needed less of a nap on the plane and watched a little bit more of First Man - like from sixty-two minutes in to eighty minutes in. I'm going to try and finish it before this hunk of travel ends. Also, Ryan Gosling is not as douchey as I thought.

So...night one of two at The Hamilton in DC. We loaded in, sound checked, I did some personal warm up stuff, and still had time for a little run around the neighborhood.

I'm not sure what this was all about, but it was kind of great that something so preposterous was hanging out directly in front of the White House

I tried sushi for the first time. Edible, but kind of weird and fishy

Pretty great crowd, especially for a Thursday. I felt like I redeemed myself after Boston's performance. The best part was that we left everything set up for night two...

Friday: We had all day to kill. I slept late, ate breakfast with Greg (we were charged for the food because we ate from the "hot" part of the buffet--a fee Greg immediately dubbed the "meat surcharge"; for the record, I had pancakes), went for a long run in the rain...

Air Force memorial

...had Indian food delivered! (I think I got screwed on the bill, though)...

mixed vegetable curry 

...and played night number two. Another good gig.

Saturday: On to Philadelphia! Not a bad drive. South Street in Philly was spring-break-level packed. I'm kind of surprised that none of our gear got ripped off while we were loading in.

P.S. TLA is kind of a dump.

I did a little bit of personal warm up after soundcheck and then headed up the street for...Indian food! Lovash Indian Restaurant and Bar was really delicious. No wait, either. I even branched out and tried something new.

Rajma Aloo

Philly was sold out, too--our third in a row on this trip. We had several Atlanta friends in the audience, which was really cool and kind of upped the ante for us, I think.

After the show, we drove about forty-five minutes away from Philadelphia, crashing in our rooms somewhere around 1 AM. The next morning, we were back on the road at 8:30 AM. Ouch.

Sunday: On our way to Cleveland. In the middle of nowhere off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we stopped for lunch in this empty strip shopping center. Mexican food or Subway; take your pick.

Cleveland's House of Blues feels a lot like the one in New Orleans, mostly in terms of its smallish size. Not a bad room. I had hoped to explore the city after soundcheck (first time here!), but it was pouring when we finished, so I practiced for about an hour instead.

Some dudes from Canada road tripped to come see us. That's pretty awesome/weird.

Nice gig overall! I think we had about 500 people there, which felt like a success for our first time (considering the rain and that we were up against Game of Thrones).

Hello PAR cans! Feel the heat of real light bulbs!

Monday: Somehow, I got upgraded for the flight home, and left these jokers at the gate.

No TVs on the plane, though, so my movie will have to wait.

One more week to go.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Making the Donuts, Week Two

Intense touring, week two! This week, we played four dates in the northeast.

Thursday: The gigging began at The Wellmont in Montclair, New Jersey. For some reason, we flew up reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaalllllly early (landing before noon), so we parked the van and went to lunch before loading in. For me, that meant...INDIAN FOOD! There are two Indian places basically across the street, so I went into one (which was completely deserted at 12:30 in the afternoon) and had a feast.

I believe this is chana saag (spinach and garbanzo beans)

We've played this room before, twice, I think. It's a monstrous cavern of a room--very pretty, but it could use soundproofing to deaden it. Having a lot of people in the room helps, too, but Michelle's birthday party had somewhere around 150, which didn't do much in that regard.

We played ok. The seven of us were pretty fried after a long day.

My funky corner hotel room
Friday: A side benefit of playing the birthday party Thursday night was that we could leave all of our gear set up on the stage, so we had the entire day to recover. After sleeping as late as I could, going for a run, and ordering more Indian food for lunch, I finally gave up and took a Lyft back to the theatre so that I could get a few hours of practicing in without bothering everybody else.

too cold to run outside!

lunch! Vegetable biryani and roti


it's big!
After soundcheck, I went back across the street--keeping the streak alive! Once again, I was there at what I thought would be prime time (7 PM on a Friday night), but there was no one there.

the tried and true chana masala
The Wellmont was sold out. How did that happen? I want to say that there were something like three hundred people last time, but this go round was something like 2,100? Who knows. The floor was packed and there were people in the balcony (though it wasn't full all the way to the back wall). The Wellmont said is was sold out,'s sold out!

Pretty good gig, and the energy was obviously insane compared to the night before. I played pretty well, though my solo on Biggest Part of Me was a bunch of bullshit, and the harder I tried to play something meaningful, the worse it got. Other than that, though, a good night on the job.

I swapped out alto mouthpieces for this run, replacing my Sakshama Guardala Studio copy with a Vandoren V16 S+. The Vandoren had been my alto mouthpiece on my spare horn, and I've enjoyed it so much, I thought it might be time to try it on a gig. It seems like it's going to take a few shows to find the tuning, though.

This one was broadcast on Facebook, and you can watch it if you want.

Saturday: New York City. Once again, we had time to kill before load in, so we dispersed for an hour.

just to the right of this, there was a giant pillow fight going on
Another Irving Plaza sellout!

As luck would have it, there are Indian restaurants in Manhattan. This place was great.

vegetable curry

This gig was electric. The band was locked in from the first song, and the crowd was right there with us. Crazy.

Sunday: Boston House of Blues, located adjacent to Fenway. One of the only Houses of Blues that we haven't yet conquered.

For the sake of consistency, I want to point out that there's a good Indian restaurant just across the Massachusetts Turnpike--a ten minute walk!--from the House of Blues. I didn't go, though, because HoB provided a buffet.

It's also worth noting that the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory are both right around the corner, which means that I was within one square mile of a thousand sax players who play better than I do. Go away!

It holds 2500 people.

And guess what...another sellout!

Unfortunately, I played a GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING HORRIBLE TERRIBLE AWFUL SHOW! I played a wrong note in the intro of the first song and it got worse from there. After about an hour, I'd finally settled down (pretty decent solo on Biggest Part of Me), and then everything started going to pieces again before we finished. It was devastating to perform so poorly on such a big night. I hate myself. Sorry Boston. Let's blame it on my not getting any Indian food this evening.