Wednesday, May 29, 2019


I got a last minute call/text to sub in the bari sax chair for Bumpin' the Mango's regular Monday night gig at Cafe 290. Sure, of course. I got the set list early enough that I was able to go over everything once before heading to the gig.

Weird gig. First of all, I was not the only sub, and it sounded like they were all pretty last minute--both saxes (Luke Weathington and me), one trumpet (Rob Opitz), and the guitar (Grant Reynolds) were all doing our best on short notice. Secondly, early in the second set a woman passed out in the back of the room, so we paused to ask if there was a doctor in the house. No? The paramedics were called, and the band played on! Once they arrived, we did take a short break while they loaded her on a stretcher and carried her out, and's an original called Cold Drink (Shots!)! Not even ten minutes after the ambulance had left, there were flashing lights again, this time because the apartments across the street were possibly on fire! Jeez. Let's get out of here before something else happens.

Anyway, playing-wise, I felt pretty good. I realized that one of my problems playing bari is that after a certain number of low notes, my mouth get dry and something in my embouchure changes, and if I'm able to stop and reset, things are more consistent.

Also, it was cool to catch up with Grant Reynolds, whom I hadn't seen in at least a year. His guitar playing is as virtuosic as ever.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Some Non-Yacht Rock Stuff

As the title says...non-Yacht Rock stuff this week. Also, no Steve Gadd.

Thursday: I played with the Atlanta Latin Jazz Orchestra this week down by Georgia Tech (4th Street and West Peachtree) on a private gig for the opening of a building. I was kind of stressed out about this one, mostly because Rob had scheduled three sets of potential tunes and I hadn't found much time to prepare (and the music is hard). I did manage to squeeze in a little bit of work on it last week in San Francisco, but really, I just wasn't as ready as I'd like to be.

Fortunately (?), the gig had some really loose scheduling--like two thirty minutes sets with thirty minute breaks--and then an incredibly isolated rain cloud soaked the stage and killed our final set. Kind of a bummer, though--I really do enjoy playing with this band.

Saturday: After forty-eight hours of of desperately trying to get my flute chops back in shape after this week of bari playing, I was down at my church gig for a Saturday morning service. Geez, my face was tired; sounded tired, felt tired. There was a lot of playing on this one, too, and sometimes I'd play something that sounded really clear and pretty, and then the next phrase would be tight and dull. The rest of the band is tolerating it well, though.

I'll be back there on Sunday evening for the usual, and I want to practice (since I have Saturday night off), but I know I probably just need to rest tonight and get in a good warm up tomorrow.

(Monday update: my flute face was better, but not great!)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Steve Gadd! (and Some Other Stuff)

...and just like that, we're back on the road! As noted in the previous post, we flew home from Houston Sunday morning, and we were back at the airport Monday evening, this time headed to California. 

I tried to watch Green Book, but after about an hour, it felt so predictable that I had to give up on it.

Tulsa, Oklahoma
The next movie I tried was The Thin Red Line, which I was forced to watch for an hour because my screen froze and I couldn't turn it off. I didn't make it through more than forty-five minutes of this one.

Several hours later, we landed in Sacramento.

Tuesday: Our man Hans, who drove the gear from Colorado to California, flew back to Atlanta.

shitty hotel coffee in the parking lot

After a good night's sleep, we had much of Tuesday to kill before the show, so I went for a run around town. Sacramento has a nice path along the river, which is sadly also a campground for the local homeless.

Old Sacramento displays its railroad roots.

After my run, there was the inevitable walk to the Indian restaurant.

...and then the walk back to the hotel. This part of Sacramento feels like an archetypal small town. I really dig it.

Finally, to the gig! The Great Bencuya and I took advantage of the excellent weather and walked instead of riding in the van. The Ace of Spades is a pretty nice looking room in a cool neighborhood.

We ate dinner at Mendocino Farms. Hooray for vegan options! I had a vegan chili and some kind of tasty salad. Not enough food to keep me from eating all the chips and salsa later, but at least it was a healthy start.

The gig: pretty good! Tuesday night in a new city for us, so very low expectations. The crowd was only a couple of hundred, but they were really excited to see us, and I met some fanatical dudes who can't wait for us to come back. It was also nice to see some a couple of familiar faces (Liesl and Adam) in the front row. Bencuya played some terrific stuff on his Hey Nineteen solos.

Wednesday: A travel day, but we were only headed to San Francisco, so I squeezed in another run before we left town.

California state capital
 ...and also squeezed in one more trip to the Indian restaurant.

The area outside of Sacramento is pancake flat, and mostly agricultural.

Closer to San Fran, though, the hills begin to rise up.

As we zoomed across the Bay Bridge, we caught a glimpse of downtown San Francisco.

We checked into our rooms in South San Francisco, and then...there was nothing to do. I found an empty conference room and practiced for a couple of hours. Eventually, someone from the front desk came and very awkwardly kicked me out (her: "Can I help you?" me: "Umm, what?").

So anyway, we piled in a couple of cars and headed into town for dinner and drinks. Most of us ended up at a Thai place.

Then we were headed up the street to a tiki bar called Smuggler's Cove, where I had a virgin pina colada. Twas a good hang! Also, yay for paper straws instead of plastic!

Thursday: Another day to kill, and unfortunately it was raining, so I spent some time on the treadmill before heading to lunch in South San Fran. The Indian restaurant was CLOSED!, so I had pho at the Vietnamese place instead.

Yesterday's practice room was deadbolt-locked-shut, so I politely went to the front desk and asked if they had an empty room in which I could warm up for an hour. They handed me a business card and said that I could rent one (a.k.a. "fuck you"). So I played in our room instead, and hoped that I was bugging somebody, while also trying to play softly enough that I wouldn't bug anybody.

The view from our hotel room. What had been rainy and windy turned into a very pretty afternoon. San Francisco is just on the other side of those hills.

city hall
Our first public show in San Fran: August Hall. Pretty cool place. Don't step in the poop in the middle of the street! It confused me that there were supposed to be two guys loading our gear in, but one guy didn't show up, and the staff just kind of hung out and watched the other guy (and Zach and me) do all the work.

Anyway, pretty nice place. Beautiful green rooms.

This one was pretty good. Things sounded a little boomy--probably because we only had about two hundred fifty people in the room. I'll take it, though. San Fran is a cool place to visit. Once again, Bencuya was tearing it up over there.

We played Lights by Journey as an encore, and a friend told me that the song was actually written about Los Angeles instead of San Francisco:

When the lights go down in the city
And the sun shines on LA

Friday: Speaking of LA, our gear drove south for our next show, and we hopped on a quick flight to LAX. Once there, we encountered some difficulty arranging for a car to drive us to Hollywood. I think the three of us stood here for a half hour before our pick up.

It took an hour to get to our hotel. Part of the problem was LA traffic on a Friday, but the dude didn't help things at all by repeatedly ignoring the directions his GPS was giving him. I thought we were going to be forever twenty-one minutes from our destination.

So...hotel, a quick sandwich at the Subway just down the street, and a few miles of running.

Once again, we were close enough to walk to the gig, so I did.

We loaded in, set up, and sound checked very efficiently, leaving me ample time to warm up. I even had time to...walk to an Indian restaurant for takeout!

(not the Indian restaurant)

LA is a weird place, and this was kind of a weird gig. I guess our expectations are really high about who might hear us (which is funny, because it's a very LA thing for your friends to be "unfortunately unable to attend your show"). We never really settled into this one. Nerves, or whatever. My solo on Biggest Part of Me was a big pile of poop.

Anyway, we didn't quite sell out. Nine hundred plus in attendance, which looked great, and the crowd was boisterous and energetic. I wish we could've nailed it for them. It was close, though!

Butch Walker sat in with us on Rich Girl, and Sanford and Townsend (of Smoke from a Distant Fire fame) were in the audience for at least part of the show.

this dude, trying hard to mess up the guitar amp after the show

I didn't stick around for the post-show hang, so I walked down Hollywood Blvd back to the hotel after the gig. Could've been doing this...

Saturday: On to San Diego, but first, lots of hotel lobby coffee!

future Batman

 ...and I squeezed in a run, as well. Hooray for late checkout.

I even had time to shower, walk to the Indian restaurant, walk back to the hotel, grab my goddamn wallet, walk back to the Indian restaurant again, and hit the buffet.

And then we were off to the San Diego House of Blues. A little set up, sound check, and warm up before dinner.

San Diego was great! Another full house, and a much more connected performance by the band. The Great Bencuya shone again.

After the show, we drove east, landing in La Mesa for the night.

Sunday: With a full day of travel ahead of us, I squeezed in one last run for the week. La Mesa was deserted this morning.

Coffee! We passed on Starbucks in favor of this place, which was really hip.

More driving, more flat farmland.

Lunch was at Duron's in Yuma, Arizona. A big hit!

The last show of this run was at the Van Buren in Phoenix, Arizona, which is now one of the two or three best places we've ever played. Wow! What a room! What hospitality! Free socks for everybody!

Multiple green rooms...

A great sounding stage...



So, the story here is that Bencuya's high school friend lives in Phoenix, and his next door neighbor is legendary drummer ("Steve Godd") Steve Gadd. My favorite drummer. Ever. Holy shit. He's enjoying a few weeks of down time in between playing with James Taylor and Eric Clapton.

Never heard of Steve Gadd? Ever heard 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover or Late in the Evening by Paul Simon? Ever heard Chuck E.'s in Love by Rickie Lee Jones? Ever heard Just the Two of Us? How about that drum solo on Steely Dan's Aja?  For me, there's also some Brecker Brothers stuff, the first incarnation of the band Steps, and some Chick Corea albums (most notably Three Quartets). Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude. Steve Gadd defined drumming in the 70s and 80s. His discography is insane.

I still can't believe this happened.

I think it took us all collectively about an hour to calm down after meeting Steve. This might've been our best gig of the run--the combination of the meeting him, going home the next day, and this exceptional venue. Plus, we had a terrific crowd of something like five hundred people! Wow! I'm looking forward to coming back here.

Steve Gadd stayed for the whole gig (including the encores), danced the whole night, and had a great time.

 I met Steve Gadd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Waaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!

Monday: the long flight home from Phoenix. I sat between a big, squishy ball of a man and the window, and tried not to think about peeing.

I tried to watch The Secret Life of Pets. Couldn't do it, so I re-watched Free Solo. Excellent.

STEVE GADD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!