Monday, September 30, 2019

Hot and Weird

Wednesday, Yacht Rock flew to Washington DC for a gig in Maryland. While we were waiting for the van and trailer to pick us up, Monkeyboy spotted Mike Stern (who played with Blood Sweat and Tears, Miles Davis, Michael Brecker, Steps Ahead, and the Brecker Brothers) in baggage claim. I think we startled him, but he was a good sport about it.

Today's gig was a corporate party for insurance people, and they added Robbie Dupree and Matthew Wilder onto the bill. Kip and Zack had made the trip north the day before, and they had about half our gear set up before we even arrived (practicing for Saturday).

Much time was available between soundcheck and dinner, so I headed out for a run. Started in Maryland, ran across the bridge to Virginia, and came back.

the path alongside I-495

Washington, DC in the distance

National Harbor ferris wheel
 Our gig was at the Gaylord National Convention Center.

Also on this gig was Matthew Wilder and Robbie Dupree. Always a fun hang with those two.

Matthew and Pete

The gig was predictably very sterile, as you'd expect several hundred insurance people to be. We only played for about an hour, and for more than half that time, we played to an empty dance floor. I think they liked it, but everybody just sat there in the dark, watching. When Robbie came out for his two songs, he remarked that "it looks like an oil painting!"

As we got closer to the end, we did get some dancers, though. Easy enough for a Wednesday night.

We flew home the next morning.

Saturday, we reconvened for a flight to Charlotte. Kip and Zack had brought the gear down from DC and set everything up very early (7:30 AM load in) for this day's show at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

There was plenty of time to kill, so we ate at the Charlotte airport. Here's a very wet pizza that a guy made for me. Without any cheese to hold it together, I couldn't pick it up! Didn't taste too bad, though.

On to the racetrack. This was a stock car race, but not with the big NASCAR guys (they raced on Sunday)--I guess these guys were kind of like the developmental/farm team guys? We hung out in a hot tent in the infield, waiting for the thing to finish so that we could play. The whole thing was such a bizarre confluence of rednecks and money; I think we all decided to just play our show and get the hell out of there.

checking the set up
And then, more hanging around. There was some predictably country guy who opened for us, and then a looooooong segment that I guess was broadcast on the internet, and then finally they turned it over to us, and by then, I was hot and brain dead, and more than a little confused about who'd paired us with this particular event.

I don't was a gig. We played it. At least by the time we got on stage, much of the heat had dissipated, and it sounded pretty good.

After the gig, we packed everything up and went back to our hotel. The van and trailer continued on into the night, headed to tomorrow's gig.

Sunday: Onward we go, this time from Charlotte to Nashville.

This gig was for the kickoff of the Nashville Predators' season (hockey), and we were on a stage and it was 96 degrees, and all my gear was sitting in direct sunlight, and it was hot and miserable. My keyboards were so hot that I couldn't touch the metal frames, my saxophone mouthpieces were nearly a half an inch out from where I normally play, and my phone overheated and shut down. I did my best to baby my laptop/EWI rig so that they didn't give up, too.

It's irritating to me that no production company would leave your gear out if it was raining, but nobody has any issue with high heat/direct sunlight and electronics. This one sucked.

We loaded off the stage quickly so that the next band could get going (another run your gear off and pack it somewhere else thing), and once we had everything back in the trailer, headed home to Atlanta. I put on the previous day's t shirt and underwear because my clothes were too wet with sweat to wear for the four hours home. Yuck! Where the hell is fall?

Monday, September 23, 2019


Easy week this week. 

Wednesday: Yacht Rock played a corporate gig at the Roxy in Atlanta. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I am a big fan of playing at the Roxy because 1. the stage is nice and sounds good; 2. it's located in my part of town (northwest of the city). It took me 25 minutes to get there in traffic, and 16 minute to get home at the end of the night. I can dig it.

Anyway, Pete got a new 12 string guitar! I believe this was a purchase from when we played at the Sweetwater Pavilion in Fort Wayne, IN earlier this year. Looks snazzy.

It's always funny/irritating when Review is spelled incorrectly, right next to our logo where Revue is spelled correctly.

This was a really easy, relaxed gig. I had some good solos, too.

Ganesh subbed on drums.

Thursday was an exciting night for me because I got to play the tenor book with Bumpin' the Mango. Their gig was also in my part of town (20 minutes away)--back to back gigs where I never had to get on I-75! We played for what amounted to a block party ("Alive in Roswell"), a regular Thursday night happening here.

Here's the set up. Tents are scary for live sound, but they took the sides off before we started and that helped a bit (and also the heat).

I got the setlist at the beginning of the week and attacked it, and so I felt very prepared by Thursday, and played really well, if I do say so myself. It was a giddy ride home afterwards.

photo by Andy Estes
No gigs on Friday or Saturday, but I did play my church gig Sunday evening. I felt a lot better about my playing at the service than I did at rehearsal (even though I'd warmed up before leaving home--it wasn't like I was walking in cold), and it dawned on me that it probably has to do more with the rooms (dead basement room with an out of tune upright piano vs. big stone cathedral with a grand piano) than anything I'm doing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Back in the Northeast

Wednesday: Brooklyn. This was our first time back at Brooklyn Bowl since the infamous gig a few years ago where we were asked to immediately pack up (in our stage clothes) after the show and load our gear off the front of the stage so that another band could set up.

I want to like this place--it's got a cool vibe, and it's outside of the bubble that is Manhattan. There's something missing, though--maybe it's the hipsters who occupy the neighborhood, maybe it's the tiny dressing room, maybe it's the ok stage sound, maybe it's the fact that the front edge of the stage isn't quite square with the room. I don't know.

Went for a short run before the gig, basically from Williamsburg to Bed-Stuy and back.

Anyway, this gig was a fine warmup for the week's activities. It was almost sold out, so we got off to a good start!

Thursday: We spent the night out on Long Island. After sleeping like a dead guy, I went for a run, and  then made my way to the nearest Indian restaurant. This particular lunch buffet didn't have a lot of vegetarian options, so I doubled up on something recognizable. This was a concoction of rice, corn, spinach, and some sort of sauce to hold it together.

"corn palak"
 Thursday's gig was at our one of our favorite rooms, The Paramount in Huntington, Long Island.

Elvis is in the building!

In contrast to the night before, this place has plenty of room backstage and a squared-up stage that sounds really good. Uncomfortably cold at soundcheck, though! (see? I found something to complain about).

I found a new note to play--a high G (concert F). For this gig, I used it towards the end of Step, and in the outro solo of Biggest Part of Me. We're definitely in Lenny Pickett territory with this one.

Good gig. It felt like we flew through the setlist.

The post gig hang in Greg and Bencuya's room was a lot of fun. Even though I was tired, it was worth staying up.

Friday: I dragged myself out for a run again, and swung by a Chipotle for lunch before lobby call. Check out my new reusable spork! I bought this to keep in my backpack--my goal is to use fewer plastic utensils when we're on the road. Go green!

Speaking of which, recycling was hard to come by on this trip. Brooklyn Bowl had a recycling bin across the room from the stage, behind the bar. The Paramount had NO recycling.

Today's show was at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey (via a very intimidating drive from Long Island, through midtown Manhattan-on a Friday afternoon!--and into New Jersey). Huge room!...and no recycling! They put out a cardboard box to collect stuff after I asked.

After the set up and the warm up and the soundcheck, I headed across the street for...Indian food! There are actually two Indian restaurants next door to each other, and they are both right in front of the theater. I prefer the place called Chatni. It's funny that I've eaten there three times, and always sit at the same table.
Alu Gobi (cauliflower and potatoes)
This gig was pretty good. I have a difficult time with the boominess, though--it sounds like we're in an underground cave. It looks cool, though. I wish they'd install carpet. I really think that would make a big difference in how huge the natural reverb sounds.

Following the show, we drove about an hour to White Plains, New York (north of the city) to spend the night, because Saturday had a very early load in.

Saturday felt like it was still Friday, and I'd just been woken from a nap. We had a 7 AM lobby call so that we could get to Webster, Massachusetts by 10 AM. Hello lobby coffee!

What a weird place! This small amphitheater thing was built into a campground next to a lake with an unpronounceable name (Lake Chaubunagungamaug).

Sing along!


We kind of staggered through this one. It was early and we were all fried. At first, there weren't that many people in the audience (I'd heard something about "250 tickets sold," which sounded terrible), and Mark Cobb and I looked at each other and laughed--what the hell are we doing here? The crowd filled in as we went along, and by the end it was comfortably full for a weird gig in the middle of nowhere. As bizarre as it felt, we ended up having a good time.

I was physically and mentally tired when we started, and around forty-five minute in, I could feel my brain starting to brown out. I tried to remember two things--don't close your eyes, and don't try and think about what you're doing, or you'll get lost. So I went with the flow, and made it through without any big problems.

Somewhere around that time (when I couldn't see or think past the edges of my keyboards), I thought "It smells like rain," only to look up and see it pouring on the uncovered people. The shower continued for probably fifteen minutes. Almost everybody made it under the roof except for those who were particularly crazy or hardy.

photo by Tim O'Connor
And then it was over. We made it to the end! Yay!

A middle aged lady came running up to me as we crossed the alley between the back of the stage and the green room. She grabbed my arm, and in the most stereotypical Massachusetts accent you could conjure, said (yelled) "I PLAYED SAXOPHONE IN HIGH SCHOOL! WHAT BRAND DO YOU PLAY? I PLAYED A SELMAH!" and, in a half-dead, post-gig fog, said, "Uhh, Yamaha," took my arm back, and ran away. Not a gear guy, sorry.

Back in the van and back on the road, eventually stopping for the night in Hartford, Connecticut around 6 PM. Everybody fanned out to find dinner, and we were all back in our rooms and asleep by 10 PM.

In keeping with routine, I headed across the river to the nearest Indian restaurant, where I ordered vegetable biryani, medium spice level. It was so spicy, I thought I'd still be working on it when the place closed! Seriously--it took me forever to eat this. I didn't want to spend $3.50 to buy two more bottles of water, so I toughed it out.

Also, what a bummer to see so much plastic! I had a plastic water bottle, a plastic fork, and the food container was a plastic tub with a plastic lid. When I finally finished, I gave back the unused styrofoam plate and took everything else with me--I guess I was thinking that at the worst, I'd wash it out and bring it home to throw in our recycling bin. Instead, I quickly found a recycling dumpster behind an adjoining hotel. Problem solved!

Sunday: 7:10 AM flight back to Atlanta. Ugh. 5:30 AM lobby call. I was somehow rested enough that I never fell asleep on the plane. Wish I had.