Tuesday, January 17, 2023

December 2022 - January 2023

Here we go!

December 1, 2022: Atlanta, GA. I played a little quartet gig for an awards ceremony for home renovations. It was nuts, because the winners would be "The winner for 2022's best mudroom renovation is So and So Designs, who spent $112,000 on cabinets and a bench and expensive tile floor in this gorgeous Morningside Mansion!" Over and over. Big, insane budgets. $80,000 man cave kind of stuff. A renovation to your three car garage at your cabin at Lake Hartwell. 

Anyway, the gig was pretty cool. I thought it was going to be a jazz standards kind of thing, but it ended up being more eclectic, like instrumental versions of Stevie Wonder songs. I played an hour of solo saxophone for the cocktail hour, and that was my big chance to wear myself out playing over standards.


Friday, December 2, 2022: New York. The next day, it was off to the airport, headed to LaGuardia. 



Night one at The Paramount on Long Island was packed, and as usual, a really good vibe. 





Saturday, December 3, 2022: Long Island, NY. Night two! After a good night's sleep (it's really difficult to wrap up everything and get to bed on time the night before we fly), we did it again! Another good night. I think both of these shows sold out, or came really close. 

Night two had a lady jump up on stage during Baker Street. As I turned to go back to my keyboards for the verse, she went charging by me with Zach hot on her heels. They were gone before I could even process what was happening. Somewhere on the internet, there's a video of him scooping her up and carrying her off.


We played mostly our usual setlist with a few of the holiday songs sprinkled in.


Post show birthday cake for Kourtney!


Sunday, December 4, 2022: Montclair, NJ. 

The Wellmont. Another big crowd in this cavern of a room. Once you get used to the acoustics, it's not bad.




My apologies to New Jersey for not quite nailing the Bruce Springsteen version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Two nights in a row where I messed up the sax solo.


Sharing a sandwich at the hotel in Newark. Thumbs up.


Friday, December 9, 2022: Atlanta, GA. I played a pickup jazz quintet gig for some company's holiday party. These are always amusing--there's no leader, and often you barely know the people with whom you're playing, so in this case, the young vocalist was very aggressive about handling the gig, and the two of us who have been around the local scene for a good while were like "have at it." There were also a couple of guys who were so young/green that they were too busy struggling with the music to notice anything else, which was kind of...annoying. I guess all that is fine? It was fine. We got paid, even got a cash tip. So, whatever.


Thursday, December 15, 2022: Atlanta, GA. John Hopkins (of Zac Brown Band fame) has recorded Christmas albums with different Atlanta groups as his backing band, and this year, the Yacht Rock Revue was the chosen one. The album wasn't ready for release this Christmas, but we played a show with Hop anyway.

Lots of gear for this one. There was all the Yacht Rock stuff, plus a small contingent of the Atlanta Pops to flesh out the string and horn parts, and a conductor. I guess we all meshed pretty well, but everything came together at the last minute, so we were all glued pretty hard to our charts.

No Bencuya on this one (his daughter was sick), so we had Hop's regular keyboardist Brian Bisky fill in.




One song that has been released is Snow, featuring the one and only Debbie Boone. Check this out!


Friday, December 16, 2022: Columbia, SC. Back to our regular programming! This was a regular Yacht Rock show at The Senate in Columbia, though it's kind of a fundraiser, so...I don't know. Anyway, this place is a pretty good spot to play, and after Hop's gig, it was nice to get our feet back under ourselves. The mayor was in attendance, and declared December 16 to be Yacht Rock Revue Day, so there's that. The guy making my sandwich at the Subway was impressed. 


Yeah, good gig! Ian Klin subbed for Bencuya tonight (and tomorrow night at The Roxy) and did a fantastic job. He's super badass, and we were lucky that he was able to make it.


Saturday, December 17, 2022: Atlanta, GA. Our annual Christmas show at The Roxy was really fun, and it sold out, and I finally got the Springsteen Santa Claus is Coming to Town solo right.


Post run/pre gig backstage noodling:




Afterwards, we opened an expensive bottle of bourbon.


I had too much. It made packing up my gear very difficult.


Sunday, December 18, 2022: Atlanta, GA. I played a little jazz trio gig with Billy Thornton (bass) and Louis Heriveaux (piano). Good stuff! This was the cocktail hour before a big private party in the ballroom at the Hotel Intercontinental. 

Two things I remember about this one: 1. We played a tune called Vilia off one of the newest Coltrane albums--kind of cool to play a "new" Trane tune on a gig. 2. Billy stopped in the middle of his solo on Valse Hot, ending the tune. "Sorry. I was hating that one."


Friday, December 23, 2022: Buford, GA. I played the Bumpin' the Mango gig, just as I had predicted I would a month prior.

The train got me! This freight train was stopped right outside the venue, and I had to go about a mile down the road to get around the end of it so I could circle back to the gig.


Pretty decent gig (my buddy Umcolisi Terrell on tenor was killing it all night), with much more of a crowd than I thought there'd be. There's nothing booked in January, so it doesn't look like I'll be back here any time soon.


Holy cow it was cold on the way home. 


Saturday, December 24, 2022: Atlanta, GA. My church gig was looking pretty spectacular. Because of a quick changeover between masses, nobody discovered that we were missing the keyboard's power supply until about twenty minutes before the start time. We managed to find a power supply (to a lamp!) that had enough juice to get us through the night. That was kind of nuts. Who steals a wall wart?


I didn't get much time to spend on these little social media projects this year, but I did finish this one before Christmas.


Saturday, December 31, 2022: Indianapolis, IN. Last show of the year.


Indy looked dreary this morning.


We've played in the Egyptian Ballroom at the Old National Centre before, but this was our first time in the Murat Theatre, the bigger of the two rooms. Very impressive looking.



What a weird gig! The on stage sound felt really wonky (the balance of everything in my ears felt way off), and it seemed like we were just going through the motions from 10 til midnight, like nothing was connected.


At midnight, all hell broke loose, and we were all running around in circles on stage, and there were balloons and chaos and then it was over. I had two glasses of champagne. Hopefully I put away my gear safely. Drinking after gigs is tough, but I'm two for two.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023: Marietta, GA. I laid down my parts for the next Yacht Rock Revue album. The vibes are definitely better than on the previous album. I think I played on five songs on this day. I think the final product is going to be cool.


Monday, January 9, 2023: Atlanta, GA. We had a few days of rehearsal to bring back our Talking Heads Stop Making Sense show. My involvement was pretty minimal/repetitive, as there are not quite two keyboard players worth of parts. The Great Bencuya had more stuff happening--it felt like I spent most of my time watching him play cool stuff. I am very much just along for the ride on this show.



At the end of Wednesday's rehearsal, we did a photo shoot with local legend Emily Butler for some new band promo. Here's one--dig it!



Friday, January 13, 2023: Atlanta, GA. Our first show at The Eastern. Cool room! 


I had it in my head that there were only going to be a few hundred people there--maybe somebody had said that ticket sales were light--but it was pretty full, and we were all really excited to do this show for a big hometown crowd. I think it went well!

Saturday, January 14, 2023: Athens, GA. I got screwed by Atlanta traffic/construction, missed the van meetup, and had to drive myself to Athens. Not the best start to my day.

No big deal. I got there just around the same time as the van, so I didn't miss anything. 


This one was good, too! I think that the rehearsals really paid off in that we could be more consistent from night to night, instead of hoping that the excitement of performing would spark some magic.


And there's a video! Check this out...

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Motherload Upload

Here's another massive blog update...

First of all, remember how I was going on and on in the previous blog about the musical at Kennesaw State, and how much it paid, and how the union was discouraging local musicians for playing for low wages? Well, it may have bit me in the ass. It took fifty-eight days to get paid! I let it go for a couple of weeks because these sort of shows aren't hip enough to have a check waiting on your music stand before the last show. Finally I inquired about the money--maybe I'd thrown it in the recycling bin by chance? No such luck. First it was some sort of error in the purchase order that the theatre bookkeeper had written--the dates didn't match or something, and the university refused to pay. After a week or two, they worked that out, and the university sent out a direct deposit (or so they said). It did not show up. After a week of waiting, I asked again. This time, it was because the university had "switched banks" and some transactions didn't go through. A few days after that, I finally got my money. It took almost two months, though! Some gig karma, I guess.

While I'm talking about theatre stuff, SpongeBob the Musical at Kennesaw State won an award for an amateur theatre production, and the show Trading Places (I subbed for ten days of shows) at the Alliance Theatre won three awards.

Anyway....

October 14: Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta). Wow, we haven't played here in years! There was a time when we were here around once a month, but the opening of Venkman's took us away. We returned for some kind of private event. I don't even remember what it was for. 

Smith's Olde Bar! It's cleaner, it's brighter, there's a bathroom backstage, but otherwise...it's still the same. I enjoyed our one night here (and that will be all!). Others, not so much! Kip and Zach were pretty miserable all day.




Saturday, October 15: Kennesaw, GA. We played some kind of members' party at a golf club. 

This is the time of year where people think it'll be great to do an outdoor event, and once the sun goes down, the temperature plummets (and I am grumpy and cold). Load in and soundcheck with no cover in the afternoon was hot, though! They couldn't afford the covered stage, I guess.





They couldn't afford proper lighting either, and when somebody on the front line would step in front of the lights facing me diagonally, my keyboards would suddenly be completely black. It made the Africa solo a bit more treacherous. Monkeyboy hates lighting situations like this.


Sunday, October 16: Atlanta, GA. Nick, Pete and I played another trio gig for the Giving Kitchen people at some fancy mansion in Buckhead. Easy gig.



It wa us and the mechanical bull. This is how I avoided playing my church gig this evening.


Thursday, October 20: Venkman's (Atlanta, GA). Yacht Rock played a benefit thing for Live Thrive, which runs a recycling center for all the crazy junk you can't put in your recycling bin. For instance, my stupid computer printer died right before I left for this gig, and I would need to take its plastic carcass to someplace like this to best dispose of it.


Word in the green room was that this was our final performance at Venkman's. The building has been sold, and they will be closing after Thanksgiving. What a bummer.


Saturday, October 22: Atlanta, GA. This place! We played a very posh wedding reception at some dude's mansion. Check out the basement/green room!



This gig was FREEZING! I think the overnight low was in the mid-30s and we were outside and had to play an extra long set (something like 8-11:30 PM). It seemed like most of the guests we trying to stay in warmer places because we mostly played to Nick's wife and sister (guests at the wedding)...time went by very slowly.


Also, my wireless died at soundcheck, so I had to bring my backup when I came back for the gig. Time to upgrade to something more reliable.

Monkeyboy was livid about the lighting on this gig--those bright lights across the dance floor from us blinded him and made it really difficult to see his guitar neck. He has officially threatened to walk out of the next gig where the lights are like this. We shall see, but point taken. This whole thing kinda sucked.



Monday, October 24: Charleston, SC. We played a private/corporate thing for the Founders Federal Credit Union at the Riviera Theatre. Looks like a decent venue.


We were there plenty early and there was no place to warm up before the gig, so I went for a run. The weather was perfect.





There is a Food Hall a couple of blocks over from the venue, and I had a burrito bowl thing from a place called Taco Art. Excellent stuff. It hit the spot.


Not a bad gig, especially for a Monday. It makes up for the shitty load in (through the back, up a freight elevator, down a little lift thing, and across the room) and shitty load out (into a passenger elevator, out into the lobby, out onto the sidewalk out front).



Keisha was being silly. I think she was trying to keep herself awake by making up some wild choreography.


Wednesday, October 26: Atlanta, GA. Back in Atlanta for a retirement party at Cox Enterprises. This one was unusual for us in that it was an early afternoon party, so we were there before noon. 


I've been bringing my little heater on the road for these chilly outdoor gigs, and today I discovered that if I put the heater directly under my stool, I get the most out of it. Previously I had tried tucking it in among my gear, but I think I was losing some of the warmth by having it a foot or two away.


We were in an open sided tent on an unfortunately breezy day. My heater saved the day!


I did not eat any of the cake, but they did have a portable pizza oven thing in the far corner of tent, and the pizza was really good and I accidentally ate four pieces without shame.


Thursday, October 27: Birmingham, AL. Well damn, we're outside again. Avondale Brewery has become a really nice venue with the bigger stage and nicer greenroom, and the crowd is always really good. Tonight was no exception. 



Check this out! Charles Barkley (a resident of nearby Leeds, Alabama) came to our show tonight, and apparently had a great time! He's a friend of our friend Jay. That's pretty cool, even though I didn't get to meet him.


I upgraded my wireless sax stuff, and Zach figured out that my transmitter would sync with his system, and that he could send the signal out to my pedal and then route it back to him (basically, I use his wireless receiver and antenna). SUPER COOL! I couldn't be happier with this new situation. It's infinitely more reliable than what I had been doing.


Friday, October 28: Buford, GA. Back to town. I played with Bumpin' the Mango at Tannery Row in Buford, GA. I played really well; it's nice to know I can handle an entire night of reading charts and ripping solos.

The Mango guys are funny--they're basically down to this one gig a month, but they (the principle band members) want the guys in the band to make this group a priority. I think the majority of the guys are only there unless they pick up a better gig for the night. I've subbed in fairly regularly, and they've also swapped out trombonists and second trumpeters. On this night, there was also a sub keyboardist. It feels like this band may be nearing the end of its lifespan.


On the set break, I talked to some random old-guy-sax-player who wanted to know what mouthpiece I was playing, what horn I had, if I was new to Atlanta (I've been here almost thirty years), if I knew so-and-so. It's still kind of weird (and frustrating) to be some unknown guy on the scene when I've been trying to build my reputation for so long. It might also be a signal that I am not the hot shot that I think I am.

Saturday, October 29:  Charlotte, NC. More chilly outdoor gigs. We've played here before--it's the loading dock! I think they've upgraded the roof so that it doesn't rattle when the bass plays a G. That used to be really funny when we'd play Peg or Taking it to the Streets.


This gig (for a benefit called Moo and Brew) is an event we've played for several years in a row, and they finally moved it to a bigger venue to accommodate the large crowds. It also gets us away from a massive sewer drain that used to smell up the entire stage when the breeze was in the right direction. 

Last year was really cold, and it was the first time I brought my space heater on stage, so this is an anniversary of sorts, I guess. Successful space heating. A year of not shorting out my gear or melting my pants legs.




November 1: Lexington, KY. The Breeders' Cup was in town this week, and our event was connected to that, though it was vague enough that I'm not sure anyone cared. Another outdoor thing on a breezy evening.




the green room was spacious

Nothing noteworthy about this gig, but I do remember being sort of concerned that there really wasn't any security, and plenty of people were just walking by on the sidewalk behind the stage, and it didn't feel like there was anyone to get in the way if your wan't to grab something small and keep walking, or if you wanted to jump up there during a song. 


Wednesday, November 2: Chattanooga, TN. We got up the next morning and drove to Chattanooga for an afternoon corporate thing, opening for a country band (?). I don't even know. We just set up and played on this stage. 


Like the previous night, there was a sidewalk thing directly behind the stage, and no security to keep anybody from picking stuff up. We had all of our cases and things set up behind the stage to quickly move out of the way of the country band, but early in the gig I had to move my backpack and flute up by Zach for a safe keeping.


The people stayed out of the sun, way off to our left in the shade, so we played to nobody. Very strange. Paid the same, though.


And then we drove home. It was a weird little trip.

Thursday, November 3: Indianapolis, IN. We got up the next morning and flew to Indy for another corporate thing, this time at our old haunt, The Vogue. It was a pretty day in the midwest.



After years of subjecting bands to a comically small green room, The Vogue has finally upgraded! They took over a basement room under the Hot Box Pizza next door, so now there's enough room for everybody to sit down! There's even a bathroom! It's about time.





This gig used rented gear--I guess we could've driven the stuff from Chattanooga to Indy, but it was decided to backline everything, so I flew my saxophones, EWI, and box of crap up. This EWI was just cleaned and adjusted by a repairman (if you can believe there is such a person), and the operating system was updated, reseting some things. For me, it changed the way the EWI talked to the computer (specifically how the breath pressure related to volume), and it took me about a half hour to figure out how to get it back to the way I wanted it. Basically, I could see that I was playing a note on the computer, but there would be no sound. Nooooooooo! 


There's Indian food down the street from The Vogue. Yesssssssssssssss!


Playing The Vogue was kind of like playing Smith's Olde Bar the previous month--the early rush of nostalgia for the fun gigs we'd played here in the past, gradually giving way to the feeling that I didn't need to come back in here any time soon. Not a bad gig, though!



I'm not from Indiana, but I am an Indiana University graduate, and I don't understand why this guy and his bullshit were ever tolerated. This incident where he threw the chair across the court was an embarrassment. 


Friday, November 4: Atlanta, GA. I got home with just enough time to eat and head into town to sub on a musical--Shrek the Musical, to be exact, at a high school theatre. This one was a drag.

The guy for whom I was subbing asked me about filling in for him around six weeks earlier, and then I didn't hear anything I thought maybe I'd escaped, but no! On the Sunday night before the gig, he finally sent me the music, and asked if I could come to a rehearsal. As you have just read, I was out of town all week, so no. I got the book via email around 11 PM on Sunday night, so I worked through the whole thing once that night before going to sleep.

Most of the book was not a big deal, but eight of the twenty-two songs were transposed to accommodate the actors, and so there'd be three pages of flute and clarinet parts down a major third or something really difficult! I skipped over those parts for the night.

Monday I began the process of playing the transposed parts, but each page took me around an hour to get mostly correct, and I realized that with the limited practice time I had this week, it would be easier to make new copies of the music in the corrected keys. So...I stayed up most of Monday night/Tuesday morning writing it out by hand, and after twenty pages, I had to go to bed for a few hours before our flight to Lexington.

Tuesday night, I got message from the guy--"I should send you the transposed parts! I'll email them to you." Well damn. That would be helpful. Would've been even more helpful to get them Sunday night.

Wednesday night, I worked through the book again, including the transposed parts. It's starting to come together.

Friday, afternoon, I had a quick meeting with my guy where he talked me through the book, I played most of it one more time, and went to the gig.

The gig was ok--the pianist was apparently roped into the job of being the conductor, and he had an awful time trying to direct the band and play piano at the same time. Lots of splattered entrances and cut-offs!

Everybody was really impressed with my sight-reading, and so I didn't spoil the secret that you can actually practice the music before you get to the gig!


Here's a crazy thing--the person in front of me had all the orchestral parts programmed into a sequencer, and she tapped out quarter notes on her little keyboard for the entire show. Based on where she was saying the beat was, the sequencer would spit out the music in time with the live band (easier said than done with this particular ensemble!). Huh! Maybe I should alert the musicians' union.


Saturday, November 5: Atlanta, GA. I filled in for another friend this weekend, this time on a wedding reception at Ventana's. "It's a wedding band, there are no charts, you'll be fine." Except that I haven't played very many wedding band gigs in the last fifteen years, and so I'm not familiar with most of the modern song list! Yikes. I got a hold of some of the setlist (songs that were going to be rehearsed earlier in the week while I was out of town), and made my own charts for them. There were lots of songs without horn parts, so I made sketches of the song (chords and form) with prominent parts that I thought the horns might be asked to double, like synth parts or string lines. The trumpet player on the gig said that he was writing charts, but I think he mostly just wandered around the internet and found charts of questionable accuracy for about half the songs, and we just made up shit for others, and I showed him what I had written for the rest. 


Ouch. This one was messy. The venue squeezed the load in/set up time down to two hours, and the sound guys couldn't get their stuff from the loading dock to completely set up in time, which also means the soundcheck was seven minutes long, which also meant that the in-ear mixes just about worthless. 

The band leader was trying to deal with the wedding planner, deal with the sound guys, start and stop the tracks we were playing along with, call out the form (because we couldn't hear the tracks because we didn't soundcheck), play guitar, sing songs that he didn't know because one of the vocalists got sick and had to cancel. Too much going on, and the acoustics of the room we were in, and it being a new band where we really didn't know each other. It was rough. I think the horns played some songs in album keys and the band was in transposed keys, and we couldn't tell. The audience had a great time. We made it to the end.

Thursday, November 10: St. Petersburg, FL. Back in Yacht Rock, where we had a gig in Florida the same day a hurricane moved through. It sounds crazy, but somehow it turned out to be no big deal. Just some rain and and some wind.


Tonight's venue was this gorgeous hall--already, things are looking better than my previous two gigs!


What a relief to be back on my normal gig, and everything sounds good and everybody knows what they're doing. Even better--we thought the hurricane would've killed our audience, but we had a really good group of people and they were enthusiastic from the first note. 

To top if off, our lighting guy is finally back after a summer of touring with Weird Al Yankovic, so things looked as good as they sounded!


Here's our second guitarist rocking out during the guitar solo on Baker Street.





Friday, November 11: Orlando, FL. The ol' House of Blues in Disney Springs. We want to hate it, but we always have a pretty great show here.




Saturday, November 12: West Palm Beach, FL. On my list of random gigs, here's one--a members' party at the National Croquet Club.

There was a lot of very serious practicing going on today. Very rich old white men with their very serious practice session for their very serious game!



It's Florida, so of course it was a pretty afternoon and two hours later we had a pretty intense rainstorm. The tent drained/leaked right at the juncture between the patio of the club and the dance floor, so everybody stayed away from us for most of the night.


We did a few songs where a some couples crossed over to our side, but it never got much more crowded than this.


Unfortunately, the tent didn't help our side either, with the back edge of the stage almost directly under the back edge of the tent. When the rain began, water splashed on the deck started to pelt my laptop and EWI. I was able to keep things dry with several towels and the lid to my rack.

Things were much worse for the guys who brought the lights that we installed along the back of the stage, all of which bore the brunt of the water. Those guys spent the night trying to tie plastic bags to the "brains" of the lights to keep them from being ruined.

At the end of the night, most of the gear was packed and I was just finishing up my last few things, when a massive sprinkler head popped up and began firing. The water blasted the closest inside corner of the tent, and the spray from that got some of my stuff wet, and all of the lighting guys' gear wet. One of the lighting guys jumped on top of the sprinkler cover and held it down, sacrificing his pants and shoes to keep our gear from being completely doused. It was an exclamation point on the evening.

Monday, November 14: Atlanta, GA. I had a recording session for a band from Wilmington, NC called The Great Indoors. I played some improvised stuff on two songs. It took just under an hour. Paid cash. Good work!



Wednesday, November 16: Marietta, GA. Yacht Rock is recording a new album of originals at John Driskell Hopkins' studio, and today we recorded one of my songs.


The first version was like this:



And then for fun, we recorded a crazy disco version, which sounded more like this:


I don't know how they're going to fit in with everything else, but they sounded good anyway. Hop they make the final cut!

I also played on an original where I played alto over the whole song, in the vein of David Sunburn on Stevie Wonder's Tuesday Heartbreak.

Friday, November 18: Buford, GA. I was back with the Bumpin' the Mango guys at Tannery Row in Buford, GA, this time subbing on bari sax.

I thought I was going to be able to dodge this gig (though the pay is ok, the drive is long and the crowd is thin and lackluster) because the venue was promoting someone else for our time slot, but they negotiated and we played earlier, and the other band played after us.  I was hoping it'd be, "Here's $75 to stay home!" BTM doesn't have a following, especially this far outside of Atlanta, so changing the time made no difference in the turnout.


I'm not sure what was going on with the sound guy, but we missed an opportunity to soundcheck, so it was kind of a throw-and-go situation. No monitors...we'll be ok, right? Well...no. It felt like I was playing really hard and not hearing myself at all. Mostly I just heard the two trumpets behind me.

At some point around halfway through the gig, I flicked my microphone to make sure it was on (I should hear a good "thump" in the PA). It was not. I tried it again. Nope. In between the next two songs, I took the mic off my horn and almost yelled into the mic. Not in the house at all. Where's the sound guy? Not at the sound desk at the back of the room. My notes were in vain.

In other news, I was absolutely fucking flawless and you shoulda heard it. Maybe I'll get another chance in December? Chances are pretty good that I'll be there.