Wednesday, February 7, 2024

January 2024

Sunday, December 31, 2023: Orlando, FL. Our New Year's Eve gig was at the House of Blues in Orlando. Late gig, late (-ish) flight. Easy.

Pre flight burrito. Olé, Qdoba.

My least favorite part of playing the Orlando House of Blues:  you have to walk through a mile of people to successfully get off Disney property so that you can find a place to run. Well, maybe the food, too, which is always terrible Disney resort food (hello impossible burger with fries), but damn, the way you're stuck in this mile long outdoor mall with only one way out is...ingenious, but also a pain in the ass.

This was a pretty good one--I recall that last year's NYE gig in Indianapolis was really lame until midnight, when we all started running around on stage like jackasses. This one felt like a regular show. Pretty fun. Good crowd. I drank Monkeyboy's champagne when he wasn't looking. Does this mean I've fallen off the wagon?

Wednesday, January 10, 2024: Atlanta, GA. First up on the day, I did some flute recording for the band Soccer Mommy at Maze Studios. The producer and engineer were excited to figure out that they could use MIDI files to create sheet music for me (which is a huge time saver for me--either learning it all by ear, or writing my own charts while they wait), so I didn't have the heart to burst their bubble by informing them that they charts were all written an octave down, and in bass clef! It was mostly half notes and whole notes, though, so it was simple enough to translate it. 

After the fact, I realized that I should've brought my alto flute, since the parts kept ending up at the bottom of a regular C flute. Alto would've given me a little more room to honk out those parts. Maybe next time!

Following the recording session, I went to State Farm Arena (way early) for the Hawks game. The Yacht Rock Revue was performing at half time--mostly just pretending except for a couple of live microphones.

This looked like it was going to be stupid, with us dancing around for ten minutes to a recording, but we had a good time--it was a cool experience. 

A modern NBA game is like a circus interrupted by five minute episodes of basketball.

After halftime we were free to go, so I was home and out walking the dogs before the game ended (Hawks won in overtime, by the way).

Thursday, January 11, 2024: Marietta, GA. I spent all day at the studio, recording six songs of horn parts for the next Yacht Rock Revue album alongside Wes Funderburk (trombone), Liz Regas (French horn), and Justin Powell (trumpet). To hear the stuff I wrote played by these guys was AWESOME!! Who knows how it will be within the context of the song after it's all been edited and mixed, but in the room, it was phenomenal. 

We started with the two songs that had French horn parts, then did the other four songs with just the three of us (sax, trombone, trumpet), then I went back and recorded bari sax parts on a few things, and then I recorded flute parts. It took about ten hours altogether. My face and my brain were worn out.

Friday, January 19, 2024: Isle of Palms, SC. 

Behold, the Windjammer with no stage!

This gig was a private fundraiser for the College of Charleston baseball team (we're tight with the head coach!). I thought this gig was gonna be a drag because the Windjammer is such a dive, but the gig was actually pretty damn good, and there were a few Anchorheads sprinkled into the audience.

Saturday, January 20, 2024: Evans, GA. This gig was a public show at a performing arts center in the fancy part of Augusta. Niiiiiice roooooom.

Another good one, and a great crowd. Who knew it was going to be this full?!

Cookies from our Anchorhead friends! I had some of each one--I mean, each style. I'm a big fan of cookies.

Post-show, we got to sign the wall. They come back and paint our logo later.

Our hotel was remodeling the breakfast area. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024: Jacksonville, FL.   Here's the routing for the week. Tick tack toe.

First, behold, the Florida Theatre!

This place is pretty cool.

Good gig! This one was a kind of scary because Mark Bencuya started throwing up after soundcheck (suspected food poisoning from lunch), and so we shuffled the setlist a little bit (so that he wouldn't have to sing). He was able to keep it together for the whole gig, and then he went back to the dressing rooms and threw up some more. Damn! I don't know how we would've made it if he was unable to play.

Solid offering of bananas, and they're actually ripe enough that you could eat them today! Nice work, Floridians!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024: Sarasota, FL. 

There is a distinct color scheme happening here.

Another good one!

High humidity in hotel hallways. This machine was working overtime on it. Lots of noise, little relief. Fortunately, the A/C in my room was just fine.

We had the night off in Sarasota, so management organized a family dinner at a local seafood restaurant called The Dry Dock.

My pasta was exceptional (that's not my drink, in case you're wondering).

Monkeyboy has a thing for tiki bars, so about half of us made the trek over to Bali Hut.

It was terrible. Instant regret. Fuck that shit. Karaoke only made it worse.

Friday, January 26, 2024: Coral Springs, FL. Another van ride...

Nothing great about this place--it appeared to be staffed completely by high school kids, and it was dirty and lame, and we had severe problems finding clear frequencies for our wireless equipment (Zach was miserable). 

On the other hand, I put new reeds on my saxophones. What a difference a reed makes!

Anyway, pretty full house again, which always helps.

Monkeyboy being Monkeyboy. The pitter patter of little footsteps in a long hallway.

Saturday, January 27, 2024: Clearwater, FL. Our hotel after Coral Springs was literally across the street from the Everglades.  I don't know why, but that kind of blew my mind.

Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Named for the wife of the Eckerd Drugs guy.

Nice looking, nice sounding room.

A little pre-gig run along the bay.

Catering was fantastic. Eggplant parm and a salad.

Woooo! Another great crowd.

Post gig, Kourtney and I split this piece of banana walnut cake. It was as good as it looks.

Just announced! The first half of this year's calendar will be kind of light because most of our gigs are going to be on the Train/REO Speedwagon tour in July and August.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

November and December 2023

Friday, November 3, 2023: LAX to Oxnard, CA. We landed at LAX on a Friday afternoon. The vans scooped us up and drove for a few hours to our hotel in Oxnard. 

It was kind of weird to see fog come in off the ocean and completely obscure everything, an hour after landing in the afternoon sun of Los Angeles.

We all ate in the hotel lobby restaurant, which turned out to be fairly decent, and then went off to our separate rooms. In the middle of the night, I awoke in a massive panic--what if I couldn't remember any of my parts to anything? I was freaking out! I knew what parts I was supposed to play, but I couldn't think of the key or the first note of anything. What if this happened on stage at one of the biggest gigs of the year? It took about forty-five minutes to finally get back to sleep.

Friday, November 3, 2023: Santa Barbara, CA. The big one! The final show of the Kenny Loggins tour, at the Santa Barbara Bowl. There have been some absolutely legendary performances here, including a couple of Loggins shows from the early 80s, as well as the Joni Mitchell album Shadows and Light.

Special guests were expected! 

This place is great.

Catering was outstanding.

The bananas were ready.

Our set went off without a hitch, and I remembered all my parts. I'm not sure why my brain did that to me, but I was fine.

Kenny's show was, naturally, outstanding, and featured several guests--most notably Michael McDonald (playing What a Fool Believes, Heart to Heart, and This is It).

And then he hung around side stage to watch much of the show. Look at this picture! He's 10 feet away from me! I wanted to say hi and get a photo, but his manager was often nearby, and we'd been warned at the beginning of the day not to swarm him. So here I am, watching Michael McDonald watch Kenny Loggins.

At one point, Kenny Loggins' manager (Shannon) came by to introduce a friend of hers to Michael Mac, and suddenly I was in a circle and Michael was FACING ME. He we go! Shannon began the introductions, (to Michael's agent), "Hi, I'm Shannon...Michael, hi, I'm Shannon, this is my friend blah blah blah," and then she turned like she was going to introduce me to Michael's agent and Michael McDonald (YAAAASSSSSSS!!!!! DOOOOOOO ITTTT!!!!!), and she paused abruptly, with Michael looking right at me, and I said, "Go ahead!" but she chuckled and blew me off, and they briefly small talked around me, and then it was over, and I got NUTHIN'! Well damn.

I did manage to corner Kevin Bacon at the water fountain backstage, and I asked for a selfie and blamed my wife, just like you would have, 'cause Kevin Bacon is cool as shit.

The next morning, we made the long trip from Oxnard back to LAX, and flew back to Atlanta. That was a long trip to play forty-five minutes worth of music.

Friday, November 10, 2023: Adairsville, GA. I played in a jazz quartet for someone's rehearsal dinner, at a barn/event space out in the middle of nowhere. It was a strange gig because the individuals were all contracted independently, so I had no idea who else was on the gig until they arrived. We ate while the party was making their speeches, and when the drummer got up to go use the bathroom, one of the other guys said, "What's that guy's name?" "I think it's Ben." None of us knew for sure. 

Anyway, kind of loud for where we were, but the audience tolerated it.

Saturday, November 11, 2023: West Palm Beach, FL. Back on the Yacht Rock gig, this time at a country club in West Palm Beach. I think this was some kind of membership party? Load in was the usual mix of high humidity (it had rained the night before) and direct sunlight that you would expect from south Florida. 

All things considered, this one was pretty painless/mindless. There were tons of people, but they were all at a distance the whole night, so not much vibe from the crowd. 

Friday, November 17, 2023: Nashville, TN. Another uneventful gig, this time at Marathon Music Works. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023: Nashville, TN. We played a wedding reception at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, but first...tacos.

Brooklyn Bowl is a pretty cool room. 

In other news...I had been trying to record this arrangement I wrote of Old Devil Moon for a Halloween themed video, but so many other things got in the way that I didn't get it finished until November, so it's more of a fall theme. Still works!

Thursday, November 30, 2023: Montclair, NJ. We flew to Newark and then drove to Montclair in the vans.

The Prudential building in Newark--my dad worked here in the early 80s.

This evening's gig was at the Wellmont Theater.

Big crowd!

This was the first show of the Christmas season, we played Last Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and John Hopkins was with us as a special guest, so we played Sleigh Ride and Frosty the Snowman from his newest record, Let's Get Frosty.

Friday, December 1, 2023: Huntington, NY. Tonight was the first of a two night stand at The Paramount in Long Island, one of our favorite rooms to play.

Big autograph session for PBS donors.

Saturday, December 2, 2023: Huntington, NY. Night two. I had some local pizza for lunch, but without cheese, it was kind of lame. My fault.

Hop in action.

After the show, we had cake to celebrate Kourtney's birthday. 

We flew home on a rainy Sunday at LaGuardia.

Monday, December 4, 2023: Adairsville, GA. Another random quartet gig, this time providing holiday music for a Christmas party. Two hours of Christmas tunes turned out to be my maximum. 

The four of us all knew each others' names this time, which is some sort of improvement, I guess.

Monday, December 11, 2023: Smyrna, GA. Nick, Hop, and I did promo for the upcoming Hop on a Cure gig (and a little bit for the Yacht Rock Holiday show next door at The Roxy). Hop did most of the talking, so I mostly watched it all go by, and joined in on Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Monkeyboy was supposed to join us, but he got his schedule mixed up and couldn't attend.

Friday, December 15, 2023: Columbia, SC. This one was our annual benefit for Camp Cole in South Carolina--we'd done a few at The Senate, but they moved it to this much bigger, nicer auditorium.

I went for a run after soundcheck, and the catering people gave up on me and took all the food before I could eat, so I had a peanut butter sandwich and several bananas for dinner.

Saturday, December 16, 2023: Smyrna, GA. Back in Atlanta for our annual holiday show at The Roxy. Sold out!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023: Atlanta, GA. Not much brain power left, but we did what we could to make John Hopkins' Christmas show a success. It all came together at the last minute--I was dealing with horn charts from the horn section, horn charts that I had to provide to the horn section, and songs with no horns, and then Monkeyboy got sick, so I covered all of his solo moments in the songs--it was a little chaotic. 

Here's our horn section! Elizabeth Regas (French horn), Ryan Moser (trumpet), Luke Weathington (saxophones, flute, clarinet), me, Justin Powell (trumpet), and Mike DeSousa (trombone). 

photo by Emily Butler

Saturday and Sunday, December 23-24, 2023: Sandy Springs, GA. I was out on a bike ride around 5:30 PM on Saturday when I got a text from a fellow woodwind guy in town: "Are you available at 8 PM tonight and 2 PM tomorrow? I'm trying to find a sub for White Christmas, tenor and clarinet. I just tested positive for COVID." Woah! I made quick arrangements to get picked up so I could shower, inhale some food, and race over to the theater. 

It went well! Fortunately, it wasn't complicated, and there were friends sitting next to me to help warn me of anything weird. Mostly it was just long--over two and a half hours!

On Sunday, I went straight from the pit for White Christmas to my church gig.

And that was it! I made it through another holiday season of gigs.

Here's a new arrangement of The Christmas Song that I wrote and performed (starring ornaments from our Christmas tree).

On to the next thing, which is a bunch of horn arrangements I've been assigned for the next Yacht Rock Revue album. We have set a date for recording them in mid January. I may kill myself. If not, see you in Orlando for New Year's Eve!