Sunday, July 24, 2022

June and the First Half of July

June was supposed to be a month of almost no gigs, and I was going to deal with some home projects and basically do nothing, and then a friend of mine called in the second week and said, "What are you doing for the next ten days? I just tested positive for COVID this morning." So...into the pressure cooker! He emailed me the music for Trading Places, I played through it once, and headed to the Alliance Theatre for the first of a dozen shows!

Fortunately, I was sitting next to two of the best woodwinds guys in Atlanta (Sam Skelton and Seth Kuehn), and they, along with the conductor Rick Edinger, gently guided me through. Man, it was a lot of fun!

It took me about four or five gigs before I was comfortable with the music and the pace of the show, and then I could relax and enjoy what everybody else was doing. 

You can see my little monitor for viewing Rick the conductor!

Remember all those Christmas themed horn arrangements I was writing (you can check my Youtube page to hear highlights)? We recorded some versions of them June 23 at Brighter Shade studios. The section was Wes Funderburk (trombone, rearranger), Lee King and Joe Gransden (trumpets), Mackenzie Newell (French horn), Vinnie D'Agostino (alto and tenor sax), and me (tenor and bari sax, flute). It was an all day affair--most horn things get recorded twice (I presume so that you're virtually doubling the size and sound of the horn section before you compress the audio and tuck it in the background so much that you're not really sure what you're hearing--but am I griping? Wha???) Anyway, we recorded everything FOUR times, so...why? Unknown. But after everybody else left, I had to go back and recorded all the bari parts to everything...four...times. Long day. I also played flute on a song, four times. Like nine hours of playing. My brain was mushy. I guess the recording turned out ok, though.

The following night, I joined the Yacht Rock rhythm section (with Zack Albetta on drums) in backing Keisha and Kourtney Jackson at Venkman's for the Ladies of Soul show. It was super damn fun. The horn section for this one was Rob Opitz on trumpets and flugelhorn, Wes Funderburk on trombone, Vinnie D'Agostino on bari sax, and me tenor sax, flute, and piccolo. I hope there are more of these on the calendar--I'm still trying to iron out all the mistakes in my horn charts.

I haven't had time to make as many social media oriented posts as I did in 2021, but I did put together this arrangement of Blue in Green, which I hope you will enjoy.

July 1: Back to the tour! Our first stop was this amphitheater in Long Island.

It was hot and dirty! The whole stage was still covered in pollen and dust, and run by an obnoxiously New York union stage crew, equally apathetic and arrogant.

The turnout wasn't great by our recent standards, but it was ok because we were trying to shake off a month's worth of rust. All those things we talked about five or six weeks ago in rehearsal? We needed to work through them once again!

July 2: Hyannis, Massachusetts. The Melody Tent, by comparison, was fantastic. Good crew, great crowd, and an epic "in the round" show. The stage slowly rotates in one direction for eight or nine minutes, and then reverses direction (presumably unwrapping all the wiring and cables under the stage). How crazy is that!

We had Zach and all the monitor stuff just off the side of the stage, and just like Windjammer, his antenna was close enough that it would wipe out the saxophone microphone when I got close to it, which was only like two minutes out of every nine minute ride! As a song would start, I could look across at the antenna and know that with my bad luck, we'd finished two verses and two choruses and start the sax solo right as I was getting there! NOOOOOOOOO! So I'd have to play through my vocal mic until we'd clear it, and then I could switch back to my sax mic, but then the stage would reverse, and I'd have to go back to the vocal mic because here's Zach again! Jeez!

This unfortunately occupied a lot of my brain power during the gig, and seeing people moving in my peripheral vision was kind of disorienting. Still, an amazing gig. Now I have probably a year to figure out a solution for this particular wireless problem. I'm wondering if I used my "fly date" wireless stuff and put it in the middle of the stage, would that be far enough away from Zach?

The last song of the show was Baker Street, and I was bummed out for the last few songs because I knew that the microphone situation was going to keep me at my keyboard position, but the local crew stopped the stage right before the song started! Hallelujah! I guess it was because we didn't have enough music to justify rotating the stage all the way and then all the way back before the end of the gig. Lucky me! With the stage stopped, I was able to move around, making for an epic end of the evening.

Sunday morning, we flew home from Boston. The following Thursday, we flew back to the northeast to begin the next stretch of gigs. 

Check out how great the Delta terminal at LaGuardia in New York looks now!

Our Thursday night show was in Manhattan at  Pier 17 (which happens to be another place where I had microphone trouble last year). Killer venue. Better local crew, though still very New York.

Here's my New York dinner.

As far as the wireless microphone thing went, all was cool. Zach hooked me into his antenna, so I had virtually no issues at all (in case you're wondering, this solution wouldn't work with the rotating stage because we don't have a long enough cable for it to spool up). Good gig! There's so much pressure performing in NYC, I'm always glad to escape without any major disasters.

This place is cool. They make sugar cookies with our logo on them.

We spent the night in Staten Island, and the air conditioner in my room couldn't handle the summer. The lowest I could set the thermostat was 68 degrees, and it never got there. The best that it could do was 70 degrees all night. It was muggy sleeping.

July 8: Asbury Park, NJ. The Stone Pony Summer Stage. Big stage, big crowd, big show!

Dinner on the boardwalk. I had an Impossible Burger and fries.

This one, unfortunately, got wet! We had some rain right at the beginning (which soaked the crowd but spared the band and the gear), and then at the end of the show, the rain came back, blowing a bit more. My gear and Monkeyboy's amp got really wet-- enough that we worried the electronics were going to be permanently damaged. It was bad. He said his stuff was cutting out while he was playing. My saxophones and piccolo got a lot of water, too, but it didn't saturate any of the pads, so toweling them off seemed to save the day. Same with my keyboards.

Saturday, July 9, we moved on to Delaware. The lunch stop was at Ioannoni's, a sandwich place that we have hit many times over the years. "Powered by Beef"=not vegetarian friendly! In the past, I've gone down the street to the gas station Subway, but this time they were able to accommodate me with a meatless/cheeseless version of a sandwich (though the lady at the counter acted like I was the first human to ever propose such an idea, and she had no idea how to even make up a ticket for it).

This gig was at the Freeman Arts Pavilion (hello fellow Freemen!). It has a good size stage and a big field even though it's in the back of a subdivision. Last time we were here, everybody was separated into roped off pods for social distancing. This time there was none of that. 

Everybody got wet, again, because it rained again. The guitar amp seemed ok, but my EWI had some temporary insanity (it was registering a pitch bend that I wasn't doing) which caused it to play in the wrong key. The end of show solo on Rosanna was an adventure. Basically, I could tell that it was getting weird, and I took a gamble to see if I could turn off the sensitivity of the pitch bend by just turning one of the knobs all the way counterclockwise, and I guess that didn't work! The band was in G major, and I was in E major.

After the show, I brought the EWI back to the hotel to dry it out (in yet another muggy northeast hotel room), and reset all the pitch and breath sensors. It seemed fine--no permanent water damage.

Sunday, July 10, we played Wolf Trap outside of Washington, DC. It's amazing! You can see a lot of the backstage stuff from my blog last year--look here. Good temps, good humidity, good local crew, good food, good everything.

Kip says that the "room" doesn't sound really great, but it felt like a fantastic gig. We had a great time, except for Monkeyboy, whose gear decided not to work for a little bit. Might be the amp, might be the pedal, might be a cable? It was tough for a while. He was pissed. After the gig, he calmed down and felt a little better, and then I beat him twice in ping pong.

Monday morning, everybody slept in except for Nick, Zach, Kip and me, who went to the local TV station to promote the gig we...played...the night...before? Uh, ok. The whole thing was weird because they wanted us to play a Hall and Oates song and say that we had the copyright (which we obviously don't), so then we had to do an original, but then we went on the weather segment and played a Hall and Oates Wait, what?

We've done several of these local news programs through the years, and they're always really weird. I mean, first of all, the hosts are always plastic and awkward and clueless about why you're on their TV show, and then you're trying to perform and there's a massive camera pointed at you with a monitor and I get fixated on how I look on the monitor, and there's a teleprompter set for the next segment that I can't help but read AND HEY YOU! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYING A SONG RIGHT NOW!!!! Plus, I never have enough sleep before one of these so it's all hazy and I can't remember what we're doing. Not my best work.

After the TV show, Kip drove by in the van and scooped Nick, Zach, and I up, and we went to Guitar Center and bought some cables and drum heads and touched things that we had no intention of buying. It's fun to bother the employees with guitar questions and drum solos.

Then, lunch, where I had what felt like my fourth "burger and fries" kind of meal in as many days.

Finally we returned to the hotel, and I passed out for a few hours, went for a run, went to Chipotle for a burrito, and washed some clothes in the hotel washing machine (no dryer here). It was just running clothes, so I spread everything out in my room and it dried on its own. No laundry detergent was available, so I squirted half a bottle of shampoo in there. Probably good enough.

The next day (July 12), we drove to Dewey Beach, Delaware, for a show at the Bottle and Cork. This one was announced late because the Freeman Stage place didn't want it to compete with their night. It was still slammed full of people--I think it's mostly a walk-up kind of crowd.

This place...I love it and hate it equally. I mean, it's a shitty dive bar and it's loud as hell and probably doesn't sound very good, but the energy from all those people being right up against the stage is pretty great. So I guess if you can enjoy the vibe without caring too much about the quality of the show, then it's ok. Also, I bet it would be a much bigger deal if I had to sing.

Monkeyboy bought a new amp after the Wolf Trap gig, so he used it here and didn't have any trouble. 

It rained, but we were covered, so it was no big deal. More humidity, though.

Onward! The next day (Wednesday, July 15), we drove to Virginia Beach to play the local concert series on the beach. As we were coming into town, it started raining, so we parked and sat in the van for maybe forty-five minutes while the weather pounded us. I took a nap, so I'm not sure how long we were there.

Eventually it subsided enough that we could set up. Depending on which app you consulted, we either going to get rain at the start of the show, in the middle of the show, or it was all going to stay south of us. Luckily for you residents of Virginia, it stayed south, and we got the whole gig in! Not a bad show. The setlist was a little more down-the-middle than it's been on most of the tour dates--a nice change up. Also, all the gear worked. "The stakes have never been lower!" said Monkeyboy.

Thursday, July 14, we got up late and flew to Boston.

airport shuttle selfie

Our hotel was The Verb (the same rock-n-roll hotel we stayed at in January), right next to Fenway Park.

shower curtain


tunes in my room


As luck would have it, the Zac Brown Band was playing Fenway Park the following night, but they were all in town, too, so we hung out at a bar with John Hopkins for an hour or so before calling it a night.

July 15, we played the Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston, up against ZBB at Fenway and New Kids on the Block at the Boston Garden, but we still sold 4,100 tickets! Boston is good to us!

our 2021 setlist taped up backstage

Lots of wireless frequency issues with everybody (not just me), but we made it through ok. Actually, I had a good night of playing, even though I was scared of my microphone every time I stood up to play something.

I left my belt in the green room. I'm pretty disappointed in myself about that.

Saturday, July 16: We drove all day to get from Boston to our next gig in Philadelphia. 

This was our first time at The Fillmore, and it reminded us all of The Roxy in Atlanta. Good crew and a nice backstage area at this one.

This was a pretty good gig, though Monkeyboy's guitar rig refused to play the first song. Apparently, the little pedal that he has added onto his gear lost its power supply. Once he bypassed that, it was ok.

Our final night of this run was at a horse track/casino in Granville, Pennsylvania. It was a massive stage out in the middle of nowhere, with probably a dozen local crew guys, a catering tent, and several shipping container offices and dressing rooms. We were a strange fit, for sure.

There was a ton of down time between the soundcheck and gig, so I spent a few hours in a back corner of the lot warming up/practicing. The local guys were amused by this for some reason. I was just trying to get far enough away that I didn't annoy anybody too much.

What a weird show! It was a free event, but even that wasn't enough to draw more than a couple of hundred people to this thing on a Sunday afternoon. Oh well. At least it was over by 7 PM, and we ate and went to the hotel before the thunderstorms attacked.

Monday, July 18, we flew home. Laundry time!