Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas: Santa Screen Saver Prank Call At Work

This voicemail was waiting for me this morning when I got back from doing some other jobs around the building.  It cracked me up pretty good!

Merry Christmas: Cirque de Vargo Update A Christmas Classic

When it comes to Christmas music, I'm a bit of a traditionalist.  I like the classics and never really seek out new Christmas music.  But let's face it:  some of those old tunes would benefit from a bit of an update to make them feel more timely and relevant.  Here is a good example, and embedded in this post is another great example.  I love the energy of this, the enthusiasm, the rapping skillz and HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT BACK FLIP?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas: George & Kitty Read The Story Of Christ's Birth

On Thanksgiving Day of 2010, I slipped away from the feasting and football and met my parents in the guest bedroom of my sister's house.  I had asked them to read their favorite gospel account of Christ's birth.  After a couple of takes, we had what we needed.  It was funny to see them slightly nervous to record for this project, which at that time was meant to be a surprise for my wife.  They wanted it to sound just right.
Because I did the post production on this, you'll notice the quality of this recording isn't great.  For example, I have no idea why they sound like their noses sound like they are being pinched.  On the original tracks, their voices sound fine.  For all my shortcomings as a sound guy, this is one of the most moving audio tracks I have.  It is one I return to a lot.  I don't want to go into why I feel that way, but I will say this track fills me with respect, awe, and love for my mom and dad. 

Reader #1:  Kitty Zink
Reader #2:  George Zink
"Away In The Manger" performed by Kevin Reynolds.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas: Here Is The Creekdogs Covering "While Roving On A Winter's Night"

Let's continue the holiday audio assault with the Creekdogs' cover of "Roving On A Winter's Night".  I guess this is an old traditional tune, but the version we based our cover upon was the Darol Anger/John Gorka/Dar Williams tune.  Hope you enjoy!

The Creekdogs are:
Dan Lodge-Rigal:  12-string guitar, lead vocals
Kevin Reynolds:  National resophonic guitar, harmonica
Matt Zink:  upright bass, harmony vocals
A hearty thank you to Kevin Reynolds for recording and post production.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Post Script: Would You Like To Contribute To The Christmas Project?

I wrote earlier that I'm going to be posting Christmas content from folks I know.  Truth is, if you're a person reading this anywhere in the world, you can contribute if you are moved to do so.  All you have to do is leave your name and email in the comments section (if privacy is a concern, I'll delete your comment right after I get a hold of you) and I'll make arrangements with you on your contribution.

Your contribution could be funny or serious, humorous or grumpy, related to Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa - whatevs!  Just make it interesting.

Want to contribute but you're not sure how?  I've got a ton of ideas:

  • Compose/read an original story/essay/poem.
  • Read "The Night Before Christmas".
  • Read "How The Grinch Stole Christmas".
  • Reenact/read a scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
  • Sing an original Christmas song
  • Read an account of Christ's birth from the Bible
  • Group Karoke.  For example, you'd call and Karoke to "Do They Know It's Christmas?" I can edit it so that like the actual song, you'd get a line or two from the whole song. &nbsp
. . . and on and on.  I can help you with ideas.  Don't want to use your actual name in the performance?  That's why pseudonyms are so fun!  So get off the bench and get in the spirit - leave your contact info in the comments section of this post.

Merry Christmas: Here's The Creekdogs Covering "Spotlight On Christmas"

In the next few weeks, I'll be trotting out some cool Christmas stuff performed by folks I know and love.  Some of it will be spoken word/readings, and some will be music.  I thought I'd start off with the Creekdogs' cover of Rufus Wainwright's "Spotlight On Christmas".  I think it sounds pretty damn good and I hope you do too.

The Creekdogs are:
Dan Lodge-Rigal:  12-string guitar, lead & harmony vocals, accordion
Kevin Reynolds:  mandolin
Matt Zink:  upright bass
Recording and post production by Kevin Reynolds.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Brief History Of One Of The Greatest Christmas Songs Of All Time

The Guardian has an interesting piece on the Pogues' "Fairy Tale of New York".  It talks about the song's painful - but ultimately necessary - birthing process.  Included with the article is an early demo of the song, and it provides a great contrast for just how far the band had to come to shape the song into the perennial Christmas hit we have today.  Thank God they stuck to it.

At any rate, check out the article here

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why Don't We Go Ahead And Review Last Year's Holiday Music Posts?

When do you start playing Christmas music at your house (if at all)?  If you're ready for it now, enjoy the Cosby Sweaters' version of "Blue Christmas".

Why do I like "Do They Know It's Christmas?" so much?  It's such a fucking condescending song.  Is it Phil Collins' competent drumming?  Is it Bono's part, a part wherein he says that he wanted to sound like "Bruce Springsteen on the toilet"?  (By the way, bravo on that, Bono.)  Is it George Michael's overwrought singing, complete with that little piss shiver vocalization on the word "ones"?  I don't know for sure.  How can I like something so awful?

I took a moment to contemplate Robert Earl Keen's masterful writing on "Merry Christmas From The Family".  This is definitely one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.

Dig on Leslie Donovan's a capella version of "Silent Night" (and listen closely for the car that drives by outside); then check out the Cosby Sweaters' "Peppermint Stick Shiv", a song with a connection to the holidays that tenuous at best.

And then there is the "Parental Advisory" Christmas playlist.  Aside from the fact that one of the best tunes is missing, this is a phenomenal mix for your holiday comings and goings.

After he visited our house, Santa left a thank you message (and a text!) for our kids.  Note Prancer's identity confusion in this message.

. . . there now.  Feeling like some spiked eggnog yet?  Not yet?  Stay tuned - some more great Christmas-y posts coming up soon!

Fat Friday Feature DOUBLE SHOT: Vince Guaraldi Trio's Fred Marshall And Big Country's Tony Butler

Every other Friday, the focus of this blog is on great bassists/bass parts.  Today, we have the Vince Guaraldi Trio's Fred Marshall as well as Big Country's Tony Butler.

I hold firm to the conviction that amongst all the great Christmas music ever released, you really only need one record for the holiday season:  the soundtrack from "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  Everything about it is delightful, and it stands on it's own as an excellent jazz record.  I've been asked that if I can be in any band ever, what band would it be?  Almost every time I say the Vince Guaraldi Trio.  Most folks think I'm kidding, but I'm really not.  Who wouldn't want to back up a smokin' piano player like Vince Guaraldi?  And listen to Marshall's bass - it's always in the pocket.  Always.  Check it, yo.  And if this doesn't get you in a festive mood, nothing will.

Next we have Tony Butler.  Butler has played bass for Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and the Pretenders; but you might know him best as the bassist for Big Country.  Understandably, most have never pursued anything by Big Country beyond "In A Big Country"*; perhaps because the band is guilty of being a little overly sincere.  Poor Stuart Adamson (the band's guitarist and principal songwriter) felt like everything had to be an anthem.  But like many bassists featured on Fat Friday Features, everything Butler plays on has great bass work.  For that reason, it's hard to narrow down what to showcase.  However, I must, so check out the work on "Where A Rose Is Sown".

It's also interesting (at least to me) that Butler's bass tone is a hallmark of the 1980s sound:  it's got a TON of chorus or flanging, or possibly a combination of both.

* - I was glad to find this version of "In A Big Country" because it features the dope extended drum introduction.  This was the version that was on the cassette I had and it's the version I know and like the best.  But for some reason, it's not the more common of the two versions of that song.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Micro-Rant: Your Music Stand Is Not Very Rock And Roll

Try to think of and visualize some of the greatest performances/performers of all time:  Hendrix at Woodstock, the Who at the Isle of Wight, Dylan at Newport, Mingus at Antibes, the Ray Conniff Singers at the Nixon White House*.  Hell, you don't even have to think of anything that monumental.  Just try to think of the best performances you've seen.  Unless you spend a lot of time checking out shows with orchestras, I'll bet you don't remember seeing a single music stand on stage.

Without tipping too much info, I've seen recently two performances in which one musician in the group was behind a stand, reading music.  (Both bands were more or less rock bands.)  In one case, the band was to play one song as a part of a larger performance.  One.  Freaking.  Song. It was that performance that set this little rant off.

Before I get rolling, let me tell you who is exempt from this rant:  folks who play in orchestras/chamber groups/choirs - jazz, classical, choral groups, etc.  Folks who are playing sophisticated, non-improvised pieces.  I think you know who I'm talking about.  For the rest of you, no love. 

Maybe I'm supposed to take that musician(s) more seriously because they're reading music.  If you skip around this blog enough, you know that reading music is a skill I lack and a skill I deeply value (oddly enough).  But instead of taking that musician seriously, the opposite is true.  As a member of the audience, seeing a music stand says to me that you're not all there in the performance.  It says that you couldn't be bothered to memorize and/or interpret something you are supposed to be playing for me.  It says your being lazy.  It says I and my time are not really that important to you, and that kind of pisses me off.

I realize I'm blowing this out of proportion.  But if I'm coming to see a band live, I want them to be there, in the moment, giving me everything they've got.  You're not giving yourself to me (or your audience) if you're up reading music in your dopey cover band.  I can't think of anything less rock and roll than your music stand**.  So ditch the fucking stand and try practicing.

* - I'm being serious here.  This was an amazing command performance for Tricky Dick and some others that culminated in some of the members of the group holding up anti-Vietnam War signs.  It was really intense.  I really wish I could find the footage of it online.

** - Okay, I actually can think of one thing that is even less rock and roll:  setting up those folding chairs you always see at outdoor weddings in a fucking rock nightclub.  Like we're supposed to sit there and be good little boys and girls why you bore us between songs with your name dropping and shitty stories.  Fuck you, Over The Rhine.


I heard from Jamodo tonight - as I suspected, I did not win the job.  Lots of lessons learned from this experience.  The big question is will I have the discipline to get my shit together?

Thanks to Jamodo for letting me come and play with them!  In addition to being great musicians, they're a pretty fun group to be around.  Keep an eye out for them as it sounds like their aim is to make 2013 a busy year.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Urban Dance Squad's Silvano Matadin On "Man In The Corner"

New readers:  every other Friday I feature a great bass player/bass part.  There's a ton on this blog - just search the blog using the term "Fat Friday Feature".  You'll get your fill of bass awesomeness.  Today, I'd like to bring your attention to Silvano Matadin's playing on "Man On The Corner".

Before I headed out to Wednesday night's audition, I remembered to run down to the basement and grab a handful of old CD's that I hadn't listened to in years.  It was a very, very good call.  Hurtling down the road, blaring the stereo, having my own private party.  It was a great way to get pumped for the audition.  (But again - to drive the point home - there's no substitute for practicing.)

In my slightly over-an-hour commute, I must've listened to at least 3 different Urban Dance Squad songs.  Do you remember Urban Dance Squad?  They peaked out at #21 on the U.S. charts with a pretty good tune called "Deeper Shade Of Soul".  Don't feel bad if you don't remember them - I bet no one does.  But in our family, I have at least three other siblings that gave their album "Mental Floss For The Globe" regular rotation in the '90s.  I think that makes us a pretty big anomaly; I also think we account for about 1/3 of UDS's U.S. fan base.  There are different things I like about each of their songs - there is one that even has pedal steel guitar, and you know how much I love pedal steel guitar - but they consistently have great guitar and bass on every tune.  What I like about the bass playing on "Man On The Corner" is that it is fast but fluid; and there's some funky timing stuff going on in there at points.  It's a great "jam" (as they used to say in the '90s), so take a listen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Jamodo Audition Was Probably A Bust

I had my audition for the Indianapolis band Jamodo last night.  While I've not officially heard one way or another, I pretty sure I didn't get the job.  My playing was stiff, soulless, and clumsy; I basically came off as kind of not all there and clueless.  Drag man.  Drag.

Still, I'm not too down about it.  It's hard to get too bummed when I have 3 other musical projects that I'm involved it.  The take aways are this - many of which are conclusions that for some reason, I most learn over and over again, ad naseum:

  • Practice, practice, practice.  And when you think you've got the songs down, practice some more.  If, like last night, I even have the slightest feeling that I didn't practice enough, it's another voice in my head that I don't need, distracting me from what I should be doing:  tearing it up.
  • Have got to get that formal background in theory.  There's no two ways about it.  And as much as I want to go into lessons, I should probably just find a fucking book and work through it.
  • Regarding practice:  it's fun.  I should definitely do it more often.  I don't know why I procrastinate on doing it.
  • My bass (1997 Music Man Sting Ray) sounds bad ass through the right amp.  I used the horn player's bass amp, and it sounded way better than my poor SWR LA Series amp.  Not that the SWR is bad at all.  I just think I'm ready to graduate to more tonal options.
  • If, on the off chance I get in; and if, on the off chance I can make this work (they are based in Indy after all, which is an hour away - a big deal when one has a family and other obligations), this will be a big challenge for me, one that I welcome.  I'm not really steeped in this kind of R&B/Jazz/soul thing they have going on, so this will pull me in a completely new, entirely desirable direction.
  • Along the lines of "new directions" - all of the guys (and gal!) in this band are way more accomplished than me musically.  For me, one of the best ways to get better is to play with folks who're better than me.  I would've definitely had that with this group.
At any rate, once I know for sure if I'm in or out, I'll update accordingly.  But he benchmark I use for judging my performance was this:  would I hire me?  My answer is: probably not.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

James Zink On The Post Election "Secession Movements"

My brother Jim's a pretty sharp cat.  I've told him multiple times that it was only a matter of time before he'd end up answer questions on NPR or CNN or whatever.  Lo and behold - here is Jim on "The State of Things" discussing all the post election talk of secession from those disappointed with the results of this year's election.  Give it a listen.

Follow Up To Last Month's Updates

As October was drawing to a close, I did an entry that updated everyone on my musical comings and goings.  Things didn't quite pan out the way they were supposed to with a few of those adventures.  That's not totally bad though.

My audition for Jamodo got bumped back to tomorrow due to a family issue with one of the members of the band.  I have to admit I"m a little nervous, and it's totally my fault for not practicing more.  Still, I think I can make a run at this.  I'll let you know how it went after tomorrow night.

In early December, I was to head to the Redmond, Washington area (aka Trowar HQ) to do another gig and some rehearsing.  That also was bumped back - probably February of 2013.  I did get an update from Fred on the status of the CD as well as my "homework" before we meet again:
Matt, things went well the CD is mastered and sounds amazing
We need a photo of you asap, we figured possibly something of you sitting at a table playing cards with a bottle of whisky and a cigar or something?
Oh Lord - this should be funny.  Maybe I should head to Brown County and get one of those dopey souvenir faux tintypes made.  The upshot is it will provide an interesting photography challenge for me, and I can showcase the rad rye whiskey I've been sipping on lately.

Okay - updates soon.  Keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck!

You Could Use A Dose Of The 80s

Sorry I've been so m.i.a. lately.  There's plenty to catch up on, and December should feature some stuff I'm pretty excited to share.  For now, enjoy some obscure music videos from the Golden Age of the Music Video.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fat Friday Feature DOUBLE SHOT: Stuart Zender On Jamiraquai's "Runaway"; Paul Denman On Sade's "Smooth Operator"

Okay, okay I admit it:  this Jamiroquai tune is (at least in my mind) disco.  Disco is the alpha and omega of suck; the beginning, ending and ever shall be.  But Jesus, listen to the bass.  I found myself tuning out everything else.  Damn.

And then there's Paul Denman, whose playing is typically very simple, very supportive of everyone else.  As a kid, I thought this groove sounded like it would be hard to play; it's actually not.  But I still love how this bass line sounds.

Interesting fact:   seeing Denman play a Sting Ray in this video was the first time I can remember seeing one (though other dudes like that guy from Aerosmith had been playing them since the late 70s).  I wanted one from that moment on.  Eventually, I bought a 1977 Sting Ray off my bass teacher.  It's been my primary electric bass ever since - it's one of my most prized possessions.  And at Quack's insistance, I named it after a woman:  Sade.  Why?  Because it's so ssssmmmmmooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvveeeeeee.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Breaking News: I Just Inherited A Ton Of "Bass Player" Back Issues

I went to help a woman with her computer here at work.  I noticed she had an issue of "Bass Player" magazine on her desk, and it had the address tag on it.  I casually mentioned that I'd take her back issues if she didn't want to hang onto them.  Man, did she come through - there's probably 40 issues in there.
Now I can spend hours looking at lessons that I can't read and equipment I can't afford!  Seriously - I'm pretty stoked about this for some reason.  Thanks Mandy!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Audio Scratch Pad: Irate Romney Supporter [Not Safe For Work Or Children]

The election is over.  There are winners (Obama, pot, gay marriage, Nate Silver and cold hard data aggregation) and there were losers (Romney, Tea Party backed candidates, conservative pollsters and pundits, conservative PACs).  So now, we get the same tired post-election news stories about the losing party needing to do some "soul searching" and crap about one party/candidate or another having a "mandate from the people".  Of course, the post election coverage will soon cave in under the weight of the coverage of the new movie releases for the Christmas season, end-of-year "best of/worst of" lists, and "how to host the holidays"-type coverage.  We won't have to endure it too much longer.

The one new story that seems to be cropping up in various forms from various outlets is the post election white rage that has exploded in conservative circles.  It's an amazing phenomena - you know it's "viral" (Lord how I hate that word) when there's a Tumblr site for it.  Instead of greeting the results with thoughtful stoicism, we get pissed off one percenters and of course protests filled with racial slurs.  (And what's with Obama's "black face" at the Fox News website?)  It's been a little scary to watch; but mostly it's entertaining.  The one embedded below has orchestral accompaniment that makes it a bit more entertaining, but the original is the stuff of legend.  Take a listen:

I want to be clear:  although most of the election results pleased me a great deal, I'm not gloating.*  All I have to do is remember the darkness that overcame this country from 2000 to 2008.  A kind of hijacking of processes, policy and mentality that will take decades from which to recover (if at all).  Those years will keep me modest.  Instead, I'm presenting this clip for two reasons:

  1. This woman can cuss, and there is something amazing about that.  I'm serious.  There will be a blog entry about this in the future, but some folks make cussing sound like poetry, like song.  A song that that in this case can bludgeon you to death.  Some folks just sound annoying/stupid when they cuss; others are like verbal prize fighters.  It's hard to explain, but this woman's got it going on in the four letter word category.
  2. Regarding this woman's "work" on behalf of conservative causes:  there is this emerging, extremely troubling, uniquely modern way of thinking, that, regardless of your political/moral leanings, people thing that posting links on your Facebook page or tweeting about a given cause is somehow "activism".  Look at the Arab Spring, right?  That was won by Facebook and Twitter, right?  Wrong.  Social media is the tool.  People are the change.  You must go out and live your values.  This poor bitch can post all the links she wants.  Doesn't mean a thing if she's not getting involved.

* - But if I was gloating, I'd like to dedicate this song to Mitt Romney.  Listen to the words.  It works.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Change To The Blog Format

It occurs to me that the focus of this blog, or at least the writing, is too myopic and of no real interest to anyone but myself.  As this blog was meant to primarily be an entertaining meditation for me, I'll probably continue on with it anyway.  But I would like to make one change in the hopes it will be a bit more entertaining to everyone who swings by here.

I'm going to start doing "Fat Friday Features" - this blog's showcase of great bass players/bass parts - every other Friday instead of every Friday.  In doing so, it is my hope that those entries will be a bit more carefully thought out/written.  It is also an attempt to introduce a greater diversity of subjects within the confines of "pondering the audio input of my life".

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: The Throwing Muses' Leslie Langston On "Colder"

On Fridays, outstanding bass parts/bass players are featured at this blog.  Today, it's Leslie Langston of the Throwing Muses.

This is how I like to imagine my bass playing sounds to others.  (Even though it doesn't sound like this.)  I love the tone and yes, the business.  I also love how she switches down to a much lower register around the 2:05 mark.   (I also love Kristin Hersh's psycho laugh at the end, but that doesn't have anything to do with bass.)  This bass line is BAD ASS - and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Colder by Throwing Muses on Grooveshark

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dream Theater, The Joker And The Ruins

For about a week, I've been listening to the Ruins everyday on the way to work - I seem to do this about once a year.  Every time I listen to them, they blow my mind all over again, as though I'm hearing them for the first time.  I find myself wondering:  what prevents me from listening to them on a more regular basis?  I think it is because they are the tricksters of rock.  And it makes makes me love them all the more.

Let me explain what I mean.  As you know, the role of the trickster in mythology is to introduce chaos into a given situation.  Tricksters dispense with rules, convention, and posturing.  I'd add my belief that the trickster is one with his true nature/so in tune with what he is that he cannot explain his motivations; he just acts on impulse.  I think the Joker touched on this in "The Dark Knight":
I'm a dog chasing cars . . . I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it.  I just do things.  I'm just a wrench in the gears.  I hate plans. . . . Schemers are trying to control their worlds.  I'm not a schemer.  I show schemers just how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.
So let's think about the Ruins, a lean, stripped down, ultra-aggressive duo (and sometimes trio) of staggering ability and chops that would make the proggiest of prog fans shit their pants.  Why aren't they required listening for all Dream Theater fans?  Because of the Ruins' steadfast refusal to take themselves too seriously.  Most prog rock/jazz rock/fusion fans would find them way too hard to stomach.  The would yell at their tricked out sound system:  "Why won't they settle into a groove!?  What's with the incomprehensible falsetto singing!?  Where is the story line!?  Where is the slick production!?  The chops are there - WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE RUINS?"

There's nothing wrong with the Ruins.  They simply provide a stark contrast to the posturing all around them.  About the only thing they have in common with Dream Theater (and bands of similar ilk) is the heavy riffage.  But in addition to the acrobatic bass playing and aggressive, technical drumming, it's the raw chaos I'm attracted to; the goofy singing and ear drum splitting noise. It's fun to imagine what it would be like if the Ruins showed up unannounced on a busy night at one of the local nightclubs.  I'm positive it would look like SEAL Team 6 just hit the place.  Patrons would be left wondering what the hell they just saw.  They'd be trying to sort it out.  And they won't be able to sort it out.  The only solid conclusion they'd reach is that they just saw something so rare, so powerful, so unique that everything else in their music collection will begin to lose its luster.  And it was all because of some clowns - some jokers - from Japan showed them what power and beauty look like after they've been rearranged at least four times in the same song.  In this way, the Ruins introduce chaos and smash one's understanding of what sophistication looks like.

I'm doing a crappy job of explaining myself, so I'd better just let this go.  Here's a sample of what I'm talking about; and yet another.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Musical Updates

Mondays are usually slow at this blog, so I thought I'd remedy that by posting.  I've got some musical stuff to catch y'all up on.

I've been playing with my neighbor (and a keyboard player) about once a week.  He has come up with about 5 neat new songs in the short time we've played.  They're still pretty malleable in terms of sound and structure, so they'll change a lot over time.  The goal is to scrape together enough to do a short set at a bar nearby to see how folks like it.  I think it's shaping up into something cool.  It's been a fun ride that's only going to get better.  I'll post tunes as I can.

I'm going to attempt to put together a Christmas project to post here for streaming in early December.  If I pull it off, it will involve a variety of people performing original and cover material.  If you're reading this and you're interested in participating, email me.  More details on this forthcoming.  In the meantime, you can hear cuts from a previous Christmas project here and here.

In mid-November, I'm audition for an Indianapolis band called Jamodo.  I don't know what will happen with this.  Not only do I not know if I'll get this job or not, I'm not sure I'll be able to stay with them if I do get it.  It's a bit of a commute to go to Indy for practice, and that might not be feasible from a time/gas money standpoint.  But I'm excited enough for this audition to go for it - it would be a blast to be in a band with Leslie Donovan again, and I've never played with a horn section before.  So that will be super cool.  I'll keep you posted whether I get it or not.

As for Trowar; well, barring any changes, I'll be heading out for rehearsals/gig in early December.  Although I was thinking we had abandoned it, the recording I did last fall is being remixed and some parts rerecorded.  I can't wait to hear the final mixes.  I honestly wouldn't mind taking another crack at my parts to see if I could make them better, but no matter:  if they sucked, they wouldn't be on there.  I'm not sure what the intention is for this final mix - will it be a demo to get more live shows?  Will it be shopped to record labels?  I've heard rumors of both.  No matter - John and Fred tell me where and when to show up and play, and I'm pretty happy with that arrangement for now.

So exciting stuff heading into the final months of 2012.  Hopefully I'll have big, amazing things to report back to you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Rush's Geddy Lee On "Red Barchetta"

If you're new to this blog, you should know that on Fridays I feature an exceptional bass player/bass part. Today, it's Geddy Lee's bass line in "Red Barchetta".

There are so many awesome Geddy Lee bass runs to consider.  Like this one.  Or this one.  But ultimately, I felt obligated to select something from the "Moving Pictures" album.  I have many memories wrapped up in it; and it is the album I am most familiar with, going all the way back to the days when Quack and I were bunk mates listening to cassettes as we fell asleep.  "Moving Pictures" is a great album to listen to in the dark, but Lee's bass work didn't help me fall asleep.  It was too acrobatic, too creative - too exciting to let me sleep.  "Red Barchetta" has all these amazing little flourishes that to this day make me hold my breath so I can hear them better.  The music so perfectly captures the lyrics that the song is almost an onomatopoeia for the term "red barchetta".  And then there's the tone of what I'm pretty sure is a Rickenbacker bass - it's slightly fuzzy, and that grit gives the bass run just the right amount of teeth.  Take a listen to it - see where the "Red Barchetta" takes you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gig Report: Creekdogs At McCormick's Creek State Park

This is our third October playing in McCormick's Creek's WPA-built amphitheater.  Every year, it seems as though Mother Nature gives us cool, dry weather and dresses up in all of her autumn finery just for us.  The atmosphere is definitely laid back; the vibe relaxing.  For these reasons, the gig at McCormick's Creek has become a favorite of ours.

(Left) Kevin Reynolds and (right) Dan Lodge-Rigal
tuning up before the show.

About 60 people came out and listened to us play covers and originals for about 1 hour, 45 minutes.  One of the indicators that we played well is that those who came did not leave.  Afterwards, we had many folks telling us how much they enjoyed the show - I can tell you that never gets old.
Set list, with my preamp doubling as paper weight.
We weren't perfect, that's for sure.  There was an occasional misstep, but they were usually the sort that you had to really listen for to hear.  I do feel like we may have taken too long between songs, but that is sometimes hard for me to gauge when I'm on stage since a minute can feel like an hour.  I didn't sing any leads for this show, but had multiple opportunities to do harmonies.  I did an adequate job - would like to tighten things up a bit, especially in terms of my singing volume in relation to the rest of the band.  It is sometimes hard for me to figure out how far to stand from the microphone when I'm singing.  But again, there were no glaring errors.
(Left to right) Kevin Reynolds, Dan Lodge-Rigal, and
Matt Zink.  Photo by Emily The Super Friendly
DNR Woman.
We kept the bass up higher in the mix this time, which meant I could ease back on the physicality in which I usually play.  Eventually, I turned my bass down a bit because it was hard for me to hear Kevin when he played Dobro.  Anyway, the excietment/tension of being on stage tends to make me play very physically regardless of my level in the mix - it's probably good I turned down.  As for my singing and playing at the same time, there's still work to be done, but progress continues to be made.

It's hard to say what songs went the best.  I was happy with how "Diamond Joe" turned out, especially since this is a new one in our set and this is the first time we've played it in front of a crowd.  Dan's song "Goodbye Heart" - a favorite of mine to play AND listen to - sounded just fine too. We nailed the ending on that one, which is good because it is sometimes tricky to do so.  Neil Young's "Long May You Run" sounded really good too.  The crowd seemed to really like that one.  It had been awhile since we'd done "Atlantic City", but it sounded very good.  No mistakes at all.  And finally, we did a new one written by Kevin that we "premiered" at this gig.  It went great.

"Same Old River" was a bit sloppy, but we made it through without a complete derail.  Everything else was pretty much dandy!  McCormick's Creek has once more proven to be an incredibly satisfying gig.

Friday, October 19, 2012

50 Attempts At Speech In Video Games

This provides a nice little book end to the post about the sounds of the arcade.  Very entertaining - I'd say I have memory of roughly 40% of those games.  Gizmodo rightly points out that the exclusion of the Commodore 64 version of "Impossible Mission" (or many other C64 games) a travesty, but still:  this is a fun video.

Fat Friday Feature: Lake Street Dive's Bridget Kearney On "I Want You Back"

Check out the nimble fingers and fat tone that Bridget Kearney gets on this cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back".  I love how her bass line approximates the "bounciness" Wilton Felder's original line (which, by the way, is so bad ass I'd be foolish not to link to it), but goes its own way in terms of groove and creativity. I also love the lush harmonies of this cover.   This is a damn fine reworking of a classic tune.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

See The Creekdogs Live This Saturday

I keep forgetting to post that this Saturday (20 Oct), the Creekdogs are playing at 7 PM at McCormick's Creek State Park (in their amphitheater).  We will be doing both covers and originals - I think you'll like what you hear.  Our originals especially are coming along nicely.
The Creekdogs are:
Dan Lodge-Rigal:  guitar, mandolin, vocals (and keyboard, banjo and accordion should he decide to bring them along.
Kevin Reynolds:  guitar, mandolin, vocals, harmonica, Dobro, lap steel, resophonic guitar
Matt Zink:  upright bass, vocals

This has become an annual gig for us as we've played the previous two Octobers as well.  It has also become a favorite gig of ours as the cool autumn weather and clear, moonlit skies make it a great excuse to wrap up in a blanket and enjoy the show. If the weather predictions hold true, it looks like it will be another great gig, so make it if you can.  Hilly Hundred riders especially welcome!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Auditory Storm Of The Arcades Of Yesteryear

The Golden Age of the Arcade came rushing back to me when I found this and its sister site.  Full disclosure:    I am not nor have I ever been in any sense of the word "a gamer".  I wasn't a gamer for three reasons:  a.)  playing video games was frowned upon in our house b.)  I had no steady income (and any income I had was spent on musical gear)  and c.)  I freaking sucked a video games.  However, that didn't stop me from spending as much time as I could hanging out in them.  I liked watching my buddies suck/rule a given video game.

For a non-gamer like me, it was about the ambiance.  This was the domain of the American teen.  The only adults around were tucked safely away behind the counter, scurrying out, frantically jangling keys like some ancient gate keeper when the token exchange machine was busted.  We ran the floor otherwise.  I loved the 8-bit auditory assault, the stale popcorn and acrid body odor smells, the dark, cavernous quality of places like Pac Man Palace (Mounds Mall, Anderson, IN) and Alladin's Castle (Glendale Mall, Indianapolis, IN) and even the shitty prizes - everything.  Tonight, I will probably stick some headphones on, sip some rye whiskey, close my eyes and be immersed in it all again.  And if I had a blowout comb to stick in my rear pocket, I probably would just to make it complete.

Note:  Track by Andy Hofle; can be downloaded from here:
Mr. Hofle owns all rights.

Fat Friday Feature: Cake's Gabriel Nelson On "Short Skirt\Long Jacket"

Terry (or was it Joan?) reminded me that Cake would make an excellent "Fat Friday Feature".  I've thought of them in the past, but kept forgetting about them.  I believe they've had multiple bass players.  One thing's for sure: whoever is playing, the bass part is almost always super strong - there are a ton of Cake songs I could feature for a FFF.

This bass part is fun because it's one part James Jamerson (in the verses) and one part Cliff Williams (on the chorus).  You get funk and rawk in the same damn song.  Win/win!

Thanks for the idea, Terryjoan!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Improvised Jam Session On The Set Of The "Black Gold" Video

One last Esperanza Spalding link - check out this smokin' jam session on the video shoot for "Black Gold":

Monday, October 8, 2012

Concert Report: Esperanza Spalding

Who:  Radio Music Society (but let's face it:  Everyone was there to see Esperanza Spalding)
Where:  Murat Theater*, Indianapolis, Indiana
When:  6 October 2012, 7:30 PM
Length of Show:  1 hour, 50 minutes (including encore)
Notes:  The Radio Music Society consists of Esperanza Spalding on bass and lead vocals, an 8-piece horn section, a drummer, guitarist and keyboard player.  You can learn more about the band here.

Impressions, in list form:

  • Let's get the one negative from this show out of the way:  to paraphrase the Jesus, you pull out your cell phone and use the flash, I will put it up your ass and press the shutter button until the memory card is full.  Look, I know that we've passed the point of no return and there will be cell phone photography no matter where you go.  I can accept it.  I don't like it, but that's the world in which we live.   But holy crap, judging from the flashes/glowing cell phone screens, you would've thought that there was a press conference going on.  I remember once seeing Jeff Tweedy admonish someone from the stage for the same thing by saying:  "Put your cell phone away.  This next song is great.  You're going to want to be here for it."  Great fucking advice. 
  • This wasn't so much a concert as a performance, meaning there was a lot more to this show than music.  There were bits of acting between songs, the singing of story lines & dialogue (similar to an opera), and even poetry.  Normally, if someone described a show like that to me, I'd say "wow I bet that sucks".  I'd prefer to see an artist burning through a set list rather than to hear them act/recite poetry between songs.  But they were very entertaining and thought provoking.  They pulled it off nicely.
  • It's really hard to explain, but I'll put it to you this way:  on at least two different occasions when soloing, Spalding appeared to be having an outer body experience.  She just wasn't there.  To me, she looked like she had achieved the perfect state of meditation wherein her mind was free of conscious thought and she was fully present in the moment.  It was something to see - she was totally lost in her solos.  You sometimes hear critics praising an artist by saying "their instruments is an extension of a performer's body", and this is definitely true of her.  I've never seen anyone as nimble and as comfortable on a bass (both upright and electric) as she is.
  • I have mixed feelings on jazz vocalists.  Some I like (Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Turner, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker), but most I can do without.  That being said, Esperanza Spalding is an immensely under rated jazz vocalist.  She sang with great range, power, finesse and feeling; and she sang on every tune.  She literally didn't break a sweat doing this and her voice was not fatigued in the slightest.  I must confess I wanted her to bust off into 10 minute, vocal free jams with the band; but I'd be lying if I said I was unimpressed with her vocals.  I'll come out and admit I'm really jealous of the skillz this woman has.  She could earn a decent living as a vocalist or bassist; she does both very very well.
  • There was a drum solo at the end.  As a general rule, I loathe drum solos.  But Lyndon Rochelle does it right.  What he did:  variations on the groove that had already been established.  What he did not do:  lightening fast fills/acrobatics on every drum and cymbal within 10 feet of him.  The size of his kit was quite modest already; his solo was mainly executed on his snare (rim shots mostly), his high hat, bass drum and one tom drum. The timings he did were, lacking better terminology, fucking wacky.  If I can find a clip of him doing a similar type solo, I'll post it.  It was a damn clinic.
  • E.S. was able to get this mean kinda 70s soul/funk/70s porno music sound from her Jazz bass.  It was soooo bad ass.  This is primarily due to the pickups on her Jazz bass.  (Couldn't tell for sure if it was fretless or not.)  But from the back of the room, I could tell she was using flatwound strings on her bass - you could tell by how the light caught the strings.  I would've bet my next paycheck on it.  (Sure enough, she does use flat wounds.)  I've never even considered flat wounds on my electric.  But now I'm wondering if I can at least approximate her sound by throwing a set on my '77 Sting Ray.  It won't sound as bad ass since Jazz basses have passive electronics, but if it gives my bass more of the balls** hers has, Imma go for it.  I was really coveting her tone a lot.
  • Radio Music Society, like just about all jazz, is meant to be seen live.  I saw Esperanza Spalding perform with a combo on Austin City Limits*** a few years ago and loved it.  But this blows away anything I've seen on TV or You Tube.  There is a groove, a give and take that can't be captured on camera.  You can say that about some rock shows, but my sense is that you can say this for every RMS show.
  • The encore was just ES and her upright bass.  I think she just made it up on the spot.  Holy crap.  It was great.
Good stuff.  Like the Bad Plus, I'm going to see her every time she comes to town.  

* - Sorry, not going to call it "Old National Center" or whatever the fuck corporate branding they've given it now.

** - Probably a bad choice of words, I already know.

*** - She'll be appearing on Austin City Limits again in December!  Mark your calendars.

Mac MacCaughan On 1980s Punk

". . . back then if you were into punk rock you were a part of this community because everyone wasn't into [it], and you couldn't just . . . go online to find out about punk rock.  You had to go to a hardcore show. . . you had to go see bands in the basement of a church or whatever.  So it created like a bond between people, I think. . . it was like an extended family. . . "
 - Superchunk's Mac MacCaughan 
I think this is one of the points I was trying to make here.  MacCaughan said it so much better.

Friday, October 5, 2012

No Fat Friday Feature Today

Unable to come up with a worthy bass heavy song to post today, Imma skip the "Fat Friday Feature".  That's the bad news.  The good news - at least for me - is that on Saturday, I'm going to see one of the bass players I've featured here before.  I can't wait - she is such a pleasure to watch.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gwar Covering Kansas

This shreds too hard not to share.  I love it when someone makes dinosaur rock of my youth feel lean, hungry and aggressive.

GWAR covers Kansas 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Daryl Hunt On The Pogues' "White City"

Along with the Fall and the Beastie Boys, I listened to the Pogues album "Peace and Love" every day driving to/from vocational school.  "White City" remains one of my all time favorite songs - I practically listened to it on a loop when my sister gave me that cassette.  Figuring out the bass line was a small triumph for me.  It's a favorite line to play for sure.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gig Photos: BABS Fund Raiser

I almost never remember to bring a camera to gigs; when I do, I'm usually too busy to snap any photos.  My wife was able to snap some photos from a small fund raiser I played earlier this month.  I thought I'd post some of them.

My camera can add 20 lbs - what can yours do?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Chuck Rainey On "The Street Beater"

It's Friday - here's your smokin' bass part for today.  It doesn't even need an intro because it's so bad ass. Chuck Rainey, James Jamerson would be proud of this one.  

Greatest Hits Fan

AC/DC is great.  So is Jethro Tull.  So, in fact, are the Eagles.  But not really.  In their own special ways, all of these bands suck.  Oddly, all of these bands have plenty of songs I like - maybe one LP worth.  Thank God for greatest hits records.  Here is a short list of bands I've never felt compelled to check out beyond their greatest hits.

  1. AC/DC
  2. ZZ Top
  3. The Eagles (as previously mentioned, only "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1" - also, what the fuck is that on the cover?)
  4. Jethro Tull
  5. Steppenwolf
  6. The Cure
  7. Big Country*
  8. Chicago
  9. Fleetwood Mac
Also, have you noticed that there is a difference between "Best of" and "Greatest Hits" compilations?  It seems like the "Best of" collections are always a little bit better than "Greatest Hits".  I suppose the difference would be fan appeal (best of) and commercial success (greatest hits). 

* - Okay, I lied on this one.  I embarassingly deep in Big Country's catalog.

The Greatest Live Albums Of All Time

Here's a question for you:  in your opinion, what are the greatest (or THE greatest if you prefer) live albums of all time?  Any era, any genre, any artist - leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Defying Expectations

For some reason, I'd love to make fun of Paul Westerberg.  He went from this to writing a song about Sylvia Plath.  Maybe a rocking song ripping Ted Hughes a new asshole would've been better.  Westerberg even made an unplugged version of the same song* - even more fodder, right?

No - they're both pretty damn good.  The electric version is one I could listen to over and over.
* - Couldn't find the version I was talking about; the one below is close enough.

Friday, September 14, 2012

First Ever Fat Friday Feature REDO! (Featuring Joy Division's Peter Hook)

I have to confess:  there was something about today's "Fat Friday Feature" that doesn't quite work.  It feels like a lackluster effort.  Sure, the bass parts to those songs are fine; and yes, I like all of those songs well enough.  But I don't really feel as strongly about those tunes as I do all the other stuff I post.  I don't feel a real connection to them; they're not a part of my life in any significant way.  I felt the need for a "redo" featuring Peter Hook.

Here's the funny thing about Peter Hook:  in a way, I don't like his style of playing at all.  To me, he demphasizes everything I like about bass.  He plays in the upper registers of the instrument instead of the chest cavity-vibrating lower range.  Something about his lines feels more like melody instead of rhythm.  As a result, he makes the bass sound like simply another instrument in the mix.  He leaves me wanting for a bottom end.  Finally, he seems to have only one gear - he's always pumping in the same time, propelling songs forward as though he has a train he needs to catch.  There's not a lot of feeling or nuance to his playing.

And yet, it works.  I find Peter Hook's playing intriguing.  I wouldn't ever call it "acrobatic", but it's always active.  The added voice his bass gives to any given tune makes said tune quite unique.   And because of the originality of his style of playing, imitators sound just that much more horrible.  Take a listen to "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and see if you hear what I'm talking about.

Fat Friday Feature: First Ever TRIPLE SHOT!

You know the drill:  it's Friday.  That's the day I feature great bass players and bass lines.  For the first time ever, I'm going to feature three bass lines I really like.  One from a Chili Pepperless Flea, one from Fleetwood Mac's John McVie, and one from Fishbone's John Norwood Fisher.

I consider today's Fat Friday Feature somewhat of a departure from the others in that a.) all of these songs have pretty broad popular appeal/heavy radio air time, and b.) none of these players directly influenced my own bass playing.  Yet, I find the lines laid down on these tracks utterly irresistible.  Let's get started.

I will come out of the closet and say that I'm Fleetwood Mac fan.  In the interest of full disclosure, I'll also say that I'm a Fleetwood Mac fan in the same way I'm an Eagles fan - that is to say a "greatest hits" fan*.  I'm not deep into their catalog and I haven't seen any documentaries about the band or any of that crap.  I think I'd sum it up by saying I almost never change the station if I hear them on the radio.  Interestingly, in the case of Fleetwood Mac, I tend to zero in on the guitar playing before even the bass playing - I think Lindsay Buckingham is a great fucking player.  But I love how John McVie's playing colors this song (which is about a Welsh witch) with his playing.  He gives the tune just the right amount of mystery.  I love how it  lurks in the mix - remove the bass and the song is pretty boring, let's face it.


You should definitely check out this live version of the tune, when FM was at their coked-out best.  I decided not to use it because it's a little harder to focus on the bass in this version.

Like most kids who took an interest in bass in the 80s, I really liked Flea's playing.  In later years, I think I'd call it unnecessarily frenetic, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't idolize at least a little bit.  When I was in college - about the time that Young MC's "Bust A Move" was inescapable on radio, TV and in bars - I saw a fascinating interview with Flea.  The interviewer asked him what the biggest regrets of his career were.  Among the things he mentioned were that he laid down bass lines for "Bust A Move" and Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know" without credit - he didn't collect a dime in royalties for either song.  He had no idea that they were going to "blow up" as they did.  Regardless of what you might think about either song, you have to admit that the bass line bobs around and binds the songs together nicely.  Take a listen.

At one point in my time with the Unexplained, the drummer was surprised I hadn't heard of Fishbone.  He promptly played "Bonin' In The Boneyard"; I was promptly impressed.  I don't ever thing I'll ever get the "slap and hook" technique down, but it's sure fun to listen someone who does have it down.


* - As far as the Eagles are concerned, I'm a "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1" fan.  Not so much for "Vol. 2".

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quoatable: Mike Watt

"You wanna know how I spell "flannel"?  F-O-G-E-R-T-Y.  Fogerty, baby."
- Mike Watt (performing with Firehose), sounding off
on the commercialization of the 
grunge movement.
The Patio Nightclub
Indianapolis, IN
Watt's right.  Check it, yo.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Too Close To Parr?

It slays me how well this:

Apes this:

I find myself wondering if John Parr watched "Boogie Nights" thinking "Holy crap I'd've given my arm to have written 'The Touch'."  I wanted to make sure to include a link to the lyrics for "Man In Motion" so you could see exactly how shitty the writing is.  There are so.  many.  cliches.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fat Friday Feature DOUBLE SHOT: Bruce Thomas On "Clubland" & "99.9 F"

Fridays here at History Lesson Pt. 2 are the days we focus on exceptional bass playing/bass parts.  Today, we're going to check out Bruce Thomas's playing on "Clubland" and "99.9 F".

I was going to take a moment to write about how Thomas's playing in general (not just on "Clubland" and "99.9 F") is "slithery".  It's hard to define exactly what that means; but for some reason, the adjective works.  I would also call it:
  • rich and smooth like syrup
  • busy
  • melodic
  • seamless
To me, these somehow seem like apt descriptions.  And though this blog is about my connections with the audio in my life, I did find myself wondering how other people might describe Bruce Thomas's playing.  I didn't have to look hard - I found this brilliant article.   I learned many things, specifically:
  • Elvis Costello and Bruce Thomas hate each others' guts.
  • Bruce Thomas played on a shit ton of records I really, really love, like Billy Bragg's Worker's Playtime and Suzanne Vegas 99.9 F.
  • The Imposters are The Attractions without Thomas.
Here's how the article's author (Justin Remer) describes Bruce Thomas's playing - I think it's pretty much on the money, so Imma include it:
 This rivalry begs the question: what’s so bad about Bruce Thomas? Well, in truth, absolutely nothing. In fact, I’ve often used him in arguments as an example of a bass player who does a hell of a lot more than fart out the root notes of every chord. His playing is excited and funky, like he forgot he’s supposed to be playing new-wave rock and instead thought maybe he was subbing in for James Jamerson on a Motown revival tour. He crafts catchy melodies, accentuated by rubbery slides down the neck of the bass, creating undeniably infectious grooves.
Hell.  Yes.  And if you ever doubt the importance of a player like Thomas in a given band, try to refute this statement, which was left in the comments section of the same article:
Fine summation of Bruce’s contribution. A great band is like a recipe that just works. When the singer/writer dumps the band, as they almost always do, something is lost. Even though he still writes great songs, I find post-Attractions EC records to be kind of boring, like the salt has been left out.
Couldn't agree more.  Thomas is a guy whose playing I'd love to emulate more.  Right now, it's a bit out of my reach.  But he just makes me want to dig in and woodshed a lot harder.  The great ones always do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back To School Music

Back in the day, we started school this week (not early/mid-August).  This song always automatically popped into my head around Labor Day weekend.  It was very bittersweet to have this song in rotation:  bitter because summer was ending and school was starting (and I fucking hated school); sweet because I liked this song and the coming fall meant sweaters, cider, hay rides and bonfires.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Peter Cetera On Chicago's "Make Me Smile"

"Fat Friday Feature" is a regular feature that showcases bad ass bass players/bass parts.  

It's been a while since there's been a "Fat Friday Feature", so let's start off with a controversial choice:  Peter Cetera.  That's right:  Peter fuckin' Cetera.  The motherfucker whose music plagued my junior high years.  Peter "Karate Kid" Cetera.  I could not escape his music as a child either. There was always a radio on in our house, and Chicago was all over it.  And one of the family favorite 8-track tapes - a compilation of music that you got when you bought a new Oldsmobile - had "Make Me Smile" on it, so I heard that tune in particular with great frequency.

But open your mind and let the bass in.  It's pretty damn good.  If you've read even a couple "Fat Friday Features", you know of my fondness for aggressive playing (particularly when the guitar player is soloing), and that's here in abundance.  A part of me wants to believe that a d-bag ballad singer like Cetera can't play bass that well.  I looked for live versions of this tune on You Tube; and sure enough, not only is it there with Cetera playing/singing harmonies, but he's playing it even faster than the LP version.*  So listen closely and I think you'll come to my point of view - Peter Cetera can play a damn bass.  Don't let haters tell you otherwise.  To put it another way:  Peter, I am a man who will fight for your honor.

* - Ultimately, I opted out of any live versions I found on You Tube because as great as Peter Cetera's playing may have been, Terry Kath's vocals always overshadowed everything else.  That guy could sing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Songwriting 101: Tom Wait's "San Diego Serenade"

"Songwriting 101" is a semi-regular feature that showcases what I consider top notch song writing.  Today, it is Tom Waits' "San Diego Serenade".

I keep wanting to describe this song as "bittersweet", but that's really understating it.  It's about pain,beauty,  regret, gratitude and longing.  This is one of a handful of songs that I literally stop everything I'm doing so I can listen to it.  It has also literally driven me to tears with its power.  Take a listen and see how it effects you.  If it doesn't, check yo' pulse.

I never saw the morning 'til I stayed up all night
I never saw the sunshine 'til you turned out the light
I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long
I never heard the melody until I needed the song

I never saw the white line 'til I was leaving you behind
I never knew I needed you 'til I was caught up in a bind
I never spoke 'I love you' 'til I cursed you in vain
I never felt my heartstrings until I nearly went insane

I never saw the east coast until I moved to the west
I never saw the moonlight until it shone off of your breast
I never saw your heart 'til someone tried to steal, tried to steal it away
I never saw your tears until they rolled down your face

I never saw the morning 'til I stayed up all night
I never saw the sunshine 'til you turned out your lovelight, baby
I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long
I never heard the melody until I needed the song

Excellent Advice From Father To Daughter

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gig Report: The Creekdogs At Bryan Park

Who:  The Creekdogs
Where:  Bryan Park, Bloomington, IN
When:  26 August 2012, 6:30-8 PM
What:  Bloomington Parks and Recreation Concert Series
Estimated Crowd Attendance:  150-300?  Maybe more?

We're two songs into the set.  We're playing an original (written by Dan) called "Goodbye Heart".  This is a great song - it's uptempo and the writing is tight.  I really like this song.  It's the sort of song I'd listen to even if I didn't know and think very highly of it's author.  It's a song I always want to play right.  It's also a song I've played many times before.  I know how to play this song.  I know how to play this song.  I know how to play this song.

But then I second guessed myself.  Dan tried to tell me with his eyes that I was playing the wrong part.  Panic.  A flashbulb blows white in my mind, bright enough that I wince.   My fingers tangle.  A note is missed; the next note completely nonexistent, the note after that was incorrect. Then I drop out for a beat.  For me, panic is experienced as an intense, almost painful flash.  And, similar to staring into a camera's flash, the recovery is slow and gradual.  I had to recover.  I had to make a conscious effort to keep my face from betraying my panic.

I spent the rest of the set trying to drown out my inner critic with positive self talk.  I viewed each song after "Goodbye Heart" as a new opportunity to redeem myself.  I was constantly reassuring myself I could recover and that no one heard my mistake.  I can't overstate how difficult this mentality is for me, but I persevered - my set was not perfect, but I leveled off nicely.

I think all of these nerves had to do with the fact that for the first time in my life, not only would I be singing lead on a tune, but singing a song I wrote (both words and music) while playing bass.  It is a kind of exposure I've never experienced before.  Leading up to the gig, there were multiple lines I was having trouble remembering.  I audibled on stage, telling the gents we'd be skipping my song as my nerves were shot.  Dan and Chris (Percussionist Chris Martin was one of two guest musicians for this gig, the other being banjo player Mark Stonecipher) told me skipping my song was not an option.

When I stepped up to the mic to sing "Divide", I did my best to mentally channel Joseph Kittinger:  I jumped and hoped for the best.  Although it wasn't perfect, I was pleasantly surprised.  My voice was strong, I didn't fumble on my problem line*, and my bass playing didn't suffer too much as I did double duty playing bass and singing.  I was a little flat here and there, but I think you really had to be focusing on the tune to hear it.  When I was done, I could not suppress my smile.

From there, I was truly relaxed.  Sure, the show was three quarters done by then, but it became easier for me to be in the moment; to smile, to move and have fun.  The mental strain of battling my panic was gone, as was the panic itself.  It was all finally washing over me.  I was playing music with talented musicians and good friends for a laid back, appreciative crowd.  I was no longer clenched in my playing and overall movement, and my harmonies were spot on.

Overall, I'd rate my own performance as "solid", but not great.  I scaled back my ambitions for embellished bass runs, opting instead to play it simple and safe. I really didn't know what to expect when when finished - maybe just the standard "good job, you guys".  Instead of worrying about that, I tried to focus on tearing down my gear and getting out of there.  But the response was overwhelming:  people really, really enjoyed themselves.  I mean, I was hearing things like "best band in the series" and "you guys blew me away" from multiple people.  People were enthusiastic and unequivocal in their praise.  It was a very pleasant, very welcome surprise.

Needless to say, the post show rye on the rocks in the quiet of my home was all the more satisfying.  What a phenomenal way to end the weekend.

* - If you're curious, the line was "Cokehead flophouse arson burning bright".

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tumblr Blog Is Open

While I determine the fate of this blog, you should go check out the party going on right here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

History Lesson Pt. 2 Is Taking A Break

Well, you could probably see this one coming after the last entry:  I'm going to take a break from updating this blog for awhile - not sure how long.  I know I said this before, but didn't actually do it.  This time for sure.  There's no shortage of stuff to write about - that's the good news.  I kinda just don't feel like it/don't see the point.  I'm trying to decide if I want to kill it off.  If I do continue to update this blog, I may change the format.  I'm thinking of longer, more carefully crafted articles and fewer updates.  We'll see.

For now, enjoy the silence!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm Too Lazy

It's not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I'm lazy.  Here's a list of shit I'm too lazy to do right now:
  • Practice bass.  I even borrowed a pretty neat bass thinking it would get me excited about practicing.  So far, no go.  No practicing for the upcoming Creekdogs gig.  No boning up on Trowar material.  No going over the shit for the music theory lessons I just started.
  • Do a blog entry on how it makes me feel to get a credit as a "Co-Music Supervisor" on the movie "Found".
  • Do a blog entry on how this guy, though I don't necessarily disagree with many of his sentiments, will become the "hip" mouthpiece for conservatives everywhere.
  • Gear up to do some busking with my son.
  • Do a blog entry about the music of the O'Brien-Zink family vacations (to serve as a contrast for the entry on the music of Zink family vacations).
I know that doing any of these things would bring me great happiness and a sense of accomplishment.  And I will say in my defense that I have been journaling again lately.  But for now, I'll read another blog/check my fucking email again/generally continue to day dream about being some place else.  Likely, I'll be lazy until my self loathing won't take it anymore.  Then I'll finally get off my ass.