Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Long Overdue Trowar Report

I flew out on Sept. 4th to Redmond, Washington for rehearsals and a gig.  Here's what happened.

My personal goals for this trip were as follows:
  • Stay hungry.  Literally (I'm close to meeting my weight loss goals; must resist urge to pig out/eat garbage) and metaphorically (always be looking for ways to improve, practice as though my life depended upon it). 
  • Keep my mouth shut.  Absorb everything.  Leave assessment of performance to everyone else.
  • Be ready for anything.  . . . and embrace it with zeal.
  • Find joy in the process.  If you don't enjoy (or at least value) even the tedium of the process, then the end product will not work.
Rehearsals for a Saturday night gig began in earnest on Sept. 5th. Things were different this time as Fred brought in a vocal coach to work with him on singing.  After our last gig, bringing vocals out became a priority.   That was to continue this trip, as was the movement towards refining the blues power trio sound we are working on.  

I wanted tightening my bas playing, and I tried my hand at some vocal harmonies.  I feel like this added a welcome dimension to the songs.  When I was hitting the harmonies, the songs began to feel more refined, more "finished".  When I can pull it off, I love singing and playing at the same time, but that is particularly hard for me. Still, the taste of even small successes in rehearsals proved addictive, so I was not shy about stepping up to the mic to sing.

The set itself was the same set from the last gig plus a new tune that has a reggae feel.  I was a little leery of the reggae tune as I don't listen to reggae on a regular basis and wasn't sure I could find a bass run for it.  I did, and John and Fred loved it.  I'm pretty proud of it too, truth to be told.  I found myself thinking "not bad for some whitebread dude from a land locked state."  

Our rehearsals were as intense and as long as ever, and none of us would have it any other way.  Fred was under additional pressure to make sure he was staying on the mic. Emily (vocal coach) was there to remind him.  I felt bad for Fred in a way - there was no hiding behind solos this time, not with Emily in the room being a taskmaster!  Fred was under a lot of pressure.

The gig itself was at Pete's again, a venue we had had some sound struggles at before.  After the opening act came and did their thing (and they played great!), we took the stage and were beginning to have a bad sort of deja vu: mics not working, a wall of undefined sound kept Fred and I from locking in any vocals.  I found myself backing away from the microphone, opting for no harmonies instead of shitty harmonies.  Fred soldiered through, doing the best he could, wrecking his voice in the process.  Still, he stuck it out even though he was not at all in his comfort zone and was displeased with the sound.

About halfway through the set, the ship was righted.  The sound got better as did our respective vocal and instrumental performances.  Fred put John on the spot and John improvised a monster drum solo.  Although John later stated he was not please with his solo, I credit it with reviving our set energy-wise (and I say this as a person who is not the biggest fan of drum solos).  I'd say we ended much stronger than we started, and to the small crowd gathered there, we sounded great.  This was one of our strongest public showings to date.

We met briefly after the gig to discuss the show and the direction of the band.  We decided that we are in fact improving significantly, and we need to plunge ahead with the path we've set laid out, specifically:
1. Continued vocal work
2. Background vocal work
3. Tighten up a couple minor arrangement sections and tighten up the endings
4. Work on the song segues  going into each other 
Speaking for myself, I'm getting more and more excited about this project.  I've seen glimpses of where we are going, and it should be pretty amazing if we keep at it on a regular basis.

What of my personal goals?  I'd assess my own performance this way:
  • Stay hungry = B.  There is always more that can be done. Always.
  • Keep mouth shut = B+.  To stretch a metaphor, my two cents is worth more if I'm not squandering my intellectual capital on a myriad of topics.
  • Be ready for anything = C+.  I needed to react better to the sound morass I found myself in.  It was obvious a few times I was discombobulated.
  • Find joy in the process = A.  I'm definitely pumped about the direction this band is going.  I hope we can pick up the pace even more.

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