We knew all along that idea juice has positive benefits:
We knew all along that idea juice has positive benefits:
For last night’s “studio night” we convened at Chachi’s to have a full band rehearsal, which is a fun change of pace. On an average studio night, KB, Mike and I have been running through song arrangements for a live set with the help of pre-recorded drum tracks. This lets us get our collective act together so that when we do have opportunitites to rehearse as a full band, we’re making the most of our time together (not standing around learning our individual parts, etc.).
For me, it’s a real pleasure to be able to get away from the rigidity of the pre-recorded stuff and perform live. I have always enjoyed the fluidity of playing live, which I would say is the musical equivalent of surfing. You know, when the whole band is immersed in the moment, feeding off each other and the audience, riding the top of a performance wave that could change direction or keep going. That ability to ride the wave, to react to each other and the audience, is what I dig about performing live.
During our first song (as I repeatedly got shocked while singing into the mic, yum) I was pretending to be at a gig, and in the bridge section I was talking to the imaginary audience. I wasn’t really paying attention to counting measures, and I wound up stretching that section out a little longer than usual, relying on saying a particular line as a cue to get out of that section. Mike took issue with my ad lib because he felt his bass part during that section, which is a build-up to the end choruses, lost some power if it wasn’t timed correctly.
We resolved the issue after some discussion by deciding to try to play it straight until we’re comfortable with the arrangement. It does bring up a question of philosophy, though: play it like the recording or play it by ear?
When people go to a show, what do they want to see: the band delivering songs just like they sound on the record, or the band taking some liberties with the music? Does it depend on the kind of music? I’d imagine that if the Grateful Dead started playing album cuts note for note, the Deadhead community would have had an uncharacteristic uprising, storming the stage in a cloud of patchouli-scented frustration and demanding lengthy jams. But for a punk band, it would be uncharacteristic to improvise, and might result in similar fan disappointment (of the more beer-scented variety).
I guess some styles of music lend themselves more readily to experimentation, but I also think that the musicians themselves play a big part in determining what is possible in the performance. If the people in the band have played the same material the same way for years, they might crave a little variation to keep themselves interested – an important factor in entertaining an audience. Alternatively the players might just generally enjoy the occasional weird foray into an unexpected musical corner if it seems like the rest of the band and the audience are having a good time.
Song evolution is likely a factor as well. In our first band Foonspeeders, we had a few songs that eventually morphed into drunkdude69 material. It happened in an organic fashion – the more we performed the tunes and the more inspiration we soaked up, the more the songs would change little by little. In many cases, the final result is a whole lot different than the original (the Foonspeeder song “Everyone’s Advice” is way different than the DD69 version “Advice Again”).
Whatever the reason, I think it’s natural to push the envelope a little bit when playing live. Right now, though, it looks like we’ll stay in the box for a little bit.
Last night Mike, HP and I went over to the Beachland Ballroom to see the Mike Doughty Band in concert. We haven’t been out to see many shows lately (except for our recent trip to the Happy Dog to see Chittlin’ and One Way Rider, which was an excellent bluegrass show).
With my Skinny Moo responsibilities most of my weekend evenings have been filled with gigs for the last six or seven years, which makes it a little tough to see other bands. This time around, we lucked out with a concert that we really wanted to see taking place on a Tuesday night.
We got to the Beachland a little before 9:00 and had plenty of time to get our ticket and mosey in to the half-full auditorium. The building that houses the Beachland was built in 1950 as a social hall, so it has this sort of “high school gym” feel.
Mike Doughty came out to introduce the opening band, a trio called the Panderers. The main Panderer is Scott Wynn, and we had a chance to chat with him briefly after the show. He was very cool, and that came through when he was performing his set, backed by bass and drums from the Doughty band. I highly recommend checking out his myspace page to hear some samples of his stripped down cool tunes.
The auditorium filled up during the short break after the opening set as the Panderers’ gear was moved offstage. The headliners came out at ten, and treated everyone to a great selection of songs from the new Doughty record Golden Delicious, some older solo material, and a few Soul Coughing nuggets thrown in. Doughty is a funny guy, too – at one point someone shouted out a request for “Screenwriter’s Blues”, to which he responded, “Dude, go and get your money back. Your best bet is, if you have the CD, to go out and listen to it in your car.” Did you hear that? That is the sound of you getting smacked upside the head Mr. Song Requestor Guy. But it was delivered with love, I’m sure.
It was great to see some live music again as part of the audience. As usual it gives us some inspiration and makes us want to get up and play, or write new songs. It’s always cool to find new music and rekindle interest in old stuff that we dig. Perhaps it will all translate to lots of energy in the studio tomorrow…
Last night was scheduled to be a studio night, but Mike, HP and I decided to head down to the Garage Bar on West 25th Street instead. Our pal RayRay was hosting a little get-together to chill out and watch the video from the Free Times Music Awards, which were held at the end of February.
The FT awards have been a Cleveland tradition for years. Every year, the paper puts out a request for nominations for the ‘best of’ in local music. Ballots are created, votes are tallied, and the winners are honored in an evening-long ceremony complete with live musical performances and award presentations.
I personally have had my issues with the whole music awards process in the past, mainly because for a number of years it seemed that the same bands/musicians were nominated and the same ones won. In my mind it became almost farcical to have the voting at all – they could have mailed the awards at the beginning of the year without nominations or voting. I’d compare it to Guitar Player magazine’s annual guitarist award issue: when that first began, the same guitarists (Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, et. al.) won every year. Farcical, I say.
However, in the last few years the Free Times has instituted a ‘hall of fame’ similar to what GP magazine did: if an artist wins for several years in a row, they’re in the hall of fame and can’t win again going forward. This opens the doors for a lot of fresh new bands to make a mark. And it’s helped get me interested in paying more attention.
Ironically we completely missed the actual ceremony this year. Totally spaced on it. Fortunately we were invited to the intimate gathering last night to relive the magic. It’s a good thing we showed up, too.
The ceremony had been recorded and broadcast live online, and we were going to view the whole thing at the bar. When we arrived we found that the audio of the recording was playing, but the projector screens were showing the “Dell…searching for signal” screen. Bummer.
Since I’m a total geek I suggested that maybe they needed to tell the laptop to send the video to the external monitor port. Typically you have to hit some function key that will do that. The FT folks sent me up to the loft where the laptop was running, and I did what I had suggested. Sweet! It worked, and we got to watch the video along with the audio.
It was fun and well worth a studio night to get out of the house and socialize a little bit. We’ll pick up with more recording on Saturday.