Dream or Nightmare

I had a dream that we went on vacation to some unnamed beach hotel. The cast of the show The Flash was there. I was trying to impress them by telling them I was in a cover band and we played a Genesis song. They were polite, but they were also not impressed.

Was it a dream or was it a nightmare?

You decide.

Cautious Optimism

The United Kingdom has approved one of the Covid-19 vaccines (Pfizer’s? I think?). They are starting to work on actual distribution.

There is suddenly a very tiny pin prick of light at the end of this long, black coronavirus tunnel.

The United States isn’t there yet. I’m not sure what the FDA’s timeline is, or even if they have a timeline yet. I’m not sure what Pfizer and Moderna need to do to proceed. I’ve heard that first responders and elderly folks in homes will be the first Americans to receive the vaccine. I’m good with that. After that, I don’t know what the rumors are. I hope my step son and his immune deficiencies will be near the front of the line. My weight problem puts me at risk too, but I want him taken care of first.

It’s still going to take months for that tiny pin prick of light to grow into an opening big enough for us to walk through, and it is WAY too early to start making plans. Still, we have a high school graduation in the Spring. We are hoping to go back to Disney World in the Summer.

I’m spending my lunch break today listening to a podcast where two part time musicians are fantasizing about getting their bands back together in the Spring and what that’s going to be like. I don’t want to look that far ahead. I don’t want to get optimistic. I don’t want to start fantasizing. But… that first band practice is going to feel like a victory parade. We’re going to play like garbage and it’s going to be the most enjoyable rehearsal in the history of rehearsals. The first gig… when we can fill up a room with friends and family and music lovers and people from all walks of life… that is going to be a celebration like no other. That is going to be an amazing experience. I mean, yeah we’re just a silly cover band, but it’s going to be a wonderful thing.

Don’t get cocky, Robert. Cautious optimism is all you get for now. Maybe stop thinking about that tiny little point of light at the end of the tunnel. Try, at least.

I’m Tired of Quarantine

I’m sick and tired of this whole quarantine thing. It can go suck an egg.

That does not mean I’m going to start ignoring all of the Covid-19 safety precautions, I am still 100% on board. I’m just sick of it.

I miss playing in a band. I miss being on stage, seeing Jen in the crowd with a huge smile on her face. That is a great feeling. I’m missing that feeling.

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So That Went Well (Mostly) Continued

I mentioned in the last post that we did last night’s show for free.  It was Greg’s birthday party and we were just there to help celebrate.

When we were finished, Mike, Kevin, and I all left.  Greg stayed because it was his party.  What kind of party would it be if he left?

Anyway, after the rest of us were gone the manager pulled Greg aside and paid us.  I’m totally surprised.  Not only did we get paid for our free show, but we got paid more than Racks ever paid us.

Well, thank you very much, J. Brien’s!  Any time.

So That Went Well (Mostly)

I’m not going to say that last night was the best gig we’ve ever done, but after the shit show I had at the last one, this was pretty magical.

There were humongous equipment issues, one that was big enough to end the show early, and there were a few bad spots, including a full on train wreck that was thanks to yours truly, but overall I can’t remember the last time I felt this good about a show.

Greg the singer, the purpose of the show was his 50th birthday, recently bought a digital mixer that will replace my old Mackie 16 channel board.  Last night was our first crack at using it and there were problems.  He was able to get one channel working (and it sounded great) but he couldn’t get a second channel into the mix.  We’ll figure it out but we didn’t have time last night so we switched back to the old board.

The train wreck was silly.  We were covering The Cars.  The song opens with me just playing eighth notes (fifth string, seventh fret) with accents on the fourth beat.  At one point I accidentally bumped the sixth string and Kevin the drummer must have thought I skipped a beat.  He tried to compensate, I didn’t, Mike the bass player didn’t either.  Next thing we know we’re all hitting accents on different beats.  Whoops.  I just kept playing eighth notes, without accents, and Kevin counted us back in.  Problem solved.

The show stopper was a tough one.  There was nothing we could do about it.  We were about half way though the second set (we were only planning to play two) and Kevin broke his snare drum head.  He didn’t have a replacement head.  We hung on for a few songs, trying to make the best of it, but eventually we had to give in to the truth and we wrapped it up.  Kevin said he was embarrassed.  I tried to tell him to not worry about it, but I don’t think I did a good job.  Shit happens.  It was a birthday party and we weren’t getting paid.  If you’re going to break a snare drum head that was pretty much the best time and place to do it.  The downside is that we only played about 75% of our planned show.  The upside is that I was home by 12:15AM.  We’re old people.  Getting home an hour or two early was a pretty sweet deal.

So how did I do personally?  Let’s just say I haven’t been this happy about a performance in a long, long time.  At the last show I was really nervous going into it.  I don’t know if that exacerbated the problems or not, but I started out playing like dog crap and it got worse from there.  About halfway though our one set my left hand had had enough and stopped doing what I told it to.  It’s not uncommon for me to have to deal with a huge amount of cramp-like pain in my left hand (it’s ruined gigs for me in the past) but that was never really an issue.  In this case it was like my hand just went dead.  It was awful.  I thought it was nerve damage, or something horrible and unthinkable like that.  A few days later I read an interview with Little Steven Van Zandt who was joking that the members of the E Street Band are just too old to handle Bruce Springsteen’s four hour shows.  He said he gets so tired he can’t bend strings anymore.  That was exactly how I felt at the last show and it was like taking a load off my shoulders.  I am not broken, I just ran out of gas.

As for last night?  None of that.  I was fine from start to finish.  I never had any of the cramping pain (which might be arthritis) and I never had any fatigue.  By the time we were playing I wasn’t even doing any of the things that seem to hold off the pains (I think squeezing the neck kicks it off so I try to keep my hand as relaxed as I can, which then leads to me cutting back on my lame attempts at shredding) and I was getting as close to showing off as I get.  My playing wasn’t great, but it was good.  My solos were repetitive and sloppy, but they were much more enthusiastic than usual.  It was… fun.

I didn’t have any equipment problems of my own, although there was quite a bit of buzz when all of my dirt pedals were on.  My Fender Bassbreaker 18/30 made its public debut and it sounded great.  As much as I love my Fender Deluxe Reverb, there is just something about having two speakers in the cabinet that just can’t be beat.

I had the Klon KTR on all the time, to put a little hair on my clean sound.  I maybe could have dialed the gain back a smidge to be cleaner, but what I had sounded so good.  That little red pedal lives up to the hype to a level that I can’t explain.  It just sounds fantastic, and it makes everything else I use sound better.

I used the Fulltone OCD (not the new germanium one) for my dirt.  One thing I’ve always noted with the Bassbreaker is it is really toppy.  There is a lot of focus in the treble frequencies.  Is that an issue with the EL84 output tubes as opposed to the 6V6s in the Deluxe (the 30 watt channel on the Bassbreaker is based on the ’65 Deluxe Reverb)?  I don’t know.  I try to compensate for that with both the EQ on the amp itself, but also with the tone knob on the OCD and I might have over done it a little.  I was a little bassier than I normally like to be.  There were a few times when I thought about adding some high end to the OCD but I was afraid I’d mess up the good thing I had going.  My distorted tone wasn’t perfect, it never is, but it was good.  Good for me at least.

I managed to use every pedal on the board at least once.  I used the cheap-o delay for a slap back effect on one solo.  I used the cheap-o pitch shift on a different solo.  The phaser was used for one full song, the flanger was used on another song.  The uni-vibe was on for one solo.  The digital delay was set to dotted eight notes for one full song.  I’m not sure if I like how it came out.  The delay was okay on it’s own, but when I was using it for the U2 style rhythm effect it muddied everything up quite a bit.  I used the wah-wah a few times, but I didn’t over do it like I sometimes do.  Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, the little digital reverb was on for the whole show.  I found a pretty good setting that I’m happy with and it’s changing my mind on whether I like the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini.  I’m still not loving it, but it’s okay.

So in summation, Lizardfish at J Brien’s in South Lawrence was, with the exception of a broken snare drum head, a really great experience.  The band had played there a few times before I joined (I was in the crowd for one of them) but they haven’t been interested in letting us play there for years.  Greg’s birthday was the reason they let this show happen.  At the end of the night though one of the staff members said she was hoping we could do it again.  I agree, let’s do it again.  There are still three more band members’ birthdays to celebrate, right?

Time to Get Ready

Today is a good day.  I got a bonus from work today.  That’s good.  I got my tax documents from work too.  By the time this posts my taxes might even already be filed because my wife is amazing.  That’s also good.  I just spent my lunch break working on a time sensitive issue and I figured it out with a minimum of stress.  That’s good too.

The RPM Challenge starts in less than nine hours.  That’s good, but I highly doubt I’ll be awake at midnight to celebrate.  We have a gig tomorrow night.  That’s good as well.  I’m not nearly as stressed as I was for the last gig and that is doubly good.

There are some things that royally suck but I am not letting them bring me down.  The triumph of authoritarianism over democracy is progressing in the US Senate right now as the republican party makes a farce out of the constitutionally mandated impeachment process.  That royally sucks.  I am beginning to think that secession is a viable option.  Brexit takes place today.  Midnight Brussels time, 11:00PM London time, That’s 6:00PM Boston time, I think.  That royally sucks too.

I’m weighing the good against the incredibly bad and choosing to ignore the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, the bad is infinitely more important than the good.  Today I am deciding that the good will outweigh the bad even though that is amazingly, shockingly naive.  Screw it, I’m going to Disney in a couple of weeks.

For now though, I have to start planning my packing for the gig tomorrow.  I need my Les Paul and my SG, my Bassbreaker 18/30 and my Vox MV50 with the 12″ cab, my full pedal board, the handful of new cables I bought (bright orange so you can see them from space), a couple of backup pedals (looking at you, Keeley D&M Drive) and power cables for each one, the microphones, stands, and cables I took home from the rehearsal room recently, the little pick/slide holding microphone stand attachment, and a new glass slide.  Then I’ll go to Mike’s house and get the rest of the mics, stands, and cables, my gig bag with all my emergency stuff in it, and the little stand I sit my amp on when we play.  Oh yeah, and I have to change the strings on both guitars!  Can’t forget about that!

Sunday after the gig I’ll put the amp and the pedal board (and the associated cables) back into my room where they currently sit (see the pic from last night), Setup a mic, stand, and cable on that amp and on the Bassbreaker 15 that is not leaving my room for the gig, then plug those into the 16 channel USB interface that I also took home from the rehearsal room recently.  I will plug the USB cable into my MacBook and make sure I can get both mic signals into GarageBand.  Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to record guitar parts in stereo.  When I record the acoustic guitar or a vocal or a saxophone I can just swing up one of the mic’s that will be on a guitar speaker and use that.  I also dug out my little acoustic guitar pickup that I got a few years ago and still haven’t taken out of the package.  I can use that to record as well.  I’ll keep the laptop and my iPad and my iPhone good and charged so if an idea comes to me I can play it into one version of GarageBand or another.  Once that’s all taken care of I just have to… you know… write a shit load of songs.  Yikes.

This year is a leap year so we get a whole extra day for the RPM shenanigans.  So really it’s no problem at all this year.

Yikes indeed!

But it’s still a good day.

 

Band Practice Recap or Fuzzy Fun

The main focus of rehearsal last night was working out a set list.  Kevin came up with a rough draft.  I had one little suggestion for a change.  Greg wanted more changes but couldn’t come up with alternatives so we punted.  We ran through the list as it was with the expectation that we’ll edit it during group chats throughout the week.

I had some gear issues.  Four or five songs into the setlist I switched off my spanky new Fulltone OCD ge for a second and then switched it back on and… nothing.  Huh.  I kicked it a couple of times and it came back but started cutting in and out.  I shut it off again and left it that way.  There’s a bad cable in there somewhere.  I’ve been using the backup board at practice while I fiddle with everything on the main board at home.  I mentioned a while ago that I took the fuzz pedal off the main board, but I still have one on the backup board, a Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian.  With the OCD off I was able to switch the Tall Font on and it was pretty stable.  Okay then, for the rest of the practice I’m using fuzz.

The volume level with the fuzz on was the same as it was with the OCD on, but as soon as the band started playing I vanished from the mix.  The Tall Font is a Big Muff clone and that’s a common issue with Big Muffs.  All of the mid range frequencies are scooped out of the fuzz pedal so there is nothing in the sound of the guitar to differentiate it from the bass guitar on the low end or the cymbals on the high end.  The work around is to just turn up the volume on the amplifier.  I turned up until I could hear myself in the mix again and all was almost well.  The problem now is how things work with the fuzz off.  If I need to play clean the guitar will cut through the mix the way it’s supposed to and the volume change will result in everyone being nuked right out of their sneakers.  The fix for that is to use the volume knob on the guitar.  It doesn’t clean up perfectly the way a Fuzz Face circuit does, but it worked well enough.  I ended up turning the neck pickup volume way down and leaving the volume up on the bridge pickup.  When I wanted clean I just switched pickups.  All problems solved.

After an hour or so we needed a bathroom break and I did some troubleshooting.  I unplugged the cable coming out of the OCD and replaced it with the cable going into the amp.  That eliminated the problem.  Did it actually fix it or did I just get lucky and putzing around put everything into a state where it wasn’t cutting out anymore?  I don’t know.  I do know I needed to turn the volume on my amp back down.  I was happy to be back to overdrive, but I was also sad to put the fuzz away again.  I do so love a nasty fuzz sound, but I’m just more into a good overdrive now.  All these options.

My playing as a whole was okay.  I felt a little weird rhythmically, as in I was rushing sometimes and dragging sometimes and just funky (not in a good way) here and there.  I was trying to keep my hands relaxed and it worked.  No finger pain, no fatigue.  My elbow started acting up again though and by the end of the night it hurt noticeably.  It actually still hurt this morning.  It’s starting to feel a little better now though.

The band sounded fine.  We were focusing on songs we haven’t played in ages so there was rust, but when we hit things that are current for us we were pretty good.  The show on Saturday is going to go well.

I have the backup board at practices but I am definitely using the main board at the gig.  When I left last night I was 100% set on using the Deluxe Reverb as my amp.  By the time I went to sleep I was starting to waffle on whether to use that amp or the Bassbreaker 18/30.  I think I’m starting to lean toward the Bassbreaker.

I need to practice, practice, practice.

Four Days and 10 hours until gig day.