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?

Make That Four Days

You know what?  After four days of practicing, my fingertips are hurting.  I guess I am having a little bit of a callous issue.  I didn’t think that would be a problem, but here we are.

I said I was going to run through some of our more challenging songs.  I didn’t.  I just noodled for about half an hour and then tried to play along with a few Jeff Beck songs.  I still had most of Rock My Plimsoul in my head, and I can still nail that perfect solo in I’ve Been Drinking (it’s really simple but it’s one of my favorite solos on any instrument ever).

I’ve played the SG the last two nights, after playing the Les Paul the previous two nights.  Part of me is thinking that maybe the SG might be the go to guitar for at least the first set tomorrow.  I’ve never played it at a gig before.  Maybe it will have it’s debut.  We’ll see.

It is a little dusty though.

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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.

 

Now It’s Three Days

Yesterday I said I had practiced three days in a row but it was only two.  Tonight it’s three days in a row.  I didn’t play through either of the sets, I just played scales and bad blues scale riffs for 30-40 minutes or so.  I did play through an amp and I did use my pedal board.

Actually I played through two amps at once because I am crazy like that.

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If I get the chance tomorrow I’ll probably pick and chose a few songs from the set list that are a little more challenging and run through those. Tonight I poked around with some pedal settings. The analog delay is set for a slap back, the reverb has a new setting that seems to be working. I set up a decent boost level. Things like that.

Oh and I played the shit out of the ol’ blues scale.

HTML Restrictions Suck

Well that’s no fun.

Back in the old days when I was writing on Blogger I could embed all sorts of fun stuff into my posts.  Anything you can put together inside of an HTML tag was fair game.  I used to put all sorts of goofy mp3 players and countdown clocks.  With both a gig coming and RPM about to start I thought it would be wacky to find some countdown clock websites that generate HTML code and put ’em onto a blog post.

I looked at three or four.  No dice.  They all use an HTML tag that wordpress.com blocks.

Aw, fiddlesticks.

Two days and about 4.5 hours until the gig.

One day and 7.5 hours until RPM.

That would have been so much cooler if it was a countdown clock.  Bummer.

Oh well, have a flyer (again).

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