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?