Monday, August 10, 2015

Being Creative

   Sometimes it's important to just be creative. This is especially true when the songs you are sent to learn are, shall we say, open-ended. When one of the recordings is actually a rehearsal of a band learning the song, with stops and starts, clocking in at about 9 minutes when the actual song is about 2. 
   Creativity comes into play even more when the songwriter, it turns out, has failed to send the actual songs he wants to play in the set, and has instead sent the ones he would do as backups. With the "rehearsal" (more on that momentarily) being right before the show, it might seem logical to just go with the songs that the band has already checked out, but no; clearly plowing through 5 brand new songs right before the show is a much better idea. Especially at the rehearsal on somebody's roof where the amps, pa, and drums never made it, since the owner of said backline had to take care of his kids. Creativity need not be restricted to the music itself, but to making do with unplugged electric instruments, a drumkit consisting of a floor tom and a cymbal, and a keyboard played on the screen of an iPad. But it's ok: "just be loose and creative, you guys'll kill it." Truth be told, the show went better than it had any business going and it certainly was loose as requested, if not more so. 
   But the day after the show was in fact the highlight, being told of the ticket sales and the money that was made as a result apparently not being quite what was expected. Of course it was never discussed that the band's pay might fluctuate according to ticket sales (a discussion that would've taken place with the member of the band kind enough to find the guy a rhythm section). But we could take comfort in the fact that our fearless leader was in the process of addressing this issue with the venue, and that if he had anymore money he would've paid us right away. He did not - the person entirely responsible for the guy having a show at all (by finding half of his band) paid the remaining balance out of pocket. 

He did, however, send some pretty pictures from the "rehearsal" and show to soften the bad news. How creative. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wanna go to France?!

It'll be an awesome trip. Great places to play, they have gear for us, they give us great food and wine... You in? Great! So tonight just go online, you should be able to find a flight for around $1100 - and we don't play the first 3 days that we're out there (just leaving a little early to look for more work), so we might have to scrounge a bit and look for places to stay, but we'll have a great time! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sweet Home Alabama

   There comes a point in a long gig where it's easy to revert to some overplayed music. Enter Sweet Home Alabama. Let's even throw away what's been made of its racist, confederate flag waving overtones. The song is easy, it has 3 chords, it's anthemic, and it makes drunken, belligerent idiots happy. Plenty of other songs fall into the same category of douchiness, but few require as little skill or imagination to pull off. 
   But wait, you say; it has 5 chords if you include the little turnaround that happens in the middle of a verse and at the start of the guitar solo. You know... "In Birmingham they love the Governor; ooo ooo..." each "ooo" having its own chord, one an F major, the other a C major. And my response; no asshole, if you wanna get technical, it has 4 chords. The F is indeed a newly introduced chord - the C however is also the 2nd chord of the verse (as well as the chorus of course). So suck it, shut down your worthless case, and play Free Bird instead - it serves the same purpose, but also allows you to jerk off on your guitar for 9 straight minutes instead of 3. Do note that despite the solo section having only 3 chords, the actual part that you call a song is a a chordal labyrinth by comparison - you might have to look it up on, but just do it. Do it for the ladies. 
    If you really need to crowd-please and your song selection is getting desperately thin, there are even douchier songs that are so douchey that they are easily overlooked. In addition to the aforementioned Free Bird, one might consider Stairway to Heaven, anything by Journey (except Don't Stop Believin because people need to move past the last episode of the Sopranos which made the song relevant again for about a week), or even Werewolves of London, perhaps also Take the Money and Run if you're desperate for a similar 3 chorder. Perhaps a little homework is involved, and perhaps not - if you spent any portion of your childhood listening to classic rock radio, you'll be fine. And if you really just can't pull out some kind of alternative, you probably just kinda suck. 
   One might also make sure that all other possibilities for the set have been exhausted - oftentimes bands learn tunes to throw into their sets that get omitted for whatever reason. If you have any reservations about playing them, once again look at the alternative and either do your damn homework, or wing it if you have to. Winging shit in front of lots of people is fun. If you're playing for the type of audience that enjoys hearing Sweet Home Alabama, they won't know the difference anyway. 
    While I am fortunate to have passed the point of playing that song due to my skyrocketing career, you may not be so lucky. Just remember, it doesn't have to be this way. There are so many other options, perhaps right in your own song list.  The one buried in your parents' car that was sold 10 years ago. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When Asher Goes On Tour

I guess having a scrapbook such as this and going on tour is just asking for it. But I did ask for it and, well, it delivered.

It, in case you're wondering, was the 2014 Guitar Gods tour featuring Bumblefoot (who you may remember as the guitarist in the most recent Guns n Roses lineup), Gary Hoey (who you may remember from the early 90s, when instrumental hard rock guitar was kind of a thing) and Yngwie Malmsteen (who you may remember, and are now trying to forget).

I was initially asked to join this 5 week tour, 10 days before it began, by a fellow bassist who had signed on and ultimately decided he had too much work locally to go on the road. I could've argued similarly, and I certainly didn't make any friends by bailing on 12 gigs on a pretty last minute basis; but hey, I hadn't been on the road in awhile and it would certainly be nice to get out of NYC for 5 weeks during the summer. Did I say 5? I meant 3 and a half - the remainder was cancelled. 

The first rehearsal was 18 hours after I got the call. 20 mp3s and almost that many charts came my way - obviously in the biggest possible file sizes in order to drive another nail into the coffin of my 2006 Macbook Pro. The rehearsal went about as well as it could go - people could at least tell I wasn't a total hack and should be able to get up to speed in a few days. But the music was the least of my worries. 

Some of the dates involved playing in Canada, and not having had any international travel plans in the near future, I let my passport expire. Do NOT let your passport expire. Having to have one expedited is not pretty, and not cheap. But I did it, and I got a shiny, brand new passport for about 3 times the cost of what it should have been. And right on cue, the Canada dates were removed from our itinerary. 

In order to make it work for me to do the tour, the outgoing bassist agreed to do the first week of shows, all local except for the last one in Buffalo, NY - about a 7 hour trip. There was a little back and forth about which one of us would play the show, as it wasn't really feasible for either one of us until I ended up clearing my schedule. It was for the better, I needed a day or two to get things together, memorize the music, make sure my car was parked in a good spot, my house plants wouldn't die, you know, those things you think about the night before you leave. But it didn't matter - that show was cancelled. So now my first show would be in Jersey, en route to Cleveland. And, well - you probably know where this is going; we had a rehearsal instead. Actually you probably didn't see that coming. 

So, hello Cleveland! Yngwie has apparently lost some of his rust belt fan base, and about 17 tickets were purchased. Goodbye Cleveland! Oh, but the rock n roll hall of fame is pretty cool. Needless to say, Yngwie is not in it.

Now for shows that actually happened. In short, they really shouldn't have. At least not for us. Not to say that our band wasn't good, but the music really had nothing to do with the metal guitar-shredding theme of the rest of the evening for which we were the opening act. We were also allotted about 30 minutes to set up our own gear, play, and break down our own gear. None of the other management on the tour responded to requests from us to share gear, even offers to the other earlier acts to use our gear. So began the process of setting up like we were playing some shitty club in NYC, to play about 4 or 5 short songs. Seems appropriate that after the first gig, one of the wheels on my speaker cabinet broke off, so I removed the rest and put them in a bag which I forgot out on the street. 

Our first couple of sets went quite well if I do say so myself. But of course it didn't quite align with the 4 hours of nonstop guitar shredding that followed. Oh, and we were also instructed to cut our set because the main acts had to start. Technically we still had a few minutes left, which was forcefully communicated to the tour manager. The solution? We would now no longer open the show, we would CLOSE the show. Yngwie complained that there was too much music on before him, causing him to lose part of his audience by the time he played. That's right, after Sir Malmsteen pleasured himself with his guitar for 90 straight minutes, we would play a set to whoever was left. I think there was one show since that decision was made where our audience outnumbered those of us on stage. 
    Our band didn't have much interaction with the Malmsteen camp, other than his guitar tech threatening to punch the face in of anyone who dared step over the white tape that surrounded Mr. Malmsteen's wall of amplifiers, claiming that a previous step over the white tape caused one of his amps to "go to shit". Since we became the closing act, we actually played in front of Malmsteen's entire setup; I freely admit now that my feet did cross the white tape on several occasions, but I'm happy to report that my face is still intact, if a bit stubbly and unshaven. I'm sad to report however that Yngwie's rig from hell is still intact. 
    Worth noting; the rest of the headliners and their bands (and even Yngwie's band) were very sympathetic and understanding of our situation, and were very friendly to us. Gary Hoey and Bumblefoot even hung out to watch our set one night which they certainly didn't have to do. In a sense, Yngwie united the rest of us with his 5 hour soundchecks, 20 4x12 Marshall guitar cabinets (a bit much even for the type of stadium that he hasn't seen in at least 20 years), and maybe also the fact that it didn't end up being so much a triple bill as it was the Malmsteen show and whoever decided to stick it out for the whole tour. That did not include us; we lasted about 2 weeks, instead opting to take advantage of Southern California to enjoy some downtime, perhaps a bit too much, and to do some recording which went far better than any of the shows of course. 

The part of the tour that we did stick around for was business as usual. Our bus broke down twice, once in the middle of Montana at 2am leaking out all of its oil, and once in a particularly hot area of central California where it leaked out all of its coolant. When the rest of the tour was called (for us that is), it came at the end of stretch of 4 days off, one of which was supposed to be spent in Canada. Remember Canada? So flights home were booked, a recording session was then scheduled, and flights were booked again.
   People were let go - half of the band and crew did not make it to see the very end of the tour (although technically some did, just not on paper if you catch my drift). The bus ended up at a strip club on several occasions, without anyone in the band on said bus. Of course someone ended up in the emergency room as well, but as I said - business as usual. 

So, was it a total failure? I have to say no. The tour itself one could argue was - we played music for a total of 3 hours in 18 days, probably the least amount of playing I've done since I started in high school - but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't kinda fun. It was a bit like summer camp, with bunk beds and a tight knit group of fairly immature people (obviously not excluding myself), but also with whiskey, a tour bus, plenty of questionable behavior, and some more whiskey. I will not miss having to use the restroom on a moving bus, "sleeping" with air conditioning relentlessly blowing on my head in a small enclosed bunk, not having my own room except for a couple of nights in what was a pretty foul smelling smoking room, and hauling gear around to play for 20 minutes - but the endless yucks were priceless.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hey you sound great, come check out my gigs and maybe you'll play on them but not really!

Hey Jimmy, you sound great! Hope we can play together sometime. I'll send you some tunes. Really dig your playing!

(one week later) Hey Johnny, never got those tunes, did you send em?

Oh, sorry Jimmy - I'll send them later this week.

Ok, thanks Johnny.

(one month later) Hey Jimmy, I'm playing at club *&#%$ tomorrow at 9pm, hope you can make it!

(weeks go by) Hey Jimmy, I need a guy for a date next month, are you free? Ok, awesome!

Jimmy - the club said good to go for this date. But now my regular guy is free, but my drummer pulled out so I need a sub for him but I don't wanna have 2 subs, so I'm gonna have to go with my regular guy. Sorry man. But since you're free you should come check it out!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Just when you thought the gig was over...

The gig has ended. Equipment was packed up long ago. House music fills the air, patrons are calling it a night. Further sealing the deal, a fairly intense altercation is brewing between band members.
Yet the question is inevitable, for none of these small details matter, and it is up to me to provide the answer:
Can you guys play one more song?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A quote from a live music room's website

Wish I could take credit for this gem. Thanks Nick.

"Almost all musicians prefer the tip jar system because they make more money when the tip jar is passed around than they ever would with a cover etc. This works for the artists because we do not take any percentage or cut from the collection. All the money collected goes to the artists."

I'd like to meet these musicians who prefer playing a gig where the only compensation is from a tip jar.