Moving Sucks.

Is there anything that sucks more than moving?  Well, probably.  But moving sucks pretty hard IMHO.

One advantage I have is that I’ve known that I was going to move for a long time.  My current place is on the second and third floors, and getting Ian and his wheelchair up those stairs is getting harder to do the bigger he gets.  So since I’ve known the change was coming, I’ve been looking at places for a while now and finally found a place that meets the qualifications I’ve been looking for:

  • A house instead of an apartment
  • First floor bedroom
  • First floor full bathroom

Since I’ve known the move was coming, I’ve spent the last year or so going through my storage bins consolidating and purging.  I’ve gotten rid of a ton of stuff, and Good Will has made out like a bandit.

Another advantage is that I’ve overlapped this entire month in both places so that I can move at my own pace.  This is so much better than the out by the 31st in by the 1st method that gives you one day to move everything and clean up the old place.

As much as moving sucks, it is also such a healthy thing.  It’s always good to weed out the collection of crap that amasses when you live somewhere for a while.  I find it healing, too, to look inside those boxes that only seemed to get opened when moving, the ones with the old letters and pictures from days gone by.

I know this post has nothing to do with music, but you don’t mind, do you?  😉

My questions for today are:

  • What are some cool ways to pack stuff?
  • What things do you refuse to throw away but only see when you move?

One last thing:  I’ve added the “Categories” widget on the side.  I think when you first enter the blog, all categories are displayed, and then you can filter on certain categories.  It’s just an experiment.  Enjoy!

Hyland Orchard

Well, time to break out the good ol’ acoustic!

Hyland was a blast, as usual.  The vibe of that place is so warm and friendly.  It’s outdoors, and we play under a pavilion.  They serve great beer right in the back of the pavilion, and there are longish picnic tables to sit at.  There’s a stage at one end, and today they had hay bales stacked up behind us to keep the wind down, and these were decorated with skulls and other Halloween flavored items.  There’s lots of family oriented things to do including a petting zoo, apple picking, and even a hayride.  Lots of folks bring their kids and there seems to be a plethora of toddlers there.

Playing with Mark after being on the road for a month really felt like coming home.  There’s something about playing with someone for nearly 40 years, a connection on such a deep level that you can’t get to any other way.  Not to mention that Mark is deep and can hear everything that I do.  The jams are so much fun because of all of this.  We’re both able to lead and follow easily, and at times it’s like we’re both following… something else… some force that is the jam itself.  That’s when the magic happens, where we’re composing on the spot, and it all seems so easy and obvious and we all land on the same things at the same time.  There’s this giggly feeling of out-of-control-ness where you just threw it to the wind and it made magic quite without your intention.

By the way, as I write this I realize that this is what the Max Creek jams feel like as well.  It’s all so familiar.

However, when it’s just me and Mark there are some cool differences.  Playing as a duo there’s a lot more to hold down at any one time since there are no drums holding up the rhythm and no bass holding down the bottom end.  Mark and I both compensate for this by playing much more rhythmically, and by laying down low bass lines.  But as a duo there’s the advantage that you don’t have to take a whole band with you to make changes, and so we can “turn on a dime” musically and change keys, grooves or moods very quickly.

Playing the acoustic is such a different thing than playing the electric.  At home, I’m usually in one mode or the other because I find that they are different mind sets and it’s easier to focus on one at a time, or maybe not easier; maybe I find the focus more complete if I do one at a time.  And it’s such a physical workout compared to the electric.  Of course the strings are much thicker, but stylistically it seems to require more physicality to make the instrument sing.

So to prepare for Hyland I always play strictly acoustic for a few days prior to the show.  I don’t run any of the material unless maybe I’m bringing in something new, but rather, I just dabble and horse around on the thing just to get my hands used to making music on it.  In a way, I think that that’s a better tactic to take.  Improvising on an instrument is very much influenced by the sound I’m using.  I’ve written whole songs just because I got some new pedal that created an inspirational sound.  So picking up the acoustic and playing a few random notes instantly creates a vibe that’s resonant with that sound, and by playing off of that vibe I tune my hands to that timbre, to that mood, the mood of that guitar.  In that way I acclimate to the instrument and anything I play after that will be tinged by that mood, the spirit of the guitar itself.

On the way to the show I made a list of songs I could do acoustically.  I wish I had more originals that were written specifically for acoustic.  I have a couple, but wish I had more.  But that’s a whole other topic, song writing, that I also wish to explore on this blog type thingy.

But there are some interesting cover songs that really lend themselves to this medium.  John Lennon’s “Mother” is a great song to do acoustically.  Darlin’ Corey is a dark little bluegrass tune I like to do.

Another thing Mark and I like to do is to call tunes the other guy hasn’t played, or even heard before.  It’s kind of a “stump the band” kind of thing.  Mark brought in a couple today, a Tom Waits tune, “Come On Up To The House” and another one, “Something In The Water” I think was the title.  I have so much fun doing that.  Mark’s great at leading and again this is where playing together for so long creates an advantage.  I can hear where he’s going so easily and it’s a great challenge to pick up a tune as I’m playing it live.

It got freezing cold.  We got lucky with the weather compared to what they were predicting, but by late afternoon the clouds had stolen the warming sun and there was a brisk breeze.  I like playing in the cold.  My fingers get numb and somehow it makes it easier to play.  Despite the cold, it was the biggest crowd we’d ever had there.  The colder it got the more people danced, and during the break they lit a fire in the fire pit off to the side.  It was cozy!

There are already some great pictures up from today in Facebook taken by Stiney and Skeets.  I think you should be able to see them from my profile page.  The pics definitely capture the vibe.

For today’s question I’m looking for Halloween costume suggestions.  I have a few ideas, but I’m open to suggestion.  🙂

Over The Top

I spent the day in Buffalo at Cheryl’s house and it was so nice and relaxing to be in someone’s home after being on the bus and in hotels for so long.  After sound check we went to a Thai restaurant with Mike and Julia, and then to a coffee place called The Spot.  Again, it was raining.

The Buffalo crowd was enthusiastic and the room sounded great.  I had lots of friends there from Rochester.  The band was tight and smooth.  People were yelling for my songs, so that was cool.

I think that the end of the tour was looming over the band and crew, and we were all savoring each moment of playing together.

We went out to see U-Melt afterward and saw a few friends there,  and then got on the bus bound for Burlington.

Burlington was a mix of emotions.  This was the end of the tour.  Everybody was collecting all the stuff they’d brought on the bus.  Most of the band and crew live in or around Burlington, so in the morning, nearly everyone had gone home to see their families.

We were all excited for the show.  We knew it’d be packed, and having played Higher Ground before, we knew the sound would be good.  There was the potential for lots of sit in guests, but we discussed this and decided on no guests.  We made the exception later on when we found out Page was coming and decided that he would be a notable exception to have play Sugar Shack with us.

While we were all excited, we were all sad as well.  The month was over, and of course it felt as though it had zipped by.

Just after noon, Julia came and picked me up.  We had lunch, and then went to Dobra Tea where we met Dave, who had dropped me off at the bus in Springfield.  We did some shopping in Burlington and then went to sound check.

Even at sound check, it felt like the hometown show.  Many close friends and family members were showing up, as well as lots of folks who had caught the first few shows of the tour.  (JMT!)

By showtime, the place was packed and we were ready to go.  It was hard not to put EVERY song on the set list!

The crowd was way into it and high energy, and there were a lot of people I could tell had not seen us yet.

Third song in, Page joined us for an extended version of Sugar Shack.  For a song that had given us (or me) so much trouble in the beginning, it was smooth and flowing and powerful.

The rest of the night was a culmination of everything we had done over the past month.  There were good dynamics, interesting jams, great energy and great communication.  We finally encored with C&C Music Factory’s Things That Make You Go Hmm, and it was over.

We hung out for a long time at Higher Ground, but eventually everything was removed from the bus, and everyone left to go home.

Dave drove me to my house.  We got there at 7 a.m. and I went into work at 10:30.  Sigh.

Afterthoughts… (or Oh Canada (part trois))

So, was my first question even a fair question?  I suppose there could be some people who could comment and say, “Dude, the blog sucks, give it up,” but it’s highly unlikely that someone would do that.

However, the feedback from the other question is extremely helpful.  I received some verbal feedback from people close to me as well.  I think the idea of categories would be okay as long as it didn’t change the default format of the blog, and only provided away to filter entries toward specific topics.  I’ve fought changing the Max Creek Forum to a threaded format for years because I like the community spirit of a single thread, and I want to have that kind of spirit with this blog.

So, I’m going to experiment a little with categories, but only if I can keep the main view as it is.  Plus, I like that most of my entries cover multiple categories anyway.

I also wanted to add another gross little memory about the Toronto show.  It had been raining all day and all evening and although it was rather cool, it was unbelievably humid.  I can’t remember sweating so much at a show since the old 120 degree living room shows a few years ago.

At the end of the set, my shirt was as wet as if I’d taken a shower wearing it!  Gross!

I also wanted to shout out to my new Canadian sister, Meghan Feldman. 🙂

Quick Questions

I have two more shows to blog about.  Because I’m not pressed for time, these entries will be more detailed, like Oh Canada (part deux) was.  Then I thought I’d go back and add details to some of the earlier posts.

Asia says that I should keep the blog going, and maybe talk about Creek shows, or other shows.  Others have also expressed interest in keeping it going.  I really enjoy the journaling aspect of doing the blog, so I would like to keep it going.  I was thinking of expanding it into other categories, and maybe create specific categories for guitar, performance, singing, writing, recording, gear, etc.

My questions are, should I keep it going it all?  And if so, what would be of interest to write about?

Oh Canada! (part deux)

In Toronto we stayed at the Hyatt downtown on King St.  Mike, Julia and I decided to go exploring and we found Queen Street a few blocks away that had a ton of great shops and great restaurants.  The street seemed to extend for miles and we walked and walked, and the further we walked the cooler things got.

Eventually we made our way into a music store.  It wasn’t a typical music store in that it didn’t have a lot of guitars or basses.  But it had a ton of excellent effects pedals.  Mike tried a few out using some fender bass in the store.  Cool sounds!  He didn’t buy anything for himself, but he did get a birthday present for Tom, an artsy looking tremolo pedal activated by a touch switch.

Interestingly, at sound check the day before we were working on On A Bad Day, a really sweet country flavored song by Kasey Chambers and I was pulling out all of my pedal steel imitations and Mike was commenting about how he loves that sound, and how I should throw it in elsewhere as well.

Those pedal steel sounds can be made even more authentic with a volume pedal, so I picked up the Boss stereo volume pedal while we were at the music store.  I had mentioned earlier in this blog about wanting a volume pedal, and I had nearly abandoned the idea but the pedal steel imitation gave me yet another reason to get it.  My POD setup has a volume control that I used extensively until it broke about a year ago and I’ve missed having it.

After that we walked further down Queen Street and had an amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant.  We all got vegetarian dishes and had fun tasting each others food.  We drank some great wine and even had tiara misu.

Then we went back to the hotel for some relaxation/nap time, and then back out to check out the night scene.  We couldn’t get into a bunch of the clubs because some of us were wearing running shoes and there were dress codes in a lot of the clubs.  We did manage to get into one basement dance club, but the music was so unbelievably loud that we left.

At that point we were contacted by a concert promoter who was hanging out on Queen Street a mile or so further down, so we took a cab and met him for a few drinks at a couple of different clubs.

The vibe of the clubs (and the city) definitely had a European flavor to it.  There were dance floors,  strobe lights and DJs and folks were decked out.  DJs seem to be revered as much as musicians in Europe, if not more so, and it seemed the same here.

We finally ended up at a quiet, pub-like place for a couple drinks and some good conversation.  It was after this that we went back to the hotel and I took my walk.  (see Oh Canada part 1)

The next day, the rain that had been following us this whole tour once again invaded the skies and poured down on the city.  Mike and Julia left the hotel early because Mike had some interviews to do, and the bus left for the venue around noon so I was on my own.

I packed up my stuff and headed down to the street to catch a cab to the venue.  It was pouring but fortunately there was a cab right outside the hotel door.  The driver and I loaded my luggage into the cab and I got in but as soon as I was in, another cab driver opened up my door and in a heavily accented voice told me that my cab driver was breaking the law; that he was stealing his fares; that he had a family to feed, and that I should think with my conscience and get out of the cab and go to his cab instead.

I thought about it for a minute and decided that my conscience wasn’t at issue (and it was pouring still) and I stayed in the cab.  All the way to the venue my cab driver tried to explain the issue to me, but his voice was so accented that I couldn’t understand most of what he was saying.  It was a very bizarre scene.

The Mod Club was very nice.  It was rustic and had great sound.  The audience was way into the music and had a lot of energy, which always helps.

We opened with Mike’s Traveled Too Far.  It was fun because when we walked on, Mike got a big ovation, but then we started to play the intro to Traveled, which is a composed, classical sounding piece of music over a very slow percussion beat.  It was fun to watch the faces of the listeners who I think weren’t expecting such a cerebral piece right out of the gate.

The beauty of it is that it goes right into the main body of the song, which has a steady driving groove and recognizable melody, and eventually makes its way to an extended, exploratory jam before coming back to a pounding final chorus.  This is one of my favorites to play because it’s like an entire show in a single song, and because the jam at the end usually goes to some great places and usually concludes with raging guitarness.

Afterward we went to a club where a DJ was spinning Grateful Dead.  We met a lot of the locals and had great fun dancing to the beat infused Dead.

After an hour or so, we made our way back to the bus for our trip back to the states.

Our customs officer came on the bus to wake us all up and ask us if we had anything to declare, if we had any fruits or vegetables, or if we had cash or goods in excess of $5000.  This is when we did NOT declare a “Thumb-o-war”, nor did we say that we had $5001 worth of fruit in our trailor!  🙂

Oh Canada! (part 1)

I just took the most interesting walk.  Some of us went out to a couple clubs with a promoter up here and afterward I needed a convenience store, so I started walking at around 4 AM to find an open store.  It took me about 12 blocks.  On the way back I saw the CN Tower in the distance and decided I had to get next to it, the way I used to at the World Trade Centers.  It was cool.  It was good alone time and intensity-in-a-dark-city kind of thing.  Like standing next to the Twin Towers, it’s dizzying standing next to the CN Tower.

Throughout the walk, there were lots of homeless sleeping in the middle of sidewalks, on top of the subway grates, for warmth I’m assuming.  I saw who I think was a man of the cloth driving around in a Hummer, stopping to leave a hot cup of coffee and two breakfast sandwiches next to each, and maybe leaving an extra blanket as well.

I only had three hours of sleep last night, each hour taken separately throughout the day.  Zzzzz…  More about the day off later.  I had to get the walk documented.

Ann Arborburgh

Greetings from Toronto!

Well,  the past two nights had sound issues for me.  It’s an interesting study because I had a blast in Ann Arbor but had a miserable time last night in Pittsburgh.

In Ann Arbor, the stage was so small, and for some reason the stage plot was changed around so that my amp was next to Mike’s.  This is a dangerous scenario because musicians always want to hear themselves the loudest and when the amps are that close together, amp wars can ensue.

In this case, I relied heavily on my monitor.  The sound from the monitor is not the same as hearing the amp.  It’s more brash and not as full sounding as the amp, but I can’t really do anything about that because if I have Rachel (our monitor tech) fill out the sound, the guitar will feed back more easily.

The room was small and packed full of high energy folks who were bouncing and moving and sending all kinds of energy back up to the stage, and so we had a great show even with the sound issues.

Afterward, we went to a 24 hour diner where we met Annie, Afia, Jamie, Jeremy, Jackie, Mike, Cormack, Dave, Sarah, Brennan, Luke, and one person I can remember.

Last night was probably the hardest of the tour for me.  The room was echoey, there were buzzes and RF hums in all the instruments and there were power issues.  I couldn’t get a nice tone out of my guitar to save my life and I was playing way to hard, even breaking a string.  I was trying to create melodies and everything I came up with sounded like Mary Had A Little Lamb to me.  Mike’s amp died during the first set closer and we stopped after the first verse of the song and took a break, finishing the song as the second set opener.

Second set was better than the first, but for me, not much better.  Couch Lady was the highlight, kind of a bluegrass tune with a latin sort of beat.  This tune ended up being one of the train wrecks from an earlier show and has always issues staying cohesive, but last night we nailed it, start to finish.

Afterward, we started the ride to Toronto.  After everyone had gone to bed, Mike and I played acoustic guitars together for hours.  We wrote a pretty interesting progression and came up with a bunch of variations on it.  The original progression is in 9/8 time and one variation had us subtracting one beat per measure.  Pretty cool sounding.

This morning we dropped off our merchandise at Cheryl’s house in Buffalo (to avoid paying taxes/duty on it) and crossed the border.  That was interesting.  They were really digging for stuff, asking me about some trouble I got into in 1975.  But they did let us all in after not too long a wait, and so here we are in Toronto.

We have a day off, and then a one set show tomorrow night.

There are only three shows left!

I wanted to talk about time.  It’s crazy how fast the month has gone by.  I think some of it has to do with doing the same thing over and over again every day, and I think some of it has to do with losing the structure of the week.

I read Catch 22 in high school and I remember a character in the book who was always making himself as bored as he possibly could because time passes slower when you’re bored, and he figured if time passed slower, his life would seem longer.  Perhaps this is why the month has gone by so fast, because it has certainly not been boring!