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. 🙂