I had a five-day rehearsal in Burlington, VT with Mike’s band that started on Feb 18. It was great to play with those guys again. It’s amazing that after not playing together for so long we fall right back into it again and it immediately feels comfortable. In fact it feels better than comfortable. It feels like the band gets better even when we don’t play together, perhaps because we’ve all been processing what we learned the last time, letting it sink in. I feel like I bring what I learn from this project into every other project I do and then I take what I learn from doing those projects and bring that knowledge to bear on this one.
One cool thing we did this time was that on the first day, rather than working on material for the tour, we practiced writing together as a band. This was great because we started out creating together, mostly through improvising together, and I found that it put us into a great frame of mind for jamming together with all ears wide open, and set the mood for the rest of the days. (You can check out one of the tracks we did on Mike’s website.)
The rest of the days were spent on material for the tour, and it went very well. The band sounds great, the new material is a blast to play and we are ready to hit the road!
Another cool thing that came out of the first day was that Tom took one of the song ideas I had and put a melody with lyrics of his own over the top of it. Really cool.
On Saturday a few of us went to Paul Languedoc’s workshop and I left my guitar there to get some work done on it. It had started to buzz around certain frets and adjusting the truss rod didn’t seem to fix it, so I had raised the action on it months ago. Paul redid the frets, adjusted the truss rod and dropped the action down so it is ridiculously easy to play now. I think it might be better than it’s ever been.
Another thing he did was he replaced my tunable bridge with a fixed intonation bridge. Besides making the guitar so you never have to adjust the intonation this modification also provides a much more solid connection between the vibrating strings and the body of the guitar by removing a bunch of floating parts in between. It’s pretty cool looking and sounds great!
I left Vermont just after dinnertime on Monday evening and drove home and caught a flight to San Francisco the next day for a mini tour with BK3. Oteil is back! We rehearsed Tuesday for a while and Wednesday we played live on KPFA. The band sounds great and after having not played with Oteil in the lineup for exactly a year, it felt as though we hadn’t lost a beat.
We rehearsed Tuesday in a pretty nice rehearsal space and it was good but everybody was pretty tired from traveling so we cut it a little bit short. On Wednesday at the radio station we got to rehearse for a long time in the afternoon. Magic started to happen. Some of the jams were just amazing and we recorded the whole thing.
At around 6:30 they came in and set up for the radio broadcast. We had not the best vocal monitors and from what I understand it all sounded way better on the radio than it did in the room. There were about 20 people invited to act as our studio audience and we were all packed into a pretty small space. It was very hot and humid in there and the audience was very close. It was great fun but I couldn’t help thinking about how much more relaxed we were during the rehearsal only a couple hours before.
The next day we went to the Independent mid afternoon and rehearsed with Harper Simon, Paul Simon’s son. He was in town because he had played with Yoko Ono the night before. It was pretty cool playing with him. He had a Telecaster plugged into a Mesa Boogie and had a very clean sound that he had chorusing on and some delay. He played very strummy rhythm guitar and did some good leads. It was cool because his guitar sound was so different from mine that even when we were both playing a lot at the same time you could distinguish us pretty clearly.
For this tour I rented two Fender Twin Reverb amps. I brought along my Lexicon MX200 stereo effects module and used the two amps to create some pretty amazing stereo sound. For rhythm guitar I was mainly using a stereo reverb, but for leads I was using a “pong” delay that would bounce the sound from one amp to the other. There were a few other stereo effects I used that were pretty cool with the two amps. One was an octaver (plays the same note you’re playing an octave lower) so that one octave was coming out of one amp, and the other octave coming out of the other. Cool!
That night we did a kind of short first set, although it was a pretty fierce set, and we opened the second set with Harper sitting in on Bertha. The rest of the night went pretty well. Mickey Hart was watching most of the night.
Cheryl arrived late on Thursday night and so Friday morning we took a leisurely drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Cruz. It had been raining in San Francisco pretty much since I got there and when we pulled the car onto route 1S the clouds seemed to divide and rays of sunshine streamed onto the ocean. It was just breathtaking.
As we got closer to Santa Cruz it clouded up again and got drizzly. There was no sound check per se, but when we got to Moe’s Alley Oteil, Chad (Bill’s drum tech) and I learned one of my originals together. After that we checked in to the Dream Inn right on the water.
The show that night was my favorite of the weekend. Everybody was well rested and yet the band was well greased. The jams were tasteful and high energy and everybody was playing off of each other. The crowd was way into it and fed us some nice energy back. Greg DeGuglielmo was there with Harry Bridge and his wife because they were doing a gig together in San Jose the very next night, so it was great to see him there.
Cheryl and I stayed in Santa Cruz that night and the next morning we were looking to find some coffee and ended up strolling up and down the main street. We got coffee and sat on a bench in the sun in the center of town. It was so nice feeling the sun beat down on my face, knowing that at that very moment it was snowing back home. Ahhh. I could get used to that.
We walked up to find a restaurant with outdoor seating and found a bunch of them. We decided on a pasta place and ordered lunch outside. It started to sprinkle (the tables had umbrellas) and pretty much everyone else scrambled inside. Our waiter came out and asked us if we were going to “brave the weather.” We both started laughing.
After lunch, we decided to take the PCH again and when we stopped at one of the beaches to take some pictures we saw a sign that said, “Beach closed due to tsunami warning.” Well that was a first for me. Of course, we went right out to the beach anyway and took pictures of some of the most amazing surf I’ve ever seen. Really cool.
Back in San Francisco we had a little trouble getting to our hotel because they had shut down most of the surrounding streets for a parade. It was very frustrating and took us about two hours to go a couple of blocks.
Saturday night we played a pretty cool party in Oakland. It was in a warehouse that had been converted into some sort of artists’ colony and they had it all decked out with crazy lights and whatnot. The show went pretty well but I felt that Santa Cruz had more energy. Of course, that’s a totally subjective thing.
Anyway, I flew home Sunday, back to work on Monday but now I’m getting ready to start the Mike tour on Friday in Troy, NY.