Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ladies Must Rock

This weekend is Ladies Rock Camp. I'm teaching bass, coaching a band, and performing with our Blondie tribute on drums at a lunch break. As always, I worry that I am not qualified for any of this...that I will seem a fraud...but in the end each time I put myself out there I become a little more qualified, and I guess that's all that I can hope for.

To be fair, while there are better bass instructors and players out there...I am EMMENSELY qualified to coach hopeful beginning female rock stars on how to
1) pick up an instrument they've never played before and make sounds from it
2) ask someone (friends or strangers) to let them play in a band with them (even to ask boys if you are a girl...or seem like a girl)
3) shamelessly proceed to play in that band...for fun or profit (well, for gas money anyway).

Indeed this three part process may be one of the few things I've ever been good at doing in life.

DIY 12-String TLC

Some time ago, I'm going to guess it was in about 2005, a coworker alerted me to the fact that a friend of hers was moving away and looking to sell his bass guitar. At the time I'd been playing bass for a couple of years...first a borrowed one...and then a cheap white one (The story of my basses is here). I didn't think I needed another bass...but what the hell. So I went and talked to the chap. Turned out that he wanted to sell me a bass, a practice amp, and an acoustic 6 string guitar all for $75. And who could say no to that. I had a habit of collecting cheap instruments at that time and somehow this turned into me trading the 6 string for a 12 string.

And essentially that is the end of the story of the 12 string until summer of this year. It sat at my house unused.

It was determined that "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1" needed no bass...but rather a 12 string guitar on top of the pre-existing 6 string part. And so began the life of my 12 string.

I noticed a slight string buzz and friends drew my attention to the fact that the saddle is too that some of the strings rub against the bridge and buzz. I was told this was an easy fix...just raise the saddle with a shim. I feared breaking it in the process ordered a back up saddle. Research was useless regarding the saddle...there are dozens of saddles on the market and nothing to indicate which one I needed. I took a crap shoot and ordered an all around type from Musician's Friend. It arrived yesterday and seems to be close to right. A bit big but that is apparently better than too small and I can sand it to size. Still not sure if all saddles work on 6 or 12 strings...but no where on the web could I find a 12 string specific saddle.

It never occurred to me that I'd have to take off the strings for this operation...and never mind that I've never changed them before anyway. So a trip to Woodwind Brasswind in South Bend and subsequent realizations that 1) they were closing their retail store and 2) I have no idea what kind of strings I wanted (extra light, light, or medium). I got two sets of lights...thinking ahead to a future broken string. No discount despite WWBW being in liquidation mode.

Whilst waiting for the saddle to arrive it occured to me that the strap is always falling off the guitar. There's a pin holding it is (later identified as an END PIN). I kind of want a more permanent situation. And so today's research and total uncertainty whether or not it is appropriate or possible to make a more permanent solution. All of the strap pins on the market seem to be designed for solid body electrics. I guess folkies aren't supposed to stand up.'s off to Guitar Center tonight to see if an in-person trip will yield better results.

Either tonight or later this weekend I will take the whole thing apart and probably totally fuck it up. If I remember, photos of the destruction to follow.

All of this, of course, could be done for more money and an uncertain time frame at a shop...but it seems well within my abilities. The best option would have been to undertake the entire enterprise on my own, but under qualified supervision and guidance, at the shop of a former-friend...but I seem to inexplicably be dead to her suddenly.

And here an unneccessary and ill-advised tangent on that. First dropped off the jam contact list (more than a jam list, really, I thought I was the drummer for one of her bands) with no explanation and later unceremoniously "un-friended" on Facebook...the modern equivalent to being given the finger. I've searched my brain and am fairly certain there is nothing in my actions or words to have precipitated such treatment. I tried to be fair and kind all the way along and there was no indication from the other side that I'd not been. I can only assume that a mutual "friend" has influenced things (either by direct request, or just an uncomfortable silence), which is too bad. I've been more than my share of an asshole over the years...and this suspected "friendly" influence certainly bore a brunt of that behavior. It is my lot in life to regret those mistakes and to be banished for them...and that I can live with...and I do live with that...every day. But it feels unfair that the punishment should expand to everyone that we mutually know. To people who I've never wronged. I suppose folks always pick sides in a divorce...but the picking usually happens much sooner. Mostly it feels disappointing and a betrayal that a fellow person living in the middle ground of weird would choose the popular girl over her brother. It's easy to love a winner and to want to be on their team. It's hard to stand in strange. Of all people on this earth I thought this one person was more willing to stand in strange than anyone else I'd ever met...but put to the test it just wasn't true. I'm sure she has her reasons and feels totally justified...but it's sad and makes me sad that this is the way of people. Loyalities are fleeting. You can't really trust anyone. And in the end we are all out for ourselves.

Side is an acoustic and this gig is most certainly electric. I'm going to use a Dean Markely humbucker pickup I bought several years back when I thought I was going to have a solo career or become a singer-songwriter/band leader. But I suck at both song writing and band leading. The pickup just sticks in the sound hole with a cable running out. So it too sat unused until in March 2010 Crackity Jones put it into service on RS's acoustic. It was returned to me last night after he bought his own (aparently my solution was a good enough balance of cheap and good). It is slightly beaten to hell, but still fully functional. He offered to give me the new one instead, but I kind of like that the Pixies rang through this one and sweated all over it. I'm planning to just plug the guitar into my bass rig and hope for the best (I am well aware that the reverse is not a good idea...that is, plugging a bass into a guitar rig).

Monday, September 26, 2011

TD, 9/22, Great Dane

Basement gig at Great Dane Downtown opening for The Sesters. Despite last six weeks of minimal alcohol consumption, had one beer and one shot before show, one beer during, and two after. Though drugs are bad...I was fine. Life is confusing.

I played really well all except One is for Man...which is a song that just confuses me and we opened with it on a kit I was unfamiliar with. After that all was well. Sound was really good. The sparse audience, made up mostly of friends and band people...were excessively complimentary. Told us we're better than ever. I think they actually meant it and that it was actually true. To this I don't really know what to say.

The shared kit was vintage and quite nice. Good bass sound (no front head and a blanket in it...old pedal with felt beater)...great old Ludwig snare that was not part of kit and I guess borrowed...everything (pedal, throne, hardware) fit me just right. The setup was the same as my regular gig set up...with ride in front and only one rack tom. Only problem was that splash jumped off of stand with no top nut and a short screw...switched stands to one with longer screw and was fine. Note to future could use gaffers tape to fix this problem in a pinch. What the experience taught me is that normal cymbals are heavy enough not to jump off of stands even without top nuts and when hit hard. I have this problem so often probably because the splashes are so light and thin. The hi hat stand was also walking away from me a bit too because it wasn't squarely on the rug...but I managed.

Setlist to come.

Monday, September 12, 2011

CJ, 9/9/2011, Mickey's

UPDATE: First 30 minutes of gig recorded by The Shabelles. It is not NEARLY as bad as I thought. It was actually Broken Face I goofed and not Isla (which is freaky) and by the third time through I'd remembered the riff. We actually sound pretty good. I think that we need to work on abrupt transitions though.

Here the recording be:


I was well prepared for this show and yet...really struggled. Literally forgot how Isla de Encanta went.

Regarding this...see the following clip from "Loud, Quiet, Loud." At 1:59, Kim Deal says "I'm horrified that I'm gonna spaz and forget like, like, Gouge Away. I'm gonna think it's in G...You think, there's a lot of's sold out. You'd think that the bitch would have learned the song."

At least I am in good company (also, though I have no idea what key Gouge Away is in...I know that I play a G#, B, E, G#, E...though if I can forget Isla, some day I'll surely forget Gouge Away as well).

Couldn't hear my vocals for the entire first set. Felt like I was screaming and nothing was coming out. In particular this sucked for Into the White, which I was really disappointed in. Was very nervous and my legs were shaking the entire first set. I've been trying really hard not to drink, but just couldn't take it and had a beer during set break and another during second set. I know it isn't politically correct to say...but this helped emensely. RS turned up my vocals for second set, I turned the speaker towards me, and I settled down from the beer. Actually started to have fun. I know that alcohol is evil and that in an ideal world I would learn to deal with life without it...but there is no denying that it can on occasion help. That said, I couldn't sleep all night (from the beer) and felt like shit the next day. If it is a is a tool to be used sparingly. And a slippery slope for sure.

The Shabelles opened and kicked ass. Very tight and clean and sharp. It was hard to tell whether we had much of an audience for most of the show, but when we played "Hey" the entire place erupted in song and after that the place felt packed with huge numbers and energy. I probably had at least ten people come up to me and either request a song (yes honey, we'll play Gigantic...but only cause you asked), tell me how my voice sounded exactly like Kim Deal, how my bass playing was rock solid, or how, in general, we totally rocked. Given that I feel like the entire first set was pretty shakey...I take all of this with a grain of salt. That said, I really should give myself a break and enjoy the compliments. No one is paying these strangers to be nice to me.

Mickey's let us play until about 2:15am on the bar clock.

We took home $220 (which means we brought in $330 including The Shabelles share). The whole reason we played this gig was to raise money to pay for special effects for the Flaming Lips show. The goal was to bring in $ yay. I think this brings the bank up to about $600...which we will burn through quickly in a blaze of special effects glory.


Set 1:
Crackity Jones
Broken Face
Sad Punk
I Bleed
La La Love
Bone Machine
Break My Body
Is She Weird
Into the White
Here Comes Your Man

Set 2:
Mr Grieves
Something Against You
I'm Amazed
Brick is Red
Alec Eiffel
Planet of Sound
Manta Ray
Gouge Away
Where Is My Mind?

Photographic evidence: I am reminded from the photos that it was, despite being September, quite hot. We were sweaty.

Paco is awesome.

I'm a head banger.

Seriously the man is gonna pop a vein someday.

We both yell a fair amount. Also...I am a lot closer to the front door than it seems here. I have to move the neck of my bass every time someone comes in the front door.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Even More Lately

When I started this blog it was mostly supposed to be about resources...things that others might actually find useful. But it is turning into navel gazing. But so it is.

I was despairing for a long time about vocals for Flaming Lips and a couple of the harder drum parts for Blondie. In the recent weeks I've just decided to give up. Take short cuts. Do whatever I can just to get through it and try to make it fun again.

Despite feeling like I've let myself down, particularly on the Blondie stuff, the strategy seems to be working. I'm getting through the tunes and starting to have a bit of fun again.

7 weeks to go

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I am feeling better about my contribution to FLIPS. I was pretty down on the whole thing, particularly my vocals, but it seems to be getting slowly better...though I'm not putting in nearly the effort that I ought to be with practicing. It just isn't as much fun as the Pixies.

Blondie has caused physical problems with my right hand because I'm trying to push to hard and fast too soon. My technique is for crap. I basically haven't been practicing at all while I try to calm down both my carpal tunnel/tendonitis and also my depression at realizing that I am going to have to take a few of the songs down a notch. I'm hurting myself and not having any what the fuck. Make them easier to play by a hair. It makes me sad, cause this whole project was about me learning to play these songs right and do things that I couldn't do before. But it just isn't worth all the injury and self-hatred and frustration. I give up. I'm doing it the easy way.

TD has also been on my poop list. It isn't that much fun anymore either. It is a strained scene on many levels...which I knew going in...but now that I know the songs as well as I'm gonna know them it feels a little boring. So I don't practice and then the songs go to hell and then they aren't fun to play cause I suck at them.

SSW isn't playing out at all and hardly practicing and I'm actually relieved for both. Another case of knowing the tunes...getting bored...not practicing...starting to suck at the tunes...and growing to hate it.


In summary...most of the stuff that I am doing isn't fun anymore.

And maybe that's why I haven't been around the blog much lately. Of course, I'm also trying to quit drinking and that makes everything feel different too.

But you know what is still fun? Pixies. Just really the best thing ever. We haven't been playing much because of all the other stuff going on...but I really hope that we get back to it after Halloween. I feel like I do a good job and that the band sounds good and that people enjoy it and that even if I know the songs that I still like playing them. It feels easy and fun but still like I'm accomplishing something.

For no good reason at all...right in the middle of playing in 5 bands...I've started trying to learn to play Breeders tunes with an eye towards making an all-me ep like I used to make in the old days. Even dusted off the multitracker and got it working. Just a pointless exercise with so much else to do. But it is fun. And I miss that.

Not sure what post-Halloween holds...feels like a turning point though. I need to power through and not make any rash decisions in the interium. There's a lot of change happening in my brain of late and probably best to just hold the line and try to be gentle with myself.

TD, 8/26, The Wisco

Total blog fail. Kind of forgot this place existed.

We played a big 16 song set at Wisco Aug 26th headlining with The Sesters opening. I was in a foul mood. I've been off the juice for a while but decided to have a few drinks that day. By the time the show came around I was sober again, though, and feeling pissed at myself. Plus I just don't seem to know how to interact with other human beings in forced social waiting around for a gig to start...or loading out with drunk fucks talking incoherently at me. While The Sesters played I ate a nearly raw burger that would have been good (nice bun, etc) if it had not been so bloody and creepy. Steak can be rare...ground meats should be cooked...especially when they've been sitting in a bar cooler all day.

I haven't been practicing Drain tunes at all. My left foot is having trouble (shoe inserts on order) and my right hand is having carpal tunnel/tendonitis issues from the forced fast and bad techinique of 11:59 and Detroit 442. Still, my playing on the 26th was pretty spot on. I didn't really care much about the gig and didn't expect anyone in the crowd that I there were no nerves and sobriety is the friend of drumming if you can stay out of your head. And I did ok.

All that said...16 songs is too many to play in a row. I felt fine physically, but Twan had to pee by the end and the audience checked out after the long and proggy Movin' On about half way through the set. can play 2 minute long Pixies tunes all night with no break if you want...but if you are playing originals and any song is over 4 minutes (or 8 for god's sake) you better give the people a chance to go outside and smoke a cigarette and stretch their legs...or else they just aren't coming back. And so it was.

As always the stage sound was bad at Wisco. I couldn't hear much of anything so I just played on and hoped everybody fell in behind me. But like I said...I seemed to play well and felt fine about my contribution.

We rehash the whole evening on Sept 22nd at The Great Dane...same lineup and probably most of the same songs cause rehearsals will be sparse in interium.

Bodie R Burnin
Sent It
Better N Better
1 is for Man
Future Song
Easy Life
It's Alright
Gun in Your Grave
Movin On
At the Door
Gotta Tell U
Kiss U Kill U
Whole Damn World
Vacuum Man