Thursday, January 31, 2013

All the Rest and the Future

CJ rehearsal was cancelled last night and so I got to thinking about what the hell lay in store for us ahead. It has been easy for the last 3 years to continue to plow through the catalog 2 to 4 songs at a time.  But the remaining list is becoming small.  I took a look last night and played through those that I have worked out.

The boys and I argue from time to time as to what songs count...but here's my full list of the remaining songs:
Albums Cuts (these are probably all must haves)
All Over The World (RS hates this song, I think it is actually pretty well known and overdue for us to learn)
Havalina (I like this song, but I think it is tricky for the guitar players and the lead vocal)
Stormy Weather (this is a terrible song)
The Happening (this is a terrible song)

B-sides/Rarities Bailey's Walk (a screamer but maybe one of the better known b-sides)
Bam Thwok (I'm sure not even they count this as one of their songs, but I love it and it would be a vocal break for RS)
Boom Chicka Boom (pretty obscure)
Make Believe (I read once that KiD thought she should be shot for writing this song, so I'm conflicted about playing it)
Rock A My Soul (the boys love this song)
Santo (pretty obscure but I think the boys like it. It's kind of a good song).
The Thing (this is really just The Happening)
Theme from Narc (useful as a vocal break for RS)
Weird At My School (I feel like this is a must have)

Wild Honey Pie (really the only defensible song on the cover list)
Ain't That Pretty at All (I really like this song)
Born in Chicago
Evil Hearted You
I Can't Forget
I've Been Waiting For You (worth looking into as a vocal break for RS only)
Hang on to Your Ego (known far more as a FB tune)
All Around the World (only covered at is a stretch)

No One, Not Even Me Counts This Though I Saw Something that Said It Was a Demo Once
Brackish Boy (known far more as a FB tune)

The exercise of me playing through the ones that I know last night sort of made me think the future is bleak. No one in the world would miss if we never learned any of them. It seems ridiculous to get this far and NOT go ahead and learn the last four tunes off Bossa though. It's like running a marathon and then deciding there's no point to cross the finish line. Bailey and Weird and the only B-sides that I'd be truly sad not to attempt...actually I'm okay not doing Bailey because I feel like it is kind of a torture for the singer.

I think that we could yet learn an acoustic set and milk that at coffee shops for a while...and that we all have an interest in playing in other towns. But for that you almost kind of have to let go of the rare tunes and play an all hits set. Some might argue that isn't true...but you're selling a known if you don't stick with the known I think you alienate the average audience. There's always the whack job who wants to hear Make Believe...and I'm usually that whack job...but they are a minority for sure. Probably they'll be satisfied with something like Manta Ray, which is always so well received that we'll surely keep it in rotation.

So what does a "tour" set look like anyway? Here's my stab in alpha order:

Gotta Have
Dig For Fire
Gouge Away
Here Comes Your Man
Manta Ray
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Nimrod's Son
River Euphrates
Wave Of Mutilation
Where Is My Mind?

Play If Time
Alec Eiffel

Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons
Bone Machine
Crackity Jones
Ed Is Dead
I Bleed
Into the White
La La Love You
Mr Grieves
Planet of Sound
Something Against You
The Holiday Song
Trompe le Monde

The problem with the gotta have list is, of course, that is is half songs from Doolittle. But I guess there's a reason they could tour on that album exclusively for years. And there's nothing from Trompe, which could be a mistake since some people came to them via the last record. That could be fixed by throwing Alec and maybe Planet of Sound on there instead of something else. 

But this is still a LOT of songs. If you are in a strange town and no one has heard you play before, it is very likely that you'll only get 30 minutes. And if you had to do only 30 minutes it gets pretty tough to get anythign in there other than a certain list of songs. You'd have like 10 songs maybe. What would they be?

Dig For Fire
Here Comes Your Man
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Tame OR Gouge Away OR Trompe le Monde
Wave Of Mutilation
Where Is My Mind?

Yeah that's gotta be what it boils down to, eh? Still half Doolittle.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Being a Rawk Star

I've been a poo-poo head all week about performing...but I think that I'm calming down. The key, as with so many things in life, I think, is to not get too tightly wound. Being tightly wound is my specialty.

I was thinking today about what a relatively short strange trip it has been in the rock star world for me. From the one-off rehearsal of a Pogues tribute band in 1992 all the way to being in 5 performing rock bands today. Most of the true performing part of that journey has been stuffed into the time between now and fall 2006...a little over 6 years.

Much to my shock, I am now in bands with people who have less performing experience than I least in the rock ensemble realm. And so things come up like people not realizing that rock shows pretty much happen after 10pm at night. Or people not thinking that getting "off book" is important. Or people being shocked at the conditions that grunt rock bands endure. Or people saying "hey we ought to play this show...there's 20 other bands and if we sell 100 tickets than we might get our big break!" Or people asking me how to put their drums together or how to use guitar pedals or how to book a gig.

When did I become the veteran?

I guess it shouldn't surprise me. I went from average bike commuter to running one of the largest bicycle advocacy groups in country after just two years experience at a flunky desk job in bicycle arm-pit of the world Indiana. How do you become the expert? You just do the work and pretend like you know what you are doing.

And then, at the other end of the spectrum, folks who I admire greatly and who have 20 years head start on me and who have credits on one of the most influential albums in history...well they are playing the same clubs I am and sleeping on my couch these days (in between mega tours in support of reunions of said influential album anyway).

It's all just SO WEIRD.

I think I gotta just dial back to basics. Spend time with nice people playing music that you like. Work hard on it...but not TOO hard. Challenge yourself but don't over-reach. Show it off to other people but don't get bent out of shape if you don't have the "perfect" performance every night. Don't hang your self-worth on whether or not you hit every note to your best possible ability. Conditions change...brains and feet and hands do unexpected things. All you can do is try to be prepared. In the end it is unlikely that anyone but you will notice if it is good, bad, or indifferent. Be nice to those people that you're showing off to cause they are wasting thier night hanging out listening. Sure moving the crap around is a pain...but at least hauling stuff around is good exercise. Sure equipment is expensive and breaks...but it is the tools that let you do the stuff. You aren't doing any of this to be famous or to make a living. You're doing it cause it is supposed to be fun and fulfilling. Take a deep breath. It is, after all, called "playing."

So play.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I'm debating quitting bass lessons. I feel like I'm not putting forth any kind of effort with regard to lessons and the structure provided by the teacher is probably too loose. Not that I want a more restrictive structure. I think it has been helpful to take the lessons as a kind of...check in and see how I'm doing. The answer is "I'm doing fine". I could be doing better...but that would require PRACTICE and STUDY. It has occurred to me recently that my problem may very well be not that I don't work hard enough...but that I indeed work TOO hard. I've got some tips to head out into the world with now and I can check back and reapply myself with those as needed...but I think I'm done. My only questioning about quitting is if it is an impulsive thing to do. I don't think it is. I can always pick up again. I think this has just run its course for now. The money and time could probably be reapplied elsewhere better.

UPDATE: I did quit. This week will be my last lesson. It is a relief already. She gave me only a mild lecture about needing an instructor to help hold one's feet to the fire...a lengthy email that actually ended up seeming more like her evaluating her own situation as a student than her evaluating mine. I think I've been holding my own feet too close to the fire lately though. It is maybe time to cool them for awhile. There will always be time to press onward with determination. For now I think I need to rest a bit in loving-kindness.


It should be noted that I have heard back multiple reports from the show last Wednesday and people were universally either impressed we how we dealt with or oblivious to my own personal hell that unravelled (and subsesquently sent me into a deep depression for several days and had me pondering giving up performing entirely). There was also a fair amount of "the guitar sounded great in the house as a bass." The lesson I ought to take from all of this is the lighten up. But of course the lesson I am taking is...people are idiots who don't pay attention or know what they are listening to and WHY THE HELL DO I BOTHER TO BUY AND DRAG AROUND NICE EQUIPMENT IF ANY PIECE OF SHIT RUN THROUGH THE HOUSE PA WILL WORK JUST FINE. As a compromise...I may...MAY...try to take away that I shouldn't get so invested at least...cause it really doesn't fucking matter to anyone but me anyway.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


The last post was pretty gloomy and it led to a FB discussion on the matter, which I nearly always regret...but oh well.

It really has got me to wondering though...what the hell is the point of playing out? I've always said that I play out because it makes the band more committed. People rehearse less often and come to rehearsal less prepared if there's no deadline of a performance looming. That annoys me. I want to play frequently and well.

I haven't said out loud the second factor though...which is that playing out lends legitimacy to a band. There are bands that play out and there are bands that "only" play "in the basement" (insert look down nose here). In all honesty, I've yet to feel full legitimacy in a band...though CJ approaches that. I always kind of feel like I'm on the B squad. Not a "real" band. Just a bunch of wanna-bes.

But I think that my skills (and the solidity of at least a few of the bands that I play in) are improving to the point where I'm "good enough."

But anyway...who is lending this STAMP OF APPROVAL? It's really all in my head.

And so, when I think about it, what's the end game? When will I feel legitimate? Probably never, right?  So by that metric...really what is the point of playing out?

It is funny because, I think lots of musicians can feel where I'm coming from on this. But non-musicians (the audience) can't. It's probably a great insult to them in fact. They thought the performance was ABOUT THEM. Nothing, at least in my case, could be further from the truth.

And I am so horrible at taking compliments that there is probably nothing nice that you could say to me after watching a performance that I would take to heart. I would assume that you were either just being nice or had no idea what you were talking about or were guided by some other motivating factor (the "fan" phenomenon).

Side discussion: What is the fan phenomenon you ask? You like a performance or a performer for reasons that have nothing to do with the performance. You admire them or you have a crush on them or you have some secret wish to be a musician or you are drunk or something. I can speak to the fan phenomenon because I do it to other people. ALL THE TIME. Subset of the fan phenomenon...any song that you have heard at least five times in your life you will probably sort of like whether it is good or not. It is the rule of familiarity...a sub-set of the fan phenomenon.

Back to topic...I probably don't enjoy performing because I'm not performing for the audience. I'm performing to play. The audience is, if anything, just there to make me feel like what I'm doing is legitimate. In truth, they make me uncomfortable at best.  I've discussed before with non-musicians that this is a bizarre way to approach the performance from their perspective. It is entirely true that I'd probably enjoy performing more if I got some kind of good feeling from playing for others. But I don't. I could, perhaps, condition myself to enjoy it or try harder to make a connection...but it is a little like saying that I might get along better in the world and be less depressed if I smiled at people and tried to make a connection. I'm not sure that is in my DNA. I'm not saying that I couldn't change. I'm saying that I don't want to change...and that even if I did it would be difficult and possibly fail.

Given the DNA that I have, though...should I be performing? I guess I'm saying that I'm not sure that I should.

This is related more than slightly with another part of my life. I wrote a novel. I enjoyed writing it a bunch. I enjoyed less so, preparing it for publication. It felt good to have it published though and to hold the finished product in my hand.  Pretty universally, though, I've been uncomfortable with the idea that anyone that I know or will ever meet face to face might read the book. I'm more ok with strangers who I will never meet reading it...but even some of them have made me uncomfortable...particularly the ones who felt the need to criticize it publicly. I wasn't ready for criticism. I also wasn't ready for other people to interpret the book in their own ways...or for people to wonder about my motivations or whatnot.  My only condolence is that a handful of people have been helped by the book, and I believe that to be true in my heart. Otherwise, it was a horrible experience and it has made me hesititant to repeat. If I do publish another...I will not promote it. If you need it, you'll find it.

I've had a similar experience with every recording that I've ever made and allowed another person to hear.

Anyway...I don't know where I'm headed with all of this. I guess that the take home is that you really can't get validation from someone or something outside of yourself. And if you are getting validation from inside...than you don't need the external validation really at all. 

There are people who get satisfaction from performance, that's the fun part. For me it is a chore to be suffered through. So why am I doing it?

CJ, 1/23/2013, HNS

I'm feeling hollow this morning. It is because I'm thinking about how I spend about 20-40 hours per week learning, practicing, rehearsing, and performing many more hours distracted when I ought to be doing my day job researching music...and no matter how hard I work or how much I care, nearly without exception...performances do not go well. I mean, they go OKAY...but there's always more flubbed notes than in rehearsal, there's always some sound issue that makes things sound sub-par, or there's some total technical breakdown. It is just disappointing to work so hard and for the final product to nearly always come up short. I'm bummed.

So last night CJ played a happy hour show at HNS. Two sets...just us on the bill. We haven't had a Pixies show since last August. RS has been struggling with a sinus infection for like 6 weeks, and he just got his full voice back a week or so ago. Our last rehearsal went really well. I was looking forward to the show.

It was sparsely attended...until later on...but I think the bar was filling up because of some "Nerd Night" event that was to happen after our show. I have conflicted feelings about a sanctioned "Nerd Night" event. Not to be a snob, but if you didn't attend NMIMT or similar than I bristle a bit at you calling yourself a nerd. I know real nerds...and you, sir, are no nerd. There is some level of "otherness" to being a the idea of filling a 400 seat venue with them...I don't know...if felt like the term was being co-opted by the mainstream. Being a nerd can't, by definition, be trendy...ya know? I know I'm being judgmental and a bitch. Maybe these were the true 400 nerds that live in Madison. Not my business. I digress (did I mention that I'm in a bad mood?)

During set up there was some funniness. I couldn't get any sound and at first we thought it was my amp and then a cable and then everything seemed fine except for some buzzing and some vibration sounds.  Shrug. Oh...and RS found out a speaker on his VOX amp was blown. Other weirdness...I was getting lots of microphone they gave me an "Afro-Jack" style mic cover and all was well (except it was hard to get used to the cover). Oh and I didn't have any guitar in my monitor, which seemed fine during sound check, but then I realized that I had to stand in front of RS's amp, not to the side, or else this weird sonic thing happened where I was getting all CT and no RS and it made the songs sound unrecognizable.

So we played. I played ok. I was feeling oddly paranoid about forgetting parts...the dread of too much muscle memory. But when you've got almost 70 tunes memorized (well...more than that if you count the tunes I have memorized for other bands) there just comes a point where you worry that your wires will cross and you'll go blank. Just such a thing happened to me during D=RxT.  I was really looking forward to the tune and then when it came I blanked the third note. I probably had 20 shots at figuring it out during the song and missed every single one. What a weird fucking song to forget. Anyway, it was an exercise in getting off the wrong note and trying out others. Bleh.

That said, I felt ok about the first set.

Second set I forgot to take off my tuning mute so missed first few notes of Crackity Jones. Whatever. Something weird happened during Debaser...I think I was right on but maybe RS didn't go to the outro at the right time...I dunno...we fixed it, probably no one noticed. Alec Eiffel sounded horrible to me. We made it through 6 songs and then Nimrod's Son started. Half way through my amp made a loud noise and then I had no sound. The boys kept playing the song. I remember that I had bass during the first chorus...but during the second chorus I sang without bass. The sound guys scrambled.  After some testing the diagnosis was that it was my bass...a loose wire. The sound guys took the bass away to look for solder and I grabbed CT's backup guitar and played it through my amp. We skipped There Goes My Gun and played Hey. No luck finding solder so the sound guys switched me to DI in the house and we did Gigantic.  CT's guitar sounded super distorted through my amp, which I didn't understand because I had no effects on. I wondered if I'd blown my speaker too. It was unbearable so I stopped us a few bars into Bird Dream and had the sound guys put me all DI and in the monitor. The sound was the same. We played BD. It sounded really weird. I was super loud in the monitor and had trouble communicating it to sound guys, so I turned down, which of course annoyed them. After the song I explained to them the situation and they adjusted.

By now we were way over time. We skipped Allison, Wave, Isla, Vamos (CT always gets screwed out of his solo...see the first paragraph above), and dropped Tame. We played Where Is My Mind (sound guys made me sound like an angel on that) and Gouge Away and we were done.

I had two beers during the show, the first I've had in 3 weeks. I do not think this contributed in any negative way to the situation, but it did make me feel like an asshole the whole time (perhaps self-conscious and paranoid a bit) and meant that I didn't sleep all night. I don't like having to second guess if substances are contributing to problems. It's hard to take total responsibility for every thing I say or action I take (because I always feel like I say and do the wrong things)...but that's better than not knowing if I am in control or not. I think that I am always going to have this weird brain fart kind of feeling at a show. It just isn't like rehearsal unfortunately. But better to know that it is just what it is and not something else...if that makes any sense. I shouldn't have drank. That was stupid. I don't think it hurt anything in reality, but I didn't like the way it made me feel.

I think I know what happened to the equipment, but I haven't taken a look yet. Hopefully the amp is fine (though I really think something is loose inside that causes a rattling noise at high volume) and the loose wire in the bass is an easy fix. Lesson learned...always bring a backup instrument.

CT said he wants to debrief about all that went wrong. I get the sense he was struggling last night, though I didn't notice other than him mentioning it. What is there to debrief ABOUT really though? Apparently playing out just sucks. It just isn't as awesome as sitting in a closed room together just the 4 of us.

I feel really discouraged in general at the moment. I plan music to challenge myself and because it is fun. We play these shows though and they nearly always go poorly. They are a pain in the ass logistically and we don't make any money at it. Very few people come out to listen. It just feels like a stupid thing to do, playing out. I've always said that I only play out to force my bands to play to a higher level than people tend to attain if they stay in the basement. But I have two start-up bands that want me to book shows and I feel like...really? Why the fuck would we want to play out?

Sometimes life is just a struggle ya know? Where are we going and what are we doing? And why? And what difference does it make?

The sad footnote to last night's was professionally recorded. What a frickin' waste of 1's and 0's.

Set 1:
Bone Machine
I Bleed
Motorway to Roswell
Navajo Know
Ed is Dead
Build High
Dig for Fire
Letter to Memphis
Monkey Gone to Heaven
La La Love You
Lovely Day
Manta Ray

Set 2:
Crackity Jones
Alec Eiffel
Holiday Song
River Euphrates
Here Comes Your Man
Nimrod's Son
There Goes My Gun (skipped for time)
Bird Dream
Allison (skipped for time)
Wave (skipped for time)
Isla de Encanta (skipped for time)
Vamos (skipped for time)
Where is My Mind
Gouge Away
Tame (skipped for time)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fatigue and Potential Injury

The whole thing about my back, shoulders, and hands that has been bumming me out. I suddenly remembered today that this happened once before...when I was learning Blondie songs on the drums. Basically, I pushed myself to learn things that were beyond my skills at the time...and then kind of hurt myself.  In the end, the solution was to relax and not try so fucking hard. I didn't get things perfect...but they ended up being good enough all the same.

Perception vs Reality

I recorded last night's ska rehearsal. I had one impression at the end of rehearsal...which I guess is that the tempos were generally rushed/unsteady (I felt like we were pushing each other to faster and faster tempos), the balance between instruments was off, that I didn't play that well, and that I wasn't sure how good it sounded overall.

I just listened to the recording. I expected that my opinion of the recording would be even worse (because typically listening to a recording of yourself is not a pleasant experience, at least not for me). But the recording actually sounds great. I still think that the keys and guitar are too low in the mix (which isn't surprising since they are using small amps at foot level) but other than that everything was actually pretty good. And it turns out that the songs are still recognizable even if the mix is off.

I feel much better now. I think we're gonna be ok.  Furthermore...while I should keep practicing...I think I should be less hard on myself about how I'm doing. Dammit.

I think that I just have really high expectations for how this band should sound because all of the people in it are SO good.  I want us to live up to our potential.  It is also possible that playing with RS for so long has made me too much of a perfectionist.

Monday, January 14, 2013


On Friday night I was exhausted after the end of 6 weeks of extra tasks and personal growth (and a show this night before). I intended to practice, but I just couldn't. I rested.

I still managed to play the ska set 4 times over the weekend and half of the 42 song Pixies set. For those who can't conceptualize means I played bass for 5 hours over two days. PLUS I did some more in depth practice on the harder ska tunes...perhaps another hour's worth.  By Sunday night my back and shoulders were killing me and it was hard to keep feeling in my hands.

I feel like it isn't too much to ask to be able to play for 6 hours out of 48.  I need to figure this out. I think the key is less weekend warrior and more daily practice. And learning to relax. Surely my posture and technique is contributing to these issues.

Sad fact...even after all that practicing I still am screwing lots of things up. But on the bright side, I've got 11 of the 13 ska songs memorized now...if tenuously. It feels like they will fall out of my head at any moment. The first show is in 4 weeks.

Pedals and Board

I got all the pedals that I ordered. So I took out my homemade pedal board and I dug out a bag I found 6 months ago and thought "this would be a perfect bag for my pedal board" and set it all up with my new + old pedals with velcro and everything. I find it amusing that I have no brand loyalty...there's Digitech, Boss, Electro Harmonix, and Berhinger here:

To my horror, it turns out that I kinda LIKE the chorus. Yeah...I'm gonna become THAT person. Sigh.

I also think that I don't play loud enough as a rule to really get the full benefit of the BassBalls. It cuts in and out for me...which I think it because I don't use a pick and don't crank my amp up high. I read that it does better with strong sustained notes.

Friday, January 11, 2013

TD Badger Bowl 1/10/2013

Played Badger Bowl (yes...the fucking Badger Bowl) with Damidol and The Bottles. We'd had this show scheduled for Dec 20th...but it was cancelled due to the blizzard and 20 inches of snow.

Why "the fucking"? Because the conventional wisdom for many years in this town was that only grandiose mainstream tribute acts were allowed to play at BB. Ya know...Whitesnake, John Cougar Mellencamp...crap like that. The kinds of bands that get $1,000 guarantees and bring in hundreds of people for reasons that are entirely baffling. If you were a little known local act playing originals...or even covers in, say, a punk vein...forget it. You weren't playing Badger.

So last night our punk-pop-ish little originals band played BB with two other punk bands. We were compensated a $50 bar tab per band plus a rumored $100 split three ways (not yet confirmed). But still...we were there.

Sadly, apparently their soundguy ran away with the Obama campaign after the last Madison rally sometime. So they posted on CL for a soundguy...and got an answer at 4pm day of show. In a pleasing twist, the guy did a great job. He pieced together his own equipment and ours and really made it work. Here, a note that I'm shocked that BB doesn't have a sound system of its own. Bizarre. One wonders if the old owners took it with them when they left (apparently it is under new management).

The load in there is nice, straight to stage left, and the stage itself is large. A huge dance floor which no one really used, but chose instead to hide in the shadows of the seating areas. I don't know how many people showed up...we'll say more than 10 and less than 50. It was hard to tell in the shadows and with the interplay across the porous boundary of bowling alley and bowling alley bar.

I think that we played well. I couldn't hear my bass drum very well. I put in ear plugs because the guitars and vocals were really loud...and it kinda killed my ability to hear the low end of the bass drum. This threw me off more than I thought it would. I kept wondering if I was playing the bass drum right. It was weird.

I had a stressful few days at work leading up to show...but good sleep and ate appropriately. I had 3 waters and 2 Odoul's before, during, and after the show. I am becoming aware that a pitfall of sobriety is that I've begun to notice that halfway through the night everyone's breath is HORRIBLE. Sour beer mixed with cigarette's. And they get a little drunk and want to talk really close to your face. I literally nearly barfed once last night when this happened.

A note that we sold the very first copy of our "new" cd (the cd that was recorded 3 years ago but was finally printed last month).

UPDATE: Oh shit, I totally forgot to mention that this happened:

Right before "Movin' On" RS said "This is a pull your pants down and run around kind of song." So T from Damidol and the sound guy did.

Sent It
At the Door
Bodies R Burnin
Whole Damn World
Going Down the Drain
Fire Burns
Gotta Tell U
Better N Better
Gun in Your Grave
End of the Drive
Haven't Seen U Lately
Movin' On

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

An Effect on Me

I bought two pedals this week.  A Electo-Harmix Bass Balls Nano and a DigiTech XBC Bass Multi-chorus. This on a whim after determining that my Zoom...while a neat toy...really doesn't function for a live performance situation. Or I don't know how to use it. Or both. But I tried and it made no sense to me and so fuck that noise. There are those that use multi-effects boards and those that use single effects pedals. I thought I was in neither camp...but for sure now I know that I'm not in the multi camp.  So I rewarded the last 6 weeks of hard work with new toys to assist in my brave new role as "lead" bass player in one of my bands.  We're not in Pixies territory anymore Toto.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Playing Position

When I started playing ska I had to sit down to play bass. My hands were going numb. I found that, if I sat, I could take the pressure off of the shoulder strap, and also use my right arm to stabilize the bass, allowing much less stress on my left hand.

But...ska is dance music...and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit on stage to play ska.

So in addition to trying to memorize my parts (cause I'll be damned if I'm going to read music on stage), I've been trying to figure out how to get out of my seat.

Last night I put my strap in the "high" position. I have my strap set to a certain length that I like for playing...but there are two holes for the strap on the tailpiece. The one I normally use makes the strap slightly longer...the other takes about 4 to 6 inches off. Even in the "long" position...I'm still wearing it way higher than most bass players. But in the "short" ...or "high" is just stupidly high.

But, it seems that this high position makes it possible to play. In the long position I find myself constantly pushing up on the neck trying to get it more vertical. In the short position I don't find this happening...and it seems to take the pressure off my left hand in a similiar (though not as thorough) way as sitting did. Sitting is still way better...but I think that I'll be able to play standing now in this super high position.

People on the outside have no idea the evolution of musical learning.


Someone on FB had a little freak out about the lack of women (particularly women who play instruments) in rock. The discussion got a little out of these things tend to it got expanded to the "plight" of women...and into the territory of "guys can't say anything without getting in trouble."

I have strong feelings on the subject for sure, but the discussion got a little derailed I think.

Here's what I have observed:
1. Yeah, there aren't a ton of women playing non-acoustic guitars in mainstream music.
2. As a performer who is obstensively female, I get the following two reactions at shows over-and-over-and-over:
     a. From guys: "Wow, it is awesome to see a girl rocking!"
     b. From gals: "Wow, you're awesome. I admire you so much. I could never do what you do."

Both of these reactions piss me off a lot. 

The guy because, if I were obstensively male and played exactly the same way...they would not have come up to me, noticed me, or said anything. I would just be some dude in the band. It annoys me that my gender appearance means they feel the need to attach extra "awesome" to my performance.

The gal because...fuck you. You could absolutely do this. Stop being a victim.

I will say that I had a transformative experience in spring 2011 which made me temper my reactions to these two kinds of people. Basically I watched my favorite band play the exact same show 3 times in a row...and while following them on the road I heard this story on NPR. The summary of the story is that the cast of Riverdance played the lotto. The subtext is about how, even if you love something, doing it night after night gets boring. AND no matter if you have your best performance of a lifetime or your worst, an audience perceives about the same level of enjoyment. The audience is there to have fun, and so they want you to succeed. They don't notice your fuck-ups for the most part...or your triumphs. 

What's the point of bringing up this? It made me think about how I relate to audiences.It was timely to hear the story while I was watching 4 people I admired play the same show night after night...and while I was wishing they were more engaged with the audience...and wishing they would talk to the fans after the show. It made me realize...they don't care so much about us...they care about where they are gonna have dinner tonight.  I also was aware of the impact of energy on the outcome of a show. If the audience is having fun...the band will have fun...and the show will be better. Showing that you, as a band member, are having fun is almost more important than playing well.

I play for myself...not for the audience. But noticing all these things made me realize that there is a benefit in trying to connect with the audience. Because it makes the experience better for everyone. And, the most important thing, even if you can't bring yourself to connect with an to have fun and to show that you are having fun.

Anyway, it made me realize that, when people talk to me after a show, I should try to be nice. I should thank them and not be irritated. I should accept the compliment. It doesn't matter that I know that they don't understand the technical issues behind the music. I should just let them have the moment. And I should be grateful for thier interest.

That doesn't change the fact that they are dumb-asses of course.

And getting back to the original issue...yeah...women are second class citizens. Thanks for the news flash. The only way you fix that is through the doing. Stop your bitching. Stop being a victim. Stop hating men. Just do your thing and the rest will follow. Have fun...and the rest will follow.

A footnote:
Who the fuck listens to "popular" music anyway? And why, for the love of all that is good and holy, would you judge anything by that crap? It would be like using McDonald's as the guide post for food. That's not food...that's crap. Mass produced, mass advertised, crap. Sure, lots of people consume it...but does that make it good or important or anything at all to waste your time over? Do you think "Why oh why isn't my home-cooking as popular as McDonald's?!?" No. Because WHO THE FUCK CARES? It is a false comparison. There are shit tons of women playing music all over this world. In every nook and cranny. Be one of them and stop worrying who's listening. Because...IT DOESN'T MATTER.

The world, sadly, is not set up for the smartest or the most qualified or the kindest to "succeed". It is set up for money to "succeed". So redefine success for yourself.

If you want to work towards social equity...go ahead. But if what you want is to be a rock star. Be a fucking rock star. Don't wait for society's approval.

Ska Progress

I've been fretting a bit for a while now that I would not be able to memorize the setlist for the Feb 15th show. It seemed too hard.  The songs are longer and more complicated than what I'm used to...and they are all really similiar...making it easy to mix up parts.

I finally decided to stop fretting and just fucking do it. I reminded myself that, when I was learning the P songs...I played them every single day...and listened to them every single day. Not listening to the ska songs AT ALL and only playing them once a week or so and hoping to memorize them was kind of stupid.  So I have vowed to try to play them every day now.

On last Saturday I finally got all the songs in the set together in a play list (in the correct keys) and gave myself the ultimate test (something I do with P songs all the time)...put the playlist on random, put away the notes, and tried to play the songs totally from memory. I was surprised to learn that I know most of the songs. There are blips here and there (plus one full song that I've not got in hand at all), but they can be isolated and worked on. And now I can do that rather than fretting that I've got nothing. The brain and the hands are magical things...muscle memory is a just have to let them do their thing. And nothing is a substitute for putting the time and work in.