Monday, October 27, 2008

First. Gig. Ever.

Keith works with this dude named Greg, who is in a punk band (their name escapes me; all I can remember is that they have a song called "Death To Midgets"). This guy came to see us practice two times, and offered us a chance to play with them at an upcoming gig. It was a charity event for St. Jude's Hospital, which was cool. Even cooler was that it was at a bar called Hanover's in Pflugerville. With the recent death of The Backyard (damn shame), Hanover's outside venue is the 2nd largest outdoor venue in the area. The place has great character. The outside is set up with a large deck, then a large area with picnic tables, then the stage, then behind that there are some volleyball courts.

Keith and Sarah came over to my house at about 10am. We were supposed to go on at 1. We loaded up all our gear and headed over there. No one was there when we got there; the bar had just opened. We left our stuff in the car and drank a beer(s) and watched some football. Keith and I both have a tendency to drink to excess. The only other time we played together in front of any sort of crowd was when my older brother asked us to play his 10 year HS reunion. We were WASTED, and things ended poorly. So I was kind of worried about either or both of us getting too hammered. On the other hand, I needed a buzz to take the edge off. Anyway, by the time the other bands showed up, I had drank about 4 beers. I imagine Keith had about the same. I had the perfect buzz. It was decided (since it was our first gig) that our band would go on first. We put our gear on the stage and plugged it all in. I looked out from the stage. I felt good. There were about 8 people there who were there to see us, plus about a group of about 15 people who were members of the other bands. There were probably a dozen people up on the wooden deck outside the bar. There were probably another dozen or so near the outdoor entrance who were cooking meat for the charity. There were 3 teams worth of volleyball players. So all total, there were 50-75 people watching. Not bad for a 1st gig. Sure, only 8 of them were there to see us, but still.

Anyway, the guy whose PA it was let us do a check to make sure you could hear everything, and we were ready to start. Most times when you play, there is a guy who mixes the mics for your drums, guitar, vocals, etc. to make sure that everything sounds right. Since we didn't have that, we were going purely by what we could hear on stage. Drums sound A LOT louder when you are up close to them than when you are out in a crowd. So does a 200W guitar amp. Your voice, however, does not. The vocals coming through the monitor (to my ears) sounded like they were the same volume as my guitar and Keith's drums. Not so. If you've watched any of our YouTube vids, you can tell that my voice overpowers the guitar and the drums were practically inaudible. Not a good thing. I believe I can carry a tune, but Pavarotti I'm not. I have the type of voice that you hope can get lost in between cymbals and clanging chords.

(ir)Regardless, the set went well. Keith and I were in good sync. No obvious missed notes or changes. I broke a string during the second song, so I had to switch to my backup guitar, which wasn't a big deal until I broke ANOTHER string on our 7th song, which meant I had to play our last 3 songs with no G string. (HAHAHAHAHAHAH "G string", HAHAHAHAH!!!!!).
During our most "rocking" song, these dudes who were in the band playing after us came and danced/moshed around in the pit in front of the stage, so that was really cool. Their drummer came and put some money in the tip jar. They were "scream" rock, which ain't my cup of tea, but they were polished and they seemed like really really cool guys. Especially the drummer. (They were called "Liquid Revolution"; they're living in Austin while they're recording, but they live full time in Colorado. Check them out if you like bands like Korn and Tool.)

When we got to our last song ("Mission To Mars"), I completely forgot how to play it. I remembered the chords, but I had no idea what the beat was. I played through the chords like 4 times and still couldn't get it. Keith was giving me a "dude wtf" look, so I knew something was wrong. I walked over to him and he started the beat on his drums, and I got it together. We finished the set, I thanked the bar and the crowd, and we got our gear and we were done.

It felt great. Everyone who watched liked us, I'm pretty sure. I did notice that the chorus line from "Waste My Time" ('...don't talk to me unless you're going to sleep with me...') got a big laugh. I considered the gig a rousing success compared to what I was expecting. The venue, crowd size, and overall setup were all better than I thought they were going to be. Our musical performance, though not perfect, was not bad. Stage presence, something I rarely think or worry about, was decent I think. Not too much rock talk, but just enough to show a little personality. Like I said, it felt like a great first gig.

Other random thoughts about it:
  • Something I hadn't expected was the comraderie(sp?) of the other musicians. You could sort of feel this "we're all in this together, none of us are worth a crap and this is a tiny crowd in an unpaid gig, but we all love playing music and entertaining people so let's support each other" vibe. It was nice.
  • Playing outside is completely awesome. My wet dream gig would be playing a main stage at ACLfest just as the sun sets. I could die a VERY, VERY happy man if that ever happened.
  • I badly wanted to have an acoustic guitar and play an Old 97s cover or two. The venue just called for it. I think those in the crowd who were unaffiliated would have enjoyed it much more than our hard 2 piece, the Colorado scream rock, the "Death to Midgets" punk, or the Pat Green wannabe who closed.
  • I made it a point to go around and thank everybody who was responsible for allowing us to play. Sometimes I think bands 'make it' or are able to book gigs more on the fact that they are nice people rather than talented musicians.
  • Advantage of being in a 2 piece: short setup time. I HATE being at a rock show and waiting for like 45 minutes while some tool tunes and retunes and moves drums and blah blah blah. The drummer for the last band took like an hour to setup and sound check his drums. Weak. Keith and I were set up and ready to rock in less than 10 minutes.
  • I'm still trying to decide where the best places for Keith and I to book would be. I think Emo's inside would be good. Maggie Mae's downstairs on a midweek night would be nice. I think we're too hard for Stubb's, Nutty Brown and the like, but too soft for Red Eyed Fly and the metal bars.

Anyway, thanks for reading. See ya soon.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Welcome to Stevenson Road!

So, welcome, everyone, to the official weblog of the rock band Stevenson Road. For those of you who got here by accident, Stevenson Road is a 2 piece rock band made up of Jake Stevenson (guitar, vocals, beer) and Keith Alstrom (drums, beer). Their name comes from the street they both grew up on, which not coincidentally is also Jake's surname. Their common musical influences include bands like Toadies, Counting Crows, Coldplay, and the Pixies.

Jake will most likely be the main person posting here, although Keith will be given full access and encouragement to post as well. So, unless otherwise stated, anytime you see the word "I", that means Jake. This blog may stray from time to time, but mostly it's going to be about what's happening with the band.

How we got to this point

Keith and I have known each other for 25 years. His family moved to my street when I was 3, I think. We lived out in the country, in a neighborhood made up of a single street (the aforementioned Stevenson Road), so Keith and his brothers and my brothers and I spent a lot of time playing together growing up.

Keith's dad is musically inclined, so Keith and his brothers grew up learning piano and guitar. Throughout junior high and high school Keith and his older brother Chris played in various garage/patio bands. I know they played at least two gigs under the name "Fetish". I was at one of them. It was in Port O'Connor for 4th of July, and they opened for the local cover band on the beach. They played awesome. Little Chris wore sunglasses at night as they did a rockin' version of The Troggs' "Wild Thing".

No one in my family could play instruments growing up. Both of my parents can carry a tune, but neither of them can play an instrument. Both of my brothers picked up the guitar sometime in college. My parents saw I was musically inclined, and offered me guitar lessons, but I balked (wasn't 'manly' enough for me--*sigh*). I got a guitar for the Christmas of my junior year in high school. I went through the typical learning process of practicing chords alone in my bedroom after school, and pretty soon I could play a lot of popular songs. The first song I learned was "Closing Time" by Semisonic. The first song I learned to play and sing at the same time was "Goodnight Elizabeth" by Counting Crows. During college I got good enough to start singing and playing at family get togethers. Playing Gin and Juice by the Gourds always got a good laugh.

Fast forward several years to 2007. Keith and his wife Sarah had recently moved back to Austin (more specifically Round Rock) from a 2 year hiatus in Colorado. I had just moved back home after a year and a half in Iraq. I moved in with them while I was househunting. They let me crash with them, rent free, for 3 months. During this time, Keith and I picked up one of our favorite pasttimes--pipe dreaming about being rockstars. Keith had been talking about picking up the drums, so as a thank-you for letting me stay with them, I bought him a $300 Gammon Percussion drumset. When it arrived, we decided to jam the next day. Keith had his drum rig and practice amps set up in their upstairs loft. I brought my $150 Takamine acoustic/electric, plugged it into a 8" amp Keith had, and started off on this G-B-C riff I'd liked forever. After 3 or 4 bars, Keith kicked in a beat. Our first song, "Waste My Time", was created. Stevenson Road was born.

We started practicing every Thursday night. That was in September of last year. I think we've missed one week since. Practice is awesome. It's the highlight of my week. We play covers we both like. We drink beer. We write new songs, and polish old ones. We drink more beer.

We've settled into a routine of playing a 10 song original set. Then we may play some covers, try to write something new, re-practice ones we screwed up, or call it a day (if there's good sports on TV). I bought a house with a detached garage, which I've started remodeling into a studio. It's far from finished, but makes a great practice space.

A couple of weeks ago, we had our first gig, at Hanover's in pflugerville. It was awesome and one of the funnest days of my life. After playing together for a year, we finally had a gig!

So anyway, that pretty much catches y'all up on what's happened up to now. We're practicing, longing to record, and trying to get more gigs. I figured a blog was a good way to keep track of what we're doing. I wouldn't say we have "fans" yet, but we do have people who may be interested what we're up to. So that's what the blog is about.

Thanks for reading. See ya next time.