Monday, December 15, 2008

Bret's Birthday Bash Review and How Being In A Band is Like Being Married

Still shaking off my hangover from this weekend, but here's a recap of how our 2nd gig ever went.

My girlfriend, 2 of our married friends, and I loaded up her car with all the gear and drove down to Victoria Friday after work. We spent Friday night in Victoria and drove down to POC around noon on Saturday. At about 2, we went over to the yacht that Bret works on to get a tour. I had seen it before, but it is kick ass. $1.5 million can get you one nice boat. At about 3, I cracked my 1st beer. We chilled there for a couple of hours, then went to Josie's for lunch. We were feeling ready for a nap after 5 beers and a greasy mexican plate, so we went over to my brother's bayhouse and slept for about an hour. At about 7, I met Keith and Sarah over at Josie's and we started unloading and setting up.

Admittedly, I had a pretty good buzz before the gig even started. I kept drinking beers while we set up and after we were done, people (including my married couple friends and their bottles of Jaeger and Herradura) started showing up. By the time we were ready to play at about 10:30, I had drank 3 shots of Jaeger and about 8 beers. In retrospect, this was more than was wise.

From the time Bret had asked me if we would play this gig, I had developed a very strong sense that playing our music in front of people whose list of favorite bands consists of Pat Green, Stoney LaRue, and Cross Canadian Ragweed was not going to go over well. My feeling was that this was a birthday party, not a rock show. I thought the best idea was to play mostly songs that were either funny or covers, and save the bulk of our set for another time. At a hurried practice on Thursday, I brought this up to Keith. He disagreed.

Being in a band is kind of like being married. All the decisions have to be discussed, and compromises have to be made by everybody in order for things to move forward. That's why Behind The Music episodes are so Soap Opera-esque. One of the fundamental differences between Keith and I is how we view "what the band is all about". For my part, I'm an entertainer. I've never really considered myself a "musician" and I probably never will. I don't play guitar and sing to make music that is technically sound. I play guitar, write songs, and perform them for the sole purpose of entertaining people. As long as the crowd is happy, I'm happy. Keith was raised with music. He is leaps and bounds and head and shoulders ahead of me and WAY better than me when it comes to playing instruments. The music really matters to him. Being out of tune or stopping in the middle of a song or missing notes bothers him a great deal; those things don't really get to me as much. On the other hand, if the crowd is not into it or is grimacing, cringing, and/or booing, it really, really gets to me. Keith takes it in stride. Neither of our approaches is wrong, they're just different. In fact, if they're managed correctly, they can be complementary.

Long story short, Keith was adamant about playing our songs regardless of how the crowd reacted. I was adamant about playing to what I thought were the crowds tastes. In the end, our set list was a compromise that I don't think either of us were totally comfortable with.

We started off with "Waste My Time", which I thought would be good because it has a funny chorus ("don't talk to me unless you're going to sleep with me"). It felt good starting out. The only bad things about it was that I had decided to use my acoustic guitar instead of playing my Telecaster like I usually do. This was a mistake because the acoustic is harder to play. It sounds better and stays in tune WAY better, but it is harder to fret than the Tele. This affected the performance--I kept missing notes and just messing up overall. Even still, I thought the song sounded okay. We finished it up and things looked like they were going to be alright.

Next we played Tyler, which I thought would be good because it's a cover of a hit by Toadies, so it was something people had heard before. For me, this is where things started to derail. For one thing, I was pretty hammered. For another, I started noticing people moving towards the door, and the people who were watching were either looking on with a cringing grimace or moving further away from us. People I talked to later disagreed that these social cues meant we sucked. They rationalized that people were going outside to smoke. They said people were moving away from the stage because it was loud and there were people dancing. They said people weren't grimacing or cringing at all. Regardless, my confidence was shot by time I screamed my last "I will be with her tonight".

Our 3rd song was a bit of a rebound. I think both Keith and I and anyone who has seen us will agree that "Down Here Together" is our best song. Right before we started playing it, I switched to my Telecaster. This was smart. The bad thing was that we put new strings on it before the show and somehow they got put on backwards. This caused the B string to constantly come up off the bridge and slip into the G string's slot. It REALLY bothered me and caused me to F up a lot. Despite that, I thought Down Here Together sounded REALLY good and I got the same vibe from the crowd.

Once we started on our 4th song, I totally lost my mojo. First, I could tell that people wanted us to play something they could dance to. "Down Here Together" had reeled them in a bit, and we needed something to get them moving. "Gave It Away" is not something you can dance to unless you count running into each other in a moshpit as dancing. Second, I just didn't feel like screaming any more. One or 2 songs like that are cool, but I don't like being that aggressive for a whole show. Third, I was really, really drunk. Fourth, my guitar was badly out of tune. Fifth, I was REALLY, REALLY drunk. I don't remember exactly what happened, but we didn't finish the song. I'm almost positive that this was all my fault. I just wasn't feeling it. I wanted to spare the crowd from having to endure the misery of my shouting over an out-of-tune overcranked amp and Keith's smashing drums. I totally blew it. The #1 rule of being in a band is YOU NEVER EVER EVER STOP PLAYING IN THE MIDDLE OF A SONG. Ever. I don't care what happens, you NEVER do that. Forget the words? Make something up. Forget the chords? Play whatever comes out. Crowd throwing tomatoes? Make ketchup. I completely choffed; I'm ashamed. Oh well, lesson learned.

By now, I was certain of 3 things: 1.) I was way too drunk. 2.) The crowd wasn't liking us. 3.) Keith was pissed at me for douching that song. I asked Keith what he wanted to play and he said 10 Feet Tall. I started it off and it just never came together. I don't know whether or not we even finished the song, but either way, in my mind it was an unmitigated disaster.

I was ready to just quit. I felt like a total douchebag. In a last stab at redemption, I started playing "Have a Good Time". The chorus of the song is "Don't worry, baby, we gettin' fucked up tonight". It was sure to be a winner. Things went well, and the crowd was getting back into it, but just as they were, Bret had an announcement to make, so he grabbed the mic and we were done for.

I immediately we to the table and took 2 more shots of Jaegermeister. A couple of Bret's friends who had been biding their time for the stage immediately jumped up and took over. They started off with "Gin and Juice" by the Gourds and that song by Cross Canadian Ragweed that goes "Them boys from Oklahoma roll their joints all wrong...". Of course, the crowd freaking ate it up. The worst part was that Keith, who had sworn not to play cheesy covers or to play for the other people who took the stage, rocked the drums the whole time. Uggh.

A long time and a lot of alcohol went by. Just after midnight, Keith and I decided to take another crack at it, mostly because Bret wanted to hear a song I wrote called "Gettin' Busy". We started off with "How Do You Like Me Now". It went ok. Then, Brittanie came up and asked me to play a song I wrote called "Not Too Late". It's one of these alt-rock ballads in the mold of Dashboard Confessional or Linkin Park. I don't know whether or not it was pure alcohol, but we sounded AWESOME. It felt like the crowd was totally into it.

The bar did last call, so I busted into "Gettin' Busy" with all the drunken fervor I could muster. It's a fun, catchy song about doing the hibbity-dibbity, so of course the crowd loved it. We finished up, drunkely loaded our crap into the car, and headed back to bayhouse to get even more wasted.

Good things:

-"Not Too Late" was awesome. I have found a new love for this song.
-Eloisa, one of the owners of Josie's (who is a REALLY cool chica), apparently loved us and told me "I had such a blast, you guys rock! Y'all definitely have to come back!" I'm pretty sure she was drunk.
-There were a table of cool guys from San Antonio that didn't know Bret at all, and I think they liked us.
-Two different girls came up to me at the party and told me we were awesome and reminded them of Toadies. I'm pretty sure they were drunk.
-According to my brother Chris, "Down Here Together" is a hit. I'm pretty sure he was drunk.

Bad things:

-I did the ultimate no-no and stopped playing in the middle of a song. Twice. I deserve for Keith to use my face in place of his snare.
-I got a really bad vibe from the crowd for most of the show.
-I inadvertently gave away $300 worth of band t-shirts. The box was sitting out next to our gear, and apparently that means "Hey, these are free! Take them even though you hated the band and would never support them in any way!"
-No telling where Stevenson Road goes from here. I wouldn't be surprised if Keith never wanted to play with me again; I deserve no better. I think if we recorded a few tracks professionally, we could start gigging here in Austin and pick up some momentum. Until we have something to show folks, I don't know what more we can do. I really think we have some great songs and are polished enough to put on a good show in the right scenario.

Boy, I HATE Cross Canadian Ragweed.

Thanks for reading, hope y'all have a good week and a Merry Christmas. Much Love.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Not much happening bandwise this week. I had my 10 year high school reunion this week. It was a lot of fun. I talked to my good friend Lyn, and he told me Schroeder was a no-go. Oh well, maybe next year.

Keith and I are still playing Bret's birthday this weekend. Should be a lot of fun. Hope to see you all there at Josie's in POC.

I bought a PA to use for the gig this weekend. I had seen a decent set up in a Guitar Center Xmas mailout that I wanted to take a look at. The guy in the live sound department was extremely helpful. The setup I looked at first was $300, and was comprised of an 80 watt 4 channel mixer and 2 12" detached speakers. The guy asked me questions about how I would be using it and then recommended what essentially is a powered speaker. It's a 15" woofer with a 4" high end speaker powered by a built in 200 watt amp with 4 adjustable inputs. It cost $200. Basically, by saving $100, I got a much more powerful amp that can still take 4 inputs and EQ them. What I lost was the option to have sterio sound on 2 speakers that are not attached to the amp. Because likely the only time I will ever use this is when we play gigs at PA-less venues, all I'll ever be miking is my vocals. In the rare instance that we need to mic the drums and guitar as well, I can still do it, it will just all come out of one speaker. Totally worth it.

I'm slowly trying to accumulate all the equipment I will ever need for my music hobby. Here's a list of all the crap I have:

Electron Blue Standard Fender Telecaster (Made in Mexico)- I don't think I'll ever need a nicer electric guitar than this. I played the (more expensive) American made version and couldn't tell the difference. I know the Tele is my guitar of choice. I wouldn't mind adding a Gibson SG to play as well, but for my purposes and unless music becomes more than just a hobby, the Tele works fine.

Gibson CJ165 Acoustic/Electric- I know I'll never own a nicer acoustic than this one. I bought this on a sort of whim at Guitar Center about a year ago. It cost over $2000. There are definitely more expensive guitars available, but I played many Martins, Gibsons, Taylors, and Takamines before settling on this one. I knew once I got back from overseas I would buy a nice acoustic guitar that would last my lifetime. I knew I wanted it to be a dark stain and I knew I didn't want it to have a pick guard. I'll know I'm satisfied with my guitar ability when I've played so much I wear a hole where the pick guard should be. This guitar is extremely well made and the action is perfect. The tone, especially when it has new strings, is beautiful. I'll own this guitar for the rest of my life and the only thing I think I could add as far as acoustic guitars go would be a cheap Spanish style nylon string and a deep toned 12 string.

I also own a Fender Standard Mandolin; it was given to me as a college graduation gift from my brothers. I know how to play The Gourds version of "Gin and Juice" and a poorly done version of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried"; I'm deeply ashamed at how long I've owned it without mastering it at the most elementary level. I also own a Jay Turser brand Resonator guitar. It's basically a stratocaster-style body with a banjo-style tone. It looks like a guitar with a pie tin in the middle. I got it for like $80 at a pawn shop, mostly because I just thought it looked cool. I have 2 Hohner harmonicas that I can't play worth a crap. One in the key of C and one in G. I like to bust them out every once in awhile and blow into them while I play a song in the key of the harmonica. It makes me feel like Bob Dylan. I play my guitars through either an old British brand solid-state amp whose name escapes me or a small 8" Marshall practice amp. Eventually I want to get rid of them and buy a Vox AC15 tube amp. I've also been looking at acquiring an upright piano. There are always at least a half dozen of them available on Craigslist for under $300. Many times there are people giving them away just so they can get them out of their homes. If I learned how to play piano, my head would probably explode with awesomeness.

Besides the various mics and whatnot that I need for recording, that's all I would ever need to tote to whatever gig we'll ever get. My desire for musical equipment is kind of like how some dudes get with cars; I could walk into any large music store and easily drop several hundred thousand dollars and still not be completely satisfied. I'm not wealthy and I don't plan on ever being so, but if I ever do by some miracle become rich, I would own many, many guitars, amps, and the like.

That's enough blathering for now. Have a great week. See y'all in POC.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Studio Construction, 3rd Gig Ever (maybe-kinda), yada, yada, yada

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. Mine was GREAT. Nothing like family, food, and football.

So, I came into some good luck last weekend. While driving home from Whataburger, I spotted a roll of almostbrandnew carpet in a dumpster. Coincidentally, and luckily, Keith was driving by right as I stopped, so he helped me fish it out and haul it to my house.

Last night I glued the tack stripping and laid the padding in order to install carpet on the studio floor. Brittanie helped me haul the gigantic piece of carpet in and (kinda) unfold it. It looks to be more than large enough and in near perfect condition. This is awesome as it saved me about $400 since I don't have to buy it new. I hope to be finished cutting, placing, and stretching the carpet as well as putting in trim by Thursday so that we can practice before playing in POC this weekend. There's no doubt that munching carpet is much more fun than installing it.

All that's left after that is putting in carpet on the ceiling, putting in molding, and furnishing the studio with a desk, futon, small fridge, cabinets, guitar racks, etc. Then I'll throw down a couple grand for the gear (ProTools interface ($1400), Sennheiser 421 mics ($400ea), a Vox AC15 tube amp ($800), Fostex monitor speakers ($400), a PC with a flat panel monitor ($600), a mixer ($400), a Fender P-Bass ($400), an upright piano (free on CL), an Ampeg B-15 Fliptop Bass Amp ($800), and a Manley ELOP ($2000)). So, there's still a lot to do, but I'm excited to get it all done.


Yesterday I got a text from a friend of mine whose parents-in-law own Schroeder Dance Hall asking if I wanted to play there over the Christmas holiday. I am waiting to hear which dates they have open, but I think it'd be a great time. So, there's a chance of a solo acoustic gig in the next month or so. Stay tuned, and if it goes down, I expect all your asses there to drink beer in the saloon with me.

That's all I got for now. Hope to see all y'all in POC this Saturday!