- Friday in Kenosha with The Bradburys (pictured above)
- Saturday in Savanna (IL) with The Recliners
- Adequate sound systems: 0/2
- Interested, competent sound guys: 1/4
- Perfect weather: 2/2
- I brought my Moog Rogue analog synth to Friday’s gig. First time I’ve used it in 25 years, and the first time I’ve played keyboards on a stage in at least 15 years. Sounded great, had fun, A+++, will synth again.
- I had my primary amp retubed a little while ago and I have been struggling with it ever since. It sounds tubby and flabby, lacking the throaty aggressiveness it used to project in the high midrange. A bad batch of tubes, I reckoned, and something I’d have to deal with. Well, I happened to look more closely yesterday, and they put an entirely different kind of power amp tube in it. They swapped my EL34’s for 6L6’s; this explains everything. The amp can take either, but they are not the same. It’d be like taking your car in for an oil change, and they decided to swap a rotary engine in for your V6 without telling you. I’m angry.
- In Savanna, midway through the second set, 200+ bikers rolled in all at once. Damn, son, that’s some noise. Nice people. We may have agreed to play one of their fundraisers next year.
- I tweaked my back yesterday morning—just a little and not in the same place as before. So I took some muscle relaxers. So I decided not to drink any beer at the gig. Lo and behold, even after singing the day before, my voice didn’t blow out before the end of the show. Hmmm.
Haven’t done a gig recap in a while:
- Midget wrestling is worse than you think. It’s a little slice of the human experience I will work to forget.
- That midget in the white shirt was apparently in the Jackass movie. I didn’t see it. Nothing that happened last night makes me want to.
- Gary and I were reenacting the Blues Brothers’ final drive to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office, except in reverse. Sunglasses, half a pack of cigarettes, etc. It took him two hours to get to my house (normally ~20 minutes) and then it took both of us another hour to get out of the burbs. Once we hit the open highway, you’d have seen a redshift if you were behind us.
- We showed up 12 minutes before our scheduled go time, then set up and started only 10 minutes late. Big Time Pros.
- The adrenaline of that drive and set up took a toll, however, and we were a hot mess for the first half of the first set. It got better once the beer started to work.
- We shot video with an idea of improving our promotional toolkit, but the audio is largely fucked up and the performance is meh. Oh, well. I may post a little clip anyway because I like you. (Yes, you!)
- Nah. Really, it’s because I’m a shameless narcissist.
- Another unwelcome development was the club hanging a confederate flag near the stage. I didn’t have time or energy to try to get it taken down and feel a little bad about that now. I doubt anyone else noticed or cared.
- Last time we played there, my amp took a giant crap in the middle of the gig. I limped through it and took it home to have it serviced. $220 later, I fired it up at gig volume and I find they apparently castrated it while they were in there. The balls are gone. Major sad. Not sure what to do.
- Got home at 2:40, up today at 6:40. Doing it wrong.
Most of the bullying I endured was in middle school. I went to a private high school about five miles away from where I lived, mostly because it was a much better school than the public school I lived near, but at least partly because I could get away from my tormentors since none of those dumbass hillbillies would be going where I was.
Dead Ray Bradbury
Mayhem (not pictured)
Tough night for lots of reasons which I’d rather not go into.
One thing, though. I am willing to bet that there is not a guitarist on the planet who strikes his gear and gets it off the stage more quickly than me. When I’m done and there is a band after us, I work fast and hard to clear. I have been playing professionally since I was 13 and have played thousands of gigs all across this country and beyond. Getting off the stage quickly is of critical importance at shows like this where there are a lot of bands and tight windows between the sets. It fucks everything up if anyone dawdles. Therefore I hustle and so do all my mates. We get it.
SO, NO, DICKSMACK: IT IS NOT OK IF YOU START SETTING UP YOUR PEDALBOARD THAT’S THE SIZE OF A GODDAMNED SURFBOARD WHILE I’M STILL STRIKING. I DON’T CARE HOW FUCKING AWESOME AND IMPORTANT YOU AND YOUR TONE ARE. GET THE FUCK OUT MY WAY SO I CAN GET THE FUCK OUT YOURS, YOU INBRED, PUSTULOUS FUCKNOZZLE, AND I AM NOT GONNA BE SORRY WHEN I “ACCIDENTALLY” HIT YOU SQUARE IN YOUR ENORMOUS, BUMPER-LIKE FOREHEAD WITH MY 80-POUND AMPLIFIER.
OK. GOOD TALK.
some video from Saturday
I know the odds of people
- clicking on links
- to see short videos
- on Facebook
- because I don’t think I can embed them here
- not that it would improve the odds much
are exactly 0.00000, but if you’re curious what I look like when I am bringing the rawk, you can look here then here. Brief NSFW at the start of the second one, but it has more me, not coincidentally.
The gig was incredible, electric, cathartic, and utterly satisfying. I’d do a recap but it’d be hard to put it into words since it affected me in a much more primitive part of my brain. We’ll probably do another one in a year or so; hopefully you can make it.
(videos courtesy Mark Lush)
- Friday: turns out 48º and sideways rain aren’t the best conditions to get a big crowd to an outdoor gig.
- You could argue, though, that’s to be expected when I play a gig at a Catholic church. Two years in a row. No lightning this time, at least. Or locusts.
- That was some of the best onstage sound I’ve ever experienced.
- Electricians: hire good ones.
- Saturday: big kudos to Mister Mo’s and their hiring practices and uniform choices. I’m willing to overlook that little apostrophe problem.
- Concession to age: no more gigs on successive days, at least if there are vocals on day 2. By the start of the second set, I sounded like the bastard love child of Bonnie Tyler and Froggy.
- The Recliners recently invested in a PA for gigs at small places like that, which was good. I think next we need lights, though, because in that kind of place, the only stage light is the reflected glow of the TVs.
- South side sport’s [sic] bars are truly the worst places on Earth to experience Noter [sic] Dame football. Gah.
- I need one of you to unload the car, now, please, kthx.
- 4 hours of sleep oughta be plenty, right?
I busted an A during the fourth song. I had to finish that one with five strings, detuned and awkward. I was like Jack White without the violent misogyny.
It went downhill from there. My tone sucked, my forearms felt leaden, I was in poor voice, I sweat through my shirt. I had a headache and it hasn’t gone away.
It’s like this: my particular style of playing has been described as athletic, gymnastic, muscular. As such, I have to stay in shape. I can’t play a couple of days a year then walk out there and try to be what I used to be. No one wants to see once great jocks, now fat and old, playing celebrity softball games.
From here, right now, I need to recommit, reinvent, or hang it up, because fuck that.
A pretty incredible thing happened at last night’s Bradburys gig.
Long-time readers may recall the story from last summer when, at the Taste of Wisconsin, a guy came up to me after we played Off Broadway’s “Stay In Time” and told me he was the original guitarist and that we did a good job with it. He also said, “your singer sounds just like Cliff!”
So there we were last night about halfway through our set when an older dude with wild hair came down to the front of the stage and got my attention. “Hey, I’m Cliff Johnson. Can I come up and sing with you guys?”
It really was him. Apparently Dan, our fearless leader, knew this was a possibility but he kept it from the rest of us. Cliff came up and we launched into “Stay In Time” after he asked us if we were sure we knew the eighth-note riff before the chorus. (Please.) And as soon as he leaned into that first line, “Every day when you turn away from your world, boy,” all the hairs on my neck stood up and I broke into the biggest smile. This was the voice that was playing through my radio all summer in 1980. Those junior high years were the most critical of my formative era as a musician. I doubt most people reading this will remember that song; it peaked at #51 on the Billboard charts nationally, but it was a much bigger hit here since they were local heroes. It’s hard for me to overstate how incredible it was to share a stage, even a mic, with a guy who I’ve been singing along with for 30+ years. (I really hope he didn’t catch whatever this disease is in my lungs. Sorry, Cliff.)
After that, we did The Beatles’ “Bad Boy” (now Junior, behave yourself) which Cliff totally owned. Then he took his leave to big smiles and big applause all around. Our next song was “No Matter What” by Badfinger, and he couldn’t help himself and came back up and sang background vocals while Jake, our bass player, handled lead. Super fun.
Anyway, that’s truly a first. I’ve opened for some semi-legendary people, but this was the first time I ever actually got to play with one, live. I love that after over 30 years as a performer, I still get the occasional first-time experience. It was a thrill I’ll never forget.
(You can hear “Stay In Time” at the link to the old post above. Photos by Dan’s daughter Mari.)
- When we got there two hours before the show, the doors were locked and the place was dark. I thought Something Bad had happened (it’s that kind of place) but there were no signs from the sheriff on the door. Hung around and the owner showed up a few minutes later.
- For the seven millionth time I forgot the power cable for my amp. Big Time Pro. Mercifully it’s one of those standard deals and the club owner had one. Today I put four of them in my bag.
- Now that I’m in my dotage, I am really not into renting, picking up, setting up, breaking down, and returning a PA. I’m exhausted before I even start, and am contemplating a new rule: we only play rooms that have a PA.
- Three hours of music is a lot. My goddamned weak sauce/old man voice blew out toward the end of the first set and we had to cut a bunch of my stuff in the second because I sounded like a baritone Grover who’d just hiked the Gobi. I’ve had some kind of allergy/cold thing happening for a couple of weeks and there was the nagging feeling of something wrong in my throat, so I saw it coming, but dammit. I hate when that happens.
- Near the end, we announced we were going to do two more songs. Less than 10 seconds after the end of the first of those, they turned up the house system and the DJ started. “Nope, you’re done NOW, fellas.” Might as well have been a gong or a hook.
- Overall performance: high on energy, low on accuracy. B+
- The place turns into a dance club at 1am and plays the most unlistenable garbage I’ve ever heard. Get off my lawn, fine, whatever, but that’s just aural sewage delivered at 120 bpm. I hung around for a drink with a couple of friends until we couldn’t take it anymore.
- I got about 4 hours of sleep, and am now approaching that delightful stage of exhaustion where hallucinations begin.
- As of right now, I have no upcoming performances on my calendar at all. Unacceptable.
- I love Wisconsin, and I say that without smirking or irony, though I have to make two big exceptions for their taste in football and governors. Big props to the guy wearing an Urlacher jersey in the beer tent way behind enemy lines…that’s cojones grande.
- After doing this a long time, it’s the little things that make me happy. To wit: downstage AC power for pedalboards.
- Though, when you run your power for the entire venue over a single, not-too-thick extension cord from 200’ away, there’s enough voltage sag that your fancy new digital effects pedal keeps rebooting throughout the set, which makes for a cool light show, but not so much for the nifty tones.
- LED stage lighting FTW. Going home unroasted and not soaked in sweat is a thing.
- Though, going home soaked from the downpour that started just before loading out is a different thing.
- They had a cool, surprisingly high-tech setup: at the FOH position, there was just a man and a woman with two laptops, one for sound, one for lights, controlling all of it remotely via ethernet. That’s awfully big time stuff for a church parking lot gig. Impressive.
- Nothing pleases me more than the Glare of the Insecure Guitarist in the Audience. I see you, dude. <waves> <shreds>
- Rookie mistake: leaving my phone on a mains speaker which angrily vibrated it right off of there and onto the wet pavement about 5’ below. Still assessing damage; not looking good. Ka-ching.
- Worse than rookie mistake: remembering I’d left my prescription sunglasses there after driving halfway home in a thunderstorm, then having to turn around and go get them, thus extending my time in the car in soaking wet clothes to nearly 3 hours.
Some more serious news: something’s wrong with my right arm…my forearm muscles are really tight and my fingers and hand are twitching. If it keeps up I’ll call the doctor tomorrow, but does anyone have any suggestions on anything I can do or take in the meantime?
Today’s gig recap:
- On the way there I stopped at a 7-11 and grabbed a couple of bottles of Gatorade, a blue one and a green one that was a new color for me. I didn’t read the label. In the car, I crack it open and take a giant swig only to discover that I had just ingested Lime & Cucumber flavored Gatorade. On the bottle, they call it “Limon-Pepino.” In my mouth, I called it bug-flavored sewer scum. I like limes, I like cucumbers, and I like Gatorade, but I’m here to tell you this is the vilest thing I’ve ever tasted.
- Band etiquette lesson number one: when you’re done and there is a band following you, get your shit off the stage fucking prontissimo and then bask in your the warm embrace of your fandom later. Your greatness will still be there for them after you get the fuck out of the next band’s way. The previous band’s drummer’s dilly dallying cost us 10 minutes of our set.
- Band etiquette lesson number two: never mock the sound guy, at least until you get home to your tumblr, even though he showed up with Radio Shack grade mics and mic stands, pictured above. I taped my talk box tube onto the mic without realizing there was an on/off switch on it, because the only mics with on/off switches on them are on lecterns in grammar school auditoriums. I had to take my tube off to switch it on. The mic stand didn’t have a boom—guitarists need booms, we carry big wooden things that keep us from getting too close—and it was about 5” too short for me at max height. As the gig wore on, the junction on the clip gave way and the mic drooped. We did “Rocky Mountain Way” last, and for the big talk box solo at the end, the mic and tube were at about the height of my sternum. It looked like I was doing the limbo as I bent my knees and back to get to the right altitude. The scary thing was that the stage was pitched about 10º forward and I thought I was going to either herniate a disc or faceplant. I made it work, but sheesh. Next year if we do this again I’m bringing my own.
- Band etiquette lesson number three: when you are following a band, let them get their shit off the stage before you start putting yours on, especially if they are hustling. The band after us was in such a hurry to get their trailer full of shitty gear up there that they didn’t wait until I was broken down, and I am damn speedy. One of their roadies (srsly) was standing on one of my cables while I was trying to put it away, and their guitar player shot me a look because I paused coiling it. Um, YOUR ENTOURAGE IS ON IT, you creepy old fuck. Nice cowboy hat. And if your drummer kicks over my beer, I will fucking cut him here and now.
- I rarely root for other bands to suck. I’m not that competitive anymore. But I was really glad and not too surprised those guys after us sucked, like suck a bowling ball through a garden hose suck, suck start a Harley suck, suck the chrome off a trailer hitch suck. What dickheads.
- We left, going to another tent where a cute girl, maybe 18 (update: her name is Macyn Taylor), was singing folk songs and playing guitar. She did a really nice job, and has a bright future, I think. We enjoyed her set whilst munching fried cheese curds. Seemed like the right thing to do.
- Overall, a fine show, even if none of us felt really comfortable. My hands felt heavy in the humidity, and the rush to set up served us poorly. Not making excuses; we need to rise above that, and we did as a unit. I just had an 0 for 4, 3 strikeouts kinda day even though the team won.
- Good people up there, those cheeseheads, no matter how confused they are about football or electing governors. A very accepting bunch, always more open-minded about bands they don’t know than the FIBs we usually play for.