Mar 26, 2008

First Stage, pt.2

Piano days with Aaron at 12 years of age. Jammin' the Für Elise and Debbie Boone.

Sit up straight, dude, or you will have back problems the rest of your life...

Mar 20, 2008

Mikey likes me

On Wednesday Mike, Brandon and I rehearsed five songs I've been polishing up. Mike was very pleased with the results, and we are definitely on for our first gigs together: unplugged at Café Coda on April 19, and fully rockin' at LaSalles on May 2. Yea!

Mar 14, 2008

Second Stage: Sydney Page

In the halcyon days of the early 90s I was in art school, driving a motorcycle, and playing in an original rock band called Sydney Page. Ah, life. My roommate Chip and I wrote the songs, Chip's brother Greg played drums, Eric and later Michael played bass. We played a variety of small clubs and bars for small crowds and smaller pay. Wouldn't trade it. Enjoy this video of "Dying Day" at Niles Station in Fremont, circa 1993. One of the nicest venues we played. And that's not saying much!

Hey! I just learned a trick to view YouTube videos in high-quality format: append "&fmt=18" to the end of the URL! So here is a link to the HQ version of this video.

Mar 8, 2008

Mike Comfort

LaSalles, Chico, March 7, 2008

The crowd was large and enthusiastic last night. See my gallery. It was the first time I've seen Mike in concert. First impression? Holy #&$@, they're playing FAST! All the tempos were way faster than on CD. This concerns me, not because it makes the songs more difficult to play (in fact the opposite is true—you can be really sloppy), but because a lot of the groove is lost when you push the tempo. Isaac Hayes has groove; Sex Pistols do not. Whatever. Do Mike's fans care? No. Mike's music is very melodic, user friendly, and fun. The audience had a good time, singing along and rocking out.

Mar 7, 2008

Rock On, the book, pt.2

I just finished Rock On, and I cracked up when it mentioned me again:

Would you consider starting a band late in life? Why is the act of playing music taken with such an ambitious careerist forethought by most people? Granted, it gets kind of sad when it's people, say, Dan Kennedy's age, drunk on sensible wine at a dinner party and someone decides, "Hey, let's have a jam session and drink more wine!" But what would the crime be in forming a decent band at, for example, age thirty or forty or...? Really, is that a crime? (Last part of question is rhetorical.)

What? Hearing protection. What?!?

Just as the planet is slowly warming, we know that exposure to rock concert volume levels breaks your ears. Just ask Pete Townshend. But just as condoms can help prevent the transmission of AIDS, musicians often fail to wear them. Earplugs, I mean. Aside from the fear of being perceived as nerds, musicians hate earplugs because they make it difficult to hear themselves play, because most earplugs attenuate (reduce) higher frequencies more than mids or lows, and this is where all the important information is, especially for singers. Even the $12 "musician's earplugs" on the market don't sound that great. So I, too, hate earplugs for performing.

But because I'd like to continue recording, mixing and producing music until I'm dead, and I'd like to keep as much of my remaining hearing as possible, I'm investing $155 in something better. Today I went to Chico Hearing Aid Center and, after getting a too-intimate look at my eardrums on TV, I let Kathy squirt cold silicone goo into my ear canals. These molds she will send to a company that makes custom fit earplugs with replaceable filters that reduce sound levels 9, 15, or 25 decibels in a, hopefully, very controlled and musical way.

My new custom-fit earplugs will arrive next week. I'll let you know how they work!

Mar 6, 2008

Digging in

I have been digging in to Mike's playlist—22 songs—learning the guitar parts and finding the right sounds on the POD X3. I have notes scribbled out about which patch to use for each song, and right now it's a big confusing mess. After another week or two of practice, it will start to sink in, but right now my brain is swamped. The X3 is great, though. It can cover anything I need it to, with style.

Tomorrow night Mike plays at LaSalles at 10pm, and Heather and I are going to check out the show. (I'll post some photos from my point-and-shoot on Saturday.) I'm nervous about one minor detail...I learned from Mike that his current lead guitar player does not know I'm coming on board. So I guess I can't have that detailed conversation about his gear I was looking forward to. Oh....kay. It's always fun to join someone else's family, right?

Stay tuned!

Mar 3, 2008

The rig: in with the new

Last year I went looking for a new axe. Played a lot of guitars. Finally, I went to the Carvin showroom in Sacramento, and that's where I fell in love. In September I sold my custom Chandler electric and ordered a Carvin California Carved Top. Couldn't be happier.

When I got the gig with Mike, I knew I'd have to get a new amp. I had two guitar amps in the closet. The Roland JC-120 is a great clean amp, and I used it on stage with Sydney Page, but it's really not a good choice for rock. Too bright. The Fender Blues Junior was a nice tube amp, but I never really liked it. Sold them both on eBay.

After a blunder with a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (buzzed like a fridge), I ended up buying a Blackheart Little Giant five-watt head and two 1x12 cabinets. Couldn't pass up the boutique touches (everything is overbuilt–extra heavy circuit board, hand wired, quality plywood cabinets) and the price: CHEAP! Really nice amp. Check them out.

Next, I traded in my trusty Line 6 POD 2.0 for the new X3 Live. This is basically a powerful computer for processing audio, packaged conveniently for operation by foot. This thing simulates a huge number of amps, cabinets and effects, allowing you to sound similar to (but not exactly like) all of your favorite guitar players.

You have to be a deep geek to master all the X3's variables (I qualify). There are WAY too many choices. And it's definitely the bleeding edge, because the engineers are feverishly patching the firmware and trying to release the software that allows you to use your computer to program the X3. But the payoff is that I can mimic every lick and trick on Mike's songs.

Which means I have everything I need to play our first gig on April 18. Now I just need a couple of dozen songs. Piece of cake.

Mar 1, 2008

Rock On, the book

Dan Kennedy's Rock On is a memoir of his job at a recording company in New York. And it's HI-larious. From the chapter So You Wanna Be a Chart-Topping Rock-and-Roll Star Embraced by Major-Label Marketing Executives and Corporate Radio, Well Listen Now to What I Say:

Lead guitarist: You should look bored, as well as skilled in Web-site development, including back-end architecture and server-side technology. You should also appear to be courting an iron deficiency in the blood. It should be unclear as to whether the iron deficiency is from long hours developing e-commerce and mobile blogging applications or touring with band.