Adventures in band gigs, last night edition

Last night we played at a place called “The Hall Of Fame” for a big party for a bunch of photographers. Since they all work on the weekends doing weddings and such, they have their annual party on a tuesday (we’ve played it for several years now). I really love playing this place because it’s big, and has a great built in sound system meaning everything sounds huge and good, and we don’t have to bring our own system. It also has a band dressing room with couches, and it’s own bathroom with a shower (not that I’d ever use it since it’s kind of icky)!
I’ve got a new toy by Line 6 called the Pod XT. This little unit simulates 32 guitar amps, tons of speaker cabinets, microphones on the speaker cabinets, and has tons of built in effects. So between my Variax and the Pod XT I now have a room full of guitars and amps in one tiny compact little setup.
Since the Pod emulates all parts of the guitar amp chain, you get the best results running through a “full range” system like a P.A., or a keyboard amp, so I ordered a supposedly great keyboard amp which should be in next week. Our keyboard player had also ordered one because his old one is kinda flaky, and these new ones were a real good deal. He offered to let me use his new amp until mine comes in since it doesn’t really make as much difference to him as it does for my guitar stuff, and he still had his old amp to use.
We get to soundcheck and I set my stuff up through his new amp, and it sounds awesome. I can’t wait to get mine now. Jess and I left to get some food and such and when we returned before the gig the sound guy said “your amp was making really weird noises so we turned it off”. I go to investigate, and sure enough every time I turn it on it makes very weird noises and kinda smells funny. Eventually the weird noises stop, but at that point all I can get out of it is a weak distorted sound that obviously indicates the amp is dead. It’s getting shipped off for a replacement today. Luckily I just plugged my Pod into the P.A. system and had it turned up in my monitor so I could hear it on stage.
The first set was really rough. Everyone was making little mistakes here and there, even me which is highly unusual. 😉 There was one point when Angonia called out a certain country song to do, and I proceeded to start a completely different song much to the surprise of all the band. My excuse was that all those country songs sound alike, and both were about drinkin’.
The rest of the night went pretty well with the exception of some obnoxious and annoying people, Angonia old keyboard amp going back to it’s flaky ways, and our drummer breaking one of his cymbals and hurting his arm on the way back from the bathroom. He had to pee really badly so he ran to the bathroom between songs, and on the way back he ran into this big metal piece of electrical machinery in the hall. It tore the sleeve of his shirt, so during our break he just ripped the sleeves off and made it a sleeveless shirt.
An amusing anecdote about one of the annoying people:
these two girls came to the stage and started asking if we knew all these songs. It went something like this…
girl: Do you know “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger?
us: No, we sure don’t.
girl: (indignant look) What? If you don’t know that song , you guys suck!
rest of band (who are drooling over themselves at the pretty girl even though they are all married, and apparently think that playing this song will somehow instigate some fantasy sequence where the pretty girl goes to the dressing room and pleasures them): Well we could probably do it!
me (knowing full well that we could do it, and in fact have done it before, but not wanting to do it because it’s an overplayed clich� and apparently being the only one not under this siren’s spell since I don’t care if she’s pretty or not, she’s a bitch): [dirty look at band] No, we can’t!
girl: What about “The Cotton-Eyed Joe?”
us (normally we just play a recording of this during our break to save us the agony): No. We don’t have a fiddle player.
me (as girl, again, looks disgusted with us): but we know this…
I then launch into our next song to end this little exchange of obnoxiousness.
Ah, my glamorous rock star life. Then there was the guy who wanted to sit and play drums with us.
I’ll end with two important pointers:
1) it’s OK to ask if we know a song or 2, but don’t cop an attitude, and don’t sit there for 5 minutes listing through 20 songs that you want us to play. While we have a very extensive set list that could probably fill 6-8 hours if we played every song we knew (and more if we played all the songs we could even fake), that leaves approximately 9,876,678,155,984,278 hours worth of music that we don’t know.
2) Don’t ask to play or sing with the band. This isn’t karaoke.

The latest band gig

So as you may have read about in Jess’s blog, my gig last night was good, but a bit draining for me. First off, about 30 minutes before the gig I find out that Donnie can’t make it because he’s hellaciously sick. This really bummed me out because one of the things I think really stands out about this band is the incredible vocals and harmonies and many of them just aren’t the same without Donnie, especially songs where Craig is singing lead and Donnie and I are singing some echoing backup part or some ooohs or ahhhhs. We didn’t get to start until later than expected so our set would have to be pruned a bit, and the first several songs were spent more as fodder for getting the sound system all set right. We didn’t get to practice before this gig so we were quite sloppy. Many mistakes were made by all and endings tended to be incredibly loose.
That being said, we still rocked pretty good. Everyone said we were great, and that it sounded like we had been playing together a long time, when in fact it was only our third gig. I just know what we’re capable of and how good we can be, and thus know how sloppy we were last night, but all in all it was still a pretty good gig. Thanks to all of Eden Automatic for letting us open for them and get another gig under our belt. They’re an awesome band. Check them out.

I am the music man.

And I don’t mean Robert Preston. Much musical…(looking for a word that I can’t find; something like shenanigans, tom foolery, skullduggery, damn it’s just not coming)…stuff on the horizon. Tonight we have a full band practice for the Craig Davis gig tomorrow at the Northgate Music Festival.
Sidenote here: Every year there is a nationally renowned music festival called South By Southwest held in Austin. It’s huge thing where hundreds of bands fill every club and venue, and people are there scouting new talent and such. Here in College Station they started having “North By Northgate” music festival the week after SXSW. Northgate is an area near the college where there’s a strip of bars restaurants and such. It’s the main hangout type area for nightlife. Well SXSW actually threatened to sue NXNG if they didn’t change their name. The organizers didn’t want to deal with it so they changed it to Northgate Music Festival. However we all agree that SXSW really wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on with that lawsuit. We figured next they would start suing anyone who used the terms “south” or “southwest”. From now on, you can not go south, you can only go anti-north. Anyway, back to the main post…
Thursday we do acoustic sets for a live radio performance, and for an in store appearance at a local record store, then we have the main show Thursday night. Friday, I just picked up a 2 man acoustic gig with one of the guys in my cover band for a small unplugged gig outside a restaurant. Saturday, the cover band plays at the Northgate Music Festival at the primo time of 11am. Somewhere this weekend we need to do laundry, and then Monday we’ll probably get up at like 5am to drive to Houston for the big INS trip to get Jess’s Employment Authorization Card. I kind of like being busy. Makes me feel like I have a life!

The newest hit from Craig Davis and Heath Allyn

So the weekend was fun as usual when we go to Austin. The 2 gigs were underwhelming, unfortunately. Very small little outdoor things with pretty much no one there. The studio was quite fun however. Craig ended up singing the lead vocal and one harmony part at the end, but aside form those he left it entirely in my hands. I programmed the drums, played bass, all guitars, and sang the rest of the vocals. It still needs some work, but things are looking good!

Musical things are a-brewin!

So next weekend I have 2 gigs in Austin as a duo with a Craig Davis. One at some South Austin Arts Festival which is supposedly some big Woodstock type thing with tons of bands and food and crafts and such, and then a songwriters showcase at a club later that day. They’re supposedly going to record one of our sets for possible inclusion on a later compilation CD. Then, on Sunday, Craig and I are going into the studio for 3 hours to record one of his new songs. I’ll be playing guitar, bass, singing harmony, and possibly programming the drums in my drum machine. It’s all quite exciting. The week after that, We’re doing our first full band Craig Davis gig since the initial (and only) one which is how this whole wacky thing started. It’s for the Northgate Music Festival which is sort of a smaller “South by Southwest” music festival. I made a set list, burned CD’s of the set list in order, and distributed them to the band guys to learn by March 20th. Also on that day we are doing a live radio appearance and possibly an in store performance at the local record store. The 22nd, my cover band is playing is also playing the same festival. This is all quite exciting for me! It will be fun to be back in the studio and end up with a recording of our efforts. Craig and I work really well together, and I really think this could go somewhere, especially when we move to Austin and it will be much easier to actually get together to write, record, and play. He has a woman managing him who is absolutely awesome too. She really busts her ass and gets all these things happening. Exciting things are cooking, gentle readers!

So how was your weekend?

Mine was pretty damn good! We went to Austin on Friday, and spent the weekend with my cousin. There was much video game playing and eating. However the reason for the trip was to make some musical appearances on Monday. As many of you may know, I’ve been playing with Craig Davis, a musician out of Austin. Monday morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am (an hour which just shouldn’t even exist, honestly), to go perform on the Fox-7 morning show. It was quite cool being in a TV studio watching them do the live show and preparing for our appearance. We did 2 little 15 second teasers as they went to commercial, then performed one full song. We then played about 30 seconds at the end of the show too. It was quite a cool experience indeed. That night we did a 4 song set at a club where there they were doing an open mic night combined with featured artists (which we were one of the 3). I think we blew the roof off the joint. up until that point it had been a very folky, coffee house type vibe with performers to match. We got up and did some rockin’ pop songs with strong harmonies. It was quite a contrast, but we were very well received and it took me a while to actually get out of the place since I was stopped by someone every 10 feet to tell us we were great. I also had many inquiries as to my kick ass new guitar which stunned several people since it looks like an electric guitar but yet was producing perfect acoustic guitar sounds. All in all it was a cool weekend, and I think things with Craig are really starting to get rolling. I’m going back in 2 weeks for another set at the same club during “South by Southwest” a HUGE music festival that takes place annually in Austin. Check out some clips of Craig’s music on

I Have The Power! Alternately: The First One Always Hurts The Worst.

So I got my new guitar in last week. It’s the Variax by Line 6. It has electronics within it that digitally model 28 different classic vintage guitars. Electrics, acoustics, 12-strings, banjo, sitar and more. It’s absolutely phenomenal. Add that to the fact that I also use a Line 6 amplifier which digitally models tons of different guitar amps and effects, and you’ll see that I now have the power to invade small planets. So now with one amp, and one guitar, it’s as if I have a room full of amps and wall full of guitars, all of which are classic, very expensive, often rare, and very high end. I love technology. My bandmates were particularly tickled with my banjo playing this weekend.
Now for the pain. I had 2 gigs this weekend. My brand new guitar made it through a grand total of…1 of them before getting a ding in it. Sometime at our gig today I acquired a small little dent in the face of my brand new guitar. It hurt me. I hurt. I feel pain. I obsess. It totally soured my mood which was already not that great since we got 4 hours of sleep before having to go to this all 8-4 gig for the Bridal Show, where we pay them to set up a booth and ply our wares along with caterers, photographers, florists and such, trying to get all the future brides, who pay to get in, to hire us for their wedding reception. For the rest of the day my eyes were just magnetically attracted to that tiny ding in my guitar. On the slight upside, I was planning on having a sticker made up of my musical yin-yang logo to put on my guitar right over where the ding is. Still it stresses me. Silly, I know, but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Back in the Saddle Again

So I seem to have gotten back into writing my screenplay. It’s only been a year or 2 of laziness. I feel a lot better since I’ve been writing. I feel like I’m doing something. Making some kind of progress in at least a small way towards getting somewhere. I’ve already started entertaining fantastical thoughts such as some Hollywood studio being interested my script, and what I will do then. I’m definitely writing it for me to star in and direct, but what if some studio offers to buy it for scads of money, but doesn’t want me to star or direct? Do I stick by my guns and say “nope, that’s part of the deal” or take the money and be happy that I just got paid for a screenplay and get to see it made? Yes, I’m way ahead of myself, but like I said, I’m a dreamer. I was going through a conversation in my head yesterday, pitching this to a studio executive. I figure it’s a good deal for both sides. I would get to have my movie made, and they could make the movie for far less money since I am an unknown star/director. They would save millions, or tens of millions even by letting me star and direct. Yes I often have imaginary conversations in my head. This is one of the reasons I think I’m a good writer. My brain is constant inventing imaginary scenes and such.
When I’m done with the first draft I will need feedback on it. The first draft will need lots of re-working I’m sure, but if anyone would like to read the first rough draft when I’m done (which won’t be for a while yet, I’m only a little under 2/3 done) let me know and I’ll be happy to let you critique it. I’d like as wide a range of feedback as possible since 10 people can give 10 different opinions of the same movie.

The continuing story of my new band

The full story of Craig Davis and the Invaders
On our previous episode…
Dawn Lee had wanted Craig to come play a gig for a series of outdoor concerts. Craig had recorded 3 cd’s but used studio musicians and didn’t really have a band. Dawn Lee said she would find him a band. She called some local musicians to recruits them for the project including Donnie, the keyboard/guitar player for my band. Donnie didn’t really think he was up to it (he underestimates himself) and referred her to me. I was then hired to play keyboards. Turns out, the bass player had a previous engagement so I took over bass guitar and pulled Donnie back in on keys.
The conclusion…
Once we started rehearsing Craig wanted me on guitar since that’s my primary instrument and he liked my playing, so I switched to guitar. It quickly became apparent that this was going to be a train wreck without some severe and quick organization, so I found myself quickly being appointed the band leader by everyone else involved which was cool with me. The drummer knew a bass player so I called him, and he said that he thought the drummer and him were already booked. I called the drummer, and he didn’t think they were, so he went to sort that out. Turns out they WERE booked, so with only about 3 weeks until our debut gig, and 30 songs to learn we suddenly had no drummer of bass player. I knew of a couple, but there were some conflicts and questions about aspects of their reputations and reliability, however it soon became apparent we had no other choice so I hired them in. I burned CD’s of the set list for everyone, and Craig was driving down from Austin every weekend to practice. We never got to practice with the drummer or bass player but they had the CD’s to learn the tunes. The week of our gig, it was pissing down rain here, and since the venue was outdoors, they decided to postpone the gig until the next week, when my other band was going to play, and then we would just do a big double bill, which was cool for me and Donnie, because that meant we only had to set up once, but got to play and get paid twice. Well with the gig being moved, our bass player was not available for the new date. This left us with only one choice. The bass player for my other band was in Europe vacationing but would return about a week before the gig. I wrote out all the chords to all 30 songs so he could have some assistance, and when he got back from Europe we had a grand total of 2 rehearsals to run over the 30 tunes we were playing.
Friday November 1. Gig day. 7:00 am. It’s raining. The drummer calls to see what the plan is. I tell him we’re going through with it one way or another, and that it will probably clear up anyway. I make some calls and find out that we have a back up location in case of rain so all is good. The rain clears up and the weather turns pretty damn nice, so that’s bodes well.
4:25 pm. We are scheduled to set up at 5:00 and start playing at 7:00. The drummer calls me to tell me he’s hung up at work and wants to know if I can get my other band’s drummer to do the gig. I tell him that Craig (the other drummer) has not even ever listened to these 30 original songs. Remember those conflicts and questionable reputations I mentioned earlier? This was what I was referring too. This drummer had developed a big reputation for being very unreliable and flaky, but he had never screwed ME before so I didn’t want to be prejudiced against him for things he’d done in the past that didn’t involve me. I was determined to trust him until he gave me, personally, a reason not to. Well here it was. 30 minutes to set up time and he was trying to bail out. I talked with Craig and we both agreed to just do the gig and pray for the best and I told the first drummer to just forget about it, and that Craig would do the gig. For the record, the “work” he was hung up in was actually another gig he had committed to first, then tried to bail out on them to play with me, but then when the other band couldn’t find another drummer they told him “look, you committed to us first so you need to play with us”. I will not be calling him for any more gigs.
4:30. Craig and I have about 30 minutes to go over 30 songs. He starts making notes as I fast forward the CD’s to major parts in the songs such as “tempo change here”, “half time here”, “different beat here”. We work out some body language signals that I can give him to guide him along so he can watch me for stops, tempo changes, etc, while we’re playing. We end up cramming until about 5:30 then rush to set up. We bring a portable CD player, and thank the gods for the fact that I had thought to burn CD’s of our set list in the exact playing order, because before each song during the gig, Craig puts on the portable CD player and listens to the first 10-15 seconds of each song to get a clue about how it goes. During the gig I’m playing lead guitar parts, singing harmony parts, and simultaneously directing the entire band with signals, gestures, and body language. I feel like I’m walking a tight rope while juggling and spinning plates. The gig actually goes very well, especially considering the bass player has rehearsed a grand total of twice, the drummer has never even heard the songs before that afternoon, and the rest of us only rehearsed maybe 4 or 5 times. It’s rough, but by no means a train wreck. In fact, we come off very well, and end up sounding quite good and impressing a lot of people. We play from 7-9, and then my other band plays from 9-12. The second gig was pure gold. I would rate it as one of our best gigs ever. Everything sounded great everyone played and sang their asses off and it was on of those nights where I impressed myself and couldn’t believe how absolutely incredible this band is. Even despite the fact that is was a bit cold outside that night we had a good crowd, and put on a hell of a show. By the end of the night me and 3 of the other guys had played a grand total of 5 hours between 2 bands. I went home, showered, and promptly collapsed into a coma like sleep. Yeah, that’s right, I’m a wild rock star. Showers and sleep, baby. We hope to continue rehearsing and begin playing in Austin and elsewhere. Notlame records has been very good so far and sold a lot of Craig Davis’ CD’s and put him in touch with some good people including the guy who mentioned us possibly playing the International Pop Overthrow Festival in Chicago. Who knows where this might lead. You can go to Notlame Records and search for Craig Davis and listen to some sound clips if you like. Good stuff. I’m quite excited about this project. Maybe we’ll be coming to a city near you soon!

Craig Davis and the Invaders (A Tangled Musical Web)

So here’s the scoop on my newest musical project…
Backstory (bear with me here):
I’ve been playing with a cover band called The Rock-A-Fellas for about 8 years now. At one point I moved to Dallas for a year, and made the 3 hour drive back whenever we had gigs. We recruited Mike Holleman to take over my duties as lead guitar and lead singer. Now this is already interesting because Mike is actually a drummer who had played drums and sang with the Rock-A-Fellas for many years before I ever joined. He later moved away, played for Sheryl Crow, and made a living playing the Vegas Casino circuit before moving back to College Station because he was tired of living out of a suitcase and playing casinos where the music was nothing more than wallpaper to unappreciative patrons. So now here he was playing guitar and singing (he’s also a hell of a guitar player) preparing to take over my spot so I could leave now that I was living in Dallas. Well after a year in Dallas I decided to move back because the band was doing quite well, plus other boring factors. Mike was playing in several other bands and since we didn’t really need him anymore, we parted ways. During this time he had told me about how he was going to Austin on some weekends to record with a guy named Craig Davis. Turns out I kind of knew of him because my aunt and uncle had been good friends with him during my childhood, and when I would go stay with them to visit my cousin during school vacations, sometimes we would go visit Craig. Small world eh? But wait, it gets smaller…
So about 2 weeks ago Donnie Angonia, who plays in the Rock-A-Fellas with me, told me that a friend of the band, Dawn Lee, had called him to recruit him for keyboard duty. She was organizing a series of shows at The Palace Theatre (formerly a normal theatre whose roof collapsed, and was consequently made into an amphitheatre. Incidentally I was in the cast of a production of Oklahoma that was in the middle of it’s rehearsal run when the roof collapsed. Luckily it happened during the day when no one was actually there.) Dawn wanted to have Craig Davis come play a show, but the problem was that Craig didn’t actually have a band. He just got guys together whenever he wanted to go in the studio and record. She had put together a band of local guys and wanted Donnie to play keys. He had a prior commitment, and therefore passed my name along. She called me to play keys and sing backup and I agreed. After listening to some CD’s of his music, I really wished I was playing bass or guitar instead. Then Donnie ended up being free after all, so I called Dawn to tell her he was free, but if the other bass player couldn’t do it or anything then I could move to bass and Donnie could play keys. Dawn was elated to hear this since the other bass player had just realized he was going to be out of town! So I took over bass duties (which I was totally excited about since it’s a blast to get away from my normal lead guitar duties to play bass. It’s an entirely different thrill to me), and Donnie came on board as keyboardist. This was also handy since Donnie and I play in a band together, and we could also get together and work up backup harmonies.
So we now have until October 26th to learn 3 hours worth of music. I have been listening to 3 CD’s (with 14, 17, and 22 tracks of music!!!) non-stop to hammer Craig’s original music into my brain. I’m basically doing the equivalent of musical “cramming”, learning bass parts, lyrics and harmony parts. Craigs’ music is absolutely great. Very 60’s rock influenced. Like The Beatles and Tom Petty in a big musical orgy with elements of The Byrds, The Beach Boys, ELO, and Pink Floyd thrown in, plus occasional other musical spices. I’m very much looking forward to this gig.