i had been looking forward to going back to maumee ever since we left after the last gig we did there, a year and a half ago. that show was my second gig ever with dan (the first having been a warmup show of sorts at chaplins’ in spring city a couple of weeks beforehand), and in looking at video of the show taken at that first maumee gig, it was obvious that there was a lot of potential there that we weren’t living up to. the band has grown by leaps and bounds in the time since, though, and i’ve had a notion to go back there and really rub in how good the band has become.
alan, heather and i are the only holdouts from the band that went to maumee two aprils ago…anthony newett was along on second guitar, along with our resident bassist, mike kurman and tommy geddes on drums. david henry joined us on percussion, as he did before.
anthony and i are joined at the brain. seriously. he and i have a chemistry that i can’t say that i’ve enjoyed with many other guitar players. it’s there with john (lilley, of the hooters) when we play together, and to a lesser degree with dennis rambo and avery coffee…but anthony and i are on a separate plane. i like to think that it’s because he’s a far better player than i am, but instead of using that fact to lord his superiority over me, he uses his ability to elbow me up the road and force me to take bigger steps and stretch out as a player…which makes me better in the end, and has the net result of making us both look good.
he’s that kinda guy.
we got to maumee relatively early in the evening the night before the show and checked everyone into their hotel rooms…then we all went out and piled onto the bus to grab a bite to eat and a post-dinner beverage recon mission. it’s always funny to me, going to places that handle liquor distribution in a somewhat sane manner with folks who don’t really get outside the state much…if just to behold the wonder in their faces when they realize that in other states, you can walk into a convienence store and actually purchase beer. in the particular store we stopped at in sandusky, they had a walk-in cooler that they nicknamed “the beer cave” – and we bought more than we drank over the course of the weekend, but…well, you just never know. better safe than sorry. 🙂
so we went back to the hotel and everyone convened in our room to officially run through a couple of things with the percussionist, david henry – david is our local pickup guy, and we hadn’t played with him since our last maumee gig, so dan wanted to make sure he was clear on his cues…so i brought in an acoustic and a mandolin, in addition to the strat that i wanted to put a fresh set of strings on for the next day, and a couple of other instruments as well. tommy materialized with a snare drum and brushes, so mike and anthony then went out to the bus to retrieve a bass and another acoustic, as well…and after we finished up with official business, the real fun ensued.
we started off doing eagles songs, and then mike and anthony started reading off their repertoire of beatles songs…then anthony veered off into TV theme songs in a totally unpretentious showcase of his own personal musical genius. the guy can play anything he’s ever heard. period. he sat there and started with “mary tyler moore”, worked his way up through “dick van dyke” and took a couple of odd detours that ended up with his spirited rendition of the theme song from…no shit…
…chico and the man.
just plain un-fucking-believeable.
anyway, this libation-fueled jam session went on until well after 1am, which was long after my voice had started to peter out to the extent that i was starting to wonder if i’d be able to sing the next day…i wasn’t in any real pain or anything, but i was pretty hoarse by the end of the night. it was as much fun as i’ve had in a long time, though…sitting around in a hotel room with great musicians who also happen to be good friends, enjoying each others’ company – and singing and playing for the sheer joy of just singing and playing. no audience, no pressure, no agenda…just pick a key, count off and go.
wendy and i got up the next day and went to cracker barrell for breakfast, then to the sandusky mall…i had a mission, to pick up some contact cleaner for anthony and AAA batteries for kurman, which we managed to do in one sweep through the mall, then back to the hotel to pack up for the gig.
we arrived at the hall a little before 2pm – the sound company was there already, and had gotten a healthy start on setting up. we started assembling risers and arranging them on the stage – drums in the middle, keys stage left and percussion stage right. kurman and anthony were situated between the risers somewhat, with heather and i flanking dan up front.
i got a lot of ribbing, both upfront and during setup and soundcheck, about my rig. i went all out for this show, and i was pretty meticulous about my rig and how i would be situated on stage…but i felt it was an important show, and i treated it as such.
kurman said as we were loading the bus before we left eastern PA, “this is why you have all this gear…for gigs like these. if it weren’t for these kinds of shows, there wouldn’t be any point to having it.” (to clarify, when he said “you”, he meant it in the broad sense, as to include himself as well…he also came loaded for bear, with his kickass hartke rig.)
now, most people would look at this picture and shake their heads and wonder why the hell you would bring this much gear to a two hour, 25 song show…but there was a reason for every single piece of it. honest.
as far as standard guitars go, there was my martin acoustic, a firebird, and a strat. then i had a gretsch 6120 tuned down half a step, a rickenbacker 12 string, a jaguar baritone, my “fatdawg strat” (with lipstick pickups, set up for slide for two songs), the doubleneck ES-1275 (for “thousand angels”), the lap steel, the mandolin….
…yeah. that’s about it.
if anthony hadn’t been along, i would’ve had to bring a banjo, too. and a nylon-string classical guitar for “enjoy”.
hey – at least i didn’t have to bring out the pedal steel.
for amplification, i brought a pair of princeton reverbs and my rack system, which allows for the use of my switching system…which, contrary to the way most people use such things, is there to help me manage routing of instruments more so than effects. i have a single cable, going into a couple of utilitarian pedals on the floor and an ernie ball volume pedal, which feeds a voodoo labs amp selector that has four outs…i use that with a custom snake that allows me to feed four separate signal paths from the same source. that way, i can unplug, drop the cable into my pocket, and switch to whatever instrument i choose and send it to the proper routing with the click of a switch on the floor.
i think we’ve talked about this system before, though…at some point on here, i’m pretty sure i’ve summed it up.
‘course, you get old and find yourself repeating things. shame.
anyway, everything worked like a charm, tuned up nicely, sounded great, and ran smoothly…until the side lights came on just prior to showtime and unleashed their wrath on my ES-1275 doubleneck.
it was in tune perfectly just prior to the show, but when the fourth song in the set came up, it was…noticeably flat here and there, to my ears. and i wanted to be convinced that it was the lights that rendered it such, but i didn’t assume anything or lose my cool about it. we got through the song, i sat it back down, and it was over. no big deal. if i’ve learned anything over time, it’s how to adjust your technique to a somewhat adversarial or less-than-optimal set of circumstances.
this i did, and we seem to have gotten out of the song without much trouble…and that was the only one that really had a solid shot at knocking me off my horse for the night. afterward, when i mentioned it to dan, he hadn’t even noticed. the only other gaffe on my part that really stuck in my craw was during the quiet section of “castaway”, where there’s a short solo section…and i have no idea what the hell happened there. my brain just went blank, or my hands failed to respond to whatever commands might’ve been sent in their direction. it wasn’t an “ohmygod” moment, or anything severe…but it bothered the hell out of me, nonetheless.
other than those two glaring issues, the rest of the show went off without a hitch – which is especially remarkable considering the volume of material we were doing (25 songs covering all three albums), the care that went into putting the setlist together, and the choir.
oh, did i forget to mention that there was a choir?
dan had done a songwriting seminar at a school in toledo earlier this year, and the choir director who sponsored it arranged to have the choir back up the band on four songs – “castaway”, “train going home”, “nightbird”, and “tied to your mast”. and they did it up, too…robes and all. from the stage, it was hard to tell whether or not they were cutting through the mix with the rest of the band, and i haven’t seen any footage or heard the recording we did of the show yet, so i’m not sure how it came out. judging from the pictures that were taken, it looks like a typical high school choir scenario – some are singing their asses off, some are kinda phoning it in. you can see some heads up and mouths open, right next to the deer in the headlights, lips barely parted kids…plus, there’s no way of knowing whether they could hear themselves well enough to sing on pitch over the band, either…but they put their hearts into it. several of the girls stuck around for load-out and the whole nine yards…it was humbling to see how much of an event this was for them.
loaded up, another trip to steak and shake, and then back to the hotel to catch up on the days’ NFL happenings, drink what we could of the rest of the beer, and get ready to head home…wendy took over 800 pictures of the show, the soundcheck, and the hotel room jam the night before, so there was plenty to remember the trip by. and there’s a live recording in the can that anthony and i are going to start examining as soon as we get the tracks imported into protools so that we can see what’s good and what’s best kept in the vault.
i’m not sure what to expect when i hear the recording of the show…it’s multitracked, so there’s a degree of control over how it’s presented – more so than a soundboard recording would, to be certain. unfortunately, the outputs to the multitrack unit were from aux sends, so we only had a small number of tracks separated, as opposed to hitting the multitrack machine first and then going to the console, which is the norm for full-blown live recordings…but i’m still eager to see how we did.