Friday, February 17, 2017

Show Notes: Feb 09 / 2017

I haven't played live for awhile.  Work, kids and other events / commitments tend to take a priority over my failed music career.
I'm not sure what got into me but 30 minutes prior to an open mic I decided I was going to play and packed my gear.  My wife and I dropped my daughter and her friends off at their youth group and headed down town.  I was booked in to play play at 8:30.
The sets were running behind so I asked the host if I could switch a couple of time slots so my wife would be able to see me play since the youth group pick-up was 9:00 p.m.  The other performers were kind enough to oblige.  With the switch, I was up at 8:45 and headed to the green room to get ready.

Usually I do a a fair amount of pre-planning two weeks before playing.  This includes picking the songs I`m going to play, making sure that songs in same key do not follow each other, mix up the tempo and decide on a good opener and closer (as well as an encore set for bigger gigs), rehearse them and write out a set-list.  I also like to make a high level plan regarding my stage banter.  I've evolved into a singer - storyteller and I like to talk a little bit about the songs I'm playing.  If they are a cover, what they mean to me or how I discovered them.  If it's an original, the story behind them.   If I do not have a plan I tend to ramble on, kind of like I`m doing now.
With 5 minutes to spare, I picked three songs, tuned my guitar and completed my warm-up routine.  When I heard my name I grabbed my cheat sheets, a bottle of water and headed out to the stage.

Photo: I took a photo of Matthew Liebenberg's photo
 that was published in The Prairie Post

1. It's a Shame About Ray (Lemonheads)
2. 52 Stations (Robyn Hitchcock)
3. Devil Woman (original)

Audience: Estimated 50-60 persons

For 'It's a Shame About Ray' I told a long story about when I met Yann Martel and he made fun of my shirt (true story) but then I veered off into a few more imaginary encounters with Yann that I made up on the spot.  The story made no sense to the song and I really went on far too long.  I then blew the opening lead riff and went way off key when I sang the first chorus.  After that the song went pretty smooth.

I did not learn anything from my bad banter on the previous song and found that it can actually get worse.  I started out alright by thanking the other bands for switching with me.  Would have been a good place to stop but then I added in the the un-rock and roll evening my wife and I were having arranging my set time around my kids youth group then went into a long story about a time I played here with my former band and managed to even drop the f-bomb while meandering on about nothing.  The worst part was I knew I was going on and on and I just couldn't seem to stop.  I had no idea how to turn this sinking ship around so I launched straight into Robyn Hitchcock's '52 Stations.'

For my third and final song I stopped the banter bleeding and simply introduced 'Devil Woman' as "this is a song I wrote."  I then noticed that I brought out the cheat sheet for a different song.  There is no turning back after a song's introduced so I played it through and made up any lyrics I couldn't remember.  I improvised the guitar licks at the end, said a quick "thank-you" and booked it off the stage.  My wife left to get the kids but I stayed to watch the other acts and chatted with a few musicians.

When I watched the video later that evening the banter was awful but I was relieved that I played way better than I thought I did.  I covered well on a few chords that I blew.   No one knows the words to 'Devil Woman' so it wasn't obvious that I made up 20% of the lines and they still rhymed.  The lead guitar lines I improvised were pretty devilish as well I must say.  It wasn't a great show but it wasn't horrible.  I would say it was "okay" and playing an okay gig is way better than not playing a gig at all.  I'll give myself a 2.5 out of 5 star rating on this.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Under Fading Stars E.P.

When I was a young man I pulled a tarot card that said “like the Phoenix, you will rise from the ashes.”  I had no idea what this meant and dismissed it.  Fast forward to 2007, after releasing nine CD’s I was still a speck of dust in the Indie Universe and my speck was eroding.  Downloads were decreasing, radio quit playing my songs, magazines quit reviewing my albums, there was nowhere to distribute my CD’s and I had no band to promote my material.  I was spent and I just quit.

In October of 2013 I picked up a guitar for the first time in six years and struck a chord.  There was work to be done.  I had to re-learn how to play guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.  My voice changed as well.  I had to reassess how I sang and adapt to the key that my voice is now.  

While the reintroduction was been frustrating and humbling, it was also a lot of fun.  New lessons and technologies were learned and old forgotten ones remembered.  There have been a few cringe worthy moments along the way as well as a few victories.

I think I emerged from those ashes.  I started playing live again (band and solo), have a website, YouTube videos, and this E.P. marked my tenth release.  I’m still a speck of dust in the ashes of the Indie Universe but you know what, I still sort of rock.  Below is the link to my latest release, 2015's "Under Fading Stars."

Monday, December 26, 2016

Lyric Theatre Set List: November 10th 2016

My fingers were killing me.  That seems a little dramatic so please let me rephrase this...

As I was hauling my gear backstage I ruminated about how the tips of my fingers were burning.  Why were they burning?  I committed the rookie mistake of over practicing before a show.

When I was rehearsing for this set I pulled one of the older songs from my catalog.  Sometimes new ideas come up when I play a song that I have not played in a long time.  I took one of my older, faster tempo songs (Excuse Me Amelia) and played it at a slow tempo and added a difficult turn around.  Then I over practiced hence the burning fingers.

Not being one to really learn a lesson, I committed a second rookie error by not being prepared when it was my turn to go on stage.  I have a fairly specific pre-show ritual that I follow and I thought  I had plenty of time: Time to grab a beer, time to chat with a people in the audience, time to go back stage and tune my guitar, time to warm up with some scales, time to organize my set-list, time to meditate for a moment, time to drink that damn beer.  Time can go by fast when your not paying attention.  I just finished tuning my guitar when I heard my name being introduced.  With burning fingers, not warmed up and not really ready, I grabbed my cheat sheets, my beer, my bottle of water and headed out to the stage.

Set List:

1. Excuse Me Amelia (off of my Sand Genies CD)
2. Tiger Lily (Luna Cover)
3. Whiskey and Gin (off of my Torrents CD)

Gregory Grant

I was really happy how 'Excuse Me Amelia' came out as a slow tempo acoustic.  I wasn't sure of it being an opener but I needed to keep it separate from 'Whiskey and Gin' since both are in the key of E.  I'll likely keep it as an opener or closer in the future.  'Tiger Lily' was a good follow-up since I had a fairly long story to tell behind it to give my fingers a break.  'Whiskey and Gin' was my closing song 10 years ago but I think I'll move it more into the middle of the set once I get back to longer gigs.

Overall, I was happy with the set.  I received decent applause, managed to get rid of quite a few CD's that I brought and then proceeded to party like a middle aged rock star* for the rest of the night.  My fingers burned for naught since, on the fly, I decided not to include the difficult turnaround in 'Excuse Me Amelia.'

* Middle Aged Rock Star defined is approximately eight beers over a four hour time frame and a limo cab ride home then sleeping in until 9:30 a.m.