I played a fairly last minute show at Viento y Agua last night. I had mixed feelings about playing a show I couldn’t promote. But 1) it seemingly doesn’t matter how much I promote and 2) I need to rack up onstage experience and 3) I love Viento. The result was one of those beautiful accidents of saying yes.
Although I’ve been playing a lot of guitar lately, it’s all been writing or recording and not so much rehearsing for gigs. I generally try to be over-rehearsed for shows and I’ve found that allows me to be looser onstage. I don’t have to stick to the set list if I know I’ve practiced 30 songs that week. Last night, I was scribbling the set list onstage before I turned around to face the audience. Not the best preparation. I think I played pretty well though. I felt myself dragging through Girls With Glasses but I made up for it by rocking the hell out of Stay Together. Or so I like to think.
Since Viento has redesigned their interior, I’ve played 3 shows there and I’ve felt much more comfortable than I did before. I think the space just feels more open and the stage doesn’t feel cornered so much. Whatever it is, there’s still the quiet of the coffee house but it’s not so pin-droppy now.
I played first, not knowing who was to follow. Second was One High Five playing as an acoustic duo. They won’t know the references but they were like watching a team-up of The Obscure and Feable Weiner — part garage rock, part pop-punk. They were great onstage, tons of energy and quips and chit-chat. That really helps in that coffee house. Bands that are too quiet can start to drag. They played “Seeing Other People” by Belle and Sebastian — a song I used to listen to on a train, dressed in a suit, headed to my job in the City of London 16 years ago. So that was kind of a head-fuck. And yes, that’s all true.
After them was Foxxhound, about whom I almost immediately said…
They’re a duo of cello and a great reverbed-out old Gretsch guitar and male/female vocals. Kinda jazzy, kinda indie, kinda chamber pop. They were amazing. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed them. I bought both of their records on Bandcamp this morning. Go find them on Facebook too.
I also met Kayla from Music In Press which I was previously unaware of. And the photo of me above comes courtesy of Robert Blumschein who liked me enough to join my Singles Club while I was playing. That’s awesome.
It was one of the most fun shows I’ve played. I had a couple of friends come out and the band who played right before me — The Masks We Made — hung around with their friends. It was a small gathering but I was totally comfortable. Maybe I was too comfortable and almost too jokey. But I had fun and I played well. And it’s dumb that I haven’t written about it til now.
If you haven’t followed the story so far, here it is:
Cathryn Beeks who books several shows in San Diego is a fan of my Willie Nelson record. When I played her songwriter night at The Go Lounge in May, she talked up the record so I played a couple of Willie Nelson songs that night. Afterwards, Angela, the bartender/owner, asked if I would be interested in playing an entire show of country songs (“well, it doesn’t have to be all country,” she clarified). The Go Lounge was throwing a party for a regular and wanted country music. “Sure,” I said. “Can I bring a band?”
Last night was that show. Obviously, I’m not a country guy. I’m a guy who likes Willie Nelson a whole lot. One of the things I like so much about him is how stripped down his show is. I keep things pretty stripped down too. So I’ve had this idea for a while that I’d like to play the Willie songs I know in a similar style: brushes on a snare, jazzy leads, simple bass, with me and my acoustic leading things.
I’d mentioned that idea to Allen and David recently so when The Go Lounge booking came up, I asked If they’d join in. They both agreed. Soon after that our friend Boris had taken up bass so I invited him along too. I have a whole shed load of Willie Nelson tunes that I know. We hammered out a pretty good set of covers and originals over the last month or so and hit the show.
We had ideas of what to expect at the show. We had quite a few friends turn out to the gig and there was a good crowd of people at the bar but it wasn’t packed by any means. That reduced any anxiety on my part. Unfortunately, we had several sound issues and that kept us from feeling entirely comfortable onstage. Boris and Allen and I were up there the whole time. David joined us about halfway through.
We did pretty well on time considering that any set of mine has to be built of 2 minute songs. I don’t think we rushed any tempos. Although the sound issues distracted me several times and I lost a chord change or lyric here and there. It all rolled along as expected.
For the most part, it was what it was: an experiment in playing country tunes with some other guys. Though I don’t think I’d mentioned it to any of them, it’s been a resolution of mine for a while to play more music with other people. I wanted to do that last year and did to some extent but not regularly by any means. I haven’t done much of it this year either.
After last week’s show at the Avalon, it’s been kinda hard to think in the band mode, especially in a band mode that involves a lot of cover tunes. For that and another reason that I’ll address in another post, I don’t think the “country” band will be playing out again soon. But I won’t stop playing Willie Nelson songs. I’ll just have to work a little bit to integrate them into my punk rock.
Thanks to all my friends who came out last night. You all made it a really great time. Thanks to Angela and The Go Lounge for having us. Thanks to Seneca for running sound. And thanks to Boris, Allen and David for indulging me.
I played three shows in San Diego last month. With Allen at the Tin Can Ale House, solo at Hotel Indigo and solo at The Go Lounge. I love going down there to play shows. Just look at that setting at Hotel Indigo! I gave away a bunch of CDs and even more cards. I had several people tell me they enjoyed my sets. That’s always rewarding. I don’t have anything booked for June. I’m working on my set for The Go Lounge in July with Allen, David and Casey. And hopefully, I’ll start booking more for later in the summer and Allen and I will talk about our next recordings.
[photo by David Dewese]
David Dewese came to the gig yesterday and took some pictures and shot this video. It was such a cool location.
Allen and I played the Tin Can Ale House last night. Allen has recorded and played on my last several records. He joined me on stage at the Cabrillo Playhouse in March but this was the first full-on show we’d played together. We put together a really brisk set. I recorded it. It was 26 minutes of our allotted 30. And it just flew by.
I don’t know how it sounded out in the room (I don’t think my recording is very faithful). We didn’t run our amps through the PA, just vocals. For the first two songs, our amps were pretty damn loud off the stage. At least to us. After some level adjustments onstage, I think we sounded better mixed but I don’t know what people’s perception of a two man guitar band is. We’re going to try the same thing at the GoLounge in two weeks (May 24th). Come see that.
We loved the Tin Can. Good beer, good eats, awesome staff, good ole divey atmosphere and a great audience. We definitely want to go back there. Hopefully, we’ll have a drummer with us next time.
Thanks to David for the photos and the video and the audience participation. Thanks to Kelsey and Justin for having us.
I’m back in San Diego the next two weeks. If you want to see a different kind of show, I’m playing the Live after Five show at Hotel Indigo next Wednesday (May 16th) and I’ll be a little less power chordy.
A guy named Pierre who runs a site called LODJ.org had seen my “Couch Concerts” on YouTube and contacted me to ask me to play a live show via webcam. So I did that last Saturday morning. I heard from Boris afterwards that the sound was pretty choppy on his end. I had recorded the whole thing. I tried my best to sync the audio recorded on my computer with actual microphones with the video I recorded from an outboard camera. So here’s the show:
The Set: Every Little Thing, We Used to Hang, You Keep Writing the Same Songs, Paige Don’t Panic, This Job Is Killing You, Frankly Mr Turner, High School Isn’t That Hard, You Have The Worst Taste in Men, Selina I’m A Wreck
My show was an experiment for them so there were bound to be challenges. I heard from my friend Boris that the sound on his end was really choppy. I assume the video was too. I ran my webcam through the app on lodj.org which is presumably based in France with Pierre. That signal was then broadcast through an app on Facebook. That’s already two points of connection issues. I’m on wifi to begin with. And I was recording on my computer so that slowed me down.
Pierre and the friend who works with him, Rachel, invited me to play a regular live couch concert every month. So we’ll be able to smooth out some of the troubles.
My feelings on the show are mixed. Performance-wise, it’s weird to play for an audience you know is there but that you can’t see. Even though I think the audience was closer to 4 people than 40, I knew that at least Pierre and Rachel were there. When I record videos myself for YouTube or Vimeo, I’ll re-record if I screw something up. There was no doing that. And one weird thing I’ve noticed is that I screw up more when I’m not getting an audience reaction. Or at least it means more.
There was a chat function on the Facebook app. At one point, Pierre told me via Skype to check the chat messages because people were talking to me. What followed was a couple of thrilling moments of video of me reading and typing. And I couldn’t even see the Facebook chat. That’s something that’ll get ironed out. I edited it out of the video above because I screwed up the next two songs I played. I got knocked out of my performing zone and the music suffered. We’ll get something fixed. I don’t think it would be that odd to play and chat if I could see the messages coming in between songs.
Then there’s my feelings on the whole endeavor of playing a show on the internet… This reminded me of a time 13 years ago when I started building websites and there was such a wild west feeling to music on the internet. You could try anything. It was not insignificant that the last time I played a “webcast” was at a place with the ridiculous name “Indienet” in Nashville in 1999. Their gimmick was that they streamed the shows online. We (The Carter Administration) were playing with a band from Indiana I believe and there was literally no one there. I think our girlfriends were running late or skipping entirely. We did our best to convince the other band that this was a waste of time and effort to load in and play a show to no one. But they were “on tour” and they had people who were going to watch this over the internet. So on we went. I don’t think the webcast actually worked.
But that was the wilds of the internet before everything became so shiny and developed. It probably doesn’t help lodj.org looks like it comes from 1999. My immediate reaction as a guy who builds websites was not to trust it. I’m still not convinced it didn’t dump a sack of spyware onto my computer. But I did the show because that’s what I’m supposed to do as me, as the kind of musician I am. I don’t make nice, slick videos like this. I make unpolished videos like this. I try to do things out on the fringe. I’d rather have 100s of free mp3s on my site than 1 puny album on iTunes. I’d rather experiment with a couch concert than spend days editing a video of one song.
And I think continuing to move like that is what helps me keep making stuff. That’s why this year I’ve released a shiny indie rock record and a less polished “country” record and last year I released a record of demos, a live record with a band, and a polished single.
But I recognize that marginalizes me. I guess that’s where I belong, on the margins. I liked the wild west internet.