Friday, December 18, 2009

The Carousel Lounge: December 17, 2009

The Carousel Lounge stunned us as we loaded in. Pleasantly. The stage area was clutter-free, neat and all the power outlets worked the way you think power outlets are supposed to work, without having to hunt along yards and yards of cable to discover: no outlet. Yes, it's still dark and murky at the back of the club (in deference to the plastic elephant, I suppose), but the ceiling-height Christmas tree worked fine as a source of illumination.

Usually there's a happy hour act, or at least there's been one in the past, but not last night. So in went Andy's drums, and the rest of the stuff, and we set up at our leisure. The regulars at the bar (big, old pick-up truck = barfly mode-of-transportation of choice) are the nicest in town, nodding hellos and politely holding doors open as we lugged in the gear.

The set went well, too. Nothing like playing a tight, 45 minutes worth of music to a rather large and appreciative crowd (special hellos to Andrew S., my parents, Katie L. and Shawn P. (go, Street Team!), Shane's friends and Scottie's entourage). Patrick did the set list (see below) and it worked really well, not least when I broke a string on the Rickenbacker and, thankfully, only had two songs left, both of which are acoustic guitar-friendly. (Thank you, String Gods.) The snappage occurred at the end of Everybody's Going Away, but I'd planned on swapping to the Gibson for the following Jam tune, anyway, lucky me. Sorta.

Oh, that tune: That's Entertainment. I think this is the second time in three gigs where I've completely lost touch with the words of the song. It's like having an out of body experience during an out of body experience. I praised "the smartest band in Austin" afterward, as the other four managed to keep going through what turned out to be an extra, lyric-less verse and several verses of word/synapse misfires and some sung gobbledegook as cover for my blanking on what I was supposed to be singing! I know why I went up, too. Mea culpa...Hank Schwemmer, a long-time fan of the band wandered in during the song, and I am always happy to see him in the audience. Not so brilliantly, I thought about looking for a way to incorporate his name into the song and, of course, as soon as I thought that, I forgot where I was (the first time) and gargled my way through a line or two before I recovered. The song's not hard, it just has a lot of words and it's imperative that I think about the first line of each subsequent verse in order to stay on track. Sure enough, as we entered the final verses, I reminded myself to pay attention and not lose focus as I'd done when Hank walked in and, bam! I went up again. This time it lasted for that extra verse...good thing the song only has verses and choruses. Its lack of complexity (easy for me to say) means we can survive an empty round (uh, or two!). At least I got the outro right and we finished nice and tight.

I dug Place:Away, too. We've set it up now to cut Scottie loose on lead guitar and, seeing as he had friends in the crowd, he really cut it up even better than usual. Makes for a grand finale, that song. Andy put in a stop in the final verse that we'd rehearsed and rejected, but Patrick kept playing bass through it. Shane, Andy and I were talking about it afterward. Total silence hadn't worked in rehearsal the night before because it killed the song's momentum. But with Patrick carrying on as the only accompaniment to my singing, the song's climax felt really punchy. We'll have to recreate that in the rehearsal room to see if it's worth keeping or if our satisfaction last night was just "performance-enhanced."

Kudos, too, to Shane on Windsor Road and Big Girls, where he's adding riffs and runs and more and more color. Now we'll take a couple weeks off and then back at it. New songs to learn and some more to clean up. Feels good.

Oh, and my mom snapped some shots from her front seat cabaret table. You can review the evidence here.


Set List
Weight of the World
Windsor Road
The Long, The Short And The Tall
Waterloo Sunset (Kinks)
Wigan Pier
Like Big Girls Do
Town Called Malice (The Jam)
Twisty System
Everybody's Going Away
That's Entertainment (The Jam)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Robi's rehearsal notes from 12/10/2009*

Rocked through tonight's 45-minute set for the Carousel, and it went rather smoothly. Uh, too smoothly? This, of course, disturbs if only because you want there to be some kinks in the works so you go into the gig feeling as if you still have work to do. No coasting! As they say in the theatre, "Bad dress rehearsal, good opening." On the other hand, it feels good to crank out a dozen or more tunes as fluidly as we did.

Of course two things diminish my concerns. 1. Patrick suggested that we probably didn't sound as good as thought we did. Oh, thanks, man! 2. He's right. Or rather, I think everyone knows he can do better (I speak grammatically; I'm not pointing out any flaws in Patrick's playing!). We all can always do better. That's what I love about making the music. Especially in the (dim) crucible of a live show. Speaking for myself, I know I'm not going into tonight's gig hugely overconfident. Uh, or overconfident at all. There are always way too many variables for that! Makes it exciting. Keeps ya young. But given the sounds last night, I'm looking forward to a good night of music. Let's say I'm confident and leave it at that.

After tweaks to a couple of songs in the set, we picked up Haymarket Rain and started some reworking. I swapped to rhythm guitar (acoustic) and Scottie picked up the lead. We slowed it down a little. I don't know. It's not done, so it's too soon to tell if it's any better than the "express" version of old (it's not the "local" version we've done when sans drums, that's for sure). Patrick suggested it was somewhere in between. Which is where I get uncomfortable. The last thing I want to do is smooth it out so much it's just all soft underbelly and no spiky dangerous bits. It needs teeth. Spines. It is, as my wife Michelle pointed out, a song about teen angst, after all.

Plus I realized in my insomnia last night that one of the things I like about the higher-energy version is that it recalls the sound and energy of a train clackety-clacking down the tracks; the fast train to heartache. Or it should! Maybe that's a clue to the rhythm shift we're searching for: Something driving, energetic (I like to say, "crisp") but not as out of control as before. It's early days on this one: That train's only just leaving the station!


*A note about these rehearsal notes. In an effort to expand my writing for this blog, I'm going to post about rehearsals, recording sessions, gigs and anything else in the quotidian life of the band. Those interested in the deep dive, dive on in!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Long, The Short And The Tall

Robi: I wrote this one back in the days of Lower Wacker Drive, my Boston band, so it's one of the first songs I ever wrote. Date? eh...probably 1986. The Reagan years, when everyone wanted to look good in fatigues. We're all going on a summer holiday: in Grenada! If you're a Brit: oh, those summers in paradise, Las Malvinas!

In my little tune (a waltz; gentlemen, grab your ladies), the too easily tarnished shine of soldierdom provides the grist for this gritty tale of a young man who enlists, finds the perfect girl over a cheap drink, then gets shipped off to foreign climes and an untimely end, leaving her bereft at home. A sadly familiar story in these days of perpetual conflict.

The title came from a play I read in high school, a cliche-ridden yet intensely moving piece about a motley collection of British soldiers under siege in the steaming Burmese jungle. It didn't end well for them, either.

This recording is from our Saxon Pub gig, 7/12/2009.

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The Long, The Short And The Tall

Down on your luck or down and out
It gets so easy to say:
"I'll take the benefit of the doubt,"
And sign myself away

The uniform looks good on me
I walk to watch hips sway
And a dollar a drink and some mighty cheap talk
Is enough to make her stay

I don't want to go home
I just want to stay here all night
The animals moan or hide in the shadows
And everyone's afraid of the moonlight

Making a life out of making men dead
It impressed her so much she'd make me she said
But we lie to ourselves when we lie on the bed
Is that war game you play all in your head?

I don't want to go home
I just want to stay here all night
We're up with the sun to fly to the shadows
Where everyone's afraid of the moonlight

My face pressed to the glass of a greasy bus window
It runs on blood and gas and jokes about who'll go (first)

First off the bus, first in the ditch
We're pigs in the mud, a rifle's our bitch
And the sergeant's so cool but the heat makes me itch
And everything's too smooth, when it just takes a touch

I don't want to go home
I just want to stay here all night
I can't remember her face anymore
I can't find the letters she writes

A woman pressed to the glass watches the planes fly away
It's here and then it's past and I canĂ­t bear to see her wave

It's a "Come on, my boys!" to the top of the hill
We're rabbits with rifles we're pigs to the swill
And the first sign of life is the first sign to kill
And if you get dirty they'll send you the bill

I don't want to go home
I just want to stay here all night
The animals moan or hide in the shadows
And everyone's afraid of the moonlight

I don't want to go home
I just want to stay here all night
The animals moan or hide in the shadows
And everyone's afraid of the moonlight