Monday, May 21, 2007

Your Hero and Mine...

It's been a while, but the band finally had another gig to write about this past Saturday, this time at American Legion Hall in Tallahassee.

I'll let you in on the pre-gig set up. I arrived at the pre-arranged time. I sat by lake Ella and watched ducks for about 20 minutes until the band showed up. Once they arrived, we all carried the equipment into the very hot American Legion Hall. I believe it was Sarah who eventually requested that the AC be switched on, and it took all of about 15 minutes for the place to be turned into a meat locker. Where's the happy middle-ground, ALH?

We got all the music related stuff set up, and then the band neglected to do a soundcheck. I guess we were too busy rearranging the tables. I thought we should fill in the front a little more, and leave an open space in the middle/back for dancing, but I was overruled, and there was a space left in the front too. Turns out we were both right. Some people danced in the back, while other people had no problem dancing in front of everybody.

The most fun, though, was going on a food run to Sonic with band-wife Jaye and band-daughter Sally. Sorry, but it was entertaining watching Sally struggle to explain our order to the garbled voice behind the speaker. It was something along the lines of: a large coke, another large coke, a large diet coke, a vanilla coke, 2 large fries, another coke, a number 1 combo with mustard, a coke, a coke, another diet coke, a large fries, etc, and so on and so forth...
To their credit, the Sonic crew only messed up one thing, I believe. I think we got an extra vanilla coke and one too few regular cokes. Plus, they car-hopped, which apparently wasn't normally a part of these particular employees job. Thanks Sonic!

I'm still amazed that, evidently, the whole surprise for Charlie was kept a secret for so long. We had people at the front door making sure nobody walked in accidentally wearing the Charlie shirt in plain sight.

That's pretty much it (besides, the season finale of 24 is about to start), and those of you who were there know how the show went. For those that weren't, here's a video of the band playing Fading Dreams, with special foreground appearance by a twirlie-girlie.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Not the most eventful...

It wasn't the most amazingly eventful trip over to Jacksonville this past weekend, but it was still an enjoyable one. I went over on saturday after everybody else had gone on friday. I just met up with them at Jack Rabbit's a few hours before the show. It was good that Sarah was standing out at the road in front of the place to help Charlie find it because I'm not sure I would have found it otherwise. Let's just say that the 'sign' on the door of their rather non-descript building looked like it was written with a magic marker.

It was a nice enough place though. Pretty much business as usual as far as bars go. Though, this one did have an old Contra video game machine, so bonus points for that. After the soundcheck, we took a walk down the relatively dead streets. We tried to get food at a few places, but they all closed at 8pm, even the place (and for the life of me I can't remember which place it was) that had 9pm listed on their door as the saturday closing time. Charlie did manage to get himself a free Coke there though. I guess he just sweet talked the girl behind the counter somehow. Eventually it was decided that we'd get ice cream for dinner, as there was a Marble Slab right down the street. This was a good decision because that is some darned good ice cream, my friends. I had vanilla (yes, it's a real flavor and it's good and not bland!) with M&Ms mixed in. I'd tell you what everybody else got, but honestly I don't pay that much attention to details like that.

Anyways, we made it back in time to see the first guy, Jonathan Mays, play. He does some cool stuff with this looping machine thing. I don't know enough about it to describe it, but it's nifty. The next band, Radio Moscow, was obviously a talented trio of musicians, but they were so flippin' loud that I couldn't deal with it and had to move to a relatively quiet spot. The SMB went on last and played until 12:30am or so. The audience was mostly made of friends and family of the band, but most of them don't get to see them play too often, so they were all pretty enthusiastic.

We were all pretty hungry for some real food after the show, so we stopped off Inn? Wow, I know it was about 2am, but you'd think I'd be a little more observant than that? I'll assume it was Village Inn. Wherever it was, it was good.

Well, that's pretty much it for that trip. There's not any more actual gigs scheduled for a while at this point. Not until mid May anyways. Hopefully the band will get back to the studio soon. Maybe I'll invite myself to a few sessions and get some good video documentation of the process to post.

Until then...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Science of the Set List

This seems like something that Sarah herself should write about, since she's the one actually having to figure out the set list before each show, but I'll take a stab at it anyway, using what i've gleaned from being in her general vacinity while she performs this task. Keeping in mind that I had the bright idea to just write all of their songs on little pieces of paper, put them in a hat (or some other random container that could play the role of the hat), then draw them out one at a time as a way of picking the set list.

That's probably not a very feasible idea have to take into consideration a few things. First, how long will you be playing? If you can only fit a limited number of songs in, they may as well be those that you deem your best. Next, do you have all of your instruments set up for this show? If you don't have room to set up the keyboard, you probably won't be playing any of the songs that use the keyboard. Then, who's your audience? If there are kids there, try to stay away from any adultishly themed songs or songs that contain any above-level-one obscenities. You can get away with saying 'hell' a time or two probably. Another consideration is, in this setting, do I want to play all fast songs? All slow songs? A good mix?

Quick sidetrack: I'm watching a basketball game right now, and a player had fallen to the floor and he sat there with his hands out until another player helped him up. I see this all the time in sports. Aren't you an athlete?? Get your own self up, dude!

Where was I? Oh yeah, lastly, the first and last song you play can have a lot of importance. For first time listeners, you want to play something that will really grab them, and is also indicative of your general style. As for the last song, you want to go with a fan favorite that will leave a lasting impression. Your 'signature song', you might say.

I'll point out that I think Sarah usually does a good job of selecting a set list. I thought she did a particularly good job at the Warehouse friday night. Speaking of that gig, it was pretty funny when we showed up and the Warehouse people were basically like, "there's a band playing here tonight??" They need to work on their inter-Warehouse communication skills. The band sounded good though, despite the tremendous heat in there. Wow. Fortunately, Sarah located the thermostat early on, and that managed to bring down the temperature a bit, but it was still rough.

The Springtime Tallahassee gig went well also. That's always a chaotic, but fun, situation. Getting past the police barricades can be tricky, even when you have the required pass. Fortunately, band wife Jaye was able to talk her way in, and we were able to unload the van from right next to the stage. It's an interesting place to have the stage set up, as there's a lot of foot traffic right there. You definitely want to play songs that will really grab people as they walk past. Ya know, get them to stop and say, "hmmm, who's this talented Tallahassee band? I wonder if they have a CD available for purchase." Cha-ching.
Also at this stage, there's the captive audience at Andrews, the restaurant that's right there. All those outdoor diners have to listen to you, at least until they're done eating.

It looks like the band won't be playing many gigs in the upcoming month or so, therefore, I won't have much to post about here. But, maybe I can come up with something. If you're lucky...

Friday, March 23, 2007

If they only knew...

Smoke. Smokiness. This is yet another thing I've learned to deal with while helping the band at their gigs. Playing in bars means you will, quite often, go home smelling like cigarette smoke. Last night was another one of those times.

Cigarette smoke goes with you. It clings to your clothes, your hair, your skin...
It permeates, is what it does. And it is not contact-lens-friendly.

But, other than that, last night's gig went well I'd say. In fact, there's nothing much interesting to write about, though I did come to one other realization that falls into the "from both sides now" category: It is weird to see my friends give autographs.

Back in 2000, I saw The Nields play in Tampa. After the show, I, like so many other fans there, was getting autographs from the band. Well, as I handed the CD liner notes to the bass player, Dave Chalfant, to sign, some friend of his, who I assume he's known for a long time, said to him, "dude, it is so weird to see you giving people autographs." At that moment, I must say, I felt pretty dorky. That comment made me realize that basically he was just a guy who plays a guitar. To his long time friends, he's probably the guy who got sick and threw up for half of spring break, or he's the kid who lost his retainer in middle school and had to dig through a garbage bin to find it.

Now, I see people getting autographs from the SMB and I want to say, "don't you know he/she's just -"...well, I won't go into specifics, but you get the point.

Of course, I do realize that they play great music and that everbody wants to get autographs from bands they like. Heck, I've even managed to accept my dorkiness and get autographs from a couple artists since that day in 2000. Dar Williams for one, and Christine Kane (gotta throw her name out there in case she still reads this) as well.

But, usually I skip the aftershow signing sessions and let the bands have one less person to feel weird about giving an autograph to.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ding ding ding dingy ding-ding...pressure!

Working on the Sarah Mac Band web page should be a pleasure. Actually, it is a pleasure...but there's a "but". See, I have to do it in my spare time. I work 8 hours a day, mostly spent sitting in front of a computer, often doing web related work. That particular web work is of the un-creative, state office type though.

By the end of the work day, I've had about enough of computers and code. This pains me though because if I wasn't drained from the work day, I'd be thrilled to work on a site that allows for creativity and originality.

So how does one go about motivating himself to sit back down in front of a computer and tap away all evening when he really just wants to sit back and watch Veronica Mars with no distractions? Well, sometimes he doesn't, unfortunately, but when he does, these are the key factors:

»prospect of doing some web design that reminds him of why he enjoys doing it in the first place
»desire to help the band and give them a web presence that promotes their music as successfully as possible
»fear of being fired as web designer and having the band hate him
»it's wednesday, Veronica Mars isn't on tonight, and Lost isn't on until 10

I'm happy to say that after a few weeks of on and off motivation, there's a new Sarah Mac Band website to take a gander at. I'm also happy to say that I believe that might be the first time I've ever used the word "gander" in a sentence. The band has been most patient with me as I've plugged away at it, and they seem to like the finished product. Of course, I mostly see what I wish it could be and everything that it's lacking. I guess that happens in any creative field though. I know my expectations and that certain things on the site haven't lived up to them. Other people don't know those expectations, they just know what they see.

Oh well, it still has a few more changes and additions to come, but the pressure to get the new site live is finally off. And, the band still likes me. I think. At least as much as they did before...however much that was.

Go gander!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gotta Start Somewhere (or, To Hell and Back)

*special note on the title: as a lifelong tallahassee resident/seminole fan, i'm legally obligated to refer to gainesville as 'hell' at least once

Let me begin by establishing something early on. I don't like bars. Being a non-drinker, the abundance of alcohol is a contributor, but only a partial contributor. My main issue is all of the ambient noise. In that kind of setting, my monotone voice just disappears into oblivion about a foot after it leaves my mouth. This leads to me having to repeat myself over and over, or to just give up and say "nevermind" when it's clear there's no hope of being heard clearly. But, I have accepted that if I'm going to be helping out an up and coming band, I'm going to experience my fair share of bars along the way.

This leads me to The Shamrock, a pub in Gainesville where the band played back in January. A particularly hard to locate pub, at least for someone with no experience driving in Gainesville, armed only with a Google map featuring a mis-labeled road or two. Fortunately, with a phone assist from a member of the band Redboy (the main act for the evening), I was able to find it. Also fortunately, the band had already been there awhile and had lugged all the heavy equipment in themselves.

There was still a couple hours before they were supposed to play, so I toyed around with my new video camera a while, then went with Claire and Sarah to Publix to pick up a few things, including a birthday cake for Redboy. It was their two year anniversary as a band. The cake was a surprise to them when they finished their set (around 2am), and they seemed pretty happy about it. I myself was pretty happy about getting a free hamburger for dinner, another perk of being "with the band".

So, the SMB played their set, it went well, and I filmed a good bit of it, but it came out really dark. I'll link to it below anyways, but you might have to turn up the brightness on your monitor to see them. The crowd, mostly there to see Redboy, seemed to enjoy the SMB. I like to sit in the back and overhear comments and conversations about the band, then report back to them later. I guess the overall noise level contributed to there being a shortage of any of that on this evening though.

Sadly, I had put my camera back in my car after they were done and missed some of the best stuff. There was a bar fight on the patio area outside for starters. One guy broke a bottle over another guy's head, and then they sort of slammed each other up against the window and startled everybody nearby. There was some bleeding involved. I think bar windows should be made out of candy glass so that in case of a bar fight, people can throw each other through the windows, just like in the movies. Ya know, anything to make life more like a movie...

The other exciting moment was when Redboy played their song where one member (Anne?) walks around in the crowd with a gong, sometimes letting audience members play it. Apparently Sarah had *really* wanted a chance at bangin' the gong, but when her time came, well, she grew feathers and a beak and basically just totally chickened out. There's rumored to be video of it, but I've yet to see it.

My original plan for the evening was to make the two hour drive back to Tallahassee after the show, naively thinking that it would end around midnight. So when I realized it was going to go much longer than that, I started trying to make plans to get a hotel room and stay the night like the band was planning. As I mentioned before, it ended around 2am. We didn't finish loading up all the equipment until about 3am, and then Redboy invited us all to go eat somewhere. It was a place I'm drawing a blank, but it's basically just like Denny's. After some breakfast and good conversation - including a fascinating toothpaste discussion - it was finally time to bring an end to this whole experience. By this time, it was after 4am. I decided that it wouldn't be worth it to get a hotel room at this point, and I should just hop back on I-75 and take it on back home. Sarah channeled my mom (who's very much alive, so I don't know how that works) for a few minutes and tried to convince me that it wouldn't be safe for me to try to drive back, but my stubbornness won out, and I headed home, promising to call when I got back.

I made it back safe and sound and was in bed by 6:30am. And yes, I was a good boy and called Sarah's phone and left a message. I contemplated leaving a message pretending to have run off the road and wrecked, but I figured she had been traumatized enough for the evening by the gong...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

No Promises to Keep It Interesting

I love music. I love bands/artists that play good music.

But, I've always been on the audience side of bands. Now, though I'm not actually *in* a band, I've spent enough time behind the scenes of one that it kind of feels like I'm experiencing things from their perspective.

Thus, I'm a-gonna blog about it. My roles with the band include 'web guy', carrier of equipment, and videographer.

If the homage to Joni Mitchell in my blog title has been inadvertently stolen from some other blog, don't go all Chiffons on me, it was just what came to me while thinking of a title for this thing.

Posts here might be a little sparse at times because I'll mostly just write about gigs. Like about how cold it was at the 621 Gallery, and the crazy feedback issues during soundcheck, and how 2 trains passed about 40 yards away during the show.

Maybe I'll add something between shows, here and there, to keep it interesting, but I make no promises.

So, until I post again, go visit the band's website (which I created) and see why they're blog worthy.