While Radio Underground is on hiatus, in an effort to keep playing and not go bonkers, Arty and I have enlisted RU drummer Andrew Bedard and Bardela (R.I.P.) bassist Jeff Barrows to bring some of Arty’s newer songs to life. Originally conceived as a semi-autobiographical song cycle, Winooski Falls has also become the name of the band. The sound of the band can best be described as… well, it’s tough to describe. An Americana influenced singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar accompanied by a jazz drummer, jam band bass player and a prog rock guitarist and sonic weirdo. You try and describe it.
We rolled out the new sound at the Double E in Essex to a crowded room that danced, cheered and sang along. We had our sound guy and human security blanket Bennett there so the sound was tight and the pressure low. A pretty good night. I hope we can get back there soon.
If you looked at my bucket list, somewhere in the “Unrealistic Expectation” section, there is a short grouping of musicians I would love to play with. Among them is one Elliot Sharp. If that name is unfamiliar,take a few minutes now and Google him. I will wait.
Done? Good. Somehow the fates conspired move humanity in the direction to where my compadre Matthew Evan Taylor ends up teaching at the institution where my “day job” is and becomes an intermittent collaborator of mine in the Improvisatory Arts. He then brings his friend Elliott Sharp to teach a winter term class on improvisation/composition. Part of that course was the concluding concert where the class got to display some of the things they had learned. Part of that concert was a free improvisation by Elliott (clarinet), Matthew (saxophone), fellow musical adventurer Gahlord Dewald (upright bass) and yours truly (Stick and devices). Gahlord and I were invited as delegates from the local improvising music community.
Following that the class joined us on the stage with their instruments and Elliott lead the ensemble in a conducted improvisation. [from the interwebs: “Conducted improvisation is the act of providing a certain degree of instruction for improvisation to musicians in real time. Usually through various gestures.”]. Zappa did this a lot through the years and MY familiarity with approach came from him.
Both pieces were a blast to participate in and I thank E#, MET and the entire class of Composition Today for letting me tag along.
Tried something new this year: only used the phone for communication and navigation and didn’t worry about the selfies and gearporn shots. So…
Day One: I sat thru some AES/NAMM panels, had a nice chat with Adrian Belew, saw Mike Watt, lotsa purty geetars and wave one of the hairband has-beens. Test drove a couple reverb pedals, which was unusual for me. I usually don’t play anything out of self consciousness and keen awareness of my musical limitations. Booths seem to be overrun with shredders on break from Musicians Institute
Day Two: More AES. Saw a presentation/interview with Finneas O’Connell. Had my annual catch-up meeting with Brad Hogg, and then…
Wandering the floor, late in the afternoon, surrounded by noise, I hear from somewhere behind me,
I turn and see a familiar face that my brain is failing to attach a name to. Then, as I look at the name badge my brain grapples with the idea that standing before me is Jason “Fish” Harper, friend and former drummer, who I haven’t seen in 30 years. Thousands of people milling about and he was able to spot me.
Day Three: Panels, and because it’s Saturday; people, so many people! Highlights? Had a lovely chat with Steve Lawson who is demoing for a handful of gear companies. Remarkable bassist and supremely nice person. While every other bass player is slapping away at inhuman(e) speeds, Steve is tasteful and melodic while still being sonically adventurous.
The other highlight was the X-Jam concert. I had the best seat (3rd row center) for a lineup that included the Travis Larson Band and Andy Timmons Band followed by Mike Keneally, Ray White, Scott Thunes, Bobby Martin and Joe Travers. All except Joe are alumns of the Zappa band (most from the ’88 band) and Joe is in charge of the Zappa archives. Never thought I’d see these guys play together again. The mix was sub-par but the performances stellar. Met Scott post-show and told him he did a great job. I was also reminded how much of a master Keneally is.
Day Whatever: SO. MANY. BASS. PLAYERS. Sheehan, Watt, Bootsy, Sarzo, Wimbish, Chaney, Hellborg, Hamm, Bromberg (haven’t seen him since just before leaving L.A.), and I know there are plenty I saw but can’t remember.
So, gear takeaways? The guys at Tech 21 seem to be intent on me picking up the bass again. First it was the Dug Pinnick pedal, then the Geddy Lee pedal, THIS year… a new Geddy Lee pre-amp/DI and a Steve Harris pedal. Takeaway # 2: There are too damn many tasty reverb pedals. Takeaway #3: MOD Devices showed me how I can replace my entire pedalboard with one small box (and a midi controller). Just have to decide which would hurt more, my wallet or my lower back. Weird side note: people take the idea of Fred Armison as a drummer for real. Saw him presenting something on a panel at a booth.
Now, the grueling journey home.
Note: my spellcheck just suggested, in place of “grueling”, “gruel lingerie”. I hope that’s not a real thing.
My hope is that this exercise of blogging will not only help me document my creative adventures for myself but also help me be accountable for how much I am (or not) getting done. I am currently in the midst of my pre-NAMM anxiety attack. The combination of logistics, dealing with huge crowds of people all trying to look like they are living their best(musical) life and just the joys of air travel is always a treat-filled ride. Not. Still there’s hope. I usually come back from NAMM with an odd mix of inspiration and despair. Let’s see which is in greater supply when I return.
In other words, I’m not getting much done in the near future but you will hear from me soon.
Rebooting the blog and redecorating the site. Mostly just moving furniture around (deckchairs on the Titanic?). Took my usual break at the beginning of Fall 2018 and then suddenly we are at the end of 2019. I had stuff to do, okay?
2019 was tumultuous as usual but there were some amazing highpoints; running around the boutique guitar show at NAMM with David Torn and Steve Klein, meeting Emmett Chapman, and making music with lots of old friends and making a few new ones. I also got my first (Tonmeister) credit on an ECM album. In the spirit of the flashback montage, here’s a gallery of some of those events. Once we’re through that it’s onward into 2020!
The old blog entries have been imported for history’s sake ‘tho many of the pic links didn’t cooperate. I will be fixing those as time allows but currently focus is forward.
Did a quick set at The Last Stop as part of the Waking Windows Winooski festival. It was a good warm up for the next run of shows.
We are getting close. The Radio Underground album (now titled Dark and Getting Darker) is available for pre-order. If you order now you get two songs immediately and you help us wrap the whole thing up!
Dusted off the Stick to do an evening of improvisation with some friends. I was rusty but it was fun and so doubly motivating to resume a practice routine. Fingers crossed!