10.29.2014

My Boss Gave Me the Night Off

Firstly, my boss is me. Secondly, I gave me the night off to rest and relax. I have been working overtime at my self employment job of music the past few days, prepping for gigs and the new band. It's hard work and goes late at night. Since I had a rare night off from band practices, I decided to use it for mental rejuvenation, which is just as important as music practice.

I made a leisurely dinner and watched some Netflix. After this post I will go to bed and read a new book (The War of Art) until I fall asleep.

I have found that my productivity is actually better when I make time for rest. It allows the neurons to gel a bit. If I am always driving and pushing, there is a Law of Diminishing Returns at work. For example, sometimes with piano practice, if I step a way for a few days, I find I have improved a little bit when I return to it. It is like my brain is crunching data and running reports during the downtime.

Tomorrow night I'll be back on the job honing vocal harmonies with Tim (Eddie) of EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, the clever punk rock band I just joined after passing last week's audition, and putting the final touches on country band songs. Because Friday night it is a road trip up to Minocqua WI (again) with the country band, for a Halloween show as the Traveling Wilburys (group costume and setlist).



I am kind of annoyed about this Minocqua gig because it is on a Friday and far away from Madison. I don't like the long road trips on Fridays because I have to leave work early and I am usually tired. Much nicer on Saturdays when I can sleep in and we can take our time to get there. Also the pay for this gig won't be worth the effort. But it won't be a loss, so that's cool. Plus I will have the rest of the weekend free for fun stuff in Madison, most notably going to see a bunch of bands on Saturday night at the Frequency.

10.27.2014

A Week of Rocking and Singing

It’s going to be a musically dense week for me.

Tonight (Monday), I am going to continue to hone Traveling Wilburys songs in advance of tomorrow’s country band practice and Friday’s Halloween Party, at which the country band will be emulating the Wilburys via group costume at the Minocqua Brewing Company. I am going as Jeff Lynn.

Before tonight’s practice session though, I will be grilling on my patio, because it is a beautiful sunny day today, in the low seventies, and that’s too compelling to pass up. Thanks global warming!

Tuesday night is country band practice, with the Wilburys focus, as I said.

Normally, I would have punk rock band practice on Wednesday nights, but that band had to suspend practice for this Wednesday because of a scheduling conflict. So I will have to practice EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE songs on my own that night. However, the main vocalists in the punk rock band (everyone but the drummer) will get together on Thursday night to rehearse vocal harmonies, which are extremely tight in this band. I will have to cancel my RSVP to a holiday social event at the Vintage Brewery for that night because of the reschedule, but that’s totally fine with me. Rocking is a priority and sacrosanct. Plus, the sooner I get up to speed on the EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE songs, the sooner we’ll be playing shows.



Depending on when the punk rocking is done on Thursday, I will probably do another run through of the Wilburys tunes for the country band. Or, if there is time, I might catch the tail end of the aforementioned social at Vintage, since it is so close to my house. But I will feel guilty about it if the rocking is not up to par. As you know, I am a very driven and dedicated rocker, and I like to be 110% on my performance, even though I don’t usually have to worry about being the weak link in the chain, because with the exception of the punk rock band, most of my music collaborators aren’t quite as fanatically driven as me. In fact, I probably work myself too hard on some stuff. I am glad I have another music project to keep me on my toes, especially since I am playing guitar and singing backup in the punk rock band, which pushes me and takes me a little ways out of my comfort zone. I have been pretty geeked about this band, because the songwriting is fantastic - clever and catchy. I think the best word to describe the lyrical humor is WRY. WRY HUMOR.

Then, Friday afternoon, the country band will head up north to wow people with our lifelike Wilburys getup. If this road trip is like previous ones, I’ll car pool with the drummer, Jon, and electric guitarist, Kyle. I booked us a motel across from the venue, also like last time, so we can hang out on the town a bit after the gig and not have to drive anywhere. That costs a bit of money, but the convenience is priceless. Plus, it is divided 5 ways and we get an all you can eat breakfast buffet on Saturday morning. The drive back to Madison on Saturday is sure to be a long one, because we will have post-rocking fatigue. A power nap on Saturday afternoon may be in order, before I head downtown to hear some punk rock and metal bands at the Frequency. Tim (aka Eddie) from Eddie Ate Dynamite is in one of the bands that is playing, called Government Zero.

I will have a respite from the rocking on Sunday…not that I need one. But I may pop into the Funk’s Open Jam on Sunday night, since I have not attended in a while. Optimally, I could persuade GUPPY EFFECT to rock a short set there, but I know it would be difficult to cajole them into doing it. It’s fun to play with my band though. The jams are OK, but they are usually always the same songs and I get a little bored with them sometimes. But it is still a good opportunity to improvise and it never hurts to exercise the ol’ vocal chords, in the interests of becoming a better singer.

You know, I never planned to be a rock singer. It’s interesting how that came about. I was in a band in college (Iowa State) and we had a female singer. Apparently, she did not see eye to eye with us on a few things and she quit 3 days before a gig, so rather than cancel the gig (weak), I learned to sing as many of the songs as I could and we played the show anyway. I would hate to listen to a recording of my vocals from that gig today, as I am sure I lacked the vocal power and richness that I have gained over the years. But anyway, that’s how I was forced into being a rock vocalist, by a woman! Baptism by fire.

10.24.2014

Somehow I Made It Through This Action Packed Week

It was touch and go, but I somehow made it through this week. TGIFF!

It was not an unfun week. It was simply packed to the gills with action, which was a little overwhelming. I was able to channel my inner Dude to stay calm and focused, but it took some real effort.

The weekend that preambled this week offered no respite either. My country band, the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS, had a show on Saturday October 18 way the eff up north at the Minocqua Brewing Company (we are there again for Halloween on Friday October 31, FYI). We didn’t get a lot of sleep because we went out on the town after the gig and then the five of us piled into a small motel room across the street from the pub. Granted, the motel had a free breakfast buffet on Sunday morning, complete with eggs and meat byproducts, which was awesome and saved us time getting out of there. But we were all tired for the drive home.

While my band mates indicated strong intentions to take power naps when they got home from Minocqua, I decided to power through. I actually laid down for a little while but I could not sleep. When I rose, I went out and raked leaves in the yard until it got dark, and was energized by the sense of accomplishment, so then I went down in the music room and practiced TRAVELING WILBURYS songs for the October 31 gig (the country band will be costuming up as the members of the Traveling Wilburys…and the audience will be treated to Bob Dylan on pedal steel). The country band had rehearsal on Monday night, and we started going through the repertoire of Wilburys songs we want to play at the gig. I was the only one who actually practiced ahead of band practice, but we had played many of these songs before, so it did not take long for them to come back to the rest of the group.

Tuesday morning, I had to take Buddy in to the vet to get his surgery stitches removed. All went smoothly and he finally got to take that ridiculous cone of his head. He banged that thing into everything at home, including my bare legs. Very happy to see that thing gone. Buddy seems well. Hopefully the cancer does not come back for a while, but the way I see it, and you can call it callous, is that he is going to die from something. He can’t live forever. He is 14 years old and then some, so I need to embrace the fact that his days are numbered (and multiplied by 7 because he is a dog).

On Tuesday night, I had my last piano class at the UW-Madison, and then met with Tim (aka Eddie) of the band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, with whom I would be auditioning on Wednesday night for the role of rhythm guitar and backing vocals, to go over vocal harmonies. That was productive, though it cut into my time for learning the guitar parts that accompany the backing vocals. So I stayed up pretty late mastering the material.



The audition and jams with EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE went smoothly on Wednesday night. I had a few biffs, mainly to do with singing and playing at the same time, because the songs were so new to me, but it was clear to them (and me) that I had done my homework and would be able to handle the power punk rock music amply well. So I am IN! I am mainly going to be supporting Tim’s lead guitar parts and holding down the changes when he solos, so the main focus is on backing vocals. It will be great for me to get a little more guitar exposure and will definitely improve my skills and my sense of song. I just need to put in the elbow grease to get up to speed.

I had agreed to tend to my friend Kat’s cats while she and Stefan (guitarist in my other band, GUPPY EFFECT) were vacationing in New Mexico, starting Wednesday. They live really close to me and wanted me to swing by there about 5 PM each night they were gone to feed the cats and check up on the place. I didn’t have enough time to get there after work and before the EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE audition on Wednesday, but I was able to get there later that night and the cats didn’t seem to give a crap. That was one of the two times during the week where I had to let something slip a little. The other was my volunteering with the WORT radio station in Madison. I am helping them post archived broadcasts to their RADIO LITERATURE program, and I usually try to do one per week. It takes a couple hours, but I just didn’t have a free two hour block this week, so it slipped. I will catch up on the weekend.

Thursday night, I went with my friend Danielle to do a free spinning class, which was fun but basically a sales pitch to get members to the indoor spinning club, which is not my bag at all. It was the most boring thing ever. They had music playing, but it was mediocre. I can hook my bike up to my trainer at home for free and watch Netflix while I work out for $9/month vs. the $150/month needed to join this spinning bike place. No thanks. The world is my gymnasium.

After I got home from the spinning class, I considered vegging out in front of the TV, but instead, I forced myself to go down to my music room and start practicing music. Once I got into it, it was compelling and fun, and I ended up practicing for a solid couple of hours and made great progress.

Now it is Friday. It is very near the end of the workday, and the end of a productive work week. A part of me, a good part of me, wants to hunker down and practice more music tonight. But this time I am going to use reverse will power and force myself to take a night off from practicing and relax. Sherry and I are going to go to the Willy Street Roman Candle pizzeria and take advantage of their extended happier hour around 8 PM. We might go look for a live band at the Wisco or someplace around there too.

I am taking my new used Prius out to Cambridge tomorrow so my trusty mechanic there can determine why the MAINTENANCE REQUIRED light has come on. It’s not due for planned maintenance for a couple thousand miles yet, so not sure what that is about. The car seems to drive fine, although when I start it up, I hear this electrical clicking sound in the back near the hybrid battery. Hopefully it is nothing. I have had a few issues with tire pressure and the car makes a whole bunch of weird noises when you turn it off. Sounds like louvres closing or something. I will ask my mechanic if that is normal too, although that might be a dealership question. But at least he can read the computer and see what codes it is throwing to turn on the MAINTENANCE REQUIRED light. Then if it is serious, I can take it to the dealership and get it taken care of under warranty.

After the visit with Terry the mechanic, I’ll continue on to Whitewater and drop my commuter bike off at BicycleWise so that owner John can fix a broken spoke and maybe determine if I need a new wheel (hub and rim) since this is the second spoke to break in as many months. When I get home from these errands, I plan to rock in the Rock Room until Sherry and I head to Lake Mills for a Halloween party on Saturday night. Sunday morning bodes for raking leaves in my yard, as of right now, though when that is done, I will practice music some more in the remaining time. In the afternoon, there is a possible social gathering of Madison atheists and skeptics at the Unitarian church in the afternoon. Sunday night, I may go down to Lake Geneva WI and visit some RAGBRAI friends, Nick and Shawn. That might be a bit of a long shot, depending on how tired I am. The other option is to go to the open jam at Funks.

Action packed!