Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summerfest Bands That I Want to See

I guess that the final Marcus Amphitheater booking has prompted me to look at all the side stage bookings for 2009. What shows do I want to see? I am fired up to see Elvis Costello. He writes such great lyrics. I would enjoy going to Willie Nelson, but probably wouldn't stay for Bob Dylan.

As usual, the Cascio tent has some top-notch local talent on tap. This year, they made it easy for me. (not that they even know I exist) Decapitado, and Crumpler play back to back on July 5th. Yes, those two bands couldn't be more opposite, but a beer break between sets will easily cleanse the pallet.

Summerfest tickets are available online already. I'm waiting it out, to see who wants to go with me. Last year's Cheap Trick show was so packed, that my wife had a panic attack. She may not go with me this year. I have to find a Costello fan that I can drag down to the Summerfest grounds if she won't go with me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mixing is Lonely Work

I don't know which is more tedious, rehearsing for an upcoming recording, or mixing the project with the engineer. There are variables to think about when you make that recording. If you lay some live tracks along with the drums, you could have an easier time mixing. You have to be spot on when you play, but you have a better shot of capturing the soul of the band.

We feed off of each other when we play. If you are in a booth, headphones on, tired from doing twenty takes, and you are the only person at the studio aside from the engineer, it's hard to capture the feel of the song. If you and your band mates are all trying their level best to play along together, and the room sounds good, you might capture lighting in a bottle. Just remember that what you record, you have to mix, edit, fix. The more tracks and takes you keep, the more work you will have to do on the back end.

We are feeling that now. Our engineer had the guitar players lay double, and sometimes triple tracks to every song. He had them lay a single acoustic guitar track too. It all has to be mixed, and I'm the guy sitting in the chair behind the sound board right next to the engineer. My mates are off doing whatever. I'm missing out on the spring weather. I'm in the sound hole, making the tracks sound good. I would rather grab some Brewers tickets and head to Miller Park for the game.

There are times when I play along to scratch tracks. Most of us do that. If the scratch tracks are off time, your recording will be off time too. If the guitar player is just slopping along, thinking that this is not their session, it could come back to bite you. "We are recording the drum tracks, not guitar. What do I care."

I have had to play along to uninspired scratch tracks. They can drag you down. Sometimes they have been so bad that I just tell the engineer to play a click track, and I will play the drums to imaginary guitar. The first time I did that, it worked like a charm.

Yes, you must learn to play to a click track. Whether you record to one or not, it may come in handy. If the session is bogged down because your time is not steady, you may be called upon to play to the click. Be ready. Embrace the click. It is your friend.

For the slow numbers, ask the engineer to double up the time on the click track. It's easier to play a 40 b.p.m. song with a click track that's ringing in your head at 80 beats per minute. I don't recall the guy who said this, but it's heavy. He said "Your beats are like the telephone poles along the side of the road. They have to carry the electricity, they have to be spaced perfectly or the wires will drop."

That's all I have for today. Keep beating on the skins.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Playing The Drums With A Wig On My Head

I had a gig last Saturday night. The musicians had to wear costumes. Three of us had to wear wigs. I remember playing a show about 12 years ago, when I wore a Halloween mask. It was harder than I thought it would be. The mask kept sliding down. I couldn't see.

The wig did similar things. It kept getting in my eyes. What was worse were the long strands of hair that would get stuck in my hands. As I hit the drums, the wig would waggle, almost falling off my head.

Between each song, I had to part my hair. That sucked. I missed all the action on stage, because I was blinded by fake blond hair. It was a good thing that I knew the songs inside and out. I just blazed through the tunes, and didn't worry about anything else. The lights were so bright that there was no way to see the fans. I felt like I was playing drums with a well lit, big pile of fur in my face.

Thankfully, we had a dress rehearsal before the show. That's when I found out that it was going to be a tough night. I tried to keep my head still while I played. That kept the flowing hair from getting stuck in my hands. I pulled back some of the hair and tied it. That was a tip that I got from my wife. The show was fantastic. The crowd loved the costumes, and the night went buy in a flash.
To all you musicians out there that are too cool to wear a costume, too cool to try something crazy, try to look at it from the perspective of a fan. If you think that you are too talented to listen to someone else when they say that there should be a visual aspect to the show, I say try it, wear it, do it. You will love the experience, and it will humble you a bit. If you think that your music is all that your fans need to love you, then why do we have lights, smoke, stage shows, and cool rock and roll clothing? It's all part of the package.

I say leave the cargo shorts at home and put on some cool clothes. (Yes, I know someone who wears cargo shorts and sandals on stage) Try something on that shows off your guns. Wear something that is not labeled extra large. Get out there and entertain, on both the musical and visual level.