Monday, October 28, 2013

Eating Good Food While On The Road | Digging Deeper To Avoid Junk Food

Eating on the Road
Our van pulled into the parking lot of the bar we were scheduled to play in.  We had just arrived in the teeming metropolis of Rockford Illinois. It was another band road trip, and it started with a show in northern Illinois. Actually the suburban Rockford outskirts were more "teeming" than the downtown club we just rolled up to.  It was warm for a mid October evening. We had the windows rolled down, so it was easy to hear the woman standing against the building when she said "Oh no, a van full of f-ing hippies!"  It's never good when the first patron of the club you are about to play in has something really bad to say about you. Still, we laughed it off and started to unload our instruments.

Rockford happens to be the home town of our guitar player, although he had not been back for many years.  He was surprised at the amount of development out in the suburbs, but not surprised to see that the metro area was dark and quiet. We got to the club with plenty of time. Once we unloaded our gear, we went off to find food. Once again, we found ourselves in a pizza joint. It's become the norm for our band to eat pizza. I wonder why that is? I must say that my other bands would find themselves in the same situation. What town doesn't have a thriving pizza restaurant downtown? Even the most desolate of city centers seem to support at least one Italian restaurant.

Our guitar player had been in this place before.  In fact, he remembered it well, and told us a few childhood stories as we waited for our food. But this post isn't so much about food, as it is about being on the road. One thing that I have come to realize is that the food you eat can dictate how you perform. Yes, pizza is just bread, cheese, meat, and a bit of sauce. It's not the best food for energy, but I have had far worse. These days, I actually bring along some cooked pasta. It can hold up pretty well for at least 12 hours without refrigeration.  It's got just what you need for energy too. When in doubt, boil some noodles! It may be boring food-wise, but the rest of the band will be jealous when you find yourself without enough time to find food in the neighborhood.

Avoid The Junk Food Before Performing

I had a drummer friend tell me to "Look for the second place" when it comes to food while on the road. What that meant was that it's easy to find the junk food.  It's very easy in fact. But it can be worth the effort to dig deeper, to take another 10 minutes to find a much healthier alternative.    


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Yes Without Jon Anderson On The Road In 2013

I was excited to see that Yes was coming to the Wisconsin State Fair this summer. Would this be the time that I finally see them perform live? After all, they aren't getting any younger.  Most of the band was born in the 1940's.  In fact, Jon Anderson will be 70 years old next year.  But wait, Jon Anderson isn't in the current lineup.  How could that be? The voice of Yes is sitting out this current tour? Is this another case of the band waiting for the singer to get around to playing live, like Journey did with Steve Perry? No, this is not the case. Let's take a moment to see why the band is on the road with another "Jon." This time it's Jon Davison taking the role of lead vocalist.

Davison is 41, and was singing in a Yes tribute band back in 2005. He has the vocal chops to pull off those high notes, and found his way into the "real" band without a true "tryout."  That was 2012, and the touring members of Yes were a hodgepodge of accomplished musicians, but only one true original member was on the list.  That was Chris Squire. This go round, Steve Howe and Alan White make up part of the band.  Having three original members on this tour will certainly bring out a few more die hard fans. Will they warm up to Mr. Davison?  Here is a clip of his handiwork. You decide.

 What happened to Jon Anderson?  Anderson suffered from a pretty serious respiratory illness starting in 2008.  The band just couldn't wait for Anderson to get well.  In their defense, Anderson was out of commission for nearly four years. Prior to that, Yes was on the road more than one would think.  Those aged rockers were keeping up a tour schedule better suited for musicians 25 years younger.  Anderson wasn't really thrilled with that.  His last project was a duo affair, featuring Rick Wakeman on keyboard. That was back in 2012.  Anderson hasn't completely shut the door on future reunions.  He would love to be standing on stage with Yes when (or if) they ever get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Until then, we Yes fans will have to make due with guys like Jon Davison, a man who can certainly hit the high notes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vintage Ludwig Snare Drums | Painted Interiors And Dating The Drum

WFL Symphonic Snare Drum
For a few years, I got caught up in the vintage drum craze. Acquiring old Ludwig snare drums was my thing. It took me some time to learn about them, mostly through trial and error.  I should have gone right to this vintage drums book for starters. 

The book gives the reader a solid base of information on most of the larger or more popular drum companies of the 20th century. It was in that book where I found out about the WFL Symphonic snare, a drum that has been in my possession for nearly 20 years now.  I love that drum, and I try to take great care of it. When I took it on tour in 2000, I made sure to bring it in from the van every night. 

I have found just one other Symphonic, and that one was a couple years younger than my first, with extra holes drilled into it.  Someone had replaced the Ludwig Classic snare throw off with a cheap Japanese throw. The interior of that “newer” snare has a coat of interior paint. That was a common thing to see on the early 1960’s models. It was done at the factory. Some say that they were painted to hide the lower quality of wood in use at the time.   They sound very different from each other.  The painted snare produces fewer overall tones when compared to the 1959 Model.

I feel that I was one of the lucky ones who got into Ebay early enough to grab some pretty nice snare drums and parts before things got out of hand, and opening bids went through the roof.  Finding a good deal on a vintage drum on EBay seems to be a thing of the past. Prior to that change, it wasn’t unusual to find a Ludwig Supraphonic available for just over $100. At one point, I managed to snag a pair of vintage Supraphonics for $75 each. When I log on to an auction site now, it’s easy to see that the public at large has been educated. At least I made my splash early.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gogol Bordello With Bombino At The Pabst Theater | A Bit Of World and Gypsy Punk Music At Its Finest

Gogol Bordello Pabst
What can I say about Gogol Bordello that hasn't already been said. Are they a Gypsy, punk, reggae-dub band? Yes, the band is a mix of all three. One thing that they certainly convey is pure musical energy. Just when you think that you have the band pegged, they riff in a direction that you just didn't expect. Last Saturday was my first time seeing the band, and I was not disappointed. I can appreciate them on so many levels. Let me take the next few paragraphs to describe that in better detail.

It's fitting that the band formed on the East Coast.  I'm certain that it helped. With NYC hosting a large Ukrainian and Russian population, it's not hard to fathom that there were plenty of musicians to choose from. If you watch an early Gogol Bordello documentary, you can see that the band was first made up of Russians and other so called "immigrants" who played a rough version of Gypsy pop/punk with Ukrainian twists. As the years have passed, it seems that the sound has become more polished, but still has a driving edge that maintains the punk and Gypsy origins.

I can also appreciate the fact that the band has members from many parts of the world.  Starting with Elizabeth Sun, who is of Chinese descent, but raised in Scotland.  Sun sings, dances, and plays the bass drum. Sergey Ryabtsev is a key member of the band, providing violin and vocals.  He's quite the Russian performer. Add performers from Ethiopia, The United States, and Ecuador, and you have a true melting pot of musicians.

Last but not least, these musicians are truly talented.  They dance and sing at the same time. That can't be said for modern pop stars who just dance to a prerecorded vocal track. Does that mean the vocals are a bit sloppy at times? Yes, it does.  Does that matter to the fans? Not at all.  When you watch them perform, it's like the wheels are just a few mistakes away from coming off, but the group has been through that so many times before.  The wheels managed to stay on at the Pabst last weekend.

If I was to say anything about the founding member Eugine Hutz, I would say that he seems like a man who's always looking to the horizon, while standing right in front of you. He has a pure energy about himself. It comes across in the way that he performs on stage. He might riff off the members playing right next to him, but it surely seems that he's in his own world. If I learned anything from reading about Hutz, it's that he's turned his travels into an opportunity to bring odd music to the masses. Some folks might not understand or appreciate those odd sounds. He once said in an interview that Americans tend to have an "imaginary barrier" to being open minded about all forms of music.  If Gogol Bordello continues to perform here, that barrier will be broken down.

Bombino opened the show.  Bombino is well known in his country, and his world music album has touched the hearts of many. The volume for Bombino's show was too low.  He has a way with the guitar, but next time they have to turn up the volume!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

David Bowie Top Ten Singles And A Bit Of History

David Bowie
David Bowie surprised his fans with the release of The Next Day. It had been ten years since they had seen any new material and the recording process for this disk was done quietly over three years time. What I found to be unusual was that the song he released early was the mellowest on the disk. Still, it is a great song, and I can’t think that anyone would have been put off enough by the nature of that song to write off the entire disk before they had the chance to hear it.
Looking back at his 40+ years, Bowie’s highest chart topping album was Station to Station. It reached the top five. He’s never and an album hit number one, but many of his singles have reached the top spot. At the time of this posting, his new album is charting at 35.
The song Space Oddity hit number one in November of 1975.  Ashes to Ashes made the top spot five years later.  Under Pressure was also a number one song, along with Let’s Dance, and Dancing in the Street. He’s had 23 top ten hit songs, if you include Where Are We Now. 
Bowie had over ten years of solid tours, and hit songs before musical tastes had changed.  Dancing in the Street was his last top ten hit song for many years to follow. He released three truly bad albums between the years 1986 and 1988, and acted in three just as awful movies in that same time period.
When he created the band Tin Machine in the late 1980’s, those of us who find every Bowie effort a “must listen,” would have to agree that this was not one of those times where the project clicked in like a puzzle piece. Personally, I had completely forgotten about the Tin Machine years. When I watch those old Tin Machine videos, it looks as if he’s trying to capture a bit of that late 1980’s punk momentum. You just can’t “un-class” a guy like Bowie. It didn’t work.   
His 1993 release of Black Tie White Noise was hailed as his glorious return to the music that he’s best known for. While I agree that songs such as Night Flights and You’ve Been Around certainly sound like the old Bowie, it’s hard for me to say that the album was any better than some of his marginal works.

Nine Inch Nails And David Bowie

He tried his hand at appealing to a younger audience when he hooked up with Nine Inch Nails in 1995.  That tour failed to bring new listeners to Bowie’s music.  Fans of Nine Inch Nails just didn’t get it.  In fact, there was a bit of backlash from those who felt that he was trying to wedge his way into a fully matured musical culture that had no need for old farts like David. It’s funny to see that Trent Reznor’s fans love Gary Numan, a band that came to fame 15 years before Reznor became a household name, but they passed on Mr. Bowie outright. But then, Reznor owes his musical career to guys like Numan.
If I’m allowed to fast forward to his 2003 release of Reality, I would say that the first song on the disk is quite strong, but the remaining songs seem to drift. David Bowie had a serious heart issue while supporting that disk, and it was scary enough to force him to retreat from the stage. Bowie took a ten year break, but the wait was worth it. The Next Day is a strong effort, and I find nary a “clunker” on the CD.  I hope he doesn’t take another ten year break. If he tours to support the new album, I’m certainly going to check him out.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bikini Kill Had Something To Say Back In 1990 | It Still Rings True In 2013

Bikini Kill Punk Band
I stumbled upon an old Bikini Kill video the other day.  They were performing live outside some state capitol building.  If they weren’t dressed in 1990’s clothing, I would have guessed by the musical style that it was a recording from 1979.  Was this a band that had been playing these songs for a dozen years? No, they were too young to have played back when so many other bands played this same style.  So why did this band gain the attention that they did?  This version of stripped down, repetitive, less musically inclined style of music has been done so many times before.   

So I took a look at the lyrics.  Maybe that’s where I would find the lure of this band. Yep, that’s where the band hits a nerve. They speak of being a strong woman, being yourself, feminism, and so much more. They might have sounded like old school punk rockers, but their lyrics were “new school.”   

Bikini Kill’s second album contains the song Alien She.  The words that ring out in that song speak of someone who is two women.  One is pulled towards the stereotypical way “girls” are supposed to be. The other tries to understand that other side. What I pull from that song is that it’s about someone who struggles to be herself.  Someone is trying to understand why they think the way that they do.

The band wrote more focused lyrics as they gained a better knowledge of song writing.  Take the song Double Dare Ya.  The song challenges women to speak out, to fight for their rights, to stand up for themselves. The song Feels Blind starts off slow, and almost melodic.  Is it an anthem? It could be. It has one great line, but the words leading up to it are very important. “As a woman I was taught to always be hungry. Women are well acquainted with thirst. Yeah, we could eat just about anything. We'd even eat your hate up like love.” 

Give Bikini Kill a try.  You might enjoy the mix of old school punk music set to lyrics that are so important, even 23 years after they first came out.  Keep in mind that the members of the band went on to work on women’s rights.  That’s more punk rock than so many other musicians who talked the talk, but never walked the walk.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Drumming For Profit | Being A Hired Hand In A Band

Hired Drummer
My last band was led by one person.  She named the band after herself.  She did all the promotion, the booking, and the hard work that it takes to get people in the bar. Sure, the other members of the band had to play well enough to keep people from leaving, but she had no problem with replacing you if you couldn’t make a show. As I recall, she went through some 19 bass players over ten years. One of them was nick-named “T3” because he was the third bass player that was named Tom.  Not just the third guy in the band named Tom, but the third bass player named Tom.    

When you joined her band, you were welcome to play the hell out of your instrument, but you weren’t allowed to bring your own songs into the band.  On more than one occasion, I heard her say to other members “That’s a great song you just showed us.  Now go and start your own band if you feel like playing it.  This is my band.” What’s funny is that I heard her say that at least three times over the years.  It was somewhat amusing; because she would let the musician play the entire song first, then give her speech.  She didn’t bother telling new members in advance that they weren’t allowed to write their own material. If you didn’t like what she had put together you were free to leave.  On the other hand, we were free to add whatever we liked to the songs that she wrote.  In fact, she felt that I never over played my drums on her songs. If she had it her way, I would be going ape behind the kit on every number.

Hitting The Road As A Hired Hand

In 1998, a band that hired me for a tour gave me their disks, told me to learn the music, and instructed me on just where I could add my own creative ideas. (See photo above.) There weren’t many spaces for me to break out on my own musically, but I knew what I was getting into.  When those moments in the song came up, I took full advantage of the opportunity. No, it wasn’t very much fun playing those somewhat rudimentary drum parts that someone else had written, night after night, city after city. But I was the hired help.  That was my job. What was my incentive? Getting paid a per diem, part of the net profits, and getting a cut of the merchandise. There had to be a guarantee for me. After all, I was the hired help.  I wasn't going to see any profits from record sales.  I would receive no income from royalties.  The drummer who made the album, the guy sitting back at home was getting paid for my hard work. The more shows we played, the more disks we sold, the more money he made. At the very least, I knew what base rate I was guaranteed, before I got on the plane for Europe. 

By the end of that tour, we were all pretty sick of each other.   It was nothing personal, you just can't look at the same faces day after day without feeling like you need to get away from it all. The combination of being cooped up together for weeks at a time, and playing the same songs every night made for a long tour. It didn’t affect my performances, but it certainly kept me from going “all in” with that group.  Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but I lost my mind on that tour. I met up with some friends in Amsterdam just after the tour ended. One of them told me the only way I was truly going to be happy was when I started my own band. I knew that I wasn't "band leader" material, but it was a nice compliment.

What I miss when I join groups like that is the feeling that I was part of something creative.  I came along after these bands had already built up a following.  It didn’t matter if I received a compliment, or praise.  Those bands would go on without me.  I had to understand that.     

I was called back for a second tour, and took the job. They kept me on as a regular member, and that’s when things started to change, albeit slowly. It took another year for the band to start listening to my ideas, and allow me to be part of the creative process. By year number three, we had written an entire album’s worth of material. The record label wasn’t interested in keeping us on, so we had to decide whether to shop our sound around, or go it alone, or break up. The band called it quits, or at least that’s what I did.  I quit, and the rest of the band took a long break.  Two years later they resurfaced with their old drummer, but those songs that I helped to write stayed with the band.  In fact, they went on to record those songs with their original drummer.  It’s very hard for me to listen to that recording.  With all due respect, that drummer was not interested in playing what I had written. I found out later that he couldn’t replicate my style. It was too different. After being in a band for three years, then leaving, it’s an odd experience to then go and watch that band play live. I didn’t feel comfortable with going back stage to say hello.

It’s so different when you aren’t behind the drums.  As an audience member, I was more forgiving of their mistakes.  It made me wonder if I was too uptight when I was in the group. Those little miscues were actually enjoyable. They looked like tiny mistakes when I wasn’t playing, but huge mistakes when I was part of the band. I learned that I should let those little things go. As for now, I don’t know if I would ever go back to being a hired hand in a band, unless the reward was significant.   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Road Trips For The Somewhat Aged Musician In Me

Band Road Trips
Looks A Lot Like Our Tour Van

Band road trips are getting harder and harder for me. I hate to admit it, but I just can’t bounce back like I used to.  I have long stopped sleeping on floors. My days of rolling out a camping mat are also behind me.  Does that mean that I should retire from playing out of town shows?  I don’t think so, but there are some changes that I have to make if I want to keep on drumming. 

There are pressures I feel from other band mates when it comes to saving money on the road.  If we have a show that is a couple hours from our home town, I’m sure to hear the usual “We can take turns driving back the same night.” Yep, two hours of driving sure doesn’t seem like a long ride when you are heading out of town.  But after I have moved my drum kit six times in one night, and played a show, the two hour ride home feels more like six.  It’s torture. 

We rolled back to Milwaukee around 4am last weekend.  We unloaded our gear, and said our goodbyes.  I still had another 30 minute drive to my house.  When I finally turned in around five am, in a bedroom with makeshift black window shades, I really hoped to get six or seven hours of sleep.  It’s really hard to do that when your body is used to getting up at five a.m. I managed to get about five hours of fitful sleep before giving up.  The rest of my weekend was ruined. The main reason we drive home after an out of town show is to save $100 on hotel rooms.  There is a value to my off days, and it’s much higher than $100.

So what’s an aging drummer to do?  I’m going to foot the bill for my own post-show motel room from now on.  The band can keep their money, and if they want to drive home the same night, so be it.  I’m tired of loading up on caffeine at two in the morning, rolling out of some town soaking wet from my own show sweat, while hoping to avoid the deputies that have nothing better to do than pull over suspicious looking rock and roll vans.  I’m tired of wondering if our singer or guitar player is going to stay awake during their driving shift.  That keeps me up too.  I just can’t sleep in the van, when I’m too busy worrying that one of us is going to drive off the road into a cornfield.

Save A Life And Get A Room

For those of you in working bands, I know what you are going to say. “So Wisconsin Music Man, you are going to make the rest of the band unload all of the gear, while you sleep it off in a comfy motel room?” Not exactly.  I’ll be happy to take my gear to the motel.  I’ll roll all that crap into the room with me.  The band won’t be cursing my name when they get home, because the van will be half empty.  They might be cursing my name when it’s 3:30 am, and they are somewhere outside of Manitowoc, with another 75 miles to drive before they get to Milwaukee.  Instead of cursing my name, they should just admit that after a show they would love to take a ten minute drive to a hotel bed too.  If each band member put up $50, we could all get a solid night’s sleep, free breakfast, and be back in Milwaukee by noon the next day. I will leave that up to them.  From now on, I’m playing the rock star and getting a room. That’s what old guys do.  They get smart, and sleep well.    

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Which Drums Make The Best Sound? | Drum Heads Play A Part Too

Drum heads
I'm still playing my poplar Sonor Force 2000 drums.  These are the drums from Germany, not the newer Chinese drums that Sonor makes now. At the time that I bought them, they sounded great.  I knew little about woods at the time, and had a limited budget.  Poplar isn't the hardest of woods, but with the right drum heads, they sound great.  It took me a long time to figure out just which heads would work for those drums.  I'm still trying to figure out what heads work best on a much more expensive set of Yamaha Maple Custom drums that I purchased about ten years ago.  Is there such a thing as the perfect wood or perfect drum head to go with that wood?

For the Sonor drums, I'm using the Remo smooth white heads.  These heads (and that wood,) seem to produce a great sound for rock drumming.  The tones are somewhat muted by the 10-mil thickness of the head, but the notes cut through, and the attack is still pretty sharp.  For an attack that is somewhat less sharp, I will sometimes use the coated Ambassador heads.  That is especially the case when I'm playing the maple drums.  As the Sonor drums have been taking a beating for nearly 20 years, their bearing edges are in need of adjusting.  For now, the smooth heads seem to help in that regard.  If I ever get the bearing edges redone, I'll consider switching to a head that isn't as thick.  For a long time, I played the Remo Pinstripe heads on the Sonor kit.  Those heads lasted longer, and that was a good thing for a struggling musician.  Their double ply Mylar construction will reduce the decay, but the overall sound makes your drums sound "fat."

Evans Hydraulic Drum Heads 

For a short while, I tried my luck with Evans Hydraulic heads.  They looked cool, but the muffled decay was just not what I wanted for a sound as I left the world of punk rock, and moved into rock.  If you want a punchy sound, go with the Evans Hydraulic heads.  Don't expect very much sustain on those drums.  I realize that it costs a bit of money in order to experiment with different skins.  What you might want to do is head on over to your local music store, and see what skins are on which types of drums.  If you can test drive the skins, all the better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Residents Come To Turner Hall Milwaukee

The Residents Turner Hall
The Residents came to Milwaukee last Sunday night. This was my first time seeing the group live. As I felt that it might be the last tour for the original members, I thought that I better get on it. After all, the Residents have been around since the 1960’s. For those of you who are not familiar with the art collective, I suggest that you check out this Residents link.
When did I get the itch? It was back in 1981, when they released Mark Of The Mole. I had asked for the album as a Christmas gift from my parents. (Pretty cool parents, I must say.) After pulling out the vinyl I put on a pair of headphones and started to play it, while others were still unwrapping their gifts. I was 16 years old at the time, but the album still had a huge effect on me. The songs were almost frightening. Mark of the Mole had a theme. It was all about the struggle of the Mole People, and their war with the “Chubs.”

After Mark Of The Mole, I went backwards in the Residents timeline, and picked up Third Reich “N” Roll. The album came out in 1976, and was labeled as a “parody” of American pop music. I found it to be quite serious music. Perhaps I found it serious because the songs that they chose to parody were musical numbers that were (by 1982) overplayed “Muzak.” It doesn’t take much to turn a happy tune into a haunting, freak out of sound. That’s what the Residents did to so many numbers on the Third Reich album.

The Turner Hall performance featured three “band” members: Randy, Chuck and Bob. Their props and set were quite stripped down. I was a bit disappointed considering that I had heard so much about their previous efforts. I won’t spoil it for those of you still hoping to catch the band on this current tour. It was strange enough just to see the group do their thing. I don’t really know if stage props were necessary. My only complaint: They should have turned up the volume

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Weekend Road Trip Tips For Drummers | Be Prepared For Anything

Road trip advice for musicians
We played two nights in a row last month.  One show was in Milwaukee, while the other was in Oshkosh.  Both shows were in venues that I have never been in before.  That meant that I had no idea what to expect as far as the stage set up, sound, lights, or vibe of the bar staff.  What makes your life easier when you have to play a show in a new club? How should you prepare for a two show weekend? I'll be happy to post what I feel are little things that can make a huge difference in how you perform when you have no idea what to expect.

It goes without saying, but I will say it. Get to the club on time, your first time. Nothing looks worse than being late for your first show at a new club. You have already proved to the club owner or manager that you are not professional. Why should they ask you back if they are worried that you might not show up at all?  If load in is at 8pm, be there at 8pm.  It's not just the club owner that you want to keep happy.  Your band mates might be giving you the stink-eye if you miss load in. 

When you do load in, be aware of the neighbors.  Is the club playing loud music that might disturb the folks that live next door? If yes, try to keep the load in as short as possible.  Be aware of slamming doors, loud band mates, the general "smashing and crashing" of gear, or doors that are propped open too long. Also, be a sport and pitch in when loading in.  You might not be the drummer, but that doesn't mean you just have to worry about your amp head and bottom. There might come a time when I might be hauling your rig out of a club at 3am, when you are dead drunk.  It's a huge relief to know that your band mates have your back.

Feed Yourself On Short Road Trips

For short road trips, I can't stress enough the need for you to bring some extra food with you. Our van broke down on the way to a show that was just 90 minutes from home.  We planned on eating when we got there, and with the two hour delay we had no time to stop for food. There are few things worse than playing a show on an empty stomach. I stash a power bar, candy bar, apple, and shelled peanuts in my bag when I go for an overnight show. Also, stash a full water bottle in your bag. (More on that later.) On the night in question, our late arrival allowed me just enough time to eat some peanuts while I set up my kit in a rush. I had the power bar after the show (before my first alcoholic drink of the evening,) and knew that if I woke up starving the next day, I had some fruit and sugar to keep my stomach full enough.

Don't forget to bring a water bottle on stage the moment you start loading your gear onto it!  There are times when you were supposed to be on "ten minutes ago," and you are looking at a club that is so full, that you know you won't get the bartender's attention.  All you want is a drink, or some water to take onto the stage. That lonely water bottle has saved my butt many times. It's especially handy when you are playing a tiny club, and you just boxed yourself into a corner of the stage with your drum kit. You are thinking about that mad dash to the bar, but your band mate just hopped on stage and she's strapping on her bass.  What are you going to do?  You are stuck, and the band wants to start.  At least you have 12-14 ounces of room temperature water to suck down for the next 90 minutes. Also, check out this useful drummer's drink holder. It's so much better to keep your liquids off the stage floor. We all know how easy it is for our precious drinks to get knocked over. Sometimes your singer can shout out to the bar that the band needs need a drink, and you get lucky enough to get a response. Don't count on it.

In part two, I'll add some "non-food" related items that I find essential.  For now, keep your tummy happy, stay hydrated on stage, and be on time!.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cigar Box Guitars | Much More Than A Toy

I’m a drummer who owns a cigar box guitar. I use it for therapy. What do I mean by therapy? If you ever picked up a cigar box guitar, you would understand.  Their simplicity encourages you to interact with them. You can’t help but play with it, pluck it, strum it.  The open tuning helps me find a sound, as I just can’t jam my fingers into any discernible chord structure. When I get a bit hung up on the fact that I really can’t play chords, I recall the following quote by Bluesboy Jag: “In the cigar box guitar revolution, everybody does what they want to do.”

There is an annual festival held in North Little Rock Arkansas that celebrates the cigar box guitar. That festival brings together many of those folks who love to build and play cigar box guitars.  There are no hard and fast rules on how to build one.  The same can be said about how to play, or tune it.  It’s all about the feel, and what the box says to you.

Their origin springs from a time and a place where money was tight. They were built with items on hand, like a broomstick, broom wire, and (of course) a cigar box.  Things have evolved to a point where serious bucks are spent in their construction.  Mine is made with a vintage box, real hardwood for guitar necks, and tuning pegs.  The retail price for mine would probably be in the $200 range. It was an investment, to be sure. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find the materials to make one yourself.  It just means that a cigar box can come from humble beginnings, or be part of some serious luthier work.
Two of my childhood friends now build cigar box guitars.  One was a professional luthier, the other a machinist.  A few years back, the luthier taught the machinist how to cut the wood, and assemble the guitars. It had been a long time since the two had worked together, and they both came away from the experience having learned that some things never change.  They both retain a passion for building and playing. As for the therapeutic properties of the guitar, I must say that I usually turn to it when I’m stuck on a writing project, or when I’m patiently waiting for my wife for one thing or another. When I play it, my back muscles loosen up.  Time slips away, and before I know it, I’m relaxed (or my wife is ready to go.)      

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

David Bowie's New Album | The Next Day

Daivd Bowie The Next Day
David Bowie turned 66 yesterday. He released a song from his new album, as sort of a gift to everyone. It's darn good.  His voice does show signs of those 66 years, but once you settle into it, you will find it quite pleasing.  He went back to Tony Visconti for support on this one.  It shows, in a good way. Visconti is credited on a dozen of Bowie's albums, including what is called the "Berlin Trilogy," a group of three albums recorded in Germany.  The new Bowie album doesn't come out until March.  It's billed as a rock album.

David Bowie has redesigned his website.  It contains videos, and remixes of classic songs.  I suggest that you take a look for yourself.  As for the controversial album cover, one can find answers on the Barnbrook blog.
If the rest of the album is anything like the sample song, Bowie has a hit once again.