I haven't talked about my band much lately, but things are going really well. We're playing at least twice a month and often quite a bit more than that. We have five weeks in a row booked in June and early July.
Over the past year we've phased out most of our poppier classic rock and moved toward a harder-edged sound. I'm enjoying getting to sing Led Zeppelin, Quiet Riot, Rush, Judas Priest and many of my other long-time favorites. We're also doing some newer songs by Halestorm, Saliva and other contemporary hard rock bands.
I haven't quite accomplished all the fitness goals I established for myself in relation to the band, but I do find that I can make it through the night without being quite as exhausted as I once was. My feet seem to be holding up better as well, but I think I can credit better shoes for most of that. The boots I'm wearing in the photo above are Aerosoles and they were worth every penny.
I can't imagine a more fun hobby than singing in a rock band. I get to dress up, put on fun makeup and sing at the top of my lungs for (mostly) appreciative crowds. Rock and roll!
Picking up where I left off, I've been easing into the new year pretty gently so far. My band played a New Year's Eve gig that went quite well, and we've had a break since then except for recording a four-song demo and learning some new songs to replace a few duds in the set.
I got my annual case of bronchitis right on schedule, so that was a couple of weeks of coughing with ten days of antibiotics in the middle. Fortunately, that's out of the way now.
Sooty the foster cat is integrated with the general cat population and although he and Dr. Jones frequently face off and shout at each other for no apparent reason, the transition ended up being pretty chill. I had a dream that he told me his name was really Izzy, so my husband and I have been trying that on for size and it seems to suit him.
Is he staying? Probably. He's of uncertain age with a chronic disease, so I'm really not sure anyone else would be willing to take him. We like him, he likes us and we were obviously willing to save his life, so seeing him through the rest of it seems like the kind thing to do. Not that he appears to be on the brink of death or anything; he's lean and he pees a lot (in the litterbox, fortunately), but otherwise he seems happy, energetic and generally fine.
For the foreseeable future, I'll be channeling my charitable impulses toward cats into TNR for the free roamers in my neighborhood and leaving it at that.
I've been spending time with friends, playing games, trying to keep the house in some kind of reasonable shape, and trying to decide what my year is going to look like.
I'm not anticipating any major changes, but I do know that I'd like to entertain a bit more than I did last year and I also have a couple of trips I'd like to take if I can get my budget slapped into shape. I keep joining additional board gaming enthusiast groups, so I'll probably be learning a bunch of new games this year. If I'm feeling really gung-ho, maybe I'll rearrange some furniture in my house. Whee!
How's your 2015 going so far? Any big plans or just more of the same?
As someone who performs in a classic rock band, I have spent a good amount of time in dive bars and I have to say, I kinda love them. If the idea of going to a slightly seedy neighborhood bar worries you, you’ve probably been misled by Hollywood. In reality, they're just another place in any given community where people gather, hang out, meet other people and take a break from the daily grind. And drink, of course.
I doubt there's anyone who knows that better than Scooter J. He’s an acquaintance of mine who has been on a quest since 2006 to drink in as many bars as possible. I’d almost forgotten about his bar project, but it popped up in Google search results today when I was looking up a place where my band is performing next month.
My dad has always been a dive bar connoisseur as well. Usually he has two or three regular places where he goes with his friends. Right now, one of those is in downtown Kansas City and it may be the ultimate dive I’ve ever experienced. He and his buddies are clearly regulars as evidenced by the fact that on my last visit, more than one upcoming event posted on the bulletin board by the front door referenced them by name.
It’s the kind of place that has small plaques set into the bar to indicate long-time patrons’ customary spots. Oh, and there’s a big liquor bottle on a shelf over the bar filled with some kind of sandy substance. My dad pointed to a photo of a man on the wall and said, “See that bottle? That’s him. He used to be a regular here and when he died, he was cremated and they put his ashes up there.”
The bar where my band played last weekend is developing a nice neighborhood crowd. As soon as we arrived, various regulars started coming up and chatting. One guy latched on to some friends of mine and visited our table repeatedly as we had our pre-show dinner. By the time the night was over, the band was teasing me about how many new "boyfriends" I had among the many guys who kept coming up to gush over how much they enjoyed the show.
The bar itself can be its own character. We once played a place so small that they had to tip the pool table on its side to make room for the band to set up. We were still so much in the way of the staff that they wound their way through the band members on "stage" every time they needed to get back and forth from the bar to the storeroom or kitchen. It's probably a good thing the fire marshal didn't choose that time to stop by.
A few weeks ago, we were playing at another bar with a tipped pool table as a backdrop and in the middle of a song, the large, translucent plastic lens from one of the fluorescent ceiling fixtures fell down onto the drum kit. Without missing a beat, our drummer flung it aside and kept going. We have video of that somewhere; I need to get a copy. That’s the same bar where we tripped the breakers twice during setup before we decided to forego having lights behind the band.
A lot of times the word “dive” seems unnecessarily harsh. I’m aware that some of my more well-heeled and conservative friends probably don’t get out to working class drinking establishments much, but a lot of times what they call a dive is just a bar as far as I’m concerned. It may not be fancy, but it fulfills its purpose.
Even the many biker bars my band tends to play have seemed non-threatening in every way. Honestly, I’ve seen a lot more bar fights in "fancier" bars over the years. Yes, a lot of people are drunk, but other patrons tend to step in if someone looks as though they might stumble into the band or otherwise do something disruptive.
After looking up the latest dive bar where my band is booked, I feel nothing but pleasant anticipation for another show. Apparently the owners are really nice, and I think we'll have fun. What more can you ask for?
I recently went through some old photo albums and scanned pictures of bands that I've been in over the years.
Here are some of them, from oldest to newest. Click any of them to embiggen.
If you're curious about my current band, you can find us on Facebook.
I've finally reached the age where my desire to participate in Halloween activities has certain limits. For example, I'm fine with parties but I don't want to wear a costume at work or anywhere else in public. I'll buy candy for trick or treaters at my office and in my neighborhood, but I don't want to cook anything with a Halloween theme.
This year with Halloween falling on Thursday, Saturday was the big party day. My band had a gig at a bar that was having a costume party, so we all dressed in costumes as well.
I'm kind of glad I chose the outfit I did because otherwise everyone would have been dressed completely in black. Come to think of it, that's pretty much the case for most gigs.
Big thanks to Hip Suburban White Guy for the loan of the phaser and tricorder. He also let me borrow a communicator, but it was hard to stand around holding all of the accessories at once.
Our keyboard player had the best costume, in my opinion. I know it wasn't very comfortable, but it paid off.
For actual Halloween night I bought a couple of small bags of Twix and Kit-Kat bars knowing that we wouldn't have more than a handful of trick-or-treaters. We ended up having exactly a handful: five. That's actually pretty typical for our neighborhood, although I expected more because our neighborhood party last summer gave me the impression that we had more kids in the area than we used to.
I'm not mean enough to put Toby in a costume, but I did have him wear his sweater to watch the door.
We gave up a little before eight o'clock and went out to dinner leaving the candy in a basket on the front porch. No one took any while we were gone.
So that's my 2013 Halloween. I didn't do much, but it was just enough.
Last Saturday night, my band played at a local American Legion post. It was basically like a small town bar with a nice patio out front, a few more patriotic plaques on the wall than most bars would have, and, oh yeah, they allow smoking inside.
I'm not going to lie—I was slightly less enthused about the gig than I might have been for one at a regular club. After all, I have a history of asthma and secondhand smoke is not on my list of favorite things.
We showed up around noon for setup and there was a small group of bar patrons hanging out already. Usually when we do a lunchtime setup and sound check, the afternoon bar-goers range from dismayed to outright annoyed. Not at the American Legion. We ran through three of our newest songs to check sound levels while simultaneously making sure that we could still play them, and damned if the people there didn't applaud after each one! That never—and I mean NEVER—happens.
When we came back in the evening to start our 9:00 p.m. set, some of the people we'd seen earlier in the day said hello and told us they'd come back to see us. There was a pretty decent crowd from the very beginning and it didn't take even half a set before people were dancing.
The crowd was enthusiastic the whole time. They danced, they applauded, they sang along, and someone even bought two roses from the flower lady and laid them carefully on my monitor while I was performing. I took them home and now they're on my desk at work in a vase.
Yes, it was smoky in there and now my carpeted monitor needs some sunshine to get the smell out and my stage clothes went straight into the laundry when I got home. However, it didn't seem to affect my voice any more than the fog machine that we were using.
This is my official mea culpa for having even a little bit of attitude about that gig going in. It was by far the most fun I've had performing in quite a while and I sincerely hope we play there regularly in the future.
I took a half a vacation day on Friday and drove an hour to do this for four hours:
It was fun but a little unsatisfying because the crowd was very light. Friday nights at bars always pale in comparison to Saturday nights. Still, for a first gig it went well and at least we ended up with some photos and video.
The drive home was excruciating because I was so tired. I had to keep pinching myself and slapping my face to stay alert and I ended up cruising down the highway with the windows down for most of the trip. Once I got home I was ravenous but too tired to go out for breakfast with my husband, so I heated up some oatmeal and dropped into bed as soon as I was finished eating.
I only got about four hours of sleep, unfortunately. Then I needed to get up because it was time for the Kansas City Yoga Festival. I couldn't get it together in time to attend the first workshop. In fact, everyone was in savasana by the time I arrived.
The second workshop went well and I was reminded of a shoulder stretch that I should be doing every day. I actually learned it last year but I'd been mostly sidelined with a sprain then, so it had slipped my mind.
I couldn't make through all of the final workshop of the day. During the introduction portion I'd been lying on my mat fighting sleep and my body wore out after about 30 minutes of poses. My bailout coincided with the arrival of a massive thunderstorm that caused rainwater to come into the building through every window and door, so I made myself useful moving things off the floor, out of the way of the incoming water.
That night, my husband and I tried to watch some TV, but I was completely depleted and by 9:00 p.m. I was sound asleep. I slept eleven hours and made it back to the yoga festival a tiny bit late the next morning.
I made it through the entire Sunday workshop and now every muscle in my body is sore. Seriously, every one of them. But they're sore in a good way and I'm glad I had the opportunity to strengthen myself like that. After lunch I went home and slept for another two hours, for a total of 13 for the day. Ahhh.
I know I haven't checked in for a while, but everything is going well with the new eating plan. I've lost about 15 pounds since I started and I'm feeling really good except when I wear myself out through lack of sleep.
So how have you been?
The new band is going well. We were this close to taking a gig this weekend, but a particularly painful practice and recordings of the practice before that brought us to our senses, so now we're back on track for a couple of months from now. Whew. Gives me time to get in shape a little.
What we are doing right now is recording a three-song demo. The songs we chose are "Raise A Little Hell" by Trooper, "Blue on Black" by Kenny Wayne Shepherd and "Man in a Box" by Alice in Chains. Yes, the whole point is to demonstrate variety. I'll let you look up the YouTube videos of any you don't recognize.
Late Sunday afternoon we got together and recorded the drums and scratch tracks of all of the instruments and lead vocals. We're planning on trying to get it finished up next Saturday.
Without further ado, here are some of the session photos from the studio.
After the first take of "Man in the Box" (which some sadist decided should be first), I told the band I would go ahead and record the PG-rated, radio-friendly, no-shit version of the song. It probably doesn't matter because it's not as though anyone was planning on playing it for school children anyway, but it seems like the best choice in the sober light of day. Not quite as fun to sing that way, though.
This train of thought lacks much-needed context unless I first tell you that I went and jammed with a band this afternoon. It's a classic rock band with the guitarist and bass player from my last band along with a drummer and keyboardist/guitarist. The whole thing went pretty well, so we'll see if it lasts.
So anyway, while we were talking about songs we'd like to do, I was reminded that for some reason, my brain likes to group bands in pairs. Usually they're similar in some way, but not always. Generally they're bands that I learned about at around the same time and occasionally it extends to confusing their songs.
Here are a few of the bands that are linked in my head for no readily apparent reason:
Does anyone else do this or is it just me?