What Ive Been Doing This 2013 Summer ...so far

Greetings and salutations one and all !

Since taking myself out of the craziness of touring I have dedicated more time to just keeping it close to home and playing shows locally. It’s a different kind of job for me. I have to hustle to get my gigs. Luckily I don’t really want to be gigging 4 or 5 days a week every week. I love my family and friends and I enjoy spending time with them. I certainly love playing as much as I always have but I am completely fine with the idea of not HAVING to. I also like that when someone calls to ask me to cover a gig I can now say YES most of the time. So many times I would get a call to do a cool show but I'd be out on the road. 

At the time of this writing I will have been performing 4 Saturdays with 4 different bands 4 weeks in a row. The genre’s of music are similar but no real overlapping of tunes. So for me that’s about 350 songs I need to be very proficient at. This is the extreme side of what I’d like to be doing but I embrace the challenge. I like being able to help any band out that needs a bassist to cover and I hope that am professional enough that they don’t have to worry if I’m doing the job or not. Whenever I was with established bands and we needed someone to cover a persons spot like the drummer I knew the drummer was doing a good job when I didn’t have to look at them to figure out what was going on. Transparent. Invisible. But heard. I hope and strive to do that for anyone that gives me the call. That being said I am also called on to be the lead singer on occasion which means NOT being invisible and certainly heard. With that many songs to learn in a short amount of time all I can say is “Thank God for YouTube!” Some of you reading this may be so young that you have no clue what we old folk used to have to do to learn songs. I believe I blogged about it previously.

Mostly I keep busy with my King James and The Verses band that I get to be the front man which means I call all the shots. That’s not as glorious as some people may think it is. I’ve had past experiences with being a main voice in a band having to deal with getting it booked and paying everyone. Don’t like the business side of it. Every time I am dealing with that side of the business it makes me appreciate folks like Kelly Richey who does most of it all herself. It’s some very hard work with a lot of let downs and heartaches and it takes a special person to keep working at it for any length of time. Just like anything else it isn’t magic it’s just hard work. Hopefully the end product is magical. And that is what keeps most of us going: The one or two or three hours performing after the 2000 hours of preparation. On the performing side it's still unnerving for me to be the main focus and make people take notice to what I am doing. I’m more of the player that likes to be accidentally noticed.

I am no longer the guy waiting on the bus to pick me up and get to the show and know what my calendar is for the year. I am the guy trying to get his calendar booked enough to keep me playing. Not “busy”. Just playing enough to keep my chops up. Speaking of chops, for those of you who do not know I do 95% of the lead vocals for King James and The Verses. I’ve been the lead vocal in groups before but now I’m doing it a little smarter by using “in-ear monitors”. I cannot stress enough on how helpful that is in at least saving your voice. My voice especially. I do not claim to be anywhere near the end all or be all of lead vocalist. Far from it. But I can carry a tune and convey my message in a vocal manner.

One of the projects I’m involved with is with Sweet FA co-founder guitarist James Thorpe and lead singer and co-founder Steve DeLong who happens to be, for the most part, my “brother-in-law” so my abilities as a “lead singer” is made clear to me daily if not hourly. I’m not inflicted with false modesty. I can do what I can do. But I also know that I can’t do THAT. I am truly honored that JT and Steve asked me to be in their project. Only the future will tell where it goes.

While we’re talking about singing I was doing some research (googling) on using lozenges to ease or help throat dryness. In the recent months I’ve been using a brand that we sell at R&R Music but I can’t remember the name and I gave my empty container to a singer to look them up and try out. It’s a very mild flavor. Like a bland gummy bear. Well, in my research I found that most singers and/or coaches do not condone using a lozenge ESPECIALLY one’s with mint and/or menthol. Good for the nasal passages but not for hydrating your vocal chords. This is rather curious since I was religiously using the DENTYNE ICE ARCTIC CHILL flavored gum as my “lozenge” and throat clearer. I haven’t really used the Dentyne much as of late. Research was also saying that most lozenges are a placebo and that anything that gets the saliva going will help. So bottom line is moisture. Which makes sense since I tend to do better vocally in the humid Summer months over the cold dry Winter months. Majority seems to be against alcohol because it causes a dehydrating effect. But some speak favorably on having a glass of wine before performing. Possibly because of a combination of “calming effect” and the liquid. So if you get nervous and your throat feels dry then wine or alcohol could actually help. You do have to worry about whatever you use to make your throat “feel” better may actually makes things worse because you’ll push your voice when it should actually be resting. Since the store is currently our of the lozenge I was using I’ll try and cover some shows without them and see how it goes with just drinking something simple like water. And be calm and not nervous. It’s quite possible that everyone is a little different and that what works for one will not work for the other. All I can say to this is to try things that don’t seem TOO crazy ( like gargling with apple cider vinegar) If they work, fine. If not, move on.

As far as bass playing goes in the last few months I’ve actually done much more acoustic guitar playing in a duo or trio form with King James and The Verses. A lot of that has to do with how some clubs like their entertainment a little quieter. I find as much enjoyment in playing acoutic guitar also. Im definitely not an accomplished acoustic guitarist, or electric for that matter, so its educational and I embrace the growth. Along with these acoustic shows Im doing much more Ukulele playing which is also an enjoyable challenge. Ukulele is similar to bass in a way that people view both as sub standard very easy to play kind of instrument. Or maybe not even an instrument at all. It’s fun showing them otherwise.
On the bass gear front I’m toying with the idea of getting back to the ol’ standard Ampeg SVT amp and 810 cab. I always say this until I load and unload my 410 cab and gear and realize that an 810 PLUS a big heavy SVT all tube head is just ridiculous unless someone else is setting it up for you. On a “plus side”, if I choose to go with an 810 again, it only takes up the same amount of foot print as my 410. And its only really heavy if you have to lift it. For the most part you can roll that thing around fairly easily. My van sits low so I would only have to tilt it into the back and shove it in. Then there’s dealing with an 80lb all tube amp. Not a big deal lifting that up onto a 410 cab but to actually hoist it up onto an 810 cab by yourself…ugh. Its been a long time but I remember what it’s like. And then to have to lift it down off the cab after a 3 plus hour gig. My belief has always been if you can’t handle your own gear, and can’t afford to pay someone to do it, go get different gear. Or a different profession. Unfortunately, just like a guitarist playing in front of a full Marshall stack, there’s no better tone or feel than playing in front of an Ampeg SVT amp and 810 cab. If you wanna rock you really do need to have/use one. I already have a couple of 410’s. It’s close … but it’s still not the same. Actually I really like when I used to run my 410 on top of a 15. Perhaps I’ll get back in to that? In the short scheme of things that would be the cheaper route. I remember bi-amping that set up back in the day. Having a “clean” 60-80hz through your 15 with the 410 growling is a great tone also. Hmmmm….. Decisions decisions …..

I just ordered a new wireless: The Line 6 G50. I’ve heard good things about it and I was due for a new system so Ill be writing my review possibly in my next entry.

So that’s about it for now. Please check with my calendar for shows and hope to see you there!

Bass Be With You

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