Category Archives: Gigs

Tesla Vintner House Band – 7/12/15!!

Since the Turbo  Fuegos imploded on New Years Eve (that story to remain untold on this site!) I joined forces with Steve Powell, entrepreneur, and known for his singing as much as his wine making at Tesla Vintners.  The picture here was our first incarnation:TV I’m in the back and if I look a little weird, I was actually quite sick the evening we took that photo and in about 3 hours I was in the ER with appendicitis! The guys thought I was crazy for showing up for pictures like that but hey, I didn’t know.

Not long after that we had our fist gig.  Since then one member went back to the East Coast and our bassist is on vacation so we are playing Sunday at 2:00 with a fill-in bassist.

Details:

Address -> 5143 Tesla Rd, Livermore, CA 94550

Do you have to be 21?  No!  This is a family run place.  They are even dog friendly.

Is there a charge to get in?  Again, No!  Show up and have fun.

Is it just wine?  Nope – although there are 3 wine makers offering tasting (all for $20) there will be beer and food to purchase.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

How Did I Get Here??

Ok, folks, I really didn’t mean to take this long to post.  A number of things were going on, and I think we just rounded the bend, so I’m going to talk about them here.

First, the main thing that held up my post is I wanted to post the songs I talked about recording on Mother’s Day.  Way back in March.  Way back.  Well, one thing that didn’t turn out so well was the mix.

If you ever read Slash’s book, he talks about how Axle Rose refused to go into the studio, so they sent tapes back and forth – he would write down his comments and mail the tapes back, they’d work on them and send them back to him and the cycle starts again.  Doesn’t sound like a very efficient way to make a hit record.  Well it’s not a very effective way to make a demo tape either.

We must have passed those three songs back and forth 5 times to get the mix right.  And each time it took longer and longer to get their attention to mix it and send it back.  Most likely it’s because they were already paid (NOTE: No one gets paid in full until the job is done).

Then, about the 4th iteration of this, the mix came back very, very close.  Just a few tweaks were needed.  Maybe 6 things.  Well, the songs came back and the guitar – my guitar – was awful – it was way too loud and too harsh sounding.  Our singer went back to the engineer and he fixed one of the songs.  So 2 out of 3 were ok, but the third still had a messed up guitar sound on it.

My son also went through a similar experience with a guy in Sacramento.  The guy took his time on the mix and finally gave them some of the money back and cut them loose.

This is where all those music lessons you took don’t help you.  You need to have a clear plan, a clear timeline, and keep them on it or they forget about you.  I actually had something similar happen to me when we were putting a pool in the back yard.  We paid the guy in installments and when he was 75% paid, we saw less and less of him – he was off to his next gig.

Our persistence paid off – we finally got the songs mixed.  I will post links when I have them.

In the meantime, we played one heckuva private party in Livermore in June, then added a new guitar player into the mix.  Frank has good rock and blues chops, which I guess makes me the country guy.  How did I get that title?

On Labor Day we played at R place.  It was one of our best shows yet.  Frank was only in the band 2 weeks at that point, we used Kenny’s sound system and we rocked the joint for 3 hours.  For a holiday, we had well over 50 people in that club.

Our next gig is at Downtown Ollies on Oct 11 in Livermore.   I will provide pictures and links to our demo.  Promise!

Peace Out

Spencer

“ShredZilla”

The Ancient Art of Weaving

Hi all – Happy March….

Last month I blogged about my 2 auditions and reasonably good showing at “R Place” in Livermore.  With the three of us in place – Singer, Drummer, and myself – we needed to add a bassist.

A bit surprisingly, though, the singer next had in line to try out a rhythm guitarist.  I approached this with some caution.  In the past, I’ve had rhythm guitarist try out for the band, then try to undermine me to get the lead spot.  However, at the same time, I was fine with sharing some lead guitar duties – especially if he had a different style as me.  I didn’t think we needed 2 “me’s” in the band.

I should explain the title of the blog – I recently read Keith Richard’s autobiography Life and he mentions the ancient art of weaving as two guitars that listening to each other and playing around each other and complimenting each other.  Keith has always worked with another guitar player, so I decided to pay special attention to this approach.

They guy we tried out had a very good attitude.  No real ego here, just wanting to play in a working band like the rest of us.  He corrected me on a song (Honey Bee) in a respectful way.  He had a tube amp and a Fender Strat.  We sounded good together but I also realized this increased my work load a bit.  In most songs I didn’t want to play exactly what he was playing.  For example, if he’s playing an open E chord, I will probably play the bar E on the 7th fret.  Why?  Because with two guitarist we can stretch the range.  He plays low, I go high.  And we have to pay close attention to our rhythms to make sure they don’t clash.  The new guy has more of a country background and I don’t and I think that’s a plus.

We still needed a bassist.  Luckily for us, the idea of playing out at “R Place” to put the word out that we needed a bassist bought us an audition.  We auditioned him last week and his playing was just right on.  Nice tone, not too loud, rock solid bass lines and he had the signature bass parts down cold in the 10 songs he brought.

As I’ve done with everybody on the band, I brought up commitment and goals.  Two gigs a month on average, one rehearsal a week unless there is a gig that week.  Everybody agreed.

The Turbo Fuegos was complete.

We then talked about next steps.  Three out of the five members of the band, including me, needed to learn the song list.  I had come in with 10 songs, so did the rhythm guitarist and the bassist.  We now needed to learn the Fuegos’ set list, starting with set one.  There was a lot of talk about throwing out older songs, replacing them with new ones, but for now we will keep the first set as is, and everybody come next week prepared to play through 13 songs.

We are booked at Ollies on May 24th, and we might be playing a rodeo event on April 27th.  Nothing motivates as much as having a live gig to go on.

More next blog…

Spencer

The Audition – Part 2

Hi,

Well last post we had me overextended on my audition, playing a guitar I didn’t practice on, and not enough time to prepare.  But they liked me enough to want to check me out one more time.

So I reduced the number of songs from 21 to 10.  I pracitced on my #1 guitar – my Ibanez Prestiege, and worked on my presets/tones on my amp.

The difference was huge.  They liked me so much I got the job on the spot.

Then they had the idea of us playing at a local jam night at a club called “R Place” in Livermore.  We worked up two sets of 4 songs each, with 2 extra, just in case.

When we arrived, the “House” band was setting up and played a blues set that lasted about an hour and half.  I was….not nervous, but antsy.  I wanted to play, but instead I have to listen to these guys play!  I have some serious gear – I kept thinking about where it would go, what is the most effecient way to get it set up to save time, etc.

Finally we got the green light.  With the “house” bassist to fill in, we got setup to play.  I got my gear up and ready to play in under 10 minutes.  We started off with

1)  Born to be Wild

2)  Can’t Get Enough

3) China Grove

4) Gimme Three Steps

We originally were going to play only 4 but they let us do one more so…we played Jumpin Jack Flash.

We then stepped down, dragged our gear off (well I did, the drum set didn’t move), and took a breather.  Our friends and family were supportive, and we sounded quite different than the standard blues fare that had been played thus far.  We were also pretty loud.  50 watts with a tube amp is pretty darn loud.

Eventually we were asked back up.  Up goes the amp, the effects, the guitar, and me.  We ran through:

1) Honky Tonk Women

2) Feel Like Makin’ Love

3) Highway to Hell

4) Sweet Home Alabama

Again, they wanted another song wo we threw in Johnny B Goode, the old Chuck Berry Classic.

After that, we were “done” in the sense that we had prepared 10 songs, and we had played them.  People loved us, and our lead singer was a natrural as he worked the crowd – talking to them and getting them fired up.  Then we were asked to play one more.

“Uh, what do we want to do?”

I said “Ok, let’d do Long Train Runnin'”.  I’d played that song every time last year when I played out, I knew it backwards and forwards so we knocked that out.

We were done.  Once again, dragged my stuff off the stage, wrapped the cords, put it in the car and was done for the night.  No money, but it was a nice “testing ground” for how we’re going to be on stage.  They guys liked what I did.

There were mistakes.  Oh yeah there were mistakes – but we played through them.  This was our third time playing together and the crowed loved us.

We were building a new band…..

More next blog

Spencer

Sound Advice Pt V (The Initial Gear)

By the beginning of January, I started to wonder if I had all the gear I needed.  My gig was some weeks away, and I was getting concerned that my Line 6 Spider II, even though it was 75 watts, was more of a glorified practice amp than a rugged gigging amp.  There were some practices where it struggled to keep up with volume and it was very directional having only one speaker.

I liked the Line 6 concept – using digital circuitry to mimic it’s analogue counter part – the Tube amp.  I liked the idea that I can get several amp sounds out of a single amp.  It’s a nice solution for someone like me that’s going to play all types of music from Pink to Bon Jovi.

If I was going to do a metal or hard rock band only – then yes, one tube head, one cabinet would be the way to go.  However, I have logistic issues.  I live upstairs so I’d have to trudge whatever I have 19 steps up.  I also drive a sedan – a big one, but it’s still a sedan.  So the combo amp is still the best solution for me.  (Note: combo amps are amps that have the amplifier power and cab in the same box – as opposed to “stacks” where you can buy a 100watt, 200 watt or 400 watt head and mix and match with various 4 speaker cabinets).  Combo amps are almost always mic’d into the PA system.  That’s not always ideal since you have to relinquish control over your volume to someone else and trust me, it doesn’t always turn out well and balanced.  But that’s what I was going to use.

I started googling and checking the forums for who used what, plus I started looking at ebay.

My current rig had only 4 presets on it’s footswitch and offered delay, chorus, phase shifter, and reverb, as well as a wah pedal on the footswitch.  I needed more presets than that so I bought a used FVB Shorboard for $100 that can handle up to 64 presets.  This board doesn’t have any effects on it – it’s just controlling the effects already on the amplifier.  There are about 12 models on this amp – I would be using about 4 of them, but with or without various effects.  I would have about 6 or 7 presets ready for the first gig.

So I had  a board.  Great.  I needed tools, strings, and picks and somewhere to keep them.  Tadaaa! – I went to Walmart and found the Craftsman’s organizer.  With the help of a razor, I modified the compartments to accommodate what I needed to carry.  I have a double locking tremolo system on my Ibanez Presteige – you need a hex wrench to replace strings, as well as a wire cutter to cut the ball bearing off the end of the string.  Batteries, and a flashlight.  This works great.

My search for an amp continued.  I’d heard good things about the Flextone series and the Vetta II series from Line 6 – both these amps are discontinued.  They introduced a new line of amps that seemed to be aimed more at the metal market (Spider Valve with tubes in the preamps), and then the DT series which was well over $1000 that was made to work with their Pod series of effects boards.

Finally, I found a Flextone III amp – 150 watts and 2 12″ speakers.  This had more like 16 amp models and these models were built to emulate existing amps – Fenders, Marshalls, Bogners, etc. It was old – built in 2004 – and the owner, who was local to me in Berkeley – was asking $155.  It would also work with the shortboard I had just bought. I met that bid and waited. No one bid again.  There was no bidding war – time ticked by right up to the deadline and no one swooped in to grab it.  It was mine.  I almost felt bad for the guy. Almost 🙂

I got it home and within the first 30 minutes, I found a problem.  The volume would drop out on me.  The tone would distort when it shouldn’t.  Arg!  Did I just waste $155?  Long story short, I found a great repair shop (and expensive) that would do a complete overhaul on the amp.  The only problem was I would get the amp back on Feb 3rd – the same day as my gig with no time to work with the presets.  Oh well, I was going to use my Spider II for the gig with the new shortboard.  (Although when I did get the amp back, they had cleaned and re-soldered all the connections and knobs and it has been working 100% since.  Only cost me $280, so total money spent was about $435 – still not a bad deal for the power and versatility).

Some stuff I couldn’t get used.  I used a combination of Musiciansfriend.com and Amazon.com. I picked up an amp stand by On Stage – they make pretty good stuff.  When you have a combo amp, it helps to get it off the ground and tilt it up a bit so you can hear yourself better.

And since this band uses music stands, I bought a (again On Stage) sturdy music stand.  And miscellaneous stuff including pick holders, clip on reading light for the music stand, string winders, multi-tooled guitar tools, and a few other things I’ll talk about when I post about my final, complete rig.  This took some time and thought to pull together, plus I will take pictures.  I wasn’t done making purchases by the time I played my first gig, so I’ve got more to say on that, but for that time, I had what I had to get through the night.

On to the show…

Sound Advice Pt IV (Preparing)

After I got the gig with Sound Advice, it was early December.  The plan was I would work with the Keyboard player exclusively until January, then the rest of the band would have rehearsals with me.

When I showed up to the kbd players house, I was amazed at the organization.  Each tune was in mp3 or wav format and he had all his charts (keyboard parts with form notes) on computer which he printed out for me.  Talk about being spoon fed.  Some of the notes were cryptic or too keyboard centric but regardless, it made it much easier than figuring these songs out on my own.

Even though at that time there were 84 songs listed on their website, we worked from their setlist from the last job, which was about 46 songs.  I took home my “homework” and got to work.

When I teach students songs, many times I don’t teach the whole song.  I teach the memorable parts.  Take Smoke on the Water for instance – people just want to learn the intro. The rest of the chords are quite boring.  Or when I do teach all the parts of the song, say like Highway to Hell, I don’t map out the whole form (Form is how the song is arranged – like verse A twice and then chorus B and back to verse A would be a standard AABA form) along with breaks and all that.  A kid will get bored, unless he’s in a band and has to learn the whole song for their own performance.

Learning the Form of the song is also getting down the introduction, the ending, the verses, the choruses, the tags (tags are a chord progression that usually are used to lead into the next section), the bridge, where the breaks are, and if you have any particular melody to play – say like the intro for Rebel Yell.

Three quarters of the way through December, I got an email from one of our singers.  The setlist for the February 3rd gig would be different than the setlist we were working on.  That meant setting me back about 6 songs that I’d been working on and having to work on their replacements.  I didn’t consider it time wasted since I needed to know all of them anyway, but it was a definite priority shift.  I would come to find out this band does that a lot.  I was used to a fairly static set list while this band shuffles things frequently.

I took the mp3’s and ripped them to my hard drive and imported them into iTunes and into 4 playlists: Sound Advice All, Sound Advice Set 1, Sound Advice Set 2, and Sound Advice Set 3.  The way they organized their sets were different than what I was used to.  Sets 1 and 2 were long.  Set 3 was short and as it turns out, we never finish it.  There is no set 4.

The guy I worked with was a bit of a perfectionist – and really believed in if he was doing something busy on the keys, I should be doing something less busy on the guitar, and vice versa.  This sets up more of a complimentary style rather than competing for attention.  We have some very keyboard centric songs and I’m trying to add a bit here and there.  We have plenty of guitar centric songs too, where I get all the main parts.  I think it works out well.

I prefer working with a keyboard player as opposed to working with another guitarist.  I like the contrast more and I think it provides a lot more possibilities.

January rolled around and the band started to discuss where we were going to do full rehearsals.  The guitar player I was replacing had hosted band practice.  As it turns out, he offered his home to continue to be our practice space.  That was very generous of him and the band accepted his offer.  It felt a little weird being around him because he was always intent upon listening to me.

It’s a bit of a trek from Pleasanton, where I live, up to Lafayette, but it was only once a week.  I had 4 rehearsals with the band and then it would be show time.

I was still sketchy on plenty of songs.  I was getting mostly constructive feed back from people after every song. Things like “you play a part there – make a note of it  and take another listen at home” or “there was a break there – only bass and drums play there” or “You have a solo after the 2nd chorus”.  The only thing I didn’t like was when I heard “Jim played it differently”. Well, Jim is a very different guitarist than I am.  Nonetheless, I tried to please.  For now.

What was hard was they had a Prince medley and a Bon Jovi medley – and there was no mp3 that I could work with (at that time – our bassist engineered one later) so I had only the full length originals to practice with so I missed those transition spots a lot.

This band also likes to do mashes – there was a mash of “Just Dance” with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.  I knew Don’t Stop Believing but a mash is interweaving two songs together – back and forth – which threw off my timing of certain key guitar parts I was supposed to play (and to be honest, I’m still getting cued by our singer on those!).

Sometimes, it would be the simplest of things that would throw me off.  Maroon 5’s Give a Little More has this chicken pecking kind of guitar lick in the beginning.  The drummer got on me about playing it “right”.  It occurs in two spots.  Some people got really concerned that I would screw it up.  I was thinking “it’s just a chicken pecking part – how important can this be?” but for them it set up the feel of the song from the beginning and having it correct was important to them.  It would be a few rehearsals before I got that simple little part right.

Another problem developed in these rehearsals too: dynamics.  At this point, I was using a single speaker, 75 watt amp by Line 6 – a Spider II.  It’s loud, but it’s very directional.  Some people couldn’t hear me, while others heard too much of me.  I would eventually fix this issue by replacing the amp with a 2 12 combo amp (another Line 6 – I’ll get a post up here about my gear soon) and putting the amp father away into a corner, increasing the spread of the sound, but this would happen in April – up until then I would struggle to get the mix just right and people would complain.  In fact, someone said it was “depressing” that I didn’t seem to have a concept of how loud I should be.

I was wondering if they were starting to have second thoughts about me.

However, February 3rd was looming and they weren’t going to be able to replace me so I figured they were stuck with me at least until then.

Sound Advice Part I (The Email)

*** Schedule Note! As of April 2nd, 2012 I have openings Wednesday night 7:00pm, 7:30pm and 8:00pm.  Email me for details ***

Hey all –

In October, something went wrong with my website – while it was up, I could not post more blog entries.  As my daily work and family life got busy, I put off working on it until January when my host decided they were terminating the type of account I had and required me to upgrade to a new site.  That forced me to reinstall wordpress on the new site and get this puppy up and running.

but during the down time…

I got an email out of the blue from a site called BandMix.com.  Someone wanted to know if I was interested joining their dance band.  It seems that their guitarist and founder no longer had the time to stick with a practice and gigging schedule and was quitting (on very good terms) the band.  They had a show in early December, 2011 and then they had to find someone by February 3rd, 2012 for their next show.

This greatly piqued my interest.  First, in the last 3 years I’ve made 3 attempts to form bands, only to be thwarted by personal issues – varying levels of commitment, varying musical abilities, and varying musical directions.  This has been well documented in my previous posts (see Band categories).  I’d pretty much given up on it for the time being, but I joined bandmix.com out of frustration back in 2009.  Besides a brief flirtation with the all original band Lipshok, it was quiet out there.

Sound Advice is a top 40 band, but saying that doesn’t mean a whole lot.  Top 40 now seems to come in 31 flavors.  This band’s material went back to Born to be Wild and Gimme Shelter, and up to Hot and Cold (Katy Perry) and Give a Litte More (Maroon 5).  To say it’s all over the map is an understatement.

Actually, this is the kind of music I do well in.  My teacher never let me box myself in – I was playing rock, blues and jazz in my lessons with him.  Those fundamentals let you branch out into just about any musical style (you may have noticed I left out Country!  Not my forte…)

The band is a 6 piece (with a guitarist) and has both male and female lead singers (that’s a big plus – you can cover a lot of range of material with that combination).  Then there was a drummer, a bassist, and keyboards.  I’d be the only guitarist.  Great!  I like that.

The first thing to do was to go listen to the band.  Their next gig was in early December at Bases Loaded in Antioch, CA.  It was time to do some reconnaissance work and find out:

1) What does the band sound like?

2) What kind of guitarist do they have now (and are used to)?

3) What kind of gigs do they play?

All of this matters.  If the band sounds horrible, well, I’ve been there.  I can’t fix other peoples playing.  If their guitarist is like another Larry Carylton, I would have my work cut out for me.  And if they played dives in bad areas where we have to fear for our lives, it isn’t worth it.

Next: Part II – The Sound Advice Report Card

Spencer