Saturday, September 18, 2010

Winfield Performance Review: An Interior Monologue

i am cool as a cucumber uncomfortably cool clammy is becoming me you can do this be the man japanese kids rule the day don't do the collapse am i in tune? smiling happy man confidence is fleeting that guy is playing a really long time number 34 there is a fan folks in kansas are very friendly 3 hours later don't talk feedback all i hear is my foot stomping stop steady steady steady breathe where's the sound? hey eric i enjoyed our chat you played very well bad note bad notes missing notes too much bad ending try again 2 chances to make it well this greek food is not sitting too well text messages what a clean horse barn pete huttlinger is watching me folks in Iowa are very friendly made some new guitar friends youtube faces come to life judges hear everything judges focusing on my weaknesses my weaknesses win pat kirtley played a fine set you against you brother and 39 other players caught off guard did i turn off my phone? i was ready relax release who am i? don't think feel you are the man a prepubescent guitarist where did i go? last tune better than the first but not good enough completely utterly deflated beautiful landscapes saved me i miss sadie sparse but attentive crowd I miss my wife folks in missouri are very friendly yesterday was a long day today was a long day tomorrow is going to be a really fucking long day objective sidecar walk off stage left bow look cool job undone that wasn't so bad nah it sucked don't think i will return next year perhaps i will.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wax on. Wax off.

I got cocky this weekend. Or, rather, I should say, careless. New Roots Duo had two shows, one a.m. and one p.m., and I have no excuses for a poor showing in the morning. Okay, as usual, though not usually in a public forum, I am pretty hard on myself. I have spent much time on this blog expounding on the beauty of transcendent playing; the spiritual, existential, metaphysical, blah, blah, blah, experiential moments that occur in live performance. See my previous article here.

Now, I feel it is my duty to expound on the other extreme. I hadn't rehearsed, or even touched, the duo material since our last show together which was....I am not sure (still no excuse). When I opened my case, I had  to confirm that the baritone guitar still had six strings attached. This Summer, due to my familial and professional obligations, any rehearsal time that was allotted to me was spent on my solo gigs (still no excuse). See my previous article here.

But hey, no big deal right? Dan and I have tackled numerous gigs with zero run-throughs and always found a way to pull it off; often with exceptional results. I still believe in allowing time and space for the music to grow. Time away from the guitar can be very productive and valuable, but, not too much time. So, what's one more shot in the dark? A big miss. A fat zero. Fortunately, it was a very laid back show (a farmer's market), and the only people I was really letting down were myself, and worse, my musical compadre Dan. Sorry Dan.  (I would like to take a moment to ensure the readers that Dan played great at both events.)

From the moment we kicked off I was unfocused and really had very little idea what I was doing. I mean, a certain amount of muscle memory and a well trained autopilot can carry you through, but, that is just enough to get from the start to the finish; point A to point B without crashing. I did everything I could to get myself on track, listened, tried to concentrate, people watched, turned away and then toward the sun, tried to find amusement in toddler's dancing, engaging people who walk up and talk to you in the middle of a tune, "Hey, what tuning is that?!", a woman requesting her favorite tune from the CD, sitting down right in front of us to listen, then realizing it was the wrong tune, smelling the food, and, even watching my shadow for clues. That turned out to be the most useful device.

Dan was his usual easy going self, " Don't worry man, it's good to be on the edge. That is when magical things happen." I remarked, "Sure, that is true if you can ultimately pull it off." It can also be disastrous. Okay, I am being a little over dramatic. It was not that terrible. As I already mentioned, it was just a farmer's market. We often use such gigs as rehearsal (sorry music coordinators). But, still, a performance is a performance and I need to be there 100 percent and give it my full attention, my full effort, every time. That is what a professional does. It is not fair to Dan, in this sense, perhaps even more so, to myself, and even more so, to the music. Lesson learned. I guess I will never stop learning these so called lessons.

We (I) made it through and the morning was done. The great irony of it all was, we sold more CDs than we ever have at this particular farmer's market. It is a phenomenon I have experienced countless times over the course of my performing career; the worst shows always sell the most product. WTF? Just demonstrates how subjective this performing thing is, the internal perception anyway, and, I guess in all reality, I really have no clue.

Fortunately, the evening's gig was something else all together. My head was in the right space, still on edge, but magical things did happen. See my previous article on the topic here.

The rust was abated. Wax on. Wax off.

Time to get to work.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Goodbye August. Goodbye Summer.

It appears we have entered the long dénouement into Fall, then...fade to black. Yep, the Minnesota State Fair is in full swing which is the ultimate symbol of Summer's demise. So be it. I am ready for Fall but have really enjoyed the past few months...more so than I ever have. I actually was successful (sort of) in my efforts to embrace the sun, though, many evenings were comfortably spent in the basement recovering. I was lucky enough to enjoy several vacations, tons of quality family time, and now, it is time to reflect a bit and get ready to move forward. It's not quite over yet though! In fact, I started writing this in between grill check points.


I played a few fun shows this Summer with two exceptional stand out performances: The annual Lake Harriet gig with New Roots Duo and my new favorite solo venue up at the old Historic Inn at Itasca State Park. Dan and I always find a way to rock the bandshell. Itasca was a serene setting with a relatively large and enthusiastic crowd AND all of that old historic inn wood just sounded amazing! It's so easy to play when you are surrounded by good vibrations. I am going to video this one next year.

The precious free work time I had was spent playing the guitar, of course, and I must emphasize the word playing. It was an absolute joy to sit down periodically for spontaneous practice sessions; short bursts of inspiration that yielded surprising results. I will expound on this experience in a later article. Anyway, it was a welcome relief to the usual overly focused intense 'gotta get something done!' sessions which dominated the previous year. I think I am on to something. And, I no longer wake up at 5:00AM to work.

Moving Forward:

I have been working up several new solo guitar arrangements of pop tunes from various eras. This is not a concept that has necessarily been planned and carried forth. It's just what has been showing up at my door. See my previous reference to playing and joy. Not sure if it will lead to another immediate project or not. If so, it will be an odd duck - perhaps 1/2 arrangements and 1/2 new compositions. Talk about a mixed up muse.

I am also very much looking forward to regrouping with New Roots Duo. We have some solid shows coming up, some new music, and are hoping to record a few singles later this Fall. I head to Milwaukee sometime in October to tape a session for a new instructional DVD that is being released by Hal Leonard Corporation. It is not exclusively my instructional DVD but rather I am one of the featured acoustic personalities in the series. More on this later as well. Needless to say, it is a fine opportunity.

I am hoping to play live more this coming year, maybe hit the road more often, beginning with a trip down to Winfield, Kansas later this month to compete in the International Fingerstyle Competition. Why I submit myself to such abuse I will never know. A born hedonist, I suppose I need a counterweight. Perhaps there are some masochistic tendencies hidden within. It will be interesting to see what goes down. My playing style isn't really designed to win competitions but this is an opportunity to showcase in front of a large and selective audience. Hopefully I will make some new, more far reaching, connections as a result. If I escape the experience with my ego still intact, I will count it as a victory.

Yes, another time of transition is upon us. A time to look back, a time to look forward, and time to stay present.

 See you later in September!