Ok, this title is wishful thinking. Deafened, yes, but rock star, perhaps not. We did a gig to raise money for a friend and colleague Warren Estabrooks whose organization is called “We Listen International”. Warren and his team provide professional education, training and consultative services for professionals who work with children, teens and adults with hearing loss.
We started out the evening with some acoustic covers of some songs. I played my acoustic bass whilst my buddy Dave played his 12 string and sang. Later, my friend Maxine Armstrong, also an audiologist, did a beautiful rendition of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin.
My son’s Band Sticks and Stones were up next. They played all original material that they wrote themselves. Their sound is sort of “Indy” with jazz-like instrumentals. Absolutely fantastic stuff. If these guys had a recording contract, I am sure they would be hugely successful. Check out their You Tube stuff here. Also, you can download their songs here.
Finally, my bandmates and I got up to do about 18 songs. I am so proud to be playing with these guys, everyone put in such a fantastic effort. None of us are professional musicians, but we did our best to sound like it!
Speaking of professionals, special thanks to my good friend Ryan and his assistant Laura from Massive Tank Studios for doing the sound for the evening. I love you guys!
Interestingly, while it is fun and exhilarating to perform music and have folks cheer for you, it is also quite stressful. Why? Because nothing ever goes exactly as planned. The key is to not freak out, persevere, problem solve and find creative solutions. Lets take a behind the scenes look at the day to show you what I mean.
1 p.m.: Start loading up the PA system, speakers, stands, bass amp, bass guitars, mics, cables etc etc.
2 p.m.: Start unloading gear at Pub. First surprise. Only one outlet box for all the gear. Go and find more power bars and hope we don’t blow any fuses.
4:30. Go to Music Studio to rehearse Free Fallin with Maxine. Plan is to have two guitarist and one bass.
5:00. Maxine still stuck in traffic.
5:15. Rehearse with Maxine.
5:30. Rush home to change.
6:00. Go to Pub to finish setting up gear. Three cables are dead, need to find replacements. Deb, our singer needs a music stand. Call wife to get her to bring one. Forgot MyLink Receivers. Call wife again to get those.
6:30. My son has not arrived yet to do his set up and sound check. He’s still at the tattoo parlor getting two new tattoos. Really buddy? On the day of the gig? Is that a good idea?
7:00. Supposed to start, but still setting up. Someone has unplugged my TX300V FM from the Aux Out 1 and used it for something else. I don’t think so people. Deaf guy gets first dibs on sound. Plus its my mixing board, so I get to call the shots. Slightly tense conversations ensue, solution found.
7:40. We start to do the acoustic set that was supposed to start 40 mins earlier. First three songs are fine as we over-rehearsed these. Maxine comes up to do her song. Ryan was supposed to join us by playing guitar, but we ran out of inputs on the PA for another guitar. Bummer, because while I love my buddy Dave who is playing guitar, he is rhythmically impaired. Maxine sings like an angel, but I lose my timing. Sound man Ryan sees I am struggling and becomes my human metronome. I read his lips as he is counting out the time. While I am playing some other folks with Cochlear Implants are requesting the MyLink FM receivers I promised. Shit, they are still in my car. Cant’ get them now, I am playing (for Pete’s sake!)
8:00. Son’s band sets up to play. No sound check because my philosophical artsy son decided to get tattoos earlier. Their performance was fantastic, but the pub owners are complaining it is too loud. Trying to get drummer to play as lightly as possible so everything else can be turned down. All drummers are now unhappy. I think all drummers were all born as Bam-Bam Rubble.
8:10. I am using my son’s band as an opportunity to check my sound through the FM. I discover the compressor is set wrong. Knee point is too low, compression ratio is too high and release time is too slow.
8:25: Adjust compressor. Hope its ok. Run to car and get MyLink+ receivers. and hand them out.
8:30. Start to play first set with my band. Sound still not right. Mouth to Ryan the sound man to increase vocals to Aux Out 1. Reach behind me and increase knee point on compressor a bit. Raise output on FM but over did it. Sounds distorted. It is peaking in the red too much. Next song plan to lower it. Can’t hear Luigi, the guitarist now. Thankfully I know some basic chords on guitar, so I watch his hands to see what he is playing. Luigi sees this, and moves a bit so I can see him play better. He understands what I need. I love you man.
8:35. Discover I am not feeling the kick drum through my platform very well. Look at mic on kick and discover its too far away. Lower gain on FM. Better.
8:40. Move mic on kick closer, still not right. But now I remember why…Warren, our drummer, is trying to play quietly (Quiet drummer…is that oxymoronic?).
9:10: Finish first set, and take a small break. Decide to play second set without my shoes on so I can feel the kick drum better.
9:25: Start second set. Sound is much better now. I am feeling the kick drum on my platform through my shoeless feet better now. My timing improves. Tweak the compressor a bit more. Warren, the drummer, and I are communicating well via eye contact. We are finishing our songs well. If you pay attention to recorded songs, you will notice that they most pop songs don’t really end, but they are faded out by the recording engineer. Live music requires a definite end, and getting everyone to finish a song at the same time is one of the challenges of playing live music. We devoted an entire rehearsal to finishing songs!
9:50. Sound is perfect now. But that’s the last song. Bummer. We finally have everything perfect.
10:00: Everyone is very kind with compliments. Some of my brutally honest asshole “friends” also pay us compliments. Hey, maybe we were good? Actually, come to think of it, we were great. Everyone loves our singer Deb, and they should. She is a natural frontman (front-woman?) for a band. I love you Deb!
10:15. Tear down all equipment, load up cars, take equipment home.
11:30: Go to Deb the singer’s house for drinks.
12:30 a.m.: Son calls and says he needs to be picked up because his friends parents kicked everyone out of the house for being too rambunctious. Hey, they are teenagers, what do you expect?
1:30 a.m.: Come home and unwind.
2:30 a.m.: Go to bed.
Moral of the story. Nothing ever goes as planned so don’t expect it. Roll with it.