Sunday
Dec112011

The Wedding Gig

So, about the blogging…..

Well, turns out it's tough to keep up with it, alongside a (more than) full time job, high school age kids prepping for college, and planning a wedding... 

 

Oh, yes, that's right - I got married on October 1st and it was awesome. I'm going to conservatively call it….mmmm…..the greatest wedding of all time. First of all, it was a surprise - everyone who was invited thought they were going to a masquerade party and fundraiser for the Second Harvest Food Bank. And they were. What they did NOT know, however, was that my now-wife Cindy and I had written and planned for a wedding ceremony in the middle of the evening. And, of course, there was rock & roll…

 

Three Chord Monty led off the night and had the party rocking full swing when we took our first break.The wine was flowing, the room sounded great and people were dancing and having a ball. At that point I got on the mic, thanked everyone for coming, for their generous donations, and let them know that, oh, by the way Cindy and I were getting married, right then and there. We were greeted with cheers, hugs and tears of joy. Riding an impressive wave of love and energy from our family and friends, we adjourned to the courtyard of the Lucie Stern Center and, as my dear friend Jeff Shattuck put it we…"were wed under a thin moon hung in a wide Palo Alto sky."  

 

Later, back in the ballroom, the band fired up another set and the dancing, drinking, hugs and laughter continued. I was, however, not done with surprises…

Knowing that I would have many of my closest friends - a number of them musicians - together in one place, I had sent around a list of songs that I had asked them to learn, without tipping them to the occasion. Having put everyone on the same page in advance, I was able to orchestrate a Cory & Friends jam to cap the night that included not only Jeff on guitar, but my longtime friends Phil Henderson, Toby Germano, Bob Hotel (all the way from San Diego State) and Cindy's son Mike Elsbree. It was great, as everyone knew the songs, so we never had to fall back on the inevitable blues jam.  

Photo Gallery is here. 

All in all, it was a great night. The rest of the guys in the band were the best of sports, allowing me to hijack the "gig" for my own purposes. The music was terrific, the best we've played to date, but the best part was….of course, the occasion. The next evening, Cindy and I were off to Paris for our honeymoon and, while I didn't play any music there, it was glorious nonetheless. 

 

After my return, Three Chord Monty was primed to get another gig in before the end of the year, and we did…but that post - and posts on some of my new gear - will have to wait for another day. 

Monday
Jul042011

Happy 4th of July: The Catch-Up Post

 

Wow….4th of July already? You've gotta be kiddin' me! Clearly, I have done a miserable job of keeping my blog in sync with my life but, fortunately, it's not for lack of musical activity. In fact, I've had my hands full the last couple of months. Here is a catch-up post…

 

After sitting in with The Days Between in May, Three Chord Monty had another gig at Francesca's in Mountain View on June 3d. We added some new songs for the gig and we had a pretty good turnout. It wasn't our sharpest gig musically, but it was spirited and there was a good vibe in the bar that night. 

 There are some photos in the Photos section or click here to see the album from this gig.

A highlight of the night for me was having my longtime friend and former musical collaborator Jeff Shattuck sit in for a song, a rousing version of the classic (and oft-covered) Jimmy Reed tune,  "Aint Got You".  That's Jeff, along with Tom and me, above. I have known Jeff since college and, years ago, he and I played in the Distractions, along with Three Chord Monty singer Tom Thiemann. Since those heady days of the mid '80s, Jeff had been onstage only a few times, focusing instead on writing and recording his own songs. Jeff has an amazing story and just completed work on his first full-length album. His story is chronicled on his blog, Cerebellum Blues and I recommend it highly.

It was fun for me to play with Jeff again and, minor equipment SNAFU aside, I think Jeff had a good time. His impressions are on his own blog, but here's a video clip of "Ain't Got You" from the gig:

 

 

 

 

Another highlight of the gig for me was having two high school friends show up that I hadn't seen in years. They are still making a racket today, playing in a band doing punked-up covers of Pink Floyd songs in…what else...Punk Floyd! (Is that brilliant or what?)

You can check them out here: http://www.icompositions.com/artists/PunkFloyd

And you can like their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Punk-Floyd/106916872661798?sk=info

 

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A little deeper into June, I sat in on keyboards once again with The Days Between, playing Grateful Dead-inspired improvisational rock at Satori Cellars winery in Gilroy.  There are some photos in my photo gallery.

There are also audio recordings of that gig, but the band members haven't yet hosted them. When they do, I'll post a link. 

That's all for now. We've got a busy summer...camping trips, vacations, family events...but looking forward to more Three Chord Monty gigs in late summer/early Fall. 

Friday
May202011

Bring Out Your Dead!

Here's an interesting and unexpected twist on things….

 

My significant other and I are part of a dinner group for food and wine enthusiasts.  The group is big enough that not everyone comes to every event and so we often meet new people in addition to seeing those that we have gotten to know rather well. At one such dinner party not long ago, I met a fellow who plays bass, among other instruments. We got to talking and it turned our that he had recently started playing in a so-called "Deadhead band" - a group of guys that play heavily improvisational (re: jam band) music drawing from the catalog of songs originally performed by the Grateful Dead or the Dead's members offshoot bands. 

 

I was kind of intrigued and amused, as I was, indeed, a high school Deadhead, regularly attending Dead shows (not to mention countless Jerry Garcia Band gigs) from the late '70s into the mid '80s, and traipsing around California with my cousin and some friends during the summers, following the band on tour. I even played in a band in high school  -the most excellently named Cosmic Muffin- that was largely inspired by the Dead and the community around them, though not so strict about aping their sound and repertoire. 

 

It was a great time…at the time…but my growing enthusiasm for punk rock and other, newer music, coupled with Garcia's descent into the hell of heroin addiction and its effect on his playing and the Dead's shows, made the GD scene less and less interesting to me. As my interest waned, I rarely gave them much thought, save for breaking out one of my many bootleg live recordings every couple of years and cleaning the house while they noodled their way through a half hour of Scarlet Begonias in the background. 

 

Interest in the band, however, has remained high, even years after Garcia's death, as the remaining band members continue to play together in various outfits, and Dead-inspired bands have formed all over the country, joined by a shared love for their catalog of songs and a highly improvisational  approach to playing them. For these bands, no two shows are ever the same and no song is ever played the same way twice. 

 

And so it is with The Days Between, my new acquaintances' band. As we talked, and he learned that I was well-versed in the Dead's music and that I play keyboards, he became enthused about the idea of me coming out to play with them, as they don't have a keyboard player. I was initially resistant, since I already have Three Chord Monty, which suits my current tastes a little better and the time I have for playing music is in very short supply. I ran into him again, however, at another dinner and decided to make some time to join them at their rehearsal space and have a go at this music that I hadn't payed in many, many years. 

 

That first session was interesting. They had sent me a songbook filled with chord charts for dozens and dozens of songs that I had, thankfully, loaded onto my iPad for quick and easy access. Without it, I would have been lost on some songs but, for the most part, I was able to go along for the ride with the rest of the band. It turned out to be a fun session, but I was pretty sure it was going to be a one-time thing, as I quickly found out that I was the least accomplished musician in the room. To my surprise, though, they wanted me back for another session, which was much better for me, as I felt more at home with the open-ended jams. My normal inclination is to play tight and concisely, and I have to consciously let go of that predilection in order to really get into what these guys do. Once into their groove, though, I again had a good time playing with them.

 

I think I'd be lukewarm about playing the Dead's music were it not for the fact that these guys, at least in terms of playing the kind of music they play, are just phenomenal. Not sure how any of them would fit into Three Chord Monty or a more traditional rock & roll band but, in terms of playing the Dead's music, they are each highly accomplished and their collective chemistry is incredible. 

 

The real test, though, will be tomorrow afternoon, as I am doing a gig with them. It came up, I guess, on short notice and, since I'm available, I told them I'm in. It's an all-day music festival and party on the Stanford campus called Laker and The Days Between plays from 1:30 - 2:50. It's free and open to the public so, if you're at all interested in this sort of thing, come on out and get your tie-dye on:

 Here is a link to a map

Tuesday
Mar222011

…And we're gigging! 

After what seems like an eternity (I set out to start a band and created the blog on Feb 10th, 2009!) looking for band members, juggling schedules, blowing the rust off of my musical chops, choosing songs, and practicing until we (mostly) know them…we played our first real gig over the weekend. Not that the parties we played last summer didn't count, they were great fun, but Three Chord Monty was conceived and assembled for the purpose of playing bar gigs first, other stuff second. To that end, we played at Francesca's, a great, divey little bar in Mountain View, in the shadow of Shoreline Amphitheater. 

 

Lot of musicians look down on playing gigs in bars, pointing out the lousy pay (true),  crappy stages and generally shabby conditions (quite right), shitty hours (right again) and inadequate sound systems and room acoustics (again, usually valid.) I confess, however, that I'm fine with bar gigs - I really like 'em. One, I have a day job - nee, a career, in fact - so I'm definitely not doing this for the money. Two, I rarely hang out in dive bars so, when I do, I generally find them fun and charming - the quirkier the better. The best part about playing bars, however, is the audience. Two types of people come out to places like Francesca's - band members friends/families/coworkers and the regulars - the colorful locals, if you will - people who frequent the bar regardless of who is playing. In both cases, though, they are folks in search of a good time and bands like ours - that play cover songs, familiar to most  - are the grease on the wheels of that good time. 

 

Playing your own songs is a totally different experience. You want people to hear what you have to say; want them to understand the lyrics, to "get" your art. That can be exceptionally rewarding - especially when you're able to put your art over to an audience of people that appreciate it - but it's a hard road. When I played in bands doing original material - my own and others - it wasn't easily accessible music. One called its style "Freudian Rock" and the other "Avant Garage"…..and though I dearly loved the music I made in both outfits, it just didn't go down easily with a mainstream audience. When we connected with people, it was with a certain kind of person - left of center, non-mainstream, "alternative" types, but that audience was small. Add to that the fact that, until you develop a following, you're playing on Tuesday nights at midnight - great for kids, but not ideal for working people with familes....and it's jsut not a good fit for me any more.

 

Instead, 3CM provides the music - and the reason - for people getting together to have a good time and I'm cool with that. They dance, they drink, they laugh, they make new friends and catch up with old friends. They're not looking to be impressed….or moved…..or made to see the world differently because of the insight provided by my songs. (I'm not a very good songwriter, anyway.) Nope, they just want a good time and we are happy to oblige. The feedback from that type of audience is great - there isn't any pressure, there is nothing at stake, no "big break" to be had. Just a rockin' good time where everyone goes home happy and you wake up the next morning without having changed the world....but that's OK. 

 

For the record, it was a fun night. We were rough in spots…lots of mistakes, unfortunately - missed cues, wrong notes, etc…but they were the kind of things that audiences generally don't notice and, if they do, they rarely care. Maybe the odd musician in the crowd groans silently but, for the most part, people just party on. And so we did and it was loads of fun. Everyone had a good time -even those that heard the rough spots- and people are stoked for us to play another gig. If you missed it, you missed out, but we will likely play at Francesca's again in late May/early June and we're looking into a couple of other venues as well.

 

Oh, and, in order to be notified of future gigs, you can "like" the band's Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Three-Chord-Monty/189025597787390?ref=ts

That is, essentially our mailing list. Hope to see you next time. 

Click here to see the photos from Francesca's. (And many thanks to my good pal, Jeff Shattuck for most of the photos...)

Monday
Feb282011

4 Degrees of Yngwie Malmsteen

Just spent the weekend with my cousin Ira, tooling around LA and catching two NBA games at the Staples Center. Ira's company has a luxury suite at Staples and it was great fun watching the Lakers-Clippers on Friday night and Clippers-Celtics on Saturday. 

 

Ira works for a media publisher that produces dozens of magazines and websites and one of his friends and co-workers, a graphic designer - in addition to managing the graphic design staff for the company - is a musician and impossibly nice guy. We spent Saturday afternoon hanging out in the studio that he has built out in a guest house on his property north of LA, playing a little music and monkeying around with his Pro Tools system. Turns out that one of his close friends is Yngwie Malmsteen and he has a couple of his retired stage guitars, easily identifiable by their scalloped fretboards and high degree of wear. I played one and, while I'm not a fan of the scalloped fretboard or Yngwie, it's kind of cool to think that the thing has been played in countries all over the world in front of thousands of people and it made for a fun afternoon. 

No word on how many steps it takes to get from Yngwie to Kevin Bacon...