The Berries are playing this evening at our usual haunt of Art Bar, but in the meantime, here’s the typical Saturday morning mixed bag. And away we go!
The glamorous rock and roll life dept.: Somehow I wound up becoming the main booker for The Berries. One of the things we’ve been wanting to do is expand our range of venues, which isn’t all that easy when your focus is original music, and the degree of difficulty rises when you do an odd subgenre like The Berries do. Most bars aren’t that willing to take a chance on original bands — they can always bring in a DJ or cover band to provide familiar sonic wallpaper for the patrons. The ones that do hire original bands are rare and generally found in bigger metro areas. Even my “most successful” band never got outside the Lexington, KY area, where we played four or five clubs.
So in any event, I’ve been trying to get us into venues beyond the Real City/Mondoville area, and a couple of my targets have been in the Metro Area about an hour NW of Mondoville. The process started last year, as I did an online search of live music clubs up there, and found about half a dozen possibilities (in a region with more than a million people and several good-sized colleges). I reached out to those, and heard back from one, the manager of which expressed interest in what we do and suggested a gig in a few months. “Get back in touch in a few weeks.” So I did. And then I did again. I suggested specific dates (dates within the window the fellow had mentioned). The guy responds positively, and I tell the band to clear those dates. A couple of weeks later, I get in touch for some details — and discover the manager has changed his mind. Poof — no gig.
But… the manager is a good guy, and he gives me the names of some other venues up there that might work with us. There’s some overlap with my original shouts down the well, but there are also a couple I didn’t know about. I try them and get a positive response from one. Now the logistics issues come into play, as the manager and I try to coordinate their needs with the schedules of five semi-pro musicians in a city about an hour away. We think we’ve found a winner. I set up a promo page for the show on Facebook.
And then I realize in horror that I’ve screwed up. Not only is there a conflict between the gig and a band member’s family commitment… I’m the one with the family commitment! I probably should have checked my own schedule when I was checking everyone else’s, huh? A new first. Commence groveling. Fortunately, this manager is one of nature’s noblemen and offers several alternate dates. Again with the schedule coordination (including my own this time, dammit). We find a date.
The manager then says, “Hey, we have this other date open, too. Y’all interested?” Check with the guys — yeah, we can do that. I get back to him and say great, we’ll take the new gig as well. “Um, we meant that as an either/or, not a both-and. We try to keep some space between appearances by any given band.” (Absolutely fair — these guys have a business, and overexposed bands don’t really help it. If you’re in a cover band, ignore that. You have gigs every weekend and probably don’t have time to be reading this blog. Go practice or something — someone out there is going to request a Black Crowes number. You Must Be Ready.)
I note that the dates in question are about 6 weeks apart, which is pretty much the cycle in Real City. The manager says I have a point, and that the first date is a support slot, while the second one is the headliner gig, and because of the nature’s nobleman thing, he decides the both-and setup is copacetic after all. And that’s how in a few weeks, The Berries will begin to make inroads into the Upstate. I’m also thinking that there are at least two Major League Cities within 2-3 hours of Mondoville. Bear in mind, at day’s end, we may make enough to pay for our gas to and from the gig. Hell of a hobby, huh?
On the writing front, I finished a story last weekend, and it’s one I’m actually pretty proud of. It’s a requested piece for an anthology, and I’ll tell you more about it as time passes. In the meantime, I’m re-reading some work from one of my favorite authors, William Goldman, as part of a different writerly thing that will probably happen this fall.
But as I’ve been reading Goldman, I’ve run across a couple of quotes from him that I actually find pretty accurate. Here’s the first one:
Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.
The remarkable thing is that we try anyway. And that brings us to motivation. Of course, getting paid is a large one, but most of us don’t get paid that much, so there’s gotta be something else. As it happens, there’s another Goldman quote that I’ll admit works for me as well:
I write out of revenge.
That’s not always true for me, but I think it may be true of my better work, and I know it’s true of at least two of my favorites.
The news this morning deals with the death of Muhammad Ali, whom the NYT called “the most charismatic and polarizing sports figure of his century.” I’d say that’s a fair assessment. I’m too young to remember him in his prime; I just started to pay attention to him when I was a pre-teen and he was knocking over folks like Jean-Pierre Coopman and Richard Dunn (the latter in a short, but highly entertaining fight.) Still, I’ve watched the old fights, and even if we leave the showmanship aside, the sheer artistry of Ali’s performances never fails to thrill me. Like a Willie Mays basket catch or Lawrence Block’s prose, it seems effortless until you try it yourself. So long, Mr. Ali, and thanks for being you.
Also departed this week is Dave Swarbrick, British folk fiddler best known for his work with Fairport Convention. The Fairports were never as big here as they were in the UK — one could argue that Richard Thompson’s solo career has attracted far more attention in the US, and over here, Sandy Denny is likely best known for her vocals on Led Zep’s “Battle of Evermore”. However, albums like Liege and Lief and Full House are absolutely essential listening, and if you haven’t checked them out, I envy you the experience. Goodbye, Mr. Swarbrick, and thank you as well.
The alternation of feet continues, although I’m taking the weekend off with the gig and all. Still, I got my roughly 12km in, and I actually notice small differences (as well as a slight increase in speed and a larger one in general energy). As I said a week or two back, I used to walk a lot, and I even find myself looking forward to it as something I can do instead of something I have to do. We’ll see if it lasts.
And since this is potpourri, we have to close with some music, don’t we? I think today I’ll go with one of my favorite Beatles tunes. It features John working the Dylan side of the street, but it has been one of my favorite songs since I discovered the band in elementary school, and it still is. And despite Ringo’s seemingly desultory performance, I would argue that the tambourine in this song is as critical as the concluding flute solo. But then as a drummer, I would, wouldn’t I?
Talk to you soon!