Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Shows

There are shows and there are shows. Some gigs just go better than others. I don't know why, it's just the way it is.

For instance, I played a show on July 9 at Bryant Square Park. And I thought the show went well. Part of that might be because we were being paid fairly well for that one. And we had a built-in audience. The park was having an ice cream social (yeah, I know--that doesn't sound very rock'n'roll), and since I was the first person ever to perform there, and they liked me, they called me for the gig. Bruce and Dennis were with me for that one, and we had a pretty good crowd. All in all, it was a blast. Did I mention that we were being paid well? Not that it's about the money or anything.

July 17 I was at the Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis. It was a DEMO benefit showcase. DEMO (Diverse Emerging Music Organization) is headed up by legendary former First Avenue honcho Stephen McClellan and endeavors to give all types of artists a stage to perform on. Dennis and I played a couple of shows for them in the past, one at the old Acadia and one at the Red Room. Both were fun, so I decided to do it again.

Part of the fun of these shows is hearing the other acts. Stephen likes to book five bands for these showcases, and it's usually an interesting mix of talent. I like to be supportive of the other bands, so I was there from the start (8 PM) right to the end. Andy Juhl kicked things off, and everything about him said "Neil Young"--his band, his songs, everything. Which is not a knock on Andy. If I'd said he reminded me of Styx, then I'd be slamming him. But Andy was very good, and I was happy to oblige his request to swap CDs.

Following Andy was Jonathan Dessi-Olive, if my memory serves me correctly. Jonathan played solo on acoustic guitar and vocals. He used a lot of pedals on his guitar to get some different textures going. His songs were fairly high energy and, to me, were screaming for a band. IMO he would do well to add the usual musical accompaniment, i.e. drums, bass, guitar, etc.

Then came the Pistol Whipping Party Penguins, the operative word being "party". These guys played bluegrass like it was party music. Which it is obviously, when they are playing it. They had a ton of energy, and filled the room with their friends/fans, and I wondered what I should do to follow them.

My set was coming up, and Stephen had a plan to get Dennis and I up there ASAP so as to not lose the crowd. It was a nice idea, though difficult to pull off. By the time we got set up and started playing it was quite apparent that most of the people in the audience were the wives-girlfriends-family-friends of the Penguins. Just like Jonathan's crowd was his parents and his sister and his friends. And Andy had the dinner crowd. So...what I'm getting at is the room fairly cleared out before we played a note. A couple of the Penguins stuck around for a while, and my new friend Andy Juhl was still there. I suppose it's not the sort of thing I should shout out to the world in a blog--that nobody showed for the gig. But the fact is I admittedly made a weak effort promoting this show. My last-minute text messaging (it's Thursday night, r u looking for something to do at 11 PM?) was fairly ineffectual.

But we played our asses off, for Ted behind the soundboard, and Stephen and Andy, and the bartender, the waitress, and Atomic Flea--the next band. And while we were playing a couple walked by the big windows, looked at us, and decided to come in. Tory (or did he say Cory?) and Erin were their names. And afterwards I gave them free CDs for stopping by.

Yeah, it was a small crowd. But I'll say this--they were listening. Andy had the dinner crowd, which was chatty. And Jonathan's crowd was chattering away so much that you couldn't hear his lyrics. You couldn't help but listen to the PWPP--they just overwhealmed you. But the chattering room noise marred the sound I thought. But our "crowd" was listening.

So we wrapped up our set and turned it over to Atomic Flea. They didn't have much of a crowd either. In fact I didn't see anyone new walk in. But I stayed and listened. They had a real cool Beatle-y poppy thing going. Two guys with acoustic guitars and some sweet hamonies, occasionally augmented by pedal steel guitar and rhythms coming from a laptop. tasty stuff, I thought. You shoulda been there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bryant Square Park Tomorrow

Sometimes it pays to answer the phone. I got a call this morning while at PT for my knee, and long story short, I'm playing at Bryant Square Park tomorrow night. It seems I am the first musician to play there, and they liked me so I was the person they thought of when they needed a band for their party. Cool.

Cooler still is the fact that you never know where a gig is going to lead.

Last Night at Father Hennepin

Father Hennepin Bluff is a strip of park land nestled between Main St. and the Mississippi River, on a bluff on the east bank of the river just north of the Stone Arch Bridge. There's a great view of downtown Minneapolis just across the river, and the park board started having live music there in the last year or two. Last night was my first time playing there--I was booked for a show in August of last year, but as everybody knows now the 35W bridge collapsed on August 1 of 2007 and the site was being used to coordinate recovery efforts so that show was cancelled.

So I was looking forward to finally playing there. It's a new venue for the parks, so it hasn't established a regular clientele of music fans yet, the way Lake Harriet Bandshell has. Still, a few people equipped with lawn chairs gathered before the show, so that was a good sign that people were beginning to expect something happening there.

Dennis had a recording session with one of his other bands, so it was just Bruce Thompson and I for this one. I hadn't done a show alone with Bruce before, and it was good. We missed Denny's horn on some songs, and there were a couple of songs we didn't even bother playing because they feature Dennis. But it went well I think. We had a small but attentive crowd, which I always prefer to a large inattentive crowd.

And man, were we lucky with the weather! Earlier in the day Jessica Berg (who books the venue) contacted me about the possibility of canceling due to the chance of storms. But by show time the sky was blue and clear. About 45 minutes in I noticed a wall of black clouds approaching from behind. We kept playing right up until the black clouds were right overhead, and announced we could do one more. My buddy Kirby Binder (thanks for coming Kirby!) yelled out "Move To Mexico". So we did that song and got out! When I got home everything was wet--apparently there was quite a drenching that managed to miss us at the park.

Next show: The Acadia Cafe July 17.