Saturday, 28 May 2011

Retroactive Farewell(ish) Tour?

Well, well, well, Gig 30, we meet at last. My dad and I were invited to play at a fundraiser in Marlboro, VT, at the Marlboro Meeting House back in early April. I was actually a little bit trepidatious (if that's the word I want; Webster's says it is) about this gig, because I confess I didn't actually know what the fundraiser was for. I had nightmarish visions of having to decline to play in support of a political candidate I didn't like, or in support of Annual Kick a Pug Day, that sort of thing . . . but it turns out my worries were in vain. It was the annual "Mudfling" to contribute to the Marlboro County Fair's rainy day fund. Whew.

Gig 31: Co-bill with T. Fredric Jones and Sierra & Andrew at the Black Moon Music Lounge in Belchertown, MA--the T. Fredric Jones set was stellar, but it would have been better if more people showed up. It is just plain hard to get people to drive to an out-of-the-way show on a Sunday night, and I feel pretty bad that I didn't promote it better. Therapists should really specialize in "musician's guilt." (I am not even joking about this.)

Gig 32: Sam's Pizzeria in Northampton, MA--always a fun venue, and I managed to sell some merch (OK, a CD, I sold one CD) to someone out of what I'd normally call my primary merch-purchasing demographic. (And no, I shan't say what the demographic is, first because my perception could be far from the reality, and second because if you're reading this and fall into that category you might never buy a CD again, just to spite me.)

*Interlude* I am not counting this as a gig, but I want to give a shout-out to my sister Lillian--for anyone who's bought my EP, she's on track two ("This Begins"). She just graduated from college, and invited me to sing vocals for a couple of songs at her senior music recital. So proud! *End Interlude*

Gig 33: Lillian and I played at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, MA, this past week, co-billing with a fun, up-and-coming band The Feel (I believe they're Iron Horsing it soon, definitely worth checking out). The club was actually fairly jumpin' jumpin' during our set, and I was hoping to make it through without losing my voice from a cold I've been battling for some time now. It was not fun wondering when it would go (I tried to think of an analogy for what it would sound like if my voice cracked mid-song, but all I could come up with were animal sounds, and I didn't want to come off weird following my earlier punted pug comment.)

So, if you're curious about this post's title . . . I'm moving out to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer! As any loyal readers will know, I'm originally and continuously a California girl, and in a carpe diem freakout I've decided to move back. What will this mean for Western Mass/lower Vermont? You silly heads--I'll be back all the time! My family lives out here, and I'll be keeping expenses as low as possible so that I can return frequently. (Heck, I'll already be coming back for a Vermont mini-tour in August/September, and ideally will grab a Western Mass gig or two while I'm at it.) And for those of you in California--get ready!!!!!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

About an Eight of the Way There—Part Two

Who's ready for Milwaukee!!!! Ok, but before we kicking off a rollicking two-show February mini-tour of Milwaukee (yes, it warrants a "mini-tour" classification because more than one show occurred, so there!), I should mention briefly Gig 27, at good ol' Burrito Rojo in Turners Falls, MA. Somehow there's a rule that the farther I have to drive for a gig, the more fiercely the obligatory ice storm rages. But I arrived there, and returned home, alive. So I could go to . . .

Gig 28: MILWAUKEE. My first-ever Milwaukee, Wisconsin, show was at Bremen Cafe in the Riverwest area. For all of you who are anticipating a dramatic Francie-almost-got-electrocuted story after the last post's cliffhanger, it's kind of up to you to decide whether I made false promises of excitement. I arrived at the venue nice and early, and was glad to find an actual stage, next to an actual bar, with actual local brewsand I was happy to meet my opener for the evening, the lovely and highly talented Lisa Ridgely (that's her in the photo that's not of me; wow, that sounded narcissistic somehow). What I was less pleased about, however, was the realization not only that there was no equipment set up (being on tour [okay, mini-tour], I had confirmed in advance that I could avail myself of a house PA) but also that no one there had any suggestions about how the system worked or should be set up.
And here's where the electrocution comes inwhen I say the equipment wasn't set up, I mean that whoever played there last just left everything in a dusty, haphazard pile. I have never had to shift through so many janky wires, while perching on a rickety stage, hauling equipment from an angle that I'm pretty sure all doctors would agree is the least good for my back. When I was plugging in equipment I was sure I was a goner (sometimes I closed my eyes when plugging stuff init seemed the impending electrical shock would be less painful if I couldn't actually see my bones through my skin [as everyone knows can happen, based on Saturday morning cartoons]). But we all survived. Lisa played a great set, and my set turned out OK, after I was informed that I had the bass up too high. (I'm sorry, it's hard to sound check yourself from the stage without a monitor, and frankly even if I could have found one in the pile of wires and dust I wasn't about to tempt fate by plugging in an extra piece of equipment.) Don't get me wrong, though, I had a lot of fun at this show, and it was a confidence booster to know that I can set up a random system from scratch in relatively little time, albeit with multiple technical difficulties. (By the way, all the photos here are courtesy of John O'Hara, who donated his time to making us feel like rock stars by taking photos at Bremen.)

Gig 29: Just when I thought my Wisconsin trip would be a one-gig stop, Lisa invited me to be a part of the exciting "Dark Show" at Linneman's, also in Milwaukee's Riverwest. This concept show, organized by Jason Fields, involved a rapid succession of songwriters, plus a display from local fine artists, all with no spotlights (hence the show's title; I actually didn't get why this was the "Dark Show" at the outset, but gradually caught on when I realized I could actually see the audience from the stage). I have to say, Milwaukee has a very cool arts scene, and I'm always impressed when a few people get together to make a showand a scenehappen (this includes the owner of the venue, who contributed stellar sound engineering skills). So that's my tour. What's next? I'll be in Western Massachusetts for a couple of months at least, but I hear my West Coast roots callingwill I return to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer? Will I mosey down to check out the Los Angeles scene (I spent a lot of my childhood in Southern California, it still feels just a tiny bit like home)? These are questions that time, and my ability to self-motivate, surely will answer.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

About an Eighth of the Way There--Part One

This has been an exciting time for me gig-wiseso exciting I didn't want to ruin the moment by defining it in writing. And then I thought, that's stupid, so . . .

Gig 25: Remember 2010? Back in December, my dad, my sister Lillian, and I played an Outlandish Landsharks gig at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, MA. We had a good turnout, AND the sound guy (I think I remember his name, but in case I’m wrong I’d rather not give specifics) taught me something cool about how pre-amps work. Namely, that my little guitar has a propensity for sounding like a tin can with rubber bands looped over the top when the PA is not handled properly. So I may have to splurge at some point on a really good little pre-amp. I love my guitar, but every so often someone hates on it so bad. Once someone said it sounded like one of those fold-up guitars for traveling. Now . . . I don’t deny that “backpacker” guitars can sound great, because they can. But that’s kind of like telling someone her Audi looks like a Hot Wheels. Or a chef that his oven really gives the EZ-Bake a run for its money. Haters.

OK, I played two radio spots in support of Gig 26 below . . . should these count toward the gig total? I don’t know. For now, I’ll label them . . .

Radio Spot 1: January, very early morningAlan Sax kindly invited me to play and be interviewed on Blue Monday on WMUA. Nothing says rock star like wandering in the bleary, early hours to do a radio spot.

Radio Spot 2: January, less early morningLee Larcheveque’s “Acoustic Café.” Somehow the conversation turned to pygmy hippos. I was OK with it.

Gig 26: THE IRON HORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (January 23, 2011, Northampton, MA). This was such a huge deal for me on so many levels, even going beyond the facts that (1) Shawn Mullins, my hero, played there once, and (2) it’s a famous venue in the grand East Coast music scene scheme. For one thing, this was the first time I had to sell consignment tickets in advance—that is, I was out peddling (or “hustling,” as it was referred to on numerous occasions). I was terrified, mostly because with tickets at $15 bucks a pop, I was thinking gosh, I wouldn’t buy tickets to my own show. But then lots of people bought tickets—I don’t think there was anyone who could physically be there who wasn’t there.

For another thing, there was a dressing room. A DRESSING ROOM. There were couches, there was a coffee dispenser, there was a band menu. . . . Did I secretly take cell phone pictures? Yes. Did I think I was Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line”? You bet. Was I caught doing a victory dance à la Hugh Grant in “Love Actually”? Surprisingly, no.

Finally, and perhaps most important, I had the opportunity to open for the extremely talented and hilarious Vance Gilbert. He gave me some good advice about how to pace myself during a set, probably the most useful pointer being just to take a breath and not freak out. And we laughed for an hour and a half in the green room before the show started. I will be ecstatic if we share a bill again in the future.

The only downside of playing the Iron Horse is, well . . . it’s a huge deal, but it’s not like I have a Grammy now or anything. Having seen even some of my very favorite artists lately have backslides (sometimes trying too hard for a hit, sometimes going too self-indulgent), I know that being a “musician” in the “music business” is a constant battle. I don’t mean this in a “suffer for art” way, just a “wow, even a big break is just a possibility, not a guarantee,” way.

See the video below--it's my Iron Horse finale (a performance of Anchor and Shield). In Part Two of this post, to follow in a few days . . . MILWAUKEE!! (Spoiler: I almost get electric shocked.)