This has been an exciting time for me gig-wise—so 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 morning—Alan 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 morning—Lee 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.)