Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lucero at Turner Hall April 2012

Since the first time I accidentally was introduced to Lucero while in TX going out to see Glossary, I have been taken by the energy they put in to their shows. The emotions from recorded albums can easily be lost in live shows, but Lucero is somehow able to take a room filled with 700 people swilling PBR's and whiskey sours and get them to slow down, take a breath and pay attention as Ben breaks it all down to just him and accordion or pedal steel.   Over time I have collected all of their albums and find something to like about each one.  Whether it is the all out punk infused rockers from Nobody's Darlings or the stripped down songs on Tennessee, I can find things to enjoy in all of them.

With the release of 1372 Overton Park in 2009 the band started to talk a lot about the "Memphis Soul" sound.   To great effect they added organ and horns to their sound and have continued that with their new record.  2012's Women and Work employs a lot of horn work as 1372 Overton Park did, but to my ears, this time around they really nailed it. The horns are a more integral part of the sound, less of a distraction.    I find myself missing the full out rockers but enjoying the mix of groovers and ballads.

The crowd was larger than I have seen before in Milwaukee and filled with a favorable ratio of drunken rocker/biker types to drunken aggressive college types. The song mix pulled from records old and new and the band sounded together and solid from start to finish.  Great show.

Below are some of the pics I was able to snap from the show.   If you are interested in seeing everything I shot, hit G+

Friday, November 4, 2011

Building Your Own Sound

I have had these pictures around since Thanksgiving of last year and was just prodded into sharing them.  This blog seems to change primary subject matter enough that a brief interlude chronicling a guitar speaker cabinet build might not be too out of place.

My dad is about 65 and after years and years of ties, fishing lures, sweaters, and coffee mugs adorned with "World's  Greatest Dad" I was set to buy him something that he might really love.   He had recently retired to a far North woods cabin with my Mom and moved all of his wood shop equipment up there.   He has, throughout his entire life, built things out of wood.   Nothing that would wind up in an Ethan Allen gallery, but good working furniture.   I have been married for 18 year and I can count on 3 fingers the pieces of furniture I have ever purchased.   Desk?  We'll build it.  Floating bed frames?   Sure.  File cabinet?  No problem.  18 foot book case with sliding library ladder?  Let me call you back... OK, got it.   Every table in my home he built.   I have helped enough along the way to know the tools he does and does not have and he pretty much has them all.   But new tool was the direction my head was going.

If you know me at all, you know that my head rarely if ever goes in one direction.   I am planning my next fishing trip while I am packing for the current fishing trip.   I am weighing options for fixing a roof leak while changing a headlight.   So it makes perfect sense that while out shopping for tools I might stop at a music store to shop for a  cab to drive with the old Fender Bassman amp project I have at home.

While browsing around a local music store I tripped across an old Mesa Boogie amp that either had had it's covering taken off or was originally shipped with a wood grain finish.   It was sweet.   The wood looked great and you could see the box joints at the corners.   I snapped a pic of it and emailed it to my Dad with the message "Up for a Thanksgiving project?"   His reply was quick:  "Can't do box or dovetail joints."

Two shopping problems suddenly turned into one great Thanksgiving weekend project.   I bought him a Porter-Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig that we used to cut all the box joints for the cab.

I got the idea to document the build a little late, but still got some nice pics.   Basically it is all pine, 11" x 31" x 16", a 3/4" plywood soundboard, with two Weber Chicago 12" speakers mounted and wired for 8ohms.

The basic box cut made using the new jig.

Affixing the mounting rails for the speakerboard
Clamping and gluing

Full rails on three sides of the box

Joints during sanding process
Soundboard painted flat black

Speaker mound hole recessed in front
Screw recessed flat
Recessed in back so nut was tight into hole 
Soundboard finished
Before last coat of urethane

Speakers mounted and wired
Showing jack mount plate

This combo is responsible for blowing some fine glassware off my kitchen shelves and most of the lead guitar work on my band's 2011 album, Leash on Life.

I thought I had a pic of my dad and I playing through it together, but I could not find one, so here we are kicking it 1970's style, when we both had a lot more hair...  and style.

Thanks Dad!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Be back soon

Hey, sorry for the lag in updates. My band has spend the last year getting in sync with a brand new guitar player while we wrapped our new record due later this month. I have seen only a handful of shows, but have some cool pictures from the Amy LaVere Milwaukee show to share once the dust settles on our new record.

We are also getting ready for a show at Bradford Beach on September 17th. Loads of great bands including reunited versions of Bumpy Jonas and Moloko Shivers. We play sometime between 2:30 and 4:00. More info here:


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This Is American Music 2010

Having just returned from the epic roadtrip that was "This is American Music" I have a lot of film and recordings to go through before I can provide a proper post here. In the meantime you can check in on videos that I shot as I upload them here:

More to come.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quick Facebook Merch Tutorial

My band, R. Mutt has been looking at different ways to sell merchandise on the web for sometime now. Our music, CD's and digital downloads, have all been handled quite well by CDBaby. For a small fee they will take in 5 CD's and warehouse them for shipping direct to customers and pay us a portion of the sale price at the end of every month. They also get the songs on all of the digital sales website like Amazon and iTunes and when those sites sell our music we actually get about 90% of the revenue.

The problem for us has always been other merch like t-shirts. The online companies akin to CDBaby take a much bigger chunk of the revenue or they want to do the printing on demand. The shirts we have seen have not been very nice so we decided to get really nice shirts printed by a local, eco-friendly, company Orchard Street Press.

On Facebook I found an application called FBML that allowed me to create custom tabs on our band page where we can list and sell our merch exactly as we wanted. As soon as I had it done and posted an update to our friends and fans I had a flurry of questions from other musicians asking how I did it.

So, I put together my first video tutorial to share with others how to do this.

This does not have to just be for bands. Non-profits could use it for donations, small business could use it to sell other products. Take a look if you are interested in selling anything on the web.

Hope this helps.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Regret Found

I used to keep a list of all the shows that I almost went to. The '82-'83 Zappa tour, The Clash at the Aragon Ballroom right before the breakup, The Who's first farewell tour in '82, The Dead Kennedys at the Metro at Midnight on Halloween, Stevie Ray Vaughn's last show at Alpine. I had access to tickets and a ride to every one of those shows and for various stupid reasons I decided against going. The list is much longer that this but, at some point the list just got so long that I stopped keeping track as it became depressing.

Last month Lucero was coming through Chicago supporting Social Distortion. I had missed Lucero on their last turn through the midwest so I figured I should catch them this time. Social Distortion is a band that I know pretty well. I have three of their albums and, while I like them all, none really ever grabbed me the way my favorite albums do. To me, they were collections of good songs, played well, but lacking any real serious punch.

While planning for the show I learned that the Riviera did not allow cameras of any type. I had the thought to drop a note to the pedal steel player from Lucero (Todd Beene, also of Glossary) who I had had the opportunity to meet on a few occasions and ask if he knew of any way I could get an OK to bring my camera in. I did not hear back until I was driving down to the show and an email came across telling me I he had put me on the photo pass list.

Traffic coming into Chicago combined with a terrible lack of parking options around the Riv to get me to the venue late. I entered, figured out the photo pass thing and headed to the stage just in time to be told that I had missed my chance to take any pictures of Lucero from the front. I could take pics from the crowd, but not from the stage.

I settled into the crowd about 15 yards from the stage to enjoy the show and snap a few shots but not be too much of a nuisance. Lucero was great. Only real complaint would be that they seemed to keep the house lights down. The lighting was super underwhelming, like a show in someone's basement. Very dim white or red lights with little to no changes throughout. The dim setting made it clear that they were the supporting band. I get it, they are playing first, their set is short, they are set up in front of the other band's stuff. Come on man! At least give them some light.

The crowd seemed to be spotted with Lucero fans, fists pumped in the air, singing along to Tears Don't Matter Much. There were also a good number of Social D fans who seemed to be interested and getting into them but don't be fooled, this was clearly a crowd of rabid Social Distortion fans. As soon as Lucero was done the already packed floor in front of the stage became even more packed. Just as it was getting truly uncomfortable the security guy who had earlier told me no pictures grabbed the back of my jacket and tugged me into the photo pit. "Now you can come in."

Being on the photo pass list means that for the first 3 songs of each band's set you are able to get between the stage and the barriers that keep the crowd away from the stage. It is about 4' deep and fills up with photographers about 15 minutes before the bands come on. During those 3 songs you are able to take as many pics as you can, then you have to clear out so the fans can have unobstructed views of the band. I mention this photo pass stuff just to explain how I got the pics I share here.

As Social Distortion took the stage the big banner lowered from above the stage and the low blue lights started coming up. As soon as the instruments were plugged in the band launched into The Creeps. I am not great at math, but Mike Ness has to be older than me but from the energy on stage you would have thought he was 23. The sound was thick, not blisteringly loud, but full. I had read a few past reviews where people had criticized Mikes voice stating that he had clearly lost something. To my ears his voice sounded more full of life and vigor than any of the albums I had. He moved from one end of the stage to the other between verses, slinging his guitar with authority.

The first song was followed by Another State of Mind and Mommy's Little Monster. After that, the security guards flashed their lights and told us to clear out. I moved to the back of the room as the room erupted with Sick Boys. Later in the night they played Machine Gun Blues which I think is going to be the first single off the new record.

Yeah, I had two different chances to see Social Distortion. I never really regretted that I passed them up. One while still in High School, maybe the Metro, then after High School at the Cubby Bear. I can almost justify missing the Cubby Bear since I lived in Milwaukee by then, but that High School show was missed for no good reason.

I guess I owe it to Lucero for bringing me down to this show. Thank you, for regret found.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bobby Bare Jr, Chicago Oct 7th, 2010 (or: Maybe I didn't say it first)

About a year ago my buddy Pete was at our house visiting and, as usual, we were eating, drinking, listening to music, talking about movies, telling lies and generally annoying members of our family unfortunate enough to walk through our conversations. During one of many pointless conversations, Dane Cook came up. Pete had been getting back into stand up and doing some open mics, so perhaps this is how Cook winds up in our discussion.

I do not have strong feelings for or against Dane Cook. I have seen a special once and had a few chuckles but was not so taken that I wanted to seek out more of his work. Nor was I so offended that I swore off ever watching him again. His bits seemed to be aimed at your traditional, middle of the road, frat type, of which I'm not. So, I make the proclamation that "Dane Cook is the Nickelback of stand up comedy."


Minimal words used to gently and cleverly mock Cook, Nickelback and fans of either.

As the conversation wandered through the afternoon in the back of my mind I kept wondering if not only am I the first person to make this incredibly insightful connection between Cook and Nickelback, but also the first to do it so elegantly.

"Pete, is there any way to find out if I am the first, because if I am, I want to make damn sure I get credit for it."

Well, with a few finger strokes of the iPhone Pete is able to find an earlier example of that exact phrase on a random blog. Mind you, the original utterance was no more than 3 months old at the time and, as much as he could try, he was unable to find another example of the phrase being used. OK, dream crushed, but not by much.

On October 7th, 2010 I had the good fortune to see Bobby Bare Jr. play at Schuba's Tavern in Chicago. I love Schuba's. I like that it is an old Schlitz building, I like the size of the room, I like that the performers have to walk through the crowd to get to the stage, I like the beer offerings on tap, I like that I can get right up to the front of the stage without much trouble. It is pretty hard to find something not to like about Schuba's.

My only other time seeing Bobby Bare Jr. was at the Bloodshot records 15th anniversary party. If I remember correctly the band for that show included bass, drums, trumpet and bari sax. Maybe a keyboard. The band sounded great and the set list was excellent, but the show was basically in a back alley behind the Chicago Department of Sanitation and the set seemed to end as soon as it started. The Schuba's show had Bobby backed by Blue Giant of Portland, a traditional 'rock band' type line up. Many of the same song, but presented with completely different instrumentation.

At the show I picked up his (fantastic) new record and The Longest Meow and listened to both on my drive out of the city. The next day I found myself switching between his albums all day in the car. All the songs, all the different instrumentation, all the colors that he can conjure up. None of the songs employ terribly complex chords or dramatic changes in rhythms, they are all presented in remarkably simple form. Everything from a full rock sound to an acoustic guitar and voice, are used to get sounds ranging from heavy grooving rock to straight ahead old fashioned country.

All this listening and thinking brought me to another Dane/Nickelback type revelation. I can't imagine I am the first to say it, and this time I really don't care, so here goes: Bobby Bare Jr is the Tom Waits of Nashville Music.

Done on the original album version with trumpets, elsewhere on youtube with just acoustic guitar and banjo, here is Valentine, three chords of greatness, done as a rock anthem with Blue Giant at Schuba's.

(more videos from this night posted to youtube)