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Red Room Post-mortem...


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Well, I broke a string. It was partway through the last song, so I just played without it. Some folks said afterwards the guitar sounded a little distorted, and the broken string was part of that—other contributing factors were my using my old D’Armand pickup (which gives the acoustic guitar a very electric sound) and playing through a little amp instead of the Red Room’s sound system. All fixable.

It did go well. We had a big crowd—virtually every seat in the place filled—and since most of them left after we stopped playing, it was pretty obvious they were there to hear us. The Red Room management noticed that, too, and said they’d like to have us back. They said we were “different.” The band were very tight—all those practices helped—and Sharma (bass), David (lead guitar), Don (harmonica) and Doug (drums) were all very good. It was Don’s first time on stage, and Sharma’s first in maybe 20 years, and they did fine.

The material? “Dirty Deeds We Done to Sheep” was a big hit, of course; so was “Naked Space Hamsters in Love” and “I’m Giving Mom a Dead Dog for Christmas.” The latter two people came up afterwards to mention—that’s how I tell what stuck in people’s minds. (I noticed everybody listened raptly to everything, though, and there was much feet tapping and heads banging.) We did give ‘em quite a variety of styles, from bluegrass to blues to “straight” country to rock ‘n’ roll. Pretty versatile crew, this band.

I did propose afterwards that we keep doing this, and we’ll see what everybody thinks. David, who’s playing professionally, and Doug, who’s in another band (that I don’t think has any gigs yet), are the ones with the most limited schedules. But I think if we go after more gigs right after this one, we’ll get ‘em.

Don, Sharma and I hung around and observed the “acts” that were on after us. The next act played solo (I am glad I didn’t do that), and while he had half a dozen fans there, his stuff was just not very good (and not at all memorable). Last was a rock trio of older guys (one bald, one with grey hair, and one losing his grey hair) who were surprisingly good; some of their stuff was very melodic, and the guitarist and bass player did very nice harmonies. They could have used a lead something: guitar, harmonica, even keyboard. I didn’t tell them that—but I did compliment them afterwards. (And they complimented us—from on stage. That was nice.) Of the three acts, we were definitely the best. And most importantly, the venue noticed it, too.

There are things I’d want to do different next time. We need phantom power for those expensive mikes Sharma has (the Red Room’s soundboard didn’t have phantom power, though they’d said twice it did, and we ended up using their mikes, which were old, cheap, and not good at all). An adapter so we can hook a ¼-inch to XLR cable up backwards when we need to.

But basically, I’d just make sure to bring Sharma’s mixing board and amp, and tell the venue, “We’ve got our own, and we’re only going to use your stuff if it’s better.” And have everything labeled and pre-set so it just has to be plugged together. (The Dodson Drifters used to do that. We had a truck full of stuff, but we could be set up in minutes. And we had no roadies.)

And of course, if we’re going to keep doing this, we will need more material—a couple hours’ worth, I think. (Right now, we’ve got 45 minutes.) Just a couple of “straight” country songs, with really strong bass lines (“Duct Tape,” “Rotten Candy”); blues, definitely (and I have a number of good blues or quasi-blues tunes), and some bluegrass songs I know from experience are easily adaptable to other genres (like “Bluebird on My Windshield” and “When I Jump off the Cliff I’ll Think of You”). And I do have one rock ‘n’ roll number that hasn’t been played in public since the Dodson Drifters broke up over 25 years ago—“Test Tube Baby.” I wonder how the band would do with that?

And in addition to the Red Room last night, I played at the Library this afternoon and the Ghost Hole tonight—and my fingers no longer hurt. Practice Monday for the Bay City Arts Center gig—the next big thing.

Joe

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