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Practice With The Band...


Practice yesterday with the band. We got through 14 of the 24 songs in 2-1/2 hours. Every single one was good, and some were perfect. In each case, I found myself thinking, “This here is what it’s supposed to sound like.” A 5-piece band—drums, bass, rhythm guitar, “whiny” lead (harmonica) and “non-whiny” lead (guitar), is ideal, I think. Those who come to the Failed Economy Christmas Concert are going to get one heck of a show. We practice again next Saturday. It’d probably be good to have one more practice besides that before Gig Day, but I don’t know if folks’ work schedules will permit it.

The primary value of the practices, besides encouraging me that we’re going to be okay, is it gives everybody a feel for everybody else’s capabilities; I just give ‘em free rein to put their own “spin” on things, and applaud what comes out good (I end up applauding a lot). They don’t need much practice with the material per se, because (1) they are very good, and (2) they have what drummer Chris calls “the homework”—the CDs, setlists, and (for the new guys) lyric sheets with chords. I have noticed they use them. Since I have to have everything organized in advance, the CDs have recordings (draft in some cases, just done on the Tascam) of the songs on the setlist, in the order we’re going to play them, recorded pretty much the way we’re going to play them, because I have thought all that out in advance. We might make some changes as we go along—we’ve done that a couple of times—but we may not.

I don’t know if other bands do this. If they don’t, I wonder why. It sure does minimize the amount of time needed for practice, and that’s important when one is dealing with busy people. (I regularly remind these guys I’m the only one with a lot of free time. I’m unemployed. They’re not.)

We have also developed fairly established patterns. We have started off every show with “Dead Things in the Shower”; it’s a good high-energy piece, and the band falls into it easily. We also finish (the first set, if it’s a long show, or the show, if it’s a short one) with “Un-Easy Street”; it’s a danceable two-step—with a message, no less—that leaves the audience anxious for more. (If you’re about to have a break, you want the audience sticking around for more.) We’ll finish a two-hour concert like this one with “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” the Woody Guthrie tune that the Grateful Dead made famous; they used it as their closing song, too.

I try to keep a constant injection of new stuff—but not a lot: we’ll be doing four new songs at the Christmas concert: two rock ‘n’ roll (“Test Tube Baby” and “The Dog’s Song”), one bluegrass (“Santa’s Fallen and He Can’t Get Up”), and one slow and sleazy two-step (“Even Roadkill Gets the Blues,” the Christmas song that doesn’t get played much).

Still to do for the concert: notices to the local Congressman and Senators (by letter), and to the local state legislators (by e-mail); none of them came last time, but it’s cheap and easy to tell them about the show. Press releases to the newspaper I write for, and to a couple of others, are mostly done—they just need to be tweaked a little to make them perfect. The Food Pantry got 50 copies of the poster to put in last week’s food boxes, and I take more posters with me to hand out to local businesses everywhere I go.

I’ve left a message for Jane Scott Productions (Jane is the one who videotapes the county commissioners’ meetings, and a couple of city councils—her stuff is aired on the cable TV system that covers two counties), but no answer back; I’ve noticed she doesn’t check messages very often, and I may have to catch her in person at one of the meetings she’s videotaping. Nothing in Oregon Music News—despite the name, they may really be interested only in musical stuff in Portland. (I guess I’ll just ignore them in the future.)

Music Friday this week. Jobs to apply for, too, and a house to clean. I should find a few venues to make brief appearances at, to promote the concert.



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