Sunday, February 26, 2012

Berwyn, IL 02/09/2012 – FitzGeralds

Chicago - 2/26/2012. Ok so here are my reflections on the pre-release show we played a couple weeks back, finally. See show details at the website.

This show was booked largely because we wanted to test-run the songs, share them with the folks in Oak Park who support both Roxy Swain and myself (and aren't easily drawn to the city. Suburbanites are sometimes like that, even when they live literally two blocks away.)

And we wanted to premiere the songs for Mike Sharp, who runs the board at FitzGeralds, and who mixed the new CD, Powder Kegs Beneath Dagger Trees (PKBDT) – to get his feedback, but also to thank him. It had been a bunch of months since the record had been mixed, and so it had been awhile since we got to share a few laughs and catch up.

This is what it looked like (note the "Sharp!" shirt Matt's wearing - I like making a custom T-Shirt, in Trakan font with my own hands, for each show. Matt's typically the "band messenger," and this night we were honoring Mike Sharp with a shirt):

More photos in a second. Still a tiny bit more back story...

We were offered a slot for this show – third – on a bill called "Exposure," alongside a cool "shoe-gazing country jazz band," as Sharp called em, a polished partially-coverband fronted by a woman named Kimi Hayes, and a great Oak Park band named Ballcock Assembly.

We had been rehearsing for a long time and I guess you would say "itchy" to play to an audience. See, Freddy and Claire had been working with me in a few lineups I was trying to assemble over the last year and a half. They were patient as certain cellists and drummers and vocalists came and went over that span. I almost gave up at one point, leaning toward maybe just playing the damned songs myself. After sitting down with Claire and Freddy though, and determining together that I should give it one last push, I finally thought to ask Matt if he wanted to rejoin the band toward the end of last summer, and also ask Roxy if she wanted to be a part of it for the first time too.

Matt had been working exclusively with Roxy for the majority of the years it took me to produce PKBDT (a duration where all my energy had been focused on writing, tracking, mixing, and other production craziness... and the rest of my energy had gone to cursing musicians who would come into the project and then leave me hanging before it was finished. See this blog for details on this phenomenon).

Fortunately for me, Roxy's new record's production had been pushed back and they were both available and enthusiastic about the new songs on PKBDT.

Fortunate as well, Chris was also interested. Recently back in Chicago, he was looking to play some drums and we were in the right place at the right time for him as well.

So it had been months of rehearsing once a week, with this new lineup, at a factory down the street from the winebar, leading up to this. The band had slowly but steadily learned and prepared seventeen songs with me – from both of my records (which is a lot by the way. Most bands who play original music prep 45-minute sets for a show but we needed two sets for the release, so we were biting off a more aggressive set list).

We were gonna run the nine songs that we felt needed the most work at FitzGeralds, killing two birds with one stone: getting more practice at these tunes, while simultaneously getting comfortable in formation on stage (we rehearse in the round at the factory).

The two rehearsals leading to this show were tense, and challenging. They say that means it will be a good show. I don’t know. I was nervous. Last minute, we learned we had to borrow a bass amp from Dan Lakin at the factory, and a drum kit from Kimi’s band (thanks again guys!)

Moreover, I really hadn't been on a stage with lights and the flakiness of monitored sound for a couple years, during the records production. Neither had Chris.

The first bands were good too. I was pacing. Trying not to drink too many $half-off cans of Hamms. Lost my glasses. Not even sure why I took em off. Had fallen on the floor. Veek found them.

Kimi's guitarist shredding like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kimi belting like Janis Joplin. Hope Sharp makes us sound that good. I know he will.

Then a really cool surprise! Rob Gaczol, one of Chicago’s finest band photographers popped in and approached me right before we went up onto stage. He had his cameras. That photo up top was taken by him.

So were these:

(above) While I know this looks like rock and roll mayhem ala The Who or something... no, this is just us setting up. Freddy testing (kicking?) his vintage amp (the amp that would flake on him right as we finished our line-check and were about to start playing - about 5 minutes after this picture was taken. It's ok - this is why we wanted a test-run! I like to think of that as the final pre-release challenge we faced :) That's Mr. Mike Sharp behind me with the moves like Jagger!

Ok, we're finally ready, Sharp. Can we make some noise now?

Me finally making noise. With Freddy on banjo back there.

Matt behind me with his signature keyboard rig! We're all tech geeks at heart.

Mr. Chris Warren with sticks in hand. Occasionally rocks the mallets too. This whole band is so dynamic.

On my left, your right, Roxy on guitar and Matt now on bass (they swap guitar and bass masterfully throughout the set).

... that is when Matt's not playing sax. Roxy helping with killer vocals here for "Peter the Great."

On my right, Freddy on solo guitar and Claire on fiddle.

... except for when Freddy switches to banjo. Like a rock, Claire's coloring each song with strings though!

Damn that felt good to finally play a show. Thanks to Rob for the pictures, Mike for the sound, Kimi/Dan for the backline, the bartenders for stocking Hamms, John Fancher and FitzGerald's for booking us, to the band for making these songs sound fantastic and for your friendship...

And as always, thanks to everyone who's come out to see the shows and buy the music.

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