Thursday, February 16, 2012

Finally played a show! Thanks Sharp!

Chicago 2/15/2012 - Well after many many hours of rehearsal in a corner of a rickety old awesome Chicago factory, playing mostly to a gimpy factory cat named Eddie and my five bandmates/friends – all of whom have sacrificed dozens of hours of their free time to be a part of this project… well, we finally played a show a week ago. And "a show" is no small accomplishment believe it or not.

Over the past three years making my new record, Powder Kegs Beneath Dagger Trees (PKBDT), musicians, artists, and friends have come and gone – occasionally crushing my momentum. Don’t get me wrong – no hard feelings toward any of them (tonight). I've learned that’s the nature of this indie thing. I have thoughts about why. A blog for another day. (Really. I won’t forget.)

Anyway, engineers also came and went during this project's gestation.

The gentleman who finally put up with my overly-perfectionist (some might say "meddling") production notes, and the man with whom I finished the mixing phase of PKBDT is a really humble and friendly veteran live sound guy.

Michael Blaine Sharp has been running sound at legendary FitzGerald's just across the last road on the far west side of Chicago, in Berwyn proper, for as long as I've been trying to make music in an organized way. He's encouraged me almost from the beginning (told me once that I "remind him of the Velvet Underground – with more upside." Not totally sure what that means, but I'll take a compliment from a grizzled sound guy!).

We spent the last couple years mixing the CD in a really odd way... I bet no one has ever mixed a record like we did. It just happened to work out for us though.

Basically, I worked a non-profit in Chicago's West Loop during the majority of PKBDT’s production. As fate had it, Sharp worked right next door to the train stop I used to get to work. I didn’t know this, but one day at a show at FitzGerald's, I asked on a whim if he’d be into mixing PKBDT. He obliged, telling me where he worked. I got a crazy idea. And the routine ended up looking like this:

I would periodically pass by his office at some point late morning or early afternoon (my gig was part-time so I made my own hours to some degree). I'd call him as I was walking by. Sometimes he'd answer. If not, I’d call the next day and keep walking.

When he would answer, he'd ascend from his data center (lots of musicians I meet are techies by day) in a matter of seconds, and I'd hand off a little blue flash drive with all my raw takes, while he threw back a cigarette. We'd then weather a barrage of cigarette mooches hanging out by the CTA stop, squeezing in some war stories, until we'd eventually have to get back to work.

About a week later the same thing would happen, but this time he'd deliver his mixes to me when I called. Ball in my court.

I'd obsess over the mix (sometimes using a shit pair of ear buds in a crowded bar) for about a week. Bartenders all over Chicago probably think I'm nuts cuz I like to get a bottle of Bud and scratch out notes in the corner all alone, dancing in my seat to music they can't hear, all in a passing transient way. (I walk a lot – more on that soon too.)

About a week later, I'd deliver my new over-production notes and any additional music files if needed, via that little blue flash drive we treated like a baton. Outside the train stop, fending off street urchins looking for smokes.

This cycle went on so long, that when it was done, I sort of missed the routine. Sharp never complained either. (I would have killed me about a year in.) Thanks for your patience, Mike Sharp! I thought for sure you were gonna get tired and abandon ship like so many others at some point. Thanks for believing in these songs and making them sound great.

Any rate, point is,"Sharp" was the dude who finally saw PKBDT to its conclusion... He works at Fitzgerald's... Matt and Roxy – who switch between bass and guitar in the band - live down the road from FitzGerald’s where Sharp works.

So it was a no-brainer when John Fancher, who books FG's monthly "Exposure" local showcase pitched us the pre-release show on 2/9/2012.

And we finally got to play a show last week. We thanked Mike Sharp with hand-crafted rock and roll shirt (modeled onstage by Matt Walters to the left in that picture there, which was snapped by Rob Gaczol).

I'll tell you how the show itself went in the next blog!

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