Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hot Nights, Cool Tunes

Got the opportunity to play a out in a unique atmosphere Saturday night. The city of Brenham puts on a series of concerts that are staged on the downtown square during the Summer. They've been doing it for several years and I'd never made it to one until Saturday. The main reason has been that the bands being booked, for the most part, have been tribute cover bands paying tribute to bands that I might go see if someone buys my ticket. For and example, Already Gone and Abby Rode (Eagles/Beatles) played a couple of weeks ago. Big Otis has come close to getting me down there, but he simply recycles Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Al Green and a myriad of other '60 soul shouting covers. The first couple of years they booked Ezra Charles and the Works, who came the closest to someone I'd spend the evening with, but I was always away from town on his dates. Each concert is sponsored by different downtown businesses, so affordability is key and tribute bands are the hot trend nowadays. Seems that this year, the crowds have been exceeding expectations and I think that the stay-cation trend may be a factor.
I've been in and out of town on weekends and have had plans to make it downtown, not to see the headliners, but to catch and support the opening local acts made up of musicians that I know. Saturday, Sam Muski and his Catch and Release band were playing and opening for Jimmy Buffett clones. I've mentioned him as being the musician who played both my daughters' wedding receptions. As the afternoon wore on, my enthusiasm began to wane and I also knew thunderstorms were possible. I spied one on radar just around 30 miles south of town on a northern track and decided to shelve the plan to attend the Cool Tunes on what may be a Wet Night.
As fate would have it, though, my wife made a run down to our little country store (we live 10 miles out in the country and Zuelhke's Store is our lifeline). When she got back, she said that we HAD to go to the concert, because she ran into Sam who insisted that I come with my harps in hand and play on a couple of tunes. This news came about an hour and a half before showtime. As I told Sam later, I already had my fuzzy slippers on for the evening. I jumped into a shower, though, and was downtown in time for the soundman to plug me into the p.a. I thought about grabbing the Kalamazoo, but since I was just going to play on a couple of tunes and there was still that chance of rain, I decided against it and just to plug a mic into the sound system. I thought that I would take the JAYPHAT and try the JT30 crystal mic through the p.a. and I got it out before leaving the house to make sure which jack was input and output, because I hadn't mark them. When I got to the gig, it wasn't in my bag and I realize I left it sitting a home. So, I went with the Shure CR, which was wise because I had no idea how the crystal mic/JAYPHAT combo would have worked and the crowd was growing substantially large by the time Sam started playing, so I don't know why I was even considering a complete unknown entity. Playing through the p.a. can be iffy anyway. The soundmen were good, though. He plugged me into a direct box that connected to their system and gave be a touch of reverb that I requested.
As the downtown square began filling with people, I recognized a sizable number of the faces and quite a few of my ex-students were working food/drink booths, so when Sam introduced me on the second song, I had a nice little cheering section encouraging me. He had told me that the second song was a blues that he had written and was in the key of E, so I was relatively confident that I could give it a go. Of course, I was a bit nervous and tentative, it seems to always take me a song or two to settle into the right groove, but I didn't have that luxury. I had told my wife as we rode to town that I was a little nervous and she wondered why, because I had played before people before. This, I explained to her, was a horse of a different color. My good harp buddy, Doyle Spitzer was present in the audience also and you can't fool another harp player. That first tune went well, a little tentative as I said, but I kind of got it going with the solo spot. A few old friends who didn't know I played came by and shook my hand in amazement, so that was cool.
Sam told me to hang around to be called up for a second tune that he felt I could handle. Had no clue what it would be or when. Turned out to be Cookie & the Cupcakes' Matilda. It's really close to what Slim Harpo's doing with Raining In My Heart, so I used his licks to put the melody across, then took off on a tangent for the solos. It worked well, except one of my reeds got a little sticky and balked a time or two. Bothered me, but no one seems to notice. Got a nice round of applause after my solo, which I'm pretty sure was egged on by Doyle.
After the set, I was really amazed at the number of people that had turned out and how many people I knew and how many congratulated me on my playing. It was really a nice, huge community party. Everyone had their lawn chairs and were visiting and catching up with folks that they hadn't seen in some time and they were just flat out having some kind of summertime fun. Who needs gas for that? The plan was to post up several photos of the gig, but Virginia was more nervous than I was and was so focused on me performing well that she forgot to pick up the camera. Oh, well. I've got to post another piece of my history soon--that gives a bit more background pertaining to why Sam would think of me playing in the first place. Anyway--

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