Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why did you move there?

Every now and then, when I run into a friend I haven't seen in a while, I talk about how I moved up north. Most times, the response is very understanding, as a number of people I've known who hang around Deep Ellum/White Rock Lake live farther up north. Yet there are times when I get this baffled projection from somebody about how I've moved north of 635. It's as if I've moved to Oklahoma.

To put 635 in context, it is about fifteen miles north of downtown Dallas. The drive from my house to downtown, with minimal traffic, is about 22 minutes. Not a hassle of a drive, by no means, but it seems like a dividing line of ideologies. As in, the farther north you move, the farther you enter a zone of squeaky clean suburbia where there isn't any crime and the Republican party is the only way to go. Understandably, it's a fantasy world that a lot of people have tried to escape for years. Including me.

Well, I'm stubborn of the worst kind, and I'm here to tell you that I cannot fight adulthood. And part of adulthood is trying to find an accommodating living situation that equals or betters the soon-to-be-former living situation.

In our case, we couldn't fathom moving into an apartment or cramped house/duplex that would charge an enormous amount for a pet deposit. Having three dogs would do that, and since we love our dogs so much, we wouldn't have this any other way. We tried to find places in and around the White Rock Lake area and the M streets. That resulted in a lot of unanswered e-mails and phonecalls. Alas, our current landlord was the first to call us back and was OK with us moving by the first of October. And the pet deposit was only $200 total for all three dogs.

Given the notice of moving out from the last place, we needed a place as quickly as possible, and we really lucked out. Our landlord is fantastic, as are the neighbors and the neighborhood. I don't think I've changed my personality or ideologies for the worse. We are surrounded by a neighborhood with character, locally-owned restaurants that are better than chain restaurants, and people are a bit more friendly. And they don't look like they came from a town called Stepford.

Sure, I'm less likely to go to the "cool" part of town a handful of times during the week, but I still go there and have a great time. Matter of fact, I feel more comfortable going out than ever before. How is that a bad thing?

Join the Army

Taken by Jeremy Hughes
The show with the Silver Saint Guitar Army was, for the most part, a success. Cory Graves of Central Track did a well-written review that summed up the whole evening. As I've said before, it was an honor to share the stage with members of Record Hop, Jack With One Eye and Maleveller. And I would be happy to play with Wanz again if he asks me.

Here are some thoughts I came away with from the show.

-In all my years of playing drums, I frequently heard guitarists say, "I couldn't hear myself." Now I know exactly what they were talking about. I have a small, 15-watt amp that is perfect in a practice setting, but onstage with thirteen other (some bigger) amps, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle.

-The fun, spontaneous nature of playing music that's almost as new to you as the audience was in full effect. We only really had one run-through for the half-hour set. It was really easy to play the final piece as it was made up of the guitars tuning up and down. I tried to get my guitar back to standard tuning.

-Somehow, I was able to tune my low E string all the way up to B without popping the string. Here, after all these years where I thought you'd pop a string tuning it up beyond G.

-I didn't feel out of my element with only a guitar strapped to me. Sure, I've had the barrier of a drum set in front of me for many years, but it didn't feel much different with a guitar instead.

-I listened to the power pop of the Rubinoos on the way down to the venue. I also ate way too much vegan Hawaiian pizza beforehand. It was my first time to have a sit-down session at the Double Wide restroom.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guitar Mafia

This Saturday will mark the first time in two years that I have played music in front of an audience. It has been a long time since I played a blues jam for fun one night. And it's been a very long time since I've played guitar in front of anyone.

My primary instrument is the drums, but when a musician I've admired (and interviewed) over the years asked me to play guitar with fourteen other guitarists, I didn't hesitate to say yes. Wanz Dover has played in a variety of bands and I've seen a number of them play live in the past ten years. Whether it's Stooges-like insanity, trippy shoegaze, raw soul, improvisational jamming or cut-up electronic music, he goes where his muse takes him.

Revisiting his experience playing with Glenn Branca's guitar orchestra, Wanz has created the Silver Saint Guitar Army. I'm very honored to be a part of the show and I'm pretty excited. We are due to have a long rehearsal before the show, so it will be fresh and raw at the same time.

I've played guitar almost the same amount of time that I've played the drums, so strapping on a guitar is not a foreign experience. But in a live setting, this will be technically a first.

Back when I played in the 11:30s, we finished a rehearsal one night with the vocalist/guitarist on drums, the lead guitarist on bass, the bassist on guitar and vocals, and me on lead guitar. The song we came up with was a simple droney piece that could go on and on, for however we wanted. We did it as an impromptu encore at one show and then played it again as the opening song at the next gig. That was almost thirteen years ago and I've never played guitar in a band ever since.

I love playing music, but for many reasons, I haven't played in a band situation for over a year. I don't know if I will play with Wanz after this show, but I certainly will make the most of it. That's a big part of the thrill: go in, have fun, and not worry about the business side of playing in a band. I can handle that.