A wise man once said, “Another day, another dollar.” I’d like to add my own personal spin to this saying. “Another 6 months of kicking, screaming, hair-pulling stress about gaining band members, loosing band members, talking to club owners, and general buffoonery….another gig.”
Yep, that’s right. Although it took forever, I finally got my feet planted squarely in St.Paul, MN; and successfully arranged a gig. It was a pretty good one too. I’m hoping it’s a fresh start to a bright future. With all the work that went into arranging the gig, I think I might be able to finally figure out how to set these damn things up.
But let me not get ahead of myself. Who was I with? Where was I at? What was the set like and how was the turn-out? Most importantly, how did I set all of this up?
It all started sometime around October. I began asking local bands about if they needed any opening acts. I figured talking to club owners would be insufficient since we’re new to the area; therefore, we wouldn’t have much of a draw. However, if we opened for a band that drew a lot of people, we could start seeing some cross-over fans, gaining more of a draw later on when we would be ready to headline our own gigs.
One of the first bands I asked was Timisarocker. Hailing from St.Paul, they are a local Punk Rock band that knows how to serve the genre justice. They got the punk spirit in spades, and I would’ve just DIED to open for them. I knew their bass player pretty well and the singer and I have bumped hallways in college (McNally Smith), so that – combined with their general awesomeness – made them one of the first bands I asked.
I was so surprised when they responded with a question. “You available December 12th?”
I was so stunned and happy that somebody gave me chance that I accepted right away without thinking. Hell yeah I’m available that day. If not, I’ll make myself available. It was only until after I clicked ‘send’ on the Facebook messenger that the terrible truth dawned upon me.
“…………oh shit, I don’t have a band to play my stuff!”
Funny how I said, “I have no band,” and the picture I post after it shows us looking so happy. That’s irony for ya!
My track record with keeping a steady group of guys as my core band has been very crappy to say the least. It’s nothing against the performance ability at all. Every time I’ve hired someone, they did their job in spades. They would always go above and beyond the call of duty. They would play their hearts out and play my songs correctly … for about one show.
I don’t know what it is, but the minute I mention that it’s a “solo-esque-project,” or “It’s a solo project that I want to expand into a band,” the musicians I asked to help me out think that they won’t get any creative input and that they’ll be reduced to backing musicians. That’s wrong!
The deal with The Owl-Eyes is that I’m just like the Foo Fighters when they started out. That entire first album was Dave Grohl’s. He played & recorded all the instruments. Then he had to get a group of guys together to help play the songs for that album in a live setting. At first, it was just a bunch of musicians learning his stuff. But later on down the line, collaboration did indeed occur.
And collaboration will eventually occur with The Owl-Eyes if musicians would just stick around for a few months to get the songs in my back catalogue down. Two EP’s, six tracks: that’s all really. Then once those are crystal, The Owl-Eyes would henceforth change from my solo project, to a BAND!
As of right now, I have not had ONE person sign up to stay on The Owl-Eyes permanently, due to the stigmata attached to the idea of the band being my “Solo-Project.”
MFW all my bandmates leave. LOL.
But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not mad at all. I get why the musicians turn me down for the second show. We are all highly motivated individuals who want to do our own thing. I can’t change that. The only thing I can do is just hope that eventually, I’ll find those individuals with that same passionate spark for the music that I enjoy (that we would enjoy together), and that we can kick things off and stay together for as long as possible.
And at the time of planning the gig, the only thing I could hope for was to piece together a group – FAST!
So, for you consideration: the bandmates for my latest show.
Lead guitarist: Treyton Craig
Rhythm guitarist: Andrew Dourgarian
And bassist: Mat Lentz
Strangely enough, finding a lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist was easy. The bass player was what had me banging my head against the wall. In a school with a BASS section, you’d think finding an available bass player would be a piece of cake. Sadly, no. Although I didn’t get a chance to meet ALL THE BASS PLAYERS (being that’s is college and all that) the many that I did talk to were either preoccupied with other projects, had an ensemble gig that night, or were not interested.
Thank the Lord that Mat Lentz agreed to help me out; even though he was working largely with another band at the time. To make matters worst, the dude had two weeks to learn my stuff (since all the other bass players dropped out around that time) and in that time, he came down with a sickness that would make Disturbed go, “whoa. Sh*t dude. You ned to lie down.”
I have to give him props. He gave his heart into all the practices. He came in looking like hell – snot dripping from his nose, beads of sweat showering down his lion’s mane of long hair – and even though during the end of every song at rehearsal he looked like he was on the verge of passing out, he insisted that I did my thing. He didn’t want his sickness interrupting the flow of practice. I originally had a room rented for 2 hours once, that I reduced to an hour because not only was he sick, but our lead guitarist had work that day.
What was his response?
“No dude, I’m fine. If you want to go on for two hours, I can totally pull that off.”
This coming from the guy that could hardly stand up at rehearsals cause he was so sick. Hats off man. I really couldn’t have done the show without him.
Speaking of hats….
The venue was called, “The Hat Trick Lounge.” Located just down the street from my dorms, the establishment was rather small. The stage couldn’t have been no bigger than two dorm room desks pushed together. But the room that the stage was located in was fantastic. The seating arrangement was perfect for the audience. And the bar had that old sports-bar feel that one would get watching a 70’s show re-run on TV Land. It seemed like some of those bars you’d find on the main strip in Nashville: the perfect place for a new band to start out.
The manager was fantastic and even let us sell merchandise at the place. His only request was that we played originals as he did not have the licenses from either ASCAP or BMI for covers.
After talking to Tim (leader of Timisarocker (get it?)), we got our set-list time: 30 minutes. 30 minutes, 5 songs, all originals, no problem.
The only tricky thing was deciding when exactly we were suppose to start. Although all the promo-posters said the show would start at 8:00, people were not showing up until 10 minutes later. We didn’t know if the gig that night was one of those scenario’s where the headlining act had the room for only a certain amount of time, or if we could chill for as long as we wanted. Not to mention that at every show I get really antsy. I’m pacing around the room, asking everyone if they’re having a good time, sweating, biting my nails – I’m such a wreck. And that night, it was only because, in the words of the Joker, it wasn’t “part of the plan.” The plan was 8:00. But we had to wait for more people to show up, and every minute past 8, I was wondering if we were taking to0 long or not; worrying what kind of impression I was giving off.
Thankfully, a lot of people started coming out after 10 minutes, and then we got on stage.
No live show goes without it’s mistakes. The genius of playing live is that nothing can go wrong on stage; unless you reveal to the audience that something did go wrong. The author is indeed his own worst critic in those types of scenarios. Half the people in the venue knew what I did (as a musician) but never listened to any of my stuff, and so it was their first time hearing the songs. With that in mind, based off the general interaction happening musically on stage, the energy we brought to the performance, and the killer tightness we had with the setlist order in general, I think we did a fantastic job on that aspect.
Where I start to believe we did not do so great involved technical problems, my vocal performance, and general song arrangement.
My face has that look of, “Oh sh*t. What broke now?”
The technical problems came about because of the mic stand I was using to sing and play drums. I decided to use a mic stand since my headset mic has sounded rather tin-y ever since I bought it. And it did it’s job well in capturing my voice. The problem was that it would swiveled out of the way every now and then – effecting my performance on drums.
Then there was distortion problems with the guitars. During the end of our song “Broken Strings,” we always switch back to a clean channel. But for some odd reason, our rhythm guitarist’s amp got stuck between two different modes of distortion, and it really muddied up the ending. Not to mention my vocals were starting to sound like sh*t at that point. Dylan, bass player for Timisarocker, said it best when talking about ‘Broken Strings.’
“It was like watching a song get progressively drunker and drunker as time went on; and the ending of the song is where it passed out.”
I couldn’t have agreed more. It also sucked that the wha-pedal part didn’t sound crisp enough during the show as it did in rehearsals. Again, I chalk it up to technical difficulties.
But the one thing that can’t be attributed at fault for technical problems (kind of) is my vocal performance.
All things considered, I kicked ass. Even most of the people after the show were astonished that I kept the songs in a good pitch while playing drums at the same time. It was only after reviewing video evidence that I realized where I screwed up.
I couldn’t find my pitch in certain spots.
And so, rather than trying to match my signing with the key of the melodies my band were providing (due to the fact that I had no monitor with guitars or bass behind me) I tried matching my pitch based off the memory of the key of the song.
The result was that of a demented, carney vendor from the 1920’s with that signature Newsflash warble. Had I been singing Dead Kennedy’s, my voice would’ve been perfect. The Owl-Eyes music? Not so much.
Dat face of, “Seriously, Ethan. Take vocal lessons.” Also….who’s that two-face man looking through the window.
However, this was only in a couple of spots (very noticeable spots, but only a couple of them), and for the most part, my vocal style fitted the songs. And, the audience was none-the-wiser, thinking that’s how I always sounded and loving it to death. At the end of the day, I say “ehh. I could’ve done better, but I did my best at the time.” The only thing I kick myself in the head over is knowing that some people left the show thinking that the voice I provided that night was how I always sounded. I’m usually a hundred times better.
But lastly, and most importantly, the major issue we faced was knowing where we were in our material.
To our credit, we pulled it off like it was all part of the show. But the nagging thoughts in the back of our head couldn’t let go of the fact that we totally f**cked up “Crazy Little Lady,” and “Broken Strings.”
Were we in the correct tuning and key? Absolutely! That’s why the audience had no idea. In their minds, it sounded like we were playing it correctly because we were in the right key.
But we were not tight with the arrangement at all.
That’s what I love about playing a song live; getting it as tight to the recording as possible. I have no problem at all with improvisation. But I feel it’s the responsibility of the band to get the song down as tight as possible before thinking about places where we can improvise. Since we only had two weeks, I wanted to basically stick to a script. No fancy stuff, just try to play as close to the recording as possible.
Sadly, that did not happen.
Our bass player (god bless him) brought up an idea too me at rehearsal. He thought the bass parts were not creative enough. Although the bass provided the rhythmic meat for the main melody line the rhythm guitar was playing, he brought it to my attention that when the bass and a 2nd guitar basically do the same thing “the audience gets bored.”
I totally agreed with him. I knew that he knew his keys inside and out and I gave him creative freedom for most songs to come up with original bass lines that worked with the key of the song. He’s got the type of mind that works better when you give him guidelines and not rules. Give him the box, and he’ll break out of it. Give him a circle, he creates the sphere. See what I mean?
But he performed original bass lines for other songs that, after rehearsal, I did not WANT him to try original bass lines out on.
The line he came up with for “Schizo Girlfriend,” was FANTASTIC! It added a whole new depth sonically to the song, while also driving the beat.
The line for “Crazy Little Lady,” however, f-ed us up left and right. The reason behind this is that the song has two distinctive hooks that almost never play at the same time (save for the intro and outdo). Coming out of every verse or chorus, he would play the wrong hook. Why? Because while lead guitar was bending the high strings, the second guitar was playing hook 2, and our bassist for the night thought that by playing hook 1, he’d add a harmonic texture in the song.
This blew up in our faces because our guitarists based their position in the song by what hook was being played. By playing the other hook, this confused the guitarists as to what exactly they were suppose to do in the song, resulting in sloppiness.
And that’s how our general song arrangement was f**ked for that night.
But overall, what would I say about the performance………..
Yeah, we kicked it’s ass hardcore.
The amount of fun we had on the stage was uncanny and infectious. The crowd cheered for every song (even the ones where I thought I didn’t sound as good as it could be) and they were thoroughly entertained.
Entertained being the key-word. In fact, that was what one of my friends commented on after the show. “Ethan, while I didn’t really understand you song writing choices, and while there were parts in the show where clearly you could see you guys screwed up some parts, you entertained us. You went out there with the sole mission of making sure everyone in the audience was having a good time. You came out there not as a musician, but as a entertainer, and you left us wanting more. That’s something that the industry is lacking these days, and that’s why I loved your performance.”
So yeah, 30 minutes, 5 originals, and we brought the house down in entertainment value.
The aftermath of the performance has me back to square one. Again, the musicians I had in my band that night parted ways as they wanted to go off and do their own thing. Some had a lot of work to do. Other’s had different notions in mind about what “The Owl-Eyes,” was exactly, and a conflict of interest arose. We parted cleanly though. No big fights or harsh words thrown in exchange: we simply wished each other the best of luck and headed on out.
I am sad that I can’t seem to get my sh*t together with forming a core group of guys. It seems like with every 5 steps forward I end up taking 6 steps back after hitting a brick wall.
But I look towards next year with a new-found confidence I never felt before writing this piece.
It dawned on me that now I know how EASY it is to get gig. So you’ll be seeing more of me, real soon. *wink wink*
And maybe at the next gig, I won’t be the drummer behind the curtain. LOL
P.S. Timisarocker and Madd Oso kicked major ASS!!! Their performances were tight and entertaining as well. If you live in the MN area, and see them playing near you, I’d highly recommend spending ungodly amounts of money to see them live and support their careers. We are the future of music; don’t let us fade. Support local music baby!!!
P.S.S. Video of our show will be released soon.