Who could have known that after my night in the smokey room the voice I would lose would be this one, rather than my physical one?
The last week has been an awesome proof-of-concept that I truly am living a duality of professional and musician, which is something I’ve wanted for myself for many years.
It has also illustrated that I a wee bit over-extended, and that after blogging the next thing I have to sacrifice to keep things up and running is my own sanity – not necessarily a bad thing, but not always a practical choice.
So, here’s essentially a week full of posts, because I really don’t have enough time or willpower right now to go back and post them all to the days they ought to have been posted on.
Wednesday. The story starts ten days ago, when I took the day off from work to record a new Live @ Rehearsal disc with Gina.
We had plans to just hit the four songs we had never recorded, but we wound up with eleven, including one I didn’t plan to record, three oldies we took random (successful) shots at, and three of our most frequent covers. Of the eleven I only discarded two for being a little subpar, which meant I had nine songs to mix and master and six days to do it.
Thursday. I could have just locked myself in the house and mixed for a week, but I had so many other plans that I was hesitant to sacrifice. Plan #1 involved dashing out of the house still chewing the last bite of my dinner to leap into the car of Mike from Shackamaxon, who organizes an amazing Philly Songwriters In The Round concert once a month at The Auction House in Audubon, South Jersey.
I attended to have a chance to see Mike and support his event, but I came away a huge fan. Mike’s trio of ITR artists were the increasingly national John Francis, Joshua Britton of melancholy favorite Sweetheart Parade, and one unknown quantity – Mike Baker of The Spinning Leaves.
I couldn’t get a read on Mike Baker in the car on the way to the show, and when I asked host-Mike what kind of music to expect from him I effectively heard “you’ll see.” And, see I did. And hear. Mr. Baker is an absolutely gem – a treasure of the Philadelphia scene. His stuff swung from key-shifting freak folk to lilting murder ballads to an impromptu, note-for-note take on “Paranoid Android” (with the other gentlemen completing the verbatim arrangement acappella). He also added harmonica wailing and pitch-perfect harmony to the songs of his compatriots.
Auction House features Philly Songwriters In The Round once a month, and if this one was any indication it’s always an amazing evening to drop $7 on.
Friday. So, despite my dire post about smoke inhalation, this was actually an amazing concert. I’m shocked again and again by the depth of talent in the Philadelphia music scene – you can hit a show full of people you’ve never heard of and wind up seeing some of the best musicians in the city, and you can probably replicate that experience multiple times a week, because Philly has that many amazing musicans.
Friday’s show was sponsored and anchored by The Spinning Leaves, who were every bit as great as Mike’s Thursday performance presaged – paired with his female half the band sounds like Arcati Crisis through a filter of Devendra Barnhart. However, I was equally delighted by Joshua Park’s melodic blues, and absolutely entranced by the sparse arrangements and killer fretwork of Chris Kasper, who at one point was joined on harmony by Adrien Reju – one of the Philly acts I have been the most delinquent in catching.
(I sadly missed Tin Bird Choir due to my smoke-induced illness, but I definitely plan on seeing them in ’09 – boy/girl acts are hard to come by!)
Saturday. After a quiet day Elise and I ventured out to catch the 2nd Annual PhilACappella – one of three yearly acappella concerts organized and hosted by The Drexel Treblemakers.
I was around at the outset of the group in 2001 when they hurriedly threw three songs together for their debut at the concert of another group. I’m so, so, so very gratified that in 2008 the group is over a dozen singers strong and full of amazing frontwomen who give the original artists runs for their money on songs like “Grace Kelly,” “Disturbia,” “Torn,” and “Dream On” (yes, Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” One of the best acappella performances I’ve seen in my life.)
The girls also debuted my arrangement of Paramore’s “That’s What You Get,” which still needs a bit of retooling before it’s as awesome as the rest of their rep. I still have machinations of doing a Rilo Kiley song for them, but cannot decide between “Portions for Foxes” and “Breakin’ Up.”
As a concession to my wiped-outedness, I missed the CD release party of Katie Barbato’s band The Sleepwells. I adore Katie and I’m so thankful for how hospitable she has been to me and my music in 2008. I definitely have to make up for my missed appearance by seeing another few shows of hers in ’09.
Sunday. Gina’s father-in-law Larry recently passed away.
I wasn’t especially close with him – I had met him at the holiday revue we’ll be playing tonight for the sixth year, and when we moved Gina and Wes into their house in 2007, plus a few other occasions. But, I very much liked him, and I expected he and his wife Joan would become a part of my extended family in the same way Gina’s parents indisputably are.
In lieu of a funeral, per Larry’s express wishes he had a wake at his favorite bar, full of food and drink, friends and family, and his favorite local live music. Throughout the day people from every corner of his life stood up to share a few words – not just extended family, but bands he had booked, scuba-diving buddies, former employees, and people he met while campaigning for Obama earlier this year.
Late in the proceedings Gina and I took the stage for an impromptu performance, offering our cover of Neil Young’s “Pocahantas.” Afterward Gina and Wes covered Neil’s “Helpless,” which I heard for the first time right hear on CK in 2003.
In the midst of sorrow for our loss, during that performance I found joy. In his passing Larry gave us all this amazing day, introducing every important person in his life to each other. More personally, he emphasized to me that I have been doing the right things with my time, because the bonds of music and friendship can last the length of a life and beyond.
I have to burn another sixty copies of our new demo CD and figure out a way to look attractive while Gina and I are acting as the holiday revue house-band in less than six hours. Oh, and my groomsmen just called to tell me they are kidnapping me right now to get fitted for tuxes.