Sunday, May 29, 2005

One more show for the road!

The past 48 hours have been a blur as we've worked on getting copies of clear blue trickling ready for this weekend's show. The drive out to Brooksville was pleasant, the weather was gorgeous, and the Hernando Art Festival was in full swing when we arrived and got settled in. Jae and I took note of the "fair food" that was all around us and dove right into a fried fish stand. We've had enough grouper now to last us through hurricane season.

We met one of the organizers, Brian, who booked us, and knew that we had two band ahead of us, so we kicked back and enjoyed the music. Weaksauce played reggae, and we met them coming in. The lead singer, Justin, was very cool as a person, a great vibe from the get-go, and then he was really great on-stage, great voice, solid bass player. The band overall was a lot of fun to listen to. 28 Gates followed, and they were solid as well - everyone in the band was quite impressed with the caliber of the bands on the bill. Somewhere during this set, we began gearing up for the show - so all was more a blur until we were on-stage. That happens, when we're ramping up for the set, everything that doesn't have to do anything with the music just floats away on the breeze. We were introduced by Patti, the lady who had been roped into emceeing for the day, and we kicked off a short set (my bad, I thought I got a signal) that got wonderful response. It never fails to get my heart pumping hard when I see someone nodding their head or tapping a foot or, my favorite, coming over and setting up one of those foldable chairs in a bag, which indicates that they have liked what they heard from afar and are coming closer to settle in for a spell. Love it love it love it!

Of course, the way we change gears, you're never guaranteed a style of music at any point, but hopefully they're staying for the overall effect, the stories, the celebration of musical diversity, the positivity, that's what we hope folks take with them (and a CD too.)

Everyone did killer - seems our tempos were a bit slow, but that could've been us vibing off of the crowd, mostly older folks who were drawn out by The Crests, who sang "Sixteen Candles" back in the day, and tore up a great set with some incredible singing and an old-time schtick that was refreshing. What an honor to open up for these guys!

So all said, Brian liked us and wants us to come back and do some other shows, which we'd be all about. We packed everything up, having sold our first copies of the disc, and headed back to Orlando, loaded what we wanted into the rehearsal space at Randy's house, and then sat around and talked, laughed, the usual. We have one more show, in Eustis in July, other than that, we're not booking any more shows for a while because we've all got a busy summer, but more on that later. This was a fun show and another big perk to being in this band. We see more neat things like this than your average bar band. That's a big blessing. We also met quite a few really, really cool people - Richard Bolack, who helped me with gear off the stage, how humble and humbling is that? Nate from 28 Gates, Justin from Weaksauce, all people that we had good long chats with, and it makes you just glow to know that there are people of this caliber all around you - it's encouraging when we come together and meet, add one more to the ever-growing number - increasing awareness of each other in the physical, getting a sense that what we dream of is not impossible, and that which we hope for is not unattainable.

With that - I'm off to celebrate my one year anniversary with Jae, in the place where we got married - Key West. Memory's of Memorial Day, sounds like a song, perhaps it will be written before too long......

Friday, May 27, 2005

One Step Closer

Mohave Headshot
Originally uploaded by dreadmon.
Well, we got together last night and popped in the CD for a collective listen, which was one of the scarier things I've done in my life. The entire recording process has been exhilerating for its highs and lows - highs in the realization that we were making such a great record, lows in knowing that I could've done a lot better at points, but I think there's some peace at last about that.

All in all, everyone seems very happy and proud - we've made notes about some tinkering that needs to be done, some volume adjustments here, a nip and a tuck there, but overall - we're behind it enough to duplicate some copies to take with us on this week's festival trip. We've decided to make this a special limited edition, numbered and signed, with an initial run of 50. This, until we get the actual record back from duplication.

For me, there was a severe learning curve during the course of recording, so some of my parts are better than others, in my opinion. Everyone else sounds great in that same opinion - isn't it funny how that works? I think it boils down to the fact that only you know what you were shooting for when you played or sung a note. So if you nail that note, you're happy. If you lost control and it ended up someplace else, you may not be so happy. The folks who had no idea what you were shooting for have to judge that music according to their own preferences. You can sing perfectly and still have someone hate your voice. Or you can sing like you've been gargling with razor blades chased by whiskey and cigarettes and earn a following that would make Bruce Springsteen blush. In realizing that - I'm trying to let go of the fact that I generally hate my voice and am terribly paranoid about it as I attempt to improve and better my control. The band has been amazing in encouraging me forward - part of my progress can be chalked up to being so comfortable around them (most of the time, when I'm not freak-spazzing out), which is key if you're going to stretch your wings, try new things.

Really, objectively, standing back from this project and listening to it as a whole, it's quite an amazing album, one that is unique, entertaining and a lot of fun, with just enough mystery to make people go "huh?" I'm very anxious to see what people think of it.

In the meantime, the pre-show crunch is on - today I'm printing out covers, burning CDs, making labels, while also balancing all the other stuff I've got going on (columns to write, interviews to transcribe, plants to water, floors to sweep, administration crap) so I can rest easy when Jae and I take off for Key West on Sunday. I don't want to think about NADA, you hear me? NO THING, ZIP, ZILCH! Wanna sit on a beach, look at the ocean, read a good book, PURGE!

And then, the game is afoot......

Thursday, May 26, 2005

clear blue trickling.....

....standing on the precipice.

Just a little nudging left and the first of two albums is ready for duplication! Tonight's rehearsal will be spent listening to our 49-minute mix to see what, if anything, needs to be nudged.

Schedules nearly stopped us from getting the record completed this week. Monday's final recording session ran longer than we expected, but we got a lot of work done, adding Clay's trombone part to "The Miner And His Music" along with fixing some of Bunky's parts and adding some of John's harmonies. The rest of the week was spent organizing the tracks and laying in audio snippets to set the "stage" for the album. I wanted to give weight to the sense of story that threads the two CD's together. Without having something as obvious as a libretto or narration, I chose to use a smattering (what a great word, smattering) of sound effects that would help listeners to visualize the times and places evoked through the songs. Some native Americans here, a little casino noise here, some well-placed outtakes and specially recorded sound effects have been laid into the fabric and altogether, it truly is a stunning soundscape!

Some of the newer sneak previews will be up soon - but I'm just glad we got this done before Satuday's show at Hernando. With such a big crowd there, we're sure to move a few discs!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Orange Blossom Music Festival

Orange Blossom Music Festival
Originally uploaded by dreadmon.
We bring the rain! Doesn't matter if we're playing the middle of the desert, it's guaranteed to rain if we're playing an outdoor show, and the OBMF was no exception. Started off as a beautiful, hot and sunny day - turned into a typhoon early in the afternoon, maybe not that bad. Bad enough to scare people off of making the drive to rural Deland where the festival was being held on private property.

There had already been massive drama involving the organizers, nearby neighbors, law enforcement and whatnot - it looked like the event would be cancelled, but thankfully everything fell into place by Friday. Still, the uncertainty combined with your typical month-of-May wetness made for a sparse crowd, not that anyone in the band seemed to notice. When things like this happen, we just keep smiling and partying; no exception in this case.

By the time we went on, there was a slim huddle of hardcore music fans gathered under the sound tarp. The rain, blowing sideways, began coating my amplifier pedalboard with water, which led to some small concern about electrocution, but we'd been in a number of wet situations, even involving crazy-ass lightning, but nothing shocking had ever happened. So, with a look around the stage at everyone, I carried us into the brief set, standing at the edge of the stage with torrents of water pouring down upon Halycon. I almost slipped and busted my ass on the slick stage surface a couple of times, but didn't go down, nor did I stop dancing about. Treat every show like it might be your last, that's my motto.

The small group loved us, we got much respect from some of the other bands that were around, snackdaddy, Verloren, The Goldminers, there were more musicians in the audience than anyone else, but musicians are people too, right?

I feel sorry for Phil and Dana, everyone who got behind the event, only to have Murphy's Law run a textbook version of a Day In The Life. They worked very hard to pull this thing off, and for all intents and purposes, they did just that - though the turnout was lower than they had hoped for.

It was still a swell party - Jae brought plenty of eats and drink, portable chairs, etc. The property was amazing, with all kinds of lakes, barn areas, trailways, orange groves and old buildings well-suited for band pictures. We got a bunch of really good ones that'll be used for our promo shots and also for the two records. We're looking forward to the Hernando Arts Fest, last year saw 20,000 people, or so someone told us - it still sounds like it'll be the first big festival of the season for Mohave!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Just around the corner...

The Orange Blossom Music Festival is going ahead as planned today, this is after some drama that ensued between organizers and neighbors to the property. Looks like our set time is staying at 8:30 pm on stage 2 and we're all looking forward to it!

Meanwhile, we're down to the wire on clear blue trickling, with one more session on Monday before we commit it to history. Band discussions are now focusing on strategies for promoting and marketing the records as well as how we'll spend our summer vacations. We'd like to work on developing our newer material as well as look at working with Natalie as a utility player (on violin, keyboards and vocals). We all agreed last night that we were due for a bit of a break, so June and July will see us performing less and rehearsing more.

Exciting times in the calm before the storm - because I feel that things are going to get whipped up into a frenzy here before too long. And given that it's been predicted Florida will once again be battered by hurricanes this season, it's probably a good thing to prepare well ahead of the game.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

I love this life!

The first show that we ever played in Englewood, Florida fell on the same day as some sort of typhoon, honest-to-God. Driving down there, you couldn't see twenty feet in front of you on interstate 75, the rain was coming down in chunks. I remember that it rained like that all the way, until we got into town, then it calmed down to a sprinkle. The organizers of the "Saturday Night Live" street festival were kicking back in some chairs near one of the store fronts; nobody else seemed to be around. I rolled down the window and indicated that we were the band. The store owners said that they'd still pay us, but that there was no need to set-up; no-one was there. They'd all been scared off by the squall that had blustered about all day.

"Well, we came to play," I said. "Might as well make it a private party."

And that we did. Set up in a section of the Cafe At Dearborn, we rolled out our tunes, drank sangria (served in, I kid you not, what appear to be fish bowls) and attracted enough stragglers to make it a right fine party indeed. The dear that owns the place, Norma, was very pleased by the turn of events, as was B.J. Teeple, the guy who booked us. Before we had finished the first set, B.J. was on the phone to Jae, booking us for another performance.

Englewood's a magical little town. Small. Quirky. But a good kind of quirky, like "Northern Exposure" kind of quirky, but not necessarily strange. The people are friendly, many of them artistic, and there's just a general energy, a vibration that we get when we roll over into city limits and onto Dearborn. Like the energy you can feel when crossing over from Stock Island to Key West, it's electric.

We returned for a second show, without chance of showers, and made a lot of new friends, which led to a third show, and a fourth. Yesterday's show was our fifth time performing at "Saturday Night Live" and while talking about some of these memories from that first gig with some of the residents, it became apparent to me that as a band, we had developed very nuanced relationships, not to mention history, with the town of Englewood. When B.J. was killed in a car crash last year, we all felt the impact, it was rippling all through the fourth show, which was quite the emotional one.

When we pulled up into the parking lot, Norma was about to leave, but stopped, open-mouthed, when she saw us pull in. Apparently, we were a surprise, because she had no clue that we were going to be the entertainment that evening.

"Oh my God, Mohave's here. I'm going to be busy! I've only got two servers!" she said with some concern. After a nice long hug, she quickly sped away in search of extra help for the evening, leaving Automatic and myself wrapped in a warm, afterglow sweater. I was humbled before Norma, it was such an incredible thing that she said, it almost didn't register. And so it went with all of the locals who made it a point to come over and let us know that they'd been seeing past performances. Call me a silly simpleton, but the idea of people coming to see your band multiple times is a real gobsmacker, it's stunning to conceive of - I'm happy if one person shows up, you know? And not only in Englewood, but in Sanford this past Thursday, everyone in the band has gotten some really, really incredible and generous compliments on the music, to the point where we were like "whooooa". You know?

It's the love like that which feeds every show, it is the reason for the playing, first and foremost a connection between me and the band, then a connection between band and audience, which leads to a connection of audience and world, it's a little rock in a huge pond with ripples flowing outwards as far as matter itself. I love love, I love this life!

The only bummer thing for me over the weekend was that Jae wasn't there, which is weird, not having her there for an away show. But she went on a little ocean getaway with some friends of ours, and it was a long time coming, so she had a great time - but I still missed her.

And now what?

Tomorrow or Tuesday, I'll go back in with Dave and continue the mixing process. Also, there's been some sort of re-orchestration of Orange Blossom Music Festival schedules due to some changes in plans overall, I believe no camping is allowed now, but more info can be found here. Far as I can tell, the music will go on as planned - I hope so! Nothing sucks worse than musicus interruptus.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Another Busy Week

Originally uploaded by dreadmon.
My son Vincent is moving back to California at the end of this month, so he's been going out on the road with the band for some more rock 'n' roll weekends. On his birthday last week, he got to go backstage at Hard Rock Live (an evening filled with excess, and a school-night to boot!) and then two days later, he was hanging with the band on our road trip to Ft. Lauderdale. At one point, I handed him the digital camera and told him to shoot whatever he felt like shooting, which brought about some experimental photos that show his budding skill as a photographer. The photo attached to this post, which I call "An angel on one shoulder, McDonald's on the other", is one of the best of the bunch.

He may or may not be heading down to Englewood with us this weekend for our sixth (seventh?) time playing the "Saturday Night Live" street festival. He requested to go, remembering how much fun the last time was (and how good the crab cakes at The Cafe On Dearborn were.)

Between now and then, we've got a show in Sanford on Thursday, with maybe a little mixing thrown into the mix during the day. I'm just slammed, slammed I tell you. "Slammed", I'll say again unto thee - but that's another blog altogether.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A weekend away

Back in the Land O' Orlando, chalk up another wandering weekend for the tribe as we tripped down to Ft. Lauderdale for a gig at Alligator Alley. Jae and I scouted the place out while returning from Coral Gabels and the Titanic Brewery show, so we knew exactly where it was and how close our hotel would be. The El Palacio was a nice joint, a renovated old place with one of those really deep pools and purple and blue neon roped around the edges of the buildings, which were fitted with all kinds of Italian Renaissance decorum, stone columns, statuary, fountains, etc. It was like staying at the Italy Pavilion in Epcot.

The gig was fun, the food was great! I guess you could call the menu "everything gator" because that's exactly what was represented. If you wanted gator, it could be fixed up for ya in any way, shape or form you desired. As a practicing vegetarian, I was delighted to find a veggie jambalaya offered, and the buffalo shrimp were a nice kick-off to the evening. A very nice guy by the name of Jack Barnes opened up for us, playing a 40-minute set of acoustic guitar music. Then we took the stage and, without a set-list (as has been our custom of late), threw down one of the best sets in recent memory. Everyone was in-tuned to each other and Kilmo, the owner and sound guy (also a musician), set it up so that we could hear what we needed to hear through the monitors (the Mackie's that we've come to adore whenever we see them there on the floor). We expected Jack to come back up and play during our break, but Kilmo figured that he was too mellow for the crowd, who responded well to our fired-up antics, so we went back up and really poured on the juice. The response was fantastic, the audience really paid attention to what we were doing, and the comments we got midway through the evening during our break were very encouraging. Kilmo loved us and already wants us back, which is what we like to hear - especially in a place where everyone seems to love music so much, that that's what the conversations were all about around the fringes of the night - what they'd heard and where they heard it. It's immensely satisfying to think that music lovers of this caliber would be buzzing about Mohave in the weeks to come!

Our server, Tiki, was a doll - with her H.R. Giger tattoo and dreads - the place was just really nifty and everyone had a good time.

Now, back to the drudgery of the day-to-day.......

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Last night, the band, significant others and a newcomer converged on Richter Records for a "Sushi & Sake Session", intended to be a sort of tidying-up session, recording the parts remaining for disc one and listening to the mixes to get an idea of what we'd like to do with them. My first idea was to axe the awful vocal on "Down To Earth", which turned out to be the first electric moment of the evening. For me, the learning curve on this album has been huge - there's nothing like sitting alone in a recording booth with you, yourself and Jah, staring your audio likeness in the face and struggling with the concept. The existing take on "Down To Earth", in my opinion, was stale - not technically good enough and majorly lacking in emotional bells. I wanted one take to make another run at it.

Pouring my all into it, the result was a take I'm happy with, though my impassioned shriek at the end left many in the band, as Jae put it, "disconcerted." Why so? J.D. was first out of the box saying that he didn't like it, especially when I added a second track of insane screaming/moaning. The atmosphere in the room seemed to be "ew, we don't like it" (although Bunky said she dug the intensity) But, like another infamous screamer, Howard Dean, it was the passion of the moment that carried the boat. Everyone seemed to relax though, when I mentioned that the two scream tracks would be buried low in the mix, ala Roger Waters, awash with effects so that the insanity of it carried, but not the tonality. Even Randy admitted that it sounded cool, though I could see that he was desperately trying to reduce its impact in the recording. Sure, some people can't handle stuff that puts them on edge - but the passage, the experience of recording what I told the band was the best pass I'd ever had at the song, was a cathartic one, and representative of my life in general - most of my emotions repressed because the average person wouldn't be able to handle them. I'm too safe with my performances of the music sometimes, and that safety dulls whatever edge I possess. Do I want to turn Mohave into an edgy, hard-to-swallow band? Of course not. Do I want to throw in elements of aural terror to sort of keep people on alert? Only if the song calls for it - and this song (I asked J.D. if he knew what it was about, that got no answer) really calls for some thinly masked insanity. Read the lyrics here. (Hint: It may seem pretty innocent on the surface, but the subplot really has to do with drugs - the girl wants to be "on top of the world", as high as she can be, while the guy wants to be "down to earth", preferring the mellow high of pot. There, you can see where the conflict, and resultant tortured scream would come from. Our songs, as J.D. puts it, are so deep sometimes!)

We mixed through "Positive Vibes" and "Come On With Me" before Natalie Wright arrived. She was recommended as a violinist over a year ago and I had actually seen her perform with Backhouse Secrets a couple of times, so I knew she had the "Wright Stuff." (Oy-vay!) So, I wrote a classical violin part for "Cuckoo Tom" and sent it to her - two days later, she walks into the studio and plays it, just like that.

Not only did she play the part, she was filled with alternatives, offering up different approaches to the lines, a turn here, a glissando there, very professional and confident while maintaining a down-to-earth (there it is again) vibe that fit in well with the rest of us. Randy, having to get up early for work, cut out before she really got into recording, but the rest of the band, and Jeff, Bunky's husband, were all amazed at her talent, and relished each performance, every take. (Bunky's comment of the evening was "can we keep her?") We're already talking with Natalie about recording some other parts on the album and so far, having polled the band, it looks like everyone would love to work on some material with her. Since she's not currently gigging much, it's the kind of opportunity that presented itself when I first saw Bunky jamming with the Riverbottom Nightmare Band (Dave's group, and he was quick to get Natalie's contact info, with plans for her to do some fiddlin'.)
I saw in her eyes a definite passion for her music and she spoke a little bit about a desire to be challenged, a hunger to expand her horizons. We like that.

Bunky, by the way, wrassled up an amazing buffet for us, making homemade sushi, egg rolls (meaty and non-meaty, for yours truly), carting along a sake kettle to keep libations hot and providing sinfully good choco cream pufferies that had everyone saying "no no no no okay one more." Many thanks to the Bunkster for taking care of us, because after all "food is love!"

We've still got a while to go before the first record is done, but David is confident that it will be all zippy from here. I had mentioned that it would be great to have the album finished by May 28th, when we appear at the Hernando Arts Fest, in front of thousands of people. It would be a great place to start selling the CD. Jae thought that was ambitious, David could swing either way, Randy felt we could definitely pull it off, I'm prepared to work double time to help fund it. It's really, really shaping up to be an incredible record and we're only halfway through the journey. Feels good.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Album Art

cbt album cover
Originally uploaded by dreadmon.
While we're still waiting to get a new band photo taken, here is the latest concept for clear blue trickling.

I haven't started on the inside yet - but that depends on what we keep as the final selection of songs. Any comments are welcome and encouraged!

Whole Lotta Work

Hello blog-readers - be sure to check out Bunky's blog as she's the second most prolific blogger in the band (two guesses as to who's first.)

This weekend's show brought me to the point where it's clear just how much work being in a band really is. After helping J.D. and Erica move during the day on Saturday, I got in about an hour's worth of sleep before heading out to do the gig at Calico Jack's. After a minor snafu with the p.a., we tore into two solid sets of music. It was decided earlier in the day that we'd begin our journey into a new blend of styles on this evening, so I brought along my Roland Fantom keyboard and intended to use it for a couple of jams. Now, though dulcimer is an instrument with which I'm comfortable on-stage, the synthesizer is truly an axe that allows me to express myself easier, since it has all the notes necessary to form any emotion. Its sequencer is also pretty powerful and it became the root rhythm for one extended jam that led into "The Angle" with me calling out the chord changes. We couldn't get the sound through the p.a., but it still came out pretty loud. I also did a little piano jamming on "Caught."

It was a bit of a rough night for everyone, I gleaned from conversations afterwards. So-called "real life" was hard to banish on this night, apart from being physically tired, mentally we were pretty worn out, but we managed to steamroll ahead with a typically lively show and got a lot of really nice comments from folks in between sets and after the final song.

I circulated a proposed cover for clear blue trickling, which was met with some enthusiasm, though I wish I could've gotten a clearer picture. We're in the final stretch for working out the production, so this week will see our guest stars coming in to lay down tracks and I'm putting together some soundscapes here at Dark Studios that David will be able to incorporate into the final project. Wednesday is our "Sushi and Sake Session", where a good portion of everything will fall into place. I've always said that recording an album is a make or break deal - either the band emerges more fully formed and stronger, or the line-up changes or the band breaks up. Though it's a joy, the recording of an album is a stressful proposition, not only because of the physical strain, but the mental strain of looking at yourself (or listening at yourself) in the clearest mirror possible and confronting the essential truth about who you are and how you're perceived, not only by others, but by YOU. If you hate your voice, chances are that this will not only not change, but you may hate it even more when all is said and done. Or you can simply let go and love your voice, which in the purest form of love, acceptance, allows you to get on with expressing and caring not what others are thinking aesthetically.

It's tough. But I'm dealing with it.