Friday, September 24, 2010

'Short, Sweet, and to the Song'

Wow, it's been a carnival of a week. (insert parking lot carnival music here) This is the week of The Escalante Arts Festival. I'm writing from the Cowboy Blues Bar and Restaurant, where I'm playing later tonight. It’s a big weekend for playing music. Along with the many 'jam' sessions this past week, I'm playing five different gigs this weekend. Today, we played on the main stage at 3p for the fest. I had Matt Thorn on guitar, Nate Way on mandolin, and a wonderful fiddle/violin player named Anastatia we just hired for this gig last night. She was great. With one hour of rehearsal, she picked up the ten or so songs we were playing, and did a beautiful job. It was a great set, except for a strange mistake on 'Ring of Fire', which I botched enough to be able to hear Johnny Cash groan from the hereafter, "Oh well, sorry Johnny," the vocalist laments. Even though I can do 'Ring of Fire' in my sleep, sometimes, well, sometimes things get a little weird. I 'G'ed' when I should have 'D'ed, and the car careened off the ledge. Sometimes you have your best stuff, and sometimes you don't.

I've noticed and said before, sometimes, even with the best preparation, things can still go wrong during the performance. For example, our third song in, a Tex-blues song called 'T for Texas', my b string broke near the end of the song. I've never broke a b string before, and although I've broken many a string in the years of playing, I've rarely broken one in performance. Matt Thorn stepped in and did one of his own songs, while I changed (under pressure) the string. Matt is a really great songwriter. Last week, as he was playing a song with his wife Vikki during a performance, I had that click in my head that says, "That's a hit song…" I used to get this same click with several of Camille's songs. I actually think my opinion is accurate, but for a song to become a hit, there are several more variables that have to happen in order for this to become a practical reality. Its difficult enough to write a song, but to get it to a place where it has the advantage of being listened to by the 'hitmakers', it is virtually impossible. Two nights ago, I was playing in Salt Gulch with a group of musicians. Standing right behind me was a woman I know who is not a musician, but is often at these jams. Because she was behind me, I could hear her quietly singing. The difference to me was that she was singing along with my songs, and she knew the words to all of them. For a songwriter, this is one of the little things that you watch for, or rather, listen for, to tell you something about whether a song has legs. I asked her how she knew the songs, she said, "I guess because I've heard them enough to remember them…" Of course, I always think the worse, I think, " If I've played these songs enough for this person to know all the words, I need to write some new songs…"

It's time to slog out to the truck and bring in the equipment, and start to set up. For your information, tonight's band will be another four piece, similar to the one we had today. I have to set up a PA system, four microphones, a guitar amplifier, and make sure the musicians are set up appropriately, (either to my right or left), so that if they need to 'see' what I am playing, they will be able to do so. It should be a lively night, as the town is full of people here for the festival. Anyway, a little taste of the recent events.

Thank you so much for the great comments and response to the last post, its always encouraging to hear from you. Have a great weekend, and just so you know, someone may know the words to all or one of your songs. Keep singing them.

12:38 am. Just got home from Escalante. If you've ever imagined it, or even wondered about this, there is a truly romantic feeling coming home from a gig late at night. It's especially true if your music rocked the house as we did tonight at The Cowboy Blues. When you drive into town late at night, you still have the post music buzz in the middle of your body, and it seems as if you are the only one up. You drive to the store room to unload a truck load of equipment, and the air is cool and crisp. You finish unloading, and remember there are a few twenties in your pocket from the tip bucket tonight, and you know tomorrow you'll have a little cash. You know that you will sleep tonight, because you feel good about how everything ended. One of the last things you do will be to walk into your little home with your guitar, and you think you might write a song tomorrow, and you honestly know that you can. Maybe you'll get a verse line tonight as you are falling asleep, or maybe, you won't make it past even thinking about it. It was okay, tonight, and it was working so well, maybe this music making life isn't so hard to imagine. It seems so possible right now, and the romance of it all is causing the stars to work a little harder to shine, and the moon, well the moon knows...

7 comments:

Connie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Connie said...

'T' For Texas ..gosh haven't heard that in ages..LOVE IT
Wish you'd youtube some of your songs--love to hear you do that one...glad you're keeping busy.
I'm sure the man in black just chuckled cause he had stuff like that happen to him to...goes with the territory((I can almost hear him say))..give Baby a hug from me..and an extra treat when she gets one.k..take care and keep on keepin on...I removed the first one cause I called baby-he...

Anonymous said...

Damn, home is where I want to be after reading this. Wish it wasn't so late and I'd gladly make the trip over the mountain. I need the Garfield County Liar to keep me informed of the happenings there. It's so good to hear you sounding so cheerful and positive. Have a splendid, fun evening.

Peace J.A.

Gerry said...

As long as you are playing music I know you are happy. Wish I was there to hear those songs tonight! The Westward Ho has been rocking. It's sometimes like riding a wild bronco, about bucks me off, but I still manage to hang in there with this bunch of wild crazies. Play one for me. I can't imagine your dad being any happier than with a son named Raymond Shurtz rocking the old hometown with music and song.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

Escalante is the place to be when the moon is high and the band on key (or not). Do you still have dancers? Anyone who has been there, misses those moments. I do love to her about them.

Chuckh said...

When I was drumming full time in a band, I used to wish I was the singer so I didn't have to schlep my drums and hardware. Some nights I'd just be so tired. It's different if you've written the songs and are the singer. I enjoyed playing out, but it can be a lot of work. I once tried to learn a bunch of songs as the singer and start a band but when I realized the amount of catch-up I had to do it just didn't seem feasible. Oh, well. Glad you had a great night. I can relate to that, too. Some of my most cherished memories are playing in a band.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a wonderful time in the old town that night. It brings be back to the old dances at the gym that we had such a great dancing time. Old Star Hall had some very good nights before it burned down. If there is one thing Boulder and Escalante know is to have fun...if they get a chance I guess they are still getting out there doing it. I am happy you had such a successful night. Naturually you'll need to write some new songs...all the time. ..Aunt Linda