July 28, 2018
Once again, I am struggling to get caught up with my documenting my varied activities. Obviously, music has consumed a great deal of my time over the past year (or two!), getting in the way of blogging about various topics, such as -- ironically -- music! I try to keep track of which songs I have played in public, so that I don't repeat myself, and this blog is my primary way of doing that. But since I have dithered for so long, I have lost track of things in the five months since my last music blog post on February 28. Whenever I do a music show, I make meticulous plans for what I'm going to play, and make note of any changes or omissions afterwards. But for the informal open mic events in which I participate, it's a hit or miss situation. I often jot down on paper what songs I plan to play, and sometimes I post my mini-set lists on Facebook afterwards. In some cases it was quite a challenge to reconstruct my set lists, and I have made note of those dates on which some uncertainty exists. (The following paragraphs and setlists are in chronological order, with the open mic events interspersed among my own shows.)
At Queen City Brewing on March 28, I attempted some rather challenging songs that I had recently learned, with mixed results. Having missed open mic for three straight weeks, I was a little rusty. I started off with the Beatles' "Penny Lane," which was never really a favorite of mine, but as often happens, I came to appreciate it more through the process of learning how to play it. Aside from all the sound effects, it has some offbeat key changes which were highlighted in a video that I saw (and shared) on Facebook last year. (See it for yourself at culturesonar.com.) The guy who explains that song made a big deal about one particular chord that defines the mood of the song, which he claims is a B minor 7, but I think it's a G major 7! What's more, the host of the open mic events, Fritz Horisk, agrees with me, so that must count for something.
At Queen City Brewing (henceforth "QCB") two weeks later (April 11), I began by hailing the onset of baseball season with "Talkin' Baseball," that corny but pleasant paen to Our National Pastime that came out in the early 1980s. I then called attention to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by playing a Neil Young song which is the English translation of Zuckerberg's German name. With empty slots that evening, we had time to do extra songs, and the next four I did were all repeats that I am familiar with. But the final one was a bit of a stretch: "Africa," by the group Toto. I learned it a long time ago, but it has some rather challenging jazzy chord sequences and a unique rhythm. The drums played by percussionist Craig Austin were especially helpful on that song, which actually sounded pretty good.
On April 19 I went to the open mic (a.k.a. "open mike") event at Barrenridge Vineyards for only the second time this year. I felt pretty comfortable doing some rather challenging songs, and I did a live rehearsal of "Wild World" in preparation for my big show on the following night.
April 20 marked my return to Bedlam Brewing after a five-month hiatus; see my December 31 post for a review of my previous show there. I was very happy to see many of my friends there, and it was a nice-sized crowd overall. I started off with some songs that I had learned recently, and with a couple exceptions, I played very cleanly. I was especially proud of having mastered "Wild World" (Cat Stevens), especially the descending-note sequence in each refrain. Among the surprises I unleashed upon the audience were "Aqualung" (Jethro Tull) and "Don't Stand So Close To Me" (Police). I did OK on "Wild Horses," but have since decided that the original key (A minor) is a bit high for my voice, so I have started playing it in G minor instead. I was very happy with how that evening went.
|Seq-uence||Song title||Group||Harmonica? (key)|
|1||Wild World||Cat Stevens|
|2||The Voice||Moody Blues||G|
|3||Breathe In the Air||Pink Floyd||A|
|5||Day After Day||Badfinger||Bb|
|6||The Old Man Down the Road||John Fogerty|
|7||Standing On The Rock||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||C|
|8||I Walk the Line||Johnny Cash|
|9||Wicked Game||Chris Isaacs||A|
|10||Found Out About You||Gin Blossoms||G|
|11||You've Got a Friend||James Taylor|
|12||Carry On||Crosby, Stills, & Nash|
|14||Pink Houses||John Cougar Mellencamp|
|15||Sugar Mountain||Neil Young|
|18||Mrs. Robinson||Simon & Garfunkle|
|20||Don't Stand So Close To Me||Police|
|21||Wild Horses||Rolling Stones|
|23||Into the Great Wide Open||Tom Petty||G|
|24||Only Want To Be With You||Hootie & the Blowfish|
|25||Piano Man||Billy Joel||C|
|26||Tears In Heaven||Eric Clapton|
|27||If You Wanna Get To Heaven||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||F|
Back at the QCB open mic night on the following Wednesday (April 25), I paid tribute to the the Don Felder / REO Speedwagon / Styx concert that Jacqueline and I saw on April 4. (Felder used to be lead guitarist with the Eagles.) As I noted in my July 19 post, it inspired me to learn a few "new" songs, but I only did one of those this time: "Lady." It was OK, but I should have done better. I closed with John Fogerty's baseball tune "Centerfield," which has some tricky lead parts; at least I did better on it than I had before.
On April 27, exactly one week after my show at Bedlam, I had my second gig at Shenandoah Brewing in downtown Staunton. Unlike my previous show there (February 17), the weather was fine. My hopes for a big turnout did not pan out, however, as only a modest number of folks showed up. Almost all of the songs were ones I had known for a while, and as always, I strove to avoid repetition. I got off to a pretty good start and was pleased to do well on "Here Comes the Sun" (Beatles) and "The Last Time" (Rolling Stones), but some of the later songs just didn't have the "punch" that they should have. I played for almost a half hour beyond the expected two-hour time slot (8:00 - 10:00), feeling obliged to make up for getting full pay after the previous event in spite of the (weather-induced) low turnout.
|Seq-uence||Song title||Group||Harmonica? (key)|
|1||I Won't Back Down||Tom Petty||G|
|2||Stop Draggin' My Heart Around||Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty||G|
|3||My Favorite Mistake||Sheryl Crow|
|5||Country Girl||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||G|
|6||The Sound of Silence||Simon & Garfunkle|
|7||Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out||Eric Clapton||C|
|8||The Teacher||Jethro Tull|
|9||You've Got To Hide Your Love Away||Beatles||G|
|10||Here Comes the Sun||Beatles|
|11||The Last Time||Rolling Stones|
|13||City of New Orleans||Steve Goodman|
|14||Proud Mary||Creedence Clearwater Revival|
|15||Never Goin' Back Again||Fleetwood Mac|
|16||With Or Without You||U 2|
|18||Space Oddity||David Bowie||C|
|19||Tuesday Afternoon||Moody Blues||G|
|20||Hey You||Pink Floyd|
|21||Comfortably Numb||Pink Floyd||A|
|22||Dust In The Wind||Kansas||G|
|23||Behind Blue Eyes||The Who|
|25||China Grove||Doobie Brothers|
|26||Constant Craving||k.d. lang||Bb|
|27||If You Could Read My Mind||Gordon Lightfoot||D|
|28||Follow You Down||Gin Blossoms||G|
|29||Rhythm of Love||Plain White T's|
|30||Jackie Blue||Ozark Mountain Daredevils|
|31||Bennie and the Jets||Elton John||G|
|32||Love Me Do||Beatles||C|
I don't like to make excuses for not performing well, but it happens that on April 27 I was obliged to accept an assignment on short notice as a substitute teacher, which left very little time or energy for me to practice that day. I was frankly a little rusty on some songs, and in some cases my voice faltered. For anyone who gets paid to play music, such lapses are almost inexcusable. The upshot is that I'm not likely to get another solo gig at Shenandoah Brewing in the near future.
For some reason, my recollections of QCB open mic nights in May are a bit foggy. I'm almost certain I was at the May 9 event, and I clearly recall "Abraham, Martin, and John" (Dion), about three martyred leaders in the United States: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy. I remember when that song came out in 1968, and how they added a fourth verse after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated on June 5 that year -- half a century ago! These are the songs that I probably played:
Likewise, I'm almost certain I was at the May 16 QCB event. I thought "Hold Your Head Up" (Argent) sounded fine, but it just didn't elicit as much crowd response as I had hoped. You never know. These are the songs that I probably played:
On May 23 at QCB, the slate was fairly full, so we only got to do four songs each. As is often the case, I strove for "topical" songs, touching on (respectively) the weather, a new restaurant in Staunton, the end of the school year, and (implicitly) drug abuse. (I am certain about these songs, by the way.) I thought I had learned to play "Mr. Bojangles" (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) many years ago, but only recently did I figure out the right way to play the whole thing. It sounded just great, and School's Out" (Alice Cooper) was OK.
On May 25 I had my sixth show at Bedlam Brewing (hard to believe), nearly one year after my first show there. For some reason, I wasn't at my best for some of the early songs, such the "bird medley" songs I had done for the Augusta Bird Club in December 2016: "Kentucky Woman / Warbler," "Cinnamon Girl / Teal," "American Woman / Wigeon." Gotta practice more. Nevertheless, I got better during the second half of the show. The crowd was appreciative, applauding several times, and one guy sitting at the bar was especially happy with the song selection.
|Seq-uence||Song title||Group||Harmonica? (key)|
|1||Take It On the Run||REO Speedwagon||G|
|3||One of These Nights||Eagles||G?|
|4||Noah||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||Bb|
|5||Here Comes the Sun||Beatles|
|6||Summer Breeze||Seals & Croft|
|7||All You Need Is Love||Beatles||C|
|8||You Can't Always Get What You Want||Rolling Stones|
|9||Luckenbach, Texas||Waylon Jennings|
|10||Folsom Prison Blues||Johnny Cash|
|11||All Along the Watchtower||Bob Dylan||E|
|12||Mr. Bojangles||Nitty Gritty Dirt Band|
|13||Kentucky Woman (Warbler)||Neil Diamond|
|14||Cinnamon Girl (Teal)||Neil Young|
|15||American Woman (Wigeon)||Guess Who||E|
|16||The Chain||Fleetwood Mac|
|17||The Story In Your Eyes||Moody Blues|
|18||Hold Your Head Up||Argent|
|20||I'm Not In Love||10 CC|
|21||Hey You||Pink Floyd|
|22||Year of the Cat||Al Stewart||G|
|23||Baker Street||Gerry Rafferty||C|
|24||China Grove||Doobie Brothers|
|25||Barely Breathing||Duncan Sheikh|
|26||Mary Jane's Last Dance||Tom Petty||G|
Back at Queen City Brewing on May 30 I did one of my occasional "curve balls," songs that you just wouldn't expect to be played by a solo acoustic guitarist: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," by BTO. I had only recently learned it, and was surprised how authentic it sounded simply by using the capo on the third fret. I also alluded to the raging controversy over racist comments by comedian Roseanne Barr by playing the Toto song "Rosanna."
On June 13, I started with a reference to the (very wet) weather once again, with the second song coming next in my repertoire's alphabetical order. I closed with one of my very favorite songs, "Hey Jude," which I had hoped to play two weeks earlier, but the schedule was filled up. It sounded good, and I made sure to shorten the extended second half of the song ("Na, na-na, na-na-na-nah...") to just a few repetitions, and Fritz appreciated that.
On June 20, I was a little flat on the first couple songs but then got better. As I recall, I played the theme from M*A*S*H and "Iris," a song by the 1990s group Goo Goo Dolls. That's a decade that often gets overlooked by rock music aficionados.
I was raring to go on June 27, doing just fine on three "new" songs as well as one ("Harvest Moon") on which I had muffed the harmonica part the first time I played it at QCB. This time it sounded just great. On the first song, "The World I Know," I called attention to the fact that it has virtually identical chords to "Iris," the final song I had played the week before. Imitation? The final song, "Locomotive Breath" was another of my surprise tunes, and it went pretty well in spite of the fact that I had just learned it. I've gotten even better on it lately.
There was no open mic night on the Fourth of July, because of the big event taking place at the park nearby; see below. At the next QCB open mic night (July 11), I gave Fritz a CD full of photos I had taken of him on July 4, and played yet another challenging Beatles tune. Fritz was impressed.
Unfortunately, on "Long Road Out of Eden," I forgot to use the harmonica, which serves for me as the lead guitar part. I missed the following two open mic nights at Queen City Brewing (July 18 and 25), so I really need to get back there soon!
For the second year in a row, the City of Staunton put on a big "Happy Birthday, America" celebratory event in Gypsy Hill Park. They always have a big fair in that park on July 4, but last year they brought back one of the old traditions from the days when the Statler Brothers ruled the musical universe in this area. Headlining the event was the country music duo Wilson Fairchild, consisting of the sons of two of the "Statler Brothers": Wil Reid and Langdon Reid, the respective sons of Harold Reid and Don Reid. (Statler is just a stage name.) One of the featured musicians that afternoon was none other than Queen City Brewing open mic host Fritz Horisk, and I was glad to oblige his request for me to take photos of him performing. Fritz played an amazing set of songs from every genre, paying tribute to various states such as John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads," as well as his own very nice composition "I Love America." Before Fritz got started, I saw a group called Prime playing classic rock tunes, including "China Grove" (Doobie Brothers). They were very good as well.
Whew! I am now officially caught up on blogging about music.