July 28, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Five months of music, three more shows

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.

NOTE: The " # " (hash) symbol indicates songs on which I used the harmonica along with the guitar.

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.

Bedlam Brewing #5

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-uenceSong titleGroupHarmonica? (key)
1Wild WorldCat Stevens
2The VoiceMoody BluesG
3Breathe In the AirPink FloydA
4TimePink FloydA
5Day After DayBadfingerBb
6The Old Man Down the RoadJohn Fogerty
7Standing On The RockOzark Mountain DaredevilsC
8I Walk the LineJohnny Cash
9Wicked GameChris IsaacsA
10Found Out About YouGin BlossomsG
11You've Got a FriendJames Taylor
12Carry OnCrosby, Stills, & Nash
13Norwegian WoodBeatles
14Pink HousesJohn Cougar Mellencamp
15Sugar MountainNeil Young
16Witchy WomanEaglesC
17StormyClassics IV
18Mrs. RobinsonSimon & Garfunkle
19AqualungJethro Tull
20Don't Stand So Close To MePolice
21Wild HorsesRolling Stones
22RefugeeTom PettyE
23Into the Great Wide OpenTom PettyG
24Only Want To Be With YouHootie & the Blowfish
25Piano ManBilly JoelC
26Tears In HeavenEric Clapton
27If You Wanna Get To HeavenOzark Mountain DaredevilsF
28Hotel CaliforniaEaglesG

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.

Shenandoah Brewing #2

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-uenceSong titleGroupHarmonica? (key)
1I Won't Back DownTom PettyG
2Stop Draggin' My Heart AroundStevie Nicks & Tom PettyG
3My Favorite MistakeSheryl Crow
4Hotel CaliforniaEaglesG
5Country GirlOzark Mountain DaredevilsG
6The Sound of SilenceSimon & Garfunkle
7Nobody Knows You When You're Down and OutEric ClaptonC
8The TeacherJethro Tull
9You've Got To Hide Your Love AwayBeatlesG
10Here Comes the SunBeatles
11The Last TimeRolling Stones
12MelissaAllman Brothers
13City of New OrleansSteve Goodman
14Proud MaryCreedence Clearwater Revival
15Never Goin' Back AgainFleetwood Mac
16With Or Without YouU 2
17Invisible SunPolice
18Space OddityDavid BowieC
19Tuesday AfternoonMoody BluesG
20Hey YouPink Floyd
21Comfortably NumbPink FloydA
22Dust In The WindKansasG
23Behind Blue EyesThe Who
24Outlaw ManEaglesG
25China GroveDoobie Brothers
26Constant Cravingk.d. langBb
27If You Could Read My MindGordon LightfootD
28Follow You DownGin BlossomsG
29Rhythm of LovePlain White T's
30Jackie BlueOzark Mountain Daredevils
31Bennie and the JetsElton JohnG
32Love Me DoBeatlesC

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.

Andrew at Shenandoah Brewing 27 Apr 2018

Yours truly at Shenandoah Brewing, April 27. Many thanks to Sue Buerkel (fellow parishioner at Emmanuel Episcopal Church) for taking photos of me.

More open mic appearances

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.

Bedlam Brewing #6

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-uenceSong titleGroupHarmonica? (key)
1Take It On the RunREO SpeedwagonG
3One of These NightsEaglesG?
4NoahOzark Mountain DaredevilsBb
5Here Comes the SunBeatles
6Summer BreezeSeals & Croft
7All You Need Is LoveBeatlesC
8You Can't Always Get What You WantRolling Stones
9Luckenbach, TexasWaylon Jennings
10Folsom Prison BluesJohnny Cash
11All Along the WatchtowerBob DylanE
12Mr. BojanglesNitty Gritty Dirt Band
13Kentucky Woman (Warbler)Neil Diamond
14Cinnamon Girl (Teal)Neil Young
15American Woman (Wigeon)Guess WhoE
16The ChainFleetwood Mac
17The Story In Your EyesMoody Blues
18Hold Your Head UpArgent
19DanielElton JohnC
20I'm Not In Love10 CC
21Hey YouPink Floyd
22Year of the CatAl StewartG
23Baker StreetGerry RaffertyC
24China GroveDoobie Brothers
25Barely BreathingDuncan Sheikh
26Mary Jane's Last DanceTom PettyG
27Hey JudeBeatles

Recent open mic appearances

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. smile

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!

Happy Birthday, America!

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.

Fritz Horisk, guitar - 4 July 2018

Fritz Horisk at the Happy Birthday, America 2018 event; roll your mouse over the image to see a closeup of The Master in action.

Whew! I am now officially caught up on blogging about music.