So tonight we're playing the Capps Club in Kenmore. And like always, I want to share a little bit of love with you all. I want to tell you a little bit about the musical giants on stage with me.
Dan Nunnbecomes the bass. Seriously, give him a few songs to warm up and get into the groove, and then sneak a peek. When his eyes go far away and his body gets into the beat, he's just... he's gone, man. The music has him now. My favorite consistent examples of this are either the ending to Hold Your Head Up or the entirety of Heartshine, which is a driving, grooving song in which the bass really shines.
At the end of Hold Your Head Up, the bass leads the whole band into playing the same bars over and over, faster each time. The idea is that the song progressively spins itself out of control, and (like most things) it's the bassist's job to keep the band in-line and cut the song off before everyone loses time. Let me say this bluntly: most bassists wouldn't be able to do that. At the same time, Dan is monitoring the tempo of four instruments while slowing cranking the dial up on the rhythm for it all. Before anyone makes Mistake One, but only just before, Dan nods off the ending to Kevin and the song ends at its most intense. I swear every time it gets a little faster before it ends, too.
One more thing about Dan. He's a ninja. Seriously. There's video evidence of this right now. In the Lewiston Unplugged show, we've posted the video for Heartshine. At the end of it, Dan literally climbs out of his seat and he's grooving along right next to me. I have no idea of this until I happen to turn my whole body (my hair works really well as blinders). You can see me jump when I see that he's so close. He's usually smiling onstage, too, which for some reason made it scarier that time. This still happens, by the way. If you're at a show and you see Dan creeping up on me, I'll give you 50/50 odds that I haven't noticed and I'm about to be startled.
John Trytek. He hates the term "rock star," but there aren't a whole lot of other ways to describe the quintessential musician. It's hard to describe, but he's got this smooth and steady presence that puts the normality into just about any situation. He's meticulous and thoughtful, which you can see in his groove onstage. Laser focused until he's got the sound dialed in just the way he likes it (and he's frequently the "last man standing" at sound check, making sure each of his guitars is set up to his standards). Once he's satisfied that his tone is solid, you watch him start dancing and really letting go.
A few weeks ago we played the Tulalip Casino. The event was sold out and the show went very well. Four bands total, each of them friends. And in a full weekend of playing music with friends, one of my favorite memories of that day was warming up in one of the green room (green spaces?) with John. I had my earbuds in and was singing along to my warmups, so I needed a quiet space. With four bands milling around, peace and quiet were hard to find. For his part, John needed relative quiet to tune and set up his acoustic. Somehow John and I sequestered ourselves in this one room and found some modicum of sanity and got our instruments in order. I don't even think we said more than a few words to each other, come to think of it.
John has the best stories to tell. As a lifelong musician, he's got the most sordid tales from all walks, and he can somehow recount them with such precision you can feel you were there. I swear I can tell you so much about 1981 now, just from John's stories. He can actually provide a lot of context for lyrics as well, sometimes cos he was there when the real lyrics were written! Wild times, from what I gather. ;)
Michael Daly. This man is your chance to see a virtuoso in the true and technical sense of the word. True brilliance and an enduring fire are harnessed into musical energy, and it seems to be the most magical outlet. I get the sense that Michael (do forgive me if I get it all wrong, Mike) has this burning passion, genius, magic, or all three, right at the core of his soul. And it won't let him rest or be content with his immense achievements. He's always working, improving, learning. You ever get like, really into something and you kind of find yourself manic about reading more, learning more, discovering more? It's almost like Michael is just... that way, but all the time. I never catch him daydreaming or staring off into space. He's always present, focus, here. Clear-eyed and genuine smile.
Michael puts his faith forward first, and let me tell you, people. I think I've learned more about strength of character from Michael in these last few months than I have ever before. I don't mean the phony smiles and "I'll pray for you" sort, either. Nothing about this guy is fake. In the cynical and affected world of rock music, it takes Balls to be open about your faith. But Michael is a religious leader, first and foremost. Remember all that musical talent and magic? That's not even his primary focus.
Let me tell you, conflicts arise on the road. Not often, but it happens. Could be between the band and the bookers, the venue owners, the sound and lighting techs, or even stagehands. We all try to be accommodating, but misunderstandings come up just by the nature of the fact that there are twenty-something people all working toward one goal and all used to calling their own shots. Conflicts happen. And when they do, I want nobody in my corner more than Michael Daly. He can calm shouting matches with a few words, present an entire argument in one question, and this one time, turned this sour old dude, who could have complicated things for us, into our best friend for one night - just by shaking the guy's hand and introducing himself. Not even kidding on that one.
The timekeeper - Kevin Hammond. I'm almost glad he's so humble or else he could be as big an ego as Don Henley. In addition to being a flawless and technical drummer (this is a rare thing in a world of smashy-smashy drummers), he's the high harmony backup singer. A lot of the magic of MLB comes from their harmonies and vocal dynamics. In the studio, a singer can layer their voice a few times for each harmony. But then playing those songs live without those harmonies can have a really dragging impact, as the listener doesn't hear the same sense of energy and urgency from having more voices. Kevin solves all of that with that smooth silvery voice.
That drumming, though. Some of my favorite moments are looking behind me and seeing Kevin drumming like a man possessed, head down and hair swinging. That's a solid drummer feeling the beat, man. The drums and the bass form what we call the "back line," in that they're mostly the rhythm section (that is an oversimplification but it works for now). I suppose the dynamic between every band member relative to every other band member is equally crucial, but the link between the drummer and the bassist is somehow even more crucial. This is another area where Kevin (and Dan) really shine. If the singer or either guitar makes a mistake, we can try to cover it up or just accept it and move on. And a lot of times the listeners won't mind or won't notice. But if the rhythm goofs up, folks feel it. Imagine walking up a flight of stairs. If one step has some sand or grit on it, or even if it's just a few slats resting on top of a staircase frame, it's not a big deal. You might notice the texture is a little off, or you don't like the sand under your foot, but it's fine. Now imagine you miss a step. Whoops! You're entirely off balance and you struggle to catch yourself. That's what happens aurally when the rhythm section misses something. And a lot of us will never know what that's like because Kevin doesn't miss a step. ;)
Well let me wrap this up with a few words about Steve McKeever, my friend and mentor in this little endeavor. Dan and Steve actually recruited me for this role, and Steve held my audition (I didn't know it was an audition at the time, but that's another story). Steve has this easy way about him that exudes both patience and fun. I knew Steve and I would be friends the first night I met him, actually. It was at the High Dive and Washed in Black was still a new project. I had seen Steve play a few shows before that night, but that was the first night we actually met and spoke.
Anyway, a different band was onstage at the time, and you should know something about the High Dive, and the vibe in that room at that time. The green room is directly adjacent to the stage. If there were a door on it, you would open the door from the green room and be directly on stage. As it happens, there isn't a door, but there is a curtain. The vibe in the room was inexplicably gloomy. Something overcast about it, I don't know.
So while the other band was onstage, just grooving through their set, freaking Steve pokes his whole head through the curtain, directly on stage. He looks around and sees the audience, probably as surprised to see them as they were to see him, and he just bursts out laughing before pulling his head back in. It sounds so silly, but I knew right then he was an okay dude. We've been fast friends ever since and Steve's been tireless in showing me the ropes and really just teaching me how to be in, and lead, a band.
Well I guess that's plenty to say for now. I'm in awe of, and humbled by, these wonderful musicians around me and I wanted to share some stories about them. Hope to see you all tonight at Capps Club - Locomotive is opening for us. XD
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!