Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Waiting Game

One of the most important paradigms to understand when trying to "make '"it'" is what level of show/venue one should be pursuing and at what time in one's career. This appears to be something I have yet to understand in my nearly 3 years of playing out. You see, it is very hard to translate success on stage into success in draw. By this I mean, even if I play my ass off, get an incredible reaction from the crowd, sell CDs and have 25 people sign up for my "upcoming shows" mailing list, I am still unlikely to have anyone show up for my following gig. To put it simply, it is goddamn hard to draw a crowd of strangers.

I am starting to understand the aforementioned paradigm and difficulty much better after my layoff. The last full show I played was over 4 months ago and, despite a good crowd my draw was minimal, as most of the crowd was walk-ins that stayed for the show once they heard my awesome tunes.

The main reason I bring these things up is that I recently re-evaluated the way I draw a crowd and how it could be improved. There are 2 main ways to have a good draw and here they are:

1) The Cartman owning a theme-park approach- In this approach you play very few shows and constantly pimp out your unaffordability. This makes it appear as if you are in high-demand and people grow restless and need to see your show.

2) The "Music Exec pimping Taylor Swift approach- In this approach you shove the product down the collective throat of the masses until their eyes, ears, throats and skin capillaries bleed like they were injected with heavy doses of hemotoxin. This approach requires having no shame-which suits me well

Prior to and just after my layoff I started to engage in the "Cartman" approach. I thought absence would make the heart grow fonder but, instead, it made the brain forgetful. I have actually, recently, considered turning down gigs because of my perception that they are below where I should be in my career. However, this morning I realized that I should be shamelessly promoting my music through all venues and playing as much as possible in order to saturate the market. In other words, I can't turn down any show/opportunity because I'm not at that point in my career.

There's an adage that starts "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" and, while I originally thought you take I95 north, hit the Lincoln tunnel get onto I/NY 495, take exit 9, travel to 40th take a left to 57th, and take another left to 7th ave; apparently the real answer is "practice" (although I don't see how practice can physically get you to Carnegie Hall... unless your practicing how to get to Carnegie Hall-which seems frivolous). Nevertheless, I am heeding the words and taking every avenue I can to promote, practice, and play, as I am nowhere near close to the point where I can turn down shows.

On an aside, I re-asserted my dominance in monopoly in a game with some close friends over the weekend. My lifetime monopoly record has to look something like the 70's and 80's red army hockey team's minus the miracle on the ice at this point.

Your awful lyrics come from Mr. Joshua Radin and his song "Sun drenched world" heregoes:

I can't get to bed
But I'm really tired
The things in my head
You used to admire in your
Sun drenched world
It couldn't be worse
Don't bother asking and
Here comes the nerves

Well.... that makes about as much sense as a funion coat.

Keep rockin' in the free world

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun for Everyone!

Alright, I know I said in my last blog that I would write a new one well over a week ago but the sooner you forgive me the sooner we can move on and I can tell you about the FANTASTIC time I've had playing the Philly open mic scene over the past few weeks.

Ok, so, as I had previously stated, on December 3rd I was the featured performer at Drexel Univeristy's Late Night Series. Late Night Series is a catch-all open mic, which means that anyone-regardless of their genre of performance-is welcome to get on stage and make a fool of themselves.

The problem with "catch alls" is that it can be very very difficult to move from something like high-energy comedy to a sing-songwriter to a poet to up tempo music to whatever. You see, it can be hard to get the crowd to the energy level you want especially when the previous act is an up tempo act and you're down tempo (or vice versa). Nevertheless, the Drexel Open mic is, by far, the smoothest transitioning catch-all venue and that is due largely to the eptitude of their host in raising/lowering the energy levels accordingly.

It's always difficult stepping into an open mic. As I've stated before, when playing an open mic you are just some jerk with a guitar, trombone, suzaphone, accordion, or whatever. The audience generally doesn't care who you are (and why should they?). This is what makes open-mics such great proving grounds for a young artists. If you can win those crowds over you are doing something right. Especially if you can win over a crowd at a catch-all after some hack comedian just spent 15 minutes talking about his dick.

That's what makes catch-alls so special.

Your crappy song lyrics of the day come from Regina Spektor (again). Expect to see her wacky-ass lyrics here quite often.

A good friend of mine, quite consisely, I might add, tried to explain the song "Samson" to me with citations of symbolism, deep allegory, and love lost. I, in turn, tried to explain to him that the song was just a series of poetic-sounding non-sequiters that he was blindly trying to justify because he secretly wants to bang Regina Spektor. You be the judge:

"Samson went back to bed
Not much hair left on his head
He ate a slice of Wonderbread
And went right back to bed"

Yes, Regina, we all know how Samson loved his wonderbread

Until next time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turning Frowns Upside-down

Ok... so I know it's been a long while since my last post. However, in my defense, it takes a long time to look up awful lyrics worthy of this blog and I am extremely lazy. Also, if I were to blog about my recent shows it would throw me into a deep depression. If that were to happen I couldn't give you all the gift of song (which, conicidentally is what I'm giving everyone for Christmas because it's much cheaper than a Gergory Peck VHS box set-or whatever the kids are watching these days). But, as is my nature, I digress

Recently, I had fallen on some hard times music-wise which made it very hard for me to get out and keep playing. First, I started a new job which DEMANDED I be up before 1pm (I know, it sucks). This new-found early riser syndrome provided me with little energy for the late sets to which I had grown accustomed. As a result, my former "3 open mics+1 full show every week" attitude diminished to a "4 open mics+1 full show ever month" attitude which dwindled to a "fuck it; I'm going to take a nap" attitude.

Nevertheless, speak to any musician and they will tell you that no matter how tired they are, they'll get up for a good show. They will tell you that a crowd can energize any performer to the point where sleep is not an issue. This is what happens on good shows. They will also tell you that a bad show drains you so much physically that it is hard to operate. There's a big give and take of energy on good shows. On bad shows, it's only give and it sucks.

My past 3 full shows had been really bad ones. Whether it be due to unresponsive crowds, nonexistent crowds, or belligerent crowds is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it was disheartening and I took some time off. This is the explanation of my inactivity. This is my excuse.

Still, recently I've started finding my love of performance again, my songwriting has returned and my frown has been turned upside-down... which makes it a smile, if my math serves me. I still haven't gotten a "full set" since late October but I can feel it isn't far away. I play as a featured performer at an awesome open mic at Drexel University Tomorrow and I will surely blog about the experience on Friday.

Here are your awful lyrics for the day courtesy of Alicia Keys and JayZ. It's amazing they could be so wrong in just two lines

New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

I'll forget that the sentence was ended with a preposition as that is something of which I am often guilty (avoided it there, tho). But... c'mon... think about it... "where dreams are made of." When does that statement make sense ever?

Have a pleasant evening

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Excuses excuses

So... it's been a while since I've updated the blog, but then again, it's been a while since I've really had any really exciting news. Long story short, I haven't been playing much the past few weeks because I had minor surgery on my back and have been in a bit too much pain to play. I will be getting back into the swing of things by playing a few open mics this coming week  just to shake off the rust. I hope to start playing full shows again in a week or two 

Take care

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Loads of Fun

Sorry for the delay in posts to the one reader I have (HI MOM!) but I'll make up for it in this post (don't get your hopes up, tho. This post will probably be riddled with the same spelling errors and grammatical flaws and boring stories that my writing always has).

So, this past Thursday I was all set to play a show at a Salad Works (yeah, seriously) about which I was not supremely excited. Don't get me wrong, I'll almost never turn down a show but nothing about Salad Works screams "live music venue." But anyway, while I'm at work I get a call from a friend saying that he needed me to fill in as an opener at Doc Watson's Pub in center city which is one of the better live music venues in Philadelphia. 

I reluctantly agreed to play. I say "reluctantly" because I would not be getting paid and I would have to rush there directly after playing my first set at the Salad Works. So, by the time 7 o'clock rolls around I start playing my set at the salad factory place to a packed house of 8 people! I really can't complain, however. I mean, I got to work out the kinks on a lot of new songs and got a free salad. 

After my Saladtastic (real word, look it up) show I get on the El and shoot down to center city. I really can't stress enough what a great venue Doc Watson's is. The sound system was incredible and the crowd was so attentive and respectful. All around it was just an amazing show... There's no punch line here, it's just one of those things that really makes you happy as a musician. All in all it was a great night... 

So, here is your set of awful lyrics for the day from Paralyzer by Finger 11....

"Well if your body matches what your eyes can do
You'll prbably more right through me on my way to you"

I don't even know what that means....

Take Care

Friday, January 30, 2009

Acronyms and Lo Mein

Last Friday (exactly 1 week ago, for you mathematicians) I finally got back ito the swing of thigs with my first "full set" (I use quotation marks because I still don't know what costitutes a full set) in roughly a month. For this show I was one of four acts for a dinner banquet/fundraiser (maybe) for a group called APABAPA, which stood for Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania. Upon learning the true meaning of the true meanig of the acronym (which I originally thought stood for Apples Pairs And Bananas Are Pure Awesome-which would have been at least 85% true) two things bothered me:

1) I was unsure what type of bar was being talked about in the acronym. That is to say, would I be playing to a whole crapload of drunks/bartenders in a dimly lit, smoke filled room while getting yelled at for reasons I don't understand or a bunch of lawyers. Unfortunately, it was the latter

2) The abbreviation of Pennsylvania in the Acronym was wrong. It's capital P lower case A... Pennsylvania is abbreviated Pa..... I don't know why that bothers me so much but it does

There was nothing really extraordinary about the show other than EVERYTHING (see what I did there?). First, playing sucked, pretty much everyone talked through/over everyone's sets. Normally I would have been upset about this but waiting for me after my set was at least $75 worth of Chinese food. WHAT? Normally (because I'm poor) I preffer to be paid in money rather than food... but as I was stuffing Shrimp Lo Mein into my pocket I really couldn't complain (for those of you who aren't street wise like me the going value of Lo Mein is through the roof).

After I had finished eating what was roughly 82% of my body weight in General Tsao's there was a lion dance which was quickly followed by a laser light show (ok, it was just a strobe light but it was still awesome).

I also tried a beer which was pretty much what would occur if Heineken and Soy Sauce got completely hammered one night, bumped uglies and Soy Sauce got knocked up,.Then, during the pregnancy Soy Sauce decided to experiment with Cocaine causingn irrevocable damage to the fetus. Then after it's birth, unable to deal with the severe mental and physical impairments of the bastard child Soy Sauce became physically abusive before evetually losing her mind and beig committed to an insane asylum. The beer was that awful.

Here is your horrible/nonsense song lyric(s) for the day courtesy of Regina Spektor's song "On The Radio" ( I have stared at the words in this song for what seems like countless hours and still have zero idea as to what it means (if it means anything)

This is how it works
It feels a little worse
Than when we drove that hearse
Right through a screamig crowd
While laughing up a storm
Until we were just bone
Until it got so warm
That none of us could sleep....

Take Care

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Open Mics

To put it plainly: I really can't recommend open mics enough. To both a seasoned musician and a kid who just started playing out open mics are one of the best tools available. Perhaps the best aspect of the open mic is the fact that there are absolutely no expectations. This means there is absolutely no pressure to perform. To the crowd you are just another douchbag with a guitar. It really is a low risk high reward atmosphere (just like $25 scratch off lottery tickets).

That being said, it really is a mixed bag. Some nights you are playingn to the most respectful, attentive crowd you could imagine. Other nights you are playing to a bunch of rowdy isatiable drunks. Still, even the bad nights give you experience and a way to hone your skills. I was going to give examples of the best and worst nights I've had on the open mic circuit, but for the sake of comedy I'll just list the worst/most unusual experiences I've had at open mics

#5-Exactly 2/3rds of the way through the 2nd song of the set a drunk woman walks up behind me to pick up some random item (don't know what it was nor do I care). Instead of going around the way she came (the way that didn't include getting in the way) she walks out right in front of me and trips over the microphone stand/chord. This wouldn't be too unusual if she didn't stop and then stand 2 feet from my face staring intently at me for the next 5 miutes while I played... and I mean INTENTLY. I ask her what the hell she's doing and she makes a fishy face at me before returning to her seat. I had never been more attracted to ayone

4-The only open mic I ever hosted was a resounding failure. The entire night could be summed up with this little story. The bass pedal for the drum kit went missing. The drummer was then asked if he could just kick the bass drum from a audience member. During the set the crowd was incredibly disrespectful (as they were all night) and just after I asked them to speak more quietly and be more attentive (which they actually paid attetion to) the drummer of the bad (who was no more than 115 lbs) went on a 15 minute tirade where he just cursed out EVERYONE. I half hoped he would end the rant with "I'm a man, I'm 40" but alas, he did not.

#3-After my first song a man who, suprisingly was not drunk, feels the need to tell everyone just what he thought of music. Just before I start my second song the man rushes on stage pushes me out of the way and let everyone know exactly what he thought of it. To top it all off his rumblings and grumblings were so incoherent I still don't know whether or not he enjoyed my music.

#2-Short but sweet. I announce that the next song is a cover and a woman who was a little off her rocker comes up and hugs me to say it's OK and to be honest, in that moment, I knew it would be

#1 When I step on stage the man asks me if I know any fleetwood mac covers (he asks for a particular song, the title of which escapes me). I tell him I do not. This cycle repeats before and after EVERY SINGLE SONG. I assure him that I know no fleetwood mac nor have I ever listened to him. He calls me a "fucking asshole" and a liar. After the set he said I was great and invited me out to drinks. I wanted to accompany him but was too bruised by his insults. 

Here are your awful lyrics for this entry courtesy of LFO... pretty much the entire song is incoherent nonsense which could be likened to drunken hobo ramblings but for brevity sake I''ll just post the third verse. So here it is, the third verse of "Summer Girls" taken directly from

Bugaloo shrimp and pogo sticks
My mind takes me back there oh so quick
Let you off the hook like my man Mr. Limpet
Thinka bout that summer and I bug cause I miss it
Like the color purple, macaronni and cheese
Ruby red slippers ad a bunch of trees
Call you up but what's the use
I like Kevin Bacon, but I hate Footloose
Came in the door I said it before
I think I'm over you but I'm really not sure
When I met you I said my name was Rich
You look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch