Monday, November 22, 2004

The Third (and last) Show

I just got in from the last show. It went very well. I was a bit nervous about the time constraint - we had to be in at 5:00, ready to play at 6:30, and out by 9:00. But we were able to get in a bit early and with previous experience we got set up quickly and had plenty of time to run through a few songs before the doors opened at 6:30. We had none of the trouble from the room that we had at the tech rehearsal and I felt more relaxed before this show than the others.

We could hear each other well, and the band played very well together. The audience was great! We had a good sized group - they filled the front middle section of the theater and spilled over into the sides. The band enjoyed watching the kids rocking out in their seats!

One piece of bad news from Steve - apparently the computer he was recording on suffered a glitch and failed to record all of "Horny Toad" which is particularly aggravating, since I felt we did our best job ever performing that song. For those who ordered a CD of the show, I'm not sure what this means - I may be able to edit together a short version of the song. We'll just have to see how big the "hole" is in the recording.

I'll head for Steve's studio in OKC tomorrow evening to pick up all the recordings and load them onto my own hard drive. Then begins the post production process of editing and mixing. I'll keep you "posted!"

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Home Again + The Second Show

I didn't get another chance to blog you from Bartlesville, but we're home now and I thought I'd take a moment to catch you up. Sorry if you've tried to visit the website at and run into trouble. I don't know what's going on but I'm trying to get it figured out. You can visit here directly at, but then here you are, so maybe you knew that!

The last school show was at Kane elementary yesterday morning, where we packed all the Pre-K through 2nd graders into the library. For a moment it looked like they wouldn't all fit, but we found places for everyone. I don't know if I've ever had a better group. Those kids participated with great enthusiasm, but even more impressively, they quieted themselves between songs. I don't think I had to ask for their attention even once!

We were packed in so tightly I didn't dare try "You're a Dinosaur" but I had heard on the morning announcements that the word of the day was "Voracious" so I couldn't resist doing "The Great Green Squishy Mean Bibliovore" which has the word "Voraciously" prominently featured. The kids and the librarian got a kick out of that.

Well you're probably wondering how the evening show went! We got into the room early and it was set up like a restaurant (which is basically what it is most of the time) with big heavy tables and chairs everywhere. I found the building manager and she was unaware we needed it set up differently. She looked a bit pale when I told her - the tables were rather hard to move and there was nobody around to do it. Anyhow to make a long story short, after a brief period of panic (during which I also found out that Steve, the sound guy, was stuck in traffic) we got the process of re-arranging the room underway. My wife, Lisa, gets credit and thanks for most of the heavy scooching.

Steve arrived and identified another challenge: the room lighting. Basically there was no light on the end where it made the most sense to put the band. Steve helped fix the problem, teetering on a ladder trying to move track lights that seemed unwilling to budge. We also set up a couple of floor lamps, which at least improved the situation.

We managed to get all the equipment in and set up before John and Cody showed up, and were ready for a sound check, but the bass player, Bob was still at large. Just at the moment we were about to run a sound check without him, in he came. It turns out he was also stuck in traffic, and with a cell phone that wasn't working.

My show was hosted by the Tallgrass Tellers, a Bartlesville storytelling group, and was part of Tellebration, an international storytelling event. I thought they were very accommodating to allow me to bring my rock 'n' roll band, after all it doesn't exactly fit the image of a "storyteller." Even though they knew that my songs tell stories, it was going out on a limb a bit for them to try something so different, for which I was very appreciative.

So I began to panic again when we did the sound check and members of the Tellers were making sour faces and putting their hands over their ears, because we were - LOUD! The room was pretty small and responsive, and even when we made sure we were playing as softly as possible, we were still loud.

However, and in spite of a vocal mic that was trying to make me look like an idiot, the show went very well. Once we had people in the seats (about fifty of 'em) the band didn't seem quite so loud, and once the audience began grooving with the music I think all the presenters relaxed a bit. I haven't heard the recording yet, but Steve did a lot of grinning during the show. He says the audience came through beautifully. They were very enthusiastic participators. And that cantankerous vocal mic sounded great on my voice - much better than our previous attempts to record using a wireless mic. Standing in one spot to sing felt a bit weird to me but I got used to it.

The only problems I anticipate with the recording are due to my own mistakes. As Lisa says, I get nervous, wanting it to be perfect, and that causes me to make mistakes. It's a psychological Catch-22. But we set up the sound in a new way and could all hear better, so the band was much tighter than last time. I think at the last show Monday night I'll feel more relaxed. Hopefully between the two we'll have great takes of every song.

After we all signed autographs and ate cookies during the intermission and we made sure John, the guitar player, had a ride home (a whole other story) it was nice to relax and catch at least part of the second half of the show. The Tallgrass Tellers provided three storytellers. I was glad to see that most of the audience stayed on and enjoyed the more traditional storytelling part of the evening as well.

Evalyn did so well! She latched onto a new friend, 6 year old Kiara, and they played together before the show. They sat together during the show, and Evalyn was a great audience member for me! By the end of the show Evalyn had conked out across some chairs and was sound asleep for the entire second half and the tear down afterward.

Bob had to scoot right out to another gig, but the rest of the band capped off the evening with a late night trek to the local pizza joint. It was nice to have a chance to relax, socialize, and eat! (I'd only had a chance to grab a few apple slices and a couple of cookies since lunch!) If you're ever in Bartlesville check out The Pizza Place. That's what it's called, honest. It's a tiny building but the pizza is superb.

This morning we had another show for the public. Attendance was light, but we had fun. I just took requests from the kids. There were about 8-10 kids with their parents I think. I brought five of them to the front to be dinosaurs for "You're a Dinosaur" - that's something I've been wanting to do but hadn't had a chance to yet, so it was good to try it out. I think they had fun.

Evalyn got to play with Kiara again. They invented a game which involved running from the back wall to the chairs and launching each other's stuffed buddies into the chairs. After lunch from - you guessed it, The Pizza Place! - I did a workshop on writing songs with kids while Lisa and Evalyn headed for Wal-Mart. We only had an hour and four participants, so it was more like a good conversation. We covered a lot of ground quickly, and hopefully everyone went home with some helpful information.

Then Lisa, Evalyn and I headed home! It's weird to think this week is over - I've been preparing for it for so long! It'll be even weirder after Monday's show, when I move into a totally new phase of the project: post production! I hope we get to visit Bartlesville again soon. All the kids were wonderful and the trees were outrageous this time of year - bright yellow and red. That was Evalyn's first observation when we arrived. I said, "We're in Bartlesville Evalyn, what do you think?" She said, "I like the trees!" Her other favorite was the hotel swimming pool.

Anyhow, I need to thank Fran Stallings, my main contact who put together the public events, and Mary Birkett who drummed up the funding and arranged for all the school shows, as well as all the librarians who hosted me at each school and all the other Tallgrass Tellers who worked hard to publicize the events - everybody made me feel welcome and appreciated.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

On the Road: Bartlesville 4

Here we are in the library at Jane Phillips Elementary. I've done both my shows for the day. Lisa is chatting with the librarians and Evalyn is getting to know Dewey the stuffed panda bear, who just got a set of reindeer antlers to wear on his head.

I added "Big Red Fire Truck" to today's programs, and that went really well. I haven't performed it a whole bunch yet, so I'm still learning how to interact with the kids on it. In both shows they started singing along with the chorus with no prompting. That's always a good sign! Fire Truck is one of the songs that I think sounds especially great with the band - we'll be recording it during the show tomorrow night.

This morning at Hoover, the librarian filmed part of the show with her digital video camera. The footage will be edited and used as part of their in-school morning news show tomorrow morning. How cool is that? If I can get a copy I'll try and post it here later.

The librarian here just took a digital photo - I'll see if I can post that right now.

Last night I spent a couple of hours practicing in the hotel room. "Can It Be Over" is the one song in the program for tomorrow night that is new to this project. It's a fun song and it shows off each band member, giving them a chance to solo. It's also very simple, but frustratingly difficult. I think all the band members feel that way about it. But that's the story of my life - If I can make a simple thing difficult I'll find a way to do it. Anyhow, practice practice practice. I'll try to get some more in tonight, then the big day will be here and it'll go how it goes.

I really hope to see a lot of the folks from the schools out at Tri County Tech for the show. Everyone's been very very friendly and helpful and the kids have been fantastic. If I get half the enthusiasm at the big show we'll end up with a great recording!

Signing off...

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

On the Road: Bartlesville3

Here we are in the library at Oak Park Elementary. I've just finished my programs. We had a small space to work with so we split the group in two, and I started with PreK and Kindergarten. We did three songs: Silly Song,The Frog Song, You're a Dinosaur. It was a bit of a departure for me to jump right in with the participation songs, but I knew time would be short. The second group was first and second grade. We did Take Me to Your Library, Loose Tooth, You're a Dinosaur, Hanging Out With Heroes at the Library, and Trick or Treat. On that last song, I forgot to teach them the words before hand and they took me by surprise when we came to the chorus; they jumped right in and sang what I call the "Froggy" version at full voice! (I will let you go read the Froggy picture books to figure out what I mean by the Froggy version.)This morning at Wilson we had a short show too because we got started late and had to finish before the next gym class.

Anyhow, this is going to get redundant, because all the groups have been so great. Very spirited and fun.

Now it's back to the hotel room for a good nap! Lisa and I both are feeling sleep deprived. I slept last night, but must not have slept well - I've been yawning all day!

Lisa has worn out her voice reading to Evalyn and they are both anxious to go, so I'll stop for now. Bye bye!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

On the Road: Bartlesville2

OK, I'm back. We had a great program! It was a relatively small group - just first and second grade, here in the library, and they set up in a semi-circle around me so it felt very close and friendly. I sang Take Me to Your Library, Loose Tooth, Hanging With Heroes, The Frog Song, Bibliovore, and Trick or Treat. The kids were very spirited - especially during the Frog Song, it sounded like I had a whole gym full in front of me rather than just two grades. I hope a few of these kids will make it to the weekend shows!

Evalyn has zonked out and is sound asleep on a pillow on the floor! We've got the equipment loaded up and ready to go out to the car. I'm ready to get back to the hotel for a nap, too!

On the Road: Bartlesville1

Here I am in Bartlesville at Wayside Elementary, ready for my second show of the day. The librarian, Mrs. Ruddick is reading Henry and Mudge to Evalyn. She's been keeping Evalyn entertained while Lisa and I set up for the show.

This morning we were at Ranch Heights. The show went very well. I had PK-2nd in the audience as well as a nice group of parents. We did Take Me to Your Library, Silly Song, Grandma's House, Frog Song, You're a Dinosaur, and Trick or Treat. We had two interpreters for the deaf translating my lyrics into sign language! We had a fun moment when I got to the "Ackbo Eckto..." part of Take Me to Your Library and looked over to see how they were going to handle it - they were very good and kept their cool the whole time. I can't imagine trying to translate my lyrics on the fly - it's got to be something of a challenge.

I'll be glad to get back to the hotel room and take a nap. I was up late last night with our last band rehearsal. We recorded 12 of the 13 songs we've learned, just for reference. I made a rough mix, but didn't have time to burn it to a CD. But while I listened at home I thought it was sounding really good. Friday's show is not to be missed! Hope to see you there...

The kids are coming into the room now, so I've got to go. "Talk" to you later!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Recording 1 and Rehearsal 11

I drove to OKC Tuesday to meet with Steve and get a rough mix of the first show. Rough is the operative word. The entire recording was an hour and seven minutes long. We only had two hours to mix it. So we didn't try to make any corrections. At home I removed all the unnecessary talking between songs and got it down to fifty minutes. Everything sounded good, but there is a problem with the audience sound, which is that the microphones picked up more band than audience. This introduces phase problems and makes it really echoey if the audience track is brought up too much. So it will be a real challenge to mix.

The performance sounds much better on the recording than I remember it in person, but it still could be much improved. It's frustrating because we sound so tight in rehearsal & I want the recordings to come out as great as I know we can play. We are hoping it's a matter of spending a bit more time and focus setting up so that we can hear and see one another better during the shows.

We had a rehearsal Wednesday night and worked hard on a few trouble spots. We also wrote down the optimal tempos for several songs. Trick or Treat was a challenge to nail down - too fast and the verses sound rushed; too slow and the chorus plods. I was under the impression that as a solo act I sing the verses slower than the chorus, but Cody measured it with the metronome and if anything the opposite is true!

At one point while I was singing with the band it hit me that even if I spend all this money and don't get a stellar recording, at least I got to play with a band and hear my songs the way I imagine them - some of them really rock! It's fun. And I'm glad I took the risk. Better to try and fail than not to have tried at all. Plus, Lisa reassures me that the recording I already have will make a good live album, so I've really already succeeded. Now I just hope to make it even better.

One more rehearsal before I head out to Bartlesville. We're hoping to have a really great crowd there on Friday the 19th since I'll be visiting all the elementary schools that week. Then the following Monday the 22nd is our final show in Stillwater. After that, a short break, then I start editing and mixing! It's hard to believe we are so close to being "over the hump" and ready for post-production.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

First Show

Boy am I worn out!

Our first show for the new CD was this afternoon in OKC. We had about 45 people in the audience, including three who came all the way from Plano, TX! Hi, Keith and Sarah and Chad! - It was great to see you there today!

Evalyn made a new friend - she can't stop talking about Rachel, who came early with her mom to help us out with programs and the sales table. Thanks Monica and Rachel and Evan!

Folks purchased CDs of the show afterward (they'll be in the mail soon) so it couldn't have gone too badly! I was just glad to survive it. I will get to hear the recording Tuesday, and I will reserve judgement until then.

Even though we had a small audience, they were great with the participation parts, and I'll be excited to hear how that turned out on tape. (Well, on disc I guess I should say - it's all digital!)

Most of the folks there were fans, so it was a good chance to find out how the show with the band compares to just me. Most of those I had a chance to talk to said they liked the band - it does give the songs some extra kick! One dad said that something is lost performing with the group, but something also gained, so it's just different. If you were there, please post your impressions!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Tenth Rehearsal - Impending Show!

We had our tenth rehearsal last night, which was also the last one before the first show Saturday.

It went really well! All the songs are sounding great. We ran through the entire set - twelve songs. Lisa provided banana muffins, which is always a lift. I felt much better about the program at the end of the evening. A lot of apprehention (left over from the tech rehearsal) melted away and we just had fun playing the music. At one point we even broke into a 12 bar blues jam.

Who knows what will happen Saturday? It'll be a great time for all I think - I hope to see you there!!!

(Visit the website for details.)