Thursday, August 08, 2013

Summer 2013 Sort Of Musical Update (Janeen Leah Band & Cold Planet)

Hi all groovy guys, groovy girls!  Here's a quick update of my musical endeavors of the past couple of months.

As I had hoped, I got to play several shows this summer, not only with the Janeen Leah Band, but also with rockers Cold Planet!  I officially joined Cold Planet as rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist after the April 20, 2013 show at the Red Devil Lounge.

--- Part 1 ---

As a bit of background, I sort of joined an earlier version of Cold Planet a few years back as, get this... keyboard player and backup vocalist just as that particular project was being put on hold.  Fast forward a couple of years later, the project was brought to life again and was asked to be a part of it.  The revamp was major since only Michael Burke (guitar) and J.D. Chilton (bass) remained from the original band (former drummer Scott Acridge was on board earlier on, but decided to bow out shortly after the "relaunch" but not before playing a blistering set with the guys at the Red Devil Lounge!).  The lineup was completed by lead vocalist Chris Zundel, Art Williams on drums and yours truly on guitar and backing vocals.  Michael also sings backup.  Yes, your keen sense of observation is correct!  3/5 of the Janeen Leah Band also make up 3/5 of Cold Planet; which works out great when we're both on the same bill!.  After very little in the way of practice time, we took it to the road and such road has taken us to several Bay Area cities such as Hayward, Oakland, San Francisco, Alameda and Danville to name a few.  I hope as many of my loyal readers (ha!) can come see the band at one of our upcoming shows.  The band's website is .  And there is also a fun Facebook page!

Cold Planet Rocking it at The Stork Club in Oakland on July 17, 2013

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here's a video of Cold Planet performing a scorching version of the blazing original "Mercy Me" at The Stork Club in Oakland on July 17, 2013.  Of note is that as awesome as this performance was, the occasion marked the very first time that this lineup took the stage!  Can you believe that?!  You can't see me too well, but I'm there!  :)

--- Part 2 ---

The Janeen Leah Band has also been tearing it down all over the place this summer!  We've played a variety of shows including acoustic solo Janeen, almost-acoustic shows with Janeen, Michael, Mike and me, partial band shows and full band shows.  We have added new songs to our repertoire including originals and covers and sound tighter than ever!

We were part of a California tour with excellent Scottish artist Scott Cowie.  The tour also took Janeen and Scott to Southern California for a series of successful shows.  Scott is an excellent guitarist/singer/songwriter and it was great to meet him and share the bill with him (btw, there was no hidden track on my CD Scott!  :)

By the way, if you want to see a whole bunch of pictures and videos of the tour, plus pictures and videos of most shows be it solo, full band or collaborations, be sure to "LIKE" Janeen Leah in Facebook!

In addition to Scott, we have also made more new friends including San Jose band Sweet HayaH with whom we've played a number of shows.  Sweet HayaH is made up of four wonderful, talented musicians and human beings: Nehal Abuelata (vocals & keyboards), Aaron Marquez (super massive bassist), Devin Moreno (lefty guitarist dude & vocals), and Josh Gardner (drums, gongs and vocals).  Sweet HayaH are well on their way to making it big and I so totally encourage you to check them out!

Last Friday night (8/2), we played another gig at the venerable Bistro in Hayward.  This was the first time we played with no other band(s) on the bill, and it made for an exciting evening.  Janeen and Art kicked things off with a short acoustic set, and then we brought the house down with the whole band.  Many friends (including Eric, Kelly, Yasmine, and many more!) came to see us and the crowd was hot!  Here's a picture from that night:

The Janeen Leah Band at The Bistro in Hayward, Friday August 2, 2013

I will leave you with a video of the Janeen Leah Band playing fan favorite "Like A Fool" at Alameda's High Street Station Cafe during the Janeen/Scott Cowie tour.  Mike could not make it to this particular show, so we went at it as a four-piece.  To me this was very interesting because almost one year ago, we played the same venue for the first time as a band.  It was an early band gig and Mike had not joined yet.  It was also my second or third time playing in public since my decade and a half break from playing music.  There is video of us playing this song back then also (I'm sure you can find it if you want to watch it! :) ).

So now I'm a bassist AND guitarist!  Go figure!  It's been a fun, great, interesting ride so far to say the least!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

More Videos and Pictures from Janeen Leah Band's show at Red Devil Lounge, San Francisco, April 20, 2013!

Not much to add to the title, here is another picture of the band in action:

Left to right: Me, Mike Garza, Janeen, Art, Michael Burke

Man! My rare short-sleeve appearances are becoming less rare!

Here are a couple more videos.  This next one is the great quasi-Waltz-like tune "Like A Fool":

And here is the tour de force "Rainy Day".  I really love it how Art Williams kills it on drums, particularly around the 3:43 mark!

Next stop:  May 24th, 2013 at the High Street Station in Alameda, CA.  Sharing the bill will be Cold Planet with an acoustic set (watch out since I may sit with the band!), and none other than acoustic bluesman Ben Brown!  My old jamming buddy from the Plough And Stars Irish Pub!  Come for a nice evening full of great folks, food and music!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Janeen Leah Band Live at San Francisco's Red Devil Lounge, April 20, 2013

The Janeen Leah band made its triumphant return to San Francisco's legendary and esteemed club Red Devil Lounge on Saturday, April 20, 2013!  Last time we played there was back in November 2012 shortly after Thanksgiving.

Bay Bridge traffic was horrible, so we were a little late for set up, but early enough where we got the equipment set up just fine.  This show also marked the debut of Cold Planet's new singer Chris (after an acoustic teaser at The Bistro in Hayward a few weeks ago).  Cold Planet is Michael Burke's high energy Rock band.  Michael plays in Janeen's band as well.  Since Cold Planet went first and Janeen second, we were able to share some of the equipment, including my trusty old Peavy TKO bass amp:

My old, trusty Peavey TKO, who sleeps no longer!

One thing that was different this time than in November is that Jacob, the Red Devil Lounge's sound guy miked the amps instead of cabling them directly to the PA system.  I think, at least in my case, the bass sounded better in November than this time around.

Cold Planet played a blistering opening set.  Here's a picture I took of the band in action (Videos from this performance can be found HERE):

L-R: JD (bs), Chris (voice), Scott (dr) & Michael (gtr)

After the opening set, Janeen and band took the stage.  My fingers were cold!  I should have warmed up a little while waiting for the set to begin.  We played a great, fun set, if a little too short.  My fingers were beginning to warm up when the set was over!  The crowd was great and some got up to dance!  This show marked the San Francisco debut of an unreleased Janeen song called "If You Love Someone".  I really enjoy playing this song since I came up with a really cool bass line for it.  Here's a video of the performance.  Too bad the bass is pretty much inaudible, but it's a great song.  I hope I get to properly record it someday:

The show also marked the San Francisco debut of the full band performance of Muse's "Super Massive Black Hole".  Again, I think I have a pretty cool bass run at one point during the song, but you can't really hear it:

I think I speak for all - Janeen, Michael, Art, Mike and yours truly - when I say that we had a blast performing at The Red Devil Lounge.  The weather is getting warmer and summertime is looming.  We hope that along with the great weather, summer brings many opportunities to play for as many people as possible!

Have you been at a Janeen Leah band performance?  Where else would you like us to play?

L-R: Alfredo (bs), Mike (gtr), Janeen (voice), Art (dr) & Michael (gtr)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Adventures of a 1968 lefty Fender Stratocaster Reissue (Part 3 - Epilogue)

Last time I wrote about about my lefty Strat, I had decided to leave it as is and sell it.  That was my intent and came really close one time, but unfortunately, the guy had to back out of the sale (nice guy).  I looked into a couple of ways of selling it, but didn't go beyond that and the guitar stayed in its case all these months.

About a month ago, I finally decided to get rid of it, so I took it out to clean it up and see how the strings were holding up.  I plugged it in, and man!  What a sweet sound it has!  I hooked up my Uni-Vibe pedal and started noodling with it, not really playing anything because I am not ambidextrous!  At that point I changed my mind.  I had to keep it and play it!  There is a place close to where I work called San Jose Rock Shop, which is really a cool place, so I took it there to see about the bridge, nut and strings.  They did a great job.  Very thorough and uber professional for a very reasonable price!  When I brought it back home... wow!  It played like a dream.  Very smooth, like buttah!

The positioning of the cable and knobs is taking a little getting used to, but it's not so bad since I don't move around a lot when I play.  It sounds great.

Back in December, I got me an Ibanez GRG120BDX for Christmas.  It is a really awesome guitar that feels and sounds great and is really easy to play (Wizard neck?)!  I may have joined a band as a rhythm guitarist, so if that happens, the Ibanez will be the one I take with me to gigs and use as my workhorse, but last week I took the Strat to practice and it sounded really great!

"Lefty" and "Wrath"

I've been playing the Strat a lot (considering the very little free time I have) and subjecting my poor family to interesting versions of Robin Trower songs!

Here's me taking a break from doing taxes on Saturday, April 13.  In order to just not post an old boring picture, I used a Photoshop 5.0 preset to touch it up!

 So there it is!  Right or wrong I followed my muse and now have a very nice looking and sounding 1968 replica Fender Stratocaster! Yay!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Back to The Bistro – GREAT Gig, But Boy! What a Trip to Get There!

I suppose it all started as far back as Thursday afternoon, March 28.  The Janeen Leah Band was all set and ready to play a show in Modesto on Friday, March 29 at Theater 417.  I was excited since I’d never been to Modesto before (and it seems everyone else has).  I was as excited about going as I was way back in the day when my friend Vic and I finally made it to Alviso one day! (inside joke).  To make a sort of long story short, there was no gig and it was postponed.  There is still hope, so fret not Modesto fans!  We'll be there before you know it!

After the bad news of not playing in Modesto, our efforts were fully focused on our next gig – a return engagement at The Bistro in Hayward on Saturday April 6.  We played there back in November 2012 and it was a very enjoyable show.  For me, it was all planned out.  I was going to have a little practice of my own on Friday night to tighten up some bass parts, and then on Saturday I was going to buy a shirt for the gig (decided not to wear the Van Halen t-shirt again!).  The gig was a double-header with Michael’s band Cold Planet, featuring Chris, their brand new singer.

We found out on Thursday afternoon (4/5) that due to a scheduling hiccup, the show was going to take place on Friday and not Saturday.  Consequently Mike was not going to be able to make it, and none of the Cold Planet guys (with the exception of Michael) were going to be there either.  Michael, Art and I decided to resurrect “The Art Williams Experience” (he still doesn’t like the name, but he won’t read this, so it’s OK) and do a set.  After our regularly scheduled practice on Thursday evening (minus Mike since he wasn’t going to be able to make it to the show), the three of us quickly ran through a quickly made-up set of 3 originals and 3 standards.

So Friday came.  I took the bus home from work and it took me a while in Friday night traffic since I work in San Jose.  I had just enough time to have a quick dinner, load up the equipment in the car, get ready a bit and head over to the gig.  The City of Hayward has recently changed the direction of some of its downtown streets, and I think it’s an improvement, but can get a bit confusing.  I drove aimlessly for a few minutes trying to find a good spot but ended up parking two blocks away, which is no big deal, just that I had to carry my amp, bass, cords, etc. uphill for two blocks.  Janeen, Michael and Art were already there.  Looks like Michael had a scary choking incident as they were getting ready to leave.  Fortunately, he was all better and ready to go, if a bit shaken up.  They almost went the wrong way on a busy downtown street, and although they found a good parking spot, there was some police/fire activity going on near the entrance.

We had also found out that Mike was going to make it after all, which was some awesome news.  Also, Chris, Cold Planet’s new singer, was there also.  "The Art Williams Experience" took the stage at the scheduled time and we went through our six-song set.  It was pretty good considering the amount of preparation we had (none).  There wasn't a lot of people, but it was funny (to me at least) when about a third of the folks there got up and left in the middle of our set.  It looked like they were all together and had to go, so I’m sure it wasn't because we sucked or anything; it just looked funny.  I decided to explore with varying degrees of success some different bass runs for future reference.

After The Art Williams Experience, Michael and Chris took the stage for an acoustic preview of the rebirth of Cold Planet, Mark III (see if you get that reference!).  They played a cool three-song set.  I’m looking forward to Cold Planet’s upcoming show on April 20.

Then it was showtime baby!  Mike got there with basically no time to spare.  Janeen and Art warmed up the crowd by playing a song as Mike set up.  Since I was standing up there already, I very quietly noodled on the bass since I hadn't played the song before.  We got things started strong as always with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”.  In the middle of the song, this guy stands at the doorway of The Bistro and starts screaming “THAT IS NOT YOUR SONG!!!!  THAT IS NOT YOUR SONG!!!!”  Dude was pretty upset about it.  We kept on playing like the seasoned, grizzled road dogs that we are, and the bartender quickly got him the heck out anyway.  I think he thinks he wrote the song or something.  We saw him later having a great time outside!

After this it was all smooth sailing.  We hadn't played together in over a week, but it was all good.  I even broke out some backing vocals to the delight of the audience – well, at least to the delight of two people in the audience (who told me so) – since the extra mike was there from Cold Planet’s acoustic set.  The downtown Hayward Friday night wanderers came in after seeing/listening to the band from outside, and we packed the place up.  As the show progressed, people were dancing, smiling, having a good time and the band was having a blast as well.  After our closing number (a world premiere!) we got some very generous, enthusiastic applause and “ENCORE! ENCORE!!” calls.

We were all happy, and it was the perfect ending to a couple of difficult days.

Chris was nice enough to take pictures and record some video.  When Janeen went to upload it, THE COMPUTER WIPED OUT ALL THE FILES!!!  Unbelievable!

This short clip, uploaded by Janeen, is the only existing footage of that awesome evening!

Janeen Leah's next show:  Saturday April 20, 2013 at the Red Devil Lounge, San Francisco.  Get your tickets early here:

Now that the weather is getting nicer, where would you like to see us play?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Playing music now? This is how it all began… again!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2013!  In many ways, 2012 sucked, but some really cool things happened too.  One of them was that now, in my old age, I started playing music again, and the fact that I’m playing bass (my instrument of choice) makes it even better!  So far it has been great and I’m having a blast.

So, it all started last summer when I decided to bring my electric guitar and bass out of the garage and into my house after many years.  Shortly after that, singer/guitarist/composer Janeen Leah put out the word through a Facebook ad that she needed a bass player to complete her performing band line-up along with a VERY enthusiastic announcement that she had found a lead guitar player and a drummer.  I've known Janeen and her family for a few years and was already a fan of her music.  Her family is great people too.  I thought it was pretty cool that she had a CD out, and had also gone to India to record another one.  I replied to the ad and after a brief, written interview, she graciously invited me to audition by jamming with the rest of her band at the time – guitarist Michael Burke and drummer Art Williams.

I was definitely rusty.  After all, the last time I had played with any sort of regularity had been in the mid 1990’s.  Maybe I was just self-conscious, but I felt that my first forays into non-Heavy Rock bass-dom with the band during rehearsal were less than stellar, but was at least getting things going rhythmically speaking.  I also kept waiting for another enthusiastic announcement “hey! I found my bass player!”, but it wasn't coming.

It wasn't long after those first rehearsals that the first band gig was announced.  August 11, 2012 at The Plough and Stars Irish Pub in San Francisco sharing the bill with Acoustic Blues singer/guitarist Ben Brown (check his stuff out, it’s great!).  The day came and I was excited baby!  Janeen played an acoustic set first since the band only had like 4 songs at the time.  The time came to go onstage and WHOA!!  I was totally thrown off in many levels.  Let me explain: During rehearsal, musicians and equipment are placed in a certain way in the rehearsal room.  After my long musical lay off, that environment during rehearsals is what I clung to – the sound, the cues, “the smells”, etc. – and suddenly it wasn't like that.  Although the feedback I got was that overall, the set sounded good (maybe folks were just being nice to me), I played bum notes and missed cues.  Not that I was really nervous or freaking out, just thrown off.  After Ben’s set, the band went onstage with him and we played a Blues jam.  The familiarity with Blues chord progressions put me more at ease and I had a great time jamming with Ben, Michael and Art.  I think at that particular point as my fingers began to intuitively move around the bass neck again during the jam session, was when I felt that I started to get my mojo back!

The next gig came very soon:  August 17, 2012 at the High Street Station CafĂ© in Alameda, CA.  On the bill were Brian McGinty (an old bandmate of Michael) and a James Taylor-sound alike guy named Steve Krause.  I was better rehearsed and thought the songs the band played sounded great.  I was still a tiny bit spooked by the memory of being musically thrown off during that first gig, but soldiered through it.  A few days later, on August 26, we played a set in the benefit festival Music Day by the Bay (my first outdoor festival! Now I know how the Woodstock participants must have felt - minus the brown acid of course), and I think the band sounded even better than in Alameda!

Laying down the bass in Alameda

Shortly after these gigs, after one of the rehearsals, I asked Janeen if I had passed the audition, and she said yes, definitely!  Hey, I had to know, right!

After those early gigs, guitarist Michael Garza joined the band, and keyboardist Robert Scott Stanton joined for a couple of San Francisco gigs at 50 Mason Social House and The Red Devil Lounge.  We’ve been bringing down the house it during live performances and I am having the time of my life playing with the Janeen Leah Band!  I think the band sounds great and has great chemistry.  Janeen, Mike, Art and Michael are superb musicians.  I am very fortunate to be playing with and learning from them.  I am a big fan of them all.  It's really a treat to hear them play every week.

So, that’s how it got started again.  I am meeting great people and other great musicians as well.  I feel like I continue to get my chops back and enjoy coming up with cool bass lines to complement Janeen’s compositions plus other tunes we play.  So thank you Janeen for letting me do something I am passionate about and allowing me to contribute!

Rocking it out at Hayward's The Bistro on January 4, 2013
Next time I’ll hopefully write about another project that is starting to get off the ground, The Art Williams Experience!!  Actually it’s not what it’s called and Art would have a fit if he found out I called it that, but hey! He has no computer so; we’ll call it that for now!

What do you think?  We'd love to come out and play for you!  Your help finding gigs would be awesome.