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.