Thursday, June 30, 2011

Seattle, WA: Auntmama's Storycorner @ Madison Park Starbucks

In a perfect world events like this would happen every night in every coffeeshop in town: an intimate group sharing stories, perhaps on a theme (Father's Day tonight), perhaps with light instrumental underscoring (me!). Auntmama does a great job of finding that comfortable middle ground between casual/impromptu gabbing over coffee and rigid performance (these are 'prepared'--or pre-written--pieces), where the vibe is easy but the quality is high. And, as a story-focused songwriter, I find myself a natural fit among touching and funny offerings from Auntmama, Olubayo Johnson, and Kathya Alexander. Check out Auntmama on KBCS or live (particularly the Rain City Tales & Tunes events)!

String of Seattle Dates...& More!

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Seattle, WA: Musicquarium Lounge at The Triple Door

There's a spot right in the middle of the second verse of "Out of the Way" where Dave added a nice little tambourine flourish on the studio recording. It's tough for him to re-create live without a third hand, however, but that doesn't stop Brian from staring at him expectantly at that moment every time we play it. So tonight Dave hatched a plan: given the funky, terraced confines of our little corner of The Triple Door's Musicquarium Lounge, he got ready to toss a tambourine down the steps at the perfect moment, hoping for some slinky action as gravity took over. Sadly, it landed in a bag of equipment before it could complete its percussive journey, but fate was with him that night...

We make it a point to play our 'Go'-set--five-or-so high-energy tunes--right when the Mainstage show lets out, a blatant (and often effective) attempt to convince those leaving to stop in for one more and hear us out. The real 'Go' moment of the evening, however, happened when the show across the street adjourned...after we'd already 'Gone.' So we did something we've never done before and played that mini-set twice, which gave Dave another crack at the tumbling tambourine. And it landed in the darn bag again! But, with help from Brian, he gave it one final toss during the third verse, shining brilliantly and catching me rather off-guard.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Renton, WA: Lindbergh High School

As you may recall, WW Band member Brian Hoskins spends his days turning the voices of Renton's south-end youth into some of the most vital choral sounds you're likely to hear in a school auditorium. He sees nearly 300 students each day, spanning seven grades, including a Vocal Jazz Ensemble that meets beginning at 6:20am. Having just flown in from Chicago yesterday, I've dragged myself down to Lindbergh for a barely more reasonable 7:20 call to listen to the Ad Astra Choir take a crack at "Sing to Me," the song they commissioned me to write for them this year.

A few years back Brian had me arrange "Carry On" for his middle school group, a tremendous experience that has yet to fade away. But this is different: a completely new song, choral-focused from the start, for them; the group's one explicit request: tell a story!

We finish the second run through and one of the students I know fairly well tiptoes up to me. "Is it okay?" he asks. I nod. "It's just, well, you haven't said much that's been positive, and we're worried you don't like our performance of it." Oh, shoot... I'm blown away. The thrill of having sixty voices sing your song--a song they asked you to write specifically for them, no less--has knocked me over, and 'utterly blown away' (combined with feeble attempts to be an educator and offer workshoppy-feedback when asked) is reading as 'concerned.' I set everyone straight.

The evening performance is a great moment among many as the choirs give their last performances of the year. I tell Brian after: "I didn't hear anything that wasn't my own fault."