Friday, April 23, 2010

So This Happened

What do you get when you throw a concert with 'punkish' rockers trying to draw in the younger 'hipster' crowd on the outdoor patio("Cabana Green") of a multi-million-dollar resort/spa complex in one of the most affluent areas of Miami-Dade organized by well-meaning people that may not have the strongest grasp on the pulse of the targeted demographic?


If your keen eye notices, you'll see that I was playing with musicians.

"Wait, what?! Contra, you trying to be on some DJ Spooky/Kid Koala shit?! The fuck?!?!"

Well, no concerned citizen. In fact, that idea was brained up by someone within the Bal Harbour Village Cultural Series development department and impressed upon me within, lets just say for arguments sake, a week of the event.

"Sure," I say, "of course I've worked with musicians before.... Have I worked with these musicians before? No. In fact, I haven't even met them."

Management hits up some connects at the UM School of Music, and presto-change-o, I'm now going to perform w/ 4 musicians (trombone, trumpet, cello, and electric violin[think Revenge of The Nerds closing concert scene, minus fireworks and impressed crowd]).

Let me just set the stage for you. So again, I'm at a gazillion-$ resort. The headliners for this event, which is expecting up to 600 people (including the Mayor, 75 yrs old, I was specifically told), is a group I'm completely unfamiliar with, but reservedly hoping has a crazy following that I'm oblivious to.

It's about 7pm, and the opening act, one Matthew Ian (all black clothes, fedora with the brim set low, a few pieces of jewelry, and probably some worn-in cowboy boots), is strumming and singing on his guitar about heartbreak and sorrow. Currently, there are about 20 people sitting in their lawn chairs; mostly grandmothers with their grandchildren playing in the grass. Then, before this story gets too long, the highlight of the night happens.....

*pause for suspense*

Mr. Ian, takes a second after finishing one of his songs to pick up a book laying beside him.

"First off," I think to myself, "if this guy is going to start reading a book right now, I'm going to lose my shit!"

You gotta understand, I'm already giddy(?!) from trying to take in the absolute awkwardness we are all feeling knowing that we are going to have to perform in front of the fine ladies from the Bal Harbour Bridge Society; and on top of that I haven't even met this group of musicians I'm supposed to 'jam' with while hitting all of the requests made to me hours earlier (including Elton John's Tiny Dancer) because of someone's masterful imagination of how wonderful it will be.

Where was I? Oh, ok, so Mr. Ian pulls out the book as I lean towards a friend and whisper, "I will love it if this guy starts reading some Bukowski or Frost."

Low and behold, he reads aloud the poem below:


He drank wine all night of the 28th, and he kept thinking of her:
the way she walked and talked and loved
the way she told him things that seemed true but were not,
and he knew the color of each of her dresses and her shoes
he knew the stock and curve of each heel
as well as the leg shaped by it.

and she was out again and when he came home,
and she'd come back with that special stink again,
and she did
she came in at 3 a.m in the morning
filthy like a dung eating swine
he took out a butchers knife and she screamed
backing into the rooming house wall still pretty somehow
in spite of love's reek and he finished the glass of wine.

that yellow dress
his favorite
and she screamed again.

and he took up the knife
and unhooked his belt
and tore away the cloth before her
and cut off his balls.

and carried them in his hands like apricots
and flushed them down the toilet bowl
and she kept screaming as the room became red


and he sat there holding 3 towels between his legs
no caring now whether she left or stayed
wore yellow or green or anything at all.

and one hand holding
and one hand lifting
he poured another wine

- Charles Bukowski


Bukowski?! One-point for me on the guess. Poem about a guy de-nutting himself?!!? Ten-points to all of the children old enough to understand what he was saying. Balls on this guy for reading that poem in the early evening sunset?!? Hundred-points for all the over 70-yr-olds who had the picture in their head of a man walking around with bloody towels between his legs and his own testicles in his hand!!

Oh how I wish I had a camera for all of the gaping mouths and stunned children. Awesome! Kudos to you fine sir.

Everything after that point pretty much sucked. He got back on his guitar and played a few more songs, then ANR went on, then I went on for a 30 minute set that got extended to ~45-60 then blah, blah, decrescendo.

Things I Realized About Freeballing With Musicians:

1) Homework.
You should really prepare something, or not even bother. Get all your songs in order, and find some ultra-tight in-key progressive manner in tying them all in together while allowing(or making) space and extendo-bridges for the musicians to jump in. Some half-cocked idea brought up in a meeting should not have come to light within the span of a couple days.

2) Let it ride.
You've got to let songs ride almost to the end for the musicians to get into any sort of a groove. I had a rough idea of what I should/could play for what I had imagined the event to be, and basically threw the idea of sticking to any sort of setlist out the window two songs in. There's no quick-mixing allowed with 'jamming' musicians, unless you've really spent time getting all your key signatures/progressions in some sort of comprehensive fashion.

3) Instrumentals.
The less lyrics, the better. The less prominent instruments in the song, the better.
The trouble with both of these rules was that of the brief instruction/requests given to me prior to getting on stage was to play lots of stuff people know(aforementioned Elton John etc). But when you're playing a familiar song with lyrics and perhaps even a guitar solo in a rock song (*gasp*), where the hell do the musicians go? Solo on top of the solo? Solo on top of the lyrics? Hey trombone, go ahead and just freestyle over top of Fred Wesley's part.


um, yeah, so that happened.


Sssssh is also an amazing album worth >two listens.

Fully Fitted posted about this track a little bit ago. Back in 2008 the movie Tropic Thunder used it briefly, and it reminded me of how awesome the song is and totally fits into the correctly identified genre of "Parent Radio" as Devlin noted in the post. So I had gone ahead and started an edit of it, not really finished, but not horrendous as is; its got some noisiness goin on.


silent partner said...

Middle management strikes again two days out from an event with half baked ideas. Fucking brilliant!

Nice edit also

Chris Mora said...

Is Bukowski making a comeback from the grave? He's sampled (not sure if it's him being sampled actually) in the dOP track of the same name (as the poem) Genius of the Crowd.

contra said...

must be. My parents gave me a bukowski collection a year ago for my bday. The last literature they gave me before that must've been a Choose Your Own Adventure or Encyclopedia Brown paperback.