Gig Journal

The Kirkland Cafe, Cambridge, MA July 25, 2003

I got a call from Mickey Bliss. Mickey books the music for the Kirkland Cafe, in Cambridge. I didn't know him, but I'd sent him a PR package with a promo copy of my solo CD, looking for a solo gig.

Mickey was looking for a guitarist to sub in his organ trio for one set on a Friday night. He said he'd have an amp there, so all I had to do was show up and play. We discussed tunes on the phone call, and they were mostly tunes I knew, so I figured the gig would be Ok.

We were supposed to play from 8:30 to 9, so I showed up at 8. There was no one on the stage, so I put my guitar case in a corner of the stage went to the bar and ordered a beer. A few musicians wandered in with instrument cases. The club books two or three bands on a Friday night, and since none of these guys started setting up, I figured Mickey was not among them.

After a while the guy sitting a little further down the bar, seeing me looking repeatedly at the stage, came over and asked if I was the sub guitarist. He introduced himself as Dennis, the drummer on the gig. He said Mickey was downstairs and would be up soon. The guitar amp was already on stage, so Dennis suggested I go plug in and get set.

The amp was an old Fender, a model I'd never seen. Solid state, maybe two twelves. I plugged in and tried a few notes. The tone was a bit cold, but not bad. None of the warmth I'm used to, but tolerable.

Dennis, settling behind the drums, said, "Don't be afraid to crank up. It's been a while since I've played this type of gig, so I'm sure it's going to be herd for me to keep the volume down."

Mickey came up, we shook hands, and then we discussed the set. A c-minor blues, "Night Train ," "Blue Bossa," "Girl From Ipanema," maybe a couple of others. Well, the volume was something I was not prepared for. I don't know what kind of music Dennis had been playing that was even louder than this, but this was certainly as loud as I cared to play. Later, after the set, Dennis joked, "I wish I could say I enjoyed your playing, but to be honest, I really couldn't hear you. I'd positioned the amp off to the side of, and a little in front of, the drums. it was an open-backed amp, so I thought Dennis would hear me OK. Guess not.

I enjoyed playing in a different setting -- and this was quite different. For the past seven years I've player only solo, duo, and trio gigs, all without drums. I was unpleasantly reminded how difficult it can be to phrase when playing with a drummer. Much of my phrasing is based on accents and the use of space. But somehow those didn't seem to work, and in some of my solos I just felt that I was filing up space, responding o the constant push of the drums. Of course, there are ways to work around this, but apparently I've forgotten what they are.

I always find that my hands tighten up when I play loud. I feel it happen, turn up the volume a bit, and consciously try to relax my hands, but it never works. This gig reinforced my commitment to solo work. overall it was a good experience. Mickey and Dennis were nice guys, and it fun play some off these tunes that I hadn't played in a while. But I didn't play my best. Would I take the gig again if Mickey calls? I don't know.

Last Modified 8/29/2003