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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Another Saturday Afternoon Gig

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Sometimes you eat the bear.  Sometimes the bear eats you.  Sometimes you never see the bear at all.  This audience I played for today was not the worst of all time, but it was certainly a contender. One person looked up from her computer to clap for one song.  As far as everyone else might have been concerned I could detect very little evidence that anyone knew I was there.  Ah well.  It is a nice opportunity to play just for Zahn who listens faithfully and always claps.  And she took time to take a few nice pictures for me to post today.  It is really amazing how loud twenty or so people in a room can be, especially when one or two of them seem to feel it is important to make sure that anyone in the room who wants to hear every word they speak will have no problems at all. I’m sure it is entirely possible to converse quite effectively in either a noisy or a quiet room while moderating one’s voice so that only the person across the table can really hear what you are saying.  That would be what I would consider a polite way of being in public.  Well.  So much for that

Earlier in the afternoon, while I was setting up my equipment, I had a nice chat with Paul Michalec who decided to open the 49 at 49 book to page 2, on which I am featured.  Paul himself is on the cover of the book as well as maybe on page 6.  Or 8. One of the usual waitresses was out for her birthday. Mike Shifflett failed to show up.  Was he out sailing?  He was missed, not only by us but by the waitress with whom he regularly flirts. Mike will be very disappointed to learn that he missed a choice version of the St. James Infirmary.

One of the two people who took an interest in the musical aspect of the situation came over and asked about my amplifier.  It looks like some old vintage machine, but it is actually fairly new. It is a Fender Acoutasonic Pro which I bought it back in 2002 I think.  It was fairly expensive but it seemed like just what I needed to embark on a journey of discovery in the world of music performance.  It has served me well.  Though the Acoustasonic line has continued, the Pro model was discontinued fairly soon after I bought mine.  I’m not sure why.  It is a fantastic machine.  It is quite heavy but that goes with the territory when you have 80 watts per channel, 99 effects and great tone control options.  I use all the same settings I’ve been using since I first bought it and rarely turn it up past 3 (it goes to 10).  But I doubt another machine would allow me to fine tune the sound so well to meet my needs and there’s always the possibility of deciding to try something new.

Maryland, OUR Maryland

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The Maryland Avenue merchants organized an event this past Thursday as a run up to the Maryland Day Celebration.  It ran from 4-9 pm and I was asked to join in as one of three musical acts.  First were a couple playing guitar and bodhran, followed by a marching band.  I got to occupy this corner by the circle around the Maryland State House and play my amplified music out into the heart of Annapolis.  Tom Boddorff and his lovely wife Terry wandered by on their way to an art opening and took this very nice picture. Despite the cold weather the event was well attended.

I took particular pleasure in the opportunity to turn my amp up just a little higher than usual and project my sound out into a much larger space than usual.  My regular gig at 49 West Cafe and Wine Bar  is indoors  with people chatting and eating.  It is always a challenge under that circumstance to find the right level:  Not to be two loud and overpower the room, nor be too quiet and not be heard. Toward the middle of my second set on Maryland Avenue, it dawned on me that I really didn’t need to modulate down at all, so I let it rip.  Reminding me of so, so many years ago when I used to wander the streets of Annapolis on a Friday night singing at the top of my voice in a sort of operatic version of the Volga Boatman’s Song, among a few others.  Might I then have had a small bottle of spirits tucked away in my coat pocket.  Perhaps.  Thanks to the Maryland Avenue Merchants for an opportunity to play for the public.

Saturday Blues

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Saturday was a good day all told. Starting out with a nice healthy breakfast of oatmeal and espresso.  It was a rainy morning, which is much easier to deal with than ice and snow as far as I’m concerned.  Even though St. John’s College is on spring break, I’ve been keeping my pottery classes open for those who care to show up.  The Tuesday night class has been completely abandoned  but in the Saturday group there has been a regular and enthusiastic turnout.    Then in the late afternoon I did my usual two sets at 49 West Cafe and Wine Bar including the following tunes:  Creole Belle, Trouble In Mind, Hesitation Blues, Make Me A Pallete, One More Cup Of Coffee, St. Louis Blues, Crawling Kingsnake, Got The Blues, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Ella Speed, Betty and Dupre, St James Infirmary, Nervous, The Thrill Is Gone, Georgia, Way Down In The Hole, Big Chief Buffalo Nickle, and Freight Train. After I did Georgia, Mike Shifflet (a regular in the audience) said something like “Nice job, Ray,” and later another person in the audience called me “Ray.” I had to explain that my name is not actually “Ray” but that Mike was just giving me a nice compliment by comparing me to the incomparable Ray Charles. First set of music was a bit of an uphill battle with two parties of very loud and chatty young people in addition to the usual sounds of passing cars, clattering of dishes and very noisy espresso machines.  But the second set was miraculously peaceful and I could actual hear the space around the music I was trying to create.  What a difference!  I guess it was noticed by the audience.  In any case tips were about double the usual, so thanks very much whoever and where ever you are.  There’s no nicer compliment than a good tip of $. My sweetheart and most faithful fan took this picture with her phone.  Thanks Zahn.

Saturday smiling2

Spring Thaw

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After a few days of warming weather the local rivers and estuaries melted.  Carr’s Wharf extends out into the Rhode River and at the end of this lovely warm day the ice was finally  melted.  This river is where we spend many pleasant evenings poking around in the nooks and crannies in our little 10 foot skiff. The far shore is almost all protected Smithsonian property and all sorts of creatures (large and small) can be seen going about their lives in what might be imagined as a natural environment.  It is so refreshing after months of being ice bound to see actual ripples in the water.

After The Gig

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This afternoon’s performance went pretty well.  A reasonably good audience.  Some people were actually listening, including some people way in the side room who came out after their dinner and gave me personal eye to eye “props” as well as some greenbacks.  The couple sitting right in front of me who were so intent on impressing each other with their joi de vivre, wit and humor were not actually obnoxious as they kept their audibles below an acceptable decibel level.  One result of that was I was able to pay attention to my job, which is doing my very best to sing in tune and with emotional expression appropriate to the song.  When I can do that I am sometimes amazed at the discoveries I make about my own vocal possibilities.  It’s fun, satisfying and probably much more enjoyable for the audience than when I’m not trying to resist the urge to strangle the person right in front of me who is so impressed with their own self that they can’t resist the urge to share it with everyone else in the room.  (Isn’t that MY job?)  But I digress.  I did 23 songs:  Twelve in the first set, which went on for 65 minutes, and eleven in the second set which lasted 40 minutes.  A perhaps incomplete list of the evenings fare follows.  First SetCreole Belle, Hesitation Blues, Got the Blues (Can’t Be Satisfied), Trouble In Mind,  St. James Infirmary, TB Blues, Way Down In The Hole, I Hate A Man Like You, Freight Train, Georgia, Betty and Dupre, One More Cup Of Coffee.  Second Set: Coming In To Lost Angeles, The Thrill Is Gone, Crawling Kingsnake, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, St. Louis Blues, Sitting On Top Of the World, Louis Collins, Dear Someone, Forever Young, If I Needed You. Here is a picture Zahn took with her phone before I got set up…featuring the guitar case.