Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Incredible Flying Mixing Board

Last Friday I had the distinct pleasure of playing with some mighty accomplished musicians. Not only that, but there were hijinx aplenty. But more on that in a minute. The Chris Cawthray Trio laid down their 'down on the floor dirty jazz' avec beaucoup de flair, and during the soundcheck a dude walked in off the street beside himself with Chris' playing, and was quite effusive about it. The dude was wearing a pink ski jacket with pink fuzzy liner, and had on shoes covered in yellow police tape. Quite the eccentric, but we don't mind eccentrics. Chris said if he liked it so much he should stay & watch the set.

Next up was us - Ashley Newall & Friends. Alas, Chris Cawthray is our 'Toronto' drummer (who strayed far from home on this day - & will again when we play Kaffe 1870 in Wakefield Nov. 28th), and Mr. Neil Gerster is our keyboardist who also subs as back-up bass player when Adam Fogo's off flying jets. I've played gigs with Neil, and I've played gigs with Chris, but never with both of them at the same time. In fact, the two only met for the first time 2 hours before the show.

We started with a 1-song soundcheck, and that went fine. Then 'the' Amanda Lynne walked in just as I was about to launch our set with my song, "Amanda Lynne". We played the song, my guitar wouldn't stay in tune (I covered for it), and my vox were distorted... but it was still good, and well-recieved. And then this...

Another dude beside himself with Chris' playing heads for the stage. This dude was likely also eccentric, but also old & drunk. With Semtazone's equipment on a small stage aswell as ours, there was a mess of wires going everywhere. Let me back up...

Semtazone is a band from France touring Canada. They were booked at our show by none other than the French Embassy. They are a four-piece band... with 2 roadies PLUS a tour manager! They had no PA, and Avant Garde doesn't supply one, so I brought a lead-heavy old practice PA (circa '73) that looks like crap. Needless to say, Semtazone were unimpressed (these guys tour European theatres regularly).

So, back to the drunk dude hanging over all the wires. He pivots and turns to retreat, and snags a wire with his foot. The 30-something year old PA mixing board flew off a shelf about 5 feet down and 3 feet out!... And it still worked!!! A mic wire and a patch cord paid the ultimate price, but -after a lull to rebuild the stage & for me to switch rigs- the show went on, and furthermore it went well (we got encored - it was by Amanda Lynne, but still!).

We celebrated Neil's birthday in style, and I thank all who attended & made it such a fun night! Until next time!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Open Stage @ the Georgetown: Wrap-Up

It's my last week hosting open stage @ the Georgetown, and I'm just going through the pictures of all the fun we've had in the last year & a 1/4. There was always a high-point -a magic moment- each Wednesday which usually involved 2 or more people joining onstage who maybe hadn't before, or at least hadn't played that particular song together. That's when the magic -the electricity!- really happened.

As host, I could jump onstage anytime I wanted to play harp, djembe, or sing back-ups. Playing with Jesse Green was always a highlight, as was playing djembe with Brian Simms, & singing back-ups late at night with Tim Melanson (I lost my voice a few times doing that, after too many cups).

Adam White, bartender & purveyor of good music & great times, was a stalwart behind the bar through-out my tenure. I think there were only 2 Wednesday's he missed in 15 months (which is less days than I missed), and both those Wednesday's were either just slightly off kilter, or else complete mayhem.

Some other regulars included Johnny Mac, Matty McD., Tara Holloway, Lisa Poushinsky, Dave Norris, the Turd Burglers (later known as Darth Bader & the Sometimes Wise), and countless others whose names I can't remember through a fog of beer. Several years ago, when Amanda Rheaume was hosting, I said that I'd love to host this open stage some day - I got my wish, and I made the most of it. Our 'Red Hot Chicks Sing the Blues' nights in particular revived the frantic scene that was the cache back in Amanda's day.

The talent level we got consistently was way above & beyond what I expected. The worst 'musicians' who ever took the stage were also the best comedians. I'll never forget the guy who asked the audience to name a job title for him to ad lib a song to - I suggested 'proctologist', naturally, to which he wrote the song "Dr. Longfingers" on the spot! We were literally rolling in the aisles.

As much as anything -over & above the great, spontaneous musical collaborations- I've enjoyed the good love vibrations at open stage. We were among friends, and big hugs abounded... plus the odd bite on the neck (hey, 2am is prime vampire time). Romance occasionally sprung, and for a minute there it looked like we were going to become the speed-dating locale for Ottawa South's dissaffected, divorced 40-somethings.

Thanks to John, Adam & the staff at the Georgetown Pub, and thanks to all who came out regularly & sang and played and got in on the act. Every Wednesday it's like I've been transported to this magical dreamworld, & it's been an absolute blast!