Welcome, Blogophiles!

Welcome, Blogophiles!

Or is that Bloginators, or Blogostines? And why am I doing this?
Heck if I know. But, I'm an artist of sorts, and LOTS of artists have their own Blogs, so why not me? I get to talk about myself and show some of my occasional (and I do mean Occasional) train art. I'm also gigging regularly with a great tribute band called Close to You, which covers the Carpenters. Thanks for visiting, fellow Blogians!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Close to You (The Band)

I left the classic rock band Train Wreck, with some regrets, last October. After a few months of drum rehab (see previous post) I answered an ad in Craigslist's Musicians section for a "pop tribute band" that was looking for a drummer with a "sense of dynamics and style who could play to a click track*. I replied with a "resume"and got a call from the singer, Michelle, who suggested I check out the band's website before deciding if I wanted to audition. When I discovered it was a Carpenters Tribute group, my first thought was, "I don't think so." It's not that I dislike the Carpenters music so much, but I've always wanted to play music by Steely Dan or the Allman Brothers, or even prog rock like the Alan Parsons Project. I just assumed drumming to Carpenters music was going to be no challenge.

Close to You at Harlow's nightclub in Sacramento, CA.

My boss (a real fan of live music) had some good advice about the subject: "Tribute bands like that are usually pretty good, and they usually play the nicer venues in the area." With that advice in mind, I set up the audition.

I was able to use their charts and click track recordings, which I downloaded from the band's website to prep for the audition. My Roland e-drums allowed me to play along to their click tracks by "mixing in" the songs into the e drum's controller. So, even though I used the charts, I didn't have to glue my eyes to them at the audition. I was able to lock in with the bass quite a bit. (Always a plus...) I felt as auditions go, it went pretty well.

My boss was right: Michelle was really good–her alto voice has a timbre not unlike Karen Carpenter's. And the other musicians were very good: they were prepared and the whole sound was tight. Upcoming gigs were clearly better than what I was used to playing–Harlow's in Sacramento; Brockville Arts Centre in Ontario, Canada; The Crocker Museum; wineries, e.g. And so I received an e mail the next day that I "got the gig"!

The more I've delved into the Carpenters' music, the more appreciative I've become of the orchestration and dynamics of not just the music in general, but of the drumming, too. The playing is very technical with a lot of attention to dynamics and nuance that you typically don't worry about when playing, for example ZZ Top. (Hey- I do like ZZ Top, however). While I've been accustomed to long lulls between songs while guitarists play with their little boxes and singers check the lyrics of the next song, Close to You packs a lot of music into 90 minutes with multiple song segues and very little banter.

So, now I'm another old dude playing old music. But it's kind of fun when you hear large numbers of people singing along to "We've Only Just Begun" and "Close to You", and the audience yelling for an encore at the end of the night. We've received a standing O at each of the gigs I've played! People are buying tickets to see us! What the heck is that about? I guess I'd gotten too used to drunks in the back of a bar yelling, "Play some AC/DC!" Those types of gigs don't appear to be on the schedule for Close to You. That suits this drummer just fine.

Close to You's website: www.carpenterstributegroup.com

* Click tracks are a computer-generated "metronome". They're usually played into a monitor track that the drummer or other musicians listen to as an aid to maintaining exact tempo. I wear in-ear headphones while performing and can get exactly the mix of instruments, vocals and click I want from our sound man. Playing to a click takes a little getting used to and can be a little daunting, but it also improves ones sense of meter (or else!). Many bands use them while recording, and quite a few use them when performing live, as well.