Sunday February 27, 2005

Alicia Keys goes back in time in Augusta...

 

 


I feel like complete crap today...

I haven't felt this bad since the mental and physical exhaustion of the mule ride into the Grand Canyon last October. There's no real reason for it but it's the fact of the matter. And today's a working day, too.

Since we don't exactly know where the auditorium is in Augusta where Alicia Keys will be playing, we left pretty early. We got on the road about 3 and were in Augusta around 5. First, we found the auditorium (which was wonderfully easy to do) and then looked for food. First we stopped at Carraba's but when we realized it would be a half-hour wait, I said "screw it". I was just too weak and out of it to stand there. So we went to IHOP instead which proved to be just the thing I needed. A pot roast and sweet tea later and I was doing much better.

It was a miserable drive through the rain all the way there. I couldn't even focus my eyes properly. Good thing my camera does that for me. The show was due to start at 7:30. We got there about 6:30. There was ample, cheap parking and the staff was well organized. I was impressed. We were told to meet the liason at 7:45 (of course it would start late) for our passes so Amanda and I went on in to our seats. It turns out they were 6th row center. Killer...these are the best comp seats I've ever gotten.

At approximately 8 o'clock the show began with an opening act named Zasha or Sasha or something. She looked liked Mandy Moore but she was German. It was a short acoustic set with her and another guitarist. She had a great voice but her charisma is underdeveloped at this point. Next up was semi-local act Shawn Kane. Alicia Keys is a huge supporter of his and she helped him get signed to J Records. If what I saw is any indication, he'll be big in a year. He was a soul singer in the classic sense. He tore through some originals (my favorite title was "Like Whitney Loves Bobby") before having the guts to close with a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." He laid into it - even dropping to the floor for a chunk. The ladies swooned and the guys threw in "preach ons". You'll be hearing from Shawn.

John Legend was next. To be totally honest, I thought he was kind of boring. He has a strong voice and the songs aren't bad. I, however, don't think he's living up to the hype behind him right now. The shoot was difficult, too. I had to run around the room trying to get a good angle. His keyboard was straight-on center stage which always makes it tough. Oh well, I got a hand full of okay pics. It was only later that I found out that he was the keyboard player from Kanye West's tour (and album) from last year. I remember him on "I'll Fly Away" at On The Bricks. Interesting...

Before Alicia came on, I asked her rep if I could just shoot from my seat. The rule was that we could shoot from the first half of the building for the first song, then from the board for the second one. That's crazy...and incredibly difficult. He was cool, though, and said that I could shoot from that 6th row center seat. So as it turns out, I got amazing pics of Alicia from a fairly unique angle and where the lights are at their peak. And what a shoot it was. Alicia was dressed up to go along with a 1931 "Uptown Saturday Night" theme. And the show was just about perfect. Unless '05 is the most phenomenal year ever for shows, this one will almost definitely make my top ten list for '05. It's truly the first great show of the year. Highlights for me included re-vamped and stylistically shifted (to fit the theme) versions of "A Woman's Worth", "You Don't Know My Name" and "Diary". Hearing her spins on Cab Calloway's "Minnie The Moocher" and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" were priceless as well. Alicia has become quite the band leader and reminded me regularly of Prince's shows in pacing, general lay out and feel. His influence stretched into the song selection, too. She did a revision of her last revision of his 1999 b-side "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore" that started out more like '50s R & B than anything else. Eventually, it became more recognizable but (again like Prince) you didn't care even when it wasn't 'cause it was so friggin' cool anyway. Of course, she tore the place apart with a passionate version of "Fallin'" that destroyed the recording. Alicia's a class act. Of modern performers, she's at the top of my "Most Likely To Last" list. I just wish her albums were as good as her shows (and that's not a slam at her releases - she's just so much fresher live). She didn't mar the night with a series of anti-climactic encores either. In fact, there were none. She ended perfectly and got out of there.

We were on the road in the rain again a little before 11. We hit home about 1 and I collapsed into bed. What a week...and the one that begins tomorrow may be even more frantic!

You can check out my pics at Wire Image by clicking here. I've gotta say, I'm really proud of these...


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Saturday February 26, 2005

Critical Darlings in the studio...

From left to right - Me ("producing"), Frank (playing) and Asa (recording).

(as seen through the eyes of Amanda)

S


Today started early for the Darlings. Frank reported to D.A.R.C. promptly at 10:30 a.m. to begin laying down his bass tracks. I got in around noon. By then, Frank had done "Colors In Black & White" and he was working on "Phony". Soon after, he got "Into My View." A lot of the time while he was tracking, I was in the big room looking for sounds on the Nord synthesizer. We'll see if they get used. After a couple of passes through "I Know Too Much", Frank and I decided that he just wasn't feeling it so we decided to keep my bass track. So to have him on the song, we put him on one of the rhythm guitars that accents the end of each chorus. Then we switched out to me again...

I laid down more electrics. I did "Sometimes I'm Sam" using my Strat / acoustic hybrid sound that's the only way to make it chime the way I like it. Then I did the electrics for "Towel Cape Song". I never could get the slide part to my satisfaction so I decided against using it at all and just went with the way I do it live. I wound up using a program (at Asa's and Frank's urging) called "Warm Pie" to get the sound for that part. It's the first time I've used a pedal preset. All the other sounds I designed from scratch. After that, we mic'ed up my Wechter Pathmaker to do acoustics. I added them to the choruses of "I Know Too Much" and I did the tiny capoed guitar for that one, too. We doubled them all of course... Then I tackled acoustics for "Towel Cape Song". For fun I added them in on "Sometimes I'm Sam" and even put some in "I'll Be Fine" that may or may not make the final mix. Suddenly, it was starting to sound less like a straight up rock record and more like the "pop that rocks" that I wanted.

By this time, it was time for me to do a dinner break. Amanda showed up and we went out for a pleasant dinner at Amici's (it's sad that Rocky's is gone but this is a decent new place at the old location). By the time I got back, Frank had pretty much completed all of his tracks. Then Amanda took some photos of us before she ditched.

I got back on the Hamer and started tearing through stuff. I know I play better at night. I nailed the stereo distorted tracks for "Down" in one take a piece and they were cooking, I must say. I moved on to "I'll Be Fine" next. I layered a dreamier distorted guitar (more like the original writing demo) and a chunky, drier one (left and right). Tom got back in from Charlotte just in time for me to layer the wah solo during the 7/8 part. This is the only solo that I don't have written out at all so it was an ad lib. I took it once and didn't like it. The second one, everyone but me thought was a keeper. We settled on the the third one.

About this time, Frank took off for some evening plans and Asa and I moved over to the synthesizer. We wound up putting a drone at the end of "Towel Cape" and another one at the end of "Sam" along with some walking keyboard bass lines to double Frank's. Then I added some cool textures to "Colors". I put a synth to double the guitar for the psychedelic parts (it'll be really subtle but should sound cool if it makes the mix) and then I added a wash of almost white noise for the part where the guitars drop out and leave vocals and drums. I did another bass doubling part for the second verse, too.

By that time, it was after midnight. We'd been tracking since 10:30 a.m. We got a lot done. We're probably half-way through now...

 

 


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Friday February 25, 2005
 

 

 

 


And yes, today is more of the same...just catching up. There are so many little details!

I must say that I'm quite proud at how well my Motley pics are doing at Wire Image. Hopefully, it'll translate to a greener spring than usual!

Trying to find inspiration for my guitar playing, I remembered Ernie Isley...so I grabbed four of five discs worth of stuff off of Rhapsody. That'll be my fixation for the next few days...

 


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Thursday February 24, 2005


 


Man, I forgot how draining it is to be in the studio. Today I'm feeling it. I'm much more tired than I should be for what I did. That's the nature of it, I guess.

The good news for today is that my new solo record, Center Of The Universe is officially up for sale exclusively (online) at AthensMusic.Net. Check it out if you want a copy.

And I got some more of Concert Shots edited. Hopefully, it'll show up on the site within the next few days...


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Wednesday February 23, 2005

 

 

 

Today was the first studio day to track my stuff for the upcoming album. I was so busy, though, that no photos were taken to document my beginnings on this project so here's one that I took when Tom was tracking last time and I was laying down scratch tracks with him...

So I got in to D.A.R.C. a little late due to communication problems but I was at it by 11:30. By 12:30 I had finished "Colors In Black & White", "Until The Road "Ends" and "Phony". And I'm not talking about just one track...I'm talking multi-tracked and I put down scratch bass tracks for each to guide me through 'em, too. I put 4 guitars on "Colors" but only one is playing in each speaker at a time. There's a left wah and a right wah for the psychedelic parts and I toggle the pedal off time on each side so it creates a swirling effect. Then I did a left and right for the boogie / pre-chorus sections and middle 8. For "Until The Road Ends" I just did left and right rhythms. That's all it needs. Then for "Phony", I did one complete pass including solo, then I doubled it for thickness with a slightly different tone and added a subtle texture guitar that quietly doubles the bass and then goes to a harmony for the choruses. Done and done...

It kind of gets blurry after that...I know I did scratch bass for "Towel Cape", "I Know Too Much" and "Into My View" then went back to the guitars. By the time we quit at about 8:30 p.m., "Into My View" was finished as was "I Know Too Much" (except acoustics) and, of course, I already had the 3 from before lunch knocked out. Not bad for a day's work. The only real snag came on "Into My View". After I had tracked everything, it was just not right, so I decided to scrap it all and start again. We did - and it was perfect this time. There are so many guitars, I don't even know how to describe them all...and every one has a very different tone. It should be really cool when mixed...I guess we'll see.

My favorite part of today came late. Just after sunset, I got the whim to put a Fender Rhodes electric piano on "Into My View". So Asa set it up and rolled tape and fifteen minutes later I had "O'Gormanized" it. While I was doing that, Tom showed up to check in and remind me to come out to rock trivia after. I wasn't really in any shape for that (I mentally exhaust myself in the studio) but I decided I'd might as well go...Amanda was out of town at a class anyway...

I got to trivia late and somehow Frank and Tom had managed to wind up on different teams. I had come too late to answer at least 2 questions that were right in my realm. In the end, we lost by 2 points...less than the amount of one question...and Frank's team came in 5 points behind us. If I'd been there on time, we would've won. If Frank had been on our team, we would've won. And from now on, I will never be on a 2/3 band team. That wasn't right. From now on, we'll be on the same team or we'll be 3 separate teams. Either way...but I don't like that fractured feeling like it was tonight.

 

 


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Tuesday February 22, 2005

 

 


I'm just trying to catch up and not doing too good of a job of it. My time off has put me way behind. For example, I just started editing a bunch of stuff for Concert Shots today from eary January and now I'm starting to shoot again. I don't quite know how I'm going to get back up to date but I guess I'll start by doing it one day at a time. It's not going to be easy with all that's coming up in the next couple of weeks...

Today, I helped Pollstar arrange a cover story on John Legend. The mag had been having trouble because they were repeatedly blown off by management. I just happen to have a great relationship with his publicist Renee at Columbia so I gave her a quick call and voila! Expect a John Legend cover story there soon. Because of this, I decided to put the Alicia Keys / John Legend show on my list for this coming Sunday. The last time I saw Alicia she was amazing...I'd love to see her headline.

Speaking of Pollstar, I got my new issue today and they've run one of my Drive-By Truckers shots from the November Tabernacle show! The strange thing is that they dated it January 22 @ the 40 Watt - when I also photo'd them. Who cares? As long as they're in. Plus, it's one of my favorite live shots I've ever taken of DBT so ... cool.

And it looks like my Motley pics are a big hit at Wire Image. February is shaping up to be my biggest month yet...actually, it already is...and it was my month "off."


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Monday February 21, 2005

 

 


Well, it's back to the grind...

I edited my Motley Crue pics from last night and found a home for them at Wire Image. You can see my shots from the show (in very tiny form) by going to the site and typing Motley Crue into the search engine.

I also assembled my own version of Johnny Cash's Unearthed box set from tracks I got from Rhapsody. It's a five-disc set in stores but I managed to easily distill it down to three (and I got every single song). There was at least one more 4-star American Recordings in amongst the cuts included. Then you could have another that's not quite as good. There's definitely some interesting stuff. It's just sad that I'll never hear a "new" Cash album again. There's always that particular and unique feeling the first time from him and / or any other classic artist. I said something to Amanda tonight that changed my perception of music. I can't remember exactly how I phrased it but it was something like, "The only time you really hear music is the first time. After that, it's just nostalgia." I guess that's true for any entertainment. I just never thought of it that way. It actually makes me approach creating differently. Luckily, the new album we're working on will benefit greatly from this insight.

Click here for last week with the live returns of Motley Crue and The Critical Darlings...


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