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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Adventure Continues...

So, I just had a really great time in Philly playing with Lacy James at L'Etage for her CD release party, catching up with an old friend, and meeting new friends the whole weekend long.  The guys in the band we hired were all amazing professionals, most of whom played on the album.  And I got to toast 10 years of friendship with my friend Virginia.  

On Friday night we headed out there, late unfortunately, because, for Lacy, there was an overwhelming amount of stuff to get done so she was forced to push it down to the wire. We made it to Turtle Studios in South Philly just in time for rehearsal and met all the guys. Getting started right away we pushed on until just past midnight so that we could try to touch on each of the 14 songs at least once.  By that point, though, everyone was pretty much exhausted and Lacy nor I had even seen our respective hosts nor dropped off our bags.  Lacy and I discovered soon that the friend she was staying with lived ridiculously close to the friend I was staying with, which made the whole weekend's logistics just slightly less complicated.  And made for an easy decision on my last night there.  

Early Saturday morning we all reconvened at the studio and began fine tuning each song so the guys could all lock in the structures and we could coordinate things like who counts in which songs and for Tony, our percussionist and hammered dulcimer player, could learn the ins and outs of the occasional keyboard parts he had to play when both Ross and I were playing guitar.  It was so much fun working on a show like this with so many instrument changes and it really does keep you on your toes.  I had to play the electric and acoustic guitars, the keyboards (both piano and synth, sometimes multiple synth parts on the same song) and the mandolin in addition to singing backup vocals on three of the songs.  Tony was all over the place with different percussion toys and drums on different songs, the dulcimer on two songs and keys on a few more.  Even Ross opted to play the bells on In The Garden, a tune off Lacy's first album.   The only people who stayed put were Jeff on bass and Alec on the drums...and of course Lacy on vocals.  

After our Saturday rehearsal stretched until 2pm, we gathered up our stuff and I went to finally eat a decent meal (I had been eating mostly fruit and nuts to save time the whole morning) at a place called Silk City diner.  Steak and Eggs has never tasted so good.  Then I finally met with Virginia, with whom I was staying.  Poor Cylar, her daughter, was sick and miserable but we hung out with her the rest of the afternoon while we waited for the babysitter to come. Then we took the bottle of wine we had bought while out on a walk with Cylar to a restaurant called Figs close to V's place.  The food here was amazing and I didn't have to worry about gluten because all of their sauces are advertised as gluten free.  So, that was nice.  I believe I ordered the crab-stuffed sole with mashed potatoes and haricots verts while Virginia had this duck breast with some kind of bread and spinach.  It was pretty tasty, too.  

After our dinner, we went to meet some of her friends at a bar sometimes referred to as the most Philly bar in Philly.  Bob and Barbara's.  Home of the Citywide Special (a PBR and a shot of Jim Beam).   We were crashing a girl's night and stayed here a good hour or so listening to good jazz while I got to know some of her Philly friends.  Every time V ordered the Citywide, I ended up drinking the shot half, due to my dietary restrictions.  So, by the time we got to the next place, a combination beer and bowling alley in the Northern Liberty neighborhood often referred to as NoLibs, I was ready to call it a night. Luckily, so was V so we went back to relieve the baby sitter and turn in. After all, Sunday was to be a long day and I wanted to be at my best.  

A good eight hours of sleep later, I woke up refreshed and we hit up another local restaurant called the London Grill for brunch.  This place had a build your own Bloody Mary bar and several different infused vodkas, the most interesting one being bacon-infused, understandably listed at the top of the Vodka menu. I'm not really a Bloody Mary person but I figured, "why not?"  After all, when in Rome.  I enjoyed it, too, until I got a little too experimental, after going back to look over the other ingredients they had, and dumped too much liquid smoke in.  Before it was just tomato juice, celery bitters, pickled watermelon and a host of spicy things like chipotle pepper sauce, black pepper and the like.  

Kevin, Virginia's husband showed up part way through brunch because he had been visiting a friend of his, the previous night so we got to catch up a little bit too, which was nice.  I left them around 3, so I could reconnect with Lacy to pick up our equipment which was left at the studio all weekend.  I found her and her friend at a local coffee shop, OCF, (which had gluten free options for all the offerings!) across from the Eastern State Penitentiary and, after they finished their food, we walked back to her friend's place to get some merchandising details sorted out because her friend would be helping with that at the show.  Then we trucked it over to Turtle, picked up what we could and went to load in at L'Etage.  

The venue is above a creperie type restaurant on Bainbridge and N.6th Streets called Beaumonde.  Cool thing about this place is that, on our way back from Raleigh back in December, we stopped through and asked them if they would make their crepes without the crepes (as in just a pile of ingredients). They were accommodating and, in fact, said they do it all the time.  Gluten free seems to be catching on all over the place.  The bartender was even nice enough to check several dishes for me with the cooks in the kitchen.  We ordered and ate upstairs after having set up (which took almost no time at all) and sound checked. The stage at L'Etage was weirdly shaped (essentially a raised and elongated rectangle with banquets on three sides) so set up was a bit of a challenge but, even with six cooks in that kitchen, we were able to come up with a set up that took advantage of a long table that usually sits up there that we used for the keyboards and laptops. Lacy and I set up on either side of it at the front of the stage and everyone else behind us.  Tony and I were dancing around each other the whole time as my set up was basically right next to his and he had to use some of my setup (namely, the keyboard) and I had to keep going behind him to pick up different guitars.  

All in all, the performances were a success and we were well received by a diverse crowd, most of them either my friends or Lacy's friends and family and members of her production team and the producer from her first album.  We all had a great time and stayed behind for a few drinks after the premier of the video for Old Languages, which was also well received.  I had a ton of fun performing again and especially with such talented musicians.  All of whom were highly professional and pulled together an astonishing fourteen songs in an incredibly short amount of time.  I had the advantage of knowing them all ahead of time (some more than others) for the most part and having rehearsed them with Lacy a bunch, but they had to learn a lot on their own and piece it together without us there.  

Luckily, we made it work and were even able to improvise some parts that we didn't have the instruments for. The show at Drom in the East Village in a week and a half is going to be tons of fun as well but will present new challenges as we will have a slightly different lineup.  I will be playing guitar on more songs and Tony will play keys where I am unable to.  But the challenge of realizing recorded music in a live format is part of the fun of this whole experience.  I have been performing with Lacy for just about two years now and having a blast working with her.  She is such a creative person and her music presents all kinds of new challenges to me but it is always refreshing to be challenged musically.  It always inspires me to do more with my own music and reminds me how much I love performing live.  Up until Lacy and I teamed up I wasn't really performing live and would get something I dubbed "rock out envy" every time I went to see an awesome band. Now, I'm finally feeling in my element again performing.  And closer doing what I want to be doing.  

Anyway, we had one last night of drinking, just Lacy and I and her friend in the Fairmount neighborhood.  It was so damned cold that, after storing our stuff at her friend's place and parking, we slid into the first open bar we could find and chatted the night away.  This morning I actually ate at that cafe with the gluten free options, OCF cafe and we headed out of town from there, the Philly adventure over for now, arriving in Brooklyn with just enough time for me to decompress for half an hour before coming to work.  

This week we'll hopefully get to rehearse some and prepare ourselves for a slightly different experience. Next week's show at Drom is on the 28th of February, so if you're in NYC I expect you to come out and support!  It'll be legendary! Plus, there's the premier of the video for Old Languages directed by my good friend Mohammad Maaty.  Show starts at 8pm! 

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