Red Rocket Did For You

Beemo Tune, “Did For You” for “Red Rocket” Movie

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Our song “Did For You” is now in a feature film (Red Rocket)!

In a once in a lifetime type of experience, the song was selected to be in Sean Baker’s (The Florida Project) latest dark comedy film Red Rocket (limited theatrical release on December 10th, 2021).  “Did For You” was used, for a hot second, as background music in a scene with the main character.  How do I know this??? Well for one, Beemo got a notification (and a check). Second, and arguably more entertaining, we (Tony and me)  got first hand proof because we flew from Orlando to New York to attend the New York Film Festival after I was able to snag two tickets and dragged Tony to the festival. Upon arrival at Lincoln Center the line was around two city blocks, it was sold out.  Pure luck we had great seats; a clear view of the stage in the first row of the balcony where we sat listening intently for the Beemo tune to play. Truthfully we probably missed half the movie focusing on trying to hear the song instead of the dialogue but what we did catch we can report was great. Post movie there was Q&A with the Director and cast. A truly awesome experience!

Upon existing the movie, Tony abruptly stopped and turned to Sean…

Tony: “Stop, something is going to happen”
Sean: “..are you using the force again?”
Tony: “YES”
Sean [pointing]:”isn’t that Bree Elrod the co-star?”

Typical Tony form, we were suddenly chatting it up with one of the main stars!

Tony, Bree Elrod (co-star), and Sean hanging after Red Rocket

Tony, Bree Elrod (co-star), and Sean hanging after the movie

**Check out our blog “What We Did for “Did For You“” that tells the history and story of the song “Did For You”.


Historical Notes on a Tiny Desk

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The NPR Music Tiny Desk concert series started in 2008 when All Things Considered host Bob Boilen invited Laura Gibson to play a concert at his work desk following a bar show where the crowd was so loud he could barely hear her. Since then there have been almost a thousand Tiny Desk concerts, all of them with a musician or group gathered around Boilen’s desk playing for about twenty minutes. I’ve never seen a bad one, but here are two of my favorites from opposite ends of the musical spectrum: Nickel Creek and Wu-Tang Clan.

In 2014 NPR started the Tiny Desk Contest where independent musicians from around the country submit videos of them playing an original song in front of a desk (any desk). NPR chooses winners and invites them to DC to record an official Tiny Desk concert. (Tank and the Bangas’ 2017 submission is my favorite of the four winners)

Central Florida’s NPR affiliate 90.7 WMFE also does a local contest every year where they share the submissions from local artists and choose a few for a live taping of Intersection with Matthew Peddie.

We recorded our 2019 submission on Tuesday so I thought I’d do a little historical tour of our Tiny Desk experiences over the years.

Also, I would be horrifically remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to Antoine Hart, who has recorded all of our Tiny Desk videos (among others) and has always done an awesome job.


2016 – Take Me Home

Sound: Will Snyder
Video: Antoine Hart

We recorded this at UCF Art Gallery (extra special thanks to Gallery Director Yulia Tikhonova for letting us invade.) We also recorded Jennie, My Name is Beemo, and It’s Been Five Minutes. It’s Been Five Minutes was a complete train wreck so we pretty much just deleted it and pretended it never happened. The other three all came out well with Take Me Home having a slight performance edge. (I didn’t actually express this at the time but internally I worried that submitting a song for a contest that had our band name in it might be a little…. tacky?)

The My Name is Beemo video is on youtube here, but we never did cut a video together for Jennie. To be honest, I think it just fell through the cracks.

Historical note: as of this writing, this is also the only full band recording of Take Me Home there is. (The version on our first EP pre-dates both Tony and Justin and has no bass or percussion)


2017 – Back Again

Sound: Adam Winter
Video: Antoine Hart

The desk was so tiny this year that it’s invisible! Hence the lazy add on of the still pic of us around a desk at the beginning. I’m sure that was the reason we didn’t win that year….

Also Recorded: The Long Sleep

Historical note: We were idiots and didn’t use a desk in the video.


2018 – February Morning

Sound and Video: Antoine Hart

In 2018 WMFE invited bands to come in and use their studio and desk. We did February Morning, which was more difficult than it should have been. The sound from our PA was recorded on the camera, with no post production and no mics other than Dan’s vocal.

I struggled mightily with the chorus backing vocals. They are in the extreme high end of my vocal range and couldn’t project enough to hit the notes well without overpowering the lead vocals since I was closer to the camera. So I got caught in a sort of half falsetto and was generally not super pleased with my performance. (Fortunately when I’m performing my face always looks kind of not super pleased so it probably doesn’t stand out.) At least the mandolin part of that song is easy?

Historical Note: WMFE’s Jenny Babcock, forced to listen to us play February Morning over and over again, ended the day knowing the lyrics better than Sean.


2019 – Crusader

Audio: David Godber
Video: Antoine Hart

This was an experiment with instruments. Sean played the Cigar Box guitar like he did on the album (three srings, tuned to open G) which left me to play his normal part on his dobro. I pretty much knew the part, but there was a mad rush of frantic practicing in the days leading up to the recording session. The dobro was fun to play, but an instrument I’d only touched one time before plus a part I’m not too familiar with meant Crusader required more concentration than it usually does. (I will not be surprised to see video and find that in all of the footage I’ve got a furrowed brow and my tongue out).

Historical note: For the first and likely only time, Sean played a tiny guitar while I played the shiny guitar, potentially confusing those of our fans who have face blindness.


So, anyway, keep an eye out for our and other CFL artists’ Tiny Desk videos.


P.S. If you know any original musicians who hasn’t done a video yet, please browbeat them into finding a desk and doing one. Last day to submit via youtube is on Sunday, details here.

P.P.S. If you are an original musician who hasn’t done one yet, I’d tell you to stop wasting time reading this and go record one, but you’re already at the end so just finish this sentence and go record one.

Giving All 40%

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Dan and I played our first duo show in a while at Crooked Can on Friday. Playing a duo show is kind of a different beast than a full band show. In our full band configuration we have percussion, bass, and two lead instruments (Sean’s guitar and my mandolin) to play around with and texture songs so that the arrangements don’t all sound the same. Cutting down a five piece band arrangement to a duo arrangement is an exercise in making choices.

My job in a duo is to do whatever I can to maintain the character of each song and add enough variety to keep the songs differentiated from each other. The “risk” in a duo or solo acoustic show is that over the course of a set, songs that are just chord strums and vocals can migrate to sounding really similar to each other and can strain the audience’s attention.

This is particularly an issue for Beemo because we don’t play all that many covers. The audience will use the familiarity of a well known cover melody to sort of mentally fill in the arrangement; you end up more suggesting the song they’ve heard before and trading on their familiarity with it than seizing their attention with a novel performance. With original music it’s harder to pull that off because most of the listeners won’t have heard the song before.

Some Beemo songs don’t require much if any tinkering to retain their character; generally straight up strummer songs (e,g. February Morning or Better Now) or ones where the most recognizable musical part is in the mandolin (e.g. Jennie or Laurel Wreath) don’t require me to do much extra work. In some cases I end up playing Sean’s guitar part (It’s Been Five Minutes or Bustin’ Out) or play a hybrid of my guitar part and Sean’s (Janice and Light).

Songs like Nova require the most re-arranging. The defining characteristic of that particular song is the bass line which I ended up transferring to the mandolin. I was lucky that it happens to lay on the mandolin neck fairly intuitively, something you can’t take for granted when adapting a part from one instrument to another. Sometimes you have to compromise between fidelity to the original part and playability.

Of course playing without Sean also means I take all of the solos. Occasionally Dan and I start a song and I realize about a verse in that there’s a solo that I don’t usually play and completely forgot to prep for but most often it’s something more subtle that catches me off guard. At Crooked Can I almost stopped playing during the last chorus of It’s Been Five Minutes because with the full band Sean plays arpeggiated chords there and I drop out. I realized it a split second before we got there, though, so I covered it decently if unspectacularly. I also extended the ending of Janice longer than usual as well, as I was waiting for Sean’s end queue despite him not being there. Making sure my autopilot is switched off is very important in a duo show.

Dan and I also used CC as a test run for a few new Irish traditional tunes we’re going to start working in so Black Velvet Band, Jock Stewart, and Wild Mountain Thyme made their first public appearances. I’ve only barely started working on proper parts for those songs so I was rather unambitious, sticking mostly to the straight chords and arpeggios while occasionally faking my way through a lead line. I got rather tangled up during Wild Mountain Thyme; playing something from memory in public is always different than playing it alone in front of the written out chords. In the slightly heightened situation of a live public performance, I never know something new quite as well as I think I do.

Overall I felt pretty good about the show. In the post mortem I identified some things that I need to do differently in a duo situation (I need to fill more space during Laurel Wreath, the proto-part I worked out for Jock Stewart has some rhythmic issues), a few things that worked better than I thought they would (Today and MacGregor’s Revenge ended up being fine as duos and I finally cracked the code on a coherent Whiskey in the Jar solo) and a couple things I straight up need to practice more (going blank on Wild Mountain Thyme and tiring out doing the guitar percussion part on Crazy were both preparation issues).

We’ll keep sprinkling in the duo shows now and again. While there’s a lot fewer places to hide and I have a lot more to do, I appreciate the excuse to fiddle around with songs I’ve played a bunch of times.

Hope to see you out soon


Covering Your Bases

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Inspiration. Desperation. In an original music band, both of those are important motivators when choosing what cover songs to play.

Especially early on when we were a three piece with about 6 vaguely downbeat original songs, covers were a necessity if we wanted to fill out a full set. Choosing which covers to invest time in also has more logistical ramifications in a band as opposed to a solo or duo act, so what you pick often depends upon where on the desperation-inspiration axis you are.

Got a show tomorrow that you don’t have enough material for? Make a list of songs the singer knows and that the soloists can fake their way through. Personally I hate this method; I’m far too (over?)cautious to enjoy completely winging something in a public performance and I almost always feel like I did a disservice to the material and the audience when I do that. I’m always left comparing the song that comes out not with the silence that it replaced, but with what it could have been in more capable hands. That anxiety has abated a bit since I’ve gained more experience, but it’s still always tapping away down there.

With a little more time you can make more intentional choices about both what kind of songs you want to play and how you want to play them. You can go searching for inspiration, as it were. There’s a tension between wanting to play things audiences are comfortable and familiar with and playing something either off-the-beaten path or in an off-the-beaten way.

The type of gig is also important. For an original band playing a short, one-set show, a well chosen cover can be useful to either engage or re-engage an audience after a slew of songs they might not know.

Longer gigs are a different beast. We can all recall being at restaurants or bars and hearing an acoustic player cover songs we know in the background, but it’s such a ubiquitous experience that, even if they are songs we really like, we’re probably not super inclined to remember much about the individual rendition.

And to be clear: acoustic covers can be really hard to sustain for any length of time especially as a solo artist. Unless the artist is an incredible guitar player with a flexible voice there are only so many ways to re-arrange and tweak acoustic arrangements before they start to migrate to a similar sound. (Reggie Williams is a good example of someone I’ve seen sustain a varied and interesting acoustic cover set for the long haul, but he’s kind of a freak in the best possible sense. Anyone familiar with his work as R. Lum. R knows his vocal ability and range are phenomenal AND he’s one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen. P.S. He’s been in Rolling Stone a few times lately. Please please do yourself a favor and check him out.).

Familiar melodies from popular songs can buy you some extra time*, but a consistently great cover set in an acoustic environment is a lot of work. So be understanding to acoustic players at restaurants; it’s harder to do a really good job than it looks.

Some of the migration toward similarity in a long acoustic set is structural to the environment. Background music is, well, background music and the familiarity of song choice and homogenization of delivery is a good, easy parcel of sound for an audience to passively receive, but it also means it’s easy to tune out.

* Mere Exposure Effect, per wikipedia: “The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.” Check out an interesting (though long) article about its effect with music here and an interesting TED Ed video about repetition within songs here.

Being in a band with non-standard instrumentation, like us, gives you more music pallet choices to choose from. We also have the advantage of having two soloists on different instruments (guitar / dobro for Sean, and me on mandolin) to work with.

My personal approach when thinking about songs to cover tends to be more focused, trying to gain audience goodwill by doing something unexpected rather than by playing the familiar. Given the choice between a good rendition that is only a slight variation on what an audience has heard plenty of times before and a decent rendition of something more creatively unfamiliar, I usually lean to the latter. Hence we play “No Surprises” rather than “Creep,” and “Miami” rather than “Mr. Jones,” and “Porch” rather than “Alive.”

There’s a whole host of songs that fall between “overplayed” and “this might as well not be a cover.” Songs that the audience knows pretty well, but doesn’t hear live bands do covers of very often. (I admit, especially early on, a lot of our covers were much farther to the “is this even a cover” side of the spectrum.)

Take On Me” is one of those best of both worlds songs for us. I remember being at a friend’s 30th birthday party at The Lodge downtown and when Take On Me came on; the place went crazy. It occurred to me that I’d never really heard an acoustic cover of it before. I went home that night and found that, mercifully, the distinctive synthesizer riff laid really nicely on the mandolin. We started working it into the rotation and it gets a good response.

We play it pretty straight up to the original version. Since there’s less competition in an audience’s memory with “Take On Me” than there is with, say, “Wonderwall”* we don’t have to go as far out of the way to make it stand out. In general, then, the more unexpected (or bonkers) a song choice is the more freedom you can have to NOT screw with the arrangement to make it stand out. There are a few exceptions to this guideline in our repertoire but there were extenuating circumstances (see below). A part of my brain also resists playing really familiar songs extremely straight up because, frankly, a lot of those kind of songs are in that situation because they’re really good and I suppose it’s a defense mechanism against making your own material suffer by comparison.

*About Wonderwall: There’s a running joke in music circles about covering Wonderwall, to the point where there’s memes about it. It’s generally considered kind of a faux pas, due to the song being really overplayed for a long long time. As my friend Bradd says, for a while if you drafted songs before seeing live music (i.e. guessed which covers an artist would play), Fantasy Football style, “Wonderwall” would be the Tom Brady of acoustic sets. I would guess there’s some residual judgment on the song because of Oasis’ Gallagher brothers reputations as being dicks, and also some backlash against a popular and, let’s be honest, pretty catchy song that everyone has heard 3,283,416 times. (Roughly)

There aren’t really any covers in our repertoire that I hate. Dan did play “Margaritaville” once at Attic Door after a request from the audience. Knowing my… let’s say… “volcanic” hatred for it, he’ll now and then jokingly ask “Should we put Margaritaville on the set?” My stock response is “As long as you don’t mind playing it by yourself.” There are some things I will not be a party to. I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR.

Most of our covers are 90’s covers, partly because most of us in Beemo are children of 90s music and partly because we had to learn a bunch of 90s covers in a very, very short time at the end of 2015 for Orlando Weekly’s 25th Anniversary party at Cheyenne Saloon, which was appropriately 90’s themed. We cobbled together Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song),” Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” in about a week, all of them pretty faithful to the originals because we were under time pressure and they all have nice distinctive melodic parts that fit well on the mandolin.

“Losing My Religion” was a weird one for me, as it may have been the first cover we’ve played that I didn’t have to adapt a part for since the original prominently features a mandolin. I remember thinking, after looking it up online and learning it in about 5 minutes “Huh. This must be what guitar players feel like when they learn a song.” It was quite a different experience than trying to mangle a guitar part (or a piano part) onto a mandolin in a way that makes it both sound pleasant and not impossible to play.

Our most WTF covers came out of a show we played at Back Booth several years ago where the concept was that you played your set and then did an encore made up of covers that were outside your genre. We were the only acoustic band that day, followed by two alternative rock bands, a punk band, and a very heavy metal band (Murderfly, who was awesome btw).

Our encore consisted of Nine Inch Nails “Down in It,” Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Dan was the driving force behind the first two. He had suggested playing a Nine Inch Nails song, half in jest and we realized it was a great idea. We didn’t have a drummer yet, so I was banged out the bass drum / snare hit rhythms on the body of my guitar while Sean played slide on the dobro.

Dan inexplicably knew all the words to the “Humpty Dance,” so we just vamped on a jazzy original song we already had down while he sang over it. (Not super ambitious from the arrangement side, but again we were really pressed for time)

I had the idea to do “Crazy Train” after hearing a rock band play it in a bar and listening to the crowd’s reaction to the opening riff. It was another one that was instantly recognizable but I had never ever heard from a band like ours. Also, I knew that Sean could already play the solo note for note from his 80’s shredder days, so it was actually lower hanging fruit than you’d think. (Ask Sean sometime about the foolish bet his friend made to him when it came on the radio one time; it’s a NSFW story, but it is hilarious.). Again, I got lucky that adapting it to the mandolin wasn’t too painful, though the verse part required some contortions that took me a little time to get down.

I very much enjoy the front end task of working out a creative arrangement to a song. Adaptation is kind of a horizon-expanding experience and a really good practice technique. It’s very easy to get into a rut, going to a standard set of go-to moves, rather than actively forging a new musical pathway.

I’ve been trying to make time to learn new songs for its own sake as a pedagogical tool in order to become a better, more flexible player. Taking a guitar or piano part and forcing it onto the mandolin is a mind scrambling experience that forces me to face the choice between note-for-note fidelity to the original (sometimes impossible on the “wrong” instrument) and creative approximation. Either way it puts me in the position of using a fretting, picking, or melodic style that is outside of my default toolkit. It becomes a task of what I call “deconstructive listening” where learning a song is not just a matter of learning the “what” of the notes, but the “how” and “why” they are in a particular spot in an arrangement.

Doing this with already written and quality vetted songs allows me to focus more deeply on these hows and whys; I can devote any creative energy I have to understanding the part rather than writing the song. I’d rather work out a cool mandolin part to someone else’s good song than write a cool mandolin part to my own shitty one.

Lately I’ve been focusing on learning songs by Orlando artists whose work I admire. At first, it was just a way to stave off boredom and satisfy some musical wanderlust, but it’s sort of morphed into a project in its own right. Hopefully you’ll be seeing some mandolin showing up in some unexpected places in the coming months.

Stay tuned. And please don’t ever request “Margaritaville.”

Timucua White House – Orlando Treasure

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On May 20, when I went through the double doors that connect the foyer of the Timucua White House with the main room, Tony was already on stage. He didn’t look up when I came in; he was running through his #bassSolo for “Sucker Punch,” a song which we hadn’t played in a while, in practice or otherwise. All of our equipment had been at the performance space since the day before so I didn’t have anything with me when I walked in which gave me the distinct feeling that I was forgetting something. (I wasn’t)

The Timucua Arts White House is a beautiful space on Summerlin just south of Kaley across from Boone High School. The owner, Benoit Glazer, was the conductor of the Cirque du Soleil in Disney Springs and decided to turn his house into a concert venue. Timucua Arts is a non profit dedicated to promoting arts and music in Central Florida. They have live music every Sunday night across a range of genres and the concerts are free admission, potluck style with a suggested donation. The Sunday night concerts are a really unique Orlando experience with a great and supportive community, fellowship, and of course music. Definitely check out their schedule here and consider donating or becoming a member. There’s nothing else like it in town.

Benoit usually runs the sound, but he had left that day for Scotland to see his daughter graduate so we soundchecked with him the day before. His son Charles was going to be behind the console during the show. We had gone to soundcheck directly after our Beer Merica festival show at Gaston Edwards Park. Our 45 minute set got rained out about 30 minutes in and we were completely soaked. Our first order of business when we unloaded at the White House was to towel off our electronics.

The room itself is beautiful. When you enter through the swinging double doors, you’re coming in perpendicular to the axis of the space. The stage is on the right, about 12 feet deep, a few feet off the floor level. Benoit’s wife’s grand piano dominates stage right in the corner. The walls around the stage are brick faced. The ceiling, about 10 feet at the back of the stage slants upwards as it goes out, reaching 3 stories at the opposite end of the room. About two thirds down the room from the stage are the second and third floor balconies, connected by a spiral staircase. The floor has folding chairs lined up in rows, with the second and third floor having a mix of chairs and couches. (Timucua is fully wheelchair accessible, btw).

The entire thing is wood paneled and was obviously designed with acoustics in mind. It feels like a small, intimate symphony hall. I’d guess the listening room seats about 100, with standing room space available in the foyer if it were really packed. We had played there two years ago and I remember standing on stage, not plugged in, and playing one chord on the mandolin and hearing it resonate clear through the room; I’ll bet if I was playing solo or with one other guitar I wouldn’t have had to even amplify it.

Soundcheck took about 45 minutes. No one was in a rush and we really wanted to get it right, as Benoit always records the concerts and provides the audio and video to the bands in addition to a livestream. I was hoping we’d get some good live AV we could use down the road.

Sean’s fairly monstrous setup took the longest to dial in. Balancing his acoustic and his resonator is kind of a tough task; the dobro is a feedback machine and it has a rather different “default” output level than the acoustic. He’s been planning on cutting his pedal board down to make it both more cooperative and more space efficient.

The rest off the soundcheck went quickly. We played “Hey Ya Wanna” to get the mandolin / dobro balance right as well as the backing vocals* and then “Light” to dial in our guitars. (Also because we hadn’t played it in a while, I wanted to sneak a rep in). Benoit stood in the audience area, listening, and working with Charles to tweak the gains and the panning to fill the room appropriately.

*I usually do something stupid or goofy during my mic check. It was Shakespeare monologues for a while, and lately I’d taken to singing either Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” or Tool’s “Sober.” At Beermerica I started singing Nine Inch Nails “Closer” which resulted in a panicked look from Dan as I approached the chorus when he realized what I was singing. He needn’t have worried. The phrase “you let me penetrate you” became “you let me perturbate you” and the chorus became “I wanna pet you like an animal.” I mainly did it to amuse myself, with a secondary benefit of scaring Dan. I just did boring “check check cheeeeeeeeck” for Benoit, though.

We didn’t have monitors and the PA speakers were on the walls behind us. Since our instruments were panned to our appropriate sides and the acoustics are so good we didn’t have any issues hearing. Dan turned to me later and said “What do you think of the sound?” My response was “Don’t care. Doesn’t matter what it sounds like up here, it matters what Benoit thinks out there.” There’s basically nothing musically I wouldn’t defer to Benoit’s expertise on. The most important thing when we were done, as Justin and I re-iterated about 3 times was to not touch anything on our setups. The balance, panning, and gains were all good. Any fidgeting we did after sound check would only screw with the sound and risk messing it up.

After soundcheck we all chatted in the foyer. In addition to being an almost obscenely talented musician, Benoit is also an incredibly nice guy.

The night of the show, about 30 minutes before doors opened, Tony and I played through “Light” again as the rest of the guys arrived. The musical performance is always paired with a live artist creating while the show is going. Jene Owens, a sculptor who also did artwork for the movie business, was set up on stage left next to Sean near the window that looked into the sound control room / green room. Tony, himself a talented artist, struck up a conversation with him. Apparently Jene had looked at the acts that were playing and after listening to our music chose to be paired with us. Some bronze casts he had made were in various parts of the room as part of an exhibition of his works. He was going to be working on a bust while we played.

When all of us were there we played through “13 Bottles” to warm up, after JB again reminded us not to tweak anything. We then crowded into the greenroom off the foyer as people started arriving. We chatted with Charles as he set up and turned on the livestream. We could hear people coming in, getting wine, laying down their potluck snacks.

At just before 7:30 Wendy gave the introductions. Mills Park art curator Boris Garbe introduced Jene. Timucua’s executive director Chris Belt (a fantastic guitarist himself, btw) gave our introduction and we walked in as the crowd applauded. It was dark and hard to see, but it looked pretty full. I did a quick tuning check on my mandolin. I had fairly fresh strings, having broken one onstage on Thursday and I had some trouble at Beer Merica keeping my A strings in tune with each other. Since we were starting with Hey Ya Wanna, and I have a little solo figure right at the beginning, I wanted to double check. I didn’t want to find out 4 notes into my part that I was out of tune; having the string pairs go out with each other on the mandolin is really noticeable when you’re playing a lead part and I wouldn’t have been able to abort out gracefully at the signature riff of our first song.

Our set was a lot of songs off of our upcoming album, a few of which haven’t been played very much, mixed in with other of our stronger previous material. We planned on playing for about an hour, so I had some flexibility of what to leave in and cut out. (In a three hour show like we often play at restaurants and bars we basically have to play everything we know). Knowing we had a captive audience expecting original music, I didn’t put any covers on the set. When I was woking on the setlist, I kept an eye on what we played at our last White House show. We ended up playing 7 songs that we didn’t play the last time.

We were relaxed and playing pretty well. It was potentially the best we’d played “Crusader,” our second song of the night (in fairness we’d only played it 13 times before then, which sounds like a lot, but for point of reference we’d played Hey Ya Wanna 133 times.)

I missed my entrance during “Janice” but it’s a supporting part so I doubt even the guys noticed. Dan talked about our new album while I got ready to start off Clay Pigeons. I took a steadying breath. I’m on an island at the beginning of that song and it is a rather difficult part to play. I held it together and overall it was one of our best performances of it, with a highlight being a large contingent of the audience clapping along during the bridge.. Immediately upon playing the last note, I started off Better Now, another new one off the album that we haven’t played too many times. I have a pretty extensive vocal harmony throughout Better Now, but was feeling pretty good.

I do more vocal work live than I used to, both do to a slight uptick (very slight) in confidence in my voice and also the more prominent harmony parts in our newer material. I’m not a natural or particularly comfortable singing so it’s a bit of a mental hurdle, especially since singing while simultaneously playing some tricky instrumental parts as in Clay Pigeons or ‘February Morning” requires some concentration (and a crap-ton of practice).

We played “Light” at about the middle of the set, which was going by really fast for me. It was just about a perfect performance of Light, until of course right at the end when I thought “I think this is the best we’ve ever played this” and promptly clanged a note on a rather exposed part. I suppose there’s a lesson there about not counting your chickens until they don’t f*ck up a part. (I’m paraphrasing)

My phone had been buzzing in my pocket basically the whole time we were on stage. I didn’t check it, but did wonder what was going on. I was a little afraid the first row were going to hear it going off since sound carries so well in that room. (I had to be really conscious when I was tuning to not pluck to loudly. When my tuner is on, my output to the speakers is cut off, but my unamplified instrument is still pretty load in there.

Dan was relaxed and a bit more talkative than usual. It’s such an intimate venue that you really connect with the audience; it kind of feels like you’re with friends in someone’s living room.

We played a few more than we were going to, adding “Back Seat Down” and “500 Miles” before we played “Back Again.” Wendy asked us to play one more. There was a moments confusion while we tried to decide what to play. We had ended very very strongly and had already played our back pocket additions (BSD and 500 Miles). I wasn’t sure how we were going to follow up Back Again. Justin called out Take On Me, which really was the only choice. I had kind of forgotten about it.

After we finished we got some pictures on the stage and talked people. I met a woman who saw us for the first time at the Dr. Phillips Center and liked us enough to come see us again when she saw were at Timucua. I also finally got to meet local artist Martha Lent, who I “know” through Instagram and had seen in the audience at a few shows. Was nice to finally meet her in person.

We sold quite a bit of merchandise too. As I said, it’s a really supportive crowd and there’s a good percentage of people who are Timucua members who come pretty regularly whether they know the musical act or not. A lot of our friends and family came too.

It was a really satisfying night and a good performance. We got the audio track files from Charles and we’re going to get the video files in a few weeks so we should have some quality live content coming out soon.

Also you can watch the original youtube livestream here, if you missed it. And it turned out that the buzzing of my phone was my brother and sister in the Northeast watching the stream and basically live texting about it. Pretty sure they included me on the message to mess with me since they knew I couldn’t answer. If I had known it was them I might have said something snarky into the camera, which come to think of it may have been the point.

So you can just go ahead and assume any mistakes you see me make on the recording are a direct result of my siblings distracting me. I will pass on any strongly worded letters about their chicanery to them.

And go support Timucua Arts. Follow them on Facebook. Check out their podcast. Go see a show.



  • Hey Ya Wanna
  • Crusader
  • Jennie
  • Janice
  • February Morning
  • Clay Pigeons
  • Better Now
  • Did For You
  • Light
  • Sucker Punch
  • Allyson
  • Nova
  • Barricades
  • Bustin’ Out
  • Potatoes and Leeks
  • The Long Sleep
  • Back Seat Down
  • 500 Miles
  • Back Again
  • Take On Me

No Blacklights in the Green Room

No Blacklights in the Green Room 2560 1685 Beemo

I got to the House of Blues at about 1:45. Tony was already there scoping the situation and the other guys were on their way. Our call time was 2:00.

We were the first band at the Local Brews, Local Grooves beer festival put on by the What Ales Ya Podcast. We met Brian Quain, one of the hosts of the podcast and the emcee, last October while playing the Quantum Leap 5th Year Anniversary party. We played a Pearl Jam song at the show and then bonded with Brian over 90’s music. We were on an episode of What Ales Ya a few weeks later.

Local Brews, Local Grooves is a beer tasting event where nineteen Florida breweries set up around the House of Blues and provide samples. When I got there and found my way in the vendors were setting up on both floors. I met David, the stage manager, who showed me around. The sound guys were setting up mics and laying cables when I stepped on the stage.

Standing on the stage surveying the room wasn’t as strange or surreal as I thought it might be. I wasn’t nervous, which I was a little suprised at. Then again, I didn’t get edgy at the Dr. Philips Center show until right before we went on so who knew.

I found Tony, who showed me the green room. There was a stairway behind the stage that lead to the second floor. The green room was a series of interconnected suites with a couches, sinks, bathrooms, and some fairly odd art. On the wall opposite the windows overlooking Lake Buena Vista was a painting of a guy with dredlocks grinning and holding a toothbrush; next to the window was a four feet tall 3D wooden Kool Cigarette box. My first thought was about how many musicians had hung out up here. Hell, Buddy Guy had played here three weeks earlier. I’d seen Nickel Creek, Keb’ Mo, Queensryche, Steve Vai, and many others here.

(It occurred to me that Motley Crue had played at HoB Orlando before and I had a fleeting thought that I hoped no one brought a blacklight.)

There were windows overlooking the stage as well and I watched the sound engineers and brewers get ready for a few minutes.

Justin, Dan, and Sean arrived with their gear and the guitar stands so we started setting up. Not surpisingly, House of Blues is not screwing around in the professionalism department. We had a dedicated monitor engineer, Dominic, on the side of the stage who helped us get a great mix on stage. The stage is big, so our frontline monitors were far enough apart that I basically only got only what I wanted in my speaker without much bleedover from Tony and Dan’s. I pretty much just had the mandolin and the lead vocals in my mix. (I was set up in front of Tony’s amp and Justin was on his kit so hearing them wasn’t an issue)

We ran through a few songs to get the monitor mix and so the sound engineer (I didn’t catch his name) could get the outfront sound right. Still no nerves from me.

We were finishing up when Brian came on stage to say hi. He was excited. The doors were opening in about an hour. Brian’s a cool guy who knows a lot about music and a lot about beer. Was good to see him.

In a strange coincidence we discovered that the light technician, Dorian, has a father who worked in a Bradenton theater with Justin’s mother. Dorian smiled and said, “Well crap, I guess I’m going to actually have to do a good job during your set.”

Back in the green room, we shot the breeze and waitied. I went down to the backstage area shortly after the doors opened and there were already a lot of people inside. HoB had given us 3000 tickets to give out, which we did. (At the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Melbourne when we were handing them out, we ended up inadvertantly giving some to one of the sales managers of House of Blues, which went over well)

At 4:25 we were at the side of the stage. We walked on as Brian did our introduction and Christine yelled “Bass solo” when she saw us. There were some Beemo T-shirts in the crowd and I saw several friends I didn’t know were coming.

On the last word of Brian’s intro Justin started the drum intro to “Nova.” Announcing our presence with authority. JB doesn’t super like starting with this one as it’s pretty fast and can be hard to set the right tempo since he starts it by himself, but I like the dramatic effect of leading off a set with it. Also, better to play it at the beginning than at the end when we’re tired.

The sound was great on stage which usually makes me feel more confident, except for the rare times when I psych myself out *because* I can hear myself with no issues. It’s sort of like hearing your voice on a recording; it’s sounds weird and it can make you a little timid on a day of less than ideal focus. I usually err on the side of caution when I can’t hear but occasionally I think I play a little more freely because I’m not fixating on the notes I made a buzzing noise on or muted early or all the rest of the crap most of the audience doesn’t really notice.

It wasn’t an issue that day though. I was feeling pretty good, if a little numb. I was really, really tired after a poor night’s sleep but fortunately there were no nerves to speak of. It sounds odd but while I really think I was in the zone, I was feeling sort of workmanlike about the whole thing. Which means I wasn’t pushing the tempo on any of my feature parts and I was very precise on the notes themselves; I wasn’t being particularly explosive or experimental with my fills but I didn’t make any mistakes either.

I don’t know if it was a misperception but I felt like we were playing the songs a hair slower than we sometimes do live, which is probably a good thing. I get the feeling Justin was really being cognizant of not going too fast. He and I keep tabs with each other during shows and if it seems our tempo is wrong we usually, via head motions or maybe mouthed words, get adjusted. We didn’t really have to do that this time.

We had decided before the show that everyone would look to me for the cues to start songs since I knew where all of everyone’s instrument, re-tuning, and capo changes were. I tried to keep us moving along with the smallest break between songs that we could manage without forcing someone to miss part of a song to tune etc. I made the setlist to minimize the delay, i.e. putting the two Dobro Drop-D songs next to each other, putting Dan’s Capo 2 songs together etc

In our last practice we timed the setlist and it was 42 minutes and a few seconds so I theoretically knew how much slop we had. (Theoretically: more on that later)

Definitely the best performance of “Take On Me” that I can remember. We were crisp, tempo steady, and Dan nailed the high notes which was even more impressive than usual since he had said his throat was bugging him earlier.

By the time we were five songs in we had passed what I call the Artificial Audience Contract threshold; we played well and with enough energy that we had built up a store of goodwill with both the people specifically there to see us and the random people who were there for the beer. (Probably unnecessary clarification: The Contract is artificial, not the Audience) So we had made a good first impression at least, which tends to put me more at ease and lets me not worry too much about a mistake here or there. (As it stood there really weren’t any yet that I could hear)

A lot of people had made their way to the floor and a lot of people were taking video, including a lot that I had never seen before which was nice. We had grabbed the crowd’s attention and Dorian was taking good care of us with the lights which definitely added to the experience. (Someone after the show asked if we had worked something out with the light guy because he had synced so well with our sound. Nope, he was just really good)

I was pretty far from the other guys on stage most of the time but I didn’t feel out of sync because of it. (I say most of the time because Tony was doing his thing and was doing some orbiting of the stage. At his perigee he was only a few feet away but when he was at his apogee I was all by myself on stage right.)

Really the only performance issue we had all night was a little bit of indecision during the break in “Crusader.” On the album and on most performances Dan does an almost spoken word recapitulation of the verses and crescendoes out as we transition into the final chorus. Other times he’ll talk to the crowd, do band introductions or whatever as Sean and I are passing the main riff back and forth. We sort of did neither of them this time. Dan said a few things and I think was about to do the spoken word part after and then changed his mind.

It was probably the right call. There isn’t really enough going on in that bridge to justify crowd banter and then the full spoken part but Crusader is such a new song that we haven’t really practiced any escape hatch plans during that part. Dan did the smart thing and rather than risk all of us getting confused (Would we do the entire spoken word part? Would we just do the normal 6 times through the chord cycle and then move on? Something else? Half of us doing one thing and half the other thing?) he just turned around and along with Sean and Justin figured out when to come out of it.

Our endgame of the setlist when we crescendo, energy-wise, to the finale went well except for one thing. The original plan was to play Back Again immediately after 500 Miles. I checked the clock and convinced myself that we had time to play My Name is Beemo and then Back Again.

We did not. We finished My Name is Beemo, again a pretty good rendition of it, and got the signal that the set was up. I should have trusted the clock when we recorded in practice. We did make it through everything pretty quickly but I reached when I shouldn’t have and we ended up with the first show in like 5 years that we didn’t end with Back Again. My Name is Beemo is still a good closer and if we had never written Back Again we probably would end with Beemo more often, but I felt stupid. It’s sort of our signature closer, the one song you can be sure we’re going to play in any given set. Oh well. Can’t fix it now.

As usual we got off the stage very quickly and gathered up our “deads” (apparently what they call empty instrument cases). Justin and Tony rushed out to the merch booth. We’re trying to be intentional about getting to a place where people know they can come talk to us a bit after.

I lagged a little. An introvert by nature, I have to take a minute after I get of stage to gather the energy to be human in front the people who came to see us. I made my way out and chatted with some friend / fans (“frans”?). I was glad so many people we knew came since I know Disney Springs can be a haul for people.

The guys sampled some of the beers and bites. I abstained, being pretty headachy and worn out by this point. Eliza and I had friends in town from Vancouver so we had to take off around 7pm though Tony, Dan, and Sean stayed longer.

(I guess Tony ended up on stage with Brian later that night to help him do beer trivia. Brian would ask a question and then Tony would coax the audience into getting the answer before he (Brian) finished chugging a beer. … So I guess the audience could have messed with Brian by falling silent on every question and getting him nice and boozed up, but I digress)

Before I took off I looked at a schedule someone left on one of the bannisters. George Clinton was playing on May 4th. I’m going to tell myself from now on that I, in a very very very loosely technical sense, opened for George Clinton and the P-Funk at House of Blues.


  • Nova
  • 13 Bottles
  • Take On Me
  • Hey Ya Wanna
  • Jennie
  • Barricades
  • Bustin’ Out
  • Crusader
  • Fold Out Couch
  • Potatoes and Leeks
  • The Long Sleep
  • I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
  • My Name is Beemo

Festivities, Faulkner, and Fruity Pebbles – St. Patrick’s Day 2018

Festivities, Faulkner, and Fruity Pebbles – St. Patrick’s Day 2018 2560 1421 Beemo

Tony picked me up at 6:30 in the morning, his car loaded with all of our sound equipment. We still had to go to Waterford and get Dan, then head to our friend Scott’s house to borrow PA speakers before leaving for Melbourne. We had to be there at 9am for the St Patrick’s Day parade, sponsored by Meg O’Malley’s, a downtown Melbourne pub favorite.

I hadn’t slept well the night before and Dan had no time to make coffee, so we were not running at full speed yet. Tony, though, seemed largely unaffected by the early hour and I’m fairly certain he’s a robot.

We got to downtown Melbourne at just about 9 am and our meet up point was Sugar Shack Donuts on Melbourne Ave. Sean was only a little bit behind us and Justin, who had spent the night with his parents in Melbourne, was very close by. The parade would be headed down Melbourne Ave at 11:00, so all the streets in the area were closed off. Sugar Shack was a fortuitous meeting place, as oddly I really like donuts, though I only indulge in one about once a year. The amount of flavors they had was impressive and I debated between the Irish Cream St. Patrick’s Day donut and the Fruity Pebbles Donut. I went with Fruity Pebbles.

(This is mainly because I am completely fascinated with the branding. Fruity Pebbles was created amid the original run of the Flintstones cartoon, hence Fred and Barney as mascots. The show only lasted 6 years though and the Flintstones are still on the cereal box, meaning the product outlasted the show it was a tie-in for by like 50 years. There’s a whole generation or two who only know Fred Flintstone as the mascot for Fruity Pebbles and they have the timeline and causal chain backwards. [Similar to how Paul Newman was once referred to as “The Salad Dressing Guy” by a younger friend that had no idea he was an actor.] Yes, this all factored into my donut decision and yes I think about stuff like this way too much. I won’t even get started on William Faulkner and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Sean and Justin arrived and we met up with Erica Knight, who helped set up our performance in the parade. Our float was a trailer to be towed behind a pickup truck with a gas generator in the bed. Tony and Justin hung our Beemo Kelpie banners on the sides of the trailer and our friends Jason and Christine tied the gold and green balloons on. Lucky’s Market of Melbourne was kind enough to sponsor our banner, so hat tip to them.

We crammed onto the trailer with our PA system and three speakers. Justin was seated on his cajon in the back facing forward and the rest of us faced out the sides, with me and Sean on the right (starboard?) and Dan and Tony on the left. I was back to back with Dan. I could hear his vocals, and Sean’s dobro because I was right next to them. We could hear the drums and bass pretty well, but I’m pretty sure Justin and Tony couldn’t hear much of the rest of us.

When the parade started we were all pretty sure we were going to get jolted over (and Justin was going to lose his freshly purchased cheese fries), but our driver, Steve, was awesome and it was a smooth ride. We started “Potatoes and Leeks” and “Long Sleep” as we made the turn. Then it was “Back Again” and then “Wild Rover.” There were a lot of people lining the road, clapping along, especially during “Wild Rover.” Jason and Christine walked alongside us handing out beads and tickets to our House of Blues show in April. Justin’s mother Leona did the same, sporting a Beemo T-shirt.

“Whiskey in the Jar” was kind of a mess. We practice that song about 3 times a year, right before St. Patrick’s Day, so we’re hardly on automatic pilot and with the back of the float not being able to hear the front of the float we had a bit of a rocky start. In a controlled practice environment we do it fine, but a moving float with no ability to really communicate with each other it was another story. I missed my queue for the mandolin solo but Sean covered for me. It was fun and the crowd, much bigger now that we were getting closer to Meg O’Malley’s Pub seemed to enjoy it. “Ok, not doing that again on this parade,” I thought. We were far enough from the last performance that we could play Wild Rover again. Then we did 500 Miles by the Proclaimers which went over well. The crowd was really thick now and on my side of the float people were in the balconies of the buildings and seated on lawn chairs in the street. I actually played the solo the best I had in a long time, but I have no idea if anyone could hear it.

Just as we finished the song the float stopped right in front of Meg O’Malley’s. I thought there wasn’t going to be a better time for “Back Again.” Dan got the crowd yelling on the “heys” and i was starting to worry about throwing out my voice. (I was the only one other than Dan with a mic so I felt obligated to sing louder than I normally am inclined and with the sound quality I was having to belt. I also sing on every one of the songs we played that morning and I’m not vocally conditioned nearly as well as Dan is.)

(On second thought, I *am* going to talk about Faulkner and Ferris Bueller’s Day off. I was reading the Faulkner Novel “If I Forget the Jerusalem” last month, a novel with two intertwining stories that are told in alternating chapters. I was at the last chapter of “The Wild Palms” story, and read the last line: “Between grief and nothing I will take grief.” This is what Principal Rooney says to Sloan to comfort her when he thinks her grandfather has died near the beginning of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. So now I am wondering why screenwriter John Hughes decided to use this quote from a rather deep cut Faulkner novel in his teen comedy/farce. It’s not attributed either, so he clearly didn’t really care if people got what he was referring to and it was the 80s so it’s not like he could just Google “Grief quote” and just pluck whatever out of the ether. Did he just read that book right before he wrote the screenplay? And why that one? Not Shakespeare, not Twain, but minor Faulkner. Why such a heavy quote from a really heavy novel? [Also, in full context it is *crazy* not appropriate for the dead grandfather situation.] John Hughes died in 2009 so I’ll never know the answers. Sigh)

“MacGregor’s Revenge” was our last song. I was really concentrating, as I had pretty well botched up the intro the night before at Lucky’s Market Orlando. Got it this time though. The song ended just as we crossed the railroad tracks at the end of the parade route. It was a clear day and hot in the noonish sunlight of the unshaded parade so we were all sweating and tired. We’d played for about 35-40 minutes straight with no real break in the songs. It was a lot of fun and overall from what I could hear a pretty good performance. We all sat down in the trailer before the truck sped up and drove back to the side street where we were parked.

We unloaded as fast as we could and headed back West to get to our next show. Tony and Dan went for corned beef sandwiches at Lucky’s of Melbourne and Sean and I went on back to Orlando, though not before stopping at Cumberland farms for some junk food and hydration.

Our set at Crooked Can Celtic Festival in Winter Garden was from 5-8 so we had plenty of time. As usual, Plant Street was packed. The event was put on by our friends at Classically Cool, who always take great care of us, and mercifully our sound technician was Mark Mason, one of the best sound engineers we’ve worked with. Lynn and David had a cooler full of water for us, which we desperately needed, and Mark pretty much got our monitor mix perfect. It’s often a crapshoot at outdoor festivals what you’re going to sound like in the monitors, often being very unbalanced and loud, but with Mark there it actually sounded fairly pleasant in our stage mix.

Andrew, an owner at Crooked Can, brought us a round of beers. I’m partial to the Cloud Chaser Hefeweizen (also 5.3{cf9f4076b0d0460a2c0deec4eddb43438af34e071cf7e0f1079fb168cb32e685} alcohol; this becomes relevant later). We were pretty energized in our first set which was good because we started with “Nova” which is pretty hard on Justin. The whole first half of the set was up-tempo but we were on. Another round of beer showed up. The stage was covered but unfortunately I and my instruments were in the sun the whole time due to the hour of day. I was having a little trouble keeping the mandolin in tune. (Probably better that it was that way though; as pale as I am if we had set up differently, Sean (of Sean Patrick Quinn) would have been in direct sun and spontaneous combustion would be on the table.)

Some people off to our right yelled something about Metal music as we were about to start our second set. Jokingly I played the intro to Crazy Train. They cheered and started yelling “Play it!” Tony looked at me and said “Can we do it?” I shrugged. “It’s up to Sean. He has to play the solo.” Sean’s eyes got slightly bigger; we hadn’t played it in a while. “Third set. Let’s do it then.” We promised to play it later.

Second set went well. It was probably the best we’d ever played “Crusader” and “Better Now.” After the set I talked to Steve and Jenny, fans from Winter Garden who’d come to see us many times, for a while about Orlando, Mills 50, and Sandusky Ohio. (“Lot’s of people go to college for seven years.” “Yeah, they’re called doctors.”) I noticed Sean sitting at the side of the stage huddled over his guitar and, sensing I was needed, excused myself. I grabbed my mandolin and went over to him where he was frantically practicing the Crazy Train solo, which is no picnic on an electric and is brutal on an acoustic. (He does the tapping intro, too)

I played the solo chord changes while he ran the solo a few times. “We have our tells for the setlist,” I said. “If you see me playing chords and Sean frantically practicing at the side of the stage you know we’re about to play Crazy Train. And if you see both of us frantically practicing, you know we’re about to play Take On Me.” He laughed and agreed. (Keep an eye out on stage, we basically always mute ourselves and separately run the riff a bunch of times before Take On Me. Self doubt runs like clockwork)

It was at the start of the third set that I realized I was four free beers deep at 7pm and I had only had a Slim Jim to eat that day. I generally don’t drink when I’m playing, so I was a little surprised that I was playing well despite being a little… fuzzy. Maybe it calmed me a bit and let me play unencumbered by my excruciatingly loud inner monologue.

Crazy Train went well. I had to audible the setlist near the end and cut some songs as we wanted to be done at 8:00 so Crooked Can and Classically Cool didn’t have a noise ordinance violation. We ended Back Again at exactly 8:00.

So it was a long day, but a very fun day. We heard from our friends in Melbourne that some people at Meg O’Malley’s were asking where the parade band went, which is nice to hear. We don’t have any more marathon days coming up soon but it’s nice to know we have enough in the tank to make it through, especially when we haven’t been rehearsing as much as we usual do.

I’m most impressed by Justin’s ability to not die on days like this. (I’m trying to decide whether him sending out his FitBit stats for the day is passive aggressive or not. Thoughts?)

After the show I hung out for a while and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a few more Cloudchasers. (I wasn’t driving).

Between beer and nothing, I’ll take beer.

Handi-Snacks at the Dr. Phillips Center

Handi-Snacks at the Dr. Phillips Center 2560 1790 Beemo

Dec 18, 2017

The clock was ticking. No time to dawdle.

Fifteen minutes until Tony’s car got towed with our instruments, merch, and Justin’s drum kit in it. We weren’t super sure where to go to check in and we had arrived considerably early. The fifteen minute parking on Magnolia in front of the Dr. Phillips Center presumably is for people buying tickets at the box office, not for musicians trying to figure out where to go. It’s a big building.

We ended up at the side door on Anderson. We went through the metal detector and told the security guards that we were playing later that night and were looking to get into contact with Ande or Jay, our points of contact for the event. The guards seemed to recognize us from when we interviewed last month.

“What was the name of your band again?” the first guard said. The second, standing behind him, chuckled and pointed behind us. “Right there, man.” We turned. The Beemo promotional picture for tonight’s show happened to have rotated onto the flat screen on the opposite wall right as the question came.

Ande came down from upstairs. Tony had talked to her on the phone a few times over the past week, but they had never met face to face. She showed us around backstage and showed us the door to load in at the dock in the back. Six minutes to go.

We met Lisa, our PM for the event. (I’m still not entirely sure what that acronym means. Properties Master? Program Manager?…Miner? I hope it’s that one) Tony went to bring his car around to the loading dock.

A younger guy named Chris helped us unload Justin’s drums onto carts and take our stuff upstairs. The 300 seat Pugh Theater and it’s backstage / green room is on the second floor of the Center. Tony told me the car parked ahead of us had gotten towed.

Lisa is a very friendly woman with a slight twinkle in her eyes. She laughed very easily and seemed to like her job a lot. Tony told her about the herding cats aspect of being in a five person band and I asked if we could add handcuffs and a radiator into our rider to make sure no one wandered off. “You guys are fun!” she said.

Tony and I had left work at noon that day. We had intended to arrive at DPAC around 4 to figure out the logistics so the other guys would know where to go when they showed up for call time at 5. But with nothing to do and some nervous energy to burn, we just said screw it and headed downtown. Tony and I are the highest tensions guys in the band and showing up early was a good way to not get stuck in an uncertainty do-loop all afternoon. I think we both felt better once we were there.

The green room behind the stage had water, fruit, and lots of snacks in a basket. I was intrigued by the Kraft Handi-Snacks, which I hadn’t seen in two decades and just kind of assumed had been made illegal. I really wanted to eat one but I wasn’t exactly sure what effect it would have on my digestive system. The potentially unholy alchemy of adrenaline, nerves, cheese whiz, and an empty stomach was not something I wanted to explore before our biggest show to date. After the show, though, it was on.

Tony’s friend Laura, a publicist who was going to man our merchandise table before and after the show as well as help us out in general, arrived. Together we figured out the Square App so we could accept credit cards. (I barely know how to do it myself, having kind of only realized the night before that we should probably get that up and going before DPAC.) Laura really likes elephants. I respect elephants but I’m more of a lion person. We talked about the Serengeti for longer than anyone who doesn’t know me might expect.

Dan, Sean, and Justin all arrived pretty close together around 5. We started to set up on stage. The crew was really prepared. They had looked up pictures of us on stage at Cheyenne Saloon to figure out how we liked to be configured and had all the outlets and monitors set up for us.

Brandon, the sound engineer, had us run through our instruments to adjust the monitor mix and house sound. Lisa and company tested the lights while we started our check. Brandon was in the balcony near the spotlights, so we couldn’t see him. Another guy, Jon, onstage with a headset double checked that we were good with the mix and relayed our requests up to Brandon.

Dan started singing Jimmy Buffett during his vocal check, at least in part to mess with me. I have a – let’s say “healthy” – dislike of most of Buffett’s catalog. I asked the crew if any of them wanted to be a lead singer because we had a position about to open. Dan responded by singing “Fins.” In response I sang “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads for my vocal check.

We had a nice, long soundcheck. We checked to Potatoes and Leeks and The Long Sleep which were the two songs we were going to open with. We don’t usually soundcheck to those, but I thought it was important since we wanted to open the show with a bang.

Sean and I trade solos throughout Potatoes and the instrument blend is a sensitive balance on both it and Long Sleep. While I think they are fun, engaging, and play to our strengths as a live band, I don’t usually start shows off with them because if it takes the sound guy a few minutes to dial us in, (completely understandable given the sonic quirks of the dobro/mandolin combination) we’ll be past the impressive parts before the sound is ironed out and the crowd might miss them. It’s the tip jar money you throw in when the barista’s back is turned.

We made a few tweaks to the monitor mix and then played Bustin’ Out to make sure we could hear our three part harmonies. Brandon had us in good shape. We thanked him and went back to the green room.

I wrote out 4 copies of the setlist for us and Lisa. Then we waited.

We snacked, joked around, tried to stay loose. Jon came out and told us it was 15 minutes until showtime. I was a bit edgy with a bit of flutter in the pit of my stomach. Oddly, the underside of the first knuckles of my index and middle fingers tingle slightly when I’m nervous. It’s a very tactile, though subtle, indicator and it even happens when I am just remembering something that was frightening or nerve wracking. I tried to ignore it.

I became very aware that Potatoes and Leeks is a difficult song for me to start with. I’d have the first solo of the night. It seemed like a better idea in my house two weeks ago than it felt like now. The most important thing was to not think about it too much, to ignore my adrenaline and trust in the 749,498 times (approximately) I’ve played the song.

We went on stage in the dark, and I almost tripped. Right then the crowd saw motion and started cheering. I hoped it wasn’t an omen.

The lights came up and then we were off.

After we finished The Long Sleep, I thought “This is going to be a good show.” We were in sync and crisp. We didn’t leave much idle time between songs, except when we had to do instrument switches or capo changes at which point Dan talked to the crowd. “The floors in here are a lot less sticky than the places we usually play.”

The set was a little over an hour. We can play for a lot longer than that but I figured from the amount of tickets that sold during the DPAC members only pre-sale that there might be lots of people here who had never heard (or heard of) us so I didn’t want to strain their attention.

Time can seem somehow both compressed and dilated when you’re performing. You blink and you’re halfway through the set. The time in between songs, though, is excruciating up on stage. A seven second tuning pause elongates into what feels like 7 minutes and then the actual song feels like it is over too quickly. (Also in general we play a little faster live than we do in practice, though it wasn’t too drastic this time).

I tend to telescope into the fine detail of the set. I don’t really process it in terms of whole songs, but rather tend to think my individual constituent parts. I don’t think “Jennie is next”; I think “Jennie solo is my next feature part.” The setlist becomes “The Hey Ya Wanna intro” followed by “the Hey Ya Wanna solo” and then “the cross picking in February Morning” etc. (Good Day, Sur is sweet relief, because I do almost nothing on that song. If I turned my mandolin off, you probably wouldn’t notice.)

I intentionally don’t think about how many songs are left, because it pulls me out of the performance if I start worrying about the time. I just trust that I made the setlist ok. The worrying about the plan happens before you make the plan and once you’re on stage you can shut that part of your brain off. At least in theory.

After we finished with Back Again as usual, we waved to the crowd and walked off stage. The house lights stayed down. They were still clapping. We had planned to do an encore if the response was good, but never having done it before we weren’t sure how long to wait.

Justin wanted to milk it for a few minutes but I was getting twitchy that the crowd, who didn’t know we planned to come back out, would assume we were done and start leaving. I don’t know the etiquette / protocol for a local band at a big venue.

We were probably off stage for 45 seconds before we came back out. We played “My Name is Beemo“, dedicated to Dan’s sister in the front row who was the inspiration for the song, and ended the night with a-Ha’s “Take On Me.”

The post show was a bit of a blur. We thanked Lisa and the crew, grabbed some snacks and then went out to the march table, where people were starting to line up in front of our banner. Laura was selling a lot of merch. We had a new Live EP in addition to T-Shirts, coasters, and the Wide Awake EP. I don’t know how much we sold but I saw plenty of people walking away with music and T-shirts.

Also, Ten 10 Brewing had brewed up another batch of their Beemo Americana Pale Ale and it was on tap at the concession stand. It went over well. (It’s also back on tap at the brewery itself)

We met new people, talked to some long time fans, and signed some CDs. I was happy to see several really close friends and my parents after the show; it really helped ease the transition. In a lot of ways coming off the stage is hard for me. I tend toward introversion and while I very much like talking to people after a show, it takes a lot out of me. My natural instinct is to go hide. Rather than putting on a performance persona while onstage, I actually feel more authentic while I’m scowling up there, and I really start performing after the show. The familiar faces were a pressure release valve.

I was a little numb, but felt pretty good about our performance. And some background pressure I’d been feeling since we got selected for the show was starting to dissipate. It was a knot in the recesses of my mind that I wasn’t quite aware of until it was gone.

After a while the crowd dwindled and filtered out. I can’t stress enough how fantastic the DPAC crew was. They were organized, helpful, friendly. The pre-show went really smoothly. The on stage sound was great and people told us the sound out front was awesome. (Well done, Brandon, and Thank you! )

We packed up, said our goodbyes to Brandon, Lisa, Chris, Jon, and company. Lisa said we could come back and play whenever we wanted. I said “What are you guys doing Thursday?”

We headed out around 10pm. It was still my birthday, if barely. This one would be hard to top.

I ate the Handi-Snack.


Monitor Mixes and Mental Ouroboros

Monitor Mixes and Mental Ouroboros 2328 1608 Beemo

My self confidence is like a lightbulb in a house with faulty wiring. It flickers on and off due to internal currents that I’m not particularly attuned to. When I’m on stage there’s a small part of my brain on high alert, worried that my confidence is going to abandon me right before a solo or an exposed melodic part. Combine that with an active, loud, and persistent inner monologue and I occasionally put on a masterclass on psyching myself out.

So, with all that in mind, I sat in the green room of Full Sail Live on Wednesday with just a touch of trepidation. I wasn’t nervous per se (it’s been a long time since I was nervous before a show) but I realized I was a little too aware that this show was going to be recorded. Full Sail University has bands in to play full length shows where their students run the sound and record the video as part of their classwork.

We had a good soundcheck earlier. We’re a pretty easy live set up. Dan and I have our own DI’s*, and Sean and Tony have Amps with XLR outs. Justin was on the full drum kit for this show rather than his usual cajon/snare concoction so he required more mic attention than he usually does. I set up on stage right, with Tony next to me, Dan next to him, and Sean on stage left. In a show with all five of us there Justin usually ends up in the back. There was a riser on this stage so he was pretty visible.

*DI = Direct Input. A DI matches your guitar’s instrument voltage level output coming out of the 1/4” jack to the mixing board’s mic level input voltage. Having all of the instrument signals come in to the sound board at the same voltage level (mic level) makes it easier for the engineer to mix. (If you had, say, vocals coming in to the board at a weak mic level and a guitar coming in at a strong line level, to get them balanced and playing together at the board output to the speakers you’d have to gain the vocals level way up or gain the guitar way down which can inject distortion, noise, and most likely irritation as you struggle to keep them civil with each other.

It was a big stage so all five of us got our own monitors, which are the small speakers that face us so we can hear ourselves. We don’t usually use monitors at our smaller shows at bars or restaurants and especially for me, playing a quiet instrument, it’s like a little treat when I can actually hear what I’m playing. Levi, working the soundboard, had us play individually so he could set our monitor levels and tweak the out front sound.

I’m an Occam’s Razor type when it comes to the monitor mix. I want the minimum sounds that I need to play well and no more. I don’t really care what the tone of the mandolin is coming out at me (usually pretty piercing), I just need it loud enough for me to hear.

After we get our monitor levels set we run through a song so we can make sure we can hear everyone else that we need to hear and the sound engineer can get the out front mix right. We play either 13 Bottles or Allyson for sound check as both of those songs have the hardest instrument combo to mix (mandolin and dobro) and both have backing vocals so Tony, Justin, and I can set our levels.

Often a volume that you think is fine when you do the individual level check ends up being too low in the mix when the whole band is playing. I almost always underestimate the volume I need and during individual check have the mandolin turned down only to then get it put back after the full band run through.. I generally put no drums in the monitor (I always can hear it well enough coming from Justin’s kit) and since I’m usually standing in front of Tony’s amp I don’t need very much bass. I like the Dan’s vocals mezzo forte (medium-loud).

As long as I can hear the vocal melodies and the drums and bass I’m usually good. I basically ignore Dan and Sean’s guitars and often have them off in my monitor. There are no songs where I need to queue off of Sean’s parts and he has a small amp next to him which is usually enough. I have a lot of reps playing with Dan so I’m pretty tuned into his strumming patterns when I’m doubling him and I set up on stage right so I can see him. I don’t really have to hear his guitar to know what he’s doing.

Adding extra parts in the monitor mix can quickly become an escalating arms race and especially since the tone’s aren’t prettied up it can be cacophonous to have everyone on. I also ignore Tony and Justin’s backing vocals because I only harmonize with Dan and the more vocals that are blasting in my face the more likely I am to get pulled off my note when I’m singing. For this show I actually had my vocals pretty loud in my monitor which in retrospect was a mistake. I don’t like the sound of my own amplified voice and it’s really hard to tell how loud you’re singing through the monitors when the level is so high. I am totally paranoid about singing too loudly and taking away from the lead vocals and I’m already a little vocally gun shy so my reflexive reaction to my voice coming out so loud in front of me was to back off the mic significantly. In the end, after I listened to the recording we got, I realized I wasn’t singing loudly enough.

At the actual performance we played for an hour, as planned. It was… ok. I think the knowledge that we were bing recorded combined with the really big stage and Justin on the drums, which we don’t have much practice time with, meant we were a little out of sorts. We made some uncharacteristic mental errors. There was some confusion at the end of Janice when we didn’t all see Sean’s signal that we were ending and a near train wreck at the beginning of Nova where a snag in the vocal entrance almost sent us all to different parts of the song.

I’m sure it was fine for the listeners in the audience but I’m not sure how much of it will meet our recorded performance content quality standards. (One of the advantages of playing original music is that, live, unless you completely go off the rails and the drums stop or you titanically screw up a first time listener probably isn’t going to notice. Listeners unfamiliar with your songs are more likely to notice the rhythm section is out of sync than missed notes or chords so, fortunately, Justin and Tony carry us when we get into trouble.) If there’s a window of “acceptable” live performance, we were definitely still in it but we’ve also definitely played better.

Knowing that the record light is on tends to increase the flickering of my confidence, which then makes it more likely that I’m going to make a mistake. It can be hard for me to let go, quiet my brain, and just trust my preparation and muscle memory. I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking too much and second or third guessing myself. “Solo is coming up this song’s in A you start on the 2nd fret wait is that right it doesn’t look right god it’s loud in the monitor this instrument is so piercing that I’m going to stab the audience in the face wait does it start on the second fret we’ve got seven songs left is my hand in the right place right now you’re queue is coming up three two one…” It can be a little tiring trying to put on a good performance simultaneous with a brain starting to devour itself.

Of course I ganked a really exposed chord badly in our first song right out of the gate, but I managed to shrug it off and played decently well overall. I listened to the raw recording we got of the show the next day and there were some pretty good tracks in there. Even our near train wreck in Nova didn’t sound a quarter as bad as it felt onstage. We set a high bar for ourselves when it comes to live shows and since of course we know all our songs really well, we hear every blemish and judge ourselves much harder than most audiences will. I think we all knew it wasn’t our finest performance but I definitely felt better about it when I heard the recording. It’s very easy for me to only remember the bad and flush the good from my memory so in retrospect it was nice to hear how much went right in a show I would have given us a solid C on.

All things considered it was a pretty good, if a touch humbling, dry run for our Amp’d Concert Series at the Dr. Phillips Center on the 18th. If we’ve got a stumble in us, I’d rather get it out of our system before DPAC than at DPAC. And the recording we got is going to be really useful to find things to work on. It’s amazing what you hear when you’re not in the moment.

And hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll have some live tracks and videos to share. The next 10 days we’re going to be pretty focused on DPAC (I’m about to start finalizing the setlist). It’s going to be fun, probably a little surreal, and hopefully humbling in a different way than Full Sail Live was.

So, onward, hope to see you at Dr Phillips on 18th.

Delenda Est Carthago.

A Long Day in the Studio

A Long Day in the Studio 2560 1649 Beemo

Saturday November 25. Recording session for “Nova,” scheduled 3pm – 10pm.

2:42 PM

I get to Titan Studios (formerly WJSP), a little bit early. I’m usually edgy on the day I go in to record. Not nervous exactly, more like deep in anticipation. Anticipation of ending up with something new that didn’t exist the day before, anticipation of the effort of the creative process, anticipation of being one step closer to being done with the project. And as pretty much always, I’m tweaked by a perhaps overactive sense of self doubt. What if I don’t know my parts well enough? What if I take too long to record and we waste the recording time? What if I play the part perfectly but it turns out it sucks? Will I be able to adjust? Will I be able to take performance notes and adjust?

Will Snyder, or engineer, lets me in. We talk for a few minutes on the plan for today. We’re starting with drums, bass, and rhythm guitar for Better Now and Crusader. These are the least done of the 14 tracks we’re recording; Better Now just has my 12 String guitar part and a scratch vocal and Crusader basically has nothing. To save time, our producer Matt Tonner suggested we record the drums, bass, and rhythm parts all at the same time. It’s faster if you’re going to do multiple parts, and it can give you a more organic feel than tracking them all separately.


Tony arrives. Will starts setting up the drums. The snare, bass, high hit cymbal, and the toms all have their own mics and Will sets up two overhead room mics above the kit. We’re in studio A, which has a large irregularly shaped room which has been designed specifically to optimize sound reflections. The drums are against the back wall. Tony sets up in the middle of the room. He’s plugged directly into the soundboard in the adjacent control room, visible through a glass partition across from the drums. The studio is wired so the mics plug into XLR cable boxes in the walls that are routed to the control room soundboard and mixing console. The control room is sound isolated from the main room.

Since Tony is plugged directly into the mixing console he can be in the same room as Justin; there’s no mic near Tony that the drums will bleed onto and Tony won’t be generating enough noise to bleed onto Justin’s drum mics. They’ll hear the bass through the headphones.

The acoustic guitar will be set up in front of a mic in another adjoining sound isolated room near Tony. The door to that room is glass, so I’ll be able to see Tony, though I won’t be in the right spot to see Justin or Will in the control room (I’ll hear them on the headphones). Since the room is sound isolated, I shouldn’t have to worry about Justin’s drums bleeding onto my mic.

I’m standing near the drum kit watching Will do his thing while Tony warms up. Will is hitting the drum heads and adjusting them with a drum key to even out the tension and ensure that the sound coming out is the same no matter where the drum is struck.

I try to pay attention whenever Will is setting up and I ask questions if I can without distracting him, but it’s mostly black magic to me.

We tend to get into really odd discourses in the studio. One ends with Will saying, “The wood the crow is perched on is but an appetizer.” Sounds legit.

3:28 PM

Justin arrives. He has no drumsticks and no…beard. I’ve never seen him completely clean shaven before. His birthday’s this coming Friday. Trying to hang on to his youth?

3:30 PM

JB starts warming up with the chewed up studio sticks. Tony gets plugged in.

3:35 PM

Will sets up his ProTools (sort of the industry standard recording software) session. He turns some knobs on the mixing board, adjusts pre-amps, and pretty much does some more black magic. Justin and Tony jam in the big room.

3:40 PM

Drums and bass are coming through the speakers in the control room. Will adjust pre-amps, levels, and plug in settings. Tony and Justin keep jamming so Will can tweak the sound. They play off each other well and after some more free form they run through Crusader a few times. Will adjusts mic placement on the drums to change the sound. Not sure what he’s listening for. Not my forte.

JB slowly starts accelerating during the Crusader run throughs, mostly to screw with Tony. By the end he’s going about 20 beats per minute faster than we usually play it and he’s still cranking up. Tony, admirably and impressively, keeps up.

I check with Tony after their third run through. He wants me to play Crusader on guitar with them to help them keep their place in the song. Sean isn’t here yet but I’ve been practicing his part all week with a metronome in case we got to it before he arrived. (I play the mandolin on this song; Sean wrote the music to Crusader and his guitar is the driving rhythm instrument)

4:00 PM

Tony has brought the Full Sail Live run-through DVD the students recorded on Tuesday. It’s stashed in a Verve Pipe self titled album case, which has some very odd dissected frog cover art. Tony, who does all our graphic design, gives the art a skeptical look. “If I came to you with this, you guys would kick me in the dick.”

4:05 PM

Our producer, Matt Tonner, arrives. Will and I are in the control room. Justin and Tony are still jamming.

4:07 PM

Justin and Tony see Tonner in the control room through the window. They start whooping in greeting. They sound like siamangs.

4:08 PM

We set up my acoustic. We’re starting with Better Now. We have 12 string already recorded but we’re going to add an acoustic guitar double for coverage. I usually record sitting down but I’m standing now; I play standing up live (and I practiced my parts both sitting and standing just in case) so it shouldn’t matter for the performance, but my lower back has been bothering me the last two days so I’m a little concerned that it’s going to give me problems if this takes a long time. More incentive to focus and try to get it right faster. I tune up using my Korg Pitch Black that all of us have used on this album. We use the same tuner for everything to make sure all our instruments are exactly in tune with each other. The engineer on our first two EPs, Mark Brasel of Zone Productions in Melbourne, had a story about a band recording where all the players inadvertently used tuners that were not all set to exactly the same baseline and it caused total chaos before they figured out what the problem was. (The band apparently blamed the violin player for a while). We took that lesson to heart.

4:15 PM

We start on Better Now. We do about 5 takes. My part is pretty easy and, in addition to writing it with Tonner, I recorded the 12 string part last month so I am rehearsed and comfortable with it.

We haven’t played this song live yet and not a whole lot of times in practice either so Tony and Justin have to make some adjustments as we go. This song, Crusader, and Live in Me are unique for us in that they are really the first songs we’ve recorded that we haven’t extensively “road tested” live first. So I anticipate for these songs we’ll have to make some on the fly changes as we hear things we hadn’t noticed in our limited practice time and they might end up in a different place than we envisioned when they were still skeletons. Part of the process, we just have to be flexible and see what works the best.

Matt makes some drum notes – kick drum placement, buildup etc. and suggests a slight adjustment to Tony’s part. He’s right. The last take is definitely the best.

5:02 PM

Crusader. The first take is a disaster. There’s no scratch tracks for this, so we were just playing to the click and trying to keep track in our heads of where we are in the song. Following the click and keeping track of where you are without the vocal cues can be challenging, especially when theres two other people trying to simultaneously do the same. And Crusader is another one we don’t have many reps on. We’ve faked our way through it live twice, but none of us are automatic with it yet. Justin yells through the door that he’ll follow my lead.

My back is starting to tighten up. Just have to push through a little longer; I hope we get it soon or I might have to ask for a break and that feels like surrender.

I suggest I do a quick scratch track to the click with the guitar to give us a structure to follow. It’ll be a little easier for me to follow a mental map if I only have to listen to the click and myself. The take is pretty tight to the click but I am one verse chord cycle short. (I knew it as soon as it happened, but didn’t want to stop since the rest of the take was pretty good.)

It’s a mental chore, particularly as this isn’t my normal part for this song. Will and Matt do a quick copy paste to get the song structure right.

We go back through so I can sing a scratch track to give us the verse / chorus cues. I’ve never sung this before and I don’t know all the words; Justin wrote the lyrics to this one but doesn’t have a mic he can sing into in the current recording configuration – the overheads are too far from him. I haven’t seen the lyrics written down either, so I’m just going on what I think I’ve heard Justin and Dan sing at practice. I get most of them, but I fake the rest. “Something something words that I don’t know” is one of my less than impressive ad libs. Close enough.

We do another take. Much better. I lose track of where I am in the long instrumental break and flub a change. I ask to turn the vocals down in the headphones. It’s distracting me from the click a bit and I can’t hear my guitar super well over it. Also, I hate the sound of my voice on recordings. It makes me very self-conscious and I need to focus on the unfamiliar guitar part so I don’t train wreck us.

5:30 PM

Sean texts that he’s at the front door.

5:45 PM

After the 4th take, Sean swaps out with me. Relief. I go back to the control room. Dan is here, too. I didn’t see him come in.

The 1st take with Sean is a little bit of a mess. He’s still warming up. Tony and JB are locked in as they’ve been playing for over an hour today. After the take we have Sean swap his Timberline guitar for my Martin. Will doesn’t much like how Sean’s guitar sounds recorded. He briefly messed with the settings on the mixer before Tonner said “We do have a Martin and a Gibson in this room.” (My guitar is a Martin, Dan has a Gibson J45). Will thinks my Martin would sound the best.

After the swap they do a few more takes. Will, as is his wont, ad libs some lyrics to himself as they go “Turtles in my face cream. They are very small.” (He likes singing about turtles. The guys in the booth can’t hear him, but it never fails to amuse me. He should start a turtle themed slam poetry group).

6:11 PM

Done with Crusader.

Justin: “Do you want to touch my face?” I do not.

We all talk about what else these songs need and what is the best use of time.

6:48 PM

Tonner adds a touch of Hammond organ to the choruses of Better Now. The song needs some underlying sustain instrument. It’s pretty subtle, the kind of thing that you kind of don’t notice unless someone takes it out.

7:00 PM

Tamborine on Better Now and Crusader. We are probably going to add some more percussive layers, but we don’t have a shaker with us. We’ll come back and get it.

7:12 PM

Sean lays a guitar track for Better Now that adds a nice buildup and counterpoint to the main guitar. Justin and Tony take off.

7:30 PM

Sean gets prepared to lay the final acoustic guitar track on February Morning. Dan has a pretty strong vision for this song, so I leave him, Tonner, and Will to guide this one and I make a 7-11 run. As with road trips, one of my favorite parts of long recording sessions is the convenience store junk food run.

A Smart Water for Dan, an unsweet tea for Sean, and a blue Rockstar Energy drink for Will. I tried to talk Will out of it. “Heart palpitations and orange piss” I say. “Sounds fun,” he says. “I might just keel over in this chair.” I tell him that’s not allowed. “When this album is finished…. then you have my permission to die.

7:50 PM

Sean worked out a solo for February Morning that weaves in with the mandolin solo I laid down a few weeks ago so well that we can keep both. The mandolin part is based on a solo idea Dan had a few months ago. It’s a great melody and is phrased such that we don’t need to get rid of any of Tom Cooper’s pedal steel part. Originally the solo I laid down was just a placeholder, but now we can have all three “lead” instruments during that part and they don’t interfere with each other. We’re all happy with how it ended up. Tonner heads out.

8:20 PM

Dan sets up for February Morning bridge vocals. The vocals themselves are great in this part, but he didn’t have the words fully worked out when he laid it down. He wants to make a lyrical tweak. The current ones use a “wonder / wander” wordplay that is great, but is from “Bustin’ Out.” He changes it to a “wonder / stronger” line. I was a little worried about what state Dan’s voice would be in. He’s a huge UCF fan and was at that epic UCF-USF game yesterday. My worries were unfounded; he sounds great.

8:35 PM

Dan tracks Better Now. We do a 3 run throughs. He has a good handle on it. I make one note about having him sing it slightly more staccato in the first verse.

Will: “Do you love the new mic sound?”

Dan: “Yes?”

Will: “He’s lying to me”

Dan: “I like it. We’re going to redo the entire album with it right?”nnMe: “You’ll be doing it with my foot in your ass”

As Dan is tracking I fiddle with a mandolin part to harmonize with the guitars. Will says, “You’re going to record that right?” I guess so.

8:50 PM

Crusader . I’m not paying close attention. I can relax a bit when Dan’s doing vocals. He has a much better ear for vocal timbre, pitch, and vowel placement than I do and he’s pretty self critical. His bar of acceptable vocals will be higher than mine. I just double check he’s saying all of Justin’s lyrics correctly. He is.

9:20 PM

We set up the mandolin. I have 40 minutes to do two songs, including I part I wrote a few minutes ago. Should be enough, but my doubt is creeping in. Do I have the time and focus to do two songs? My back has loosened up again, but I am very tired. Recording is pretty draining even when you’re not actually tracking. I suppose it’s the concentration it requires, the intentional listening, and constant attendant to detail. I’m ready, eager. Able?

9:30 PM

Better Now. I’m a little unfocused at the start but happily the mandolin is holding it’s tuning really well, so that’s something.

I hit my stride. The part isn’t hard, but I’m not on autopilot so I have to focus. The cross picking section in the second verse is tricky to get perfect, but after 3 less than impressive tries I get it.

9:40 PM

Will’s opening the Crusader session. My mandolin part isn’t terribly hard, but it is fast and I’ve been here a long time. And I played a lot earlier. Weariness may make staying on beat difficult if it takes me some time to lock in. I did play this song (albeit on the guitar) about 5 times earlier today so at least there’s that. But I am worried that I might run out of time.

9:43 PM

… Or I might just do it in one take. So that went easier than I was mentally gearing up for. The song overall needs some timing tweaks. The guitar is a little off from the bass and drums but that’s an easy enough adjustment.

A productive day. We’ll listen to the mp3 bounces with fresh ears over the next day or two and see where we are. I think we’re in agreement that February Morning is fully tracked and ready for mix down. Better Now is just missing some harmony vocals and some more percussive elements. Crusader went from being nonexistent to almost done.

Nice when a plan comes together. Maybe two more recording sessions and we should be done tracking. Fingers crossed.