Wednesday, July 12, 2006


In June I started to branch out in my performances. Valpo has several open mic opportunities, one of which is a coffee shop called Anna's (well, it has a longer name but I'm not sure how to spell) that runs them on Tuesday nights. Things are generally looser there and you get to play four songs (the other places have only been two a night). I decided I would try and write a new song for my debut there and sat down that afternoon with a lyric idea. I didn't quite get there but I had the chords down and a good idea where I wanted to go with it. Still, I went and performed my two originals, the Dramarama cover I had learned for Front Porch's anniversary the Thursday before (by request), and attempted Wilco's "A Shot in the Arm." It all went reasonably well - I was a little out of key with "Woke Up" and I didn't quite get the G minor chord on the Wilco but I got a good response from the audience (including a high school kid who thought I was awesome) and a bit more respect from the assembled musicians.

That night also saw the debut of Dime Store Millionaires, a group made up of people I'd met on the open mic circuit. They were making their debut at a coffee shop that coming Saturday, for which Graham was the opening act. After watching their performance, Graham got very jazzed about the band idea again and was open to doing my songs in the band context as well. So, we spent some time over the next couple days playing together - he adding guitar licks (acoustic) and harmonies to my songs and me putting some keyboards and harmonies with some of his songs. During our practice on that Thursday my wife appeared in the living room saying she thought one of the songs he'd been playing ("Poor") needed something extra...and she pulled out a harmonica from behind her back. She and Grant had snuck out of the house, gone to Front Porch and bought the harmonica without us knowing. Luckily, it was in a key that worked with the song. I blew on it once or twice and we decided we'd be okay.

That night was open mic at Front Porch and we decided we'd practice some of our material. Graham went first and did one of his songs without me and then I got up and we did "Poor" together. Then it was my turn and we dueted on "Woke Up" and "That's Okay." I felt completely comfortable being on stage with him and had no doubts in my abilities. We got a nice response and I even had someone compliment my harmonica.

The next day was Friday and we planned to get together to practice some more and play again that night at Music of Oz's open mic. Before Graham came over, I managed to finish the new song and we were able to practice that and create a setlist for the next night. At the show that night, Graham went first again and I joined him for 2 of his three songs - "Poor" and "Waste Your Breath," for which I played piano. Then it was my turn. We did "That's Okay" and debuted the new one, "Song For a Day." There were some children in the audience other than my son, so we didn't do "Woke Up." I did the Dramarama one more time. It went reasonably well except when I screwed up the chord changes in the chorus of my new one. My parents also got to see my perform for the first time that night as well, which was fun.

Saturday rolled around and we got to the place a couple hours before we were scheduled to perform. As the opening act, we were going to do 9 songs (all 3 of mine and 6 of his). We hung out for a while as Dime Store got all their stuff set up and then it was time to do a quick soundcheck and set up our equipment. Graham had brought his kick drum and we had our guitars and brought the keyboard and I had my harmonica; the place (a coffee shop) also had a piano that we used. Things went well - we got a nice response from the crowd (my parents were there again) and even got interviewed by a guy from a local music magazine. In fact, you can read the interview here; click on the article about Dime Store Millionaires and scroll down to the last paragraph.

The following week we started up band practice again, as we hadn't been able to get all three of us together for a little while. Graham switched from guitar to bass on my songs and we added in Tom's drums. That first night we worked on "Song For a Day" and it was so cool to hear my song fleshed out in a full band setting. One of the best experiences I've ever had. We only got in two practices before it was time for vacation, though.

Before we made the trek east, there was one more performance. Graham was the scheduled host for the open mic at Front Porch, which meant he got the first half hour to himself. He played two songs by himself and then I came up for a couple more. Once again we got a nice response from the crowd; Jill said people were really into "Poor."

I brought my guitar along on vacation. I wanted to be able to play and I wanted to be able to perform for family members who hadn't heard me, such as my brother. I also thought I'd be able to get some more songwriting done - I had another song half-completed and yet another I had a first verse and music for. Well, the songwriting didn't work so much, though I did figure out the chords for two more songs. And I did perform for everyone at the lake on July 3, which was fun.

I had an idea in the car on the way back home to speed up one of the songs I'd been working on and I was able to sit down on Friday night and got the song done. I played it for Graham when he came over to practice on Saturday and he was extremely positive about it, saying he'd pay money for it (nothing like encouragement from your bandmate and a songwriter you respect). So, "Decoder Ring" is my fourth song.

We got back down to band practice on Monday and have another one again tonight. Why? Gs Livid Penny debuts as a full unit next Thursday night at a bowling alley. I'm looking forward to debuting on the bass and just having the energy of the drums while we play. I'll let you know how it goes...


Little Toy Robot said...

Cool! If you don't play in Chicago anytime soon, I'll have to go to Valpo to see you play.

Justin said...

We'd certainly like to play Chicago but we're not at that point yet. It would be cool if you got to see a show, though. And we definitely need to get together in the relatively near future...

theron said...

If you decide you ever need a toy piano in a song, I'm your man. Picked up a nice wooden one for a cool $20 bill.

Justin said...

Toy piano would be cool if I were doing a solo recording but don't think it would work in with our band sound. Where did you find it?

Oh, and Jill came home with a new keyboard the other day. Certainly opens up options for the band. I'm on keys for 4 songs, bass for 2, and harmonica for 1 plus on guitar my 4 songs. Practice went well last night, so I'm still pumped.

theron said...

The people across the street are moving, and they had a big sale. I felt I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Now I'm itching to get some vibes.

Justin said... know, I don't think I've ever seen anyone play vibes.