Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Midnight at the Boozecan (repost)


(For those who care only)

Current mood:awake
I was having beers with Hugh and Matt tonight and Hugh asked me how our gig went this last weekend. I said, "fucking terrible." But then I went on to describe how we started the show and how we segued from the DJ to our sound in one smooth motion. I realised it was a really cool gig afterall and thought I'd try to put down how it went on paper.



First off I have to make the disclaimer that no one was at our gig (well Rob, Dave, Rachel, Jason, Mike, Mark, Rosanne and her crew, Jay, the guys in the corner, the barstaff, Ben and Trevor, Catriona and her friends, and those two women that were dancing all night excepted). It wouldn't be an overstatement to say Combine the Victorious' third gig was attendance challenged! It's a shame too because we played a really cool set. Ben was dj'ing away in hopes that his voodoo could summon some more people into the venue. It wasn't working and it got to be close to 1AM. Isabelle figured we should start so I turned on the three little lights. The laptop was loaded with All Together so I hit the space bar and started our tracks. It was looping and I went to explain to Ben that we were going to start. I told him to fade his record down when he heard us start up. The track he was playing was in "A flat" but All Together in is "A". The record was about 104 BPM and our sequence was at about 116 BPM. So I sat down at the Rhodes and started playing along with the record. A flat to A natural octaves. Mostly A flat though, to be in tune with the record. The sequenced CR-78 beat from our laptop was drifting in and out of time with the record but that was cool. Once Marc and I got a musical noise started Ben twigged and lowered his mixer output to let us take over.

As soon as I detected we had the floor I set my delay pedal into loop and pounded out a bunch of A's in a row to set the tonic for our track. After that I got up and the three of us chatted for a few seconds - made the game plan. The drum machine loop was playing through a heavily modulated delay which created a fantastically hypnotic sound to set the stage for our show. The three 20 watt lights that we had glowing softly behind us allowed just enough light to let us be seen, but mostly gave us a golden backlight. I mean we're talking supreme budget production here right?

Anyway, after a minute I set the loop to the second stage and grabbed the bass to start building the background. Isabelle was waiting and once I had established the bassline she started singing "We're all together." We kept that up for a bit and then released the loop point in Logic and it began playing the programmed backing track. I'd tried to create a remixed sound by chopping up Jesse's drumming and setting it to a four to the floor beat. As it built we went through the first two verses and choruses of All Together. The fun began in the outro as we'd cleared the parts of the song that were predetermined. The whole point of this gig was to see if we could perform without a complete live band. Because Marc Wild was there I had an easier task, I didn't have to try to play ALL the instruments. Marc's guitar playing is amazing. The guy can create these sonic sheets of harmonic noise that set your spine alight. So needless to say when we hit the point of improvisation it was good!

To which I must add: the other condition of the show was to never stop playing music. Make it seemless - Isabelle's demands. That's why we segued from the dj'd stuff into our own and now had to crossfade somehow from one song into the next. The only problem was I hadn't determined a set order nor had I set up any fancy arrangements in Logic (the DAW that I prefer to use) where one song smoothly transitioned into another. Nope, it was a 'shut that one down and load up the next one' kind of affair this night. In preparation of that I'd set my delay pedal up with a patch that allows me to continuously loop whatever I'm playing on the Rhodes and keep that going until I press another setting. I'm not positive but I do think we tried to play For the Glory next. From A major to G major, not impossible but unlikely. It worked but wasn't our best transition.

I think a highlight of the night was switching from The Hours into Dafty. Unfortunately we didn't play The Hours that well but the seemless switch between the former song into the latter was awesome. I'd set a really lovely cluster chord into the loop pedal and then set up the bass part. The song was running in the back ground and I could just see where I'd colour coded the parts that the real drums were going to cut in. At just the right point I kicked off the DL-4 pedal and started playing the distorted bass lead line that opens that song. The whole night became a lot better. What a great transition, we all locked with it and kind of went mental. The beauty of playing in this format is that I can loop the programmed beat at any point so we can jam with it. Near the end I set us up with a cool loop and Marc went off, did his usual astounding thing and then created a fucking blinding pile of noise to hold us over until I loaded up Blue Kitchen.

Which was the climax of the night and a completely pleasant surprise in itself. Because, only about an hour before packing up the gear for the show I'd slapped together this very "two-step" inspired beat to play as the backing track to Blue Kitchen. In effort to give us the most flexibility I'd also programmed a really cheeky synth bassline that had an ascending chromatic sixteenth note run at the end of every measure. I know, I know, whatever, but it was cool, like Fatboy Slim or something. The whole point I make mention of it is because we got almost half the crowd out on the floor! Really. Needless to say we extended this song to it's fullest.

We finished the set with Embrace which was a really lovely version that took ages to build and went on forever. Maybe somebody could have been bored but it sure was fun. It's actually almost incredible how good playing a I to IV chord progression can be if you take a long time to get to it. Then just sit back and ride it and see how many millions of melodies can pop into your head. It was great.

And the coolest thing was, we played an encore! Masochists I know.. But that was amazing too!

OK, gotta go to bed, mixing tomorrow and I hate being knackered for that!

G'night

Mark    

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