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Blog Entry #2 - Sour Patch Gig 

So here we are. Blog #2. Ready to play? Press Start. Hahaha. ...Let's go. 

I've had my fair share of IRL gigs throughout my time as a performing musician. I've played solo gigs and I've played gigs alongside other people, usually friends or family. And I've had the pleasure of performing on smaller, more focused venues and a few larger, wider-reaching gigs. And those experiences have been very enjoyable.  

....and then I've played THOSE gigs. The ones that you cringe at when you talk about them...or the ones that leave a sour taste in your mouth when you thought it actually turned out ok...or the ones that leave you saying, "wait what just happened?" Lemme guess - you all are asking yourselves, "so is he gonna tell us about a gig that didn't work out too well?" And the answer is NO. 

Just joking. Here we go. 

So I played a gig in Arlington, Virginia. I parked on the side near one of the entrances because I couldn't find a parking spot. I grabbed my giant and heavy Harbinger loudspeaker and the rest of my gear and stumbled into the place, which was PACKED. And it was just like the last time I played there. Only that time, I played alongside a buddy of mine Mike Richards and another cool musician Burd Boonyoo because they hired Mike and he asked me to join him in playing the gig. The place wanted a 3-man band, I believe, so Mike gave them one. The gig was hype. Playing along with those was just a fantastic night. And so, coming back to this place made me think back to that gig and how fun it was. 

There were lights along the walls and the ceiling, and the bartender were in a kitchen rotunda-styled bar. I've never seen anything like this and it was illuminated so the inside and the outside of it were lit so it could make the entire unit look appealing, even the steel chairs. As I stumbled into the place I had to walk through a narrow walkway - the space between the bar and a row of chairs next to the window facing the outside was VERY narrow, so I had to turn my body so I could shimmy through the people in that narrow space. Kinda inconvenient, but it is what it is. I found the spot where I would set up and got to it. It took me a bit to set up my gear because I haven't played a lot of IRL gigs at bars/wineries/etc. that have their own sound system primed for musicians to use. I didn't know how much this would screw me up until later on. 

Once I set up my amp, guitar, and mic, I was ready to go. I started playing a song but then noticed that people sitting at the tables close to me and especially further away weren't even looking over at me. Not because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't hear me playing. That was kind of weird. A short time later, some people walked by. Probably at first to listen but then walked away to get more drinks. I also noticed that I was getting weird looks from both the bar owner and his assistant and even though I didn't have the exact reason why, I had my suspicions...and sadly, I was right about one of them: nobody could hear my audio. That is, it wasn't feeding through their audio setup so everyone could hear it. That was NOT good. 

The assistant would come out at different times to ask me if I could adjust my volume and I tried to do it solo and got some help as well from the assistant and the bar owner. But they didn't know my gear so they couldn't really do too much. And I didn't have as much experience playing a bar/venue with its own sound system like a lot of my musician friends do (including my buddy Mike), so I honestly didn't know what to look for. And so, I kept playing for a little while longer until the assistant asked me to take a quick break so I could chat with her and the bar owner. They told me that my sound wasn't going through and they had to switch to their audio playlist so people could have some tunes to listen to. I was pissed, but not at them...I was pissed at myself. I couldn't believe I couldn't get my audio to work. And so, I said to them, "yeah, I understand." They told me they'd pay me half of what I was promised to be paid so that I wouldn't leave empty handed, which was very nice of them. They honestly didn't have to pay me anything, but it might have had to do with how well they knew Mike and the booking agent that got him (and me, by proxy) this gig, Amber. I nodded and went back out after they said go do one more song (which I think would be mostly for the ones that were sitting at the bar, which I was right across from.) I played a song from Audioslave - "I Am The Highway", I think? - and I made it like my last hurrah and put everything I had into it, even though very few people could hear me. I finished up the song with a bittersweet taste in my mouth (not literally, although it would definitely fit the vibe) and just feeling really embarrassed. A lot of things ran through my head at the time: "man, you just messed up this show", "I was switching my cables come nothing worked?", "this show really went south, nice job -_-", "I can't believe I couldn't fix this", "well that chat with the bar owner was embarrassing, greaaat", "I just wanna go home", and lastly... "why didn't I ask my buddy who's actually played there before how to hook up my speaker to the bar's audio? Were you really THAT nervous to say I Need Help?"  

It was a mess. 

I packed up my things without trying to look at anyone. But I also had to keep in mind that this place was PACKED, so unless I closed my eyes, that's not gonna be very productive. Just like earlier, I had to shimmy around and through the people in the narrow hallway at least 3 times so I could get all of my gear into my car. Once I got back, I decided to stay. Now, one of my thoughts was, "I wanna go home", but I pulled up a chair in front of the bar. Why didn't I just leave? Well, as it turns out, as I played that Audioslave song, there was a guy (who was on the border between being buzzed and being drunk) who applauded my take on that song, saying that singing anything Chris Cornell is a challenge and I pulled it off. He also treated me to a cider. And so, I pulled up a chair and stayed in this place that I totally bombed.  

He started talking to me about his life, including how he recently moved to that location and didn't know a lot of people in this area but he's trying to change that. There were a few other things he talked about and I just listened in because why not? The dude was cool, gave me some attention when other ppl wouldn't (or COULDN'T because my sound wasn't loud enough), and I needed to get my mind off of this gig as a whole. Eventually, he showed me a couple of songs to listen to and took note of them. I drank the last of my can of cider, set it to the side, and wished the guy well because I felt like he'd be hanging out there for a while. I thanked him as loud as I could so he could hear me over the constant chatter of people moving from one spot to the next around this narrow area. I got out of the chair, pushed it back underneath the spot I was sitting at, and made my way out the door.  

In the beginning, I felt pumped. Then, I got worried. Then, crushed. It was like my stomach knotted up. I was embarrassed. And then, thanks to the dude that treated me with the cider, I felt a bit pleased. Glad that someone was able to enjoy the music, at least for a little bit. I realize I went into this gig with a "plug and play" attitude - that is, I could set up my loudspeaker and plug a few things in and just get right into the music. There's a little bit more that goes into it and I should have asked for help from someone who knew how to set something like this up. I don't know when or IF I'll be playing there again, but the next time I go back, I'll be leaving that place with a confident strut instead of one shameful step after the next to get to the exit. Gotta keep my hopes up, you know?

Blog Entry #1 - Spin Wheel Saturdays 

Hey everyone! So I've never made a blog before so I'm gonna try my best to make sure all of this is easily understandable. So we go. 

So, Spin Wheel Saturdays are one of the best things that we've ever had on the channel IMO. It really lets me flex my music muscles and try some ideas that I definitely wouldn't use in IRL gigs because people at restaurants or wineries, for example, wanna hear stuff they like; they may not be as open to this, but I KNOW people on Twitch are - specifically, people in the Twitch Music community. People have been really inviting on the spin wheel idea since this all started - which has been over a year now, insane! - and I think, based on all the reactions I've been getting on my tweaked renditions of songs (and also how I felt making them), that Spin Wheel Saturdays are here to stay.  

But what ARE Spin Wheel Saturdays? 

So, Spin Wheel Saturdays involve using a popular Spin Wheel feature of some kind (I use the Spin Wheel widget from Streamlabs, but I've also used one from and various genres including Bossa Nova, Rock, Ska, and Reggae fill the wheel. (I've also seen that StreamElements has a spin wheel widget, but I haven't used it so I can't say too much about it.) After I spin the wheel and it lands on a genre, I take the current (cover) song in the song queue from StreamerSonglist and tweak its original version to make the new one.  

A key element in making this happen is my loop station, the Boss RC-30. It has two individual stereo loop channels, so I can experiment with the sounds in my head and how they're arranged much more efficiently. I don't have to worry about stacking all of my instruments in one looper (such as my old Boss RC-1 or Ditto Looper Mini); I'd have to delete my entire loop if I mess up instead of half the loop, if that makes any sense. Honestly, I can't see myself going back to a single pedal looper after all the ways I've been using my RC-30. Am I spoiled? No. But also....yeah, still no. This is a perfect loop station for stuff like this.  

You might be like, "cool, but what kind of stuff did you make with this?" Ok, so check this out: on stream, we've had a Chill version of "Eleanor Rigby" (think funky slow jam feel meets The Beatles), a Ska version of "The Man Who Sold The World" (crazy, right?), a Bossa Nova version of "No Rain" (NOICE), and a Reggae version of "A Horse With No Name (double NOICE). I've actually got two of these videos as Twitch highlights if you wanna give em a look:  

No Rain (Bossa Nova Ver.): 

A Horse With No Name (Reggae Ver.): 

It's SUCH a fun thing to do. I remember watching TheComplements (Greg and Aleesha, literally BEST people) use the Streamlabs Spin Wheel to change up their jams on stream and I thought it was such a good idea that I wanted to try it for myself. Honestly, I didn't think it would stick around....but it's been over a year, sooooo looks like I missed the memo haha. But Spin Wheel Saturdays probably wouldn't be around if it weren't for that stream of theirs. (I've seen other streamers use the Spin Wheel in their own way prior to seeing how TheComplements used it but it was when THEY used it that sparked the SWS flames of destiny haha) 

I listen to a lot of genres and often times I'm curious how certain songs would sound in a different genre. One of the many things floating around in my head among the millions of ideas that hop around in my head haha! 

Are you about to ask how I do this? I hope you are because I'm about to tell you right now. (If you weren't about to, then leave. ....just joking, stay. I NEED you.) So, let's say I spin the wheel and it lands on Bossa Nova (which is a genre I've been listening to like a madman over the past few years. I ALWAYS hope it lands on this.) Then I start thinking about all of this stuff at once before I even get into it: what Bossa Nova songs do I know? Do I wanna make a fast song or a slow song? What key do I wanna run with? Also, what Bossa Nova songs do I know? (I often ask myself again because my brain's running a mile a minute at this point.) From time to time, I wonder if the chat can help, so I ask them for a key (I've found that D major is a really cool key to make some Bossa Nova jams in. Not too energetic but also not too tame.) I start playing a bit as if I was doing a test run, so I'll sing silently or play silently until I get it and then I go for it. And then, once I start building it in my RC-30, some random idea comes out of nowhere and I'm like, "oh ho ho, I got an idea" and that gets added to the loop. And then, it happens AGAIN and in my head I'm thinking, "yeah let's add this too" and then it happens AAAAGAIN and I add THAT to the loop until I'm completely satisfied with it. Sometimes, the ideas that pop up that quickly, that easily, that randomly. But I've found in most cases, I'll usually have something to mix in with the loop foundation, you know? And some of the ideas that have popped up on stream have been some of the finest stuff heard on there. And I don't mean that in a boastful, braggadocious kind of way - I mean, it's bringing out the kind of instrumentation that I've either heard musicians that I respect do and do well. And this could be music from Twitch music streamers, music from bands/solo artists I grew up listening to, video game music (which I also really enjoy playing along to more than listening), and so many more influences. It'll take years to mention the kind of stuff that influences my spin wheel streams, it's NUTS. 

One time, I played drums to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" during one of my practice sessions off-stream and I added double kick, off-time signature fills via ride and hi-hat hits, and played the song fast so I could make it as metal as possible! Maybe one day I'll do this on stream, who knows? But stuff like that is how I approach these Spin Wheel streams. 

Also get this: sometimes, the jams will go for 5 minutes, but other times, it'll go for 20. Haha! It all depends on what the feel is and how lost in the jams I am. And what's really cool about all of this is that viewers stick around for all of it because they love seeing how the loop builds and what it'll build into. Sometimes they have an idea of what it'll be, and sometimes they won't. And that's the fun of it. As of Jan 22nd of this year, I have the following genres on there: Acapella, Reggae, Classical, Blues, Ska, Rock, Pop, Bossa Nova, Theatre (yeah, that's right - Theatre),  Dance, Chill (aka guitar with LOTS of reverb, flowy bass, and echoey vocals), and Unchanged (just in case the song requester wants to hear the tune the normal way). I wanna add more stuff to the wheel in the future, including City Pop (I've been ALL ABOUT City Pop over the past year and a half), Lo-Fi, and maybe some Cinematic stuff. Just gotta make sure my gear's up to par, including my recording software. I use Cubase 11 LE so I CAN pull it off but I wanna approach this as perfectly as possible because I'm a perfectionist so it's gotta be perfectly perfect with a hint of perfection, you know? 

All in all, these Spin Wheel jams have really changed the way I've been playing music on stream, writing music, building ideas, and sharing my love for music. And of all the ways it could change it, it's made everything so dynamic, fresh, and highly creative. I've gotta come up with different jams for every stream, so it's a different experience for anyone watching EVERY TIME they tune in on Saturday. It's also sparked so many conversations in my chat about how they feel about the original tunes, the tweaked ones we make on Saturday, and how much they're digging the tweaked versions, and it's really refreshing to see how these conversations differ every week. IDK how long we're gonna have these Spin Wheel streams....until then, we might see a Metal version of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips". 

.....nah, just joking. A. my voice couldn't handle the screaming and then going to cleans and then back to screaming, and B. that song is creepy enough as is. Doesn't need a different genre to stack on top of that weirdness. 

Thanks for reading everyone. See you all on a Spin Wheel Saturday soon. Or whenever we see each other next. We've got jams to jam to.