Friday, October 30, 2009

The Halloween Set

I'm performing tomorrow night with my son Isaac, my friend Jim, and (if she can make it) my friend Ann, at a private Halloween/birthday/anniversary party. While this was not quite the original plan, I have spent most of my vacation (I've had the past two weeks off from work) polishing up these songs and rehearsing them with my friends. In fact, between rehearsals, working out parts, working on arrangements, scrounging last-minute gear purchases, and getting sheet music and lyrics together for everyone, it's been pretty much all I've been doing for the last ten days. My wife has been watching nervously and asking "you're enjoying this, right?" I am, mostly, but I'm also using it as an excuse to drive myself and try to push my playing and performing to that elusive next plateau that musicians are always seeking.

My rotator cuff is blown out from strumming and my calluses have calluses, which are now peeling off. I'm going to have to take a few days off after this!

I'll be playing 6- and 12-string Ovation and Adamas acoustic guitars and Applause ukuleles. I can has endorsement contract?

The set is an, er, eclectic mix of children's songs, humorous songs, and two classic spooky folk/rock songs.


Beck -- The Golden Age

Robyn Hitchcock -- The Ghost Ship

Paul and Storm -- Nugget Man


Jonathan Coulton -- The Future Soon

Jonathan Coulton -- Chiron Beta Prime

Jonathan Coulton -- Still Alive

They Might Be Giants -- Fake Believe

The Eagles -- Hotel California

They Might Be Giants -- I C U

They Might Be Giants -- Particle Man



They Might Be Giants -- ZYX

Gordon Lightfoot -- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Jonathan Coulton -- Creepy Doll

They Might Be Giants -- Dead

Jonathan Coulton -- Re: Your Brains

Jonathan Coulton -- Skullcrusher Mountain

Elvis Presley -- Jailhouse Rock

I don't think we'll be recording this set, but I'll be making videos of some of these songs in the near future, particularly the ukulele and guitar parts. I'm down-tuning for some of the songs: I can sing Skullcrusher Mountain much more easily in C instead of E, and The Future Soon much more easily in B flat. I may eventually wind up setting up some instruments specifically to keep down-tuned. It's kind of like, as one Twitter friend commented, a "reverse capo!"

UPDATE: it turns out we did get video of the performance. Not very good video, but video nonetheless. See my YouTube feed. Watch them quick before YouTube takes them down for copyright violations, since we covered a number of different songs. Personally I think a strong case could be made that these short excerpts fall under the fair use exception to copyright, but I don't run YouTube.

Ann did not show up, so we had to make do without her. Fortunately we had planned for this possibility and rehearsed with other folks leading the songs. Jim did a great job on a few songs. Isaac did a reasonably good job on Still Alive. The rest were up to me. I didn't sound too bad for some of the songs, especially after I was warmed up. Everyone seemed to have a good time. But I know I'm not a terribly strong singer -- vocals are still sort of my achilles heel as a musician. I'm not just awful, but I just have a tendency to drift off pitch, even when singing something in my range, and especially if I'm singing solo while accompanying myself on guitar. If I have other folks singing to calibrate myself against, I do much better.

I've had numerous suggestions for voice lessons, and I'm considering it, but -- well, I stopped taking guitar lessons after child #4 was born because I just couldn't guarantee any practice time, and since we juggle one car, relying on my wife to help me get to lessons on time was just not going to fly. I may still be able to find a teacher who can accommodate weekend times or something like that. But our lives are very, very busy now, so it may have to wait a little longer -- at least until we no longer have two in diapers.

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