Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Library 2016

On September 13, The WannaBeatles returned to the courtyard of the Nashville Library, entertaining a lunch time crowd assembled on another beautiful September day.
The fountain at the center of the courtyard

The courtyard on the upper floor of the library is a well thought out architectural treasure, a fresh oasis from downtown noise, a public space where people can sit at tables, surrounded by trees, under the open sky. 

The Library treats us well, and we love playing there.
Elaine Wood is our host, who oversees the hospitality, making sure a fine array of delicious healthy food is available in a back office, which becomes a temporary green room.
David setting up

Dennis during setup
Nathan setting up his keyboard
A well organized merch table with banner on display
Elyse Adler announcing our show

Somehow, being among the trees with all the people gathered under the sunshine during a lunch hour feels like being in a French impressionist painting from the late 19th century. 


We are proud to be among the performers like Riders in the Sky who have played the courtyard. It's a delightful Nashville tradition. We can always feel the relaxed enjoyment of the crowd that gathers in that generous space for some live music on a pretty day.

Thanks Elaine, for hosting us and helping produce such a fun concert series.

-Bloggin' Bryan 30November2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Jonathan and the State Fair

September 11, The WannaBeatles played the traditional Moosic Stage at the Tennessee State Fair.
Moosic stage sign

We’ve done this gig several years in a row. Several things make it famlliar: the noise, the sights, the smells - loud rides, fast food, the smell of the sheep pen, the sight of award-winning 800 pound pumpkins, along with lots of families walking around experiencing the tumultuous display. 

Another factor in this gig is the relatively long ride from where we park our cars to the Moosic Stage. That makes a ride in a golf cart, provided by Fair staff, the only way to get our gear to the stage.
Golf cart, with trailer, that hauled our gear
Dennis arriving
Dennis in discussion onstage
 David setting up
David strong
Nathan at keyboard
Monkey guitar with fried food in background

(For those who don't know, the monkey sticker was provided
to Bloggin' Bryan by his granddaughter Ella, and the recurring photos of the monkey guitar are reminders of her contribution.)
Too much sunlight for Dennis
Nathan and David, in their "Shea" shirts

This year’s State Fair gig was also a shining moment for Jonathan, our new intern. 
Jonathan being cool
Jonathan thumbs up

Jonathan is a Belmont student from Pittsburgh whom we met at the Belmont Intern Fair. He's wonderful to have around.

He’s very bright, helpful, witty, cheerful, motivated, and about as obsessive as a Beatles fan can be. We’ve discovered that he knows more about The Beatles than all four of us combined. 

Dennis says he knows the color underwear that McCartney was wearing on the Ed Sullivan show.
Fans next to stage at picnic tables
This year, our opening act was a traditional clown show, performed by local Shriners. It was very corny, classic 19th century slapstick.

Jonathan took a couple of videos of us playing and posted them on Facebook.

It was a fun night, as revealed in the photos Jonathan took at the end of the night.
Four WannaBeatles on trailer

One more shot

Jonathan told us that his father was a photographer, so he learned some tricks, such as shooting a group photo from another perspective by squatting down. 

Thanks Jonathan! We love you!


Bloggin’ Bryan 28November 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Shortest Blog

Bloggin’ Bryan is ready to stake a claim for the shortest blog in this series. There’s one photo, and not a lot to say about our experience. So, here goes.

On August 29, The WannaBeatles appeared as guests on a live radio show called Geo On The Radio, which is on Radio Free Nashville, WRFN-FM 107.1, or 103.7 FM.

It’s hosted by George Adams, a music lover who devotes two hours each week to conversations with various Nashville musical personalities. He’s been doing it for years, compiling interviews with such local notables as Victor Wooten, Jonell Mosser, and Phil Keaggy.



George Adams at his WRFN studio

Radio Free Nashville operates from a house in Bellevue, located back in the woods on a remote hill, with a radio tower rising above the trees. Arriving there feels like a scene from a Jack Reacher movie, a rustic outpost far from civilization, where (one can imagine) unkempt wild eyed survivalists keep a cache of semiautomatic weapons. But in reality, it’s a peaceful if scruffy little spot, where calm music enthusiasts share a cozy studio to beam their iconoclastic messages to a small but faithful few. 

We showed up for our hour of conversation, bringing along copies of our albums, although Dennis had already sent George the CDs. It’s always good to have a backup; it’s the WannaBeatley Way. 

We learned that George had played in various bands in the Boston area back in the 70’s. That gave us a good start, as we had some common bands, people and places to recall. 

During the hour, George prompted us to tell various stories that reflected our unique identity, which coincided with specific songs that we had written and produced. One song that George picked out from our “We’re Still Rockin’” album was “Bristol Lights,” Nathan’s tribute to his small home town in Vermont. 

We were delighted to be reminded of the song. We felt blessed that we had Nathan in the group, a wonderfully talented but totally modest songwriter, and that we had recorded his song, and that it was now being played on the radio. George timed it so that the last four minutes of his show consisted of “Bristol Lights.” That meant we could leave the studio, get into our cars, tune in to 103.7, and listen to ourselves playing Nathan’s beautiful song on the radio. 

It’s a small thrill, but it’s worth appreciating, in this very unpredictable journey we’ve been traveling as musicians and songwriters in Music City. 

And as a reminder of Nashville's small town status, we met our friend Stanley Karr coming into the studio as we were leaving. Stanley was there to do the show he started recently, devoted to piano playing pop artists, so we got to listen to him on the air after we heard "Bristol Lights." Way to go, Stanley!

Did I say too much? Is it still the shortest blog?


-Bloggin’ Bryan 20November2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

EKU Pops Concert

Our last gig in August was a collaboration with the East Kentucky University Orchestra for their annual pops concert.

For The WannaBeatles, this meant brushing up our orchestral charts, putting our resident orchestrator Nathan to work rewriting the scores to accommodate the larger number of instruments that would be available. 

LOGISTICS

EKU is in Richmond, Kentucky, 225 miles from Nashville. The big show, with a full orchestra, staged under a large tent at the historic White Hall mansion, was booked for Saturday evening, August 27. Also scheduled was a rehearsal for us with the orchestra earlier that day, at their rehearsal room on the EKU campus. That meant we had to leave Nashville on Friday.

Squeezing us at the other end, WannaBeatles David and Nathan both had Sunday morning church services back in Nashville, requiring them to leave Kentucky Saturday night after the gig. Accommodating their schedules led to our decision to make the trip in two vehicles, David’s van and Dennis’s Camry, with our gear distributed into both cars. 

Readers of this blog have learned that The WannaBeatles, after years of experimentation, vehicle abuse, and budgetary considerations, have arrived at an efficient transportation system for traveling to gigs:  Nathan’s new 4Runner, with trailer hitch, connected to a 4x8 U-Haul trailer. 

Not only did Nathan purchase a car ideally suited to our needs (a comfortable ride for four, with enough power to pull a trailer), but he also volunteered to pick up the trailer and drive it back to his house (centrally located between the homes of the other three band members), each time we meet to load the gear for a gig out of town. 

Nathan’s value to the group is difficult to overestimate. Even though this particular gig did not include the use of his 4Runner, his continual generosity and helpfulness inspire gratitude that deserves mention. Bloggin’ Bryan feels motivated to reflect on this particular factor of the enduring magic of The WannaBeatles, by pointing out that Nathan is thrilled to be in a rock band. 

NATHAN’S DREAM
From his earliest exposure to Abbey Road at age ten, he had always dreamed of being in a rock band. Whether through native shyness or genuine lack of opportunity, he never had (or took) the chance, following instead the path of a classical music education, obtaining a master’s degree in organ performance. 

This assured him of a lifetime of Sunday morning commitments, if he accepted it, which he did. Even after moving to Nashville, the rock band dream remained secretly locked away in his heart for several decades. It was while playing for a school musical that WannaBeatle David became acquainted with Nathan’s talent and began the campaign to recruit him into the group.

And so, when we finally offered him the position of playing with us, the excitement of having his dream fulfilled triggered a burst of gratitude and enthusiasm on his part. His willingness to go the extra mile showed up right away, as he bought a Hofner bass and promptly learned how to play it. 

In addition, Nathan's strong spirit of teamwork shows up in practical ways, such as our transportation system.

We know it looks glamorous from the outside, but a band is a business, and part of our actual work is transporting a bunch of equipment to a specific location in a timely matter. While The WannaBeatles meet regularly for what we call “rehearsals,” besides working on music, we can spend as much time discussing practical questions for upcoming gigs, such as what time the U-Haul place opens, how long it will take for Nathan to pick it up, attach it to his 4Runner, and return to his house, where we can then meet to load our gear and drive to our destination.

PERSONAL GIFTINGS AND ABILITIES

All this is work we have learned to do by doing it, and we increase our efficiency as a team with each gig. WannaBeatle Dennis, besides being a talented performer, has an administrative gift. He is the spark plug who runs the operation, getting the gigs, writing set lists, deciding on uniforms, and generally making most decisions beyond the musical reality of four guys playing together.  He also serves as our travel agent and road manager, booking the rooms and negotiating the rates - even occasionally bartering for free rooms in exchange for a brief performance by the group - and attending to all the necessary details when we travel. 

Nathan, with his authentic rural New England background, is also a naturally efficient problem-solver, who thinks through logistical matters like group transportation while considering everyone else’s point of view. He’s a true treasure as a member of any group, in addition to his vast stores of musical talent. 

WannaBeatle David, with his lifetime as a teacher and worship leader, knows how to solve problems by breaking them down into smaller parts, then working out a solution that’s built on a foundation of knowledge. He is happy to research and study, and then apply himself to a variety of tasks, whether it’s learning to play drums and keyboards simultaneously, building a WannaBeatles website, or choosing the best engine size for a vehicle towing a trailer. In the music department, David is our coach and choir director, always reminding us of a higher standard that we can achieve if we’re willing to apply ourselves. His influence brings quality and energy to our performance, far more so than Ringo ever brought to The Beatles. Again, it’s part of our unique chemistry.

So for our drive up to EKU, we formed a caravan, staying in contact by cell phones to confirm our turns and pit stops. David and Nathan spent most of the few hours of the trip researching the use of the credit card swiper which we intended to use at our merch table. 

Another part of being a band is dealing with tech side of the business, selling merchandise, tracking accounts, and coordinating online services. WannaBeatle David can be very focussed when solving technical problems, so he and Nathan make a good team for wrestling with tech support to figure out how to use our credit card swiper. When we finally pulled off the road for a restroom break, Nathan and David were still on the phone with paypal, and attempting to run a trial transaction to test the system. 
Nathan follows directions for trial transaction with
credit card swiper

EKU is fairly close to Lexington, which brings us to the neighborhood of our friend Skip Benton, our most enthusiastic fan from that area. Skip has already entered WannaBeatle history during our visits to Berea and Lexington, and we’re grateful for his friendship. Anticipating our visit for this gig, Skip thoughtfully sent us very specific directions to Richmond, including some turns off of major highways, and onto smaller local roads. 

He as also offered to meet us when we arrive, and to take us out to dinner that night. The fast food options close to the hotel are not too inspiring, but Skip knows the area, and leads us to a nearby Chinese restaurant. Sitting down to our sweet and sour chicken, we hear Skip talk about his hobby of flying a parachute plane. It sounds like fun.
Skip describes his parachute plane 
Skip poses with The WannaBeatles at Chinese restaurant

Skip also gave us a brief tour of the EKU campus, so we would be able to find the music building the next day.

SATURDAY

After a free hotel breakfast, we gathered into our two vehicles to find the music building on the campus.
Foster Music, a great name for a music department
Front entrance of music building
Dennis and Nathan in hall checking directions
We found the orchestra rehearsing on the third floor
Loading minimal gear into music building
EKU drummer offers his kit
David, Nathan, drummer and Dennis at rehearsal
Dennis adjusts speaker
Dennis smiles at speaker
David sizes up orchestra from drum kit
Dennis with woodwind section in background

Nathan setting up keyboard
 
View of conductor
Trumpet section
WannaBeatles in rehearsal

It was quite a treat to be in the room with the orchestra. We heard some of their other “Pops” material, which included orchestrated versions of hits by Eagles and Led Zeppelin. We worked on the Beatles songs that featured orchestra, like “Here Comes the Sun,” and “Live and Let Die.” (technically not a Beatles song, but McCartney.)

We also caught a glimpse of orchestral humor. One of the students was celebrating a birthday. The conductor honored her day in what was apparently a long standing joke. He gave the signal, then had the entire orchestra play "Happy Birthday," except that every instrument played random notes, as loud or out of tune as possible, but everyone phrasing together as he conducted it, so that the tune was recognizable but possessed of maximum silliness.

Our next stop was the site of the concert, which is on the grounds of the historic White Hall mansion.

Here is where we learned a bit more of Kentucky history. Most people know that Muhammed Ali, the famous boxer, was born in Louisville with the name Cassius Clay. What many people may not realize is that he was named for a famous Kentucky politician, whose house was the site for our concert.

Here are the markers that tell the story.
White Hall sign 
Other side of the marker, (the story continues)
with view of the mansion

The curious cultural tradition of African Americans being named for famous white people is also exemplified in Martin Luther King and George Washington Carver. Until we played this particular gig, and read the historic markers, we confess that we were unaware that Cassius Clay belongs in that same tradition.
View of tent
Nathan and crew unloading at stage
Tables on lawn
Table being decorated
Psychedelic table and tie dye shirt
Colorful Beatles display
Another tie dye costume
 View of tent later in evening
 View of mansion
Another view of tent
David setting up drums under tent
Dennis onstage, mansion in background 
Orchestra in position
Bloggin' Bryan poses with monkey guitar,
displaying the sticker contributed by his 
granddaughter Ella
Dennis sets up the merch table
Debbie Kidd and Bill Ackerman, 
our concert sponsors at banner
Getting dressed in the maintenance shed
Our loyal sound crew beside the stage
Military honor guard

As part of the ceremony of opening the concert, a local military honor guard marched slowly to the front of the stage, as the orchestra played appropriately dignified music for the occasion: “My Old Kentucky Home,” and “The Start Spangled Banner.” 

The show was introduced by a local radio personality. The first half of the concert was the orchestra playing “pop” hits. We were free to listen out front. Certain portions of pop songs work well in the symphonic idiom. The soft verses to “Stairway to Heaven” already resemble a Renaissance era song, so adding strings and winds only makes it more authentically “classical.” Trying to get an authentic blues shuffle out of “Heartache Tonight” was a different matter, but the quality of the playing and arranging came through. 

The second half of the show started with us as a quartet, doing earlier Beatles songs, then featured our collaboration with the orchestra. As the night wore on, listeners got up from their tables and came to the front of the stage to dance. It turned into a most enjoyable party.
Nathan and David say goodnight to one of the volunteers
David says goodnight before driving back to Nashville

One final detail: After David and Nathan had left for Nashville, Dennis and I returned to the hotel, deciding to enjoy a milkshake on the way. It was only when I looked for my hotel key that I realized that it was in the pocket of my shirt, which I had accidentally left at the maintenance shed where we changed clothes. 

Dennis had the phone number for Debbie, who helped us, but she couldn’t help us contact anyone at the mansion. We took a chance and drove the approximately ten miles back to White Hall. There we found that the sound system was still being disassembled, so the crew was still working. 

In fact, the shed where we had changed clothes was still open, and my clothes were still there. So everything was recovered with minimal fuss, and we finally got back to the hotel with everything we were supposed to have.

Another fine fun WannaBeatles gig, a delightful evening on the warm Kentucky evening, with a local symphony joining us to make music for a very appreciative crowd. 

Bloggin’ Bryan 8November2016