Sunday, July 7, 2013

Walrus on the Beach

"I Am The Walrus" is a weird song.

But that doesn't stop us. In fact, the weirdness only stimulates our crazy desire to reproduce any sound that we hear, even if no one's every attempted it before. (See previous blog for further details.)

A few weeks ago, Dennis suggested we tackle the song. He has assumed the role of lead vocalist, and bassist. David has bought special tambourine attachments for his drum stick so he can reproduce the sound of the tambourine and drums together, which comes close to what is on the record. Nathan has undertaken the chore of transcribing the parts for us to study, and we've had several rehearsals to run through the song. 

But to play it live, in front of an audience, we didn't feel ready.

That doesn't stop Dennis. He told us he wanted to put it on the set list for our show in Perdido Beach, reasoning that we would learn it faster onstage in front of an audience than we would talking about it. 

He's right, but at this stage we face the risk of sounding terrible trying to do a song we aren't ready for. One must balance the pros and cons of various choices in order to make wise decisions. This is one of the secrets of being a successful business. When we figure that out, we'll be sure to let you know. 

The gig was at Perdido Beach Resort, on the Gulf Coast. We rode together in Nathan's van, with a U-Haul trailer carrying our gear. Joining us was David's daughter Gabrielle.

It was a rainy 4th of July, and we were scheduled to play outdoors.

Here are some photos:

Dennis, David and Gabrielle arriving at Perdido Beach - not raining, but not sunny

                               Nathan with his practice keyboard playing in the breeze

                                                Perdido Beach: The view from room 512, on July 4
                     WannaBeatle Bryan practicing clarinet on balcony of room 512
                                 (Photo by Allan Waugh, our sound man)

                                                                     Walking on the beach

                                                      Heron (not a walrus) on the beach, waiting for breakfast

We were still several rehearsals short of readiness, which we discussed on the way down. Dennis was still trying to memorize the words, I hadn't come close to memorizing my horn parts, Nathan hadn't finished programming string sounds for various parts of the song, and David hadn't finished sampling the sound effects he needs to make the song authentic. 

But Dennis calmly stuck to his recommendation, and we adjusted to the idea that we would have to be as ready as we could be. That meant about an hour of our sound check was devoted to fine tuning the rough spots. I put the horn chart on the floor by my feet, to keep me on track. Nathan programmed his keyboard, and helped David record the "radio dial" sound to his sample pad. Dennis practiced playing bass and remembering all the words. ("Semolina Pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower")

It was determined on July 5 that the weather would not permit our playing outside, so the event was switched to a large ballroom at the hotel. 

We met their sound crew, who told us they would patch into our mixing board, to broadcast our show to throughout the hotel, including the elevators. I loved the idea that we would be heard live in the elevators. What a great way to enliven such a notoriously stale musical setting.  "Hi, folks, and those of you listening in the elevator, come on down and enjoy the music, and food, and fun and games..."

There was a huge meal laid out on two long serving tables, and tables around the room for people to eat dinner starting at 6 pm. Many people were there with their kids. The kids really enjoyed our show, and we brought a bunch of them up on stage to dance and play with the bubble guns and the other toys. Gabrielle held out the limbo pole for the kids to dance under during "Tequila" which turned into a medley with "Good Lovin.'"

Our show was scheduled from 6 to 10, including a fireworks display out on the beach at 9 pm. That meant we had a long break from 9 to about 9:35, after which we could start a final set without too much attention being paid (plus people still having their eardrums ringing from the fireworks) which made a nice time and place to try our first public performance of "I Am The Walrus."

Well, we survived it. There were just a handful of people in the room, most of them still out at the fireworks display, so there wasn't huge expectation. Getting to hear that weird "radio dial" effect before the bridge was an extra treat. 

Dennis remembered all the words. The crowd was drifting back in, so there was no clear indication of their being either impressed or offended. It was almost like a rehearsal with a few people hanging around.

So we're that much closer to being ready to do it for real. 

And even though it rained a lot, it was still a nice trip to the beach.

Bloggin' Bryan 7july13

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