Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Danny G 'Leap of Faith' album review, Austin Sludge Machine

Wow. To say this is a 'favorable review' is probably the understatement of the year...!

6/6 Raised Fists

Thank you Lee Chavez of Austin Sludge Machine!



Album Review - "Leap of Faith", by DannyG

Austin local and musical extraordinaire Danny G set his mark yet again in the music world with his second solo album, "Leap of Faith". The album has six tracks, beautiful artwork and some of the best song writing I've heard in a while.

Where "Leap of Faith" is a definitive musical milestone in Danny's career, he has many other fantastic accomplishments as well. For the area of bass guitar, he's toured with Eric Tessmer, The Mother Truckers, and was voted the #5 best bass player in Austin in 2013. Austin. Austin, Texas. The Live Music Capitol Of The World. Austin. Freaking. Texas, ladies and gentlemen.

On top of that, he also plays guitar in his project Ocean of Stars, as well as for Shandon Sahm (son of Doug Sahm). If that isn't an impressive resume, I don't know what is.

LOF is just under 40 minutes in length (literally by ten seconds). Making it that much more unique is it being Danny's fifth entry into the RPM challenge (musician's version of NaNoWriMo)! To qualify, albums have to at least run 35 minutes in length or feature ten all original tracks. Succeed he did!

And album length personally is a big deal for me. My attention span lets me become bored of an album if it runs past 50 minutes or so. "Leap of Faith" never felt to drag on at all. Even with the song, "Krim: The Sound of Kali" being nine minutes in length exactly, there's always something new going on to keep you right at the front listening to the songs.

Riffs and melodies that you wished were longer in one song have a tendency to pleasantly come back. Those kinds of things make memorable songs, and all six tracks on this album stand out.

Despite instrumental giants like Joe Satriani, instrumental music has yet to be given the light the genre deserves. You just don't hear a lot about new instrumental music. And if there's another thing that's even rarer, it's great instrumental music. Leap of Faith is both and more.

It's prog, it's trippy, and it's even got a few moments with the doom/stoner genres. What specifically it has is up to you to decide. Though personally I found a few elements of Pink Floyd circa Meddle and The Dark Side of the Moon.

Tracks like “Symphony in D Standard” and “Brief Ties to Space” showcase the psychedelic-good-vibe-rock-guitar music of the 60’s and 70’s. ESPECIALLY the final track, “Krim: The Sound of Kali” - the drums sit this track out for a triple electric guitar piece. A nine minute guitar-epic. It’s definitely the best way to finish out the album. And “Rare Earth Metals” is probably the darkest track on the LP, and again makes it impossible to just pick one favorite.

But the shining star of the album is by far “Luna en Sombra”. If the whole album combined with Danny’s music history don’t prove to you his abilities as a multi-instrumentalist, this track will. The dual-guitar classical piece is beautiful, to say the least. Yet being quite different from the other five songs, it still has Danny’s sound in it. How do you do that?

As a guitarist, this blows my mind. A completely different genre, played a world differently, and it still sounds like DannyG. Amazing!

Since I could ramble on too much, I’ll conclude and end with this:

DannyG’s “Leap of Faith” is hands down one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. With everything it has going for it, it’s an instant classic.

I give “Leap of Faith” 6 raised fists out of 6.

Monday, January 20, 2014

One Quick Note.... SPAM!

I just found out how to delete all the spam bullshit comments.

Did my best to preserve the ones that I commented on, and hopefully didn't delete any legit posts... but it was pretty apparent which ones were real and which ones aren't. Also came across many comments which I must have missed awhile back, so have commented on some of those cause I feel like a jerk now...

That being said, if there are comments where I am insulting nobody in particular I accidentally deleted the original. SO I'm not just yelling at the voices in my head (that's what the rest of this blog is for ha!)

So carry on, loyal readers and relentless spam commenters.

What a Week pt. 2: My life back, SXSW picking up, Craigslist, Prednisone Side effects

So Tuesday night I finally managed to fall asleep after the sun was already coming up, kept up by my damn cough which of course made me throw up again. Fuck. BUT relief was 5 minutes and $5 away...!

As I said I was bouncing off the walls at Ocean of Stars rehearsal that night. Was very good to have sax player Derek Rodrigues back in the mix. But we're still trying to figure a way to get him prominent in the mix without depriving him of his effects pedals... we'll work on that this week.

Wednesday night I felt the immediate side effect of the prednisone: sleeplessness. Again, I was up until well after the sun came up, and managed about three hours before I had to get up and get to work, smoothing out rough spots on Adrian and the Sickness music. I also needed at some point to refresh Deann Rene music for the next day. Fuck. Not enough time, not enough time.

I tried to take two naps to catch up on the 5 hours of sleep I had managed in the previous 48 hours, but no dice whatsoever. Thankfully the prednisone was keeping me going, tho I was getting a little loopy by now...

AATS rehearsal again went very well, good to go for Dallas on Saturday. Headed straight to Darwin's on 6th Street to play bass with Sean Evan and his Very Handsome Band. That went well as well, and good to play 6th Street at a venue which has an actual stage, actual lights, and an actual PA \m/,

Good times, but a blur. During the day I called the doc back to see if I took some kind of sleep aid if it would play nice with the prednisone. I couldn't keep up this skeleton sleep schedule. He said YES it would play nice, especially as I take the steroids in the morning. Thank Crom for that.

Thursday night got my first full night of sleep in what seemed like forever. Was good to go Friday for Deann Rene rehearsal, even tho I rolled in apologetic that I'd had no time whatsoever to work on her music. Still sounded good, tho some songs I couldn't remember what they were until we started playing them...!

But SXSW is picking up for Ocean of Stars. I'd already touched base with Heath at Red Eyed Fly about getting OoS on the annual Tuesday SXSW kickoff party, which I've been going to for 12 or 13 years and have never played. He said he would find us a slot. YAY!

Then en route to Deann Rene rehearsal got an out-of-the-blue message from my friend Jason Kottwitz, something about 'I have a big opportunity for you, call me immediately at this number.'

I responded asking him to verify that his account wasn't just hacked, heh. It wasn't. Called him and he said that Scott from Small Stone Records had been offered an official SXSW showcase after refusing to participate this year. And was looking for bands. Looks like I got Ocean of Stars an official SXSW showcase event, and it just fell into my lap. We didn't even need to apply. YES!!!

Keep y'all posted on that.

That night the Deann Rene show at Baker Street went very well, tho I still hadn't had time to go over any of her music.... I saw a window of opportunity to take an afternoon nap for the first time in many days, and knew I needed the sleep. It worked, and I felt great.

Deann Rene Band at Baker Street

My impression of Grumpy Cat: "I am feeling the music. I hate it." hahahahaha!

 Fun show making good music with great people.

NOW: side effects of prednisone. Sleeplessness, which I immediately countered. But also I am finding myself increasingly confrontational with little tolerance for bullshit. But confrontational in a "Let's sit down and discuss this matter, and here are all the holes in your theory. Discuss."

Let's just say I had a very in depth discussion on FB with someone I've never met about chemtrails. While I have no doubts that wx modification and sprayer planes exist, to point to every vapor trail in the sky and say 'That is a CHEMTRAIL' is fucking retarded. There I said it.

So I was having a rather involved (and civil) point/counterpoint discussion with a complete stranger about a very touchy subject for some people (ie ME. Every time I post a pic of the sky some motherfucker responds 'Chemtrails!'). Read a book on cloud formation and atmospheric science and get back to me. Actually, DONT. I will keep looking up as I do every day of my life. If I *finally* see something that looks amiss, I will report my findings here. Until then you are talking to someone who used to watch the Weather channel as a kid and can identify most cloud types by name.

ANYWAY. About this time I was also having responses to my Craigslist ad looking for session work.

One response was a guy who needed bass on some demos. Met him Friday night, and we'll be working together.

Another was congratulating my on getting #5 Bassist last year for the Austin Music Awards (listed in title of my ad to get attention). That was nice, he got #5 several years back and wanted to e-high five me. Right back atcha man!

Another was a new player in town looking for advice in making a dent in the music community here. I gave him some VERY useful advice, mainly along the lines of Let your playing do the talking for you, Play in as many bands and musical styles as you can, etc etc etc. He was very appreciative. Happy to help, man!

So Saturday was the first of many shows on bass with Adrian and the Sickness, Gas Monkey Bar & Grill which I had never heard of but was suddenly hearing great things about, all of which were true.

Loaded up Vincent Van Go in early afternoon and headed north in not-too-bad-for-Austin-on-a-Saturday traffic. First stop? CZECH STOP in West TX, just north of Waco.

Adrian and the Czechness! Adrian Conner, yours truly, Armando Reyes

Riding shotgun with Our Fearless Leader, the incomparable Adrian Conner

Arrived at venue just after dark for an early set. Holy shit, the place was awesome! Already crowded, huge stage 5 feet high, great sound system and legit lights. Bring it on!

I did not use my wireless that night as (a) if I jumped offstage I wouldn't be able to get back on and (b) there was some weird interference causing it to cut out when I oriented myself to certain points of the compass. Weird. In fact it's especially odd that there have been only two venues where I've had those kinds of problems with my wireless unit: both of them in Dallas. Coincidence? I think not. CHEMTRAILZZZ!

Anyway, we rocked ass for our early one hour set. I had some rough spots but in general we knocked em dead. Great set with great players on a great stage for a great crowd!

"Armando, stop taking pictures. We need to play!" Heh

Offstage with gear stowed before we usually roll into a venue. Stayed for two other bands, had a great time and hung out with good people.

Vincent Van Go packed up and pointed back south by 11pm. We usually aren't even onstage yet. Wow! Early shows are awesome!!!

Back in town, gear transferred from Vincent Van Go to their respective vehicles, and I was home by 2:45, the usual time I get home from playing in town shows...! And we drove 3+ hours from Dallas.
Again, early shows rule!!!

A great end to a long week. I looked forward to having an entire Sunday completely off. And by 'completely off' I mean 'catching up on all the cleaning I haven't had energy or time for in 3 weeks'. ROCK N ROLL.

What a Week pt 1: Cedar, Prednisone, Craigslist, Amazing musicians/friends

Last week was insanely busy, in a good way.

Last week the cedar pollen count was insanely high, and in a bad way.

The residual cough leftover from the cold I had first week of this year was lingering on and intermingling with the record cedar counts. Not a good combo. Lethargy, severe allergy symptoms, a cough that wouldn't quit no matter what I did or what I took.

2nd week of Jan as all this was going on I was dragging ass in Ocean of Stars rehearsal, and opted out of a Thunderosa gig in San Angelo (I would be on 2nd guitar, which was optional) to give myself two extra days to prepare for this schedule:

Sun Jan 12: Forever Town video shoot afternoon, later gig on guitar w/Amber Lucille's Selfless Cover Band
Mon Jan 13: Rehearsal w/Adrian and the Sickness, followed by rehearsal for Ortiz Bros Jam house band
Tues Jan 14: Ortiz Bros Jam, I'd be staying all night as my Dietz would also be house bass cab
Wed Jan 15: Ocean of Stars full band rehearsal, as sax player Derek Rodrigues back in town
Thu Jan 16: Adrian and the Sickness rehearsal followed by Sean Evan gig downtown
Fri Jan 17: Deann Rene day rehearsal, Deann Rene gig that night
Sat Jan 18: Adrian and the Sickness in Dallas.

Yeah. Opting out of that Thunderosa gig was probably the right thing to do, tho it didn't help me energy level much. And I'd also gone thru an entire bottle of Robitussin with no affect on my cough.

The FT shoot went great tho, I rallied best I could tho I was running on fumes. Made myself a big grilled chicken salad to fuel up. Got into my second bite and had to stifle a coughing fit. Managed to get it down without choking, tho I did spray some used chicken pieces on part of my record collection.

Then let the cough out, and was so intense it made me throw up. Son of a bitch. So much for eating lunch before a long day...

Anyway, yes gross. But the shoot went very well, funny how pretending to rock out is more tiring than actually rocking out. Performed 'Platinum Girl' from the forthcoming album 'Players and Dealers.' Used the inside stage of Red Eyed Fly as the set. Booking agent Mike Boudreaux, who let us have the run of the place for a few hours, at the end of the shoot offered a prime time slot for Jan 24th on the outside stage! Awesome, thanks Mike!

Mission accomplished! Headed straight to Bat Bar for Amber Lucille gig. Went well, always good to play with an old friend and bandmate, and to wing it on guitar \m/,

Monday found me recovering from the previous days' energy expenditure and refreshing Adrian and the Sickness music, and trying to save energy for the two imminent rehearsals.

Walking into to the place with Adrian Conner where drummer Armando Reyes has a rehearsal room, I came to a realization which I've had many times before and always like revisiting said realization.

I know some AMAZING musicians. And these are people that are also just good friends of mine. I've known Adrian for about 8 years from playing/going to shows, and she has been one of the single most influential figures in my own musical career, as a player, performer and band leader.

Reading Jack Kerouac in my 20's, I always wished I had this circle of good friends who are also these amazingly talented artists, great thinkers, and larger than life characters. And I have that. My musician friends may not be rich and famous and spearheading a cultural revolution. But that does not diminish in any way shape or form their amazing talent, indomitable spirit and unquestionable musical ability.

And here we are, friends schlepping guitar cases down a noisy hallway, about to jam, have fun and make some noise like it's no big deal. \m/,

Rehearsal went great, a few rough patches (on my end, the new material is much more involved than her previous albums) but in general it felt VERY STRONG. I look forward to trying to keep up with her onstage!

Afterwards same realization deal at the Ortiz Bros compound to jam with Jim Ortiz, Chris Ortiz and Randall the owner of Beerland. Just making some noise on a monday night with some friends. I've known Jim and Chris for about 13+ years, and have played opposite Jim in Shandon Sahm's band on and off since 2004.

And here we are playing some loud, down and dirty blues. Randall kills it on vocals and harmonica, and feeds his own energy into the rest of the band, even in rehearsal. I love surfing that wave \m/,

Jim's an awesome guitar player, and Chris is absolutely INSANE on the drums. Very Mitch Mitchell/Keith Moon. And this was the first time I've really had the chance to play with him. Wow. I'm used to drummers like Rob Williamson (ETB) and Ric Furley (Ocean of Stars/Deann Rene), they do a fill at the end of a measure and I can usually follow along with my own fill, Black Sabbath/Led Zep style.

With Chris that went out the window. He goes into his fills early and hits shit like the Tasmanian Devil. I found out very quickly it's best to just play through instead of trying to follow him hahahaha! Their brother Gian Ortiz can keep up with him, but I sure as hell can't \m/,

Awesome and amazing. God damn, I love my friends!

By Tuesday I'd had enough of my severe allergy symptoms and cough. I needed my life back, as the week had only just begun and I was already dragging ass. Decided to cut to the chase and get a steroid shot.

Called the clinic I've been assigned to through HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians), and just my luck they do not offer them. And worse, there was no one they could refer me to. Son of a bitch.

However, Ocean of Stars bassist Melanie Martinez referred me to her doctor, whom she had already called ahead and he was willing to not only see me that afternoon but work with me on what I could afford.

He got me in at 4pm that afternoon. And was super fucking cool, I like him a lot. He also talked me out of an allergy shot and into a script for prednisone: the shot is all-at-once, whereas with the pills I could tweak the dose as needed. And it was only $5. What a country!

Dropped it off at HEB pharmacy, and the pickup line was all the way down the aisle. Shit. I bought some groceries and just went home, I was drained from merely sitting in a doc's office and picking up a few things.

That night at the Ortiz Bros Jam I managed to last all night! Fun times with good friends and great players. I even got to play some guitar, but was on bass most of the night. However at the end we did get the James Brown crackhead up for some tunes.

We had him up a few weeks back, and knew what he was capable of, and to deny him a chance on the mic would be a crime. This dude could NAIL some James Brown. Not only the vocals, but the stage presence, moves and charisma. Just WOW!

He got up, and fucking KILLED it. Thank you, good night!

Wednesday I picked up my prednisone script and took the first dose. Within a half hour I HAD MY LIFE BACK! Allergy symptoms disappeared, and were replaced by the rather pleasant feeling of having drank an entire pot of coffee and an icepack on my face. I was bouncing off the walls for Ocean of Stars rehearsal that night.

Also about this time I started getting responses to my current Craigslist ad, looking for session work (which I was very specific about, as I am pretty much booked solid gig-wise until SXSW).

More on that in a bit....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014, Burning the Candle At Both Ends

So 2014 began with me getting over a cold, and immediately diving in to a hellacious schedule.

New Years Eve I was slated to sub on bass for the house band in the Ortiz Brothers Blues Jam at the Legendary White Swan, as BT (our good friend and house band bassist) had broken his arm.

As Tuesday (NYE) rolled around I had to decline playing that night as I needed to kick the cold by Thursday. Which I did, mission accomplished.

My busy week(s) began Thursday with back-to-back rehearsals at the Music Lab St. Elmo, first a two-hour rehearsal on guitar with Thunderosa followed by Ocean of Stars for 3 hours for the first time as a temp 3-piece. OoS rehearsead in Room 65, which was my first band in town Southern Gun Culture's old lockout room. Kind of a cool homecoming of sorts \m/,

Both rehearsals went great, as it also felt great to play that much guitar. Tho by the end I was so tired and worn out I was having trouble speaking coherently.

Earlier that day I also had enough energy to finally install the Speakon connector to the back of my Dietz cab. Worked like a charm at OoS rehearsal (I let Melanie use my bass rig).

Friday I was in energy-conservation mode in prep for the Eric Tessmer Band Saxon Pub gig that night. I did spend a good chunk of the day attempting to re-wire my Paul Stanley Iceman, as the pickup toggle switch was having grounding issues. Got lazy and only re-did a third of it. It works now, but not 100%. More on that in a bit.

T-Minus 30 minutes:

The ETB Saxon show went great, felt good to play with Eric and Rob as always, and to get up on stage and rock my ass off, as with other projects I tend to hold back a little only because the music isn't as in-grained yet... gotta pay attention so I don't mess up too much, heh!

ETB @ Saxon Pub, 1-3-14

Good times with good people playing good, loud music! The speakon connector worked great, as the cable was not once spit out from the back of the cab. Success!!!

Saturday woke up bright and early to be picked up for a Thunderosa gig in Blanco, playing a Boozefighters Motorcyle Club rally. In theory, we would get out early enough so I could be home for a few hours to eat and nap before heading to pick up Eric for an ETB set at BD Riley's later that night.

Which didn't happen, heh. We picked up our friend JT Coldfire en route, as he would be hosting the auction and had a later set at the clubhouse. The show went predictably behind schedule but was fun as hell despite an under-powered PA. Thunderosa sent went great! Tried the PS Iceman and while it worked, the grounding is still not 100%. Will have to completely rewire it myself or take it to a pro to avoid the hassle.

But hands down the most awesome and surreal part of the afternoon came during "Musical Chairs for Prospective New Members."

We played Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" as the soundtrack to about ten burly bikers playing musical chairs on metal folding chairs and a concrete floor. It was awesome, and no one was hurt, surprisingly. HA! Just awesome all around. For the auction AJ from Thunderosa had to step in for JT at certain points due to a blown voice. He was a natural! The rest of us just jammed music in the background.

I think we finally ended the set cause the sun was going down. Plus the temp was dropping fast and I was lacking adequate warm clothes.

Was dropped of at the Hobbit Hole well after dark, and had enough time to walk Nacho real quick, wrap my knee in an ace bandage (I seem to have tweaked it during the Saxon show, and it was really bothering my during the Thunderosa set), grab my basses then go pick up Eric Tessmer to load in at BD Riley's.

That set was also fun, and admittedly a blur at this point from energy expenditure. I do remember the batteries for my wireless finally going out during the last song; note to self: buy more AA batteries...

I attempted to use the Acoustic B200H for this set but no fucking dice. Plugged it in for soundcheck, and every time I hit a note (set to a modest volume, no less) there would be a fraction of a second of sound followed by it cutting out and ticking angrily from inside the amp. You fucking piece of shit.

Was tempted (and still am) to smash the goddamn thing. I see no point in investing another dime on a piece of gear which still may or may not work afterwards. Probably was damaged when trying to use it at Friends a few weeks back when the whole spitting-out-the-speaker-cable problem arose.

Needless to say, I am back where I started: no backup bass amp, and an SVT with very tired tubes.

Ugh. Anyway.

Sunday I was looking forward to, and actually EXCITED, about having several hours to not do jack shit until a Thunderosa set later that night at the Longbranch Inn, a benefit for the owner of the Key Bar whose trailer burned down in a fire.

Thunderosa at Longbranch Inn

That too was a fun show tho by now Texas was also feeling the effects of the "Polar Vortex" that has turned much of North America into a giant snow globe. Was COLD AS FUCK outside, that's for sure. Another fun show. The Thunderosa guys were definitely impressed with my stamina as I gave them a run-down of all I'd been doing since kicking that cold.

And I ain't close to being done yet...

This week opened with a flurry of band chatter re: rehearsals.

Deann Rene scheduled last minute rehearsal for Monday, which conflicted with rehearsal for the Ortiz Brothers Jam house band. Talked to Jim Ortiz about it, he said "Just wing it, you'll be fine." Ha! Awesome and thanks. Also Adrian and the Sickness trying to schedule a rehearsal for this week in prep for the 18th in Dallas. Don't think that will be happening this week, but 2 rehearsals scheduled for next week. Ocean of Stars is slated for our usual Wednesday night slot, and am about to call Space to book it.

So I might not have an official day off until Thursday, unless something comes my way for then (still need to see of Dead Oak planning anything for this week). Friday heading to San Angelo to play the Deadhorse with Thunderosa, my first time at that particular venue. Saturday off so far. Sunday have a Forever Town video shoot during the day, then a 7:30-10:30 set with Amber Lucille's Selfless Cover Band on guitar that evening.

SO yeah, it's no wonder I started feeling like shit again yesterday. Running myself ragged and also finally feeling the effects of the cedar pollen in the air. And the bitter, near-record cold isn't helping at all. But finally warming up today, to a point.

So yeah. Burning the candle at both ends. Draining me physically, but holy shit is it fun!

I understand and appreciate why people run marathons. Sometimes you have to push yourself to the utmost limit, just so you know where those limitation are. Then you can cross over that line and set a new level to reach for.