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Friday, May 01, 2009

When equipment fails the drummer

As Chris Mess blasted through the four-song opener at the High Dive, I thought things were going pretty well. My playing felt good. The large crowd was responding positively. Time, which usually runs by quickly on stage, seemed to slow down.

highdive042909 When we reached the part of the set when we play a cover -- Bowie's Suffragette City on this night -- Chris invited his girlfriend Mary on stage to sing ("Hey, Man!").

The crowd responded enthusiastically.

Then we moved to the quiet part of the set, starting with a song called Oleada by Julieta Venegas (lyrics in Spanish). When I stepped on my right bass drum pedal, it went down  to the floor and didn't bounce back. I tried a few more times. No dice. So I played the entire song using my left bass drum pedal (it's a double-bass pedal).

Once the song was over, I told Chris I needed to fix my pedal. He tried to entertain the crowd. After a few seconds I realized I couldn't fix the pedal. The chain that connected to the foot plate was broken.

Normally, this would be a drummer's worst nightmare. But I came prepared.

I ran offstage and grabbed my single chain-drive Camco pedal from my gear bag. As I tried to attach the pedal to the bass drum, I realized it was missing the wing nut that would make this possible. I slid the pedal under the bass drum, hoping it would stay there. Then, when I tried to play the pedal, there was hardly any response.

Now this was becoming a drummer's worst nightmare.

We started playing Bossa Nova, and the first few measures were punctuated with mistakes caused by me trying to adjust to the poor feel of the replacement pedal. (It was at this point I realized I would have been better off leaving the double pedal on and trying to play with my left foot.)

I struggled through the song and realized that there was no way I could play No Joke, an up-tempo punk song, with this pedal. When I got Chris's attention to tell him this, he said we couldn't play it anyway due to time constraints. So we launch into our final song -- a Cheap Trick cover, Southern Girls.

We finished our set. I was angry.

I guess I thought I was prepared, and I was angry that it hadn't been good enough. I mean, at every gig I bring two snare drums, two bass drum pedals, extra drum heads in the car -- even a small drill with a drum key bit to help me fix a broken head more quickly.

But now, as they say, it became very clear:  When it comes down to it, you really only need a few drums and hardware to play a show:

  • One drum throne
  • One bass drum (with pedal)
  • One snare
  • One ride or ride/crash cymbal
  • One optional crash cymbal

Everything else is non-essential. It's nice to be able to play drum fills on two or three tom-toms, and use an open or closed hi-hat or different crash cymbals to color the song. But it's not essential.

As an example of this principle, William Cremin, the drummer in the headlining band, Tim & the Time Machines, had only a hi-hat, snare drum, bass drum, and floor tom. I was impressed with the sounds he got out of his kit -- though it's worth noting that this band had six members (as opposed to Chris Mess's three), including acoustic guitar, bass, glockenspiel, keyboard, and cello (yes, cello at a rock show).

This meditation on being prepared doesn't mean I'll bring fewer drums or cymbals to gigs; it just means I'm going to be better prepared and not worry about the non-essential drums breaking anymore.


Show details:

High Dive, Wed., April 29
9 p.m. Chris Mess http://www.myspace.com/chrismessrocks
10 p.m. Mighty Shiny http://www.myspace.com/mightyshiny
11 p.m. Doctor Doctor http://www.myspace.com/doctordoctorlovesface
12 a.m. Tim & the Time Machines http://www.myspace.com/theuniverse

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posted by AndyO @ 9:13 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Chris Mess songs available

Chris and I recorded a bunch of new songs at the tail end of 2007, and now they're available on MySpace. You can listen to them on my Chris Mess page here.

Hope you enjoy!


posted by AndyO @ 8:46 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Chris Mess at the Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater: STIFF Film Festival

Updated 7/29/07: Here's an interview that the STIFF folks did with Chris and me after the show:

I had no idea that opening for "H is for Hellgate" meant that the stage would literally be hotter than hell. But from the moment I loaded my drums into the Rendezvous Jewelbox theater, I practically melted. Fortunately I had enlisted my brother's help under my "roadie-for-a-night" program. (Thanks, Erik!) I also brought a fan to cool me down.

We were there on Thursday, May 31, as part of the entertainment for the Seattle's True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) after-party. STIFF is the more independent counterpart to the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)--much like Slamdance is the counterpart to the Sundance film festival. It was Ken Harder who helped book Chris Mess with STIFF (thanks, Ken!). (Coincidentally, Ken is one of the directors of the documentary "Big City Dick," which won an Audience Sparky Award at Slamdance in 2004.)

H is for Hellgate and The idea for the entertainment at STIFF was to have bands play onstage with a movie projecting behind them. Chris chose "Repo Man (Collector's Edition)," a cult film of the 80s starring Emelio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton.

We took the stage shortly after 11:00 p.m., introduced by two stand-up comedians, a first for me and Chris Mess. We played through our furious 35-minute set with "Repo Man" flickering behind us. Of course I couldn't watch the movie, but my brother said it worked really well--and some moments in the film matched musical moments. Between songs, Chris commented on the film and talked about the cool extras on the DVD. The band played well, and the vibe was friendly in the room. But for me personally, I never quite got into the zone; I've found it's a rare night when this happens for me--and rarer still for the entire band. You just hope your best effort sounds good, I guess.

'HAfter our set, I watched "H is for Hellgate's" show. They have an indie style that includes progressive, rock, punk, and other elements. Plus, all the members of the band have some pretty funny dialog onstage. The movie "Run Lola Run" projected behind them, and I was surprised how interesting it was to watch a film and listen to live music. It's obvious from what I've read about "H is for Hellgate," that they're really starting to establish themselves around Seattle and elsewhere. Check them out or give them a listen if you get a chance.


posted by AndyO @ 7:48 PM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chris Mess on NizTV.com

The band I'm in played a show at the Mars Bar on 2/1 that was captured by the great NizTV.com crew. To watch the video, go to http://niztv.com and click the Chris Mess link under Seattle Live or under Archived Videos.


posted by AndyO @ 11:34 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New Chris Mess songs available

In the past month, Chris and I recorded a couple new songs. They're now available on the Chris Mess MySpace website. The new songs are called "Vitamin D" and "Bend." Enjoy.


posted by AndyO @ 10:23 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Chris Mess at the Blue Moon - 9/16

Saturday, Sept. 16 @ The Blue Moon:


The Blue Moon interiorThe first thing I did when I entered The Blue Moon was step on a dog.

It happened as I carried my drum cases inside the Moon, trying to navigate through the crowd between the bar and the tables. The dog was black, lying on the floor, so I couldn't see him. I apologized immediately, but the owner just glared at me. The dog did, too.

The Blue Moon always brings in an interesting crowd--like what you might see at a Grateful Dead concert. On any given night you can find wifi hunters, hipsters, hippies, bikers, UW students, and drunks in the midst of passing out (or already passed out). 

My band was playing first--so after I loaded the drums in and moved my car, I started setting up my drums. Soon I was joined onstage by Chris and Steve, who also began setting up their equipment. It was only after I finished with my setup that I realized they had blocked me in (once again). I managed to find a way out of center stage to go out into the bar and talk to people.

As usual, my brother had brought an army of friends, including Ginger, Scott, Jess, and others whose names I didn't catch (sorry!). I also had one of my work friends, Charlie, show up. After greeting everyone, I went off  to warm up. I've had a tendency to skip my warm-up, which hasn't helped my tendonitus and other wrist problems of late, so for this show I wanted to make sure I was ready.

I had also warmed up earlier in the day. First, I went to my drum lesson at The Seattle Drum School, where my teacher and I discussed (you guessed it) warming up. Then, after dinner around 7:00, I went down and played my practice kit in the basement for about 30 minutes. Now, it was time to play on the practice pad in The Blue Moon.

As I started playing, Steve sat down next to me. We both checked our watches -- 30 minutes until show time. But then I said to Steve, "Last time, Jason (the booking and sound person for The Blue Moon) asked us to go on 15 minutes early."

Almost on cue, Jason walked over and said, "Hey, get ready to go on in about 15 minutes."

Steve looked at me and smiled. The problem was, Chris had left to do his own warm up activities and wasn't aware of any early performance schedule. By the time he got back, we were running "late."

The set felt really good for some reason. As any musician knows, while you may play a good show most of the time, it's rare that you play a great show. It seemed like everyone in Chris Mess was playing a great show on this night, so I was pleased.

Also on this night, NizTV was shooting a video, which was really cool. You can watch the video here.(Just click the Chris Mess Seattle Live link.)

We introduced two new songs in this set, including "The New Song" (yes, it still has no name) and "Chinese Rocks," the latter being the classic punk song by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers

After our set, I moved my drums out of the way and then watched Matt's band "Supernaughty," a Black Sabbath tribute band with a female singer. They really rocked the house and, as usual, it was great to watch Matt play.

The last band to go on was "A Gun That Shoots Knives." They came out in hilarious costumes (the bass player waring the rocket pack on his back was my favorite), and they were a lot of fun. Their final song of the evening, "Soap," was an ode to the many different forms of soap that you can use (liquid, bar, laundry, etc.)--and was actually quite catchy.

We loaded out after 1:30 a.m., and Chris, Matt, and I went to The Hurricane to have breakfast. While we were there, Chris introduced us to Wiffitti--a communal text-messaging board displayed on a flat-screen TV. People fire their messages to this board with their cell phones. This new technology is being tested in only a few restaurants across the U.S. It's surprisingly fun.

Here's what it looks like: 

This is the last Chris Mess gig for a little while, as we're going to do some recording and take a break. Thanks to all who came out to see us!


posted by AndyO @ 11:40 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A weird night at The Central - 6/13/06

I arrived at 8:00 p.m. at The Central Saloon, as the booker had requested. I'd actually never been to The Central, so I wanted to make sure I had enough time to get my drums loaded in, find parking, etc. Unfortunately, the parking gods were against me, as I didn't get a spot in the front of the bar. Many of the "regulars" on the street commented on every piece of equipment I carried past them. With each trip to the car, I kept hoping that someone would ask me for "spare change" so I could hire them to help.

One thing I've started to notice in my limited exposure to playing live is every venue has its own energy; I usually catch it the minute I walk through the door. On this night, the vibe was mostly positive. But I kept asking myself why I felt a little uneasy, and then I remembered what had happened on Monday.

Sam, our bass player, had suddenly left Chris Mess on Monday to deal with some personal issues. As anyone in showbiz knows, "the show must go on." So Chris and I decided to play this gig as a two piece, a la "White Stripes." While I knew Chris and I could do it, I also knew there would be a gaping hole in the Chris Mess sound that made me feel, well, a little uncomfortable. I knew I'd miss Sam.

I took a look at the Central's red brick walls and high ceilings. Patrons sat at the long bar, eating dinner and drinking beer. The stage is in the back, beneath a rectangular window that looks like stained glass. This gives the bar a kind of church-like feel, like you're on holy ground. In some ways you are, as you know you're standing in a historic building, but also the building's history with the Grunge movement in the 90s. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden--just to name a few--graced the Central stage back in the 90s.

Chris arrived around 8:30, and we figured out when we would go on (around 10:15). So we sat outside in the humid evening air and talked and people watched. The drummer from the first band who was too young to be in the bar except when playing, also joined in our conversation.

Chris went to do his vocal warm-up, and I decided to walk to Elliot Bay Books, one of the best bookstores in Seattle. I perused the bookstore, but couldn't keep my attention on any book I opened. I knew this was just the pre-show nerves that any performer experiences. It wasn't until I went into the kids' section that the nerves seemed to settle. I found three books for my 1-year-old son, Drew.

Back at the Central, I watched the first band play (I never got their name, as I believe they were a last-minute fill-in). I felt sorry for the drummer, as one of his bass drum spurs had broken off and the drums kept moving away from him. At one point, the bass drum (and attached tom-toms) literally fell over. In between songs, the band rallied and pushed one of their speakers into the bass drum to try and hold it in place.

I had a little time to talk to my brother Erik, who was nice enough to come down and watch us play. As I was talking to him, an attractive woman with a cell phone stuck to her ear sauntered up and started rubbing his stomach like a Buddha.

"Do you know each other?" I asked.

"No," Erik said, laughing. They introduced themselves. Erik said, "This is my brother, Andy."

She flipped her hand up in that "talk-to-the-hand" kind of way, "Yeah, whatever," she said.

"Look at you," she said to Erik, looking him up and down (Erik is one of the taller people in a room).

"You like big men?" Erik asked.

"I like real men, not those anorexic types."

"Well, I used to be anorexic," Erik said. She didn't laugh. I did.

I tried to butt in a few times, but she kept giving me the "yeah, whatever," and I walked away.

Erik finally got away from this mysterious woman, who then joined another group of people (I don't know if she knew them either). When she got a phone call, she left. I wondered if she was a call girl or something.

Chris and I finally took to the stage after the first band finished up. Chris had brought along a life-size cardboard figure of Sarah Michelle Gellar to stand in at stage right. I had my kit fully miked, which is the first time at any of the Chris Mess gigs. It was great to hear the thunder of my DW's in that open space.

Chris and I tore through the set, having as much fun as we could with our new two-piece setup. And, as always, it was over much too quickly, I was off the stage, packing up my drums into their cases, and listening to Eight Hour Disease play through their set.

On to the next gig and a new bass player...


posted by AndyO @ 10:26 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chris Mess playing The Central - 6/13/06 @ 10:00

If you're in Seattle and want to get out and see Chris Mess, here's the info:

Chris Mess (on @ 10:15 p.m.)

The Central Saloon 207 First Ave S Pioneer Square Seattle, WA (206) 622-0209


posted by AndyO @ 9:15 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chris Mess at The Mercury

So Chris Mess played at the Mercury on 3/15/06. When Chris told me that it was "really hard to find," I had no idea how hard. It's under a battery shop on Capitol Hill. You walk down an alley and enter an unmarked door. On the weekends, it's a private Goth club. But on Wednesdays, it's mostly rock and punk.

On this particular night, there were no fewer than four bands playing. The last time I played with three other bands was "new band night" at the Tractor, in 1994. If you had walked in on this particular night, you would have heard quite an eclectic mix. Nemesis Theory played intricate riffs over a wash of synthesizer noise that would continue eerily between songs. The Keeper consisted of two musicians: one playing a keyboard, the other a guitar. We played third, and then the last band was from California-- didn't catch their name.

Of all the bands, The Keeper was the one that stayed with me. They had a unique sound of sequencers, drum machine, and guitar, along with spoken word lyrics. It was the spoken word stuff that I found interesting, with phrases like, "Break his bones!" and "Shut your mouth so the flies down come out!" I talked to the guitar player as I was setting up my drums, and he said it was their first gig.

Because the Mercury is basically a cement box, the sound is pretty crazy, bouncing all over the place. Tonight, we added a new cover to the mix, "He's a Whore" from Cheap Trick. There was a small crowd of people singing along with us, which was cool.

After the gig, Chris and I went to "The Hurricane" for breakfast. I didn't get home until well after 3:00 a.m.

On to The Dubliner on April 8 with Radio Shark.


posted by AndyO @ 10:08 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, February 24, 2006

Chris Mess at the Blue Moon

Tonight, Chris Mess played its inaugural show at the legendary Blue Moon tavern. I'd actually never been to the Blue Moon, and its reputation definitely lives up to the hype. I wasn't sure what to expect. The novelist Tom Robbins once described this bar as "a frenzy of distorted joy spinning just outside the reach of bourgeois horrors."

Everything started off strangely enough. I pulled up on the corner, parked illegally, and started unloading my drums. It wasn't until I looked up at the sign above the door that I realized I was in the wrong bar! Most of my drums were now sitting in The Rainbow (at least they weren't set up yet). Man, did I feel foolish.

I went over to the Blue Moon, where I found Sam setting up her bass and amp. I told her my foolish story of unloading my drums in the wrong place. She did the only thing she could have done: laughed. Then she walked over to The Rainbow to help haul all my drums to the correct venue.

There were more people hanging out in the Blue Moon than I expected. Since I didn't really know any of them, I assumed they were regulars. They were doing one of the following:

  • Drinking beer
  • Working on computers (free Wi-Fi)
  • Hanging out with one of many dogs carousing about
  • Playing pool
  • Reading

After I set up my drum kit, I talked with my brother, who was reading a book in the corner. I thought he'd brought the book, but he actually got it off the shelf. I also talked to my son's teachers and their friends.

A little before 10:00 we hit the stage, blasting through our set. The crowd seemed receptive, and we played well. I had a few technical issues with equipment and drum sticks, but overall it felt good. When Chris introduced me during our song, "Bossa Nova," he said, "Andy just lives a few blocks away from me, so it's easy to rehearse." After the show, people came up and said, "Is that really true about you guys living so close?" It is indeed true.

Afterward, the headliner, "Radioshark" took to the stage to play an eclectic set that included elements of rock, punk, surf, garage, and Bionic Samba. Not only was their music interesting, but they were all great guys. They even invited us to play another show with them in April.

As I watched Radio Shark play their set, I thought about all the bands that had passed through this space. I know my uncle played a show where Robert Cray opened for him. I'd heard Jimi Hendrix played there, but I couldn't confirm it. A friend of Chris's said Hendrix did play The Rainbow next door. Ah, I was now familiar with The Rainbow. Where I'd started my evening.

On to the next show in March at "The Mercury."


posted by AndyO @ 1:30 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Cable Song on KEXP

Chris let me know today that "The Cable Song" got played on KEXP over the weekend.

This is the first time my drumming has been on the airwaves. And of course I thought about how I had dreams of this moment all my life, and now that the dream has passed into reality, it doesn't seem like that big of deal. But that's always how things like this work.

Click to hear The Cable Song.


posted by AndyO @ 12:18 AM   0 comments links to this post