Category Archives: Work

I quit jazz band

Maybe I had a short fuse last Monday night. For work I use the term ‘long day’ to designate a day that starts early in the day – usually 8 am – and continues until 11 pm or midnight. In reality, it can be anywhere from fourteen to twenty hours long, depending on whether you count meal breaks. A regular day plus a show means I leave the apartment at 7 am and get home between 11 and 11:30 pm. That’s a long day.

So I had a long day Saturday, then Sunday I drove up to Loomis to play with Loose Gravel. that was over twelve hours away from home. Monday I had a regular 8 to 5 day, but then had to rush to jazz band practice so I didn’t go home, I just wolfed down a chicken sandwich at Burger King on my way.

I knew what the rest of my week was going to be: long days through Friday, one day off, then another long day Sunday. That’s a grind.

In band this semester, I’m playing bass because Zack asked me to help with one of the other, less experienced, players. The rehearsal is supposed to end at ten, but he almost always takes it right up to ten or a little past. Monday, at about 4 minutes till ten, he called up a chart and Amanda (my mentee, as it were) decided she wanted to try playing it. Zack said some things about it while we were shuffling around and we thought he was starting in a certain place. We were wrong, though, and when the band was done he called us out for being unprepared. I didn’t get pissed right away but on the way home I decided that things were too confusing with three bassists and I would bow out.

I sent him an email right away but I didn’t get a response until last night. He expressed disappointment and hoped I would reconsider. I guess the bloom is off the rose. I won’t be going to jazz band tonight.

quotidian

It’s a real word. I’m sure of it. But I’m not going to look it up. I want to riff on it based on what I think it means.

It’s what my life has been the last nearly two weeks. In a way, though, it’s been longer. My trip with Jeremy was fraught with meaning but it was really just quotidian for me. I mean, I planned it, and I did it. No muss no fuss.

Visiting with Rosalie shouldn’t have been quotidian but it kind of was. Jeremy was away and we did some stuff. It was nice but it never seemed unordinary.

When I got back, I took¬† the CueStation class for three days, then spent an afternoon and evening in Santa Clara (after going to the dentist to have a broken crown fixed), then I had a long day (15 hours) at work, then I drove Rose and her sister Leigh and Gavino’s other grandmother to Pollock Pines for his birthday party. Then the next day I did laundry, then went back down to Santa Clara where I hung with Tim and his family. Then it was Monday and Tony Bennett at Davies. That was another long day. Tuesday I met Tim’s family along with Julian at Davies where I showed them around the whole building. Then I did another Tony Bennett show followed by a load out. Wednesday I went to Alameda for a haircut, followed by lunch with Leti and Hal, followed by dinner out with Rose for her birthday. Today I was back to work at 8 and just got home at 10:45. Tomorrow I get my permanent crown at the dentist and go back to work in the evening.

So there hasn’t been much time for reflection. Tonight the featured artist was a woman named Rhiannon Giddens. A classically trained singer from North Carolina, she became interested in the folk music of the area she grew up in after graduating from Oberlin. She has a band and some Grammy’s so I suppose I should have heard of her but I hadn’t. She sang Summertime and a Kurt Weill song that were sort of ordinary. there was a gospel number before intermission that was cool but in the second half she sang a song she wrote about a slave woman who was sold but her child was not, so they were separated.

I found myself weeping in the darkness of the light booth. Then she sang a song about the four little girls killed in the Birmingham church and I wept some more. Where did that come from? My life was moving along more or less under control and suddenly these couple of songs unhinged me completely. Loss of a child, of course. I’m quite sensitive to that for obvious reasons, but the sight of this young woman standing up there delivering this message almost defiantly was moving in and of itself. Seeing Sarah in the orchestra behind her made it even more intense.

I suppose, compared to a year and a half ago, I’m ‘better’ at handling this. I was able to remember that I could be heard through the glass if I got too loud. I was able to get it together enough to bring up the bow light at the end of each number. By the end of the show I was back to my quotidian life.

After tomorrow I have some days off. I will try to write more here and work on my new jigsaw puzzle. I did get one started the other day. It’s a scene from Yosemite Valley.

Denise

One of the great joys of being back in San Francisco to work is the people I get to work with. I apologize ahead of time to my colleagues in Sacramento. The reasons I did not enjoy my time there do not reflect on you, they are mine only.

Case in point is Denise. I’ve worked with Denise many times over the last eight years. She has a specialty within the world of sound people that dovetails with mine so we sometimes get on the same jobs. Today she told a story of her being told to slow down because she was working too hard. We all laughed, because it is so Denise. She is always thinking ahead and always taking the responsibility of action. I’ve been lucky to have her as my #2 in SoundBox for the last two years.

She had shown me her art quite a while ago. It’s not dramatic, it’s full of subtlety. She told me what ‘ATC’ meant long a go and I don’t remember now, but I think it means pretty small, like post card size.

Just a few months ago we were talking and she mentioned her web page. Web page?? You mean like a blog? Well, sort of. She writes a little, but mostly it is just images of her art. I invite you to take a look at it here.

procrastination

Yeah, wanting to write but not being able to bring myself to it. It happens every so often. I’d guess about half the time there’s a gap of more than 2 or 3 days that’s the reason. (The other times I’m busy with work . . .)

For a moment yesterday I thought I’d gotten myself into working every night this week. Then we (Arno and I) looked again at the schedule and figured out that he could still work tonight and Wednesday nights. I’m covering him on Friday and I’m still going to try to get out of Saturday night.

My flight to Atlanta is leaving at 6 am Sunday. Jeremy will be arriving from Seattle about the same time as me. We will proceed to his house and start loading the truck for the big move. Actually the big move starts for them tomorrow with their flight west.

They have a house rental lined up, Ashley has a job, but Jeremy does not. He’s set himself up as a volunteer with the local fire district and – weirdly, to me – he’s getting some training from them starting Thursday the 29th. That means we’re going to be leaving Georgia Monday morning (probably) and trying to get to the Seattle environs by noon on Thursday. It’s do-able but just barely, especially with only two drivers driving a 26′ bobtail towing an SUV.

We’ll see a lot of Interstate Highway but not much else, I’m afraid. Jeremy tried to apologize to me a couple of weeks ago when this training thing came up. I said, no way. I’m just happy to be part of the party. I never had any plans to sightsee on this trip anyway.

I hope to do some, at least, updates from the road next week.

Burt Bacharach

Yesterday we had what we call an outside event at Davies. Davies ‘Symphony Hall’ was of course built for the San Francisco Symphony but other entities use it when they can. It’s a beautiful hall and prestigious. In the last six weeks, we’ve had our usual spring spate of graduation ceremonies squeezed in amongst the symphony rehearsals and concerts.

Last night’s outside event was Burt Bacharach. We last had Burt a couple of years ago when he appeared with the Symphony accompanying him. This concert was promoted by SF Jazz and was Burt with his band only. Burt is particularly interesting because Hal toured with him for 12 years and talks often about the great education he got from it.

When I say squeezed in, I really mean it. Yesterday the orchestra was on stage rehearsing Rite of Spring until 12:30. Large orchestra with lots of percussion. As soon as they were released, the hands fell on the stage removing stands and chairs and rearranging risers while the sound crew unloaded their truck and began to install the PA. Actually, we have an in-house PA now that is good so there was no rolling in of large speaker boxes and tedious stacking and raising them on motors.That’s all permanent now. What Hal and his guys did have to do was bring in the mixing consoles, Front Of House and monitor, run the snakes, connect everything, build the mic stands and wire the stage: mics, monitors, keyboards. All in 2 hours.

Instead of being on the sound crew as I have many times in the past, I’ve recently moved up to Head Carpenter/Stage Manager for most of these outside events. I was wrestling risers, bringing in and setting up the backline. Besides the grand piano for Burt, the band had a drummer, a bass player, a violinist, a sax guy and a trumpet guy, three singers, and three keyboard players (five keyboards). The keyboards too the most time.

So I was busy too. A little later in the afternoon, after the sound check was underway, the production manager came to me and asked who was on the crew that could do stage moves. Well, that would be me. So, she says, one of the singers plays acoustic guitar for two of the numbers on the show. They didn’t want the guitar sitting on stage so I was the one to bring it on, along with a stool, at the proper time – twice.

That’s all really normal stuff. As they (the PM and the singer) were finishing up telling me all this, they said, can you tune the guitar? They had an electronic tuner so I said sure. They didn’t ask me if I was a musician or knew anything about guitars or anything, just, can you tune it. OK. When the sound check was done, I took the guitar offstage and tuned it up.

The first number was about a half hour into the show so we got started and I went over and checked the tuning but then I started thinking. The singer never said anything else to me after that initial orientation. As far as I know he never picked up the guitar to check the tuning before he went on stage. Wow! That seems really odd to me.

The handoffs went fine and the guitar was in tune. After the show I was working with one of the keyboard guys putting things away and I mentioned it to him. He said, ‘Yeah, last week we were in LA and the guitar came out all out of tune.’ He was kind of laughing about it but I was stunned. These guys are all really good musicians but evidently they have a blind spot on this. The numbers were basically solo pieces for the guitar. Pretty exposed.

Well, they’re gone now and tonight we have somebody named Ben Gribbard. It’s a similar deal: the orchestra is on stage until 3:30, then we come in and put in the show again. 8 o’clock start, I don’t know when the sound check is. Maybe 5 or 5:30. Hal was able to leave the mixers in so that part doesn’t need to be done again. It’ll still be a panic.

By the way, Burt Bacharach was born in 1928. He’s older than my father. He’s little guy and bent over but still going out there on stage, playing the piano, talking to the audience. I didn’t think to ask how much they’re touring but there’s no end date. Rumor is that the Symphony is having him back next year. He did two hours last night on stage without a break. Amazing. He told the audience there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.

Life

I keep saying I want to cut back but I keep failing. Last week was the return from the work weekend Monday. I was so tired when I got home I couldn’t go to band that night. Tuesday I got my laundry done and napped but had work that evening. Wednesday and Thursday I took classes for professional development in Hayward. By the end of the second day I was wondering why I bothered. The new big Yamaha mixer is interesting but the likelihood of me driving one for a job are slim to none.

Friday morning was our first graduation of the year at Davies. I stayed down there to work the evening shift. Saturday, Rose’s sister Leigh had a gathering at her house in Antioch to celebrate the life of her husband, John. Saturday traffic was an abomination. 2+ hours each way.

Sunday morning up early for the Youth Orchestra in Davies until 5 pm then a dash down to Santa Clara for Mother’s Day dinner. In addition to that, we celebrated Jane and Julian’s birthdays. Julian is 21!

Yesterday an early call (6 am) for another graduation then concert dress rehearsal for the jazz band in the evening. I did lay down and try to nap in the afternoon.

Today I am waiting for the laundry room to become free. I have a couple of errands to run but they can wait until tomorrow if it comes to that. The rehearsal showed me that I need to practice the guitar more, although I really already knew that, so I’ve done some of that already. I finished the jigsaw puzzle I’ve been picking away at for almost a month. It’s one of the hardest I’ve ever done so that is satisfying.

Tomorrow night, work returns. Thursday I signed on with Hal to be part of the sound crew for the Disney/Pixar movie presentation at Davies. It’s going to be an 8 am to midnight (at least) day plus I agreed to do the graduation at 7 the next morning. And the house head job in the evening . . .

All this to clear my weekend for personal things. Saturday afternoon in San Francisco Sarah’s quartet is hosting a benefit that I will attend before heading back to San Bruno in the evening for the jazz band concert. Sunday up to Rose’s brother Steve’s house in Plymouth and another chance to play with Allen Frank and his Doghouse Blues band at the Drytown Club.

Monday I think I’ll collapse but Monday evening is another jazz band rehearsal, this time for the school graduation. I really want to go up to Eagle Creek Falls before the summer madness starts so right now it looks like Tuesday or Wednesday will be my best options before Memorial Day.

I have Sarah’s next quartet concert on my calendar for Friday the 26th but yesterday realized it overlapped the Skyline graduation. Hmmm, I may have to weasel out of that one.

Kirk

Kirk Schriel died last Saturday. Kirk was a member of Local 16 and on a job. He collapsed at the mixing board during a show and could not be revived.

I first met Kirk when he was working for ProMedia and I was working for the Opera. He was a sassy guy but he knew what he was doing. At that time he was doing the scut work of a big rental sound company. At some point, while I was gone in the foothills, he left ProMedia and started working out of the Union hall. He completed the apprentice program and became a full member.

I was on a job Sunday morning with Hal, who called me to give me the news. Hal was pretty broken up. Kirk had been the best man at his wedding. Hal had talked to him two weeks ago. There had been no warning signs.

I had seen Kirk a few times since I returned to SF but not recently. In the community of big time sound mixers, I am only on the edges, but Kirk was the real deal.

catching up

OK, it’s time to catch up on the last few weeks. Every time I think I’ve got some time free, something seems to happen. This week it was the headaches. Last week it was a couple of unexpected days at work.

Whatever. Let’s look back,

SoundBox was really awesome. The young German conductor of the SFS Youth Orchestra, Christian Reif, was the curator. Rather than trying to describe it, I recommend you all just read this review. It is of course a glowing review, but what I especially like about it is how it describes the atmosphere at a SoundBox concert pretty well. A couple of people that I spoke to afterwards who had seen many SoundBoxes were quite moved by this set.

From the technical standpoint, the only difficulty we had was amplifying the instruments in the Black Angels string quartet. I didn’t find out until after the fact that the full title includes the words ‘for Electric String Quartet.’ I had only been given a note that the (acoustic) instruments were to Be mic’d, which we did for the first rehearsal. Everyone seemed to like it expect the players in the quartet who now told us the sound should be distorted and loud ‘like Jimi Hendrix.’

So we talked it over and they agreed that they would bring in their distortion pedals the next day and we would wire them through the overhead speakers.

What they actually brought in was a motley collection of amps, none of which had dedicated distortion circuits. All we could do was overdrive the inputs and hope it worked. After much fiddling – so to speak! – we got something that they professed to be happy with. It wasn’t nearly the overwhelming loudness of Hendrix. Oh well.

A week later was my date with Loose Gravel at the Valencia Club in Penryn. At the last minute, I had traded with Tom singing Dizzy Miss Lizzy for Blue Suede Shoes. That one I had sung back in the April days so I thought it would be straightforward. It turned out to be a problem, though, partly because the vocal starts without any introduction. I ended up in the wrong key. It was only the second song of the afternoon and people were looking at me and the band as if wondering what they were in for.

It got better, though. A few songs later I got to chew on Big Boss Man, which I had actually sung a few times in the intervening years. That went very well.

The second set was the Chuck Berry tribute and I sang Wee Wee Hours and Memphis acceptably. In honor of Chuck I had brought my red ES-335 which I don’t play much. I had bought it from Vince a couple of years ago because he offered me a great deal on it. Afterwards we talked about it. He offered to take it back but ‘didn’t have any money.’ Ha ha, very finny Vince! I don’t dislike it that much.

It’s a beautiful guitar. Here’s a picture of it in front of Allen Frank’s Super Reverb at his Drytown Club right after I bought it.

The next day – Monday night actually – the Skyline band played a ‘Mid-Term Exam’ at the Last Stop Sports Bar in Daly City. They are nice people there, but fitting a big band into the performance space they have is just not happening. We guitars were stuffed in the back next to the drums with all the wind players in front of us and playing in the other direction. It wasn’t too bad until I got to African Skies when I was supposed to be playing a unison line with the tenor sax. I couldn’t hear him at all! The trading twos at the end was a little better because it was just us and Zack was counting and pointing to each of us on our turn.

Here’s a picture of the ES-330 I use for jazz band:

It looks similar but it is really quite different. I won’t bore you with the details unless you ask.

The last SoundBox is upon us. Next week will be the last program for at least 7 months. Whether we get to start it up again in December is up to the Symphony board. It was funded for three years and those three years are done. No one wants to see it go but we all realize it is quite expensive to put it on. Some of the ‘features’ like the lighting and video will be migrated to the main Davies hall but the custom sound system I run won’t be one of them. Stay tuned . . .

struggling

I just finished seven straight days with SoundBox and I’m struggling to write something. Hopefully I can do better tomorrow. I didn’t expect to have to work today but circumstances Saturday night dictated it. It turned out to be a satisfying although tiring day. A colleague from my Opera days was on the call and he expressed sympathy to me for the loss of Zach. We were both busy and he could have just said hi but he stepped up and I really appreciated it. Thanks, Frank!

work vs play

The title of this post has been in my drafts folder since September. Hmmm. Well, obviously it’s a recurring theme. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Today was my second day off after a nine working days in 10 stretch. Yesterday I looked at my long list of things I wanted to do . . . and went back to bed.

I finally got myself out about 1 pm and ran a couple of errands. Then I even cooked a real dinner. That’s as opposed to heating frozen food or going out. All good but this morning I’m unmotivated again.I still have a lot on my list but I find it’s easy to rationalize staying in. I’ve been thinking lately how a couple of years ago I went out on hikes on this beautiful peninsula pretty regularly. Not so much now.

At years’ end I tallied the number of days worked and found that 2016 was almost exactly the same as 2015. In fact, the last 4 years are remarkably close. That would be fine except I’ve stated many times, to myself and others, that I want to reduce my work load. Days like today, though, highlight the question of what do I do with the extra time.

Jazz band starts next Monday so that will be something. It remains to be seen if I can practice more.

I think about writing a lot but actually doing it less so. I did pick up the Stephen King book On Writing yesterday at the library so perhaps there will be some inspiration there.

OK, up and at ’em. Time for more errands.