Monday, June 02, 2008

May Part 1: Nick Strange @ Greektown, Sparsh@ Bennett Castle, Kirtan, A.A. Book Fair, Radio Free Bacon w/ Madcat

Hello again,

What a month! I am still in a dazed state from a month that included shows with 6 different groups in some great settings. I thought about halfway through the month that I should start writing about these experiences or they are going to pile up too far. Well, here we are, it is the 2nd of June and I am writing for the first time in a month. I think I will split this blog up into two sections - the first section will include the first 3 weeks of May, which found me in Detroit, at a castle, and on the radio. Part two will include just this past weekend, which was a memorable one spent with some old friends. So, here it goes....
On May 3rd I played a show at Fishbones in the Greektown Casino with the Nick Strange group, (Dan Orcutt, Jessica Oberhaltzer, and John Sperendi). The setting was unique. It was at a restaurant wedged between the casino and hotel. The ceiling was 6 stories high and we played in front of what used to be the world's largest indoor man-made waterfall. It was made out of solid granite and was a sight to behold. Fortunately for the band, it had not been in use for a few years, so competing with 6 stories of falling water wasn't an issue. The sound in the room was interesting, lots of echo and reverb. The sound bounced around and filled the room with a lot of noise. Luckily they had a good sound man who knew how to make it work, so we ended up having a good show. I just kept looking up, trying to listen to the sound in the distance. Residence of the hotel could look down on us from whichever floor their room was on, so I had some fun waving at the curious guests. All in all it was a fun, unique experience.
Exactly one week later I found myself on the back deck of a castle playing my tabla to birds in the treetops. I had been working with Sreyashi Dey and her organization Sparsh on providing entertainment for guests at a thank-you/fundraising dinner. It was in Ann Arbor at the Bennett Castle, which used to be the home of Henry Fords right hand man, Harry Bennett. He was rumored to be the guy that did Ford's 'dirty work', and this castle was Ford's gift to him. It comes complete with secret tunnels, hid-a-way's, and foot-and-a-half thick walls meant to protect. It is now a private residence, and it was a great place to play music. The back deck overlooked the Huron River and it sat about 150 ft. above the shoreline. The big grandaddy trees on the shore stretched up to the height of the deck, so we were playing to all the birds in the trees. The group was an experimental Indian/Western fusion group made up of Ken Kozora, Scott Brady, Dave Gilbert, and Prashanth Gururaja. We played about an hour. It was a little chilly, so the instruments were difficult to keep in tune, but the music was still sounding great. The people listening were very receptive and complimentary. I hope to play something with that same group again soon.
On March 16th I was back in Ann Arbor with the Ann Arbor Kirtan group for our monthly chant. The group has been coming to my house for 2 hours every Monday since January to work on new chants and just become a better musical group. The work has really paid off. Chants flow much better now. I can actually enjoy most of the evening with my eyes closed, which I find really enhances the experience. There is also a solid base of responders that come every time and know the chants very well. That helps the whole group sound better, and I think it relaxes the musicians. The group provides an interesting challenge for me. We have to strike a balance between performing good music without being so 'performance' oriented that it distracts from the chanting experience of the whole group, (responders included). I guess it is a lot like any good musical group...the music must be solid and everything else follows and flows from that. Regardless, I have been enjoying the experience more and more.
The very next day I met up with Meeta Banerjee, Dan Piccolo, and Rohit and Amanda Setty for a children's storytelling event at the international studies booth at the Ann Arbor Book Fair. We did a similar show to the one back in February at the Ann Arbor Public Library. Rohit and Amanda read stories, and danced while Meeta Dan and I played music and provided sound effects. It was a fun little show, and the kids who were there seemed to enjoy it. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon in the spring.
The following Monday I was on a plane with 11 middle school students from Go Like The Wind. We were on our way to Washington State for an "Adventure Trip" organized by Colleen Carlson and Outward Bound. It was a week of camping, canoeing, and hiking. No music, aside from some campfire songs on the last night, but I thought it was worth mentioning. We got back late Friday night and I had to get up early on Saturday for another very unique rehearsal.
Saturday morning I drove to Gladwin Farms just outside of Ann Arbor for a rehearsal with the Roadhouse Revival Band and featured artist Peter "Madcat" Ruth. It was a rehearsal for a live radio show called Radio Free Bacon. I was called to fill in for the regular drummer, and what a treat it was. The show is broadcast live on Ann Arbor's 107.1 fm throughout the summer from Zingermans Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. The show is totally locally grown. They have interviews, live commercials, and musical guests. I was so happy to be playing with Madcat. When I was in California I played in a funk band called Mudhouse, and we covered a bunch of tunes by this obscure band from the 70's called Sky King. After graduation I moved back to Michigan and learned that the harmonica player from Sky King lived in Ann Arbor......it was Madcat. It was a great experience to play live on the air. We had to play, then sit very quiet while the interviews and other things happened, then they would turn it over to us and we had to be right on the mark. Very exhilarating!
  The following weekend was so packed, I want to give it it's own post, so please keep checking back, and I will write again soon!

John

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