Saturday, November 08, 2008

Our new president. Kirtan, PaleDave, Bijoya, Nick Strange, Skylounge

Hello again,

Wow, what a time to be alive!  I just watched the new President Elect Obama give his first press conference since the historic election last week.  It feels so good to turn on the T.V. and see people in other countries cheering the U.S.  We have done the world proud. My hope is that we will now carry ourselves with humility and openness, and maybe, just maybe we can spend a little more time playing with each other and less time being scared of each other.  I feel proud to be a musician in the world today, and I truly believe that music is one of the few universal modes of communicating that which we all share....our human experience.  
The election is not the only reason I am looking forward to the future and feeling hopeful. In less than 4 days my wife Jody will be giving birth to our first baby, Charley Bear Churchville.  Wow, that is the first time I have typed his full name, and like a lot of seemingly insignificant gestures, it has filled me with excitement and joyful anticipation.  I am sure he will teach me more about this world than I ever thought possible and I look forward to.....well, I guess everything!  
O.K. so now my usual patter about the gigs I have played in the last month seem a little less significant, but I will do my best to forge ahead and keep this live documentation of my musical experiences going.  So let's start with  Friday October 17th. It was the monthly Kirtan event.
This was going to be another night where I would participate in the 2 hour Kirtan, and then quickly pack up and rush over to Gracie's downtown to play with the Nick Strange Group.  I had the same situation in the previous month and I remember being very tired and worn out by the end of the night, so this time around was all about energy conservation.  It started with loading in.  I took it slow, asked for help, and focused on being relaxed.  As the music began I kept my eyes closed, focused on my hands being very relaxed, and I made sure to drink plenty of water in between chants.  I was so focused on being relaxed that I did not even break a sweat.  It was actually a great way to do Kirtan.  By the end of the chanting, I was feeling energized and ready for more music.  So I quickly packed up and headed downtown.  
When I got to Gracie's I learned that the band had been double booked and we would not be playing that night.  I was surprised at how bummed out I was to get this news.  I sat in Gracie's for a while to check out the band that was set up ahead of us.  I said hello to some friends that came out to check out the band.  Did all the explaining and then went home.  The fact that I was so bummed actually made me feel good.  It is a reminder that I am very lucky to be doing something I love for my profession.
One week later on Saturday October 25.  I found myself at a bar somewhere in the no-man's land between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.  It was a place called the Bistro.  I was playing with Paledave.  I had agreed to play the show months ago when we were rehearsing for Dave's C.D. release party.  Since the group does not play that much together, and the C.D. release party consisted of just about 2 hours of music, we had to do a lot of rehearsing to play a full 4 hour night.  It is difficult to put 4 hours of quality music together, especially when the music you are learning is all cover tunes and it is only for one night.  Usually bands will develop a full night of music over the span of a few months of playing gigs.  To throw it all together for just one show puts a little too much emphasis on getting it right the first time.  To top it off, the crowd was scattered and not into the group as much as they could have been, (is it fair to say they did not live up to their potential as an audience?).  So you play a song that you rehearsed 20 times and no one seems to mind either way.  Towards the end of the night more people were getting into it and we even got some cheering.  The music was sounding pretty good, and it is a fun group to play with.  It brought me back to my days with the Flat Broke Blues Band.  Smokey bars, rough and gruff crowds, late nights, and a small, almost insulting amount of money for the band.  C'est la vie.  
Exactly one week later I had another double-header. First was a short performance for a group called Mitiali.  From what I understand, they are a community of Bengali's that celebrate religious holidays and other events together.  The event on this day was called Bijoya.  It was at Heritage Middle School in Saline, MI.  The celebration consisted of a full day of music, dancing, one-act plays, and a big dinner at the end.  I actually played this show with Meeta Banerjee the year before. The man in charge of the event is the father of one of my tabla students, and this year he asked me to play a piece with Sarit Dhar.  Sarit is a 10 year old sitarist who I actually played with at Crazy Wisdom Tearoom the month prior.  It was a nice performance.  We played one piece that lasted about 20 minutes.  Sarit is very good for his age and I look forward to watching him grow with his instrument.
Unfortunately, I couldn't hang around for the dinner.  I had to get on the road and get ready to play with the Nick Strange Group at Good Nite Gracie's once again.  This time the show was on.  It was a fun night.  The crowd was good. They were into the music, and the music was sounding great.  Rob Crozier was on the bass, and him and I have a great connection when we play music.  It felt good all night.  The group got a bunch of gigs booked for early in 2009 as an apology for the double booking, so I will be writing about them again soon.
So the final gig of my life before fatherhood was with a new band.  It was on the third floor of the Eastern Michigan University Student center.  They turn a room into the "Skylounge" and people come all dressed up and ready to dance all night.  The unofficial name of the band is the Skylounge Band.  They play swing jazz, and some funky stuff meant to keep people dancing.  There is no smoking and no alcohol, but you would never know it.  The atmosphere is very classy and nice.  The musicians in the band are great.  Jesse Morgan plays great keyboards, and is the manager of the band.  I am sorry I don't know the last names of the other members, but they are Drue and Erin on vocals, and Trent on the bass.  I will be playing with them for 4 or 5 more of these Skylounge shows and perhaps another gig or two over the next few months. I am looking forward to it.  The music sounds great, and I hear they may be adding horns and a percussionist.  
That is it.  The next time I write will be as a new father.  From what I hear, life as I know it will never be the same.  I can't wait to find out for myself!  Thanks for reading.

John 

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