Monday, August 21, 2006 

John Fogerty Still Doing It Right

Our lead singer from Creedence Again (Dan McGuinness) wanted to make sure I witnessed his musical hero in the flesh, and took me to Chicago's Northerly Island (formerly Miegs Field airport) last night to see Willie Nelson open for John Fogerty. I'm glad he did.

This was my first time seeing Willie live; Without too much comment (a lot of empty seats during his show), I did find it interesting how rarely the guy puts the lyrics where they're supposed to be inside the songs. He seems to like to rush through a line until the band eventually catches up, almost daring his players to guess where the top of the measure is. If he wasn't the legendary songwriter and star he is, doing that stuff would get him fired from a band real quick. He did surprise me with one of my favorite instrumentals by my favorite guitarist of all time: "Nuages" by Django Reinhardt. Regardless, a topic I heard discussed while waiting for Fogerty to play was how Willie is pretty long in the tooth, just going through the motions, probably burnt out on playing those same old songs over and over, messing with the performance just to keep himself from going bonkers from boredom. While that might be true, exactly the same thing could be said about John Fogerty. I'm happy to say, however, that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Fogerty just had a 60-something birthday, so he's no spring chicken. But the guy was hitting all those sky-high notes beautifully, playing solid guitar, and pacing or skipping across the stage, too. And with John Mellencamp's old drummer (Kenny Aranoff?) behind him, the band absolutely killed.

It was also a treat for me to hear Dan singing along on just about every word, in tune and also hitting all those high notes - with me in the middle. In my opinion, although Dan doesn't really sound much like John Fogerty, he's on the same level of pure vocal ability. For the record, here's my dream concert that would feature some of my favorite rock singers onstage together: Fogerty, Bob Seger, Roger Daltrey, Paul Rodgers, Paul McCartney and Dan McGuinness. Death by killer vocals!

The only multimedia video piece I saw was during his solo version of "Deja Vu." I wish I knew someone from the Fogerty camp; I would encourage them to use the piece I cut for Dan McGuinness' version of it (much more interesting & powerful, in my opinion).

Thursday, August 17, 2006 

Peter Oyloe - Diamond In The (Not So) Rough?

MEET PETER OYLOE ("Oy-low"). From a music marketing perspective, that last name is a challenge; but in the grand history of movies and music, it could be changed in a day if push came to shove with a big deal in the balance. What can't be changed in a day is the voice (excellent pipes, excellent pitch); the right age of interest to labels (around 24?); and being camera friendly (the young girls seem to truly dig this cat - KA CHING).

LIKE MOST MUSICIANS I'VE KNOWN, they'd rather their day job be kept on the "down-low"; but speaking as someone who doesn't give a damn how you meet someone, as long as you meet them, and not being ashamed of working in the food industry, now it can be told: We met on a catering gig, working for a West Loop (Chicago) sandwich shop. We hit it off, talked about music - actually, talked about music MARKETING & PROMO, far and away the most popular topic among professional musicians - and I invited him to perform at HankFest 2005. Oh, and without ever having heard him sing or play.

Gladly, his set at HankFest went well (I played guitar with the house band behind him), and we stayed in touch. But until last night at Uncommon Ground in Wrigleyville, we'd never performed together since.

I WOULD DESCRIBE UNCOMMON GROUND as an interesting place. It's maybe 2 blocks from Wrigley Field, real upscale part of Chicago, parking is a pain in the ass, lots of foot traffic, sidewalk chairs & tables. They serve coffee (of course), but also full-on lunch and dinner menus, and have a full bar. The music room seats MAYBE 30 people (or less), and I think musicians only get paid in tips. No drums are allowed due to its miniature size, so maybe I should've been happy nobody squawked when I brought my ancient, loud-as-hell, love-it-to-death-till-death-do-we-part kickass little Randall amp for the set. (it's an RG 80 - 112SC solid state, for all you gear heads out there; arguably one of the best solid-state amps ever made).

MUSICALLY SPEAKING, Uncommon Ground is one of those places that seems to have created the perception of a must-play "unplugged" showcase room in Chicago. I think they burn a live CD of each artist's performance for free (nice touch), and I think I heard they have a record label affiliated with the place, too (?). As far as musicians go, the most famous one seems to be a guy I don't know much about - the late Jeff Buckley. He did a show there once that got a lot of press, which you see in their marketing & website; they also do an annual Jeff Buckley tribute there.

ANYWAY, SO THAT'S THE BACKGROUND. A tiny listening room with me, Peter Oyloe and the unexpected treat of another pal named Pat Keiner sitting in on mandolin (he was there to play with Dan McGuinness, the night's headliner). Pat is one of my all-time favorite musicians, a near-savant natural on many instruments: guitar, mandolin, lap steel, banjo and GREAT harmony vocals. Yes, an invaluable sideman, very hard to replace.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Even though we'd never performed together before, it came together well. Peter had a real nice edge and passion happening in his live performance, which (as I'll soon be telling him) is very hard to find on his CD. NOTE: This is a common issue with "local" musicians - they might be great live or great in the studio, but only when they have both sides covered is there a chance for them to break out big.

EDGE. To me, it's everything; Something I hope to bring to every musical situation. As I told my pal Chip Znuff (for my money, THE best rock bassist in the world), I love having him play on our country and Americana-style music projects, because even though it's a softer touch than hard rock, it's still there, driving it. The underlying push & power is beauty to my ears, which I think also applies to "coffee shop" performers. I hope I didn't freak Peter out too much by adding that element to the mix, but I'm hoping he agrees it made for a more watchable & listenable show.

REGRET! My only regret from last night - we didn't play the James Taylor version of "You've Got A Friend" we rehearsed (he busted a guitar string towards the end of the setr, had to use a different one with an open tuning). Peter absolutely KILLS those JT tunes - scary good.

NOT SURE WHAT'S NEXT FOR PETER (or my involvement with him), but my feeling is we'll be hearing more about him soon...

Monday, August 07, 2006 

Lonesome Halos

"Being Good Gets Mighty Lonesome." Haven't yet touched on my "serious" musical project here until now, but I'm just about ready to start making a new push with it. The Halos features original songs by me and others I feel are top quality; songs which have the most potential to make serious, "buy a house" kind of cash in the long run. In the short run, however, it is the least marketable music project I have going.

Based on what myself and countless other musicians have tried before (the typical "let's record some tunes, make a CD, see who bites, etc."), this time is different. In addition to the application of some solid marketing techniques, chalk up video editing, which - in my opinion - is a huge advantage. The other leg-up: I've turned off my "give-a-shitter" on who takes the spotlight with vocals.

Although I can sing just fine (if it's the right song), and have served as frontman tons of times, I also know I'm a good, but not great, singer. That's a whole different conversation, but in my experience, the thing that separates good singers from great is PITCH. The great ones are always in tune, every note. After that, add phrasing, texture, etc.

And so, I've been working with some very talented, photogenic, young and FUN musicians who I have no problem handing over frontman duties to. Another big reason it's fine with me: Among other stuff, they'll be singing songs I wrote. FYI, in the music biz, songwriters drive the industry. Without the songs, there is no engine in the car. Songwriters make the most money from a hit songs, along with (depending upon their deal structures) publishers and producers. The performers get paid, of course, and their stardom can lead them other revenue (endorsements, movie parts, touring $, etc.), but the writers are king in the business.

NEXT ON LONESOME HALOS: "The Way To Heaven" and "I Melt With You."