The Bridge Between Brothers
The Quest Continues….
So you are no doubt asking yourself, “What quest is this guy referring to?”
Well, it’s like this. If you were with us for part one of our Bridge Brothers saga, you will remember that our neighborhood “basement band” (remember, we were upgraded from the garage) was preparing for the sixth annual KreiFest event in early September. This outdoor event is one of two events our group plays and is always a neighborhood favorite. Our quest is to put together 25-30 tunes that fit the “feel and flavor” of KreiFest without driving each other (or any neighbors that can hear us practicing) crazy.
As I write this, we are T-minus 22 days from the big event. We are trying to practice twice each week, but as usual it is very difficult to find team that fits into everyone’s schedule.
At this point in our preparations, we are starting to merge all of the layers (instruments, vocals, etc) together into something that sounds like a real song. The guitars/bass/keyboards are in place for all of the numbers we are doing. The vocals are also ready. We even have my wife joining us to play flute on a few numbers like Moondance and Stairway to Heaven. She will also take on some stints on keyboards while Tim is off singing. Our next big hurdle is to mix in drums. We will have Jeff, our world-class drummer, joining us for the first time this weekend. Since he is only available for 3 practices prior to the gig, we will have to really push to get all the arrangements tightened up now that our skins man is along for the ride.
Our biggest hurdle is always our arrangements. I was watching the Olympic synchronized diving event the other night and noticed that the dive teams who started strong together, stayed together during the dive, and entered the water together got the best scores. Yes, I know that’s what’s expected in synchronized diving. But it applies to doing gigs as well. Starting a song strong and together, playing through the arrangement together and ending together always makes for fine times. It also makes Damon, our guitar/bass player smile. Having everyone observe a “break” at the correct time is always a nice touch and makes Damon REALLY smile. Having everyone in agreement on the arrangement we are going to use for a song usually helps us avoid incidents like the “take it away Troy” gaff a few gigs ago.
SIDEBAR – Despite practicing the arrangement for one of our more aggressive tunes to the point of boredom, when we did said number at the gig, Tim, who does lead vocals on many of our tunes, decided he was really in the mood for a guitar solo. So, through the PA at the top of his lungs he yelled, “Take it away Troy” much to Troy’s (our lead axe-man on the tune) surprise. Being the fine chap he is, Troy ripped into a solo over one chord progression while the rest of us merrily went about our way playing what should have been the final verse. Thankfully the 2-drink minimum rule we impose on our “fans” prior to each gig was in play and few, if any, realized what had happened other than those in the band. But we do make a real effort to play the tunes at the gig using the same arrangement we used in practice. But hey, the best laid plans you know….?
So in an effort to avoid repeats of the “take it away Troy” incident, we now break practices down into layers, rehearse tunes many times and, most importantly, have arrangement sheets that can be, well, interesting.
Despite the fact that a good number of us profess to being able to read music at least to some extent, our arrangement/chord/lyric sheets can and do approach something that bears no resemblance to a true musical score. Since several of us come from engineering/computer programming backgrounds, it is not unusual to see “go to” statements, repeat loops and symbols included on our arrangement sheets. And let’s not even get into the color-coding that has recently become a popular tool. Any true musician would look at our arrangement sheets and either laugh hysterically or get a court order to have us officially barred from performing publicly. Traditional musical scores they are not, but for us, they get the job done. At last count, we have close to 200 tunes worked up using our “unique” method and each scribble, symbol and notation is meaningful to us. And isn’t that the point?
We make no bones about it. The Bridge Brothers group exists first and foremost as a method for us to amuse ourselves. And trust me, we DO get a lot of amusement out of not just our gigs, but the whole process we go through to get ready for a gig. Being able to play in public and have people actually enjoy coming to listen to us is a bonus. That is why we put as much effort into preparing as we do. While we thoroughly enjoy each gig we play, we want those that take the time to join us for the night to come away with something meaningful as well.
To that end, we try to put together a set list for KreiFest that offers something for everyone. This year’s set list includes songs that are approaching 40 years old as well as tunes that are from the last few years. It includes country, alt-country, rock and blues. We have tunes spotlighting vocals and those where the instruments take over. For those keeping tab, this year’s set list lays out like this:
Set 1 Set 2
I Can’t Explain – The Who Wild Night – John Mellencamp
Fortunate Son – CCR Give A Little Bit – Goo Goo Dolls
Suffragette City – David Bowie I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen Sunshine of Your Love – Clapton
Witchy Woman – Eagles Better Days – Goo Goo Dolls
It’s Too Late – Carole King Stay – Sugarland
Leather & Lace – Nicks/Henley Your Song – Elton John
Badge – Clapton Need Your Love So Bad – BB King/Sheryl Crow
Give Me One Reason – Tracy Chapman Moondance – Van Morrison
Listen to the Music – Doobie Brothers Space Oddity – Bowie
Nobody Knows You…. – Clapton Turn the Page – Bob Seger
Mustang Sally – The Commitments Willin’ – Little Feet
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Yes, quite a wide range of tastes, talents and styles. But that sums up the band and our group of fans/neighbors. We have a little bit of something for everyone. Our winter gig always features a harder edge, more electric instruments, more volume and more grit. But then again it is an adult-only gig.
KreiFest is a celebration of friends, family, community and music. The fact that we are asked to play this event each year indicates that we must be doing SOMETHING right even if we don’t get there in a conventional manner.
So don’t worry, don’t hurry and enjoy the ride. Music is a key to unlocking endless fun hours with family and friends. Pick up an instrument, even if it’s a cowbell, and give it a try.
I’ll be back soon with more news from “the bridge”.