Archive for April, 2009

oh la la la la la wah

Posted in guitar, humor, music, musical equipment, pedals on April 30, 2009 by finerstacy

I recently had my mother send my wah, wah pedal from college.  Well, actually it’s not mine. It was my guitar player’s.  He has mine.  We were all sitting around in Waltham, MA practicing one day and he said that his pedal was pretty squeaky so I offered him up mine. He did not ask, but there I was serving it up on a Crybaby platter.   I had my mother send my the cry baby that one of my brothers got me when I was like 10 years old.  I remember playing it thinking this was the coolest thing ever.  You can have a conversation and WAH, WAH!  All of a sudden you’re hanging with the crew from Charlie Brown.    “Stacy make your…WAH, WAH!”  “Stacy do the WAH! WAH!”  You get the idea.  So back then I seemed to always give up things I want to make other folks happy.  Like one time I offered a snare drum to a drummer who said “Well, can I just take off the drum head and keep that?”.    So after a few years of lending out gear I finally allowed myself to be the reciever of some great pedals.  The fulltone full drive, the holy grail and wah, wah with mulitple settings.  But when we parted ways with this band member.   I gave them back.   I wasn’t going to be that person who took the money and ran.  I got to keep the wah, wah because well he didn’t like it.  Neither did I.   I sold it once we moved to Indy and helped to pay for some other gear.   So as now I have this wah, wah and what do I do?  Do call the kid and say hey you have something of mine give it back!  Or do I modify the one that I have and feel midly guilty every time I WAH, WAH?  Or better yet do I call my brother and say “Hey, I know you have a wife and a bunch of kids and bills to pay but could you buy me a new guitar pedal so I can feel better about the sounds I am trying to make?”  Or I can buy a new one and let my friend’s sit there and cry all by its WAH, WAH.


Even better than the real thing

Posted in guitar, humor, jazz, music, musical equipment, pedals on April 28, 2009 by finerstacy

When looking at guitar pedals I always ask myself does that sound authentic or does it sound like a digitized version of the real thing?  I heard some great bands this weekend.  Whoa! Tiger, a local band doing a blend of reggae and Americana and Trent Van Plummer whose lead guitar player could have been straight out of the late 60’s.  His solos were so cool.  He was playing a Gibson with p 90 pick ups and to continue on my Clapton is God theme was playing some really hot licks.  The lead singer also has the coolest voice since Leonard Cohen.  I always leave a club and ask myself what did learn?  Well, of course I need to practice.  No kidding.   But what can I add to my sound that I didn’t know before? Well, I went home and instead of doing the dishes in the sink I  waited for the night to sink in.    Do I go all classic, big tube amp (check), awesome guitar with throw back pick ups (check-thanks SKYDOG!), bad ass pedals (check)  or do I get some of the modeling effects that combine everything and put about 50 years of research in to one box?  Well at first the latter seemed best.  I went out a few nights later and watched a band who has a lot of the same fans come and cheer them on.  One lady is SO hot, that I truly believe she is the reason for the current heat wave and any subsequent heat waves that will ever occur.  I swear not a gig goes by when I don’t hear men and woman a like commenting on her “gifts”.  In their jealousy they always question whether she was born with all of that glory or did the good folks at the plastic company help her reach mucho caliente status.   I say who cares?  She is hot!

Later in the weekend I got to witness the beautiful music stylings of the John Harden Project (Finer’s favorite saxman).  John is always smoking good and is a strong band leader.  But on Sunday, his wife and artist in her own right JP Harden had all of us speachless.  I watched an entire room fixed in her gaze and wooed by her melodies.  It was as if Billy Holiday herself was in the room giving permission for the torch to be passed.  Now mind you JP is half way through her pregancy, barefoot and glowing like mother earth herself.   But she still made it look easy like Sunday morning.  Before the show she took off her shoes to let everyone know that this was her house and we were all welcome to stay but we had to please pick up our mouths from the floor when the gig was over.  I forgot to mention that Ethan had gotten back at 7am in the morning from being on tour to make it to the gig and was doing his thing holding down the fort in the back.    An audience member stood up and started screaming “Ethan!  Ethan, I love Ethan!  He’s so good!”  The lady was mimicing his bass movements.  Grooving with him.  This was a jazz gig…I kid you not! I was about to start screaming with her. I thought hey nobody screams louder for my man then me, but then this good looking girl walked by and I forgot.

when to trust your fingers

Posted in guitar, music, musical equipment, pedals, rock, songwriting on April 24, 2009 by finerstacy

I spent the day with my tech Steve, the guitar E.R working on my “sound”.  My amp has a great tonal quality to it  and you can only blame your tools for so long.  I have to face the fact that the hours put in will lead  me to the promise land.  Or just relaxing into my tone will ease my mind.  It’s fascinating to hear the stories of Marshall, Fender and Vox and what went into creating the sounds we now take for granted.  The fact that Eric Clapton is still of this earth and was a pioneer of the guitar, tone and rock and roll can be pretty overwhelming.  Where do you go from there?  I love writing songs, love melody, love harmony, love playing in a band, but sometimes “me cry alone at night” when I think about my guitar and how much I have not gotten to where I want to be as a player, as a musician, as a soul.  And that’s exactly why I am not where I want to be…because I think TOO much.  I love the guitar so much.  Some times it’s like the waves of the ocean are cradling me and I can play with the energy of the universe other times it’s like I’m Tinkerbell clanking up the sound of the band.

I used to play with a boogie with El84’s. Then I bought a used Jcm 900 that had E34L’s that we then switched to EL34’s.  The amp was great but very mid rangy.  Currently I’ve got the stock KT66’s in my Vintage Modern and tested out some EL84’s  today.  We took off the back of the cabinet and they sounded awesome. But honestly, I fell in love with the clean tone of the Vintage Modern and hesitate to change that.   At Steve’s recommendation we tried taking out two tubes and the high channel sounded incredible but the low didn’t have that sparkle.  I might work with that for a little or get a second head with 50 watts for the high channel and use the 100 watt head for the clean.  Either way I have to do the work, not my cabinet.  But it’s nice to have some of the best tools in the world at your finger tips.  Hopefully, I will spend less time worrying and more time playing.

Steve’s working on cleaning my, excuse me Ethan’s Marshall Blues Breaker pedal.  It got pretty soaked when the house flooded.   It was the first thing Ethan ever gave to me and I remember it was like he was giving me a piece of his childhood.  He felt so strongly that it was the answer to all of my questions.  It’s a great boost with just enough overdrive to add the extra edge to your tone.  I remember never appreciating it enough, actually, I was always angry about it saying “it doesn’t do anything”.  But now I know the sound has to come from me.   So when I called one of my nieces for her birthday and asked her if she liked the sparkling High School Musical card I sent her and if she was over the fad,  She said “No I liked it”.   I thought “Me to, it’s nice to touch something shiny, something carefree and something from your youth that you never let go of even when everyone tells you to grow up.”

Dreaming of a Poker Face

Posted in grandparents, humor, music, poker on April 22, 2009 by finerstacy

Back to me and my lone reader.  That’s cool.  Alone time is always a good time especially when we you have an active imagination like me.  What one of my in-laws is dating Landon Wainwright and he wants to give me a record deal and put me on tour?  What Rufus wants me to pose on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with him?  I think I have time  for that.  I mean I will have to check my schedule.  Or the men of Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 want to take me to Vegas to really learn how to  play poker?  No problem Mr. Clooney, I mean George, I will teach everything I know.  Oh, you mean you have not heard about me and the circuit I run with?  It’s called the Pines of Del ray.  Del ray Beach, Florida.  You have to be over 65 or in my grandmother’s case over 80 but they let me play because I am so good.  So good at losing.  And seriously if you want to know what I know I’ll show you the way.  It can be tricky at first but here it goes.  First let a woman who has raised children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, maintained a fairytale like marriage for over 60 years and who manages to look perfectly put together at all times (even when she wakes you up in the middle of the night to eat her famous spaghetti and meat balls) deal the cards.  Watch how this classy lady turns into a shark and shuffle  a stack like it is windmill on full blast.  Feel the breeze of the deck hitting your face and blowing your hair back like a Beyonce concert during an upbeat sweaty dance routine.  Now really feel  the ground shake as each card floats to the table and magically lands in a neat pile waiting for you to pick them up.  Got me so far?  Next you handle the cards one at a time to make her think you know what you are doing.  Is that a club or diamond?  No matter, keep your poker face going and you might be able to fool her.  Switch the cards around a few times to make her believe you have many options to victory.  Even close your eyes, smile and imagine the early bird special you are going to buy with your winnings.   O’Charlies has fantastic fried onion rings  that could easily deserve your hard earned cash.   They come on the side and are delightful with ketchup and mustard.  Oh I’m sorry George did you say something?  Okay so after you have traded a few cards the moment of truth will arrive.  All of your training has lead up to this very moment so don’t blow it by talking about the extra birthday present you didn’t get last year.  “Grandma, what do you have? All bets are off if you have that 2 card I was looking for.”  Watch as she casually lays her hand on the table . “A royal flush, oh how original Grandma!  Is that all you got?  A flush? How about mixing it up a little to show you know how to do something else? Me, what do I have?  Well, I have a 2, a 4, a jack, a 7 and 10!  How is that for creativity!  Pretty good huh?  I bet you didn’t see that coming.  What? You want to use your winnings to get me sundae?  Okay, I guess I can let you do that.  But this is the last time! ”  George what are you saying?  I am in the middle of a story.  What? Lady Ga Ga called and she wants her title back.  Okay, just a minute I have to finish this last scoop of ice cream.

Tone chaser

Posted in guitar, music, musical equipment, pedals, rock, songwriting on April 19, 2009 by finerstacy

We had a great show today.  The boys really blew it out of the water.  They were so good.  At one point during “Back and Forth” I had to turn around because Richard played the coolest fill.  John was like throwing this energy blanket of love around the entire town of Nashville, IN and Ethan I  swear was dancing with the angles.  During his solo in “Juicy” we all basically stopped playing to watch him because it was so incredible, so spiritual that we all wanted a taste of what he as digging on.  Just witnessing it was pure delight.   We had the lovely singer Jan’ia spending the day with us.  She’s  John’s wife and I swear if the boys ever get tired of me she can step right in.   She’s a great singer and a very passionate person.  Nashville was incredible.   Almost like a Midwestern take on Stockbrigde in a Norman Rockwell painting.  Everyone was cool and just hung with the band and as we serenaded the city.

I loved playing and singing with the crowd.  I was exciting to debut my new pedals and give them a good run.  The music was strong, but I am still searching for the sound.  My rhythm was tight but the tone is not there yet.  Getting closer I think but I need to spend more time in the woodshed and less time in my head.

We also got to hang out with Brandon and Tim from Whiskey Eye’d.  They had great energy and we can’t wait to see them play this summer at the Ale Emporium for the To Write Love On Her Arm benefit series.   After we got home the boys were off to their next gigs and I got a moment to think of how lucky I am to rock out with them. Truly a blessing and almost as fun as riding in the car with everyone and laughing our tails off.

Can we all sing in a chorus?

Posted in guitar, humor, music, pedals, rock, Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by finerstacy

So I’ve been swapping pedals on my pedal board and have listened to almost every chorus pedal out there.  I’m really digging on the Voodoo lab Analog Chorus and the mxr stereo chorus.  Two totally different pedals.  The analog is big and rich like…well like analog and the mxr has a tighter more crisp sound to it.   I might get both.  Then I would really be chorusing.

So do we really want to be a member of the chorus or do we want to stand out in the crowd? This seems to be a funny and tear jerking theme in my life.  Back in high school I was a member of the concert choral.   We sang the  more serious songs versus the upbeat show tunes of standard chorus groups.  My senior year we got the opportunity to sing in front of  the governor.    He came  to our town to talk about violence in the schools and how we can all help alleviate the problem.  He posed the question “What will you do to help?” I knew that by dressing up in dark robes with red glitter belts and singing a medley from Miss Saigon we were going to make progress.  The heat was on y’all!  So we sang an opening number took our seats and watched the governor give a passionate speech about our role in keeping the peace.  Maybe if we didn’t use jazz hands at the end of each song or maybe if we didn’t read the music from a binder we could make a difference.  But, I loved jazz hands and nobody was going to rip me from my 2 inch trapper keeper.  So we’d have to think of something else.  The governor ducked out after his speech and we were left singing to the state assemblyman who was very handsome and very bald.  As we were making our way through  the music, my friend leaned over to me  and whispered “Daddy Warbucks is in the front row.”  I laughed just a little which shouldn’t have been such a big deal except that I was singing tenor and I was mixed in with all the boys.  Who’s standing out in the chorus now baby!  The choir director was not happy that night, but I knew the sun would come  out tomorrow.

Now I probably should not have been singing tenor or even been in the group.  My range was like one octave (I have since spent all my time working on the good old vocal chords).  But at the time I was competing with girls who would eventually end up singing for the Metropolitan Opera.  But I was enthusiastic and a could hit a mean middle “C” on the piano so they kept me around.  One Christmas we were asked to sing in the mall during peak shopping hours.  What a great idea!  We ran through “White Christmas”,  killed “Walking in a winter wonderland” and when “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” came up I was the only one willing to take a solo.  Who wouldn’t want to serenade all the moms and dads getting the latest toy for the kids or watch as two young brothers wrestled each other for the last bite of a soft pretzel?  This was to be the image of my muse for years to come. Or so I thought.  About two bars in, I heard a slight whimper, and then it happened, one kid after the next started crying.  It was like someone had told them that cabbage patch kids were not real and that Santa was never going to make that dream come true.   I was doing my best Patsy Cline. I really was, but Patsy knew how to sing and how to tame an audience and I seemed to flame the fire with every note.   I leaned on the piano.   I strutted around and sang in these kids faces.  I even got down on one knee put my hand on my heart and in that one moment I could feel that shiny nose.  And when the song was over I walked back  and stood in the chorus line.  I might have just been a member of  the choir but I was one singular sensation that’s for sure.   So as I look for chorus pedals to fit the Finer sound, I think I’m going to pick the one that makes me cry.   Xavier Roberts and Sebastian my first cabbage patch would have wanted it that way.

How can one man be so talented and unsteady?

Posted in guitar, humor, music, musical equipment, porn, rock, songwriting on April 15, 2009 by finerstacy

I’m in a band so I figure I’d tell you some tales from THE ROAD.   Or  about our journey to making it on the road.  Or still trying to make it on to the road.  I’ll pick the last one.  Okay so after living in a Los Angeles for a year so, playing a lot of open mic nights and studying guitar with my  teacher David I was in throws of auditioning band mates.   At least two or three times a week I was either meeting someone at a coffee shop (before they all became Starbucks), meeting someone at a boba bar (before they all became pinkberrys) or heading out to Van Nuys to shoot some porn.  Wait, wait, I mean being introduced to the wonderful world of porn video editing.   Most auditions included me playing them my C grade demo(compliments of the NYC band NEED-all awesome musicians, but there’s only so much a great player can do with my song called “I see you” that never says what is being seen) talking about world domination and a quick discussion about what current day job we were holding until we got the call from Bono.

So I show up at this “office” park and I meet a guy named Jon and we went into his “office”.  He told me his job was “editing” porn. He did not shoot the videos.   He just channeled his unused creative juices into pairing down the wide angle footage from earlier in the day.  He said “I like your music but it’s not for me. I would never play that many notes.”    Okay, so if I ever talk bad about porn it’s because I was rejected by the industry at very early stage in my career.   Right then I flashed back to college where I was making a demo somewhere in Massachusetts and we happened to be right below a “business” that was making exotic videos.   I was starting to see a theme.  Music and sex. Wow, this could really catch on.  Maybe if there were some sexy guys and girls in music videos people would really dig it.  I have to tell someone about this.   This could be huge!  So after about 300 auditions and enrolling myself at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood.  I met  Reuben a great guitar player and Ethan, a master bass player (I don’t have to say that because he is my husband, I have to say that because he is in my band. No, no, he is that good).  We went through about 20 drummers each one imploding upon himself like the drummers in Spinal Tap. The few guys we did get to play with were great but nobody stuck around long enough to  make it work.    It seemed we spent more time auditioning players than actually playing out.  One guy showed up in with his entire body covered in leather,  sat on a metal stool, put on some tap shoes and said that the chemistry we all had was magical. Nice guy, just note our SOLE mate.   One guy made us wait four hours until he showed up.  I kept saying to the band “this could be the guy, let’s give him a chance”.   He finally showed up in a yellow SUV with the words stenciled in bold letters  into his back window “How can one man be so talented”.  I kid you not.   One kid ditched several of our auditions because he was doing “modeling” shoots.   All the while I kept making excuses for these guys.  One guy said he only joined the band to play with Ethan.  He said it was like “dating a girl just for her tits.”  He said that to my face.   Ouch!  So when we finally had our audition with the drummer in the yellow SUV who was so talented, who forgot to bring cymbals or a drum kit, who we let use our practice space mates kit (say that three times fast), who couldn’t keep time for nothing, as all this was going I saw Ethan and Reuben literally turn their backs  so as to not get caught up in his energy and it hit me right there with each over accented crash what a fool I had been. I was facing two of the best musicians I was ever going to hear and I had put every Tom, DICK and Harry before them.   Ethan who plays just about every thing perfectly and groovy and IN TIME, and Reuben whose vibrato was so  sweet it makes grown men cry didn’t deserve this.   So when we finally parted ways and Ethan and I headed to Indianapolis, I played some footage over in my head.   “Stacy, you love everybody, you do, but do the people who deserve it know how much you appreciate them?  Do the people who show up everyday to rehearsal and slug it out in the bars  know how great they are and how much they add to your life?  Well, if they don’t you might as well say “How can one woman be so quiet? How can one band leader be so silent?” Men of Finer you rock my world. Don’t you ever forget it. And don’t forget to keep time.