Archive for February, 2012

open mic night at the winking skeever

So at the Portland show, I actually did “Open Mic Night at the Winking Skeever, a.k.a. Anybody Got a Banjo?” and I was also trying out all kinds of new hardware and setup and stuff? And it mostly worked! The audio setup changes ALL WORKED PERFECTLY. I couldn’t believe it, but it’s true! If I can get a handle on lighting, I can make some really good videos.

But people liked the Skyrim/Winking Skeever lyrics when I posted them, so this happened:

Now I am off to Vancouver! Four days back in beautiful British Columbia! Yay! o/

no rest for the wicked

Set out early north from Portland – well, early for me, like 10am – and I have photos and hopefully video from the Portland show! I hope to post a couple… if my camera stops being stupid. (Right now, it’s all BUTTER BUTTER BUTTER BUTTER and I don’t know why.)

On the way back, southwest Washington looked totally like the flat parts of Skyrim. I’m not even making that up. Thanks to a snowfall, you even had the increasing-layer-of-snow up the slopes of the foothills. I took the scenic route north – Jackson Highway / Toledo / Silver Creek / Morton / Route 7 / Route 161 – and it took forever but gorgeous and I have photos! I hope.

But since we don’t have that, at least not yet, please enjoy this parrot dancing like a maniac to dubstep.

Take that, bunny with a pancake on its head. Take that.

nwcMUSIC and Guitars In Space

In addition to doing my own music, I run the pan-geekmusic festival nwcMUSIC at the Norwescon Science Fiction Convention. nwcMUSIC features a big set of panels and workshops during the day and a suite of eleven concerts across three nights. Click on those, there’s lots going on!

I’ve also got a busy personal schedule at Norwescon 35, as an Attending Professional. Here’s my list of panel appearances – hopefully I’ll see some of you there:

nwcMUSIC Open Mic (Host) – Friday, 10pm
An open-mic for music (filk, chip, nerdcore, or anything else!) and readings of new work (poetry or prose). You have two songs or ten minutes, whichever is shorter. Sign up at information! No judges here; everybody c’mon out and see what people have to sing or say.
Dara Korra’ti (M), Everybody!

Introduction to the Irish Session (Panelist) – Saturday, Noon
The Irish Session is one of the old forms of participatory music-making. Groups of musicians who know various traditional tunes meet, usually at a pub, and play together. There’s no stage, no formal separation of audience; anyone who knows the tune can join in at any time. There are several such sessions throughout Cascadia, from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia through Seattle and Portland and points south. We’ll talk a little about the history, and then we’ll just go do one. Music for several common tunes was posted at the website and is still available; we’ll have a few copies as well. But if you don’t want to play, and just want to come listen; you’re called a “punter,” and that’s fine too.
Alexander James Adams (M), Creede Lambard, G.Robin Smith, Dara Korra’ti

Find Your Instrument (Moderator, instrument provider) – Saturday, 2pm
Have you ever wondered how people figure out what kind of musical instrument they want to play? Several of our pros have volunteered to bring their instruments and introduce them to people. This is a hands-on workshop; after an introduction of the instruments, participants will be able to try out various instruments, and given brief introductions on how to play them, by their owners. This panel is aimed at teens and adults; kids are welcome, but must be of an age and attitude appropriate to handle other peoples’ musical instruments!Have you ever wondered how people figure out what kind of musical instrument they want to play? Several of our pros have volunteered to bring their instruments and introduce them to people. This is a hands-on workshop; after an introduction of the instruments, participants will be able to try out various instruments, and be given brief introductions on how to play them, by their owners. This panel is aimed at teens and adults; kids are welcome, but must be of an age and attitude appropriate to handle other peoples’ musical instruments!
Dara Korra’ti (M), Electric Children, Betsy Tinney, Steven Dixon, Creede Lambard, Betsy Mott, G.Robin Smith, Aubrey Webber

Cascadia’s Got Talent! (Presenter) – Saturday, 3-5pm
Do you have what it takes to gain the appreciation of our audience and panel of fan and celebrity drunks judges? FIND OUT! Bring your song, your work-in-progress, your shtick, your standup act, your freak show, your whatever – bring your talent to our free-form talent show! You have eight minutes, two songs, or until the gong gongs, whichever is shortest. Show us what you’ve got!
Dara Korra’ti (M), Steven Perry, Aubrey Webber, Angela Webber

There are many more programme items I’m not on, that’s just my individual pro schedule. It’s going to be a lot of fun – there will always be something to do!

In other news, GUITARRRRS INNNNNNNN SPAAAAAAAAAAACE! Turns out there’s a guitar on the Space Station. It was made in Vancouver! Lookie:

adventurers come to this town

A linkfest post? Really? YES. I did enjoy meeting up with Songwriters in Seattle on Monday, tho’. Hey, if any of you make it over here, hi! I’m getting ready for my show in Portland on Sunday. It’s a house concert but I can get you in; just email me if you’re interested!

Anyway, a small number of links:

I haven’t loved an XKCD post this much in a long time.

This is possibly of interest to anybody doing creative work. Publishing houses cutting back so much on their own promotion and shifting that burden more heavily to authors has shoved writers over. It’s not as bad as label musicians yet, tho’.

I used to guerilla garden. I planted edibles. Now the entire town’s going apey for it!

Vostok Lake pointed me at this musician networking website. No idea whether it’s useful yet, but I signed up because hey, why not.

My hair got all red! I have proper supervillain hair now. Well, not all red – red panels, but I held them all in front so you can see ’em! I love it, even if the inside of my shower stall looks like an axe murderer’s rehearsal studio.

…or is that because?

busy with business

It’s all been fair and venue applications and maintenance and junk this latter half of the week, I don’t have much to say. So if you’re in Seattle, go to Leannan Sidhe’s show on Sunday, it’s her last Seattle show for a while. If you’re in Boston, Heather Dale has a show TONIGHT, at Boskone, so you’re in luck!

If you know any good venues for, oh, me, drop me a note! As always I’m looking for house concert hosts, I swear it’s easy, talk to me, but not just those. (All these applications are for events and fairs and such.) Plus don’t forget my show in Portland on the 26th!

And if you want to plug somebody else’s show to my audience this weekend? Do it here, in comments!

From said comments:
Vixy & Tony, Saturday night, 8pm, Wayward Coffeehouse, Seattle
The Doubleclicks/Adam Warrock/Kirby Krackle, Friday night, 6:30pm, Mt. Tabor, Portland

I have a couple of things in progress but I’ll talk about those more when I have enough to make a post about. Have a good weekend!

something about tunes

There’s a funny thing about Irish tunes.

I’ve been going to an Irish/Celtic Session, down in Renton, with Anna, for a year now, and playing. Actually, it was a year last month, and we had an anniversary party of the session’s founding. (Wednesdays, A Terrible Beauty, Renton, 7pm. C’mon by!) There’s a big picture of one of the session meetings up on the wall; I’m in that photo. Anna and I are session founders; Anna heard about it starting up and said, “Hey, let’s go!” and I thought it sounded fun.

I should explain; “tunes” are different to “songs.” “Songs” have lyrics; tunes are instrumental, with a primary melody, played on melodic instruments, with maybe one person playing chorded instruments along as well, and maybe a drum. Lukey is a song; Road to Lisdoonvarna is a tune. Search on those if you want, you’ll have a zillion hits. There are thousands of tunes, some of which are centuries old; they’re both dance music and a conduit for parts of traditional Irish culture. They attract attention, they’re accessible, people react to them positively, and enjoy them.

I’ve been trying to learn the language of of these things for over a year now. I’ve learned some of the tunes pretty well; I’ve learned some others not as well. I recognise a lot of the tropes and rhythms.

But as much as I hate to say it, emotionally, Irish session tunes still mostly don’t make sense to me as music. It’s not that they aren’t melodic, and of course I’m not saying they aren’t music, because of course they are. But for me – they’re like particularly melodic but ultimately arbitrary exercises. Where you’ve just been says little or nothing about where you’re about to go.

I thought by now I’d start to get it. But I don’t. I enjoy going down and hanging out with everybody; it’s a nice place, it’s fun, people come out specifically for it, to listen. A lot of the time, we’re pretty good.

But in a way I’ve never run into before – at least not so clearly and not after so much effort – they aren’t music. They don’t make that connection in my head. They’re streams of notes to me in the same way that sheet music is an ocean of dots to me. Something just … doesn’t connect.

And I don’t know what.


This sounds like a joke, but it’s not. A while ago, when the Web was young, this guy built a hamster-controlled MIDI cage. Notes would be set off by the hamster movements, where they went, and what they did. He released a couple of particularly good sample results online; I still have one. It’s called HAMSTERS! and it’s by HAMSTERS!

This is kind of the same thing, only with tree rings and an optical scanning turntable, controlling a MIDI piano. And it’s kind of awesome:

Turning Tree Rings Into Music

Of course, the human is making lots of artistic judgements about what kinds of things can happen, when building the device. That was true for the hamster music as well. But even with those caveats, I still think of the result as Entmusic.

I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t agree

Still looking for house concert venues! Know any?

freight train to lisdoonvarna

I haven’t played bass guitar much since finishing the bass parts on Dick Tracy Must Die (and particularly the bass solo on Stars). And that’s sad, because I really like bass. So I’m practicing again, with scales, exercises… and Irish jigs. Which I personally think is hilarious. Not tuba hilarious, I grant you. But hilarious nonetheless.

Here, I put up a video from the show at the B-Side!

The camera tripod was too low for the stage, so it’s all lol-hiding-behind-music-stand, but the sound quality is pretty good. I think I’m getting a handle on the sound part of this live-recording business – more than the video so far, anyway.

Next show I’ll have new and much taller tripod, and actual video camera! It’s very exciting. PORTLANDERS! The show’s on the 26th! Contact me if you want an invitation! ^_^

Oh good, something’s beeping in the server room. I hope it’s not on fire!

i see smoke signals coming from them
they say “we are out of furniture”

only a question

Hey, you guys think it’s worth posting new videos of the same songs to the YouTube channel, from different shows? Honest question. I’m leaning towards no but thought I’d ask.

Oh, also, I’ve heard some confusion: I +am not charging the host for playing their house+ for these house concert shows. I need venues and exposure liek woah; guests get asked for the $5-$10 donation, hosts do not. I usually bring a little thank-you trinket, even. Tho’ if you’re far I might need crash space.

Also, I have a show in Portland on the 26th! It’s a semi-private event but I can get you in. Email if you’re in Portlandia!

i kind of took the weekend off

So, yeah! I kinda took the weekend off. It was nice! I played Skyrim, organised old fanac artefacts, and made many horrible noises on the viLOLin, the violin I mentioned in Friday’s post about how to build your kit for cheap. That was fun. ^_^

But me being lazy? Not what this blog is about! So: right now, I need people who will host house concerts. I know, I know, scary, too hard, frightening, run away! But I swear to you, they’re really not difficult to host! It’s like a friends party at your house, but with live entertainment. The host provides a space and their friends as an audience, and I show up and set up the PA and do my thing.

This video is from a house concert. It has a lot more talk with it than other videos, so you have context, and can get an idea of the atmosphere. People are relaxed and having a good time:

Heather Dale has a big writeup about house concerts on her website. It’s kind of a how-to guide. If you have any willingness to consider this at all, I hope you’ll read that and talk to me. I also hope people who have hosted house shows (me or other people) will vouch for it not actually being scary.

I’m finding I get a lot better as I get more opportunities to play out. House concerts definitely count. And it’s also something different, which is important.

See, I’m kind of a neophile, for better and worse. Coming out of software development, that sounds like one of those bullshit self-aggrandising lines, where it’s all “OMG AWESOME TECHLUST LOLOLOL,” but there’s a real “for worse” part, and the “for worse” part is kicking my ass. I used to play five or six hours a day. I don’t, now; it’s a couple of hours most days, and five-six hour days are very rare. That’s part of what has me poking around at the viLOLin: it’s something different. No matter how much I like something – and I really do still love this – the repetition starts to get to me.

Live shows help a lot. It’s just easier for me to put in repetitive work if I know I have a deadline, a show, a goal, a thing, whatever it might be. It feels so much less masturbatory. Not to mention the good parts about meeting people and performing and going places and doing things; all of that is awesome! But the big help is just having this work be for a reason.

I mean, if I’m trying to make up for all my lost time, I’d think I need to be at that five to six hours a day level, at a minimum. I’ve read about musicians who just go all day, particularly classical artists, and that’s the kind of quality goal I tend to have for myself. But for me, that much repetition – particularly without a specific goal – is a one-way ticket to burnout city. I’ve been there. I had a house there. It sucked.

So, please. Consider it, and talk to me. Heather’s page on house concerts is under “how to help” on her website, and that’s what I’m asking for here.

Which all turned out to be a pretty damned long blog post given that I didn’t have anything to write about an hour ago.

And how was your weekend?

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