Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Danny Ross Named Secretary of Hip @ Pianos, Saturday December 13 8:30PM

Hey all,

Now that we've sufficiently stuffed our turkey, given our wholehearted thanks, and literally killed people over low low prices, we can really start to think about what matters most: the next series of holidays and time off.

Speaking of special occasions, on Friday I'll be mastering One Way, a new album 6 months in the making. For context, this was basically my college thesis a few years back. Check the original 2006 review here: http://cornellsun.com/node/17467 and you can see how we made the recordings at http://dannyrossmusic.blogspot.com/2008/07/one-way-blog.html

And another big night will be on Saturday December 13 where we knock down Pianos with our brash rock and roll happy fun times featuring the full band and horns. That's...

Danny Ross and Band with Horns!
Saturday December 13, 8:30PM
@ Pianos, 158 Ludlow at Stanton (F Train to 2nd Ave)
Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=36770094083#/event.php?eid=36770094083

Hope to see ya then, unless of course you're appointed to the Obama Administration. In which case, at least return my phone calls Hillary Clinton. I miss you.

- Danny

Monday, September 22, 2008

Danny at the DNC!

I spent most of my 7 days in Denver on the 16th Street Mall Shuttle. Imagine an entire city centered on one street, and a bus that stops at every block. This was my experience at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Larimer, Lawrence, Araprahoe… Araprahoe, Larwence, Larimer.

As a staffer for a US Congressman, I had a chance to mingle among Democratic leaders from across the country. In the midst of going back and forth on this endlessly crowded bus to receptions at fancy hotels and restaurants, feeling completely out of my league, I brushed shoulders with NY Governor David Paterson, NJ Governor Jon Corzine, Madeleine Albright, NY Congressmen Nadler (!) and Rangel, Senators Clinton and Schumer and, of course, Denver Mayor Hickenlooper –yes that’s his real name.


Spike Lee was on my plane. I shook Chris Matthews’ hand, and when I mentioned I play piano occasionally for “Obama Girl,” he smiled and replied “Ha! You’re great!” (By the way, he was much more put together and suave in person than the disheveled personality he plays on TV)


I ate a lot of shellfish (which isn’t kosher my gentile friends), met a lot of interesting people from unions and local city governments, and learned a lot about public policy. I even had the chance to visit Coors Field and watch my colleagues practice hitting with the Colorado Rockies. Not to mention rolling deep at the Google Vanity Fair Party. I was one lucky guy.


But then you stepped outside with everyone else…


Thousand of people packed on the street; Dozens of kiosks selling Obama buttons, t-shirts, and teddy bears; MSNBC broadcasting live at their outdoor studio at Union Station; Booths set up across the city from different corporations and organizations (Coke, MTV Rock the Vote); Every 4th person on the street holding a camera or a blogger’s credential, and every establishment along the way hosting some sort of cocktail reception.


This is not to mention the dissenters… To the right, you had trucks rolling by showing aborted fetuses or Osama Bin Laden, and Jesus freaks with cardboard signs. To the left, you had groups marching in support of Hillary Clinton’s nomination (though a much smaller amount than the media displayed); A tent full of Iranian and Palestinian sympathizers; 9/11 conspiracy theorists with bullhorns; a major city park inhabited by a radical group called “Recreate 68” (in reference to the 1968 DNC riots in Chicago); a political forum of independent parties hosted by Ralph Nader.

All in all though, it was pretty great to feel like you could strike up a convo with anyone in town because of that sense of common ground (“We’re both Democrats! Let’s have coffee.”). This is a stark contrast to the rather cold, ant colony feel of New York City


“But Danny,” you must be asking, “What about Obama? Biden? Clinton? What was the Convention Hall like? That’s why I clicked on your damn blog in the first place!”


Well, my friends, I have some hilarious stories about my nights at the DNC, and they all revolve around luck.


Wednesday:


To start, trying to get credentials (or tickets, which everyone wears around their neck for some reason) is seemingly impossible, even if you work for a congressman. You’ll see political operatives in hotel lobbies scrambling on their cell phones for hours trying to secure credentials for staff and donors or trying to trade up for better seats.


On Wednesday night, we were lucky enough to see Joe Biden accept the VP nomination, sifting out Arena level credentials, though we weren’t quite sure what that meant. Still we hung it over our necks proudly.


Making our way to the Pepsi Center with a spring in our step, we past the troops with machine guns, and a parade of ten thousand shirtless people protesting escalation with Iran. “Hi everyone!” I waved.


After waiting on the security line for a half hour, we walked into the facility and there it was. The magnificent Pepsi Center… sitting aside the magnificent CNN Grill. That’s right , CNN bought out an entire restaurant for the week with special credentials required for entry. One Wolf Blitzer Burger please! Mmm...


We made our way up the escalators and thought we had arrived when we were told to go up yet another floor. This happened 3 times. Finally, upon arriving at the Mezzanine, we approached an usher with our credential.


“I’m sorry, this section is full.” Confused, we approached the next usher. “I’m sorry, this section is full.”


When we reached a third usher, he responded “Sir this pass will not get you inside the arena.” I didn’t understand. “This pass will not get you a seat inside, but feel free to stay in the hallway here by the concessions and watch on television.”


Was this a joke? Why would they let us in the arena if we can’t go inside? Who was the sick and demented mind that thought to create, print and distribute passes for people to watch from the hot dog stand?


Bewildered, I tried to outmaneuver the system. Casually approaching yet another usher, I said. “Excuse me, we were just sitting here. I’m with the Congressman.” He made an expression that reminded of that line from Wayne’s World: “Yeah, everyone’s girlfriend is backstage. Take a hike”


But luck would have its way with us yet again. Just when we were getting desperate, a man with a worker’s union hat tapped me on the shoulder. “You two looking for seats?” “Yes! Of course.” “Then Follow me.” And just like The Wizard, this man led us past the usher and into the big bright lights of the Pepsi Center, as dozens of others looked on with envy. We followed him up to the very last row of the arena (literally) where he conversed with his buddy.

But his friend had given away the two seats he thought were available. Now we were left standing awkwardly blocking peoples’ view in the center of the aisle. “Hi everybody… How about those liberals?” Tomatoes and other raw vegetables were thrown in my direction.


However, we glanced further up, only to find people standing behind the last row of seats. Squeezing towards the back, a man next to me remarked, “If you’re gonna stand back there, I suggest you duck down when the fire marshal passes by.”


And so, like a 4th grade teacher, I was unanimously appointed the ring leader of the back-row-standing-section, intermittently pointing the group of 20 to duck down for their lives. This was a real thrill for me.


The good news is that we saw speeches by Bill Clinton (most captivating speech I’ve ever seen), John Kerry (where was this spirited guy in 2004?) and my main man Joe Biden, who I originally supported in the primary. We ended up watching it on the big screens for most of the time because we were seated so far away, but it was very interesting being inside...



For one, it seemed strange watching one speaker after another without some kind of host or common thread. It was like watching a Jerry’s Kids Marathon, but without Jerry...or the kids. Second, fire marshals gave out signs and banners every 10 minutes to everyone in the crowd—those “Change” and “Hope” signs you saw on TV. This would have been awesome had we not been hiding like a game of laser tag each time she came around. But the biggest surprise for me that night was all the interesting and informative speeches that the TV audiences didn’t see. Do we really need all that political analysis on cable channels when there are actual politicians speaking? Our media is so intrigued by the behind-the scenes meaning of speeches and events, that we’re less concerned about what’s actually being said.


Thursday:


We woke up Thursday morning determined to see Obama speak at Invesco Field. With 75,000 tickets, there had to be 2 available somewhere in this small city (compared to New York of course). We schmoozed at the NYS Breakfast. Nothing. We played the NY Delegation lottery. Zilch. We called friends and acquaintances including the Manhattan Borough President. Bupkus.


The hours were passing by, and it was becoming increasingly glum. After an exciting trip, this would be the anti-climactic ending we had always feared. Watching Barack on TV with college students at the Young Democrats Screening. Not to mention that, like an idiot, my cell phone had slipped out of my pocket in a taxi the night before. Our luck, it seemed, was changing for the worse. It was approaching 3:00 and everyone was already on their way to the stadium. We missed the shuttle buses. This was just awful. Just awful.


And suddenly I ran into an acquaintance at the hotel lobby. He had scored us credentials! Hollellujah it was a Democratic miracle! Rejoice! The tides had turned again!


We arrived at the back of the line and walked a couple miles down steep hills and winding roads in the industrial side of Denver, making small conversation with folks and passing scores of merchandise along the way. Reading a newspaper, I learned that the Beatles were banned in Israel until earlier this year. Go figure.


We past security, and arrived in our section. Dead center, perfect view. Since we were in a football stadium, we bought oversized orders of Nachos Supreme and Buffalo wings and pigged out to Al Gore and Bill Richardson like it was the Jets vs. the Rams. “Climate change is bad! Get those Republicans! Woo!”


But nothing could prepare us for what was about to happen…The wistful silky voice of nostalgic beauty. The mellifluous tones of a plain-spoken troubadour. That’s right. Michael McDonald was singing “America, the Beautiful” A moment frozen in time.




And then we looked up to see Hillary Clinton sitting a few rows up in the press box!Check her out in the white pants suit by the American flag...

Soon after many more speeches and a performance by Stevie Wonder, out came Senator Barack Obama in all his glory, and I’ve never heard a more roaring crowd. It didn’t help that the stadium floor was made of metal and shook violently to my great horror. Here’s a video from his intro….


video

After the speech and the fireworks, the energy was palpable and we felt in the middle of history. It was time to go home and revel in this sense of pride.


But as we were walking out of our section along with 90,000 other Democrats, we discovered a small crowd assembling by the concessions. I saw a podium along with cocktails and food. “What’s going on?” I asked. “See that podium? Barack’s gonna speak at this Party.”


So Dani and I sneakily and stealthily maneuvered our way through the onslaught of people, and past the security checkpoints. We had somehow ended up at the official Obama VIP afterparty!


And so we planted our feet by the podium and awaited the next President. Ten minutes turned into an hour and half, as we drank cocktails and noshed on snacks. We were getting testy, but standing next to 2006 Delaware Senate candidate Ned Lamont (the guy that beat Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party thanks to moveon.org but couldn’t finish the job). But soon enough, out came Barack and Michelle, with Joe and Jill Biden, looking just like they do on television, but a little sleepier.


They thanked their supporters and came around to shake hands. I missed Barack but a hand or two, but I managed to get Joe’s. And I haven’t washed since…


Over the next few days, Rich and Diana (who I have to give special props to for allowing us to stay and showing us around town) brought us out to the mountains and Red Rocks Amphitheater...


Well that about does it. Hope you enjoyed our journey through Denver and the DNC. I know it was long, and probably not worth the read. But hey, at least you killed 10 minutes. See ya next time!


- DR


Monday, July 7, 2008

One Way: The Blog


Prologue

Much like the awkwardness of adolescence, making a record is a long, complicated journey. There’s the writing, arranging, recording, mixing, mastering and all the logistics and money. There are also a lot of misguided assumptions about record-making. So let me give you a quick tour of this album and share with you what I’m experiencing.

First, some background. One Way originated at Cornell University, where I was forced to create a senior thesis for my major. Having already written the songs for my first EP, Introducing Danny Ross!, which was heavily influenced by Ben Folds piano-pop, I wanted to write the kind of music I was now listening to—in the style of Wilco, Ryan Adams, Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Brian Wilson, The Beatles. I wanted lyrical songs, ambitious arrangements and challenging material.

Over the course of one year, I worked with professors to map out music and lyrics for over 20 songs, learned musical notation, composed string and horn arrangements, and worked with seventeen musicians to create an album with a coherent storyline. These were personal songs about my growth into adulthood and I considered them to be an arrival for me as a composer and lyricist. We performed it live for 200 people on April 17, 2006 and received Summa cum Laude.

Now, in 2008, with one year’s experience in the New York City circuit and an established working band, I’m able to finally get in the studio and make the record.


Part 1: The Plan

So I had 14 songs to record with a ton of arrangements and players needed. Talk about a logistical nightmare. So where does one start?

First things first, I needed a partner, or producer, that met several qualifications: 1) Someone who was intimately familiar with Pro Tools, the modern software used to record music; 2) Someone that would act as a second set of ears whose musical taste I could trust; 3) Someone with a lot of experience making records who could help in logistics and timeline.

The natural choice was Rob Guariglia. Rob is an enthusiastic guy with a hip musical mind who played guitar with Grammy-nominated artist Ryan Shaw. Not only did Rob meet all the standards, but we had already worked together on Introducing Danny Ross!. Rob signed on in February 2008, and between Ryan Shaw’s tours with Van Halen, Rob and I would begin working on One Way in March.


Fortunately my band of players were ready to go and they had a large network of musicians to help with strings, horns, organs, etc.

“Real” was the word that constantly came to mind. We wanted a natural sounding record with no synthetic sounds and genuine gutsy performances. We also decided early on that we would have nothing but top-notch musicians. So our first step would be to record the drums and bass live together at a recording studio.

Myth-bunker #1: You don’t need to be in the recording studio for the entire length of making the record. You only need to be there when recording an instrument. Once you get all you need at the studio, you can cull through the material on your laptop on a subway if you want to.

Rob had a great relationship with Galuminum Foil Recording Studios in Brooklyn and we would begin the process there. This gave us the foundation for our plan:

1) Record drums and bass for all 14 songs in one sitting at the studio. Have the players record 3 or 4 takes of each song.

2) Once done at the studio, go back to Rob’s apartment and cull through the takes, comparing one section at a time. Perhaps Take 1 had the best Chorus, or Take 3 had the best bridge. In this way, we’re choosing the best sections of each take to create a “super-take” of sorts. This is called “Comping”

3) While at my dayjob for the Congressman, Rob would edit the part to ensure it’s played in time and sounds good with the track.

4) Repeat these steps for piano, guitar, horns, strings, organ, etc.

Soon the parts add up to create a completed song! But you can see how this becomes an overwhelming process when dealing with the players, the studios, the money, the composing, the rehearsals, the scheduling, etc.. And of course there are always unexpected bumps along the way.

Now that you know the plan, hear how it all went down in Part 2 next week…and with the mad pics!

TO BE CONTINUED! (bum bum bum)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Danny Ross: "A Jewish Christmas" ( Part 3 of 3)


12/25/07 – Christmas Day, Uno Spin

We woke up Christmas morning like most American children, to a vicious game of ping pong. I came out the victor in overtime, drenched in sweat and emptied of adrenaline. Cousin Madison was pretty skilled for a 4 year old. Talk about a backhand.

Since we already opened our gifts on Christmas Eve over egg bake and special cider (See blog post below for details), we spent the morning waiting for guests to arrive for a 4:00 Christmas dinner. I felt like I was living in South Florida all over again, at Boca Pointe Country Club’s Early Bird Special (Try the brisket).

Dani’s dad built a really sweet new house on Lake Madison (complete with a sauna, or as us Jewish folk say it, a schvitz), and even took us golfing there earlier last year. Let’s just say we were the renegade crew on the course (we got busted with too many people on a cart…twice). It was my first foray out of mini-golf, and it was frankly jolting to putt without a windmill. It was also a little intimidating for me, as Dani was a third place contender at The 1999 Madison Junior Invitational.

But I digress. I got some pretty great gifts from Dani’s dad and extended family, while I was happy to give him The Band’s The Last Waltz CD. Soon afterward, I would buy Music From the Big Pink and their self-titled record. Their old-time American lyrics about characters like Virgil and Chester are a great resource for any folk-oriented songwriter. I’ll be naming my first child Virgil Chester Ross, male or female.

Next thing you know, Mrs. H, Grandma, Dezi Dog, Uncle Rich and Aunt Diana were all playing Uno Spin as Jane was finishing up dinner. And what a meal it was: Savory Christmas Ham, creamed corn, strawberry salad, cheesy-scalloped potatoes. I felt like a goy, but mm was it good.

It was also one of the few meals I’ve attended where somebody said grace, just like they did on “Family Matters” and “Home Improvement.” I was getting the full gentile experience.

So after stuffing our faces and feeling sleepy, it was probably a bad time for Aunt Diana and Uncle Rich to project a slide show of their recent trip to South America (also straight out of “The Wonder Years”). As interesting as it was, I think Grandma of all people was the last one awake to see the finish.

After an intense game of Uno Spin, in which Dani’s dad won twice in a row (I’m convinced he’s a professional Uno Spin player by trade), I made my way downstairs and had successfully endured my first Christmas Day.

12/26/08: Christmas Lights, Cheeseballs

Now that Christmas was over, what’s left to do in Madison, South Dakota? Hit the streets of course! See the big city! And so we went to the wonderful 2nd Street Diner and had ourselves some world-famous cheeseballs. By the way, let me put it out on the open now: I do plan on opening Madison’s Famous Cheeseballs here in New York City, serving a variety of cheeses and dipping sauces. That idea is trademarked, so hands off corporate America!

Back on the tour, we saw the old high school, the Naked guy’s house (self-explanatory) and even the La Boca Vista Trailer Park. I wrote a song called “Madison Bound” for more stories on the small town.

That evening was a Heinemeyer family tradition. We all loaded up in the car, got some boxes of pizza, and drove around town, judging the town’s best Christmas lights. I heard some great stories, including when Ross and his friends moved some decorative wooden deer around in provocative positions. It was a great night, and this kind of thing definitely reinforced that sense of warmness and family in the Christmas tradition. In that same vein, we finished the night with a viewing of Knocked up. “You look like Robin Williams’ knuckles”


12/27/07: Meeting the Mayor, Hunting Pheasant

Today we were able to stop by the Zimmerman-Smith Museum. We saw relics of Madison’s past: rifles from the Civil War era, a 1919 Oldsmobile and learned of Lake Madison’s worst boating accident.

Fortunately for me, Mr. Heinemeyer was the city’s Finance Officer, and we got to meet the Mayor and go to a City Commission Hearing. As a politics dork, and a staffer for a Congressman here in NY, this was actually a very exciting moment for me—hearing about local airport policy, saying goodbye to the city attorney upon his resignation. I was wondering if Barack would turn up to make a speech.

We capped the night by stuffing our faces at the Midwest’s most delicious restaurant, Johnny Carino’s, seeing Johnny Depp’s Sweeney Todd, and playing beer pong at a buddy’s basement while watching The Lion King. (An effective combination as predicted) Apparently, from what I was told the next morning, I insisted on referring to Ross’ friend as a “Cosby sweater.”

On a side note, I was asked by a few different people on the trip if I was interested in shooting pheasant with a rifle or pistol. These were scenes straight out of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I always quickly changed the subject…

12/29/07: The Wedding

We finished our trip by attending the wedding of Dani’s high school friends, Jen and Chris. Besides hunting, this was probably our biggest cultural difference: South Dakotans marry young, New Yorkers wait till their 30s.

This of course meant another trip to church. Twice in five days. But there was no glass breaking like Jewish weddings. And “Here Comes the Bride” was blasting on the pipe organ. We scurried in just as the ceremony started, and right before the bride and groom walked down the aisle. It might have been embarrassing if we ran past them to grab decent seats in the pew.

Speaking of which, what’s the deal with that awful pew exit system? It took us 5 hours to leave the church.

Then it was off to the reception. It wasn’t shrimp cocktail and fresh crab meat at The Tribeca Rooftop. Again, a cultural shock. But it was a nice affair and the groom’s 16 year old brother made the funniest wedding toast I’ll possibly ever hear:

“I've been told that the best man's speech should be as long as the groom's lovemaking. So thank you and have a good night”

Then we danced to the “YMCA” (I guess some things don’t change), and “Achey Breaky Heart” (and some things certainly do).
---------------------------------------------------------------


And that about does it for this Jew’s first Christmas. Hope you had as much fun as I did. See ya next time!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Danny Ross: "A Jewish Christmas" ( Part 2)


12/24/07 Christmas Eve

I awoke this morning to a delicious smell wafting through the door and into the basement. As I ascended the staircase into the kitchen, my senses were engorged with the savory and sweet all at once, as if Ratatouille himself was at the helm. It was then I realized that this was no ordinary breakfast. This was Mama Heinemeyer’s world famous eggbake. Picture it now: a warm square of egg deliciousness smothered in cheese, mixed with ham, and topped with bread crumbs. I had nearly three servings before nausea started to settle in, but mmmmm good!

After a healthy breakfast, there were two pressing items on the agenda: 1) Buy ugly Xmas apparel at the thrift store 2) Take pictures with Santa at the mall.

Let me first give credit to the Heinemeyer family for being ridiculous enough to indulge these Jewish Christmas fantasies. After our stint at Savers, I changed into my new holiday gear in the mall bathroom and walked out a true gentile rock star. Sporting a snowman sweatshirt, red turtleneck and a bad haircut (it happens to everyone), there I was, moments away from meeting Santa!

I mean how can you resist this guy? Have you seen a bigger jew in your life? And wow, what an impressive looking Santa for such a barren place. I mean shit, that guy looked like Santa. Waiting in line among the other toddlers, I would be happy just to shake hands, take the picture and relive that moment in my memory forever.

But as I approached Santa, with my over-anxious smile and jittery legs, I nearly fell over with excitement. The 4-year-old South Dakotans truly knew they were witnessing a freak of nature. Finding a cozy seat next to Santa, I sat readying my smile for the camera. But something was wrong. I heard screaming. There was some sort of technical error. The film would have to be changed. What was happening?

And so there I was, sitting next to Mall Santa, awkwardly waiting for Ms. Clause to change the film. My palms became sweaty. “Soo, where ya from?” I nervously spoke. “Busy time of year I bet? Hehe….” I was beginning to think that perhaps this was the real Santa, as he sat silently grinning. He made no response. Still, nothing was happening.

Utterly and inexplicably determined to engage in mindless small talk with this man (part of my Hebrew instinct), I continued. “I’m from New York. Just here with the girlfriend’s family…It’s funny, ya see, cause I’m actually Jewish. Yep, it’s my first Christmas. You probably don’t see that too often out here!...Ya know, I bet you and me have a lot in common.”

Looking back, I don’t think I’ve seen a more utterly perplexed face in my life. But he was a jolly old man, as predicted, and those awkward few minutes were worth this priceless photo:

Now it was gift exchange time, woo! I don’t know if it’s standard practice nationwide to do it on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, but that’s what we did. I watched as Grandma opened her “Studs N’ Spurs” male model calendar, Mama H opened her “Pigeon Poop” candies, Ross got the Planet Earth DVD set, and Dezi dog received her brand new outfit. What a stunner! Most notably I got a new Woody Allen book. That figures. (Actually, I asked for it)

Then it was off to the airport to reclaim my luggage, which as you remember from Part 1 of the Xmas Blog, was hurried away in a snowstorm never to be found again. And so it was to my surprise that my oversized red bag was sitting there when we arrived. No paperwork, no fussy stuff. Just off I went.

And so I changed into my wrinkled suit in the backseat of Mama H’s Honda Accord, stretching my lanky limbs around to everyone’s dismay. We were on our way to Madison, South Dakota, a 40 minute trip, to see Dani’s dad, and to attend my first-ever church service

Heading up, we absorbed the new Radiohead album, “In Rainbows,” which upon first listen sounded like the most accessible recording they’ve done in years while keeping their weirdness intact. I particularly liked the song “Nude.” As you can imagine, it was pretty awesome listening to this music as we drove past the frozen plains.

Arriving at church, we immediately saw Dani’s ex-boyfriend. How wonderful that was for me. It turns out he still lives in Madison, a quaint town of 6,000 people. Apparently he’s been hanging out with Dani’s family even after Dani went to college and dumped the poor guy. For example, he stores his motorcycle next to Mr. Heinemeyer’s in his garage.

We found our way to the pew just as Christmas service was starting. The pastor got up to make his sermon: “I’ve seen the Christ child. You may not believe he was the Christ Child. But I saw him. I knew it was him. I looked into his eyes...the Christ Child” And then like a Conan O’Brien character, the large man with glasses behind me, with a deep-throated, nasally Irish-tinged voice lunged into “O Holy Night.” It was truly a service for the ages.

Overall, though, the whole affair was less gaudy than I imagined. There weren’t talks of mayonnaise or Nascar. It seemed pretty normal. After all it was a Lutheran church, not Catholic.

We ended the night with a viewing of “National Treasure 2,” a hollow but intensely entertaining movie, stuffing ourselves with popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. Then it was off to bed we went. Ah, I love Christmas. And it’s not even Christmas yet…