Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Danny by Danny Ross (DXDR) Part 3 of 5: Three Gigs, a Couch Drum Kit and Beatles Ukulele

Hey folks, this is my 5 part recollection of our trip to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, TX from March 16-21. Part 3 deals exclusively with our performances and the events that led up to them...

In the video posted in Part 2 last week you got to see some live footage. To quickly explain what went down, after the 3 gigs were booked down in Austin (many thanks to Richard Zack from the Wink Winks for that, and also for taking down my equipment!), I decided to make it official and book the flight. Soon I got in touch with my boy Sandeep and boom, had a sweet place to crash and access to an SUV.

But how would I also fly down and house 4 band members? Couldn't afford it, not this year. The solution was to hire NYC musicians already heading to SXSW with other bands. Meet Mike Riddleberger on Drums..
And here's Freddy Epps on bass (left) and Ryan Scott on guitar.
Mike's an amazing drummer and singer for bands like the pop-infused Quintus and the country swinging Defibulators. Freddy also kicks it with the defibs, and then crushes it with hard-rock outfit Ionia. In fact, Freddy and I met over 6 years ago, interning together at jazz label Verve Records. Ryan has also played with Quintus but has a great gig with an amazing singer on Nonesuch Records, Christina Courtin, who happens to also be his girlfriend.

The first day in Austin, amongst the thousands of shows going on, my friends and I stumbled upon a Beatles Tribute band, The Eggmen, along with Roger Greenawalt, the famous Beatles Ukulele player based here in Brooklyn, doing Beatles songs with singer/songwriters including Ben Kweller. I told them who I was, and naturally they asked me to sing a few tunes. Next thing I know I've sung 5. Nice.

That night I played an acoustic show with Ryan at The Belmont. And I made a little fan!

At these festivals, all of our time is carefully plotted out because there's so much going on. So I was lucky to find a 3 hour slot in Austin when the whole band could rehearse. (We had rehearsed once before in NYC) I had called a studio down there a week before to reserve the space. We all managed to shlep out to this place on Thursday afternoon in the middle of nowhere to an old industrial yard. Knock on the door, no answer. Call the guy's cell, no answer. Knock next door and find out his home number, no answer. After 30 calls, I realized we were screwed.

Stranded in East Austin, we came up with the idea to rehearse at Sandeep's apt. We had amps for piano, guitar and bass -- and Mike would have to mime drums on the couch. Sadly, I don't have a picture of this.

But one thing that made an impression on me. At the end of the rehearsal, I asked "Which song at this point are you most afraid of screwing up?" To which Ryan responded, "Afraid? There's nothing to be afraid of." Oh yeah, this is rock n roll -- nice to have some perspective.

Next we played the Sneak Attack/ Playing In Traffic Records Showcase at Clive Bar. We were lucky enough to have Heather Robb from the awesome band, The Spring Standards join us to sing "Forgive me Love."

And lastly, that night at 11 we played to a packed outdoor stage at Shakespeare's Pub. The monitor on stage was totally effed, so I decided to just be a maniac- tossing my keyboard offstage in the process. I felt like Pete Townshend for just a minute. Crazy, crazy, sweaty show.

Overall, I learned a lot about performance while I was down there. Particularly, that you don't need an audience hanging onto your every word in order to feel like you're succeeding. It's enough to just be there, play well, and be real.

And that's all for now folks. Stay tuned next week for all the rad bands I saw. Lata!

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