Friday, December 11, 2009

Sitting in with the 8 Mile Band

Another first: first, er, "public performance" since arriving in Alaska.

Larry Staehle and the 8 Mile Band graciously tolerated my sitting in with them as they played for KPC's holiday gathering, and it was a good time. Repertoire was mostly cover tunes in I-IV-V type progressions--you know, all the stuff I have next to no experience with. There might have been one tune I had actually played before in a similar context, so I spent most of my time decorating and hoping like hell I would stay out of the way of whoever was in front. Instrumentation was two guitars, violin, flute/sax, bass, and percussion, with me on mandolin, mostly in the second octave. I brought my SWR California Blonde amp but ended up running mostly through the mains anyway, using the old DOD AcousTEC for a little slapback delay and feedback control.

It was the usual array of terrors. If I can hear myself, am I too loud? Am I in tune? Okay, I've found some nice phrases here but am I treading on someone else's toes? Can I try a little chromaticism here before they change chords--and when is that going to be, anyway? Larry seemed encouraging (he was gracious enough to call out keys for every tune) and everyone was friendly to me, but it definitely felt like I had just started to get comfortable by the time it was winding down. I am so happy to understand how to find triads and sevenths anywhere on the board, else I'd have been totally lost!

Probably the best moment of the night (for me, at least!) was when folks started to pack up, and Larry just started a little noodly riff on his own, D centric. I reacted instantly and a minor 'something' happened. I walked all over Dm territory, relishing a couple of nice setups for hanging on a big fat major-seventh, and Larry said, "let's do that again, call a key." I immediately said Gm and started incorporating a few favorite chords (diatonic sevenths and alterations), and at some point I realized that the sax player was joining. Nice! I apologized later as I was ranging considerably over several different scales and she could not have had an easy time figuring out where I was. I went back to a couple of chords that should have settled things down (Ebmaj7 and Bbmaj7) but things broke down about then and the moment passed. Dang. I'm scared witless of the I-IV-V and triadic stuff but give me improv in Gm, with enough space to really hear each other, and I'll go!

It sounds like this band plays area venues quite commonly, and I hope I might get another chance to sit in, even if it's a practice. Going so far out of my comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory is good for me, and I might even get better at learning how to fit in with tunes people know. I'm crossing fingers.

Thanks, Larry, and everyone in the band, for letting me sit in. If we get to do this again, I guarantee I learned some things that should make my next contributions better!