Sunday, March 16, 2008
Last night, we played in Celebration, Florida, the Disney-designed model community. It was for the Robert Gamez charity, but it also was dovetailed into being part of the town's St. Patrick's Day festivities.
We had performed for Jim Sonefeld's Animal Mission auction/concert in Columbia, SC the night before in the 'hopped-up acoustic' format (no guitar or Hammond for me, no rack tom for Soni, Mark with a tuner, Tube Screamer and a small Fender amp and generally lower volume overall) but had sent the truck with the bulk of the gear on to Celebration.
It was great to get to play on our own gear again; I have to say, much like buying a used Jeep, it's hard to tell what condition your rental Hammond B-3 and Leslie are going to be in when you sit down for the show. Of the last two I played, one was an exhausted old rig that gave out at the end of one song but got jerry-rigged to hang on through the end of the show; the other was a shiny black monster that sounded superb. But I like our B-3 and 122 combination the best, mainly because I can run the Leslie speed from a footswitch.
(For the non-keyboardists reading this,
1. A Hammond B-3 organ and a Leslie 122 rotating speaker in combination, is the traditional rock/blues/jazz/soul organ sound you know and love ("Whiter Shade of Pale", "Gimme Some Lovin'", the Allman Brothers, Jimmy Smith, Booker T & the MG's, etc.)*. Because they are paleoelectric musical instruments, much time and effort has been spent trying to recreate the sound digitally, but nothing succeeds as much or sounds as good as the Real Deal.
2. The speed of the rotating Leslie speaker is one of its main features. It goes fast, slow and sometimes off, the gurgle you hear on so many records. Many Hammonds have their speed switch mounted on the left side in front, to be operated by the organist's left hand. That's great, if you're really fast or don't change it all the time.
*to the nitpickin' few, yes, yes, I know that some of the stuff I'm attributing to the B-3 is actually performed on an A-100 but now is neither the time or place for that kind of discussion, so let's take it outside the parentheses, shall we?)
The opening band, Rock and Pop Masters, featured performances by Mike Reno of Loverboy, Jimi Jameson of Survivor and John Cafferty of Beaver Brown. I admit, I felt the tension in the air when the first notes of "Eye of the Tiger" came from the stage. That's what that intro is supposed to do to you, I guess, stuttering along with blasts of choked cymbal crashes and crunchy guitars, till it finally breaks into its triumphant stride in the chorus. So I was tense. I tried to share that tension with some of my bandmates, but failed to make it happen. Two of them finally came out and heard some Loverboy smashes, then retreated to the bus when RPM ended it all with "Mustang Sally", a song we have played enough over the years to be grateful to have been scooped this once.
Our show was one of the best ones we've done lately, I think. The technical aspects of guitar changes and tunings and monitor levels were all largely sorted out, and we were able to get down to the business of singing and playing comfortably. We pulled off another John Daly-led "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (which also featured Michael Antunes on sax) and a succinct "Champagne Supernova". Add to that a really big crowd lining the blocked-off street we played on...
And what about that street? I got onstage, looked out over the crowd. I was struck with major deja vu.
Never had I set foot in Celebration in my life before that morning, a bright sunshiny morning, no less that what you'd expect from the world of Walt and Mickey. I saw the guy bring his rental RC boats out to the lagoon and set up shop for the day next to a guy with a fishing pole; I watched grandfather and granddaughter stroll along the boulevard, hand in hand. I was passed in ten minutes time by no less than three horse-drawn carriages. Lots of khaki shorts and caps in evidence there. I also had a feeling come over me that the Starbucks' across from our bus encampment might be the only place in Celebration where you could buy CD's (especially after having returned from an Orlando Borders' store where the music department's real estate had dwindled to a bare minimum of floorspace). Admittedly, I kept my wandering in Celebration to a bare minimum, wondering if I would get abducted down a pristine alleyway and shanghai'd into a life of servitude behind the scenes of the Magic Kingdom, a life I would never be suited for.
But there was something about the street. What?
Then it dawned on me, somewhere around the second song, that I knew the street from seen it in an Aaron Carter live video filmed in the selfsame place. I must have watched that video with my daughter many times years ago, and now, here I was, living the dream in the very same place.