August 1, 2014
Summer Tour Journal
I’ve had a few favs so far, but I’ve never liked a first gig as much as I did this Summer. Bass players spend their lives worrying about “punch.” The amp must have punch. And it makes sense because it needs to be physical. But if it’s just a lot of deep vibration, that excludes the sudden impact that “punch” implies. And so many mentors have talked about how all you need is “time and tone” – and they are so interrelated.
At Mansfield I learned that it’s all about swing. I don’t know what combination of mood and acoustics makes for a gig that will swing, but that is my sole job as bass player. The rhythm doesn’t have to be “swung” per se – a rhythm that has tiny divisions of three. It’s just that the feel has to be actually like swinging the notes back and forth like a swing. Straight rhythms can feel swingy, not to mention those incredible half swung feels that rock and roll is based on. Bob Weir recently said that that is what the Rock and the Roll are – the combination of swung and straight, along with the sexual innuendos, etc.
So I swung my ass off. I can’t always get myself to, and then the tone came together. Then came the punch. I liked Philly 2, Randall’s 3 a lot, just like everyone else, and Chicago 3, and bits of all the others. The swingy punchy thing – instead of picturing a swing, picture a rubber band – it’s not literally my bass strings, but might as well be – it’s the moments – the notes within the flow – one snaps back at the next with the inevitability of snapping that rubber band. On a good night.
The reason to do multiple soundchecks is we keep dialing in the sound even more and more. When the gigs get better, less becomes more. I can even play just root notes and it still feels “interesting” because the propulsion feels so good – the “coolness” of the melody is irrelevant to the feeling of flight. Though it becomes possible for the simplest of melodies to feel unique.
My attempt at a formula: A leads to B to C
A) The reasons for a good gig, but distant guessing:
- All the practice we do (we were at Mansfield for two intense practices the days before)
- Dialing the sound in for three days (including soundcheck) – with the sound even across the bass
- Having new material feels good
B) What happens:
- Less becomes more – only root notes sometimes, just serving the situation – even one note can be super fresh and creative
- The Swing comes
C) The result:
- The space between the notes comes – the chunkiness.
- The feeling of flying through air – even the air from my fan on stage becomes a cognitively paired signifier of flying (not to mention the fans).
In a nutshell: the music plays itself.
Entry #4 – Fish and Elasticity.
He has been listening back to a lot of our gigs and noticed that when it’s really happening we are NOT ALWAYS hitting together. I am guessing that one reason is that each person is true to their own groove, which is important – like each groove having a deep commitment to its own swing even if it doesn’t line up exactly with the others.