Category Archives: Music

Cactus Joe’s music and song writing.

My Band’s Practice and Performance Model

Sunday Open Jam

Funk’s Open Jam every Sunday

The Open Jam at Funk’s in Fitchburg WI every Sunday night has been a boon to my band’s practice and performance skills. We really encourage people to attend because we want…nay, need…it to keep going for the benefit of excellent rocking in and around Madison. This town can’t have nice things musically, in general, because the residents don’t support it. That’s weak, and if you want to challenge me on that, you may do so, but only at the forum of Funk’s Sunday Night Open Jam. See you there, weak sauce loser. Ha ha. I kid. I kid. On the square.

GUPPY EFFECT (my band) has practice on Tuesday nights. We usually pick 3 to 5 rock-n-roll songs to hone and solidify for that week, adding nuances and embellishments to the songs as we play through them several times. We experiment with different ideas and veto the ones that suck, keep some of the rest. We also record the song takes on my laptop, so that we can remember the cool things we did the next time we play the song.

Because it is a QUALITY practice, rather than a QUANTITY one, we can spend more time on polishing fewer songs to an awesome blinding sheen.

Then, on the following Sunday, we head down to Funk’s around about 8 PM and sign up for the open jam. This gives us an opportunity to perform 3 or 4 of the songs from the prior Tuesday in front of a live audience. In this way we get a little live performance experience with the songs, which helps iron out any possible technical difficulties we didn’t foresee at practice, and it also allows us to assess the public’s reception of the material and its theatrical presentation. Because we learn fewer songs, we have more brain power available for stage antics, which are highly entertaining.

This is especially good to do for our original songs, because ours do not suck, but people sometimes want to hear recognizable things. If an original song rocks super hard, thanks to the band putting in that little extra bit of elbow grease the prior Tuesday, then people might have their faces so melted off that they just accept it and involuntarily bow down before it.

A lot of my prior band incarnations have focused on song QUANTITY, rather than QUALITY. This was largely to develop a large repertoire of songs, so we could play gigs before we had another “personnel crisis,” as band members succumbed to whimsy and went off to pursue the mundane. To some extent, it worked. We played a few shows, and could fill the whole night with music, albeit a lot of it filler. But the presentation was always kind of mediocre. There was no nuance. No extra little push over the cliff that makes a song tight and awesome. Sometimes we would be cramming to learn so many songs that we felt good if we could just get through the songs on stage without any major biffs, and when you have to focus that hard on just playing the song and remembering how it goes, then how the heck are you going to unleash a Bacchanalian stage presence and entertain your crowd. One thing I have learned about patrons at venues that have music – they are not there for the music. It is sad but true. They are there to party. It’s a multifactorial thing, the top three factors being a large group of fun people, alcohol, and some form of good music to distract people from the misery and boredom of their own thoughts. Have you ever been in a bar where there is no music? Of course you have, and it’s lame. Likewise, how often do you go to an alcohol free all ages rock show? That’s what I thought. The band has to be pretty f-ing amazing for you to go to a show stone cold sober. And I know there are a handful of people who do prefer those kinds of shows…I am one of them, truth be told, as long as the music is something I really want to experience live.

My band selfishly does not want the Funk’s Open Jam to end. It really makes our rocking thrice as awesome, in keeping with our brand tagline: “Thrice the rocking power of other name bands.” We create our alchemical magic on Tuesday night and then unleash it on our victims at Funk’s on Sunday nights. The fun is short and sweet. The house band limits guests to about 3 songs…4 if the audience calls for it…that way no one bogarts the stage. If your band has tons of good songs, that’s cool. But just pick the top 3 GREAT ones and play those. We are not there to admire your entire body of work, no matter how impressively engorged with songs it is. We will admire your body, if you are a cute girl. But even so, 3 songs then get off!

People have to attend the open jam and see the awesome rocking to know how great it is. I think some people are deterred because they think it is a weak sauce open mic night. But it is not that at all. It is, in fact, your last chance to party on the weekend before you have to go back to work. Why would you waste those precious moments sulking around your house?

Funk’s Jam is more of an open stage and the back line (drums and amps…even a stand mountable key-tar) is provided by the bar. They treat the house band amazingly well.

So you can bring your entire band, if you have one, and simply plug and play 3 songs. No elaborate set up and tear down of gear. A couple seconds of tweaking the sound board and your band is off and rocking. Or you can just bring yourself and your axe and join the house band MUDROOM for a few jammy numbers. I have done that on two occasions now. The first was when I went to the debut open jam on Sunday February 9th, and my band got the memo a little too late. The second was last night, when the usual house bass player was absent and I filled in on some stuff (I had the list well in advance to learn it). MUDROOM is really into Phish and the Grateful Dead and hippie sh!t like that. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s fun to play and generally pretty easy to jam along with. They have a list of tunes available that they are willing to play with you. I like that it is a short list, unlike the Gomers, who host Gomeroke and know like 80 million songs. This open stage kind of attracts bands that have their own repertoire of material. If there is some overlap of material, they can sometimes join forces with MUDROOM at the end of the night for a group jam.

Anyway, my mad quest this week is going to be to get a bunch more people down to the Open Jam at Funk’s. Please tell your Madison friends. They won’t be disappointed. I can guarantee it with respect to my band, because of our well oiled practice and performance model outlined above. Your band could be blowing rectums out too. But you have to come.

I literally cannot believe there are people who find excuses not to come to this thing. It’s priceless.

A Reckoning

I am kind of in a transitional period right now. I don’t think I am fully aware of that fact yet, but until I know for sure, I have been doing some assessments.

Tonight I decided to start assessing my formidable CD collection, by listening to it in more or less alphabetical order, by band. I could decide on a whim to go in a different order, and I probably will base my subsequent picks off the current ones. But my CDs are arranged more or less alphabetically, so that is at least a logical way to start. That said, I am not feeling very logical. I am feeling musical, which is why I am assessing my CD collection in a big way right now.

I am hoping it will give me some inspiration for writing songs for FAWM 2014. I have written five mediocre songs for this year’s FAWM already. I have to write nine more, and I am officially behind schedule now, given that it is February 14th and I am supposed to be writing a song every two days (I should be at 7 songs…but if I manage to pound out three this weekend, I will be temporarily back on track).

With the introduction of SPOTIFY in my life, I have really turned away from physical CDs and vinyl records. But I still have quite a few of them and they deserve to be re-visited now and then.

So, anyway, the first pick off my CD rack was Best Psychedelic Hits of the 13th Floor Elevators, or something like that. I am not reading the CD jewel cases too closely. There’s not enough time to do that, if I am going to hope to make a dent in the collection this weekend. I don’t know how far I will get, but I will definitely keep you apprised.

I can’t remember how I ended up with this CD of esoteric psychedelia. It consists of a lot of raw and underproduced, yet energetic and dynamic, acid rock. I like raw music like this because it illustrates that good music doesn’t require a lot of fancy production the way today’s crappy pop music does. It kind of reminds me of impressionist art. This old 60s rock is meant to impress itself on you, but it’s not supposed to be super realistic. I think acid rock gives the impression it is supposed to give, sonically. It creates kind of a musical haze that is elusive and at times hard to follow, the way a mind ripped apart by LSD kind of is.

Lately, I have been nostalgic for the 60s. That’s always an odd sensation, because I was born in 1968 and only spent two years in that decade, which I largely do not remember. It should be noted, however, that there are probably a lot of aging hipsters today who were young adults in the 60s and who also don’t remember much of that decade, because they were too busy surfing the psychological cosmos during that time.

So anyway, I am not sure why I get nostalgic for it. Perhaps watching too much Mad Men? But then that begs the question, why am I into Mad Men and the whole historical context of it. I feel compelled to immerse myself in the whole vibe of it, good and bad. It was such a dynamic and prosperous time, both economically and culturally, before the fall of the American Empire that began in the late 60s and early 70s, due to corrupt politicians and buzz killers. Maybe in my prior life, I was a hippy or a soldier in Vietnam or a Black Panther, who met his or her end just as the time came for a soul to be administered to my developing fetus in my mother’s womb. OK, that was deep. Must be the acid rock getting into my head.

I’d like to be a scholar of the 60s the way some people are scholars of the Bible. That is, I wasn’t there (very long) but I love the history and lore from that age, and I am fascinated to learn everything I can about it. At risk of rambling now, I shall draw this screed to a close. But stay tuned for periodic updates on my journey to the center (roughly) of my CD collection.

Acoustic Rocking Tonight

Hi Friends.

I will be performing tonight at Waterhouse Cafe in Lake Mills, WI.

They are gonna be serving up some tasty mushroom pesto pasta for the show and they have tons of drinks there, whether caffeinated, alcoholic, or straight edge.

(Flyer courtesy of the lovely and talented Caitlin Hartmann, whose art is on display at the Waterhouse Cafe, incidentally…)

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