...being the observations and navigational extracts
from the ongoing expeditions of San Francisco Piano Pop trio
True Margrit

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Pianos

It was the best of rehearsals, it was the worst of rehearsals, it was the age of clicktracks, it was the era of elastic tempo, it was the season of unavailable studio time, it was the spring of Gary arranging a session at Studio Trilogy (with audio Jedi, Justin Lieberman helming the engineering).

The thing was, we decided Gary & I should concentrate fully on playing, take off our customary engineer hats, and be pampered by recording somewhere really rather fancy--so we did!! Ooooh the microphone collection! The preamps! The compressors! The consoles--SSL & API ( for those who know and will also say "ooh")! The accommodating staff gamely moved away the 7-foot piano they had set up for the session and moved in their other 7-foot piano, which I had to confess I preferred, and that was, unfortunately, in a different room ( see above photo)!

And how was it?

It all went swimmingly. Without getting freaked out, rushed, or even mildly stressed, we recorded all the songs we planned on (although we did indeed break many a sweat--this is rock after all). I attribute this success to good planning, practice, the excellence of the Studio Trilogy staff, and eating regular meals including breakfast--the most important meal of the day. We even made dinner the 2nd day--Andrew got an 8-lb pork shoulder and rubbed it with smoky paprika and other splendid rubbing spices, I dressed up some cabbage, carrots and onions with Greek yogurt, mayo, vinegar, and sugar into a creamy sweet/ sour slaw, Andrew popped the pork into Studio Trilogy's griller/smoker Weber, and we went off to play for 8 hours. It was all ready to go at the end of the session. Andrew chopped up the meat in the proper pulled-pork style, Gary busted out some Everett & Jones barbeque sauce (local and insanely good) and some french rolls and all the folks lucky enough to be hanging out (strangely more numerous than expected) set to: pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw. Beguiling. Everyone who could fit more in their stomachs had seconds. And all smacked their lips and sighed happily.

I believe the pulled pork party more than made up for having to move the piano...which, by the way was TOTALLY the right choice. The original piano was very nice and ever-so mojo-rific(it has been played by the likes of Stevie Wonder and George Winston!!) but not for me and the demands of the True Margrit sound. The piano I ending up playing is brilliant, bright yet full, with great thunderous yet clear bass notes, and above all, fun to ply my piano-rock upon. It was so nice to have choices--the second bowl of porridge was just right.

It's far far better piano I played today than I have ever played these songs upon before...



Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch

This is where I sat and played and played and played.

a big room with big drums

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Are Not Not Amused

I read a massive tome about Queen Victoria this spring. I learned as much as (or more than) I'd ever wanted to know about the long-reigning monarch-matriarch's life, who very name conjures up the final days of Britain's Empire-ishness, the era of industrial revolution, and the proliferation of Victorian houses. She was an intriguingly contradictory human who appears to have experienced moments of great insight well ahead of her time as well as dire lapses of vision not uncommon to her era. She was skilled in working the drawing room, assuredly open, wisely innocent. and she kept all around her guessing. She was capable of royal rages and of wild understatement when displeased, when she would say (famously): "we are not amused". Significantly, she kept a diary quite religiously, which has allowed history to peep into her brain. I shall attempt to adopt her habitual journalistic habits--it may be amusing...

July 20th
Andrew arrives in the bay area on a plane from Sea-Tac. He shoots right over to the studio and sets up his drums. Other gear is also assembled by Gary & I, and in due course we play some songs. Sadly, we sound a bit rusty. Maybe tomorrow it will be better...

July 21st
We do have a somewhat more palatable practice this time. We keep an eye on the time, because Gary's niece, Jaci (not to be confused with Nurse Jackie, even though they sound similar) is cooking the band ( and Sarah and Heather!) dinner! We don't want to be late. At the stroke of 7:45 we hurry over to Gary's place which is redolent with the glory of garlic fumes. Jaci has made garlic bread, pasta, and her grandmother's ( or was it her grandfather's?) meat sauce. Andrew whips up one of his famous Ceasar salads, and we promptly set to with gustatory gusto. Mamamia...and I don't mean that in an ABBA sort of way. Jaci's father's side of the family is Italian ( not the Hobish side) and she has treated us to her culinary heritage and not only are we soon satiated but also much hilarity arises, aided by the wine Gary uncorks from his mystery cellar. Suffice it to say: it was amusing.

July 24
We have another band practice followed by a meal. This time Andrew throws together a basa stir fry (a Thai catfish we can get here in the mission at Sun Fat Seafood Company for ridiculously cheap--especially in light of how delicious it is). We all gobble it up,and Heather and Andrew zip off to the airport and fly home to Tacoma.

July 29th
Andrew drives back to San Francisco with his big D'Amico drumkit. Why? Well may you may ask. We are fixing to do the first set of recording sessions for the new True Margrit album. Excitement is in the air. But where will we record basic tracks? We don't know yet! Oooh the suspense.

July 30th
Rehearsal! For, tomorrow is our big gig with Kate Kilbane and Debora Iyall!
July 31st
This morning we indulge in our traditional Sunday bacon & eggs breakfast before the big gig. Most fortifying. We arrive at Bottom of the Hill, there are soundchecks; then fans, family, friends, strangers, and familiar faces gather, the show starts. It ebbs it flows, there are sweet tunes, grooves, rock, some dancing, much applause, some birthday cake ( it's my birthday--AND Robert AND Dakota's birthdays too)! and all too soon it is done. Sigh. An amusing day to be sure. {someone wrote this excellent sentiment on our mailing list at Bottom of the Hill:  "Love you True Margrit"--see photo above}

August 4th
Off we go to Sacramento. We get caught in a bit of traffic, and we all have uneasy flashbacks to the long long long drive to Texas last year. Here I am again, packed in the little "jumpseat" behind the main cab. Ooof.

We get to Naked Lounge early, and being hungry we set off for some hunting and gathering. We are forced to choose between these two fine establishments:
Jim Dennys Lunch or Bangkok 12

Bangkok 12 Thai restaurant wins, and it is quite delicious--in particular we relish the fried calamari. Revivified, we head back to the venue where Sonic Glow rocks the stage first. We
are next, and we do our best to serenade the entire central valley. Mededoora playes last, beers are quaffed, hands shaken, goodbyes made and we roll back out to the freeway that leads to other freeways, that lead to San Francisco, where we can sleep, soon enough, and dream amusing dreams.