David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 18:20
At Gail's suggestion (she's the manager of the WELL), I am going to post selections from my journal here in the inkwell. The first response will give you the necessary background.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 18:26
September 24, 1998, 4:40pm At the ripe old age of 44, I am in the process of launching a new career as a musician on the national stage. At this moment I am in a car heading toward Milwaukee (just passing the MARS CHEESE CASTLE on the left) for the ninth of ten gigs in eleven days. I'm in the Midwest because John Metzger, who publishes a newsletter and web site called The Music Box, asked me (on the GD Hour mailing list) why I never play anywhere other than the coasts. "Because I don't know anyone in the middle," I said. "Let me see what I can do," he replied. John got on the phone to a mess of clubs, and in the first week of June we took a trial run: five gigs in four cities -- Chicago, Milwaukee, Springfield IL and Champaign IL. John served as tour manager, sold my CDs and GD Hour t-shirts, and collected names for the mailing list. I had flown out on a frequent-flyer ticket, and except for one night in Springfield we avoided hotels by driving back to John's house in a Chicago suburb after every gig, so the rent-a-car was the only significant expense. To my surprise and delight, I actually went home with more money than I left with. For this September tour, we went back to the same cities and several more. I had a "David Gans solo acoustic tour Fall 1998" shirt (reviving a very cool "g" logo made of a musical note and a quote mark that I designed in the early '80s), and we've sold plenty of those along with the other stuff. And again, we are in the black. Not hugely, but I got a great deal on the plane ticket -- $208 round trip. (By the way, the decision to use a rental car instead of John's car is a form of insurance: something goes wrong with the car, the company gets us a new one and we're on our way. This paid off on Sunday, when we got a flat out- side of Indianapolis and they brought us a fresh car.) My aim is to get out from under the increasingly uncomfortable mantle of "famous Deadhead" and into my own life as a songwriter, performer and recording artist. I am (obviously) taking advantage of my visibility in Deadhead circles, but that is of limited value due to the nature of that cul- ture. I am emphasizing my own material and lots of other people's stuff, with maybe 15% Dead songs in my active repertoire. Just enough to keep the Deadheads interested, I suppose -- though the ones who are *only* interested in hearing music that Jerry Garcia breathed on are not really the people I'm interested in recruiting to my cause. A recent development that is of great interest to me is the emergence of the "No Depression" movement. It is a musical classification that is tailormade for me. I have been playing music all my life (clarinet in school orchestras and marching bands throughout my school years), and playing guitar and writing songs for nearly 30 years. My consciousness has always been pretty pop. I have never had much of an affinity for jazz (and no cool role model to turn me on to those records), which is one of the things that leaves me out of the running with many of my Deadhead friends. I grew up listening to mainstream rock radio and then "underground" radio, but I didn't pick up on the cues that so many of my slightly older peers did to follow "our" music back to its roots. Not til later, anyway. I'm dealing with a good deal of bitterness about recent experiences in Dead- land, and the feeling that I can't get an even break from that crowd for a number of reasons. But that's just by way of explaining some of the stuff that's likely to come out of me in the course of this journal. The important thing is that I have always had a unique musical personality, but only recently have I developed the skills -- and not coincidentally, the con- fidence - to step up as myself and give it a shot. I've been keeping track of some statistics on my current tour. Of about 70 titles performed, 21 are my own compositions and 9 are Grateful Dead originals. Another handful are covers that many associate with the Dead (e.g. "Broken Arrow," but the vast majority of the world will recognize it via the composer Robbie Robertson, or Rod Stewart, who had a hit with it). A given show has been about 40% original, which I'd like to raise to 50%, and 15% Dead songs. I am able to toss off any number of Dead songs and other stuff that I tend to regard as cheesy covers (I played a couple of Beatle songs in Columbia MO, because someone yelled for them and the place was in such a good mood), but I am not interested in playing "favorites." My desire is to play a great collection of songs that I've done something with to make 'em my own. "Pancho and Lefty" has been covered and covered, but I think I'm doing something with it that makes it my own.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 18:33
Friday, September 18, 1998 Bread Stretchers, Springfield IL First set was the toughest experience of the tour so far. Lots of people, but too many of them were talking loudly and not paying attention. I con- centrated on the people who were listening, and there were more than enough of those. Eventually the inattentive people drifted out, leaving a couple dozen enthusiastic listeners. There was a couple from St. Louis who had missed us there on Tuesday but came to Columbia last night and Springfield tonight. Four teenage guys, at least two of them guitar players, were attentive to my guitar playing in a way that I have rarely experienced before. First time I have ever been seen as a guitarist of any distinction? Dunno, but it was nice to feel that I was being noticed that way. My throat was a little tight all day, so I chose my songs to favor it at first. Once I was warmed up, I had no problems. My vocal and instrumental performances are getting better every day, and my improvised setlist approach is working very well. I have a large working repertoire, and I can mix 'em up a lot of different ways. I also have a solid group of "hits" including my own stuff and certain covers, that I can always rely on to ground the set and center myself. I have good control of dynamics, and I have been able to spend time in the quiet realms without feeling compelled to hurry into something upbeat. I've been able to pull off a stright fingerpicked version of "Popstar," and I've also put "Falling Star" across with quiet confidence. Stuff like "Pancho and Lefty" and "Broken Arrow" can get really quiet in the middle and I don't lose the audience. Tonight I played a lot of guitar solos; Cassidy (a request) was surprisingly successful. I played the parts very powerfully, and I flew into the jam with confidence. I like the fact that I didn't jam *into* anything. I played more Dead songs than I would ordinarily feel comfortable doing, but I did feel comfortable doing them. I played more cheesy '70s covers (along with the "real" stuff) than I thought I oughta, too. But I will focus on the ones that I am adding value to -- the ones that really speak in my voice. I am reaching very far back into my musical history (Cat Stevens!), seeing what works on what levels. But I'm going to limit the sentimental pop songs; for example, I'm not doing much to distinguish "Desperado" other than singing it probably a little too sweetly. "Mr. Tambourine Man" might be worth doing more often, with my arrangement (verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorusversechorus) that emphasizes the text rather than the trance. After I sang "Normal" I mentioned that the guy who wrote it was standing in the lobby of the Red Roof Inn when I arrived this afternoon. Then I ex- plained that actor Martin Mull started out as a songwriter. "If you're a certain age, you remember him as Barth Gimble in 'Fernwood 2night,' and if you're younger you remember him as Leon Carp, the boss in 'Roseanne.'" He's now a cardboard standup in a number of sizes, representing the Red Roof chain at the lobby door, on top of the TV set in the room, in their TV commercials, etc. Tonight during "Rocket Man" I said, "This is about being on tour, you know." I am choosing covers that have some relevance to my own story - "Sitting in Limbo," for example. Looking for ways to fit the "Wharf Rat"/"One Time One Night" elements together, what else I can frame with those verses. As the tour progresses, I'm figuring out what works and what feels good, what sort of narrative tone I'm going to take, and so on. I am increasingly confi- dent about the strength and character of my own songs. "Sovereign Soul" is very strong; I have gotten several compliments on the ideas expressed in that song. As I finished "River and Drown" tonight, I thought about dropping one chorus and consolidating the 3rd and 4th verses [and did so, to good effect, from here on out]. The new song, "High Guy," is very popular. The pieces are just now starting to sort themselves out. It needs some places to breathe. The repeats at the end of various verses need to be organized - some will be stretched. Next time I play it I will not repeat the first verse at the end, nor will I repeat the "high guy" section: that will be a bridge. There wil be no chorus nor refrain. "Alarmingly like high school" is the end. Five verses, bridge between 3rd and 4th verses. [Yesterday, after playing the song for some friends, I begua to consider dropping the "High guy" bridge altogether and letting the five verses stand on their own; the "bridge" is a bit of a non- sequitur, I think. Of course, this will mean I have to find a new title for the song!] I need to figure out what to do with the intro riff of "Listen," 'cause I sure didn't do anything worth hearing tonight. I think I'm gonna wind up playing exactly what I play with Eric, and forget about the bass line. I can't play the old fingerpicked way and get smoothly into the strum. Most importantly, I am giving people memorable experiences. I am getting memorable responses. The audiences are small, but larger than I have any right to expect on my first visit to a given town. The important part is connecting with each and every person who is there, and I am doing very well on that score. The experience of performing is exciting, satisfying and rewarding. I have it in me to do this well, and I am doing well consis- tently.
Alex Buck (apb) Sun 10 Oct 99 20:30
Good luck on your new life path, David. Speaking as a jazz fan and non-Deadhead, it sounds like you're still struggling to let go of something you've identified with for a long time. Others may have trouble accepting this as well. Your comment about who you want and don't want to recruit to the cause sounds to me like you know just how you want to stand on your own feet. Did you go to that great chili joint in Springfield? The name escapes me. For some reason I want to suggest you sneak into Lincoln's Tomb and do some recording. I bet the acoustics are great.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 23:00
Heh! I haven't spent enough time in Springfield to do any sightseeing -- it's usually a pretty quick trip on these motor tours.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 23:07
>still struggling to let go of something you've identified with for a long >time. Well, I'm enmeshed in it, for better or worse. I still earn my living put- ting GD music on the radio, and I co-produced the boxed set that's coming out November 9. I took a 20-year detour from my own musical path, and while I'm not sorry about all the interesting experiences I've had as a journalist, radio producer and Famous Deadhead, it really is time for me to make my own music the foremost thing.
Alex Buck (apb) Mon 11 Oct 99 07:17
Well, I spent fifteen years in the corporate and software worlds before chucking the whole thing and trying to make it as a writer. Havn't had anything published yet, and one person on the WELL whom I terminated a friendship with reminds me of my literay shortcomings on a regular basis. Perhaps this is getting a bit too theraputic. I look forward to reading your journals.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 08:52
>one person on the WELL whom I terminated a friendship with reminds me of my >literay shortcomings on a regular basis. That's unpleasant.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 08:56
Sunday, September 20, 1998 Barrelhouse Brewing Co., Cincinnati Crowd was big enough, and largely attentive, but strangely passive. Got good responses to lots of stuff - "Normal" was a biggie for this crowd, for example. I need to be a little better prepared to deal with the lack of input from the audience. Tonight, as in Chicago last night, I had an audience that was quiet and almost too respectful. I started out with a funny song, as per last night's notes, but it wasn't the right way to start this show. I coulda started with "Normal," heh-heh, but I am determined to put originals in all or most of the key spots in each set. My response to the lack of information in the audience reaction is to keep going, keeping between-songs time and chatter to a minimum until I have some sense of the atmosphere. The songs come in their own order, and I'm pretty happy with most of the decisions I've made. We've sold 17 Monicas and 10 HBMs, lots of GDH shirts and a few DG Tour shirts in 6 shows. We're getting lots of names for the mailing list, and lots of enthusiastic chatter from people between sets and after the show. I am getting across. In the places where the audience is small, I am getting *very* good responses from everyone there. That's what counts: I give it the best I've got no matter how many people are there. The Dead thing is working out okay, I think. I play the songs, but I don't call verbal attention to them. I find myself on occasion using them to cultivate the audience's attention, maybe even affection. I don't want to use them in climactic spots, though "Box of Rain" is pretty cathartic. It verges on a clonish entry, though, and I may have to drop it from the repertoire lest it become a cheap device. No such problems with "Gomorrah" or "Wharf Rat" - I own those songs, particularly the latter, the way I'm using it. The interleaving of "Wharf Rat" and "One Time one Night" was excellent tonight - I used the first verse ("A wise man" through "one night in America") of "One Time One Night" to establish the narrative, then skipped the first verse of "Wharf Rat" and went right to "My name is August West." All the way through to August's "I know she's been true to me," then over into the body of "One Time One Night," then back out through "I got up and wandered." I'm looking for narrative threads, not trying to pull a gimmick.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 09:42
Wednesday, September 23, 1998, 11:51pm In a car going home to Chicago from Bloomington IL Elroy's was easily the worst gig of the tour, from the performer's standpoint. Sports bar, with big screens showing beaucoup baseball at the other end of the room. Maybe eight or ten people who came out to hear me vs. 40-50 who couldn't care less -- including a table full of uninterested parties right in front of me. A couple of them seemed mightily amused by my shoes, in a way that momentarily put me in mind of getting bashed for 'em. I introduced "Sovereign Soul" as follows: "This song is about why I wear these shoes." [These are black leather shoes painted by Howard Rheingold. He made 'em for my wedding, and now I wear them for special occasions like gigs.] Still, there were a few very attentive souls, and I did deliver a strong, if laconic, performance. At first I stayed away from originals, but the Monica moment arrived, and after that I mixed 'em up -- even played three in a row at one point in the first set, I think. Second set I had a fighting chance. The large table of non-fans was gone, and early in set 2 half a dozen young hippie types arrived, and they paid good attention to my performance throughout. Got a few names for the mailing list, got paid $150 instead of the $100 guarantee, and we sold $53 worth of stuff -- one each of the CDs and t- shirts. A significantly better result than last night in Champaign. Tonight is Milwaukee, which was a good stop last time. My niece Caitlin (age 19, daughter of my sound-designer brother and both a musician and a live- sound person, who works for a local band called Little Blue Crunchy Things) is coming over from Madison to meet me at 5:30, and she can also help keep the stoner sound man in line. Tomorrow night, the tour ends with my second gig at the Heartland. My voice has held up well for the most part, though the tobacco smoke does take its toll. Friday, September 25, 1998 Heartland Cafe, Chicago The tour ended with a bang. Good crowd at the Heartland, and an enthusiastic response, too. Before the show I went over the list from my appearance there a week ago and made a list of the songs I hadn't played. I still wound up doing the dozen or so "core" songs, but I also did a lot of stuff in direct response to calls from the audience. At one point someone called for -- I can't remember which Roy Orbison song it was, but I diddled around a bit with the only Orbison song I know (knew!), "Pretty Woman." Didn't get too far before losing the changes altogether, but the audience took it in the spirit in which it was offered and forgave my aborted reading warmly. There was a table full of really young kids in the far right of my view, one of whom -- a tall skinny kid with pale blond dreads -- had been in the audience last Saturday and promised to return with more friends. There were actually several parties like that, a most gratifying sight. Someone in this teenage crew had called for "Dark Star," and I offered a light-hearted explanation that it is impossible for one person to "jam." Someone called out that it would be "sacrilege" anyway, which I also disputed, adding an anecdote about the horribly offended email I had gotten from the guy who heard me sing "Stella Blue" at the Fillmore 1/31 and thought that song should have been buried with Jerry. But in the second set, coming out of "Things We Said Today" and not really up for "Dixie Chicken" (which would have felt like a throwaway in this context), I found myself drifting into "Dark Star." At first I thought I might just play the chordal riff once and then move on, but I haven't really figured out what to do with "Scene of the Crime" as a solo piece and I didn't have another key-of-A item at my fingertips. So I went with "Dark Star," and it was kinda cute. This was a good night for me as a soloist -- I took some chances with single-note melodies, filling in chords where I could grab 'em -- and the "Dark star" was actually kinda cool. I sang the first verse, and ended it with the E minor following "...nightfall of diamonds." "You changed my mind," said a voice from the blond-dread-guy table. "You mean you DON'T want me to play 'Dark Star'?" I parried. Later he told me that I had shown him that it wasn't sacrilege to play "Dark Star" solo. Another interesting thing that happened at the Heartland last night was that I got into some interesting political rants. Between the third and fourth verses of "Monica" I delivered a spiel about the "hidden, undocumented, possibly illegal" fourth cut on the CD single, featuring a vocal solo by Bill Clinton, etc. And somewhere around that same point in the set I talked about the urgent necessity of VOTING (Katie, one of the restaurant owners, had told me she teaches politics at a college and registers voters there at the club); I cited the Dornan-Sanchez race [a congressional race in Orange County, California] as a good example of a few votes making a major difference. When I pointed a good-natured finger at the young blond dread guy, he replied that he was too young to vote! After the show, both John and Nancy noted that I seemed much more relaxed and talkative at this gig than I had in June. I thought that was interesting, because I felt pretty relaxed there the first time. But it is evidence of the tremendous progress I'm making. There is NOTHING like a concentrated series of solo gigs to sharpen all the performer's senses; I learned a lot about how to pace and construct a set (sometimes based on the need to protect my vocal chords, which were a bit creaky at the start of last night's show but which served me very well once I was warmed up. The Dead content issue was an interesting last night. LOTS of Deadheads in the crowd, and lots of requests for that material. I think I will learn "Rubin and Cherise" and"Stagger Lee" for the future, because they are great songs. Eight Dead songs may be a bit too much, statistically, but in the context I was operating in it was just about right. I think it's good to have songs like "Limbo" and (much less frequently) "El Paso" in there, because they please the Deadheads but also work on their own merit, and non- Deadheads (e.g. Michael James, the co-owner of the Heartland) can appreciate them on their own terms. As this very happy show came to an end, with owner Katie paying happy attention to my performance, I got the idea that I should come back to this place and do a solid week of performances, and really put some energy into promoting beyond the Deadhead world. The vibes in the club are just great; the audiences are intelligent and lively; the management and staff seem very pleased with what I'm doing. I remember what David Allen did at the Boarding House for the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, Steve Martin, et al., and I think there is a lot to be said for the extended engagement. Katie loves the idea, thinks we should do it in December, and urged me to call Michael about it ASAP.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 11 Oct 99 11:08
I liked the <zimby> tour diary, I'm glad you're doing one too, David. For reading, and as an idea for other artists and authors on the WELL to consider. For such folks, email to firstname.lastname@example.org would be the way to explore the idea.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 11:45
Some upcoming gigs: October 15-17: DG plays solo and with various friends at the MagnoliaFest at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near Live Oak, Florida. Call 904-249-7990 for information. Tuesday, October 19: Yianni's, 646 W. Tennessee, Tallahassee FL. 850-681-9565 Thursday, October 21, 11:00pm: DG opens for Blueground Undergrass at JP's, 1833 Norman Drive, Valdosta GA. 912-241-7436. Friday, October 22, 9pm: Red Light Cafe, 553 Amsterdam Ave., Atlanta. $8. 404-874-7828. Jimmy Young opens.
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:31
Ah yes, seems like only yesterday I was yelling rude/funny comments at David at-- what was the name of that long-defunct place in Ghirardelli Square.? The Rathskellar? The Drinking Gourd? Who knows, but he did pretty darn well even in those days, and I'm sure that performer wouldn't even recognize the confident one who now graces stages 'cross this great land. I've had a number of friends through the years who have tried to "make it" in music, and none of them have stuck with that path into our mutual middle age. So what a thrill it has been to see David, kind of puttering on the fringes for many years as he did his other career trips (yes, a few of us remember the BASS years and the crowded apartment on Lee Street) and now blossoming into a helluva singer/songwriter/performer, not fronting a Dead cover band, but delivering a fabulous cxollection of his own and others' soulful songs. It's as if he had to wait until he could do it on his own terms for it to feel right to make the Big Stab. And whether it leads to anything beyond the current level of small-but-satisfying, how wonderful to have been able to touch lives so personally and to communicate so intimately! Having done a series of book readings recently where audiences ranged from a paltry 10 or so up to about 80 (yay, Seattle!) I know that it's the depth of connection with the audience and not the size of the audience that matters most, so I'd say as long as you're reaching those handfuls of people, David, and you can stand to be on the road (something I know I couldn't bear) go out and make magic in the world! We need more troubadours!
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:57
Thanks, Blair. I'm having a great time! By the way, it was the Ghirardelli Cellar. That was a LONG time ago!
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 11 Oct 99 19:38
David, I still vividly remember the first time I ever heard you sing - solo acoustic, introduced by <mudshark> - at the very-short-lived Club 101 in San Rafael 7/10/92. You did mostly your own songs, as I recall, and you blew me away. You were also kind enough to provide me with a tape that to this day is always in my car. Even though I often saw your bands - Crazy Fingers and its variations, and the Reptiles - there was nothing that affected me like that first exposure to David Gans originals, solo and acoustic. I'm enjoying this journal, and really thrilled that now, people all over the country get to have the same kind of experience that I did so long ago. Are you still making soundboard tapes and if so, have you thought about selling those in addition to Monica and Home by Morning? The reason I ask is, I know how much that tape meant to me, and I imagine there are those for whom the tapes would be as meaningful...
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 20:26
From time to time I get an excellent-sounding digital tape of a well-played and -sung show. I have to do a lot of paperwork to market such a disc -- securing licenses for all the material by others -- and eventually I will get it together.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 20:39
Sunday, September 27, 11:00am Oakland I'm home! The Milwaukee show was not very well-attended, which is disappointing because it was a return engagement. But the finale in Chicago was a biggie, both creatively and financially. A great way to end the tour. I learned a lot on this trip. Sharpened a lot of my songs, found new ways to deliver some old favorites, came to terms with the Dead component of my repertoire and also with its '70s-heaviness (which might actually be an asset given some recent trends in the pop culture). Some of my favorite songs have not been heard much in recent years, and I may be in a position to turn some new audiences on to some great old stuff. My own songs really developed nicely on this trip. I've done some polishing and rewriting here and there, but a surprising number of my "old" songs are working very well exactly as they are. This tells me something very important about my confidence -- about my sense of deserving a place in front of these audiences that I never had when I was younger. "Sovereign Soul" is a song I wrote in the summer of 1994, just before my wedding. I sat down with the idea of writing a song for my wedding and this heavily libertarian declaration came out instead! But for some reason, it has taken me four years to get the song into my active repertoire. Finally, on this tour, it became a front-line number for me -- and it works *very* well. Got lots of comments on it at various gigs. And it *says* something -- something important and worthwhile. "Falling Star" is a delicate piece I wrote in 1971 or so, with a fingerpicking setting reminiscent of Crosby's "The Lee Shore." I composed an instrumental middle for it the day after a memorable acid trip. I never taught it to any band I've ever played with, and it hasn't been a consistent component of my solo shows until now. One important factor is that I now have the finger strength to perform it cleanly and the vocal skill to hit the high notes. For some weird reason, I didn't remember to do the middle section the first 6 times I played it on this tour -- I just did some improvising with open-string drones -- but at the last gig, I played the whole thing as originally envisioned, and it came across very strongly. Another weird song that I've only ever played solo is "The Nightmare," which has some odd time-signature stuff, huge dynamic excursions and hallucinatory lyrics. I deliver it fiercely these days, and fearlessly -- but I think until recently I was afraid it was just ridiculous. But now that I have some *standing* to be there on stage, I am finding the strength in my material and wondering why I've been so timid about it all these years. This tour has been a great process of finding the strength of my own stuff and seeing what of the covers really work for me, and figuring out how to present this collection of songs in a sequence that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. More than ever before, I am putting my own songs in the power spots in the show. I am also choosing covers for their relevance to my own emerging narrative rather than for their familiarity to the audience. I won't do just any Dead song, even when I've got a room full of Deadheads asking for their favorites: I do the ones that have weight for me. This is the transition from being a "cover" artist to being an original. It's about fucking time, considering that I've been writing songs since before I even started playing the guitar (my brother set two of my tortured teenage poems to music and then taught me the chords, and the rest is history). I don't think I could have taken a run at a real musical career much before now, 'cause I had a lot to learn as a person before I could hope to withstand the challenges I'm now facing. Plus, of course, I have the advantage of being nationally visible, albeit in a dreadfully limiting context. Transcending Famous Deadhead-hood has got to be easier than starting from a position of total invisibility.
Gordon Taylor (warfrat) Tue 12 Oct 99 08:52
While I haven't know David nearly as long as you others, I'm proud to say I know him, and fully respect the man, today. Of course, growing up a deadhead on the east coast, I heard of him long before I ever met him and one of my first GD books, "Playing In The Band", is now terribly worn-out and tattered from my flipping through it's pages so many times. It's not only an honor to know him and call him a friend, it's absolutely wonderful to watch this man transform himself from his status as "chief deadhead" (my words) to solo performer. Not only that, but to see him actually find so much joy in it all. "Follow your bliss" as Joseph Campbell put it so wisely and that is precisely what he is doing. More congrats to you, David and it is great to see these journal of yours, great insights of life on the road for a new solo performer, get the wider exposure it deserves. I stand in the wings or sit in the front row and applaud at every positive turn of events. And there seem to be many as of late.
John Henry, the (steeldrv) Tue 12 Oct 99 14:44
Uh, David, do you _really_ want to be in Chicago in December? I'm really enjoying this journal. Thanks much.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:21
I had a great time in Chicago last December! Got out just as the first snowflakes were falling...
David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:45
October 4, 1998 Oakland Starry Plough last night. First time there in several years. Not much of a crowd. Only two WELL people, and no one else I recognized. But there were some people there who heard about the show somewhere and showed up to check us out, and the important thing is that they got a very good show for their money. Chris Haugen bugged out on us to do a wedding gig in southern California, and we're all kinda pissed about that. He asked me to let him out of his promise to us several weeks ago, and I told him we couldn't do the gig without him. Then he called my machine while I was on the road and said he was going anyway, and he hoped it didn't cost him his chair in the band. We gave him some (mostly) good-natured shit about it at rehearsal last Monday, but I can't see booting him over it. If he does it again, that's another story. I was determined to deliver a great show even without our lead player, and dammit, we did deliver a great show. DG solo: Normal The Nightmare DG and Eric Rawlins (acoustic) Travelin' Back to Georgia Waltzing Across Texas I Wish It Would Rain Til I Gain Control Again What's Your Name? Yellow Moon Leave Me Wichita DG, ER and band: Wheels Jacqueline Jay's Song Travelin' Man Salisbury Plain Crazy Crazy Crazy The Minstrel Leavin' Louisiana in the Broad Daylight Cherokee Rider Live One Hooker River Tear My Stillhouse Down Broken Angels: Candyman (with Eric on BG vox) Popstar Headin' Home Already Broken Arrow An American Family-> Monica Lewinsky Black Peter-> El Paso Honeydew-> Cassidy-> Sultans of Swing Sovereign Soul Scene of the Crime That is almost exactly as pre-planned. I took the stage not knowing how many solo numbers I was gonna do, and I am not sure why I brought Eric in after only two songs. We skipped "Caroline" and went right to "What's Your Name?" because the energy level needed to go up at that spot. "El Paso" was an audible at the line of scrimmage, just 'cause it felt right. And we skiped "Gomorrah" after "Sultans of Swing" 'cause the crowd had thinned considerably and it felt like time to head for home. The weekly gig Eric and I do (at Anna's) is a lot of fun, and it makes gigs like last night work well because we really know how to sing together. It was nice to do it on a proper stage, through a proper PA, in front of an audience that was nominally there to hear us do it. And it's always a kick to play with the band. I thought that set went very well. I did pretty well as the lead guitarist throughout. I hit a few howlingly bad notes, but for the most part I felt solid and creative. I have been somewhat intimidated when the exhibitionist-type places come up - e.g. "Hooker River" - but I thought I played a good, inventive solo in there. The handoff to Jenny was smooth, and getting it back from her to do the patented riffs from the CD was also flawless. And since the show wasn't recorded, I will always remember it that way. The stage is tiny at the Plough. I stood right on top of my amp, which was tilted up at me. This arrangement worked okay - I could hear myself very well without needing to play too loud. I kept the earplugs in throughout the electric set, and I could always hear everything I needed to hear. Working with earplugs makes it very easy to concentrate on singing well, and I did sing well. The confidence I gained on the midwest tour is palpable. I wasn't defeated by the small turnout - I am determined to perform memorably every time I take the stage, and to figure out how to get people to come to the gigs. The Bay Area is a difficult market - everyone I talk to in the biz, pretty much, is worrying about how to improve their results (too much competition, too small a population, too far to travel to get to the clubs, etc etc etc.). At this point, I know I'm on to something. I may have exhausted the Deadhead audience after 20+ years of playing in Dead cover bands - or, more accurately, in bands that were perceived as Dead cover bands. I NEVER wanted to limit my musical horizons that way, and now more than ever, I don't. I am in the process of making my peace with that culture, keeping what works for me but limiting the Dead content in favor of my own material and a more eclectic set of influences. To a certain extent, right now I'm a man without a country. My unpleasant experiences in Deadland at the beginning of the year really took the wind out of my sails - I am, from one standpoint, The Man Who Wasn't Good Enough To Play With Phil - and in the brutally partisan Deadhead culture, losing that assocation meant losing my worth altogether. But the truth is, I didn't belong there in the first place. Playing with Phil was a lot of fun, but it was never about who I _really_ am as a musician. I got to play ONE original song with Phil; I have never felt that anyone in that scene (inside the Dead and out among the Heads) really paid much attention to my songwriting, which is the main thing about me. I need to get the attention of the non-Deadhead music audience, and I need to shed the image of the Famous Deadhead in order to do so. Out on tour in the Midwest, I attracted the kind of Deadheads I wanted to attract: the ones who appreciated my including that stuff in my set but who also reacted favorably to my own stuff, and the other covers I did. I'd like to find that kind of audience here at home, too. As much as I love playing with Eric, especially in the band context, I worry more than a little about diffusing my profile in the market. I have to get rid of the Deadhead connection and build an audience for ME ME ME, but I can't get a clear image around here because I appear in three different contexts. I don't want to give anything up, though. It's a dilemma. I can put my energy into developing my solo identity on the road and continue doing all the satisfying, fun stuff here at home. If I had a strong plan to raise my profile in the bay area, I would have to give some consideration to giving up the band and the duo, but I'm not prepared to do that to Eric and I'm not prepared to do that to myself. I am still thinking about what to do with the band, though. I have been increasingly impatient with my drummer, Clayton. We seem to have a hard time agreeing on tempo and groove these days - he seemed to be slowing stuff down a lot last night. I took "Sovereign Soul" at a much faster tempo than we rehearsed, and he fought me on it until I turned around and insisted we stick with the pace I had set. It worked, better than the tempo we had rehearsed. I can't blame Clayton for that - it was my initiative to scrap the rehearsed version - but I am the bandleader, and I am increasingly interested in making my instincts the law of the land. The slowing-down issue has been concerning me for the last several gigs, not just this one. Another thing that troubles me: I tried, AGAIN, to get the band cooking on "River and Drown" at rehearsal Monday night, and we AGAIN got nowhere. Clayton aborted the attempt, stating that he had no idea what to play on it and we had no time to develop anything worthwhile in the time remaining. He was right to abort the rehearsal, but I don't understand why the song is so hard for him.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:47
This just in, courtesy of Mary Eisenhart: < http://rollingstone.tunes.com/sections/artists/text/artistgen.asp?afl=&Loo kUp String=6018 >
David Gans (tnf) Wed 13 Oct 99 11:06
October 12, 1998 Sunday's show at Quixote's True Blue was a good one on all fronts. 40-50 people in this seriously Dead-oriented bar, run by serious Deadheads and named after a painting by their late father (featured on their t-shirt and posters). Every wall was covered with Dead posters -- when I dedicated "The Minstrel," all I had to do was say "This song is dedicated to that guy" and point to one of several large Garcia portraits on the wall. The set was appropriate Dead-heavy, but I never felt that my other material was unappreciated. The originals went over very well. I sang "Brokedown Palace" as well as I have ever sung anything, and I opened up the guitar part just a little between verses. I found lots of places to play guitar, and I am gaining more confidence. Playing solo this way requires me to stay down in first position a lot, so it's good that I have the strength to hold down those low notes, and I can confidently hold down that F on the low E string with my thumb. Bass runs and midrange embellishments are coming smoothly and imaginatively; I am illuminating the songs more and more effectively, and making transitions from song to song in engaging, surprising ways. The instrumental bridge of "Falling Star" wasn't terribly solid at first - gotta get those little-finger harmonics more solid. I should probably do a little less doodling between songs, but I don't think it's offensive to the audience -- and sometimes those nonspecific vamps turn into pre-song jams. Overall, I am happy with my non-predetermined approach to set lists. The song selections flow nicely, and I almost always get a good solid idea of what's next as I approach the end of the song I'm playing. Leave lots of room for audience input, too, of course. People went nuts for "Born to Be Wild." The medley that took off from there was totally unexpected. I had figured on going BTBW->Thunder Road, and in fact I had only intended to do BTBW through the first chorus. Instead, I played it all the way through, and then jammed off into Mr. Tambourine Man. Two verses of Tambourine before the first chorus, and then I dropped "Dear Mr. Fantasy" in there before returning for the rest of Tambourine. And then on into "Thunder Road." I am finding myself in command of this material, bringing the dynamics up and down in interesting ways, editing the lyrics on the fly, feeling the thematic and musical connections in a natural way that can't be a bad thing. I worry a bit, in the sober light of the morning after, about the hokeyness of all this hippie music -- but when I'm up there doing it, it works very well. People seem pleased by the song selections and the flow, and I am finding my own voice in this material. So what if a lot of it is 30 years old? Maybe it's time to bring some these songs back into the mainstream. Maybe it's time to bring myself into the mainstream. This gig did exactly what I needed it to do: drew a modest but entirely appreciative crowd not composed entirely of people I already knew; impressed the people who do know me; and continued my steady and satisfying development as a solo performer. I got some enthusiastic comments about my songwriting, from people who are definitely listening. Everybody was listening! You can hear it on the tapes. There are some good, solid silences in the songs, places where NO ONE is talking. They're all mine. I think I'm ready to get serious about doing this full-time.
be a straw (dwaite) Wed 13 Oct 99 13:47
crazy, crazy, crazy is one GREAT original tune david of your many.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 13 Oct 99 22:19
October 19, 1998 Just got back from MagnoliaFest, a lovely (second annual) 3-day event at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, a legendary spot in bluegrass history according to David Grisman. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the David Grisman Quintet, a Bluegrass Reunion (Dawg, Rowan, Vassar, Herb Pedersen and Jim Kerwin), Donna the Buffalo, Laura Love Band, and many more. I played a solo set in the "Cafe" - a tent over near the vending area - and Tom Constanten joined me on piano at the end for a nice acoustic "Dark Star." There was a cool passage near the end where we were playing "Dark Star" and "China Cat Sunflower" simultaneously. My original material went over very well, and so (of course) did the Dead stuff. I don't remember what exactly I played, but I remember playing Black Peter-> Born to Be Wild and then making the mistake of doing El Paso instead of Thunder Road. That threw the balance a little too far in the cheesy-Dead- song direction. A crowd-pleaser, but I shoulda done the other. Oh well. While I was singing "River and Drown" (my opener), I realized the song could be very specifically about this event. It is based on lots of campout hippie events, and other "on tour" scenes - but in many details, MagnoliaFest is what I am describing. That was a good feeling. Yesterday, Eric and I played on the main stage. We were supposed to be just before the DGQ, but Joe Craven was having the air travel day from Hell so they swapped Laura Love in after us. She sat on the stage and dug our set, and made some favorable comments to me after it was over. The admiration is mutual - I really enjoyed her set, and both Eric and I bought CDs. These festival gigs don't offer the luxury of a real sound check - you just get up there and they try to get things into the neighborhood of dialed in before you start playing for real. I got pretty much what I needed from the monitor guys, but Eric wasn't as assertive as he needed to be; he was kinda telling me what he needed, when he should have been telling the sound guys. I got impatient with him, and said, "Tell them what you need, for Christ's sake!" I was careful not to say it near the microphone, but my tone was unmistakably sharp and I felt awful about it immediately. He got his mix, and we started our set, but instead of being relaxed and warm, we were edgy and in a rush. We settled down after a couple of songs, and it went pretty well - though we edited the list on the fly and lost Eric's excellent "Wild Horse Valley" and the novelty number "What's Your Name" and something else, too. But we were very well-received. "Kilkelly" had some people in tears. The trip got off to a weird start. Our flight out of Oakland was delayed by mechanical problems, meaning we'd miss our Jax connection. So United booked us on a Delta flight out of SFO. Eric and I charged across the San Mateo Bridge, parked in the $35-a-day main lot, and made our flight. By the time we drove the 108 miles to our hotel in Jennings FL, it was 3am. There at the front desk was Larry Cumings, Dawg's sound guy and tour manager. What a trouper he is!
be a straw (dwaite) Thu 14 Oct 99 08:47
safe travels and calm winds on your trip this weekend... IT is this weekend isn't it?
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