Friday, August 6, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Cooperstown 2004-08-06

I'll confine my commentary to after the tourography entry and media, because this was Sonogasm's best show and it is worth appreciating on its own, without any context as distraction.  We were the second of three bands scheduled for the evening's entertainment following the "Pulse of Phoenix Arts Festival" and an Arizona Diamondbacks win over the Atlanta Braves by a score of four to two.


YouTube Link: Entire Show!
^The above link includes a "Track 0" of Ekosphere performing Evanescence's "Everybody's Fool" and a video of pre-show footage tacked on after our closer of "Working Man."


Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-08-06
Venue: Alice Cooperstown Restaurant
Location: Phoenix, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Ekosphere, Feral

Setlist:
1. Shinespark

2. Blue Instant
3. Schism (Tool)
4. Luna
5. The Truth Will Set Me Free
6. After You Fell Asleep
7. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)
8. Winter Moon
9. 21 Months
10. Working Man (Rush)


At the time, this was the largest crowd for which I had ever performed.  To put it simply, the crowd was awesome, the other bands were awesome, the sound was awesome, the venue took great care of us and was awesome, and everything was just... awesome.


The Super Friendz, Aaron, Mike, and Scott, had ditched Niki Kwik after her Ziggy's debacle in June and found a new frontwoman, Jenn Kujawski.  The band renamed themselves Ekosphere and played an abbreviated set with two covers, an agonizing Letters to Cleo song and Evanescence's "Everybody's Fool."  As it happened, I was there with camera in hand, and I documented that performance as well as Sonogasm's own show.  (See link to entire show above.)


Can you believe this was Jenn's first ever performance?  We were impressed.  Feral played after us, and though they were a bit more of a thrash thing, they were tight and competent and we sure can't find fault with that.


Our performance?  Despite some equipment issues, I'll take it as a finale and be thankful.  Shinespark shone.  Blue Instant was an instant classic.  Schism was furious.  Luna, played up-tempo, was the best we had ever played it.  Truth was crisp.  Asleep was okay, despite having aged poorly.  The Necro Dance was great fun.  Winter Moon came off brilliantly.  We nailed 21 months.  And finally, Working Man brought the house down and earned us a huge crowd response.  We rode off into the sunset on that high note.


So why break up Sonogasm if things were so great?


In short, all our failures to execute and get along finally came to a head.


The problem with Sonogasm was that it was a unanimocracy.  That meant we didn't do anything unless we all agreed to it.  And that, in turn, meant that no single creative vision could push the band to be great, but any one of us could hold the band back by our personal or professional flaws.


Compositionally, I lacked focus.  We started the band intending a classic metal sound with touches of prog, and our initial slate of songs was nicely aligned that way: Blue Instant, Truth, Luna, Winter Moon, and the experimental Unbinding.  I then wrote modern metal (Threads), alt-grunge (After You Fell Asleep), and mosh rock (Crystal).  The closest I ever returned to our focus was Shinespark, modern metal with a touch of prog.  And it was about to get worse -- I was writing alt-rock and southern rock (Aurora and other unfinished pieces).  No focus, no unified direction, no cohesion.


To make matters worse, Jeff and Chuck stopped writing music.  Chuck's first piece, Smoking Gun, never made it out of the practice room.  His second, Truth, was decent enough as a metal tune and had some authentic riffs.  Unfortunately, it was nearly unsingable -- vocal composition was not Chuck's strength.  Jeff wrote two songs, Luna and I Love You for Your Dirty Mind.  The latter seemed fun, but Jeff wasn't happy with it and he scrapped it.  Luna was technically superior, and in fact proggier than anything else we ever did, but it was so damned depressing I wanted to open a vein whenever I played it.  I'm sorry, Jeff -- your song is good, but I'm just not emo enough to embrace it.


Let it not be said that I was unwilling to savage my own work when it was deserved.  From among only the songs we actually performed live, I wrote:


  • Blue Instant -- Good, but could have used more structural development.  I can't come down too hard on this one because it became a crowd favorite, so obviously I did something right.
  • Winter Moon -- Too heavily derivative of the Maridia theme, poor chord progressions.  Unsingable lyrics in places.  Horrible key transitions.
  • Unbinding -- Too inchoate.  Scrapped, with some parts used years later in The Oblivion Path.
  • Threads -- Too derivative.  Stupid lyrics.  Ridiculous overall.
  • After You Fell Asleep -- Structure was finally getting somewhere, but insipid, whiny lyrics.  Good theme, but poor execution.  People who dug the song got tired of it, and it aged poorly.
  • Crystal -- Just terrible overall, never really coalesced, stupid theme, stupid lyrics, unsingable lyrics, banal melodies, tempo issues.
  • Shinespark -- This one I am happy with, and even still I'd like to develop a counterpoint theme and restructure the song to take advantage of the depth.


Did I miss any?  Oh, but that's not all.


My vocals were just not very good.  In 2010, when I was working with Aaron and Johan on Premium Blend, Johan said my vocals sounded good, better than before, but still had plenty of room for improvement.  This was after six years of pretty regular singing on my part since he had last heard me perform as part of Sonogasm.  So, essentially, Sonogasm featured my vocals roughly six years before they became good.  I had years of experience on the bass, and could play close to perfectly when not singing, but when I sang, my basslines got sloppy.  So there was a real skill issue there.


I won't criticize my bandmates too much here because they know their flaws well enough and this isn't a bashing session.  Suffice it to say from my own perspective that Jeff was talented but woefully undisciplined, while Chuck was experienced but struggled with timing.


There were personality clashes on top of that.  Chuck and Jeff didn't get along that well, and playing the peacemaker was starting to wear on my last nerve.  The epilogue to that is that even though I have known Jeff since kindergarten and only met Chuck as we began Sonogasm, Jeff and I ended up parting ways to some extent, while I am still in touch with Chuck.  Ah, unpredictable life.


There were other problems, but they just piled on.  We had no truck or van, just three cars, so bringing our gear to shows was always troublesome.  I lacked quality instruments and equipment, though Chuck and Jeff did okay in that regard.  Chuck was dealing with intermittent employment, while I was staring the approach of law school right in the face.  In the end, something had to give.  And that something was our band.


Wow!  If you made it reading this far into my narcissistic postmortem of the Sonogasm project, I am genuinely impressed.  I hope that this recounting of my experiences helps you in your own projects, whether musical or otherwise.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at The Sets 2004-07-02

We were excited about this show because The Sets was a newly renovated venue with a high capacity and supposedly strong attendance.  It had been built out of the former Pink-E's Pool Hall on Southern and Mill in Tempe, and while the billiards room was packed as always, we discovered to our horror that the music hall was a ghost town.  And then we discovered why.  They were charging seven bucks a head to get in. 


That may not sound like much to anyone reading now (I am typing this in 2010) but back then, our audiences were accustomed to getting into shows for a nominal cover charge or often no charge at all.  Covers of two drinks, $3 up front, or even $5 if it was a Saturday night would fly, but $7 was over the threshold.  We called our friends and told them to skip it. We used our guest-list slot so that Justin could run the camera.  I am not kidding.  This show was performed in front of no audience whatsoever.


Well, a band that has that experience can either shrivel up and die or be professional and play anyway.  The soundman kept busting in between songs and shortening our set, but we still managed to push eight songs through their PA system before we were cut off.  The venue might not have lived up to their end of the bargain, but we damned well delivered ours.


[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-07-02
Venue: The Sets
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): A whole slew of 'em, just as audience-less as we were

Setlist:
1. After You Fell Asleep

2. Threads
3. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)
4. 21 Months
5. Working Man (Rush)
6. Schism (Tool)
7. Shinespark
8. Blue Instant

We were sandbagging Working Man until the closing show in August, but with the soundman busting our chops and our general frustration with the situation, we were like "The hell with it, we're playing Rush!  Let's make this the best show nobody saw!"  Our cameraman, stalwart Justin, was certainly surprised and pleased, being the Rush fanatic he is.


We had planned this as a big breakout show in front of what we were told was going to be a huge crowd.  Our original planned setlist had about four more songs on it -- we would have played Truth, Luna, and Crystal, and we were planning to bring back Winter Moon for kicks -- and we would have held off on Working Man.  (As circumstances would have it, 100% of the originals we played at this show were written by me.)  Instead, we ended up giving Winter Moon its nostalgia slot at our next and final show.


Frustrations ran high after this show.  The band was basically done.  I knew I had law school on the horizon.  Jeff and Chuck weren't getting along and I was tired of being the voice of moderation.  We had functional problems.  We went in figuring that if things went really well, that would cure a lot of what ailed us.  Instead, it was a disaster.  And that set the stage for what wound up being Sonogasm's best show , hands down, just five weeks later in downtown Phoenix...

Friday, June 25, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Priceless Inn 2004-06-25

It was back to Boston's/Priceless Inn for a stealth show.  I was getting over a cold and we had two shows left booked before the band was going to disintegrate due to general frustration, so I didn't even document this one.  No video or audio, I'm sorry to report.  Which was a shame, because we actually got a decent turnout for this one... the end-of-the-month clip was working out pretty well, and we didn't even really recognize it at the time.


[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-06-25
Venue: Priceless Inn
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Ashes of Eden, Slip Mickey

Setlist:
1. Shinespark

2. The Truth Will Set Me Free
3. Schism (Tool)
4. Luna
5. Crystal
6. After You Fell Asleep
7. 21 Months
8. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)
9. Threads

What we were thinking closing the set with Threads, I have no idea.  This was just a strange, frustrating show, if memory serves... broken strings, no Blue Instant, time and staging issues... urgh.  Worst of all, we had some peeps show up and we didn't play as well for them as I would have liked.  The band's internal frustration might have been coloring my perception of the show, though.  I'll confine that discussion to the tourography entry for the Cooperstown show in August.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Ziggy's on Mill 2004-06-12

I was really happy to get this booking because I grew up in Tempe and I had longed to perform on Mill Avenue since I was just a kid.  Mill Avenue, for those of you not familiar, is the commercial "party district" that marks the western terminus of the campus of Arizona State University, and it served for years as something of a de facto cultural center for independent and up-and-coming bands.  Bands like the Gin Blossoms and Jimmy Eat World cut their teeth at the Mill Avenue pubs.  Perhaps Sonogasm could follow in their footsteps?  Alas, but no.


Speed 63 went on early and rocked a big crowd remarkably well.  Niki Kwik and the Super Friendz played next, and by the time we schlepped our gear on stage at (yawn) midnight, there was barely an audience left.  Niki was nice and all, but her performance was... was... well, it made us sound good, I'll leave it at that.  The Super Friendz went on to become Ekosphere, who joined us for our final show at Cooperstown, and their bassist Aaron went on to become one of my best buddies.  So plenty of good things came out of this performance, even though Sonogasm somehow failed to rocket to the top of the buzz charts.


The lesson of the night, of course, was never to play a venue where you have to schlep your gear up and down a stairwell.  No good!


[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-06-12
Venue: Ziggy's on Mill Avenue
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Speed 63, Niki Kwik and the Super Friendz

Setlist:
1. Shinespark

2. Blue Instant
3. Schism (Tool) including Sober interlude
4. The Truth Will Set Me Free
5. Luna
6. After You Fell Asleep
7. Threads
8. 21 Months
9. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)

We premiered "Shinespark" at this show, and even though Blue Instant came first and was better known by our audiences, I think Shinespark was the best song I wrote during the Sonogasm era.  It was a top-down design that actually integrated its concept (lightning as a metaphor for passion and determination) into the very structure of the song, building up gradually and exploding into an anthemic revel.  It is not a coincidence that this is essentially what happens when a player performs the "shinespark" move in various video games, such as those in the Metroid series.  Shinespark worked on every level, enough so that Jeff asked my permission for his next band, Dead Man's Gambit, to play it -- permission I happily granted.


Jeff broke a string during Schism, so Chuck and I improvised the interlude from Sober.  The drunken heckler who shouted for Tool was Jason "the British," one of my compadres from that time period.  Jason, buddy, I lost your phone number.  Send me a message or something.  Drinks are on me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Album Review: "Comalies" 2-CD Edition by Lacuna Coil (2004)

[I posted this album review to a progressive metal message board in 2004.  I gush too much and should have been more critical of the band, though in all fairness Comalies is considered even now to have been Lacuna Coil's high-water mark.  In the ongoing effort to recover and republish more and more of my writing from the past, no matter how poorly executed it might have been at the time, I present to you the following review.  Enjoy!]

 
LACUNA COIL - Comalies (2CD Edition)
Grade: A+ (10 out of a possible 10) - and it'd be higher if the scale allowed itSee end of article for comparative scoring.

 
Wow. It's a rare thing when a band comes along that instantly stakes its claim as the best in a genre, and an even rarer thing when it is creating that genre out of existing concepts. Rarer still is when that band can take a CD full of bonus material and make it worth buying the album all over again. With this release, Lacuna Coil has done so - by a wide margin. This release is a two-CD slipcase set containing the Comalies album from 2002 (disc 1) and a CD filled with amazing bonus material (disc 2), and it's priced the same as regular single-CD releases.

 
Those of you who have procrastinated getting into LC are actually being rewarded, in a sense, because this is the best possible first purchase you could make. Some of you heard LC being mentioned during 2003 when Evanescence was popular - you heard "Bring Me To Life" on the radio, and whether you dug it or not, you wondered if the tales of a true heavy rock band called LC with even better soaring female vocals could be real. It was very easy for the metal or progressive fan in all of us to stay away from Lacuna Coil, lest they become a flash in the pan and one of those bands whose CDs you would later be embarassed to admit you bought. But some of us recalled that The Gathering had been decent, and gave the Coil a chance. Those that did were rewarded with some of the most compelling and intricate songs written in years. The rest of you now have your chance to get on board before this band - appearing in 2004's Ozzfest concert tour - breaks wide open into mainstream rock popularity.

 
Lacuna Coil hail from Milan, Italy, and are a six piece band. Lead vocals are provided by the goddess-like Cristina Scabbia and the more straight-forward metal of her male counterpart Andrea Ferro. Seven-string guitars and five-string basses provide a satisfying metallic CRUNCH in their songs. The music is provided by Marco Coti Zelati (bass and keys), Cristiano Migliore (lead guitar), Marco Emanuele Biazzi (rhythm guitar), and Cristiano Mozzati (drums). Lacuna Coil premiered their first video, "Heaven's a Lie," in late 2003, and it rotated on MTV2 and Fuse for a while. May 29, 2004 saw the Headbanger's Ball debut of the "Swamped" video, a radio edit of track one off the Comalies album. The band also did a live acoustic performance of "Heaven's a Lie" on the show. Don't let "radio edit" fool you - this is no hack job. The radio edit of "Swamped" is a complete remix that brings Cristina's divine vocals and some of the lead guitar accents further into the forefront, where the original mix had them somewhat deeper down. Both music videos are included on the bonus CD in this package.

 
This paragraph is for those who are already fans of Lacuna Coil. Go get this CD. Seriously. The acoustic version of "Swamped" is worth the price of admission all by itself. It sounds *incredible*. They completely reworked the tune, with a tasty chord progression during the verses and some hauntingly beautiful suspended chordwork during the main riff and choruses. Andrea Ferro even backs up the chorus in a harmonic blend that must be heard to be believed. And just when you get to the end of the acoustic "Swamped," already long since satisfied with the money you spent on the CD, they play an acoustic "Unspoken" that exceeds your expectations once again. Spectacular. The bonus disc has the radio edits, studio acoustics of those two songs plus "Heaven's a Lie" and "Senzafine," and a live acoustic show of "HAL," "Senzafine," and "Aeon," plus the two music videos. Incredible.

 
In short, the new 2CD version of Comalies is as much a slam-dunk as you're ever going to see in today's anemic and bland music industry. This band is so good it's amazing it took so long for American audiences to learn about them. Italy - it gives us food, women, and music... a lot of great stuff to fit into just one boot!
-Mike Bahr, June 9, 2004

 
Comparative ratings and tracklistings:

 
LACUNA COIL "Comalies" 2CD Edition
Century Media (c)2004

 
Disc 1 - Comalies (same as original album)
  1. Swamped
  2. Heaven's a Lie
  3. Daylight Dancer
  4. Humane
  5. Self-Deception
  6. Aeon
  7. Tight Rope
  8. The Ghost Woman and the Hunter
  9. Unspoken
  10. Entwined
  11. The Prophet Said
  12. Angel's Punishment
  13. Comalies

 
Disc 2 - Acoustic (or at least that's what cddb is calling it)
  1. Heaven's a Lie (radio edit)
  2. Swamped (radio edit)
  3. Heaven's a Lie (acoustic)
  4. Swamped (acoustic)
  5. Unspoken (acoustic)
  6. Senzafine (acoustic)
  7. Heaven's a Lie (live WAAF acoustic)
  8. Senzafine (live WAAF acoustic)
  9. Aeon (live WAAF acoustic)
  10. Heaven's a Lie (quicktime video)
  11. Swamped (quicktime video)

 

Comparative ratings
Lacuna Coil "Comalies" (original version) B+ 8/10
Lacuna Coil "Unleashed Memories/Halflife" A- 9/10
Lacuna Coil "In a Reverie" B+ 8/10
Lacuna Coil s/t C+ 7/10
Metallica "St. Anger" F 2/10

Friday, May 28, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Priceless Inn 2004-05-28

It was back to Boston's/Priceless Inn for a Memorial Day weekend kicker-off-er show with a nice group of our nearest and dearest.  Justin ran the camera and did a good job directing some shots of each member of the band.  I especially like it when someone is doing that and gets good footage of the drummer, as Justin did in the clips from this show.  Drumming, done well, has great visual aesthetics.

[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-05-28
Venue: Priceless Inn
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Tykkus, Red Headed Step Chylde, Stygian Abyss, Storm Within

Setlist:
1. After You Fell Asleep

2. Threads
3. 21 Months
4. The Safety Dance (Grim & Necro version) (Men Without Hats)
5. Crystal
6. Luna
7. The Truth Will Set Me Free
8. Schism (Tool)
9. Blue Instant


We premiered "The Necro Dance," our evil and metallica cover of Men Without Hats' 1983 hit "The Safety Dance."  The crowd had a great laugh, but they were there bouncing their heads to the beat throughout it.  As I figure it, if I am on stage entertaining you, you are free to consume that entertainment as you like -- enthusiastically, apathetically, proactively, or disinterestedly -- but you're wasting your own fun if you wear a mask of indifference while inside you really want to boogie it up and enjoy yourself.  This, I think, is why mostly it is the "lame" people like parents and such who end up cutting loose and having a good time at wedding receptions.  The rest of us could learn a lot from them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Big Fish Pub 2004-05-19

Tempe's Big Fish Pub was one of the few music dive bars in the East Valley that was all-ages.  This was one of two "stealth shows" we played in May, leaving our usual friends and loved ones a breather while sharpening our craft in front of what we assumed would be indifferent or hostile audiences.  In keeping with the "all ages" theme, however, we did have a few visiting guests who had been unable to see us play up until that time due to their having been born too darned recently.  So they got to see us play in front of a room that, well, didn't respond much at all, but at least didn't hate us, and to them the whole "rock/metal club show" thing apparently seemed really cool, judging by their reactions afterward.


The opening band, La Tarea, played a funny Mexican grindcore cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya."  No, seriously.  It was pretty good.  I enjoyed it, anyway.


There is no video or audio of this show.  I hated to leave a show undocumented, but we had no idea what we were walking into, and I was reluctant to have a $700 video camera exposed to damage or theft when I was busy performing.


Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-05-19
Venue: Big Fish Pub
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): La Tarea, Kaos Banshees

Setlist:
1. After You Fell Asleep

2. Threads
3. 21 Months
4. Luna
5. Crystal
6. Blue Instant
7. The Truth Will Set Me Free
8. Schism (Tool)


One cool thing I remember about this show is that the venue had metal bar trellises over all their windows, and there was a howling spring rainstorm going on outside, and the streetlights and lightning bolts threw a spectacular display of light and shadow all across the ceiling and floor from the front of the venue while we played.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Big Fish Pub 2004-05-12

This was one of two "stealth shows" we played in May, leaving our usual friends and loved ones a breather while sharpening our craft in front of what we assumed would be indifferent or hostile audiences.  We were offered this gig about 90 minutes before stage time, so we basically held our usual weeknight practice in front of a few barflies and disinterested undergrads.


There is no video or audio of this show.  I hated to leave a show undocumented, but we had no idea what we were walking into, and I was reluctant to have a $700 video camera exposed to damage or theft when I was busy performing.


Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-05-12
Venue: Big Fish Pub
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Idiot Kin, Curbside Special

Setlist:
1. Threads
2. 21 Months
3. After You Fell Asleep
4. Schism (Tool)
5. Luna
6. The Truth Will Set Me Free
7. Blue Instant
8. Christian Woman (Type O Negative)

There wasn't much to say about this show.  A few spectators threw up the horns when we played our cover songs, but that was about as much attention as we rated.

Saturday, May 8, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Chasers 2004-05-08

Chasers is the south Scottsdale club that wishes it could have half the class of Hollywood Alley.  The only positives that come to mind are that they have a decent load-in area and decent stage lighting.  


The club itself is a dank dump, but the way the staff behaves, you'd think you were in a bistro brew pub off Fifth Street just west of the Waterfront.  If I'm going to be treated like a leper while I'm working, I'll just busk on Mill Avenue and probably bank a lot more cash doing it, thankyouverymuch.


[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-05-08
Venue: Chasers
Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Slaves for Scores, Dependency, Zara

Setlist:
1. Threads

2. 21 Months
3. After You Fell Asleep
4. Schism (Tool)
5. Luna
6. Crystal
7. The Truth Will Set Me Free
8. Christian Woman (Type O Negative)



We were cut off on clock before we could play Blue Instant, which had never been omitted from any of our setlists before (and rightfully not, because it was our best song at the time and our first original song that people actually asked me to play by name).  Fortunately, I hadn't made any promises before this particular show.


This might be the best live take of "Crystal" we had -- that song was a woofer and I should have pitched it long before, but now that it's all over, I'm happy that I documented everything as well as I did, so as to preserve such pleasant surprises.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Tourography: Restorative Justice live at Prof. Coyle's 2004-05-07

This was a completely unplanned show, pushing the limits of what I knew from memory (without using chord charts) on the acoustic guitar.  This once-in-a-lifetime performance of "Restorative Justice," an impromptu ad-hoc band named after the class of the same name taught by the host of the evening's revelry, would not have been possible except that I happened to have my guitar in the trunk of my car.  I had been practicing with Sonogasm earlier in the afternoon before heading out to Professor Coyle's end-of-semester party.

Band: Restorative Justice
Date: 2004-05-07
Venue: Professor Coyle's Apartment
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals: Shane Schoenrock (Two and a Half Weeks)

Guitars, backing vocals: Mike Bahr (Sonogasm)

Other act(s): none

Setlist:
1. Selling the Drama (Live)

2. Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
3. Black (Pearl Jam)
4. Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
5. Twelve-Bar Blues (Traditional)
- followed by acoustic-guitar karaoke for everyone who cared to sing

Nothin' but good, clean drunken fun.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Tourography: Sonogasm live at Priceless Inn 2004-04-30

I have a number of thoughts on this show and the band's experiences in general during this time period, so I'll address those after the tourography entry.  Here was the show:


[YouTube video clip to be added]

Band: Sonogasm
Date: 2004-04-30
Venue: Priceless Inn
Location: Tempe, AZ

Vocals, Bass: Mike Bahr
Guitars: Jeff Mink
Drums: Chuck Prime

Other act(s): Nexus, Zara, Dog Will Hunt, Pinga

Setlist:
1. The Truth Will Set Me Free

2. Blue Instant
3. Christian Woman (Type O Negative)
4. Threads
5. F.H.G. (Tenacious D)
6. After You Fell Asleep
7. 21 Months
8. The Reason (Hoobastank)
9. Schism (Tool)


I held my birthday bash at Priceless Inn, featuring the third Sonogasm club show in as many weeks, and the third of four in less than the span of a month.  This is, I think, a teachable moment for any of you reading this who are erstwhile semi-pro musicians hoping to make it big:


Don't play shows all the time.  


Seriously, don't.


You hear about all these bands who were known for being ironman tourers and just grinding it week in and week out, like King's X, Sister Hazel, and Jimmy Eat World.  And a neophyte band wants to show that they, too, have the discipline and dedication and balls to grind it out like that.  Naturally, I understand that.  Of course you want to do that -- this is your band and you plan to give it your best effort.


But here's the thing -- those bands didn't reach that operational tempo until they had several albums in their catalog and at least a modicum of fan support on a broad regional, national, or international level.  When you're a new band just getting your sea legs, you don't have that.  And that means that your girlfriends and your buddies and even your family are going to get tired of seeing you play 83% the same set every week for months.  No matter how supportive they are, there comes a point where you just can't ask them to come watch you play eight songs that they've already heard.


I consider it a fortunate thing that Sonogasm had enough acquaintances to have friendlies at virtually every show, and thick enough skin not to sweat it too bad when we didn't draw a crowd.  (In fact, we specifically scheduled a few "stealth" shows just to work our chops in front of a crowd of neutrals/hostiles/apathetics.)  But we definitely put our nearest and dearest through a lot by scheduling so many shows close together on 4/14, 4/21, 4/30, and then 5/7.  Way too many shows.  And here's what happened: 4/14 almost nobody made it, 4/21 a few people made it (because we had already publicized the 4/30 birthday party), 4/30 we had a big group because of my birthday, and 5/8 we had like two or three of our peeps.  Counting the chick who ran the camera for us.


Lesson learned.  We did a few mid-May stealth shows, and didn't book another gig we told anyone about until 5/28.  And, lo and behold... a whole bunch of our peeps made it out to see us!  Once a month was good, and three or four times a year would have been better.  Three or four really primo, really well-developed shows where we put some budget into it, pulled out all the stops, played the tightest stuff we had, and had someone dedicated to managing the video -- not just watching the camera run, but directing the action.  When my friend Matt does his huge poker parties at his home, he does it three or four times a year.  I think that's the frequency if you want to create an entertainment experience that is truly "special" that people will not want to miss.


In terms of notes on this particular show, I actually saved our "website news" blurb, and here is what I had to say:



We had a great group of our fans on hand for this one.  Hoobastank went over like a lead balloon.  My own fault.  Tool and Type O were heavy, and better for the sort of crowd we draw.  

The truth is, people go to see cover bands for different reasons than they go to see original bands.  Part of what makes covers special is when an original band plays them, because that makes an instant connection between the music you already know and their original songs that are new to you.  So the lesson I definitely learned is to pick the songs we play more carefully.  Just because I *can* play a given song does not mean we *should*.

Couldn't have said it better myself.