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Sentimental Value / Blog

How things went, and what's ahead

So, we had a great time at last Monday's audition. Preparations went well, and with only minor mistakes, we had a good run through. Lots of great talent in the room while we were there, and from all we saw on FB, that was the trend all day for the judges. Quite the mixed blessing, by judging, they got to see all kinds of great live music samples from various genres, but the trade-off is deciding which ones they can squeeze into the performance schedule. When everyone's awesome, but only so many slots are available, how do you decide?

Devon spent the rest of the week getting back on track with school, and he's into a new marking period now, so hopefully things will stay that way.

Last night, the two of us jammed for a couple of hours, working on the set list for tonight's show, its flow, any rough spots that need polished, etc. Today's a pile of chore work, then some rehearsal time, a family dinner, then we load up and have a great time doing what we do live.

Tonight, we're on at 9, playing an acoustic set, then there are two other bands performing. The last is a heavy metal band. No idea about the middle slot's genre, but given the two extremes, it could be anything. No matter what, we're going to have fun, then settle in and catch the rest. We may not play outside our genres, but we sure do love to listen. That being said, it's going to be after 1 when we get home. Good thing tomorrow's Sunday.

What's ahead: Well, we're still actively looking for venues where we'd be a good fit. We're going to be settling in and getting some way-overdue recording done, both video and audio, so we can get some sample material up, and songs for sale. Once that's taken care of, we're thinking that it'll be easier to point people to our press kit, music samples and get booked.

We've been spoiled the last two years by having good working relationships with venues and booking agents. Branching out, and finding new places is forcing us to work harder ... and that's all to the good. We're looking forward to the challenges, and can't wait for warmer weather, summer stages, and all the fun that comes with it.

Keep checking back, we'll be getting content up soon.

Big week ahead and why we do it.

Today's chock full of activities in preparation for a really big week ahead. Stuart's tracking a new song for a contest, with a submission deadline of tomorrow night, while, and at the same time, arranging a few of our originals into a 5 minute or less medley for an audition tomorrow evening. Oh, and we've got a gig next Saturday evening out at the Phoenix Cafe, in Hazel Park that we're getting ready for, too. We're still waiting on the time details from the booking agent, but we've been assured that we are performing early and the music is scheduled so that it gets progressively harder as the night goes on, starting acoustic and ending with full on heavy metal. Interesting plan, that. I can't wait to see how it works out.

In other news, we've been out, catching a lot of live shows lately. Last weekend, we saw The Potter's Field, and Mike Stevens pack the Trinity House Theater, in Livonia, and last night, Bobby Pennock and Luti Erbeznick did the same at Crazy Wisdom, in Ann Arbor.

All four performers have a few things in common. They all have incredible songs, generally play acoustic (Potter's Field adds electric on some songs), and they can all sing in their given style like nobody's business. Each very different, but each, very good. Mike's a raspy story teller that makes you feel like you're right there with him, Rochelle is a powerhouse, while her partner, John is very laid back and relaxed, like you're sharing songs over coffee. Bobby's clear voice and dynamic range is warm and inviting, while Luti brings tears to your eyes with the sheer beauty of his voice, especially combined with his touching lyrics. Most importantly though, their songs are so good that they don't need a spectacle just to make you pay attention. No dancing girls, no pyrotechnics, no jumbo screens. Just an acoustic guitar, a voice, and a completely captivated audience.

It's hard to value how your own performance rates against others, but we try. We're always working to improve, to do better. What we aren't trying to do is distract you with bells and whistles, we're trying to hone our craft, a little at a time, so that we too can hold a room breathless, bring them along stomping and cheering through a song, or draw a tear. It happens sometimes, and when it does, it's pure magic. It's why we keep pushing on. The desire to relive those moments.

The hunt continues

Last year, we had a relatively easy time finding enough performance opportunities without really working, and kind of took it for granted. This year, it's another story. A lot of our favorite venues have closed their doors, and our weekday daytime availability has changed.

That being said, we taking this opportunity to explore new avenues, reach out to new venues, and broaden the horizon as it were. Traveling a little farther afield, exploring venues that friends have enjoyed performing at, and trying to get into various summer concert events is the goal at present.

Historically, we don't start performing until late May or early June, but should you know of a venue within a few hours of Westland, MI that you think we'd be a good fit for, or you'd like to split a show, please let us know.

In the meantime, rehearsal, and arranging a lot of new material continues, and we've requested an audition in a bit over a week for Chelsea's summer concert series, and we're tentatively set for performing at the end of the month at the Phoenix Cafe. Once details are solidified on that, we'll have more information for you.

Have a great weekend, Stuart Sentimental Value

Happy New Year!

As 2013 winds down, and thoughts shift to the possibilities that 2014 has in store, we can't help but reflect on the past few years we've had.

2012 was a year of beginnings, with a lot of growth, and we had a wonderful time meeting new friends, playing new venues, and figuring out all kinds of things we needed to now in order to be a functioning band.

2013 was a year of transformations. We played out even more, and saw setbacks as well as triumphs. Health issues plagued Dawn throughout our gigging season, and Bridget took much of the year off, but Devon really came into his own on bass, and stepped up on vocals. Our sound became a lot more solid, and we began to really enjoy ourselves on stage.

This past year, we've had to say farewell to a few of our favorite venues, as the economy has taken its toll. doors have been closed, and locations sold. Mentobe, which gave both Stuart, and the band our performing starts, and The Lighthouse Cafe, which has hosted the band, and Stuart's solo work, are two that we're really going to miss.

We've also said hello to new locations, ranging from nursing homes and farmers markets to cafes, and look forward to continuing to push into new venues.

We were fortunate enough to win some new gear, which has helped out tremendously, and in our down time, we're hoping to spend more time recording so that we have something available for fans by the time 2014's touring season begins.

We'll keep you posted as dates and locations get a little closer. Have a great new year!

December's here ...

With a wonderful Thanksgiving behind us, and full bellies to be thankful for, we're on the home stretch for the holiday season. With two christmas concerts this month, holiday parties and activities, and a lot of rehearsals left, we'll be caroling our way to December 25th. Unfortunately, Dawn's been having some severe Asthma complications lately. Despite the fact that she's been working her tail off on the guitar, she might not make it to the shows, and even if she makes it out, she might not be able to perform. We're pulling for her, and the Doctors are doing what they can to get her back to normal. (The allergy test was interesting, with a lot of welts 3 days later)

I've (Stuart) been writing another Christmas song this weekend, while in a turkey induced coma. I've got to thank Boyce Avenue for this one, as I was working on learning one of their covers and they use a weird tuning (CGCFCC from low to high if you're interested). I got distracted and stopped learnng the song, but began playing with the tuning, and experimenting to see what I could come up with. Before I knew it, the guitar instrumental was done, and the words pretty much wrote themselves soon after. I'm not sure if we'll have a full band arrangement done in time for this years shows, but who knows, it might happen, or I may play it solo if there's time.

Devon was just in the holiday prade held by a neighboring city, along with his high school marching band. The weather was a bit brisk, but sunny, and not too cold, and it looked like he had fun. We were there, cheering him along on the sidelines. Even his Grandmother managed to make it down from Ontario to watch.

I don't know about you, but we're hold-outs on holiday decorations. No lights, no tree, no nothing post-Thanksgiving related, until we're actually post-Thanksgiving. That being said, we didin't actually have time to get our tree up this weekend. Between my Mother visiting, parades, lots of cooking and eating, a band rehearsal this evening, etc., we just ran out of time. I guess we'll have to tackle that tradition one evening this week. Last year, we got two trees up, one in the living room, and one in the basement. This year, with Bridget's drums and bells in the living room for rehearsals (Dawn gets too cold in the basement), we'll have to wait until the weekend before Christmas to put up the second tree, if we even bother.

How about you? Are you a 0, 1, or more than 1 tree kind of person? Real or artificial? Any unusual traditions you'd like to share? For us, we carried on Dawn's family tradition of watching the original star wars movies, and added watching the Doctor Who's Christmas special. We typically do at least one holiday concert as well, which is a great way of sharing the holiday season with all of you! Hope you can make it to either the Ferndale, or White Lake Market shows (of course, you're free to hang out for both, if you're so inclined. ;) )

From all of us, to all of you, Have a great holiday!

Stuart Sentimental Value

Halloween down, Thanksgiving on its way

Yup, that's right, we're not skipping ahead to that December holiday jsut yet. Despite having two holiday shows in December, and the rehearsals for said holiday shows, we're taking things one holiday at a time.

Oddly enough, this Halloween, despite the decorations, the lights, the costumes and parties, we didn't really get any kids. Three kids showed up at once, and that was it. Poor grown ups, having to eat all that candy that the kids didn't want badly enough to brave some rain. :)

First half of the fall school semester is down, grades posted, and Marching band season has come to a close. Devon's band didn't make it to states this year, but gave it a great try. Thankfully, the injuries are healing, and they're gearing up for the upcoming Thanksgiving parade.

With stores getting more eager to get the holiday shopping frenzy underway months in advance, for us, it's having the opposite effect. We don't want to be the ones that keep people working instead of spending time with their family over Thanksgiving, and we really didn't need to see trees and lights along side school supplies back in September.

Don't get us wrong, we like Christmas, love it really. The lights, trees, ornaments, music, etc., all have their place, just not 7 months a year. As musicians, we have to brush up on our carols, write new holiday songs, work up new and interesting arrangements etc. in advance of the actual holdiay, so maybe that's why we're hesitant to flip the switch early. If Christmas music is accepted from September through Januuary, then we'd have to start rehearsing even earlier, and before you know it, it's Rudolph and Frosty all year long.

Okay, soapbox dismount. Other fun: A few new open mic nights have started up. Trinity House Theater, in Livonia (a gem of a venue that Stuart and Dawn have both been lucky enough to step on to) has begun an open mic on Tuesdays, hosted by Steve Kovich. I think it's every other Tuesday, but I'm not sure. Their second event this coming Tuesday, for just $5 bucks.

Also, the Leather Bottle restaurant has started a songwriters open mic. All original content only, every Monday night. It's hosted by John Finan, and uses the same PA that was present at Mentobe Cafe before their unfortunate closing. It's rumored that Stuart will be hosting the open mic on December 23rd and 30th, and we'd love to have you out to listen, share, dine, or just say hi.

In unfortunate news, The Lighthouse Cafe, in Milan, MI is closing their doors on December 31st, so we will not be performing there in February. We're going to miss that place. Great food, wonderful owners, and Ken Eby is a great musician and host of their concert series and their Wednesday open mic's. It's a disturbing trend of late. Cafes with any character and individuality are closing their doors, forced out of business by the economy, the rush of lour high-speed life, and competition by the local super-chain of caffein suppliers.

So, bounced around a bit on this one, didn't I. Hope you could follow along alright. Have any thoughts? We'd love to hear them. Till next time,

Sentimental Value

Fall colors, candy, celebrating friendship

With the changing of the leaves, the dropping temperatures, and the need for truss rod adjustments on all the guitars, it must be fall. The last of our farmers market shows is over, and, while we've had a great abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, we always hate to see the summer season end.

With the last couple of market shows, we acquired our Halloween pumpkin, ready to be turned into something special in a week's time. Still no acquisition of candy, though, as we've found that getting it early leads to needing to go out again at the last minute. Something about having no will power, I suspect.

Another sign of the changing of seasons is the Marching Band, which has been competing for a little while now, with Devon playing trumpet. They've fought hard to stay in the fight, and this weekend's competition is their only hope of making it to the State Finals. We know that folks who don't have a marching band background likely don't think of these kids as hard core, but I assure you, the gruelling schedule, stresses and physical effort needed to sustain themselves throughout the summer and fall seasons is extreme. Last weekend, there was no small number of injured participants, and crutches and slings were present wherever you looked. Those too injured to continue stood in the sidelines, with tear-filled eyes, devestated because they couldn't press on. These kids are indeed athletes.

As we change gears from performing a couple of times a week to the school schedule, we've finally begun recording an album. It's been something we've wanted to do for a while, and the wheels are finally in motion. We've also started working on Christmas concert(s), with one booked, another in talks, and hopefully a third nailed down before too long. We no longer have our favorite venue, as it, and many of our local cafe's have been closing their doors or going up for sale, so we're looking further afield for a new holiday concert home.

Stuart's continued to write songs, though at a more sedate pace, following his attempt at the 50/90 challenge. He managed 20 new songs, rather than the goal of 50, but considering how busy life got, that's not bad at all, and we're been using quite a few of them in shows recently, with good response.

Most recently, we had the good fortune of catching up with a musical friend, who had to move to Florida earlier this year. She came back for a week, and many of our musical peers gathered around the Trinity House Theater stage, and swapped songs until way to late at night, having a grand time with one another. Idell's been missed, and it was great to have her back, even if just for a short visit. Seeing her band, Tangled Sisters reunited was a rare and special treat.

We wish you all well, as we continue the rush towards all the holidays. Have a great Halloween, Thanksgiving, and whatever version of Christmas you celebrate. Bye for now,

Sentimental Value

Back to school, just not quite yet

Ah, school is either already here, or just about to descend on the youth of Michigan. It's the same for us here at Sentimental Value, but we're not ready to give up on summer just yet. You see, once school resumes, the kids drop out of performing for the vast majority of our shows, so that they can focus on their studies, and we've got one more pre-school show on the books this coming Saturday.

Last week, Devon headed off to Marching Band camp for the week, after spending the week before at his high school, preparing. Next week, he's at it most of the week as well. All that marching and playing the trumpet is a sure sign that we're about to loose him for a few months.

Meanwhile, the packets are being picked up, forms filled out, and returned to the schools, and the shopping begins, clothes, supplies, oh joy.

Last weekend, we played the Lighthouse Coffee Co, in Milan, MI, and tested out our new mixer (thanks PreSonus, for the prize package), and used the Capture software to record the entire show. Slowly wrapping my head around the new recording suite, I'm gradually taking that show's multi-track audio and turning it into mp3's and .wav files for streaming and for sale/download. If time allows, we may even have a self-published demo for sale next weekend ... not likely, but you never know. :)

With a long weekend coming, our final café show before school begins, audio mixing and editing to do, and more rehearsals, it's going to be a busy week. Add to that the day job, and the fact that I'm about ten songs behind the pace for completing 50/90 so far (fifty new songs in 90 days), and busy doesn't begin to cover it.

Anyway, you don't want to miss this Saturday at the Plymouth Coffee Bean. We go on at 8:50, with an opener at 8. We have a few more mid-day weekend shows, and a few solo mid-week shows at farmer's markets throughout the area, then a break until the holidays, where we'll likely do a holiday concert or two.

Take care all, hope to see you soon,

Stuart - Sentimental Value

Full Calendar

With Summer going full swing, and our show schedule doing the same, it's been hard to find a spare moment to sit down and blog about all that's been going on. Let's see if we can catch you all up...

Socially, we've been to a lot of local live shows, doing our part to support the local music scene, even when we're not performing.

We've had a few breaks in the schedule worked in, so that we could catch up with friends and family. We spent a week with Stuart's family and friends in Ontario, which was really nice, and Bridget got an extra week with Grandma, which was a blessing for everyone.

Devon managed to head to West Virginia with his scout troop, and did some white water rafting for a week. He even survived the experience!

Meanwhile, Dawn's been plugging away on a heavy college load, all through the spring and summer semesters, and battling a variety of low threat, but high annoyance illnesses that have kept her off the show circuit most of the summer. We're hoping that she recovers quickly, and can finish out the season with a bang.

Stuart's been doing what he does best, having foolishly decided to participate in the 50/90, a songwriting challenge, with the goal of writing 50 songs in 90 days, starting July 4th, he's been cranking out tunes nearly every day, and many have turned out good enough to be performed.

Mostly, we're taking things one day at a time, rehearsing for shows, adding new material, spending time together, and performing.

In big news, Stuart managed to win the PreSonus Video Contest, in which he talked of why we use Studio One as our DAW of choice, and people voted him to victory. We'll be getting a StudioLive 16.0.2 mixer, and the latest professional version of Studio One shortly, so we can start recording our live shows, and finally stop compromising on inputs at live shows. You see, our home mixer is too big to fit in the car with all of us and our gear, and our small mixer only has enough channels for half our band, before we start making tough choices about what to plug in, so we're pretty excited!

If you're in town, we've got some cafe shows coming up this month:

Saturday, August 3, 2012 Mentobe Cafe, in Farmington 7-9 pm

Saturday, August 17, 2012 The Lighthouse Coffee Co, in Milan 7-9 pm

Saturday, August 30, 2012 The Plymouth Coffee Bean, in Plymouth 8-10

Of our upcoming shows, these three are the best for listening in comfort, though we'd love to see you at any of hour outdoor shows too. :)

Hope your summer's been a blast. We'd love to hear about it!

Ramping up for the Summer Season

Spring weather finally arrived, and we've got a fair number of shows lined up. We'll be posting details soon, and we're still looking to add more.

With the warmer weather and school nearing completion, Stuart is transitioning away from his solo acoustic shows towards the band work, while Dawn and the kids refresh the repertoir, so May is a time of transition.

With the warmer weather, our new neighborhood has discovered our music over fences and as they walk past the front yard, while we jam either on the porch or the deck, so that secret's out, and so far, we're getting positive reviews, so we're thankful that we haven't annoyed anyone :)

Aside from music, we're still getting situated in the new house, resolving transportation issues, bbq'ing, and doing what we can with school, work, and life.

Mother's Day was pretty good on our end, with Stuart's mum (Brittish) coming in from Canada for a 4 day visit. Great food, fun family time, and some Doctor Who (our one TV addiction, again, Brittish).

Hope your spring is going well,

- Sentimental Value, The Band. :)

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