As I pessimistically stumble forward into the holiday season licking my wounds from the worst year I've ever had in the Tampa Bay regional entertainment market, I must acknowledge several things that I am, in fact, truly grateful for. Topping that list is the unwavering support of my wife, Tara. As a veteran music biz entrepreneur, she understands that there are peaks and valleys aplenty in this racket and she is always there to bolster my confidence whenever the chips appear to be down. I'm extremely grateful to my musical colleagues in both Doobius and Band O'Frenz for the good times we share on stages in the local market--which is some severely shark-infested water since there are too many bands and not enough venues to support them. I'm grateful to my band and crew family in Jon Oliva's Pain, for those real glimpses of sunshine from the stages of larger venues when those opportunities present themselves and Mr. Oliva's obligations to the little act known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra actually allow us to get out there and "do it to it." Those moments are the cherries on my musical sundae. As 2015 looms on the horizon, I'm really looking forward to a more productive year--with the aid of Felonius Piper, Pat Buffo, Dana Walsh, Larry & Steve McCray, Lance Quinn, and Jon Oliva. Our new recording project will be hitting the studio this month and proceeding at a gallop. Working with these talented individuals is a dream sequence for me, and after all--getting involved in music as a teenager was a dream from the 'git-go.' That spark has never burned out, and that dream is still alive and well. Cheers, folks!
I had the opportunity to go to Dana Walsh's studio yesterday evening and work on a new track for a project that's being spear-headed by Felonius Piper (I've already dubbed it the "Trans-Piperian Orchestra"). I can't disclose too much about it at this point, but there will definitely be some heavy hitters involved with this. The real gist of this blog is to note that it was my first opportunity to take my newly customized Fender P-J bass in my session and give it a whirl. Courtesy of Granville Guitars, the bass (known affectionately as 'Red') was just loaded with new EMG pick ups, new wiring, and an 18 volt battery pack. Between Mr. Walsh and myself, we were amazed at how beautifully Red recorded. Essentially, I just opened up both pick ups and the tone knob, and Dana set the predominantly EQ flat. The tone of this bass is just fantastic! I hadn't heard any advance demos of the track itself (a new composition by Pat Buffo), but by "steam rolling" through the tune I had the arrangement down and the bass track within an hour of arriving. This left enough session time for Pat to hit the booth for vocal takes. All in all, we managed to get a lot of work done in a relatively short period of time--in spite of some electrical storm action that hindered us for the better part of an hour. I'm looking forward to the next round of recording; it's always a pleasure to work with pros of this caliber and exciting to put some fresh grooves down. Cheers!
Totally looking forward to laying down bass tracks with Sonny Joe Harlan this Wednesday! Sonny and I played together in Rebel Pride about 10 years ago, and he also did all of the drum tracks on my 2004 recording project that predominantly featured Matt LaPorte. I should hasten to mention he's gained international notoriety as the guitarist for the Murder Junkies. (PS--stay tuned for "Recording News" - Volume 2!)
I worked a trio gig in Bradenton, FL at Motorworks Brewery yesterday; Chris Tripp had texted me a few days earlier to ask if I was available. I leapt at the chance to fill out the weekend calendar, naturally. The line-up consisted of Chris, myself, and DJ Dan from 'Bon Echo'--thus we performed as the Bon Echo Trio (seems I never really know who's performing on the gigs I get these days--I just show up and do my thing). Motorworks is spacious on the inside; very clean and contemporary, and boasts a huge beer garden outside their back doors (gratefully, we performed on the indoor stage where the air conditioning was perfect). As a bit of a beer fanatic, I enjoyed everything I could swig down--most notably a few Bitburgers (the first of those I'd sipped since Bonn, Germany in 2012 with the Jon Oliva's Pain gang), and a Green Goblin cider--but the stand-out for me was Sam Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout (a U.K. brew). That got a Five Star rating from me! The staff was very friendly, upbeat, and super-accommodating. Sadly, I didn't sample of Motorworks' own brews--which gives me a perfect excuse for my next jaunt down there (seems they were quite pleased with our show, so I hope that translates into a return engagement). More info on Motorworks can be found here: http://motorworksbrewing.com/ or via Facebook. If you find yourself heading south over the Skyway Bridge, I strongly recommend making a detour in their direction.
I've decided that I will no longer refer to my 'blog' as a 'blog'--I will refer to these entries as my "Blitchfest." Others may blog--but I will most assuredly continue to blog and bitch simultaneously. This doesn't make me, in any way, shape, or form 'unique'--it just means my blog now has a bitchier/more colorful title! We are now rounding the corner from July into August, and these hot summer doldrums in the Tampa Bay area may subside a little as a result. Happily, I'll be performing with my friends in the band Audio Reign this Friday night at Lenny's in Seffner, FL--and then I will turn my attentions to a duo performance with y longtime partner Chris Tripp for a matinee show on Sunday at the Porpoise Pub in Seminole--which is always a great gig (and thankfully, very close to home--since I always seem to 'over party' whenever I'm in their fin-like clutches). In the meanwhile, rehearsals for the ProgPower XV show with my brothers in Jon Oliva's Pain are at the boiling point--we're still about 6 weeks away from that monolithic concert, and we are brimming with anticipation for hitting the stage there. I personally have my hopes set very high for some tour action on the back end of that show--but only time--and Mr. Oliva's personal schedule--will tell if that is going to be realized. That said, I think the other groovy cats involved are hungry for the same action, so keep your fingers crossed. I know I am...
Wow, July 18th--this would've been Dana Jennings' 53rd birthday. 'Nuff said there, since I wouldn't have any reason to post a blog pertaining to music were it not for my younger brother. As any interested parties will have noted from previous blogs, releasing a CD in the modern world can be a tricky endeavor. Without some kind of promotional 'push' from some kind of 'record label' translates back into the entire 'Do-It-Yourself' nature that facilitated the entire premise behind the "Great Beyond" CD to begin with. I'm certain I've annoyed my share of folks with my incessant advertisements, but that's a part of the necessary juju when putting forth some kind of musical product, in this day and age. Too many times, I've heard friends say things like, "If we only had a record deal, we'd take the world by storm." Well--especially if you're on American soil--guess again. The fact is--it takes a lot of hard work to write an album's worth of material, for most folks. In my own case and defense, not having a 'standing band' may have worked to my detriment as far as the shortfall would be concerned--but NOT having a band was a blessing in disguise, and it afforded producer James Fox and myself a luxury in that the players that recorded--track by track--were the people that actually fit the songs. Now, some admitted 'cons'.... A 'standing band' has the luxury of rehearsing their asses off before making a statement when tracking. This is a huge plus. Bands like Led Zeppelin recorded their first albums in 8 or 9 (prior to mixes/editing) hours as a result of this extension of the 6P rule--"Prior Practice Prevents Piss-Poor Performance." I guess the summation of my long-winded diatribe is this: what I/we achieved on the "Great Beyond" CD boils down to a lot of musically spontaneous combustion. And everyone involved brought a pack of matches to the "Bonfire of the Insanities." Knowing now what hard work writing and recording an album is, start to finish, from a technical level (and getting over the fear of putting your musical/emotional heart into a public forum for others to judge), I would gladly do it again--and I certainly have more songs at the ready. A few blogs back, I wrote about the "learning curve" of the "Brave New Whirl"--i.e., marketing and sales through various websites. I was extremely embarrassed to learn that Reverb Nation had released quite a few CDs with Track #1, "Twisted Carny," appearing twice (back to back) on the CD. That has been rectified--and were I a famous and successful artist I would suggest that you were lucky to receive a 'rare collector's item' of this nature. But instead, as stated prior, I'm a little embarrassed by it. In fact, not to slam Reverb Nation for the other great artist services they provide--I cant figure out how this lameness got past them. Oh, well--stay tuned. It's never less than a 5 star/ 4 ring circus here. I certainly would welcome anyone's wisdom as to how they have circumvented some of the pitfalls of self-promotion with regard to the situations posed above in this blog. Thanks, folks!
The long, hot summer months in west central Florida can certainly take their toll on a soul. Business got slow at my day gig, and as a result I got laid off a few weeks back--left to my devices as a freelance artist and musician, which is a struggle even on its best day. And a conundrum--I should be out hitting the jam sessions in Pinellas County and looking for pick-up gigs, but without the petrol in the gas tank inevitably I'm parked on my ass at home. It's rather depressing, but as a 'career musician' I'm no stranger to adversity or rejection. In the meanwhile, I have my family both on the homefront and in rehearsals with the JOP gang to keep my spirits elevated, and that's a true blessing. And then there's friends like Chris Tripp and Kerry Vallancourt, both of whom flip gigs my way when they come up. Thus, I remain optimistic that things will ultimately get better if I keep my head up and keep on keeping on. I've always known that if you don't stay in the game (even if that translates into warming the bench from time to time), you won't get to play. Period. And a negative "poor me" attitude will garner even less over the long haul. There ain't no cure for the summertime blues, as stated by Eddie Cochran (and later, The Who)--other than picking up my chosen instrument and making that maple neck absorb some serious voodoo. And as Mr. James Marshall Hendrix once observed, "That's all right, I still got my guitar Look out now..."
I'll be teaming up with Chris Tripp again this weekend for more musical fun and games...on Friday, July 4th (that's today, if you hadn't noticed) we'll be hanging at Dixie Dockside in Riverview, FL as part of Tampa Bay Music Network's acoustic showcase. Dixie Dockside is a cool venue perched right on the Alafia River, so if you've never been there and you're in the vicinity I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity to drop in, nab a cold drink, and say hello! Festivities there kick off 5PMish. Sunday, July 6th finds Chris and I bringing the full band (The Bar Code) into the Porpoise Pub in Seminole from 4 to 8PM--so bring your hangover along and seek some fitting liquid remedies from the fine nurses (bar staff) there. Lastly, I wanted to mention that pre-sales are now available for Jon Oliva's Pain t-shirts commemorating our upcoming "Streets - Revisited" concert on September 13 at the ProgPower festival in Atlanta, GA. The concert has been sold out for almost a year in advance, but you can still be a part of the celebration with this super-special t-shirt--which was a collaborative effort on the parts of Mr. Jon Oliva, Mr. Chris Kinder, and myself. This design went through too many inceptions to count in order to make sure it was simply perfect! Lastly--as always--thanks for tuning in to my blog, and CHEERS! Happy Independence Day (here it comes) -- support independent music with a purchase of the "Great Beyond" CD right here on my Reverb Nation page!
This past Friday night, Mrs. J and I pointed "Bubba" toward Zephyrhills, FL for a gig at Jerry's Crystal Bar ("Bubba" is an affectionate nickname for our '98 Mercury Tracer--an abbreviation of sorts for "Dream Bubble"--since dreaming is what generally occurs in that vehicle when Mrs. J is not along for the ride). The Crystal Bar was founded in 1954, so it is ipso facto an historic structure--largely due to having been owned by the same family since its inception. Whilst conversing with our house sound engineer (Bruce, who has been there for 11 years), I was informed that there is only one other business in Zephyrhills (the local hardware store) that shares those 'old timey' credentials--but he also cited the hardware store was on its last leg (no doubt being squeezed out by Lowe's, or Home Depot, or even Walmart). This is the not-so-new vanishing prairie. But I digress... The Crystal Bar had a very nice stage set up, and a standing (Hartke) bass rig (plus drums). The rhythm section (Pat Buffo and myself on this engagement) needed to merely walk in with bass guitar and drum sticks. I met several very cool patrons whilst there, and was taken aback by one of the owners who requested an introduction to me. During the course of our conversation, she explained that they love the musicians who traipse through their doorway--and they take care of them. She suggested I grab a brew--but I told her Mrs. J had one waiting for me at the table. "There are plenty more where that came from," she said. Over all, I'd say we gave them a pretty good show. And when all was said and done, I had no tab whatsoever--which I equate to being a modern miracle since I certainly wasn't shy about bathing myself in Heinekens all night long. Musicians rating: I give this establishment--and their lovely staff--a 25 out of a possible 10. This should be the rule, and not the exception in the regional entertainment market. Cheers, folks!
A big debt of thanks goes out to Tony Corner and Trevor Hazel from Firebrand Rock Radio's "Spins From The Bins" show (www.firebrandrr.co.uk). Not only did they slot me fourth on the show (after Rush, Thin Lizzy, and the Dan Reed Network), but I'm extremely flattered by the high praise I received. To quote Trevor Hazel: "Musicians and music fans in the Tampa Bay area have known Jason Jennings as a solid bassist and consummate sideman for decades. If he's not off shaking the timbers of Europe's festival stages with Jon Oliva's Pain, he's laying down a cool groove somewhere there in the bay area. The new album just released is a great example of the kind of musician's musician he is. It's a collection of solidly composed rockin' tunes that capture his musical sensibilities from years of experience. Each track has its own unique character due to the diverse cast of players he brought in to work with him; local players for whom a record like this is truly a labor of love; the love of music and of a great player whose life's work has and will continue to shine brightly in an already sunny place." I'm looking forward to doing an interview on air upcoming; meanwhile stay tuned in to my blog posts for more news. Cheers, mates!