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Chris Baron / Blog

Last Weekly Weagle, Goodbye Happy Hour Thursdays

And thus, 15 months of Weekly Weagle draws to a close for Thursday evenings. It was a tremendously musical year for me, and it all started when Lisa Lepine passed my name to Alex Widman of the White Eagle, and he agreed to take a chance on me as a host. I used my weekly happy hour time slot to give back to the local community that had supported me as a songwriter around Portland for the last several years. Each week, I invited special guests to perform a set. When I took the stage myself, I tried to play different songs every week, mostly so the bartenders and regulars would not get bored. On Thursday December 18th, I had my Final Weekly Weagle, and I'd like to tell you about the seven local phenoms that were invited to perform: Shane Brown, Noah Stroup, Andrew Goncalves, John Rankin, Dan Weber, Dan Dover, and The Grodie Bros. --- I think of Shane's music as "bluesy grunge-reggae." Its very paced, and bass-heavy, and often lyrically dark…and he has developed a pop-reggae stylization that is very catchy. Shane is a special songwriter, and is going to go on to do great things. --- Noah Stroup was the bass player in Maryspeak, and we made our album together in 2004, in Corvallis Oregon. After the band drifted apart, we all did our separate things; I moved on to Evelate and Huge Sally, and Noah formed Stairway Denied as the lead singer. His bluesy pipes and solid rhythm-guitar playing are very cool. He has a new band together, and I can't wait to see them! --- Andrew Goncalves just released his first-ever solo album, called "Fire Inside." I know every single song on it, because I was lucky enough to be around when he was writing it! He would perform them live at cool venues like White Eagle for my happy hour spot, Pacific City Music Festival, and sometimes even with his trio Boa Saida in 2012-2013. --- John Rankin I have been a fan of for about 4 years now, first getting to know him through Daniel Work's community (The Noted), and then following his band Commonly Courteous around. His Soul & Roll style resounds with anyone who loves music, and he has some of the better dynamic senses I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. --- Dan Weber is a very such successful country-style singer-songwriter, traveling around the country playing house concerts. He has an album out as of 2013, "Ash and Bone", and is set to record a brand new Live album in March 2015. He writes deeply anthemic local folk songs, always wears a cowboy hat, and Always Totally Brings it when he performs; one of the most 'mindful' performers I've ever seen. --- Dan Dover is a local legend. He is a great poet in his own right, but he also does something that I admire very much: puts the local community First. He encourages, he hosts song circles and house concerts, he finds, he networks, he brings people together and helps them realize the importance of Feeling Great. He is a tremendous man and his partner Cheryl helped push me to be the songwriter I am today by giving me a chance one dusty night at the Buffalo Gap in southwest Portland. --- The Grodie Bros are community builders, just like Dan & Cheryl. They host Pacific City Music Fest every year, host concerts and parties of their own, and enthusiastically support all that is good about local music. Uncle Spud has never written a song of his own, but luckily, Rich Waggs handles that, and Spud sings, and Piers adds a solid third to their wildly lovable lineup. I love their John Prine covers, and I love their originals more than that, and I love them as people the most of all. Thank you to everyone who helped make White Eagle special from 2013-2014, Thursday Happy Hour!

Artichoke Music, November 21st.

Another Great night at Artichoke Music. Joe Tomaino played a Real Set there, as a solo artist, with an acoustic guitar…standing up! He played "Light A Fire", one of my favorite rock songs of his, and "Ocean", his sweet-one-minute-fingerpicker. I also especially enjoyed his 2-mic technique, where the copper one gets a whole lotta reverb, and only the most dynamic of attentions. It was nice to see my friends Vicki and Britta there, their first time to Artichoke…and even Megan came (Very rare for one of my sets). Joe's family was in town, visiting from Reno NV. And also, his brother, our very own Crabass, made his way to Artichoke to support. Joe and Jesse and I all sang "End Of Line" together for Joe's first song. K8 was there with the camera, and I think a "Live @ Artichoke" Dvd might be in the works...I played 4 covers: "The Perfect Space", "Bring Your Love To Me", "Dying Day", and "Don't Fence Me In". To Richard Columbo, the legendary host of Friday Night Coffeehouse, I would say this: Keep the mustache for 25 more years, and PLEASE keep hosting Friday nights! Also of note: Don Wheatley's 18-minute story about his grandfather, and a bit of his family history. Wow. Every time I see Don, I just want to give him a Huge Hug. If you ever see him live, make sure you ask him to perform his "…we will have a good time…" song…In conclusion, I really appreciate everything that Artichoke Music and Richard Columbo do. Cheers to Them!

Pro-ism

Some musicians take umbrage at being called "hobbyist". After all, they have played and performed and practiced their instruments for many, many years. How can they be a "hobbyist" if, whenever they touch their instrument, they impress everyone for miles around with their pomp and classy skills? Here's my take. Once you have: - - - mechanics - ability to replicate - some catalog of memorized original pieces/riffs/sections - - - Then you can Begin to work towards "being a Professional." You can begin to work towards marketing/auditioning your material. You can begin to work towards a "more perfect stage presence". You can begin to work towards a more "professional studio-time presence". You can begin working towards obtaining your own paid contracts. And only then, at this last point, can you honestly call yourself a Professional Musician. It does not matter "how many years you've been playing"; " How expensive or cutting-edge" your gear is; "How great your attitude is" every week at practice; "How creative" your friends tell you that you are; "How creative" that you FEEL you are. These all help make you a "good musician"…but there is that literal aspect of the definition: a Professional Musician secures paid contracts. You can play in a band that gets paid to play, but if you are not the one that obtains a contract, you are a "hired hand", a "studio musician", a "backing musician"…you can't say that you are Real Professional. In that instance, to say that you are is an insult to the hard work and risk that the real Professionals make and take. Another important aspect, more important than gear and weekly attitude and praise from friends: A Professional Musician will always strive to be Better...strive to constantly identify faults or failures; strive to create new and interesting methods; strive Constantly to achieve new personal goals. Like a professional athlete. The best of the best of the best would be the most personally humble and self-critical, and more interested in elevating the level of their band or teammates (in the interest of "succeeding" or "winning") than in personal credit or accolades.

ROLE-Play

How do you tell someone who is extremely talented and full of themselves on their instrument How to play their instrument in a particular song? Its very, very tricky. Almost impossible. Its a skill I've been working on for close to 15 years. I am not especially great at it, and don't really know anyone who is. An effective way of communicating this seems to vary by the person. Some people are easy to direct, others are not. If you say something wrong, maybe even with the wrong inflection, you plant seeds for problems down the road, Even if you can convince that musician to "play it the way you want it to be played" in that particular instance. A very challenging thing, to Lead a Band. In my experience, successful music projects come to fruition when each band member gets an opportunity to fully explore their chosen instrument and exercise their Role. ESPECIALLY at the Beginning. If you want to be a harmonic or melodic player in the band, bring harmonies and melodies, and make them ready-to-go, and communicate them clearly to your bandmates. OWN it: its Yours. If you want to creatively contribute, and you are the percussionist: bring rhythm ideas, like for example "this beat" into "that beat", or just simply: "How about THIS beat, Uh!". The bass player; the fiddle player; the keys player...should just write sweet, signature riffs. Bring it on! I suppose if you really want to be a lyricist, but are uncomfortable with melody and don't want to sing, you can try to bring in poems, and see if the melody and harmony Roles need that extra help; but this might be a hard sell. Having roles defined is not boring or restrictive: its Efficient. Likewise, having a "formula" for your band's sound is not boring or restrictive: its efficient. And ultimately, it allows everyone to take as much creative control as they are comfortable taking, without stagnating progress in petty arguments over "how fair" everything is. I think that each band member sticking into a Role at the beginning of a creative music project is extremely important. I am speaking only from personal experience here. There are probably social and group-psychology theories on the subject, but I will not reference those. There is a recent documentary by/about Chris Theile, a bluegrass songwriter and performer, called "Building A Band." There are plenty of ideas and lots of realistic and practical information there. But, I will only offer it as a footnote that you are welcome to explore, should you not already be fast asleep by this incredibly boring and presumptuous blog entry.

Artichoke Music, reflections on Oct 25 show

Traditionally, the day after a Big show like Artichoke Music on a Saturday, words and wiles will fly out of me into a blog. This writing is coming 2 weeks later; after having listened to the audio recording a few times through; and seeing a few raw video clips courtesy of K8. I have been in and around Artichoke Music since Richard and Jim first bought the place in 2005. By attrition, on their honored stage, I confounded many with my various twists and antics; transitioning from a Rock&Roll artist to a funky-folk storyteller. I also found a home ("…this must be Artichoke…") to express my temperamental compositional whims. Joe Bass and Steve John Waters performed at Artichoke for the first time on Saturday October 25th. Joe had been in the building only once (on a "scouting mission" for our concert-to-be). Steve had come to see The Tummybuckles in October 2013, but other than that was unfamiliar with the scene there. I was proud to introduce them to the community. We three played a pair of sets that were a little more on the "rock arena" side than the room was used to…but ultimately, after 2 months of preparation, Joe and Steve and I were able to fit our honest sound into the confines of the established culture. We were joined by my trusted friends Woody Moran and Karma on a few numbers. It was an Honor to have them as special guests. Thanks to Russ (capturing the audio!), and K8 (3 cameras!), we have a way to mark this concert as a launching point for future success with this project. A DvD to come, and potentially, an original new album. This weekend, Saturday November 8th, this same trio will be bringing our Hard Rock Set to Ash Street Saloon in downtown Portland…a vastly different musical set will be witnessed there, a contrast to our Artichoke presentation and a glance at another side of our collective wide-ranging personalities. Looking forward to seeing you around the bend, thank you for reading.

The Canopy

I have been lucky enough to see quite a few amazing live shows in my life. Its actually pretty hard to pick a top five. Sometimes the bands are simply tremendously memorable performers, like Wolfmother, or The Deftones, or Live. Other times, however, they are sharing something else, something MORE. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Avett Brothers, 311, Floater, Incubus, Victor Wooten, Dave Matthews Band, Rage Against The Machine…these groups go way beyond the music itself, the albums themselves, the classic lyrics and riffs even. There is Wisdom in their craft. A ageless element that does not depend on "The Times". A universal attitude that, without particularly knowing each other, they all tap into collectively. They bind the souls of generations together. CULTURE. My #1 most favorite show I had ever seen was the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Rose Garden in Portland, a huge arena show for the album "By The Way" (2002). I went with Joe Bass, and The Flaming Lips opened. I had actually not been a fan of that Chili's album so far…the songs that made it on the radio as singles to that point were just "ok" to me. Once we got there, though, the thing that struck me about RHCP was that the whole band, all four of them, were so Completely Invested in the music and the moments. Watching them was inspiring, because you KNEW that there was no backup plan. There was no going-through-the-big-arena-tour-motions. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis was actually sick that night; a big part of the magic of the show and the drama was him just simply overcoming it for the sheer love of performing and singing. It was the way a live show should have been, and it has been firmly entrenched in my mind as a defining moment in my budding dream of being a real, living songwriter. And now, I LOVE THAT ALBUM (pssst: buy it). Last weekend, I saw The Avett Brothers at the Britt Amphitheater in southern Oregon. It was the best show I've ever seen in my life. Absolute Tops. They overtook the Chilis, after a decade of other shows by hundreds of bands big and small. Again, I was not a fan of their new album coming in, "Magpie & The Dandelion" (2014), as much as their others. Now, after seeing it live, I LOVE IT. Again, the Avetts and their backing band were all so completely enveloped and invested in the music and the production that it was awe-inspiring. They have a way of connecting and involving the community of fans in a way that I have not seen other internationally famous contemporary bands do. They remind me of my development as a fan of live music with early 311…The Avett Brothers sell a Mood with their show, and whether or not they play "your favorite songs" on any given night, you leave completely satisfied…because its really all about THE CULTURE, not the songs or the lyrics or the skill of the members (original or guests) or the music itself. I mean, it IS all of those things…but…its the Family of Fans & Band that is the most resounding. I figured out that THAT is what I want to see in an artist in the live setting. I don't want them to just write a song or two that speaks to me. I want them to craft a canopy under which we can all gather at our leisure.

I.Love.This.Song. All of a sudden.

Cole Porter. Bing Crosby. Roy Orbison. Willie Nelson. David Byrne. The Killers. These guys were onto something. And now, for no particular reason I can discern, other than I woke up with it one day in my head, and then for the next three days could not get it out...I'm onto it too! Recognize it? "Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above...don't fence me in...let me ride through the wide open country that I love...don't fence me in...let me be by myself in the evening breeze, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, send me off forever but I ask you please, don't fence me in...Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle underneath the western sky...on my cayuse let me wander over yonder till I see the mountains rise...I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences, gaze at the moon till I lose my senses, I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences...don't fence me in..." And we're OFF!

Brand New Website, Soon.

About 2 years ago, Kris Farm had an idea for a website system that was dynamic, bright, and easy to update using simple social media apps. We had www.SearchlightsInMexico.com set up for this purpose. Generation #1 Looked very impressive, with bright full-color photos and lots of information. However, the initial coding idea turned out to be limiting in a few key areas. With "Light Up The Sky" out now, and the website www.searchlightsinmexico.com printed on the packaging as the place-to-connect, the second generation is going to go live very soon! Check back periodically for the slick new generation!

Band Names, Part 1/6

Whats in a name? Fate will explain…I've had enough pain, and my thoughts I just can't contain. I have a professional goal with music: to "make it" into the greater public sphere with a full band.  I am willing to reach this goal as a solo artist...but I would greatly prefer a "band sound."  To me, this concept is no different than any corporate worker having a goal of a series of promotions at their day job.  However, a corporate worker is generally not surrounded by co-workers who are hobbyists.  I don't want to be held back by hobbyist-mentalities dominating my music projects, any more than bandmates with their respective careers of their choosing would want me to try to push them away from their goals with my band activities. There is currently a new project being discussed.  I would really prefer to approach it in the macro sense.  At this juncture, there is irritated resistance within the group to my desire for the Project Name/Brand be related to my name, my past work, or my future goals as a musician.  I am facing this resistance head-on, because I need to be able to carry on with the songs I produce for this project if this particular group decides to disband or never is able to make it into the greater public sphere for whatever reason.  The band name can be *anything, I just need it to help Me out.  This does not mean my full name.  I'm definitely not into that.  I am not a prima donna, and there has never been any evidence of this.  I am totally into collaboration, and there is 15 years of evidence of that.  The reason I need the name to revolve around me is because I take this music thing Seriously, Professionally, and with a long-term Vision.  Even if it is simply a (very) valued hobby for the others, I can work with that disjoint if there is a Brand.  This concept should not affect the standard hobbyist bandmate in the slightest. Really, a good question for each band member is: "What do YOU want out of this band?"  I was never drawn to having my name in the band at any point in my past.  I have a 15-year-history of actively avoiding it.  If anything, "Baron __ " or " __ Baron" would be the absolute most I can imagine accepting.  Although, after thinking about this for a long while, and considering how many bands I've been in and how much career momentum has withered due to disbandment, I kind of wish I had called every group I was in "Chris Baron & The Tummybuckles", "Chris Baron & Evelate", "Chris Baron & Searchlights"...and so forth.  Just in hindsight.  It would have made Today a whole lot easier to work with. Anyway, the point is, my dear new bandmates: Why Not?  That is a rhetorical question. Part 2, then?

Band Names, Part 2/6

Its hard to explain. These voices, they eat at my brain, and resistance is draining. Why not help me out with a serious professional goal?  I have always been completely collaborative and democratic, and that has resulted in some GREAT music in the catalogue.  At the same time, collaborating with hobbyists as equals...has also resulted in some woeful long-term opportunity-cost for me.  I am really in search of some sort of serious band, in the long-run.  I have been in search of that my whole life.  The kind of band that, if given the opportunity, would absolutely not hold back an aggressive gamble in "going for it" (something really musically cool...and a goal of being Recognized for it). I am ok with having this particular new project be agreed upon as a totally fun side project, a hobby for me as well...and if that were to be decided to be the case, I would definitely continue to search for the ultimate band for myself on the side, and I would not write songs for this particular project.  My career priority list would re-structure thusly: 1) Looking for my ultimate collaborative/backing/visionary/fully-committed project 2) Chris Baron Music (solo artist) 3) My new ROCKIN' side project with my friends Mr Bass & Mr Drums! My preference is to make this new band priority number one.  For one thing, we're hot.  And I like it alot. But this will require the concession of the name. Working with me in this fashion will cause no need to quit jobs, cut back hours, increase rehearsal time, start writing songs themselves, or really change anything that they are already doing (I appreciate everything they do already).  It would mean only that my name be included in the band name as a Brand, so that I can do the work I need to do for my career goals.  A general group consensus on this peripheral fundamental point is necessary before I go any further with my efforts.  I have only recently put my finger on the fact that this is the issue that is holding me back from all the hilarious band name suggestions so far. Indeed, I asked myself throughout the past week, including a few sleepless nights: What is my primary goal for The Band? and I discovered that I, personally, want three things, deep down. 1) TO MAKE A RECORD IS MY PRIMARY GOAL. 2) TO BE IN A BAND THAT PLAYS THE SONGS I WRITE, AS I WRITE THEM. 3) TO FIRMLY POSESS A BRAND THAT I CAN CARRY FORWARD MYSELF IF WE CEASE, OR NEVER CRACK THE GREATER PUBLIC SPHERE. Stop reading now if you get the point. Continue to PART 3 if you want me to go more into detail...cuz I feel like writing this all down right now.