Last week i was contacted by a neighbor to see if the Pennies would be interested in playing party music for a hog roast on Saturday the 3rd. Rus and Roxanne had other commitments but Cheli thought we could pull it off as a duo. (Like most supergroups, we're constantly splintering off; Rus and I played as a duo once at Uptown bills Labor Day Celebration last year as Your Two Cents) So it was the debut of the new folkie duo Heads or Tails. we had a blast practicing songs to do, picking some old favorites and new ones that we thought we'd know. The day itself was beautiful, sunny and breezy. Saw some old friends and made some new ones. there was an amazing amount of great food and beverages, even a slip and slide. (Which I didn't try. when I slip, I don't slide, I fall down.) Everybody liked our music and were very complimentary but don't worry, Pennies fans, we're not leaving the group. we have too much fun with our quartet.
This Saturday, July 13, Pennies on the Rail will be playing as part of the Crowded Closet's Customer Appreciation Day from 12 noon to 1pm. Enjoy thIs fabulously free event with Roxanne "The Helpful Smile in Every Aisle" Schomers; Rus "If it's a musical instrument, just throw it in my cart" Schomers; Cheli "SHOPPING!!!" Morgan and Jeffrey" Cleanup in Aisle 7" Morgan as they slash their sound to the wood and play a totally acoustic set. Show your appreciation for the Crowded Closet and enjoy food, friends, bargains and a beautiful day.Cause you know what they say about a Penny saved....
This Thursday Pennies on the Rail are playing in one of my favorite towns, Washington Iowa. We're playing on the square for the Farmer's Market and it's always a great time. People come and set up lawn chairs, we start playing from 6:30 to 7:30 and then the Municipal Band starts in. something for Everybody. We even get interviewed for the local radio station KCII. So if you're not doing anything Thursday night and don't mind driving for a good time, come on down south to Washington and catch some pennies.
Well, it has been a wet one, hasn't it? This summer has been the first time the Pennies have been rained out and we've been rained out TWICE. The first, parties in the Park might be rescheduled for the middle of July. Stay tuned. The second was for Relay for Life which is a great cause. It was held at the U of I track on the Coralville strip. We had some tech issues as usual as we were setting up. Usually i get peeved but it actually turned out to be a good thing. When we were almost ready to start playing, this very nice person mentioned that she had seen lightening and gee did we want to get off the flatbed? Yes, mam, no sense in being an easy target. So it started to pour and we got all instruments and equipment safely stowed away. Who knows if we would have been so lucky if we had been in the middle of playing. Plus the whole electrocution thing. Being summer, the Pennies have alot of their gigs outdoors and you are at the mercy of the elements. got to move this good time indoors.
They don't call them self-fulfilling prophecies for nothing. In my last post, I talked about my mild performance anxiety (Don't read TOO much into that, folks) about setting up. Sure enough, on Saturday, things were plugged in in their proper sockets but some didn't work right. It's always a learning experience working with someone else's PA, but thank the goodness for Aaron who helped us through. I had every intention of recording the night but my attention was elsewhere. much the pity because the Pennies were on their game and we sounded FINE. Oh, yeah, there were the occasional clams, especially from yours truly, but overall we were at our best. We had a good crowd who got into the tunes and were very responsive. The funny thing is all the anxiety and tension just melted away when we hit the stage. Uptown Bills is one of those places where it's so comfortable you just have to think about letting the songs speak for themselves. It was even the eve of Cheli and my 12th wedding anniversary and the true Master of Ceremonial Corn that I am, I mentioned that and got a hefty round of applause. Shameless self-promotion. You should have been there. Next Time?
I know I don't seem the nervous type but as my Little Drummer Girl can tell you, the afternoon of a gig, I'm a Pacing, Worrying Fool. There are two parts to this. One is the preparing to load everything into the Matrix Musicwagon, making sure I don't forget to load all necessary chords, straps, and anything else I might need. Making sure we get to the place in time to get everything set up and WORKING RIGHT. The other part is somewhat out of my control. Uptown Bills is such a great place to play, we're really comfortable there. It's where we play our best, I think. However, if no-one is there, it doesn't really matter. Rus has been kidding me all week about how this is the second time I've scheduled us playing opposite the Final Four. Oh. When you book so far ahead, it's hard to know exactly what's going on around town that might compete. Oh yeah, like that little thing called the Mission Creek Festival. Well you do only what you can and hope for the best. I've done the requisite promo, email blasts, blogs on our Reverb site. We'll see. For musicians that may be reading this, do you have any pre-gig jitters or traditions? For listeners who go to a lot of shows, do you notice when a musician is nervous? Does it seem to change as the night goes on? So, if you're not doing anything tonight, stop on down to Bills and catch some Pennies.
It was last year about this time we played at Uptown Bills. Well, another April comes by and we're playing there again. I thought I'd commemorate the event by sharing some solo pictures of the Pennies done by our friend James Green. if you need a photographer, let us know and we'll give you his contact info.
Practicing with Pennies is nothing but fun. First we start with a pizza, some beverages, and we catch up s on current events and any tidbits of music business. Then we adjourn to the basement of the Flatiron Ranch where we unpack the instruments of mass tunification. We arrange ourselves in a circle and faithful Jimmy places himself right in the middle on the floor so he can hear everything. To concentrate on our sound, Jimmy usually listens with his eyes closed. Roxanne has discovered a songbook from the 60s so brings in two New Seeker songs and one from Melanie. We give them a once over and mentally note if they're worth putting more effort into. I offer a song from Ben Kweller, an artist that our son, The Mighty Alfred, introduced us too. It's a song that's on his latest disc and it's called "You Can Count on Me". It's poppy, positive, and definitely Pennies territory. It still has some creases to iron out so we decide that while it won't be ready for this Saturday, the following Saturday might be a good time for a debut. We're playing an hour slot at Uptown Bills for the Bill Sackter Centennial Celebration.Since Bill was a harmonica player, this celebration will be a harp-centric affair. So we are dusting off one of Roxanne's more whimsical tunes about the eternal triangle of a woman, and a man and his harmonicas. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. I call for a new tune that Rus has been doing, "Waterloo Sunset", one of the prettiest Kinks songs Ray Davies has ever done. For the rest of the practice, I call out songs that we haven't visited in awhile, making sure everyone gets their fair share. All in all, time well spent. It's been awhile since we've all gotten together but all the pieces fit like it was yesterday. As usual, when it's over Jimmy is sad to see the party break up and goes around to everyone for reassuring pats and scratches that this isn't the last time. For the musicians that may be reading this, what's your rehearsal regime? For you listeners, what would you like to hear about the Pennies process? Stay tuned.
The Pennies are dusting off their strings and checking out their spring fashions in preparation for our 2013 tour. We are a funny group, happy in what we do, friends making music with friends. The first two stops of our "What, The World Didn't End Tour?" are at one of our favorite places, Uptown Bills at 730 South Dubuque St in Iowa City. We love playing at Bills because of the ambiance of the place and the fact that people really do sit and listen to the music, a rarity to any performer. We are set to play Saturday April 6 from 7 to 9. If you/re in the neighborhood, come on down. Invite some folks with you. Like a sleepy bear awaking from a long winter's nap, the Pennies are getting ready for performance mode. I've always hated the word performance when it comes to describing playing music. To me and the rest of the group, it's not an act; playing our music is real and fun and engaging and there's something we create between us and the audience that can't be faked. During the next couple of days I'll be blogging about the "Pennies Process". This blogging is a new thing, like my friend BF Burt sez, it's an old dog learning these new tricks. Yeah, you right Kevin. So let me know what you think. What do you like to see when a band plays live. Ask me a question about the Pennies. If you're familiar with our music, what songs what you like to see us do? I'm always fond of pulling something out of my hipster hat, so you never know. Until the next time, Jeffrey