Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy HalloWEGO!

Set 1 (79 megs)
Set 2 (68 megs)

Here are the recordings of the Woodland Experimental Groove Orchestra at my fine friend Rusty's Halloween party. Rusty always throws a great party -- mingling groups of friends from diverse parts of his historical and current life -- and this was no exception! Rusty and his roommates Kim, Kyle, and John boldly opened their space at 8pm, and the costumed crowd of (I'm guessing) about a hundred people came and went until well into the morning of Halloween. Meanwhile, WEGO set up in the upstairs living room and played two roughly-hour-plus sets between 9pm and midnight. The Orchestra for the evening consisted of Woody Frank (guitar and voice), Jenny Freeling (occasional djembe during the second set I think), Dennis Jolin (uke, mandolin, and timbales), Ian McKagen (guitar and voice), Jesse Silvertrees (djembe and voice), and Me Woods (keys, misc, and voice).

This was a huge loose sprawling show with some high points and plenty of rough patches. I'm tempted to try to condense these recordings down to the most appealing sections, but I'm pretty busy on my commutes at the moment, and I'm afraid that the sonic quality of the mix (balance, clipping, etc…) just doesn't warrant the effort.

There were a couple of key problems that -- at least in my mind -- made it tough for this show to ever get off the ground musically (if this is your first visit here, or your first listen to WEGO, I'd recommend skipping down to one of the previous show-entries). First, the mix was way out of balance where I was. I can't speak for what anybody else heard that night, but where I was it sounded about like it does on the recording, but ear-splittingly loud. (Actually, the recording is also improved a bit with some EQ and compression, but you get the idea.) I tried a slightly different approach to the keyboard-amplification for this show, running it direct through the board to the stereo vocal-spearkers and using my bass amp as an extra low-frequency amplifier for the whole PA. However, even with a PA speaker aimed directly at me, I couldn't hear the treble (right hand) half of my keyboard unless almost everyone else had stopped playing. Furthermore, since I was the only one with the vocal mic, we chose an uncomfortable split between a range that would keep up with the guitar and timbales and one where the open-air vocalists could be heard a bit. The result was a treble-heavy din, leveled just under mandatory ear-plug volume, requiring any vocals besides my own to be shouted at the top of one's lungs (some impressive use of this style in places here, but of course, you only get so much range with this approach). Jesse didn't show up until about a half hour after we started and I forgot to put on my leg-shakers until only a few minutes before that, so of course it was difficult to resist over-playing to fill in the rhythm. For whatever reason (maybe to draw attention away from the mix…?) we also sang a bit more than usual and so we had to start repeating Lyrical Standards. Though really, is there a limit to the number of ways that you can sing the theme from Cheers? I think not. Still, we'll probably still want to get a few more in the hopper for longer shows like this.

In spite of all of that and within the confines of what was possible, the playing is really solid from everyone. There are some cool sections in the middle of the second set where we really surrender to the limitations and it breaks down into a full-blown percussion-jam. And near the end of the night, there's a weirdly fun section where a guy wearing a really long fake-beard (I assume it was fake! … or perhaps he's of muppet descent) got ahold of one of the mics and started gently and musically exhorting the crowd to take off their pants and "put some honey on". Another nice thing: the police didn't show up until right *after* we'd finished playing.

So, overall: not really up to the potential for warm dynamic multilayered groove that the group usually manifests, but perhaps a bit like a best-case drunken party jam. And at several points during the night, a thin line of costumed freaks materialized in the narrow space between us and the couch, grinning and dancing hypnotically to the lurching grooves … mission accomplished!! :))

Special thanks to Rusty, Kim, Kyle, and John for puttin' this thing on! (Feel free to share your own memories here below in the comments.)


dennis said...

i think it sounded fine. definately loud but pretty sweet.

Rusty said...

I agree with Dennis - you guys rocked the house! The cops even came! :-D