Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Speeding Motorcycle @ Rudyards

A little more than a week ago, the director of our show was approached about performing selections from Speeding Motorcycle on Memorial Day during an all day event that was to be held in the parking lot of Rudyard's. Since most of the cast and crew have beds there, it was pretty much a given that we would participate. And with fond memories from our 2003 performance of the Kinks rock opera Soap Opera at the very same venue as our guide, we all jumped at the invitation.
This performance was going to be quite a bit different, though. With Soap Opera, we had transported virtually the entire performance (props, set, costumes) to the upstairs stage and did the entire show top to bottom for a sold out audience. For this performance we would be just one part of a larger rock show and didn't get any billing or advertising to announce our presence. The odds seemed stacked against us, but that has never stopped us before and certainly wouldn't stop us this time. And while we don't necessarily thrive on that kind of energy, we've never been ones to back down from a new adventure. Up, up, and away!
Over the course of several hours, we all gathered at the bar and prepared ourselves for the great unknown. Take in mind we were about to face a crowd that had been drinking for the better part of the day and, because of the lack of advertising, had no idea what was gonna happen when more than a dozen (overly excited) theater fags jumped onstage to entertain them during the waning hours of the evening. It didn't help that the R&B explosion known as The Rehabilliteens(my favorite band) would have the stage just prior to our little show.
I managed to convince the director that having the three lead men wear our costumes (complete with fleshy head gear), while the rest of the cast was in street clothing, was just going to confuse and possibly anger the unsuspecting crowd. Thankfully, he agreed and the costumes were put back in the bags they came in. Whew. That was close.
I could see apprehension on a number of cast members faces, as the time for us to go on slowly got closer. One of the leads, Kyle, looked down right pale. I saw him standing by one of the pool tables and I thought he might throw up on it at any given moment. Thankfully, for us, he did not. Tensions among the cast and band grew even higher when it took more than a half hour for us to set up and get the trolling soundman to prepare the microphones and stage mix. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.....
Finally, the time came and we set about our way. The surprised looks on their faces as we started a quadraphonic chant of, "Funeral home. Funeral home. Going to the funeral home." was a moment of unexpected pleasure for me. These cats had no idea what was about to hit them. And believe it or not, I think we won them over before too long. The band was simply on fire. And our rapid fire execution of jumping from one song to the next, never gave them enough time to think about what was happening. It most certainly didn't hurt that we had a cast and group of well-wishers of nearly 2 dozen strong to act as our cheering section throughout the proceedings. We must have looked like a rock-n-roll Up With People.
Like I said, the band was in top form and by far our strongest asset of the evening. Other highlights, for me, included blistering versions of "Rock-n-Roll EGA", "Rock This Town", and "Livin' Life"(if I do say so myself). Normally, during the theatrical run, I try to handled some of the vocal performances with a little more finesse than were presented here. But this was a rock show and I treated it as such. Stuff it in their ear and down their throats. Ahhhh, just what the doctor ordered.
My favorite song of the night was when a dozen cast members got on stage to sing a near acapella rendition (and all churched out) choral version of "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances". And I truly loved "True Grief" as performed by Tony and band. During that song, a righteous saxophone solo smoothly sailed out of the P.A. and it was pure Bleeding Gums Murphy magic at its best.

W came. We saw. We rocked.
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iPod Song Of The Day: Satellite Of You a b-side from the Flaming Lips

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I've Got(had) A Secret

Been slacking on the updates on account of the all the extra time I've spent working on a production of a brand new rock opera called Speeding Motorcycle that’s based on the music of Daniel Johnston. Well, the show has finally gotten underway and I could not be more excited about it or proud of the way it turned out. There have been a number of memorable moments along the way, but one shines above the rest and has had a profound effect on me since it occurred.
With lots of guidance from our musical director, I learned one of Daniel's songs titled "Peek-a-Boo" on piano. Having never before played a piano, the task before me seemed more than a little daunting. Setting my fears aside, I plugged away and after a few days had put together a respectable version. One evening following rehearsal, I fumbled through it for the director and musical director to see if they wanted to assign the song to me in the production. I performed a respectable version and was lucky enough to have it assigned to me.
Following the audition, they asked if I wanted to go up to the office space and hear the new song Daniel had penned for the show. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and up the stairs we went. I was not at all prepared for the experience that lie in wait.
At that point in the rehearsal process, I estimate that only four people on the whole planet had ever heard this song. So, I thought that was pretty cool. I was handed a lyric sheet and sat down to soak it all in. Before I knew what hit me, the song was pouring out of the speakers and barreled over me like a tidal wave of hope. The fact that is had been recorded on a hand held digital device did not diminish its power one bit. The name of the song was "Loving Feelings" and it was glorious. As I followed along with the printed lyrics, my spirited was lifted higher and higher with each passing phrase. The best way I can describe the message and feeling within is to compare it with two songs that hit me in the very same way after first listening. It's as if Daniel had cross-pollinated the euphoric and inspirational feelings contained inside "Do You Realize?" with an epic presence that could easily rival the size and scope captured in "Good Vibrations". That's big. REAL BIG. One might even say colossal. OK then, I will.
The song haunted me in the days that followed. Because I didn't have my own copy of the recording, I was forced to refer back to my initials feeling generated by the song. I worried that maybe I had just blown it out of proportion and that perhaps it wouldn't have the same effect on me when hearing it a second time. Those concerns were blown to bits when the mp3 arrived. It was indeed as enlightening as I had remembered it to be. How often does that happen?
For several weeks I walked around feeling like I had this special little secret all to myself and I held it very close to my heart. Last week, the beast was finally released from its golden cage and now it belongs to the masses. Who knows what they’ll do with the beautiful message contained inside? I can only hope for the best. One thing is for sure, though, and that is my memory of the brief time I had with the secret all to myself.

Hang on to your loving feelings
Quit your teasing, it’s a lie
Can’t you see we’re all gonna die
So give life a try
loving feeling
loving feeling