Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Capping" off a great weekend

So, my last post told you about our Friday, March 23 Sixth Street gig. Our other gig from this past weekend was playing the Capitol 10k. The only photo of us playing this gig that I managed to come up with is this one:

Since there are no runners in this photo, you will just have to trust me that it is, in fact, from the Cap 10 and not, say, just us set up in a parking lot somewhere for a photo op.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Brain farts and distractions

This weekend has been all about band action, which always makes for a nice weekend. We played a gig on Friday night, went to a friend's gig on Saturday night, then played another gig on Sunday morning. I still have no working camera, so I couldn't take any pics at any of these, but I think I may be able to find some photos I can share for the Sunday gig, given a day or two. So for now, I'll recap the Friday gig and follow-up with another post later about Sunday.

SO! Friday night. We started the weekend by playing Latitude 30 in the 6th Street district on Friday night, which was mostly good, but had a few challenges. The good part is that we really like that venue. The owner and staff are great, they have a nice stage, and though shows can start a bit slow, they always end big, since 6th Street really tends to pick up after 11:00 pm. So, definitely a gig we like.

Also, we had several people come out for us, including an old friend of Johnny's who happened to be in town from Utah, Katy, and a friend of hers, who was exploring the Lone Star State with her, Amy. Katy is famous with her own blog and all, It's My Life, so I'm givin' her a public shout out. Thanks for coming, Katy and Amy! It's always fun to play to friendly and familiar faces.

The challenges came in the form of distraction and your garden variety brain farts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who needs a thumb?

Answer: I do.

If you play an instrument, you probably pay a bit more attention to your hands than most people. For instance, a few years ago, a friend of ours who shall remain nameless (TONY!) decided to have us all play paintball for his birthday. If you've never played paintball, let me educate you: it hurrrrrts!!

Those little balls of paint that look all cheerful and benign when they're splattered across your jeans are, in fact, tiny, colorful, bright bombs of piercing pain. When they smack into your head at bullet speed, it feels neither cheerful nor benign. I've seen bruises on my friends that I can't unsee thanks to paintball. I may have been a little bit traumatized.

Not Johnny, though. He was a warrior! He kept playing long after I gave up, and he even started playing with some of the crazy paintball punks who bring their own gear. ... Until he took one in the hand. And that was it for paintball. He got a zinger to the hand and realized what a terrible idea paintball is for a guitar player. And we haven't played since.

As a musician, whenever something affects your hands, the first thing you think about is how it will affect your playing. So, it should be no surprise that when my right thumb recently started popping loudly and painfully and then started hurting when I did simple things like use a pen, all I could think was, "That's my picking hand. Am I going to start having trouble playing bass?"

I probably should have worried about more mundane things, like - oh, I don't know, writing! But I couldn't help it. All I could think was how sad I'd be if I couldn't play bass anymore. I really started to worry after it didn't just go away on its own (a time-tested medical strategy often employed by men).

Well, worry is a pointless emotion (one I spend way too much time indulging), so instead of sitting around wondering what might be wrong (Is it arthritis? Carpal tunnel? Will I have to stop playing?), I went to a hand specialist today.

Diagnosis: I have what's called a "trigger finger." Is that the coolest diagnosis you've ever heard? Hell yeah, bitches - I have a trigger finger! Don't make me pull it!

Seriously, if I had let it go too long, it could have degenerated into pretty painful ailment, necessitating surgery at some point. But because I got a jump on it, I should be able to manage it with a little occupational therapy and some simple treatments, like icing it when it gets inflamed from overuse. I can handle that.

So, worry short-circuited, and I live to play another day! Makes me want to go play right now.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seeing red - Fiesta Red, that is!

Well, our SXSW event went swimmingly! (Why is swimming synonymous with "great"? I mean, swimming can be pretty great if it's hot outside and the water temperature is just right, but what if you can't swim? Or the water is ridiculously cold or something? In that case to say something went "swimmingly" would mean it went pretty badly. But I digress.

We had been a little concerned about the weather early in the day, but the clouds held for us - we got lucky with no rain and mild temperatures. That allowed everyone to focus on the real point of the event: the music.

We experienced the Fiesta Red Indie Fiesta from the other side of the stage - off-stage, behind the sound board instead of on stage - and it was awesome in every way, except my camera. My camera crapped out on me after just one band. We'll have to figure out if we can fix it, or if it's time to move on to a new camera, because we do use it for the band. But I did get a few pix of the festival before it died. Here is the view of the venue from the stage:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SXSW from a local band's perspective

It begins. Today marks the beginning of the music portion of SXSW, which for some of us local bands is an event that spawns mixed emotions.

For those of you not "in the know," SXSW is a 10-day festival hosted every March in the lovely city of Austin that showcases stuff related to gaming/technology, film and music. Between official and unofficial SX events, it brings a couple hundred thousand folks to our little burg.

In 2011, the official numbers were: almost 67,000 attendees for the film festival, 65,000 for the trade show, more than 19,000 for the interactive conference, and they didn't even estimate a total for how many people came for the music portion except to say that 45,000 attended the free shows at Auditorium Shores. There were almost 2,100 bands and 92 stages for the official venues. So, maybe double that to incorporate all the unofficial shows.

That sounds amazing, right? So much creativity and so many artists right here for your listening/watching/playing pleasure! As an attendee, it is a staggering amount of entertainment - even if you haven't bought a badge to get in to the official events (which you may not be able to get into even WITH a badge if a venue hits capacity). As a participant, the idea is to be discovered. A distributor picks up your film. Your technology is launched. Your band is given a record deal. Bam! Your future is made.

Maybe. Or not.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

When momma ain't happy...

...ain't nobody happy. No, we're not talking about me. We're talking about Mother Nature.

One of the things any band deals with, big or small, is the unpredictability of weather. All bands play outdoor gigs - from a private party in a backyard to an outdoor stadium. And the thing that sucks about outdoor gigs is the weather.

Our band has been together for nearly four years, and in that time, we've played in rain, cold and heat. We've dealt with our equipment starting to short out in misty rain. We've played gigs where my fingers were so cold, I could hardly play. And I can't even count the number of times we've played in heat so bad that my makeup was melted off before we ever started, and I had to wipe the sweat off my arm between every song so it would stop slipping off my bass. We played a couple of summers ago in a parking lot where the temperature registered a balmy 108 degrees. For realz. I literally almost passed out.

So, when we booked a gig playing on the Kemah Boardwalk for this weekend, we knew there was a chance that weather could be a factor, since it's an outdoor stage, but we've been wanting to play there for two years, so we were really excited about landing the gig. On top of it being a great venue, this weekend is the first weekend of Spring Break AND the venue is close to where some of my family lives, so we had every reason to expect a big crowd with some friendly faces in it. And a nice payday. Woo-hoo all around!

Imagine our distress as the forecasts throughout the week began showing decreasing temperatures and increasing chances of thunderstorms precisely when we were supposed to be on stage.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who's playing tonight?

So, chances are if you're reading this inaugural post, you already know who we are, because we're probably related to you and we sent you the link and made you read it. But on the off chance that you are what's called a "fan" or a "random reader," let me introduce us (the band this blog is about) and myself (the writer of this blog).

"We" are The Staylyns. We are a three-piece rock band based in Austin, Texas. We're one of thousands of bands - maybe in this city alone - who love to play music and do it publicly. We are fortunate enough to do it professionally, though I should probably define "professionally." That means we usually get paid when we play. It doesn't mean we're living on our earnings (yet), but we're not just out there busking, either. We haven't quit our day jobs (yet), but it's more than just a hobby to us. We're trying to "make it" whatever that ends up meaning to us!

Oh, and we write original music, so while we do play a mix of covers and originals at our shows, we're not a cover band, per se. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

I'm Suzy. I play bass in the band and write when I can - this blog, novels, sarcastic Facebook posts, etc. My partners in crime are Johnny (our guitarist, my husband, and the veteran rocker of this band venture) and Joey (our awesome drummer and the one with the best hair without trying). We all sing, we all play our instruments, and we all write songs. I know - crazy, right?! That's just how we roll.

Well, that's who we are! We're "the band" when you go in a club and there's a sign outside that simply says, "Live Music Tonight!"

"So, what's this blog about?" you may be asking. Well, here's what it's not about. We're not Pearl Jam or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and we're definitely not Taylor Swift, so this blog is not about living the millionnaire rocker lifestyle, a quest for Grammy gold or facing down drug addictions while trying to get through a stadium tour or living in a van. There are tons of books out there with those plotlines if that's what you're looking for.

This blog is about our experiences as a local band playing gigs, producing our own CDs, operating our own business and living for those moments when someone in the crowd sings one of our songs back to us. This is our story of what it's like in the trenches - the ups, the downs, and the "What just happened?" moments. If you've ever wondered what it's like when a band leaves the garage and starts playing for 10 percent of the bar, this is it!