Sunday, December 13, 2009

Marmalade Superlove's first performance

We did it. Nine months after we started practicing, and many of us started playing our instruments, we performed three songs at the Craggy Range's open mic.

I didn't fall off the stage, which was my big goal. We had fun and are quite proud of ourselves.

We started with Scarletta and I (Sable) doing Bobby McGee.

Next we performed Kleveland's original I Wanna Smell Like a Bad Girl. I do not know why my guitar sounds so bad.

We finished with Dr. Stacks singing Jose Curervo with original lyrics appended. The camcorder shut off before we were done.

We're adding two songs and shooting for another try at the end of January.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We’re doing it!

Marmalade Superlove’s first performance is this Wednesday, sometime between 8:30 and 11 at the Craggy Range in W.F.

Most of us are terrified. If any friends come, please be rowdy, sing along, dance. And refrain from any eye contact with the band. We have not yet learned to gaze upon the audience without vomiting.

Song line up:

Bobby McGee — Scarletta on vocals; Sable on guitar
Smell Like a Bad Girl (Kleveland original) sung by Kleveland.
Jose Cuervo sung by Dr. Stacks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inspired by Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder came to a bar up the street, The Great Northern, not long ago and blew me away with her girl-and-guitar performance. (This video features her with her band, but she played all on her own at the Northern.)

I loved her dress (same one as in this video). Loved her little guitar as I had no idea they came in smaller sizes. As my acoustic now has two cracks and rattles when it's cold, I will definitely look for a smaller guitar when I'm ready for a new purchase.

Also loved her presence and unique voice.

I intend to learn this song next.

While searching for the perfect YouTube of Ryder, I came across a performance she did with Adam Cohen. Adam is the son of my favorite songwriters, Leonard Cohen. To see them together is a treat.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We have a drum set!

It’s one of those small miracles that restores faith in the big stuff.

Poor Scarletta has been playing everything on a measly snare drum. We’ve posted pleas on Craigslist, scrounged ebay and pawn shops. And still an actual drum set eluded us because we’re so cheap.

Enter Kleveland. (As you may remember, she is actually a teacher at a real music school.) She discovered that the music school’s drum set was languishing in a former student’s basement, that the music school didn’t want to house the ponderous thing. She offered my garage, which is half a block from the music school, and poof, we had a drum set in my.

Scarletta and I have already practiced twice. The garage looks very band-ish, as the drum set is certainly as big as my husband’s Mini and approaching my RAV4. We’ve got all sorts of wires and mics and speakers, two guitars, a keyboard, a carpet and a chair. If you tried to load all our band paraphernalia, it would take creativity and both tiny cars. The band members would have to rent a limo.

The drums are glittery burnt orange, which, to me anyways, screams Marmalade SuperLove. I’m still trying to talk Scarletta into letting me make her a drum-seat cozy in furry orange with gold lightning bolt appliqués. I do believe she’s agreed to letting me add a drink-cup holder to one of the tom-toms.

We’re practicing tomorrow and will schedule our first open mic performance. Please, disregard any time and date info I divulge in the next blog if you’re a friend of Dr. Stacks, who does not want to perform in front of anyone she knows. Namely, Deb and friends.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I’ve got a really cool electric guitar…

I didn’t know this. My husband let me use his old guitar. He got it in college from a pawn shop, cheap. It’s old, heavy, wood and doesn’t have any cool swoopy parts or flashy colors. Don’t get me wrong; I like it. It stays in tune and sounds good even when I play it. But we both figured it was the lowest end of the low end.

I’d been fondling new red, light, and swoopy guitars at the music store. They were so pretty, so rock star-ish. When my husband and I had been in to buy me a distortion box for my birthday a few weeks ago, the music store guy, we’ll call him George, asked what kind of guitar we had.

My husband hung his head and said, “Oh a real cheap Ibanez I’ve had since college.”

George hung his head, too. “Yeah, we all have one of those beaters.”

A couple weeks later, I broke a string practicing bending. My husband was out of town and I haven’t learned to restring so I took my old Ibanez into the music store to get it restrung. I set it up on the counter and opened the case…

George gasped. “Is the Ibanez your husband was talking about?”

I nodded.

“Oh, man,” he said.

“What?” I said.

George ignored me and yelled to the three or four other customers in the store. “Hey, come look at this.” Apparently they were all guitar heroes. Within seconds, they’d crowded around my guitar, crowding me out.

I could hear snippets of what they were saying as I tried to peer around them to see what they were doing with my guitar.

From the ‘70s. I’ve got a dozen guitars and my 70s Ibanez is my favorite. Yeah, the Japanese knew how to make them back then.

Soon they were taking off the cover of a little compartment in the back. I hadn’t even realized there was a compartment in the back. They were fingering some electrical connections in there. They were talking about the bridge construction. About materials. Workmanship.

I finally pushed my way through them and took a look at my guitar.

“This your guitar?” one of the heroes asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“You got a cool guitar.”

“She’s in a band,” George said.

They all looked at me, nodding. Before when I’d told people at the music store I was in a girl band, they’d grimaced.

I didn’t even glance at the new, red, swoopy guitars hanging on the wall as I left, carrying my super cool, cheap, pawn shop Ibanez.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My First Song Pick

We had a drum set snafu and didn't perform. We'll try again in three weeks.

Meanwhile, Scarletta has picked Bobby McGee as our next song to learn.

I get to pick one, too.

I'm trying to decide between.

I Need a Man by Eurythmics
(Love the lyrcis and the voice.)
Putting Out Fire by David Bowie
(This one has been a favorite since my teen years.)
I Hate Myself for Loving You by Joan Jett
(Think I'm getting a crush on Ms. Jett.)

Listen and help me decide.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Craigslist Mockery

In an effort to get Scarletta a drum set, I posted this on Craigslist last night.

My post

This morning, when checking my listing, I see this posting:

Mockery post

Sunday, June 14, 2009

First Open Mic -- Eeegads!

Marmalade Superlove is going to perform!

We’ve set a date, this Tuesday, June 16th, at The Great Northern.

Note: Previously I used initials to designate our members, but now that we’ve picked stage names, I’ll be using these:

D is now Dr. Stacks
M is now Scarletta
K is now Kleveland
I am now Sable

I’d been wanting to set our first open mic date for weeks. Now that it’s real, I feel like old white jeans in a washing machine stuffed with new red blankets — sure to come out alive but forever an exposed-organ pink.

We’re in a bit of a rush as Dr Stacks, our keyboardist, will be out of town for three weeks. If we don’t do it now, we’ll continue uninterrupted “our dreary little lives,” as drummer-girl, Scarletta, would say.

We had several options. (It still amazes me that our little valley is so ripe with venues for would-be bands. We had narrowed our choices down to The Packer’s Roost, The Craggy Range, and The Great Northern. A couple of us wanted The Packer’s Roost because it’s out in no-man’s land of Coram and has a rep with the kind of people we don’t hang with. We figured it would have little crossover into our real lives as music teacher, college professor, regular school teacher, and novelist. The risk would be minimized.)

This sounded good to me. We were in my garage, newly refurbed as a girl garage band haven. We’d just been through our three songs with mixed results from our three audience members. There was T, a non-band member friend who’d I’d invited over before I remembered we had GB practice. There was Dr. Stacks’ son, who was a great sport about the whole thing, especially considering some of our lyrics are not, well, appropriate for his age. Then there was MAG, miscellaneous alley guy, who walked by the open garage and gave us one of those rock-on hand symbols.

But then I said, “Let’s forget practicality for a minute. In your GB fantasies, where do you picture playing for the first time?”

Kleveland immediately. “The Northern. I’ve always wanted to play The Northern.”

Scarletta ducked her head and admitted that was her fantasy, too. Dr. Stacks agreed.

So The Northern it is. This Tuesday. That leaves me two days to practice — Day 1 of which I broke a string and will have to use up a good part of Day 2 driving to Kalispell to purchase a new one.

We still don’t have a drum set for poor Scarletta. And since she gets queasy when I mention beating on bowls and buckets, Kleveland has promised to work her musical network to get a drum set on stage.

We are also supposed to perform in our costumes, which we aren’t sure of yet. This will be the subject of the next entry, about which I’m brimming with things to say.

Listen in to the songs we’ll be doing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Breakthrough RGB practice

RGB practice last night was rife with breakthroughs.

1. I made my first lead sheet. I didn’t know what a lead sheet was until last practice when E suggested we all make one. It took me three hours, but I now have all of Fine & Mellow on one paper. I no longer have to turn pages, which has drastically reduced the frequency with which my guitar strap gets caught behind my left breast. I tried capturing the glee I felt at this accomplishment for the FGB, but determined it was boring and should remain, largely, a private conceit.

2. We started a second song! We figure only thirty-eight more before we can attempt to get an all-night gig. We knew we were ready to attempt another song when my husband actually stayed at the house during practice, if we count the porch.

3. We’re writing lyrics. Our new song — Jose Cuervo by Shelly West — has some lame verses. So each member told me a tequila-inspired experience and I wrote them up in verse form. After several celebratory shots of Jose, we came to believe our verses far superior.

4. We’re now working on performance. This is E’s doing. Apparently happening bands need costumes and stage names. M will be a girl pirate; I will be Sable, a gunslinger; E is Cleveland a biker babe; D, well, D had trouble grasping the concept. We’re mulling three performance enhancement ideas — passing out cheap tambourines to the audience, slinging and shooting potato guns, and writing sudden-death Cuervo lyrics based on audience stories.

Meanwhile the FGB has run into some problems while preparing for their first big gig. They’re rocking their songs, but I had to leave them on the edge of a shootout last night to make dinner and prepare for RGB practice. I’m afraid someone will die.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

RGB Origins

This is an attempt to explain how three late-30s, early 40s, respectable, professional women came to start a Girl Band.

It began on one of those nights. I was out dancing with a couple girlfriends. One of them, we’ll call her M, kept going on about how she’d “always wanted” to be a drummer. And she kept air drumming and swooshing her hair around. She has mounds of big hair, and as I watched her, images from the 80s of big-haired drummers drum smashing and hair flipping came thick and fast. She looked like a drummer.

I should mention before we move on, that this was not the first time M had blurted out always-wants. Although she was a relatively new friend, I realized that night that she had far too many always-wants.

We all have some.

I want to play guitar — just well enough to sit around the campfire and strum “Froggy Went a Courting” and an Eagles song. I’ve pursued this want. I got a guitar, downloaded Eagles songs. Over the years, I’ve had several bouts of playing steadily for a few weeks at a time; I’ve kept the guitar where I can see it. Thus I can’t say I’ve always wanted to play guitar; I have to say I’m learning to play extremely gradually.

I’m sure I have always-wants, but I can’t think of one right now. I want a PhD in archeology, but I have a plan so it’s not an always-want. Once the little one is off to college, I intend to follow him and enroll. I want a perfect hat, but, again, I’m trying. I’ve bought several that didn’t work out and I keep looking. I don’t sheltering a list of always-wants. I error on the other side — ill-advised action. It’s one of my superpowers — that and being able to change clothing inside the clothing I’m wearing.

I have a theory that when you let the always-wants stack up, when you have decades of them in the cupboards, something bad happens inside you. Your little light starts to sputter; it grows dim.

I thought all these things watching M air drum and hair swoosh. It made me sad. So I blurted, “We should form a Girl Band!”

I should mention that my other friend, we’ll call her D, played the piano as a child and had her grandmother’s beautiful piano living room collecting dust. I should also mention that in my opinion, D had been growing restless over the last couple years. She’d earned her PhD, her son was old enough to make his own breakfast, and her husband was working out of state. She seemed to need something more, and I had watched her flounder a bit as she searched. The Girl Band would help her, too, I thought. Scratching itches and all that.

It would also force me to do something I’m terrible at, which is a tremendous way to build character. And, since we know character is destiny, build my destiny. I could certainly do with more destiny.

We were all drink and sweat soggy and thought the Girl Band a tremendous idea.

Except the next time we got together, no one remembered but me. D and I went for a run together, during which she asserted that she hadn’t even been out with us that night. M remembered but pretended not to.

Actually, I didn’t think we were serious either. I just liked to talk about it because when I said the words “Girl Band,” they felt good on my lips, kind of like swearing does but without the danger of your son begging you to stop swearing so much.

Also I still had this feeling that M, D, and I all needed something — fewer always-wants, more character, more destiny.

A couple weeks later, my husband and I went out dancing and ran smack into more destiny than I was ready for.

We fell in with an odd little group of people who were groupies of a local legend in the music scene. Before we knew it, we had an offer to use a recording studio, a practice space, and a private plane trip for the band to Las Vegas so we could check out some concert. A guy my husband had picked up hitchhiking invited the Girl Band to come and listen to his new band’s first gig.

So M and I went to see what the scene was like for a new band. Hitchhiker guy announced to the entire bar that we were a hot new Girl Band in town and that we were really good. We hadn’t practiced and two of us didn’t think we even were a Girl Band, and here we’d been announced to the public.

But destiny wasn’t finished. I went to a Christmas party where I ran into the piano teacher my son and I had taken lessons from the year before. She heard about the Girl Band and wanted in. Now she, let’s call her E, is a real musician, with a degree in music and teaches professionally. Also she’s in her 20s. I told her that even if we were really going to be a Girl Band, none of knew anything and completely lacked talent. (She must have known I wasn’t simply being demure because she’d listened to me pound the piano for a year.)

E still wanted in. She told me she had leather pants and when she put them on she could shimmy really well. She told me she would ride her motorcycle up on the stage. She told me she knew how to transpose and arrange music. I pretended I knew what that meant. I told her she was in. She told me she’d play base.

When I called M and D to inform them about our new member, destiny had been at work on them, too. They started to say things like “band practice.”

After the holidays, we set up our first Girl Band practice, at which all we did was scrounge music sites for a likely first song while drinking box wine. I felt our little flames stand taller, our characters build, and my ill-advised-actions superpower puff out its chest.

We had become a RGB.

Friday, April 24, 2009

GB Beginnings

It's hard to say which came first the real Girl Band or the fictional one.

I can say that the idea for a real band certainly came first, but since we didn't actually set up a practice until after the fictional band had taken some sort of form, I'm at a loss as to whether life is following fiction or fiction is following life.

This blog is going to be largely about the messy crash between the two.

The point is three friends and I have I've started a Girl Band. At present our name is fluctuating. We like Marmalade Superlove right now, but have learned that we're really good at coming up the Girl Band names. Meanwhile I've started a new novel about a Girl Band, the members of which have named themselves Gothic Cowgirls (for now).

Points of intersection:

1. both bands are in Montana

2. both feature late-30s, early 40s band members

3. both have never done something like this before

Points of divergence

1. the FGB (fictional girl band) actually has talent while the RGB (real girl band) has lots of talent but not necessarily musical in nature

2. for the members of the FGB the girl band experience will change their lives forever within just a few months. for the RGB it may take decades

3. the RGB members are neither as messed up nor as desperate as the FGB members.

Let me just add that neither the FGB nor the RGB began with anything like intention or thought. I'd been writing my second novel for a couple years and just felt it didn't have the heart it needed. About the same time I was becoming frustrated with Novel Two's progression, I went out dancing with some girlfriends.
The origins of the RGB will be discussed at length in the next installment. Right now, I will just say that shortly after the RGB idea came up, late at night, while working on heartless Novel Two, my fingers just sort of flipped a clog and began typing a different story -- the story of four women who've lost their bearings and find each other and their lives again when they start a Girl Band. I could tell right away my heart was in this one.

Right now, I've got half a rough draft (shitty rough draft, as Anne Lamont would say) with lots of heart.

The RGB and the FGB get kind of mixed up in my mind and beneath my fingertips. I'll just have to see what happens as they intersect.