Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wheatfield: Mixing Down and a Night on the Town

Now today was more like it. My wife is in Chicago so I had an opportunity to relive my past, but would I take it? Obviously, some parts of the program have been canceled. Namely the drinking and the pot and whatever else was handy. Plus the being single part is over, but guess what? There's no way I could recreate that anyhow. All I have left is the music - and that was the driving purity of those times anyway. Some things go on. Why not live my life like I used to - work on music and then go out and hear a group? I had two gigs of the Lighter Notes in the can and it was time to mix them down on CD. Maybe put them on cable access or at least make a DVD. You an artistic project. My strategy is to get okay video and great sound. Most musical shows on cable have okay video and terrible sound, so it's just a matter of synching them up later, once you see what came out. One thing I've learned is that it is rare when both the video and the portable studio work right at the same time. For example, the Rose Festival gig in the Big Top, had slightly overdriven sound and a video that cuts off one of the singers. The strategy at Hillsboro was supposed to start simple on the recording and add more tracks between sets. As a result, the first set is usable and sounds great. Then it slowly goes to hell the more we worked on it. Surprise, surprise, the video of the first set is also good. Of course, the camera was pointed wrong later and the 2nd and 3rd sets are missing one of the guitar players almost entirely. Not a problem. I have one gig where the video just shows everybody's knees. This is not an exact science, folks.
So technically, I had a good first set. That's one out of 4 and I'll take it. Now we move on to the band's performance. I'd say we are normally 40% great, 35% okay, and 25% awful. What that means is we basically have 4 excellent songs from the first set, video taped and recorded and played great. Spending all day mixing everything down is exactly how I used to spend my time when I was a young man and music was everything.
Then it was the hour to hit the streets and go see a band. Who better to recreate that old time feeling than Wheatfield? Portlanders should make a point of seeing these guys. Vocals for days! Harmony from God! I saw 4 guys singing which meant the background vocals had three parts. What a sound! Professional quality like Poco only all their own. Then I ran into a woman, who - to make a long story short - once set something up that allowed me to spend 4 hours with Bill Cosby. That was quite a day. Anyway, she is very interested in promoting this band, out of her love as a fan. She introduced me to Will Hobbs, one of the founders, outside, and I slowly realized the woman thought I still wrote for the Trib. Awkward! Actually, it was just funny, and I had a great talk with Will about politics. He apologized for messing up one of the songs and I told him it was a huge relief. These guys are so good, any kind of mistake makes it easier for the rest of us to carry on. The band went back to work and next thing you know I was out on the dance floor with this woman and then later her sister or sister-in-law. I bring this up because there is a magical place to hear a band in a club, which is around 6 feet in front of the stage. That's when everything is visceral and the sounds are coming from the most different points directly to your brain. Folks, I heard Wheatfield singing up close and it was quite stunning. This is an impressive sound. It's transcendent. You know how even great music can wear you out? It's rare when it doesn't. I once was at a Paul Simon concert and I reached the point where I would have stayed there for 10 hours. Go ahead, Paul, play anything you know. Everything was so gorgeous, and rather than wearing out, I couldn't get enough. After all these years, in the outskirts of the music business, I wear out pretty easily, but these Wheatfield vocals are so polished and beautiful that you just relax, knowing nothing bad is going to happen. They can sustain an evening. It's always just a short wait for the next beautiful rush: A chord so professionally perfect, you just want more. Back-up vocals for months, leads from everywhere. I must admit it was a sobering experience having just heard my group all day in the mix-down session.
Our audience can never relax. There is gold but don't get too comfortable, for right around the bend a nasty surprise usually awaits. Wheatfield isn't like that. Portland, we must embrace this group once again. They are worthy.


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