you must be the animal

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It’s been an intense couple of days for me culminating in last night’s performance. This morning I feel drained and exhausted. Wednesday night’s rehearsal with the musicians who played for me was fun and satisfying. So was the performance last night.

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This morning I’m feeling like I should have publicized this performance better. Attendance was low as usual (the door was $3 a head and we made $60. I’m pretty sure the owner threw in some extra bucks. He offered to pay for the piano rental which was around $150 but I wouldn’t let him). The playing was good and the energy was high and the small audience present was enthusiastic and engaged.

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It was satisfying to air out this music in public. My piano trio played for the first time in public. The piano that the piano tuner rented me was much better than last time. In fact, I wish that the piano at church was as good as this piano.  The piano tuner himself showed up and seemed surprised and pleased by what we played.


I pushed the timing because I was afraid I would not have time for everything. As it was we finished very early. If I had known what time it was I would have called an intermission.  But I couldn’t see a clock so I just kept pounding out the tunes.

It did help me tremendously to have several pieces where I didn’t play. My oboe sonatina sounded very cool on piano and sax as ably played by the illustrious Jennifer Wolfe and Jordan VanHemert.  It was gratifying to have my friend Dawn play a Bach unaccompanied cello suite movement for us. These pieces were back to back in the second half and I did find myself getting my second wind while they played.

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The high point for me had to be rehearsing and conducting my little piece, “Dead Man’s Pants.” The audience (and musicians) insisted that I tell the story behind this piece last night. I only explained the title. (I was even wearing pants of the dead man who was my father) There was a lot in this piece that I couldn’t talk about quickly and easily.

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It was actually a bit of a composite of sketches from the past year. The “Dead Man’s Pants” theme; the “Small Rain” trio theme, the “Tiny Lies” banjo song with string accompaniment and last but not the least the concluding jerky little tune, “You must be the animal.”

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With one serious rehearsal before the performance this piece was just difficult enough that all the players had to focus a bit to get through it and play it well. It really helped that the pianist, Jennifer Wolfe,  was solid as a rock in her playing and understanding of the piece.

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The sound people that Lemonjellos insists on providing continue to be a bit uneducated in their understanding of miking and mixing. This always detracts a bit. This has frustrated more than one of the people who have helped me with trying to reproduce the sound well. Last night was no exception and found us scrambling to help them come up with enough mikes and making it through mixing the evening.  As it was, I suspect (but do not know) that the mix was acceptable from the audience point of view. The musicians themselves however could not hear each other. This is not unusual but nevertheless is always a challenge.


Playing at this local club does bring home to me that good music in and of itself does not seem to be enough to draw people in.  Good presentation (sound reproduction) and publicity remain critical and two of my failings. Though my style as a person and music is to lead with content it is often trumped by misperceptions, especially in this little W. Michigan town.  But I do find it satisfying that I connect with those who choose to play with me and listen to my work. Once again I realize that I do music primarily to live in the moment of doing it.

Some of my lyrics from last night:

You must be the animal with the human face.
You must be the animal with the human face.
You must be the human with the animal face.

I keep counting the ways, the ways we went wrong.
Troubles today can’t be healed by a song.

For some reason I sing anyway.

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0 thoughts on “you must be the animal

  1. Steve,
    I feel compelled to respond to last evenings performance. It is amazing to have such an assemblage of educated talent in one space. The music was important and superbly performed. It is apparent to me that you need to perform this in front of a larger venue. The music deserves it. Great work Steve! And thanks for letting me be involved.

  2. Heck, thanks for being involved! Thanks also for your kind words…. my blog entry for today doesn’t reflect sufficiently the enthusiastic positive energy from every musician involved last night as well as most everyone in the audience. Many many deserved compliments and expressions of gratitude were flying around. The evening was totally a success in my eyes. My comments today are me continuing the usual process of reflecting, evaluating and learning from my own performance and experience.

    I agree that this music (and especially all of the excellent musicians) deserve a better venue.

    Today I am in recovery mode….. takes me a while to bounce back…. Heh.

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