Thursday, April 26, 2012

Band Practice

WHEN PEOPLE FIND out I play in a band, they say, "Oh, what fun!" Well, they are right. Partially.

Playing in a band is a lot of work. You go to the gig, and for The Cheeseburgers that could mean a show in town or up to an hour away. You set up, and that means another hour, maybe longer if we've never been to the venue. We play, and that's four hours. We tear down, another hour, drive home, and there's been a few nights I've just stayed up after getting home to watch the sun come up.

To be a really good band you need to practice. I miss my brothers in rock from The Funions, mostly because when we practiced we had such a good time. We practiced in church basements, band member's houses, and toward the end  at the old Vegas Music at 22nd and Broadway. Man, those were some riotous and righteous times.

When I joined The Cheeseburgers two years ago, I knew many of the songs but had to learn a bunch more. Guitar player John Hodge was coming on board too and we had some really good and intense practices before playing our first gig as a five-piece band.

You can practice all you want, but playing is where you learn and improve and get tight. I remember it took a few months before I really started feeling comfortable with most of the songs.

Band practice is an interesting study in human dynamics. Usually a band has a leader, a person who pushes the agenda and ideas with help from everybody. The Burgers have guys who have played for years and years, and there isn't really an Alpha male running the show.

Burt Shackleton, our keyboard/guitar/sax player/singer, does the set lists for every show and often has ideas about what songs to practice. New guitar player Eric McCaughey has a wealth of material he knows and has brought some very cool songs to the mix.

Some songs are easy to learn, others take time. A lot of other bands laugh at us for learning "Love Shack" by the B52s, but the way we do it gets em out on the dance floor every night we play it. The song took a bit to learn and we waited until we felt confident enough to play it live, and the first night at One Restaurant in Quincy it was awesome.

Toward the end of practice last night we were banging around some ideas when I suggested The Who's classic Baba O'Reilly. We'd messed around with it before when John Hodge was in the band and this was the first time Eric gave it a go. Burt plays guitar so all I have to do is be the goofball and sing it.

You can tell if a song is going to work almost right away, and for whatever reason it clicked. I got my Roger Daltrey on while Eric figured out the keyboard intro on guitar, and bass player Jeff VanKanegan kept us on track with the arrangement.

Who's Next was one of the first albums I ever bought on cassette tape and I wore it out on an old boom box when I was in high school. I know every word from every song and to be singing a Who song is a dream come true. We need to work on it a bit more but I look forward to unleashing it this summer during one of our many gigs.

So, yes, it is more fun than should be allowed to play in a band. And a lot of hard work to make it fun. Practice makes perfect, and getting it done on stage is where it counts.

Hope to see you this summer when we are out and about, you can find The Cheeseburger's schedule at our store website here.

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