And We're Back! 

Image Description: A person with curly brown hair in a dress with an apple print and a red sweater and a man with a black Western shirt and jeans standing on a stage.  Both are playing guitars.

We've been slowly making our way back into performing.  We went to a few open mics in the past month or so, and then we played a showcase at Campus JAX and a show at the Beach Hut that Chris Cruz put together with a bunch of bands and musicians.  We did a few livestreams and pre-recorded radio shows during the pandemic.  Those are challenging in their own way, because you're essentially playing into the void. People are watching and you can interact in the comments, but it's really not the same as having an audience right there, where you kind of feed off each other's energy.  But playing live with an audience after so much time not doing it is odd too.  You feel rusty and out of practice, like an athlete coming back from an injury after missing a season.  Everything feels stiff and tentative.

That's not to say that those gigs went badly.  I actually felt good about them when they were over and it was so so so amazing to see other musicians playing.  I've been missing live music, but I hadn't realized just how much until I was back hearing it.

On Saturday we played at the Orange County Fair in the afternoon and then, because our manager does not pay attention (it's me...I'm the manager), we played with The Fallen Stars at the Beach Hut in the evening.  We've never played at the Fair before and we had such a good time.  We got there early to avoid stress and unloaded our gear and got it all moved over to the stage, with the help of the Fair staff.  We had been to see Bobbo and The Fallen Stars play last weekend on the same stage, and I was happy to see that the same stage manager, JD, and sound technician, Noelle, were working this weekend.  They had done an awesome job last weekend and did not disappoint this weekend.  They made everything really easy and Noelle made us sound great.

The band that played before us was called Ganda.  They're a five-piece reggae band and they were a ton of fun to listen to.  It was almost enough to distract me from nerves.  I don't think I'll ever not be nervous going on stage.  When they were done, we got our stuff onstage and did a sound check and then we were off.  It took a minute for me to settle in, but once I did, things felt comfortable.  People stopped to sit and listen and really seemed to be enjoying what we did.  Lots of smiling faces in the audience.  There's a song I play in drop D tuning and I did the thing that always seems to happen-I forgot to retune the low E string back up to an E, even though I had put a reminder to myself in huge letters on the set list.  I realized the mistake about halfway through the song and was able to sort of fix it by a combination of muting the low E string and playing the chords differently.  It was less than ideal, but far from a disaster and aside from that everything went really well.

After the show, we had a few people buy CDs and actually wanted them signed.  One guy told me it was his 50th wedding anniversary--he and his wife had gotten married in 1971 right after he came home from Vietnam, so we signed a "Happy Anniversary" on his CD.  It's always cool to hear things like that and to know that you were part of making someone happy on a day that's special to them.  I went and bought us ridiculous milkshakes (the kind topped with basically an entire second dessert) while Ron loaded our gear onto the cart and we headed off to our second gig of the day.  I felt bad that we couldn't stick around and watch Tall as Men play, but we had to get going.

It was a bit of a difficult transition between the fair and the Beach Hut.  The energy of a fair, where you're next to a beer tent and there are a lot of people around and constant movement, is very different than the energy of a small room where people are sitting and listening.  It's not bad or good, things just feel different and it's hard to move from one headspace to the other. 

I was kind of keyed up and exhausted at the same time, so it took me a bit longer to settle into a groove than at the Fair, but I got there eventually.  There weren't many people there, but it was an enthusiastic audience who really seemed to enjoy what we were doing.  We mostly played the same set as at the Fair, since we knew there was no overlap in audience, with a few substitutions and additions.  The Fallen Stars joined us for "A Song For You," which made it extra awesome.  I love the way Tracy plays bass on that song and Bobbo did a really beautiful slide solo.  Then we got to watch Bobbo and Tracy do a great set of music.  Afterward we talked more about our proposed super group (and Tracy finally found a name: Starbird Falls), had an impromptu Jayhawks singalong, and split a lemon cookie, which was the best way to end the evening.

OC FAIR SETLIST:

Get Outta Town

Jenny Lynn (won't you come home)

Lie To Me

Water's Edge

Emmylou

Alright Now

Today I Started Loving You Again

Return of the Grievous Angel

BEACH HUT SETLIST:

Get Outta Town 

Jenny Lynn (won't you come home) 

Lie To Me 

Water's Edge

Willin'

A Song for You

Alright Now

Today I Started Loving You Again

Return of the Grievous Angel

Gone Gone Gone

Pandemic Update 

Wouldn't you know it, we release an album, go on a little vacation, and then the world goes to hell.  Like everyone, we've been laying low since the pandemic started.  I work in healthcare so I've been going to work every day like normal, except I'm busier and working long and weird hours.  Ron is in multiple high-risk groups, so he's been staying home.  We were really sad when the Tucson Folk Festival was cancelled and so were any potential future gigs.  We've done a few livestreams on Facebook, including one with our friends The Fallen Stars where we were able to raise over $500 dollars for BEAM, which was awesome.  But even so, it's difficult to play on a livestream.  It feels a little like you're playing into the void.  A big part of live performance is that connection with the audience, even if you're fighting with the football game or espresso machine in the background.

Moving on to happier things, I bought a really cool guitar (pictured above) and it sounds fantastic.  I don't really know a lot about guitars.  I just know whether I like how something sounds and how something feels when I'm playing it.  And I know I like how this guitar sounds especially with Ron's guitar.  There's a bit of learning curve for me with it because it's got a bigger neck than I'm used to.  I'm very used to the little Martin guitar I've been playing for years, so...practicing (which I always need to do more of anyway).  We're also working on some new songs because once this whole thing is over (whenever the heck that is), we are itching to get back out to play live and to record some more and we would love to have new material worked out.

    Stay safe out there (or rather in there) everyone.  Wear your masks.  Check in on your friends.  We'll see you when this is over.

    Good Work 

    We've been busy the past few weeks.  It's been a lot of work to finalize our album--listening to the masters to make sure that everything is as good as we want it to be, finalizing the artwork, making sure the printer/duplication has everything they need, setting up a pre-sale (working on it!)...This is the first time we've ever put out an album and it still feels like we are flying by the seat of our pants

    Of course, we've been really, really lucky to have a lot of guidance and mentoring from Bobbo Byrnes, who is one of the most generous and talented musicians in Orange County.  Seriously, if you haven't already, go listen to what he does both solo and as part of his band The Fallen Stars.  It's awesome.  (He also was our recording engineer/producer which is probably a big part of why our album sounds so good).

    A black and white photo of four people standing with arms around each other's shoulders.  On the left is a tall man in black with an Elvis-type pompadour (Michael Ubaldini).  Next to him is a man in a hat with a bandanna around his neck (Mark Huff).  We are to the right of both of them, smiling.  Ron is wearing cuffed jeans and Jen is in a black dress and light colored sweater.

    We've also been playing some shows.  We played a gig at Michael Ubaldini's Outlaws of Folk Series.  We'd never played as part of this and it was a new venue for us as well.  I can't speak for Ron, but no matter how much I do this, I always feel a little bit of trepidation playing in a new venue, outside of the "bubble" where we usually play.  I get a little nervous about fitting the "mood" (for lack of a better term) of the place.  But of course everyone was super cool and talented (check out Mark Huff and The Pollen Collective), like they always are.  It's just funny what sticks with you and what you can't let go of as a performer, even after years of doing it.

    We have one more show coming up tomorrow (February 8) at the Beach Hut in Huntington Beach, a showcase hosted by Chris Cruz.  See our shows page for more details on that.  Then we have our album release party coming up February 22nd!  We want to see you all there!

    Upcoming Album! 

    Look for our album "Better Days", on sale on 2/22/2020.

    It's a 6-track EP, with four of our original songs and two covers ("Willin'" by Little Feat and "Return of the Grievous Angel" by Gram Parsons/Tom Brown).  This album is ten years in the making (sort of...we've only been recording it for about 10 months, but we've been playing together for 10 years), and we can't wait for you to hear it.  Check our Shows page for information about our release party!