Monday, June 30, 2008

Independence Day Weekend: I'm all over town

I've got a handful of performances coming up this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, I have a piece in the Source Festival (more on that later). And on Sunday night, DCIC is performing at Electric Possible with a handful of other bands.

Electric Possible is monthly concert held at George Washington University. The focus is on experimental music of different kinds. This month's lineup includes some good stuff. We're performing along with PRV Trio (Anthony Pirog, Ed Ricart, and Scott Verrastro), Seventh Ring of Saturn (from Atlanta), Cash $lave Clique, and maybe others.

DCIC will have a rehearsal before this show, which is something I'm looking forward to. We haven't played together since our in-store at Crooked Beat back in early May. So this will be fun, we get to play together on Thursday night in Ben's basement and then again on Sunday at GWU. Twice in one week! Woo Hoo!

The details:
Phillips Hall,
801 22nd St, NW,
Rm B120 (in the basement)
(22nd and H Streets/GW Metro)
George Washington University
8pm, $5

And now about this Source Festival thing... I was assigned collaborators as part of the festival's "Interdisciplinary Mash-Ups" initiative:

Mash-ups are the pairing together of artists from at least two different disciplines each with the goal of creating, in under three month’s time, a new interdisciplinary performance piece 15 to 30 minutes long.
I got paired with two dancers. This gig doesn't pay very well, so we had to address the conflicting issues of making a substantial (15 minutes long is substantial as far as I'm concerned) new work when we aren't being compensated for our time, while simultaneously we don't want to present something that's totally weak. Laura and Stephen were also keenly aware of this conundrum so we looked around for material that we already have on hand, that would be available to use as a starting point.

I brought them a piece of ambient guitar music that I recorded a while back and haven't used for anything, and Laura remembered a short 8mm film that her dad made in 1970 called "Paint it Blue," that she'd been wanting to use for something. Turns out there was a hint of a theme between them. My piece, "Romance of the Surveillance Machines," is up on myspace if you want to hear it. The film documents an episode where the Schandelmeiers were painting the outside of their downtown bar/restaurant one afternoon (with a small crowd of volunteers) and the cops showed up and starting arresting people for no good reason.

Laura's parents came over for dinner one night, and I brought my recording gear. They told us the story of the restaurant and how they wound up being harassed by police (and eventually the Airline Pilots Association as well) and lost everything: the business and the building. I went home with around 90 minutes of audio, and took a stab at editing it down. My first batch of edits got us down to 18 minutes. I gave that to Laura and Stephen, and they built a video around the interview clips, using the original film and some other footage. Last night, I made a final version of the audio track with the interviews, and background music (derived from the pre-existing piece mentioned above) and now I think we're done. Laura and Stephen have generated some new movement/dance material that will happen on stage along with the film.

Performances are this coming Saturday, 2pm and 8pm, and again on Sunday at 2pm. Some genius set us up for two matinees and only one evening show... and we get paid via a tiny slice of the door. I'm such a sucker. No, I mean, here's the link to buy tickets - enjoy the show! It's gonna be great! (We're in the show titled, "Group E.")

Assistant to the Pastry Chef

This past weekend, I was hired to help out with a big baking project. Cameron got a gig baking a wedding cake (and cupcakes and cookies) for her boss' daughter's wedding. I did lots of dishes. We made an enormous amount of icing. We also learned how to stack cakes. Turns out that the secret is dowels. Looks good, huh? It's a vegan red velvet cake with butter cream icing. It's crazy delicious.

The cake was accompanied by five dozen coconut cupcakes and one zillion Mexican wedding cookies.

We borrowed my parents' kitchen to do most of the work, which was crucial to our success. Having two ovens, two mixers, and all that counter space really paid off. I don't think we could've done it in our little kitchen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The opposite of "no more data entry."

I would very much like to develop a new relationship to money. Perhaps this would be easier if I had a little bit more of it. Towards this end, I am back to work selling my accounting skills. Temp-ing. My current assignment is at the Lincoln Theater. I got the gig through Accountemps. I do not think highly of Accountemps, so I met with another recruiter last week. We'll see if I get a better offer.

This morning, I got to work about 45 minutes early (Cameron needed to get to her office early, and I had to take Wickett to doggie day-care and then metro down to my new job site, wasn't sure how long all that would take). So I took a walk around the neighborhood (14th and U street). It's really crazy how much 14th street has changed - even in the last year or so. Lots of construction is now completed and the street is lined with upscale retail that makes me laugh. They got all of these ridiculously expensive stores open just in time for the economy to take a nose-dive. The absurdity of human activity is spilled out onto the sidewalk and I couldn't help tripping all over it. I've been thinking about the absurdity of human activity because temp-ing brings out the absurdity very efficiently.

I will say this: it's awfully nice having very little accountability. I promise to actually show up and do some work each day. I will not leave my client in worse condition that when I got there. Happily, I also will take on no stress related to the state of their financial management. It is not my problem. If it becomes my problem, I can, quite literally, walk away. Additionally, I have now re-joined the ranks of so many other white-collar workers: those sitting at a desk, bored at work. Gee, now I have time to make a blog post. Perhaps you too are bored at work. Why else would you be reading this?

Yesterday, Cameron and I performed with Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. It was nice doing the show outside, along the water. The weather cooperated, the rain that was in the forecast didn't arrive until after we got home and unloaded the gear. The show went fine, I guess. I think my interest in modern dance is waning. Maybe "has waned completely" would be more accurate. I will probably feel better about the project after I get paid.

We got our notification from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County. Once again, the Low End String Quartet has been rejected for a "Creative Projects" grant. At least this year I had the good sense not to observe the panel as they discussed the proposal. Unfortunately, they were no more enlightened this year than last year... I will no longer waste my time applying to AHCMC for funding. Too bad, though, I could've really used the money. Oh yeah, better get back to the bookkeeping...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Photo from Joe Lally at Knitting Factory

Joe Lally
Originally uploaded by Fists With Your Toes
Just found this on flickr... someone posted a shot of our show at the Knit last month. Joe Lally: bass, vocals; Ricardo Lagomasino: drums, I'm the blurry one with the guitar; and special guest Aurora Nealand: alto sax. We should've brought Aurora along for the rest of the tour because she's awesome. Joe joked about doing his next US tour just with her and without us (me and Ricardo) which would sound great. I'd like the work and all, but he should do that...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Grant Seekin' Update

I got four pieces of news on the grants front this week... first one I mentioned already, Creative Capital invited a full proposal. Neato. Then I got two rejection emails: American Music Center's "Composer Assistance Program" and Meet the Composer both said no. But tonight I got a nice phone call from Carl Banner at Washington Musica Viva -- our joint proposal to have the Low End String Quartet join up with his group for a series of concerts in "alternative venues" during 2009 was funded by the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund. Now we have to find matching funds for something like $6,000. That seems like a nice problem to have...

None of this takes care of my short term money problem, but it sure is good news! And there's a possibility that I'll do some future grant writing for Carl, for money, so that'll help.

Unrelated, I went to my first yoga class today since the tour ended. Turns out that sitting in a van for two weeks, eating badly, and drinking beer every night makes for one hard yoga class.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tour complete; Back to Real Life

It's now been a few days since the end of my two week tour with Joe Lally. I think it may have been a strange dream... I got to play music with Joe and Ricardo every single night for two weeks straight. Did that really happen? Yes, I think it did...

The last few nights of the trip were strange, in different ways. The DC show was odd for Joe, he said he was nervous about it - playing to a room full of people he really just wanted to sit and talk to, rather than be on stage playing songs. Turnout was a little bit lighter than I expected, but there was certainly a nice size audience and the set went just fine. Ricardo was disappointed with his playing that night, but Ricardo on an off night is still pretty awesome. Philadelphia was a strange one because it was an early all-ages show at a venue in an odd neighborhood. A 7pm show on a weeknight feels odd to me, but we had a roomful of people listening - and they were there to listen. Very quiet. The soundguy was very stoned, which made me nervous but he did a fine job. There was some unfortunate lighting at the end of the show - and then we had to hustle and get our gear out so the club could switch over to DJ night which began immediately when we were done. Baltimore was strange too. The club recently moved into another club. There was a dance party upstairs and booming bass rumbled the room where our show was going on. This proved to be distracting, but not an insurmountable obstacle. In the end, our final show felt anticlimactic. I made a handful of mistakes which seemed extra frustrating since we'd been playing together so intensely for weeks - I thought I would've been able to get it right. Then we said goodbye and that was that.

Returning to home life was abrubt - and wonderful. I am eating about four million calories per day now. Hopefully that will get back to normal. Home cookin' rules. Vegan desserts are also nice. We made asparagus lemongrass risotto last night for Cameron's birthday and it was mighty delicious. I'm a little bit jet lagged. I had gotten onto a late night schedule and now it's back to the land of the workin' folks. Except that I need to find me some work now... which is strange since I'm as busy as ever, only I'm not getting paid for most of my work. I have a batch of grant proposals to write, so hopefully that will bring in something later on in the year. But that won't help me get out of debt now.

I got some great news yesterday: I had applied for Creative Capital, which is a very competitive national grant program for individual artists. Turns out I made the first cut, and I've been invited to submit a full proposal. This is very exciting. But now I need to clear a few days to sit down and get the proposal done.

I'm also supposed to be working on a new piece for the Source Festival. They set up a series of "interdisciplinary mash-ups" (their term, not mine). I'm performing in early July with two dancers: Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp. (What an exciting mash-up! Music! and dance!) We're supposed to create a new collaborative work that is 15 - 30 minutes in length. If they sell 60% of the tickets to our three performances, I will get paid about $300. That means we need to create this new 15 - 30 minute piece in approximately zero hours, but I suspect this will not be possible. Especially since I would like the piece to not suck. Not sure why I said "yes" to this gig. Probably because it was by invitation only, so I was all flattered to be invited. I am such a sucker.

Now I'm also supposed to be finding another day-job because I owe Cameron a bunch of money for our household bills over the last few months. When I am actually going to work at this new job is a bit confusing to me at the moment, but I guess I need to figure out how to make it happen... because I really need the money.

This new as-yet unnamed day-job also needs to be fairly flexible. Joe invited me to do some more touring in September, and Step Afrika is supposed to hire me for some work in the fall as well, so I might be a full-time musician again in September / October. For a little while anyway.

Relationship-land is going nicely. I was worried about how touring would play out, with Cameron stuck taking care of everything at home while I was out having fun and not getting paid enough to cover my share of the bills. Money aside, I think we were able to discuss the various issues that came up and not have things get ugly at all. Realistically, I won't be touring much at all in the near future since I don't have any road-ready or seaworthy ensembles at the moment. Maybe in 2009 I should get the Low End Quartet out of DC to start building audiences elsewhere, but we'll see. I probably have to hire a whole set of new players for that, so it seems difficult, if not unlikely. So, I think it's actually much simpler than I had feared. I do enjoy living at home, in a house, with only one other person (and a pet). I do enjoy having a car, and a yard, and health insurance. Since I'm not really in a position to even try to make a living as a touring performer, the real issue to be solved is only money. What I want for myself, and what Cameron wants for herself, in terms of creature comforts, are really pretty similar. There's only so much lower I'd be willing to drop my overhead expenses... so I don't think there's going to be any conflict there.

Being away only helped to highlight how much I miss being at home. Even though I did reaffirm that I'm a sucker for acknowledgment and validation, I also reaffirmed that I'm super lucky to have what I have at home and I don't want to trade that for anything...

Now to figure out that money problem...