As a musician, I approach live music from a particular perspective, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I feel it is the most authentic way to do so.
To set the stage, I recall many years ago, I went to a concert at a large concert venue in western Broward County, Florida. Broward County is where Ft. Lauderdale is located and I had been living in Miami/Dade county, the next county south.
I was leaving the event, and there was quite a crowd filing out. Candidly, though everything was moving, it was packed. There was a couple of people directly behind me raving about the performance. I was frankly, quite disappointed with it actually, and had these two behind me talking about how much they liked it. Well, everyone is different, but I felt otherwise, while respecting their enjoyment, which was foaming at the mouth happy.
Then one of them said something that highlighted the difference from what I felt, and what they did. What they said was “That was just fantastic! It was just like the record!”. At this point, I had to say something. I turned around and said politely “That was exactly why I was so disappointed with the performance. I could have saved myself an hour's drive and the price of admission, listened to it at home, and heard the exact same thing. Tonight was a sterile performance. It was a complete canned concert”.
I think the people were a bit taken back by my statement, as they were pretty quiet after that. However, when we got to the main door at the exit, one of them tapped me on the shoulder, smiled and said “Thanks. Good night”.
You see, from my perspective, live music has the opportunity to really be a living organism.
Playing music live, is an entirely different animal that what we do in a studio. In a studio you can do one hundred retakes, Or, the engineer can edit out certain things and add others. On the studio recording, you can also add all sorts of different instruments to a track, plus additional vocals, to the point that if you had all the instruments on stage, it would be the size of the New York Philharmonic. On my song “The Beach!!!!” for instance, we actually have over seventy tracks!
Now, I'm not being critical of studio albums. Not at all. I'm just saying it's a different art.
When playing live, you're can be flying without a net.
Because of this, you will find some musical acts elect to do the exact copy of the record, in live performances. It's a safe route. Additionally, some will change the arrangements for the live tour. However, if you were to follow the tour, you'll find the exact same show, note for note, song for song, night after night. Some actually do it that way year after year. It's a safe comfort zone.
For many, that's acceptable. Hearing a live gig, even if it's canned, as the two above scenarios, is good, especially if it's pumping out of a high grade, 100,000 Watt sound system. Compare that to their computer's two inch speakers at home!
The Grateful Dead
With us, we play in Key West bars, for the most part. Currently we have the original Bose L1 tower system. It certainly gets the job done very well, however it's around ten years old, so we may need a new system before long.
As far as the music goes, we don't go for the “safe” formula. Doing it that was would be the sterile formula. We prefer the flying the trapeze without a net! With The Shanty Hounds it's a seat of the pants affair. That way every performance takes both ourselves and every one there, on a unique voyage.
Having said that, all of our songs have their own individual structure, which to a degree, doesn't change. For instance, lets say we do the song “Landslide”, written by Stevie Nicks. We start it off the same way all the time and the verses all follow suit. When it gets to the solo, I'll start it off with the same two notes, which gives the solo definition. After that, the feeling of the solo remains true, however who the hell knows what notes will follow? I honestly don't have a clue until I'm playing it.
On another vain, Dani's song “I like it Hot”, has an entirely new intro to the song that we added this year. My lead guitar lines are nothing like the saxophone lines on the recorded version. Her vocal verses, are the same arrangement, however on my first solo, we have nothing set as far as how long it will go for. One night it might go for ten progressions (they're short progressions), the next night it might go fifteen. The theme of the solo always carries the same idea, but who knows where it will pop up, of what will be in between? The end of the song is the same idea.
We also cover J.J. Cale's song “Magnolia”. We have an extended solo in it, which usually carries a few different recognizable themes through it, but again, who knows where, or if they'll be, in addition to having any clue whatsoever what else will happen in there? A new part could easily be invented at the spur of the moment.... and often is!
On the other hand, we have a song like my newest, “Yeah, A Harbor”, which is played pretty much the same every time, structure wise. There is no instrumental section where improvisation can take place.
The Set List
What's a set list? We have a song list on Dani's iPad, but that's just a listing of songs we play. A common issue with musicians is not being able to remember what songs to play. I fall into that category. How many times over the years have I seen a solo musician with a song list taped to the upside of their guitar? Bands who do set lists, and always use the same set list, don't have this problem, For them it's always the same. They start off with song “AAA”, then go to song “BBB”, then to “CCC” . It's a routine, so there's never an issue.
However, as I say, our modus oparandi has us up on the high-wire, without a net. That's how we like it! We'll pick one of maybe four different songs to start the gig, but after that it's a matter of “Riding the Gig”. It's a matter of getting the right vibe between us, the crowd, and the venue.
The Shanty Hounds wear a lot of different hats. One song is Rock, the next, is Country, the next is jam band, the next Western Swing, following that something from the island, then a funky number like Yellow Moon. Limiting ourselves to one particular style is not what we do. We like variety!
Listen to Dani's or my albums and you'll find our original music is all over the place genre wise. All of this gets incorporated across the board to our covers as well.
Does it always work?
Having said that, both ourselves, and the crowd we attract, thrive off of the human element of it all!
Like I say, the live gig can either be canned affair, or it can be a living organism.
The Shanty Hounds at Grunts Bar, Key West
We prefer the living organism, and riding the high wire without a net!
It's the only way to fly! :-)
Shanty Hounds Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ShantyHounds/
Join the Shanty Hounds friends page! https://www.facebook.com/groups/shantyhoundsnation/
Thank you for reading my blog!!!!
Key West Chris Rehm
Please check out my book, Bar Stories, available on Amazon!!!!
Bar Stories! A bit of adventure, a hint of mystery, some gray matter stimulation, laced with travel, and peppered with humor throughout! Take a unique trip with this Trop Rock musician through bars and the unique, odd, and funny goings on in them! Take a trip from Key West to London to Cape Cod, to Miami and more! So grab a libation and join the author on this wild ride! Seventeen 5-Star Ratings!
Also,Please Check out my music available on iTunes!