The Left Hook debut show was last night, and it went great! I’m happy that all our planning and hard work is paying off. Everyone in the band is psyched too. It’s a great set, a great sound and a great group of musicians. I handpicked the lineup from the best musicians I know, all seasoned pros. It’s great that they all agreed to join, get along well, and are enthusiastic and onboard.
I’ve been with Gus, our drummer the longest. Really solid drummer, and loves old soul music in particular, just great with groves and pockets. It was just about a year ago The Relix broke up, and we’ve been trying to put together a new group ever since. Gus also has been handling the business side of things, for which I’m grateful, cuz I’ve been focusing on the music and sound side.
Meanwhile Ken came in just at the end of February and learned 40 songs in six weeks. Not too shabby. He was the bassist in the Day Trippers as well as 7 Jazz West, so it this point I’ve played quite a few gigs with him. Also known for his collection of vintage bases.
Mike Jefferson is our lead singer. He’s was in a band with Gus once before and joined us right after the Relix, and stayed on as we went thru a few bass and guitar players. A former heavyweight boxer, born and raised (partway) in England, he has a fondness for prog and folk rock, but can sing really well in a lot of styles. Very powerful voice. Just nails it on the Doors and James Brown, and all the soul stuff. He’s also a music journalist and beats us all hands-down in the music trivia walking encyclopedia department. And in true lead singer rockstar style, he was hitting on the ladies before the end of the first set.
Gary Bruce on guitar came in after sitting in with the jazz circle one day and before he got done with his first eight bars I knew he’d be great for this group. The kind of guitar player who loves Steely Dan! Right on.
Because this gig got rescheduled twice, we didn’t have alot of our own people come out. In fact it was just Jeannie, who was there to shoot video for us, and our friend Gary the trumpeter from the jazz group. But the place was half-full when we got there, and we had them by the time we finished the sound check.
It was a good test for a lot of things, including my new PA. I learned we need a good hour to set it up and soundcheck. I also learned it works really fucking amazingly. After the disaster Day Trippers gig last December I realized having control of the vocal sound is the most important thing for a club date.
The sound system has two 1000-watt main speakers. I optimized for lightness, since you gotta get ‘em in and out of the car and up onto poles. Then there’s a pair of 300 watt stage monitors. I didn’t know if this would provide enough coverage, especially for the drums in the back, but everyone could hear just fine. I was running the mixer from the stage, but once the soundcheck was over I literally didn’t have to do anything and could just relax and focus on performing. The mixer, BTW, I chose for it’s built-in compressors in the channel preamps, it’s onboard reverb/chorus/delay effects that saved us from having to schlep another piece of gear, and it’s separate monitor buss. All in all it worked great, and we got that fat live vocal sound I was really after.
Once we got underway it was pretty clear the people at the bar were really digging it. Must’ve been the right place for this kind of music. We opened with a couple funk numbers – Them Changes by Buddy Miles and I Got You by James Brown. Good horn tunes, right in our zone. Then it was some classic rock to show off our harmony singing – No Matter What by Badfinger and When I Saw Her Standing There. Next was the Blue Öyster Cult classic Burning for You, with yours truly on lead vocals. Then a couple of organ songs – Hush by Deep Purple and Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf, followed by Gary doing a little SRV Pride and Joy. Then it was back to soul music with Knock on Wood and Get Ready. We ended the set with Can You Hear Me Knocking by the Stones, which turned out to be a real highlight.
The second set opened with We’re An American Band, and on to (Ain’t Nothin’ But a) House Party, and switching to sax for Domino. I sang lead on You May Be Right, and then Drift Away with Gary on lead vocals, and some random chick from the bar who looked and sounded a lot like Katy Perry sitting on background vocals. I guess she’d been hitting on Mike or vice versa, but she really could sing. Then it was Love Me Two Times, which was a bit rough for structure, and Pretzel Logic which was a bit rough for tempo and feel. We closed the set strong with a string of soul numbers – Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly, Dance to the Music, Hold on I’m Coming and Soul Man.
The first two sets ran an hour each, so the last set was shortened a bit. Songs included Come Together, Long Train Running with me on lead vocals, Rikki Don’t Loose the Number with Gary on lead vocals, Miami 2017 with me on lead vocals again, then In the Midnight Hour, Mustang Sally, and closing with Roadhouse Blues.
They invited us back to play again, and possibly do a regular gig there. So ya, good feelings all around. And we got it on video so we can put together some material for the web site and to try and get new gigs. Meanwhile we have a show in two weeks at Dudley’s in New Rochelle. Gonna spend the next couple rehearsals tweaking and tightening. Come out and see us on May 9!