On May 20, when I went through the double doors that connect the foyer of the Timucua White House with the main room, Tony was already on stage. He didn't look up when I came in; he was running through his #bassSolo for "Sucker Punch," a song which we hadn't played in a while, in practice or otherwise. All of our equipment had been at the performance space since the day before so I didn't have anything with me when I walked in which gave me the distinct feeling that I was forgetting something. (I wasn't)
The Timucua Arts White House is a beautiful space on Summerlin just south of Kaley across from Boone High School. The owner, Benoit Glazer, was the conductor of the Cirque du Soleil in Disney Springs and decided to turn his house into a concert venue. Timucua Arts is a non profit dedicated to promoting arts and music in Central Florida. They have live music every Sunday night across a range of genres and the concerts are free admission, potluck style with a suggested donation. The Sunday night concerts are a really unique Orlando experience with a great and supportive community, fellowship, and of course music. Definitely check out their schedule here and consider donating or becoming a member. There's nothing else like it in town.
Benoit usually runs the sound, but he had left that day for Scotland to see his daughter graduate so we soundchecked with him the day before. His son Charles was going to be behind the console during the show. We had gone to soundcheck directly after our Beer Merica festival show at Gaston Edwards Park. Our 45 minute set got rained out about 30 minutes in and we were completely soaked. Our first order of business when we unloaded at the White House was to towel off our electronics.
The room itself is beautiful. When you enter through the swinging double doors, you're coming in perpendicular to the axis of the space. The stage is on the right, about 12 feet deep, a few feet off the floor level. Benoit's wife's grand piano dominates stage right in the corner. The walls around the stage are brick faced. The ceiling, about 10 feet at the back of the stage slants upwards as it goes out, reaching 3 stories at the opposite end of the room. About two thirds down the room from the stage are the second and third floor balconies, connected by a spiral staircase. The floor has folding chairs lined up in rows, with the second and third floor having a mix of chairs and couches. (Timucua is fully wheelchair accessible, btw).
The entire thing is wood paneled and was obviously designed with acoustics in mind. It feels like a small, intimate symphony hall. I'd guess the listening room seats about 100, with standing room space available in the foyer if it were really packed. We had played there two years ago and I remember standing on stage, not plugged in, and playing one chord on the mandolin and hearing it resonate clear through the room; I'll bet if I was playing solo or with one other guitar I wouldn't have had to even amplify it.
Soundcheck took about 45 minutes. No one was in a rush and we really wanted to get it right, as Benoit always records the concerts and provides the audio and video to the bands in addition to a livestream. I was hoping we'd get some good live AV we could use down the road.
Sean's fairly monstrous setup took the longest to dial in. Balancing his acoustic and his resonator is kind of a tough task; the dobro is a feedback machine and it has a rather different "default" output level than the acoustic. He's been planning on cutting his pedal board down to make it both more cooperative and more space efficient.
The rest off the soundcheck went quickly. We played "Hey Ya Wanna" to get the mandolin / dobro balance right as well as the backing vocals* and then "Light" to dial in our guitars. (Also because we hadn't played it in a while, I wanted to sneak a rep in). Benoit stood in the audience area, listening, and working with Charles to tweak the gains and the panning to fill the room appropriately.
*I usually do something stupid or goofy during my mic check. It was Shakespeare monologues for a while, and lately I'd taken to singing either Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" or Tool's "Sober." At Beermerica I started singing Nine Inch Nails "Closer" which resulted in a panicked look from Dan as I approached the chorus when he realized what I was singing. He needn't have worried. The phrase "you let me penetrate you" became "you let me perturbate you" and the chorus became "I wanna pet you like an animal." I mainly did it to amuse myself, with a secondary benefit of scaring Dan. I just did boring "check check cheeeeeeeeck" for Benoit, though.
We didn't have monitors and the PA speakers were on the walls behind us. Since our instruments were panned to our appropriate sides and the acoustics are so good we didn't have any issues hearing. Dan turned to me later and said "What do you think of the sound?" My response was "Don't care. Doesn't matter what it sounds like up here, it matters what Benoit thinks out there." There's basically nothing musically I wouldn't defer to Benoit's expertise on. The most important thing when we were done, as Justin and I re-iterated about 3 times was to not touch anything on our setups. The balance, panning, and gains were all good. Any fidgeting we did after sound check would only screw with the sound and risk messing it up.
After soundcheck we all chatted in the foyer. In addition to being an almost obscenely talented musician, Benoit is also an incredibly nice guy.
The night of the show, about 30 minutes before doors opened, Tony and I played through "Light" again as the rest of the guys arrived. The musical performance is always paired with a live artist creating while the show is going. Jene Owens, a sculptor who also did artwork for the movie business, was set up on stage left next to Sean near the window that looked into the sound control room / green room. Tony, himself a talented artist, struck up a conversation with him. Apparently Jene had looked at the acts that were playing and after listening to our music chose to be paired with us. Some bronze casts he had made were in various parts of the room as part of an exhibition of his works. He was going to be working on a bust while we played.
When all of us were there we played through "13 Bottles" to warm up, after JB again reminded us not to tweak anything. We then crowded into the greenroom off the foyer as people started arriving. We chatted with Charles as he set up and turned on the livestream. We could hear people coming in, getting wine, laying down their potluck snacks.
At just before 7:30 Wendy gave the introductions. Mills Park art curator Boris Garbe introduced Jene. Timucua's executive director Chris Belt (a fantastic guitarist himself, btw) gave our introduction and we walked in as the crowd applauded. It was dark and hard to see, but it looked pretty full. I did a quick tuning check on my mandolin. I had fairly fresh strings, having broken one onstage on Thursday and I had some trouble at Beer Merica keeping my A strings in tune with each other. Since we were starting with Hey Ya Wanna, and I have a little solo figure right at the beginning, I wanted to double check. I didn't want to find out 4 notes into my part that I was out of tune; having the string pairs go out with each other on the mandolin is really noticeable when you're playing a lead part and I wouldn't have been able to abort out gracefully at the signature riff of our first song.
Our set was a lot of songs off of our upcoming album, a few of which haven't been played very much, mixed in with other of our stronger previous material. We planned on playing for about an hour, so I had some flexibility of what to leave in and cut out. (In a three hour show like we often play at restaurants and bars we basically have to play everything we know). Knowing we had a captive audience expecting original music, I didn't put any covers on the set. When I was woking on the setlist, I kept an eye on what we played at our last White House show. We ended up playing 7 songs that we didn't play the last time.
We were relaxed and playing pretty well. It was potentially the best we'd played "Crusader," our second song of the night (in fairness we'd only played it 13 times before then, which sounds like a lot, but for point of reference we'd played Hey Ya Wanna 133 times.)
I missed my entrance during "Janice" but it's a supporting part so I doubt even the guys noticed. Dan talked about our new album while I got ready to start off Clay Pigeons. I took a steadying breath. I'm on an island at the beginning of that song and it is a rather difficult part to play. I held it together and overall it was one of our best performances of it, with a highlight being a large contingent of the audience clapping along during the bridge.. Immediately upon playing the last note, I started off Better Now, another new one off the album that we haven't played too many times. I have a pretty extensive vocal harmony throughout Better Now, but was feeling pretty good.
I do more vocal work live than I used to, both do to a slight uptick (very slight) in confidence in my voice and also the more prominent harmony parts in our newer material. I'm not a natural or particularly comfortable singing so it's a bit of a mental hurdle, especially since singing while simultaneously playing some tricky instrumental parts as in Clay Pigeons or 'February Morning" requires some concentration (and a crap-ton of practice).
We played "Light" at about the middle of the set, which was going by really fast for me. It was just about a perfect performance of Light, until of course right at the end when I thought "I think this is the best we've ever played this" and promptly clanged a note on a rather exposed part. I suppose there's a lesson there about not counting your chickens until they don't f*ck up a part. (I'm paraphrasing)
My phone had been buzzing in my pocket basically the whole time we were on stage. I didn't check it, but did wonder what was going on. I was a little afraid the first row were going to hear it going off since sound carries so well in that room. (I had to be really conscious when I was tuning to not pluck to loudly. When my tuner is on, my output to the speakers is cut off, but my unamplified instrument is still pretty load in there.
Dan was relaxed and a bit more talkative than usual. It's such an intimate venue that you really connect with the audience; it kind of feels like you're with friends in someone's living room.
We played a few more than we were going to, adding "Back Seat Down" and "500 Miles" before we played "Back Again." Wendy asked us to play one more. There was a moments confusion while we tried to decide what to play. We had ended very very strongly and had already played our back pocket additions (BSD and 500 Miles). I wasn't sure how we were going to follow up Back Again. Justin called out Take On Me, which really was the only choice. I had kind of forgotten about it.
After we finished we got some pictures on the stage and talked people. I met a woman who saw us for the first time at the Dr. Phillips Center and liked us enough to come see us again when she saw were at Timucua. I also finally got to meet local artist Martha Lent, who I "know" through Instagram and had seen in the audience at a few shows. Was nice to finally meet her in person.
We sold quite a bit of merchandise too. As I said, it's a really supportive crowd and there's a good percentage of people who are Timucua members who come pretty regularly whether they know the musical act or not. A lot of our friends and family came too.
It was a really satisfying night and a good performance. We got the audio track files from Charles and we're going to get the video files in a few weeks so we should have some quality live content coming out soon.
Also you can watch the original youtube livestream here, if you missed it. And it turned out that the buzzing of my phone was my brother and sister in the Northeast watching the stream and basically live texting about it. Pretty sure they included me on the message to mess with me since they knew I couldn't answer. If I had known it was them I might have said something snarky into the camera, which come to think of it may have been the point.
So you can just go ahead and assume any mistakes you see me make on the recording are a direct result of my siblings distracting me. I will pass on any strongly worded letters about their chicanery to them.
And go support Timucua Arts. Follow them on Facebook. Check out their podcast. Go see a show.
Hey Ya Wanna
Did For You
Potatoes and Leeks
The Long Sleep
Back Seat Down
Take On Me