14 shows in ’14
Dutch Holly took a hiatus from playing live for nearly all of 2013. 2011 and 2012 saw us on stage with anywhere from 6 to 20 people, and that had become a little too difficult for us to manage, much less travel with. We played one show as a duo in February of 2013 before delving into some home recording. When we came up for air it was late 2013 and we had only played ONE show for the entire year! Woops. Neither of us were very happy about that, but we weren’t very happy about the idea of putting together another band either. So we decided to see what we could do with just the two of us, and we set a goal of playing at least one show a month in 2014. Turns out we did a little better than that. Here’s a show-by-show review of how 2014 went for us:
February 23rd, Che’s Lounge – Tucson AZ
Our first show in 366 days. This one was special, to be sure. We played on Che’s patio. There’s a full writeup about this one here, but the thing I will never forget was the moment when, despite our lack of a tip-jar, people started plunking down cash on our equipment while we were playing. It felt like: “Yes! There is support for what you’re doing here. Go forth!”
March 8th Maker House, – Tucson AZ
The Party for Puppets. Giant, paper mache puppets. Our friend, Jacob DeVaney booked us for this one. We had guest musicians Paul Ruffner on tenor sax and Stefan Cochran on sitar sit in. This was before they built the big stage at Maker House, and before they got a decent sound system, so we were playing in the little alcove off to the side, and through a set of beefed up stereo speakers. Fortunately, we had our own monitors, so we could hear ourselves OK.
April 2nd, The Lost Leaf Bar – Phoenix, AZ
Our first time at the Lost Leaf. Max was sick and Jen didn’t want to be away from him, so we had to rent a bigger car to transport Max, Bert, ourselves, and our gear. After a pretty reasonable dinner of Thai food, Bert looked after Max at the hotel as we played. Meg Bohrman sat in on accordion, which was fun, and an audience member was saying “accordion to you…” between tunes and giggling, which had us laughing too. I’ll always remember this one because it was the first time we played (as a duo) through a decent sound system. We had several pre-recorded loops on the looper that we hadn’t tried performing with yet. Because the sound system was so robust, it turned out these loops were incompatibly WAY too loud compared to the rest of our setup. So, during the set-break, I had my laptop up on stage and I was editing the loops in Adobe Audition, bringing down the gain by several dB. I didn’t get to test them before we started playing again, so when one of the songs came up, I just hit the “play loop” button and hoped for the best. Miraculously, it worked out. Whew! Valley music critic Serene Dominic wrote about this performance in AZCentral.
May 31st, Borderlands Brewing Company – Tucson AZ
I had blind-emailed Borderlands and when the booker got back to me, it turns out he was a friend (I didn’t know that he booked this place). This was a lovely gig, with free craft beer. This was also the first time we used one of our new photos on a poster. I’ll remember this one for a few reasons, first because we were concerned about being too loud in such a small echo-y environment (we weren’t). Second, because this was the first time I had ever tried patching our monitor system into another sound system, and I discovered that the “send” on the back of the amp cuts our monitors out unless you pull the plug halfway out. Thank goodness for my years as a sound-guy.
June 5th, The Raven Café – Prescott, AZ
Our first gig at the Raven. We had seen bands at the Raven for years, but hadn’t played there ourselves. I was under the delusion that because the Raven has a great sound system, their monitors would be of the same quality. Bands routinely sound great at the Raven, but we do kind of a unique thing live with the looping and sub-mixing, and the monitors are really an important part of it: We drive the monitors pretty hard. So, predictably, there were a few moments where we had sheer distortion coming through the monitors and we were worried that’s what it sounded like out in the room. Turns out Mike the sound guy had it completely under control, and there was no such nonsense going on through the mains. This was our first gig in Prescott since February of the previous year. We had a great turnout, and people stayed to the end. It was pretty gratifying to have such a dedicated audience in our hometown. Paul Ruffner sat in on sax, and Meg Bohrman on accordion.
July 13, Che’s Lounge – Tucson, AZ
Rain and tomahawks! This was our initial return to Che’s. It was supposed to be a patio show but it was pouring rain in Tucson, so we wound up playing inside. I’ll never forget this one because it was raining really hard as I was loading in, and a kind bar patron helped me carry some stuff in. Lightning was cracking right over the bar as I was carrying big metal rods (in the form of mic stands). Fortunately, I didn’t get struck. Jen will probably never forget this one because the hard-rubber ball at the end of her glockenspiel mallet(s) kept flying off. One of our loyal Tucson fans (he’s been at every single show) kept finding it and handing it back to her, until at some point, it flew off into a black hole never to be found again. During the set break, Jen went out in the street, picked up a couple of appropriately sized rocks and duct-taped them to the ends of her mallets, creating glockenspiel mallet tomahawks. This was far from ideal, but got her through at least a couple of tunes.
July 26, Black Hole Beer Company – Prescott, AZ
The mallet nightmare continues. This was maybe the most difficult show for us all year. We had ordered Jen a new set of mallets, problem was, the rubber ball at the end of them was a little softer than the previous ones. That resulted in a softer tone, which Jen much preferred to the harsh clangy tone of the harder mallets. This was all well and good in the comfy confines of our rehearsal space, but presented a serious problem live: her glock parts couldn’t be heard. Add to that the fact that the Black Hole doesn’t have a PA, so our monitor system was doing double duty as a PA. We had daisy-chained two (mismatched) PA speakers to our monitor system and set them out as mains. This didn’t work out so well as our PA kept trying to drive all 4 speakers and couldn’t produce enough wattage for it, which meant that it kept cutting out at the loudest points. So we’d be in the middle of a tune, and just when we get to the high-point: WHAM! our sound would cut completely out for a second or two. Despite the hardships, this show was really well-attended, and turned out to be Black Hole’s best night so far. It was a few more weeks before they had another night that was so well-attended.
August 2, The Flycatcher – Tucson AZ
Easy-peasy. I’ll remember this one as one of the easiest shows all year, I think this was a turning point for us where everything just started to get easier. After the technical debacles at Black Hole, we were about due for an easy time, and the Flycatcher delivered. This was a lounge show, so we started in the late afternoon, and we played in that cozy little corner of the main room on a tiny stage. In fact, I couldn’t fit my setup on the stage with Jen, so I set up on the floor next to the stage, and Jen set up on the stage. We had gotten some better glock mallets, and I had set up and torn down our equipment so many times by this time that everything was effortless. We played to some new people, and had a delightful time. It was like playing in our own living room.
September 10, The Lost Leaf Bar – Phoenix, AZ
This was the show where I felt like we had really hit our stride. All year we had been working on getting our “stage legs” and it started to really pay off here. The lessons learned at the previous Lost Leaf show (and other shows) were put into practice. The performance was easy, sound was good, attendance was up, and we really jammed out. Even travel to and from the gig was easy. “Accordion to you” girl was at this show too, it was nice to see her. Where the previous Lost Leaf show had been all difficulty and adversity, this one was easy to the same extent.
September 13, Black Hole Beer Company – Prescott, AZ
Same deal here: Developing our stage legs really paid off. Still a tricky venue to play because they have no sound system, but this time I knew better than to try to drive four speakers with our monitor amp. So I brought three speakers instead. It worked like a charm, no cut-outs. By this time I was a pro at setting up our system and dialing it in, so we had little-to-no monitor distortion, and Jen’s new mallets had the glock parts ringing out where before they couldn’t be heard. We had some repeat audience attend this show, and some new folks as well. By this time, Black Hole was beginning to become known for booking great alternative acts, and at this show I really felt like our audience in Prescott was starting to grow.
October 10, Maker House – Tucson, AZ
Wow, what a difference seven months can make! Though this was our second show at Maker House, it was like playing a completely new venue. Where before we were relegated to a little alcove, this time we were on the biggest stage we’d played all year. Couple that with the brand-new concert-level sound system (it had arrived only the day before!) and lights, and we were feeling pretty fancy! This was also the very first show we’d played all year where we shared the stage with an opening band. Up to this gig, we had played the whole night. At this show, we still played for about two hours, but left a number of our tunes in the dugout. Again, at this show, we saw some new faces, and made some new friends. They were still getting a handle on how their system works, so during our set,we had some serious distortion in the monitors, but by this time, we were so seasoned, we just rolled with it and the show went great. In fact, this gig showed us that no matter what technical disaster might befall us on stage, our stage legs were now strong enough to carry us through. Interestingly, the opening band’s lead guitarist had been there on March 8th, the night we first played Maker House. That night, he and Stefan, who sat in with us on sitar, had both played sitars with a DJ after our set. At this show, Stefan sat in again on sitar, and Paul Ruffner happened to be in Tucson looking into grad programs at U of A, so he sat in on sax again as well.
October 16, The Raven Café – Prescott, AZ
Lessons learned at the previous Raven show were applied to this one. Again, Paul Ruffner sat in on tenor sax. Also, Kay Pifer of the Gurley Girls sat in on violin on “Why Do I Wait?” We brought our own monitors this time, and things went immensely more smoothly. Overall, everything was upgraded. Better sound, better attendance, easier performance, and more fun. Plus, I really like the poster I did for this one.
November 8, Firecreek Coffee Co. – Flagstaff, AZ
This was perhaps the most surprising show to date. It was our first show as a duo in Flagstaff. I had played a private party at the same venue a few years ago (it was called Sundara then) as a solo act. The stage is actually quite large and elevated, it sits at the back of a long room. When I played there before, it had a small sound system, run from the front of the stage, and no stage monitors. So, based on that experience, I brought our monitor system and expected to set it up. Imagine my surprise when I arrived to find a full-sized club PA (with a sub) with hardy stage monitors, and a mixer about halfway across the room to be run by a sound guy (also the promoter, John, who turned out to be a super-nice fellow). Plus, there were stage lights! We brought a couple of cameras to this show to capture what we’ve been doing live. We had anticipated only playing an hour, as the promoter said he had an opener, but that didn’t work out, as the opening act didn’t show. So, we just played about an hour and a half. The room was full of completely new faces as we had gotten a little bit of local press prior to the show. People danced and hooted and hollered. Overall, we both felt like this one was a huge success, especially for our first show in Flagstaff as a duo. Here’s a video of “Funny Girl” performed at Firecreek.
At the time of writing this, we have one show left in 2014, at the Flycatcher in Tucson. This year, our stage legs have grown strong, and we have gained fans and confidence everywhere we’ve travelled. As we look into 2015, we’re looking at expanding to play shows out of state, and doing at least a few music festivals. Thanks for sticking with us, and we’ll see you at the next show!