Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I've been threatening this a long time!!!

Ok here we go,  I'm jumping into this.  GEAR GEAR GEAR!!!!!!  I'm gonna take a few minutes to walk you through my current guitar set up,  from beginning to end.  I'll talk a little about each piece,  and show them.  If you're not obsessed with guitar gear, or at least a little interested,  I'm sorry.  I hope to take some time in the future to talk about the gear the other guys in the band are using,  and hopefully share some of the key ingredients to their tasty sounds...

I guess it would be logical to start at the beginning,  the guitars:

My Tele.  I name my guitars,  this one's called "Rosalie".  This is my main guitar,  I always reach for her first.  I'd be in trouble if I didn't mention by amazing girlfriend gave this one to me for my birthday a couple years ago.  It has two "wide range" humbuckers,  and I guess the best way to describe the sound of them is loud,  but not compressed.  Almost an anti-EMG type sound.  She sings.  She looks great.  It's a '72 reissue, so the neck is more like a strat neck,  and has the oversized headstock.  I've had her for about a year and a half,  and I'm very used to everything about this guitar, and I love it.  I hope one day I'll be able to get my hands on an original early 70's tele like this one.  A lot of people ask me how this guitar behaves compared to a standard tele,  and they are really different animals all together.  There's no comparing.

This was the first guitar I ever bought.  Her name is "Porcelina".  She's a Squire Strat that I have replaced basically everything except for the wood.  Several upgrades on this guitar.  GraphTech saddles and nut were put on it to mellow the tone,  and eliminate breaking strings.  I broke strings constantly,  and when I got the GraphTech upgrades, I haven't broken one's been 12 years since that upgrade.  The pickups were replaced by Fender Lace Sensor pickups.  A Lace Sensor is a single coil pickup, but the way it's constructed reduces noise,  and increases output.   They make different flavors of them,  I have a red in the bridge, silver in the middle,  and a blue at the neck position.  The tones are wide ranging between them.  The red pickup in the bridge is the same pickup Johnny Greenwood uses in his famous Tele.   It basically makes a single coil sound like a hot humbucker.  Very warm.  Not a typical bright strat sound.  Other things with this guitar:  The tremolo springs were replaced by very heavy stiff springs to make the bridge act like it's blocked out,  that also helps with tuning.  The pickups were wired different too.  the middle and bridge pickup are wired out of phase,  so when playing in between those pickups,  it gives a shiny smooth sound.  That's an Eric Clapton trick, you want that sound it's right there.  I have to confess I don't use it much if at all, but it's fun to play with.  I did put a sticker on this guitar, it says "I never want to say my best days are behind me." which is a quote from a New End Original song.  This guitar feels like home every time I play it.  Having an instrument for 15 years will make you bond with it, it's so familiar.  Now I usually play this guitar for a mellower sound,  it's less aggressive than the Tele.  Also, I use it if i need to play with volume swells.  Reaching the volume knob is real easy with this guitar, and easy to play expressively with it.

For strings,  I play D'addario Pure Nickel 10-45 strings.  The pure nickel strings are super mellow,  compared to a normal set of D'addario, or Ernie Balls.  It gives the guitars a more vintage vibe to the sound.  I don't notice a difference in feel between the types of strings,  but the mellow tone is exactly what I'm looking for.  Brothers McClurg is endorsed by D'addario/Planet Waves,  and I'm very thankful I get to try their products to find what works best.  These strings might have made the biggest impact on my playing from our relationship with them.

PEDALS! I love pedals.  I can't get enough.  This set up has been somewhat consistent for about 2 years.

This is a Planet Waves Chromatic Tuner.  It has two "needle" modes like the standard Boss tuner.  The big difference is this pedal is a true bypass pedal, as opposed to a buffered output pedal.  The body is metal,  and the weight of it is substantial.  The lights are bright enough, it's easy to use,  and i can't complain about it at all.  I think it's well worth the money.

Next is a Fulltone FullDrive 2.  I really like the Fulltone product line,  their drives are really eye opening for what you can get for a drive out of a pedal.  I did have a OCD drive for about a year,  and switched to the FullDrive because I felt the tone was a little less "scooped" in the mid-range,  which was better for our sound.  There's a few switches and controls to change the sound of the pedal,  and the "boost" side of the pedal adds versatility for when you need to take your drive over the top.  The character of this pedal is fantastic,  and responds like an amp with your playing dynamics.  It cleans up great when you back off,  and digs in as much as you do when playing.  This pedal is on 95% of the time when I play.  It pushes my amp in such a perfect way.  I'd call it a cornerstone of my sound.

This is a really fun pedal.  The Vox Time Machine Digital delay.  It's the delay that Steve Vai endorses.  I'm not a huge fan of his music,  but this pedal is awesome to use.  For starters,  it has a tap tempo function,  so you don't have to dial in you delay times,  you just tap it in.  You can set the time signature of your delay to be 1/4 notes, dotted 1/8 notes, 1/8 notes, or triplets.  There's a tone switch for "hi fi" or "lo fi".  The hi fi sound is really clean, sounds like it's cloning what you are playing.  The lo fi setting rolls off the high end of the delays a little bit to try to sound like an analog delay.  There's also a modern/vintage function which tries to emulate the pitch effects of tape delay.  Typically I use this pedal in 1/4 note or dotted 1/8 note mode,  when I want that pronounced echo of a digital delay.  Think the Edge playing the stuff on the Joshua Tree,  that's the sound I get from this pedal.  I think everyone needs a tap delay,  I'm very happy with this one.

This pedal is my soul.  MXR Carbon Copy analog delay.  I think it goes up to 640ms of delay.  I keep the time set to around 1 or 2 o'clock, which is in the 450ms range.  Compared to the Vox pedal,  this one is dark,  and warm.  The repeats are not very clean,  and just adds atmosphere and space to the almost a reverberant way.  Being an analog pedal,  playing with the delay time will effect the pitch of the repeats which is fun to play with.  I use this to play spacier parts.  Think Radiohead's OK Computer, or any Pink Floyd record for that soaring floating ambience.  I can't get enough of this pedal.

The Holy Grail.  I wanted a pedal that i could absolutely drown my guitar in reverb with.  This pedal is a simple way to do it.  There's 3 reverb type settings,  and typically i have it on the "hall" setting.  I usually only use this when I want a lot of ambience in my sound,  and i'll turn the reverb amount up almost all the way to try to mimic that awesome Sigur Ros violin bow on the guitar sound.  When Chris tells me he wants me to make a "wind" sound,  this is what he means.  The "spring" setting on this pedal is also very nice,  and realistic of nice amp spring reverbs.  One downer on this guy is that it needs it's own power supply,  but it's not a huge gripe.

 This pedal is a never ending box of surprises.  This is the Cusak Tap-A-Whirl,  my newest addition.  It's an analog tap tempo tremolo.  Tremolo is one of my favorite effects,  whether it's mild shallow trem,  or a hard wave pulsing trem,  I think it's a power rhythmic effect.  I have only just started to realize all this pedal can do.  There are several different waveforms and patterns,  including patterns that mimic dotted 1/8, and different time signatures.   The waves are really smooth,  and the tap function is a life saver.  I have tremolo on my amp,  but hated to always dial in the speed after the song started,  this eliminates that,  and sounds way better, with more options.  It's a very creative and expressive pedal,  I'm looking forward to doing more with this one.

MXR Micro Amp.  This is a volume boost.  I use it as a solo boost (which is rarely),  and sometimes I use it with the Strat to make up the volume difference between Tele.  It's really clean,  and has a lot of gain.  I put it last in the chain,  because I don't want to boost my signal before any of my pedals,  they would react differently.   I want that signal to be consistent going into the pedals,  and just make it louder going to the amp when I need.

All of the cables on the pedal board,  and going to the amp and guitars are Planet Waves cables.  They make a custom series of cables that have solderless connectors,  you cut the cable to length,  put the connector on,  and you're good to go.  I can't tell you how many times I would re-solder my connectors when I added a pedal, or changed my board,  and what a huge pain that is.  I was skeptical of the Planet Waves system,  but it really is bulletproof.  You can reuse the connectors as much as you need, and they are solid metal, I never worry about them breaking.  The cost of a pedal board kit is a little pricey,  but when you think about how long it will last for you,  it's well worth the money compared to buying those little crappy patch cables.  After all this cable,  it all ends at the amp:

This is a Gibson GA-42RVT reissue.  It's a Class A 2 channel amp.  It's rated at 30 watts,  can be switched down to 15 watts,  and has 2 12" speakers.  Reverb and Tremolo are built in.  There's inputs for Ch 1 and 2,  and a "combine" jack which combines the channels,  like how they used to tie the inputs together on the old Marshalls. You can use that jack,  and then mix the two channels via their volume controls.  I bought this amp after playing it for 5 minutes,  it immediately brought everything I needed in an amp.  Since I got it,  I did replace the speakers with Celestion Vintage 30's,  it came stock with Eminence.  The amp is plenty loud,  and having the half power switch is really useful when we play smaller rooms.  This is another piece of gear I'm not sure I want to replace or part with.  I've tried other amps since then,  and I  keep coming back to this one.  It's a really good compliment to Justin's AC-30 sound,  and it just sounds like what I imagine my guitar should sound like.

HA, so this might be the longest blog in the history of...well....blogs, but I hope you enjoyed it.  Maybe if there's some interest,  I could make a couple videos showing how I use the pedals and such.  Ask questions,  make suggestions,  let's talk gear!! Thanks for stopping by.

PS:  Here's a link to some of the D'Addario products I mentioned along the way....

D'Addario Pure Nickel Strings

Planet Waves Cable Kits

Planet Waves Stage Tuner

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kings of Leon made me remember where I came from...

I watch a lot of documentaries.  Nothing super riveting. Usually some show about music, or hockey, or anything else that seems interesting.  I love the "Classic Albums" series for instance, where they go back to the original tapes that all these great albums were recorded on,  and talk to the artists about the inspiration for an album, song, or whatever.  It makes me appreciate subject more.  U2 released a doc about the making of Achtung Baby, which was already a cornerstone of my musical influences, and it made me love and respect it even more.  It's boring really, but it's a part of my life....

So the Kings of Leon released a doc about themselves a couple years ago, and I finally got around to watching it the other night.  It's called "Talihina Sky".  A friend of mine saw it when it was released, and gave it a huge negative review,  so I naturally had to watch it.  It certainly isn't the best band documentary I've ever seen.  It didn't make me like that band anymore than I do, which isn't saying much I'm pretty indifferent about them,  but I knew a bit of what they were about, so I wanted to see the story.

To be honest, the guys in the band pretty much drove me nuts.  They grew up in a Christian home,  spent their lives travelling with their parents as evangelists,  and had tons of natural musical talent.  They start a rock band, get signed, get a little money, get some attention,  and before you know it,  they're in drugs, partying, and doing everything they knew was wrong....

Why were they thinking this was good to show?  An hour and a half of their worst behavior.  Total brats.  Near the end, the singer said something to the effect of "I did what I did, I'm not proud of it, but it was a part of my journey, and I can look back and say, well I did it, but now I'm doing what I know is right."

I think they drove me nuts so much, because apart from being in a platinum selling band and from the south,  our stories are pretty similar.   How easy is it to forget what you came from?  How easily do we forget how messed up we might have been at one point?  Do we ever wonder where we would be if we kept on that path?  After thinking about it,  and reflecting on it, it brought me to a place of thanksgiving.  After looking back I'm thankful that the salvation I have will never run out.  I'm thankful that no matter how messed up I was,  there was and still is grace for me.   I'm thankful I can read about guys like Paul who said in Romans that nothing can separate us from the Love of God.  That's the best news ever for a screw up like me....

I think it's funny that a silly movie about a silly band was able to bring me to a cool place like that, but that's how it goes sometimes.  Hopefully my silly blog can get you to a similar place.  Take a minute, and be thankful for where you are.  If you're not happy where you are,  that's cool too.  Reach out,  and take the grace that's there for you.     Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 2, 2011

This is a call....

Sorry, this isn't a post about an opening Foo Fighters track.  Also,  let me put this disclaimer out there now,  this one is for "churchy" people.  These thoughts have been brewing for a couple years,  and while I've been known to get into these topics from time to time in person,  I think now is a good time to put it into ink, or at least ones and zeroes.  I know I have a bit of a reputation as an instigator on certain things,  and I certainly hope this instigates some thought and reflection on something that I think is a pretty big deal.  Let me also throw it out there now - I fail at these ideas every day, but I strive to be more aware of how I handle the thoughts and situations that come with the territory.  So please don't think I'm typing on a high horse,  there is no room for a horse here.

In November 2008 I was given the opportunity to travel to Lebanon for the church I was working for at the time.  There wasn't much of an agenda.  We were told to go over there,  and see what was going on - see what the church can do to help ministry in that country.  A pretty broad palette to paint from,  and I think of the four of us that went,  we all came back with some different pictures in our head.

Mine had all to do with perspective...

Preparing for the trip,  I was shocked at the feedback coming from friends and colleagues...."why Lebanon?", "why muslims", "you're probably going to be kidnapped","you're gonna get shot at", "we're going to see you in a hostage video on the news","don't tell them you're a christian, they'll chop your head off" etc.  Basically,  to these people it seemed like a pretty dumb idea.

So I went.  While I was there,  God was showing me little things the entire time.  We spent some time going to different families' houses and visiting with them, giving them food etc.  Almost every family we met,  God would remind me of a family that I knew at home in Buffalo.  It was like he was saying "doesn't this family remind you of this particular family at home, they're so similar". Then I went to a church in Beirut,  and they had a time of corporate prayer,  and the list of people and needs that were prayed for was like a list we would pray for in our staff meetings at the church - dominated by cancer, for the individuals and their families struggling with the disease.  Besides the language barrier,  I knew the lives that these people were living every day.  I know there's the obvious that they have seen war in their back yards (literally),  and have had to deal with hardships I never have,  but when it comes down to the every day worries and burden,  I felt our lives were the same, we had the same needs.

After a few days we took a day trip out into the "country" and spent some time at a Christian school in a city were most of the students came from Muslim families,  and a good amount of them were orphans.  We walked around this modest campus,  and there was an unfinished construction project,  no workers doing anything,  just a basement, foundation,  and concrete slab on top of it to form the first floor, no walls, and no activity.  What had happened was an American church decided to sponsor, raise money, and pay for a construction project to provide a gymnasium,  and other space for this school.  Awesome.  Then some of the American planners traveled to Lebanon,  visited the school,  and when they reported to their home church that the majority of the students came from Muslim families,  they pulled the plug.  They freakin pulled the plug.  That is the ministry of this school.  Due to the poor public education,  families that have the money to privately educate their kids will send them to a private Christian school, even Muslim families.  So what happens?  These kids are exposed to the Gospel,  they take it home in their homework,  they share it with their parents and siblings,  and families are coming to Christ through this school.  But this American church could not get past that for whatever reason - because of the stigma that Muslims in America bring....

You see, you say Muslim in America,  and immediately the picture in your head is guys with beards with towels on their heads,  that mistreat and abuse women,  who are frothing at the mouth at the idea of flying a plane into a building.  In America,  Muslim = terrorist.  In America,  Muslim is not a religion,  but a guise for a political agenda.  You say Muslim in America,  and we think of buildings burning, buildings collapsing, and hell breaking loose on our turf.  I'm not trying discount, or downplay the severity of the actions of terrorism groups - but I am trying to call attention to the uneducated,  media driven, paranoid fallacies  that have been burned into our brains about a large group of people in our country,  and the world.  Our perspective could not be farther from the reality.

I'm not going to make this a political conversation - like I said before,  this is for the "churchy" people.  And let's be honest,  there's nobody more scared of a Muslim,  than a Western Christian.  All it takes is to hear 5 minutes of any of the "Christian" media leaders to hear the absolute paranoia.  President Obama, and his supposed Muslim agenda....I've heard "anti-christ" used more than once to describe him.  We're protesting Mosques being built,  we're spending time, energy, and money on these useless exercises to squelch Muslims' voices and their rights.  In the name of Christianity?  What the hell are we thinking?

Spending time with Muslims in their homes made me realize one thing.  Nobody gives a crap I'm American.  In fact, nobody assumed that I was American when I was there,  they were surprised,  they all thought we were from Europe.  I think that the American church has this idea that because we're from the most powerful country in the world, we have all these resources (read: money) that we can fly our Gospel all over the place,  and do the world this huge favor to share with them what we have at home.  We don't care about the context of their lives,  we don't care about their history,  we don't care about what social, and family issues it might raise, we hop on a plane,  and as soon as we land, the first thing we want to say is "I'm American,   I'm going to fix everything, because we have it all right at home.  Do things our way, Jesus loves you,  you're welcome."

What a load of crap.  The church of America will become impotent if that type of thinking continues.  We have to stop viewing the world through glasses that have a tint of the red white and blue.

The question is this: What kingdom do you belong to?  Do you belong to the kingdom of America?  Do you belong to the kingdom of American mega-churches?  kingdom of Pat Robertson? kingdom of Conservative Politics?  or do you belong to the Kingdom of God?  I think once we all start operating under the perspective of the Kingdom of God,  and throw away any identity of country, race, denomination etc,  we will begin to see some wild things happen.

You see, once I stopped viewing myself as an American, but as an ambassador of God's Kingdom,  and seeing how all these people in the Middle East are exactly like me,  with the same hopes, same dreams,  same struggles,  and same need for Christ that I have,  it made it easy to share Christ with them, the barriers were gone.

We need to stop looking at people with whatever perspective we come with.  It shouldn't matter if the person is Catholic, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, young, old, Republican, Democrat, Agnostic, Atheist, whatever.  The bottom line is we need to look at all of these people through the eyes of Christ,  remember that they are created in the image of God,  just like we are,  and then with the power of the Spirit,  share the same love of Christ that saved us in the first place.

It shouldn't matter anymore what the "lost" come in with.  I'm so frustrated with the church blaming the sick for being sick. I'm so sick of groups of people in our communities being ignored by the church because the church thinks they don't deserve their time or attention.  I'm sick of the church making the determination that whatever problems or needs these people have,  they brought upon themselves.  I'm sick of hearing that help will not be extended,  because the horrible consequences of their lifestyle is what they deserve.  These are the people that we need to be running to.  I don't know about you,  but i've been in enough sin situations and struggles in my life where I deserve a lot worse than what I have.  And you know what,  i wasn't cast out of my church.  I could have been,  I would have understood why too,  but grace prevailed,  and I want to extend that same grace.

I was very happy tonight to be a part of an event that was designed to bridge the gap between the church community,  and the community of people that are locally dealing with HIV and AIDS.  On the other hand,  I mourn the years that the organizers of the event were literally chased out of churches for wanting to reach out to these people.  I mourn the souls that could not be reached,  due to the judgement of people that feel it's ok to selectively share the Grace of our Savior.  I'm sorry, but the bride of Christ is not called to be a hybrid of SNL's "church lady",  and Judge Judy.

We're called to be "little Christs".  I don't have to look farther than John 4 to see Jesus reaching out to an "unclean" person, fully aware of their sin and circumstance,  and extending the joy of Salvation anyway.  Just in that one instance,  a family and community was transformed by Christ.  The other great thing about that passage....the disciples reaction to Jesus dealing with a Samaritan woman.  They didn't question Jesus.  They didn't say "She's Samaritan,  she deserves damnation", "She's an adulterer,  you can't save her".  They sat back  and watched Jesus ignore the biggest prejudice of their time,  and bring His Kingdom to that place.   They had spent enough time with Jesus,  to know his character well enough to know,  that this was the new paradigm.  Imagine how that could exponentially happen in your community if you only got past the stigma that came with the "unclean" people.

I know this is ridiculously long and wordy.  But I hope I convey effectively the experience,  and truth that has radically changed my life in the past couple years.  I hope that this rant finds you in a place where you can step closer to seeing your world through the eyes of Christ,  so you can be rid of the hindrances that keep you from sharing the love of Christ.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Evening Mumblings....

To say the weekend was crazy would be an understatement.

I don't need to spell out the mundane details - we loaded in, we sound checked, we played, we hung out, we slept, we woke up, we did it again.  That much was normal.

Friday we were at a pastors conference in Buffalo, Getzville actually,  and I was blown away by the immediate all out participation?  acceptance of what we do? about just plain unity in the room.  It's been a long time since I've been playing and heard a congregation sing that loud for that long,  and just not stop.  I think it would be fair to say that group of people did not need us to lead them anywhere in worship,  they were just ready to go.  It was humbling to be a part of it.  I can say for sure that it helped me to just let go and play, and not worry about it,  and it felt like the rest of the guys had a similar experience.  Thank you Getzville, and Bethel Baptist Church for letting us be a part of that.

Saturday and Sunday in Auburn, NY was just cool.  The Lakes Church is a church that doesn't think in any sort of box.  They're not crazy, no rules,  anything goes,  rather they are just open to any opportunity to do something for God's Kingdom.  In the past couple months,  they've moved their main campus into a 103 year old amazing church building,  started holding church services in a local bar,  and their community is noticing.  Their local news has been running stories in their paper, including front page news about what this church is doing.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't envious of the difference they are making in their community.

Josh their pastor,  preached this morning out of John 4,  a chapter I've been dwelling on,  and keep going back to over the past couple years.  What he had to say was a totally different take on that chapter that I never saw before.  I love when something you've read a million times comes at you completely different.  It was a great morning.

The day ended with sad news for me.  A friend i grew up with passed away on Friday.  When I got home I went to his wake.  I don't know what to say really, it was a total tragedy.  I think all i want to say, is hold those close to you closer,  and if someone close to you is struggling, or is falling down,  please pick them up.  Someone said once, they get by with some help from their friends....

Thanks for reading, stay safe,  and stay classy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

i neglect this

Wow.  so in January I started this thing,  posted one follow up,  actually wrote a ton of drafts of stuff that I never posted,  and now here we are, it's September 18.  I'll blame this on a busy summer.

A busy summer it was.  Brothers McClurg released their first EP with Integrity called "Alive".  That brought the busiest month we've had as a band,  and capped it off with last minute trip to Bristol TN to play with Steve Wingfield ministries at the Bristol speedway.  It was a wild cap to a wild month.  I guess looking back at it with a couple weeks of retrospect,  I'm very thankful for all of the support we get from everyone in the Buffalo area.  In July,  looking ahead to August,  it was.....scary looking.  It took a lot of talking, debating, arguing, working, talking more, forgiving, but most importantly praying to get through it.    God blessed the whole thing, and I feel as a group we came out tighter knit than we were before.  Also thinking we were going to have a near death experience on a plane didn't hurt either.

It's good to be home, it's good to breathe for a month or so,  and get back to it.  check back here,  I'll do my best to be more frequent with it.  And for the sake of this not turning into ranting and raving, let's' have a conversation.  So much happened, I couldn't write all of it, ask questions, leave comments, let's have fun with it.

 Here's a few pictures i took on my phone over the summer.  Enjoy,  and stay classy.

This day....we had a Saturday booked at Roberts Wesleyan College.  We left with the bus and trailer....then the trailer electronics weren't working,  that meant no lights and no brakes.  When we were trying to fix that,  Chris became very ill,  so we ended up leaving him home to get better,  and abandoned the trailer,  and threw all the essential gear in the back of the bus, and got on our way.  A day of adversity,  that still ended up a good day.

Chris and Suzy had this record player at their place,  and they wanted to get rid of it, so they gifted it to me and Colleen.  I've enjoyed many afternoons and nights spinning records that I'm finding at garage sales,  pawn shops etc.  The Joshua Tree is still one of my favorite all time records,  it just takes me to another place.

The field next to Northgate, with Matt, my dear friend, who plays with the band Lift.  This was after playing at a Saturday night service at Northgate,  the weekend Kindom Bound started.

My little man.  We had a great day at Griffith's Scupture park,  and stopped at this art shop on the way home.  Obviously a big Sponge Bob fan.  I love every second of every adventure we get to go on together.

Soundcheck at the Evangel CD release event.  An important day for all of us.  This was taken during a great time we spent before doors opened worshiping,  just us with God.  Those moments are so important.

Sending our amps off to Tennessee. Our great friends at BWSSI gave our gear a lift,  and saved us a lot of trouble.  

Changing strings a couple nights before leaving Bristol.  I started setting up my guitars myself this past year.  It's a great skill set to learn,  I know more about how my guitars are working,  and the temperments they have.  Some guys just use their guitars as tools.  Some really bond with theirs.  I'd say I'm in the latter camp.  

The 'Merica plane.  I'll never forget those flights.

Bristol Motor Speedway.  Those engines starting and roaring by is the loud sound of 'Merican muscle,  and Freedom!  Watching on TV is nowhere close to what it's like in real life.  EVERYTHING shakes, and it's soooo fast.  I'm not saying you have to get a Dale Jr. lower back tattoo or anything,  but you need to check out at least one NASCAR race as a part of your bucket list.

The Bristol airport, waiting for our larger, pressurized cabin, commercial flights.  The end of a crazy 72 hours.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First of the year in the bag....

Winter Slam 2011!!!!!  A great way to kick off the new year.  The weekend for the kids is comprised of worship, teaching, skiing, snowboarding, and not sleeping.  The weekend for the band consisted of an early departure from Buffalo,  leaving all the snow,  playing, eating, and also not sleeping. 

Apart from that,  it was a great weekend for us to get in the swing of things again,  after recording the EP,  getting through the holidays,  it had been months since we'd gone out for a proper gig with traveling, full load in, etc.  The production company on the show, Legacy Productions was top notch.  Let's get some tech nerd stuff out of the way:  Main PA consisted of JBL Vertec 4887 line array modules, ground stacked on VRX subs.  House console was a Yamaha M7CL.  A nice departure from the normal was that they carry Sennheiser 900 series vocal mics, so I was able to have anth and chris on 945 mics for the weekend.  There wasn't a monitor console, so I ran our ears off of the house console.  System sounded good, I had plenty of headroom,  and no mispatched inputs when we started!  Only thing I would have changed would have been to fly the PA, but there was no way to accommodate that.

Ok, enough gear talk.  The first night went real well.  Probably the best first night the guys played in quite a while.  The kids were into it, and sang really loud the whole weekend.  There's something about these events, no matter where we play them that is really special.  Some think they're gimmicky,  or just hype, getting kids on a spiritual sugar high.  I'd have to disagree.  We love doing these weekends because it gives us time to hang out with everyone, and just get a feel for the climate of the group.  A guy came up to Chris Saturday morning,  and thanked Chris for "doing that worship thing last night..." he got really into it,  and actually sang,  he never sang at a church service before.  That's what it's about.  That guy took an opportunity to express his love towards God in way he hadn't before.  Is he going to sing at every church service he goes to now?  I have no idea,  but I hope he continues to push those boundaries, and step outside of his "normal" zone.  It's awesome to be just a small part of that.  As the weekend went on, everyone sang louder and louder, and got more and more into what was happening.  It was pretty obvious there were a lot of kids having step outside the box moments.

During the down time,  it was a great time to meet some great people,  and start some great relationships. I already mentioned the guys from Legacy Productions,  what a great time with them,  getting to hear their stories and how close our missions/purposes are.  Jason Mitchell the speaker is awesome.  He's great to hang out with and joke around with.  What was on his heart was really easy to grasp,  He sent the tone Friday night,  and led the weekend to some great places. 

 All in all it was one of those weekends that ended too early.  If any of the kids read this,  please know how much we all enjoyed hanging out with you guys.  We had so much fun,  and were really encouraged every time one of you had something to say about how God was working in your life that weekend.

Some of the goofier stuff?  The weekend was pretty tame i guess.  we had fun saturday night eating pizza and joking around with everyone.  I enjoyed my debut as a hoodie customization artist.  Pete and Justin went snowboarding, and j shot some video on his iphone,  hopefully he'll post some of that, i found it funny to see peter doing something athletic,   and justin falling all the while not letting his phone hit the snow.

Thanks everyone that was out for the weekend,  come see us again soon when we're around again.

P.S.    Talking with alot of the kids this weekend about gear has inspired me to write a gear head blog about the gear all of us use in the band.  Stay tuned for that,  and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

OK Let's do this thing.....

Hey all,  I guess this has been coming for a while, since I've told people to count on it happening at some point.  I think one of the main focuses of this blog will be with the adventures ahead with the Brothers Mcclurg,  as we start to travel more,  and I guess,  take our ministry to the next level as we travel more,  and get ready for the band's first release on Integrity Records.  Chris in particular has been pushing/prodding/encouraging/bugging me to keep a better written record of what goes on with us on our trips.  I will write about other stuff as well.  I hope people I don't have the pleasure of talking with all the time will read this and I guess get filled in on some of the details that I guess gets left out of small talk or text messages.

I don't know what this will look like exactly....My role as "production manager" and "fill in guitar player" has brought me to a level of involvement with the band that i definitely welcome, but never anticipated, especially 5 years ago when this whole thing started - to go from just wanting to do a couple shows again with some great friends, to now traveling consistently in the North East US for two years, to now anticipating those borders expanding even beyond that, major labels, rubbing shoulders with Christian music's "icons" (I hope i get to meet Petra soon, or maybe an original Newsboy), and not having a clue what's next.  Will this train keep chugging along, or is this beast just going to stop on the tracks?  No matter what, I can't call it a failure,  because I didn't really set any goals.  I find it appropriate to quote Hunter S Thompson - "buy the ticket, take the ride".

I think my role lends a cool perspective,  I'm with the band all day,  we plan and get ready for the events,  but then most of the time,  I'm in or very near the crowd,  experiencing what it's like to be out there, instead of being blinded by the bright lights.....I hope I can illustrate both sides of these experiences.  Both are powerful, but different, and i get to observe both worlds colliding when the lights go down, and things get loud...

What I'm looking forward to with this is to make a permanent ink spot on Al Gore's internet,  and let you all know about the fun we have on the road, the great people we meet, and hopefully shed some light on how passionate we are about what we do.  It's not always pretty, it's not even all that interesting, but as Dan says, it's in our blood, so it's what we do.

First shows of the new year start this weekend.  We're heading to ski country near Pittsburgh I think....on a night the Sabres play the Penguins.....Too bad we'll miss the game due to the event.....if they have wifi,  I'll be watching at FOH :).  I'll be sure to fill you in soon.

Please enjoy,  comment if you feel like it, and hopefully I'll be seeing you soon.  Thanks for stopping by....but mostly, stay classy.