After the ArtWalk

Once again I must apologize to my readers, who may have to wait a bit to see photos and tags on this blog post. I am dashing it off quickly before returning to work; I set aside a fair bit of day-job stuff to prepare for last night’s concert at Longmont’s ArtWalk.

mindSpiral's Poster for La Vita Bella

mindSpiral’s Poster for La Vita Bella

Last night’s show was a big success for a number of reasons, even if for some time at the beginning I felt like I was headed for a major disaster. I have the opposite of “sophomore slump”; I tend to sweat technical details pretty hard when I’m doing my first show in a new environment, or my first show in a new format in a previously familiar environment, and it’s actually very difficult for me to finally settle down and just enjoy making music. But I managed it, belatedly, last night, and the next show will be a lot smoother. (“Next show”? Heh, see below.)

First of all, huge thanks to my friend Allen Goodman, who came out with me and played with his usual grace and aplomb, keeping me calm and centered when tech stuff was spiraling (sorry) out of control. Allen had one or two tech issues of his own, but nothing compared to what I was dealing with, and he played, in my opinion, the lion’s share of the really good music that everyone heard last night. It was and is an honor to share a stage with him.

Second, more huge thanks to Chris, Ku, and Micah at La Vita Bella Coffee, our gracious hosts who kept us fed and watered throughout the night while providing moral support and tweaks to the house PA as we played. This was my first time using the relatively new PA inside La Vita Bella, which has finally built a stage and is operating as a live-music venue in downtown Longmont as well as a fantastic coffee house and bakery, and with a few hiccups the experience was good enough to convince me that I no longer have to bring in my own speaker systems any more.

Third, even more huge thanks to GypsyWitch, who was waiting patiently on the other side of the virtual divide to hear if there was even going to be an online component to the concert. Her rude awakening to “Spiral in problem-solving preshow mode” at last month’s Second Life premiere had her prepared for me being effectively radio-silent with occasional snippy Skype messages, and she was calm and pleasant as we nailed down the problems and got things going, effectively acting as my liaison and hostess in both the StillStream.com radio chat room and on Second Life, where a small audience listened to the show in that virtual world.

Fourth, yet another round of huge thanks to my wife Suzanne, who came to the venue with us, provided a bit of roadie help, and was as always my smiling and friendly ambassador in the real world, chatting with fans and making them feel welcomed and special for having attended. I love her more with every passing year, and doing things like this makes me appreciate what a rare treasure she is.

So! What went down?

Packed Rigs

Packed and ready to go

Allen and I had spent the day cleaning gutters and downspouts, and after a rest and a cleanup and change of clothes, we got our gear packed up and ready to take to the venue. Technically, ArtWalk starts at 4 PM, but things really don’t start swinging until 5 PM or after, especially on a blistering-hot day like yesterday was. So we figured we’d get there by 4 PM, load in, and be set up and ready to go by 5 PM. No sweat, right?

Pffft.

Into the car and out the door by 355 PM, in downtown Longmont by 4 PM… only to discover that the police have sealed off Main Street already and parking nearby is filling up fast. Not only can we not park in front of the cafe as for previous shows, we can’t park within two blocks of it. Much roadying of heavy gear ensues, mitigated somewhat by a chat with the organizer of ArtWalk, who kindly pointed out a place where we could bring in a car under the watchful eye of the police, unload our gear, and then move it to a spot that was technically forbidden to visitors but cleared for performers. All well, but we were already behind schedule by the time we started setup….

Allen wiring ethernet

Allen wiring ethernet

La Vita Bella isn’t wired for Ethernet at the stage (although there are wired feeds back at the PA, etc.) and I didn’t want to trust the wireless router, which is often slammed with customers using it for this and that. So Allen, bless him, brought a spool of Cat5 Cable and a crimper, made a cable, Chris and Micah strung it… and it didn’t work. No connection. Allen double checked the wiring but there was nothing. We concluded that there must be a bad spot somewhere in the length, and there was no way we had time to troubleshoot it. Fine, going wireless, moving on… it was now less than half an hour to showtime and the entire rig was still in bags.

Allens Rig

Allen’s Rig

Setup was frenetic. I don’t share space on the little stage at LVB very often, and Darwin (my usual partner) tends to pack small, but Allen’s a great keyboardist and had brought a huge keyboard workstation for most of his playing. Cable lengths weren’t right, connections weren’t right… rigs got moved, shifted, back and forth, here and there… it was now past showtime and still no noise. The photographer who was showing his work in the cafe, Gerardo Brucker (www.gabfoto.com), was watching us with bemusement as we ran about trying to get things to work. He must have thought we were insane.

Mike's Rig

Mike’s Rig

Time ticking away. I sat down at my rig… and realized that the streaming setup, which usually lives on an extension stand in front of me, was completely blocking my view of the entire cafe. It worked fine at the planetarium in Fort Collins last month because I was at the bottom of an amphitheater and no one was looking at me anyway. Now I was above the crowd and it was tremendously offputting… and the heavy extension stand was threatening to flip over and dump both laptops on the floor anyway. GRRR! Dissassembly took me, Allen, AND Chris several minutes, and then I had to find a bar stool that I could set up next to me and place the streaming machine, then find MORE long cables to run to its interface… panic, stress, now nearly an hour late…!

Audio sent to the PA. I packed balanced cables that could run from TRS to XLR or back to TRS again. Plugged into the 1/4″ jacks at the stage box… and realized that they weren’t balanced lines. Unbelievably awful ground loop hum. Messed with it as best we could to minimize it, and learned that the venue PA board had more than one skunky channel. With Chris’s help, finally sorted it and got audio going.

Fired up the streaming software and discovered that it had forgotten all the current settings and still thought it was 2010. Looked up settings, redid everything, and got online just as Rebekkah Hilgraves concluded her set… an hour late, but we were up and running… or were we?

Playing our first number with one eye on the IRC chat from StillStream. Strange comments there… “It’s very muffled” “Are they miking the PA?” “It’s very vibey and real” (i.e. it sounds terrible but if they’re stressed we won’t hassle them)… and then the kicker, “I can hear Mike talking.”

Gah!

Gah!

Wha-a? My mic is off!

Fumble, panic, blink blink… oh, great. Forgot to tell the streaming machine about the USB audio interface, and it’s streaming the ambient sound in the cafe from the laptop mic.

Siiiiiiiigh.

Apologize to the audience, apologize to the online listeners, stop the stream, direct the software to the interface, start up again… and magically the sound is near perfect! Yaaaaay!

food

Sustenance

So… one and a quarter hours after we were supposed to be online and playing, we were online and playing. I took a deep breath, had a bit of the Doctor Mike’s Special that Ku had made me (Allen gave it that name after he heard what was in it and had Ku make him one too), and finally settled in to enjoy the show.

That intense hour of troubleshooting taught me a lot about future shows at La Vita Bella, and confirmed what I suspected about ArtWalk as a venue… we had something like 200 visitors through the cafe, some 60 of which stayed long enough to hear the music, and we played material that was received well, with a number of families staying for hours (we played from 6ish to about 9, rather than the original plan of 5 to 8). We were able to take breaks, one or both of us, took turns doing solo stuff, had some rhythmic beat-driven material that went over very well (as a former punk musician with a strong love of electronica, Chris’s “turn it up” attitude was a refreshing change from that of most cafe owners), and ended with some amazing drift material.

The Tip Jar

The Tip Jar

Friends stopped by to hear us, not only members of the music community who made a trip up to Longmont but local friends who had never heard me play before. There was lots of support and kindness and the music turned out very much as I had hoped. At the end, we scooped the money out of the tip jar (provided by Allen with a note I’d made just before leaving home), and sat down to two more glasses of Doctor Mike’s and two slices of the amazing LVB “Mr. Peanut” chocolate cake with peanut ganache infused with rum. Allen looked like he was going to die and go to Heaven right there.

My main takeaway from the evening — aside from the realization that even wirelessly I can broadcast my shows from LVB and it’s fantastic to have a steady virtual audience even as the real-world folks come and go, and the extensive tech notes I took that will smooth things a lot next time — is that there will be a next time. Chris eagerly signed me up for the next ArtWalk, which will be on Saturday, September 20. So much for this being my last confirmed concert of the year! It will be nice to have one last blast of fun before the really stressful and busy part of the publishing year, stretching between the AES and NAMM trade shows with the winter holidays in between, begins.

Reward

A Tasty Reward

Once again, my thanks to everyone who attended. And seriously, folks, if you’re ever in Longmont, try out La Vita Bella (www.longmontcoffee.com). These guys are serious about their food and drinks… they even make their own chocolate for their cakes and drinks, grinding their own cocoa. And they’re just great people.

Okay, off to work, and maybe I’ll see a few of you folks online tonight at my usual show time.

MrSpiral

Some music with your cake, sir?

mindSpiralPoster Vita Bella

Spiral's Vita Bella fave

Spiral’s Vita Bella fave

Tonight at 5pm SLT (6pm Mountain, 7pm Central), mindSpiral will perform at La Vita Bella coffee shop in Longmont, CO. Spiral (Mike Metlay) and DesertMystic (Allen Goodman) will be treating the visitors to Artwalk to their very own brand of space music and chill out vibes. If you’re in the area, do pop in and enjoy a fabulous art experience as well as some music with your coffee and pastries. If you’re not local, then you can hear mindSpiral play live on Stillstream Radio (internet permitting) and you can chat here. Join me in the chat room and I’ll be around inworld, too! See you there.

«Gypsy Witch«

One Is Indeed The Loneliest Number

Fortunately, I don’t have to be just the one very much these days. My return to a proper website, a working blog, and a regular schedule of performances in live venues, on Second Life, and on Internet radio are due in large part to my making a strong commitment to get back on the metaphorical horse… but they’re as successful as they are because I get help from other people in critical areas.

Gypsy

Gypsy

The obvious example is Gypsy, who puts out news releases, posts on this blog as well as Facebook and Twitter, and helps me keep up to date with the news and calendar on the Atomic City website. But there are others who deserve recognition as well. I’d like to mention two of them tonight before I hit the hay (and let Gypsy find this blog post, figure out if there’s a picture she can add to it, add tags, etc.*).

Cypress Rosewood

Cypress Rosewood

One of them is Tony Gerber, a.k.a. Cypress Rosewood in Second Life. Tony works much harder than I do at his music career, because it’s what he does first and foremost to feed his family (I’m a music journalist by trade). And he’s darned good at it; an accomplished player, sensitive songwriter, effective networker, and forward-thinking user of modern media for dispersing his musical ideas. I’m honored to be his friend and musical colleague. So when he takes the time to give my show a shout out in HIS show and to HIS fans, I benefit more than he does (my fan base being considerably smaller) and I am well aware that he’s doing me a big favor. Sure, the rising tide lifts all boats, and we’re both benefiting from our newly scheduled back-to-back live shows every Sunday. But not everyone would make that sort of effort when he or she had a busy career to think about, and I appreciate it. Thanks, Tony!

Locksmith Visits

Locksmith (aka DesertMystic)

The other is Allen Goodman, a.k.a. Desert Mystic the ambient musician, a.k.a. Locksmith Antonelli (DesertMystic) in Second Life. Allen is a good friend and a really fun guy to make music with; we’ve worked together in the context of larger groups many times over the past seven or eight years… everything from two thirds of a trio (with Mystery Bubble) to two fifths of a quintet (mindSpiral at the Farewell To Fritz concert in 2012) to two parts of a large ensemble (every Different Skies festival since 2007). But tonight (well, last night by the time you read this) we played together as a duo for the first time, on my Internet radio show “Spiral” on StillStream.com and in Second Life at Atomic City Headquarters, and we had an absolute blast. I’d been very worried about the long set of ambient music Allen and I have coming up this Saturday at La Vita Bella Coffee in Longmont, but I’m not worried any more; his style of musicmaking meshes very well with mine and he’s a great listener. Rehearsals went smoothly and so did the show, so our gallery performance will hopefully be heavy on inspiration and short on hassle.

mindSpiralPoster Vita BellaWatch this space; right now it’s looking like we may be able to stream the performance on StillStream if not also in Second Life. If we do, it will be this Saturday, July 19, from 7 PM to 9 PM StillStream (Central) Time, or 5 PM to 7 PM Second Life (Pacific) Time, or… if you actually plan to come by and hear us in person… 6 PM to 8 PM Mountain Time. We’ll actually start playing as early as 430 PM local time, but won’t go live until 6 so as to not pre-empt Rebekkah Hilgraves’ show. We’ll give you a two-hour taster of our long set between the end of her show and the start of John Tocher’s show, which is when we’re due to wrap up anyway.

Spiral's Vita Bella fave

Spiral’s Vita Bella fave

If you’re able to come by, please do, buy some great baked goods and drink some coffee and see the beautiful art on display (this is part of the Artwalk festivities, an art gallery open-house with music all over downtown Longmont). If you can’t, please try to tune in; no one has ever tried to stream from La Vita Bella before and we don’t know if we can do it successfully… but we’re going to try.

I’ll talk more about the many people who help me be my best creatively in future blogs (you’re going to get tired of hearing me tell you all the amazing things I owe to Darwin Grosse, for example!), but for now… a tip of the hat to Tony and Allen, and a salute and a toast to great things to come.

MrSpiral

*He knows me so well… «Gypsy Witch«

Be bold – visit Atomic City HQ for live music tonight!

Be Bold Shirt

Be Bold Shirt

At 6pm SLT (8pm Central), Spiral will be hosting his weekly radio show. This week he’ll be performing live with DesertMystic, otherwise known as Allen Goodman, the axeman. You won’t want to miss the chance to hear two fabulous musicians perform live improv for your listening pleasure! You can come and hang out at Atomic City HQ with fellow music fans and/or join us in the Stillstream chatroom. It’s a great way to spend an evening and make friends – all are welcome.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Fellin%20Hill/230/39/43

 

The shirt? Well, made you look, right?

«Gypsy Witch«

New Machinima of Spiral at Second Life’s Eleventh Birthday

The second machinima (movie shot in Second Life) is now available to watch on YouTube, with Spiral’s (Mike Metlay’s) beautiful music accompanying it. Explore some of Second Life’s Eleventh Birthday exhibition and watch some of the performance. Don’t forget to subscribe for future videos. Likes are always appreciated, here and on YouTube.

(Updated December 2014) You can now save time and not even have to leave the blog now (mwahahaha – there is no escape) by popping over to the page dedicated to Spiral-flavored videos, where you’ll find both handily ready for your viewing pleasure.

«Gypsy Witch«

One of Two: Resistance is Futile!

… you will be assimilated into watching machinima*!

Spiral at SL11B

Spiral at SL11B

The first of two videos currently in production have been uploaded to Spiral’s brand new YouTube channel and can be viewed right now! See some clips of his performance in Second Life at its eleventh birthday exhibition as well as some fascinating exhibits, all underscored by a fabulous piece he performed called “ReConquering the Void”. This is a truly beautiful piece of space music, guaranteed to make you smile.

If you’ve never seen Second Life, now you get to – in real time! Everything you see from the “ground” up has been built by a resident of Second Life. The set we perform on was a joint effort, and Spiral’s rig is his own build.

I will admit right now that I’m not Steven Spielberg in disguise, nor do I have access to ILM’s graphic programs or skills, so when you watch the video… be kind?

Here’s the link you want – and don’t forget to subscribe! Spiral and I both hope you really enjoy a novel way to listen to Spiral’s music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJGnlpYv9QM

«Gypsy Witch«

*According to Wikipedia: “Machinima  is the use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production. Most often video games are used to generate the computer animation…”

Worlds Collide at Atomic City HQ

Sunday 6th July was Spiral’s second week with Stillstream at a new, earlier slot. The reason for moving his usual time was primarily to ensure that his show didn’t clash with his good RL and SL friend Cypress Rosewood, otherwise known as Tony Gerber in the real world. An accomplished and popular performer, Cypress has his show in Second Life just after Spiral’s now, whereas before they ran through each other.

Stillstream Show on 6th July

Stillstream Show on 6th July

As with all weekends, this Sunday was busy for both Spiral and I. In fact, busy enough for me to be between worlds and screens as the very first of our inworld guests turned up. They didn’t stop coming, either! We had a fantastic turnout of people – many of them Spiral’s peers – both inworld and out. It is great for anyone opening their land to the public to see lots of little green dots on the Second Life map! Amongst the listeners inworld were Allen Goodman and Joe McMahon as well as Cypress himself. As you’ll see from the picture, Spiral’s music attracts all species!

As for the real world, it was an absolute delight to listen to the music of the featured artists (SSI: Sonic Solutions Inc) and then have one of the brothers (John Goff) come visit the Stillstream chat room. It was also really fun to have people chatting in Second Life and Stillstream at the same time-  a shout out to the pretty pink fairy Telitha Merlin and new listener Rananadar!

It’s great to hear live improvisation, too, and Spiral went all out to fit in one of his “rants” (as he calls them) before the end of the show. Very well received and a delight to listen to; a great taster for what you may get to hear when he performs live inworld.

Cypress Rosewood

Cypress Rosewood

After Spiral’s Stillstream show finished, a few of us teleported over to the Spindrift SIM to hear Cypress Rosewood play. The concert venue is very space-age and a great place to chill and watch live music and Cypress doesn’t disappoint. A truly lovely way to round off the night in such delightful surroundings. So now,  ambient music fans, if you’re in Second Life you can now get three solid hours of fantastic music on a Sunday night, and if your’e not, you can still join the chat room at Stillstream and listen to Spiral’s show.

Spiral is on at 8pm Central (6pm SLT) and you can find him inworld here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Fellin%20Hill/230/39/43
and listen inworld or at Stillstream

Cypress Rosewood can be heard at 10pm Central (8pm SLT) here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Spindrift/157/83/99  If you can’t listen to Cypress inworld, fear not. You can listen to him here: http://82.165.40.40:14534/