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(@progressions)
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I've got a new band over the last few months and we've been playing out a lot, honing our chops and building our repertoire.

The band is basically me and my oldest friend right now. I play guitar and we both sing. Reed tends to write most of the lyrics and sing lead.

We started in September at Reed's party, playing our first few songs to a small friendly audience. Now we've been playing as many open mics as we can to get more experience on stage and develop our performance styles.

In November we decided to commit to playing 3 open mics per week, playing the same set of our best songs, to get them as tight as we can possibly make them. It's been a lot of fun and it already seems like we've learned a month's worth in just a week and a half of doing it!

We make videos of all our performances and post them at our youtube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer

Then we watch the videos and figure out what to work on next, what went wrong and what went well.

Last night we played at one of our regular open mics, at Conan's Pizza. This pizza place in South Austin has a little raised dining area they convert to a stage on Monday nights. It's a funny spot to play but the host is very cool and it's a nice, friendly little crowd.

The show went really well as we're very comfortable there, and have a great time even if the songs don't come out perfect. I've been working on my rhythm playing, making sure to get the right tempo and rhythm for the songs, and I feel like it was a lot stronger this time because of it.

During the 2nd song I broke the high E, and changed it out before the 3rd song. Then during the 4th my D string snapped as well. I pulled it out afterwards and played the last song with just the 5 strings, which seemed to impress some of the folks in the audience. I didn't mention that it's not really that hard to play with 5 strings, and they seemed to think it was cool :)

We're getting our stage presence a lot better, making contact with people in the audience. A great-looking girl came in at one point and I was looking right at her as she grooved along and we sang the chorus of our last song, with the lyrics "Are you getting what you wanted/forgotten all your dreams". She gave a weary little nod! It was great.

We're playing a more intense venue tonight, Trophy's Bar & Grill, where it's a much more folk-centric crowd. We get two songs at this one. Then on Thursday we play the Green Muse Cafe, another long set in a friendly and cool environment.

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@progressions)
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Here are links to videos of a couple of our other shows:

Our original debut, at Reed's "All the way" party in August.

Haunted Housewarming X, Halloween party in October, where we played our longest set to date, over an hour, with a drummer for the first time.

Playing at Conan's Pizza open mic has had other side benefits, too. The host is a student intern at a local studio, and he needed a band to record for one of his projects. So he called us and we went into the studio on Sunday for 3 hours, with a drummer and a bassist, and recorded our punk rock song "Panic". That was another first for us. All this new stuff is exciting! Next we'll be mixing it with him, and should have a finished product after that.

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@progressions)
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We got our first proper gig!

We've been playing at open mics and we've gotten to know a local band called Blue Squeezebox, led by a really charismatic frontman on the accordion.

Last night after they played, our singer Reed congratulated him on the set, and they started to chat. He asked if we ever gig, and Reed said we haven't but we're looking to. The accordionist then asked if we had six songs and wanted to open up for them at their show on Wednesday night!

We've been honing our repertoire a lot this month, focusing on getting just a few songs really solid, and as of Tuesday that set adds up to six really tight songs. We'll be practicing this weekend and making sure everything's ready, and then playing our first proper, non-open-mic gig on Wednesday, Nov 21!

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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 geoo
(@geoo)
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Jeff, I get so inspired reading about your progress. That is really cool. Particularly liked the girl with the weary nod story.. but that is another post.

How long have you guys been together so far? Also, is the drummer going to be a perm player?

Anyways, congrats to you and keep writing the reviews. When I get home I plan to watch the vids too.

Jim

“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)


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(@progressions)
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Thanks geoo! That girl nodding at the song was a particular standout for me, just seeing somebody react honestly to the emotion and meaning of the song was really magical.

Reed and I have been friends for about 20 years, and never knew we wanted to collaborate musically. In summer of 2006 we wrote a couple of songs and casually decided to become a band, but we didn't do much with it until summer of 2007. We started playing hardcore at every open mic or party we could find starting in August, making friends and learning new stuff the whole time.

Bruce, who has drummed with us a couple of times now, is already a full-time member of another band but we have great rapport and he's very cool, so we would definitely be happy if he'd join us as a proper member. We really want a drummer and bassist (and possibly another guitarist too, but I kinda want to be the only guitarist :) ).

That reminds me of the latest cool thing that happened on Tuesday. I should've written about this first!

Local bar called Trophy's has a showcase night on Tuesdays, and we're playing there regularly now. Their open mic gives you 2 songs, so we picked our raunchy rocking number "Heartbreaker", and psychedelic "Needful things", with Reed on tin whistle as well as singing. They both went over well the previous week, and we're all about tightening up our set this month.

We stepped outside before our set to warm up, and Reed had the idea to sing "Can't keep track" a capella as a warmup. That's a song of ours, usually played with a simple guitar backing, where we both sing close harmonies and it sounds really nice. It sounded even better a capella! We were so excited by it we decided to change our set and open with it that night.

You should have seen the place when we got up and started singing a capella. The whole room turned to look, everybody's attention was focused on us. It was magical. That went great, and "Needful things" was awesome too. We got lots of great comments about both that night.

We decided to add it to our regular set, so now we do the slow and sweet "Can't keep track" a capella, and then kick off directly into the fast, punky "Panic" without a word. It's a great effect and went over really well last night!

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@progressions)
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Two more little details:

We'd been meaning to a few minutes before a show to specifically warm up, but we hadn't actually done it before. That made a huge difference in getting us focused.

We also switched sides. Normally, I used to stand to Reed's left, so facing the stage he'd be on the left and I on the right. On Tuesday we swapped sides so you'd see me on the left and Reed on the right. Somehow that little thing made a big difference! Either that or so much else was different it just seemed to help.

Anyway, it's funny what effects a little change can have.

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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 Bish
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And your playing sounds real good.

I enjoyed the vids!!! 8)

Bish

"I play live as playing dead is harder than it sounds!"


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(@progressions)
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Thanks Bish! I'm on a super high right now because things are going so great.

Every Monday we play an open mic at Conan's Pizza, where the host, Billy, is really friendly and always does a great job on our sound, especially for what is basically a funky little PA system set up in a pizza shop! He makes it sound terrific.

Anyway, last week he asked us if we'd be interested in recording a song at a studio and of course we jumped up and down a lot and said sure! We recorded our fast punky song "Panic" with some friends on drums and bass and it went really well, very quick and tight recording session and very easy. They suggested it might sound nice with acoustic guitar, but I really didn't want it to have acoustic on it. I relented and gave it a shot, came up with a little lick and pattern that was decent. We recorded a couple of takes but I still wasn't feeling it on acoustic, so I played it again on electric, a more distorted lead part. The whole thing was an excellent experience.

Tonight we went by a party with some folks who work at the pizza shop. I didn't even know Billy was there, but suddenly Reed gets my attention and I listen to what's playing over the speakers at the party. It's our song! Billy had mixed and mastered Panic and people were bopping to it and getting down. A bunch of people complimented us on it and Billy played it twice!

Listening to the track, Billy had done a lot of creative mixing to our very simple punk song. The electric guitar is cut out in the second verse, and he used some of my acoustic lead work that I hadn't expected to hear again. He said he mixed the acoustic and electric lead licks in the rest of the song as well, because they matched up.

He fixed a notable error late in the song--there's a driving verse, then suddenly a sharp hit, and everything cuts out for a couple of beats before it all comes back in again. The drummer had kinda flubbed the lead-in to that part, and we hadn't re-recorded it to get it right. Billy took that part and cut everything out for two successive hits, which sounds even better than one! He just did a lot of stuff that wouldn't have occurred to us, but which sounds great.

I'll make a post in Hear Here about it, but the song "Panic" is up on our myspace:
http://www.myspace.com/worldracketeeringsquad

And on our Virb page:
http://www.virb.com/worldracketeeringsquad

Now I'm working on the sounds with my new Vox AD30VT amplifier, which sounds WAY better than my Zoom G2.1u effects unit, in fact I think I am going to put the Zoom to the side for a while and play with just the Vox. I just want to get used to its versatility and its sounds are beautiful. And we're playing our regular open mics on Monday and Tuesday before the big gig on Wednesday.

Oh, and I finally started teaching guitar lessons! Had my first lesson today and have two scheduled for next week. Things are just going great all around.

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@progressions)
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Back at Conan's Pizza tonight, first show with the new amp. This was a rough one.

I've had some serious noise complaints from my upstairs neighbor who apparently thinks he should be living over a family of church mice, as he calls the apartment management or the police any time I plug in my amp or strum my acoustic with anything thicker than my thumb. So that had me in a mood from early on in the day.

We've got a psychedelic song called "Needful Things", and I've been changing the electric guitar part from simple strumming to a more colorful approach with melodic runs and riffs. It's not quite show-ready yet, though, so I practiced it literally all day long, playing it at 60 bpm, at 80, at 100, 120, and its regular speed of 145bpm, just to get it down.

Until now I've been playing with a cute little padded Kustom amp--

--but I'd always dreamed of having a larger amp. I bought a Vox AD30VT off Craigslist on Friday, so I was really looking forward to trying it out.

Boy, was I ever not ready to use that amp!

I normally use a Zoom G2.1u effects unit and have my sounds programmed, but I decided to use the built-in modelled sounds of the Vox from now on. I mapped out which presets sounded best with each song and built a custom channel for "Needful Things". I figured it'd be simple enough to switch settings between songs.

Thing is, because I'm in an apartment I had no idea how loud this amp would be. I'd never been able to turn it up before! So the first song was too soft, the second song too loud, and I don't think we ever hit "just right" for the whole show!

That was the first challenge tonight. Also, I was nervous about using the new one and didn't get focused enough to know what I was doing, so when I activated the UK 70's model for our rocking tune "Heartbreaker", I neglected to click the "Preset" button. It just used the settings I had on the knobs, and I had the gain way down. I cranked the volume and that helped, but it was nowhere near the sound I wanted and I had no idea why!

Still, the audience reacted really well to it and we got some names on the mailing list we just started. Everybody had a good time, so it worked out well in the end!

Also, we've decided to take the Kustom amp to play with us at our first big gig at the Carousel Lounge on Wednesday. We figured, this little amp has been working its tail off with us for a long time, and it deserves a chance to shine before it gets replaced by the larger model! We just want to have as few unknown or uncertain variables as possible, we want to have a tight, solid show.

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@davidhodge)
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Great report, Jeff! Sounds like you're working your way through all the typical obstacles one tends to encounter while playing out.

Getting used to your equipment on the fly is definitely tough. Do you guys practice at your apartment? Either of you have a space (or a friend with space or a garage) or belong to a church or a club where you can just take an afternoon some weekend and concentrate on getting to know your new amp? It's also a great way to nail down how you want the stage set up to be. If you're good enough friends with the pizza folks, maybe they'd let you come in some morning before they open up?

Hope things continue to go well.

Peace

David


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(@progressions)
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Great report, Jeff! Sounds like you're working your way through all the typical obstacles one tends to encounter while playing out.

Getting used to your equipment on the fly is definitely tough. Do you guys practice at your apartment? Either of you have a space (or a friend with space or a garage) or belong to a church or a club where you can just take an afternoon some weekend and concentrate on getting to know your new amp? It's also a great way to nail down how you want the stage set up to be. If you're good enough friends with the pizza folks, maybe they'd let you come in some morning before they open up?

Hope things continue to go well.

Peace

David

Thanks, David! We are definitely committed now to finding a different place to practice, especially one where I can turn up the new amp. We're going to try out Reed's apartment, plus we have a drummer friend with a good space in his house. We'll find something!

We're going to be roommates in January or February, and it just wouldn't do to get evicted for noise with two months left on my lease :)

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@progressions)
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Things are moving fast! More new developments in the ongoing saga of the World Racketeering Squad.

Picked up an EH Big Muff Pi pedal last night. We don't really even have that many songs that call for fuzz, but I'm trying to build up a pedal set and it's flashier than the compressor or BBE Sonic Stomp that I want. Ironically I've already got terrific fuzz sounds from my new AD30VT amp, but there you go!

Our big gig is tonight, but last night we played the open mic at Trophy's Bar & Grill, smoky little bar with a folky crowd, mostly a scene from the Kerrville Folk Festival. They have a showcase performer in the middle of the night and several open mic slots for 2 songs each before and after. A couple of weeks ago after our set I asked the host, curmudgeonly Bill Davis, what we need to do to get a showcase slot. He laughed and said "Get better." So I resolved to do that and get a slot, and put the idea in the back of my mind, to be brought out much later.

Then last night, only two weeks later, Bill Davis approached us and said "I haven't asked y'all to be a showcase yet, have I?" and committed to giving us a spot early in 2008. He also had some other projects in the works he wants to talk to us about.

Bill Davis is also a singer/songwriter with a really intense energy on stage, who draws a devoted crowd when he plays. He's completely different in style from us, not whimsical or esoteric in the least. So it's blowing our minds to have him so enthusiastic about us!

Now I'm just trying to decide how much to practice today before the gig tonight. I don't want to overdo it!

We've decided to play with my little Kustom amp and effects unit, the way we've been practicing our set for weeks now, but I'm dying to use my AD30 and Big Muff!

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@progressions)
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Terrific show at the Carousel Lounge last night opening up for Blue Squeezbox.

It was fun and inspiring, lots of our friends showed up, and the guys in Blue Squeezebox were enthusiastic and very cool.

Both Reed's folks and my Mom showed up, which was nice! Reed's folks came to his Halloween party but my Mom hadn't seen us play, she had only heard a few recordings. The crowd that had showed up by the time we started filled the Carousel Lounge on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so we consider that to be decidedly awesome. Lots of our personal friends showed up, and people we haven't seen in a while, who heard about it through other friends or through our mailing list. Blue Squeezebox had a decent contingent, but we'd promoting show like mad since we found out, so I think that helped our turnout.

As for the show itself, our strong points are our energy and our sense of fun. We're doing stuff that nobody else seems to do on stage, a variety of styles and attitudes that combines to create a pretty unique and entertaining show.

Musically, we have a ways to go. My main bugbear right now is playing too fast. We're looking for a rhythm section, but right now it's just my electric guitar and Reed's voice. Watching the video, pretty much every one of the songs we played was too fast, and in some cases it really hurt the song musically. I get so amped up with energy that I rush through the songs like it's a race. I've been working on it, but it's really a huge priority for me right now, I just cannot continue playing like that. Must be smoother, tighter, and combine being more relaxed on stage with projecting an infectious energy.

After the show, Reed took our mailing list around to find that one of our fans had already sent it around the room and we had a page and a half of new entries! Reed picked up some stragglers that came in late, and we got a sizeable addition to the list out of it. He also travelled the tip jar, which returned considerably fuller than it started, marking the first time we've ever made money from playing music!

Blue Squeezebox played two terrific sets afterward, we hung out and enjoyed the evening. After the show we posted a short videoblogabout it and some of the videos of the songs. The rest will be up soon.

We'll be at Conan's Pizza and Trophy's this coming Monday and Tuesday, and back at the Green Muse on Thursday. Things are going great!

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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(@wes-inman)
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I really enjoyed your very first video, haven't watched them all yet, but that was great playing.

I loved the Halloween video, sort of a Devo meets Queen thing, you look like Brian May with that huge wig. :D

Keep on Rockin'

Wes

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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(@progressions)
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Thanks, Wes!

I didn't think too much of the wig at the time but my friend is working on an illustration that makes me want to start wearing it fulltime!

Jeff

Isaac Priestley: World Racketeering Squad
http://www.progressions.org/
http://www.youtube.com/worldracketeer


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