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MUSIC BLOG - 2008

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Copyright 2008 Christina M. Guerrero



12/21/08

It was a cute little venue. The show sponsors were glad to have us and it was such a small event that my band members and I were taking tickets. Everyone seemed happy and eager to see the show. However, there was one small problem ... I had no idea what was on the set list. Zip, zero, nada. What exactly was I going to play? "Back in Black" minus the second bridge? "Oye Como Va" without the portions that make no sense to me? The first two bars of "Texas Flood"? I'd get booted off the stage for sure. Despite that knowledge I kept smiling and nodding and assuring people it would be a great show.

Then, fortunately, I woke up!



12/11/08

When I was a teenager I had to call someone from church who told me to get in touch if I ever needed anything. I decided to do so because I needed advice.

So, stupid me, I believed this individual and called. We chatted for a bit and then I explained why I was calling. After a moment of silence this individual said two things to me that I found confusing: 1. "Sometimes I think you tell me things you wouldn't tell anyone else." (so ... why ... wouldn't ... I ... do that? I was asked to do so ... remember?) and 2. "Sometimes I think you tell me things you don't really mean," which I took (and of course I didn't have to take it any way at all, but it was hard not to) to mean that I was a liar, that this person didn't believe me, and that this person could care less about the serious problems I had just described.

That was when I wondered if we were reading out of the same Bible. You know. The one where Jesus says, "Love one another as I have loved you" and "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Funny. I didn't remember anything like "Make fun of thy neighbor when help is needed" or "Accuse thy neighbor of falsehoods."

To fill the awkward silence, well, stupid me -- being a nice conservative Christian girl who respected her elders -- sat in more shocked silence for a while, then I took the high road, chatted politely a bit more and then hung up at the end of the conversation. Perhaps you think I should have made myself crystal clear about my needs. The problem is that I did. I was succinct and very transparent about the nature of my call. What more did I have to do? I remember shaking because I seriously needed advice. Since then, I've concluded that I instinctively did the right thing by not demanding that this person help me. Why demand help from a cold-hearted icicle that refuses to provide assistance? I also found out that this person had an anger management problem.

Without any constructive advice, I had to take care of my life on my own. But remember ... I was a teenager. So it was tough for a while. You'd think the "usual suspects" -- up to and including "Christians" -- would be able to provide assistance. Nope. Didn't happen. Yeah, I know: get over it. I'm working on it.

I thought about confronting this person and explaining the situation, when I was ready, but I concluded this individual's levels of denial and ignorance were too extreme for an honest conversation between "Christians."

The only vengeful thing on my mind back then, and through the years, was that someday I might join or start a hard rock or heavy metal band and write about the experience, which felt like the inside of one of those deep dark disturbing metal songs. I'm still working on the band thing, but someone beat me to the song. If you listen to the song "Inside the Fire" by the band Disturbed, you'll hear what I wanted to write and how intense I wanted my song to be. I'd like to thank Disturbed for writing, producing and distributing that song. It's an important commentary about the suffering of children.




12/06/08

Concert update:
Paid for one: AC/DC. I loved it! I fully enjoyed singing/screeching the STD song "The Jack" like a fool with 30,000 other people.

Ugh. Is it really possible to learn, memorize and play "The Call of Ktulu" the way it's meant to be performed? How? I can't even play the first eight notes correctly. And that's how far I've gotten. I've "read" the entire song many times, but can't seem to learn it.

And then there's "Pride And Joy" by Stevie Ray "I love 128th-note arpeggios" Vaughan. What is UP with him? I love his music and everything he did to make his songs masterpieces, but his sheet music makes me groan. I thought I was being way too grumpy until I read somewhere that he liked to take "excursions" during his solos. That would be correct.

And how could I ever take this as far as possible? I mean ... touring? Once I have achieved technical proficiency, and have either joined a band or started my own? And ... the schedules? I've been wondering if I have the stamina.

But the worries are stupid. I have a physically demanding schedule that is anything but "normal" now, which vaguely imitates the schedule I'd have while traveling from gig to gig. I rarely sleep, and when I do, I can sleep in uncomfortable places (I once examined a tour bus from its driver's seat to its lounge room -- they can be designed for comfort, but those tiny bunks are not exactly the best places to sleep). As for band structure, I might start my own. I work fairly well in team situations, but have strong opinions and rather firm ideas about how to succeed in business (although Iím always open to at least listening to different ways of doing things), which means I would have to start my own band for maximum satisfaction. Which means learn and practice better leadership skills, and learn a lot more about the music business.

Back to practicing and studying.




November/December 2008

[A note about this entry: I had heard of Metallica and Megadeth before the end of 2008. Unfortunately, they were two of many bands that I could identify by the sound of their music, but not by individual songs or by their faces. I had hit some kind of plateau from the late 80s to the late 90s, when I did not pay attention to music trends. Since then, Iíve been reviewing what I should have paid attention to the first time round.]

Concert update:
Paid for one: Metallica, plus their opening acts Down and The Sword.

I asked my daughter if she wanted to go to the Metallica concert. She said yes. We had this conversation many times. I decided almost too late to buy the tickets, and was lucky to get two seats together in the outer space level of the venue, somewhere inside the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Unfortunately, as the date grew closer, I found myself grumbling things like, "Ugh. Gotta go to that fricking Metallica concert," and thinking things like, "probably pointlessly loud and obnoxious, with no real musical value." I didn't do anything responsible, like research the band on their website, or listen to their music in any variety of ways: samples on amazon.com or youtube.com, or at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I just found myself muttering constantly about having to take time out of my schedule to attend that "friggin Metallica concert."

So the day came, and we did the usual: passed through town, had dinner, and went to the venue. I enjoyed the opening acts, which were loud and obnoxious, yet rhythmic and inspiring.

Then Metallica came out and blew me away, stomping all over my silly complaints. I hardly moved, and listened with great interest. If I wrote hard rock or heavy metal songs, they would sound like Metallica's. That sound is in my head.

A few days later I finally did all the homework, which included checking out the Metallica documentary "Some Kind of Monster" from the library. We watched it several times, and -- since we could keep it for several weeks -- enjoyed reviewing portions of it nightly, just for information or entertainment.

The first time I watched the film's group therapy scene with Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine, I said to my daughter, "Whoa. Who's that? Who IS that? Wow."

"That" would be Dave Mustaine. No offense meant regarding his anguish, which was clear, or to what he could have contributed to Metallica, but I think he was way too powerful to be in that band. I watched the scene carefully. I found everything about him utterly fascinating. After each viewing of the film, or of that scene, I felt disappointed because I wanted more Mustaine. There was more on the second DVD of the film -- just a bit ... but then I wanted more.

And then I found more. YES! I found Mustaine's empire ... MEGADETH.COM. Then I felt a lot better. And even better after buying "That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires." I camped in front of the TV one night, watched the concert out of sequence -- watching/listening to a few songs many times -- fell asleep, and woke up refreshed. One the best experiences I've had this year.




Early November, 2008

I decided that if I have time to whimper and moan about my love life, that I have the time to learn and memorize several more songs. To Santana's "Oye Como Va" I've added the real (not the silly simple first grade version) version of SRV's "Pride and Joy." Then I searched through my Guitar World magazines and picked the very long very complicated "The Call of Ktulu," a Metallica song written by Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton and Mustaine.

The learning and the memorizing have already eliminated some of the whimpering and the moaning.



10/15/08

Can't eat ... can't sleep ... can't play guitar. I can't focus because I've fallen in love again .... My world has turned upside-down and I'm trying ... very hard ... to navigate ... this new landscape.

Music seems silly, along with practicing, auditioning, performing and touring. I halfheartedly practice now and then but it's not like the last time I was in love, when the music was a sanctuary. This time round, the music is only a tiny Band-aid on a serious injury. It's terrible and it's wonderful all at once.

As I find my way through this strange and wonderful upside-down world, I often wonder how exactly this happened, and silently complain to myself, "I was finally over the other guy. I was in the middle of making important decisions. In fact, I made the decisions and felt good about them. I was practicing music on a regular basis. I was ready for a lot of things. But not love ... again. So soon."

But the complaints are silly. Love often "just happens" and you have to deal with it, no matter how much your world has changed.

It's always a pleasure to see him. I could handle a lot more of him and his interesting multifaceted perfection, and a lot less of everyone and everything else right now. I feel very much at peace with him.

There's a song in all of this, and I think it will be called "Reflections Of You." Some day I'll write it about him ... when I can focus again.



08/13/08

I have been practicing either rarely or not at all and my excuse is flimsy: because I've been preoccupied. First it was that guy who I'm trying to get over; then it was a book called "Nicholas and Alexandra," about the life and times and deaths of the last Russian Tsar and his family, which affected me deeply; then new things here and there. I don't look for excuses; in fact, I'd prefer to get home and practice right away but the problem is I'd still be playing at midnight, and then dealing with angry neighbors. Yeah, I know -- just sit down and practice for about ten to fifteen minutes a day -- when the sun is still out. I might try that.



07/30/08

Concert update:
Paid for one: Cheap Trick/Heart/Journey

There are some things in life that lead you to decide, "I don't want to play anymore," even when you're an adult. Then you pout like a little kid and hide and if you do this long enough, you start to feel like a ghost, and if you're basically a kind person, you try not to bother people with your ghostliness.

So I felt like a ghost for a long time, but did my best to keep that away from others.

Then, unexpectedly in the darkness, appeared this little flame of music -- thoughtful, reflective, slightly melancholy yet comforting, like an autumn evening. I wanted more so took my time enjoying several CDs by this musician. Doing so made me feel a tiny bit more alive and less ghostly.

Still, though, I remained mostly faded.

Then, after a long period of not having listened to this guy's music, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to meet him. I thought this might perk me up. But I worried -- what if the event went too fast, or he did not appear, or was having a bad day? That wouldn't be very fun.

However, he showed up and I decided to follow instructions from acting school: don't shake hands; don't say too much; respond politely and succinctly if addressed.

The event progressed and I reached him, thinking it would be over soon, and while it was nice to be there I would remain a bit faded, mostly because I expected nothing, and don't mean that in a bad way. I figured he might smile politely, maybe say hello, and then it would be over.

But he surprised me with a lot more than that.

Time stopped for a moment, and that flame surrounding him and his music provided warmth and life ... once again. I had wandered away from this guy and his music, not out of boredom or lack of interest, but because I was busy. Interacting with him reminded me why I had found him interesting and comforting, and inspired me to return to the project of listening to all of his works.

I'm still a bit ghostly ... but cherishing the event, and allowing it, and this man's music, to revive my spirits.



04/15/08

* * * * *
The goal was to memorize "Oye Como Va" and play it well before moving on, but, as usual, I got greedy and found more sheet music. The second song will be "Back in Black" (studying it simultaneously with the first) and either "Pride and Joy" or "Voodoo Child (Slight Return) will be the third, or perhaps "Lenny" -- a long romantic instrumental piece by the very awesome Stevie Ray Vaughan. I just had to try it out, and found it challenging yet fun to learn.

* * * * *
Don't you just hate it when you have a great idea for a song, and you write it down using an odd combination of musical notations/nonmusical diagrams, and a few days later you can't remember how the tune goes? That happens to me all the time. Ugh.

* * * * *
I can hear the comments now: "Did you see that, Harold? AC/DC is one of her influences? And I thought she was such a nice Christian woman!" Well, they're not influencing me to go onstage and strum my guitar along to morbid songs about hell and STDs and ... ahem ... men's body parts ... but I do like their sound. Their song "Thunderstruck" has my favorite combination of sounds, including Brian Johnson's unearthly screech. How about I form a Christian metal band? We could write songs with titles like "Smells Like Satan."



03/20/08

Some of my influences: Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Holly, Santana, Dave Brubeck, Creedence Clearwater Revival, 60s folk rock, AC/DC, Guns N Roses.



Late February 2008

I walked into the gigantic record store (yes, they still exist), believing I'd listen to a few samples, look through the magazines, then leave.

Which is almost what I did.

I listened to a few samples, but the AC/DC music blasting from the state-of-the-art speakers overrode my attempts to listen to snippets of Michael Jackson's 25th anniversary release of "Thriller." After a while, I had enough of Jackson, and started looking for my daughter.

That was when "Back in Black" screeched and howled from the speakers.

I bopped over to my daughter, examined her activities, saw that she was alive and well, then continued touring the store.

Meanwhile, AC/DC continued to blast from the ceiling ... stirring memories ... of sort of liking them in high school ... but being busy with studying, and not always able to fully enjoy them.

I looked up ... and saw the circular bank of TVs. It was a live concert DVD, not a CD. Brian Johnson howled from the stage. The musicians -- including the very awesome brothers Young -- backed him like energetic cement mixers: steady, rhythmic, powerful. I watched for a long time, then asked a clerk, "What concert is that?"

"Don't know," she said in a surly way as she stocked several products. A few minutes later, she looked around, then approached me and shared with a better attitude, "It's Donnington."

"Okay, thanks."

A few feet away, I found the music DVDs, grabbed AC/DC: "Live at Donnington Castle," and continued watching.

About an hour later, I walked out, holding seven hours' worth of AC/DC live performances: The Donnington stuff, plus the two-DVD, two-booklet, five-plus hours of "Plug Me In." I'd never bought so much music at one time. I felt quite guilty. I thought about starving children in third world countries, wondering how much food could be exchanged for them for the products in my hands.

But now, a few weeks later, I'm glad I have the DVDs. Every musician, whether amateur or professional, has his or her influences. AC/DC is one of mine.



Still early 2008

I was at the venue, examining the inside of the church. I would be performing at a wedding.

Since it was still early, I wandered around, touring the church, the kitchen, the parking lot.

I abruptly realized I hadn't rehearsed enough, and it would show, and that these people were going to be very disappointed. Why did I book myself at this event? How could I do this to them? ...

... then I woke up!!!



Back to 2007, wintertime

One day I wondered, "How will I know I'm ready to start performing?"

The answer came after a few weeks of thinking: when I can work around the mistakes.

In music, you can't go back, erase your mistake and do things again. You have to move on and stick with the beat. You have to focus more on the rhythm, and not bring attention to that skipped note or that faulty chord.

With that in mind ... well, it just happened. I was fine with the mistakes and I was working around them.

I'm not technically proficient enough to audition, or join a group yet, but I could play a few songs here and there for less demanding venues, such as children's groups, or family get-togethers.



Early 2008

Concert update:
Paid for one: Did not have fun. They started playing. I started itching. All over. I'm allergic to Van Halen.

I joined one of those Secret Santa rings over the holidays. Through that, a kind soul gifted me with the sheet music to "Oye Como Va" and several guitar picks. Very nice, and very much appreciated. I've decided it will be the first song I memorize on the electric guitar.

Speaking of the sassy little thing, I played it way out of tune for a couple of months. Then, one day, while messing with the built-in tuning fork on the amp (yes, the amp!), I managed to get the strings to sound healthy. Before this discovery, the poor instrument sounded flat and slightly distorted, which I though was normal. Now "Wildwood Flower" sounds kicky and positive rather than sad and depressing.