Monday, May 29, 2006

Slab City Slam - Day 2

See, I told you there was a moat. That's right, yoga at 8a.m. on the stage while I wait around so I can move the board to a new position, tape down cables, etc. And yes, there were two more musical acts that I hadn't been prepared for, not to mention the Shakespeare improv group that wanted to run their computer through the PA. The musicians wanted to use the Eurodeck, but since they couldn't get it going & no one at Arco knew how to run it either, I convinced them to use the powered Fender mixer/head I'd been using for the slam. They weren't super thrilled, but they sounded decent. I think the only person really pissed was the acoustic guitarist, but what the hell. Again, I'd come to run sound for the poets. Besides, it's not like I was getting paid, dammit. Much running to and fro...Slam from 10am unitl 1pm, run PA over to ceramics studio for improv group, then back to ampitheater for afternoon Slam competition, PA back to ceramics during dinner break, then back to ampitheater for final round at 7pm. I was freakin' tired, but it somehow all worked out okay.

So the slam worked like this: 8 teams from around the state with 4 poets per team, each poet had 3 minutes, 15 seconds to perform, each poet got to perform 2 poems. Poets were judged by random audience members not associated with any of the performers (5 judges per round) on a scale of 1.0 to 10.0, 10.0 being "kicked ass, no possible way to be any more awesome," and 1.0 being "dude/dudette, ya shoulda stayed home and kept yer mouth shut." Points are accumulated for the team, not just the individual.

First two rounds, everyone participated, and points were tallied. The top three teams went on to compete in the third round. At the end of the third round, points were tallied again and the winning team declared. This year, the winner was the Essenza team from Mesa.

One of the Slab City Slam traditions is that the bronze trophy from the previous year's winner is handed over to the foundry. The trophy is melted down and a new one is poured & presented to the winning team after the slam is completed. The winning team designates a poet to perform one last poem after the bronze is poured. Please forgive the crappy photo of the bronze pouring...I did the best I could. It was very cool. I was very, very tired by the time it was over. I have to confess that I completely wussed out & didn't stick around for the Flam Chen show. In my defense, I'll get to see them perform at Tsunami on the Square in Prescott in a few weeks.

View from a doorway of the ampitheater's "roof" (a white tarp). I wish I had a better camera to catch the beautiful weirdness of this place, but there you go. Arcosanti is a strange place. For those of you who have no idea what it's about, it's basically an Italian architect's vision of the city of the future that has been under construction for the past 36 years. That's right, for 36 years, Paolo Soleri has been building Arcosanti in the Arizona desert with help from like-minded travelers who stop by and frequently stay for a year or twenty to help build the bitch. They have a bronze foundry and a ceramics studio where they make the semi-famous Arcosanti bells. Arcosanti moves forward at a glacial pace with help from volunteers and donations & is open to the public for guided tours. They also have a cool ampitheater that hosts events like the Slab City Slam, Different Skies (techno music festival), and world-class musicians and dancers and performance artists from across the U.S. and beyond.

I'm basically worn out and spent yesterday doing all the stuff I blew off while getting ready for the slam. Today we started transferring all the audio from the hard disk recorder to cd's and, um, slept a lot. Tomorrow I go back to work, and need to get up at the early hour of 4:30 a.m., so I guess I should wrap up the ol' blog-o-rama and get some freakin' sleep. It was a great learning experience, all the way around. I have to say that my already high regard for Mr. Todd, the sound guru has shot up into the stratosphere. I'm looking forward to learning from the master at a more leisurely pace, fer sure. Oh yeah, and my fab spouse made the whole thing possible and fun. I would have completely lost my mind without him, so major props for the Drewmeister.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Slab City Slam - Day 1...WTF Do You Mean There's a Band?

I survived my first day at the poetry slam...just barely. We showed up at 3:45pm to discover that the sound mixing board had a) been changed to one that I was completely unfamiliar with and b) was set up behind the stage. Okay. I'll figure it out. First go steal the board I DO know how to work from the ceramics studio, then drag everything out to a table off to the side in the main seating area. Gaffer tape? Anybody? 'Cause they've filled the moat around the stage with water. (Yeah, you heard me...they've got a moat built around the stage that they can fill with water.) Uh, mic cables shouldn't be in water. Must have tape to keep cables out of the moat. Finally a roll of duct tape (hey, any port in a storm) is located. Catastrophe averted. WHEW!!! Until they very casually tell me that Molehill Orchestra has cancelled and the new band they booked is expecting someone to run the sound (read that as ME). I totally flip out. WTF? I came here to run sound and record POETS, dammit. Blank stares and recriminations all around. Finally, I just said "fuck it...I can't promise jack, but I'll do my best."

Run soundcheck for the band at 7:15pm. They're pissy 'cause there are no monitors for them to hear themselves. Try to explain that I wasn't expecting them & Arcosanti doesn't have anything besides the house speakers & the board. Grumpy, but ultimately they accept. They have to get booted off the stage by the emcee 'cause they want me to keep tweaking the sound - more keyboards, no less...vocal too loud, saxophone too quiet. I'm pulling my hair out in big long chunks and biting my tongue to keep from turning into Super Bitch. Then comes the opening performers. First poet up, no problem. Sounds great. Totally monkey around when the second poet comes up, finally get it dialed in. Then they're doing a duet slam. Fuck. How do I keep the voices separated so you can understand what the fuck's being said? Work fast, get it dialed in, breathe again. Then comes a guest poet (freakin' amazing), so it's time to adjust the mic levels again. Oh, and then she asks if there's anyone who can beatbox. A dishwasher from Arcosanti can. Bring him up, set up another freakin' mic super fast, and try to get a decent sound w/o time for a soundcheck. Shit. Fingers fly, ears strain, get the mix nailed and sit back & breathe again. Sounded great. Scared the crap out of me. But it worked. Not "ohmigodthatsoundedAWESOME," but it didn't suck. Then the band's up, spend the first two songs getting it down (BTW there's a background singer that I didn't know about - not at the soundcheck, so pull it out of your ass, my dear). Able to sit back and relax, just the occasional tweak, but dammit I want the band to hurry up and quit playing. They finally wrap it up after 10:30pm.

Start rolling cable in double-time, shift the board backstage and make a break for the car. Race home & in bed just after midnight. 5 1/2 hours of sleep, and I'm out the door to head back to Arcosanti for the big slam day. Wish me luck, people. I feel like disaster was narrowly averted yesterday, and I'm praying for an encore performance today. Poets slamming their shit from 10am until 8pm, followed by a bronze pour of this years trophy and a performance by Flam Chien (awesome fire group from Tucson). More later...if I survive!

*Photo is of emcee Ira Murfin, kicking off the 6th Annual Slab City Slam at Arcosanti on May 26, 2006.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crazy busy, but there is light at then end of the tunnel. Er, I mean after Memorial Day. Spent the majority of Sunday working on sound traps, then worked Monday & finished up sound traps in the evening. Finally got the article on the Lee Child & Cornelia Read book signing done & off to Sandra over at Spinetingler yesterday. It didn't suck too badly, but I'd never make it as a journalist. That's for damn sure.

Working today and tomorrow, then off to Arcosanti on Friday and Saturday. I'm running the sound board for the Slab City Slam (poetry slam). I'd better get my shit together ASAP as we're recording the slam for future podcasts at Coyote Radio. You'd think running sound for spoken word would be easier than for a band, but you'd be wrong. Those damn slam poets have a tendency to go from a shout to a whisper. Sometimes they do this sing-song thing, too. Eurgh! Hope I don't spend all day Sat. riding the freakin' faders, 'cause that would suck.

Gotta run. Trying to squeeze in an hour of actual writing before I have to go meet the school bus...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Book Signings, Bloggers, & Blabbing

It's been forever since my last post...too many hours working & trying to squeeze in a few hours to write, dammit. Yesterday was my first real day off in way too long, and I spent it going to the Cornelia Read and Lee Child book signing at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ. It was great to meet these writers, and I'll be writing more about that later. If it doesn't suck, it'll be showing up in the next issue of the e-zine, Spinetingler. BTW, I only got to see one of Corneilia's tats, so I have to take her word on the alleged 1/2 tat.

Just as cool was the opportunity to meet fellow writer/blogger/Arizonan, M.G. Tarquini. As soon as I have time to figure out the whole "add links" thing, I'll be adding her blog along with some others I've been meaning to get on the ol' blog links list. Anyway, Mindy was super nice & took me & my hubby to linner (that's a late lunch, early dinner for you uninitiated) so we could have a chance for a quick get-to-know-ya. Two things came out of that...a) I'll know someone at ThrillerFest and b) don't get on Mindy's bad side, 'cause she'll use that superduper Ginsu tongue to slice & dice ya up & somehow leave you laughing at the same time. Looking forward to seeing you at ThrillerFest, Mindy!

I've got to run- making sound traps for a recording studio at Todd's house this afternoon, and then I've got the short article thingie to write up. And mebbe, if I'm really, really lucky, there'll be a little time left over to get back to the novel! Before I go, though, I'll leave you with a few photos.

Lee Child and Cornelia Read take questions from a standing room only crowd at The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ on Saturday, May 20, 2006.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Writing, Work & the Rest of My Life

It's been way too long since I posted here, but I have a good excuse. I'VE BEEN WRITING!!! After what felt like an evil eternity of sluggish progress, I finally hit my stride again. I broke the evil 50k barrier & am fast approaching the theoretical 2/3 mark. Yay, me!!! What's ridiculous is that I also just started a temp in-home respite job with crazy-ass hours. It's only for the next three weeks, but the hours are, well, crazy-ass. What's up with that? Hmm, maybe having deadlines CAN be good for my productivity. Gasp. Shock. Horror. Please, say it ain't so! Whatever, I'm so happy I can't stand myself. Fortunately, my faboo spouse had to go talk to some community group tonight, so I have a few hours to myself to work a bit. And with that, I'm back to writing.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blogger Impaired

Good grief, whatever you do, don't forget your stupid password for Blogger. I think I managed to create an entirely new account without meaning to. (Insert heavy sigh). It's been a busy few days. The trip to Flagstaff was great. Good to see Chris & Lea & their little ones. Bookman's was awesome, but I ended up spending more than I probably should have. Just finished Val McDermid's The Mermaid's singing - an extremely well-written serial killer ick-fest with really interesting characters. Starting Dennis Lehane's Sacred - he already made me laugh on pg. 2, so that's a good sign. I don't mind scary, nasty thrillers, but I do like a little humor in the darkness. Also reading Modern Recording Techniques and doing some research on mics and recording/mixing gear. Oh yeah, and then there's the writing. That's the one sucky part as it's still dragging ass. Time to kick it into high gear. I'd sort of told myself I wouldn't post on the blog until I'd made more progress (50k is less than 500 words away at this point!!), but it's been a while. I've even taken a few days off blog trawling, 'cause I need to get my shit going. But, it's been a while, so here I am blabbling (no, that's not a typo).

I'm totally psyched about the sound mixing. Todd's amazingly generous with his time & is a good teacher. I guess the plan is for me to do the reading (basic science) and to sit in on live sound mixing & some studio recording sessions. We're getting together once a week to go over the book learnin' and the hands-on stuff will happen in between. It's going to be a longish process and I'm committed for the next 3 or 4 months to learn this cool stuff.

Check out the cool pic of the Raven from opening night on April 1, 2006.

Next show is at The Raven Cafe next week. The board is up in the balcony to the right of the video screen - SuperDuperPow!!

Saturday night at Coyote Joe's was a great learning experience - not to mention getting to hear a kick ass bluegrass/rockabilly band from L.A. called Rose's Pawn Shop. The guy who plays upright bass built his own freakin' cool is that? Besides being blogger impaired, I'm also html illiterate, so I don't know how to do the cool in-post linkages and don't have the patience to fool with it right now. Anyway, here's the url for Rose's Pawn Shop:
Check 'em out. They've got 3 free demo downloads - I especially like Arsonist and Lone Rider (they played them at Joe's), but you decide for yourself.

One last yippie skippy. In a few weeks Lee Child and Cornelia Read are going to be at The Poison Pen in Scottsdale for a book signing. I'm really looking forward to it and barring an unforeseen act of the deity, I'll be there to get books signed. Okay, so this is dumb, but I feel a little weird as I'm a big fan of Mr. Child and have heard good stuff about C. Read's debut. The weird part comes in with the terminally shy thing. I'm generally okay with one on one stuff, but...let's just say it will be a good challenge for my social skills. Whatever, stupid insecurity crap aside, I'm stoked. And on that note, it's time to get my butt off the net and get to work.