Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mutiny of the keys

My piano has needed repair for a few weeks now. First an oft-used key started hitting a couple of strings at once. Then other keys followed suit. It's painful to listen to.

And now I'm worried. Based on my description, a couple of piano tuners I talked to said my piano might not be fixable. Nobody makes Rippens anymore. There may not be any existing replacement parts.

This is bad. I can't afford another piano. Plus, the one I have is perfect for practicing, with heavy action that gives my fingers a good workout.

There's still hope. I dealt with a similar issue a year ago (though only one key was playing the wrong note; the others were just sticking), and the tuner fixed it right up.

Tuning/repair is scheduled for next week. My fingers are crossed. Which makes it kind of hard to play, but given how the piano sounds right now, that's probably a blessing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On the down-low

Not long ago, we were hired to play at a private conference. Our directive from the event coordinator was clear: We'd be there for atmosphere only. The songs we chose should be low-key. In fact, half the time we'd need to do pieces with no vocals at all.

No problem. Instrumentals aren't part of our usual repertoire, but we could certainly make a few up as we went along. We set up in the reception area, turned way down, and did our thing while guests talked and nibbled on hors d'oeuvres.

After an hour, the guests moved into the main banquet room and we packed up, proclaiming the event a success. We did what we were supposed to, which was lend the reception a touch of class while not making it impossible for people to hear each other. A few people even said they enjoyed the music.

Today I thanked the coordinator who hired us, and she sent a note back saying that we were "a huge hit":
Thank you so much for performing ... Since then I've heard MANY MANY MANY nice things from those attending the event.
Wow. Even at a pure atmosphere gig, you never know who's listening.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paws of the Past pics

In my last post about Saturday's gig, I talked more about my tragic inability to function in society than the actual gig. To balance things out a bit, a few details about the day's event:
  • The benefit, for HOPE Animal Shelter, was called Paws of the Past. Its purpose was to raise needed funds and honor past adoptees. Attendees were encouraged to bring their dogs or pictures of their adopted cats. A friend of a friend brought her two huge Airedales. They seemed happy to be there.
  • Before we started playing, Ron the Drummer introduced me to Al, who would be doing the auctions and announcing raffle winners. I found out the next day that Al was Allen "Big Al" Kath of KGUN 9. (If you live in Tucson, you've heard of him.) In the presence of celebrity, and I didn't even realize it.
  • Performance itself was pretty relaxed. We'd do a few songs, then hang back while someone else made announcements. During one of our breaks onstage, a woman gave me her business card and asked if we ever played at restaurants.
  • From the stage we had an amazing view of the Catalinas (or Santa Catalina Mountains for those of you not in the area). I wish I'd remembered to take a picture of them, but a picture wouldn't do them justice anyway.

Here are some photos. Except where noted, these are courtesy of Don Martin.

Ron! Are you having as much fun as I am?
Look at all these keys! When I press them down, they make noises.
Whee! Hey, Ron, why aren't you in any of these?
That's better.
More Ron the Drummer.
Check out how nice this stage looks. The shade was greatly appreciated. (Photo by Neill Mills.)
Whee, I say, whee!
Ron, with his brand spankin' new ride cymbal (left). Cymbal made its debut at this gig.
Thanks to everyone who came out. We had a great time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Doggies, kitties, and memory glitches

Saturday morning, 11:40, Brandi Fenton Park. I realized I'd left my water bottle at home, and trotted off to a booth that sold water so I wouldn't dehydrate for the afternoon's gig, a benefit for HOPE Animal Shelter. At the booth, I realized I had nothing in my pocket except my cell phone and a Cinder Bridge business card.

Huh. Must've left credit cards, driver's license, and money at home. Which was weird, because I remembered seeing them on the end table before stuffing the business card in my pocket.

The nice person at the booth said I should go up to one of the organizers, tell him I was with the band, and ask for water. I did, and we were up and running.

When I got home later that day, the first thing I did was check for my cards and cash. They weren't where I left them. I tore that area of my bedroom apart. No dice. Retraced my steps in the house, the driveway, the car, back to Brandi Fenton Park ... Nope.

Defeated, I called the credit card companies. The good news: no activity on any of the cards that day. So they probably weren't stolen. I had a hunch they were still somewhere in the house, and they'd turn up eventually. But I couldn't exactly wait the six months I thought it would take for that to happen. I cancelled my cards and figured that would be the end of it for a while.

The next day I did laundry. Cards and cash fell out of Friday's pair of jeans.


Usually that's the first place I check. I hadn't because I'd been so sure I'd seen them on the end table. Instead, I must have seen them not on the table, assumed I'd already pocketed them, and confabulated a memory of seeing them there.

Anyway. The gig itself went off without a hitch. Great cause. Beautiful day. Once again, I wish I could be spending all of my time doing music. I can do music. I'm not all that good at activities of daily living.

Thanks to Don Martin for the photo. I noticed him there with the camera while we were playing and struck this pose for his benefit. In retrospect, it was an accurate representation of my mental state.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

ME Awareness Day: Ain't no force on earth can make you crawl back underground

It's that time of year again. May 12 is ME Awareness Day, when advocates for people with myalgic encephalomyelitis, aka CFIDS, aka "chronic fatigue syndrome," tell the masses what this disease is, and why it's more serious than they think.

For those of you who are new to ME, here are the basics.

The past year has been discouraging for patients and advocates, to say the least. Promising research on a retrovirus called XMRV has been called into question. Some believe they've found proof that there is absolutely no link between XMRV and ME. Others believe the jury is still out ... but it may not be the slam dunk we had hoped for.

On top of that, internal politics within an previously trusted organization reached levels that were as brutal as they were absurd.

And yet, while it seems as though we've taken huge steps backward, there is a glimmer of light. XMRV research has elevated the conversation. Virologists who expressed skepticism about XMRV have said the cause looks to be some kind of virus. Dr. Ian Lipkin, who is agnostic about XMRV and doing a study on it, has said that it smells viral.

I'll take the "XMRV vs. another virus" debate over the "real disease vs. it's all in their heads" debate any day.

Standing in the Light
Lyrics by Susan Wenger
Music by Cinder Bridge

Got no ransom high enough to pay
For just a little peace
Drift along
Day flows into night flows into day
No purpose, no release

All the cheerful multitudes proclaim
Tomorrow will be brighter, wait and see

But the morning brings no solace
People let you down
Time and again you're proven wrong
But there ain't no use in giving up
And turning 'round
You're headed for the light where you belong
Where you belong

While you sleep
They move their pieces, play their little games
With all that you hold dear
Makes you weep
To learn what they've been doing in your name
Where do we go from here?

You thought you knew better than to wait
For someone else to come and set you free

And the morning brings no solace
People let you down
Time and again you're proven wrong
But there ain't no use in giving up
And turning 'round
You're headed for the light where you belong
Where you belong

Right on cue
The masters of the universe declare
There's nothing more to know
What a coup
They turn their backs, they leave you lying there
Noplace else to go

Hear the voices rising with your own
You're crazy if you think we'll let this be

Oh the morning brings no solace
People let you down
Time and again you're proven wrong
But there ain't no use in giving up
And turning 'round
You're headed for the light where you belong

Yeah the morning brings no solace
Even heroes let you down
And you get so tired of being strong
But there ain't no force on earth
Can make you crawl back underground
You're standing in the light where you belong
You're standing in the light where you belong
You're standing in the light
Where you belong

Copyright 2012 Cinder Bridge. All rights reserved.

Thanks to the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association and Tucson Folk Festival volunteers who recorded our performance on May 5, 2012.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The danger of efficient roadies

One of the biggest challenges of playing at the Tucson Folk Festival is the timing. Performer slots are only half an hour, and you have to spend part of that time hauling your equipment on and off the stage. There's supposed to be about 25 minutes of actual playing.

Even though we'd done this before, I couldn't remember how we got everything—Ron's entire drum kit and my keyboard, keyboard stand, and bench up there so quickly, leaving time to spare for plugging in and doing sound checks. But I knew we'd done it, so we meticulously plotted out our set list with that in mind.

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, we took the stage like greased lightning. Only then did I remember the key element that made this possible: the volunteer stage crew. I brought a couple of Ron's items up to his spot, and when I turned around, I saw two nice men carrying my keyboard and keyboard stand. Somebody else brought the bench. Nothing else for me to do except the very important tasks of plugging my keyboard in and putting the mic exactly where I wanted it. Sound checks followed promptly.

Then the MC announced that we were ready to start. And I realized that my bottled water—which I'd been planning to carry up with the bench that the nice men had carried for me—was still in back of the stage. There was absolutely no graceful way to run offstage and grab it.

Oh well. It was only in the 90s, right?

I'm happy to report that our set went well. The crowd was a really good, happy, responsive crowd, and I managed to keep singing. But next time around, someone needs to remind me how awesome the Folk Festival volunteers are so I don't do that again.

* * *

Thanks to Don Martin for supplying the photo!