Category Archives: reverential

1.5 Gigs Done; 1 To Go

Yeah, I know I wrote earlier that we only had 2 gigs this weekend. More on that in a minute. Last night was the first gig in Burlington, NJ. We were the inaugural act for a new coffeehouse starting at the Broad Street United Methodist Church. It wasn’t a huge crowd, but they were appreciative, and it was a fun night. The only major mishap was my main controller locking up right at the end of the penultimate song of the first set. It’s connected to my laptop via USB, and when a USB device goes away in Windows/Usine (yes, yes, I’m using Windoze – Usine is that good!), there’s no getting it back without rebooting. Fortunately, Dan has no problem filling in the spaces with his ability for extemporaneous speaking! I was able to reboot fairly quickly, and we closed the set.

Also, my friend Ben was there in the capacity of official band photographer. Thanks, Ben! Looking forward to seeing the results (even if it turned out to be more of test run – who knew what our backdrop would be?)!

And now the “.5 gig” explanation: Dan’s father is the senior pastor of our church, and he and his wife came to the gig last night. He heard one of the songs, and realized it would be perfect for the service the next morning, so he asked Dan if we would do it. This proved to be interesting, as we don’t have enough time to set up our entire rig Sunday mornings (although we do have some gear there: Dan and I play on the Worship Team for the first service), so we needed a “B” rig. For Dan, that meant one guitar (which happened to be the one he uses Sunday morning), using a clean sound (ie no pedal board), and his laptop and MIDI pedal board. For me, that meant my Korg Karma (which I usually use Sundays), my X-Station and my laptop. The laptop provides the environment, and any number of soft-synths, and the X-Station turned out to be the hub. Not only is it the audio interface for the laptop, but I ran the audio of my Karma through one of it’s inputs, and thus only needed to run one input (going mono here) to the sound board. I also needed to make a second copy of Usine (one of the things I like about it is that there’s no install, and nothing in the registry), with a separate config (Windows/Usine tends to freak out a little when all of the devices it’s expecting aren’t there – I’ve had some re-mapping in the patches going on, which wasn’t fun to recover from).

We got home from the gig last night about 10:30ish, and unloaded the truck, and then I spent the next little while programming the laptop software, imagining in my head (I didn’t want to get everything out and set up) how everything was going to hang together. Dan and I got to the church this morning a little earlier than normal, but were still up against the clock. Somehow, we managed to set up, debug, sound check (which doubled as a quick rehearsal), and get through the other practice (the regular service stuff), and still have some time left over for other special music to get in some practice time. Amazing. It all went perfectly, too. Well, OK, maybe not perfectly – I couldn’t hear myself very well for our one song (I had a headphone monitor, but it needed more gain than I could give it – I’ll have to work on that), but I got through it OK – I even nailed the solo!

A regular gig for us is 12 songs, so technically this was 1/12th of a gig, but I’m adding the other 5/12ths for all the work that was needed to get there. Hopefully, as it’s pretty inevitable we’ll be asked to do more things on short notice, or more confined spaces, that this “B” rig will work out for a lot of the things we do. It might take some re-working, but we should be able to pull it off. Eventually, I can see phasing out the Karma in the B rig in favour of my CME controller, and relying more on soft-synths.

This afternoon, we’re off to Barnegat, NJ (the Shore!) to lead worship at the Bayside Chapel. it’s a smaller set, but we’ll have the full rig with us (we might use their sound system), and it should be a little more relaxed.

Gigs this Weekend

Dan and I (a.k.a. reverential) are busy this weekend with not one, but two gigs! Our first is a little more local than the last few have been, but the other is at the Shore. We’ll be in Burlington, NJ on Saturday evening, and in Barnegat, NJ Sunday evening. Check out our website for the details, and if you’re in either area, come on out! It should be a fun (but tiring!) weekend!

Amazing reverential Gig

reverential Gig in PhillyAs I posted recently, reverential had our first gig with the new line-up last Friday. I was a little nervous about the technology behaving itself, and this was to be the first time we’ve played this set in front of people.I’m happy to say that we couldn’t have had a better night: there were a few small things here and there, but for the most part everything was perfect: the tech, the playing, the sound, and the crowd. Especially the crowd. They got right into several of the songs, and their response talking with a lot of them afterward was really warm and positive. We definitely made some fans: a few said they’d been on the website and noticed where the next gig was, and they said they’d be there. The organizer of the coffeehouse loved it, wants us to come back, and said he’d tell all of the other area organizers about us.

And so it begins! I’m really excited about where this is all going, and I’ll go on record here as saying this is the beginning of something big.

Live Music and Technology or, “You came in *that* thing? You’re braver than I thought!”

Ah, the joys of being a tech geek and a musician. There’s nothing better: so much wonderful technology out there for making music. Infinite possibilities in infinite combinations. One can spend more time playing with the technology than actually playing music (a danger I must constantly avoid). But it’s so much fun, and so very satisfying to coax amazing, warm sounds from the “soulless machines”.

And then you decide to play live. Whether there’s an inherent anti-social tendency in these machines, or just shy and nervousness, things can and do go wrong. And the effect is amplified when they’re in groups. I know this for two reasons. First, the band I’m in only has two members, and we have a lot of gear to compensate.

The second reason is that the band I’m in is about to start gigging for the new year, and as this is the first official gig with this incarnation (last year the band had 5 members), we had what could be considered a “dress rehearsal”: we tore everything down from our practice room, packed it all in vehicles, drove to our church, set everything up on stage there, and ran through our set. I had more problems that day than I think I’ve ever had: stuck notes on one keyboard (MIDI issues), computer problems (OS crashes that nuked the configuration of my music software), and controllers that flat-out refused to do anything. The most interesting problem was in the aftermath of the crash. My music software has a configuration option for “CPU protection”. The idea is that if the CPU load goes above a certain threshold, settable as a percentage, the music software will stop processing things. Undesirable in a live setting, but better than the machine crashing completely. Unbeknownst to me, this got reset from it’s normal value of 90% to 0%. I’m trying to figure out why nothing is working (everything in my live rig goes through the computer at once point or other), but looks normal. That took a few minutes.

There are those who will point out that if the “dress rehearsal” went badly, the “production” should then go really well, and I’m still optimistic, but when you’re placing yourself in the hands of your technology, in front of people (oh, and did I mention that a lot of people we know are going to be there?), you have to prepare for the possibilities, and, well, I have to confess to being a little bit nervous.

I am glad we did this, if only for the fact that now I have a better idea of how things could go wrong. What’s interesting about this goes back to what I mentioned at the beginning: notice I didn’t once talk about the music itself; my nervousness stems from the technological uncertainties, not that I’m playing music in front of a crowd. If I was sitting at a piano all night, it would be completely different. It’s all part of the fun, I suppose. I’ll be sure to do a follow-up after the gig to let you know how it went.

The Live Rig Expands

The Novation X-Station 25With reverential’s reduction in size, I’m going to be doing more on stage, and that means I need to be more versatile. There are an amazing number of great-quality, free VST plugins available out there, as well as hosts, and I’ve been looking to add a computer to my setup to run these for a while now. Those of you who know me know that computing power is not a problem; the problem is the connection between my keyboards and a computer: MIDI, and that all-important factor, the audio interface. Well, that problem got rather neatly solved in the form of the Novation X-Station 25 (click here for a bigger image). This is not only an amazing piece of gear, but provided the solutions to several problems or gaps I had in my rig. In addition to a nifty little synth on-board, the X-Station provides, via USB, a MIDI interface and a bi-directional audio interface, as well as a fully-programmable MIDI control surface and 2 channels of audio processing for external gear, complete with effects. This is a beautifully-designed, well-constructed instrument, and it works flawlessly in every regard.

The downside of now owning something that unlocks the VST plugin world for me is that it’s going to take years to play with everything out there long enough to know if it’s going to be useful to me live, then get the sounds programmed/tweaked, and then program the X-Station’s control surface to control it live. Not to mention learning the onboard synth. It’s a daunting task, but wow, is it ever *fun*. I haven’t been this excited about programming patches and MIDI and audio routing in years.

Once I get the new live rig assembled, I’ll be posting some pictures and descriptions (I hope to diagram out the MIDI routing and post that too, along with all the details of reverential’s stage setup). Stay tuned!