Thoughts on the 5/30 BowieVision Performances

bandOn Saturday, May 30, BowieVision performed two shows at The Triple Door in Seattle. We initially had planned to perform just one show that evening, but within a few days of putting tickets on sale, it was clear there was enough demand to justify adding a second show. We wound up with full houses for both shows, which was fantastic.

In advance of the show, I upgraded the firmware of my AxeFX to v 18.12, which definitely breathed some new dimensionality and life into the amp models. Part of this firmware update is a new generation of amp modeling, and it’s significantly bigger / better than ever. I really love my AxeFX, and BowieVision is a perfect application for this kind of flexibility and power. Another great upgrade before this show was the MFC-101 firmware v 3.08, which allowed me to move my preset controls to the second row of switches, and reassign the bottom row to scenes 1-5. It’s the most flexible configuration for this band, and lets me get around within / between songs much more easily. john2 john

These shows also marked the performance debut of three new songs: All The Young Dudes, Hang On To Yourself, and I’m Afraid Of Americans. These are all great songs. “All The Young Dudes” is a classic rock anthem, and it was fun to have the audience sing along in the big out-tro chorus. “Hang On To Yourself” is a rocker, and gives us a chance to really blow off some energy. I could see that one becoming a great show opener. “I’m Afraid Of Americans” is one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and we finally put it together for this show. It’s a huge, menacing song. I prefer the version from Bowie’s live performance in Paris from 2002, so that was the basis of my transcription and arrangement for the band. Part of the challenge on this song is that Bowie had multiple guitarists and keyboard players on that tour, and we have to recreate that massive sound with only one guitarist and one keyboardist. I wrote out a line for our sax player Brian, which helped beef up the guitar part when I’m summoning the Banshee. Our keyboardist Chris also helps by reinforcing the distorted guitar part on the chorus. I’m pretty satisfied with the initial performances of this song, and we’ll continue to refine it as we go forward.

Logistics
Logistically, a double-header gig introduces some challenges for the musicians in the band.

  • We arrived for load-in at 3:00 PM. It takes about 15 minutes to get our equipment from the alley, through the side door, into the freight elevator, down two floors to the main showroom, snaking our way through the booths down to the floor in front of the stage, and finally up onto the stage.
  • It takes another 30 minutes to get everything set up and ready for microphones.
  • Line check and sound at The Triple Door are pretty simple, because they have a full-recall board. We usually have the basic levels established within a few minutes, then we run 3-4 songs to fine-tune everything.
  • Then we have about 60 minutes before the doors open for the first show. This gives us just enough time to eat dinner, and return to the dressing room to get changed for the performance. There are eight people in the dressing room (six men and two women), so it’s crowded and fairly chaotic, with everyone putting on clothes / makeup / doing hair, etc.
  • We hit the stage for the first show, power through the entire set plus an encore (or two), then run back up to the dressing room to change for the second show. Most of us wear different costumes for early / late shows, so once again there is a frenzy of clothing / makeup / hair.
  • After the first show, we did some quick meet / greet visits with the audience to say hello, and to thank friends who attended. Then we all have to get back to the green room. We have just enough time to eat a quick bite, then we need to be ready to return to the stage.
  • Each of our performances is 2+ hours in length, so the total performance time for the evening was close to 5 hours. This is not a factor for me as a guitarist – I often practice five hours a day in preparation for shows – but it takes a toll on our vocalists. We try to give the singers breaks whenever possible, and everyone on the band takes care not to wear perfume / cologne (throat irritant), use aerosol hairspray (also a throat irritant), smoke anywhere near the band, etc. Most vocalists also take the time between shows to give their voices a rest, so we minimize chatter with them. One of our backup vocalists has a big suitcase full of costumes and accessories. She decided against wearing a pair of black furry / sparkly leggings with her costume. She asked if anyone else wanted to wear them, and no one answered, so I said “give them to me”. I put them on over my jeans, and wore them for the whole show. It turned out to be a bold fashion choice, and a warm one.
  • Hitting the stage for the second show it deja vu for us, but as far as the second audience is concerned it’s their first show. There are always some people who attend both shows. At the Triple Door, we offered a “double header” price for anyone wanting to attend both performances that night, and we sold a number of those packages. In addition, a number of people from the first show decided to purchase tickets for the second show. We made a point of mixing up the set lists a bit to give those people some different material.
  • The second show ended around midnight. First order of business is the post-show backstage huddle with the band, usually accompanied by a toast. We then have some time to go out into the room for meet / greet purposes, saying hello and thanking friends. At that point I try to get backstage to change into comfortable clothes for packing up and loading out.
  • The pack up / load out process is the reverse of loading. From the time I start, to the time when the gear is in the car, is usually around 45 minutes.
  • By the time I left the venue at 1:15 AM, I had been on site for over 10 hours, and had changed clothes three times. I had moved my gear (around 200 pounds total) into my car at home, then out of my car in the alley, onto the cart for in-building transport, into the venue, off the cart, up several stairs onto the stage, back down the stairs off the stage, onto the cart, back off of the cart in the alley, into my car, and back out of my car at home.

That’s the glamorous aspects of being in a band. :)

As far as the performance… wow! We had a really great time. The first show was very good. I thought we hit the ground running and delivered a great high-energy performance. The audience at the first show was all-ages, so we had to slightly modify the lyrics of a few songs to make them PG-13. The first show was absolutely sold out, and the audience gave us a lot of energy. We had a number of people join us onstage at the end of the show for some singing and dancing. Always a blast!

Once we were reset for the second show, the audience had grown. We initially were told that only about 120 tickets had sold for the second performance. When we hit the stage, the room was full. Apparently there had been a large number of walk-up sales, plus those people who had attended the first show and decided to purchase tickets to stay for the second. I would say the second show was easily the band’s best performance to date. It was very high energy, and the performance level was superb. I was very satisfied with our whole night.

First Show Set List

  • Heroes
  • China Girl
  • Rebel Rebel
  • The Man Who Sold The World
  • Changes
  • Hang On To Yourself
  • Ashes To Ashes
  • Fashion
  • Absolute Beginners
  • Golden Years
  • Life On Mars?
  • Space Oddity
  • Under Pressure
  • I’m Afraid Of Americans
  • Young Americans
  • Suffragette City
  • Fame
  • Let’s Dance
  • Ziggy Stardust
  • All The Young Dudes

Second Show Set List

  • Space Oddity
  • Jean Genie
  • Beauty And The Beast
  • Starman
  • Blue Jean
  • Hang On To Yourself
  • Fashion
  • Life On Mars?
  • The Man Who Sold The World
  • Changes
  • Ziggy Stardust
  • Absolute Beginners
  • Golden Years
  • Ashes To Ashes
  • Under Pressure
  • All The Young Dudes
  • Suffragette City
  • I’m Afraid Of Americans
  • Young Americans
  • Let’s Dance
  • Fame
  • Heroes

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