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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

a venue breathes a thousand words

I just came back from a show in L.A where I performed with a nineteen piece big band. The band, put together and conducted by Tim Davies (who is my drummer in my rock band), comprises of a 12 piece horn section, bass, drums (Tim), percussion, keyboards and guitar. I sung three of my original songs with the band (Tiny Diamonds from the "Woman" CD, Naked and Temperamental Angel from the "temperamental angel" CD) plus a Peggy Lee cover, "Don't Smoke in Bed". It was an utterly amazing experience and one that is so unique, describing it here in writing just doesn't do it justice.
As an entertainer, I have traveled the world performing for twenty years, but there are only a few performances that I can say are memorable, unique and inspiring. This is one of them. I performed with Tim's band last year for the first time, and going back for the second time tonight, was equally satisfying. Tim orchestrates my rock songs to fit the full big band, and charts all the instruments. It's so impressive. Gordie Germaine, my guitarist, joined me also, and he got a kick out of it too. I mean, there I am singing "treat me like an angel, a temperamental angel..." and all of a sudden six horns go off to my left with a snappy jazz routine that blows my mind.
Memorable gigs keep us artists alive. It's important to treasure the gems because on average the venues we are subjected to have the heart cut right out of it before we enter the door. We fantasize that being a "rock star" means living the life of luxury when it comes to performing, but most of the time you are dealing with bitter club owners, jaded musicians, no money (or little), smoky smelly bars, limited time to perform, late night slots, no parking, and skeptical audiences. Doing this for ten years and you can certainly say you've "paid your dues." So when those magical gem nights come along, cling on to them and fill yourself up with passion again, reminding yourself why you are an artist in the first place.
I remember opening for Simple Minds at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix a few years ago. I got the call the day before to go. They needed a solo act who would open for them for $100. I said ok. For me, I saw the bigger picture. A huge band, a huge stage, a huge theater. I performed to 2000 people, on a revolving stage, with phenomenal acoustics. I could hear a pin drop. By the end of my set I had people wrapped around the building waiting for me to sign CDs that they already had bought. They were just waiting for me. I was stoked.
Last year I performed at Australia House in London to 100 of the top Australian media and businesses. The room had a 20 feet high ceiling with Baroque style architecture and a cathedral feeling. I played a Steinway grand piano, and was handed flowers and wine when I finished by the consul general.
My music business successes are based on my personal memories of what made me feel fantastic.
I found an old diary entry about the L.A club scene. This will be entertaining:
18th July 01 - ok. Just so you don't think, by reading all this diary stuff, that gilli moon's world is all bubblegum and balloons, let me air a little of my frustrations about living and working in Los Angeles as an artist. Last night was a typical example of the Hollywood bull---t I deal with on a regular basis... well everyone deals with. It just makes me want to GET OUT OF THIS TOWN! So, we arrive at the club for a promised 7pm load in, for a 7.30pm sound check, only to be waiting in the wings till quarter to 8 before we even get a glimpse of the stage because the other band who's after us feels the need to rehearse every line of their set! We finally get on stage and we are sound checking and I ask politely to the girl behind the bar, who seems as cold as a fridge, if we could "please have our drink tickets" to which she replies with a tongue like ice, "you have to get them from the manager in the back room." She's oblivious to the fact i'm sound checking nor gives me any nice sentiment what so ever. I realize, on another note, that my name is not on the bill outside even though I booked the club months and months in advance to be featured (I've played this club many times before). Uggh! Then I'm called into the ticket booth to be once again harassed by the guy at the door who looks at my 20 industry door list and says, "you can only have 10 free entry." I sigh in exasperation... I mean! we're playing for free, we give it up for free, we work our butts off, and this is the kind of treatment we get in return? So I go back stage where the bouncer at the back door is a bull dog and he literally picks up my roadie by the shirt and throws him back inside not letting him exit via the back door. Nice neighborhood! He yells at me for not indicating who's in my band. Like he NEEDS his power trip today. I then try and find some quiet minutes on my own backstage but need to pass the front to go to the bathroom, trying to avoid the audience (it gives me the jitters if I see anyone before a show) and the blondie at the bar yells at me to come over. She NEEDS to talk to me she says. I ask if it can wait till after. I don't want to be seen. "No", she yells, so everyone hears her , "I NEED TO TALK TO YOU!" I reluctantly show my face and she then says, "so, who's in your band to get free drinks or is it anyone who says 'Gilli' that gets free drinks." I say, "no just the band thanks." (I wasn't going to give up my credit card for everyone who knows my name). She says, "well how will I know who's in the band?" I'm thinking, surely they have a system to work this out by now. How many bands do they have every night? But I reply, "anyone with blue paint on their cheeks." (My band wears blue paint). She just didn't get it. So I'm trying to deal with her, shouting over the crowd who are agitated waiting for the show to start. I'm trying to avoid the people and have some kind of mystery by being invisible before I go on... and all I want to do is GET BACKSTAGE. Oh no, the door guy wants another word with me, so once again across the room I go... Ouch, I just want to go home! ANYWAY..... the band and I did a huge, great show. We had props, I painted 2 canvases, danced, jumped, felt high as a kite, it was SO much fun. Maybe I need tension before a gig. After I get off stage and of course the bouncer immediately pushes us out the door so the boys' gear is literally sitting on the sidewalk. Not even a minute to repose. These clubs do it every time. NO RESPECT! Can't they think of two simple things? One, supply backline. Wouldn't it be so much easier if all 4 or 5 bands who play on the night can use same drum kit and amps? It would save time and space. 2. Offer a secondary room goddammit! I mean, I played the Whisky a couple of weeks ago and it's brutal. Last song and you are sitting on your amp on the street on Sunset Blvd wondering "how the heck do I get my car here to load the gear, before someone steals it, and then be able to park the car again (parking is the pits) so I can schmooze a little which is why I do this goddammit Sunset Strip gig in the first place. Sh-- I'll just go home!" I had a crazy come up to me and try and squeeze the life out of me in a bear hug that was close to needing a restraining order. Weird people in Hollywood. Then I'm dealing with some 20 year old industry person who thinks he's the answer to everything and gives me his feedback of the show. I'm all keen asking him how he liked my set. I felt I did a great set - lots of power and energy, dancing, painting, vocals tight, band tight. I was ready for the feedback.Twenty years old and this A&R rep from Capitol thinks he knows every answer as to why I won't get signed or how I will. "Hey babe, nice set. Pretty outfit. It's all about the hit song though babe.. Deliver us the hit song and we can talk." I walk away in complete shock. Why do they hire such kids!! I go home and all I think about on my windy Canyon drive back over Beverly Glen is... I gotta get out of this town. I can't tell you how much energy I delivered, how much the band gave it up.I mean we did a great, great show.... AND FOR WHAT????? We sold 2 cds. 2 is better than none I guess. But in the long run, what's it all for? Hollywood children who run the business and have no idea about art? They say, "give us hit songs, that's what we really need." Well that saying is old. We gave 10 hit songs, a magic show with dance, action, energy, visual art and color, an awesome rock band. Those who don't see it, are naive. Record Companies out there - you are hiring the wrong people to scout talent. I'm so tired of the music industry bull----. But I love my artistry. I'm passionate, strongly passionate about that. Goodnight."
A venue breathes a thousand words. Performing in the big cities where it's like fighting tooth and nail, can suck the life out of you. Small towns, for that matter, can do the same. You can be performing in the same little bar with the locals for years, and feel like you're never getting ahead. It's all relative.
For me, it's about finding those gems of performances that are unique, memorable and feed me first and foremost. If I can feel passion for it, others will feel the passion seeing me.

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