Friday, November 02, 2012

Fables of the R.E.M. Ensemble - The Show 10/28/12

After 8 weeks of rehearsing songs from the R.E.M. catalog, the ensemble hit the stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music's Armitage location for an 8 song set.

We were given the prime slot in between the opener (The Replacements/Paul Westerberg Ensemble) and the headliner (David Bowie Ensemble). For the show, Bob gave me the green light to bring in some louder gear, and I couldn't have been more happy to oblige. A friend's boyfriend was more than kind to let me use his British made Vox AC15 amp in order to achieve pure Rickenbacker nirvana. This upgrade in the amp department allowed me the chance to finally put my only 2 effects pedals to good use; the Boss Super Chorus and the Fulltone Full-Drive 2 Mosfet. The show's setlist remained the same from last week's class:

"Finest Worksong"/"Gardening At Night"/"Cuyahoga"/"Can't Get There From Here"/"Fall On Me"/"Exhuming McCarthy"/"(Don't Go Back To) Rockville"/"Strange"

This was my first time at the Armitage location. Hopefully one day I'll get to experience playing on the main stage at the Lincoln Avenue location. We were all pretty well packed on the Armitage stage, and I didn't do myself any favors by being the only one to show up with a partial effects panel. But, hey, I couldn't hold back at getting the right sound for the songs.

This was my first time back on a stage in 12 years, and it was my first time performing R.E.M. songs with a group of other musicians. It was a great 8 weeks of getting inside R.E.M.'s songs and really examining Peter Buck's guitar work during the early part of the catalog. Bob kept the class environment very loose but still maintained a good focus on the songs. Everyone in the class had a genuine respect of the music and had great fun tackling the arrangements we've all known as fans of the band. 

From the ringing intro of "Finest Worksong" to the reckless fun of "Strange," the set seemed to go by in a flash. For the most part, we played pretty well as a group, and the 8 weeks of practicing really came across in the performance. It wasn't a note-for-note perfect show, but we certainly held our own on stage. I got passed the mental block of singing and playing at the same time. Though my microphone was on during "Exhuming McCarthy," the sound engineer decided not to turn my mic back on for "Strange."

I thought our best moment was "Gardening At Night." Even though it came early in the set, the song really flowed with ease. Plus, the single note parts provided most of the show's jingle and jangle. It just all clicked. "Gardening At Night" is the quintessential R.E.M. song that stands shoulders above any Top-10 song the band scored during its 31 year career.

The song that could have been the potential musical car wreck was "Can't Get There From Here." Aside from a very small miscue after the first chorus, we quickly recovered and kept the song together. And I finally didn't screw up the bridge! All in all the show came off without any major bumps, and I can't wait for one more round with the class before the snow comes.

R.E.M. Ensemble - Can't Get There From Here (Live)