We’ve got a new dress on at www.gypsycarpenters.com and we want to know what you think. Early polls via Facebook are overwhelmingly in favor of the larger font and cleaner appearance. Our older demographic says it’s easier to read. I hear it also looks good from mobile devices. I think we need a perma-picture of the faces behind the name. Do you have other ideas? Chime in now before it’s too late.
Some gigs are logistical nightmares. Sometimes there are personality problems. Sometimes you can’t figure out what went wrong and other times you don’t know why it went right. Last night was a logistical nightmare that went south and then back north and nobody turned into a dick. Maybe that’s why it worked out great in the end. Okay, maybe I was a bit dickish in the middle but I recovered.
About 6 weeks ago we were asked to play backup for a singer at an event associated with the Todos Santos Film Festival. The invitee promised money and at my insistence a professional sound system with a sound technician. We agreed to meet the singer Gloria and see if we could find some common ground. I’ll cut out the details on boring successful side of the equation. Gloria and her side man, Dave, were fun and had interesting material and we decided to play with them. Meanwhile our local liaison to the film festival quit. This person was competent and reliable and would have followed through on the promises made. I gave up trying to get paid immediately but continued to press for a pro to help on sound. The venue was a large open space. Amplification would require skill and a decent system.
As the date drew near we received vague assurances from the festival staff that all was under control. A visit to the venue last week by us and the other band members heightened my concerns that the place was too big and too dark. We needed sound and lights. I am not blind and cannot play without visual clues. I must see my fretboard and my partner’s hands. More emails were exchanged. Gloria was very specific regarding our needs and did a great job following up with the venue and the event organizers.
Last night at 8:15 (Our show was scheduled to start at 8:30) we had no lights, no monitor and no sound check. A monitor is the speaker the band hears. In big rooms you can’t hear yourself without a monitor. How did I wind up here? Up until this moment I stayed quiet and waited at a removed locale. At 8:16 I yelled quit working on the monitor we need to start playing. We did our first 3 songs au natural. Then we got the call to come plug on and play with sound. Just like that we started playing. No sound check for balance out front. It was dark. I fouled out right away with some blue notes. Lights showed in a strange back light sort of contraption while we were playing our first song. Sound adjustments to teh balance were made on the fly by me. It sounded like crap from our side and and none of us playing instruments could hear what we were playing. I was miserable. About halfway through I hung up my mandolin and went out front. The singer was on a tune I did not know. I bitched. I carped. I had a little tantrum with kind friends. These kind friends said, “Hey, It sounds great.” Isabel reminded me improv is a good skill to work on. She meant the improv of dealing on the fly with the bad situation. I listened. It did sound great out front. I went back on stage and regrouped. I continued to try and play by memory and not by listening. I sang a couple of tunes. I bucked up. Time passed. Something happened around 10:00. The crowd (20 people) was up and engaged and our main singer ran out of material. The crowd wanted more. Burt stepped in to a leading role and we hit the ground running with our material under our control. He was great. The crowd was with us. By the end of the night the listeners were dancing and singing with us. It was a magical moment. From crap came gold. Like Isabel said, “Welcome to improvisation.”
Then it all went to crap again. As we approached the bar for our post gig night cap the bar shut us down. They said the film festival was out of credit on the bar tab and we couldn’t have a drink. Burt, the early bird, got two drinks in the first 4 hours but the other three of us in the band had NOTHING. We were waiting for our post show toasts and came up empty handed. We also learned that the kitchen was shut down and there was no food for Dave and Gloria. Burt and I ate early at Burt’s insistence so we got our meals but come on. That’s tacky stuff not making sure the unpaid band is properly wined and dined. Lastly, Burt and I were not personally thanked Sylvia Perel, director of the film festival. Eye contact was made and she failed to approach and offer her appreciation. Maybe she thought we sucked. What do I know? But in the face of all the maltreatment I can officially proclaim I won’t work for her again sans upfront remuneration.
We’re still flying after the great turn out and fabulous fan support of the other night. Here’s a picture of the three of us singing Cielito Lindo, one of Mexico’s most well known songs, captured by our neighbor Janet.
Yesterday we met with Gloria and Dave and ran through our material for the film festival event we are playing next weekend. It was a fun practice and I even managed a passable break in C minor. Afterwards we checked out the venue together. El Mirador is a mighty palapa on a hill over looking the vast Pacific. Acoustics will be a challenge. Climate will be a challenge. Late at night will be a challenge. The rough road in will be a challenge. Challenging. We’ll just have to see what happens.
As soon as our food arrived the first time we ate at Mi Pueblito I knew it was a venue for the Gypsy Carpenters. The facilities are slightly more developed than the plywood shed my brother built in our backyard when we were kids and the bathroom is right there in the dining room (behind a door) but the food and vibe reminded me of the first locally owned restaurant we played in our first season in Baja. Napoli pizza and the Gypsy Carpenters started together and helped each other get established. We parted ways two seasons ago after built up resentments and annoyances of playing a weekly gig grew to be too much. It was the grind of the commitment plus the fact that the owners never seemed interested in accommodating us despite the fact we filled the place week after week. By accommodating I mean leaving us a place to stand and sing. Regular readers might recall the final glorious evening when I was nearly knocked through a window by a staff member with a chair. I think it was unintentional. We had done our bit. The place had grown and was a successful business it was time to find a new venue.
Right away we were asked to play at Suki’s Asian restaurant in Todos Santos. Things went so well there Suki fired us for making her have to work too hard. Really, she laid us off because too many people were coming to eat. Then immigration shut her down and we would up at Wind and C’s at Cerritos Beach. We’d probably still be there eating gourmet and expensive food for free if Wind and C had not decided to stay up north this year. That and Hurrican Odile demolished the restaurant. Now there’s neither chef nor venue. This year we’ve been reluctant to settle down or feel constrained by a weekly commitment. That and I always felt mildly uncomfortable playing in joints that only visitors could afford. I wanted a more affordable place to play.
The first bite of my roasted not fried chile relleno filled with local cheese and topped with a light cream sauce and pomegranate seeds told me all I needed to know about Mi Pueblito. The Gypsy Carpenters were going to help put this spot on the map. I asked the hostess (perfectly delightful and fluent Sharon) if we could play some time. That was a month ago. It took a while to get us all on the same page. Phone messages were lost and email failed to arrive. Finally we all settled on a date. That date was last night. I am so happy we did it. All of our regular fans showed up and to a person none of them had eaten there before. The ambiance of the room was electric. The small space was intimate but not tight. We could hear ourselves and so could the fans. The tips were fantastic and the place was filled from 6:30 to 8:30. But that’s not all. The best part of the evening was our debut of our Spanish language set and the inclusion of our friend and neighbor Priscila as lead singer. She blew the doors off the place in her first public performance in 40 years. What a gift it is to help somebody do something they’ve always wanted to do. There’s going to be more collaboration with Priscila. No doubt about it.
Mi Pueblito asked us on the spot at the end of the show to do a weekly event. Burt said no (and I agree) but told them we’d come back soon. They managed the crowd efficiently and everyone raved about their meals. It will be our pleasure to play there again.
Guest singer and Mexican folk tunes. The Gypsy Carpenters continue to try new things. You can find us at Mi Pueblito in Todos Santos. 6 to 7:30. I’ll report back Saturday.