Filtering by Tag: Andrew

Where has the summer gone???

Wowza!!! The last 3 months have just blurrrrrred right by!

Our monthly stand at Lonie Walker's Underground Wonderbar continues to be a BLAST.  Our show at Chicago's best street fest - Glenwood Ave. Arts Festival - was a hoot and a half.  Our friend Zach (School of Rock, Mad Hornet, The Reunion) filled in on keys, as Andrew has been teaching up a storm all summer long.  Jon has established his own firm, lawyering it up... ...let him know if you need anything litigated.  Sarah has been in and out of Chicago a few times now, still touring with Sugar Still, but she'll be back for the September show at Lonie's.  (Sept 7)  Cheryl had a major promotion at Shure Microphones, and has filled up her singing calendar with an all female BeeGee's tribute act, among other projects.  Keith continues to rock out with the youngin's at School of Rock Chicago.  And what about Barrett you ask?  Well, he's been a traveling man as the keyboardist for Wifee and the Huzzband - Wisconsin's premiere 10 piece horn band.  They just booked a 3 week tour for the fall, so he'll continue to be in and out of Chicagoland himself.

In other news, SuperHero Audio continues work on the Barrett's Hidden Agenda record.  Final tracking will be done over the next month, with mixing and artwork/layout to follow.  The last few sessions were Sarah layering fiddle on Jon Roger's newest track, "Walkin' with the Devil," and Barrett's tune written from depths of drunken stupor while falling in love in New Orleans, "Whiskey Makes Me Think of You."

As we shift gears into the fall, we look forward to gigging more, and adding to the catalog with new Jon tunes, Sarah tunes, a track written for Cheryl, and batch of Barrett jams.

That was FUN!!!

Friday Night at The Sett (UofW-Madison South Union) Devil to Drag set the stage with a killer opening set, and we took it from there.  Managing to start early, we had the chance to stretch out the jams, dig deeper into the grooves, and take tunes to places they've never been.  The debut of Steelbridge Songfest 10's "The Jesus Gonna See You Naked" broke out as a fave.  The end jam to "Reds were Blue" has always been a place for musical exploration, and true to living in the moment - the band went into new space and keyed into a melody that will surely become something on it's own.  Clearly the freedom placed within this new jam allowed for interplay between Jon and Keith as much as melodic tomfoolery 'tween Andrew and Barrett.  Cheryl's take on "Medicine" took the crowds ears to a new level... ...and her version of Jon's "Dopamine" helped establish the vibe of the show early on.

This capped off a few weeks of BHA intensity that is becoming the standard for us.  Hold on to your ears, and we'll see you June 1 at Lonies!!!

Stretching it out on a snowy Wednesday

Torrential winds and snow came down all afternoon, but my show time the snow stopped and had been plowed.  It was actually warm enough for us chicagoans to stand outside comfortably.  None-the-less, I-65 had been shuttered for the day, and fill-in-fiddler Lucia was stranded (safely at a friends house) in Indiana.  Last we checked, on social media, Sarah was in Taos at 'yet another brewery' ripping it up with her partner in crime as 'Sugar Still.'  Fiddler or not, the BHA show goes on.

As we were asked to strike it up for soundcheck, Andrew came in and flung us into a two chord vamp jam.  It was so nice to have good sound, not have to work hard at it, never chasing the songs, and clearly entertaining all.  Few friends filtered in during the first set, more during the second.  Those that came early for Lonie's late nite were obviously into what we were laying down.  The turn in weather earlier in the day made it's mark... was just going to be a thin evening.  Small but mighty the cheers came, leading us into the next song, extending solos, and pushing the jam sections of songs into new places.

Jon really opened up "Catch Afire" for Barrett to go on with the slide and e-bow combo, getting comments later from fans about how it brought them back to the Pink Floyd Pompeii show.  Cheryl brought the house down, as always, on her rock n roll numbers.  Interplay between Andrew Jon and Barrett became a round robin of sorts on extended solo sections, and at some points Keith jumped into the mix.  "Down South in New Orleans" was quite the rhythm sections prowess in vibe.

The comfort and ease in which the band has taken to playing at Lonie Walker's Underground Wonder Bar lead to freedom in the music not heard since the Lincoln Square Lanes shows.  Refreshing to hear it all stretched out on a winter's snowy Wednesday evening.

Lonie's on a friday night...

Caught the solo act's last song, grand piano pushing out chords and stellar vocals.  (Nothing but covers, paying tribute to her favorites.)  Followed by an awesome goodtime dance band.  Rockin' out the beats and getting the butts to shake... ...mostly covers, paying tributes to the lead singer's favs.  They closed super strong with an original, introducing every member of the group.  The crowd encouraged 'one more song' and they bust into a Billie Jean cover that had all the right parts being played, but the jam wasn't in it.  They left the stage in turmoil for the sound guy to work out for us.  Let's just say i'm continually amazed at this band, Barrett's Hidden Agenda, in this case it was the ability to overcome.  To hurry up and wait, to be patient, kind professionals, and once given the green light - to BRING IT.  "Blood in the River" shook the room.  The bobbing heads, the stomping feet, the hands clapping all in the gravel time that is the bed in the track raised the band up for the rest of the set.  We pushed the boundaries in Jon Rogers' cut "Catch Afire," and anytime Andrew Doney gets to play a grand piano is well, grand! Cheryl's feature cuts where just downright awesome.  Her vocal prowess and stage presence can be such a needed anchor for the group.

After we finished, Lonie was getting her Big Baddass Band to sound check.  She did her thing, and came back down while sound was being dialed in on the other instruments.  

"I can't believe you guys, Barrett.  You did your full set without monitors?!? The vocals were so well blended, in pitch, and the band was so freakin' TIGHT."  She said to me.  I think she was more excited then i was over our set.  She is such an appreciator and facilitator of art as a whole.  She knows the craftmanship that goes into each song, let alone the effort and time it takes to put it all into one set.

Most of us hung out into the wee hours of the morning listening to Lonie and Co. jam it out.  From jazz to NOLA funk, that band's got it.  Lot of inspiration and perspiration in each tune they play, and it all seems so effortless.

Can't wait to bring BHA back to Lonie's for a couple of sets, hopefully regularly.  Keep ya posted.

Vocals - CHECK!

Holy wowza late night envelop pushing session batman!  Andrew Doney is the hidden dude in the Hidden Agenda.  I'm consistently floored by his music mind, and approach to sounds, and realistic honesty to accomplish a given musical task.  That guy has more understanding about the vocal instrument then anyone i know.  He knows the muscles, the names of sonic elements in singing that i've never heard of.  He had me make sounds i've never made, approach 'pushing air' like i've never done before.  Needless to say, i'm beyond thankful, wow'ed and proud that i 'conviced him to join the band' as he puts it.

"Talking to the Trains" started it's origin years before this band existed.  A direct reaction to losing my older brother, Josh, tragically and suddenly.  To this day i hold dear to the lyrics and progression.  As a full complete composition, i couldn't be prouder.  In a previous band with Keith, "Micki and the Good Name Band," he always claimed it was confusing and inconsistent.  We never tried to chart it out, just go by feel.  I was coming off of a 7+ year jam band project that was all about feel.  With BHA's approach, we actually put this song together in a way that made it better as a whole - and pulled at some of the 'unknown direction' that was always a potential in it.  Because of the emotional history i have invested in the tune, it's so hard for me to let go, but i trust and love these people more than chords can say.  It was a 3+ hour vocal session, and Andrew pulled out of me some of the best singing i've ever done.  I'm giving it a few days to sink in, and come back with fresh engineer ears to dial it in.  It's amazing to let something go, give it to your music family, have them play with it in the sandbox, put it back together and give it back... ...only to push you to raise the bar in your contribution to the track.  I can't wait to share it with you all.

"...and when those big rocks dissolve into salt, i'll finally be content with where i'm at & what i've got."  - Barrett, from 'Talking to the Trains'

Last Night & Tonight

You know you uncover parts of your life when you clean the basement, that's usually why we put it off.  I went through around a decade worth of paper, ticket stubs, wristbands, backstage passes, set-lists, charts, lyrics, potential songs, song books, CD's, and photos last night.  I discovered tunes and ideas i hadn't thought of in years.  It's actually pretty cool once you turn off a certain amount of remorse/regret/ghost of the past emotions.  Filtered out all the old bills and threw out 10 yrs. of baggage, foldered and filed away countless 'archive' materials for my son to throw out years from now, from previous bands (I had 12 piles working at one point) and focused on the potential treasures to bring to Barrett's Hidden Agenda.

Then i found a tape labeled 'Semi-Decent 8 Trax Mixdowns.'  No year marked.  Ya, read that again - "Tape" and "Semi-Decent" - basically static and instruments overlayed fighting to get through the speaker and heard, occasionally with understandable lyrics.  One of the songs goes back to my first foray into songwriting.  The song, "Dreaming of Pictures of the Grand Canyon" just turned 20 years old last month.  Another track is an instrumental cover of "Witchi Tai Tai," a native american chant recorded in the 60's that my father heard and loved, but couldn't find any info on.  He didn't seek it out, but was always on the look/listen out for it for say, 30 years, and finally heard it in background to a scene in a movie.  (Sleepers???)  He sat 'til the end for the credits, and charged me with the mission to find the song.  This was in the early days of the internet, and took long loading times, and days of searching to find it.  The only CD release of it was on a folk label's box set.  Needless to say, he bought it, shipped to the house - could've been my first online and Amazon purchase! Being a chant, it's the same progression repeated.  He was awestruck when i played along with it by the third go round.  Might've been a moment for him, like when you realize your child is actually doing something you'll never be able to do, as a person in their own right.  I don't know, i'm projecting here.  Anyways, it was really neat to hear early engineering and song-crafting of mine from when i was 17, and how far i've come along.

Tonight, Andrew will produce the vocals to, "Talking to the Trains."  The final tracks to be laid down on this batch of songs, bringing the album one step close to print.

 Baby steps are still walking.

Wowza! The holidaze are upon us!

Quite the long weekend in the Hidden Agenda family, all off on their own adventures!

 Barrett spent much of the long weekend (Wednesday - Sunday) playing on the road with Wifee and the Huzzband. Wednesday's show in Milwaukee at Shank Hall was a spectacular show, including some amazing horn arrangments on some Christmas classics done by bandleader Stephan Cooper.  Friday's show at Door County Brewery was filled to the brim!  The place was packed and rocking!  The great staff and quality brew kept the band crankin' from the first downbeat to the infamous dancing closer, "The Get Down."  Among the highlights was pAt mAcdonald sitting in on the raucous jam, "The Girl Can't Take It."  The cresendo of the band interacting with him took the roof off.  To close out the Thanksgiving Tour/Cooper's 40th Birthday weeklong party was a great show at Millcreek in Appleton, WI.  Fantastic stage, super supportive staff, and a fun crowd led to late night Sunday fun!

On another front - Sarah's other band, Sugar Still, was also out on the road in Michigan.  They did quite the stretch of playing at Pigeon Hill Brewery in Muskegon, Newaygo Brewing Company, Quinn and Tuites in Grand Rapids, Phoenix Cafe in Hazel Park, Unity Vibration Kombucha Bar and Tea in Ypsilanti and Tapistry Brewing in Bridgeman. Sometime in the middle of all that Charlie and Sarah had their own Thanksgiving feast in some lucky motel in Michigan.

Andrew has continued to work with his new puppy, training away.  Takes a lot of work to save a pit bull, and raise'em right!

Jon had his family all back in the house, and had some quality time in 'burbs.  He's been putting the finishing touches on a new tune, that hopefully will get the band treatment in time for the record.  Certainly upcoming live shows!

Keith and Cheryl, well, those love birds enjoyed time together, and away from the rest of us!  

I think we're all recharged to finish off the last batch of studio songs, which will bring the song count for the record up to 8.  We've already got the list of the next 8 tracks.  Now to rehearse, mix, book studio time, and play these shows!

Hope you had a meaningful Thanksgiving weekend with yours, and know how lucky we all are.


Laying it down!

Last night Keith, Andrew, Jon, Sarah and I worked quite efficiently on a couple of tracks for the record. I must say, i'm very proud of the team, how easily it seems to come to us, and how quickly we deliver on the new ideas that get thrown about.

Before the band showed up, i spent an hour or so cleaning up and balancing the mix on Jon Roger's "Woman Ain't Happy."  It's certianly done with tracking, and all the instruments are now seated in the right place in the mix.  Just some more time needs to be spent balancing within each group - Drums & Percussion, Guitar Uke Fiddle Piano, and Vocals.  Only then can the subtley of reverbs be dialed in to enhance the total mix.  Tedious, exacting work, but the pay off is YOU getting an ear-grin the first time YOU listen to it.

Then the band showed up, there may have been whiskey.

First up Sarah laid down some serious violin on Cheryl's version of "Dopamine."  After performing her usual parts that have been worked out for some time, we tried something new.  We had her layer the violin into a string quartet over the heart-pulling bridge, really deepening the emotional connection in the song.  After that, she laid down the first of the vocal back ups.

Jon went up next, nailing his harmonies in a couple of passes, and then adding to the background harmony layers that Sarah had started.  Andrew got in there to cover the bass and baritone harmonies, then I came in with the remaining notes, filing the musical hole left by Andrew's low parts, and Sarah's higher notes.

After that Andrew and i took a moment to really dial in the rhodes, which will be paired with the vioolin part and has to be balanced at times so the are seemingly a single sound.  Even the electric guitar gets into that part at times too.

This all prepares for the final component for the track - Organ.  Next week, we track organ.

Mixing Dopamine

Last night, Keith & I worked hard on mixing the new version of Jon Rogers' "Dopamine."  This is going to be the 3rd version of the song i'm aware of.  Jon's 'other band,' Jack Salamander will have their version of the track on their upcoming CD.  The initial BHA version, sung by Jon, is available to listen to on our music page, and all over the interweb.  You can see the performance of it at House of Blues (chicago) here: This live take is sung by Cheryl JenDaPro.  She's singing this newest version that we mixed last night.  It's a faster, grittier, thicker, take on this bluesy tune.  We had gotten everything in place, when Cheryl stopped by and said, "Why do i sound like a chipmunk?  And everything is sped up!"  I had a setting wrong, that played it back too quick.  Beer and whiskey skews the ears kids!  Anyways, we fixed it to the right playback speed, and VIOLA! our mix had come together nicely!  We pumped it through a 2 track ampex tape machine, and buried the needle!  That extra crunch really meshed the sound into place. We've still got fiddle, organ, and backing vocals to lay down, but it's well on the way.

Tomorrow night we'll lay those down, and some backing vocals to Jon Rogers' other contribution to the record, 'Woman Ain't Happy."  We've also got some cleaning up to do on that one having added percussion and fiddle last go round.

All contents property of Barrett's Hidden Agenda (BHA LLC), All photos by Phil Stosur