Filtering by Tag: Barrett

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.

Barrett's #Songfamily Strikes again!

Every 4 months or so, Barrett disappears to "Spin-the-bottle" songwriting construction zone at The Holiday Music Motel, in historic Sturgeon Bay, WI.  As the entrance to the Door County peninsula, Sturgeon Bay is a meeting point of the ship working industry, arts hub, and tourist town.  In the dead of winter it seems sleepy, but don't be fooled!  Behind most barroom doors are musicians worth listening to.  Wednesday at Butch's (Local #333 Musicians Non-Union), Thursday at the Tambourine Lounge (Songwriters Night) and regular entertainment from all over Wisconsin and the Mid-West cover the weekends at Brick Lot, Red Room, and the like.  The Holiday Music Motel is seemingly the center piece of this scene.  After saving the bridge into town (Steelbridge Songfest) they've continued to host and expand these songwriting week long writing and recording sessions.  This "Love on Holiday 5" was Barrett's seventh songwriting festival.  Participating as a writer, multi-instrumentalist enabler, and audio engineer - there's no part of this social, communal, creative environment he doesn't thrive in.  These fests have yielded Barrett's Hidden Agenda staples such as "Blood in the River" and "Dumb Down."  At this point, the back log of tunes from these fests could create it's own record for the band to put out, honoring the fests, songs co-writers, and creative director of the events: pAt mAcdonald.  He wouldn't be running these fests without melaniejane, an amazing talent in her own right, but together as "purgatory hill" they raise the bar of stomp, swampy, character fueled, blues based rock that takes you back to Robert Johnson, and forward to uncharted waters.  Needless to say, Barrett is recharged from a week in the sun (Phoeniz, AZ) and a week in below zero temps (Sturgeon Bay, WI) and is charging forward with the next phase for the BHA story.

Barrett's bottle spins yielded 2 drastically different tunes.  With Jerod K and Nici Pepper a female mantra empowerment opus was composed in a Fela Kuti style, "Hoja Mwili."  Meaning 'move your body' in Swahili, it was drawn out of an art piece by Jeanie Kuhns.  The other, also with Jerod K, but with Matt Spotal, an 'on the edge' love song, "Gonna Fill Your Hole" was written.  pAt's comment was it's very funky, but Frank Zappa-esque.  More than likely, "Hole" will wind up in the BHA setlist, as it's quite the jam.  Besides the joy of creating and layering with the talent pool at hand, an honor was bestowed onto both tracks - closing out the Friday night(Gonna Fill Your Hole) and Saturday night (Hoja Mwili) live performances of the songs composed during the week at Third Ave. Playhouse.

If you haven't already, book yourself a room for Steelbridge Songfest 11, June 9-12 in Sturgeon Bay, WI, DO SO NOW!  You won't regret it, and you'll blown away by the community and the music, some of which will be written THAT WEEK.

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.

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.

...blah, sick for a week...

That's right folks, all things Barrett ground to a halt.  Layed up and out of it for 6 full days, and still not 100%.  Gotta take it easy as i get back into the swing of things.  Being very busy with family, work, life, and obviously MUSIC, I don't always realize i'm getting run down - to the point of exhaustion.  This was the case, and fell ill overnight, and am now calling it around 75% back to normal.

Things are happening in the BHA world daily - we just got a new show booked that we get to announce shortly!

Ahh! The Weekend!

Full of relaxation, and productivity!  I spent most of the time either sleeping or catching up on my stories - when i wasn't mixing and laying down tracks for the record.  Many an hour spent on Jon Roger's track, "Woman Ain't Happy."  The mix is really coming along, layering the percussion and the vocals in is a beautiful yet tedious process.  

I capped the weedkend off at Lonie Walker's Underground Wonder Bar.  I was roped into performing by the amazingly gifted Katie Kaden, a fellow teacher at School of Rock Chicago.  I was initally told it's more of a jam and open mic, but it turned out to be Lonie's passionate side project - Local Talent Search.  I performed Jimmy Reed's classic, "Baby, What You Want Me to Do?" which had been BHA's standard opener/soundcheck for quite sometime.  I swiched to piano for a rendtion of "Down South in New Orleans," back to guitar for a solo take on "Sawblade," the Tense UP! (EP) closer.

I was suprirsed and impressed with both the talent pool, the attentive and sizable audience, and the care that Katie and Lonie take in this program.  Though it's a competition, it felt more communal and supportive.  Other performs were interested in my story, my song, and my work as an engineer.  I guess we're all looking for clues in this adventure called life.

In the end I was one of two winners selected to perform in the final Nov. 29th.  Not sure my gigging schedule will allow, as I've been added as the fulltime keyboard player to Wifee and The Huzzband!


Barrett appeared on '15 Minutes with Rick Wood'

Today's episode of "15 Minutes with Rick Wood" features Barrett!  Recorded last night after too many beers, Rick, a comedian from LA, recorded his podcast from Barrett's kitchen. Obnoxious, funny, and out there covers the topics at hand.  NOT KID FRIENDLY.  Rick brings the conversation from Nils Cline (of Wilco and more) to alka-seltzer enimas.  Rick's humor ain't for everyone, but that's part of being a good comedian.  He runs the podcast for 15 minutes a day Mon - Fri and can be found in the iTunes store. Podcasts > Comedy > Rick Wood.  Check his website to catch his stand-up schedule.  


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