Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Long-Gone Time

Hey, is anyone still here?

There's a lot of dust on the Monkey Grip blog, but I'm dusting it off right now.

If you're reading this, you might be on Blogger, or you might be on the Monkey Grip ReverbNation page, or you might be on my own ReverbNation page. And it's the two latter items that I want to address. I've been completely uninvolved with my own ReverbNation page (it was completely blank), and pretty darn close to uninvolved with the Monkey Grip ReverbNation page. I think it's time for that to change, so I'm going to make an effort to get stuff going on my own page, and to pitch in on the Monkey Grip page. My Monkey-Partner Scott Kuchler has been responsible for pretty much everything on the Grip's page for the last few years, and he's done a fine job. But especially since I've been lax on the main Monkey Grip site (I need to redo it, frankly, and someday I hope to get to that), the least I can do is pitch in somewhat.

I figure I'll post things that are relevant to both on both pages, and then additionally add other stuff to my own page--ideas, demos, thoughts, and little things that aren't related to Monkey Grip or have yet to be brought into Monkey Grip world. Sort of like Scott has going on with some of his other creative ventures like here, here, or here. Hey, it's all one big network of us as artists and friends, so I encourage everyone to check it all out.

As for me, I have a bunch of pictures—mostly current-ish, but with some golden-oldies from back in the day—that I plan to post on my page. If only ReverbNation had a way to upload MULTIPLE pictures in one shot. What a pain in the butt doing them one-by-one. I would have had about 40 up already, but as of now I have... one.

Follow me, follow us... Let me know you're there and reading and I'll be more motivate to keep up with this stuff.

P.S. -> You probably didn't get the pun of the title of this blog. That's not a garbled attempt at channeling David Crosby, but, rather, a song of mine we do in Monkey Grip with a similar title; and you know damn well there's no way I could ever write chords like those you hear in "Guinnevere,"so I doubt anyone will confuse us.  Still, if you knew the song reference, you rule. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Three Sets


Let me take you back to early January 2010. Monkey Grip was still in its infancy, having had only abut six rehearsals behind us. We weren't calling ourselves "Monkey Grip" yet and, in fact, there really was no full band yet—just Scott and me hashing it out, making plans, showing each other our songs, and basically trying to get this project off the ground. It was around this time that Scott, of all things, suggested we get out soon to an open mic night and so we could get a gig under our collective belt. In the absence of a full band, I would ditch the drums, grab a guitar, and we'd just do an acoustic show.

Switching instruments? Playing in front of people after only a handful of rehearsals? You know, I've played in many bands that wouldn't dare present themselves until everything was worked out to a tee with a sense of the utmost preparedness. And, by all means, there is certainly plenty of validity to that school of thought. However, Scott set the precedent here that this wasn't going to be one of those kinds of bands.

"One thing you'll learn about me," he frankly told me on the subject of playing out, "Is that I'm not afraid to screw up in front of people."

That's kind of been the Monkey Grip motif, in a way. Certainly we're plenty tight with our core material, but we've also been known to throw songs into a set list—originals and covers alike—that we're not quite polished if the whim hits.

Well, at the Bob Dylan Tribute Concert at Bartini's two weeks ago, we took this concept to new levels...


With Monkeys Mark and Jim unavailable for the gig, Scott and I went down to the club not quite knowing what our plans would be. We were willing to go on acoustically as a duo, but we were kind of hoping that we'd be able to talk one or two of the Bartini regulars into helping us out. So we reached out and asked two such folks—whom Monkey Grip had never played with—to sit in. Eddie Havoc (of MediaCrime) and Rob "Roby" Young did us a great service by stepping in and doing a fine job on five songs, some of which they'd never heard. Eddie played fantastic lead guitar, and Roby played solid bass and supplied some truly awesome vocal harmonies on our rendition of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Much thanks to both of them! Check out some video right here.

The Dylan night was such a blast, truly. I, personally, come from a background of original music and that's what I like best, so, on paper, the idea of playing a bunch of covers isn't my ideal night. Still, the mood was so festive and it was such a "jammable" sort of gig… a real "hey, watch for the changes and grab a solo when I nod at you" sort of event. I think a truly good time was had by all. I know I did.

But don't count out Mark and Jim so quickly...


Our regular bassist and lead guitarist were back for our contribution to another Bartini's event: this past weekend's "Peace All Night" jam, featuring "Operation Proud Hearts" (benefiting families of our military soldiers) and a virtual "who's who" of performers on the Bartini scene.

We were grateful to have been involved, and played a small set of Monkey Grip material, some videos of which can be found here.


After our part of the evening, I was mulling around the back patio, where a second stage for acoustic performers was set up in "open mic style." Magge Drew, who along with husband Dave was the person behind the musical bookings, told me she needed more people to help populate the secondary stage and asked if I could help. So I grabbed the Monkey Grippers (sans Jim, who had made other plans) and we did a makeshift acoustic set, pulling out whatever songs we could. I had a great time, getting to play some of my originals in a more intimate set up without being surrounded by drums, Scott pulled out some Paul Simon and Beatles out of nowhere, and Mark, I know, had a blast, because that cat just loves to play. (At an gig earlier in the year, I heard him remark towards the end of our second set, "Let's play until they throw us out!")

All good things, do, however, come to an end, and when Mark broke a string, it was time to split.

Videos of this can be found here.

Thank you for reading this.

Keep on Gripping.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monkeys and Gators are "Down at Bartini's"

For those of you who missed Monkey Grip's return to Bartini Bar on April 9, you missed quite an event. We'll have some video and images up on the site here and here respectively, and you should definitely check those out.

Here's my summary of the night...

Firstly, the night was a fundraiser for the local Gators baseball team and featured several bands, but seeing how this is the Monkey Blog, I will make the focus of this particular story on Monkey Grip's part in the evening.

I got there early to set up and I was honored to be asked to sit in with the opening band, the Drew Crew. With their regular drummer, Vickie, unavailable, I did my best to help out Dave, Magge, and Bill, and what a treat it was. The songs were great. I knew a couple of them, others I hadn't heard, but the oft-country-influenced tunes were right up my alley and somehow it all came together and I had a great time jamming with the band behind the Bartini scene. Much thanks to them for allowing me to be part of their set.

By the time the rest of the Monkeys showed up, the place was packed, with the fundraiser having brought out the folks in droves. The crowd was festive, there was a spread of food, and the familiar face of Jackie manning the bar. We were primed for a good night.

Normally, it would make sense to open the set with a well-rehearsed Monkey standard that has been around for a while. But we're so jazzed about the latest addition to our setlist, "Hey Now" (Aschulter/Cafarelli), that we simply had to open with it. I'm still very excited by this song.

From there, we went right into "Shine" (Kuchler), which is an old song of Scott's, but fairly new to the Monkey Grip repertoire. From there, it was cover time, and, like every other band out there, we love the the Beatles and this time it was "Maggie Mae" (with Mark on lead vocals) into "I've Got a Feeling" (with Scott doing the McCartney part and me doing Lennon's).

"Big Hurt" (Cafarelli) and "The Answer" (Kuchler) followed. Prior to the latter, we had what could only be described as a Monkey Blunder. The count off (1, 2, 3, 4) ended not with the band beginning to play, but with Mark stepping up to the microphone and yelling, "Jello shot!" He later explained that he was simply enthusiastically overwhelmed by the refreshment that was handed to him just seconds earlier. I think Mark is going to have a new nickname: Mark "Jello Shot" Aschulter.

Jim was bugged that he opted not to bring his own equipment (as i knew he would be, 'cause he's such sticker for bass tones), but played his trademark highly-impressive bass lines. His brother, Joe Falacara, was in attendance and helped out with some video work for us. Ditto for Donna Boughton, who was a great help with pictures, video, and… tambourine. She wanted to get in on the fun so much that she brought her own tambourine (seriously!), and she ended up shaking it for us on and off for the rest of the set.

Badfinger's "No Matter What" prefaced our own "Bed of Gold" (Cafarelli) and "In My Soul" (Kuchler). The rest of the set was rounded off by the James Gang's "Funk 49," "Stuck in a Hole" (Cafarelli), "Professor Ripoff" (Kuchler w/ William Wordsworth), and more Beatles ("One After 909").

The second set was looser, but arguably more festive. Folks were dancing, cheering, and demanding Grateful Dead songs (which we delivered on with "US Blues") and Jethro Tull's "Aquailung" (which we didn't). We also had a bunch more originals including "Down to You" (Cafarelli) and "Saint Sorrow" (Kuchler/Finley). John Lennon's "John Sinclair" was in the mix, too, among others.

After breaking for a raffle drawing, Scott informed us that he was feeling a little under the weather. At that point Dave and Magge Drew came up with us and joined for a fantastic jam, which included a song called "Sweet Jane." Now, unlike my fellow Monkey Scott Kuchler, I don't know much about the Velvet Underground, but, wow, how great did that song sound that night with Dave leading the band? (Great!) Thanks, again, guys!

Scott did return after that, feeling a little better after the quick break, and it was around then that we jumped into Neil Young's "Down by the River." As the guitar began, I heard Donna claim, "That's my song!," so we tag teamed out during the opening bars as she grabbed the sticks and went behind the drums and I took the tambourine and went out front to sing backups with Mark and Dave, while Scott sang lead and Jim held down the low notes. It was a truly epic sounding closer, and that was going to be it, but at Mark's request to satiate his desire to rip it up, I went back to the drums and he shredded while we played the instrumental "Lava" as an encore of sorts.

A great time was had by all, methinks.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hey Now: The Story Behind the Emergence of a New Song

I have to admit, I'm pretty excited by this new Monkey Grip song called "Hey Now." And the way it came to be is a pretty good story, I think. It all started a couple of weeks back…

As I'm culling material for the launch of our official Monkey Grip Site, it was hard to miss the fact that when it came to songs, there was a lot of "Steve" and a lot of "Scott," but not so much "Mark" when it came to composing credits. What way is that to be representing a guy who has been in the fold for over a year now?

Well, the truth is, we often write alone, and while Scott and I will show up with songs that are essentially complete, Mark doesn't seem to operate that way. He's sort of a "I was fooling around with this guitar riff, maybe we can do something with it" sort of guy. So maybe his ideas don't get heard as often as they could.

We had actually had this conversation last year and requested something from Mark during a rehearsal. He had this one particular riff and lick that had been lying around for a while and we recorded it with the idea of me possibly finishing it. Well, life and busy schedules get in the way of music often, and that was the case then, and I guess I kind of dropped the ball on that opportunity.

So, when this topic came up again, Scott did right by digging up that old recording of the riff and writing a song around it. But it wasn't the song that became the subject of this post! Read on…

Scott spent two weeks ago Tuesday, which was an off day for him, writing and roughly demoing up the concept, which was in an open tuning and, to my ear, had a bit of an Eastern feel to it. We didn't get much of a chance to go over this new song at rehearsal that night, but he and I revisited it two days later when we went to Blue Barn Studio and demoed it again, still roughly, but slightly more refined, with him playing the electric guitars, leads, and vocals, and me playing mock tabla, acoustic, and singing harmonies. It seemed like we had a new song from Mark ready to roll. But then…

When we presented it at performance, Mark said, "Well, first of all, the riff goes like THIS…" and played something different than what Scott wrote the song around. You see, Scott was only working off a very distorted old rehearsal recording of poor quality, so it's more than understandable to think he wasn't able to properly hear the nuances of the idea.

Well, sometimes when you lose, you win, and in this case, somehow what might have been perceived as "wasted effort" on his part turned out to be anything but. Instead, the song he wrote was able to be modified slightly and turned into another great new song we have in the works called, "Motherball." I'll let him fill you in on the details on the evolution there because he wrote the song and can speak best on the subject.

Well, anyway, with Mark's Riff clarified, we started playing it, and I was singing to it, fooling around with melody ideas, and they were working. When I suggested a change for the chorus, Scott requested he and I switch places. So he manned the drum kit and I grabbed his guitar and from there, it came together quickly. Mark stepped out for a break, and Jim was not at rehearsal that night (that darn work thing again), and I pieced together the chords for the chorus I was hearing and such. By the time Mark came back in from the cold, we had the rough idea down. We recorded it so we wouldn't forget it.

Another night at Blue Barn encouraged us that we were on the right track with this one, so I took it home and wrote lyrics and a finalized melody for it. And that brings us to this Tuesday, where we played it as a band with the four of us.

At that point, I was happy with our new tune, but I didn't get really excited until I heard a playback of the song yesterday. Even listening through all the warts and bruises that are to be expected on a first run-through, the song really cooked and sounded great! So catchy! Mark, Scott, and Jim sounded awesome on it, like we've been playing it for years. I really feel like it will become a staple that people will enjoy at future performances. Again, it's called "Hey Now."

It's great, too, having a collaborative piece with Mark: he certainly provided a lick to the song that I would never have done on my own.

Lyrically, it's kind of a slightly tongue-in-cheek song, but one that speaks volumes of truth about human practices. See, these days, whenever someone meets an interesting person—whether it's because there's are romantic intentions or platonic curiosity or potential job candidate or whatever—what do they do? They Google 'em, or find a Facebook page and see what else they can learn, right? Well, guess what! That kind of stuff has been going on long before the Internet…we just didn't have all the resources to do it. So this lyric touches upon some of my own experiences with that sort of thing back in the day. I can't wait for you to hear it.

Welcome to the Monkey Blog

Friends of Monkey Grip:

There's no shortage of available information out there these days, is there? I mean, we've got our official Monkey Grip site already, and there's a ReverbNation page, and a Facebook Page (though people who know me know I, personally, am not too involved with that entity). And then I know that between MySpace and Pod-o-Matic and things of that ilk, Scott's got about twenty different sites that seem to involve him and/or Monkey Grip in some way or another.

So why the Monkey Blog? What purpose does that server that's different than the rest?

Well, as I've learned from past experience, the best laid plans of blog mice and men don't always work out as intended, and blogs sort of become what they become as need, practice, and response dictates. However, I can tell you what I envision this to be.

I would like to hope that this will become a running commentary of interesting tales and updates of things in Camp Monkey Grip. It's not necessarily to be just another listing of upcoming show or video clips from past shows. I hope through timely and interesting updates, we'll be able to kind of write the history or tell the story of the Monkey Grip saga, only we'll do it as we go along in real time. I'm something of a band historian for all groups I've been involved in, so I imagine we could relay the anecdotes as they happen. That would be kind of cool.

So I encourage everyone to follow this blog or comment on these posts. Indeed, I would love folks to "get involved." That's not just some lame-ass and/or patronizing marketing concept I'm spewing. I mean it sincerely. If we can let you into our world a bit, you'll feel like you know us as a group a bit more, and maybe you'll have more fun when you come down to a show because you'll feel like you're a bit more a part of it. If you have a better time, we'll all have a better time.

I'll have another post coming up shortly after this one, talking about one of our newer songs.