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.