Friday, December 26, 2008

With the highs, come the lows

As many of you may have read on Herald reporter Tu Uyen Tran's blog, Suite 49 has closed. Still Fighting It laments this loss as it was the venue of our first show on June 18, 2005. Moreso, it is a loss of a current, valued place to play. There is a more ominous undercurrent to this, though.

In about October of 2007, I was blogging weekly about all the live music one could hear and it got to be too much for me to keep track of it all. That got me wondering if the conucopia of live music I'd been seeing was excessive - too much, too fast, too much of a short-term promotional stunt in a world that obviously needs long-term stability and growth. Could owners sustain the specials that were enticing crowds? Could bands keep it fresh while playing in a town of 50,000 3-4 times per month? Would the nationwide slowdown and impending economic crash affect the booming local economy? Would Canadian tourists continue to line the pockets of local merchangts? These were all musings of mine during that time - call it cautious optimism.

Well, the excess of 2007 is certainly gone, and in its wake are owners struggling to keep the doors open. I have noticed that, unless I'm missing something, bookings have fallen by about 50%. Unfortunately, this trend is spreading at an alarming rate, both locally, and nationally, according to musicians I've spoken to.

So, who is to blame? That's a tough one and we could pontificate on this for a while: the economy, gas prices last year, bad venue management, bad bands, indifferent crowds, market saturation, bad overall music climate in the world, rise of the iPod, home entertainment systems... What is it that causes a music scene to fail so spectacularly? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter: Have you heard any good live music lately? Have you noticed a drop-off in live bookings? What do you think about it or do you have enough to think about already?

As for Still Fighting It, well, we're still fighting it - we're a band mostly made up of guys that love music and aren't leaving Grand Forks any time soon. We'll still play, maybe not quite as frequently for now, but we look at this as more available time to rehearse, learn new material, maybe even record some stuff.

That said, come check us out with our horn section on New Year's Eve at Sanders! The show starts at 10:00 and we'll be playing all your favorite soul and rock hits.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alyson Gilbert with SFI

Hey all,

I just wanted to let you know Still Fighting It will be backing Nashville Star finalist Alyson Gilbert at the Empire Theatre on Wednesday, November 26th at 7:30 PM. We're very much looking forward to playing with such a talented musician.

She will also be doing sets with special guests Mark Proulx and Kris Eylands.

Alyson's bio (from her website):

Born in Texas and raised in Minnesota, Alyson Gilbert now lives in Nasvhille, Tennessee where she is a singer and an animal science student (favorite animal: pig).

Since arriving in Tennessee in 2002, Alyson has been singing with bands, doing acoustic gigs, and recording songwriters' demos. She was lead vocalist for Southbound, sits in with The Grove, and does acoustic gigs with Wes Henley, former guitarist with Carl Perkins. Aly has played and written with Jonathan Singleton.

One of Aly's favorite gigs was a USO tour to Japan. "If I could, I would sing for troops all the time - they're by far the best audience."
In the studio, Aly has recorded with musician/producer Mac MacAnally in Muscle Shoals and with Wes Henley in Jackson.

Aly comes from a creative family. Her father is the painter, Chris Gilbert. Her parents met in college theater, and her mom, Phyllis, has been doing theater ever since. Aly's cousin John Hagen is the cellist with Lyle Lovett.
Alyson and her husband Brian, a mechanical engineer, are active in animal rescue and respite work. They share their home with several cats and dogs.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gotta vent

It amazes me that there are still musicians out there giving away their music, playing for free.

Thanks for devaluing things for the rest of us.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Women's show

SFI played the Women's Show at the Alerus today. I thought we played well, but we were kind of stuffed into a corner where nobody was. If you saw us and liked what you heard, please let us know! We are available to do pretty much any kind of event.

On another note, my lessons schedule is filling up fast. If you're interested in jazz bass, sax, or piano lessons, give me a shout before I run out of slots.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Third time's a charm

The last two Farmer's Market gigs I've played were wrought with horrible weather: The first a full-blown gale (with about 5 cold and wet merchants braving the elements), the second was, well, just a full-blown gale.

Not so much today - the sun was shining, the breeze was light, and the air was welcomely crisp. Jazz is, historically, music of the night. Being partially rooted in the underground, the cathouses and saloons of New Orleans, it can rarely be called a music of the morning. However, if there ever was a good morning for jazz, today was just... it.

Out of my three bands, the one named after me seems to be the most core - go figure. I've often related to friends and fellow musicians that way back in 7th grade, on my first-ever day of jazz band I was hooked from the very first downbeat. The journey since parallels the operational side of making jazz music - namely how it interacts differently and evolves each time you take the stage. It helps when you are surrounded by wonderful musicians.

Today was the welcome-back gig for drummer Greg Jans from his summer-at-home in Washington state. I like the way he plays - he's got a hell of an ear, really listens to what everybody else is doing and responds tastefully. It's good to have him back in GF. Chris, our trumpet and front-man was on his game and Steve, my right-hand dude if there ever was one, was solid as ever. Yeah, a good morning for jazz. I had fun - I hope everybody else there did, too.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Grand Forks' loss is Ann Arbor's Gain

I promise I'm going to try to keep this blog from becoming an obituary of musicians that leave Grand Forks. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to eulogize:

John Behling has finally moved on to finish his dissertation in musicology at Michigan after a long, hard battle in Grand Forks. We knew the time was coming, and we were prepared, but it's still hard letting a fellow musician and friend go. John leaves behind two bands, and he was preceded in leaving by a few others. I've heard Ann Arbor is a nice place - the streets are paved with gold and there are cherubs with lutes in every bar. John is probably sitting at the right hand of a cold Stella right now, ready to plug his guitar in and light up the town. So rock on, John - we'll miss ya. The Forks was a better place for havin' known ya.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer Concert in the Garden

I blogged about this last year, but once again I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that played at the ND Museum of Art's Summer Concert in the Garden series last night. The featured artist was Paul Peterson, a saxophonist, composer, and arranger from St. Paul. He's a hell of a musician, and I got to read a lot of his charts and can say he's a hell of a composer as well.

I got together with Paul, John Behling (guitar), and Mike Blake (drums) over my lunch break to run through the songs as a group. It's funny, because looking at a piece of music, especially a "head chart" (which is chords and melody only), you don't know what path it's going to take when the other guys look at it. Even as we rehearsed, things tightened up - punches became more clear, rhythmic figures took shape, and dynamics came into play.

Later, as we took the stage and had time to let the music simmer in our heads all afternoon, the songs often took an entirely different path. Improvisation lends well to this phenomenon as well - when you rehearse you really don't improvise much because of time constraints. However, during the performance, what was a 2-minute song in rehearsal can end up 7-10 minutes long.

Improvisation is something that is dear to me. I think the key word is "improve," because perfection is always beyond reach - and I think necessarily so. There isn't a jazz musician out there that thinks they played a perfect solo at any point in their lives. That may be different from an audience perspective. Take, for instance, Sonny Rollins' solo on St. Thomas, or Miles' solo on All Blues. To many aspiring musicians, these improvised solos are perfection; we often strive to duplicate such moments. The funny thing is that such moments are just that - a moment in time, albeit one that is immortal because of the technology offered in recording, but nonetheless, it was but a moment. If you heard Miles play that song 10 times, you would have heard 10 different solos.

That is the essence of jazz, of improvisation, and especially of live music. Miles may not be around anymore, but he inspired so many and his spirit lives on, along with that of so many others. We are fortunate to have plenty of jazz in Grand Forks and if you haven't seen any, I highly encourage you to. That sounds like a shameless plug, and it is in a way, because big audiences ensure my continued booking as a musician, but it's also a sincere plea because I feel that strongly about jazz. We may not be of Miles' caliber, but we're trying, dang it. :)

So often jazz gets pooh-poohed because it's not hard enough (as in the dynamics of rock music); or too cerebral, too clique-like. That doesn't need to be the case. The next time you have the opportunity to hear live jazz, just close your eyes and listen to the interactions of the musicians - the soloists, the background, the harmonies, the way the melody is changed around each time it's played, the mistakes, the recoveries of those mistakes.

That's what jazz is about. God, I love it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Farmer's Market

Unlike the cold, wet, and windy, experience the 229 Groove Collective had at the Grand Forks Farmer's Market two weekends ago, SFI only rated a windstorm. However, the wind failed to keep the patrons and vendors away and it looked like a great still-early-in-the-season turnout. Still Fighting It had a really good time playing and we feel really honored the comments we got.

It's not easy keeping a band together for 3 years, especially when we've weathered the departure of three drummers, and we're, um... Still Fighting It.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I digress...

I have to give major props to Austin Winger, our new drummer, who I called on Wednesday afternoon to fill in for our outgoing drummer at the Blue Moose on Wednesday night. He did an excellent job and we're excited to have yet another drummer who knows his stuff. It seems like our flavor changes a little every time we switch personnel, so we'll see where it takes us this time around.

Our next pubic show is at the Moose on August 27th, but we're trying to book somewhere mid-August, so hang tight and check back here for updates.

Oh, and remember the Jazz Jam session at the Urban Stampede tonight, 8:00.

That's all - see you soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Getting back into it

My hiatus is nearing its end and I'm itching to play!

Here's a status report:

The 229 Groove Collective is playing at the Farmer's Market next Saturday, June 28th. Come check us out and enjoy the market - hopefully the weather cooperates. We are losing our drummer and guitar player to dreaded outmigration at the end of the summer and wll be starting a search for replacements. If you know anyone, shoot me a message with details on how to get a hold of you or give me a shout at Popplers.

Remember the Urban Jam Session starts on Monday the 30th - 8:00PM. This will be every other Monday - check here or my facebook page if you're unsure of dates. We have a new lineup of musicians in the house band and it promises to be fun every week.

I've been asked to play sax with the Dick King Orchestra out a Turtle River State Park for their annual 4th of July concert on, well, July 4th. This is always a fun gig and it features a full big band comprised of local musicians.

Last, but not least: Still Fighting It has finally found a replacement for our soon-vacant drummer position! Welcome Austin Winger, a UND percussion student and Grand Forks native, to the drummer's throne. We'll be at the Blue Moose on Wednesday, July 9th and the Farmer's Market on July 12th - which will be our old drummer, Matt's, last public gig with us.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Born Anew

Just poking my head back in during my little hiatus from gigging - I talk to the management at the Urban Stampede and we've come to an agreement that the Jazz Jam will move to every other Monday night @ 8:00, beginning again on June 30th. I figure we all need a little something relaxing on Mondays, so see you then!

Oh, and speaking of new and born: it's a girl!

Very proud papa here!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quick Updates

The 229 Groove Collective is playing this Saturday at Suite 49 (9:30). Come on out and chill with us, or shake your butt, or do whatever our music moves you to do. It's all ages, so bring the family.

SFI is at Blue Moose on Wednesday (10:00).

And the 229 is at Sanders next Friday and Saturday (10:00 both nights).

After that I'm taking a month off because my wife and I are having our second child.

I'm also planning on getting the Jazz Jam restarted, but in a slightly diminished fashion, perhaps on a different night as well. I'll post here when I figure out what's going on, so check back for updates.

Hope to see you at the show!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Alex Skolnick

I have to be honest - I hadn't really heard of this guy before a few months ago; let's just say I'm not the world's biggest thrash-metal afficionado. Alex Skolnick popped up on my radar when my Yamaha sales rep called me up and said that they'd like to put on an acoustic guitar clinic featuring him right here at the store. My part-time guys, Josh and Andy, were floored - they knew of Alex from his days with Testament. Sure, let's do the show.

What happened next surprised me: Josh brought in a CD called Last Day in Paradise by the Alex Skolnick Trio. What surprised was that it was a jazz album that takes a different look at popular songs like Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Testament's "Practice What You Preach" (the latter done as a Samba, which floored me), as well as a lot of original jazz in a progressive jazz/metal-ish sort of slant. Forgive me, but it's hard to correctly label modern jazz and often such labeling puts the music in a box, which I abhor, but I feel the need to describe it in some way. Now, some folks may have a hard time conceptualizing a mixture of jazz and metal; I know I did, but this clinic was about to alleviate that obstacle.

Alex, along with his support crew of Jamie Medina (our Yamaha sales rep), and Mike Tempesta (Yamaha artist relations, and brother of Testament drummer John Tempesta) arrived at Popplers last Wednesday to put on the clinic. Alex started by quoting some riffs from legendary fusion guitarist Al Di Meola and, in doing so, began to illustrate his mental process of combining jazz and metal. Along the way he recommended the audience read a book called "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner, a jazz pianist. This particular book was gifted to me by a former bandmate and had been collecting dust because, frankly, I've been too afraid to dig into my subconscious musical mind. In actuality, after reading through the first quarter of the book this last week, I'm finding that it's exactly what I needed. I'll blog about that another time; back to the clinic.

Alex then took a riff from one of my favorite jazz albums: Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin's (yes, the "Don't Worry, be Happy" guy) Play. In that album there is a lick that Chick plays (a Chick Lick?) on his composition entitled "Spain" that has always blown my mind. To my delight, it was this same lick that Alex electronically slowed down and turned into a couple of Metal riffs right on the spot, which was not only cool to hear, but inspiring to boot. Who knew that jazz could influence metal - and that metal could influence jazz. It was a clinic that both inspired me and opened my eyes; I'm now a follower of Skolnick - even if I'm a lowly pianist!

On a side note, we took them to Sanders after the clinic and they throughly enjoyed the food, drinks, and service - this coming from guys who live in New York, LA, and Milwaukee. So some (not surprised) props to the staff there!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Meltdown Fest

Popplers had our first Meltdown Fest last Saturday, which featured 8 local and one formerly local-ish metal bands. The show rocked; my ears are still bleeding. In fact, my 15,000-watt PA system with only the vocals running through it barely kept up with the backline gear from the bands. We're talking on the order of 125dB of metal!

The turnout was okay in the middle of the show, but I felt bad for the groups who played before 1:00. I think next time that'll be our start time as people don't seem to want to get out of bed before noon - a sentiment I thoroughly understand. But it went well enough that we're planning another show for sometime in the late summer/early fall timeline. It might not be exclusively metal next time, but we're going to start working on booking bands in the next couple of months. We do, however, plan on doing the Meltdown Fest as an annual April metal show.

Regardless, we've proven to ourselves that we can host these types of things, so sky's the limit! Hope to see you at the next one.

Oh yeah, the bands that played:

The Bismarck
A Bitter Hostility
The Offensive
Kentucky Sound Arsenal
Wheat Missile
Surrounded by Silence

Great job to all!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

229 Groove Collective

I've officially named my side-band.

We'll be laying down the jams this weekend at Sanders if you're in the mood to have great food, drinks, and fun music in a casual atmosphere. The 229 features John Behling on guitar and Chris Tanzey on trumpet as well as Steve Carriere on bass, Zach Spicer on drums, and me on keyboards. These guys are phenomenal players and if I haven't mentioned it already, Chris is pretty new to town and if you haven't seen him yet, prepare to be blown away.

See you there.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Weekly music digest and a note - April 7

Hey, I know it's a Monday, but with the Curling Championship in town I decided to post the weekly shows today in the interest of drumming up more support for local music.

You may have noticed I changed the format a little - I alluded to this before, but I'm basically C&Ping from Popplers Myspace site, with hopes that my blog will continue to reach additonal music-lovers out there that the store might miss. The weekly digest is also posted on our bulletin board at Popplers.

I'm going to try to stay on top of this every week and may do it as a Monday-morning ritual instead of Wednesday, when things are often hectic at work.

Here goes:

Monday Apr 7, 2008

Woodwind/Brasswind Ensemble Recital @ Josephine Campbell Recital Hall (UND) - 7:30P

Tuesday Apr 8, 2008

Concert @ Eagles - 6 bands @ Eagles Club - 6:00P

Rheude/Christopherson Faculty Recital @ Josephine Campbell Recital Hall (UND) - 7:30P

Open Mic @ Down UNDer - 9:30P

Open Mic @ The Hub Bar - 10:00P

Wednesday Apr 9, 2008

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:00P

Open Mic @ Speedway - 9:00P

Grampa’s Amp @ The Blue Moose - 10:00P

Thursday Apr 10, 2008

Still Fighting It @ Broken Broom Lounge (REA) - 3:30P

Schroeder Middle School Musical @ Empire Arts Center - 7:00P

Jazz Jam @ Urban Stampede - 8:00P

Jazz on Tap @ ’l Bistro (Canad Inn) - 8:00P

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:00P

Domino Affect @ O’Really’s Irish Pub - 9:00P

Open Mic @ Mike’s Pizza - 9:00P

Friday Apr 11, 2008

Identity 5 @ Longhaul Saloon - 9:00P

Fire @ Charlie Brown’s - 9:00P

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:30P

229 Groove Collective @ Sanders - 10:00

Saturday Apr 12, 2008

Still Fighting It @ Broken Broom Lounge (REA) - 5:00P

Grand Forks Metal Fest @ Eagles Club - 6:00P

Identity 5 @ Longhaul Saloon - 9:00P

Fire @ Charlie Brown’s - 9:00P

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:30P

Enchanted Ape @ Crosstown Lounge - 10:00P

229 Groove Collective @ Sanders - 10:00P

Sunday April 13, 2008

Hybris, The Offensive, The Neckties, Wheat Missile @ Empire Arts Center - 3:00P

Valley Chordsmen present Strictly A Cappella @ Red River High School Theater - 4:00P

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This Weekend's Music Buzz: March 27

Thursday Mar 27, 2008

Jazz Jam @ Urban Stampede 8:00P

River City Jazz Trio @ ’l Bistro (Canad Inn) 8:00P

Open Mic @ Mike’s Pizza 9:00P

Whiskey Sam @ Diamond Lounge 9:30P

The King’s Head @ O’Really’s Irish Pub 10:00P

Friday Mar 28, 2008

Rock Show feat. 7 Bands @ Eagles Club 7:00P

Wise Guys @ Long Haul Saloon 9:00P

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Charlie Brown’s 9:00P

Still Fighting It @ Sanders 1907 9:30P

Whiskey Sam @ Diamond Lounge 9:30P

Saturday, Mar 29 2008

March Music Madness feat. 6 Bands @ Eagles Club 6:00P

Wise Guys @ Long Haul Saloon 9:00P

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Charlie Brown’s 9:00P

Whiskey Sam @ Diamond Lounge 9:30P

Matt Strand Group @ Sanders 1907 9:30P

Monday Mar 31, 2008

Faster On Building w/ Bradley Hathaway @ The Armory (UND Campus) 7:00P

Tuesday Apr 1, 2008

Open Mic @ Down UNDer 9:30P

Open Mic @ The Hub 10:00P

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bizzar-o week: A new side-band and The Light Friday

I was commenting to Steve, our bass player that this week was bizzaro week: up is down, left is right, cats and dogs living together, you get the picture.

SFI was supposed to play the Moose on Wednesday night, but both Jarrod and Matt (the drummer) were ill, so I called in a couple of guys I jam with: John Behling on guitar, Steve Carriere on bass, and Zach Spicer on drums (talented young dude, keep an eye out for this guy!). We threw together a rough set list and completely winged it for the night, but it was a good time and we talked about doing this again, as a side project.

As Thursday rolled around, Jarrod and Matt both expressed concern about Friday night's planned gig at Suite 49. Unfortunately the guys I called on Wednesday night were not available to cover again, so I called and cancelled it.

However, it just so happens that a co-worker of mine plays in a similarly-styled band called The Light Friday. I'd heard these guys on Myspace and know a couple of them, so I figured I'd suggest to Suite 49 that they play as a replacement for SFI. I also offered to mix the band because, well, I had nothing else to do and really wanted to see them play.

It turns out, not surprisingly, that these guys (and gal) are really, really good. They play a mixture of acoustic-rock covers from bands like Dave Matthews, Coldplay, and Lynyrd Skynrd, as well as a handful of well-written originals. If you haven't seen them yet, make sure you do - they'll be at the Loading Dock in the Memorial Union this Tuesday.

Saturday morning I got a phone call from Suite 49 asking me if I could get my side-band together to cover for Jarrod, who was supposed to play a solo act at the Ralph (during the Sioux game), but was still sick. So I called the guys and they were available. I also called Chris Tanzey, who is a grad student at UND Music - he plays a killer trumpet in just about every style imaginable: jazz, rock, whatever.

I like having as many people as possible on stage - "the more, the merrier," as they say - the only limiting factor being the split at the end of the night. Having all those folks on stage allows for a lot of creativity and versatility as everyone brings something different to the table. Saturday night was no exception as we were able to cover songs from Steely Dan's "Josie" and Sublime's "What I Got," to Pee-Wee Ellis' "The Chicken" and Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon."
It seemed the audience dug what we were in to, but most of all we had a really good, funky, time and I think this little side project is around to stay.

So, out of an expected weekend of playing two SFI dates, I unexpectedly started a side band and got to hear a fun new band. If you asked me a week ago if that was going to happen I would have told you you were out of your mind: Bizzar-o.

SFI will be back at Sanders on Friday, March 28 - don't miss it!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Upcoming Shows: February 28 thru March 4

Thursday, Feb 28 2008

Jazz Jam @ Urban Stampede - 8:00P

River City Jazz Trio @ ’l Bistro (Canad Inn) - 8:00P

Open Mik Night @ Mike’s Pizza - 9:00P

The King’s Head @ O’Really’s Irish Pub - 10:00P

Friday, Feb 29 2008

Concert @ EGF Eagles Club @ Eagles Club - 6:00P

School House Rock, Jr. - The Musical @ Fire Hall Theatre - 7:30P

Still Fighting It @ Sanders 1907 - 10:00P

Saturday, Mar 1 2008

School House Rock, Jr. - The Musical @ Fire Hall Theatre - 7:30P

Recital - Livingood & Pfeifer @ Josephine Campbell Recital Hall (UND Campus) - 7:30P

Jarrod Schell @ Sanders 1907 - 9:00P

Sunday, Mar 2 2008

School House Rock, Jr. - The Musical @ Fire Hall Theatre - 2:00P

TobyMac & Jeremy Camp @ Alerus Center - 6:00P

Monday, Mar 3 2008

Middle School Choral Festival @ Chester Fritz Auditorium 7:00P

Pluckstruck @ Tabula - 7:00P

Tuesday, Mar 4 2008

Open Mic @ The Hub - 10:00P

Monday, February 11, 2008

Grammy Awards

For those who didn't watch, Herbie Hancock won for Album of the year for "River: The Joni Letters," which is a fantastic album. If you don't have it, get it.

Anyway, it's only the second time a jazz album won that honor, and I'm really, really happy for Herbie. What an awesome musician!


A few weeks ago I was in Anaheim, CA for the Winter NAMM show. As I alluded to before, this is a colossal event - probably the second-biggest music gear show in the world, and definitely the biggest in North America.

It's like any other trade convention in that manufacturers from near and far are peddling their wares to retail buyers such as myself. While there, I get to wear the coveted blue badge, which elicits solicitation from the sales-types: "Hi... Matt, are you interested in carrying this, the latest line of nose flutes?"

"No, thanks... um, could you point me toward the Moog booth?"

Needless to say, to a gearhound like me, it's heaven. Literally every current piece of musical gear can be found in the cavernous 1.2-million square-foot convention center. Yeah, that's a quarter-mile of gear and aging rock stars. A fun activity is to watch all the cats who were semi-famous and still have that long-hair, leather pants, strung-out look. Paul Stanley and I had a weird eye-contact "moment." I left feeling a little scared, but thanks for that anyway, Paul.

Anyway, glitz and glamour aside, the show was a good place for me to re-center myself in my primary occupation, which is to sell the stuff to folks like you. As I've said somewhere, maybe here, I like to think of myself as more of a faciliatator than a salesman - I am a musician myself and I'd like to think I'm providing a service to those who are in my shoes (or anywhere on that path). The NAMM show usually provides me insight into how to better do that by way of product demonstrations, learning seminars, and general networking with others in the business.

That, and I got to spend a week in my "backyard," (well some may call it the toilet - I am from Northern California) which happened to have a gorgeous week of 75 and sunny - sandwiched between two of the rainiest weeks they've had in 5 years. I rented a Nissan Altima (which pretty much rocked - 500 miles on one tank?!) and spent a couple of days reconnoitering various music stores in the Inland Empire as well as just taking in the sights and sounds of greater L.A. If you don't know - I actually like driving in L.A. There's so much to see and the traffic - as long as you expect it and aren't in a hurry - gives you time to reflect. I've told my wife many times that I just need to get out and drive sometimes.

Eating at TK's burger shack on Huntington Beach was a highlight. Oh, and I consumed lots - I mean lots of Mexican food. I also got to take in a few shows - Joey DeFrancesco's organ trio featuring the legendary George Benson on guitar, and one of my idols, Stevie Wonder, was the special guest at the Yamaha dealer show.

As I said all of this serves to educate and re-focus me so I can do a better job for you. Meanwhile, we picked up a few new product lines: ESP/LTD guitars, and Washburn guitars. There have been some really killer guitars trickling in from these guys and our acoustic room is about as full as it's ever been (over 100 guitars). We also firmed up our commitment to Pearl drums, a brand I can barely keep up with inventory-wise they are so popular.

I also came up with some new programs and projects that will hopefully serve the music community in Grand Forks. The first will be the Popplers Meltdown Fest on Saturday, April 26th - right here in the store. I already have 9 groups signed up to play and there will be food, door prizes, etc. A fun day for sure.

Stay tuned for more. Until then - thanks, L.A., for your hospitality and beautiful weather!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Upcoming shows: February 6 thru 12

What, no gigs on Friday?

Wednesday, February 6

Open Mic Night @ Speedway - 9:00P

Still Fighting It @ The Blue Moose - 9:00P

Thursday, February 7

Live Jazz @ ’l Bistro (Canad Inn) - 8:00P

Jazz Jam @ Urban Stampede - 8:00P

Open Mik Night @ Mike’s Pizza - 9:00P

Reconcile @ O’Really’s Irish Pub - 9:00P

Driver Mooth @ Crosstown Lounge - 10:00P

Saturday, February 9

Prairiegrass Bluegrass Festival @ Empire Arts Center - 7:00P

North Country Fiddle and Dance with the Tickwood String Band @ Grand Forks Senior Center - 7:30P

Wheat Missile @ Mike’s Pizza & Pub - 10:00P

Grampa’s Amp @ The Hub Bar - 10:30P

Tuesday, February 12

Open Mic Night @ The Hub Bar - 10:00P

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Upcoming Shows - Jan 24 thru 29

It's looking to be a busy music weekend, which is great!

Thursday, January 24th

Jazz Jam @ Urban Stampede - 8:00PM, all ages, no cover

River City Jazz Trio @ ’l Bistro (Canad Inn) - 8:00PM, all ages, no cover

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:00PM, 21+

Open Mik Night @ Mike’s Pizza - 9:00PM, all ages, no cover

Jarrod Schell @ O’Really’s - 10:30PM, 21+

Friday, January 25

Ralph Votapek @ Josephine Campbell Recital Hall (UND) - 7:30PM, all ages

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:00PM, 21+

Identity 5 @ Long Haul Saloon - 9:00PM, no cover, 21+

Big Bizness @ Charlie Brown’s - 9:00PM, 21+

Saturday, Jan 26

GGF Symphony Orchestra - Legends of the Keyboard @ Empire Arts Center - 7:30PM

Jarrod Schell @ Playmakers at the Canad Inn - 8:00PM

J. Bobby Hamilton @ Diamond Lounge - 9:00PM, no cover, 21+

Identity 5 @ Long Haul Saloon - 9:00PM, no cover, 21+

Big Bizness @ Charlie Brown’s - 9:00PM, 21+

Sunday, January 27

Darrett Adkins @ North Dakota Museum of Art - 2:00PM

GGF Symphony Orchestra - Legends of the Keyboard @ Empire Arts Center - 2:00PM

Tuesday, January 29

Open Mic @ The Hub - 10:00PM, 21+

Sunday, January 20, 2008

No weekly digest this week

Sorry, folks - it's been a busy time out here in CA and I didn't have time to compile the weekly shows. I've been out here since Sunday attending the NAMM show - which is the National Association of Music Merchandisers; roughly, most stores in the country (such as Popplers) browsing and/or meeting with every manufacturer in the country (such as, say, Yamaha, or Fender). To give you an idea of scale, the attendance was nearly 90,000 and the convention center is over 1/4 mile of gear, gear, and more gear. Today I saw both Slash and Paul Stanley, but was not in the two-hour line for autographs, so it was merely eyeballs-on. Needless to say, I've had an incredible week and I've got nothing but good things to share when I get back.

I'm not looking forward to the deep-freeze, though. It's been in the 70's all week here in Orange County and I've been absorbing it as if I still live out here. Which reminds me: my car has been cold-soaking out at GFK. Anyone want to come give me the inevitable jump-start Sunday night around midnight?

Talk to you all soon,


Friday, January 11, 2008

Upcoming Shows: January 10 thru 17

It's been busy in the MattFacingSouth house. I'm at the tail-end of a two-week hole where we got back from visitng my folks in California and me heading back out to LA. Thusly, my weekly updates have been a little late in coming. No worries, though - once I get back I promise to take you back to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Hey, by the way - I met a new jazz trumpet player last night who can really play! Look for new stuff to come from this...

Friday, January 11th
  • Bethany & The Bandits @ Diamond Lounge - 9:30PM, 21+
  • Fire @ Charlie Brown's - 9:30PM, 21+
  • Still Fighting It @ Suite 49 - 10:00PM (or after the hockey game). free, all ages

Saturday, January 12th
  • Bethany & The Bandits @ Diamond Lounge - 9:30PM, 21+
  • Fire @ Charlie Brown's - 9:30PM, 21+
  • The Jones Gang @ Crosstown Lounge - 10:00PM. $3, 21+
  • Jarrod Schell @ Suite 49 - 10:00PM (or after the hockey game). free, all ages

Tuesday, January 15th

  • Marketplace Talent Competition Finals @ Alerus Center - 7:30PM.
  • Open Mic @ The Hub - 10:00PM, 21+

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Upcoming Shows: January 3rd thru 8th

Happy New Year!

'Tis a fairly slow week - UND is still on vacation, but there are some really good shows. I'm going to work on getting the Urban Jam to change to Tuesdays because of the conflict with the cool jazz night that recently sprang up at L'Bistro.

Thursday, January 3rd

  • Jazz Jam @ Urban Stampede - 8:00P, free, all ages - bring your axes!
  • River City Jazz Trio @ L'Bistro - 8:ooP, free, all ages
  • The Great Outdoors @ The Diamond - 9:00P, free, 21+

Friday, January 4th

  • The Roosters at the Bull Riding Challenge @ Alerus Center - 6:30 & 10:00 PM, cost: admission to the Bull Riding challenge, all ages
  • Union Pulse @ Urban Stampede - 7:00P, free, all ages
  • The Great Outdoors @ The Diamond - 9:30P, free, 21+

Saturday, January 5th

  • The Great Outdoors @ The Diamond - 9:30P, free, 21+

Tuesday, January 8th

  • Open Mike @ The Hub - 10:00P, free, 21+
  • Open Mic @ Mike's Pizza - 9:00P, free, all ages