BellerBytes 82: December Florida Tour, Blogs, Live Album, Instructional DVD, Dethklok Bass Book…
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
This is one of those BellerBytes e-mails that’s so full of info, I can’t even summarize it with a clever subject heading. I’ll just give you the table of contents:
1. Kira Small w/Bryan Beller – December Florida (And Atlanta) Tour
2. The Exclusive “Raise My Voice” Tour Mega-Blogs & Pix
3. Bryan Beller Band Live Album “Wednesday Night Live” – Coming In 2011
4. Bryan Beller Instructional DVD – Coming In 2011 From Alfred Publishing
5. Dethklok Bass Transcription Book – Coming Even Sooner From Alfred Publishing
6. Bryan Beller “Thanks in Advance” Complete Bass Transcription Book – Also Coming In 2011
7. Grab Bag Update & Random Stories
That’s a lotta stuff, right? Just click here to read all about it. And sign up right here to have this big fat pile of wonderful delivered straight to your e-mail inbox.
Now you can go back to thinking about turkey.
The Official Kira Small/Bryan Beller “Raise My Voice” Post-Tour MegaBlog Wrap-Up
Sunday, November 14th, 2010
Every year for the past three years, at some point in the summer or fall, I’ve hit the road as a touring sideman bassist for at least a month. In 2007 I went out with Steve Vai. In 2008 and 2009, it was with Dethklok. This year, the recipient of my service was none other than my wife, soul/R&B singer/songwriter Kira Small.
The commonality largely begins and ends with my involvement. Touring with Vai/Dethklok involves buses, tour managers, techs, drivers, catering and free booze. Touring with Kira involves house concerts, our minivan…and, OK, catering and free booze. But somehow having it provided on a kitchen table, in the homes of the places we played – and usually stayed – made this tour special in a way even the best backstage spread couldn’t match.
The Kira Small with Bryan Beller “Raise My Voice” tour hit 22 cities in 29 days. The route was a big fat western loop with a hitch at the end: Nashville down to Texas, through Arizona, California from bottom to top, Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Then the hitch back: Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis and finally back home to Nashville. 7800 miles in total, all of it driven by Kira and me. Can a married couple survive such a thing without throttling each other by week 3? Apparently so.
We did better than survive. Our mutual desire to roadtrip (irrespective of music touring) led to little detours that produced random moments of joy scattered across the western States. We hiked up to a monument consisting of metal-sculpted wild horses on I-90 in Washington State. We drove through the heart of Napa Valley’s wine country. We parked by the side of the road somewhere between Billings, Montana and Bismarck, North Dakota to look up and see more stars then either of us had ever seen in our lives, including the “milky way” white streaky splotches only visible in areas completely devoid of light pollution. We saw a herd of elk on a side road near the California/Oregon border. We stopped for beer and chili in Luckenbach, Texas. We celebrated our anniversary on the southern Oregon coast, sitting in a rain-sheltered outdoor hot tub with an ocean view, just a few hundred feet from our rustic cabin, where we burned firewood until we ran out. You can’t do that stuff on a bus tour. The machine just moves too fast.
The itinerary consisted of 12 house concerts, 6 venue shows, and 4 bass clinics. I am always thankful for any venue and/or promoter who invites us to play their room, and I’m especially grateful to Mike Lull Custom Basses, D’addario Strings, and the dealers who supported and hosted bass clinics in places I can’t usually get to (hello Bozeman and Bismarck!).
But it’s the people who took a chance on us and hosted a house concert that really made this thing possible. The level of hospitality and trust these folks showed in having us show up, load gear into their living rooms, play for their friends and neighbors, and then usually crash in their guest rooms…it’s just astounding, and somehow I think it helped to create the kind of intimacy that makes house concerts such unique and compelling events.
Our hosts ran the gamut: A radio industry vet who’d previously had Michael Manring and Steve Lawson in his home; Twitter pals we knew from the Dethklok fan community; longtime friends and fans with 20-year Keneally/Vai/Zappa pedigrees; my aunt; Kira’s aunt; a now-married friend with whom I’d once shared benefits; a dear friend of Kira’s from days gone by; people for whom I’d previously recorded bass tracks on their original projects; and complete strangers we met on MySpace, of all places. Their energies and environments were just as much a part of the show as was the music Kira and I were making.
*The music*. I’m just going to shed all pretense of objectivity here and shamelessly rave about Kira for a bit. I *love* playing her gig. Her sense of soul and R&B is informed by years of listening to the bonafide old stuff, evidenced by the Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin tunes that always pop up on her iPod shuffle. Her voice is an amazing instrument, which she kept in tip-top shape by warming up for 20 minutes in the car during every pre-show drive (I think even I could sing her exercises at this point). One of my favorite moments of each show would be when someone who came because they knew me from Vai/Dethklok/Keneally/whatever would look at Kira while she sang a particularly poignant note and become instantly transfixed. As her producer once said, she’s got the stuff. He’s right.
But beyond that, the gig tickled my muzo bone as well (no jokes, kthx). I’m not just playing “bass” on this gig. Since we’re just a duo, it’s also my job to provide percussive elements, as a drummer would. I also occasionally need to cover a guitar solo, and I happily obliged by way of an overdriven wah (true confession: I’ve always wanted to be David Gilmour). All of this works because Kira sings her heart out *while* playing the hell out of the keyboard. Whether it was a straight funk tune, a smoky ballad, or a slow 12/8 gospel shuffle, her groove made it just as fun to play with her as it would have been with a drummer. I really mean that. Being stationed right next to her in such a small space enhanced the bond even further.
As performers, it’s easy for us to forget how unusual it is to be able to see and hear everything a musician does while playing. It’s a given that a show in a living room will be intimate, but I can’t tell you how many times people came up to me and said, “It was amazing…I could see you right in front of me without being shoved around…I could hear every single little thing you both played!” There are definite advantages to watching a show in a place where there’s no margarita or espresso machine.
In the end, I really have to give credit to Kira. I don’t often play the role of bandleader. I did earlier this year, when I took my band out for five shows in the Northeast opening up for Mike Keneally. I had a great time, and I loved bringing my music to people who want to hear it, but generally I find being at the front of the stage *exhausting*, even with a whole band to back me up. Meanwhile, Kira, on her first nationwide tour as an artist (and longest tour of her life), with only one musician backing her, went out there and delivered performances that really moved people, night after night, on a tour with incredibly long drives and not a single stationary day off for 29 days straight. And she was ready for more. Really. She didn’t want to go home. Am I proud of my wife? You bet your ass I am.
As for me, this was the longest I’d gone out in a car or minivan in 12 years. I had a great time and look forward to doing it again. That said, it’s obvious I’m not 27 anymore. Kira has a sensitive back in general, so I did most of the heavy lifting on the tour. I was holding up pretty well until the second-to-last day, when my lower and upper back simultaneously went haywire. So I’m typing this to you from a comfy position in bed, and I’ll be resting here for a little while. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really tired. I am.
It’s all good, though. To steal a familiar line, this is the life we’ve chosen. I loved touring with Kira in a different way than I do touring on a bus, but I loved it nonetheless. Because I love touring. Travel the world, meet cool people, play music, drink and eat mostly for free. Beats working.
The really good news is that the Kira/Bryan house concert touring model works at the practical level as well. We can tour like this without worrying about which piece of furniture we need to sell in order to finance the next trip. We actually come home with enough money to feed Lucian The Wondercat, which is no small feat. We’re headed to Florida next because Lucian’s hunger requires constant ongoing attention.
Looking ahead to 2011, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. I never really am. I might be doing stuff with Mike Keneally, or Steve Vai, or Dethklok, or my own band, or someone I haven’t worked with yet. Hard to say at this point. But I can’t imagine I won’t be doing more of this with Kira. It’s just too much fun.
It also helps that we met lots of people who expressed interest in hosting a house concert of their own in the future. Who knows, maybe one of them lives close to you.
Thanks once again to *everyone* who came to see us on this tour. You made this possible. We’re grateful beyond words. Hope to see you again soon.
Resting with a Tempur-pedic pillow in my lower back, I faithfully remain,
P.S. Pix will be posted in a photo album soon.