Saturday, 13 June 2009

Exposure (live at the Leith Isobar)

Monday night was fun. A most enjoyable gig with Mr. Lennon (I plug this guy so often I should be charging a percentage), albeit it felt quite strange to haul my bass (and accoutrements) down to the station, and catch a train over to Edinburgh just to do a 45-minute set, in an "intimate" (pretty full, but that's only about 30 or so folk) wee venue. Years of psychological conditioning to expect 4-hour ceilidh-insanity marathons have clearly taken their toll.

It went very well, too, and provided the unexpected personal bonus of catching-up with old friends - although our 4-star (out of 5, he hastens to add, even though he knows full well you should never pay much attention to crits, good or bad) review in the Edinburgh Evening News was more than a touch over-fulsome in its praise of our efforts. Yet more evidence that you can't believe anything you read in the press these days. I mean to say, all those reports of our hard-working, decent, upstanding, honourable Members of Parliament playing fast and loose with their expense allowances? Poppycock! Next thing journalists'll be putting it about that Lady GaGa (oh, the appropriateness of that stage name) isn't just a Christina Aguilera clone peddling sub-Britney Spears p-p-p-pop retreads. Or that Michael Mcintyre is more than a self-regarding, bobble-head-doll of vacuously mediocre 'observational' comedy. Absolutely ridiculous, so it is. And don't get me started on how they're saying that charming President Ahmaholocaustdenier might have rigged the Iranian elections. Shameless, our modern media, so they are...

Alas, I haven't got any photographic record of the event, so this archive shot of the pair of us from a decade or so ago will have to do instead. The hair's changed a bit (a lot shorter and greyer), and I don't jump around quite so much (or at all, depending on the relative level of pre-existing, children-induced fatigue) any more, but I was using the same, trusty Hohner Jack V headless bass (originally bought to play on Citizen Cain's "Somewhere But Yesterday" album back in 1993 - how pathetic was that plug for my dim-and-distant past?), albeit de-fretted now - so the picture has a hint of authenticity to it.

Also, I learnt an important lesson that night.

Never, ever, if it's in any way within your power to determine it, do a gig without some kind of amplifier.

I've been pondering the question of ideal gigging set-ups for a while, and I never thought it made much sense to own more than one bass amplifier. Have a small pre-amp, sure, for carting-along to gigs such as this one - I always carry a Hartke Bass Attack (micro-review of this handy item buried in an earlier blog posting here) and a Behringer D.I. box (in case the Hartke inexplicably fails) anyway, but what the hell's the point of owning a "practice" amp, too? Don't people know how to use a volume knob/headphone socket, huh?

Well, I was wrong.

Except I'd argue there's still no real point to having one for, well, practicing. Rather, they're an essential for small (drummer-free) gigs where everyone else has instruments that make a fair bit of acoustic noise - especially if you're going fretless, as I was that night. There were several points in the gig where I was stuck playing-by-numbers, hoping that my too-easily-wandering intonation didn't intrude. The sound guy wasn't keen on putting much bass through the monitor, which was fair enough - it was primarily a vocal rig, the singers/guitarists were the key focus of the night, I hadn't brought a compressor (naughty bass player!), and it wasn't 'my' gig. Although having said that, the monitor in question was a very solid powered unit with a nice big speaker which could have handled it no bother, but that's both whingeing and a digression... Allegedly I got away with it, no audibly cacophonous finger-mispositioning occurred as a result, but it would have been nice to feel a little more definite about it at the time.

All entirely preventable, for the sake of a bit of hunting around on Ebay, and spending about £40 (according to what was available on there today, anyway). That should be enough to purchase a solid wee Marshall B25, say? Or something similarly around the 20w mark (because that's all that's required) by Trace, Laney, Kustom, Carlsbro - whoever. Who cares? Brand name doesn't matter - the key factors for me are size and weight, i.e. it must be under 10kg, otherwise what's the bloody point? Sound doesn't really matter (it's only there to give definition and clarity after all), as long as you can either run a parallel output of some sort from your pre-amp into it, or it has its own D.I. out for connecting to the main desk, then that's fine. This does, of course, give me a perfectly good excuse to go around testing all sorts of tiny bass combos just to see which ones do sound better, examine relative build quality, and generally have a right old laugh in music shops. Again.

Back in the real world, having any money to spare at all is a moot point in my (and many other people's) houses, but come what may, for the next gig I'm going to be better equipped. I doubt I'll be turning up with one of these little beauties (warning - this link is micro bass porn: viewing may lead to excessive drooling, which could damage your keyboard and/or stain your trousers), but a bassist can dream, eh?

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