mike mccormick

music, comedy, stuff

A Noteworthy Night

I participated in a local event they titles A Noteworthy Night last Wednesday. Fun to be part of a local event where I was just a performer, no other responsibilities to organize, host or anything else. Was given a comedy gold slot in the program; 3rd in act 2. Just when people might have been getting a little tired or bored; though the level of talent was quite good. I was after two young women singing an Elton John song and two kids tap dancing. So I just entered the stage and mentioned that the proper act to follow them was a creepy old guy and the mood was set.

 

Deep River, Day 4

I feel like I’ve left you hanging. Oh, no was there no final Day? There was. It was swell. Many different types of music on this day, once again showing the diversity of the programming and the town. There was musical theatre with Veda Hille, fiddle music with Searson, rock with The Wicked Mercy, and closers Mounties.

I really enjoyed Veda Hille. We’ve known her for years as she was doing an indie rock thing in the late 90s and was a favourite of our friend David Grierson of CBC Vancouver. She’s an extremely talented vocalist, pianist and writer and now spends a lot of time working on musical theatre projects. Her musical sensibilities really seem suited for this genre; she does all sorts of strange chord and melodic changes in her music, lyrically she likes to create images as well as tell as story. She created a musical with Bill Richardson based on Craigslist ads. Goofy idea and it works. She did a Q&A with the audience which I acted as a host. I really enjoyed it and I think I was able to help keep things rolling along. Felt somewhat useful. Maybe I can be the next Jian Ghomeshi…

In the evening Trevor and I got to create Saulius’ vision; though he had long since ruined the initial idea. He had thought it would be cool to have me host the entire weekend and then on the Sunday just casually bring 2 other guys on stage who would happen to be Chris and Trevor and we’d do a set. However, by the time he confirmed it Chris had booked a family holiday. Then he put the Worms on the poster kind of eliminating the surprise. Still we played out the initial idea and got a great response from the crowd.

To try to add to the fun, I enlisted a local a Capella group, the Cedar Park Quartet, to sing backups in a couple of songs. I had scored the final section of “Rocks and Trees” a while back and was able to find the music and thought it would be cool to have them sing the last chorus of “We Are the Beaver”. I had brought along my usb midi keyboard so scoring was quick and easy. Then one of the guys thought they should do some “Ahs” as well. It worked quite well and was visually funny as they had to stand around for quite a while as we blathered away before ever getting to the song.

We even got the Artistic Director to play bass for us on The Last Saskatchewan Pirate which I thought was a nice bookend. I’ve known Saulius for at least 25 years but had never actually played in a band with him though we have threatened to do so many times. Next Summerfest we hope to have our Dixieland band ready.

One thing I did notice about my own performance on Sunday was that I felt way more comfortable and think I was funnier with Trevor there. I just feel like my style is best suited as a sidekick; or at least playing off of someone else. For me to really be a decent MC I need to develop my solo shtick a bit more. Yelling at people only goes so far.

Deep River Day 3

A full day yesterday. Started off a bit ominously as there were thunderstorms in the morning but they cleared up and it turned into a wonderful day. Hot sunny, summer even.

I had one of those weird days where I was always on call but never busy. I talked a fair bit but only played one song; and I really didn’t play it well. The mainstage began with The Abrams Brothers http://theabramsbrothers.ca/ who are an act we’ve played with a couple times before. They’re from Kingston as well and play bluegrass based music. They were excellent and got the crowd really going which given the heat was tough work. They did it well. Searson followed with an equally strong set; they also had the advantage of being from Eganville so had a bit of “hometown” feel.

The evening was devoted to local acts. For whatever reason and I can’t really figure it, Deep River has always had a lot of really musical people from here and they all like to play in bands. So there are bands of nearly every genre of all sorts of ages and shapes and sizes. This festival gives them a chance to play a set in front of a revved up crowd on a big stage with bog sounds and lights. It’s very cool. So well done.

Deep River Day 2

This day saw my first attempts at tweeting. I took some photos on the Main Stage and tweeted them. Pretty lame photos as it turns out; not great composition. I really don’t like taking photos with my phone; I just find that the photos are very average even when you get everything right. Perhaps a better phone with a better camera but in many ways I’m a bit of a photography nerd; I like the photos to be crisp and clear and in focus not just there. I do realize that for the purpose of twitter, it’s not very practical to take a photo with a good camera, transfer it to your computer and then post it. Foiled again!

However, the fascinating part of the evening for me was the DJ Dance Party. Now I am more than happy to admit that this is an entire genre of music and partying that I know pretty much nothing about. I’m not completely oblivious; I know that these days DJs do way more than just pick out tunes and try and keep people dancing. What I didn’t know about was the tricks and tools they use and how they can differ one to the other. It’s not just the songs anymore, it’s blending one into the other; mashing them together sometimes as long as they have the same beats, it’s sometimes altering the original tune to create a sound. Some DJs are real performers, not only dancing along with the tracks but also using vinyl or even CDs and slowing them down or scratching to create more new sounds.

It was very cool. But it still made me feel pretty damned old…

Deep River Day 1

Last night was the first of this year’s Summerfest  http://www.summerfest.ca/

where I am the mainstage host. Had the wonderful MC experience right away when one act didn’t show and the opening speakers were brief. So I had to fill time. I have lots of songs ready but am reluctant to play everything on the first night to the smallest crowd. Must learn more filler.

Mike and Saulius (Summerfest AD) discuss upcoming plans.

Mike and Saulius (Summerfest AD) discuss upcoming plans.

I wrote a Summerfest Theme song hoping that it would endear myself to the crowd and the Artistic Director. I think it went well; problem was that I forgot my printed lyric sheet and had to write them out longhand. Hard to tell what’s worse, my eyesight or my handwriting. I’ll try and get a recording this weekend. And remember the lyric sheet.

I’m fortunate in that this festival doesn’t demand that there be something happening on stage every second; they’re comfortable with some canned music and short breaks between acts. So my job is mostly to get people’s attention back on the stage when we’re ready. There are times when I need to fill a bit but the rest of the time it’s be ready and go.

The other skill I really need to improve is recalling songs. There are times I blank on which songs I even know. Which is crazy but it’s true. It even happens when I’m just jamming with people. It comes my turn and I’m … duhhhhh

I’m on Twitter! My goal is to try and figure out Twitter and start learning how I can make it work for me. I really don’t get it at this point but it’ll be good to learn. As Summerfest continues, they have their own hashtag so I’ll try to contribute to the Twitterverse.

Onwards!

Community Orchestra

I went to see a performance by the Kanata Symphony Orchestra last weekend for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to see if there might be any potential for them performing the Arrogant Worms Symphony show. Second, i was curious what level they were at and whether it might be something I wanted to participate in down the road. I really love any chance I get to play the trombone.

Turns out that I think the answer to both questions are “no”. For me, I’d forgotten that most symphonic works are more interesting for strings. Not to say the brass parts aren’t important, it just seems like the brass have big loud entries which sound great but long passages where they sit around. Face it, if I’m going to drive an hour for rehearsal I want action! I think I might be better suited to a concert band or if I could get in a Jazz or Big Band.

As for them (or similar orchestras) doing the Arrogant Worms show, I think that is also unlikely. Mostly because of the rehearsal; I think if people to participate in this kind of orchestra they want to play some of the great works, not the hysterical works of a novelty band. I might be wrong and I’m also sure that every group has a different personality and a different vision. Perhaps I need to do more research. I also have no knowledge of youth orchestras; might have better luck finding players who already like our band.

Keep trying.

ReReboot

Trying out a new theme and maybe using the site a little differently. The good news for me is that I now have internet at home. I have boldly entered the last decade! Feels pretty good.

The Worms album “Space” is out there hopefully being enjoyed by hundreds of fans. We had a little tour of Alberta in March and have some dates here and there in the next few months. Looks like we’ll be busiest next Christmas season. Why? I have no friggin idea.

I’m better armed for multimedia now. My recording gear has improved, I have a nice camera for photos and video and of course there’s that internet thing. Still don’t know what to make of it all. Still don’t fully understand what to do with YouTube. It’s great to get stuff out there and have people enjoy it but unless I’ve got something else to sell why would I give it away; especially if it’s not finished?

Trevor Strong of the Worms has a much better grasp of it. He’s found a site, similar to Kickstarter or IndiGogo where people basically sponsor you to make whatever. So he’s asking for donations to make comedy videos. Cool idea.

I’m leaning to a more traditional route these days. I’ve had a bit of success writing and arranging some pieces for the choir I’m in. There has always been interest in Arrogant Worms music either for piano or guitar but in some cases choral groups as well. Once again comes down to finding a way of getting it out there. For us it might be simpler as there are easy online distributors for our various products. Just need the actual product!

That’s where I’m at.

Here I Am!

I am alive and well just not exactly bloggin’ a lot. I’ll let you know what I’m up to right now.

Arrogant Worms are just about completed out

image0

first album of new material in many years. It’ll be called “Space” and has several tunes written by myself. Biggest fun for me was that I got to play trombone on 4 tracks, including the red plastic one. Used the really good, metal one for the tracks that required nice sound. I also got to arrange the horn section for 2 tracks, “Yoga Pants” which is a surf rock kind of sound and “I Sweat a Lot” which is a full on R&B tune with horns and such.

Recording and scoring. I’ve been doing quite a bit of this lately. My daughter plays in the junior band at her middle school and I arranged the Worms tune “I am Cow” for them. They seem happy; I haven’t heard it yet but I’m really looking forward to it. I also sing in the Arnprior Community Choir and have arranged 2 tunes for them, “Excursion Around the Bay” and “The Log Driver’s Waltz”. The latter has been the most challenging as I’ve never tried to score a piano part before.

I’m still running a monthly open mike at the Neat Cafe in Burnstown. Our last one was one of the more interesting, we had our first solo fiddle player and he was really good as well we had a guest appearance by the band “July Talk” who are presently staying in the area working on their next recording. Other than that the solo performing has been pretty sparse; it’s not something I’m really pushing until after we get the Worms CD out there.

So I’m still writing and hoping to make a solo recording. I’ve learned a fair amount about the Reaper software and now have purchased a much better microphone. So there are no real excuses not to go ahead with it. Just need the material now. I’ll try and do a better job of putting up tunes here as I go. It’s still a bit tedious for me, I have no internet at home and often when I’m out and about I have limited time to work on the website. I haven’t created a good system for writing blog posts offline and then uploading them later. Quite frankly, I still have very little idea of how best to use this website. But we’ll keep trying. For those of you who have tried to follow, thanks. I shall try to do more for you.

Neat Cafe, the medium and the message

My beloved Neat Cafe has been running into some problems lately with zoning bylaws and the township they reside in. To try and summarize, the Neat Cafe (www.neatfood.com ) is in Burnstown, Ontario in McNab-Braeside township in Renfrew County. That’s a mouthful  It’s a fancy coffee shop that has taken over a building which was once the schoolhouse in the area, so it’s an older building with 2 rooms. Not terribly well insulated or serviced so they’ve had to keep working on the building adn site as the business grew. They began presenting shows in what was the schoolroom and through some sound decisions, hard work and community support, the venue has become a real landmark in the Canadian music scene. David Francey www.davidfrancey.com mentioned it as one of his favourite venues in a recent issue of Westjet magazine and many other performers have been through and love the venue for the atmosphere, the intimacy and the way they are treated by the owners and staff.

 

To accommodate the shows, the owners needed to expand the room, add another exit, expand the washroom and septic facilities; all while trying to keep the main business running. So after some thought and planning, they came up with some renovations. The plan was approved by the township and the renovations began. Once completed however, they required the work to be inspected and approved by the township. The inspector, a different person from the one who approved the plan, feels that the plans (and thus the work completed) are not up to code and that there are issues which need to be addressed. The Neat feels that they did work that had already been approved and are being bullied by the township. In the meantime, their liquor license has expired and it cannot be renewed until they receive the updated capacity numbers from the township, which they will not provide until the renovations are to the present standard.

 

Lawyers have been hired, there have been heated exchanges and in the meantime, the Neat is trying to run a business which involves putting on shows; many of which have already been contracted and deposits paid. So they need a resolution (and a liquor license).

 

Last week there was a town council meeting and the Neat asked its patrons to express their feelings to the township. This seemed to have a positive result; a private meeting between the parties led to a short term compromise and many views were aired at the council meeting. However, the story was also picked up by the Ottawa Citizen and initially it was focused on the area support for the venue, the follow up story laid some of the blame on the LCBO (Liquor License Board of Ontario) for not renewing the license. This was a story that the Neat did not want out their because it was false and put some blame on a party who all along had been supportive and communicative.

 

So where’s it at now? The Neat is still operating but their present liquor license is still at a far lower capacity that the actual number of people who can fit in the building so they have to have tight controls on who has a drink and where. They are still on the hook for many upcoming shows (including an Arrogant Worms show in December) and not having the right license affects their ability to break even on the shows, let alone turn a profit. Word is out amongst agents and some artists who are already wondering if they may lose a venue and should they book a show their in the future if it won’t happen. Though my personal feeling is that the township is in the wrong here, I’ll assume that the dispute is because people are trying to do their jobs in the best way possible; the township doesn’t want to have there be a fire at the Cafe on a full evening and find that people were injured or killed because they allowed too many people to in a building that didn’t have the right facilities.

 

But the last part is the media. I felt all along that the dispute needed to be aired; if nothing else to add some public pressure to the parties to resolve the issues. The cafe didn’t want to add to their problems by having the wrong message get out and have another issue to deal with. However, by not controlling the issue, the wrong story got out anyways. As my publicist friend Heather Kitching ( www.heatherkitching.com )said, “That’s why you have to take charge of the message.” It doesn’t mean they had to hire a full time publicity person to inundate area media with message; but if the Cafe had sent out some releases with their side of the story, had the owners been made available to talk to the media, the township might have been forced to respond sooner. Maybe we all would know why there is an issue there in the first place because it really seems that a few balls have been dropped along the way.

 

Like in Sunday’s TiCats, Alouettes game. Come on boys, catch the frikkin ball! Go TiCats! Oskee Wee Wee.

Spam Spam Spam

Wow, if nothing else my site seems to be on the map of websites trying to sell me replica NFL jerseys and swell new boots. Who knew? If someone actually posted a comment and is hoping for a response i apologize, somehow I have to wade through the torrents of crap first. Delete delete delete…

Soundcheck tonight. I had decided that I would not try out brand new tunes until I had at least memorized them. However, I have a Hallowe’en song I just finished to I’ll try it. Piano works better if I’m foggy on the lyrics, easier to sit and read.