FAWM update

Well, I’ve written a few songs and halfassed a couple more.   I’m still digging where I’m at with this but it’s hard to do it with the work schedule.  I’d like a few days off to recoup and then trailblaze into the next batch of songs.   At 6, at least 8 to go.  Last year, I had 21 or 22, but keep in mind some of my stuff is very hands off recording.  “Just let it happen”.

One of the really interesting songwriting challenges I am doing this year is 10×10.  That is ten, 10 second songs.  Once you’re done, you stitch them all together as one song.  I have three or four “done” so far.

Well, off for more creating.

FAWM is coming

Ok, so last year around this time I came across an article by Tom Whitwell. The guy who made the Turing Machine Eurorack Module.  It was something about arbitrary constraints regarding music.  Meaning that if you limit yourself, you will be forced to be more creative.  Well, somewhere connected to that was a mention or a link to Fawm.org, February Album Writing Month.  It’s basically a forum where people all decide to write music in February, which is of course, the shortest month.  Some commit to the 14 songs.  Others manage more than that.

Anyway, so since I had found it about a week or so before it started, and I had wanted to further my music writing skills, I decided that I had to do it.  Day one, as soon as I got up, I wrote something, which I was incredibly proud of having done.  The rest of the time, I did struggle.  It takes both the time and focus to really be able to do it.  You may need to shut out other parts of your life to get it done.  Once I had finished my 14 tracks, I kept going.  I think I ended up with 21 entries.  Some of them were just lyrics.  Then, on the last weekend, on the forum, I heard of something called a supermegaskermish.  Now, I didn’t know what this meant, (what it means is that a writing prompt is given, and with a time limit – and you have that time to go off and write a song) – but I got it in my head that I could record an entire album in one night – which I actually did.  I think it was just over 4 hours.  I made 24 one minute loop “song-ettes”.  It was just allowing creativity to be whatever it was going to be.  I posted it the next day on bandcamp.

So, I’m going to do this FAWM thing again.  Hopefully this time, I’ll be able to craft some more songlike songs than last time.  I will also do some creative recordings, experimenting and I think I will blog about it here as I do it.  To that end:  While I cannot start writing songs for February, a few days ago I decided to create an album before the end of January.  Even if I don’t like the end result, the point is to get the creative juices flowing and allow some stuff to come out which hopefully will inspire me in February Album Writing Month.

So far, I have about 20 recordings I’ve made since Sunday, I think.  I’ll do at least one more session, then choose my favorites to create the album which I plan to post this weekend.

 

Bright Light In The Inspiration To Come

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It takes time to find youself.  It takes time to show yourself that you have everything you need.  You’re born with it.  Life gets in the way.  Programming gets in the way.   All you need is to focus.  Breathe.  And let go.

Then focus and go for it.

I knew I could write.  I just didn’t think I had an outlet to do so.  I hadn’t given myself permission to let go.  To say everything I had to say.  To show who I am without thinking I had to apologize for anything I was going to say.

This blog is my anonymous way of letting go.  I have told very few about it.  I haven’t given anyone I know the URL, and I don’t plan to any time soon.  Perhaps years from now.

Maybe that is good enough for me.  This is just for me to speak to the world.  Even if no one is listening.  Even if no one is reading this.  Or maybe it’s just one person.  (And if it is, I am grateful for you reading my words!!!  You have no idea!)

I started this blog just to talk about my journey into minimalism.  But since I’m an artist and musician, I wanted to write about that as well, so I made this blog.  I didn’t know what it would become – for me.

And I’m going to continue to struggle with it.   If anyone is along for the ride – reading this, I thank you, and I’ll keep going.

Bless you.

The Top Of The Fridge Is Not A Storage Facility

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I bet everyone has stuff on the top of their fridge.  Everybody.

Everybody but me.

But that only happened this week.  I wrote those words down when I was making a list of things I needed to accomplish this week, and they were a revelation.  It wasn’t just the fact that I needed to clear some stuff off the top of my fridge – some of which had sat there for friggin’ years.  It was that all these surfaces we have where we store things, are a mess.  Things just accumulate.  Things that should probably have other homes.  So I did it.  I went and moved all of it off the top of the fridge.  Some went into the trash, some went into another storage place.  BUT the place where we keep food, which sustains us, should be extremely clean.  Do you want dirt in your food?

Why are you keeping all that stuff on top of your fridge?

(image is right after I cleared my refrigerator off.)

 

 

The Year End Purge

I am doing one final year-end purge of items.

I hope you all had a good Christmas or (insert other holiday here).  I was laid up sick in bed and spent it alone which is always terribly dreadful and depressing.  I did manage to play guitar for a few hours which lifted my spirits despite my recording computer dying.  (It’s in the process of attempting to minimize itself from my life.  Well, whatcha gonna do? The computer is almost ten years old!)

This week I had a big item pick up from our local recology place.  I arranged a pick up before Christmas and they came by this week to take away the following:

Two recliners

One was my grandmother’s and I had it since about 2002 when she passed.  It was comfortable but the cats progressively destroyed the upholstery and I just wanted it gone.  The other was one my father brought me one day.  I may have even written about it before.  It was big and pink.  I thought about keeping it, but when my dad told me that he had found it on the street and then kept it in his storage for years, I thought, yeah, absolutely has to go too.

Ikea Lack Shelf

I had built a shelf for my bedroom several years ago using some different sized Ikea Lack Shelves and some metal braces.  It worked good for a bookshelf until I started minimizing – and I think I wrote about it before when I mentioned my mom’s tip (she’s a bit of a hoarder though) – “If you don’t have a shelf, you won’t fill it full of stuff!” Someone took this before the recycling truck came.

5 Metal Strips

I found these once and painted something on them, but never really liked it.  The pieces were probably leftovers from some house-project.  They still had plastic on one side. As my initial request for the pick up included a filing cabinet (which I previously got rid of via craigslist), I thought they’d be fine with picking up these.

An old wood shelf

I was using this in my art studio for paint supplies, but again, just wanted it gone.

An old chair

This chair had been around since the nineties, I’m pretty sure.  There’s still a grey one just like it.  This one was yellow and the covering had split.  I repaired with duct tape last year, but decided it could go.

An Ikea Stool

You know, those five dollar ones.  I’m sure I got my value out of it.   This one lived outside and had rust on it.

The weirdest part about my pick up was that I had signs on my stuff which was sitting outside in front of my house.  Someone decided to take some of the signs off, and move everything but the recliners closer to my house but still on the sidewalk.  It upset me a bit because I then had to put it all back by the curb. (I’ve been sick this week – so maybe I’m grumpy).

 

There’s more stuff I’m going to go through and toss Saturday.

Closet Space

Currently, I have two closets, although the second one is in the basement.  It’s small, and really only has a few things in there.  When I got rid of my dresser, I pulled those things out of my main closet and put them down there, but really that’s just moving stuff around.  I need to do another clothes purge and consolidate what I’m keeping.  Like, tomorrow.

 

Minimalism Projects for 2019

Selling My Comic Books – I’m starting on these tomorrow in terms of looking at what I still have, and how to group them to sell.  Unfortunately, this requires quite a bit of work, and I realize I do still have an attachment to them.  I’ll have to take photos and upload them when I’m going to post them on ebay.  In the past, I had success with selling multiple books at a time.  People seem to like the “Lot” auctions.  Maybe someone is only looking for one item in the lot, and are willing to spend more on it.  It’ll just be nice to get rid of some or all of them.  At one point I had over 3000, but I did a culling years ago, and got rid of over 2000.  I probably have about 900 but that’s a guess based on the size of the boxes I have.  The first step is determining what can go so I can consolidate some of it.

Selling Musical Gear – I’ve decided to let go some more equipment.  Amps, and some electronic devices (yeah, I know that’s vague).  I’ve had some up for sale for awhile, but haven’t had many bites.  Need to move it to Reverb.com or ebay.

Photo Discs – Back up to Cloud? Or External Harddrive storage?  Both?  These will require some decisions.  Of course I could just chuck it all out. (YES?!) I have stuff from the mid-2000s.  A lot of it is vacation photos and some of it is just random.

Music CDs – These are mostly of my music I made from 2001-2005.  I need to decide if I’m going to hang on to this stuff forever, or build digital folders to keep backed up somewhere?  Bandcamp too?

Paintings – I’m going to sell some paintings.  I have hundreds in my basement, and if there is anything that will help with both my debt and minimizing, it’s the paintings. I will put them up on Saatchi, Etsy, and maybe Vango.  Promotions via FB and Ello.  I spent the majority of this year working on weird faces but feel that now is the time to move on to focus on trees.  Specifically, bonsai trees.  In the snow.

If there’s anything left by Tuesday, I may consider doing another minimalism game.  This time though, it’ll be one item a day.  I don’t think I have enough stuff I want to throw out to do the “30 day version”.  Maybe I can even keep it going all year!  Or I could just do 365 items in January!

 

Merry Christmas!!!

I’m not Christian, but I live in America.  A lot of people celebrate Christmas.  I don’t know if you’re not supposed to if you’re not Christian.  I just don’t know.  Actually, I’m not any religion.  I wasn’t raised with any of that.  But I’d like to think I am spiritual.  For me, the holiday is more about the return to the light.  They call it the beginning of winter, but really, is it?  It’s mid-winter.  That’s how I view it now.  In a few days, it’s the “shortest day” of the year, then the long night.  After three days in the same position on the horizon at dawn, the sun starts going back the other way.  YAY, spring is coming to a theater near you in March or April!

What the heck is Christmas anyway?  A basterdized Pagan Holiday?  Or just a way for retailers to get out of the red and into the green?  So much noise is made about spending money.  I like giving stuff away, but as I have found minimalism and have continued more on that road, I am so over the consumerism of it all.  No, I don’t want your deals.  Well… maybe a little bit depending on what it is.  And if I am doing “one in, one out” with upgrading things I’m ok with that.

I have purchased a few things this year, but most of what I’ve been giving away has been my own stuff.  A year and a half on to purging stuff, and I still can’t believe I have more stuff to get rid of.  Christmas time is the perfect time to give things away.  Just wrap them up and leave on some neighbors door!  HA!

Recently, I purged the following:

Two synthesizers

A baby Taylor Guitar

A four string bass guitar

A five string bass guitar (however, I did replace it with a brand new one!)

File cabinet

CB Radio with power supply and antenna

A 12 inch Star Wars Toy (one of the Cantina Musicians!)

A squeaking bird toy

A harmonica (in Eb)

Chinese Rattle Drum

A Christmas CD  (which is a burned copy of a cassette some friends recorded and gave me 20 years ago)

Two picture frames

Some sheets of glass (recycled)

Some Music CDs

 

On deck – for randomly wrapped Christmas presents!

A CD from the band Dream Theater

An Elfquest paperback novel

A kitchen mixer (I won this last year in my work’s White Elephant game)

A Stencil Kit

Probably some more stuff including some comics, books, clothes, and electronics

 

And I’m also having the city do a big item pick up a couple days after Christmas:

Two recliners which are passed their prime (and one the cats have destroyed)

Another chair

A Heater  (probably foolish to get rid of just at the beginning of winter?!)

and

A couple of shelves (remember the previous blog post – if you don’t have a shelf, you can’t put stuff on it!!!)

 

I did want to get through as much as I could before January, but I expect there will still be a few things hanging around.  I have some “digitizing” still to do.

 

I just want to give a shout out to Joshua Becker with his new book “The Minimalist Home“.  I have two copies arriving soon.  One will be a gift for my brother and his wife and I’ll give the other copy away after I’m done with it.  Someone else is going to get more from it from me at this point – even though I know I have some more work to do.  That dude is inspiring to me.  So I will keep getting rid of things.

Well, once again, thank you for reading!  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannakah, Happy Kwanza, Uid, and of course Festival Of Lights.  May it be peaceful for you.

 

The Coming Of Black Friday

Every year, for the past few years, I’ve stayed home and watched the chaos online – the news, the liveleak videos, the sales, the people being hurt, the needless garbage they buy that they think will bring them happiness that they spend their hard-earned money on, and the total waste of a Friday “off” (even if one is lucky enough to have the day off).  I think it’s horrible that some people have to work on Thanksgiving night for this consumerism.  That’s just wrong.

This year, I play to stay offline.  No phone, no computer, no dvd/blu rays.  No sales, no buying stuff online.  I’m just going to relax.  Maybe I’ll paint?  We’ve had horrible air here in the bay area for the past week (an air quality index of 150-266).   If it’s finally clear, or if it’s raining, I play to spend the day either painting or playing my guitar.

Speaking of which, I sold a guitar today.  It was a Baby Taylor which I purchased on a vacation in Kauai in 2005.  A total impulse buy, and completely unnecessary.  I went to the music store when I was there and “had to buy it”.  It’s always been nice to have, but I really didn’t need it.  I did post a video once, and somehow it received over 20,000 views early on in the YouTube years.  It was really nice to be rid of another instrument – another item. It was pretty nice though.  And the new owner was very happy to have it!  Eventually, I think I’d like to get down to one multi-use, multi-string, extended range guitar/bass.

I’d like to say I haven’t looked at sales lately, but it’s happened.  I’ve thought about purging my basses and buying a brand new one. I do have a 5-string bass for sale and if it goes I may replace it with a new one sometime in the new year.  Perhaps.  BUT, I think I’m far more focused on minimizing than “getting” things.  It’s still a struggle when it comes to music gear for me.  And at least my family has now agreed not to buy each other anything for Christmas.  “Let’s all just get together for a meal”.  Really, that’s what it’s all about.

But, I will plan to “gift” some things I do want to get rid of.  I need to start a pile, and then wrap them.  Perhaps randomly.  Y’know, with a label which says “From: Me; To: You“.  Perhaps I’ll actually give them to people at work?  Perhaps I’ll just leave packages on peoples doorsteps on Christmas eve?

Heh heh heh!

What I’ve Minimized Recently

 

In the past month or so, continuing on my “slow as molasses” journey to minimalism, I got rid of these items:

  1. A chopsaw.  Also known as a miter saw.  This was an old piece given to me by my father.  I used it to do a series of wood coasters back in 2014.  I still have some if anyone is looking for a cool holiday gift.  At some point in the past year, something went wrong with the chopsaw and it would just be on as soon as it was plugged in.  The on/off switch would do nothing.  In the sake of safety, I opted to get rid of it, posting it in the free section of craigslist – and noting it’s flaw.  Hopefully, someone is able to fix it and get some more use out of it.
  2. Two rock tapestries.  One was Rage Against The Machine, and the other was a Jimi Hendrix wall hanging. For fun, I posted an ad for them asking for the best story, or why I should give it to the person.  I received some good stories, but the best was some guy who said his dad was a huge Hendrix fan and had even written a sci-fi novel based on Electric Ladyland.
  3. Red lense “mad-doggers” sunglasses.
  4. A coffee cup.  I don’t drink coffee, so technically, that was a tea cup.  I also broke another cup which I had for years.  Yeah, good.
  5. An Alex Ross book I read recently.  I have another one of his which I’m going to start this week.  That’s going to go when I’m done reading it as well!
  6. A bunch of screws – I went through some spare guitar parts and did what I could.  I still have some “just in case” repair parts I’ll probably never need so odds are the rest of it will get another going through soon.
  7. A pile of wood.  I think I wrote about building some stuff recently, and I’m down to the end of the usable wood pile.  There’s still a bunch of stretcher bars I’m going to make for canvas paintings soon.  I painted some stuff I’ll use for repairs on the house as well.  You know, as Boromir says, Winter Is Coming.
  8. Some metal stuff in some storage bins, which were in a storage location.  It was good to go through it and recycle it.
  9. Six storage bins.  (These are going to a family member for organization.  More on that below.)
  10. A small blue computer desk.  A woman came to pick it up with her 8-year old who was really excited about having it.  For a time, I used it for the aforementioned chopsaw.
  11. A screwdriver
  12. A soldering iron.  I had two.  Two I never really use.
  13. And a bag of miscellaneous stuff I had in my basement.

When it’s time to let it go, it’s not hard to give it a new home.  It’s just hard with the stuff you want to keep.

On deck: Books, some electronic stuff I’ve been trying to sell for too long (need to expand my reach and put them on ebay, or reverb).  And I still have a bag of DVDs and CDs that need to go to trade/sell.  And a bunch of tape cassettes from my one of my old bands.  Some of these will go this weekend.  I’ve begun to make a list of large items to get the city to remove.  I get two “ten item” pick ups per year.

I have recently removed several items from my music studio, paring it down to basics.  I’ve closed up some cases I had open with gear, and I will not them for awhile in the hopes that I’ll finally say yes to selling them.

Then, there’s a bigger task ahead.  Recently a family member has been ill.  My brother and I are going to help deal with their “hoard” in a shed, their basement, and two “pay monthly” storage spaces.  Fortunately for us, we’ve both recently been tasked with minimizing things, so we have some experience dealing with this.  But, as he said it’s always much easier to get rid of someone else’s stuff, than our own.  We know we need to tread lightly with some of what will want to be kept.  It’s going to be a huge task, but I know I’m up for it.  I’m just going to do my best not to bring any of it home.  Please don’t judge me if I end up with more wood.   LOL! I promise I’ll just build more stuff with it!

I’m still on the journey, but I’ve got a ways to go.

Shift Vision

It started with a phone call.  My friend from high school, Larry Wang called me up one day and told me his co-worker was looking for a bass player.

That was the beginning of it.

Abbot McKinney called sometime within the next week and we talked about jamming.  If I’m not mistaken, this was August 1994.  Perhaps even August 13, 1994.  I think it was about a month before we actually got together.

I don’t recall if I got a ride, or if Abbot came to pick me up with my bass amps and bass to go down to Secret Studios on Cesar Chavez.  I knew the place.  I’d had a studio there from late 1992 to Easter of 1993 when my band at the time, Not Gonna Do It, recorded and broke up.  That room, in the back of the building was very cold.  Of course, probably most of that time I remember was playing during winter so, whatever.

Fred Barryessa was there at the studio to meet us.  They shared a room down the first hallway in this place.  The studio building was once used for filming the NBC show Midnight Caller with none other than the actor who played Lumbergh from Office Space.  I remember it because some schoolmates from middle school had been extras on the show, but I digress.

We jammed for the first time that night.  And I agreed to come back.  I think the second or third time, I just decided to leave my amp there.  It was a message to them that I was serious about working with them.  I seem to recall that it was going to be a few days, or another week and I probably didn’t want to move my gear back home and then bring it back again.  They were cool dudes.

We set about playing together every week, 2 or 3 times a week.  It was fun.   Abbot had some parts they had been working on, so we worked those up a bit, and jammed on other things.  I think I started throwing some of my stuff into the mix.  There was one thing I had which I had on a tape labeled Number 6.  It was something I recorded after I’d broken up with a girlfriend, and was very inspired and fiery.  Eventually, we had worked it into a proto-song.  By November, we’d started talking about getting a singer, and since I’d worked with one in two other bands, I suggested her.  Mary Deschevan was tiny, but had a big voice.  Although, she wasn’t the greatest singer, I thought maybe she could work.  I suspect we brought her down to meet us, listen to some stuff and then we sent her off with a four-track recording of tunes.  She was going to try to work up some versions of her singing over the tunes.  We didn’t know what we wanted so it was hard to tell her what she should do.  I still think some of that is interesting, but ultimately we opted to keep looking.  Later, we did find out she had mentioned us to a friend of hers.

Sometime in early 1995, we’d connected with a singer.  I don’t remember his name at all, but I remember that he was from New York.  His room was down the halls from ours at the studio and we arranged a time to meet and listen to some of his stuff.  I don’t really recall what it was like but maybe I vaguely think it was along the lines of Bono from U2.  You know, that style.  It seemed like maybe our two styles could morph into something cool and set a time for him to jam with us.  He brought his P.A. down the hall to our room.  But before we got started playing, Fred said something wrong.  If I remember correctly, he said “well, we’re not going to play your songs”, which brought immediate discontent to the room.  I think what Fred meant was that we were going to come up with new songs.  Later, I would understand that Fred would say things that others might find offensive, but clearly, it was miscommunication, not intent to insult.  But that isn’t what was realized then.  This guy flew off the handle.  “What do you mean?!  I just brought my P.A. all the way down here and set it up!”  He was upset, and as fast as he’d come down the hallway to our room, he was gone.  Back to his room fifty feet away.

Sometime later, Fred had run into a singer at a party.  Turned out, this guy, Michael Valley, was friends with Mary.  She had mentioned us to him back when it didn’t work out with her.  They talk and maybe a week later he comes down to the studio.  We jam on some stuff of ours and he sings over it a bit.  He must’ve played some of his music as well.  It sounded good and I knew right away, this could really work.  Abbot was way into it.  Maybe a little too excited.  But, you need to understand, we’d been looking for a good singer, and here he was.  He had a great sound to his voice.  Michael was taken aback a bit and told us as he packed up “don’t call me, I’ll call you”.  It wasn’t exactly like that, but that was the gist of it.   We didn’t hear from him.

Again, back at some party, weeks later Fred runs into Michael again and this time Michael is asking if we’d like to be his back up band to record some of his songs.  He would pay for the studio time, and any costs, and we’d get the experience. Plus, we’d have this studio recording of us.  Of course we jump at it.  We begin rehearsing with Michael and going over his songs.  There were about seven songs that we worked on for a couple months. The recording studio was just down the hall, maybe even next to that other guys room.  We went in early June 1995 to lay down the basic tracks.  Drums, bass, guitars, and scratch vocals.  The guitars may have been re-recorded but I’m not sure as I wasn’t in those sessions.  I was done with my part the first day.  I heard that there were some intense lead guitar sessions with Abbot and Michael.  I’m not sure Abbot was doing what Michael really wanted and well, Abbot wasn’t really a lead guitarist.  At least he wasn’t at that point.  But after that first day of recording, it sounded so good, we discussed perhaps actually becoming a band and playing these songs out live.  It was what I wanted to do.  I had been in three bands at this point that had played gigs.

We worked the rest of that summer to get in form, rehearsing those songs and re-working the proto-songs which Fred, Abbot and I had prior to meeting Michael.  At least one of them was just kept as an instrumental, but one of Abbot’s songs “No Son Bienvenidas” worked perfectly with vocals.  It became a staple in our future live sets, and I would even sing back up vocals in it.  Somewhere along the way, we settled on our name Shift Vision.  I’m not sure who came up with it.  It was one of those situations where everyone put names down on to a sheet of paper and we went through them all.  I think I had come up with the Shift part of it.  It was from some comic book character which I’d had a collector card of.  After a couple months of rehearsing several times a week, our set got tighter.  Our first gig was at the Alameda Saloon in August of that year and was a total blast, and well received among those watching. It would be the last one where Michael would have hair.  He showed up at the next rehearsal with a shaved head, while it was strange at the time, made total sense.  My hair was halfway down my back at the time, not having cut it for about six years.

The band continued on performing gigs.  The recording we made was fashioned into the last great demo tape.  While CDs would take over not soon after, people still had tape cassette decks in their cars at this time.  It was five songs of ballsy rock.  If they had put us on stage with STP or Soundgarden, we would’ve fit right in. At least that’s what I thought.  We might have needed some more work, but I knew I was doing everything I could.  I would listen to rehearsal tapes all the time, getting better at singing and playing my parts on bass.  I wanted it to be the best it could be.  And I knew that required work.

We continued to play into 1996, playing more and more shows.  We started recording another batch of songs that summer.  This was now us as a band, not just Michael’s recording project so it had a different vibe to it.  We’d been working through the songs for months.  Everyone had input.  Musically, it was mostly Michael and Abbot.  I did throw in one song.  There was another I had which I would’ve loved to have recorded, but for some reason it wasn’t considered.  Eventually, we considered a manager.  There were band photos.  More gigs.  Girlfriends.  Sometimes, it was only girlfriends at the shows.  I knew to have a following, you needed to do promotion.  You needed to sound good, but you had to get your name and music out there.  You couldn’t just book the gigs and expect that people would show up.  This was 1996 and things were changing fast.  I was unaware of the electronic music scene which was happening and clearly taking over.  Rock music was taking a back seat in our local area.  I just know, shows weren’t full.  Then, it became almost a chore.  We played a gig in Fremont at a club which called itself, the only club that didn’t suck.  When we got there, there was something else going on, a band was shooting a video and we couldn’t go in.  They weren’t finished.  I remember being pissed off.  When we finally played, I don’t think there was anyone left in the club.  It was frustrating.  Unfortunately, this became the norm with this band.  Almost no one was there to see us.  I couldn’t understand it but it was happening.

In early 1997, we had a gig which was a battle of the bands.  This would be the first one I would experience.  I would grow to lothe them, but this was a really good experience.  Maybe even the best. But not for the reasons I expected.  Let me backtrack.  Our guitar player Abbot had been stranded in Reno with his fiance.  There was rain and some biblical flood and they couldn’t get out of there because the airport was closed so Abbot would miss this gig.  We played it as a trio.  Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals.  No lead guitar.  No noise.  It was the first time I’d heard it.  It was the first time I’d not played with Abbot since we started in September of 1994.  That sound would change things down the road. But for the battle of the bands, we just won, and moved on to the next round.  The only thing, they told us, was that we would have to play the next round as a trio.  We couldn’t bring in our missing guitar player.   While we opted out of the next round due to a more important gig opening for Gary Hoey at The Edge in Palo Alto, I’ve always wondered what would’ve happened if we’d played the battle of the bands.  I can’t imagine the prize was worth much.  But I suppose I was the one who won when I heard that sound.

The Gary Hoey gig was stellar.  It was a high point in the band’s career.  The roar of 400 people in that club on a sunday night still reverberates in my ears.  Despite one major flub during our set, we filled that hall with our rock like no others.  I still think we played better music than the supporting act, whomever they were, but that mistake was friggin’ hilarious.  What happened was that we would normally have scheduled breaks in sets. Usually after three songs, there would be a minute break for tuning or to catch breath or whatever, then back into the music.  But, something happened after song two where we had to take a short break.  When we went back into the music, I started song three, and Fred started song four.  There was a moment that didn’t sound right.  I just kept driving the bass, and Fred recovered quickly enough after a pause.  We probably noticed it the most, but the key there in that is no matter what you do in life, something is going to go wrong, and you have to roll with the punches or keep with the old adage “The show must go on”.  And it did.  We were on a high after this gig.  But, that ended up being the peak with this band.  We kept playing that year and tried to keep things going but there were some personal issues which kept us from realizing our potential.  Abbot would get married that summer, thus keeping his guitar sound out of some rehearsals.  At this point we had a manager and booking agent.  I don’t think we paid them much, if anything at all.   We had finished our second recording and made it into a CD, complete with a case, artwork, lyrics, and thank you’s.  This was another tool to get gigs, or if a miracle happened, a following.   We had a band meeting at a pizza place for us all to get on the same page, but I realized by the end of it that we weren’t on the same page.  I had had some issues with Fred.  He had said something to me which bothered me.  Once again, probably not his intention to insult or belittle, but I took it that way.  I was only 25 at the time.  It festered and we almost came to physical blows one night at our managers house.  I don’t know how we resolved it. I’m not sure anyone was to blame, but I’m sure I could’ve handled it more maturely.  Then, the worst happened.  The gig that ended the band.

Friday, October 3rd, 1997 the San Francisco Giants were playing the Florida Marlins.  I’m not sure if it were game four or what, but the Giants lost that night.  The Marlins would go on to win the world series.   That same night Shift Vision would be performing at Route 66 in Burlingame with Dixie Star, a band that I admired quite a bit.  I had hoped we would play well, enough for them to notice.  Our booking agent was friends with them, and they just had a real cool sound.  Well, something happened on stage when we played that was akin to someone knocking down that first domino, and them bones would keep falling.  Abbot broke a string.  Instead of proceeding with the next song, we decided to jam for a bit while Abbot, who should’ve had his back up guitar tuned and ready, was replacing the string.  But he chose the wrong gauge string, which then broke not soon after in that next song.  At this point, he reaches for the back up which isn’t tuned, and tunes it up.  The thing was, I felt a bit mortified by this.  It just felt unprofessional.  I had been trying my best to be as good as I could be.  It wasn’t going to happen.  I didn’t understand then what I know now.  You have to let go.  We didn’t.  Well, no, I guess we did let go.  After that gig, Michael disappeared for some time.  We watched as the Giants lost.  Dixie Star played.  Then we packed up our gear and headed back to Secret Studios.  I remember driving back with Michael in his truck with my girlfriend in the middle, looking up at the stars and thinking about the band “it’s not in the stars”.

We had another gig coming up that Tuesday so because we played so bad that night, we’d all agreed to rehearse on our usual Sunday afternoon/evening schedule.  But this was going to be different.  I remember Fred coming into the room saying “Well, I guess I know what everybody is thinking”.  He said what we knew already.  The band was over. Or maybe, he knew it wasn’t working with him.  I think he said something to the effect of that he would leave, and we could get a new drummer.  But I knew, and I had suspected Michael had known as well, this band was over.  It wasn’t going to work anymore.  We talked about it for awhile and agreed that it was for the best to play the last couple gigs and end it.  Abbot later told me, he did not see it coming and that it felt like a girlfriend dumping him.  I understood, but knew for some time that overall the band wasn’t working.  However, I did feel that I had a good thing going with the vocals with Michael.  I had tapped into something besides bass guitar, musically – harmony vocals.  It had happened for awhile within the band because Abbot and Fred did not sing.  Besides Michael, I was the other voice of the band.  Actually, that’s not entirely correct.  Abbot did sing a bit, but what Michael and I had going on really worked musically.  For me, it worked best when I’d been listening to rehearsal tapes and singing over them, stretching my own voice to new limits.

October 8th, 1997 we played the best performance of Shift Vision’s existence.  There were other memorable ones, but I think musically, the show we played at Club Cocodrie was by far the greatest.  It was a rainy night, and a Tuesday so there really weren’t that many in attendance.  We’d broken up so everyone was relaxed.  We’d only be playing these songs a few more times.  It all worked that night.  It just flowed from song to song.  Somehow it was perfect.  I remember telling someone at the gig that we had broken up but we had a couple more gigs to play and they were baffled at why we would be breaking up.  During the next few weeks, I’d start to suss out my next group, and also discussed working with Michael on another recording project of his.  By the time we played our last gig on October 25th, it looked like I was joining a blues band.  The guitarist was personal friends with John Lee Hooker and we were going to be able to play at the Boom Boom Room.

But that wasn’t to be.  As soon as I had agreed to join that project, I declined it. I loved listening to that music, but I thought it was going to be difficult to play – being monotonous compared to what I’d just been doing.  Michael and I had agreed to keep the rehearsal room for at least one more month, and were looking for a drummer.

Shift Vision’s last gig was pretty damn good.  We had every wheel going on this.  People came out for it.  Even my cousin drove up from Santa Cruz to see us.  It was our last gig.  There would not be another.  There would never be a reunion show.  It was a good set and I can still remember being on the stage at Club Boomerang on Haight Street looking over at Abbot yelling into the microphone as we whipped out a new tune for the last time.  It was fun.  This is what it’s supposed to be about.  Playing for a bunch of your friends, with your friends on stage in the band with you.  That’s what music is about to me.  Let’s play and have fun.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.   I talked to a drummer after that gig, telling him that Michael and I were looking for someone for a project.  I also may have had words with my cousin about the same subject.

And Shift Vision blurred from existence.

– George Sherman, bass player.

(P.S. all names have been changed to protect the innocent, or not-so-innocent)