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September 26th, 2011

Playing the Pie Dance

Saturday night the free raisins played for the pie dance. It was a lot of fun. There were two lines almost the whole night, tasty apple pie at the break, and a bunch of college students doing some kind of 'spend a semester doing oceany stuff' showed up and were enthusiastic.

I recorded the whole evening, and in the car on the way home we listened through it, looking for things to work on. It's unpleasant reliving the mistakes of the evening, but I do think it's worth it. So: recordings with some commentary. (If you're only going to listen to one, I like the wallace's cross / corriente set the best.)

1-1: High Road to Linton
In the past we've usually started with jamie allen or something else simple. That has the benefit of having fewer things that can go wrong, but it's also less exciting. This time we tried start with something more fun, though a four part tune might have been too far in that direction. We got off from the dancers, and then had to get back on again. We also did our usual thing when running sound for ourselves where we start with amy (piano) and audrey (fiddle), with jeff in the hall setting levels. Then jeff takes melody on mandolin, audrey goes out into the hall, and we end up with both the mandolin and fiddle set relative to the piano. This works pretty well, but means that the extended mandolin and fiddle solo melody on this set was not for strictly musical reasons.

1-2: Far From Home / Shenandoah Falls
I like this set, especially the groove we had near the end. The octave fiddle mic was sitting (live) between me and amy, so when I was leaning over to call out numeric chords for variations near the end that was broadcast some to the hall. I should start using my mic with a switch for the mandolin. If the dancers hear a bit of me going "four, four, four, five!" near the end of a tune that's not so bad, though.

1-3: Evit Gabriel / Liza Jane
We had two strings break during this set. First I lost the D string on the octave fiddle adjusting the tuning preparing to come in on evit gabriel, then audrey lost the E string on the fiddle during liza jane. That snap you can hear at 8:13. The whole rest of the night she was worried about breaking her (poor condition) backup E string.

1-4: Maison de Glace / Morrison's Jig
We'd just played three high energy sets, so we wanted something a little less frantic, smoother, a bit groovy. I'm trying to figure out how to use the mandolin more as a percussion instrument, to better complement amy's piano playing. (The piano is a great instrument, with a wide range, but it can't make the rough high-frequency percussive chop sounds that the guitar and mandolin can. Similarly, the guitar is a great rhythm instrument, but it doesn't have the low end that a piano has. I think bass/guitar and piano/mandolin are great pairs.) I spent most of morrison's doing a muted strike on the second downbeat of each measure. I like the sound, though I want to play with it more.

1-5: Wallace's Cross / Corriente del Gulfo
This is one of our new sets, and our second time playing it out. I like the set, and I like how it came out. Near the end of corriente you can hear us playing sparsely and leaving some big holes at the end of the phrases. This sounds weird without the dancers, but it fit the dance really nicely.

1-6: Gaspe Reel / Evil Diane / Grease / Evil Diane
This went reasonably well, and it's always fun to quote grease, though I think we've played it better other times. We screwed up the transition back to evil diane, starting it too early and then having to fix it. It also wasn't a great fit to the dance.

1-7: Midnight on the Water
A nice waltz. I need to learn the chords better so I can play better harmony.

2-1: Lady Anne Montgomery / Old Grey Cat
I really like lady anne. You can hear a bit too much of me calling chords on the B parts, though. I was playing with mandolin-as-a-percussion-instrument again on old grey cat.

2-2: Le Tourmond / Star Above the Garter
I like how elegant le tourmond can be. The big emphasis on the beginning of the B1 was to make it easier for the dancers to hear where the balance fell at the end of the hey. I played whistle for part of star above the garter, but the tone is weird. I don't know if that's just the car speakers or if I need to figure out how to mic it differently.

2-3: Flying Home to Shelly / Childgroove
We play flying home to shelly half speed, then full speed. Listening back now, I'm not sure why we switch to full speed. I don't really like how it sounds, it adds too much energy, which then we try and bleed off to get back to a similar energy at normal speed. We flubbed the switch to childgroove, starting it too early and having to adjust. A dancer came up afterwards and said they really liked it, though, so we can't have messed it up too badly.

2-4: Coleman's March / On the Danforth
I liked this set, though I think we've done a better job with the groove on danforth other times.

2-5: Bus Stop / Franks Reel
Good overall. I need to work more on playing a consistent rhythm and not switching to some other one as soon as it enters my head as an option.

2-6: Haapavesi Waltz
I liked our playing here. I tend not to have strong feelings on waltzes unless I mess things up. This probably means I need to learn more how to appreciate waltzes. Like with the previous waltz, I was playing plucked octave fiddle.

It was a good night, and while I don't think we played well enough that we could take these recordings and call them a CD, we played loads better than we did a year ago when we made the recordings that are on the free raisins website [1]. I'm enjoying our progress.

[1] Though not for long: I intend to take those recordings down and replace them with some selective snippets from these that make us sound maximially awesome. Actually, is that ok? Is it dishonest to cherry pick the best parts and selectively display them?

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