Oh, me achin’ fingers

Safely back from OVFF — like that’s a challenge, it’s 20 minutes from home. A lovely time was had, many pictures were taken, and why are there no other bassists in filk? :)

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13 comments so far

  1. janis_and_co on

    because you’re special

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      Does that mean I have to drive the short bus to work tonight? :)

      • janis_and_co on

        Yes. Yes it does. :P
        Seriously, You should be proud of your unique contribution to the filk scene. And to the world in general… *MWAH!*

  2. argh_jim on

    It’s not just filk. Playing bass is pretty much job security in music, insomuch as there is job security in music.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      I don’t know if I’d want to play as a regular job. However, if you have a contract for me to sign, I am willing to discuss terms. :D

  3. min0taur on

    First off, thanks again for the heartbeat at the OVFF 23 jam.

    And you’re right that bassists often seem scarce. I’ve known several in the filk scene over the years. Generally one of three things (or some combination) will tend to happen:

    * A bassist will join the filk scene with such dedication that others aren’t sure whether they should try to join the niche. Such was the case with the late John Filpus, who played his Martin acoustic bass primarily as an accompanist in Midwest filk circles for a couple of decades.

    * Circumstances intervene. I don’t know if you had a chance to meet Jack McKenty — a pro studio player with outrageous bass chops and a custom Beatle-bass-style axe with a carved dragon headstock — but after amazing some filk circles for a few years, he had some health problems that forced him out of the scene.

    * The bass player does most of his/her playing in the context of a band. Gwen Zak switched off between P-bass and percussion with Black Book Band — she was always hip to its role in the rhythm section — but I haven’t heard her play since geographic distances made BBB impractical except on a “reunion” basis. Also, Pastorius aside (!), it isn’t widely considered a solo instrument, or one that’s easy to play while singing.

    That said, the “job security” insight is indeed valid, so long as one digs hangin’ out in the rhythm section — guess I must, since I went and married a drummer ;-) — for that matter, I joined Wild Mercy originally as a bass player. I still greatly enjoy the instrument (Jen picked it up as well so we’d still have the bass pulse when I was doing guitar things). But I haven’t yet tried filling that niche in filk circles. (Maybe I’m still unconsciously assuming John will be doing that, though it’s been several years.) And you know, we may not have quite worked out a conscious ettiquette for doing that yet; I think we should. I’ve learned a helluva lot about ensemble playing from that angle.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      It’s always my pleasure — OVFF is about the only chance I ever get to play with others. If I get a better job, maybe I can start hitting the other filk conventions.

      Stu Hamm—Joe Satiani’s bassist—cut an album that treated the bass as a lead instrument; one of the cuts was an unaccompanied ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’. Unbelievable!

      I remember John Filpus; for a while, it was he and me, electric and acoustic. Once in a while someone else would turn up, but no one else on a relatively permanent basis (bass-is? :D). So sad to see him go. I’m afraid I didn’t ever meet Jack; sounds like an awesome axe.

      I never really thought of the bass as being just a rhythm instrument. I learned to play by throwing a tape on and trying to keep up with Phil Lesh, so I consider the bass a lot more than just ‘thump-thump-a-thump’.

      In any case, I’m not a composer or lyricist, so this is my one best contribution. I struggled with that for a while, because filk is predominantly a songwriters’ community. I started coming to OVFF in the late 80s or early 90s with Maureen, and typically just hung back and watched the proceedings. The first Sunday Jam I participated in, in ’94 or so, was eye-opening for me: I discovered I could play in public and not die.

      Still, a few years ago, I thought about not coming to OVFF anymore, since my contribution to the universal filk songbook can be mathematically stated as zero. Took me a little while to realize that not everyone’s a composer, and I got comfortable with that, and then happy with the idea of being Anyone’s Accompanist. That’s a role that really only barely exists in filk as far as I can tell: the dedicated sideman.

      Besides, “Franklin’s Tower” always makes my fingers dance. :)

      • min0taur on

        Yeah, know what you mean about “not just a rhythm instrument.” I first got drawn to bass listening to Danny Thompson with Pentangle, then Chris Squire with early Yes, Stanley Clarke with Return to Forever, Jaco (first on Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira” and then with Weather Report, though Miroslav Vitous’ “Cucumber Slumber” on “Mysterious Traveler” made the case for both rhythm and lead at once in the lower register). I started trying to play it as a lower-register lead guitar, and have had to figure out (gradually) how much of what to play when. Still working on that, but it’s a delight.
        And having a good strong bottom end propels a filk circle beyond the singer/songwriter/folkie-bard thing. I love having people show up to *play* and explore their instruments. Helps break us out of the ruts we don’t know we’re in. Dancing fingers always kick it up a notch or three.

        • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

          With me it was Lesh, of course, and Rick Danko of The Band, Rick Kemp of Steeleye Span, Kenny Gradney of Little Feat, John Kahn of JGB/Legion of Mary/Old And In The Way, and Rob Wasserman of Ratdog (do we sense a jam band theme? Oh, I think so…) Throw in a little ‘Family Man’ Barrett from Bob Marley and the Wailers for good measure. :)

          I consider the bass semi-lead, two instruments in one. If I’m playing a more or less straight rhythm line, I’ll typically stay down towards the nut. When I open up, like on “Franklin’s Tower”, I move up to the twelfth fret and stay around there.

          I had the reverse experience of yours — when I reapproached the guitar a couple years ago after having let it go for a while, I found that my experience playing bass opened up a whole new way of playing guitar. Better rhythmic sense and a freer playing style.

          This did not prepare me for the discovery that when I play ‘Bertha’, my guitar and bass have different rhythms. I actually stopped the MP3 while trying to layer in the bass track and said “Where the hell do I think I’m going?” XD

  4. gorgeousgary on

    I can think of two others–Glenn Arthur () here in MD, and Martin Gordon-Kerr in England. In fact, I recruited Glenn to lay down a bass line for “Hyperion” for my in-progress CD.

    There’s also Cliff Laufer of Clam Chowder, who I list separately as the Clams don’t consider themselves filkers (although they’ve been filk con GOHs).

    It was great having you playing along. Especially when Art Warnecke was doing “Day of the Clipper” at the Sunday Dead Dog–as well as Art and I play them, Schooner Fare songs just don’t quite sound right without a bass guitar line. Tom Rowe’s style was distinctive, and is sadly missed by Schooner Fare fans.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      I thank you very kindly! Though truth to tell, I don’t particularly recall that last song you mention… if I find a good groove, I only have enough brain cells left over to listen for tempos and surprise chord changes. :)

      Believe it or not, about the only thing I clearly recall performance-wise is this monster rush of adrenaline halfway through “Franklin’s Tower” in the Jam, and having to force myself to slow way down. My hands were shaking so bad, I thought I was going to have to stop playing in mid-song; as it was, I remember having to retreat back to a more repetitive bassline and quit extemporizing. It was a little creepy—I had this sudden sensation of being too far out on my own, and needed to scamper back to common ground. But as I told above, that song always makes my fingers dance. :)

      • gorgeousgary on

        I only have enough brain cells left over to listen for tempos and surprise chord changes. :)

        Ah, like “Boats of Stone”, the Schooner Fare song *I* did. The one with five parts and three different tempos…

        Though it *was* fun listening to people try and keep up… ;-)

        • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

          I need to print me a big-ass fake book, that’s all there is to it. If I can handle the Dead’s ‘Estimated Prophet’ (alternating 3/4 and 4/4 every flippin’ measure) or Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ (straight-up 7/4… which is really the same thing) or Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ (5/4), I can handle anything I can at least *see*. :)


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