Category Archives: Music

Music-related posts. my music, other people’s music. Music I like. Music I dislike.

Why Musicians Don’t Like Going to Concerts (Unless They Are Performing)

A co-worker of mine knows I’m a musician. This morning, she asked me if I heard about the Lollapalooza lineup that was just announced. She seemed surprised when I mentioned that I generally don’t go to concerts.

Giving you an accurate and well-rounded answer deserves a long conversation but here’s a bunch of thoughts. Basically, the biggest reason is… I don’t enjoy them. I love live performances (theater, obviously) but the concert format rarely pays off for me.  I’m not the only one, either. A guitar teacher of mine quoted a famous musician (whose name I forget) that goes, “Concerts? I wouldn’t cross the street to see myself play [a concert].”

blurry concertThere are a myriad of reasons why I don’t enjoy them as an audience member (correlation with drinking and smoking, lots of standing, crowds, waiting in lines, not being able to talk, not being the center of attention, subjecting myself to OPC (other people’s cleverness)).

The polite and true answer is I genuinely prefer to be a part of music making. The impolite answer is, in most cases, you end up judging the band for their shortcomings in skill/style/approach/equipment. If the act does somehow exceed the impossibly awesome vision a musician has of themselves, it would no doubt be a depressing experience. Of course, I wouldn’t know. It’s never happened to me.

Either way, once you’ve been the one up there, it’s kind of ruined from the other side.

I tried to deny the reality of how I felt about going to concerts for years. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts. I’ve seen big name festivals and artists I admire, even musical heroes. Spent thousands of dollars, collected ticket stubs and road tour t-shirts. My feelings about who I really am were just confirmed with every attempt. Of course, not everyone is supportive. People assume I’m agoraphobic or a cranky old man. As I’ve said though, it’s not all events. Just concerts.

I do make rare exceptions though. The size of the venue or crowd is inversely proportional to the likelihood that I would willingly attend. In other words, the smaller the better. Second, if I personally know someone in the band. I will try to support people I know within reason (and reasonable distance).

So, I’ll close this post the same way I closed the email wrote to my co-worker. I’m glad she asked and I hope my readers can enjoy an honest answer.

“Old Man River” on Instrumental Acoustic Guitar

Ol’ Man River – Instrumental Acoustic Guitar

I have to admit: I love the song, “Ol’ Man River.” Always have loved it, even though the subject matter leaves me a little unsure of whether I’m allowed.

It’s an old song from Show Boat made famous by bass vocalist Paul Robeson and his version is my favorite. Read the wiki for the details but, without knowing much about the context, you can pretty much guess that there is some exploitation involved and white guys probably aren’t the good guys.

Anyway, about six weeks ago, the Robeson version came up on random shuffle on my phone during the walk to work. Listening affected me in a way I didn’t want to end. The way good art delivered with unavoidable pathos puts you in the performer’s shoes. Feeling their desperation.

So, I put it on single repeat. Listened 5 or 6 times in a row. Each time, I rode the wave of emotion as the melody builds into the minor 8 section, resolves back to the main theme and roars into the final notes.

Afterwards, I decided I wanted to do something with the song. I wanted to recreate the emotional connection as the sender instead of the recipient. Really make the song my own somehow. Of course, I realize it may not be received as a sincere tribute to a beautiful song but what the hell. Can’t let how someone else might interpret it from standing in my way.

So, I decided I would learn to play it. I googled for the lead sheet and found it  on Political Folk Music. I learned it as written first, then started to arrange it as an instrumental.

Initially, I thought of doing chords on guitar and the melody on a bass guitar. I tried it on banjo and mandolin too. Any of those could have been pretty interesting but I eventually opted for this single guitar arrangement.

In the month after I decided to learn it, I went digging for other versions and found a bunch of white guys singing it. Frank Sinatra, Jim Croce (very good version) and more so I don’t feel so bad now. Still, I like how my little arrangement turned out. A beautiful song, entirely inappropriate for me to perform. Sounds like the start of a series.

December is the month of music for Miles Maxwell

The month of December started just yesterday but I’ve already seen enough to know that it will be a music-heavy month.

I’m planning a gig or two at the moment and did a little rehearsal last night. Spent some time reviewing old songs I used to know (Tom Petty, John Prine, etc.) but also learning a few new (to me) songs. I tackled “Just What I Needed” by The Cars and “Surf Rider” by the Lively Ones.

Excited to keep learning new tunes. Hoping to notch these before the end of the month.

The Faces Stay With Me

Thin Lizzy boys are back in town

Led Zeppelin The Ocean

Van Morrison Domino

Thin Lizzy jailbreak

Cream White Room

Steppenwolf Magic Carpet Ride

The Hives Hate To Say I Told You So

Blur Song 2

REM What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

Mission to Burma Academy Fight Song

Learning Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good” on guitar

I got a little free time on Saturday morning and decided I wanted to spend some of it playing guitar. Lately, I’ve spent my guitar playing time alternating in genre between fingerstyle acoustic (a la John Fahey) and singer-songwriter stuff like Richard Thompson and Jim Croce. On this day though, I felt like learning something I could play with my Les Paul and eventually with a band. I suppose it kind of started as a joke, but I decided I wanted to learn, Chuck Mangione’s “Feels so Good.”

Chuck Mangione .Feels So Good [Show Tv] by capitainfunkk

And here’s the tab I’m using to learn to play it.

I got through the melody lead sheet a few times to the point where I wasn’t making mistakes but it wasn’t exactly effortless either. The tabs for the rhythm part were actually pretty annoying to the point where I just went looking for the actual lead sheet to read the chord changes that way. I figured, I could interpret the chord voicings quicker that way anyway.

I’m not quite there but I think I’ll be ready within a week. I’m looking forward to a jam session with my bass playing brother-in-law, who I think could really slay that disco beat.

Here they are in the key of G.

Chuck Mangione Feels So Good Chords

G – Em7 – Am7 – D

Bm7 – Em7 – Am7 – F#m5 (add7) – B7

Em7 – Fmaj9 – Em7 – Fmaj9


G – Fmaj9 – Em7 – Em/C

Am7 – Am7 Bm7 – Em/C – C#m6- Dsus4

G – Em7 – Am7 – D7

G – Em7 – Am7 – G/D – C/D

Rehearsal for Reunion

And now… for the moment no one’s been waiting for…

My cousin and good friend Don Shea and I got together tonight to rehearse some old songs. We’ve been in a few bands together but tonight we rehearsed the real crusty oldies from a band we started back in 2002 called the Pubic Hares.

As you can imagine, the subject matter was a bit blue and, being an acoustic rock duo in the early 2000s, we showcased a strong Tenacious D influence. Still, we had a vibe all our own and played shows and parties for the better part of 3 years. It only faded because we got a little tired of the infantile humor and we both joined a far more serious and somber band, Righteous Truth Pail (but that’s a blog for another day!).

Anyway, I don’t feel the need to give a full recap to the rehearsal but, suffice it to say, we sound eerily similar to the way we did then. For some, that might be really horrible news. In any event, we had some fun and may trot out the old setlist for an upcoming get together, along with a few new ones that not many people have heard. I’m particularly excited to hear what people think of my post-fatherhood song, “All Out.”