Sunday, February 22, 2009

Little Feat at the Fitz (October 24th, 2008)

I wrote this a while back and didn't have enough interest in the finished product to find a home for it. So, I'm moving the file to this blog and off of my hard drive.

Little Feat at the Fitz (October 24th, 2008)

Back in my cover band musician days, Little Feat was one of the bands I most liked covering. Little Feat’s songs were rhythmic, infectious, melodic, and fun to play. If a musician had jam-band inclinations, the music suited that style. If you were more inclined toward quick and clean three-minute pop tunes, that worked, too. When guitarist-singer-songwriter Lowell George overdosed and died, I stopped paying attention to Little Feat, but after a brief period of unsuccessful solo careers, the remaining members returned to the band and have been touring and recording ever since (Bill Payne released a solo CD in 2005 and Little Feat’s last studio CD was Down Upon the Suwannee River in 2003). They aren't the same band and they haven't shown the level of innovation that George inspired since their prime time days, but they aren't bad.

The band consists of Paul Barrere: lead and backing vocals, guitar; Sam Clayton: percussion, backing vocals; Kenny Gradney: bass; Richie Hayward: drums, backing vocals; Shaun Murphy: lead and backing vocals, percussion; Bill Payne: keyboards, lead and backing vocals; Fred Tackett: guitar, mandolin, trumpet, backing vocals.

Paul Barrere still dredges up the same kind of vocal energy that made him famous in the golden years of Little Feat. Shaun Murphy is pretty good in her backup vocal capacity, but here Broadway-style lead singing excursions are a poor match to the limited talents of whoever was running the Fitzgerald's FOH mix. There were moments of “my mother-in-law's voice” often inspiring deeper penetration of my hearing protection. At least a couple of times, I hut myself trying to get the damn earplugs jammed deep enough to provide a sufficient audible shelter when Murphy's voice screeched over the top of the mix. Billy Payne was in limited voice that night. He could sing, but he didn't sound much like Billy Payne. Maybe that too was the fault of the FOH mix.

As best I can recall, the following tunes made up the set: Hate To Lose Your Lovin', One Clear Moment > Jam > Just Another Sunday, Down On The Farm > Candyman > Down On The Farm, Don't Ya Just Know It, Fat Man In The Bathtub > Get Up Stand Up > Fat Man In The Bathtub, Willin' > Don't Bogart That Joint > Willin', This Land Is Your Land, Spanish Moon, On Your Way Down, Let It Roll, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don't Fail Me Now.

As usual, the FOH mix was overbearing at the beginning of the show; possibly because the fill muzak was so loud that the engineer was hearing-damaged before the show started. We had great 1st balcony seats, but the mix was intolerable in that location. So, we shifted to the 2nd balcony where it was worse. Eventually, we filtered down to the lower level and took up seats that had been vacated by deaf people who rushed the stage in hopes of finishing off their already traumatized hearing capacity. There wasn't a good fidelity seat in the house, so moving only changed the spectrum of upper-midrange distortion and grossly over-used subwoofer-ness.

As usual, I don't know what the FOH goofball was going for, but it wasn't anything that resembled a musical representation of this once-great band's discography. The Fitzgerald offers a decent selection of beer and mixed drinks. I suspect that partaking in large quantities of alcohol would have enhanced my appreciation of the aural mess. It night was a disappointment, though. I've worked and spectated several musical events in the Fitz that were incredible. The venue wasn't at fault and anyone who has attended a Prairie Home Companion Show knows how good the room can sound, in any seat. It was a great opportunity for a band once known for quality and innovation to show off some of those traits. Instead, I was reminded that the past should usually be left for memories and that I should never leave home without my industrial strength earplugs.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.