Next Tuesday I, with the help of the Chaos Band, am going to be putting on the fourth installment of "Adam's '70s Show" at the tiny westside Americana joint known as the Cinema Bar.
For those not in the loop, the idea is to bring together various people in the roots and pop communities in L.A. and invite them up with the band to sing a '70s song of their choice. They can pick any song they like, as long as it's not ridiculously complicated (e.g. ELP or Zappa), and provide us with an mp3 if we don't have it.
It took people a while to catch on the possibilities of this concept, but they've caught up now. We have something like 20 guests on tap for Tuesday, and most of them have been very -- um, creative about their song choices. Since the band has roughly four two-hour rehearsals to learn 17 or 18 new songs, some of them quite complicated, that along with the heat has created a pleasant little Chaos Band pressure cooker in our little garage, as we blast through these songs as fast we can, making sure we get to all of them before the time runs out. Together with retuning songs from other shows, my solo set, and Chaos-performed '70s covers, we figure there will be upwards of three dozen '70s songs performed.
As I posted on my Facebook page, one guest requested a Steely Dan tune that turned out to be quite simple. Another guest requested a Partridge Family tune that turned out to be ridiculously complex (and never mind those six-part harmonies). In terms of difficulty of the material, this is easily the most challenging '70s show yet, but the band is making a pretty fair first of pulling it all together. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you actually have to.
It always fascinates me the songs people pick out for this thing, stuff I would never think of. There's not a lot of country music chosen...the closest thing this time is a pretty fingerpicking singer-songwritery hit, where I get to further expand my newly developed fingerpicking skills (I learned for the first time at the Alex Chilton show). There's yet another Van Morrison tune, but no one's complaining about that. Shockingly, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones were requested for the very first time. But my favorite of all of the requests, for the second show in a row, came from Brian Whelan. Last time he picked out an obscure Fleetwood Mac tune, "I Know I'm Not Wrong." This time it was an absolute classic of Memphis soul. Every time we play the midsection of this song, everyone in the band smiles and starts to relax. I said to Evie, "every time we hit the bridge I remember why I started playing music" and she grinned, "yeah! Me too!"
I love the challenge of learning new material. It seems all I do these days is learn songs, but I don't mind. I play so much now that I surprise myself at what I can do (and sometimes what I can't...I had to woodshed for a day or so to be able to play one electric piano lick by that great prog rock pianist, Richard Carpenter), and what makes certain songs tick.
In the midst of all the '70s show activity, and me looking with some grimness at my dwindling bank balance, an unexpected though very cool opportunity has come up. Unfortunately, I won't be able to say what it is for about three weeks. But if it comes to pass, I think it will be a surprise to quite a few people.
In the meantime, don't miss Adam's '70s Show next Tuesday at the Cinema Bar....