Sunday, August 2, 2009

L.A. Friends part 1

Or El Lay, as some of my friends who live there refer to it. I've always liked L.A., and I've already posted about there. I go out there several times a year to visit with friends and occasionally TCB (take care of business). Despite having been raised in Houston, a close approximation to L.A. (closer than Chicago or New York), I've always liked it.

Since I occasionally post about California issues and stories, I've been getting quite a few return Golden State readers. No accounting for taste, I always say, but I'm happy they're stopping by.

Many of my L.A. friends are musicians, and if ever there was a place to see a wide range of musical entertainment, it's L.A. Well, O.K. Vegas has a lot of varied musical acts as well, but it seems like there is less hassle and less expense seeing acts in L.A. than in Vegas.

Jazz and fresh rock and roll thrives in L.A. For example, on Monday evenings, my good friend John Z. headlines an all star jam session at The Baked Potato in Studio City. If you're a player, not only can you jam with some big name talented rock and jazz artists, but you see and hear great groupings doing some heavy musicating and you can meet tons of folks and find future gigs and recording sessions with some very happening musicians.

John grew up in Houston, and has since gone on to become a mainstay of the L.A. music community. He plays in side bands with his good friend Danny Carey, famed drummer of Tool. He does all kinds of recording and gigging with all sorts of configurations of folks. He teaches lessons. He may still do jingles and commercials, but I'm not sure about that.

Back in the eighties and early nineties, I had the opportunity to visit California and specifically L.A. on much more frequent trips. A lot of my artistically inclined friends moved to L.A. after high school or college.

Out of all of those friends, one has been out there for nearly 30 years, doing guitar session work on albums and teaching at some of the cool local music schools and colleges that dot the L.A. landscape. His name is Robert, and we had our first band together when we were in the 9th grade. Over the years, I'd catch up with him in L.A., or he'd be in Houston or Austin playing on someone's album or tour, and we'd get to spend some time together.

But about 7 years ago, we put our old high school band together to perform at one of our high school reunions. Well, almost the original band, we had to get Robert's brother to cover bass because our old bassist had given it up long ago. Although John (the singer and second guitarist) and I have been playing in bands all these years, we were not like Robert, and playing with successful artists live and in the studio.

The reunion gig went well, in fact, since we had a ringer with Robert on guitar, it went better than anyone expected, because we were only able to get together twice in the year and a half before the gig to rehearse. But we're mostly all in the same place as far as musical interests go, so being on the same page wasn't that hard. But it didn't hurt having an L.A. session great covering the lead guitar duties!

Robert is not gigging as much these days. Gigging gets hard on a body, particularly if that body is required to do things in the daytime hours. Most of Robert's work is during the day now, so he's actually available to go eat with or just hang around when I visit L.A. these days, as opposed to his younger days when my only hopes of seeing him were onstage at any number of L.A. area clubs.

One of Billy Ray's good friends, a stellar drummer named Wayne, just got a corporate gig with a major musical instrument manufacturer as a corporate representative, and he's based in L.A. Back in the earlier part of this decade, I used to go see Wayne's band when they'd come to Houston, and I was always amazed by his drumming. He's a guy with real drumming talent, not a hacker like me.

So I'm hoping to met up at least once with Wayne the next time I'm out in L.A. Wayne, as a part of his job, has to make occasional rounds to some of the clubs and shows that are going on around town, visiting with his companies artists. It's a cool way to go, hanging onto his coat tails, and usually that entails "guest list" entry (meaning no waiting in line) and often times free drink and food. Those in the industry are often comped a lot of stuff at these places when their companies artists are playing. So it's usually going to some of the really cool places and not having to spend a lot of cash, other than for taxies.

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