“Fictitious Dishes” by Dinah Fried – a must read

What a delectable dish of single page dosage of words and pictures about the food we read in novels.

‘Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals’

Check out the link: and be prepared to have snacks nearby, or not.  The book is a delight of the mind and senses.  If you don’t click the hyperlink above, try this:

“Just as reading great novels can transport you to another time and place, meals – good and bad ones alike – can conjure scenes very far away from the table,” writes graphic designer Dinah Fried in the introduction to her new book, Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals. In the book, just out from Harper Design, Fried recreates and photographs culinary moments from 50 well-known books, from Ramona Quimby’s inspired pairing of mashed potatoes and jelly in Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona to a grapefruit slashed to pieces with a hunting knife in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Meal_The Bell Jar_Fictitious Dishes


The Nightclub – Check One, Two…

This post was originally written as an audio blog for RightRound.com for whom I was a contribution writer in the “tips and tricks for musicians” section of the online magazine. So this new version of it is largely for those who are new to the gig scene and for some of you who have played out a while and who consistently notice that the sound is just never quite right.  Let me tell you a few things that can really throw the show sonically off-kilter and clear up some questions you might have.

If the club booker/manager/owner gives you a time to show up for “soundcheck” – be there completely on time (that means finding parking at least 5 minutes before) and I mean everyone – especially your DRUMMER who usually tends to show up late, has the most gear, and needs the most time to set up.  If one of your bandmates tends to run late, tell them the soundcheck is ½ hour earlier than you were told to arrive.  Practice setting up everything within a 15-minute timeframe.  If it takes you ½ hour-to-40 minutes to set-up and break down, you won’t be invited back no matter how much you rocked.  Therefore, plan on arriving a little early and FOCUS when you are setting up your gear.  In other words, you’ve got to hustle.  This isn’t like rehearsal night where you can stand around and slowly set up your cables, pedals, and drum hardware, and casually joke about your last night’s antics or the last episode of “Dexter” you watched.  Get it together and set it up and get yourself ready for a professional sound check!  This is where the club’s audio engineer sets up the sound the way you need to hear it through your monitors.  This is really important because you’re completely in the dark if this isn’t set up correctly at sound check.  Think of this as the final exam for the most important class you’ve ever taken and needed an “A” in every time you set up at soundcheck.  It may be ROCK, but it’s a serious business.  And the business of soundcheck is mostly for YOU and what you’ll hear of yourself during the show.

If you play guitar and you haven’t tried your amp nor pedals in a larger space other than the garage or the 9’ x 11’ rehearsal room, this is not the space to put your settings on “10” and “check it out” in the big club.  Because it’s NOT a big space and your front several rows of people (if you’re lucky enough to have that many) are having their ear canals reshaped from the feedback you’re getting from your guitar because the “gain” setting is on “10” and your master output level is on “2”.  {WRONG} There is a complete and delicate balance between your GAIN settings (the input on the amplifier that gets its signal from the output of your guitar–your pick ups, my friends) and it is the output of that amp via the speaker inside it that emanates your sound to the audience – MASTER VOLUME.  Sometimes the sound engineer may put a microphone in front of your amp to use to make you sound “blended” in the PA system.  In most small clubs where you are starting out, we all know that your guitar amp can kick ass above the house sound system.  Ok, cool.  Take a bow, we’re all applauding your power, man…great, loud as the Lord himself.  But, for Pete’s sake, get it out of your system in your practice space and please don’t do that live and in the real venue because you’ll send 99% of the people to the door for earplugs, thereby negating the sensitive moments that your singer is attempting to vocalize into the sound of your band.  And well, dynamic range is an interesting phenomenon…it is about the softest to the loudest part of a song and those are usually the bits that grab the audiences’ attention.  But, if your guitar player just sent the crowd running for earplugs, those quiet to loud parts are LOST on them.  In other words, Do NOT let your guitar player determine the decibel level of the entire PA system.  Not a good thing.  If this person doesn’t understand this, replace him/her with someone who does.  Dynamic Range – the soft to loud in any song is what makes it and what makes an outstanding band…well, more outstanding!

Make sure you tell the sound engineer everything that you intend to play during your set so that they properly set up all of the mics that you need BEFORE you start playing.  Being on stage and in the middle of your set and then remembering that you play a couple of accordion lines in the song is not the right time to tell the sound engineer and ask him or her to mic it.  Better yet, write up a stage plot that you take to your gigs.  You will look even more pro if you have one of these.  It can be a simple line drawing that states where all of your people stand, gear sits, and where you would like your stage monitors.  Some bands these days put the drummer up front and off to the right or left.  This is REALLY good for the engineer to know the minute you arrive.  If you hand them a stage plot, you’ve made a happy camper out of her/him immediately.

YOdiddly YO diddly Eh EE OH!  Yes, that’s typed yodeling.  It’s a shout out to all my vocalist brethren to stand front-and-center on the microphone.  Don’t be afraid of it.  It’s not a spider!  You must put your mouth as close to it as possible (if it’s a dynamic mic like an SM58 that 96% of all clubs in the entire world use for vocals) to get a good sound out of it.  It’s not like the mics we use in the studio that require you to stand further back. Definitely eat that microphone so that it picks up the most tone from your voice, the most loudness from your vocal cords and eliminates as much feedback as possible from that monitor in front of you.  At sound check, sing as loud as you intend to at the show.  A simple “check one, two” (yes, the mic works) is not enough.  Nine times out of ten, you’re going to sing way louder than your speaking voice.  Give it a good shout out and tell the engineer what you need in the monitor.  We’re not practiced in the art of mind-reading and we can’t hear your monitors with the house speakers in our ears.  So make sure you tell us what you need. If your guitar player is too loud and you can’t hear yourself, ask them politely to turn down.  Forcing the monitor to go louder and louder won’t help much.  Later, when you’re playing arena shows, this will be possible.  It’s just not possible in the small/medium-sized nightclubs.

So, if you’re a wee bit sickened by the idea of getting really close to a mic that’s been used countless times at the club and smells like beer and cigarettes, you’re not alone!  It is disgusting and you should, therefore, buy your own microphone and use it.  Always remember to bring it with you and bring it home.  Here’s an important [VERY important] tip.  Make sure that the sound engineer has MUTED your mic channel before you plug your mic in and before you unplug it. It’s not good to plug in ANY instrument to a live channel.  It makes the entire PA system go “THUNK” and that’s not good for it nor your microphone.  Put your mic in a mic bag and keep it covered.  Don’t throw it loose in your bag that may have other loose items come in contact with it.  It’s your instrument!  Treat it with care.

For those of you vocalists who really dig the sound of effects processors on your voice, make sure you buy a real vocal effects box or pedal and DO NOT attempt to sing through guitar pedals live.  It’s fine for your low budget recordings if you’re going for that garage sound.  But live, you’ve got all of that voltage and system gain and you have no idea how much of the affected signal your audience is hearing.  That’s why the sound engineer usually does that.  They are standing out in the house with the speakers facing them so that they can blend in the right amount of processing for you.  If you plug your mic into that pedal and that pedal goes into the PA system, you’re likely to sound like a sports announcer at the ballpark for your entire set…and especially when you’re talking to the crowd between songs while your guitar player tunes.  Get a good vocal processor (and they cost more) or leave it to the sound engineer.  (remember to turn OFF the effects between songs to talk.)

One last bit:  give props to the club before you leave the stage.  Thank the booker and remind people to tip the bartenders.  It’s a great way for the bar to remember to invite you back.  Then, get your gear off stage as quickly and orderly as you can.

Ok, great!  Set up/check/gig.  See you soon!

Bottom Of The Hill - nightclub in San Francisco, CA

Bottom Of The Hill – nightclub in San Francisco, CA