Last night I had the opportunity to photograph Qbala, one of Fort Collins’ best rappers, and someone I’ve known since middle school. On Thursday she played her “farewell” show, as she’s gearing up for a move to Portland. In my involvement in the Northern Colorado music scene, few people work as hard towards their craft as Qbala does. It was definitely an honor to shoot such a great show that was packed to the gills.
This was also my first time shooting at Hodi’s Half Note, where the lighting proved to be a challenge. I went home last night afraid that most of my shots didn’t turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had an abundance to choose from. The other challenge with this show was navigating the packed audience. While I was able to move around quite a bit during the opening acts, I found myself firmly entrenched on the front of stage left. The left side of the stage enabled me to get close-up shots (as Qbala’s face wasn’t blocked by her mic) but prevented me from getting the full body shots due to all of the DJ equipment blocking my angle. Halfway through her set, I moved further back to get some crowd shots and finally managed to get to stage right. There I finally got my full-body perspective shots.
My only regret was not being able to capture close-up shots in the middle of the stage to capture some of the emotional interactions – but with as crowded as everything was, it just wasn’t an option. I’ve posted a few of my favorites below, but you can see the whole gallery on Flickr.
Congrats on an awesome show, Qbala! Wishing you all the best in your next adventure.
Last week I played a gig with a three-band bill on a small stage, so the conditions were ripe for the “backline sharing” suggestion. You may know my stance on backline sharing, but just to refresh: I absolutely hate it and avoid it at all costs. At the same time drummer get put into situations where you’ll look like a pretty big jerk if you don’t backline share. This typically comes when you don’t have a good staging area for gear, a tight stage, and finally a tight schedule that doesn’t allot much time for transition. Even with this all being the case, I wasn’t planning on backline sharing when a last-minute mix-up forced the issue.
What makes backline sharing awful are all of the unknowns associated with it. You don’t know what kind of setup each drummer has, what gear they’re planning on supplying on their own, the differences in quality and tone between kits, as well as how they set up and position all of the equipment. After setting up and tearing down my kit countless times, I’ve come to master the position of every element in my drum set. This is in large part enabled by having memory locks and various heights/lengths pre-set from your usage. All of that goes out the window when you backline share. Rather than focus on moving your kit on and off the stage, you’re stuck having to re-adjust everything that was there before, which is not often corrected until a few songs into your performance.
This leads me into how to suck at backline sharing:
Don’t over-adjust someone else’s kit just because you have some crazy posture. Look, I know we’re all not the same height and build. I know we all approach things differently, but do you seriously need to raise my throne 8 inches (as well as all of the subsequent drums and cymbals) to enable your technique? You’re not eight inches taller than me. If you know your approach is that different and will need to adjust every piece of equipment: don’t backline share.
I liken playing someone else’s drum set to driving someone else’s car: while you’re not familiar with all of the intricacies of the car, every car roughly drives the same and thus you should be able to get from point A to B without much resistance. You’re not going to win any races driving someone else’s car for the first time, but at that point, you need to adjust your expectations. This is the same with drum sets: you might not be able to do any crazy-ass solo on someone else’s kit, but for the most part you should be able to hold the pocket and drive a short set on without heavy drum adjustment.
Don’t treat the drumset owner like your drum tech. Granted, there are parts in drum setup and teardown where you want to be personally responsible (basically any point that something could break, or you’ve got a mental checklist that ensures you’re not forgetting anything), but if the drummer has cases then the least you should do is help load in and load out. I didn’t let you play my drum set just so that you can have a night off from schlepping gear.
But most importantly…
Treat their gear with respect!
I mean come on.
Look, I know drum heads are meant to wear out and be changed. I know that they’re relatively not expensive (although $12-15 per head still isn’t chump change). I know there are drummers go through heads in 1-2 weeks – but that’s not me, AND IT’S MY DRUM SET. Others may disagree with me, but over 25 years of drumming has taught me that you can get a great, loud sound out of your drums without pounding the shit out of it. If you are that drummer, then how the hell do you not notice this after playing on someone else’s kit?? If there was an apology and an offer to help replace the head, I probably would have even let this slide, but now you’ve left me in an uncomfortable position of being a collection agent.
Moral of the story: don’t backline share, but if you do, don’t be a jerk about it.
Over this Christmas we took the plunge into the smart home craze. This started with the purchase of a Google Home, which I bought as soon as it was available. We ended up loving it so much that we bought a second one during a Black Friday sale. We then ventured into getting a smart thermostat, a smart door bell, smart switches and smart lights. About a month into everything I’m mostly satisfied with our purchases, although I would say that few have crossed the line of “luxury” into “necessity”.
There’s still a lot more we can do to smarten up our home, but here are the products I got to dip my toe into the water (in the order they were purchased):
Google Chromecast (+ Chromecast Audio)
Belkin WeMo Switches
Lowes Iris Switch
Ring Video Doorbell
Philips Hue Lights
Google Chromecast (+ Chromecast Audio)
We actually began the journey with the Google Chromecast audio last spring, when we bought a device to put into our kitchen. We love having music on while we’re cooking, which was previously powered by bookshelf speakers I mounted on the wall, then ran off the desktop computer through speaker-wire running through holes I drilled into the adjacent office. When the office was transformed into Clara’s room, we needed a replacement for the desktop and found Chromecast to be a great solution.
The Chromecast audios, combined with a set of speakers and a digital amplifier similar to this one, makes a good poor-man’s version of the Sonos. We ended up buying a second Chromecast Audio and have it running from another amplifier to outdoor speakers on our back patio. The beauty of the Chromecast is that you can push audio from most major services/apps (like Spotify, Pandora, podcast players) and create zones inside your house that synchronizes that audio. This has been awesome for parties we host, or those summer nights when you’re cooking outside and in the kitchen.
Enter the Google Home. I was intrigued by the Amazon Echo and had multiple family members who raved about the device, but I held off getting one because it didn’t have the one killer feature I wanted – the ability to play music to the Chromecast. After going to the trouble we did to find the Chromecast Audio, I didn’t want to have to choose between decent speakers and not-so-good speakers coming from the Echo. We bought the Google home as soon as it came out almost on the sole basis of the ability to direct audio to Chromecast. It’s great to be able to tell google to “Play (my playlist) in the kitchen” and watch it go to work. I think Alexa is still an excellent product, but I’m wiling to bet on Google’s AI and ability to interpret voice, as well as it’s openness in having an API that can integrate with technologies. So far that is starting to pay off, with Google now working with WeMo, Philips Hue, but most importantly, IFTT (If This, Then That) enables us to use voice commands to control the devices around the house (as well as customize Google’s responses).
Home is really handy for setting timers (which we use frequently with parenting), add items to our shopping list (it’s great when you’re cooking and can simply call out the ingredients), as well as answer random questions throughout the day. We ended up getting a second Google and put one in the kitchen with the other on our bedroom. I think most people could get by with one, but it has been handy to have the other one to provide news in the morning and play music during bath-time.
I still have a lot of wish-list items for Google Home, however. It really can only be associated with one account, which doesn’t make much sense for a family device. We’ve tried to get around this by setting up a family account and porting data from both of our accounts, but it still has a lot of kinks. Google still doesn’t support reminders/tasks or random notes. The Chromecast control for Spotify is pretty decent, but the Video Chromecast leaves a lot to be desired. I would be over the moon if somehow Plex could get integrated with the Chromecast voice commands.
Belkin WeMo Switches
I bought a single WeMo switch the last time it went on sale and use it to control our living room lamps. The switch was really easy to set up, and with Google Home integration it does it’s job really well. It was easy to set up and does support setting schedules (which we do when we’re out of town).
The only problem with the WeMo switch is that I don’t have many other appliciances or devices that would be handy. Lamps make a lot of sense since they can remain in an “on” state and allow the switch to control the flow of power, but most other devices are too smart to just remain on all the time. Ideally I would love to have a WeMo that would control the TV setup so we can have it randomly turn on while we’re on vacation. I know there are a lot of other WeMo devices that may support this, but it’s not a big priority.
Lowes Iris Switch
When we bought our Christmas tree Lowe’s had a promotion that made the switch really cheap. It works a lot like the WeMo switch, but has a lot less features. It doens’t integrate with Google Home or IFTT, so it’s really just been relagated to running a kitchen lamp on a schedule. All things being equal, I would pay extra for the WeMo switch.
Next to the Google Home, this is probably the most useful smart device we’ve bought. While you can make your thermostat efficient by programming a comprehensive schedule, the functionality with a wifi enabled thermostats really makes it easy to manage and monitor your HVAC. In our home we only have one zone, with the Theo state located in the living room. The furnace sits below our bedroom, with the girls bedrooms on the opposite end of the house. Often during cold nights the girls rooms would often be the coldest, with us being forced to crank up the heat in our room for most of the night.
I was really nervous about the installation, but it really couldn’t have gone easier (even with installing the little power adapter on the furnace). The accompanying app has very detailed videos that walked me through the installation.
What puts the Ecobee over the Nest is its ability to have remote sensors being placed throughout the house (we put one in Mariana’s room, the coldest room in the house). The Ecobee uses those sensors to build an average (or you can configure it to make the sensor the primary temperature gage) and equate that to the heat threshold. The end result has been that our room isn’t as hot and the heat has been more consistent throughout the house. Our home energy report claims that we are extremely efficient, but it’s hard to tell how much money we have saved just yet. The Ecobee lets you control everything remotely as well through your phone. In terms of band-for the-buck, this has been the best device.
Ring Video Doorbell
This device was one of my Christmas presents. Having recently become a teleworker, my home office is deep with the bowels of the basement, where the doorbell isn’t always heard (and I’m often on calls). In addition to ringing the normal doorbell, the Ring sends notifications to the phones, tablets, and even my computer through the app. You can then choose whether you want to view a live video feed and even talk to someone through the doorbell. The Ring also has a motion sensor that lets you set the detection range, and will even capture video when the sensors are tripped (as well as sending you a notication). The Ring installation was also relatively easy, and we were able to hardware it with ease.
The only major gripe I have about the Ring is that it’s an extremely technological replacement for a very simple and archaic appliance (your doorbell). With houses not being wired to send much power to the doorbell, the Ring is limited in how much power it can use to charge. During our deep cold spell this winter, the Ring’s lithium battery wasn’t able to keep the charge and ended up requiring me to take the doorbell off and charge it in the house – so you need to be careful how often you use the “video” features, especially during cold spells.
Luckily we don’t have too many people coming to our door, so I often forget about the Ring, but it has been really handy for giving piece of mind. I would say that it’s probably the most frivolous device. I’m glad I got it as a gift because I’m not sure if I could mentally justify purchasing it.
Philips Hue Lights
We bought two Hue light bulbs and placed them in our living room ceiling lights. We’re pretty happy with having them up there, being able to set different colors and levels of brightness through the app on our phone (as well as Google Home integration). If you’re looking for a really vibrant way to feel like you’re in the future, having Hue Lights will accomplish that.
On the flip side, the lights aren’t the most practical purchase you can make. While it is convenient to tell Google Home to turn on the lights when you walk in the door, I’m not sure if it saves much more time than the light switch (especially when you’re telling Google Home for the second or third time). The cost can quickly add up, and really only pay off if you’re able to outfit all the lights in the room (which made the living room the easiest barrier to entry). Eventually I would like to buy some lights for the outdoors (and be able to change them colors at different times throughout the year, but again it’s hard to justify the cost. It’ll be quite a while before we outfit our 10 movie room lights downstairs. One thing that’s important to note is that you HAVE to buy a hub for the lights to work, so you’ll be dropping $50 before you even get any lights. I would suggest that you pay the extra to have the colored lights, the white-only lights can only do so many tricks.
While it has been a lot of fun having all these gadgets and tricks in our home, I think we’re a long way off from having a completely Smart Home. I also don’t think people who can’t afford to shell out for these devices should be afraid of missing out. If I were to recommend one device, I would suggest getting the Ecobee – especially if you have tempterature consistency issues in your house. If you’re looking for a device that makes you feel like you’re in the future, get the Google Home.
What about you? Have you outfitted your house with any smart devices? I’d love to hear your story!
My heart is a bit heavy tonight, saying goodbye to someone who shared fond memories a long time ago. Sad that we lost touch for a long time, briefly reconnected, but now will have to wait a lifetime before we can reminisce together again. It’s funny how after you lose touch with someone, they are frozen in your mind and never seem to age. It’s sad how the same thing happens when they leave this world, but you struggle with the reality: all you now have are those memories of them.
It’s been a crazy-busy January. I’ve been cooking a few different blog topics in my head, but time has gotten the better of me this month. However, I’m really excited to announce that my band, Amy and the Peace Pipes, has released a new single, “Burning Bridges”. Go check it out!
I know many of us are now using streaming services (and why not), but if you’d like to download your own copy, we’re giving it away for free to our Peace Pipers mailing list subscribers, just join up and you’ll get the download link! Even if you don’t download music, you should join up anyway. In the age of prevalent social media, it’s become increasingly difficult for bands to reach their audience across all of the noise (especially when Facebook wants to force people into buying ads to reach all of the people who liked their page). The mailing list is really the one true place where everyone who is interested in us has an opportunity to receive our updates – whether they open the emails or get too many emails to open them is another story, but at least I know that our updates were at least delivered.
Thanks so much to everyone for supporting me and my band. When I stop and think about it, it’s really incredible to think that we can put stuff onto iTunes and Spotify and make it available for the world to hear.