Saturday, 18 May 2013

First live gig on Steetjelly

StreeJelly - Online Busking

I've become a big fan of this site. The name comes from buskers jamming on the street, so the word jam became jelly, which it is in the States, and the idea of streetjelly was born about nine months ago.

I only found it about a month ago, but ever since I've become a frequent returner, at least everyday I check out who's playing live in my living room, from theirs.

You can buy tokens via paypal to tip the artists as they perform and chat, in a chat box with fun smilies to show your appreciation for the artist. The artist then gets paid, which is a great idea.

So for a couple of weeks I got involved in the chat window and got familiar with the regulars. I must say that at the moment there seems to be a small band of people that are there for most artists. Although they have about about 500 artists signed up, or who have joined there only ever seems to be at the most three people playing at the times that I tune in. Now this may be because I'm in the UK and the site is hosted in America so the time difference means that prime time will be about 3am over here, so I'm not sure how many streams are running in the middle of the night.

So eventually I decided to schedule a slot for myself last Friday at 10pm, but a couple of days before I did an impromptu session, at about 11pm, after watching one of my "friends" from G+ songwriters hangouts and playing along at home. He of course couldn't hear me. I had all my gear set up and logged in, hit broadcast and did about 10 minutes. In that ten minutes I had an audience of about six people and earned myself 13 tokens, which amounted to about $2.50. I was pleasantly surprised by this response, and looked forward to my scheduled slot on Friday.

So Friday at 9.55pm, I fired up my gear ready to broadcast, and nothing worked even though twenty minutes earlier it was working fine. PANIC! But it was quickly resolved when I found a button on the mixer that shouldn't have been pressed, I click it off and press BROADCAST. It shows me on the screen, but somethings wrong with the chat window, it all freezes up. Jackie is watching in the next room and with a bit of refreshing I am finally on line and its working. Don't you just love live broadcasting.

I the end I do about an hour and get lots of tips and nice comments in the chat window. This online gigging is quite fun, not at all like a live gig, and quite different to the Google plus hang outs, but although I can't talk to people direct it'smore fun than the songwriters thing that I've done on G+

When I check my account I've already made over seven dollars, I've got to get to fifty before I get paid so I've scheduled another show for Sunday at  10pm UK time. Come and tune in, you don't have to be a member you can just go to the site and listen. If yo sign up you can buy tokens and tip me, and make comments and post smilies. It's all a bit crazy and weird but believe me its fun.

Come and meet slam2012, Imageandfamily, Quint, Frankie and a host of others, and be sure to tune in to Damian, my favourite artist of the moment with his bluegrass country syle.

I know that doing live gigs in front of a live audiences is where it's been at for me for all my playing career, and that this idea of performing over the net is weird. But let me say that in the end it;s no different. Close your eyes and connect, there is an audience that is engaged, hanging on to your performance, going with you. Thats often more than be said for playing down the pub where most of the audience is engaged in their own conversations and will sometimes applause, but mostly will have missed the song, and applaud out of politeness, if they applaud at all.

Here on streetjelly they are here to engage, to listen, and to support you. I'm a big fan and I hope you will become a big fan also.
This is real, as real as any little local pub or club. Ok it's new, its different but give it some of your time and I'm sure you will agree that streetjelly is another way for us all to enjoy live music, and in the end live trumps recorded anyday.
Please come and join this fantastic future for musicians and songwriters around the world

Monday, 6 May 2013

Featured artist in Fraught land

So here we are just a few weeks into this get-together stuff on google plus and I'm booked to be the featured artist for the night on Sunday the 5th May. Time to get all my gear together and make sure I make a good impression. I order a new pickup for my acoustic as the old ones just decided, at this crucial hour to break down on me. That arrives by Thursday and works like a dream so I'm pretty confident I can get a good sound with my new mini mixer and graphic it's all going to be so easy, now I know the ropes. I also want to up the anti on this show and so I ask Ewan, the guitar player from my band if he would like to do the show with me.Now I know Ewan and equipment can prove to be a loose cannon, but I'm prepared to take a chance that together we can put on a good show.

So come Saturday, a full 36 hours before The show I get all my equipment, well when I say all I mean my mini mixer graphic and tasty mic set up in our back room at home and start to do some tests to iron out any bugs there may be. With a we bit of tinkering I manage to record some video and audio to the app in my laptop. Sounds good looks good, great start and I'm at least 24 hours ahead of the game

I try doing a dry run with Street jelly where I can check my feed offline without committing to a broadcast, and with a bit of fiddling I also get that sounding fine. Next thing will be to try a test Hangout with Jackies laptop in the front room and me in the back room. We can do this a bit like a skype call just me and her with no on air stuff. We pop open a bottle of wine and try it out. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to work at all well. Turns out I'm coming over very distorted and no amount of fiddling with input and output levels seems to cure it. We decide to try a live broadcast, where we just invite each other to this test to see if that makes any difference, it doesn't, and we're both getting a bit tipsy and frustrated that we can't get rid of the problem. Must be something to do with the new gear, or maybe my laptops running slow. It's pretty new, well very new, but maybe it's got a setting ticked somewhere that at the wrong end of a bottle of wine we can't find and resolve to work on it tomorrow morning, the day of the show.

Sunday morning comes and we decide to have a clean up of my laptop to speed things up and get rid of programmes that we don't need. That will speed up my 'pooter and cure the problem. The other thing that we decide is that perhaps using the one modem to send and receive a hangout on air in our house from the front room to the back room via silicon valley in the States could also be an issue here.

So once the clean up is complete Jackie goes off to her office at Ford Park where I'll do this invite thing on a private call to see that it is all working fine, it's about 1pm. She calls to say she's ready and I try to open up the get-together app to connect with her but the whole thing freezes part way through the startup screen. No matter how I try it's not working. Guess what we deleted lots of files and cookies that must have affected the bloody google plus programme. DISASTER!!!!!!!!!!!!, Jackie abandons the remote modem station and comes back home. The only course of action open to us is to try to do a restore on my laptop. This takes about 45mins, but at the end of watching a silent screen all this time it brings up a message that says it can't do a restore because you have anti virus software enabled. Disable your anti virus and try again. WHAT!!!WHY ON EARTH DIDN'T IT WARN US TO TURN OFF ANTI VIRUS BEFORE STARTING TO DO A RESTORE. At this point Ewan calls to ask what time I want him to come around to get ready for the hangout, I calmly tell him we're experiencing a few technical issues and will get back to him.

We sit watching paint dry whilst the machine goes into restore mode, now we've turned off the Norton stuff. Another hour goes by, and the prospect of a good outcome to all this is starting to fade. But at last the machine restarts and when I try to start a hagout all the right boxes open up and things are starting to look decidedly rosey. Jackie gets in the car and drives to the office, turns on her pc and accepts my invitation. BINGO, it works. OK now to check to sound over this Ulverston -Silicon Valley_ Ulverston link. LO and bloody Behold it's coming through loud and clear. Thank god for that, OK so looks like that's the issue, you can't send and receive on the same modem without distortion, not on the voice, but definitely on the guitar.
So after a fraught night and day we think we have it sorted, I call Ewan, and go and collect him and his gear.

It's 4.30pm now and three hours away from blast off, enough time to plug in a mess of wires, go through some more tests to the pc, rehearse a bit, have some dinner and wait for the invite from Johnathan in the States at 7.30pm.

We connect, do a sound check that we get the OK on. It sounds good at his end, so all the grief of the last 24hours melts away and the show looks like it's going to be a good one. What is a surprise is that we've got Christina Cerle doing a spot tonight, who's one of my favorite artists that I've seen on these shows, so that's a plus, and also we've got Doug Jackson who I also have a lot of time for.

Now almost a veteran of these get-togethers, I'm easy with all the artists, I feel like I know them, they're familiar to me and me to them. It's a very lively and entertaining couple of hours. Me and Ewan do a good show with no real problems playing to, as it turns out 21 people in the audience. Now they say there's 500 million people on the web, and tonight we got 21, but hey it was a lot of fun.

I'm not sure where this is all going, maybe I'll eventually try running my own get-together with UK songwriters. Maybe, but there you go from nervous novice to seasoned featured artist, albeit via a wrestling match with the techy side of doing this, I'm up for doing more and with the new Beat combo album about to be put in the can maybe we can connect with a bigger audience than our local world, and connect with the whole world, well all 21 of them.

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Hairy beast in the hangout

So the continuing story of my adventures in get-together land, or as they call them on Google plus Hangouts on air. 
Last night I found myself being invited to do a late show, well it was late here in the UK, 11pm to be precise. Over in the US of A it was 3pm on the west coast which is where the host was for this particular outing. Well I wasn't too sure whether I would do this one as I was at the wrong end of a bottle of wine by the time we were due on air. On top of that looking at the line up it looked very thin, in fact there's was only me in the list and the artist who was going to be doing the featured slot. That was earlier in the evening though, and I supposed that come the time to go there would be more of us. I was wrong.
The invite dropped into my inbox at about 10-30pm, time for a soundcheck. I click the link, and when the screen opens up I'm seeing a hairy beast thats half Gorilla and half wolf. It's not a real hairy beast but one of those silly overlays that follows your face.
Our host Jefferey has decided that the show needs more "entertainment" and seeing as he's bought himself a new webcam with effects built in he's going to use this big bear face to conduct the show. From then on in it's going to go downhill. There's just me in the chat window and him with his new found avatar face that's a bit distracting, and not exactly conducive to presenting heartfelt songs. 
Never-the-less we go through the sound check, me with my new fangled mini mixer, hoping it's going to come out sounding sweet on the other side of the world, playing to a hairy beast, and a transparency of some  suspension bridge by night. God knows how that fitted in, buy hey I'm a wee bit tipsy so what do I care.
No-one else shows up by the time we're due to go live. "Do you want me to start, or do you wanna go on straight away Colin" says Jeff.
I opt for the first spot, mainly to get it out of the way as the wine is starting to kick in. I start off with one called Honeypot hero, a jaunty tale about a fella that died too young. Jeff likes to mask the people in the get-together so I'm playing to a ghostly white screen, but there's only Jeff there in his daft hair beast mask so I figure thats for the best. 
I haven't done this tune for ages, and what with the wine and no lyric prompt, I stumble on the second verse, although being the pro I am I get away with it. Nobody notices cause there's actually no-one there, except the hairy one of course. I finish to a deafening silence, no applause, just Jeff saying a delayed well thank you Colin, have you got another. I do a song called Pepperpot, which if you come from Ulverston you'd get, but I'm not sure it's a west coast hit, but hey, I'm doing my thing for England.
By the end of the song, lo and behold someone else has popped into the film strip of the hangout, another songwriter. That song also meets with silence as they've both got their mics muted. Oh well this is not exactly setting the airwaves on fire, and Jeff wants to go over to our new recruit for a tune, and asks if thats Ok by me. Sure says I. But now we have technical difficulties as he's not ready. Jeff says he'll do a song, but Jeff has got a dreadful sound on his guitar, or was it my bad ears, been having trouble with them this week, bit bunged up in the eustation tube dept, so maybe it was me.
The after his song it  all starts to fall apart tech wise. We can't here the other guy, he can't hear us, Jeff      clicks buttons and links, and the whole show grinds to a halt. Jeff says he's going to abandon ship close down and come back in. The screen goes blank. .........................
I decide I've had enough and bed is calling to me, almost half eleven and this get-together has not got together at all. Nobody came, shame, the format seems to have run out of steam just when I was starting to feel comfortable with it.
Perhaps it's to do with the time it happens for the States, maybe there was other stuff happening, that attracted the better artists to play elsewhere. Who knows. 
Next week I'm the featured artist on with Johnathan next Sunday, maybe that will be better. I just hope it's not a repeat of this week. To work it needs a full house in the chat window at least. You need an audience, although it won't be the first time I've played to an empty venue and I don't suppose it will be the last.
Perhaps the format is wrong, I've discovered The Pirates Pub which has a much better atmosphere, much more jolly, as pirates are. The songwriters showcase is a brilliant concept but it's going to need more pazzaz to  attract a wider audience, but I'm afraid that the hairy beast is not the way to go, sorry Jeffery. 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Playing on

StreeJelly - Online Busking

The above is the logo for a buskers online live music website that I found courtesy of one of my G+ music friends called Cecilee Linke. I had a look at it last week and thought I would give it a try.

All you need is a webcam and a mic, sign up to streetjelly and broadcast to the world. Anybody can drop in and watch and if they like what they here they can tip the artist with tokens bought via paypal, so just like busking on the street, but you can do it from your living room.

So tonight I gave it a try, I'd scheduled myself to play at 5.30pm, you can do that by entering a time into their calender of up and coming performers.

Now I've done these hangouts where there's someone to soundcheck you before you begin the show but this is the first time I've tried to do this on streetjelly and there's no-one here just me and a few prompts on the screen.

I'm a bit short of time to get set up for my five thirty start but I'm sure it'll be fine. I plug in a couple of mics into my big mixer and run it through my soundblaster soundcard which has worked fine for my hangout gigs. Although I've just recently bought a mini mixer for doing these sort of things I decide to go with what I know.  Then as I'm setting up with 15mins to go I find I can't get the headphones working, thats the first thing that goes wrong. I find a fix for that problem and get the mic on the guitar and the vocal working and check it with a trial run on my internal Samsung software. It all seems to work fine.

I've got five minutes to my allotted time slot and I fire up street jelly into pre broadcast mode. There's a prompt that says I can do a test to see what my viewers will hear, I hit the test button and another screen opens up that is about ten seconds behind the one that I see. I don't know if it plays automatically and fumble to get some other cans plugged into my laptop to check out the viewers feed, and they get caught under the wheels of my office chair, 3 mins to go. I can't make any sense of this feed and I need to get myself a drink of water, and a cigarette before I have to start broadcasting. I can't find my baccy, so resign myself to going live without a smoke, but at least I have my water and I hit the START BROADCAST button.

This is it, I'm on and I say hello and play my first tune to what appears to be no-one. I do tune number two and there's action in the chat window. Someone called Frankie tells me that I am   very distorted and very quiet. Sounds fine in my cans, but out there in cyberland it's awful. I push faders up and down but the   feedback is the same, it's still very distorted.

I get advice on fixing the problem via the chat window that confuses me, right click on my video feed, go to settings, change this and that, oooooooooooohhhhhh shit. I decide to close down and come back with just my laptop mic and webcam.

That works, they can hear me loud and clear now  so I do the show on gear lite, which is now fine at their end. From my point of view its a disaster sound wise    but I carry on and do about half an hour playing to two listeners. Mind you they are very nice to me and I get to the end of my set a bit shell shocked... Bye Bye everybody.

So lesson learned, prepare and prepare, do the sound check, and make sure its going to work before hitting the start button. Have your set mapped out like it was a gig, give yourself lots of time to make sure you get it right. This new technology is very scary and a  bit temperamental and it's so easy to mess up.

Playing to no-body except a chat room is anther learning curve, in a lot of ways I failed tonight on mostly tech levels but its only a small failure. Next time I will make sure I have enough time to prepare and have my set list and my sound sorted before I go live. That means working stuff out a couple of hours before and not a couple of minutes before.

It's scary and its a learning curve, pick myself up dust myself down and start all over again.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

I'm going to call them get togethers

So after last nights disaster with deleting my blog post just after I'd spent a couple of hours writing it, I'll have another go.

Three or four weeks ago I decided to try my hand at these hangouts on air and joined the open mic songwriters showcase shows. So this is the story so far.

Last Sunday, they ran an earlier version to try and connect with musicians in the Uk and Europe and I was down for the 7.45pm slot. I decided to do this one from my studio in Ford Park. The studio is based in an old, very large mansion house, that is no longer a house where people live. In the week it has various users who hire rooms and offices. At the weekend it is quite often empty, especially in the evenings, and as this was Sunday evening it was as quiet as the grave, except for me and my hangout friends on my laptop.

So here I am in an empty house, in the control room of the studio sitting watching the first couple of artists and then it's my turn. I'm the only guy who's shown up from the UK, all the other performers are in the States or Canada.
Just prior to me doing my thing I felt nervous, like I would at a gig. With a band it's not as bad, but doing solo gigs always brings on that tension. To get that same feeling sitting by yourself in an empty house, about to perform to a webcam and five or six faces in a film strip at the bottom of the screen. Like playing to miniature pixies.
I get my introduction from the host, Jonathan Blackshire and I tread carefully into the opening chords of King Canute. At the end of the song there's a ripple of applause from out there in hangout land, from the others watching and waiting to play.

Now here's the weird thing, suddenly this feels just like a live gig, where you can feel the energy from the audience feeding into your performance. But this is me playing to a laptop in a room all on my own, so how does that work. Maybe that "vibe" is not just in the room were in. Often you can only see the first couple of rows of people anyway and the rest are invisible and just felt.
Well in a way thats how it was doing the gig on this internet "get-together", I prefer that to the google name of  hangouts, but I digress.

In a lot of ways it's more like doing a recording session, with just you and the engineer. In that case you perform for the engineer/ producer, so thats how I see it. But there is a difference, and that is the size of the audience that may be watching. Beyond those few people in the film strip there could be thousands, or at least twenty.
So Hangouts on air, that are flagged up in advance, like a gig, become something else, not a live gig and not a recording session. This is a completely new way of interacting between the performers and their audience. From the artists point of view, well mine anyway, I still was nervous before I began, but as soon as the first few bars had been played I was Ok, just like doing a regular live gig. The vibe from the audience could be felt, across the madness that is the internet with it's masses of wires, and satalites and things plugged in, and out at the other end. It's a miracle the whole thing works this good, it passeth beyond all understanding.

And it was fun like live gigs are fun.

I know people are going to be resistant to pick up on this and give it a go. I've met a lot of blank stares when I mention HOA, understandably, I suppose, but when I explain it, they seem to dismiss it as a weird thing to do. They're still stuck with live is best, and I agree, perhaps it is. But recording music in a studio is a bit odd, you have to do quite a lot of it to get the best results, it's a craft and it takes time. HOAs are to me very new, and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the next couple of years.

I'd like to do one with the beat combo, I don't know if you could do a band, although we're sort of acoustic so it might work. But that will come, bands doing live hangouts, I can see it not too far off. In fact I'm sure some are doing it already.

On May 5th I've got myself booked as a featured artist on the songwriters showcase, that's a bit of a step up but I'm really looking forward to it, see you there everybody, Ill send you an invite.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Adventures in Hangout land

I just spent a couple of hours writing a really good piece on my hangout experience and due to probably too much wine I deleted it. So I don't think I've got the heart to do it all again.

Just to say that I am enjoying this new adventure.

Friday, 5 April 2013

hanging out on google plus

Thought it's time to restart this blog about me as a musician. It's been a long long time since the last entry, and anyway that was the past and I back to talk about the future, well my future in music in 2013.

This will be about my adventures in Hangout land. In hangout land we all sit alone in our little musical dens and play tunes to one another, and the other 26 that may be watching and listening.

After you get past the technical stuff that you've got to get your head around, it can be fun, if a bit nerve wracking the first time you get involved.
I've done a couple so far, one in the studio and one at home, and I've got my third one booked for Sunday. And on top of that they want me to do a feature slot, thats where you get half an hour, on May 5th.

So this will be my journey through this new medium of performance, in computer land, watch this space.

I just had an idea, may be a bit ambitious but how about doing the feature show with the beat combo. It could be done. Be a technical nightmare of course, maybe have to try it out first.

All this will be done on G+ my latest passion