First off, this experience was huge. It just can't be compressed so nicely into one post. As my friend Bryan Beller said, "Touring is like nothing else." It's true. Living like a gypsy with a band of brothers. The kindness I was shown by complete strangers on the road was amazing. I was out for 13 days and traveled from Fredericksburg Virginia to Denver Colorado and back again. No plan other than knowing what venues I was playing at. I stayed in a hotel twice during the entire trip....and one of those hotel stays was only because weather delayed my arrival home. So many wonderful people took us in and showed us tremendous hospitality, often only on the good word of a friend.
First, for those who had an interest, here are promised videos of my LoDo webcast performances. There were folks who were gigging or had other obligations and wanted to see the show...so I taped my set.
The one great thing about a week of touring before LoDo...almost all of the kinks were worked out with the songs. I was completely relaxed for my first LoDo performance. Thank you for all who tuned in to the LoDo webcast. I believe I took the record for person furthest away who tuned in...New Zealand!
I kicked my set off with a mashup of the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby and one of my originals called Exploratory Flight. And yes, someone is screaming "Frompinator" as the video opens. If you can gauge the success of a weekend by how many nicknames you earn...well...I believe I took the prize there as well; Frompinator, Frompzilla, The Red Tornado, Frompinatrix, and of course, Lady Bass.
"History shows again and again how Brittany shows up bass playing men....Frompzilla." - Bill Clements.
Love you Bill. You are too kind.
The bass I am using is a hybrid...half fretless, half fretted. This one is a production bass...an Ibanez Ashula. Usually hybrids are custom ordered instruments...Ibanez actually did a limited production run of this bass. The pickups were customized by Watson Pickups. If you have one of these basses...do yourself a favor and get the mod done.
My last tune was a nod to the late Jeff Buckley. Jeff's interpretation of this song has always taken me to a better place. I tried to cop a warm, rich, but guitar-like feel on my bass. Here is my version of "Hallelujah".
For brevity's sake, a few of my fellow musicians have already blogged on the experience that was LoDo. Here are some of their blogs as I feel they have already summed up many things about the experience, perhaps better than I could.
Stew McKinsey posted this excellent blog. I'm cutting and pasting it here, for those folks who do not have Facebook. The original post is here;
I have always loved the song “Gratitude”. It’s visceral with that lush buzzsaw sounding bass tone. And it’s got that lyric:
‘When you’ve got so much to say, it’s called gratitude. And that’s right!’
This past weekend at Colorado’s Lodo Bass Bash, I was reminded of my embarrassment of riches. I was reacquainted with my own gratitude. It was somewhere between satori and shakabuku – not exactly a sudden moment of transcendent clarity, nor a swift spiritual kick to the head. Unexpected realization may be more accurate.
First, the players. Some I have known for some time and others were new to me, but the level of talent and the unanimous humility of the gathered artists was mind-boggling. The hang was so positive, supportive and inspiring. Everyone was jamming or joking or catching up or being introduced, but at the same time it was relaxed. Walking from one room to another, one was likely to leave a conversation about gear and walk into a philosophical discussion or catch some great storytelling. There was so much laughter and respect that I can’t even begin to convey. This is the sort of environment I count myself lucky to have enjoyed. And if that sentence doesn’t make Mom happy with my linguistic skills, ain’t nothin’ gonna!
I could write this entire piece as a collection of thank you’s , but there are some acknowledgement which must make the cut. To C3, not only for organizing and sponsoring the event, but for building a website, handling the emcee duties and commanding the stage for each of his performances. Above and beyond all of that, Chris provides the spirit of the event. His enthusiasm, talent and humor have forged a history of positivity, community and fun. The open-minded and welcoming atmosphere of the LoDo Bass Bash has not only drawn some of the most eclectic musical artists performing today, it has made every attendee feel honored and grateful to be a part of the concert series. Chris has actually made us feel like family.
I should point out that Chris’ involvement didn’t stop there. He has also been an instrument builder (APC Instruments) and made the acquaintance of numerous other builders. When he and Skip Fantry of Knuckle Guitar Works started talking they found that they both had the same issues with strings: neither had found anything to bring out what he’d wanted to hear out of extended range instruments. Over time, this colonel of an idea grew into Circle K Strings, which is currently amazing players all over the world. And Circle K helped to make this event possible.
Before I mention any of the performers, I want to acknowledge the above and beyond contributions of Dan Sawyer, Sarah Vlieger and Curt Collier. Dan not only provided accommodations to several of the crazies performing, he also prepared a welcoming feast for us the night before the concerts and provided transportation all day, every day of the Bash… AND he was our ever charming guardian of the merch table! Sarah ran a taxi service, provided moral support and humor, as well as capturing so much in photo and on video. Curt’s assistance and technical wizardry were matched only by his wit and camera skill. Thank you, all!
The first night was really just a chance to decompress from travel, reconnect with friends, get acquainted with new ones, relax and enjoy a sumptuous meal. While a few of us had arrived ahead of the horde, this was when most of us arrived. The laughter started almost immediately and it really only let up when people needed to sleep. That last part carried over the whole weekend.
On to the madness! The musicians and their music were so diverse and wonderful! In keeping with its own tradition, LoDo attracted players from far and wide, representing all manner of expression. C3 deferred to the roster of players and only delivered short powerhouse sets. His energy, passionate vocals, array of cool tones and balance of bombast with the ethereal set the bar for everyone else.
Adam Tanner’s humor, spontaneity and unpredictable approach were very much in evidence, but what I could not help but notice was the strides in his musicality. It is, I truly believe, impossible not to enjoy what Adam does, but each time I do it has more layers and more depth. The pun was unintentional. The man from Ottawa defies description and deserves to be enjoyed by an absurdly larger audience than he is now.
Kent Beatty is another returning performer, coming all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I vividly remember the first year he performed, a nervous and self-effacing young man who was completely exhausted from the travel to Colorado but whose talent shone through. This year when I saw him, he was calm and confident. His first set was lyrical and intimate. The second set, the following night, was a full on funk assault. Jaws were dropping left and right.
Brady Muckelroy has many distinctions in my mind. The fact that bass is the instrument he came to last speaks volumes about him. His approach has always been singular, blending seamless technique with rhythmic complexity and a melodicism I can only describe as smiling and welcoming. In addition to his musical prowess, Texas native Brady debuted his work as a luthier. Pulling from a background in performance and instrument repair, he offered his handcrafted 4, 5 and 6 string basses for inspection and investigation. For anyone considering something in boutique instruments, you owe it to yourself to check out what he’s doing. These are some of the finest instruments I have seen at their price point. They are responsive in extremis!
Brittany Frompovich traveled about ¾ of the way across America to deliver some of the most heartfelt music I have enjoyed. Moving between her 6 string fretted bass, to her 6 string fretted/fretless to her upright electric 5 – often in the same piece! – she delivered both as an instrumentalist and as a vocalist. Elegantly. Fans tuned in for her webcast from as far as New Zealand!
Bill Clements may be known because of his NAMM appearances and for an approach which developed out of a disability, but what people will come to learn about is someone whose playing embraces not only the sonority of the instrument and its history, but also everything that it can do. Bill demonstrated a marathon solo number the first night he played, interspersed with razor wit, and a duet with drummer Mike Reninger the second night which showcased dynamics, sensitivity and nearly symbiotic groove. It was the first time they played together and it was improvised. And it drew a standing ovation. Kalamazoo is lucky to have him!
Denver locals Jeff Andrews and Jeff Martinez were the back-to-back openers of the public performance, and they brought the ROCK! Mr. Andrews hit hard in a bass and drum duet, marrying airy textures with driving lines and one of the most badass bass tones it’s ever been my pleasure to enjoy. He called it ‘going crazy’. Mr. Martinez wowed the gathering with his lovely plectrum and effect inflected, instrumental compositions. What I have always liked about his songs is that it is impossible to separate the artist’s nature from what he or she does. Jeff is one of my favorite examples of this as you can feel the emotion in each note he plays. His recordings are lovely but it’s the live performances that show you the artist. Heart on his tattooed sleeve in the best way possible. And anyone who was in attendance Friday night may have had the singular opportunity of seeing his daughter Raven playing air bass, rocking just as hard as her dad, during C3’s set.
Eli Eisenberg and Aaron Gibson were absolutely new to me. And what discoveries! These two are solo performers in the truest sense. No assistance from technology in the sense of rhythmic or signal processing to augment what they did. Eli, who flew in from Toronto, delighted us with his instrumental renditions of original material, as well as his interpretations of pop, rock and jazz songs. Aaron had crossed the country to be there and show us a singer/songwriter whose vulnerable lyrics and what has been called ‘earworm’ singing are on a par with his mighty ability as a bassist and his completely unique sound on the instrument. I have got to admit that I find myself humming his melodies, flashing back to his exquisitely balanced vocal and instrumental phrasing, or marveling at how he moved a song along and eloquently punctuated lines on bass. His new album continues to bore into my brain.
Scott Fernandez really defies conventional description. He doesn’t eat solid foods. His fashion sense is mystical. While he could easily make a career being handsome, he chooses to play solo bass. And the way he does this is – and I understate – nothing short of incredible. He wrings an orchestra out of a 4 string and summons an ocean with his 12 and 18 string instruments. Yes, you read that correctly. And nothing I write here will come close to capturing what he does. He constantly tours, but if you are in the Nashville area, FIND HIM!!
Darren Michaels is not only a musician I admire, he is one of my favorite humans on this planet. As likely to floor me with his playing and singing, I know he will make me laugh like a kid on a sugar binge and engage me in some of the best conversations I’ve had. Whether he’s playing some of the sweetest two-handed tap, weaving absolutely infectious loops or playing in duet with someone else, what I love in his playing is what I love about his company: it is real dialogue and it is all infused with his love of life. Plus he travels all the way from Atlanta in The Blue Dream. Come on! How cool is THAT?!?
Edo Castro is known as a Bay Area jazz player, but I think of him as a master musician. A true virtuoso, he has flawless technique, deep knowledge of theory, and he can incorporate or elide technology from a tune so subtly you may not even notice. But it is his sensitivity and essential humanity that elevate him. These frame everything he plays, every note. His recorded music is lovely and he released a book this year of his compositions for small ensemble, so there is now a concrete window for those who want to peer into his music from the inside.
Add to that a set by legend Kim Stone who gave us a very humbling lesson in tone, phrasing and sheer power. It was so easy to see why he has had a career as both a solo artist and as a member of bands like Spyro Gyra and the Rippingtons.
To be honest I was flat out intimidated the first day when everyone was gathered to sound check and get a feel for the room. For the last years I have been consciously simplifying my music, paring it down to try and get to something that feels like the heart of it, that elusive emotional center. If anything I am a less technical player than I have ever been. Ironic, I suppose, that I’d chosen to bring the 10 string with me. So when these monsters started warming up and playing through amplifiers, I felt more than a little sheepish. This had been a concern of mine when I’d agreed to attend and I began to get nervous the more everyone did what they did. There was a point, though, where the power of great music performed by great musicians pulled me out of myself. There really was no other way to be than at ease. And I remembered what I had told every scared student I’ve taught: it is just about being true to oneself and enjoying playing. If one’s heart is in the music, it’s good. It ain’t easy to let go and trust oneself, but that’s what makes it real. The more I let the music saturate me and the more time I spent with these amazing people, the more I relaxed. After all, I knew I was scheduled to play. I didn’t have to be amazing, I just had to get through. Still, I demurred when there was an opportunity to hit the stage the first night.
On Saturday, I’d spent time with everyone enough that I was starting to feel a little more centered in my performer self. I figured I would do a solo piece and finish out a short set by playing a couple of duets with friends so that the time could be given to new players or those new to the scene. So of course that’s not what happened.
When I started playing, I was pulled completely out of myself. I honestly have no recollection of what I played. But it felt good to be playing music in front of people who were there for something different. They were energizing. More correctly, everyone in the audience just helped to crystallize everything I’d been reminded of in the company of friends who happened to be artists I respected. Suffice it to say (write) that having to play a second solo piece and getting the privilege of accompanying Darren Michaels and Edo Castro reminded me that there is an aspect of being a musician I had forgotten – performing. There is a powerful connection one really only makes during live music. When Edo invited me to play one of his originals during his set, I was insanely honored.
I still am.
As incredible as all this was, there really is more. The hang outside of the performances was more than just cool or fun. Being around independent thinkers who are creative, spending time with dear friends, making new friends, being accepted for the simple reason that we breathe and deserve respect, all while sharing the bond of being musicians (and fringe musicians at that!) made for an incredible few days. There was more than just laughter or camaraderie or great intellectual exchange. Emotionally and aesthetically, this was something very special. To be who we are and to do what we do means baring a great deal and taking a lot of chances, on many levels. It can be very lonely in many ways. Very difficult. Most of us are unusual personalities, to put it mildly. Sensitive and eccentric, and in some cases very solitary, we are all wrestling with demons and struggling in some way. But here was a place to feel safe and to belong. I have played a lot of places and been a part of a lot of different events. This is the one where everyone sees everyone else as more talented and more brilliant than him- or herself, yet everyone meets eye to eye. It is about friendship and support and encouragement. There is nothing like it anywhere.
While I had come into this with trepidation, I have come out inspired and reassured in who I am. In fact I have so many ideas about performing and recording and writing that I can barely contain myself. I am so lucky in so many ways. Blessed. I get to make music. People enjoy it. I count among my friends, great artists and wonderful souls who remind why we’re alive, who inspire me to be better and to be more.
I take this final moment to quote a very dear friend who gave me these words when I was in a very strange place and questioning myself a great deal:
‘You are created with a purpose and a specific set of gifts and talents to contribute to this world to brighten it and make a difference that only you can make.’
This is one of the must beautiful gifts I have been given.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
This brief note appeared from C3 on Facebook after he finished his duties as LoDo host;
"Well, the last of the crew has left ;( dropped Skip Fantry and Tere Quevedo off at the airport on my way to work. So now its me and the pups again…along with a house that looks like a bomb hit it. The last 5 days were more inspirational than any bass bash before. Having a bunch of new people like Eli Eisenberg, Scott Fernandez, Brittany Frompovich perform, and hanging with the old crew DarrenMichaels, Edo Castro, Stewart McKinsey, Brady Muckelroy, Adam M, Aaron Gibson, Bill Clements, Jeff ANdrews, Keant Beatty, and Jeff Andrews - and why Facebook wont let me tag more than 10 people in a post sucks..) ... But this event, this one was life changing. So much love, so many friends, so much talent, its always a bummer when it all comes to an end. I learned a lot over the last five days, and its not something you can just spew on Facebook, this is different, things are different, its just amazing that all these folks come to visit and play music with me... I am honored... so until I recover, get a few days of sleep, im signing off facebook for a few... but I will be back... and so will LoDo Bass Bash....
Love you all my friends... thanks again for being SUCH a big part of my life"
This note appeared from Kent Beatty;
The Summer 2013 Bass Tour was indescribable. So many good friends, old and new. Beautiful sights, beautiful people, and beautiful basses. I have mountains of pictures and videos, and so much to say that can't be put into words. Sometimes, a time in your life comes along that is both inspiring and healing to the soul in a way that only music and art can bring together. Thanks to everybody, those who put these events on, help shuttle people around, and awesome folks that get more awesome all the time, you know who you are! Great things are happening in the bass community. I am blessed to be a part of it.
I'll add more shortly.....