( Jun. 3rd, 2009 07:31 pm)
Well, as I said earlier, Vegas was great, but I was ready to come home by Monday. :) It was complete sensory-overload for me. However, I had a great time both singing with the fellas and hanging out with some of them on the two evenings we spent there.

We arrived Saturday at around noon Vegas time. Jay arranged to have us picked up in Limos and taken to our hotel- The Mirage. This is one of the best known hotels in Vegas and in the same general area as Caesar's Palace, the Bellagio and so on. The hotel was ENORMOUS... most in Vegas are. Each hotel has it's own casino, of course, and also numerous restaurants, delis, bars, nightclubs and stores. The "theme" at the Mirage right now is the Beatles. Just happens to be my favorite rock group of all time. :) There is a Circus o lay show at the hotel which is based on the Beatles... it is supposed to be incredible! The price certainly implies so... over $115 dollars a ticket!! I didn't do it, which is the only regret I have about the weekend. But I just didn't want to spend that much on ONE show. Also, we really didn't have alot of time. Had I done that, I would have missed the chance to hang out with a few of the fellas on Saturday night which was one of the finest times that I have had since undergrad.

Several of us decided to take a taxi on Saturday night to a little Tapas Bar and jazz club that is off the beaten track. The name of the place is The Grape- it is known for it's fine selection of wines, and AWESOME "tapas", or appetizers. The first time that I encountered the phrase "tapas", I was in grad school in Atlanta. One of my friends asked if I would like to go out with he and his wife to a tapas bar that evening... I turned about 3 different shades of red, ( I heard topless bar). And no, I don't believe that there is anything "Freudian" about that... :)

Anyway, back to Vegas... this little place was AMAZING!! So different from most of the places in Vegas. It was low-key and classy. The atmosphere was definitely more my element. We loved the music, a jazz trio, and we all probably had a little too much to drink. I had several glasses of some great Italian red wine... I asked for Lambrusco and the waitress almost laughed. Apparently, Lambrusco is not a very high-end red wine. Although the Italians seem to love it (as I do) and it is the showcase wine at most Olive Garden restaurants. So she found a more "respectable" red on the menu... don't ask me the name. Should have jotted it down, because by the time we left that evening the letters of the wine, which I was trying to keep in mind, were swimming around just like everything else. :) I had several mixed drink along with the wine, including a very VERY well mixed Long Island Iced Tea... ;o. The music was swinging, the conversation was great and it was nice to get out and drive around town the town.

The next day, a few of us decided to rent a cheap car and drive out to see Hoover's Dam. Now this is right up my ally of things that I like to do on vacation. I'm definitely not a "clubster", or a gambler. I intended to take 20 bucks or so down one night and play some blackjack. But I never did. I was in Vegas and never played the first game!!! I have no problem with gambling from a moral/spiritual point of view. I don't believe that it is any more of a sin than eating, drinking, etc. Being addicted would be wrong in my belief system... in a similar way that over-eating or drinking is. And I did do both of those things. Apparently, I'm just not very attracted to gambling. I would rather spend my money on things that I KNOW that I will receive and enjoy. Like food. And good wine. ;)

But what was I saying...Hoover Dam. It was a gorgeous drive from Vegas to Boulder City... about an hour and a half 'round trip. Once you get to Boulder City you start to descend down into the Canyon... technically the extreme southern tip of the Grand Canyon. So, technically I can now say that I have visited the Grand Canyon, although this is not really the breathtaking portion which is further into Arizona. It's just amazing to think about how this is the water and electrical energy source that makes it possible for cities like Vegas, and L.A. to exist.

Sunday afternoon and evening was our concert! We sang for a PACKED house in a well-known restaurant and lounge at the Venetian- a very ritzy hotel. There was something in the air- an excitement... can't explain it. Maybe it was just being in Vegas. Just to sing there, knowing that this is the place where people like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Elton John, and so many others spent so much of their musical lives. It was a really neat feeling, and we were REALLY into the concert.

As a result, the crowd was too. They loved us!! Now, I think that it helped that many of them were pretty well "lit". But it was a great concert. I think that I mentioned that a big producer from L.A. was suppose to fly in and hear us. Well, he did, and apparently he liked us very much. Now, there was another big-wig from L.A. that happened to be there who seemed to be even more impressed. She liked us so much that she promised to do her best to land us a record contract in L.A. very soon.... !!! At the least, one the really high-rollers who was responsible for bringing us out this weekend, wants to fly us all to L.A. to do a concert for his friends and associates. So, I said that I would have to check my schedule, but I think I can find some time somewhere...

Our sound engineer for this concert is also the sound engineer for the group Take 6. Enough said? If you are not into acapella, which is totally excusable, Take 6 is probably the best know acapella jazz ensemble in the world. And we wanted this concert to go as well as possible and also to get a very talented person's advice and coaching. Tony was FANTASTIC... not only the quality of his mixing, which is everything in acapella singing, but also in his advice and leadership. We had a four hour rehearsal and he brought so much to the table giving a unique perspective and interpretation to several of the songs.

He gave me a really nice complement, too. :) We were rehearsing one of the pieces in which I sing a solo. He just stopped us and said- dude, you have a GREAT voice. And this isn't something that he seemed to just "give away". He told me that I reminded him of the lead singer for Bare naked Ladies ... I was not immediately familiar with the reference. I had heard the name, of course, but couldn't place any of the group's songs. I looked them up... they did the song One Week. Great song! love the crazy lyrics.

After the concert on Sunday, we were taken out to "Tao". This is probably the most famous restaurant in Vegas. And it didn't take long to understand why... It is an Asian dining "tour de force". Our meal was like 7 courses... and Oh MY LORD!!! I was full by the last appetizer, but it was too good to stop eating. We had everything... sushi, spring-rolls, CHOCOLATE SPRING ROLLS!!! That's correct, dark chocolate filled spring rolls were ONE of the deserts. :) So much evil in such a short time... ;)

Anyway, just wanted to have a record of our trip for my future reference. I doubt that anyone would willingly be interested enough to read all of this. If you did, thinking that surely any story that included a bunch of guys and Los Vegas would certainly have some entertaining value.... sorry!! ;) But, FYI, this is really "living it up" for me... singing, having a few too many and seeing a town that truly never sleeps. :)
( May. 30th, 2009 02:35 am)
I can never sleep the night before leaving on a trip. We are leaving this morning for Vegas... have to be at the airport at 7:45. It's a short trip. We arrive on Saturday afternoon, do our show on Sunday evening and come home on Monday. I've never been to Vegas so I'm really excited about seeing the city. I really don't know what to expect... I've heard so much about the town. All of the cliches, of course, but I am really interested in seeing the old downtown area. Unfortunately, almost all of our time will be dedicated to our gig. We will have some time on Saturday night but we'll have to retire early so that we can be rested to sing on Sunday. There is a producer from L.A. that is coming into town to hear us sing. If he is impressed, there is a very real possibility that we could be invited to L.A. to record. We've already been asked to do a show in Italy next summer that this same guy is associated with. So... it is at least something to dream about. :)

This has been a somewhat chaotic week. My grandmother has been in the hospital in Jackson, Tn. She was admitted there on Monday and tonight she was moved to Memphis. What began as a seemingly precautionary stay due to bronchitis (she is 86) became more serious during the week. She apparently had a very light heart attack on Wednesday, so we requested that she be moved to Memphis so that she can be treated by her cardiologist. In the process of traveling back and forth to see her I myself became really sick. I'm feeling much better now, but I'm still really weak. I'm just trying to find the will and the energy to make this trip and sing the best that my body will allow. So... wish us luck.
Tonight, I attended my cousin's 6th grade graduation. A big step in his young life. He will be attending a new school next year. The all dreaded... middle school. In a way I envy him. Not really him but his current place in life. He has so much ahead of him. So many major decisions and crossroads. But he hasn't crossed them yet. He still has so much time.

What I really want to write about tonight is the musical portion of this graduation service. No, I don't intend to be a musical snob like so many who comment on Youtube performances. I get fighting mad when I see people dissecting a young person's performance... telling them how "awful" it is without any thought for the amount of courage that it took for them to even get up in front of a crowd and perform, much less post it on the internet! And then there are those who like to make criticisms about performances without offering the least bit of constructive advice. My theory on this is that these people simply try to feel better about their own performances by searching for examples that THEY find inferior and then tearing them apart- or they like to act like they actually know what they are talking about when they actually lack the knowledge to back up their comments with constructive advice. Blah! really rubs me...

But that moved me totally off track. Back to my cousin's graduation ceremony. As I said, it was a 6th grade graduation. As one might expect, it included a few selections by the 6th grade chorus. Now, as a singer and a musician, I never go into a public school performance expecting to be blown off my feet. Not that I never HAVE been, mind you. I just don't expect that. And that's not really what I think is most important especially at this very young age. What I want to see are young people who are inspired and who are truly part of a "musical experience."

What is a musical experience, right? To me, a musical experience is something subjective and individual to each of us. For these kids, what I wanted to see is a group of young people who's faces lit up... whose eyes "twinkled" just a little more as they sang the notes and lyrics to some very moving songs. And there were some very moving songs. But the kids... they looked absolutely scared to death! There were at least 40 in the ensemble. I doubt that 10 of them were actually singing. The director banged on the piano while 10 children very carefully made sounds. That's right, made sounds. And the thing is, there were some good sounds. I don't think that many would have noticed because it was so tentative, but some of these children had wonderful voices and ears! But they were so uninspired and so CAREFUL.

It was as though they were afraid that if they opened up, they might make the slightest mistake... God forbid that! Sure, kids and even adults are naturally like this when singing or performing for the first time. But it shouldn't be that way with a group of students who have been singing together since the 1st grade. What I wanted to see is some sign that someone has helped to instill into them a LOVE OF MUSIC. Music is a gift to us all. It is something that we all will carry with us through the best and the darkest moments of our lives. It's something so natural and human- truly a wonderful gift. I think that the number one objective of an educator of young people is to help them FIND their love and appreciation of this gift. That doesn't mean that you don't guide them in developing their skills. But don't scare them away from singing before their voices even change! Good Lord.

Anyway, I was proud of my cousin. He won the "accelerated reader's award." Something that I think will also be very valuable to him as he grows and matures. He absolutely loves to read. Well, tomorrow it's off to Kingston, TN for another graduation. Sorry for the rant. ;)
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