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My (original) music debut

Jason Panella

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In a week and a half, I'm going to play some music at my favorite coffee shop. It's not the first time I've played there, but it will be the first time I've performed my own material.

There are a variety of reasons why it's taken this long, none worth mentioning here. I'm taking a sort of different approach, though, which I hope will at least make it an interesting experience compared to the acoustic sadsacks that roll through all of the time.

I'm focusing on my strengths: I can play rhythm stuff fairly well, I have an ear for slightly oddball melodies, and I can draw from eclectic sources. So, here's what it's gonna look like:

  1. I'm playing everything on two instruments: electric guitar or accordion, the latter definitely something you don't see often.
  2. I'm using effect pedals, including a looper/delay pedal to loop together multiple parts.
  3. Some of the songs segue into each other. For instance, the first song is an accordion tune with very minimal lyrics, and it'll shift right into the second song with the help of some looped e-bow tracks on the looper pedal, and then the third song shifts in after that's done.
  4. I'm avoiding using the vague "you" that always happens in pop music. I'm still working on lyrics, but almost everything is in third person.
  5. I'm writing a song about a childhood friend of Bruce Springsteen, who watches the Boss grow up with admiration and loathing simultaneously.
  6. I'm not using a microphone, instead projecting as loud as I can. I might not even face the audience most of the time, since I get the jitters easily.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Played the show last night. Packed house at the coffee shop (maybe 40 people?). I opened the night and played for about 20 minutes. I started ON TIME (amazingly), and a few befuddled friends came wandering through the door as I was moving my instruments and amp into the back room.

I did three songs and two half-songs (an accordion prelude and coda). I won't go into every detail, but after the accordion prelude (I looped several e-Bow guitar lines together over it), I played my first song on guitar. Someone said it sounded like a more jaunty Sun Kil Moon song, so that's a compliment. I wrote the lyrics the night before, and was surprised at how they worked (it was a somewhat tongue in cheek take on my love for winter). The second song was a pretty fast-paced power pop song, and as vague and shoddy as the lyrics were, it was loosely about New Jersey dockworker thinking angry thoughts about Bruce Springsteen. The last song was a somewhat free-flowing finger-picked folk song centered on the 1936 flood in Pittsburgh. I was surprised at some of the notes I was hitting with falsetto during the chorus; I was in high alto range! Anywho, I shifted immediately into the final half-song, where I just built guitar line on guitar line with my looper pedal. I eventually got this mess of 10 guitar parts, which I let run as I set the guitar down and closed out with the accordion.

The crowded like it overall; I don't know if they were used to seeing something like this in a coffee house (or at all). My friend Luke played after me for about 40 minutes, and he was incredible. It was a great night.

Oh, and I was amazed at how calm I was. I didn't use a microphone, so I moved around as I needed and didn't even focus on the audience. Maybe this is a good sign.

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