Thursday, June 4, 2015

Band As Community, Community As Band

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Good Graces are more of an evolving collective of great musicians, rather than a solid lineup of a few people. What I love about Atlanta is the community feel of the music scene and the mutual admiration and support a large group of musicians and bands give each other. Almost to the point of incestuousness.

A couple of recent events have highlighted this fact:

1) Thunderbox, one of the main rental rehearsal spaces in Atlanta, closed, a victim of in-town redevelopment activity. Bands in other rehearsal spaces reacted and reached out to help with everything from helping folks move their gear out, to temporary storage for displaced bands' equipment, to offers of rehearsal spaces.

2) Organizers of The Happenstance just announced there would be no 12th event. The collective musical shudder and sigh in the Atlanta area was palpable. The Happenstance was an 11-year holiday/charity/musical institution that for one day each year, created 6 new bands out of musicians who had never played together before, had them go off and create 3-4 new songs and learn a cover tune, then come back in the evening and perform to a standing room-only audience whose entry fees went to fund local charities. The connections and friendships formed through this event bound many of us from across musical genres together in ways that is hard to describe.

I participated in three Happenstances; 2006, 2011, and 2013. Kim Ware was a drummer in the 2006 event and, though we weren't paired in the same band, it was my introduction to her. She would shortly release her first Good Graces album and I would shortly join her collective.

On this tour, in addition to Kim, I will also share the stage with two other incredible musicians; John McNicholas (guitar, bass, vocals) and Tracy Clark (bass, guitar, glockenspiel, melodica, percussion, vocals).

I first met John just after he arrived in Atlanta from Tampa, Florida. I was a co-host of the Atlanta Songwriters Series, then a weekly singer/songwriter event held at the Aurora Coffee location in Virginia-Highlands (moved later to Kavarna), and John performed one of his first Atlanta shows at our event. I instantly fell in love with his songs and guitar work. John joined several bands, including Mary O. Harrison's band the Tiny Tears that Kim Ware was the drummer.

John was one of the first to join the Good Graces when Kim was putting together a live group. He has been a constant presence in the Good Graces ever since, both live and on recordings. John has also contributed to one of my Sensitive Chaos tunes, Seeker After Pattern's "Simon Stilites Dreams of Rain." And I joined John's band, The Sunset District, for both live shows and recordings. John is also a Happenstance alum.

When I first started Sensitive Chaos, my idea was to make it a duo, in the mold of Yaz. Synth-pop electronics with vocals. The vocals part of the equation never got off the ground and until recently, Sensitive Chaos has been totally instrumental. But one of the people I spoke to about the idea (though she may not remember it) was Tracy Clark, bassist/multi-instrumentalist and singer for Silent Kids, the Blue Hour, Mary O's Tiny Tears/Virginia Plane, Chickens and Pigs, and The Preakness, among others. Tracy is also a Happenstance alum. And she has been one of the Good Graces collective for awhile.

So a band from the same community of friends. A group of friends from the same bands. So far so fun!

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