A few weeks ago I found myself 25 minutes out of Las Vegas in the small community called Boulder City. If you have never heard of Boulder City, It is the town where the workers from Hoover Dam were housed in the 1930’s during the building of (then named) Boulder Dam…Now called Hoover Dam. Furthermore, if your history is still a bit rusty…Hoover Dam is where Megatron was kept in the first Transformers movie.
After dinner in the local diner, my friend and I were walking around the main shopping/dining district and I stopped in my tracks. Our conversation over dinner was about gigs both near and far, music festivals, concert lighting, endorsement deals and the amount of blood, sweat and tears it takes to grease the gears of an independent musician. The talk lasted through dinner, post-dinner pie and now my stride along with our talk, stopped on a dime. My friend looked at me and asked why I stopped walking. I motioned to my right…
We were in front of the first place I ever performed as ‘Just Alliance.’
Before endorsements, before a ‘name,’ before my bonds of fellowship with fellow loopers around the world and around the country, before a website, a business card, music videos and a logo, before being mentioned in the same sentence as my looping peers worldwide…at a time and place where they were (and still remain) heroes who I looked up to. This was the place where a major step in my music career took place.
That time in my life was a transition in every sense of the word. Friends of mine were very much on career paths. Marriages were starting to take place and friends of mine I had known since childhood, were now having kids of their own. My own path took me far away from a ‘traditional’ point in my life. My career as a Trumpet player left me unfulfilled and performing music and in venues that disinterested me. It was at this crossroads where my life was very much camped out for a few years.
Fast forward to seeing looping for the first time by those that I still call inspirations to this day and one day I was asked, “Can you perform at an art shop next weekend?” Sure, What time?” “All day.” I told the person that hired me that I would be there. When they asked how to spell my name for their social media blast to their customers letting them know they had a live musician performing for a special event I sent back a simple text, “J-u-s-t A-l-l-i-a-n-c-e.”
Five or six years later, on a cool autumn afternoon in the last breath of an afternoon’s amber light, I am the same street and in the same parking lot…where I first performed as Just Alliance. It was hard not to have a flood of memories come streaming back. I had two fans show up: My Mom and Dad. I barely had two songs I could perform start to finish, and was still getting the hang of a multi-effects unit and a workhorse loop pedal (that I bought with the money from the gig).
That gig, like a majority of my career, had a constant thread throughout: Making the most of what you have and taking advantage of the moment. I didn’t have the best sound. I was stiff in execution. I sounded like crap. I didn’t let that set me back though. I performed with every ounce of determination I had and people would stop and listen. Some watched in mild intrigue, others kept walking to other events down the street.
A parking lot is part of a long line of humble beginnings for a musician, but for me in retrospect….that parking lot is square one. That parking lot gave birth to small open mics, then open mic features, then showcases , then small art galleries, small stages, then opening spots, then mid cards and so on. Today and even tonight, I wonder what tomorrow’s square one will be the launching pad for.
The holiday season is always a time to be thankful, and being thankful, by design, opens your retrospective to the past year and beyond. What am I thankful for? I am thankful for that parking lot. I am thankful for every crappy bar, empty club, hot load-in, freezing load-out, broken monitor, late paycheck, shady club owner, second rate sound system, third rate stage and fourth rate event I’ve performed at. Street corners, stages, classrooms and boardroom I’ve called venues. Saints, sinners, convicts, priests, the elderly and the young. I have performed for all them.
Today I have relationships with artists who years ago were carved into the granite face of the looping community. Today I call them my friends. Yesteryear’s pipedreams are next year’s summer and fall dates. The companies that believe in me and trust me to represent them: Electro Voice, Westone Audio, George L’s Cables, Design One Printing, Pigtronix, Fusion Bags, Harris Music,. I am thankful for them. International companies with great products that gave a kid from the high desert of Nevada without a record deal, without the millions of followers, without the ‘buzz’ that so many of us strive for…without any of that…a shot at being a part of their product line…their reputation…their artist rosters.
I look at my neon soaked city here in Southern Nevada and I look up and down the Las Vegas Strip and see more places I’ve performed in than not. A tally is taken of so many people in the music industry that have shown me the ropes (and continue to foster my aspirations). Riders, Contracts, Compression, Graphic Design, Phone Etiquette, Travel Buy-outs, etc…I can isolate any of those items and tell you exactly who introduced me to them.
There is much to be thankful for as artist. We all get caught up in hustle and daily grind….but imagine NOT being an artist. Imagine waking up and not being to express yourself though your music or not having the outlet (big or small) to showcase your music. I am thankful for it all.
Each of us have…or will have that parking lot. It is hard work getting to…and getting out of that parking lot. Few things are handed to you, but the reward of earning every piece of your empire is exciting. Each of us question what it will take to get in and out of that parking lot. Each of us will ask ourselves if we have what it takes? What if you do? Then the worst that happens is that you had a great time making music. What if you don’t? Then the worse that happens is that you had a great time making music.
As the year closes out, I am thankful for you. Followers of my music both friends and peers. Even you, the anonymous reader who will read this blog and leave without a trace…I am thankful for you sharing part of your day with me. Thank you all for positive energy you have sent my way: in person, on social media, in an email. It all matters. You matter. Good luck in the coming year with all that you strive to become and achieve
In the next year, I am looking forward to seeing you succeed. There is plenty of great things for all of us in this world. Make the best of what you have and take full advantage of every opportunity….then head to the next spot in your career. I hope that when you’re in an office, at school, at work or onstage….. you look up and see me there in support of you and all of your dreams….in the middle of that parking lot.
Las Vegas ,Nevada, USA
This past Monday was the first day of school in Southern Nevada, and like much of the country the whole city was buzzing with the anticipation of the new school year. Sunblock, coolers and board shorts gave away to notebooks, pencils and jeans and the new school year wokeup the 200,000+ students of the Clark County School District in the early hours of the 25th. I was very happy to accept an invitation to the Alexander Dawson School located on the far west side of Las Vegas to perform for an assembly for the faculty, students and their families and to serve as a high energy start-out-the-gate for the 2014-2015 school year.
The facilities were immaculate, the students well behaved and engaging and the faculty was very helpful and happy to have me performing for their educational community. It was a great afternoon and rumor has it that I will be back sometime during the school year in full workshop mode. This is very exciting as they have top notch educators at the helm of their music technology and choir programs. I have a few ideas about the workshop that I haven’t implemented that I need to bounce off of them, but if it takes off…man….it’s going to be a very special time at the Alexander Dawson School!
Some of you may have seen the new banner I put up this week. Over the next couple of weeks there may be a few changes on it: added/changed dates or locations. There are a number of lines in the water that my team and I are following up on. Feel free to post it on your own Facebook page, website, blog, Twitter. That organic level of support is always great to receive from friends and fans of my music.
You may have also noticed the Electro Voice logo on the banner. The support they are putting behind the tour is amazing! Electro Voice has been a champion of my music for a number of years now and I am beyond thankful for their support. When I first started looping 5 or so years ago, I started out with an old mic I picked up somewhere. When the day came when I needed a solid, reliable mic that meets and exceeds all of my needs, I didn’t know where to look. So I did what anybody would do: I tried out e-v-e-r-y mic at the music shop. At the end of the day one stood out that was the perfect cross section of meeting my needs on and offstage, value and price point. That day I left with the ND767 mic and haven’t looked back since! If you looking to get into the vocal end of things or need it for your horn, drum kit or school music ensemble, give the ND767 a look…and a listen!
This next week I am going to putting up Volume 2 of my ‘How to Make a Pedal Board.’ If you remember a few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the construction of my new pedal boards. My old rig was close to six feet long, and now I have to smaller boards are far more portable and easier to get in and out of venues. I will need to take a few pictures of the new rig, and the new equipment I have added to it! Very exciting stuff and next level gear.
Hope as your summer starts to come to a close that you look back on it with great memories. I know my summer was fun and full of a lot of leaps and bounds. Keep an eye on my website for tour dates and info as it comes in. Thanks for all of your support….See you soon. Oh by the way….in just over a month, I will be on the road!
Las Vegas ,NV
August 29, 2014
Good evening all. Sorry I was of the grid for a little while last week. If you can imagine a guy standing on a train station platform and a bullet train going by and and grabbing hold of it and it whisking him away over the horizon in a fraction of a moment….that almost sums up my week and in it’s own sweet way…I am that guy on the platform and hurried off into the distance.
What started out as a simple Twitter message amongst two artists took hold and blossomed into something incredible that I was able to share with friends and fans, and forge new ones from the opportunity to do something good for the live looping community here in Las Vegas. Mike Why, a vocal loop artist based out of Pittsburgh, PA and I connected over Twitter and messages lead to phone calls, phone calls lead to him rolling through my neon soaked city and the idea for a shared night of music came into consideration. It took about 24 hours, for the time, place and venue to be secured with an individual here in town who has championed my music for over ten years.
Within a few days the line up came into focus: Daniel Park, a fixture of the live looping community who plays regularly up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Rein Garcia, whose organic grooves were much approved by a packed Hard Rock. Eric Ita, who is very much in the Ray LaMontagne vein of music. Mike Why, who is a gentleman and a excellent performer, Donzo’s Cosmos, a multi instrumentalist who makes live looping and compostion look easy and effortless.…and myself.
So how can you get six artists into a three-hour spot with varying degrees of equipment, rig size, PA needs, and backline requirements and keep the night running smoothly? Well……that was the best part of the night.
Each artist had their own friends and fans there, many of which were mutually shared between different artists, but everybody worked together in helping each other load in and out and everybody stuck around to listen to each other! Quick sidenote: We all have been there before, maybe an event, or an open mic where you are late on the bill and by the time you get up to play there is bartender, the sound engineer and a bored waitress standing in the corner. I’ve had nights like that, more than I want to admit to on my own website!
The transitions were seamless, and a streamlined sound-check between each performer, insured that each of us could sound the best we could that night. At the eye of this storm was Frequency Entertainment’s very own Rick Duarte. The Gibson Acoustic Asylum Showcase has been going on for a number of years with Rick at the wheel. The event is a reflection of Rick himself: multi-faceted, positive, supportive, talented and a level of professionalism that can be admired from any leading figure in any profession.
I can recount my own experiences on and off stage that night and even go play by play and quarterback my own performance, but that will be only one small facet of the night. Instead, I am moved to write about the level of camaraderie between not only the artists, but their own fans they brought out. No clicks, no groups, no dividing lines. One collective positive whole of humanity who for one night came together to cheer on their friend, boyfriends, cousin, fellow artist or looping teacher(!).
Nights like this are the nights that you remember when you might have a bad day at work, or a night in the studio when it is hard to find the intimate familiarity in your own music. It is nights like this that are hard to translate into social media…outside of “Wish you were here.” I have my own hopes that the fans and friends that came out knowing that they were part of something special that night. That only half of the magic came from the stage, the other half was culled in the audience and presented in cheers, applause and ready hugs and handshakes when the show was over.
With closer associations with the looping community here in Vegas and around the country, my own hope is to pay this forward in other avenues. Not only as a performer, but also helping other loop artists find a spot to perform here in Vegas. With any luck, there is just enough of the magic left over from last Monday, where they can use that to make their own night of whimsy and music…..and reflect on the magic *they* left behind.
This past week was wild. The Electric Daisy Carnival (see picture above) kicked off here in Vegas. For those of you that don't know what EDC is, it is one of the largest Electronic Music Festivals in North America. Over 100,000 (so says the news) people come out every June and party from dusk til dawn at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There is tangible energy in the air around Vegas as I have driven around town in the past week, and even more since Friday night when the festival started. Many people have their #socialmediahashtags or @twitterhandles festooned across their cars, trucks or campers and once the sun has burnt itself out for the day, thousands of people from all 50 states and close to 40 countries hit the freeway to the festival and party in a neon laced and light soaked synergy until sunrise around 5am. Costumes, lights, music and people as far as the eye can see, and enough fun that people already start planning the next year's festival before the doors close on this one.
Too bad I didn't get the chance to go this year.......again.....sigh.
Nah, I have been knee deep in narrowing down my search for case manufacturers that will make a new home for my pedals and keep them protected on the upcoming fall tour. Trips to Guitar Center, Sam Ash and enough websites to have me seeing case dimensions and costs in my sleep, and now I have it narrowed to a few companies. Within the next couple of weeks a local company will be constructing my 2(!) new pedal boards. I won't say too much, but these are going to look fantastic, and have a few bells and whistles on them that might make them the belle of the ball.
This past Friday night I was invited to perform at The Poppy Den inside beautiful Tivoli Village in Summerlin (an area far west of the Las Vegas Strip.) The performance was unlike any other I have done in a long while. I was set-up in an area both in the restaurant, but also close enough to the pedestrian mall to have a quasi street-performing vibe. For me, the interaction with the audience is the best part of performing. It has often made a regular night end up as an extraordinary experience for me, and often times an audience member who was touched by or otherwise enjoyed my music. I was very taken back when I was packing up after the show, that a number of people at the bar told me they stuck around to listen to me and a number of people walked in as I was zipping up my cases that they saw me earlier as they walked by, but chose to drink at the Poppy Den on account of my performing there.
The bartenders, servers and management were all fantastic to me and even let me use their house PA, which much to my excitement was the Electro Voice ETX Loudspeakers. Very crisp, concise and clear sound quality with a throw that doesn't loose it's integrity and a very respectable bottom end that makes subs a bonus, BUT not a necessity to perform with. I hope to perform on EV's ETX series more in the future. As an EV Artist, it was very
serendipitous that the company who has extended me an incredible amount of support, had one of their PA's at the venue that invited me to perform!
I want to close out about the fundraising for the upcoming fall tour. At press time I am 2% to my goal of financing my tour. $200 in and around $9800 to go. In a day when $6 is paid for a cup of coffee, I don't know if the same (or more) is too much to ask to help support an indie artist. Many of you have emailed me with your support and a number have pledged already. Keep it up! Share my fundraising page or my website! There are plenty of ways to help the tour as well. The merchandise store is picking up as well. Remember: 100% of your merchandise purchases funds the tour as well!
This week is rehearsals, photo editing and hopefully new pedal boards being forged. I will update all of this here on my website and also my social media (top right hand corner of the website). Keep an eye out for some exciting things and spread the word about the tour! Talk to you soon....
P.S. You can leave comments on my blog....Reach out and send a few words my way!
Las Vegas, NV , USA
June 23, 2014----
Good Evening Everybody,
Tomorrow marks roughly the two week mark since I launched the fundraising campaign for my fall tour. At the moment, just under $100 has been pledged to support the transportation, lodging and food costs associated with keeping this (one-man) show on the road. Oh, and before I forget, there was an anonymous pledger, whoever you are out there, thank you, and those that have pledged, like Santa Clause I know who you are! I have received a number of emails inquiring what one can do to help. My fundraising page is made very user friendly and in the time it took you to read this paragraph is about the the time it will take you to contribute!
There are few things in the works for the coming summer months. I won't be able to say too much here (yet), but I can say that a few places in town with beautiful venues and top tier management and events production has been in contact with me inviting me to a residency. This is exciting not just for myself, but for many of my peers in the looping community I would like to invite out to share the stage with me. The venues I have been contacted by lend themselves to a very warm, intimate setting but still have room for fans and friends to come out and have plenty of room to invest an evening with me.
I am in the process of redesigning my rig. In short: It is too big to manage in a way I seem fit. Fret not, I won't go trading in the loop pedal for a smaller instrument anytime soon, but I plan on making two smaller pedal boards I can manage separately, but still have the same area footprint when laid side by side on my table top. So here is my question to you the reader: Can you recommend a company that can construct custom cases? Preferably here in the U.S., shipping international sometimes costs almost as much a plane ticket! Drop me a line through my website or social media end of things if you know of a company, or know a guy-who knows a guy-who knows a guy.
In the past couple of weeks I have been fortunate enough to travel to Dallas, Texas on a personal trip. I couldn't possibly list enough positive things about Texas or the people I met there! What an incredible place! I had the opportunity to spend an evening in The Stockyards area of Ft. Worth, Texas. The Stockyards is an old area of Ft. Worth that is now a very vibrant tourist area by day, and by night the bars and clubs are teaming with live music. I was raised on Country and Bluegrass Music when I was little, so to see so many groups performing traditional country music in such a concentrated area, I was loving every minute of it!
The trip to Texas also served as a dry run to gauge the tour this fall when I perform in San Antonio and Austin. If the people in either town are as friendly the people I met two weekends ago in Dallas, then the tour is closing out in a very accommodating, cultured part of the country. I was reminded of this with a conversation I had with a local Dallas musician while I was there:
Musician: I think they will love you in Austin.
Me: Oh yeah?
Musician: Yeah, they always say "Keep Austin weird!"
Musician: "Yeah…..and you're weird!"
And that was when I knew I was in the right place!! Spread the work folks about the tour. Let's keep the contributions coming in. Keep an eye out on my tour page for the additional dates I was talking about earlier. If you have any info about (hard)case companies, let me know. Big love to all of you out there, and don't forget to check out the merchandise page as well!! Thanks for all the support!!
June 15, 2014
Las Vegas, NV---
Fans, Friends and Family,
Today marks the launch of my fundraising campaign. To help support my fall tour, go to my fundraising page to contribute. Every donation helps….and every donation will gets YOU something in return! Perks and prizes are all on the page! I invite you to share my fundraising page to your friends, fans, family and companies you think are interested in being a part of the campaign. I continue to appreciate your support. See you on the road!
Las Vegas, NV
Greetings Fans, Friends and Corporate Partners,
The past couple of weeks have been a huge push in the right direction for me. In the event that social media isn't your thing, or you are just joining me, I hope tonight's blog fills in the gaps and brings you up to speed. With so many new events, shows and musical adventures, it is hard to know where to begin and end, but I will do my best.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed on the Bruce Radel Radio Show. Bruce has always been an incredible host, not only in his on-air duties in his studio but also as an patron of my music. Always supportive in my shows and curious what lays just around the next curve in the road of my career, I am lucky to have him in my support network. The first half of our interview covered everything from local music, to live performances and also conducting live looping workshops at schools and music shops around the region. The second half of the interview is a live performance of Capital Cities' "Safe and Sound." (My very first public performance of it) and a short piece about my new online shop with all of my merchandise available for purchase. Contact Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about appearing on his show!
A number of fans have sent me emails asking about additional dates on the tour or expanding it to other states. At press time, what I can say is that I am working hard to accommodate as many performances as the schedule allows. If the opportunity presents itself to expand into another state and/or country, then my creative team and I are open to looking into it.
Just this past week, I learned that a vocal loop artist from Ohio, named FreshFX is coming. I have been keeping an eye on his videos and social media posts, and look forward to enjoying my peers (the other being Mr. Tim) live for a few nights this coming fall. I am very pleased to get word that Angela Sheik is coming on tour with us for a few dates in Texas as well. Angela's music is incredible. She possess the deft touch as a songwriter, and her thorough understanding of live looping and the textures she weaves has always amazed me. I was a fan of live looping before I ever became a proponent of it, I am not ashamed a little hero worship here and there! Angela was also the BOSS 2011 U.S. National Champion as well, and deservedly so. Her talent and musicality are unique and deserve that level of recognition.
This past was an exciting day full of live looping workshops and performances at the Northwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, NV. This is a magnet school that hosts engineering, medical, hospitality, early childhood and also media programs. However, tucked into this top tier curriculum is a music technology course (provided at three levels) taught by Mr. Mark Carroll, the conductor of the Las Vegas Youth Philharmonic. Mr. Carroll's students were very much on point in their participation and thoughtful questions.
My favorite part of the workshop (and ANY workshop I conduct) is getting the students/musicians involved that came out to perform. I am enclosing a few candids from that workshop and also the lunch performances in front of 1800+ students. Actually, just writing this paragraph provides me with inspiration to write another blog that covers "How Does One Teach Live Looping?" More on that later though…
To close, I want to let you all know about my fundraising for the upcoming tour. Not only financial backing, but also services (lodging, transportation) will be needed and a part of the fundraising effort as well. I am hoping to make a short video outlining the fundraising campaign this week as well. If you want to contribute right now, my merchandise for sale on my online store and drop ships to you then and there. They ship worldwide as well!! (Finnish fans…I am looking at you!) So stay tuned for the upcoming fundraising videos and links that I will provide to make the fall tour happen. If you yourself are interested in becoming a corporate partner, then contact my team here on my website, and we can have that discussion.
Thank you for all of your continued support. The emails. social media contact and your faces at my shows are all incredible. To all of you celebrating Mother's Day today, I hope it is as wonderful as the person you are celebrating. Have a great week everybody and talk to you a further down the line.
P.S. Below is a few of the captured moments from last Friday's looping workshop!
Las Vegas ,NV USA
May 11th, 2014
I am very pleased to announce my 2014 Fall Tour! This has me very excited and I am working hard to get in as many dates as I can to accommodate as many fans, cities and venues as possible along the way. In the next few weeks I will be launching a fundraising campaign to help offset my touring costs and invite you to help me reach my fiscal goal to get and keep(!) this show on the road!
I will also will also be posting information about there where, when's and who's of the tour. I am beyond excited and quite humbled at who I will be sharing the stage with along the tour route. Oh, and if you are looking for Just Alliance shirts, hats, sweaters, flamethrowers, etc....the online store is in the works. If there is anything in particular you want, please let us know.
I continue to appreciate all of the support at the individual and corporate level. A few short years ago, I didn't even know what looping was.....and now all of this. Thank you all and I will keep you posted about the tour.
See you on the road....
April 7th, 2014
Hi friends, fans and family! Thank you for dropping by my blog. There are so many things going on right now, and in the coming weeks I will be dropping new dates, equipment reviews and other goodies for you to take a look at listen to. There is one group I need to thank that has been very helpful (and then some) on my creative journey, and especially on this next chapter that will begin to unfold in the coming weeks, and that is the creative team over at Torreso Photography. This talented group has helped me in the majority of my graphic design for my events and new(!) logo in addition to my pictures that many of you are familiar with. If you find yourself in Southern Nevada and need photography and graphic design done, contact them. Beyond accommodating and very easy to work with.
To close, keep an eye here on my blog. In addition to "day-in-the-life-of" sort of writings, I will also post equipment reviews, website exclusive pictures and more here. Feel free to comment and connect with me here....that's why it's up.
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.