be hired by Yago de Quay, a musician/artist based out of Austin who incorporates interactive tech into his musical performances. Yago was commissioned by Intel to put together a show for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just after New Years 2016 (video below), and it went over so well that we were called back for a repeat performance in Anaheim CA for the Intel 360 Conference. Long story short: Yago needed a backing band, somehow we managed to stumble our way into this awesome experience, and played a couple shows for a couple thousand people.
Short story long: I notice a post in a local musician's forum from a guy looking for a rhythm section for an interactive tech-heavy performance in Vegas. I inquire, find out the dates he's looking at, see that we'll be unavailable/on tour, and think "damn. oh well, better luck next time". Turns out, Mitchell also finds out about said gig, and apparently our mutual friend Shreddy Eddie knows this fellow and has recommended Mitchell and I to audition as his rhythm section. Fine, let's do it. What's the worst that could happen?
Worst/Most Impressive Audition Story: We schedule a time at a rehearsal studio in Austin. We get an email containing two items: 1) a link to a past performance (to get a feel for the style of music he's going for) and 2) a link to the actual tune we're supposed to learn for the audition. Guess who didn't read the entire email carefully? We show up to the audition and meet Yago, talk for a bit while we're setting up, then as he starts the backing track over the PA system.. we realize we've made a huge mistake. OF COURSE WE LEARNED THE WRONG SONG FOR THE AUDITION FOR A BIG CORPORATE GIG THAT PAYS REALLY WELL. Ooooops... So we sheepishly explain.apologize for our error, and instead of throwing us out on our non-thoroughly-email-reading asses, Yago is cool about it and gives us a few minutes to learn his track on the spot. Somehow (and when I say "somehow" I mean "because we're goddamn professionals most of the time"), we get a moderate handle on the track, play our "prepared piece" (which was a bass/drum duet by Les Claypool), and break down our gear/run away with our collective tails between our collective legs.
Fast forward a week or so. Obviously, we assumed we blew it. Not only did we show up with the wrong song learned, we also had a few scheduling conflicts around the projected rehearsal dates due to some pre-existing tour commitments. Some how, some way, I got the call in late October that we had landed the gig, and here are the revised rehearsal dates to fit our schedule. Praise the flying spaghetti monster, how the shit did that just happen? Awesome. Turns out we have some flights to book, and our next couple months looked like this: Tour with Garner, fly out early AM after the last show to Evansville for rehearsals, fly back to Austin just in time to leave for tour with Jackie's band, fly out KCMO after her last show for rehearsals in Vegas, fly home for one day then go our separate ways for holiday family fun time, reconvene in Austin for New Years Eve gigs, fly out to Vegas early on New Years Day for a couple final rehearsals and the CES gig. I just got tired all over again by typing all of that out.
The show itself was an interactive 4-minute audio-visual funk-jazz meltdown that included crazy bass/drum jams, performers behind a giant screen triggering interactive visuals, and the centerpiece of the whole thing was the Intel Curie/RealSense technology (which we later found out was used for everything from tracking stats of X-Games athletes to controlling household robots) that enabled us to put on some hi-tech wristbands, wave our mitts around, and create some amazing sounds and visual effects. Musically, it was absolutely a challenge to learn the material, and I remember when we first met Zack (the composer) his first words to us were "You guys, I'm sorry about all that". We spent the first rehearsal session ironing out the musical parts and mapping the Curie wristbands to a set of gestures that each triggered it's own unique sound (i.e. left hand down = bass drop wub wub wub, right hand chop to the right = dry metallic snare sound, etc). One of the coolest things about this tech is that the possibilities are virtually limitless when it comes to programming movement to trigger sounds.
The scale of the whole thing was mind-boggling. The rehearsal sites in Evansville and Las Vegas each had a reproduction of the huge performance space where we'd be doing the actual gig, including full gear backline and the giant scrim and multiple projectors. In addition to the band (Mitchell, Yago, and I) we had the dancers (Reema and Shoko), the composer (Zack), the costume designer (Kelsey), and a whole team of tech guys from Intel and NameTheMachine running the Ableton rigs and projection software.
Turns out Evansville is just as boring as you'd think, though we managed to find a really nice CouchSurfer fellow named Alex who lived just a couple blocks from the rehearsal space and took us in for a few days, and also a decent dive bar down the street. The first Vegas rehearsals were at a studio behind the Palms, so you can guess where we all stayed. I learned how to play craps during that week of rehearsals, and also discovered that "breakfast craps" before rehearsal each day were the best time to hit the tables. Buffet = total letdown, bowling alley across the street = jackpot.
The final week of rehearsals had us all staying at Treasure Island, and somehow Mitchell got upgraded to the goddamn presidential suite. Kirsten also flew out to hang out for a few days, and I had one severely inebriated night where I struggled with the basic concept of blackjack hand signals (bringing shame to myself and everyone around me). Fremont Street is a great exercise in "is this real life?". We also took a drive out into the NV desert, found a disappointing cave, bought booze candy, and found a secluded spot where people just shoot shit with whatever firearms they happen to have upon their person. I gotta move to the desert someday, but maybe the less shoot-y part.
The gig itself was fantastic. I heard there were around 3,000 people there, and there was a part of the show where the entire audience used the same interactive wristbands that we were using. Also, Kelsey had the great idea to use blacklight paint in my beard, so y'know, life goal achieved. The thing went off without a hitch and was very well received (one tech-blogger described it as the "apocalyptically loud soundtrack to a mega man final boss"), and then we heard Intel's CEO talk about crazy robot things for an hour.
Fly home, decompress, play a few local gigs, then we get the call -- Intel wants a reprise of the performance at their upcoming sales conference in Anaheim. Done and done. We get the whole crew back together (on impressively short notice, I might add), and fly everyone out to California. The time scale is polar opposite for this show -- the Vegas gig was a ton of rehearsal time for a 4-minute show, this is maybe 3 or 4 runs of the show before the actual gig. Doesn't matter, nailed it. Great show for another 3- or 4-thousand folks, this time it's all Intel employees in a big arena right across from Disneyland.
Skip Disneyland because it's like $100 a day, find a rad bowling alley instead and discover complimentary bathrobes in our hotel room closets. Cue #RobeLyfe, free booze happy hour in the top floor guest lounge, watching the Disney fireworks every night from the hotel balcony, and hitting up the free breakfast every morning in our robes (much to the chagrin of the various families chasing the Disney dream vacation). Also, we got to hang out with Uncle Craig, Mitchell's traveling rad dude of an uncle.
Long story short (again): we were so very fortunate to be a part of this experience with Yago and his crew. They've got some big plans for this year and I hope we're able to be a part of it all over again.
12/6-9 - Rehearsals, Evansville IN
12/14-19 - Rehearsals, Las Vegas NV
1/1-4 - Rehearsals, Las Vegas NV
1/5 - Intel CES Keynote Presentation, The Venetian, Las Vegas NV
1/29-31 - Rehearsals, Anaheim CA
2/1 - Intel 360 Performance, Anheim Convention Center Arena, Anaheim CA