My name is Jonathan, and I'm a bass player.

Another late night (oh, how I should be asleep right's 1:30AM) after gigging at the 400 Bar...'twas the last show in the "Tuesdays with Morris" residency by Michael Morris that's been going on since December. Thanks to Michael for welcoming me into the band these last three months. I've always wanted to do a weekly gig at a real honest-to-goodness big-stage loud-PA late-night dive-bar rock club, and it was a great run. I started out as auxiliary man, playing accordion and melodica, did a few nights on mandolin and piano, and eventually ended up playing bass as the band evolved. Tonight's show had songs that I felt were some of the best musical moments we achieved as a band, especially in my rhythm section connection to drummer Andy's a (dark) pic of us from last month. After all these weeks I've really got my brains around the chord changes and arrangements, and can finally venture off into to the more advanced musical land of musicality, creativity, emotional venting, personal expression, etc. When I'm playing my own shows I rarely get to that spot 'cause I'm so busy "running the show" and holding down the fort, but as a side man with such trustworthy leadership and foundation from Michael and Andy, I felt a real sense of musical freedom that I don't get to tap into often...especially in a live performance. Truly a pleasure.

And I think tonight I really became a bass player. To my legit bass playing pals like Mike Bradburn (who was the previous owner of my wonderful '70s-era Fender P-bass), Todd Miller, John Kerns, and Justin Rimbo: you'll be proud of me...I did an entire song without a pick. I played with my fingers! I've been a bass-playing hack ever since about 1990 when I started playing on my own 4-track recordings (you can hear what I'm talking about on my new Myopia bonus disc), and I've always used a pick, out of necessity. A lot of my favorite rock-star bass players like Adam Clayton of U2 and Glen Burtnik of Styx use a pick most if not all of the time. And ultimately, I've fancied myself as a bassist in the tradition of my bass-playing uber-hero, Mike Mills of R.E.M. (pictured here). This is a man unafraid to use a guitar pick on a bass, and unafraid to play all sorts of weird melodic and riffy stuff (oh, the intro to "Cuyahoga" that I love so!)...the Millsian approach has always been my bass-playing goal.

I've stayed away from using my fingers because it sorta hurts (especially on fast/loud songs), and because I just don't have the "soul" to ride that pulsing groove along like real traditional bassists can. There are some examples of real finger-powered bass guitar super-grooves on my new Best Of album: check out John Kerns' delicious playing on "Continental Divide," Mike Bradburn's loop-de-loops on "Ask Me in Nebraska," and Todd Miller's blazing runs on "Meeting Nixon," and then contrast them with my pick-powered New Wavey bass riffs on "Read The Signs" or "My Helen." It's just a whole different approach. But anyway...tonight at the 400 Bar I used my fingers on a quieter mid-tempo tune, and man, it just felt GOOD. I used to hear Mike Bradburn talking about turning down the volume on the bass amp so he could "dig in," meaning really attack those strings with his fingertips and manually playing the instrument louder in order to achieve a great "feel" on the strings. Tonight for the first time, I understood the physical sensation that he was talking about.

Mike Bradburn (bass) and Matt Thobe (drums) of the band Dolly Varden were really my education on the philosophy of being a truly musical rhythm section. They used to rehearse just the two of them, without the other band members, and concentrate on getting into a groove...the bass guitar player locking into what the drummer was doing with the bass drum. It seemed kind of obsessive and anal to me at the time, but I became aware of it myself while overdubbing bass parts on recordings, and realizing what a HUGE difference it makes. I played most of the bass on the Sound Theology album, and I really tried to be like Mike & Matt as I locked into those drum tracks. Ever since then, I've seen the light regarding what a rhythm section should be doing. Tonight there were some beautifully grooving moments with drummer Andy Hertel, and it was a blast.

This is precisely why I'm nearly brought to tears of delight and awe when I listen to the album "Seconds of Pleasure" by the band Rockpile. Here is a record where the bassist (Nick Lowe) and drummer (Terry Williams) achieve such profound groove perfection it nearly causes me to faint. I don't think I could've appreciated this stuff as much without realizing how talented and sublimely ROCKING the Rockpile rhythm section is.

So anyway, it was a good night of bass playing. The word on the street is that Michael Morris will take up another residency at the 400 Bar on a different night of the week, and that shall commence in the next month or two. I'll keep you owe it to yourself to come hear us play. Oh, and you owe it to yourself to click the above link and buy that Rockpile CD. Pure joy in audio form. Okay, orange juice, brush teeth, and bed.


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