2005 July at John Mackey's Blog



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  • July 29, 2005

    Minnesota Orchestra

    In a few hours, I’m leaving for Minneapolis. Andrew Litton is doing the original orchestra version of “Redline Tango” with the Minnesota Orchestra this weekend. I’m pretty excited about it. The orchestra is financially strapped, so I have to pay my own way to attend this concert (and that’s turning out to be a much more expensive 36 hours than I expected), but it’ll be great to work with Maestro Litton again, and hear this fantastic “band” play my piece.

    I haven’t been in Minneapolis since the end of my “Music Alive” residency with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony, so I’m looking forward to going back. I’m especially excited about having dinner tonight at the downtown Chipotle.


    July 27, 2005

    March! March! March!

    Here’s the long-overdue photo blog entry about my recent trip to San Antonio. Prepare for lots of bandwidth!

    Upon my arrival in San Antonio, I rested up a bit, then met my buddy Danny Prado for a beer — specifically, a Shiner Bock. I’m told this is a “Real Texan Beer.” Definitely good stuff!

    I hadn’t had nearly enough to drink, so I headed to dinner with one of my other Texan buddies, Steve Andre. We hit the same place where we ate at the end of the TMEA conference (written about, with photos, here). This time, I started with a Prickly Pear Margarita.

    This is one of those places where they’ll make guacamole at your table. Fun.

    And delicious.

    My entree was the Seafood Platter. When I travel, I often order seafood, because AEJ is allergic to this stuff, and I’m usually reluctant to order it when I’m with her. She would not have done well with this meal, consisting of lobster, crab, crawfish, and who-knows-what-else.

    The next afternoon, I headed over to The Alamo Dome for the DCI competition. Two drum corps — The Seattle Cascades and The Blue Devils — have included music from “Redline Tango” in their shows this season. It was The Blue Devils who flew me down to San Antonio, and I hadn’t even realized I would get a chance to also see the Cascades’ show. It was a great bonus.

    The Cascades’ show is called “Airborne Symphony.” (As a side-note, while typing that, I made a little typo, essentially calling the show “Air Porn Symphony,” which i think would have been quite different. That may be my next piece…) You can read about their show here, but to summarize, the part that included “Redline Tango” (and it was a pretty substantial portion) depicts “the horrific advent of air combat. Using the strength of attacking percussion, engaging tormenting and eventually destroying, many will be lost to the battle.” This is going to be bad ass and loud!

    Here are the Cascades, taking the field, complete with what appear to be airplane kites.

    One of the many nice shapes I saw that afternoon:

    Here, the Cascades form the shape of said airplane:

    During the “air combat” section, the airplane seen in the center of the image was attacked.

    It’s been shot down! The corps surrounds it to completely destroy it.

    The corps leaves the plane for dead, its crumpled carcass (and the poor person who was pulling it around the field) laying lifeless on the 50-yard line.

    Next I headed over to the local high school where the Blue Devils were rehearsing. It was about 96 degrees and the sun was blinding, and they were blasting away!

    After the warmup (above), they moved to the big football field at the high school and got set for a full-corps rehearsal. Holy percussion!

    Here, Ken Karlin (left) — a member of the visual staff of the Blue Devils — and Wayne Downey (right) — the brass arranger and Music Director of the corps — give some last-minute corrections to the corps during rehearsal. It was nice to be in the shade, but it was too late for me. I was already completely fried. I don’t know how these guys do it, day after day. The hats must help.

    More percussion! Yeah! From now on, all of my percussion parts need 6 toms. Quads are for pussies!

    What you really can’t appreciate from this photo is how loud this was. Awesome.

    After rehearsal, I went with a Blue Devils alum and his lovely family to a local restaurant. I had chicken fried chicken. (My dad is going to read that and freak out. Don’t worry, dad; I didn’t eat all the gravy.)

    Who’s your favorite color guard? The blue ones…

    Or the pink ones?

    Some drum corps like to spell things on the field. The Santa Clara Vanguard’s show, “Russia: Revolution/Evolution 1917-1991” took full advantage of this.

    Wait, what’s CCCP? Oh yeah!

    USA! USA! They also spelled “1917” and “1991.”

    One show with great music and unusually good choreography was “Rhapsody” by the Phantom Regiment. (All of the music was by Gershwin.) They took full advantage of the Gene Kelly thing, complete with umbrellas. Pretty great, and they sounded fantastic, too.

    Here come the Blue Devils, taking the field!

    When the announcer asked, “Blue Devils, is your corps ready?” somebody behind me yelled, “they’re always ready!”

    Again, I don’t think there’s any way to convey how loud this was.

    Here’s a pic…

    And here’s another. Even turned away from the crowd, they sounded huge.

    They’re moving — faster than you’d think.

    It was a blast. They didn’t use as much of “Redline Tango” as the Cascades did, but it was fun. I can’t wait to see it on ESPN2 on September 6 at 9pm EST!

    On Sunday, I headed to the food court at the mall, looking for something delicious. It was one of those food courts where several “restaurants” have employees handing out free samples of the food on a toothpick. I took two — one from a Chinese place, and another from a Cajun place. Both were chicken, and both were completely nasty. You’d think that if they were going to give out samples, they’d try to avoid making the samples be the most gristly part of the meal.

    I eventually decided on this tasty lunch — another that will horrify my father. But what’s more “All-American” than a weekend of drum corps followed by A&W?!

    And since I had time to kill, and the hot dog wasn’t completely filling, I got this absolutely delicious sundae from Marble Slab Creamery. It’s banana ice cream with Snickers in a waffle bowl. Oh. My. God. It was so good, I had another one for dessert after dinner, only I had them “hold the Snickers” the second time. (I need to keep my slim figure.)

    In all, it was an awesome weekend. My sincere gratitude to The Blue Devils and DCI for bringing me out and making me feel so at home and appreciated. This weekend, for something completely different, I’m flying to Minneapolis to hear Andrew Litton conduct the Minnesota Orchestra’s performance of the original version of “Redline Tango.” I think my first request at rehearsal will be that the players try marching while playing.

    That’ll separate the men from the boys.


    July 26, 2005


    I fully intended to post an entry about my trip to San Antonio, but I’ve been completely swamped today, catching up on emails, printing scores, and the biggest consumer of time — meeting with estimators from two different moving companies about the pending trip to Los Angeles!

    Don’t worry; the big photo blog entry is coming, most likely on Wednesday morning!


    July 22, 2005

    Blue Devils – Tomorrow!

    In about an hour, I’m heading to the airport, on my way to San Antonio to hear the Blue Devils perform their summer show, which includes “Redline Tango.” I’m excited! I’ve never heard a drum corps live before, and it should be pretty amazing to experience my first show in a dome! (The Alamo Dome! How could I not remember this?)

    The Texas Bandmasters Association is having their annual convention in San Antonio this weekend as well, so I’ll be hanging out there, too. Should be an all-around fun, bandy, good time!

    More to come from Texas…

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    July 20, 2005

    Pack 'em up

    AEJ and I have been talking about moving for several months. She’s a screenwriter, and it’s nearly impossible to get that kind of work in New York. Los Angeles is where all of the action happens.

    We started looking at places using LA Craigslist, and we found a place that looks amazing. Great neighborhood, views of a reservoir, a large deck facing that reservoir, washer & drier, central air, 50% bigger than our current two apartments combined… Kind of perfect, it seemed. The place is an enormous duplex, and the owners of the building live in the rear 2/3 of the property, so it’s important that we all get along. They were understandably reluctant to rent to somebody they hadn’t met in person, but we won’t be able to get out to LA until early August, and by then this place would certainly be gone. We chatted on the phone several times over the past few days, hoping to convince them that we were nice, put in an application last night, and this morning, we found out…

    We got it.

    Suddenly, I’m terrified. We’re moving 3000 miles away. That’s right: as of September 1, we’ll be living in Los Angeles.

    I’m still a little in shock about it. But when I look at the living room, it seems like it’s going to be okay…