Sunday, August 31, 2008


The Tim and Bob Show performed at Beto's Comida Latina on August 29th for the second time in a calendar month. It is NOT our usual practice to play any one location more than one time a month, but hey, there were five Fridays in August and ... who ya gonna call?

We knew it was going to be a good night when we were unloading our gear and one of Beto's outstanding wait staff said, "You guys are a sight for sore eyes." Any night that begins with that comment and ends with the manager telling us "people love you" has to be a great night. And so it was.

Sure we had some drizzle now and again in the evening, but the net covering over Beto's patio kept us mostly dry, and the occasional raindrop on the back of the neck helped cool things off. What was important is that we helped the people in attendance enjoy their evening. That's what we always want to do.

Tim and Bob Nationals Bethany, Matt, and Rodney showed up, and we were glad to see them. I know we made some new friends, and the ones we appreciated the most were the children. Kathy ran up a "special Beto's edition" of The Tim and Bob Show Coloring Book for the occasion, and I know that this made a lot of kids very happy. Occasionally, they abandoned their artwork to get up in front of the band and dance, and I know that this made US very happy.

We debuted one song. Mary Lou sang "This Wheel's On Fire," a bluesy UK hit from the early 70s by Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity, and we played a few songs from our soon-to-be-released CD Take It Outside. By the end of the evening, we were all exhausted, but very happy. Off we went to Steve and Kathy's house for wine, cheese, and conversation.

The Beto's gig was the first gig of what is now our fourth year as a performing entity. August 28, 2005 was the date of our very first gig. We're pleased to still be rocking, and we're pleased that people still come out to hear us and are generous with their appreciation for the work we do.

Tell us what YOU think!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Session 9: Beginnings, Endings, Mileposts

Tuesday, August 19, was our last in-studio work with Mandala Music. We had already gone through multiple listenings, tightenings, and revisings. This was to be our last night to get out the ratchet-head wrenches and screwdrivers and tighten everything down – or would that be “tighten everything up?” We started the session an hour later than scheduled, and with a bit of trepidation. Our mini-drought was over and the rains were upon us. Bearing in mind the difficulties of recording during adverse weather conditions, we were more than aware that August 30th – our target date to have acquired the much-sought-after Gold Master – was fast approaching. We were comforted by Bett telling us that the leaks are in the recording portion, but not the engineering portion of the studio.

There were two notable changes on the evening. First was the temperature. At 79 degrees, it was 20 degrees cooler than our usual drive-time temperature for these sessions. The other change was that we brought no musical instruments with us. Recording was essentially over. It was mixing and mastering time now. Our job in the studio was to listen, discuss, and communicate suggestions to Joël in an effort to get just the sound we wanted. Over the next 2½ hours, we reviewed the most recent versions of all 13 of the songs we worked on at Mandala. Concerned as we are with all things vocal, most of our comments dealt with the mix of voices with voices, and voices with guitars. For each song it was, “Can you bring up this track here?” and “Can you adjust this vocal track so that it blends better with this one?” By this time, though, most of the major stuff was over. As usual, the notes that we took on previous versions and that we had communicated to Joël in advance, kept our studio time down. By 9:30 we had all done our best, and were heading out the door into San Antonio’s latest light show.

Joël and Bett had said they’d provide a pre-master mix for us to peruse early the next week. For those of you who haven’t been through this process, “mixing” is the art of taking all the individual tracks of a particular song, and putting them together with the right blend of instruments and voices. A well-mixed song won’t have any instrument buried under a vocalist, nor will it have a vocal harmony track over-driving a vocal melody track. In addition to his technical skills, the producer needs to use his ear to detect any flaws. Being a jazz musician by trade, Joël’s ear is excellent. Being married to a singer, Joël’s concern about vocal quality is also second nature. This makes mixing an art and a science. Joël preferred that he do this without an audience, and we concurred.

Mastering a song is a different matter. The process is far too technical for me to even pretend to keep track of, but the result is that the pointy bits get smoother, the extreme highs and lows get mellowed, and the instrumentation and vocals each get emphasized but not at the expense of the other. The two modifiers I heard most were “sweetening” and “fattening” – as in “the guitars will be fatter” and “we’ll sweeten the vocal mix.”

As it turned out, Joël went ahead and provided us a mastered copy on Wednesday the 27th. I made copies and we all listened. We agreed with Joël that there needed to be one final tweaking of “Crazy Love,” and we did this over the phone from Steve and Kathy’s house, just before we familiarized ourselves with the songs we’ll be playing at Beto’s on Friday evening. Once we get a call from Bett that the “Gold Master” is ready, we’ll pick it up in the usual “kidnap ransom” manner, and that will mark the end of our association with Bett and Joël and Mandala Music. It’s been quite a ride, and we’ve really gotten to like and admire the talents of these two folks. What next?

Well, Core Media Inc. begins their contribution to our CD. They get the final master from Mandala, press it, and put it together with the cover and insert art and verbiage package … . Um … er … what? You mean I’ve been doing this diary all this time and I never mentioned the LOOK of the CD? Well, if that’s the case, it is beyond time to introduce Nikki Young and PrimaDonna Productions.

Kathy, Mary Lou, and I know Nikki from our theatrical exploits and, most recently, through her association with the Texas Music Coalition (TMC). Nikki has been helpful to us almost from the start of the group – from making friendly suggestions to developing our promotional packaging. We decided early on that PrimaDonna was the best company to handle not only the look of our CD, but also the promotion of it. While all of the recording was going on over at Mandala, Chadd and Lee worked on graphics, art, and content, while Nikki made connections through TMC to find us a venue for our CD release party, and avenues for us to promote the CD. As is the case with Mandala, we’re down to the last few details with PrimaDonna. Once we’ve got everything properly attributed, once all the lyrics are correct and the thank-you section is to our liking, once the art is exactly right, they also pass along their product to Core Media.

As for Core Media, we were pleased to discover that we had a production company right here in San Antonio. This allows us to pick up product at the source rather than having stuff shipped to us. These are also local guys and gals who, like us, are TMC members. We’re very pleased that every individual who contributed to this CD belong to this organization.

Meanwhile? Well, we keep playing. We need to. Cutting a CD to our exacting standards is expensive. It has basically taken every penny we’ve earned as a group – that hadn’t already been spent on equipment upgrades – to finance this endeavor. While Core Media combine the contributions of Mandala Music, PrimaDonna Productions and, of course, The Tim and Bob Show, we keep doing what we do. We can’t announce the date and venue of the CD release party – not all t’s have been crossed – but we’re looking at mid-October. I can tell you that the party will also be a fundraiser for Pet Pals of Texas, one of our favorite charities, and that people who attend that function will get a two-dollar [never-to-be-repeated] discount on CDs purchased. I can also tell you that the CD will go on general release the next day. All the band members will provide their mailing lists the link to order the CD on line, as well as the iTunes information for those of you who don’t care how beautiful our cover is!

So, the “beginning” in the title refers to the work Core Media will do over the next month or so. The “ending” deals with the culmination of the much-appreciated efforts of Mandala Music and PrimaDonna Productions. The “milepost?” Well, Wednesday, August 27, is the third anniversary of our first paid gig as The Tim and Bob Show, at Fralo’s Art of Pizza in Leon Springs. We had barely 30 songs in what we laughingly called “our repertoire” – we’ve over 160 songs now – and Steve and I hadn’t even discussed the possibility of writing a song together. We only got the gig because Kathy decided that we needed to stop TALKING about playing in public and actually DOING IT. Since that time, we’ve played over 100 gigs all over South Texas and, venues and audiences willing, we’ll be doing it for a long time to come.

Monday, August 18, 2008

There's a Party Goin' on 'Round Here

Well, that's certainly how it seemed Friday night at Orderup. We always enjoy playing the Colonnade venue, and we're always content with our role as diversion or distraction. After all, their good food is what gets folks in the door there. We're not sure what made Friday so unusual, but almost from the beginning, we got fantastic audience reaction. By the time we had finished our last number, Orderup felt like the site of a private party -- thrown in our honor. Thank goodness we sounded great on the night!

We did have some Tim and Bob Nationals in the house, of course: Muriel and Irv, Bethany, Matt, Hillary, Casey, Pam, The Other Don, Dave, and John-Michael. But we also made a lot of new friends - Jill, Ora, Pat, and Jim and Charlene. We were especially happy to see Jessica and John who came to Orderup after discovering us at a different venue earlier in the month. Finally, we wound up playing one more number than we had planned when friend and fellow musician Jerry Bailey and his wife Mary Ellen came in the door just as we finished our last song. What a ride! All four of us had a wonderful time performing for this great bunch of people. That's what it's all about for us.

Note: Sunday's gig at Fralo's became our first gig in a very long time to be canceled for weather. We had everything all set up and were munching away on their amazing pizza when the rains came down. It eased up for a short while as we packed everything away, but just as the clock hit 6:30 -- our start time -- it started raining harder again. Well, at least some children were entertained by our Tim and Bob Show/Fralo's Art of Pizza coloring books. Thanks especially to Katlyn and Audrey (and their parents, of course) for donating their artwork to us. Finally, as if anyone needed any more proof just how small the world is, just as we were getting ready to drive home in the rain, Steve and Kathy were stopped by an attractive young woman named Molly. As it turned out, Molly was Steve and Kathy's twin girls first babysitter. Molly's family had moved to Denver and everyone gradually lost track of each other. Now she and her husband are back in San Antonio. See, good things happen to you when you go to Fralo's Art of Pizza!

Well, we have a rare weekend off in our future as Steve and Hillary drive back to Oakland CA one more time, and then we'll be playing pretty much non-stop until Thanksgiving. Exactly where? Exactly when? Check out our Next Gigs feature. Oh, and TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

8-08-08 -- Lucky for The Tim and Bob Show!

Numerologists pointed towards last Friday as the luckiest day in years. Why? Because it was the 8th day of the 8th month of the 8th year in the new millennium. It was why people chose to marry on that date in record numbers. It was also why the Chinese chose that date as the start of the 2008 Olympics. Well, none of us got married on Friday, nor did we do any running or heavy lifting, but we got to play a good "rocky" set at Beto's Comida Latina in front of old friends and new.

I know what your first question is, and "yes" it was hot -- seriously hot and humid -- and we all suffered through it. But, right from the start there were Tim and Bob Nationals in the house. They were ready to hear some rock 'n roll and some ballads, and we were more than ready to provide for them. All four of us were in good voice, and even the guitars cooperated, going out of tune a little less often than in our recent outdoor gigs.

Old friends Peter and Marguerite and family showed up. So did Dana, who was a joy for us because she's a fellow musician as well as a good friend. Seeing Patty, who brought her daughter Rachel, and son-in-law Larry with her was a great surprise for us. This was the second gig of ours Patty had attended, but the previous one was at least 2 1/2 years ago! This just shows the value of putting out those gig alerts.

New friends included Jim, Peter and Marguerite's friends, the Mantegnas, and the lively and fun group celebrating both Kathryn's and Susan's birthday. This last bunch included some dancers, and you know how much we love it when people dance at our gigs.

By the time the evening was over, we were all exhausted, but MAN, did we have us some fun! Until next time, TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Session 8: Dodging Edouard – August 5 Recording Session

In a summer this hot and dry, the phrase “60% chance of showers, some of them intense” is usually encouraging. It usually is accompanied by wistful smiles of anticipation. This is how it normally is for the four members of The Tim and Bob Show as well, but not this summer. We’ve already documented the sieve-like nature of the roof at Mandala Music, and how Bett and Joël often have to camp out on the premises overnight if rain is forecast to ensure that none of the sensitive recording equipment gets damaged. And so it was that the fact that it was a good 15 degrees cooler than any of our previous recording sessions [83 degrees!] as we approached San Antonio’s Southtown, didn’t give us any of the relief that it should have.

We began watching the skies in the early afternoon. TS Edouard was hitting the Texas coast around Houston and was supposed to proceed northwest of Austin. If this turned out to be true, and if we continued to be at the weaker, southern, outer edge of its rain band, then we should be okay. Of course, tropical storms either have a mind of their own or no mind at all. As early as 1 in the afternoon, we could hear the echoes of thunder. I kept in touch with Steve and Bett, and we all agreed to give it a shot and hope for the best.

In preparation for the gig, the three of us – Kathy was in New Mexico this week on business – had reviewed the rough cut of four tunes Mary Lou and I picked up Monday afternoon. Once again, we developed a script detailing what we – the musicians – needed to do, and what Joël – the magician – needed to do. We could tell by listening to the four tunes that Joël had made good use of studio time when we weren’t there. Guitars sounded “fatter;” there was the odd dash of echo here and there. The little touches that make a finished product sound “finished” were starting to appear. We were all getting a bit excited.

This is not to say that we had no notes for the session. On the contrary, we had comments on no fewer than seven tunes. We knew that we needed Kathy to be able to listen to “South Texas Saturday Night” before we could decide on whether or not percussion was required, and we also knew that we hadn’t reached a consensus on whether “Sweet Music Man” was “pure and unadorned” or “thin and in need of instrumentation,” but we still gave ourselves a list of 5 songs to work on. We figured that this would take up plenty of the four hours ahead of us.

The four of us had already discussed enhancements to “Looking Back” and “Decisions.” Each required an additional guitar track from Steve and from me. We started at 6 o’clock, and by 7:35pm, both songs were passed on to the “ready for Joël” category. Things were moving along.

Everything Sounds Like a Song” was next. At our request, Joël had added some finger chimes in a few places. Steve, Mary Lou, and I all had different ideas about the efficacy of adding more chimes in more places. In classic Tim and Bob Show fashion, everyone’s point of view was heard and considered, and then we came to a consensus that embraced but did not exactly replicate any individual’s initial desires. Joël was able to adjust the chimes to our liking, and then Steve laid down a guitar track that considered of down-strumming a low E-minor chord four times. After that simple enhancement, this song also slipped into Joël’s in-basket.

Next up was “Raccoon Rumble-seat”. This song is a classic blues-screamer in E that I began writing about 30 or so years ago. Some time in the mid-1970s, my friend Bruce Limpus handed me a slip of paper with these words on it: “I got my bottle of bootleg gin. I ain’t gonna let no depression set in. I’m at the raccoon rumble-seat flapper-dan crystal ball.” It took me only another five years or so to add enough lyrics to make this into a standard 1-4-5-1 blues. I had pretty much forgotten about it until Steve and I formed the group. We had so few songs in our repertoire at the time, and the key of E is so much fun for guitar players, we added this one almost at once. Steve’s assistance with the song’s structure and his scorching solos over the last couple of years have more than qualified him for co-writer status. From the beginning, Steve wanted two things for this song. First, the two guitars needed to be recorded on a single track. We slow down and speed up and trade licks when we do this live, all of it cued visually between us. This is almost impossible to replicate “one track at a time.” Steve’s other plan was for me to record the vocal late in a tiring session so my voice would be rougher than usual.

The original recording satisfied both those desires. Steve then added a nice rhythm track, and, when we heard this on the rough cut, we had only a couple of “I gottas” to discuss. Joël was able to dispose of them and fix the track in only EIGHT MINUTES. Man, we were seriously smoking. We were about two hours and 15 minutes into our session and had completed all band work on four more songs. Then came “Light in the Night.”

This was the first song we had recorded, and we did it without the clicker – the little metronome thingy that keeps us on tempo. I’m the rhythm player on this song, and I have a bitch of a time with the metronome. Why? Because my rhythms tend to be a little syncopated and this doesn’t work well. So, we recorded it without the clicker. Mistake. On stage we each can keep the other from running away with the tempo on a song with looks or other cues. We didn’t have this opportunity, and so it turned out faster than we’ve ever played it on stage. Since the lyrics are more symbolic than concrete, going fast isn’t a good idea. Unfortunately, we were so new to the process, that we recorded all the vocals and all the guitars all at that breakneck speed. When we heard it, each of us was sick. Money is a little tight in Tim and Bob Land, and we thought about just leaving it. But then we realized that if we left it, we’d hate it every time we heard it played. So, it came down to two choices: start from scratch, or forget the song entirely and go with 13 songs on the CD.

Since we were moving along so nicely, we decided to re-record it. Steve took the initial rhythm track, since he’s much more disciplined than I am in using the clicker. One take got it down. Then I added my rhythm track. So far still so good. Steve then added his lead track. There’s a simple, but gutsy lick here that makes the song rock. As a matter of fact, that lick came before anything else in the song. So, three guitar tracks down and it was time for vocals. As we do with a lot of the songs we cover, Steve and I trade off, with one taking the melody and the other the harmony and, then, switching off at points. This song was written that way, so we needed to do a single vocal track with each of us singing. This is fine, except that one of us making just a little gaffe will, in effect, kill two tracks. We took a lot of time knocking off the rough edges, but we still had all of “Light In the Night” in the can one hour and fifteen minutes after we started. I’m glad we didn’t decide to ditch it. I really like this song.

At this point, it was 9:30pm and we had completed work on five songs. Joël said he’d get a rough cut of “Light in the Night” for us ASAP so we could be prepared for Monday’s session. We’ll have Kathy back in time for Friday night’s gig, and so I’m confident we can work out a script for the three songs not yet fully in Joël’s hands in plenty of time. Joël is guessing that he’ll need a total of four more studio hours to complete all the mixing. The mastering should be fairly speedy, and then we’ll have something to deliver to the presser.

It’s amazing to me. It was only three years ago this month that the band played for the first time. Our gig on August 2, 2008 was our 100th. We started with a repertoire of roughly 30 songs, and now that repertoire includes 159 songs. We’re a cover band about to produce our first CD with 12 original songs on it. When she was setting up microphones for our vocal track, Bett mentioned to me that she and Joël were still waiting for our first in-studio temper tantrum. She was amazed that we had spent so much time working so hard and concentrating on each second of each person’s performance, and we still spent most of our non-recording time laughing. I said that in three years I could only remember about 5 or 6 even momentary losses of temper. I guess it’s just not in our nature.

Well, another gig on Friday, a team meeting on Saturday – wine will be involved – and then into the studio. Life is good when you play rock ‘n roll. Oh, by the way, the rain never really showed up here in San Antonio.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Session 7 and beyond, culminating on August 2, 2008

It's been a long, strange trip getting this CD done. The first few sessions went by like clockwork, and then came the complications. The rain, the heat, the difficulties in breathing, the difficulties in getting “the message” in both directions. It’s been interesting.

Most recently, the problem has been illness. Steve was seriously hammered by one of his periodic allergy related sinus infections and, just as he was beginning to recover, Joël was knocked sideways by food poisoning. This, added to a long illness followed by a bereavement in Joël’s circle, tended to weaken the unity and the focus of the four band members and the two producers. It was in view of the fact that Joël was just recovering and that we had a long, demanding gig that evening, that Saturday’s recording session was scheduled for only two hours – between 10 and 12 in the morning. Our plan was to try to “fix” everything we could that required Kathy, since she was leaving town on business on Sunday and would miss our next session the following Tuesday. We weren’t sure how much we could get done, but we had taken the time to take copious notes on the “rough tracks” Joël gave us, and we arrived at the studio very well prepared.

As it turned out, the two hours we spent were extremely productive. Joël’s method is to complete all the mixing of the various tracks before he goes on to the mastering phase. Our plan to augment that was to provide several observations to help him with his mastering, coupled with a list of things that band members could do to augment the tracks. The most recent rough cut CD including some studio enhancements – “fattening” the guitar tracks and adding some echo to the vocals. We do a lot of multiple harmonies live, and we wanted to make sure that each voice could be heard clearly with none of them at a volume so as to be at the expense of any other. This is, of course, why Mandala Music gets the big bucks. Well, they’re getting our bucks in any event. [If you’d like a simplified overview of the relationship between musicians and producers, your attention is gently invited to the last few lines of the refrain of Ben Fold’s song “Rockin’ the Suburbs.”]

The first thing we did was to revisit “Take It Like a Man.” We came in thinking that we might have to redo the percussion track, both because the claves sounded a bit weak and also because there was a loss of tempo at one point. Luckily, Joël was able to take care of both these problems just by [warning! technical jargon follows] adjusting the thing-y and moving some stuff around. We also realized that we didn’t have to rework my guitar solo at the end. The track was there all along. All Joël had to do was bring up the volume. When we agreed that there was also nothing that needed to be done to Kathy’s lead vocal, “Take It Like a Man” was deemed “ready for final mixing.”

Given this quick resolution, we pressed on apace. How fast? Well, we fixed the “fullness” problem with “Love in Three-Quarter Time” simply by adding an additional guitar track. We were prepared to add a percussion track as well, but the basic act of down-strumming at each chord change provided the extra warmth we needed. Steve was also unhappy with his counterpoint vocals and re-recorded both of them. One more song in the “to be mixed” bag.

When we listened to “Fast” on the rough cut CD, Steve decided that we needed a couple of well-placed oohs. Steve figured out the melody and asked me to add a harmony. The idea was to teach both to the girls. In the end, he was comfortable with how we did it, so, two more mini-vocal tracks, and this beautiful song was already sliding over into Joël’s in-basket.

Then came the CD’s title song: “Take It Outside.” I knew it was much too easy for me when I got both my rhythm guitar track and my vocal track in one take each. There were two gaps in the guitar track where I had rushed the rest by about a second in each instance. It didn’t sound too bad at the time, but after Steve added his lead track and we had a chance to listen to it repeatedly, we knew we had to got back and add more guitar. No problem. After Steve did a little lead “noodling” to the song’s intro, THAT song was also ready for Joël’s magic.

By this point, we were most definitely in fast forward mode. On Mary Lou’s song, “Sweet Music Man,” we knew we needed some more instrumentation, but we only brought one concrete idea into the studio. Once again, as he had with “Love in Three-Quarter Time,” Steve added a very simple rhythm pattern that filled the song out nicely. We know we’d like to do a couple more things to the song, and we enlisted Joël’s and Bett’s brainstorming skills. We’re hoping to hear something from them on that next session.

Finally finished with what we thought we could do, I was busily packing stuff up and toting it out to the car when I heard, at our request, what Joël had done to “Everything Sounds Like a Song.” It’s amazing what finger chimes can do. We’re going to concentrate on this track, along with “Raccoon Rumble-seat,” “Light in the Night,” “South Texas Saturday Night,” ”Decisions” and “Looking Back” in our next session – please let’s have the entire four hours this time. We’re not committed to completing everything in our next session, but we ARE committed to having everything mixed and mastered by the end of this month. Once that happens, and once we’ve got our cover art, and CD innards, plus our CD release party details ironed out, we can start thinking about nagging everyone in the universe who knows us to buy it. We’re pretty discerning critics of our own work and we’re really beginning to like what we hear.

So keep your checkbooks dry and watch the skies for the release date. Until then, watch this space for our next chapter in the recording blog.

Competition for the Backyardigans?

The Tim and Bob Show celebrated the first Saturday of August by performing on Broadway. Well, to be more specific, we played at Water Street Oyster Bar in Lincoln Heights on Broadway at Basse. We love the intimacy and night club-like feeling of Water Street's loft, and we're pleased to see that, in addition to tables for eating, the management had placed some overstuffed couches in the space for folks to linger, libate, and listen later into the evening.

We like Water Street because they pay us twice. The second time is after the gig, of course, but the first time is when we get an opportunity to sample their fantastic food. I swear, it gets better every time we eat there. On Saturday, Kathy had a Cobb salad that featured "the best chicken I've tasted in a long time." Mary Lou and Steve each had a po'boy, and I opted for the shrimp enchiladas. Wow, no wonder the place is so crowded on Saturday nights!

The party began while we were still setting up. Scott and Anita, who had heard us perform at Beto's, brought their friends Jerry and Linda to hear us. It was Linda's birthday, and she was ready to celebrate. So were we. For our third song of the evening, we performed the Beatles "Birthday." Later, we played the song again -- this time for Broderick, who was seated downstairs. I'm not sure if we ever met him, but he might have been one of several people who came up from downstairs to listen to us throughout the night.

One gentleman, and we never got his name, first brought his toddler son up to watch and listen, tipped us and left, only to return with his 5-something daughter. The three of them sat on chairs no more than 4 feet from us. Suitably supplied by Kathy and Mary Lou, they then played some percussion for us -- well, father and daughter did. The son mostly played slam-dunk with his piece of "musical fruit." The father told us that his daughter liked us almost as much as The Backyardigans. Evidently some members of the band knew who they were, and informed me that we should be flattered. I am; we all are.

By the time the evening was over, we had played a healthy slice of the "mellow" portion of our repertoire. We had time between sets to chat with new friends. There's something about the music we play that makes people think, remember, smile, and want to share. We hope to see many of these folks again the next time we're at Water Street. This was a seriously fun night for us. It's good to be in a rock 'n roll band.

Tell us what YOU think!