inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #0 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 18:20

At Gail's suggestion (she's the manager of the WELL), I am going to post
selections from my journal here in the inkwell.

The first response will give you the necessary background.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #1 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 18:26

September 24, 1998, 4:40pm

At the ripe old age of 44, I am in the process of launching a new career as a
musician on the national stage.  At this moment I am in a car heading toward
Milwaukee (just passing the MARS CHEESE CASTLE on the left) for the ninth of
ten gigs in eleven days.

I'm in the Midwest because John Metzger, who publishes a newsletter and web
site called The Music Box, asked me (on the GD Hour mailing list) why I never
play anywhere other than the coasts.  "Because I don't know anyone in the
middle,"  I said.

"Let me see what I can do,"  he replied.  John got on the phone to a mess of
clubs, and in the first week of June we took a trial run: five gigs in four
cities -- Chicago, Milwaukee, Springfield IL and Champaign IL.  John served
as tour manager, sold my CDs and GD Hour t-shirts, and collected names for
the mailing list.

I had flown out on a frequent-flyer ticket, and except for one night in
Springfield we avoided hotels by driving back to John's house in a Chicago
suburb after every gig, so the rent-a-car was the only significant expense.
To my surprise and delight, I actually went home with more money than I left

For this September tour, we went back to the same cities and several more.  I
had a "David Gans solo acoustic tour Fall 1998"  shirt (reviving a very cool
"g" logo made of a musical note and a quote mark that I designed in the early
'80s), and we've sold plenty of those along with the other stuff.  And again,
we are in the black.  Not hugely, but I got a great deal on the plane ticket
-- $208 round trip.

(By the way, the decision to use a rental car instead of John's car is a form
of insurance: something goes wrong with the car, the company gets us a new
one and we're on our way.  This paid off on Sunday, when we got a flat out-
side of Indianapolis and they brought us a fresh car.)

My aim is to get out from under the increasingly uncomfortable mantle of
"famous Deadhead"  and into my own life as a songwriter, performer and
recording artist.  I am (obviously) taking advantage of my visibility in
Deadhead circles, but that is of limited value due to the nature of that cul-
ture.  I am emphasizing my own material and lots of other people's stuff,
with maybe 15% Dead songs in my active repertoire.  Just enough to keep the
Deadheads interested, I suppose -- though the ones who are *only* interested
in hearing music that Jerry Garcia breathed on are not really the people I'm
interested in recruiting to my cause.

A recent development that is of great interest to me is the emergence of the
"No Depression"  movement.  It is a musical classification that is tailormade
for me.

I have been playing music all my life (clarinet in school orchestras and
marching bands throughout my school years), and playing guitar and writing
songs for nearly 30 years.  My consciousness has always been pretty pop.  I
have never had much of an affinity for jazz (and no cool role model to turn
me on to those records), which is one of the things that leaves me out of the
running with many of my Deadhead friends.  I grew up listening to mainstream
rock radio and then "underground"  radio, but I didn't pick up on the cues
that so many of my slightly older peers did to follow "our"  music back to
its roots.  Not til later, anyway.

I'm dealing with a good deal of bitterness about recent experiences in Dead-
land, and the feeling that I can't get an even break from that crowd for a
number of reasons.  But that's just by way of explaining some of the stuff
that's likely to come out of me in the course of this journal.  The important
thing is that I have always had a unique musical personality, but only
recently have I developed the skills -- and not coincidentally, the con-
fidence - to step up as myself and give it a shot.

I've been keeping track of some statistics on my current tour.  Of about 70
titles performed, 21 are my own compositions and 9 are Grateful Dead
originals.  Another handful are covers that many associate with the Dead
(e.g.  "Broken Arrow,"  but the vast majority of the world will recognize it
via the composer Robbie Robertson, or Rod Stewart, who had a hit with it).  A
given show has been about 40% original, which I'd like to raise to 50%, and
15% Dead songs.  I am able to toss off any number of Dead songs and other
stuff that I tend to regard as cheesy covers (I played a couple of Beatle
songs in Columbia MO, because someone yelled for them and the place was in
such a good mood), but I am not interested in playing "favorites."  My desire
is to play a great collection of songs that I've done something with to make
'em my own.  "Pancho and Lefty"  has been covered and covered, but I think
I'm doing something with it that makes it my own.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #2 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 18:33

Friday, September 18, 1998 
Bread Stretchers, Springfield IL

First set was the toughest experience of the tour so far.  Lots of people,
but too many of them were talking loudly and not paying attention.  I con-
centrated on the people who were listening, and there were more than enough
of those.  Eventually the inattentive people drifted out, leaving a couple
dozen enthusiastic listeners.

There was a couple from St. Louis who had missed us there on Tuesday but came
to Columbia last night and Springfield tonight.  Four teenage guys, at least
two of them guitar players, were attentive to my guitar playing in a way that
I have rarely experienced before.  First time I have ever been seen as a
guitarist of any distinction?  Dunno, but it was nice to feel that I was
being noticed that way.

My throat was a little tight all day, so I chose my songs to favor it at
first.  Once I was warmed up, I had no problems.

My vocal and instrumental performances are getting better every day, and my
improvised setlist approach is working very well.  I have a large working
repertoire, and I can mix 'em up a lot of different ways.  I also have a
solid group of "hits" including my own stuff and certain covers, that I can
always rely on to ground the set and center myself.

I have good control of dynamics, and I have been able to spend time in the
quiet realms without feeling compelled to hurry into something upbeat.  I've
been able to pull off a stright fingerpicked version of "Popstar," and I've
also put "Falling Star" across with quiet confidence.  Stuff like "Pancho and
Lefty" and "Broken Arrow" can get really quiet in the middle and I don't lose
the audience.

Tonight I played a lot of guitar solos; Cassidy (a request) was surprisingly
successful.  I played the parts very powerfully, and I flew into the jam with
confidence.  I like the fact that I didn't jam *into* anything.  I played
more Dead songs than I would ordinarily feel comfortable doing, but I did
feel comfortable doing them.  I played more cheesy '70s covers (along with
the "real" stuff) than I thought I oughta, too.  But I will focus on the ones
that I am adding value to -- the ones that really speak in my voice.

I am reaching very far back into my musical history (Cat Stevens!), seeing
what works on what levels.  But I'm going to limit the sentimental pop songs;
for example, I'm not doing much to distinguish "Desperado" other than singing
it probably a little too sweetly.  "Mr. Tambourine Man" might be worth doing
more often, with my arrangement (verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorusversechorus)
that emphasizes the text rather than the trance.

After I sang "Normal" I mentioned that the guy who wrote it was standing in
the lobby of the Red Roof Inn when I arrived this afternoon.  Then I ex-
plained that actor Martin Mull started out as a songwriter.  "If you're a
certain age, you remember him as Barth Gimble in 'Fernwood 2night,' and if
you're younger you remember him as Leon Carp, the boss in 'Roseanne.'"  He's
now a cardboard standup in a number of sizes, representing the Red Roof chain
at the lobby door, on top of the TV set in the room, in their TV commercials,

Tonight during "Rocket Man" I said, "This is about being on tour, you know."
I am choosing covers that have some relevance to my own story - "Sitting in
Limbo," for example.  Looking for ways to fit the "Wharf Rat"/"One Time One
Night" elements together, what else I can frame with those verses.

As the tour progresses, I'm figuring out what works and what feels good, what
sort of narrative tone I'm going to take, and so on. I am increasingly confi-
dent about the strength and character of my own songs. "Sovereign Soul" is
very strong; I have gotten several compliments on the ideas expressed in that

As I finished "River and Drown" tonight, I thought about dropping one chorus
and consolidating the 3rd and 4th verses [and did so, to good effect, from
here on out].

The new song, "High Guy," is very popular.  The pieces are just now starting
to sort themselves out.  It needs some places to breathe.  The repeats at the
end of various verses need to be organized - some will be stretched.  Next
time I play it I will not repeat the first verse at the end, nor will I
repeat the "high guy" section: that will be a bridge.  There wil be no chorus
nor refrain.  "Alarmingly like high school" is the end.  Five verses, bridge
between 3rd and 4th verses.  [Yesterday, after playing the song for some
friends, I begua to consider dropping the "High guy" bridge altogether and
letting the five verses stand on their own; the "bridge" is a bit of a non-
sequitur, I think.  Of course, this will mean I have to find a new title for
the song!]

I need to figure out what to do with the intro riff of "Listen," 'cause I
sure didn't do anything worth hearing tonight.  I think I'm gonna wind up
playing exactly what I play with Eric, and forget about the bass line.  I
can't play the old fingerpicked way and get smoothly into the strum.

Most importantly, I am giving people memorable experiences.  I am getting
memorable responses.  The audiences are small, but larger than I have any
right to expect on my first visit to a given town.  The important part is
connecting with each and every person who is there, and I am doing very well
on that score.  The experience of performing is exciting, satisfying and
rewarding.  I have it in me to do this well, and I am doing well consis-
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #3 of 232: Alex Buck (apb) Sun 10 Oct 99 20:30
Good luck on your new life path, David.

Speaking as a jazz fan and non-Deadhead, it sounds like you're still
struggling to let go of something you've identified with for a long time.
Others may have trouble accepting this as well.  Your comment about who
you want and don't want to recruit to the cause sounds to me like you know
just how you want to stand on your own feet.

Did you go to that great chili joint in Springfield?  The name escapes me.  

For some reason I want to suggest you sneak into Lincoln's Tomb and do
some recording.  I bet the acoustics are great.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #4 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 23:00
Heh!  I haven't spent enough time in Springfield to do any sightseeing --
it's usually a pretty quick trip on these motor tours.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #5 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Sun 10 Oct 99 23:07

>still struggling to let go of something you've identified with for a long

Well, I'm enmeshed in it, for better or worse.  I still earn my living put-
ting GD music on the radio, and I co-produced the boxed set that's coming out
November 9.

I took a 20-year detour from my own musical path, and while I'm not sorry
about all the interesting experiences I've had as a journalist, radio
producer and Famous Deadhead, it really is time for me to make my own music
the foremost thing.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #6 of 232: Alex Buck (apb) Mon 11 Oct 99 07:17
Well, I spent fifteen years in the corporate and software worlds before
chucking the whole thing and trying to make it as a writer.  Havn't had
anything published yet, and one person on the WELL whom I terminated a
friendship with reminds me of my literay shortcomings on a regular basis.

Perhaps this is getting a bit too theraputic. 

I look forward to reading your journals.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #7 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 08:52

>one person on the WELL whom I terminated a friendship with reminds me of my
>literay shortcomings on a regular basis.

That's unpleasant.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #8 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 08:56

Sunday, September 20, 1998
Barrelhouse Brewing Co., Cincinnati

Crowd was big enough, and largely attentive, but strangely passive.  Got good
responses to lots of stuff - "Normal" was a biggie for this crowd, for

I need to be a little better prepared to deal with the lack of input from the
audience.  Tonight, as in Chicago last night, I had an audience that was
quiet and almost too respectful.  I started out with a funny song, as per
last night's notes, but it wasn't the right way to start this show.   I
coulda started with "Normal," heh-heh, but I am determined to put originals
in all or most of the key spots in each set.  My response to the lack of
information in the audience reaction is to keep going, keeping between-songs
time and chatter to a minimum until I have some sense of the atmosphere.  The
songs come in their own order, and I'm pretty happy with most of the
decisions I've made.

We've sold 17 Monicas and 10 HBMs, lots of GDH shirts and a few DG Tour
shirts in 6 shows.  We're getting lots of names for the mailing list, and
lots of enthusiastic chatter from people between sets and after the show.  I
am getting across.  In the places where the audience is small, I am getting
*very* good responses from everyone there.  That's what counts: I give it the
best I've got no matter how many people are there.

The Dead thing is working out okay, I think.  I play the songs, but I don't
call verbal attention to them.  I find myself on occasion using them to
cultivate the audience's attention, maybe even affection.  I don't want to
use them in climactic spots, though "Box of Rain" is pretty cathartic.  It
verges on a clonish entry, though, and I may have to drop it from the
repertoire lest it become a cheap device.  No such problems with "Gomorrah"
or "Wharf Rat" - I own those songs, particularly the latter, the way I'm
using it.  The interleaving of "Wharf Rat" and "One Time one Night" was
excellent tonight - I used the first verse ("A wise man" through "one night
in America") of "One Time One Night" to establish the narrative, then skipped
the first verse of "Wharf Rat" and went right to "My name is August West."
All the way through to August's "I know she's been true to me," then over
into the body of "One Time One Night," then back out through "I got up and
wandered."  I'm looking for narrative threads, not trying to pull a gimmick.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #9 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 09:42

Wednesday, September 23, 1998, 11:51pm
In a car going home to Chicago from Bloomington IL

Elroy's was easily the worst gig of the tour, from the performer's
standpoint. Sports bar, with big screens showing beaucoup baseball at the
other end of the room.  Maybe eight or ten people who came out to hear me vs.
40-50 who couldn't care less -- including a table full of uninterested
parties right in front of me.  A couple of them seemed mightily amused by my
shoes, in a way that momentarily put me in mind of getting bashed for 'em.  I
introduced "Sovereign Soul" as follows: "This song is about why I wear these
shoes."   [These are black leather shoes painted by Howard Rheingold.  He
made 'em for my wedding, and now I wear them for special occasions like

Still, there were a few very attentive souls, and I did deliver a strong, if
laconic, performance.  At first I stayed away from originals, but the Monica
moment arrived, and after that I mixed 'em up -- even played three in a row
at one point in the first set, I think.

Second set I had a fighting chance.  The large table of non-fans was gone,
and early in set 2 half a dozen young hippie types arrived, and they paid
good attention to my performance throughout.

Got a few names for the mailing list, got paid $150 instead of the $100
guarantee, and we sold $53 worth of stuff -- one each of the CDs and t-
shirts.  A significantly better result than last night in Champaign.

Tonight is Milwaukee, which was a good stop last time.  My niece Caitlin (age
19, daughter of my sound-designer brother and both a musician and a live-
sound person, who works for a local band called Little Blue Crunchy Things)
is coming over from Madison to meet me at 5:30, and she can also help keep
the stoner sound man in line.

Tomorrow night, the tour ends with my second gig at the Heartland.  My voice
has held up well for the most part, though the tobacco smoke does take its

Friday, September 25, 1998
Heartland Cafe, Chicago

The tour ended with a bang.  Good crowd at the Heartland, and an enthusiastic
response, too.

Before the show I went over the list from my appearance there a week ago and
made a list of the songs I hadn't played.  I still wound up doing the dozen
or so "core" songs, but I also did a lot of stuff in direct response to calls
from the audience.  At one point someone called for -- I can't remember which
Roy Orbison song it was, but I diddled around a bit with the only Orbison
song I know (knew!), "Pretty Woman."  Didn't get too far before losing the
changes altogether, but the audience took it in the spirit in which it was
offered and forgave my aborted reading warmly.

There was a table full of really young kids in the far right of my view, one
of whom -- a tall skinny kid with pale blond dreads -- had been in the
audience last Saturday and promised to return with more friends.  There were
actually several parties like that, a most gratifying sight. Someone in this
teenage crew had called for "Dark Star," and I offered a light-hearted
explanation that it is impossible for one person to "jam."  Someone called
out that it would be "sacrilege" anyway, which I also disputed, adding an
anecdote about the horribly offended email I had gotten from the guy who
heard me sing "Stella Blue" at the Fillmore 1/31 and thought that song should
have been buried with Jerry.  But in the second set, coming out of "Things We
Said Today" and not really up for "Dixie Chicken" (which would have felt like
a throwaway in this context), I found myself drifting into "Dark Star."  At
first I thought I might just play the chordal riff once and then move on, but
I haven't really figured out what to do with "Scene of the Crime" as a solo
piece and I didn't have another key-of-A item at my fingertips.  So I went
with "Dark Star," and it was kinda cute.  This was a good night for me as a
soloist -- I took some chances with single-note melodies, filling in chords
where I could grab 'em -- and the "Dark star" was actually kinda cool.  I
sang the first verse, and ended it with the E minor following "...nightfall
of diamonds."

"You changed my mind," said a voice from the blond-dread-guy table.  "You
mean you DON'T want me to play 'Dark Star'?" I parried.  Later he told me
that I had shown him that it wasn't sacrilege to play "Dark Star" solo.

Another interesting thing that happened at the Heartland last night was that
I got into some interesting political rants.  Between the third and fourth
verses of "Monica" I delivered a spiel about the "hidden, undocumented,
possibly illegal" fourth cut on the CD single, featuring a vocal solo by Bill
Clinton, etc.  And somewhere around that same point in the set I talked about
the urgent necessity of VOTING (Katie, one of the restaurant owners, had told
me she teaches politics at a college and registers voters there at the club);
I cited the Dornan-Sanchez race [a congressional race in Orange County,
California] as a good example of a few votes making a major difference.  When
I pointed a good-natured finger at the young blond dread guy, he replied that
he was too young to vote!

After the show, both John and Nancy noted that I seemed much more relaxed and
talkative at this gig than I had in June.  I thought that was interesting,
because I felt pretty relaxed there the first time.  But it is evidence of
the tremendous progress I'm making.  There is NOTHING like a concentrated
series of solo gigs to sharpen all the performer's senses; I learned a lot
about how to pace and construct a set (sometimes based on the need to protect
my vocal chords, which were a bit creaky at the start of last night's show
but which served me very well once I was warmed up.

The Dead content issue was an interesting last night.  LOTS of Deadheads in
the crowd, and lots of requests for that material.  I think I will learn
"Rubin and Cherise" and"Stagger Lee" for the future, because they are great
songs.  Eight Dead songs may be a bit too much, statistically, but in the
context I was operating in it was just about right.  I think it's good to
have songs like "Limbo" and (much less frequently) "El Paso" in there,
because they please the Deadheads but also work on their own merit, and non-
Deadheads (e.g. Michael James, the co-owner of the Heartland) can appreciate
them on their own terms.

As this very happy show came to an end, with owner Katie paying happy
attention to my performance,  I got the idea that I should come back to this
place and do a solid week of performances, and really put some energy into
promoting beyond the Deadhead world.  The vibes in the club are just great;
the audiences are intelligent and lively; the management and staff seem very
pleased with what I'm doing.  I remember what David Allen did at the Boarding
House for the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, Steve Martin, et al., and I
think there is a lot to be said for the extended engagement.

Katie loves the idea, thinks we should do it in December, and urged me to
call Michael about it ASAP.

inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #10 of 232: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 11 Oct 99 11:08
I liked the <zimby> tour diary, I'm glad you're doing one too, David.  For
reading, and as an idea for other artists and authors on the WELL to
consider.  For such folks, email to would be the way
to explore the idea.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #11 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 11:45

Some upcoming gigs:

October 15-17:  DG plays solo and with various friends at the MagnoliaFest at
the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near Live Oak, Florida. Call
904-249-7990 for information.

Tuesday, October 19:  Yianni's, 646 W. Tennessee, Tallahassee FL.

Thursday, October 21, 11:00pm:  DG opens for Blueground Undergrass at JP's,
1833 Norman Drive, Valdosta GA. 912-241-7436.

Friday, October 22, 9pm:  Red Light Cafe, 553 Amsterdam Ave., Atlanta. $8.
404-874-7828.  Jimmy Young opens.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #12 of 232: Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:31
Ah yes, seems like only yesterday I was yelling rude/funny comments at
David at-- what was the name of that long-defunct place in Ghirardelli
Square.? The Rathskellar? The Drinking Gourd? Who knows, but he did
pretty darn well even in those days, and I'm sure that performer
wouldn't even recognize the confident one who now graces stages 'cross 
this great land. I've had a number of friends through the years who
have tried to "make it" in music, and none of them have stuck with that
path into our mutual middle age. So what a thrill it has been to see
David, kind of puttering on the fringes for many years as he did his
other career trips (yes, a few of us remember the BASS years and the
crowded apartment on Lee Street) and now blossoming into a helluva
singer/songwriter/performer, not fronting a Dead cover band, but
delivering a fabulous cxollection of his own and others' soulful songs.
It's as if he had to wait until he could do it on his own terms for it
to feel right to make the Big Stab. And whether it leads to anything
beyond the current level of small-but-satisfying, how wonderful to have
been able to touch lives so personally and to communicate so

Having done a series of book readings recently where audiences ranged
from a paltry 10 or so up to about 80 (yay, Seattle!) I know that it's
the depth of connection with the audience and not the size of the
audience that matters most, so I'd say as long as you're reaching those
handfuls of people, David, and you can stand to be on the road
(something I know I couldn't bear) go out and make magic in the world!
We need more troubadours! 
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #13 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:57
Thanks, Blair.  I'm having a great time!

By the way, it was the Ghirardelli Cellar.  That was a LONG time ago!
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #14 of 232: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 11 Oct 99 19:38

David, I still vividly remember the first time I ever heard you sing -
solo acoustic, introduced by <mudshark> - at the very-short-lived Club 101
in San Rafael 7/10/92. You did mostly your own songs, as I recall, and you
blew me away.  You were also kind enough to provide me with a tape that to
this day is always in my car.

Even though I often saw your bands - Crazy Fingers and its variations, and
the Reptiles - there was nothing that affected me like that first exposure
to David Gans originals, solo and acoustic.

I'm enjoying this journal, and really thrilled that now, people all over
the country get to have the same kind of experience that I did so long
ago.  Are you still making soundboard tapes and if so, have you thought
about selling those in addition to Monica and Home by Morning?  The reason
I ask is, I know how much that tape meant to me, and I imagine there are
those for whom the tapes would be as meaningful...
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #15 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 20:26
From time to time I get an excellent-sounding digital tape of a well-played
and -sung show.  I have to do a lot of paperwork to market such a disc --
securing licenses for all the material by others -- and eventually I will get
it together.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #16 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 20:39

Sunday, September 27, 11:00am

I'm home! The Milwaukee show was not very well-attended, which is
disappointing because it was a return engagement.  But the finale in
Chicago was a biggie, both creatively and financially.  A great way to
end the tour.

I learned a lot on this trip.  Sharpened a lot of my songs, found new
ways to deliver some old favorites, came to terms with the Dead
component of my repertoire and also with its '70s-heaviness (which
might actually be an asset given some recent trends in the pop
culture).  Some of my favorite songs have not been heard much in recent
years, and I may be in a position to turn some new audiences on to some
great old stuff.

My own songs really developed nicely on this trip.  I've done some
polishing and rewriting here and there, but a surprising number of my
"old"  songs are working very well exactly as they are.  This tells me
something very important about my confidence -- about my sense of
deserving a place in front of these audiences that I never had when I
was younger.

"Sovereign Soul" is a song I wrote in the summer of 1994, just before
my wedding.  I sat down with the idea of writing a song for my wedding
and this heavily libertarian declaration came out instead!  But for some
reason, it has taken me four years to get the song into my active
repertoire.  Finally, on this tour, it became a front-line number for
me -- and it works *very* well.  Got lots of comments on it at various
gigs.  And it *says* something -- something important and worthwhile.

"Falling Star" is a delicate piece I wrote in 1971 or so, with a
fingerpicking setting reminiscent of Crosby's "The Lee Shore."  I
composed an instrumental middle for it the day after a memorable acid
trip.  I never taught it to any band I've ever played with, and it
hasn't been a consistent component of my solo shows until now.  One
important factor is that I now have the finger strength to perform it
cleanly and the vocal skill to hit the high notes.  For some weird
reason, I didn't remember to do the middle section the first 6 times I
played it on this tour -- I just did some improvising with open-string
drones -- but at the last gig, I played the whole thing as originally
envisioned, and it came across very strongly.

Another weird song that I've only ever played solo is "The Nightmare,"
which has some odd time-signature stuff, huge dynamic excursions and
hallucinatory lyrics.  I deliver it fiercely these days, and fearlessly
-- but I think until recently I was afraid it was just ridiculous.  But
now that I have some *standing* to be there on stage, I am finding the
strength in my material and wondering why I've been so timid about it
all these years.

This tour has been a great process of finding the strength of my own
stuff and seeing what of the covers really work for me, and figuring
out how to present this collection of songs in a sequence that adds up
to more than the sum of its parts.  More than ever before, I am putting
my own songs in the power spots in the show.  I am also choosing covers
for their relevance to my own emerging narrative rather than for their
familiarity to the audience.  I won't do just any Dead song, even when
I've got a room full of Deadheads asking for their favorites: I do the
ones that have weight for me.

This is the transition from being a "cover" artist to being an
original.  It's about fucking time, considering that I've been writing
songs since before I even started playing the guitar (my brother set
two of my tortured teenage poems to music and then taught me the
chords, and the rest is history).  I don't think I could have taken a
run at a real musical career much before now, 'cause I had a lot to
learn as a person before I could hope to withstand the challenges I'm
now facing.  Plus, of course, I have the advantage of being nationally
visible, albeit in a dreadfully limiting context.  Transcending Famous
Deadhead-hood has got to be easier than starting from a position of
total invisibility.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #17 of 232: Gordon Taylor (warfrat) Tue 12 Oct 99 08:52
While I haven't know David nearly as long as you others, I'm proud to say
I know him, and fully respect the man, today. Of course, growing up a
deadhead on the east coast, I heard of him long before I ever met him and
one of my first GD books, "Playing In The Band", is now terribly worn-out
and tattered from my flipping through it's pages so many times.

It's not only an honor to know him and call him a friend, it's absolutely
wonderful to watch this man transform himself from his status as "chief
deadhead" (my words) to solo performer. Not only that, but to see him
actually find so much joy in it all. "Follow your bliss" as Joseph
Campbell put it so wisely and that is precisely what he is doing.

More congrats to you, David and it is great to see these journal of yours,
great insights of life on the road for a new solo performer, get the wider
exposure it deserves.

I stand in the wings or sit in the front row and applaud at every positive
turn of events. And there seem to be many as of late.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #18 of 232: John Henry, the (steeldrv) Tue 12 Oct 99 14:44
Uh, David, do you _really_ want to be in Chicago in December?

I'm really enjoying this journal. Thanks much.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #19 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:21
I had a great time in Chicago last December!  Got out just as the first
snowflakes were falling...
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #20 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:45

October 4, 1998

Starry Plough last night.  First time there in several years.

Not much of a crowd.  Only two WELL people, and no one else I recognized.
But there were some people there who heard about the show somewhere and
showed up to check us out, and the important thing is that they got a very
good show for their money.

Chris Haugen bugged out on us to do a wedding gig in southern California, and
we're all kinda pissed about that.  He asked me to let him out of his promise
to us several weeks ago, and I told him we couldn't do the gig without him.
Then he called my machine while I was on the road and said he was going
anyway, and he hoped it didn't cost him his chair in the band.  We gave him
some (mostly) good-natured shit about it at rehearsal last Monday, but I
can't see booting him over it.  If he does it again, that's another story.

I was determined to deliver a great show even without our lead player, and
dammit, we did deliver a great show.

 DG solo:
   The Nightmare

 DG and Eric Rawlins (acoustic)
   Travelin' Back to Georgia
   Waltzing Across Texas
   I Wish It Would Rain
   Til I Gain Control Again
   What's Your Name?
   Yellow Moon
   Leave Me

 DG, ER and band:
   Jay's Song
   Travelin' Man
   Salisbury Plain
   Crazy Crazy Crazy
   The Minstrel
   Leavin' Louisiana in the Broad Daylight
   Cherokee Rider
   Live One
   Hooker River
   Tear My Stillhouse Down

 Broken Angels:
   Candyman (with Eric on BG vox)
   Headin' Home Already
   Broken Arrow
   An American Family->
   Monica Lewinsky
   Black Peter->
   El Paso
   Sultans of Swing
   Sovereign Soul
   Scene of the Crime

That is almost exactly as pre-planned.  I took the stage not knowing how many
solo numbers I was gonna do, and I am not sure why I brought Eric in after
only two songs.  We skipped "Caroline" and went right to "What's Your Name?"
because the energy level needed to go up at that spot.  "El Paso" was an
audible at the line of scrimmage, just 'cause it felt right.  And we skiped
"Gomorrah" after "Sultans of Swing" 'cause the crowd had thinned considerably
and it felt like time to head for home.

The weekly gig Eric and I do (at Anna's) is a lot of fun, and it makes gigs
like last night work well because we really know how to sing together.  It
was nice to do it on a proper stage, through a proper PA, in front of an
audience that was nominally there to hear us do it.  And it's always a kick
to play with the band.  I thought that set went very well.

I did pretty well as the lead guitarist throughout.  I hit a few howlingly
bad notes, but for the most part I felt solid and creative. I have been
somewhat intimidated when the exhibitionist-type places come up - e.g.
"Hooker River" - but I thought I played a good, inventive solo in there.  The
handoff to Jenny was smooth, and getting it back from her to do the patented
riffs from the CD was also flawless.  And since the show wasn't recorded, I
will always remember it that way.

The stage is tiny at the Plough.  I stood right on top of my amp, which was
tilted up at me.  This arrangement worked okay - I could hear myself very
well without needing to play too loud.  I kept the earplugs in throughout the
electric set, and I could always hear everything I needed to hear.  Working
with earplugs makes it very easy to concentrate on singing well, and I did
sing well.

The confidence I gained on the midwest tour is palpable.  I wasn't defeated
by the small turnout - I am determined to perform memorably every time I take
the stage, and to figure out how to get people to come to the gigs.  The Bay
Area is a difficult market - everyone I talk to in the biz, pretty much, is
worrying about how to improve their results (too much competition, too small
a population, too far to travel to get to the clubs, etc etc etc.).  At this
point, I know I'm on to something.  I may have exhausted the Deadhead
audience after 20+ years of playing in Dead cover bands - or, more
accurately, in bands that were perceived as Dead cover bands.  I NEVER wanted
to limit my musical horizons that way, and now more than ever, I don't.  I am
in the process of making my peace with that culture, keeping what works for
me but limiting the Dead content in favor of my own material and a more
eclectic set of influences.

To a certain extent, right now I'm a man without a country.  My unpleasant
experiences in Deadland at the beginning of the year really took the wind out
of my sails - I am, from one standpoint, The Man Who Wasn't Good Enough To
Play With Phil - and in the brutally partisan Deadhead culture, losing that
assocation meant losing my worth altogether.  But the truth is, I didn't
belong there in the first place.  Playing with Phil was a lot of fun, but it
was never about who I _really_ am as a musician.  I got to play ONE original
song with Phil; I have never felt that anyone in that scene (inside the Dead
and out among the Heads) really paid much attention to my songwriting, which
is the main thing about me.

I need to get the attention of the non-Deadhead music audience, and I need to
shed the image of the Famous Deadhead in order to do so.  Out on tour in the
Midwest, I attracted the kind of Deadheads I wanted to attract: the ones who
appreciated my including that stuff in my set but who also reacted favorably
to my own stuff, and the other covers I did.  I'd like to find that kind of
audience here at home, too.

As much as I love playing with Eric, especially in the band context, I worry
more than a little about diffusing my profile in the market.  I have to get
rid of the Deadhead connection and build an audience for ME ME ME, but I
can't get a clear image around here because I appear in three different

I don't want to give anything up, though.  It's a dilemma.

I can put my energy into developing my solo identity on the road and continue
doing all the satisfying, fun stuff here at home.  If I had a strong plan to
raise my profile in the bay area, I would have to give some consideration to
giving up the band and the duo, but I'm not prepared to do that to Eric and
I'm not prepared to do that to myself.

I am still thinking about what to do with the band, though.  I have been
increasingly impatient with my drummer, Clayton.  We seem to have a hard time
agreeing on tempo and groove these days - he seemed to be slowing stuff down
a lot last night.  I took "Sovereign Soul" at a much faster tempo than we
rehearsed, and he fought me on it until I turned around and insisted we stick
with the pace I had set.  It worked, better than the tempo we had rehearsed.
I can't blame Clayton for that - it was my initiative to scrap the rehearsed
version - but I am the bandleader, and I am increasingly interested in making
my instincts the law of the land.  The slowing-down issue has been concerning
me for the last several gigs, not just this one.

Another thing that troubles me: I tried, AGAIN, to get the band cooking on
"River and Drown" at rehearsal Monday night, and we AGAIN got nowhere.
Clayton aborted the attempt, stating that he had no idea what to play on it
and we had no time to develop anything worthwhile in the time remaining.  He
was right to abort the rehearsal, but I don't understand why the song is so
hard for him.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #21 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:47

This just in, courtesy of Mary Eisenhart:

String=6018 >
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #22 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Wed 13 Oct 99 11:06

October 12, 1998

Sunday's show at Quixote's True Blue was a good one on all fronts.  40-50
people in this seriously Dead-oriented bar, run by serious Deadheads and
named after a painting by their late father (featured on their t-shirt and
posters).  Every wall was covered with Dead posters -- when I dedicated "The
Minstrel," all I had to do was say "This song is dedicated to that guy" and
point to one of several large Garcia portraits on the wall.

The set was appropriate Dead-heavy, but I never felt that my other material
was unappreciated.  The originals went over very well.  I sang "Brokedown
Palace" as well as I have ever sung anything, and I opened up the guitar part
just a little between verses.  I found lots of places to play guitar, and I
am gaining more confidence.  Playing solo this way requires me to stay down
in first position a lot, so it's good that I have the strength to hold down
those low notes, and I can confidently hold down that F on the low E string
with my thumb.  Bass runs and midrange embellishments are coming smoothly and
imaginatively; I am illuminating the songs more and more effectively, and
making transitions from song to song in engaging, surprising ways.

The instrumental bridge of "Falling Star" wasn't terribly solid at first -
gotta get those little-finger harmonics more solid.  I should probably do a
little less doodling between songs, but I don't think it's offensive to the
audience -- and sometimes those nonspecific vamps turn into pre-song jams.
Overall, I am happy with my non-predetermined approach to set lists.  The
song selections flow nicely, and I almost always get a good solid idea of
what's next as I approach the end of the song I'm playing.  Leave lots of
room for audience input, too, of course.

People went nuts for "Born to Be Wild."  The medley that took off from there
was totally unexpected.  I had figured on going BTBW->Thunder Road, and in
fact I had only intended to do BTBW through the first chorus.  Instead, I
played it all the way through, and then jammed off into Mr. Tambourine Man.
Two verses of Tambourine before the first chorus, and then I dropped "Dear
Mr. Fantasy" in there before returning for the rest of Tambourine.  And then
on into "Thunder Road."  I am finding myself in command of this material,
bringing the dynamics up and down in interesting ways, editing the lyrics on
the fly, feeling the thematic and musical connections in a natural way that
can't be a bad thing.  I worry a bit, in the sober light of the morning
after, about the hokeyness of all this hippie music -- but when I'm up there
doing it, it works very well.  People seem pleased by the song selections and
the flow, and I am finding my own voice in this material.  So what if a lot
of it is 30 years old?  Maybe it's time to bring some these songs back into
the mainstream.  Maybe it's time to bring myself into the mainstream.

This gig did exactly what I needed it to do: drew a modest but entirely
appreciative crowd not composed entirely of people I already knew; impressed
the people who do know me; and continued my steady and satisfying development
as a solo performer.  I got some enthusiastic comments about my songwriting,
from people who are definitely listening.

Everybody was listening!  You can hear it on the tapes.  There are some good,
solid silences in the songs, places where NO ONE is talking.  They're all

I think I'm ready to get serious about doing this full-time.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #23 of 232: be a straw (dwaite) Wed 13 Oct 99 13:47
crazy, crazy, crazy is one GREAT original tune david of your many.
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #24 of 232: David Gans (tnf) Wed 13 Oct 99 22:19

October 19, 1998

Just got back from MagnoliaFest, a lovely (second annual) 3-day event at the
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, a legendary spot in bluegrass history
according to David Grisman.  Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the David Grisman
Quintet, a Bluegrass Reunion (Dawg, Rowan, Vassar, Herb Pedersen and Jim
Kerwin), Donna the Buffalo, Laura Love Band, and many more.

I played a solo set in the "Cafe" - a tent over near the vending area - and
Tom Constanten joined me on piano at the end for a nice acoustic "Dark Star."
 There was a cool passage near the end where we were playing "Dark Star" and
"China Cat Sunflower" simultaneously.

My original material went over very well, and so (of course) did the Dead
stuff.  I don't remember what exactly I played, but I remember playing Black
Peter-> Born to Be Wild and then making the mistake of doing El Paso instead
of Thunder Road.  That threw the balance a little too far in the cheesy-Dead-
song direction.  A crowd-pleaser, but I shoulda done the other.  Oh well.

While I was singing "River and Drown" (my opener), I realized the song could
be very specifically about this event.  It is based on lots of campout hippie
events, and other "on tour" scenes - but in many details, MagnoliaFest is
what I am describing.  That was a good feeling.

Yesterday, Eric and I played on the main stage.  We were supposed to be just
before the DGQ, but Joe Craven was having the air travel day from Hell so
they swapped Laura Love in after us.  She sat on the stage and dug our set,
and made some favorable comments to me after it was over.  The admiration is
mutual - I really enjoyed her set, and both Eric and I bought CDs.

These festival gigs don't offer the luxury of a real sound check - you just
get up there and they try to get things into the neighborhood of dialed in
before you start playing for real.  I got pretty much what I needed from the
monitor guys, but Eric wasn't as assertive as he needed to be; he was kinda
telling me what he needed, when he should have been telling the sound guys.
I got impatient with him, and said, "Tell them what you need, for Christ's
sake!"  I was careful not to say it near the microphone, but my tone was
unmistakably sharp and I felt awful about it immediately.  He got his mix,
and we started our set, but instead of being relaxed and warm, we were edgy
and in a rush.  We settled down after a couple of songs, and it went pretty
well - though we edited the list on the fly and lost Eric's excellent "Wild
Horse Valley" and the novelty number "What's Your Name" and something else,
too.  But we were very well-received.  "Kilkelly" had some people in tears.

The trip got off to a weird start.  Our flight out of Oakland was delayed by
mechanical problems, meaning we'd miss our Jax connection.  So United booked
us on a Delta flight out of SFO.  Eric and I charged across the San Mateo
Bridge, parked in the $35-a-day main lot, and made our flight.  By the time
we drove the 108 miles to our hotel in Jennings FL, it was 3am.  There at the
front desk was Larry Cumings, Dawg's sound guy and tour manager.  What a
trouper he is!
inkwell.vue.51 : Diary of a troubadour
permalink #25 of 232: be a straw (dwaite) Thu 14 Oct 99 08:47
safe travels and calm winds on your trip this weekend... IT is this weekend
isn't it?


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