Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fulfillment in Wallyworld

Beyond the ghastly railroad suburbs* of southeastern Connecticut lies a place where people focus on their lives and not their careers, a place without ties to Boston and New York, a place where every other building isn't 30% parking garage and you're never more than 5 miles from a commuter train. That place is central Connecticut, and it's where a few of my good friends live and have lived.

It's also the home of Barnowl Studios, a rehearsal studio located in a sprawling, formerly industrial complex in Wallingford. In the dimly hit hallways of Building 14A is a community that blurs the lines between music and business, art and artistry. Having only found the place on MySpace and Craigslist, Erich and I thought we'd give it a shot.

Entering a "cheap" rehearsal studio means truly entering rock world. Empty beer cans, cigarette smoke, very low lighting, improvised sound dampening devices like old carpeting and foam blocks. It is in these environs that songs are written and performed. As indie rock and death metal and whatever else (often Latin music in Boston and NY) scream out from behind closed doors, I chuckle at how uncomfortable certain people I know would be in rock world.

Whenever you enter a studio, you wonder about what kind of room you'll get. Will the bass drum be destroyed and the cymbals ripped apart? Will the room smell like piss or weed? Will giant rats run up and down the brick walls as we play? I've seen and smelled it all.

At Barnowl, it's only $6 per hour to practice in a shared space (i.e. a space used by other bands at other times). Said space had a fully equipped drum set, a huge ass bass amp, plus some stuff we pilfered from another band, like a tiny Fender tube amp and a cheap old organ hooked up to a huge Fender amp.

We settled in fast and began casually working on a few songs and arrangements. As we played, people came and went, including a huge metal dude who wanted to try my Ampeg bass. Suddenly some young dudes who had heard us playing came in. One asked if he could play drums with us. We did a few of our tracks with me on electric, Erich on his newly wired acoustic, and this dude Jesse on drums. Shit sounded awesome. We got some serious compliments from the bystanders on these unfinished songs and then blasted out a crazy rock organ trio jam.

When we finally stopped playing, we realized we had been in the studio for four hours. Ryan, the owner, loved our story of meeting halfway at his place, and he wasn't even going to charge us for the session. We made a donation anyway.

This wasn't a show. Our arrangements and lyrics for the songs we worked on weren't even done. No one sang. But it was great to try some tunes out on other musicians, even with one other musician.

We're planning a rental car return trip to Wallyworld with CMike on bass and we'll see if we can get our new friend to sit in on drums again. Things felt good on the long ride back to Boston; the glacier continues to move.

*Stamford!

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