This last weekend I played in the excellent live band Highway 6 which is fronted by my good friends Heidi and Tom Nedreberg. I’ve been playing with Tom in various bands since the late 80’s and I’ve known Heidi since she was about 4 years old. So it’s been a fascinating project to be able to play with them in Highway 6.
Highway 6 is an original music band with Heidi and Tom sharing the songwriting duties. It’s been fun for me to play sideman in this band since I’m one of the primary songwriters in my all original band, Shufflin’ Noah. It’s kind of a luxury for me to be able to sit back and play my guitar parts while someone else does all the songwriting. Tom and Heidi do give me creative license on all the guitar parts I play so I really feel like I contribute to the overall sound of Highway 6.
So with all the songs written and the CD recorded and ready for release, it was time to play a live show. Playing live is what I’m all about so I was excited as usual to hit the stage with a brand new project. We rehearsed the songs pretty heavily for about a month before the gig. It was really interesting trying to remember what I had played in the studio. It was also a challenge to recreate the studio sound in a live show. We had to cut out some instrument parts that are found on the recording and fill up the songs with our live stage instrumentation.
I really feel like the sound was great with the musicians we have. My oldest son Erik played bass for Highway 6 at this gig and he took it upon himself to learn all the bass lines and he delivered them well live. It’s kind of surreal that Tom and I are playing live onstage with our kids. It’s really cool to look over and see our kids up there rocking out with us. The rest of the band includes my good friends Kyle Johnson on Keyboards and vocals and Ted Townsend on Drums and vocals. You may recognize them as the same guys that play in my band In Stereo.
So how did the gig go? I thought it went really, really well for our inaugural show. There were a lot of nerves to be dealt with as this was the first gig in support of the Highway 6 CD, Love Songs To The Desert. It’s always a challenge playing festivals since the bands only have 1/2 hour to set up, 1 hour to play and 1/2 hour to tear down. That includes getting everything mic’ed and mixed through the sound reinforcement company’s P.A. System. None of this helps your nerves!
I’ve played lots of these types of gigs with my band Shufflin’ Noah so I knew that getting any soundcheck at all was a luxury and that sometimes the best you can hope for is just to be able to hear your instrument and your singing. As I expected, we got no soundcheck but we were able to hear our instruments and our singing! I can’t say that I could hear perfectly but I could hear things well enough to rock out. So that’s what I did, I rocked it baby! And so did everyone else.
Ted has been struggling with some health issues that make it tough for him to drum but he pulled off a good show. That’s the great thing about playing with professionals, they all have the ability to make it through a challenging show. Heidi and Erik played like they had spent years on the stage. Heidi did a great job singing as well as talking to the audience. She did an especially good job selling the CD. That’s one thing about playing original music, the only money you ever make is from selling your merchandise. With the CD’s they sold they may be able to pay off some of the huge recording costs.
Tom did a fine job playing acoustic guitar and singing. His years of stage performing allowed him to concentrate on his playing and not get ruffled by playing in front of an audience. Kyle did his usual super reliable job as an excellent sideman filling in spaces with the keyboards and singing a lot of backup.
Were there problems? Of course there were. Some of the tempos were slow and some of the verses were mixed up or shortened. But the crowd didn’t know and they certainly seemed happy with the show. We got a lot of cheers and applause as well as selling some CD’s. Those are all indicators of a good show.
In the end, I was very happy with the show and proud to be a part of Highway 6. It is so cool playing with my oldest son Erik. I always hoped that day would come but you never know. He took the initiative and learned songs as well as did the show all of his own accord. It’s going to be fun to see where all this leads in the future.