Friday, October 16, 2015


Reader and commenter Larry Geiger made a little checklist of things he noticed about the video of Unorganized Hancock performing at the Fryeburg Fair last Sunday. Larry is a good notice-er, so I'll use his list to save me trouble:
1. Like an episode of MASH. Did Radar lose his Teddy Bear?
2. Some craftwork go into the new amp box/stand? Nice look.
3. Did the boys have fun with cutting tools, PVC cement, etc making the new banner? Nice!!
4. Sound was very good. Best sound yet for one of your live concerts! I like it.
That's pretty comprehensive, actually. Mr. (or Ms.) Anon also wondered where we got a six-foot tall, one-quarter-inch thick bass player. That's Laverne. She had her first gig with the boys in August. She's quiet and doesn't eat much, and she's willing to travel to the show by lying on top of the equipment in the back of the van. I was a bass player in my youth, and my band used to treat me the same way.

Anyway, back to Larry's loverly list. It illustrates that the kids are making progress of a sort. Larry noticed that progress in particular. Other people just instinctively reacted to it. The kids are... different-looking than before.

Notice I didn't say they were different. Only their veneer is truly different. I can assure you that they were just as good a year ago as they are now. Their ability didn't cut any mustard with anyone. Their talent still required the audience to do mental arithmetic, and audiences, both live and on the Intertunnel, are incapable or unwilling to do mental arithmetic.

When Unorganized Hancock made videos as best they could in the circumstances they found themselves in, people discounted their efforts because the finished product wasn't shiny. The days of people making allowances for poor production values on the Internet are over. Don't get me wrong, viral videos are all made with the phone held the wrong way while the videographer is shaking like a nursing home inmate, but my kids will never have a viral video because they don't suck. If they sucked, sucked, sucked, if they fell over halfway through the song, if they started fighting with the audience, if the little guy fell off his drum throne and started crying, they'd be a sensation. They don't mess up, and they don't have the budget to have videos that look shiny, so the general public pretty much ignores them.

This is the way of the world, and we must live in it. When I mentioned that the kids finally are presenting themselves in at least a low budget version of the image they want, that's what I'm talking about. Fake it until you make it. They don't have the resources to appear shiny, so they must come up with the DIY version. That's what you see in the picture.

Like an episode of MASH. Did Radar lose his Teddy Bear?

Larry is referring to the drum set. The boys used the money they won in the hockey anthem contest to purchase a new set of drums. Until now, my spare heir has been playing my old set of drums. We loaded the bass drum with stuffed animals. Everyone assumed that it was simply because it was cute. It was cute, but it was also self-defense. Those drums are way, way too loud. Everything everywhere is always too loud. Every kid goes to the music store looking for too loud with mom's credit card. Drums are designed to compete with heavily amplified guitars, which is beyond stupid, as electric guitars were invented to compete with the volume of the drums in the first place. L'il Garrett was forced to practice with a set of my woodworking headphones on his head, using wooden brushes instead of sticks, even though his drums were entirely filled with plush toys. The drums were so big that he was hidden behind them, too. No one could see him playing, which is a shame, because he's kind of wonderful.

When the kids played at the hockey tournament, the rink hired a sound man who put an octopus of microphones on the drums and amplified it anyway. The volume level was almost lethal in front of the stage. No one would come within 50 feet of the bands, and children put their fingers in their ears. I told the kids that if they won we could make a jungle drum set, or buy one, and get the volume under control. That's what you see. The drums we purchased are less expensive than what they replaced, but they are fundamentally better. They also fit the color scheme. Everything must look like a fifties cartoon. Black, white, chrome, with a dash of yellow or red.

Some craftwork go into the new amp box/stand? Nice look.

That's the Titleist V8 amplifier. The heir and I designed and made it. It's a fifties coffee table we found at the dump, adorned with the leftover scraps from Laverne and a piece of amplifier grill cloth left over from a bass cabinet I made in the 80s. The V8 sign is from the auto parts store. Chevy, I think. The knobs are golf balls. Miles' actual amp just sits inside it.

Did the boys have fun with cutting tools, PVC cement, etc making the new banner? Nice!!

Miles designed the new logo to fit in with their Intergalactabilly style, and we made the backdrop together. A band needs something behind it. We can't afford a real backdrop, so we went to the lumber yard and bought four pieces of plumbing pipe and some fittings. The backdrop itself is a piece of Typar housewrap left over from a house I built in the early 90s. The back of it is pure white, and we painted on it. We laid out the design using Michelangelo's pounce bag technique for enlarging things, and I showed him how to paint it with artist's colors and house paint left over from some job I did twenty years ago.

Sound was very good. Best sound yet for one of your live concerts! I like it.

This is pure self-defense. I told the kids that they should never play anywhere they don't have control over their sound anymore. The kids own a PA system. They bought it two years ago with the money my generous readers gave via the PayPal tip jar. My readers did the mental arithmetic I mentioned earlier, and supported my boys, and we're very grateful.

We hid the mixer and amplifier behind the backdrop. There is always too much equipment on display on a regular band's stage. Ideally, there shouldn't be any. There are six microphones on the stage, but they're all unobtrusively placed. We also had a tiny MP3 device that played music we selected for effect during their breaks.

Their image, which they describe as "The Ed Sullivan Show on Saturn," was finally coherent. The reason Larry noticed the sound is because we had control over it. We didn't use the ambient microphone feed in the camera anymore. The six microphones were mixed properly before going out through the PA speakers at a very controlled volume, and two feeds were recorded on a small digital recorder. One was everything, and the other just the voices. We threw away the second track; it wasn't necessary.

So, did it all work? Did they improve their presentation? Make an impression? Maybe. Larry Geiger noticed.

Miles (the guitar player) went into a coffee shop yesterday with his sweetheart. It's located 50 miles from Fryeburg, and 35 miles from where we live. Out of nowhere, the person behind the counter said, "Loved your show at the fair." Then someone in the seating area yelled, "HANCOCK!"

[Update: Many thanks to Russell D. from Bethesda, MD for his generous contribution to the boys' efforts via our PayPal button. It is very much appreciated]
[Further Update: Many thanks to Patrick Y. from New York City for his generous support of our children via the PayPal button. We are very grateful]
[Continuing Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. of New Milford, CT for her constant support of our boys via the PayPal button. She's a peach]


Thud said...

Their inexorable rise to the top is a treat to follow for old uns like me...more power to the lads.

julie said...

I'm glad their presentation is catching up with their sound. And extra glad that they aren't trying the viral route to "success."

Sam L. said...

The boys need some of these:

Having worked in noisy environments, I like this general kind, an=d these are just over a dime a pair.

I still say The Spare needs a narrow-brimmed hat. I guess he's just not a hat-man. I'll get over it. May need some help from the basement stash.

Larry Geiger said...

Cool dudes!!

So once more, Sippican, you stumped me. "Michelangelo's pounce bag". What in the world is that? Never heard of it. I looked it up but I'm still not sure that I totally understand it. Back in the day we would have used an "overhead projector" but I haven't seen one of those in years. Anyway, cool! Glad the guys are in charge of their own sound now.

dadofhomeschoolers said...

the way of the world and we must live in it.

Sadly true.

Glad to see the boys making good.