SubscribeStar Saturday: Spooktacular 2021 Review

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Last Saturday was my annual Halloween Spooktacular, marking the third Spooktacular and the second hosted from my front porch.  I hit upon the idea of doing a front porch concert around Halloween last year, when most venues were still closed to live music, or only very slowly bringing it back.  I’d heard of other musicians doing outdoor gigs, and though, “Hey, why not turn my front porch into a stage?”

That first at-home Spooktacular was wildly successful—far more so than I thought—and I followed it up with my Spring Jam in May 2021.  That event was also successful, though the turnout was slightly lower than the Spooktacular.

This year, I suspected that the success of the first two front porch concerts might be diminished somewhat, especially as the concert was on the Saturday before a Sunday Halloween, which meant most people were trick-or-treating and throwing parties that night instead of on Halloween proper.  Several of my biggest patrons, who usually drop some serious coin at these events, were unable to attend due to other plans.

Still, I was excited for the evening, and while my concerns about lower attendance were confirmed—and the event resulted in a substantial but not debilitating loss, at least in the short-run—it was a fun night, one that also carried with it some important lessons.

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Halloween and Spooktacular Preparations

It’s Halloween Week!  Besides Christmas (and probably Spring Break), it’s quite possibly my favorite week of the year.

It’s also the week of my third annual (and second on the front porch) Spooktacular!  As such, I spent a good portion of the weekend making the preliminary preparations for having lots of people sitting on my front lawn for a couple of hours or so.

Among the myriad tasks I completed (such as some long overdue weed eating, and applying more ant bait to the lawn), I engaged in my favorite Halloween season ritual:  carving a Jack O’Lantern!  I picked up a couple of massive pumpkins from Sam’s Club for $7 each, and this one made for particularly attractive gourd.  Just look at its perfectly jaunty, stout stem!

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The Joy of Live Music

Along with our civil liberties, a casualty of The Age of The Virus has been live music.  I’ve written about the strains the lockdowns placed on musicians frequently (including my many Bandcamp Friday posts), and have even hosted two front porch concerts to get around venue closures (and, it seems, the increasing number of venues that simply haven’t restored live music to their operations).

Fortunately, South Carolina is a free State, and live music is making a real comeback.  Indeed, I had the opportunity to hear my buddy, poet Jeremy Miles, play a gig with his new band, Jeremy and the Blissters, at a hopping coffee shop Friday evening.

The experience was electric—and not just because of the piping hot sound system and stacks of amplifiers.  The band—which, in addition to Jeremy, consists of good friends from the local music scene, two of whom have opened my front porch concerts—was stunning and powerful, offering up an eclectic mix of New Wave, punk, pop, acid rock, and more.

Beyond their impressive musical prowess and sweeping repertoire, Jeremy’s group reminded me of how fun live music can be—and how desperately we need more of it to return.

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SubscribeStar Saturday Post “The TJC Spring Jam” is Posted!

Dear Readers,

I have been writing like the wind today.  I have finally caught up on all SubscribeStar content from the past couple of weekends.

You can now read “The TJC Spring Jam” if you’re a $1 a month or higher subscriber.

It’s a detailed rundown of the concert, including the major tunes played, the in-depth financials, and the organization of the concert.  Learn from my mistakes and successes!

Also, Sunday Doodles LXXXII is up, too!

Thanks again to subscribers and regular readers for your patience.  It’s been a wonderfully quiet day at home—literally, I’ve only gone outside to check the mail and to cut some oregano from my garden—so I’ve gotten a ton of writing done today.

It’s good to restore order to the blog!

Happy Reading!

—TPP

Gig Day V: TJC Spring Jam

After seven long months, it’s time for another front porch concert!  Following the success of Spooktacular II, I decided I should try the format twice a year:  the classic Halloween event, and a springtime one.  Thus, the TJC Spring Jam is born!

Halloween is easy, because it comes packaged with all sorts of fun activities:  Halloween songs, costume contests, spooky décor, etc.  A generic springtime theme is a bit more vague, and with it already feeling like summer here in South Carolina, the theme presented some initial problems.

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Monday Morning Update, and Happy Belated Mother’s Day!

Happy Belated Mother’s Day, Mom, and to all the other mothers out there.  I didn’t serve my mom breakfast in bed, but I’d like to think my presence was enough to brighten her day.  She did go to the trouble of making a delicious banana pudding, proving once again that moms are great—at least my mom, anyway.

Given that we all enjoyed a fun, busy Sunday, I’m a bit behind on the blog, and plan on returning with more substantive posts tomorrow.  I’ll likely pick up with a belated Monday Morning Movie Review, but on Tuesday.

Maybe if I follow that logic to its natural conclusion, I’ll end up doing Lazy Sunday on Monday, and SubscribeStar Saturday on Sunday.  TBT will be on Friday.  Not since the French went to their absurd ten-day-a-week calendar has such belabored calendrical tomfoolery been afoot!

In all seriousness, the blog has been doing pretty, with fairly consistent daily pageviews and a small uptick in readers leaving comments.  Work and my illness late in April have eaten up some of the time I can dedicate to writing, but summer break is fast approaching, and I’m hoping to resume work on my next book, a collection of the first fifty editions of Sunday Doodles, and begin working on a planned collection of new, original short stories.

I’ve also finally hit ten subscribers to my SubscribeStar Page!  That’s an exciting milestone.  If you’ve been thinking about subscribing but haven’t done so, take a few minutes and do so now.  The $1 a month subscription comes out $12 a year—the cost a single three-topping Stuffed Crust pizza from Pizza Hut.  I’m not saying my writing is as good as a Stuffed Crust pizza, but seeing as there are nearly 200 posts on my SubscribeStar page already, it’s plenty of brain food to chew.  And think of the calories you’ll save giving up one pizza!

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Concert Postmortem

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

My poor health recovered, I tested negative for The Virus, and the Spring Concert was a smashing success.  I managed to get back to work Wednesday, giving me time to build—for the first time since the 2019 Christmas Concert—my Frankenstein’s Monster sound system, rehearse my students, and wire up a ton of microphones, amps, keyboards, and the like.

After every big concert, I spend part of a class period conducting a “concert postmortem,” my pet term for reviewing the highs and lows of the previous night.  It’s a good opportunity to discuss elements that could be improved for the next concert, but also to allow the students to bask in the glory of their performance a little longer.

Not surprisingly, this process tends to work better with high school students, who have developed politeness filters and know how to phrase suggestions diplomatically.  They’re also veterans, so they understand better the realities of live performance, and don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Middle school students tend to either be over-awed by the experience (one student Thursday evening exclaimed, “That was awesome!”) or very critical of small errors.  That’s why we frame these discussions as “constructive criticism,” which helps the students understand the purpose is to build each other up and point out areas where we can all improve.

Regardless, I’m letting readers in on that process a bit with a general “concert postmortem,” including our finalized set list.

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Sick Day

This past weekend I was sick with a low-grade fever, a cough, and some mild chest congestion.  I got home from work Friday and sat in a chair in my mudroom for about two hours without moving, thinking I was just worn out after a long week of work.

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday sleeping, and finally began feeling some relief Sunday evening.  I took Monday off, as my temperature was around 101.4 Sunday evening.

That doesn’t make for exciting reading, but every time I am sick, it reminds me of how thankful I am for the vast majority of days I am well.  God and genetics blessed me with a very hardy constitution, so I get sick a.) infrequently and b.) mildly.  Rarely—about once every five-to-ten years—I get very sick for a spell of a week or two, such as last summer’s bout of Maybe-The-Virus and The Great Christmas Flu of 2014.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Concert Preparations

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Next week my little school will host its annual Fine Arts Festival.  It is for artsy students (and their teachers) the equivalent of the State Championship game for athletes—a big stage onto which the students have an opportunity to showcase their talents, and to demonstrate the works they’ve been laboring over all year.

It is a fun, stressful, exhilarating, and exhausting week, all in one.  As both the Music teacher and the de facto sound and lighting guy, I have the dubious task of constructing a sound system that works for dance performances, a concert, and a Shakespearean play.  I call this setup the “Frankenstein’s Monster Sound System,” as it consists of various bits of differently-branded technology, all linked together in a glorious tangle of cables.

But the effort to build an ad hoc sound and lighting system in a high school gymnasium is worth it in the end, especially during and after the concert.

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