A year ago I changed jobs and moved from a college town to a bigger city. It took me a year of trying to connect with people I already knew in town to branch out a bit on a quest to find some musical collaborators. I didn’t actually have to look that far.
You see a while ago, my band played a show and we needed some other people to play with us and out trombone player suggested his brother’s band.
They happen to be based in the town I just moved to. So since I had already played a show with them once, I asked if they needed another musician.
So I joined another band.
Which was timely, because they had a show coming up.
There was supposed to be four bands, but the drummer of The Commonalities broke his ankle or wrist or something. Anyway, the point is that he couldn’t play and they couldn’t replace him last-minute, so they pulled out. And we couldn’t find another band two days before the gig.
Also, let me add here that I don’t really understand this poster. I didn’t design it. Pee-Wee Herman? Awkward. Dolly Parton in … some sort of jungle cat print? Weird. Together? Awkweird. Speaking of awkweird….
Secret Abilities kicked things off. And my first impression was of angry high school kids from the 1950s playing a school dance. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. They seem to be a fusion of surf (which I like), rockabilly (which, when done well, rocks) and … I dunno. Something else. Take a listen:
One thing I will say is that they aren’t very polished.
I got in a conversation with a fellow musician once and we ended up talking about how there are different levels a song has to get to.
First you have to be able to play the thing. You can have an idea for a song scribble up some words and slap some chords to it, but there comes a point where you have to sit down and map it out at least well enough so that when you have to replace your bass player, there’s some sort of guide. Personally, I don’t think a song is written until you get past this part.
Then it has to get good and smooth enough so can play it live and people will know you aren’t just making it up as you go. As ready as you think you might be, you’ll never really know until you actually play a show. Some bands I’ve played with never really make it this far. We jam and write some songs, but for some reason we never actually book any gigs. We just jam. And sometimes, that’s all you need – just some jam. The Beatles, in their later years, just skipped this but that’s because they were super famous and tired of touring. As a side note, every time I join a band, I never bring new songs until I get past this part. And when a band, as a whole, get past this part then its time to learn new music or record.
So of course the last step is getting your tunes record ready. A lot of bands never get here. Usually they break up or don’t have enough money. Even if a band gets to this point, not all of their songs get there. This is where you revisit that song you’ve been playing for six years and really figure out how that four-part horn harmony works (true story).
Anyway, the point of all that was to say that I don’t think Secret Abilities ever got past that second step. They can obviously all play, but they were just a bit rough. Maybe that’s what they were going for. But I could hear the potential for polish, and I want it.
But I liked their sound. I liked their harmonies. Frankly, I couldn’t always hear their lyrics, but I think that was more on the venue. I’d like to tell you some of the songs they played that I really liked, but to be honest, I didn’t write any of it down and now if you gave me a list of all their songs, I’m not sure I could remember exactly which ones they played.
Headlining the whole thing on their very first tour was It Gets Worse from … Laramie, Wy.
Let me be completely honest – I didn’t stay for the whole shebang.
I helped pack up our gear and by the time we were done, It Gets Worse was just starting. I didn’t snag a picture of them during the show. The only one I have is from the first flier for the show.
To their credit, they played a Less Than Jake cover, which got what crowd there was going. And then they played an original and I was done. As it turns out, it doesn’t actually get worse. So I left.
In my defense A) My wife was sick and 2) it was Monday and I had to work in the morning.
Also, I tried to find a video of them to share, but I could only find low quality videos.
Maybe I’m wrong about them. Maybe down the road they’ll get past that second stage (and so will Secret Abilities) and I’ll really like playing with them again or listening to their record. But for now, I’ll just enjoy playing in a new band and playing shows.