February 6, 2013

First Ever Quest Fest

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The first ever Quest Fest will be here in about a month and there’s much to be done to launch DreamQuest Records’ annual new artist showcase at Underground Arts on March 6. As musical director I have been busy working out the arrangements of Jim MacFarlane’s debut album ‘Sovereign Voice’. Some of Jim’s tunes are full productions with synths, loops and sound FX and I’ll have to figure out how to make those songs translate to our live setup and instrumentation. I guess that’s the fun of it all. I managed to get a great group of players including Chico Huff on bass, Frank Strauss on keys, KJ McNeill on drums and vocals and Padraig Keane on fiddle. I’ve never worked with Padraig before but his reputation precedes him and I’m really looking forward to hearing him play. Working with Jim has definitely exposed me to the Celtic music scene in Philly which I’m beginning to understand is stocked with killer players. One of the luxuries of having a band full of great players is that you can quickly try different ideas without getting sidetracked or losing your way altogether. I can’t wait to start rehearsing – it’s gonna be very very cool locking in these songs with his group.

It will be a family affair with Jim’s daughter Deirdre singing in the band and his son Colin playing percussion. It will really help round out the overall sound. Deirdre’s voice has a beautiful tone and her range is very high so all those angelic vocal parts from the record, which she sung, will be covered. I recently recorded Colin in the studio playing a full kit and he sounded really good. He has a very musical approach to the drums so the parts fit each section very very well. I did some rough mixes and I really liked the overall vibe and sound we got from that session. It’s going to be cool having him and Deirdre in the band.

Underground Arts is definitely my favorite venue in Philly. I cannot think of any place within 100 miles of here that has as much vibe and space. It has a great PA, big stage, a mint organ with Leslie cab, a Rhodes, amps, drums, a theatre, a recording studio, dressing rooms and last but not least, a bar that has various Yards brews on tap and in the bottle. It reminds me of the md sized venues throughout Europe that I’ve played over the years. Mike Thatcher started UG Arts as a haven for performers and its clear that his vision is all about promoting the musical community as a whole. Kudos Thatcher!

DreamQuest is relatively young, almost a new born in the grand scheme of things and its really exciting to see the ship slowly slip into the water after being built in dry dock. Once the supports are removed and the vessel is pushed there comes a moment where momentum kicks in and you couldn’t stop it from rolling forward if you tried. I imagine where the label will be in a year or two from now and I see great things ahead. Again, the vision behind DreamQuest is also about the musical community, new artists and bringing about the realization of eats its that lurks in all of us. What a great cause to spend one’s time on, to be involved at the ground level and watch as the efforts of many talented people turn an idea into a reality. It is, I think, the very substance of life…creativity. Onwards..

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