musical risk with saint john

Promotional artwork for Songwriters Unmuzzled

Promotional artwork for Songwriters Unmuzzled featuring: Saint John Wyatt Olney and Micah X Wyatt

if you’re a listener of Rangounmuzzled or you’ve been following my facebook, twitter or reverbnation feeds, you already know that i’ve been playing musical #risk with Saint John for the last couple months.  using the bothell’s “The Hop and Hound” as our command headquarters, we’ve been waxing philosophic about the music scene in #seattle and dropping pieces on the map, then going out & playing live shows.
every show we play, together or independently, provides a set of measurements:  attendence, engagement, the sound system, the performance space, geospatial attributes of the club, the social accumen of the club owners and even the show schedule.  including whether or not they actually pay as they claim, because the unfortunate fact of the matter is that many promoters and bookers promise money that exists only in their minds.

Rango the Dog hosting Songwriters Unmuzzled at the 192 Brewing Company.

Rango the Dog hosting Songwriters Unmuzzled at the 192 Brewing Company.

“we didn’t collect enough at the door” – booking agent that had no social media coverage & never approved my tags

with roughly 250 shows behind him last year alone, saint john’s experience is different from my own, but here’s an unfortunate fact: the only shows that i’ve been paid at as promised, beyond drink tickets, are the ones i’ve booked myself.  and for the “songwriters unmuzzled” series that started to great success at the 192 Brewing Company here in sleepy little kenmore, i’m passing all the compensation directly through to the artists.  i wish i could pay them more, i fail to see why musicians should make any less than programmers because i understand they’re both very difficult and require rare talent to execute at a professional level.

i’ve had some excursions that tested my demographic boundaries, including talent shows and gigs in gay bars, trying to cultivate new fans and establish a foothold in clubs typically avoided by guys with guitars.  i claim only modest success here, but i left a few pieces on the map in each of the clubs i played.  such is musical #risk.

i’ve also had some unforgettable moments.  opening the black sheperd release party with soldier of rock Justin E Kautzman was a night i’ll never forget, and a privilege i’ll take with me to the crossroads.

Rango at the Black Sheperd CD Release

Rango at the Black Sheperd CD Releas

saint john’s game plan is a year ahead of mine, with established residencies ranging from open rehearsals to happy hours.  but the two of us have enjoyed a great reception when we play together.  for all his reserve and dramatic intensity, #rangothedog brings off-the-chain #swampy.  it’s a push and pull, ebb and flow that works well across multiple demographics so we’re planning to play more shows together and cross pollinate our fan bases, with a high confidence they’ll like what they hear (eventually).

our show together last night at The Admiral Benbow was a clear demonstration of this effect in play, as contacts of mine from my home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan met saint john’s carloads of fans, and everybody discovered we had something in common, something good.  and that’s really what it’s all about.

Saint John & friends at the Admiral Benbow

Saint John & friends at the Admiral Benbow

unfortunately for every win, there’s a sobering reality check.  i recently posted this on facebook, recycling an experience i’ve had over and over again in the first three months i’ve been gigging:

Rango Unmuzzled is on Reputation Radio

Rango Unmuzzled is on Reputation Radio

that venue circulated zero links to any of the artists,

and approved zero of the tags

in the days leading up to the show.

the booking agent did, the artists did, even their fans.

but the only people that showed up

were the artists and their fans.

without the support of the venue,

it’s not efficient or effective for anybody.

it’s shockingly common

in a town that pays musicians in beers

if they pay them at all,

where clubowners have legitimate complaints

about attendance at the shows.

“we can do better” – ‪#‎rangothedog‬

it’s true, we can do better.

the live shows are the most exciting part of this game, but there’s another win: integrating artists and content from the live shows into #rangounmuzzled, my indie radio show in rotation on the The Reputation Label / Reputation Radio Station, all over fandalism, soundcloud, and as far as your #roku on the tune-in channel (thank you, johnny!).

“we’re bringing it all together.  the clubs, the indies, the radio show” – #rangothedog, #rangounmuzzled 75

as i write this, it’s the last day of january, 2015.  the new year’s episode of #rangounmuzzled has already reached 6,700+ listeners across the world just on fandalism.  episode 75: apocalypse redux 2015 features the first of two interviews with saint john discussing our game of musical risk and search for #groundzero, recorded live at the 192 brewing company.

what’s to come in february & beyond?

more shows.  more pieces on the map.  more #risk.

-rango \m/~

The Reputation Label Today

Rangounmuzzled 75 – Apocalypse Redux 2015

The humans are winning as Rango sews up 2014 and commemorates 75 episodes of indie rock / evil robot mashup comedy. Includes live giblets, an interview with Saint John at the 192 Brewing Company, and the unmuzzled artistry of:

Saint John and the Revelations
Micah X Wyatt
Ben Badenhorst
Barry Burford’s Digital Skunk
The Mothership
Matthew Meadows Music
Quick Wicked
Wyatt Olney
John Summers
Savage Henry
Jack Mustard
Ariel Eshcar

with support from Hal Jester and RingMaster Review

#indie #comedy #hardrock #saintjohn #reputationlabel

Rango the Dog’s Clawhammer Vengeance:

Saint John & the Revelations:

Wyatt Olney:

The Barefoot Band

Annie O’Neill

Bad Poet

and Budd Zunga, madman behind DR. Budd Zunga’s Labratory of Sound:

“don’t let gravity keep you down” – rango, ‪#‎gravity‬

#risk: #clone1 calling the shots for #rangothedog

#risk: #clone1 calling the shots for #rangothedog


operation rango: #risk

30,694 plays

This is a live capture of a reference take of Risk. It’s 100% solo guitar, originally rejected because it was inadvertently recorded on a randomly hanging microphone instead of direct from the amp. I ultimately changed my mind because the ambient sounds of my feet tapping and shuffling on the floor add to the live feeling of it. Produced for Into the Snow III, where rango loses a headcutting duel to the shredder from LA (the first take). little dancing, some psychedelia, and the second take is after the credits so make this face :-D and this one \m/ and this one :-o and then this one again :-D.

related by #intothesnow, released last week:

Operation Rango: Gravity HD

3,209 plays

A high definition version of Gravity, the first complete music video from #rangothedog. Featuring remastered audio and blu-ray resolution high definition video, this video is a segment from Operation Rango: Into the Snow III, the third and final snowball in the Seattle Snowpocalypse trilogy (still working on it).

Rango the Dog, Gravity HD

Rango the Dog, Gravity HD

“the world needs a hero” – rango, into the snow III

Discover the reason why sticky gloves are important, and all things #somewhat spidery. A metal instrumental from my debut album Etherati, Gravity was composed to submit for soundtrack opportunities that needed to represent speed, acceleration and deceleration, car chases and airplane dogfights. Think coyote vs. road runner, red team vs blue team, with one guitar lead for each team, faster and faster until the downshift in the bridge. Then it breaks out and it’s anybody’s guess who will take it, with the possibility that they both might just crash & burn.

The video was designed to leverage my career as a ballet dancer and demonstrate the the fun and beauty of guitar kata. With homage to comedy great Harold Lloyd and the Emerald City of Seattle, Gravity leads with the observation that two things that are divergent can ultimately become one.

sir gigs alot / somewhat fail

tonight’s ‪#‎rangothedog‬ rant:

‪#‎gigging‬ 10 weeks now, none of the things i’ve worried about for years have been a problem. i’ve dropped my pick (just pawed at it), forgot my fanny pack (where i keep my picks), forgot my lyrics (mumbled something out) and forgot my gear (that’s why there’s two cameras & two guitars at every gig. i can’t afford two amps or two laptops but i would if i could).

actual problems:

Rango the Dog at Cellars

Rango the Dog at Cellars

no sound checks
sparse crowds
indifferent owners
reciprocation ‪#‎fail‬
social media ignorance
football on tv’s
house music
sketchy people
rigged contests
promised but not paid
paid in [domestic] drinks
paid in drinks then overcharged
paid in overpriced drinks then complained at for not buying food

and my personal favorite:

the fact that i’ve been incorrectly introduced repeatedly as “mike”.

we can do better. at least we are unmuzzled.


#overheard on #facebook:

i’m not quitting, just upping my game,
and calling out the challenges.
the music is always the first challenge,
“get it right” – #rangothedog, all the time
but we have collective challenges,
and a unique, golden opportunity.
seattle is the cradle of the universe of #grunge.
Xana La Fuente knows this.
"we are spoiled" - rangothedog

“we are spoiled” – rangothedog

FM and TV are completely saturated with horrible, emotionless, overproduced shit. live music is where it’s at.

my facebook edge graph is 2 million people but only a few thousand of them are in seattle and only a few dozen friends here. my friends know who they are, and actual fans i can count on one hand but they get hugs every time.
as a community we have a voice. and we have an angle, i’m just not convinced we have the will. take my cameras to every show, and i review the whole show, every time. before and after, what people are saying in the audience when they think they’re not being recorded.
we need live streaming. xana is setting the pace here.
we need social media coherence and a touch of firehose. i’m doing my part but 99% of folks just watch.
sorry to go #meta, but if you listen to my show you get this. i’m writing this message to you on facebook, 70% of my social media graph, trying to get you off facebook. i’m sure Saint John would agree.
and you if you can’t get off it, then let’s produce the people that are and leverage the window of exposure we get from The Reputation Label and Reputation Radio Station and #roku and Rangounmuzzled and try to incent people to come out.
those that can’t, we could still give them product. but not until we solve some problems.
we are close to the edge. yes i love yes. sorry to #tautology \m/~


3,000 plays on the first day,

this is our biggest Rangounmuzzled podcast ever.

my #facebook is still popping off,

#twitter not so much \m/~

Rango Unmuzzled is on Reputation Radio

Rango Unmuzzled is on Reputation Radio

Rangounmuzzled 75 – Apocalypse Redux 2015

The humans are winning as Rango sews up 2014 and commemorates 75 episodes of indie rock / evil robot mashup comedy. Includes live giblets, an interview with Saint John at the 192 Brewing Company, and the unmuzzled artistry of:

Saint John and the Revelations
Micah X Wyatt
Ben Badenhorst
Barry Burford’s Digital Skunk
The Mothership
Matthew Meadows Music
Quick Wicked
Wyatt Olney
John Summers
Savage Henry
Jack Mustard
Ariel Eshcar

with support from Hal Jester and RingMaster Review

#indie #comedy #hardrock #saintjohn #reputationlabel

possibly related:
#rangothedog, short bio:

Matthew Meadows is a technology mashup artist operating on the fringes of the emerald city of Seattle. A retired #ballet dancer that became a #programmer, he is better known by his nom de guerre Rango the Dog, his original YouTube handle.

He’s a #facebookDJ, the host of the hard rock variety show Rangounmuzzled, and a dedicated singer/songwriter with a loyal ReverbNation following, a #seattle top-10 artist across multiple genres including alternative, blues, rock, comedy, metal and other, with over 1.6 million plays on Fandalism and a recording contract with producer Stuart Epps (Led Zeppelin, Elton John). Widely recognized as @matthew_meadows on #twitter for his forays into writing, acting and directing of musical comedy shorts including #check1_2 and #intothesnow, he was recently featured singing the villain in the science fiction opera #liberteria.

Matthew took the top prize for music at the Worldwide Star Search 2014 showcase, #wwss2014, a judged live performance event in LA. To learn more about Matthew Meadows Music and his old black dog Rango, catch him on social media as #rangothedog or tune in to his blog at

#rangothedog and Jaysen Lee at #wwss2014

#rangothedog and Jaysen Lee at #wwss2014

#songwriter chart:

#1 seattle
#29 usa
#32 global

"we are spoiled" - rangothedog

“we are spoiled” – rangothedog

at a club, owner tells me

can’t approve my tags,

can only promote certain artists.



who’s promoting whom?

just checked,

my pages get, conservatively, 10x their daily traffic,

<< not including Rangounmuzzled >>

(from Reputation Radio Station, check your ‪#‎roku‬ on TuneIn)

yes, i played there for free,

every time,

i talk about them all the time,

promoted them on my page and on my show,

never got paid, never got a single drink ticket, nada.

spent at least $30 of my own money every time i’ve played there,

and roughly 3,000 impressions this week with their name,

arguably more than they got in all of 2014.

[ sigh ]

ok, fine, you win. no tags. won’t mention you again.

can’t decide:

‪#‎us‬ or ‪#‎them‬?

ufortunate fact:

it’s artists vs clubs in the emerald city of ‪#‎seattle‬,

no wonder attendence is so low.

there is no solidarity.

sports advertisements and ‪#‎hawks‬ on the TV,

folks singing their ass off in front of them. \m/~

Clawhammer Vengeance Holiday Gig Roundup

‪#‎rangothedog‬‘s ‪#‎clawhammerVengeance‬ gig roundup:

dec 11 at 88 Keys Dueling Piano and Sports Bar with Saint John andAnnie O’Neill

dec 13 at OutWest Bar Home for the Holidays supporting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS with Ryan Hazy

dec 19 at Tim’s Tavern on 105th for Homeless for the Holidays

jan 7 at Ampersand Lounge for So Seattle, You THINK You Can Sing?

jan 16 at The Pine Tree for the Black Shepherd CD Release Party withJustin E Kautzman

jan 24 at 192 Brewing Company with Saint John and the Revelations,Micah X Wyatt (The Barefoot Band) and Wyatt Olney.

these artists and events will all be part in some form or fashion of Rangounmuzzled content, including images, audio recordings, and interviews, and distributed internationally through The Reputation Label.

Rango on the prowl at Tim's

Rango on the prowl at Tim’s


Rango Unmuzzled 74: Ferguson is Burning

Rango Unmuzzled: Ferguson is Burning

Rango Unmuzzled: Ferguson is Burning

congratulations to all the artists on this week’s show, trending towards 8,000 plays in six days, our fastest uptake on a show yet.  thank you so much for your tracks, your likes, and your shares \m/~

Rangounmuzzled #74 – #Ferguson is Burning

Rango takes on the divisive #FergusonDecision with unfortunate help from his evil robot Plagus. Featuring the unmuzzled artistry of:

Simon James White (SjW)
Quick Wicked
JC Flow
The Sunshine Wall
Micah X Wyatt
Saint John(Saint John and the Revelations)
Wyatt Olney
Budd Zunga

Rango performing Daisy in the #bootspark studio.

Rango performing Daisy in the #bootspark studio.

The Barefoot Band
Shade Law
Ben Badenhorst
Gregory Boyce Halls (Boyce)
Jess McAllister
Joe Sabatini
MikeWhite Presents
Jack Roberts Harvey Band
Matthew Meadows Music
Sweet Davis
The People Now
Jonny Smokes
Rich Conrad
Tim Hearn
The Mothership
Jack Mustard
Katsumi Yoshihara
John Summers

and #rangothedog \m/~

#Ferguson, #FergusonDeciscion, #rangothedog, #ReputationLabel, #TheReputationLabelToday, #indielove, #hardrock, #racism, #comedy, #policebrutality

Rango Unmuzzled Ep. 73 – Beautiful People 2

out-of-the-gate, Rangounmuzzled Ep 73: Beautiful People 2 earns 5,000 plays in 5 days:

Rango on Halloween

Rango on Halloween

Beautiful People 2

Beautiful People 2

Rango’s lost his funny but he’s back on the air with the aid of his evil robot in Beautiful People II, taking care of unfinished business from the end of the summer in LA. Extensive interviews with the mighty Thad Coleman and more first-hand accounts of his experience around at the World Wide Star Search 2014 showcase ‪#‎wwss2014‬.

Introduces a selection of immaculate new talent to the Rango Unmuzzled spotlight, and pays respects to my best friend and high-school partner-in-crime Sean Collins. You just might laugh, and you just might cry in this reboot episode from an old, black dog.

#policestate USA

Rango the Dog

Rango the Dog

One-world government conspiracy nuts are giving too much credit to people.  We’re not that smart, and the truth eventually leaks.  We couldn’t keep the Manhattan project secret, or anything else for that matter.

Despite my rants tonight on Twitter and Facebook about the #USA #policestate, I don’t believe that one-world conspiracy baloney for a second.  More realistically, our problem is not aliens, incomprehensible evil, or even casual indifference.  There are no sheeple, a stupid term from a condescending lot.

The problem is that we’re equally spoiled, violent, and ignorant.

On one axis we are a historically successful economic super power, able to leverage the yields of our predecessors through generations of changes to our economic systems, the benefits of their inertia, and refinements to our thinking.  We enjoy the fruits of their labors without even considering their sacrifice, much less enduring it.  We are spoiled.

"we are spoiled" - rangothedog

“we are spoiled” – rangothedog

On another axis, we are a people born of violence, children and grandchildren of a bloody revolution, culturally inbred into our spirit over generations.  During that time we have been constantly attacked, attacking ourselves, and returning the favor to the rest of the world.  We have been at war since our inception as a nation, and the entire world has shared the cost, and the benefit, of those sacrifices, with disproportionate allocations of grief and wheat.  We are violent.

Through the magic of abstraction we have also enjoyed the fruits of our labors and the sacrifices of those who came before, without knowing about them.  We have an embarrassing pantheon of leaders, pop stars and cultural icons built on history and luck, enjoying all the bliss with very little to say to contribute to the coherence of our relative tranquility since we were all enjoying the benefits of our rarefied position.  We are ignorant.

Today in the #policestate USA we have for-profit prisons, with the highest incarceration rate in the world.  We live routinely with cops as soldiers, armed and armored emissaries of the state, wielding chemical, electrical, and multiple forms of lethal ballistic weapons, both individually and en masse, with communications networks that allow them to conspire and swarm as commandos against innocent civilians and armed gangs with equal indifference to the law.  (Remember, cops are paid to uphold the law, not protect us).

tiananmen square, american style

tiananmen square, american style

Consequently we have military hardware on our streets, from personnel carriers to attack helicopters and unmanned drones, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).  Nobody should be surprised, we gave them the authority to do it with open arms at the first sign of fear, when we realized that our ivory towers could fall.  But let me assert to you this:

Houston, we have a problem.  But it probably won’t become a problem until it affects you directly (and it will, soon enough, God forbid).  More people are going to die before it gets better.  This prediction is predicated on my own personal, subjective experiences, which would likely shock you, and the obtuse fact that more civilians have died in the #policestate USA at the hands of cops in the last 10 years than all the soldiers and civilians killed in both of our wars on terror combined.

Think about that.

What was the risk calculation going to war that day?  What is your risk calculation going to work today?

And what is the fundamental theorem of calculus, anyway?

Scratch that last question.  As i said, we’ve been giving the conspiracy theorists too much credit. But don’t scratch this one:

“What are we going to do about it?” – Dire Straits, Romeo & Juliet \m/~

World Premiere Video: Jack Mustard’s Dark Lit Bar

Having just enjoyed the carnal pleasure of a sneak preview of Mustard’s new video, Dark Lit Bar, these words ring more true today than the day they were posted on Facebook:

Jack Mustard

Jack Mustard

“I want to be Jack Mustard for a day.” – #rangothedog

There was already consensus around the initial uptake on the song Dark Lit Bar when it was rolled out on The Reputation Label’s RangoUnmuzzled radio show.  I can paraphrase it this way, based on comments heard from the women in our audience, all of which were unsolicited and some quite unseemly (keep ‘em coming):

That song is hot.

And indeed it is.  But the video punches up the heat to a completely different level by bringing a disruptive factor to the equation: Jack Mustard himself.  Take a phenomenal physique worthy of an MMA fighter, mix it with the the kind of charisma you’d expect on the late-night talk show circuit, add a hand-picked selection of female talent willing to drive home the point of his lyrics, and the outcome is red-hot.

Mind you, he does it with class, delivering the essentially sensual without crossing the line, in a manner that pays homage to Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible.  It’s tasteful, a hell of a production, and quite a privilege to view it first.  And it’s entirely possible Jack Mustard will end up a folk hero for his efforts, mark these words:

“That song was playing on the radio the day we met” – future parents

Ladies, you’ve been warned, please dress inappropriately before you go into Jack Mustard’s Dark Lit Bar \m/~

Rangounmuzzled Episode 72 – Beautiful People

Rangounmuzzled ep 72 – beautiful people

The Mighty Thad Coleman

The Mighty Thad Coleman

Rango gets on a plane and flies to LA in order to participate in the Worldwide Star Search 2014 showcase, #wwss2014. He ends up hanging out with long-time friend, ex-roomie and bandmate, the mighty Thad Coleman, waxing poetic on My Life as a Musical. Part I of II, featuring the unmuzzled artistry of:

Shade Law
Andrea Desmond
Jess McAllister
Johndus Beckman
Shawnee Kilgore
The Mothership
Alyse Black
Digital Skunk‘s Barry Burford (Stinktier & Honig)
Hetty Bryce-Lane
Matthew Meadows with Stuart Epps and John Marter
Patrick Kindy & Friends at I.R.L(In Real Life) Infinite Vision Productions

#audioburger #rangothedog #thadcoleman #mylifeasamusical #indie #comedy

Broadcast LIVE here on 09/01/2014:

Sharing on Fandalism here, 1,500+ plays in the first 24 hours:

Download from Soundcloud directly here:

Learn more about the World Wide Star Search here:

…and please join me here for show previews, the metalish, love songs and something your mom wouldn’t like:


In the Spotlight at World Wide Star Search 2014


#rangothedog at #wwss2014

#rangothedog at #wwss2014

Last weekend I was thrilled to get the opportunity to participate in the World Wide StarSearch 2014 showcase, #wwss2014.

The chance to fly to Los Angeles and present your full hand of entertainment skills to a select group of VIP’s doesn’t come along every day.  In my case it’s been roughly thirty years since the time I started seriously dancing and playing guitar, and it all came to focus last weekend.

I don’t dance anymore, and I’m too old for the modeling runway. But I elected to participate in the music showcase, as well as the perform a monologue, 30 seconds of live event hosting, and commercial taping.

The commercial taping was the most straightforward since we were provided scripts.  That was a matter of memorization, not my strong suit.  I waffled on the decision to inject a funny line, not sure what the judges were looking for.  The scripted line was “you deserve more than 15 minutes of fame” and my alternate was “you deserve more than 15 minutes of fame, and so do I“, gratuitiously referencing my comedy short Operation Rango: Check 1,2 in an oblique fashion.  But when push came to shove and the little red light came on the camera, I screwed up roughly half the lines, but just kept talking, as I tend to do.

Nothing funny, just rolling with it.  Par for the course.

#rangothedog, My Life as a Musical Act IThe event hosting played better to my comedy interests.  I decided to wing that one, treat it as a radio show.  I only had a topic in mind, Dichotomous We, a dating service for bipolars.  I can be self-deprecating and talk about bipolar disorder all day long, so 30 seconds was a breeze.  Happy to settle for the sound of knowing laughter from the audience as I walked off the stage – everybody knows somebody that’s bipolar – and call it good.

I knew I had a major challenge in front of me with the monologue.  The extent of my monologue experience involves Operation Rango: Into the Snow and such, all written and directed by me.  So I reviewed dozens of film favorites and commited several to memory, including zingers from Almost Famous and American Beauty.  But when I learned a film crew was going to be there I started scripting my own, a comedy.  I tried some bits out on the radio show, which fizzled, and then with a friend in the industry, which fizzled harder.  But he gave me some solid advice: drop the comedy, be yourself.

That was very difficult.  I wrote a monologue called My Life as a Musical, no stranger to regular readers of the blog.  My first crack at it took me 4 hours and stretched over 800 words.  It took a week to trim it down, and after seemingly endless hours of recursively getting rid of flowery adjectives and unnecessary details, I ended up with a monlogue in two Acts.   I created a corresponding video for Act I with titling and imagery to test the timing and impact of the language, and committed it to memory.

Before the showcase, I only ever recited it in the car.

“The best take you will ever get is the one in the car before the audition.” – Lifetime casting director Linda Berger

Standing in the wings before my monologue delivery, I realized there was one line in it that was making me choke up.  I couldn’t decide whether or not to say the line or not, but in the end, it didn’t matter: I forgot to say it.  Either acting fail or subconciously protecting myself from falling apart, the words “I never danced again” never crossed my lips.  Still, I swallowed my nerves and delivered the lines as best I could, then finally came around to shaking nervously after I walked off stage.

I just listened to my performance, and I can tell you that without that line, it fell flat.


As for the music, having lost both my rabbit and my muse within a week of each other, I had been on hiatus from guitar for over a year.  That was it for me and my guitar, so I turned to my work as a computer programmer.  But knowing this event was around the corner motivated me to pick it up again with a very specific focus.  So each day I played, and decided on three originals and one cover to perform.
For those entering the music category, the showcase only promised the opportunity to audition one minute of one song on Friday night.  Finalists would be chosen from those performances, and play for the VIP’s during the Saturday showcase, so the selection of the first song was absolutely critical.

I chose carefully: Dobro Love for its vocals, Smokehouse for guitar, and Unsound for the hook, in that order.  But you only get one, so Dobro Love.

That decision was reversed by input from my friends and family.  I ran my set by Whiskey Tex, my brother, and my close friend in the industry.  Of course my daughter was around during the rehearsals so she chimed in, too.  Their decision was unanimous: open with Unsound.

Not what I expected.  Unsound is the first complete song I ever wrote, roughly 15 years ago, and as an artist you want to believe your newer material is more compelling.  And it had some serious strikes against it: it was written in an instant, none of the lyrics repeat, and the guitar work was rudimentary compared to the intricacy of Smokehouse.  But when posed with the [paraphrased] question from Whiskey Tex, “what impression are you trying make?”, the answer had nothing to do with showing guitar technique, vocal range, or songwriting skill, but came down to this:

#rangothedog at #wwss2014

#rangothedog at #wwss2014

I want to be unforgettable.

You don’t have to look far to find a better guitarist, vocalist, or songwriter.  So rehearsing with a focus towards impressing on any one attribute really only increases the risk that you’ll be measured by a skill that you’re marginal at, with no frame of reference for how important that is for those observing you.

Given that, my advisors were right, Unsound was the better opener.  Better to go for the triple threat, because even if each of them is marginal, there is a lift associated with each successive element you attempt.

So at least I had a rehearsal strategy for the music.  I started right there, fat-fingers and all.  I sat myself down on a chair, front and center.  Over days I added more pressure in the form of lights, camera, action.  It did not go well.

“That was horrible.  Better not to have auditioned at all.” – Whiskey Tex

“Don’t mess up your own lyrics, that will kill you.” – my brother

“Have you ever played this song, once, ever?” – #rangothedog

I played right up until the morning I got on the plane to LA.  I recorded a bunch of sessions and I’ve listened to all of them since I got home.  I’ve never once played Unsound like I did at the showcase.  The performance pressure and audience feedback was reflected directly in the music in a way that was unique, and for the better, on a song that had gotten stale over more than a decade, but is perhaps more relevant to me today than the day I wrote it.

#rangothedog and Jaysen Kim at #wwss2014

#rangothedog and Jaysen Kim at #wwss2014

I had a great show, and the judges were very kind: I took home top honors in music.  But the best performances for everybody were actually the encores on Sunday, after the VIP’s were gone and it was just back to the friendly forces in the audience.  It was all performers and their families, and the rehearsals and suspense of the competition were over.

We had all watched each other perform monologues, hosting, commercials and runway skills, under crushing pressure, with some brilliant performances.  But the encore performances were an opportunity to cut loose, and we did. A rising tide lifts all boats, and everybody was feeling it, so congratulations to the producers of World Wide Star Search 2014 and its predecessors, reaching back 16 years to 1998, that really was an amazing weekend.

I’m not sure how the script goes for Act III, I haven’t gotten that far along yet.  But I know it’s already started, so we’re going to have to wing it.  With any luck, maybe I’ll fly away \m/~

“The lights go up, the clowns tumble in, with painted on faces, and blue-collar grins” – ringmaster


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