The 1997 Rush West Coast TabCon
Date: November 15th - November 16th
Location: A studio in LA - Specifics unknown at this time
City: Los Angeles, CA
Resources:  1997 TabCon Home - Set List - Equipment List - Pictures - Reviews

Participant Home State Instruments
Mark Franklin CA Guitar
Dave Tousaint CA Guitar
Andy CA Bass
Brian CA Bass, Vocals
Eric CA Guitar, Synth
Gabe CA Drums
Mark (a.k.a., "BigMark") CA Guitar, Synth
Paul CA Drums

Review by Mark Franklin
Well...I'll try to recap the weekend out here in Los Angeles (at least through my eyes and ears!)

Friday, November 14th
After round the clock e-mails and phone calls for the previous month, I can only hope that everyone shows up the next day. I pack up everything into the car so I won't have to in the morning. My personal equipment contribution included a Marshall cab and head (borrowed from cousin) a 60W Crate, my guitar, Digitech RP-6, 4-track Tascam, cassette deck, CD player, Camcorder (also borrowed), various stands tripods and cables and pages of music and CDs and tapes. Dave drove up and was staying at a motel near the studio. Eric and Andy flew in and were staying at Eric's uncle's (30 miles east). Brian was coming from Torrance (30 miles south). Gabe and I were at our respective homes, west and north of the studio. So, unlike the Milwaukee TabCon, we didn't have the opportunity to mix it up Friday. Oh well! We'll all meet tomorrow at 10:00 am!

Saturday, November 15th
Ahhh! I'm running late. I get on my computer to make a Rush TabCon sign to post outside the studio. The studio is kinda hidden in the back of an industrial complex and not evident from the street. I get to the studio at 10:00 and there are 5 other guys waiting in the parking lot. I was the last to arrive so we didn't even need the sign I made, which was convenient because I forgot it anyway! We made the standard introductions, joked around a bit and waited for Greg, the studio owner/manager to arrive. He showed us to our home for the next two days - complete with massive 1200W PA system and all the mics we would need - this was going to be so cool!

The next two hours were spent setting up. Greg couldn't believe how much equipment we were using. I think he got a kick out of us. Dave even had more stuff than I did - a rack full of effects, a small keyboard, and a bass amp. Andy and Eric came light - just their guitar/bass and effects. Gabe brought his full drum kit and lets just say that, although it did not completely surround him like Neil's does, if asked to describe the quantity of percussion components in his kit, the expression "shit-load" comes to mind. In addition to the musical gear, we also set up two video cams, audio recording (mics well placed into the room hooked into the 4-track, mixed and sent into the cassette deck), and cassette and CD play through the house PA. It was almost noon exactly when the opening "space whoosh" of "2112" filled our hallowed...rehearsal studio. I was manning the cameras and checking out all the recording equipment and was totally blown away by the sound these guys achieved. I'm not saying it was exactly like Rush (remember them?) but it was damn close. So close it was scary! The next hour or so was spent working out the timing on this song, especially the prelude. Brian, who claimed his vocals couldn't go very high, sounded my humble opinion. All in all, I was impressed with the sound, and a bit worried too! Do I really want to be up there with these guys sounding so good?

[Warning! I may have mixed up the order of some of the songs. Forgive me.] We then went through "Limelight", "Closer to the Heart", "Xanadu", and "Subdivisions". Unfortunately Brian had to leave at 3 pm. As luck would have it Mark (who will be referred to by his AOL name, "BigMark") and Paul showed up. These two were contacted relatively last minute, to help fill in spots - especially singing. They had played together in a Rush tribute band and were excited about playing. While Paul warmed himself up on Gabe's drums and BigMark set up his full size keyboard and guitar with Marshall cab (another Marshall cab!!!! - 3 on one stage!!!), Dave, Gabe, Eric, Andy and I went to dinner.

We wanted beef, raw bloody beef! So we went to Blank Angus where we had a good dinner, talked about music, Rush, Kiss, the cute, but slow, waitress, work, women, and all in all had a great time.

When we got back, we started up again - taking on "Stick It Out", "Natural Science", "Jacob's Ladder", "Show Don't Tell", "Driven", "Red Barchetta", and "Entre Nous". At this point we started getting a little casual. While others were taking a break, Eric, BigMark and I went off on a blues jam trading riffs back and forth. Andy and Gabe provided the bass and drums for our little tangent.

We decided to call it an early night (10:00 pm) and start up again at 10:00 am the next morning. We were all pretty beat! We asked BigMark and Paul if they wanted to join us again tomorrow but they said no. Oh well, fortunately, the studio gets locked up and we don't need to break down our equipment (whew!).

Sunday, November 16th
The same 5 (Dave, Gabe, Eric, Andy and I) arrive at the studio around. Unfortunately, Greg didn't show up to open the studio until 10:30 am. He apologizes profusely so we forgive him. :-) As we were setting up, Greg informs us that Brian left a message that he is sick and can't show up. AAAAAAHHHHH! An immediate and noticeable depression fell on the whole group. No one else could sing. And Brian is an excellent bass player as well and many of the songs he was slated to do, Andy hadn't practiced.

Well we kept our chins up as best we could. We did vocal-less versions of "Virtuality" and "Circumstances". We even gave "Hemispheres" and "La Villa Strangiato" a shot. After that we rehashed any songs that people wanted to replay. You could tell that our hearts were just not in it. People were getting a little edgy.

Around 4:00 pm we called it quits. There seemed to be sense of failure lingering in the room. Maybe it was just me, but I don't think so. Maybe it was more a feeling of "what might have been." As we were breaking down our equipment, Eric started noodling around on the keyboard, creating hilarious sounds and rhythms. My mood started to lighten a bit and I remembered the great moments of the weekend - finally meeting everyone I had been in contact with - finding that they are a great bunch of guys - and of course - playing the "Red Barchetta" solo!

We said goodbye and went our separate ways. I think we all want to do this again.

And most importantly, practicing for this weekend, and playing this weekend has made me a much better player than I was 3 months ago.

Nope, this weekend was definitely not a failure, but a learning experience. We did a lot of things right, but there were some contingencies we hadn't planned on. As I write this, I'm excited about next years Rush "TabCon West"! I have a few suggestions for future events:

  1. You can never have too many people (although you can have too much gear). Especially singers!!!!! and Bassists!!!! and Drummers!!!!! (but keep the guitars down to 2 people! :-) j/k
  2. Get commitments from as many people as you can, preferably financial commitments, if applicable. Do not make this a casual, show-up-if-you-want affair. This is a fun weekend and all, but people will cancel last minute due to a variety reasons. Commitments will make people more likely to show up if they are on the fence. Plus, it eliminates the possibility of people getting stuck for more than their share.
  3. Have everyone learn as many songs as they can. Heck, so what if we do Limelight twice with different people doing solos. That's what we are here for. If two people want to do a solo or play drums to a particular song - great! Fortunately, our group had plenty of time to do this. This will help prevent not doing a song because person "X" couldn't make it.
  4. Have other things to do for people who aren't playing. Now I loved filming and taking pictures and listening to players, but I needed a break. If you're going to be going strong for 2 full days then you'll want a break. Now I don't mean that you need to set up things for people to do, just note if there are any parks, lakes, malls, strip joints :-) nearby for people to relax for a few hours or so.
Well, that's it. All in all it was a worthwhile weekend! I'm definitely looking forward to doing this again!!