Solo Aspirations, 2018 (Part 1)

In 2017, I had a blast playing solo shows, duet shows, and even one full-band show (with Grandma’s Mini, in Washington, D.C.). I played in Stamford, Redding, and Bridgeport, CT; Brooklyn, N.Y., and the aforementioned D.C. While it would be amazing to play a monthly gig, it’s not realistic right now — but playing five gigs in a year is more than I’ve played in quite a long time.

So I don’t have anything in the books just yet — hoping for Acoustic Cafe (a grunge covers set with one of my favorite guitar lady friends) in February and Manhattan in March or April. Here’s to staying motivated to practice, regardless.

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Playing solo at Branded Saloon, one of my favorite little Brooklyn hipster dives

My Teenage Nostalgia: Singing Along to Dolores O’Riordan in the Car

The mid- to late 1990s shaped my musical tastes. I transitioned from loving George Michael and Debbie Gibson to developing a craving for a genre known as “alternative” rock, that leaned heavily in the direction of Seattle. Yet I also craved the sweeter sounds of that epic time period, and spent many hours listening to Belly, Bjork, Lush and, of course, The Cranberries.

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Dolores O’Riordan, in her prime

I think it was my first boyfriend, Pat, who introduced me to The Cranberries, whose beautiful debut Everybody Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We? The album because a constant companion on trips between my parents’ home in Silver Spring to Pat’s home near College Park. The 22-minute drive provided the perfect time allotment to practice my vocals, as I’d sing along to every track, from “I still do” to the hypnotic “Dreams.”

As my musical tastes expanded, The Cranberries took a backseat to Hole, PJ Harvey, and angrier and more overtly sexualized chick rock in college. Eventually, Liz Phair would become my favorite. But not before I saw The Cranberries play at a D.C.-area stadium in 1995. That’s my last memory of the band’s significance in my life. But while my fandom faded, I still enjoyed much of the band’s sophomore efforts, notably the raging “Zombie” because it matched my angsty attitude.

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I’d hear updates about Dolores from time to time, such as when she got married and gave birth to her first child.

When I heard she died, all of my personal ’90s nostalgia came back. I recalled the feel of the cassette tape in my hand as I popped it into the car stereo, en route to Pat’s place, and recalled that it was one of the last cassette tapes I ever purchased before I switched to CDs.

It’s so sad when someone dies suddenly, but I mostly grieve for her children. She left behind a 12-year-old, a teen, and a 20-year-old child.

I’m so grateful for music and motherhood today.

Me Time = Learning the Guitar Riffs for a Western Classic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When I was little — well, like 11 or 12 — my dad Don Torrieri got me to watch “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”  for the first time. I kind of knew what it was about (I mean, the title says it all), but I didn’t quite get the plot’s nuances (or Tuco’s relationship with Blondie, played by then-hunky, poncho-clad Clint Eastwood). But what stuck with me most wasn’t the scene of Tuco running through the graveyard (my dad liked to say this was me, in Italy, searching a cemetery for the grave of my great-great grandfather Pietro Torrieri I).

It was the soundtrack. Still one of the sexiest Western themes on the planet, Ennio Morricone‘s title track. Take a listen, and a look, and experience the awesomeness.

So today, I had a little free time. Hubby took the kids to my inlaws’ house to watch a football game. I broke my Gibson SG out of its hard case, and got to work, setting a goal to learn this riff. Perhaps so I can play it at an upcoming show.

The good news is that it wasn’t too hard to learn. However, the frets on my Gibson SG are still too far apart for me to stretch my hands in a five-fret span comfortably and pull off something sonically delightful. So I switched to the Fender Strat, and had no troubles. It sounds lovely and is super-fun to play. Learn it here, in this video.

My next goal: To set up my looper pedal so I can strum chords underneath this cool riff and sound like a badass next time I play out.

 

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Why my Goals Are Better than Serious Rock-n-Roll Resolutions

by Marisa Torrieri

New Year’s Resolutions have become a bit of a cliche. Overly ambitious declarations destined to fail most of the time.

Still, I start every year thinking, “OK, this is it! This is the year I play guitar for an hour a day every single day no matter what. And if I don’t, then I’m lazy. Now GO!”

And then life happens. This week, two unexpected life events threw off my post-NYE ambitions:

1.) I cut my pinky finger while slicing vegetables for dinner, an event that led to lots of gushing blood, panicked cries of “Oh my God, Oh my God,” and a trip to my local urgent care center. By the end of the night, I was banned from washing my kids or doing anything that would get my now-surgically-glued-together pinky.

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The finger I sliced open on Jan. 2. Two hours later, it was surgically glued back together. Yay!

2.) The weather decided to move up its plans to deliver four inches a foot of snow and an obnoxious amount of post-apocalyptic winds to New England. This led to school cancellations, which forced me to cancel my highlights appointment (my biggest, and very occasional, indulgence), and start to fret about spending a whole day at home (did I mention I didn’t exercise Wednesday? Now I’m missing two days of exercise this week! UGH! I hate that!).

Then I look at the broader picture. I’m a mom and a wife, a skilled musician and freelance writer who gets regular gigs. I teach guitar, I tutor writers, I help my older son with his homework. I’m also an aunt and a granddaughter, a sister-in-law. I have more friends than I can count.

In 2017, I played five original shows (including one with Grandma’s Mini, my band in DC, plus three solo shows and one cover-band gig). I got an article published in Guitar World magazine. I posed for a zillion photos, looking like a 20-something. We expanded our house. My family’s health is good. I have so much to be grateful for.

By setting goals that are reasonable, not forced like resolutions, we can accomplish so many things. Better than that, we can accomplish these things without feeling bad, like we failed.

So today as I sit in my house, and the blizzard whirls around outside, I’d like to try to make 2018 the year of patience: I’d like to be more patient with my children, more patient with circumstances I can’t control (like the weather), more patient with my spouse, and more patient with my progress — not just as a person, but as a musician, writer, runner and traveler. I’d like to think that things we are putting off this year (like a trip to Disney World) will come later, so I needn’t be envious of my peers.

Perhaps I can channel my energy into gratitude, instead.

Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.