The Joy of Practicing for Solo Gigs (in Heels)

I’m so stoked to be playing a solo gig with special guest Noelle Dicarlo — a little tattooed girl with a BIG voice! — that I spent a small portion of Mother’s Day practicing in front of the mirror.

Compared to my millennial peers, I’m not super-narcisstic (kidding!). But I still like to make sure that my stage presence is positive and energetic. I know my looks aren’t as important as the content and delivery of my message, but sometimes it’s nice to know that I’m performing in a way that draws the viewer in and engages them, without overwhelming them.

I’m debating a backbend-style move I used to do with my old punk-rock-inspired band Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties. But while it looks super cool when I do it with Morgan during “SIT” (see video below), it might be a little much for the slow refrain of “Eggs.” Thoughts?

Either way, if you’re in Connecticut, please come out to my show! I’m performing with some amazing acts — jazz/blues guitarist Robert Tyler, full-throttle rock band Catalina Shortwave, New Haven indie rockers Super Scenics, and, of course, my favorite rockmommy Rew (who will be playing with her band The Rewd Onez).

This Weekend in Philly: Rocker Moms Get Their Music On for a Truly Empowering and Cool Event

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Philadelphia is overflowing with great music shows and one-of-a-kind arts events — so many, in fact, that it’s hard to pin down just one thing to do over the weekend. But if you’re a parent who wants to support other parents — or if you’re looking for something you’ve never seen before — we’ve got the “to do” for you, literally.

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RABIES SHOT plays their debut show at this weekend’s First Time’s a Charm Showcase, which benefits Girls Rock Philly.

On Saturday, June 4, punk-rock-influenced band RABIES SHOT — a brand new, four-piece group headed by the mom-and-pop team of Eleni K. and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Howze, along with keys/sax/backup vocalist Yoni Kroll, and vocalist/keyboardist Charles Smith — is playing the First Time’s a Charm showcase, an event that is centered on the contributions of female-identified, trans* and queer folks and people of color in the DIY/punk community in Philadelphia.

The showcase is just what the name suggests: A sonic experience featuring new musical projects by groups who meet at least two of the following criteria: 1. one or more members that identify as female, trans, queer, and/or a person of color; 2. one or more members of a band playing for the first time; and 3. one or more members of the band playing an instrument they have never played before. Proceeds of the $10 event, to be held at PhilaMOCA on Friday, June 3 & Saturday, June 4, will benefit Girls Rock Philly.

We’ve got our eye on RABIES SHOT — which Howze describes as a “heavy, electronic punk band” — because it’s the first time Eleni, who shares son Thomas, 2, and daughter Stella, 5, with him, will play an instrument at a show. It’s also total proof that becoming a mom doesn’t mean you have to quit your creative life!

“Eleni taught herself to play bass after the kids went to bed over the last 10 months or so, having never played an instrument,” Howze tells Rockmommy. “I own a recording and rehearsal studio so we started going to the studio once a week when we had a sitter instead of ‘date nights’ and she wrote a few songs with me on drums and guitar. That stuff is sitting on the shelf.”

Want to hear more?

Check out this stream of the RABIES SHOT demo. The band’s debut EP will be available for download/purchase this weekend!

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

Lawyer Mom by Day, Rockstar By Night: New Day Dawn’s Frontwoman Makes it All Work

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Faith. It’s something all moms have to have, regardless of their spiritual orientation. And it’s something that rockmommy Dawn Botti, singer-guitarist of New Day Dawn, had to have a lot of when she went against her practical inner voice and said “yes” to a last-minute gig in Oklahoma in 2013 with just three weeks to figure out how she would take time off from her legal career, care for her son, and finesse her musical chops so she would be in prime form to hang with A-List metal acts.

Needless to say, she pulled it off.

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New Day Dawn’s Dawn Botti

Botti’s talent is undeniable to anyone who listens to her sensual, powerhouse vocals on tracks like “Runaway” and “Life Impossible.” But it’s her dedication to pursuing what she loves (music, and yes — her day job too!) while putting her son and family first that is most admirable.

Today, Botti and the rest of her New Jersey based rock n’ roll band are better than ever, and prepping for some great shows this summer — including an opening spot for metal mama Lita Ford this August.

Here, in her own words, Botti tells us the tricks she uses to balance it all (hint: it has a lot to do with putting self-love before perfectionism):

Rockmommy: New Day Dawn has been around for some time — how did you learn to balance music with a career in law, too? 

Dawn Botti: New Day Dawn grew out of a former project that my drummer husband and I were in from 1999 to 2003 (before parenthood) called Slushpuppy. The breakup of Slushpuppy was very emotional for me… almost like a divorce. So after that, I was looking to reclaim what I had lost and move it in a more positive direction, hence the name New Day Dawn. A few months into the new band I discovered that my husband and I were pregnant. I was worried the other members of the band wouldn’t want to continue working with me, but they were super supportive!

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Dawn Botti in mama mode

I was able to continue to work on new music with the band while I was pregnant, and we took those nine or so months to write and start recording our first album. After my son Walker was born, we continued the recording  (most of it was done right in my home so it was very convenient and I could be near the baby at all times). I was also working on getting my pre-baby body back and going through lots of emotional transitions. In these early years I struggled with the guilt anytime we had to leave our son with a babysitter to go play a local gig, or leave for a few days to play somewhere farther away. But ultimately when your child sees that you are following your passion and doing something you LOVE to do, then they WANT you to do it.

Rockmommy: The music industry is really competitive. How did you guys establish yourself in the New Jersey/New York music scene?

DB: There are no short cuts. We have made our fans literally one show at a time and then add social media to that and it’s one “like” at a time, one Twitter follower at a time. Fans expect a lot more interaction out of artists today. They want to feel like they know the artist as a friend, and in fact many of our fans have become dear friends over time. It’s also so important to support the other bands in the local scene. To get out and support other shows even when you are not playing. This is probably the toughest thing for me and I wish I could get out more — but there are only so many days in a week, and after you take away the nights spent on family and school affairs, band rehearsal, business dinners, and so on, there are very few nights left to just stay home and recharge or work out, let alone go out to see other bands.

Rockmommy: Has being a mom influenced your sound/music?   

DB: My son, Walker, is now 11. Of course he has influenced my music — I don’t see how becoming a parent couldn’t influence any artist.  It changes the very fiber of your being, your very core: You are just a different person and therefore think differently, feel differently, and see the world differently — and of course that comes out in your writing. One thing that is very important to me is that my child can always be proud of my music and could sing the lyrics out in public, or to his classmates. I was never an artist who used shock or overly sexual words or dress to get my point across anyway. But now I do put everything I do through a filter of “could I show my son that?” I guess that’s not very “rock and roll” of me — but I figure an artist needs to first be authentic before anything else.

Rockmommy: What are some of the challenges to balancing everything? 

DB: The greatest challenges are lack of time and lack of energy. You can’t go 24/7 and yet you have enough to do to fill up 24/7 and more! You need to be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and know that you won’t ever cross off everything on your “to do” list. You have to forgive yourself that not every task will be accomplished at an A+ level. And most importantly, you need to embrace opportunities and just say “yes” even if you have NO IDEA how you are going to fit that thing into your schedule. For example, in 2013 we got a call three weeks before the date, and were asked if we wanted to be part of the lineup for ROCKLAHOMA out in Pryor, Oklahoma. The three-day lineup that year featured Guns n Roses, Alice in Chains, Cheap Trick, Dokken, Halestorm, and many other amazing bands. My practical brain was saying, “how the heck do we get the band out to Oklahoma from NJ in three weeks, what do I do with my son, how much is this gonna cost?” But out of my mouth came “Of course!” I still have no idea how we pulled it off, but I booked a short tour from New Jersey to Oklahoma and back again. We made the entire round trip in five days, and took my son with us. He was the best road warrior out of everybody!  At the big festival I introduced Walker on stage (he was around 8 years old at this time), and after our set there was a huge line at our merch booth and many wanted him to sign the CD along with the band, and wanted to take photos with him. It was a great family memory and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that would have never happened if I listened to my practical — and often overwhelmed — mommy brain.

5. What advice do you have to other moms who don’t have the luxury of just playing music as their “job” (when they aren’t being parents)? To what extent can you have it all — a good relationship with your kids, a band, and a career?

Again, I think it’s all about maintaining balance and maintaining a good perspective. Don’t judge yourself against the other younger/non-parent bands — heck you can’t even judge yourself against the bands compromised of all men who may have kids, but have a wife or girlfriend home taking care of those kids while they are on the road… it’s just different for a mother.  For a long time I tried to compartmentalize my life — I didn’t want people at work to know I played in a rock band for fear that I would lose credibility and respect, and I didn’t want fans and those in the music business to know that I was also a lawyer and a mom for fear that I would lose credibility and respect. But now I’m over all that. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. My career as an entertainment executive/lawyer speaks for itself, and so does my music. My advice is don’t let ANYONE tell you what you can and can’t do. Remember you are running a marathon, not a sprint.   Your goal is not to be “perfect” at everything… your goal should be about the experiences. If you focus on the experiences rather than grabbing the “prize” you will feel much more fulfilled and be better equipped to understand what to take on and what not to take on.

Upcoming Shows: 

June 10: New Day Dawn with Eve 6; The Stanhope House, Stanhope, NJ

June 24: New Day Dawn with Among Us (Reunion Show); Mexicali Live, Teaneck. NJ

Aug 11: New Day Dawn with Lita Ford; Starland Ballroom, Sayerville, NJ

Purchases for show tickets may be made through New Day Dawn’s online store.

Follow the band on Facebook & Twitter, or check out their YouTube channel.

—- Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

Host a Musical Play Date at Your Child’s Preschool in 5 Steps

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

For the past two years, I’ve hosted musical play dates for both of my toddler sons, now ages 2 and 3 and a half. It’s one of the BEST experiences I’ve ever had, and always a riot, as 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds all have their own adorable little quirks when it comes to experiencing music and participating in a musical play date.

Here’s the best part: While I am a guitar teacher, you don’t have to be a guitar teacher to host a musical play date!

All you need is to know how to play a few songs on guitar, and possess a lot of enthusiasm (and patience, but you probably already knew that!). Your preschooler will be so grateful and happy — and you will instantly become the coolest mom ever. Plus, you’ll feel good about contributing your musical talents and energies to a worthy cause.

Ready to get started? Follow these steps, and go!

Step #1: Pick Your Tunes. Whether you like Beyonce, Bach, or Black Flag, your toddler has widely different musical tastes (think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). Chances are your little one’s short list includes “The Hokey Pokey,” “Ba Ba Blacksheep” or “The Wheels on the Bus.” After giving it some thought, make a set list of at least five songs.

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The set list for my 4/13/16 gigs at each of my sons’ respective schools

Step #2: Download the chords and lyrics. The good news is that most nursery rhymes and kids’ songs can be played with basic chords like G, D, and C. I use the Ultimate Guitar app on my iPhone to search for guitar chords, and use the version with the highest stars. But you can also search for sites like this one.

Step #3: Buy lots of cool shaky things. The best way to engage preschoolers in music is involve them! My favorite thing to bring to school is egg shakers because they are about $1 each (and toddlers of all ages love them). Melissa & Doug’s Band-in-a-Box set also comes with lots of cool stuff for older toddlers, like cymbals and maracas. Whatever you pick, make sure you get enough percussive pieces so everyone in the class has one to play or shake.

Step #4: Set a date. I always play my gig in the middle of April during the Week of the Young Child, but most schools are open to you playing during activity time, so long as you let them know your plans and how you intend to execute said plans. Unless you want to blast AC/DC during nap time, you’ll probably get a positive response.

Step #5: Get ready to rock. As you would with any gig, practice, practice, practice! You might know “Itsy Bitsy Spider” backwards and forwards, but if you don’t practice singing and playing it at the same time, you could find it a little tricky to perform. If you feel rushed in the morning to get ready, pack your tuner, shaky things, and set list in advance. And after you arrive at your kid’s school, relax! Take a seat and pass out the egg shakers or tambourines or whatever. And remember — even if you bomb this set, they’ll still love you for playing their favorite tunes and singing along. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t laugh at a wrong lyric or off-key performance!

Bonus tip: You might want to print out the chords and lyrics to popular kids’ songs that aren’t on your set list. My first year hosting a musical play date for my son Nathan’s school, I got a request for “The Hokey Pokey.” I was caught off guard, and ended up playing the entire tune in the key of “G” (the kids loved it anyway) and altering my voice to match the key.

Then again, nothing prepared me for my most recent musical gig at Nathan’s class, where one of the 4-year-old boys insisted I play the “Paw Patrol” theme song! Even though I hear the song at least 20 times a week, I had no clue what to play. Still, because I just smiled and went with it — strumming the key of E-minor while singing the theme song — the kids applauded and laughed!

—- Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

5 Great Signature Guitars Designed for — and Inspired by — Female Rock Guitarists

Not too long ago, rock guitarist St. Vincent — also known as Annie Clark — unveiled an edgy new guitar specifically designed to fit a woman’s body and accommodate her smaller hands.

Although pioneers like Daisy Rock have been churning out female-friendly instruments for a while, the news was pretty groundbreaking for a few reasons. Until now, most of the signature guitars bearing a woman’s name are actually designed by men at big-name guitar purveyors like Fender and Gibson. Also, while St. Vincent did get a little help from engineers at Ernie Ball’s California headquarters, she was very much involved in the design and development process for her signature instrument.

So will this set the precedent for more professional shredders to do the same?

We can only hope.

For now, here are five great signature guitars that some of the best female rock guitarists have helped bring to market:

  1. St. Vincent’s Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitar

A cool-looking, $1899 guitar was crafted to perfectly fit St. Vincent’s lithe, womanly form, playing technique and personal style in Ernie Ball Music Man’s San Luis Obispo, California factory. Features include an African mahogany body, Ernie Ball Music Man tremolo, gunstock oil and hand-rubbed rosewood neck and fingerboard, St. Vincent inlays, Schaller locking tuners, 5-way pick up selector with custom configuration and three mini humbuckers.

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St. Vincent’s Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitar

2. Lzzy Hale Explorer

Halestorm front woman Lzzy Hale is one of the heavy metal’s few chick singers who also shreds — and has achieved major mainstream success. Her sharp-looking, signature $2,299 Gibson axe is super badass, with Alpine White finish and gold appointments, Gibson’s popular 57 Classic and 57 Classic Plus pickups, select tonewoods, and high-quality locking hardware.

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Gibson’s Lzzy Hale Explorer

3. Nancy Wilson Nighthawk Standard

Legendary Heart guitarist-singer Nancy Wilson — and rockmommy of two — tears it up onstage (side note: I’ve tried playing “Crazy on You” for years and still can’t do it right!) and in the studio. So it is only fitting that Gibson unveiled the robust signature Nighthawk in her honor. The $1,499 guitar features a comfortable ribcage body contour, rosewood fingerboard, a Nighthawk mini-humbucker and Nighthawk Lead humbucker, with five-way switching. It’s visually stunning, too, with Grade-AAA maple top dressed in a high-gloss nitrocellulose Fireburst finish with Cherry back and neck, and a commemorative “Fanatic” truss-rod cover.

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Gibson’s Nancy Wilson Nighthawk Standard

4. PRS Orianthi
Aussie guitarist Orianthi, who has strummed for Carrie Underwood, Alice Cooper, and so many other big names, was on the brink of taking her career to the next level as Michael Jackson’s guitarist for his 2009 world tour, when, sadly, he passed away in June of that year. Her signature guitar features:

  • Beveled maple top with flame maple veneer and Korina back;
  • PRS-designed tuners, SE HFS treble pickup, SE vintage bass pickup, and tremolo Bridge; and
  • volume and tone control with 3-way toggle pickup selector.
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PRS Orianthi

5. Bangles Signature Model

Daisy Rock is one of the most innovative, pro-female companies out there, with its huge array of electric and acoustic instruments designed for girls and women of all ages. The Bangles Signature Model, inspired by the quintessential all-girl 1980s band, is a particularly beautiful piece, with its piercingly pure tone, slim and narrow neck suited for smaller hands, and vintage look.

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Daisy Rock’s Bangles Signature model

In writing this blog, I’ve learned that while there are plenty of lists for “best female guitarists” and “best rocker moms,” finding a signature guitar that possesses the name of a female guitarist and is tailored to a female’s physical features is a near impossible feat.

Therefore, rock mamas — or heck, even dudes — who are looking for something that is designed with a woman in mind ought to take a closer look at these electric works of wonder.

First Post-Nathan Gigs: Nov. 8 & 9!!

Hey all! Just wanted to update everyone that I’m playing two amazing gigs with three other female frontwomen/instrumentalists — plus my drummer friend Jon, bassists Michelle and Morgan, and lead guitarist Nora (coming home from college to play!).Marisa Mini

We’re playing under the moniker “Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties” although, currently, only one of us is underage (that would be little Nora). And said underage hottie could probably school me, guitar wise. She’s a music school freshman. Nothing to laugh at about that. She also did a kickass job playing ukulele at my baby son’s first birthday Luau.

Here is all the information you need:

Singer-instrumentalists Gail Silverman, Rew Starr, Michele the Vamp (of Loki the Grump), and Marisa Mini – best known for their ferocious, funny, empowering and sometimes downright raunchy sets – return to their New York roots for a mid-Fall, two-night Girls Rock & Girls Rule showcase!

11/08/13

Branded Saloon

603 Vanderbilt Ave (between Prospect Pl & St Marks Ave)

Brooklyn, NY 11238

www.brandedsaloon.com

8 p.m. – 1 a.m.

 

11/09/13

Two Boots

281 Fairfield Avenue

Bridgeport, CT 06604

Twobootsbridgeport.com

 

About the Music:

 

(A)llerdings!

From the rubble of NYC’s Loki the Grump and Berlin’s Cathode Ray Mission comes (A)llerdings!  a gruesome threesome to attack your senses with crazy noisy, yet somehow fun, music.

 

Gail Silverman akaG.w/ Donald “Duck” Dixon

Former front woman for NYC band G-spot, G’s recent solo efforts showcase her vocals as well as a “somewhat” softer more spiritual side.  Nonetheless G. still delivers her own unique fierce and quirky style; sometimes introspective, often tongue-in-cheek , always taking the listener on a thought provoking  journey, filled with surprises!

 

Marisa Mini

Marisa Mini is a guitarist and singer hailing from Washington, D.C., whose lyrical and performance style reminds one of Liz Phair, with the humor and bluntness of Peaches. She plays standard rock and roll with punk/grunge undertones — and an increasing touch of blues and pop. Whether acoustic or electric, she lives by the motto “less talk and more rock.”

 

Rew Starr

Rew, often called the female *Velvet Underground* sounds like the luv child of Patti Smith & Ronnie Spector (or Courtney Love singing w/ Dylan lyrics). Rew Starr, who is known for quirky two-hour Internet “ReW & WhO?”show, has been compared to a glam-rock Vargas pin-up and is always full of fun and surprises.