Chris Belin Drums - Traveling Drum School & Freelance Drumming
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August 2012

Summer 2012 show wrap up

   This past Saturday was, in my own mind, my official last two shows of the Summer. Even though the solstice doesn’t official end until 9/22 I always think of September 1st as the first day of fall. Performances usually go back to normal around this time, indoor club kind of stuff. Plus school is back in session, nights are colder, and warm coffee is more easily digestible in the morning!       
   As I sip my steaming cup of Java right now I am reflecting on an amazing Summer of shows I was fortunate enough to play. Most were with The Satin Hearts, but I also had the opportunity to perform with Christiane D & the Wretched Souls, JG Boccella & The Modo Mio Band, & The New Mingle. It felt like a full-on national Summer tour, even though I remained in the tri-state area. 27 shows total (72 hours of live performance) with most performances being 3 hours in length. That would work out to be 48 ninety minute shows, which is a typical average for a touring act headlining large venues. This season was filled with lots of different scenarios: inside, outside, large, small, clubs, bars, restaurants, bowling alley, festivals, prison, art gallery, amusement park, marathon, etc. I had a lot of fun and there is no doubt I became a better musician out of it.      
   The clip below I found online last night for the first time. It was recorded at Funfest in Harmorville, PA on July 12th. The manager mentioned during set up they would be filming portions and possibility adding to their website. I was actually searching You Tube last night to see if anyone posted cell phone clips from either show this past Saturday as I saw some cameras, but I stumbled upon this. It highlights set one from The Satin Hearts. Notice the stage set-up right in the middle of the lanes, which I thought was really cool. People were bowling all around us! The sound was very full, drum sound echoed in the big rectangle room. Audience members said it sounded really good. Vocals (and cowbell!!) are definitely upfront in this audio mix.     
    I’m on a show break for the upcoming Labor Day weekend then performances resume at the Tiki Bar & Beach Room in Finleyville, PA on September 7th. Still a Summer show I guess but i’m in fall mode. Outdoor shows in Sept usually mean hoodies and less bug spray!!

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the satin hearts

Performing at a Prison...on my birthday!

   This past Sunday, August 19th, was my birthday. I love my birthday, and I love playing shows! This year I got to do both, perform & celebrate simultaneously!! This is not the first occasion a show has fallen on my birthday, but this year was by far the most interesting scenario to date. Here’s how this year’s show came to fruition: 
   A few months ago I received a call that went something like this; "Hey we got a gig offer on your birthday, not sure if you're available but it's at a prison, sounds pretty cool. Let me know if you can do it. Thanks" Once I heard that my first thought was "Awesome, I never played at a prison before." My second thought was Folsom Prison Blues, how much I love that Johnny Cash album and how hip it was he did that. I called back and said "let's do it".  

The Hype Surrounding the Show 

   Over the last few weeks we've received messages here & there regarding the performance. They started off as little details such as set length, performance location (outside in the courtyard), load-in time, etc. Then the messages evolved into more specific details, such as this description we received of the NCF (Northern Correctional Facility);
 
"Today NCF houses approximately 253 male inmates, some in double bunked cells, who have been convicted of serious offenses against persons and property or are special management cases" 

  The next bit of info we got was a dress code stipulation. Since the singer is female, she was prohibited from exposing any skin so a long sleeve shirt with jeans was recommended. We were also made aware an equipment check would happen before our entry.    
   I’ve played in front of rough crowds in tough venues before but this looked to the most extreme.
  
The Arrival

   The NCF maximum security prison is located in Moundsville, WV. It's a newer facility, not to be confused with the old Moundsville prison, which is supposedly haunted and is currently a tourist attraction. This prison is the real deal, lined w/ tall barbed wire fences & multiple security gates as well as armed guards. It's off the beaten path as I expected, but covers a bigger area of land than I thought. When we arrived we were greeted by a prison guard and the recreations director. They were friendly, but stated their strict policies on us entering and how everything was going to go down. We drove through multiple security gates then ended up in the courtyard where the stage was set up. The place looked just like in the movies; large area with an outdoor gym, basketball court, and track. There were more armed guards and tons of barbed wire fencing surrounding the area. The inmates were inside waiting patiently until we were ready.    
   Marci and I got to go inside and use the bathroom before showtime. A guard escorted us to cell block C where some inmates were cleaning the bathroom. That was first time inside a jail and it was intense. Movies definitely don’t do it justice. It was a cold and solemn place, definitely somewhere I did not want to be too long. The inmates we saw while inside were definitely giving us the curious eye. Not the most comfortable situation but I wouldn’t trade that experience. 

The Set up and Performance
   
   Set up was pretty normal. We added a little extra amplification, but we were told we didn’t have to be overly loud as the inmates would be close. I chose my customized Pearl Sensitone snare (from Brooklyn, NY) for the show. I usually carry two snares with me and this one sounded so good at soundcheck I felt like switching it up from my normal go-to. It has great projection outdoors and really blended well with the other instruments. This snare also works great with the what I envisioned the song list would be; a diverse mix of Classic Rock & Blues.
  When 5:30 PM came, the inmates began to make their way into the courtyard. All dressed in white or beige attire, each one had D.O.C. labels on all their clothes. Over 90% had multiple tattoos and most were built and in shape.

  
  A few of the inmates asked to sit in and play some tunes with us. That was unexpected, but two of them had their own guitars so we agreed. They were blues fans so we jammed on a few standards together. There was even a bass player in the crowd and he joined us for “Sweet Home Chicago”. Then to top off the end of set 2, I was serenaded “happy birthday”. Another touching moment was during our set break. We let one of the guitarist inmates play some solo acoustic blues songs on his own. After a really moving song, not quite sure of the title, he said a little speech about mistakes he made in his life that got him there. It was definitely heart felt and a few of the other inmates chimed in / commented. Even though i’m sure all or most of those guys deserve to be in there, that speech was sincere and I heard remorse in his voice.    
   Finally, we closed the show in true Satin Hearts fashion, all four of us giving it 110% to the very last note w/ Marci graciously thanking them for coming out and listening to us. There were 104 inmates outside, which the recreations director said was the biggest crowd they had out there in a long time. He said some a lot of guys rarely leave their cells. The ones that were there were friendly, thanked us for playing, and gave us lots of praise. From what I heard, this prison is pretty mellow with very few fights. The recreations director said most of the inmates were in for life, having collectively committed the worst crimes imaginable. He also stated the ones that give the most trouble are the short term ones. The older ones don’t act up as they make it their home. 
  
Packing up and heading out
 
  After we packed up our gear it was time to leave. As we drove through the gates I thought about my freedom and how thankful I am for it. Even though I would never dream of doing anything even close to the stories I heard those guys did, being there as a guest was still a taste of what it would be like to be locked up. It’s a whole other world in there I got see a small piece of. That’s enough for me. I’m staying on the straight and narrow path for sure!! 







Student appearances @ my weekend shows

  Just finished my last show of the weekend just a few hours ago. This was one of my favorite blocks of shows this past year as I saw many familiar faces in the crowds. This past Thursday was the Saint Bernadette Parrish Festival in Monroeville, which I’ve performed at the last 3 years straight. This has become one of my favorite shows of the year as I see so many students & their families in the audience, most of which are either members of the church or live in the area. There seemed to be more students present this year than any other. :) Always a good time & the festival set up (stage, booths, games, etc.) keeps getting better every year.    
  This year was extra special because I arranged for a Traveling Drum School student to sit in and play a song with the band. Her name is Laura Trozzo & she’s been playing drums for a few years now. A few months back we were working on “I Love Rock N’ Roll” by Joan Jett as she was prepping to play in her talent show. Unfortunately scheduling was an issue with her band therefore they couldn’t do the show. So I mentioned that maybe she could sit in with The Satin Hearts at the Parrish Festival since the song was in our set list. She agreed and we quickly reviewed the song together. Laura played it awesome! Hit the drum intro at just the right speed, held a steady tempo, did a great job with all the fills, & ended with a solid crash!! The crowd ripped up with applause!!! Here’s a pic mid performance;

  On Friday the outdoor show @ the Waterfront (homestead area of Pittsburgh) was moved inside Rock Bottom due to inclement weather. We played a mellower set inside for a packet house of people. No familiar faces at first but three songs in I saw Joshua Odom walk in out of the corner of my eye. He’s a little guy so he’s definitely easy to miss! He was stage left hanging out & jamming along to the songs air drum style. Josh has been a Traveling Drum School student for around 9 months now. He started when he was 2 1/2!!! Now 3 years old he is still currently my youngest student!! Josh is a natural though, possessing tons of ability and above average concentration for his age. Not only does he do well during his lessons but we have great drum conversations afterwards while I’m packing up. Here’s a pic of him during the set break, checking out my drums & entertaining the crowd!! 


Band spotlight; The Flying Z's

   


   This week’s blog is a spotlight on “The Flying Z’s, a relatively new up and coming band from Mt. Pleasant, PA. The band features three Zimmerman’s: Gavin, Ian, & Max as well as Kim Weinman and Anthony Depalma. The drum duties are shared by Traveling Drum School students Gavin and Ian, who play individually on different songs (I would love to see them do double drums on a tune someday!) Another really cool aspect of this band is the three Z’s all play multiple instruments, as seen on their You Tube page. They have over 30 clips posted, a varied mix ranging from full band cover songs, acoustic pieces, funny outtakes, and even and an electronic dance mix. It’s rare to see a young band so diverse, driven, & full of natural talent. They have fun no doubt about it, but their serious and have recently been generating a buzz performing live shows. Below are links to their sites as well as a clip from one of their recent performances.

You Tube:http://www.youtube.com/user/TFZ12  .
Website: www.tfx12.webs.com 
Facebook; www.facebook.com/theflyingzs  

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Fourth of july Party on 4th ave. TFZ
we played a few songs and people seemed to like it! there were about 400 people there Zombie - The Cranberries 00:01 Set fire to the rain- ADELE 03:50 Firework - Katy Perry 09:43
   
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