One week in Bangkok

Mild weather, early mornings, street food, and markets. That just about sums up the first week here. In that time I’ve also met some new friends, connected with friends of friends from Chicago, and played saxophone with three different bands.

It’s amazing how upon return to this city (my 3rd time here) you find yourself back in the swing of a big city, but always stare in wonder at the sheer size of the city, the number of markets, and the rampant consumerism that consumes not only the tourists, but the locals. Where in the US you wouldn’t debate paying $20 for a decent shirt from a department store, here you agonize over paying $6 for the same shirt off of someone on the street (I did, and I bought it).

Everyone in this town is selling, scheming, working, virtually 24 hours a day. Whatever you want, you’ll find it.

One of the blessings of jet lag this time around has been the fact that I’ve been waking up early. My girlfriend, Suzanne, and I have been up around 5AM almost every day, which has lead to some interesting adventures.

Chinatown in Bangkok is a giant maze of consumerism on its own, however, before 7AM enterprising sellers set up shop on the streets and alleyways in front of those Chiatown shops. Selfie sticks (Suzanne bought one), electronics, jewelry, motorcycle patches, clothes, backpacks, all the things you find on the street elsewhere are here, for 1/2 the price. Just as fast as these merchants set up, they tear down. Once the sun starts coming up they pack up and leave, only to start over the next day. It’s one of our favorite spots to walk, buy and sightsee so far.

We’ve also been logging some miles on the streets.

One of my favorite ways to see a new place is by attacking the pavement on foot. No tuk-tuk’s, no taxis, only subways and busses when the legs get too tired. This way you get to see what’s down that dark alleyway, stumble upon a street filled with nothing but adult novelties and electronics, and walk down a 1/2 mile stretch of alleyways with thai men taking apart, greasing, and re-assembling decades old car engines.

Aside from the wandering I’ve also been seeking out the music opportunities mentioned above. I’ll dedicate a complete post to that later – music is strangely intertwined, and separate from these travel adventures. As a musician you can almost completely remove yourself from the context of where you are once the notes start flowing.

I’ll post pictures and add links to this post when I can, slow internet is plaguing me so far, but I wanted to send a quick update and some introductory activities and thoughts.

On Arrival

It takes some time to get the beat, feel where you’re going, and escape the jet lag here. I want to create a great narrative that’s informative, and intriguing to anyone who wanders this way, so bear with me as I get the rhythm of my own writing going here.

Despite being here for just a handful of days I’ve played two gigs, had my share of thai whiskey (enough for the trip), slept one day away, and seen the sunrise twice.

Photos are uploading, thoughts are churning, and more details and stories will come your way soon.

Small Time, Big Time

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this space, but it won’t be too long before the next entry… More about that later.

This year has been the most active in my life as a musician. If you’ve checked up on my gig calendar (one part of this site I’ve kept up with, for the most part) you’ve seen that most weeks I’ve fit in 2-3, sometimes 5+ gigs in a week while working a 9-5. It’s not the easiest schedule, but pursuit of passion and happiness… It does pay off sometimes.

This year I’ve played the regular clubs in Chicago, I’ve played basements and bars, I’ve played the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, and last night I played to an almost sold out crowd at the House of Blues. Through years of studying music, and jazz, I never in my wildest dreams envisioned a night where I would look out on around 1,000 people bopping up and down and watching the stage with awe (maybe a little inflated). 45 minutes of adrenaline, smiles, and one of the highest highs I’ve experienced on stage.

One of the most surreal, and quite frankly weirdest experiences from the evening was after I left the stage. Gear packed, I headed to the main floor to find my girlfriend, and had about 10 people recognize me from the stage, asking to take pictures, deliver compliments, and seem entirely too enthused about meeting me, TK, from an opening band. Attention from girls who I would have never sought out, guys who wanted to know about how long I’ve studied… Maybe I’ve become a bit jaded about being a local “jobbing” musician in Chicago. I’ve played sold out shows at venues like Lincoln Hall here, walked off stage to grab a beer and had nobody even give a second glance. It was flattering.

Friday night I played a storefront theater, Saturday morning I taught a saxophone lesson, Saturday night I was playing House of Blues.

Big thanks to Band Called Catch for having me, letting me write some horn parts, and jump around like a fool. A dream I didn’t know I had was realized last night. Amazing.

With that, on to my next adventure, which will be travel! On Wednesday I’ll be heading to SE Asia for two months, saxophone in hand, looking for gigs, collaborators, and taking the opportunity to reset after a hectic 2014. In this blog of sorts I’ll be posting musings, photos, videos, and generally anything on my mind.

I don’t know what I’ll be saying, but I hope to keep you informed weekly on what it’s like to be more adventurous, take risks, and throw caution to the wind. Revisiting spots I love, seeking out new adventures, it will all be right here.

To the summer!

It’s been a while since I’ve made an entry here, so it’s time to play catch up. The world of 9-5, and working musician have now collided with jewelry sales, 5K’s and summer travel/festivals (it’s work, I swear!).

First, I’ve made it a priority to keep my gig calendar updated with all of my performances, both upcoming and past, so any of you TK fans (ha!) can keep up with me, and hopefully catch a band or two as I pursue this volatile career  that is music.

Second, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be spending many of my weekends during the day helping Nomadic Ant sell jewelry at summer street festivals, and by also doing some research and writing for their website.

That’s the brief update for now.

Son Lux – Schubas 3/26/14

With one of the rare nights I’m not rehearsing, writing, performing, or slogging through the mundane paperwork of life, I headed to Schubas to see Son Lux live.

With all honesty and discretion, I’ve been a Son Lux fan since “At War With Walls and Mazes” came out in 2008. The most recent release by Ryan Lott (Son Lux), “Lanterns”, takes what I loved about “At War…” and polishes it a bit more to create a unique, smart electro-popish sound.

Since Son Lux relies heavily on sampling a large palette of instruments from strings to saxophones on “Lanterns” I was extremely curious about how he would pull this off live. I’m not a big fan of seeing shows that consist mostly of backing tracks or samples. This show did not let me down.

The lineup consisted of Ryan Lott on Keys, and a guitar player and drummer whose names I do not remember, nor am having success finding at the moment.

From the opening notes of the first song – Pyre – it was obvious that this live lineup was both well rehearsed, and ready to provide some major creativity and energy to the live show. Starting Lott singing the first lines, to the first drum hits and crecendo’s from the guitar, to the nasty synth bass (doubled by effected guitar) this was a show unlike any other I had seen.

Playing a mixture of samples, and live synth Lott conducted his way through songs old and new with precision and charisma. This was the first “rock” concert I’ve been to where the audience was silent between songs, not as a cause of awkwardness from the performance, but due to reverence of the music and artist.

Favorites Easy, Lost it To Trying and Betray (off of “At War…” were played masterfully.

Lott’s songwriting and talent for creating unique sound profiles were on display, however, the most impressive element of the show, for me, was the seamless integration of the live guitar and drums with all of the above. The drummer and guitar player not only played the role of “colorists” to Lott’s compositions, but added a dynamic rhythmic interplay to challenge the listeners perception of the original recordings.

After driving the crowd with a huge, but somehow reserved sound Lott came back on stage to perform a song I had previously not paid much attention to (but now a favorite), “Lanterns Lit”. Solo piano and voice, Lott demonstrated his classical training and background, and showcased the strange beauty of his voice uncharacteristically un-effected.

The only thing that could have made this concert much better for me would have been more crowd energy. The quite exuded as reverence before seemed to transcend into active listening for the whole show. Even the biggest bass and drums couldn’t get people moving (which I find weird).

I’m not sure how many of the sold out fans were in attendance because they were true Son Lux fans, or were there because of the recent press from Lorde’s version of “Easy”, but I think all walked away thoroughly impressed.

Time for me to get back to the drawing board, write some new music, create some new sounds, and take the inspiration from last night somewhere new.

Music is my answer

Thursday night gigs can either be great, or a drag. Most musicians walk that tight balance between day job and passion, and much too often, the day job takes away so much energy and joy. That Thursday night hit at 11 is something you look forward to all week, but you know that your 6AM wake up call is looming in the not too distant future, and that no amount of coffee is going to help you recover from four hours of sleep. That’s the truth as I write this!

So, how do you get excited for a drag of a show with a small crowd at a bar that’s charging too much for cover, in a part of the city nobody wants to venture to on a 5 degree night in Chicago?

You play. You play your frustration. You play your emotion. And, you play for those 15 people who happen to be there.

I had this type of gig with Four Star Brass Band last night. I was admittedly having a not so great day.

Looking for full time employment is tough, the rejection letters are coming in (finally some word – it’s frustrating when you’ve applied for over 200 jobs and had zero feedback!), and I’m finding it hard to see silver lining in my current hunt and frustration.

However, the truth is I am doing what I love. I’m playing music.

I wasn’t in a great mood when I got to the bar. I was tired from a late night rehearsal/lack of sleep from the night before, and honestly just looking forward to playing the set so I could go home and sleep. But then something amazing happened. I pulled out my saxophone, warmed up a bit, and walked up the stairs to the stage. There was an energy that changed from that top step to stage. I went from dragging my feet to smiling ear to ear. From those first warm-up notes to the last fortissimo fermata I was totally entrenched in the music, the crowd. People were smiling, dancing… I was smiling and dancing, and singing from the depths of somewhere I’m not sure I knew I had in me.

And now I sit, despite four hours of sleep, riding the high that comes with those flashes of energy, beauty, and the purest way I know love and life exist. Music is my answer.

The evolving persuit of dreams and passions – part 1

I’ve always been an ambitious dreamer.

Whether it was jamming with my older brother on pots and pans when I was 3, sitting behind an 80’s drumset 20 times the size of me when I was 5, picking up my first violin at 9, or starting saxophone at 10 I wanted to be the guy. I wanted to be admired for my talent. This stretched to all aspects of my life.

When I was 5, playing t-ball, I wasn’t shy about giving a strategic lecture about why you shouldn’t hit the ball to the left side of the infield with a man on 1st and 2nd with two outs. Despite being the smallest kid in my class, and one of the slowest, I would start my spring training every February when just enough snow had melted at the very back of my back yard to leave a strip where I could practice throwing a baseball into my fence.  I would visualize the game I loved so much, about how I would grow, get faster, become stronger.  I practiced day in and day out for that dream.  I had no natural talent, but I was a student of the game.  When the other kids grew taller, could run faster, and throw harder I was stuck behind (my growth spurt would come after my baseball career was all but over), I still put my best effort forward.  I knew I would never be an all-star, or hit a home run, but I showed up early every practice, every game because I loved everything about baseball.

While dreaming about my baseball career I was also playing the aforementioned instruments with the same fervor. I didn’t have time for friends or a social life.  Yes, it was because I was awkward, and would run home every day under the threat of being chased down and beaten by unscrupulous bullies who didn’t like my hair, or my glasses, or that I raised my hand in class, or that I often befriended those who were for some reason even more hated than me…

Unlike baseball, music was a completely personal and internal emotional therapy for me. With baseball I got to dream of being bigger, stronger, faster. With music I got to experience love, hate, joy and sorrow. I got to feel everything I tried to hide from those so quick to make fun of me. Learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on that 1/2 size violin made me dream of being a concertmaster of a symphony in a grand orchestra hall. I practiced to be better, and faster (baseball has it’s hold), but also expressive, and emotional.

When I first heard the saxophone, care of my older brother’s Jr. High Jazz Band, I was instantly in love with this beautiful instrument and expressive voice. The less I talked in real life, the fewer friends I had, the more I turned to the purest sense of feeling I could find. Music. Saxophone meant jazz! It meant Cannonball Adderly’s Somethin’ Else! It meant everything.

I was an ambitious dreamer. Unlike baseball, I found my natural talent in playing whatever instrument found it’s way under my fingers. I was never the “technical” best, but I wanted it more than anyone else.  I didn’t just want to master the technique, I wanted to play notes that spoke the words I dared not. The words I couldn’t find. The sentiments beyond my vision.

It’s a dream I’m still pursuing, and fight for every day.

An Artists Life

Part of the goal of this website is to let you get to know me a little bit better, from my music to other things.  I plan on categorizing everything a bit differently in the future, but for now, here are my active projects, and links to what I do:

My active projects:

Pink Monkey – www.pinkmonkeyband.com

– My avant-garde jazz trio.

Four Star Brass Band – www.fourstarbrassband.com

– New Orleans style brass band.

Band Called Catch – www.bandcalledcatch.com

– Folk/Pop. You’ll catch us in Chicago, New York, or on MTV.

Previous Projects (or, bands on hiatus):The New Balance – https://www.facebook.com/thenewbalance

-The best Soul music in Chicago.

Harris and The Mood – https://www.facebook.com/harrisandthemood

– I had the great privileged of hanging/sitting in with these guys at the end of 2013.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Players – http://huplayers.com/

– I was privileged enough to be a founding member of this band.  While I’m no longer with them, I go see them as often as I can, and so should you.

Countless other projects/sessions/sit-ins that I could list, but those are the main ones for now.  I’ll get a calendar up here shortly.

 

Let’s try something new!

Hi everybody, welcome to timkoelling.com! This site is going to be the portal for all I do, from upcoming gigs and performances, to insights into songwriting, writing, travel, and anything TK. I’ll be adding content and tweaking things a lot over the upcoming months, so check in every once in a while. I’m excited to see where this goes!