Sunday, August 31, 2008

Campfire dynamics, Costanoa, plus video update

Last Thursday and Friday I had the chance to do some light car camping with coworkers at an "eco adventure resort," Costanoa, which is about 24 miles south of Half Moon Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 Among any group of people around any campfire, it almost always seems like there's a handful of folks who know how to play a tune on the guitar. How these ax wielders reveal their hidden talents to the group -- or even whether they reveal them at all -- is always an interesting phenomenon to behold.

First, there are those that actually bring their guitars to the campground -- they've learned a few songs, have played mainly in isolation, and recognize an opportunity to perform. Not all of them will actually gather up the courage to take their guitars out of their cars, however. Those that bring their guitars to the campfire and actually take them out of the case will fall into a couple of different categories. Some will play quietly and wait for the attention of the larger group. Others will boldly take charge and start playing a full set. Among those that did not bring a guitar, there are some who will volunteer to play the single song they know... then eek out a few notes that are barely discernible, yet somewhat entertaining. Then there are those that insist they do not play but leave enough hints to suggest that they are holding something back. After some persuading, they reluctantly pick up the guitar and then proceed to play a number that far exceeds expectations.

Regardless, of their personality type and skill level, almost anyone who has played guitar has at one point pondered the allure of strumming a guitar around a campfire for a captive, participative audience that sings along and sways, arms in arms, to Kumbaya or another campfire standard -- although this scenario does not always materialize.

For me, I'm likely to bring my guitar to a campground, but I'm not sure that I know enough cover songs to sufficiently lead an intimate sing along. I do have some covers that I can pull out of my back pocket and I'm more than happy to play my own stuff, if asked, but I probably won't force it on anyone. I often find myself savoring some other opportunities to play. On this trip, I woke up early on Friday morning and, before breakfast, made my way to the beach where I sang and played my backpacker guitar to the crashing waves and serene seaside. Playing by the ocean is one of my favorite places to play.

Finally, I should let you know that I did start the process of recording some video for this blog this month. I set up a video camera and some microphones and did a number of takes. Unfortunately, my home studio has some noise and lighting constraints that limit the amount of time that I can actually record. That said, I've been making some revisions to the way I'm playing and singing this particular song and I'm nearing a good solid take that I'll be able to post soon. Stay tuned!