Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Imitation, flattery… and Going Your Own Way

If you’re going to do something, do it well… and leave something witchy - Charles Manson

If your going to do a tribute, remember that you’re still you, but you now have the responsibility of taking people back to a place that they cherish and remember (sometimes with surprising degrees of reverence and emotion). I am not Lindsey Buckingham. My music sounds nothing like Fleetwood Mac. But consider myself very fortunate to have found this group of musicians and relish every time I get to get up and play these amazing songs.

As the newest member of Fleetwood Mask (and perpetual “FNG”) I can still clearly see the starting point of this journey in the rear view mirror. For an original musician (such as myself), the thought of joining a tribute band can be foreign and more than a little intimidating. I can play the guitar, sure. Sing? Meh, a bit. But play the guitar and sing like Lindsey Buckingham?! That is scary. This was really going to challenge me but in a way that I found attractive. I’ve never looked back. I’ve never had more fun. I’ve never regretted my choice, even for a minute.

He that loves to be flattered is worthy of the flatterer - William Shakespeare 

Sometimes people will pay you great compliments. The trigger is often a simple matter of giving them what they were hoping for, and that’s what Fleetwood Mask tries to do. It’s not hard, if you know how to shut up and listen. The world is always telling you something. We get it. We’re fans too. We try to put on the kind of show that, as a fan, we would like to see, but in a venue that’s just a little more personal, almost private. 

Small secret - from the stage we can still hear you talking. Shhhh… we won’t tell anyone.

We want to thank you for all your kind words. Night after night we give it all we’ve got. Fingers bleed, voices get taxed, drumsticks break, and we’re loving every minute of it. A lot of blood sweat and tears have gone into this project and we are forever thankful for the love and support we’ve received and the ever growing circle of wonderful people we’ve met and befriended along the way.

Make it so - Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

Still, in the end, when it’s time to rock, rock we must. Beyond all the rehearsals, costumes, custom equipment and stage props, we are a band, and when the curtain goes up, it’s just us doing what we love. From there on, there’s no thinking, we just do it the best we can. 

I thoroughly enjoy every time Don and I get to fool around on World Turning. That’s not Mick and Lindsey, that’s Mark and Don. That’s real, improvised, jam-session style playing. Yeah, we do that too. We love the mighty Mac, but we’re not them. We’re us, and being us is a lot damn fun!
See you out there! - Mark Blasquez / Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mask.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Man at the Back of the Mask

It’s dark and the crowd is humming, the pre show music is playing, the Mask is ready……I step out from behind the stage and proceed to my office for the next two hours.  Excitement runs through my veins as I get settled into my throne, hook up my in ear monitors and grab a pair of sticks.


I begin the steady kick drum beat for the beginning of the classic Fleetwood Mac tune, The Chain.  Like a thumping heart, the beat rhythmically keeps pace and I stroke the chimes which add their mystical ringing to the sounds emanating from the stage….the guitar kicks in and adds its raw power to the sound and then the vocals start…CLASSIC MAC!

I have been “Behind the Mask” for over three years now and I never get tired of playing Fleetwood Mac’s incredible music.  Mick Fleetwood has laid down some of the most interesting drum beats to the most popular music in rock history.  And I get the privilege of recreating his drum techniques and style (with a little Don thrown in here and there) every time Fleetwood Mask takes the stage.

Being behind the band gives me a unique perspective to what is happening in the crowd, on the stage and behind my drum kit.  I SEE EVERYTHING!!  That experience is nothing short of spectacular and I love seeing the crowd get into the music, singing along with the songs they know by heart…perhaps remembering the first time they heard Rhiannon, listening to Dreams on their turntable (remember those relics of a different age?), dancing to Monday Morning, or getting up the courage to tell a boyfriend or girlfriend to “Go Your Own Way”!

Fleetwood Mac’s music is both timeless and wonderful.  The sign of great music is that it endures the test of time and sounds just as fresh as the day it was released.  Think of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the list goes on and on…and Fleetwood Mac owns the 8th bestselling album of ALL time, 34.0 million copies sold worldwide…RUMOURS, Amazing music by amazingly talented musicians.

Hope to see you at a MASK show soon….I will be looking for you from behind the drum kit….BEHIND THE MASK!!

Don aka Mick

Monday, June 22, 2015

It has been said that Stevie Nicks is the Queen of Rock, a“ White Witch” and a true Gypsy . Having met her I would say that in her “spell-binding  presence” all of those statements, in their best possible light, would be true.

But what does it MEAN to play the character of this Rock and Roll High Priestess? A voice that is known by no other.  Let’s start with the voice, shall we? I have always been a singer with a QUICK vibrato… always. Quick vibrato and a strong set of pipes.  I have been told by many that I have always sounded like Stevie.  So the vocal part was truly a gift bestowed on me. But the iconic fairy has a wardrobe most women would die for.. and I am no exception!  A lot of my shawls that I have are reproductions of what Stevie wears on stage…the glittery chiffon and silk fringe tassels  that sparkle with every given movement.. the platform suede boots that would make any chiropractor cringe, the layers of silk  chiffon skirts, beaded bustier’s  and elegant tuxedo coats would spark  any bohemian’s attention. The wardrobe part has been  enlightening, to say the least,  and I have been blessed with some amazing designers who take the words “ pays attention to detail” on a whole other level! So the costuming in itself has always set Stevie apart..never following the trends of fashion, but by being a fashion trend setter! Never losing sight of who she was, is, and will continue to become..her clothing, really,   hasn’t changed!
 But there is  more to “playing the character of Stevie” than dressing up in the costuming and singing the songs…how do you capture the ESSENCE??? How do you convince your audience that for a moment in time what  they are seeing and hearing could truly be the real Ms. Nicks?  What I have found playing this honored role is learning why Ms. Nicks wrote the songs she did and what was she FEELING at the time those songs were written. Landslide….Gypsy…Gold Dust Woman..all of them have a fascinating story behind them. By learning the background to these songs,  I personally found myself in a realm unbeknownst to me. I have had women who were mystics, mediums and psychics, who have come up to me and asked “ How do you CHANNEL her??” Another gift, I suppose, but at the same time one of the BEST compliments I ever received! Once I know that the audience has been swept by the enchantment of her music and the haunt of the  voice, I  know that I have done for my audience what Ms. Nicks does for hers…and that, my dear Gypsies, makes this all worthwhile!
Thank you Ms. Nicks for all the music you have given to us to share with the world…for those who hurt, cry, laugh and love…to you …and to the Gypsies…that Remain…I share with you her world…

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Talk About the “WOW” Factor

The audience is settled in, grooving to the sounds reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, and letting the music take them back to those mid-late 70’s when rock was being defined. That’s when they hear the jungle rumblings of a cool, quirky song called “Tusk.”  But wait—what’s happening?  An odd spot for a drum solo . . . Hold on!  There’s kids coming down the aisles – they have instruments!  WOW!!!

That’s right Maskers!  In a similar way to Fleetwood Mac’s live concert album called The Dance, we enjoy including the local talent of young people in our theatre performances.  Fleetwood Mac hosted the USC Marching Band.  We have, so far, hosted members of Lafayette’s Acalanes HS Jazz Band (three times and counting) and, most recently, members of Alameda’s St. Joseph of Notre Dame HS band. 
From my perspective, as the one who is in direct contact with the kids, the experience could not be more enjoyable.  I am a K-8 grade music teacher in Dublin and I know how to work with kids.  I met up with the Acalanes players one evening before our show in Lafayette for the first time.  In one hour we: sight-read through the music (my arrangement of “Tusk” based on the The Dance version); memorized the music, practiced playing while walking; blocked out the entrance and movement for the performance; added some choreography, and discussed what to wear!  ONE HOUR!!  Let’s just say that’s a learning curve I’m not used to!  The experience with the St. Joseph’s kids was equally fun and easy.  For this past show at the Historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro, we added “Don’t Stop” to their plates and, of course, they gobbled it up and rocked it!

How do the kids feel about all this?  I like to think that in the case of the Acalanes kids, the fact that they’ve accepted every invitation since Town Hall, tells me they enjoy the experience.  After the show in Berkeley, one player was overheard telling a first timer, “See?  I TOLD you it was cool!”  Vanessa from St. Joseph states, “I really had a fun time performing with you guys.  Being a singer, dancer, and actor, I’m not used to being down (in front of the stage) with the audience.  It was fun interacting with the crowd and feeling the energy of the audience in a whole new way.  I had a great time!”
Fleetwood Mask loves sharing the stage lights with young people and we will continue to extend the invitations to our tried and true players and hopefully, as the word gets out, to new players from different schools.

Thanks for reading!
Barbara Martin/ Christine McVie in Fleetwood Mask

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Goodbye to 2012 and Welcome to 2013

      This is Paul, the bass player and man behind the scenes of Fleetwood Mask.  It's finally my turn to share the story and some history of the band.

Fleetwood Mask is barely a year old and it is amazing to think back through everything we have done in 2012 and where we are going into 2013.

In November of 2011, I had an emotional holiday period, and was reflecting on how much I missed being in a band.  I remembered talking to Barbara about being Christine McVie for a Fleetwood Mac band with Claudette as Stevie and me as John.  Barb had never heard us, but agreed to come over and give it a try. 

We started with a few jam sessions at Casa de Jones-Rodrigues music room in late December 2011 and January of 2012.  We quickly went from a few people who liked Fleetwood Mac songs, to a group with a vision, in need of a Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood... some big shoes to fill, indeed!

Steve and Don agreed to give it a try, and we were on our way.  We practiced when we could, and I worked on pulling together a PA so the singers could hear themselves over the amps and drums.  Along the way, we learned that a glass of peppermint tea, a little red wine, or a shot of Jameson calmed the nerves and kept everyone happy until we were done for the day.

Somehow we managed to pull together an hours worth of songs and agreed to perform at a June benefit fundraiser for Don's little league organization. 

From the stage at the Englander in San Leandro, we shared a home grown PA with the other band, the San Leandroids, and had a successful opening show with encouragement from our friends and families.

In July, we saw Bella Donna, a Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac tribute band, perform at a local country club summer festival.  Claudette and Michelle bonded and I captured some of that "White Witch" magic with their auras getting to know each other after the show...

Through the rest of the summer, we did a few local bar gigs and added Debra as a backup vocalist.  We recorded a promo video with Karen at Tribute Video Productions and got our social media going...Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, oh my... if my mom could see me now?!

While scouting for places to play and record, we entered the Classic Cover Band competition against about 20 bands at Red House Studios.  

We won the Cup, and were rewarded with a well paying show at the Lafayette Art and Wine Festival, along with our first set of trophies. 

Into the fall, we played at the Twilight by the Lake Festival in Oakland, and managed to get in some family vacations.

We learned more songs, and started making plans for the new year.   We did a few more bar gigs and private parties and spent time getting to know other tribute bands like Pretending and Petty Theft...

Claudette sat in with Petty Theft at the Chicken Ranch Casino and they did a nice job on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around".


At the end of 2012, we enjoyed a really fun New Years Eve party with many local musicians and tribute band players.  Fleetwood Mask played a few sets and we had a mixed jam session that went until early in the new year.  

2013 is shaping up to a big year for the band.  We already have festivals and club gigs lined up through the fall.  Our dedication to performing Fleetwood Mac's songs as they were created is what people seem to like.  Early this month, we decided to add Mark Varnes as a second guitar and backup vocalist who can add more texture to our sound and fill in the complex arrangements that Lindsey, Bob, Peter, Rick, and others laid down in the studio over the last 40 years.

Through 2013, we will expand our set lists bringing in more early Fleetwood Mac from the Peter Green and Bob Welch era.  We will add more new songs, too. With Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and the full Fleetwood Mac band touring (less Christine McVie of course), there is a broad set of choices for us to create unique show compilations.

Thanks to everyone who has been with us through 2012 and into 2013.  This year is going to be a great year for live music and a fantastic year for Fleetwood Mask, too!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's in Your Closet?

What’s in your closet?  Well, in my closet I have: an African drum called a Djembe, two Chinese flower drums, hand drums of various sizes, a rain stick from Bali, a stringed instrument from Thailand called a sueng, pan-pipes from Peru, recorders of all sizes, a two headed drum from India called a dhol, a tambourine from Turkey called a daf, glockenspiel, xylophones, metallophones, harmonicas in various keys, a jaw harp, a banjo, a guitar, an electric bass, two Yamaha synthesizers, a portable Hammond organ, an accordion and most recently an acoustic/electric mandolin.

I guess you could say that I’m a collector of instruments, or, as my husband says, an instrument whore.  I can’t seem to own enough instruments.  My weakness are the folk instruments like the accordion and flutes that are so universal.

I am a kindergarten through 8th grade general music teacher.  My students are accustomed to me playing different types of instruments in our music lessons.  They learn how to play small patterns of rhythm, melody and harmony (ostinati) on xylophones and metallophones, and various kinds of percussion and how to play as an ensemble and therefore accompany themselves in school programs.  I enjoy introducing  different kinds of instruments and showing them how they work.  I don’t always know how to play the instrument but that never stops me.

Some years ago I was teaching in an East Bay private school and had a particularly surly and uncooperative group of 8th graders.  There were 42 of them!  One day I brought in a case and just set it down in front of the class making no mention of it.  Naturally hands went up . . . “what’s in the case?”  My response, “Oh this?  Let’s get through the lesson today and IF there is time, I’ll show you.”  That was the most cooperative, attentive and productive lesson we ever had.  The time came for the unveiling of the mystery.  I hoisted up the case onto a desk -- whew! It was so heavy!  I clicked open the clasps -- you could have heard a pin drop.  I slowly opened the case and pulled out . . . . an enormous concert sized accordion!  The gasps, the woe’s, and then the realization “hey, that’s what Erkel plays!”  I showed them how it worked and we took turns wearing it (especially the boys because it was so heavy), pushing buttons, and pulling on the bellows.  I asked them if they thought I could play the accordion and they all said “NO WAY” and I said, “true but is that going to stop me from playing for you?”  they said “NO WAY”.

In Fleetwood Mask, the opportunity to play mandolin on a a couple songs has come up.  I have a mandolin now.  Do I know how to play it?  Not really!  Will that stop me from playing it?  NO WAY!  Now I need to find out how to squeeze in bagpipes.  I don’t have those yet and I MUST have them!

Barbara Martin

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Learning I’m So Afraid…and Keeping it Real

I heard this song for the first time while viewing the live performance on The Dance DVD.  As is often the case with songs written and sung by Lindsey Buckingham, the sincerity of the lyrics and heartfelt authenticity behind the extended solo are unmistakably personal - this is classic Lindsey.  I don’t know the specific nature of his struggle, but it was clear to me that if I’m going to sing and play this song with any emotional legitimacy, I’m going to have to tap in to something that’s all mine to make the words painfully personal.  This is not a song you can sing based on technical precision; rather, it’s a song you must sing with your heart.  As I said, it’s classic Lindsey.

I don’t mean to get too heavy about this, but as a tribute band we’re looking for every opportunity to capture what’s authentic.  In learning “I’m So Afraid”, my journey as a recovering addict allows me to make these lyrics incredibly personal. Phrases like “I’ve been alone all the years, so many ways to count the tears” and “I’m so afraid I’ll live and I’ll fall and I’ll die” are not overly dramatic. They are simply honest and true as I look back on my life before 1995 and getting clean. 

The lyrics are only half the story.  The slow, heavy tempo and use of minor chords give the song a haunting characteristic to match the painful lyrics.  Lindsey drives hard through two verses and passion-filled choruses before punctuating the song with an extended guitar solo in classic-rock fashion.  Unlike Lindsey, I use a pick for most of my solos. Nonetheless, this dramatic melody (partially based on pentatonic scale) allows me build the solo, climbing up the neck toward a crescendo hanging on a high, screaming bend in classic Lindsey style.  This climax exemplifies the painful release of all the memories and associated fears that go with being in recovery.  As I said, to be authentic I had to make it mine.