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Blassingame says the practices never failed to be interesting. "It was the funniest thing seeing how all these people interacted," he remembers. "On Sundays, we would rehearse at David Courtney's house in the Heights — he's in Vani, the Indian band. They would always have this elaborate little tea service for us. They were just the nicest people in the world and it was so interesting how they were able to just immediately play everything. We rehearsed it all, but they knew it right away and played it right off the bat."
Not that the show would go off without a hitch. The sound check at the Continental dragged on and on while early arrivals grumbled outside in a line that wrapped around the club. And Candelari grants that the famous orchestral crescendos in "A Day in the Life" didn't come off that well. "It was kind of anticlimactic," he grants. You can't really blame him — on the album, what you hear is 40 musicians overdubbed in four layers. As if to compensate, the show ended not there but with a performance of "bonus track" "All You Need Is Love."
And in the end, love was what you got from this show. "It was just a wonderful experience," gushes Blassingame. "You saw how many people were there — I don't know if there has ever been that many people in the Continental Club that enthusiastic about something, where everybody was singing along. On our end, it was really something. I've done a lot of performances, and this was the most exciting thing I've ever done."
Don't feel too bad about missing it, as Candelari and Blassingame both want to do it again. "I kept everybody's e-mails and phone numbers," says Blassingame. Candelari says that it would be a shame to waste all that practice on just one performance — but adds that they will probably need a bigger room next time around.
He's probably right — this one flew right under the media's radar and still packed the house based on word of mouth alone. But such is to be expected when you've got popular material played by dozens of people — surely, most of the musicians could persuade a handful of people to come out and see them play. If each of the 36 musicians could persuade four people to come out, the Continental would be two-thirds full.
But now that this show has come off so well, the sky would seem to be the limit for this concept. There are many albums that have never, or at least very rarely, been played properly live. All too often, the ambition of musicians in the studio outstrips what is economically feasible to play live, as it is hard enough to make money with even a trio on the road, much less a band three times that big.
But if you play that music in your home city, that drawback is transformed into an advantage, for the reason I cited above. Sure, splitting the pot 36 ways won't make anybody rich, but the musicians did seem gratified and were at the very least not losing money, as they would be on the road.
Already there is talk about having another Sgt. Pepper's show at the Meridian, or maybe even Miller Outdoor Theatre or Jones Hall. And other albums are possibly on the agenda as well.
"I heard they did The White Album at the Continental in Austin," Candelari says. "That one would be fun to do. One of the horn players in the band Sunday mentioned doing Pet Sounds."
"We are gonna do this album again somewhere, and then what's the next deal?" asks Blassingame.
"I'm thinking we could probably do The White Album, but how do you do 'Revolution #9'"? he continues. "Well, you could find some guys with some tape decks and some people who know musique concrète and they could do something really far-out."
Musique concrète? Once you've found a local raga-rock group, finding people who can swing that would seem like a snap.
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