Gaibelball: The Samples
May 2019 06

Last month, I played an especially meaningful, emotional show. It was a tribute to a friend I recently lost, Dan Gaibel, with whom I worked for two years at the Cornell University Language Resource Center. I had known Dan casually before he hired me, through the Ithaca music community, but during our time working together, he became a close friend, a mentor, and an older brother to me. In May of 2018, he was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic melanoma. He passed away on March 30th, 2019.

Many people loved Dan as I did, and even before he passed, some fellow musicians conspired to put together a tribute concert for him, which would also raise money for his family (Dan and his wife had adopted a young boy from South Korea in the spring of 2017). We called the event Gaibelball (as a nod to Dan’s favorite band, Phish), and it took place on April 28th, 2019. In addition to performing with my own bands Noon Fifteen and Thru Spectrums, I sat in with Dan’s former band, Spacetrain. My stalwart friend Joe Massa heroically learned Dan’s old guitar parts for the latter set.

In addition to singing and playing keyboards, I decided to honor Dan by triggering various dialogue samples and sound effects from my laptop, something Dan did often onstage. For this show, though, all of the samples were of Dan himself, playing guitar and talking about his music, his life, and his illness.

Many of these samples are pulled from a series of video journals that Dan recorded between May of 2018 and February of 2019. After beginning hospice care, Dan designated me “steward of his data,” which as far as I knew referred specifically to his unreleased music with Spacetrain. Almost as an afterthought (though I’m sure it was deliberate and premeditated), he also gave me these journals: “I was going to turn them into a podcast . . . do whatever you like with them . . . turn them into a music project or something.”

I hope to do more with them in the future, because what’s presented here is the tip of the iceberg. But in the immediate aftermath of Dan’s passing, I was, indeed, able to incorporate his recordings into a music project, paying tribute to the man himself. Here’s everything I used at the Gaibelball show, during the sets by Noon Fifteen, Thru Spectrums, and Spacetrain.

 

Gaibelball Intro

The music used here is mostly pulled from the session that created the theme music to Speaking of Language, the podcast of the Cornell University Language Resource Center, where Dan worked for eighteen years. Podcast fan that he was, Dan had long pushed for the LRC to start its own, and it’s something I helped him get off the ground after I started working with him. The main guitar melody is a lick that Dan played with a lot; it’s also a part of an as-yet-unreleased song he worked on with his musical partner Joe Gibson called “Bungalo 517.” I removed my keyboards from the track (since I could play them live), and utilized a few layers of Dan’s guitars, as well as the udu drum part, played by Joe. I also sliced and time-stretched a separate solo acoustic performance by Dan of his composition “The Blue View” that we had recorded together, and fit it in.

The initial dialogue (“I’m Dan Gaibel” and “you’re listening…”) is pulled from the introduction to Speaking of Language, but the subsequent spoken portions are culled from October 2018 video diaries (their intended use as raw material for a podcast is evident here). Finally, the transition into the first song of the evening — Noon Fifteen’s cover of Trey Anastasio’s “Everything’s Right” — is a clip that Dan’s brother Ben recorded of the two of them awaiting a Phish set in 2015. “Guys, Phish is starting… party time.”

 

Tuyo

January 2019 — DG working on singing and playing the theme from the “wonderful show” Narcos. Used as the intro the Noon Fifteen’s salsa-influenced song “Amy,” I faded out the sample after the initial minute and a half or so onstage, but the full performance is included here.

 

People are Beautiful / Remember Me

Used as an intro to Noon Fifteen’s cover of “Shine a Light” by the Rolling Stones, a song originally written as a prayer for departed Stones guitarist Brian Jones. The dialogue is excerpted from Dan’s second appearance on the podcast Beautiful/Anonymous with Chris Gethard, discussing the lessons he’s learned about humanity since his diagnosis.

The musical accompaniment is a song that Dan recorded himself playing on a few occasions throughout his illness: “Remember Me” from the Pixar film Coco. The song, and the film, is about keeping a loved one with you even when they are distant or have passed on, something which I’m sure was not lost on Dan. This performance from November 2018, not long after he had (briefly) returned to work at Cornell, is one of the most complete, and is a beautiful rendition right up until he hits a wrong note at the climactic moment. I couldn’t resist the silly ending.

 

Let’s Just Be Thankful…

From October 18th, 2018. Dan was feeling positive and a little goofy, but he had some simple, profound thoughts. Used in the piano outro of “Shine a Light,” before a reprise of “Everything’s Right.” Onstage I paired it with Dan’s backwards guitar, again from the Speaking of Language recording session.

 

Why are we here?

From the same guitar-heavy video journal that contained “Remember Me.” An improvised (right?) little folk ditty about the meaning of life, which I think speaks for itself. A perfect complement to “Highway to Hell,” I might add.

 

“Stash” intro

A mix of two recordings: one from September 2018 of Dan discussing how he’s been spending his time with his limited energy, and another from October of him demonstrating the guitar part of the Phish song “Stash.” In the original recording, he actually plays the whole song, unaccompanied, start to finish. Love that count-in to the “band” — I’m sure he didn’t realize he’d be counting off the Thru Spectrums performance of the song, seven months into the future.

 

“Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup” Outro

More guitar playing and singing of one of DG’s signature songs from November of 2018. The opening question, “what was the cheesy thing you said?” is Chris Gethard, from the Beautiful Follow-Ups episode.

 

In the Present Day

From a Spacetrain rehearsal in January 2015, the eve of DG’s 41st birthday. It’s his choice of the last song of the evening. At the end, he fesses up to forgetting the outro chords, and guessing them incorrectly. The full rehearsal recording is present here; onstage with Spacetrain, I used an edited-down introduction (including Dan playing the first two bars of the opening guitar) before performing the full song live, then triggering the “What the hell was that? . . . wild sound” outro.

 

Manatee Pipeline Explanation

Early in my time working at the LRC, after reconfiguring the recording studio at Noyes Lodge, Dan scheduled a “studio test” with me. It was an excuse for him to turn on the mics and shoot the shit with me and, more importantly, give me a rundown of the Manatee Pipeline song cycle, which he wanted to revisit due to his impending fatherhood. This was his pitch for me to help record and play on a new version. We used it in the Spacetrain set, during the extended jam at the end of the middle installment in the song cycle, “Seahorse/Seadragon,” leading into an abbreviated performance of the third song in the cycle, “The Blue View.”

Not too long after this conversation was recorded, Joe Gibson came into the studio and knocked out a magnificent solo acoustic rendition of the entire 20-plus-minute trilogy in a single take. This past month, I was thrilled to realize that Dan had actually recorded guitar overdubs for it. I’ll make sure everyone gets to hear it soon.

 

“Time to Come Alive” intro

Brief excerpts mostly pulled from a video diary recorded in early May ‘18, when Dan had just begun treatment. The line about “psychedelic experimentation” is from later in the fall. Onstage, I manipulated these with a voice modulator to make it a suitably trippy intro to Spacetrain’s “Time to Come Alive.”

 

“It’s Alive!”

The only sample used in the show that isn’t of Dan Gaibel, this is from the classic Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein. Dan had used the same sample in the as-yet-unreleased studio recording of “Time to Come Alive,” and I recognized it immediately.

 

“Music is Food” intro

A recording from early August, at the relief-filled beginning of the period when Dan’s new treatment was helping him feel human again. He was, of course, thrilled to have his appetite back. Damn, that guy really appreciated food. The background train sounds are sound effects I found online, in honor of Dan’s love of trains (and open-source data) . Credit to our close friend Dan Collins for cluing me in to that.

 

Virtual Reality

Pulled from Dan’s first appearance on Beautiful Anonymous, this stream-of-consciousness musing on the future of virtual reality, and how it will one day help you fix your toilet, is classic Dan Gaibel. He was a futurist, and deeply convinced of technology’s power to help the human race progress and evolve. It seemed like a perfect clip to play during the bass interlude of Spacetrain’s “Music is Food,” where Dan would often trigger a recorded sample from the moon landing. He was forever fascinated by the exploration of new frontiers.

 

DG Farewell

From the end of the previously-used solo performance of “Stash,” with some spacey pitch-shifting applied by yours truly. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Dan Gaibel. Thank you for listening.” What else is there to say?

***

Gaibelball was recorded by a two-camera film crew, thanks to Andy Page, and a video of the entire event is forthcoming. In the meantime, the full 40-minute set by Thru Spectrums was recorded and broadcast on Facebook Live by Jim Catalano.

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