Archive for the ‘daniel alcantara’ Category

The Desert

October 21, 2009

Written By: Daniel Alcantara
Photo Courtesy of

I’ve been writing either stories or songs or articles like this one since I was a child. It used to be that I wrote when I felt like it and that felt often enough but here I find myself completely without any material whatsoever. I’ve been here before and it’s usually when I start to take in all manner of content trying to get inspired and influenced. I saw a movie that changed my life but here I sit not able to write about it. Believe me, I tried. But how do you really write about going to see a movie? There’s no material there.

I tried writing about how I’ve begun to play my Gretsch guitar again after a long period of silence from it because I could only play through headphones. Now I’ve got an amp and have started to write music again but I can’t write music for an article. You don’t want a 500-word song, trust me.

I took in a lot of music while my wife and I were on vacation, a vacation that included about 6 or 7 hours of driving from home to the location and back home again. I still don’t have anything to say about that. And it hurts. I can usually fake something until it works but not this time. As I type this, Iron & Wine is coming from my computer’s speakers and while this used to be the perfect writing music for me, all that is coming is this long-winded whine-session about how I can’t write anything. My kitchen is a mess and I’d rather be cleaning it than writing this.

How did I get to this point? How do I get out? Those two questions are racing through my head and maybe writing this is my way of getting out. I don’t even know if this is worth sending in, but I’m going to anyway. It’s words and it’s got a bit of a story. Any creative person has been in this exact same place many times before and no matter how many times it happens, it never gets easier. The creative process is so organic and so natural at times when others, it feels like you’re trying to grow a farm in the desert. No matter how much water you pour on it, nothing can grow there. And that is the struggle of anyone that tries to make being creative their way to make a living.

What do you do when there’s nothing left in the soil that you’ve been working? That soil that’s rewarded you so many times before with the most amazing surprises? Some might stay there and wallow and take the dirt and make it shine. Others move on to a new patch of ground to see what might be in the soil. Is either method better than the other? I’d have to say that the former is much more commendable. It forces you to be even more creative before you’re sure that you’ve exhausted every possible avenue available to you. And that’s what I’ve found myself doing as I’ve been writing this article. I’m trying to make the dirt in this creative desert into something that I can use. Something that you can use. There isn’t much here, but I hope that it finds someone that is struggling to make something work when everyone else has moved on to greener lands. Hold out, something good will come. You just have to work for it.

The Album That Changed My Life

October 6, 2009

Written By: Daniel Alcantara
Photo By: Unhindered_By_Talent

Something like four years ago, I was sixteen years old and discovering a whole new circle of friends. It was a great time for music as well. Death Cab For Cutie hadn’t released Plans quite yet, and many wish they hadn’t. I had just begun to start listening to music that was unknown to much of general society at that point.

A process I have come close to completing as I have no idea who is famous or who’s one a Grammy or who is on the radio anymore. Sure, I listen to the radio every day at work but that is against my will. But that’s a whole other conversation that I’d rather just not have right now. The point is, I had just begun to listen to really, really good music. Eisley was a new band to me and I had decided I was in love with them. I had also begun to work quite hard on writing songs.

One day, I was hanging out with Andrew, a friend I made through a mutual appreciation of Radiohead. He played the guitar and we decided to try and record some songs at his house. It was one of the great unproductive nights of my life, with the exception of one event. We ended up listening to songs on iTunes while still holding our silent guitars. I showed him The Decemberists and he showed me Pedro The Lion. That was the turning point in the night, though I did not know it until I was driving home. He burned me a few CDs and I listened to them while I drove. I couldn’t get passed a certain one though. It was called Achilles Heel. Something about the album was utterly magnificent. I had never heard songs that moved someone like that, especially when they were simply well-told stories set to music.

The songs were melancholy but not depressing, that is until I reached The Poison, the album’s final track. I found a bit of identity with the characters in the songs and with the questions they asked about things. Something in David Bazan’s voice made you feel the songs as he sang them. I felt something change that night. I had discovered a way for music to move someone without being spiritual in any way except that it was a beautiful, well-crafted piece of music. As I dug deeper into the Pedro The Lion collection, I found a wealth of really amazing songs about people dying or being murdered by their spouse because they were unfaithful. It was new territory for me, coming from a church-raised family that didn’t allow “un-Christian” music until I could pay for it myself through means other than allowance. I had been sheltered ever-so slightly to what really went on in the Bible. But again, a sidenote and very long conversation.

I found myself beginning to attempt writing murder-mystery songs and chase scenes. That was the year I began to write a concept album. The whole idea of which had somehow escaped my attention previously. I listened to music differently, I still do. It gave me standards for songwriting. I had learned not to just take what’s put in front of me but to prod it, question it, test it and find it true and good before accepting it. I’ve kept that with me. It’s become a part of who I am and has made me who I am. Not necessarily skeptical or cynical, just… cautious to accept anything that is said to be good as actually good. Achilles Heel by Pedro The Lion gave me a complete intolerance for bad art and for that, I am grateful.

How To Start A Band

September 22, 2009

how to start a bandWritten By: Daniel Alcantara
Photo Credit: Stew Bl@ck

I used to be in a band. It was fun but we were as stable as Oasis. We lasted for three weeks.

It started when my friend, Tommy, and I were eating at Subway and were talking about putting together a band. He’d just written a song that ended up sounding like a parody of a Dixie Chicks song. I’d been working on songs for a concept album I wanted to create that was based around a leftover story I hadn’t finished from the previous NaNoWriMo. We had decided that as part of our church’s summer youth group events, there would be a concert. We were going to headline it, even though we weren’t an actual band yet so we set about finding a name and looked around the Subway for inspiration. It came on the wall with a map of New York City painted on it. Right by our table, I saw the name of our band.

Bedford Ave.

We took that name and made it our identity. Neither of us had ever been to New York and for all we knew, it was the red light district but we made it our name.

Soon, we were sitting in the church auditorium, Tommy at piano and myself on drums. Tommy kept trying to take control but I decided I was the band leader and tried to lead us through the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It didn’t work so I switched to guitar. We only had two weeks before the show, so we really had to get the practicing going.

A week later we were back at the church to try a bit more rehearsal. We were running through Tommy’s song and got to the final chorus when suddenly, there were drums! Our friend Jared started to laugh from the control booth as we looked back and saw my brother, Patrick. We’d had an epiphany! We did need drums, but with both Tommy and I on non-drum instruments, Patrick would be the perfect substitute.

A few minutes later, Jared had left the control booth and was setting up to play bass. He didn’t know how, but I wrote out a few simple charts to get him started and we became a full band. We only had two more days to get ready for the show and a complete instrument to be learned in that time so the practice session extended late into the night until we went home. The next evening, we were back at it. The show was the following day so we wanted to make sure we were set to go.

Practice was successful and the next day was show time. We needed to build the stage outside where the show would be happening. It was as stable as it could be with so little time to get it done. As we started to get the PA system set up, we ran into the problem of having no lights. This was a huge problem because:

1.)We were so pretentious that we needed to be seen.

2.) Jared still needed to look at the chord sheets because he had been playing bass for about 4 days total.

We rushed around trying to find lights and stands and fixed the problem. When show time came around, we kept our cool. Rock stars never lose their cool in front of their fans while the opening acts are performing. I was actually helping out on drums for the first act, but that’s about all that can be said concerning their performance. The second act was a friend of mine that was doing some songs from his own band. And finally, it was time for Bedford Ave to take to the stage that was suddenly not feeling substantial enough. Not because we were too important a band and the stage too small, but we were too heavy a band and the stage was not ready for a few heavy bodies to be moving and shaking on it.

When we began to do a quick sound check, one thing became very apparent. We were in deep trouble. The monitors weren’t working properly and we could barely hear a thing. If we couldn’t hear ourselves, we were sure to sound horrible. No performer in his right mind, having monitors available, will be calm when the monitors stop working. But we trudged on and worked our way through our set list. I don’t know how, but we finally made it to the third from last song. We had arranged a cover of King’s Of Convenience’s “I’d Rather Dance With You” into something that would have put Billy Idol to shame. That is, until half way through the song when everything sort of fell apart.

Tommy got a bit too excited and kicked over his piano bench which was also holding Jared’s sheet music. This caused him to lose his place and have to fake his way through the rest of the show. The newest problem, though, was that we had finally managed to hear Jared’s bass and it was apocalyptically out of tune. As soon as the song ended, we tried to get the bass in tune but the battery in the tuner had died so we got it as close as we could. We tried to start the next song, but the other guys stopped playing. I decided to play anyway until my mic was cut off.
The cops had shown up…

Daniel Alcantara

June 19, 2008

Position: Contributing Writer

Location: St. Charles, IL

Bio: Dan has been writing since elementary school and only took a break to play the guitar. After a couple years of working in the Chicagoland indie scene, Dan decided to focus on really local music and the cultural phenomena known as an open mic. He is a husband, soon-to-be-daddy and a beginning copywriter( You can contact Dan at or through

Likes: Indie rock of the finest kind, singer-songwriter, and classic rock (Beatles and Beach Boys).

Columns At CWG: The Features