Sunday, September 30, 2007

Press wave

Just a few cool writeups that have come our way over the last week. As I noted, we were stopped by the Cincinnati Post. Here's what they wrote about our take on the convention, complete with misspelling of Mike's name and a second half of a quote from me that I don't recall saying.
"It's a big learning experience, said Mike McCollagh of the Boston-based band Cassavettes.

"It's great any time you can get with a bunch of musicians and industry people and swap stories and experiences." ...

One extremely successful twist to this year's conference is a recording studio set up in the lobby of the CAC. Bands could sign up for a free 30-minute session then get the demo on a CD, as passersby watch them record.

Boston's Cassavettes took advantage of the opportunity Friday.

"We're going to rush the song out for national release as a single," said band member Glenn Yoder.

"We'll call it, 'Live at the CAC.'"

Anyhow, this second one comes via Caitlin, from an issue of the Boston Metro last week, that makes me beam and beam.

"Johnny Cash is gone, and although you can still hear echoes of the man in black's influence in contemporary local alt-country outfits like Cassavettes and Tony the Bookie, his departure has left a void in american music."

Finally, here's the great write-up I promised from Cincinatti's City Beat. Coincidentally, the owner of said paper attended our show and thoroughly enjoyed it, he said, though I don't recall who he compared us to right now...

What are all these Texans doing in Boston, getting voted Best Local Band in the Boston Phoenix and scoring a Boston Music Award nomination for Outstanding Americana Act? Very well, it would seem, as Cassavettes mixes Beatlesque melodicism with Folk expanse and boozy Rock swagger.

Dig It: Like Elvis Costello comparing divorce stories with Mojo Nixon over a half a hundred beers while the bar band plays Ryan Adams and Neil Young covers.

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No direction home

After one intense day of driving, we have settled back to our respective homes (except for Matt, who is currently asleep on our futon). I finished the driving up last night, the six-hour haul from Rochester to Somerville, it was not very smart, though.

First, we had the drive from our hotel in Bellville, OH, to Rochester, NY, for a gig at House of Hamez. The drive was good -- spirits were still sparkling from the show the night before and there were only a couple tense moments. We made it mandatory that the driver wear a BK crown while driving, to establish a ruling order. We considered stopping in at Niagara Falls (we only made it as far as this distant welcome center, shown below) and my aunt and uncle's place in Buffalo, before deciding both were too far out of the way. Too bad, in retrospect, because my aunt had prepared cookies and snacks and what not...

Once we arrived in Rochester, we couldn't find the venue. It's a little coffee shop without a sign -- a local resident told us that the coffee shop went out of business several weeks ago. He was wrong. We found it, loaded in, and got some dinner. The owner, James, who was a really cool dude, had found a local named Jerry Falzone to open up the show afterall, which was severely appreciated. Jerry's crowd, and Jerry himself, was a bit older than us and our standard crowd, but they were gentle with us and contributed to the tip jar the venue put out to make sure we got paid (we made about $45, which is better than nothing, ahem, Columbus).

We were all a bit nervous about playing loud in a coffeeshop. Before the show, James told us he wants loud. He wants to book acts that aren't traditional coffeeshop bands. But once we were up there, we couldn't do it. We played incredibly restrained, and in the biggest change from the previous night, didn't put the energy into it. This wasn't terrible, because it allowed us to talk and interact a bit more than would normally be acceptable. It was still cool, though, I almost felt like it was a rare "unplugged" thing, even though it wasn't. Some songs actually sounded better with more moderate drumming (I'm very proud of Matt for how far he scaled it back), like "The Devil's Arms." We even went ahead and road-tested "Valley of Gold," as the opening number no less. (As I told Scott last night in a discussion about practicing less, which is a big change of heart for me, I feel like the songs will gain some spontaneity if they aren't over-rehearsed, which is why I suggested "Valley" to be recorded at the museum the other day and why I thought we should try it live, because it's fresh and new, yet still awesome.)

All in all, the night was decent. It was definitely different than the rest of the tour, not nearly as action-packed and non-stop fun, but still cool in its own way. Fritz drove all the way out to Rochester by himself (and all the way back, which was kind of weird of us to do him, but after discussing it, we decided that it was too important not to lose the mission of this short leg which is all of us being together almost all the time to test the touring waters. I think Fritz would understand, and will when he reads this). I wonder if there will be more shows like this one on the tour. Most likely. It just seemed like such a different vibe than we've been riding, but hey, you take what comes your way. We also went to check out Bugjar in Rochester, where we're playing next month. Looks cool, so we have that to look forward to.

SET LIST: Valley of Gold / The Nadir / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Seasons / Trouble From the Start / We Could Be Solo Acts / Debts / Loose Lips / The Devil's Arms / Saint Anthony / Six Hours / Research Blvd.

Jerry Falzone also wrote a nice note about the show on his website:
What a fun night this was. The Cassavettes are such a good band, great songs, and very tight. The kind of tightness that can only come from growing up together which I believe they did. Ray Bellizia, Jimmy Newton and Carl Lang did a wonderful job backing up Jerry. After the Cassavettes set Jerry and Carl went up and played beautiful versions of Never Let Me Go, and three brand new songs, Sail Me Home, A Real Fine Night and an especially beautiful new song called Won't You that Jerry and Carl had written the night before.

Tragedy did strike after the gig last night. We hit a deer. Well, we weren't the first to hit it. The car in front of us struck it down shortly before, and we didn't see the darn thing until it was under us. I didn't even have time to curse, let alone swerve or slow down. We were going about 75 when we hit it, and it rocked the car. We got out to inspect it and I called 911 to get the carcass cleared off (though a part of me believes the deer got up and scampered off). The car smells terrible now, perhaps there's some venison cooking underneath. According to a blazed out tollbooth operator, it smells like "someone's smoking beaners." Nope, I said, just dead deer. Anyhow, the entire back of the car was sprayed with blood (see below), so we had to get out and wash it off. I may take the car in to get checked out, although the guys said nothing was hanging or dripping, I want to make sure it's OK for the next leg.

Somehow, we also got some business done on this tour, despite being deprived of Internet access most of the time. Incredibly, we booked two more shows while on this tour. We also positioned ourselves for a date in Philadelphia, just by networking with a lot of bands. That was the great thing about this conference was we felt comfortable swapping ideas and possible gigs with a bunch of cool bands. Perhaps the network has grown...

While we're home now, I'm itching to get out again. Scott and I were discussing whether we think we'll feel anxious to get back home when we're out far longer next month -- and at times, yes, I'm sure we will. In this case, we all saw the end in sight and knew it was short. But it will be interesting when we're out, and looking into the future, and all there is to do is drive and play. I'm ready for that. I also don't think this touring is a fluke -- I don't think next month will be the last time or anything like that. In fact, I just have this weird vibe lately that SOMETHING BIG is coming for the group, but I don't know what. I get this band premonition sometimes, and usually it's right to some degree. Then, I came to find out that Scott has been feeling it, too, lately. I'd say we're ready for that, as well.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007


Below, you'll find a couple tour updates we saved to the computer, waiting for internet access. Enjoy them. Each is dated and timed when we really wrote it.

City of Cin

Saturday, 1:43 a.m.

So much to update you on. It's been a wild few days, with more upside and surprises than we thought possible or ever imagined. We are just leaving Cincinnati right now on I-71 North, feeling triumphant and grand. But we'll get to that later. This is going to be one long post, as I'll try to capture as much of the action as possible.

When last we spoke, we were traveling to Columbus for a gig we weren't sure was going to happen at Bernie's. Well, lo and behold, it did happen (though on the way there, we were nearly run off the road by some lunatic semi). We pulled in, and didn't see our name on a schedule next to the door, but then saw Cassavettes printed on a mirror. This means we were the only band playing this night. The club was low-ceiling and strange, kind of like the Knitting Factory Old Office. I've never been to Columbus before, but it was a charming college town in my opinion, with a main drag akin to Guadalupe in Austin. An old friend named Nikki had kindly offered to put us up for the night and sure enough, she came out with a handful of friends who served as a great crowd, dancing and clapping. In fact, half way through our set, they declared the club was lame and we should leave and play a house party back at their place. I seriously considered it. We even thought about doing a whole other show, but it didn't come to fruition -- after all, it was a Wednesday night, and this is a town of like 50,000 college students. No joke. So, they best study. Either way, we almost didn't play, because while those kids served as a great crowd for us, they skipped the cover of the club and the sound guy angrily declared to Matt that he didn't want to run the board that night because he wasn't getting paid. Matt, being the charmer he is, convinced him to give us two mics and a DI and let us run a live mix ourselves. So we did. And that was that show.

SET LIST: You'll Be Crying Soon / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Debts / Trouble From the Start / The Nadir / Shotgun Wedding / On The Lam / Loose Lips / Golden Fleece / Six Hours / Shine A Light

After the show, we went back to Nikki and her boyfriend Nick's place and hung around with some Columbus folk and bunch of animals. Matt and Mike snuck onto a nearby roof with a particularly cool dude named Eric. It was a great night. Well, I thought so. Scott was still bejiggered by the long drive/early wakeup/Fritz's late night howdy hey that he was not in a totally sociable mood. In fact, after realizing that no one was interested in moving out of the socializing/sleeping area, he went to sleep -- ON TOP of the van. I don't know why he didn't just ask me for the keys, but he didn't. When I found him there, we let him into the van per his request, and then endured a series of angry 4:30 a.m. phone calls from him, demanding to get into the house. Apparently, we were all on different pages. But hey, water under the bridge, it appears. So, we woke the next morning, Nikki was gracious enough to let me use her shower, and then they directed us to a great breakfast joint called Wildflower. With a solid meal in our bellies, we headed for Cincinnati.

The ride up wasn't too bad, though we hit some nasty weather that slowed things down quite a bit. En route, we saw an 18-wheeler that had slid off an entrance ramp (about 30 feet high), nearly crashing into traffic below. Military personnel were surrounding the vehicle. Maybe there was something top secret inside. An alien. Oh man, I'm tired, I'm not even making sense. But I shall push on for you, the reader.

Upon entering Cin City, as its called, top priority was checking into the Midpoint Music Festival, at the renowned Contemporary Arts Center (this will figure back in). We found a great press clipping from the local arts magazine, which I'll post later when we aren't in the van and it's light enough to see. We then went to check out the spot we were playing, Cue, since we were told it was brand new. It was. So new, that they were actually constructing it when we arrived. Putting up paint and boards and what not. So, we went to check into a hotel, in Kentucky.

Yes, we stayed in Kentucky (Newport and Cincinnati have a cool twin cities thing going for them). This means that technically we visited five states on this tour, including our native Massachusetts -- New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky, the others. Although I was hoping to bypass paying for any hotels on this leg, we decided to splurge a bit on a $90/night room in Newport, KY at the Travel Lodge. Turns out this was a stupid move, as the conference had a sweet deal on hotels, but it was still well worth it. We lied and said there were just two of us, just in case they wanted to bump us into two rooms, and we just split the two beds. We got well rested for the first time on the tour and were ready for action, but that was later that night.

My number one priority of the day, or the trip, was to see Superdrag play their first live show with their original lineup in eight years. They were kicking off the festivities around 7:15, so we got there plenty early (after an awful dinner) and got to take in a soundcheck (we have inside connections to them, so we were just fine). Superdrag is one of the few bands in my life that I can honestly say I grew up with. My very first band learned almost all their songs, we were obsessed. They have been highly influential in my life since I was about 9 or 10 years old. So, this was heaven on earth. Intimate, in the front row, their first show back! And surprisingly, the place was only half-filled, though those that were there were just like me -- diehard. They played only stuff off the three records that lineup cut together -- Regretfully Yours, Headtrip, and Dying Stars. Sorry for the brevity. Anyhow, it ruled. I was so pumped up. We actually got to talk with the band a bit, something I rarely get so giddy about, but I did, obviously. Don, the drummer (who looks an awful lot like Matt) actually booked us a couple months back to play next month at a spot out in Knoxville, TN and says he'll be there at the show, even if no one else is. He remembered our name and everything. Cool dude. The night was fun, we just hung around and took in the city, went to some shows and talked to a couple reporters. Matt and Scott ended up walking back to the hotel, while Mike and I stayed in town to take in the Teenage Prayers show. Oh my God, it was incredible. These guys I opened for at Band in Boston's birthday show at PAs a month or two ago (on a whim, remember? MK and I played). Either way, I didn't get to see them, but they remembered the whole occasion, and I am so glad I saw them this time. My mind was honestly blown. I bought a CD and we resolved to play together.

We went back to the Travel Lodge and cuddled up (Matt and I's bare asses touched), and got a decent sleep, just recharged the batteries. When we woke up, Mike was gone and so was the van. Turns out he went for coffee. After showering, we checked out (they only had one night available, so were out on our behinds after the one night stand). The checkout lady suggested a great little breakfast restaurant called the Pepper Pod, and WAS SHE RIGHT! It was some of the best breakfast I've had in a long while. Kentucky rules, man. I wish we were hitting it on tour next month -- next time, I guess. Mike was so thrilled about cheap cigarettes that he bought a carton.

We headed over to the CAC (I told you it'd be back in this story) where Sonicbids was running a promotion where bands could record for 20 minutes while everyone watches and listens. So, on a whim, we cut a track we've only tried together a few times, a Mike tune called "Valley of Gold." It probably won't be released as is, but it will give us a good starting point to get that song where it needs to be. The CIncinnati Post came to talk to us afterward, we'll see if we show up in there. The reporter told us that the CAC was actually deemed some amazing space by the New York Times or something of that nature, so we should feel honored to have recorded there.

Afterward, the guys went to take the stuff back to the van and I went to check out a few seminars that the conference was hosting. The first was about production and the importance of pre-production, One of the panelists looked like Ryan Adams and has worked with Elliot Smith. We talked for awhile and I said I'd send him some of our stuff to see if he's into it. We'll see. Then, we caught a talk by our managerial friend (who we really owe this whole trip to, as he's been incredibly influential for us lately, particularly the last month, and really particularly the last day), who led a major Q&A session. It was awesome. After him, John Davis of Superdrag led to the keynote talk, a strange conversation style where he somehow referenced a bunch of my favorite artists -- Nada Surf, Neil Young, Replacements, etc. All led by one of the most important musicians in my life! Unbelievable.

Anyhow, after the talk, we went to grab a bite at Kaldi's, at our buddy's recommendation. Sure enough, after some initial wariness, it ruled. I had a quesadilla that was off the charts, and tried Mike and Scott's sweet club sandys. Really sweet. Then, we loaded in and got ready for the big show.

Now, I was concerned that we would be playing to an empty room. When we saw a Prime Ministers show there the night before, it smelled of paint fumes and it was almost completely empty, unfortunately, because it is CAVERNOUS (like a giant Lilypad, the Cambridge club). Although I told everyone I met about the show, I wasn't optimistic about the turnout. Well, it makes a difference if you're playing Friday instead of Thursday. Good slot, too (again, thanks to that connection). The first band was a regional act who brought out some folks but when we went on, it looked a little more empty. Not for long. I tried to rev up the crowd with some talk about the Reds and the Red Sox, but it wasn't happening. Our buddy came up to the stage and told us to turn down our stage sound, which was a good idea. Thing is, we played hard from beginning to end. We rocked our blocks clear off. I didn't stop moving. There were these huge speakers in front of the stage and we jumped up on them (Mike and Scott pulled a sweet move during "On the Lam" where they each jumped on opposing speakers and I walked up the middle to play the opening guitar lead). People were starting to get into it. All of a sudden, I looked up and the room was packed. Furthermore, people were into it! We sparred with them, I dared one cool dude in the front to prove to me that Cincinnati rocks after he allegedly told me it doesn't. So we played "Shotgun Wedding" and settled his hash. Then, I blamed the whole state of Ohio for a certain recent election, and we played "Shine A Light." People were responding. by the time we hit "Alright," people were dancing, screaming, whatever. During the drum break, we all jumped on the speakers again, Scott played London bridge between the two cabinets, Mike skateboarded (no joke), and I took a picture of the crowd (below) and then jumped down, grabbed the mic in one fell swoop and started singing. People went nuts after the song. Actually, it was awesome. We sold a ton of merch, a local blogger said he'll do a few pieces on us, people literally BEGGED us to return, and we decided to swap shows with a number of bands. I couldn't have dreamed the show would go this well! Seriously...

SET LIST: Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Golden Fleece / Debts / Trouble From the Start / On The Lam / Shotgun Wedding / Loose Lips / You'll Be Crying Soon / Shine A Light / It's Gonna Be Alright

We will be back to Cin City. No doubt. This is a GREAT city. We just hung out after the set, talking to locals and other bands, planning and making contacts and just having a good time. A dude told me we sounded like Kings of Leon, odd, eh? We just played with them, I said. "You're fucking kidding?" he asked. I wasn't. Around 1 a.m., we went to another club to check out a band our bud suggested and ended up running into most of the industry folks and chatting it up. Surprisingly, we didn't get the brush off. Our industry bud got us involved with everyone and we all had a great time. It made us feel good, like really "in" for the first time. The dude actually offered to put us up for the night, but we had already booked a new hotel room in Belville, OH, which is where we're headed now.

I can't think of a single moment of this trip that hasn't been totally awesome. There has been very little animosity, and just general merriment all around. I think we're all just excited to be doing what we've always wanted to. It feels real for the first time. I love it. I'm in, man, I'm in.

Good times must end, though, at some point -- and we'll be back in Boston Sunday after a show in Rochester tomorrow. Luckily, we're headed back out again soon.

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On the way

OK, first internet access of the tour, so I'm going to post the last couple days of action, in order. Everything is timed and dated. Check it.

12:10 p.m., Wednesday

I hope to update as much as possible from the road. For this purpose, Scott has brought his laptop, which has Wi Fi, and I've brought my digital camera, to supplant the photos we're missing when Fritz usually takes them. So, I'm writing this in the car on TextEdit, to be posted later when we have a Wi Fi signal, hence the above dateline. I've encouraged the other guys to write as much as they wish, too, so we can document this whole thang. I'll note who is writing and hopefully when, whenever we can post.

Right now, we are in the middle of New York, taking the NY State Thruway to Pennsylvania, then Ohio. We've been on the road since 6:15 a.m., so almost exactly six hours of a presumed 12-hour trip. I believe we are just under 100 miles from Buffalo. We are passing through four states today, and wish we could visit the various hall of fames we'll pass en route (basketball in Springfield, Mass., baseball in NY, boxing in NY, rock and roll in Cleveland). Next time... Anyway, to get this far, we took the Mass Pike to its ending point at the edge of New York, a drive I've never made all the way. It was truly beautiful, fueling Scott to claim that he wants to be a farmer. This led to a conversation in which it became fairly evident Scott has romantic notions of farm life, but doesn't want to put in the backbreaking labor. Instead, he wants to have people to do that for him. Sounds like slavery to me... Not that Scott is advocating that. He says he is willing to do the work because the pay off will be being able to enjoy his own homegrown okra. If you ask me, and I presume you are, that is nasty in a sick way.

I drove for the first leg of this drive, until lunch at the disgusting Roy Rogers (which, I am told, may have greater ramifications in the next hour than I bargained for with an $8 chicken sandwich), and Mike just took over. Full steam ahead. Matt has been snoozing most of this trip, and when he has been awake, he has been guilty of the following offenses: a) not making hardly any sense by continually changing the meaning of what he's saying and b) grabbing a book I'm reading and asking, "Are you reading this?" and then proceeding to start reading it himself. I'm looking at him right now -- he's made it 10 pages. Ass.

Anyway, in other offenses, Scott and I (and probably Chris and Tara) are still fuming over Fritz's unexpected visit to our house at like 3 a.m. this morning. Knowing full well that we had to be up at around 5, Fritz showed up with his two Lithuanian girls and tried opening doors, laughed loudly, and just generally annoyed the hell out of everyone. Fritz, if you're reading this, and again, I presume you are, what the HELL were you thinking?

Back to business. The van is surprisingly comfortable, in my opinion. I like small spaces (read: the feeling of being in a fort), so this hasn't been too bad at all. We've got everything we need, with one small exception: we forgot DVDs. But that's OK. We are all getting along great, mostly just cracking up a lot. Good times. Times to remember. Unfortunately, I can't remember most of the stuff we've been laughing at. Probably mostly recalling SNL skits... It just feels good to all be together in the van. At a rest stop this morning, I was thinking about professional touring bands and if they ever get tired of life on the road (I imagine they all do), and whether they just get tired of each other and miss the times like we're having now -- just excited to be on the road doing something we've always dreamed of with our best buds. I hope I never lose this feeling.

We still don't know if we're playing tonight, but we know that even if we don't, this drive won't be in vain. This is on our route to Cincinnati, and we'll still get to see Superdrag tomorrow night. Plus, it will be good to see Nikki tonight and hang in Columbus, show or no show. Though I really hope there is a show. That'd be sick in a nasty way (last time, I promise).

Update: Matt has now made it to page 16. Big ass. That's all for now. I'll try to post this blog up today, or soon! We may run into the problem of posting several days worth's of blogs, one after another. Don't be confused by the logjam. I'll try to label each one with its real time of inspiration.

6:25 pm wed

this is what i will officially count as my first trip to the midwest. (there was some talk of the region encompassing michigan, oklahoma, and even texas - all three states i've been to - but i don't know. such a slippery slope, man.) but here we are in the thick of it and it feels good to mingle with these laid-back country folk. (that reminds me, we have been quoting a ton of movies that we should have just brought with us for the dvd player but oh well. next time.)

anyway, we are about a half hour away from colombus, barring any mishaps or technical gaffes, and that should give us a final drive time of just around 13 hours. long. plus 3 fills of the tank so far. but it hasn't really been too bad. lots of laffs, no technical gaffes, and a few very friendly people to help us along the way. (actually i guess just one so far, a grey-bearded and bandanna'd man who i saw talking to glenn at a giant ohio map in a burger king saying "just keep goin' south, man." that guy seemed cool. unfortunately i only caught the tail end of the conversation after coming out of the bathroom and didn't get to meet him. a mistake that may prove to be my biggest regret of the tour so far.)

the van is comfortable from all positions so far. i have sat shotgun and in the back for extended periods of time. neither have give me too much trouble and i even managed to sneak in a few quick z's at one point. i haven't heard anybody complain either so i guess we are all good so far. our vanity plate "U8DUST" is attracting stares and possible police attention, as we have been followed by troopers a number of times. but the strangest reaction i've seen is the people who take it seriously and get offended, then try to make US eat dust and show us how it feels. but even when they do succeed at passing us (which is often) they still at some point DID eat our dust so i feel that our point remains valid. that's the beauty of vanity plate that's in past tense.

times are good in this early leg, and spirits are high, and everyone is entering a near-delirium due to lack of sleep, resulting in a lot of nonsense being spoken so it's all laffs. but not everything is so rosy. i DO have a bit of a cold that started yesterday with a sore throat, got worse this morning and has progressed to a runny nose at this point. it's bad timing but what can you do? drivin' 'cross the country, you know? on the run from johnny law. ain't no trip to cleveland. only this time it is. man, we should have brought that movie, too. next leg.

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