Saturday, September 29, 2007

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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