Monday, October 29, 2007

Days 13-16: The end is not the end

I realize I've kind of left you, the faithful reader, in suspense. Did they make it to Cleveland? Or even Rochester? Did they recover the van? Yes, to all. My apologies for the delay.

Things have been nuts since we got back. The band has a full plate -- preparing to be Neil Young for a Halloween show on Wednesday at Hennessy's, playing a show tonight at Northeastern, and of course, the Sox winning the World Series again. Not that it's a huge deal to me, but it has sidetracked us to some degree. I expected my first day back at work to be crazy with Sox coverage, but it is pretty mellow. I'll take you through the trip.

Matt recovered the van with no problems whatsoever. We were still delayed getting on the road to Rochester, NY, but that's OK (we still ended up getting to the club wildly early and sitting around for hours in an empty bar -- par for the course on this tour). However, once we were on the road, it happened. We got our first collective speeding ticket. Mike was driving, we hit a work zone (yes, traffic fines double), and he was clocked at 63 in a 45 MPH zone. The trooper was fairly rude about the whole thing, and I'm not sure how much it will be when the paperwork comes back, but I estimate a lot. We'll have to decide how we cover this. Initially, early in the trip, we said we'd split these tickets evenly, so we'll see how everyone feels about that. I still have only been paid for last month's rent by Matt, and it's now time to pay this month's rent, so my bank account is dangerously low (hey, I didn't work for almost an entire month!). Once I get paid back, then I should be able to spend a bit more. But now I'm off on a tangent. Back to the tour...

Rochester is a weird town. I've kind of decided that I don't like it. We played there a month ago (House of Hamez) to almost nobody, though we did get a kind email from one of the few in attendance, and then we played there this time at a cool place called the Bug Jar (that has bugs and furniture on the ceiling, not to mention the best light show we've ever received) to almost REALLY nobody. Like the sound guy, and one girl who stayed the whole time. Other than that, members and friends of the local band on the bill, Electric Organic, pretty much stayed in the other room and wandered in only occasionally. This felt like an open practice more than anything else. The sound guy was a nice dude who offered to record us with some equipment at his apartment, which we considered doing on the way back from Cleveland, but which never came to fruition. Also, there was a nice bartender, but the crowd just wasn't there. It was an isolating and strange experience. After the show, Scott and I were working on my parallel parking, which is particularly bad, putting the van in a huge, cavernous space and then pulling out again and trying it all over. I saw Mike rushing toward us and I said, "Watch this, he's going to tell me to let him park it," because Mike is undoubtedly a fairly good parallel parker. However, this was practice. Sure enough, I rolled down the window and he said, "Let me park it, that group of frat guys over there is making fun of you LOUDLY." Sure enough, there was a sizable crowd observing my parallel parking with great glee. F them, I said, this whole town is dumb. Rochester. Psh. Maybe one day you'll grow on me, but until then...

SET LIST (I think): Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / You'll Be Crying Soon / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / On the Lam / Shotgun Wedding / Debts / Shine a Light

From Rochester we decided to drive an hour west to Buffalo, NY, where my aunt and uncle live. They were away on vacation, but had offered up their house (and left a rocking bag of cookies in the freezer). It was very much appreciated. This put us in a prime position to drive straight out to Cleveland the next day, without having to leave TOO early. However, first, we had to celebrate Scott's birthday. As all traditions go, Scott's birthday has snowballed into an odd mix of requests and traditions -- most notably that he now likes to be outside at the exact moment of his birth, and be hoisted by his friends as high as they can (this is fairly easy because he is LIGHT) toward the heavens. I remember the first year we did this ritual; it's strange that we still do, but hey, whatever, cool cool cool. So we gathered outside at a little before 2 a.m. EST (he was born a bit before 1 a.m. CST) and did the thing. That's how Scott ushered in his 22nd year.

We got to Cleveland the next day in a terrible downpour that finally broke right near the city. Since we had the time, we figured we would head to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Scott, Mike, and I wore sunglasses (and in my case, a ponytail) in the hopes that if we looked like rock stars, they would just automatically induct us on the spot. No such luck. Actually, they didn't even let us in. The museum was closing right as we arrived, so we just got to walk around the outer exhibits, like some of Jerry Garcia's guitars, and of course, head to the gift shop. I was surprised to notice they stock pretty much everything yet NO Ryan Adams. I wonder why...

The club was just a stone's thrown from the Hall of Fame, and directly next to where the Indians and the Cavaliers play. I kept thinking that it would have been quite beneficial to us if the Indians had actually beaten the Sox in the ALCS, because this show happened to fall on the day of a World Series game. However, that notion quickly disappeared when the sound guy told me the place actually does worse on game days -- though I'm still not quite sure why. The place was big, and quite nice, and they hooked us up with a meal. I had a Nathan's hotdog that knocked my socks off. It was awesome. Now, I understand the hype with Nathan's. Like I told TD, 99% of hotdogs are nasty, but 1% are unbelievable. When I bit into this hotdog, I thought, "Yes, this is what a hotdog is supposed to taste like." Anyhow, we did play music. Unfortunately, we were the only band on the bill, no local support, nobody else at all. So, no one was there. At first, there was a small table of people at the back which disintegrated to one kind lady who left early but bought the CD. I had high hopes before the set that a rowdy group of Milwaukeeans on vacation would stick around. They told us they'd come back, but they missed the whole set. My hopes had by strong when we pulled up to the club, because there was paid parking and a whole bunch of cars that I thought might be a Cavs exhibition game and draw in a few locals. No, it was the circus, not really our crowd. And the sound guy revealed that the Eagles were playing a few streets over, who he described as "your crowd, for country rock." So, let's see, we've had "our crowd" snatched by the Eagles, Kings of Leon, and Insane Clown Posse on this tour? I guess that's the biz. Anyhow, at one point, we were playing to just a waitress and the sound guy. However, on the plus side, the waitress later told me that "Golden Fleece" "gave me chills." We would play it again for her. Halfway through the set, Scott's aunt and two of her friends showed up and cheered on Scott. It was awesome. They drove all the way down from Detroit. Anyhow, our set was over very quickly after that, so we asked the club if we could play one more for them. The Milwaukee folk showed up again, and wanted some tunes, too. The club gave us 30 more minutes. So we did a second set, which on an emotional level, saved the show for me. I was down on the first set. The second one seemed well loved. And that's the way it should be.
SET LIST 1: You'll Be Crying Soon / Debts / The Nadir / She's A Bright Light / Research Blvd / Loose Lips / On the Lam / Shotgun Wedding / Valley of Gold / Lightning in a Bottle / It's Gonna Be Alright / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Shine A Light
SET LIST 2 (to the best of my recollection): The Nadir / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Golden Fleece / Debts / Research Blvd

We drove back to Buffalo that night, though unfortunately I was ticked most of the night. I'm not sure why we got into it, but Matt, Scott, and I started fighting over whether Cleveland was a cool city or just like Worcester. Matt said it was the same as Worcester or Rochester, the rest of us said it was a more active downtown, even if we didn't see many people on the streets. I wasn't angry about the content of the fight but I was wondering why Matt got so mad. He yelled and yelled while we tried to figure out what was eating him. Mike kept turning up Metallica and yelling "I love this solo!" at me, which didn't help since I wanted to resolve the disagreement rather than just bury it. I guess it worked to some degree though, because when I checked in with Matt an hour later, he said, "I'm fine. Metallica took the anger right out of me." Maybe for him, but not me. I still can't get into them. And that's just the way it is, I guess. I'll be the sole guy in the group who doesn't like Metallica.

The next day, we considered driving to Niagara Falls but it was raining and there isn't much to see on the American side (we doubted that they would let us cross the border just for a peek with all this crap in the car). So we decided to make the seven-hour journey back to Boston. This would get us in at approximately 11:30 p.m. I predicted. Unfortunately, after a smooth ride for the most part, a second big fight broke out, this one between Scott and I over a missed exit for the Mass Pike out of New York state. I wanted to try not to lose time by taking a side road (and despite what was later said, we rolled into Boston at exactly 11:32 -- at the time, I was still angry so I marked it down), rather than turning around and driving a cumulative 30-45 miles just to get the exit back. Yes, the road we took was a backroad, and we might have made slightly better time by turning around (though I still doubt it, as that exit was still about 30 miles from the Mass border, a fact that we overlooked). I wasn't even mad about the directions; I got angry when Scott rejected my apology. It is a shame that the trip ended in fighting and disarray, after so little arguing, but I think it was all just a misunderstanding. The next day, I told him I wanted to bury that hatchet and he agreed. I love these kids, even if we bicker on occasion. Both of the fights in the last day were so strange in topic and voracity for argument, I believe they must have just been caused by lack of sleep, frustration over small crowds and a semi-meaningless trip, and a burning desire to get home. No ill will.

The show in New Hampshire the next night was more decorative than anything else -- the icing on the cake that was the tour. We already felt like the tour was over; this was just a chance to play with Girls Guns & Glory again. It was at a place called Big Heads, across the street from a strange TexMex place where we ate dinner. The entire staff was in Halloween costumes, and pretty disinterested in helping us, or acknowledging us (except our actual waitress, who was quite good). We played what I believe was one of our best-sounding sets of the tour -- Bruce later told me it was worthy of being a live album. Pretty cool. I think we were all just happy to be back, and still be with each other, to have made it through the tour. It was rough sometimes, it was fun at almost all times, and there was sleep almost none of the time. This show was a caustic seance of sorts, bringing up the ghosts (the friendly, Casper-ish ones), where we played our hearts out. It was the end, but, you know, not the end.
SET LIST: Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Debts / You'll Be Crying Soon / Golden Fleece / Valley of Gold / The Nadir / On the Lam / Shotgun Wedding / Loose Lips / Shine a Light

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 10-12: Hours of home

Somerville, Mass. - We broke the tour last night and headed home for a couple reasons. First of all, we were close enough to do this, after playing out in Worcester, and second, because our other options were to drive to Buffalo, NY (the only place remotely close to our gig tonight in Rochester where we can sleep) or find a hotel en route. I was against the hotel idea mostly because we rather frivolously blew $120 on a hotel the previous night when we could have done this exact same thing (though we were foolishly trying not to for the principle of the tour). So, we're home, though I'm not sure what's happening or when we're leaving because when Fritz dropped me off last night I expected to see my van in the driveway and Matt's van (which has been parked here) gone. Instead, I guess Matt took my van elsewhere and was towed. So maybe coming back wasn't a great idea.

In the past couple days, we've played two shows as we headed back up north: Sparta, NJ and Worcester, Mass. Both were entertaining in different ways, so let's cut to the tape.

Before hitting Sparta, we soaked up Philly -- with not one but TWO trips to the world's most famous Philly cheesesteak stand. Ay yi yi. Arteries were clogged. But I got awesome popcorn downtown and we saw those huge game pieces, the huge paperclip, some huge statues, etc. Philadelphia: City of oversized novelty items.

The Sparta show was in a strange little fancy town in NJ near Lake Mohawk. It was quite scenic, to say the least, and the downtown consisted of only Dutch-style houses. Pretty cool. We played a bar called Krogh's, where we were paid $100 in food and drink. The place had nice food -- steaks, seafood, pastas -- so it was a welcome payment. Unfortunately, I was feeling sick and couldn't hardly touch my fettucine alfredo. There weren't many people in the place, either, but a few that were there were really cool, most notably the owner and the sound guy. The owner really liked Bon Jovi and kept asking for covers, which we don't have, and when Bruce was brought up, one bar patron yelled a homesexual epithet about Bon Jovi and Springsteen. Scott ridiculed this person from the stage. Surprisingly, that guy liked us, it turns out. Very odd night. But par for the course in Sparta.

SET LIST: You'll Be Crying Soon / Debts / The Nadir / She's A Bright Light / Research Blvd / Loose Lips / On the Lam / Shotgun Wedding / Valley of Gold / Lightning in a Bottle / It's Gonna Be Alright / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Shine A Light

We were given directions to a nearby motel, which really just looked like the sound guy took a pen and scribbled for fun all over the paper. He was trying to illustrate the winding roads, but it just led to confusion. Miraculously, after dodging the forewarned obstacles of deer and animals, we found the place: it looked exactly like the motel from "Vacancy." Matt described it as a murder hotel. To get a better rate, we send in two people at a time, asking for a two-bed room, so Mike and I went knocking. No one was at the desk and a little doorbell was lit up, so we rang it. After about five minutes of no response, I was ready to pack it in. Then, a voice came through the intercom. It was fairly obvious we'd woken this guy up (it was 1:30 a.m.) and he wasn't too pleased. He told us rooms were available and we went inside. Turns out, he didn't have any two beds left, just king size. When Mike and I told him we needed two beds, he gave us a look like, "You two seriously can't share a bed for just one night?" He told us he'd roll a cot into the room and we insinuated that that might make the person on the cot jealous of the person in the king size. Finally, he asked, "How many people are sleeping in the room?" We hesitated and eeked out, "Two." I started doing the "That's OK" thing and backing toward the door, like this guy would lock us in any second. He kept pushing for the sale, I kept backing for the door. I was hoping he would just lock the door behind us after we were gone, because if he came outside he'd seen all of us in the car together. He shut the door and we ran to the van. Right as I buckled up, I looked up to see him standing at the door with his arms crossed, taking in the sight of Scott on his computer in the front seat and Matt in back, proving our lie. He looked pissed, I started laughing, and we high-tailed it out of there. We headed for Massachusetts, and stopped at a hotel in Bristol, Ct., getting thoroughly worked over for cash for a six-hour sleep.

We got into Worcester early in the day, so we headed for the local music shop, Union Music. I got my amp repaired in record time, for a price tag of only $65, and it's working great now. This was the true victory of the day for me. While we were there, the salesman was asking me about the band and the tour and I told him we were playing Tammany Hall that night. "Have you been there?" He nodded and gave me a very strange look. "Is it a good place to play?" He stared at me for a few seconds and then leaned in and said, "It's legendary." Sure enough, the place was great -- a bar more than a hall, but the biggest stage we've played in a while, which is awesome for a group that moves around as much as we do. We played fairly well from what I could tell, though everyone else in BOTH bands (this was one of two reunions with GGG) said the onstage sound sucked. Beyond not hearing vocals, which is par for the course, everything sounded OK to me. I just hope this place has us back, since there was like a very small crowd there and we're close enough to home to not use the tour as an excuse. Either way, we tried to tailor to what this homecoming crowd would want to hear, and I feel we did a good job. Did we sound like the well-oiled machine we hoped to? Who knows. But did we enjoy it? I sure did.

SET LIST: You'll Be Crying Soon / On the Lam / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / Loose Lips / The Devil's Arms / Valley of Gold / On Our Own / Whitewashed / Shotgun Wedding / Shine a Light

Now, the wait is on. Will we get the car back? When? And will we make it to Rochester in time to play the show tonight? All this and more in the next installment of "The Fickle Mistress."

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day 9 & 10: Whiskey, you're the devil

Sunday, Oct. 21
3:18 p.m.

Philadelphia, Penn. - In case you were wondering, we made it to Dewey Beach. The drive was a haul for sure, but definitely worth it. We knew this was our last chance to really hang with Girls Guns & Glory, and thus we applied the full court press to get them to stay one more night. It worked. Whiskey-fueled debauchery ensued. I mutually regret it and cherish the memory.

Our hotel was in a great location, directly across the street from the club called The Rusty Rudder, and situated on the peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the bay, I believe. Look from our porch to one side and there's water, to the other, water as well (see below, pictures 2 and 3). We made the reservations on the ride thanks to a tip from Ward, shortly after stopping at the Yoder Deli for half-decent sandwiches. After checking in, everyone pretty much crashed, but I couldn't for some reason. I knew I needed sleep, but I just couldn't. So I showered and talked on the phone until GGG showed up and wanted to go to the beach for a bit.

This festival was set up in truly unique fashion. It was one club with four stages, two indoor and two outdoor. We were playing the smaller indoor stage, directly followed by GGG on the bigger indoor stage. These guys were the biggest thing to hit Dewey Beach it seemed -- they played three shows in two days and when Scott announced they were playing next, there was a sizable roar. Of course, disaster struck. Right before our set, my amp, which has been having power problems, refused to turn on. I don't know how I'll get myself out of this mess for the longterm or the rest of this tour, but last night I used Jeff's amp (despite the fact that it's a Fender...). Actually, we had a number of technological problems -- my phone is dead, my amp is dead, and the car needed a jump. But the show must go on, and on it did go.

People are surprising responsive to original music they've never heard. Immediately, a fairly good-sized crowd gathered and danced, it may have peaked between 75-100 people. Maybe more. In fact, people respect the original music I was told, by some guy who missed our set and said "Sorry, I missed your set... Wait, it isn't covers is it?" No, no covers. "Good, then you're good." Very strange. We played well, for the most part, except that my amp settings kept changing, so I had to adjust on the fly. But still, we did well, I believe. We kept it fairly uptempo since the crowd seemed to want to rock. After the set, a guy named Charlie repeatedly told me how he surfs and boards and LOVES rocking. He was cool. Another guy bought us that first whiskey. It was a good time.
SET LIST 1: Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / On the Lam / You'll Be Crying Soon / Golden Fleece / Like Secrets Beneath / Shotgun Wedding / Loose Lips / Shine A Light

Notice the above set list says, "Set List 1." That's because we did TWO sets for DOUBLE the money, because the band following us didn't show up. Problem is, we ran out of material that was uptempo, somewhat, but the crowd went with it anyway. They were dancing to the slow ones and jamming to the fast ones. It was unbelievable. By this time, the whiskey had taken hold and we were going crazy. We ran out of CDs for sale, so TD and Fritz may have to bring some extras when we play Worcester in a few days. But hey, it's like a sarcastic sign I saw off the highway today: "DON'T ADVERTISE! You might run out of product."
SET LIST 2: A Hard Rain / Debts / The Nadir / Seasons / The Devil's Arms / Whitewashed / Better Than This

We hung at the bar for the rest of the night before heading back. I'm fairly certain the bartender was giving us all free whiskey, which led to some craziness later in the night, including both bands standing around in their underwear and me somehow ending up completely naked in front of both bands. It was stupid. Whatever. We promised GGG a wild last night on their tour, and hopefully this sufficed. I think so, though I'd be lying if I said I didn't still regret it. I've felt sick all day, and missed the trip to downtown Philly to nap in Matt's sister's room. But I needed it. Over the past three days, I've gotten nowhere near a full night of sleep. I'll be taking it easy for the rest of the tour, I believe. But now we have one crazy memory.

No show tonight, just taking it easy and watching Game 7 of the ALCS. That's fine by me. I still need to rest up.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day 8 & 9: Where are we going and when do we get there?

Saturday, Oct. 20
11:28 a.m.

Maryland - I write you now from the shotgun seat of the van, to be posted later today hopefully. We are in the midst of the great haul, a predicted 13-hour drive from Nashville to Dewey Beach, Delaware. We've been on the road about 11 1/2 hours at this point, and we've still got another two at least, maybe more. I'm not sure what city we're in, just somewhere between Annapolis and Ocean City. Good enough? I sure hope so.

Last night was the crux of the trip. Nashville has been a top priority since this band started, as we've planned to go for over two years now. It worked out that we landed a Friday night gig and a show with our good buddy/former Boston musician/producer of our last record Jabe Beyer (whose album title is appropriately lifted for the title of this post). To get the show, I actually went over Jabe's head and hooked it up with the club, but I'm glad I did (and I'm guessing he is, too). It was awesome seeing him. He seems legitimately happy since moving south, while still holding onto that unique charm that is everything Jabe. Plus, he is still recording, now at Sony in Nashville, and also offered to record our next album, hopefully this summer. Could we do some tracks in Knoxville and some in Nashvillle? Sure, we just have to see how these offers look and the like.

Anyhow, one of the truly special things about the Nashville show, already an important date to us, was that Mike's parents drove all the way out from Dallas to be there. Mike's brother lives in nearby Murfreesboro, where we stayed the night before and much of the day of the show. The parentals graciously bought the lot of us lunch and had nothing but praise for the show. Thing was, we were having such a ball in Murfreesboro, we almost didn't get to downtown Nashville. ALMOST. The club was on 12th Ave, which runs downtown, but still a ways away. After checking in with the club around 6 p.m., we scurried downtown to soak up as much of Music Row and what not as we could before the scheduled 8 p.m. start time.

The last time I was in Nashville I was convinced I wanted to move there someday. I still do after last night, though for some reason I view it as a city I'd like to own an apartment in and visit a few times a year but not live there full-time. There's a dream for you. Anyhow, before the fun, we had some trouble. Finding parking. We finally decided to go to a paid parking lot, where we paid for two hours and receive no ticket in return. I tried again for one hour, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Same deal. Mike went into the hotel and returned, saying that the woman at the desk was giving them attitude and refusing to believe them. I went in there and hit her with a flurry of words, so she would at least hear our point. A manager finally gave us two hour-long passes and offered us a refund. We passed on the refund and thanked them kindly. Finally, as we were waiting, I got my first offer for a boot shine, but I declined, due to time. Perhaps this was'll see why.

By the time this was all sorted out, we only had a little under an hour to peruse Broadway. We made the predictable stops at gift shops for souvenirs, and somehow I resisted. Not for long. A sign caught my eye toward the end of our walk: Buy one pair of boots, get two pairs free. Unprecedented! I've developed a minor addiction to boots, and I was prepared to spend for such a great deal. The deal went as follows: the store buys boots by the "ten thousands," according to the clerk, so customers can buy one pair of boots and get two of equal or lesser value for free. Conveniently, Matt and Ian wanted boots that were cheaper than mine, so we all just divided our boots' cost by 50 percent and I paid the full amount, with them paying me back in cash ($70 each, a real steal for boots; $140 for me, for a $280 pair of boots, not too shabby). I don't know what it is about boots. Like a good suit, they just instill confidence in a person. And, of course, they're great for dancing.

Anyhow, we made it back to the show just as Jabe was setting up and we all exchanged the howdy heys. We opened for him about 9 p.m. and put on what was undoubtedly our best playing performance in the last few gigs. We had to play a little softer than usual, but we adjusted very well, I felt. I told Mike he should make up a set list of what he knew his parents would want to hear, and he put together a really strong set beginning to end. The crowd was so-so, but filled with familiar faces. A local told Matt that normally on Friday the 12 South Taproom is jam-packed, but the normal crowd had descended upon the Ryman to see Kings of Leon last night. Thwarted! So, let's see.. that's Insane Clown Posse stealing our crowd in Norfolk and KOL stealing it in Nashville. Whatever. But that's OK, we had a great time. To top it all off, we ended up doing OK on tips and CD sales, which is always a plus. See excellent photos by Mike's father Gene here, I tried uploading myself but I can't get it right now.
SET LIST: You'll Be Crying Soon / On the Lam / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / The Nadir / Six Hours / Golden Fleece / Research Blvd / Trouble From the Start / Valley of Gold / Shotgun Wedding

The show actually got some press:
It isn’t often that 12 South Tap Room makes it into these weekend showcase posts, but this seems like a decent show. Cassavettes, not to be confused with independent filmmaker John Cassavettes, is an Americana folk rock band from Boston that regularly comes home with accolades from local awards. Their MySpace page lists influences like Wilco, Ryan Adams and Neil Young and has some pretty decent songs. Best of all, it’s a free show starting at 8PM. If you’ve got nothing else going on, this would be a good way to spend your evening.

After the set, we caught Jabe's first set (mostly new songs, and really damn good) and I grabbed what was perhaps the best Shiner of my entire life. The club had Shiner on tap and dang it was good. Just thinking about it makes me want to drive the 11 hours back to Nashville. I realize I've been writing a fair bit about Shiner with no proper explanation. Here 'tis: Shiner Bock is a Texas-brewed beer that we all love and is not available in Boston or anywhere nearby (the closest place in Pennsylvania). Thus, I must stock up when in Virginia or the south. Even then, it's not available everywhere in the south, so when available, it trumps any other drink (even though it's cheap, too, which is another big advantage). It's the only beer I would say I legitimately like. Or love. Or whatever. It's awesome.

Anyhow, we headed out from Nashville about midnight by my count, driving in shifts of twos (one person driving, another staying awake with him to keep the driver awake, the other two hopefully sleeping in the back). I caught a few Zs on the way, but nothing like Matt. That guy was knocked out. Now, Matt and I are on shift 2 duty, with him driving. Good thing he's rested.

Tonight, we're at the Dewey Beach Americana Festival in Dewey Beach, Delaware. I've wanted to play this festival since it was started last year, but this is the first time it's worked out. The pay is decent, at least better than most of these road gigs, and we'll be meeting up with Girls Guns & Glory again. Totally righteous. I'm really looking forward to it. For this crowd, in a similar vein to MPMF, I think we need to keep it rocking and play the well-rehearsed stuff. Should be good. Hopefully people are pumped -- and there's a rumor my old friend Nina will be there. That would be the tops.

More than anything, with Nashville behind us, it's hard to believe we're still on tour another week. It feels like the tour has reached its end or pinnacle, but who knows what good times lie ahead? Such is the mystery of the road. Good gracious, I love it.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Day 8: The ultimate compliment

Murfreesboro, Tenn. - So, two things didn't happen that I thought might when I last wrote. For one, we didn't get a recording of the show. After Scott and I hurried around West Knoxville from Best Buy to Guitar Center to Circuit City, we couldn't find the necessary recording piece. Second, no one really came, except a handful of locals and three of our Texas friends (one being Mike's brother) who now live in Murfreesboro, where I am currently broadcasting from. But the show was still loads of fun, and I am completely smitten with the club, who said they'd love to have us back at any time.

The place is booked by Superdrag drummer Don Coffey Jr., which is incredible considering they are one of my favorite bands ever. Don also looks remarkably similar to Matt (see below), except for height and age. He's an awesome guy, totally friendly. Well, toward the end of Superdrag's career, as they were increasingly disillusioned with big business record labels, Don began recording the band's albums personally. Oddly enough, after listening to us on Myspace, before even seeing us, he apparently dropped a little nugget to Matt and Scott, saying, "I'd love to do your next record." Say WHAT? That would be incredible, though it would require us holing up in Knoxville for a while. I'm going to get in touch with him and see what he would think about doing a few songs this summer, and we'll do a few songs elsewhere, master them all together and put out a full-length. Either way, when Scott told me that Don mentioned it in passing, I was utterly shocked. "Had he heard us?" I wondered. Apparently, it was no joke. After our set tonight, Don and I talked for a while as he likened us to "power pop of the Knoxville tradition" before railing off a few non-Knox bands that we sound like -- late Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, etc. He concluded this mindblowing conversation with a simple statement: "I love your band." Then he said it again. All I could say is I love your band, too, so much that I can't describe. Honestly, what do you do when a musician you basically grew up idolizing pays you the ultimate compliment?

The set went well enough. Although the place was great, I couldn't hear much onstage, so I can't tell you if we played well or not. We did try to mix it up by throwing in a few tunes we haven't done in awhile -- "On Our Own" and "Ambivalent Farewells." I can't remember the last time we did "On Our Own," which is too bad. I like the song, and it sounded decent from what I could tell. It's just a hard one to pull off correctly. And it was a somber occasion since it was our last show after a week-long jaunt with Girls Guns & Glory (they headed for Delaware a day earlier, so we will meet up for a few more shows together down the line). I dedicated two songs to them, "Like Secrets Beneath" upon request and "You'll Be Crying Soon," to suggest they'll be crying when they miss us. Their set tonight was awesome. Jeff is really getting comfortable in the guitarist role and you can tell the rest of the band is responding, too. Plus, they have about 2-3 new songs kicking around that just slay me. Unreal. Also, spirits were high for many in the two groups because the Sox annihilated the Indians last night, easing some major tensions. That usually makes for a better night all around. And to top it all off, Don picked up the check for us!

SET LIST: Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Shotgun Wedding / Loose Lips / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / On Our Own / Like Secrets Beneath / On the Lam / You'll Be Crying Soon / Ambivalent Farewells / The Nadir / Debts

After the show and my talk with Don, we loaded up and headed for Murfreesboro, about three hours away, but far closer to Nashville. The trip stretched out longer when we got lost, and we didn't get here until after 5 a.m. Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep past 10 today, and I really wanted a good rest since tonight is the "Great Haul," a 13-hour drive from Nashville to Delaware. Either way, Matt and Scott are still asleep now, so hopefully they'll be well-rested. The show tonight is with our old Boston buddy Jabe Beyer, who produced our last record and then moved to Nashville. It should be real special. But first, I want to get in some Nashville hang time. To the Ryman!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day 6 & 7: Tennessee's a brother

Knoxville, Tenn. - Well, we've been on the road a week and we aren't crazed yet. Better yet, we've been in Tennessee two days and I'm still enraptured with the state. It's got beautiful rolling hills, nice people, good whiskey, and (somehow) a low profile. In fact, we staved off road madness during the seven hour drive from Virginia Beach to Johnson City by being enthralled by the pure beauty of the mountains. Good stuff.

We got into Johnson City in fairly good time, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the club was a mix of Austin and Denton, Texas. Pretty familiar. We got moved from our original venue The Acoustic Coffee House (where we were never supposed to play acoustic and whose shirt I actually ended up buying and am currently wearing; also we got some minor press out of the matter) to the conjoined larger club, Next Door. Best of all the set was broadcast live over the Internet, and apparently we got a decent recording out of it. This would be absolutely joyous news if we played half well. We didn't. This was by far our worst performance of the tour thus far, where everything was played slowly and sloppily. All captured on digital sound recording, of course. Our show tonight in Knoxville is actually being recorded, too, it appears, so hopefully we have a couple tracks from each night that we can salvage and package into a "Live from Tennessee" EP or something. That's wishful thinking, though. Anyway, I was most shocked at how liberal Johnson City turned out to be. The entire place was covered in picketing signs and next to the stage was a giant papermache George W. Bush mannequin, and not for the purpose of revelry. I asked the meager crowd if this was par for the course, and they said yes, Johnson City is generally liberal. It's near East Tennessee State University, so it has that Denton vibe to it. The downtown area reminds me of Old Town Lewisville, near where we grew up, a once glorious small town downtown that hasn't updated since the 1940s. Either way, it had a charm that I found immediately attractive. Today we learned that the whole city was a planned endeavor. Interesting that it has a sort of "settled and left alone" feel to it, in that case. If we tour this way again, I'd be all for playing Johnson City again.

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

Now the greatest part of the day was that Bruce's excellent girlfriend Jan, who celebrated her birthday on Monday, bought BOTH bands hotel rooms near Johnson City. We tried to make the most of it by purchasing some celebratory alcohol for Bruce's big day, but by the time we got back to the hotel (we didn't leave the club until after 1 a.m. because of an impromptu jam with random players, led by Jeff Katz), most of us were so beat that no hard partying ensued. Instead, we quietly sat around and only raised our voices to weigh the pros and cons of hot button issues: abortion rights, universal healthcare, gun control, the death penalty, and of course, the success of the Celtics and Red Sox. At one point, Matt was so heated about the Sox that he stood on top of the bed and screamed down at Bruce, quite literally condemning him from on high. Scott, meanwhile, hit the bed early after being worn out by a Long John Silvers meal that knocked him out (see above). He ate there again for breakfast/lunch this morning and during the course of the meal, stopped eating, grabbed his chest, and said, "Oww, my heart." Then, he began eating again. No lesson learned, I suppose.

After a lunch stop for the rest of us at a strange little diner in the foothills, Scott drove out to Knoxville. I've never been to Superdrag's hometown before, but it is quite cool, too. It's small and again has that unupdated industrial feel, but I find that intriguing for some reason. We arrived at the club early, called the Corner Lounge (down the street from what I would consider the "other UT," University of Tennessee not Texas), where the owner told us we may be too early. Fine by us, because we can entertain ourselves at music stores and pawn shops. Now, we're back at the club, enjoying our first Shiners since Virginia, free Wi-Fi, and an escape from the Tennessee heat. I'm pretty excited about the show tonight, not just because this is a great venue and totally pro-bands, but because Ed the owner told us that Don Coffey Jr. might have a few folks coming out to see us. If all goes well, this could be our most well-attended show since New London, Ct. We'll have to wait and see, as there are no guarantees. But I believe Ed mentioned that most, if not all, of the door goes to the bands, and they have a fairly loyal clientele that consists of mostly local musicians. This should be a good experience. We haven't even played here and I'm dying to come back.

I feel kind of strange being here in the south, as I'm not sure what we are. Yes, we're a band touring from Boston, but we are out with a country act and we ourselves are considered country. I still have a Texas driver's license. It's tough to explain to the locals. Yesterday, at a liquor store outside Johnson City, Matt and I tried to explain ourselves to a kind female clerk who was interested in the band. She herself had quite a southern drawl, which I always feel makes me talk with a bit of one. Anyhow, as we were leaving, she surprised me by trying a very odd version of a Boston accent, the usual, "Pahk your cah in Hahvahd Yahd" thing. Matt and I stood there, unsure of how to respond because it was so unexpected. Then, Matt said, "No, because then you'll get towed" and he walked out. Strange situation we're in.

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