Sunday, March 30, 2008

Growing the team

It's high time I stop starting every post "it's been awhile." We all know this. But there's big news and big dreams on the horizon for this band.

We have brought in a fifth member of team Cassavettes, a good guy we've known a long time and has provided assistance and advice at crucial times: Michael Creamer (aka Creams or CreamDreamTeam or Creamer's Dreamers). He will serve as our manager, and has done the same for some of Boston's (and Knoxville's, wink) biggest bands for some time now -- Superdrag, Kay Hanley, Letters to Cleo, Todd Thibaud, Mic Harrison, Kim Taylor, etc. We all must continue to do our jobs as well, but I'm delighted to have someone who can "do what we can't," which was always the premise of bringing in someone "from the outside." I can assure you, this is no rushed decision, but rather a long time coming.

Things are picking up, too, as we're working on way back from a time that wasn't necessarily un-busy, but perhaps more quiet. The month of April will see us on the road nearly every weekend, in NYC next week, in Philly the week after (to play with Superdrag!!!), and in Delaware the week after that. In May, we're playing only one local show but it's a good one -- Girls Guns & Glory's CD Release at the Middle East Downstairs. And as for the summer, we've booked our three-year show -- headlining the Paradise Rock Club! So things are on their way.

Last night, we played our first local show since rocking the Hard Rock on March 1. We headlined the 2nd annual Alt Country Festival. This year, organizer and local rocker Mike MacDonald switched the venue from Harper's Ferry to Church and split the bill over two days. Both were wise moves. The crowd was large and there for music (imagine that). People were dancing, and they stuck around through each band -- it helped, of course, that the bill was EXCELLENT, comprised of some of the region's best bands. Now, no one seems to know exactly what alt country is, if it exists, and if does, if Cassavettes is it, but we were happy to represent. It felt good to be up on stage with these crazy cats again. Maybe it's that we don't currently have a practice space, and thus don't play as much, but it feels like forever since we all slung some tunes together. Last night was fun (albeit a bit sloppy) but the energy and the vibe were there. And that's all that matters.

SET LIST: A Hard Rain / You'll Be Crying Soon / Debts / Golden Fleece / On the Lam / Madeline / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / St. Anthony / Loose Lips / Shotgun Wedding / Shine A Light

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The boys are back in town

Whirlwind trip, man. I'm back in Dallas, Mike is en route to Boston by way of Nashville, and Scott and Matt will be along tonight. I'm glad I got one last day in Dallas yesterday, because it was a good one filled with burgers, Chinese food, Powerade slushes, basketball, and guitar jams. But let's roll the Austin highlight reel...

When last we spoke, I was foolishly boasting that I had gotten into every show I wanted to, despite not having a badge or a wrist band. Since then, my luck changed significantly. The last two days in Austin were not nearly as productive as the first two, as we were denied from several shows we wanted to see. Luckily, I did manage to sneak in seeing old friends Black Tie Dynasty, but that was about it. Plus, the last two days were filled with crisis, maybe from people not used to this crazy road life (i.e. hey man, it wasn't the band; we were born on the road -- sure sure).

Anyway, Saturday morning we played Lovejoys on the corner of 6th and Neches. We had gone over the previous day to scope it out after seeing a sizzling set by Eli "Paperboy" Reed and the True Loves (our good friend Emeen is now on board with them). The club was a solid rock and roll dive bar... smokey, smelly, low stage, and even lower lighting. We were ready to go.

I had trouble sleeping the night before, despite finally finagling the couch I was entitled to from Scott's bony grasp. I wasn't worried about playing the show, but I was worried about getting what we needed to play the show. You see, we only traveled with guitars, drumsticks, and a small amp. We needed to borrow drums, a bass amp, a guitar amp, cables, and a stomp box. Yes, attentive reader, we DID bring drums down from Dallas, but those were for emergency usage only. Matt located a kit in Austin and headed out the morning of the show to get them. I got to the club an hour before showtime where Kim Taylor's crew lent me an amp and Buffalo Beard gave me a stomp box and the requisite cables. Someone eventually lent Scott a bass amp, and Buffalo Beard told us to just use their drums (totally cool of them, but this should have been arranged in advance). Anyway, I told Matt to return the drums and hightail it down to Lovejoys. By no fault of his own, he and Mike got there after we were set to start.

As a result, we hardly got a soundcheck and we only got to play for 20 minutes, of what was supposed to be 45 minutes. Plus, due to the lack of soundcheck, the first half of our set sounded fairly bad. I wish I didn't allow this to ruin my mood, but I did. I never got as into it as the other guys, which is too bad. Well, people seemed to dig it anyway. That's good. I just wish we could have done it properly, but we're still at the point where we'll take what we can get at SXSW.
SET LIST: Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Debts / Madeline / On the Lam / Golden Fleece / Shine A Light

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Friday, March 14, 2008

T for Texas

Austin, Texas -- You know, I'm supposed to be blogging this for The Globe, like I did last year. And I should be blogging here, too, but I haven't done either. So I'll try to catch you up.

Dallas was a trip, especially getting in. Mike may have had the most trouble, getting stuck in Arkansas as he details in his blog. But Scott and I both had canceled flights, not due to weather in Boston but, get this, five inches of snow on the ground in Dallas/Ft. Worth. I feared that I wouldn't make it in time for our show on Saturday, but we all did somehow. We filled up J&J's with raucous good times and one incredibly dance-friendly Joe Laubacher. He almost knocked Mike's tooth out -- I had a close call or two but I kept my distance from his dance moves.

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

Other highlights of the Dallas area: the Mavs game was killer; band photos with Gene in the countryside; and, while visiting our old high school to see an old teacher, we were recognized by some kids we don't know in one of our few rocker moments -- they yelled "Whoo Cassavettes" and we felt like rockers. That's how it goes. Here are just a few of Gene's many incredible photos:

Anyhow, Austin has been nuts ever since we arrived in two cars crammed with drums on Wednesday evening. I've managed to catch nearly every show I've wanted to.

The first night, we snuck in the backdoor to see Kim Taylor play, and ran into Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Then we headed down the street to the Misra showcase to catch Boston's own Hallelujah the Hills (one of the loudest shows I think I've ever seen) and Denton's pride, and band favorite, Centro-matic. Centro was killing it, but I still left in the middle of the set to see a few songs by Lemonheads down the street. When I returned to Centro, it was in time to see "Fidgeting Wildly." Awesome night.

Yesterday, we grabbed some Don Juans -- some sort of breakfast burrito with a bunch of tasty treats in it -- from Juan in a Million and then high tailed it to S. Congress to see old buddies Frank Smith tear the roof off a roofless outdoor show. Matt, the pastiest member of the band, is now a certified Texan with a hilariously lobster-red neck. There were lots of kids there, including one really cool one who planted himself in front of the stage and gazed up in awe the entire time. Our humble host, Andrea (upon whose couch I sit and on whose computer I write), led us to a friend's apartment which just happened to overlook a set by Okkerville River. I'm not nuts about them, but they did play they only song I really know and like, so that was cool. Plus, there were tons of dogs. So the afternoon was spent hanging with kids and dogs at various times...pretty cool. Spoon was playing a free outdoor show that evening, and the whole town was rumored to attend, so we headed over early to guarantee entry. We had to sit through sets by Grupo Fantasma and Del the Funky Homosapien, but it may have been worth it to see the toast of Austin play a sweet set in front of the skyline of Austin at night.

After a little trouble getting out of the venue, we took a long walk in an attempt to see Eli Paperboy Reed's set at Club Deville, but we decided not to go after surveying the line. Instead we grabbed some lackluster BBQ at Stubb's and ate in a hurry, so I could catch Alejandro Escovedo's set at 10:45. Matt went with me to see Alejandro, which was by far the best show I've seen in a long, long time. So rocking, but with violin, cello, and really great playing. Unbelievable. I got a chance to meet Alejandro after his set, one of the great thrills for me this week. Later, I got a chance to meet Rhett Miller, too, and instead of shaking his hand for some reason I repeatedly squeezed his bicep and talked about Todd Thibaud. Sweet. Jimmy and Andrea met up with us afterward for Old 97s set, but first we had to endure the awful set of Augustana. Hey, to each their own, but that band is not for me. Anyway, the drinking was condensed into their set, which made for a crazy, singalong Old 97s set. It was truly awesome. We met an ultimate fan named James and invited him to our set on Saturday.

Today, we're hanging and flying by the seat of our pants yet again. Tomorrow we play our lone set. Should be so, so, so good. I'll try to keep you updated.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Road gigs, dude

Whenever I post a negative review of the band I always feel like the sea captain in that episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a food critic. When all of the chefs around the city convene to discuss Homer's recent tendency to write a bad review, the Chinese food chef asked the sea captain why he posted the bad review in his window. Of course, because it covers his expired food license. So, it makes you wonder when I post these reviews in a so-called attempt at "transparency," whether I'm really hiding bigger skeletons in my closet. That being said, see Skope Magazine rip us, GGG, and pretty much everyone from our show last month.
If you like pop music but don’t want to admit it, this is your bag. The best part of catching a few songs by this band was that it reminded me of some really good times I’ve had. I remember a couple years ago on a steamy 4th of july night discussing what the most over-rated band in history was. There were many contenders, but the far-and-away winner was U2. This band reminds me of what I find so mediocre about U2. They also brought to mind seeing the Spinanes a decade ago in Oregon. Why? Because The Spinanes where good largely because of the stripped down concept, the minimalist approach to pop music. The Cassavettes at their best might sound like that, except made more detailed and complicated than necessary. Their attempts at sounding heartfelt are just that, attempts, and though the singer has some vocal abillity, all in all, this band seems to be pushing a lack of inspiration to it’s limits in a bid for success. I wouldn’t see them again. Of course in their defense, the Middle East upstairs has notoriously bad sound and could make Woody Guthrie sound like a 3-ring pop-rock circus.

Unmemorable. I had to look them up on myspace just to remember what the sounded like. It feels more pop than country, but neither works very well. Just not for me.

Always good to get the bad news out of the way first. Other than that, things have been moving along nicely, as we get ready for SXSW next week. Our show last Friday at the Beachcomber was canceled due to a blizzard, but we kept busy this week with three shows in three nights.

The first was in East Burke, Vt., with just Mike and I doing the acoustic thing. It was awesome, I thought. We got fair pay, they gave us two hotel rooms, and it was the coveted ski gig, which usually comes with ski passes, though we didn't get a chance to use those. We played the Bear Den, and filled up two and a half hours with a mixture of covers, standbys, and new stuff. It was fun. J-Quay and TD came with, and we all had a merry time, driving through the snow globe-esque villages of western New Hampshire and eastern Vermont. Photos by J-Quay.

The next night, Matt and Scott met us in Rochester, NH, for a show with the Digbees at Slim's. This is just down the street from the bank that was the scene of a hostage situation in the Clinton campaign a couple months back during the primaries. On the way down from Vermont, we had time to kill so we stopped at a couple roadside diners and a few other attractions. At a trading post on Lake Winnipausaukee, I bought a giant Swiss army knife that has everything but the kitchen sink. It would have come in handy the night before, for its cork screw, but now we're prepared if the band gets into a knife fight on the road, or needs a magnifying glass to read the small print on contracts. Anyway, the show that night was pretty cool. We had to play quieter, though we didn't really, and it may have turned some folks off. Whatever. We got slightly bozo-ed and made merry.

SET LIST: Bad Television / Madeline / Golden Fleece / Debts / The Nadir / On the Lam / Loose Lips / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Shotgun Wedding / Shine a Light

Finally, we made our way back to Boston to play a show with Breaking Laces and The Shills at the Hard Rock last night. I've never been there before, much less played there, but they certainly did treat the bands well, it seemed. The sound was a little messy but I think it all balanced out in the end. The show itself, I'm not too sure what to think of it. I don't think we played extremely well, though Matt told me we did play well. But one thing is for sure: it was a good night for crowd interaction. And that's all that matters. Everyone had a good time, I think, myself included. I was laughing almost nonstop. I nearly couldn't play. Why? Must have been the hospitality.

SET LIST: Trouble From the Start / Debts / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / You'll Be Crying Soon / Golden Fleece / Madeline / Shotgun Wedding / On the Lam / I Come From the Water / Shine A Light

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