Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meeting expectations

I started to write a blog on Monday about the Provincetown Rocks festival. Right as I neared completion, the Boston Herald wanted to talk about it. So I sent them some thoughts. And it became an article, a bit sunnier than the one they ran a couple weeks back:
Glenn Yoder of Cassavettes said he experienced “the best (or something close to it) and worst (or something close to it) of what this festival had to offer.” Cassavettes’ Friday night show at Good Times was rough, but the show the next night at the Vixen made up for it.
“It was sort of scatter shot - we expected that, too,” Yoder wrote. “It was a first try at something like this in P-town and, if it happens again, I’m sure there will be a different approach and different pricing, etc. But no use in trashing it - it was an honest try at something new, and you can’t fault anyone for that.”

Here is the full text of the thoughts I shared with Michael, in a more concise form of the blog, which follows.
I think we saw the best (or something close to it)  and worst (or something close to it) of what this festival had to offer. We had a great set Saturday night at The Vixen that made up for one of the worst shows I can ever recall being a part of Friday at Good Times. But while we had a bad time at Good Times (major paradox there), my guess is that the Bon Savants had a worse time. After all, while the amp the festival provided crapped out on me mid-song and I finished the set through a dull keyboard amp, the Bon Savants lost power altogether mid-song. They covered it well enough, but there's not much you can do in that situation. Either way, they killed it -- it was an awesome show once the power came back (the alleged culprit was a cell phone charger in a jack not permitted for patron's use, according to the club's owner). And the Bon Savants guys were chilled out about the whole episode. I really mean it when I say they covered with as much humor and poise as one can when all the power goes off...and a dude shouting at everyone in sight about a cell phone charger causing it all. We were saying that the whole night seemed to be held together by duct tape and little else -- and maybe the whole festival seemed that way at times, since word was that the clubs weren't exactly receptive to the bands and the audiences were pretty small everywhere we went to see shows. We didn't encounter anything super crazy, though. Our expectations were sort of met:  We expected to have a good time out on The Cape, hang out with some cool folks like The Shills and Sidewalk Driver, and play a few fun shows. Check, check, and check. If nothing else, it's a beach vacation. What's there to complain about? So, yeah, it was sort of scatter shot -- we expected that, too. It was a first try at something like this in P-town (to my knowledge) and, if it happens again, I'm sure there will be a different approach and different pricing, etc. But no use in trashing it -- it was an honest try at something new, and you can't fault anyone for that.

I will say that there was nothing about this festival that scared me off doing it again, presuming Martin tempers his expectations by making it a much more affordable, viable option for locals (it's not going to draw a huge crowd from Boston, just to see locals in a different environment). After all, the thing is, P-town doesn't NEED this festival. They are a bucolic Cape town in the middle of summer! These "clubs" (if you can call them that) don't NEED bands to draw in people -- they already have regulars (which they were pissed that the bands were scaring away with high door prices/loud music). So, if Martin wants to bring music to P-town, that's all well and good. But he has to do it by fitting into the flow of the town, rather than trying to CHANGE the flow for a weekend. You know what I mean?

Anyway, back to the blog I was GOING to write...

The Provincetown festival this weekend was about what we expected. OK, it was worse than expected, but just a little. The shows went like this, in this order: so-so, awful, pretty good. So at least we ended on a high (or higher) note. But when everything wasn't falling apart at the seams, it was being held together by duct tape and little else (metaphorically, and in some cases, literally). Beyond the clubs putting up a stink about even having music going on, and the town's seeming disinterest (and lack of need) in the festival at all, the prices were too high to interest anyone into stopping by. And the backline equipment was on the verge of explosion -- as the Bon Savants lost all power mid-song following our set (when my amp crapped out entirely, and I had to play a five-string guitar through a keyboard amp -- hey, maybe it was in the spirit of famous low-stringers Presidents of the United States of America). So, yeah, there were a bit more than technical difficulties. But add the entire weekend up, and you've got a good time. Lots of cool people, some nice weather, and six friends squashed in a surprisingly spacious hotel room. It was a good time.

The first night I played solo at Old Colony. It was a cool nautical-themed bar with low ceilings, and a completely disinterested crowd. I never got comfortable, rushed it, and generally regretted it. But whatever, it was the first night and there were five people there.
SET LIST (from memory): Til the Wheels Fall Off / Broken Beaten & Blue / Golden Fleece / Light Under the Door / A Thousand Ways / There's a Reason / Comes a Time / You Led Me Into Your Love

The next night, the band met up with Mike after a cold, wet day at the beach in Wellfleet (next to the Beachcomber). We did have a sweet race up the dunes until a stoned lifeguard told us to quit it. Nevertheless, we made the most of the gray day. That night, we played Good Times, easily the crappiest spot we saw in P-town, with low ceilings and no decorations beyond a few beer signs on the dry wall -- like someone's idea of a "man cave." The owner was a lunatic who went berserk at me, when I was an innocent bystander to two minor altercations (someone plugging a cellphone charger into an unauthorized jack, and someone spilling a Narragansett behind a guitar amp -- I used a keyboard amp and didn't drink Narragansett anyway). And of course, there were the aforementioned technical difficulties. I did, however, buy a new leather jacket (when in Rome) and have an awesome dinner, so it wasn't a totally wasted night.
SET LIST (from memory): Ordinary Girls / Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / Golden Fleece / There's a Reason / Shine a Light

The final day, we checked out of the hotel and headed back to Wellfleet for some actual fun in the sun. Creamer took us to a nice beach (one of the top 20 in the world, he said, though I disagree -- not to sound ungrateful), where we joined the Family Creamer. Matt fit in quite naturally, with his red locks and swear words (that's just with Creamer himself, though, not the wife and kids). Creamer actually looked overjoyed when Matt tossed him around in the waves. We then got a sweet lunch in town and met up at the Creamer's cabin. Quite quaint. For the show, my main objective of the evening (seeing The Neighborhoods) didn't happen, since everything was running behind schedule. We also missed Sidewalk Driver's set. But we did, at the very least, play a pretty good show, which was a major relief, after two subpar performances in a row (dating back to July 4 in Vermont).
SET LIST: Ordinary Girls / Lights On / Madeline / Don't Get Me Wrong / Golden Fleece / On the Lam / Seek Cover / Shine a Light

For those keeping score, yes, every set was cut short. But the whole thing was running behind schedule. At times, I was surprised it was even happening at all. But it was what it was, and it's a memory now. Like I said, I'd do it again, presuming changes are made to accommodate the locals. If there's a lesson to be learned, it's that you aren't going to change the culture of Provincetown, Mass., even for one weekend!

UPDATE: Photos just posted at Playground Boston by Pete Legassey. Check them out, you'll have to go toward the middle of this pack. I'm hoping you agree with me that Mike's beard so, so siqq.

On the record front, I'm PRETTY sure the latest master is going to be approved. It has been sent as the "promotional copy" for Creamer to work his magic, and has a cool label. It appears likely that "Shotgun Wedding" will indeed be on the record, unless Todd makes one final push for "Glory Son." Also, more shows are coming together for the fall tour, thanks to the Tenderhooks. Those boys get stuff done!

Anyhow, tomorrow night, I'm playing at McGann's in the Back Bay as a sidekick for my buddy Tod Shaffer (he of Barn fame). Come check it if you got some time.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

P-town bound

So, the rumors are true. Scott lost his passport bungee-jumping in New Zealand (it's part of his new "world-traveler" image), but he is back in America, and back in Boston tonight. Just in time for the Provincetown festival this weekend.

After a host of problems on our end (not necessarily the festival problems I detailed here, but lodging falling through), I finally booked a place in P-town today. So we should be set, which is a huge relief. Actually, a number of things are dovetailing right now in a satisfactory turn...
- The fall tour is picking up steam, as we figure out what route would be best. Already a few hard to book southern spots are coming together.
- We have the Toad residency again in September, which can serve as a pre-CD release-CD release. Meaning, we can wait on the big show, but still let our friends buy up the tunes (and have a CD out in time for the fall tour). I have holds at a couple bigger venues for later in the fall, and we are still awaiting word on a couple shows in October.
- I am in serious talks with two designers on the CD artwork, so hopefully I'll get a draft of their ideas next week.
- We should be getting the second master in the mail today. Unfortunately, Todd takes an extended sabbatical to Canada for some fishing, so we will have to wait to stamp our approval until he returns Monday. There may be a substitution of "Glory Son" for "Shotgun Wedding." We shall see how everyone responds.

Finally, my old acoustic guitar finally got a pick-up added. Good. Because I'll need it in Provincetown tomorrow. I'll update after a whale of a weekend.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beach vacation

All I've been working on lately is the proper way to roll out this record -- tour, release show, etc. But CD release plans be damned, let's talk about the immediate future!

A lot of folks have taken notice to our participation in the Provincetown Rocks Festival at the end of this month, and the fact that it may be going down the toilet fast. We've been slated to do this thing for over a year, as Martin, who is putting it together, came to me very early in the game asking about it. Why not? We have nothing else going on in Provincetown. I mean, even if this thing is a disaster, and it might be, we'll probably still have fun. And play a show...maybe. Though we're scheduled to do three. I see it as low risk, potentially decent reward (a good time at the beach, no harm done). Anyhow, he shocked everyone by announcing Presidents of the United States would be headlining every night, then went through promoting it, then abruptly, they were gone. We always wondered if the PUSA thing was legit. We'll never know the full story, but hey, the intrepid reporting of The Herald's Michael Marotta brings us the tale from both Martin and PUSA:

But last month the Presidents got the boot. According to a posting Doyle left on a local message board, he wanted to streamline the festival and make it more locally focused.

"I axed the Presidents because I didn't get the sponsorships I needed," Doyle said in a phone conversation yesterday. "I had to make a decision, and in this economy I couldn't charge $75 a ticket."

The Presidents, however, are still waiting for an explanation.

"He's been unresponsive to us," said David Meinert, the Presidents' manager. "All we know is that he canceled the Presidents' show June 11 out of the blue, but kept the band in the ads for several weeks following, which we are definitely disturbed about."

And while that may be some seedy doings there, it doesn't shake me up too much. There's a good mention of us, which is always nice, though it's in the wake of other bands losing faith (and with just cause)...

The festival still boasts a meaty lineup with Cassavettes, the Neighborhoods, Magic Magic, Logan 5 and the Runners, the New Alibis, Muck and the Mires, Lovewhip, Blood Stained Brindle, Midatlantic, Aloud, the Crushing Low, the Bon Savants and many more.

Several bands reached for this story declined to speak on the record about the festival, but sources said there have been disputes about band payouts, hotel accommodations and logistics.

Because we know Martin fairly well, and Creamer has a long history with him, I will tell you what I know, or rather, what I expect. We have re-confirmed with him this week, since our set times/locations/dates have consistently shape-shifted over the past couple months. Our sticking point is that we want to play with The Neighborhoods, which they have reiterated to Martin as well, so I fully expect that to happen otherwise I WILL be mad. And our guarantee is still intact. All of this is in writing, just in case, which still may not be totally reassuring, but again, it's low-risk. The thing could always turn out just fine, and I'll say one thing to that point: we had the lowest of expectations at the April preview of this festival in Provincetown, and we all remember how that turned out, right? It shows that all this concern may be needless. Or, whatever, beach vacation.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Radio nowhere

Cassavettes on Facebook

Is there anybody alive out there?!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Sonic boom

We take a break from update you on some stuff. That's what a blog is for, I guess. Well, though I recently proclaimed this to be quiet time with Scott gone, it's not. I have been active over the past couple days, with plenty to do on the band front. A quick rundown:

1) Book a two-week or so tour for the last part of September. This hopefully can coincide with Dewey Beach Americana Fest (checking on that, presuming they have it) or Music Conference. We are scheduled at the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, so I just have to work around those dates for now. Some friends from a Knoxville band may link up with us and we'll do the southern circuit together (Knoxville, Nashville, maybe Kentucky, Carolina, even Georgia). Then I'll put together a show or two in New York/Philly, etc.
2) After that tour, we are planning to release this CD, "Shake Down the Sun." Where? I don't know yet, though I have made preliminary in-roads. Problem is, I don't want to play the release party BEFORE the tour (since it'll tighten us up real nice) and after the tour, we have a couple decent offers on the table in October -- one a possible big-time opening slot for a national. Would we postpone further? I'm not sure, but a CD release would require blacking out a month of dates on either side, so it complicates things even more... Working on that next week.
3) Before any of that can happen, we have to put "Shake Down the Sun" to bed. We are in stage 2 of mastering, in which we work out a few kinks with time between songs, matching loudness/softness of tracks, and fixing a couple small crackling issues. Problem is, this is done from afar now, with no follow-up in Fall River. He'll mail us our second reference, then we sign off on it (hopefully, otherwise this gets dragged out longer), then we manufacture white-faced CDs as promo copies for Creamer's cronies (who he says are champing at the bit for some tracks) and radio, etc. See? It's a process. Also, while that's happening, we have to start the artwork for this record, which isn't a huge rush, as it only takes a few weeks to print the initial run of 1,000 CDs that we'd order for the CD release show. And who knows when that will be? Remember?

Anyhow, lots to do. Next week will be a busy one for me.

On another note, I often wonder how the two paths I've chosen (music and journalism) seem to mirror each other so closely, particularly in relation to how both are adapting to new technological challenges. I know that every industry has had to re-think their business model, but music and journalism are in very, very similar struggles. To wit, take Malcolm Gladwell's latest New Yorker piece, "Priced to sell: Is free the future?":

The digital age, (author Chris) Anderson argues, is exerting an inexorable downward pressure on the prices of all things “made of ideas.” Anderson does not consider this a passing trend. Rather, he seems to think of it as an iron law: “In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win.” To musicians who believe that their music is being pirated, Anderson is blunt. They should stop complaining, and capitalize on the added exposure that piracy provides by making money through touring, merchandise sales, and “yes, the sale of some of [their] music to people who still want CDs or prefer to buy their music online.” To the Dallas Morning News, he would say the same thing. Newspapers need to accept that content is never again going to be worth what they want it to be worth, and reinvent their business.

Speaking of which, I'm considering rolling out a new idea for the remainder of 2009: $5 merch box. Everything in the merch box is priced to sell at $5 -- not exactly free, but not far from it. This means the new CD would roll out to the tune of $5 (pun INTENDED), as well as copies of "Whitewash the Blues," "It's Gonna Change," and "Okono Road." Shirts, which cost a bit more than $8 to manufacture (sometimes over $10 depending on graphics/brand), we would essentially be losing money on. But isn't the advertising worth that much? And to move some more merch, I think it's a worthwhile pursuit. Plus, it comes with a catchy theme song: "Five, five dollar, five dollar merchboxxxxxx."

Finally, on a completely unrelated ending note, one tale from our dear Denton, Texas. Sounds about right.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quiet time

Two years ago this day, we were playing the Middle East Downstairs for the first time -- headlining our two-year anniversary. It was an OK show. One year ago on Sunday, July 5, we were playing our three-year anniversary show at The Paradise Rock Club. The show was iffy at best. This year, we bypassed the show for a few reasons, instead opting to plan a big CD release for September (working on that soon, I promise) and a REALLY big five-year anniversary next year. Instead, we spent our four-year anniversary weekend (and Fourth of July) in Stockbridge, Vt., playing the Tweed River Festival with some bands I'd call heroes of ours. From Tim Gearan to our old friend Jabe to my main man Jeremy Moses Curtis (and Bow Thayer), this weekend was something it was hard to believe we were a part of.

That doesn't mean in was a dream all the time. It rained pretty frequently, making it chilly and tough to get into the swing of things. Also, our set was subpar at best, thanks to some bad luck and malfunctioning instruments. We did our best to push through, and apparently, according to a letter from Jeremy, we still made a good impression. Actually, most people were fairly kind (and no one was rude). A man said his wife wrote down our name because were "definitely worth remembering." The lead singer of Sticky repeatedly told us we made him cry. Not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing. Either way, it was a weekend definitely worth remembering, with some swimming in the COLD Tweed River and a lucky bail-out by Joe, who thought to bring a tarp.

SET LIST: Ordinary Girls / Lights On / Don't Get Me Wrong / Golden Fleece / Someday Darling / On the Lam / Seek Cover / Cedar / Shotgun Wedding / Shine a Light

Now, we're decompressing, I suppose. Scott is gone for three weeks, exploring the other side of the world. I'm settling into a new house and hoping for some good weather to justify getting a beach house. It's all quiet -- and that's good, because I think a break was necessary. Life has been too crazy lately. Now, it's time to just unwind a bit and come back full force. See you soon.

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Friday, July 03, 2009


I hate whenever Nick Cassavetes makes a new movie (My Sister's Keeper?) because then his name dominates Google searches whenever I'm searching for us. Alas, the Burlington Free Press briefly mentioned our big camping gig this weekend. Should be fun.

I'll update when all is said and done.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Where toads come from

"The Toad needs to be rocked like this once in a while."

That's a direct quote from a local who had wandered by to see The Moving Co. last night, but instead found us. See, the Moving Co. unfortunately had an issue that caused them to cancel their set while we were on-stage, finishing our set (we were just hitting the homestretch). All of a sudden, we had another two hours to fill. But we also had a line out the door all night, a bunch of crazy dancers, and a LOUD, rowdy crowd. So, we rocked, as the local put it, with pretty much every song we had.

Before we knew we would be filling an entire night with music, we had already decided to forego a set break and keep the party moving -- doing two hours straight. In retrospect, it's a bad idea, but hey, we didn't know at the time! Nonetheless, Ward and Sarah filled in with some nice harmonies (and some casual [read: bad] jamming from Scott, Mike, and myself) and that ate up some time. Then we came back and gave what we could. I made a point not to duplicate any songs, even though Creamer told us to, but you know something? Toad's bartender, Jeremy, is about the coolest guy we know and we do what HE says. He wanted to hear "Lights On" again, and so for the encore, that's exactly what we did.

One final note about the penultimate Toad Tuesday: Chris almost knocked my front teeth out about 50 times last night. Apparently, ripping open Scott and I's shirts (mine WASN'T a button-up) wasn't enough to satiate his party vibe, so he decided to pick up the microphone stand a lot, move it around so I had to follow it to sing, and push it into my face repeatedly. If I didn't love that guy, I would have thrown him a beating. Or just scolded him.

This set list is totally from memory, but at least I will hopefully get all the songs out there...
SET 1: Ordinary Girls / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Madeline / Research Blvd / Don't Get Me Wrong / There's a Reason / Whitewashed / The Nadir / Debts / On Our Own / Someday Darling / Golden Fleece / Six Hours / St. Anthony / The Devil's Arms / A Hard Rain / Lights On / Empire Central / Valley of Gold / Seek Cover / Like Secrets Beneath / On the Lam / Cedar / Shine a Light

SET 2: Bad Television / Marie / You'll Be Crying Soon / Seasons / Trouble From the Start / Cinnamon Girl / Walk On / I Come From the Water / Glory Son / Alex Chilton / It's Gonna Be Alright / Lightning in a Bottle / Ambivalent Farewells / Shotgun Wedding / Lights On (encore)

Oh yeah photos of the show...from Fritz's mobile device...

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