All Writing and Photography © Alex Livingstone/Owner's Closet

Friday, October 16, 2009

Part 3: Back East

Because of all the window business, we were totally going to miss our 2pm soundcheck at the Mercury. Really? 2pm soundcheck? Dumb. NYC can be dumb. We were gonna go by Dirty Bird ToGo on the way to the Merc but by the time we got to town we didn't even have time for that. We loaded in about an hour and a half before our set. The place was packed for AA Bondy (whoever that is) who had the slot right before The Freeland Barons. Though the room cleared out a bit while he and his backing band took way too long to break down their gear (not cool, douchebags), the Barons were back together and we delivered. Thanks to John and Amber for coming out. See you both soon!
Later that night in Park Slope, Tim and I were up until 3:30 getting our windowless van a spot at a nearby garage. I sat there and watched as it took the attendant nearly thirty minutes rearrange the cars to accommodate our huge van. The guy was a master and somehow made it all work. Fortunately, we had JP's sensory deprivation chamber to sleep in and we got a great sleep. However, Tim did have to get up and take the van to the shop but they had the thing finished by 1pm! Not only did it cost less than half of the other quotes but they had it done in no time! So after lunch, JP, Tim and I took the train over to Red Hook to get the van from the rascist mofo who owned the shop. On the way back to JP's we stopped by a music store that was next to some real-life mafia hangout. You know, the kind where the fat Paulies sit in chairs out front and talk about stupid/dangerous/illegal shit all day. Fascinated with the goombah life and aching to catch a glimpse, Tim stood outside as if he was admiring the architecture or waiting for a ride to try and hear their conversations. He caught one bit about how it's "better to do a down man than an even man." We each had our own opinion of what that meant.
It started to rain as we were packing the van before heading to Union Hall. Great, right? I must say the club was pretty swanky. The ground floor of the bar has a pseudo-library feel to it...what actually to me seems like a gentleman's club in Britain in the twenties or thirties. Hard-bound books on dark-stained shelves surrounding plush lounge furniture and an indoor Bocci court. Posh. While this is all fine and good, I was most impressed with the availability of Modelo Especial in a can for $3. The first band had finished their set and before we realized it, our set time was up. However, there was some discrepancy between our tour book, when the soundguy said we were supposed to start, and when we actually were up to go on. Since there were only a few people there, we went with the majority opinion and pushed the set back twenty minutes. This sent everyone into a tizzy (rightly so except for the sound guy, whose original set times we were obeying) and it seemed to piss off the Death Vessel, the show's headliner. Although the sound on stage sucked for me, I powered through and we did a good job. Aaron's amp was pointed right at me, blowing my head off, and I was using the backline amp was on stage and was being used for stand-up bass. For those of you who don't know, one must treat an amplifier differently for a stand-up bass than one would for an electric bass. Hell, there are a huge spectrum of variables for people that only play electric bass. Anyway, it was good. We were loud and probably played too long but we sounded good. Bartow and I got outta there pretty soon after we played because we wanted to meet up with Nurkin who was playing with the Birds Of Avalon at the Cake Shop that night.

Because of the rain, we went back to Bartow's hood and waited on Scott with some Lone Star beer (!) at SuperFine. We shot pool for awhile and wanted to hang there until closing but they closed the place down early on account of it being slow. Bartow and I got some beer and waited for Scott back at his house. He showed up and we stayed up to 5 or 6 drinking beer and scotch and broin' down. It's great to hang out with your old pals even if for less than ten hours. We ate at the Bridge Restaurant for breakfast and parted ways as the F train took them to Manhattan and took me to Park Slope. Back at JP's I tried to soothe my vicious headache with a barefoot and short-panted consumption of coffee and water. In a matter of fortunate timing, just before Mark and JP headed off in the van to some market in Red Hook, I looked at our pile of gear stashed behind JP's couch and noticed that my bass wasn't there. So I ask Mark the whereabouts of my bass. He doesn't know. I go out to the van and it's not in the back. "Where's my fucking bass!!??"
Realizing the guys left it at the club the night before, the three of us got in the van and went to Union Hall. Needless to say, I was furious that they had neglected to get my instrument. I understand not recognizing the case because we don't really know each others' gear. That being said, anyone who's had enough road experience in a band knows that when you pack the van at the end of the night, you make sure everything's there. Idiot check inside and back of the van checklist. When I knocked on the door at Union Hall that morning, I was greeted by a non-english speaking cleaning crew which only heightened my anxiety. The explanation of my situation fell on deaf ears but they finally wised up and fetched one of the club's gringo employees who led me downstairs to the venue. Praise be to the heavens, my lonely bass was leaning there against the wall just where I left it. I assumed that my Ric was in good hands when I left early with Bartow the night before but I guess I was wrong. Trust is a difficult thing to come by and on the road it's even more precious. It's not an "each man for himself" situation. While each new city and venue presents a new give-and-take scenario for band members' duties/roles, a general blanket of responsibility stays over the band: Cover your brother's ass. Bass was there. Total freak-out narrowly avoided.
I spent the rest of the day blogging or some crap. We were playing World Cafe in Philly that night so we weren't in a big hurry. It was raining that night (lame) just like it was the last time we went down to Philly from NYC. We were the second band of the evening...two show evening. Some blues dude from Austin played the early show and we were scheduled to go on around 9:30 0r 10, I don't remember. There were a handful of fans there and we played a pretty solid set. They had some good quality half-priced grub which was nice. I had managed to get through NYC without spending a ton of money and my luck was continuing. We drove over to Wilmington, DE to stay for free at Aaron's folks' house. It was the longest I'd ever been in Delaware, every other "visit" having been for ten minutes on an interstate drive-by. The evening rain produced a damp morning that made the trees and grass all seem lush and inviting. Too bad, because I got behind the wheel and hauled our asses up to New London, CT for the I Am Festival.

Tim didn't want to cross the Bronx and he was right for thinking so. The traffic sucked and held us back at least 45 minutes. By the time I was starving and had to urinate (read: done driving), we were in beautiful Connecticut, about an hour away from New London. That was a three to four hour drive that shouldn't have been more than three. Oh well. That's how it goes on I-95. When we got to the harbor about an hour before our set, we rolled our gear out to the end of the pier where our stage was. Pretty cool. Some funk-rock band was playing when we got there and as painful as it was, they were soon to stop. The scenery was awesome and the weather was perfect, all overcast and mild. We had a short set but it was good and the PA was loud. Free High Life backstage. The Drums and Free Energy played after us and both sucked. Both "bands" were pathetic and in my opinion, a waste of time. As usual, the kids love that crap and continue to surprise me with the willingness and ease with which the wool is pulled over their eyes.

It was up in the air as to whether or not we were going to stay in New London and party down with the locals or start the drive for Ohio. After a good time hanging out with some townies and a rad set by Deerhoof, we hit the road for Bucyrus. Thankfully I had
already driven that day because I was more in favor of partying and not in favor of getting behind the wheel. Our destination was the Delaware Water Gap, a picturesque stretch of road in the middle of nowhere. We got rooms and crashed hard at some place that served its purpose. We stopped for lunch in the nearby town of Stroudsburg, PA (photo left) where at a lovely restaurant called Mollie's, I had the best corned beef hash I've ever had. Truism. After some lolly-gagging around town it was back on I-80 for the long boring drive back to boring central Ohio. Back to the land of no AT&T coverage. Bucyrus, "Bratwurst Capital of America," Ohio.