Day one hundred and seventy six/seven ... On and on and on ...
So, in true Stuntmen style, the AAA guy, George, brought us the 50 miles to Nashville. More specifically, he brought us right to the parking lot of the gig.
Always make an entrance, that's my new motto. Doesn't matter what kind of entrance, just make one.
The Basement is a small club underneath Grimey's Records. As I posted yesterday, Metallica played a surprise warm-up show there a couple weeks back. Grimey, himself, was sitting downstairs in the club on his laptop and was eager to show me pictures, as well as a Youtube clip of the evening. Regardless of my opinion of Metallica's music (which are not of the most positive nature), I had to admit that that was a pretty cool happening considering that the place holds about 100 people tops and Metallica usually plays stadiums. Grimey, an affable man, and not grimy in the least, graciously allowed me to connect to his WiFi. When we briefly spoke he said, "You guys gonna' pack this place tonight or what?" To which I replied, "Well, we already packed that whole corner of the room with all our stuff. What more do you want?" Grimey smiled and turned his gaze back to his laptop and the pictures of the gig from a couple weeks back. "Fair enough," he said, "fair enough."
So, we dropped off our stuff and milled about for a bit while the 6 p.m. band did a soundcheck for their showcase. Nashville is famous for its showcases where execs come and check out recently signed or about-to-be-signed artists. I don't know the name of the band in question, but their milquetoast, Millennial roots-rocker version of CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" was enough to force me out on the patio to feverishly assemble yesterday's post. Steve showed back up after dropping our van off at Firestone and rounded up the troops, as our aforementioned SECAC rep, John Mullins, was going to take us out to eat. Steve thought it funny that they were playing that CCR song as he left, and returned as they were performing it "for real" as the opening song of their showcase.
Good luck boys, it's a jungle out there.
We had Burritos at somewhere I can't remember, and enjoyed some dry, hot, southern air and pretty girls on the deck. I think they must have found me vaguely interesting in my blacks (complete with dress shoes and striped dress socks. Not to imply I didn't look boss, just a bit out of place), as I nonchalantly dropped my pineapple salsa on the floor. The pack rat that I am, I had the forethought to bring enough napkins to not only clean up the mess, but casually finish my meal as well.
Yankee preparedness in effect.
After that, Uncle John brought us back to the club and hung out for a while until the first band began.
Wow! What a fantastic band. They call themselves Company of Thieves, and hail from Chicago. Smart, catchy, energetic power-pop with the freshness and exuberance that only a group of talented twenty-somethings can project. Genevive is their singer, the focus of the band, and the main songwriter. Petite, spry, pretty-as-can-be, and seemingly perpetually in a state of bliss, she commanded the attention of the polite crowd of twenty or so. Occasional Bjork comparisons came to mind as her voice verged on pushing the limits of the PA speakers with intense vocal runs and sensual, powerful growls one minute, then gently coaxing your emotions out of you like a cat scared and shy under a couch with simple, memorable phrasing the next. She commanded the mic and surrounding landscape of amps, drums, and strings with extreme ease, combining sexy, assertive stances and coy smiles with airy, cheerleader moxie. I'd put her up against any of the mre modern female vocalists--Neko Case, Beth Orton, Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley), or Fionna Apple--and Genevive could hold her own. Their guitarist, Mark, had an impressive atmospheric pop sound--bright, punchy, crunchy, angular, and fresh, that brought the songs to life, lifting up and carrying the already buoyant melodies. I spoke briefly to the drummer and bass player who provided a strong foundational rhythm section and seemed like nice enough fellows. I don't know how long they've been together, but I can tell they love what they're doing. I can see the happiness and hope in their eyes and hear the excitement from their amps and in their voices. I just hope they stick together long enough to find a wide audience. Lord knows there's enough crap out there drawing thousands of people on a regular basis. And guys, if you're reading this, and god forbid your van breaks down, try to remember that the more it happens, the easier it gets. Look at us. Our van was towed to the show last night and right now, at 1:59 p.m. central time, we're back on the road and headed north to the next gig ...
But first a note on the rest of the night.
The second act was a bunch of singer-songwriters who took turns at the mic. Lots of dark, somber, pop a la Ron Sexsmith or the more piano oriented side of Ryan Adams. It was great for the first few songs, then a little less great, and then, after a while, oh geez, whatddaya know, it was time for us to play. Where does the time go?
We played a spirited set of our more rock-oriented material to an appreciative crowd. It's not often we only play one set of music. Normally the gigs are three or at the very least, two set nights. It was fun to pick out 12 or so gems and kick out the jams. Good energy, great sound, and a decent stage with a long history of bands both famous, semi, and nobodies. I think, right now, we fit somewhere right in the middle. That's where it seems the safest for creativity without the benefit of quitting.
Why quit when you make your own schedule?
We half packed up our stuff before it was decided that we could leave everything there and come pick it up in the morning--providing our van was indeed fixed.
Our elusive manager, Jon Hensley, was in attendance and all Burrito Brothered out (ie: Jew-fro, sequined Nudie-style shirt, bell-bottom fancy-pants, and beautiful ingenue in tow). He gave Dave and myself a ride back to the Red Roof where we were staying while the rest of the guys hung for a while, doing absinthe shots and sucking back Millers. Yeah, it sounds like a good time and I'm sure it was, but I have to keep on my game. It's not really that hard once you know what you want to do. Really.
So, after a lazy morning with Law and Order on the TV with the mute on, I rolled out of bed. I did 50 or so pushups and about 100 crunches and thought about grabbing the jump rope I had brought along on the trip. It being about 100 degrees out, I decided to forgo the cardio portion of my exercise routine. I do know though, that I am not long for a new belt. Not because my old one has broken from constant, inconsiderate pressure, but because this one is having a hard time keeping my pants up at the highest setting. That will be a trip to the store I will make, joyfully and without hesitation. It just needs a few more weeks.
And on that note, I must add that I enjoyed a fantastic 8 oz cheeseburger deluxe from Fat Mo's before we hit the road. I did not, however, get fries, poppers, or soda. I bought a gallon of water and will be careful in the rest of my consumption for the day. Hell, I could have gotten the 27 oz burger that was on special ... well I could have.
This was, of course, after Steve returned from Firestone (thanks again John M.) with our trusty van and we escaped from Music City.
The tour so far has been for lack of a better word, eventful.
And that sure beats sittin' on the couch watching Jeopardy.
"I'll take Bands That Won't Quit for $800, Alex."
"This band, now in their sixteenth year, continues to defy the odds and travel the country flying in the face of economic security, emotional stability, and general common sense, playing original American rock and roll and living each minute like it may be their last."
"Who is, Drunk Stuntmen?"
"Correct. Although we also would have accepted, who are Drunk Stumtmen."
And now we continue on, to Winston-Salem, for gig # 2 and creep, steadily and without hesitation, to points north.
Thanks for reading.
Well catch up tomorrow.
And here, as promised is more in my series of shots from the Google the Earth tour.
Friday June, 27 2008:
PS: I might as well continue on as it is now Friday and I'm waking up in the music room of our friend Vickie's house.
The drive from Nashville to Winston-Salem took about 9 hours. The Smokey Mountains were ominous and imposing on either side of us as we drove on through intermittent rain, stopping every so often for a sandwich or to use the facilities. Rest areas are prime targets for googling as the clientele is constantly changing and are comprised of folks from all corners of the country. The security guards seem to be oblivious to the goings on right under their noses. I suppose they need not concern themselves with the ways of entertainers. That usually works out for the best.
We pulled into The Garage at 9:30, and strolled in as a couple was finishing the early show--a woman with stand-up bass, and her husband playing guitar. They seemed pleasant and played well.
Our friend from Northampton, Morgan Kraft showed up shortly after we did. He had agreed to play the opening slot.
Morgan, who owns Micro Earth records, got us connected to Mitch Easter who recorded our last record and assisted with the engineering. We've been collaborating on projects with Morgan for a few years now. From teen country phenom Ashley Heath in semi-deserted and fossilized Marshal, NC, to recording versions of our record in a giant warehouse not too far from where we are now Morgan has been not only a positive influence on our struggle to survive with our music, but an inspiration to keep striving and trying new and unusual things.
Speaking of new and unusual things, Morgan plays fretless guitar. He also sings. His style is hard to pinpoint but it seems to be raucous, frenetic, rhythm and blues. He played for a half an hour and gave up the stage to us.
At ten past ten I called my Aunt as we hadn't spoken since before we left. She had been asleep and I apologized for waking her but she contested that she'd rather talk to me than sleep and so we chatted for a few. It is always nice to let those who care, know that you do too.
The Garage is a fine music venue. The vibe is equal parts promoting music, as well as local graphic art. It's nice to see in a town that pretty much is run by big tobacco. The soundman, Brian, was super-professional and friendly. I later found out makes tube amps for guitars. His company is called Lyndon Amps, and he seems to know his stuff. We talked at length about tubes, master volumes, speaker cabs, and modded amp schematics.
The show was a well played, energetic, hour and a half of our A material. The stage was roomy and it gave us the chance to spread out physically as well as sonically. I got some welcome, creative feedback from my Bogner due to me putting it on the floor rather than on it's case, and asking Brian to put some in the monitors. Steve had a good night on guitar and even got a sweet solo in Every Third Thing.
Kim, the bar owner, and Sara, the bartender took good care of us. Steve even arranged for a pizza party complete with Greek salads and garlic dippers. Lamentably, earlier in the evening, I tried to position one of the 10 or so window fans on a chair in front of the band. It fell, breaking off one of the fan petals. Kim gave me a amiable scolding before taking the broken petal out of the casing and plugging the fan back in. As you may or may not know, physics will not allow for this alteration, and so we just made due with towels, water, and beer.
I had a strange moment of recall upon hearing Sara packing a pack of smokes from the bar. It's been so long, not only since I smoked, but also since I really spent much time anywhere that allows smoking inside clubs. We live in a much different world than even a few years ago. "Smoke 'em if you got 'em," is now, "smoke 'em if the man says it's okay," which I can live with--literally.
Mid-way through the set, a woman with black and white dyed hair, a Ramones t-shirt, and striped stretch-pants wandered in and declared, "I love these guys ... ." And we were reunited with Vickie, who owns a couple of bars in town and booked us the very first time we played in W-S about 6 years ago. She let us crash at her house not far from the club. Before I even could get my suitcase from the back of the van, Vickie was blasting some James Gang from the living room. I came in and she was dancing around in her bare feet on her hardwood floors, singing and smiling. This is the kind of stuff that I remember, oh-so-well, from the many tours we have embarked upon, and subsequently returned from. This is the stuff you have to pit against the quiet security and comfort of a Red Roof Inn with its sterile artwork on the walls and single-serving soaps in the shower. This is the real stuff--the stuff of stacks of vinyl and ash trays; leopard pants and studded belts; kiddie-art and decoupage; incense and bong water; sleeping bags on the floor between the drum kit and the bass amp, and nobody knocking on the door at eleven o'clock trying to get you the hell out.
And so, we left around noon and had breakfast in town with Morgan and got on the road to play Raleigh, our second favorite place to be besides home.
Two more shows and we head back to the deep north.
Thanks again for reading,
PS: not to jinx anything, but today I can denote the six month mark from when I was arrested, booked, searched, detained, arraigned, and released back to the wild to begin my great metamorphosis.
I'm still a pupae, but I can feel the sprout of wings on my back and antennae on my head. Let's just say growing pains never felt so good. Yes ... that's about right.