I should have known something was wrong by the way I wasn’t totally freaking out before the show. Pre-gig jitters routinely reach epic proportions ’round here. But this time I felt oddly relaxed–almost as though I were going to go out with some of my favorite people and perform some of my favorite music. This alone should have raised internal alarm bells audible even outside my head. But these systems were strangely mute in the face of an overwhelming peace of mind and actual good mood. It was creepy, I tell ya.
Little did I know that we were all about to face the Curse of the Rust Belt Hotrods.
Perhaps we should have known that the Universe would find a way to make us pay for our seemingly commonsensical approach to this particular show. Marcus (of Barbarbar and Clam, both also playing the gig) had offered us the use of his set. For once, we decided to do the reasonable thing and share. For percussion, we only brought cymbals, cymbal stands, foot pedal and snare–a kind of bare minimum for a drummer who’s got a particular sound. (Mark and I share a veteran Mapex Orion drum set for gig duties. It’s technically mine, so it lives here at Hotrod Central–which means I’m typically the gear-schlep for drums, guitar, and any PA equipment.)
Amie and I packed up the band gear and blithely trundled over to the Monroe/Park Vineyard Community Space on South Clinton, slowing only to merrily curse out the perpetrators of three varieties of traffic idiocy. We met Mark outside the door. Alex Bogs (of Bogs’ Visionary Orchestra fame was performing a quiet little set inside.
It’s a small venue. The occasion was an art opening–various members of an artists’ group based in the Space were displaying their work. Needless to say, this affected the nature of the gig. Alex’s portion was quiet. Load-in of gear is anything but quiet. Alex’s music is art. This was an art opening. Not wanting to be disruptive, we held off ’till he was finished.
This explains why it wasn’t until mere minutes before our turn to play that we noticed the first deal-breaker of the night: I had neglected to bring the distinguished and venerable Doctor Wu. (For those of you who don’t know, the good Doctor is a 22″ Wuhan China cymbal whose fate has been entwined with mine for a couple of decades now.) Without Doctor Wu, the drums will just not be right. So Amie ran back to Hotrod Central to fetch The Doctor. Barbarbar generously offered to switch spots with us, so the event timing was not interrupted.
Everything was still under control. It was all good. We placidly set up our gear, luxuriating in the billows of time presented to us. And about 30 seconds before Amie returned, I realized that I had neglected to bring a second crucial piece of gear: the power supply for my effects rig. Without Doctor Wu, there are no drums. But without the guitar effects, there’s no gig. Because we would then have no music. A rock band without a guitar is… well, a rock band without a guitar is Clam. But that’s another story. Our rock band without a guitar is a rhythm section only. That’s a non-starter.
There was just no way Amie was going to make a second trip. It was time for me to man up and jog–through sweat-laden night air–to the local 7-11 for extortionately priced batteries. 10 minutes and $20 later, my pedals were powered. And Mark, clever guy that he is, had already tuned my guitar.
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. As we started to play, the input jack on my tuner went squirrely. I accidentally hooked a pedal up backwards–and of course at the same moment the pedal it was plugged into decided to go intermittent, which made the problem even tougher to sort out. Eventually, we somehow got the set off to a rocking start.
Then I dropped my pick. Of course, I was ready for this: I had four picks taped to the mic stand in front of me. I calmly reached up and grabbed another. And the picks–all of them–came off in my hand. With the tape still holding them together. I managed to get one of them loose with my teeth. There was a ball of tape stuck to its business end, so I flipped it around backwards and played that way. My remaining backup picks were scattered to the four winds. Fortunately, I was completely bathed in sweat before we even started playing. So the big ol’ strip of tape that got stuck to my face during this operation didn’t stay there too long.
It gets like this, sometimes. And the only way out is to roll right on through. We did. And the audience rolled right along with us.
Proving that Rochester is the coolest city in the world, our cover of Joy Division’s No Love Lost set people dancing. That’s right: here in Rochester, the music of Joy Division makes us dance. And people kept dancing–through Poison Mind (where I almost passed out from lack of electrolytes), through our newest number, New Zealand (which came off without a hitch), and to the end of Burn it Down (where the floor tom fell over on top of Mark). It was beautiful: the best audience ever, in the coolest city in the world, supplying the energy needed to transform the dark matter of a sputtering gig into fissionable material.
That fission continued through Clam’s anarchic, guitar-less punk rock set (hold the phone! these guys are awesome). I’m sure it continued through Battling Skeksis’ set, which I completely missed because I suck (and also because I really was going to pass out if I didn’t find food). And it was still going strong when we had to duck out during the second half of Kohler’s set.
I think this was the most fun I’ve ever had at a gig. I say this without exaggeration–and with 20+ years at the musical grindstone in my hip pocket. It was an absolute riot.
This was thee first time I’ve really seen daylight since everything went to sh*t about a year and a half back. It was our first actual gig in 17 months (Christmas party excluded). It was a complete catastrophe, and an overwhelming success. I’m still exhausted. And let me tell you, it feels good to be back.
We’re gonna do it again, at the Firehouse Saloon this Saturday. 21 & over. $5.00 cover. Hope to see you there.