It's Christmas Time in the City.
Ding a ling.
Ning Ning Ning.
No, the Luna Lounge would never do something as hippie as having a Winter Solstace show. Then I thought I saw a small photo of Frank Zappa on the wall, which turned out to be Joey Ramone, and I thought, no way would the Luna have Frank Zappa on their wall. But Frank Zappa hated hippies, why do hippies love him? Is this what breeded the new "Mean Hippie" type, you know the ones. Oh, it's ugly. Why did the Monkees and Frank Zappa love each other so much? Why didn't the Velvet Underground and Warhol love the Monkees? They were plastic etc. And The Velvets hated Zappa and hippies. And the hippies hated the Monkees. Oh, it's ugly.
We took my new car, the '97 Mercury Tracer, equipped with oh so much. Comfort, convenience, a smooth ride, sounds good. We got a parking spot right outside the club. This means lots of people escaped NYC for the holiday. This means we are not their mother. Ken couldn't make it tonight, as another band (King Radio) was playing the Baystate. Gotta let that Baystate booking guy know when we need Ken.
So, the 4 of us, amps and hardware. Listened to The Beatles, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Monkees and Pete Townshend. Stopped at McDonalds, and I got a crispy chicken sandwich. Ning got a McNugget meal. Lord Russ got McCappucino. Joe got nothing. It took like 15 minutes.
We heard "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins on the radio. When it came on, I informed the guys that while he recorded the vocals for this song, he was doing something with a giraffe. I just can't bring myself to type what that something was. But it made listening to the song 100x better. And it will for you, too.
At the show, well, we met the opening band, Awek, and I stayed and listened to their soundcheck. During their set, Joe, Ning and I watched them on the TV in the bar. I thought they sounded like Built To Spill meets Portastatic. Local boys, I assumed, from the accents. They did well, and had a lot of friends.
Our set: OH!! Do I love a good drum monitor. I play 50 times better when I have one. It's like I said to Ning, you don't look in the mirror, you don't care what you sound like. You have a mirror in front of you, you're gonna fix yourself up all spiffy. I felt very in command, and played with a consistent energy throughout. It's easy when you have a nice even 45 minutes. Also, it was great to see that there were people digging it, because I thought it'd be just ex-Northamptonite Vanessa there.
SHAME: Joe's amp blew out 3 songs to the end. SILVER LINING: At least it was towards the end. AND the sound it was making actually fit quite well into "Beggars in LA". I was watching it all happen, Russ and Ning just thought Joe was getting all experimental on our ass ass . The way home: I was filled with energy, while Russ and Joe were drowsy from their bagels. So I stayed up front and stayed up and talked to Ning the whole time. We also heard a mutual "Most Hated Song". And got back to Noho at 2:30. Nice.
Addendum: (Extra items to consider) At McDonalds, we spotted a man I thought was Eddie Money, then John Cafferty. Joe said, "That's not John Cafferty, I played a couple gigs with him and The Beavs." The Beavs. On the way home, we heard "On the Dark Side", but Joe was sleeping. At the Luna, they were blasting The Strokes. Seemed a bit predictable. But then we heard "Denise" by The Fountains of Wayne. Who, by the way, are recording a new album.
HENNING: As brian was driving me to Andover yesterday for Christmas with my family, we agreed that we didn't have too much to say about our show there at the Luna. It is now 9:46 PM on December 25th and Brian dropped me off here at home. I cleaned my room a little, put on Lou Reed's "Transformer" and sat down to write this gig diary entry and I still have nothing much to say about the gig.
Christmas was pretty good. There were some little ones running around. There was some good food. There was cheer.
I had made a cd for my brothers of 150 of my top songs of all time. The songs are in MP3 format. It was a fun project. That's really not a lot of songs when you come down to it. I wonder how many songs I know? How many do you know?
On the way home Brian and I listened to a tape of him when he was just a tiny kid. He was singing Neil Diamond hits. It was sooo excellent! Look for it at your local Media Play (It'll be in the section called "recordings that we don't have".)
When we were in New York, I took a little walk on my own after we loaded in. I didn't see too much exciting. I saw a Cyclub poster that was entirely in Japanese. I went into a little store that sold fountains and what-not, I looked around in a small grocery. New York. Winter.
What's on your top 150 songs of all time? Send us your list? Maybe I'll post them.
BRIAN: Hey! I think I've discovered my favorite venue in Boston! It's kind of like Chuck E. Cheese's hip brother, who no longer attends Cheese family functions. As well he shouldn't. But he still has that Cheese family need for fun, games and pizza in his blood. Well, then, let's backtrack. (Hey, did you see Ning put the surprise party pictures up in the last entry?)
Yes, it has snowed once this December, but rain and 40+ degree weather has melted it all, so rejoice for now. On this day it was raining all day, but was not so cold. I did a bit of Xmas shopping. The house had been very quiet the last 24 hours because Lord Russ was out of town. Why? Well, boys and girls, you just may hear our Russy's voice next time you play a home computer game. Russ and Ning went to high school with a guy named Ian who, among other things, designs video game software in Lawrence, MA. He asked Lord Russ to come and do voice-overs for a new one. We'll let you know when it's out. Well, done, Mr. Lord Russ. Yes, yes, well done inDEED!
And Ken was already in Boston eating seafood with friends. Or something like that. So, 2 of us were already in the area. The rest, of us, well: Joe, Ning and ManagerDon came to my house and we packed up and lit out for parts East. In my kitchen, Don told me of his days as a landlord. I drove Joe, Ning drove Don. I borrowed Andrea's CD player. Joe and I listened to Nick Drake and The Clientele. We talked about random shit. Joe had 2 packets of peanuts: salted, and honey roasted, and wondered which to eat first. I said, well, if you're gonna have peanuts for dinner and dessert, the protocol is: salty then sweet. Wouldn't you agree? I think that's what he did. Salty to Boston, Honey back to Noho. Honey Back to Noho: that's gonna be my folk song about a striking train engineer during the 40's.
After a nearly missed turn, and a really missed turn, we got to JP unharmed and in time. We met Rick Berlin. He fronts the Shelley Winters Project, a new-ish, already legendary Boston band. Rick himself is a legend. See his website; he's been rocking since before most of us were born. And for someone with his experience, it's amazing, the love he still has for it all. He has, what Lord Russ would call, "steadfast resolve". He radiates fun and heart. Go to this link and prepare to have your mind blown: http://www.rickberlin.com/awful.html
I admit to having not heard any of Rick's work from the last 30 years (though I probably totally have, while listening to WBCN and WFNX obsessively in the late 80's early 90's--I definitely remember some of those band names), so I can only describe The Shelley Winters Project: 5 piece, with Rick up front on lead vocal and keyboard. Also there was a violinist, drummer (Nigel, who let me use his kit-thanks!!), bassist, and guitar/trombonist. Rick is a pop craftsman and a snappy dresser. He was wearing a bright red smoking jacket, and was drinking things with little umbrellas in them. He smiled at all the members of his band often and equally, almost like the hippest middle school band teacher you'll ever have. He was the Elton John you could call your friend. The whole band exuded a warmth and friendliness.
But stuff happened before all that: like, we had pizza (peppers, onion and mushroom), there was a flamenco dancer, there was a guy who sang in French, and, the Milky Way has bowling lanes!! It's great! Also, I spoke with Darren Ray, who I know from my Butterfield daze at UMass. He was in Synaethesia. Darren was bartending. His brother BJ also works there and was talking with Don for a while. Other members of that band work there too. Brought back lots of holes in my memory. 1992-3.
There were a lot of hip looking folks at the show, and we were very glad they didn't leave before we started. In fact, from song one we had people up and dancing. There was a kid who looked a lot like Andy Dick who was dancing with cute girls. Oh, we'd like to thank Glenn Severance and Helene for hooking us up w/ this show. And Rick for being open-minded enough (and if Rick isn't open minded, who is?) for taking us on. Plans for a rematch were being made when we were leaving, and so hopefully that'll happen. Rick showed us, in a caravan of cars, back out of the maze that is JP.
The way home, I drove Russ and Joe. We listened to The Cure. Joe told me of his 2 months touring/recording in France back in '91. Sounded SWEET!!
HENNING: “Where are you going? The Milky Way?” asked the woman behind the counter of the liquor store. I was in there asking directions, ManagerDon was out in the car, doing whatever it is he does with his time.
“Yes, the Milky Way.” I replied.
“What’s going on there tonight?”
“My band is playing.” I answered.
“YOU are playing?!?!? Wow, what kind of music?!?!”
“Rock and Roll.”
And so it was. We sped away, keeping an eye out for the “oval bridge” which meant we had gone too far. Rainy and dark.
The Milky Way is down there under the wet streets. An underground funhouse of Clockwork Orange proportions. There are cool lights everywhere but it’s still very dark. A lithe man in a long red robe glides over the floor from patron to patron smiling a Birthday-sized smile, a patriarch attending to all his guests – his extended family. A pizza arrived with fresh vegetables and wet crust. A set list was made with fresh songs and wet ink. I huddled in a corner and watched this enigmatic performance by The Shelley Winters Project. The Crash Test Dummies, Smiths, They Might Be Giants, and the house band at Moulin Rouge intertwined, comfortable, and grinning. The song Christmas Face stands out. A beautiful one, that, lovingly arranged and delightfully performed. There were tongues and cheeks but they weren’t necessarily concerned with which was where and what they were doing. A lone spot light on the floor gave life to a spinning disco ball in front of the stage. The windows to the dark bowling lanes gave me the sensation of being in a fish tank, where the ceiling and floor are not important and the subtle lighting of a major-city-aquarium denies the existence of an outside world.
It was a weekend of multi-cultural dancing. Tonight there was Flamenco, the next night Salsa. For me dancing is a mystery so it’s a good time seeing people do it. It’s one of my favorite things about being in The Aloha Steamtrain, actually.
On the way home, Ken, Don, and I stopped at the brand new rest-area on the Masspike. It was a Disney World of greasy comestibles. We listened to Julie Cruise and Beck and ate French fries and pies while the car took us over the hills and through the woods.
BRIAN: Ning likes how I'm very non discriminate when it comes to punctuation. Dashes, semi colons, and yes, one should expect more from an English major. But, most of my U Mass instructors liked my creative, interchangeable use of them. I'm having to tear myself away from the Rolling Stone commemorative George Harrison edition. Russ got it for me for my birthday, along with a gift certificate for a haircut. Just you wait, I'm gonna make the world wish he didn't give me that. Ning got a haircut. Anyway, after spending the last 2 hours reading the magazine, I kind of feel George's presence in the room. It's nice. He's petting my cat Marianne.
So, yes. Live album. Who here owns Live Bullet by Bob Seger? I don't. Frampton Comes Alive? I don't. Cheap Trick at Buddokon? I don't. Probably never will. I do own Get Your Ya Ya's Out (Stones) and Live at Leeds (The Who). But my favorite live albums are XTC in London, 1980 and KISS ALIVE 2. And soon, "Chuggs the Mole, Chuggs the Train" by the Aloha Steamtrain.
This night was a bit like an old train, getting a slow, coughing start, and ending by crashing, at 300 miles an hour, to a fiery, glorious death. But we didn't die. We only got invited to a party by Natalie and Ulla, winners of the 2001 Miss Brattleboro contest. They would "cry desperately" if I didn't show up. This is what they told me. I didn't show up. Always leave them wanting more.
I must explain. After a 3 set show, I have given just about all I can mentally and physically give. I try hard to have nothing left beyond the energy to pack up and split. It's not very rock star of me, I'm sorry. So either we stop playing 3 set shows or I don't go to parties hosted by VT's finest. I'd be staring blankly, lifeless at these parties.
Bruce Tull, fresh off performing at Lo Fine's CD release show the night before (couldn't make it, sorry) was doing sound and assisting the amazing Dan Richardson, who was recording the show on his digital 24 track thingy. Joe missed the first set, due to a prior commitment, but arrived for the power-packed second and third sets. Perhaps the third set was best, at least for me. There is a strangeness of recording a live album. It must be like doing a porn movie. You're doing something so free and spontaneous and enjoyable, yet somehow there's a concept of doing it "right". By the third set, I completely stopped caring that it was being recorded, and started just staring at the flashing lights on Dan's recorder, and at the dancers. It was a great, great, fun crowd.
Nelina and Miriam Steamhead came from 2 states away. A guy kept calling for La Bamba. He dug us anyway, and was fun to watch. During "My Life" there was a guy who reminded me of my Dad dancing like my Dad would dance. Then I saw him accidentally bump heads with another guy dancing. Let's hope he's OK. There was another mishap on the dance floor, which I didn't see happen. All I saw was spilled beer and much shattered glass, and 3 people cleaning it up hurriedly.
What else can I say? A great night. Let's hope the live album happens--it's be kind of cool, no? We're bringing back the Live Album!! It's a concept which was huge in the 60's-80's, but now people could care less, unless you're a jam band, because so much crap is sequenced and prerecorded. We're all gonna put out stand-up comedy records next.
HENNING: My car (The Blue Turnip) was sad today and refused to go out. Luckily, Ken (The busiest man in the world) offered to drive. And drive he did. We spoke of important things and followed a blue pick-up truck all the way to the Mole’s Eye parking lot. (Could be that that parking lot is a dream…ask M.) The Pick-up Truck had nothing to do with anything. It just happened to be going the same way as us. Or did it?
Inside the warmth of the Mole’s Eye, Dan and Bruce were in a bustle. I immediately started setting up our lights. There was a Christmas tree in the corner and that plus all of our new bits made for a very festive glow. Wee, I love a light.
The end of Happiness Waits and Beggars were high points for me tonight. I can’t wait to hear the recordings.
It was a real treat to see some Steamheads way up north, and the Mole’s Eye was eventually stuffed full of good people, three of them celebrating birthdays. Happy Birthday, Three. And it was at a birthday party that Russ, Bruce, and I found ourselves. And what a party.
A huge minimilistic room lit by candles and green spotlights - contrasting the stark black-and-white of Dr. Strangelove glaring out silently from a large screened HDTV. The windows were open to the shiny city streets and the dark rushing river. A lone lit tree looming high, high above on a mountain that is nearly as tall as it was.
I slumped in a sofa – exhausted from our show and watched the most lovely salsa dancing. Two guys there were teaching all of the ladies and they learned instantly. It was such a wonderful, comfortable place to be. I spoke at ease with many a wonderful person. Learned some amazing ping-pong facts about Ulla, listened to and somehow understood a Spanish conversation about freedom tattoos, delighted in watching Bruce tear up the dance floor, and filmed a little bit with my camcorder feeling like I somehow had to try and capture the mood of the evening. We left reluctantly at 3 or 3:30 and I felt like I was leaving a movie theater, except I had been sitting in the screen. We all need more nights like this one.
BRIAN: As I write this, I am recovering from a strange bout of stomach flu/fever/migraine which came upon me late this morning. And Russ and Ning are in Manchester, CT, playing an acoustic duo show at the Equator, opening for some Dave Matthew's Band member's side project. I'll let Ning tell you everything.
I've been in bed all day. It's 8pm, and I just ate for the first time. In any case, I usually don't usually talk about illnesses, but when one misses one's first ever show in a 14 year career of performing, one feels the need to explain. I've played with fevers, strep throat, flu, but this renedered me unwilling, unable. I'm sorry.
But let's backtrack 24 hours, when I was fine, and celebrating MY BIRTHDAY. I got home from a long day and Andrea wished me a happy birthday, and totally succeeded in bumming me out with her lack of enthusiasm and lack of wanting to do anything to celebrate. All we had planned was hot tubs (you get a free hot tub on your birthday at East Heaven) So I said "I'm taking a nap" and lied there, feeling old and sorry. I gathered some pride, and said, "No, let's go out and eat, and I'm getting dressed up, I don't care what you say. And then I'm gonna call people to meet us at a bar later on". Andrea went along with my plan, and a few times apologized for being such a bad girlfriend and explained she'd been too wrapped up in other things to get any plans together. I could understand, I've blown off people's birthdays for the same reason. It's karma, I thought.
After dinner, there was hot tubs and free ice cream (two places give you a free ice cream on your birthday, and I was determined to hit both of them, one for me and the extra for Andrea). I'd mentioned weeks back how for 10 years I've wanted a banana cream pie on my birthday, and no one's ever come through. Andrea apologized for forgetting about that too. Fine, I was cool with free ice cream, and some drinks at the bar, if anyone bothered to show up.
We came home, the lights were out, which was weird. "Russ and Amanda must not be home", Andrea said. I said, "Whatever. Let's get down to business", meaning, let's eat our awesome ice cream. I turned on the kitchen light, and was about to go to the other room to check email/voicemail. But I didn't get that far. "SURPRISE!!" And, oh my god, was I genuinely surprised, and moved. So many people! This had all been orchestrated by Andrea. My first ever surprise party. There was banana cream pie, lots of beer, Russ put on "Rio" by Michael Nesmith, and I got lots of presents! I was pretty darn dumbfounded. I even got 3 phone calls: my mom, Chris from California (whose wedding we're playing at next spring) and Matthew Zapruder. I felt like I'd won the Super Bowl.
My presents included records and CDs (The Remains from Amanda, Scott Walker--and Wendy's gift certificates--from Ken, SOLEX from Waugh, a couple of "fantasy CDs" from Tony Westcott (The Beatles '73, for example--the best of their 1973 solo stuff, compiled like a real Beatles album), a compilation of The Beatles Christmas recordings and some wine (Philip+Debbie), a book by Greil Marcus (Thane), Newbury Comics certificates (Dave+Kelsea), a crazy framed photo (Ning). I think that may cover it, and there were other guest stars too: Trace, Greenberg and oh, man, it was intense. How did I get to feeling so bad the next day? I thought it was hangover, but I took it pretty easy at the party. No idea. I'm beginning to see the light now, though. I want some banana cream pie.
HENNING: I'm glad you had a good birthday, my brother, it was a fun time for the folks involved waiting in the dark room, getting excited by any approaching headlights and what. Let me now fill you in on what you missed while you were an invalid.
Russ and I began our adventure at Guitar Center in Manchester, CT. They have an incredible deal on microphones which I just happen to need for my new super-cool studio. Guitar Center was a journey through time. The place is enormous and confusing and an assault on all the senses. When I was in high-school I used to occasionally go to Daddy's Junky Music Store in Salem, NH (This is back when there were only two Daddys' around.) I used to go and look at the stuff that I would never own and shudder at the nonstop attack of heavy metal solos screeching from the guitar section. Well, I swear those same weird-ass-long-haired-freaks are hanging out at Guitar Center now. They haven't aged. They haven't changed clothes. And they are still playing the same Randi Rhodes licks over and over again. There were five kids each soloing as loud as possible to different songs in different keys all at the same time. The store was filled with the sound of high-hopes and lonely teens. It was 20% delightful and 80% inconceivable.
Russ and I arrived at The Equator just in time to find Al coming out of the front door. There is nobody else out there quite like Al (Owner of the club). He told us a few stories about some lowbrow bands that have played in his club. We eventually went in and had a beverage (Russ-Spring Water, Me-Snapple).
We took the stage, just the two of us, and nobody counted in the first song....uh oh..maybe this is going to be harder than it seems.
But it was fine. We did a nice almost hour long set, cracked a few jokes, sang a few ditties. You know the score. It was a good time.
After us was the semi-famous guy that everybody was all excited about. He played a crazy-ass instrument Stanley Jordan style. It was like a huge 10 string whatnot. He started with a Beatles tribute acknowledging our sound and then apologized to us that he didn't know any XTC. Pretty observant guy, if you ask me. We didn't play any or mention anything about XTC but he still picked up on an influence there - and that was WITHOUT Bri. Cool.
Then we drove home and everybody lived happily ever after. The end...go to bed.
(George Harrison, we'll miss you greatly. Stay tuned, readers, for a tribute)
BRIAN: This was a concert set up by Miriam of the Steamheads Local Chapter 881. It was funded by the Drug-Free Student Alliance. Yes. Ok, audience, settle down now, or the show won't go on. In any case, we were very excited to play at the college, and had no idea what kind of crowd to expect. But let's backtrack.
We were gonna do the show as a trio, but Ken realized he could take time out from his tour with New Radiant Storm King to play this show. We rode down in a 3 car caravan. The Sable is no longer, welcome the era of the Tracer. My new car, Ning's car and Bruce's car pretty much kept together all the way down. Amazing. Ken and I listened to Of Montreal and discussed my impending solo album. Yes. My upcoming solo album. Look for it next spring/summer. George Harrison once said "ANYBODY can write a song, really". See? (That's not the tribute. Keep reading.)
It was incredibly warm, we all noted, when we finally found where to park and set about loading in. 60 degrees at 7:30 pm on Nov 30 in New England. And it's snowing in Oklahoma. It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong.
Utilizing the help of the Steamheads, elevators, dollies, pulleys, bossies, weights and measures, checks and balances we all successfully arrives in room 378 of the Student Union. Bruce, Ning and I ate pizza from Papa Ginos downstairs (thanks, Miriam!) and Ken got something from the fries place.
We began at 9:15 and there was a good crowd. Hmm, no smoke in the air, no free beer, and young, fresh faces in the audience. Wow! It filled me with an incredible energy. An innocence, like I was playing the Red Barn in North Andover. I maintained an energy and focus throughout the 2 sets. Kind of groovy for a change. We played 2- 50 minute sets, which featured lots of skits, bits and lovely rock. We played Happy Birthday to Miriam, did parts of new songs and Russ shook lots of booty. We remembered George with "All Things Must Pass". There was a big dry-erase board that we assigned Ken to write the set list on. Oh, yes. Fun, noise, college.
We were invited to a party afterwards and Nelina and Coreen's. I spent most of it playing with a kitten. A guy talked to me and said "Good show, but you guys should jam more. Don't play so many songs. I don't like songs. I like when bands prove that they can really play. You guys should do that instead of playing so many songs." Settle down people. I know. I know.
Lovely party, I had a delicious Madras (I think--orange vodka and cranberry juice?). Just one, then Ken and I hit the road, with Russ and Ning not far behind.
BRIAN: GEORGE HARRISON: How can I not write a tribute? Friday was a warm, but otherwise dark, dismal rainy day, and I was greeted by the inevitable news. The lines he wrote in All Things Must Pass, which had given me guidance in the past, now meant even more, had more immediacy: "It's not always gonna be this gray. All things must pass".
Up in heaven, John Lennon must be thrilled at the new arrival. Down here, it's going to take some getting used to: one less Beatle breathing the same air as we are. One more immortal god, one less member of the living legend club.
The Steamtrain paid tribute to him by playing "All Things Must Pass". Since I've lived with Russ, my intake of George Harrison has doubled. He's prone to long phases of listening to solo 70's George. Ain't no shame in it.
WAMH paid tribute by playing, in chronological order, many George songs. Andrea and I danced in our kitchen to the last few songs. For You Blue, Something, What is Life, All Things Must Pass. This is when it hit me, and I definitely choked up a bit. I got myself together and we went out for a walk in the sunny, warm day afterwards, and it was not nearly as gray as it been. If anyone is going to be welcome in the next world, it will be the ultra-cosmic philosopher George. What follows is what his name brings to mind:
--the most low key, least show-biz Beatle. The one who could give a shit whether you idolized him or not. He preached love, but never cried "Love Me!!". For that, he may have been the least understood.
--Radiated the most coolness in all the Beatle movies. Dancing, flirting and being a charming wise-ass in Hard Day's Night. My sister and I used to love saying his lines "That's not your grandfather..I've seen your grandfather, he lives in your house!".
--Looking totally cool and singing "I Need You" in Help!. Telling the annoying Paul where to stick it, in George's gentle, biting way, in Let It Be. And his lime green pants on the roof concert.
--Maintained the most level head, and healthiest sense of humor of the Beatles. He was the only one to participate in Saturday Night Live's attempted Beatle Reunion gag. And he took part in the Rutles, and later incorporated parts of the (Monty Python) Rutles' story in with the Beatles'. Example: "Before the Beatles met Elvis, we had a couple of cups of tea in the limo to calm our nerves". Translation, they got high.
--Watch the Anthology series and/or It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, and George's interview personality is magnetic. He's alternately wise man and comedian, and very quotable.
--Post Beatles highlights: Blow Away, Give Me Love, Crackerbox Palace, You, This Is Love, Handle With Care, most of sides 1-4 of All Things Must Pass: unaffected expressions of pure light and joy.
--So many times throughout my life I just could not help myself saying "George is so fuckin' cool!" So, perhaps tonight, you can have a cup of tea, or "a cup of tea", or some Preludin washed down with a Scotch and Coke and a Marlboro Red, or visit the Frenchman and do some wife swapping, all the while listening to "Long Long Long", "Blue Jay Way", "I Want To Tell You", "It's All Too Much", "If I Needed Someone", "The Inner Light" and Anthology 3's demo versions of "Something" and "All Things Must Pass". Say a few "Om"s, and several "Hare Krishna"s. Shed a tear or two, and thank the heavens for giving us George Harrison. WE LOVE YOU, GEORGE.
HENNING: Later that night I had a dream. I was sitting in a restaurant booth (I prefer the booths) with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. George harrison and John Lennon were with us, too, but were not at the table at the moment. A guitar was being passed around. It skipped me (thank god! I had yet to think of an appropriate song to impress them all - these heroes of mine) and went to Art who started to play Bridge Over Troubled Water. Art played the guitar and Paul sang - and it was the most beautiful thing and I couldn't believe it was happening. But it was.
The Steamheads as always were most gracious and kind and cute. The room was dark and lit like a high school church dance. I spilled water everywhere after Bruce threw a bottle to me and it smashed into my stomach.
Ken played the Alf theme.
I sang some Talking Heads.
BRIAN: Could this be it? Our last ever Baystate show? It's been sold, you know, and will be a restaurant and condos by January 2002. We may be able to play our New Year's Eve show there, but don't count on it. We'll keep you up to date. Oh well. If this was the last one, it was a good one.
Where to start. The previous night I'd seen adopted "hometown heroes" Sonic Youth at the Calvin Theater, with native hometown hero J Mascis open. Ah, gee. Talkin' about my generation. We're all getting old. But SY played some extremely great minimalist noise jam pop. Take that description, critics.
Before this show, I pleased myself immensely by making myself a Monte Cristo sandwich. Oh, yum. Lord Russ helped me with some of the finer points, so he gets a shout out, yo. Props to my homey LR. I then read a DH Lawrence short story.
At the Baystate we were greeted by a woman who wanted to buy a Girl Planet. So Ning called headquarters and arranged for her to procure one. The plot thickens.
I had a new cymbal stand bag which I was psyched about. $20 at the Army Surplus. I credit Joe Boyle for finally convincing me to do it. Actually, all he said was "you really should get a bag for those stands". Many have told me before, but coming from Joe, it all made sense. I really hope he never tells me to commit murder. I also had new top and bottom heads for my snare drum to put on, so this kept me busy most of the next half hour.
Meanwhile, Cyclub was setting up equipment and merch. Ning had an awesome loop of light to put around my bass drum. As well as lots of other colorful lights. Created a funhouse atmosphere, compounded by the music that was blasting: Dukes Of Stratosphere. Every Steamtrain fan would absolutely adore The Dukes. Seek it out. It's in some ways the best thing XTC has done.
I ventured into the bar to get a beer, and had some nice conversation. One woman told me how much she loved the Gig Diary. And Zip Cody told me he drew me and titled it after a song on the first Status Quo album--an album which plays a big part in me and Russ' history. He had no idea.
I watched most of Cyclub, who are just freakin' great. Junko rocks like no one. She feels it, she lives it, she means it. And the rest of the band is great too. I'd love to see them achieve some greater success. "This is better than Sonic Youth", said my friend Matt Waugh. In some ways he was right. It injected me right up with punk energy. Loved it.
I was very proud to be wearing my brand new shirt from Roz's Place. It was our turn. We had no Ken tonight. We had a 14 song setlist, which included one long lost cover: "Rain" by the Beatles. We decided to come out of "Beggars" with that. The Beggars jam, for me, was influenced a bit by the Sonic Youth show. It's always had that feel, but I usually felt more Nick Mason than Steve Shelley. The show ended up with 2 more long lost covers, both actual requests: "I'll Be Your Mirror" (Velvet Underground) and "White Rabbit", our Gypsy Punk version, which we literally haven't done in 3 years, and which was invented by Russ and his pal Mark back in the 80's in Andover. That actually was very cool. Folks dug it.
We kept the tradition of not stopping between songs, of keeping the groove going. Most of the time. Well, god damn, what else? Oh, more role playing by Russ and Henning. Russ was the Turtle from Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and Ning was a curious onlooker, asking him questions. "Mr. Turtle, why do you.."
A raucous "Juices" and it was over. Perhaps forever. I was told that I was "The Richard Simmons of Northampton", because my drums are so danceable. Um, I'll take the drumming dancing part, I'll graciously decline the Richard Simmons part. And Ning, don't bring up that photo from last New Year's.
HENNING: Was this really our penultimate Baystate Show? Is that possible? Do things REALLY change? Is time actually moving us? I'm not so sure. Today seems and awful lot like yesterday and I'm sure tomorrow will, too.
I cleaned my room. It's something I sometimes do. It takes a really really long time because I am what some people call a Pack-Rat. My room is crowded and overflowing with little projects. Whilst cleaning this time, I found a white plastic tube and a string of colored lights. I tied an ordinary thread to one end of the lights. Then I tied a pen, for weight, to the other end of the thread. I dropped the pen into the tube thus pulling the thread all the way through. I could now pull the lights through the tube. Success. I connected the two open ends of the tube together with the power cord sticking out creating a ring of lights the same exact diameter as Brian's kick drum. Viola! A new stage thingy.
Look for it at a show near you.
To continue Brian's plot thickening mystery about our Girl Planet CD...at the end of the show, Don had brung two Girl Planets with him (our last two) and I placed them on the little shelf thingy just inches away from where I was standing talking to a few folks after the show. After a couple of minutes, I turned around and there was only one cd there. Somehow, someone had snuck by me and horked one of the cds. Now, I am well aware that people steal our cds off and on at shows, and my take on it is..if you want one of our cds enough to risk the embarrassment of getting caught stealing from a struggling band then power to you. But, this time, I just could not figure out how it was done. It still haunts me...I was standing RIGHT there...
I'm Sorry, somehow the photos have vanished. Thank god for Zip Cody and his fancy drawrings.
BRIAN: We have a circuit. You may have noticed that by now. A ring of venues we are continually invited back to play. It's nice. The Mole's Eye is one of these places.
There was no Ken at this gig, so we were the 4 piece, and we took 2 cars. Russ and I were delayed a bit when dumb-ass me took 91 south. There's no turning around for 10 miles in that situation. Ooh, did I hate myself for those 10 miles. But then we put on the oldies station and talked about recording an album with that spooky, reverby sound that early 60's records had.
I was worried I wouldn't have time to eat at the Mole's Eye, but orders were being taken the moment I walked in there. "Chicken Burrito!" I bellowed. We brought in our stuff, and I realized I coulda gotten the salmon burger, a special for the night. Ning said "that's what I got" and I became jealous. Wow. Rage and jealousy and the show hadn't even started. The food came, and I realized I loved that chicken burrito more than anything else in this terrible world. I looked at Ning's violated sea creature, shaped into a patty, between a bun and laughed. I was fit now for a stay at Brattleboro Retreat. Speaking of which, I think we encountered one of its escapees during our first break. A large woman with a smoker's laugh said Ning looked like John Sebastian (why don't you sing us "Welcome Bach Sebastian", said she) and Russ looked like Beck. She said her name was Matilda and sang us a country song. She said she'd been up for 2 days and 2 nights. Someone she knew walked by and called her Robin. This made Ning theorize that it was Robin Williams, because her hyperactive, semi-sensical shtick was definitely Robin Williams-esque.
At times during this semi-attended show, it felt like we were playing a party for divorcees. I think we may have even witnessed a love connection or two. I was given an awesome, awesome gift by our fan and friend Jessica. BUBBLE MONKEY SOAP!! Made in Pittsfield, made to look like it was made in Japan, with poor grammar written all over the packaging: "Focus the nostrils to monkey fun holes for pleased flavor flaring" "Yes, you are so shiny. Clean underpants welcome you" "When the fish say hello, it's time to have the best. THE BEST". Making fun of those not native to the USA? Perhaps. Perhaps I should feel guilty that I'm laughing. But there are many native to the USA, with college education who barely have a grip on English. Knowumsayin'?
Hmm, was there music played this evening? Well, yeah. The last set was the best. Finally the big dance party started, and we developed a new thing, which is part Dead, part Stars on 45. Bridging all the songs with either a beat, bassline, guitar riff or any combo, so that the dancing is not allowed to stop. Also, less drinking gets done by the band, so that's good.
What else? Dr. Loren Landis was there with a foxy lady. Ulla said she'd come to the Baystate show and bring people. A man mentioned booking us some national shows. And a line of 6 girls formed to kiss Lord Russ on the lips. I didn't see it, just heard about it.
HENNING: I didn't even hear about it. I'm out of the loop. Loop de loop. Loop-de-freakin'-loop. Loop.
My doctor told me I should eat more fish. He doesn't know how many fish I eat. Maybe I eat 19 a day. He doesn't know. But, he says I should eat more of them. I don't know how the fish feel about it but my guess would be it makes them nervous. Nervous and shiny. So, I ordered the salmon burger special. It was good. Strange but good.
Now, I'm listening to Lloyd Cole's Don't Get Weird On Me, Babe. It's a day off for the veterans' sake. I just went through editing all the pictures for this gig diary. Sometimes, I take a picture and later when I load them into the computer, the picture is no longer there. This happened with the sweet group photo that I took after our show. Too bad. If anyone wants to buy me a better life please feel free.
Two dead deer on the way home made me nervous of things running out on the road. Brian's headlights are brutal in the rear view mirror. No wonder people always try to run us off the road when we're in the Sable.
Last night I saw Jane Siberry with Ken, El Bezo, Emily and Rebecca. Great show. Heart-breaking.
I can't wait. I just can't wait.
BRIAN: The Luna Lounge is my favorite of all clubs I can remember playing in NYC. We had a particularly wild ride to NYC that would make Mr. Toad go have tea at the Tiki Room. We rented a van that became smaller somewhere between the reservation and the acquisition. And we had 6 folks going: the full 5 piece and manager Don. On the way there, I sat in the way back, which was good in that a) if I wanted to, I could tune everything out and b) if I had something to say, I had to yell it to be heard by everyone.
We did some fun 4-part harmony things, which Ken said he did on his way to NYC the previous week. He played in front of 700 people at the Bowery Ballroom. He plays drums for TW Walsh.
We played nothing on the CD player for the first 2 hours. There was just your basic story telling, skits, and imitations. We stopped at the regular McDonalds. McShaker Chefs Salad, me. My compliments to the chef, who Ning informed me was named A3205567D.
After McDonalds, the ride got wilder. Russ got promoted to a middle seat (I was the only one who stayed in the way back both ways, I had the sore neck and legs to prove it. Bastards.) Anyway, Henning joined me in the way back, and for about 30 minutes I was teaching him how to do a certain voice I do. Russ joined in, and it became madness. "You guys are UNHINGED!", exclaimed Ken.
The combo of McDonalds and Don's driving brought us all to the limits of car sickness. Ken had a CD of Coke commercials done by 60's bands. I tell you: the Bee Gees, Moody Blues and Left Banke all did a series of ads that were as wonderful as any of their album tracks of the time (1966-67). Sell out, shmell out. According to these songs, the best ever spiritual experience you could ever have is nothing compared to drinking a coke. And Petula Clarke and Tom Jones let us know that the clinking of ice in a glass of coke is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
Suddenly the skyline of NYC was visible. I got a bit nervous and zoned out for a bit, while I tried to put all the obvious thoughts in perspective. Actually, there was really no way. It was all too real, too big. Too weird, too sad, too confusing. "I'm here to play in a club with my rock band", I told myself. No need to psych myself out while contemplating world issues. Anyway, we arrived, parked, packed in. The second band, The Keatons, soundchecked while we met up with friends. You know, I didn't even think of asking anyone anything about 9/11. We're here to be happy, to imbibe, to rock out.
Who did we see? Ari Vais and special guest, Marie, direct from London! Old pal Merritt Arndt, who I haven't seen in a year. It was great to catch up with her. She brought along some friends, including Lori of Galvanized, and her husband. Jodi Porter, Fountains of Wayne/Astrojet rock star and scenester managed to be omnipresent and yet still miss our show. Amy Fairchild, always a comforting presence.
Right. Our show. A pretty good crowd. A pretty great performance. On the way, I suggested giving NYC a Northampton-type performance. I.E. the noise, the nudity. So, there was a little of that. The previous weekend, I'd left my snare drum (and stand) at Sully's. So, I was using one I borrowed from Henning. The snare broke on it towards the end of the set. So we got all tribal on their asses.
The Keatons played some very well structured, tight rock, which will some day sound good in an arena. Packing up, I discovered a girl was sleeping where I'd put my jacket. I kept stalling, not knowing how to wake her. Thankfully, she awoke.
After the show, more socializing. More drinking. I got a bit tired of it, and took a walk around the neighborhood. Got a slice. Saw old friend from UMass/Noho, Ben Lawrence. He was on his way to see Nitin Mukul DJ at a bar nearby. Nitin used to live with Russ and Ning. Small ass world.
The way home, as I mentioned. I was in the back, sleeping uncomfortably. But who am I to complain? I'm just a small noise. A small cat. Nothing. I'm nothing.
I woke up to "Taking My Time" by Boston, followed by "Faithfully" by Journey. Henning announced that we had heard the holy trinity. I don't know what the other one was. I was Joe Boyle's pillow.
HENNING: November 2nd, and I'm eating a mozzarella, tomato, basil pizza slice on the sidewalk in NYC at midnight in a T-shirt. It seems like we are always in New York on unseasonably warm days.
Ken and I were strolling past the fries place and Ken was saying something to me and he said the word, "literally" in his sentence. A man dressed in a yellow dog costume walked by, looked at us and said, "literally".
We saw a taxi blocking an entire street of traffic. The cars behind it had their horns blaring. A man leaned on his horn, stuck his head out the window, and screamed.... something extreme. Ken and I looked at each other and acknowledged the Hollywood New York moment.
Inside the club, I slid around on the blue plastic couches, caught up with Ari, and wrote up a setlist to fit Brian's idea of playing a big time rock show.
It was nice to see Lori again, she looked great. Marriage has treated her well. She gave me the link again to her band's website: getgalvanized.com, they have some really cool pictures.
BRIAN: Tired, tired I was all this day. Had an always awesome dinner at India House. Took a nap, listening to Syd Barrett, woke up in a state of mind I could live with.
Again, the 5 piece. Hmm. You never know with Amherst. Well, our last show was a huge success, this was definitely not. Small crowd. But it was happy to be there.
I lost a button on my shirt, and so me, Ning and Ken, with some additions by Russ and Joe made up an impromptu torch song called "If You Find a Button on the Floor". It was like a cross between Robert Goulet and Magnetic Fields. I wanted it to go on forever.
It was Aron's (of Emily and Aron) birthday. They are a couple of groovy new fans we have. They are very nice and have a cute, cute puppy. Ken has befriended them. They are new to the area, from NYC. We played a bit of Happy B-Day to them.
Ken and I played some Hawaii 5-0 Theme while Russ was changing a string on the guitar he'd borrowed from Model Rocket's Amanda. Diana Riddle danced enough for 150 people, which was awesome. Some crazy-ass dances she does. I think she and Amanda should dance together at some show.
Russ played 2 different characters, which ended up being skits between him and Henning. In one, he was the King of Hawaii and Henning was Greg. In the other, he was Jesus California and Henning was Derek or something. Joe played some 12 string guitar, which was pretty.
We jammed and experimented, which we could afford to do. And other stuff I'm totally forgetting. Gee what else?
Oh, it was funny. We had 3 sets planned, but the first two were too long, so out last set was 2 songs long. Ha ha. Isn't that funny? Hah aha hah hahahahhahhahhaahahahahahahahahha. Ningningningningningningningningning.
Oh, it should be noted that as I write this, Lord Russ is leading a sing-along in a screening of Mary Poppins at Northampton's Acadamy of Music. Thus realizing his most wild rock and roll dream.
HENNING: I saw They Might Be Giant last night with Ken and El Bezo. I've seen them a bunch of times before, and usually I try to avoid seeing shows at Pearl Street, but I loved it. It was the last show of the tour and they had so much energy. The sound was, as always at Pearl Street, really harsh and hard to handle, but since I knew all the songs so well, my brain translated it to what it SHOULD have sounded like. It was the first show I've been to in a long time where I felt like the band really loved what they were doing AND went all-out in doing it. I guess mostly I see local bands, and the gap between those performances and this one was enormous. Of course, it helps to have incredible lights and confetti cannons and a huge adoring crowd who will cheer no matter what you do. College music.
Every student in college dreads parent's weekend and now so do I. The manager at The Amherst Brewing Company suggested that that may have been the reason that there was hardly anybody out that night, it was parent's weekend.
We had a small but lovely crowd.
On the way home Ken had a tape he made in the early 90's and it may as well have just been a direct wire into the early 90's memory bank in my brain. It was trip down melody lane. Replacements, REM, Camper Van Beethoven, Suzanne Vega... College music
BRIAN: Walking up to the stage I whispered to Russ, "ask them if Hartford is the Rock and Roll capital of the world". He did, and got about 4 or 5 "wooo"s in response. Ning then said, "well, is it the capital of Hartford?" This about sums up the goofy nature of this very long show.
All 5 Aloha Steamtrain members were present and ready for duty. We had a long night ahead. We didn't really plan much of a costume thing, except for wearing orange. I wore my J Crew orange turtleneck that I've owned since 1990. Ning wore a shirt with a Jack-O-Lantern face.
Special guests included El Bezo, and Head of Security, Seth Tripp, who will soon be running his special task force out of the northern most tip of Maine, from a secret, shark infested location.
I ordered my first beer at the bar, after setting up, and learned we still had an hour until starting. This was good, in that it gave the place a chance to fill up, and gave us all a chance to socialize and loosen up. Ah, gee, what happened? I'm in a list mood. Sorry.
--Joan Holliday and Neville were there. They were lookin' great. You know, Joan has been around her share of the rock scene, and it's an honor to count her as a fan.
--A birthday girl requested the Violent Femmes "Blister in the Sun", which Russ said, "sorry, we don't know it", but then we proceeded to play 90 seconds of it. They don't write 'em like that anymore.
--Something was making me wanna throw drumsticks at Seth Tripp. I think throughout the show I threw 3 or 4 at him. At the end, he threw one back.
--Russ serenaded a man in a Beetlejuice costume with "What's New Pussycat".
--Beetlejuice walked in with a "Marilyn Monroe", so we made up a song called "Marilyn Monroe and Beetlejuice"
--Before the show even started, we had mishaps. A keyboard stand punched Russ in the eye in the car, and a drum stool pinched/cut my thumb while setting up in the club.
--A mishap was avoided when my cymbal stand fell over, where Joe was normally standing, but his guardian angel told him to fix something on his amp at that second, so he was out of harm's way.
--My bass drum pedal broke during "Juices", making it sound odd. Luckily it was the last song.
--Russ was not talking about Smith College, whatever that means. I think he was talking more Smith Voc.
--It was all very wacky.
--Happy Halloween. And peace. Love, The Aloha Spooktrain. Spoofy.
HENNING: It's Sunday now. All weekend since our show I have been exhausted. My arms and my hands feel limp and powerless. Brian said he, too, was beat. I have a theory that we played extra hard because it seemed a little bit like we just weren't reaching the crowd. To me, the club seemed a little bit exhausted itself. Our Steamheads and other fans and friends were up front and smiling. The rest of the crowd for the most part was glassy eyed staring at the TVs.
It got better as the night went on and, of course, the end of the last set was huge with folks dancing and what-not. And now when I look back with rose colored glasses and I see the pictures, I see how many great folks came out that night to see us play. There were a ton. I guess it was me who was lifeless and glassy-eyed, projecting my own worthlessness on the crowd. I apologize. Forgive me please.
Sully himself ran the sound board tonight which was great, and I believe he made a recording of the show as well. Sully's, the club, is really musician friendly. They have a bunch of equipment for the bands to use, they pay well, they often offer food to the band, the sound system is great. It's really a nice place to play. We appreciate it everytime.
McDonalds on the way home and jokes of stopping by at The Erotic Empire etc. But it was late and we were tired. In Brian's car were Brian, El Bezo, Seth Tripp (Head of Security) and myself. The smell of french fries filled the cockpit and the fumes of Bic Macs drifted beneath our wheels lifting us gently and dropping us in Northampton in the middle of the autumn night.
BRIAN: THE HAPPY CLUB with Joan Holliday. And Happy it was!! You know, in these parts, come Halloween time, a 76 degree day is not something one comes to expect. And yet, today, it happened. To be in a t-shirt, and surrounded by bright orange/red/yellow leaves, well, it can put a guy in a good mood. And to be in a car with two of my favorite people, going to a live radio performance, well, it's too much.
It was just the core 3 of the band today, in Ning's car, with acoustic guitars and assorted percussion, and absolutely NO plan, except to tell people of our upcoming show at Sully's.
We got there, met Neville, and soon we were on. Song-wise, we did "Listen" and "Here We Go", "Joanne" (because she wanted to know all about the Michael Nesmith tribute CD on Dren Records that we're on) and I requested she play "Tiny Blue Dress" off the CD, since I feel it to be sadly underrated.
Talk-wise, what DIDN'T we do? There were funny voices, crazy sounds, much laughter, etc etc. There were raisin cookies which I don't like. But R+H do like. Soon they had become "Truth Cookies", so Russ was talking about all sorts of wacky stuff which may land him on the FBI's most wanted list.
We duly hyped the Sully's show, and Joan let us loose in the record room to pick out some stuff. In the meantime, she played some stuff off the new McCartney tribute CD (and, hey, I will go on record as saying I really dig the new Paul McCartney single.) Then she played our picks: Donovan and Roxy Music for Russ. Elvis Costello and the Housemartins for Henning; Blur for me. I was too spazzy to pick a second one. It would have been by Television off Marquee Moon. Because that's what I'm listening to now.
Then there was Bonnie, the classical DJ, coming in for her show, amid all sorts of whooping and hollering, and Russ' lewd remarks. There were a couple other folks there, a male and female, who were quite nice, but I regretfully can't remember their names. BONNIE!!
Once again, we didn't make any sort of (not even a half assed) attempt at taping the show. Any bootlegs out there? We bid our good-byes (and hey, Neville is a funny guy! I hope I'm spelling his name right) and walked out into the still warm day and took a bunch of pictures. On the way home we hit a traffic jam on 91, so I became bored and fell asleep. Bonnie's classical music lulling me. I'm like a hyper active kid: all spastic in the back of a car one minute, sound asleep the next. I woke up to Pink Floyd's "Breath", somewhere near the Easthampton/Holyoke exit.
We went to go see Scott C. at CMC Music Room to pick up the CDR of our recent NMF show. Hey, it's Angry Johnny in the store! You know Angry Johnny.. folks worldwide own his artwork. Got a Dinosaur Jr record? Chances are he did the artwork. So, that's that. I hope you all enjoyed the warmth. By the time you read this, it's probably back to Autumn. Unless, of course it's 100 years from now, and it's summer. Or unless it's now, but you happen to be in the southern hemisphere. Thanks Joan!
HENNING: There is a teeny kid dressed up like a lion running around outside my window. Further back, thick yellow and black smoke is billowing from The Mt. Holyoke Range thanks to a forest fire that authorities say will not be controlled today and should crest the top of the mountains this evening. It is currently raging in the Notch in South Hadley but may make it's way down to Hadley. Fire!
Bonnie! When we were walking from the Sable to the station on the Autumn campus, a maintenance working asked us "how many key signatures in C?". I yelled out "one" not pointing out the fact that the question didn't actually make any sense. You see folks, the key signature for the key of C involves no sharped or flat notes, each key only has one "key signature" just like every person only has one "signature" or every dog only has one "day".
I quietly sat down with him beneath a stunning orange and yellow tree and explained some of the fundamentals of music theory. He was a good student, attentive and respectful, and after about an hour he had a firm grasp on the basics...and I had a firm grasp on the string of a kite that I call spreading knowledge. Open your wings my friends, the owl of self improvement has taken flight!
After a sad and warm salute the Maintenance worker strolled back to his truck whistling Aeolian Scales and we in The Steamtrain continued our journey to the airwaves of America.
Joan was bemused by the idea of a band arriving early and immediately smacked each of us in the stomach. I don't blame her, in fact, we all reveled in the celebration of senseless violence. With determined resolve we immediately started singing hymns of utmost importance, only to be shushed by an Australia man wearing an enormous pink sombrero. It's good to be home.
With a microphone shoved deep into our lungs we vomitted up a few acoustic renditions of Barry Manilow's Lowest Hits and crammed cookies down our dry and flaky throats. Joan radiated like a nuclear bomb at her mixing console and her pet wallabies sat still and quiet, leaning against a cliff of Parker Posie albums, in the back of the studio (or as the sign on the door called it "The Great Glass Bull Horn").
It was fun to be presented a room-sized wine list and we took advantage of the wonderful selection of shiny diaries and cardboard platters. Madam Joan was kind enough to broil us a song or three and we couldn't stop screaming useless limericks into the day sky...but even the angels didn't seem to mind too much.
Later we all shared one roller skate and like a giant six-armed atrocity we rolled disco-style back to North-shmamp-what.
BRIAN: The "Where's YOUR Flag, Faggot?" Tour, 2001. Folks, don't take offense at the title. I mean none. As the pro and anti war sides become clearer, I'd be not surprised at all to see a sticker or a T-shirt with the above sentiment in the near future. I'm just preparing you all. I live across the street from a family, who, between their house and their pickup truck, display 4 American flags. When I walk by the house and truck, I just hear a voice calling out to me, saying the above. Or maybe it's that taco I had last night. But lately it also seems, the bigger the flag on your car, the more recklessly you can drive. For the more scientifically minded, this can be called the "Where's YOUR flag, Zygote?"
BRIAN: Aahh. Toad is back on the list of the most friendly places. Tonight was a take no prisoners kind of night, whatever that means. All I know is that it was destined to be a night of serious sweaty, loud rock for a few reasons:
1) the previous night, Lord Russ and I had a shared out of body/out of mind experience while listening to "The Who Sell Out" CD. We also came up with a concept known as the Anthrax Sniffing Postal Monkey. They are being bred and trained as we speak. We also put a cat collar on a large dust bunny and christened it "Robyn".
2) On this particular night, I, Ken and Henning, unbeknownst to each other, each made statements to the effect of "Cambridge is not going to know what hit them". So, there's your fate. Later, Russ changed this statement to "we're going to dance Cambridge a new asshole". We don't know what that means, but it's funny.
3) It was "International Night" at TOAD. Or it wasn't until we got there and said it was.
4) We had the gall to show up as a 5-piece at the club that only holds 60, with the stage that only holds 3.
On with the story. Ning, Russ, Ken and I left Noho at 6:30, in my car. Joe, Don and Bruce were gonna meet us there, as they were having dinner at Stephen Desaulnias' and Kerry's place in Brighton. Apparently, they ate lots of pork and drank some wine.
Upon arriving (barely--the Sable was a bit angry for the final stretch. A problem which mysteriously did not happen on the way home), we unloaded and ordered some food. Veggie burger and fries, me. Nachos, Ken. Chicken Caesar Salad, Ning. Russ had made his own dinner earlier. Something meaty and delicious smelling.
We watched the end of the first band (can't remember the name, but there were Tom Petty covers and a guitarist who resembled David Crosby). Ning's been getting much usage out of his new cell phone. For example, we were wondering just when Joe and co. were gonna show. We didn't know. So we called. They showed up minutes before start time.
How to deal with the tiny stage? Well, Ning, Lord Russ and I on the stage, Joe standing in front of the stage, Ken at a table in front of the stage.
Hey!! So many friendly faces. The place was packed!! There's Josh and Sarah, formerly of Northampton. There are Ning and Russ' friends from high school! There are lots of people we don't know, but who know our songs!
Well. 3 sets. Bruce Tull, during one of the breaks said that we were completely "unashamed" tonight. Well, there was no holding back. Musically, or humor-wise. We did several little music-comedy interludes regarding it being International Night. Russ was getting money shoved in his pants for doing Tom Jones stuff. The end of the show was unbelievably loud and frenzied. People were screaming for more, but we cannot get any crazier.
After the show, Joe was getting a head and ear massage by a fan. It seemed like a tender moment (and we know what Billy J. says about THOSE), so we ran across the street to Dunkin Donuts where we found only sweet bagels and jelly donuts. Slim pickins. I think everyone fell asleep on the way home, but I woke up for the last half hour and talked a bunch with Henning to keep him from falling asleep. It was 4:30am. And FREEZING! Upon entering Noho, we heard Big Star on the radio. I can't recall which tune.
HENNING: While strolling through the streets of Northampton today I overheard a woman remark about a noisy car, “They got a loud muffler!” I thought that was pretty good. Not only because she was trying to point out something that was incredibly obvious, but because she was completely wrong in her observation. Saying a car has a loud muffler is like opening the door to a small Cambridge club, being overwhelmed by the volume of a rock band inside, and commenting on how loud the door is. It’s blaming the meow for the cat.
Hey, a guy who looks like me just walked passed the window. Man, what a goon!
We were embraced by Cambridge, my friend. I can only hope that Cambridge felt us return the sentiment. Toad was crammed full of everything. We had members of the Scud Mountain Boys, a president of a huge software corporation, and a pair of what I can only refer to as sex kittens. There were folks from Sydney and Great Britain, a bartender who once lived in the same dorm as Brian, Russ, and I. There was a middle-aged Asian man with a smile as big as an origami sunset. There were some former Pioneer Valley fans and an onslaught of unfamiliar bobbing heads. It was international night, we proclaimed, and we commenced to whip-up an instant theme song, “The International Rag.”
This was our first time as a 5 piece at Toad and although we were crammed into the corner like nerds in a Star Trek shoebox, we had the greatest time that anybody has ever had anywhere.
The Sable was bucking violently in disgust as Russ and I found a parking space 19 miles away from the club, but she purred like a pinup when the night was over.
All the folks at Toad were so kind and so loud in their screaming and whooping, we are internally grateful. Next east coast stop,-The Milky Way. Hope to see you there, bring a friend or 30.
BRIAN: Ten years ago, I began listening to WAMH. I first heard New Radiant Storm King and Sebadoh and knew I was in the right town. I heard a lot of other things too, which got me excited to be in college and to meet other musicians. Ten years later, I still get excited when school starts, so I can tune in and be told what's hip.
I've been on WAMH twice before: in 1995 with Sourpuss (with a young Ken Maiuri) and in 1997 or 98 with The Figments (and I believe Lord Russ was there too). Back then, you had to squeeze into a 2x2 foot area and rock. Now the studio is relocated, and has a good size performance space, large enough for all our equipment. Every Sunday night during the school, WAMH has a local band play for an hour. This week it was our turn. I'd had a taco dinner at Veracruzana which ended up not sitting so well, delicious as it was. I was craving Antonio's Pizza, so I don't know why I disobeyed my instincts. Oh well. I dropped into Dewberry Comics for 3 minutes, then met the fellas on the Amherst Campus.
We met Jill, the host, inside the studio. Turns out I'd met her, or at least seen her around at shows previously. On the wall of the performance space is a who's who of local and international indie rock: Sebadoh, Luna, Sonic Youth, Kahoots, Hospital, Drunk Stuntmen, Blonde Redhead, The Mitchells, Yo La Tengo, are all represented by photos and/or autographs. So we of course added to it.
After a soundcheck and a false start (technical mix up), we began our 12 song set, interspersed with some questions by Jill. It was a well played show. I felt quite relaxed. Russ' voice showed a bit of wear from the 3 loud sets in Cambridge the previous night, but the vibe was right on. Funny things were said. I haven't heard the tape yet, but Jill will be making CDRs of it. Perhaps we'll offer a song as a download. I don't know.
Afterwards, in the parking lot, we played a bit of Frisbee. Everyone had a little trick. Joe can spin one on his finger quite well, and said how when he was younger the cool thing was to spray a bit of silicon on the bottom, then you can spin it like a crazy ass bastard. Speaking of which, Ning, why no photos?
HENNING: Connolly may have said that the cell phone is the security blanket of the solitarily challenged, but I say I love it! We met in the front corner of Amherst College and I called the radio station from the car for directions to the station. Sweet.
I used to come to Amherst College all the time and hang out in the campus center. I’d play pool and listen to the free jukebox. It was nice to be back and see all the healthy looking students studying and having dorm residence meetings. I love college.
The route to the radio station was a trek with all the instruments but it was well worth it. Jill was super sweet and quietly put up with all of our idiocy. We set up quickly and three minutes later were on the air. It was a different kind of show, one that lived inside headphones. It was pleasant to hear Ken’s keyboards so well. I haven’t yet heard a tape of our performance but I hope it came across well.
WAMH is one of my favorite stations in the area. It’s a college station and they just play good music without worrying about playing only things that nobody wants to hear. So, it was nice to be a part of their programming. I also got the chance to drop off a copy of School for the Dead and on the way home Ken and I heard them play a track off of it. Thanks, WAMH.
I forgot the camera.
BRIAN: Donal B Rooke: Manager. Organizer. Booking Guy. Renaissance Man. Dancin' Fool. Yes, folks, it happened again. The Northampton Music Festival swept through our fair city like the most insane carnival you could ever imagine. You know, without its population of rock musicians, Northampton would be just another quaint college artsy town. Its musicians, I think, give it its soul, its ego, its sadness, its hope. Its reality.
At the end of this, I'll go over my favorite memories of the 4 day weekend, but for now, here's strictly the Steamtrain experience. Ning will have to tell you about anything Steamtrain related that happened before midnight. Earlier that day I was at a wedding in Lincoln, MA, where I was reunited with Steve, Nick and Glenn, formerly of my high school band, The Mean Wyoming. Nick's wedding. I came home, had a nap, woke up, had a Power Bar and a Red Bull energy drink. Suddenly I was superman.
I played with the Figments at 9:00, The Potatoes at 10:00, rested at 11:00, then came midnight, the witching hour, the hour of our invasion into people's hearts, minds and loins. Parts of this show were professionally videotaped for reasons known only to us. A crew with 4 cameras, smoke machines, and many hot lights. And the crowd was packed up front, happy, loud and dancing.
We'd packed Harry's once again (300?). And the 5-piece played a stellar, forceful, perfect in all areas-show. I'd largely avoided alcohol throughout the night, knowing I had to be perfect for 3 bands. It was the only way to maintain the energy. We had a great set list. KUDOS to whoever made it, and congratulations, you now have the job of making every set list from now on.
Oh boy, I've never sweated more. The entire show I alternated between smiling and bobbing around like a madman, glaring out at the crowd, wondering what they were all doing there, feeling like a spirit was inhabiting me; and looking around, wondering if I was on the verge of passing out from heat exhaustion. But it was like climbing a mountain or swimming way far out--just don't look down/look back. Just be here now, and do the job that needs to be done and do it the best you possibly can.
So, yeah. We let the crowd know when they were being filmed, and everyone looked so sexy and so darn happy dancing. Lord Russ looked out at his subjects and saw that it was good. Like an eclair. Rock and Roll hairdresser Rosa (props to Glamourama, yo) was in front posing with her partner in Model Rocket, Amanda. Should look good in the video. As will Dancing Don. Max Germer: another good dancer. Sigh. I just don't know how to express my love for all the people dancing, singing, grooving along to our music. It makes our lives worth living. Otherwise, we all dread our very existences. You think I'm kidding? Ning, am I kidding?
After the show came heaps of praise and a hug from Don. A Mobius Band member said "you guys kicked more ass than I could ever imagine". Compare that to Frank Marsh's comment after last year's NMF. After the show, I broke a tradition and didn't abandon the rest of the band, leaving them with nowhere to put equipment, in pursuit of some happy ending. No, tonight I was good, helpful and still had a happy ending. I think I'm finally getting the hang of this festival thing.
My ears were ringing for 36 hours.
FAVORITE FESTIVAL MOMENTS:
--During the breakdown of Misty Paradise, Henning pointing to various people in bands (Ware River Club, Figments, Drunk Stuntmen, Maggies etc) and sang snippets of one of their songs. That was a real celebration of the geniuses who walk among us.
--Fields of Gaffney doing "Stars for Eyes" or whatever the real title is. That is one of his (Eric Gaffney) tunes off Sebadoh 3--one of the major soundtracks to my first year at UMass.
--Connolly Ryan's INSANE intro to The Strippers' set, over the intro to their first song and being pushed off the mic by the singer. I walked into Harry's in the middle of it, and it made me laugh.
--Treefort's version of "Immigrants Song"
--Joe O'Rourke wiping his sweaty face on the big American flag by the side of the stage at the Eagle's Club--which is like a VFW. He seemed surprised that some folks were slightly offended.
--The Figments' Trace Meek playing bass for Marc Mulcahey's set. It sounded perfect.
--The Figments' Matthew Zapruder transforming into the spawn of Bob Mould and the Tasmanian Devil during one song of the Figments set.
--Joe Boyle tossing his pick into the crowd, rock star style, during the Steamtrain's final song (All My Juices).
--Watching Spanish For Hitchhiking and seeing they're a really great band. They gotta make a CD.
--Ditto The Moebius Band
--Playing big rock shows with The Figments and The (Gay) Potatoes (Chris Collingwood's first live appearance since the Fountains of Wayne on the Conan O'Brien show 2 weeks ago)
--Playing the more low key but equally satisfying gigs with The Greenbergs, Ribbon Candy and Henning's School For The Dead
--And a special thank you to Kevin, Steve Westfield's Slow Band drummer, Dave Hower of Spanish For Hitchhiking and JJ OConnell from Kahoots and Superkart for letting me use their drums and making this whole "6 Bands in 24 hours" thing a lot easier and smooth than it could have been. We love you.
HENNING: What can I say that the butterflies haven't already said summer after summer? I'll skip straight to my favorite moments, not having the ability to express the experiences experienced.
--Picking up my weekend passes envelope from the three lovely ladies behind the Northampton Music Festival, feeling, as always, like a little boy in Toughskins at a Manhatten fashion show.
--MIngling in a crowd of friends to the NOW sounds of The Mobius Band.
--Running a song writing workshop with Thane in the sunny Baystate.
--Seeing Jose, of Spouse, sheepishly sing "Give Me Three Steps" with The Ware River Club.
--Playing stage manager at Harry's Saturday night. Getting cell phone calls from Philip rushing to make his own Maggies show and then admiring the way they played as though there was no previous panic.
--Standing on stage with The Potatoes wondering if Brian was going to make it and then seeing that little curly head walk in the door.
--The entire Steamtrain show start to finish and everyone who was there. The lights, the faces, like a movie.
--Another morning at the Baystate at the promotion workshop wondering where Don was, talking to Sean and Jay and Lesa.
--Arriving at the Baystate for the Greenbergs, 3 minutes before take-off, after spending the afternoon in the poshness of The Lord Jeffrey Inn at my good friend Jim Astbury's wedding (Congratulations, Jim, nice work). Playing the first few notes of Bettie Page and immediately falling into the groove.
--A surprise performance of a Monkees song with Ribboncandy. Also, stepping on a distortion pedal while playing my new electric guitar with that same band.
--A night walk to Grampy's with Ken and Tony. Introducing Ken to the Harvest Bar.
--My entire School for the Dead show. Everything was absolutely perfect. Perfect.
--Missing the next two days of work, due to overexertion.
BRIAN: Weddings!! Oh, was it great to play a lovely indoor wedding, surrounded by art and groovy people. Particularly on a day which brought the start of bombing overseas and a bummer of a cold front to western Mass.
Mark is behind all the groovy things at State St. and Cooper's Corner. He's also a great drummer and knows all the best music. For this he asked if we could learn a coupla Tom Jones, some Love and a Beatles tune we never played. Done, done and done.
5 piece. 2 sets. 75% covers. 100% fun. We had a backstage-like area which also served as the place where we told people that the bathrooms were unisex. There was good food, and lots of wine, champagne and Sam Adams. I apologize to the young man who I mistook for a young woman. He's going to be famous someday, having learned so many instruments at such a young age. I just know it. And I'll be that loser drummer in the wedding band who though he was a girl. Well, I've been called "Miss" as recent as last month, by people who saw me only from behind. It's that wiggle in my walk.
During the break in Misty P., Ning and Russ began singing Treefort's "Parking Valet" as a tribute to Paul Hansbury, who was there. And, oh my god, is his baby the cutest ever ? I will let Ning tell the tale of the balloon snack despenser kid. There were many couples dancing, young and old, which once again made me think, "I gotta learn to dance". And, well, the owner of the place, Jackie, who, years ago, gave dance lessons to our own Lord Russ, was there, and she was dancing up a storm. I spent some time talking with Phil from The River, WRSI. We were discussing the difference between various NPR stations.
Afterwards, Ning, Ken and I met Manager Don Rooke at WRNX in Holyoke, to help hype the upcoming Northampton Music Festival, which I KNOW ALL OF YOU WILL ATTEND. Or some of you may think of attending. Or drive by, look in, see what's going on, maybe that cute chick you saw last weekend is there. HEY! Who's that chump she's talking to?!? Aw jeeze, you better go and do something about that! No, no, no, can't get in without a ticket. Well, this band playing sounds pretty good, maybe you'll check 'em out. Exactly. Now where's that chick?
Then I witnessed the Altamont of Open Mics at the Baystate. Dueling "Needle and the Damage Done"s. Then a "Rockin In the Free World" duet with Ware River Club's Matt Hebert and Spouse's Jose Ayerve. It was weird. There was a dark force in the room--war. drugs. Neil. Dewer's on the rocks. Manson. Why oh why, Ning?
HENNING: I was at The Who's Next Deli this morning trying to warm-up and wake-up by getting myself a nice big cup of assam breakfast tea with honey (rock star, right?) There was one woman up at the counter placing her order and then there was anothewr woman waiting. Atleast, from what I could gather she was waiting, for this tight white turtle necking wearing young woman was standing at a very far distance from the counter. It was very hard to tell if she was in line or if she was just standing there. It was as though she took the ATM rule of privacy and applied it to a coffee ordering environment, as if there were some secret codes or personal revelations involved. She was atleast 10 feet behind the woman ordering.
I was taken aback and uncomfortable. I didn't know where to stand. If I stood the same distance back from the strange woman in white it would be ludicrous, as this line of three would stretch clear across the restaurant. But, if I stood up-close to her it would seem strange as well, almost like we were there together. So I just kind of stood off to the side and tried to breathe regularly. I was disturbed by how this woman was comfusing me in an otherwise perfectly relaxed and ordinary situation.
Why was she standing so far back? Was it completely unconcious? Was she part of a pro-elbow room coalition? Did she have germ-phobia? The deli prides itself in being "New York Style". There was nothing New Yorkish about the wide open space being created...as big as a boat show.
Foibles. We all have foibles. Or not necessarily foibles, as that suggests a flaw but something like foibles, something that sets us a part from the rest of us. We all have a monkey wrench to toss in. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.
In an unrelated-way here are the directions for a do-it-yourself (DIY) kit. If the kid who designed this brilliant convayance had any foibles I don't know what they may have been, they certainly weren't appearent here.
The floating hors d'oeuvres tray.
1. Gather about 10 helium filled
balloons of various colors.
2. Tie two paper cups to the strings of the balloons so that they are up right.
3. Fill the cups with various snack items, (Sugg. Grapes, Mini-Muffins, Small Fruit Filled Cookies, Doritoes) being careful to balance the weight of the filled cups with the lift of the balloons.
4. Gently float the server around the crowded wedding reception.
5. Upon nearing a guest say, "Excuse me, do you want something?"
6. When the cups are nearing the empty level, quickly refill them with more refreshments to keep the server air-born.
BRIAN: Happy Harvest Moon. Dr. Who with Tom Baker. A coffee milkshake with Frangelico. Maybe get a new pair of pants. Brian's Picks for the fall.
It's getting chilly. It's even more chilly in Vermont. Time to wear cool clothes and hide your ugly legs. Up in Brattleboro Martha's gone, that's for sure, but the rock lives on. Ken and I got different variations on a chicken sandwich. There were burritos (Joe and Bruce) and Ning got...Ning got, a beer battered lobster bisque flame broiled sundae melt??
We realized they always have the same mix tape going before we play. It's got Alvin and The Chipmunks, Elvis Presley, and other novelty acts. The night before, before a Figments show, I'd gotten a Scotch on the rocks, so I decided to continue the tradition. You know, there are phases. I think the scotch on the rocks idea came from my reading about a Hollywood party. Before you ever had Scotch, what did you imagine it to taste like? I imagined like butterscotch, and I couldn't wait to be an adult and try it. It finally happened at the age of 20 something. Hey kids, don't try it--it's gross, just like kissing and vegetables.
Ooh La was there with a mixed crowd, who were all dancing like there was a band playing. I met a Sean Lennon look alike in cowboy boots. Much of the show, my eyes were fixed on the dance floor, because most of what I could see were go-go boots, tights and mini skirts. And then I'd look at Joe Boyle, because he was playing some great stuff, and we were interplaying a bit. We had a good "For Your Love" jam. Jeff Beck and Jim McCarty on whatever JFK would get shot up with before his speeches.
There was a blonde guy dancing with such glee, it was a shame to see him not smiling. We met a couple of guys from NYC who report that "people are just going out and having a good time". That's great to hear and begins to relieve any of us from guilt. Like here we are in tobacco and milk country and we can see the stars and are having good times.
Last night we were at a Steamtrain and heard "Now You Know" on the radio. Today I was on the phone with Ning, and he heard "Before I Come" on the radio. Smith College--the college that keeps on giving. Soon, we'll be doing a concert on Amherst College radio, on a Sunday Night, and Ning will give you their webcast details, so you can listen, even if you're on the Island of Malta. Where malted milk balls grow on trazees. Was there a show I was talking about? Who ever heard of a show?
HENNING: I wrote my name and address at least 25 times on this day. It was Easthampton's Fall Festival / Trade Show and I was entering as many free raffles as possible. Small town fun with Pbup, Db, and El Bezo. It was a lovely warm day and as the town brass ensemble played Winter Wonderland we scanned through throws of paperback books. I ended up purchasing Art Linkletter's "Kid's Say The Darndest Things" with illustrations by Charles M. Schultz. Cool. But, the big purchase was my new Cell Phone for now I can be reached everywhere at all times by anybody (the secret select few who have that number) and more importantly I can reach all of you from anywhere anytime. It's going to come in very handy when we are driving around looking for our venues.......assuming we ever play again. At the Festival El Bezo and I had our picture taken. It was later discovered to be in the Hampshire Gazette. Oh, Lady Fame, you found me again. It seems everytime I go anywhere I end up in the paper! . One time it was just because it was rainy outside.
It wasn't rainy in the Mole's Eye. It was a blizzard of excitement as our Vermont friends tore it up Fall Guy style on the dance floor. What a night of decadent delights beneath the whirring fan. "It's your night, Brattleboro!" Lord Russ exclaimed and boy was he ever on the money. Seriously, he was standing on my money. Dude, move over, I need that.
In between sets on the steps behind the Mole's Eye like my memories of the smoking section at highschool would be had I ever actually gone out there and risked sharing a moment with the hoods. Lots of hand shaking and I can see my breath it is so cold out.
Back inside the Eye, the Pin Ball Bruce Jenner Jim Carrey guy has vanished, but everyone else was bouncing off the walls. The dancing Brattleboro ladies oozed an allure and the men seethed goofily - its easy to see who runs this town.
It's a pleasure to play with the likes of Brian, Ken, Joe, and Russ. I can't describe how easy it is with this combo, and when the people in the crowd are as amazing as on this night, not a thought needs to go into anything. The music and the performance take care of themselves. And the time, like a weightless stealth skater, glides by silently and swiftly and there couldn't possibly be a better way to spend it.
A BIG STEAMTRAIN THANK YOU FOR THE DRUNK STUNTMEN'S STEVE SANDERSON (pause for applause) FOR PUTTING ALL THIS TOGETHER!!!
BRIAN: Ok, well, basically, this was in part a benefit, and in part an excuse to get 5 of the area's best acts in one beautiful setting on a beautiful late summer afternoon, surrounded by friends and family.
It began at 1:30 PM, with the Ray Mason Band. Oh, did they rock! They did the hits, the rockin' hits, some old favorites. Mike Flood was standing next to me and remarked how Ray's obvious love of playing music is so life affirming. I've thought the same thing. In between acts, Mike Flood played acoustic songs and chatted with the audience. OK. If you have never seen Mike Flood, well, he's about as funny and strange and loveable as a person can get. Sebadoh even wrote a song about him ("Flood", on, I believe, Bubble and Scrape). Flood told me he'd recently done his first stand up comedy act, and in attendance was the Vonnegut family, minus Kurt. I know no more of the circumstances. So Flood came across as funny, confident, and his songs are unbelievable and indescribable. I told him I'd forgotten how much I loved his voice. Apparently, Mike reunited with his band Playtopia at the post show party. I missed it. Anyway, there's my paragraph on Flood, who did his schtick between each of the bands.
Ware River Club was next. They do really well at these outdoor things. Their Taste of Noho thing was great a couple weeks ago. And this was equally as good. During most of their set I was gearing up for our show, walking among the crowd, and putting a new snare head on.
While we were setting up, all set to go on as a Joe-less 4 piece, Flood sang a very strange song: "Poodoo, it's a station" or something equally as fucked up. 20 seconds away from beginning, and Don comes to the edge of the stage to tell us, "Joe Boyle is here and about to go on stage". WOW. We thought he just couldn't make it. But here he was, ready to rock. And rock we did. It was my favorite ever outdoor show. The weather was perfect, the crowd was pleasant. My parents were supposed to be there, but didn't walk in until the last song. Held up in traffic. I felt bad.
But anyway, Henning's begun to do a great thing during the "dream sequence" (Ray Mason coined that) in Misty Paradise, which signals the end. Think Ric Okasik as a little bee with sunglasses. I love it.
Everyone's favorite 5 year old, Gigi Raccine, was dancing topless on the edge of the stage. A sheepish Thane was sent to retrieve her. Oh, gee. What else? Well, segues was the name of the game. Misty P. into "Saturday in the Park" (because it WAS Saturday and we WERE in the park, "Beggars" into Billy Joel's "My Life", because it IS my life. We also did "Better Things" by the Kinks because it was a perfect sentiment.
After our bit, I spent time taking it all in. Talking with my parents, talking with Andrea's parents, playing catch (sort of) with Don's boy Moe, eating the always delicious noodles with peanut sauce from Amber Waves (one of a few restaurants in the house), and watching the last two bands rock the Pines: Drunk Stuntmen and The Stone Coyotes. For a little while, Kim Gordon was there with J Mascis. Anyway, there was a post-show party at the Haydenville American Legion, which none of us could attend, because we had other plans.
HENNING: I heard the Haydenville party was great Brian. I spoke with your parents too. I told them a few secrets, I apologize.Anyway, they know all about your frequent doctor visits. Just kidding, Steamtrain fans, our little Brian is fit as a wig!
Speaking of Brian, what he calls playing catch with Moe, I call throwing the poor kid's baseball into a pond.
I spoke with Zeke Fiddler. He seemed to be happy where he was, as always. I thoroughly enjoyed The Ray Mason Band, I missed most of The Ware River Club because I was futzing around back stage getting ready for our set, but they sounded great. The Stuntmen, as always, impressed the hell out of everyone (they insighted the crowd so well, that one little boy was seen to tear off all his clothes and run around all willy-nilly like a pre-pubescent Lord Russ) and The Stone Coyotes were a perfect cap to an unforgetable day in the park
Mike Flood won my unending admiration.
BRIAN: Don coined the name of this show, because we weren't sure exactly what would happen. But this is what happened: 1 set by the Greenbergs (Adam Greenberg, Ken Maiuri, Henning and me) 3 songs by the Steamtrain 1 Set by The Maggies 2 songs by the Steamtrain 1 set by the Maggies.
On this day, Ken Maiuri knew no rest. He worked at For the Record from 9-2, played the Look Park thing, then played every note by every band at the ABC. And he even came and partied at our apartment afterwards. But I'm ahead of myself.
The Greenbergs show was fun, but a bit under rehearsed. But not nearly as bad as Greenberg himself thought it was. The Maggies were awesome as always. The Potatoes were supposed to play, but Chris Collingwood couldn't make it. Hey, anyone see Fountains of Wayne on Conan O'Brien? They did "Better Things" by the Kinks because it was a perfect sentiment.
Our 5 songs were totally totally fun. They love us at the ABC, and were psyched that we were doing these "commercial breaks". What I remember most was the jazz drum solo I did at the Beggars/My Life segue. It's because of Stu's jazz drum kit I was using. But I haven't pleasantly surprised myself playing in a while. This will keep me going for another 2 years at least.
I also remember using the handicapped restroom. And chatting with a charming young man named Nathan who will soon be Judaic. Tony Westcott was there, and ended up at my house until sunrise, talking to Russ about god knows what.
HENNING: Brian, Bri, Bri, Bri, you don't remeber your sheppard's pie? Why, oh why? Bri, Bri, Bri. That's right folks. Our little curly-haired friend and I enjoyed a pre-show dinner up at the bar on this auspicious occasion. Sirloin steak, me. Madam came in while we were eating, an hour early with no place to put his truck full of equipment. Poor Madam. Some curly-haired friend apparently told him the wrong time.
Isn't it always a treat to see The Maggies? Isn't it always a pleasure to be surrounded by the likes of Debbie, Max, Anya, Dennis, et al? Isn't it something special to be in the company of Dan Richardson?
Is that a new song The Maggies are playing? Yes it is Charlie. And it is great!
Oh, Amherst Brewing Company, your patrons do love the cover tunes. Billy Joel was grinning in his grave, and you thought we were in a Peter Tork State of Mind.
BRIAN: On the way to this show, Ken had a tape I'd always wanted to hear: the XTC drunk sessions from 1980, where they do jokey versions of classic rock songs. It was amusing. We were supposed to play after a band called "Silent Groove", but they cancelled, and the staff at Sully's didn't seem surprised or even caring.
We had Ken with us, and two long sets planned. Before the show, I sat at the bar, trying not to pay attention to the two TVs with two different stations showing the mess that were the Twin Towers. Not out of disrespect, but more out of respect to the folks who were there expecting a good show. So instead, I had a beer, read an interview with Randy Bachman about the Guess Who reunion, and chatted with folks. El Bezo was with us on this night.
So, what was up with this show? Well, thankfully, at Sully's, the TVs do not face the stage. A very good move. I call for all clubs to follow suit. Gee, you know, I waited a week to write this entry, so my memories are already faded. It was a great, great show. We got to debut a couple things, like "Saturday in the Park" (yes, the Chicago song) and continued to evolve our weird-ass jamming technique. We did an impromptu Polish/Italian/Jewish/ song, which Russ categorized as "Cabaret". Ah ha. Come to the Cabaret, old chum. Life is a Cabaret!! We all must be entertained during tragic times. A major theme.
The majority of the Lee family was there, dancing and singing along in a big group. It was touching to see. They said they'd had a tough week, and we were a source of happiness. That's sweet.
During the break, while I was out getting some fresh air (it was hot, and I was sweaty) a girl (think Pamela Morrison) was flirting with me through the window, fogging it up and writing "Hi" and saying "you rock!" Once inside, I felt awkward, like I do around girls, so I said nothing and avoided eye contact. It was actually a bit like Ringo on the train in "Hard Day's Night", when that woman is trying to lure him into the car. "She'll only reject me in the end and I'll be frustrated", he says to George, who can't believe Ringo's blowing the chance.
Ok, what else? Once again I got to sing and talk a bit. Look out, I'm starting to really like it! Ken's been using this toy percussion ensemble, and so when he dropped the little shaker, we joked that the baby had dropped his rattle out of his crib. I think we embarrassed him. Welcome to the Steamtrain, leave your pride at the door, Pablo!
HENNING: "Dude, can you take a picture of me? Can I be in one of your pictures? I'm a pretty good looking guy. Look, take a picture of me doing this. Wait! No, get one with me with my glass. Closer. Ok! Let me see! Let me see! Ha! That's good. Dude, look at this picture this guy just took of me. It's gonna be on your website? Cool! No, wait. Take another one with my whole body in it. What? Yeah, ok. I'll pose like I'm falling down the stairs. You sure? Ok, here I go. Ok take it now! Let me see! Let me see! Cool. Dude, look this guy took another picture of me. Thanks man."
BRIAN: Our souls are from whence we give and receive love. At the moment, there are many souls in the atmosphere, and thus, an abundance of love looking for somewhere to go. Artists are often the recipients of such love and in return, they are driven to create their master works. This is why past war times have left in their wake high points in the history of music, painting, literature, etc. Recent musical examples: Jazz. Psychedelia. Folk Rock. Such joyous sounds evolving out of tragic times. We in the Aloha Steamtrain realize (as should all members of the arts community) that it is our role to receive some of the love of the lost souls floating around right now, and to translate it into our art, which evokes smiles and joyous movement on your part, which reinforces our reason for being. The cycle continues. Time moves forward. We must entertain, for it's what we do. It's our role on this crazy planet, and we try to do it well.
Alright, this is where we begin anew. In Cambridge. As a 3 piece. 3 sets. We piled into the Sable at 7:15 pm and embarked on this journey. No pre-gig meals, unless you count Ning's dinner of Pop Tarts and Combos. Slim Goodbody, he. On the way we saw a Nestle Quick carrier, with the biggest bunny face I'd ever seen. It made me scream with glee. We had no music for the first hour. We just chatted. I talked about some books I'd read in the music section of Barnes and Noble. Around Worcester, we turned on the radio. In my car I have 2 FM settings: one for western Mass, one for Boston. We heard a lot of good classic rock.
Ok, at the club: Ning did all the sound setting up stuff. It'd been a while since we did a 3 piece show, and I'd say we did a darn good job. That tiny stage. Oh, that tiny stage. We had a good crowd and lots of new and interesting/interested folks. A group of guys from MIT seemed to be having the time of their collective lives. There was a mutual love between us.
We ran into them again at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street afterwards. I ate a bagel and fell right asleep on the way home. I woke up and fell in love with the BBC news reader that was on the radio. I imagined we'd recently landed in London to begin a tour and I was all jet lagged and drunk and sleeping in the back of a Taxi as her voice soothingly woke me up. I wonder what kind of hotel we'll be at? Gee, I hope we get some folks at these UK shows. Probably that short Q&A with Russ in NME won't hurt.
HENNING: Ah, the Sable. The Sable, The Sable, The Sable. How many more journeys will she take us on? How many journeys has she already provided? How many miles of service has she sailed?
And how heavy is the sky? Its infinite blackness hovered above us as we and the other headlights sped across the sleeping state. Was every home we passed lit up blue from the inside, signifying a rapt family in front of the television? No. Were we trudging through thick political rancor? Was our discussion rooted in world events? Not really. We quickly came to the conclusion that we are a group of travelling minstrels, unravelling pigtails, who know nothing about much. We need not make announcements.
Autumn was sneaking in all around us. What kind of winter awaits the waiting?
Cambridge was as it always is, scurrying and active. We crept through Harvard Square, wary of students too eager to cross Mass Ave, and banged a louie just past Toad. The show was great. The people appreciated us. Smiles lit up the room. I think we managed to take everyone's minds off of the world for a while. We cracked some jokes. I almost fell off the stage a number of times. We sold some CDs, met some folks, and felt once again like Boston was embracing our band. Wee! It was good to be back.
I took a moment to myself at the break and stepped outside for some fresh air. What was that huge flying monster? A praying mantis fluttering like a broken bird had alighted on the tiny railing beside me and I made eye contact with a whole new kind of freak-show.
On the way home, Russ and I basked in the magic of Classic Rock Radio. WZLX, my classic rock station from way back, was doing great. Blinded By The Light, Waiting On A Friend, Frankenstein, Jet, and then out of the blue....boo hoo...Bungle In The Jungle, a top ten in my most hated songs of all time.
We drove into an intense lightning storm, barely able to see the road, and like so many other people this week, focused as well as we could on the road before us, forced out tired eyes open, and did our best to get home safely.
There are no pictures, sorry.
BRIAN: PERSONAL NOTE: if you go back in this Gig Diary, you'll see photos and mentions of my "Lucky Monkey", a little rubber toy monkey that Russ gave me for my birthday and which has been hanging from my rear view mirror for the last 9 months. Well, I got pulled over by a state police officer 3 days ago, because he said the Lucky Monkey was too big and distracting. This is all true. So I replaced it with an even bigger air freshener with a nude woman on it. He said this was OK. (that part I made up). I didn't get a ticket, in any event. Now to the show.
Last time I didn't go to this venue, because we were told "no drums". But this time around, my name was mentioned on their website, so why let everyone down? Well, I'll tell you. I truly was going to not play, but just watch this gig. My logic? Well, I'd be playing just percussion, and I take percussion seriously. I think it should be much more than a shake shake here and a bongo beat there. Russ urged me to play, and an hour before the show I decided to. Ah, who hears the intricacies of percussion anyway? I made a makeshift ensemble of a tambourine, a shaker, one bundle stick and a set of Moroccan bongos I got at Epcot Center in 1987.
Ken couldn't make this show (he was playing w/ TW Walsh in Boston) but Joe was there and Bruce did sound. Ning, Russ and I went in Ning's car. We had no idea how ticket sales went and walked in to find 30 empty seats-pheww, they just weren't seating people yet. We did a bit of a sound check, and voila, the majority of the seats were filled. Mostly new faces, quite nice. Some Steamheads made there way all the way up.
Joe and I filled some time looking over the music books and wondering whether a particular book about the Beatles was worth buying. Then we began the first of 2 sets. I must admit, I was preoccupied much of the concert, coming up with spontaneous percussion arrangements for every song. But I did notice Joe's neat-o jazzy stuff--he shines in a setting like this. And Henning and Russ were doing a great job connecting with the crowd. Since my percussion was being miked, I got to speak a bit as well. And sing.
There was a dog which barked at a perfect time during one of the songs, and later was seen dancing with his owner. Since we didn't really rehearse he songs acoustically beforehand, the ones that sounded excellent were extra special surprises. Like "Last Week (slow version)", "Listen" and a few others.
The unifying theme of this night was Ning's ingenious home made Mad Lib, which involved the crowd and made us all feel as one. Perhaps he can share it with everyone,thus unifying all of Steam World.
HENNING: Wanda Corn, the author of a book on display behind the stage, your name means a lot to us. Bruce was wondering if maybe your father was a colonel (kernel). You don’t need to answer right now.
Book Mill, the crickets that surround you are many and their enthusiasm is contagious. The tiny mouse that lives in your wood-work was dancing by my shoes.
Book Mill audience, your silence and respect was grownup. Your lecture posture and warm glow was comforting. Your participation and acknowledgement went a long way.
Steamheads, your presence was unprecedented and meant more than you think. You reply, “nice” and “lovely”.
Fiances, an unmarried date in the boondocks, a moon before an Amherst nuptial, your location was a surprise, a harbinger of honest smiling.
We were a room full of the only living people in Massachusetts.
There are no pictures, sorry. Mad Lib Transcript coming soon!!!
BRIAN: For The Record. Ay, how many times have I set foot in that place? 10 years ago I entered UMass Amherst as a Freshman, and used to buy single cigarettes (usually Dunhills or cloves) at Amherst Newsroom (now sadly gone) before that became illegal. I'd sit on the bench outside, often wearing all black, with sunglasses, and try to just take it all in, while blending into the scenery, wondering just how I fit in to this crazy college lifestyle.
After this smoke break, I'd walk into For The Record, where I felt at home. I'd browse and sometimes talk to the guy behind the counter (which turns out to be a young Mark Alan Miller) about such things as whether XTC would tour behind "Nonesuch" or Spacemen 3, or why did the Pixies have to break up. Then I'd walk back to my dorm. Other highlights of that place in my memory were the in-store appearances: Poi Dog Pondering playing outside in spring1992 and Robyn Hitchcock playing inside in Spring '95. And now, the Aloha Steamtrain playing in the store. Groovy.
We have Ken Maiuri to thank for the opportunity. He's been working there a while and the store has been selling our CDs since Girl Planet's first breath of life. Back then, it was because of Julian Parker, but that's getting too far into another story.
So, Ning, Russ and I pulled up at 4:15 and set up. There's a little platform in the window that we stood on. I played snare and hi hat w/ brushes. Russ played acoustic guitar, Ning the bass, and Ken, keyboard. No microphones. Weird. The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society was playing before we went on. We did about 30 minutes, like 8 or 9 songs. It was a transient audience, for the most part, but they cheered and made us feel welcome.
Timmy Timmy T Timmy TTT was there, and his kids were playing and hiding behind the record racks. It was a beautiful day in downtown Amherst, and we were very proud to be part of a tradition. And, apparently, the first in a new series of live in store performances. For The Record; check it out.
HENNING: Could sunny downtown Amherst be any more perky and nubile? Not likely. The streets were paved with adventure. It was a brave new world being sampled by countless skittish students and I felt fantastic being one of the offerings.
Setting up in the window of Amherst’s oldest and coolest independently owned record store to the sound of people picking through CDs (that plastic smack they make when the packaging collides sounds like the ticking of a typing pool) was a gratifying insider’s experience, but I had to spend the next half-an-hour outside on a sidewalk bench, reveling in the optimism and reminiscing about the pessimism. I, too, explored this town when I was a new student, although I doubt I was anywhere as beautiful as the procession before me. It was wrap-em-up Saturday. It was a don-a-baseball-cap-weekend, but what weekend isn’t nowadays?? The air was a festival and the cotton candy was stitched with snipped apron strings.
There was a micro face beneath the CD shelf. There was another one over there too! Timmy T’s tiny tots tore through the store, teeny terrors taunting patrons to titter. “They sound like the Beatles!” one of them cried. I’ll take their word for it, it was a peculiar way to sing, into the open air like that. What a fun show, thanks F.T.R.
BRIAN: Opening for us was one of the best bands out of Connecticut: Holiday Rain. I've written about them before, but again, they are a 4 piece with a Guided By Voices/Elephant 6 type sound. They totally rocked, and, I believe, made some new fans. And apparently, at the Bookmill, we made some new fans, because there were some repeat customers at the Baystate. And over all, there was an overflowing crowd of lots of groovy, beautiful people. All this day we were w/out Joe, who had other obligations. I'd listened to "The Live Kinks" (1967) before this show, which is about as much of a pill-poppin' rave-up of an album as one could hope for. So, so much energy, and screaming girls. It gave me all the adrenaline I'd need. Well, then. Lots of dancing was happening during this show, on the crowd's part, and lots of improvising, on our part. We improvise more like Zeppelin or The Who circa '71 than a hippie jam band (and thank god for that). It happened several times throughout the show, and pretty much worked perfectly. We're getting better at it. In the middle of Misty P, we played half of "My Life" by Billy Joel and went back into Misty P. Best Dancer Award goes to Amanda. Red dress, silver shoes, and all the hippest moves. It was a sweaty, sweaty show. We had a little after-hours at Lord Russ' and my apartment. Good times. Thanks, Holiday Rain/Brian Sinclair. Hopefully we'll be playing w/ them again, on their turf. Plans are happening .
HENNING: We’re back, Baby. The Baystate is back. The new semester has begun and we had ourselves a real rock and roll show. My evening began with the purchase of a nice teal electric guitar from the mighty George Lenker. This is my second electric ever and a long over due addition to my studio. Look-out, Linkin’ Park, there’s a new boy in town.
Holiday Rain took the stage and it was a real pleasure to see. Four guys who are obviously serious music lovers. Bruce was doing sound and as usual transformed the Baystate into a quality listening environment.
It was a warm night and Kevin had hooked me up with my usual beverage. Mr. Boyle wasn’t available and Ken shone in his absence, the smiles in the audience as it beamed at him made that quite clear. Brian, you are correct when you say that this was a more experimental show. I think the addition of Ken has re-awakened us musically somewhat. New levels can be reached. It was nice to play Rite For The Innocent You again. It had been a long time.
This show was a great end to our weekend of performing, it was a huge exclamation point after a couple of quieter sentences. Now, if you don’t mind, I am going to go play my new guitar.
BRIAN: Northampton Ma, Summer 1996: A shaggy young dreamer named Lord Russ awakes in a park, trying to remember exactly where he'd been and what he'd done the previous night. Up strolls his old pal Henning, looking smart and purposeful as always. "Hey, Russ, I haven't seen you since I finished college. Where you been?" "Henning, I've been to the ends of the earth and back, I've learned from the Shaman and I've gotten lots of action. Oh yeah, I've been writing songs, too. Wanna hear one?" I, the drummer, was meditating nearby and came down to earth to listen. As Lord Russ' voice filled the hazy afternoon air, the three of us decided right there to form a band, and call it The Aloha Steamtrain. For, as William Blake wrote: "If mankind learned the Hawaiian word for 'love', we'd be on the Steamtrain to heaven".
So read my entry for us in the program for this year's Transperformance, an event sponsored by the Northampton Arts Council, and benefiting Northampton's schools. You know you're in Northampton when the mayor is dressed up like Grace Slick, urging a crowd of 1000 to "Feed Your Head". This Transperformance, like all previous, was to be held on a Tuesday (the 28th), but rain was forecasted, even though it never came down in Noho, so it was postponed. This was a special one for us, because we'd been featured in the Springfield Union News Sunday Republican, posing as The Doors in a big front page feature in the Arts section. (Side note: as I write this entry, it's 7 hours after getting my wisdom teeth out, and I'm stuffed with prescription painkiller..my details may be a bit shady). But, oh, Transperformance.
Getting better every year. My reasoning is that the returning champs (us, the Stuntmen, The Maggies, etc) keep upping the ante. The theme this year was suggested by Lord Russ, to Arts Council Head Bob Cillman, and Cillman loved it. "Cali-faux-nia Dreamin'". You guessed it, all California bands done by local bands. The healthy Calipunk scene of the 80's was totally overlooked (no Minutemen, X, Dead Kennedies). The original name for this was "California Seemin". But say that out loud, and see how long you laugh. Represented was 60's surf, 60's psych (LA and San Fran), 70's laid back coked out country rock, and 80's metal and some other things thrown in. I arrived just minutes before the opening band: our pals KAHOOTS doing GUNS AND ROSES!! WOOO!! They looked great. And they rocked. Rob, who normally sings in a low octave, was a shocking falsetto Axl. Stage manager Nan Flemming asked me "what do they normally sound like?" And all I could say was "not like this".
The Look/Arts Council staff are very generous to the musicians--special parking, free food and beverage and a blind eye to any partying. To keep my mind on rockin' and off of having 4 impacted teeth yanked out of my head the next morning (they asked me if I wanted to keep them. No bloody way. Impacted teeth are like abortions--I feel no bond). So, there was some beer and tequila, though getting wasted was Lord Lizard King's job.
I'll run down my fave acts and make a bit of commentary: Big Ugly Wrench were Creedence, but made no commitment to sounding like them. Their version of "Green River" was awesome--cool breaks and harmonies. Very heavy. Legendary J Mascis of Dinosaur JR arrived just in time to play a VERY LONG "Suzy Q" with The Wrench. There was no crowd recognition for J. He's probably sold half a million records world wide in his 15 year career, and probably would get mobbed on a London street. But in his home town--"so WHO is this guy?" His guitar solo had some neat bits of intensity and inspiration.
Sadly, Marc Mulcahey's JOURNEY tribute couldn't happen due to a death in the family. But I'd just like Marc to know that I hope he can do it some other time. I love Journey's hits, and thought it would have been one of the highlights.
Ray Mason band as Buffalo Springfield; WOW! One of my fave local bands, doing one of my fave 60's bands. It was as good as you'd think. And they did "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", "On the Way Home" and "Mr. Soul". All Neil Young songs.
The Maggies did the Byrds. And I got to be the Gene Clark--you know, in front with tight pants, and tambourine and maracas, smiling at the girls. They did "Have You Seen Her Face", "Lady Friend" and "So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star", on which I got to play that...thing (some percussionist I am) that makes that sound. 3 part harmonies were RIGHT ON!! Ken Maiuri's solos were AWESOME (recurring theme throughout the bands--a lead guitar playing David Crosby, a no guitar playing Jerry Garcia later on...it's all about sound first, then looks second) Phillip had the Rickenbacker 12 String, and I really enjoyed being in front, dancing around a bit, looking as LA '66 as I could. Yay Maggies.
Connolly Ryan said to me "too bad the Steamtrain always get the silver to the Drunk Stuntmen's gold". I said "I see it as we're the Red Sox, they're the Yankees" and left the metaphor at that. The Stuntmen were The Beach Boys. They had a hell of a time getting Brian Wilson (Bow Bow the bassist) out on stage, and promised him donuts. They did 'God Only Knows" "Fun Fun Fun", "Good Vibrations" and something else I can't remember. But they had the 4 part harmonies DEAD ON, and Steve Sanderson was the PERFECT Mike Love--i.e. the annoying overly confident dork at the family barbecue.
Then, it was us, the Aloha Steamtrain, playing that band that seems to enjoy a resurgence every 10 years, The Doors. The Doors were my first real favorite group, once I'd gotten into music. By the age of 14, I owned every Doors cassette, had read every Doors book and practiced incessantly along to all Doors songs on the drums. So, I was ready. Ning, who looks like a short haired Ray Manzerick, nonetheless played Robby Krieger, and did very well on the guitar. Ken Maiuri played all of Ray Manzerick's organ/bass parts perfectly. And Lord Russ? C'mon--did you think he wouldn't rise to the occasion, and then some? He studied for this part like DiNero did for Raging Bull, and did an excellent, excellent job, which pleased the audience and the artists.
We began with "Light My Fire" and it was so damn cool to hit that opening snare hit, hear that organ and hear the crowd respond. I tried to reflect the sullen vibe of the band, but not smiling at all, but couldn't help it, seeing Ken in his wig. The jam in Light My Fire went on half the time of the original, but still gave Russ time to do the Drunken Shaman dance. Next was "Take It As It Comes>Break On Through". Equally as powerful. At some point, Russ screamed accusingly at the crowd about freedom and hate and the minds of the young. It was wonderful. He also went out in the crowd and sang to chicks. I guess the only thing about Russ and Morrison, is that Russ is much more graceful and deliberate in his dancing. Lastly we did 1969's smash hit, "Touch Me". For this we had UMass Professor David "On Drugs" Lenson. It was nice to meet him--really nice guy, really cooperative, and played very well. The crowd erupted as soon as we finished.
I spent the next several acts mingling and celebrating. The next act I watched was The Nields as The Go Gos. Dave Hower looked extremely hot on the drums. Phillip Price of the Maggies was filling in for one of the Nields on bass and looked really funny. They all just kept jumping up and down, like girls do, I guess. So cute.
The Young At Heart Chorus are world famous, but based in Noho. This year they did Randy Newman, dressed as "citizens of a town"--you know, the butcher, baker, officer, prostitute--and they did all Randy Newman songs. Except for "I Love LA", they were all from his great album "Sail Away". Well done!!
Lastly, an all star band (Chamber of Faces) did the Grateful Dead. Members of Drunk Stuntmen, plus Mike Flood, Zeke Fiddler and Jim Armenti. They did "Mississippi Half Step", which was awesome because that's what the Dead started my first show with, back in '87. Irvine Amphitheater. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. Zeke was a perfect Jerry. Then they did "Estimated Prophet" which went into "Cumberland Blues". For anyone familiar with Bob Weir's stage presence, Mike Flood parodied it SO perfectly. Tight Izod shirt, tight cut off shorts, moving his head and back that certain way, and his singing was right on. Raspy yelps and screams, doing those funny noises, etc. Jim Armenti and Alex Johnson traded Jerry leads, and both did them wonderfully. I was standing with Thane (of the Figments) Connolly and Andrea, all of whom have Dead in their past and we all completely appreciated it. Oh yeah, Miranda Brown was a great Donna. They ended with Ripple and that's when we left.
Afterwards, Russ, Ken, Ning, Lisa, Phillip, Debbie, Adam, Andrea and I all met at Fitzwilly's. I discovered they have Monte Cristo sandwiches. Me and Ning got 'em. It will be my last solid food for at least a week, and no booze either. I'm gonna emerge from this experience looking like Tom Sellick, ladies!!
One last note of appreciation. Well, Johnny Memphis of WRSI The River is always a great MC at Transperformance. ,This year was no exception--he was Don Henley. But the best guy every year seems to be Leo T. Baldwin--the funniest man in Northampton. Next to Ning.
HENNING: There's someone next to me?!?! No there isn't! Man, don't scare me like that. That's not cool, man. Not cool at all. I love Transperformance it was an honor to participate and I thank everyone grandly.
BRIAN: Hey, wow. We haven't played here in quite some time, and never NOT on a holiday! We've done a coupla Halloweens, a coupla New Years Eves. This was special because it was billed as "The Aloha Boys--Russ and Henning", but instead, we gave them the full pile of squash. All 5 folks, electric and ready to rock. Some of us had been at a Barbecue at Nields drummer Dave Hower's/his lady friend Kelsea's place in Florence, eating (burger, chicken, pasta salad), drinking (gin and tonic) jamming (with various all stars, on Smiths, REM, Beatles and Yo La Tengo tunes) and socializing with the nicest bunch of folks you could ever hope to know. Then it was time to go to the Brewery.
Chris was helpful as ever, in setting up, and accomodating such a huge band. Many of the folks from the Barbecue came to watch the show. Russ was wearing his groovy new shirt from Roz's Place and I was wearing some eye liner. There were, curiously, a bunch of folks in Leis when we showed up, so we decided to start with "Tiny Bubbles". More curiously, they'd all split by the time we started the song.
We played the first set pretty quietly, but worked up to a more normal volume/intensity. During the break I watched some of what was to become an 18 inning Red Sox game and had a slice of pizza which was great, but which I shouldn't have had. I felt a bit unsettled soon after. It was nice to be chatting with Max and Ania, Phillip and Debbie and Adam Greenberg and Jen.
The second set was awesome. Phillip sang harmony on "Here We Go" once again, and we now officially have our "China Cat Rider", but it's "Beggars in Caroline". There was dancing, and happy folk. One very drunk woman yelled into Joe's mic that we were "fuckin' awesome, but I'm getting kicked out of this fuckin' place so I can't stay".
After the show, everyone but me went to the 5-91 Diner, or as I say, The FNO, because who has time to say 5-91? I don't.
Other highlights included: --making up 2 impromptu ditties about Northampton and America --playing "Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun", an early Pink Floyd song, during the Misty Paradise break. --seeing Mark Miller, co-engineer of "Now You Know the Aloha Steamtrain" with short hair.
Oh, hey; my fans (cue crickets): My new contact email is email@example.com. It's actually been for a while, but who has time to change such things? I don't. And lastly, check out all the pages on this website from time to time. Like now. Ning has made some groovy changes to some things.
HENNING: It's the rudest thing that I know of. I understand that some motorcyclists feel that a louder engine is a safety feature and I concur. But, these screaming-ass bastards who drive by my house while I'm trying to live my life, the retards who rev there damn obnoxious squelch over and over again on the sidewalk, they are driving me nuts. Can someone please explain to me the horrible abusive up-bringing that someone has to suffer in able to feel not at all guilty about screaming screaming screaming the ugliest most flatulent noise in everybody's face over and over again? What kind of self centered nonsense must be wiggling around inside the helmet of these monsters? You might as well walk down the sidewalk just running up and yelling in people's faces, screaming at old ladies, and giving the finger to babies. There is no excuse for the vile inconsiderate attrocity of these over-loud bikes and nobody will do anything about it. To me the noise of these losers translates to this, "ME ME ME ME ME! LOOK AT ME!! I'M AN ASS-FACE!!!!"
BRIAN: Yes, people, who woulda thought, but we Steamtrain folk like a Southern home style cooked meal as much as the next guy. I'd never been there before. I'd heard Henning was a big fan, and had heard him rave about the chicken and dumplins (that's how they spell it there). Our nearest Cracker Barrel is in Holyoke, off Route 91. On Lord Russ' birthday, he and Ning went to see, I think, Planet of the Apes, and then they, along with Manager Don, el Bezo, and I piled into Ning's car and went. Some folks bought Lord Russ gifts in the giftshop.
A week later, Ning wanted to go to CB as well. This time, it was a different cast: me and Russ, Head of Security Seth Tripp and Jackie, and Andrea. Similarities in the two birthdays: -waiting in the gift shop while a table opened -a special surprise dessert being bought for the birthday boy -the whole room singing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy.
After Russ' b day, Andrea and I took him out for drinks. After Ning's, I went home, but everyone else went to Ning's Open Mic at the Baystate. At Russ' birthday, I got grilled Catfish, at Ning's, I got the CB Sampler. Did you dig it, Henning?
HENNING: Thanks, Brian, it was a nice birthday and my dumplins was swee-eet!
BRIAN: This, I believe, was our third visit in as many weeks to Vermont. Nice up there, 'tis.
This was another wedding. I don't mean that to sound all blase. Every wedding we've ever played has had its own intense charms, and own life-affirming qualities. Aaron and Jennifer. Two fans who have seen us play at the Mole's Eye. In fact, this wedding felt like "The Mole's Eye Takes a Field Trip". I felt like I knew more people at this wedding than at my sister's wedding. Well, not quite, but it was an unexpectedly big amount of familiar faces.
The wedding had happened a bit earlier, and people were mingling on the grounds of the Inn, when we arrived and pulled up to the barn. No Ken today, but Joe was there, as was Bruce on sound. The caterers were nearly finished doing their thing, and so the big barn was a center of work work work. Even the bats were working.
Just as we completed everything, as if on cue, all the guests began filtering in, and poking at the hors d'oveurs. Aaron told us that we'd be starting more like 6:00 than 5:00, because things were running a bit behind. This was a treat, in that it gave us time to eat and catch our breath. I had some ravioli, quesadillas, crab cakes, some McNeil's ale and some red wine. All spectacular.
There was a series of toasts to the bride and groom--some serious, some not so. The we began our first set. This set featured the three songs Jen and Aaron requested; "Better Things" by the Kinks, "Something" by the Beatles and "These Arms of Mine" by Otis Redding. What great taste!! There was some dancing happening, and a lot of smoking outside.
We took a break, they cut the cake. I had a slice and it was nice. What a treat, the meal was complete.
Now everyone had their boogying shoes on for the second set. We rocked, they danced. Bruce Tull danced quite well with two attractive women, and a bit on his own. I was jealous. I wish I could dance like that. I really should have paid better attention when my parents tried to teach me how lo those many years ago. It's never too late.
And, that was it. We did an encore, and once again all of us except Lord Russ declined invitations to after-hours merriment. Congrats Aaron and Jennifer, have a great time in Greece (the only link between the two gigs this weekend) and we all wish you a lifetime of love and adventure.
HENNING: What was I dreaming about.....there was a cave, intense clouds outside and a driving rain. But the cave was safe. There was warmth from somewhere...a fire perhaps. A cave-man fire. Out of the muck and slime we had climbed. The moon was speaking. Through giant palm fronds, the moon spoke. What happened to the rain? The moon spoke and applause broke out, the cave was shaking from the sound. The ceiling started to crumble and I began to plummet downward. No time to unfold my wings, dreading the thud of my tiny grey body on the floor. And WHACK!! I hit and woke up instantly to shocked and confused to move.
Before you could say, "I am telling this story from the perspective of the bat that fell from the ceiling," a cloth napkin closed gently around me and I was hoisted up and secretly left to fly silently away into the Vermont evening.
BRIAN: We played this show with one of the best bands we know, The Maggies. They played one set, two we. The Maggies had an odd lineup on this night--they were a trio. Oh, yes, Phillip was still on guitar and vocals, Adam was still on bass and backing vocals, but where was Stu, the long time drummer? Couldn't make it, so Ken Maiuri played drums. And pretty damn well, if you ask me. Added a few new twists while keeping w/in the frame work of the songs.
I was sitting with Andrea and Henning, when a drunk came in off the street and began talking to Henning. All I could see were hand gestures--couldn't hear over the music. Lots of air drums and air bass on his part. Then he wanted to shake Henning's hand. Then he wanted to shake Andrea's hand. Then he wanted Andrea to sit with him. Then he got a clue, and turned his attention to the Maggies. He approached the stage and started telling Ken how to play the drums. When he sat back down, Jim, the owner, had him thrown out--a notorious trouble maker, I assume. We all kind of breathed easier when he was gone.
Apparently Adam Greenberg wasn't feeling well this night, so he went home after the Maggies' awesome set. Poor little infant. The Maggies had a nice cheering section going on--their fans are a delightful bunch. Ning was still not feeling 100% tonight--he's had a chest/voice thing happening lately. But actually it seemed to be on the mend. Also during the Maggies' set, the Steamheads arrived. It was Coreen's 21st birthday. Miriam was back from 2 months in Greece, and brought back gifts for us: a pack of Greek cigarettes and a Greek lighter, with replications of frankly vulgar (read erotic) Greek sculpture. Now I'm not the smoker I was in years past, but you gotta see what a Grecian smoke is all about. Result: light and smooth.
Now, our set. Our third show sans Joe Boyle, but with Ken. The first time for a lot of our fans. And, well, it was great, but I mainly speak from my own point of view. Why? Noble and Cooley. Noble and Cooley. Nobel and Cooley. Nobel and Cooley. What on Planet Drum am I talking about? I'm talking about the house drums at the Tic Toc. A very, very groovy 4-piece set that turned me on like no set has since I was 16. I don't know what it could have been other than that it was a beautiful sounding, beautiful feeling kit. I know Frank Marsh (Ray Mason band) has a N+C thing happening, and Dave Hower of the Nields, who was at this show, was telling me of his N+C kit. But, oh man--I gotta get one! You know, they're made in the Berkshires. So, we played 2 great sets, and I felt so on and so focused the whole time. It's like, you're with the queen, you're gonna listen to every word. You're driving a Mercedes, you're gonna pay attention to every nuance of the damn thing. This drum set put everything I was hearing into a new perspective. Ok, I'll shut up.
Besides the drums, our 2 sets were made awesome by: 1) Yvonne and Maria dancing all cute 2) Phillip Price singing harmony on Here We Go 3) Ken obviously having a great time--playing a conga, horsing around with Henning, and adding perfect touches on the keyboard. 4) the really skinny, tall guy with a face like John Cale dancing in a manner not seen since 1938 (kind of a soft show shuffle) and dancing cutely with his lady friend. Some other oddities: -my playing during the break of Misty P. I did the intro to XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel", because I'd read in USA Today that it was Colin Moulding's birthday and he wrote that one. -3 people asleep: one at the bar at the beginning of the night; one at the bar during the second set, whose wife kept waking up; and lastly, the man who was sleeping in his chair at the end of the show, got up, stumbled towards Russ, and passed right out and slept through 80 Degrees, right on stage.
I hope I remembered everything about this electric night. Noble and Cooley. I'm in love. When I went to bed this night, I had a dream that a loyal, long time Steamtrain fan had died by drowning in a mudbath. As a result, the Boston Red Sox were going to pay tribute to her by lining up on the field before a game, each player holding an ice pack filled with frozen grape juice, and throwing them in the air in unison.
HENNING: All I can say is thank god for our friends and fans. The show was a delight because of them. In fact, without them our crowd would have consisted almost entirely of sleeping drunk men. And thank you to the Maggies for bringing down their monitors. The show would have been really rough without them.
Russ, Madam, and I drove down in one car (See photo) while the other hoodlums followed us. Which is funny because I really had no idea where I was going. We got there easily anyway, go figure.
The scary scary man in the camoflage pants (See group photo) was completely terrifying. He spoke and nobody understood a scratchy word he said. And he spoke a lot.
I reinacted the passed-out guy on the stage. (See photo)
BRIAN: Out in Ashfield (about 30 minutes NW of Noho) there's a spread of land that houses many ostriches, and a person or two. There is a band called Ostrich Farm, one member of which, calls this place his home. Because it's too cool to keep to himself, every year he throws a huge party, invites freinds, friends of friends, and a few bands.
We've done a couple other O.Farm parties--one of which I count as our worst ever gig, thanks to too much tequila. We've grown up, and have a bit more pride these days. In fact, we were given the coveted final midnight slot on this night.
Like the Mole's Eye show, we were with Ken, but without Joe. We had very little equipment to lug around, so the most diffivcult task was finding the keg in the dark. Like previous parties, there were dogs, kids, and a big bonfire. Unlike previous parties, the bands played OUTSIDE!!! How cool is that? So,in the not so far distance you see a bonfire, outlines of dancing and sitting folks, and you hear voices all around, but can't be sure from where exactly.
Arriving, it was so dark, and so we had to use a) the brief light of passing cars and b) the sound of Kahoots playing to hone in on the driveway. It began to sprinkle, but thankfully, it was just for 2 minutes. I watched the end of Kahoots after getting situated. I chatted with random folks. CHANCE MEETING OF THE NIGHT: At the keg, a woman said "I met you on a Peter Pan bus". I didn't really recognize or remember. 3 1/2 years ago I did take a Peter Pan to NYC to visit/record with my friends Sharkey and Jared. "Well", this woman said, "I remember you from your hair--but it was bigger then". Yes, yes. "And you mentioned you were in 2 bands, and the newer one was something Steamtrain. So,I wondered if this was gonna be it". Weird, huh??
So then Ostrich Farm played and were very engaging--reggae, funk, some humor, and very good musicianship. A hard-to-describe vibe. Again, I was following JJ to the throne. Tonight, I was primed and lubed and ready to rock. JJ's drums were fun to play. That China cymbal. I was drawn to her, and used her quite a lot. Didn't abuse her, though.
It was great weather to play, there was great interaction between the crowd and us. Something about Mike DuMont. Fire, flying sparks, there was a very neat vibe--I felt kind of a contact tripping vibe. It revealed itself in the "Beggars" jam--kinda tribal Micky Hart-ish. I dunno, I dug it. We ended with a completely rock and roll "Juices". So, that's about it. Making friends in America. Let it happen to you. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer, but it was winding down anyway. We love the Ostrich Farm parties.
HENNING: You know that scene in The Doors where there's the big bon-fire and everyone's dancing and stuff and there's that chick and those indians and Morrison is like on the stage and then he's also in the crowd and you're all like what? Well that is a scene alright.
The Ostrich Farm party had a nice feel. A kind of primal thing. I ate some moths. J.J> took me into the barn to show me the Emus and Rheas. They were all dinasoury and everything. Pretty cool.
There were sparklers. I remember a guy crawling on the stage like a wild animal and then I kind of remember another guy riding him or something? Is that right?
BRIAN: 5:00-6:30 Taste of Northampton. It was three years ago at the Taste that we debuted a young Joe Boyle, and America welcomed him with open arms. And now lightening strikes again, and look out William Roadster, "Baby On Board" again!!. Ken Maiuri is napping in the bassinet so if you could please hold down the noise just a god damn bit!
Ok, the Taste; Well, to those of you in northern Canada, there's been an extended heatwave that has caused us all to lose sleep, weight and perhaps even a temper or two. And at yesterday¹s taste, the Aloha Steamtrain brought the cold front which brought the rain and bearable temperatures but not until 2 minutes after we finished. Rainmakers, we.
Ning and I arrived at 4:00, as Love Bomb (featuring an ex-Till Tuesday member, I¹m told!) was half way thought their set. They can funk with the best of them! At the WHMP booth, our Lord Russ was being interviewed live on the radio! And there were clowns! I did a short tour of the festival, saw what was available for food and refreshment, and decided against getting anything, I was too hot and didn¹t wanna eat too soon before playing. I chatted a bit with Joe and Tom and also with Joe and Tom. It seems if you weren¹t a clown, you were a Joe or a Thom. The skies were threatening, and an ominous cool breeze seemed to be wanting to say something, but we weren't gonna let it say nothing, until we were good and finished!
As always, there was a sampling of America watching us. All ages, genders, races. Little kids dancing, folks in wheelchairs, a jumping hippie, mildly amused Goth kids, wow Russ and Ning were right when they proclaimed Northampton "America's Town"! And so, that made Russ Wonder Woman! Or something like that, he was wearing those red white and blue Underoos that are all tight and stuff. Everyone seemed to love it. We set up a grand entrance for him.
Anyway, that was that.. A couple hundred people, coming and going and eating. Me, I was sweating and trying to drink enough water. I was also bleeding from me knuckle. I must have hit it on something while playing, but the hot weather caused me not to feel it until I looked. Eeesh. Anyway, thanks again, 100.9, WRNX, for having us. Onto Brattleboro, Vermont, America's Town (get the picture?)
HENNING: Why are all the people so blurry? Why can't I read the set list? What's going on!??!
Oh yeah, I had to take my glasses off before they slipped off and smashed on the ground. Man, the sky was ready to bust open after this long long heat wave that we all shared. Thor sat there pent up with anger and tapping his fingers waiting for us to end. Oh, Valhalla, blessed be, thank you for keeping our audience dry.
But, it wasn't a Norse wind that swept these fine folks together in a hot summer's parking lot. Was it the food? Was it the music? Why is my town crawling with people? Because, it's an event and people love an event. It's a celebration party. For just a little money more than it would normally cost, you can eat tiny helpings of food in a crowded, deisel smelling parking lot. What could be more delightful?
But, I'm not complaining, I had a great time, as I always do, playing at this festival of cuisine. The babies danced fevorishly.
BRIAN: 10:15-12:30am - Mole's Eye, Brattleboro. Moles are blind. My kitty cat likes to take advantage of that. Nature is so simple sometimes. We love Kahoots. We had such a good time playing with them on the Vineyard, that we were eager to return the favor. We thought they'd dig this venue. I think they did. It was great that they brought a bunch of their friends. We lent them most of our equipment and they took advantage of the Mole's Eye's delicious menu. (side note, as I write this, I¹m listening to Radio XTC on live365.com, much XTC music commands so much attention, that it's impossible for me to think straight)
When we arrived Kahoots were already there, eating, and Bruce was setting up. We'd had about an hour of leisure between ending at the Taste and departing for VT. It was a glorious drive. Temps had dropped about 10 degrees and the skies were clearing. We were given a very sad note, written on the back of a medical slip. It was from our beloved Martha. She was no longer an employee of the Mole's Eye, nor a citizen of Brattleboro. She was married, and moved to Boston. We took turns crying in the men's room after reading it. It is a loss, yes indeed. But we all must thank her, feel proud of her and her hubby and wish her the best of everything.
Ah, so. I ate a tuna melt, drank an iced tea and watched Kahoots. They were oh so great. Perfect. They never fuck up. A couple on a blind date was dancing to them. The man of that couple could really move! They have a new CD coming out in a month - buy it. Go to duckmusic.com and look up Kahoots. I'll be here when you get back. I got some magazines and stuff to read, errands to run, a cat to feed.
Ok, welcome back. Short break after Kahoots, and I took a walk around the block, to digest the tuna melt. There was a jazz band playing across the street in a nice looking restaurant. Sounded great. We did two sets. It was a first: Ken, but no Joe this gig. Before it all started, I remembered I¹d not dressed my finger wound. I asked the sweet Amy (longtime fan and Mole's Eye waitress) for a bandaid. Not only did she bring me one, she actually put it on my finger for me!
First set was alright. Russ was funny and demented between songs. I still felt a little too full of mayo and cheddar to be agile. Plus, I'd been particularly impressed by JJ O¹Connell¹s playing during Kahoots' set and was feeling vastly inferior and inept. The coolest part of this set was Ken playing guitar on "Hooked on a Feeling", and doing a great job in Joe's absence.
There came a break, and then the real good part started. Set 2 was awesome. We did Don Ho's "A Lei Leke Lei" and a couple in their 60's danced to it. The man of the couple said "Can you guys play the classic Don Ho song, "Tiny Boobies"?" So, we did do that later. He really called it that. This couple was awesome. They told Russ they go to a different club/bar every Thursday through Saturday. Not a bad life. They looked great, and seemed so in love. There was another older couple that was dancing to us as well. And of course, the usual younger folks dancing. Including the couple whose wedding we're playing next week. I felt much better this set, lost myself, actually. There was quite a stretch where I felt on the verge of laughter for a bout 4 songs. It was a happy, happy vibe.
Ning told the crowd about my sleepwalking (my first EVER) experience the other night, where I almost drank a bottle of soft soap, dreaming that it was water. Scary. The cute and charming Natalie arrived at the end to invite us to a party. I was pretty beat and so was everyone else. Russ, however, as he told the crowd, is single. And we all know what singles like to do. He stayed in Brattleboro with stories and pictures, some of which you'll see here.
HENNING: Kahoots, they play all of their own crazy tunes with a love for music and they don't feel any shame in it. And why would they? They are great!
Tonight we missed Martha and Joe, but we were joined by Lesa, Laurie, and Ken. Leslie Neilson was there dancing with his wife. Our oldest fan even shimmed off of the bar stool and boogied down.
I couldn't sing a lick tonight as I had lost my voice after the Taste and after a week of (hopefully air-conditionerized) coughing. I actually just coughed while writing the word cough. How about that?! Alanis, you might call that ironic. You'd be dead wrong, Babe.
A delicious Broccoli, Ham, Cheddar melt, me.
We brought back a few cover tunes tonight. New life was breathed into them by Ken. Sunny Afternoon, Animal Farm - you see we all just went to a Dave Davies concert at the Iron Horse...
BRIAN: We were asked to be the live entertainment at the reception party of the joint weddings of Jenny and Ken and Liz and Keith. We could not have been more pleased. A friend of theirs had seen us at the Mole's Eye (moles are blind, you know) in Brattleboro, VT, and suggested that we'd be ideal. I'd never been in West Dover before. It's about 30 minutes north west of Brattleboro, I think. We came armed with the new bonus five man lineup--not just Joe Boyle, but Ken Maiuri too. Have I listed Ken's credentials? Pernice Brothers, The Maggies, New Radiant Storm King, King Radio, TW Walsh and the list does go on. Anyway, he learned 19 songs for this show, which took him 2 rehearsals, the slow learner that he is.
Russ, Ning, Ken and I took my car up to the gig. We took a wrong turn and though it cost us 20 minutes, it supplied us with several eyes-full of lovely scenery--rivers, mountains, you name it. Russ said he appreciated water so much because he was made up of 80% water. I enjoy mountains so much because I'm made up of rock. Ning enjoys fries so much because he's made up of potatoes. We all enjoy popcorn so much because it's tasty.
Arriving at the party, Bruce was already mostly set up, and I marveled at the view that we'd be playing before. Fields of wild flowers, valleys, mountains, sunset. Later, mist and a bright full moon. (Who here knows the Captain Beefheart song "Moonlight Over Vermont?"). I found myself unable to talk to many people, because I just kept wanting to soak in the scenery. Also, watching the dozens of tykes running around, not to mention a couple of the cutest dogs you'll ever see (one with a missing back leg). It was the simplest, prettiest, bucolic existence money can buy. An open bar, a mini Ben and Jerry's concession stand, lobster, pork, corn on the cob... And the Aloha Steamtrain.
We did 3 sets and were received quite well. Couples danced, kids ran around. When we did Nesmith's "Joanne", we noticed one guest in particular up front seemingly having an out of body experience After it was all over, Russ and I talked to him a bit, and found out that, no, he wasn't a huge Nez fan (like I'd thought). In fact, he said that 20 years ago, he'd made a movie and put that song in it. To him, it was just a beautiful song that he'd always hear on his favorite bar's jukebox, and knew nothing else of the song or the artist. Very cool.
We had 2 bonus performers on this night. Lisa did an a cappella version of Aerosmith's "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" and later, did a version of "Me and Bobby McGee" accompanied only by Joe. Unrehearsed, but good. Anna, an attractive German friend of the brides, asked us before the show if we knew "You've Got a Friend". Well, no, not as a band. But, Ken, Joe and I are somewhat human jukeboxes, so, we did a fairly perfect version of the Carol King/James Taylor classic. Ken played bass. I got to be as Russ Kunkle as I wanted. Russ Kunkle is the pioneer of soft rock drumming--a very distinctive style. And distinctive hair.
So, a week's worth of fresh air and lovely scenery, a night's worth of good food of drink, and lots of very cool people. Check out those pictures. On the way home, we discussed doing weddings for a living. Getting married? We'll play your wedding. Yes we will. We'll learn songs specially for it, even. We are the hippest, sexiest, nicest, rockin'est, versatile wedding band around.
HENNING: I suppose people really do live like this. On the side of a flower-covered mountain - surrounded by the best of everything.
We were playing on an old porch looking out over a Windham Hill album cover of a view. Tiki torches all around us, little kids running around screeching, two dogs with seven legs, an enormous bar under a tent, clams, a roast pig, corn, burgers, dogs, noodles, ice cream, you name it. It was a delightful evening.
We played a bunch of good tunes. Ken joined us and we sounded full and complete. There was a little frog in the grass and even his eyes twinkled on this particular night. Blue skies, then a misty paradise, then starry skies, heat lightening, and finally a moon bigger and brighter than most.
I couldn't help but feel that just beyond the tree-line there was a collection of animals - bears, deer, rabbits, squirrels, all watching the festivities and raising their snouts to the smell of barbecue.
Ken, Brian, and Joe perfectly executed an impromptu James Taylor song and reminded me how much I still have to learn about music. I heard a great joke about hippies.
BRIAN: Eddie Rabbit once sang "Oh, I love a rainy night, love a rainy night, love a rainy night, love a rainy night love a rainy night, love a rainy night, love a rainy night, love a rainy night". Three attractive faces shone in the porch light like the only stars in the sky, as we stood in front of the Fire and Water; Mario, Cara and Russell. I asked Henning to take a picture. Mario seemed to be happy to be in town and to see us. Jumping, laughing, a ball of joyous energy with dreadlocks and a nice wardrobe.
Aye...but the Fire and Water just wasn't the right forum. The waitresses had no idea that this triple bill was happening. One sexy female performer, and 2 male frontmen who sing about sex; what could they do but blast vintage Anni DiFranco between sets? Well, that's what they did. Really got us pumped, it did. Both Spider Baby (Cara's band) and Mario Seveyega sounded and looked great in the F+W. It was a warm, rainy night, so the F+W was very stuffy, so I escaped to sit outside at the Brewery, where I spoke with a woman who is from Groveland, MA, of all places (borders North Andover).
The Fire and Water used to have a rule that performers could only play original compositions. I say used to , because we played half cover songs, to get ready for our wedding gig the next day, and no one harmed us. We debuted our versions of "Something" and "Better Things" (Beatles and Kinks, respectively). The Fire and Water have percussion instruments lying around for when the spirit moves ya, and the spirit definitely moved Russ and Henning. At the break in "Happiness Waits" when I'm leading up to the drum fill that kicks of the Can Can (slow, swingy) part, those 2 hippies started banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee. Oh, that ain't working. That's the way you do it.
HENNING: Well, it was raining outside and it was unbearably hot inside, so I guess that's why they call it the Fire and Water. I have very little to say about this nothing of a show. It was nice seeing Mario and Spider Baby. It was nice talking to two of the people that stayed for our late night performance. And it was nice to get home afterwards.
What The Fire and Water lacks in physical comfort is more than made up for by the rude and depressing staff. It's not their fault entirely. They work in what must be unbearable conditions. How many times a day can you explain to someone that they HAVE to order food to have a drink, or that they HAVE to tip the band, or that the way you pay respect to the establishment is to HAVE to purchase something, before you start to hate your life? Not many. Maybe the staff wasn't even rude, but I can tell you it is really hard to play a show when you are feeling guilty for keeping them later than they want to be kept, even though you were booked for that exact time by the club's owner. It's not like they kept it hidden, yelling out, "NO!" when a performer says "I have one more song left" is not exactly subtle. Poor, Mario, it wasn't his passionate performance they were commenting on, hell they didn't even hear it over their disdain for being inconvenienced. And again it wasn't their fault completely. It would have been nice if someone told them it was going to be a late night, or god forbid, installed an air conditioner.
Spider Baby did and excellent job as always. Why haven't you seen them yet?
BRIAN: Benefit for Kid's Row, brought to you by the Northampton Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to "building better schools."
Oh, how crazy. This gig happened on a Sunday afternoon. The previous Friday, Lord Russ and Ning headed up 6 hours to Maine for a weekend of old friends and good times. They returned 40 minutes before we played note one of this show. The previous Friday, I headed up 4 1/2 hours to Maine for a weekend of meeting and partying with Andrea's relatives and in laws. I returned 45 minutes before we played note one of this show. Our two cars crossed paths on Old South St.
This show: an outdoors show on a perfect day under a tent, in Pulaski Park, in Northampton Center. Pulaski Park is normally home for teenage skaters, goths, conspicuous readers of Plath and Ginsberg, junkies, etc. Today it was all sunshine and good times. We got there as Group DeVille was playing their last few songs. Some nice garage surf, and great guys. As we were nearing starting time, up walked Don Rooke and Stephen Desaulnier (Delicious). Stephen had just recorded a CCR song with Ray Mason for a Dren Records tribute--yup, the same folks who brought you the Nesmith tribute.
Ok. We played our 45 minute set. 4 piece. It was a very fun show. Russ was kinda goofy throughout. Ulla, of the last Mole's Eye show, was there with her boyfriend. Familiar faces from town floated by. The end of "Beggars in Los Angeles", which I will call "Variations on The Son", is getting weirder and better. Today's sounded like a bit of a Yardbirds rave up. 2 shows, 2 free t shirts.
BRIAN: It was an honor to be asked to play this show. I believe it has something to do with bands who have a lot of MP3 downloads of their music. Nice to know. And these folks are doing a 15 city tour promoting this thing. "It's all about the music", they say. We were among 3 bands selected to play in Hartford. New York's "Ferdinand the Bull" was one, and the other was our Northampton buddies, The Drunk Stuntmen. Hi, Stuntmen, hi. I'll tell you what the first 90 minutes of this evening was for me; sitting at the bar, drinking free keg cans of Heineken (my motto for them: THERE'S A KEG STAND IN EVERY SIP) periodically being given free Heineken/MP3 booty (T-shirt, CD, tallyander (or whatever Alex told me it was called), and watching a great Red Sox game. Ferdinand played, and had a sort of NYC rock/rootsy noise thing happening. It was cool. The bassist played stand up bass for a while. I was out on the sun porch for a while, talking music with Stuntmen drummer Dave Dirst. Ferdinand ended just as the Sox game ended, and we saw several of our faithful Sully's fans hanging around. A DJ from radio 104 introduced us. We used just about all the Stuntmen's gear, which made things sound a bit different on stage. Don't get me wrong there, Freda, we rocked. There's no doubt about that there, it's just, you know--you sleep in a hotel, you're either gonna be comfy, or it's gonna take a while to get to sleep. We were drinking free Heineken all night, and that was nice. I went back on the porch for some fresh air after our show, and came back to watch most of the Stuntmen's set. I always enjoy their shows. How they crammed all of them on that tiny stage, I'm still figuring out. But they were having a good ol' time. Brian Sinclair from WRTC was talking to me for a while. He;d just been in the neighborhood seeing Tizzy and the Mitchells--2 more Northampton stalwarts Afterwards, we were given a case of Heineken and a 12 pack of Amstel as payment. Russ and Ning took the case up to Maine for their fishing and hunting trip. I'm letting Joe Boyle have a bunch of Amstel if he wants, for feeding my cat while I'm away in Maine for a wedding (not mine). And the rest of the Amstel I'm pleased to drink, because it's light, and I'm totally getting fat, yo. Ning got to go on the special Heineken/MP3 bus afterwards, to sort out the business end of things and Russ got jealous and followed a couple minutes later. They came back adjusting their pants and sniffing a lot, so I figure I didn't miss anything. I fell asleep on the way home. Thank you Heineken and MP3.
BRIAN: You just never know what to expect sometimes. It's been our experience that Amherst, Mass is a dead ol' town in summer. So, we weren't expecting this show to be half as rowdy as this was. Opening for us on this night was Cara Connolly's band (Spyder Baby). Cara is an Amherst native, and she had many folks rooting her on. I sat with Don and watched her set. She did not disappoint, with her moody, ethereal set and pink shoes. It was to be a 2 set show.
A song into the set, I looked up and realized, "What in the Tony Randall, this place is PACKED!!". And everyone was so happy, and that made all of us happy. It was the same mood as the Monkees show. There was some interesting improvising happening, mainly Joe and me egging each other on. A lot of songs began fast, and that was a reflection of the energy I had. It was good. We were a little loud for the room, but the crowd absorbed the sound nicely. Russ also did some great vocal improvising, particularly during the cover tunes, like I Think I Love You, where he became a Baptist Preacher for 2 minutes.
We were informed that that there was a birthday man in the crowd. One Josh, who is a fan of ours, and so we dedicated the second set to him. Also in the crowd were George Lenker and Timmy Timmy T T T. We had our brand new Nesmith Tribute CDs for sale. Pick one up. It's awfully good. The second set was just rock, and all that crap Henning said in the last entry. "All My Juices", once upon a time on the verge of becoming a tired old dinosaur, has been revived as a huge Zeppelin/Who thing, and it's so much fun. Well, then. That's it for now, I think. We have a new CD we're on (Papa Nez), several more summer gigs, and a new album to record. It's all just peaches and herb.
HENNING: The cable guys are outside my house as we speak. My cable modem has been down for a few weeks now and it is finally being restored (hopefully). It's like pulling teeth from a grumpy guy, trying to get the cable company to do things correctly. But, now that I will be back on-line I will be able to do these gig diaries. Of course, it's been so long now since this show that all I remember is the stuff that Brian just said. And I only remember that from 2 minutes ago when I read it. It's probably in the interest of justice that I do not report on this gig as the facts would surely be skewed to my favor.
BRIAN: Twenty Four hours after Lord Russ and I saw an awesome Monkees concert at the Calvin in Northampton, and after Russ was yelled at by a bitter Peter Tork after showing him a flyer for the Nesmith tribute, the Steamtrain 3 were rolling into sunny Manchester. This was just about exactly a year since our Equator debut. You know, you never know what kind of show this is going to be, just as you never know what kind of pastries will be offered us by Al (none, it turns out, on this night).
We arrived to find our set time moved back one hour. The totally nice guys from In Bloom helped carry all our equipment inside, and one of them told me he'd downloaded our music from MP3 and dug it. On stage was a trio led by a hot shot teenage guitarist who kept complaining to Al about the sound and lighting. It was too loud, so I played 2 games of pinball, then waited outside with Henning for it to be over. Lord Russ stayed inside, partaking in some sort of tantric mutual hand massage with a fan.
While outside, Ning and I talked with Al a bit, and with Billy Bob (I think that's his name) the behind the counter guy. Then I escaped for a pre-show MIchelob at the Pizza place across the street. The woman there checked my ID for about a full minute, then asked Henning if it was real. I should be flattered, as I near my 40th birthday. We returned to find the wizz kid finishing up his set, and so we readied ourselves. There were about 50 teenagers in there, and I was psyched to be playing a show for "The Kids". They were so quiet, and seated beforehand, that it felt like a school assembly. We should have done a Q&A session after. We'd decided beforehand to play a semi acoustic set, and so it was kind of funny, sandwiched between 2 loud teenage bands, surrounded by teens, were we gonna come off like freakin' Jim Croce or what?
Actually, no. The kids seemed to dig the tightness of the sound, the drug related lyrics, and the goofy stage humor. I still got to rock as hard as I want, because Al's PA, and the big room, allowed Russ' acoustic guitar to be pretty loud. A fun show, to be sure. We gave away a CD to a shy young girl who erroniously guessed that "You Showed Me" was a hit for the Byrds. It was the Turtles, but Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark of the Byrds wrote it. If she's reading this, Russ meant to tell you something important, so please email him, Kate. We watched a bit of In Bloom, who had the crowd literally in their laps. They did some hippie stuff, some ska stuff, some punk stuff. If I was in High School now, I'd probably be in a band like that.
The way home, Ning and I delared that we were hungry. 5-91 FOOD STOP STORY PART 2: Lord Russ, Ning and I went there. We ate outside next to lit torches, the only sober people there besides the staff. Burger, me. And I agree with Michael Moore, that they are absolutely wonderful. If this meat is murder, put me on death row, Busby. Ning got something breakfasty, and Russ just got homefries. The best homefries either of them had ever had.
HENNING: Brian, if you are nearing your 40th birthday then I've been in the grave since the Rennaisance. Baby Brian.
Yes, the home fries were delicious, as was the rest of the meal. Keep them home fries burning. Or something.
Oh, Alanis, isn't it ironic that the one night we prepared to be a fitting volume and temperment for The Equator, the room is actually full of kids ready to rock out? Oh, Mariah, I've noticed a trend. Al starts the light show at the third song of the set. Oh, J-Lo, did we both sell our virtue to a correct audience member? Oh, Carol, is this gig diary too vain? Oh, Al, when will the pastries come home?
BRIAN: In 8th grade I had been playing drums for one year, and had my first band together. The core of this band, me, Steve Ensdorf and Glenn Severance, stayed together right up until we all had to pack off for college. It went through many names (ending with The Mean Wyoming) and sounds (from Van Halen to The Doors to The Cure, in that order). I believe Glenn and I are the only ones still playing music. His band is called Bag of Panties, and are a Burlington, VT band, who have relocated to NYC. Glenn plays bass in that band. So, odds were against this being as fun as it was. The Baystate has been going through a slump, and we'd all rocked the previous night away. But, at the end of this night, we all agreed that this was one of the best Baystate shows in quite some time.
I arrived at the customary 9:30, saw Glenn, and met the rest of BOP. Really nice, charming guys. One of them looked like Thane from the Figments. I watched 90% of their set, and dug it thoroughly I wouldn't know how to label them. Some definite influences (Replacements, Pixies, perhaps some Britpop), but none more prominent than the other. Glenn asked if it'd be cliche if they covered a Pixies tune. I said no way. In fact, I forgot to tell him that I once saw a band cover "UMass" by the Pixies at a UMass show. So, they did "Letter to Memphis". They had a good audience for a first time out of town band. Besides me, they are also pals with Mark from Hospital.
So, then we played. I was full of energy, and very psyched to play. Joe was with us tonight, and we played very tight, and happy and stuff. Then, the special treat. We recently purchased a MIDI unit called Vintage Keys, that has, among other things, a mellotron sound. And we knew just the guy to ask play it live with us: Ken Maiuri. Yes, that Ken Maiuri. Maggies, King Radio, New Radiant Storm King, Pernice Brothers, Sourpuss, Ribbon Candy Ken. He's a robot, you know, and so we knew nothing could go wrong. Nothing did. He came up 2/3 through the set, and played 6 songs with us, mellotron, but also harpsichord and organ sounds too. He also played tambourine when he wasn't needed during certain parts. It sounded perfect. He seemed to be having a good time. Folks were dancing, and there was a great, happy vibe in the room.
Lastly, CONGRATULATIONS TO CONNOLLY AND MARYELLEN ON THEIR BRAND NEW BOY.
He has no choice/ but to become the next Joyce.
HENNING: Yes, congratulations. Nice work. Welcome, Baby Ryan.
It's summertime at the Baystate, and you know what that means. Hot hot hot hot hot hot sweaty shows. Rock and roll, Charlie, the verdict is in, we are going to blow the roof off of this place. Baby, you can count on us, we are going to rock you so hard you won't know what hit you. We're going to rock your pants off. We are going to rock you back into the middle ages, best not forget your lance, fair maiden. The choice is yours: rock or be rocked. The rock and roll will singe your eyelashes. It'll shoot out of us like a 6 year old kid out of the tunnel of death water slide. No holds barred, hands down, this will be your rockingest night ever. Did we mention rock? Because that is what we intend on doing tonight, and when we say rock what we really mean is ROCK. R with a capital OCK! Captain, hold on to your memories, because you are in for a swarming gasp of rocktastic rock rock. Take all the rocking that you've done in your life...now multiply that by a billion..that's how much you probably think we are going to rock..but don't underestimate us, Alphonse, we are going to bring tiny shovels made out of rock and roll and burrow into your veins where we are going to set up a newsstand and EVERY single paper will have the headline: ROCK AND ROLL. Are you enjoying that OREO cookie? That's because we have replaced the double stuf with rock and (you guessed it) roll. Remember rock and roll? Yeah? Well you ain't heard nothing yet, General Happenstance, the bird feeders are teeming with rock. We filled our car tires with rock and when they were overinflated we climbed right on inside and smashed a bunch of things that don't rock so much all the time. We'll have the rock omelette and can you bring about a thousand pitchers of rock for my friends here? Because they are thirsty for some crazy-ass rock music. I'd like to put in a call for rock. The rock we have in store for you can't be described, but image if you will soimething completely indescribable. There's a rock in my shoe, Mr. Magoo, Dippity dippity dippity doo. Scooby Dooby Rock. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their rock and roll. 'Twas the night before christmas and rock. Oh, Barbara what are we going to do with you and all those scissors?
BRIAN: The Luna Lounge is located on Ludlow St, on the lower east side of Manhattan. This locale is to the Velvet Underground fan what Ashbury St, San Francisco is to the Grateful Dead fan. For the founding members of the Velvets lived, rehearsed and recorded in an apartment on this little street, back in 1965. Ok, then.
Our involvement with the Luna Lounge goes back a few months, to our Baystate gig with Kitty in the Tree. Y'see, they're on the label associated with Luna Lounge, and so tonight's gig was a byproduct of our mutual admiration. A third band, Charmer, was supposed to play tonight, but they broke up. So, it was just us and Brooklyn's Girl Harbour. Go ahead, ask it, everyone else has. (Is that on Girl Planet?).
Manager Don had rented a Yukon--big ass, deluxe SUV, so we had plenty o' space while in transit. Don drove, Henning was shotgun, me and Russ in the back. It was a fun ride. We stopped at the usual McDonalds halfway, and 3 of us got sundaes. We listened to ABBA, and Russ and I were spazzing along to it in the back seat, having a great time. We were running early, so it wasn't too huge of a deal that we had to detour through Queens. The weather was grand--not too hot, but who could tell, with the total climate control in the SUV?
We pulled up at the Luna, and saw a band unloading. Look, a guy in an orange t shirt. Look, a guy with curly hair and shades. Ah, we must be in the right place. Standard indie rock fare. There was hardly any load-in involved, and so we had time to take a walk around a few blocks. Ran into Beret, superfan. Got an ice coffee, looked at some retro furniture, soaked it all in. NYC seemed very friendly this evening. I'm beginning to think, there's hope for the human race. Doo wakka doo-Harry Nilsson.
Back for soundcheck, and the soundman was so nice, and helpful, and seemed to really dig the band and like his job. Don had run into an old friend of his, total coincidence, and was having a drink with her in the lounge, watching our soundcheck on the TV monitor. We joined them, and hung out for an hour or so, 'till show time. John Hendrickson (Joeman) came in, hair as long as I've ever seen, and we had our usual fast paced conversation. He's got a band called Noisy La Grande, and is an online rock critic.
Showtime. Stage, great sound, dark room. Couldn't make out anyone in the room. Personally, I loved it, because I'm not one for eye contact anyway. Eye contact for me, Mr. Shy Fidgety Guy, is a one way street; look at me, or I look at you. A salesman I am not. So, the anonymity of the dark room was awesome. All I could see was me, Russ and Ning. So, I was totally filled up with an old school rock vibe. I was staring out at the crowd, possibly making folks uneasy, but only because I couldn't see them. I thought we were very tight and energetic, and the crowd seemed to like us. Well done.
After the show, we hung out with one of the Kitty in the Tree guys, and I saw Glenn Severance of Bag of Panties, who I 'd see more of the following night. We also saw ex-Northamptonite Vanessa, who joined us when we went to the next door wine bar. Can't remember the name, but I loved it. We were with Beth an old friend of Don's, and I had a good time chatting with her. As Henning was the only non drunk person at this point, it was his duty to drive home, but first to drop off Beth. I think I slept much of the ride home.
HENNING: Who reading this does not know what a Mad Lib is? Email me immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
My bagel was good but the cream cheese was too vinegary. No biggy. The SUV is evil and huge and fun to drive. It's a sin on wheels.
It seems as though everyone in this section of NY looks exactly the same. The clothes are stitched with hipster-string. The hair is dyed with cynicism. The shoes are laced with irony. But weren't the folks at Luna kind to us. Yes they were. Wouldn't I have loved to have enjoyed the little restaurant down the street called NYC Grilledcheese? Yes I would have.
It was a pleasure seeing our NYC cohorts, lets thanks them for coming out. Thank you.
Love the green light behind the bar.
Should I get a cell phone? Serious responses only please.
BRIAN: Call it culture shock. Call it me out of party practice. All's I know is that, while it was happening, I knew I wasn't going to FULLY appreciate just what went on in these 24 hours until upon reflection. Not that I didn't appreciate it all while it was happening. But, just, shush, and dig this. DIG THIS.
It's a little story of a band called Kahoots, and how they made we bumpkins from Northampton feel like honorary Kennedys on an island new and strange to us. Kahoots are a half Northampton, half Vineyard-based band, who we really, really like. For the past 18 months, they've had a monthly gig at the Offshore Ale House, playing 2 hours all by themselves. To our delight, they asked if we wanted to come and split the night with them, and to their delight, we were delighted that they had asked.
There were 5 of us departing from Northampton on the morning of June 30th. Lord Russ, Joe Boyle and me in one car, Ning and El Bezo in another car. Russ was the driver in our car, and I volunteered to sit in the back. Oh what fun!! It was a hot, sunny day, and we were a rockin' down the highway. Journey is coming through New England, and both cars kept finding their songs on various stations. I love Journey. And sitting in the back seat, driving to the Cape with Journey on the radio totally flashed me back to my first family vacation to the Cape. I remember back then seeing cars of young adults having fun on the highway, and wondering if I was gonna do that when I was that old. Here I was, and so I took a magic marker and paper, and, moved by the moment, scrawled "SUMMAH '83 ROCKS!!!"
As we got closer to the Cape, we discovered different stations, and the first song we got in was "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor. The DJ then came on to tell us that ol' JT "really ripped it up last night" at the Tweeter Center (or somewhere"). That's like describing the PGA tour as "Non-stop, in your face, explosive action!!". Finally getting on the Ferry to Oak Bluffs was somewhat involved and unexciting. It was when we were all getting a bit travel weary. But it involved getting our parking validated, then driving 10 miles, retracing our steps, to another parking lot to park and get a bus, and stand up on a bus for 10 miles to the ferry. I got a hot dog. We were first in line (after the 20 cars and trucks) for the ferry. There was a nice man there, and a not so nice man with a CC Deville, high pitched crack pipe-ravaged voice barking orders, and threats to his co workers. The best part of being in line was the hunky, sun tanned, topless man wearing only cargo pants and holding a large, empty, prescription pill bottle. Joe Boyle made the JOKE OF THE DAY when he said that the pills were to prevent him from taking off his pants in public. The guy had a sort of expression like "why aren't I getting laid right now?", scanning the crowd to see who was noticing him. Alas, he seemed to be pals with all the Ferry men. No pun.
Ferry ride. Fun and Ferry like. I was on the windy side half the time with Russ, the mellow side the other half with the other 3. Prior to getting on the ferry, Ning had called Elisha from Kahoots and made arrangements. Elisha said the club is very near the ferry landing, so's the beach. You'll get fed at the club, it's all very easy, we'll see you later. Retro arcade something or another. So, Lo and Behold. Look out. We get off the ferry, we see Elisha and J.J. waiting for us. Oh, how sweet. Hey guys, blah blah. They mention and gesture toward a tour bus. We think they're kidding. Then they mention it again and start walking towards it. Then they're getting on it. Oh, how nice. A little official Vineyard treat for the tourists. Nuh uh. We had another thing coming. Imagine The Monkees taking place in 2001, starring Kahoots as Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. This is what the next 30 minutes were. The bus was all Kahoots, and friends, Caroline the charming bus driver, and Jimmy the teenage hitchhiker We rocked and rolled all over the island, with Rob of Kahoots on the headset, pointing out real and imaginary sights and people. Caroline is a real tour bus driver, and this was a real Martha's Vineyard tour bus. But Grandma and Grandpa probably wouldn't have liked it too much. As my senses were adjusting, I just kept thinking, "is this really happening? This is about the most genuinely HAPPY thing I've been a part of in quite some time." I had to keep my cynical nature at bay, for it was not allowed on board this crazy vehicle. Like how Pete Townsend describes being at the Monterey Pop Festival. The fresh, salty air blended wonderfully with the curious smelling smoke that was wafting through the bus. A couple tourists flagged the bus down, wanting an official tour, and they were invited aboard, but declined upon seeing the sightseers. "Ain't no shame in it", seemed to be the mantra of these people. Oh, and also "This is Gene Simmons of KISS." (done very, hysterically accurate).
We were dropped off at the club, bid adieu to Kahoots for a few hours, and explored Oak Bluffs. We dropped our stuff off at the club, and headed toward the beach. Russ swam, Ning and I waded, and I collected pretty shells and stones for Andrea. Then we went back for our dinner at the club. Burger, me. They seated us so I could ignore everyone and watch the Red Sox. We had a very nice group walk afterwards, sitting on the rocks, watching the little diving birds (?) and the big bird with the big nest atop the tall wood pole.(?) We walked through the little streets, along the shops. Joe was in search of a new hat.
Back at the club, the bus pulled up, and the happy bunch arrived, very cooperative in their equipment loading. They hardly let us lift a finger before it was all over. Russ was awed by Caroline's leadership and get things done-ness. SHOW: great. Fun. We did 45 minutes, JJ and I solved a hi hat stand crisis together at the last minute. An older island dweller stood close up, expressionless, motionless and watched most of the set. Finally he piped up after Sweet Caroline, saying that he didn't dance because "You can't dance to satire", and implying that we couldn't possibly really like that song. Sigh. The church of Neil has a long way to go, I guess. We do really like that song. An ex Northamptonite, Heather, was there, along with a Bachelorette party, and were bumping and grinding against Russ during "Hooked On a Feeling". It was fun to watch. They wanted Russ to come strip at the party, but he declined. Kahoots began their set, I got another beer (delicious there, by the way) and dug it thoroughly I love Kahoots. The songs, the sound, the way Rob, John and Elisha move and jump up front. It's energetic, and happy.
Afterwards, there was a party at Caroline the bus driver's house. We were there a few hours--until 3:30 am, I believe. Some went nightswimming. I didn't. It was, I believe, a typical party for this crew? Does it ever let up? Like, by August, is there still the fervor? Then, it was back on the bus for a crazy ride, dropping people off, picking people up, singing and spazzing, and finally arriving at Elijah's place in Vineyard Haven. We set up tents in the back yard--me and Russ in one (my first ever tent experience--a bumpkin I am not) and Ning and El Bezo in the other. The sun was coming up when I shut my eyes. When I opened them, it was 4 hours later, and 120 degrees in the tent.
Charlie, the keyboardist in Kahoots, is a manger at the world famous BLACK DOG restaurant. WE ALL KNOW THE T SHIRTS, A BIT TOO WELL. But have you tried the food? Did you love it? Because of Charlie, we had an 11:00 brunch table all set up for us ( a group of 15, I believe). I got strawberry banana pancakes. Oh, so good and filling. It was a lovely experience. I watched the tourists looking around for the rich and famous. Or maybe the other way around. BEST STORY: Caroline said that recently, she went into the lady's room at a bar, and there was KEITH RICHARDS. She stared at him, unbelieving. Keith: Are you looking at me like that because I'm Keith Richards? Caroline: No, I'm looking at you like this because you're in the ladies room. Love, it, love it.
We caught a ferry back to the mainland soon after. Ning and El Bezo were going to spend another night somewhere else, but Russ, Joe and I were going back to Noho. Russ tried to go for one last swim, but couldn't find a nearby place without motor boats in the water. And Russ takes his swimming seriously. Me, I can't swim (I'll learn soon, so shut up). Russ, he does crazy stuff. Slightly disappointed, we caught the next ferry. Me, I felt fulfilled, and ready to return to the norm, but oh so glad to have experienced that. The ferry ride home featured a 10 year old Brazilian boy who made friends with me and Russ, and a couple of other kids who were playing games with the seagulls, letting them eat pieces of pretzel right out of their hands. That was cool. When there were like 6 seagulls flying alongside the ferry, 2 feet away from me, it felt like The Birds (Hitchcock). The ride home with Joe and Russ was nice. I slept a bit, and it rained heavily at times. Ok, that was a damn book. But fun, no? No? That's why I'm not a writer for a living.
HENNING: Well, it was a long weekend full of a lot of stuff and what am I supposed to do with it all? It was fun and now it is over. Do I dwell on it? Should I try to imortalize it in some lousy on-line diary? What am I going to do with all of my informatioin? Just keep taking it in? Over and over? Great. Is that what we are doing here? Trying to preserve the past? Why bother? The past is past. It is irretrievable. We are all time travelers and we can't turn around in that Dunkin' Donuts parking lot. There isn't even a Dunkin Donuts parking lot. There isn't even a donut. I've never had a donut.
Me: I am enjoying
the guy over there with no shirt and a prescription pill bottle.
Lord Russ: I wonder what the pills are for.
Joe: They keep him from taking off his pants, too.
And the ferry goes back and forth all day long, everyday. Day after day after day. There ain't no shame in it. Just the opposite, really. Bringing people to a magical island and then bringing them back home.
Have you ever been in a foreign land? Face tight from sun shine, hair tangled from ocean winds, and brain tired from playing a rock show, and found yourself jostled around like a bee in a jar, in the back of a pink bus full of wasted young adults? Have you bounced through the tiny roads of a north shore island? With flashing images of headlight-lit cape-cod style candy cane houses gliding past the open windows. Have you revisited the green vinyl school bus seats AND stared in bewilderment at blurred tree branches in the night? Was everyone around you more nuts than the last person? Was that guy actually sleeping in an upright position? Yes he was and yes, I have done these things. Did I intend to?
Who put this island here anyway? Why was I not consulted?
BRIAN: Now is is this something I'd wanna tell my kids about? Oh, of course. It's just a bloody name, then, innit? And it was just a bloody great time, now wasn't it? Oh, yes it was. In fact, for me, it seemed to truly kick off the summer of 2001 properly. It did what MIT and Springfield did not. It brought past and present together, and Summer Spirit officially passed into me. The Shag Fest was a one day/night rock and roll festival put together by Greg Garcia of Kelvins fame, with 8(?) bands. Two things about it changed: it was supposed to be outside, but the day could not make up its mind if it was going to be sunny or rainy, so the music was inside. The other thing was that because of the rain, everything was pushed ahead a couple hours. This made it impossible for our pals The Drunk Stuntmen to play, as they had another gig that evening. Oh well. Our slot was moved from 7:00 to 8:00.
Ning, Russ and I showed up at about 6:45, and checked in. It was sunny at this point, and Masala were playing inside. I missed it when the guy set his guitar on fire and smashed it. I ran into my Butterfield roommate from freshman year at UMass, Jaime, and it was a trip to see him. He was wearing some nice clothes, and he introduced me to his girlfriend. He was as nice a guy as ever. God, was that almost 10 years ago? I thought I heard that his bass player was Doug Wembish, who used to play in Living Colour? His drummer played a great solo, very jazz, and my favorite part of the band was the percussionist, who seemed to be having a great time, and did all the right things. I wish I coulda talked with Jaime more. But, oh, was it hot in the club. And there was some free pizza. So, to refresh, a beer, a slice and some fresh air was the perfect prescription.
Soon, it was our turn. Sully had opened the doors to let the air in--a wise move. I was hoping the hot wouldn't drive everyone out. But, surprise, surprise. Throughout our set, Sully's was pretty darn packed! And we rose to the occasion, with a tight, energetic set. Everything sounded great (Russ' amp was noisy and picking up radio signals. And by he way, the Red Sox LOST, contrary to what Russ jokingly reported. But, it's no joke. Mm, mm, girlfriend). But, yeah, the folks was dancing. Steamheads, Indigo Blue, Gina the hairdresser, and many others. I was very, very happy with the whole experience. Thank you Greg for inviting us.
Then the party began. Like I says to Lord Russ, I says: this is no longer a gig we played at, but just some random backyard summer party we've found ourselves at. At first, we weren't gonna stay long, but the beers were nice. I kept saying, "let's go in 5 minutes, or I'm getting a beer", to which Henning would say, "Then let's go" and Russ would say "Get another beer". This is the world in which I live.
I was glad we got to meet the oh-so-nice folks in Shesus. We didn't get to see them play (they played early), but we had spotted them earlier, as a very hip looking bunch of people. And I noticed them watching us. Finally, after our show, after we hung out a bit with the Steamheads (and meeting yet another sibling of Miriam's), Russ looked over and said, "Look, Henning's surrounded by 4 women (and one guy)". Ning called me over, and it turned out that this was Shesus. They are an indie band from Dayton, Ohio (home of Guided By Voices and Kim/Kelly Deal). They are all women, except Dave the drummer, who is a bit taller than Henning. I think I met all of them, and had great fun talking with each of them, exchanging tales of our hometowns, and various places on the road we've each played. Learning, networking, drinking, it was very fun. Dave asked about my drum training (as he was a drumming student). I said my training was none. But he was very impressed, and I was thankful. I wish I'd gotten to see him. We befriended them, and exchanged CDs. Perhaps we can play together some time. And they thought our recently developed schtick about (JC) Penny's was funny.
Another unrelated event: a guy about our age called me and Henning over, all confidentially, like he was gonna make us an offer we couldn't refuse. Instead, he asked if we knew any chicks who like Kung Fu movies, and if not, how come chicks don't like Kung Fu movies? I said we were more John Candy than Bruce Lee, and Henning said we were more nerdly than manly. So, we talked with him a while about other things. He was funny. I fell in love with a couple who I felt should have been in a French film from '66. Ning tried to get a photo of them, but the girl seemed to notice. Aahh.. what else? I just don't know. It was very fun. Russ was propositioned by one or more women. And Henning was asked a very personal question. It restored my faith in fun.
c These napkins keep blowing all over the place. I got them at the bar, the pizza is juicy. The chicken wings juicy, too. Outside here on the patio, soon it would be our turn inside. I went in for a bit here and there and the heat pushed me right back out. The flaming guitar added to the heat but made the stay inside more enjoyable regardless, though, the smell of lighter fluid reminded me of camping.
The people at Sully's like the rock and roll. They don't seem very interested in the quieter stuff. It's the screaming and the monkeying that really go over well. The loudness, the excess. So, we played a very rock and roll show. My glasses kept slipping off my nose.
Upon arriving at Sully's I immediately knew that the folks over there at that table were not from Connecticut, turns out they were Shesus from Ohio. Nice kids. I enjoyed our talks. I enjoyed their CD as well. Some of the guitars reminded me of Drums and Wires XTC some of the rest reminded me of good old girl punk. They claimed that they were much better than their CD now so I would love to see them play.
Shagfest was a big success for everyone thanks to Sully's and Greg of the Kelvins. For a while it started raining but we just kept right on hanging out...we're just that cool. Amazing.
BRIAN: When the MIT accountants in charge of Grad School did their end-of-semester number crunching, they found that they still had some money to burn. Well, why not turn that burning money into barbecue, and invite The Aloha Steamtrain to play? Well, ok! OK, gang?
News Item #1--Joe Boyle is on the 21 day disabled list. We'll present the facts as we learn them.
News Item #2--I'm staging my own death, but really, I'm going to Sweden, where I'll be known as Mr. Sven Mojo Sven Sven. Come visit.
So, this was a Hawaiian themed party for the MIT grad students. It reminded me a lot of when, in 1991, my band The Mean Wyoming played an end of semester party at Phillip's Academy It was like, "Here I am supplying the beat to which future Nobel Prize winners, foreign ambassadors, deadly disease solvers, Congresspeople, judges, lawyers, professors, doctors, etc, are shaking their bums to. And I wouldn't want it any other way".
I picked up Lord Russ and Henning at 2pm, and we drove the Sable down the Pike to Cambridge. Overcast, mild day, but it was nice to see Boston by daylight for a change. We spotted Bruce Tull's car, and a parking space right near it, right on Memorial Drive, and realized we'd gotten a spot right in front of the damn building we were looking for! Oh, Holy Grail! Oh, River Charles! Oh, Pru!
First thing I noticed was that it must have been a slow day, because there at least 9 campus cops milling about. We met the folks in charge, and set up in a screened in area, over looking the green where the main Luau stuff would be happening. We did a brief sound check as the first batch of burgers (meat and veggie) and hot dogs were cooking. We had about 20 minutes to blow, so we looked for some photo ops. We thought the Stabile (see Henning) was the jam, but suddenly, 4 Cambridge fire engines pulled up, looking for a fire. It seems someone thought the library was on fire, when really it was just the smoke from the grills.
I got a Sam Adams from the keg, and we began our first set, which included 2 Don Ho songs (PS--as I wrote this, Russ and Anisse are seeing Don Ho play at Mohegan Sun Casino). We did Tiny Bubbles, and Meke Leke Me Le (or something to the effect of that--sorry, Hawaii, to disgrace your native tongue). Later, we did Beautiful Kauai. We were eating music. No real applause between songs. The food was that good.
In between sets, I stood in line to get a burger, and watched Bruce, Ning and Russ play "volleyball". I'll leave it at that.
The burger was great, but made the second set a bit sluggish for me. We were asked to supply music for a Limbo competition, which only 8 of the 200 people there chose to take part in (who wants to bend over backwards on a full stomach? Come on, MIT, I thought you was smaht!) We played "It's Now Or Never" for the Limbo. The Limbo went on and on and on. "It's Now or Never" changed keys 8 times at least, and I gradually brought it up faster and faster. When it was fast enough, it changed feels, from calypso, to rock to disco.... Finally there was a winner, and we finished up our set.
The pretty woman said we could stay for more beer after the party was over, but the other guys were hungry, as they hadn't had a chance to eat, and Lord Russ was recovering from a cold, thus completing the Steamtrain Sick Cycle. But she did let us take home one of the big Palm Tree decorations. Look for it at future shows. So, we said goodbye to the people, and to the dogs (one of which had a Hot Dog costume on), and were on our way. MIT has been good to us. I guess they know a good group of nerds when they see one.
Post Script: the report from the Ho show. How was Ho? Pretty po'.
HENNING: What? I gotta say, Brian, half the time I have no idea what you are talking about. Post Script? Ho? Po?
Alexander Calder has been an idol of mine for some time, although, I admittedly don't really know very much about the guy. He was, I believe, the real inventor of the mobile. And those that know me know I love a mobile. He also garnered fame through his stabiles - giant organicly shaped metal sculptures that can been seen in big cities and large college campuses as was this one. As I write this, a picture of Calder and a few of his works hangs in front of me on the wall. One thing I do remember about him is that when he was a young budding artist he worked a lot with wire sculptures, you know, those things that are shaped out of one continuous wire and take on the shape of objects. As it goes, he showed up for a big art show in NYC and was greeted by the museum curator who saw him step of the train and, puzzled, asked him where all his pieces were. Calder responded by pulling a spool of wire out of his pocket and created all his stuff from scratch before the show. Maybe this is how The Aloha Steamtrain felt as they showed up at this "Luau" with only three half-learned Don Ho songs in their pockets. Pockets.
It sured smelled meaty all the time.
BRIAN: We played on the steps of City Hall. No Mayor Albano, no Tom Bevaqua. But a whole host of locals, both sane and not. It was a 2 setter, spaced between 4:30 and 6pm on a Wednesday. So, the workers had not yet been released from their crammed cubicles or comfy desk chairs. On this day, 80 degrees and humid, who'd want to leave the air condition anyway? Three Steamheads traveled from Connecticut to see this show. That was a nice thing to see.
Irony?: This, the Taste of Springfield, saw us not eat. Oh, wait, Ning had a chicken sub. I didn't eat, though--it was too hot. We got a bit lost finding the secret auto way to the stage, but eventually found it, and unloaded. The soundman had worked with us before--perhaps at the Taste of Northampton. Good guy--said my snare had the "Bruford" sound. That's Bill, yo.
The smell of food would occasionally waft over to us. The dudes manning the Coca Cola booth loved us, and kept yelling, giving us the rock and roll gestures. A funny guy was doing all possible hip hop dances to our songs. It was fun to watch. He was a good dancer. He did several poses for the fellow who was taking pictures. Another man, a 50 year old self professed Irish Drunk alternately kept telling us that we rocked, and that we sucked. During the break, he told me of his ex-girlfriend who worked for Bill Graham for 15 years in San Francisco, and how she said that out of all the hundreds of bands she saw, Bob Marley was the one who could "move energy". He then repeated that phrase "move energy" about a dozen times. Later, Miriam Steamhead told me that after I walked away, he said "hey wait, I didn't get to tell him that they moved energy too!". Well, if he's reading this, thanks.
During the break, I got a hard lemonade, and toured the booths with Joe. Second set was highlighted by a man in his 60s, dressed, oh my, how was he dressed? But he had a microscope. Ning, fill in the rest. As I write this, I'm at my computer at home, and I may as well be in the middle of a rain forest and/or steam bath. I dig it, as long as I don't have to think too much.
HENNING: The road in front of the stage had, of course, been closed off. Which meant that the double yellow lines would be a perfect balance beam for the old man. He couldn't have looked happier as we burst into Here We Go, and he dropped his bags and started boogying, his huge toothless grin like a black-hole in the summer sun. I was mesmerized. Wouldn't this be the perfect video? A celebration of life unfolding right before our eyes, I didn't understand how it possibly could have gotten any better, and then it happened. He made his way back to his worn sachels and fished around for a bit finally producing of all things, of all the possible things that this century-old hobo could have had as a prized possession, a small well-kept, black and silver...microscope. A microscope.
At first he held it and displayed it to the crowd like it was a trophy or a magical icon. Then he placed it on the ground before him and danced around it as if in celebration for this one incredibly fragile and intricate work of art. All the while I am in awe wondering, where did he get the microscope? What possible chain of events could have taken place? Was it a thing from his past? Had he been a scientist in his old life? Did he spend the fifties in a white lab coat? Was the microscope a reminder of his childhood? A keepsake or a recently found portal to his 11 year-old bedroom and a special science kit that he had been wishing and wanting for months? Or was it just a trophy? A piece of jewelry, something shiny and purposeful, something bigger than life in his aluminum-can world? Anyway you slice it, it was a bittersweet celebration of just about everything and it made my day. It made my day better. Better than yours.
'Twas a squeeze, oh yes, as we travelled North
But Old Sable, she knows well the course
How were we to know, as the Turtles played
That traveling back, we would greet the new day?
It was sunny when the 4 of us arrived at the Mole's Eye on this perfect Saturday evening. We listened to The Association and the Turtles. And, hey, pop fans? The Association's "Wantin' Ain't Gettin'" from 1967; is that the first Beck song? Seek it out,. you'll see what I mean. Hip hop beat, stoned, proto-rap vocals, drony sitar/guitars. Wow.
We arrived and ordered some foods. Chicken Caesar salads for me and Henning, a turkey club to go for Joe. Today was BRUCE TULL'S BIRTHDAY!!!!! He didn't let us know till the end of the show. Bruce is one hell of a guy, and we wish we knew in advance. It was also Martha's last public appearance as a single woman. We wish her all the best, and she better still come to our shows. She said she had a dream that I was riding a donkey in Amherst center, and yelled at her when she called it a pony.
3 sets as always, and fun fun fun all around as always. The fun continued afterwards, when we were invited to a party right next to the club. A woman named Jessica lives in a great apartment, and there were about 15 or so folks there. An Estonian named Ulla was making nice with Lord Russ, and the owners of McNeill's (one is called Hefty) Brewery were dancing in their underwear. Lord Russ was in a dress. Y'see, I'm no stranger to drag, and under most circumstances, enjoy it. But on this night, I was a but low energy, from the last ounces of a cold, and a full day, prior to the 3 sets of rockin'. So, this party, I mostly played the anti-social wall flower, engaging a couple folks in conversation, but mostly just observing, and drinking the free McNeill's.
Joe Boyle danced with a chick. Joe Boyle danced with another chick too. I promise next time, I'll be in party mode. It was good to hear the Cars at the party. I started to dance, but forgot I dance badly, so I stopped. No one wants to see that. I fell asleep on the way home, and the sun was coming up over Northampton. I was mainly concerned with being in good shape for beginning our New Record the following day, with Frank Padellaro. This was me and Henning recording our drum and bass parts to 9 songs. It went smoothly.
HENNING:Nice poem, Bri. Here's my perceptioin of this gig: Dancing dancing dancing. Boy, do we love it when the people dance. And after the party when I went to bed, the evening continued on in my sleep, dancing dancing dancing. And the next day when I sat at the studio waiting for the drum mics to be set up, my head was still spinning and dancing dancing dancing.
BRIAN: No pictures from Ning, not many facts from me. What do you expect from a couple of sick guys? Well, I don't know where you're reading this from, but the last six weeks here have seen it go from April to late July, back to April. Where was May? Where is June? What's a rhythm section to do? Well, as I write this, back to healthy, the weather seems to be acting its age. But really, people.
I have no clue what this gig was for, who it was associated with or why we were invited. All I know is that we were invited to headline an Open Mic/Showcase type thing, where there was a man with a hat and a clipboard and a video camera who appeared to be calling the shots. I was absolutely out of it. I know the HOWS, just not the WHYS. At 10:00, Ning and Lesa picked up Lord Russ, Anisse and me. All I needed were drumsticks. I sat in the back seat with Russ and Anisse. We listened to The Church (circa "Unguarded Moment"). The ride seemed long. No doubt the cold medicine was playing tricks on me, even though I'd taken it 6 hours earlier. We got a table, and I suddenly took charge and told the man with the clipboard t who we were. I think I took charge because I was the only one who'd been there before.
We spotted Ken (of the beard and flute fame) who bought Russ a beer and me a Jameson's on the rocks (the Irish cold remedy). I tells ya, the Jameson's was the first thing to make me feel human all day. We watched some folk acts do one song each. Then a man who resembled Howard Hesseman (Dr. Johnny Fever) got up and began to play "Sloop John B." By the second chorus, every act who'd played that evening was on stage, playing guitars, percussion, keyboard, lots of backing vocals, and Ken on flute. Seriously, like 25 people. It was a Hootenanny, and I pretended (with only partial success) that I was at a Greenwich Village folk house in '63. The song went on for 10 minutes. I needed another Jameson's.
We went on (trio tonight) and played a half hour. I let the whiskey do the drumming tonight, as I know there was no way I could rock as hard as I did unaided. Because I did play pretty aggressively, knowing that I'd be in a warm bed within an hour. Johnny Fever made some pretty colorful remarks between songs. Pointing to me, he shouted, "Hey Drummer, SMILE! you guys are good!". I probably was scowling or somesuch. He also followed Russ' romantic dedication of a song with a pretty rude statement. Though Henning was past the contagious stage of his cold, Russ still didn't appreciate Ning's blowing on him during the set. Oh, boy. I don't remember anything else. The ride home was Ning telling jokes, and me trying not to be grouchy. Ning, you gonna draw a funny picture or three? Wish you would...
HENNING: Well, Bri-Bri, let me help you out a little. Just Plain Folks is a collaborative of songwriters. Just a huge group of like-minded artists who pool there efforts to teach each other and learn from each other. In this case, we were part of a cross-country tour that they were doing. To really find out more about them go here: JPFOLKS.
It was a blurry sickness night and the Tic Toc is a sort of blurry place. We sat in a back booth with the ladies and when we went on stage they were obscenely harrassed by the old man sitting next to them. Don stepped in to try to help, like the gentleman he is.
On stage we blurred through a blurry set of songs. I don't remember a ride home. No pictures because I forgot the camera, sorry. At least you can rest assured that if there were pictures they would all be blurry.
BRIAN: This was an Open Mic that were asked to headline. Remember the one day I worked for Mapquest.com? My job was to calculate directions from Northampton to Worcester. I was fired after the boss saw the results, but apparently, someone forgot to delete them. Thus, I fell into my own trap, driving Ning, Russ and Don to this gig. According to Mapquest, we were supposed to go in the completely opposite direction than we should have, upon getting off 290. Tee hee.
The preceding attempt at humor may only be funny to those who know me, and know that I have a less than sharp sense of direction. But, wow--what a ride down. Strange and disturbing all around. Russ and I were in front, Don and Ning in back. Serious, real life issues dominated the conversation; Bush's first 100 days, taxes, doctors appointments, Henning's visit to the Hampshire County Jail. WHAT IN THE GEORGE BERNARD SHAW WAS GOING ON HERE?? What happened to we, the cartoons? Who are we, The Figments? No skits? No imitations? Did you guys know I cancelled a Figments practice for this gig, so I needed a dose of intellectualism? I dunno--this made me uncomfortable, like those "serious" episodes of All in the Family, or Different Strokes. Damnit, if I want death and molestation, I'll watch St. Elsewhere!! Anyway, it made my stomach all in knots, not to mention getting totally lost.
So, we arrived at Tammany Hall - met by Pat. A very likeable Irishman who loves his job. The building is beautiful and old, and I really like the inside of the club. We heard the last 15 minutes of a jam band doing their thing. Folks were playing darts, the Drakes were playing pool. I ordered a $2.75 vodka tonic special. In the 1 minute it took the bartender to make the drink, a total stranger divulged the following information to me: He was a mason; he was on cocaine; he left his wife at home; he felt like having a few beers. My vodka tonic tasted like cream soda. I was told it was probably made with vanilla vodka, which they had behind the bar. I was mildly insulted, though I couldn't argue with the amount of booze for the buck. But basically, --If I wanted something sweet, I'd have gotten a Dairy Queens, got that, Barbara??
After the jam band, Henning played for 20 minutes. It was really good. He should have done "One Lady Dancing", because that's exactly what was happening. Though I have the sneaking suspicion that later in the evening she was one lady barfing. So, we played and, well, the lesson for today: you don't have to jam to be groovy. Perhaps next time we'll bring John Fishman to play Sweet Caroline with us.
HENNING: Well, I was planning on playing One Lady Dancing to the one lady dancing but suddenly the clock radio above the bar reported that time had run out and we were supposed to start our set. But, I enjoyed playing solo for the most part to this room full of confused strangers.
And confused they remained as we took the stage. Had a three minute song ever been performed here before? We were quite aware that we were not one of the jam bands that were the normal selection, but we didn't mind and the crowd didn't seem to either. They came around.
It's a nice venue and we hope to get back there again. Maybe next time, Brian, the conversation won't be so heavy on the way down. Though, to tell you the truth I didn't really notice. I apologize to your stomach for the knots that it ate.
Here's a nice memory: We stopped at a Hess station to ask for directions and the kid pointed over to Exxon and said, "They give better directions over there at Exxon." We went over there and A nice very drunk cop set us straight. Ah..America just when I think you are lost you reappear so vividly.
BRIAN: I may have already said this, but Sully's, along with the Mole's Eye, have become our homes away from the Baystate. Always a good time, always good people. Joe Boyle couldn't make this gig, so, since we didn't want to play 3 full sets w/out him, we decided to invite one of our favorite bands, The Maggies, to be on the bill. At some point it had been agreed that Hartford's The Kelvins were going to be on the bill as well, so it was a "Sullypalooza" as Darrell said at the end of the night.
So, what in the Charlie Brown happened on this night? We led The Maggies (minus Ken Maiuri, who was playing in Boston) in a convoy down 91 and 84 to get to the place. Upon arriving, I learned that Stu, The Maggies drummer, was about to celebrate a birthday and a wedding all in the coming weeks!! What a guy, that guy. He used to be in The Dambuilders, doncha know?
Ever the gracious host, Sully ordered us Steamtrain and Maggies folks 2 large pizza pies. Phillip and Adam brought their girlfriends. Also, Phillip and Debbie's dog, Louise, was there. It can't go without mentioning that the Steamheads were there. Or at least some of them. Miriam and Coreen. Also, some friends and relatives of theirs. I had 3 slices, and was very, very full.
The Maggies began their set, and I got a beer and sat on the steps. They began with this month's theme song, the song that Ning and I wouldn't stop singing whist in DC, "SUMMER GIRL". In a fair world, that'd be a #1 all summer. They did most of their new CD, "Breakfast at Brelrecks". Now, "Covering Me Up" is in my head. You should get that CD. It good, it.
After the Maggies' set, they all split, and that was a drag to see them go. But they all had commitments. They made several new fans and sold some CDs. The Kelvins drummer was nice enough to let us all use his kit, so there would be shorter set up time in between sets. Nonetheless, the wait for the Kelvins seemed to go on forever. Greg Garcia, little man that he is (and I say this only because I'm not Henning, I'm short) stood on a table throughout their set to sing. They were tight, but the pizza was just sitting in my stomach, so I had to walk it off. I took a nice walk with Andrea, in the quiet,mild, drizzly night, which was reminding me of England, so that's what we talked about mostly.
The walk did the trick. I was ready to rock. Just before we were to start, "King Tut" by Steve Martin was playing over the PA. We thought this was groovy, and pretty perfect. So, one set at Sully's. It felt nice. No pacing oneself--it's just 100% from the getgo. The Steamheads were dancing, as was Kevin Lampkins, who brought,and converted, at least one person (see the forum). One girl politely asked if she could request some Smiths. If she only knew... The only way we could accommodate her was, between songs I played the drum intro to "Reel Around the Fountain", and during the break of Misty Paradise, Russ sang "Suedehead" and Henning, "Frankly Mr. Shankly". Many people were wearing Kelvins bumperstickers. Perhaps Ning has some good stories.
HENNING: Aww, I never have any good stories. I can tell you this..I got to put my first bumper sticker on my new car. The Maggies sticker is now proudly displayed on the back for all the world to see. And I can tell you this..I was given a delightful picture by Miriam of Steamheads fame. I guess last time we were down in Connecticut I made some crack about how much I would enjoy an omelette. You can see the work of this budding artist in our art gallery. Do you have something that you would like to contribute? Send it our way.
It was a real fun night there at Sully's what with all the bands, and our set turned out to be a good old fashioned rocker, reminding me a little bit of our days as Funnilingus. Following The Kelvins we had no choice but to maintain the high energy rock zeitgheist of the evening. And could the Maggies be a better band? I'm not sure how .. I love them.
There were red-haired girls and shaved blonde-headed men. There were dancers and cynics. There were drunks and sobers. Yellers and mopers. Two lovely ladies requested some Beatles and we just happened to know a song by this obscure band. We love our Connecticut fans. Who would have thought our journeys into their state would always be so fruitful? I look forward to every show we play in CT. thanks to them.
BRIAN: Let us explain. You will have noticed that one of the venues that continually invites us back to play, is Big Al's Equator Coffee Bar, in Manchester, NH. Without much prompting, Al will tell you that he is a supporter of substance abuse rehabilitation. But moreover, he is a music lover. He invited many of his favorite Equator regulars to play at this festival, which he was helping to put on. Though we're not the New York Dolls, we're also not the Osmonds. But we thought it'd be a fun old time in the country (and man, is it beautiful out there!).
It was a 2 1/2 hour drive. Joe Boyle had been up there the night before, playing with Barry Kingston, and he returned to play with us. They put together a strong and varied lineup, which included Gideon Freudmann, Stephen Kellogg, Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus, plus reggae, blues, and DJs for the teens.
The weather became increasingly lousy upon our arrival. We parked, got some meal tickets, ate some food, and sat in the car, to protect us from the cold rain. Still, there were crazy, sober folks dancing shirtless. Things were running late, and Patrick, our guide, told us that our one hour set would most likely be cut in half. Big stage, big sound system, and on stage it felt like we were at Reading. We cut out the songs with any drinking/drugging references. It was dark, but it wasn't raining under the tent!! I enjoyed the set beginning to end--it went by extremely fast. As we packed up, the Dead came over the PA (a horrendous 90's version of China Cat Rider) and The Lightening Reggae Band prepared to follow us. Thus driving home the point--you don't have to be high to be far out.
HENNING: Should I trust these two little girls who were telling me where to park? Just who is in charge here?
We parked the car at the teeny guards' advice right next to the enormous stage and I stepped out on the wet grass to see a misty field lined with circus tents. The cold scene was scattered with folks of all ages and styles. We became enthwastled in a bustling yet laid-back hippy atmosphere, where it seemed everyone knew everyone else. Tiny go-carts with volunteers skitted back and forth and we made our way towards the wafting pleasures of the food tent. Patrick hooked us up with some free chow and we ordered from the entirely Austrailian caterers. Burgers all around! And Corn On The Cob, for the love of Charlie Brown!
Everything was wet everywhere but nobody seemed to mind. Didn't the air smell like my vacations in Maine? When the rain really started to come down we sat in the car fogging up the windows nestled safe and warm while outside the muffled sounds of children and blues drifted by. We took a picture of the monkey.
On stage I felt at home as always. The sound was wonderful and the people were dancing. The tiny girl in the blue rain poncho was adorable and I snapped a picture as the rest of the crowd nodded in agreement. Later two tiny faces appeared just at the edge of the stage and Russ knelt down and played to them. They shied away timidly.
BRIAN: And on the way home from Washington DC I had a Monte Cristo Sandwich at a very large diner. But kids, that's another story for another day.
Aye, she was a hectic weekend, was she. I had played different gigs with different bands the previous two nights, all in Northampton. We advertised this show as being free to all Smith College graduates. Some took us up on the offer. I had a very stressful time pre show; my car died halfway between the club and my apartment (a difference of a mile). I used the Watering Hole phone to call AAA, and Andrea waited with me, preventing my nerves from busting out of my skin. The tow truck came, and we took Andrea's car. I walked in, and Kahoots were still early into their set. I set up my drums, took many deep breaths to relax and get into show mode, and REALLY DUG Kahoots!! They have a lot going on, and Henning, in particular, seemed entranced. In fact, he stole my Kahoots CD! No, I said he could listen to it first. No need to falsely criminalize an innocent man.
A measure or two of alcohol calmed me down, as it's known to do, and my muscles relaxed, and we began our set. HEY!! We sounded great! Wish you all could have been there. There was spirit, there was spunk. There was Max and Debbie dancing. There was a tall older man with a moustache playing air guitar for a few songs. There was George Lenker. There was Frank Padellaro, with whom, recording of the new Steamtrain album may commence very soon. A lush affair, with a handful of rockers for the kids to light their crack pipes to.
Alls I know is that Ari Vais was in town, and was supposed to play a half hour acoustic set, but cancelled, because he was recording over at Chris Collingwood's house.
Alls I know is that there were some Smith grads at my apartment when I got home.
Alls I know too, is that manager Don has booked many shows for this summer, so there are many chances for you all to see us, and a lot of work for me in the Gig Diary writing department.
HENNING: The little boy was part of the Kahoots brigaide. He loved our lights and helped me in setting them up, saying he wished he had similar ones in his room. I know exactly how he feels. Wasn't Kahoots excellent? This was strangely my first time seeing them and I loved them..actually watched the whole entire show, didn't leave once. That's unusual...although I did the same thing at the Maggies show at Sully's in the next gig diary entry. Two great bands with two great CDs.
Love love love the Baystate for playing shows. Wonderful Bruce did a perfect job on the sound and the audience was so friendly I wanted to puke. It was a very hot evening reinforcing the insane notion that summer is back. We played Joanne and after the show a young lady told us of how her dad used to listen to that song. Cool. Nesmith.
Alls I know is our debut of our "Aloha" lights went mostly unnoticed.
Alls I know is we listened to a super new album by the Eels while setting up.
Alls I know is Adam Greenberg did not actually sing a song with Brian...Brian, however did sing harmonies on a new song we started doing, The BeeGees' "Please Read Me". Weee.
BRIAN: Originally planned as another mid-Atlantic tour (remember what Morrissey sang: "plans can fall through, and so often they do"), this ended up something completely different, but no less fun. In fact, perhaps it was even MORE fun. It all started with the Dren Records Michael Nesmith tribute CD that we were asked to partake in. Dren is based in DC/Baltimore, and so I asked its president, Niall Hood, if he could recommend any venues. He promptly pointed me in the direction of a band called June Star, who, after one mere introductory email, had hooked us up with an opening slot for them at a bar called Mum's in Baltimore (the Federal Hill area--5 minutes from downtown). "Wow", I thought, "that was so easy it was downright spooky". We failed to book any other shows, but we were content to take a little overnight roadtrip in the beautiful May weather, and either stay at Niall's or, if that fell through, a hotel. According to the weather, the weekend was gonna be fab, like the whole damn spring 2001 has been thus far. According to mapquest.com, Baltimore was a 6 hour drive from Northampton.
Friday morning we packed up and left at around 11-11:30, planning to stop a couple times on the way. Friday, I rode shotgun, since I had a) the directions b) some tapes I made just for the ride and c) a portable CD player borrowed from Andrea. I am no good riding shotgun. Not only was I not paying attention to the directions (preferring to fiddle with the music, and generally be a spazz, singing and making up voices), but I also didn't even realize that the car had a special slot for CD players--poor Henning struggled with the cigarette lighter for a while. On the way back, Russ proved to be a much better co-pilot, and me, a better monkey in a cage. We got through the first of my tapes, and soon we were in NYC. This was where we discovered the all showtunes, all the time station. And boy did that make the sun shine a little bit brighter. Who doesn't love a good showtune or 6? (And we're talking PRE Andrew Lloyd Webber). After the station faded, we continued to make up our own showtunes for a while.
We made pretty good time, despite my neglect of co-captain duties (I just get so excited to be traveling, can you blame me?). We were at Mum's (I did navigate the crucial last several turns effectively) at 7pm sharp. I went in to find a bar reminiscent of Northampton's HUGO'S. I asked the woman behind the bar when bands normally show up, and she said around 8 or so. We decided to go downtown to find somewhere to eat. Faithful DIARY readers will remember that we did spend some time in Baltimore last fall, though we didn't play. So, we put on early Bee Gees like last time, and remembered, ooh, they have a HOOTERS!! None of us had ever been, and, well, isn't it great to say you've been to a HOOTERS?? We can now say that. I forewent my Caesar Salad trend, and, caught up in the whole vibe, got a burger. The other two got Caesar Salads. It was a BEAUTIFUL twilight, and our patio seats looked down 30 ft onto downtown Baltimore traffic. The music was oldies, and the folks sitting around us were from all walks of life; A 14 year old celebrating his birthday (!?!?), and getting his t-shirt signed "Breast of Luck, love the Hooters Girls", and a bouncy serenade, which I'm positive his Dad and Uncle got MUCH more pleasure out of; some good old boys, some business men, some women, little babies...
We took a scenic post dinner walk along the water and took some pictures. Then it was time to rock. The guys in June Star were mostly set up at Mum's when we arrived. We got our beer chips (poker chips, the band get in exchange for beer, you see) and chatted and stuff. I made the drums comfy for me, and then went to the bar. My arm was leaning against the empty seat next to me, when I felt it move slightly. I quickly turned to say, "Oh, excuse me", and there was not a person there. There was, however, a little grey kitty cat, sitting on the stool. It was very friendly, so I was petting it, and found out its name was Sinclair, and it was the Bar Cat. It then jumped up on the bar to "order" its customary cup of water, which the bartender dutifully poured.
We began at 10:30, and played a 50 minute set. We played with much energy and enthusiasm. Those present were very kind to us. Before the show, Andy of June Star told me Niall probably wasn't going to show up. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised (see Morrissey quote above), and so the band figured we'd get a hotel and split the next day. A bit through our set, we spotted a tall dude watching and digging the band. I think we all thought "That's Niall". And it was.
After the set, we sold some CDs, chatted with the June Star folks some more, and met Niall. The room was loud, so I watched most of June Star's set from the bar. But when they started the banjo/acoustic songs, I drew nearer. They're the first band I've seen to cover a Velvet Underground song countrified. They did "Foggy Notion", and it rocked in a completely different way. Niall again extended his offer for us to crash at his place, and even said that he'd try to get us a show for the next night, if we were game. We followed him south, towards our nation's Capital, to the Chevy Chase, MD/DC area. He lives in a beautiful neighborhood in a beautiful house, with a few other very cool housemates, male and female. His plan was to have a house party the next night and have us be the band. We said, well, if he could pull it off, sure. We stayed up until almost 4am, talking, listening to the Nesmith tribute and other bands he knows of/plays in, eating bagels and watching the Simpsons. We learned he was raised in the Boston area as well--"He's one of us!", declared Henning. Yes, yes he was. That's our Niall.
We awoke painfully the next morning, but happy, and looking forward to a day at the Smithsonian Zoo!!! ZOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! ZOOOO!!!!!! Niall set us free, with some driving directions, because he had some business to take care of. We ate at a nice diner (can't remember the name), and then it was off to the ZOOO!!!!!! I was looking very forward to the sPandas, but they were distant, and not moving, and there was a thick crowd. The tiger and lions were oh so beautiful, and made me miss my kitty cat. Female rhinos must be very satisfied. In the middle of our visit, the skies became ominous and I said to Ning, "Ning, it's gonna rain in 20 minutes". He said "20? Try 5". In 6 minutes the first drops fell, and I said, "See, what did I say?" Within 2 minutes, the skies OPENED, and chaos reigned. People running every which way. Ning ducked under one tree, with a group of folks and babies. Russ and I found a more intimate place, where we bonded with the apathetic camel (he just kept on chewing on the grass), while Russ and I got our backs soaked.
Soon, the sun came out, and we were looking at the small apes. A mum, dad and baby, eating, and watching us watching them. They were my favorite, along with the giraffes. On the way back to Nialls, we discussed what we wanted to do. Niall wanted to throw a party, and have us be the party band .Sounded great, but we were a bit tired, and agreed to do it only if it was gonna be a good time. Back home, Niall was on the phone, inviting folks to the party, hyping us, telling the folks of our opening slots for Phish and Green Day. Russell was feeling beat, and Henning was ready to rage. Niall and I played mediator. A nap, and a pizza (DELICIOUS! from Vace..), we were all on the same wavelength.
We set up a PA, drums, amps, and the fridge had lots of beer. By 9:30, we were playing to a nice sized party. By 10:30, it was over. Apparently, there were kids dancing on the lawn. How fun. During the set, the big, blue fish in the big fish tank (more later) was staring at me, seemingly mouthing something. Probably "shut the ___ up!". THE FISH: in a big tank were 3 fish: A beautiful, big blue Amazonian one (who was king), a smaller reddish pink one (who was like the blue one's Yes Man), and "Primordial Beast", who I called "Sucky". Its function was basically to fix its suction mouth to the side of the tank, and stay there until Blue or Red attacked it. Clinton, who lived there, gave me the full story, and it was fascinating. The fish with the most intact fins is the king. By 2am, everyone was gone, and we went to bed. We had a fun ride home. Ning, can you just write a lot, because there's so much more, and I need some assistance. I'm sorry.
HENNING: Write a lot?!? Are you crazy? I have to go to bed. My hands are killing me. I am drained of all thought. How am I supposed to write a lot. Sheesh..the nerve.
"We had a fun ride home" writes, Brian Todd. Yes, he's true. We have proof, for our trusty jouralists were present with their film crew (I brought my camcorder.) But I will focus all my attention on one tiny part of our trip home.
We had been driving for many hours. We had developed some new speech patterns. Our vessels were growing stagnent. The car was very familiar. The space was small. Small and confined. But wasn't the world enormous out there next to the "Whip 'Em Out Wednesday" Trucks? Far beyond the middle finger trees, were the voices saying, "Barbra, I'd like to call for a french fries" or were they whispering something about the edge of the world lurking over there beyond the Delaware River Bridge? Either way, when we finally came in for a landing off the long grey carpeted highway, we found ourselves in a teeny part of Connecticut searching for a previously advertised diner. Instead, we came across an enormous Toys R Us whose parking lot sported a man relieving himself in broad daylight on the previously light grey cement wall. Why do we have to see the things that we see?
The diner isn't this way folks, no healthy meals can be found creeping down this dark slanted road to horror. A U-Turn is more than called for and always an option. And so we pulled a 180 on a hospital hill, speeding quickly and nervously out of whatever seedy John Waters movie we had driven into....or so we thought.
Heading back where we had come from we passed the Public Bathroom man again. This time he was walking on the side of the road carrying a brand new, still in the package skateboard. We looked the other way shuddering like a Simpson's sibling. A few paces down the road past the adult video store we stumbled upon the Diner. It had some lousy name like All-American Diner or some such nonsense. We were too hungry and road weary to notice.
Inside the diner as I was returning to the table after washing up who did I behold at the counter next to our booth? Free Willy with his brand spankin' new skateboard drinking a beer and watching the basketball game on the TV. It was then that we all carefully fully took in our surroundings and realized we had not yet left the back stage area of Pink Flamingos. We were smack dab in the middle of it, wolfing down fried anomalies.
One Note about Baltimore: The kitty in the bar only drinks ICE water.
BRIAN: Our two-date New York tour came to a close with an intimate show at the Lower East Side's Living Room. We played this as a trio, and with Lord Russ playing acoustic guitar, and my playing w/ a reduced set up. It was a fun ride down, and as always happens on long car trips (particularly to NYC), many songs were sung, many characters were born. It was a lovely spring evening, and getting warmer as we neared NYC. We made a McDonalds stop, and I got a water and an ice cream cone.
On this ride, we saw 2 car accidents actually happen (dramatic to see, but neither were serious) and one serious bust. All were in Connecticut, I believe. When we pulled up to the Living Room, we were blessed by a man giving us his PERFECT parking spot, right across the club. Entering the club, we were treated to the last half of a performance by a solo folk artist, who was more sensitive than John Denver, James Taylor and Harry Chapin combined. His last song was a sing along, which Russ and Henning sang along with. I don't do such things. Ok, I did. Just a little.
I was beat, so I ordered a coffee from Incredibly Cute Waitress #1 (y'see, there were 2). We had a pretty good crowd, and we got to see Sam and Beret, who sort of are of the first generation of Steamheads, before they had a name. We had a fun show. 40 minutes, well played, and as always, there was the Living Room's tip bucket. We'd heard from Manager Don (sort of like Charlie, and we're his Angels) that our pals Kitty in the Tree were playing at the nearby Luna Lounge that same night. So, with Beret and Sam leading the way, we made our way to the Luna. My first time there. Very cool, very hip. We chatted w/ Kitty, and ran into Jody Porter, lead guitar player for Fountains of Wayne and star of Astrojet.
We didn't stay long--just a drink and a visit to the loo. Soon we were back on the road to Noho. But, not before stopping for bagels. The visit to the bagel place (next door to Katz') was good fun. But maybe Henning can say why. I don't really recall. The ride home was highlighted by an a cappella version of Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend", with me singing lead from the backseat. More must have happened. This is one of those entries. Like I'm not giving all you your time's worth. I'm sorry. I doesn't mean I don't still love you.
HENNING: There could have been a more glorious soundtrack as we sped down Rt. 278 and first beheld the twighlight skyline. There should have been. But, instead there was the noisy nonsense of one of my ancient forgotten 4-track tapes. Russ picked it out from the pile of cassettes in the back of my car (this was my car's first journey to NYC with the band) and we listened to it with good humor. We played the new McDonald's sweepstakes because we want to be a millionare. But, we didn't win nothing worth mentioning.
When we entered The Livingroom is was so quiet and intimate that I was almost afraid to breathe. The mood was warm and cozy as always and the intermittent views of the NYC sidewalk were as patchwork as ever. At one point I saw a professional couple having a serious argument and minutes later I spied three little kids peaking in the window and dancing up a storm. I ordered a Coke from Cute Waitress #2 and we played to a loving audience.
I took a picture of the crowd and then handed the camera off to Sam who captured the shots of the band below. Thanks, Sam.
On our way to and inside The Luna Lounge it occured to me how ludicrous it seemed that ever single person in that section of New York looks and acts like an indie rock star. But, there also seemed to be a nice close knit family there of friends that I never associated with the looming city before. The band playing at The Luna was really great, I can't remember their name now, but I was impressed. Maybe we can get a show there soon.
The bagel wasn't as good as usual but the happy guy with the thick audience who made it was really worth it. At one point he asked Russ to pass him "another cup" but it really sounded like he said, "Can you give me a new job?" I told him we couldn't help him, sorry.
BRIAN: Albany is not so far from Northampton, doncha know. It's perhaps slightly closer than Boston. I hadn't been there since 1993, I think, when a friend who went to Skidmore had me running up and down every street, hungover, in 90 degree weather, in search of record shops. Ah, youth.
On this evening, the Aloha Steamtrain, as a band, were entering new territory. I know that Ning had played Albany with Humbert before, and that Lord Russ had seen the Dead, or at least thought he was dead, or something. We were playing as a trio on this night, opening for the pride of Albany, Mario Sevayega. A sexy, talented, earnest cat who looks not unlike Terrence Trent D'arby, who is quite a talented, sexy cat himself. Manager Don, who set up this show, was also present. We took the Sable, and had an uneventful ride up, well, one fascinating thing which did occur on our way to Albany was a stop at a McDonald's on the Pike. I was behind Don in line, and after a long contemplative look at the menu, he decided on....a Happy Meal. I got the toy. All of that story is absolutely true.
Ning was still trying to shake his cold. The eventfulness commenced immediately upon our arrival. An older homeless man approached Russ and told him he looked like David Bowie. This naturally segued into a story about how this man was still mad at his father because his brother got a rifle for his 16th birthday, and the man didn't. Half way through this story, Russ was already in the club, and I was left standing, half listening, half looking for places to park. I spotted, and Don verified a nearby lot, which was church owned, and thus, "on an honor system". IE, free. Or perhaps Don handed a fiver to God when I wasn't looking.
Mario arrived shortly after we did, and immediately was in the first of many tussles with the door guy. The first had to do with a couch near the stage. Mario wasn't having it, and the door guy said it had to stay. But, the couch found a new home,and round one went to Mario. After all, he told us, no door man was going to ruin his vibe that he'd been building up all day. Mario promised that many attractive women came to his shows, and I didn't doubt him. I asked the door man if there was a carpet to put under my drums (the stage was hardwood). He replied by laughing in my face. But I wasn't amused by the exchange, so I walked away. I ended up using my jacket.
I got a Newcastle and made a set list, while other things were going on. I also put 3 songs in the jukebox, which I never got to hear. I DID get to hear "A Forest" by The Cure, which was awesome. It was getting near showtime. Soon, the doorman was yelling at poor Mario again. Mario had unplugged the jukebox and the video game, because the bright, flashing lights would ruin the vibe he'd been building all day. "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!", screamed the doorman, incredulous that anyone would do such a thing. But someone did. Apparently, it was one of those fancy digital jukeboxes that are programmed, and unplugging them wreaks havoc.
So, we started, and a good sized crowd built up over time. I wonder if Albany native turned Northamponite LIZ SMITH had anything to do with it? If so, props, L. Ning didn't sing hardly at all because of his cold-ravaged voice, but did talk to the crowd when Russ broke a string. We played a nice 45 minute set and people really dug it. During "Beggars in Los Angeles", Mario suddenly jumped on stage and sat on Russ' amp, one foot away from me. He was shaking his head about, eyes either closed,or fixed upon my hands, and generally having some sort of out of body experience. It was an odd thing to have happen, but not unpleasant.
Much of the set, I gazed out the huge window which was behind, and beside me. I should also explain that I was 2 feet up on a riser. The other two were floor level. We ended with "She's So Heavy", and the crowd erupted. Nice. Thank You, Albany. After the show, I was trying to order a beer when a woman who was talking to Russ stopped mid sentence and said "Look at 'is hair!". I saw she was talking to me. I detected some sort of accent above the din of the barroom and Mario playing in the next room. "Is it real? Can I touch it? You're gorgeous! I have 23 year old little sister that would love you!". Then I made my mistake I referred to accent as British, and then she was still staring at me, but making a rude gesture, and telling me how stupid I was. Then all she said was "James Joyce". Y'see, she was Irish. I tried to appease her by saying,. "Our manager's Irish". "Big fucking deal. You're stupid!". By this point I was only slightly interested in our exchange so I walked away, but not before she offered me a cigarette.
I watched much of Mario's set. Quite a performer. Standing up on tables, hits all the notes, intense songs about love.. Where can we find a singer like that?? After the show, we stood out on the street and chatted with some 19 year old fans who were fun to talk to. How are you today, Ning? Looking forward to our 10 days off?
HENNING: What the hell kind of place is this I wondered as I looked at the tiny stage with the teeny PA in front of it. But, as most things do, it worked out fine. Our Map Quest directions got us lost but as things always seem to do everything turned out fine.
I had been sick and I still had no voice to speak of...or with, which turned out fine because there was only one microphone available anyway. So, it was strange to try and play the songs without singing, and while trying to remember to kick Brian's carpetless drums back everyonce and a while so he and his kit didn't plummet off the mini-stage. But, it was a fun show because the audience was right there in front of us...within slapping distance. We made some new friends.
Don and I headed downstairs for a bite after the show to Bombers Burritos. I had some Fries and we discussed the future of the band.
Back in the club we enjoyed Mario's from-the-heart performance and his bands experimental playing. We were enthwastled by strangers of all kinds. Later on the street when we were moving out, Brian and I talked to a few of them. Some nice kids. One of them hated Massachusetts because he got fined 50 bucks for sleeping in a lean-to on Mt. Greylock. I apologized profusely and gave him what I could afford.
Dunken Donuts (Drunken Grownups) supplied us with a few bagels for the road and a really long wait for Russ. On the ride back we sang some opera and played a little kick ball.
BRIAN: Is it some strange coincidence that we were booked to play in Vermont on 4/20? Search me. I'm clean. It doesn't matter so much. So, yeah. How were we to know that this was to be among the best, most fun concerts in Aloha Steamtrain history? We can put it down to a couple things. Namely, Russ had recently completed part of his post-motor crash treatment. And he was feeling like a new man, with enthusiasm and optimism not seen or heard since last autumn. And this rubbed off on all of us, in miraculous ways. For example, I was dead beat, after having averaged only 4.5 hours of sleep and 7.5 hours of work each the previous two days. A three set show seemed daunting. Meanwhile, Ning Nning was just entering the heavy stages of a bad cold. But we got the communal spirit going early on, pre show, as we gathered at Russ and mine apartment, to rehearse a new addition to the set; the Bee Gees' magical 1967 song "Please Read Me." This tune is notable in that we execute FOUR part harmony. Yes, cats and kitties, I sing the high harmony on the chorus. Weird, huh?
We gets to the show (the 4 of us--Manager Don was at NEMO in Boston, punching people and breaking things, because that's what managers do) and orders some dinner. My new pre gig fave is chicken Caesar salads. I think we should start a line of them. Frozen. As we were finishing dinner, Dr. Loren Landis walked in, with a cute 13 year old girl, who turned out to be his daughter. Dr. Landis is always good for some funny and enlightening conversation, like his story of the failed robotic "auto shelver." This was a multi million dollar device tried out in libraries when he was a med student in the 70's in Ohio. We also spoke of the mind altering properties of common cooking herbs and houseplants. Dr. Landis was to come and go a few times on this night, bringing his daughter home during the first set (respecting her curfew!!) and coming back alone, but then his daughter appearing again?? Am I wrong on this? I sort of wasn't paying attention.
So, another Mole's Eye three setter. Like always, it began with an acoustic mini set by Lord Russ. It was a beautiful spring evening in Brattleboro--something I'd yet to experience (it always seems icy and bitter when we're there), so Joe, Bruce and I stepped out for some fresh air. Strangely, one of the door people came out to complain that we were supposed to start at 9:30--where was the band? Meanwhile, Lord Russ was in there, singing his enormous heart out. We thought this was weird. So, we all went back in and began the first electric set. It was going well. The place was filling up, and w/ in 3 songs, I spied two people buying CDs.
During the first break, I didn't go outside, but instead caught up w/ Martha and her fiance--who, by the way, is a sweet, sensitive bloke who can be reduced to tears by the sound of cello. He deserves Martha. A guy named Johnny, who roadies for NRBQ, also talked to me a bunch. He keeps referring to me as _________Jr (NRBQ's drummer). When he yelled that during the concert, Russ replied, "yes, those are my favorite cigars too". Johnny apologized for being obnoxious and drunk the last time we'd met. "Who isn't obnoxious and drunk", I thought, "in this private hell in which I live?".
We began the second set with the Bee Gees tune, which got a good response. One of our loyal, long time fans later told me he remembers hearing that album (Bee Gees 1st) on the same day he heard The Doors first album. Talk about night and day. Do you think all the Gibbs wanted to act out Oedipus with their parents? Anyway, the dance floor was becoming more active, and we couldn't wait to begin the 3rd set. My natural energy level was astounding me. I was truly expecting to be cranky and uninspired. Perhaps it's love and spring time... Aww.
Tonight, during Misty Paradise, Henning sung The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" in tribute to the late Joey Ramone. I've decided to put together an impromptu list of the songs Russ and Henning play/sing samples of during the Misty P.
Lucy in the Sky-Beatles
God Only Knows-Beach Boys
I Think I Love You-Partridge Family
She Sang Hymns Out of Tune-Nilsson
A Kiss is Still a Kiss-from Casablanca
I Wanna Be Sedated-Ramones
Interstellar Overdrive-Pink Floyd
Circle Sky-the Monkees
Wouldn't it be Good? - Nick Kershaw
Vacation - the Go-Go's
Hugo's - the Figments
Any requests from people? Ok, so one freaky thing out of the way--me singing. The 3rd set featured another one: Bruce Tull cutting some serious rug, shaking some serious booty, seriously getting jiggy, what have you. It was great fun to watch. He was dancing mostly w/ Martha, but also a bit of solo dancing. By the 3rd set everyone was dancing, and during the appropriate songs, Russ wooed MANY a cute woman on the dance floor. One even asked him out afterwards. And one invited us to a party afterwards. AHhh...great fun. Brattleboro seemed very Utopian on this night. But alas, the show over, I was dead beat, and Ning was quickly consuming his box of tissues (or towels, as Joe called them). I asked Loren Landis when we could play at a Psychiatrists Convention, since we're all in need of a good head shrinking. Well, I guess I'll turn it over to Ning now. Happy Spring, Ning!
HENNING: Happy Spring, Bri. Now, quiet, I'm watching a nature program....."and from this we can easily determine the natural germination period of the common cold in fertile hosts like this lanky bass player. We need just count the number of days between performances at The Mole's Eye Cafe and we arrive at a startling figure. What is it about this host that is so attractive to the germ? Our technologies are not yet this sensitive. Perhaps, someday we will know."
BRIAN:The club that keeps on giving. My suspicions were confirmed, when Greg Garcia of the Kelvins told me on this night, "this place is the best place in the entire Hartford area to play." We were glad to see Greg at this gig, as well as have him invite us to Sully's summer fest in June (details to follow). We were also glad that Sully himself gave all of us Sully's T-shirts at the end of the night. And that's about all that happened. Goodnight. I sleep now.
Easter Fools!!! Well, what can I say? Ning and I both had the idea that it's be neato mosquito to take Ning's BRAND NEW CAR to this show, since not much equipment was needed. For some reason, this made me so happy, and from the second he arrived, and for the next 3 hours, I was suddenly turned into this total happy spazz. I was jumping up and down, yelling at the sky in my driveway. In the car, I brought up the word "solipsistic," and it became the word of the night. We can thank Annie from the Scales dorm at Smith for that word. At one point, Ning attempted to use the word "solipsistic" to describe Russ' stage banter, but what escaped his lips was some 7 syllable mish mash.
It was a beautiful mid Spring evening, and I was just so happy, because, darn it, why not be, me?? We arrived at Sully's, and Steamheads Corrine and Miriam (with her awesome homemade "I Love the Aloha Steamtrain" T shirt!!) were already there. We met and greeted, and I proceeded to set up the house drums. Ning had ants in his pants to go eat at Lena's, but I had other things on my mind. Like watching the end of the Red Sox/Yankees game. But it was going into extra innings, so I joined Ning at Lena's. Soon, Joe joined us, and once again, Steve Willard. Thanks to the team of Joe and Steve, Henning's digital camera was fixed. How did he break it?? More horseplay. More horseplay. I got a chicken Caesar Salad. It was mighty ass tasty. And those garlic rolls. And those waitresses! And that..WAIT!! I just heard yelling from the other room. What happened?? I ran back to Sully's, just in time to see Manny Ramerez hit a 10th inning single to win the game for the Sox. WOO!!! Love those guys. Miriam seemed puzzled by my Red Sox obsession. What she doesn't know is that most weekends I also hunt deer with a bow and arrow, because damnit, there are just too many of those ugly beasts on God's Earth America. Amen. I came back and finished my meal, and Lord Russ joined us at the table of plenty, but had none of it.
Right. So, show time. I was still in such a happy mood, buoyed by the Sox win, and my delicious dinner. OH!! Was this a long show. 3 sets. Lots of fun. The Steamheads danced and handed out lays. Russ introduced the crowd to his tapeworm, "Foodzilla," who is quite a pretty lady. One of a crowd of women sitting in the corner got up and left, and returned with a bouquet of plastic flowers for us. It was good to see Joan Holliday there. I am just not remembering much about what happened during the 3 sets. Henning and Joe were on different sides of the stage than normal. Joe's vocal harmonies sounded nice. I'm so sorry, people. I'm out of facts about this show.
After the show I realized there was a new mural of Jimi Hendrix on the wall. Pretty cool. Oh, and between sets, they were playing a mix of (get this) KISS and U2. I heard two KISS songs, "Shock Me" and "God of Thunder," which, somewhere there's a cassette of me singing those songs and offering my commentary, when I was 6 years old. Imagine hearing a 6 year old screaming, "Shock me, make me feel better, put on your black leather." And my parents wonder why all I wanna do is rock? Perhaps we'll release that as a single when we're out of ideas. After the show, there was hugging. And then there was...hugging. And, uh, hugging. Hugning?
HUGNING: Yes, we enjoy Sully's more and more each time. The friendliest spot in Connecticut, that's what they oughta call it. When we arrived, I horseplayed in the parking lot and dropped my super cool camera which proceeded immedaitely to smash apart. So, I was distracted for the better part of the evening, trying to fix that and being incredibly hungry. Luckily Lena fixed my tummy and Steve Willard fixed my cam-cam.
Yes, Joe and I were on opposite sides of the stage and to tell you the truth I really didn't feel at home for quite a while over there on the mysterious stage right. But I did marvel at Sully's stucco electrical outlets. The room was warm and cozy and the crowd was cute on the sofa, where else do we play with a sofa on the dance floor? No where, man.
We played and played. We mingled. We met some nice folks, what more could anyone want?
1) 12:00 noon; Baystate Hotel, Northampton - BRIAN: Russ and Henning play an acoustic duo show as part of Jose Ayerve's (Spouse) "Coaxial Music Festival" . Because we had shows lined up for this whole weekend, we had to decline Jose's offer to play as a full band on this night. But Russ and Henning stepped up to the plate, and did this. I wasn't there. I wouldn't know.
HENNING: Life is strange at what I call the DAYstate. It's a room that you generally don't find yourself in while the sun is still out never mind pre-noon. Jose had billed Lord Russ and I as HELLO STEAMTRAIN for this noon performance. I had a great time. A few precious friends were there and a group of scattered diners. I got to play guitar which was a nice creative experience for me. It was friendly and delightful.
The aroma of fried food clenched my just-after-breakfast-stomach.
2) 1:30pm - BRIAN: The Steamteam meet up at Jim Weeks' apartment in downtown Northampton, to record demos for our next album. Joe Boyle was there, Don was there. It was a beautiful Spring day, and I would have rather been outside. No, that's not true. It was all over in no time. 11 songs, one take each, badaboom, badabing, Goodnight Josaphine. Jim Weeks, for the unenlightened, and as I once stated when I was a DJ on WRNX, has a hand in most of the great recordings that come out of Northampton. Now we just have to decide how to make this the best album anyone's ever heard/will ever hear.
3) 10pm - AST show at the Amherst Brewing Co. (ABC); BRIAN: After the Jim Weeks thing, we all had several hours to catch up on rest, or whatever else. Joe was back, after 2 shows away, and we were primed and pumped for our usual 3 set ABC show. And this had to have been one of the best ABC shows EVER!! Against all odds, imagine that, go figure, who woulda thought. In Northampton, there was a stellar lineup at the Coaxial fest, and at UMass, J Mascis was playing a show, with Elf Power opening. But we had our niche of fans--mostly new, and very enthusiastic. I squeezed every last drop of energy out of my being for this one. Attorney David Mintz was there with an attractive date and some friends. Ah, jeeze, Henning. Such a good show, and I can't remember anything else. Perhaps I shouldn't let so much time go by next time. Hope you have some good stories, or a picture for gosh sakes.
HENNING: Good grief, Brian, you're the one who is supposed to remember all the shows. I'm the one who is supposed to just say some stupid stuff. Let's see... what do I remember... what do I recall...
Oh yeah. A very strange crowd on this particular night. They sat at their tables and they listened and they smiled. They were very attentive, and they stayed that way for over two sets. Not the usual ABC thing. Yes, you are right, we did play very well, much better than usual. Strange.
You know what, Brian, you're right, you don't remember anything about this show. Me neither................. we got a good parking spot.
BRIAN:I spent my 4 free hours trying to nap, and then hanging out w/ Andrea, who brought some Moroccan food from Aminouz over for dinner. I had ordered a chicken kebab sandwich, on a baguette, because I like to feel like the rich French tourist who doesn't want to get too involved with the native ways. Anyway, before we could say "Big Al", we were back on the road, this time heading south, for another show. Don didn't come w/us this time.
We'd been invited to meet with some of the Steamheads before the show, at the pizza joint across the street from the Equator. We were running ate, so we figured we'd blown it. But, it turned out, everything was running late, so the three of us, along with big surprise Steve Willard (old friend of Russ and Ning) went not for some pizza, but a quick beer and some conversation. Miriam presented us with some Girl Scout Cookies called "Aloha Chips". They have Macadamia nuts in them. Mmm, mm--10 grams of fat (i.e., goodness) per serving.
Show time was nigh, so we scurried back across the street and I got a coffee for my weary bones and slow brain. It did the trick, and we played a nice one hour set. The Steamheads were as fun to watch as can be, with their dancing and lip synching. Ning can tell you about the light show, and the stuff and the hey. Afterwards, we were formally introduced to the newest Steamheads, who were all cute and funny and stuff. The mother of one of the kids in the band that played after us really liked us and bought a CD. I saw several posters for our friends in Boston, Helicopter Helicopter, who will be rocking the Equator soon. I wish them luck. Aye...this is a dim entry, because I was feeling pretty dim this whole night, and went right to bed upon coming home.
HENNING: "These guys are exciting… in a slow kind of way," Said the voice. We didn't know exactly what that meant but we knew that it came from the heart. The biggest heart in Connecticut, Al's heart. Here we were in the heart of Al's heart, The Equator, that mysterious little coffee bar in Manchester.
We'd been here a number of times, and each time was an experience, this time was no exception. A teeny crowd with enough enthusiasm to fill a Monsters of Rock Stadium. Little ladies dancing.
I requested some light effects and Al wasted no time in turning his mini-café into a damn Who video. At one point the light beams I was staring into were so intense I was actually lifted off of the ground and hovered there like an overgrown lanky humming bird for well over 60 seconds. It was pretty good.
BRIAN: There is a picture from last year, of everyone who attended our last Bowdoin show. You could count them on 2 cartoon hands. We were surprised that Adam Cooke wanted us back, but he did. And this time, everything clicked, and Jack Magee's was absolutely packed for the majority of this show. In doing research for this show, I found out that two very cool Boston area bands have played JM's: Baby Ray and Star Ghost Dog. This has no bearing on anything except the fact that I felt in good company.
Joe didn't come with us for this gig, but Manager Don did, so we rented an ultra modern mini van to hold the 4 of us, plus the equipment. Don and Henning shared the driving chores on the way. We stopped a few times to stretch our legs, and Russ, Hen and I tried not to get too nostalgic as we passed through the Merrimack Valley. We were running a bit late, but weren't worried so much. We listened to Henning's REM CD mix, and later, to the Red Sox game.
Arriving at Jack Magee's, we were met by Adam Cooke, and by Allison, who was doing sound. We all ordered dinners: burger for Don, chicken Caesar salads for Russ and Ning, and a veggie burger for me. As we finished, and were getting ready to start, Don announced that he was going to skip the show, and try to advance our careers in the metropolis that is Portland. Russ and Ning agreed that their salads were awesome. The place was filling up, and I couldn't start until I saw the end of the Sox game; Derek Lowe blew it.
The first set, people were slow to get into it, but by the end, we had some dancers, and some whooping and hollering. Performers can't drink on stage in Maine. A couple of guys were in heaven during "Everybody's Talkin'". During the break, we signed some autographs, sold some CDs, and took some pictures. Met a very loyal core of Bowdoin fans, to rival the Steamheads at UConn.
The second set was better than the first. Now most people were drunk, and we were receiving some strange requests. Guns and Roses, and The Clash were most predominant. Ironic, since Russ and I had heard 3 or 4 Clash tunes that day on the radio. To appease them, I did the drum intro to "Revolution Rock," but I don't know if they noticed. Henning will hopefully explain the meaning of "sector 2" to you.
Don came back after the show, and he believed us, though there was no proof, that we had the whole room a rockin', a mere 30 minutes before. Allison gave us our room keys, but didn't wanna party. A few other folks did. 3 guys and a girl. We got 2 rooms-one on the 12 floor, one on the 6th, of the tower dorm. We partied until 3am on the 12th floor. There was dancing, there was singing, there was speaking in tongues. Lord Russ did all 3 at once. It was brilliant. There was a Spanish exchange student, who sang 3 blues songs in Spanish. I'm glad he didn't have a gruff voice. The girl, Caitlin, paid for a pizza with her student meal card, then left w/out eating any. We got a noise complaint, and anyway, Henning realized we had to be outta there by 10 am, so everyone split. Don took the 6th floor room, and Lord Russ, Ning and I shared the 12th floor room.
At 8:30, it was so HOT in the room, and with the window open, all we could hear was screaming kids. Actually, Ning heard none of it. But I for one, felt like crap--all hot and underslept. But we did manage to all leave by 10, and went to the Brunswick diner, where the famous picture of me w/ the baby was taken. I got an omelet. On the way home, we listened to Simon and Garfunkel(Bookends), The Smiths(The Queen is Dead), and again, the Red Sox game. I slept for a bit. We were glad to get home, and have 4 hours to rest and regroup before getting ready for the Equator.
HENNING: I love mini-vans. I especially love mini-vans with cd players. Especially on the day after I made my first cd compilation on my computer. Speaking of CD Compilations, who wouldn't want to win a free one of those? Send me ideas on what kind of contest we can have where we give out a CD Compilation to the winner. The person with the best contest idea will be sent a homemade CD of great music. Send your entries to email@example.com.
Anyway, Bowdoin is a joy. 1600 students. It's tiny but they are always very kind to us. The sound person, Ally, was great. The room we play in is very echoey and hard to mix well in, but she did a good job. The ceiling is about a million feet high and a balcony looms above us. The Guns and Roses fans were directly above us in point-blank we-could-pour-these-beers-on-your-head position. They were in what I referred to as Sector B.
Later we were in the tower. The second tallest building in Maine, supposedly. Amazing since it was only 22 floors high. Ahh Maine..the last frontier.
Driving home Russ and I basked in the beauty of Simon and Garfunkel whilst Don and Brian slept. That's some of my favorite music right there. These guys were always on the forefront of writing and recording. Genious. See? There's a compilation CD I could make for the winner. Just let me know what kind of music you want when you win the contest. Send me those ideas for the contest. I have one idea, but I want to see what some of yours are first. Thanks.
BRIAN: "Who doesn't love a tale of Glory? This, my friends, is St. Patriot's Story." The Aloha Steamtrain's plan to instate St. Patriot's Day as a National Holiday is coming along very smoothly. On this night, in fact, it appeared to be observed just like any other holiday. People drank, danced, laughed, music was played, and the next day nobody's life was any different. Excellent. Indeed, it was pure dumb coincidence that this St. Patriot's bled into a) April Fool's Day and b) Daylight Savings Time. And yet, it was only fitting, because if you remember, St. Patriot bled quite a lot in his life and in his death, and it was all for you.
So, tonight was a night of a lot of rock and roll. I love to tell the story. Russ, Ning and I met at Ning's house to rehearse our St. Patriot's Anthem, to which I'd added a new, spoken word part for Russ and Ning to recite (thus making it the first true writing collaboration of the three of us). We were in Ning and Head of Security Seth Tripp's new and improved apartment. I'll let Ning explain, if he feels so inclined.
Arriving at the Baystate at 9:30, we were greeted by some old familiar faces, such as Joe Reilly, who is buddies with Aytobach Kreiser, the New York City band who were on the bill tonight. But before they went on, Cara Connolly and her band played a set. Now, to those unfamiliar with Cara, well, you will soon know her quite well. If my Star Radar is correct, she's Noho's (and hopefully beyond) Next Big Thing. The look, the voice, the Flying V guitar, the guitar chops, the sad, spacy vibe. Tonight, she and her band were joined for 4 songs by our Joe Boyle!! A winning combo, I thought, as I watched their set. Afterwards, I kept telling Joe he was a good guitarist, like that guy The Edge from U2. With song titles like "24 Hours After Robbing a Bank," how can Cara Connolly go wrong?
The Baystate was filling up with such faces as Chris Collingwood and the long lost Chris Woolsey, from the late great NYC band Cardinal Woolsey. After Cara's set, I walked in to the next room to find a circle of tall guys: the two Chris', Lo Fine Kevin, and Henning (maybe Zeke Fiddler as well), and passed by just in time to hear the collective groan following Henning's joke about the woman from India and the truck.
I socialized with some dear friends during some of Aytobach Kreiser, but did catch some of their heavy, Black Sabbath-esque ROCK. It was loud and sweaty, and there were a LOT of people digging it. Note for future reference: I ran into Mike Ruffino from the Unband, who told me that he saw the December 6 Calvin show, and that if we could ever afford it, I should record my drum tracks there, with the mics being off to the side of the stage, because, he said, it was the most amazing drum sound he'd heard. Interesting. Thank You.
I posed for a picture with Joe and Cara, and thoroughly dug A.K.'s encore of Jimi Hendrix's "Can You See Me." I was put into a youthful, early 90's mood (actually, feeling like my first Baystate experiences, circa '93/'94) because Bruce was playing The Replacements' Tim, and then Nirvana's Bleach between sets all night. Setting up my drums, I was singing/yelping along to "About a Girl" and "School" from Bleach. As a result, I played with more youthful abandon, and less mature finesse. Joe Boyle noted this after the show. I was afraid to ask if he was annoyed or tickled by it.
For a change, this was a short, sort of "greatest hits" set. With the shining exception, of course, of the ever evolving St. Patriots' Day Anthem.
"St. Patriot's Day
March, march, march to freedom.
And so they ran and fought and swam
Along the dark, forbidding land
And across the lake the news came in: St. Patriot had won again.
March. March. March."
Steamtrain fans: by 2005, we would like St. Patriot's Day to be an enormous event. Chris from Paradise Copies made a brilliant T-shirt to mark the event. I think we can all learn something there. After the show, I was given CDRs of The Clientele's Suburban Light album, and of Serge Gainsbourg's Melody Nelson album. Thanks, Vanessa! It was a drag, after the show, to have to lose an hour, but so it goes. I'm getting a haircut.
HENNING: I'm not sure if is a love of St. Patriot that I saw in the faces of the crowd or if it was a mildly puzzled sense of tolerance for our display of absurdity. Either way it was a straight ahead night of rock and roll stuff. A loud, energetic, sweaty performance.
A lot of old-school Funnilingus era folks were out. It was a reminiscence of a darker time, a journey backward. And that was nice.
It was also legendary artists Steve and Trudy Busch's last Aloha Steamtrain show before they moved to Great Britain. Steve did so much for us in the past couple of years that it's hard to even express it. We are eternally grateful to him and will miss him. Hopefully, however with the ever impressive expansion of the global communication network we will continue to work with him. Three cheers for The Busches!
BRIAN: To complete our (I mean THEIR) trilogy of Steamtrain shows, the Steam Team (The 4, plus Bruce and Don) trekked up, up, up to Waitsfield, VT. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad (etc) world up there. And this is how it all went down. This show was booked by that lovable, spastic angel, Kevin D'arcy, who, with his beautiful wife Ellen, was celebrating his first wedding anniversary. (Faithful subscribers to The Gig Diary will clearly remember Kevin and Ellen's lavish NYC wedding. If not, look back to around this date, in the 2000 Gig Diary. You will see that no one knows how to party harder than KD)
Since we had 6 people, all our equipment, and a PA, we took 3 cars. Bruce and Joe, Don and Russ, and Henning and me. I am but one man. I can only describe mine and Ning's ride. I picked up Ning at 5 pm, after going to Jiffy Lube to make sure my car would make the trip. I drove 2/3 of the way there, stopping once for gas. We listened to a tape of Prairie Home Companion's 1999 Comedy Episode. Funny stuff. Perhaps Ning will write some in his section. It was getting dark, and the landscapes were getting increasingly snowy. "Perhaps it's still Christmas up there," I theorized to Ning, who responded by explaining Einstein's theory of time and space. "Yeah, I'll bet it's Christmas up there," I responded.
Then I was falling asleep, so I pulled over to snooze, while Henning drove the rest of the way. According to the directions, we were getting closer. We were definitely in the mountains, and had only 15 miles to go. But OH!!! Mapquest!! Why did you have to take us on that one treacherous stretch??? I think we went about 5 miles in 20 minutes, on this icy, windy road. I kept expecting Sasquatch to jump out and, I don't know, do whatever he does, that guy.
So, we found the Mad Mountain Tavern, once we were back on main roads, and upon arriving (at 8:30), were greeted by a friendly, dreaded dude working the door. Joe and Bruce had arrived 30 minutes earlier. We were all really hungry, and between setting up parts of my drums, I set about trying to find a waitress and menu. Soon, set up was complete, and we ordered our food. Around this time, Russ and Don arrived. The waitstaff set up a special table for us, and soon our food arrived. I had a chicken parmesan, and a Long Trail Ale. Henning got some sort of chicken sandwich as well? Joe got the Fiesta Pants Special--enchilada something or another, beans and cheese galore. Bruce got a burger. The food was FAB. While we ate, The JGB (Jerry Garcia Band to us mortals) were blasting away over the PA. A patron asked Bruce "do you guys know anything OTHER than Dead and Phish covers?", to which Bruce declared "The band doesn't know ANY Phish, OR Dead covers."
Soon after finishing the foods, it was time to play. I'd written out 3 sets. We began with "Many A Wonderful Thing." Apparently, a few regulars were put off by the lack of jamming. The reception was cautious, but by the end of the first set, several folks were dancing. We took our first break, and the crowd doubled by the start of the second set. They were up in front of the stage, smiling, dancing, having a whale of a time. Still, some found it insulting to their "advanced musical sensibilities" (read: snobbery) that we covered such classics of the pop genre as "I Think I Love You" by the Partridge Family. I swear I saw John Fishman in the crowd, digging us to no end, ironically enough.
In between the second and third sets, Ning, Joe and I observed the familiar sight of Russ being flirted on by an attractive young audience member. The third set featured Russ wooing many ladies in the crowd. It also featured an impromptu BREAKDANCING competition during 80 Degrees, between Kevin D'Arcy (what did I say about him and partying?) and a buddy. That made my night, until another friend of Kevin's lifted up her shirt and flashed him, when I happened to be in very close proximity. Joe cursed my big fat head, for blocking his view. For the record, I looked away, out of embarrassment, when I realized what was happening. Oh--The Mad Mountain Tavern has a great juke box and the biggest, fattest, coolest fish in a fish tank. Also, lots of stuffed animals on the wall. I kept asking the moose. "why the long face"? but he never answered...
The show was an absolute success. I even think that we convinced many of the skeptics that music is music, dancing is dancing, fun is fun, drinking is drinking, and that GOOD VIBES ARE MEANT TO BE SPREAD, NOT CONTAINED WITHIN A CLOSE KNIT COMMUNITY. Kevin asked if he could teach me how to snowboard (or was it snowmobile?) the next day. If we weren't on a schedule the next day, that probably would have been fun. I should probably broaden my horizons one of these winters. Unfortunately, this wasn't meant to be. Kevin, who, by the way booked this gig, also made reservations for us at the Hyde Away Inn, 2 miles down the road. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. However, I was to encounter one last obstacle before getting there. Ice. We were packing up, putting stuff away, looking forward to unwinding at the Inn. I'd just put away some stuff in the car, and was going back in to get some more, when I slipped on a patch of ice (see? THIS is why I don't do snow sports) and it went in slow motion: I was in the air, then (in this order) my right wrist, right knee and right jaw hit the ground. Yeah it hurt, but I got up quickly to show what a man I am, and laughed it off--then asked Russ if he had any Vicodan. (Post script; as of this writing, only my knee still hurts. Send cards and candy to: Big Whiny Baby Drummer who hates Winter)
But, ah..the best was yet to come. Truly. We arrived, in a jolly mood, at the Hyde Away Inn. We had 2 rooms. Each room had 4 beds (including a bunk). For about an hour and a half, the Steam Team Six had a great old time, laughing and carrying on, being dudes and shit (as Ning would say). There was only a clock radio, so I put on a classical station for background. We'd heard that breakfast ENDED at 9 am, and since it was now nigh on 4, we decided we'd make alternate plans for eating. Lights out: the Steamtrain 4 slept in one room, and the Synchronized Snorers slept in the other. I slept quite well. We were outta there by 11, and it was a LOVELY day!! The others had different plans to be back home by certain times, but Ning and I stopped and ate at Pete's, which is the Mad Mt. Tavern's breakfast joint. It was a nice, big breakfast, a smooth ride home, and here I am, only too glad to tell you all about it. Vermont truly is for lovers.
HENNING: I'll tell you what. Brian pretty much summed up the show for you all. I'm gonna have to go ahead and just tell you about the ride home. I had brought along a compilation tape I had made years ago from my brother Alvin's Cd collection. I hadn't heard this tape in a long time. It started out with Nik Kershaw's "Wouldn't It Be Good?" a song Russ and I had toyed around with covering a while back. Suddenly, as we were driving there through winter (something I had already considered over back south in Northampton) in the mountains of Vermont, I was into music again. You know, it comes and goes, it waxes and wains. But here were Brian and I getting into in depth analysis of all these songs,- the lyrics, the singing, the drum sounds, the instruments, the era which spawned them. We heard The Fine Young Cannibals, O Positive, Tears For Fears, Deep Blue Something, The Art of Noise, R.E.M, it was inspiring. I was inspired.
We spoke of our upcoming recording rehearsal, our recent Mike Nesmith single, our upcoming shows, our summer tour, it was music, music, music, all the way home. We listened to an entire Lemonheads album, for the love of god.
Then we dug deeper into the trunk of treats and Brian brought out a tape of him and his buddy Matt Fanuele from highschool, home recordings glistening with the ambitious tones of a four-track recorder. Here was a collection of gems of tunes that Brian had written almost all the lyrics for. Sometimes the voice was off-key or the recording was muddied. But, I enjoyed every minute of it. Reminded me of my eternal days spent in the basements of my teen years, writing and recording, goofing around. Sounds hokey but it reminded me of why I am in a band in the first place...the babes.
BRIAN: Some of you who received invitations to this show may remember that Henning imagined me, the excluded member for this performance, to be sitting in a dark corner, quietly sobbing while listening to the others sound just fine sans drums. Well, ho ho, I had my own show to do, thank you very much. 10 Days before this show, one Ken Maiuri called me and asked if I wanted to play drums for one night, for his band "Ribbon Candy," for a show at Flywheel in Easthampton. Hmm, well actually, I didn't really have to BE at the Bookmill that night. Musketeers be damned, I wanna rock! I wanna be on a comfy stage, not in the audience feeling anxious. My only reservations were that a) I had only 9 days to learn 12 songs and b) I'd never seen more than 15 minutes of any Ribbon Candy show, nor heard more than that much of their music. I HAD been in a band(s) (Sourpuss/Pollyanna) with Ken way back in the mid 90's, and was currently playing with him in The Greenbergs, so we were on good terms, and familiar w/ each other's work ethics. What was the clincher was that he said that also playing in the band (along with regular bassist Joel from Tizzy) was going to be Peyton Pinkerton (New Radiant Storm King-one of my local faves for many years) and Anne Viebig (Tappan Zee). A veritable who's who of the regional indie rock scene! Plus, also on the bill at this show were two of the very best Northampton pop bands: The Maggies and Claudia Malibu.
This entry is serving only to say what I was doing this night. I won't go into details of the show. I will say this: it went well, people dug it. A lot of familiar faces in the crowd. Members of The Figments, King Radio, Humbert and The Mitchells were all there. MY INTERACTIONS WITH "THE OTHER THREE" on this evening were, understandably, before and after the show. My friend Andrea and I were making dinner, when Henning came over, to do a little last minute rehearsing w/ Lord Russ. I was a bit nervous about screwing up all the new Ribbon Candy material now crammed into my head, so hearing Russ and Ning's lovely harmonies was soothing. Yeah, it made me a bit sad, but boy was I proud!!! Joe arrived, and we all went our separate ways. After my show, Andrea and I watched the Monkees/Jack Nicholson film, Head, and had a few beers. Soon, Russ came home with a couple special guests: Joe Boyle, Head of Security Seth Tripp, and old friend/superfan, Stephanie, who appears in a few Gig Diary photos. Russ and Joe told me about the Bookmill show, and we had fun until around 2:30am.
HENNING: Who here has been to The Montague Bookmill? I have. I had been there once before years ago but only at the restaurant, The Blue Heron. It was wonderful. But, this time I actually went into the bookmill. What a pleasure of a bookstore we have here! And the room we played in was comfortable and cozy and they had free cookies for everyone! We sat in the plush furniture and worked out a set list as Bruce set up a minimal sound system and at 8:00 people started filing in. There were exactly 29 people in the room. (It seats 35) and we are grateful to each one of them for making the wintery trek into the hilltowns.
The show was a bizarre one, I tells you. We were so quiet and the crowd was so hushed that you could actually hear it when the out-of-season lady bug alighted gently on my T-Shirt. But we grew more and more comfortable as the first set continued and so did the folks in the folding chairs.
We messed around with a number of the numbers tonight, slowing down Last Week into a sweet durge and allowing for Joe to really shine with his incredible guitar playing. And so we sang surrounded by books on art, literature, and american history (to Bruce's delight). The crowd was so friendly and the folks who run the bookmill couldn't have been nicer. We did miss Brian, but is was a fun experiment and I think we have agreed to come back again in September, what a fall foliage evening that would make for. See you.
BRIAN: Our second show at the Theodore's club, which is largely known for "Blues, Booze and Barbecues." The power of suggestion must have worked, then, on the man who told Henning he loved our band because he "loves the blues." He must also love Kraftwerk.
Well, today was notable because I got to meet the famous Drake Twins of Westboro. As far as the show goes, once again, props to Timmy T, for spreading the word on Masslive.com. In fact, I made up a cheer today in the shower, while thinking about what I was going to write for this show. Ok, cue the marching drums, and the cheerleaders. Now everyone say: "Timmy T, Timmy T, Timmy Timmy T T, Timmy Timmy T, Timmy T T T" Then the horns come in, and you repeat.
Before the show, Ning and I took advantage of Theodore's attractive menu, and got some dinner. Veggie Burger, me. With fries. They give you crayons to draw on the paper table cloth, and soon, Russ, Ning and I were having a good ol' time, with Claudine and Brian. Joe Boyle couldn't make the first set, and I missed him. Once he arrived, we kicked in to gear. We debuted our electric version of Nesmith's "Joanne." It was a bit shaky. Two nights later, in Vermont, we did it a LOT better.
Now let me tell you people about Ken, our superfan from Connecticut. Ken of the long gray beard and hair. Ken, who decided to bring his flute to tonight's gig, and play from the audience, along with his fave Steamtrain tunes. He's quite a guy, is Ken. And so, how wide were our smiles when, during our last song of this evening, I Want You (She's So Heavy), Ken ran on stage and played with us during the long extended freakout ending. Wow!! Well, perhaps Ning has some crap on his mind. At this moment, I just don't.
HENNING: The vegetables in my pasta were smoked. I suppose that that fits in with the whole barbecue scheme but I had failed to consider the depths of that detail when making my choice off the menu. I enjoyed it however for the most part and I endulged in a few of Bri's fries as well.
Russ and I drew pictures of babies being barbecued.
Did I connect with the crowd on this particular night? I am not sure. I enjoyed the depth of the stage again. Having my ear somewhat removed from Brian's screaming ride cymbal was a treat. Carrie, our waitress was a delight. The whole show was being video taped and photographed for the web site Link2Rock which currently has a one minute video clip of the show available for viewing.
Man, I just ate a whole huge plate of perogies and broccoli and I am already hungry again. What is wrong with me...is it this Gig Diary? Why are you doing this to me, Gig Diary? Leave me alone. Let me rest.
BRIAN: WHAT A WEEK, GIRLS AND BOYS!! I may as well mention a few band-related news items, and see if it sticks as a new feature of the Gig Diary. WOW, WHAT A SNOWSTORM!! This past week began with a monumental blizzard which shut things down for a day or two, and kept me and Lord Russ in our house, accompanied by food, drink, loved ones, my cat Marianne, and Mr. Show on video.
During this period of being shut-inskis (rhymes with butt-inskis), I received 2 very cool email requests: One was from my friend at the Village Voice, saying there's a chance we may be able to play at this big summer rock fest on Cony Island (COOL!! But it's not a sure thing, so...). The other thing was a request by Dren Records, an indie label out of Maryland, for us to be on a Michael Nesmith tribute album!!! Assuming all goes as planned, this is pretty damn huge. Imagine if Nesmith himself hears the Aloha Steamtrain doing his classic song "Joanne"? I have been an on and off again (mostly on) Nez-head for about 12 years, and don't mind saying it in public. Kudos to Dren Records, for paying tribute to this genius.
Fast forward to the day of the Sully's gig. A few hours before departing, Henning, Joe and I commenced recording the song, at Henning's place, using Joe's 8 track digital porta-studio. We were only recording the rhythm section, so Lord Russ wasn't needed. But things were coming out fabulously, and we're gonna get Bruce Tull to play pedal steel on the recording!! Waahoo!! In addition to Russ' gorgeous 3-part vocal harmonies...magnifico!!
The four of us all rode in my car to Sully's, planning on not missing the free dinner offer this time. Lena's is the name of the Italian restaurant connected to Sully's. I can't remember if Russ ate. But Joe got a huge slice of Three Meat Pizza. The size of my bedroom, this slice was. I also got a slice of pizza, which had spinach, garlic and eggplant on it. And was very, very good. Henning, the girl, got a salad, which was too big for his oh so dainty appetite. "I can't finish all this!", he squealed.
Midway through our meal, 4 young women walked cooly past our table, and offered friendly smiles and greetings. My fellow Americans, I give you The original Steamheads. One of them, Miriam of the striped sweater and golden hair, bestowed upon me a They Might Be Giants cassette. Now what is going on? Between Henning on my birthday, and now Miriam tonight, the universe is telling me, what, that I should become a smart ass nerd?? No, really, thank you very much, M. And bless you, bless you all of you Steamhead girls.
Tonight was a full moon, and weird things happened all night. But GOOD weird. First of all, we played some pretty experimental stuff w/in our songs. Like lovers trying new things, to keep things fresh and exciting, we tried to surprise each other. I laughed, or gaped, bug eyed, several times at the things I was hearing from all of us. It's nice when we feel secure enough to do such things. The crowd seemed to pick up on the good vibes, and were dancing, hooting and hollering. And speaking Italian. More and more at our shows, I'm seeing people singing along to the songs from the CDs. What makes a Steamhead? And I'm including everyone. Class, go now to the forum and answer that question.
Also odd on this full moon night was the presence of a person giving away FREE PACKS OF CIGARETTES. Winstons, to be precise. The tobacco industry are taking ridiculous measures to get folks hooked. Yeah, it's evil, but I'm a firm believer in a) freedom of choice and b) that if folks really want, they can go through the pain of quitting. I predict that in this age of "extreme" this and that, and showing "no fear," and various body mutilations, it will soon be the ultimate cool thing to display the pain of withdrawal and quitting your addictions. Perhaps there can be establishments where people can act out their anger, irrationalities, irritability and insanity while giving up smoking. Like there can be just rampant eating, violence, sex, crying and sleeping.
Anyway, the show was a runaway success. Andrea drove down by herself to see the show, and she just looked suitable for framing. Given these two facts, I decided to go home in her car. I hope it's Kosher by her to say such things. (Look at me, I'm making Passover jokes, and it's not even Passover yet. And she's not even Jewish.) That last parenthetical statement is funny only when said a la Woody Allen. And so, it was the end of the night. I'd had a few beers, posed for a few pictures, signed an autograph, and received a few hugs and accolades. Oh, and you know what, folks? There's no looking back. Spring is here to stay. We have no choice. Ning? Put down that issue of "Jane" magazine and answer me. I know there's a story on "Tummy Tucks and Tank Tops for a New You in 2001!", but do this first. How's this: get the LIGHT dressing next time, huh, Salad Boy?
HENNING: Actually, I didn't have any dressing. Not with swimsuit season just around the corner.
Our dinner was great and we even came up with a new nickname for Joe based on his new fave pizza slice. Joe Three-meats Boyle. Sweet.
We took the stage. We played the songs. Sully's is the most generous and delightful venue. The audience was beautiful and enthusiastic. The sofa was plush. The failures that some of us carried in were busted up and drowned out. The girl with the giant green hand-bag and the artificial legs broke a sweat and gleefully decided to start a new career. The man with the Gang of Four shirt winced only a little as the band pierced his uvula with a diamond studded rendition of Under My Thumb. I glanced up once and found that the Lava Lamp behind the bar was smiling devilishly, wringing it's invisible hands in delight. Was a master prank about to come to fruition? How many teeth can you fit into one bar? That was the question that was on everybody's hands. Were these sofa cushions giggling or were these girls cushioning comfortably?
I'm partial to New York Aged Reserve. But on this sweet night of cooperation, cheddar lovers and swiss lovers stood side-by-side, havarti enthusiasts winked at lovers of laughing cow. If only everyday were as devine.
Thank you Sully and Co. We'll be back in a month. "We'll be back with nuclear weapons." John Candy in Splash.
BRIAN: Lord Russ brought up a good point after this show: could the Mole's Eye be approaching Northampton's The Baystate in terms of the amounts of love and fun that are in the room when we play? Well, perhaps.. After this show, Martha gave Henning 3 more dates for us to play, going all the way to November. If the crowds continue to grow as exponentially as they've been each time we're at the Mole's Eye, they'll have to build an addition to contain the masses. Anyway.... Mole's Eye.
Henning was getting over a cold, Russ was a bit run down himself. I, however, was enjoying one of those days that old men occasionally have, where they feel 18 again. It was a spring-like day, and in my room, then in my car, I listened to The Buzzcocks and The Clash. I was pumped with youthful vigor and optimism (and delusions?...aww......). I also had a brand new shirt I bought at (you laugh, you die) H&M at The Bigass Mall. Shut up, it's sexy. Russ said so.
Upon arriving, we each got hugs from Everybody Loves Martha, who will be wed in June. I ordered some dinner (chili+2 rolls) and some coffee and water, which I ate before I set anything up. We had fun, Russ, Ning and I, sitting at the bar. Henning had some tea for his cold, and let me have one of his honey packets, to put on my toasted roll and butter. Mmmm!! Bruce Tull showed up, and Henning expressed how seeing Bruce's smiling face always lets him know that everything is A-OK in the world. Tonight, Bruce was also an oasis of knowledge, as we asked him at least 2 or 3 tough (for us dummies, at least) questions, dealing with geography, history and vocabulary. Joe showed up, with both 6 AND 12 strings. (And hey, Joe Boyle fans, LOOK OUT for Joe's upcoming "10 favorite albums" feature on our website.)
Getting near show time, we saw Martha's prediction (that tonight was gonna be BUSY) quickly coming true. And HEY! What was lo fine Kevin doing there, along with Dan, Northampton's leading web guru!!?? Henning's cold and Russ' run down-ness proved to be non-issues, as show time approached. Lord Russ started the show acoustically, doing a few choice covers, and Henning joined him for "Only Living Boy in NY." I noticed Henning's intentional Art Garfunkel stance (hands in pockets) and thought next time, he should get a blonde afro wig, and Russ should kneel. Then Henning did some tunes (covers and originals), and Russ joined him for the Bagel Song. The place was filling up, and soon, a pretty young hippie woman had no choice but to sit at my table in a dark corner. She had a notebook, a thick novel and a cell phone all stacked up, and I thought "boy, she must be expecting to be bored." Within 10 minutes, she was dancing the night away. The books and the phone can wait, right? You don't need nuthin' else when you got the Steamtrain, huh, sweetheart? Three sets, we did. A lot of rocking. I rocked a lot, did I. The people danced a lot, did they. Lord Russ pleased some fans, did he. And I've run out of things to say on this snowy March day.
HENNING: Birds have great senses of direction I am told. I believe it, what with all the back and forth south and north migrations they dish out year after year. As my memory scans for items of note for this entry, I picture myself enthwastled in the back of Brian's car, snug between my bass amp and the door. I recall the dark woods of the northern territories whizzing past us. I clearly remember the sound of the wheels on the tarmac inches below me,-that swirling white noise of back seat riding. But, in my head, my direction synapses are firing loudly that we were heading southward down 91. I know that we weren't. All sense of logic refuses it. But it still itches inside me.....southbound.
Dayquil did the trick. A couple of mugs of Martha's mint tea set me straight. The Mole's Eye ought to be proud. A young couple spoke to me about booking the Steamtrain for a wedding. A young man came from quite a ways away with his friends from New Hampshire. The folks sang along with my Slip Slidin' Away. Martha and I discussed the merits of Kahunaville. Everybody was getting hit by lightning. The snow streamed into the headlights on the drive home. This time we really were heading south. Phew.
BRIAN: As Lord Russ had less than 24 hours notice to prepare for this show, and as webmaster Henning was bedridden with a cold, word of this show did not travel very, um, it didn't travel. And too damn bad, because it was transcendent, if you'll pardon me as I slip into my Big Fan of Lord Russ uniform. Russ was the last minute opening act for a band that doesn't draw very well, so there wasn't even really hope of attracting their fans. I'd had a tiring day, and when I came home, Russ reminded me that he was playing that night. Most folks we know were at the Baystate the night before to see Richard Buckner, so it was questionable if Thursday was gonna bring a lot of people out. I just about always enjoy a solo Russ performance, and he told me he'd be going on at 10:30 sharp.
At home, at 10:20 I prepared my mental and physical self to go, sit and listen. I arrived a couple songs into the set. I was surprised to see my old housemate Alex Sherker doing the door. Russ had put me on the guestlist, and I talked w/ Alex a bit. Then I walked into the performing room, and yeah, scant but attentive audience. Brian and Claudine were there. Jose Ayerve, of Spouse, was doing sound, and seemed transfixed. I noted Russ wardrobe, and immediately was taken back to February1990, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. Russ was performing acoustically and wearing very similar clothes (black/jeans/boots/turtleneck), very similar haircut. But now I'd say his voice is stronger, and his songs, more evolved.
I spent much of the set at a table alone, eyes closed, with Russ' voice filling the room and swirling about me head. Great. A couple times we made eye contact, but I'd look away, not wanting to start laughing, and making him mess up in some way. Most of his songs were from the solo "I'm Flying" CD, but in the beginning (most of which I missed) he did songs he wrote 12-15 years ago, and he also threw in some Syd Barrett, John Lennon, Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkle, and Aloha Steamtrain. The intimate stage banter had to do with a) his forgetting words to his own songs and b) the resin on the end of his guitar strings. It's fabulous to see this side of Russ, which most never gets to see. The mellow singer songwriter with the amazing voice. Perhaps a trip to the scenic Montague Bookmill on March 23 will change that, because it's cool. (Most of all because I'm not there..aww....) Henning, you have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say about this gig. Am I correct, sir?
HENNING: I was sick. There are no pictures. leave me alone.
BRIAN: Boys and Girls, get ready for some serious name dropping, because nothing's gonna stop me now. It's 30 minutes after the fact, and I gotta write this while the mood is still fresh. The Northampton Arts Council, headed by the one and only Bob Cilman, knows how to put on some serious entertainment. We are very, very delighted by the fact that our band is recognized by Bob, and are often asked to partake in the Council's events (Transperformance, First Night, The Really Big Show).
We played this event 2 years ago, on a rainy day, and this being in fact, the BEST of the Really Big Show, we were asked to return, on this day which featured a gross New England "Wintery Mix" as Benny Weatherman would put it. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, sketchy road surfaces. But this did not stop the Academy of Music from being TOTALLY SOLD OUT for this event. That's nearly 1000 seats, I believe. We were asked to be there for soundcheck (conducted by the prince among men, Dan Richardson) at 12:30.
Yeah Russ and I were 10 minutes late, but it didn't matter so much. When we arrived, SPECIAL K AND HIS CREW were finishing their soundcheck. "Yeah, big deal," you 're saying. "Who the hell is that?". Yeah, I guess you're right. I'm sorry. It's really no big thing that when I looked from backstage, I was witnessing KURT VONNEGUT SCAT SINGING AND RAPPING (sort of) THE PROLOGUE TO CANTERBURY TALES, with his grandson's band backing him up, oh, and this guy named JOHN FISHMAN FROM THE BAND PHISH playing percussion and vacuum cleaner. Note: this was not a dream. You can't make this kind of stuff up. And this was only soundcheck.
So, we did our soundcheck, during which Joe arrived in the nick of time. Afterwards, we were shown to our dressing room, the RUTH GORDON dressing room, which has also been inhabited by, oh, SARA BERNHARDT, MAE WEST and LILLIAN GISH. No big whoop. Today it was being inhabited by the Aloha Steamtrain, the Russettes (Claudine and Gretchen--more later) and The Wright Brothers, a mind-blowing juggling duo (normally a trio, I'm told). After getting our bearings, Ning and I went to the downstairs, performers' lounge, where there was soup and fajitas, coffee and tea. There was a video monitor so we could watch the action on the stage. Ning, Joe and I sat on a couch across from Kurt Vonnegut, and exchanged a word or two (literally) with him. There was also the singing dog, who was oh so cute and affectionate, and his owners--a father daughter team who played the instruments which made him sing. The daughter was a little girl 2 years ago. Not anymore. Taller than I, she is. I spoke with Joe O'Rourke and Ray Mason, who today were members of the Pit Band (led by Jim Armenti), who kept the program a-swingin' all day.
I was getting antsy, so Ning and Russ and I went upstairs to the first balcony, and watched a few acts--namely, the Wright Bros. and Special K. Once again, I cannot express how utterly surreal the Vonnegut performance was. Later, my pal Andrea said that he makes similar hand gestures as I do when he talks. Intriguing. Russ went back down to have the word "LOVE" written on his newly shaved chest (totally bare, folks). The plot thickens.....
I went back down, and found most of our crew hanging in the dressing room. Claudine had brought us an ancient Irish nerve-calming remedy, which I sampled. Lo and behold, it worked! It was getting a bit stuffy and crowded in the room, so I stepped outside for 2 minutes of air. A minute later, the door opened, and I assumed it was Henning, coming to say "time to set up back stage." So, without seeing who it was, I said "is it time?". Then I turn to look and it's Kurt Vonnegut. "Hmm?" he asked. "Oh!", I exclaimed, "hey, nice job today". And he nodded, and slowly proceeded down the slushy South St. sidewalk in the sleet. I assume he was going home, his job well done. It looked like an ending of a film. I watched him for a minute, and went back in when a stage hand came to say it was indeed time to start setting up our stuff.
It was intermission, and we were the second act in the second act. First was the singing dog, during which we all paced around full of pre gig energy and nerves. Joe's amp was picking up opera music, which was funny to hear. Because opera's funny, right? The dog did great, and the Ed Sullivan (y'see, the joke today was that there were 8 Ed Sullivans, who all took turns introducing the acts) who introduced us, had Topogigio the mouse, which was played by the cutest baby, with mouse ears on.
We were on. Curtains open, we looked out at the majestic and slightly terrifying sight of 1000 people seated in this prestigious theater. And we began with "If I Can Dream," the gospel tune from Elvis Presley's 1968 Comeback Special. Just Joe, Ning and I were on stage, playing the intro. Then Russ was escorted on stage by the 2 beauties, Claudine and Gretchen, who were wearing matching gold dresses. They ripped Russ' shirt off, to reveal his "LOVE" chest, and each gave him a kiss, then walked off, and Russ sang the song. He went out in the audience a bit, and they loved it. It was theater, it was song and dance, it was perfect.
Russ put on his guitar for the second, and last song--"Here We Go" . We figured a few folks would recognize it, as it's being played a bunch on WRSI. It sounded perfect, and Ed called Russ out for a little post show, inane interview. I couldn't hear much of what was said.
So, that's it, folks. Ning and I watched the rest of the show from the downstairs monitor, and I played with the dog. At the very end, we went out in the front lobby, to meet and greet w/ the fans. I actually skipped out on that when I saw Andrea, and hung out with her, trying to remain anonymous in my green striped pants (from the Pop Boutique, London), orange turtleneck (J Crew) and royal blue velvet double breasted blazer (from the late, great Colombian painter/professor Leonel Gongora). All together, I become (according to Henning) Willy Wonka. Setting down, we signed an autograph for Special K's crew, and exchanged some info w/ John Fishman. Lastly, we were given a lovely bouquet, made up of a ginger flower and 3 peacock feathers, from "the ladies at the Laura Scales House, Smith College". A nice ending to an unbelievable day. Ningningningningningning, what did I NOT say?
HENNING: Welcome To The Monkey House - What did you not say?!?! Well, you still haven't apologized to me yet. That's ok, I'm patient. I'm a rock. In the meantime, you can explain what just happened. Here's what I remember:
A walk in the rain, slipping and sliding on ice and slush in my orange sneakers (a sign of spring according to Bruce Tull) brought me to The Academy of Music. I crept in the back stage door and was immediately greeted by a woman who introduced herself as a stage manager. I told her who I was and she brought me to our dressing room. Then I waited and explained to Bob Cilman and Rob Skelton, who were reminding me that we should be setting up for soundcheck immediately while Special K did their thing in front of the curtain, that as soon as the rest of my band arrived we would do that. I sat in the dark by the loading door listening the weirdness of the soundcheck going on. Was Vonnegut even speaking english? Stage crew approched me a few more times asking if we were ready. People of all ages in strange costumes were coming out of all the shadows.
Brian and Russ arrived and we immediately set up our stuff on the huge stage, we did our soundcheck to an enormous empty room, and the next thing I knew I was eating some lentil soup downstairs beneath the stage. A dog was looking at me.
Why does that dog keep looking at me? Is the dog a subtle monkey?
BRIAN: A rock and roll evening, from start to finish!! We shared the bill with NYC's Kitty in the Tree, and their absolute devotion to all things ROCK kind of set the tone for the evening. It was another Arctic, blustery evening, and at 8pm, as sometimes happens, I really did not feel like setting foot out of the house, let alone play a rock show. I realize that this is just my mind playing tricks, so I don't get too excited about, and then inevitably let down by the evening's events. So 8:30 saw me putting on XTC's hypercrazy GO 2 album, and choosing my wardrobe. It did the trick, like a shot of ______ (enter choice stimulant).
I pulled into the back of the Baystate, right on the heels of Kitty in the Tree, and their Econoline van. They too were cursing the freezing night, especially as they'd been in 70 degree North Carolina mere days before. I met each of them, and set up my drums in the back, while they set up on "stage" and did a soundcheck w/ Bruce Tull. Russ and Ning soon arrived, and I was given the coveted task of making the evening's setlist. This proved to take longer than usual, because 1) there was a 60's Ann Margaret movie on TV, with a lot of bikini ass close ups, and provocative dance numbers and 2) there was a steady stream of groovy people (fans and friends) who wanted to say "hi" and chat. But I completed my task, and went into the other room to watch Kitty in the Tree.
They had a pretty good crowd watching them, and I was very pleased with the amount of hooks their songs have, as well as their stage presence. It all works, and I dug it thoroughly. WELL DONE, KITTY!! Between sets, Russ and I had Bruce put on a CD by an amazing band, who we think are just the second coming of _____(fill in choice holy figure). The Clientele. CHECK THEM OUT! CHECK THEM OUT! And thank you to Vanessa, for turning us on to them. I don't know how long it would have taken to hear them otherwise. No one I know has heard of them, except Mark Santangelo. They are a new-ish (as new as AST) band from London. Barry Gibb, Arthur Lee and Lou Reed meet in an opium den in 1967. Ok, I'll calm down. But this is why I chose to start our set with "Listen." It has that kinda vibe.
The rest of the set was very well played. Great dynamics, funny jokes, attentive and fun crowd. The Kitty guys were up front, and, since they reek of rock, I think it made at least me play with that much more purpose. A lot of singing and dancing happening among the crowd. I'm starting to sense a bit of a family vibe among our fans. God, do we love you! An aside: apparently, at U. Conn, there is a small crowd of folks who refer to themselves as "Steamheads." A new word in the lexicon is born? The source of this bit of info shall remain anonymous at this point.
So, the show finished, lots of happy people, blah blah. Talk of an after-hours, especially as Kitty like to party, and need a nice place to do so. This place was a hop skip and a giggle from the Baystate, and has been referred to in the past month. Lesa's place rules. I walked over there with Henning, Joe, and Andrea. Things were hopping, all the faces were there, and when Russ arrived with an ass load of beer, it made people happy. Henning and Seth exchanged eyewear, and Henning became the coolest guy in the world (besides Seth) with Seth's shades. I talked a bunch with the Kitty guys, who are very funny and friendly. They told me the secrets of surviving as a rocker in NYC. We plan on getting an NYC show w/ them very soon. Throughout the party, Ahbi Nishman was snapping photos. Can't wait to see them. After that it gets hazy and so we escaped into the Icelandic wee hours.
HENNING: Kitty Is A Treat - "Older people love nothing more than a nice piece of bread." So, remember, if you run into an older lady or gentleman who seems a little down just slip them a slice of bread. Whether its pumpernickle, rye, or wheat it's bound to smear a smile across that cherished elderly face.
There was a different kind of bread baking at The Baystate this evening. A doughy concoction that some call Rock and Roll. Kitty In The Tree glowed with poppy hooks and and our hearts open-sesamied in the darkened room. My red and green rope lights hypnotized us. Bruce graced the room with superior sound quality and the evening proved to be our most musical Baystate performance to date. We played to a crowd of smiling and dancing adventurers and basked in their niceties. Later, a swank a-party-ment became enthwastled in a cloud of nicotine. Everybody was funny.
BRIAN: (cue instructional movie music) How lucky are we Northampton-ites to have smack dab in the middle of our fair city, none other than the world renowned Smith College for Women! You've all heard of it. Hillary Clinton went there. Carnal Knowledge, the 1971 movie starring Art Garfunkle and Jack Nicholson, takes place there. I may be slightly off on both those facts. Once the Smith student turns 21, there's a good chance that she will enthusiastically begin to explore Northampton's bar scene, which up until that point, she most likely only heard about, or perhaps experienced illegally. Just keep those grades up, missy! Ah, and what a variety of characters she is liable to run into on any given night. A dentist! A poet! A Political Science graduate student! A mountain climber! A MUSICIAN!!! All with one thing in common. They love to go out and get drunk. If our Smith student (let's call her Catherine) was to throw her beer glass across the bar (let's call it Hugo's), odds are very good that it will shatter upon the head of a musician (let's call him Brian). Not only because there are more musicians in Northampton than there are political causes, but because the musician was most likely staring at a shiny object on the ground, rather than hearing his friends yelling, "Look out! A flying pint glass!" (end music)
No, readers, this did not really happen, but in fact I can't truly remember the origins of our getting this show. I know the story takes place in the autumn of 2000, and involves Head of Security Seth Tripp; Head of Chase House,CKatherine of the lovely face and flowing hair; Amy, also of Chase House, with the Texas accent and fondness for Gram Parsons and lots of other great music. It's all very hazy. Hugo's, The Baystate, a 70's theme party at Chase, and when the fall semester ended, a promise to have us play a Valentine's party. YAHOO! One doesn't need a Bachelors Degree in Imagination to imaginate why this particular gig was particularly looked forward to by we boys of this particular band.
I liked the fact that, as Henning pointed out (that guy who's always pointing things out, and me always liking that about him), that the fact that this party was on February 15th, that meant Valentine's Day was now a 2 Day event! Well, then I thought, and as I pointed out to my Valentine, I think Valentine's Day is kinda crap anyway, because EVERY DAY should be Valentine's Day. Am I right? Or am I.....wrong?
So, here we were. There were balloons on the front steps. There were women in nice clothes greeting us, ready to party. There was a keg of Budweiser. There were cookies, chips and punch. There was Bruce Tull doing sound. We got there at 9. By 10:15, the party was a-rockin', as they say. Connolly Ryan arrived with Seth Tripp, Head of Security. We planned on 2 short sets (7 songs each), with lots of covers, to give'em something to sing along to, while they shook their booties. We did lots of love-themed songs. Some of the crowd danced a lot. Some watched and listened. Some stood in the back, and we were the background music. Russ gave a special Aloha Steamtrain Valentine's t-shirt. At one point there seemed to be a commotion in the middle of the floor, and Henning wondered aloud if this was because there was a monkey let loose, and was running around the dance floor. I still laugh when thinking about that. Because that's funny, damn it! Isn't it? I mean, picture, if you will, a monkey..
Lord Russ gave this show his all, in his red "I Like Sex" shirt, and he symbolically made love to each and every person in the room. The girls, the boys, Bruce, Don, and the monkey. It was his mission to make this the best Valentine's Day ever, and he succeeded
HENNING: Mr. Washingtrain Goes To Smith - I knew it was going to be an interesting night when I was carrying my amp into the party room at Chase Dorm and overheard one girl say to another, "I was coming up the street and I saw these guys unloading their big instruments and I thought, 'ooooooh'."
Having attended state universities myself I am always overwhelmed by the fancy-pantsness of the posh schools. Smith College is a Women's College in Northampton, MA. It's very famous. It's also a block away from my house. When Brian and I pulled up in front of the dorm we were greeted by Catherine Foley, the organizer of this event. Upon entering we found that they had done a lovely decorating job and we started to set up in the cozy livingroom atmosphere of the livingroom. The party was scheduled to begin at 10:00 PM and precisely at that time people began showing up and before you could say, "I didn't expect there to be this many guys here" the place was filled up with people.
"I Think I Love You" came on the sound system which was funny because that was the song we had planned on opening with. We played our show and the girls were rocking out. A few people seemed to be a little confused by us and by Lord Russ' shirtless escapades with the microphone, but most everyone had been won over by the end of the night. After helping clean up, Head of Security and I ventured upstairs into the dorm. We hungout for a while with Catherine and Emily (pictured) and discussed Freud, Porn, and $150 Skin Cream. I videotaped the whole adventure. Look for it on Burly Bear TV real soon, pal.
BRIAN: A little oasis of coolness in the big, bad city! For the past month, manager Don has been talking about this place in Hartford, "Steve and Sully's," and I, for one, had no clue what it was. I kind of pictured your average, semi-generic "Rock Club," with fancy stage, fancy lights, no atmosphere. The next word I heard was that now the place was just "Sully's," and Joe Boyle worried about what that entailed. Y'see, he'd played at "Steve and Sully's," and informed me that it was actually a cozy, friendly bar, not generic at all. Joe wondered if the name change meant the worst. But he need not have worried, for just-plain "Sully's" was a total and utter BLAST!!
Russ, Ning and I had a nice ride down, in the Sable, and I played them the new Figments album. Blustery Arctic winds be damned, we did not get blown off the road, and found the place with little problem. Spotting it from the street was difficult, but we knew the address, and so the parking lot in the back was the key. We were met by Sully himself, who was just about the most genuinely friendly, accommodating club owner I've ever come across. A staff party was just winding down, so already there was an air of celebration, with lots and lots of balloons everywhere, which, as the evening went on, were all (except one) popped by patrons or by Russ and Henning, while we played. Joe and Don arrived shortly after we did, and took advantage of the free food for bands. Russ and I took advantage of the free beer, for we'd eaten at home earlier. Ning had a soda pop.
An enthusiastic young woman approached me, having read my biography on this website. "You saw KISS when you were 5? ME TOO!" But her story blew mine completely out of the water. For one, she remembers her experience better, possibly because she was in the 5th row at Madison Sq. Garden, because her uncle worked in the music industry, and KISS was just one in a long line of 70's rock stars she got to see and meet in her early youth. Woah!!
Tonight was a 3-setter, and, much like our shows in Cambridge, Russ and I agreed, it was fun to see the change come over the crowd from set to set. Well, several of our superfans made it tonight, and that was great to see. They sat up front and their presence made us happy. The uninitiated stood back near the bar. The first set was played "tastefully," and Henning reinforced our behavior by shaking all our hands after the first several songs. We weren't playing too loud, and everything sounded great. The house drums were fab. 1968 Slingerland. By the end of the first set, the crowd was getting slowly won over, and they showed this by not leaving. 15 minute break, chat chat chat, time for second set.
A great, slightly louder set. The indifferent heads near the bar are slowly turning towards us, and taking a few steps forward. The healthy applause was now growing like my affection for this place, or like a 13 year old. Take your pick of similes. A perfect set, and Russ was proudly donning his "My Other T-shirt is Clean" T-shirt. (see: last week's Simpsons). We took a shorter second break, because Sully's was buzzing, and we didn't want the bees to escape.
Third set began with a series of slow but powerful songs. "sunburn," "make your mark," "If I Can Dream." "If I Can Dream" brought the house down, and the crowd was ours for the taking for the last half-dozen songs. The power ending of "80 Degrees," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "All My Juices" had the desired effect. We were happy and exhausted, and the crowd wanted more, but we had already done all we could. A lot of potential gigs came out of this one. New York, New Haven, a festival in Hartford, and, of course, Sully was quick to say, we were welcome back to his club as soon as possible. We're psyched. It was a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone, and see you soon.
HENNING: Where might this band take us next? The road to Sully's was windy and windy. The new and familiar mugs were glowing uncontrollably, or was it me reading my own flutter into the flitting faces? Balloons full of laughing bees sketched the room jubilantly, who could blame them? A revelation may have been born amongst the drinkers this evening. Or a sigh of relief may have wheezed out from one of us. Either way I saw nary an epi-phony out there. The smiles were genuine. The hand shakes a-plenty.
Whether we were slouched on the couch or propped at the bar, a festival lingered even after the evening closed. My chest was echoing the admiration of a lovely audience member. The Sable shot through the Connecticut winter like a ghost greyhound, silently and quickly. Perhaps our encore was the slamming of the car door in our driveways. Maybe it was the enormous moon that leered encouragingly over freezing Park Street, Hartford, Connecticut. Either way, I think everyone went home happy.
BRIAN: By this point, we are veterans of Big Al's Equator Coffee Bar. Weather wise, this was a very strange evening. The temperature actually rose about 10 degrees, to nearly 50F, between the time we arrived and departed. It was a full moon, and Mercury is retrograde, so the Gods/Goddesses are having some kind of a time up there. We were a quartet tonight, and all piled into the Sable once again (which, Ning tells me, is getting some publicity on the Masslive.com forum).
Joe knew a different route, so we went that way, and we listened to a lot of classic rock on the radio, for lack of anything else on. I turned it down when a live version of Foghat's "Slow Ride" came on. If anyone out there would like to witness my suicide, force me to listen to that song beginning to end. The live version. I kept turning it back up to see if it was over, and it never was. It just never was... Meanwhile, Ning and I listened in to Russ and Joe's conversations about lawyers, insurance and, of course, sex, piping in when appropriate.
We arrived at the Equator just as a band of high school boys was starting. I think they were called "Too Much of Nothing." Isn't that a Dylan song from the Basement Tapes? These guys were not influenced by Dylan at all--more like your average modern rock. Ning and I marveled over the fact that we were probably twice as old as the band/their fans, and that I was half my present age when I played my first real gig. I followed Joe and Russ to the pizza parlor across the street, where we had frosty mugs of beer for half an hour, and Russ made a set list. We returned to find a posse of our fans hanging out w/ Henning outside the club. It was nearly time for us to start, so we set up, and began.
Joe had Al put on the new Jeff Beck CD as setting up music, as that's his current fave rave. So then the concert began. Once again, the lights! The lights! Big Al is a crazy pyrotechnician! And the smoke machine! That smell of Marshmallow Peeps that it produces! It was cute to see Joe and Ning singing on one mic at one point. And halfway through the show, Russ' stage banter reached completely insane territory. I think we were trying to kick start this show any way we could, or rather, kick it into lands unknown. I feel we are on the brink of taking this band's live shows to a whole new level. Venus' shell will open, and out will come...The Aloha Steamtrain, naked as, well, Venus. How appropriate, as Valentine's Day is very soon.
After the show, we chatted with CT superfans Kevin and Nicole and our newest groupie couple, Brian and Claudine, who once again brought friends along, and who vowed to be at every show from now on. We're holding them to that. Brian and Claudine say that Russ has a Julian Cope thing going on. That's cool. So I told them I'd lend them his (J.C.'s) autobiography, which, even if you aren't a real fan, is a very amusing story of rock and roll, drug use and temporary insanity in the 80's.
Big Al, bless his heart, would not let us leave without having some decadent pastries. Lord Russ passed on the desserts, but the rest of us indulged. I had Tiramisu, Henning had cheesecake, and Joe had..Joe had....damned if I can remember. But Al had the look of a proud father as he watched us gobble up the goodies. Mmm mmmm!!
On the way home, I decided, though it was barely midnight, I wasn't gonna boogie all night long. So I went home, called my friend, and went to bed. I know that Ning has some amusing anecdotes about this show, I mean, he might.
HENNING: Yeah, I might. But, I might not. Nut, I bite. Butter Night.
At my high school cafeteria, and I'm sure yours, the clatter would become deafening at times. It wasn't necessarily that it became louder. Sometimes the cacophony can suddenly become very appearant. Like the time you were driving through the old-factory section of town and you suddenly realized that the radio statio that had been playing a great song was now and had been for sometime broadcasting a loud shouting match of a talk show. "What the hell am I listening to?" you asked the duffel bag next to you as you reach for the volume knob.
This feeling as though I was waking up from a dream swept over me in the back of The Equator Coffee bar where I was surrounded by teenagers in the dark. I was alone in this time machine and I didn't mind. The background wall of sound from the band broke into a Greenday tune and my spell was broken. What kind of show were we to have tonight? How did I get so old so fast? (Something I've been asking myself on and off since I was 10). Was there any cheesecake in it for me? Amazingly and inexplicably the answer to all three of these questions was, "Yes."
I leaned on the counter, mouth full of cheese cake, and thought, "Nobody practices as hard as Karma."
BRIAN: Who here remembers Spring 1989, when XTC did their tour of radio stations across the USA, playing acoustically, and stinking up the studios with their humor and wit? I remember actually being home sick from school (10th grade) the day they were on WBCN and WFNX Boston. This, in part, is what we were thinking about when, after being offered one on-air appearance for this date, we tried to book another on the same day, in the same area. And it worked!
2:00 PM - WWUH, 91.3 FM West Hartford, on the University of Hartford Campus -The Joan Holliday Show. Joan Holliday has been a figure in CT radio for several years. She DJ'd for the big boys for quite a while, but came to her senses and realized college radio is so much better on so many levels. As we approached Hartford, we tuned in to WWUH and heard Joan spinning a "three-for" of Dylan. We then heard her say that The Aloha Steamtrain would be there any minute. We pulled up to U. Hartford at 2:25, a bit later than Joan's requested 2:00, but, we found out, she always expects rock bands to be an hour late.
We made ourselves comfy, set up our stuff (2 acoustic guitars, a snare w/ brushes) and away we went. She plugged the upcoming shows (Feb 9 at the Equator Coffee Bar in Manchester, Feb 10 at Sully's in Hartford) and we did 3 songs: "Red Delicious Love", "Here We Go" and "Happiness Waits." After that, she pointed us in the direction of WWUH's UNBELIEVABLY ENORMOUS collection of vinyl. She let us pick out some tunes: XTC, Roxy Music, early Bee Gees, Michael Nesmith, maybe some more. I pointed out the Nilsson section to Henning, and, like in every music fans' dreams, he found records he never knew existed. Joan then took us to the the new digital recording studio to record a couple of station IDs.
Poor Joan Holliday's car is on the fritz, so we offered her a ride home. Whenever we're in suburban Connecticut in cold weather, my thing to say is always "I just wanna go into that cozy looking house and see what the people inside are doing." Well, one more dream come true. We drove Joan home to her husband, 2 kids and dog in East Granby. Lovely home, lovely family. And yup, cozy! She offered to cook us dinner, but we were on a schedule, so we found our way out of the sticks, and back into Hartford, to play our 7:30 slot at the next destination.
WRTC, 89.3 FM, Trinity College, Hartford. After finding a nice parking space, we decided to just have dinner on campus, at the Cave, in the student union. Henning got a turkey melt, Russ and I got chicken pucks. I mistook barbecue sauce for ketchup, but pretended I didn't care. When you're dealing with mediocre food, I felt, and when you're hungry as I was, it just doesn't matter so much. Russ would say it's because my sense of taste isn't as fine-tuned as his, and he's probably right. But we all enjoyed being in the college atmosphere.
We trudged across the campus back to the radio station, looking in everyone's windows--just kidding. But what a gorgeous campus Trinity has. When a window opens, you expect a fair maiden in a flowing gown to wave her kerchief at you, with a harpsichord/cello duet accompaniment--not a sweatsuit with Dave Matthews blaring in the background. Anyway, blame it on the full moon (ok, Bob Seger), or blame it on the food, but the zany Steamtrain mood overtook us on the 10 minute walk from the Cave to WRTC.
We were met by my brother in law John Dlugosz, who wired us for sound, and asked me to pick out a couple of records to play, as there was a little gap in the programming. (Thanks, John, that was a little extra bonus) While this was going on, the Latino show was winding down, and the (apparently) Phish bootleg show was getting ready. No one really, besides John, knew who we were, or why we were there. I perused the vinyl and chose The Smiths "There is a Light That never Goes Out" and Neil Diamond "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind." I even spoke a little on the air.
Brian Sinclair showed up, and the next 30 minutes was a very fun (good job Brian!) mix of music, laughing, non-sequitors, and us generally giving the impression that we were out of our heads. We played (same acoustic/snare arrangement), "Here We Go," "Curious Attraction," "Damned" and "Many a Wonderful Thing." There were 1000 ants on the floor, eating a Frito. There was a lot of laughing and dancing and some people out in the lobby clapping. There were phone calls asking when our next shows were. It was fun and more fun. We loved it. We didn't attempt to record either of the appearances, because we are stupid and lazy, so if anyone out there has a tape of our BIG DAY, please step forward now. Thanks to all who made it possible.
HENNING: Aren't we blessed to be living in an area with so many colleges and so many cool college radio stations? Aren't we blessed as beat-all? Even though, in my dream the Motel owner would not let me have a room because I did not necessarily agree with his religious beliefs, I still maintain that we have been blessed to be in such an area of collegiate radio-transmission. Blessed.
Blessed be are we,
Traveling minstrels three.
Joan Holliday has been a great supporter of the band for quite some time and we were thrilled to get a chance to play on her show. What a great show it was, too. "WWUH has been run by volunteers since 1968." she told us. it looked like a fun place to hang out. We were like three monkeys in a banana shop when she set us free in the record library. Like three clowns in a knife store.
I hope we sounded ok when we played our little songs. It sounded good in the studio. After we played, while we were hanging out Joan told us how she had recently done a voice over for a Christmas cartoon special to be aired next year. I forgot what she said it was called, it may have been something along the lines of, "The Three Christmas Clowns in the Christmas Knife Shop." But I doubt it. Anyway, keep your eyes and ears peeled back and exposed for that one.
But, wait, now we are all of a sudden at Trinity College. I have been here a number of times. A few times with the band, a few times to visit friends, and more than once to see a film at the great little art house indie film theatre. Of course, I have forgotten what it is called. I could look it up. It's just a couple of clicks away on the interwhat. But I probably won't.
We arrived at Trinity, parked in a snow bank, and headed immediately toward the sound of bells. The lovely cathedral was tolling away like a clown in a knife shop, and the mysterious music led us to The Cave (with the help of a lovely young lady's directions). Yeah, we ate some chow there. It was fun.
The station was easy to find, we were greeted by a smiling and overworked John, and set up our equipment whilst another lovely young lady played some latin pop in the studio behind the glass. We played our songs. We joked around with Sinclair. The evening was adorable. Blessed.
BRIAN: We are told that the city of Springfield, third largest city in Massachusetts, is going through some positive changes, thus attracting thousands of folks to its many clubs in search of entertainment. This is a good thing, and we hope it continues. I though I'd never set foot in Theodore's before, but as soon as I entered, I realized that about 2 years ago I'd played there with The Figments, opening for Settie. NICE club, GREAT sound, COMFY stage, FRIENDLY staff. And we gave them a raucous show, I tells ya. Now I could go on about the great parking spot I got, and the heroic details of how it came to be, but I'm already close enough to becoming George Costanza, so I won't.
Before the show, there seemed to be a little pow wow, meet and greet of all the folks who regularly chat on Masslive.com's Soundboard. Though I don't partake in Soundboard, I do read it, and to my eyes, this seemed like a family reunion. (Thanks to those who chose to see us over Thurston Moore/Kim Gordon, by the way).
We played the first set sans Joe, but still had the folks dancing from the get go. Go get 'em. Steve the booking agent, and his wife were burning the ol' shoe leather. Steve the sound man was providing lovely sound. Good people, the Steves. During the break, Claudine (see last entry) introduced me to a couple of women who took turns touching my hair, asking questions like "is it real? is it permed?" It's real, it's not a perm. But I actually got all embarrassed and tongue tied, and walked away having probably made not a very favorable impression. C'est la vie. I sought refuge at Head of Security Seth Tripp's table, where he was entertaining his posse, and of course, keeping things from getting out of hand. I completed my trilogy of having a Jameson's at a show, wrote out the 2nd set list, greeted Joe, and away we go.
I kinda was feeling like Peter Criss up there. A big ol' rock drummer. I guess that's a sign of good things. The 2nd set featured all the tricks, all the fun, all the catchy melodies, all the sexiness. One thing that stand out in my memory is one point where Russ (aka Baron Saturday) was out in the crowd, dancing on the barstools (something that Henning also sort of did, but I wouldn't call it dancing), and while he was out there singing and wooing the babes, Henning and Joe huddled in next to me, shading the light, and for about 20 seconds we seemed to be the Evil Force Three, conspiring something or another, exchanging knowing glances and communicating through our instruments. Sort of like when Principal Skinner has a 'Nam flashback, and the room gets all dark--that's what it felt like, but with 3 of us.
Once again, this being a long-ass show, my batteries were just about run out by the last note of "All My Juices." We posed for some pictures, signed a few CDs, packed up and were off. Lord Russ, Don and Joe went in one car, Ning, Seth and me in another. With visions of a bagel filling my head, we departed, and Seth kept us entertained with tales of that night's adventures. Getting off 91, and entering Noho, someone (was it me?) had the idea of trying the 5-91 Foodstop, open until 3am Thurs-Sat. Never been there. It was 2:35, and we saw no one in there, so Seth scoped it out and waved us in. Wow. 30 minutes later we were returning to the car, having just lived a mini-Jim Jarmusch film. Or, who was the guy who did "Buffalo 66"?
The 5-91 Foodstop. We were the only customers, and the staff of two was very happy to serve us. It was a man and a woman, hip people, in their mid to late 20s. It was dark in there. The Rolling Stones were playing--late 60's era. We saw the menu. I got French toast, Henning the big breakfast, Seth, a burger. The food was excellent. "Better than Jake's?", asked the man, referring to THE OTHER late night after-hours dining place, "Better than Jake's," we answered. After all, when it comes to ambiance, this place buries Jake's. Maybe just cause of the circumstances. But we assured him we'd be coming back, and telling our friends. We talked for a little while, as we finished our meals and the folks cleaned up.
They took the Stones off, in the middle of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and seeing as we were kinda digging it (it was the perfect soundtrack), and the man said, "no. dig this." A mellow, synth groove filled the room, and I guessed "Yo La Tengo?". "Nah," said the man, barely audible over the music, and my ringing ears "..oolioh..". "This is Coolio?" I asked, taking it all in stride. "No.," he replied, "Julio." The music sounded so good that I thought, "must be some new indie pop band from the UK." Until that unmistakable silky smooth crooning came in, with the Spanish accent. Yes, it was none other than Julio Iglesias serenading us, as we stepped out, into the freezing 3am world, really happy that we'd unmistakably made the best possible choice. 5-91, yo.
HENNING: Yo. 591 Foodstop. I've lived up the street from it for 5 years, it's about time I ordered a plate of eggs.
Wasn't Theodore's a treat? A nice show for a lovely bunch of folks (as the photos will prove). The stage at Theodore's is deep. Brian sat many yards behind us and I had plenty of room to roam. The sound system was very nice, the walls were enthwastled with paintings of blues and rock-and-roll artists and wasn't my heart particularly warmed at the portrait of Harry Nilsson peering out at me. We honored him by playing two songs that he didn't write but he sang.
All the beautiful people who came out and brought their friends along to the show must be thanked many times over. It's so nice to have a supportive crowd in an unfamiliar venue. Springfield has always treated us well, we've visited Worthington Street many times before, we've double parked in a haze of sausage and hotdog steam, but we never had the honor of playing Theodore's. I believe we will be back again. I think everything worked out well....as it always, yes folks, always, seems to do.
So far, 2001 has proved to be a great year for The Steamtrain. All our shows have been splendid. Is January a magic musical month or will our luck continue in the coming months? Stay tuned...
BRIAN: WRNX is "the Valley's only quality rock. Don't get old, get RNX." Nice station to listen to, for your Police, your Beatles, your Green Day, what have you. On Sunday nights they have a little show called "The Backyard," hosted by Matt Hebert--some of you may know him from such bands as Ware River Club. It's one hour of nothing but local rock and roll. I actually hosted the show for a few weeks in October. Anyway, Matt had the beautiful idea of having live bands in the studio, and we were THE FIRST!!
It's kinda odd, on a Sunday night, as the evening is getting on, suddenly finding yourself driving to a radio station. But such is our life. The RNX studios are located above Pier One Imports, and across from Barnes and Noble Books--two of my fave stores. We got there at 10:15, while Joe O'Rourke was doing his "Town and Country" show. Soon after, Hebert arrived. For old times sake, I chose some songs for the show, and Russ and Ning practiced out in the lobby.
The Pioneer Valley has such a rich musical scene, that there is at least 1 or 2 new releases to play every week. This week was the Lonesome Brothers and the Inskirts. Joe O'Rourke ended his show with Tiny Tim's version of Stairway to Heaven, which got us all in a zany state.
Now it was our shining moment. Russ and Henning had acoustic guitars, and I, a tambourine. We did 3 tunes, "Happiness Waits," "Many a Wonderful Thing" and "Here We Go." We spoke a bit between songs, hyping the Theodore's show this Thursday, and that was that. Lastly, for old time's sake, I introduced the next set, comparing myself to Peter Wolf of J. Giles fame, when he would return to WBCN Boston, and do a guest DJ thing, The song I chose to play was "Sara J" by The Maggies. Y'know, just to prove that drummers don't only speak in malapropisms, colloquial innuendo, grunts and Peruvian Palindromes. Got that? Also to integrate 2 of my selves: the drummer, the DJ. Who am I, Freud Flintstone? Anyway, Thanks Matt, for having us on.
HENNING: I listen to WRNX just about everyday at my dayjob. It's a good station. I LOVE LOVE LOVE doing radio appearances. Probably because I grew up watching WKRP. I also enjoy being able to play guitar instead of bass once and a while. It's a little creative adventure. Joe O'Rourke and Matt Hebert are both great guys and it was nice of them to have us on the show....I feel guilty now...I stole a promotional tooth brush. Sorry.
BRIAN: Pardon the superlatives, but this was the best AST @ ABC show ever!! And I mean it, really. I'm talkin' playing wise (we were a particularly rockin' unit this evening) and audience wise--lots and lots of folks in the spirit. Take for example Claudine, who wore (and looked great in) her AST 2001 t-shirt which she won on New Year's Eve. Why else did this show make us all so happy? Isn't that enough? Well, seeing as I now have a huge quota of words per entry, I'll continue. Cold night. Same deal as the Mole's Eye show. Joe and Bruce were there. At the Mole's Eye, Joe influenced me to get a pre-gig Jameson's, a tradition I continued (Joe didn't) at this gig. Nice on a cold night, when you feel a bit under the weather. Warmed my bones, she did. Russ would rather I had scotch. We played 3 sets, and once again, there was continuous dancing. We did Mrs. Goodfriend for the first time in a long while. I don't know, I didn't do much socializing this gig. Mostly drinking and drumming, trying to sweat out whatever illness I felt was coming on. I felt particularly free and commanding of my drumset, which was great. Aye aye, captain. Afterwards, Henning and I got Dunkin Donuts bagels and were helped by the most enthusiastic and helpful DD's person ever. That's all. We are very happy. And I'm not sick.
HENNING: When we got to The Amherst Brewing Company first thing I noticed was that they had installed some nice cushions on the wall so that I could lean back and relax while we played. Turns out that they were actually acoustic baffling. I wasn't baffled I was over-joyed. What once was an echoey and loud room would now hopefully be a splendid space for live music. The room was giving Bruce a break. They also installed some nice stage lights which I had access to during the performance. I'm a big fan of lights. They also have big fan / lights.
What a crowd tonight! Amherst proper was deserted. Umass was not back in session yet, the other bars looked empty but The ABC was brimming with music-lovers. What a treat. And our lovely crowd danced the night away, smiling and singing along. It's a friendly bunch of darlings that come to our shows.
BRIAN: (A happy birthday to Steamtrain-in-clay artist, Suzanne Thibodeau). Our best Mole's Eye show yet!! Oh, what a night... Where shall I start? I'll start an hour before departure time, when I fielded calls from both Joe Boyle and Bruce Tull asking if this show was still happening. After all, the weather was shite tonight! But, yes, yes, it was still happening, and nothing beyond Saskwatch himself devouring the state of Vermont would stop us from playing this show. I drove Ning and Lord Russ to the show, and yeah, it was hairy at times. But not as hairy as Saskwatch himself devouring all the, and him.. doing, at all; when it's happening...because it's (well, then.) Sorry.
I was determined to get a meal there at the Mole's Eye, cause darn it, I was hungry, and they got some good things. Pulling up, we happened upon members of HUDSON, doing the same. They were opening for us. Hudson is Martha's band, and so much more. Take Otis, for example. He sings, plays bass and writes songs reminiscent of, say, Squeeze, and other delicious New Wave. With some help from Amy and Martha ('cause they know), I ordered a chicken burrito, and set up my drums off to the side. When my burrito arrived, so did Joe Boyle, then Bruce Tull. I sat and ate, and Henning bestowed upon me a CDR copy of his new album, "Henning's School for the Dead," which I've since heard and loved. Ning Ning Ning Ning Ning. Ning Ning Ning Ning. Ning Ning And so forth.
Lord Russ helped me finish the burrito. Then Dr. Loren Landis showed up, as well as a few people who wanted to buy CDs. Dr. Loren bestowed upon us that day's Brattleboro Reformer, which featured a beautifully written piece on the band, by Dave Madeloni. Soon, Hudson was taking the stage. They began sans Martha, but soon she took the stage, and rocked the house, no matter what she said (and you know what she said? She said she was nervous because she felt like there were a bunch of handsome rock stars watching her. I have no idea what she meant by that. I didn't see any.)
My new friend Andrea showed up a few songs into the set. Hudson was rocking so much that she and I had to bow out for 5 minutes of fresh air and conversation. Returning inside, Hudson were climaxing with their last 3 songs. The drummer's 1 year old son was wearing hip clothes and snazzy headphones to protect his happy little ears.
Soon, we were on. We played ONE LONG SET!! We've reintroduced some Lord Russ gems like Please Please, as well as learned the Hollies' classic, "The Air That I Breathe." The set was a powerhouse. I tuned in a lot to what Joe was doing, which was very cool. For the majority of the set, we had about 15 people up front, shaking their booties to kingdom come. Beyond them, the place was packed to the back of the room. Lots of fun, the rest of which, Ning can fill you in on.
After the show, we exchanged hugs and kisses with the staff, as is the custom when the staff is all female. I dropped off Ning at Ning's, and then embarked on a date. That night I had a dream which featured Newbury Comics, a room full of women wearing lampshade miniskirts, a clit-piercing clinic, me accidentally stepping on 50 needles with Novocain in them, with bare feet, and waking up just before slipping off an icy roof to my death.
HENNING: Surely such a harried ride in the dark cruel freezing rain strewn northern territories would lead us into the realms of hell. One might feel that way, smooshed into the backseat of a slippery car, crushed between amplifiers and drums. But, our new better route to The Mole's Eye led us instead to a heavenly delight of an evening. We arrived at the same time as Hudson. I said this before and I'll say it again, now here's a band that you just want to pick up and put in your pocket and take home with you. Perhaps a summer stay at a rock-and-roll bungalow on the beach would befit these valuable popsters.
As Hudson played, the place filled up with masses of folks. Being inspired by the band and the crowd, I was getting more and more excited to start our set. Everybody-loves-Martha fronted a great hour-and-a-half of precious music and the crowd swooned synchronically to the chime of guitars and even an occasional accordion. Harmonies by Martha and Otis were wonderful. Look for Hudson near you, we did our best to convince them to come on down to Massachusetts.
We began our set with Hooked on a Feeling and just kept on going from there. The dancing was sublime, the room was aglow, and any memories of the cold and angry outdoors were lost in the sway of the girls and boys.
BRIAN: And for Mr. Joe Boyle, a rousing "hometown boy makes good!". Well, at least he lives there currently. This was a very fun, good sounding and well-played gig, as well it should have been, for 3 main reasons: 1.) First gig of 2001 2.) Syd Barrett's birthday 3.) Joan of Arc's birthday. Shortly before load-in time, Russ and I (having digested our decadent homemade meal) went to pick up happy ol' Henny. Arriving at his place we were shocked to find A BREAK IN SECURITY! CODE RED, DANGER, CODE RED! DANGER ON THE HOME FRONT!! Boy, had we walked into a tragedy. Thinking he could relax in his very own home, Head of Security Seth Tripp turned his back on his barely-touched roast beef roll-up for 2 minutes, to find that his beloved Jane the Dog had devoured all of it. Soon after, she was seen sheepishly walking around the apartment, trying to wipe the guilt off on on Russ and Henning's legs. Enough of that, let's get to the other unimportant stuff.
The Brass Cat has a great parking lot which leads right into the stage. Yeah, we tracked a bit of snow on to the stage, which concerned Joe, but Dr. Bruce Tull assured him, no worries. I set up my drums, while Russ and Ning made set lists. I ordered a beer from Pam and strode purposefully to the jukebox. Soon, Bob Mould, Talking Heads and the Replacements were filling the room. Then it was time for us to rock.
First set: not a hell of a lot of people at all. But it was great to see Mark Schwaber of HOSPITAL there. We had a couple dancing real close-like during "Make Your Mark", and a few others were kickin' up their heels for the faster ones. I loved that set. Then we had our first recess. I ordered another beer, and again, strode purposefully to the jukebox. Soon, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and the Velvet Underground were being drowned out by the SUDDEN INFLUX OF LIKE 50 PEOPLE!. Wow. Among the celebs: rock and roll dentist Dr. Tim Liptak; Figment Matthew Zapruder; Maggie Phillip Price. As well as many, many lovable faces.
Second set: For me, a rough start. Just neuroses, nothing serious. Ok. I thought I was coming down with a cold. Within 3 songs it was awesome again, and I felt healthy again. Must have sweated it out. A 12-minute bug. A fun, fun set. Second break: seemed to go by in 5 minutes, before NingyNing said, "We only have 30 minutes till we have to stop", and we hadn't even started yet! Woo! Woah! Wisk!
Third set: We dedicated "Bike" to Syd on his birthday. A bearded man wanted to hear a Beatles tune. BAM!! We did "Don't Let me Down". And so on and so on. We ended with "80 Degrees". I gotta say, parts of that show, due to the sound vortex where I was, I seriously felt like I was in a recording studio, everything sounded so fine. After the show, the owner wanted his own copy of the CD - quite an honor. And perhaps they'll put us on the jukebox. We went to a small party at one of the most sought after pieces of real estate in all of Northampton. I swear. The views! The views! 10 good friends, refreshments and goodies, some rock and roll and ta ta. One note. I am officially old; I remember emphatically announcing that the first Violent Femmes album is "such a charming album". Yes, the one which, at the age of 17 so perfectly expressed all my angst and confusion like it was written just for me, is now, "a charming little album". Where do I go from here, 'Ning? What do I have to do/ to prove my love to you? (the song that hasn't exited my head for 48 hours).
HENNING: Where do you go from here? You, just suck it up, and move on to our next show. You just keep goin' and gettin' 'em, Bri. Someday, music may speak to you again like it once did. Soon, you will discover Harry Connick Junior.
I'd never been to The Brass Cat before and for some reason I thought it was going to be a dark and smokey dive. Not at all, it was a very comfortable and shiny room. The stage, tucked way back in a corner, was teeny but comfortable, like the cubby in a VW Beetle. I felt like a boy in a box.
When we got to the place, Russ informed me that I forgot my camera, luckily a call to our Head of Security resulted in it being brought to us later. So we DO have pictures.
It was great to see so many Northamptonites out in Easthampton, it was kind of like going to a nighttime event at your junior high and seeing all the teachers and students in a different light. There was a perfume of juxtaposed familiarity in the air. The dogs were sobbing uncontrollably.
At one point while we were playing I looked up and Maggies frontman Philip Price had a peanut in his nose.