People gathered to save me tonight. A rough night at the Velvet Lounge in DC. Though the sound was pretty nice, and at this point I’m realizing that even on our worst nights we tend to blow people away, I was moody and angry. I don’t know if it was simply a swing of my emotional needle or lack of the right sugar or something legitimate eating at my insides, some people said the wrong things and I played some of the wrong things and in my soul the gig tonight hurt.
The audience Loved it, and that soothes me a little bit, but I know my emotional state can be so precarious after a gig – after all the anger and the ferocity of pouring myself through my little sieve of strings, I’m always fragile and brittle.
On top of all the weird emotional turmoil I kept playing things the way Heather and I play them on the road, forgetting to let Sharif start songs, or Rowan, or whatever. I was embarrassed everytime I did it, and embarassment always fucks with my head.
The sound was great – Brennan did a great job setting everything up, and actually Brennan got me through the gig by coming to the front during Counting and dancing the way I imagine people dancing during that song. A threshing tremor of flesh echoing back the frustration and hatred in that song. It’s a song about hatred and wanting to hurt. There’s redemption in it, but the redemption is long gone, and now it’s simply about the useless people clogging the streets. All the hippie jam-band kids who like usso much WOULDN’T if they listened to the lyrics. Too damned dark. I wish we’d played Chalk Pit tonight. That would’ve been quite satisfying.
College Perk open mic tonight… such a thing, such a thing. God I Love to flirt, and I’m so frightened of it.
Brennan was feeling the sickness tonight, coughing up ick. I enjoyed describing his distress to a couple of girls drinking milk shakes. They seemed to think my words made their drinks chunkier and asked me to please stop. Satisfied, I moved on.
With Brennan in nasal distress, I took over the open mic for the night, and sort of dead-panned a night of unaffective hosting. Sometimes I’m good at talking to people I don’t know, other nights… the smiles (few and far between though they are) never quite reach my eyes and I’m very aware that my interest is a lie.
A couple of good performers. Two good rap artists – one with pre-recorded tracks on an mp3 player and one with a baritone ukelele. Never seen one of those before.
A long night of patching people and awkward moments. My temper has been getting really bad recently, and it’s harder and harder to wait for the apologies. Heather feels I’ve made a WHOLE lot of enemies recently, which is probably true… I just can’t seem to work up the energy to be PC all the time.
I think part of it is watching too much Firefly and not wanting my resident band-Jane to think I’m a pussy. Knowing all too often I back down from stuff I have a right to, and taking it out on people that I know I can win against. Who knows. I don’t believe in psycho-analysis.
I’ll be remembering to smile for a while, remembering to be nice. I’m not a good enough musician to get a real reputation as an asshole and still succeed. Heather always says “I can’t wait till we’re big enough that we don’t have to be nice”, but my patience is wearing thin and I just keep snapping at people.
Need more sugar, or perhaps fluffers. Fluffers with candy. That might do the trick.
Tired and sick? Perhaps sick and tired. Mostly tired. A little sick.
I could feel myself coming down with it Saturday morning. I’d stayed out all night and played (played what you may ask?!!? Uno and Monopoly, of course!) and run amok and really just sort of rambled. And I knew I was going to pay for it. I could feel the drippings, the leavings, the makings of nasal incontinence and heady stuffiness, but I pushed on nonetheless. I was just having too good a time to let a little thing like my nose stop me.
Saturday morning I could feel the scratchiness and so I took some cold medicine and went back to bed.
Upon gaining consciousness Saturday afternoon I went on over to Rowan’s place, dusted him off, shoved him in my car and carted him over to the College Perk to celebrate his first and last 30th birthday.
I feared for his survival, knowing that he would be playing allllll night, and that for the first third he’d be at the whim of Sharif (who gets a mic for IO’s performances) and that for the last third he’d be at the mercy of a man Under the Influence (of whatever possibly expired cold medicines my mom happened to have in the closet that day). All in all, I had a lot of sympathy for him. In a dazed and semi-coherent kind of way.
The show itself was awesome. . We’ve been playing really, really well together and the Perk was packed. It felt really good to have such a happy, happy audience. Though Iwas afraid I was a little off, a lot of people commented that even the banter was on. I was told I was very funny. Makes me feeeel good. I actually felt a little bit patchy – I guess there are moments on stage when I feel there are certain stories to tell. Maybe just because I know they haven’t been told in a long, long time.
I just finished a new song which takes a step back from all this folk bullshit writing I’ve been around for the last couple of years. I took a step back in to my incoherence and my cross-draw from different stories and different parts of myself. Maybe it’s not “right”, but I sure feel comfortable there. It’s a good song, and more helpful than other recent writings. I thought I was writing about one thing, it turned out to be something else…
In any case, Steel was a song like that, moreso than most. I wrote about a woman, a woman who Lived far away from me and who I was to sacrifice an awful lot to be with… and crossed it with a car crash I witnessed while working security in Baltimore. Of course, the tongue-in-cheek version goes something like “yeah, wrote a song about a car crash and compared it to my relationship” (hahahaha) – but in truth, there’s no comparison in Steel – merely temporal context. The things happened at the same time and finish a picture for me.
Steel was written shortly after a car (yes, I know the song says “truck” – that sounded better) lost control on North Avenue behind the Commons. The car had come off of route 83 and was travelling West on North Avenue. It hit the curb and spun on all axes, clipping lamp post and wiping out part of a brick wall. As the car spun it caught a pedestrian with the twisted metal of its bumper, gashing her from the base of her belly toher collar bone. She was pregnant.
The car came down, half-on and half-off the curb, facing back the way it had came. The woman landed on the hood and the lamp post slammed down on top of her. Our school security reached the scene as I was calling the ambulances. One kid came back as I was coordinating communications and he was covered in green oil paint. He kept repeating “I had my hands in her stomach! I had my hands in her fucking stomach!!!” My head flipped, I realized it was red….
He saved her Life. He didn’t save her baby. I can’t imagine anyone else remembers her anymore except the people who were on duty that night and maybe the kids in the car. I remember one pacing back and forth yelling about how he was only going 20mph and the other guy sitting with his head in his hands, shaking his head and waiting on the curb for whatever else was going to happen.
I told that story in mangled form on stage Saturday night. I told it poorly and people were quiet. Then we went on with the song. I think that all of our music should be accompanied with silence, and all of the stories should be followed with laughter… and once or twice during every set, the audience should fall into an uncomfortable silence.
Sipping hot tea and sitting in a bundle on the floor since I just don’t feel like climbing up on the coach. I feel like I’ve been catching a lot of colds recently, which angers me. I’ve GOT to spend less time licking other people, and I’ve GOT to use my own damned microphone, especially during the flu season. Sigh…
We’ve delayed our travel to Connecticut by 24 hours. I hate doing it, but it was right to. I’m dizzy and drippy and generally feeling unpleasant. I’ve been TRYING to keep up with writing stuff as I spiraled downwards, but really, I think I’ve been mostly incoherent.
Heather has brought me Star Wars and soup, and it really IS time for me to just settle in and be a little squishy roblump.
It’s the highest calling for me, at least – don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no illusions about that in the greater scheme of things. I don’t mean much, despite the effect I’ve had on a couple of people in the world… but from the inside, I’m all I’ve got, and my art is the only way I’ve got of keeping things even vaguely tidy.
So, yeah – being able to shut my brain down might be a great superpower, but if I’d been born with it, I’d never have known that I needed it, and I certainly would never have done anything worth reading about.
But in the end, since what I’m writing is about stuff that perhaps I’d just as soon not think about, I guess the only loser in THAT scenario would be you. And maybe that DOES make me an entertainer. Hrm.
People ask people what sort of superpower they wish they had. I don’t really know what the purpose of such a question is, but generally I think it’s just something to pass the time. I think Heather’s answer is generally “flying”. At the moment, my usual answer is “phasing”, since a gamer is always looking for a way to beat the system – and the ability to alter one’s molecular density at will so as to “phase” through matter has a number of clever implications that can be used in surprising ways.
However, right now, at 3.30am, I MIGHT just answer “to be able to shut my brain off”. Not much of a superpower, but I’d perhaps be able to not think about what I’d given up if that spectacular ability were mine. My productiveness would be doubled, untroubled by fatigue (being able to fall asleep when I want to) and untroubled by worry…
I think I’ve mentioned before how midnight is only populated by ghouls and goblins in stories for children. 3am is the frightening time for adults. A time for lying awake and thinking too much and sitting up alone, wishing you had friends in an opposing time zone.
Tonight it’s my place in the world that’s taking up my sleep time – in the studio I had another one of those moments where I stepped back and thought about what it was that I was spending all my time on… this weird compulsion I have to beat a piece of wood with steel strung across it… to bend notes out of vocal cords that were never really intended for such variable purposes.
I’m a performer, and I don’t know that I fully understand why. Compulsion’s the right word – I’m very fortunate that people are willing to pay me money for what I do, but I don’t know that I’d have a choice about it anyways. Somewhere along the line, being a performer has gotten semi-tangled with being an entertainer, which is fun – but it’s not foremost, which perhaps gives some people some miscontrued ideas of what I’m about or what I care about, or what my objectives are. I do like to entertain, and the performance is at the heart of everything that I do – but how much of any of this is about communicating what’s inside of me vs sending a message? Two very different things. And above all of that, how much of it is about exorcising what’s inside of me? That’s the highest calling of all. Getting it out of me before it drives me crazy.
Tired as all get out, yet singing and tea have pushed my cold back, and I’ve got high hopes for sleep tonight.
I’m often horrified by how large Connecticut is. It has no right to be as vast as it is, and the time consumed by crossing these mammoth expanses of nothing in this state is painful.
Today we drove from Baltimore to Danielson, CT and though the 10 hours spent driving included stops for food and gas and a lot of wandering-Bethlehem, PA-getting-lost-time spent trying to find hedgehog ice cream, somehow most of the tracel was actually spent in Connecticut.
We’ve of course recently driven through Texas – which is a state reknown for being large, and really, when confronted with the sheer distance of getting from point A to point B (or, in our case, from exit 896 to exit 576) you have no business being surprised.
Connecticut, on the other hand, catches you off guard and then endeavours to be smug about it.
In Texas, it’s a linear thing. You count down the exits and follow your progress with numerous mile markers which punctuate the plains betwixt billboards for gentlemen’s clubs and vasectemy reversals. In Connecticut, they lie to you.
Let’s take 395 North as an example. Innocuous enough. You get on at exit 79 and we were going to exit 91. The end of a long drive, 12 exits doesn’t seem so bad. Seems even better when a sign IMMEDIATELY crops up announcing the emminent arrival of exit 80.
But it’s a lie. There’s no distance given. Just an exciting list of things to be found at exit 80. There’s the list of restaraunts. Then a list of gas stations. Then the sign that lists amenities at exit 80 (restaraunts and gas stations). Then we finally have a ROAD NAME for exit 80. Then there’s a SEPARATE sign which tells you where that road can take you. Then there’s another sign listing amenities, except this time it includes hotels… the next sign then lists the hotels. Then there’s another sign warning you that exit 80 is actually still a mile away. You get the idea. Then you’ve got the half-mile mark… then there’s the exit sign itself…. then… yes… there was exit 80 B. It was like a horror movie that never got to the point. Exit 82 was particular frightening, as it hit us with 82E. (The next one was 82W, thank God). Exit 87 was particularly guilty of over-advertising. Exit 87 had better lead to the best damned place on Earth, because you read about it for about half-an-hour before finally passing it.
In any case, we finally arrived at the Desert Rain in Danielson, CT. People actually knew us! That was pretty awesome – we played hard, though I went easy on my voice, and got taken in by a nice couple at the bar. We’re at their place now, and I feel my consciousness wearing very, very thin… shame my phlegm isn’t equally… er… thin.
Sigh. I just did one of those sneezes where EVERYTHING ends up in your throat? Only, their bathroom is like, a mile down the hallway and to the left… Yeah, you want to hear about this….
Ah, to be the hero of half-empty small town bars, or to fight for attention in mid-time music halls? It’s the age-old question: is it better to be the big fish in the little pond or the other way around?
People make a lot of assumptions about us when we walk into a room. Some of it is the equivalent of locker-room verification – checking out and comparing the equipment. We carry nice gig bags, and a hand drum in a case, which is a rarity at most open mics.
When we unzip, people make judgments about us. Everyone does it. Nothing about us is flashy, but we look prepared. Prepared and traveled. I think of Takamines as the Saturn cars of the guitar world – Popular with the middle class, sensible, gets good mileage and handles well in all kinds of weather. And though the instrument does not always make the man, there is an assumption that people with good gear are good enough to know good gear, and then good enough to play it. This said, there is gear that everyone knows is good and buy as much for sound as status. These days, if somebody is playing a Taylor , about the only thing that suggests is that they could afford it.
Squires usually set off alarm bells in my head. Someone in here tonight has a Wal-Mart electric guitar that they picked up second-hand at a pawn shop. I am not sure if I should be afraid.
In bars like this, we know what to play. We know what compliments we will elicit. And we know that we will walk away with a couple dollars at best, a booking offer if the place regularly features music, but little else. It’s a quick fix, and the high wears off fast. But, if you get too egotistical and decide that places like this are beneath you, you will fight for people to give a damn somewhere else. The rewards might be bigger there, the compliments of greater weight, the CD sales more lucrative, but they might also go to the other guy that night who was just that little bit better than us. And how do we feel about ourselves then?
I can’t write places like this off, no matter how many of them frustrate me and make me question my choices and my gas mileage.
I’ve coined an expression for nights like that. I call it “wearing the sequin dress to the baseball game.” That is when you feel like whipping out all the stops seems not only like overdoing it, but inappropriate. Last night, was the opposite. Whipping out all the stops was the right thing to do, the goal to be the “stand-out performer” part of the deal … and yet this time we somehow got punished for it.
While at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem for the open mic there a couple nights ago, one of the volunteers there suggested that, since we were to be in Philadelphia anyway, we should head to the World Cafe. It’s a radio thing, but apparently they opened up a music venue. A competition like Eddie’s Attic, the staff of the place picks who advances. We figured this was a great way to meet some new people in Phillie and start making the most of a city we had not really taken full advantage of.
Any open mic at which you spend 6 hours is sort of difficult. So we go last night, showing up at the appointed hour of 5pm to wait in line for the 6pm sign-up, and we are the 7th in line. By the time they let us in, there are 15-20. We somehow wind up going 16th.
I always find myself looking around at moments like that and try and figure out who is going to be good. What they are going to sound like. I am almost NEVER right, which I guess should put to rest some of my own fears about looking the part. Although, there are some that look SO much the part and are the art that it is completely infused throughout their look and personality. There were a couple of those – a guy with crazy hair in big beads and a red hawaiian shirt. Everyone who was artfully disheveled it seems, turned out to be good. The venue itself was gorgeous … definitely not the baseball game. There was even a piano on which to writhe in the sequin dress you would have been totally right to wear there.
So the night crawled forward … As they were about to announce the winner at the end of the night, 11:30 or so, the bar manager came up to me and said we were the hands-down favorites. Everyone had voted our way.
But then they figured since we were a touring act we would not be able to make a date so soon and would likely be in parts elsewhere, so they picked someone else. It’s totally what we could’ve used – a built-in audience in a place we’ve got no draw.
I told the woman I wished she would have asked us, because we could have made the date. But she said they wanted to offer us a gig, and so they figured that was how we would “win.” I told her we don’t have much in the way of a huge following in Philadelphia, so it would have to be an opening act. I thanked her.
UGH! Too professional to win! If only they knew how many nights of our lives were spent in open mics. The gig is fine, but to be honest, a stair-step competition might be better for us seeing more and different kinds of audiences instead of trying ot pull numbers at a gig. They said if we came back another month, we would most certainly win and could go through the contest that way if we liked. They loved us. I think that was what was so frustrating. I wanted to tell them that we are not as well off as they think. But then again, I don’t want to tell people that.
Long night for the utmost in musical blueballs. Damn that slutty sequin dress and all its promise.
Connecticut is endeavouring to make up for the drive with being obstinately beautiful at us. The skies of cleared to a shock blue that vibrates the oranges and yellows and flames of the trees. I think that that’s maybe why so many animals are colour-blind… lest they be overwhelmed by the glory around them and stand stock still till a predator can tear its eyes off the skies.
I’m remembering the last time we were up there – Sharif and Jason were travelling with us then. It’s a shame they can’t see New England the way it stands now. Connecticut really is meant to be seen this way, from the highway, through the hills. Friday morning, after waking up at Mike and Ari’s (we met them the previous night, doing one of our “we’ve been doing this for two years and usually we’ve got this sort of thing all worked out, but… can anyone put us up for the night?” speaches from the stage – driving all the way back to Mike’s in Hartland was a painful prospect) we got out on the road and took a long, long leisurely, leisurely drive out to Bristol to play another open mic.
The drive itself was fantastic. We stopped on the way at a park at the Mansfield Hollow Resevoir and took a nap in the car as the sun rose around us and the car warmed and the wind howled. We did some mall hopping and Best Buy wandering and tree admiring and sight-seeing and still ended up in Bristol hours before the open mic started. We eventually found ourselves a Panera and sat with their wireless for a while and killed time. Not enough time. We showed up at the New Downtown Cafe a half-hour early (hey, you never know when one of these might have a list that just fills up crazy fast) and then found out that it doesn’t get started for another hour and a half PAST the time the woman on the phone told us.
Made me want to cry. “Do you serve food?” “Nope.” Long wait. I helped the host move speakers around to pass the time. Heather went back out and got her laptop. I lamented my fate.\
So, Bristol – I think Bristol might be crossed off my list. It was sort of a sad night. Heather and I were still recovering our voices, and I fear I was a little squeaky and disoriented. The only plus of the night was a group of middle-school teachers who’d gone out on a dare and were going to perform… well… nothing. They didn’t have a plan at all. One had a keyboard and the other had that percussion thingie that sounds like a sausage… a kielbasa? Heather sang “Open Arms” with them and they actually sounded pretty good together, but I was distracted by the horrible realization that I had absolutely no capacity for talking to hot, hot middle school teachers.
It’s very sad. She was Lovely. Couldn’t play… er… kielbasa… but… maybe Bristol’s not QUITE off the list.
Connecticut’s been a really good time. Lovely state. The driving takes too long, and the crowds are too small, and no-one anywhere can pay us what we’re worth, but I Love the people.
I tried to explain on Saturday night, that Connecticut is the South of the North. That the people in Connecticut have just treated us sweeter than any other place we’ve been in New England. People looked at me like I was crazy, and Heather gave me that “you’re talking too much and absolutely NO-ONE GETS WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT” look, but I felt that on some level the sentiment penetrated their brains.\
Friday night we headed out to Putnam (the haven home of every antique store on the East coast, or so it would seem) and played the Victoria Station Cafe. We had a great time playing Scrabble with the employees at the beginning of the night, and then afterwards we hung out for a while with Dave (the owner) and his nephew, just listening to music and slowly packing the car.
Somewhere in there we played a show. My mucous membranes were better controlled at that point and allowed me to get some non-croaking in. We ended a little earlier than we otherwise might’ve, but really had a good night. I even made up a pretty decent Christmas song that may or may not have encouraged people to tip better. Someone even scrounged us 11c from the couch!
We left with a bag full of cookies and lemon squares and some containers of soup. Dave somehow became very grandmotherly upon our departure, loading us down with food for the next couple of days. We were pleased.
After the show we stayed with our friends Mike and Ari, who we met at the Desert Rain open mic a couple of nights before. They were awesome and had offered us their place to crash for the night. I’d fallen in Love with their couch that first night, and went back expecting more of the same.
We came back to the clogging.
We’d been warned that the upstairs neighbours were weird and made a lot of noise. When we pulled into their parking lot Friday night, we thought we had it all figured out, as we saw two people we didn’t recognize doing some sort of cloggingish dance through the window. We thought we had the answer to the secret… But no. We went upstairs to find Mike playing some V-drums and Ari and a bunch of friends playing some bizarre dancing video game. Our friend Renee (from New York) had showed up to the gig at the Victoria Station Cafe and then came back to Mike and Ari’s with us. I felt bad – with my cold-deepened voice and fatigued sense of humour, I just wasn’t the fun rob I should’ve been.
Hrm. Unfortunately, we’ve now run into the situation where Heather’s turned on Star Trek and I can’t really focus on the Journal since Doctor Bashir has just asked Odo for “some goo. No, a little more than that. I’ll give it back.” More writing later, I suppose.
Ugh. Long day, long night… we’re taking the night off to make up for it. Heather and I are in Philadelphia with Shane. We don’t get to see him nearly enough – we’ve GOT to make more excuses to come to Philadelphia! Perhaps we have them after last night, but it was kind of grueling.