Mondegreen Tour Diary
by Martin Newman
M o n d e g r e e n T o u r P h a s e I (W e s t s I d e)
Oct 5: Pre-Tour
We received copies of our new CD only two weeks before the shows. We were blessed that they arrived before we left, considering the issues we had with our "Marco Polo" release shows, but still not an ideal situation. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get last minute mailings to the press & radio knowing that it’s probably pointless seeing as how any coverage would probably require a minimum of 2 weeks lead time, if not more. Is doing something better than doing nothing? We’ll find out. At any rate, even if it gets covered or played after our shows have come & gone, it’ll be worth the $1.50 in postage.
James left a few days early so he could do some sight seeing out on the West Coast. He made these plans after he had bought tickets to see Morrissey here in Boston & since nobody he knew wanted to buy the tickets, I kindly took them off his hands for free. I don’t particularly like Morrissey, but I don’t dislike him either. Pleasant, but ultimately doesn’t do much for me. The venue was nice, the show was … pleasant, but didn’t do much for me. Morrissey fans are hard to deal with though, quite an obnoxious bunch. So here I am sitting in this quaint little theater being constantly annoyed by everyone around me, there to see a show I don’t particularly have any interest in & all the while, needing to pack bags for my early flight out to Seattle in the morning… life.
Oct 6: Skylark Cafe – Seattle, WA
A 6am pickup from Eliza & Mickey in a cab & off to the airport. I love traveling, but I hate flying. Virgin America does make the trip a bit more bearable though. I remember James wanting to go with Delta cuz he had miles & they were a little cheaper, but between the horrible experience I had with them when we went to Greece & the fact that 90% of reports in the news of an airline making emergency landings or smoke in the cockpit etc... have been Delta flights; I decided paying a few dollars more would be a wise investment. I’ll be using my new guitar set up which is travel friendly (see QRD #57). But I’m also taking a bunch of CDs & my regular luggage. So I had ordered a cheap hard shell suitcase & stuffed my speaker cab & a couple pedals into it & used my week’s worth of clothes for added padding. I was concerned I’d be spending an extra $50 dollars for my overweight suitcase; but after removing one pedal, I clocked in just under the weight & didn’t have to pay the extra fee. Aside from not being a direct flight (had to layover in LA) & being at the break of dawn, the flight was fine. Actually the first leg of the flight had the smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced. I literally never felt the touchdown. James was there to pick us up, which was a relief because he was out in Yellowstone or wherever & didn’t have cell service, so we hadn’t heard from him & didn’t know if he was actually going to make it from wherever he was to Seattle by the time we did.
We had a bit of time to kill before going to the club, so we went downtown to explore a bit. Down by the docks, down by the market, ate some Mexican food between the two, & then back to the van to cross over to West Seattle where the Skylark lays. Have to say, we had some really nice weather, which was unexpected considering how much you hear about the rain in the northwest. We still had a little bit of time before load-in so we drove around the hood & decided there was nothing to see or do there. So we parked the van by a park creep style. I used the opportunity to unpack my speaker & re-patch my pedal board together under the quickly diminishing daylight.
We finally make our way over to the Skylark. From the outside it looks like a biker bar to me, tucked away on the side of a road just after coming across the bridge from Seattle proper. We passed it the first go around & had to u-turn back to it. Still too early, so we park it at the bar before loading in. Meet this guy Asa that I think James was in touch with prior to coming out & also there’s a couple from Boston that randomly popped by. Liz goes over & talks to them & I think convinces them to stay & support the home team. The venue is nice, a high stage with a real sound system, a wall of vinyl albums for decoration; not upscale, but not a dive either. This show was being put together with Seattle label Neon Sigh, so the bill is pretty solid. Golden Gardens & C’est la Mort are both cool darkwave bands that cover both spectrums of the genre, I feel like it’s the 90s again. Too bad Brian John Mitchell isn’t here to bare witness. I have friends from my high school in Germany coming tonight, which is kinda cool but also kinda weird & I haven’t slept in so long. With the time difference we’re definitely going well beyond my bedtime & I’m hoping it doesn’t affect the show. Our set goes off pretty well, there’s a major flub in “13” where the drum cue is missed so I’m off by one beat in the intro, hopefully it’s so noisy that nobody noticed. There’s some crackle from the bass rig as well. Enthusiastic applause & CDs sold wipes away the memories of the screw-up, the want of sleep & then some drinks help with the rest. We’re approached by a photographer to have our photos taken, which we oblige & learn that she helped put together the Walls of Sound fest we did back in Virginia when we first started out. After a bit of hangout, we head back to Seattle proper where we’re staying with one of my HS buds.
Oct 7: Seattle/Day Off
We have the day off, thankfully. & use it to explore the town a bit more. First breakfast at a café up in Capitol Hill, stopped by a Smurf parking lot sale, which is kind of odd & then our host Ron had to go to work & we went to meet up with Asa whom offered to show us around a bit. So he takes us up to some sort of event, thrift shop/DJ thing. It’s a cool concept, but being in the NorthWest, some of us want to see a bit of the nature that it’s so famous for. So we drive out to a/the sound, perhaps, I’m not sure & probably should reference a map, & chill for a bit. There’s a man there trying to make a robot float on a bit of styrofoam. Eliza busts out jungle speed & we kill some time before driving Asa back & then meeting up at Ron’s bar for dinner. Since we were so close, we made a decision to go up in the Space Needle. It was a bad decision & once we were up there & learned that there was a massive line to get back down again, we regretted the money & time wasted. Back down & across the street to the pub where we relax for a bit before heading back to the apt. Watch Adaptation before calling it a night.
Oct 8: Le Voyeur – Olympia, WA
Olympia is only a couple hours away so we decide to try to go to Mt. Rainier on the way down. Ron has the day off so he decides to come with us to Olympia & catch the train back. We couldn’t get close to Rainier because of roads being closed for construction during the off-season. We did get a glimpse though from a scenic lookout, but eventually we give up & head for Olympia, mainly because we’re getting restless from sitting in the van. On the way there, I spied with my eyes a train car village. Everybody else must have been looking out the other side, because for some reason we didn’t stop & nobody seemed to notice what was happening. The hotels, the diners, etc… were all train cars. I wish I had learned the name of the place.
Mickey went to school here in Olympia a few years ago, so she had places she wanted to show us or probably just revisit. Like the lake where she lived, so we did that. Then we went to the “center” of town & found something to eat before loading in to the club, we were eventually joined by one of Mickey’s friends who was playing with us that night & a few more people. The venue had a very punk feel, but it was actually more of a WTF vibe. Even the bill was a bit bizarre, which had us, a folky band, Mickey’s friend playing softly on an acoustic & singing & then a loud, insane screamy band… Simon the Leper. The show is cool, a little sparse attendance wise, but the kids were dancing & even though the sound wasn’t great we still had a good time playing. Simon the Leper was definitely too loud for the little room, but was a good end to the night even if there volume pushed some of the audience out into the bar area. Hung outside afterwards while we waited for Mickey to catch up with her old friends. Whilst that happened, a wasted tattooed punk rocker came up to us & asked Ron to punch him in the face because he deserved it, Ron politely refused & then somebody else came up & said hi to him & they walked away or something. It’s a bit weird & disconcerting to me how everybody in this town seems to make intense direct eye contact with you when they speak with you. I see a bit of that in Mickey as well & I wonder if she picked that up from her time here. After she bids her friends adieu, we find a cheap hotel & get a room. James whipped out his sleeping bag suit & took the floor & the rest of us took the beds until morning.
Oct 9: Valentines – Portland, OR
We woke pretty early & went for breakfast before splitting up to look around “downtown” Olympia in the daylight. I think it makes so much sense that First Blood takes place in the NorthWest & not anywhere else now that I’ve been here. There’s not much to see, so we wind up going to a record shop & Liz & Mickey head off to do something else before meeting up again. Liz is feeling a bit under the weather, so we head up to what appears to be a wiccan café for some tea. We drop Ron off at the Amtrak station & start to head out, but Mickey & Liz both realize that they no longer have the pillows they brought into the hotel with them. So we go back to the hotel & see if they still had them. Luckily they did. Then we head down to Portland. Two things happened on the way number 1: Eliza had learned that she has long lost relatives right outside of Portland & she arranges to meet them. 2: Every time Eliza gets into the van she almost immediately falls asleep. The combination of these two things results in Eliza not being awake to tell us what town she was getting dropped off at. Once we’re in Portland, we stop by Ground Kontrol an arcade/bar of sorts to kill time while Eliza figures out what she’s going to do. Once that is taken care of, we branch out a bit more. Mickey & I leave James to his own devices (probably record shopping) & wind up at a place with $1 tacos & games. Later James joins us & we run out of things to do. So we go to a nearby café & use their wi-fi to download a movie & then sit in the van & watch it while we wait for Eliza to be returned to us. Upon her arrival, we head down toward Valentine’s where we’re playing & go out for Thai. I had to run over to a store to buy some mini-DV tapes & that task proved to be a bit more difficult than anticipated, as a lot of shops were closing around this time. After retrieving some tapes & then making it back to the restaurant, we head over to the club. It’s actually a cool little joint, situated in this kind of cool little square just before the bridge. Bands play in an area in the front window that they clear out. Tonight we’re playing with Silber relatives Rllrbll who are absolutely amazing live. They were a bit more rocking than I anticipated, considering the Silber association, but I guess so are we. I’m not sure how I feel about playing in the window… I feel that sometimes it encourages people to watch from outside, or not wait to smoke until the band is done because hey, I can hear & watch from outside, but then I guess you also have the opportunity for people that are just passing by to catch a glimpse & maybe decide to come in. I don’t think that actually ever happens, but the possibility exists. Sort of the same logic behind, giving your music away for free or having it on Spotify or even the radio. Giving a taste will then result in more “fans” or generate more interest. Theoretically sounds plausible, but I’m not sure this ever really happens or not enough for it to be a useful strategy. After our set, we order an absinthe at the bar since we can’t do this back home in Boston. & I’m not sure what happened, but somebody decides to buy Mickey a drink, probably as kudos for a drum well played, so she orders another absinthe & then we’re out of there… but the drunk is probably kicking in pretty soon & the only place to grab a bite before hitting the road that’s still open is the famous Portland donut shop I can’t recall the name of & Donut’s aren’t exactly the kind of food you want after having some drinks. We pile into the van & drive a bit out of the city before pulling over & getting a hotel.
Oct. 10th – Travel Day/Day Off
We tried to get a show in the Bay Area SF/Oakland/anywhere near. But nobody gave us the time of day & the people that offered to help out went silent, so we have two days off in a row. We use it to visit the Redwoods, the coast, & accidentally the Bigfoot Museum/Mexican Restaurant as we make our way down to SF, where we’ll be staying with Mickey’s Aunt. Another hotel another day without the possibility of making cash to pay for gas or meals or hotels. Some online orders trickle in so we get a bit of money from Bandcamp sales, so that helped. We also receive an email from the Bostonians in Seattle, they bought the Download Cards we were selling on tour; but as it turns out, they’re not valid until the “release date” of the album, which is probably mentioned somewhere in the fine print but things were hazy rushing to get everything done before the tour so we probably didn’t notice it. Anyways, she was the only person that contacted us about it, so hopefully the other people that purchased them worked that out on their own or via CDBaby & didn’t wind up thinking we cheated them.
Oct 11th – Traveling Van
We finally get to SF & decide to chill & maybe do some laundry. So we wind up at Brainwash, I’ve always heard of this place & think it’s a great concept. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more places like it around the country. Anyways, it’s a café/laundromat that occasionally hosts live music & of course one of the places that ignored our pleas for a show. Being in this part of town makes me think of the Bay Area Thrash scene from the 80s. Jorge, who played bass for Plumerai in our very early beginnings has moved to SF since & he comes down to meet us. After our laundry is done, we head over to Golden Gate Park & hang for a bit, afterwards to Haight Street, mostly so James can go to Amoeba. We meet another friend of mine from Boston who has since moved here & then go out for dinner, Thai again. It’s starting to get late, so I bid one friend adieu & then the rest of us go to a bar over in the part of town where we’re staying. That was a total bust so we drop Jorge off at the subway & go to Mickey’s Aunt’s house. That’s kind of like the first time I met Jorge in Rochester, NY after my old band from NC played the school. We drove around with Jorge looking for something to do & it was a total bust.
Oct. 12: Genghis Cohen – Los Angeles, CA
We’re surprised that Mickey is up & out of the house before the rest of us, since usually she’s the latest riser. She’s spending a little time with her aunt & we’re to meet her & then grab breakfast before heading to LA. We trail her like cartoon detectives & make sure she doesn’t recognize us by holding newspapers in front of our faces & turning to window shop as we creep up on her location. By the time she calls & lets us know where to meet her, we’re already there across the street being inconspicuous. Where we ate was a kind of a swank joint & they had chicken ‘n’ waffles, I couldn’t resist. Best food on earth that I’ll probably be regretting later. Eating so much on this tour, really need to sell more CDs at our shows because of this. Afterwards we hop in the car & make an uneventful trip down to LA, surprisingly the weather is getting worse the closer we get to LA, which is the opposite of what we imagined. There may even be rain in the forecast. Our next show at Genghis Cohen is the only show of the tour that we aren’t able to borrow gear from the other bands on the bill. So we’ve arranged a drum set from Random Ninjas, but unfortunately no bass cab. We stop by Guitar Center to kind of borrow one for the night. i.e. Buy one & return it before we leave town. Then we had to drive out to the rehearsal space to pick up the drum set, which we were assured was still in LA, but nobody mentioned that still in LA could mean an hour or more drive. After the long ride out to the part of town the rehearsal space is in, we pull over for a Mexican dinner. There’s a band playing with full on tuba, trumpets etc… in between their set the Soccer game is blaring through loud speakers & security with automatic weapons stand guard outside. After eating we go pick up the drum set & then book it across town to the venue.
Genghis Cohen is a Chinese restaurant/bar with an attached showcase venue. The music venue, where we’re playing, is small with wooden pews for maximum comfort. They work it so that after one act plays, they push everyone out the side door (band included) & you have to re-enter & re-pay to see the next act. Completely stupid concept & the clientele seems to be 30+ yuppies. It’s kind of a ridiculous place for us to be playing & the entire night is kind of making me feel annoyed. The show itself is cool & the house soundman Jorge (not the same one from SF) is a cool dude, professional & really good at what he does. The show goes over well, but aside from a random couple on vacation in LA & some old man in the back, only the few people we personally know show up. We were the last act, so we aren’t rushed out the side door. Afterwards, we drop off the borrowed drum set to its rightful owner & then we head to a pub across town. We’re only there briefly before heading to Mickey’s sister’s house where we’ll be staying. Eliza will be staying with her friends, so we leave her at the bar.
Oct 13: Mr T’s Bowl (Ninja BallZ) – Los Angeles, CA
We get up a little early that morning & are treated to breakfast by Mickey’s sister & her husband. James & I have to return the bass cab we bought from Guitar Center, which as we’re learning is across town & therefore two hours away with traffic. We leave Mickey with her sister & plan to rendezvous with them & Eliza later to see some sights. We head out & driving across town is just as annoying as you’d expect it to be, strip mall after strip mall. The scenery & the palm trees help, but not enough. On the way back we zip around Mullholland Drive just to take a more scenic route. We get a phone call from Oliver that he’s missing a piece of his drum set so we pull off to look for it & come to the conclusion that we’re too far away to return it before he needs it for his afternoon set anyways. We eventually meet up with everybody at the Observatory & then we take Eliza with us for dinner. Mickey goes out with her sister & her husband. The three of us go out for Ethiopian food. It’s a first for Eliza. I think I’d enjoy it more if I could use a fork & not have to eat the squishy bready bits. Afterwards, we head to the venue & park it around back. The place looks abandoned. Slowly the other bands start rolling in & eventually somebody opens the club & we get to load in. We’re playing with Random Ninjas, stylistically not a great match with us but the vocalist was the very first Plumerai singer ever. We started with Suzanna at the Music Gym all those years ago before she moved to Germany & before we recorded that blue album, actually we started with Suzanna & had to find replacement after she left. The venue was pretty big & seems to have been decorated back in the 70s & decided to go with the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” stance. They were even pouring sodas for whiskey-n-Cokes, etc. out of 2L bottles. Random Ninjas have a lot of underage fans & this venue was 21+ so most of them couldn’t come if they wanted to, even the vocalist for Enjulliet couldn’t hang out inside the club until it was show time because she wasn’t 21 yet. We’re playing last tonight & the venue is too big for the amount of people that show up. A few friends of ours do come though & some of the crowd sticks around late enough to see the show through. Sold some CDs & Eliza got to have some photos taken with a few people that were excited enough about the music. So that was cool. After our set was a dance party with the remaining souls.
The show ends & we head back to Mickey’s sister’s place. Everyone passes out, but I have no interest in sleeping for just two hours before heading to the airport, so I go out to the van & re-pack my luggage & equipment. I think I’m standing in an ant pile while I do this as I’m being bitten occasionally. I come in to clean up a bit after everybody else wakes up. Then it’s off to the airport & back to Boston. James had to return the car & then take the shuttle bus to the terminal. I feel like he’s cutting it close with time & going through the security checkpoint seems like it’s taking longer than it should. Uneventful flight, but luckily it’s direct.
M o n d e g r e e n T o u r P h a s e I I (e a s t s i d e)
Being a small time band with no label support & paying for most of what we do out of pocket or profits, we break up the tour into two halves. Wind up spending the winter freezing & doing a few shows in the Boston area & NY before heading out on Phase II of the tour in Spring.
April 8th: ZuZu - Cambridge MA
We decided to sandwich the tour with two local shows. The first of which is ZuZu’s Monday night “Night of the Living Dead Head” show. It’s a free night in a little bar/restaurant sandwiched between the two Middle Easts (upstairs & downstairs). They clear out the tables when the kitchen closes & let bands play in front of the bar. It’s small, so any amount of people showing up makes you feel like you’re having a good turnout. Years ago we played here with Remora & Pamelia Kurstin & they had you play in front of the window, I’m not sure which set up I like more. There’s more room to spread out now, but everybody has to pass in front of you to get to the can. Sound wise, it is never fantastic when you’re not playing through a PA; but aside from that, I think we pull off a pretty good show. Except for “Troubled Soul”. The downside of my new pedal set up is that occasionally my foot will accidentally turn a knob as I’m trying to stomp on something else. That happened during the “solo” for this song & the part that I play is very similar to a song I play in the band To The Wedding called “Set Fire”. So when trying to recover from turning the volume knob back up, I started playing that song instead of the Plumerai one. Despite that, it was a pretty good pre-tour send off & left us feeling that we didn’t need to cram in a bunch of rehearsals before the next show a few days later. There was a nice write up on local music blog BostonHassle, which was nice but ultimately do these things actually help get people out to the shows? Jury is still out.
April 12th: Firehouse 13 – Providence RI
We’ve never played Providence before, which is surprising considering its proximity to Boston. Rumor has it that people don’t really go out to shows there. I’m not sure how accurate that is. This place is appropriately named, seeing as how the building was a former fire station converted into a live music venue, it’s actually kinda cool, but probably a bit bigger than a band who hasn’t played this town before should be playing. We’re playing with our good friend Daniel Ouellette & The Shobijin. The location doesn’t give me a great feeling about possible turnout. There seems to only be closed businesses, an elementary school, & a McDonald’s in the area. Definitely not much in the way of possible walk in potential. Fortunately people do start trickling in after the doors open & if we were at ZuZu’s it wouldn’t be so bad. But this was a concert hall. I recall playing in Germany with my old band from NC, burMONTER. We played in Wolfsburg at a concert hall that held approximately 1000 people & besides our tour mates 1SBH, there were only 3 or 4 other people in the audience, luckily this isn’t as bad. So much for the argument of if you give your music away for free on the internets more people will come to your shows, eh? The two locals did good sets, The Nymphidels & Viking Jesus. We followed them & did what to us felt like one of our better performances. Being on a real stage with a real sound person does wonders. We were followed by Daniel Ouellette, who always turns the night into a dance party. He’s one of the few acts in NewEngland that gets theatrics & the concept of putting on a show. Although the turnout wasn’t the best, we did meet some good people, made enough to break even on the rental car, & sold some CD’s on top of that. Free “cookies” from Jesus didn’t hurt either. Drove back to Boston afterwards.
April 14th: Cake Shop – NY, NY
We had Saturday off because Mickey wound up booking a show with a different band that night. So Eliza & her friend MC went to NY & the rest of us, hung out at home. Early Sunday we have to go pick up the rental van again & so I thought I’d go down to the area & then grab a bite before heading over to Enterprise. Encountered a wild turkey along the way. It’s funny how much commotion a turkey not in the fridge or on your plate can create. It brought so much joy to the people of Central Square, especially the perpetually drunk ones that live on the benches there. The reaction this turkey received was pretty much the equivalent of a celebrity sighting. Surrounded by smartphones clicking away, the bird eventually took a seat & started posing.
The rental company once again doesn’t have any vans available even though we reserved one & even though just two days earlier they had the same issue. Luckily they still had the black Suburban we got the other day. I can’t help but jam NWA. We pile in, we pick up Mickey across town & then make a rather uneventful drive to NY.
About an hour before load-in we’re making our way into the city & get a call from Eliza that she needs a ride from Brooklyn. Weird that the person that has been in the city for an entire day is the one that’s making those of us that drove four hours to be there late. It doesn’t really matter though, we get to Cake Shop 30min late & it doesn’t seem like anybody is there. The sound guy is still prepping & none of the other bands are around. We luck out & find parking only two doors down. Cake Shop is a cool joint, a bar with a little bit of a record collection you can buy upstairs & a bar/music venue downstairs. Happy hour is ending soon so some drinks had to be had before loading in. We lug our equipment downstairs & Mickey sets up her drums because the other bands are sharing it. Afterwards, we step out for something to eat. For some reason every time we’re in this area we always wind up at the same place, Spitzer’s or something like that. We get back in time to see Stroamata’s blinding set & then Violet Machine, a sort of Interpolish (the band not the nation) indie rock band. Ryan, who ran the Music Gym where we first formed years ago & also Get Nice Records, which released our first album, came by which was cool. Haven’t seen him in years. Bit of hang out after the set, one of the advantages of playing last is there’s no rush to tear down. Unfortunately, like many venues these days, Cake Shop take 100% of the door until a certain quota is met & then the bands & venue split after that. We were just shy of meeting that number. Hi Sunday night! Either not enough or too many on the guest list, it’s the world we live in. After a pizza & beer run, we head to Mickey’s relative’s BnB to spend the night.
April 15th – Day Off
Monday. Not a bad day to have off since potential Monday night turnout would be grim at best. We head out for breakfast, down to a café one of Mickey’s friends works at. Afterwards, James runs off to meet a friend of his & the rest of us go over to Brooklyn to pick up something Eliza left where she stayed Saturday night. Then we go to a restaurant for a real breakfast. Afterwards, I have to run to Kinko’s to have an extremely annoying & expensive time, printing my tax returns so I can mail it in. Then, we drive down to Penn Station so that we can drop Eliza’s friend MC so she could catch the bus back to Boston. We accidentally wind up on our way to Jersey via the Holland Tunnel after dropping her off. This would have been totally fine had we not lost our bass player earlier. It’s about this time that Mickey starts getting texts from her friends about the Marathon bombing. $13 later, we’re back in Manhattan & picking up James. He doesn’t believe the news & thinks that it’s a joke of sorts. Back in the Tunnel to Hoboken to mail taxes, then off to Philadelphia to another of Mickey’s relatives.
April 16th: Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
Woke up & Mickey made breakfast for everyone. Nice not having to buy a meal for a change. Afterwards we set out to explore a bit of the city. Eliza comments on how she’s surprised at how beautiful the city is, but we remind her that the last time we were here she proclaimed Philly to be the most beautiful American city. So we’re walking down 21st or 22nd & I can hear shrieking. Nobody else seems phased by it, perhaps they don’t hear it? Eliza & Mickey are engrossed in conversation, James is off in his own world & as we approach an intersection, there’s a church across the street on one corner & a Starbucks on our side of the street opposite the church. I still hear some screaming, but haven’t quite pinpointed the source. I see what look like concerned citizens staring toward the front of the church where a red Jeep Cherokee or something similar is parked. An older man with white hair is getting into it & when it pulls away from the curb, a man uses his phone to snap a photo of the license plate. I hear a bit more screaming & realize it’s coming from the Red Jeep Cherokee that’s heading down the street. Did I just sorta witness a kidnapping? Nobody else notices & act like I’m full of it when I tell them.
After a bit of wandering & a bite to eat, making 1 of 2 ladies upset, we return to the house & get ready to head out to the venue. Driving over didn’t give us a good feeling as to what the night had in store. The place was located under a bridge & nothing good is ever under a bridge. Surrounded by shuttered businesses, low income housing & some barely standing walls, not exactly the kind of place you’d expect young adults into indie rock to spend their time. This coupled with the fact that we’re on a bill with a band from Texas & 1 local Philly band whom I learned is playing their first show together ever, looks like we’re in for a fun night ahead of us.
Surprisingly the interior of Kung Fu Necktie transports you & you think you’re not out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a decaying part of town. I wind up annoying the 2nd of the 2 ladies & so I head out for a bite to eat alone. I discover that a few blocks up is a sorta yuppie hangout with their chic TexMex Restaurants or sterilized pub, exactly the kind of crowd that would stay away from any show that isn’t a Sublime cover band or Dave Matthews. On the way back I overshoot Kung Fu Necktie by quite a bit, walking down the street from the 2000’s to the 1000’s at night in a strange city under a bridge, definitely a change of pace from where I was. The show was pretty good, the onstage sound was fantastic with the exception of the vocals being too quiet. Except for some flubs in a new song that we’re playing, we pull off a pretty good set. A few more people than just the bands that were playing showed up, so that was nice. If only we manned the merch after our shows, we probably could make some gas money. After the show, there was a rumor of some sort of after party, but that fizzled pretty quickly & we just went back to the house & into bed.
April 17th: Gallery 5 – Richmond VA
Woke up at a leisurely 11am & hit the road to VA by 1pm. Nothing particularly interesting occurred. Hit some traffic jams south of DC, the weather is consistently getting warmer & warmer as we head south. One never has too high of hopes for Richmond, VA to be honest. In the past I’ve played there with my band from NC or I’d drive up with Brian of Silber Records to see some goth band in the 90s. Both at a club called Twisters. Each time, Richmond proved to be a disappointment. It’s nicely situated between all points north & the triangle area in NC where we often play. We were pleasantly surprised with the area & with the venue, Gallery 5. There is some confusion as to whether we’re playing in the second former fire station of the tour or if it was a police station. I hear fire, but the window says police but there are fire buckets on the windowsill. Regardless, it’s now a cool music venue/bar with an art gallery upstairs, much nicer than Twisters (where you’d have to play in the window). We get there on time & nobody is there to let us in. You Dark Forest is parked out front in their van, so we use them as a signal for when we can load in. In the meantime, we wander around the block for a bit & then to a bar called Saison a block away. James decides to mind the car. Eventually I get the go ahead to load in & have to walk a block over to help out while the other half of the band sits in the bar.
There was also some confusion tonight as to when we’d be playing. First there were 3 bands on the bill, then a day earlier, 4 bands. Today there are reportedly 5 bands. We set up on stage for a soundcheck, which was the first of the tour & welcomed. Afterwards, we aren’t required to make room for anyone else & the opening band sets up on the floor in front of the stage. They were a tight math rock band called Dumb Waiter & it wasn’t until their second to last song that we find out we are definitely going on next. James had gone off to find something to eat, so we had to call him back from wherever & then go up & play the show.
The people of Richmond were great, they actually approached the stage & bobbed their heads. Responsive audiences are the best & go a long way into making up for the lack of bodies or the lack of monies. Our set starts off fantastic, but at the start of “13”, the guitar cuts out, while I troubleshoot Mickey & James keeps things going, but they eventually peter out & the soundman throws some music on & the audience takes this as a cue to go outside & smoke. Turns out it was the guitar & not the pedals, & we get started again however, to considerably less people. They were just as enthusiastic though. The night closed out with a fantastic band called Canary Oh Canary, they set us up with the show & were a post punk band with Siouxsie type bass lines, heavily reverbed & shouted vocals, & driving drums. Their recordings don’t do their live sound justice, but I hope a future recording captures it. I was afraid they’d have to cut their set short because the venue had to stop the music by 11pm, but they played on, thankfully.
Eliza is making a deal out of the fact that I’m talking to someone as the rest of the band is loading out, but I seem to recall her & Mickey at the bar when we loaded in, so I’m not too concerned. We’re offered a place to stay with a nice couple with some Boston roots. The place was unexpectedly awesome. In the outskirts of Richmond they run a recording studio with living quarters, which is where we stayed. The entire city was a definite welcome after Philly & a surprisingly good experience. I was thinking it would probably be the worst date of the tour for us. We had a nice write up in rvamag. Still not sure it got anybody out to the show though, most people seemed to be there as a result of just knowing the other bands.
April 18th: The Cave – Chapel Hill NC
We head out at 10am & unfortunately our hosts had to work that morning, so we didn’t get to thank them for their hospitality in person. Richmond has a lot of homeless people. They’re at most intersections with signs & every other bus stop. In a town like this you can’t be too bummed you didn’t sell a lot of merch. After breakfast we hit the road for NC. There really isn’t much to do between Richmond & Chapel Hill so we arrive in the Triangle area really really early. There isn’t much to do there either. It’s a place for raising a family.
There’s an early 7pm show at The Cave so we can’t even load-in til it’s over at 9pm. So to kill some time, we head to Raleigh, it seems like the kind of town made for it. First we head to Umstead Park to wander about the lake. Basically just time spent near nature & in the sun after being in cities & automobiles all week. With more hours to kill & nobody with anything in particular they wanted to do, we make a stop in a café. It’s hot out & it’s air conditioned, so I’m pretty content for the time being. We’re joined soon after by Silber Records’ head honcho Brian John Mitchell & eventually make the decision to head downtown. I think Eliza made the call because she thought Raleigh is like other urban areas where downtown is filled with things to do. Of course we don’t find a thing to do, so we go to Slim’s because somebody remembered that they had a pool table. After killing time there for a bit, we make the 30 minute drive from Raleigh to Chapel Hill, grab some dinner & then load-in to The Cave. Shortly after setting up, we realize we’re very close to show time, the fact that we’ll probably be playing for the bartender & the other band starts to sink in. Even the couple that brought their dog has skipped out before we started playing. Spending a day bored out of my skull & topping it off with a show in a bar nobody goes to is quickly reminding me of why I skipped town all those years ago. Confirmed that having your show listed as “pick of the week” in the local weekly doesn’t convince people to come. Luckily, before we started playing, a few more people show up. So we wound up playing for 10 people instead of 4. The show went ok for the most part performance wise, our closing song, the mash-up of “A Forest”/“Daniel” kind of fell apart in the end for whatever reason, but besides that & the bad sound (i.e. could just barely hear the vocals) it wasn’t so bad. Enough to get some money in the tip hat & applause after each song. Nice to know that playing can make all the other aspects vanish. We sold a couple CD’s in addition to the tips, which considering the audience/band ratio wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. We played here a few years ago with A Rooster for the Masses & I remember it being a good show with a good crowd. I’m guessing having two out of town bands on a Thursday night isn’t the best combination for a successful evening, bookers take note. Our friend Pete arrives just after we play which is kind of humorous. At the end of the night, I thought the plan was to drive a bit & get a hotel. However, I noticed that every time we got to the point we were going to stop, a different city further north was then chosen as to where we were going to stop. So, secretly a decision was made to drive straight back to Boston, which is approximately 14hrs from Chapel Hill. By the time we reach Boston, the lock-down has been lifted & 1 suspect of the bombing has been captured. I fall asleep before the 2nd suspect is arrested & wake up the next day to business as usual.
April 27th: Radio Bar – Somerville, MA
Our final show of the tour is at Radio in Somerville. It’s slightly stressful because we have Lauren Grubb, who mixed our Marco Polo album & is the force behind To The Wedding, playing drums for us due to Mickey having to go out to LA for familial reasons. Lauren is an excellent drummer, but we only got to rehearse once before the spring dates a week & a half ago & once the day before the show. I was pretty confident we could pull it off & that she’d do an excellent job, my only concern really was that what if we start a song & she forgets how it goes? We were playing with Daniel Ouellette & the Shobijin again, which is always a treat. Also on the bill is Gene Dante whose name I’ve seen around quite a bit as well as Cooling Towers, so there should be a good crowd. We also had an article in the Somerville News earlier in the week, so maybe that will help bring people in? We are however playing last at around midnight, which is about the time that people needing to take public transit home should get going. We were fortunate enough that a lot of the crowd stuck it out for our set but they quickly filed out as soon as we played the last note, which is probably why we didn’t sell any CDs that night. We should look into a full-time merch person. We’ve learned that the difference between waiting for people to come ask us for a CD & having Liz walk around asking them if they want one is a huge factor to selling 2 CDs & selling over 10. As predicted, the show went off without a hitch, except the end of our “Forest” cover didn’t end the way it should in my mind, but we recovered nicely & the audience was none the wiser. I’m not sure why that song is such an issue nowadays & wasn’t when we started out playing it. I have to go grab a Zipcar to get my stuff home & everybody vanishes whilst I do. Drop the equipment & the rest of Plumerai except Eliza off at their respective homes & call it night.
QRD interviews with Martin Newman:
Guitarist interview with Martin Newman of Plumerai & Goddakk (June 2010)
Plumerai interview (January 2008)
Plumerai interview (December 2005)
burMonter interview (April 1995)