Monthly Archives: April 2014

Workin’ As Hard As The Day Is Long

Days 29-33: Lost Lake Lounge
Denver, CO

The road to Denver from Indianapolis was long and fairly uneventful. I’ve already blogged in the past about my ‘love’ for the states of Nebraska and Kansas, so I’m not even going to get into that. Stevie G had flown home the previous day, so the running joke of the 12 hour run was whether or not we forgot him at a rest stop, or if he was sleeping in, or the fact that he had nothing to say during our conversations…

We arrived in Denver on Sunday evening. Nate had tons of work to do, so he got a hotel room for the few days that we were going to be in town. The hotel was about a mile from where I stay when I live in Denver, so shortly after we got into town my friend Nate (not Steven Nathan! Don’t get confused!) picked me up. The rest of the guys stayed around the hotel area for the night, and took advantage of some much needed downtime after the long drive from Indy.

I headed toward the downtown area because my friend told me that our Kempo (a martial art) instructor was in the hospital. Apparently, he had a blood clot close to his heart, but the doctors found it in time and he is expected to make a full recovery. After visiting him, we headed back to the apartment that I call home when I’m out there working.

For the last few years we have been on the road so much that I haven’t really been able to settle down and have a place of my own, but it’s worked out that I have been able to stay with friends and family in the interims. While Western Massachusetts is my hometown, I have a strong feeling that Denver is where I’ll wind up. That being said, it always feels like coming home whenever I get back in the 303.

The next day, which was a Monday, the guys set up shop and did some office work while I headed to work a bathroom remodel with Nate (again, not Steve Nathan!). That evening Nate (yes, Steve Nathan!) had to run to Colorado Springs to meet with one of the bands that is signed to the label that he works for. Root played Zohan and spent the evening styling and dying Mochello’s mohawk. After I was done work for the day I went back home and Nate (not Steve Nathan!) and I finally watched the second Hobbit movie that the two of us had been trying to see since it came out last December.

The next day, I got up early (well, early considering I was still on rock-n-roll time, which is being up until the middle of the night, then wake up at about 10am to drive to the next city…). I headed back to the bathroom remodel while the band continued their office work.

Because it was the week after Coachella, there was a lot going on in the Denver music scene this week, as many bands are stopping in Denver as they make their way back east from the California festival. One of those bands happened to be Arcade Fire. One of my friends is their drum tech, so Tuesday night I met some of the Arcade Fire peeps downtown to have some drinks and watch an NHL playoff game (they are all Canadian, after all). Once a last minute goal sealed the win for Montreal, everyone had to go back to their hotel, as they had a huge show at the Pepsi Center the next day and they were all exhausted from Coachella. I told them they better be prepared, because we had a show a mile away at the same time they did, and we were going to steal their whole crowd.

After everyone left I headed down to the Gothic theater, where Nate (yes, Steve Nathan), Root, and Mochello were at Sevendust’s show. (Stevie G had flown in that afternoon, but he was spending time with some of his Denver friends up to the northwest of town.)

Sevendust is in the middle of an acoustic tour, which in all honesty, made it so that I had no idea what to expect from the show. Their typical sound is fairly aggressive, the thunder of hard rock permeating every note that the band creates, from drums, to vocals, to guitars. Their acoustic show, however, is a whole different animal. The acoustic show is really a semi-acoustic show, with the two guitarists playing acoustic guitars and the bass player plugged directly in to the sound board, but the drummer had a full drum kit and there was a keyboard player as well. I was honestly blown away by how good the band sounded, of how well the singer’s voice fit in the stripped down sound, and also by the overall performance of the band. They kept things fun, in almost a vh1 storytellers fashion.

Nate (yes, Steve Nathan!) works with Sevendust’s drummer, Morgan, so we had some of the best seats in the house, right up on a balcony side stage. I couldn’t help but feel like we were Statler and Waldorf, just non heckling Statler and Waldorf’s. After the show we met up with Morgan backstage and he told us their classic rock-n-roll stories, which involved everything from the extravagancies to the harsh realities of the business side of the music industry. We also met the rest of the band backstage, and they all seemed like genuinely nice people (and they liked my stache, so maybe I’m a little biased… Maybe). After leaving the show, the guys went back to their hotel and I went back to Nate’s (not Steve Nathan’s).

The next morning I went to work again while the guys did some more office work. They picked me up in the late afternoon and we headed uptown to get Stevie from his friend’s place. Denver rush hour traffic is some of the worst in the country, so we ended up jumping off the ‘expressway’ and taking side roads most of the way.

After picking up Stevie, we headed down to the club. Open Air Stereo had a video shoot that night and they had the sound engineer with them, so we had to take some extra time to get the sound right in the room.

In Denver there’s a burrito shop, Illegal Pete’s, that has an amazing love for traveling musicians. If you’re playing a show in Denver while you’re on tour you can register for your band and crew to each receive free burrito in exchange for promoting their business to your fans. Traffic prevented us from having time to stop there, so we set off to find some dinner. Root and I found a pizza joint down the street from the club and decided to get a full pie because we didn’t think that two slices each would be enough. When it arrived, we looked at each other quizzically. Apparently we had ordered a 26″ pizza. (For those versed in the Queens math, that’s over two feet in diameter!) As hungry as we were, we still had plenty of leftovers (half a pie, to be exact!)

Once we were done eating we walked back to the club. Lost Lake Lounge is a smallish club, with the bar in a separate area from the main stage area. I don’t really like when venues are set up that way, because it causes people to hang out at the bar as opposed to paying attention to the music that’s going on in the other room.

It was cool that my friend Nate (not Steve Nathan!) finally was able to make it to a show. The last time we were in Denver he couldn’t make it because a nail gun malfunction on the job site gave him a slight concussion. It was one of those things that finally connects the dots in life. When I’m on the road, I’ll refer to working with, or things that happened with my friend Nate (not Steve Nathan!), and vice versa. Having those two divergencies intersect is a pretty cool thing.

After the show we decided to head out toward Salt Lake City without delay. The drive was going to be a long one, so we wanted to knock a few hours off the top. The previous few days were exhausting, so I climbed in my bunk to try and sleep. The bumpy roads prevented it though, and I wasn’t able to fall asleep until a few hours later when we stopped for the night. It seemed as if once the engine was switched off, so was I. I passed out almost immediately.

It’s All About Making That G.T.A.

Day 28: Rathskeller
Indianapolis, IN

The Rathskeller was not at all what I expected. We had never played there before, but I had a preconceived idea of what the place looked like based on what other people had told me. I expected a large rock club with a huge outdoor beer garden. What we got was completely unexpected.

I stayed with the bus during load in, so the first bit that I saw of the venue was the outdoor beer garden. The parking lot that the club’s manager had us park in was right outside the back gate entrance to the garden. Root, who had parked the bus, and I walked in though that entrance and immediately I was taken aback by the size of the courtyard style beer garden. There was three full bars, a fire pit, rows of picnic tables, and decent sized outside stage. The manager told us that he would have loved to have us play that stage, but the temperatures at night were still a little too chilly for having bands outside.

We entered the building by the entrance directly beside the bar. The bar area had an early 1900’s feel to it, made up of lots of ornate dark wood and mirrors. Taxidermied busts were mounted on the walls, creating a quasi-tavern feel to the room. Passing through the bar area, we entered into the area where the stage was.

Unlike my expectations, the main stage area was not a rock club at all. The room was set up as a ballroom, and again the early 1900’s atmosphere was palpable. There was a stage set up on one end of the room, with a dance floor directly in front of it. The rest of the room was populated with round, white clothed tables. The ceiling was trimmed in slightly intricate painted moulding, making it feel like we were about to perform the first rock show on the Titanic. Across the hall from the ballroom, a fine dining room was full of patrons that could have very well been on the ill fated cruise liner.

The club sets the time for soundcheck so early so that it doesn’t interfere with the dinner crowd. Open Air Stereo was running late after nearly living one of the worst possible experiences for a traveling musician.

Earlier in the day they pulled into a Guitar Center to grab a few things, so everyone went inside and did their shopping. The tour sound engineer, Trox, who is traveling with them, came back out to their van in time to see a suspicious vehicle speeding away from beside their Sprinter. Thinking it strange, he opened the side door of their van to find a pile of broken glass on the floor. Security cameras showed a vehicle follow them into the parking lot, wait until they went into the store, and then try to rob them. Fortuitously, Trox came out just in time, so that while they had smashed the driver side window, nothing had yet been stolen. They then got stuck spending hours waiting and filing police reports. They rolled up to the club with just enough time for a quick soundcheck before we had to keep quiet for the dinner guests.

In keeping with the GTA theme, we were told by one of the fans during our dinner, (which was amazing, by the way… AND provided by the venue! Talk about good looks! Two nights of dinners in a row!)… Anyway, she told us that she had locked her keys in her car. Ben and I felt fairly confident that we could get into the car without smashing any glass (too soon?), so we headed outside.

Being an all ages show and not to far from their home, Ben and Gail brought along their 14 year old daughter to the show, and needless to say, she was thrilled at the notion of learning to break in to a car. In a slightly unsettling way, she jumped right in to the mix. After a few near successes, Root then joined the party. When I brought the wooden training sword that Mochello got from our Army friend John out of the bus, I think everyone thought I was set to smash a window. But I had other plans, and my idea allowed us to get the car open. (This isn’t a car jacking tutorial, please forgive my vagueness!)

During all this Nathan was suffering from an upset stomach. Mochello and Root had walked and got him some Pepto, and he climbed into his bunk took a nap. He woke up in time for our set, and I gotta admit, I was nervous that he was going to have a rough time performing. The nap and the medicine helped though, because I saw no sign of illness throughout the performance.

In a spot that is set up with tables the crowd tends to get comfortable in their seats, almost as if they’re watching a tv recording of the show. But, in a atypical way, when Nate called everyone to come closer to the stage, 90% of the people obliged, filling in the dance floor area and making it feel like a rock show and not like an off Broadway musical.

After the show, Stevie G had to get to the airport because he was flying home for a family function. The rest of us set off west, with the city of Denver programmed into the gps.

Smoke on the Water

Day 27: DuPont Bar & Grill
Fort Wayne, IN

Ft. Wayne has always been good to us, from the very first time we rolled into the city. While this show didn’t have the search lights criss crossing the skies, 8′ custom printed Man on Earth banners, and light bulbed posters that Pier’s greeted us with, this time we WERE greeted by an extremely drunk man who slurringly offered to hire the Miggs tour manager, Jensen, away from our tour for 60k a year.

For a last minute fill in gig (the show was booked about two weeks prior) the DuPont Bar & Grill wasn’t a bad gig. There was a large stage, and while there’s no in house PA, the venue hired a guy to bring in the sound system. The system he brought in was legit; I overheard the tour sound engineer say such repeatedly.

The venue was just a few miles from Gail’s house, so after load in I took off to start my laundry. I got back in time to grab dinner, which was provided by the club.

The one drawback about the DuPont is that it is just outside of city limits and, being such, allows smoking inside the club. As a non-smoker, I notice that the air is always heavier and acrid tasting in bars that allow inside smoking. In the few hours that we were there the air permeated all the fabrics of our clothes and road cases. I had to keep all the tee shirts in the merch bins sealed as best as I could so that the new fabric didn’t pick up the smell of the club.

For non-smoking singers, which all three singers on our tour are, when a club allows smoking inside it presents another dynamic for them to have to deal with. They have to minimize the amount of time in the club because the smoke dries out their throats. Then during their set they have to drink extra water and/or use a throat spray to keep things copacetic.

There was one time in Memphis, back when we first started touring, when we rolled up to this tiny bar club that allowed smoking and inside the air was nothing but a hazy cloud, making it impossible to hold a regular conversation, let alone sing. It’s the only time since I’ve been touring with Man on Earth that we actually had to pass on an already booked show. (The other factors that night contributed to that decision, such as the PA only having the ability to handle one microphone, and the fact that our set was being pushed later for a trivia night, but the smoke was by far the issue that was unbearable. The rest can be dealt with.)

Gail brought out a crew of her college students to see the show, and gauging by the fact that they all were singing along, I’d think it’s a safe bet that she has been educating them in the ways of the Rock and/or Roll.

After the show we went to Gail and Ben’s house for the night. Late night homemade lasagna rolls and a bit of Jäger later, we found ourselves battling it out in an intense game of Wii golf. (School and family obligations prevented Gail’s cousin Sam from making it to any of the Indiana shows. While this meant that there was decidedly less general mischief and hell raising for me to be a part of, it did however mean that I was present to crack open the Jäger. It’s become almost tradition for the guys to try to finish the bottle before I can get any of it. Not this time!)

While the drive to Indianapolis the next day wasn’t long, we had an early load in. This meant that if everyone wanted to eat and shower before we shoved off, we had to get up fairly early (for us, at least!). So, once the game was over everyone headed off to sleep, at a way earlier hour than usual for us in Fort Wayne.

My Kind of Town

Day 26: The Elbo Room
Chicago, IL

Where we had stopped for the night was only about 45 minutes outside of Chicago, so we had a nice relaxing morning, took some extra time at the gym, and then headed off to do a radio stop in at Chicago’s Fearless Radio, which is a well established internet radio station. This was our third stop by Fearless over the years that we’ve been touring.

The radio station’s studio is on the third floor of an office building, and being that it’s broadcast solely on the web, is unencumbered by the need for giant broadcast antennas. Fearless Radio interviews are always fun. The hosts are excellent at not only keeping the conversation flowing, but also have a knack for making them interesting. They recorded the interview for release as a podcast, so if you missed it, here’s the link:

On the way out of the studio we met a local female fronted rock band, Romantic Rebel, that was stoping in for an on air interview as well. When they heard that we were playing at the Elbo Room that night, they said they’d stop in and check out our show. Usually, such things are said as a form of pleasantries, and most people never truly have any intention of showing up. These guys bucked the norm, and the whole band showed up! They were very cool people to meet, and if you’re in to the harder rock, check them out, they’re on all the usual sites.

After leaving Fearless, we went directly to the club. The main stage at the venue is on the basement level, so it was another fun load in. (By ‘fun’ I mean not fun at all. I think I speak for everyone when I say carrying gear up and down stairs sucks!).

When they expanded the stage at the Elbo Room a few years ago the one drawback is that there now is a 12″ column directly front and center of the stage. For Nate, who moves around during his performance like an excited monkey, this posed little issue. I do imagine though that it has to be a bit of an odd dynamic for a band with a more stationary center performer…

I’ve always liked the lighting setup at the Elbo Room, but since I’m still stuck on merch duty, it wasn’t in the cards for me to be back there running them. Fortunately, since we have Trox, the tour sound engineer, the house sound guy was behind the light board. Aside from not knowing the queues (which he still read pretty well), the guy knew his system so well that he was able to put on an amazing light show just flying by the seat of his pants. One day, when we have a trailer and a bit more money I’ll get a setup like they have there to take on the road with us!

There was a really good crowd for a Wednesday, something that every venue employee kept repeating. For us, Chicago has been a building market. We’ve been there about a half a dozen times and each time we see plenty of familiar faces, and make tons of new friends. The other two bands that we are currently on tour with have some awesome fans, and it’s been great to have the cross-pollinization among the fan bases. In Chicago, there were some fans that even made friends with each other, and made plans to meet up at another one of our tour’s dates.

After their set, Miggs wowed everyone with an acoustic set in the upstairs room for the open mic night that was going on. I unfortunately only heard about it, my invisible tether to the merch booth kept me from going up to watch.

When the show was over, we packed up and hit the road. While Ft. Wayne is relatively close to Chicago, we wanted to get outside of city limits a bit before we found a Walmart to park at for the night.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Days 22-25: The Office
Lafayette, IN

Ok, so it’s not a venue. Or even a defined place. It’s more of a generalization of what we were doing for those few days…. Office work. On this tour we have definitely seen more Starbucks then clubs, to the point where I constantly suggest that we should call this the “Working Class Heroes Tour”. (Ok, before someone in the band calls b.s. on me using that catchphrase, I’ve never ACTUALLY said it out loud…. But I’ve definitely thought about it and whistled some John Lennon while loading in and out.)

We woke up in the casino parking lot, headed to Planet Fitness and then to an Italian restaurant to grab lunch with Rick, the manager of Miggs, who has been a friend of Man on Earth for a while.

After lunch we weighed anchor and set off northwest, in the direction of Chicago.

Our next show wasn’t for a few days, so we pulled up Google Maps to find a place to camp out for a few days. We found an area in Lafayette, IN that had everything we needed within a mile’s radius… Planet Fitness, Starbucks, Walmart…
Lafayette seems to thrive on the existence of Purdue University, and you couldn’t escape the atmosphere that a large college brings to an area.

One of my good friends, Sam (of Nashville/Memphis/Ft. Wayne shenanigans), in enrolled at Purdue so I met up with her to grab some dinner at a downtown pub. When I met back up with the band, Stevie G was giving one of his Skype guitar lessons and the rest of the guys were wandering aimlessly through a Walmart. Root bought a football, and he and I tossed it back and forth a bit, until it started sprinkling.

It was a warm night, the rain had stopped but it was super windy. I stepped outside of the bus for a phone call at about 2am, and watched shopping carts careening uncontrollably, driven by the invisible hand of the wind. Temperature wise, it was still warm, I was completely comfortable in shorts and a tee shirt. Once I was done on the phone, I crawled back into my bunk. The bus retains it’s heat fairly well, especially on warmer nights, so I fell asleep with just a light sheet on. Three hours later, I woke up shivering. The wind had brought a cold front upon us, and the temperature had dropped about 25 degrees in the short time that I had been sleeping. The perception returned, this time in the form of snow, and sleet. As I looked out my window I could see the dusting accumulate on the cars and any other objects that weren’t retaining the heat from the day as well as the ground. Pulling out the heavy blankets, I fell back asleep.

The next day was a typical boring office day for us. After a work out and showers, we posted up inside of a Barnes and Noble Starbucks and worked the day away. After working well into the evening, we grabbed dinner at the mall next door to the Starbucks. The mall turned out to be a much bigger place than we thought, the outside was very deceiving. That night, we all stayed up watching the show Impractical Jokers on Root’s tv. If you’ve never seen the show, check it out, it’s one of the funniest shows, if not THE funniest show I’ve ever seen on television. It’s a reality show where four life long friends set up situations in an effort to embarrass each other.

Night time is usually when everyone decompresses, that bit of solitude that helps keep us sane out on the road. But, every now and again, especially on multiple days off in a row, we need to take the time to all just hang out in a non-band related activity. Out on the road we are living together in close quarters, working together, both at shows and in our office time, day in and day out. If time isn’t taken to socialize in non-band related things, then tensions get high. After a few hours of heavy laughter, everyone fell asleep.

With more of the same on the docket for the next day, we decided to change the pace slightly, and set up shop at the McDonald’s. Nate had a conference call in the evening, so the rest of us worked late, and then Root, Mochello, and I headed to Applebee’s for a quick bite before we headed back out, Chicago in the crosshairs…