Monday, January 21, 2008

Allentown (Show Day)

Days Of The New played Alligator Lounge in October of 2001. At the time, we watched terrorist alerts all day on the bus and when we pulled into town, the F.B.I. searched our Penske Truck for explosives. The night ended with someone on the bus trying to hurl themselves through the bus windshield. The memory gives me a shot of anxiety and also a sense of relief. Things are so much calmer now.

Tonight we play with Goatwhore. GOATWHORE! While we soundcheck, Travis goes to the hospital because a zit in his nose has become infected and is starting to eat into his sinus cavity. Earlier he tried to pop it with one of the dream catchers from the van. We are prepared not to do the show, but Travis shows up to Alligator Lounge ready to rock. Bill Klatt has driven in from New York. ("I drove here thinking, 'What am I gonna tell Ray – I don't come to see his bands play in Manhatttan but I drive 2 hours to Allentown to see Travis' band.) It's cool, Bill. I know whassap.

Before the show Malcolm is livid, pissed, and furious because Rowdy from The Showdown has moved his bass amp. Rowdy is a stand up guy who should have respected Malcolm's request to keep things where they were. It's a bummer to see him on the smelly end of the poop stick. The scene has an unfortunate escalation in the moments before our set.

After having had a promising sound check- SURPRISE! The sound for the show is the worst all tour. It puts Travis in a firey zone for "Flight Response" ("RUNNING INSANE! I AM INSANE!") and we are unable to pull things together until Perpetuate rigorous Ghost. Towards the end of the set, Travis says, "Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm playing with Hinder so I just wanna play some songs by myself right now." The crowd is down for a solo set and I perch myself at the bar with Bill Klatt and we listen to Travis finish the night with four new songs.

On the van ride back to the hotel, it is finally revealed why Malcolm went for a walk after the show in Springfield. The man has been growing increasingly frustrated with the state of the sound of the shows and our performances. "I told myself I would only go on tour if things were artistically pleasing," he says as he drives us to the hotel. "This is not." His frustration is understandable for many reasons. Here are some I readily think of.

1) Unlike most rhythm sections who set up next to each other, we are working with a set up that has us on opposite ends of the stage with Travis in the middle.
2) I am less shows in with some of the arrangements, and I have a different way of playing than Paul, who Malcolm and Travis first played the songs with.
3) Malcolm and I haven't yet hit on a telepathic vibe and any telepathy I have with Travis cannot reach all the way across stage to where Malcolm is.
4) Travis and I are not locking in as quickly as in the past because the language we are exploring to play the songs is so different from four years ago. As a band, we are as new to the songs as an expert college rock cover band would be to playing them. So while I don't think we've really played a terrible show yet, the three of us are only sometimes in synch. If those synchronious moments are compromised by terrible sound on stage, it might not seem likely at all that we are ever getting anywhere.
5) The soundmen of many rock clubs are used to only mixing loud, Who-Gives-A-Fuck-If-The-Bass-Rig-Craps-Out-In-The-Middle-Of-The-Set-We're-Running-Direct-The-Bass-Drum-Is All-Click-And-There's-Gates-On-The-Drums-And-Compression-On-Every-Instrument-Because-No-One-Here-Plays-Anything-But- RAWWWK Music.
6) (5 b.) Don't get me wrong – this describes many of my favorite bands. It just sucks trying to play with a soundman making us sound like that. I mean, check this out - every night Travis sings songs about Satan and "the other person" and then tells the audience at some point, "I'm here for your soul." Now tell me: how can we deliver the fire and the place and commandeer the souls of the heartland with live shows mixed like Green Day?
7) We have had terrible sound onstage for other reasons. Here they are:

a. the three of us have been figuring out what we need our sound to be as we go.
b. Crazily amplified acoustic guitars like to feedback.
c. we often have sound checks where Travis isn't present because he was up all night driving and needs to sleep before he has to sing his ass off.
d. The point of focus for some parts of the songs is still being discovered by all three of us.
e. As Malcolm said, "Ray, you are taking a far greater dynamic approach with the songs than these rock clubs allow for.

I could go on - Malcolm sure did, finally ending with "If the sound systems are going to continue to be this bad, I'm not sure I can play with you." Yikes!

By time we sleep, all the necessary frustrations have been aired out. Travis ends the band discussion saying, "Ray, I feel like I need less from you, and Malcolm, I feel like I need more." The train whistle blows loud outside the window. I dream of leaving Allentown for better shows ahead.

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