Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tourblog #1 (or How The Hold Steady Saved My Life)

Sometime in 2005, I picked up a copy of "Separation Sunday" by the Hold Steady. The music critics had liked this album, and based on some of that recommendation -I purchased a copy. I listened to it for a couple of weeks, but ended up selling it thereafter.
Don't get me wrong. I loved the music. I loved the lyrics. I liked everything about it..... But for some reason, I couldn't handle Craig Finn's sorta-shouted, sorta-monotone vocal delivery. So, I sold the album, and kind of forgot about them.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
    Hutson got picked, (along with 7 or 8 other bands), by a local radio station, (who will remain unnamed), to play for a certain summer concert series.
    Normally, this would be great thing - but it does have a crappy side to it.
#1. First of all, they don't provide a P.A. system for your band to use. Whereas most venues around Portland, (even the dive bars), have some sort of a P.A. system for live music, the folks behind this event did not.
#2. We were informed that we needed to fill a 2 hour time frame in an outdoor place, and that we could provide our own tent in the case of rain. The people at the station made it known that they wanted the show to happen rain or shine, but offered no help in the case of inclement weather.
#3. The radio station would have a small press tent set up to promote the radio station, and they would allow us to sell our merchandise, (after said merchandise was okayed by an advertising company),  but would not be able to assist with any sales on our behalf.
#4. We found out later that said radio station was being paid by the outdoor mall in order to have "local bands" play for 2 hours from 6pm-8pm. And of course, all of these 7-8 bands received no form of monetary payment. What we did get were a few 15-second promos on the radio promoting the show a couple of days before it. I suppose that was our reimbursement.
    Now, when you've done shows at coffee houses that were more lucrative than this event, this kind of experience, (with even a well-known, and presumably professional radio station), leaves a bad taste in your mouth. And when the radio station advertises this band selection as a "contest" for local bands to give it a shot, it leaves you wondering "What did we win?"
    But one way or the other, we did our show for 2 hours. It didn't rain. And we met a guy named Chris who had heard our spot on the radio and made the trip to Tanasbourne to hear us and buy a copy of our CD. So, in that respect, it was worth it.
    But in regards to playing outdoors for disinterested  mall-goers, I would elect to never repeat this event with this radio station. In fact, if I'm going to play for disinterested passersby, I'd rather do that in a dive bar, cause at least I'll get drink tickets! (Oh, yes... The station also notified us that we were to not consume alcoholic beverages during our 2-hour stint at Tanasbourne)....
    As the first show of four in a 2 1/2 week period, I found this worse than the old dive-bar days. To make it worse, I was in the midst of an awful upper respiratory infection that made singing extremely difficult and nerve-wracking, (waiting for that moment when my vocals would go out completely and emit so many atonal frequencies).

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
    We hit the Doug Fir Lounge on a Thursday night, and I wasn't in a great place to enjoy myself. Hutson had been boosted to headlining by the booker, (a move I'm still puzzled by), and we were definitely the "odd-band-out", as we aren't quite the straight-ahead rock act as the other two on the bill.
    A large amount of our friends and fans came out for this show, but by the time we took the stage at 11pm, a good chunk of our crowd had to leave. Being a Thursday night and the inevitable baby-sitting and "work tomorrow" issues, our head-lining stint was difficult, but we went through it, and overall had a better experience than our Summer Concert Series show, but far from the most enjoyable show I've ever played.
    We had about nine days off after this show and I needed the time to fully get over my cold. But I found myself a bit underwhelmed about the two previous shows. It's not that we played bad or anything, but I certainly wasn't having any fun with them, and in short, I was feeling pretty miserable.

    Funny enough, the next day or so, I picked up a used copy of the Hold Steady's "Boys and Girls In America."
    This was a band I'd written off earlier on, but based on a reference of a good friend of mine, I gave them another try.
    I immediately fell in love with this album. The damn thing completely blew me away, and basically re-invigorated me with what we could do at our live shows. This album is definitely in my top 10 list now, and somehow rebooted the creative/artistic slump I felt surrounding me. I could give you a detailed review, but that's not the point of this blog.
    What I will say is that this album, (and band), marked a turning point for me, and for whatever reason, I was supposed to hear that album at that particular moment in time.

Friday, August 7th - Saturday, August 8th, 2010
    So, our next show was another outdoor thing at the Whole Foods on Burnside. This time we were notified that we would need to provide our own P.A. system. And this time, it nearly rained on us. Luckily, we rigged a MacGyver-esque umbrella covering that was able to keep any rain off the electrical equipment, thus keeping us all safe from the impending threat of electrocution.
    This show in particular went really well, even though it had a lot of things that could have gone wrong.
    The rain was minimal and the clouds burned off towards the end of our set. The folks at Whole Foods were gracious and gave us free drinks, food, and gift cards for all our band members as payment, and seemed to genuinely like us.
    The next night was our opening set at the Doug Fir Lounge again, this time opening for Violet Isle's CD release show.
    Still riding high from the positive experience of the show from the day before, we did a great set that night, and most of all - It felt good.
    I was over my cold, we'd made some new fans, and I'd totally been rejuvenated by rediscovering a band and an album that reminded me why I try to do all this band-related stuff. I remembered that even though you might have a crappy show every now and then, (i.e. the Streets of Tanasbourne), there'll always be another one that'll wipe that experience from your memory, and that finding a great album can still change you and  your point of view.
    (And yes..... I'm probably going to have to repurchase a copy of the Hold Steady's "Separation Sunday"...)

Song of the Week:
(I'm sure you didn't see this coming.....)

The Hold Steady's  "Chips Ahoy!"

    My favorite song off an album that has no bad songs whatsoever. Listen to this song, and watch the video... (cause it's fairly amusing... and overly tongue-in-cheek)... And who doesn't like backing vocals that go, "Whoa, whoah, whoaoh"?
    And if you dig it, do yourself a favor and go buy this album... Cause this song's great, but "Stuck Between Stations" or "Chillout Tent" could have easily been the song of the week...Have I mentioned how great of an album this is yet?