good show bad show
The first thing I do when we get to a club or bar, especially one we have never played at, is assess whether I get the feeling that this will be a good show or a bad show. You might wonder, what makes a show good or bad? There are several criteria. First, in my opinion, the most important thing necessary for a good show is the amount of people present. The more people the better because we feed off the crowd’s energy and it makes us play better. Also more people mean more potential new fans and sales on merchandise after the show. Other factors include the amount of money we make from the show whether it be from the club and/or sales, impressing the staff of the club so that even if there isn’t a huge crowd they want us to come back and will make the effort to get us on a good bill next time, and also just the opportunity to tweak our live-set. This last one can be a good factor if it’s an off night before a more important show.
The 9th through 11th days of the tour were all in South and North Carolina. Two of those shows were at places we had never played before. We all hoped that Friday and Saturday would be big shows because they were weekend nights, but things don’t always go that way and you have to find the silver-lining. Both weekend shows did not have a ton of people in attendance, but this didn’t deter us from having some great shows, and furthermore great nights. In Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina we played at a place called The Village Tavern. The Village Tavern has a reputation as a cool venue, and the room sounded amazing. As part of our pay we got dinner (bonus!) and some of my family friends who live in SC came out to the show. There wasn’t a huge crowd, but we met some really good people and we sold a good amount of merch. One person we met before the show was actually really cool—he happened to be the father of the lead singer for the band Band of Horses, Ben Bridwell. He thought it was so great that we were on the road and doing our thing. He told us about traveling with his son’s band and how he wanted to sell t-shirts (I instantly recalled the thousands of times my dad jokingly (half-serious though) said he would sell t-shirts on my tour). It was cool meeting him, and making some new fans out of the people who were at the bar. The real fun began when we met up with our couch-surf hosts for the night in Charleston. We stayed with two girls, Kayla and Billie-Joe, and their amazing friends who were all chefs. They first fed us these gourmet tomato pies that tasted remarkable, and then we proceeded to play card games and Taboo into the wee-hours of the night. The game of Taboo was exceptionally funny with Hooch and his partner Kevin being the two worst Taboo players I have ever witnessed. They brought tears to my eyes and pain to my abs because I was laughing so hard. The night in SC was an example of a show that on paper was not so awesome, but which turned into a great night.
The next night we played in Asheville, North Carolina and stayed with more couch-surfers. By the way I love couch surfing now, it’s fucking amazing—the people you meet are great and so generous. After our hosts made us dinner, we headed over to the show at a place called The Root Bar. The Root Bar is a pretty cool bar that has its own backyard game named after it called ‘Root Ball’ which is a combination of horseshoes and bocce ball. Once again the crowd was relatively small (we later found out that the entire town was at a concert put on by local rock-star Warren Haynes of Allman Bros and Gov’t Mule fame), but we made the best of the situation. The people at the bar were all really into our grooves, and we played what I thought might have been one of our best shows on the tour. We sold a bunch of CDs and made some new friends with people who are immersed in the local scene. Also the venue loved us and decided to take care of us by giving us all of the bar sales for the night—the bar actually lost money but because they are good people and felt bad for the small crowd on a Saturday night they took care of us. It’s things like that which redeem a seemingly shitty night, and even gives me a little more faith in people.
Sunday night we played at The Busy Bee Café in Raleigh, which is part-owned by one of Jordan’s friends from Rice, David Meeker (who’s dad is the fucking mayor of Raleigh! The funny thing was, that not even Jordan knew about that little tidbit of info and he and his wife came to watch the show—the mayor at our show!). We played here on our last tour, and just like last time it was a nice show for a Sunday. You can’t expect too much from a Sunday crowd wise, so the comped gourmet food and the pay from the bar make it all good. We did play for a few people who are very in touch with the bar scene in Raleigh, however, and they all enjoyed us so that was also a bonus. We capped off the night sampling fine beers at Meeker’s apartment, one of which was a Belgian beer that weighed in at 8.5% alcohol content (cheers!).
Over all these shows weren’t the best ever, but between the people and the connections we made in each city and at each venue they were all pretty great. The last week of the tour is upon us now and I am especially psyched for the last two shows in Boston and New York!
We have been on the road for about 2 and a half weeks now and I have come to the realization that as a band we must play any show offered to us while we are on the road. I have come to this realization because every show that seems like it is going to be lame or not worth playing ‘on paper’ turns out to be an awesome show (and many of the shows I thought would be good have turned out to be the worst).Last night we played in Worcester, Mass at a bar called the Lucky Dog Music Hall. Now, we picked up the show the day before and I was already tired of playing in Massachusetts so I initially didn’t even want to play the show. I don’t know jack about most of these places we play, and Worcester didn’t seem promising. The bar also told us we were not getting paid, which I typically don’t care about, but gas is expensive and eating out everyday isn’t helping either, but we are on the road. Well the show turned out to be great. We played really well, and on top of that there was actually a good crowd! I was stoked to see about 20 people we didn’t know nodding their heads, dancing and shouting our name back at us for the hour we played for them. We even sold a good amount of merch and got a 20 spot for gas from the bar. It’s an amazing feeling when people are yelling your name even after you get off the stage, and for the rest of the night too. Worcester on a Tuesday.
This is not the first time this has happened: the show in Fayetteville was the same way. Fayetteville, NC is not even close to being a great place to visit. It has more strip-clubs than restaurants and its not particularly pleasing on the eyes. But Fayetteville on a Tuesday night at the Rock Shop was bad-ass. Out of nowhere showed up 50 or so people and everyone really dug on our music. Another great part about this show, and the show in Worcester, was that the other musicians playing that night (and hanging around) were all really cool and talented. It was a pleasure to share the stage and talk with them.
These shows are great and even better because expectations are so low going into them. On the other hand it just really sucks when shows you think are going to be good or at least OK turn out to be shit. Namely the show in Springfield, Mass. at the Rock Cafe (notice a trend in the bar names?). Don’t get me wrong, the show itself was great: we played for my family who came out from CT and we actually played well. The bad part was that the club owner gave us the run-around and, in my opinion, took advantage of us because we are young and from out of town. He promised us a set amount of money before we began playing, but once we were done he avoided us and insisted we stay to listen to a cover band (which he was playing in) until the end of the night so he could pay us. Then he proceeded to give us some shite story about how “the bar didn’t make any money” and he could only give us $20. Alright, so the bar didn’t do well that night (there was a good crowd there, drinking fairly heavily for most of the night but…) you can at least throw us enough for a tank of gas. The guarantee that we had before the show was only $50, and I think that would have been doable. Then he brings up that he has to be pay the cover band too which is a BS excuse because we are on tour and they are a group of 40 and 50 something weekend-warriors who definitely have day jobs (the lead singer told me he owns his own landscaping business).
OK well I think I have ranted long enough, and thank you for sticking with me this long. The tour has been awesome, and I feel very thankful to be able to do this.
I love you all