Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Northeast Tour

Today, for therapy, I’ve been listening to Gaucho by Steely Dan. This album grew on me over the years and it reminds me of a band trip to Maine and the subsequent Northeast Tour That Never Was, Since I’m not playing this weekend and I’ve already promised two stories a week, I should at least make good on my promise and write another. Here’s the second flashback for the week.

Flashback: 1995 or 1996 in Syracuse, NY. It all started when I bought a “brick” of drumsticks for an upcoming tour for a band called, “Nebraska.” Normally, buying a brick shouldn’t be of any concern for a drummer, since a brick is not really a drug term, but rather 12 pairs of drumsticks in a package (sold just over cost in bulk). I was in my senior year at Syracuse University and had been playing in Nebraska, a creation of Larson Sutton that played what he called, “movie music.”

Movie music was Larson’s description of instrumental music (obviously sans lyrics) that had lots of changes to reflect an imaginary movie. The project was kind of a reverse Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz concept without a real film to accompany the music. We had about a dozen songs for an hour+ plus set and we had played in bars in Syracuse. Larson was determined to take it on the road and decided to setup a quick weeklong northeast tour starting in Maine and ending up in NYC.

I promptly went out to procure some supplies for the tour, which I'd be carting equipment in my year old ’94 Toyota Corolla. Pork rinds, vodka, Doritos, stolen rolls of industrial sized toilet paper from Shaw Hall, a few drumheads and a brick of drumsticks. Right there… that’s what did it. The brick of drumsticks pushed our luck over the proverbial edge, as I would later be told by Larson.

Larson’s last band, Sons of Papaya, had embarked on a southern east coast tour trying to make its way from the Carolinas to Atlanta. I don’t know how far they made it, but I think the band lost its lifesteam after their drummer (Chris Provenzano) bought a brick of drumsticks. So you see…BRICK = DEATH was the equation for Larson’s bands, or at least their touring schedules.

We made out for Portland, Maine, the keyboard player and me. With our equipment, our supplies and $30 between us, we trucked out for 9 hours surviving on stupid stories and live Phish tapes. Along the way, we coined the phrase, “Fuckstick,” and used it to describe everything and everyone.

The tour that was planned (by Larson) was a kick-off in Maine at a popular rock club, then somewhere called The Call in Providence, RI (near Larson’s parents house) then somewhere in Connecticut (I think…can’t remember) and then a final show in NYC at the Knitting Factory (I think). It sounded pretty good for a week from a band with no album, right?

We arrived in Portland about three hours before show time. I had called some old friends a few days before who had graduated the previous year and lived in the Portland area. Zach Atwell and Dave Something (Christ, I can’t remember Dave’s last name... Dave used to live with a girl named Taryn and we used to collectively call them Darvyn because they used the same brain to make decisions).

After looking in downtown Portland for an hour, we finally found the club, which had an entrance down a dark set of stairs embedded in a brick alley. We walked down with some of our equipment to find a basement (complete with puddles), a few string light fixtures hanging from the low pipe-laden ceiling, a “stage” with one hanging lightbulb for its stage show and a vintage 1950s PA with wires hanging out of the top.

We confirmed with the club owner that we were going to play there and setup our equipment, waiting for Larson, or a flood, whichever came first. Showtime and the lights went down. Well, not really... you couldn’t turn the stage light off because the place would be too dark to see the bar or holes in the floor, so we played 45 minutes to no one in white bulb light, until Zach and Dave showed up.

Thanks to the kindness of Zach and Dave and their purchase of a beer a piece, we got paid $5 each. We packed up and decided if it was worth it to continue to Rhode Island that night. Larson wanted to drive to his parents (3-4 hours away) but Zach offered us a place to stay. Mike (keyboard player) and I took him up on the offer and promptly went out drinking with him and Dave and the new security of having a roof over our heads that night. Portland was a fun town that night. Laid back, beer drinking and lots of women to converse with in the language of Maine. Larson drove with the bass player and wound up sleeping on the side of the road for a little while because they were tired. I still tell him that he should have stayed that night and had a few beers with us.

The next day after staying at Zach’s place, Zach drove us around town to breakfast in his huge Chevy Impala Convertible playing Gaucho in the 8 track player. I’ll never forget that morning and everytime I hear "Glamour Profession," I think of that car and a really cool time.

The Call in Providence was the next night. Mike and I made our way to the bar and I had made a call to my friend Matt and his girlfriend who lived in Worcester, MA who met us at the bar. We found out that the bar was owned by the sound company for the Grateful Dead (Electric Blue, I think) and while the sound was great, we wound up opening for a hardska band that drew an unsympathetic crowd and little pay for the evening. We regrouped at Larson’s parents’ house after the gig.

I love Larson, like a brother. And to anyone who doesn’t know him, this will sound as weird as it did to me at the time, but that morning we found out that the only shower on the farm property was outside and without heated water. I started to look around for Rod Serling, but found an Alpaca eating grass, took my shower and came inside for a little band meeting.

The week was turning into Spinal Tap, except we didn’t have groupies or spandex. Larson told us that our other two gigs (CT and NYC) had been cancelled. This was the Northeast Tour That Never Was and we figured it was best to cut our losses and head back to Syracuse via the Mass pike.

Matt and Karen lived in Worcester and were nice enough to let us stay at their place that night and loan us $20 to get back because we had run out of money and gas. (Thanks, Matt)

I’ve been banned from buying bricks of drumsticks, forever more.


At August 10, 2004 at 4:33 PM, Blogger Krack said...

So what is this about $20 bucks...and Worcester and Ice Blue Sound and yeah I do kinda remember that. Cool. Thanks.

I drank a pitcher of beer and drove back to Worcester.

At August 10, 2004 at 5:56 PM, Blogger Michael Condouris said...

Is a group of fucksticks also known as a brick? I think it should be. Example usage: My neighborhood is about to be held hostage by a large brick of fucksticks.

Nice blogging. I think I have a Sons of Papaya album somewhere.

At August 11, 2004 at 12:38 PM, Blogger dana said...

I am a Gaucho virgin, as in, never, ever heard it, and I feel that to really appreciate your story I need to. Burn it for me?

Oh, shit, I don't have a CD player. Well I do, but it's in Brooklyn. Call me and sing/hum it to me, ok?

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My brother is Zach Atwell. Everything you said about him is 100% right on the money. I could clearly picture him showing you the town and driving around playing his 8 track. :-)

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