"Sacred Weapon" Tour Diary
Here's a "behind the scenes" view of what it takes
to get the NLB on the road, and what it's like for
us out there. You can check it out in sequence, or go to specific dates
using these links:
4/12, 4/14, 4/15, 4/16, 4/17, 4/18, 4/20, 4/21, 4/22, 423, 4/27, 4/28, 4/29, 5/1, 5/3, 5/4, 5/5, 5/6, 5/9
I'm heading out tomorrow to start NLB rehearsals - man, it's crazy now! It never used to be like this in the "old days" of playing teen clubs and bars in Washington, D.C. Back then, it seemed like all you had to do was show up with your gear an hour or so before the hit, set up and play. Now, there are so many logistical things to take care of that it's more like running a transport business than playing music. Still, I love it! I find the added stress actually makes the playing end of things seem much easier. It's almost like a weight is lifted from you once the music starts...
Looking forward to seeing you on the road!
It's been a long couple of days, that's for sure...
Drove through the night on 4/13 to get to D.C. for the NLB rehearsals which started on 4/15. Arrived before noon on the 14th and slept for a couple hours. Then, it was off to my manager's place to pick up my drums (the new Premier's you've been reading about for the past few months), load them into a van and head off the Nils' to meet Boomer, Ruben and Jeremy. I had a van full of drums, and couldn't have gotten them in without their help.
It wasn't long before the kit was up, then tuning began. Most people don't think about drums being "tuned". The drum set is considered an "indefinite pitch" instrument, but I've found it's important to tune them relative to the music you'll be playing. And I've always liked my kits to be as definitely pitched as possible. For example, when we recorded "Driftin' Man", we discovered my kit was so in tune with the track that I ended up playing what amounted to a bass line on the toms. Poor Wade was reduced to playing mostly root notes while I got to play the moving bass part. As a result, for the past couple tours I've always checked the tom tuning against the chords to that song, just to make sure I was in tune. Fortunately, that tuning worked for nearly every song in Nils' set, although when we played some songs I had to be careful not to hit certain drums that were not in that key.
On "Sacred Weapon", there are several types of tones I hadn't encountered in Nils' music before (ex: baritone guitar). Plus, the new kit has a slightly different voice than the old touring kit. As a result, the tuning has had to evolve to suit those tones. In spite of these differences, Ruben and I had the kit up and tuned in under 2 hours. Not bad for the first time! On show days, this will be cut to about 30 minutes.
Nils arrived during the kit set up. It was nice to see him again - it's been nearly a year since we did the record, but it seems like just yesterday that I last saw him. After a short chat and playing the kit a bit to get used to it, I was off to get some sleep. We start tomorrow at noon...
Rehearsals got off to an interesting start - for the first time in the 10 years that I've been on the band, we didn't play "Too Many Miles" to kick things off. Instead, we started with "You". Nils was playing the tune and it seemed a bit slower than we've done it in the past. I started playing a calypso type of groove behind it, then Ronnie fell in with me. It felt great! When we stopped, I said it might be a cool way to play the song. I was half-joking really, but we actually played it through a few times with that groove and it does sound cool. Not sure if we'll do it in this fashion yet, but we'll see.
After that, we began playing through some of the "Sacred Weapon" tunes. Doing new material is always tough. For one thing, there's so much to learn. For another, you invariably run into situations where the music on the record must be adjusted for live performance. The biggest adjustments usually occur in the vocal department. However, the drums occasionally change, too. Over the years, I've started to think about what needs to change on my end as soon as I listen to a new record I'll be touring. A good example of this is "You're Not There". On the record, I used these things we call rods rather than sticks. Rods are like a bunch of dowels lashed together. They're kind of in between sticks and brushes and they come in a variety of thicknesses. I'd been thinking of playing it with sticks for the live show to give it a stronger groove. Nils agreed, and it has the exact result I expected - virtually the same groove on the record, but with a touch more strength.
The first couple days of rehearsal are relatively easy for me. We go through individual tunes, make adjustments where needed, and there is a good bit of time devoted to working out certain parts (mainly vocals) that Buck and Ronnie will play. I think Buck has the hardest job of any of us, and he constantly blows me away with his ability to adapt to last minute changes. He's a true professional!
The day went well. As usual, some things sound tremendous right from the start, while others require tweaking and more "reps", as we say. I don't want to give away some of the new things we're working on, but this show will be a nice mix of new and classic Nils tunes.
Another relatively easy day for me, as we're still mainly working on the new stuff. During the course of these two days, we've played pretty much everything (old and new) that we'll do in the show. This gives me the chance to try some of the new ideas I've had for the older stuff. Playing Nils' music is a constant evolution for me. Each tour, I try to move the songs we've been playing forward as my tastes and playing style changes. It's a challenge to do this in a manner that doesn't alter the original concept of the song too much, and it's a challenge I love. Sometimes, these changes are so subtle that the band doesn't notice, but that isn't what it's about to me. It's about finding the absolutely perfect part to play in every song.
Even the new songs are changing for me. When you track a record, I play what I play based on what I think the song needs. But I'm not always hearing all the parts to a song when I track it, so when I hear the finished piece there are always things I wish I'd done differently (or in addition to what I played). As rehearsals progress, I'll talk more about these ideas and changes.
I'll post another update tomorrow. Stay tuned...
Today was the day we started to actually play through the show. The first run through is more for getting an idea of how long the show will be than anything else, but it starts to give us an idea of pacing, guitar and bass changes as well. Each song is timed, though we all know that these times are kind of rough in some cases. Songs such as "Girl In Motion" can really stretch out if the muse pays a visit!
When we start rehearsals, Nils has an idea of what the main body of the show will consist of. There are also several alternates (which some of you may have noticed on set lists you've seen). Some tunes will be alternated on a daily basis, while others may only be played occasionally. Having these alternates keeps things fresh for us and audience members who come to more than one show. Sometimes, we may happen to play something at a sound check that gets added to the show, but this usually only happens during a longer run of dates.
Before we go into rehearsals, I try to refresh my memory by listening to any board mixes I may have of the previous tour, or by revisiting the NLB live disc. I've been playing many of the tunes for some years now, so I don't have to pour over things lick by lick. I try to pick out the tunes I remember I wanted to change something on and focus on those. Quite often, I don't even have to listen to the recordings to know what I wanted to change - I've been mulling it over every time I've listened to the tune in my head since the last tour. That's a good and bad thing, believe me! Imagine having to wait a couple years in some cases to have a shot at correcting something you think could be better.
After the rough run through, we break for a bit, then return to running the new material. It's cool to see these songs come together and to watch how everyone's parts evolve. I often think I've got the best seat in the house! Because I played on the recordings, I know my parts pretty well already. This allows me to listen more to what's going on around me, rather than focusing so much on what I'm playing. Ronnie and Buck have done a great job of interpreting what Kevin McCormick and Nils played on the record. From a bass and drum perspective, some things feel slightly different, but these differences are so subtle only I would be able to tell. I love playing with Ronnie and the more we work together, the tighter we become.
As rehearsals progress, we make suggestions to one another about various parts, always keeping an eye on what's right for the song. Nils is great about listening to every idea and trying most of them - even the ones that are a little far out! I think that's part of what makes him such a good band leader. More tomorrow...
Two long days of rehearsal. Spent most of the 18th refining the new material. Things are really starting to come together now. We're beginning to talk about transitions from song to song - what I'll start, what types of intros we'll do, etc. Obviously, you want a show to flow smoothly from song to song, but there is a fine line between appearing smooth and appearing rushed. You never want to sound like you're racing through your set! In this band, that's rarely been a problem. Everyone has a good idea of pacing and what needs to be done to make things such as guitar changes appear seamless. Of course, the quality of our crew has an awful lot to do with making these things go well, and they pull it off without a hitch - often in spite of difficult circumstances.
The 19th is the last day of rehearsal, so the main focus is running the show. Nils, Buck and Ronnie go through all the instrument changes with Jeremy, and off we go! For me, this is the hardest day of all. For a drummer, building up to "touring strength" is perhaps the most important thing to achieve during rehearsals. Personally, I always want another day! Having two days to run the show brings me that much closer to full strength, but this time, I don't have that luxury. However, I'm surprised at how well I come through it! I guess I've learned to pace myself over the years, but i've also learned that intensity doesn't equal volume. Some of the best shows you'll ever see aren't really that loud, and we're always trying to do what we do in a way that won't send you home with bleeding ears.
After running the show that we've come up with, we find that it's actually a bit too long. There's discussion about what to cut and what to move around. Nils listens to everyone's suggestions and quickly comes to a decision about what changes to make. It feels like it's going to be a good set, different in many ways from our last couple of electric tours. Still, you aren't quite sure about how it will be until after after you've done the first show or two. But there's always a bit of "wait and see" involved with a new set.
The rest of the day is spent nailing down the new tunes. By 6:30pm, everything's sounding pretty good and we call it a day. You don't want to over rehearse and run the risk of leaving the great performances in the basement, so to speak. All in all, I think we've had a good week of rehearsals...
Today is "crew day" - the day where everything gets wrapped and prepped for the road. For me, it's a day to put new heads on the kit and pull my tuning together. I arrive around 1:00 and set to work. Boomer and Ruben arrive shortly after I do and start to pull things apart. In about 2 hours, the kit's headed and tuned, then Ruben sets to work packing it all away. Nothing left for me to do but head to Chuck Levin's to pick up the final piece to the new kit - a "splash hat" cymbal combo I picked out the other day. I'm off to teach after that, so I'll go for now. More updates to come after the first show!
Hanging out in the dressing room at the State Theater, being serenaded by Buck on the acoustic guitar. So far, it's been a good load-in / set-up. I was delayed at Chuck Levin's en route to the State and by the time I got here, Ruben had the kit nearly done. He's very good at getting things exactly the same way every night. I think it helps that he's not a drummer. In my experience, drum techs that are primarily drummers have a tendency to let my set-up evolve into their set-up over time. Ruben's had quite a bit of experience (on the road with Hall & Oates for awhile), so that's never been a problem with us. He's one of the best techs I've had.
I'm feeling the usual apprehension about tonight's show, but that's really only because it's the first one. Once we hit the first downbeat, that will all fall away. It's always like this for me at the start of a new tour, and I think that's what gives my a bit of my "edge", so to speak. Fingers crossed!
I've just arrived in Asbury Park for tonight's show. A 3.5 drive in the rain that was, thankfully, uneventful. It's absolutely freezing here, with the wind whipping around. Luckily, we're playing inside, rather than on the outdoor stage.
Last night at the State Theater went pretty well, I thought. As I said, I'm usually filled with trepidation about the first show of a new tour, but I think we got off to a good start. The crowd was great, and I noticed many folks singing along with the songs from the new record. That's a good sign - we'd been wondering how the crowd would react to this show, partly because of the new songs and partly because of the pacing. We're kind of easing into the set this time, rather than coming out blasting as the electric band has done in the past. I think it's nice, because it draws the audience into the music gradually instead of coming out and saying "hey, here we are!". So far, everyone I've talked to or heard from via e-mail really enjoyed it. We'll see how the New Jersey crowd reacts to it tonight.
As for my own performance at the State, I feel like I was hitting at about 75%. Not bad, considering the new kit set up. I still find myself reaching for things that aren't exactly where I think they are, but that should straighten itself out over the course of a show or two. It's also still a bit odd for me to play a 20" kick drum in a rock format. When you change the size of the drum, you must also adjust the pedal so that it strikes in the center of the head. That slightly alters the way the pedal reacts to your foot. For me, this difference is pretty minute, but there are a couple things I do that require a bit of technique adjustment. You might wonder why I don't adjust the settings of the pedal instead of changing technique. Well, I've always been one to find what works and stick with it. The way my pedals are set up works perfectly for my technique - no matter what size drum I play. Still, there are physical adjustments that must be made occasionally, and this is one of those times. It shouldn't take too long for those kinks to be ironed out. Then, I can get down to the business of just playing and not thinking. I'll let you know how it goes...
Well, in spite of the weather and generally feeling tired all over, I managed to improve on my performance at the Pony show. I don't know what it is about feeling exhausted, but I always seem to play pretty well when I'm bone tired. I think it has to do with "getting out of the way" of the music - that's a far easier thing to do when you're tired.
Anyway, the crowd was great (as is usually the case at the Pony), but I'd been wondering how they'd react to the new beginning to the show. Since we were playing indoors, the crowd was very close to the stage. And, since we don't use the drum riser when we're inside at the Pony, I was on eye level with them. I was pleasantly surprised to see them really getting into the new arrangement of "You" and singing along with "Fat Girls Dance". Starting with a pair of new things can sometimes be asking a lot of an audience, but these first two shows have been really well received. Nils tweaked the opening of tonight's show and moved "Cry Tough" up to the third song. This does two things: it gives us a chance to open up and blow a little bit early on in the show, and it gives the audience (and the band) a more familiar piece of music to grab onto. I think that's a smart choice, and the flow of the set was virtually unaltered by the change. Other than that, the set was pretty similar to the State Theater show, with exception of adding "If I Should Fall Behind" to the set. I thought that came off well, seeing as how we don't play it that often (i think we've only played it a couple times since Ronnie's been back on the band). All in all, I thought things went really well at the Pony.
After the show, we all went our separate ways for the next few days. I drove myself back to Olney, MD (where I stay with my pal Ron Diehm when I'm in town) to spend the night prior to heading home for a couple days. I'm looking forward to the the next 3 shows! I'm anxious to see if my comfort level with the new kit and set up continues to increase. Plus, I'm really enjoying playing the mix of new and old material we're doing in the new set. It's amazing how fast 2 hours flies by when you're having fun! I'll talk to you from the road in a few days...
After a couple days at home and a pretty long travel day, I'm back with the band for the next run of shows. We're hanging out at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett (out on Long Island), waiting for sound check to start. Once the crew gets the stuff off the truck, things move pretty quickly, so I've got to work fast to catch up on e-mail, update the site, etc. It keeps me on my toes! The only other option is to sleep, which I've already done enough of today.
We haven't played here at the Talkhouse since 1996, during my first tour with Nils. Tommy Lofgren was on keys then, and it seems so very long ago. There's a lot I remembered about the venue, however - even down to what side of the street it was on. It's strange what you remember about certain venues (and what you forget about others!) One thing I remember was that the "opening" act played after us. The opening act last time was a band that featured actress Kathleen Turner and her husband (who's name I forget) playing the blues. i only had a chance to catch a couple tunes, but I remember they sounded good.
This is a small place, smaller even than the Ram's Head in Annapolis, so we'll have to mind our volume tonight. I think the new show kind of lends itself to lower volumes, though. I guess we'll find out in a few hours! More later...
Wow - tonight's set absolutely flew by! It's strange to see how quickly we've gotten into full stride, but I thought this band was making a strong showing on the last tour, so I really shouldn't be surprised at all...
Tonight was a good example of how seasoned musicians can adapt to a given situation and quickly turn it in their favor. The Stephen Talkhouse, as I mentioned earlier is a very small venue. In spite of that, it has a history of hosting great players - Paul McCartney, Sting, Paul Simon, The Band and many, many others regularly perform there. But it's a challenge to bring what can be a roaring rock show into this room. The house system is small, the mixing console is located behind the bar, the stage is tight, and the audience is close. In fact, when I sat in the house during Nils' guitar check this afternoon, I actually thought it was too loud. By show time, however, everything had come under control and the band sounded exactly right for the room. I have to say that I have no idea what happened!
Easing into the set as we've doing may have had something to do with it. Opening with this new arrangement of "You" seems to allow us a bit of time to get our bearings. But I didn't notice any drastic changes occurring during that tune. It started out sounding nice from beat one. The only things I can think of that might have made for such a good sound are Boomer's having cut his teeth mixing in small rooms and the band's ability to recognize what should be done on stage to accommodate such a situation.
As for me, I made a conscious effort to bring a bit more of the jazz attitude "intensity does not equal volume" to my instrument. Combined with keeping all other instruments except for acoustic guitars out of my monitor, that made for a far more contained stage sound coming from the drum kit. I really noticed the difference in "Girl In Motion". You see, in order to accurately play with Nils toward the end of the song, I take out one of my ear plugs. Usually, my unplugged ear rings like hell after the tune. Tonight, it didn't. I'm going to try this approach tomorrow at BB King's and see what happens there.
Another thing that has played a part in keeping the kit more in control is the changes I made in cymbal selection prior to the last tour. I think choosing sounds that give the same musical tones but with less overall volume has made not only the stage sound cleaner, but has given Boomer the ability to really mix the kit with the rest of the band. There's nothing worse than blaring stage sound preventing certain instruments to be mixed into the house system! After all, what good is having all those mics if you can't bring them up in the mix. And you can't do that in a smaller room unless the sound being generated from the stage is under control.
After tonight's show, several people commented about how good the sound was. I also heard comments about how musical the drum kit sounded (kudos to Premier!), and people even mentioned the smaller cymbals being a part of what they liked about the sound. Could this mean that the audience is actually noticing these small changes? Well, it doesn't really matter if they latch on to the tiny things that I do as a drummer (many things I do that affect my sound aren't even noticed by the band!). What does matter is that they go away from the show thinking about how great things sounded. If they happen to notice things like drum tuning and cymbal selection, well that's just icing on the cake! More tomorrow...
April 28, 2006 (pre-show)
Today's hang is at BB King's in New York city. Right on 42nd street and convenient to practically everything. Got to sleep in a bit today, then took the ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan. It's been a pretty nice day in NYC, and the ferry ride was smooth and quick. I've never really liked ferry's (due to extensive ferry trips around Europe in rough seas), but this one was pretty cool. The views of Manhattan were tremendous. New York's a bit too busy for my personal taste, but I have to say it can be a beautiful city.
After I arrived at BB's, I walked down the street to a great Asian carryout place to eat. Who should I run into but our pal Dave Grossbard. Dave's a Port Authority policeman in NYC and he always helps us out with parking for our vehicles when we're in town. Over the years, he's become someone I look forward to seeing when we're in NYC. He's an absolutely wonderful person and we had a nice time catching up on what's been happening in our lives since we saw each other last.
Sound check was relatively uneventful. For some reason, the sound in the room seems different this time. I think they've done some work to the house system and tightened up the low end, because it doesn't seem nearly as boomy as last time in. The stage sound is just as "tight" as always though. It's almost a little too dead for me on stage. As a result, I've got to leave virtually everything out of my monitors, save for drums and a bit of Nils' voice and acoustic guitar. It sounds a bit strange from my seat at first, but I'm hoping I'll get used to it as the night progresses. I'm trying to carry the lessons learned from last night's show forward and I hope the way I've got things dialed in is on the right track. We'll soon see...
Well, it was certainly a memorable show tonight in Baltimore! The crowd was really responsive to the new music and absolutely loved the older stuff. We pulled out "Valentine" for this show and I thought we did pretty well with it - considering we'd only played it once during rehearsals. That's one of the things I love about this band: once it gets a song under its belt, it has a tendency to stay there. That allows Nils to pull things out occasionally that we hardly ever play, which is a cool thing for us and for the audience.
The day started on a problem note for me: Ruben discovered a crack in one of the primary crash cymbals! I haven't cracked one in a while, but these cymbals are a bit thinner than the ones used on previous tours, so I shouldn't have been surprised. In a situation such as this one, there's only one thing to do: call Coleman at Washington Music! He started a search through the store (including the basement warehouse area) to find an exact replacement. It didn't look good at first, so he pulled a few that were similar in style. At one point, I was actually on stage comparing sounds via cell phone - not exactly the best way to select a cymbal, I'll tell you! Eventually, he not only put together several choices, but found one that was the exact size and style. He also agreed to bring them up to the show, which I thought was going above and beyond!
For me, cymbal selection is based on three things: note choice, tonal color and volume. Even if you have the identical size and style of cymbal, there's no guarantee it will match the others you're using. It's not unusual for me to spend 5 hours or more going through cymbals searching for what I'm hearing in my head. In fact, this particular set that I'm using took a bit longer than that to put together. Needless to say, I was a bit worried about replacing one and having it fit in.
Coleman arrived at the Ram's Head at around 8:30 and we started going through the cymbals he brought. Ruben grabbed the cracked cymbal from the stage, and we found that the duplicate Coleman found was the best fit. It's not an exact duplicate by any means, but it's close enough that the overall pitch structure of the set up didn't drastically change. Throughout the night, though, I was distracted by the different pitch. It also seems a bit quieter than the one it replaced, and I found myself thinking about that at a couple of inappropriate times - which made for a mistake or two on my part ("Shine Silently" was the most glaring example of this). So I send a big apology to the audience for that!
Overall, things worked out pretty well. The show was good, I saw some friends who came by to check out the band, and I think the audience went away happy. Now, if I can just carry my forward momentum into the next shows, I'll be a really happy camper! More from the road coming soon...
April 29, 2006 (pre-show)
It was a long night at BB King's. As usual, we did two shows there, which really puts me to the test in many ways. Imagine running a 10 K race in one of your best times and finishing in a good place, then having to do it all over again! it would be easy to kind of cruise your way through the first show, but I just can't do that. I need to push myself to do better every time (plus, it's not fair at all to those who've come to see us!). The interesting thing about this show was that I felt better at the end of set two than I did at the end of set one! That's never happened to me before, and I take it as a sign that I'm getting stronger as we go along.
Both houses were great to play to. I think it was the largest second show crowd I've seen in my years playing there with Nils. Through the course of both shows, I managed to play several things I've never played before. Both sets had cool versions of "Girl In Motion", with Nils and I really connecting. There were also moments in some of the newer tunes as well, which tells me I'm starting to find my way with them and with the new kit set up. All in all, though it was a tough day and night physically, I thought things went very well musically. I'm anxious to see how that carries over to tonight. I'll let you know about that later...
Yesterday was a busy travel day for me, so I wasn't able to post an update after the Baltimore show. Now that I'm home for a couple days, I've had a chance to consolidate the notes I'd made that day and get them up to the site...
I'm heading out today to do the next 3 shows. It seems like I've spent no time home at all, but it's infinitely better than being holed up in a hotel for these past days! When you're in "touring mode", the transition to being at home is far more difficult than at the end of a tour. By the time I get home, all I want to do is sleep. I need to thank my wife for putting up with this sleeping person who pops in for a couple days then disappears again. Thank you L!!
Today's just a travel day for me, so I get a bit of down time tonight. However, we leave pretty early in the AM for New Jersey tomorrow and I don't seem to sleep well when I've got to be up early on a show day. Still, I'm looking forward to these next shows and having the chance to pull all of my "loose ends" of the set together. That's the thing that keeps me going - having the chance to do better than the night before.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their kind words about my playing in the many e-mails I've received and on the list serve as well. It means a lot to know everyone appreciates what we're doing so much, and it inspires me to want to play better each and every time we take the stage. Please forgive me if I've not had a chance to return your e-mails yet. I'll be trying to catch up on that over the next couple days.
More from N.J. tomorrow...
Okay - there are 2 ways to look at the venue for tonight's show. On the one hand, it resembles a scene out of "Spinal Tap" in that we're playing at a Jewish Community Center. I don't think I've ever played a JCC, except for the weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. On the other hand, the promoter and everyone involved with him have done a good job promoting shows for us in the past, and we've got a nice, quiet room to hang out in until show time (albeit with no Internet access). I've learned over the years not to pre-judge a situation because most of the time, things turn out to be great when they look questionable at the start. Fingers crossed for tonight.
I just asked Nils if he had anything to say to you all. He says thanks for all your support and he'll see you out on the road. More later...
May 4, 2006 (post show)
Tonight was another fine example of the NLB digging deep, hunkering down and pulling off a good show. Buck gets the MVP award tonight - after putting up with 20 plus hours of intestinal distress (in addition to the back pain he's been enduring for the past couple weeks), he managed to make it through the show wonderfully. He played great, and I doubt anyone in the audience even knew he was unwell. Well done BB! Fortunately, there was a G.I. doctor at the show, and he came back to have a look at Buck afterwards. Even though it appears to be nothing serious, Buck's now at the local hospital undergoing some tests. I'll update you on his status tomorrow.
As for the show itself, there was a nice crowd (though a bit quiet between tunes), and they seemed to enjoy the music. The promoter and his staff did their best to put on a good gig for us, and I want to thank them for their hospitality. It was a difficult venue to play, that's for sure. The stage sound left a bit to be desired, and the house system didn't seem to pack the punch that's needed for a show like ours. Still, with Boomer at the controls and the band being conscious of stage volume, I think we combined to put on a strong evening of music. Of course, that's just my perception. The truth will show up in the list serve in the coming days, and I'll be anxious to see what the audience members thought of the show.
Tonight, we get nearly 12 hours in the hotel! That's an exciting prospect, I'll tell you. Access to the Internet, a good hot shower and a nice bed to crash in. It's not home, but one must take what one gets out here on the road. Tomorrow, it's on to Peekskill, N.Y. Then we're off to Springfield, Mass. directly after the show. There, we actually get to stay in the same hotel for 2 nights! The way I see it, that's not too bad. It could certainly be a lot worse. Hopefully, Buck will be feeling better and things will get back to normal for the next 2 dates. Or at least as normal as things can be for a rock band on the road. More to come...
I'm here with Ronnie at the Peekskill Coffee Shop. This is a really cool part of town. There's a lot of great architecture around here, and the theatre is one of those old, converted movie houses. It looks like it was built in the 1920's and later renovated. Regardless, it's going to be a nice venue to play.
I'm happy to report that Buck is feeling much better today. After being at the hospital until around 6:30 AM (and drinking 3 quarts of a mysterious banana flavored liquid) he's well on the road to recovery.
So far, it's shaping up to be a good day. The sun is shining, the venue seems nice, we're in a coffee shop with real latte and great pastry, and everyone seems to be feeling well. But this is rock and roll, the land where things can change in an instant. So I guess you'll have to tune back in later to see how today's story ends. I'll let you know later...
May 5, 2006 (pre-show)
Doin' the pre-show hang at The Paramount Theater. Everyone's gone to eat and, since I can't have a meal before the show, I've stayed back to chill out. There's an eerie silence in a theater like this when you're the only one in it. I can see how people think old theatres are haunted. But if this one's haunted, I don't feel it. Only silence. It's actually nice to have silence like this after sound check.
Speaking of which, things went pretty smoothly this afternoon. After a few shows, the crew falls into a routine that speeds things along. And, when you've got experienced loaders, things can go even faster. In fact, I was getting drum sounds about 30 minutes ahead of schedule! Nice...
Buck seems to be feeling much better, although he can't really eat anything for 24 hours or so. It's good to know he's better. When you're touring, if one guy's unwell, everyone feels it. As a result of his improvement, things seem much lighter today. I think the quality of the venue has something to do with that, too. As nice as everyone was at yesterday's gig, the fact that the venue left a bit to be desired brought a bit of a cloud over everyone. Still, as I wrote earlier, I think that show went well. Hopefully, tonight's set will be even better. Nils has changed the set up slightly again, which keeps us on our toes. We're opening with "Too Many Miles", which we've yet to play on this tour. We're adding "Valentine" to the set as well. We did that in Baltimore, I believe, too. Both sounded great at sound check, and I imagine they'll sound even better once the show adrenaline kicks in. We'll see. More later...
Just got back to the hotel after sound check at Theodore's in Springfield, Mass. Someone mentioned to me as I was leaving (Tom and Inga, I believe) that I didn't update the web site after yesterday's show. I'm glad so many of you are enjoying this diary of our travels. Hopefully, we'll be doing more band dates as the year progresses, which will mean future tour diaries to look forward to.
Last night's show was really good, though the crowd wasn't as larger as we'd hoped for. The promoter, Peter, did the show at the Egg in Albany with us 2 years ago. It was good to see him again. He's a great fellow who promotes shows out of the love of the music - a dying breed of promoter these days. I hope we get to work with him more in the future, because he does his level best to get things right on every level. Thanks Peter!
After the show, we left straight away for Springfield, Mass., and arrived around 2:30 AM. Knowing that today's sound check wasn't until 3:00 PM or so gave me ample opportunity to catch up on needed sleep. That's the reason the update didn't get onto the site last night. As I mentioned earlier, we actually get to be in the same hotel 2 night's running, so now I get to hang here prior to the show - a chance for a nap, perhaps?
The venue tonight is a classic blues bar. It's also sold out, which is a nice way to end this first leg of the tour. Sound-wise, it seems like it'll be good onstage. The drums sound nice in this room, and i'm looking forward to hearing how it'll sound once it's filled with people. I hope it'll be as good as I think it will be.
Just as I was leaving, we got a visit from an old friend - Charlie Pearson, former vocalist for The Tears and Charlie and the Pep Boys. It was so nice to see Charlie, albeit briefly. I last saw him when we were on the Breakaway Angel tour, when we played in this area. He doesn't look any different than he did all those years ago. I actually met Nils while I was playing in the Tears with Charlie - he produced demos for our second record (which was never released) and he used to come out and sit in with us when we played at Desperado's in Georgetown (Wash., D.C.). I still have several of those shows on tape, and I've been thinking of doing a bit of restoration to them and offering them as downloads in the Music section of the site. I'll keep you posted on that in the future. For now, I hope that he'll come up and sing one with us tonight. More about that in the next update.
Speaking of which, I'll most likely post the next (and final) update from this leg of the tour once I get home early next week. In the meantime, thanks again to all who've written with their comments and kind words over these past few weeks. They are greatly appreciated! More soon...
First off, I have to apologize to Tom and Ingrid for calling Ingrid "Inga" in my last update - oops!!
Now then, where to begin? After a hectic couple days of re-grouping and travel, I'm finally back at home. It's been a whirlwind month, to be sure, and leg one ended on an amazing note at Theodore's. It's rare that a show sticks in your mind as strongly as this one is sticking in mine. And I know all of us in the band and crew feel the same way, as we actually spent some time talking about it (which, believe it or not, doesn't happen very often). The Theodore's show was, most probably, the best performance this incarnation of the band has done. Buck said he thinks it was the best performance he's been a part of in his 6 years on the band. Now that's saying something! From my point of view, the performance of "Girl In Motion" was one of the 2 best I've been a part of (the other was at the State Theater some years back). It was absolutely blistering, and I don't usually say that about anything I'm playing, believe me! Nils was on fire, and we were somehow transported to what I call the "zone where time stands still". When this happens for me, it's as though I were standing outside of the performance, watching it occur. This has only happened a few times in my entire career. But when it does, I'm reminded of why I became a musician. These moments have most often happened when I was alone, recording or practicing. I'm grateful that it happened this time in a room full of people. I can guarantee you, this was one of those special moments I will always remember.
Who knows why these moments happen when they do? I believe there has to be a "vibe" present for them to happen. And there certainly was a great vibe at Theodore's that night. I'm starting to think that we're actually a bar band. When we play in bar-like places, the band just ignites. Even though we've all been in the business for some years, when we play those types of places, it feels to me like we're a young band on the verge of "breaking out", if you know what I mean. It's hard to explain, but I hope you can get the picture from my description. Thanks to all of the fans who packed into Theodore's that night and helped make this show as special as it was.
To top it all off, we had a visit from our old friend Charlie Pearson, who joined us onstage for a great version of "All Over Now". I doubt many of you know this, but I wouldn't have met Nils all those many years ago were it not for Charlie. Charlie had a group in Washington, D.C. called "The Dubonettes", which later became "Charlie and the Pep Boys". Charlie and Nils went to school together and Nils was the producer for the Pep Boys record (which included my hero Mike Zack on drums). A few years later, I was in a band called "Tears" with Charlie and Nils would often come out and sit in with us. He also produced the demos for our second record (which, unfortunately, was never released). When Charlie came up to sing, I was transported back to 1979 - playing at "Desperado's" in Georgetown with Nils sitting in. It was tremendous. Thanks Charlie!!
I want to take a moment to thank our great crew: Ruben (for taking such great care of the drum kit), Boomer (for making sure things ran smoothly and making us sound great each night), and Jeremy (for taking care of all those guitars). Last, but not least, thanks to Erin for doing such a great job at the merch table. We certainly couldn't have done the job we did without you all!
Thanks also go out to all of you who've e-mailed throughout this leg of the tour, to all of you who've posted comments on the list serve, and to those of you I got to say hello to for your kind words. All of this is greatly appreciated!