911 Redux

In September 2001 we were on tour in Florida. On the 9th we played the Carefree Theater in West Palm Beach, we talked after the show with JP and a few others and then headed off to Tampa for a day off and then a show scheduled for the following night, September 11th. Needless to say the show didn’t take place. Am I alone in feeling that our society has become a whole lot nastier, baser and less inspired over the past ten years? Maybe it’s just me, maybe disillusionment is just part of the natural cycle of getting old, but then again, perhaps we have lost our way, just a little.

Here is the tour diary that I posted that day and the diaries from the following few days: days fraught with fear, anxiety and confusion. Here’s hoping that the next ten years gets us back to a place of mutual respect and empathy and, dare I say, tolerance. Yep, I’m definitely getting old.

Sept 11 (Tampa Bay)
What a horribly strange day. If you ever had any doubt that the world can be a frightening place, I would guess that doubt is now gone. Welcome to the new millennium.
We spent the day wandering from TV to TV, exchanging knowing glances and a few words of dismay and solace with strangers.
The gig was cancelled very early in the day by the promoter. I understand the decision and it probably wasn’t even in their hands: it looks like all public gatherings, no matter how small, have been cancelled. I am of mixed feelings about the decision. There are times when you want to be with other people just to be reassured that the ground beneath your feet is still somewhat stable and what better way to do that than by gathering to listen to music. It’s got to be better than watching those fucking airplanes slam in to the side of the Trade Center again and again. But I suppose that if I were at home I would prefer to stay inside and just hold on to my children.
Tomorrow is another day, but I have a feeling that this sick feeling in our stomachs is not going to go away anytime soon.

Sept 13 (Gainesville)
A very difficult night for all involved. These past three days have been hard on everyone. It has been especially tough being away from home. It’s not like there is anything that can be done there, but human instinct makes one long for the security of the familiar: parental instinct makes one anxious to be with ones kids. Coupled with this longing to be home is the fact that for three days we have been holed up in our hotel rooms unable to escape the replaying and rehashing of the minutia of this atrocity. Without a doubt we need to try and get back to a routine of normalcy, to shake this malaise. We need to start playing music again. Unfortunately, the gig tonight is at The Brick City Music Hall.

I have often bitched in this diary about shitty rock clubs. They are everywhere and every city has at least one and we’ve played a lot of them. But this place is beyond that. It is downright dangerous and should be closed up immediately. Portions of the roof are caving in, parts of the club have no electricity, including the bathrooms, which have lamps standing beside the sinks with extension chords running across the wet floor and up the bar where they have been plugged in. All of the toilets in the woman’s washroom were clogged. There are open power outlets all over the club. One patron walked in and immediately called the fire department to try and get the place closed down. The inspector showed up, but had been properly greased so he only issued a couple of warnings. As well as the place being downright dangerous it is unbelievably filthy. When you walk in you would think that the place has been abandoned for a few years. It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to anyone who performs there or pays to attend a show there.

If you live in Gainesville you should start a concerted campaign to get the club closed down. Call the fire department, the building inspector and the health inspector until they do something about it. Somebody is going to get hurt in that building and I think that we have all had enough hurt to last us for a while.

We apologize to those of you who had to subject yourself to that shithole and we appreciate your determination.

Sept 14 (Birmingham)
We spent a pleasant day in Birmingham. The hotel was in Five Points, the same part of town as the venue. Five Points is an old suburb of Birmingham, which these days acts as a center for clubs and restaurants and second hand retail. You know the type of area, kind of upscale, kind of downbeat, a little something for everyone.

The venue itself is a rock club that we have played once or twice in the past. Not a bad place at all when compared to the dump in Gainesville. The PA was a little suspect and the light board blew up a few minutes before showtime (leaving us with two lights for the show), but we’ve seen the bottom and this was far from it.

We were looking forward to the gig tonight. It was a beautiful day and we are all still trying to find some solid ground. Talk of the “what’s to come” dominates our conversations and leave us all uneasy. A good gig would be a very welcome salve. Unfortunately, tonight was not a good gig.

Tonight’s audience reminded me of the Athen’s Georgia crowd that we bumped up against during the Waltz Across America Tour. Drunk, loud and obnoxious. There was a moment during “Close My Eyes” that there were three women in front of the stage talking so loud to one another that I couldn’t hear my guitar. I realize that for many in attendance it was probably the first night that they have been out since Tuesday and there was a real need to blow off some steam. But I question their choice of doing so at the expense of those who had come to listen. My apologies to those of you who were there to enjoy the music. It must have been as frustrating for you as it was for us.

We desperately need a good show.

Sept 15 (New Orleans)
House of Blues to the rescue. There is this running dialogue between bands and audiences about whether the expansion of the House of Blues concert club chain is a good or a bad thing. I agree that the corporate, cookie cutter approach to anything associated with music always has to be eyed with suspicion. But it only takes a few shows in a row at some of the rat infested holes that we have played in over the past few nights to make one appreciate the emergence of the House of Blues on the rock n roll landscape. The clubs are clean, the equipment is excellent, the staff is professional, the dressing rooms are comfortable, they feed you well, they pay you well and the sightlines are good all over the club. From our perspective they are a welcome addition to the live music scene.

We had an excellent show tonight and the audience was there to have fun along with us. I think over the next few weeks people are going to start to emerge from their homes and seek out ways to celebrate life. Seemingly insignificant acts that fill our lives, like having dinner with ones parents, watching a baseball game or listening to some live music will carry with them a peculiar sense of joy. It’s sort of like taking water for granted until you are dying of thirst and then every drop that you drink becomes heaven sent. We are not going to be able to, nor should we, forget this past week’s horrible acts and horrendous loss of life, but we are going to need to find ways to carry on. We need to cut through this numbness and rediscover at our core the innate joy that comes from celebrating the minutia of living, if for no other reason but to remind ourselves of how precious those 5,000 lost lives are. As my three year old daughter is fond of saying, “Dance for beauty, dad, dance for beauty!”

Sept 16 (Houston)
There is only one word to describe tonight…….fun. We had fun, the audience had fun, our crew had fun, even the security guards had fun. There was a police officer side stage all night and whenever I looked over at him he was wearing this enormous ear-to ear grin (Pat said that he bought three CDs from the merch booth after the show). It was an incredible night. I haven’t seen this many smiles since I was at home a few weeks ago and watched my kids and the neighborhood kids romping around the playground. It was like that tonight, a whole bunch of big kids romping around a playground. What a relief, what a release, what an overwhelming, beautiful feeling.

I don’t even think we played that well, from a technical point of view, but tonight it was all heart. And given a choice between heart and technique, I’ll take heart every night of the week. Needless to say the audience was fantastic: receptive, warm, rowdy, loud, respectful and fully charged.

This was a memorable night for us. I think, tonight, all of us in the club climbed the first rung of the ladder out of this dark hole into which we’ve all been cast. Perhaps, all over the country people are discovering the strength to begin that long climb towards daylight. Keep on climbing folks, keep on climbing.