Ithaca (NY), Bethlehem (PA), South Orange (NJ) and Blackwood (NJ) Feb 26 – March 1, 2014
We had hoped that by simply slipping beneath the border we would find a hint of Spring. No such luck. There has been no respite from the cold over these past four days. It actually seems that much rawer down here and the fact that the heating in the bus can't seem to keep up with the cold outside, doesn't help. There is no escaping it. My neck and shoulders are in constant constriction, stressed, and as the body works overtime to keeps itself warm, all that I want to do is crawl back into my bunk and sleep. The crappy food and the four or five hours of sleep per night doesn't help matters. The joys of touring in February…ideally we would be making a run along the Gulf Coast at this time of year, but no such luck, its too far away and we've been watching True Detective on the bus and are a little bit scared to venture down there. To make things worse, most of these gigs seem to be in the middle of acres of windswept fields and industrial parks, held captive by the ice and snow. The audiences seem to be feeling it as well. The attendance has been a little sparse at a few of these shows. Everyone seems to be sheltering-in-place, waiting for a robin or two to appear, praying for a crocus to break through the frozen ground, before daring to stick their own necks out of their hidey-holes. I can't blame them. I sort of feel like I should be doing the same.
In Ithaca we played a strange community theater set in the middle of a State/City park, on the outskirts of the city, on the banks of one of the Finger Lakes. In the Spring or Summer this would have been an ideal location to spend a day. This time of year it is a little Gulag-ish, the wind coming off the lake made it unbearable to even go for a walk. It was a very nice sounding little room, the type that we would normally sell-out without too much trouble, but not tonight. But the audience was keen and we had a good show.
In Bethlehem we played The Musik Cafe, a nice, if a bit sterile, venue. It still needs a few years of seasoning. The venue is part of the revitalization of the old Bethlehem Steel Mill site. The old mill remains and looms as a backdrop to the stage through the floor to ceiling glass windows that make up the back wall. The mill is an amazing site. It could be argued that these monstrous ovens, shoots and blast furnaces were the heart that pumped the life blood through the American Century. The steel that came out of these mills is what helped to build America throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. Now they look like the remnants of a long forgotten empire, almost post-apocalyptic…all it needs is for Charleton Heston to coming riding along on his horse….the gig tonight was ok, but a bit formal. The room and stage feel a little distant from each other and the presence of a very large TV crew shooting the performance didn't help with the intimacy. It was a hard one.
Day 3 was in South Orange: a small, tidy little New Jersey town, near enough to NYC to give it bedroom community status. A sold out show, a good audience and a good performance.
Today, Day 4, we were in Blackwood, New Jersey, a town that nobody seems to have heard of, located somewhere near Philadelphia. We were stuck all day on a completely deserted community college campus, not a soul in sight. Not a dog or a cat, I didn't see a squirrel or a bird, it was a vacuum waiting to be filled by the Zombie Apocalypse. The venue itself was a dingy little room with nothing really to recommend it….. and it was a very slight crowd. We tried our best. The audience, small as it was, worked hard trying to keep us on track. It was one of those days that is best laughed about and forgotten, best to keep up a strong front, keep the doubt and foreboding at bay. Tonight we head further south to the Washington area. Maybe we'll find a bit sun, a little bit of warmth, a break of some sort.
Falls Church, VA – March 2, 2014
When I woke up this morning we were just pulling in to Falls Church. The front lounge was toasty, a kind of warmth that only the sun can create. Sixty degrees and sunny, life begins to not look so grim. Jared, Pete and I found a bar that was serving a late Sunday breakfast and watched the Capitals take on the Flyers while we ate our bacon and eggs….not so grim at all. While we were in the bar watching hockey, someone stole and then swapped out the day, the temperature dropped fifteen degrees, the blue skies turned into a snarl of dark clouds and the wind began to do its thing. And then the rain started. Cold, hard rain. We have a day off tomorrow in New York and there is a winter storm watch up and down the east coast, which could throw a large wrench in our day off plans. Sometimes its not easy to catch a break. Despite the rain continuing unabated for the rest of the afternoon, we made it through soundcheck and through the Oscar night red carpet ceremony. Tonight's gig was just what we needed. An excited crowd that didn't give a shit what the weatherman said, they were there to enjoy themselves. We had a very good show, loud and clangy, as I said, just what we needed. Who needs the sun…..