Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wussy Experiments with House

  Tonight was going to be our first house show. A house show is exactly what it sounds like although the family who set this one up has it down to a science. They’ve had a bunch of cool people like Califone, Centro-matic, Mark Eitzel, etc. play there, and they sell tickets like a regular show so it’s not just a group of buddies hanging out throwing peanuts at the trained monkeys. There are about a hundred cool things about our experience, but near the top is the fact that all the tickets sold out in one day. There’s no way that’s a bad feeling.

            We’d known Scott, our host, for a while and met his dream of a wife in a beautiful house somewhere in the Baltimore area. I don’t know where, I wasn’t driving. There were brownies in the oven (real brownies – I wasn’t being euphemistic) and they did a cookout for us that was just wonderful. Don’t underestimate the power of a home cooked meal on the road, even if Lisa did waste an entire burger because she bit into a vegetarian one thinking it was meat. The whole host* family (It is a little like hosting a foreign exchange student….. or perhaps an au pair? Maybe even a naughty au pair. I’m thinking sternly Teutonic with a taste for Ratzeputz, and a habit of weeping softly to Beethoven’s Late Quartets) decamped to the master bedroom so everyone in the band could have their own bed. I stayed in one of the kid’s rooms, surrounded by Adventure Time posters and Legos. Very comforting, although if this hadn’t been our last show it probably would have felt like putting a snail dragging a lemon with a razor blade shoved through it up my arm by making me miss my kids even more.

            The only times we’ve played Baltimore were at a very small bar called Mum’s. Any place that was willing to risk it by letting us play their venue on that first tour holds a place in our hearts. Mum’s compounded that by introducing us to a homemade spiced liquor called EVL that is apparently composed primarily of grain alcohol. Its unofficial title is Christmas in a Bottle, which should give you an idea of its taste. Really, any more than one drink and your life goes into a swirling shitter of blackouts and pain. It’s wonderful and they bought us our very own bottle to take home. The second time we played at Mum’s was several years later and a sizable contingent showed up in the Wussy shirts they had bought that first time. To see them again at this house show, God knows how many years later is amazing.

            At 7:00 the doorbell rang and I just wasn’t ready to socialize yet. I had some pre-show jitters I guess so I went up to my borrowed room and sat on the bed in the dark and just shut down for a while. I felt kind of guilty though so at 7:45 I went upstairs to see if any one else was around; and found that every single member of the band had, without discussion, done exactly the same thing. Hid in their rooms in the dark.

The show was in their living room. We were to be the litmus test for having a full band play as opposed to the more typical acoustic variety. Scott had rented a nice sound system and to our joy it was a great sounding room. We’d thought we were going to have to play a very sedate set but somehow between all the factors (including Kevin the sound guy who did a great job) (his name really was Kevin) (some people are named Kevin – get over it) we were able to play our regular set without making people’s ears bleed. Once we started it felt like a regular show. It was a dream crowd really, full of people who love the band you’re in and feel like they’re sharing something unique and kind of special with you. Oh, and it was also a pot luck so there was food everywhere, and huge (tracts of land) tubs filled with all the fancy beer that Joe and I love.

            The show broke the record for most merch we’d ever sold, and was the longest set we played on this tour at around an hour and forty-five minutes.

            So thank you Baltimore and especially our gracious and kind hosts.

*Wussy are parasites

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wussy Visits NYC

I think I’ve written it before but if you can’t get excited for a show in New York then you’re probably dead inside (like Ghengis Khan). We were playing the Webster Hall Studio for the second time and load-in was 4:30, which for the slow moving barge that is Wussy in motion, meant we had to hot foot it. The Webster is an interesting place in that it’s three different performance spaces. The same night as us was a sold out show by Space Ghost or some band with the word ghost in their name. The other space had a burlesque show going on. There’s an unusually high  number of black jacketed security people with Secret Service ear pieces walking around and clogging up the lines to the urinals, and door people who yell at you for going in the door you loaded in to but now that’s not the door you go in.

            The last time we played there we fell in love with David, the man running sound, and requested him again. He’s the greatest and says things like, “It’s nice to get to mix a real rock band.” And his wife came to the show and said he’d been talking about our band the whole year since last we played there. That’s about as high praise as you can get. It was also exciting because we’d pre-sold more tickets than we ever had. We were done sound checking around 5:30, which begs the question, how was this different from the previous night in Phili? Well, part of it is that we had a plan. A friend of the band was treating us to an amazing dinner (Best gnocchi I’d ever had by a mile, gorgonzola cream sauce with walnuts and caramelized onions, served by dark haired young men who conversed only in Italian – meow.) and the other reason was Rene’ swung her brass balls and got the little room to the side of the stage just for us. The last time all four bands were in there, some of our gear went missing, and it was chaos. See? Little by little we’re becoming assholes. It was so nice to have a place to go though. Of course the Strand bookstore is about a block away. Go there. It’s a holy place. I got an out of print copy of a collection of Roger Tory Peterson’s art and photos that had been signed. By him. Not Kevin.

            And then there was the show. We had 227 (“There’s No Place Like Home” – Sing it!) people pay to see us (they ask at the door who you’re there to see and then pay the bands according to that number) in a place that only holds 300.  They come right up to the stage, sing along, and make you want to be as good as The Who circa 1971.We roared to the best of our ability, said many silly things from stage, and had the time of our lives. I told my son about it when he called the next morning, and even though he’s only 11 he said, “make sure you remember that one.”

            I ran in the rain while the van idled in front of a fire hydrant to get our traditional post show cheese pizza and called it a night. Yay!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kiss the Statue

The back stairs of Milkboy where we loaded out. The statue had been defaced by succulent lipsticked mouths.


Our hotel was about 40 minutes out of downtown. I was rather looking forward to some time away from the family so I took the train downtown.  I decided I’d go to the Barnes Foundation Museum, which I hadn’t been to since it moved locations. I felt great and then out of the blue, like an intestinal Pearl Harbor….. well, that’s probably a tad hyperbolic; let’s go with an intestinal Grenada since it was more of the shart variety, I was embarrassingly stricken. Kind of threw me off for the afternoon, although it did lead me to playing my first ever show commando. I did my best to enjoy the Picasso’s and Matisse’s though because I’m kind of a hero.

            We played a place we never had before called Milkboy. It was a little fancier than is our norm and served a wonderful beer called Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale. You should drink it now. The struggle was that after our soundcheck we had 3 and a half hours to kill before we played. Can’t drink because I’m trying this new fad called “professionalism,” and was pretty pooped ‘cause I’d walked around all day. We sat in the van for a while with the window down and listened to the men on the corner, who seemed to work for the adjoining garage, expound on life, family (an aunt apparently fell hilariously down the steps – Bam Bam Boom!), and the quality of asses that passed them by. Chuck and I went and got dessert (ice cream sandwich made with brownies) and talked to the 27-year old employee about metal. She loves Judas Priest and early Metallica and bemoaned the fact that no one her age likes metal at all.  Two hours killed. Went to a craft brew pub hoping to write and sip a quality beer (sipping one beer doesn’t count as drinking – but thanks for bringing it up), but it was packed so I people watched until Joe and some old friends showed up.

Why did I bring all that tedium up? And am I complaining? No I’m not. I was in a great city and about to play a great club. It’s just that we’re here to do a job – try and play a great show. The effect of it all was that I’d say it took us four songs to really start coming together. And to be honest we never really caught fire. It was a good show and the crowd was giving good energy. Everyone in the band said after that they were struggling with just feeling kind of physically weary. I guess maybe that idea of a backstage or a green room is not really about staying away from the attendees but more about having a little quiet home in order to get ready for the show. God, I feel like a tool even writing that. You read about Husker Du living for years in their van and playing squats and shitholes, and no where in there do they decry the agony of having nowhere to chill before a show. Oh well, I guess we’re just soft. It’s still my best explanation for why the heart was willing but the body didn’t quite comply.

And as a side note – I’ve had several people tell me I’m too harsh in assessing our shows, but you have to understand two things: feeling satisfied is the first step towards complacency. There’s always something you want to try or to do better the next time. Every band I’ve ever been in walks on stage hoping to be better that night than the Rolling Stones, Springsteen, or whomever. It’s not gonna happen, but I don’t really have much interest in any band that’s not shooting for something like that. I mean if your goal is to someday be more scintillating than Jack Johnson - fuck that. Secondly, we had a blast at this show. What a great group of people come to see us there.  We truly love playing Phili and apparently the men of Philadelphia are on the whole very hot. (Apparently the men of New York are like dog meat made out of retired race horses in comparison.)  I’ll post a link to a review of the show that I think gets at what I’m talking about. In the end we may be a bunch of narcissistic misanthropes but we really, really want to put on a good show.

Kids in Phili


Because this is the kind of thing you just happen upon in a great city.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Travel Day

Slept in too goddamned late. Had 40 minutes to check out Burlington and Lake Champlain. It was nice and I have fond memories of the last time I was there (for my F.B.I.L.’s graduation) because I bought my copy of, “The Tin Drum,” which is a top 3 book for me. Other than that there’s a lot of crunchy granola walking around and the town gave birth to Phish. I don’t care if it’s a cliché to hate them. It’s not a cliché to hate Pol Pot and it shouldn’t be to hate them. Still Burlington’s earnestness provided for some lovely organic fresh cave-aged local-sourced food. And Lake Champlain was as always stunning, especially in its frozen state.

Then we drove to Philadelphia.

University of Albany - Parts That Don't Suck