Thursday: no Greg for the van ride up (he was already in North Carolina on vacation), so I packed the trailer. Not too bad. When we eventually reached our destination, everything was still where I'd left it, so I'll say that was a success.
We stopped for lunch at a place with decent food but crappy service. When we tried to get our checks so we could get back on the road, the waitress actually accepted a phone call and proceeded to lean on the bar and talk to somebody for maybe six or seven minutes, with all of us standing there watching her. Not impressive. She's lucky that the gratuity was added into the bill.
As we got closer to Raleigh, a major storm closed in on us. First it was to the side of the interstate, and then as the road turned, it was in our rear view mirror. We tried to outrun it so we could load into the theatre before the rain, but we got caught in traffic. Things were pretty tense there for a minute. In the end, it passed us by, so load in was no problem.
Our show at the Lincoln Theatre was tough. First, the rain and traffic made us almost an hour late for load in, which squeezed out any kind of rehearsal we could do at soundcheck. Pete was on vacation for the entire week, so we had Greg in his place and Rob Henson on bass. In the vocal harmonies, Greg stayed on his parts so Bencuya, Cobb, Dannells, and maybe me picked up Pete's vocals. I sucked real bad at that. I mean, I'd never tried to sing and play on a gig before so I had no coordination--most of my attempts ended up with me singing the string line or whatever I was playing on keyboard. No good!
I guess I was sitting in kind of a bass trap on stage at the Lincoln--the drums and bass were really loud and I couldn't get comfortable. There was a monitor for me, but I figured that blasting more stuff at my head was not the solution. That and the wrong notes from trying to sing and play and then the wrong notes from me not being focused on what we were doing and the on stage sound quickly crushed my spirits. Even when I went up front to play saxophone, I couldn't hear myself on stage or out in the house. Boo. I trudged through to the end. Not my best work.
Due to the extreme weather, just over a hundred people were there to fitness my musical death. Fortunately, Bencuya didn't record this.
I almost forgot…afterwards, we went out in search of food because we didn't get to eat before we played. We ended up at the Five Star Restaurant, a cool looking Chinese place at the end of a block. After parking out front, we went in and sat down. At the bar was a presumed prostitute, two guys, and a couple on a landing above the bar making out. Someone who worked there eventually came over--"Where'd you play tonight?" was the first thing he said. We talked for a minute and he informed us that the kitchen had been closed for a few hours. Since we'd stopped in, though, he asked us to do a shot with him. Sure. So there we are doing a shot of Makers Mark with him, and he decided to finish off the bottle. It ended up being at least a cup of whiskey for each of us. He then sent us on our way with a couple of suggestions for food. It was totally surreal.
We ate at a place called The Raleigh Times. Great food in the middle of the night.
Friday: we moved on to Charlotte for a gig at the NC Music Factory. It's a pretty cool place with restaurants and multiple music venues (there's a Fillmore at the same location). Our stage was outside in the courtyard between a bar and a restaurant. It looked like a loading dock with a tin roof covering us. No ramp leading up to the stairs--only stairs. Boo.
We ate lunch downtown. Perfect weather.
Our show here was also kind of difficult. There was plenty of room on stage and plenty of PA, but the stage and tin roof resonated with every low G that was played. Songs like Peg and Rosanna were nightmares (both with lots of G's)--you could hear nothing but the low feedback that sounded like a tugboat horn.
It's too bad. I played some of my best stuff in a long time, particularly on Takin' it to the Streets, but I think the sound became a huge distraction for the band. I don't know if maybe it wasn't a problem out front, or the sound guy just couldn't solve the problem.
In fact, aside from the tugboat G thing, I was fine with the sound. I could hear everything, and I could hear saxophone in the main PA. I gotta admit, I love it when my horn is loud. It's difficult to play when it feels like I'm playing into a pillow.
Singing-wise, we (and I) were much better. Things came together much more than the night before. I figured out which songs I could sing on and which ones were just too different from my hands.
During the second set, the smart light at the front of the stage caught fire. Smoke poured out of it for half a song until one of the crew unplugged it and pulled it off the stage. It was a nice diversion from GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!! Nice electrical fire smell.
I think there were maybe a thousand people there. At the end of the night, we were standing around taking pictures with fans, and some guy pulled me aside.
NC Guy: Tell me the truth. Are you really playing the saxophone?
Me: Yes. (then, realizing this was a great opportunity to lie) Wait, truthfully? No. It's just a really expensive prop.
NC Guy: I thought so.
That's kind of a compliment, right?
Saturday: Winston-Salem! We played Ziggy's. Rob and Monkey said that the old Ziggy's was rough venue, but the new place is really nice. The room sounds good, the stage is big, the load in is easy, the sound guy is good. We played to around a hundred people, but Ziggy's people dug it, so I think we'll be back. They also have a Ziggy's opening in Delaware, so maybe we can hit that one too.
Another good night of playing. The singing was better and the playing was better. I didn't quite crush Takin' it to the Streets, but it was still good. Nice gig. I heard later that some bartender almost got his ass kicked by Greg and Mark Cobb.
Sunday: the long drive home. Our van is tired. It needs some transmission work.
I made it to my PM church gig. Pretty good mix, I would say, and for not playing soprano or flute all week, my face still worked well. We had one singer, though. Where is everybody?