TLO, CMJ and the All Night Drive
The CMJ (College Music Journal) Music Marathon in New York City is one of the two biggies in the country, along with South by Southwest in Austin. So it was really gratifying to learn, upon my return from a morning walk on Dewey Beach in Delaware, that we had been selected to play it! Just when you thought a weekend couldn’t get any better, right? We had just blazed through our set, impressed a bunch of hard-to-impress bands and grizzled industry types, partied the night away and watched a band get evicted from our hotel for jumping off the third floor balcony into the pool. That was pretty much every item on our to-do list for our trip down, plus one bonus item (and take a guess which item that was). It was the next day, the guys were sawing logs still, and I was out enjoying the morning, a rare time of day for a musician. But I like me the solitude sometimes, so early in the day is an easy place to carve out a couple of hours by myself.
Cut to two weeks later. Adam is already down in New York, hard at work on band and other business, which leaves Matt, Jesse and I to get the gear there in time for Jim McTurnan and the Kids That Killed the Man. set as well as our Boston buddies St. Helena. I guess we were providing the backline, which is always cool with us for two reasons: 1) we get to hear our gear as audience members and check out what it sounds like from the other side, and 2) no set up before we play, it’s already done! What more could I add to the myth of New York City that hasn’t been said a million times before? Not much, and from the three of us who went down that Tuesday in the van it was an archetypal whirlwind tour, so we didn’t see much beyond the Alphabet Lounge and the inside of the van. They have bike lanes down there now, that’s pretty cool. Nice job, Mr. Bloomberg!
The Alphabet Lounge is on the lower east side of Manhattan, appropriately enough in Alphabet City (Avenue A, Avenue B, etc.) and is a cozy room for about seventy five people, tops. There is an exposed brick wall to the right as you walk in, and the stage is behind a railing, which they kindly removed for the night so everyone could see the bands from more than just the waist up, Ed Sullivan style. We had to make do with only three mics, which meant that Adam was constantly running over to Matt or me to pitch in on background vox, which made for kind of a cool visual actually. Very arena rock. We saw our good friend Jen Kellas of The Music Slut in the crowd, valiantly staying awake after hosting her annual blowout at Piano’s. She’s a rock trooper. And we always love to see our friends from Eat Sleep Breathe Music — this time it was Sister Jeanette and her friend, Lauren. Music consultant and former rock star and A&R guy Rick Goetz (whom we also met at Dewey) took time to come see us, as did legendary music writer, John Swenson. Then you throw in the other two bands that played before us, and we’re talking a decent little crowd making the room feel warm for us. Well, I think we delivered in spades that night. It was such a whirlwind to get there, then a whirlwind to load in and find parking, why not play like Tasmanian devils also and make it a hat trick? So we did. I think one of the single biggest mistakes bands ever make live (and we’ve made it too, but we learned not to do that anymore) is going up there without the right energy. I don’t mean be a manic freak and swing from the chandeliers necessarily (although you wouldn’t lose if you did), but to bring the requisite energy to bear for whatever your sound is. In our case, most of the tunes rock hard, fast and sweet, so we point at you while singing and make guitar faces and spin around and jump in the air and throw our hair around. Mostly because we like to, it just feels natural that way. I recommend it. But not on while you’re on the Green Line commuting to your day gig.
And then it was over. Adam had plenty of work to do still for the week, so we dropped him at his hotel on 35th Street, high fived each other on a show well executed, choked down some sort of awful tasting lemon lime five hour energy shots to keep alert and drove home. By the time load in at our jam space was completed, I think it was around four thirty. We made it home before the sun found us, but not by much. Thanks, CMJ! I wish we could have stayed to check out more of it, but day jobs beckoned. For now, we’ll be satisfied knowing we were a small part of it. For now…