I think she meant to say, “duke,” but Gigi is an uberhot lawyer from Cincinnati by way of Turkey(!), and we pretty much laughed our asses off all the way back to Boston because her accent made it even funnier. What’s that you say? You don’t know what duking is? Friend, have you ever come to the right place! Here’s how it is: some people do it, and some people duke it. Don’t do it; duke it! As founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing well. And anything worth doing well is worth duking.’ TLO always tries to duke it when we rock it. And judging by Gigi and a bunch of other exceedingly hospitable and crazy people on Friday, duke it we did.
We were invited to Cincinnati to play the MidPoint Music Festival. What a lineup: Spacehog, Surfer Blood, Best Coast, Holy Fuck, Phantogram, Ted Leo and TLO. 2,000 miles, 40 White Castle sliders, 50 hours of sleep collectively over four days (duke the math), roughly 120 beers, an unknowable quantity of shots and a hell of a lot of fun. The first order of business was Philadelphia on Wednesday, to a repeat engagement at the Blockley. And incidentally, if you were listening to Danny Bonaduce on the radio in Philly that day, you would have heard him plug the show and talk about the last song on our Color Machine album, “Danny Partridge.” Ha ha! Our nefarious plan worked! That sure did charge us up for the show. Meanwhile, we love the Blockley, and on top of that we had one of those awesome road moments when we realized we were playing with Dive, a band we hung out with last year in Delaware when we played Dewey Beach. Great dudes, tight band in the general vicinity of Three Doors Down, good songs, excellent singer. I love meeting fellow warriors in odd places like that, it totally makes you both feel like you’re going somewhere when that happens. And thanks to Adam’s APO “brother,” Megan, from his Syracuse days, we were spared the search for a hotel and instead lugged our stuff down the narrowest hall imaginable with ten-speeds along the walls, around the corner and down the stairs to her awesome basement flat, stuffed her kitchen full of amps and drums, ourselves into our bags, and slept the sleep of the dead. Thanks Megan! That’s one more friend made, one less hotel room, one more tank of gas, or more realistically, another twenty-five beers. Next morning we found out that hipsters are the same wherever you go, when we breakfasted at Cafe Lift, one of those boutique breakfast places with twee indie on the system, cat eyeglasses on the waitress, art for sale on the wall (pretty good stuff, too), bright red painted steel pipes running along the ceiling. And mind blowing huevos rancheros. Jesse and Adam split this monstrous cannoli french toast with bananas and chocolate and pistachios all over the top. Fueled up and ready to skip town!
Once again, it was APO to the rescue of the band! Brother Denise let us roll our stuff into her dining room once we hit Cincinnati. It turns out she’s a metal chick, which we found out when we got to peruse her astounding collection of Poison memorabilia, especially that dreamy Bret Michaels with his man-dana and his cowboy hat, and his pouty pucker, and those eyes like limpid pools…*sigh*
…ahem. So we killed the rest of the night at The Comet, where it was confirmed a second time that hipsters are hipsters wherever you go. It was like we fell into a wormhole at the Model and got spit out at Cafe Lift, and then we got spit out again at the Comet. On to the Northside Tavern, then knocking off 20 White Castles and one mini bovine.
The next day was a lot of checking out the city, waiting for the musicians to wake up, waiting for the sun to go down. Being mistaken for Spacehog(!). We got a great recommendation from Dave, a writer from Cincinnati music blog, Each Note Secure, to drive over the river to Kentucky to the Hofbräuhaus for schnitzel and beer. I’m not usually big on Sausages (that Bret Michaels crack up there was a joke. I swear! Ok, well just don’t tell the missus), but it was the very best sauerkraut I’ve ever had, and the beer was excellent and came in these huge glass tubs with handles on them. The only thing that would have been better is if we could have gone at night, because it looked like it gets going pretty well in there. It’s a true German beer hall, replete with flags from the fatherland and benches heavy as church pews, sturdy enough for a drunk to stand on and opine, or maybe sing if it’s late enough in the evening. As it was, we needed to get to the club to make load-in.
The Mainstay Rock Bar sports a nice high stage, and a rustic timberframe vibe. Since we were on first, we got the holy grail treatment: soundcheck! Not that it matters that much anymore because we kind of mix ourselves with amp volume onstage. But still always nice. By the time nine pm hit, we were a tasmanian devil of twitchy energy, waiting to, well, to duke it. It’s that moment in the set, usually about three songs in, when it begins to dawn on the crowd. That may be my favorite moment in a live setting: the moment when people realize they are witnessing a real band with real ambitions to write real, lasting, well crafted songs as well as bring the energy of an arena act to a club stage. At this point in our quest, we have the element of surprise going for us in that way. And although it will be nice once everybody gets it finally, I’m going to miss these times when we can anonymously show up, rock out, and blow people’s heads off. Anyway, it didn’t take long after we finished the set that we started hearing from the very effusive people that they dug it! Including Gigi, her husband Oğulcan, who along with their friends, Courtney and Mai, dance in the Cincinnati Ballet, and a couple of singers with the opera. Now that’s cross-pollination! How come we don’t get ballet dancers at our shows here in Boston? Then again, I can’t say I’ve been to the ballet recently. Regardless, they were some kind of fun!
Saturday: kicking around, waiting for sundown, playing bocce at Neon’s. We saw Tom Tom Club that night. I think they were great, but truth be told things were a bit foggy by then, so I’m taking Matt’s word for it. He’s the Talking Heads guy anyway; he knows better. More adventures running from club to club, checking out bands, meeting up with new friends, getting marked with glitter and pulled into house parties. And one singer teaching himself, AGAIN, that the hard stuff can sneak up on you and you should just stick to beer, fool! But do I listen to me? Usually yes. This night? Not so much. Don’t think I’m proud! But up til about midnight-ish was a peak experience. Like Adam said on the road the next day, feeling sick to his stomach from chowing his share of our second 20 sliders on an already balky stomach, “I’ll do it again!” Not, “I’d do it.” “I’LL do it.” As in “I will.” Now that is what I call commitment! Naturally, the early start we had envisioned for Sunday was not in the cards, and we kept waffling between stopping in Syracuse to break up the trip, or to just chug the whole 1,000 miles back in one shot. Ultimately we did the latter, made it back by 2:00, home by 2:30, bed by 4:30, and after all that reconditioning of my circadian rhythm, up at 7:30, which is just crazy, but I didn’t have to work that day, so I knew I could nap later.
Whew! So that’s the condensed version, if you can believe it. Five days in 1,387 words. As we move into the regular touring phase of our career, it feels really good to know we made waves, made friends, and want to go back and make some more music there soon. And yes, we duked it hard. Very f#!king hard.