Monday, January 30, 2012

Duran Ad Infinitum

Well, another week on the road has come and gone, and each week, each gig, is its own little universe of idiosyncrasies and oddities. Otherwise, why else would I tell you about them?

I'm pretty sure that this current trip is the longest one I've been on since the six-week run that included those two miserable weeks in Shreveport. A week here at John Ascuaga's Nugget, Two weeks at Carson Station, followed by a week off, then a weekender at Casino Fandango. And this trip's doldrums are beaten back by Joy's warm embrace, though seeing to her needs adds a whole new level of difficulty to the trip, albeit one I'm used to now. My birthday falls during this run, as does that of our eldest grandchild Cody, and Joy would not be denied the opportunity to be there for both birthdays.

So we left a day early on this trip, Tuesday afternoon. Our first stop along the way was in Browns Point, where my old bandleader Calvin waited anxiously. When I told him that I was heading south, he tasked me with an errand. Y'see, liquor is a lot cheaper in Nevada than it is in Washington, so he staked me with some money to buy him some booze. A lot of booze. About $250 worth of Bacardi rum and the cheapest vodka I can find, to be precise. To be totally honest, I needed the money. I only had about $90 to my name, and that wasn't enough for my gas expenses, so Calvin's grubstake came at just about the most opportune of moments. From there we headed south to Olympia for some excellent teriyaki.

Night was falling as we entered Vancouver, looking for a place to crash for the night. My Uncle Skip and Aunt Suzi live there, and although we had an open invitation to stay there whenever we needed, I wasn't able to get a hold of them, so I fell on plan B. I knew of a motel alongside I-5 that advertised rooms for as little as $21 a night, but their night-clerk told me those rooms were unavailable. I wound up paying just over $50 for a tiny room with the luxury(!) of a private bathroom. If that was a 'luxury', we really had no desire to find out just what those $21 rooms were like. And did I mention that it was raining buckets, cats, dogs, and other small mammals that night? I got passed on I-5 by an ark near Castle Rock. In so many words, we were soaked, our things were soaked, and we just shut our mouths and took the room. Here's the review from the Musicians Boycott! Travel Service – if you're in Vancouver, WA and have the options of sleeping in your car and the Value Motel, recline the driver's seat, homey – you'll sleep better. That said, the night-clerk was a nice lady, and we'll probably be seeing her next week at the Carson Station, as she's taking a week's vacation to visit her mother in the Reno area, and would love to see me play.

Ironic, no?

Wednesday morning rose clear and calm, and we broke fast on a combination of Sausage McMuffins and Bacon Maple Bars from Portland's rightly famous Voodoo Doughnut (another reason why I love Portland – despite the Timbers!), and we were on our way south and east. The heavy snows that had hit the Oregon Cascades had been tamed by the Oregon Department of Transportation, and climbing Willamette Pass was a piece of cake, and we scarcely saw snow after that. I slaked Joy's craving for Taco Time's Crispy Beef Burritos in Klamath Falls, then made the remainder of the trip as uneventful as possible as we pulled into Sparks.

And did I mention that Steppen Stonz were going to have company onstage this weekend? Well, it just so happens that a major convention was going on in the Nugget's convention-center space, and the convention had booked a band for that Thursday night, a Duran Duran tribute band called (wait for it) Duran Duran Duran. My sources have told me that they were invited to play a few sets in the cabaret on Saturday night in addition to the corporate gig. Fortunately for all parties involved, I knew of this a week in advance, as the Nugget's best soundman had called me while I was still in Port Angeles to ask me if D3's drummer could borrow my drums for that night. I told him that I had no problem with it, that I was glad that he'd called me in advance to let me know this, and just how the fuck did he have my phone number, anyway? (Mikey gave it to him). J.R. (that badass soundman who looks a little like Stephen King, just better looking) gave me their drummer's phone number, but he never did answer the message I left him. This didn't bother me much, because it said two things to me – that he'd probably use his own gear in the end, and that I still had time to get a hold of him up until the night of their show in the cabaret if he didn't.

Joy and I wound up meeting D3's singers (Brey and Noelle) on Friday afternoon at the Nugget's pool. Brey's totally 80's frosted hairstyle was a dead giveaway – to be honest, he reminded me of my old marching band chum Zach Barnhart to an almost alarming degree – but he and Noelle were as nice as could be. They'd actually come down to the cabaret the night before to see the tail end of our set after they'd finished their gig upstairs, and were quite impressed with our show. We talked shop for a while, then I let them go enjoy the pool by themselves – I know full well how much a musician appreciates his space, and while talking shop is always fun, sometimes you just want to be left alone.

Our shows on Thursday and Friday were uneventful enough, and we came to the decision that I'd just push the riser my drums were on back out of the way to give D3 enough space to set up their gear. Their show turned out to be really fucking good, despite the vocal mix being kind of muddy. Good thing I knew the words to damn near every song they played. I've always kept a place in my heart for Duran Duran – they were pretty much the last band I was into before I discovered metal – and D3 didn't mess around much with the songs that everyone knew. They also threw in some other 80's chestnuts, like David Bowie's “Let's Dance” and “One Thing Leads To Another” by The Fixx, and I just loved the fuck out of that. And I found the rest of the band to be really nice guys, though I did have to give their drummer just a tiny amount of shit for never calling me back. I'm sure that by the time you read this, you can go to D3's website (which is actually just a link to their Facebook page) and find pictures of the two bands together. The remainder of the night went without incident, and Sunday was actually pretty good, despite playing to a nearly empty cabaret.

I've actually walked away from this gig feeling pretty damn good. I figured out something I should've done a long time ago. Y'see, while I'm playing, I can barely hear my drums – the sounds my Simmons Hybrid drum module creates, that is – over the rest of the band. And to think, the answer had been staring me in the face ever since I'd started to trigger my drums. What I did was to use the Hybrid's unused right-channel output (the left-channel output is the mono output, and that goes to Cliff's mixing board) as a monitor channel, and plugged that into the small mixer I use as a monitor mixer for the headphones I wear onstage. It actually took me a minute to get used to be able to hear my drums clearly for the first time in a couple of years. And it was good.

And with our contract with the Nugget allowing us an extra day's stay in the hotel, I can pack up my gear at a leisurely rate today, then do laundry and pack up our household things before making our way up to Carson City on Tuesday. All my friends at the Station are looking forward to seeing Joy, and I'm looking forward to actually being able to unpack, and stay unpacked for a couple of weeks.

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