We played in Brooklyn Saturday night. Playing in NY is and always will be the big homecoming gig for me, even though I grew up in Pittsburgh. Because New York City is where I first started seriously going to shows, and playing music and writing songs and making a fool of myself in public, I want any show there to be one of the best nights of my life, ever.
Which Saturday was. It was scary foregoing a Manhattan show and just playing a Brooklyn club but Southpaw seemed like it could be the right place for me and Eric and in terms of stage, sound and audience it really was.
My brother Michael’s band Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. opened the show and they set such a scene with their slick outfits, vintage microphones, witty banter and utterly unique take on honky tonk music.
And then we played, and nothing went wrong. I saw this on our myspace this morning and it made me cry, it felt so right – so I hope Mitch Friedman won’t mind if I quote him: “It was polished, shambolic, loud, soft, funny, moving, long, short tempered, nostalgic, modern, impressive and energetic — sometimes all within the same song.”
After, we retired to this brand-new hotel in the far reaches of Bushwick. In the past it would have depressed me to think I couldn’t afford to treat myself to somewhere in Manhattan, but it just shows how things (and possibly how I) have changed. Not long ago, I could find a midtown hotel like Radisson or Hilton or Marriott on Hotwire for under $100. Now even the dowdiest place charges upwards of $300 a night – it’s nothing but greed and I can’t enjoy myself when I feel like I’m being ripped off. The sweet people at our Quality Inn let us park the van right by the front door, and even though the elevated train rattled by a few times in the night, I felt completely happy.
Had the traditional Sunday brunch in hipster Williamsburg with other NY brother Riley and friends Angela and Alan. We enjoyed skewing the demographic of the restaurant – until we entered the place there was not a single person over the age of, say, thirty two. Made the scene at the Warsaw record fair, where Miriam Linna and Eric thrilled me by sharing stories of seeing Slade in 1973 and I found the Mimi & Richard Farina LP’s we’ve been craving.
Speaking of Pittsburgh, we’d played there on Tuesday night and a highlight was getting to do Astrovan, as there just happened to be a Hammond organ on stage for Eric to play! We were a little rusty on that one but it was a good-natured show and I saw my brother Patrick, my old friend Lonesome Bob and got to meet Gregg & Barbara of The Cynics. Every time I visit, I look around and marvel at how great the place is doing – growing up it was all dirty air, sports and small-mindedness. Who knew it would end up one of the coolest cities in America?
Yet another homecoming was Nashville, where we did an instore at Grimey’s record shop. It was the best possible way to do a gig in this town, because the time I lived there it was always fairly difficult to get more than a handful of people out to a show(nothing to take personal, of course. The famous quote, attributed to David Olney, goes something like “When I want some time to myself, I just book a show in Nashville.”)
We got a fine turnout, everyone crowded in around the racks of vinyl, and Grimey said we were their loudest instore performance ever. We only learned yesterday that Metallica had played there the week before we did.
Got to see Bill Lloyd and Bill DeMain and Richard Ferreira and Steve Allen and Amelia White and some other dear and delightful friends, for a few minutes anyway. Then Eric and I were cast out by the Grimey’s staff, who wanted to go to the various Americana music conference shows that were happening that night. A pretty lady in an adult car pulled into the parking lot as we were packing up – Laura Cantrell, there in town to play a show and visit family. It was so nice to see her this way, if only for a minute, without the hum of networking chatter (that was thankfully absent when we’d played, or maybe I just couldn’t hear it). That is an unfortunate part of shows in Music City – it is almost impossible to stop gladhanding and sharing details of your professional life long enough to actually listen to something. (the Basement & Bluebird clubs are exceptions). When we watched Rosie Flores play later that night it was no different, though it thrilled me to hear her. And Joe Ely – how could you even open your mouth to do anything but gape in awe as this guy is up there playing, by himself. He stopped my heart, he made us cry, he reminded me why I write songs. Which is why I went to Nashville in the first place.
There’s lots more to write about, like Texas, and the South, and the midwest, DC & Philadelphia, and meeting Chrissie Hynde, but it has to wait because it’s time to get back in the car. One more homecoming of sorts tomorrow – Cleveland!