I fled New York for warmer weather, a show in Austin, and a reunion with my winter clothes back in Chicago. This post has been sitting on my netbook, nearly completed, for about a week now. Now it’s 11/11/11 and I’m realizing Halloween was nearly two weeks ago! Alas, I also have barely any photographs to show for it. So, without further ado: my absurdly long and busy Halloween weekend.
As if three or four big shows wasn’t daunting enough, the weekend started out with a television shoot. We had to be at the Knitting Factory at some ridiculously early hour like noon. I pre-gamed at a nearby cafe with my band notebook and some coffee. Television is so permanent and I had more squeaky reed issues than ever before – a bit unnerving. We finished just in time to hurry over to Irving Plaza and get ready for the evening show. Once we’d loaded in and soundchecked, the viola player and I ran off to trim her bangs at a friend’s apartment while sipping wine out of a bottle, grab some takeout noodles, and rush back over. I also had enough time to go to Union Square and see off Critical Mass as it took to the streets. It was surprisingly small for a Halloween ride, but NYC mass is generally alarmingly underattended. Meanwhile, RMO was playing a conflicting event at Tompkins Square Park. It was all a bit confusing.
Irving Plaza, NYC
A small rant before I get to the show… Why is it always these high-profile NYC shows where boys rudely wound my heart? I suppose it’s better that it happens at times such as these, when I’m surrounded by friends and endless positive reinforcement. However, twice in one year is excessive. Next time, can it please not happen while I’m on stage at least? That would be awesome. I managed to not let it ruin my night and nobody noticed my anger and devastation for what it was. In fact, I held it in with unparalleled maturity. Plus, my livid anger during our encore apparently came off as passionate and alluring. Note to self. Moving along…
The Irving Plaza show was generally fantastic on the whole. There were rough spots for sure, but it was a ton of fun. Not only was it Halloween weekend, so our stage show had been designed well in advance, but the venue was perfectly suited for the audience. I don’t recall seeing a single bouncer the entire show. Of course, all the frantic fun of stage diving and crowd surfing has its downsides. Within the first few minutes of the set, a kid bashed my mouthpiece straight into my lip. Usually fog machines go hand-in-hand with me getting hit in the face, but somehow there weren’t any at this show. Somehow, none of the massive cutout trees got knocked over on top of us, although the lead singer almost got dragged off the stage with crowd surfers a couple of times.
The whole monochromatic, black and white, greytones theme worked out quite well. The audience went with it in stunning form, one girl even handing out little bags of grey-scale candy corn (which tasted as awful as they were cute and thoughtful). A lot of kids showed up wearing awesome clown and dia de los muertos face paint, but there was also a team of beautiful ladies painting willing faces throughout the crowd. Everyone looked anywhere between zombie, gargoyle, and unnaturally pale. The band got our faces and shoulders painted upstairs before the show. It was such a calming way to get ready for our set, sitting in a chair while someone sponges chill fragrant paint onto your skin.
One of the nicest surprises that night was the arrival of three members of the band who don’t play in the new lineup – drums, tenor sax, and accordion. It was the first time all of them have seen the band in its present form, so it was really cool. Honestly, I was a little nervous during the set, knowing that one of my personal sax heroes was in the audience watching. Now I was extremely glad I hadn’t tried to get the band to let me play the alto parts in the waltz on clarinet. All three of them really liked the show and had lots of good things to say. I imagine it was their first time seeing the band from the outside. When we went offstage before the encore and were debating which songs to play, the tenor sax player got stuck in the middle of our debate on his way out of the bathroom. He said something along the lines of “Not this again!” and locked himself back in the bathroom… which I can totally respect.
After our set, I ran around saying hi to people, getting hugs, etc. As I passed by the coat check, a friend of mine was there dressed in a chicken suit. I never did bother to ask why, although I guess Halloween is a likely reason, but I’ve seen him in it other times of the year. “Did someone really check a tuba?!” – I heard in the line behind us.It was a sousaphone and it belonged to that friend, of course. My night ended in typical fashion. The band headed off somewhere else and I stayed local and drank with the bar staff. Two handsome gentlemen, one a bike courier and the other a German, kept pouring me Jameson until I finally ran off with someone from the opening band to find a squat party. I am so predictable. Those bartenders remarked that there should be more shows like this there and praised the band to no end. Chatting with them and relaxing at the bar was an ideal way to end the night at the venue. I certainly had nothing left in me for a crowded bar or a bunch of company. A long walk and a few people to talk to at my friend’s place finished out the night perfectly.
The Met, Providence (Pawtucket, really)
We had a harrowing drive up to this gig. It had been getting progressively colder in NYC, but nothing prepared me for the massive storm that hit on Saturday. The boys at the place where I was staying were incredibly endearing and hilarious in the morning, although also distracting enough to make me tromp back from the train to get the things I’d forgotten in the ridiculousness of our morning. I’m not a big fan of the rain, especially if it’s cold and dense, so I was not a happy camper. It was hard enough to get out of bed and meet the band in Brooklyn only a handful of hours after I’d gotten to sleep, but getting off the train one stop too late and tromping around in the elements without breakfast in my slowly deteriorating boots did not help matters. If you think I sound cranky now, you should’ve seen that morning. The rain changed to snow as soon as we were out of the city and our van driver did a stellar job of not killing us all.
We arrived plenty early for the gig, but of course there was nothing to do that wouldn’t involve getting completely soaked. Usually I go for a wander after soundcheck, but I wound up basically doing laps around the venue. I had neglected to invite anyone from What Cheer? Brigade because they were supposed to be playing Bike Kill in Brooklyn that day. I found out backstage that they had cancelled their tour because one of them was incredibly sick. However, Apocalypse Five and Dime was playing in Providence that night, so I imagined anyone in our shared social scene who braved the storm was headed to their show anyway. It barely felt like a visit to Providence at all.
I was really glad about the lineup that night; it was the perfect complimentary mix of costumes, whimsy, circus punk, attitude, and debauchery. I had never seen The Army of Broken Toys before, despite our worlds overlapping on many fronts, so I was eager and curious. I was also glad to see one of the other ENSMB sax players, who subbed in Inferno before my time, as well as his awesome ladyfriend who is also in the band. The Swaggering Growlers were the other opening band, and they always bring the party, usually beginning in a vehicle outside. This time it was seasonal – pumpkin cider and maple flavoured bourbon. It was good to see them play now that their new album is out, but also a treat to hang out with the guys and their sassy entourage. Both sets were a ton of fun and I danced like a fool with all of the other fools who were brave enough to dance.
Our set was a lot of fun, especially because of the energy of the crowd and the relatively smaller venue. The highlight for me came when a scuffle between the kids and the bouncers broke out in the pit. Our frontman stopped the set and told them to leave the kids alone. When they began to drag a guy out by his ankles, along with a chain of other kids who had latched onto him for support, he added that we weren’t going to play anymore if this went on. The entire band then walked off stage, not to go back into the greenroom, but to stare down the bouncers. Finally, the frontman found out that the kid had instigated a fight – which doesn’t change how much the staff was overreacting, but isn’t simply staff roughing up the mosh pit – so we took the stage again and continued with the set. Some of the fans said it was one of the best Inferno shows they’ve ever been to. It was heartwarming for me to see the band all act as the gang that our lead singer says we are.
A very handsome man in the front row had been smiling at me the whole show and then bought me a glass of bourbon towards the end of the set. The leader of the Growlers had done the same, which went to the frontman of course. There was so much chaos after the show, with the bouncers forcing everyone out of the club almost immediately and the awful weather outside, that I never got to thank him or find out why he looked so familiar. Sorry, guy. The bourbon hit me hard and I was too occupied with my own drama to say proper goodbyes to a lot of people. Lessons learned slowly and poorly.
I let myself get kidnapped (big surprise) and went to the afterparty that the Swaggering Growlers were throwing at their nearby hotel. It was a lot of fun, although considering I’d already been partying with them before the show, I only had so much left in me. Those kids know how to rage, as has already been attested to on this blog countless times. I had adopted the Chicago faction of our traveling fans, hooking them up with a place to stay that night in exchange for an early ride back to NYC in the morning. I had trusted that I could get to the show the next day earlier than the rest of my band and they had likewise assumed a hotel would work itself out. I was also psyched to hang out with some hometown folks. We were all glad for the massive free hotel breakfast in the morning.
Surprise Show, Tompkins Square Park
I fell asleep against my bike mechanic on the way to the next show, which is something that’s never happened on an Inferno tour before and made for a nice change. I had a lot of fun riding with the fans instead of the band between venues, something I’d only done once immediately after getting out of the hospital, so this time was clearly a lot more enjoyable. The highlight of the trip was when we stopped for snacks in a small town strip mall somewhere in Connecticut and… well, let’s just say that the score for giant flags was Chicagomobile – one, local Republican headquarters – zero. The upside down spoils flew proudly later in the hands of their tiny liberator.
My ride dropped me off at my friend’s place and I threw on the dressiest warm outfit I could muster and jumped on my bicycle. I had missed seeing Wood Spider and all of the C Squat acoustic acts, but arrived just in time for Apocalypse Five and Dime. They played on the ground in front of the stage and the crowd snuggled up in the sun and watched happily. It was unusually cold, but at least all of the snow was gone and the sky was dry. The lineup until our set involved a few more bands and a puppet show. I ran off to get a falafel and stopped into the nearby juice cafe, where I felt a friendly tap on the bike helmet hanging off of my sax case. A friend I recorded with a little while ago had followed me over there after all. Given our reputations for unsavory living, especially his, I laughed that here we were spending the afternoon drinking healthy smoothies, later to fall asleep in our respective places at the hardcore hour of 10pm. Rock and roll.
By the time the band went on, I was very chilly from spending most of the day outdoors. I really didn’t have much of a choice, considering I was friends with almost all of the other acts at the show. It was a beautiful day, just a cold one. We played a fun but short set, clocking in at under thirty minutes. The fans turned out like champions in Halloween costumes and the puppets from last year’s show made a guest appearance at the end. It was a show unlike any other, the crowd feeling totally independent from all authority. It was a strange way to spend what most of us had anticipated as a day off, though. Rude Mechanical Orchestra played immediately after us, and I went to a Polish diner across the park with a large group composed of their members and folks who had come out to see Inferno. I was exhausted and headed for bed by about 9pm. The other folks hanging out where I was staying were being awesome and entertaining, but all of it was lost on me as soon as I hit my tired wall.
Hallowmas, Union Transfer, Philly
I woke up about ten hours later, still not terribly eager to get out of bed, and dragged myself back onto the subway to Brooklyn. Regular tour is so much easier; not only is everything taken care of for you, but there’s so much forced down time in the car. True to form, I was early this time and went to get coffee. Somehow, though, it never fails that when I am not on time, I’m the last one there. The ride up was made more interesting this time by some stowaway set pieces that hadn’t been there on the drive two days before. We had added one more passenger and a half-dozen more massive foamcore trees. They almost got eaten by a street sweeper when we were reorganizing the van, but somehow survived our negligence. The drive to Philly was relatively painless, although we did have to stop somewhere in Jersey to pick up more t-shirts and wait for the ink to dry.
We arrived at the massive new venue a few minutes early somehow. Union Transfer is a gorgeous space, done up like an old saloon in a railway station. The main space has a balcony and a large stage set on a giant rolling chassis. The greenrooms were also comfortable, clean, and funky. There was even a large parking lot with a gate for loading in, big enough for tour buses even. I was impressed and inspired. Alas, while we had snacks backstage, there was no catered dinner, so we had to fend for ourselves with our buyouts. I ordered vegan delivery and then went to explore the ridiculously gorgeous old factory buildings around the area. I also stopped into a bar nearby and had a bloody mary and picked at the remains of my bandmates’ meals. Finally, I got a call from my cohort from the Phenomenauts and hurried back to the club to meet him; his delayed flight had finally brought him to Philly from Fest in Florida.
I won’t deny that there’s a rumour we got married in Vegas during tour, started in the San Francisco punk scene and carried over to the Inferno scene. I won’t confirm it either. Regardless, I was psyched to see him, as was the band, and everyone who hadn’t been following us on the West Coast tour was curious to meet him. I had a really fun time before our set seeing all the costumes and snagging candy whenever I got the chance. I had made myself a t-shirt just for this show the night before. Some of the fans have been relentlessly requesting one song in particular ever since the band started playing it again on the West Coast tour, so I made a shirt with the simple response “No. YOU play California.” It went over well. Also, one of the superfans made me the sweetest present ever. He’s been learning to engrave and made me a flask with the image of the rose patch I give out at some shows carved into it – so incredibly thoughtful and clever! I felt like I knew almost everyone there by face, which was a good feeling to have at such a large show. I was glad to see my friend from SFH there, who had only seen the new lineup of the band for the first time the day before. The opening band had gotten hold of him and painted his eyes like theirs, so it took me a moment to recognize him. I was glad to see Mischief Brew again and had a bunch of fun dancing around to them. They played a really good set.
The highlight for me, though, was seeing Melt Banana for the first time ever. It’s not even my typical kind of music, but there’s no way not to like them. They even had a gigantic pantomime cat wandering around in the crowd before the show. The cutest part was their sequence of short songs later in the set, all of which were about ten seconds long. I was also thrilled to have a co-ed band opening for us for a change. This also might be the first time I’ve ever played a show with a band from Japan. For weeks leading up to this night, whenever anyone asked if I was excited for our show, I’d respond “Of course! I can’t wait to see Melt Banana, they’re the whole reason I’m going!” I usually try to stay out of pits before a show, but I let myself get bounced around quite a bit for their sake… once I put in some earplugs – they were so incredibly loud. I had such a good time during their performance and definitely would like to see them again.
Our set might not have been exactly perfect, but the audience had a fantastic time. It was a really good set list and went over well. There were props, puppets, and inflatable pumpkins. I wore the dress I had used for my Halloween costume senior year of high school, when I was Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, but this time without a black eye and my arm in a cast. Who knew I’d be wearing it again on Halloween eleven years later. Wow, eleven years. At least I still fit into the dress. In fact, I think it fits me better now. There was plenty of crowd surfing, but very little stage diving. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to push anyone into the crowd, it’s one of my favourite parts of many shows. It was packed in the venue, sold out and then some. It took a few songs for the usual faces of stage left to surface, the crowd was so dense and hard to navigate. The crowd was crazier than usual, stage dives were frequent, panties were thrown, and someone even threw a shoe right at my face (by accident and followed with apologies) which made half of my mouth numb for a few songs, but such things are to be expected on Halloween. It was a big show, it was a fun show, and it was thankfully the last show for a few days. It was such a whirlwind of a weekend, even the fans seemed worn out!
Post-show is a bit of a blur, not for all of the drinking, but the confusion of ending such a big night. I neglected to get a Melt Banana shirt, I’d wanted to find the kid who made me the flask and thank him again, I’m sure I forgot to say farewell to a lot of people. My friend from the Phenomenauts and I ran around scavenging abandoned candy, turning our noses up at the hard stuff (you know, lollipops and such). I gave big hugs to the Mischief Brew folks and awkwardly told Melt Banana how awesome they were. Finally, I piled into my friend from Baltimore’s pickup truck and went to stay at someone’s house a ways away. A bunch of folks from the show had already arrived and were into the swing of a small party. I slightly envied the rest of band, who had gone their separate ways to calmly sleep, while I was bound to be social a bit longer. Of course, I was grateful for the place to stay and glad to see everyone, but the weekend had taken its toll on my energy levels.
I woke up in a pile of people, but warm and comfy. Our hosts, the Chicago crew, and some others all went out for brunch at Satellite. Even Philly is beginning to seem familiar. We texted the viola player and she came to meet us there. The next time I’d see here, we’d be in Austin, Texas. Another friend came by and had a girl from London with him who knew all the places I used to hang out there, small world. I convinced the Chicagoans to give my friend and I a ride to where we were going, which turned into a trip to Whole Foods, leading me to wander off to a liquor store for local Ginger Brandy near the creepy old penitentiary, plus a lot of getting lost in the car. We finally made it across the river to Jersey, which is clearly not on the way to Chicago, but those boys are amazing.
What better way to finish out a long weekend of shows when your assets include a pretty dress, a small envelope full of cash, and someone you’ve supposedly married on a whim while on tour in Vegas? Book it on over to a cheesy hotel across the bridge in New Jersey! What better place to unwind than in a heart-shaped jacuzzi with a plastic pumpkin full of Halloween candy, watching movies on the sci-fi network before sleeping far too long on a round bed the size of most New York kitchens? I should pamper myself like this more often.