Last night was Chicago

And it was better than Indy as far as playing with confidence and accuracy, but there were still some minor issues with ending at the right time and reading signals from Tim Butler.

All in all, it feels like it’s moving forward. We played at the House of Blues in Chicago, which is a really interesting venue. The sound system is top flight, and my monitors were clear as a bell. I think we played the best version of “Love My Way” we’ve played yet. Mars (saxophone) is from Chicago and the hometown crowd was pretty clearly delighted he was there. It was interesting, also, that the crowd was so large that I think that they were unable to really jump around and get into the show as much as they would have liked if it hadn’t been so packed.

House of Blues is an entertainment complex- it’s massive and there are a lot of people working there full time. The dressing rooms are palatial and larger than many of the clubs that Music Hates You plays. I am finding that the large crowds aren’t freaking me out at all, it’s more apprehension that I am not going to play well that is making me a bundle of nerves around show time. I have to keep telling myself that it’s only the first or second show and that it’s not going to be a perfect show, and be ok with that. The Butlers and I share a commitment to playing the absolute top notch show, though, and it’s frustrating to all of us, I think, that I am being a bit on the slow side getting all of this pulled together.

John Ashton, on the other hand, is about as laid back as I could have possibly expected anyone to be. He’s been all smiles and cracking small visual jokes or making faces during the shows. I find this immensely comforting, actually. I think he finds my anxiety and stress a bit unnecessary, and he wants me to remember that it’s only rock and roll. He’s a real gent and I only found out yesterday that he produced “Alice,” my favorite Sisters of Mercy song. It occurred to me last night to ask Richard if there was actually a girl named Alice that both he and Andrew Eldritch had known, as a woman by that name turns up both in “Alice’s House” and the SoM song “Alice.” Answer: Nope.

Another myth destroyed.

I did get to run around some in Chicago with John- we rode the El up to Belmont and got some Thai food and I hit my favorite thrift store looking for an extra pair of black jeans for this tour. No dice, but John suggested hitting a Banana Republic back near the club, so we rode back downtown and wandered Michigan Avenue a bit. I stumbled across the Levis store, which is what I would have bought if there’d been anything at the thrift, so I wandered in and LO! it was a half price sale. I am ridiculously loyal to the Levis 505 jeans, and getting a new pair for $20 was NICE.

After soundcheck, I ducked out to meet my friend Vicky from London who was in Chicago on business. She had some friends from work in tow and we went to get a bite to eat. I was, as has become my custom before the show, completely uninterested in food. Too anxious. I finally regretfully excused myself and went back to the bus to study the songs some more.

Then, the show went ok, as I mentioned earlier.

After the show, we convened briefly upstairs at the HoB to meet and greet, though it was mostly the Mars show up there, since a ton of his friends turned up. I met Mars’ wife, who is a really lovely person and sharp as a razor. I also happened to meet Phil Ranstrom, the creator of a film called “Cheat You Fair: The Story of Maxwell Street,” a documentary about the open air market in Chicago which was the birthplace of electric blues. You can see the trailer here. It looks like an amazing film. It doesn’t have a distribution deal, yet, but you can maybe catch it on the festival circuit.

We finally climbed aboard the bus and headed for Detroit. I had hoped to sit up late for a while and hang out with Za (our backline tech) and Trish (our front of house engineer) because I think they’re doing such a fabulous job, but once I got a little food in my stomach and the road started to roar under the tires of the bus, I went limp and couldn’t hold myself up any more. I am putting so much pressure on myself to do well…. once the show’s over, it’s all I can do to not just fall asleep where I stand.

I climbed up into my bunk and slept all the way to Detroit.

We have a day off here today, and I spent most of it sleeping, too. I have my own hotel room here and I have been mostly just hanging out and doing nothing. Sometime later today, I plan on doing some laundry. Ah, the glamorous life of a rock star!

First Show- Successful.

Well, after a long soundcheck where we played most of the set, I felt like I was NEARLY ready to play the first show. It was not the best soundcheck- been struggling with some parts. The Furs seemed a bit trepidatious about their new drummer. This was perfectly understandable, as we had yet to get through the set without any issues.

I met my brother-in-law Kevin for supper and kind of pecked at it since my nerves weren’t really leaving me much appetite. We were playing at the Vogue Theater in Indianapolis, which is in the sort of hip end of town called Broadripple. I found a cigar shop and got a Romeo y Julieta Vintage Maduro, stood outside the bus and smoked it while hanging with Kevin. That helped with the nerves a lot. That’s the great thing about quitting smoking- nicotine regains its potency when one loses one’s tolerance for it. A good cigar is like a mild sedative.

I retreated to the bus, did some more studying of the set and before I knew it, we were headed onstage.

The show itself was a huge success, I think. It’s funny- I have been really nerved out playing for the Furs. They’re a band that I have loved for most of my life, and they have very high standards for performance. However, once we were in front of the crowd, well, CROWDS I know. I have been performing most of my life. I have been onstage more times than I have been to get a haircut. Once I was out there, i felt MUCH more comfortable. With the exception of my monitor dropping out during “Love My Way” and me losing the marimba part (which is sequenced, and therefore must be played along to), the set was really, really good. It wasn’t perfect- there are a couple of parts that I need to get a bit more comfortable with, but it was rock and roll, and it was good. During the show, John Ashton was mouthing something to me in the way that musicians do to communicate when they’re playing and it’s loud. I had to really concentrate to make it out…

He was saying… “Don’t…”

ok.

“Fuck…”

Um, got it.

“Up!”

Right. So, I didn’t during the show.

The encore… well… didn’t go as well, but the crowd hardly noticed. Simplest fucking beat in the world, “Sister Europe.” I don’t know how I got it in my head that it was something else. Stupid nervous error. Ah, well. Best forgotten and moved on from.

After the show, we went to the bus. We were all dripping sweat. The Butler brothers gave me a bit of a ribbing about fucking up the encore, but I think all in all, everyone is somewhat pleased that it’s coming together. And it is, despite our short rehearsal schedule and my case of nerves.

We pulled out of Indy and I thought I would try to stay awake and watch that bit of highway go away, since I used to make that drive all the time when I was living in Chicago and my wife’s parents were living outside Bloomington, IN. I don’t even think I made it outside of the city limits before I’d fallen asleep. I woke up in a complete daze in the rear lounge of the bus, laptop open on my lap and no idea where I was or how I’d gotten there.

I stowed my gear and climbed up into my bunk.

Tonight is Chicago, and the House of Blues. I woke up in the bus in the parking garage at the House of Blues, and I am about to jump on the El and do some exploring. I think I might need to buy another pair of jeans since I only brought two pairs and the ones I wore last night got soaked in sweat.

The band has a room at the Sax hotel across from the HOB and I think it’s the nicest room I have ever seen. It’s certainly the nicest one I have ever been in. But now I must abandon it and go exploring. I haven’t been to Chicago since I lived here.

First night sleeping on a tour bus

I am just waking up in the greenish pre-dawn light of rural Indiana before sunrise.  We aren’t very far outside of Indianapolis.

The tour bus is a nice one according to all of the touring veterans on the bus.  I wouldn’t know, it all seems nice to me, compared to the many vans of my touring history.  Last night I fell asleep watching Lewis Black on the small flat-screen TV that folds down over my bunk.

Sleeping is done troop-ship style, with 12 bunks, six to a side in the middle of the bus.  When sleeping on a tour bus, I learned last night, one sleeps with one’s feet towards the direction of travel.  This is in case there’s an accident, you get broken ankles instead of a broken neck.   There is a lounge in the rear of the bus and one ahead of the sleeping compartment.  Both have televisions and DVD players.  The bus has wi-fi that goes out on a cellphone network, which means limited bandwidth, but thank god there’s connectivity.

Everyone on the bus has a laptop.  Mars and I are both traveling with ProTools MBoxes.  We spread out in the rear lounge last night to make click tracks for me to use at the first couple of shows, until I settle into some working tempos.  Mars has the patience of a saint when it comes to doing stuff on the computer.  We struggled mightily to get click tracks that were only going to one side of a stereo signal.  For some reason, when we were bouncing the tracks, we had a little tiny bit of click on the other channel as well.  This won’t do for a live show.

Here’s a bit of Bus Touring 101:  When touring on a bus, the band drives overnight and gets two rooms in the morning.   One room is so that the bus driver can get some sleep, since he’s the Most Important Man after the gig.  The other room is so that the band can troop through and shower and have a place to sit down for a moment, but it’s sort of assumed that the band will spend most of its time on or around the bus, or wandering town.  With wi-fi and a coffeepot on the bus, there’s not much reason for me to leave except to play the drums.

Still a bit apprehensive about the gig tonight.  I have some reviewing to do so that I really know my parts and also to make sure that I have a nice, solid click to play along with.  I can’t wait until I have settled into my comfort zone with this gig.

I have to admit, it’s getting better… It’s getting better all the time

Second day of rehearsals went better than the first. Still having some minor issues with nerves causing me to speed my tempos up a bit. I think I might do the first couple of shows with a click either in my monitors in some headphones. (for those of you who are not aware, a click track is an electronic metronome to help keep the drummer from speeding up or dragging tempos. Makes a nice difference when nerves or whatever make it hard to NOT speed up.)

Mars, the sax player, and I have been hanging out. It’s good.

We check out of the hotel here in 45 minutes or so and climb aboard our chariot to go to Indy. I just shot this photo out of the window of my hotel room:

That’s home for the next few weeks. I have been inside already and it’s quite well appointed. More photos will follow as bandwidth allows.

This is the rental kit they got me:

Black diamond pearl happens to by my favorite drum finish ever. Additionally, these are huge drums with a huge sound…. I couldn’t me more pleased.

I have to figure out how to own a set of these one day. Drum Workshops drums aren’t cheap though. They’re the tool of professional drummers, and it’s not like I can peel of three large to get a set of these, although I am willing to bet no one would love them and play them more than I would…

well, I gotta pack up here. Bus call in thirty minutes. Need to be there and not keep anyone waiting.

First day, not perfect

Internet was down here at the hotel all day yesteday, so I wasn’t able to write much here.

I wasn’t in top form yesterday. Mostly it’s nerves, which made me play like like I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s the funny thing about these sorts of gigs- it’s so important to play well that I have trouble relaxing and settling into the groove. At one point I felt like they’d have been better off with a trained seal behind the kit. I know I play better than that.

They are being very patient, and by the end yesterday I was playing like I know I can play. It took so long, it was somewhat frustrating for me, I can’t imagine what it was like for guys who have been playing these songs for 20 years.

I would love to give you some idea of where I am staying and all that, but I have been so deeply involved in this process that I can’t think of much else. I will be able to tell you more as things calm down some.

here are three things, though:

1. Went for a run yesterday. I think I found the only steep, nasty hill in town and decided to run up it in the heat. Durr.

2. The drumset I am using is the most beautiful one I have ever seen. Ever. It’s a black pearl DW kit. Pictures tomorrow.

3. I do miss my wife. A lot. It gets to me a lot more when I am stressed, I think.

I am in Connecticut

Landed safe and sound in Newburgh, NY last night and was met at baggage claim by the Furs’ tour manager, Bob, who is a fantastic guy. He spotted me amongst all the other travelers without too much trouble. Bob has been managing tours for 30 years and is full of interesting stories and observations.

The last few days have been a whirlwind. I had two shows with Music Hates You for AthFest- one at Nuçi Space and one at the Caledonia. My hands still haven’t completely recovered from my ill-advised decision to use a different brand of sticks when we were in Memphis two weeks ago. I got massive blisters from the new sticks because the finish was a little stickier, so those broke, then bled, then the pad of my thumb cracked because the new skin underneath wasn’t flexible enough for me to keep playing. That stings a little.

In the meantime, they’ve rented a nice DW kit for me. It arrives this morning I didn’t specify a finish, but I am secretly hoping it will be silver or gold sparkle. I love that retro stuff.

I brought my Ludwig snare, which isn’t at all pretty- it’s a bare wood, unfinished ’70s drum, but it sounds amazing. I should get it recovered.

I spent nearly every free minute of the last few days holed up at Pigpen studios, where I work and where MHY practices, back in the drum storage room playing this kit to learn the Psychedelic Furs songs:

Note the laptop and headphones back in the corner. I have notes for each of the songs and I have been playing along with them as the go by in itunes.

This morning I am waking up in the Holiday Inn, a little groggy. I have not yet flipped over to Rock and Roll time, since I have been working at my job for a couple of years now. I called the front desk and asked for an 11am wakeup call, just to be sure I didn’t sleep through my 12:15 call. I am laughing about that now, since I woke up at 8:30.

I am a little apprehensive about today’s rehearsals, mostly because it’s a big deal that I know these songs well and that I don’t hold this whole process up. The Furs had another drummer picked out, as I mentioned before, and they have taken a big chance on me in order to keep this tour on the road. I really don’t want to disappoint anyone.

I love hackers and geeks

This little trick just saved my life.

I went to Cingular yesterday, with the full intention of doing the hardcore “Well, you may have noticed my contract with you is UP, and I am gonna need a few things from you before I sign up again. I want a free phone and what’s this ‘data plan’ I hear so much about?”

Well, with a dead phone and 200+ numbers hanging in the balance, I was basically fresh meat to the guy on the other side of the counter. I ended up paying for what is basically their Gimme phone. It’s a Nokia 6126- it’s got Nokia’s nice operating system on it, but it feels like a hunk of turd in my hand. Just plastic and not very sturdy. It does have Bluetooth, so I was able to move some photos of my dogs over to the phone and delete their awful default desktop and stuff, but I wasn’t able to sync my Address Book from OS X …. until I found the magic tutorial above. I love this part: “Since the 6126 is essentially a 6131 but for North America, I gave it a try and it worked.”
Who thinks like that? This guy needs some kind of special hat, like the ones engineers used to wear back when your hat identified your job- and it needs to say “I am very much smarter than you. Ask me anything.”
I brought all of the addresses from my Mac over to the phone, so I now have numbers for many of you that I didn’t have before. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send me your number! There’s a possibility that I DON’T have it… so fire away.

So, then my phone stops charging…

I leave in 24 hours to start rehearsals.

so of COURSE my phone dies and takes all my numbers with it.

If you’ve ever gotten a phone call from me, now would be the time to touch base so I can get your number again.

Email it to me, text it to me, of give me a call and we can catch up…

Here are the dates I am playing with the Furs.  All dates listed below are CONFIRMED. Any other dates listed elsewhere (Ticketmaster, Pollstar, local media, etc.) are NOT happening. This is the FULL list of tour dates.

06/28/07: Indianapolis, Indiana / Vogue Theatre
06/29/07: Chicago, Illinois / House of Blues
With Naked Eyes and the Alarm:
07/01/07: Detroit, Michigan / DTE Energy Music Theatre
With the Fixx and the Alarm:
07/02/07: Naperville, Illinois / Ribfest at Knoch Park
07/04/07: Baltimore, Maryland / Pier Six Pavilion
07/07/07: Buffalo, New York / Gateway Park (FREE!)
07/09/07: Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey / Jenkinson’s Pavilion
07/10/07: Boston, Massachusetts / Avalon
07/11/07: Westbury, New York / North Fork Theatre
07/14/07: San Diego, California / 4th and B
07/15/07: San Francisco, California / Mezzanine
07/17/07: Costa Mesa, California / Pacific Amphitheatre

Back in the saddle

Well, kids, you’re not gonna believe this, but I am going to be drumming for the Psychedelic Furs on their upcoming US Tour.

Ain’t that a gas?

My friend Hugo who plays drums for Gang of Four was supposed to be doing this tour, but his family back in England needed him badly, so he’s going home.

The Furs management called me today and asked me if I could do it, and I said “HELL yes.”

So we’re working out documentation and income tax stuff… I fly out to start rehearsals on Sunday night.

And I am gonna blog the whole thing here.  Yeah.