In an effort to be clever (and what’s better, after all, than cleverness that shows obvious effort?), the folks in charge of promoting tourism in Real City adopted the slogan “Famously Hot.” Of course, the same could be said of Hell, and last night was one of those nights where a blindfolded individual could be forgiven for confusing the two. I don’t know if the temperature broke 90, but the humidity did, and there was no air movement at all. Similes were deployed, including “hotter than an Alabama armpit” and my personal go-to, “the inside of Tarzan’s loincloth.” The stage wasn’t much better. For some reason, ArtBar’s A/C wasn’t working in the performance space for the first couple of hours we were there (a period that included our load-in and set — we were the openers for a 4-band bill). There were consequences of this, which I will detail anon.
So we took the stage at 8:29, and made it through our 15 songs in 43 minutes. We would have hit our 45 on the nose, but a scheduled pause in the set got elided for some reason. Personally, I think it was one of the best shows we’ve done, and the crowd seemed to agree; lots of smiles and congratulations after the set, including old friends, former students, and some new fans. One cool note: a fellow who has been to several of our shows said it is “a joy” to watch me play drums. Of course, that could be along the lines of Dr. Johnson’s comments on women preachers and dogs walking on their hind legs. You be the judge.
One of the things about our shows is that we try to keep the music pretty much relentless. A ten-second pause between songs feels like an eternity — The Berries are very much about momentum. We don’t want to give the crowd a chance to catch its breath. But of course, that means we don’t get a chance to catch ours, either, and the combination of the heat and our pace meant that I was running on fumes by the set’s end, and was having small cramps in my forearms and calves half an hour after our set. Still, we got some of my gear off the stage quickly enough.
Why only some? Because the next band up were the Monterreys, from Charlotte, NC, and I had agreed to let their drummer use my kit so that they’d have an easier trip down. The trio treated the audience to 45 minutes of old-school surf with the Latin feel their name implies. Highlights included versions of “Malaguena” and “Flight of the Bumblebee.” The crowd was thinner than they deserved — again, the room was only beginning to cool, and the guys were the least local band — but they played hard and the people who were there knew they were getting a treat. This was the second time I’ve seen them, and I’m already looking forward to the third. If you get a chance to see them, take it.
After they were done, we got the rest of my kit into the van, and I went back in and sat toward the back of the performance space while our buddies in Pig Head Dog were getting set up. And I don’t know if it was the heat, the exertion, the fact that I neglected to have dinner (I didn’t really have time between setup and our set to grab anything, and I didn’t want to miss the Monterreys) or all of the above, but two songs into Pig Head Dog’s set, I suddenly realized I needed to sit on something more substantial and supportive than a barstool. I migrated to the conversation pit area in the next room and sat on one of the sofas there, where I had back support from both the back and arm of the couch. A very pleasant guy back there tried to strike up a conversation with me, but the band’s volume combined with my hearing loss made this a challenge. And every time I spoke, I was having to use full projection, pushing so much air that by the end of each sentence, the world would look a little like the picture of me that you saw a moment ago. However, after about twenty minutes, I was together enough to get back up and see the rest of their set. Given their brand of bruising, punky hard rock, I felt like I was having a Boschian fever dream, or witnessing the torment of the damned from a Jack Chick tract. In other words, Pig Head Dog were doing exactly what they wanted to do. The crowd dug it — intensely. As ever, fine work, lads.
Locals Thunderklutz closed the night, and pulled a solid and enthusiastic crowd for their set of grungy-but-melodic indie-rock. They were very tight (as their cover of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” will attest), and definitely understand the power of groove. However, by then it was nearly 1 a.m., and given my previous glimpse of the gates of delirium, I decided it was time to let discretion become the better part of valor. Fortunately, the management was just putting the pay envelopes together, so I picked up our share of the take and made it first to the van, and then back to Mondoville. I stopped at a fast food joint and got something to eat, got home, and slept fitfully, awakened both by feeling too hot beneath the covers and occasional chills when I wasn’t under them. It reminded me a little bit of the last time I had the flu, about 18 years ago.
So this morning, I have a slight headache and leaden limbs, along with a general feeling of having been beaten with a medium-sized shovel. From what my friends who drink tell me, I suspect the symptoms are not unlike those of a hangover. So I’m drinking lots of ice water… and already looking forward to the next gig.
I mean, we did play well, and people had a good time. I just hope the A/C is working at the next show.