It was another road trip for the Berries last night as we returned to Simpsonville, SC’s Soundbox Tavern as the middle band on a 3-group bill. At least we thought that was our slot, but we were less sure than we had been the day before.
You see, yesterday morning at ten, our contact at the venue messsaged me. The band that was supposed to open at 9:30 had a logistical issue — would we be willing to swap spots with them? Sure, I said, we could do that; the Berries pride ourselves on being easy to work with, and we’re always glad to put a few pennies in the Karma jar. But then three hours later, he told me that the other band had worked things out, and we could have our middle spot back after all. Cool, I said — we’ll be there early, and we’ll go on when we’re told, and if need be, we’d be willing to do two sets (although we didn’t expect that to happen, we had just done a double-length set a week before, so…)
So we had the van loaded by about 6:40, and Larry (the senior guitarist, who carpooled with me) and I reached the venue by about 7:30. After Justin and Joseph (bass and keys, respectively) got there, we humped our gear inside, ordered food and drink, and waited for the opener to show up.
In the meantime, a couple of my former students and a newly retired colleague of mine showed up. We chatted a bit about various goings-on, including the new novel for which John had just completed an initial draft. (And if you haven’t read John’s other novels, by the way, you’re missing out.)
Eventually, Mickey’s hands pointed to nine p.m., then 9:15, and we were starting to wonder if we’d wind up going first after all. However, the first member of the opener showed up at that point, followed fairly quickly by the other two guys. After they got set up and soundchecked, it was closer to 10 than 9:30, but it was time for Courteous Monk to do their thing — that’s the way it goes sometimes when musicians have day jobs.
We had played with these guys on our previous visit to Soundbox, when they were still calling themselves the Venture Squad, but I didn’t get a chance to ask about the name change. As in our previous encounter, the trio delivered a set of tunes with a jazzy feel (several tunes worked around a bossa nova beat, which I though was pretty cool) and some extended instrumental sections. They seem to have been working a fair amount, and it showed in the tight interplay between the three of them. It was a very solid, nicely presented set, and it’s good to play with nice guys like that.
We were up next, and after a slight delay to get an amp working, we did our thing. It was a pretty typical Berries set — 16 songs in 45 minutes, and we played solidly and with energy. I had to call a halt to the proceedings for a moment late in the set while I made a quick adjustment to my top hi-hat cymbal, which had come loose from its clutch, but beyond that, things went quickly.
Maybe a little too quickly. I was thanking the guys in Courteous Monk and trying to talk up the guys who would follow us, a new duo called Venus de Milo. However, I guess my head was in a different place last night, because I called the new band “Van Gogh” not once, but twice toward the end of the set. I got the V and long O sounds right, but when the sound guy corrected me at the set’s end, I felt like a complete schmuck. Not for the first time — I still think my worst such moment was about 25 years ago, when I was thanking a bar for hosting us and named the wrong venue — but I still felt lousy. I guess we all have “Hello, Cleveland” moments, but I don’t even have the excuse of drinking when I have mine. As I said, I guess my mind was somewhere else. However, the Venus de Milo guys were cool about it, and graciously accepted my apology, probably because I’m old.
After the loadout, Larry, Justin and I went back in to catch VdM’s set. They’re a new guitar/drum duo, with both guys (young and nice-looking) doing vocals. They have a bit of a punk-pop thing going on, with traces of early Green Day in the vocal inflections, and tempos ranging from fast to “Get out of the way.” The drummer earned his Keith Moon Merit Badge a few times, as a couple of his cymbals refused to stay upright in several of the songs. This, too reminded me of my days at their age, when I was known to convert other musicians’ 20-foot cables into 12- and 8-foot cables with falling gear. Ah, rock and roll. The guys were a lot of fun, and had a squad of friends up and dancing near the stage for most of their set. Their set was fast, passionate, and a bit on the wild side — exactly as it should have been. I’m glad to have seen them, and I promise to get the name right next time, guys.
After Venus de Milo were done, we all picked up our pay and went our separate ways. I dropped Larry off at his place, grabbed a late-night snack at the local fast-food joint, and was in bed by about 2:30. We don’t have another show scheduled for a little while, so we’re taking a few days off, but it was a good set to get under our belt before the break, and the Soundbox is a fun, comfortable venue, which is good, as the manager told me we’ll be part of their regular rotation hereafter. And with luck, maybe my head will be on straight for the next show, but that may be too much to ask.