Notes from the Last Dog and Pony Show
by Michael Cerveris
MONDAY 14th September
This is an historic event.
The crowd knows it, Matt, Jim and I know it and Bob is full of the weight of the moment. He arrives at the last moment (no sound check since it's the second night) and says almost nothing. We follow suit and the backstage is nearly silent but so thick with intensity that we know this is going to be an amazing night.
One of Bob's oldest friends comes in -- not many visitors allowed preshow -- having just had his first baby. It brings it all home: why Bob wants to get off the band tour merry go round and live a life, why we're back where he began. Life and music all wrapped up together into more than just a gig. And the three of us so lucky to be a small part of it.
The show itself is awesome. We play well, the crowd is great and the room is thundering. Brasilia comes off like a 3 act opera -- all emotional intensity boiling but never unleashed, really dark and dramatic. Bob plays and sings like a demon. We all keep watching him through the set.
After the show, the dressing room is full of emotion and it takes a long while to decompress. It feels like a huge weight has lifted, a big hurdle cleared, the tour has officially begun and we're looking forward now to moving on.
TUESDAY 15 September
Long drive to Milwaukee. This is a real drive-by gig.
Sound check makes clear this is going to be a rough one on stage. Very muddy sound--kick drum with a 5 second decay. We coin the term "Milwaukee Kick".
Sadly, we will have occasion to use the phrase often.
Very ultra groovy backstage area at the Rave. Like the basement room you always wanted in junior high. Good crowd, but a lot of work to play together. Bob in a fit of frustration by the show's end.
We come out blazing for the encore, Bob pulls out the stops. Matt's hands are shredded. My thumb's torn up.
Post show spent wondering what the crowd thought. Are they only here for the blood or do they want to listen? Did we lose them mid set, or were they into it but not responsive? Hard to know.
Drive that night to Chicago.
On the Road to Chicago, IL
WEDNESDAY 16 September
Staying in the most inept hotel in North America--Days Inn Gold Coast--avoid it at all costs.
Nice to be back in Chicago, though. I call a couple old friends who work at Steppenwolf and the Goodman. Never manage to see them, but at least we catch up via phone. Ah, technology.
Spend the day walking the city, seeing what remains of the places I used to go. Realize it's been 10 years........yikes!
Sweet Home Chicago, my favorite neighborhood bar on Clarke Street is now a dress shop.
Still, Metro and the Smart Bar are still there and I spend the better part of the evening there and at the Liar's Lounge.
THURSDAY 17 September
What a great space the Riviera is. I remember seeing Ziggy Marley there years (10!!) ago. Unfortunately the PA company has brought the wrong stuff, too little stuff, defective stuff.....whatever the reason, we're delayed.
We have great meal at the Vietnamese place kitty corner from the club.
I chat live on the Internet pre show -- pretty weird all this technology.
It's totally sold out, the record #7 at Tower, the crowd is ready to rock and so are we.
Unfortunately, the PA is not. It cuts out 3 times in the first few songs, then the front monitors go down. We charge ahead anyway, but it's not how it should be. Then the stage left PA starts to fall on me. I'm not even aware, but two very large guys stand behind and hold it up for the rest of the show.
In all, it is a good show, lots of energy. Just not the perfect sonic experience we intended.
The post gig Mexican meal at Campeche, however, does approach perfection.