Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Osyrusfest, Coatesville, PA (6.11 - 6.13.10)

After a gig at The Farm in Essex Vermont the previous Friday, the weekend of the highly anticipated Ofest had finally come. Our bus “Precious” and the band, sans Mike, who had to work Friday, made the trip down to Coatesville, PA for this annual party in the woods. Mike would follow later on that night to join up with us for our set on Saturday evening. Our friend Preston and his brother Paul own and run a high end concert lighting business and put on Ofest each year so they can showcase their skills and have a big party for their extended network of friends. The small festival has an amazing vibe. Everyone that attends has heard about the event through word of mouth, and the capacity is capped at 300 people. We were excited to be asked to play this year, and went down a day early to take in the event and party with our friends who were also going. Our buddy Tommy contributed beer for the fest, and came with hi8us in Precious along with a bunch of beer.
We arrived to find a sweet little oasis within the rolling farmland of Amish-country PA. As you roll in you see a high cliff off to the right, and a full-on concert stage just below. Off to the far off left sits the schoolhouse which has been strategically lit to provide the most pimp backdrop to the festival once the sun goes down each night. The renovated schoolhouse sports a little patio area off to the left where the food for the fest was centralized. At the nucleus of this little area stands a field stone, wood fired grill that runs 24 hours a day for the entirety of the fest.
Our set at the festival got cut short due to threatening rain just as we were really starting to get going Saturday night, but the overall enjoyment of the weekend made our lack of time on the stage sting a little bit less. The highlights of the weekend for me were the beer tasting summit that took place of Saturday afternoon. I tried about 25 samples of beer I had never even heard of. The highlight was a stout known as The Abyss. I need to look it up, but it was so smooth and tasted like a milk shake made by the devil… in a good way; ) Also, after our abbreviated set, I dropped about 5 pounds of Bob’s Ah-So Marinated Steak tips on the grill, and sent the scent of sweet cow-flesh heaven across the field of hippies. Like Yogi being drawn to a pick-a-nick basket, folks gravitated towards the grill and a fortunate few experienced the sacrament of Ah-So. A second late-night 5 pound batch was dropped at about 3am that night, and all hell broke loose once again. I felt like I made my mark at this festival more at the grill than I did on the stage, and I am okay with that. Sometimes you take what is dealt to you. This time around it was a piping hot BBQ, and about 10 pounds of premium beef I had in tow with me. Thanks to Preston and Paul for a great time. Viva Ofest!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Gloucester & VT with the Dudes (5.20 - 5.21.10)

Returning from a crazy tour around the USA, hi8us was back in New England this weekend playing a sweet pair of shows. We hit Captain Carlos in Gloucester on Friday night. The sets were fun and we all felt good about our playing. My friend Blackie came out to the show which I was psyched about. Blackie can sometimes get aggressive at shows, but was relatively well behaved on this evening in May. My cousin Billy and his boy Mark and their other buddy also rallied out. Bill had tuna steak for dinner at Cap’n Carlos, and said it was the best he has ever had. Billy is a big time foodie, so that is saying a lot for him. This is a shot of Billy and me helping Roland cut wood back in the 80’s up in NH. Good times!

The next night we shot back up to Red Square in Burlington, VT. We played their excellent outside stage this time around. Our good friend Mark had his bachelor party in attendance and the crew of dudes were all fired up. These guys all got front and center and whooped it up for us. The rest of the folks in the audience all soon followed suit, and before we knew it, a crowd formed out on Church Street as well. With the PA pouring our stuff out onto Church Street, we finished the show out strong, and felt like champs as we exited the stage.
After the show, we returned to the Bachelor party pad on Lake Champlain and partied til the wee hours. The collection of friends at this gathering was awesome. I had the best time catching up with my old school buddies, and the Fisherman’s VW was pouring killer brew all night. I took a 3am plunge into the lake which allowed me to extend my party endurance by at least another hour. When it was all said and done, I retired to the bus for some much needed pass out action. We had actually planned on camping that night, and in the late-early morning cruised back to our campground a short distance away so we could chill there later that morning. It was a beautiful day in heady VT for sure.
The weekend was such an unexpected surprise after the highly anticipated tour, and one of the best hangs I can remember having. Looking forward to Mark’s wedding in July. That was one hell of a sendoff buddy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spring Tour 2010 (Chicago 5.16.10 - Tour Closer)

Late night on Thursday May 14th hi8us finished packing up on Main Street in Park City. Precious was all loaded up and a big run of consecutive gigs was behind us. You could feel somewhat of a collective exhale from the five of us. The next night would mark our first night off in two weeks, and all we had to do was drive for a couple of days. A mother of a haul across Middle America and one last tour closer date in Chicago on Saturday night was all we had left of this big run. The mood was definitely up amongst everyone in the bus. There was a little pad of time built into this two day driving leg, and we had fun driving that long straight road that stretched for over a thousand miles to Chi-town.

Friday night we scheduled a stop in North Platte Nebraska to catch the puck drop on game seven of the Bruins/Flyers series. I was all fired up for the game, Sam wasn’t, but he was a good sport. Plus, if there was WiFi nearby, Sam would be occupied for hours, and I could watch the B’s on their road to the Cup! I called the Touchdown Club in North Platte, NE from I-80 to see if they would have the game on and they gave me a confused “huh” like they had never heard of hockey before. After I explained my situation, they agreed to put the game on for me if we showed up. Sure enough, we arrived in N. Platte and pulled up to the Touchdown Club. As we walked in, I immediately understood why they were thrown off by my inquiry. As you looked around this huge bar you were able to relive the legacy of the Nebraska Cornhusker Football organization in exact detailed chronological order through all of the Husker memorabilia that littered the walls. For instance, there was an entire corner wall of the bar devoted to Bob Devaney. I learned that he was head coach through the 60’s and into the early 70, and he brought the Huskers to two consecutive National Championships and was National Coach of the year in 1971. He single handedly made them Huskers a perennial contender in college football. Little did I know that as I was being educated at the walls of the TD Club, the B’s were imploding on the ice of the Garden. The TD Club did have $5 pitchers though, so as history unfolded I was able to drown my sorrows in economically priced macro brew. Eventually, I stumbled back into Precious and crashed out hard and tried to put the reality of this colossal collapse out of my mind.
When I came to, we were somewhere near the end of Iowa, and making good time. We eventually arrived in Chicago, and met up with Colin’s cousins Jill and Mark. These guys provide us with a mid-west oasis of comfort every time we come through town, and it seems to get better with each visit. This time through Jill and Mark had an awesome BBQ for the band with a crew of their friends in attendance, and then dragged that crew out to our gig at the Abbey Pub.
Our show was excellent, and we even chilled out late night back at Jill and Mark’s with Tom the owner of the club. Tom was all about The Human Centepede, and was even able to turn Sam on to the film before the night was over. My favorite part of Jill and Mark’s this year was Jill’s parent’s little overweight dog Bamboo that no one seemed to like except me. Bamboo and I bonded immediately, and I scratched under his collar all night. He loved me too; ) Late night we watched a sweet Blind Faith concert DVD that I keep thinking about. That was the last thing I remember. No wait, I actually remember Tom from the Abbey saying with confidence that this was the Blackhawk’s year to win the cup. Damn, that Tom was a visionary!
The next morning Mike and I said our goodbyes, and split to O’hare for a flight back to the Bean. Max, Mike and Sam would travel back with Precious over the next few days. We were sad to part with the dudes, but I think we all shared in the good feeling that our tour was awesome. Sitting back at work the very next morning, I thought back to the blur that the last three weeks had been. None of us even had a minor tiff during the whole trip, and our music had definitely taken this major leap forward from the awesomeness it already was; ) To think what a few weeks of playing every night did for our sound and to imagine getting to do that all the time… maybe someday. I always feel blessed that I have this bond with the dudes in the band. We are able to share something that most people never even know.

Spring Tour 2010 (Park City 5.13.10)

The long overnight drive through the Nevada desert in comfy confines of Precious was excellent. Despite our lack of sleep, we pulled together as a crew and were able to arrive in Park City with some time to spare Thursday morning. We holed up at our favorite Utah man-made reservoir within Jordanelle State Park outside Park City for some day-time shut eye. The ride through the desert was predominantly quiet and flat. The desert sky at night is like nothing you get on the east coast. The lack of ambient light in any direction makes those stars pop out a little brighter. Travelly was popular during this leg, and some of us were even able to log some solid sleep. By the time we all resurfaced on Thursday afternoon, we were ready to play some more music, and connect with our local friends before the gig.

My buddy Dave is one of my oldest and truest friends. I have been through it all with him. We met in high school and hit Umass Amherst together as roommates in Baker Hall freshman and sophomore year. Before that Dave and his all-star family took me under their wing as a youth and would annually take me skiing at the Loaf on school vacation and to cool weird events like the Bread and Puppet Festival in Glover Vermont every summer. I got exposed to so much culture and awesomeness that I probably would have never even known about if it wasn’t for Dave and his fam. Reconnecting with Dave and his bro Pete is always sweet. They are those friends you have that you see after a long time, and can pick up with right where you left off. Dave and Pete brought their local posse to the The Spur for our Thursday night spot. Pete sat in with us again on the harp, and we all had fun. I finally met Dave’s lady Summer who actually became Dave’s fiancĂ© Summer the weekend after we were in Utah. Congrats to Dave and Summer! Keyboard Mike’s cousin Adam made a celebrity appearance parting from his kitchen in Salt Lake for the evening. Adam has been to every gig hi8us has played in Utah! On a Thursday during what we are told is the slowest time of the year in PC, the Spur was doing alright for the night and we were happy with the noise we made.
It is cool to come out to Park City in the off-season. There is a quiet charm to this amazing ski town when there is no snow on the ground. It is sort of like Amherst in the summer… except during the school year in Amherst you never rip through champagne powder off the 9990 taking face shots and giggling to yourself. Stay well Utah. Polygamy forever!


Spring Tour 2010 (San Fransisco & Benicia 5.11 - 5.12.10)

Rolling into San Francisco on Tuesday 5/10, we had high hopes for another big gig in this great town. We had our boy Bill Benninghoff and his latest ensemble “Bearded Lady” opening yet another hi8us/Heavy Guilt co-bill. We were back at The Boom Boom Room and everyone was looking forward to playing hard. We met back up with our friends John and Al for some Indian food across the street from the club before the show. Dinner was amazing. I was ordering Nigroni’s and Mike was even able to recruit folks from the bar at the restaurant to head across the street for the show. Good PR Raka!
The Boom Boom filled up once again with a great cast of fans and friends from the Bay Area. Everyone in the band felt great about the night, and I got a chance to catch up with some old school buddies as well.

Late night we all hung out at our buddy Rodney’s AMAZING place over on the hill by the Twin Peaks tower. As I stood out on the third floor balcony looking over the city, I tried to let San Francisco soak in again for a little bit. It is really such a special place on the west coast, and perhaps the city I identify with the most when I am out here. A few years ago, when I was just out of college, my sister and I flew out here with our bikes, and did a big trip up the coast. We hit San Rafael, Saucilito, Point Reyes, saw George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch entrance, and eventually made it up to the Russian River.

It was something I will never forget. I realized how much this amazing area has to offer, and it felt a little bittersweet to only be able to blow through town for a night. Nevertheless, I had super fun for this short stint, and left with new fond memories of the city by the bay.

Wednesday morning we all rose and got ready for our short trip out to Benicia, CA. We really had no idea what to expect in this town on the outskirts of the city. We got some grub and ate in the bus on the way to the gig.
We arrived at the Rellik Tavern with a little spare time to set up and get situated. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that our show was highly anticipated by the locals, and fairly well hyped in town. Someone even ponied up cash to reserve the couch right in front of the band ahead of time. The crowd at the Rellik was excellent. There was a good engaging crew on the reserved couch area that went back and forth with us all night. They were extra cool and informed us that Wednesdays were ladies night in Benicia.

The ladies were into hi8us, and we even gave them some sound bytes of the Boston accent between songs. One of the women couldn’t quite handle the authenticity of our “r” deficient dialect, or might have been too drunk or just had some kind of chemical imbalance, but she insisted on shouting “wicked retarded” after any rest in the music. Fortunately, like they do in the wolf pack, or in this case the cougar pride, the rest of the girls sniffed this little man out and she was eventually squeezed from her prime spot on the couch, and we didn’t hear her substandard attempts at “wicked” or “car” or “Wal-Maaht” again for the rest of the show. Actually, if she had thought to throw “Wal-Mart” into the rotation of words within her Boston impression, I would have had some respect for her, and would have insisted they let her stay. After the gig, our Benicia crew in the front row insisted they didn’t know her, and that they teamed up on her high-school girl-style to let it be known that she was being rude and they didn’t want her around.
We had a blast at this sleeper gig in Benicia to cap off our 5 night California leg of the tour. We were all feeling good and were mentally prepared for the overnight haul out to Park City that was ahead of us that night. California been very very good to hi8us. Tank you fohr da good times Arnold!

Spring Tour 2010 (Santa Cruz 5.10.10)

After a night of bag shots and a solo camp out session within the comfy confines of Precious, on the streets of LA, I woke to the dudes arriving back at the vehicle. We began our long trek up to Santa Cruz.
The gig at Don Quioxtes was thinly attended to say the least, but Jackson behind the board was extra friendly, and ran a great stage. After the gig we shot to the campground at Big Basin and settled for the night at our most perfect campsite amongst the Redwoods. We woke to these giants towering over our site. The feeling of having such huge trees all around you is one of a kind. The serenity of those dense woods makes the whole mood something unique. I felt like at any moment storm troopers were going to come whizzing by me on speeder bikes with that eerie “whooomm” sound following behind. It never happened, and I didn’t have a light saber to cut off the stabilizer front end thing on the front of the speeder should one have happened to approach me.
Maxi enjoyed some time making a fire in the morning while we enjoyed some breakfast IPAs, and then we took the official tour of forest.
The Mother of the Forest is a 330ft Redwood and was the tallest tree in the area. These big trees also made me think back to my childhood book Merrill the High Flying Squirrel. Merrill was a little squirrel that enjoyed climbing about the trees, as most squirrels do. Then one day he ended up cruising up to northern California and all of a sudden he stumbled upon these huge Redwoods and he couldn’t believe what he had been missing. Merrill was pumped about the Redwoods.

A lot more happened in the book, but that was a long time ago for me. A good read though… check it out.

Spring Tour 2010 (San Diego & Los Angeles 5.8 - 5.9.10)

Saturday afternoon we hit the highway and trekked across the desert towards the West Coast. I forgot to mention that heading into Vegas we made another pass by the Hoover Dam. A part of me felt bad that I had insisted we detour to the Dam back in 2008. I was convinced it was going to be the only time I would get to see that thing, and now here I was again, and it was right on our way this time. Oh well, the thing is still nuts, pal!
We rolled into the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego and pulled up to the club. Portugalia is a restaurant right downtown, and they had a decent setup for a show. We ate at the club, and the food was amazing. Mike ordered a pizza that made it back to the bus, and later on it was savored by all. I always hear bad things about west coast pie, but this thing was terrific. The gig was also great. This show was our first night with The Heavy Guilt as a full ensemble. The rest of the band was extra nice, and they pulled a huge crowd for their hometown show. hi8us had their own local fans in the room for our opener set, and we felt like we played it really well.
After the gig we made the call to shoot up to LA where we were playing the next night. We stayed with Sam’s buddy Joey and went out for a huge breakfast the next morning. After breakfast we went to our buddy Andrew’s up on the cliffs of Pacific Palisades. We chilled out at his place for the afternoon and decompressed a bit. Andrew’s backyard overlooks Santa Monica to the left and Malibu to the right. It felt like we were in a scene out of Entourage, except while we taking in the view we were doing our laundry in a coin operated washer/dryer downstairs. Whatever though, life was good. We were looking out on the Pacific. The Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica Pier was off in the distance. Everyone was psyched to get to play our stuff in LA. In a town where you are competing with everyone and their brother for a crowd, we had our own little pocket of heads in the room. Dan Rockett played a solo opener set, then the Guilt, then us. The sound was great, and the vibe of the room was nice. Highlight of the night for me was my old school buddy Bill making it out for the show. Bill and I used to spend all of our time together playing whiffle ball in Keith Higgins’ driveway and bombing around on our little skies at Loon Mountain when our families went on February vacation together. Our families always remained close after Bill and his fam moved out to Wisconsin, but somehow he and I just never crossed paths again. After the gig we all hung out and caught up a little bit. It had literally been 20 years since I had seen my old friend, and the best part was that cool feeling of familiarity that was there immediately as we started talking. Bill is the man, and Los Angeles was good to hi8us this time around.

A big thanks to Bill, Mike, Yael, Andrew, Julie, Joey, Dan and Sam’s crew for coming out and feeling that east coast style for a night in the city of angels.

Spring Tour 2010 (Grand Canyon & Las Vegas 5.7.10)

Our experience at the Grand Canyon was amazing. After another visit later in the day with the whole crew awake, we hit the road for Vegas. The band was looking forward to making our 2nd appearance in Sin City. All the kids at the Las Vegas Jam Band Society showed up at our last gig, and the night was awesome. This time around, the LVJBS actually put on the show, and we knew they rolled strong, so we were all feeling optimistic about the night.

Before the show, Mike, Colin and I were in the bar section of the club playing video poker and the bartender behind the bar was mixing up drinks like a pro. She's a bartender in Vegas… I guess she was a pro in the truest sense now that I think about it. Anyway, her buddy was sitting across the bar and next to us. She finished mixing a drink, and took a quick sip and exclaimed to him “Ahh, now that’s a fucking drink” The emphatic claim peaked my interest, and I asked her what it was. She explained that the drink is a Nigroni, and that it’s a “bartender’s drink”. I asked her for one, and she started pouring. The drink is equal parts gin, campari and sweet vermouth on the rocks… with an orange twist garnish if you’re fancy. Fortunately, gin is my booze of choice, and my go-to is a gin and tonic when opt for the hard stuff. I took my first sip of my first Nigroni, and I instantly knew it was my new fave. I enjoyed Nigronis for the rest of my time in Vegas, and have found myself ordering them when I am at a cocktail impasse ever since. It beats the hell out of asking for Jack and Cokes like everyone else on the planet.

With the West Coast on the horizon for hi8us, we packed up once again and lingered a little bit longer with our awesome crew of friends from Vegas. The night was definitely an emotional boost for us, and made after hours at the motel tons of fun. We were really starting to feel that vibe of being a band on the road at this point. We all had our tour legs under us, and our playing was really evolving into this tight little music machine again… we could all sense it. I had aspirations of doing some late night gambling that night, but it never happened. I recall Mike and me ending up on the couch with Travelly as the sun was coming up. We were eating a bag of those fluorescent colored mustard pretzel things that taste like heaven when you are banged up and we were washing them down with Torpedo IPAs. This all went down while half watching Marky Mark in his role as the frontman for Steel Dragon in the movie Rock Star. The irony was perfect.

Spring Tour 2010 (Flagstaff & Grand Canyon 5.6.10)

We had highly anticipated our next gig at the Flagstaff Brewing Company. It was thirsty Thursday, and more importantly, it was our first bill with the dudes in The Heavy Guilt from San Diego. It was actually just a few of them for right now…Eric Canzona and Al Howard to be exact. We set up, ate some grub and met Eric and Al as we were getting ready to soundcheck. The stripped down Guilt had Eric on acoustic and Al on percussion and other stuff. We got our first taste of The Guilt’s style when we caught their opener set. Al plays everything under the sun as a percussion instrument… including his tone bending circa 1986 modded mini boom box and a mop head with bottle caps manually attached to it.. We liked these guys from the start, and things were looking up for the next five dates we were playing with them. We were glad we dug on their music. It was a relief. By the end of the night, we had won the room of strangers over with our east coast rock style. After a chaotic load out and getaway, Precious was fueled up and ready to sprint towards the Grand Canyon for a late night camping boondoggle. We had a site reserved at this wonder of the world, and a late night push seemed like short work at this point. The reality of the leg was something different…
Long ago I had decided that seeing the Grand Canyon was one of those things I must do before I die. I would say “10 things I do before I die”, but getting to a place in Arizona is pretty attainable. All you need is some spare time and a little expendable income, and you’re there. I can’t go around having all these very attainable “10 things I do before I die” items. What happens if I knock them all off by the time I am 43, and then I have a bunch more years of living with nothing to do before I die. I guess I could have one thing on there like “eat 100 grape leaves in one sitting, or levitate”, that could keep me busy in the sunset years of my life… anyway, I digress.

The drive to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff ended up taking a while. By the time we got to the park, the sky was early morning blue, and the loser birds were chirping. Maxi was driving, and I was in shotgun. I was very excited despite our severe lack of sleep. Max looked pretty excited too. With the rest of our posse crashed out in back, Max and I travelled up the road to the observation area to get a quick peek at the canyon before we went to sleep. As we approached the parking area, there was this unique feeling in the air. We were surrounded by short trees on either side of the road. You couldn’t really see anything special around you, but for some reason you could just sense that this massive hole in the ground was close by. I think it was similar to that feeling you get when you’re hiking, and you approach a lake in the woods. You can’t really see the lake, but you can just tell that there is big open space near you. It was either that sort of feeling or all the signs we were passing that said “Grand Canyon Viewing Area Ahead”.

Max and I walked up to the canyon at dawn. There were a fair number of observers there taking in the scene. Everyone shared in a quiet serenity. You lay your eyes on that big canyon for the first time, and nothing you have seen or heard about it before seems to have done it any real justice. We hiked out to the edge of a butte and took in the silence of the AM as sun crept up over the far edge of the canyon. There was nothing to say. We just stood there in the beauty of nature doing its finest work. It was something special. I will never forget it. It might actually be one of the top 10 things I have ever done.