Thursday, July 28, 2011

East Coast Tour - OFEST Coastesville, PA 5.14.11

The drive from our state park camping spot to Osyrusfest was about 2 hours. The routing brought us through Gettysburg PA. We all looked out over the rolling hills as we drove through town, it was pretty intense to think of all the souls that lost their lives right there about 150 years ago. A little bit further along on the ride, we began driving up on horse-drawn carriages in the street. We repeatedly had to slow down and go around them to avoid an accident. Of course it wasn’t long before we realized that we were in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country. You quickly realize that everything around you is a bit off from everyday life as we have come to know it. The band stopped in to an Amish market to buy some provisions before arriving at Ofest. I bought little Amish peanut butter cups, and Mike got Amish wasabi peas. The dude at the counter thought we were crazy, but had a sweet Abe Lincoln beard, so he was cool with me. We jumped back into Precious and continued on. As we passed through the rest of the town, I marveled at devotion that these folks have to their simplified style of life. Men wore wide brimmed hats and suspenders and smoked big pipes, while the women wore blue and white apron dresses and bonnets. We whizzed by a few more horse drawn carriages, and just before we were out of town, with my image of the Amish and their minimalist lifestyle crystallizing in my mind, we saw a young Amish lass off to the left at the corner of a farm field dressed in her aforementioned dress and bonnet. She was churning up a crazy plume of dust and hay with a large gas powered weed whacker that she was man-handling like no one’s business. Apparently she was part of a reformed sect of the Dutch community that prefers Husqvarnas to traditional hand sickles. My passing thought was “you go girl!”

It wasn’t long before we were taking a few quick turns and rolling down a small dirt road into the Hoffman compound. It was slightly overcast, but the temp was perfect. We reached the front gate of the festival and looked out over the oasis of enjoyment that is Osyrusfest. For those unfamiliar, Ofest is an annual music festival put on by the brothers Hoffman. Paul and Preston are lighting designers for some wicked big bands, and each year they have their own shindig to celebrate their love of music and sick lights. We pulled our tour bus, Precious, up to the side of the road inside and hopped out. Friends and acquaintances from last year’s festival were roaming about the grounds. I took survey of the area once again, and felt that exciting “wow” reaction inside, like when you walk out of the tunnel towards your seat at Fenway for the first time of the season. The lush green lawn and towering quarry walls were as I remembered. The stage, off to the far left end of the field, looked like the perfect balance of concert style and function. LED cans were strategically placed, and an oversized disco ball hovered over everything. After some minimal setup of our campsite, we all cruised up towards the main house and grill for some grub and beer. We caught up with a bunch of friends, and made some new ones as well. Before too long, Max, Mike and I were hucking the disc around the field one-hand style. Folks joined in, and all of a sudden, it was a pahty!

The music got going in the early evening and continued on into the early AM hours. As the evening turned to night, the scene at Ofest went from awesome to absolutely amazing. I would never have thought you could transform the landscape of this quarry-bed backyard into surreal psychedelic kaleidoscope festival madness by simply dimming the sky. It really did. Lights bounced off of the disco ball and reached the far stretches of Ofest festival grounds in every direction. The music sounded so good. A superb Radiohead cover band headlined Friday night. I easily would have mistaken them for the real thing if they weren’t playing right in front of me. They closed their set with an inspired version of Karma Police. Awesome! An all night DJ spun records for the rest of the night. By festival standards, I had an earlier night that night, and tried to pace myself so I would be completely ready to rock n’ roll the next night. I crept into Precious, and “unts unts untsed” my way to sleep.

Saturday arrived, and I emerged from my Precious slumber in the early afternoon. The annual Ofest Chili cook-off was underway, and the voting was just finishing up when I arrived at the grill area. I felt obliged to try each of the 6 entries right away. They were all excellent, and each varied in style. I was too tardy to vote officially, but Chili #1 was my favorite. An excellent mix of meat and beans… a bacon hint to the flavor of the sauce, and not too spicy. Well done!After filling up with meat and beans, I headed over to the stage to check out the preparations for another day of music. While the sound guys were getting things together, another crew of Festies were preparing for the annual Osyrusfest Beer Tasting. In preparation for the fest, attendees were encouraged to bring their favorite beers from around the country for this big ole’ beer tasting. The goal is to arrive with something others might not find in their local area liquor store, and to try the rare offerings everyone else brought. This event was insane! If you love good beer, this was it! From the outset, you could tell that a number of Ofesters cared deeply for the fine craft of brewing, and they knew what they liked. There were a number of IPA-heads in attendance, as well as small communities of Stout lovers and Belgian aficionados. The bottles began racing around the tables for everyone to try. The contributor would shout out the brewery, name and style of the latest beer to be cracked, and the tasters would remark audibly in anticipation of the taste bud assault that was about to ensue. The tasting lasted for well over an hour, and there were smiles on the faces of all as the event winded down. Favorites for me were a beer out of NC called Hoppyum IPA, and a sour beer called Pumpkin jack something or other. I dunno, but that sour was something else!

After getting loose on oat soda, I joined a small crew for a short hike to the top of the quarry wall. Preston’s lady Alicia, her dad Tim, and few friends all made the trek up the steep path located around the back of the stage area. From the top of the quarry walls, you could look down on Ofest and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the festival scene. If you were afraid of heights, the edge was a bit scary. We took some pictures from the top and made our way back down after a short time. As I made it back down to the field, a band out of RI called Hip Bobsha took the stage and totally rocked it out. They sounded amazing through the big PA system.

Weather was on and off for the afternoon, and the hi8us dudes weren’t 100% sure we were going to get our set in…again! The previous year, we got cut short just as we got going. It sucked. This year, we were slated to go on before the headliner act around 8:30 or so. I tried to keep it a bit reigned in during the beer tasting, so I was coherent come show time. The weather ended up working out just enough that everyone got to play. We went on after a cool act from NYC called Turbine. The combination of misty air, an over cast sky, and the onset of evening was perfect for our set time. The lights were really starting to show up in the air, and I could tell the guys and I were really feeding of off this super cool playing environment. We played through our greatest hits with a vengeance, and had the Ofest crowd getting into it. Good times! The late night band Duende Mountain Duo closed out Ofest 2011 with a blistering display of break beat style and synth keyboard madness. It was excellent.

The next morning hi8us split out in the early AM and made it back to the Commonwealth by supper time. It was a sweet dash up the East Coast for sure. I was back in my cube on Monday. Zow!

"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force"


Thursday, July 21, 2011

East Coast Tour - Roanoke, VA +Camping 5.11.11

Our next show was a Wednesday in Roanoke, VA with a band called Triscale. We hit the road for the trek from NC to VA. I think I slept the whole time, but believe it was a short ride. We were playing at a club called Martin’s Downtown and got there just round suppah time. Everyone at the club was cool. It was kind of a slow night, but during our second set the crowd picked up, and a few people got all into it….which can make even a slow night a good one. Triscale was real cool as well. I remember having a really good burger at Martin’s, but honestly forget if where we stayed that night, or if we just drove through. On our way out of Roanoke, we saw Glen Danzig’s tour bus at another local club. We had a short friendly exchange with some of Glen’s crew. Badass!

We had the next day off and decided to make tracks towards Pennsylvania to find a good spot to enjoy the down time. We ended up in at a state park in southern PA where we had our pick of the sites. Bud, the campground host, was very nice but showed signs of having cabin fever. We exchanged a few stories, and he seemed to like us. Before evening, all the guys dispersed into the woods to gather firewood for the night. Everyone did a great job gathering many logs and branches, but as usual, Keyboard Mike ended up gathering the most wood; ) As night came, we had a good fire going, and Foss, our manager/road bartender expertly mixed drinks for the band. Keyboard Mike and I collaborated on Ukulele/Egg shaker renditions of some of our favorite songs, and I made gorgonzola/garlic/onion burgers.

This off day in our lil tour itinerary was a great break in the action. Everyone got a chance to relax and enjoy being in the woods. Friday morning when we woke up, Max got to it with another great breakfast before our departure. We made another small fire, and Bud was sure to come visit us again multiple times with extra scraps of wood as an offering. We eventually got our act together and split for Coatesville, PA and Osyrusfest 2011.


East Coast Tour - Asheville, NC 5.10.11

After a night of yurt sleep in GA, Maxi cooked up some breakfast for the dudes before we hit the road for Asheville, NC. We had about a 5 hour drive, and the weather was nice. We saw some of the devastation of tornadoes that had ripped through the area a week before. Houses were in splinters on one side of the street, and untouched on the other. Powerlines were down in every direction. The whole thing looked like a movie set. It was very humbling, to say the least.We eventually arrived at the house of our longtime friend and colleague Sam Katz in Asheville during the early afternoon. Sam had just returned from a game of pickup hoop down at the local courts. He reported that it was a grueling game, and though his shot was off a little, he had a number of good assists, and his team won. As Sam described the game, I got to thinking about how hoop trash talking in Asheville must differ from that of a court in say… the Bronx. As you may know, Asheville, NC is a beautiful mountain town known to many as the hippy Mecca of the East Coast… only rivaled by perhaps Burlington, VT. Instead of street gangs in this city, there are bike gangs, and those bikes are not motorcycles. The guns that these gangs fight with are Super Soakers, and when rival bike gangs clash, the encounters usually culminate with both gangs converging on a local brewery to toast IPAs together. Needless to say, low brow basketball court smack talk in this town is more likely to involve insulting someone’s closet hydroponic growing process, rather than their mama.After Sam was all dolled up, and we got Precious unlocked, we made our way to The Bywater where we were sharing an evening bill with The Archrivals. The Bywater is an excellent establishment on the shores of the French Broad River (first pic above). As you walk in, there is a traditional wooden bar setup and 18 local area beers on tap to enjoy. I immediately grabbed a pint of Green Man Ale and made my way out to the backyard to scope the landscape of the place.

As you look off the back porch to the left, the high volume of the French Broad River is immediately apparent. The subtle rush of the river water in the background continually reminds you of its presence, and helps to create a cool unique setting. The wide open backyard at The Bywater is a drinking sport enthusiast’s heaven. There were horseshoe pits, volleyball nets, frisbee golf goals, fire pits and barrel BBQs in every direction. Anything you could want to do with a beer in your hand was available, and Foss and I quickly took to one of the horseshoe pits with our pints.

The timetable for the gig was nice and relaxed. After another pint, we casually started to setup an outdoor bandstand under the back awning of The Bywater. I was happy to have lots of light placement options for our light rig, and ended up with a very tasteful, well lit stage after it was all done.

As we started playing, I took survey over the yard and enjoyed the sight of the many patrons enjoying their beers at the various sets of tree log tables and chairs scattered along the river bank. The outdoor setting allowed the sound of the bands to push out over the open air. I could hear my amp really well, and the band’s stage mix was great. As the evening set in, the lights really started to show up and a cool little atmosphere started to take shape. After our set, we passed the baton to The Archrivals, who completely killed it. I loved their style and flow. As evening fell on The Bywater, the stage looked great, and the whole backyard was partying. I was all into the music and the scene, and at one point reminded myself that this was a random Tuesday in May. Not bad. After The Archrivals wrapped, both bands hit a cool place called Universal Joint for some afterhours food and beers.

During our time at UJ, a crazy electric storm blew threw and lit the sky up for a few solid minutes. When we returned to Sam’s to crash that evening, we found that the power was out in the house. We lit some candles and told ghost stories. Max was truly in his element again when it came to the ghost stories, and he would hold the candle to his face each time he reached the scariest parts of his stories. During his last ghost tale, he was building up suspense that had everyone in a frenzy. Then, just as he was about to raise the candle to his face for effect one last time at the climax, the power came back on. Everyone immediately shifted their attention to the TV and started playing Nintendo. The next morning we said our goodbyes to Katz and were back on the road.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

East Coast Tour - Athens, GA - 5.9.11

We hit the road east from Louisiana to Georgia with me at the wheel and Mike in shotgun for the 9 hour trek. The plan was to drive through the night and arrive at our State Park camping accommodations early the next morning to enjoy the day before playing. Along the way during this leg we saw a pair of armadillos cruising around on the side of the road, and we all flipped out in excitement like when you go to the zoo.

In preparation for this trip, we scouted out Yargo State Park about 20 minutes outside of Athens. Having become regular patrons of the US State Park system over the past few years of gigging with Precious, Yargo’s appeared to be a legit park to our expert eyes.

Our hopes were high for some nice accommodations. Yargo’s yurt village was the factor that had us all feeling like it was going to be fun place to relax. We arrived to a beautiful lake and a super hip lil’ yurt, and quickly made ourselves at home. The next few hours were filled with chilling out, cooking and crushing tallboys.

We eventually got ourselves together and made our way towards Athens for our gig at Rye Bar. I got in contact with my cousin Stephanie who lives in town. She gave us a recommendation for some good local grub, then we all met up before the gig.

It was great catching up with my Aunt and Uncle who made the trek out for the show, as well as my hip cousin who I haven’t been able to hang with in years. We sipped on some local Terrapin beer and talked about the family. This was a rare southern Chekos summit meeting. The southern Chekos faction is a unique branch of the tribe. Lighter in complexion and speaking in a less traditional, consonant-rich dialect, these Chekos, much like their brethren to the north, are astute conversationalists. In her natural habitat, Stephanie clearly displayed many traditional Chekos personality traits that begin to surface in young adulthood. Her understated confidence projected to all with delicate style and grace. Everywhere we went, she won people over with ease. Her friendly but assertive approach at one establishment had her behind the bar sifting through aperitifs to add to the round of complimentary shots being prepared by her new friend tending bar, at her request. She was clearly in her element. The band all seemed to find some level of familiarity in her ways, and swiftly resorted to egging her on with the familiar “Chekooooooooos” shout out I had heard so often throughout my formative years. It was satisfying to see another Chekos on campus making their mark with our unique family surname. It was a great night for sure. We played with a cool band out of Atlanta called Cloudeater, and despite a thin room, considered the gig a success… largely thanks to Chekoooos bringing her A-game. Way to be, Chekos; )

"you guys are so fuuuucked..........."


East Coast Tour - New Orleans, LA - 5.6.11

An early departure from work finds me greeting Adam at a nearby post-work bar affectionately dubbed “Conference Room H” on our way to Logan to catch a flight down to New Orleans. It’s Cinco De Mayo, and at the moment, the gin and tonic seems to suit us more appropriately than any tequila based beverage. The final few hours of pre-vacation work duty were quite stressful, but created a perfect contrast for appreciating the now steady flow of Beefeater leaching into my bloodstream.

After a short layover in Baltimore, we boarded our connection flight to NOLA and quickly made friends with all our surrounding neighbors on the plane. Funny how different the crowd on a New Orleans-bound flight can be from that of the Baltimore-bound plane. Our row neighbor Becky, a seasoned bartender at a Philadelphia area Elks Club, was lovely company. She provided sparkling conversation and added to the fine overall atmosphere of the passenger cabin. The 2 hour flight served as the perfect pre-game to the Royal Family Ball show we were immediately rushed to upon arrival. It was good to catch up with everyone already at the show. Like the Moontower/Dr. John scene from Dazed and Confused, Adam and I ran into each of the hi8us dudes one by one amongst the packed house of jazzfesters collected in the hip, warehouse confines of the Contemporary Arts Center.

The pulse of the Coombs-driven bass Boogaloo madness washed over me. I think at one point I made mental note of the contrast in setting from where I had been only hours before, back at my desk in Boston. As the night/morning pressed on, the details faded into foggy recollections, and we decided split to the Olde Town to avoid invading anyone else’s personal space at the CAC; ) An early night for most, by NOLA standards, would serve us well in being prepared for our spot at the Olde Town Crawfish Boil the following evening.

The sun arrived for Friday and half the band hit the Festival Grounds for some music and local grub. With a belly full of fried green tomatoes, sweet tea and alligator pie, we hit up the jazz tent for some tunes before Willie Nelson took to the Gentile Stage. Willie played a loose set of his many hits, and we shot back to the Olde Town Inn to get ready for our gig during their Crawfish Boil Party. The weather was perfect for the shindig, and we played two inspired sets. Late night, a few of us hit up The Greyboy Allstars at Tipitina’s. The boys of Grey were excellent!

Saturday had us back to the Festival Grounds for some more beautiful music and food. A few of us caught Kirk Joseph’s Tuba Tuba where they played nice tuba renditions of Walk Like an Egyptian and Manteca. After the tuba madness, I was back at the Jazz Tent for the Nick Peyton Sexxtet before shooting to the Conga Stage for Ms Lauren Hill’s headline spot. Lauren got off to a slow start with some technical problems, and some mic droppage, but soon got that engine chuggin, and dropped some Fugee/BMW knowledge on the assembled masses. I found a splendid ironic contrast in the setting of Ms. Hill’s performance at the festival. While Lauren so eloquently sang of how many mics she rips on the daily, Mr. Jimmy Buffet was simultaneously professing his love for cheesburgers over at the Acura Stage. As Ms. Hill would finish up a song, the thousands in the crowd would turn their heads with a collective “huh?!!” expression on their faces as Buffet’s relaxed island rock style filled the air left empty by the miseducated one. Looks of disgust would quickly form on faces of her fans in the down time as her DJ pulled out the next record, fit it to the turntable and dropped the needle. As the beats resumed, the disgruntled crowd would return to order. The process repeated itself throughout the set…. to my comic delight.

After another late night show, and a Sunday of bumming around the French Quarter drinking Bloodies and taking pictures, we all reconvened at Café Du Mond for some Café Au Lait and Bignettes before shoving off for Athens.

The long weekend was a whirlwind experience to say the least. Thankfully, everyone seemed to have a blast and we were all ready to make some miles and play some more shows.

Good times from the big easy… Keep it sleazy; )