Friday, October 17, 2008

Opening for TV on the Radio Part One: You're on the Pestlist +1

We left Detroit at 9pm the night before the Philly show…the 4pm load-in and 9 hour drive not really conducive to same-day departure. With Mick set on meeting us there, the van felt, dare I say, empty. We came to a Super 8 outside of Pittsburgh around 4am and crammed the four of us into one room.

Being giggly like a slumber party, Zack, Pat and I ventured down for free breakfast once we'd realized we'd stayed up long enough for the lodge to be serving it. I toasted a bagel on 5 (out of six) and when I dropped the blackened dough on my Styrofoam plate, Z quickly grabbed the offending roll and placed it on some napkins, stating "that shit will melt."

Sure enough, the little white bubbly part on my bagel was all I needed to see to give it a direct route into the garbage can. Instead I rocked some Corn Pops, a couple of donuts, a Danish and as much borderline-nasty orange juice I could stomach. It was fun eating breakfast with the truckers around. I again was in my shorts-zipper boots-no socks outfit and I love it more each time I bust it out. Upon meal completion we all went to sleep to aid our digestion.

Next day would be the pits. I would reel in an absolute soul-crushing head cold wreaking havoc on anything remotely close to my skull…sore throat, runny (and somehow, at the same time, stuffy) nose, that messed-up "my ears just popped" feeling, sinus pressure…it all reminded me of the first US tour we'd embarked on this year where I lived through the worst sickness of my life.

Needless to say, the entire day felt like I should be coming up with Mudhoney song titles.

Arrival in Philly, subsequent load-in and reacquainting with TV on the Radio dudes was par. Killed time in the "game room" at the Electric Factory and tied Zack in a match of Bubble Dome Hockey. He was red. I was blue. No sightings of the Broad Street Bullies.

Our set was a little of a disappointment, but only because I felt like shit and it began to effect my performance in little ways only noticeable to me. During the opening of "Leopardman" (the first time we'd play the tune as an support act), I found myself completely fixated on the specifics of my stick grip…I couldn't remember how I usually held the sticks in relation to my thumbs and forefingers and at a certain point that's all I could think about, slowly followed by my self-doubt as to whether or not I'd bought the wrong drumsticks (I hadn't) and leaving me unprepared for certain things like single-stroke rolls and general in-time execution.

Luckily, if you don't make a face when these little, half-second fuck-ups occur, no one's ever the wiser. Regardless, this leech begged us to be on the list, missed half our set, called it lackluster and then used her free ticket AND photo pass to heap praise upon TV on the Radio...

And thus is a conundrum I've felt encumbered by in this opening slot for a band whose latest album debuted at #12 on the Billboard Top 200...I feel like lesser-quality journalists may be taking advantage of the Dirtbombs' desire to be written about (and relatively empty guestlists) as a way to cover TV on the Radio without actually having to deal with them or their manager/publicist/record label directly.

I, almost to a fault, do not comment on negative reviews of the band. I think it is in bad form and merely justifies an errant opinion. But in this situation, where I feel that the Dirtbombs have been taken advantage of, the lone, stilted sentence dedicated to our "lackluster" effort fails to provide any description or rationalization for the sole adjective used to directly describe our performance. It is not a review…it's a cover-up for a writer who had no interest in the band and had no intention of reviewing us. THAT is where I take umbrage and feel it not only fair, but necessary, to call them out on it.

It's not bad reviews that I take issue with…it's lazy journalism that makes me livid. And I've surely been as guilty of it as the next person, but if I were to pitch a publicist for a live review, you best be sure I'd show up on time, take a picture of the band I'm reviewing and at least explain how I came to my conclusion/opinion of their performance.

With a quick stop in Brooklyn, our route to Providence would be crawl-like in pace. The dreams of arriving on time and getting a proper soundcheck. Instead, we found ourselves making monotonous, mic-checking noise as the first-in-line trickled into Lupo's. The defeated feeling notwithstanding, I headed cross the street to a used bookstore, delved into the Life magazines sorted by year, hoping to find the August 4, 1967 issue with a cover story on the Detroit Riot. No such luck, but I did find an issue from that year with a cover story about the burgeoning psychedelic poster scene…a steal a $3.

Our set was tighter than the previous night's…with extra time at the end of our 45-minute allotment, Pat mouthed to me "Theme" and I mouthed back "Noise" and it seems noise won out. I climbed atop his bass drum to rile the crowd and tossed my rack tom high up in the air for the same affect. Caught it the first time no problem…the second one got lost in the lights (or something) and it thudded onto the stage, not before striking my right index finger with enough force for me to think it sprained. Pat played as the rest of the band members took his drums offstage piece-by-piece. Not only does it make for a good ending but you endear yourself to the loaders by clearing the stage quickly and without their help.

After show would talk to Fritz, a Detroit-area ex-pat who played basketball under my father's tutelage back in the late '80s. He remembers me as a buzz-cut ball of energy running circles around Grosse Pointe South freshman cager practices and I merely remember being amazed that the school had three gyms.

Fritz is always quick to lambaste Grosse Pointe and all the requisite social constructs, expectations and mores that come with it and as one who likes a GP-bashing as much as the next guy it was good to experience it in Rhode Island. Plus, his Mumford Phys Ed t-shirt is off-the-chart in terms of cool points.

Ventured three blocks from the club to experience the gathering around WaterFire. As an art-installation that's been going for almost 15 years, it is simply put, a bunch of bonfires set in the middle of the rivers that dissect downtown Providence. While not necessarily overflowing with artistic panache or concept, the project does draw huge crowds and is, in this outsider's opinion, an event that every city needs more of…a reason for it's citizen's to join together outdoors for something that is not a sporting event and intends to further the populace's appreciation (or possibly even critique) of the art.

Check it out

The place had an almost carnival-ish feel. I learned that "doughboys" on the East Coast are what we Midwesterners call elephant ears…fried dough usually drizzled with some kind of sugary topping. I cherish discovering new regional culinary colloquialisms.

After some time spent watching old episodes of "The Muppet Show" on TVOTR's bus, (the Steve Martin episode, in particular) we trekked over to the Extended Stay we'd Pricelined earlier that night. With the front desk "closed" from 11pm to 6am we were checked in by the laundry attendant. While I initially thought it shitty that SHE be saddled with this task, almost certainly with no extra pay, I soon found my mind elsewhere when I was told that each of our two rooms contained only one bed and that there were no available rooms with two beds.

Curse you Pricline…arbiter of "acceptable" prices, concealer of lodging location until confirmation of purchase, employer of questionable company spokesperson/jingle, bane of my existence for the 5 seconds before I realized there was nothing I could do to rectify the situation before retreating to my room to spend the next couple of hours online. Yeah, curse you.


Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

Man, Ben, you've been blogging lately like it's your job.

cch said...

waterfire was real nice to draw the suburbanites back into the city at the beginning but now it's a easy-listening clusterfuck that leads to more and more high-priced lofts and condos owned by the westin. strange how what is great for one place, sucks for another (referring to westin in detroit=good; westin in providence=bad).

next time you're in providence, you should go to the mafia dunkin donuts on smith; it's 1/4 mile from the capitol building. there's always some gigantic dude in a black armani suit sitting in the corner wearing big gold rings (no exaggeration).

also, fun fact: there are 110 dunkin donuts within a 10-mile radius of the center of providence.. that state really likes their cheap coffee and caloric baked goods.

Jessica said...

That blog was on the list for TV on the Radio as well.

Anonymous said...

To her credit, she didn't write a review of the TV show either. Unless you count "fantastic set" and Tunde's birthplace as critical discourse.

Anonymous said...

What's up with your drummer sucker-punching a young lady in the crowd? Now cool, not cool at all.

Anonymous said...

amazing review.

I must remember to miss half the set, take something to read and not pay attention to bands in the future.

This is clearly the only way to judge whether or not someone is any good.

chandyside said...

Shitlist + 1
Once again, Potter said it first and best:
(Tho your rationale and explanation is more clearly articulated and FCC compliant). (And tho I'm prone to earlier citations being foisted when my google-fu fails.) (As you are well aware.)