Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Eve a Recap

Happy New Year to you. Who ever heard of 2009? Not me. But, hey, whatever, man, we'll see what it's like right? I'm willing to try this 2009 of yours.

The last day of 2008 was so busy, it seemed like a whole year was crammed into just the one day. It all started off with the Weather Channel and their threats of up to 10 inches of snow. A snow storm?!? How would that work with our planned First Night Adventure? How would anybody park anywhere? Would town just shut down?

Lesa and I sat on the sofa and watched the snow streaming down outside and the cancellations streaming across the bottom of the TV. Aye aye aye, as if the day wasn't already chock full of organizational chaos. Now we've got a blizzard to contend with? Seems like 2008 was trying to get the last word. Nice try old year, but you couldn't keep us down. First Night Northampton would prevail.

We started off by bundling up and snow blowing the driveway and the sidewalk. I tried to be careful as I maneuvered the monster in the wind and snow. My back is fragile and I had a long day ahead of me and a history of crooked New Year's Eves.

When the driveway was cleared and we packed up our gear, we slipped and slid our way to town where we managed to acquire the exact parking spot that I had envisioned. I was preparing for playing six sets of music on this day and moving my equipment from one venue to another. We were able to park right in between for optimal loading and unloading. Score one.

We arrived in town at 1:45 and trekked through the frigid wind and the as-of-yet uncleared sidewalks to the church on Hawley Street where the Drunk Stuntmen were about to begin their first set. We had our First Night Buttons with us and entered the back room where the band was setting up. Everything smelled of baking. Cookies and brownies threatened with their scent but never appeared for consumption. We grabbed a couple folding chairs and enjoyed a nice 45 minute set by the Stuntmen. It was strange but somehow comforting to see one of their shows so early in the day. Despite the strange acoustics of the room, the familiar songs were a welcome start to the day.

After the Stuntmen, we trudged back to The Elevens to load in some of our stuff and to see the Novels play their second show. It was 3:00. The room was so much more welcoming than on a typical night because there was no booming dance music and fights breaking out amongst the tough-guy-gal-riff-raff that usually spill over from the next door bar. The Novels were great of course, and the crowd seemed to dig them. Lesa and I almost ran up on stage to sing along with one of their songs but we restrained ourselves.

Brian and Max had loaded in their stuff and we went back out for the rest of ours and when the Novels finished we set up the equipment which we would be using for the next two School for the Dead shows and then the next two Fawns shows. I got a call from Tony saying he was on his way but would be showing up just on time. He called from Ware, MA where he was currently dashing through the snow.

As School for the Dead was about to begin, the room suddenly completely filled up with people. I was totally surprised. I had assumed that an afternoon show in a dark bar on a snowy work day would yield hardly a soul. Instead, our two shows proved to be two of my favorites of the year. Even though for some reason my voice started to close-up and squeakily fade away, I was over-whelmed by the close attention that we were being paid. The room was silent during the quiet parts of the songs. The audience was listening. I mean all of the audience. Every face was up-turned toward the stage and listening. When I spoke everyone heard me.

Our second set was just the same, but even more so. Oh, if only all the shows could be like this. It was a great reminder that when we are presented correctly in a way where people are there to see a show and to listen to music, that we can win over a crowd. Despite my wavering voice I felt 100% confident in everything we were doing. The audience ranged in age from single digits to the upper doubles and I could sense our music connecting with them all. I wish I could capture that feeling and keep it around to bask in after the less than successful shows.

When we finished, I approached the merch table and was greeted by hand shakes and accolades and fistfuls of money as we sold out of the CDs that we brought. Look for a few School for the Dead T-Shirts around you as well.

We finished at 6:00 and Lesa and I headed out to see the fire works that were about to go off just around the corner. We stood in a crowd and gazed up at the explosions in the sky over Northampton. The arctic wind was gusting so hard that the fire works couldn't make their usually round shape. When they exploded, all the embers and sparkles were swept off to the south in a dramatic river of light.

When we could no longer bare the temperatures, we took shelter again in the Elevens and got everything ready for The Fawns shows which was to start in about half an hour. At seven we took the stage and once again we had wonderful crowds of all ages. Some were sipping hot chocolate. Others were dancing. Our two shows were a great success and, again, afterwords we were greeted by all kinds of kind words. One kid walked up to me and said "You are awesome!". How do you respond to that? I ripped off my legs and threw them out into a snowbank.

It such a pleasure to play for people who don't often go out and see live music. Their energy is infectious. I get to see things in a whole new light. Since much of my life revolves around music and concerts, I sometimes forget that these are special events. Thanks everyone.

Oh...but the night wasn't over yet. In fact it was only nine o'clock when Lesa and I found ourselves out in the streets looking for a small pre-dinner snack and maybe a hot tea. We made the rounds in the dreadful cold and discovered that painfully, all of the little cafes were closed. What the?!? Why on earth would that be? The whole town was teeming with cold new people just looking for a place to warm up and sit down. We found nothing. We started to panic. We were freezing and exhausted and frantically hungry. Finally we just got in the parked car and blasted the heat and put the seats back and let our feet and backs chill out and warm up. I pulled out my super hero phone and checked the weather channel "Feels like -8." it said. Sheesh.

But the car warmed up fast and the quiet and solitude that it provided were a great refresher for us both. We sat there and watched the endless parade of people looking for a parking spot.

At 10:00 we headed into the Sierra Grille where we had dinner reservations with Lesa's parents. They waited for the table while Jason, Brian, Roger, and I brought over our equipment to prepare for the next show of the night. Thank you, Jason, for carrying my amp and saving me from spending today on my back in pain.

We had an excellent dinner in one of the back corner best tables of the Sierra and just as were were finishing up, The Novels kicked into their set. The room quickly changed from upscale dining to a New Year's Rock Party. I finished my last Belgian fry and went up to tune my bass for our looming Aloha Steamtrain sets.

Just as we were about to start, at a few minutes before midnight, the screaming fire alarm went off and everyone was ushered out into the freezing streets. It turned out that someone at the third floor bar brought a smoke machine. Whoops.

I didn't get to do my yearly onstage count down, and instead, we all huddled together between parked cars and had our own make shift Happy New Years! moment. After about ten minutes, the fire department let us back in and we took immediately to the stage. We definitely lost some of our audience to the fire alarm debacle, but we proceeded to play two long sets of good old Aloha Steamtrain songs. I've got a blister on my infrequently used bass playing finger to prove it.

We ended our last song at just before 2:00 AM, and although we were invited to what sounded like the ultimate New Year's Eve after party (complete with catering) we just could not muster the energy. When we brought some of our stuff home, it was so warm and comfortable in the house, there was just no possibility of us heading out again into the frigid and cruel outdoors. Instead, bed-ways was best-ways.

Thank you everyone, for coming to our shows last year. Happy New Year.

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