It'd been a while since I wrote a gig diary but this one needed to be written.
The goal was for us to meet at The Basement at 7:15 so we could load in and set everything up to get the show started by 8:00. The day pretty much revolved around that looming time; 7:15. Have to eat dinner early and leave time to pack up and load the car with all the stuff. Need to make set lists and remember to bring mics, and cables, and stands since they only have a partial P.A.
At 7:12, I turned the corner onto Gothic Street to find cars parked in all the spots even way back at the end. This is unusual for this time, usually you can find a few spots back there even on busy Northampton weekend nights. As I drove on I saw the reason for the full spots. There was a barrier blocking the road and a sign that said Construction Crews only. Behind the barricade was the second half of Gothic Street. The half that the Basement is on. The street was empty for about 100 yards and then there was a battle zone. Giant halogen lights on high towers lit the area. The whole scene was clouded in dust. Twenty, or so, guys in hard hats were down there, giants machinery stretched high in the air lifting pipes and steel beams. I rolled down the window and could hear the churning of engines and scraping of rock. All of this was happening in the Basement parking lot. Huh.
I made a U-Turn and headed to Center Street where I double parked with my flashers on right next to the police station. I ran down the steps of the back entrance to the Basement and approached the noisy chaos of construction. As I drew close I saw gaping holes the ground and four or five workers shoveling hot road fill directly in front of the Basement door. The bar was all dark and there was absolutely no access. "Perhaps this show is cancelled again." I thought.
Then I saw an exasperated Eric Suher standing watching the work with his arms folded. He saw me and came over and assured me that the bar would open and the show would go on and the work should be done in five minutes. You see, the building next to the Basement is the Northampton Police Station and it is being dismantled and moved in to a new building next door. The construction is continuing for another year or so. Eric tried to remain as positive about it all as he could and said we "should" be able to pull up our cars and load in shortly.
As it turns out, the construction crew was working on a different schedule, though they did clear a foot path for us to the door.
We ended up having to load in from cars pulled over pretty far away. I was nervous to leave the cars alone illegally stopped right next to the police departmenr so I stayed there keeping watch while Brian carried all his drums down the slippery back entrance. It was cold and dark and it all was feeling very pointless. I wondered how anybody was even going to find their way back to the club to come to the show.
Ken pulled up and with the help of some friends, he loaded in his stuff. I could see Max through the trees as a sillouette pushing his bass amp through the cloud of dust beneath the towering steam shovels. Shortly after, I saw Lord Russ in a similar light carrying his guitars past the construction crews.
A friend happened past and offered to watch the cars while Ken and I brought in all the rest of the gear. Then I went off to try to find parking. This was about 45 minutes later and the road was still closed and the crews were still at it. I parked pretty far down Gothic in the James Lot and walked back to the club, feeling like I was trespassing as I walked right through all the work, one eye on the hardhats and the other on the enormous steel plate that was hanging from a crane above my head.
Inside the club, I was surprised to see a number of people already sitting in the seats. Everyone was scampering around trying to set up as quickly as possible. It was already half an hour after we were meant to start. Then I realized that I forgot the case with the microphones and cables. I showed Russ and Tony all the lights that I brought so they could set them up and I ran back through the war-zone to the car and drove home, grabbed the stuff, and came back hoping the road would now be open and I could get near the venue. No such luck, I parked in the same spot and ran back again with my mic case.
We set up the rest as quickly as possible and Lord Russ finally started at about 9:00.
He put on a great show, of course, switching between acoustic guitar songs and pieces with backing tracks. He also debuted a few excellent new numbers. At the end of his set he invited Brian, Ken, and I up and we played Juices. I played Max's bass which felt different to me. I later learned that is was brand new and I had been the first to play it out. It was purple and sparkly.
We started our set as fast as we could. It was going to be cut in half, of course, because of the loss of time. We played through a lot of the new songs and the band did an amazing job at them I was never quite there unfortunately, I was so harried and rushed from the chaotic load-in / set-up that I never was able to catch my breath. Add to that a very distracting table of piercing loud-talkers directly in my line of vision and I never felt fully immersed. I had been looking forward to this show.
Luckily and amazingly, we had a room full of people to play for. They saved the day! Friends and strangers listened and made it all worth while. When I saw the mess out front, I was fully expecting a poor turn out. Thank you everyone, for coming and for battling the obstacles.
Tony later told me he actually climbed a chain link fence to get to the show. Not exactly sure how he got himself into that one, but it's hilarious to picture isn't it?