Monday, June 29, 2009

Stick Men Tour, part III: Woodstock and NYC

I’ve been to the Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock on a number of occasions. I saw Mercury Rev there a few years ago, and comedian David Cross shortly after that. Michael and I have frequented karaoke there a couple of times, on one of the five nights in the past year we’ve actually Gone Out. I don’t have a problem with the venue. It’s actually pretty nice, with a great courtyard and the creek gurgling in the back. The Little Bear, my favorite Chinese place in the tri-state area, is right next door, too. No, my issue with the Bearsville Theatre is not the theatre itself. My issue with the Bearsville Theatre is that it’s located in Woodstock.

Settle down and let me explain. I’ve lived in the area for six years now, long enough to meet lots and lots of people and do lots and lots of things and go to lots and lots of shows and bars. I happen to love this area of New York, which is why I’ve been here for six years and haven’t done what I usually do: Live somewhere for a year or two, get sick of it and everyone who lives there, hastily pack my shit into whatever crappy car du jour I had and get the fuck out of Dodge. Granted, I have roots here now, especially since my daughter has been going to school here for two years, and I remember what it was like to be uprooted every 2 years or less as a child, and how traumatic that can be, and I’m too old to drive to a new state in the middle of the night with no job prospects or contacts or friends, so I’m good with the Hudson Valley. In fact, I’m pretty good with Woodstock these days. We have kind of an agreement; I don’t bother Woodstock, and it doesn’t bother me. I’ve met far too many irksome and insufferable Woodstock “characters” over the past six years, fake hippies with trust funds, hypocritical bleeding heart liberals who balk and gripe at town board meetings when a proposal for affordable housing is put on the table…and a lot of really bad music, for which there is never an excuse. Just because you hang out on the green in Woodstock doesn’t automatically make you a musician, so put that guitar down and get a haircut. And don’t even get me started on the drum circles.

It’s always a couple of people who ruin everything for everyone, isn’t it? The prospect of bumping into those select everything-ruiners after a six and a half hour drive from Buffalo on very little sleep curbed my excitement about seeing Stick Men play so close to home. But here’s where my self-imposed hermitage comes in handy: It’s been so long since I’ve been out anywhere, I don’t know anyone anymore. All of those transient characters have either left town and gone somewhere to else to annoy a whole new set of unsuspecting people, or they weren’t around to attend the Bearsville show on Sunday, June 21st. And it was Father’s Day, after all. Even useless sperm donors like to hang out with their spawn on that holiday.

The drive back from Buffalo was plagued with torrential downpours and bad radio. We managed to find an unintentionally hilarious radio documentary on Jeff Buckley. Not that his death was funny. I’m a big fan, and the dude definitely had more in him. What was hysterical were the live recordings of Buckley’s performances. As much as I love his music, he tended to let things get a little out of hand vocally, and while it was relatively reined in for the studio recording of “Grace”, the live performances featured banshee-like shrieking and frequent forays into singing every tone except the right one and lightening fast Hypno-Toad vibrato-ing. Michael does an aces imitation of Jeff Buckley now. Next time you see him, ask him to sing a few bars of “Dream Brother” for you. He’ll LOVE that.*

We were shot when we got to Bearsville for sound check. We managed to eek out a paltry one hour at home before we had to be in Woodstock. Thankfully, the dressing/green room at the Bearsville has a really big couch and a huge TV. WITH CABLE. Cable, people! Do you know how long it’s been since I last laid eyes on cable? Michael was still in Europe when they shut if off.

(Sidenote: Apparently, they will turn your cable off if you go months without paying a bill. Those fascist fuckers.)

While Michael noodled on stage with the boys, I drifted in and out of consciousness while watching a Sunday afternoon marathon of House on USA. Apparently, I had made myself so comfortable that Tony asked permission once or twice to enter. “It is your room, after all,” he said. Damn straight, Levin. The world is my oyster soup kitchen floor wax museum.

I wish I could say more about the show at the Bearsville theatre, other than the usual cast of crazies that show up to these things were thankfully lacking, or, at least, the old, recognizable cast of crazies. I was so glazed and semi-conscious for the whole show that I barely noticed who was there. It was all I could do to remain upright and carry on a conversation with my friend, Lauren, who came to the show. And I guess it was a really loud show, too. I bumped into Martin Keith, an old friend of Michael’s and a local guitar maker. He offered me ear plugs. I asked, “Is it really that loud?”
“Yeah,” he said. “It really is.”
“Damn. I guess the shows in Buffalo and Syracuse have desensitized me. Doesn’t seem loud to me at all.” Of course, it could also be that when one is comatose, one tends to not hear noises, even fucked up loud ones. When he asked me to blink once for yes and twice for no, I knew it was time to go home and sleep for about three days.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that the local group 3 played Indiscipline with Stick Men that night. That was even louder, or so I’ve been told. I was leaning up against a wall and drooling on myself by that point in the show, completely oblivious to the onstage Armageddon taking place right before my bleary, half-closed eyes.


In case you’ve been wondering, and I’ll bet you haven’t been, I’ve been attempting to work during the midst of this whole East coast tour. Trying to show up and concentrate in my office, knowing that I would be back on the road with Michael by noon and getting home at 2am, created weird feelings of paranoid schizophrenia. The paranoia stemmed from the sleep deprivation, and the schizophrenia resulted from attempting to feign interest in my job while I’m doing a mental checklist all morning: What day is it? Where are we going today? Are we staying overnight? Did I pack the wrong shoes? What did I do with my underwear? Monday was no exception. Because I was leaving the office early to make the drives to these shows, I would get into the office at 7:30am or sometimes earlier. Tough to do on 4 hours of sleep, and I don’t really recommend it, unless you are 19 years old and a crack addict. I’m neither of those things. Anyway, Michael picked me up at noon in my office parking lot, and we began our drive to BB Kings in Manhattan.

BB Kings is situated in Times Square, an area of the city that is never not crowded and crawling with zombie people who find it hard to walk at a normal pace down a sidewalk. It’s also a really fun place to try to load in, with no parking anywhere remotely near the venue. After driving around in circles for a half an hour, trying to find a spot, we eventually dumped our stuff onto the sidewalk, and I guarded it until Michael found a parking garage three blocks away and ran back.

Stick Men were playing that night on a double bill with California Guitar Trio. If you’ve ever met them in person, you’ll know what I mean when I say their music fits their personalities to an absolute tee. They are the nicest, softest-spoken sweethearts I’ve ever met. My friend Shandana, who came to the show with me, confessed that she had a crush on every single one of them. “I love dorky awkward boys,” she said, as they opened the set. “They’re so sexy.”

Indeed, CGT’s music is, in a word, lovely. Challenging, but executed in such a gentle way that you don’t know you’re being challenged. An absolutely refreshing change if you’ve been hit over the head with mathletic algebra rock, and perfect music if you’re wide awake. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Listening to CGT made me want to grab my wubby and curl up into a fetal position on stage with them. And when they busted out the Beethoven, forget about it. I felt horrible and guilty for wanting to drift off, and I feel a little horrible and guilty for admitting this in a public forum, but it truly is a compliment to CGT’s musicianship. I was just far to gone from sleep deprivation. I could have listened to them play all night. Tony sounded great when he joined them on stage, too.

If audience members were basing their assumptions on Stick Men on California Guitar Trio, they were in for an auditory shocker. In fact, I watched a few people get up and walk out during the set, holding their ears and shaking their heads. One gentleman sitting at the table next to ours held his fingers in his ears the whole time, and again, I wondered if I was slowly going deaf. And I was close to the speakers. Comic Book Guy, however, seemed to enjoy the show immensely. No fooling, a man sitting at the same table as Holding My Ears Guy struck an uncanny resemblance to Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. As he bobbed his head along to “Soup”, I couldn’t help but imagine a thought bubble above his head that read, “Best. Concert. Ever.”

I took some video of CGT and Stick Men playing “Larks Tongue in Aspic”. It was cool. Comic Book Guy was right.



After driving 115 miles back home to Saugerties after the BB Kings show, we were stopped about a mile from home by an overzealous, bored town cop. “Where you headed,” he asked Michael, who was driving.
“Headed home from Manhattan. We live in Saugerties.”
“Oh yeah? What were you doing there?”
Michael pointed to the gear in the back. “Playing a show at BB Kings.”
“How much have you had to drink tonight?”
“Nothing,” replied Michael. Which was true. We hardly had time to pee and grab a slice of pizza, much less spend a lot of time getting hammered before he had to go on stage. Not something he does, anyway. It’s his job, after all.
“Oh REALLY? Is that so?”
I could tell Michael was getting edgy. It had been such a long night, and we were so tired and so very close to home. Getting stopped by a cop for no reason just seemed like an enormous kick in the balls.
“No, Officer. I haven’t had anything to drink.”
Supercop wouldn’t let up. “Because your eyes look kind of glassy.”
“I’m sure they do,” he replied. “I’ve been up since 6am this morning, and I’ve been in Manhattan for the past twelve hours. It’s 2 in the morning. I’m a little tired.”
The cop took Michael’s license and registration and proceeded to do whatever it is cops do for 20 minutes while you sit and sweat it out in your driver’s seat. Finally, he came back.
“I stopped you because your plate lamp is out. Take this to a mechanic,” he said while handing Michael a fix-it ticket, “have them replace the light then sign it, and then mail it in to the town court. This is minor, minor stuff.”
Minor stuff, indeed, unless it’s 2am and you’re fucking in PAIN from exhaustion and you still have to get up and go to work the next morning. We cursed Officer Fucktard’s name all the way back home and even as we crawled, already half-asleep, into our bed, we managed a couple more choice descriptive words for the cop who made it so we didn’t get to bed until 3am when we were hoping for 2:30. That half hour makes an enormous difference sometimes.

*Please don't ask him to do his Jeff Buckley imitation, or any other imitation, for that matter. He won't love it, and chances are, you'll end up getting named in my blog as "that clueless asshole who asked Michael to imitate Jeff Buckley".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stick Men Tour, part II: Buffalo

Few things in life bring me gleeful child-like joy like a music venue with seating. I won't go to shows anymore if I can't sit, especially if I'm wearing those hot black high-heeled boots that rarely see the light of day. So imagine my delight when Michael and I arrived at the Tralf in Buffalo, about an hour and a half ahead of schedule, natch, to find that the venue was filled with tables and seats and benches and bar stools and plenty of places for a lame-ass like me to cop a squat. It's one of those little things that keep me from climbing up to the roof of a tall building and opening fire.

But before we even set eyes on the Tralf, Michael and I wandered around an eerily empty Buffalo on a grey and greasy Saturday afternoon, wondering where the fuck everyone went. We found the venue straight away, which was situated on a street that can neither be driven down nor parked on. Finally, we took advantage of the ample free parking (thanks, apparent Ghost Town!) and proceeded to search for Chinese food. We never found it, despite wandering down every street in the area for an entire hour, and ended up settling at a pizza place that served luke-warm slices on way-too-thick crust and not enough sauce. I felt like I was back in the midwest and wondered at the fact that we seemed to find the one place in all of New York that managed to fuck up pizza.

Buffalo wasn't empty, after all. In fact, it was full of hard-luck homeless, rearing to pounce if you looked recently showered. One guy twitched his way up to our car and gave us the most long-winded, detailed story about his misfortune I'd ever heard. And I lived in San Francisco for a year.
"My dad kicked me out last month," said the 40ish homeless man, "and there's a YMCA down the block. Will you come with me and get me a room there?"
I would have stammered out some excuse about how I didn’t have any money but had plenty of Daddy issues if he wanted to hang out and compare notes, but Michael is a much nicer person than me, so he gathered up our car change and handed it to the man. He greedily scooped it up and wandered away without so much as a thank the opposite direction of the aforementioned YMCA.

We ended up driving on the sidewalk to get to the venue. A nice cop parked feet from the front door of the Tralf granted us permission to do so. I have video footage of us driving my Stratus down that sidewalk, something I've never done in my life, and I have to admit that it felt really good to do it. Kind of like a big old middle finger to everything we had been taught to avoid with an automobile. But the venue wasn't ready to receive us, so we pulled around to the rear and found a place to park near the Tralf's service entrance, and we waited for the okay to enter.

The Tralf is a nice place. It's tidy and spacious, and the manager and stagehands were incredibly helpful. They presented us with a veritable trough of beer (a Tralf-trough?) in the dressing room several hours before the show. After playing roughly 712 games of Mahjong (are you sensing my old lady-like pattern here?), I quickly changed in the dressing room bathroom and went out into the house, excited by both the huge stage and the opportunity to find a seat. Unfortunately, I waited too long to go out, and by the time I entered the house, it was filled to capacity...except for the completely empty, darkened balcony.

"Hey, do you mind if I sit up there," I asked the two guys at the sound board. They had seen me before. In fact, one of them helped pull gear out of the Stratus and hung out with me in the sluggish service elevator for 3 floors. But they didn't recognize me.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but the balcony is closed."
I blinked for a couple of seconds, only because I couldn't believe that these guys I had seen and spoken to for the past five hours, since we arrived way too early at the venue, didn't seem to know who I was, all of a sudden-like.
"Okay, but I have this," presenting to them my Stick Men "All Access" official pass, and suddenly they seemed to remember that I had been hanging out at the venue for many, many hours.
"Oh. Okay. Go on up."
Maybe I clean up too well. I was scungey from the drive earlier, wearing a dirty and faded Sun Records teeshirt I picked up in Memphis about a decade ago, crusted with fast food. I had changed into the Hot Boots, put on a dress and smeared makeup on the luggage under my eyes. I can kind of understand how I could be unrecognizable, since I had somehow managed to achieve relative attractiveness in that dressing room bathroom, like an ersatz Clark Kent. But did he really have to call me “ma’am”? That’s just mean.

They eventually opened the balcony to a few more audience members, including two incredibly nice guys who kept me company at my table. They were apparently huge Pat Mastelotto fans, so we gushed for a while about the fact that Pat is not just a drummer. And he truly is much more than that. He’s an instrumentalist. All of that complicated equipment surrounding his kit, all of those blinking screens and gadgets mounted on stands, he uses every single one of them. I lost count how many patches I heard him use over the course of the weekend, my favorite being a chorus patch that sounds uncannily like Brian Wilson and the boys are singing on stage with Stick Men. Not to be left out of the bowing technique used by Tony and Michael, Pat bows his cymbals during “Slow Glide”. This is cool not only because it sounds cool, which it really does, but it’s cool because that means everyone on stage is bowing something. I’m all about theatrics. I grew up on the stage and have a degree in music performance from the University of Michigan (I studied opera). As much as I love to hear good music being played by amazing musicians, I also like things to look interesting on stage. I don’t mean that the boys need to start learning to do a triple time step while they play; I’m not into band choreography, but I like the visual aspect of watching Pat, Tony and Michael all doing the same thing, especially when it’s something as unexpected as bowing cymbals. I’m quirky like that.

See? I told you there would be a gushing screed on Pat! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The show at the Tralf was one of the best shows I’ve been to so far on the East coast tour. Not only because Stick Men sounded amazing, because they have been consistently amazing for a solid week now. The Tralf was my favorite because every single person I spoke to at the venue, from the promoter to the crew to the bartender to the audience members, was incredibly friendly. I have but two beefs with our experience in Buffalo (yeah, I know. It’s always something with me, isn’t it?):

1) One overzealous fan. I’ve been that fan in the past at shows, but it’s usually in a stadium where EVERYONE is an overzealous fan. The Tralf is different, and let this be a lesson to you, my loves: If you drank too much before the show, and you just have to stand and do the hippie dance while the musicians are playing, kindly take it to the back wall where you’re not obstructing anyone’s view of the performance or distracting the musicians on stage. Your enthusiasm is appreciated and noted, but standing at the front in a venue where the seating is all level and no one else is standing is rude. Not a big deal, but I’m a cynical bitch who hates everyone and has a very low tolerance for ridiculous behavior. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, or better yet, take everything I say with a pillar that used to be Lot’s wife (the Bible? Anyone? Why do I hear crickets chirping?).

2) When we got back the hotel at ass o’clock A.M., we were absolutely starving. Given that the only restaurants in the area were Applebee’s or TGI RubyHooters, we asked the front desk if there was a pizza place that delivered late. There was, and we ordered a large with black olives and jalapenos. We told it would be about 45 minutes. An hour later, I decided to call and check on the progress. Maybe they were having some trouble harvesting the wheat for the pizza crust flour, or perhaps the dairy cows weren’t cooperating. Maybe the olive shipment from Jerusalem was held up in customs. Who knows. Anyway, a very irritated employee answered the phone at the pizza joint. I try to be nice in situations like this. I’ve worked in food service and retail and it really fucking sucks. It sucks in epic proportions. "I placed an order for delivery an hour ago," I very sweetly explained, "and I was wondering if it would be arriving soon."
"SIGH. Where are you!?!"
"Um, I'm at the Millenium Hotel next to the Thruway exit."
"SIGH. Driver's already left. Don't know where he is. I'll have to call his cell."
"Oh. Okay, well, if it's not too much trouble, that would be great."
"SIGH. Hold on."
After a minute or two, she came back on the line and said, "SIGH. He should be there in ten minutes." Click.

Turns out, ten minutes in Buffalo is actually one hour. Two hours after we orded, our pizza arrived. We noticed that the box said, "We deliver until 4am." Apparently, that means that it doesn't matter when you order it, you're getting it at 4am.

Next stop, Bearsville Theatre, Woodstock...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stick Men Tour, part I: Syracuse

Ah, the glamorous life of a rock star. You know, the loud music, the adoring fans, the free-flowing booze. Every night is an orgy of drugs and women and sex and bowls of peanut M&Ms with the brown ones painstakingly removed. We all watched the Motley Crue episode of “Behind the Music”.

Sure, those guys might have punched out a cop and did lines off of a hooker’s ass right before walking out on stage, but 80s hair metal played by 20 year old douchebags who wear eyeliner is quite different from being a middle-aged prog rocker. At least, that’s what I discovered over the weekend.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first found out that Michael would be touring with his band, Stick Men, for five weeks in Europe. I mean, it should have been obvious what to expect. The band consists of Tony Levin, former bass player for everyone under the fucking sun, and Pat Mastelotto, drummer for everyone under the fucking sun and Tony’s King Crimson band mate. Tony is 63 and lives in a lovely house with his lovely wife in lovely upstate New York. Pat is 53 and lives just outside of Austin, Texas. And Michael, who is 35. He’s the youngest member of the band by a nearly 20 years, but he’s a self-described hermit who drives like an old man and is usually in bed by 10pm. Not someone I would consider a nutty, party-loving rock and roller. Tony and Michael play the Chapman Stick (a 12-string [6 guitar strings, 6 bass strings] instrument that looks somewhat like a guitar with no body and is usually tapped with the fingers instead of strummed or picked. It can also be bowed like a cello or violin, a technique that Michael himself pioneered) and their music is hardly what you would hear on the radio or at the local discotheque. Although technically considered “progressive rock” (or “nerd rock” as I like to call it), their music is more accessible and less alienating, I find, then some of the really PROGGY prog rock. Needless to say, girls aren’t throwing their frilly unmentionables wrapped around their hotel keys when Stick Men take the stage. You’ll most likely find 57 year old fat dudes with receding hairlines, wearing Crimson or Dream Theatre tee-shirts, denim jacket pockets stuffed with twelve-sided dice and calculators, at their concerts.

Still, Michael is hot. And he’s really talented, friendly and funny. So the deeply damaged part of me worried about what things would be like in Europe, if the women there were more sophisticated than here in the states, and amazingly he would find himself surrounded by prog rock groupies getting all hot and bothered after hearing “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” or anything played in a time signature of 9. And five weeks is a long to time to be away from home, and it gets lonely out there on the road, and blah blah blah my own insecurities. It took about 6 days for me to realize just what it was really like for Michael overseas: Endless van rides and questionable hotel rooms with no WIFI and nothing a vegetarian can eat and sleep deprivation and homesickness and, in Michael’s case, illness in Portugal and a shattered tooth in Germany. I saw hundreds of pictures of Europe, many were crowd shots taken from the stage during a show. I think I counted about a dozen women total, and most of them looked VERY reluctant to be there.

Over the weekend, I got to experience what a Stick Men tour is like, albeit on a much smaller scale than the grueling 30-odd shows over 37 days European tour. I feel extremely edified and extremely stupid for ever being concerned about the idea of Michael being on the road.

The first show on the East coast tour was in Syracuse last Friday. I left work early, and we hit the road at 11am so we could make a 3pm load-in and sound check at the venue. Unfortunately, the excitement I felt earlier about getting out of Saugerties for the weekend, going on a roadtrip with Michael (one of my favorite things to do in the whole world) and getting to see him play live again was shattered on Thursday night, when I developed severe lower back pain. I had experienced something similar back in October, which resulted in a midnight trip to the ER and a serious kidney infection that required a strong antibiotic and pain medication. I spent Thursday night before our trip to Syracuse wide awake with pain, struggling to find a position on the couch that didn’t feel like someone was skewering me with sharpened bamboo and cursing the universe for laying this shit on me right before going on a trip I had been excited about for weeks. I had to make a difficult and potentially dangerous decision that night: Stay home and seek medical treatment, or gird my loins and make the trip. Ultimately, I did the stupid thing and decided to go and have a fun weekend if it fucking killed me.

After a completely sleepless night, I managed to muscle my way through a 30 minute drive to work and arrived stupid early in the morning. Luckily, one of my co-workers is a pharmacy in high heels and gave me a fist full of Tramadol and muscle relaxers for the road. They helped. A lot. I found that the Tramadol made me slightly nauseous and inexplicably itchy, but delightfully giggly and amiable. Michael was a useful distraction, too, and we wiled away the three hour drive, exploring forgotten inside jokes, making fart noises, hurling expletives at other drivers and speculating on what people would think of us if they ever heard one of our typical conversations. Before we knew it, we were dropping our bags off at the hotel room and heading off to the venue.

We were early. We are always early. Michael has a thing about it. The Lost Horizon in Syracuse is a little rock club located in a largely industrial and commercial part of town, hardly the type of environs you would expect to feature live music. Conveniently, it was also located next door to a strip club called Paradise Lost, with a neon sign in front that stated it was a “tlemen’s club”. We spend a lot of time trying to suss out what a “tlemen” was, but whatever they are, they seem to wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts and don’t have day jobs. It takes Michael about 15 minutes to set up and plug in, while it takes Tony about 30 minutes and Pat a whopping hour and change. Dude’s got a lot of shit. Acoustic drums and patches and doo dads and screens that light up and blink and shiny objects that you can bang on other shiny objects and all sorts of crap. I sat on a couch with questionable stains in the back, nursing my throbbing kidney and playing Mahjong on Michael’s laptop, attempting to not slip into a coma from being awake for 32 hours straight. Fortunately, Stick Men like to play loud, so sound check kept me alert.

We managed about an hour and a half at the hotel before the show for a quick shower and change. One of the perks of touring is the hotel shower. At home, Michael and I race through a three minute rushed scrubbing, because 2 and a half minutes after we turn the water on, it’s ice cold. I can’t remember the last time I lingered in the shower with the hot water cranked to the point of almost being unbearable, feeling like built-up layers of road grunge and club grime and car sweat were peeling away to reveal real flesh underneath. My Silkwood shower was great. I almost ran a bath right afterwards, something else we can’t do at home, just because I could.

Back at the venue, we skulked around in dark corners for a while, nursing vodka, while an opener played, until it was time for Michael to do mandatory band bonding before going out on stage, and I muscled my way to the front. I picked a spot right in front of Michael so I could get some good shots, which was great, except that I realized I was inches away from a wall of pulsating house speakers. Stick Men play LOUD. And they should, because if it wasn't, it wouldn’t be right. Something would be missing. Their music is so densely layered with sound upon sound, tone rubbing up against tone, it has to be loud so the audience can at least start to comprehend how much is going on in every song. And chances are, unless they come to multiple shows, they’re still going to miss things. I love music like that. I love discovering nuances that I didn’t hear the first time around. I like surprises.

The last time I heard Stick Men play live was back in January, when they opened for Eddie Jobson's group UKZ at Town Hall in Manhattan. They were good then. Before that, they spent a week at a percussion festival in Poland, and I saw multiple videos of them performing. They were good then, too. On Friday night, when I heard them in Syracuse, they were a different band. The long European tour had morphed Michael, Tony and Pat into a three-headed rock monster, alternating between completely blowing my mind and eardrums with bombastism and ethereal beauty. They opened with "Welcome", a song from from Tony Levin's album "Stick Man", a brisk chunka-chunka piece, followed by the mellower, melodic "Sasquatch". "Sasquatch" was originally recordered for Michael's home-produced solo album and has taken on a different life as a Stick Men collaboration, and for years has been one of my favorites of Michael's.

But what really jumps in boo-boo, as Patton Oswalt would say, is bowed stick. There's just something about the sound of the bow sliding across the strings that tugs on me. I've often joked with Michael that bowing makes me feel feelings. And it's subversive. Strings on a Chapman stick are meant to be tapped, but one of the reasons why Michael is a musical innovator is because he isn't interested in what the stick was created for. He's interested on doing incredibly cool stuff on it, even if he has to get out a bow or a guitar slide or a spoon or a hammer. That's sexy to me. So when Tony and Michael break out the bows during "Slow Glide", another song off of Tony's "Stick Man" album, I like to stop watching them and start watching the audience. They never expect it, and they never fail to look delighted. They like surprises, too.

(Speaking of constant surprises, and I didn't realize this until the second show, but Pat never plays the same thing twice, another reason to love Stick Men. But I'm saving my long and gushy disseration on why I heart Pat Mastelotto's drumming for another blog, lest I run out of things to say later.)

A lot of people haven't learned yet that Michael that is actually an amazing vocalist. I love singing with him. In fact, he's got a song we wrote called "Central Park" posted on his myspace and facebook profiles (it's not even a little bit proggy). While I love hearing him speak Adrian Belew's part in "Indiscipline", and I get a kick out of hearing his "Cookie Monster" voice in the tune "Sleep is Wrong" (written by the band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), I long for the days when Michael will at last be able to SING with Stick Men and not singspiel his way through a couple of noisy tunes. But I digest.

After three encores, Stick Men went out into the house for a sign-and-schmooze with the fans. I stood back and observed dozens of people line up to get Michael's autograph and to talk shop with him. Watching fans fawn over him is a surreal experience, given that I live with the man. There were times when I was overcome with urges to walk up to the dudes in line and whisper into their ears, "hey, did you know he farts in his sleep like everyone else?" God, he's going to kill me for posting that. Eh, what the hell.

I eventually gave up on fan-watching and retired to the outside to sneak a dirty, sinful cigarette. While I sat on the stairs, watching "tlemen" drift in and out of the strip club next door, I was approached by an audience member. "Hey," he said to me. "Why didn't you get his autograph?"
"Why didn't you get Michael Bernier's autograph? I saw you standing nearby but then you walked away."
I chuckled. "I don't need his autograph. He's my boyfriend."
"Oh," he exclaimed. "Congratulations!!"
"Um, thanks."
I was hoping that would be the end of it. I'm no good at small talk, and I felt a little uncomfortable with the concept of getting congratulated for being someone's boyfriend. But he continued with the inappropriate commentary.
"Hope he gets paid well," he said. Clearly he never received the memo that says it's tactless to delve into a complete strangers' personal financial situation.
"We do okay," I replied, hoping that would shut things down.
"Well, whatever he gets paid, it's not enough."
"Yeah. Tomorrow, I'm writing an angry letter!"
He exploded with way too much laughter.
"You're a funny girl!! Hahahaha!!!" Thankfully, he walked away, much to my relief. It was to be the first of lots of inappropriate behavior I would witness over the weekend.

Never in my life have I been congratulated on being someone's girlfriend. I was tempted to respond that Michael's pretty damn lucky, too, considering that I'm fucking awesome, but in spite of the awkward manner in which it was stated, I actually do feel pretty lucky to be Michael's girlfriend. But not Michael the Stick Man. I'm lucky to be his girlfriend because of Michael, the man; Michael, the father; Michael, the friend. Michael, the person who makes dinner for me at night after I've worked all day. Michael, the helper who tucks my seven year old daughter into bed when I have a boss-induced migraine. Michael, the superhero who can conquer piles of dishes and laundry and then put new brakes in my car. Michael, the co-conspirator who writes hilarious comedy sketches with me. Michael, the masseuse and back-scratcher. Michael, the guy who gets me. Michael, the passionate musician and artist who never does ANYTHING halfway. For a thousand reasons a random fan could never understand, I am very lucky.

And with that, I promise to keep my gushing to a reasonable minimum in the future.

Coming up, part II: Buffalo