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...


  1. Brilliant, as usual.

  2. I don't normally read blogs but this is very entertaining. Good luck in Princeton this weekend!

    And keep up the good writing!

    -marcus welby, md

  3. Sorry to hear about your food experiences. We actually have a lot of great places to eat, some not too far from the Tralf. I had always heard the venue fed the artists. Must be the economy. Or Obama. As for the lack of any people downtown...sprawl and the economy has driven all but the gluttons down South. Enjoy the rest of the tour!

  4. Well, to be fair, we WERE fed by the venue at around 4pm...and we got back to the hotel at midnight. After a show. We were starving, but we're hardly gluttons. Just kind of hooked on that whole sustainence deal. You know, after hauling shit back and forth between towns and all. Nutty, right?

    - Serial Kidder

  5. Again...laughing loudly here Kandy. Thanks for your humorous and candid approach to writing.