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".


  1. Thanks for an entertaining read! Now, get some sleep!

  2. dude, i never said i had a crush on CGT! i said i loved dorky, awkward boys and that's it.

    the rest of the blog is spot on...