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Date: Sat 28 Aug, 2004 at 14:35
Headline: The Big Ones, part 3
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Greetings & Salutations!

So...between us and Thund-Her-Struck was a cover band called Strutz. In keeping with the weekend's theme, they specialized in classic rock tunes and exuded a more casual, bar-band vibe which acted as a sort of musical sorbe between Thund-Her-Struck's mega-amped set and our more theatrical, moody take on things. By the time they had wrapped up, we had everything backstage ready to go. With only 30 minutes to setup on stage and soundcheck, we were chomping at the bit to get started and happy to be using so much of the fesitval's gear (including the drum kit and several amps) which was already in place. Fozz had been fine-tuning the projection system between sets, making sure everything looked as good as he could make it. In what seemed like no time whatsoever, we had done a quick monitor check and were off and running...

It was by far the biggest single audience in the biggest venue that we had ever played -- a massive festival concert stage, with many hundreds of people in attendance, soon to balloon to many thousands when the bigger names took the stage the next day -- and picking up on the event's mojo was a marvelous thing. There were times when it seemed we were trying a too hard to project a more demonstrative, physical rock show than usual, which felt a bit forced at first. Truthfully, it may have been as much to do with keeping up with the other bands' Joneses as feeding off the crowd's energy. After a while, however, we settled into our groove and did what we do best by letting the music do the talking.

Which is not to say that the theatrics were absent. Juli operated the Big Damn Gun during 'Pigs' and exhausted our supply of stuffed animals, for which the crowd went nuts -- though whether it was the prospect of getting free stuff shot from the stage or just the image of an attractive woman prowling the stage with a giant bazooka-shaped prop that got them excited is up for debate (looking back, I have no idea why it took us this long to give her that job). The crashing plane during 'On The Run' worked for the first time in a score of shows, and moreover, it worked as it was actually intended to -- coming in at a moderate pace over the heads of the crowd, illuminated by follow-spots so people could see exactly what it was before it hit the back of the stage and the pyro went off. I was so impressed by the spectacle of it all that I forgot to give Matt the cue to stop playing, though I suspect the giant explosion probably clued him in just as well. Kudos to Tim on not giving up on that particular piece of stagecraft after all this time. It kicked ass.

Best of all, I think Fozz had the greatest night ever. Although we were using the small screen, all of the visuals were crisp and clear (more kudos to Tim for deciding on a projector upgrade at the last minute) and performed with excellent timing. Not an audio or video cue was out of place. The overall effect, combined with the abundant stage smoke and Kendra's powerful lighting, was gorgeous. And it was obvious, every time that I was able to sneak backstage during a moment of the show that didn't require my presence and speak to the guy, that Fozz was enjoying the experience with everything in him. The previous week, he was offered a teaching gig that would have kept him from doing these shows with us. I wouldn't have begrudged him taking the offer -- it would have paid 10 times the money he received to go on the road with us, and he has a family to feed -- but for the sake of the shows and the audience, boy was I glad to hear that it had fallen through and he was free after all. We absolutely couldn't have done this without him. :)

And...and...I haven't even mentioned the great sound that Woody got us. Or how much Tina Richerson wailed on the sax (a local player recruited by Tim to help us out...kudos yet again, my friend). Or the amazing "Young Lust Dancers" who all but took over the stage during that particular number, compliments of our friend/assistant/original Smilin' Jack bassist Cen (pronounced with a K) who was of invaluable help throughout our Northwestern jaunt. Or how nervous we all were about dropping 'Mr Serious' into the set -- bolstered by the great reaction in Longview, I just couldn't resist -- and how that nervousness disappated when we realized how much the crowd was getting off on the song. Ot how Tim's audacious stage clothes actually made Juli's outfit look almost drab. Or how Greg and I finally locked in on the stabs to 'The Happiest Days Of Our Lives', and got them exactly right. Or...the list goes on. I could do another thousand words on anecdotes, both funny & serious, but I have to get back to life at some point.

All in all, it was a great experience. The drive home was a bit grueling (we decided to take the entire 16 hour stretch at once to avoid paying for another hotel...Note To Self: you now know the difference between a reasonable itinerary and an unreasonable one, please use this knowledge for the good of mankind), but for me the opportunity to travel, see new places and meet new people, get to play for such enthusiastic audiences and still come home with a buck or two in my pocket was totally worth the trouble.

Thanks to Patrick, Woody, Matt, Tony, Toni, Kendra, Ray, Jeff, Cen, Bill @ LDC, Fozz, the Band, and everyone else for making this one memorable.

bye for now,
-Thom