Date: Mon 20 Sep, 2004 at 21:42
Headline: Rockin' The Rockies
Greetings & Salutations!
Man, I love this job.
Of course there are downsides -- a fair amount of stress, and disappointment, and frustration, and lots and lots of hard work yeilding sometimes unclear results -- and I do my share of bitching about them. But in the end, I find it all SO worthwhile, and weekends like the one we just had in Colorado only serve to reinforce that fact.
The Sandbar Sports Grill was a very cool place. Greg had played there many times before in Smilin' Jack, and said that the only changes he noticed were positive ones. Although the club is big enough house a fairly large crowd, the stage was a bit cramped, which made it tough to properly utilize the screen and meant that when the bright lights hit, they were damn near cooking our foreheads, but the great crowd and bar staff made up for it. Matt, Dennis, Jason, Steve and the rest treated us very well, and made our job a pleasure. Some very cool Floyd fans in the audience as well. There were many shouts for obscure material; 'Free Four' was played by request, and a sizeable bunch of people were screaming for 'Echoes' through most of the night. They got their wish. :-)
That night, we were also able to hook up with Tony Grifasi (the agent responsible for booking both this gig and the next night's show in Silverthorne). Tony is a colleague of Greg's from wayback, but it was a first time meeting for the rest of us. Nice for him to finally be able to experience the show first-hand and see what the fuss is all about.
There were some slip-ups, both musical (occasional missed notes and late cues here and there) and mental (I dedicated 'Wish You Were Here' to the memory of Joey Ramone, only to be loudy corrected by an audience member that it was Johnny who recently died; that probably blew my punk cred with the good people of Vail, but I seriously did know which guy I was talking about...I just got the two similar J-word names confused, as is sometimes the case when onstage nerves hit) but everyone had a good time, and we're looking forward to our next opportunity to visit.
(and, like Suede in Park City, they had a Galaga/Ms Pacman arcade game...a lovely way for this gen-x geek to while away hurry-up-and-wait tedium and burn off pre-show stress! ;) )
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect going into this gig. It was played in a sort of multi-purpose ballroom-styled hall instead of the usual sort of rock venue, and I think both the band and the management/crew had some initial skepticism about each other...which melted away as soon as we began working together at soundcheck. The sound/light crew that promoter Mike O'Brien brought in were top-notch, and Len, the Pavillion tech guru, is a touring/recording veteran. All of them were Floyd fans, all of them had great, professional, can-do attitudes, and once they realized that we were a well-prepared and polished live band and knew exactly what we were doing with our show, we all trusted each other and everything went smoothly. It was one of the best -- if not the best -- gig experiences we've ever had. Only the Darrington Festival can compete in my memory for ideal working conditions.
All of which, of course, would be a moot point if the show didn't rock...and rock it did! The band was confident, the visuals were superb (helped, in part, by a new screen we had rented for the occasion and the ingenuity of Fozz, Len & Tim in getting everything put in just the right place), and the audience was unbelievable. Though it wasn't a much bigger turnout in sheer numbers than at the Sandbar the night before, in this kind of venue everything seemed more amplified somehow. The show was the focal point, not just something that happened to be going on in the same building. They hung on every word and every note and provided rapturous applause between numbers. It was an all-ages show, and it was cool to look out into the crowd and see teenagers getting into it as much as their parents were (though it also provided me with some chagrin as we launched into 'Not Now John', with its incendiary, profanity-laced lyrics; somehow I hadn't reconsidered that song in light of our inflated demographic, and as one might imagine, I found it a little tough to meet the eyes of some of the pre-teen patrons in the closer seats while singing "fuck all that" at the top of my lungs). We even got to do the go-off-come-on-again-encore thing properly, which is a rare treat. As Greg would later enthuse, "That was a rock show the way it's supposed to be done!"
I was not in the best shape, physically, for this second show. I had woken up with a scratchy throat and as the night wore on it was clear that it, along with the slightly higher-than-usual-altitude was starting to take its toll on my voice. I also had a blister on my right index finger from playing too hard the night before, which necessitated my spending a big chunk of this show alternating between a pic and my right thumb, both of which serve a purpose from time to time, but neither of which comfortably fits my usual playing style. When we hit 'Any Colour You Like' in the second set, with its extended funk jam that has become my favorite PF piece to play lately, I had to go back to my index and middle fingers in order to pull off the licks that I wanted to play. The pain was intense, but the musical satisfaction was definitely worth it.
Free from any of the little musical and technical hiccups that disrupted the flow of the previous night's set, everyone in the band was absolutely ON. Juli had been suffering from a nasty cough and some throat problems of her own since before we left home Friday morning, but she tackled her parts with uncommon valor, and as always, blew the house away with 'Great Gig'. Matt told me later that he didn't even have a chance to look up at the crowd for the first 30 minutes because he was so immersed in his double-duty keyboard-guitar work, which didn't surprise me, nor did it smack of complaint. Matt is always at his best when he's at his busiest, and I have never seen him happier to be performing. Tim was doing his best cool-rock-star-enigma thing (a quality he has as a performer that I'll always be jealous of) and clearly enjoying a strong rapport with the spirit of David Gilmour. His solos sang. Behind the drums, Greg was exuding both precision and personality. The cumulative effect of the day's positivity and professionalism (yeah yeah, two alliterative phrases in as many sentences...bite me) was clearly driving him to a higher level too. There was a definite sort of afterglow about our collective self as the night wound down, even through the always tedious and un-fun loadout proceedings. This was an experience that we won't forget any time soon, and the more of these we have, the more I am able to say with pride that...
...I love this job.