Quality & Quantity, Part 2

Greetings & Salutations!

So…where were we?

The concept of the show changed quite a bit in the months leading up to it. There were several bullet points that I wanted to hit: the 10th anniversary of Flyin’ Zion and the FloydShow, the 10th anniversary of Matt joining the band (we had downplayed the 10th anniversary of SoN itself last year, which made the check-boxing of these milestones more important somehow) and my desire to play a wide selection of our catalog, pull a few older tunes out of the mothballs, maybe try a new cover or two. We had been playing pretty much the same short-ish set list since the premiere of Green & Grey, and I was looking forward to shaking things up and stretching our legs a bit.

When the gig was originally booked for May, Dave Slack was not going to be available, so we looked for a way to work around a full-time keyboard presence. I hit upon the idea of starting the night with an acoustic set, beginning with just Matt and I on stage but gradually adding musicians as we went,. By the end of that set the band would be fully assembled, and we’d go electric for the last song. Then we’d take a break, come back and do a full electric set with Matt switching back and forth between keys and guitar when necessary, and after a second break we’d finish off the night with a full performance of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

I knew going in that taking on the Floyd material was going to be…tricky. Not just in a musical sense, but also because of a heavy dose of ambivalence. It’s something we’ve approached rarely, and with caution, since the split in 2007. It’s not our intention to show any disrespect to our friend and former bandmate Tim Hollinger or encroach on his great work with The Floyd Show, which continues to this day. Or, for that matter, re-muddy the waters of public perception concerning the SoN name. But oh my stars, do I miss those songs sometimes. On the occasion that we have thrown a random Floyd cover into one of our sets, it’s been a spontaneous event, nearly always at a gig where Tim is present and we’ve invited him up on stage to play it with us. It’s been a fun way to keep in touch with each other and our shared – if borrowed – legacy. This time, even though we were planning to involve Tim, the context would be different: a polished, full-band, full-production, full-on set, like the days of yore. I’ll admit that my motives were 90% selfish (WYWH is my favorite Floyd album and it was my birthday, damn straight I was gonna push this agenda) but I also thought it was a special enough occasion to warrant taking things a step further just this once.

By the time we arrived at the night of the show, the musical landscape had changed. Pushing things back to July had put Dave back into the mix, so the song choices leaned toward the more orchestrated. Playing three sets was still the order of the day, but the full acoustic set was scrapped, leaving only a couple of songs now integrated into the broader swath of material. I had been persuaded by the rest of the band to drop the WYWH idea and include a more eclectic choice of Floyd tunes, some of which were still being learned and arranged right up to the last minute.

A quick word on the folks at Gino’s. When I first walked in to check out the stage space, I was gobsmacked to be greeted by several oversize banners emblazoned with our logo and ad for Saturday’s show. I had a few posters and flyers delivered to the club earlier, but nothing on the scale of this. They took our medium-budgetary ball and ran with it, asking for nothing in return but a great show, and that care and attention extended everything else about our experience. To Brett and everyone on staff, thank you so much for making us feel welcome and valued. Looking forward to coming back again.

Plenty of familiar faces in the crowd: fans, friends, and family, some of whom have become regulars at these shows, some of whom we hadn’t seen in a while, and even one guy who drove all the way from Colorado to see us live for the first time, which blew me away. All were welcome, all were enthusiastic, and all stayed for the duration. Pretty great.

We got a late start due to an unusually long and laborious sound check, but soon were off to the races and still had time to play everything on the roster. Hard to pick out highlights from a 29 song set that was performed 5 months ago, but for me, one of the biggest standouts was the full-band debut of “Solitary World,” a long-time favorite that took on a whole new life when brought to the stage. I also really enjoyed our take on “Atmosphere” that night, thought we did our best-ever performance of Marillion’s “Incommunicado,” and dug the hell out of “Thursdays” with Marie on lead vocals (she owns that song now) and Matt’s reading of Queen’s “In Only Seven Days” as a cheeky intro. And speaking of Matt playing solo, the brand new acoustic song he debuted – while the rest of us departed the stage and let him hog the spotlight whether he wanted to or not – was yet another great moment in an evening full of them.

The band delivered once again. I haven’t felt that relaxed on stage in a while, and a big chunk of it came from knowing that everyone had their ducks in a row and I could focus on communicating with the audience instead of giving cues and holding the arrangements together. My stress levels were also quelled by the fact that I was playing through Ray Opheikens’ fully-loaded bass rig, left at the club from the previous night’s festivities. I usually borrow a bass from Ray while I’m in town but it’s not often that I get use of his full set up, which provided glorious sound all through the night, and kept me wireless so that I had no cord-stomping anxieties and the ability to zoom around the room for both entertainment and communications purposes. As always, my time spent away from the stage was met with the requisite overcompensation – by the end of the second set, I had already sweated through my second t-shirt and was joyously exhausted.

And then, it was time for the Floyd…

To be honest, we could have been better prepared, and I blame myself.  I had dithered with the set list too long, and in a way did the band a disservice by allowing them to change my mind about the format, because it made things much more complicated. Consequently, there were some performances that were looser than we would have liked, but we pulled it off overall and had fun doing it. And some moments were bloody fantastic, like Mike & Dave’s intro for “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” or the trance-jam of “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun,” or the always reliable audience singalong with “Wish You Were Here,” amongst others.

Of course, it helped that this audience was populated by so many folks who not only were on our side in getting the job done, but had shared the stage with us while doing it on many occasions. Not only was Tim there (and, as always, pulled up on stage to take the lead vocal on multiple songs) but also the likes of Juli Holt, Jason Giron, and Carl Roehmann. Our friend Fozz turned up as well, capturing the night for posterity just like old times — all of the videos embedded in this entry were forged by his hand. The looseness of the event and the family reunion combined to create a great party atmosphere, and I came away from the experience profoundly grateful. Getting the chance to scratch that particular musical itch – and even indulge in a little nostalgic time traveling, was not something I had ever really expected to happen again, and having so many friends there to share it just enhanced the experience above and beyond.

Partial Family Portrait. Clockwise, from left: Jeff Hildy, Jason Giron, Carl Roehmann, John Flanders, Matt Meldrum, Tim Hollinger, Dave Slack, Thom Bowers, Tommy Maras, Mike Thiriot, Marie Estrada, and Juli Holt.


Matt and I chatted afterwards, and I thanked him for his indulgence on the Floyd front — it was much more my quest than his — and we both agreed that the major takeaway from this show is a renewed confidence in our ability to fill an entire night with so much music, so many different facets of ourselves, and have it pay off. We have enjoyed playing with other bands in the past and will undoubtedly do so again in the future, but it’s nice to know that this option is…well, optional. We’ve been doing this for too long to settle for anything less.

More on that subject, and other plans for the further future, in upcoming installments…upcoming sooner than you might think.

Thanks so much for reading,