Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall 2008 Index

Because starts to archive pages, I figured I'd provide a list of links to all the entries:

1) Introduction & Preface
2) Late Night With Conan O'Brien
3) Canada: Shows & Thieves!
4) New York Pt. 1
5) Midwest
6) Westward
7) Northwest America & Vancouver
8) Southwest: From Hollywood to Deserts
9) Texas To Florida
10) Atlanta: Laundry, Performance, and Elevator Riding
11) D.C. & David Letterman
12) Philly, New York, and the Boston Finale

Philly, New York, & The Boston Finale

And here we are in the final entry for Ra Ra Riot's 2008 US tour. Thanks to everyone and anyone who read along!

Our journey picks up in Philadelphia, where we loaded in to play NPR's World Cafe; and incredible studio with a huge, long history. We played at Johnny Brenda's that night, which was a great show in an intimate stage. The show was a bit quirky too, because the Phillies won in the middle of the set. Someone in the audience shouted "PHILLIES WONNN WOOO!!!" the audience of course was crazy for that. Wes actually had to calm them down a bit, and thank them for staying to watch the show. People were honking in the streets all night.

The most anticipated show all along was definitely Bowery Ballroom. We arrived back in NYC on a thursday morning after playing Philadelphia and staying at Wes' place in Frenchtown NJ. After a quick acoustic radio session, we headed to the lower east side to kill some time... eating at the famous Katz's Deli and playing with fancy shit at Ludlow Guitars. By fancy, I mean the $700 Moog Analog Delay pedal that Milo is itching to get, and what looked to be a vintage Rickenbacker bass that Mat was plucking on. By 3:00, we headed to Bowery to load in and meet my buddy Lane Crouse who we hired to direct lighting for the New York shows. It was so nice to be able to start working so early in the day and have more than enough time to work out any problems, and most importanly, just feel comfortable with everything. Especially cause this was the most intense sound rig I have laid my hands on.

Kenny, the in house sound dude at Bowery, was a great help. He gave me a quick and friendly run down of all his gear; Which compressors work well for vocals and snare, which reverb presets he prefers for the room, which gain pads I could expect to use on certain things (am I impressing you with all this tech talk?!?!). In the meantime, Lane was busy at work programming scenes in the house lighting system as well as the LED strips we rented from a place uptown that were placed on the bands gear, so as to illuminate it all with coordinated, vibrant color. The band played the hell out of their set. Here are some pictures on Brooklyn Vegan

The following day, we headed uptown to the Rockefeller center area to play a set at Sirius Radio in studio. The Sirius complex is quite extravagant, with a sleek lobby and hallway system. Each studio is made of acoustically treated double-glass walls; including the room (called "The Fishbowl") that the band played in. The performance was great, because it was graced by real acoustic instruments... including Allie's real cello, Becca's real violin, Milo's old acoustic guitar, and a provided Baldwin baby grand piano that Wes played. The performance will start to air on the Sirius channel "Left Of Center" in a few weeks I believe.

Just after this, we made a ridiculous journey through the Times Square area about three times, trying to find a gas station. Finally, we ditched that and headed down towards the FDR highway. Traffic sucked. But we pulled it off and made our way to Brooklyn for the Music Hall of Williamsburg show. The venue was really exciting to load in to, because it felt like a really legitimate concert venue. Large, wide stage and big system, and a digital console. It was my first hands-on experience with one where I had to use it to a large extent, actually. But I got the hang of it quickly, and it turned out to be quite convenient compared to most analog systems.

Come show-time when the house lights and music went down, the audience roared. I got one of the most intense adrenaline rushes I've ever had. It suddenly hit me that this was a seriously exciting show to be a part of. The band opened with "Each Year," a perfect song to get the audience riled up for the full entrance. Once the drums came in and Lane hit the big lights, I was in heaven. It simply looked and sounded incredible. My girlfriend Martha and long time friend, Elizabeth, joined me and Lane in the control booth for the duration of the show. I will also mention that watching Lane run the lighting console is a show in and of itself. Haha... damn, I hope to work with him again soon. His expertise and instincts as an LD took the New York shows to a whole new level. Even Mat in the band said he could feel the lighting changes coordinate with the moods of the music on stage. Kudos, Lane.

The band also pulled a new song out of their hat for this show... currently entitled "Foolish." They planned to play it the previous night at Bowery, but "chickened out" as Wes told the audience. The crowd clearly wanted it though, interrupting Wes with applause and screaming. They did play it, and it was amazing. I recorded the show in really nice quality too, so I just might post something from the show on here in a little... check back.

We finished up the tour the next day in Boston at The Middle East Downstairs. Several friends/fans were at this show to join us for the night, including my brother Patrick and his friends from UVM, Boston superfan John Erwin, and one of my best friends from college, Chris D'Errico with his family. The show was a great ending to the tour, and we were able to round up everyone for a big family picture with the Morning Benders, Walter Meego, and Ra Ra Riot (see below at the very bottom).

As some final notes, I cannot tell you how excited I am to have been a part of this tour. Being on the road with an up-and-coming band has been a dream of mine for much of my life, and to be able to do it with such a nice, fun group of people has been simply incredible. For any of you who have watched the video diaries posted on this blog, I'm sure you can tell its a blast hanging out with Ra Ra Riot. I'd like to thank Pepi Ginsberg, Tim, Chris, Joe, Julian, and Brian with The Morning Benders, Colin, Andrew, and Justin of Walter Meego, and of course, Mat, Becca, Allie, Wes, Milo, Gabe, Elise, and Josh with Ra Ra Riot for the amazing experience. I HEAVILY look forward to doing this again in the upcoming December tour!

I'll probably pick this blog up again... stay tuned!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

D.C. and David Letterman

Next up, Washington D.C. The band was originally scheduled to play the "downstairs" room at the Black Cat; a room that they had played before. Frankly, they've outgrown it. Between great ticket sales and a bit of a gut feeling, the show was moved upstairs to the 700-person capacity, sprawling floor, upstairs mainstage. The band was hoping to sell about 400 tickets or so... just enough to fill the space in front of the stage comfortably. However, the show was a monster. 638 heads were counted by the end of the night. The band was ecstatic to have done so well, and over their expectations by 200-something people. The show itself was fantastic. They nailed every song and the production value of the venue is superb. Great staff, great PA, great lights, intimate vibe.

The only downside of this show was of course the fact that we had to leave ASAP to drive to NYC for Letterman and get there by... yes... FOUR THIRTY A.M.

Needless to say, that timing didn't work out too well. Elise and I split the drive and were able to make it in by 5:15 to load in. The next let down was that they were to do a line check after setting up. The band was dying to sleep, so I stepped up to take care of line check for them. They wen't back to Josh/Becca's apartments to sleep, while I fudged my way as a violinist and cellist. Hit some drums, played Milo's guitar, etc. It was a pretty stressful scenario actually. The stage hands want nothing all in the world except for you to do exactly what they ask you, perfectly, immediately, and without your two cents. Then I slept from 8am-12 noon in the green room, awkwardly.

The band came later, and we did a sound check with camera's and all. I sat in the mixing room in the basement with the head sound engineer in front of the most massive digital SSL console I could imagine. I was much more confident this time around than I was with the Conan experience, giving some thoughts to as to how the mix of the band should be, and the engineer was much more open to suggestions. They performed "Can You Tell," and felt much less nervous about the whole process, having done something similar to this before with Conan. But overall, I think the Letterman experience was a bit "bigger" in its scale. Conan's production felt homey.

Check out the performance on youtube below, and some of my backstage footage!

Atlanta - Laundry, Performance, and Elevator Riding

I apologize again for any dedicated fans who were hoping for a few timely last entries. The tour is in fact over now that I'm writing this, but I'm gona break the remainder of the journey into three parts.

We left off in the travels to Atlanta, where we got to stay for two days because of a day off. Our hotel sported a giant open lobby, with Star-Wars like elevators that accelerated up and down through openings in the ceiling on each floor. We were heavily amused by this, and also the set of elevators that rode along the outside of the building. We spent that night merely hanging out in the hotel rooms, watching the office, the daily show, playing on our laptops. Things like that. The following morning, Gabe, Mat and myself went to a local Atlanta laundromat to wash our dirty clothes in some real nice industrial grade washers. Only these washers could get the job done.

By that night, we had loaded into the Drunken Unicorn. The bar was a bit deceiving to find, for there was literally no sign above the venue doors. I guess you either knew or didn't know where the venue was. Regardless, it was packed. I wanna venture to say that it sold out too... but I'm not sure. This show, interestingly, had some of the most intense audience members on the tour. They were wild for Ra Ra Riot; and for the first show the whole tour, the band played two songs in the encore. But most of the band didn't know this would happen. They actually plotted to play "Everest" off their self-titled EP to change things up for the first time on the tour. It was great of course, but immediately at the last attack that ends "Everest," Gabe launched into the drum beat for their classic encore tune, "Hounds of Love." The band's semi suprised/terrified glaces at Gabe suddenly turned to smiles. Gabe is clever like that.

We rode back in the van to the hotel, where Wes hilariously taunted Mat with a wad of many hundreds of merch-dollars; all while singing "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel. Watch the video below. Andrew from Walter Meego came up to join us in the hotel, and challenged our hotel to their hotel (across the street) in an intense-elevator contest. We swore by our elevator's coolness, but apparently the one across the street was out of this world. And it was. I'll let the video do the talking below...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Texas to Florida

The lone star state had three shows in store for us: Dallas, Austin, and Houston. In our first night, we stayed at the weirdest hotel I could possibly imagine. It felt like it used to be a convention center, which was strangely bought by a hotel chain, and converted on an unrealistic budget. The rooms were located along the perimeter of a GIANT open room, with a sprawling floor and ceiling. The most pathetic mini-golf course was located next to a weird hot tub and gym, enclosed in a bubble-like room, along with tons of couches and chairs. The whole floor was large enough to be a casino floor. Mat had a fleeting thought of playing a paintball tournament there.

We pull up to The Loft in Dallas to a giant marquee that read "RA RA RIOTS." It reminded me of Spinal Tap, when they are playing a daytime theater show in an amusement park or whatever, where the sign reads: "PUPPET SHOW" and then just under it "SPINAL TAP." We tried to have it changed, but no one ended up getting around to it I guess. We did a sound check and went down to the bar to catch the end of the VP debate and get dinner. A certain Sarah Palin provided our pre-show entertainment. The venue was cool though; Located on the second story of the building next to a giant patio that had a view of the Dallas city line. The show was mildly attended, but still quite energetic and exciting given the numbers. That night, we stayed in a downtown hotel on the 27th floor. Quite a view.

We travelled further into Texas to Austin, which I can safely say is one of my favorite cities experienced on this tour. The downtown streets are made up of BBQ restuarants and music venues that ALL have bands playing in them. Its a really cool vibe of nightlife, people, and music.

We played an afternoon in-store performance at Waterloo, which is a great, true music store. lots of cool stuff, vinyls, merch, and a modest stage for bands to play on. We got little discounts and free shirts too. Immediately after playing, we had to reload the van, and unload again at the venue; The Parish. This was I think the nicest and largest venue thus far on the tour. That show was unbelievable, and people were literally SCREAMING "encore" at a rapid rate, moments after the band left the stage from the main set. This audience was 100% determined to incite an encore, as if it had been planned a half hour ago. There have been some really iffy moments after the set's finale of "Dying Is Fine" at some venues in smaller markets. Moments where there's alllllmost enough cheering to warrant an encore, but not quite enough. Its always satisfying to see people go crazy for one at shows like this. The band performed their high-energy cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love."

We later got to Houston where we played another in-store performance. There was a shockingly large following of people who had clearly come to see the band too, which was great. The following day we all went back and spent probably an hour looking around and buying stuff. I snagged The Police's Zenyatta Mondatta on vinyl in a used box for 97 cents, and U2's The Unforgettable Fire for like 7 bucks. So excited to play them later and hear their crunchy magical sounds.

That night we played Rudyards tavern/bar. Small, grungy bar type place with an upstairs venue. Toyota is sponsoring some of the shows in this tour, and they bring this decadent car with a tricked out back hatch, lights, plasma TV, and PS3 with ROCK BAND set up behind the car. We played for hours before the show.

After these shows, we had two days off to drive through the south to Florida. We stopped at a cool cajun restaurant in Louisiana, stayed the night in Gainesville, FL, and stopped in Pensacola, FL where we went to an open, empty white-sand beach in Pensacola to hang out for a while. It was cloudy out unfortunately, so not all of us went in the ocean. Wes did. We then finished the drive to Orlando, in which Milo drove the entire way, and Mat navigated the entire way. 750 miles approximately from Texas to our Florida destination. Unbelievable.

Since then, we have played a show in Orlando, and a college show at FSU's "Club Down Under." Another student center concert event like the one at Case Western. This one was a blast though. I told everyone involved that it was my favorite PA to mix on so far... because it was extremely well designed, placed, and tuned. Mixing Ra Ra Riot was a true pleasure that night, and I stepped in on the lighting controller to run the lights here and there with my other hand. The crowd of 250 students that came loved it. Check out this
Review from an FSU student!

We are now in Atlanta at a hotel in another day off, and will be playing a show tomorrow night. I foresee a massive laundry batch tomorrow. PEACE