Day 7 – When it rains, it pours

In the morning, we wake, take our showers, drink the coffee, charge any remaining devices, talk about heavy metal of the ’90s, and dilly dally and procrastinate the usual amount. And then we’re out the door, and packing the van. Our precious chime-a-tron now gets the special treatment with a special padded spot in the back loft. From now on, the designated sleeper gets to snuggle with Chimey. Today, we are totally good on time, Stuart had no need to get up early for supplies, and it’s going to be a quick drive to our next destination.

We hit the road, backtracking a little, and then heading south west down the east coast toward New York. Brooklyn to be precise.

More tollbooths, corporate rest stops, and interchanges.

I forgot to mention the night before, we stopped at a corporate rest stop and there was a Boston Market. They had some deal where I could get actual veggies, mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn bread. Ironically, this was probably the healthiest I’d eaten in quite a while. What a nice change from energy bars, trail mix, and juice/V8.

Anyway, no such luck today. But that’s fine, it’s a short trip and there was sure to be food in walking distance from St. Vitus.

We hit our first bridge into Queens, and traffic is at a stand still before the toll. I start to feel the crazies come on, but I control myself. I should have been posting tour notes, but I don’t have the mind for it today–and now the scenery is getting good. This area is so gritty. Buildings made of crumbling bricks, covered in graffiti. The bridge is rusted steel. Locals are hanging out on their doorsteps–something you never see in Seattle. We get on a road that is directly beneath a raised train, and follow beneath intervals of rumbling. With so many subways in New York, I wonder why there is a train that cuts down the center of Queens. We hit some construction, and it’s not obvious how to keep going. The van is in a turn lane, and we end up veering right. But it’s the runup to a bridge to Manhattan. There is no escape, we’re heading into Manhattan.

Everyone decides this is my fault, and so we switch over to David for directions by the time we enter Manhattan. We spin around a block and jump back on the bridge, now running out of time before sound check. It seems there is no escape, we must always be late. But it’s exciting to briefly visit the island, and cower beneath its towers and tremble within its bustling traffic, then to make our retreat.

We land back in Queens, and continue on our way across another bridge and into Brooklyn. St Vitus is apparently an unmarked black door between two markets.

St Vitus is a black altar to music. Everything is painted black, and there is stained glass in the ceiling. Somehow this club pulls off inviting a dive bar audience while remaining 100% classy. The bathrooms may be the classiest aspect of the joint. There a bunch of individual unisex bathrooms with locks that are dark, but clean. They have mirrors, and the paper towels are neatly stacked. I feel like I’m in a nice hotel. I vow to use the heck out of those bathrooms while I have the chance. At the bar, there is a significant variety of beers on tap. Then you walk through another portal into the main hall with the stage.

We’re late, and the soundperson isn’t into giving us a soundcheck because the headliner should be doing that. Except they aren’t there yet, and we appeal to his pragmatic sensibilities when we explain our complex setup and that we’re a touring band. He gets it, and we are granted a sound check. In this particular setup, we aren’t able to crack open the chime-a-tron until halfway into load-in and … she works! We let out a whoop, and then continue to bust our butts to complete the soundcheck. Dave turns down the gain on his amp, to hopefully avoid melting the crossover any further. I am able to get my gong setup, and have figured out how to smash the crap out of it without smashing Dave’s earplugged head.

All is well and we are able to backline most our gear. As we leave, there is a heated discussion with a group of people about the band performance order. This is perhaps the oldest argument in all of music. The soundperson is advocating one thing, but then some random guy wants to move us earlier. I figure this is some bandmember, so I stick up for our awesome soundperson and exclaim, “We need to do what the soundperson wants.” He turns to me and states, “Oh, I am so-and-so”.

Now, I can be completely socially incompetent, but here is a rare instance where I reason out that he would only be introducing himself by name if he was the owner. “Oh, so YOU are so-and-so!” I exclaim. “Yes, we should go with that band order! What a pleasure to meet you!”

I am an idiot.

And I walk out, glad to escape utter humiliation, grab some tacos from the handy dude standing there making vegan kimchee tacos, and then walk to the bar to order a beer. A woman turns to me and starts making conversation. I immediately get that feeling that she knows me or knows something about the band, and eventually discover that in fact she is from the label that is helping out Stuart and Joel. Ah it all makes sense, for why would anyone deliberately talk to me like that, unless they thought I was Stuart? But she was super nice, and later I met a few of her colleagues and they were all swell folks. It occurs to me that I should probably play my heart out tonight.

Apart from the first band that played experimental noise jazz much longer than their allotted time, all the bands were amazing. I knew we would have something to offer to everyone there, as it was all pertinent to our interests. Heavy, loud, pushing boundaries. Epistatis has a singer that is incredibly forboding and her screams are a wall of thunder and I soak it in. U SCO is mathy and they all play a ton of notes and it’s all very New York and awesome.

And then it’s time to go on. Well, after getting set up, it’s pretty clear that we’re cutting a few songs, thanks to the first band and a little bit due to there being too many bands on the bill and maybe a tad due to our complicated setup. We play our first song, head into the second song, and  Stuart’s amp stops making sound. We end up stopping half way through the song, as you just can’t continue with his music without him on bass. I’m devastated at the bad luck. I think to myself, the chime-a-tron is doing great so of course this happens.

Stuart calmly stops and starts troubleshooting without missing a beat. He’s checking connections and cables, says a few brief words to the audience, and narrows it down to his bass–all from under a crushing weight of complete silence in the room as people just stand and wait. Eventually, he asks around for a loaner bass, and gives a signal to just play the last two songs.

See Stuart is the kind of dude that never bucks under the pressure. The van is overheating? Fine, he’ll fix it. The engine is knocking? Fine, he’ll adjust the timing. Someone needs to drive all night? Fine, he’ll drive all night. Not enough space to sleep in the van? Fine, he’ll sleep outside in the mist on top of the trailer. An instrument is broken? Fine, he’ll get up at dawn and run around to stores until he gets the parts. Something is broken on his rig? Fine, we stop and figure it out, and then move on. We’re out of time? Fine, we’ll cut songs and still finish our set before the cutoff time so that the next band can play their whole set. And then he’ll grab a smoke like it aint no thing. What’s that? He hasn’t seen you in a while? Expect a bear hug. What’s that, you haven’t heard the Fripp/Hall song? He’ll stop everything and play it for you. Does he like your music? He’ll let you know. Are things getting a little dull? Don’t worry, Stuart has the best off color joke for the moment. Stuart Dalquist.

We finish, and I see smiles on the faces of the label dudes. I guess they get it. I’m impressed with them. And the crowd gets it too and applauds aggressively. We go on to sell enough merch to cover gas.

The night closes with Zevious, who I dearly hope are named after the 80s video game, an insane math metal band with impeccable musicality and creativity.

It’s time to load out, and here comes the rain. The humidity spikes, and we carefully plan the order that every item goes into the trailer and van so that nothing stands in the rain for long.

But don’t worry, Stuart knows exactly the correct order of every single item, and he personally loads it all. We set them up, he knocks them down. Stuart Dalquist.

We eventually find parking and walk to our host’s apartment. We get couches, mattresses, and beds. I share a bed with Jake, yet he does not spoon me and I get a full night’s rest.