Lots of people, both bands and fans, flew in from out of town only to find that the venue had been changed at the last minute. The new club was much smaller and could not even contain all the people who'd bought tickets. Due to vague terrorist threats and muddled organization by Ralph Carerra Productions,the whole thing was on the verge of falling apart as ticket holders were turned away, others boarded shuttle buses to a third venue far away and the police & fire depts showed up to put a damper on an already confused situation.
People were shaken down by overzealous security guards and made to throw away items like gum, pens and vitamins. By Sunday. The 16th the situation had improved as a third stage upstairs was opened and no one was turned away. Inspired performances by Boston bands the Lyres, DMZ, Mr. Airplane Man, Upper Crust and Kings of Nuthin' helped save the weekend from total disaster.
3:30pm Leaving Charlestown, Traffic is heavy but my talkative cabbie knows his job and finds a very creative back way into the airport. A 20 minute trip, not too bad for this time of day. I gave him a good tip.
4:20pmIt's a holiday weekend, so needless to say , the airport was busy. I had arranged to meet my traveling companion, Jeff Conolly, sometime between 4:00 and 5:00. He's not here yet so I found a good spot for optimum people watching.
4:50pmJeff appears out of the crowd. He's lost a lot of weight, which is good, but it looks like he hasn't bathed or shaved in a couple of weeks. In his own words, "A two week guy". He was wearing a grimey , grey, M.I.T. tee shirt with a million holes in it. I was skeptical when he told me he managed to find a clean shirt.
We got our boarding passes and moved on to the security gate. Jeff put his bag on the conveyor and got through with no problem. I got pulled aside and was asked to remove everything from my bag and guitar case, and to place everything on a folding table which was right between the two security gates.
All my stuff was layed out, on display for hundreds of people to look at as they walked by on either side. It's a good thing I didn't have anything embarrassing! A couple of condoms in my shaving kit entertained a small gaggle of teenage girls, giggling and whispering amongst themselves as they moved by.
Something kept setting the metal detector off even though I had no shoes on, no belt, nothing in my pockets. I was really getting tired of standing there with my legs spread and my arms out. Finally, they called over a short, young, State Police dude with a jarhead haircut, to pat me down manually. He soon deemed me safe to enter. I joined Jeff at the bar. He got a kick out of the whole ordeal. We had a couple of drafts and boarded the plane.
6:15pmWe found our seats and were settling in, Jeff was munching on Sun chips and Tabasco when a stewardess came up to him, "Sir, is this yours"? Apparently he had left a bunch of stuff at the bar in the terminal. You have got to wonder how this stuff found its way back to him. The aircraft was full, the terminal was packed as well. I can only imagine the bartender handing it over to a flight attendant and describing it's owner, "long graying blond hair, holes all over his shirt".
11:15pm Landing in Chicago, we are staying on the plane. I'm getting pretty hungry, I didn't realize that they don't feed you any more. They tossed me a bag of pretzels. The only alcohol was little bottles of red or white wine at $5 a pop. I had four.
Landing at L.A.X.. Jeff and I got off the plane and headed for the ground transportation area to catch the shuttle to get our rental car. We were out of the terminal when Jeff realized he had left his Tabasco and medication on the plane. Once you leave the aircraft and go through the security gate, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get back in.
Undeterred, Jeff went scurrying back. I admire the guy's spunk, but not wanting to witness the madness, I decided to wait outside in the warm L.A. air and have a smoke. I knew it was a wise decision when I overheard the pilots talking to each other as they passed by me. "I'm telling you for the last time, you are NOT getting back on this aircraft, I don't care WHO you are".
An hour later, I hear my name. 'Rick, over here". It was Jeff running for the shuttle, I grabbed my stuff and ran after him. He had his medication and his hot sauce.
We made it Budget and got in a Taurus, after 15 minutes of meticulously adjusting the seat, mirrors, interior temperature, CD player , and everything that could possible be adjusted, Jeff pulled the car over to the security gate and handed the attendant his receipt, oops, wrong car. We switched to a Mustang and 15 minutes later we were on our way.
1:30am PST 65 degrees We made it to the Inntown Hotel on Figuroa, Jeff handled the room arrangements while I said hello to Jack Hickey and Nat Frieberg who were hanging out near the office. The venue for the gig was originally directly across the street, but now there was a sign that simply read, "L.A. Shakedown?¦.NOT HERE" , No other explanation was offered.
All of us were desperate for a drink by this time, but it was damn near 2:00. I suggested we hit the lounge at the Holiday Inn one block away. By the time we got there they were closing up, but Jack talked the friendly barkeeper into letting us stay if we bought all our drinks beforehand. We each bought 4 and hung out for another hour before heading back to our rooms. It was about 3:30 and I was ready to retire. Jeff hooked up with our guitarist Jared and stayed out for a couple of more hours.
3:15 pm 72 deg. Sunny
J.J. and I had lunch at Fatburger and commiserated about our problems. After lunch we decided to grab a cab back to downtown to catch Mr. Airplane Man at the venue, which had apparently been changed to a smallish club three block away from our hotel. I stopped at my room and Jeff was in bed, with the covers up to his nose, watching skiing on TV. Like Brian Wilson.
I freshened up a bit and J.J. and I walked next door to the Figuroa lounge for a drink. We hooked up with Jim Janota, Nat, and the rest of the "Upper Crust" crew, as well as Jack Hickey, who were apparently there for some time , judging by all the empty beer bottles
J.J and I walked to the club and were surprised to see a line to get in that was at least a quarter of a mile long. It was like 700 people waiting!! It took us twenty minutes to get in because we had to convince some idiot that we were in the band. One wrist band, two stamps, and a "pat down" from this huge black guy, and we got in in time to see Mr, Airplane Man.
They were having a great set. Every time I have ever seen these guys, Margret has worn a mini skirt. I mean she has such great legs and I was definitely disappointed that she was wearing jeans. The music was wonderful and everybody was moving with the beat. Tara looked cute as a button( as usual) and for the first time, I noticed she plays her drums barefoot.
I went to the bar for a beer, and as I was walking back, right there in front of me, stood Miss Laura Markley, a statuesque, dark haired beauty, she was gently swaying to the music and wearing a brown cordaroy jacket with a fur collar,( that matched her pretty brown eyes), a maroon skirt with black stockings and black Mary Janes. She just seemed miles apart from all the punk rock chicks, like she had this aura around her, Aura of Laura, (check her out much , Rick? - ed.)
I caught my breath and went over to say hi. She told me she had been waiting in line for three hours. And she had a ticket! It was at that moment that I realized that something was wrong, the venue was so small that everyone who had a ticket couldn't possible fit into this small club. Paying customers with wristbands and tickets were being denied reentry. Cash customers were being let in while pre paid ticked holders were being told they had to wait.
Jack Hickey's prophetic statement" We're not gonna get paid", started to haunt me. Laura said she was hungry and I suggested she accompany J.J. and I to the Figuroa Lounge. When we got there, the Upper Crust guys and Hickey were still there. We joined them, Laura found some food, and Jim Janota kept us all laughing.
DMZ rehearsal in J.J. and Jacks hotel room. Unamplified and without Jeff. It went well. We can usually run through all the songs in about 20 minutes. After, I checked in with Jeff . He had showered and shaved, and was on the phone to somebody, bragging about it. I noticed he had managed to spill a substantial amount of talcum powder on my guitar case. Jack and I headed over to the Figuroa lounge for a few pre gig cocktails.
Jack and I headed over to the venue, This time I got patted down by an attractive female door person. The Fire Marshall was standing right at the doorway, arms folded across his chest, probably alarmed by the huge line snaking its way into this small club, and by the recent news story of the tragic stampede deaths in a Chicago nightclub.
Murphy barely made it. He had outdated information and was waiting at some club across town. J.J. and I were setting up stage right, opposite of what we usually do. Why? I don't know! We just did! DMZ broke into "Your Gonna Miss Me" and it FELT pretty good. I was getting this weird bass feedback from a monitor that was hiding in the corner a little too close to me. Three songs went by before I figured out I could kick it towards Murphy, it stopped howling.
Jeff was performing "damn good" and he had his blue sparkle tux and Italian wrap arounds on. He masterfully "disarmed" a heckler in the audience by somehow making him part of the show and asking him, loudly, if that song was "more to his liking". The guy was totally cool in no time.
Jack was doing his flying guitarist maneuvers and treating his ultra rare Gretch "green monster" with total disregard, wringing every last screaming decibel out of the poor thing. J.J's Gibson was knifing through my eardrums. Mr. Murphy had a pile of sweat drenched wood chips tinted with blood. Margret had this look of awe on her face, mouth open.
Laura was doing this really cute dance thing that she only does when the music really moves her. It DID feel good to me.
After the gig, the Inntown hotel was one big party, everyone milling around the pool area. I heard a rumor that the guys in the Upper Crust had a bunch of beer in their room. I guess Jack had heard the same rumor.
We drank their beer and laughed at Janota's animated stories until the beer was gone. Jack and I wandered down to the pool and pretty much everybody was still there. Jeff was going around drinking all the almost empty beers and drinks he could find on the tables or on the ground, still clad in blue sparkle.
I was sound asleep in bed when Jeff came crashing in the room with about five people. I threatened to kill them if they didn't leave. ( Later, J.J. told me they tried to get into his room as well). Respectfully, Jeff grabbed the car keys and they all left. He came back at 8:00 and disappeared into the bathroom for a solid hour. I didn't hear one sound, I thought he was dead.
I went to the venue to see The Upper Crust. The place was totally different, they opened up this huge upstairs room that was at least one and a half times bigger than the Middle East downstairs. Plenty of room for everyone, I gather they couldn't use this room last night because of a big Hip Hop event.
I was disappointed in the Upper Crust show because I couldn't hear the vocals at all. I thought the band looked good, they never let go of the schtick, the hand gestures,( Nats royal wave), the look on their faces. They had a lot of fans cheering them on with that two fingered "rock salute". Jim Janota is well "suited" to this type of comedy.
I thought the LYRES played OK. It was a little "unsmooth" but probably close enough. No Vox organ. Jeff freaked when they brought out this huge digital monstrosity with 88 keys and a thousand buttons, luckily, a compassionate kid from another band let him use his portable Hammond. There was the usual discussion as to what song would be played next.
Jarred was perplexed and annoyed by Jeffs "Get away from me" thing, he did it every time Jared got near him. I made a few mistakes, but lately I've become a master a covering them up. The monitors were good, so Jeff did well, as is usually the case when he can hear himself.
During"Help You Ann", a mosh pit developed right in front of the stage. People were falling over like bowling pins. Laura very wisely repositioned herself to a safer location towards the back. Margret and Tara, however, stood their ground.
I start the opening bass line to our encore song "Got No Reason To Complain."
2:05 am 2/17
After the set I hung around for a while talking and schmoozing. It always amazed me that people would actually come from out of state to see us. A woman from Wisconsin had some really nice things to say about the LYRES. The very same woman had come to see DMZ last night, she waited 3 hours to get in, left the venue to eat, and was denied re-entry. She had missed the band she had traveled so far to see. I felt more than a little angry at the promoter, Ralph Carrera, for allowing this sort of crap to happen.
I walked back to the hotel with our boyish guitar player Jared. I guess he needed to escape from the bevy of young female punksterettes that seem to always orbit around the guy. The guy's got GRAVITY. Every one of my female friends wants him. I'm hoping some of the "Jared magic" will rub off on me. (Ya right, dream on Coraccio) We kept the conversation light. He's a good kid.
4:00 am 2/17
Jeff was on the phone with the airline. Our 6am flight has been cancelled because of a huge snowstorm invading the Northeast. Jeff caught us a 1:30pm flight. Which later evaporated as well.
Alley was also on her way to the airport. CNN is reporting Logan airport is closed. Jeff booked the next available flight for us, a redeye two hopper, 12:30 am wed. Looks like another day and a half in LA LA land, not too hard to take I suppose.
Jared was leaving with a tall, blonde, punky looking chick, in her RX-7 with Texas plates. He rolled down the window, "Rick, I got a redeye tomorrow. See ya in Boston man, later." Downtown L.A is kinda boring. I walked for miles past hundreds of jewelry stores, Latino restaurants and New York style electronics stores with Latino music distorting through ridiculously gaudy boom boxes, and for reasons known only to my 2nd ex-wife, and a few close friends, I am repulsed.
Occasionally, store barkers would approach me in a effort to entice me inside, always speaking Spanish. I've been told that with my brown hair and eyes, and Italian coloring, I could pass for Spanish. I did find a good cigar store, and after purchasing a few Nicaraguan Flor de Olivas and an interesting fake Cohiba, I went strolling on back to the hotel, happily puffing on a big, fat, stinky, stogie. Life IS good.
Jeff offered to run for lunch, Takeout at "The Pantry". We ate steak and eggs and watched a movie on HBO called "Augie Rose" starring Jeff Goldblum. "Notice the butter knife." Jeff said, laughingly mocking ex-Lyres guitarist Danny McCormack Once a catchphrase for an entire tour in the 80's. I have heard this inside joke way too much. I'll forgive him one more time.
2:30 pm 70 degrees, cloudy
It's time to resume my search for the perfect Black Russian. The friendly bartender at the Holiday Inn lounge is expecting me. "Where have you been Rick?" he says with a smirk. "Wise ass." I crack back.
Without asking he mixes me a Black Russian with Absolute. I love this guy. I called my best friend Richie Johnson in Burlington, MA. He had been shoveling snow, he claims it's waist deep and it's going to keep snowing all night. "So, how are the women down there?" I am not surprised that this is the first question he asked me. One his most memorable quotes; "All the woman my age are OLD!"
6:10 pm 2/17 Monday night
Jeff is still in bed, I'm going to see a movie to kill some time. "Daredevil" sounds good, 7:30 show. On the way to the theater, Jack Hickey called me on my cellphone. He had just made it to Cleveland and no flights were going to Manchester, which is where his car is parked. He had somehow managed to get a room at the Holiday Inn, eat dinner, drink at the bar, whatever, all on a credit card with a negative balance.
I found the theater, got my ticket, bought my popcorn, sat somewhere in the middle. I woke up while they were running the ending credits, popcorn all over my lap. Real exciting flick, a 15 dollar nap!
We headed off to the offices of
Bug Music, Jeff's publishing company. More royalty checks for the
Mann. We hit a few record stores and stopped for drinks at a place called Musso and Frank. While we were sitting there, Elizabeth, one of the
girls from Bug music, came in for a drink, we talked and after a while she invited us for dinner at her apartment.
Jeff made a pit stop at Store 24 for some cranberry juice. Just as we were leaving the parking lot, Jeff's girlfreind Stacy called me on my cell. "I KNOW YOU LIKE HER!" Jeff screamed and drove off a curb with such a CRASH, that we had to stop and examine the car. It sounded like we tore the front end off. No damage.
We found her apartment and she made us a great dinner, some kind of pasta dish that she whipped up all the while keeping up a running conversation with both of us. Her ex-husband came by with some beer. It was former Bostonian, Steve (forgot his last name) from The Wild Stares and friend of Rick Harte.
Dropped off the Mustang, When we got to the ticket counter they had absolutely no record of our reservations. Just great! Fortunately, they had two seats.
Landing in Dallas, two hour delay while someone had to run to a warehouse a pick up a new speedometer for the aircraft.
11:15 am EST
Landing in Boston, I split off from Jeff and ran for a cab. "Charlestown Navy Yard." I told the cabbie. He looked at my guitar case and then at me, and with a Jewish inflection, he asked "So, I should know you?"