We get to play with House Of Large Sizes tonight! This is great - we're old friends back from the time before Punk Rock Broke. They are fantastic - very soul, rootsy, and 70-s influenced rock from the midwest, with some angst-ridden, screaming vocals. They are awfully nice people too. Barb, the bass player, is a complete rock-goddess, with 2 long braids and her blue mod dress. We traded some stories with them. It turns out they opened for the Urge a couple of months ago in Columbia, the same thing we're going to do tomorrow. It turns out they had a really, really terrible time. The Urge's stage crew was throwing their equipment out on the street right after they played. Dave, the lead singer, almost got into a fist fight with someone from the crew. That's not going to happen with us!
I was really scared that people would find out that we were playing Day On The Hill tomorrow and not come to our evening show tonight, but the room was nicely full of people. I think House made some new fans too - they're one of those bands you could hear about but not see, and then be floored when you see them. We were pretty unhappy with our performance tonight, but I think the audience didn't notice. There must not be too much variance in our shows by now.
I've always been really testy in this town in the past; it and I have a long history of trouble, from the awful time we had opening for Public Enemy (band and crew were nice to us, but 1000 white college kids in the audience had a problem with us) to a guy interviewing us for a zine, asking us, "Are you going to give up now that Hum is more popular than you?" to our Kansas City Fugazi show with the Gun Incident. So I've always mistrusted the people of this town, thinking that most of them had some kind of bug up their butts. I'm starting to break down now. The nice people and the fun we've had in this town over the past couple of years is starting to outweigh the bad times of the past.
Lawrence, Kansas has worked some kind of magic on me, and I'm starting to fall in love with the place. In fact, I've spent about $150 here in the past day. A guy says dreamily to me, "One day, I'm going to go visit Champaign, Illinois! and I say, "WHY? You live HERE!" He says, "it must be much bigger than here! It's between Bloomington and Chicago, right? We are only close to Kansas City!" I say, "No, this must be bigger" and upon comparison we find that the two cities have pretty much the same size population. That's when it hits me. The beautiful, rolling hills on campus. The campus town with about 5 times as many cool record stores, 5 times as many neat clothing stores, 5 times as many good used clothing stores, and 5 times as many awesome furniture stores, and IT'S GOT THE SAME SIZE POPULATION AS CHAMPAIGN? That's kind of depressing! "What gives, in Champaign?" I ask Rick, fully well knowing his answer. "It's an engineering campus," he states. "Lawrence is more liberal-arts."
We were asked at the last minute to be the Special Guests at Day on the Hill. This is a fun outdoor show that we headlined a couple of years ago - and Hum, our friends from home, are headlining tonight! Lots of people come out and it's a beautiful area and the students who run it are all very nice. (The leader of the group is a bit perturbed because his budget was cut because they spent $60,000 to get Desmond Tutu to speak at the campus, and only made back a small amount of it in ticket sales.) Anyway, playing this show works out perfectly because we played in town here last night and can squeeze in a show early this morning before we head out to Columbia MO for our ROCK EXTRAVAGANZA tonight with The Urge! Too bad we won't be able to stick around to see Hum, but I'm leaving them a note saying "hi."
This is a sad one, everyone. Read at your own risk.
"I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO HUMILIATED IN ALL MY LIFE. I feel like SHITHOLE CRAP BAND from ILLINOIS. In FIFTEEN YEARS of doing this, this is the only day I've ever, ever felt like GIVING UP." Rick's voice cracked as he sputtered those last words. He was yelling at Richard King, one of our favorite club promoters, and he was on the verge of tears. And Rick doesn't ever swear in public.
Today we made fools out of ourselves in front of 1000 people, who could have gone away as new Poster Children fans, but instead, were probably totally befuddled about what they saw on the stage. I feel like it's my fault we played this show. When we were given the opportunity to play in front of "The Urge," I thought it would be a good idea. Instead of playing against them. Play to 1000 people, a surely sold-out show, in Columbia, MO, in our favorite club, The Blue Note, or play in someone's basement, to probably around 10 or 20 people who'd find out about the show at the last minute and couldn't get Urge tickets. I suggested vehemently that we play with that other band. I thought they were sort of a punk"y"-ska band, and I thought they'd have kidfans who'd love us.
What I should have known was that playing with a band like that would get us screwed.
When we showed up about 4 hours early for our soundcheck, (because we FUCKING were not going to be late to Columbia THIS TIME) and let the house soundguy know that he would be doing our sound, he was horrified. This man looked like a refugee from a Lynrd Skynrd concert crew, like someone threw him off the bus because he was too chicken to get the required full body tattoo of the confederate flag across his back. He was missing a tooth and had a full wife-beater haircut. I wanted to ensure him that I was just as horrified as he was at the prospect of him doing our sound. He slapped his hand to his head. "YOU DON'T HAVE A HOUSE SOUND GUY?" he moaned. "HOW ABOUT A MONITOR GUY??" "No, sorry," I added. He looked painfully at another man on the crew. "Looks like you'll be doing monitors today," he whined at the other man. "I should be getting paid double, then," the other man sobbed. "CAN'T YOU JUST FIND A SOUNDGUY, OFF THE STREET?" the Soundguy whinnied at me. "Have you ever run sound for a band?" I asked. "I have been DOING this 20 Years," he exclaimed. ('What,' I thought; 'complaining?') I have NEVER IN MY LIFE seen people who were less interested in doing their job for their payment. "DO YOU EVEN HAVE AN L.D.???" he squeaked? An L.D. is a Lighting Director. We've played this club for about 10 years now, and never with a Lighting Director. The only other person who'd asked me this question in my whole life was the Buzzcocks Stage Manager, I think. I had had it by now. "Just turn the fucking lights on when we start playing," I said. "We don't need a fancy light show."
Meanwhile, we are deep in the middle of Hour 3 of The Urge's soundcheck. The drummer is whining that his voice is a bit more muffled in his monitor than the lead singer's, and he just can't play that way. The rest of the band is actually even rolling their eyes at him, but they are all doing a good job of prissy nit-picking about their own monitors. I'm sort of laughing, looking at the stack of monitors set up for the meowing drummer, because I am wondering what he would do if he were in Howie's shoes. Our drummer will not even be able to USE a drum monitor tonight, because The Urge will NOT move their drums. Howie will be playing on the floor, crowding the rest of us on that tiny stage.
The lead singer and the bass player from The Urge are tarted up in some sort of Stage Wear outfits, singer's wearing an expensive looking Rock Silver Suit, and the bass player is dolled up in some fashion-black clothes. Their tour bus is parked 2 blocks away, because The Blue Note is a pretty big club, but not really big enough to house a tour bus. I imagine a sort of Poltergeist-The-Movie-looking 4th dimensional red fleshy gaping funnel leading from the wall of the club where The Urge is standing to the New York office of Epic Records, a money funnel that stops midway to plunge through the unknowing butts of The Urge and out their mouths, ending in that tour bus. A tour bus like that costs them at least $1000 a day, and their road crew costs them probably another $1000. They are playing one-off shows - they're not even on tour, and today they are 2 hours from their home of St. Louis. They couldn't drive themselves 2 hours to this show and save themselves $2000?? Bands get tour support all the time from their labels, and they don't even realize it's all coming straight out of their own pockets. If I had that money, I would KEEP it. I would drive myself to my FUCKING SHOW, and I would spend that money on something good. Something like part of a recording studio. Something that would last even AFTER TONIGHT'S SHOW.
4 hours into The Urge's soundcheck and Howie comes up to me his voice crackling. "We Have A Problem," he states. The House Soundguy has just informed him that there are only 4 open channels for the monitor board, for us to use. This means we only get to hear 4 instruments on the stage, including vocals. The Urge will not allow us to use any of the mics that they are using, or channels that they are using. "I don't care, all we need to hear on stage is 2 vocals and kick drum through the monitors." Guess we didn't really NEED that extra Monitor guy, did we, for 4 friggin' channels. This is a pretty shitty thing to do to a band, but we can manage, because we are perfessionals, and we are easy, and we know the Poor Sound Crew has been through a LOT today.
Another half-hour, and Howie comes up to me again, there's another problem. Apparently the soundguy is too afraid to come up to me with these little Problems, so he goes to Howie. There are ONLY 7 CABLES FOR US TO USE FOR THE MAIN HOUSE SOUND. THIS MEANS OUR WHOLE BAND WILL BE MIC-ED WITH 7 MICROPHONES, FOR THIS SHOW. "Unless you are willing to share The Urge's equipment." Now, looking at The Urge's equipment, first of all, I don't want to use their equipment. 2nd of all, they don't even have the same setup as us. They have saxophones and keyboards!! What the hell are we supposed to do with that? They have a double-kick drum, and there are 3 mics set up on the guitar amp alone. "We're NOT using their equipment," I informed Mr. Lame Soundguy, who may have been limping by this time. "We CAN'T." 5 minutes later he returns to me and says, "WELL, I just asked The Urge if You can Use their equipment, and guess what they said. NO. You can't use ANY of it." (now I'm humiliated already. I would never have asked them.) "So You have 7 microphones for your show."
It is pretty standard for a lot of headlining bands to limit the power to the opening band's show. The opening band basically is not allowed to use enough power in the PA to make themselves sound good. This ensures that the headliner won't be eclipsed by a better opening band. We've been through this a lot. But we've never actually been limited to 7 microphones for a show, not in a big club. This was unheard of to us.
So now, Howie tells me it's time to kick some butt. Now there are people standing all around looking at me, some not even affiliated with the club, waiting for my move.
"listen," I say quietly. Or maybe not so quietly. "I am SICK AND TIRED of kicking peoples' butts in this town. My foot is BLEEDING from kicking peoples' butts in this town. Look at my foot. Half of it's gone already from kicking peoples' butts. I don't HAVE THE ENERGY TO KICK ANOTHER BUTT IN THIS TOWN. I HAVE NO FOOT LEFT. THIS ISN'T OUR SHOW, PEOPLE AREN'T HERE TO SEE US. I'M SURE THE SOUNDGUY IS GOING TO DO HIS BEST TO MAKE US SOUND GOOD. We've already had one good show today. If these people want to fuck us, I just don't care anymore. I JUST DON'T HAVE THE ENERGY FOR THIS."
Now microphones were being moved from The Urge's equipment. Soundguy yelled at me after he asked if Rick could use a straight stand, and I pointed to a boom stand next to it and said, "He'd prefer that one, actually." Soundguy yelled, "THIS IS WHAT IS GOING TO CAUSE PROBLEMS."
I'll end it all now. There were some funny moments with the 4 of us sitting downstairs, listening to The Urge's audience upstairs, screaming unintelligible rantings before the show. It sounded like they were sacrificing young virgins up there. Or like a war. Like there was killing going on up there. I was petrified to go out there. I wanted to throw out free CDs to the audience but Rick informed me "You can't throw anything free to that audience! Anything you throw to that audience will get throw right back at you!" I put on a pretty shirt so they would be able to tell I was a girl and wouldn't start yelling "FAGGOT" at me. I offered Howie $25 to go out in front of them naked. Howie said that if we were going to go down in front of them, if they started yelling hate things at us, that he was going to just jump right into the audience and die that way, being torn limb from limb by an angry mob of drunken frat guys. That was funny.
When we went on the stage, people started chanting "POSTER CHILDREN! POSTER CHILDREN!" I all of the sudden felt great. I asked the audience, "Who Here isn't wearing any underwear??!!" and got a good rise out of them. Next, "Who Here WISHES THEY WEREN'T WEARING ANY UNDERWEAR???!!" and got the even larger rise. See? I know what I'm doing. And I'm not wearing any underwear, either.
We begin our show. We jump around furiously, we start out with our loudest song, ANKH. Halfway through, Rick and I go white. His microphone isn't working. It's like, NOT ON. NO ONE CAN HEAR THE LYRICS. All of the energy completely drained out of me. We look like idiots. 1000 drunken frat guys don't know that it's not our fault that we sound like shit. Have you ever seen a band singing through microphones, jumping around like they are a professional rock band, and their FUCKING MICROPHONES AREN'T ON so you can't hear their vocals? There is nothing we can do. And no one from the sound crew comes up to fix the problem. Before the 2nd song, we undo our microphones and trade them, because mine works. Guess I didn't emphasize enough to the sound crew that Rick is the lead singer. It's way more important for him to have a working microphone. Who even knows where the soundguy is.
It's over. It's sad. I'm drained and can barely move, not that there's anywhere to go on the crowded stage anyway. We have another 40 minutes in this hell. I look over at Rick's amp and notice the microphone on it is just hanging down. It's nowhere near the amp. No one can hear his guitar. We couldn't possibly sound like Poster Children. There is no sound coming out of my monitor. Bored frat guys stand in front of us, staring at their watches. They don't know it's not our fault they can't hear us. They don't know why we sound so bad. We are powerless.
The FUCKING BOUNCER IN FRONT OF ME DANCES AROUND LIKE A FAIRY to make fun of us as we play. I stand over him with my swear finger to the back of his head while he does this, and then I stand right over his ear as I play my bass. At least he couldn't have looked too smart then. I had enough energy to still Rock Out as he stood there making fun of me. If I had a chance, I'd have asked the audience to give him a hand, and I'd have stuck out my magical swear finger and I'm SURE they would have done the same thing. How hard could it be to turn a crowd against one bouncer? I wish I had done that.
2 songs left and Rick announces to the crowd that "If anyone would like to come up and talk to me and be informed on how to mic an amp with a Sennheuser 421, please come up and see me after the show." Monitor guy comes down to the stage as we play our last 2 songs and fixes the mic properly, and then apologizes. What could the audience have heard? Just snare drum and MY CRAPPY BACKUP VOCALS, most likely. UGHHHH!!!! 1000 people LOST.
After the show, we were loading out our gear, screaming. "I AM SO SORRY. I PROMISE NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, WE WILL NEVER OPEN FOR ANOTHER BAND AGAIN. Unless it's Fugazi." I say over and over to the rest of the band. There are kids standing all around, listening quietly. "I'm sorry you had to hear this," I say embarrassedly to them. It turns out they couldn't get tickets for the show, so I figured out a way to get them on our guest list, and sent them into the show. At least I could make 6 kids happy tonight.
The Saxophonist P.R. guy from the Urge comes up to congratulate us on our show. "I was screaming for you as you climbed onto the barricade during your first song," he said proudly to me. He's a nice guy. They all seem quite nice. That's what they're paying their road crew for; so they can seem nice. I don't feel bad that we left before their show. Hell, we saw them soundcheck for 3 hours.
The Blue Note used to be one of our favorite places to play in the country. It's going to be such a long time before I want to return to Columbia MO. This is a string of bad luck.
NEXT SHOW - MADISON, WISCONSIN. SAVE US, MADISON!