Sunday - February 22, 2015
... well... I'm home now... and trying to avoid watching the Oscars. For some reason watching any of these award shows makes me feel ill. I'm not against the hardware... it's just that if people understood how they really worked, they might think twice about the amount of value that's placed upon them.
... but anyway... I'm home now.
We left Baltimore around 8am to attempt heading back to Harrisburg. The roads were in way better condition but you could see the aftermath of yesterday's storm on the sides of the road. No real damage, just a few parked and abandoned cars. The temperature had gone up quite a bit too which helped.
The highway was pretty clear... and empty... smooth sailing back to Harrisburg which took just over an hour. Again, it was painful yesterday because we really weren't far apart... just the weather was terrible.
... arrived at the hotel around 9:30am... made a few jokes about my first trip to Baltimore but I assured Mark I'd be back! Eventually! lol...
We bro'd our farewells again and I headed up to the room... which was void of life.
I had some pretty funny first lines rehearsed in my head but they were centered around opening the door to the room. I figured they were downstairs at breakfast so I made my way back to the elevator.
... I get in and hit the first floor button.
... doors close.
... doors open.
... Adam and Dave are standing there.
"I'm so sorry guys."
That's all I could say... meanwhile they're all smiles and hugs, just happy I made it back. Kyle and AJ weren't far behind but it was more of the same... it was nice to be back... even if it was just to load the van and make the trip back to Toronto.
I bumped into a few more familiar faces from hanging out at the panels on Friday, then stopped by Nancy and Scott's room to say bye and safe trip home.
Nothing exciting on the drive back though... roads were clear, highways were quick... border crossing was smooth. Again, they seem easier to deal with if you always show them your hands and let them know you're just trying to do the right thing. Once you get familiar with their "tone" you understand that's just how they talk to people.
We arrived in Toronto around 7pm. A thought crossed my mind... aside from the snow storm, this was probably the first serious traffic we've encountered all trip. Good ol' Toronto!
In the end... aside from missing 50% of the shows and 33% of the rehearsals... I think I did a pretty job filling in as a bassist! Might not get a pass in college but definitely good enough for a conditional pass in high school!
I had a blast though all things considered... I like to travel... I like traveling with bands... and even though we were only together 10 days... you feel like a band after... you bond... and you wish you were still out.
... looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow though... I've been wondering all weekend how the studio is doing.
- Mike :-)
Saturday - February 21, 2015
... what a difference an hour can make. Long story short, I'm still in Baltimore... and missed the show.
I woke up at 9:30... Mark was already awake and tiptoeing around the house as to not wake me up. We chatted for a bit in his studio about music and his newly built space, then headed out to iHop for breakfast.
The roads were clear.
We went in and it was sorta busy... short wait though. We ordered and chatted... I had to finally mention if it's crazy we're finally hangin' out in person. Again, we meet and interact with so many people "digitally" it's nice to finally meet them in real life.
One of the staff came by the table to grab an empty plate.
"... weather sure is getting bad out there."
... looking back it was like a scene out of a movie... foreshadowing.
We left around 11:30 and snow was blowing around pretty good. Mark and I chatted briefly and decided maybe it'd be best if he pack a couple things so if the weather is bad, he could crash in Harrisburg.
During the drive back to the house the truck was having problems on the road... fishtailing... there's a lot of hills but the main roads still seemed to be alright. It took a while to get back... the side roads told the real story though. Mark's house is in the middle of a bunch of hills... getting in was tricky enough... getting out of the area was getting worse by the minute.
Mark packed a small bag and we were back in the truck... even getting away from the curb was tricky at this point.
It. Was. Snowing.
... neither of us are stranger to snow storms but this accumulated fast.
We tried and failed to make it up 3 different hills... including going the wrong way on a one-way street.
I convinced Mark to abort and we headed back into the house.
Just looking out the window you could easily tell this was bad news... the hindsight started kicking in that we should've left as soon as we got up... just in case.
I texted Kyle the update and Mark and I started looking into options. The Greyhound bus had already left at 10:30am... there was a train at 2:30pm and 5:30pm... maybe the guys could come down and get me. I had faith in the van but I really didn't want the guys driving into this... this was getting bad.
Another hour quickly went by and it was not looking good to get out of here... couldn't even find a cab to take me
to the train station... hindsight, I should've walked... it was only 1.5hrs away according to google maps!
We asked if one of the guys in the studio downstairs (in the band recording) with a 4-wheel drive vehicle if they could give me a lift to the train station but they weren't (and totally understandably) interested.
Mark kept calling and texting people but everyone was in the same boat... roads are a mess. Besides, you know things are bad when even the cab companies are like "nope... try again tomorrow."
... anyway... the dilemma with the train is it's further downtown, which is further away from the highway... which was near the iHop... closer to where the guys would be coming in if they drove down.
Looking out the window I saw an Orange truck with a plow go by... I told Mark... he grabbed his bag and keys.
"... might as well try!"
We attempted to get up the hill and did end up getting up the hill... sideways.
I felt a lot of hope at this point... we both did. The glorious sight of a main road was... within sight!
... but the main roads also have hills... and the thing about main roads... they are main roads because lots of people use them.
... and we all know what happens to a large percentage of drivers when bad weather hits.
... this is bad.
Huge props to Mark for making it up a couple more hills... a lot of people were stuck and/or sliding all over the place.
We finally ended up 3ft from fishtailing into a large SUV parked in front of a Chinese restaurant. I joked it's probably their delivery guy picking up orders.
... we waited a few minutes.
I got out to check if anybody was actually in the SUV.
I ended up pushing the back end of Mark's truck to keep it from hitting the SUV while Mark tried to drive forward. It was getting really dangerous though once they were side by side.
... I mean... the thought of my vital organs getting crushed between two vehicles doing something sorta stupid in snow storm in Baltimore isn't how I want to go out... I was beginning to feel like I had to make a choice here... and that this was a possible outcome.
A large fellow came out and I asked him if it was his truck. He said yeah... they were asking the restaurant if they wanted help with deliveries today... "serious money to be made!"
Hindsight... "How much to deliver me to Harrisburg?"
I got back in the truck... I could tell Mark was stressed... he was still texting/making calls. We both knew we were stuck.
The SUV backed up a little and we fishtailed the rest of the way to the curb.
I called Kyle and gave him an update. I could tell he was a bit angry/annoyed on the phone that we left the house because Dave and Adam were on their way to get me... now I'm on the move and could mess everything up. I assured him the van would've had trouble in Mark's neighborhood... unless you're out here you don't know what's going down though. This is bad... and getting worse.
I asked Mark...
"How far is the walk back your house?"
"About 15 blocks."
"... how far is the highway from here... what's around it?"
*Mark checks his phone*
"... straight shot that way mile and half. There's the shopping center with the iHop."
*I look dramatically out the front window... then at Mark.*
"... I think we should split up... I got a better chance of getting picked up if I get to the highway and you can still get home."
... mind you, the thought of all this effort to get "a bass player" to a gig is making me laugh now but I was (still am) feeling sick about someone getting into an accident and/or hurt since nobody should be on the roads now. That'd be on my conscience... and as cliche as it sounds, safety first... people, places, and things.
... well unless that thing is a rental van.
People, rental vans, places, and things... in that order, always... today.
Mark and I bro'd our farewells, I put on my snow squall shades, and we went our separate ways.
I had hope walking... I felt like I was simply paying a debt for leaving the group. This kinda stuff happens... I'm a
realist but still felt like this was gonna work out... slowly but surely.
The snow was deep on the side of the road.
Sidewalks? What sidewalks at this point.
It was a cat and mouse game of walking past stuck and sliding vehicles then watching them pass me once they were going again.
Highlight was the yellow Jeep with a Batman spare tire cover... that's dedication to awesome.
I stopped to help out a couple people stuck trying to turn corners. Walking by someone who needs help is something a cat would do... but I don't think it comes natural to people. Plus I was still riding the adrenalin of pushing Mark's truck around a few times... I had super strength now of course!
Batman jeep ended up stuck behind a little Prius trying to turn a corner... he hopped out with a shovel (surprising/disappointingly not dressed as Batman or Bruce Wayne) and started digging him out. I caught up and offered to help.
I pushed the back end of the Prius out and everyone was on their way.
I walked a couple more blocks then heard a voice call out to my left...
"Hey... did you want a ride? Where are you headed?"
"The iHop near the 695... I need pancakes f'n bad!!!"
(I didn't actually mention the pancakes)
"I'm headed there too... wife is stranded."
So I'm now in the Bat Jeep.
The driver's name is Mike and he immediately asked me where I'm from.
"Yeah I could tell you were Canadian by your accent."
(me half joking)
"I'm a big wrestling fan... not sure if you are but ya'll sound like Bret Hart."
I can accept that... at least I don't sound like Macho Man or Ultimate Warrior... then again he probably wouldn't have picked me up if I sounded like Ultimate Warrior... then again... again... I probably would've ran back to Harrisburg by now if I was the Ultimate Warrior.
I'm going to make it.
We arrive at the iHop and behold... a McDonald's! Wifi!!!
Wifi is up there with a hot shower in modern times while traveling.
I go in...
"Hi. Can I take your order?"
"... hi... what's your address?"
(Just so you understand the context, I'm asking this question to a clearly gay petite black man.)
I put it (McDonald's address) into my phone and tell him I'll be back in a bit.
I update the guys and have a seat.
Dave and Adam are well on their way. I'm close to the highway... this is going to work.
I sat for an hour or so watching many cars get stuck on what I think is the last hill before the highway.
... I'll admit... my gut told me even if the guys get here... that hill will be our downfall.
Again, I've felt sick all day but watching what unfolded every few minutes on that hill... cars, trucks, SUVs, an 18-wheeler... all took turns getting stuck and dangerously close to wrecking on that hill.
It's the lights at the bottom. If you lose your speed and you're toast in these conditions.
I made friends with an older lady (Karen) who sat beside me and made a comment loud enough to provoke a response.
She was the type bordering on homeless or just forgotten by her loved ones. Obviously a local there (brought her own McDonald's coffee cup she refilled several times) and stared out the window commenting on the same few things over and over.
She told me her favorite place in the world was Amsterdam and she moved to NY from Baltimore when she was young to become an actress.
I kept checking in with Adam and Dave... Adam's responses got more concerning... they had been stuck several times and highway traffic was crawling... eventually hinting they should turn back given the chance.
I agreed... safety first.
I asked them where they were? Closest landmark?
"Pottery Barn Mall...?"
I scanned for it on GoogleMaps... they were a 10 minute drive under normal conditions away.
I told myself while walking earlier "don't get mad... just keep moving forward."
It was starting to get dark. It's funny how much daylight and darkness can affect your mood.
I was starting to get angry.
The sound of Karen's questions, comments, and "huh?" after my first attempt to answer any of her questions was beginning to really eat away at my nerves.
There were no more buses and trains going, or rental vans coming. It was 5:48pm... it was a 3.1 mile (1 hr) walk back to Mark's house. I wasn't going to make the show.
I was officially that guy.
I texted Mark the update... he said hold tight and he'd see what he can do... he thought I was already picked up and on my way.
I would make the walk back to Mark's but I was dreading it... 3.1 miles in a snowstorm... literally uphill both ways because it's all friggin' hills everywhere!?
"My stepdad is on his way! Blue Silverado!"
... dad powers and a 4-wheel drive pickup truck... this could work!
They pulled into the parking lot 40 mins later. A tall and large fellow wearing a Baltimore Orioles hat and Baltimore Ravens shirt underneath an open coat hopped out and pointed at me through the window.
I ran outside without my coat or backpack to greet him.. and that I just got a food order from the guys at the house if they're ok to wait a few mins. He told me Mark's Mom had packed spaghetti for us.
Mom spaghetti!! This could work!!
I went back in, grabbed my stuff and hopped in the truck.
We made it around the corner until I caved...
"... sorry, but can we go back? The guys sent their food order, I'm not sure how many are stuck there and I'm gonna feel really bad if we could've brought enough food and didn't."
"Yeah no problem!"
Parental understanding and understanding of the kids!!!
... yeah we're in our 30's... we're still kids to parents.
I have to admit... this truck was awesome... this snow storm was no problem in this thing.
I ran back in, asked Karen if she wanted anything (3 times) then ordered a pile of food for $21.47. Fast food is hilariously/frighteningly cheap here compared to Canada.
We made our way home.
We were passing a liquor store and Mark's Mom wondered if they should grab anything for "the boys".
A confident left-hand turn, monster trucking several snowbanks into the liquor store driveway told me Mark's stepdad thought the boys did!
As angry as I was about the whole situation, the ride back to the house cheered me up. The comforting effects of parents caring had taken hold.
We arrive back at Mark's house and everyone gathered in the kitchen.
Mark's Mom asked me if I wanted a beer or wine or anything... normally an easy no 100% of the time... but today... even though it tastes like rotten poison... today... let's give that glass of wine a try.
They must've been here almost an hour... I was still messaging back and forth with Kyle... I guess the weather was bad in Harrisburg too... Dave and Adam had made it back but a lot of shows were cancelled (yes!! - selfishly to pacify my guilt and anger)... but it looked like our show was still a go (frig... - throwing a gasoline soaked log into my garbage can fire of guilt and anger).
Everyone seemed to be safe though... and this winter storm apparently had a name now... Winter Storm Pandora!
I made peace I was missing the show but wouldn't move on mentally until midnight... once the set was for sure done.
There's a plan to head back asap tomorrow... fingers crossed it's smoother than today.
... speaking of... as bad as I feel, thumbing this adventure out the last 3 hours on my phone has made me feel a bit better.
Thank you to whoever took the time and made it to the end. I can joke about how much trouble was made getting a bass player to a gig tonight but it's so much more than that to those who understand...
... live music is one of the best things ever... and it's even better if you're the ones performing it.
Seeing Helmet last night was an event I didn't want to miss... the show tonight with The Sole Pursuit was something I didn't want to miss... but I missed it and regardless how unimportant it might be to people who don't understand, it's really important to bands.
... just keep that in mind before you poke fun.
... I mean... you can still poke fun... just know where to pick your spots.
... I should try and get some rest... let the rumble and grind of street plows put me to sleep.
Friday - February 20, 2015
... can't say I got much sleep last night... sometimes I wonder if separate rooms for quiet and Snoretallica would be better. I'm not angry or anything though... I understand people gotta sleep and some people gonna snore.
... I left my laptop back at the hotel so I'm typing this on my iPhone... thought it might be smarter just in case... more on that later.
AJ woke me up around 7am. We were starving from the night before. The bar kitchen ("Kelsey's") closed at 10pm so most of us missed ordering dinner and hadn't eaten since the Bob Evan's yesterday before noon.
Buffet... $9... solid.
The oatmeal was awesome actually... sorta considered bringing a few packets with me this trip... oatmeal is my staple!
... so the plan today was to meet with my buddy Mark (singer/songwriter/fellow studio folk), head to Philadelphia to see Helmet (HELMET!!!), and then head to Baltimore to talk shop and check out his new studio.
I'd originally planned on going to Baltimore this weekend (before agreeing to the Sole Pursuit gigs) but looking at the map everything is close... 90 minute drives!.
... for the record though...
#DearBands - NEVER LEAVE THE GROUP. Don't be that guy. What I'm attempting is a high risk maneuver and should only be attempted by experienced professionals.
... funny enough after saying that, we split from the band around 12:30 today. The plan was to get picked up this aft and Kyle really wanted to check out the war museum in town. I stayed behind and checked out some of the panels... while the eta of my ride kept getting pushed back.
The first I stopped in at (just out of curiosity) was "How to record, mix, and master your own music."
These should be illegal.
I know what their intentions are but they get the angle wrong.
You typically get a bunch of panelists who are looking for work or trying to figure out where to even begin to start giving pointers to prohobbyists looking to save money by spending a small fortune going DIY and burning months if not years of their time before (maybe) getting a commercially viable product... in the hopes it'll get them some attention from managers, bookers, and labels.
... and that's what it was. I lasted 20 minutes. Got some good laughs out of some cringeworthy moments. The audience should really submit questions beforehand and the panelists pull them out of a hat to answer them.
I scooted over to the "Legal issues for independent artists". This was awesome. All the panelists were experienced professionals and had a lot of good advice over several topics. Good moderators are key!
The focus seemed to be dealing with band agreements.
If/When your band decides to step it up, get a band agreement in place asap!
Understand how responsibilities, expectations, and writing credit will be split up before money comes in and it will be 100X easier... it's usually a difficult and a touchy subject.
Next was the publishers panel.
There's money out there... most bands and artists don't understand how music pimps work, why they might need a good one, how they generate money, and how far down the pecking order a band is getting licensing deals (and more) without one.
I caught up with Nancy and Scott after... the managers panel was next and Nancy was taking part.
This was a great panel too! All the speakers gave out what I thought was solid advice and the moderator set the tone early holding back no punches from how bad some labels, managers, booking agents, and industry folk in general can operate.
I was really impressed with Nancy's public speaking abilities... highlight was how she responded to the moderator's "I'd have an easier time removing two ribs in an attempt to blow myself then try to get an independent band on large market mainstream radio" with "... well coming from someone who mainly deals with Christian music, it's a little different."
Laughs all around... but she made some good points... main one being niche markets have their own set of rules that can sometimes break all the "this is just how it works" rule.
Even though I was starving by this point, I'm glad I stuck around the panels all day. Lots of good people saying smart things. Good times.
My ride to Phily and Helmet (HELMET!!!) showed up around 6:30... not too far a drive, doors are at 7, first band on at 8, Helmet is probably on at 9.
The drive was smooth, we rolled in at 8:45 and managed to grab a spot on the street right in front of the club... awesome! We get inside, walk downstairs to the venue and can hear the opener finishing up... with Sam Hell... the last song on Helmet's "Betty" album... wtf?!
We get in, Helmet is on, venue is packed, and they're just finishing playing the album they're playing front to back... I knew they'd do more but... no opener... headliner on at 8pm... shows how old I am! Back in my day headliners went on at like 10:30!
I still felt like I got my monies worth though... as did the other guys. They played another 45 mins of tunes people wanted to hear... really happy they played "Broadcast Emotion" which was a tune I convinced my band to cover in grade 9.
... I mean... doing Quiet Riot and Bon Jovi is cool but Helmet has just as good of songs.
They also played "Just Another Victim" which was on the judgement Night soundtrack. An amazing soundtrack from a movie I was probably too young to be seeing when I watched it.
We hung out for a while after the show...
After the encore Page Hamilton walked up to the front of the stage, thanked the crowd again... started shaking hands... then sat down on the edge of the stage to take a picture with a fan... and then just stayed there... shaking hands, signing things, and taking pictures.
... how cool is that!
This isn't just a victory lap for Helmet/Page... this is a guy with a fan base who's still out working... probably in his 50's now.
It was still pretty early when we rolled out (that's what people call it here)... maybe 10pm. We stopped in at a Denny's where the waitress got all our orders wrong but just right enough that complaining was difficult, and back to Mark's (Baltimore) just after 1am.
The plan is to head out early since there's a snow storm warning for later in the afternoon... I'd like to catch more of the conference/panels so as much as I'd like to hang out here, it should work out better anyway.
... my thumbs are tired... I'll proof/post this once I get back to ol' Lappy. It's been a pretty awesome day.
Thursday - February 19, 2015
... it's probably been 14 years since I've played an instrument standing up... on stage.
... so I get a text from AJ (The Sole Pursuit) a couple weeks ago... told me Chad (bassist) couldn't do the shows and if I wanted to (half jokingly) come play bass for a couple US dates they had coming up.
"... for f#&$ sakes."
... that's actually what I wrote them back... I thought it was funny and I knew it'd make them laugh.
... speaking of funny... funny enough this all went alongside a trip I was already planning to the US. I told Kyle and AJ to keep asking around but if they're stuck, I'll do what I can to shuffle around the schedule... Wednesday morning I found myself at Long & McQuade looking for an appropriate bass for the gig.
I'll be honest... it's been forever since I've had to stand and play an instrument... I mean... I play guitar all the time in the studio... but sitting vs standing... your wrist just does this... weird... so uncomfortable... it's better if I shorten the strap... but now... I look like that guy.
... playing drums is so much easier.
Long story short... 9 days and 2 rehearsals later, here I am in Harrisburg, PA, playing bass guitar for The Sole Pursuit for 2 shows at the Millenium Music Conference.
(... because I totally had time in my schedule to learn 10 songs on an instrument I can't stand and play!)
... it was for a good cause though! The guys are planning to get their P2 visas this year and tour as much as possible. I don't think they mind having me tag along just for piece of mind though... especially calming some nerves at the border... which went pretty smoothly.
#DearBands - Show people you've done your homework and trying (that thing that sometimes takes time, effort, and money) and they might not give you a hard time.
The drive was around 7hrs... plus 1.5hrs at the border... plus lunch. We left Toronto at 8am, arrived here at 7pm... I slept most of it though which was nice... it's been a long couple days to say the least...
So tonight we played the hotel bar of where the conference is taking place.
As soon as we walked in all I could think was "ok great, we're playing a Kelsey's." Not much will get you more stoked to play your first vertical show in 14 years than knowing people are eating chicken pot pie and wondering when you're going to start playing some Third Eye Blind covers or something.
I rehearsed the set again by myself in the hotel room... got my gear on... headed down at 8:45pm for our 9pm set.
It's funny what happens to your body during "game time". You can practice and practice, having fun, playing things perfectly... but your body is somewhat relaxed under those conditions. You change the conditions and you change the variable that makes the biggest difference... in my opinion. Studios and rehearsal spaces are very controlled.
The show went well though... I hit a boatload of wrong notes (maybe 3-4/song) but I don't think many people noticed.
I wished I'd had moved around more on stage... but again... different conditions from the stages I've played the last few years... it felt like a Kelsey's... a small stage and I didn't want to get in anybody's way... that's my excuse at least.
I found myself looking at the frets a lot too... which I don't/didn't really do in rehearsal... either of them.
Kyle (singer/guitarist/band leader) seemed pretty happy with the show. We all sorta need to police ourselves but at the end of the day someone needs to give the band a thumbs up or down after shows... can't all be up, can't all be down... but he gave thumbs up. We got through it... started strong and ended strong... looking forward to the next one now... it's addictive.
... it was nice finishing a set without "swamp ass" too.
Highlight of the day though was meeting Nancy Matthews... Scarlet White's manager (EOS Artist Management) and sponsor for my O-1 Visa. There are so many people these days you only know through texts, emails, skype meetings and phone calls where it's nice to finally meet them in person!
I emailed Nancy last week that my Visa had been approved and that it was looking like I was heading to Harrisburg to do a couple shows and finally confirm some meetings. She immediately called me to ask if it was the MMC we were playing... her and Scott (Husband) would be there... she's speaking on one of the panels!
... small world sometimes.
We all hung out after the set... had a few drinks and some good laughs... good times.
... just got word... it's looking like I'm officially off to Philadelphia tomorrow to see Helmet. I'm super stoked about that... stoked enough I feel the use of the word "stoked" is appropriate.
The guys (The Sole Pursuit) are doing an acoustic set tomorrow but it's full band again on Saturday.
- Mike :-)
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!