Sat. Nite Duets Tour Diary, Part II
Ben Gucciardi wraps up his reflections on his band's East Coast tour, with dispatches from Jersey, Philly, Brooklyn and the not-so-deep South.
TCD intern Ben Gucciardi recently went on tour with his band, Sat. Nite Duets. While he was away, we asked him to write a daily tour diary, chronicling his trip. The first part of that diary can be found here; the second half follows.
Day 7: The Other World, New Bruinswick, New Jersey
The Other World is a house venue. Some people love house shows, but I have a deep-rooted fear of them. When I first started playing music, I started playing solo in living rooms and basements. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was nervous enough as it was, but a lot of the time the people running the show didn’t know what they were doing either, and so I’d just start playing and no one would know what was going on and my voice would crack and I’d play the wrong chords and eventually I’d just give up. One time I played a house show and an unruly child began de-tuning my guitar in the middle of a song. I tried moving, but the child just followed me. I didn’t know what to do. The kid wasn’t my kid, and I didn’t want to come across as some kind of disciplinarian, so I just let the child mess with my guitar until eventually he got bored and stopped. In hindsight, I kind of wish he kept going. It probably provided some much needed comic relief to my very serious songs about feeling awkward & alienated (read: 18 years old).
But not all house venues are created equal. Of course part of the fun of playing house shows is that there are no rules, or at least less rules than there are in bars, but in my experience, the best shows are able to abide loosely to at least three of the following dictums: 1) Clearly defined schedule [Music starts at eight, stops at 11], 2) Clearly demarcated show/party space [Listen to bands in the basement, do beer bongs in the backyard], 3) Cooperation of neighbors [No cops] 4) Adequate PA system [No Shocks]. The Other World fulfilled the first three of these requirements and so I was able to forgive getting occasionally electrocuted by the microphone. (To all you sound guys out there: Yes, my amp is grounded and yes, I tried plugging it into an outlet other than the PA system.)
While I was putting our merchandise out, I noticed records by Bad History Month on the table next to ours. BHM is another awesome Boston band on the Exploding in Sound label. Turns out they were added to the show last minute. Vocalist and guitarist Jeff Meff played a solo set with just an axe and kick drum. Very stark, beautiful stuff. He’s coming to Milwaukee on 12/12 to play Quarters Rock n’ Roll Palace. Check it!
Most of us were pretty tired so we ended up crashing as soon as the show let out, but our guitarist Steve wound up at a Rutgers University fraternity party. Steve said the party was pretty much all dudes, all of which worked in some capacity for the Rutgers U cafeteria services. There was nothing remarkable about the party except for the fact that the music was seemingly controlled by an unseen, remote computer that oscillated exclusively between Nirvana and Top 40 hip-hop circa 2000. According to Steve, the party ended in a super physical, all-male sing-along to Van Halen’s “Jump.” Sometimes you just miss out.
Day 8: Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Not much to say about Philly. Last time we played here we played a partially abandoned restaurant next to a pornographic movie theatre. We got paid $7 and opened up for a band that was still in high school. It definitely seems like a cool town, but it also seems like you have to have an “in”.
The guy who greeted us on behalf of Kung Fu Necktie was the drummer of Purling Hiss. No one said anything because we were all too star-struck.
Rad Dads bought us dinner at Pizza Brain, the world’s first and only Pizza Museum.
No one showed up to the show, including two of the bands that were supposed to play, one of whom we have to play with tomorrow in NYC. Awkwarddddd.
We stayed with my Uncle Jim in Wyncote, Penn., a township just outside city limits. He got up at 1 to let us in and cooked us omelettes later that morning at 10. What a guy!
Day 9: Death by Audio, Brooklyn, New York
“Look at this filthy city. One day God’s going to blow it up with a lightning bolt.”
We’ve never had a bad show in New York. There’s something about the city that just makes us BRING IT. Actually that’s not true. Two summers ago we played three shows in New York and one of them was pretty bad. From what I can remember, it was at a whiskey bar just outside of McCarran Park. It was part of some festival and the bands booked had nothing to do with each other. Andy couldn’t fit his piano on the stage and there was no one there except for The Fatty Acids.
After having played with so many heavy bands (Kal Marks, Grass is Green, Grammerhorn Wren), I’ve become convinced that Steve and I need to turn up our guitar volume on stage. Tonight, Steve and I cranked it, and I think it worked pretty well. Chris from Rad Dads told Steve that we “sounded dominant.” I can get into that.
It was nice to see a lot of people at a show for a change. At one point there was actually a mosh pit. Revelation: participating in mosh pits is not nearly as fun as instigating them. After the show, we high-tailed it back to Bushwick to get to Gotham City Lounge before bar close. As you might ascertain, Gotham City Lounge is a Batman themed bar. True story: I almost got kicked out of Gotham City Lounge once for almost accidentally knocking the Batman mask off the wall. They’re very protective of the Batman mask.
In the a.m. we realized that we had accidentally left our car-top storage compartment open overnight, thus exposing John’s sleeping bag and pillow to the thieves that roam New York City streets at night. Amazingly, nothing was missing. This city’s really changing, guys. Either that or just no one wants John’s sleeping stuff.
As we drove out of New York, the mood swiftly changed when I logged onto Facebook to learn two members of the Brooklyn-based band The Yellow Dogs, brothers Soroush and Arash Farazmand, were shot dead earlier that morning at their Williamsburg apartment by a disgruntled musician with whom they had been associated. I don’t know any members of The Yellow Dogs personally, but they were all friends of The Fatty Acids, and I met and hung out with a few of the guys after they played with the Fatties while we were on tour together two summers ago. I have nothing to say other than that this is terrible and my heart goes out to those guys and their families.
Day 10: The Crown, Baltimore, Maryland
The Crown is a loosely David Lynch-themed bar located appropriately on the second floor of an office building that appears to be more than 90% vacant. In order to enter, you have to be buzzed in by the bartender. While André and I were waiting to be buzzed in, a man approached us carrying a broken Razor Scooter that he offered to sell us for three dollars. After we politely declined, the man took note of our instruments, asked if he could “sit in on lead vocals tonight” and proceeded to give us an audition. The man had a surprisingly good voice with a vibrato that you get only after years of practice. Very Lynchian indeed.
We played with a guy named Michael Collins who fronts a psychedelic-pop band called Salvia Plath. It’s just him, an acoustic guitar and three guys singing harmonies. A Pitchfork review called his recent album, The Bardo Story, “messy” and “riddled with a looseness that’s either there on purpose or happens to be the consequence of Collins’ admittedly limited skills.” While this might be true of the album, nothing of what I saw suggested Collins suggested limitation. I was pretty much floored by everything he did.
We stayed with our friends Colin and Peggy. They live in a three-story house, but the rooms are super small, so it’s basically like a large apartment cut into threes and stacked on top of each other. They just moved in and are having a lot of issues with their landlord. Apparently the first floor flooded during Hurricane Sandy and there was mold growing everywhere. The landlord’s solution to this was simply to paint over everything. When Peggy found mold growing in the cabinets, she pointed it out to the landlord who responded by trying to convince her that the growths she was seeing were actually just breadcrumbs leftover from the previous tenant—just another example of one of the upstanding totally competent people working in the innovative, non-exploitative field of property management today.
Day 11: The Southern, Charlottesville, Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia is the only thing David Berman and Dave Matthews might have in common. It’s also home both to the University of Virginia and one of my favorite bands Dwight Howard Johnson. DHJ is kind of the Bizarro Sat. Nite Duets, except for that there are only three of them and they rock much harder. Last time we played with them, we played at a hookah bar, which ruled, but I was excited because this time because the show was at an actual venue—The Southern— with an actual Southern Rock Band—Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires.
This might be a ridiculous thing to say, but in my general experience, I’ve found that, all and all, history and politics aside, the South is not dramatically different than the North. Charlottesville is in the South, but not the deep South. It’s an hour outside of Richmond, the capital of the confederacy, and when I’m there I basically feel like I’m in Madison. Having been born in Texas, our keyboardist and drummer André is much more sensitive to the nuances of Dixie. André knows the South. In fact, he often experiences a strong, phantom connection to his southern heritage that he discusses openly. In dreams, he’ll often find his voice inexplicably tinged with a West Texas drawl, and when he wakes from those nights, it is with a sense of longing that wasn’t there when he went to bed. This manifests physically as a pain in his lower back and a looming suspicion that he’s not where he’s supposed to be—that somehow he’s different.
Before the show, we got to do a live interview on 91.1 WNRN, the college radio station where personal heroes such as Bob Nastanovich (Pavement) and James McNew (Yo La Tengo) spun records in the ‘80s. We almost got kicked off the air because we were telling them about our show last night in Baltimore at the Lynchian bar and how we thought that to be truly accurate, the bar should’ve offered a drink called “The Laura Palmer.” The DJ then asked what such a drink would entail and Joe proceeded to explain that it “would basically be an Arnold Palmer made with vodka and served with a line of cocaine,” to which Drew from DHJ added “that you have to do with your dad.” We were already on thin ice because after having been asked what we’ve been doing to stay fit on tour, John responded, “It starts with a K and rhymes with bagel.”
Backstage at the Southern, there were two coolers filled with craft beers from Star Hill Brewery, the premier microbrewery in Charlottesville. After sipping from an IPA, one of the Lee Bains guys asked: “What is this potpourri shit?”
After the show, we were visited by the mother of Jami Eaton, lead singer of The Delphines. Jami’s mom drove all the way from Richmond to watch us play. She even brought us brownies and peach flavored moonshine, the latter of which would come very much in handy in the coming hours.
Day 12: Black Mountain, North Carolina, Undisclosed Pizza Restaurant
We drove six hours from Charlottesville to Black Mountain to open for a jam band. The show was outside on the patio of a pizza shop. We played for twenty minutes. The jam band played for over an hour. Luckily we had Jami’s mom’s moonshine was there to keep us warm because it was 36 degrees outside. The people of Black Mountain are generous. We made 34 dollars off of donations, but not before the jam band’s front man helped himself to three slices of a pizza we had paid for with our band fund. To be honest, usually this behavior wouldn’t bother me. Whining about somebody taking your pizza strikes me immediately as a petty thing to do. In America, there is almost nothing more ubiquitous than pizza. It’s almost a natural resource. It’s like one step removed drinking water. If you’re thirsty, drink water and if you’re hungry, eat pizza, and if this dude hadn’t humble-bragged while he tuned about dropping $4,000 dollars on his last record, I would not care if he had three, four or four thousand slices of our pizza.
Tour’s over and I’m glad. I miss my girlfriend. I’m happy to be getting back to Milwaukee. The future holds exciting things for both us as a band and as individuals. Oh yeah, about that. I forgot to tell you! We just learned that Joe’s for sure headed off to graduate school in January at the University of Missouri; he interviewed and was accepted for a TA position over the phone in the van. Because I’ve been unclear with things like this in past, I want to say very clearly that this does not mean that Joe’s leaving us or that we’re breaking up or that you shouldn’t contact us with show inquiries. I don’t want another Mormon Fiasco on my hands, so just to reiterate:
SAT. NITE DUETS IS AN AMERICAN ROCK BAND FROM MILWAUKEE, WI. THEIR DRUMMER IS ATTENDING GRADUATE SCHOOL FOR JOURNALISM IN COLUMBIA, MISSOURI. THE BAND IS HAPPY AND EXCITED FOR HIM. HE IS STILL THEIR DRUMMER THOUGH AND THEY ARE STILL AN ACTIVE BAND.