October 10, 2009 : Murray State University : Murray, KY
College shows are weird. It’s the nature of the experiment, and they usually yield varying degrees of uncomfortable situations, terrible PA’s, and possibly uninterested crowds. Last night’s show at Murray State University was some awkward combination of the three in that order. The show was to be held at Lovett Auditorium, a large and beautiful 650 capacity theater. However, our show was held on the stage. Let me rephrase that, our show, and it’s audience, were both housed on the stage of the auditorium. A small foot-high plywood “stage” was at the back of the actual stage with some tables (complete with table numbers and candlelight – what is this, a winter formal?) and chairs, couches, and recliners strewn about for people to sit. It was the weirdest rock show I’d even witnessed. Barnhart claimed it was “nothing,” and grumpily recalled worse college gigs he’d experienced right before he took his dentures out, polished his cane, and shoo’d some kids out of his yard.
About half of the crowd raised their hands when Bazan asked who lived in Murray, the rest had come from nearby Nashville, where I had just driven Dave from after his fantastic in-store at Grimeys. No one asked questions during the first two Q & A’s, and a conservative gentleman asked Dave what he thought of “Pope Obama’s new award.” Thanks for a great time, Murray.
October 11, 2009 : Bottletree : Birmingham, AL
The Bottletree is the best club in the United States, and it’s located in Birmingham, Alabama, a somewhat unexpected place of residence for such a superb place to see music. The backstage is decorated like a combination of a junk store and my southern aunt and uncle’s house: wood paneling, old southern gospel records, pop art paintings of del monte canned fruit, plastic snowmen, and the like. The green rooms are two vintage campers equipped with a large flat-screen, an atari, a collection of about 20 books and 20 dvd’s (unique to each trailer), air conditioning, a basket of free socks for bands (!) and shag carpet pillows. The owners of this club obviously put in some time in touring bands. The room sounds great, is equipped with an actual, new, well-functioning PA, and the food is delicious (tofu peanut butter pie changed my world.)
Tonight’s show was spectacular. We’ve officially “found our groove,” Casey is on his fourth show and “totally feelin’ it,” and the daily routine has become pleasingly robotic (that’s a good thing, I promise.) An awesome, old, black dude came up to the merch table and talked to me for a few minutes about Bazan – he said, “I dig that sound man, it’s kinda like Fleetwood Mac but a little bit more heavy metal,” whoa. This gentlemen claims to have been a touring guitarist for the Temptations at one point in his lifetime, something which I can neither confirm nor deny, but I sure hope he was, because he was awesome. Bazan played another solo, electric encore tonight. Don’t feel betrayed, Denton, Texas. When Bazan said you may be the only encore of the tour, he wasn’t just whistling dixie. Birmingham had to earn their encore for what felt like an eternity before the dude emerged to play ‘Priests and Paramedics’ and ‘Harmless Sparks.’
BAZAN has added “I Never Wanted You,” a fantastic song from the Headphones record into regular rotation in the set, and they’re also working on a cover that should be pretty great to hear live and with a band. Tomorrow is a drive day; 7.5 hours, without stops, to Gainsville, Florida. It should be….fun.