Thursday, May 15, 2008

Optimal Arrival Windows, Defining Yarnix, and How Not To Say Thank You

The only way to combat a morale breaking long drive is to draw it out as long as possible, especially if the band is unskilled in early departures. When you know you're going to be late don't just be 10 minutes late. Take it to the limit. However, in order to prevent anger on the part of venue and promoter use the tour itinerary/day sheet to strategically determine the optimal arrival window. For example, The Black Hollies know that driving from Chicago to St. Paul takes roughly six and a half hours. Already too late to get an early jump, a 2PM departure is agreed upon. Coaxing certain Black Hollies to leave the comfort of a hotel room is akin to pulling a cat with unclipped nails away from a cat post laced with kitty heroin. This is phase one in combating a long drive and will subsequently be referred to as The Smashing of The Nest Phase.

Once in the van, the band determines what time load in, doors opening, sound check, and set time are scheduled to be by looking at the tour itinerary. So begins the art of crafting an Optimal Arrival Window. If load in is 6PM, sound check 7PM, doors 8PM, and set time 11PM The Black Hollies plug this information into a GPS-like device called an Optimal Calculator Simulator, OCS. The aforementioned information when plugged in produces a 9:30PM result as the optimal arrival time. One may ask, "How does the OCS arrive at such a conclusion?" Fair enough. The Black Hollies forgo all sound checks as a result of "knowing how we sound" which makes a check of it moot. A 6PM load in and a 7PM sound check are then redundancies.

In defense of early birds everywhere, and out of respect for those gracious enough to take a chance on booking you, it is always best to arrive before doors open. A failure to do so can rightfully result in serious attitude from particular promoters. However, sometimes one is left with no choice but to risk this which can be a small price to pay if the performance goes over well. Have fun or eat worms? The Black Hollies choose fun. The 8PM show time and 11PM set time tip the band off to the fact that there are several local openers on the bill. Toby heard The Black Hollies are playing so he has to get his band on the bill. And then Toby's cousin from across town hears that Toby's band is playing. He then does everything possible to secure the opening slot because his band is alt rock so it wouldn't be right to play after Toby's band which employs the quiet, loud, scream, quiet, loud, scream, double power chorus, rap-rock middle eighth, double power chorus, outro dynamic. A 9:30PM arrival serves to preserve one's ears and overall stamina which is of utmost importance on bills that are over stacked. Furthermore, a 9:30 arrival for an 11PM set time, leaves an appropriate amount of time for the right amount of drinking to occur without resulting in sloppiness. Many times a too early arrival results in over-consumption.

One may fairly interject here. A 2PM departure for a six and a half hour drive should produce an 8:30PM arrival putting The Black Hollies only a half hour late. Herein lies the rub and secret to The Black Hollies art of calculating an Optimal Arrival Window. The end of a morale crushing long drive, especially one against the clock, deserves a reward, just as one would wind down after a hard day at the office, slip on some isotoners, and have little snackski. Usually if the band hustles to get to a show, one hour away from the destination becomes the perfect time to sit down and enjoy a hearty dinner. The OCS puts The Black Hollies an hour outside of St. Paul at 7PM. This means that dinner follows from 7PM to 8:30PM, the absolute latest. If there are no boutique wine shops or exotic cheese houses in the vicinity, The Black Hollies are forced settle for some kind of reputable chain restaurant. Denny's has recently been crossed off the list of viable options on account of recent severe bouts with the crab apple splatters experienced by certain Black Hollies. Eating on the run is no fun. Proper digestion allows for the band to recap the previous evening's highlights, make some last minute transitional set adjustments to the evening's performance that lies ahead, and offer predictions for the current night. Most importantly, sitting down to collect each other's thoughts allows The Black Hollies to remain in tune with that which it values most, the present moment and enjoying each other's company. The dinner usually lasts about an hour leaving a half hour for miscellaneous dealings. Hence, the Optimal Calculator's 9:30PM arrival time.

The Turf Club in St. Paul is a top notch venue with a superb basement bar. Ryan, our promoter for the evening, treats The Black Hollies like family. Ryan is incredibly professional, hooks the band up with some pizza, books a solid DJ as an addition to the bill, and proves that he truly values staging "happenings" with the intention of expanding minds and promoting an overall good time vibe. The Black Hollies share the stage with St. Paul stalwarts, The Conquerors, who perform a brilliant version of Joe South's Hush. Justin Angelo thanks the DJ, Jennie, for spinning The Flirtations Northern Soul classic, "Nothing But A Heartache" per his request.

Minneapolis is a stone's throw away from St. Paul. The following evening The Black Hollies perform at The Hexagon Bar, established in 1934. Rose, the show runner/ultimate bad ass woman in charge gathers all four Black Hollies in order to explain to the band the way in which the evening will commence. Rose is a colorful character who cut her teeth in the mid-Sixties as a waitress at Minneapolis country bar, The Flame, where she fed the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylin Jennings, and Charlie Pride. When asked to share some of her fondest memories of performances witnessed she cites Lil Jimmy Dickens, Farren Young, Buck Owens, and Loretta Lynn as some of those that moved her back in the day. Rose exudes confidence while her experience and history are both a testament to the fact the she knows well how to treat a traveling band. Rose sums it up in saying, "Bands fight to come to see me and play here."

The Black Hollies meet bartender and talent buyer Tattoo Bob who refers to St. Paul as Shelbyville, a reference to the friendly rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville in The Simpsons. Tattoo Bob assures the band that The Hexagon is a primo old school venue that is worth playing because there's no cover charge, plenty of parking, and The Hexagon boasts the cheapest drinks in town. Bartender Angela is more than welcoming to The Black Hollies as is sound guy Gabe. Annie from The Awesome Snakes performs in The God Damn Doo Wop band who headline. It's always a pleasure to hang with Annie.

A noteworthy incident occurs during the end of The Black Hollies set. The audience at The Hexagon Bar is the most enthusiastic of the tour, dancing and appreciative while facilitating a good flow which is met by The Black Hollies with a ground shaking performance. When alcohol is involved and human beings are excited into a trance-like frenzy via music and dancing the Dionysian urge can often times overpower the individual inevitably leading to destructive situations. The Black Hollies are all for sex, drugs, and rock and roll but there are certain boundaries that must never be crossed especially when pain is involved.

The particular example in question concerns the psychic pain of beloved Black Hollies drummer, Nicholas Albert Ferrante. A certain audience member, who will remain nameless as The Black Hollies admittedly don't know the guy well enough to forgo giving him a second chance if a personal apology is administered to Ferrante, gets on stage while The Black Hollies are performing (Hold Tight) Go Out Of Your Mind. The problem arises when said dude, the epitome of a Yarnix, starts putting his arms around Ferrante which in turn severely hinders his ability to perform. At first, no problem. However, the Yarnix is unrelenting.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a Yarnix is that crazy wildman who's so drunk that he's gotta piss in the sink because there's only one urinal in the bathroom but he aint gonna wait. GG Allen didn't wait, man. The Yarnix aint gonna wait. A Yarnix knows no boundaries. Trying to talk sense or reason with a Yarnix is the equivalent of driving a smart car down a narrow one way street until colliding head on with the ever approaching Mack truck. A Yarnix is a human cyclone not to be confused with close talkers/face melters whom are usually benign in their unknowing invasion of one's personal space. Like a face melter though, A Yarnix can have good intentions but they inevitably come out all wrong on account of ossification. The Minneapolis Yarnix in question painfully illustrates this notion and crowns himself The Ultimate Yarnix when he simultaneous bear hugs and screams in Ferrante's ear while the poor guy is playing drums mind you, not during a song break, as The Black Hollies are only offered breaks while Ferrante drums unaccompanied, that he loves Ferrante so much that he has to fart in his face. Ferrante tolerates the Minneapolis Yarnix like a true gentleman, keeping his cool the entire time , and finishing the set like a bona fide professional.

I am unaware as to the extent of The Yarnixing during The Black Hollies set as I focus on playing. I believe Rose diffuses the situation by eventually getting The Yarnix off the stage allowing for The Black Hollies to finish their set unmolested. Had I been aware of The Yarnix's psychically damaging statements while they were occurring I would have been more than happy to donkey kick the Yarnix in the back of his Yarnixie skull. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't because, truth be told, the only way to diffuse a Yarnix is to immediately walk away. However, this option is unavailable if you're in the middle of performing. Essentially, you become the Yarnix's prisoner and tonight Ferrante is sentenced to three to five minutes in Yarnix jail, an eternity. Absurdly, after the performance that the crowd severely shakes one down to, a few people apologize for Yarnix assuring us that he meant well and really likes us and that was just his way of showing it. Trust The Black Hollies, there are countless ways to show your appreciation for the music. Buy us a drink. Buy our record. Simply compliment one of us after the performance. Smile. Enhance the vibe so people of all denominations feel welcome and are encouraged to dance. Have fun.

Thank the lord for Rose. Without her regulating it could have gotten ugly. And many thanks to the wonderful Minneapolis audience. Nothing makes The Black Hollies happier than feeling the crowd diggin' it. In the end, The Black Hollies get out of The Hexagon Bar in one piece. Yarnix, thanks for painting a poignant picture of how not to thank a good band. Palestinian Bluetooth urges you to tighten up and offer Ferrante a personal apology, fucking hammerhead.

No comments: