“And the funny thing is it has no end
I try to call you up, at 2am
In a crowded bar, your ringer tones
Grab my mind
I can see you through the phone,
The phone, the phone
And I’m wide awake at home
At home, at home
So I think I’ll see my coquette
And hope you don’t catch
The bourbon on my breath
My breath, my breath”
So I left from my parents’ house early Sunday afternoon after watching the PBA tour stop in Indy. I hate driving 71. It always sucks. I got down to C-bus and scouted the venue and checked into my room at the Courtyard. There was a really nice brewery next door to the hotel, so I walked over there only to find it was closed on Sunday. F**k! I made my way back to my room and drank lots of Old Crow and Molson on an empty stomach. It was freezing cold out there, so I made sure I knew where I was going to end up eating was actually open. I was on foot with 15 degree temps and brutal wind, by the way. I ended up at a place called Ted’s Montana Grille. I had the bison cheddar burger. If you’re ever in C-bus and have the means, I highly recommend it.
The doors were to open at 7pm, so I waited till 7:15 to head past the Nationwide Arena to The Basement (it’s literally a bar in the basement of a bigger club called Crave.) I get there and guess what? They’re not letting anyone in yet. I stood there with some comrades freezing and wondering if they would feel bad when some of us died. Finally they let us in.
It was basically just a long bar with a stage at one end. I had a couple Heinekens and bought the tour shirt. Was getting too sober, so I kicked it up a notch with a Heineken and a healthy shot of Jack. Now I was feeling good. The first opener was a fellow LA band called The Henry Clay People. They were okay. That’s all. The second act was Alberta Cross. They were pretty talented, but I wasn’t paying a lot of attention. I was sitting at the bar and striking up conversation with a pretty girl named Erin. She was 24 and only knew the single, “Sometime Around Midnight.” So that was fun. Shortly before the main event was about to start, I said goodbye to my seat at the bar and my new friend Erin. I made my way closer to the stage, which wasn’t as close as I was hoping. As it was a sellout, it was pretty crowded near the stage.
“I got nothing to do but stare at these walls
And take some time to screw my head on right
We all ended up alone, wasted here at Silver Lake
We’ll work, we’ll feed, we’ll change, we’ll try
I can’t make any sense of this or you or anything
I’m wide awake, and all our parents lied
It’s not alright, and all our words collide
Awake all night”
Finally they come on stage to the sounds of the album version of “Something New” blasting through the speakers. They proceed to play the first 4 tracks off the album in order. It sounds really good and being completely trashed, I’m singing and dancing around much more than I normally would. Mikel’s voice is clearly not back to normal, but I appreciate the effort given his vocal chords were paralyzed just a few days earlier. Then they do 3 songs in a row that I didn’t know because they weren’t on the album. At least one of them was new.
Next, they go back to the album and play “This is Nowhere” followed by the one everyone was waiting for… “Sometime Around Midnight.” Unbelievable. I remember being very much into it and dancing with the girl next to me. We were kind of leaning into each other and getting into the music. I have no idea who this girl was, whether she was with anyone, what her name was, or what she even looked like. It was like she was my girlfriend for one song, then she was gone.
Then they rock out on “Innocence” and leave the stage. They come back out and do “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” and I’m pretty much in a trance. They finish with “Missy” and invite the crowd on the stage. I was wishing I was closer and vow to go on stage tomorrow in Pittsburgh. Overall, an unbelievable, energetic experience.
Next I make my way back on foot to the hotel. It’s good that I was wasted, because damn, was that cold. I made it though and was just on such a high. I had lots more Old Crow and Molson back at the room. Out of nowhere, my friend Donella called me to chat. This was good because she was the only one who reaffirmed my decision to go to the 2nd show in Pittsburgh rather than staying in C-bus and bowling the PBA event. This is what she said… “If you really love this band, you should go to the show. You could always plan to bowl there next year.” This is amazing because it’s exactly what I was thinking and she was the only one who agreed with me. It’s scary how much that girl is in my head. Everyone else told me I was an idiot if I didn’t bowl. They were wrong. So I have a couple more drinks and fall into bed…
I wake up at about 7 the next morning with a screaming headache (why didn’t I drink some water?). I go to the computer and get Howard going on Sirius online. It’s a special week because George Takei is in studio. I kinda listen and sleep off and on. At 11, I wake up and figure it’s time to get going. My disgustingly hungover ass showers and gets ready to head out. So I check out and get on 70E. It’s a really easy piece of driving. Not a lot of traffic and when there’s a slowass in the left lane, I usually have 2 other lanes to weave around them. I was trying to get a good ways before stopping, but finally I did in Cambridge. I put $20 in my tank and was trying to decide between Cracker Barrel and the quick goodness of Crotcho Smell. That’s when I saw it across the parking lot…USA Steak Buffet. If that’s not me, I don’t know what is. The food was marginal, but plentiful. Exactly what my hungover, headachey ass was looking for. I’m pretty sure I was the only one there who voted for Obama though. It didn’t suck until I hit 70 and 79 in PA. Why does everything have to completely suck in that state?
Finally, I make it to McKnight Rd and find the Holiday Inn. It’s up on a hill and the driveway is ridiculous. I’m sure many have passed on trying to get to this hotel. I’m still hungover, so I can’t even tap into the reserves of alcohol I brought. I end up going downstairs to the hotel bar and having a reuben. It was just ok, and I’m still not feeling too great. At this point, I’m trying to get my friend Dawn to drive from Y-town to Pittspuke to take in the show, but I know she won’t. I make an executive decision to take a cab despite the fact I’m not drinking. I ended up spending more on the cab than I did for the show, but it was the right decision. The driver was cool, picked me up again after the show, and promised to watch “Sometime Around Midnight” on youtube.
“I was only twenty one
I wasn’t having any fun
And the words you said
Tore through my head
Like bullets from a gun
And I shoulda just shown up and said,
“Get in this car, let’s run”
And back to the show at Mr. Smalls. It’s in an old church finally put to good use, which arouses me immediately. I choke down one PBR. There is a bar in the back half, and liquor must stay there and not go towards the stage. This is perfect since I’m hungover and my mission is to get close tonight. First, I see Steven walking around the bar and no one even recognizes him. Then I see Anna sitting by the merch table. I plan to go talk to her and get her autograph, but the second Alberta Cross finishes, she bolts backstage. F**k. I’m gonna be regretting that one for a while.
I get really close to the stage; about 3 people deep. Once they come out, it’s obvious this show wouldn’t have the energy last night’s show did. But what it lacked in energy, it made up for in intimacy. This was like a private show amongst friends. The set list is the same as last night, save one extra song in the middle. I’m struck by how much these people care for each other and truly love what they’re doing. It’s especially gratifying to see Anna dancing and smiling given the fact she was hesitant to join a pop band in the first place. I loved seeing Mikel’s expressions when he sang these songs I’ve heard him sing so many times before. I was so close I could sometimes actually hear his pick grating against the strings. It was great to see Noah playing his bass with a bow, which I had missed the previous night in Columbus. Daren’s drum solo at the beginning of the encore was amazing. They ended with “Missy” again. (Click here for setlist.)
My plan to go on stage was foiled by the fact that Noah’s family was there and went up on their own. Apparently they suffered some major loss recently and this was somewhat cathartic for them. It was good to see. Noah was tearing up talking about it. Anna came down into the crowd and danced around with us. What an amazing bunch of performers. If there is any justice in this world, they will be playing arenas and stadiums soon. And if that happens, don’t ever forget you heard it here first.
The show ends and I’m just standing around wondering if I can get a cab and not freeze to death. I call the guy who brought me here. He’s 15 minutes away. I see Noah come out to talk to friends and family. Then I see Steven come out and sign some autographs and talk to people. I’m waiting and hoping Anna comes back out. There she is! I wait in line and talk to her about the difference between this and last night’s shows as she signs my extra ticket. She’s very lovely, beautiful, and personable. I should’ve talked to her more about her experience playing in a pop band as a classically trained musician, but I kinda choked. I’m just so happy I went up and talked to her and got her autograph. Then my cabby shows up and I go back to the Holiday Inn.
“All dressed up, no place to run
No car, no girl, no pills, no fun
Nothing to do in this empty room
I gotta get my head together soon
Alone again, no plans, no friends
You come around at half past ten
You say “How are you holding up my friend?
Are you sitting around getting drunk again?”
And I hear the desperation of those lines
Wasted hours, others wasted time
Uh, yeah, I been just fine!”
So I’m sitting in this hotel room at 2am in Pittsburgh. I’m gonna get up, find a place to buy the new U2 album which comes out tomorrow, and make my way home. End of story.
“But I swear there’s still some good in me
And I think if you stuck around you’d see
All the honest attempts at integrity, I was had
Maybe if you helped me, I’d get it right
I lie awake every night, staring at the ceiling
Wondering why I feel so bad, why I feel so bad
But I swear, I swear, I swear I’ll never get sad”