10.22.07: Cactus Club w/Captured! By Robots
Last night's show with the mighty Captured! By Robots reinforced for me an important lesson in playing on stage: fessing up to a bad set on stage is very tricky business. If you joke about it a few times, it's maybe seen as self-deprecating and the audience may not get that you really mean it. If you let it affect the overall show, though, it runs the risk of derailing the whole process in a feedback loop of mistakes and frustration, thusly ruining what the audience may see as a perfectly fine set of music. Always remember: The audience doesn't know your songs as well as you know them.
Last night, i think we walked the tightrope of a derailed set, but managed to avoid the feedback loop and still pulled out a set that was fun for the audience, even if it was a bit of a chore for us. I blame myself. See, things were running behind schedule because the C!BR setup (drums on one side of the stage, toms on the other, among other roadblocks that come with an all-robot band) forces Alex (Cactus soundman to the stars and all-around amazing human being) to re-think a lot of his usual setup. Thus, by the time he had us miked and soundchecked, it was a little after 9, which was the announced start time of the show. To make things worse, Yale was having pedal issues during the setup process. This didn't slow things down, as it happened during Alex's setup, but i was so paranoid about Yale's tone being off or weird due to a swapped out pedal (he was also borrowing White, Wrench, Conservatory's Ampeg bass amp as his Ampeg Reverb Rocket is in the shop--similar amp, but slightly lower frequencies as a result of it being a bass amp, obviously) that i wasn't really paying attention to the sound balance on stage. WWC's amp is quieter than Yale's, so our on-stage sound was pretty quiet overall as a result.
My mistake: Right at the beginning of the set, i notice that i'm not hearing much of Yale's guitar at all, so i ask Alex for more in my monitor. Soon, Yale's guitar is all any of us can hear. And since we're too stubborn to make multiple monitor requests during a set (we have a sort of unofficial rule where we make one monitor request per show and then shut the fuck up and deal, because musicians who constantly harp about the monitors during their set are annoying, so none of this is Alex's fault), we soldier on. All throughout the set i am operating under the assumption that while it sounds crappy to us, it's sounding fine to the audience, so i keep thrashing about like i always do. The audience is receptive--at least, for it being a Monday night crowd!
The second half of the set starts to derail a little, though. "99 Probalos" is a slightly more midtempo song for us, and we haven't played it live enough times to figure out how to keep the energy up in the set while we play it. I'm not entirely convinced that we should play it live very often. This leads into "The Buzzard," which i believe goes well enough, except i flub a few fills in the disco bridge. Then, we gloriously fuck up the opening of "Success!" when i completely misjudge where Rev.Ever started playing the opening riff. I come into the verse about a measure early and it takes The Wizard and Rev. a bit to readjust. Fuck. By the second half of the verse, we seem to be back on track, but yeah. Dudes on stage at this point are getting crazy frustrated with the unbalanced mix and resultant performance fuckups, and by now i sort of feel like i'm punching the clock with regard to my stage presence.
Fortunately, "punching the clock" for me looks like most other drummers "going all out," and as we climbed off stage, i overheard people saying good things. Yale's lady Beth and my roommate Scott both agreed that the set sounded totally fine--Scott didn't even catch the "Success!" flub (although Beth did, but she said we got on track nicely). To top it off, a group of younger dudes dressed up in Secret Service outfits at the pre-tour behest of JBot (this season's C!BR tour was a recap of the last seven years of the GWB Administration, complete with JBot dressed as Dubya, GTRBOT dressed as Cheney, and DRMBOT making a creepy, creepy Condi Rice), who were recently 21 and had never seen or heard of us before, loved us, and are likely coming to the Borg Ward show on Nov. 2nd. If we played well enough to actually convert new fans, we must have done all right.
So there you go. Obviously, no one is happy playing a sloppy set, and it gives us stuff to work on, but they happen. It's taken me a few years to learn this, but if we snooty indie-rock noise "arteests" can remember that we're also entertainers, and that the audience left entertained...well then. Mission Accomplished.
And speaking of "Mission Accomplished," the Captured! By Robots "Dubya" tour is a riot. Not my favorite C!BR gimmick tour ever, but GTRBOT constantly screaming "I'M GONNA SHOOT YOU IN THE FUCKIN' FAAAAAACE!" is awesome, and the cover of "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who is fucking unstoppable. Go see 'em when they come through.