It was an intense and reaffirming show at the VFW Hall last Tuesday. We hit our monetary goals, and we earned them because we fucking work hard. This show and Labretta were worth it, but I don't know that I have the stomach for rock and roll - or at least rock and roll in which the booze flows pretty freely. In the short term, I think I'll stick with pop and twee and folk in my own living room with the couple of sixers of micros and a few bottles of wine (unless of course, the Phoenix Foundation ever come back).
Janet, AT, and Karen were indispensable. They always are, but if they weren't there in Vegas on Sunday and Monday, there would not have been a show. AT and Karen spent a whole extra day and night in Vegas waiting for Sean, the fill-in drummer from New York City to turn up. They dropped him off at ours at 10 am (after a 4 hour drive) on Tuesday, and Karen promptly went to work - digging ditches. I don't know how she does it.
The evening was almost shut down when the VFW manager, who had been very awesome to me, peeked in and happened to see the one time Labretta got up on a table to dance. He lost it and tried to get her down. A few drinks went flying. Luckily, the VFW bunting and the flags escaped unmolested. Karen and I apologized profusely. My body went into adrenaline overdrive (I think because I had the same gut response from the League of Women Voters' forum the week before, and it was just too easy to revisit that feeling). Weirdly, my body is still not fully recovered. I'm such a weenie.
The sound was wonky (we set up wrong for a cinder block room), and I was freaking out a bit because there were heaps of folks I didn't know. In hindsight, folks were actually super well behaved and enjoying the hell out of the show. Folks loved the spectacle of it, and one nice woman in her 50s had tears in her eyes. She said that she grew up here and never thought she'd see such a thing. Rural punk teens found kindred spirits in the band. Max, the bassist, wore very, very high heels, orange hot pants, and fishnet stockings. I was so proud of my little town that nobody, not even the crusty old vets, said anything mean or homophobic.
The end of the night found me scrubbing the VFW lino, Janet vacuuming, and the VFW fellas admiring with our work ethic and being very pleased with the bar take for the night. We drank all the beer. I was invited back any time and was told very, very touching and personal Vietnam War redemption stories. The manager who threatened to shut us down asked if I could arrange a date with Labretta. "If not a date, how about a dance?" A city councilman offered to write a letter of recommendation for me in the "Inyo Register." We had tears, we had a virtual group hug.
The surreal and emotional nature of the night made me think of it as my own private Vietnam. Maybe I was too sober? I came home to find the band and AT and Karen and Matty arm wrestling and shouting declarations of love. Yes, I was too sober.
Mammoth was perhaps even a weirder show still. Wow, the nature of bars is so strange -you get people to part with their cash over booze so that they have a license to act like babies? Labretta won over a large audience at the Dubliner (the manager came 'round in the end and gave them a show). She climbed bars and the backs of large young Latino security dudes. The crowd went wild. I stomped and had a great night. It was great not to have a care in the world. The crowd was still a bit tight fisted with their cash when it came to the Koha/donation bucket. What's up, Mammoth? Nevertheless, all these weird promoter types came out of the woodwork after the show talking money. Some thought that Labretta and I were a couple. Bless. Davey Celloboy Huebner warned me about promoters a few months back. I am coming to understand why and view them with some suspicion. We all got home at 3 after driving in a white out.
The upshot from the week is that Labretta has grown her audience, and I think it could really go off from here. She's been invited to come back for bigger shows, and I'm so very happy for her and proud that we brought her here first. She really is an entertainer - polished, pitch perfect, and cheeky. As a performer, she wants her audience to become a little unhinged, and I think she does that oh so well. As a manager, she's bossy, and I can relate.
She and Johnny are family to me and the girls. Looking at the two of them play their drum (Labretta)/guitar(Johnny) encore was pure magic.
There were A LOT of late nights, bouts of insomnia, weird days of not eating properly, etc.
I was still getting up in the morning to get Wyatt off to school, or, to look after him AND to work.
I slept in Babbo's bed a few nights to make up for the fact that I was running around like a headless chicken for much of the week. Come to think of it, I don't know how I did it.
It was a joy to take the band to the hot springs on a day off (Labretta looked like a 1960s dream with her jet black Greek hair pinned 'round her head and a vintage two piece), to get some Big Pine Chevron burritos, and to tailgate at Klondike Lake (aka Redneck Pond). We had a goofy, beautiful late spring evening watching the moon rise. Babbo ate a whole enchilada!
It was a joy to gossip about New Zealand music.
It was lovely to see Johnny and Labretta thoroughly enjoying a bit of the Mule Days Parade.
I found the bassist Max totally endearing and the drummer Sean touching. Max, who left Wisconsin five years ago for New York City, had the humanity and sweetness of the Midwesterners I love. He is a boy young enough to be my kid and has lived several rough lifetimes in that big city, but he still retains his humanity and manners. Max and Sean (who are in a band called the Othermen) taught Babbo how they celebrate in Brooklyn and loved his stream of consciousness singing and kept saying, "We should write a song like that."
In other music news, am still hoping that something becomes of the Don McGlashan pitch. I'm hoping the ICA will want to host the night. Bibi and I have come up with a modest guarantee. There was a kid who professed his admiration for Don McG at the VFW show. It came out of left field. I took his email address and promised I'd contact him if something happens. Somehow, I had focus enough the next morning to dig the crumpled slip of paper he'd written on out of the trash. I guess that's how one grows an audience, too.