Thursday, September 22, 2011

On the Road Again (and back)

Another Citay tour complete...

This time as openers for the super chill peeps in Fruit Bats

and Vetiver

It was an interesting tour for me. Given the draw the of main acts, we were able to play larger venues than usual. It's always a treat getting to rock out at a mid-sized, 500-800 capacity club or theater. It feels more like a "concert", not just a show. And the little extras, like a stage monitor soundperson and an actual stocked green room (not just an extra storage space) make me feel a little, ya know, special. The one thing that I did have to sort through was playing on a bill with bands in a genre (a sort of indie-americana-folk rock) I had previously known very little about, and that I honestly didn't have much personal interest in exploring, especially given my current obsession with glassy and gauzy 80s pop.

But the level of songcraft, musicianship, and taste in each band really impressed me. I was also struck by the fact that the individual band members of Fruit Bats and Vetiver were all serious pop music heads, discussing everything from the accuracy of various John Lennon biographies to the spanish-language version of David Lee Roth's first solo record (as further proof, Fruit Bats keyboardist/guitarist Dave Depper recently released a note-for-note cover album of Paul McCartney's "Ram"). So over the course of the week, I saw how all of these factors informed each band member's personal playing and added a layer of depth to the songs that came without necessarily wanting to "push" the genre further . A quote I heard once that often comes back to me is "art doesn't always move forward, sometimes it moves sideways." And that was certainly the case for this tour. These folks took their genre as an art form and were working hard within it, giving it interesting colors and shapes, but not necessarily creating something new. Another quote I like is from my music college professor, Anthony Braxton, who said that music is comprised of "Innovators" and "Stylists". I still prefer the former, but I now see the value and satisfaction of the latter.

The kickoff Boston gig was packed, with the best crowd of the tour. Of course, I'm biased because it's my hometown and I love playing for my childhood friends (big up Nep), but Fruit Bats and Vetiver also commented on the good turnout and crowd response for that show. And Citay came out swinging! We were 1st of 3 for the night and needed to let everyone (including ourselves) know we would be starting these shows with some serious rock. Then came NYC, which was a professional highlight for me because we were returning to Bowery Ballroom to do a full set of Citay tunes (as opposed to the last time, which was a fun but short ten-minute set of covers). While playing that stage was great, my personal performance wasn't quite on point. And things kinda went down from there for me on the next couple of gigs. I had pedal and amp issues in both Philly and DC that were frustrating and distracted me from my performance, but the band as a whole was still sounding very good. By Virginia, I (mostly) knew what was going on and was borrowing an amp from Dan in Vetiver (who has a great project of his own with his bandmate/girlfriend Sarah on keyboards and vocals called Pure Bathing Culture). This got me off the gear fixation and back on the music.

As a sidenote, the venue in Virginia, The Jefferson Theater, was fantastic:

It's a beautiful, 100+ year-old theater that has hosted performances by acts ranging from Harry Houdini to the Grateful Dead (our bassist, Tay, has 'Dead bootlegs from there).

Finally, everything properly culminated in a near-perfect set in Durham, NC. At that gig, I felt "pro": the band was listening to each other and playing tight, my gear was working, I was hitting my marks, and my solos were 80% to the right ratio of shredding to abstraction. We ended with a fantastically lush psych jam on the song "Eye on the Dollar", with members of Vetiver and Fruit Bats sitting in on pedal steel and keyboard. Ezra (Citay's songwriter/bandleader) said that particular rendition of the tune was one of the most memorable musical experiences he's ever had. Durham was a great coda for the tour.

The next morning we left NC and drove for 10ish so hours, only stopping for gas and lunch at an Applebees somewhere in Delaware:

By 10pm, we were all back with our loved ones in NYC.

Local shows ahead...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011