Biking down Sixth Ave. on my way to Prospect Park as is my wont, I was reminded once again just how small New York and this world really are. There on the corner was a friend from Minneapolis—Chris Morrissey, current bass player for Ben Kwellerand former bass player for Mason Jennings. Although I don’t know Chris all that well he was nice enough to put my roommate, Chris Koza (Morrissey played bass for Koza at an amazing 7th St. Entry set last year) and me on the guest list for that night and the following night’s Kweller shows. (Much like Mason doing a three-night stand at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis, Kweller was doing a hometown three-night set, as he is the native son here in Brooklyn.)
Having seen Mason only once since he and Morrissey parted ways, I thought the show was missing something due to the subtraction. But what was missing at that First Ave show (I've been told that the 400 shows were better), was present at these Kweller shows (although I’ve never seen Ben Kweller live before this, so what do I know). The band sounded really tight together and the harmonies—possibly what was most lacking at the Mason show—were great. Plus Chris rocked on the triangle both nights! Most likely because of that fabulous triangle play (possibly because of his excellent bass playing…who’s to say), the boy from MN with a tattoo on his arm of his home state with two lines intersecting over the Twin Cities (although he admitted once that they may actually land somewhere near Mankato) got much love from the Brooklyn crowd when Ben introduced him both nights.
After both shows Chris hooked us up with backstage passes and on the last night of the three-night stand, we enjoyed some pizza and beers until the early hours of the morning with this very laid back bunch of guys. I’d have to say, this was the best chance meeting in New York thus far.
About a week later, our friend Dustin in town, we were lucky enough to catch another show from some Minnesota musicians. The Hold Steady was doing a free concert in Prospect Park. Dusty and I are pretty big fans of this group—my obsession as become a bit less severe since first hearing Separation Sunday, but I can still be counted among the super fans. After a little picnic in the park that included a wide range of food and drink—Budweiser and Cheese Puffs at one end and left-over delicacies from a Glamour magazine shoot and assorted cheeses at the other end*—we ventured in to scream whenever lead singer Craig Finn mentioned the Twin Cities.
After the show and after one failed attempt by Dustin and myself to just stroll into the VIP section, we proceeded to jump the fence and immediately go into reconnaissance for the colored bracelets around everyone else’s wrists, which indicated that they were indeed VIP, while we, until we strapped one of them to our arm, were intruders. We found two purple bracelets, one in the trash and one on the ground. We were safe for the time being, but we needed the orange bracelets to get back stage, and no one had parted with those.
As we sipped on another glass of wine, we pondered our predicament, coming up with what surely was a full-proof plan. We would go to the doorman guarding the backstage entrance and explain to him that we were from City Pages—the Village Voice of Minneapolis, just to give him some reference as to our importance—and that we were supposed to interview the band and there had been a mistake in which wristbands we had received at the door. Not really knowing what we were talking about, or more likely, just not wanting to deal with us, this lie worked on the guard. He got the band’s PR person to come and talk to us. Now it was game time.
She listened to our story, a bit confused as to how this might have happened, but not, at that moment, completely dismissing us for idiots posing as something that may or may not have gotten us back stage even if it were the truth. Her dismissal came a moment later when I inadvertently showed the underside of my wrist where the high jacked wristband was twisted upon itself, obvious to even a halfwit to be a fake. She was cool about it, though. Instead of telling us to leave, she allowed us to stay in the VIP section, saying, “No, that’s the only wrist band you need.”
But it didn’t matter, because by that time the band had started to trickle out of the backstage area to where we were. After letting them settle in for a few minutes, we went up to Tad, the guitarist, and told him we were from the Twin Cities and that I had seen the band a number of times. To which Tad responded, “Cool. Thanks for coming. You know of any parties around here?”
Now, The Hold Steady is a bar band, and all the members like to drink, but still I was taken aback by this blatant inquiry directed towards two people who were complete strangers. Why would The Hold Steady need to be asking us where a party was? I didn’t have time to get my thoughts clear and ordered. He asked a question and I had to react. Obviously what came out was something lame like, “Um, no not really, I haven’t been living here too long, but we should totally go grab a beer somewhere.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve made a complete fool of myself to the guitarist of The Hold Steady, nor is it the first time I have appeared to be damn near hitting on him. The last time I saw the band was in Iowa City at a small club where all the members were drinking in the basement bar while other bands performed. After getting a nice buzz in order to work up the courage to make my move (I’m such an idiot), I waited for Tad to order a round of Buds and Jagermeister and quickly proceeded to interject with an, “I’ll get that round for him” directed toward the bartender. To which Tad sort of nodded and might have mumbled, “Thanks” down the bar in my direction, quickly bringing the drinks back to his table and far away from me. Needless to say that this interaction made me look quite lame to the company I was with that night. Company that, unfortunately, I was trying rather hard to impress that night.
The results of this more recent exchange were rather similar. Tad made haste to get away from us, and Dustin reassured me that I had to say something when he asked about a party and that it wasn’t really as stupid a response as it had seemed. We decided that it had been a good effort and a good night, even if we did not produce the party that would have allowed us to have a crazy party-with-the-band story.
We were almost ready to finish our wine and let The Hold Steady be with the people who were actually supposed to be there, when out of nowhere Tad meandered back in our direction and said, “We’re going to O’Connor’s on 5th. You guys should come.”**
And oh, were we a giddy pair. We waited a few moments so as to not look like we were sprinting to the bar, then slowly walked out of the park as cool as we could.
On our walk we decided that it might be a good idea to stop and get a twelve pack of beer, you know, in case the band wanted to do an after-bar. We placed the PBR we bought from a corner store in my bag, which had earlier housed the picnic cuisine, and strolled on down 5th Ave. feeling quite proud of ourselves.
When we reached O’Connor’s most of the band members were already inside putting a few down. We strutted into the bar, again as coolly as we could, ordered a couple of beers and sat in a booth against the wall. What transpired next was somewhat ugly. Dustin and I became like two teenage girls in a mall in 1987 waiting in the wings of a Hot Topic for the appropriate time to go ask Corey Feldman for his autograph. Only we didn’t want a signature on a glossy picture (although I doubt I would have turned one down), we wanted to buy The Hold Steady a shot. And we wanted that shot to lead to a night of excessive drinking that would lead to stories that ended with something like, “Yeah, and then Craig tells the cop to fuck off and throws his bottle of Beam through his window and we all scatter…Man, we totally have to call those guys to hang again.”
As it was, we sat, plotting, trying to find that perfect moment where it was just one of them, so we wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle like I had in Iowa. We needed a moment when they would actually sit for a minute and hang with us.
By the time my roommate Chris got to the bar, we had moved up to two stools at the bar a couple of seats away from Tad and were pretty well drunk. Soon after, we made our move.
Dustin: “Hey man, can we buy you guys a shot?”
Tad: “Man, I just took one. I think I’m done with shots for the night.”
We had missed our chance. He had taken about eight shots since we got there and now he was done. Sure Craig Finn was sitting at the other end of the bar still, but we wouldn’t have the courage to saddle up next to the lead singer and make the same inquiry. So we proceeded to drink with a large bald-headed guy named Flea—a raucous Bostonian who made inappropriate comments to just about everyone who walked by.
And then, just drunk enough from a round that Flea had bought, and maybe feeling a bit emboldened by Flea’s apparent disregard for all things civil in society, we made another move. It’s a little fuzzy. I just remember that we were standing at the end of the bar and Craig Finn was responding affirmatively to the question of whether or not he wanted a shot. Then we had shot glasses filled with Southern Comfort and lime and he was introducing us to his girlfriend.
The rest of the exchange is not too clear. I’m pretty sure Finn was even drunker than we were. I think there was talk of music and of the Twins, but I can’t say for sure. I do know that we did not end up drinking the PBRs in my bag with The Hold Steady.
Still, we were invited to an after-show party by The Hold Steady. Kind of. And we drank with The Hold Steady. Kind of. And we came away with a crazy story. Kind of.
*There was also a bottle of wine, which would have been a nice touch with the cheeses, but we decided it would be easier to sneak that into the concert than a bunch of beers. So that’s what we did, and we proceeded to pass it back and forth as The Hold Steady rocked on about Lyndale Ave.
**The rest of the night was great, and I’m not complaining, but why couldn’t a result like this one—one that would have made me look a little cooler—have happened in Iowa? Just wondering.
When You Get Bored Here, Go Here:
- David Luke Doody
- David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (www.indigestmag.com), an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine (www.guernicamag.com). His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post, mnartists.org, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.
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