Oct 28, 2014

The Day of Doom Festival Begins...

Our first night in Barcelona came to an end after a nice, relaxing dinner out on the sidewalk at a Greek restaurant where a friend of Samo's happened to wait tables.  It wasn't our intention to go there, but since we were so good at getting lost it seemed like as good a place as any to get off of our feet and unwind. We would have gotten lost trying to find anything else anyway, so why not go to the place across the street?  We learned that first day that trams and metros are not the same thing, and that streets coming in at subtle angles make it very difficult to retrace your steps to your hotel.  Fortunately Monica and I paid for a new cellular service plan for the trip and we were able to text "Help!!!" to our caretakers every time we realized we were not where we thought we'd be.  Someone kept screwing with the maps in our GPS apps while we were boldly walking towards what we just knew would be the precise spot Samo described as a meeting place.  We had read that Barcelona had the best pick pocketers in the world.  In fact there were signs on the metros and in certain areas of the city warning about professional robbers, but no one said anything about them stealing your phone and editing the map you were using before stealthily placing the phone back in your pocket.  What evil bastards!  Maybe that's what they do to people like us who clearly don't have any money to take so that we don't feel excluded from participating in their finely honed craft of picking pockets.  Well the joke was on them ultimately, because even though it was their fault we got lost I rather enjoyed my falafel and papatas bravas.
We walked a few blocks to Samo's place in the Bari Gotic, just one block away from the Pablo Picasso Museum to have some tea and check out the view from his rooftop terrace. You could see La Sagrada Familia from one spot on the roof if you leaned as far as possible.  Not the worst view I've seen by a long shot.  When midnight came we raced to the metro station to catch the last train back to the hotel.  There wasn't time to buy tickets for everyone so we jumped the turnstyle as a woman came out from behind the ticketing booth with the exact same look on her face that your grade school teachers had when they were about to single someone out to make an example out of in order to regain control of an unruly gaggle of hyperactive crumb snatchers.  Arms crossed, face down so that cold, piercing eyes could pick you out of the crowd with laser precision.  This woman was not happy.  We all collectively looked back as Samo was trying to apologize to the woman for the offense, and we were very curious about how the scene might have unfolded for him. For the moment, that was his problem.  We were just happy to have survived the night and to have made it to Spain.  We did get lost one more time between the metro station we were supposed to have entered to get to Samo's and our hotel.  Once again my Spanish came in handy as a younger man who seemed to work for the city informed us that we were on the right street but we were headed in the wrong direction towards a neighborhood with a very bad reputation.  Apparently Spaniards call their ne'er-do-wells "gypsies".  While I don't know exactly who would be offended by that term back at home, I do know that someone would be up in arms by its use.  You can't even call a total jerk a jerk without being accused of intolerance.  My impression of Spanish people after having several conversations with them was that they aren't as completely ruled by political correctness as we are in America.  They didn't do that verbal dance to avoid saying anything that a really uptight person would salivate to pounce upon for the purpose of making himself feel morally superior.  It was refreshing.  If I just offended you, you are one of those uptight people.  I love everyone except a-holes. Relax.

Friday morning came after roughly four and a half hours' sleep.  That's about my average at home, so I was in my element.  I thought it imperative that I check out the drum set they rented for the festival as soon as possible so I walked down to the venue which was only about a mile or so from the hotel.  Once I found the place we were playing a man came out waving his finger "No, no, no!" to let me know I shouldn't have come into the fenced area. When I said I was looking for the Day of Doom Festival the man rocked his head back and dropped his shoulders as a way of admitiing he had made a mistake.  I knew he must have been the other promoter, Jose.  When he said that he was in fact Jose I laughed and started waving my finger back at him.  It was good to meet him after going back and forth through texts and emails for a couple of months.  He introduced me to all of the key people helping run things that weekend.  It was a pretty large operation!  Caterers, stage hands, people at the bar, equipment rental folks, sound engineers... quite a bustling crowd.  Everyone was as nice as they could be and Jose probably screwed himself by staying with me longer than he may have needed to, but he wanted me to feel comfortable.  Once we learned that the drums and amps wouldn't be there until later in the afternoon Samo asked if I could go round up our crew and everyone in The Skull, so I walked back to the hotel.  Hot damn!  I didn't get lost. This was my city now!  How would my face look on Catalonia's flag?

Once I got back to the hotel I saw that Thomas and Craig had finally joined the posse and they were talking to all of the guys in The Skull.  Thomas had been a huge Trouble fan like all of us in Confessor, so it was a thrill for him to meet the members who had been in the band. He said that upon learning that Thomas was in Loincloth, The Skull's bassist told him how much his wife loved the band and that she had to have a shirt.  Not the kind of conversation someone who was just tickled to meet a member of one of his old favorite bands would have expected.  So introductions were made to the rest of the musicians who had not met yet and we all went down to the marina behind the venue and had lunch.  

I don't know if you've ever noticed, but there is a lot of seafood in marinas.  I never even cared for seafood when I ate meat but I would have managed.  The only vegetarian option was a salad, so the waiter and I figured out something they could throw together for Monica and me.  We ended up with a pretty damned good spur of the moment cheese omelet and fries, which they call "papatas" and can be found most anywhere.  It was nice outside and neat to be able to have lunch seated directly beside one of the two drummers on the planet who really illuminated the path I chose for my own musical direction.  Jeff Olson was a very nice, very interesting guy.  All of The Skull seemed to be rested by then.  I was still working on sheer enthusiasm.  We took our time eating, as is customary in Spain and eventually began walking back to the giant tent where the festival would be that night.

Jeff Olson and I were sharing the drum kit that had been rented for the festival.  Actually, I think that most of the bands used the same kit, but Jeff and I were trying to figure out how we might be able to speed up the transition from my configuration to his.  Once I saw how he had things set up I thought to myself, "There is no speeding up this process", because our drum footprints could not have been more different.  We both used double pedals so we only had one bass drum on stage, and our cymbals were at least roughly speaking, in the "right vicinity".  That's where the similarities stopped.  Jeff Olson used no rack mounted toms but opted instead for three floor toms set up like a cluster of end tables between his hi-hat and the snare.  Suddenly our talk of sharing my own personal snare stand to save a few precious seconds seemed absurd.  I remember thinking that you can't really switch from one "kit" to another when one of us was playing nothing more than a pile of drums.  He sounded great his pile, and watching a drummer have to stretch for every single move to a crash or for every roll was interesting, but it was certainly an odd looking set up.  The coolest thing was that I started to get really excited to see The Skull and to get the night rolling.

Not too long after we got back from lunch I looked up and found a very familiar face that I had been hoping I would get to see in person one day.  Matei Tibacu had made it to the venue, and I ran over to give him a hug, or two... or three.  Matei and I have been email friends for a few years now.  He sent a very long interview once and was surprised that I went to such lengths to respond to all of his questions.  He then put together a three hour radio show about me ( he is a drummer, too ) for a program he had at a college radio station in London. He has interviewed quite a few impressive figures for his show, and you can link to his blog on my home page.  Monica and I were both anxious to finally meet Matei, and it was great to feel as though we had a friend to share the experience with.  We were hoping to be able to meet his mother as well but she had some work commitments that made it impossible. Come on, work scmork... only losers pay bills!  This was the Day of Doom!

Confessor worked on amp sounds and getting the drum set right before soundcheck. Fortunately for me I've had enough experience playing on strange kits ( sometimes alien kits! ) that I didn't sweat the finer details.  This was a relatively easy kit to tweak anyway, so I was feeling pretty confident about things.  My experience has been that no matter how good things might sound on stage during a soundcheck it's all out the window come show time anyway.  There was an unbelievable amount of slap back during soundcheck which was pretty concerning.  For people who haven't been on stage to experience it, "slap back" is your own sound bouncing off of the back of the room and coming back to you, often at nearly full volume.  It's your own echo, delayed just enough to throw everything completely off.  You can't really focus on anything.  It's kind of like trying to have a conversation on a cel phone when your own words are echoing in the earpiece a second and a half after leaving your mouth.  It's totally disarming.  We knew that once the place filled up the mix would change, and hopefully the slap back would not be such an issue.  There was nothing that could be done about it anyway other than to be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best.  After soundcheck I went back to the hotel and wrote out our set lists, which I forgot to bring back to the club with me.  Fortunately the second, much more hurried jog back to the hotel to retrieve the set lists was considerably more fun than the leisurely walk I had taken only forty five minutes earlier.

When I got back to the venue the second time there were introductions to be made left and right.  The number of people who had come specifically to see us came as a surprise to me, and I felt really humbled to be at the center of such a special night for so many who had saved and reworked schedules to see something they thought they may never see. Confessor were in the house, and these people had been waiting twenty years to see us. There were lots of smiles and hugs all night long as we all felt like we were surrounded by friends and family.  It was truly festive, and the energy was starting to overwhelm me.  I know myself well, and I was prepared to be in awe at the level of admiration and expectation I would feel at the show, but still it was such a powerful thing that I was taken aback. People from all over were chomping at the bit to see us for the first time ever.  Just as we were excited to finally get to take the stage in Spain, these people were checking something special off of their own list of things to hope for.  This night would be special for all of us.

I couldn't tell you what I did for the last several minutes before we took the stage.  I remember tweaking the drum set, but I don't actually remember walking on stage to play. Those last few moments before you take the stage are often spent wondering where the other guys in the band are and whether or not everyone knows you're about to go on.  Only once were we ever held up because one of us wasn't in the building but still you wonder if tonight might be the night it happens again.  Part of what makes it a mystery at every show is the fact that you can never find any of the guys in the last hour before going on if you need to ask them something.  You can find the people you don't need to see, and they always just spoke to the person you're looking for a minute earlier, just through that door. Never fails.  It's even worse after your set.

The next forty five minutes flew by for me.  We started our set and after a brief intro we had worked up out of a really old riff, and within seconds fists were up in the air and people were singing along to every song.  The issues from soundcheck were still a problem.  The only things I could hear clearly were Scott's vocals and my bass drum.  That was about as helpful as a dead fish.  In fact, I think that had one of the stage hands handed me a dead fish it may have helped more than the vocal/bass drum mix.  You know Charlie Brown's teacher, the one with the super muffled voice?  That's right, Miss Othmar!  The guitar sound coming out of the monitors was exactly like what she sounded like.  I have never felt so isolated on stage before.  There was no definition in our sound at all.  The other guys had the same problem.  We managed to hold it together, and I know to trust that we are still playing well even when we can't hear ourselves.  I am curious about the recordings of the show.  I heard nothing but rave reviews of our set, including a report from Tannon who is always completely honest about shows.  I believe him, even though while we were playing I felt as though I may as well have been playing completely different songs because there was no way to tell what was going on.   

Years of thinking we played as well as possible only to get tepid responses from fans, or being sure that we stunk up the joint and hearing people say that we were better than ever have taught me to take my own impressions of our performances, as well as those of our fans with a grain, or a giant bag of salt.  I know that in the room the sound was really good. It was the case during soundcheck and later when I checked out The Skull after our own set.  We used the same amps and drums.  Tannon said we were brutal and that Scott sounded great.  Here is a perfect illustration of our monitor issues; during our very last song Chris' amp blew a fuse.  He never played a note of the last song.  Guess when I found out... two mornings later when we were having breakfast on the beach!  It made no difference to what I was hearing behind the drums.  There was also a point at which I thought I was within about one or two seconds of passing out as the fog machine, which was right beside me, completely enveloped me.  I couldn't even see my hands anymore!  I started to get really light headed while everything faded out to white and I could barely draw a breath.  It was freaky, but it happened so fast I didn't have time to panic.  I hope that the three people I blasted with our own fog machine at our show here in Raleigh a couple of months ago get a little smile out of my near blackout.  Poetic justice, right?  Then, as if I wasn't having a hard enough time already, the stage manager pulled us off not once but twice only to turn around and tell us to go back on.  The up and down made my legs start cramping, which I don't remember ever happening before.  It was actually pretty intense for a minute.  

Any feelings of inadequacy dissipated as soon as I started running into people after our set. So many people seemed to be legitimately blown away that I chalked my own experience up to a really unfortunate monitor mix.  Again, it really did sound pretty damned kick ass out in the crowd, so I knew people were being sincere when they praised our performance. Plus, it was hard to be annoyed when so many people were thanking me for finally playing in Barcelona, for sticking with music, or for just existing.  I met a lot of people who were at a loss for words to describe how much they enjoyed seeing us, and that part of it was an amazing experience.  Any issues with what happened onstage were already forgotten, and the moment at hand was a joyous one for all of us there that night.  It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of, and to have so many people who were clearly experiencing something meaningful to them made the night unforgettable.  Thanks to everyone in attendance.  You guys made it possible!

Confessor Take Barcelona

I'd like to thank Stephanie Rowells for the live shots.  Her fancy new camera worked pretty well in the club.  Imagine that, reading the manual actually made life easier for her and helped her figure out many of the features that were built into the camera.  I've had mine for eight years and I haven't read a damned thing in the manual.  Hmmm...

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