Nothing makes you feel older than playing a show at a college party, which is what we did last Thursday at Princeton University. (Maybe you’ve heard of it. SMAHT KIDS!). A family friend of mine and Bonesaw’s hooked up the show for us at his “eating club”, which is what fancy-pants Princeton calls its fraternities. That sounded snide. The eating clubs are actually very awesome (that word is for you, Rich, I know you hate it. Damn, that, too, sounded snide. I’m on a roll).
Anyway, like I said, the “eating clubs” are great. Old houses. A bunch of students. Study rooms, game rooms, a tap room (how do they make sure everyone’s 21? They have “procedures in place”), and a most excellent dining room.
We got to campus around 5pm and Mike showed us arou—oh wait, I need to first explain how exactly we know Mike. So about 18 years ago Bonesaw and I and Momsaw and Dadsaw are on the beach in Nantucket and we see this little 5 year-old kid having a catch with his father. Back and forth goes the ball. For like 45 minutes. The dad is starting to look a little tired but bless his heart, he doesn’t quit because the kid obviously can’t get enough. So finally Bonesaw gets up (he was Tim back then actually) and he asks the Dad if he needs some relief. The dad (Rich, to whom I referred above) sighed a big “yes” and handed off his glove. We’ve all been friends ever since, and Mike is now in his junior year at Princeton.
Back to the recap. So we pull into campus around 5pm. Unload, etc etc. Then Mike takes us on a long walk around the University for about an hour. Top 2 highlights were the animal heads and the church. We all posed under our favorite animal, and we sat inside the church and listened to a choir rehearse for what sounded like some type of Halloween-themed concert that must be coming up. The place was pitch black (which made it easier to appreciate the gargantuan stained-glass windows) and after the first song the singers made ghoulish sounds that reverberated into infinity. (I actually shuddered).
After the tour we headed back to “Tower Club” (the name of Mike’s eating club) and were treated to an Oktoberfest-themed dinner from the house cooks. Delicious. Sausages and wursts and a Dogfish Punkin’ Ale for me. Mmm-hmmm.
So up to this point we weren’t feeling too old. It was when we put on some pre-show music to get the crowd pumped that we realized we were ancient. We put on 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”. A great album. A true classic in fact. BUT…we did the math and realized that there were people at the party who were 8 YEARS OLD when it came out. Woah. (Neo—The Matrix).
Smell waiting to take the stage at Princeton.
Other than feeling old, it was a great time. Mike is a dear friend and he went to a lot of trouble to make this an enjoyable night for us. It was a trip seeing him in his element, as an adult. The same dude with the rubber arm who never tired of throwing the baseball that one day on the beach. Now he’s a wicked smaht-kid doing his thing at Princeton. Thanks Mike, you’re the man.
Next day we did Philly, my and Bonesaw’s hometown. We were thrilled to see how many people came out to fill the place up. Old friends, many of whom we’ve known since Kindergarten, mixing in with fans we’ve made along the way. “You guys have FANS,” said my friend Jeff, who hasn’t seen us in a while. Yeah dude, and they’re the best freakin’ fans in the world. One group led by Theresa and Nick brought us 12 custom Full Service pint glasses with our Whale logo on them. What?? Thanks you guys.
Theresa and Nick.
Played a nice long set, too. One thing I should mention is that we have been recording every show and we’ll have them available for sale on bandcamp once the tour is over. Here’s a little sample. It’s my drum solo from Philly. So enjoy.
Oh and one more notable thing from the Philly show. Too good not to mention. (Earmuffs, kids). As the opening band was wrapping up, they started pumping up the crowd for Full Service. “Who’s ready for Full Service! They’re comin’ up soon. Also, big shout-out to their dad, who was looking for a parking space and found us smoking weed in the parking lot but was totally cool about it!” Right on Dadsaw, wait to lay off the non-violent drug offenders!
What was after Philly? I’m taking you all through my head in real-time here folks. Gimme a second….hmm…Oh, yeah. The School of Rock in Berwyn, PA. This was a special show for us. Sometime early last week Bonesaw got an email from his old guitar teacher—from when Bone was 15—saying he saw we had a hole in our schedule and was wondering if we’d like to come rock out for some of his students at one of those Schools of Rock. Our reply was obviously “Hell yeah,” so we headed out there and wow…this place was the real deal. If they’d had these when I was a kid…man. I’d have spent all my time there. Huge facility, with a club attached to it that boasted a stage and sound-system you typically only see at a House of Blues. Our sound guy Dylan said it doesn’t get much better than that in terms of a balanced and tuned sound-space.
But besides all that, it was such a blast reuniting with Rik, Bone’s old teacher. Rik had us sit down in front of the stage before the show to talk to his students about “The Biz” and about what it’s like and what it takes to be in touring band. These kids were so well-spoken and confident and enthusiastic. Not a jaded one amongst them. That’s so refreshing. So we had a little pow-wow with them and then we rocked that awesome stage for about 45 minutes. We even invented a game during this show. You might remember from my last diary entry that I am now under-lighting my drums with colored lets. Snare drum is blue, rack tom is green, floor tom is red, and kick drum is yellow. So we had the kids yell out one color at a time, and I had to play that pattern back to them based on the drums. It’s up to them to remember the long sequences they eventually create, and it’s up to me to accurately translate that sequence to my drum kit. And I gotta say, it makes for some killer drum licks. Proud to say I won the inaugural game of “Drum Simon”. (You guys remember that game “Simon” with the colored lights and the patterns they give you?)
Many thanks to Rik for having us by the School of Rock. Rik, it’s very cool what you’re doing for this kids. And kids…keep the dream and the love of rocking alive.
Next stop: Newport, Rhode Island! What a gorgeous town. Very old, very quaint. Rocky coastline that is different from the wide sandiness of much of the New England seaboard. Our friends in Badfish helped us put the show together at a nice little Tavern downtown, perfect for our acoustic set. The owner was such a great dude. He treated us to many fine beers and also great conversation. His wife even stayed to watch us, which apparently is remarkable because she usually splits once the bands start playing. It was nice to mix in an acoustic set in the middle of this entirely electric tour. And Newport showed UP, man! On a Monday night. Thanks no doubt to a concerted promotional effort from Pat, Joel, and Scott in Badfish. As a thank-you we invited them (forced them) to treat us and the crowd to a tune from their original band “Scotty Don’t” in the middle of our set.
It’s always great to catch up with the Badfish guys, too, so we arrived in Newport with plenty of time to play soccer at Joel’s house, see his kids and wife Amber for a bit (their littlest Brady—6—apparently almost beat Smell in chess. God how I wish that had happened), and slam a nice big taco dinner.
Then the next morning after the show Pat took us to his new burger joint that he co-owns with his wife Ali. They were debuting their breakfast egg sandwich that morning so we were the guinea pigs. It. Was. RIDICULOUS. If you’re ever in Newport, go to “Mission” for either breakfast or a lunch burger. They have great beers too, many of which I have surprisingly never seen before. Ya done good, Pat and Ali. Keep it up.
Us with Ali and Pat outside Mission.
Dylan and the poster outside the Tavern in Newport.
Our stage setup at the Tavern.
After breakfast Pat took us on a tour of old Newport, with all the absurdly huge houses along the beach. I’m talking Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Kennedy mansions. Even the haunted castle of famed occultist Aleister Crowley. Just looking at that thing was scary.
Sunny’s shot of the beach in Newport
Me with “Beach Hoag”
Finally it was off to New York City. Who the hell knew how we’d do in New York City on a Tuesday night, but we took it as a good sign when we randomly bumped into legendary fansaws Klawson Borges and Sean Star on the street. Seriously how many freakin’ people in this city and we see them in the first five minutes, like 5 hours before show time?
Didn’t really do much before the show. Hit up a Chinese restaurant, loaded in, ya know. But when it came time to play, we were excited to see that people came out, just like Newport. We played a short set because of the tight schedules surrounding the CMJ Music Marathon, but I like to think we made the most of it. There were some very important people to us at this show. Our first true believer in the industry, Matt Maietta. My college buddy Hannah. My high school buddy Taylor. My cousins Dave and Zach. Sean’s brother Chris. Bonesaw’s old students Ben and Dave. And one of the founding members of comedic rock group “Fortress of Attitude”, Dr. Genius, who told me not to be too discouraged when I don’t get a huge response on my on-stage knock-knock joke interludes. “You’re telling knock-knock jokes. The highest achievement for you in terms of a response is somewhere between a chuckle and a chortle.”
Bonesaw and i with our cousins Zach and Dave
Next day we headed to New Haven for a show at Stella Blues. I would have liked to get into town earlier to check out all my old haunts from college (actually who am I kidding, I didn’t have any haunts, I spent all my time in the dorm basement playing drums), but we did something way cooler; we spent the day in Wilton, CT with my sister-in-law, three nieces and nephew. (My brother Tyler, a baseball writer for the New York Times, was out of town covering the American League playoffs). We ate butternut squash soup, jumped on the trampoline, made an obstacle course, and buried ourselves in leaves. Curious that at Princeton I felt very old, but in Wilton with my nieces and nephews I felt like a 5th grader. Trampolines can have that effect.
So after my sister-in-law sent us off with dinner-to-go (steak tips and rice), we hauled up to New Haven to see what we could do. And AGAIN…people came! What the heck? Maybe I oughta get used to this. I mean I was expecting Chicago and Philly to be great, because we come here a lot, but a lot of these cities we’ve never been to before or have only been to once, or not in a very long time.
Our niece, Rory.
Me and my nephew Mack doing the obstacle course.
The stage at Stella Blues was tiny, so we had to angle the drums off to the side, tuck Smell towards the back, Sunny staggered to the right, and Bonesaw wedged in there in the remaining space. Started off acoustic, which is a bit unusual. I think “Hallways” was first, then “Greettings” and then Bonesaw moved to his electric for “The Pieta”. Had a great game of “Drum Simon”, too. I actually lost! This kid came up with a killer combo. That’s what’s cool about our new Simon game. Just like in boxing, you beat your opponent with a “combo”.
Also, some dude actually got the correct answer to Bonesaw’s “Heavy Metal Trivia”! That never happens! We were stunned. I have a slight suspicion that Bruce (now travelling on the west coast) tipped him off, but I cannot confirm.
Smell performing “Canopy”.
So great to see all those people out in New Haven. Martone crew, Whit crew, Axl, Alec and Linnea, Kristen, Sheri, Per, Narwold, and all the rest.
Us with Alec, Linnea, and Kristen.
I will leave you all with this photo I took from outside Stella Blues.
Signing off for now. Next up, Roanoke and Wilmington.