Northampton is nestled in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts and is simply lovely at this time of year. A few leaves are just beginning to turn, the humidity has vanished leaving warm days and cool nights. For those of us who live in the northeastern United States we know that this could very well be the last hurrah of summer before temperatures dive ever lower. On a beautiful September Saturday, the streets of Northampton are a buzz mostly with college students from the nearby 5 schools but one can also observe old hippies in the parks, families having lunch, high-schoolers on skateboarders and one gentleman in a white Son Volt t-shirt that must have circled by the club at least 15 times before doors opened.
Growing up just 45 minutes from Northampton, it is no wonder that I’m always filled with nostalgia upon returning. Where there’s now a Starbucks, once stood Main Street Records where I bought many records including the Misfits “Beware” 7-inch which I paid way too much for considering it was no doubt a repressing. Not far from the downtown area lies a ditch where my friends and I spent hours destroying our bodies on skateboards. Pearl Street Nightclub, where we appeared last Saturday, holds strong memories for me being that I saw Fugazi there on the day that Repeater hit the stores. I remember going to that show and being amazed that one of “my” bands was playing such a large, fancy nightclub. Suffering from a migraine, I watched the show from a couch at the back of the room which felt so far from the stage. When I returned home later that evening, dehydration got the best of me and I vomited in my parents’ hallway. My mother accused me of drinking, which I wasn’t, but I can now see that it made sense at the time.
Having played the Pearl Street Nightclub four times in the last five years one thing always amazes me: that place is a dump and sounds like crap on stage! One would think that every few months they could find the time to paint over all the penises that have been drawn on the backstage walls. Now, penis art is a problem that effects all clubs but how about a coat of black paint? Come on! As for the sound, I’m not sure if I’m making this up but I’m pretty sure I was told at one point that the PA system was designed to be used by the military. I don’t know what that means but I do know that all the speakers are made of plastic and look like they’d be great for a performance underwater.
All sound and graffiti issues aside, the show turned out to be great fun. A sizable, enthusiastic crowd helped tighten up some of the cavernous noise and we put out a pretty energetic show. You know, for Son Volt. My wife and son came up that day and were waiting for me back at the hotel so I was anxious to be done. This might have been the impetus for my drum solo just before the encore as my bandmates weren’t in any rush to return to the stage.
Sunday was a well deserved day off as everyone was exhausted and Mark and Scott were fighting off the sickness. We, the family, drove separately from the boys which allowed us to stop off in picturesque Woodstock, Vermont on our way to Burlington. Woodstock is chock full of B&B’s, craft stores, Scottish imports and very well might be the birthplace of Christmas but since I’m not a grandma, we stayed just long enough for a coffee on the town green. Arriving in Burlington, we headed downtown where we ran into Jay, James and Andrew searching for food. I pointed them in the direction of A Single Pebble, a great Chinese restaurant, while we had the more child-friendly staple of pizza and beer. Afterward, everyone called it an early night and headed to bed.
The next morning, my wife and I awoke and found that we were COVERED IN BED BUG BITES. Following a brief freak-out period and dealings with the hotel we packed all of our clothes and anything that could be washed and headed to laundromat where we spent the next 4 hours doing something like ten loads of everything we had with us, bags included. I won’t bore you with the mind-numbing logistics involved with trying to prevent the spread of bed bugs so let’s just say that you can’t be too paranoid. We live in a multi-unit building and it would be disastrous if they travelled home with us. We’ve since discovered that the culprit was the hotel in Northampton (which shall remain nameless unless they don’t adequately compensate me for my suitcase and laundry fees) and not the Windjammer in Burlington. (I have a whole batch of other complaints for the Windajammer, namely, that they called the Police on Andrew and James and the cops forced them to move to another hotel at 3am. But, that’s a whole other story that I don’t fully comprehend. Bandmates: please chime in) Having to do laundry all afternoon ruined our lunch plans to eat at the awesome Single Pebble chinese restaurant so we rolled into Al’s French Frys (that’s not a typo), a 50’s style burger joint, for a quick bite. Perhaps the 50’s were a neato time for Al, but something has happened in the time since causing him to act in strangely pathological manner with regards to food service. One example only: when ordering lettuce and tomato, which cost 56 cents extra, you receive a ziploc bag with one piece of iceberg lettuce and a sliver of tomato, which you then have to place on the burger yourself!
Following a very frustrating day, I needed someone to blame and there can only be one: Jay Farrar. I laid into him and management for putting us up in such a flea bag hotel. Farrar has been trigger happy as of late and he subsequently fired me for insubordination and has since replaced me with someone who is cheaper and takes up less space. He even fooled me into training my replacement:
As for the actual rock n’ roll show, it was a quiet Monday night in Burlington aside from a couple of dancing ladies. I quickly packed up the family and headed home for Boston picking up a speeding ticket along the way while the boys proceeded to also attract the attention of the law back at the Windjammer.