Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year, New Town, Same Old Me

I've had a few days now to digest my last gig, my first out in Elko at the Red Lion Inn. It wasn't bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. In all truth it was a best-of-times-worst-of-times gig.

The first thing that you have to deal with is just getting there. It isn't hard at all, the 290-mile distance from Reno a relative pittance compared to the 750 to 800 miles I drive getting to and from Nevada in the first place. But it's a tedious drive, and it never helps when the vehicle you're driving has a blown-out heater core and it's cold outside as a witch's tit in a brass bra. I broke up the boredom with lunch in Winnemucca at Winners Casino, a place I played once or twice back when I was in Powerlight.

Leaving Winnemucca, the drive became hilly. And much to my surprise, I was actually going up in elevation. Since all this is taking place in what's known as the Great Basin, and all the rivers in said basin drain into the Great Salt Lake rather than to an ocean, like an idiot I figured that the drive from Reno to Elko would eventually wind up going downhill somewhat - silly me for thinking that. Elko (5,066ft.) is actually higher in elevation than Reno (4,506ft.), and there was a pass along the way that was over 6,100ft. I guess the downhill part starts after Elko.

The Red Lion itself is a very nice place, the casino and restaurants at the east end of the complex and a long chain of hotel room buildings leading off to the west. Our rooms were in the very last of these buildings, of course. I look at it as being able to get a little exercise to and from the stage and the buffet. Oh, yes - the buffet. The Red Lion gives the bands coupons good for a trip a day through the buffet in their 24-hour Coffee Garden restaurant for every day of the band's engagement. And the staff there were so nice to us. I really can't stress this enough - they were incredibly nice to us.

The stage - larger than any we play on save the Nugget's - is tucked away along the casino's south wall, right next to Aspen's Bar & Grill, the casino's fine-dining option. I'd been warned in advance that we'd need to keep our volume in check because of Aspen's, and Mike and Arthur told me that they'd also been warned about this before telling me that the last time they'd played the Red Lion, the stage and its locality were actually closed off from the rest of the casino as a cabaret called Club Max. Loading in and out was easy enough thanks to a disguised stage door that led off to a small but sufficient dressing room, a bathroom, and most importantly a back door where we could bring in our stuff without disturbing the casino.

If there was any problem we had during the engagement, it was running our sound. The stage has no PA of its own, so we used ours, and it was a struggle dialing it in just right. It wound up taking most of the gig to get the sound where everyone was getting what they wanted and nobody had to scream out drink orders and so on. We were constantly tinkering with the sound, even working after one gig was over to completely re-do the PA's alignment and get everything just right. Mike was constantly worried that the Red Lion's pit bosses and managers would label us as being 'difficult' because the sound wasn't right and that we weren't doing anything to fix it. I think we showed them that 'difficult' was the last thing we were.

If only it wasn't so damn cold out. I spent most of my time in my hotel room, which to be quite honest was probably the best one I'd ever stayed in since I started working here in Nevada. Very, very comfortable beds, a fridge (which I took full advantage of) and a microwave (which I never did use), and a nice big flatscreen that made Skyrim look very nice. If only the hotel's wi-fi was a little more consistent....

But I was in a funk most of the time we were there. Mike finally confirmed the remainder of our schedule, and a six-night run at the Atlantis that I'd originally been told was later on in the month was actually a week sooner, forcing me to abandon plans to drive home and instead set up the trailer for a week before schlepping over to the Atlantis' bandhouse. And things didn't get any better when I made my way over to the local Wal-Mart to buy a new card for my cellphone. For a town roughly the same size as Port Angeles, I was stunned to find it was closed at approximately 1am - everything was closed! Driving back to my hotel in an utterly foul mood, I noticed an Elko PD cruiser watching the road in front of me, and I was halfway tempted to flag him down and ask him if there was anything in Elko open all night that wasn't a casino.

And daytime only made things worse. The Wal-Mart looked for all the world like it had been looted recently. And heading back to the electronics department to get my phone card only revealed that not only were they out of the cards I needed, they hadn't gotten any shipped in to the store in two weeks. Really? Seriously? They're on a major Interstate corridor for fuck's sake, with large metropolitan areas four hours in each direction and a regional distribution center less than four hours away, about fifteen miles east of Reno! The customer-service rep in Electronics didn't even seem to care all that much about the minor meltdown I was having over their inability to keep small easily transportable items in stock. Let's just say that I don't ever want to go back to that ghetto-ass Wal-Mart ever again. I'll drive to Winnemucca if I have to. Leave it to Joy to save my bacon. She bought the card for me in Port Angeles, then IM'd me the card's PIN number via Facebook so I could reactivate my phone.

As for the shows themselves, we started on New Year's Eve. Enough said. Packed out, everyone there ready to party. After that? Ghost town. We kinda expected it, I know I did, but it's still pretty jarring to play the next two nights to precisely nobody, and only a handful of people each on Friday and Saturday. It was to be expected, of course. It's the end of the holidays, and everyone is physically, mentally, financially tapped out. But it's no fun playing to an empty house no matter where you are. But things could be worse, I guess. We have a new keyboard player in the group, and Chris is a piscitarian-vegetarian. And good fish isn't easy to find in Elko. But he coped admirably, and seemed to actually enjoy working with us. I think he'll be a fine addition to the band if he can keep it together.

And what have I been up to with my week off? A whole lotta nothing. My buddy Josh Lease invited me to take in a show this evening just past, but I really wasn't in the mood for a bill of fair-to-middling hardcore bands. And I really wasn't in the mood for the kind of audience this particular type of band attracts. In so many words, I fucking hate straightedge kids. Little snot-nosed assholes that think they're better than everyone else who love picking fights with anyone who doesn't look like them. And I sure don't look like them - never mind that for all intents and purposes I invented them. The last time Joy and I had to deal with straightedge kids, they made life miserable for us at a show headlined by Tennessee metalcore meatheads Whitechapel, flying every which way out of the pit to start fights with anything in sight. I spent the entire headline set standing in front of Joy as she sat in her wheelchair, hoping to prevent any little dumbasses from injuring my wife further with their mindless idiotic rage. Let's just say that my mind is made up when it comes to straightedge kids - they're idiots.

So I stay in my trailer - and did I mention that the furnace isn't working? Fortunately we left a portable propane heater in the trailer for just such emergencies, and while it doesn't heat the entire trailer, it heats the area I stay in well enough, and actually uses less propane than the furnace. So it's a fair enough trade, I guess. Two more nights in the trailer after this, then I can check into the bandhouse on Monday. And that day can't come soon enough. I need a shower.

Did I think the gig in Elko went well? I sure hope that the Red Lion thinks that it did. If not, we're down to playing only two rooms - the Atlantis and the Carson Valley Inn. And that's not viable for me. I did my best in Elko, we did our best in Elko. It's up to the suits to decide that, I guess. Mike seems reasonably sure that we'll be back in Elko soon enough, and I hope that he's right. My dad has offered to help me get a job at Clallam Transit if I find myself in the position of having to leave the band. But that's something I don't know if I'm ready to do. I don't want to give this up, even though common sense says that I should have done so a long time ago.

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