I started an entry reviewing three CDs, and went back to it about three times without finishing it. But before that actually gets completed, a report from one corner of the Deutschtown Music Festival seems to be in order.
For the fourth year in a row the event took place in the area of the North Side known, at least at one time, as Deutschtown. 180 bands played between Friday and Saturday, on 28 stages, some outside on the street, some in the park, most in bars spread out all over this place.
This is the story of one of those bands. My band, the Love Letters. I'll start at the end, which came happily, lest anyone think I'm just complaining about stuff. And it didn't come in the wee hours of the morning either. More like 1:00 am, but by that time all the equipment had been returned to the practice space, so all the work was done and it was time for fun.
The thing about an event like this is, how are you supposed to see all those bands? I mean obviously, you can't see 180, but... let's quarter that. 45 bands....still.... The ideal situation for a band playing this event is finding a new audience, the people who stay behind after their fave's/friend's set, hear your music and think, "Wow, who ARE these folks?"
When we played last year, Jenn Jannon-Fischer of the Park Plan and a few other local bands caught us, and introduced herself to me a couple months later by mentioning our set. That was a cool moment in part because she - and her bandmates - are really great people, and we've shared bills since then. But up until then, I wouldn't have known and just figured that no one who had been there for the previous band (a crowd that made it hard to move around), stayed around. Which is sort of understandable, because there's so much to see.
Last night, we were at a joint called the Double R Cafe, which is located on East Street, a one-way street which runs parallel to I-279. We thought there was a back door that we'd be able to access when we loaded in. Not only was there no back door, there wasn't much space between the bar and the wall to maneuver equipment along patrons as we tried to load in. The "stage" was actually a room in the back where speakers were set up pointing out towards the bar. As we attempted to load in - squeezing stuff in before the next band went on, people were shoving past us to get outside to break up a fight which had spilled from Double R into the alley next to it.
The band before us, There You Are, was a guitar/drums duo. They cranked up a good noise that reminded me a few of the raw guitar/drums groups that were big over the last 15 years, but my bandmate Mike kept poking holes in my theory. They were tight and threw themselves into the music. They seemed to have a bit of a crowd, including a dude in his 50s, wearing wraparound shades and sitting at the bar playing air drums. We are NOT going to go over well with this crowd, I thought.
Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.
We got set up in just about the amount of time suggested (15 minutes), and we were ready to roll. By then a few friends had shown up, the kind of folks that put you in a good mood and inspire you to put everything into it. The guitarist from There You Are said he was deaf after their set, and by the second song of ours, I was too. There were no monitors so singing on key was a guessing game. In a way, though, it was just like playing at home in the basement. Though we have SOME insulation and it's not all tile floors, and sound bouncing all over. But we were pretty tight, moving ahead without worrying about how it might sound and concentrating on how it felt.
By the time we closed with "Thermos Full of Hemlock" it was dizzying. Literally. Between Buck's and Mike's amps, I was playing with distortion and it was so loud it was making my ears vibrate and making me dizzy. (This has happened before. A friend took a video of the song [it's on Facebook] and I'm jumping around like Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz to keep from getting afflicted by the vibrations.Before you ask, it was too late to turn down. After our set, a few strangers complimented me on the set, including a middle-aged gent who had been sitting at the bar most of the night. Later in the evening, we even sold a record. (One record sale sounds pathetic, but at an event like this with everyone being pulled in all directions, any sales are welcome.)
I wanted to be sure to see Weird Paul, so we loaded up all the equipment immediately, dropped it off at the practice space and doubled back. I was able to catch about 10 minutes of Byron Nash and Plan B too, which sounded really great - a blend of solid rock, R&B, soul and maybe some jazz.
At last year's Deutschtown, Weird Paul had gotten the shaft more than anyone else I knew. From what I was told the venue told him to turn down and they also made him cut his set short. I could only wonder how this year would go for him.
The answer is that I need to have a little more faith.
Not only did he get a warm reception, he had a virtual throng of admirers cheering him and singing along. And throwing a beach ball around the room too during a song named for that object. A tiny bar might not be the best place for such monkeyshines, but the crowd didn't care and, thankfully, the bartenders were good sports about it too.
While talking to a friend later in the evening, I heard there was a second barfight during the evening. This one seemed a little more docile because the two guys went outside, had it out and then came in and bought each other another round.
So all my paranoid feelings were unfounded. Everything was great. Thanks, Deutschtown. There were some tireless folks putting this thing all together and from my perspective they did a great job. Glad I was part of it.
And Awaaaaay We Go!
4 years ago