Friday the 27th of August led me to a small dance hall that usually caters to belly dancing classes in Kittery, Maine. No, I was not there to build a strong core with Jeni but to sit in on one of Daytrotter’s Barnstormer 5 sets. First off, this is such a wonderful idea when properly executed. Being able to bring a diverse group of bands into one small intimate setting and provide a sense that you are truly part of something is wonderful if all goes according to plan. When I first walked into the hall there were about 15 people littered around either in groups or sitting cross legged on the floor in anticipation of the sessions.
Opening the sessions was Doug Paisley who came armed with an acoustic guitar and a soft voice that incorporated everything you would expect to find sitting around a camp fire under the stars in the American West. Paisley shared his inspiration for most songs before he got underway. Such personal tales added depth and sincere meaning to songs that might be overlooked by the uneducated listener (like myself). Paisley’s act was magnified by the American Spirit clouds hanging in the still air as if the cigarettes were some form of sensor dispensing incense at a religious ceremony.
After Doug Paisley left the stage, We Are Augustines walked on to pick up the tempo. Leading the charge was their energetic guitarist Billy McCarthy who came out and gave it his all. Backing Billy but undoubtably critical in the band’s sound, Eric Sanderson and Rob Allen provided backup vocals, bass and percussion support. The trio brought the hall to their feet and dancing with songs such as their hit “Chapel Song” off their 2011 album Rise Ye Sunken Ships. Unfortunately, both to the dismay of the crowd and the band, the power blew and stopped the set. This was to be the first of many problems that arose that night. A clearly frustrated We Are Augustines walked off the stage while the techs sorted out the problem (see my rant on these recurring issues at the bottom of the post).
This took awhile and the cramped hall became noticeably less crowded by the time the band went back on which was unfortunate for the group. We Are Augustines finished as strongly as they could after being rudely cut off and most certainly made the most of their time. Great band with a great sound, check ‘em out.
Leaving the hall to catch a breath of cool air outside as the waiting game began. It must have taken about 30 minutes plus to break down and set up for Guards. I know that road life is tough but I can’t believe that the bands were fully responsible for breaking down and moving their own equipment. I can understand if you are playing with maybe one other band and don’t have the resources to have a roadie but when you have 5 bands trying to fit into a 4 hour period it seems unreasonable not to provide some assistance to the bands.
Guards, the next band to play KILLED IT. I did a little research beforehand to get a feel for the different bands playing and had high hopes for Guards. I most certainly was not disappointed. Guards delivered on their set and had to be my favorite performance. Richie Follin, the brother of Madeline Folline of CULTS fame leads the band in an exploration of modern day surfer rock. The group combined ambient sounds with rock riffs with two tracks truly jumping out at me– “Resolution of One” and “Sail It Slow”. This band has all the makings of a festival heartthrob; energy, incredible vocals and indie star power found in Madeline. I bought their CD (the first CD I’ve purchased in about six years) and I strongly suggest you download it at bandcamp if you know what’s good for you.
After Guards performed the stage was set for Deer Tick. A clear majority of people came that night to see them perform and they surely didn’t let the crowd down. Performing their hits and taking requests from the crowd, a sing-a-long ensued that must have been heard in the entire town of Kittery. John McCauley was a good sport as the power blew again and left their electric guitars lifeless. Yet, the band adjusted and turned to an acapella set that was rewarding to everyone in the dance hall, Deer Tick fans or not. See our interview with John McCauley at Newport Folk Festival as he discusses the former supergroup Middle Brother.
With this romping show complete the stage was cleared and set for White Rabbits. I was really excited as one of my partners in crime talked about how good they are live and had rave reviews from all her friends who have seen them tear up the Boston music scene. UNFORTUNATELY, Daytrotter had not managed their time properly and the public was denied a set by White Rabbits. It was truly a sad sight and not helped by the matter of fact explanation given by the Daytrotter representative; pretty much along the lines of “Well we’ve run out of time tonight so White Rabbits won’t be able to play. Have a good night!”
I will just make my thoughts and feelings heard now. While I understand this venue was a last minute change and I do not know the full story, I find it upsetting that Daytrotter took all the problems that arose so mildly. The power outages were not merely an annoyance but really interupted the artists’ performances. Also throughout the night feedback was audibly present which caused bands to not play at the level I feel they would have liked to. I cannot understand how such problems can arise on a national tour. Maybe my frustration arises from the fact that Daytrotter seems to spend more time writing the most convoluted band features in the history of music than preparing for a show that people paid for. Honestly, here is just a paragraph from one of their recent sessions.
“It’s like waking up and finding oneself surrounded by a smoky, burning house and not panicking for there’s been a recognition that this moment was possible and has been possible for some time. As a matter of fact, now that they think about it, that smoke was there when they went to bed. It’s been in the room for the last week, the last month or the last year. They’ve said goodnight to it right after they brushed their teeth and right before they tucked the kids in for the final time every night for so long now that it feels so much like the normal that they’ve always known. But that poisoned air is bad, that smoke is bad. It will, eventually, take over and kill them.”
Excuse me, but what the hell are you talking about Daytrotter? Get your act together and deliver when people pay good money and then commute to see a show. It’s not only unfair to the audience but the bands themselves who invest so much time and energy to be told as they are about to walk on stage that they simply can’t play tonight.