The Oakdale Theatre was a drive out of New Haven and we stuffed ourselves into a people carrier with our luggage at 9.30am creating a human can of spam and things. There was a bit of a mixup with the hotel. We had planned to stay another night in the lovely New Haven but Gallivant, the mincing god of travel, had other plans for us. Our booking was somehow lost and we switched to a place near the venue. Tomorrow’s plan remains, driving to Manhattan in the morning.
Today, the venue has a nice big stage with babillion-fold the wing space of Louisville’s Palace Theatre. Here we can stretch out, leave our cases nearby, and pack the equipment away quickly at the end of the night, rather than fight against space, time, and the mysteries of where the empty cases went. By midday I had checked all my gear, saw that it worked, and headed for lunch. Afterwards, prowling around the venue and dropping in on conversations held in the production office, I learned that we have a new face joining us. Pat Harris will be shadowing Roscoe; hailing from Michigan, and currently living as an Austinite, he is part of a growing number of those anchored to Austin, Texas — Mitch, Roscoe, and Chris all live there too. Pat will remain on bass-standby should Roscoe fall ill again. It may seem unartly practical, or in fact appear like we’ve let loose the vultures to circle, but these things must be considered, as with many thousands of tickets already purchased for the upcoming shows, we can’t back away, certainly not after calling in sick for Regina and Winnipeg. It’s like building tracks ahead of a moving train; you just can’t stop. All said, Roscoe seemed in perfect health today and long may it continue.
A challenge we face is the distance from the front row of seats to Leonard’s position on stage. It’s a hefty distance, let’s say twenty feet. The distance itself is the result of a couple of factors: the PA’s hanging position, and the thing they call a fire curtain. Should a fire ever start on stage, it might be contained by dropping a sealed barrier, a baffle if you will, between stage and audience. The fire curtain can’t have anything blocking its path to the stage floor, and so no object other than, say, carpet may sit below it. The fire curtain’s position is basically as close to the edge of the stage we can go; but in the Oakdale, there’s an added ten feet (approx.) of bare stage going unused, resulting in a barren flatland between Leonard and the audience. To make matters worse, the edge of this wasteland sits around four feet off the floor and so anyone sitting in the front row has a pretty crap view of the goings-on. as Leonard himself points out, the people in the most expensive seats will only be able to see his shoulders upwards.
Fortunately there is a compromise available. The desert area of stage can be disassembled, as it covers an orchestra pit. The trouble is, not just anyone can move it.
‘Can we be of any help?’ I offered.
‘Absolutely not,’ replied the head carpenter, fact-matterly.
Guess it’s a union thing.
Getting rid of the extra stage will only take around half an hour to complete, but as we have finished with the local crew for the time being, we need to ask some union hands back, on a four-hour call. While the motions are set in place for that to happen, the soundcheck proceeds as normal.
Although it’s a big stage, we’ve managed to fill every bit of space and we have, in a sense, ‘done it to ourselves.’ There’s no room for a crossover, a simple path from one side of the stage to the other, keeping out of public view. Fortunately there is an underground tunnel which can serve as a handy crossover, but there’s a catch. When I investigated the tunnel, a man met me inside and seemed genuinely surprised to find me there. I think he politely tried to get me to turn back but I wasn’t having any of that, I wanted to see if the tunnel really was a crossover. At the other end I see a handwritten sign: ‘If you’re not in the IATSE, you shouldn’t be here.’ Alright, so it’s like a sanctuary, some sacred, hallowed union ground, and what did I find there? Some frickin’ wood and power tools — give me a break. During the show, when Mitch, Javier and Alex enter the stage from stage left, they, along with Stage Manager Paul, must be ‘escorted’ through the tunnel by a union member. To bury one’s face in their own palm is de rigeur in some places.
During soundcheck I consult my notes, calendars, itineraries and crystal ball, cross-referencing facts and happenings to arrive at a conclusion: so long as Gallivant smiles upon me, I’ll be home in four weeks. In the next 28 days (including today) we’ll have 18 travel/off days, and 10 shows in 9 venues.
It’s another dark stage at 6pm and during the downtime I chat with Roscoe. He said he knew Mitch would do a great job on bass the other night and in fact, he praises Mitch’s chops on the instrument: ‘Mitch used to scare me on bass,’ he tells me.
On stage, eight-foot sections were removed and the wild swathes of emptiness were replaced with a great big moat, the orchestra pit. I really wanted to fill it with crocodiles — ‘Hey you wanna set list? Yeah, come get it’ — but the SPCA were quite clear on the matter. The distance between Leonard and the first row is the same, but at least the view will be better. It’s back to business and business is good. Pat studies the show while Roscoe brings the glue, and the first set goes off like a tight-grenade.
Before the second set begins, Dan found a problem with Leonard’s Technics keyboard, the key instrument in Tower of Song. Its output level was drastically low for some reason, but a backup is at hand. The spare does the trick, but Dan will have to investigate the matter with the main. The second set comes off like the first, flawlessly
Introducing the song Anyhow, Leonard sets the scene: ‘two years hence’ a uniformed nurse will appear on stage, hand him an open pack of cigarettes, and after tapping a few bubbles through his IV vein, she’ll produce a lit match for the octogenarian whose wish it was to see the day he could begin smoking again.
After a quick load out for The Winning Team, we aided the wardrobe and production departments until given the all-clear to feck off in a van bound for the hotel.