Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Show Report: Worcester, MA

Sweet Soubrette
After the Bethlehem gig, 2006

After a couple of minor hiccups on Saturday morning (Heather having spent the night in Staten Island; circuitous Google directions), Heather and Ari and I hit the road, Worcester-bound. Ari was subbing for Bob, who couldn't play bass on this show, but the new guy wasn't so very new. Heather knew him from a Canadian Klezmer festival a couple summers ago, and I knew him from a 2006 Cirkestra show in Bethlehem, PA where he played bass and a freshly minted Sweet Soubrette was the solo opening act.

When we pulled into the Worcester Polytechnic Institute campus we saw a drum kit through the front window of one of the buildings: Dobson had already arrived, en route from a concert in Connecticut. We lugged the bass amp and the rest of our gear inside. The Goat's Head (or, as Dobson kept calling it, the Goat's Nest) is a campus dining facility festooned with WPI sporting gear and uniforms and things. A low platform stage at one end of the room allows students to listen to (or ignore, as the case may be) live music as they enjoy their chicken tenders. The opening act was on, a guitarist playing to an attentive crowd of fellow grad students and fraternity brothers. Dobson and Ari sampled the $3.50 beers. Jess, our contact and campus radio station WWPI's publicity director (also the DJ who interviewed me when we were in town in April), told us about the different departments (Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Robotics...) and her project to make a disability-accessible motorcycle. These kids are basically rocket scientists. 

Unfortunately, no electrical engineers volunteered to come to our rescue during sound check when Ari's amp, the big monster he'd lugged all the way up to WPI, mysteriously did not produce any sound when the bass was plugged into it.  It seemed like a disaster, but our sound man Connor plugged the bass straight into the board and it sounded pretty decent.  The Goat's Nest had just opened for dinner and it was starting to fill up. We were ready to play.

Our set was an interesting experience.  If you've ever tried to musically engage a large room full of college students who are just trying to eat their dinner, for god's sake, you will know that their attention is devoted primarily to their meal, secondarily to their dining companions, and lastly and leastly to whatever band happens to be playing in the room. Our first college gig, and no one but the radio station kids and a weirdly attentive janitor seemed to be listening. I'm not sure what I could have done differently, but there must have been something. As challenging as bars and clubs can be, with some exceptions people are still there at least theoretically to hear some music, so once you go onstage they'll generally meet you halfway. I suspect this venue required more brute force, more high energy, and I wasn't prepared. 

But we played what felt like a good set overall, and a few people bought CDs at the merch table, and afterwards we went out for middle eastern food with the radio station kids, who were funny and great.  One of them told us about his radio show, which is all epic poetry read out loud over the air. He's doing Paradise Lost right now. We put Ari in Dobson's car for the ride back to NYC so Dobson would have some company and caravaned back to NYC. The boys beat us there because Heather was driving, and she tends to decelerate when she's talking, and we like to talk a lot. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gorgeous drawing of the big band!

Check out this gorgeous drawing of Sweet Soubrette at Jalopy by Robin Hoffman (from her wonderful blog Ukulele Chicken)! Here's a video from that night so you can compare: