WOW, we had a helluva weekend. Â Friday night Kip and I arrived at the Charleston at 6 to setup and line-check our mics, stands and cables, so that we could hit the ground running for our show later that night. Â Then we walked down to Double Door, where Paul was already on hand. Â The Legendary Shack Shakers had already sound-check’d, and The Velcro Lewis Group was all setup on stage, so they were ready for us shortly after we arrived. Â Ryan and Billy got there soon after we jumped on stage to sound-check. Â We typically sound weird through big rock club PA’s, and this was no exception. Â My guitar was all pick-attack and not much tone at first, and Paul’s howitzer bass sounded pretty god-awful through the Velcro Lewis bass amp. Â But Jessie at front-of-house and Eric at monitors were both game for the challenge, and they got the mix balanced out and eq’d pretty nicely in fairly short order. Â Then we had an hour off to grab some dinner (Kip hit Sultan’s Market, Paul and I did takeout from Penny’s Noodles) and write our setlist for the show. Â There was a pretty good crowd on hand when we started up at 9 sharp, and it grew steadily throughout our set. Â Double Door is a historically chatty club, and the crew warned us they couldn’t make us very loud due to our mic’d instruments setup, but it worked out well. Â The crowd was not too loud and we played a set of our most upbeat tunes that held the crowd’s attention, so we were pretty happy with how it went. Â Lawrence Peters from Velcro Lewis jumped up to play washboard on our version of Splitlip Rayfield’s “Never Make It Home”, which was a blast. Â We did a 45 minute set, then hung out to sell a few cd’s and talk to some friends. Â Then we blasted over the Charleston for our next show. Â We were sorry to miss Velcro Lewis and The Shack Shakers, but it had to happen. Â Amy Butterer from Billions (who put us on the bill – thanks, Amy!) told me that JD from the Shakers really liked the Tangleweed, and Alisa later told me they thanked us from stage and dedicated a song to us, so that made us feel real good.
The Charleston was pretty packed when we got there, and we got setup and running in 15 minutes or so, jumping right into our set. Â Bar-tender Eric does sound at Hideout, so he gave us some mix-assistance once we started playing, which was a nice treat after dozens of shows mixing ourselves on-the-fly at the Charleston. Â The sound situation was immediately easier and nicer for us, and we played quite a bit more dynamically and nimbly than we had at Double Door as a result. Â We did two full, long sets, and then found ourselves getting close to last call, so our third set was only about 20 minutes. Â This was probably just as well – we’d had a long night already, and had a big day coming up on Saturday, so we wrapped it up, tore down our gear, had a drink with a bunch of friends who were still on hand, and then headed home around 2:00 a.m., 18 and a half hours after I’d started work that morning.
I slept the sleep of the dead until my phone rang at 10:15 a.m. Â It was Kip asking if I was ready to head to CBGB Fest to sound-check before the doors opened at Noon. Â I ended up grabbing a quick shower and then Alisa drove Kip and me to the Congress (via Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich and a much needed hot coffee). Â The scene in the balcony where we were to play was pretty surreal. Â The 7-piece Giving Tree Band was all setup, one guy to a step on the slanted south balcony, all wired into in-ear monitors that WERE NOT WORKING AT ALL. Â They’d been there for over 4 hours and still had no monitors in the balcony. Â There was no way the balcony bands could just use the house p.a. as their monitors, given that the system was so far away. Â The delay-effect would have made it impossible for the band to stay in sync and play in time. Â Multiple engineers at the main front-of-house board were frantically working the issue, and Giving Tree’s sound-man Catfish was also working hard to help trouble-shoot and keep everyone calm as the deadline approached. Â Finally around noon (no less than 5 hours after they’d begun!), they got a signal and started building their in-ear mixes. Â Unfortunately this didn’t conclude until about the time the main stage acts had to start, so Tangleweed didn’t even get to set ourselves up or line-check before our first set. Â Thankfully Catfish was a great help at getting us wired into the Giving Tree’s setup (which only required a couple of minor changes), and then I hooked up with Nate at front-of-house to make a plan for quickly line-checking us just before our first set began. Â Nate was clearly juggling A LOT of activity in prep for a long day of main-stage acts, but he was very cool and we worked out a plan with minimal fanfare. Â Billy hadn’t arrived when it came time for our first set, so we got started without him. Â We had never played through in-ear monitors before, so that was pretty surreal, but Nate got us a serviceable mix in fairly short order, and then we got started.
Tangleweed in Congress Theatre balcony at CBGB Fest 2008
Thanks to Stephanie from TRANSMISSION/GAPERS BLOCK for the above photo. Click here to see her other CBGB Fest photos of David Grisman, Avett Brothers, Ha Ha Tonka, Major Junction, etc…
Our first set was pretty long and involved constant tweaking to the mix, so it was a bit of a struggle, but it went pretty well all things considered. Â Billy arrived mid set and tried to join us without any in-ear monitors, which proved to be just about impossible, since he was hearing the main system about 30 milliseconds later than we were hearing the in-ear monitors, so that was pretty freaky, but we went on band-flex-time and plowed through it without any major train-wrecks. Â The crowd was getting pretty good by this time, and they responded well to our first set, so we felt pretty good despite the technical challenges. Â At this point the Fest was behind on their schedule, so they killed our second set, which was just as well and gave us extra time to get Billy a working pair of in-ear monitors and work with Nate on a plan to refresh the mix and start clean. Â He had us line-check while the Billy Childers band was playing on the main-stage, which was a genius move. Â This allowed him to get all the channels properly labeled on his board and make sure he had a good signal on four vocals and five instruments. Â It also put us at ease a bit that the next set would be better than the first one. Â Sure enough it was, but we still had some problems with monitor mixes cutting in and out (thanks to gradually dying batteries…), and some of the guys not being able to hear themselves or the rest of the band enough to stay in sync. Â I was lucky and had what seemed to be an adequate mix, and my in-ears never cut out for the entire day, so I was thankful. Â Unfortunately Kip, Ryan, Billy and Paul all had some problems at one point or another, resulting in them playing a few songs in the proverbial dark, and having to swap headsets, re-seat and replace batteries, etc…. between songs while we bantered with the ever-growing crowd looking up at us from the floor.
On the brighter side, our balcony vantage was super cool and had great visual appeal – definitely one of the most interesting visual settings in which we’ve ever played, even if it did come with some tall technical challenges. Â Paul and Billy got our big TANGLEWEED banner draped off the balcony in front of us before the second set, assuring that no one in the crowd would go home wondering who that kooky balcony band was. Â The other cool detail was that there was very little actual bluegrass or blues on the bill, so we ended up filling a lot of the bluegrass jones for the audience, which got us lots of nice feedback from folks in the crowd as we wandered around between sets. Â Word from the floor was that our sets were a bit on the quiet side, but we knew it had to be that way in order to assure the house signal didn’t flood our mics and cause nasty feedback, and many folks said they actually appreciated the quieter music, since many of the early bands were quite rocking and pretty loud, with very little acoustic music of any kind except for us.
By our third set, our mix in both the house and the in-ears was getting better and better, and we were becoming more comfortable with the whole arrangement, so our performances got stronger as we went, and the crowd grew considerably as well. Â It was really cool how the spotlight would hit us in the balcony as soon as the main stage went quiet, and most of the crowd would turn 90 degrees to see us playing, even though the sound was still coming from the stacks hanging from the main stage. Â The light was pretty blinding but I was able to make out some friends while we played, and also made eye contact with some folks who were clearly digging the music, many of whom we managed to speak to on our breaks. Â It was a little weird using the in-ears, since it really isolated us from the sound in the room, but we could make out enough crowd response to know that we were being well received, and there were pockets of enthusiastic dancing going on too, so we felt really good about all that. Â By the time we did our fourth and final set, the crowd was getting pretty huge, and the cheers between songs were among the loudest we’ve ever received, so it was pretty damned exciting. Â We closed our last set with Orange Blossom Special (as Kip said, it wouldn’t be a bluegrass festival if somebody didn’t do this song – it was our moral obligation!), and I pulled my in-ears out as soon as we hit our final notes. Â The roar of the crowd was definitely the loudest crowd response we’ve ever generated, so we ended the day on a real high note, quite energized from having the good fortune to play four short sets in such a cool setting as the gorgeous Congress Theatre balcony.
The Giving Tree guys had been very pleasant and fun all day, so we were happy at this point to make way and let them take over for a couple more balcony sets before the David Grisman Quintet and the Avett Brothers sets that would close out the Festival. Â After packing up our gear we all scattered throughout the hall to talk to friends, sell cd’s and just relax after being on point all day between our short sets. Â I had a good BBQ Pork sandwich from Smoke Daddy, which was much needed after not eating much all day (and having more than a few free backstage beers!). Â Vince, Alisa, Paul and I ended up taking seats in the balcony to watch Giving Tree, Grisman, and another Giving Tree set (they did great!), then we hit the floor for the Avett Brothers. Â As expected after seeing them at Wakarusa two summers ago, they were loud as hell and highly energized, with tons of support and enthusiasm from the crowd, so we rocked out with them for a hour or so until I was completely out of gas and ready to go. Â I’d started losing my voice earlier in the day (in fact, this began the night before – I talked on the phone just about all day at work on Friday, and my voice really started falling apart when I sang “With a Bottle In My Hand” at the Double Door and “Never Make It Home” at The Charleston), and then I had a massive sneezing attack for reasons I still don’t understand, so with Vince’s encouragement, Alisa took me home. Â We we both pretty hungry, so we grabbed takeout tacos from El Cid and chowed down at home over an episode of Entourage. Â Then we passed out around 1:30 a.m., ending another really long, exciting day in one of Tangleweed’s busier weekends ever.
So that’s how it all went down! Â We’d like to send our sincere thanks to Amy Butterer from Billions, Phil, Eric and Jessie at Double Door, the Velcro Lewis Group and Th’Â Legendary Shack Shakers, Wendy and Scott from the Charleston, MIke Raspatello and all the great folks at CBGB Fest and the Congress Theatre, and everyone who came to the shows and didn’t pelt us with rocks or garbage (despite us winging a few cd’s at you from stage!). Â Special thanks go to Catfish and the Giving Tree Band gang for all their help and and support throughout the day, too. Â They were a pleasure to work with, and their music was great, so we really hope to share a stage with them again someday. Â We had a serious blast playing 8 sets of music at three very different venues and settings in less than 24 hours, and we really enjoyed meeting so many nice folks and making some new friends/fans along the way. Â Thanks again to all of you, it was a great weekend for us.