Here is a nice visual archive of pictures taken by Gerry of our trip from Buffalo, New York to Burlington, Vermont for what was supposed to be a week long engagement in the college town. It was quite the adventure.
The foolhardy crew of the band and dedicated supporters Dave Styn, Keith Huels, Greg Filippone and Tom Miller headed off in a caravan in a blizzard which only seemed to get worse. I remember Eric and I were in the truck and somehow managed to lose the rest of the group and take a wrong turn, and when we tried to correct, we ended up stuck in a snow drift!
This was before cell phones, so we were screwed. Fortunately, some very kind local gentleman in a pickup truck saw our plight and pulled the truck out of the snowbank so we could get back on the road again, and didn’t even ask for money (which is good, because we didn’t have any – – we’re musicians)! That was one of those little acts of kindness that means so much that you remember and are inspired to pay it forward.
So, long story short, we arrive at the bar to find the burnt out remnants of a smoldering courthouse across the street. We set up and play our first night to a sparse (being Tuesday and having had no promotion) but appreciative crowd. The owner has us staying upstairs in a half finished loft, not great, but not the worst place we’ve been either.
Anyway, I remember trying to sleep and hearing “zzzzzzzzzzt” while seeing flashing light through my eyelids. It happens again and I’m, like, “Is that supposed to be doing that?” I open my eyes to see blue liquid flame pouring out the electrical outlet and dripping down the wall. I’ve never seen anything like that before, scary at the time, but kind of cool in retrospect.
Everyone gets up, except Bob (“wake me up when the fire department gets here”), and a couple of us go looking for a pay phone (damn, life was tough before cell phones). The first 3 phones we find are out of order, and I think we finally flagged down a cab and got him to call the fire department for us.
The firemen show up with their equipment and ask us what the problem is, and they kind of laugh it off, then they decide to check the breaker box. As soon as the fireman touches it, it starts sparking and smoking and the firemen douse it with an extinguisher.
The next day, we are notified that the rest of the gig is cancelled and are sent home. Apparently, the bar owner didn’t appreciate the fact that we just saved his building from burning down, so we packed up and started the long trek home.
There’s much more to the story, so I’ll let Gerry provide some detail from his perspective!
[and now… Gerry’s perspective:] The loft above the Texas Bar is something I’ll never forget… It had two rooms, a hallway and a crawl space. I stayed in the room with Gregg Filippone and Robert Lowden, it had an actual bed, two cots and a door that shut. I think Patt slept on a cot in the hallway between rooms.
Staying in the other room was Garth, Eric and Keith. Tom Miller slept in a crawl space above it. I can’t remember where my bother Barry slept… perhaps he’ll chime in on that, (I hope it wasn’t the bathroom). Don’t get me wrong… this loft arrangement was a “luxury suite” compared to other boarding arrangements we’ve had… but those stories are for another day. This is the story of our trip from Buffalo to play at a bar called The Texas… which had nothing to do with the state of Texas, it was in Vermont, on the frozen shore of the great Lake Champlain.
Our adventure was supposed to be five-nights of solid musical entertainment provided by us… which sounded like a great idea. Five nights to play to a new audience… Five nights of actual cash money (we could pay for some food, the truck, the gasoline, and the road crew)… Five nights of straight partying away from home! Well, that’s the way it should have been but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Perhaps this is the gig that never should have been… but somehow we did it… as we always did… Why? Was it because we had the fearlessness to stare into the eye of a hurricane until we made it “blink”? Was it that we had the tenacity of a honey badger that pursues its prey despite the odds? Was it for “character building” or like brave men who climb mountains simply because “it’s there”… or that we were simply too naive to see the impossibility of the situation… I don’t know. It didn’t seem impossible at the time. Looking back however, there seems to have been many omens to cast a shadow of doubt on the success of this gig.
It was February in Buffalo and as you can see in the first two photos, snowing very hard… it was like a scene from the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation TV special, when the big storm of the millennium hits Christmas town… maybe that was the first Omen we overlooked?
We loaded up most of our equipment the night before and needed to make a quick-stop at Garth’s house on Dartmouth before hitting the road. You can see all of us (except me, I’m taking the picture) lined up against the truck ready to hit the road “against all odds”. Dave Styn, (our head roadie), couldn’t make the trip, but he was nice enough to get up at 5:00 am to help load the truck. Garth and Eric piloted the U-haul, they had the dash board tricked out with candles and incense. Just as they started the engine the Buffalo police pulled up behind me with red & blue lights flashing.
They made us stop what we were doing and questioned why we were “loading up a U-haul in front of a private residence at 5:00 AM”… was this a second omen? After a quick inspection, the Police acknowledged we were performing artists (not home invasion artists) and our 400 mile journey into the heart of darkness began… Patt had spent a lot of time creating a sheet of step by step directions given to the driver of each vehicle. As long as we all stuck to the rules and directions, we would get there OK. We even planed ahead to account for getting lost but that still wasn’t enough to stop disaster from striking apparently.
On the way to and from the gig, I was in Gregg’s car with Robert snapping photos through the windshield.
The TV series “Ice Road Truckers” comes to mind as we traveled these treacherous roads, but our luck ran out when Barry’s car (the blue auto in the caravan) spun out on black ice and crashed into a snow bank… that in itself was bad enough but add to it a near miss from a passing tractor trailer and that was enough for Barry to pass the steering wheel to Patt. The third omen more than just grazed us and it was too close for comfort…
And where was our truck? Gregg’s car stopped for Barry… but our U-haul kept going. When they pulled ahead of us, Garth & Eric had no idea that Barry’s car spun out into a snow bank, so onward they went… Then, they turned down the wrong road and when they tried to turn around, the truck got stuck in a snow filled ditch… for hours and hours. The fourth omen hit us straight on…
The rest of us made it to the club in the early evening… we had to convince the bar owner that yes, we really had our shit together…we were freaking out waiting for Garth, Eric and our truck to arrive with all of our equipment in tow… we didn’t know when or if they were coming! If only we had cell phones back then.
Looking down Main Street… “a watched pot never boils”.
It was -14 degrees next to the lake and across the street was a visage of a burnt out courthouse that went up in flames the night before we arrived… the building was encased in ice. I guess that’s what happens when you hose down a burning building in below zero temperatures. Was this foreshadowing of an event to befall us later this evening? A fifth omen indeed!
As we mulled about the club, we noticed the lack of publicity for our band… we were promised “adequate” promotion… yet the flyers put up around town advertised the “1st Birthday Party” and mentioned us only as “Live Band”.
If it wasn’t for the name “Parousia” written on the chalk board at the entrance, nobody would have known we were performing there at all. Sixth Omen???
The U-haul finally arrived later that night to a sigh of relief… we set up our equipment as fast as we could but still began our performance an hour and a half late… not cool for a first impression. We played well enough considering the circumstance and the club was mostly empty on this Tuesday night… a sub-zero Tuesday night! Omen number seven… check.
After the show, we were both wired and exhausted. Backstage we called for our pipe and we called for our bowl and our fiddlers nine (including drummer, guitarists, flutists, keyboardist, sound engineer and roadies of course) and tried to rest and put the day’s misfortunes behind us… but it was not to be.I think it was about 3:00 am when Garth first came knocking on our door… “Gerry, I think you should get up… there’s a fire!” I barely opened my eyes, “no way, WHAT! you gotta be kidding, right?”… before I could hear Garth’s answer, I fell back to sleep. Then about ten minutes later, I heard it again… >knock, knock, knock< “Gerry, I really think you should get up now, I’m not kidding, there is a fire”. I got up and woke up Gregg but Robert wouldn’t move so we left him. We walked into the hallway and everyone looked awake, alert and extremely concerned…
Eric and Garth explained that when Tom fooled with the circuit panel and Eric plugged his battery charger into the wall, a large flame shot out and went >pop<. Followed by a >bzzzzzt< and then “blue flame began dripping down the wall”. (I remember thinking …Wow guys, what was in that pipe?) Just then someone touched the circuit beakers and >BAM< a long flame shot out with a >pop< followed by a crackling sound. Well, that was it; We didn’t want to burn-up in our sleep. There were no fire extinguishers to be had, so we we sent Keith out into the freezing cold to find a payphone and call the fire department… Hell, we would have notified the bar owner too… but the only number we had was to the bar downstairs and it was closed…
The firemen came quick (I’m sure they knew the area well since they spent last night trying to extinguish the courthouse next-door). Skeptical at first, until we convinced them to touch the breaker box; then it was like the fourth of July (minus the fun). You should have seen those firemen jump back and spray that circuit box until it looked like a snow-cone. They turned off the electricity and wrote up a citation. Well that was it… Omen number eight… check mate. No one slept well, (if at all) after that…
The next day, a bunch of us got up early and left the club and went off to explore downtown Burlington. The weather was still below zero and we slugged through the frozen snow and ice-cold wind to find a place to eat and relax while we were “out on tour”.
What little fun we had was soon over… When we came back to the club and immediately heard the news that we had been ‘kicked to the curb’… The reason: We were told we didn’t draw enough people on a sub-zero Tuesday night without promotion. There was no negotiation… we had to pack-up all our stuff and go home.
We couldn’t afford to pay for the truck rental, we couldn’t afford to pay the road crew… we had just enough money for the gas to get home and a one room one night stay at a cheap motel… and that’s what we did. Like wounded warriors we packed up our shit and headed out. It was already late in the evening when we hit the road.
We stopped at the first dive we could afford and watched re-runs of “Fame”. (Don’t judge us for that choice…we had “rabbit ears” for an antenna, with only a handful of TV channels back then).
The next day, we stopped at a Howard Johnson’s and could swear we saw Jimmy Olson at the counter, (working his side job away from “The Daily Planet”?)
The experience stuck with us for years… back in safety and warmth our rehearsal room, it inspired to write and name an epic rock-instrumental overture entitled, “Northway / Vermont”. Watch a performance of the song here: http://www.parousiabuff.com/video/parousia-unveils-art-science-plant-6#northway
Yes, we did get paid (eventually), for one night’s performance and some expense. We convinced our booking agent Dave Buffamonti, to go back to the owner and cite the wording in the agreement which did not require a minimum draw. Oh, and the fact that we all could have been burned to a crispy fritter while sleeping in his faulty wired death-loft also helped our negotiations a bit!
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief…” -Charles Dickens, “a tale of two cities”.