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Mike Randle


“Leeeeeee’s Come To Boston, She said ‘woah’…..” — By Mike Fornatale
November 20, 2003

When I really really REALLY have to wake up at a particular time, and that particular time is three or four hours after I went to sleep, I’ve developed a procedure that is positively foolproof but does NOT require the participation of a second human and a bucket of ice water.See, first of all, I want to actually live through the event — and second, the bucket-of-ice-water method is a self-defeating thing in that it requires that the other person already be awake.This is a lot simpler.It assumes you have a clock radio, but that’s easy enough.

I used to sell these things, and similar devices, for a living.People would constantly complain the alarms weren’t loud enough.So use the radio instead and turn it way up, I’d suggest helpfully.”Oh, no, no, that son of mine, he can sleep through anything.” And I’d grit my teeth and ponder offering out loud, “Gimme fifty bucks and I’ll come to your house and smack the little douchebag on the head with a manhole cover at whatever hour you specify.” Instead I would tune the radio slightly off-frequency and then turn it all the way up.This, dammit, WORKS.You can bring dead girls back to life this way.It came in real handy back in college, more than once in fact.But never mind that.

Anyway, there are probably still a Mike-Shaped Hole and a Pete-Shaped Hole in the ceiling of the lovely Days Inn near friendly Newark Airport. But we’re AWAKE.

This whole trip has been kinda loose on details.One of the consistently loose details is: how do we get to the next place we’re going to? Well, we’re about to leave and nobody has hammered down this particular little folded-up edge.Paula and all her humming, throbbing electronic devices are in the room next door (our wall was glowing all night, that’s how I know) and so I went and stuck my ear against her door like some sort of degenerate listening for an imagined pillow fight.Heard voices, so I knocked.Yes, Paula would be happy to raid MapQuest for the answer to this little conundrum.

No time for an Actual Breakfast Experience of any magnitude, but the hotel has one of those little courtesy breakfast rooms where you can get coffee and juice and cereal and other stuff nobody has to cook.So we all piled in there.Shortly thereafter, we’re off and headed for Boston.

This particular trip up I-95 will take us over the George Washington Bridge and through the Bronx before it veers north again through Westchester and into Connecticut.It hasn’t occurred to me that there are some folks on board who have never seen the New York skyline, so I forget to point it out and all Dan knows is There’s Some City Or Other.Oh well.

Paula, apparently, is from Connecticut.She was sitting up front and pointing out invisible landmarks — but that’s fine, it makes the trip more insteresting.At one point she pointed and said “Yale.” It might as well have been Xanadu for all we knew.

We stopped at two highway rest-stops en route, and this is where I learned a heretofore unknown axiom of Interstate Highway travel: Heather Always Wants Yogurt And Can Never Find Any.Just in case that ever comes up when you’re driving, understand.If you’re tooling along an Interstate Highway and you’re going to feel a Pressing Jones for yogurt, well, be advised.

Fairly uneventful trip other than that, and it didn’t take as long as it might have.We made it there in the late afternoon and went straight towards the venue.I can’t speak for everybody, but I myself was in fairly good shape for someone who had spent ten of the last sixteen hours driving.

So anyway, we’re at a place called The Paradise.It’s a very gray New England afternoon in October, and there’s a persistent misty precip that’s been plaguing me all day. Christ, either RAIN or DON’T.Well, I’m not in charge of the weather anymore, okay? I just wanna get this van parked and get these poor cranky people inside the place. But first, of course, Gene gets us lost again — and I have to make a K-turn in the middle of a very narrow side-street in this big white behemoth of a vehicle. Okay, fine.Finally, there’s the Paradise. And in order to get there, all you have to do is drive across some trolley tracks in the middle of the street — tracks which bear actual trains without any actual gates or actual flashing signals.You wanna turn left across the tracks, pally? Fine. Just watch for the train behind you, which you can’t really see on account of the big fence on either side of the tracks, and best of luck.Well, no problem.Made it.And some helpful soul who works at The Paradise has coned-off two parking spaces in front of the venue, by meters.We park.We are told that we’ll have to feed the meters till six.WTF?? We’re just poor weary travellers, sir, and we have no quarters…..

Pete and I conclude that we are better off slinging the vans into an alley behind the venue.The other side of the alley seems to be a school building of some sort.There are several other vehicles parked there.So we stick the vans there, unload, and are promptly told we’ll have to move ’em.Any other day, apparently, would be fine.But today there’s some sort of Boston Educator’s Conference and only educators’ vehicles can park there.Important work they do, of course, teaching kids to beat up Jamaicans and ignore the letter “R.” So we had no choice but to move the vehicles.Which was not easy, given the size of this alley.Now I have to drive all the way around and through the trolley tracks again.This time, of course, there’s a train and I do not see it as early as I would have liked to see it.But, hey, that’s why they put brakes in these things.No problem.

When we get out front a different Venue Guy is there, and he has coned off two spaces in front of BROKEN meters.Which is what his assistant was supposed to have done in the first place, but didn’t.This cost us half an hour — much of which I spent screaming at poor Pete, who’s a very cautious driver.”JUST KEEP BACKING UP SLOWLY, DAMMIT!! YOU’RE IN A BIG RED VAN, THREE TIMES HIS SIZE!!! HE’LL MOVE!!!” Anyway.

This stage isn’t so very large either, but it’s good enough.The room itself is very interesting.All dark wood, a U-shaped balcony, and a couple of little “sub-balcony” areas tucked up against the stairways on either side.And out by the front door, there’s a whole ‘nother room that they use concurrently for smaller shows or something.To get to the “actual” room you go through what can only be described as a tunnel.Strange little setup.

Sound check was fun, as usual. I finally made good on my threat to strap on Arthur’s SG and re-create that twin-guitar solo at the end of “A House Is Not A Motel” with Randle. He loved it. Then it was on to the usual “Alone Again Or” and half of “Old Man” and half of “You Set The Scene” with the orchestra.

There was even time for something new, an impromptu “Que Vida,” which the band always tries to get Arthur to play and for some reason, he won’t. This is why you see Your Boy holding the maracas, which I would not otherwise have touched.

After sound check, I wandered outside. Turns out that a semi-legendary used-record store called “In Your Ear” is two doors away from this place.So I went in there and nosed around for a little while, and then back to the Paradise.

Backstage is pretty tiny, but adequate (as you can see in the accompanying “Arthur’s Angels” photograph.) And this is where we spent the rest of the time before the show. No opening act this time. I went out and walked through the various balconies and such, a couple of times. And for the life of me, I cannot remember where, when, or how I ate. There was the usual small pile of cold cuts in the dressing room but I know I didn’t have any. Oh well, it’s a mystery, but you needn’t let it concern you, it’s behind us now.

You can tell when people have been on the road too long, even when it’s only five days. They start grooming each other like bored chimpanzees. Though I do think Heather did a lovely job on Randle’s hair, as you see here.

At each of the previous shows, various String Goddesses have re-connected with friends in the audience that they hadn’t seen in some time. Tonight was the Big Deal, though. Paula’s entire family was coming to the show, her parents and her brother.I didn’t meet them, but I heard them talking as I was buzzing past, carrying something or other. Nice folks. And any fears we may have had that her dad would throw a pillowcase over her head, bundle her into the back of the car, and spirit her away to protect her from boys — well, they proved unfounded.

During the show, I think I saw Paula’s mom doing the hully-gully on a tabletop, but I may have imagined this.

Anyway, the show. This was the best one yet. Arthur was on fire. He threw in at least three songs that hadn’t shown up in the other two sets. And at one point he even stepped off the stage into the audience for half a song. I managed to get some pictures, something I’d had no time for at the Birchmere.

After the show, I realized, I pretty much had to stay with the revelers till a quorum wanted to go back to the motel. Well, not exactly “back” to the motel, since we hadn’t actually been there yet. Well, no problem. Everyone wanders into the bar next door, where — to our surprise –the World Series is still on and into extra innings. So we got to see our team lose AGAIN after missing two wins (the only two) in a row. Grrrrr.

Well, this marked the first evening of the tour during which the String Goddesses got turned loose in a bar with a very loud DJ playing very loud music that they very much liked. (I liked it too, in spite of myself. The guy was playing all stuff from the late 70s/early 80s era — he even slung on the Psychedelic Furs’ “Mr. Jones,” always a favorite.

Well, when those girls dance you don’t wanna get in the way. It’s kind of like being surrounded by buzzsaws, or cannibals, or cannibals waving buzzsaws. So there was never a dull moment.

Chapple had bought me a beer — he was still feeling slightly remorseful over having given me a dirty look by accident during the Birchmere show — and I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to protect said beer from Flailing Goddess Limbs, dozens of ’em, or so it seemed.

Finally, it’s off to the motel. There’s some difficulty here. As I walk in, Chapple is besieging the guy at the desk — a guy who obviously had been expecting a quiet night and was instead being forced to “Do His Job.” Apparently, Dave wants to move to a different room.Whatever.I go up to the room reserved for Pete and me, and I find — well, how about that — ONE bed. Um, this won’t do. Pete arrives shortly thereafter and he agrees that this, um, won’t do. So we go back down, run into Chapple, and arrange to swap rooms, and we get Uncle Surly to re-program our keys. This, of course, is when we find out why Dave didn’t want the room. It smells. Well, there you go, eh? Stinky room or Sleep With A Man. Stinky room it is!

As per usual, a sizeable cadre of us ends up in Paula’s room. The difference tonight is that the String Goddesses have been slamming themselves noisily against walls, floors, and each other for an hour prior to this, and they are still somewhat “amplified.” (Also, Julie’s apparel has come apart during the earlier violence, creating what they call in showbiz a “Photo Op.”) Anyway, it’s no more than a few minutes before Uncle Surly comes banging on the door like the DEA, informing us not just to keep the noise down but that we are all Terrible People and we shouldn’t be allowed to stay in nice places like his, and our parents must be very ashamed of us, and this is why we lost the Vietnam War, and y’know. Piss off, Uncle Surly. You’re the night-time desk clerk at a motel in the ass-end of Boston. Sheesh.

But, after all, he CAN have us tossed out into the street — or, at least, into the van.So we hush up.One amusing conversational twist: Rusty has never seen an iPod, and is wondering about them, so I go next door and get mine.My Xmas recordings are on there, so sneakily I punch up “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’.” He decides he needs an iPod, but he still doesn’t know it was me he was listening to.Ha.

Well, there’s no percentage in trying to sit quietly in a hotel room when half of you are Over-Amped String Goddesses, who are so revved up from dancing that they’re practically vibrating audibly.So eventually we all retire.And I wake up with my sinuses burning from the Evil Room Waft.

And suddenly Caravan Week is almost over……..

NEXT TIME: New York.

Mike Randle


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