They Let Us Keep the Clothes/A Study in Purple
- April 21, 2016
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Studio 1A, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY. Tuesday, April 12, 2016. 8:30 AM.
We take up entirely too much space.
It's not really our fault. We're a seven-piece band. There isn't much we could do short of firing someone. Our actual dressing room, a 5'x5' nook with two chairs and four coat hangers through a door across from one of the makeup stations, can barely accommodate our jackets and backpacks. As is our custom, we have spilled into the common area between all of the various dressing rooms. This is the crossroads, the Great Nexus, the place where all paths converge. Hoda Kotb breezes through the common area and into make-up, easing her pace just long enough to look us over and remark that we "look like trouble.” A few minutes later, she wafts back through the room singing "Love Will Keep Us Together” in honor of Toni Tennille, who has finished her interview and is in her own 5'x5' nook with two chairs and four coat hangers through a door across from one of the makeup stations waiting for a car to arrive. On my way back from the part of the room where there are bagels, a cameraman waves me through an interview with a woman whom I only later realize had been controversial former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal. At one point, a production assistant approaches us:
P.A.: "Are you all with keeping up?”
Revs: "[collective hesitation, general confusion]”
P.A.: "'Keeping Up with the Kardashians?'”
They didn't have enough 5'x5' nooks with two chairs and four coat hangers through doors across from the makeup stations for all of their guests, so "Justified” star Timothy Olyphant and the "second-chance” shelter dogs from the ASPCA both have to make do with sections of the grand foyer just outside of the common area that have been partitioned off with black sheets hanging from tall metal frames. It's like an off-puttingly cheery version of a scene from a World War II movie at the triage station of a makeshift hospital in a shelled-out cathedral.
The program is scheduled down to the minute. At 3:30 AM, our anointed two-man crew heroically ventures to Studio 1A to touch base with the production team and begin setting up our gear. At 5:15 (which, as a rare, bitter twist, is too early for hotel breakfast), we amble over and finish setting up. At the prompting of the ground-level studio's stage manager, we perform a brief sound check and rehearse an abridged version of "Wish I Knew You” in the gaps between live segments. After this we have an hour or two to nap, eat, or just sort of take up space somewhere and try to make sense of it all. I return to our hotel, a mercifully short walk away, and spend the time doing a crossword puzzle (my new morning ritual when we stay in hotels that stock complimentary copies of USA Today). At 8:00, I get dressed. From the waist down I am wearing clothes I brought with me, and from the waist up I am wearing clothes chosen for me by Robyn Victoria, our stylist for the day.
Come to think of it, the most surreal aspect of this whole experience may very well have been the stylist. Not that there was anything particularly odd or unbelievable about Robyn, or her assistant, Jeremiah- they were just two hip young folks who, over the course of about about thirty minutes per band member and armed with two large racks of apparel in an already economically sized hotel room, did a fantastic job of making us look like crisper, more cohesive versions of ourselves. The surreality came from the simple fact that we had a stylist at all. On Saturday, we were playing a frat party in Auburn. On Monday, we were flying into New York early to meet with our stylist. I like to act all cool and unflappable whenever possible, but how could I not be flapped by this?
Which brings us back to the beginning of the story. By 8:30, we are all in the common nexus of the green room area, eating bagels and ducking through other people's interviews and taking up too much space and answering production assistants' questions with puzzled stares. At some point during this nebulous period we are summoned two or three at a time to makeup, where skilled tradespeople use powdered brushes to disguise the fact that we're all running on about four hours of sleep. At 10:00 we return to the studio and set our instruments back onto marked positions on the floor, pausing briefly so Kourtney Kardashian can sit down with Kathie Lee and Hoda to talk about a new line of smoothies and the status of her relationship with her sometime-partner Scott Disick (they're not currently together, but they're on good terms and they just went on a nice vacation with their children).
If, throughout the whole Today experience, I had taken a sip of beer every time I thought to myself "is this real life?” I'd have been too drunk to stand come performance time.
At 10:20 Zack and Dave give a brief interview. During the following commercial break, we do a final run-through of the song. At 10:38 (pushed up from 10:48), we do the thing. Our phones explode. The internet trembles. We pack up our gear and decamp from the common area of the green room. We have a celebratory meal nearby with some close friends and a few representatives of our management posse. I curse myself for forgetting to stop in the Nintendo store next to the studio. By 2:30 PM, we and our things are smushed into two SUVs bound for LaGuardia. Two hours later, we're in the sky, heading home. All told, our trip to New York will amount to roughly twenty-four hours.
In the end, despite the vague sense of pressure, the rough hours (even rougher on the real heroes of this story: our crew), and the intimidating, down-to-the-minute schedule, our first foray into national television was a pretty fun adventure. The on-screen personalities at The Today Show were all very good at making us feel at ease, and the behind-the-scenes staff were utterly remarkable in their efficiency, professionalism, and geniality. Plus, it was just kind of cool to get swept up in the pace of this huge, incredible machine and to see what it's like being a small part of a massive system.
These days, most of our shows are just that- our shows- in the sense that when we headline a club, for a brief time our music and our performance becomes the center of a tiny universe. Not that this is a particularly good attitude for any professional to have, but to some degree, if we're behind schedule, the world is behind schedule. If our time is up but the audience begs for more music, we can play more music. The house lights stay down. The bar stays open. The more we grow as a band, the more things flex and move to accommodate us. Our time on Today was an enjoyable reminder that we, not just as musicians, but as people, are part of a much greater ecosystem; one to which we owe both deference and stewardship.
Unexpected Philosophical Implications: Numbers are just like, a construct, man.../5
Overall Rating: 5/5 would recommend to others
Hello, friends! Rob here.
In a fun bit of news, the above piece will soon be co-published on Live For Live Music, which, in case you live under a rock, and that rock also lives under another, larger, rock, and neither of your house-rocks has a stable wi-fi connection, is a cool website. They have lots of great news and features and, despite operating within two of the most hateful spheres in all of humanity (the music industry and the internet), they're a pretty positive bunch. In fact, just the other day they got in touch with us to ask us a few questions about the daunting task of surviving the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. We were more than happy to oblige.
Speaking of which, Jazz Fest is almost upon us! Just one more day until that magical time of year when the city of New Orleans swells with music and hits critical mass, bursting into a churning supernova* of regional acts, national headliners, all-star jams, and unheard-of supergroups. We've got a pretty busy schedule for the week, and I'm very excited to get to do all of the things. The fun starts tomorrow night (4/22), when some of our side projects (namely Rumpelsteelskin and Space & Harmony) will be playing at 30/90 on Frenchmen street in honor of our esteemed bass wizard George Gekas' birthday! (George is in both side projects- spending your own birthday party working twice as hard as everyone else in the room is a pretty George thing to do, FYI.) Additionally, Zack will be at the Parish room in the House of Blues tomorrow sitting in with our good friend Bobby Lee Rodgers. Then The Revivalists proper have our throwdown at The Orpheum Theatre on Saturday (4/23) with Vulfpeck and The Soul Rebels, and you know that's going to rule pretty hard. Wednesday between weekends (4/27), we'll all be making various appearances throughout the day at Fiya Fest, then George and I will be jetting over to Megalomaniacs Ball at the Howlin' Wolf to play in the den between sets with Space & Harmony. Thursday (4/28) The Revivalists are playing at a wonderful benefit called Shorty Fest. And then, Friday (4/29), we cap it all off with the big one: 3:40 on the Gentilly Stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. After that, we're free to rest rage. Sort of. Zack and Dave will be appearing in the interview tent at the fairgrounds on Saturday (4/30) at 3:30. I'll be resting raging.
*: I'm pretty sure that's not how supernovas work but whatever shut up
EDIT: Well, shit. I wrote this entry this morning, left my house for a few rehearsals, and by the time I got back home to edit and post it, Prince was dead. What a year. So many heroes are gone. As with David Bowie, part of what I always found inspiring about Prince was how he never compromised. He was perfection personified. Not many people ever have as much control over their own worlds as he did, and even fewer actually manage to do anything good with that kind of authority. Prince was a hundred-year-storm of talent, drive, grace, and authenticity. To paraphrase a quote from Picasso: If he had been a soldier, he would have become a general. If he had been a monk, he would have become the Pope. Instead, he was a musician, and became Prince.
Sleep well. Thank you for showing us the way.