July 26, 2003

I played at parties, I played in bars, I spent my money buying new guitars

I was going to do some blogging today, but a massive Lookout Party aftermath headache has made even the sound of the keys a bit too much for me poor little head. I better get over it fast, though-- tonight is that Great American Music Hall show, and it's going to be much louder in there.

Yesterday, I left the studio around 5 to head over to the Parkside for the Lookout Cocktail Party/solo gig. While I was gone, they did a couple of bass tracks and some editing. Tracking and overdubbing can be tedious and repetitive, but I hate to miss even one moment of it. Before I left we finished the bass on "London," and I have to say it sounds really nice. Bobby told me the rest went pretty well, too. I hope so, because if not, we'll have to make one of those awful decisions: fix it and take time away from some other track, or live with it and spend that time on something else. Actually, recording sessions are pretty much made up of those decisions from beginning to end. Even dinner breaks and sleeping enter into the calculation. Today, however, is our day off. We've got the show tonight, and then we're going back in tomorrow to work on the edited stuff.

The Lookout Party was fun. Many people there I hadn't seen in years. Talked chess with Jesse Michaels. Got caught up with my dear friend Tristin, whom I don't see nearly enough now that she has moved to New York. (New York was pretty well represented-- Frank and Heather and Bill and Christine also made the trip out.)

I suppose my set went all right, despite a practically non-existent sound system. No one could figure out how to get the input for my acoustic guitar's pickup to work, so they had to mic it. I'm not used to that, and I kept forgetting that if you move the sound hole of the guitar more than a few inches from the SM58 on the taped-together stand, your strumming simply disappears and all the audience can hear is your funny, slurry, wavery voice. (Sorry about that folks.) Or if you move it too close, you get this tremendous, booming feedback sound. That was pretty cool actually. I have to admit though, once or twice I got caught up in experimenting with sound hole feedback calibration and sort of, like, forgot I was supposed to be playing a song. Hey, it's all part of the act. Really.

I played a few oldies but moldies with scattered new tunes, including "She Runs Out when the Money Does." (That was the first time I'd ever done that in public, and it seemed to go over pretty well.)

I have this song called "Even Hitler had a Girlfriend" which is pretty popular, and people often call out requests for it. Because of this, I often find myself in the following strange situation: I hit the final chord of a song, and the crowd starts applauding and yelling "Hitler! Hitler!" It has happened so often that I hardly even notice it, but for some reason last night my soul left my body, surveyed the scene, gazed upon the tableau, picked up the audio, and returned to tell me what was up. And I believe I truly realized for the first time just how bizarre my whole Hitler situation is. Of course, I could take care of it by playing that song first every time. Maybe that's what I should do.

But what is it with San Francisco audiences when it comes to acoustic/folk performances? I've done solo shows in a great many cities, large and small, and they pretty much go like this: you play a song, the audience listens and claps when you're done, and you repeat this process till the end of the set. Sometimes you'll get heckled, which is all right by me. Sometimes they're indifferent.

But at every single solo show I've ever played in San Francisco, it's a different story altogether: the audience smiles politely and just talks amongst themselves about this and that through your entire set. It sounded like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in there. I was trying to introduce the songs with these cute little stories, like I do, you know, but it wasn't easy. I was the Eleanor Clift of rock up there, constantly shrieking "let me finish, let me finish, will you let me finish? Tony, you had your chance to talk, don't I get to finish? Let me finish..." Except there was no moderator to say "hold on, let her make her point..."

Actually, of course, I didn't go all Eleanor on the crowd. I just played my songs as best I could, and finally stopped when I got tired of fighting them. The weird thing is, a lot of the chatterers seemed to be listening, maybe even enjoying the songs. I guess maybe they were multi-tasking, listening to the songs while simultaneously taking the opportunity to remind their friends how much money they used to make at their old dotcom jobs.

Tonight, however, I'll have a big old amplifier, so it shouldn't be a problem. See ya tonight.

Posted by Dr. Frank at July 26, 2003 11:16 PM | TrackBack

I could TOTALLY assure you Doc that that WOULDN'T happen in Chicago!! ::wink wink nudge nudge billboard billboard:: goooo hitler!! O & Good luck on the show 2nite!...like you need it =D

Posted by: Allyson at July 27, 2003 12:21 AM

silly san franciscans...

Posted by: Michael at July 27, 2003 01:49 AM

I assure you that many more people were paying attention than you think. It was a great show...well worth the trip up from so cal. Thanks dr frank. One question though. You were telling the story about knock knock and you said something like, "my wife says dr. frank..." Does your wife actually use the "Dr."?

Posted by: Justin at July 27, 2003 04:32 AM

Man, that's some rude shit right there. What a buncha bums.

The Hitler thing is weird, but I think it's awesome that you have a following of fans who shout out song requests to you. We're not worthy.

Posted by: Jackie D at July 27, 2003 09:11 AM

The crowds in San Francisco tend to bear a brutal exoskeleton. As a performer you're inevitably faced with either a nonchalant, over-casual head nodding congregation, or what you've already aptly described. At least at the more indie-influenced gatherings.

This does not necessarily equate to an unimpressed audience, just to a spoiled flock of music fans who are all too used to quality entertainment, or at least entertainment on a hyper-regular basis.

But hey, that's why ridiculous rent checks are scrawled out every month with disregard toward all regard of proportionate reasoning.

There are shows -- at (the now-defunct) Mission Records, 848 Divisadero, Balazo, and other small, more ephemeral locations -- that have a much more enthusiastic reaction, in general, to acts of all sorts. But, in the general circuit, even the most invigorating displays fall on bodies apparently inept of physical expression or even polite recognition.

I know it's not the most popular compliment among musicians when an older song is praised, but 'More Than Toast' was the highlight of the show tonight at the Great American Music Hall.

Way to make the brooding crabs unfurl their twisted brows.

Posted by: rip torn at July 27, 2003 10:44 AM

On a tangent to the Hitler thing...Ever noticed how Google groups search results for Dr. Frank (with no quotes) into the Holocaust category?


I suppose it's just Anne Frank mixed with some evil Doctor. My pseudonym puts me in Video Game Emulation, which is also wrong, but not as...threatening.

Posted by: Dave Bug at July 28, 2003 02:18 PM

Not surprised that the Queers cancelled. I hear that Joe's been a bit flaky lately.
As for San Francisco, you should know as well as anyone that they're too cool for school there.

Posted by: Steve at July 29, 2003 05:17 PM