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Nashville, TN


Casey Black's blog about singer songwritering.

Think Tank, Boston, with Max Jeffers

Christy Mansell

            Nervous that traffic or some catastrophe would delay my Megabus trip to Boston, I jumped on the 12:30PM instead of the 2:30PM bus. It was the kind of awful cold-and-rainy day that’s bad to be out in, but soothing to look out onto from a bus window. I’d never been to Boston before, and I was giddy to be getting out of town to play, despite the fact that the two people I know in Boston had gotten sick at the last minute and wouldn’t be able to make it. Which meant that I’d be playing for whoever happened to be at the venue, if in fact there would be anyone there at all. So giddy was I that when the bus happened to cruise by a friend’s apartment on the Upper West Side I snapped a blurry picture of his building and sent it to him, as if I were a tourist on a Tour of the Stars and not a dude with a guitar riding a bus past a place I’ve been a hundred times.  Soon after, we drove by Yankee Stadium and I took a picture of that, too, and tweeted it, because I’d never actually seen it before. And when the city faded into country, my giddiness only got worse, as the newness of it all—first bus gig, first time going to Boston, first time playing alone in a city not-my-own in almost a year, first time seeing this river and that factory—and the raw (and unlikely) potential of what a great gig this could turn out to be overcame me.

            I’d written a lot of Boston music blogs about my upcoming shows, and only one had gotten back to me. Kyle was (and is) his name, and he runs a great music blog called MusicSavage. I was bummed because he’d written that very day to say that he wouldn’t be able to make it out to Think Tank, but he said he’d try to catch me at Tommy Doyle’s the next week, so that was fine. About and hour away from Boston I saw that Kyle had tweeted my show, and I got pretty excited about. Then, shortly after, a music blog named Melophobe, tipped off by Kyle, sent out a tweet about it, too. And just for a nice threesome, my show was tweeted by some gal I didn’t know. I have no experience with such things, really. I mean, I am usually the only person tweeting about me. And so if I was holding back any hope for a good show I suddenly let it pour out, because there I was, on a bus cruising through all that newness to a brand new city and people there were tweeting me. Oh, Casey, mind those hopes, man…

            I found my way out of the bus station and into the subway station and out to Kendall Square, where the venue was. I scoped it out from the exterior: It was a long. modern, glassy deal, sunken below ground level in a pleasant square with shops and restaurants. I tried not to notice how it seemed quite “dead” in there, and how I could not see my poster up anywhere obvious. Then I moseyed out of the drizzle into a joint across the square named Tommy Doyle’s. I’d be playing another Tommy Doyle’s the next week so I wanted to check it out. Great Guinness, good sandwich. No music, but they did start up trivia, which I thought must be pretty tough, seeing as how MIT and Harvard were right next door.

            About an hour early I moseyed back to the venue and went inside. The “stage” was past the host’s stand. It was six by six, say, and it was less a stage than it was a platform for two arcade games. I set my stuff up there and scanned the joint. There were about three people at the bar, which was long, dark and nice. And that was it. Soon enough the fella I’d be playing with, a dude named Max Jeffers showed up, as did Lindsay, the coordinator and booker. They set up the sound together. The sound at Think Tank is actually just a couple lines into the house PA system, and it wasn’t great. Max and I decided to switch off throughout the two-hour slot, playing three songs at a time. I played okay. And Max seemed very good, but I could barely hear him because of the sound system, despite my being ten feet from the stage. When we were done I drank too much and found my way back to the bus. I tried to sleep on the way home, but I couldn’t: I am exactly one inch too tall to sleep on a Megabus. When I got back to the NYC stop at 4AM, freezing and tired, I have to admit I was thinking about whether my Megabus tour was a good idea or not. I was freezing my ass off near dawn having sold zero records and making zero money. Nobody had come on account of those tweets, either.

            Yet, as it goes with so many things, the “benefit” of having done that show did not come until weeks later. Max wrote to me saying he was gonna be coming through New York. Did I have any gigs I could hook him up with …?

            And this must be 80% of the good of playing whenever you can: you meet good people and you start hooking each other up. I told Max about Ceol, and he came, and he was very well-received. I got a text the next day from Niall Connolly at the Path Café that said Max was there, too, and that I’d done a “good” job by meeting him. And it’s true. Not only is the man a great songwriter, but he’s scratching my back now with an offer to get on a bill with him in Annapolis in April. These kinds of things happen all the time if you get over the fact that your gig isn’t the greatest. Such fine little meetings can be a saving grace for the shitty gig, and—especially at this point in my career—the whole impetus for going out and doing it again.