Frontalot Fall Tour 2011: From Cosplay to Cheesesteaks

Upon arriving at Virginia’s NekoCon, the first thing we noticed was the stark increase in costumery vs. PAX.  I mean, whoah, that was a lot of cosplay outfits.  We, in turn, felt extremely underdressed, but were never the less treated with all the pomp and circumstance befitting a featured convention performer.  It was a nice departure, however brief, from the rough-and-tumble lifestyle we had become accustomed to.  I even got to hang out with my dad, who was treated to his first ever MC Frontalot show.  He described Front as “a hoopy frood who knows where his towel is.”

Mike Lombardo was over the moon about the sound system, shouting about “line arrays” and “functioning subwoofers” and other things esoteric and indecipherable.  The rig’s owner and operator, Cole, ran the monitor mix for us and was a totally awesome guy.  As a result we played one of the best-sounding shows of the tour, featuring a 20-foot stage extension for Front to dally upon, thereby ensuring that nobody looked at the rest of us.  Sigh.  You can’t have it all.

I spent the evening with my pops while the band enjoyed the late night parties endemic to conventions.  It was no surprise, then, when I arrived at the hotel room at 9am to find my bandmates passed out among the detritus of the previous evening’s revelries.  I attempted to pass the time at the con, but couldn’t find anything to do except watch Love Hina in one of the video rooms, which only lasted 10 minutes because it is an unwatchable pile of extremely tired teenage angst.  Imagine all of the emotional depth of Twilight with none of the, uh, whatever it was in that movie that made it popular.  So I wandered around aimlessly for a while before returning to the room, on my way encountering a man who looked strikingly like Louis C.K.  He was, however, not very funny.

We ate a sub-par breakfast in the lounge and sallied forth towards the storied city of Baltimore, a journey for which we had multiple conflicting estimates re: the expected duration.  The trip was mostly smooth sailing until we hit DC and its horrible, horrible traffic.  Added to this was the fact that multiple people in the van urgently needed a bathroom break and not one but two gas stations in a row either had toilets that were either out of service or non-existent.  This was not a happy scenario.  I’ve never seen Sturgis drive with such fiery urgency.  Luckily all of our early potty training kicked in and we held it together until a proper rest stop about 15 miles north of the city.  Shortly after that we rolled up to the Ottobar and loaded in.

We love the Ottobar not only for the way they treat us (very well!) but also for the remarkable wiener art in their green room, none of which will be reproduced here out of deference to my mom and any Mike Lombardo fans who may be reading.  It’s not that we’re wiener art afficionados, exactly, but when one has been in green rooms across the country one comes to appreciate genuine artistic talent, whatever form it takes.  Such as those of opening act Gage, who rocked the mic prior to Brandon’s set, which featured the best sing-along by the audience during “How I Allegedly Bit A Man in Gloucestershire” in recent memory.  Most excitingly, in an invigorating example of life imitating art, my pre-show grumpy routine was given an infusion of authenticity as both Sturgis and I grew exasperated by Brandon’s I-Have-To-Line-Check-My-Bass-Rig-Again act.  To be fair, Brandon has been having an endless stream of equipment-related troubles.

All the more reason, then, to go the following day straight to Guitar Center for a new bass head, after a tasty breakfast at Meghan’s Diner.  I noodled around in the synthesizer department as Brandon questioned and haggled his way into a discounted purchase of a Markbass Little Mark III, which is striking for both its tiny footprint and its extreme volume and tone.  And how it rocked for our show at The Fire!  The venue is apparently an old apartment building that was converted into a venue, which would explain why the green room felt like someone’s living room – because it once was.  We had a great all-ages show featuring the first (and only) Mike Lombardo set on this leg of the tour.  I had never seen him perform before and was impressed by both his piano skillz and the rapport he was able to establish with the audience.  Go, Mike, go!

I had what felt like my best show of the tour, likely due to the tasty burrito I ate prior to performing.  I had so much energy, in fact, that I blew out a mic cable during “Spoiler Alert.”  Behold the power of my voice!  Or, perhaps, the raggedness of my gear.  Either way, it forced Front to put his mic in front of my face during “Scaregoat” which made for a nice bit of theater.  Once the show was over we packed into the van and headed to Jim’s Steaks for our obligatory cheesesteak fix.  There I had the opportunity to share a beer with Haley Trikes proprietor (and my girlfriend’s brother) Steve Horcha, who happened to be cycling by, though on only two wheels.  What a treat!

We stayed at the opulent (but strangely affordable) ML Hotel in in Mt. Laurel, NJ, where we were taunted by the fun-looking but totally-closed-at-2am CoCo Key Water Resort.  Is night swimming a crime or something?  Jeez!  All we wanted was to have fun.  Instead we retired to our hotel room and watched some truly bizarre Looney Tunes shorts directed by the legendary Chuck Jones.  They just don’t make rabbits like they used to!

At this very moment we are on I-90, sans Sturgis and Brandon, headed on a circuitous route towards Providence, RI, where we will eat chicken chili with our superpals Math The Band.  Did you know we have a show with them tomorrow night at the Middle East in Cambridge?  We do!  BE THERE OR BE A POON.

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