Warsaw

Okay here’s a tour vignette. I’d like to preface the following by saying I fully admit I have little influence on any of these experiences and happenings. I’m just some guy who happened to fall into the interesting folds of other people’s timelines. I can only report from my perspective, and try to be honest as to my tangential role.

The setting: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 – Secret Chiefs 3 was on the road for many weeks opening up for Dead Cross. We already played a swarm of big, amazing shows, but by the time we got to New York City I was a bit burned out from the long drives, rushed sound checks, and frenzied load-in/load-out scenarios. We played in Manhattan the previous night – a gig beleaguered by technical gremlins. And tonight had a show in Brooklyn at Warsaw – a huge venue which is part of the local Polish community center.

The morning/afternoon was spent tooling around the city, hanging out with the band and some friends, and I also enjoyed some alone-time trekking solo from Greenpoint to Williamsburg. En route I passed a piano just parked there in some lot near some tables. I couldn’t help but stop to play it for a minute. I wasn’t feeling terribly inspired and the instrument was in crappy shape. When I got up some guy zoomed up on bike and took my place, tucking into some hackneyed but nevertheless well executed classical something-or-other. The fact that so many randos in the world have much better classical chops than I is always perfect fuel for imposter syndrome. Of course I have other musical super powers, but still.

Got a kale/almond milk smoothie in Williamsburg and shuffled back to the Warsaw, soaking in the sights and sounds and smells and even the refreshing spectacle of light rain creating darkened dots on the sidewalks of NYC. Though I was early some of the other guys were already there – Pej, Steve, Jason. The tour was finally catching up to me and I felt the hint of an opportunistic cold coming on. I went with Jason to hit another juice shop down the street. I tossed down a ginger/lemon shot.

Back to the club where I waited out front for like 15 minutes until a spot opened up right in front of the load-in doors. We put out cones for when the others arrived with the van. Loaded into the club which, as advertised, was very much a Polish community center, including a big boomy performance space that looked over 100 years old, a huge bar, and a giant kitchen area where a Polish grandma will be serving up pierogies and kielbasas later. Our green rooms were up two flights of stairs well away from the stage. Fine.

Dead Cross soundchecked without Patton and thus were finished pretty quick. And so we had a rare, luxurious 45 minutes to set everything up and get dialed in. Nevertheless it was slow going for us. The stage was small, and as keyboardist I’m the first to get fucked on space. But I just dealt with it as usual, managing to situate far enough from the guitar amps to minimize damage, and I had a side fill as a monitor. Meanwhile the local crew still had yet to rewire the stage to add extra inputs for us. Ultimately we ended up with 15 minutes before doors before we could even make a sound and work out all the kinks. As usual I had to just roll with it. That’s what they’re referring to when they say “rock n’ roll.”

Doors opened, and I immediately pounced on the pierogi station and ordered a $6 combo plate. Ate with Luke (Dead Cross soundperson) who just did the same. We were stoked. That was a real treat and put me in a good space for the show. Still, we had time to kill before start time and I wandered back to the main strip and maybe looked to get another healthy snack but no dice. While walking back I got stuck behind two guys on the sidewalk, one telling the other the most inaccurate information about who was in Secret Chiefs 3 and what we sound like. I resisted correcting them.

We really enjoyed this show, making up for the previous one. I felt the crowd get more and more stoked over time. I took a crazy solo in Brazen Serpent to close out the set. Beforehand Pej and I joked about a secret plan: he would start the Brazen drum solo by diving into the audience, I would take over on the kit, and then he’d reclaim the throne upon his return. The never came to fruition. Oh well.

I smartly brought my shirt to the stage so I could quick change off to the side (instead of hustling back to the green room) before hastily loading off the stage. While changing Patton appeared back there wondering where the hell the green room was. I broke the news to him that he had to go through the audience to the other side of the venue and up some stairs to get there. Sorry, dude and good luck.

Finished the load off, and it was a bit hectic as we had to spill into the kitchen and serving area with our cases and whatnot to pack up. I hate when we have to fuck with the back-of-house staff while doing our music thing, but if anybody can manage around chaos, it’s back-of-house people. Especially those from NYC.

Eventually somehow ended up into some boiler room netherworld, guarding all the gear with Joe until we could get some door unlocked and throw everything into the van. Steve, Joe, and some of the venue staff helped tetris all the gear into the back of the Sprinter pretty quick. This afforded me time to go back to baba and buy a whole ‘nother $6 combo plate. I burn a lot of calories on tour.

Dead Cross did their crazy set. Then lots of hanging around the merch zone with local friends new and old. It was a chaotic scene, even after Dead Cross wrapped up, so Steve and I went out to chill for a bit. He was keen to get a NYC pizza slice so fuck it I’ll have a slice, too! We went to the Pizza Prince and got some of whatever slices they still had available. Sausage/peppers/onions for me. I pretty much consumed the whole thing – a total mess – by the time we moseyed back.

Per previous plans, I was on the hook for driving tonight (staying at a hotel out of town on the way to the next show, which is our usual MO). So as the adrenaline of the show wore off, and I was left with indigestion and certain oncoming illness, I became a bit of a nag wondering when the hell we were gonna leave already.

But there was much post-show revelry in the bar, and I finally got the hint that Patton, Trey, Trevor, and Lombardo were busy having an important Bungle-related (and now historic) conversation. I helped count out the merch totals to stay somewhat preoccupied. Then Steve and I loaded all the remaining unsold shirts and records and stuff. All packed up and ready to go and it’s only midnight!

Waiting and waiting, bouncing between outside and inside. Even the die hard fans outside waiting for Patton had split. It was after 1:30am by the time we finally left and by then I felt like death. A bit woozy I got behind the wheel and almost clipped a car while waving goodbye to the Dead Cross van who was also pulling away. And for some reason google navigation absolutely sucks in Brooklyn, and predictably fucked up by making me miss a critical turn getting out of the neighborhood. So frustrating, but I got on the highway soon enough.

About five minutes into the ride I noticed the driver’s side view mirror was kind of wobbling around making it hard to see behind me. The wobbling quickly got worse and eventually I rolled down the window to adjust it – and suddenly the whole glass part (still hooked to various wires) fell off. Uh oh.

So there I was, arm extended outside the van, clutching the mirror glass tightly with my left hand while using my right hand to steer off the next exit and find a safe space to park and deal. Of course this was an airport exit so it took forever to find a suitable place to stop. However unsafe, we survived the little mishap. Steve (riding shotgun) went out and around and was able to quickly pop the glass back into position without much ado. Not sure what happened there but okay then.

Of course getting back on the highway was confusing as fuck and google once again didn’t help. Steve helped me guide back going the right way. Just get me out of this fucking town! Soon enough I was on the GWB and into New Jersey. And silently working my way across the state and toward Pennsylvania.

Once out of Jersey I pulled over at a gas station. Joe, bless his heart, knew I wasn’t doing so well and valiantly took over the remaining 90 minutes of the trip to the hotel. I slumped in the back and tried to sleep but couldn’t really. Brutal.

We arrived at the hotel in Clarks Summit around 4am. I was the first one up to one of our shared rooms and started settling in. I snapped the eye mask on and was basically out cold well before everybody else.

Got up the next day around 9:15am due to anxiety. So I got like 4.75 hours of sleep which, tour-wise, is not so bad. I laid there until everybody’s alarms went off in advance of the 9:50am lobby call. I just put on the same damn clothes and washed up real fast. Downstairs I poked at some eggs and sausage in the continental breakfast area. La di da.

Trey drove a bulk of the day, and once again I found myself passing the town of Binghamton, where I spent four years in college. Over the past 20+ years I’ve driven near Binghamton about four or five times and never stopped. The streak continued – insert Steely Dan “My Old School” joke here. Before hitting the border we spotted a pre-Canada Tim Hortons and had to stop. I got a chicken soup and donut. The soup was healthy (not so much the donut). That plus a vitamin C pill, a vitamin water purchased earlier, and getting a few moments of sleep in the van all helped my immune system. Hey! I may survive after all!

About Matt Lebofsky

Musician wearing many hats. Played in a bunch of bands, toured in hundreds of cities around the planet. Also a general geek who works on several of the world's biggest scientific projects searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Grew up in suburban NYC. Now lives in Oakland, CA.
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