Roanoke oh Roanoke, a city of cozy size but with an obvious sophistication. Over the years they’ve revitalized the downtown Market area and you can’t miss the Virginia Museum of Transportation with its spaceship rocket and steam locomotive displayed outside and the town’s newspaper building, the Roanoke Times, across the street in a modern looking building where you can see the massive printing presses that print the news that fit to print. It reminds me of the micro-breweries you see where the brew kettles and fermentation tanks are on display. The visual combination of both places made more dramatic when you come into town over the 2nd Street bridge as if you’re flying into the downtown area on a gentle descent. But my thoughts now turn to Martin’s and the gig we have tonight.
A new venue for us here in Roanoke. With ‘Bar and Grill’ as part of its name, the place is nice and also carries a modern hard floors, windows and dark hues appearance inside. The stage is a small but ample enough for a power trio, tucked away in the back on the right side facing down the length of the bar situated on the same side. We do our usual routine when time affords; Set-up, eat and return to hotel to ‘primp’ ourselves for the stage. My Stewart of Atholl Kilt is up for this one. I’m afraid I have to correct myself here. It seems I erroneously wrote that the Stewart kilt made the debut appearance on this tour but it was in fact my Edinburgh kilt that I wore at Ram’s Head. I picked the Edinburgh because it was the first one I bought many years ago from a shop of the same name, Edinburgh Castle, in Salt Lake City. I can assure you they are not cheap. For the record, mine are the full on heavyweight, handmade in Scotland ones. Anyhoo, With the Stewart donning the stage tonight we are a bit late starting up but the crowd seems a bit light and insouciant but we’re going see if we can turn some heads our way. We start up and I’m sure we’re going to get the ‘turn down’ gesture from the sound guy or manager but none is forthcoming. I have to admit, I’m still a bit on the aggressive side when it comes to volume but nowhere near what I used to be a few years back with my ‘Wall O’ Sound’ set-up of 4 amps that I lugged in and erected no matter the size of the venue be it vast or diminutive. I played as with a ‘monarch’s voice’. I’m not hearing myself as good as last night but nothing new, I’ve played under worse conditions and this isn’t so bad. The highlight of the night comes when we get into ‘Screenwriter’s Blues’ aka; The L.A. song, and with the audience being mostly young college age, the dancers rhythms and motions are making me drive the groove harder with the guitar and vocal cadence. When we come to the last chorus where I build up the tag line with punctuated L.A. references and the guitar rhythm goes from lazy 1/4 notes to staccato 8th notes the crowd starts jumping up n’ down with hands in the air and screaming from some and hips and heads bobbing and weaving it was just so intoxicating, like a mini Rage Against the Machine crowd pulsing with us. Big Fun!
Used to be back in the day I would never write out set lists cuz’ I used to try and gauge the audience and tap into the mood and let that ‘vibe’ guide me on what to play. Now that my mind is addled by age I’ve been following a script now, which does avoid my momentary lapses I was starting to experience between songs that were getting longer I’m afraid, but a script does have its advantages not to be missed. I can always call an ‘audible’ here and there if I feel a mood amongst the crowd becomes overwhelming but for the most part I’m on the page. Still, to have those times where the audience is in a frenzy and everything is heightened and the energy just takes over are more of the moments I aspire towards.
Thank you Roanoke, you’ve made me a happy man.