We played a huge outdoor show in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh. It’s hot and humid, and tough conditions for us, but the show is enjoyable, and we get a great crowd of about 2500-3000. I’m terrible with trying to estimate numbers, but they’re the figures I was given.
I have a great gig except for the very last song, which features a horribly out of tune guitar. I come off-stage fuming with myself. With the heat and humidity here, I’ve really got to be more careful with tuning, especially given my penchant for different tunings.
The Grotto are doing four dates with Ani Di Franco, the flag-bearer, the pioneer for independent music. Her setup and her team are inspirational. Everything is looked after down to the minutest detail without a hint of fuss. Our first show with them is in Pittsburgh, home to salads smothered in cheese & chips, and the set of “Wonderboys”. They’re running miles behind schedule because the show has been moved due to a licence problem, and the power at the new venue turns out to be insufficient for their needs… so generators are brought in… which turn out to be too loud for the neighbours… so back to square one. The whole way through, they’re the nicest, most calm people you’ve ever met. It’s great to see that it can be that way. So often, the openers or support bands get treated like dirt by the headliners. Not here. They’re all wonderful even under the stressiest of situations. The next time we meet them – in Baltimore – it’s the most relaxed sound-check I’ve ever seen. Smooth as Swiss watchwork.
On Ani’s tour we meet Josh, the guitar tech. He hasn’t been on the tour for very long, but he gives Mick (guitarist with Guggenheim Grotto) & myself a glimpse into his world. Ani plays in a wide range of tunings. Her solution is to employ Josh and have 5 guitars and a tenor guitar (looks like a guitar but has four strings, roughly equivalent to the highest four strings of a 6 string guitar) ready to go during the show. Josh tunes two guitars for the first song – one as a back-up in case a string breaks. Then after that song he hands her a guitar for the second song, and tunes the guitar he’s just taken from Ani to that same tuning – to be used as a back-up for the current song. And then he tunes another guitar for the third song during that second song…. Sound complicated? Well it is. And you have to be lightning quick to be able to retune while a full band are playing just feet away from you. He’s also reading the tunings for each song from a spreadsheet filled with Ani’s songs and tunings. It’s a great system, but complex. Josh said that he can remember the start and end of every show, but nothing in between.