Knitting Factory, NYC, 9.8.06
Comets On Fire
Catalog #: SC 20
1st Edition of 300, CDR, Black chipboard silkscreened, stamped and numbered.
Funny, I can’t remember all that much about this gig and no one else I talked to in Comets seemed to remember much either. I don’t think I was having a very good time except on stage on this tour (reoccurring theme). But man, it sounded great though. We were really at the heart of our powers here just after ‘Avatar’ came out. The recording here and the sound starts a little rough that’s for sure. We were an unsuspecting soundman’s worst nightmare and probably 3 out of 4 Comets gigs started with weird things feeding back in bad ways and the soundman frantically whipping faders up and down on the board trying to figure out what the fuck was making that awful feedback sound. Finally about the second or third song (on a good night) the mix would settle down so we could express the right kind of feedback and chaos most effectively. That’s exactly what you hear in this one…it begins…What the fuck is happening for about 5 minutes then it settles in and the ride is on! The bill was Comets on Fire, Blues Control and a band called The Woods who I’m pretty sure is the earliest version of a band we now know as “Woods” from Brooklyn.
What else did we do in NYC beside this? Where did we stay I wonder? I know one time (and it could have been this tour) we stayed out at Ben Goldberg’s apartment in Queens after the show but there was no loft or lock box on the rented van and the rented gear was exposed through the windows in the back of the van enticing a thief to break in and take our shit at any time during the night. So Ben Flashman and I slept in the van. The irony being that we’d done this many times but usually because we couldn’t afford a motel in the beginning or for the same reason we were doing it here. This was one of our most successful tours and here we were out in the van, Flashman on the bench seat and me in the passenger chair with the back tilted all the way down. That shit sucks. You’re really living (in the dregs) when you sleep in a fucking car, just ask homeless people on that last rung before they hit the street. At about 7am Queens starts bustling with the working sector hitting the streets and headed to “the city” to clock in. Flashman and I just sitting in the van in the same t-shirts we’d worn on stage the night before in our underwear, cause it’s hot as fuck in NYC in the summer, dazed, sleep deprived and sleep groggy at the same time, looking out at a humid, hot, grey shitty Queens Friday morning and all those New Yorkers that seem to never buckle or flinch from 17 + hours out of the house ever day just headed straight into it.
My favorite memory of weird tour crashing was in Columbia Missouri. We went to a house party after the gig and at a certain point realized that certain of the band members weren’t going to sleep and no one else was either in that house so Flashman and I grabbed our sleeping bags and stumbled out into the field next door to the house in the dark and slept in the grass with the fireflies under the open sky. The next morning long after dawn we awoke with dew on us and realized that the field was actually an expansive lawn of a big church and many of the congregation were walking up the concrete path to Church. It was Sunday morning. There were we’re laying in our sleeping bags, crazy hair, a few empty cans of beer around us watching these folks pile into church in their Sunday best.
Another time in Lousiville, Kentucky we played at a joint with an apartment built into the back upstairs where we didn’t have to drive anywhere after the gig. These we’re dangerous accommodations for us in that era because it gave every single member an open ticket to drink unconditionally, no loading out, no driving, no negotiating motel check in.
After the bar closed down that night the bartender shut the place up and locked the front door and we all sat around the bar listening to pop and classic rock on his cassette stereo behind the bar while he served us shot after shot of multi-colored bullshit liquor until not one of us could see straight. Though there was no real trigger for it but at some point Flashman silently got up off his barstool and went around behind were Chasny was sitting and just grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him off the back of his barstool onto the floor. Chasny who was also blind drunk just registered the unsolicited attack as a pure flight or fight thing from out of nowhere—I don’t even think he knew who was attacking him and he just grabbed Flashman’s legs out from under him, took him to the floor and embraced him in some form of brutal, bitter, hopelessly intoxicated Judo. Utrillo, Noel and myself were also so drunk that we just sort of turned on our stools to watch them from the bar, lifting our light blue shots to our lips, nodding as if it made sense. They were quickly knocking over tables and chairs and the bar tender was alarmed and made moves to jump across the bar and break it up but Noel said “ No man, it’s ok, let em do this, they need to do this”. What?! Ha. No, they didn’t need to do that. I don’t know why we let them fight like that but it made sense to us at that moment.
Finally they were just locked in each other’s arms fighting to the death on the ground with a bunch of knocked over shit all around them. After a few minutes of mayhem on the other side of the room one of Chasny’s contact lenses popped out and went flying when Flashman tried to work an index finger into his eye socket. At that point we got down there and pulled them off each other, helped Chasny find his contact lens and we all went up and passed out in the apartment up in back.
That night I dreamed that Chasny’s eye popped out in a fight and we all went running around the room trying to catch it. The next morning was hot and humid as fuck and we got in the van and drove somewhere else. We had no air conditioning in the van. There was a driver’s seat and passenger seat and one bench seat that held three of us with our bodies pressed up together side by side. Our legs stuck to the plastic seats and to each other’s legs if we wore shorts in the heat and there was a 12” heater vent on the floor next to the bottom left side of the bench seat, something was wrong with it and it blew out burning hot air that came straight off the huge V8 engine onto our feat and legs. We had a beer cooler full of ice and beer between the driver and passenger seat on the floor that we kept full of cheap beer for the long drives and we used it every single day.
But this particular show…hmm. All I can say is that we were on top of our game, playing effortlessly and furiously. I know every single one of us was drinking hard in those days and even though there was an elevation to what we were doing artistically in performance, being on stage on those tours around that time was a little like a big blast of monochromatic heat. Not that we weren’t playing dynamics, to the despair of some of our more hardcore “noise” fans we had brought in dynamics and a nice ebb and flow to the set, rather, coming off the stage usually felt triumphant but a bit like a bomb had gone off near you and your eyes were sort of blinded to what you’d seen, your ears were ringing and even as you step out of the blast zone you no longer have a clear recollection the details and entire unfolding of events of the previous hour.
By that point, at least for me personally, I was often able to go into that unthinking, beautifully mindless place of pure execution and action that we all strive for in performance. BUT, that ‘place’ mixed with ‘Wild West’ levels of alcohol consumption pretty much creates amnesia. It wasn’t too long after that tour that I cut down on the pre-show drinks just for the fact that I wanted to be able to remember what was going on in my performance experiences. I knew special things happened and I’m not great at forming anything close to photographic memories of things that happen in my life and I knew I wanted to burn the visions and feeling of being in that elevated place in those moments on stage a little deeper into my memory banks.
I think it’s pretty clear that by this point Comets was accessing that elevated bright white sustained explosion almost on command. We were touring a lot by then and had a fairly steady rehearsal schedule and we had always tightened up and taken flight very quickly with a few dates under our belt on the road. I think you can really hear that “place” here. What I found special about this gig is it has the sound of the band turning on, firing up and pulling the big switch into that phosphorescent monochromatic energy-focus-explosion that sounds like we’ve captured the exact moment of impact of an atom bomb on the head of a pin and we’re just pointing it’s laser light wherever we choose incinerating weird earthly objects for some lofty purpose that no one understands but us.
I also dig that audience stuff here. The peanut gallery is pretty lit up and in full effect. Bless them. Van + Band + cooler full of beer + stage + fans + jams = endless road.
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