You guys already saw that the Andy Black solo album was one of my favorite albums of the year. So when I learned that Black was coming to play at a local venue, 89 North in Patchogue, I immediately bought tickets. Denise decided to pass, but I got tickets for myself, my daughter (who is a huge fan of Black and of his band The Black Veil Brides), and my son. As it turned out, my son had a fever all week, so I wound up taking my daughter and her friend.
There were two things that made this show a little iffy for me. One was that the venue wasn't selling reserve seating, and as I had never been to a show there before, I didn't know what to expect. Their website said that they had some seating at tables in the upstairs section, on a first-come first-served basis. It also said the show was for people 16yo and over, and no one without I.D. would be admitted. Now I'm not at a point in life where I can stand through even one set of music, let along three, so finding a chair was a deal breaker. If I didn't get there early enough to get one, I'd have to go home and pick up the girls after the show.
The second thing that left things a little up in the air was that we got hit with a major snowstorm Thursday night. My wife and I took a ride out this morning in her car, which has 4-wheel drive. Now, our block was great. I'm pretty sure the reason our block was great is that I have either an ex-Congressman or his brother living down my block by the water. So whenever it snows, we get plowed at least twice an hour. The rest of Suffolk could be an icy wasteland, but politics is politics, so my block is always clean. Is it corrupt? Totally. But it's one of the few corrupt things in life that I actually benefit from instead of pay for, so I say "God Bless Mr. xxx." (I'm not giving him up for anything). Anyway, so my block was great, Route 112 was great, but everything else, including Montauk Hwy. was a frozen tundra. And since my car handles crappy in the snow (crappily?), I was a little nervous about the driving, even though the venue is close by.
Luckily, we got there OK. When we did, we found a line of mostly teens that ran down the block while they froze their butts off in the snow while people's I.D.'s were checked. As we got closer, I discovered that part of the reason the line took so long was that there were some vicious Mom's going insane because apparently they didn't bother to read the website, so they either didn't bring I.D. for their kids, or they brought school I.D.'s which weren't being accepted. There was one particularly abusive Mom at the front, giving the doormen hell, threatening to sue, etc. I wanted to yell "Move it! You're holding up the line!" And I would have, too, except that I'm pretty sure she would have killed me in a minute.
Once we got inside, I discovered that the venue wasn't what I pictured at all. When they said "upstairs", I was expecting a balcony, like they have at The Paramount in Huntington or The Space in Westbury. Instead "upstairs" meant up two stairs, or maybe three. It was sort of like the set-up of the Old Downtown in Farmingdale, as far as this V.I.P. section went, except that the rest of the club was like half the size.
Don't get me wrong, it's actually a very nice club, but tiny for a national act. For a local band, it's very upscale. Even for a local band with something of a national following, like Nine Days, for example, it's not bad (they did a CD Party for their Snapshots CD there last year). Yes, it would be alittle small, but it's their hometown and it's a nice, respectable place to play in front of family and your earliest fans. But for a national act like Andy Black, who sings at much larger venues with The Black Veil Brides, I would think it had to be depressing. I mean, picture it -- Andy Black's tour bus drives down Main St. in Patchogue. They sight the marquee for the Patchogue Theater, and Black says "Hey, not a bad sized venue! All right!" Then the bus turns the corner of Ocean Ave. and stops in front of 89 North, and he's like "wtf!!?" So we were joking for the whole early part of the night about poor Andy's reaction -- they had to take away his belt and shoelaces. They had to post extra security outside his dressing room to keep him from fleeing the building. Or was that Andy we spied in front of The Patchogue Theater as we drove up trying to score some heroin just to drag himself through the show that night?
Anyway, when we entered, I discovered the girls couldn't come "upstairs" with me, because that section is for 21 and older. (That was set up as the only area where the alcohol was for this show). But we were able to score some bar stools in the back of the main floor anyway, so all was well. I bought my daughter a shirt, and learned from the merch guy that the club had just caved on their I.D. policy -- apparently those Moms from hell frightened them as much as they did me, so they decided to let everybody in after all.
The first set was by a 5-piece band called Palaye Royale. They were energetic, and the crowd (which numbered maybe 150 or so, about 75% of them under-21-yo females) seemed to like them OK. I have to hand it to the club, the sound was very good. The band didn't really do anything for me. They did a pretty basic rock set, and although they only played 5 songs, they used one of those songs to do a cover of My Chemical Romance's "Teenagers". (And it was their best song). On the last song, the lead singer decided he had to whip off his shirt and display a heroin chic physique, which the teenyboppers seemed to like, but I could have easily lived without. After the set, the little 16yo's lined up for hugs and selfies from this sweaty shirtless would-be rock god.
Somewhere in between sets, a very drunk Mom fell down and hit the floor hard. "Mom down! Mom down!" I thought. Security helped her up and examined her carefully, and at some point when I wasn't looking, they must of taken her out of there.
Next up was William Control, an electronica band that is apparently a side project for Aiden's lead singer wiL Francis. The guy hit the stage dressed all in black with dark sunglasses looking for all the world (as my daughter pointed out) like the obnoxious version of Peter Parker (Toby McGuire) after he'd been dosed by Venom in Spider-Man 3.
The band, in this case, consisted of the lead singer, a drummer, and two guys programming laptops, one of whom also played keyboards. (I'm pretty sure I saw the other computer guy holding some kind of guitar at one point, but just as I looked up, he put it down, so I couldn't even tell you if it was a regular guitar or a bass). The lead singer took repeated dramatic poses, and spent much of the set begging the crowd to "Make some fucking noise!" etc. Truth was, I don't think his set was going over badly at all, but he seemed to feel like it was, at one pleading "I know you guys came out here to see Andy, but you understand he has to have some kind of opening act, right? He can't just come out here and play for 3 hours."
Anyway, as douchey as he looked, and as annoying as his personality was, here's the thing -- he and the band were actually very good, enough so that I bought a CD afterwards (even though was kind of afraid that the merch girl was going to laugh at me, like, "Poor old guy! He still thinks they make CDs".) The lead singer had a low and very rich voice, and the electronic songs were varied and interesting, even though I was completely unfamiliar with them. They played a full set of maybe 9 songs, then left the stage, as the crew started setting up for the main attraction.
Finally the Springsteen music played between sets (which I thought it was an odd choice for this particular show, but whatever) shut off, and Andy Black hit the stage. There were a couple of minor disappointments -- 1) Black was playing with only a guitarist and a drummer plus himself, so a lot of the music, including the keyboards and synthesizers, the bass, and most of the backing vocals were canned; and 2) While the sound was excellent for the first two bands, during Black's set, his vocals were too low in the mix for most of the night, especially when he sang in his lower register, which was often.
Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable show, with Black playing all of his best songs from his excellent solo album The Shadow Side, including "Stay Alive" (my favorite), "Ribcage", "Put the Gun Down", "Homecoming King" and "Beautiful Pain", plus a cover of Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself". He did his single "We Don't Have to Dance" as the encore. Between songs, he riffed on various subjects, and it turns out he actually has a really funny sense of humor. Far from appearing suicidal, he actually seemed to be enjoying himself (and the crowd was doing the same). After the show, both my daughter and her friend said they had had a good time, and that's never a guarantee -- the last show I took her to, my daughter sat stony faced through 3 pretty decent bands at the Paramount before actually enjoying herself a little for Sleeping With Sirens. So El Exelenti approved, we made it home safely through the ice, and all was well with the world. And next time, I know what to expect from 89 North.