Monday, May 30, 2011

#62 Tokyo Garden on 5-29-11

Andrew Bunnell of The Sunburns, the one picture we got of the show.

This was the last show of the tour, and it was a perfect end. Tokyo Garden is a Japanese Restaurant/music venue in downtown Fresno. 

We had postered a week prior on our way up, and had set the show up with some good local bands, so this show was nicely well attended, and the bands seemed to work well together musically. Brother Luke and the Comrades opened, and were a pleasant surprise. The singer reminded me a bit of David Bazan

Our set was better that the SF show, and I put a sock on the mic to keep from being electrocuted. The audience seemed very open and friendly, and I felt that we were well received. 

Next up were the Sunburns, fronted by Andrew Bunnell who I had coincidentally met on the set of a game show about 4 years ago! This was a bit of an 'idea realized' since when we met and became chummy I had always intended to play a show with him. They had it together, and played loud songs with just enough catchiness. 

Closing the show was I Do Not Exist, who are a newer band. The singer/guitarist has a 'what the Hell?' bluesy groan, poised oddly in a low-fi indie band complete with MicroKorg and percussionists. This was their 3rd show, but they delivered.

So good. Great end to this run. Quite pleased.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#61 Brainwash on 5-28-11

photo by Christina Ramsden

Back to the Bay! We had swung through Oakland and SF on our way up and done some promoting the week prior to this show, and even handed out fliers hours before, till the heavy rain stopped us.

Wayne and Francis were back by this point, so I was looking forward to a full band experience. Opening the show were two bands. Prize was the musical project of a scantily clad wig-wearing woman with an operatic voice who had drums, guitar and even strings in her band. She was very theatrical, and I was pleased at the eclecticism. The Second band was The Echo District, but the singer/guitarist's band mates had completely flaked on him, so he was pacing up and down the alley screaming on the phone. He let us set up some of our gear first, and then he went up and did his whole set solo. It was so admirable.

Brainwash, a 'music venue'/laundromat had only two mic plugins, one of which was broken, which meant that I got to set up the PA and do our own sound AGAIN. I'm getting really good as a sound guy. The show was very well attended, and we played a fine set. It was nice to have the boys back, and we got to spend the evening with some very nice friends and family at Grubstake, before separating and heading to our different sleeping locations.

Friday, May 27, 2011

#60 Little Red Lion on 5-26-11

Before leaving Redding, Michael and I went walking around and we happened upon a train bridge. We went up the hill and Michael went walking on it and made jokes about Stand By Me. I was a bit nervous, but he said, "They wouldn't make the bridge just wide enough for the train!" I took his word for it. We went  far out to the middle of the tracks to take pictures of the amazing river below. We were out there for 10 minutes or so when Michael said, "Oh fuck, train!" Sure enough here came the train. I began running immediately at top speed, but quickly realized that Michael was shorter and wouldn't be able to run as far. I looked back and the train was almost to him, and he had crouched down and clutched the side rails of the bridge. I saw him not get crushed, so I too braced myself against the side. The train blew its horn a couple times, and came by with a huge gust of wind. I held on tight, and managed to keep my composure enough to snap some self portraits. Afterwards I felt SO alive and happy. 

We then took one of the more beautiful drives I've ever done in my life, through amazing mountains, next to rivers, etc. The air was incredible, and the weather was overcast and perfect.

We hit Eureka, and went to a pub where there were lots and lots of college kids, and hoped that it would also be the case at the venue. Ummm, no. Little Red Lion was a decent bar with a couple pool tables, and a stage, but the sign outside was dark and it seemed to be a bit isolated, though it was surrounded by other businesses. We had no other bands playing, but we did have a sweet guy named Jason who had a keyboard and did a unique DJ/keyboard/storytelling/beat poetry kind of act. It was strangely fitting as an opening act. No sound guy, so I did the sound AGAIN. Michael and I by this time had the duo set locked in, and the performance was almost too easy. There were not a lot of people at the show, but the bartender was kind to us and kicked us some travel money, drinks, etc.

We drove for a bit and opted for another van sleep night.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#59 Maxwell's on 5-25-11

We lingered in Sacramento for most of the day, as we stayed with incredible friends. The drive to Redding was full of a lot of open plains, but beautiful. A freak rainstorm and fiery sky hit us a the end.

The show was set up by a Redding band called Avenue Of Escape, who were going to play after us. The bands were supposed to play after an open mic night event, but I got a call saying that was cancelled and that AVEofESC would probably play first since the owner wanted the music to start. We were in full agreement with that so it came as a surprise to arrive at the club and find the sound equipment not set up and the band playing pool. They said we could go ahead and play first, so we started setting up. The 2-piece Active Set takes much longer to set up than the full band for some reason. I overheard some of AVEofESC's posse complaining about us taking too long and it saddened me. The bartender was nice enough and helped out when asked, but I pretty much had to set up and soundcheck myself.

We started playing and the singer from the other band watched half a song with his girlfriend, but then everyone walked out, except for one lone person at the back of the room. We didn't see the other band for the remainder of the evening, or hear from them. By the end of our set there were a few others, all who said, "Oh man, I could hook you up with a better show!" We discussed the politics of touring and such.

We found people to stay with, who turned out to be irresponsible, so much that at 3am, having invited us to stay at a house asked, "So, where are you guys gonna stay?" Michael and I left and argued for a bit before settling on sleeping in the van.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#58 Naked Lounge on 5-24-11

photo by Jill Carmel

We left the Bay Area later than we should have, but fortunately it was a quick drive to Sacramento. We lost Wayne and Francis the day prior, so this was the first show that Michael and I would have to do on our own.

We pulled in town at dusk and were surprised to discover how beautiful parts of the city were. The venue, Naked Lounge, was a coffee shop with a side room for music. We were playing with Campfire Crooners and MRQ, a blues/Americana band and another bluesy/jazzy band which I thought would not blend well with us, but I was assured by the booker that it would be a good night.

Having been off coffee for some time, I drank really strong stuff in SF. Combined with the anticipation of a 2-person Active Set trial I was jumping off the walls. We relaxed in the van for a bit. When it was time to set up, it all took so much longer than expected, so much that the sound chick kept asking if we were ready.

We butchered the first song and had to stop several times (why am I telling you this?) but then got our groove going. It was a lot more of an intimate performance between Michael and I, and I felt exhilarated and very free and unrestrained. Something about the unpredictability of the night was very freeing. 

We had a decent sized audience made up of some friends, family, fans and strangers. It was a well-rounded evening.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

#57 Cellar Door on 5-21-11

This was one of the finest shows we ever played in terms of how we were treated. This venue had GREAT sound, an extremely friendly staff and we got the star treatment though it was our first time in Visalia. Castro's drum never sounded so incredible. I was also pleased to see that they had hung up our posters.

My cousin, a local, came to see us but she had to sneak in as she had lost her license. We felt like mischievous teenagers. 

We opened for Run Run Run, a band from Los Angeles who had some good European touring under their belt. I was impressed by the wealth of material they had, and they even threw in a cover of Fade Into You. The bassist was wearing a Bradley Riot shirt, even more proof that Bradley is EVERYWHERE.

I blistered the roof of my mouth on pizza, and we were payed in a wealth of $5 bills. We talked to a LOT of people, including a ratty 'meth couple'. The guy asked what we were doing after the show. I said, "We're probably going to hang out, eat some pizza..." He did a double take and said, "Pizza?? Like mushrooms??" and then rambled about food mushrooms vs. psychedelic mushrooms and what he thought I meant. I tapered off the conversation, and continued getting people to sign the mailing list.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

#56 Mr. T's Bowl on 5-20-11

photo by Tami Bahat

What a show! This was extremely successful, shockingly in our home town. The event was put on by Mishito Presents who did an incredible job putting it together. Tonight we played with bands that really worked well with us musically, which hasn't been the case for a LONG time.

I was asked to play from an old associate who knew me from early Briggs days. His band is the Oddfaces, and the singer is the head of Mishito Presents. She had a great voice, and danced for almost all of the other bands.

The dreamy soundscapes of Family Tree Analog opened the show, and also playing were the Violet Shades and The Knots. The Knots were kind enough to switch slots with us so we could be not dead when we played.

We had a great time, and even brought out Michael's spinning club light, a rare treat.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#55 Ruby Room on 5-18-11

This show had been planned but then accidentally booked on the 17th, so we had to switch dates and I think the show suffered for it. Ruby Room is a great club in San Diego, tucked in behind a bar and grill. The neighborhood is very commercial and reminded some of us of Pasadena.

As opposed to Doll Hut, this had a very nice sound system, and a lot of space. There were quite a few people there as well. I'm pretty sure this is a college town, so this is "where the kids hang."

We missed Elephant Project, but Arms Entwined were a rock trio who at times had touches of 90s alternative/postpunk. Up next were Maul Shoppe. College students(?) (looked 16!) who were a blend of different musical styles, poppy and had a bit of a No Doubt informality to them. The singer constantly referenced drinking and being drunk, but looked like a sad lush rather than a cool party girl.

After they played the place cleared out, just in time for our set. We had a lot of fun as Bell Ringer watched us. So we stayed and watched them, and even started and Active Set mosh pit.

And we still got paid.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#54 Doll Hut 0n 5-17-11

This was the first show of our tour. Doll Hut used to be Linda's Doll Hut and is a bit legendary, particularly for punk rock bands. I'm trying to think if this is the first time we've actually played Orange County.

This is a small place with access to the stage from front and side, so you could have a very nice packed 'surround sound' audience. We did not unfortunately, as there were no local bands put on the bill. (LA, LA and SF) The men's bathroom had a toilet seat hanging from the wall instead of on the toilet, which was amusing.

Tonight we played with Bell Ringer, who are 3 members of the defunct Cola Cola. They are nice people, and we actually get to play 3 tour shows with them. We also played with Speedgoat, who are a bluesy/metallish power trio from SF. They had a giant stuffed bear 'mascot' (not a goat) who sat in front of the stage during their set. 

The performance was a decent start to this tour.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


(Is it a 't-shirt' because it's shaped like a 'T'? As opposed to what? A k-shirt? A p-shirt?)

We have the first Active Set t-shirt now available in a range of sizes. One of the earliest associations I had for the name 'Active Set' was people playing tennis, so Michael Castro ran with this and found us a great vintage shirt design, which we modified, color-schemed and voila! 

Buy one today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Active Set, ON TOUR.

Yes, we have booked a very nice tour up and down California. It originally had Portland as its northernmost destination, but Portland proved very difficult to book a show in. Over saturation of indie rock is our guess, so we'll have to visit another time.

The tour (appropriately christened the "It Multiplies Tour") will include the following dates:

May 17 - Anaheim - Doll Hut
May 18 - San Diego - Ruby Room
May 20 - Los Angeles - Mr. T's Bowl
May 21 - Visalia - Cellar Door
May 22 - Santa Cruz - Metavinyl
May 23 - San Francisco - Brick & Mortar Music
May 24 - Sacramento - Naked Lounge
May 25 - Redding - Maxwell's
May 26 - Eureka - Little Red Lion
May 28 - San Francisco - Brainwash Cafe
May 29 - Fresno - Tokyo Garden

We have some special surprises planned, so those interested in seeing a 'different side' of the Active Set should definitely come out to some of the shows.