I walked by a crowd of friendly homeless folks beneath blankets and ratty clothes by the door of the Civic Media Center (1.12.10). I’d just emerged into the twenty degree night from a heated car but shivered uncontrollably all over, carrying my guitar past them and unsure of how to meet their eyes. The first woman I passed made it easier for me, the kindest smile to go with her “Awww, you poor thing.” A man called out “You play guitar, too!?” I couldn’t remember seeing him before. I felt ashamed. Now I truly couldn’t meet their eyes. They had to brave the entire night, and here I was uncomfortable and eyes downcast because of suspicion and my assumption of warmth.
Freddie, washtub player for Days n’ Daze, greeted me at the door – t-shirt over exposed long johns, patched pants, kerchief round the neck all in light shades of gray. I found the rest of the band sitting in the middle of the space surrounded on three sides by bookshelves burning CD-Rs, wrapping them neatly in paper bags and duck tape with neatly emblazoned sharpie marker labels. I introduced myself. Jesse, lead singer/guitarist, looked surprised.
“You look totally different than the image I had in my mind.” He admits.
“Yea?” I grin foolishly, “What were you expecting?”
“Well when Jimmy told us you’d be playin with us he said how you were a busker and traveler and all that so I expected… I dunno I sort of pictured really gnar and stuff. Rough street, kinda nasty.” His descriptions were better but I don’t remember.
“Like with dreads and stuff?”
“Yea.” Scratching his head before a winning smile, “You sort of threw me for a loop. It’s refreshing.”
I guess I don’t cut quite as imposing figure as I want. Maybe my name also causes some confusion. Before meeting me, Laura’s boyfriend Evan thought I was black.
Days n’ Daze have a brilliant strategy for booking gigs. Most places in Gainesville won’t book a show for a single band, but Days n’ Daze circumvent this problem by being three bands. Washboard player/singer for the band Marissa started the night off a touch early while people still drifted in. She scrounged for AA batteries to power a keyboard for her solo act – the rest of the band would request a song from her and she’d sing it. I rather liked her act. One song in particular seemed apt for the dreary day without and she got the loudest applause from that, especially from coordinator Jimmy who sat to left. She kept her keyboard at a very low volume and sang just over it, both unmiked and cozy. Her pronunciation took a round sideways bite out of the syllables – jazz inspired and indie current. Regina Spektor warbles and vaudeville diction. She arpeggiated chords in a player piano sort of way – that oom pah pah thing or a straight up down roll with a high note to accent.
The two men took the stage next as U.NOT.I, a “riot-folk” style I’d never experienced before. I can best describe them as quick strumming on acoustic instruments while screaming political lyrics. Freddie accentuated his emotion by limiting his breaths so he’d go red in the face and strain out lyrics. The style of screaming seemed like he clenched all his muscles, shoved a sound deep into his abdomen where it clawed itself into the wall before he drew it out, scraping and screaming breathless and airy as it emerged. I enjoyed his passion but not the lyrics so much. Each song’s text was littered with prepared anarchist catch-phrases and manufactured anger – one song’s chorus went: “Fuck the man, fuck the man, fuck the man and uncle sam, fuck the man, fuck the man, god damn.”
The coziness of th Civic Media Center truly marked the night as special for me. No one used amplification (aside from the keyboard, which used it’s own small speakers), the small audience sat in chairs of disparate design or upon the worn wood floor, books cushioned every wall in a friendly manner and the lights were simply lights – audience illuminated as much as performer, the third wall lowered a perfect amount. I felt strangely nervous taking the stage, partly as the six friends who’d promised to show had each canceled for some reason or another and I’d no friendly face to gaze upon. My mother hadn’t arrived yet, either, so I gave my Zi8 recorder to the friendliest man I’d met before the show, a half Chinese half French businessman from Boston with the most encouraging smile. He’d seen Days n’ Daze playing downtown at the Farmer’s Market in the afternoon and had come out to support them.
In my nervousness I messed up some lyrics in two of my own songs, Car No. 5 and Stamsund. Immediately afterwards I felt I performed somewhat poorly but upon reviewing the footage I’m a bit more forgiving. My audience warmed to me instantly and saved me from my own unfathomable nervousness every now and again. I’ll let the footage speak now:
Days n’ Daze took over for the last set. While they maintained their bohemian kerchief and patches and rags look, they’d changed to all wear clean black t shirts. Whitney held down the high end of the aural spectrum playing Trumpet and ukulele and the highest voice of the quartet. Marissa played her washboard spectacularly, hunched over in an impossible curve to support it on her thighs as her fingers danced up and down its ridges. Freddie manned the lower register, one foot securing the washtub upon the ground, left hand securing the string to the broomstick to change pitch and right hand dextrously pulling away. He lent his raspy voice to choruses and the ends of phrases as did Marissa. Jesse strummed his guitar at a hyper speed. If Freddie’s screams sound dragged his were flogged and mangled, thrown in a high pass blender before being launched at such velocity they rattled around his temple and emerged somewhere between falsetto and top-of-the-range full voice.
The energy of the band was astounding. Occasionally they invited us to dance to their tunes. I suppose we were all too shy, for only a already standing men swayed slightly on their lateral axes and bobbed their heads in time. When they sang together they did not sing in harmony but in a raw skinned unison. Each syllable ejected so forcefully their eyes often shut themselves like their bodies thought they were sneezing. My one dig against the band lay in their between song conduct – they talked amongst themselves after each song without passing their eyes across the audience. This was also true for their separate acts. This manner gave off either a nervous/uncomfortable or uncaring vibe, I did not feel invited in, but strangely voyeuristic.
After the gig I stuck around a while speaking to the various audience members and volunteers. The Bostonian invited me up for a gig there, a Vegan chatted with me about Europe and class struggle. The collector of the donations box cut the money without consulting me, however. He split the earnings with the band having assumed that “I thought that since you’re local you didn’t want any of it?” I felt I’d be too much of an asshole to ask my share and the amount was so trifling it didn’t particularly matter. The band gave me something invaluable, anyways, the knowledge of two great cross streets in New Orleans and Houston and the promise of a joint gig in early February.
Earnings: $0, 30 minutes
Song of the Day: Stamsund – Terrence Ho