Then I remembered the Stockholm Syndrome show that night. Stockholm Syndrome is Eric McFadden, who’s played with the likes of Keb Mo’ and Les Claypool on guitar, Wally Ingram (Jackson Brown, Sheryl Crow) on drums, Danny Louis (Gov’t Mule, Cheap Trick) on keyboards, head Jackmormon Jerry Joseph on guitar and vocals and Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools on Bass. Nothing like live music as a motivator, I always say. Suddenly I had something to do, numb chin, dribble and all. There was a supergroup in town. I changed my shirt (vintage N.Y. Giants Super Bowl XXV if you’re keeping score), grabbed the camera and a couple more pain pills and headed to the Crystal.
I arrived just as Stockholm Syndrome began their set with their version of the Climax Blues Band hit, Couldn’t Get It Right, which was just in time as far as I was concerned. I headed up front to the right and wound up right in front of Dave Schools’ microphone. The man was sweating on me (I didn’t need to change shirts after all)! Damn I love this venue. Ditto for Schools’ bass guitar playing. He moved easily from slap to delicate fingering several times as I joined the crowd getting all whipped up.
Joseph kept the band moving through the next two songs (These Gray Days and In Your Cups) before taking a breath to say hello. And I’m pretty sure he needed the breather, having rocked really hard for about forty five minutes to begin the set. He didn’t take long, however, before he introduced the next song as a favorite, Emma’s Pissed.
The rest of the first set showcased the depth that this band has. Louis’ keyboards and Ingram’s drums played off Schools’ bass perfectly during the intro for That Which Is Coming while Jerry Joseph sang his ass off, killing riff after riff in the process. And McFadden’s lead playing, trading licks with Joseph center stage during my favorite Stockholm Syndrome tune, American Fork to end the set had my head spinning and my toes tapping.
Let me go back to the question of depth in this band. All five players are west coast-based, life-long touring musicians truly in love with their jobs. This is the third tour for the Syndrome. They released their debut album, Holy Happy Hour (with Danny Dziuk on keyboards) back in 2004. Most recently, a live EP was released to great reviews in February of this year.
Being up front gave me insight to the camaraderie between these guys. While McFadden was blistering a solo during Emma’s Pissed, Joseph ambled over toward Schools and, grinning broadly, mouthed “Can you believe this guy?” They both chuckled and turned back towards the audience, but not before a nod to Ingram as he crashed a cymbal, almost in response to the Joseph’s question. I was across the stage from Danny Lewis’ keyboards, but his subtle background chords morphed into some complicated finger work further on, like in That Which Is Coming. It was like the solo snuck up on me and took control of how I heard the song.
Jerry Joseph’s passionate delivery was powerful without being theatrical. With his customary bandana covered throat singing blues, rock and love songs, his guitar playing is often overlooked. Not so tonight, as he traded licks with McFadden whenever the opportunity arose. Schools also didn’t miss an opportunity to fill the bottom end with complex counter-rhythms. Like I said; supergroup.
During the break I retreated to the balcony to rest my weary bones and grab a bottle of water. I wanted to check the pictures I took with the new camera. I wanted to sit down. Traversing the floating dance floor to the back of the room, I felt a little dizzy again. This time I blamed the floor. Spread that blame around, I always say. When I reached the steps, they were crowded in both directions and I doubted my balance just a bit. I was in line to go up and just off kilter enough to be dangerous, so I timed it just right, and bound up the steps two at a time to ensure I reached the landing without falling over with vertigo. I also ensured a hot rush of blood to my head that almost dropped me in my tracks. Amazingly, there was an empty seat on the aisle not far away. Three steps and I’m on denim to the velour. Ass in the seat. I popped the bottle of water, crossed my legs and rubbed the woozy out of my eyes. I took out the camera and checked the images so far..
The first few were a bit out of focus and streaky, so I deleted them right off. The next few, closer up shots of Schools and McFadden, were a lot better, but the lighting gave them a yellow, jaundiced look. I trashed those also. There was a good one, a pretty close up shot with good light and a couple that showed some potential. My head was throbbing and I started seeing two pictures instead of one. I think that’s when the Perco-somethings started to talk to me.
“You’re lucky to have made it up the stairs” “I’m so dizzy I think there’s two cute girls in pig tails sitting in front of me” (dreads, don’t ask) “Is that ringing in your ears getting progressively louder or is it just me?” “My foot is crossed like that to enable my restless leg syndrome room to express itself” “Don’t delete that picture, it’s ‘Artistic’” “I smell beer, but not good beer” “You didn’t forget to change into real pants before you left, did you?” “I think getting on a bus tonight would be a bad idea” “You hear the ringing now, don’t you?” “It is louder. Maybe a cab isn’t a great idea either” “OK, you better get up” “Get up” “Don’t just sit there, GET UP” “I do believe it’s getting a lot louder” “You’ve got a nice camera there, get up” “Before I get up, I should look at my pants to make sure I’m not still in sweats” “You should do that, then get up.”
Then it got really loud as the couple who had been trying to get past me into the aisle had taken to screaming at me to, you guessed it, get the eff up. I apologized and stood to let them pass, almost dropping my new camera in the process (thank God they come with those strap thingies). They gave me the evil eye and made their way to their seats.
I put away my camera and gear. Holding onto the rail, I carefully made my way back down the stairs. Each step had an eerie effect on me: The pain in my jaw seemed to get worse with each step down I took and the ringing in my ears got so loud, I felt it in my aching mouth. By the time I reached the floating dance floor, the lights went down and the band hit the next song full throttle. The dancing started, the floor wobbled, and I found myself looking for something to hold onto. Not wanting to grab a perfect stranger to regain my balance, I made a left and headed for the nearest wall. Luckily, it wasn’t far and I spent the next hour leaning against my allotted eighteen inches or so against the red velvet wall paper. My face hurt and my head was all out of sync. The Perco-somethings had somehow gotten the upper hand and my natural instinct to preserve my public image was all that stood between me and going fetal in my allotted eighteen inches.
I didn’t dare take any more medication, but concentration was failing me and getting worse with each downbeat from Dave Schools’ bass playing up on stage. I gulped some water, the cold surprise of which momentarily alleviated the pain in my mouth. When the throb began to return, so did the Perco-somethings. From my vantage point against the left wall, I could see the audience, separated as they were, by the roped off, over twenty-one, bar area. As I watched the crowd dance, it felt like I could see the movement of the floating dance floor and anticipate its quakes. I was leaning against the wall, watching an amalgamation of jam band wizards firing on all cylinders, tense as a trapped squirrel as I ‘surfed’ the floor, shifting my balance to allow for the coming floor movement which we all could feel, but only I could see. All the while a throbbing in my lower jaw matched my accelerated heartbeat note for note. I had to get out of there.
I’m pretty sure they were playing Bouncing Very Well when I turned to leave. I was already toward the back of the hall and managed to get to the rear without knocking anyone over. I had to get fresh air, stand on firm ground and breath some cold night air, clear my head, maybe lower the volume of the now ever present ear ringing.
The Main stage of the Crystal Ballroom is on the third floor from street level. There is an elevator, but I don’t like to use them if I don’t have to. Perhaps out of habit more than reason, I took the stairs and the Perco-somethings were with me every step. They repeated the same phrase with each stair I descended. In perfect cadence with the heart beat/mouth throb issue, “Don’t trip”
The fresh air didn’t help too much. Due to the unique nature of the odors in today’s taxi cabs, the ride home didn’t do much for me either. I’m afraid I may have under-tipped the cabbie as I made the dash for my front door. “I don’t think anyone even saw me leave” “You should double the tip after midnight” “Go inside and sit down” “I saw this supergroup tonight, the Stockholm Syndrome. They totally effin rocked!”
Damn, the Perco-somethings got it right.
Rock on through the Perco-something fog,