Following a weekend in the Twin Cities for a chum's wedding, I made my way to Portland to stay with my most famous friend, Sean McGrath. The inspiration for the trip was the opportunity to see the rare thing that is a North American Nick Cave show at the Crystal Ballroom. So I dropped a chunk of change on a plane ticket (it was a good thing I was able to consolidate the two trips...) and the ticket at face value that Tony Tonucci and J-Bone picked up the instant they went on sale (yeah, I still owe you the $35, Mark).
Now I'm poorer.
But I digress. I flew in Sunday, hung out with my boy, went to a play, inadvertently squirted clumpy hot sauce in Antigone's eye as a result of my untold strength, and fell asleep.
Monday, I got pumped. I ate lunch with some of the Austin boys at Greek Cusina, spent entirely too much money at Powell's, drank at $5 pitchers at Rocco's, supped with Sean and friend, and then embarked on a mission to the Crystal Ballroom. As we neared the venue, my excitement was almost causing nausea*. We met up with Noocher and Steenburgen (Sean getting to use the ticket that a certain clamato lover didn't deem worthy of putting off motorcycle repairs to be able to afford a plane ticket to Oregon for) at the bar near the club, where I claimed my ticket, and we all headed off through the labyrinth to get into the club.
*This nausea was probably complicated by the worrisome chance that we were possibly going to be able to get our way backstage as a result of the opening act (Ghost Writer) having been from Austin and knowing one of the other gents we were with. Honestly, much like Mark's younger brother having run into Tom Waits on the beach in Hawaii and electing not to speak a word to him, I, too, feared the worst: that we'd get backstage and Nick Cave would say something that would destroy me. Alas, much to my relief/disappointment, the opportunity did not present itself...
When we stepped into the ballroom, it quickly became evident that despite the fairly impressive surface appearance of the club's interior, the floor was going to collapse and we were all going to die. At least we weren't going to die seeing Great White in Providence. The impending death was an easy one to reconcile.
While the volume levels were more than appropriate during the Ghost Writer set, it took two songs of blaringly unintelligible instrumentation for it to become clear that the Nick Cave set was going to shatter ear drums. Now, I've heard others say that the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds shows they saw were also very loud, but this was borderline obscene. For the opener, "Night of the Lotus Eaters", all that was discernible was vocals and then racket. By the third song, everyone's sense of hearing had been so thoroughly defeated that some instruments were able to bear themselves out and emerge from the sludge.
Now sound issues notwithstanding, the show was outstanding. The tracks off the new album played great, and since the nature of the album is so much more of a rocker, I'd have to say I'm glad I saw them first on this tour, where Nick's presence came out in full force at the mic. Particularly affective were "We Call Upon the Author" and "Today's Lesson", which stuck out as being (at the very least) slightly more intelligible than some of their couterparts. Just as importantly, they played many of the classics that I desperately wanted to hear. "Deanna" fucking rocked. "The Weeping Song" played just as well as it does on Live Seeds, which is saying quite a lot. Nick Cave belted out "Red Right Hand" to the delight of his followers, while Mick, Warren, and Co. firmly had his back. And when I was sure during the fourth song into the encore that I'd miss out on some "Stagger Lee" action, Nick busted out his cocksure strut, put on his best badass front, and killed each and every person in the crowd, showing he was just as bad a motherfucker as Stag could ever be.
Even with the shoddy sound, Cave's stage presence more than made up for the fact that I thought my ear drums were actually going to explode during the third song of the encore, which I can't even remember the name of because I'm now brain damaged. Regardless, the show was great in spite of the sound.
As for what happened afterward, it's probably not a good idea to relate what else happened while in PDX. There was a travel scare, as Mark and Jeremy coincidentally ended up in line behind me at the security checkpoint only to have one of them get stopped for something (non-narcotic) being in their bag by accident that was a felony pre-9/11. Luckily, they were let through (hell, they'd gotten through the Austin airport without a flag being raised leading me to believe that the ABIA security is the most lax in the world) without said item and boarded their plane with about twelve seconds to spare.
I had my own travel snafu, as minutes before my plane landed in Austin at 10:28 pm, the power in the main terminal went out, and our plane, which was the first to land after the outage, sat on the tarmac for--no shit--over an hour and a half, while they restored power to our wing. Of course, every other plane that landed after us was able to go to their gates and deplane (deboard? Des Plaines?), but if there's one thing that my experiences at ABIA have taught me it is that I do not matter to them at all.