PRO TIP: If you see that a band I like is coming to town and you know that I don’t know about it, don’t tell me about it and then expect to just casually walk away from the conversation without getting sucked into going with me.
You would think that Henry would understand this by now?
Granted, they could have been playing at a myriad of other local venues and I would have gladly gone alone, but nope – this show was at Diesel and I for certain didn’t want to go without Henry because that place creeps me out. The last show I went to there was Thrice in 2009 and I ended up getting in a fight with some doucher (surprisingly not Henry) and before the show even ended, all these sleazy nightclub people were filing in and the vibe was so whack, I absolutely hated it. It just wasn’t my scene.
That memory was almost enough to get me to pass on this show but I love Hotel Books and have never seen him/them — it’s a spoken word project of Cam Smith and I know what you’re thinking – “Wow, Erin, you don’t seem smart enough to understand how to enjoy such things” – but somehow, I’m able to expand my narrow mind wide enough to let it all in, my friend(s). It’s a trying process for this high school drop out.
The real kicker is that this band is faith-based and I’m practically a devil worshiper, but I just have enough emo juice slurping through my veins to not render into a pile of ash as the first word is spoken.
Doors were supposed to be at 7:00 (or 6:30 depending on who you asked). We arrived a bit before 7, after Henry drove erratically around the back streets of South Side, cursing me and every car who was parked where he wanted to park, until he found the most fortuitous spot right on the main street, practically across from Diesel. Anyway, the doors were definitely not open yet.
But at least we got to be serenaded by Phil Collins:
While waiting outside, a young guy struck up conversation with me. I mentioned that it had been a good 7 years since I last saw a show at Diesel and he told me that actually, the man who runs the Rex Theater across the street has taken over booking shows at Diesel, and they only have been having shows there again since May. I mean, anytime I saw any event listed for that place, it was the likes of Danity Kane or some random DJ – never a band in my wheelhouse.
And somewhere during this conversation it occurred to me that I carrying on like a proper, socially-adept human, OH BECAUSE I WAS TALKING TO SOMEONE UNDER THE AGE OF 25 WHO LIKES THE SAME MUSIC AS ME.
Fuck my life, man.
Just kidding. I love my life.
Once the doors finally opened, I got to talk to the new guy in charge! He was very nice and eager to know how we felt about using Eventbrite to purchase our tickets. I didn’t really have a solid answer for him, but I will say that I was extremely excited that the ticket total wasn’t nearly doubled by the time fees and hidden charges with tacked on. Eventbrite can stay.
We right upstairs to the 21+ area to hang out like elderly people during the first couple of bands. Not surprisingly, only two other people came up there. This show was definitely not promoted well (I mean, clearly — if not for Henry, I wouldn’t have even known about it) and therefor, only about 20 people showed up.
And most of those people were friends with the two local bands who were opening.
Pointless low light iPhone picture.
Since I was working late shift the next day, I had TWO BEERS! I live my life so recklessly, you guys. WHAT RULES? Plus, being there again after all this time made me extremely nostalgic for my early 20s when Diesel was a rock club call Nick’s Fat City and my friends and I used to go there to see local bands play all the time, like SOUR (oh man, I was fucking obsessed with them). This was also where I sobbed during many Cold shows, where I met Finger Eleven back before they were known, and where I saw 30 Seconds to Mars for FIVE DOLLARS and barely anyone there even knew it was Jared Leto’s band.
So many good times were had in that place. And then it closed. And then it reopened as some skanky night club and I cried into my Smirnoff Ice.
I couldn’t tell the last time I was there because it was so crowded, but with it being so empty like it was on this night, my senses were better able to pick up the fact that it still smelled and felt like Nick’s Fat City. Even with all the swanky banquettes, chandeliers, and sexy neon lights, I could feel the ghost of Nick.
It was an amazing flashback, and it made my heart feel like it was being kicked out of a plane with no parachute.
Sometime before 7:30, the first band took the stage. It seemed like it was one of their first shows and they were having a ton of technical difficulties which was a shame because they didn’t sound bad! I made sure to clap extra hard for them BECAUSE THOSE ARE SOMEONE’S KIDS, YOU KNOW?!
Ugh, I’m such a scene mom.
I think their name was Archway.
After them was another local band: Logan’s Star Pupil. I liked them a lot too — their Pittsburgh pop-punk emo blend sounded pleasant in my ears and even Henry gave them a lazy thumbs-up. If you’re feeling generous today and want to support some Pittsburgh music, go buy their album on Bandcamp! Treat yourself to some new summer jams. It’s OK – we all need to drive around with the windows down, pretending like we’re 17 again. I mean, I do it all the time.
Except for winter.
Or when it’s raining.
Or when the AC is on.
YOU GET THE POINT.
I told them on Twitter that I loved them instead of saying something the 3x I walked past them while going to the bathroom/coming back from the bathroom, because I have to pick and choose my small talk. It really is my version of a battle.
Besides, I was saving it up for after the show.
Oh man, the next band was Hearts Like Lions and I fell for them hard. Henry wasn’t surprised at all. They’re signed to Tooth & Nail, so it was pretty inevitable that I would open up my heart to them instantaneously. The music, the vocals, the vibes — I was into it. Go buy their ep. Or at least listen to it 8743298374 times and tell your friends and then buy a shirt.
Tried to convince Henry that we need neon-lit panels on one wall of our future guest room. He finally said yes just to shut me up.
The next band was XXI and I was looking forward to them because they were recently on tour with Artifex Pereo. But you guys, I didn’t like them. I mean, I didn’t hate them, either, but they just didn’t do it for me and they were so different from the other bands that it kind of killed the vibe for me. Ironically, they were hard rock in the vein of what I would have gone to see at Nick’s Fat City in 2000. The singer even “warned” the crowd that they were going to be a lot “heavier” than the other bands, and it was just a tad condescending.
After their set (which Henry fell asleep during), we closed out our tab and Henry yelled at me for jogging in place to Taking Back Sunday. That’s soooooo Henry, always trying to box me in and clip my wings.
And then: Hotel Books.
Oh for fuck’s sake. I know that spoken word is an acquired taste, but it’s hard for me to imagine anyone listening to Cam’s gut-wrenching words and not being at least partially affected. First and foremost, I respect him as a writer and poet. Anyone who can fold in aspects of their faith into their music and not make me feel like I’m being force-fed Bible passages is a lyrical genius in my eyes. But instead of stopping there, he takes his words and layers them over the most soul-infusing, ambient music and then bam: Hotel Books, ladies and gentlemen.
In between his songs, Cam did some off-the-cuff sermonizing; he talked about growing up in a small-town in California, about the conversations he has with people at his local Starbucks, about not performing some of his more popular songs anymore because it doesn’t feel honest to him anymore….he talked about these things, and about life, and about emotions and people and not being good enough and I realized that I had no idea how long I had been crying.
But my face all wet and I was starting to shake a little bit.
So often, I feel alone in my life. I know that I’m not: I have Henry, Chooch, Corey and now my mom, and I’ve got some really solid friends that I appreciate more than anything. But I am such a stupidly emotional person that I tend to smother a lot of that because who wants to be around someone who is hunchbacked from all the constant navel-gazing. Time and a place, amirite? And my time and place is at shows like this one. Without making eye contact or knowing anyone around me, it comforts me to know these people have got to feel the same way and it’s OK, this is our normal, and we can all enjoy the sad boy music and cry together, and then go our separate ways knowing we’re all gonna be alright.
I mean, except for Henry who just sat on a step with a tight-lipped expression, unable to decide if he liked or hated it. (He told me later that “it wasn’t bad” and we all know that Henry’s Rating Meter doesn’t go much higher than that.)
After the show, I made Papa H buy me things, and so I got to chat a little with the singer of Hearts Like Lions at their merch table. He was so fucking nice and now I like that band even more.
I am notoriously anti-meeting bands because I get so stupid and trip over my tongue and it’s just humiliating and not worth it in the end, but this time I was determined not to leave until I met Cam. Maybe it was the TWO WHOLE BEERS holding my hand, who knows. A small group had converged upon Cam and as soon as one of the girls mentioned something about her church, I looked at Henry and groaned, “Ugh, they’re going to be here forever!” I mean, they just kept talking and talking and I was considering just ducking past and leaving, but then Cam looked over at me and asked with a smile, “Are you waiting for me?”
Ugh yes! Everyone backed away so I could approach him. I told him that he makes me heart feel so large, and asked if I could hug him. Do you know me? Because I apparently don’t. Erin On a Regular Day shirks human contact. But Erin at the Church of Hotel Books was practically begging for a hug. And so we hugged and it was amazing; I somehow managed to not cry until later that night when everyone was asleep.
PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO ^^^^^
Oh god, I’m crying so hard but smiling at the same time. I want Hotel Books to come back and play a candlelight show at my Pappap’s house. Maybe I’d start opening the door for the Jehovah’s Witnesses if they came at me with ethereal spoken word instead of pushy, pamphlet’d propaganda.
Thank you for telling me about this show, Henry. I owe you. <3