Welcome back to the 80/20 blog! Today, in honor of October and the glorious holiday celebrated at the end of the month, we bring you the first installment of Weird Shows! The following tale comes from Matthew Foos of Fairy Bones.
Hands down, the weirdest show we’ve ever played had to be the “festival” in Miami, Arizona. The show was promoted as being a big thing: a great musical line up of Arizona bands in the middle of an art festival. I remember the band being stoked, just like all the other bands we knew were going. It was going to be a great night.
So we drive up, and immediately we felt like something was off. The town was desolate. For the first few minutes driving into the city, we only saw closed down and abandoned businesses. It really dampened the whole mood—we felt like we were driving into Death Valley or something.
We finally found the gig, in the main stretch of town. It was this rinky-dink art parlor, and in no way could it handle our band. There was one monitor with a mic cable, but no mic…which we didn’t bring, having been told there would be sound, a stage, food, and places to stay. This place had only one outlet, which was already being used by the PA. The owner didn’t even realize that anyone was supposed to playing at his space. Needless to say, we were a little worried.
That is when things got weird. The organizer seemed far too relaxed with the haphazard conditions. When asked, where can we plug in, his response was simply “Uh, you know, wherever you can find a plug.” When asked where we could sleep, he told us wherever we could find space on the floor—which he didn’t seem too happy about. He then—more focused on showing us the history and wonder’s of Miami than the show itself—took us on a tour of the hundred and fifty year old brothel next door.
This place was a punk rock kid’s wet dream. Holes in the floor and ceiling, zero privacy, drugs everywhere. There was even a dude living above the only bathroom in the twelve-bedroom house. On the bottom floor, there was a bank vault library, and against the back of the house was an iron fire escape patio that looked ready to collapse. The only saving grace of the whole thing was what waited in the alley.
The promoter hadn’t really thought it through when planning the event. In between the brothel and the adjacent building was a stage with sound equipment. There was music playing here, but because of the forty-foot concrete walls the sound stayed tucked neatly in the alleyway. The chaotic sounds of some of Phoenix’s strangest bands bounced back and forth all night. Like all the other bands who had been as confused about where to play as we were, we ended up demanding to play in the alleyway instead of the art gallery. This inevitably led to everything starting way behind schedule, and pretty grumpy bands.
To make matters worse, every one of the bands stuck out like a sore thumb. Miami is full of good country folk: simple people with simple lives just looking for some good entertainment, which is what they expected at the festival. But when they arrived, they found half the Phoenix music scene, screaming and hollering with torn clothes and colorfully dyed hair. The locals had no idea what to make of us, and I caught more than a few nasty stares in my direction.
In the end we ended up grabbing the last hotel just outside the city that night. We felt dirty. We felt strange. We felt like it was another world. But, that one strange experience taught us more about shows than anything else before. Luckily, we’ve never had a crazy one like that since.