Here you will find a nearly complete record of all of Nonagon's live performances. Many of the individual show reports have images, videos and commentary. If you want to browse through a more condensed version of this list, go to the quick overview page.
A Show Report by John H.
We had our second-ever show last week and it was a vast improvement over the first.
In fact, if they keep getting better at this expediential rate, our fourth show is sure to involve opening for a reunited Fugazi at a reopened Lounge Ax with sound by Bob Weston, posters by Jay Ryan, and the rapt attention (and wild applause) of everybody in the room...
Of course, we’d probably still play everything way too fast and I’d still remember only half the lyrics. We were invited to play this show through the good graces of Santanu Rahman, a friend from back in the old Champaign days who is now the guitarist for Triple Whip – one of my favorite bands of late. He needed a last-minute replacement for a band from Oakland – Replicator - who had to cancel a big part of their tour for some reason.
We jumped at the chance (I’d been hoping a show with Triple Whip would be among our first).
I was really excited for a bunch of reasons...
- I really, really like playing shows despite the terror and self-loathing usually associated therewith.
- I used to play in a band and go to tons of shows in Champaign in the early 90s and tend to romanticize the rock scene there in a nigh-unhealthy, nostalgic kind of way.
- We were to be among the first bands to play a new all-ages venue in Champaign (something that has been sorely needed in Champaign —as in most places—for quite a while).
- Triple Whip
So, after a less-than-perfect run-through of our set, we loaded up the stuff in the super-tuff minivan – somehow getting everything (including the three of us) in one vehicle—and, after a slight scare when the van wouldn’t start right away, headed down south with the windows open and radio at a level just too- quiet in the front and just-too-loud in back... The three of us said “what?” a lot.
In our dorky eagerness we were the first to arrive at the venue: BONEYARD POTTERY, which –as the name would seem to indicate- is actually a working
pottery studio near downtown Champaign.
I repeat... a working pottery studio... filled with amazing and fragile work into which talented artists had poured their hearts and souls and kiln-induced sweat. There was beautiful, breakable stuff everywhere...
...and THIS is where we were to play an all-ages punk rock show. We were pretty sure that after the show there was a good chanced that the place would look less like this...
... and more like this:
But oddly enough, the owner/operator of the place, Michael...
... (on the left), was far less worried than we were. He had wanted to host all-ages shows in his space for a while and was trusting that the attendees would be respectful of what he was doing for the scene. I’m pleased to report he wasn’t disappointed... VERY cool cat!
We sound checked with soundman Jimmy...
... and went off to the nearest packaged goods store for some liquid nerves.
We played first and (as usual) the performance itself would have been a complete and hazy blur were it not for photo documentation and the lo-fi recording that Robert did using archaic walkman technology.
Here is what I’ve been able to piece together:
- There were about 25 people there when we started (all hail the on-timers!!!). They were a handsome crew who smiled obligingly when I whipped out the camera between songs:
- The woman in the white t-shirt and the boys to her left actually moved in indie-rock, dance-like fashion while we played. Even though it made me worry for the pottery behind them, it was much appreciated!
- Taped evidence proves that we played everything WAY too fast. That, in conjunction with the fact that I had my amp volume set too low and couldn ’t hear myself on stage, resulted in the fact that...
- I messed up a lot. I think that there were 4 or 5 whole seconds in one of our songs where I just pounded on open strings while trying to figure out where we were.
- The lights and sound were reportedly excellent.
- We don’t look half-bad when we’re blurry.
- I jumped around and sweated... a lot.
- We made too many jokes about our age.
- I unknowingly hit a switch on my guitar that made the last song sound horrible.
- It was sooooooooo much fun!!!!
- We got tons of positive reinforcement from folks, especially Santanu, young-Josh, and Holly (aka Triple Whip), and that really nice guy that said, “Thanks for rocking, sir.”
Other stuff I remember:
- Triple Whip was brilliant and played a whole mess of new songs. If you don’t listen to them, you should.
- At one point during their set Santanu gave us props (eliciting cheap applause for us) and said some very nice things about me from the stage. I interrupted him. “ Santanu,” I said. “Smile!”...
- We had a hilarious conversation with young-Josh in which we discussed forming a band that would do songs consisting completely of sampled bathroom sounds (both mechanical and biological)... You had to be there.
- My friend Paul West (former bookselling business partner and the current owner of Café Kopi in downtown Champaign) came to the show despite having significant excuses to miss it. Here he is (on the left) with Robert and Tony:
- The Idle Hours remembered to bring all of their po-mo atmosphereproviding, thrift-store televisions from Chicago, but seemingly forgot to bring some of the musical equipment that would have allowed them to play a few of the songs on their set list.
- Their set was short but interesting and they played one song (“Ice Lands Forming”) that got stuck in my head for a big part of the drive back home. They were invited by some of their enthusiastic fans to play an after-party at a house in town after the show. We were not invited to even attend the party, let alone play.
- Santanu surprised us with a small handful of cash from the door. Totally unexpected and generous. The best thing about it was that, since it was a $3 all ages show, much of it was in change!
- Many sweaty and heartfelt hugs and thanks were exchanged (along with some stickers) on our way out of the parking lot.
- On the ride back home Tony, breaking the tired silence, would occasionally say, “That was great.”
The band currently known as Nonagon finally had its first performance for relative strangers.
It was a bit surreal.
We played a cookout in Libertyville that was hosted by a coworker of Tony's.
When we got there we thought there was NO WAY we were actually going to be allowed to play:
The suburban yard was filled with kids and neighbors from the ages of 3 to about 75 and we were to set up on an outdoor patio facing a park in a very suburban, family-oriented neighborhood.
When we got there at about 6:30 we were immediately coerced into playing softball.
My team beat Tony's team like 32 to nothing.
Robert wisely demurred and hung out with Christy. The two of them quickly decided that they had nothing in common with most of the party goers and left to drink their beer in deep center field.
We ate grilled goods sitting at a picnic table with a very diverse group that included Alan, a groovy guy who was sponsored by Pepsi when he was a skating 14 year old and has somehow managed to escape the sad cycle of childhood stardom (except for the Hustler shoot he had to do with Dana Plato for glue-huffing money), and the elderly neighbors from across the street (at one point the husband of this couple held up his now half-empty little bottle of Snapple and yelled to his wife, "Oh! This is JUICE! Juice, honey!").
Since Paul hadn't yet arrived, we employed clever stalling tactics that were comprised mostly of multiple trips to the bathroom, tuning, and trying to convince the host, Dave, that we're "really more of an 'indoor band'". But Dave pulled rank (he wanted to get rid of the "lame neighbors") and we finally hit the well-lit patio.
Almost everybody over the age of ten preferred to watch from the grass beyond the lights, which meant that the only people we could actually see (aside from Christy and later Paul) were 10 and under.
At this point I asked Tony if this was the weirdest show he's ever played, and he made me feel oddly comforted by telling me that the J Davis Trio once played an 8-year-old's birthday party. "I think his name was Max."
So, after apologizing for the impending ruination of Dave's soiree, we played... loudly.
We did notice a steady stream of people leaving the party over the next 20 or so minutes, but that was offset by some good-natured heckling from Tony's coworkers in the glomen.
After royally screwing up the first song (but recovering nicely thanks to Robert's zen like temperament) we played what I think was a pretty-darn-good-for-a-first-show first show.
Everything was a little too fast.
We had to start one song over... twice.
And there was literally NO applause (not even polite) after one of the middle songs...
But it was a lot of fun and we managed to break a sweat in the evening chill.
I've got to hand it to those kids, though.
They sat at the picnic table RIGHT IN FRONT OF US for the whole show and only flinched occasionally. Since they were the only people we could see, I found myself directing most of my lame "on stage banter" to them, which oddly took the pressure off as far as actually seeming "witty" or "smart". I felt a little like a guest host on Zoom.
We found out later that one of them (the blonde kid seen on the right side of the pictures) was totally drunk from sneaking sips of beer. This was actually a relief to me because at one point during the music it looked like he was about to fall asleep.
Paul said that we made some soccer-moms quickly gather their kids and leave, and that a little dog was so enraged by our noise that he kept giving us the stinkeye and growlly little barks... but reviews were for the most part charitable:
One woman was very audibly overheard saying "well at least that last song was pretty good" when we turned off the amps.
On a more disconcerting note... I guy who is supposedly Ton'ys "biggest fan" (has traveled great distances to see him play in other bands) left before we were done... Hmmm.
It was, in all seriousness, a perfect first show. It was pressure-less and so weird it didn't even make me (that's right, ME) nervous.
It also made me REALLY itchy to play more shows!!
The pictures at the end of this link give a pretty good feel for the weirdness of the whole thing. Most of them were taken by Christy with Robert's camera before the battery ran out (during the second or third song).
Here they are, double chins, bad posture and all (view them with friendship-tinted eyes):
My favorite is (of course) the one in which the kids are clutching at their ears.