Summer: The Palace Show
Okay, so to save myself from going boring with the ascending numerical count every time I do a new post, I’m gonna start naming these summer posts by the specific event or memory that I’ll be writing about. So let’s retroactively name the last post “Summer: The Wedding”. Now that we’ve settled that, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this post. First, a little backstory…
Sometime in mid May, John had come to me with a new show offer: it would be for one of the Living Room Concert sets that Palace Canyon put on. When Palace Canyon was doing regular music, Retrospection had played a set in April of 2015 that went off phenomenally. It was a mid-range type of thing: in some beautiful and luminous sonic space between our heavy electric sets and an acoustic set. The entire show went off without a hitch, and we sounded stratospheric. It’s still one of the best shows Retrospection has ever played, and I look back on it often with great fondness. Sadly, the music soon stopped up at Palace Canyon. I had seen some fantastic shows down there in my time. The chance to go back, and to play there again while I was at it, was something of a dream. And then, I found out about the Living Room sessions.
Really, there’s no living room involved, correct? That’s just a nifty name given to a show designed to feature a grassroots down to earth kind of performance, correct? That’s how I took it anyway. I hope I’m correct in that perception.
NPR hooks these events up, I believe. I hope I’m correct in that assumption. I have a strange relationship with NPR. We’ll get into that another time. Point is, we managed to get the opening slot for touring bluegrass artist Nikki Talley. I was so happy to be going back to Palace. I figured we’d do another mid-tempo kind of thing, just as a two-piece. If we could play a totally tubular punk rock set and make two people sound like 5, then surely we could do something phenom with less distortion and a few more dynamics. We wouldn’t have a bass player, but we could make something happen.
The show was set for May 20th; a lovely Friday evening. To promote the show locally, I spent most of the week posting my famous pop-culture gems on Instagram (that I totally stole from Thelma and the Sleaze and Local H). This time, the theme was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a show that is still immensely significant to me and which should never ever be remade unless it’s by me (hear me well, Hollywood). With a Goldar or a Green Ranger, I would write a pithy promotional sentence about where and when the show would take place, hoping to generate some interest in John and I’s circle of friends. In my father’s car, the radio is usually tuned to NPR, and about a day before the show, I heard a folk artist on the station piqued my interest. She had a really good voice. I was elated after the song to find out that it was Nikki Talley; the announcer advertised the Palace show and even mentioned Retrospection, if memory serves me correctly. It was quite an honor, and my enthusiasm for the show doubled.
Our set went off fairly well. I was kind of nervous and not entirely prepared for what it was exactly that I wanted to do. Whereas before, we had gone in calmly and with little practice, this time I think that I overthought the set, got too in my head about it (an all too common practice for me), and ended up kinda getting flummoxed while attempting to present our music in a way befitting of the NPR Living Room format. I think there’s an important lesson there: compromise of one’s sound in order to appease some assumed perception can lead to a kind of identity crisis, one that ends up transforming an artist beyond their authenticity. A bit of that may certainly have been going on here. We were a bit unfocused, a bit too reliant on performance ingenuity, and the bulk of this blame goes to me. I hadn’t properly taken the time to come up with a good mid-range guitar sound to use, one that would correctly represent Retrospection’s intrinsic qualities and also not assault the audience with angry audacity. Andrew Akins showed up midway through the set and attempted to adjust the sound system to better suit our fluctuating, genre-happy shimmy sham. During soundcheck, the PA had been tailored to Nikki’s flavor, and the poor pitiful punk rockers were kind of left to fend for ourselves and figure something out along the way. Though Andrew certainly helped us, I got a little too present in the microphone at times, once even greatly overwhelming the room and scaring myself with a burst of auditory energy.
One song that did go off extremely well was Untitled Love Song. My goodness, that got the energy up in the room. By the time we got to the comedown of the bridge, everyone was applauding. I kind of wanted to applaud us too; everything good about that song had come to fruition somehow during this set. It was a combination of the earnestness and vivacity running between John and I. Somehow, it made this song stand out as something beyond any conception I had previously held of it, any estimation that was lower than the power pop punk rock anthem that it became on that stage. John has always been the one to help me love that song more.
Nikki and her husband played after us, and did a great set. I’m not a huge fan of bluegrass or folk, but they are both exceptional at what they do, and I hope the very best for them in days to come. They were very kind as well and addressed us from stage, me still feeling incredibly vulnerable to the audience and sensitive about our performance.
There was a girl in attendance that night who I had a minor crush on at the time (so high school of me). I talked to her for a bit after our set, hoping she had enjoyed it. We ended up playing seven or eight love songs in a row, and I like to think that that was intuitively inspired by her presence.
That night is cemented with grace for me now; though I could have played smarter, smoother, better, etc… it was fun. And the crowd was gracious, also considering that about half of them were the kind of highbrow crowd that my father would find great commonality with; they didn’t strike me as avid punk rock fans. This wasn’t their typical kind of performer, and yet they received us with dignity. I am still very grateful. Also, Ash bought us Subway before the show, and for that, I am very grateful. Friendship outshines the sun.