08/15/03 – The story of The Dresden Dolls & The Great Blackout in New York City
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
never have the dresden dolls endured such a night.
in order to understand the irony of the events that am i about to relate, you need the sordid history of the past few weeks.
there are several labels who have taken an interest in maybe signing our little band.
all of these labels have headquarters down in new york, so we have to do what is called “showcasing” – meaning, basically, that we will play our next show down in NYC knowing that these suits will be there.
we had this show booked down in NYC, on the 14th, with our fine friend World/Inferno Friendship Society at the knitting factory anyway….so there we went.
so here we are, holding our fragile little record in our hands, our record release date set, no label…..and we decide (goddammit) that we are going to put it our ourselves. money is the only issue, so we hit up everybody we know for a loan. and lo and behold: Eight Foot Records in born.
this means many scary things: we need distribution (to get the thing into stores….and this is VERY difficult for an indie band to get without a label). we need our own booking agent. we need our own publicist. we need a radio publicist. we need help.
so i spend about 15 hours a day on the phone and at the computer trying to figure out, once and for all, the key to unlocking the mystery that is the music industry (no answers yet, but give me a few more weeks, i’m working on it).
(on the side: we hired two part-time employees, got an amazing office space in chinatown for practically free, and will be putting out the call for interns – stay tuned).
so all these folks that i’m talking to all day on the telephone all want to see the band. and they’re all from new york. and we have this impending show on the 14th at the knitting factory. how convenient! so our guest list ends up housing the potential radio promoter, the potential booking agent, the potential record reviewers and two representatives from major labels. (no pressure).
MEANWHILE, the artwork for The Album is done. done, that is, but not at the printer. the printer is down in new york city, on broadway, very far from our hometown of boston. and everything is wrong. the bleed is fucked up. the bleed? they can’t download the files our designer uploaded to the web. we fedex the artwork on disc. they can’t open the files. it takes forver. they make proofs. they need to be fed-exed up to boston. we are going down to new york anyway, for our Very Important Show at which Many Important People will be. so we’ll just swing by the printers at 4 p.m. on the way to soundcheck and approve the artwork? sure.
at 4:15 p.m., after an unevetful drive down to the city, we pull up in front of 611 broadway, where our printer should be waiting, proofs in hand, for us to check out and approve for printing (the whole album , by the by, is now coming out 3 weeks behind schedule anyway, because of all the other fuckups and the deal with the label falling through.)
at 4:15 p.m. the fucking blackout hits new york. we double park in front of the printers and i assume that it’s a fire alarm, and that’s why there are mad heads standing out in front of the building. but nay. we find out about the blackout but assume it’s a block-wide or even neighborhood-wide thing and at worst, a small pain in the ass. so we wait at the car, double-parked, for the power to come back on.
which it doesn’t, and we eventually hear a “GET OUT OF THE WAY” coming from the loudspeakers of a police bus behind us.
so we do, and we find ourselves swimming through the chaos (no working traffic signals, lots of impatient new yorkers) in our trusty blue volvo station wagon, through throngs of people who have all been ejected from their placid air-conditioned cubicles….like a large blue trout in a sea of well-dressed minnows.
traffic is at a standstill, and we are mere block from the knitting factory. there is no cellular service so we can’t get through to the other bands, the club, or greg and andrew, or guitar and bass player for this show.
i suggest to brian that he pull over and i go on foot to the club to see what’s what.
the scene is chaotic, broadway is packed with people, traffic isn’t moving and sirens are wailing from every direction. i must look very interesting to most commuters, running at breakneck speed in my slip and flapping sandals, eybrows running down my cheeks.
and there, lo, by candlelight in the front bar of the knitting factory, are sitting the 9 dignified members of the world/inferno friendship society, drinking ciders and chatting merrily, surrounded by the Good People of the Neighbourhood and lots of The Ejectees from nearby offices. it’s a beautiful sight.
the beer is cold and plentiful and i run back to brian at top speed to tell him of the wonders i have witnessed.
we drive through the chaotic crowd at a snail’s pace and eventually get back to the club. there’s nothing to do but wait, we’re pretty sure the show will be cancelled unless the power comes on damn soon, so we just drink and commisserate with our fellow musicians.
brian breaks out the acoustic guitar and the tambourine and we play through Side A of the first violent femmes record. then we move on to ramones songs, people join in and we move on to black sabbath and other miscellaneous covers.
we set brian’s bowler hat on the ground and make a grand total of sixty-five cents from passing youngsters, whose mothers find us charming and send their children to us with alms.
it seems more and more likely that the power ain’t coming back on, so we confer with wolrd/inferno…..shall we set up a street show?
so we set up a street show…brian drags his drum kit into the middle of leonard street and
accordians, saxophones, acoustic guitars and screaming vocalists jam out without the benefit of a public address system. world/inferno plays a good half hour set, we dance wildly. we discover that franz, the accordian player from inferno, knows “port of amsterdam”, which brian and i had planned on playing….so brian tunes up the guitar, we clear off the make-shift merchandise table and i stand aloft, staggering slightly from the warm beer and penetrating sunlight & ruining my voice in one screetchy but heartfelt performance, successfully entertaining the crowd on the street, which has at this point grown to a sizeable 150 folks or so.
we sell 4 cds and a few people sign the mailing list, so we happily cut our losses and start
planning our escape from this dark pit of hell. mind you, it’s 90 degrees and the car has no air conditioning.
it takes us close to 2 hours to get to the bridge – which is about 12 blocks from the club. the fumes are horrific, the traffic is at a standstill and we have no idea whether we’ll run out of gas or not.
we stop saying “god, this sucks” after a while and just give each other pained but peaceful
looks, probably much like the looks of the terminally ill after they’ve completely comes to grips.
we eventually break out of the city at around 10:30….and we cavalierly pass by the first gas station we see because there is a line like a funeral procession and we figure we have enough to last us til the next one.
one hour later: we are stranded in the middle of connecticut, not an open gas station to be had, and approximately one tablespoon of gas in our tank.
so we pull over, put the drums in the front seats of the trusty blue volvo, and sleep in the back, on top of brian’s suits and padded trap cases.
we wake, sore and covered with dew, at 5:30 a.m., fill the car, hit the road and head back to boston…..bleary-eyed, exhausted, aching, frustrated but strangely content.
so our Very Important Show For Music Industry Suits ended up being a Steet Fair For Children and Ejected Office Workers, and we don’t know when, but hopefully it will be rescheduled.
funny, but oren (a good friend and fan of the dolls) was chatting with me the night before at my solo show at the zeitgesit. i was telling him of the nervewracking show in new york, what with all the suits and all, and he said “amanda, make sure you play for us, not the suits, please.” and then he gave me a rock from the beach in glouscester. if he had only been on leonard street last night, he’d have been a very proud man.
it’s possible that this was a sign from god that the dresden dolls are destined to run their own record label for ever and ever. who knows. anyway, no matter what it means, we still need a fax machine and a van.