Parlour Steps, Cambridge MA

We woke up this morning at Rick’s house in Easthampton. Rick is the owner of Nine Mile Records, the label pSteps are currently signed to. It was a long drive from Cornwall yesterday. We traveled through upstate New York, then into Massachusetts. Lush green fields, gentle breezy sunshine, and picturesque small towns gave way to rain, fog, and darkness. Almost every house we passed had a large American flag hanging on its porch. We arrived at Rick and Rebecca’s house late last night. They live on a tiny, quiet lane, no streetlights, surrounded by trees. All the houses were small and white with verandas and screen doors. It was so quiet I could hear crickets chirping as we unloaded our bags and staggered into the house.

Rick and his wife Rebecca fed us homemade bread, cheeses, grapes, strawberries from their garden, and organic honey ale. They were both so nice, and as I was standing in their kitchen listening to the quiet conversation, (there was after all, an adorable 4 year old Lilly asleep upstairs) I was deeply conflicted, like I had been at the mansion in Toronto. I was so grateful and relieved to be there, but was also completely skeptical- and disoriented. This can’t be ‘me on tour’. Where is the crushing disappointment, the total lack of money, the terrible food, the complaining, backstabbing, deception, temper tantrums, deep depression, unpredictable mood swings, dirty clothes, drug and alcohol abuse, sleep deprivation, desperation, constant emotional caretaking, futile attempts to soothe clashing personalities, sleeping outdoors, empty shows? Not in lovely Easthampton, that’s for sure. Here there are smart, kind people. There are wood floors, an old piano, a friendly black lab with an enthusiastically wagging tail, fluffy towels, children’s artwork on the fridge door, and everywhere I look it’s simple, clean, and beautiful.

Rebecca went to bed and we all sat up with Rick for a long time. I think it was a meeting, but it felt like more like hanging out. We talked about politics and music and future plans for Parlour Steps. It was all very productive, but very casual and fun too. I wouldn’t want to be signed some huge media conglomerate/record label. I think they would not have their strategy meetings in an lovely old house with the wind sliding through the trees while the crickets sing and a large black dog rests his head on the president of the record company’s knee.

And so. We awoke the next morning after the meeting. I had locally roasted organic coffee on the back porch. Did some yoga in the backyard next to the strawberry patch. The breezes blew, the birds sang, and the sun shone. I shake my head now as I write this, as I did that day. It was ridiculously idyllic. Played some piano while the others were getting ready, and then it was off to Cambridge for the show, another 80 miles away.

Rick told us we were listed in the TV guide – the widest read publication in the entire country, I’ll have you know- and also in the Boston Globe. Good grief.
We arrived in Cambridge and found the venue, the legendary Middle East.

It’s got three separate rooms, and Rooney was there when we were which explains the hundreds of overwrought teenage girls clogging the sidewalk while I struggled to load in my gear. If you don’t know Rooney, clearly you are not a twelve year old girl who’s hip to what’s hot. I didn’t know Rooney either and was almost attacked when I asked one of the Rooney followers what was going on. That was kind of intense, shoving my way through a block’s worth of screaming, crying, laughing girls over and over with large heavy awkward objects in my hands. Did they clear a path? They did not. They were oblivious to the anything that wasn’t Rooney.

We had a few hours before the show. It poured rain, thunder and lightning. I think we’ve seen thunderstorms every day since we arrived in Toronto. I walked up and down Massachusetts Ave. (that’s Mass. Ave to people in the know), the street the Middle Eastern is on and one of the main arteries through Cambridge. Harvard and MIT are both in this area. Cambridge is the biggest university town/campus I’ve ever seen. It made UBC look like a quaint community college. Everywhere there’s ivy covered brick buildings – but this is Ivy League territory, n’est pas? Tons of bookstores of all descriptions, tattoo parlours, bars, coffeeshops, restaurants, Mcdonald’s and the Gap. Everything a student needs. I finally summoned up my courage to experiment with my fancy new digital camera and took some pictures.

We met back at the club for soundcheck. Found a Boston Globe and there was a huge picture of Parlour Steps on the cover of the entertainment section. And the show was listed in their “places to be” section or whatever they call it. Very impressive. That paper has a circulation in the millions. We had dinner at the Middle East with Rick and his friend Paddy. Then I hustled back to the van to change (such is the glamour of indie rock) and after a hair and makeup touch-up in the club washroom I was ready to go.

The show was very good. Small room, but it was packed and we got a huge response from the audience. We sold lots of cd’s and merch. There was palpable excitement onstage, and we played very loud. Rick was right up front, and I’m glad the show he saw (he had never seen Parlour Steps before) was so thrilling. Caleb kind of blew his voice out. But it was worth it. At least, I thought it was worth it. Mind you, my throat wasn’t raw and shredded. Many people came up to talk to me afterwards. In fact, I was quickly surrounded by people while standing at the bar waiting for a drink. It was a little overwhelming so I retreated back to the merch table where there were bandmates to share the accolades.

It was then that Rees hipchecked me solidly onto the dance floor and proceeded to blind my senses with a flurry of unique dance moves. We ended up right in front of the stage, dancing wildly to a disco-rock band called Black and White Years from Austin, Texas. Soon the rest of the pSteps joined us and we all danced wildly for about an hour. Sweaty good times.

Upon load out it became obvious that I would definitely be driving the van back to Rick’s house. Loading gear with a bunch of happy drunk people is quite amusing. Gone is the careful attention to detail and efficiency, in its place is an dogged determination to just jam everything in so you can close the door. I never thought I’d be able to drive in a huge U.S. city without weeping in fear, but Tom-tom was calm and helpful, as were Caleb and Rob, and we fell gratefully into our beds at Rick’s around 3:30am. On to Pittsburgh.