March 20, 2023

Conan Neutron, Esq.

Rocker, Talker, yeah… we get it.

Archers of Loaf – “Sure I can put you on the guest list, Of course, I can put you on the guest list”

It is the year 2011. The era of autotune still reigns supreme and i’ve just seen one of my favorite bands of all time play for the first time ever. After having to turn down opening the show.

Let me back it up.

First of all, I play in a band. Moreover, I have been playing shows, touring when possible, and making records for over 10 years now, it’s my world and my culture. It’s something I am comfortable with and more often than not, it’s enriched my life rather than made it worse. However, the world of rock ‘n roll is a cruel mistress that often serves much more in the way of heartbreak and lowered expectations than the endless parade of drugs, sex and sold out shows that non-rock people expect.

I got this e-mail on the tuesday before the show by Matt Gentling of the Archers of Loaf.

Uhh… Dude?… Kind of a strange question but… What are Victory and Associates doing Friday night? I thought you had told me some of the dudes were out of town, but we had a band cancellation on Friday. Would you guys be able to/up for that show?

It’s the kind of thing happens, it happens a lot. But just not to me, not to OUR band, not from the *Archers of Loaf*. A band who I listened to so much I actually wore our my cassette copies of their records (yes, cassette, fuck you.).
Why was I getting that e-mail? Well see, the beastly bassplayer of one of my favorite bands became e-acquaintances over the last year as he was a supporter of this crazy ass thing I did awhile ago. Weirdly, I only knew him as “that awesome dude from North Carolina” not as the dude from that band.

One of the rare times that my near encyclopedic knowledge of useless rock minutia didn’t kick in automatically.

I’m getting off topic though.
So we got “the call”, one of the members of one of my favorite bands had asked us to play.
Aaaaand….We couldn’t do it. One of our members was out of town, hell out of state, and practically off the grid. The likelihood of pulling it off was near infinitesimal.

So what did I do? I paid it forward.

See there’s this band, they are our friends, peers and “labelmates” Hurry Up Shotgun. They’ve been kicking around as a band for awhile. One of the few bands that all 3 of my bands have played with over the years. Over those same years they’ve just gotten better and better. And their most recent record is easily one of my favorites of the year, in a year full of great records. They really are a great band and moreover they DESERVED the break.

“Hurry Up Shotgun contemplating a switch into the better paying career of restroom attendant”

Matt from AoL, ever the most crucial dude in rock, was totally into it and told me to ask them. Their reaction can be best summed up with this phone call I made to Shotgun drummer Adam Kayne. Waking him up with my phone call, I greeted him with this:

“Dude! Can you play with Archers of Loaf on friday at Great American Music Hall?”
“Uh… what?”
“Can you play with Archers of Loaf on friday at Great American Music Hall?”
(extended pause of nearly 10 seconds)
“Uh… What?”

Of course the answer was yes. But that’s the kind of call that just doesn’t come through for bands like us. Ever. Certainly not over the transom. And that’s one of the many, many reasons that Archers of Loaf are one of the best bands ever, they get it, they care. They just happen to be totally amazing as people as well as music makers.

So it was written, so it came to pass.

“Winners of the ‘bill’ most likely to confuse your grandma award 2011”

They played, how was it?

“SHITTY. hahah! Kidding, they were fucking amazing”

It was glorious, they were wonderful and it was a pleasure to see. Although a bit bittersweet. Here I was watching my friends absolutely kill it at the best show they’ve ever played in their life, something I had a small hand in helping make happen. They were fantastic, it was amazing and there is this sadness and a touch of jealousy to it. You work so hard on something put your heart and soul into it in a real way, (in this case our band’s music and record) and to have to pass on a show that’s complete bucket list material? Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. An also ran story at best.

But, it was the right move.
As I said, they deserved it.

If there’s one thing that i’ve learned though in my time on this planet, if you have the chance to do a kindness you should. I think this cruel and mean world would be a lot better of a place if people did that a little more. Myself included. Facilitating HuS playing that show was totally the right thing to do certainly more so than trying to hastily cobble together a set as a 3 piece or with a ringer. That wouldn’t have been fair to our missing bandmate, to the rest of V and A, Archers of Loaf or the audience.

I had a couple people that knew the details come up to me and talk about good karma or what not. Yeah, for sure. But that’s not why you do something like this. I helped get one of my favorite bands the show of their lives in front of their natural audience opening for one of their favorite bands. That really is reward enough. A single show doesn’t “make” a band, but in a world where just getting people’s attention is an uphill fight, it’s a rare and wonderful thing, and certainly a once in a lifetime experience.

Oh right! One of my favorite bands ever… oh man. Again I was reminded that as much as I loved them I just never saw them play. Weird and nearly inexplicable. But now rectified.

It was damn amazing.
I rocked out, I sang along to almost every song and the palpable unjaded joy that permeated through the room was contagious. There were more than a couple times that I just closed my eyes and listened. And I won’t lie, there I was moved enough to tear up a bit. Which had nothing to do with the on stage shout outs and everything to do with how powerful the music was.

I’ve seen some folks who I respect refer to these shows with the same level of disaffection that greets the normal nostalgia cash grab. But that’s not right, the feel is completely different. Maybe it has something to do with time? The Archers of Loaf certainly played their share of shows to 10 people, but the music has remained timeless since then and has the time to grow. There were a ton of folks that had seen them before, but also a bunch just like me that had never seen them, even though the music had an important place in their life. Perhaps it’s just the band is just that good, but even removed from my love for the music it just felt.. legit. Were there mid-30s guys with slight pot bellies and glasses there? Oh, believe it. But it wasn’t a re-enactment, it was a real thing.

The music… it transcended any of that. It wasn’t nostalgia for younger days or even different times. Although knowing that there are bands similar to and just as incredible as Archers of Loaf that will never, EVER be on the front page of Pitchforkmedia or the other standard bearers of what music has become is a bit infuriating. They killed, and not “yeah, it was cool seeing those old songs”, in a way that was real, and powerful.

“I’ve been waiting FIFTEEN YEARS to hear this” somebody hilariously yelled, during the quietest part of “You and Me”, a song that relies very heavily on dynamics. I realized that I had been too. And it was worth the wait.

And as for getting the shot at playing with not only one of my favorite bands ever but “the Greatest of all time”? Well they haven’t disappeared back into rock and roll Valhalla yet, and who knows… maybe Ed McMahon will knock on the door with the big novelty check a second time?
All I know is I got to matchmaker together a great opportunity for a great band and I finally got to see one of my favorite bands ever totally kill it.



P.S: I would strongly suggest reading DJ Hostletter’s account of his band’s very positive experience opening for Archers of Loaf here as well.
P.P.S.: All of the photos in this blog entry are taken from Shannon Corr’s fantastic set. You can see the gallery here, his photography is amazing, and you do yourself a disservice to not check out the rest of his work.