Gig diary – supporting goth legend David J in Toronto
“ur a fan of bauhaus right?”
That was the text that landed on my phone out of the blue from Toronto booker and promoter Matt Groopie.
A brief pause, then followed by a second message:
Gee … I don’t know, Matt. Am I a fan of Bauhaus? I’m such a fan of Bauhaus that I’m truly surprised no one’s ever called me out over the half-dozen or so ways that I’ve blatantly ripped them off. Bauhaus are about the biggest deal possible in my musical world. But Bauhaus had 4 members … all of which were gigging in the summer of 2017. Hmmm …
“God of course” I replied.
“Keep august 5 open” came the message back.
“I like the way this sounds”
“you better believe you do.”
OK, he was keeping me hanging. After an eternity of about 7 minutes I finally messaged back: “Umm … I don’t wanna guess man … who are we playing with?”
The thing about Bauhaus is that it kind of didn’t matter. Bauhaus was one of those bands in which each member was an absolutely essential and unique talent, and to open for any of them would have been a massive honour. (Though it turned out that wasn’t exactly what Matt had in mind! But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
As it happens, it was David J. Master of the fretless bass who brought the dub influence to Bauhaus. Not to mention – singer of a handful of my favourite Love and Rockets tracks. He would have been my first guess, as he’s been touring constantly the last few years. I’d actually seen him live about 4 years before – he brought a small band with him and played a super-laid back, folky set in someone’s loft studio to an audience of about 60-70 people. I wondered what he was going to be doing this time.
A few weeks later, I saw Matt again at another gig he had set up for us and had the chance to talk details. Apparently, this show was going to be a little bit different – it would just be David playing acoustic guitar and singing, with a sitar player for part of it. OK, I thought … that’s really cool, but we’re a band with loud guitar and drum machines … how are we going to open for that? I asked Matt if he wanted us to do an acoustic set instead, to better set the mood. “No! You guys just do what you do best – David J wants to go on early so you’ll play after! I want to make it a big GOTH NIGHT! Don’t worry – people will stick around.”
Well … OK, then! So now I’m going on after the living legend who’s headlining the show.
I mean, how was this supposed to work? Talk about anxiety-inducing. I’m going on after a member of Bauhaus. I really wasn’t sure how to prepare psychologically for this. Nothing about it made sense. I hadn’t ‘earned’ that. The whole idea felt extremely ‘wrong.’
When Matt told me the plan, my reaction was “Sure … OK, I guess that’ll work.” BUT the more time the idea had to sink in, the more I started freaking out. By the day before the show … to be honest, I had hit a weird zone of psyche-out/panic. I spent most of it walking around Chinatown alone, not talking to anyone.
Day of the show came and I was still freaking out. Flash forward to David J’s set – and WOW – he absolutely killed it. It was the polar opposite of the last time I had seen him – that time he had brought a band, but everyone was playing sitting down, in front of a small crowd of people sitting on couches or the floor – while the whole thing was undeniably cool, the energy of that set was pretty low. This time, it was him all alone with his guitar, belting out all of the biggest ‘hits’ that he’d ever been associated with to a tightly packed, enthusiastic crowd. He’d decided he was going to give the fans exactly what they wanted to hear and it was incredible.
After he wrapped his encore we got on stage as quickly as possible. The plan was to deliver a tight, 35 minute set – just the ‘hits’, so to speak – start before anyone decided to leave, and hope we could keep them there.
And largely – it worked. Everyone was still buzzing from David J’s set and ready to have a great time. The crowd did thin a bit as the night went on but even several hours later when the last band – our good friends L’Autre Dame – were finishing their set, the vibe was still there. All night long, people just wanted to talk to me about what a great show it had been. So despite my doubts, I guess Matt knew what he was doing in the end.